Engaging Leader™

184: Using Storytelling to Lead a Transformation at Lowe’s (and Your Company) | with Kyle Nel

The home improvement store chain Lowe’s was named #1 among Fast Company’s 2018 Most Innovative Companies, for augmented and virtual reality, as well as #1 for innovation among specialty retailers on Fortune’s 2018 World’s Most Admired Companies. How did a company in a dusty, old-hat industry (hardware stores) suddenly become known as an innovator?

As founder and executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the company’s disruptive innovation hub, Kyle Nel was at the forefront of this dramatic business transformation. In this episode, Kyle joins us to share his story and discuss how the next level of storytelling — using unconventional tools like science fiction, graphic novels, applied neuroscience, and archetypes — can help you overcome human behavior barriers as you reinvent your company’s future. He shares tips to help you lead both small and large transformations in areas such as innovation, human resources, marketing, process improvement, business strategy, and more.

Engaging Leader™

183: Using the Fogg Behavior Model to Drive Change | with Jamie Barnes

When developing a communication strategy to drive change within an organization, we use various models and frameworks to help ensure we create a strategy that actually works. The Fogg Behavioral Model is a powerful framework for driving change.

Engaging Leader™

182: The Power of an Authentic Employer Brand and EVP | with Laurie Barnes

A strong, authentic employer brand is key to recruiting, retaining, and fully engaging top talent. The most effective companies build a differentiated employee value proposition (EVP).

Engaging Leader™

181: The Art and Science of Workforce Communication | with Laurie Barnes

You can’t achieve your potential as a leader or an organization without practicing effective communication.

Organizations that communicate effectively with their workforce deliver better results. According to a study by Willis Towers Watson, companies with high effectiveness in communication and change management are 3.5 times more likely to significantly outperform their less effective peers. They:

  • Attract top people
  • Engage employees fully
  • Achieve a superior bottom line

It’s NOT about transmitting information. 


Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Isn’t Enough for Superior Leadership | with David Burnham [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 30: Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Isn’t Enough for Superior Leadership | with David Burnham

JESSE LAHEY:  Welcome to the show leaders! My guest today is David Burnham, who has performed research on “what superior leaders do and how they think” for over 40 years in industry, in academics, and government and David was one of the first voices that I heard many years ago, calling for a new approach to leadership, one that focuses more on emotional intelligence and mutuality and there have been a lot of voices in recent years that have picked that up and a lot of great examples of that.  It seems like a lot of the focus has been so much on emotional intelligence that other components of superior leadership have been lost.  David, welcome to the engaging leader podcast!

DAVID BURNHAM:  Thank you, Jesse, delighted to be here.

JESSE: Can you share with us the story if how you discovered the changing dynamics of leadership a few decades ago?

DAVID:  Yes, Jesse.  For many years I worked with Dr. David McClain who was my business partner and my mentor, and who was chairman of the Psychology Social Relations department at Harvard University.   And what interested us long ago now, literally, in the 1970’s was could we differentiate or could we discover what was the difference between leaders of major divisions of large corporations and CEO’s who were consistently, over time, delivering superior performance defined as, top quartile gross in sales, revenues, EBIT, as compared to those whose performance over the same time periods was variable or even above average?

And all we discovered then, is still true today but with a very substantial change that the leaders who were vey successful delivering superior performance were and in face even today still are particularly concerned about what was the influence and impact that they were making on their customer base, on their clients and on their employees.  That is they saw themselves, they thought about being the visionary the charismatic leader who was primarily accountable for and responsible for setting directions and for delivering results and they were particularly good at getting people to follow them, which requires very high emotional intelligence.

By the late 80’s or early 1990’s men and women who had these characteristics were still going well as leaders but often they were not delivering superior performance the way they used to, so what interested me at the time was, what’s changed?  But if you look at the overall environment, what changed of course was the business and technology had changes remarkably, we couldn’t as you and I are talking, talk on Skype, we couldn’t do a podcast, now we can.  We couldn’t look at the internet, our employees couldn’t look at the internet, our customers couldn’t look at the internet and that dramatically changed which accelerated competitive advantage for people, it meant that people at every level had access to what was going on in the market place, in other companies and their customers companies and also what changed was that when we were first doing this research in the 1970 women by and large were present in large organizations only in what was then called personnel, now called12  HR.  Well, by the 1990’s women were in marketing, women were in sales omen were everywhere, manufacturing, they may not comprise a large proportion of the CEO population although is was almost maybe 2 women in the 70’s but elsewhere many more and of course the demographic basis had changed a lot and so had the nature of business, business was multinational, international, across boundaries across cultures and our cultural expectations about working changed.  No longer did most people feel that they had to stay in their companies, they had to stay in their jobs, if they weren’t getting recognized, promoted, challenging work, they voted with their fate or at least they felt they could vote with their fate, except in recessions.

So, in the early 1990’s, 1992 we initiated another study this time a very lengthy study.  We went over a 12 year performance period, 8 countries and 13 industries and we looked at leaders who over that lengthy period were delivering consistently superior performances compared to leaders who were delivering above average performance so we weren’t comparing poor, because most poor leader don’t keep their jobs, but we were comparing the good guys, the good women, the good men, with the great men.  Much as Jim Collins did, Jim Collins however was looking at secondary data, not primary data and we had access to primary data, the leaders themselves.  We measured a number of things but most importantly we measured using probably the most used psychometric instrument in the world, a test of imaginations, of the exercise of imagination, which we then coded for the innerlying thoughts, the motives which drove the behaviors of leaders, as well as the stages that drove their behavior.

JESSE: Now, just for the benefit of our audience, the exercise of imagination involves an individual being asked to write a series of six stories and then a trained professional sort of does like psychoanalysis of those stories, reading what’s subliminally there in the thinking behind the stories.

DAVID:  Well you’ve got it almost right, because it’s actually a half a dozen professionals and they’re not interpreting those stories for the psychoanalytic point of view because the data would show if you did that you’d get six different interpretations.  Rather, they’re using coding systems which were developed over decades of research, they are very specific and people can learn how to do them so that three coders code the same six stories 89% of the time, they will agree.  So there’s only a 2% difference between them, which is nothing and what their coding for are the underlying thoughts in everyday life, not clinical psychological interpretation, but what is it that in every day life the individual is thinking about?

So we know that in leadership there are three thoughts that occur most frequently.  One is, a short-term focus on competing.  Now, that’s not competing with another companies performance, the underlying unconscious thought it, “I want to compete, I want to be better” and so the behavior that drives is, “do it yourself, take over” because really you’d rather do it all yourself and one of the difficulties of being a leader with this thought is when you can’t do it yourself, you tend to be seen as very autocratic, or neglecting everything so that you can devote your time to that which you can do yourself.  Another thought is, affiliation.  “I really want people to like me” and another thought is, impact and influence, “I really want to make an impact” and that impact and influence thought was present in the 70’s.  What changed significantly both in the 70’s and in this research study, which went right through mid 2005 was leaders were very high in emotional in intelligence, effective leaders.  But some where, most above average leaders and so were most average leaders, that is high emotional intelligence got them the job, for the most part.  What it didn’t do was differentiate performance.

JESSE: Isn’t that something?

DAVID:  Yeah, we’ve become good, I think, at reading in interviewing, “does this person have high emotional intelligence?” So by and large were selecting for that relatively well.  What were not selecting for are the other characteristics, the other thoughts that really make a difference.  And first, effective leaders in the past were really great at holding people responsible.  So, here’s your job, let me lay it out for you, let me tell you exactly what to do, now go do it.  And that s still accounts for good leadership; great leaders differentiate between responsibility and accountability.  They say, “this is what you have to deliver, do you agree?”  And then they say, “This is what when we need it.  Now give me a plan as to how you’re going to get there.”   Whereas, good leaders say “let me tell you how to get there.”

Now, good leaders say the reason you have to do that is, “if you ask people for a plan they don’t know how to get there and anyway I know best.”  Great leaders say “we can discuss the plan but unless the person makes the plan, then ultimately I am now holding the bag, I’m accountable.”  If they make the plan, particularly if they make it with their team, or with the people…are going to deliver it, it is much more likely to be delivered to a high standard.

JESSE: So, it’s delegating not just the responsibility but delegating the planning and the decision-making?

DAVID:  That’s right.  The underlying thought for that is, returning the authority to others to figure out how they’re going to deliver what they’re accountable for and then to hold them accountable for execution of their plan.  So, that’s one.  Two, great leaders do not jump quickly.  That is, they don’t see things as black and white choices, so typical decision, “Should we buy, should we make?”  Often seen as a black and white decision.  “Should we invest in upgrading this system or should we throw it out and start again?  Shall we merge or shall we grow organically?”  Black and white decisions.

Good leaders in the past, great leaders, often made those decisions very quickly and usually their instincts led them to make excellent bets.  So, they kept in advance of the curve through their own intuition, through their own ability to make the bets, if you will.  Well, things weren’t moving as fast them.  Number one and number two, it took years to gain the information, years that they often had to make those bets.  Today, things move so quickly, number one.

JESSE: Oh yea, that’s right.

DAVID:  And number two, because they move so quickly, trends don’t necessarily predict the future.  Great companies have to be prepared for very uncertain futures for things that may change dramatically and when that’s true, that means not only do you need to involve others in making those bets, but you can’t see them as black and white.  You have to see the paradox that the potential exciting future that this trend predicts may disappointingly not materialize because a counter trend may appear very quickly and change that.

So, when that occurs, if you bet the farm, if you’re not poised and flexible to change things, to go in the new directions, to capitalize on it, you can be left behind very quickly.   And so great leaders think in complex terms and they think about the paradox of how even exciting and certain trends can go out the window and be very disappointing if you’ve invested in nothing else.  And so, they involve people in exploring both the need for change and the uncertain future and being prepared for multiple scenarios for multiple futures and being excited about being able to change as opposed to disappointed when the change doesn’t turn out to be the one you predicted. So, they therefore, stay on top of the trends and deliver results.

Finally, another thing that’s highly differentiating, is in the past it was enough to avoid failure, that is, go to the avoulous conference as the CEO, be prepared to say “Were going to succeed in all things” and if you did have a set back be prepared to explain it.  That still works, you can deliver good performance and a good share price that way, a good stock price.  What great leaders do is go beyond that.  There saying “this is why we exist, “ Let me tell you what our customers needs really are, how they’re changing and how keeping ahead of customer needs in this marketplace.   We have products that are working now and were prepared with products for the future that will continue to meet customers needs and were proud of that and our customers echo it, and that’s why our stock price is doing so well.”

So, they’re purpose driven as opposed to straight visionary.  The charismatic leader was visionary, “Look at me and follow me.” The great leaders today, recall that leader, the interactive leader. The great leader today is purpose driven, so they’re as high in emotional intelligence as the great leaders of the 70’s but, the great leader of the 70’s is using their emotional intelligence and the good leader today to inspire people to follow them, the great leader today is using their emotional intelligence to create the ‘we’.

We’re all in this together, our customers, our employees, our shareholders, we are in this together and we have to chart a course of the future together and so her or she is paying attention to all those constituencies consulting them regularly and including them in the decision making process, in the information loop.  Not informing them but including them.  So, what do you think Jesse?  Have I laid out the differences for you clearly enough?

JESSE: I think so.  So, you talked about four things that have been new in the past couple of decades.  The thing that’s the same among great leaders, is the overall focus on having an impact and an influence but what’s new today is, number one, this concept of return of authority and number two is, recognizing the paradox and complexity of the new world.  So, having some flexibility.  Number three is being purpose driven and having some pride about why we exist and then number four, is creating the ‘we’.  So we are in this together and we are planning and creating together.

DAVID:  Yes, well summarized, Jesse.

JESSE: I see so many organizations that are focusing their training opportunities on only one of those factors or in particular, you see a lot of training these days that is focusing on emotional intelligence.  Is that likely to prove effective, I mean, if emotional intelligence is important then shouldn’t that make a difference, or is there an actual danger there?

DAVID:  Well, I think it does make a difference particularly for the leader who has very little of it, but its not sufficient because a leader may have a lot of it and still not be delivering superior performance.  It isn’t sufficient because it’s a system, leadership, being an effective leader requires a systemic approach in fact, interesting, one of the consistent findings in our research is that average leaders are very high in mutuality.  That is, the ‘we’.  However, they are also high in achievement motivation.  Which means that they’re extremely effective with people but what their driven to do is to look inward.

That is, the focus of competition becomes inward. So, they want to compete with their colleagues at the same level, with other division heads and because the focus of competition is inwards and not on pleasing the customer, not on staying ahead of the customer curve, except as that happens to coalesce with whatever they may be thinking competitively.  Ironically, although you would think that their competitive focus would cause them to do very well, in fact they don’t.  So, its the worst possible combination because people are so thrilled with their high mutuality that they buy into these very short term focused goals that may have nothing to do with what customer needs now are or about to be, so in the end high morale and poor outcomes, or at least average outcomes.

JESSE: I could see that pitfall happening in sales departments where you have a lot of the sales managers, that have great people skills but they may have the short-term competitive focus. “I want to be the one that meets quota this month, or the sales leader for this month” and that could have an unintended consequences.

DAVID:  Yes.  It’s very interesting we often do studies within organizations and I can give you direct data that validated your hypothesis, Jesse.  So, looking at a retail bank at division managers who in a sense are also sales managers because retail bank branches of course are supposed to sell more of the product, more accounts, more mortgages, more credit cards, more deposits, more loans, and ironically those who are achievement motivated the leaders of who the branch managers report to, those who are achievement motivated but with high mutuality high people skills, most of the branch manages have pleased to report to them but their short term focus is so high.  “How did we do this month on credit cards?” that people pull out all the stops on credit cards and in order to do that, when that’s the only focus, of course your talking about the bottom of the credit rating. And when you start doing that nothing may show up for the first three months or the first six months, but a year end you’re not doing as well because you default rate does up.  Whereas, if you’re looking at “How can we help the financial future of each one of our customers?  How can we really deal with it for them?”  Then you’re establishing trusted relationships, you get a lager share of the wallet and you get a large share of the opportunity to really met their needs and because you’ve established the need base, purpose driven relationship, your profitability goes up, your revenues go up, and you’re soon at the top of the pack.

But, see the difference?  You’re focused on the customer, not on “how is the guy down the street doing with his branches?  Or that woman in Texas whose number one and how do we beat her and become number one ourselves?”

JESSE: Definitely, more purpose driven.  When you describe the paradox and the dramatic changes that are taking place today and how a great leader is more flexible within that, it seems like another pitfall that could come up is a leader who is so aware of the changing circumstances, that they don’t have an ongoing consistent focus.  That they’re changing with the wind and creating mixed messages or conflicting priorities, or just too many unfocused priorities that can confuse their team.

DAVID:  You’re absolutely right. Going with purpose, “what’s our actual work and what’s our purpose?” is also a characteristic of superior leaders to make a long term plan and then short term plans to accomplish the long term objective. What that means is that when you look at the entire landscape, the trends that may occur and then you start to plan “how are we going to prepare for an uncertain future?” you’re not changing with the wind or adding so many options that none of them could possibly be accomplished, ultimately you have to make your bets but you’re making your bets on a much more informed basis, more systemically, and you’re including many more peoples voices not as a compromise but as a collaborative in choosing what bets to make and therefore because you’re using the combined wisdom of the group, you’re more likely to make the right bets.

JESSE: That makes perfect sense.  Now, you and your firm Burnham Rosen teach these principals to large companies and organizations in industries and governments around the world?

DAVID:  We do.

JESSE: Primarily you’re doing private training for different organizations, but there are a few times a year that you make a public workshop available to the public and you have a couple that are coming up in the next few months.

DAVID:  That’s right, there’s in London in June and one in Boston in June, and typically leaders from a wide variety of organizations go to those programs and it’s always a wonderful opportunity for them to get to know leaders from other organizations to really find out how these principals would apply to themselves and to their role.  So, there always gratifying, marvelous experiences, I think for everybody.

Link to podcast episode: EL 30: Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Isn’t Enough for Superior Leadership | with David Burnham


3 Ways to Become a Resonant Leader | with Richard Boyatzis [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 42: 3 Ways to Become a Resonant Leader | with Richard Boyatzis

JESSE LAHEY: Welcome to the show leaders! Today we will be discussing how leaders inspire people through emotional intelligence, and specifically how we can become what have been called a Resonant Leader. To help us address those issues, our guest today is Doctor Richard Boyatzis, he is a professor in the department of organizational behavior, psychology, and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of more than 150 articles on leadership competences, emotional intelligences, coaching and management education. His books include “Becoming a Resonant leader”, and the international best seller “Primal Leadership”. In addition to teaching at Case Western Reserve, Richard also teaches a class through the company Corsara, which is a massive open online course, also called a mook. The title of that class is “Inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence”.,. and these classes are rather amazing there is 10’s of thousands people participating in this class as well as others. It could say something about the future of higher education. So I am sure that trend will pop up a few times in our conversation today.  Richard Boyatzis welcome to “Engaging Leader”.

RICHARD BOYATZIS: Thank you Jesse.

JESSE: Can you tell us from your research, what is the one thing that most influences a company’s bottom line performance?

RICHARD: Leadership. Effective leadership will activate all 5 sources of capital at a leader’s disposal to get performance, and if it is effective leadership they will have greater forms of capitol at the end of a year or any performance period and not just spending the capitol. And we see this all the time where it’s not just an issue of making money because it really is easy to make money in this world. What is hard to do is to continue to make money of time, adapting to changing market places and conditions and technology. And most organizations are under lead or poorly lead and as a result they are under performing giving the resources that they have. The difference is the quality of the leadership and I don’t just mean the CEO, this is leadership all the way down to the foreman on the production line, or a sales branch manager. I mean it is anybody that is in a position of influence, sets the atmosphere such that people are able to engage and bring their juice to work, you know and give it their all.

JESSE: A lot of your research has pointed to emotional leadership as the major lack, I guess among leaders. Does that just mean putting on a game face every day?

