When we study really fabulous leaders and we ask that question, what do they do that other people don't do, how quickly you can find certain things? But I'm always surprised of how many leaders who don't know each other come from different places, different experiences, different generations. And they all do some of the same things that you and I have never been taught to do. And so that's always surprising to me. Every time I find a new admired leadership behavior, I'm always shocked that I couldn't see it before, didn't see it before, and how ubiquitous it is across most of the leaders that I've ever studied.
I just couldn't see it until the pattern emerged. And but once it emerges, it's pretty. It's both surprising and very empowering.
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This week I'm talking with Randall Stutman, the founder and co head of the leadership practice at Sciarra and the Admired Leadership Institute. Now, Randall is one of the most incredible executive coaches in the world. And like a lot of extraordinary people, he generally prefers to remain behind the scenes. I could give you a roster of his clients, but it would seem like I'm namedropping. Leadership is a bit of a tricky topic. It seems like everybody has an opinion.
You know, what attracted me to Randall in the first place is our shared belief that leadership is about what we do, not what we say. The quick hacks and cliches aren't the answer and a search for the timeless behaviors that really make a difference. In this episode, we'll talk about the behavioral versus psychological view of leadership, what really drives results, some behaviors that Randall and his team have identified and admired. Leadership, dotcom and so much more.
You'll walk away from this episode with some tools you can put into practice today to make you a better leader, partner and parent. It's time to listen and learn. The Knowledge Project is sponsored by Medlab for a decade, Medlab has helped some of the world's top companies and entrepreneurs build products that millions of people use every day. You probably didn't realize that at the time, but odds are you've used an app that they've helped design or build apps like Slack, Coinbase, Facebook Messenger, Oculus, Lonely Planet and many more.
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This episode is supported by a team history, a podcast that tells the stories of teams who work together in new and unexpected ways to achieve remarkable things. Episode one of their new season is out today, and it tells the story of how Osako pitted two of their watchmaking factories against each other in an attempt to become the best watchmaker in the world. I really enjoyed the timeless lessons we can learn from their success. Search for team history anywhere you listen to a podcast.
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I'm pleased to be talking with you as well.
You're the founder of the Admired Leadership Institute. And one of the interesting things that we had talked about before on the phone was your sort of view of leadership as behavioral and not psychological.
Can we just dive right into that?
Listen, for very good reasons, because people are very different from one another. It's no surprise that leadership and the way that people academically and professionally have looked at leadership focuses on those differences. And so anyone that's ever had a team or been in a marriage or had a partner or simply had multiple children realize that the differences are marked between people. And then what you realize very quickly is that you yourself stand out in very distinctive ways.
We're all unique. And so what the psychological individual difference view suggests is that the first step to becoming better as a leader or as even as a person is to understand who you are and then to understand the differences on your team or with your spouse or with your friends in life, and then and then to adapt and flex to those differences. And that makes perfect sense. And in fact, it's a it's a requisite piece that I would say that we should all respect our psychology.
And literally just about everyone is trained to think about leadership in that way. But over a really long period of time, having learned a lot of the classic classification schemes and and ways of diagnosing and assessing people's differences and so forth, the more experience you have, the more you realize that people don't understand themselves better. But they don't change. They don't actually get better at this thing called leadership. And so, in contrast, not necessarily as a replacement, but as an addition to the psychological view.
A very long time ago when I started studying leaders, I started asking a different question and the question was not who you are, where did you come from? Are demographically what makes you up? What I started asking was a very practical applied question, which is what do you do that other leaders don't do now? Interestingly, what I found very early on was that most leaders don't know what they do, that other leaders don't do. But by talking to people around them and observing them in the like, you come up with a very different understanding.
And that understanding is the way that I like to frame it is is it's a behavioral view which says here are the specific things, the specific actions and routines that eventually become habits of if you're really committed to this, that leadership is comprised of. What I'm a big advocate for is the idea that, of course, excellence in just about everything on the planet from physical acts and in skills like dancing to hitting a golf ball, to preparing for an exam, they all have routines to them.
