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434: Building People and Killing Policies with Guy Pierce Bell

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Turnaround artist Guy Bell shares hard-won wisdom on why and how to establish the right number of rules for teams.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How modern businesses value processes over people
  2. The problem with budgets
  3. Guy’s process for people building

About Guy

Guy Bell is an executive with decades of experience turning around struggling businesses. He’s also started up new businesses, acquired and on-boarded companies and led green field growth. He has held leadership roles in a wide variety of organizations, including equity-backed investments, public-traded companies and family-owned businesses.

In each of these situations, Guy challenged himself with one simple question: “How can I empower my team to meet their full potential?”

Guy is the author of Unlearning Leadership, which was named one of 10 leadership books that should be on your radar in 2019 by Inc Magazine.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Guy Bell Interview Transcript

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

Guy Bell  
Thanks for inviting me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, I’m excited to dig into your good stuff. But first, I want to dig into your background. You were previously a singer-songwriter. What’s the story here?

Guy Bell  
I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and my big dream, as a kiddo, was to get on stages and sing around the world. But ultimately, at that time, it was Minneapolis. And that was the world I was living in. And I had a real fun experience getting a chance to sing and record out at Paisley Park, Prince’s Studio, and you know, playing his bars in town or his bar at the time and other places, and really enjoyed that early experience. And it really has been oddly foundational for my business experience.

So that was a definitely an early kind of love that I figured at 18 years old. What do we know, right? But I knew then I was going to be a singer for the rest of my life. And here we are.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I’m intrigued. And in what way was that foundational for the rest of your business?

Guy Bell  
You know, I kind of started off writing about this when I was getting into management. And I just look at the business world through the lessons of jazz, like there are no such thing as mistakes. You just play off of whatever kind of note you’re bending, if it’s not quite as you thought your finger was. And you learn to unlearn.

So in jazz, and when people become the best at their craft, they no longer play scales; they play the feeling, the mood, they know what a key they’re in, they understand the games, the rules of the game, and then they let go of that, knowing if that makes any sense. So that applies to business beautifully, in my experience.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, so now, what I love about this, is you’re sharing some things that might feel a little softer, there. But your credentials are pretty smashing when it comes to your work as a turnaround artist. Can you tell us, what do you do there? And what are some of the coolest results you’ve generated there?

Guy Bell  
Yeah, it is. It is strange, and it does feel soft. In fact, when I first got into managing, that’s usually the feedback I got: it was too soft, and I cared too much. And I needed to learn to toughen up and all these silly things that didn’t make any sense. Because over the years now, as you said, I’ve run publicly traded, privately held, equity-backed companies. And I’ve done it from taking these businesses that were run by people with the school of thought that said, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

And I came in at that one, though, it’s wildly personal. And it’s not just business, right? And so, you know, most of my turnarounds really, in this concept of the premise of who’s going to turn this around, but the people doing the work, and what are the common threads of what businesses miss, because they overmanage, they over-process out of fear

and out of a desire to manage risk, kind of overcontroling behaviors, and actions and they create policies to correct behaviors, and all these things that feel normal, because we have a good hundred years of doing this silly overreach for good reason.

Because people do make mistakes. People do take risks that are unwarranted. But what I’ve learned, I guess, Pete, and to kind of put it into a few bite-sized chunks, is I’ve learned something called Four Rules of Flight. And if you look at it from a business perspective, there are a certain number of rules that would relate to if you were flying a plane. So as an example, the four rules in flight are weight, lift, thrust, and drag.

If you take off, and you don’t have four rules, but you put together three rules, you have a car that looks like a plane. And if you’re there, and you add a rule—a fifth rule—you will crash. So when you look at business on a micro, and then on an individual level, and you understand that process matters, that there needs to be enough structure, enough of everything, but no more. What happens when we decelerate or we lose control of our business is, we don’t have enough rules.

And then conversely, which I found to be true in almost every turnaround, is people were over managing out of fear. When we start failing, we start judging. We start judging, we start applying more rules and regulations and structure, and we lose that ability to say when people are unleashed to reach their full potential, to give outstanding service, to come back and authentically say, “This process stinks. It’s not good, it’s not effective. Can we do it this way?” We don’t have those conversations anymore.

So that was one of those signature lessons that are pretty much universal. Another one quickly, and I’ll use what I’ve found to be one of the more controversial companies in America today, and for me, it’s a great lesson, and you could be controversial and still do it, right? And that is Amazon , “Day 1, Day 2”. He said 20+ years ago, if we don’t run this business every day like it counts, “Day 1” thinking, we will eventually become a “Day 2” company, which means at some point, it may take longer for a large company — and shorter for a small company — but we won’t exist because we’ll be managing out of fear. We’ll be keeping people from people.

And those kinds of philosophies have governed for better or worse, depending on how you perceive their culture, but it’s one thing above all else. And that is authentic. He knew that then, and he’s applied that year after year after year in his growth, and it’s a signature to his success.

I’ve found the same things to be true in every business that I work in, where we get caught up in belief systems that are unproductive, but they keep us from undue risk. And therefore we keep trusting that process more than we do the people, and that equation doesn’t work.

Pete Mockaitis  
Wow, Guy, this is riveting stuff. And it really feels like you’ve got your finger on something quite real and important and sensible in terms of just the reactionary with, you know, failures and mistakes leads to judgment, into fear, and to rules and processes and policies.

And so could you maybe share with us a story of a turnaround you went to, in terms of where were they, kind of in terms of financially, and the lay of the land? What did you do? And then what did they end up with financially in terms of results afterwards? Just because I think there’s some listeners who think this sounds almost too good to be true. Yeah, so add a dollar sign to this, please.

Guy Bell  
Yeah, so if you don’t mind, I’ll give you a bite of a couple of different situations. So one of the turnarounds—I was brought in was equity-backed investment. They were losing money and didn’t know to what extent. I was brought in to help them grow the company. And as it turned out, within a month or two, they weren’t ready to grow; they were actually ready to fold. And so for the first six months in that business, what we did is we got our arms around, “Do we have the right people in the right seats? Are we working on the right marketing strategies?” and you just go through the nuts and bolts of the business.

And we made adjustments to include the CFO, who was unwilling or incapable — probably a bit of both — to give us timely penals. And we were missing, you know, elementary parts of the business. So it’s really very tactical in that way, where you just kind of look through all the systems processes, you ask the question of, “What are we missing?” What are you missing that you need to get from us as an investment to improve or as support to get the right information at the right time, accurate, complete, decision making-ready?

So we did that. We turned it around that time. I won’t name the equity firm, but they were managing $3 billion, we were a small investment, they were ready to leave it and walk away because it was frustrating. It was losing money. As I mentioned, we turned it around and sold it for $64 million within two years. And so the keys of that, you know, turn around, our signature. And I’ll give a couple of examples that play out the same way.

I was asked to turn around a nonprofit university, 150-year old university based out of San Francisco. And when I came in, at first, it was a nonprofit looking to sell or exit out of being a nonprofit, because it was not having success. And for whatever reason, they believed that somehow selling would magically make it successful, as opposed to getting the right management team.

So I came in to that organization, after several interviews, and same thing, we couldn’t make payroll. We were a $75 million company, couldn’t make payroll. And so I went to the board and just said, “Look, nothing personal. And it’s not my ego saying this; it’s really just true. I need to have control of your marketing right now.” And at that time, I was hired to help turn around the company, but it was a role as a vice president or Senior Vice President of Operations.

Anyway, fast forward, we got the front end fixed, which is usually one of the problems, getting the marketing right-sized and getting the sales process in place. That was required to improve results. And in both cases, we got a better cost per successful acquisition. And we improved performance broadly over the 10 businesses, and specifically by individual, because we just looked at the darn data, right? And we didn’t go after chasing numbers.

We actually built into every person, which is a real shift in in most businesses, is they start managing to a number which is by itself stupid. They’re nice people and smart, but they’re making a stupid decision. As I learned over time, there’s some of the smartest people I’ve worked with that use a budget to kind of “drive performance”, as opposed to understanding the input, what is happening by individual salesperson to be effective. And how do we, as professionals, help each other, in that case, individual, improve their performance?

If there’s five kind of points of workflow, do all five work for that person? Are they effective at all five? And that is the work. And so we have to look at that accurate data every single day — sometimes, throughout the day, to ensure that we’re coaching, developing, understanding our business at the incremental level.

So fast forward, all of that to include kind of rebuilding into the talented people that were at that particular model. And actually, this is true, in almost everyone: the people that were kept from being effective leaders, whatever the work could be, just above an individual contributor, all the way up to running a business unit, what usually kept them from their potential was threats.

People were afraid at the executive level, of the critical feedback or whatever that caused this disruption, this ease of relationships. And so you just went back out and met everyone and re-engaged on a human level, rebuilt some trust pretty quickly, and unleashed them, you know, just said, “Look, I trust that you’re going to get this done the right way, let’s just do it transparently. And together. And there’s no judgment.”

And you know, 18 months later, we sold it. 18 months after selling it, they sold it again, for $275 million, I believe. And when I started it, it could have gone bankrupt in the next three months. So, really good outcome there, in both fronts, and in terms of the first sale and the second sale.

And I guess I could go on for a few more. But ultimately, I could even tell you a story where it didn’t work, if you like, but when it does work, the basic elements are, you know, pretty common.

So it is very detail-oriented, it is very kind of, what is in the weeds of every individual. I use a concept called “Every person counts, every day counts”. And when they don’t count, you have one too many people. Or you have the wrong person. So don’t hire one too many people. I don’t care how successful you are. Everyone wants to count. So therefore, for crying out loud, why not set the scene to make damn sure they do? Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis  
Yes, that’s good. That’s good. All right. So that is well-established in terms of reporting to some true results here, from these perspectives and philosophies. And so then, I want to hear a little bit about that perspective of not managing to a number, but instead of building into a person. Can you unpack that concept for us a bit more?

Guy Bell  
Absolutely. I mean, one of the crimes was—I was working in a publicly traded company. And there was — and this is common, but I’ll just use this example. So there was a board budget that had cushion. And then there was a top upper management executive plan that had a little less cushion. And then there was an operating budget that had no cushy. And in some cases, if we wanted to drive, “the result”, we made it really difficult to achieve their goals, which by itself, is one of the fundamental flaws of why budgets are nothing other than predictive ways of understanding the cash flow for investment.

But having said that, that kind of mindset of doing that makes it virtually impossible and demoralizing to an operator, often not always. But when it does, that, by itself is a really silly model to use as a performance model. So I say just all that crap away, and work on every individual, every single day, on whatever those process, key elements of success are, whatever the sales process is, and stay with them. You will get the outcome that you earn by the activities that you produce. You will come to those activities you produce with a kind of on-fire, more excited approach, when you’re coached on getting past the routine of memorizing a script, or doing what I tell you to do.

But instead, taking what we talked about, that is important because we know what works and making it yours. And that just takes more investment. It takes a little more time, it takes really good listening and studying that person to say, “Gosh, they stink at the memorized script in their voice. Their approach isn’t going to work the way I want it to work.” So let’s figure out another way to approach this part of that sales funnel communications to ensure that they’re authentic, coupled with they’re getting the right result for them.
And then ultimately, I’ve learned, I show people the budget, I talk about our goals, and then I teach them how to throw them away in a sense of what the baseline is. Now go after every single person, every single one…that we were off 20% over our budgets or routine basis, when they were decently laid out. And I would fight hard in those situations where I wasn’t the one making the decision, to ensure that it was rational, so that we could actually overachieve when we do what they don’t see, because that’s not how they think about budgets and performance. But we do. And we would outperform them routinely.