RICHARD:Laughs” No because actually putting on a game face is uh baloney. People are neurologically hardwired to pick up both the actions of others and emotions of others. And the research has shown that unless you have sort of autism spectrum disorder, or even psychopath’s pick it up, they don’t pay attention to it but they pick it up.  But most of the people on earth are tuned into the people around them, and that’s hardwired. And what that means is…and by the way, the picking up these messages from each other, from our brains happens in milliseconds, this is way below consciousness. So even if you try to put on a game face, people actual sense what you are really feeling.

What very often confuses them is if you have a face that is different than the feeling that they are picking up from you, and unless they well skilled in this they don’t know whether to attribute that to you or if there’s something wrong with them. So it does not have to do with the game face. Matter of fact, the central issue that we talk about is, you can’t have effective leadership without really good relationships cause otherwise who would want to follow you. And you can’t be an effective leader unless the relationships are tuning in to the people around you visa-versa. So it does have to do with emotions in the sense that there are some very deep, very needed neurological connections. But it also has to do with your relationships, so it is what we often call “combination of a person’s talent”. Yes, you need some cognitive ability to be an effective leader, and you need some emotional intelligence, and you need some social intelligence. Without those things, you are not activating the capitol of the people around you.

JESSE: So can you give us an overview of what you mean by emotional intelligence?

RICHARD: I just did (HaHa), you know emotional intelligence is the intelligent use of your emotions. You start with the observation that you are going through all sorts of feelings at a very fast speed below your consciousness level. So in fact more effective leaders are often tuned in, the jargon phrase that people are using today is um, “mindful” which means tuned in or self-aware. Because you can’t intelligently use your emotions or manage them unless you know they’re there. And people who are more mindless, who don’t pay attention to what they’re feeling, are just idiots. I mean there is no two ways around it. And it’s one of the reasons why we see so all sorts of television characters; from “Doc Martin” on the series of the same name through the BBC, or the character in “Bones” that Emily Deschanel plays that Kathy Reichs created, or commander data in “Star Trek”. People, who can’t establish emotional bonds well, end up coming across as distant and although they may be bright or nice or care, they have difficulty keeping relationships going.

The magic of organizations, of family’s, of teams, are our relationships. So emotional intelligence is managing some of being aware of and managing your emotions effectively towards some social good, toward some shared object whether it is in the family or in a work organization. And then the extension of that which moves into what we call the social intelligence realm. Which involves some different neural networks, some different hormones, but these are the places where people are tuning in to and dealing with the emotions of others effectively. And all of that conspires to, if it works well, to a more kind of in sync set of relationships, in which you feel like you are in tune with the people around you, and that really is at the heart of it. And you are not aware of all of these things, then you are going through life like “duh, well why did that happened?”

Look, emotions are contagious, and that is just what I have been saying.  And it is contagious below your consciousness, and it is contagious unless you have some neurological disorder, it is contagious. You are hard wired, humans are hard wired. So if somebody says, “I am not going to pay attention to emotions”, I figured I am listening to an idiot, because that means that a person wants to cut off, in a sense half of their brain functioning, half of the information coming into them, and most of the information that is key in their relationships. I mean look, 60 years of research in social psychology keep showing us that people don’t make decisions or get influenced by rational arguments, they make decisions and get influenced by emotional arguments, and they make rational arguments afterwards to make yourself feel better.

A person in a leadership role, or a influence role, is more contagious. WHY? Because you know kids do turn to their parents to find out how they are reaching. You know people in an organization turn to the boss often to see what’s going on, how do I interpret this. So as a result, the people in the higher position of responsibility; parents, teachers, clerics of any sort, helpers, managers and executives. We are more contagious then others. So that’s why it’s even more important that we understand our emotions, and are somehow on top of our relationships. And what we find is in those organizations that don’t seem to be able to handle that, they are under performing. And eventually they lose touch with their market, lose touch with their customers, and competitors take over their business.

JESSE: But there is this problem, I think you can it “CEO disease”, but it seems like it affects every level of leadership, whether you are the CEO or maybe to lesser extend if you’re a line supervisor, but also for parents, where you don’t get as much feedback and intelligence about other people’s feelings. It’s harder to have that empathy, because people are not as forth coming. So what can someone in a leadership position do?

RICHARD: Well Jesse there are a number of reasons which I’m sure you experience all the time. One is, look things that don’t go well are not things that we gravitate toward.  Because on the whole, we would like to feel positive than negative, and unless you’re into whips and chains as a hobby, you are not going to look for things that hurt. So given that, that pulls us away from conflict. On the other hand, there is a deep ecological need for us as organisms to stay alive. I mean in my intentional change theory, I talk about how people are pulled toward either positive or negative emotional attractor. And the positive emotional attractor is really being in the parasympathetic nervous system, that part of your neurociencias that allow you to rebuild the body, including the brain, create new neuro tissue and all that, help your immune system VS. the sympathetic nervous system, that is the stress response. And one helps you to focus on possibilities and other problems, one on hope and the other on fear, one on optimism and one on pessimism, one on strengths and one on weaknesses, But the key is we need both.

Unless we spend time in the negative emotional attractor, in the stress response we want survive, because we will be fodder for threats out there.  We want notice when someone out there is about to bite us, eat us, fire us, divorce us. So we need the negative emotional attractor, we need these negative experiences to protect the organism, but because negative emotions have been shown in much research over the past 15-20 years to be much stronger then positive emotions. If we are to truly help a person balance their different neurological and hormonal states we have to sample more of the positive emotional attractor.

So some researchers have talked about 3-to-1 ratio, or 5-to-1 ratio, I don’t know exactly it is, and some of our neurological researcher are suggesting 3-to-1 works pretty powerfully in coaching and helping and advising in the studies that we been doing, but the fact that you need the negative. So while it’s uncomfortable, and unless you’re a pessimist, you are not going to want to go there, and if you’re a pessimist you are going to expect it. We need it. And a study came out in 1991 showing that effective managers, spend more time soliciting negative feedback. Finding out what went wrong. I think that’s because on the whole people around someone don’t want to make them feel bad. Or it could be what I call the tony soprano syndrome, who wants to give tony soprano bad news? It could also be out of respect, you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

So all of those things conspire to have most of us give bias information to the people that are above us. And that results in them have a juntas view of what is going on, and very often not helping them understand the various complexities and dimensions of what’s going on. In “Primal Leadership” the book, we talked about that as that is what happens when people believe there reviews. And very often that leads to a demigod, someone that thinks there are phenomenal because the people around them keep stroke them and waving pom-poms and singing hosannas to their brilliance, but they don’t realize that a lot of people out there, other stake holders, don’t like them or don’t respect them.

JESSE: So it’s a matter of widening the net in terms of the feedback that you solicit, and also getting the people closer to you to feel that it is ok to tell you bad news.

RICHARD: Yea and that’s not going to happen if you are uptight, if you are a punishing person and if people think that you are going to bite their head off if they say something conflicting or conflict full to you. Then guess what, people are not stupid they won’t say anything that way. So part of it is that you have to, we say in these resident leader relationships, people create a more inviting environment, which there’s more of an open exchange of information across levels, between people.

Dissonant leaders, people that are on the negative, and push people around or threaten them, they end up turning people off. I mean there is an exercise that I do in the first video of this mook, but I often do it in my lectures speeches around the world. In which I ask somebody to think about a leader in their life that they work with or for, anytime in their life, not just work, that brought the best in them, and think of a specific person who did not, who you thought was a lump, whatever they were paid it was to much. But you have to think of specific people for this exercise to work. And then underneath each of their names, you know write down what it was like to be around them. What did they typically say or do, how did they make you or other people around them feel. And one of the things you will discover right away, and I have done this exercise on 7 continents, over 60 something countries, well I guess now with over 80,000 students given the mook.

One of things that become clear is the effective leaders; the ones that activate your potential and bring out the best in you are the ones who build a relationship with you. What people say is they empowered me, or they challenged me, or they question me, but they believed in me. They gave me opportunities, they trusted me, they asked for my views on things. They were passionate, they had fun, they were playful, they trusted me to do my job, and they didn’t hover.

All these things are things that have to do with the quality of relationships. The ineffective leaders were the ones who were negative, nasty, egocentric, only talked about the tasks, you know didn’t care about the people, and micro-managers, and all these types of things. So you see this basic notation of is a leader inspiring others, are they lifting them up, are they engaging them in challenging them. It may not always be in a positive way, sometimes its negative but if it is with an underlying trust and belief in the other person, if it’s toward a shared vision that embodied the more noble aspects of the human sprite and hope. And really that’s what a number of our articles and 2005 book “resident leadership” was all about. Is that most effective leaders somehow engage hope through sense of purpose and vision, and the experience of it, engage in compassion, not just understanding but caring. Are mindful, they have a certain degree of genuineness, authenticity and integrity, and often their playful.

These experiences, turn out to be the ones that help us build better not only relationships, but help the human body go into parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to rebuild. You know our immune system clicks in gear, and helps. We experience the growth of new neuro tissue through neurogenesis and such like that. So it is pretty important, and the contrast is stark. Mia Angelo gave a commencement address here at Case Western Reserve University, a few years back and I loved this one line she said, and I was so moved at the time that I quickly reached all through academic files to find a pen and a piece of paper. She said “It is my observation that in the future they will not remember what you did, they will not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”


RICHARD: So the appeal that we have it not that emotions are important than what you might think of as intellectual or cognitive processes. First of all as a neuroscientist, as somebody who spends a certain amount of time every few months doing studies of brain functioning, I can assure you there is no event that happens in your mind that does not involve emotions. So this artificial differences between something cognitive and something affective, is actually foolish. The brain works through networks and doesn’t work through particular neurons or just some region of the brain. And these networks are complex; they involve a lot of the parts of the brain. So when start to think about it that way, you realize that what we need to do is get on top of this whole emotional relational thing.  Because for too long we let ourselves in last 100-150 years be seduced by the notion that somehow it’s all an abstract thinking exercise. When of coarse that’s important but it’s more than that.

JESSE: When I first learned of your research and the research by Daniel Goodman and others, on emotional leadership, my first thought was oh that’s wonderful, they are finally saying that nice people make better leaders, that good business results comes from being a nicer person. Which intuitively related back to everything that I had always felt and perhaps learned all the ways to Sunday school? But I guess also having experienced business in the 80’s and 90’s and you saw a lot of examples of CEO’s who often acted like jerks but seemed to achieve great business results, It made me, I was a little skeptical. And I wonder, how do you explain some of those examples?

RICHARD: No I understand Jesse, I get that question a lot, but first let me reassure you that what we are talking about is probability. We are not talking about universalities. We are saying that somebody can be horrible and never make money at it. So, on the whole it’s not as sustainable as the issue. Steve Jobs failed in the first time he was at apple. He failed in a number of his other adventures before he returned in what one of my EMVA’s student groups call Steve jobs 1, Steve jobs 2, and Steve jobs 3, the three eras of Steve jobs. And their contention was the first two were dissonant, and he wasn’t succeeding. And the third was after he was back at apple, and he started to change his style. Even in his biography he talks about that.

You know, he got married, he had a daughter, he got cancer, not necessarily in the order, but any rate. But they were things that all of a sudden made him appreciate the humans around him. And I’m not saying he still wasn’t a fanatic about brand and customer friendliness, he was thank god, I mean enjoy all the products of apple and all the rest of it but it was different. People who reported to him, in these different eras talked about it as if it was a different person. I contend we saw the same thing with jack welsh in the 80’s and 90’s. At first he took over at General Electric, and it was neutron jack, dissonant leader, 1 or 2 in the industry or we sell you, rank of the people of lope of the bottom 10 %. And then he had a transformative experience, and started spend a day a week at their management training facilities, writing personal notes to people and he became a different kind of leader, endorsed work out In a very active way.

I think that second Jack Welch was the one that helped General Electric become the power house it is today, not the first one. Now we might have needed the first to get ready for the second and I’m not denying that that sometimes happens, but I sometimes raise this question about some of high-tech firms. We look at John Chambers of Cisco Systems, as a very resonant leader, powerful. I know one the senior HR people who is one of my doctorate students right now, and we was talking about this and they keep a huge percentage, I think it averages like 75 percent or something like that or 80 percent of the key players, of executives and key professionals of companies that they acquired stayed beyond the buyout period, that is unheard of in that industry.

I mean you know his kind of opposite number in the sense of the bad boy of high tech, Larry Ellison of oracle, I mean they don’t even stay for the beginning of the buyout period, they just run for the hills whenever he announces an acquisition, even before it’s done. So, guess what, you know I mean oracles making money, kind of but I think they are destine to spend more time wasting human capital and ideas and eventually markets, people will take their market.

JESSE: What guidelines do you suggest for us who would like to be resonant leaders?

RICHARD: Yea I think it behooves you to say ok, I have got to focus on the people and the relationships and not just on the numbers. One of my colleagues that I work with here at Case who is in the cognitive science department, Tony Jack had an article that was published just last year in Neuro image, in which he showed when you give people antalgic problems you active what is called the task positive network in the brain, it is a subset of the executive function. And when you give them social issues, social problems, people asking for help, people feeling bad and crying, you active a different network called he calls the social network part of the default, a subset of the default mode part of the brain. What he showed is that these two networks have almost no overlap that was known before.

What he showed that was really important was, and that is getting a huge amount of press is that these two networks suppress each other. So yes numbers and financials are important for people in position of responsibility, but if that’s all you think about you’ve lost the juice. You know, you’ve lost the resources that you need to make it keep happening. So I say with complete confidence, show me a leader or a manager who starts their meetings with financials and I will show you an ineffective leader.

JESSE: hum

Richard: They are boring, and it’s not because they weren’t once effective but they lost it. And the reason I say is because they are confusing everyone around them with the measure of effectiveness. Are we making money, are we making as much money as we thought, what is the purpose of the organization why do we exists, who are we trying to serve, what are we trying to create.

JESSE: what can we do to get started to be more resonate as leaders?

RICHARD: I could be cheeky and say buy my books but (haha) that is self-serving. But no the mook, the corsair course is free, so there is that. But no, I think part of it is think about these things, reflect on them. You can do it by reading. You can do it by going to classes. In most universities around the world there are executive education short courses, 1 day, 3 day that you could do. Pick these things, and now with online learning there are more and more of these free opportunities. Two, spend time thinking about it and then reflecting. Because when all is said and done, you are never going to get very far just by thinking about it.

You need to be talking to other people, I mean I joke with, well its not so much of a joke but pretty serious these days is that the biggest lost that we’ve had in the 20, or 30, or 40 years is that we don’t have friends. I mean you have people that you text. And you have people you email but how often do you just get together to catch up, you know in a relaxed way. The power of Sex in the City, the T.V. show, wasn’t that it was about sex, or that it was about New York City. It was that it was about 4 friends that did something that a lot of us wish we had more time for. Well what I am saying is make time for it. You know because having these chats, whether it’s over a longer lunch or coffee or just spending an evening talking with people just over dinner.

That is what really life is about, and that is what helps us turns out, helps us build these better relationships. It’s that kind of interactions with others that is the starting point. So whether you start with self-reflection, or you start by chatting with others about reflective topics, either way begins the process of exploration. And when you do, the thing that is amazing is as you start to have some of your relationships catch fire, as they start to rekindle this excitement. What happens is you become emotionally contagious, but in a very positive way. And you start to find these relationships igniting all sorts of energy and hope in your family and communities and at work. People start to do things together that you never thought was possible before, so I think that that is what you should be doing.

JESSE: Well that’s interesting, so reading and learning is the first step, reflecting especially self-reflecting, and then actually just making some time to relate and enjoy the relationships that you have and engage in some group reflection type activities.

RICHARD: That sequence works for someone who is abstract in their learning style. If you are more concrete or active in your learning style it’s the reverse; talk to people about this stuff, then reflect, and then read about it. So depending upon your learning style, it could go one direction or the other, but either way could work immensely.

JESSE: It’s interesting that those are fairly easy everyday things that we can do, wasn’t that you gave us five steps that we had to go do, say In the work place for example.

RICHARD: you don’t have to go on a silent retreat for one month in the Himalayas, no you don’t. I mean of the things that I say about this stuff is that it is common sense; it’s just not common practice.

JESSE: That’s right.

Richard: and we let all sorts of business and stresses seduce us from doing what we know in our hearts is right.

JESSE: Richard, where can people find out more about you and your work?

RICHARD: well of course there is the inevitable internet, but the easiest way to probably is to access some of, if you’re a practitioner, some of the practitioner books, like primal leadership or resonate leadership or becoming a resonate leader. Which are eminently available on Amazon as well as your local book store. I have been doing this free online course for corsair and my universities, Case Western Reserve are in a partnership called inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence, people can sign on to that. And I don’t know if we do another cycle of it next fall or winter, but we may.

Then there is of coarse things here at Case Western University; masters programs, you know in od that a lot of people learn about this detail and the average age of our students is in their 40’s. Same thing we have an executive doctorate, where the average age is closer to 48. Or people fly in for a few days every 6 weeks or 3 months and go through hybrid learning. And then are you know, shorter courses, things like executive education. A lot of my colleagues, a lot of the folks that I do a lot of this researching and writing with, teach these courses throughout of executive education center. And people can access that online, they go into Case Western Reserve University, with in the letter head school of management, and if they go onto executive education they will find out more details about emotional intelligence, leadership, the coaching, change courses and so forth.

Link to podcast episode: EL 42: 3 Ways to Become a Resonant Leader | with Richard Boyatzis


Leading Out Loud: Why Communication is the Most Essential Leadership Skill | with Terry Pearce [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 33: Leading Out Loud: Why Communication is the Most Essential Leadership Skill | with Terry Pearce

JESSE LAHEY: Welcome to the show, Leaders! Is it true that communication is the most essential leadership skill, and if so, what are the biggest keys to leadership communication? To address that today, our guest is Terry Pearce, author of Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others and Creating the Future. This is the bestselling guide to authentic leadership communication and the newest addition of this book has just hit bookstores. Terry had many years of experience at IBM and Charles Schwab. He’s taught leadership communication courses at Berkley and the London Business School and for the last couple of decades have been coaching and consulting with CEOs and elected leaders. Terry, welcome to the Engaging Leader show!