Excellence in almost everything is has a set of foundational routines. Is it any surprise that leadership also has a set of behaviors and routines that are associated with it that are very different than what we generally know? So so that's kind of the difference between the psychological view and the behavioral view.
So what got you interested in studying these routines of excellence?
So I don't know exactly, but I've always been a very applied person. I've been interested in in organizations most of my adult life, interested in what influences people in organizations, how they manage conflict, what are some of the things that they do in order to excel. And and I first started studying conflict in groups as an academic. And and then I got very interested in this idea of leadership because it was very obvious that we had a lot of very deeply embedded assumptions about what leaders are and who they are and whether they're innate or whether they're they're developed and how they emerge in an ongoing group conversation and the like.
And so that fascination just turned in to a lifelong commitment to study leaders. And, of course, if you're going to study leaders, you want to study the best of them. And so the first very question was who who are the best leaders by by what definition are you defining best? And so I came up with a kind of an interesting view on that. And and then, lo and behold, I started collecting lots and lots of data in order to understand how I could teach other leaders how to be better than they are right now.
How did you define the best leaders and what is leadership? Maybe just so we're all operating with a common understanding for this conversation?
Yeah, well, I mean, what a what a loaded question, because it's imbued with so many charged assumptions, if you will. So so dozens of definitions of leadership and leaders. But but but after reading all that literature for years and years and working with people for as many decades as I have, I've landed on a really simple idea that I think is fairly self-evident. What would leaders do? As they make situations and people better, that at the essence of the end of the day, the essence of what they do is they strategically, practically engage in some level of message, decision, action, routine, but also some level of symbolism.
Sometimes that actually moves people to be different. So when you offer an individual that is feeling grief, comfort, you're leading when when you help a group that's experiencing lots of conflict to de-escalate that conflict, even though you're not the team leader, but you're doing things like you interject humor, you're leading. So leadership can happen any place. It happens any time. Someone makes the choice to make the situation or people better doesn't always work just like anything else that we do.
Sometimes it actually can blow up in your face. You can make a choice that actually makes things worse. I'm always amazed that people can, no matter what, you can always make the situation worse by your choices. But the object is your intentions are to make things better, not by carrying an ideology or a value, but by actually acting. And so that's the most basic way to think about leadership. And if you think of leadership and you agree with that, at least fundamentally, leadership is about making situations and people better than the locus of leadership resides in the actual decisions and actions and messages and not in people.
That means anybody can lead at any time anywhere. Even young children can learn to lead. They don't have to have authority or position or title to do so. And in fact, when you study the best teams across corporates as well as non-profits and even military, you find that leaders emerge that basically the best teams are are teams of leaders, not a leader that has a team. It's teams of leaders, people leading in different ways all the time.
And and so to me, that's just fundamental to the very way that we approach the problem or think about the issue of leadership.
Was it surprising to you to find that there is so much commonality as you studied sort of the best leaders in terms of their actions?
Hugely surprised. Yeah, again, because I was trained like everyone else, I was trained to look for differences. And and once you look for differences, you can find them any place you look. But finding things that are in common that people share is not easy. Now, let me say, it's really easy to find the self-evident stuff. It's easy that good leaders keep their promises. They admit their mistakes. They show themselves to be human. They show up in a crisis.
The stuff that's been fairly self evident. And by the way, it wasn't always self evident, but in the last 50 years, 100 years, we know a lot of the basics. But to find commonalities, the routines of excellence, of leadership or better said, the routines of leadership excellence to find those things that we don't know, that aren't as common, that we didn't learn in third grade, that that was really hard. And it surprised me when we study really fabulous leaders and we ask that question, what do they do that other people don't do?