When it was my decision, I didn’t purposely give a lay down in the budget. I just said, “Here’s what we need to accomplish, we need to see some growth in these areas, and then we train into the fact that we want you to be successful. We want you to exceed what we need to invest, to reinvest what we want to see out of our growth this year based on macro data.”

So I hope that’s helpful. But budgets have a whole host of problems that we need to kind of unlearn and relearn the real value so that we can incrementally build into talent, into the business process, into authentic engagements. And I found that to be difficult to do when people feel like, “Dang, I gotta hit my number, I’m getting on a call every day or every Monday and getting beaten up, because my people are not performing the way that they should.” And it’s all driven around hitting a number versus kind of building the individual up.

Pete Mockaitis  
I see. And so then it sounds like if you’re focused mostly on the number, that’s not really helpful in terms of having a person improve. So I guess if it’s like, “Hey, I need you to have, I don’t know, 40 new customers.” “Yeah, got 31.” “Get better!” That isn’t quite as handy.

“Okay, so here’s the five activities you need to undertake in order to acquire these customers. Well, let’s take a look at each one of them and see how it’s going.” So could you maybe give us an example of how it’s done in practice? Maybe it’s with sales, or maybe it’s with another type of contributor, but I think I get a taste for a breakdown and the process of doing some people-building in that way.

Guy Bell  
Absolutely. So I’ll give you a couple of examples. And I’ll stay with sales for now. One is I took over a company that was losing money. We ended up selling for six times EBITDA, which was a nice exit for a group.
They were losing money, we turned it around pretty quickly, we did it on the back of this exact idea. So we were converting an inquiry to revenue, basically help it be agnostic. So any model can apply their own kind of metrics. But we’ve converted, we’re converting at about 5.3 or 5.4%. And in this business model, there are five numbers, and you can play games with them all day long.

But ultimately, you can’t play games with as you spent this much money, and you have this outcome. And so what, with this money…

Pete Mockaitis
This outcome we’re talking about, like a marketing investment, correct?

Guy Bell
Correct. Yes, this investment of $20 million earns 9,525 new customers. So there is an equation there, and then ultimately, in this case, it turns out to be about a 5.4%-ish conversion rate. So that wasn’t great. Maybe even, you know, weak. Then there’s another factor where we’re buying, you know, eyes and ears and interest. But we also want to earn it through relationships, right? So we built a model quickly, and we trained on it, to talk about the keys to making kind of this process work better.

And we budgeted to say if we don’t get any better at that equation, meaning the conversion from a cost of acquisition, to meeting a customer, new customer and marketing, to a revenue, we made the decision to say, “Well, let’s keep it at the 5.4.” We may have put in two tenths of a percent, whatever we did, but something small when getting the 7.6%, purely on not focusing on 7.6%, or hitting a number.

What we did is we shifted the entire process. We weren’t using the data, right? So we put the exact data in, we understood it on an individual basis. Throughout the day, throughout the week, every call we had, we reviewed it, we’ve talked about the building blocks. We didn’t talk about… we had them learn to, say, if your funnel of five key metrics are working the way you want, or aren’t, what are you doing about them? And what are you doing them about them by individual?

And it’s just that process of learning to talk about that engagement at a deep level. And as you do that, people are kind of learning new muscles, learning to practice in a little bit more concrete way, versus, as you jokingly said, Pete, but it’s the truth. I’ve seen it, unfortunately, too many times where people are like, “If you don’t hit your number, we’re going to have to let you go.”

And so what kind of training have you been doing? And most people insist, “Well, I’ve done a ton of training,” and they said, “Well, let me sit on the next one.” And they think it’s trading, right? But they’re not really getting into the weeds of sitting down and listening to that part of the process. So let’s say it’s a phone call converting to an in-person, converting to a “I’m in” and they sign a piece of paper saying I want to do this.

And then it converting into, you know, revenue, which is there. They’ve stayed for five days in our business, and they’re excited to be with us, right? So in that business process, we get caught up in in too many things that are trying to get to that number, because I’ve got to make sure that 8 out of 10 of them show up, and that they stay for whatever number of days are for the requirements to hit their number.

So getting out of that mindset to, say, when you set the right stage, you do it the right way. You sit with people individually, and you understand how this works, and you get them excited about doing it right. And when they do, — and I know — the results improve. They may not improve the same for everyone. Of course, they never do almost. They improve for that person because you’re helping them get better. And once that success happens, which in most sales cycles, if you’re unlucky that your sales cycle is a year, then it’s pretty difficult.

But if your sale cycle is daily, weekly, in a month, you can really see shift in the thinking quickly, just by the evidence alone. But usually, people at first resist a little bit, because they’re the smart person and they want to do it their way or they feel like they’re a little vulnerable, because they’ve never really gotten into the weeds and sat down with an individual and had to shift their thinking of what should be done because they were good at it before. “You should be doing what I tell you to do, not with naturally you’re coming to,” right?

So it’s just going to help them do that over and over again, you know, measuring how they do it, saying, “Hey, it looks like you haven’t really made any improvements here. Let’s talk about it,” and you kind of go through it again. And then when they have a success, then you give them the praise. And you tell them, you know, they deserve to be here. And that is it’s working.

So stay the course and they get a couple wins. And now they’re heroes. A few cases. One case in particular, there’s a guy in Ohio that was mathematically successful, and yet, just under his number, because he was managing two numbers. So he wasn’t my direct employee. But I brought a team out to sit down with them. And we walked through each of his team members and their performance.

And we talked about, you know, what’s working and not working. And he felt threatened at first, because he felt like, “Well, gosh, I can see what the company does. Why are you coming here and talking to me?” And so after we get done, he had his numbers for the next six months. So it wasn’t about hitting the numbers. It was about, don’t stare at the number, because you just miss it all the time. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, yeah. But what’s so intriguing here is that… but this doesn’t sound like revolutionarily brilliant. It’s not. Like this is sort of what we’ve always should have been doing. But soon enough… it really is cool. This brings me back to one of my favorite cases when I was consulting at Bain and Company.

I didn’t think it would be a fun case, but it really was quite fun. There were call centers, and they had a problem with attrition. The call center representatives were quitting way too fast. Now, attrition is high in that industry, because that’s not a really fun job for most people. But it was way higher for our clients and even sort of the industry norms and standards.

And so we found a lot of the same steps in terms of, first, we had to clean up the data. Like we didn’t have reliable attrition data. It was it. So no one believed it or trusted it or regarded it. So it could always be sort of just put to the side, like, “Oh, you can’t trust those numbers.” It’s like, “Well, let’s make it so we can trust them.” And so that was kind of my roles. Like we were just getting down to these details. “Alright, day by day, every day, someone is going to tell me, ‘I need these six call centers; how many people quit?’ ‘Month by month, this is what the attrition numbers look like.’”

And then all of a sudden, it’s like, “Hey, you had a great month, what did you do?” “Oh, well, we tried this incentive thing.” It’s like, you know, what, we realized was that we had some supervisors who were just real nasty, and quit way faster than the other supervisors. So we noticed, and we replaced them. And yeah, it was just sort of like, there wasn’t like one magical silver bullet we discovered in terms of, “Oh my gosh, people love candy Fridays.”

But there’s just lots of little things, like, “Hey, what are you doing? Oh, that’s a good idea. Maybe we should do some of that. It’s a great job.” Those numbers are really moving somewhere. And they trusted it. And they had visibility, because more and more people, it was kind of fun that they kept asking to get added to my list. It’s like, “Oh, sure, thank you. I am the keeper of the attrition numbers,” which is funny because we’re an outside consultant. Like, they didn’t have their own attrition numbers they could trust.

And so, it’s amazing how I hear you. I guess the resistance is, one, it’s a little bit more time, it’s a little bit more detail that you’re getting, maybe an executive doesn’t feel that he or she should have to get into this level of weeds or whatever. But you’re saying, “Yes, in fact, you do.” That’s how it’s done?

Guy Bell  
Yeah, you have to. And what everyone has in common, even the smartest of the companies with PhD analysts and people that you used to work with, and probably are just fantastic at gathering data. But are we getting the right data in the right way? Are we testing? Are all the other links broken? Are they not broken? And can we not do it? Does that person know where to go when someone’s watching, to say, “We’re pulling data from 15 sources, inevitably, and every 90 days, if you don’t test it, something breaks, and all of a sudden, you have to visually catch it,” versus having some way of making sure that your data is your life?

And when it’s accurate, it does change radically. So it’s not a very soft thing. But it is the beginning. You have to make sure you’re looking at the right information exactly to your point. And you said something that is just absolutely the truth. And what I find to be kind of fascinating is we over engineer, we overthink so many things to the point where, “Well, we got to figure out a way to save on costs and get a better process. And let’s go analyze,” we brought in, you know, companies like your old company, and we spent 10 million bucks.

And we learned the same thing: some of us already knew not to say that it wasn’t smart. It was smart, but you can’t decentralize a few things. But you can on the numbers, meaning, if it’s a high-touch business component, the business process, you’ve got to know the difference on some level, you got to make a bet on something. And I would say that’s where we lose traction.

Often in business, around efficiency is when we overthink the power of the human potential, the power the human being. And we try to find a kind of a Tayloristic Ford Model back 100 plus years ago that, now, is agile workflow. And all the amazing feats we have now is just outstanding process analysis and distribution of this great wisdom. But it only goes so far, if that makes sense.

And at some point, you have to be human again, to kind of really understand the power of that detail showing up in a conversation, in a kind of a lengthy understanding, of you know who we are and this and that, then it’s very easy to discern. Do you fire someone? Do you say goodbye? Do you move them somewhere else? Or do you stay the course?

Pete Mockaitis  
And to that story with that 5.3% go into the 7.6%. So were there was it kind of the same kind of a concept? Like there wasn’t one or two silver bullets? Like, “Aha,! We just have to do this.” But rather, maybe dozens of tiny discoveries associated with when you follow up. Don’t say this, but you say that it wasn’t like that?

Guy Bell  
Yeah, absolutely. And in fact, you know, I replaced a few people, as you know, often happens. But in this case, one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever worked with, because he could do all the coding, he could study all the data, he could go in and write code, he could get into the back end of the website. All these things that were important, but I couldn’t do it myself, I don’t have all those skills. But he did. He would trust the data at the cost of the people.

And then I had a salesperson that would trust the people at the data. So yes, it was a dance, and we all learned, in a very fun way, when we kind of respected each other’s gifts and talents. We learned that this dance of it all matters. If you take any one of these things out, it does hurt the business. And you know, in some cases, I know how they perform after I leave. And I know a little bit, not always, but often, about what happens once they move on.

We stay the course of getting better and better at that. There’s been multiple exits since I’ve left some companies, and that’s exciting. But often, what happens is they go back to the behavior that is all data, or all hitting a number, or all kind of one-dimensional, because what should be this way? “There it is there. Therefore it should be here.” And they oversimplify, and then God only knows why they come to those conclusions. But it’s wrong. It does take a whole host of different subtle elements, and the data will point. But it will not do as you know. But you gotta get good data points, because it does help with time.

Pete Mockaitis  
All right, well, so given this thorough backdrop, What are the four rules of flight?

Guy Bell  
Yeah, weight, lift, thrust, and drag. Yeah, that’s the flight in business. If you look at it at a micro and macro level, every business has one thing in common when it fails. And that’s too many policies to correct behaviors. Free people up. And the only way you can do it, there’s only one way, is you have to trust that people are going to make mistakes, and that the mistake isn’t going to kill the business. That therefore it can be one less, until it’s that business killer. Again, back to there’s no one solution; every industry will have different rules. But if someone doesn’t pay attention to that, it is the beginning of the end.