TERRY PEARCE: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

JESSE: In your book, you say that communication, specifically leadership communication, is the skill that is most essential for leaders to be effective. Why do you say that?

TERRY: Well, leadership, by its very definition, involves other people and the way we engage with other people is through communication, so it’s almost a talkology. It seems to me that its 90% of it; the way a leader communicates with his presence or with her words or with emails or any way that communication passes back and forth is absolutely vital to success and you’re trying to inspire others.

JESSE: Now I can imagine some CEOs and CFOs might say that you’re exaggerating the importance of communication, for example, that technical competence is more important. What would you say to them?

TERRY: Well, I’d say they’re both important, but I’d ask the two folks why the word ‘chief’ is in their title. Since they’re sitting at the top of an organization I would assume that maybe 97% of the work product that they actually put out comes through others. That suggests to me that 97% of their job is to inspire others to do the very best they can; keep them engaged. Now I’m not demeaning the idea of competence, obviously it’s really important, but there’s a lot written about that. So in theory you need both competence and connection and it’s a term that we often use. People are pretty good at competence, so that’s why the board room puts them in that place in the first place, but rarely do they think about the need to connect and how to do it in a thoughtful professional skilled manner.

JESSE: So technical competence really is a given or table stakes and the communication aspect of leadership is perhaps the part that’s a little more uncommon.

TERRY: Yes, or the communication of that part which allows you to connect with others and there’re plenty of CFOs and CEOs that give great PowerPoint presentations, so in a way, they’re communicating, but that’s communicating about competence. Is this the right thing to do – not – are we inspired to do it. So it’s the connection part of communication that really gets ignored and often the competence part ends up being very dry. You really don’t need the human being to explain a pie chart.

JESSE: Now how would you estimate the proportionate importance of leadership communication in a leader’s effectiveness on average?

TERRY: Well you really have to remember Jesse that I’m like a carpenter with a hammer. Everything looks like a nail to me! I would say it’s a very very high proportion – I want to say it’s all of it – but it’s a very very high proportion. People who don’t inspire others to work for them, obviously there’s a continuum here, there are really competent folks who really belong as individual contributors and they do really well in that post. There are other people who are extremely good at human interaction and perhaps they’d do well in being involved in those kinds of fields. There are very few that can actually practice both.

JESSE: Often we hear that a leader is a change agent, but you day that’s not true.

TERRY: I say it’s not true just to be a contrarian. I think there are a number of different distinctions that we can make about leadership communication and this is a central one. That’s become a cliché, you know, a leader is a change agent and that’s what a board would look for as they’re looking to appoint a leader or it’s what a people would look for inside of an organization if they’re looking to put someone in charge of a particular function. Is the person entrepreneurial? Have they dealt with change before? Can they generate change? But if you look at a thousand psychological studies on the element of change, you’d try that 990 of them conclude that people hate change.

It can be disconcerting; it can upset folks; it takes away a sense of security. On the other hand, if you look at those same studies, you’d find that 100% of people love progress. So what we refer to as change is really transformed into progress through the communication of the leader. Progress is something that we move toward that we want. It’s a state that we desire and we have to perform certain actions to get from here to there. It’s like transformation – a much better word than change because it carries with it the substance of moving forward and having some future that’s desirable. So that’s my argument with the word ‘change’ and the term ‘change agent’.

JESSE: In the book, often you use the term in place of ‘change agent’ – you’ll say ‘creator of progress’.

TERRY: Yes, I prefer that. If someone else wants to come up with some better way to say that it would be terrific! (laughs)

JESSE: Well I do like that because it does require the leader to put on certain glasses and just think about ‘as I share this vision with others, how do I create the context so they can see this as progress the way that I do’ because in absence of that I suppose they’re just going to see it as change and probably negative change.

TERRY: People who are – as we might talk about context a little later – a leader, you just mentioned that one of the primary responsibilities is to actually use the imagination and be able to see the future that others can’t see and then to be able to explain that in a way that’s visceral. Not just explain it, but to convey it in a way that it’s visceral to the people that are going to join in, who are going to live in that future with them. That’s a talent that has to be developed and it’s a point of view; it’s a way of looking at things that isn’t normal for someone that’s used to just pulling levers and having the train go where it goes. Years ago, a teacher of mine used that metaphor and I’ve liked it ever since – that most people, as we go through life, we’re riding on a train and we’re looking out one side at the scenery and when we don’t like it we go over to the other side and we look out there and see how that is. Then there’s always someone who has his hands on the levers or her hands on the levers that is actually running the engine, but the leader is neither one of those. The leader is out front laying new track. They’re looking for new places to go and places where we can move this engine into a future that’s a lot more desirable for all of us.

JESSE: That’s an interesting picture you paint there. One of the things about your book early on that made me realize that this is going to be different from other books on this topic was that you say that leadership communication begins with personal awareness of a discovery of what matters to you personally as a leader. Why do you say that?

TERRY: Well, because the simple element in leadership that I’m emphasizing – and it’s not the only one, again, I want to emphasize that competence is very important; business aptitude obviously in the business world; very important. We don’t want to follow someone up that hill who’s never fired a rifle, so it’s very important that someone’s competent, but that’s, as you said, those are table stakes. That’s the corner of the realm. – What I wanted to emphasize here was ‘what is it that builds trust’? What is it that the leader can communicate that will actually inspire other people? So I emphasize that and in order to build trust one has to share of themselves. You can only do that if you know who you are, so the first step to me is self-awareness.

Now I’m not alone in advocating that, you know there are several books about leadership that start there; Bennis was probably the first to advocate it, but I’ve been really interested lately in really good leaders coming to this conclusion and coming forward with it. [Steve] Jobs was one, who as you know, is famous now for his famous graduation speech at Stanford, laid that out in brilliant terms about the four things that drove him that were most important to him in life and how hooking those four things together allowed him to understand and live life in a fuller way and to inspire people around him. One of those was that you have to love what you do. He was quite open about that, so I think a certain amount of introspection is vital for people to be able to deploy themselves in a way that others will trust them.

JESSE: Speaking of Steve Jobs, I love in the book how you contract Steve with his successors at Apple, Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio and how they really were never able to make the transition as leaders there because they never really identified how their personal values fit with what Apple was doing… but when Steve came back after many years away – he was able to make that transition. Why is that?

TERRY: He stepped right back into it because the fundamentals had been maintained by his colleagues. Jobs was able to come back into Apple and have the instant impact because it never lost his personality. Sculley was able to keep it, that is he was able to appreciate who Jobs was and how important he was. As you recall, it was the board who fired Jobs, not Sculley, but Sculley himself was not a gifted designer. He was an engineer as a tinker, but not really as a designer the way Jobs was. When Sculley introduced the Newton, it fell flat because it didn’t have that Jobs-like magic to it. That’s what Steve kept bringing back to the table. It was who he was. It was his sense of beauty and order; what made him love calligraphy and what made him become a fruitarian in the first place and kind of a kook. (laughs)

These were all of the characteristics of Jobs personality and character that he imbued into an organization that has never really, unfortunately, got that back. Now Spindler and Amelio I will speak frankly – I don’t think either of them had a clue about what I just said. I think Sculley did. You remember, it was Jobs that recruited Sculley and he recruited him purportedly with a famous line in New York in a restaurant when Sculley had said ‘no’ twice (Sculley, as you recall, was president of Pepsi-Cola at the time) and purportedly Jobs said, “John, if you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, go ahead. I’m going to change the world.” That sealed the deal, so I think Sculley came into Apple knowing full well the import of what he had his hands on. While Spindler and Amelio were really more operators, they were looking and the board was looking for financial expertise. I don’t think they ever looked at this conversation we’re having and gave any import to it and they made two bad choices.

JESSE: So both John Sculley and Steve Jobs could realize that Apple actually stood for values that they personally believed in.

TERRY: Yes, and they had a strong enough personal connection that Steve was actually able to infect Sculley. You know a second example of that that’s probably more well-known today is that of Howard Schultz who as you know is the – well he wasn’t the founder of Starbucks; he certainly bought it and put it on the map and made it what it was for a number of years and then came back and rejuvenated it when it went south. I think he’s even a more interesting case because he’s very verbal about the values that he had that caused him to create Starbucks the way he did. If anyone wanted to read the story, it’s in his first book called Pour Your Heart Into It where he relates that he grew up in the Bronx and as a ten-year-old boy watched his father go from job to job and eventually broke a leg and was out of work and was laying on the couch and as Schultz put it, was beaten down by life. He had had a series of jobs and at that point Schultz’s father was driving a truck that delivered and picked up diapers and his mother was taking in ironing from the neighborhood and that’s how they made a life but he said that the vision of his father burned out by life lying on the couch with his leg up in a cast really impacted him and that he remembers saying to himself, ‘I had no idea that I’d ever run anything big or have an opportunity, but I did decide that if I ever had an opportunity that I would never leave anybody out’. Now that was a value that was formed by an image that came straight out of Schultz’s heart and never left him and of course he was the first person to get the SCC to agree to give ownership rights to part-time employees, so he kept that value strong as well as his value of customer loyalty and service all through his career and continues to do it today.

JESSE: It’s been of huge value for him to keep people involved in what’s going on and build a sense of community.

TERRY: Yes, not only his employees but also his customers. He just went through a major remodel of more of the stores to include more space for more people to have conversations. It’s a very strong value of his and he’s making that company a reflection of his own values. That’s, again, why I think it’s so important for anyone who aspires to lead to know who they are; understand what drives them, and be able to articulate that in the context of the business.

JESSE: That’s a great story or what’s helped make Starbucks successful. Now that discovery and clarification of personal values, that of course requires a lot of introspection and time that a lot of leaders are not willing to take, but you pointed out in your book that that doesn’t guarantee success. The primary distinction between a leader and someone who just merely gets results is the ability to relate to others in a way that inspires them, which of course requires emotional intelligence. You provide a definition for emotional intelligence that I had not seen before. Will you share that with us?

TERRY: Sure. Like you, I began reading about emotional intelligence when Daniel Goldman published the original book and I was fascinated by it, but I always had trouble explaining it, so through the years as I’ve recognized the importance of it to leadership communication, I’ve tried to simplify it. The way that I describe it now really has to do with recognition, regulation, resonance, and response. So those four things – you can remember those, you can practice them – will take us a long way down the road.

Recognition is really being able to recognize your own emotional landscape. There are many people that can’t do that, in fact, in the original volume, Goldman says that women do this a lot better than men, and I think then he modified that in a later work to suggest that feminine urge is much stronger and in the original book in the appendix he identifies 150 different emotions; separate emotions. In the narrative in the book he claims that men can identify 3 and that’s if you include ‘hungry’. (laughing) His point was that it’s more difficult because men, at that time of course, tended to be more operational and we tend to overlook the development of our emotional brain which is how most decisions are made. So recognizing our own emotional landscape is the first idea.

The second is to be able to regulate it. That is, to recognize when we’re becoming angry or becoming sad (or whatever emotion it is) and be able to regulate it so that we can have an opportunity to have an interaction with someone else that includes that emotion but isn’t dominated by it.

The third then is being resonant which is really the ability to demonstrate empathy. Can you understand or can you perceive the emotion of other people and can you resonate with that? The term ‘limbic resonance’ is a good one to remember; it really has to do with emotional resonance or empathy and it was coined by some friends of mine here in San Francisco, psychiatrists as well as neurobiologists. As you’re resonating with others we see this work, for example, at a rock concert. The more people that are there, the more excited they get, the more excited we get. That’s a gross example of a resonance, but it really is an empathetic response.

Finally, the last one is response, and by response I’m contrasting that to reaction because most of us, when we’re in an emotional realm, have a tendency to react out of that instead of having the wherewithal to take a breath and to observe ourselves and then to respond appropriately instead of reacting.

JESSE: You share a story in the book regarding patents and I thought I did a great job of taking all four of those aspects of emotional intelligence and kind of making is simple with this idea of “showing the math.”

TERRY: It was the report of a quarter’s performance and he had six- or seven-hundred people listening from around the world. He happened to be broadcasting from the east coast and he went on and made the report and then at the end of his presentation he asked his charges to do certain things. This was a technical company, so one of the things he asked them to do was to be sure that they were emphasizing the creation of intellectual property in the company that would give them competitive advantage. In other words, he wanted to see them apply for more patents and engineers love to hear that.

At the end of the presentation when he asked for questions, someone in Texas said, ‘you know we got a note from the corporate staff this last week that said specifically that we were going to spend less money defending patents that we have; how does that square with what you just said?’ and my client shot back immediately, ‘the corporate office doesn’t run the business; we do!’ and he got a rousing ovation from the people that were in attendance and a lot of noise on the telephone. Later on he and I debriefed that. This guy was really one of the top four officers of the company and obviously had eyes to go even higher and in today’s world, we call that a reaction, we don’t get a second chance at that because information travels so fast so it would be predictable that whoever wrote that memo on the corporate staff heard about that episode probably less than a day after it happened and that would have an impact on my client’s reputation and the corporate staff might have repercussions elsewhere perhaps with his peers.

So as he began to look at that he began to see that maybe he could have used a more reasoned response as opposed to a reaction. We went through an exercise of framing that out; what that would look like. For example, those were financial tough times, and he knew that. Perhaps a better response would have been,

‘I don’t know who wrote that memo; let’s just say that we’re all trying to minimize expenses and I imagine that’s happening in the corporate staff as well. Certainly we have hundreds if not thousands of patents that we hold and are defending that are no longer useful to us as a competitive advantage. It would be senseless of us, particularly in these times, to continue to defend those patents, so decreasing our effort to defend those patents makes absolute sense in today’s environment and that has nothing to do with the urgency of creating new intellectual property to increase our competitive advantage in the future, so both positions actually make sense.’

Now that would have been a more reasoned response, but he would have had to have defeated his own defensiveness in a split second – actually it’s about 200 milliseconds – in order to make that kind of a response, so that’s what I mean by developing the capability to respond rather than react.

JESSE: But even just taking a breath – and I like the way you did that. You basically were letting him do a little bit of thinking out loud and as he said, I don’t know what’s behind that, but I can imagine, and some of those types of phrases gives yourself a little bit of time to think and, as you say in the book, he’s basically showing the math. He’s showing people the thought process that he’s going through and so even though you may not have incredible skill or very specific skill on the spot in recognizing and regulating and resonating and responding – as you said, people can see your heart if you’re willing to show the math like that and you can actually build trust even though you may be a little bit awkward about it in the moment.

TERRY: Yes, exactly! In fact, that phrase in this context was actually coined by a woman named Judith Honesty about 8 or 10 years ago who works for my corporate partner Blessing White (or did at the time) and she used the analogy that if anybody took math in the United States that they know (if they got up to algebra) if you had a proposition to solve that was given to you by the teacher and then there was a result that was the correct answer, but you had to show all of the steps in between the original problem and the result and if you showed that math and you didn’t get the answer but the steps were all correct, maybe you just made an arithmetic error inside the equation or something like that.

But you got the process correct, then you know what happened – of course the answer is that you get partial credit and you know credit is from the same root as crédito, or credibility or trustworthiness. So showing the way got a result and gives you a lot of trust, even when people don’t’ agree with the result.

JESSE: Yeah, that’s a great analogy. So once you’ve laid the groundwork in building loyalty and trust, especially using emotional intelligence – in your book you talk about a few ways that leaders can connect with people and actually create connections that inspire people to action that go beyond just motivating but actually inspire people to action. What are some of those key ways that leaders can do that?

TERRY: It actually – all of the devices that tap into the limbic brain and the emotional brain, now again I just want to emphasize so that people don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not suggesting that confidence isn’t necessary, that data isn’t necessary – it’s absolutely essential. We have to be confident and we have to know what the figures are, but when we’re communicating with people in a way that we want to inspire them, there are other devices that we can use that are far more effective, for example just image and symbol are ways. We know that an image of something conveys not just the denotative power but the connotative power. One of my favorite examples is Monsanto that really wanted to suggest that we minimize pesticides in oranges and anybody in a board room might put ‘minimize pesticides in oranges’ as words on a PowerPoint slide, but what they chose to do was to show a baby holding an orange with the peel still on and the peel in its mouth and it conveys far more in terms of the emotional brain than just the words themselves. So that’s one example.

Symbols of course are even more powerful in that we tend to go through symbols into great meaning. You know, the difference, for example, if you were advertising Easter – if you had an image or a picture of an Easter egg gives you one idea but if you had an image of a Cross, it would be symbolic, so you’d go far deeper into that, into the more religious or spiritual meaning of the story of Easter. Of course, the same is true of all religions; they use symbols just exactly that same way.

Metaphor we use naturally. We are always reaching for the objective terms and there are good and bad metaphors, so as long as we remember that when we use metaphor, people see themselves in it. So for example, Scott McNealy used to talk about Sun Microsystems as being at war with Microsoft. Now it’s a pretty tough thing to come to work every morning and go to war and those kinds of metaphors – the people at work there will see themselves as the soldiers; they will see the CEO as the General and they’ll see the enterprise as war and they’ll see the consequences as life or death.

To continue to use military metaphors as you’re trying to inspire people probably isn’t going to work as well as you’d like it to. A second device is story. There are now social scientists that are really advocating and suggesting that the human being is actually the only story-telling animal. They’re defining human beings as Homo Narrans; that story-telling being, because we all tend to live our life someplace between once upon a time and forever after. Relating things with story and personal experience is really a powerful way of getting peoples emotional brains engaged, even if you’re telling it about the past.

Whether you’re telling it about the past or whether you’re telling it about the future. Offering a story that is an example of some data is a far greater and more powerful way to communicate it. I had a friend, Jonathan Young who is a psychologist who frequently said that that is how he saw his job was when people were coming to him troubled and they were actually saying to him ‘I don’t like my story’ and his job was to help them edit it so it would come out in a different way. The same is true of leadership initiatives as we tell the stories that surround them. We engage people where they live. So those are two devices that I like a lot.