How quickly you can find certain things. But I'm always surprised of how many leaders who don't know each other come from different places, different experiences, different generations. And they all do some of the same things that you and I have never been taught to do. And so that's always surprising to me. Every time I find a new admired leadership behavior, I'm always shocked that I couldn't see it before, didn't see it before, and how ubiquitous it is across most of the leaders that I've ever studied.
I just couldn't see it until until the pattern emerged. And but once it emerges, it's pretty. It's both surprising in and very empowering.
I want to get into some of the specific behaviors around different topics for leadership. What are the various components of leadership in terms of I know they're sort of developing coach people.
You inspire people, you make decisions. How do you think about those?
Gosh, there's so many of them and there's probably some that are more core than others. I don't think there's anybody that doesn't think leadership involves making decisions and quality decisions. If you're going to make people better than the tool that you have is criticism and feedback and evaluation and judgment and advice and counsel. So so the idea of carrying feedback in some way becomes a critical function of leadership. I think not all leaders develop teams, but one can argue the families or teams, that type of very particular kind of team.
So most leaders have to understand how teams and team cultures come to be, how to create coherence in a team, how to create alignment on a team. So that's a function of leadership, motivation, inspiration, which you mentioned I think is such a critical and underplayed area of leadership because it's so hard to do, especially on an everyday basis. And we have so many misunderstandings about it. But there's many functions from strategy to change to the ability to stylistically put yourself together so that people want to listen to you and yield to what you have to say.
Lots and lots of functions. We kind of I don't really put them in any kind of hierarchy.
They're just all interconnected.
They are all interconnected and so something that I would call an inspiration, say routine or behavior, you might look at and go, well, that's really about relationships. And then you and I would say, well, you're right, it's about relationships. It's really about your credibility to even create the context to have that relationship. So it's a credibility behavior. But it really what we're really doing when we impart that is we're imparting a symbolism of value.
We're carrying a value. So everything kind of interplays with one another. But lots and lots of different functions of leadership. And we most and we know most of them. There's not nothing there that's not that's hidden from us. You know, I wouldn't say anything is a part of leadership. We use a really that's you wouldn't be surprised by any common function of leadership that we would go about trying to understand or study.
And are these behaviors that the best strategies that work or are they just behaviors that are ingrained into them as people and they transfer to relationships outside of work like friendships or.
Well, you know, it's such a wonderful softball question because there's so many ways I can answer that. So so let me tell you a story. Several decades ago, I first started studying what I considered to be the best leaders that I could inside one organization. And we all know that the way the popular culture as well as the academic cultures define leadership always has something to do with results, getting things done, performing at a high level, whether that's measured or not, being good at what you do.
And so results really matter. And in fact, what you find in our society in particular, that results really define leadership in a very systemic way
because we equate outcome with leadership.
And so so the idea is we promote people of results. When I first started studying leaders, what I was surprised by is how many of the best results leaders I could find that were willing to talk to me. And I was again, I was asking and interviewing teams how many of the teams really despised those leaders that had these fabulous reputations, that these leaders were being promoted very rapidly inside their organizations, but everybody around them would vote, would have voted them off the island.
They were all scratching their heads saying, you know, I don't want to work for this person. And so so I realized very quickly, and I'm not the only one that results is part of the equation, but not the whole equation that you have to have followership. And the idea that you have to have people want to follow you that that, in fact, when you find a leader that has great followership skills, people around them will tell you is they feel differently when they're around them.
They want to be engaged by them. They feel differently about themselves. When they're engaged by those people, they create a great loyalty to those people don't want to let them down. They believe that loyalty is reciprocated where that person stands for them. And so it creates a very different context by which that person engages the leader. So I quickly started studying leaders that had both results and followership skills. Well, I happen to have a large energy organization that's long since been subsumed by even a bigger energy organization in Chicago.
And the CEO had sponsored my study and he was a leadership junkie, if you will. And he said, you know, I love your your approach to this. I like results. I like followership. And I like I like finding those leaders. But why don't we just find the leaders inside our organization? Let's do let's do a deep dive on just who are the most the best leaders in our organization that that produced this. And it was way before I came up with the admired word because what I was just doing is looking for great leaders.