So I would argue, one of the most important positions possibly in business is not someone that’s an executive, or a manager, or even an individual contributor. They’re all important. But maybe the most important thing to learn about four rules of flight is someone needs to say, “I give a shit—” excuse my language, “—about four rules of flight, and our business model, of whether it be oil and gas or education or retail, and it’s digital and ground.”

Some of them ensure that we’re staying true to the fact that we want to make the biggest decisions possible at the closest point to a customer that we can. And if we stay true to that someone, better yet, say, we’re going to tell the lawyers that are saying, “No, no, no, we had that risk. And it cost us X number of dollars because we had three lawsuits based on that behavior. Therefore we’re creating a rule, and then we kill the potential of making a mistake,” for sure.

But we also kill the potential of changing a customer situation, for sure. So to me, we measure the wrong things. It gets ridiculously complex, when you try to measure all of this additional kind of wonder state of what happens when you don’t know the unintended consequence. You may take your 55 lawsuits, which is usually what I walk into, and bring them down to zero, but at what cost? And 55 lawsuits came from, in their minds, too few rules. Not always the case, but often, there are too few rules, or they’re not the right rules. And perhaps they’re just simply bad training.

Perhaps you’re not setting the right stage to say when you have the freedom to make that decision, individual contributor working on a customer engagement, and they say, “As a customer, I’m not satisfied with this experience.” And you say, “Well, let me help you resolve it.” When you have that power, do you really know how to resolve it? And the answer is often no, but don’t give up on it; get better at resolving it, so that the customer gets a just-in-time answer.

The employee gets to expand their talents and contribute at a higher level, and therefore feel really good about solving something. This day and age, we often say, “My manager needs to talk to you,” and then no managers there. You know, all the goofiness that takes away their power? That’s just crazy.

Pete Mockaitis  
I hear you there. All right, so the four rules of flight then is not rather, “Hey, here are four key principles,” but rather the concepts that are in flight, they’re exactly four rules. And obviously in your operation, you should have exactly the right number of rules, correct? Not too many, not too few. Okay, most have too many. So we talked about budget troubles, what are some other rules or policies or traditional practices that you often see, just need to go?

Guy Bell  
Don’t create a culture; there’s no such thing. There are people that have PhDs in some form, and they consider themselves to be culture experts. What I’ve sadly learned, because I’ve made that mistake more than once, is a culture is a reflection of us leaders. And this is ultimately, even on a macro scale, a reflection of all of us. So we co-create culture. Culture is primarily driven in companies by behaviors at the top. And the irony of those four rules, kind of lessons, the four rules of flight, it would be, you know, one, too many policies. Two, your thoughts need to match your words, need to match your actions.

And when they’re misaligned, your business will fail. It may not fail tomorrow, it may not fail obviously, but you need to be aligned. And most companies choose to have a boardroom mentality, meaning what we think, and in the boardroom, most executives are less than kind. But you know, the kind around results that are positive, but not always. But they get down fire about, hitting our numbers, hitting our quarterly results, whatever these things are. And then we go sell the customer on the other side, a story of our business that…tries to make everyone feel good.

And then we go tell our employees a story that an HR department or an OD group comes in and says, “You know, well, they’re not too happy. Let’s go create a happiness poster.” That’s not the way it works. And it may be, you know, a good selling point for a minute or two years or five years or 10 years. But ultimately, either don’t have any of that crap and, you know, walk your walk, meaning if you’re an owner of a company, get a stable top management. It starts with them. They need to be able to say, “You know, what do we believe firmly?

“What are we communicating to our team? And so they can believe in it with us. And it’ll inform our execution, if we do that beautifully, elegantly. Regardless of if we’re kind of driven and we’re dehumanizing or not, the greatest people in the world, then damn it, stay the course.” Be who you are, as a company, as an individual group of owners, leaders, whatever that structure is the top. And then I would say, conversely, another really big mistake is not empowering everyone to become an expression of what that is, once you have a clear definition of, you know, by practice of how you look at your customers, how you’re kind of looking at one another and interesting in the conversation and empowering or not, right?

So whatever those variables are, that is the culture. And then from that place, really, how do we get into the individual contributor, a way that they can relate to it, however they are, wherever they sit, whatever they do? They matter, they have to matter. As I mentioned, if it’s one too many people, then don’t have them there. But if they’re there, they matter. So the culture is their expression in that exact same way with a different impact, but an impact all the same. So that’s one of those rules where I routinely… I’ll use an example.

I write about this, you know, you look at a company that everyone would have bet that 20 years later, Whole Foods would have been the most lovely place to work and the most beautiful culture because of how it began. It was the first of its kind, too unskilled to do what they did. And then you look at Amazon, who purchased them, was not known for being the most interesting guy to work with in terms of, you know, happy culture, and you know, feeling good about ourselves, but he’s executed at a very high level. And for better or worse, to my knowledge, they’re pretty well-aligned.

And so, two years ago, when I was watching this acquisition go through, and I kept thinking, because I know a lot of Whole Foods folks and I’m a consumer of both products. I quit consuming from Whole Foods, because it just became an experience that I felt, as a customer, was out of alignment. And I consumed more, frankly, from Amazon, who I felt like, you know, I read the articles, and I knew some of the backstory about what it was like to work there and stuff.

But it was authentic. No one walked in wondering what the experience was going to be like. And I remember reading an article that the founder and owner at the time of Whole Foods, said he met with Jeff Bezos, and we’re excited to come aboard. And he said, “Really, the difference I learned from Jeff and his company, was that I cared too much about people.” And I thought, “Dude, you have it totally wrong. You just you had it on a bunch of posters that you cared about people; you didn’t actually care about people.” And I’ll give you one more example of that exact lesson, I was running a publicly traded company.

And the CEO was an executive. The CEO came up in front of everyone in the management team and said, “You know, guys, we’ve got to get this turned around. We need to get people to feel like we care about them.” And I said, “Then just care about them.” And he said, “Well, what’s the point? What point do you want to you make?” And I said, “You said you want them to feel like we care about them, then don’t say that you don’t care about them. But if you really want to care about them, just care about them.” And he looked at me like, “Who are you?”

And we got to know each other well after that, but what’s happening is, I want you to feel like you have a voice. Do you want to have a voice? Do you really want respect? Either way, you don’t get to choose it. So that kind of thought process crops up, and then all of a sudden, it becomes you know, Whole Foods failing miserably. Because the thousandth time you say you care, but you don’t care, people trust their limbic resonance. Their body screams, “Man, this dude is not here for me. He’s not the person that created this company. I’m sure he’s a fantastic guy on a personal level, but he got caught up in something that was a concept not embedded into the fabric of that company in a way that everyone learns over time to trust the truth beyond our words,” right?

So aligning our thoughts, our words and our actions are critically important, too. Everyone counts; not some people, everyone. If you leave that, you’re in trouble. And then another one, it always starts with you. Always, not sometimes, not most of the time. So that means every janitor, every kind of entry level employee, everybody counts. And starts with you. You can change a company, you can change an experience, you can change a process. You’ve developed ways, but ultimately, you have to come in and say, “I’m not going to blame anybody. If I do that, I’m going to leave. But if I’m going to be here, I’m going to invest fully in what I have control and power over. And then I’m going to try to influence what I can see, feel and experience. And I’m going to do it in the most positive, affirming way. But I’m going to do it.”

If we can get to those four points, you know, four rules apply to many policies. Our thoughts, words and actions match. And then two, everyone counts in. One, it starts with me. That’s probably the closest version I can get to using that four concepts to simplify it.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. Thank you. So when it comes to the caring, I’d love to get your take on it fundamentally, what is your top tip or suggestion when it comes to caring?

Guy Bell  
Wow, I love that. I would say the worst thing we can do is create the candy days in the lunches, where we go take a bunch of pictures and post them and make everyone feel happy, and that concept.

I think show up as you, and invite other people to show up as them, and let the messiness of life play its role. People are messy; we have bad days, and we don’t have separate lives, whether we like it or not, we’re not a husband, a wife, you know, a spiritual person, and you know, in this bucket, and then a dad in that bucket, it doesn’t work that way. And so what does it mean to truly invite other people into their fullness? To include you know, some of the mess and in that you earn some trust and that people start to kind of live into their fullness in a way that does matter and does get results. But ultimately you’re doing it to humanize the experience. You’re doing it because you care. And when you give a damn, and you authentically give a damn—or if you don’t—practice caring, practice listening, practice hearing everything, and then shift it if you want to go to business and say, well, let’s talk about a business process. I saw What’s going on? What do you think? And you’re four levels above them walking around the office? And they say, Well, I don’t know until Oh, yeah, I really do want to know, let’s talk about a little bit and never said they tell you their thought. And once in a while, you just get totally blown away by something that’s not in their backyard and you earn some trust, because you care enough to say I’ll bet you have an opinion. I’ll bet you see this from a different angle than I do. And then ask and let goofiness and silliness and stuff get in the way. But ultimately, you’re freeing people up to be everything to include transformative to include

You know, passionate, caring person toward the customers towards each other for the good of the company and the good of the community.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. Guy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some your favorite things?

Guy Bell
Boy, I don’t have a list. So no, I’m good. This is fun. Thank you.
All right. Thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Guy Bell  
Geez, I like Buckminster Fuller’s quote, and I am not going to get it exact. But it’s something to the extent that to really change how something is working, you have to start over. You can’t just add on. And so I use it a lot at the end of my speeches. Of course, I didn’t memorize it. I think Buckminster Fuller, pretty much everything he kind of has come to and shared, that we’re now aware of his lexicon of ideas, is helpful.

I don’t tend to use too many quotes, though. Having said that, because I do like the idea of more expanding into kind of what is the complexity beyond the quote’s point, but I like the rich complexity to that end. I wish I had a better ones to share with you, but I do find the ones where it’s teaching us to free up our thoughts. You know, there’s all kinds of wonderful thinkers that have, over the years, over the centuries, talked about what does it mean to be a free thinker. So I enjoy any one in the field of philosophy and or economics that talk about free markets and free thought.

Pete Mockaitis  
Cool. And how about a favorite book?

Guy Bell  
A couple of them, I recently I read The Innovation Blind Spot. And it’s really a fantastic read. I also read a book, Utopia for Realists, which is from a fascinating young guy from Europe, who is looking at sociological history and kind of challenging modern thought through data. Very smart guy. And then I’ve read a couple books, one called Sapiens and Homo Deus, they’re are all fascinating reads.

Pete Mockaitis  
And how about a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome a job?

Guy Bell
I go to bed, ensuring that I free myself of the day. I used to stay awake all night, when I had challenges at work, or whatever the case would be, and it became a practice of letting go and playing in that field. And then waking up in my first hour, half an hour of every day is a practice of, you know, quieting and reflecting on the on the joy of the day, and I walk into it, then converting that into kind of more mantras and thoughts throughout the day that support the kind of day I want to have.

Pete Mockaitis  
And was there a particular nugget you share with clients or readers or audience members that really seems to connect and resonate with them? And they repeat it back to you often?

Guy Bell  
Oh, you know, I think the message of learning to let go of what you know is such a rich and complex story.

But when I get into the details of let go and know, people began to resonate. And yeah, so I get feedback on that message. Another is, very specifically, when people ask for concrete approaches, I talk about policies from the lens of if it’s a rule, make sure everybody knows it’s non-negotiable. If it’s a policy, make sure you’re writing it towards something you want to accomplish, not away from something you don’t want to see happen. And if it’s a best practice, put it out there and don’t make it a point until you need to. And I’ve had lots of groups that are HR-centric, like how simple that is.