JESSE: Those are excellent devices and I love that; helping people edit their stories and certainly leaders help teams create a new story for the future.

Link to podcast episode: EL 33: Leading Out Loud: Why Communication is the Most Essential Leadership Skill | with Terry Pearce


How to Be an Enduring Leader: “Give Me Shackleton Every Time” | Marty Lahey [Transcript]

Series: Four Ways You Can Be That Lucky Leader People Want to Follow

Link to podcast episode: EL 32: How to Be an Enduring Leader: “Give Me Shackleton Every Time” | Marty Lahey

JESSE LAHEY: Welcome to the show, Leaders! When the going gets tough, will your team stick with you? Or will they abandon ship? Great leaders are able to endure and keep their people engaged through the bad times as well as the good. Today we’ll be discussing the true story of Ernest Shackleton’s endurance expedition, which is perhaps history’s greatest adventure story and has become one of today’s most often cited examples of great leadership.

In late 1914, the already famous explorer Ernest Shackleton set out with a crew of 27 to pass through the South Pole and cross the Antarctic continent. But even before they reached Antarctica, their ship became trapped in a mobile ice flow and eventually was crushed by the ice. They had no radio contact and World War I had just started, so the rest of the world forgot about them and no one came to rescue them. It took nearly 3 years of struggling through extreme cold, including the winter months where they lived in mostly darkness before Shackleton could bring his crew to safety. Yet, he saved all 27 of them.

His enduring leadership was so powerful that when Shackleton later organized another dangerous expedition, many of the same crew members were quick to sign up with him. The conversation you’ll hear on this episode takes place in a much less hostile environment just after a much more enjoyable endurance event.

My dad Marty and I were in southern Florida to race in a half marathon. Afterwards, reflecting on our endurance event led us to discuss the leadership lessons from Shackleton’s endurance expedition. Now as long time listeners of the engaging leader know, Dad and I approach these issues from different perspectives that make for an interesting dynamic. My background is in leadership communication and Dad’s is in finance and operations based on his experience as a CFO for a few organizations and more recently for the past 10 years as owner of a restaurant and catering business.

In this conversation, we discussed 4 lessons we learned from Shackleton about being an enduring leader. Several of the insights we share are from a bestselling book by Caroline Alexander and a podcast interview by Nancy Kane from Harvard Business School. At the end of our show, I’ll show you how you can access those resources.

MARTY LAHEY: The months continued to go by. The winter came and went and even though summer came, the ice didn’t let up. They still were stuck on the ice. Eventually they were able to get to enough open water to get into 3 life boats and were able to set a course for the closest land they could find and ended up landing at Elephant Island.

JESSE: Uninhabited. Completely desolate; very much a blizzardy place – not a place where you could sustain life for very long. In fact, Shackleton realized within the first 36 hours that they had to get off of that island pretty quickly and he informed his men immediately that he was going to choose 5 shipmates who would take one of the lifeboats and make it seaworthy as best they could. So Shackleton sets off in an open boat with 5 other guys at this point – it’s pretty much hopeless; this is a complete hail Mary – but he’s got to do his best to save his men because they’ve been gone for months; they have zero contact with civilization. There’s no radio contact, of course they don’t have GPS. They have basic instrumentation (they’re using a sextant). They were going to try to go attempt 800 miles and land at South Georgia Island which is the closest inhabited island. It’s almost hopeless in the blizzardy weather.

MARTY: This is a 22 foot boat that they’ve stretched and sort of simulated a lower and upper deck so they have some cover underneath so they could take turns “sleeping” if you can imagine. No power other than a single-masted sail and some oars.

JESSE: It’d take a little over two weeks and amazingly, thanks to the whole crew and especially thanks to the captain of The Endurance (Worsley) who became the navigator on this little boat, they made it. They landed on South Georgia Island. The people were on the opposite side of the island and the coastline was too treacherous to sail around and the island had never been navigated by people on foot. There was no trail or anything that people had ever crossed, so Shackleton chose two guys to go with them and they made the first ever crossing of this island. They went over mountain ranges; they got turned back by certain ranges where there was no pass. It took them about 36 hours straight to cross this island and they finally made it to a camp on the other side where they were taken in and fed and brought to health. Then Shackleton immediately started the work of going back to rescue the rest of his crew on Elephant Island.

He tried again and again… It was very difficult to procure ships that could make that crossing and that could go through ice. Most ships and resources were being consumed in World War I so there was not much interest in helping him and he repeatedly was turned back by too much ice in the way. It actually took 5 months to make it to Elephant Island and rescue the remaining 20-some men that were there. But he made it and he succeeded in rescuing all of his men; there was not a single life lost.

MARTY: It’s just an incredible tale of dogged determination and perseverance and he just seemed at many points on the trek home that he really feared one enemy, and that one enemy was loss of hope or any though of quitting. It just seemed like it was always the leadership of Shackleton and the optimism of Worsley and the expertise of all these guys who were some of the best sailors in the world with the technology they had at the time. But against every odd, the one thing they always had in their favor is they had the hope and the leadership to persevere and to make it. This is really a testimony to some great endurance and leadership and we wanted to cover what we thought were 4 major themes that weave through this whole story of The Endurance and Ernest Shackleton.

JESSE: That’s right. The 4 keys to enduring leadership as demonstrated by Shackleton and the first one is actually a repeat of something we talked about last time in episode 031 which is focus on one goal at a time. One of the reasons why this is so important is that, as you mentioned they had one big challenge which was the sense of hopelessness; to have the clarity and the energy to focus on a single goal at a time was extremely powerful for Shackleton.

Of course, when he started the mission, his goal was to pass through the South Pole and cross the Antarctic continent and do it all safely. We saw that he had a history of putting safety first over achievement. Safety was definitely a part of that goal, but he had this grand mission which was all about fame and glory and scientific endeavor, but it was to accomplish that; go through the South Pole and get all the way across the continent.

But then when he realized that they were not going to meet that goal, he shifted over to a new goal but there was always only one goal at a time. The new goal became to save all these men; get all these men home safely and over and over again, he didn’t want to lose a single one. That was 100% his focus and his men totally trusted him to make that happen.

MARTY: Yeah, he almost changed on a dime when he realized that the ice owned the ship and that he realized that the mission had all the sudden changed and his goal of getting men back was almost an extreme way in which he approached it. He was constantly looking out for the needs of the men; a lot of times the emotional needs of the men, other times physical.

JESSE: I think as leaders it’s extremely difficult but necessary to get a laser focus on a single goal and in my coaching of so many business leaders, this is one of the toughest things to do because as leaders we see so many challenges and opportunities and we see that we don’t want to give up or lose that opportunity and we don’t want to let that challenge overtake us. This is important and of course that’s important and of course that’s important and as leaders since we see everything; it’s almost a little bit easier to still recognize but say, ‘Yes, that’s more important,” and there’s, in a nuanced way, this is the priority but it’s less important.

But when you communicate to your people, they don’t see everything that we do and it ends up being a jumble of confusion. Even though Shackleton had one big goal, that’s what he communicated and that’s what he had everybody hoping with. He recognized smaller objectives that needed to happen to meet that goal. That was something that he managed within himself but he made it very clear to his men ‘We’re going to get home safe.’

Everything was subservient to that one goal. So things like managing their food supply – the guy that was in charge of that – to him that molehill was a mountain. That guy was always fussing over how much food they had left and he was counting it over and over again and he would be bothered when Shackleton would say, ‘It’s Christmas! Let’s break open the fun food and make this festive,’ and that really bothered the guy, but Shackleton, although he was mindful of making sure that their food lasted, he recognized the importance of making a special occasion matter. He kept the big goal of getting all these guys home safely and a big part of that was managing this danger of hopelessness. That was the worst thing that could happen is that they would become hopeless.

A second major key that Shackleton understood to being an enduring leader was emotional intelligence. For example, he was afraid of what they were going through. There were some terrifying circumstances that were going on. In addition, a lot of times his men were acting inappropriately; they were raising a potential mutiny against him, questioning his leadership; some of them were becoming fearful or panicky. Instead of reacting to those, he responded in an appropriate way. So he managed the energy. He saw himself as the energy leader for that group.

MARTY: It was almost like a doting father at times. There was a time when he could really see the men pushed to a breaking point and he would just order that they make a bunch of hot chocolate and share it or an extra ration of some special not mixture that was kind of their treat.

JESSE: It sounds simple, but recognizing the importance that food can have and I think that men in particular don’t always appreciate that food can make a difference (not to sound sexist here) and serving appropriate foods, whether to celebrate something or in his case – serving a warm food when everyone was cold and miserable – made all the difference in the world.

Another example of things that he did that maybe a lot of leaders wouldn’t have thought to do was to create certain activities. One thing, for example, every crew member every single day had certain tasks that they were responsible for. They were just in a camp on the ice, surely those chores weren’t all that important, but he found chores for them to do every day and held them responsible so they had to be active. They also felt that their work was important to the team and so they felt needed. There wasn’t anybody – again, this was just keeping people from falling into that trap of hopelessness.

MARTY: Give them a purpose in every day of their life there.

JESSE: Right. In addition to those daily tasks that they had to do, he organized recreational activities. There were sports that were going on; they played soccer out on the ice. He had guys that were out exploring the ice. He had guys that were responsible for taking care of their dogs. They had skits in the evenings; he had certain guys that were responsible for playing music. So he organized a lot of those types of events that I think many of us leaders are so focused on ‘let’s get this done; let’s get this done’ that we forget that we also need to be responsible to be the energy leaders and that just required emotional intelligence.

One other aspect of emotional intelligence, I think: he recognized some of the pitfalls that were happening. You know the old phrase, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” He didn’t just keep his friends around him; he recognized certain people that were potential trouble makers. There was one guy who was a bully; Shackleton made sure he kept that guy close to him. There was the guy that we talked about earlier who came very close to a mutiny who was a carpenter and he, from then on, kept that carpenter very close to him once he won the initial confrontation that could have been a mutiny. He kept that guy close to him and he gave him special assignments to sort of manage that guy’s energy and diffuse any potential negative energy.

The third key we want to talk about is perseverance. We know from the name of his ship, The Endurance, that this was a concept that was important to him, in fact it was his family motto. When he found a worthy goal he just wouldn’t give up.

MARTY: He was a – just dogged pursuit – again, and other than the feared enemy of hopelessness, it almost seemed that there was no obstacle that they just didn’t ultimately overcome when you just thought that the odds were so against them. When I think of when they were the first humans to cross south Georgia – 3 or 4 times they would advance up this very slippery slope for a long time only to get to the top and realize they had to backtrack because there was nowhere to go after that, and when you think that surely after the second time that they were just going to lay down and die. These guys were pushed beyond anything you could possibly imagine, yet they just keep going on. There’s really nothing that can stop them other than hopelessness and they’re not going to allow that to happen.

JESSE: Put yourself in the place of the 22 men who were left back on Elephant Island. It’s practically impossible that they would even make it to Elephant Island and yet here they are and now their leader has gone off and said, ‘I’m going to travel in an open boat for 800 miles in the treacherous stormy wintery sea in darkness and I hope we’re going to land on this tiny dot of an island and we’re going to bring back help for you guys.’ Now I would think that was an entirely hopeless situation that, most likely ‘the 6 guys in the boat are going to die, or if they do make it, they’re going to save themselves… they’re not going to put themselves back in the danger and come get me… they’re going to forget all about me because most guys would.’

But at this point Shackleton had already proven himself again and again and again to persevere, to endure, to keep going after that one goal. So these 22 guys still trusted him. They did not lose hope. They waited month after month after impossible month. 5 months goes by – it was only a 2 week trip, and yet they didn’t give up hope. When he finally arrived, they were still looking for him on the beach every day; they were watching for him. It’s just amazing. Think what would happen if in our businesses and our non-profit organizations and the other teams that we lead… if people knew that once we had identified and communicated a worthy goal that we were not going to give up no matter what.

MARTY: They couldn’t even conceive of him not making it, probably, because they know the guy was just so absolutely determined and focused to do what he said he was going to do – just an amazing guy. What’s the fourth key?

JESSE: The last key we’re going to look at today is the courage to change. It almost sounds like a contradiction to what we just said about persevering and enduring.

MARTY: There were so many times that people had hope because they believed that Shackleton knew the right thing to do next. That he had an idea of how this was all going to work out. He’s the leader; he sees all of the variables, so they trusted him. There would be times when he would be going down a certain path and he ultimately realized it was a mistake, now some leaders are going to sit there and think, ‘Wow, if I go… I’m going to try to make this somehow work so people don’t lose confidence in my ability.’ It takes a certain amount of courage to say, “You know what? We’re going to backtrack here. I figured this wrong. This is not the right way to go; we’re going to go over here,” and still be able to pull off that confidence that your men have to have in you because, once again, the enemy of hopelessness is just lurking.

JESSE: One of his big mistakes was he moved their camp on the ice. They had set up for themselves a pretty safe, comfortable camp that would have allowed them to continue to exist for months and at some point he just got really antsy and thought “let’s make a go of it” even though they had already proven themselves that they were unable to move their gear because, even though they had brought sled dogs with them, they had not actually prepared.

One of his even earlier mistakes was he didn’t actually have any crew that was truly trained in managing sled dogs, so the dogs were just worthless and ended up being pets, which was helpful to a certain extent, but basically they were consuming resources.

They had proven that they couldn’t actually move their gear; they tried and tried for a few days and only managed to go a couple miles, so they set up camp, made themselves comfortable. Several weeks went by and for some reason Shackleton said ‘You know what? I think that the conditions have shifted and now we can make a go and we can push on and get to land ourselves by pulling all these sleds over ice and our life boats over ice.’ So they tried and tried it for a couple days. Again, they only went a few miles and now they were farther away from all their gear that they had left back on the original camp and it was too far to go back and it was too far to get that prior gear, so now they were stuck in a less favorable spot with less gear. It was a big mistake; the men knew it.

They knew it was a mistake when they were leaving; half of them were against going, but he was their leader. So he made mistakes and all leaders make mistakes. But, number one, he owned his mistakes; he owned the situation and he owned the outcome. He didn’t let himself dwell in that failure. He said, ‘Ok, well that didn’t work… now we’re going to do this.’ He wasn’t just taking off in a direction thoughtlessly. He was a man of thoughtful action, but he had the courage the change when it was necessary and so they trusted him to do that.

When they landed on Elephant Island, there’s a phrase called “showing the math” that gets talked a lot about. Do you remember back in your algebra years of school – they would teach you how to solve an algebra problem and if you took a test and you got the answer wrong, but if they saw that you were on the right track when you worked it out they might give you partial credit. So that became known as “showing the math.” When a leader does that to a certain extent and, in other words, you’re communicating ‘I think we’re going to go this way; I’m still kind of working out the details, but these are the factors that we’re thinking about. But I’ve got these emotional issues and you probably are thinking the same thing’ it increases your credibility as a leader.

Basically within 24 hours of landing on Elephant Island he acknowledged, ‘Boys, we’re not in a very good spot here… we’re going to move over there’ and they got over there and they found that it really wasn’t any better and he said ‘well boys, then we’ve got to get off this island, so here’s what I’m thinking’ and he started to outline this plan of 6 of them going off in a life boat. It took a couple more days to get that plan fully together and get the boat ready, so he kept sharing with them ‘this is what we’re currently planning’ so he had the courage to change and he had the courage to show the math as he went along and so his men trusted him. They got the context. They didn’t feel like he was making changes just on the spot or without proper strategy behind it.

MARTY: Well, Jesse, as far as the whole journey goes, I think another thing that Caroline writes about that shows a lot of insight: she says, “The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.” One of the things they say about a good leader.

JESSE: Absolutely. His expedition was a failure to meet its original goal of getting to the South Pole and then crossing the Antarctic. He did meet his primary goal of saving all the men, however, there was not a single life lost. A few years later, he organized another expedition to Antarctica and it’s noteworthy that many of that crew came from this very crew that was on The Endurance with him. So these men, even though that expedition was such a flop, they saw him as an enduring leader and they wanted to be a part of what he was doing. That type of legacy that Shackleton left was known far and wide and even known to the crew of other expeditions.

In fact, one of Scott’s team (we talked about Scott on our last episode) on the Terra Nova expedition, which was not the one where Scott died but a prior one, his name was Apsley Cherry-Garrard, he wrote this: “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a Winter Journey, Wilson; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.” If you want to make a leader who is going to do everything it takes for the sake of the team, not just meeting the goal, but who actually cares about the team, Shackleton is the guy you want.

These were the 4 keys that we looked at today for how to be an enduring leader.

#1 Focus on One Goal at a Time

#2 Emotional Intelligence

#3 Perseverance

#4 The Courage to Change

Link to podcast episode: EL 32: How to Be an Enduring Leader: “Give Me Shackleton Every Time” | Marty Lahey



How to Be That “Lucky Leader” People Want to Follow: Amundsen’s Race to the Pole | with Marty Lahey [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 31: How to Be That “Lucky Leader” People Want to Follow: Amundsen’s Race to the Pole

Jesse Lahey:  Welcome to the show leaders! Most people want to be on the winning team and follow a leader that’s winning. You think of southwest airlines, Amazon, Google, and Apple.  From the outside it seems like they’ve had everything going for them.  Many think the leaders of companies like those have simple been blessed with good luck, but are they truly luckier than other leaders?  Today we’ll be discussing the true story of the race to the South Pole, between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.  These two men led teams that set out within days of each other in October 1911 in a race to become the first explorers ever to reach the pole.  Amundsen’s team not only reached the Pole more than a month sooner, but his was the only team to return alive.  The two leaders we of similar ages with comparable experience and the faced the same weather and harsh conditions during the race through Antarctica.

After the race many people claimed that Amundsen just got lucky, but he himself believed that great leaders create their own luck.  The conversation you’ll hear on this episode takes place in a much less hostile environment, just after a much more enjoyable race.  My dad, Marty, and I were in Southern Florida to race in a half marathon.  After the race, reflecting on out experience, led us to discuss the leadership lessons from Amundsen’s race to the South Pole.  As long time listeners of the Engaging Leader know, dad and I approach these issues from different perspectives that make for a interesting dynamic.  My background is in leadership communication and Dad’s is in finance and operations based on his experience a CFO for a few organizations, and more recently as an owner of a restaurant and catering business. In this conversation, we discuss four lessons we learned from Amundsen about being that lucky leader people want to follow.