And by the way, you can find in a large organization or smarter that you can find a handful of people that actually outperform everybody else consistently. Good markets, bad markets, ups up, lots of talent around them, less talent, lots of resources. Everybody can lead better with resources and revenue, lots of support from above, less support. There are some people that are able to drive results. So we had our results leaders. We could study them and then some people that are able to create followership.
Wonderful. And so when you find those leaders, people would do anything for them running the traffic for them, as they say.
And so I started finding buckets. But you can find a handful of results in a handful of followership leaders. But to find people that actually have both qualities was what I was after. And when I found my very first one in that organization, first big organization, I had access to to do it. What I was shocked by was how often I heard the admired word wasn't a word that I used or bandied about. It wasn't even in my my lexicon, really.
But when I talk to people, they would say, I admire this person for that. I admire the way they do this. I admire that. And that was their friends, their family, everybody. So I started referring to that person is an admired leader.
Then I went on the pathway to find more admired leaders and then found, in fact, I found a second admired leader in that organization. Now, the CEO, once I told him of my idea, he was excited. As I said, listen, I'm looking for admired leaders, leaders that have results and followership, that have both qualities, really rare. And he said, when would you like my interview? And he said, my my management team is available to you, too.
And I thought, isn't that fascinating? Right. Because of course, they thought they were smart. They had risen to the very top of the echelon of this large corporate publicly traded company and by the way, very skilled. But in fact, the aren't the only found two. I found several results, leaders of which there were a few represented on his team, and he would be categorized that way. And I found a handful of leaders, but only two admired leaders.
Now, the reason I tell you that is because I've been on the hunt for the rest of my life since then to find more admired leaders as well as thousands of results, leaders and thousands of followers of leaders to try to figure out what they do differently.
But there was a quality of those first two admired leaders that I thought was an anomaly. I thought this is just a coincidence. There's nothing here other than the fact that these two leaders have this and it was this. They were admired by their spouses. They were admired by their friends. They were admired in the places of their worship. They were admired by their neighbors. They were admired in their communities. They were admired by their team. They were admired by the leaders above them.
They were admired everywhere they went. So I thought that was an anomaly. But in fact, it's turned out that's the very essence of what it means to be admired. See, because you and I, we've been taught about this individual different psychological view for so long that we believe we have to act differently with different people. And in fact, the best leaders, most admired leaders do the same thing. They want to operate differently in different situations with different people.
But they do something that other leaders generally don't. They believe in a set of core behaviors and routines that they do all the time, that they don't turn on and turn off. And so when you do some of the best behaviors, every place, any place, you become more respected and admired by everybody around you. So isn't it fascinating when you say does it apply? It applies to everything. So when you find a routine like of making a great decision, it works in your household.
It works with your friends. It works in deciding helping your teenager figure out a college. It works with the critical strategic decisions that if it's really a routine that's common and universal to leadership, leadership is leadership and it applies in every aspect of your life. So so the most amazing privilege that I have is when I work with with senior leaders largely, and I try to make them better. I'm trying to make them better, the whole person better.
I'm trying to make them better spouses and better friends and and better with their teams and better up and better with their boards and better everywhere. And what's cool is if I if I can convince them and show them how to put in practice and really become skillful and then masterful of one of these routines, it works everywhere. And if they can make it into their style, they're automatically foundationally more effective before they start adapting to situations and and flexing to people's differences.
That's the cool part.
I think one of the things that I really appreciated, the learning about some of these behaviors which we're going to dive into right now is they're also timeless.
So when you learn that, I mean, it's not something you have to relearn and learn again because it changes or there's a new strategy or a new book or a new thing. It's these apply always across all situations.