So that one’s red, meaning if you want to call it color coded, so that you know those are non-negotiable, they’re laws by governing bodies, whatever it may be. Yellow is our policies; they’re meant to be broken, you need to learn how to break them no more than, you know, whatever your rule is, 5% of the time. And if you do have a conversation, and three, we put out great ideas that your peers have used over the years. And we keep refreshing that it’s a nice, simple way to kind of put some meat on the bones of how to simplify the business without dumbing it down.

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

Guy Bell  
guypbell.com. It’s my website, and you can reach me at my email at guypiercebell1@gmail.com.

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

Guy Bell  
When you get people right, you get business right. It is really the critical reminder: we are in a time of the fourth industrial revolution; let’s do everything we can to make that work for us. And I’ve seen it both ways where it’s been transformative around working for the company and for the people. And I’ve seen it actually used improperly. So, you know, look at the people, even through the lens of these outstanding AI solutions and deep learning, and we’ll get the best both worlds.

Pete Mockaitis  
Guy, this has been a treat. Thank you so much for taking this time, and good luck with the turnarounds you’re doing and the adventures you’re having in the future you’re touching. This has been a real good time.

Guy Bell  
It’s been a pleasure, Pete. Thank you. I appreciate it.

433: Boosting Your Goal Motivation and Completion with Tom Ziglar

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Tom Ziglar shares best practices for motivation and goal-setting (AKA problem-solving).

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why and how to articulate your “why”
  2. The seven-step Ziglar goal-setting/problem-solving system
  3. How to transform a bad habit into a good one

About Tom

Tom Ziglar is the proud son of Zig Ziglar and the CEO of Ziglar, Inc. He joined the Zig Ziglar corporation in 1987 and climbed from working in the warehouse to sales, to management, and then on to leadership. Today, he speaks around the world; hosts The Ziglar Show, one of the top-ranked business podcasts; and carries on the Ziglar philosophy, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” He and his wife, have one daughter and reside in Plano, Texas.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Tom Ziglar Interview Transcript

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

Tom Ziglar
What a blessing to be on, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, thank you. Well, I am excited to dig into this goodness. I have seen your podcast many, many times, dancing around in the rankings. And so I felt honored to be in such good company as Ziglar. Because my dad and I — I remember one of my fond memories — we listened to an audio cassette tape called Goals, starring Zig Ziglar when I was growing up, and I thought, “This is pretty cool.” And I got into all this stuff. That was one of the very first things I could point to, was that audio tape playing in the car with my dad.

Tom Ziglar  
That is awesome. And you know, that’s a story I hear wherever I travel. Somebody will come up, and they’ll be like, “I grew up listening to your dad in the car,” and I’m like, “Me, too!” It’s just good. It’s good.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I wanted to ask if you could maybe give us a bit of a picture and a story for what it was like growing up with Zig Ziglar himself, the legend, as your father.

Tom Ziglar  
Well, I’ll tell you this, he was better off the stage than he was on stage. And of course, everybody who saw him thought he was maybe as good as he ever was on stage. And what I mean by that is, he really walked his talk. And one of my good friends said, “You know, your dad walks his talk, and he’s a pretty good talker.”

But at the same time, dad was an introvert. So when he was at the house, he was kind of quiet. He was always reading. Whenever we had family time together, he was always engaged. And it was just a blessing to know that he was there for us. And then when he had a teaching moment, he didn’t tell us what to do. Instead, he just asked us questions. So that was pretty clever.

I mean, here’s a world class expert. You know, millions of people, you know, read his books and followed him. And then we would come up with, “Hey, I want to do this,” or “What do you think about that?” Instead of just giving us the answer, because he obviously had it, he would turn around and then ask us the question that made us think through it. So that was something that I’m trying to emulate as I grow.

Pete Mockaitis  
That is a nice encapsulation there of the power of questions. Because, indeed, you know, here’s someone who’s got a lot of answers and shared a lot of answers to a lot of people, and this is the approach he takes for teaching. So well, that’s beautiful. A beautiful memory. Thank you.

You’ve got a recent book called Choose to Win out. what was maybe the most surprising or fascinating discovery you made while you were putting this together?

Tom Ziglar  
Probably, this is a discovery out the book that kind of got it started. I was speaking in Australia. And right before the first break, a guy raises his hand — I love questions. And he says, “Tom, what is the fastest way to success?” And I’ve never been asked that question. I’m 54, at that time, I was 50. So I’d been in the business for 50 years, raised in it.

And I never heard that question posed. It was always, you know, “What do successful people do?” or “What are the three keys to being successful?” But this guy wanted to know what is the fastest way? And so I, in that split moment, had to make up an answer. And so just out of my mouth, I said, “Well, the fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.” And then we went to break. I didn’t think anything of it.

When we came back from break, and the host there, his name is Steve McKnight. He said, “Hey, before I bring Tom on, get out your pens. Did you hear what he said right before break? He said ‘The fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.’”

Well, Pete, I didn’t realize I’d said that. So I literally got my pen out, and I wrote it down. And I’m kind of like, in the back of my brain, because I’ve grown up, I’m like, “You know, who did I just quote?” That night, I thought about it the whole time. That night, I went back to my room and looked it up on the internet. Nobody had said it that way, so I claimed it.

That kind of became the anchor quote of the book. And so then I started a program, a webinar series that I teach. And I started teaching what I wanted to put in the book. And I did that for two years. So pretty much about 45 weeks. For two years in a row, I taught sections of what I thought should go into the book. And that was the discovery, is putting information out there. And then getting all the feedback from all the people on all these webinars, where their questions were. And that’s kind of how it all came together.

So the discovery was that the simple things that I grew up with and took for granted. That’s not common knowledge or common practice. And there’s so much information out there that overcomplicates things. And so that’s why I tried to put the book the way I did. The byline is ‘transform your life, one simple choice at a time.’ And all I have is a good choice made over and over again.

And so, that’s kind of how we started off. Dad said it’s “Putting the cookies on the lower shelf.” And so every week, I would try to put the cookies on the lowest shelf possible. And that’s kind of how the book got honed.

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, intriguing. Well, so then, is that then the big idea underneath all of us? To win is going about replacing bad habits with good habits?

Tom Ziglar  
That is the big idea. If you’re reading and writing and speaking and doing things, you’re always trying to find the next new thing — or not necessarily a new thing, but a new way to say it. And I’ve come across this quote that I love, and I’m trying to track down who said it first. But the quote is, “A tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness.” And so the idea is real simple.

As you listen to this, what fruit do you want on your tree? What’s the fruit you want? Well, most people, they want to sleep good. They want good physical health, they want money, they want good relationships. So you just kind of fill in your tree with the fruit that you want. What are the things in life that we want? So what are the roots that nourish the fruit?

Well, there are seven roots: mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal and career. And then here’s the essence of the quote: the fastest way to success is replace bad habits with good habits. Habits are what nourish the roots. And so what fruit do you want? What root feeds the fruit? And what habits do you have that nourish the root? And that’s really the book in a nutshell, and it’s in its design, where on a weekly basis, I can make progress to whatever goal, aspiration or dream I have.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, that’s cool. And that’s a good feeling, to be in that zone of regular recurring weekly progress. Could you whet our appetite, if you will, by sharing an inspiring story of someone who really read the book, took these concepts, and ran with it in terms of, “Hey, this is the fruit I want. This is the root I’m nourishing, and these are the habits I’m adopting,” and how they went after it with gusto.

Tom Ziglar
I’ll give you two. The book has been out now just a little more than a month. So you know, I’m getting notes all the time. But we’ve got about a month’s worth of results. Somebody who I’ve known forever, a good friend of mine, his name is Michael Norton. He got the book right away right when it was published. And then I was with him a couple of weeks later, and he gave me back the book that he’d bought. And underneath it, in the book, he had underlined and marked almost every page in the book.

And he wrote me this long inscription. And he said, “One year from today, you and I are going to meet, and we’re going to go through this book again.” And this is a guy who I think knows everything, right? He knows my stuff. He knows what we’ve been doing in Ziglar for years. And then I’m talking to him a couple of weeks later, and he’s read the book two more times since then!

And it’s not like he’s a slow learner or anything, okay? What he’s doing is he’s going back to the foundation. And he’s getting real clarity on the specific goals that he wants to achieve. And the book talks about legacy, and the difference between success, significance and legacy. And so what he’s doing right now is he is intentionally creating habits that will leave a legacy. And so that’s the path that he’s on.

I did a workshop for a group, and there was a family there. And they put in practice one of the things that I teach in the book, and that is, they took words that they wanted their family to be known for. And they had a bunch of kids, young kids all the way from three until, I believe, 11. Hollis family.

And they got ahead of family meaning, and they say, “What do we want to be known for?” And the whole family started putting in words, and they made an acronym around the word HOUSE. And so now, you can walk up to any of their kids, and you can you can ask them, “What’s a house?” and they will tell you. And it’s the reputation they want to have. And so they’re doing things every single day with their family to instill those principles and values, those words that make a difference.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s cool. That’s cool. And so in the case of Michael, I guess, for example, what are the particular fruits he’s after? And the habits he’s implementing?

Tom Ziglar  
While we’re talking, I’m opening up a text from him.

Pete Mockaitis  
Real time.

Tom Ziglar  
Real time, baby. Yeah, real time.

Tom Ziglar
Yeah. So this is what he wrote. So in chapter one, I talked about what is a goal or a dream that you have. So here’s what he wrote me: “Chapter one, homework. The Dream House. It’s a house on the beach with a big front porch. I can hear the crashing of the waves and the general laughing of the waves against the shoreline. The salt air fills the home to the point where everything smells like the beach.

“There are enough bedrooms and sofas and space for air mattresses where the whole family can gather and friends can stay. It’s a home where I have a large enough area to host business associates and clients. The annoyance of having to sweep or vacuum the sand every day is swept away by the magnificent view, the salty air, and the sounds of the ocean. It is filled with the smell of suntan lotion and squeals of joy, laughter, children playing in the sand or in the water.

“There are waves just the right size to body surf. And I teach my children and grandchildren how to body surf. There is an ice cream shop just blocks away — and I might even own it — that I take the family to at the end of the day or after dinner. We are close enough to the boardwalk with rides, arcades, and miniature golf and boardwalk through the house that’s close enough to a real golf course, where we can play and enjoy time together.

“There is a library in the house where I can sit and read and do my devotions and spend time in prayer. The front porch can serve the same purpose on those beautiful mornings where the weather cooperates. The house faces the sun. So we wake to God’s sunrise and beauty. The house is a home built on love and forgiveness, kindness, generosity, togetherness, faith and joy.”

So in that chapter, I basically say, you know, we’ve got to create our “why”, the future that we want, what is it that we aspire to? And I just gave an example of my dream home, what I want in the book. And so he sent me his. And that’s cool, because whenever we speak words, and we put a definition around in it, our mind goes to work immediately to fulfill it. And so it’s one of the things that happens.

It’s a habit that you see with anybody who’s achieved a certain level of success anywhere, is they have a way of looking into the future, and creating it, and speaking it out and casting the vision. And so he’s put it in writing, and he sent it to me, and I’m sure he shared it with his wife. And, you know, they’re thinking about what it is that they want to have.

Pete Mockaitis  
And it’s very vivid, you know, there’s a lot of great imagery there with regard to the smells.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, and I talked about that in the book, because you want to get all your senses involved: your touch, your smell, your taste, the feel, what you hear, what you see. When you do those things, that makes it more real in our brain.