Amundsen himself, he realized later, after the fact that people were attributing his great victory to luck and part of that was because in Scott’s diaries which were later discovered after his death.  Scott was frequently blaming bad luck to what was happening to them, he was cursing, his diaries were cursing the weather, “Oh, rotten luck again.  Here we are stuck in out camp.”  And yet the two guys had the same weather, they left within days of each other but here is a great quote from Amundsen when he later recognized that people were attributing his victory, his great accomplishment to luck, he said, ” Victory awaits him who has everything in order.  Luck people call it.  Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time, this is called bad luck.”

So, were going to be looking today at how a leader can create your own luck.  How you can be that lucky leader that people want to follow. A part of being a leader worth following is creating your own luck. So, were going to look at four ways that leaders can create their own luck to be a leader worth following.

Marty:  OK, the first one is, “own the outcome.”  It kind of takes me back to our race yesterday, Jesse. A year ago, you and I ran in the Miami Beach Half Marathon and the time that we achieved were almost, we are embarrassed to admit was 2 hour and 45 minutes. That’s a very slow half marathon and 3 and I think in a way, at some point in time we finally owned that outcome, probably out of embarrassment.  But the outcomes was that we were not really prepared, we were both carrying some extra pounds, and underestimated the issue with hydration and fueling your body and being prepared for a race like that.  So this year, we came a lot better prepared, you and I had both done some really rigorous dieting and working out, training, we had come down early and did some hot running and we really put emphasis on our nutrition and our fueling and our hydration and consequently yesterday we had a pretty good race.  We were 2 hours flat, about a 27% increase.  The conditions were a little but better but still, it was the same race and all that and to me that’s a good example of owning an outcome.

Jesse:  There was a temptation last year to blame the whole thing on the heat, which of course was big factor but, heat or no heat there were some runners who were over an hour faster than us last year.  So obviously the heat wasn’t as big of a factor to everybody.  Some people managed the heat quite well and so we owned that outcome and said that next time we were going to do this, this, and this better, and we’re going to make it happen.  I learned a friend of mine, Kent Julian, who we actually featured on a podcast episode 26, he’s a great speaker and one of the things he talks about in his speeches is this formula he calls, E + R = O.  Which stands for events plus response equals outcome.  But it’s our response to those events that lead to the outcome and successful people and successful leaders recognize that unsuccessful people believe that E = O, that the events that happen to me create the outcomes in my life.  And Kent says that he learned that lesson from his own daughter Mackenzie.

One day he got a call from the school that his daughter was having a problem and they had to take her to the hospital and they weren’t really sure what the situation was, but it sort of sounded like it could be drug related or anorexia related.  She had collapsed or something like that and he thought, his initial response was, “Somebody did something to my daughter, somebody messed her up or abused her or something” because there has been no sign of anything that would lead to drug abuse or anorexia or anything like that.  I mean, what is going on here? Well, as they got into it, they discovered that she has type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes.  Did I get that right?  Type 1 or type 2?  (Laughs).

Anyway juvenile diabetes and that’s what caused it, you know, that is…juvenile diabetes is a very big issue and it defines a lot of people and Mackenzie could have allowed that to define her and say, “well now I’m handicapped and now I’m never going to do anything big and important in life” and as Kent has watched his daughter to see how she has responded to that, he has seen her go on and do amazing things and make something special of herself and he says, “I would never wish juvenile diabetes on anybody.  I would never be glad that this happened to her, but I will say that Mackenzie is a better Mackenzie because of this experience with juvenile diabetes.’

That event that happened to her, she has had a response that has cause her to be a better Mackenzie than she was before. And that is truly living out E+R=O and when you compare what Scott wrote in his diary about “This Rotten Luck” and “I can’t believe this stuff has happened to us”, that is not owning the outcome.  And I’m not saying he’s not a great man, he’s got more manliness than in his little finger than I have in my entire being, just by going to the south pole an doing everything he did, but he did not own the come.  Whereas, Amundsen did and his team fully believed in him to get them to the South Pole and back because he took responsibility and took action, and that’s the fist step in being a “Lucky Leader”.

Marty:  Yeah, I think that’s a great example and it leads into the second aspect of what Amundsen exemplifies for us and that is, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.

Jesse:  Amundsen, you definitely would say, was an optimist.  He would never set out for the South Pole if he weren’t an optimist, but he planned ahead with the assumption that bad things were going to happen and he was going to prepare for that. So, for example, there was that story about the altitude-measuring thermometer.

Marty:  Yeah, there was a story about some navigational instrument that they need in a journey like that and Scott get’s to the point where their instrument breaks and he’s like…

Jesse: Cursing their bad luck

Marty:  Yeah.  Is bad luck, that the one instrument that they absolutely had to have, it breaks, while Amundsen on the other hand, brought like four or five of these thing?

Jesse: Yeah, he had four of them.

Marty: You’d figure, you know one of these is probably going to break or one of the guys will break it or something, you know?

Jesse:  Or we’re going to lose of them.

Marty:  Right, and sure enough they did and you know he always seemed to have one because he had plenty of them.

Jesse: Another example is they had time in camp when they first get to Antarctica when they’re sort of just holed up in their tents and are just waiting for the right weather.  The way they used that time was amazingly different.  Scott took advantage of some of that time to prepare but for the most part his team was playing cards and entertaining themselves.  Amundsen had has time using that time to test their equipment and make refinements and one of the things they discovered was that their sledges that had their equipment packed in, they discovered things that could make it easier to get in and out of their gear.

Just traveling to get down here, you get to the airport you’ve got to go through security.  Well you and I have discovered from long years of travel that, what you want to do, is your little one quart bag, you have that right up at the top so when you go through the security line it’s easy to get in and out.  You get your electronic devises there, right up on top.

Well, similarly Amundsen discovered that, hey “if we do our sledges in a way so that the lids pop off kind of like tea canisters, we can get, every night when we stop to camp, we can just reach in and get out what we need.”  Scott, on the other hand, his sledges over loaded and unyielding and prone to tip over and every time they’d camp for the night, they wasted almost a half an hour.  They had to totally unstrap them, take these big pack containers off of the sleds to get their supplies. And when they were ready to go the next morning, they had to reverse.  They had to load everything back up.  So remarkably different.

And that all came from this advanced preparation and you think about as a leader that’s not ready to get your people to invest that time and preparing, even if you recognize the importance of preparing.  So, you have to cast a vision.  Like, “I know that you’d rather be playing cards and so forth, but what were going to be the first people to get to the South Pole.  We’re going to be famous forever and we’re going to get there and get back safely and the way we’re going to do that is by discovering these little things that if we prepare now and do them ahead of time, it’s going to make that trip a lot better.

All right, so let’s move on to the third thing.  That’s, “Follow the discipline of the 20 Mile March” this was made very clear to me by Jim Collins in his book, “Great by Choice“.  One of the big learning’s he got from Amundsen’s example, was what he called the 20 Mile March.  Every day Amundsen said, “We are going to go at least 15 miles and we’re not going to go more than 20. I don’t even care if we have great conditions, great weather, when we get to twenty miles were stopping.  And I don’t care if it’s a blizzard out there, were going at least 15 miles.” And that was a discipline, both to make sure had a minimum threshold that you did, but also so that you didn’t go so far that you over extended yourself.  On the other hand, Scott would have on a beautiful day, he would push his team and maybe they would go 30 miles or maybe 35 miles because they could and it would take them 10 or 12 hours and they would just push themselves to the point of utter exhaustion.

But when something bad happened, maybe somebody fell into a crevice, or maybe when they got to a certain point and realized, “maybe this isn’t the greatest spot to set up camp” but by then they were too exhausted to go any further they were like, “I don’t care we’re stopping here!”  They had no energy left over.  Let’s say the next day there was the slightest bit of weather, but you’re so exhausted from having gone 35 miles the day before that you say, “You know, the weather is kind of bad, let’s just stay in and camp.” Meanwhile, Amundsen’s just pushing on because they were well rested, they had margin, “Ok, the weather isn’t great today but hey we’ve got to get at least 15 miles in and were ready!  Lets go!”  Therefore, he get’s there a while month before Scott.  That’s so applicable to leadership and to business, don’t you think?

Marty:  Yea, Jesse. I’m kind of thinking, you know, this is definitely a case, Scott and Amundsen, not only of achievement, but also survival and you think about businesses that start up, and rather than have a more steady approach and say, “I’m going to get to 17.5 average miles per day, no matter what and I’m going to put all my resources out there.  I’m really going to burn the candle at both ends.  I’m just going to get on that course.” You know?  “I’m going to get some ups and downs.  I’m going to have some days where, Wow, this business is booming.  But you know what?  Those days are coming where there’s going to be a big dip and I’ve got to be able to be steady enough to get through all of that.”

Jesse:  Yeah, I think it’s sort of a tortoise and the Hair story.  You look at your business, Dad; you’re in the restaurant and catering business.  You’ve been there for more than 10 years, that’s in one of those industries of high failure.  I bet you it’s got to be 90% of restaurants fail in the first 5 years, but you’re still alive and kicking after more than 10 and you’ve had years where you’ve had pretty healthy margins, and you’ve probably would have been tempted to go spend that and enjoy the fruits of your labors, but you took sort of a healthy profit to live on and then you reinvested of it over time.

So, you’ve made expansions and improvements on the restaurant.  You’ve taken care of your people and you’ve also managed your day to day energy, because the 20 Mile March, it’s both about the discipline of going at least 15 miles and the discipline of not going beyond 20, so that you have margin.  So, if you’re burning the candle at both ends all the time, as a leader, you’re less likely to have that positive energy to lead your people from a position of strength. You’re going to have more of those times when you’ve worn yourself out, or you’ve worn your team out and so you’re not speaking with grace, and you’re more curt.  You’re not really going to have the emotional intelligence at your disposal to lead people well.  You’re going go have those times of grumpiness and it’s going to diminish your leadership ability.

Marty:  No question about it.  You know, without that margin either you’re not going to have the extra energy you need to take advantage if an opportunity comes along, or along comes a disappointment and you’ve failed to prepare for it.  Even after 10 years, I walk in to the restaurant some days and I think, “Oh my gosh.  What’s happening?  We’re so slow!”  And sometimes you get into the middle of a summer and something or you thought you had plenty of cash reserves and pretty soon they don’t seem all that plenty and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.  So, without margin you’re really at risk of not surviving. Which is what happened to Scott.

Jesse:  You hear the phrase a lot.  “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” Surely the race to the South Pole was a marathon, not a sprint and leading any worthwhile cause is usually going to be a marathon and not a sprint.  Of course, you and I ran a marathon yesterday and we saw it as, we’re going 13.1 miles, each mile we wanted to complete in 9 minutes 7 seconds or better.  If we had jumped that like a lot of people do, they start at the front in the beginning of the race really fast and maybe that first mile, they did in 7 minutes or 8 minutes.  He probably wouldn’t have had the energy to finish the race, or at least not finish it strong and we just made sure, “Hey, we want to at least do 10 minute miles and we want to have some that were doing better but on average we’re going to be 9.07 or better.”

Marty:  That’s a really great analogy, the marathon versus a sprint. Well, let’s move on to the number four and the last point we wanted to focus on and that is, “Focus on one goal at a time.”

Jesse:  This is so hard as a leader and we just talked about this in episode 27 about how to use the big little outcome scope to pick your target and how leaders who focus on one to three goals, tend to hit one to three goals, and as you try to have more goals, you actually go backwards and you hit fewer of them. Amundsen had one goal, get to the South Pole safely.  Be the first one to the South Pole.  Scott actually had two goals.

Marty: Yeah, he also had a really strong scientific head, so along the way and once they got there, they were also going to knock a few balls out of the park by advancing the basic science.

Jesse:  Yeah, he had certain scientific measurements that he wanted to take, that were going to be helpful and in fact, after he was dead and they find his instruments and everything that some of his measurements really were useful to science but they weren’t very useful to him when he’s dead.  The fact that he had two goals definitely blurred the focus and that’s what so problematic when you have more than one goal.  And as a leader, that means you’re communicating more than one goal. So, when you’re communication to your team multiple goals, you’re diffusing the focus and the energy.  Instead, you want people to be laser focused on one thing.

At one point on his return trip from the pole, they had only five days of food left and their next catch was five days away, so they needed to get there.  To use that time to get there but instead, even though the margin there was thin, he decided to stop and take geological samples.  He gathered 30 stones, which added 35 pounds to the sleds that he was carrying.  It required 7 to 8 miles of work either way.  It didn’t get them any closer and of course, they died on the way home.

Marty:  Talk about a deadly distraction.  If you were following a leader, you know, it seems you certainly would have a lot more confidence in someone with razor sharp focus, especially if you’re in a race for survival, you would trust that leader with your life, because you are!

Jesse:  Listen to this quote from Amundsen, “Our plan is one, one, and again one alone-to reach the Pole.  For that goal I have decided to throw everything else aside.”  Is there any question?

Marty: Implicitly thought, he also had the goal of getting back safely.

Jesse:  Oh, sure.  Right.

Marty:  Because he intended to take full advantage of that fame and reputation, and that was part of the success, was to come home alive.

Jesse: Right and everything he did was in service of that goal.  So, that same quote he goes on to say, to tell his men, “Sleep and eat well so that we have full strength and are in good spirits to fight toward the goal which me must attain at any cost.” But that’s total clarity on this vision, this purpose, and he made clear to them why were doing this, how were going to do it, what it’s all about. But there was one goal.  That’s why when I teach about the “big little outcome scope”, that’s BIG because there’s one BIG goal that you’re going after and the little part there’s three little objectives that support that goal, but don’t make any mistake about it.  We may have these three objectives, but it’s about one thing that were going after and that avoids any kind of confusion.

Marty:  Well it’s a good model for business because, you know, with everything else that goes on in business there really is still one main goal of all businesses, and that is survival.

Jesse:  I agree and nobody’s going to disagree that a business needs to be profitable, or you won’t survive.  And today we talk about sustainable businesses a lot. So, to sustain a business for the long term requires more than profitability and certainly you could say that’s survival. But, It’s something more than surviving, there’s actual thriving, too.

Marty: Yeah, you know the very first thing a business strives to do is survive, but there’s a lot of implicitly in that.  It’s really sustainability.  Whatever objectives you have, or mission, it might be a non-profit.  Whatever that mission is, in the long run, it’s irrelevant if you don’t have a survival plan.

Jesse:  Right.

Marty:  In other words, you’ve got the sustainability to do all of these things.  To gather the resources, to managing those resources, to optimize, and overcome all barriers, and up’s and down’s and everything else.  If you don’t have a long-term survival plan and sustainability plan then you achieve nothing.

Jesse:  And I think a leader also needs to translate the goal into a higher purpose, so for example, with the race that we ran yesterday of course, we had this goal to get to the finish line and we knew we wanted to have a big improvement on last years time.  Did we really care?  Did that time matter?  Not really.  It mattered to us, but to us it was a measurement of our health and our progress, and we just wanted to feel that we’re making progress in our fitness and our health and endurance and in just being the kind of person that can set a goal and go accomplish it.  That just gives us a good feeling and we did it together.  It’s something you and I enjoy as father and son doing together and so to us, there’s a deeper meaning.  Beyond just, “Hey, let’s finish this marathon and let’s get a good time.”  So we can translate it to our people about something that has enduring value, it creates a lot of energy but in doing so, we still need to keep it simple by actually having a single core to it.

Marty:  Yeah, there is definitely nothing more focusing than a race.  It’s a good practice to focus, I mean when all the really mattered, especially the further we went into the face, was the finish line.  You know, the finish line…the finish line.  It’s really all you really think about, after some point is getting over that mark.

Jesse:  A lot of people, again, look at Amundsen as lucky and they look another leaders as lucky and the fact is he did have some good luck, but so did Scott and they both had bad luck, but ultimately Amundsen created his own luck and people want to follow a leader that knows how to create their own luck and help the team create their own luck.  So, we’ve looked at four keys that we could learn from Amundsen about making your own luck.  Number one, “Own the outcome”, number two “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”, number three “Follow the discipline of the 20 Mile March” and number four “Focus on one goal at a time”

Link to podcast episode: EL 31: How to Be That “Lucky Leader” People Want to Follow: Amundsen’s Race to the Pole


How to Use DISC and Birth Order to Be an Engaging Leader | with Marty Lahey [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 29: How to Use DISC and Birth Order to Be an Engaging Leader | with Marty Lahey

Jesse Lahey:  Welcome to the show leaders! I’m your host Jesse Lahey!

Marty Lahey:  And I’m your co-host Marty Lahey!

Jesse:  That’s right, my dad Marty has more than 25 years of experience in fortune 500 leadership roles and as CFO of smaller organizations, and 10 years ago he started up a restaurant and catering business that he still leads today.  So, dad brings a financial and operations perspective, which is a good balance to my background in leadership communication.

Marty:  Thanks, Jesse.  Well, today were going to talk about using DISC profiles and understanding of birth orders in how we can use those to be more effective leaders.

Jesse:  That’s right.  The reason were looking at these, is so we can understand ourselves better as leader, but also so that we can understand the people that we’re leading and influencing better.  Both in order to kind of cut them some slack, if you will.  But also so they and we can play to our strengths so that we can understand people’s weaknesses, compensate for those and play to our strengths.  As we go through these, it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong answer.  There’s plus’s and minus’s to each of the four, so were going to talk about some of those plus’s and minus’s and how we can understand those to basically engage the people on our team and to be more effective ourselves.

Marty:  Okay, lets start off at trying to understand the first type, which is, D dominant.