I believe so. And the one thing that I would say about the timeless issue is if they're truly wisdom and they're truly universal and then then therefore they're timeless, we can't know perfectly because we don't have the behavioral or or textual data probably prior to the nineteen sixties or fifties. That's not very long ago. But I'm convinced that whether it be Susan Anthony or Abraham Lincoln or you pick a leader that you really respected in history, I would almost bet everything on the farm that if you went back and you had the behavioral data, you would see that they do all the same things that we've been able to uncover that the best leaders do today.
Because when you know how to give feedback in a particular way, it works with everyone. And it always has worked. It's not it's not about our culture right now or or technology or any of those things.
Let's start with feedback. I mean, everybody needs the right feedback at the right time.
But how how do we convey that in a way to maximize the impact?
So feedback is really difficult because there's no question that what we say and mostly when we say it is pretty contextual, like no one would ever be able to come up with Universal that says always say this in this situation or always do this. And even when the timing of things really is is very precise to what's happening, what already happened, what's going to happen and so forth. So but when we when you study really fabulous leaders, what you learn is that the universal of feedback is how they carry messages.
So how do they offer criticism? How do they offer feedback? What are some of the things that they do that are very specific? And they. And you start to learn things that once you hear them, you naturally start to subscribe to a view this is, oh, there's something there I can do better at that. That's a really important part. The other pieces is when when I look to the practical literature of feedback, which you generally get is some useful ideas without any question.
But but they don't have that universal applicability where I can practice them and they work all the time. So I don't become very masterful at them. So it's the difference between what I normally call technique and routine. So so feedback is the classic area that that occurs. And that is. So let's just say that I subscribe to the idea that I should ask you for permission for me to give you feedback. Now I can see the conditions by which that would be a good idea or not good idea.
It speaks to relationships and power and all kinds of things. So I like the behavior. It's a it's a fairly broad piece of advice that's given inside there, but it doesn't work in all situations. There's a lot of cases where you shouldn't ask for permission. There's a lot of cases where you've given people feedback over and over and they haven't acted on it. There's cases where in situations you'll find yourself in, where people want to deflect and and want to resist the feedback that you want to ask him permission.
They'll they'll never find the right time or energy to do that in the end. So, listen, I again subscribe to the view that I'm trying to change your behavior with feedback. It's not just catharsis. So I should want you to be ready to hear it. But asking you for permission can be a pretty, pretty broad thing to do. Now, what happens is people learn that advice and then it becomes a technique by that is every time they give feedback, they think, oh, OK, maybe I should ask for permission.
Well, it doesn't happen in one situation. I'm with my child yesterday and I'm not like I wasn't thinking about asking for permission because they needed to hear something right away, even for safety's sake and so forth. And so so what happens with the technique is it's something I do for an effect. I do it for a reason of an outcome, not just the outcome of I want to make you better. I do it because by asking for permission as an example, I get you to want to hear what I have to say.
Great. But the problem with that is as a technique, I don't do it very often. I only do it when I want to have that effect, when I need some catharsis or I need it to stop you from doing something or you being resistant for me. I don't do it, OK?
Which means that you automatically know it's not my normal way of offering feedback that I'm only doing something. So it's not typical. So but the biggest issue when you do something for technique is you don't do it often enough to become skillful at. So if I were to actually follow most leaders around, who who would even tell you that they believe in the in the behavior of asking for permission? Most of them don't ask for permission all that often they might ask for it in a formal review or they might ask for it in a given spot.
So what they're doing is they're doing it because they think they need to have an effect right now, which makes them less skillful, emasculated. And then more importantly, the person on the other side said this is not what you normally do. So so you're doing something. Why you're doing something to have an outcome or manipulate me in some way. So let me put my antennae up and resist this a little bit. So technique gets in our way about everything.
Any time someone gives you a tip or a hack or or some some level of behavior or action that you would say this, you do this for having an effect.