You know, it’s one of the things about TV, and why it’s so damaging, is it puts our brain to sleep because the imagination doesn’t have to do anything. But when we read or listen, our imagination has to fill in the gaps. So that’s why a book or a podcast or something where there is no visual, our brain has to fill in the gaps. We can put ourselves in that place, or we can create our own while we’re listening or reading.

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, that’s cool. So we had a real clear picture of the fruits that we’re after with regard to that home. And so then, can you walk us through the process? So where do we go from there?

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, so the “why”. People come to me all the time, and they will say things like, “Tom, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is the right thing.”

And so we have a conversation around the “what”, and I’ll go back and I’ll say, “You know, the “what” is important, but it’s not as important as the “why”.” And so before we even get to the “what”, I like to know why they want to do something. And when we get to the “why”, and somebody buys into the “why”, like they’ve identified their purpose, their calling, what it is that they’re meant to do, and they hone in on that, then what happens is that that transforms into the “how”.

When your “how” is inspired by “why”, people take notice of the “how”. And so you can see this, and people who are, you know, you think they’re passionate about what they do, but underneath it is why they’re doing it, and when their “why” forms their “how”, everybody says, “Can you come help me over here?” “Can you do this?”

Well, let’s suppose that you’ve got your “why”, and it’s driving you. Well, now you need a game plan for the “how”. And that’s one of the things that we talked about in the book, in accomplishing anything in life.

There are three things that have to happen. We have to have the right mindset. And in other words, mindset is simply the habit of right thinking. So we’ve got to get our thinking right. The second, we’ve got to have the habit of right implementing. We got to do the right things, right? We’ve got to make sure that we’re on track, implementing the right things. And then we got to have the habit of right planning.

So if we implement the wrong things, that’s no good. So we get the right mindset, we plan it out, and then we take action on it. And so the book really goes through the process of, “How do I take a thought, a dream, a goal, and aspiration, and make it tangible into a plan of action?” And then, “How do I take action on that plan of action?” And the action is really, it boils down to simple choices made over and over again.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so those are the things associated with getting what you want and what you’re after. I’d like to talk about establishing that “why”. We had David Meade, who worked with Simon Sinek on some of this stuff earlier. But I’d love to get your take on how you go about articulating a “why”, or discovering the “why” and really bringing it right to the surface.

Tom Ziglar  
I think the thing that I use as an illustration, it’s three circles that overlap in the middle. So imagine three separate circles. And they kind of overlap in the middle, and where all three overlap. That’s what I call your sweet spot. That’s where you go hunting. And of course, in our business, we work with business owners and executives and people from all walks of life. But we also work with a lot of people who are faith-based.

And one of the things that’s interesting to me about faith-based people is a lot of times, they will hesitate. They won’t claim their “why”, because they don’t want to be wrong, you know, like, “What if I put a stake in the ground, and I’m wrong? That’s not my calling.” And so what they do is they get trapped in this Neverland, right? They get trapped of never fully 100% going all in. And that’s always a mistake. Because when you go all in for something, at least you’re going to find out faster, if it’s in the right direction. If you go halfway, you’re going to waste a lot of time.

So let’s look at those three circles. The first circle is, you can call it the “passion circle”. You could call it “What makes my heart saying ‘It’s the thing that you do’”, that time flies, it’s easy for you. It’s something that, you know, you anticipate, you don’t have to wake up for, the alarm doesn’t have to go off. You know, it’s kind of that thing that that makes your heart sing. That’s the first circle.

The second circle is, what problem do you solve? And this one is, you’ve got to do some searching on this. And you look back in your history, and, what kind of problems do people bring you? You know, are they people problems? Are they business problems? Are they math problems? Are they relationship problems? And what is that telling you? That’s a clue. That’s something that you’re good at. And so what problem do you solve is another way of saying “What are my natural gifts and talents? What am I good at?”

And the third one is, what’s the obstacle you’ve overcome? The scar that you have? The mountain that you’ve climbed? In other words, in your life, in all of us, if you live long enough, you’ve got a trial, a tribulation, a problem, something that happened. It could be something beyond your control, you know? You could come from a broken home or have a disease or be in an accident, or it could be a bad decision that you make that you wish you could take back. And if that’s the case, you know, now you’re living with the consequences.

And so if you’ve overcome that, if you’ve gone through time, and you’ve kind of you’ve worked your way through it, and you’ve learned, boy, that is a that’s a powerful thing. When you talk about the people who have the greatest impact on others, almost always, they’ve overcome some huge challenge in their life, some pit that they had to crawl out of.

And so look at these three circles: the thing that makes your heart sing, your gifts and talents, what you’re naturally good at, and the obstacle that you’ve overcome.

And where those three circles kind of overlap, that might be your sweet spot. Because that’s where you’ve got a real-world experience where you have literally compassion and empathy for other people going through the same thing. Because you’ve had a burden there. You’ve got gifts and talents, and you’ve got a passion to help.

And so that’s how I help people in one area find their way. The other is, you know, just ask yourself the question, “What is it in your life that’s most important?” Like at the end of your life? What do you want to be known for? And so when you start to pull all these things together, it will start to tell you a direction to go in.

When my daughter was young — she was a junior in high school, we actually took her up to Chicago, and we went to see a psychologist. It was like a two-and-a-half day testing of her aptitude and her natural abilities. And at the end — it was a two-and-a-half hour interview with the psychologist on the feedback — and what we were trying to do was to figure out, you know, what should we study in school? What direction should I point my life, right? Because I’m going to be applying to colleges; I’m not sure what I want, which direction should I go.

And instead of having a 360-degree opportunity of “I could go any direction,” they kind of gave her some pies to go after. And they said it could be anything in this area. But that’s the direction. Here’s the one line that I took away from that. The psychologist said, “Pay attention to the things you don’t like.”

Because a lot of times, the sweet job, the great opportunity has all the bells and whistles that you’re excited about it. One or two layers down, it might have a whole list of things that you just don’t like, you can’t stand. And that’s as important to you as you discover your gifts and talents, and your “whys”, what do you want most? And what are the things that drive you nuts? Because they shouldn’t be in the same place.

Now, all of us have to do things along the way, that isn’t our favorite thing to do. But we need to make sure that we understand what those are, so that we can be competent enough to excel in our gifts and talents.

Pete Mockaitis  
Mm-hmm. Okay, very cool. So in this world, we got the passion, the problem, the obstacle, we’re sort of in that zone, we’ve got a real nice image associated with what you’re going after. Can you now share a little bit of some of the tactical process, step-by-step stuff when it comes to goal setting, in particular. I love some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to goal setting.

Tom Ziglar  
About a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago, I was talking with a friend who’s a consultant.

And he said to me, “You know that in the world, about 20% of the people are naturally goal setters. They like setting goals. 80% are actually problem solvers.” They like the checklist, right? “They’d like to wake up in the morning, solve a bunch of problems, and then do it again the next day.” And that was a new thing for me. And then I realized, “Wait a second, only 3% of the population takes the time to have a written down goals plan. It’s actually less than 3%!” So now it makes sense.

So the first do or don’t is this: when we talk about goal setting, we have a very specific seven-step process that we outlined in the book of how to set a goal. If you raise your hand and you say, “But Tom, I’m more of a problem solver.” Then I say fantastic! And I’ll give you a high five. And all I want you to do is change the word, from “Ziglar goal setting system” to “Ziglar problem solving system”.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay. That’s pretty easy.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, because it’s the same system either way. And so I’ll just give you an example. Step one is to identify the goal that you want to achieve. And so, gosh, you know, Michael identified that goal of he wanted his dream house, okay? Well, for a problem solver, it could be the same thing.

Well, what’s the problem? The problem is, I don’t like where I’m living. I’d really rather live somewhere else. So the problem I want to solve is I want to move from this to this. But for whatever reason, it’s more of a psychological hack, I guess it’s easier for a problem solver to say, “Okay, now I can set up a sequence of problems to solve,” whereas a goal achiever is thinking, “Okay, these are habits that I’ve got to implement.”

But the reality is they’re the same: the habits and the problems that I solved are the same when working with young people. Gosh, you know, let’s say you have a kid, 8 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old, and they want to be a college athlete. They want to play basketball or golf at the university. And you say, “Fantastic, I’m all for you.” And they go out, and they practice real hard. And the next day, they’re not practicing at all. What do you do when you come back?

And you say, “Hey, I thought you wanted to be a college basketball player?” “Well, I do.” “Well, let me ask you a question: What’s the benefit to them being a college basketball player? And so you let the person, whether they’re your child, or whether they’re an adult in the workplace, you let them tell you what the benefits are. So that’s step two. Step one is, “This is what I want to be,” step two is what are the benefits.

This is overlooked all the time, it’s usually very passing. You know, my goal is to weigh 185. That means I got to lose 20 pounds. So my goal was to weigh 185.

If I’m a problem solver, my problem is as I weigh 205, what are the benefits to solving this problem? What are the benefits to achieving this goal? The more benefits that we list — and the list should be long — the more likely it is that we’re going to follow through. It’s not just look better and feel better. It’s reduced medical expense, it’s better clarity of mind, it’s better relationships, it’s more confidence when I go out in the business world.

It’s all the things, that it’s being able to chase my grandkids someday, because I have good health. So the more benefits that we write in, the better. And so we go through the seven-step process. Number three is what are the major obstacles and mountains to climb that I’ve got to solve? That will keep me from getting there. If I’m trying to lose weight — man, I’m lazy.

My obstacle is, I’ve got to create a habit right out of the gate. If I’m working out at a certain time, every day before I get tired, you know, then I’ve got to figure out the skills and knowledge I need to get there. What don’t I know that I need to know in order to make that happen? And then the people to work with, and then finally the plan of action to get there and a date.

But it starts with the mindset. “Hey, this is what I want. This is why it’s a benefit.” And then we do the plan. And we detail out the plan, identifying the obstacles and barriers before we get started. Because they shouldn’t be a surprise when they come. We should relish them when we come, because now we’re prepared in advance to handle them.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, that’s awesome. So all right, step one, identify the goal. Step two, identify the benefits with a long list. Step three, zero in on the major mountains and obstacles that are going to get your way. Step four, zero in on the missing knowledge, what you don’t yet know that you need to know. And step five, the people you’ve got collaborate with to get there. Step six, the plan of action. Step seven, the date. Is that right?

Tom Ziglar
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And so when we talk about a couple things, what’s your take on smart goals? Because I see some of those things here with regard to — aren’t we out of date? So it’s timed, we identify the goal. So it’s specific. What do you think about the other elements there?

Tom Ziglar  
You know, let’s talk about reasonable, realistic. People ask all the time, “Well, what’s a realistic goal?” and I tell them, “A goal needs to be realistic in two senses: one is that, first off, it’s realistic in the sense that if you start tomorrow, you’ll get there in the timeframe with a reasonable likelihood of achieving it.”

Because if my goal is to lose 100 pounds in 30 days, that’s not realistic.

But if my goal is to lose five pounds in two years, that’s not a good goal either, right? Because I can gain 50 pounds, and then only have to lose 55 in the next year. So so the deadline that we put on, it needs to be something where I need to take action right away. If you’re not willing to take action on it right away— I know that it’s hard for people to really work on more than four goals at a time. It’s just our capacity and what we’re trying to do. So I would rather somebody pick four goals that they will take action on right away.

And if you’re new to goal setting, here’s something else. Just have one. Get really good at one, you know, work the plan for one and then add one and then add one. So that’s a great way to get started. And then there’s goals that give leverage to everything else, the way you start your day. I call it the perfect start. If you have that goal right, then it enhances everything else you do.