Jesse:  The D personality preference is sort of the born leader.  They are in fact often driven and if you think of your typical oldest child, who has the weight of the world on their shoulders, they’re used to needing to keep the rest of the kids in line, a lot of them are Type A, they have to get things done, they have to make an impact in the world, have to leave their mark, the family is going to got to ruin if they’re not doing everything right.  The over achiever, and this obviously has some strengths, they’re a natural leader, whether they came up with the vision or not, they really own that vision and they get the team moving ahead to that.

Now, for example, I’m probably primarily a D, I have a lot of D in me I’m an only child.  We’re recording this n mid February, I have set 5 goals for myself or this quarter and 4 of them are pretty much achieved and so I’m bound and determined to achieve that last one by the end of the quarter.  They are all, to me, extremely important goals.  Bad things will happen if I don’t (laughs)…

Marty:  I would contrast that with my 5 goals for the next decade, which I set about 5 years ago and I’m still working on it, I’m half way through the first one.

Jesse: Haha

Marty:  I’m feeling pretty good.

Jesse:  As you should! I’m amazed that you set goals that are very impressive.

Marty: A Dominant person can also be kind of a bull in a china shop, right?

Jesse:  That’s right.  Some of the potential weaknesses of the D are being less sympathetic to people’s feeling and not having the emotional intelligence, let’s say.  My Grandmother, for example, is a lovely person, very highly productive and has done so much good in her life, but a lot of people would say she can be the sort of blunt, just sort of say’s it like it is, doesn’t necessarily stop and think about how she’s affecting people’s feelings.  And she would say she cares about people, but when it comes down to it, “but I’m not going to slow down and sort of be namby-pamby with people.  We’ve got to get things done around here!”

Marty:  Yeah tell it like it is, she is a great lady, I love her daily but she has left a ‘trail of bodies’. (Laughs)

Jesse: (Laughs)

Marty:  The second one, which is I for influencing, which is the one I tend to more relate to I think.

Jesse:  Yes, the I’s generally have great people skills and is very good at coming up with ideas and influencing people and this is the classic youngest child, the baby of the family.  They tend to get this way because everybody loves the baby of the family and they just from a very early age reveled in attention from people and they found it very easy to interact with people from all ages.  They don’t have to be just with people who are like themselves, you can put them in any group and they will become the center of attention or at least navigate the group dynamics extremely well.  They have always done that.  This is a good time to mention that people are generally not just one or the other; they are usually a mix of at least 2 and sometime even a third of these.  So you, Dad, said you see yourself primarily as an I but you are not the baby of the family, you are actually the middle child of a large family.

For a long time you were the youngest boy in the family, it was several years went by before you’re youngest brother came along and so what you have in some ways, you were a functional baby of the family.  Psychologists will say, anytime there is about 5 year or more gap between kids, that sort of starts things over.  So, that’s kind of where you pick up a lot of the I.  So the advantages of the I are the great people skills, their creative ideas, they’re very energetic and tend to get other people excited about ideas.  Some of the weaknesses that you need to compensate if you are and I are that you tend to not be very detail oriented.  You gloss over details, you don’t think about things that could go wrong with your great idea and also you may have a short attention span.  You’re a shiny-objects person.  You know, you think of the Disney movie “UP!” and they way that they could distract the dog’s in that movie just by saying, “squirrel!” and the dogs would all go look for the squirrel.

Marty:  Yeah and the I is also, “you can do anything.”

Jesse:  Mm Hmm!

Marty:  “How are you going to that?” and their response is, ” I don’t know, just watch!” You know, I don’t really know how I’m going to do that, but just watch.

Jesse:  I’s can often be less organized and can be late a lot.  They show up to things late.   They show up late. Now, I am primarily a D but I have a lot of I in me as well and I have no idea…well, I was not the baby of the family but here was almost five years before my brother was born, so in some ways I was almost the oldest and the youngest and I have some natural people skills as a result of that.  But, I’m not a super later person; I’m pretty reliable that I’m going to show up maybe five minutes late for any given meeting.

Marty:  Lets go on to the S here, which stands for Steady.  This is one of the people that as an I, I tend to run into.  Somehow we rub each other the wrong way.  Why is that?

Jesse:  Well, the Steady, first of all, the strengths of a Steady is they tend to be loyal, they tend to be calm, and they tend to be investigative.  Some of the weaknesses is they tend to have low energy, whereas and I gets excited about new ideas, the Steady person sort of takes a wait and see approach.  They’re often sort of the wet blanket and I run in to this as well, similar to you.  I come up with a great idea and the S says, “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea” or I might even say, “You know I came up with this new topic that I want to speak about, I’m going to put together a speech” and I share it with my Aspendale team, who have a lot of S’s on that team, and they say things like, “are you really qualified to talk about that?  What do you have to say that people would want to know?”  Because they don’t see themselves as having necessarily any brilliance that the world would want to know.  You have to almost draw that out of them and say, “Look, nobody knows this as well as you.”  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” “So, why don’t you stand up and tell people about that, because people would want to hear”.  The Steady, the S, often has the low energy and can kind of be a push over, or a doormat too.

Marty:  I think and correct me if I’m wrong but I think one of the strengths of a Steady person is that they can kind of3 be like the anchor, or the lightning rod or maybe even the peacemaker.  Sometimes, I think as the middle child I picked up on that role.  I found myself standing between two really different personalities sometimes, trying to find common ground, you know, diffuse a situation where you’ve got a D ready to climb down the throat of a C for whatever reason.

Jesse:  Right.

Marty:  You kind of step in there and you start taking a few spears yourself and you deflect them because you can shift on your feet, that whole personality type but to me it’s one of the advantages an S has.

Jesse: S is a great personality type for so many attributes and the middle child or the S is for one thing, makes a great spouse as well.  It’s the easiest type of person to be married to because they are peacemakers.  When you say, “What do you want to do tonight, honey?”  They are more likely to say, “Whatever you want to do.” and who wouldn’t like that unless…it’s a little but harder when they’re two S’s because then you’re both saying, “What do you want to do tonight, honey?”… “I don’t know. What do you want to do? “… “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” (Laughs).

Marty:  Or maybe, one of the spouses is having a bad day and the shoot a bullet at their spouse, not really meaning to much by it, an S can dodge that or deflect it and not take it personally and start a big argument.  They kind o let it roll off their shoulders.

Jesse:  That’s right.  Now, you and Mom both have a lot of S in you.  You’re both middle children.  You’re more of an I S and Mom is probably a D S, but you have a lot of the S.  On the other hand, my wife and I, neither of us have much S, were both high D’s.  I would be a D I, and she would be a D C and so we tend to butt heads a lot.  We have a great marriage but we are more likely to get each other’s hackles out.  If one of us is having a bad day and we accidentally say something that we otherwise shouldn’t, it’s hard to give each other grace.  The other person is more likely to jump on you.  So the S has definite strengths.

Once upon a time, I heard about this really exciting opportunity that involved a lot of writing but also what I thought involved creating seminars and then co-teaching these seminars.  I thought it’d be a great fit for me, so I went and applied for the job, got to the interview stage and they had me take a DISC profile and of course I came out a high D.  And I thought that sounds great, I thought it would be a good for this.   And they said, “well actually…this isn’t going to disqualify you because these are really super-predictive but it does say that your preferences may not be the best fit for how were viewing this role. This is primarily a behind the scenes writing role and generally S’s are a better fir for that role.”

Now, it was helpful for them to understand that I maybe not the right fit.  it was helpful for me to understand that that’s how they were viewing the role, it was not at all what I was thinking.  So it was very much a mutual decision that, “NO.  This is not a great fit for me.”

Marty:  That’s a great example.  Let’s move on to the last letter in the acronym, the C for conscientious.

Jesse: A conscientious person tends to be detail oriented, analytical and perfectionistic. This tends to be your only child, often would be known as a super achiever.  The strengths of this person are that there often, as I said a super achiever, they get so much done, they can be a wonderful leader in an organization.  They often will found a whole new organization; they’ll start a company or a non-profit.  The weakness that this personality can have is that they can be perfectionistic, they can be anal-retentive.  They can be so perfectionistic that they drive other people crazy or that they actually become procrastinators…”Why should I start on this if it’s not going to be perfect.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing 100% right and if I can’t do it 100%, I’m not even going to get started.”  They can be discourages and even depressed because of that perspective.  So, it can be a super achiever but it can definitely work against you.

So when you look at the DISC and the birth order, one thing to keep in mind is that generally people are a mix of one or two, so it’s not an exact science.  But you can often just guess even based on barely knowing people by their job title.  For example, there is an organization and their medical director I easily guessed that he was an oldest child, because he was leading his organization. You know, typically the leaders would be the D or the oldest children.  Often the sales people or the public speakers, or the ideas’ people, those are the babies of the family or the I’s, the influencers.

The “just really good” team players are often the middle children, the Steady’s and the analytical or the CFO of the group is often the C or the only children but you get confusing factors in there.  For one, blended families.  If anybody is in a blended family, that can skew things up.  In our own family, Dad, growing up the baby in the family my sister Chelsea has a lot of the I aspects in her.  She’s very energetic, very comfortable with people, but we adopted a family of four kids when Chelsea was still quite young and so she became a functional first born, in a lot of ways.  So you look at her now, and you see a lot of those leadership capabilities that you might not have guessed had you just known that she was originally the baby of the family.

Marty:  Yeah, that’s a very good point.  it was abrupt change for her to go from baby of the family to…I mean she not only was older than the four adopted kid’s but her older brothers were just in the process of leaving the nest.  So, she was on top and alone.

Jesse:  Yeah. The other thing that can make it a little difficult to guess, to do a quick read on people is that middle children are the hardest one’s to read.  I’m not 100% sure why but for one thing, middle children dislike bring categorized.  They don’t even like the idea that you’re trying to put them in one of four boxes. We said they’re steady, so they’re peacemaker, but they can also be the contrarians.  If you think about, in the really stereotypical family where the oldest child was the over achiever, a lot of times the second born doesn’t want to be anything like the oldest child.  He or she wants to make their own mark, their sort of like renegades.

So they want to defy categorization often, when I miss…I just did it the other night, Erin and I went out with another couple and I correctly guessed that Nate was a middle born and a Steady and his wife, I didn’t know as well so I just had to guess that she was an oldest.  No, she was a middle born.  Also, there was a client group that we were out with and I was guessing personalities and the sort of lieutenant of the group, she wasn’t the head of the department but she was kind of the next in line the lieutenant in charge of running a lot of things. I guessed that she was on oldest because she has such a leadership role, but actually she was a middle that was more stepping into the leadership role.  Once I recognized that, I could see the ways in which, yea she doesn’t have some of those classic D tendencies.  So that make it a little more difficult to read, but you know, being 80 or 90% accurate is very helpful in reading people and that’s why it’s just easier to guess people’s birth order than it is to guess weather they’re a D, I, S, or C and then it’s easy to ask people too, you can go “Hey are you a middle child?” and they can answer that and if you dig into it an realize, “Okay, well I am a middle but there was six years between me and my brother and so…” then you can understand some of the complexities.  It’s easier to get a quick read; you don’t have to get someone to fill out an assessment.

Why is that helpful? One, we already talked about.  It’s helpful to know the strengths and to know the weaknesses, so you can play to your strengths.  It’s a lot easier to go through life playing to your strengths but also sometimes you want to compensate for your weaknesses.  I’m a D, I need to work on my emotional intelligence a little but.  I can’t be the bull in the china shop.  Dad, you and I both have a lot of I and so we can be excitable and gung ho and energetic about ideas, but we need to be a little but more careful on follow-through.  Analyzing which ideas are going to work, getting input from other people and when you finally all agree on an idea then see that through to completion.  Don’t be so quick to go on to something else.

Marty: Sometimes an I, when they run an idea up against a Steady they back down.  Sometimes I’s will back off and shouldn’t.  We should be almost expected that a Steady is going to turn their nose up at an idea.  Use the sounding board, learn from their reaction, but don’t necessarily take it at face value.

Jesse: That’s right, I just last week was talking to my team about a new key note idea that I had and kind of got the, “I don’t know that you’re really qualifies to talk about that” and I started to get disappointed and then I remembered, “Oh, wait a minute.  I’m an I and they’re an S.  Let’s not throw this away so quickly.  So we actually scheduled a time later on this afternoon actually, where were going to look at this in more detail and decide.  Are their points valid that their questioning, “should I not really try to be an authority on this subject” or “Should I go bone up on some of those areas where maybe I’m lacking but don’t just throw it away” because that’s just their personality, they’re going to be slow to embrace a new idea.

Marty:  it’s really a great, almost natural order if you will.  It’s kind of a call to the influencing type to do their homework and do some research, make sure even if you’re a visionary and you’re moving on a very exciting path, still you have to do your due diligence and sometimes you can rely on steady driven contentious people to help you data-check yourself a little bit.

Jesse:  So it’s helpful to understand strengths and weaknesses. It’s also helpful to lead other people when you can read them and understand them.  In other words, cutting them some slack and I think the birth order layer on top of that, to me helps me cut people slack some more.  If I come to the realization that Bill is a D and Bill’s going to be dominant and he’s a driver and I can say, “OK, that doesn’t mean I need to give too much space.  That’s his problem, not mine, right?”  Well, for some reason it helps me to say, “Well, Bill was an oldest child and he’s got some of that weight of the world on his shoulder.”  There’s something about that to me, it helps me cut him some slack and I can appreciate his strengths and I can give him some space for his weaknesses. The same thing with the other personalities, my sister Chelsea we said is the baby of the family, she heard me and my oldest son JJ talking about this topic to an audience and of course JJ and I are both the oldest children and we were not making the case that the D’s or the oldest children are the best because we both believe that they all have strengths and weaknesses but, JJ and I are not going to talk about this topic without it sort of secretly coming through that were darn glad were D’s, right?

Chelsea listened to that and later sent me an e-mail and said, “That was go great hearing you guys talking about that!  I’m so excited to learn that stuff and you know, with my oldest daughter Cosette, now I know I need to be really careful with her and not have this weight of the world on her shoulders and not damage her in that way!” (Laughs).  So JJ and I are thinking it’s an advantage to be a D and she’s thinking, “Oh those poor D’s I feel so sorry for them, if only everybody could be the I’s, the babies of the family like me.”  Everybody is going to have their own preferences.

Marty:  So using insight into these personality types not only allows you to understand yourself better and to work on your strengths and weaknesses and how your coming across to people, but also makes you a more effective leader by understanding people around you and how to compensate for some of their heavy strengths or maybe some of their weaknesses and make the environment overall more productive because you’re using the best that people have to bring, you’re working together in this sort of natural order of things and really getting a lot more done.

Jesse: That’s right and these are personality preferences, this is not like a definite test on how you’re wired or anything like that and it’s not predictive necessarily.  For example, just because you’re an I, I should not assume that you’re going to be a good sales person or that if you’re an S that you’re not going to be a good sales person.  There are great salespeople from each of the four personality profiles and their are I’s that would make lousy sales people.  You cant necessarily read someone and then predict things about them, but you can better understand them.

One way that’s helpful to understand people is the notion of speed.  Speed, in terms of decision making and speed in terms of actions and the S’s and the C’s tend to be slower decision makers.  They prefer slow speed.  The D’s and the I’s tend to be faster.  The way this plays out and we just heard on episode 26 Kent Julian talk about public speaking and he talks about the DISC profiles a lot and a lot of his speaking is in the educational sector, so he’s working with teachers a lot and teachers tend to be on average, S’s, there Steadies. He will explain the notion of how the S’s and the C’s tend to make slower decisions and all these teachers start nodding to each other, and say, “Yeah, see that’s why were better.  We make slower, more deliberate decisions.”

Marty:  Or “Were more careful.  We don’t make mistakes.”

Jesse:  Right.  Now, you and I, Dad with the I in us and the D in me, I’m thinking, “See I make better decisions because it’s faster.  We think a faster decision tends to be a better one.” So, Kent always says, “Now wait a minute, I didn’t say better, I said slower more deliberate” or if he’s talking to I’s and D’s say “wait a minute, I didn’t say better, I said faster” and there not necessarily a right or a wrong, there’s pros and cons to both.

Marty:  Many of us have served on non-profit boards and I’m one of those antsy people sitting around, “Let’s just make this…let’s just tie this and move on.”  And you’ve always got somebody that wants to talk about the “rules of Robert” (Laughs) If I ever find him, I’m going to strangle him. (Laughs). They slow you down, you know?  And they said, “there’s a process we have to go through to think this through and you have to follow this and that, and committee this and we need a motion, we have to discuss” and I’m the guy that’s kind of like, I can make this decision in my business before breakfast.

Jesse:  Right!  We hate making decisions by committee, but if you can understand there’s…both are okay and appreciate, “OK, I’m working with some people who are little bit slower decisions makers and that’s not bad” and rather than get frustrated, rather than have a performance management conversation with them, like “Joe, you really need to make faster decisions” appreciate that that’s who they are and there’s some good things about that and take what’s good about you, you’re strengths, play to those and let those people play to theirs and give them positive feedback about that stuff.  It’s part of being an engaging leader.


Link to podcast episode: EL 29: How to Use DISC and Birth Order to Be an Engaging Leader | with Marty Lahey


How to Lead a Likeable Business | with Dave Kerpen [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode: EL 43: How to Lead a Likeable Business | with Dave Kerpen

JESSE LAHEY: Welcome to the show leaders! I’ve shared before the quote from Seth Godin that “Advertising is the tax you pay for not being remarkable.” But how do you make sure your business is remarkable; one worth talking about in a positive way? There are just too many examples of organizations that are mediocre, or worse, the people are doing things that cause customers to go on Twitter or Facebook or Trip Advisor and make negative remarks. How do you make sure the team you lead creates a likable experience for customers? To help us answer that our guest is Dave Kerpen. Dave is a speaker, NY Times bestselling author, CEO of Likable Local, and chairman of Likable Media which is had triple digit revenue growth for four consecutive years. His latest book is Likable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver. Dave Kerpen, welcome to Engaging Leader!

DAVE KERPEN: Thank you for having me!

JESSE: Dave, your first book was the NY Times bestseller Likable Social Media. What led you to write that book and why was it such a hit when it seems like there are so many other available books about social media?