If that's when you do it, it's going to have a problem for you at some point, even initially or eventually. Now, a routine is something you do because you want to be that person. That's the kind of way that you want to give feedback as an example. You want to commit to that. This is and so you master it. You do it all the time and all the feedback that you give. And you become masterful at that piece and you do it on a on a consistent basis.
People come to know it as part of your style so they don't see it as out of the ordinary. And now you become more and more skillful at it until it's almost second nature and it becomes a habit. So we're after trying to teach leaders how to move things to routine and not do them for the point of technique and feedback as a class area. There's a lot of other pieces of advice not using the word you because that personalizes things separating ideas and people.
All good advice, by the way, but too easy to use this technique and hard to pull off on an ongoing basis. So feedback is a really interesting area that when you when you really try to get under the covers and find out something cool about it, so neat that you can teach other leaders. That's universal. That's timeless. You know, when you find something, it's really, really powerful. But it can it can sound like things you already do until you really think about them.
Can you get it into one?
Yeah. Give me an example of one of these behaviors.
Let's take the idea of balance, the simple balance.
And and and by the way, you know this one, this is in your head.
I'm just going to be very specific about, OK, and it's going to take me a little little while to really unpack this one, because I've got a lot of different pieces to it. But I think you'll find it rather fascinating. So no surprise, we all have a natural and intuitive understanding. That negative information carries a lot more impact and weight than positive information, so even when I think you've done a lousy job, I'll normally started with some throwaway like that went pretty well.
Like, yeah, you really worked hard at that. Like, oh, you know, the audience seemed to really like like that one piece. You'll start out with some softening of the blow because, number one, you want people to hear you. But number two, you naturally know that if you go negative to start with, the people withdraw, they shut down, they don't. They react. They do all kinds of things. So, so, so naturally what happens is we start to offer feedback, most feedback and criticism, most of it, other than praise and flattery and so forth, has has a negative tinge to it.
And so not all.
Not all. Not all of it, but but more of it. When you when you're trying to improve people's performance, you're giving them at least constructive criticism around try this differently, do this and so forth. So because we know that the negative and the positive are very different and because we know the negative is overweighted. It's called the negativity effect, by the way, not not my research. We naturally buffer almost everything we say on a scale. We start with a little bit of positive and then we offer a little negative and then we get to our negative.
Now, if I do that consistently, if I give you one little positive and then I give you my four criticisms, the balance is not there. It's actually out of balance. Right.
So so let's take an example of of that just real simply.
Let's just say that the idea example of a presentation, I'm just going make it up on top of my head. But let me give you two two pieces of feedback presentation. Right. So my first feedback goes, hey, the presentation went pretty well. I think the audience was engaged. But listen, your slide in the deck, slide 10, it was like not not really understandable in slide 15, confused everybody. You know, I didn't think you tied the introduction to your conclusion.
So you lost people when at the end when you got to Q&A, you started out OK. But, boy, you were really flatfooted on the second question and your answer was really weak. And I thought the audience was not as responsive at the end as they should have been across the presentation. And you're thinking, wow, OK. I mean, really, you thought the thing went OK and that the audience was fairly engaged. Like, I don't remember that, but I remember you just you just crapped a lot on everything that I just did.
And I don't hear much of that, by the way. But let me give you a different one different view. Let me give you the same feedback. But in balance. So the individuals instead the leader says to you, listen, I think the audience was was engaged across your presentation. I think it went pretty well. I want to tell you that I never saw Slide eight before, and I thought it was masterful. I thought you took something really complex and made it simple.
I thought when you reached before you got to Q&A, when you reached your main point, I thought that you hit it hard several times to the point where it resonated with the group. I think they were excited to get to Q&A to ask you questions. I thought you started that Q&A really well.
And I believe that your answer to the fourth question, which was the hardest question of all around, like why we do what we do, you just hit it out of the park. Now, let me be critical on the other side, OK? You know, your slide five was was indecipherable. We got to do something about that. You slide ten, like, really made took something that was was complex and made it even more complex. I didn't think you tied the introduction inclusion nearly strongly enough.