Physical, anything physical is going to be a multiplier for everything else you do. When we’re in good physical shape, we have more clarity, we have more energy, there’s a lot of things that happen with that. So realistic, is really around the timeframe and the priority. One of the other things that we do in the book is we create a filter. And the filter is a series of questions to make sure that it’s the right goal for you.

And we can look around how many people do you know who are accountants or engineers or doctors who are no longer practicing right now? Yeah, they went to school because somebody along the way said, “Hey, you’re good at math, or you’re good at biology.” And so they just assumed, “Hey, that’s who I’m supposed to be.” And then they go through all that work. And they realize, “Wait a second, this doesn’t fit my “why”. This doesn’t give me satisfaction. This isn’t what I was put here on earth to do. This isn’t my calling.”

And so what we say is this: there’s only one thing worse than not setting a goal. And that’s setting the wrong goal and achieving it. And so we want to be real clear on what it is that we want. And we do that through a series of filtering questions.

Pete Mockaitis
And what are the questions?

Tom Ziglar  
There’s a couple of them. Is it morally right and fair to everyone concerned? I’ll give you an example. When my daughter was a senior in high school, I knew it was going to be her last year at home. Because she was going to go off to college, and then knowing her, she’s going to get an apartment when she gets back as soon as she can. She’s very independent. And so in her senior year of high school, if I’d set a goal to be a competitive triathlete, then that would have been a commitment of four to six hours of training a day, on top of my workload.

And what that would mean is I wouldn’t have any time to be with my daughter in her last year in the house.

So that would be a goal that wasn’t morally fair to her, right? Because she’s more important than that. So that’s one question you can ask, then you’ve got to ask questions like, “Will it make me happier, healthier? Will it make me prosperous? Will it give me peace of mind? Will it have better relationships? Help in the future?” All these things? If I can’t answer yes to any of those things, then why do I want it?

And then another one is, it can’t contradict one of my other goals. For example, say your goal is to have great health. And then your other goal is to win the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating contest. You can’t do those simultaneously and be on track. So those are some of the type questions that we put through the filter. Also, probably the easiest one, you know, what’s your goal? What is your dream? You write it down and then you ask yourself the “why” question: “Why do I want that?” And if you can’t, in one sentence, clearly identify why you want it, take it off the list.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s good. Well, finally here, I’d like to zero in on when it comes to the habits. You know, it may be that the fastest way to reach success is to replace bad habits with good habits, but it’s perhaps not the most immediately easy and painless way to get to success. So what are some of your tactical tips for the actual elimination of the bad habits and the development of a good habit?

Tom Ziglar  
You know, I’ll just cite a study that I read, because it kind of validates the whole thing. They took two groups of people who needed to lose a good amount of weight. And they said, “How many of you would like to lose weight?” They volunteered for this because they all wanted to run a 5k, and they all needed to lose like 20 pounds or more. And so they knew that getting in shape to run a 5k would help them lose the weight.

So one group, they said, “Okay, we’re going to run that 5k in 90 days. Go figure it out, just start jogging four or five times a week. You know what to do, right? It’s common sense.” The other group, they said to them, “How many of you watch TV every day?” And so, of course, they all raised their hand. And they said, “Well, for this first week, could you commit to watching TV 30 minutes a day and standing up while you do it?”

So they all said yes. And they all said, “Wait a second, we’re supposed to be getting in shape.” And they said, “It’s okay, we got a plan.” So these people who were watching TV anyway, the first week, what they did is they watch TV standing up. Right? Then the second week, they came back to them. And they said, “Hey, when the commercials come on, and you’re standing up during that thirty-minute section, could you walk in place during the commercials?”

So they all said, “Yeah, we can do that.” Well, then the next week, they said, “Hey, when the commercials Come on, can you walk outside to your mailbox and come back in?” Well, eventually they had them walking to the end of the block and coming back and then jogging out to the end of the block and coming back long.

And the short of it is that of the first group who they said “Just go exercise, you know what to do.” I think only about 30% of them completed the 5k. Almost 90% of the people who incrementally changed a bad habit for a good habit finished the 5k.

And so what we’re talking about, we call it the “persistent consistency” or “the block and a mailbox” plan. My father is famous for his weight loss journey. He said he got checked out by the doctor, they cleared him to jog, and the first time he jogged, he jogged to jog the block.

The second day, he jogged a block and a mailbox. The third day, he jogged a block and two mailboxes. And so what he did is he kept adding a mailbox until he did a whole block, and then two blocks, and then a half a mile, and then a mile.

That is, I think, the key of habits, is we take a bad habit, a little tiny, termite-sized, bad habit. And we replace it with a little bitty termite-sized good habit. And then we build. And so every day, every week, we do just a little bit more. And that’s the way careers are made, and reputations are built, and businesses are created.

It’s that long-term goal of, “Hey, I’m just going to get a little bit better every single day. And how am I going to do that? I’m going to take the things that are keeping me from achieving what I want out of my life and replace them with things that are going to take me closer to what I want and put them in my life.”

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah, I really love that. Because we just get so darn simple, like, “Well, I could stand up, and I’m watching TV. Sure.” You make that easy. Then if you almost feel like… I don’t know what the word is, like you would feel foolish to not do that. You’re like, “Come on, I can do that.” And it’s because of that, there’s very little resistance, mentally or internally, with regard to like, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

It’s just like, “Of course, yeah, I can. And in fact, if I didn’t, I would feel silly, not doing this tiny thing.” That is the challenge before me. And I really dig that with regard to, in this specific context of habits. That’s cool. We had BJ Fogg talking about tiny habits. Earlier, we had David Allen talking about making your list just so crystal clear.

Like, what is just the next action, right? I’m going to look up a phone number, I could look up a phone number. That’s, you know, as opposed to, you know, figure out that the next car I’m going to buy. Well, that’s a lot more complex and intimidating. But that’s really fun. And the results prove it out, like, they got the job done with regard to finishing the 5k at a way higher rate. That’s awesome.

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, I was in Nashville with some friends. I was with Dan Miller, a great guy, and with his grandson, Caleb. So we’re having dinner. And Caleb looks at me, and I’d give them both of them the book and Caleb says, “How do I know if I have a bad habit?” And he’s either 23 or 24? I think. So he’s a young guy. And it seems like on the surface, that seems like, “Why are you asking that question?”

But if you dig in a little bit, it’s a fantastic question. Because here’s the reality: You don’t know if you have a bad habit, unless you have a clearly defined “why”, a goal or aspiration, right? You just don’t know. Because here’s the definition: A bad habit is something that takes you further away from where you want to go. That’s all it is. A good habit is something that takes you closer to where you want to go. If your goal was to get lung cancer, smoking would be a fantastic habit.

So that’s where I think a lot of people, they go, “I gotta get in shape. I need to do this, I need to do that.” But they never take the time to drive it with the “why”. And so they give up because they can’t tell, “Is this taking me closer to or further from my “why”? Because I don’t have one.”

But as soon as you have one, and if you make it vivid, you know, like Michael did in his dream home — he made it vivid — if you make your “why” vivid, and you can smell it, taste it, feel it, and then as you go through the day, and you’re about to do something, you can literally look at the cheesecake card as it goes by and you can say, “Yeah, those won’t take me closer to my goal,” and you just keep walking.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s good. Tom, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Tom Ziglar  
No, that’s really the essence of the book. There’s a lot of how-to in there. I have like 50 habits that you can use to achieve top performance in your career, 20 habits or 20 things you can do to create energy in your personal life. And these are all super, super actionable and simple things. And so the book is just filled with this. And we look at every area of life, because success in life is about balance. And so we never want to be so one-sided. It’s never just about that the career or just about one area of life. It’s about everything. And that’s the way we approach it.

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

Tom Ziglar  
Yeah, my favorite all-time quote is from my father, it’s “You are what you are and where you are, because of what’s gone into your mind. And you can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” So in a nutshell, the number one lesson that I learned was we choose our input. And when we choose our input, that determines everything else.

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

Tom Ziglar  
You know, I’ve got a bunch of them. I love Thou Shall Prosper, and Business Secrets of the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Bob Beaudine wrote The Power of Who and Two Chairs, which is amazing. And I just read Dr. Tim Irwin’s book, Extraordinary Influence, which is fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, thank you. How about a favorite tool, something you use to help you be awesome at your job?

Tom Ziglar  
Well, right now, I am on a block and a mailbox, physical, you know, get in shape. And so I have an app on my phone that is measuring my heartbeat and everything on the elliptical that we have. So it’s like every day, I just got to do a little bit better than a day before. And that is powerful.

Pete Mockaitis  
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audiences and readers?

Tom Ziglar  
There’s a couple. One’s already shared: a tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness. And here’s a little insight into that, you know, because we already talked about it. But what nourishes roots on a tree are pure water nourishes roots, and so does fertilizer. So, in our life, what nourishes us are words of life, things, knowledge and information, and inspiration that give us the courage do something we haven’t done before, that nourishes us. But you know, what else nourishes us are the trials and tribulations the big truck backing up with the pile of manure that covers us.

If we look at that, the obstacles, the things that happened to us as opportunities, and what’s the nutrition that our roots can get out of, and the rest just becomes a foundation that changes our view of life. And once again, our mindset and how we see things will determine as much as anything as to how successful we’re going to be.

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

Tom Ziglar  
The easiest place to find this is ziglar.com. You can find the book there, and also, Choose to Win.

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

Tom Ziglar  
Ultimately, everything you do, boils down to this. It’s a choice.

Everything you do… now, not choosing is a choice, too. And so here’s the thing, what is it that you want to become? Who do you want to become? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? And then what are the choices that you can make that will take you closer to who you want to become what you want to do and what you want to have? That’s the key.

Pete Mockaitis  
Tom, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you and the book, Choose to Win, all kinds of luck, and keep doing what you’re doing.

Tom Ziglar  
Thank you. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much, Pete.

432: How Leaders Consistently Make Great Decisions with Greg Bustin

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Greg Bustin reveals his insights on decision-making gleaned from 52 inspiring historical events.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The two things you need when making a decision
  2. The Seven F’s tool that can help you decide what you want
  3. How to fight cognitive bias

About Greg

For more than two decades, Greg has been skillfully counseling a diverse roster of innovative companies. He’s a trusted advisor to savvy CEOs and key leaders—steering three executive groups and providing one-on-one coaching as a Master Chair for Vistage International, the world’s largest CEO organization.

Organizations around the world invite Greg to conduct private workshops and deliver thought-provoking keynote addresses on leadership, strategy, conflict resolution and Workplace Accountability.

He’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Financial Executive, and more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Bustin Interview Transcript

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

Greg Bustin  
Thank you, Pete. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis  
I’m glad to have you. And I think the first thing we need to hear about is your drumming career.

Greg Bustin  
Well, it started in early age. I probably started on pots and pans like most drummers, and then got a little drum set when I was six. And I was in a marching band, an orchestra, jazz band, a rock band, I’ve kind of I’ve kind of done it all. Now, I pretty much just play the steering wheel.

Pete Mockaitis
Safely, I assume?

Greg Bustin  
Oh, yeah, both hands on the wheel, in the 10 and 2 positions, right?

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good, that’s good. Cool. Well, so I want to hear about your book, How Leaders Decide. I liked the format in terms of all the different stories, but I guess I’d like to start with a bang. What’s maybe the most surprising and fascinating discovery you made when you were putting together the book?

Greg Bustin  
Well, I ended up looking at more than 25,000 events, and you go, “Wow, how do you get it down to 52?” Because the format of the book, as you alluded to, it’s really bite-sized chapters, because the leaders that I work with, like I’m in that kind of, “Hey, I can read this in 10 minutes and reflect, and I can either put it down or keep going.”