DAVE: Well, my reason for writing the book was that Likable Media, our first company, was working with a lot of big companies and helping a lot of big companies leverage social media, but I wanted a way to help small businesses use and leverage social media because it is such a great equalizer but there’s so many small businesses that don’t yet fully understand how to do it and so I wrote the book and – you know, I can’t say why it’s been so successful, but I’ve certainly been very, very happy with its success – I think that one thing people have told me is that it’s written in very simple language. While there are some interesting and new concepts in it, the language is simple enough that really anyone can understand it and process it. That, and I love to tell stories – I think there are a lot of stories in it.

JESSE: I would agree just from reading your latest book Likable Business. It’s unusual in the world of business in that it’s an actual page-turner. It’s great stories with lots of great ideas and so I’ve discovered that I shouldn’t read it at bedtime because I’ll never fall asleep; I just keep going on and on.

DAVE: Ha-ha! Well thanks, that’s a compliment I take, thank you.

JESSE: You’ve become a pretty well-known thought leader about social media. Why then did you turn the focus in your new book toward business leadership?

DAVE: With the success of the first book and the lot of speaking I was doing, I found myself talking about these principles of Likable Social Media that I had written about – principles like listening, authenticity, transparency, gratefulness – and I realized those principles of Likable Social Media are principles that make companies great in using social media. They aren’t just great principles of social media, they’re also principles of great business in today’s world and it seems to me that because of social media – because of the new world that we live in – it’s more important than ever – I don’t like to apply those principles to a Facebook page or Twitter page, but to apply those principles to everything that you do in your business and in your life. So I wrote the second book Likable Business directed for leaders to sort of take things that they maybe take for granted, basic concepts, and apply them in new ways to how they run their businesses, how they manage their teams, how they communicate with their customers, with their employees, with their prospects, with their vendors, with their media… because I think that increasingly those things really do make a difference.

JESSE: You know that’s interesting for me personally because it parallels my own journey. My background is in corporate communication and there came a point in which I wanted to have a broader impact and was working with more and more business leaders. It hit me one day that the principles that make you successful in communication – especially leadership communication – are pretty much foundational to smart business and smart leadership in general. For you to then say the same thing about social media is pretty compelling to me.

DAVE: It’s amazing to me how ‘common sense’ a lot of social media and how alike social media and business is. These ‘common sense’ things are things that we often lose sight of in the quest for better management; in the quest for shaving a couple dollars off of your expense line and adding a couple dollars to your revenue line, and I think we often lose sight of some of these basic principles of communication and that’s really tragic. So with really both of my books and now whenever I speak as well, I try to bring back those basic principles of being a likable leader; of being a likable person because we’ve actually seen dramatic results from these things. These aren’t just principles – I’ve talked to over 200 CEOs of growing organizations for this last book and they’ve shared their stories with me about how being likable and applying these principles has actually impacted their business.

JESSE: One of the things that I liked that just caught me totally by surprise in the book is this wonderful, mashed up metaphor you provide in the book about a cocktail party within a reality TV show. Will you explain that one for us?

DAVE: Sure, well I actually was on a reality TV show ten years ago, so I got to experience life in that reality TV world. Cameras were watching me everywhere and I had 1,200 cameras, Jesse, following my every move back on Paradise Hotel on FOX ten years ago. I guess my argument is that even if you don’t have 1,200 cameras following you now, the world is just more transparent than ever before. The world is, with each day that goes by, more and more resembling a reality TV show where anything you do or say might be captured on camera; might be captured by somebody with their smartphone, and it’s funny – my father-in-law said to me years ago, before reality TV, before social media, just after I met him and was an aspiring leader myself, he was a judge and he said to me, “Dave, don’t every do anything that you wouldn’t want to be on the front cover of the daily news tomorrow.” I thought that was really valuable and I would say that my analogy about the reality show is just that.

If you think of yourself as being filmed, as being on a reality show, then you’re going to behave in ways that you wouldn’t if you didn’t think you were being filmed. Now, the cocktail party part really refers to the fact that when people really think about how they behave at a cocktail party, they want to be not only interesting but interested. They want to not only tell great stories but listen to great stories and they realize that in order to be successful at a cocktail party – you’re there to have fun, you’re there to tell stories, you’re there to meet interesting people and find out interesting stories about other people – if you think about acting that way in your day to day life on that reality TV show and in your business, then I think you’re going to be more successful than if you go about with goals and trying to close deals and make sales. It seems to me that those folks are often less successful than the folks that just think about ‘how can I build relationships with people, how can I help people, how can I have fun doing whatever I’m doing’ – those are the sorts of things that you think about when you go to a cocktail party that I think you can really apply to a business and leadership.

JESSE: Yeah, you’re right. One of the things that I was just thinking about as you were talking is the difference between a cocktail party and maybe a more intimate gathering with people that you already know and how your focus then shifts – if you’re at a cocktail party you want to be interested and interesting – if you’re at a more intimate gathering one of the best intents that I’ve heard expressed is (I don’t know who first expressed, but) Michael Hyatt is where I heard if from – he says his goal at that kind of occasion is to create a perfect moment for me and for everybody. If we all just have a perfect moment, that’s about the best that you can expect, and that leads to ‘are you likable to customers and how do you help your team be likable to customers.’

You talk about ten foundations in your book and the one of them that I wanted to make sure that we talked some about is Surprise and Delight and it sort of reminds me of creating a perfect moment for a customer who may just be one of thousands that you have but you or your team is taking an extra effort to do something that makes a perfect moment for that person. What’s a story from that chapter that you think would be good to share?

DAVE: Well, let me tell you about Boloco. Boloco is a Boston chain – they’re actually expanding now up and down the east coast. One thing that Boloco is really insistent on is surprising and delighting their customers. If you have any issue with your order, they’re going to go out of their way to surprise and delight you. I tell the story in the book about a group of college students that have put in an order and it didn’t arrive right and the CEO of the restaurant chain called himself and showed up with fifty free burritos the next hour and really made an impact. He realized from that and other experiences that Surprise and Delight was so valuable that he ended up doing a free burrito day as a staple promotion for the restaurant chain. Unlike other restaurants where you get a free burger… but you have to buy fries and a drink in order to get the free burger. The free burrito day is just that.

Any single person can walk up and get a free burrito, no strings attached; they don’t have to buy anything else at all. That’s led to just massive lines whenever they have free burrito day, but then an unbelievable result, according to the Dartmouth School of Business, that every time they did a free burrito day it led to ten percent sales lifts for the next 3 months. By surprising and delighting customers with free stuff with no strings attached, they actually saw great business results.

One of the other things I talk about when I talk about Surprise and Delight, again relating it back to social media Jesse, is it’s always been a great principle of business to surprise and delight a customer, but before if you surprised and delighted me as one customer, I might tell a couple friends and my wife and mention it to a colleague at work. Now, if you surprise and delight me today, I’m going to share that on Twitter with tens of thousands of people. I’m going to share that on Facebook with five thousand friends. I’m going to share that on LinkedIn with a 125,000 followers. The abilities to surprise and delight customers that may in fact have some influence in social media is just… the impact you can have by surprising and delighting just one or two customers is tremendous.

JESSE: So you’re being remarkable creating something that people want to remark on and it basically connects with a customer one-to-one, but with the power of social media the ripple effect goes on and on.

DAVE: That’s right. You can’t give away free burritos every day and you can’t always give free burritos to every customer, but my point is, if you do surprise and delight folks – I liken it to the variable rewards mentality – it’s a mentality that casinos use with slot machines. At any given point there’s one slot machine that’s going off somewhere in the casino and that reminds everybody to keep playing because you see that one slot machine going off. If you’re able to Surprise and Delight with enough frequency, they’re going to spread the word to others and everyone’s going to be talking about it, then you don’t have to give away free burritos every day to every customer to have the intended effect of everybody talking about their free burrito.

JESSE: Like a lot of the foundations that you discuss in the book, if you start with trying to apply that principle just to customers, it may not really be authentic as a value of your organization. You talk in this chapter about Surprise and Delight and about surprising and delighting your team members too.

DAVE: Oh yeah, absolutely! I think that – there’s really two huge sets of people that I talk about in Likable Business and for leaders to think about and one is certainly your customer base, but the other is your employees; your team members – the people that actually make things happen. I am a huge proponent of taking care of them, of keeping them motivated, of giving them lots of exciting things and building a culture, a great team culture with you team members. One thing that we believe in is Surprise and Delight as well. I’m always doing random things to surprise and delight my team members. Like right now, for instance, I’m doing this live interview and I can see 30 people in front of us and you know what? Why don’t we buy everybody lunch today? Yeah, just buy them lunch today. Wouldn’t that be cool? Alright, I’m seeing lots of thumbs-up – there are a bunch of people on phone calls, Jesse, so we can’t scream or anything, but lunch is on me, team!

The story that I tell in the book – part of where I really started getting surprise and delight with my team was 3 years ago, my wife and I were at home and my wife was like, “Dave, you’ve got to watch this; this is Oprah’s Favorite Things episode. It’s so good!” that was back when Oprah was on the air and I’m a huge fan of Oprah as a business leader, but I wasn’t a big watcher of her show. So I sat down with my wife and I watched this Favorite Things episode where basically Oprah just gives away all of her favorite things to the people in her audience. They freak out and go crazy and it’s really good television and it’s fun watching. So I said after watching this, “Carrie, we’ve got to figure out a way to do this for our staff!” Likable has grown, you know, triple digit growth every year for the last 4 or 5 years. We’ve been really, really fortunate to grow, so obviously we’re able to reward our team and whatnot, so at the holiday party 3 years ago, I set up a PowerPoint “50 things you need to know going into 2011.”

I gathered everyone to a room making them think they were going to have to sit through this PowerPoint and on the second slide was my head over Oprah’s picture and I announced Dave’s Favorite Things and we had music and ended up giving away Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards and orange shoes and Facebook swag and a bunch of other stuff and then the grand prize was, as Oprah would do, we gave away a cruise to the Bahamas and our whole company went on a seven day cruise to the Bahamas and obviously that was not inexpensive, but the ability to reward team members with something that cool and fun not only made everybody feel good, but there was a real business impact and more people have stayed with our company because they feel like they’re family and it’s part of their culture.

We won Crain’s Best Places to Work in New York, I’m sure, because of things like that and that just continues to attract great talent. I think there are so many great advantages and outcomes from something like that, even though on the outside it may look a little costly and a little crazy.

JESSE: Yeah, that’s an amazing story and when I was reading in the book I was wondering whether you were giving those gifts to everybody present or just was it one person got the orange shoes and another person got the swag… so it sounds like you gave them all to everybody, including a Bahamas trip; you took them all to the Bahamas. Was that just the staff or could they take a significant other with them too?

DAVE: Just the staff. We fortunately have a young staff, so there were only a couple people that had to leave a significant other. So the other interesting thing is it was the whole staff that got everything, but as our team has continued to grow and get bigger and bigger each year it has gotten more and more challenging. We have continued the tradition of Dave’s Favorite Things, although of course it’s less of a surprise. Now every year, I try to play it down and say that we didn’t make our numbers this year or we can’t do it this year. I don’t think anyone believes me anymore, but so three years ago we did the cruise as the grand prize and two years ago a trip to Miami was the grand prize (we had more people) and this past year we had even more people so the prize was a trip to Atlantic City. It’s still fun, but not necessarily a cruise to the Bahamas as we have more and more staff people and you know, it gets more challenging to pull off economically.

JESSE: Next year it’ll be a trip to the Bronx (ha-ha).

DAVE: Next year it’ll be a trip to the park across the street. Don’t tell anyone, but we’re talking to sponsors so we can pull off amazing trips and have them funded now, which would be very cool.

JESSE: Yeah, it is very cool! So obviously, as team gets larger, you might have to look for ways to be more scalable.

DAVE: Exactly, and look, one of the things that I mention in the book with a lot of these principles is the larger your organization, the more challenging this is. I readily realize that these things are much easier to pull off with a team of 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 or even 100 than with a team of 10,000, but my belief is that every team of 10,000 still has subgroups of those smaller numbers and as you can start to integrate some of these principles into the subgroups and into the smaller teams and start to demonstrate some ROI and some real business results from these. Then you can make the case to integrate them more fully into even a larger organizations.

JESSE: Another foundation in your book that I wanted to make sure we talked about is Simplicity because I don’t hear very many thought leaders talking about that and you provide both some great stories and some great data as far as an argument for Simplicity in the chapter. For example, this Harvard University student who did this experiment to determine if the simplest explanation for a cause would be chosen over a more complex explanation, and you might say that, yeah, that would probably win out, but what surprised me was that subjects preferred the simpler explanation 100% of the time so it’s not even just a preference, it’s as you said, “Human beings crave simplicity.”

DAVE: We really do and as business leaders, we get so caught up (this is one we all take for granted) in the features and benefits and new products and new things that we’re doing and ways to add new revenue lines and way to make things more complex when the reality is in many cases, if you can get something to its simplest form and function, it’s going to be most effective – both the product and the explanation of the product, more importantly. I can’t tell you how many times people pitch me and ten minutes in I’m like, “What? I don’t even understand it; what is this? Just explain it in one phrase.” And actually, the best thing to happen to me from studying Simplicity – I’d like to think I’ve done a pretty good job of integrating it into our businesses, but frankly I think I could do a lot better.

The best outcome for me has been in my writing and I write a lot; I write for LinkedIn; I write for INC, and I’ve learned that the more simply I can write something, the better the result is going to be almost 100% of the time because people don’t want to read complex jargon; people don’t want to read complex language. They want to understand it in the simplest terms, so the ability to practice becoming a more straightforward and clear and concise writer has helped me become a better thinker and a better leader for sure.

JESSE: You provide so many different great stories in that chapter – Apple and Google and Blackberry… what’s your favorite story to tell about that topic?

DAVE: Apple is of course, sort of the most famous example of Simplicity, I believe. Let me tell you about a company called Buffer. Buffer is a company that does one thing: they schedule your tweets for you. In a social media world that has now dozens and dozens of company’s software doing things for people, including my own Likable Local, Buffer has had dramatic growth despite the fact that they have refused to add any new features to their product, Jesse. They are what they are; they are a twitter scheduler and that has worked really well for them because people understand what they do. They don’t need more; they’re serving a really good function. I’m a Buffer customer myself – I spend ten dollars a month. I can easily schedule my tweets in advance and then I don’t have to worry about tweeting all day, and yet the world thinks I’m tweeting all day!

It’s actually been great for me as a user. I’m a big fan and I love what they’re doing and I really tip my cap to their ability to say NO to adding new things. I think that one of the challenges as leaders that we have is ‘can we say NO and what can we say NO to?’ Buffer’s done a really good job of keeping things simple and saying NO to the many opportunities to add features and add benefits and to make their product more complex.

JESSE: I agree. Our team uses Buffer too because it just, as an example, I tend to do all my reading in batches. I’ll read for a couple hours and I’ll see all these great things I want to share, but if I tweet it all out at once I would just annoy people, so Buffer allows those things to be shared in bite size chunks the way people really do want to receive those. We’ve used Buffer for about 2 years now and have had temporarily shifted over to different products like Hootsuite, but we’ve always pretty quickly come back to Buffer because it does what it does so well and isn’t overburdened by complexities, just as you’re saying.

DAVE: Exactly. That thing is that so many folks are tempted to go in the direction of adding more and more and more, and yet often more is less. If you can really just figure out what you’re best at – what’s that one thing you are best in the world at – and focus on that one thing, you’re going to be so much better off than if you’re trying to do a lot of things and you end up doing none of them super well.

JESSE: Yeah, and I love the quote that you share from Milton Glaser, “Less isn’t more, just enough is more.” I love that.

DAVE: Exactly. I love that quote too. It reminds us that just enough is just that. Just enough is enough. Why do we always want more when really enough, by definition, is enough?

JESSE: Yeah. Well, in our last few minutes together, let’s talk about what I know is your favorite topic in the book and that is Gratefulness.

DAVE: Yes. In Likable Social Media, I talked about the power of saying “thank you” in the social media because so many brands actually don’t respond to customers’ complaints and certainly they don’t respond to customers’ compliments. An astounding 60% of brands don’t respond to customers on Facebook and Twitter. The power of saying “thank you” and just acknowledging that you’re getting a comment in Likable Social Media, and then I got into exploring gratitude more in Likable Business and I met one of my good friends who now is a former CEO of – his name is Cary Chessik – who now has a company called Positivity and does happiness and positivity coaching. Well, what Cary really shared with me was the activity that he started every single morning with, which was writing down five things that he’s grateful for, and how powerful that gratitude is.

Then I talked to a non-profit called Donors Choose that had actually done an experiment with handwritten thank-you cards where they had sent handwritten thank-you cards to a test group and then emailed thank-you’s to a control group. Donors Choose actually found that the folks that got the handwritten thank-you cards were actually 38% more likely to donate a second time and when they donated, they actually gave more on average. So after learning of this awesome data from Donors Choose and after hearing about my friend Cary and his morning routine, I actually began myself a morning routine – that has absolutely changed my life – of writing thank-you cards.

I started by writing one thank-you card a week and then I moved to writing one thank-you card a day and now I write three thank-you cards every morning. I write them to staff people, I write them to vendors, I write them to customers, I write them to media partners, I write them to folks in my personal life… and the amazing thing is actually two-fold. First, there’s definitely a business impact when folks receive these thank-you cards because they know in a digital world that I went out of my way to take time to write them. I get this great feedback from folks after they receive the thank-you cards and really feel appreciated.

The other amazing thing that I didn’t even really expect that Cary had told me about was that as I write the thank-you cards, even if those thank-you cards never got mailed – even if they never got sent – is that they put me in an amazing mindset for my day. You feel great! It’s actually physiologically impossible to feel both angry or sad and grateful at the same time. It’s physiologically impossible, so no matter what mood I’m in, as I write my thank-you cards, it puts me in a great mood and it prepares me to have a great day as a leader every single day.