So how did I get it down to 52, and of the 52, what’s the one you most want to know about? I think the one that’s most surprising to me is the story of Mary Edwards Walker. She is the only female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. So, 3,522 recipients, and she is still the only female ever to be awarded this honor, which is the military’s highest honor for bravery. And her story of bravery and courage and sacrifice took a lot of twists and turns, starting with the fact that, you know, as a woman, in the 1850s, she wanted to pursue a career as a doctor. And you know, she was told all the reasons why that wouldn’t happen.

Her parents were very encouraging, and she actually became one of the first women to graduate from medical school, and about the time she graduated, civil war was breaking out, and she wanted to volunteer. And she was turned down, not really because of her capability, but because of her gender. And ultimately, her persistence and her desire to serve landed her the position — first behind the fighting, and then ultimately she was placed on the battlefield. And from there, she even volunteered to become a spy for the North and went on some spying missions in Georgia.

And so she was awarded that in 1864. So as the war was nearing its end, she was awarded that — and it can only be awarded by presidents. And so, she made it through all the naysayers, all the bureaucracy, all the males, and eventually was awarded that. It was taken away from her, actually. It was reinstated by President Jimmy Carter.

So almost, you know, 100 years lapsed — or more than 100 years — between her receiving it, having it taken away, and then having it reinstated. And to this day, as I say, she is the only female Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. And I knew nothing about her. I just stumbled into it as I was researching the book.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, that is deep, surprising and fascinating. I did not know this, and now I do. And so now, since we’re all teed up about, you know, this person and the story, what’s sort of the leadership decision-making takeaway from that one?

Greg Bustin  
Well, I think it’s in multiple parts. First, she did not care who got the credit, and so that she was really driven just by the desire to serve our country and help her fellow human beings. I think it’s also obviously a story of persistence. And when you look at a lot of these stories, I mean, you see that as a common theme.

My challenge in writing the book is that, “Okay, well, you can have every chapter. If they’re 50 to 60, it’s like, guess what? The lesson is persistence”, because these folks all fought their way through some adversity or another. But I think her selfless desire to serve, was a cool thing.

And you know, the lesson is, if you’re a leader, how would those people in your organization rate your fairness and consistency when evaluating performance? And the question is, do you play favorites? Mary Edwards Walker had to overcome stereotypes, favoritism, double standards, and yet she persevered and triumphed.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. Thank you. Well, so then that’s one key theme that kind of weaves through the book, how leaders decide. Any other kind of main messages that you’d like to emphasize?

Greg Bustin  
Well, yes.

I think that what you’ll read in this book, many people say, “Look, I knew about the story of the Titanic,” or “I knew about Winston Churchill,” or whatever the case may be. It’s really the story behind the story that people find interesting.

I think the main message is that leaders are in the decision-making business, and all of these people, some of these were reluctant leaders, some of them just found themselves at a time and place where their integrity was confronted, their values were challenged.

And you know, what you see in the book is that essentially, these people made the decisions that they made, because number one: they were grounded in a very firm belief of understanding where they stood on issues and matters of integrity. And the other is that they also knew very clearly what it is that they wanted.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, that’s good. Well, so then I’d love it, maybe if we could jump into another one of what you think is perhaps the most illustrative story out of your 52 collection that really is eye-opening and transformational for the typical corporate professional who wants to just make better decisions.

Greg Bustin  
Well, I got a question at a book signing event: “What chapter would you recommend that your daughter read?” And I said, Well, I’d let her read the whole book and let her make her own decision.” And when pressed for it, I actually put another female that I had profiled: Marie Curie. And I picked Marie Curie because I think that the transformational aspect, or the applicability to today’s leader, whether they’re an aspiring leader or a seasoned leader, is that Marie Curie was raised in an environment where learning and improvement was strongly encouraged.

I mean, ultimately, her family, despite severe hardship, growing up in Russia-controlled Poland, raised a teacher, two doctors, and a Nobel Laureate. And that really speaks to the kind of environment where leaders perform well. And I think the other piece that’s transformational is that when she married Pierre Curie.

Pierre came to the conclusion that Marie’s work was actually more applicable and more important than the work that he was doing. And so, he was willing to set aside his work and become Marie’s partner. And so, if you think about that, if you’re a leader, I think that one of the ways that you’re encouraged as a leader is to be a part of a team that supports one another.

And certainly, Marie Curie had that in the form of her husband, where again, in a traditional role of typically males being the dominant force in a relationship, Pierre recognized Marie’s capability, and was willing to essentially take a backseat.

And I think that in today’s environment, having that kind of support and encouragement from your peers, your supervisor, whatever, can really cultivate and bring out the best in today’s leaders.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s handy, certainly. So that humility and knowing when, “Okay, I’m going to take a backseat and just support them,” and that’s a winning move. Certainly, that’s a great takeaway for many environments. So I guess I’d love to hear, in terms of — you got 52 stories in here, we’ve talked about a couple of… right up front, you know, of all the suggestions that you have unearthed from these tales, when it comes to improving decision making, what do you think is the practice or approach that can offer you the greatest bang for your buck, if you will, like the most decision quality boost per hour or unit of effort?

Greg Bustin  
I think that it starts with what I’ve called seven behaviors that distinguish decisive leaders. And so one of those is believing deeply. So there’s a chapter about Walt Disney, and his brother, Roy, has a quote, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” And I think that speaks loudly today. If you know what your values are, the decision should be easy. You may not like the answer, but the answer will be clear. So believing deeply is the first of those behaviors.

Secondly, confronting reality, openly. We looked at JFK and 18 months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is the the event that’s profiled in the book, was the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.

And in hindsight, Kennedy realized that he had not opened up the discussion more broadly; people had been pigeonholed in in their thinking, and there was a lot of peer pressure to let the conventional wisdom of the CIA take its course. And what happened was that it ended in disaster.

And so when the Cuban Missile Crisis came around, Kennedy said, “Look, I’m learning from those mistakes. We’re going to bring in lots of people, we’re going to get fresh ideas, we’re going to bring in outside experts.” He even decided, “I’m going to leave the room sometimes, because I know that I can have an influence on people needing to say what needs to be said,” and he asked a lot of questions. And those questions were all aimed at confronting reality, facing the facts. There’s a need to cultivate curiosity.

And we talked about 3M and William McKnight, and the culture that he instilled inside of 3M, to make 3M, one of the most innovative companies in the world. There’s a notion of engaging meaningfully. And we look at the Apollo 13 crash and how these guys on the ground had to solve a problem 250,000 miles out in space with only the materials they had, and they had to bring everyone together under the crunch of time to do that.

There’s an element of deciding speedily, and then the need to adapt proactively. So all of those things, way into it. I think it really goes back to knowing what you want. And in my talk with the executives that I work with, what ultimately comes from these discussions is that it’s not as hard to achieve what it is that you want.

What’s harder than achieving what you want is knowing what you want. And so I think that before you can make decisions, again, I come back to those two things: You’ve got to know what your values are, and you got to know what you want. And I think pound for pound, that’s how you get through to get more of what you want, and how you make better decisions.

Pete Mockaitis  
Understood, yes. Great. Let’s talk about that. How does one get to know what they want? And I imagine the true depth of what you want is often not what leaps to mind off the surface?

Greg Bustin  
Well, you’re exactly right, Pete. I’ve actually got a form on my website that your listeners can download for free. It’s called “The Seven Fs.” It’s an F as in Frank.

The mind is a funny thing. Sometimes we need to let it roam freely. Other times when you let it run so freely, you’re just overwhelmed by the number of choices. And so what this seven F’s document does is it really forces people to say, “Okay, when you think about your friends, what do you want when it comes to your friends? When you think about financial? What does it look like when you talk about financial? When you think about your fitness, what does that really mean?”

When you start putting some definition around those things, “fun” is one of the Fs, right? When you when you talk about fun, you know, what does that look like? And so when you start compartmentalizing these aspects of your life, it really allows you to get more specific about deciding what it is that you want.

You know, my dad had a phrase that I loved. I mean, I was talking to him one day; it was after I’d started my own business. And frankly, I wasn’t very happy. I mean, my name is on the door, I’ve got all these people working for me, and I’m making a lot of money. I’m not happy. And he said, “Look, do what you love with people you love at a place that you love.” And what I realized is that what I was doing was, it’s like, okay, on the surface, it all looked good, but it wasn’t very fulfilling for me. And it wasn’t very gratifying for me.

And, you know, I asked him. I said, “Well, what about the money?” And he said, “Well, the money will come,” and he was right. And I think a lot of times, you know, we need a setback. Or maybe we need a shock. Or maybe we just need to take the time to reflect.

I was talking with an executive just a couple of days ago, and he said, “You know, the job that I’m in, I’m not sure I’ve trained all my life for this job. But I’m not sure that this is what I want.” And I said, “Well, what do you think you want?” He said, “Well, I’m not sure.” And I said, “Well, I would keep doing what you’re doing, and doing it the best that you can. And I do believe that over time, something will reveal itself to you.”

Just to be clear, I don’t think that you can say, “Okay, I’m going to check everything that I’m doing and go off on some wild hare.” But I think that you need to be in tune as to whether or not the amount of time that you’re putting in at the workplace is creating the kind of fulfillment that is worth the trade-off of spending time away, perhaps from your family, or a hobby, or just relaxing, or the ability to even take a vacation.

Again, I’ve got this document that’s designed to at least become a catalyst to get people to pause and reflect.

And that’s really how the book is served up. It’s not really a “do these five things, and you’ll make better decisions,” but rather, “Here are some historic events that changed the world’s trajectory. In here are some questions around each of those events that give you the opportunity to pause and reflect and think about how that applies in your life today.”

Pete Mockaitis  
I dig that. And so when it comes to your own decision making, I’d love to get your view. So I guess you’ve laid out into your core values and what you’re after, and these Fs. And so then, can you share, you know, what are some of these values and things that you want? And a decision that you approached recently that flowed?

Greg Bustin  
Yeah, that’s all well, that’s great. You’re making me eat my own dog food. And I love it. I had an opportunity. So I run these chief executive groups for small and mid-sized organizations. The smallest is probably $10 million in revenue a year, 25 employees, the largest is multi-billion, with employees, you know, all over the country, in some cases outside the U.S.

And in one of these groups, I had a couple of these CEOs that were exhibiting what I would call bad behavior. And I knew it, and I tolerated it for longer than I should. And really, the tough decision that I made ultimately was, “this is not fun for me, these guys don’t share my values.” My values are about helping people grow and learn and develop and improve. And these couple of guys were not sharing in that. And they were pretty disruptive in the meeting.

And we would get together once a month. And you know, we’re talking about 14, 15 people around a table. And finally, I just said, “Look, I’ve had enough.” And I talked to them about it, and I talked to several people: I talked to my wife about it, I talked to a couple of other folks that I trust, and the answer was consistent. It’s like , well you’ve got to do what you need to do. You already know, you just need to do it. And what I was afraid of was that they would leave and it would put the rest of the group at risk, because I knew that, you know, three or four people would leave the group.

And finally, I just said, “Look, that’s it. I know what I need to do, I just need to do it.” And that’s actually a quote that I have from Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity,” right?

And so I knew what I needed to do. And I had a conversation with these two CEOs. And they left the group, and four of their friends went with them. And I thought, “Okay, this is it.”

That was about a year and a half ago. I’ve rebuilt the group, everybody’s there for the right reason. I’ve never been happier. The people who were there are all bought in on what it is that we’re trying to do. But it was a moment of truth. And I think that when you look at some of these decisions, you know, sometimes what happens is, you make the decision when the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of doing something, right?