JESSE: You definitely convinced me in that chapter with the data you show about how it really does add to the bottom line and secondly, the part that most people don’t even think of is the psychological benefits that you get; the feelings of personal happiness and obviously the difference you can make in other peoples’ lives and just that mindset that it puts you into, also, just how it sort of greases the wheel in a lot of upcoming circumstances in life.

I can recall a time I wrote a thank-you note to somebody (which I don’t do nearly enough) and then three months later a problem came up that was definitely not fully my fault, but I did contribute to the problem a little bit, but because I had written a thank-you note, the person (sort of the brunt of the problem) gave me the benefit of the doubt that I was a decent human being and she actually had a reasonable conversation with me. It never would have happened if that little human connection, that gratefulness, hadn’t been expressed, and it kind of built that bond between us.

DAVE: Yeah, it’s those positive relationships that will drive success in business and success in life.

JESSE: Well, the book is Likable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver. We’ve been discussing three ways to lead a likable business, but there are a lot more stories and great ideas in the book, so I encourage everyone to check it out. Dave Kerpen, thank you for joining us on Engaging Leader!

DAVE: Thank you so much for having me, Jesse, for the whole experience. One my core values in the book that I do talk about that we didn’t talk about today is Responsiveness. If anyone has any questions, I get thousands of tweets and emails every week. Please do feel free; I respond to every single one, so please feel free to tweet me anytime @DaveKerpen or you can even go old-school and email me: [email protected]


Link to podcast episode: EL 43: How to Lead a Likeable Business | with Dave Kerpen


How Conscious Leaders Build Value | with Fred Kofman [Transcript]

Link to podcast episode:  EL 45: How Conscious Leaders Build Value | with Fred Kofman

Jesse Lahey: Welcome to the show leaders! Many of you are aware of the book “First break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Kurt Kofman in which they reported on the results of a twenty five year research project by the Gallop Organization on organizational effectiveness and that study focused on a single question, “What do the most talented employees need from their workplace?” After surveying over a million individuals from a broad range of companies and organization, the study concluded that talented employees need great managers.

So, your best talent may choose your firm for a wide variety of reasons; charismatic leadership, great benefits, great training; but ultimately what is going to impact how long that employee stays and how productive they are is their leader; especially their immediate manager.

So how do you become a great leader? Well to help us address that question, our guest today is Fed Kofman, author of “Conscience Business: How to Build Value through Values.” It is a book that has been translated in more than 10 languages and received numerous awards. Fred was a professor of Management Accounting and Control Systems at MIT and today he is co-founder of the internal consulting firm, Axilent and professor of leadership and coaching at the University Fransico Ameriking. Fred, welcome to engaging leader!

Fred Kofman: It is a pleasure to be with you, Jesse.

Jesse: Fred, can you tell us how your experience, first of all, growing up under a dictatorship in Argentina, caused you to understand consciousness?

Fred: Well, when I was a young man in Argentina I lived under a dictatorship, but the strange thing is that I never knew I was living under a dictatorship. Of course, I knew intellectually, but the whole world was so covered with propaganda, that it was like living in a dream. You know when you’re in a dream, you can walk through walls and it seems normal, and then you wake up and ask yourself “How could I not realize it was a dream?” I was flying, I was walking through walls, that’s not possible, but, when you are in the middle of the dream, it is normal and seems perfectly logical and realistic.

It was a similar experience in Argentina, where we all knew that things weren’t right, yet, there was this collective illusion that things were okay. The laws were being upheld, the government was functional and yet it was a pretty bloody dictatorship that had concentration camps, torcher camps, killing people and I was in the middle of it and I did not know, so, it struck me how easy it is to be the lucid and live in a fantasy. If I can make a metaphor with the movie “The Matrix,” one might think that one is they are living in the real world, but as Morphias tells Neo, you are a slave and you are living in a dream. So I devoted pretty much the rest of my life to waking up, and then inviting other people to look around, and see what’s true and then base their lives on true principles not on an illusory fantasies.

Jesse: And you discovered that the delusion was very real in the business world as well?

Fred: Well, yes and that was the amazing thing. I left Argentina quiet disguised and I came to the United States which was like my glorious dream of freedom and the country had given the Declaration of Independence to the world and these truths to be self-evident that all men are equal and that they deserve respect and deserve to live in liberty. Then when I finished my studies at Berkley and went to my key’s and started working with corporations, I saw that even though the principles were as claimed, the people would speak of them and dispose them quite vehemently. Their day-to-day practice was quite different; not in a criminal way; just lack of respect, lack of consideration, attempting to manipulate one another, doing a whole bunch of things that nobody would espouse openly, but in action they seemed to be based on their practice.

Jesse: You also, in the book, talk about the inability to expose reality. For example, in Argentina when Argentina was at war with the UK over the Vulcon Islands and every morning the propaganda and papers would say “Hey, we’re winning, we’re winning,” and then all of a sudden one day it was “well, we lost,” and you said you saw that in business a lot too, where teams were diluting themselves about how good things were every day, and then they finally said “Well, we lost.  The business is shutting down, we’re downsizing.”

Fred: Yeah. Well that happens at a team level but it also happens personally, in our lives ,every day, as well. Just remember last time somebody defaulted on their commitment, that somebody said they were going to give something to you and they didn’t show up or called you at the last moment and said “Oh sorry I didn’t make it.” I guarantee this person knew a couple hours before at least, if not a few days before, that they would not be able to fulfill their commitment, yet, they deluded maybe themselves, but certainly they lied to you by not telling you in advance that there was a problem and they would not be able to deliver.

Now that is so normal, that we don’t even think about that, but that is a little bit of fraud that creeps into our lives and then the person accommodates these and we all say “Well, it’s okay” because you know it is just part of their practice. That’s not right, if you think about it and say “Hm, it is possible to live with much higher integrity,” and if I say I am going to do something, the moment I discover my resources are not enough, or I hit a problem or whatever, that is the moment where I am compelled by ethics to call my creditor and let them know that the delivery is at risk; so I feel obliged to call you, to let you know, to negotiate with you what we can do to minimize the harm to you in case something happens and then we move together to recommitment.

This happens in organizations every day, millions of times, and it is a huge opportunity for people to wake up and say “Hey we can change this.” This is not saying you have to be superman and deliver on every commitment; that would be inhuman. Whenever we make commitments they are at risk. We’re we are promising something in the future that we can make an ethical commitment to integrity. That is a human possible standard and we rarely fulfill it; which is a shame.

Jesse: In the book, you say that it doesn’t really work for leaders to just tell their people what they need to do, that really the leaders need to live out the qualities of consciousness and so you use seven qualities to distinguish consciousness and we can say these are conscious things that employees need to be, but it really needs to be seven aspects of conscious leadership. First of all you, discuss three character attributes; the first being unconditional responsibility. Is that an example of that; What you were just talking about?

Fred: Yes, unconditional responsibility is taking ownership of the promise and acting when something goes wrong. Leaders have a tremendous temptation to participate, to tell other people what to do. As the American board says what you do speaks so loudly, that they don’t care what you say and words are cheap, actions are expensive, and the value of a signal is its’ cost. That would be the first, even before unconditional responsibility is the first realization that you can’t tell people what to do in any way that will be effective.

What you can do is demonstrate what is meaningful to you and inspire people to follow you, but it always starts with yourself. And the first principle of starting with yourself is that your life is not about what happens to you. What makes a difference in what makes your life yours is how you respond to what happens and yet the temptation is always to look outside and to explain whatever happens, based on forces out of control.

The easiest example is when somebody arrives late to a meeting and you ask them “what happened to you?” Well, what do people tell you, Jesse, when somebody is late?

Jesse: I can tell you what I tell other people because this is one of my own shortcomings and I am habitually five minutes late to just about everything and usually there is something that came up. I can point to a last minute problem that came up that prevented me from leaving when I should have left.

Fred: Exactly. How beautiful. Thank you for being so open because that makes it very interesting. So, when you say the problem came up unprevented, it is like the problem took you, tied you down and really prevented you from leaving. There is one person who is missing in that story, and that is you. You as a subject, because when the problem came up, and I am not saying this is a bad decision, you chose to deal with the problem and stay to deal with this problem. Again, let me be very clear it is an inhuman standard that you should never deal with problems or that you should fulfill your promises no matter what. I do not believe that.

There are problems worth dealing with and worth being late for. But, it is very different when you say “I chose to stay,” when the problem came up. The problem that came up is just a circumstance that’s data, that’s reality happening. Your part of the play is your decision on how to respond an unconditional response immediately, as Steven Carry said, “You always have the ability to respond.” You’re not guilty. Most people think of responsibility as guilt and who is responsible for this problem? Well, you’re not responsible, I am not saying that you are responsible for the problem, what I am saying is you are able to respond to the problem.

Another example people use is “we were in a meeting and the meeting ran over.” Well, the meeting ran over, but you chose to stay. That is what you don’t say because, you see, all of us want to be innocent. There is a natural drive to claim innocence. Well, it wasn’t me, there was a problem that prevented me from leaving or it was the meeting that caused me not to depart on time, but the truth is the price of innocence is simple, because when you tell a story in a way that makes you innocent, you are also telling the story in a way that puts you out of control. You are not the main character in the movie so to speak, you are telling that you are watching the movie from the sidelines.

That is not a very powerful way to tell the story of your life. It is not a very powerful way to tell the story of your company. So if you want to lead people to accomplish great things, then the first step is to start telling the story with us, the group, with all of us being the main characters of the story and us ready to respond to our circumstances creatively, ethically, in a way that ennobles us, in a way that we feel proud of ourselves.

Jesse:  So, if we can model responsibility and speak that language of responsibility then the leaders are teaching the first of these seven qualities of consciousness. Now the second quality is what you call essential integrity. Can you tell us about that?

Fred: When you’re a leader you start by explaining the cause, just like you and I are doing now. This is not a theory class, this is just a little explanation for why this makes sense, that’s step one. Step two is to demonstrate that you live by that concept that you really have it is a life commitment and you it’s not just a declamation, not just a speech. And then the third is to invite people to the same concept and hold them accountable. But hold them accountable for their sake.  That’s what a wonderful leader does and that’s how a leader creates a community of commitment which is able to accomplish great things. Now, passing through your second concept, the question you just had asked, is related to essentially integrity and perhaps, because of my experience in Argentina, it is not oriented toward success.

When you are so committed to accomplishing any goal and you have no ethical constraints, sooner or later, in my view, you are going to be a criminal. You are going to be violating other people’s rights to life, liberty and property.  I take those original words of the Declaration of Independence very serious because they are very serious. When that gets broken, there is mass murder and suicide all the time. So the idea that we are not here to just accomplish results, we are here to accomplish results in a noble way, in a way that respects people, in a way that makes us proud, in a way that allows people to grow and be better human beings. The point for me is to follow ethical principles and within those ethical principles, establish what are appropriate goals.

The rights for the nation are first, nobility and virtue, and second, effectiveness and accomplishment. Today in the business world, that’s considered “too lofty.” We are in the real world, real politics, and this comes mostly from political science. Today people justify any violation to the constitution because, well you know, it’s for the children, it is for security, it is for whatever and they are always theoretical explanations on why it is necessary to break the rules of ethical principles.

In business it happens every day. People say “oh we know this is a little corrupt, and we shouldn’t lie to our customers about if we have the goods in inventory, but hey we can make this sale and it will be a couple days and they won’t find out because we can just say there was a delay in delivery.” So it is so easy to slip, and to hear what I call “the siren songs of success.” Odesseys had to tie himself to the mask because he knew those sirens were going to lure him to disaster, and the sirens of success always lead us to disaster if we are not tied to a very strong ethical mask and my recommendation to leaders is that before they set an objective or before they set their vision as the primary driver of the company, they start by asking themselves and their community “what is going to make us proud,” “What will ennoble, what is going to make us feel like we are contributing in a way that our children would be proud of us, that the society would be proud of us?” And then with that in mind say “What’s the best we can do to accomplish this?”

Jesse: I like that. What will make us proud, and our children and our society proud? Before you even think about getting to financial objectives think about what in the long run is going to make us proud

Fred: There is a ton of research that says when you do that you can make a little more money too. It is a wonderful thing because in the long term there is perfect alignment in financial objects and ethical objectives, and it does require in the moment you forgo some opportunities in which finances are exactly the same. You always have short term opportunities to maximize financial gain, but they are not what is going to make you financially successful in the long term. Very few companies succeed in the long term unless they have some standard of conduct that makes people proud. I feel that that is true in individual life and that it is true in an organization.

Jesse: Now, the third quality, and it is the last of the three character attributes, is ontological humility, which I think is kind of surprising I don’t think most people would assume as an important part of leadership.

Fred: Yeah, well, let me define ontological humility because it is very different than what most people call humility and I am going to use the famous character to give you a shock.  I’ll use Dr. House, he is ontologically humble. When I ask people what they think of Dr. House, the TV character, they say “oh he’s an arrogant prick,” “he’s insufferable,”  “he’s full of himself,” and so on and you know that is true, he is not the nice character in a normal interpersonal way. He is absolutely committed to truth. He is a true scientist.

I mean he can build any diagnostic or any theory about what could be afflicting the patient but they do a test, and if the test comes different than expected, he doesn’t take a milli-second to drop his theory, render to the fact, and say that “we need to keep looking, this is wrong, let’s look for what’s next.” So, what I mean by being humble is recognizing the facts from concepts. Reality is the king.

You cannot impose your theories over reality and you cannot impose your desires over logical consistency. Let me give you an example of how understanding the difference between objective reality and subjective experience makes a huge difference in business. I’ll start with my favorite story about my daughter who, Michelle, when she was three years old, she would not eat broccoli. When I asked her “Why Michelle, what’s wrong with broccoli?” She said “No, no, no broccoli is yucky, that’s why I don’t like it.” I would tell her “but Mimi, I like broccoli.” She said “Oh daddy, why do you like yucky things?” She was puzzled, “How could I be so stupid? How can I like something that is clearly yucky?” So for Michelle, broccoli is yucky and yuckiness inherent to broccoli. Now when you’re three, it’s cute. When you’re 43, that’s dangerous because you start thinking that the world is the way you see it and not the world it is. And the typical example is with an idiot. Now you probably know some idiots, but I am going to make a big beat that that idiot does not think like you. Let me check, do you know any idiots that think exactly like you?

Jesse: No, they are the complete opposite of me.

Fred: Exactly. Now here comes the key question; Do they think different because they are idiots, which is the three year old logic or do you call them idiots because they think different than you? Which is 43 mature logic. Being ontologically humble means to realize there are no idiots, there are only people that disagree with me. Now these people may be making logical mistakes, they may be unaware of facts, they may be mistaking inferences; which I can explain through rigorous analysis; but in principle, I just don’t like that they disagree with me, it bothers me that they disagree with me otherwise I would just say “hm, I think you’re mistaken,” but I wouldn’t say “you’re an idiot.”

So understanding that and taking the humble decision of, I see the world as it appears to me.  I don’t see the world as it is. I have elements of science to check my perceptions. That’s why I say House is ontologically humble; he is absolutely committed to truth, much more than he is committed to save his face. He is very open to evidence and he is very open, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. He isn’t focused on administrative authority because whether you are a king or whether you are a slave it doesn’t matter for the truth of your statement. 2+2=4, it does not matter who says it and I think many leaders delude themselves thinking because they have authority, they are right, or people have to consider them right because they have the right to make some decisions. That is a very dangerous confusion in which I have tried to dispel from my book and in my consulting practice.

Jesse:  It’s similar, or maybe the same thing, as the concept of intellectual integrity. Where if I am going to have a discussion with somebody who is going to have a different view point than me, if I don’t feel that number one, they feel that they, or that we are both willing to acknowledge “hey I am coming into this with preconceived ideas” and I think I am right, and you think you’re right but I am willing to acknowledge that one of us seems to be wrong, even if that’s me, then there is no point of us having a conversation. Even if I can just express that, it tends to make the other person more willing to have similar feelings, then we can have a meaningful conversation.

Fred:  Exactly. That was beautifully said. That intellectual integrity is what enables communication and coordination at the human level otherwise you are down to the low of the jungle and you aren’t talking, you’re simply using force. But evidence, logic, argumentation, that’s what makes us human because we can see in multiple points of views, we can integrate, we can think together, we can apply standards to our thoughts in an objective or a non-subjective manor and we are free from that impulse to say “I am right because it’s me.”

Jesse: Well we only had time to talk about the first three of the seven qualities, but those are the three foundational qualities.  They are the three character qualities and you spend some time in the book talking about how it is more important to be rather than to do and if they want to know the next three, they can get your book. They have to do with doing things. But, let me ask this as we wrap up; you’re title “Conscious Business: How to build Value through Values” seems to be based on the notion that capitalism and business can actually be a force that can be good for the world, even though many people think the opposite.

Fred:  Oh we are going to need a whole other show to go with that, but let me just be clear, capitalism is the only force for good that can exist in the world for social corporation. Anything else in theory, any practice; other than the freedom for the people that ransacked us; use their property as evil. But true free market enterprise is simply a social mechanism that thrives on the ethical principle that you should use violence on people that haven’t attacked you. Now you can start from that very simple condition of respect principle and naturally the principle that will come out is it’s a free market, free enterprise, free exchange system and capitalism is simply saying that nothing has pulled as many people out of authority than between capital and neighbor.

Saving, investment and the provision of tools, the workers, is the secret of improving this thunder of humanity. I cannot emphasize any more strongly that there is nothing more noble in my view than being a business man. There is nothing more upholding in human dignity than trading freely in a market place where everybody has to feel they are better to make the transaction. I don’t find the political service something un noble at all, well when people take pride in “well I have been my whole life in public service,” I find that that is a very painful statement because I would like business men and women to stand up and say “I have spent my whole life in business service. I have been serving my customers; And through the business of my customers, I have been serving humanity.”

Jesse: Well, I think that that is well put.  The book is “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values.” Fred Kofman thank you for joining us you are an engaging leader.

Fred:  Thank you very much


Link to podcast episode:  EL 45: How Conscious Leaders Build Value | with Fred Kofman