So in my case, it’s like, “Look, I could keep doing this, and keep kicking the can down the road.” But I was not looking forward to those meetings. I could tell that there were other folks around the table who were not happy with that behavior. And if I didn’t do something, then I might lose the entire group. As it was, I lost half the group. And we’re better today for it. And so I think that, you know, one of the things about decision-making is that doing nothing is a decision to not act. And so that was the decision that I was choosing to make. And so finally I just said, “Okay, I know what I need to do. And I’d rather just do something and see what happens, as opposed to continuing this and not having a productive experience.”

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, not that we need all the lurid details, but I think it would be helpful if we had this little bit of a sense for what do we mean by “bad behavior.”

Greg Bustin
So there were two or three things. So there was a lot of judging that was going on with some of the folks. And so this idea is that you’re coming in here, you’re all from noncompetitive businesses, and the ideas that you can share openly, because, look, everybody generally, when it gets down to it, is talking about the same thing. You’re talking about customer issues, you’re talking about employee issues, you’re talking about money issues, and you’re trying to make your business perform at a higher level.

And you know, people would come in and open up and somebody would just kick the heck out of them, you know? And it’s like, look, it takes some level of courage to open up your heart and say, “Look, I’m scared,” or “I’m screwing up,” or “I’m not sure,” or whatever. And you know, these guys would go, “Oh, you know, well, that’s easy,” or whatever. There was also the idea that when you looked at their business, they weren’t really moving forward. And so, it was really, “Hey, let’s come in, let’s have some yucks, you know?”

“Let’s talk tough, and then let’s figure out where we’re going to go afterwards for cocktails.” And it’s like, look, that’s fine to do that. But really, our purpose here is to help each other get better. And so there were just some things like that, that were counter to the kinds of values that I was looking at, which is, “Look, let’s be authentic, let’s be honest, let’s be supportive. And let’s be all in on this,” because the money is the least of what these guys are paying. These guys are giving up.

I say, “Guys, guys and gals, are giving up a day out of their life, and they’ll never get that time back. So it’s up to me to make sure that we’re making the best use of that time.” And so it just seemed like we weren’t making the best use of that time. And it was becoming evident to some of the other folks in the group that, you know, “these sessions are starting to look like a waste of time for me.”

So anyway, those are some of the things that just say, “Okay, I’m sort of backed into a corner.” And, some of these events just happened to ordinary people, like the first female senator of the United States, got the job because her husband died. But she made the decision. And the decision that was profiled in the book was she made the decision to run again.

Nobody believed that she would run again. Hattie Caraway is the first woman to be elected a U.S. senator. So I think there’s a lot of instances where people were just living ordinary lives, and then an opportunity came their way. And they had the opportunity to step up and do the right thing. And that’s what really distinguishes a lot of these decisions.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh yeah, that’s good stuff. I’m a sucker for stories, aren’t we? The human condition, and say, so you wisely put together 52 of them, as opposed to, you know, a list of cognitive biases and the scientific research for them, which you would make a good book for me. I’d like that.

Greg Bustin  
Well, you can write it, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis  
I have a poster of cognitive biases in my home office. Fun fact. Anyway, when you share the feedback, like, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing with regard to, you know, how the meetings are going and how you’re behaving and the implications of it.” And they just sort of stormed off. They’re like, “Well, I never, Greg!”

Greg Bustin  
No, I don’t think people like ultimatums. I think they like options. Sometimes, you need an ultimatum. And what I said to these folks is, “Look, you clearly joined for a reason, I just want to make sure that we realign on what that reason was. “Here’s what I’ve been seeing. I think you’ve got a great heart, you’ve built a successful business.”

The behavior that I’m saying is A, B, C, and D. And if that kind of behavior continues, I don’t think this is a great fit. If you want to modify that behavior, and be the kind of person that you were when you joined the group, then that’s a cool thing. And they basically said, “Okay, I thought about it, and I don’t really want to modify my behavior.” And it’s like, “Well, that’s cool, because we’re all about modifying behavior so that we can improve.”

Pete Mockaitis  
Yeah. Okay. That’s cool. All right. Well, so thanks for taking us there, into that tale. And so there you go, because you are clear on those values about learning, growth development, and you were noticing the reality around you in terms of, “This is starting to be not fun, and not enjoyable, and not helpful.” You went there. So that’s cool.

Are there any key tips, props, questions, scripts, things that are kind of little go-to tips and tricks that you use or recommend to help folks make great decisions consistently?

Greg Bustin  
Well, to be very practical, I think that you’ve got to get into a rhythm or a cadence or a habit. And I think that one of the best ways of doing that is to be very clear on goals.

I’m a big goal person, whether it’s weekly goals, or monthly goals, quarterly goals, annual goals, and I’m talking personally, as well as at an enterprise level, I think that that the people that are successful, are driven by something, and they are driven toward something. And I think that from a practical standpoint, the best way to do that is, “Hey, make a list, block time on your calendar, get some people around you that you trust, who may actually think different than you, or think differently than you so that you can bounce things off of them.”

I think that being clear on what you stand for, being clear on what you’re after, and then having these very specific mile markers in the road that show, “Hey, I’m making some progress toward this, because all of those involved decision making,” it involves, “Okay, do I do this? Or do I do this? Is it a trade off? Is it a priority? Do we have the time for this? Do we have the money for this?” Whatever the case may be.

And I think that when you have that clear picture, you’re willing to give up things or make sacrifices in order to get that.

I think the best decisions that I make are driven around having, again, a set of values and a set of goals that you’re driving toward. And I think that, you know, one of the best ways to create a new habit is to make a list. I think that is a very powerful way of doing that.

I use gold boards with just sticky notes at the end of every year. And I take my groups through this. It’s like, think about the things that are important to you, when you picture success and why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is it that you’re doing that is going to cause you to be fulfilled?

We’ll write those words down, be very specific about the type of fulfillment that you’re looking for. Now write down the categories that you need to work against, in order to make your life fulfilling, and then you put little sticky notes under that. And I mean, people love that. They’re like, we present them at the end of every year, I check up on them monthly, and they’re like, “Hey, check that off. I’ve got a new sticky note now.” And you know, whether it’s take a vacation or,, be at home three nights a week to have dinner with the kids, or whatever it is, you know, make it real and make it visible.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have any quick tips when it comes to cognitive bias, how to fight that well?

Greg Bustin
Well, I think the way you fight it well, as I’ve already alluded to, is you’ve got to have people around you that you trust and respect that are willing to say, “Look, there’s a blind spot,” or “I don’t think you’re seeing the whole picture,” or, you know, “I think that here’s another point of view that maybe you haven’t considered.” And I mean that’s what these groups that I lead are all about. And it’s about people whose only agenda is to see the other person in the group succeed.

So there’s no commercial gain for that, and the way around the cognitive bias to miss something, is to have other people around that can look at things differently. I mean, our subconscious plays tricks on us. I’m sure you know, that’s what optical illusions are all about. It’s not that I didn’t see it, it’s that the brain doesn’t get it. Right?

And so we need to have other people around us that that we trust and respect to point out those blind spots and to say, “Well, maybe there’s another way of looking at this that you’ve not considered.” And I think that when you do that, that can help at least mitigate some of the biases that we have to make decisions that aren’t always in our best interest.

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

Greg Bustin  
Well, these are my favorite things, because I love what I do. I would invite your readers to go to my website.

There are five lost chapters. You might imagine with all these different historical events, I couldn’t fit them all in, and there are five lost chapters that aren’t fully baked yet, didn’t make it into the book. And your listeners can go to my website and download those for free. And then if they’re interested in wanting a little bit more than they can, they can spring for the book.
Pete Mockaitis  
All right, perfect. Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Greg Bustin  
Well, I already told you the one about my dad. The other one that I think really describes my work ethic is from J. Paul Getty, which I’m sure you’ve heard: Rise early, work hard, strike oil. It’s like, no excuses. It’s like get up, work hard, and make things happen. And I’m very results-driven. I’m very goal oriented. And that’s a favorite quote for me.

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

Greg Bustin  
Well, I was just taking a break from research, because I just spent about a year researching this book. I am rereading a book where the centerpiece is an essay by Peter Drucker, and it’s the title of the book, called On Managing Yourself. It’s one of Harvard Business Review’s, 10 must-read books. And it’s just a great reminder of some really practical wisdom by some of our greatest thinkers, and the leadoff hitter is is Peter Drucker.

Pete Mockaitis  
And how would a favorite tool? Something you use to be awesome at your job?

Greg Bustin  
Well, the tool that I use, I mentioned, is the goal board. I believe in that. I mean I’m a big accountability guy, and in the research that I did on accountability, which is my previous book, is that accountability is not a bad thing. It’s actually a support system for winners. One of the reasons where accountability breaks down, or one of the places where accountability breaks down, is the failure to make performance visible.

And so I believe that, you know, being able to visualize very specifically, “This is where I want to go, these are the things that I’m going to do to get it,” and then to be able to literally either take off the sticky note and put a new one up, or check it off or do it on your computer, that, to me, is very fulfilling.

And ultimately I’m driving toward, you know, something bigger than just a list. I mean, I had a list of the 52 chapters, and I blew it up, and, you know, four foot by six foot poster, and I would check off each chapter as I wrote it. And that was very inspiring to me, to say, “Okay, I’ve gotten another one down, and I’ve only got this much further to go.”

So I use a lot of visual tools, both in my computer, and you know, mounted behind my door in my office so that when I close the door, you know, there it is, and I can see how I’m doing.

Pete Mockaitis  
Awesome. And tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with readers and listeners?

Greg Bustin  
Well, I think the nugget is, when it’s time to decide, it’s time to decide. You know, things that must be done eventually must be done immediately. And so when you are not deciding, you are effectively making a decision to do nothing. And so I think that, you know, and I told you the story about that, and I did nothing for many, many months until I finally had to pull the trigger.

And so I think, you know, the idea is, again, when you know what you want, the decision should be easy. The decision was easy for me, I just didn’t want to do it. And then finally I did it. And of course I felt better.

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

Greg Bustin  
I would point them to my website, www.bustin, B as in boy, U-S-T-I-N.com. bustin.com. There’s all kinds of free tools like the one I mentioned, blogs, exercises. The five lost chapters from my book are there as well, and I would love for folks to visit.

Pete Mockaitis  
And do you a final challenge or call to action for folks?

Greg Bustin  
Well, that’s fine. Yeah, the final call to action is everybody’s got a decision they need to make, and my question, really, or my challenge would be in the form of a question, which is, what’s the significant decision you must make in the next 60 days? And what do you need to do in order to make that decision? And who can you call on for support, to propel you into making that decision?

Again, most of the big decisions, it’s not as simple as yes or no. Sometimes it is, but it’s not as simple as yes or no, or this or that, or black and white. Oftentimes, there may seem, at least on the surface, a lot of gray. And so having someone that you trust, to bounce that off of whether it’s a mentor, or a coach, or a friend, or a spouse, or a partner, is a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis  
Awesome. Well, Greg, it’s been a lot of fun. I know you’re taking a break from executives right now to talk to us, so I appreciate that. You’ve got a cocktail hour calling; I wouldn’t want you to miss any more minutes of that.

Greg Bustin  
Well, I’m sure they’re starting without me, Pete, but that’s it. That’s cool. I’ve loved our time together, and I really appreciate you having me on.

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.

421: Why Great Leaders Have No Rules with Kevin Kruse

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Kevin

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

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

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

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kevin Kruse Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
She scolds you.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Why have you been so naughty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

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

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, that’s right.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I’m inspired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Kruse
Yes, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Kruse
Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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