I thought when you got to the Q&A, your second answer to the second question was really flat footed and really left people wanting. And I think the the overall people could have been a lot more engaged if some of those things were fixed.
That's an example of the difference between feedback imbalance versus feedback being totally out of bounds, because I don't know anybody that wants the first one. There are a lot of people that don't want the second one either, by the way. But if you really want to get better, you want the second one and you can deal with the balance of it. So now what is what did we learn? I'm not telling you anything yet. I haven't told you the behavior yet.
So the behavior is not just about being in balance, it's about how you're in balance. And when we study the really best leaders, the best leaders on the planet, the most admired leaders and everywhere, they all do the same thing. They all start positive, just like we all do intuitively when we're going to be critical. But their positive is as vivid, elaborate and as detailed as the negatives are going to be. And they generally match in terms of number.
So if I'm going to give you five criticisms, I probably need to have three or four or five really positive things. But they can't just be at a level of vividness or detail that is not equal to what I'm going to do in a second. So if I'm going to focus, I'm going to start and I'm going to go as as deep into that positive as I can. And then, by the way, if if I tell this to leaders all the time, they'll say, well, I have five criticisms, but I only have one really good positive that I can focus on.
Well, first of all, I'll tell them. Stretch yourself. Right. See if you come up with two. Right. But more importantly, they're only. To hear from you two criticisms right now, because the only way to keep that in balance and again doesn't have to be perfect, doesn't it be two to two or three to three? But it needs to be slowly or or somewhat imbalanced to do so now. But I also think is interesting about that behavior is when you become masterful at it, you practice it all the time.
There is no criticism that you can't give this imbalance none. And the balance is not about what you say, it's about how. And again, starting positive, how detailed, how vivid, how elaborate are are you in the positive as well as the negative.
But let's look at a different aspect of the balance issue, which I think is equally fascinating, which is all relationships are in balance, either in positive or negative, because almost everything that a leader says to somebody that reports to them or works with them is either positive or negative, not neutral. And that's true with teachers and students, is true with parents and children with the power relationship exists almost everything. So so I'll leave it to people like John Gottman and other people to talk about marriages because the same thing would apply to marriages.
But let's just talk about leader relationships, how quickly they can get out of balance. Every time I talk to you, I'm focused on trying to get you to be better. But in the process, I'm giving you negative feedback. I'm giving you criticism. Yeah, I might spike on a couple of things that that I say are positive, but I'm out of balance. And so what happens is when you have a relationship that has almost always negative information, negative feedback versus positive, then what happens is people withdraw, they basically stop listening or they react.
And so I can tell you how many leaders I've dealt with in my life who will say I have a team member or I have a child in my life. And every time I say something, even before I get it out, they're defensive. They're counter arguing. They're right. And I know immediately it's because they feel as if their relationship with that person is out of balance, that they have to defend themselves because the equation is hugely negative to positive.
And so they know and criticism is coming their way and they're bracing against it, which is why they're counting or arguing or they're turning off or they're sulking before you even finish or they shake their head before you even get the whole idea. And so any time a relationship is out of balance, negative to positive, in terms of the general feedback and criticisms that are offered in that relationship, you're going to you're going to have that evaluative climate and it's going to go hugely negative.
Now, the opposite is equally problematic, by the way, especially with children. You can have a relationship that is really, really positive. All you say is positive stuff. There's very little negative. So it's out of balance that way. And most people would say to me, well, how can that be a problem? It's a problem because what happens is when I do offer a piece of criticism or somebody else does, people freak out. They they they're not ready for it because they've only heard positives.
Several examples. One of my favorite examples is I sat down with a leader who had gotten 15 years of positive performance reviews, got a brand new leader, and that leader was fairly critical. And that leader in their first review gave them a very honest what I thought was an honest and fair review. But they couldn't see it as honest and fair because they had been used to so much superlative for so many years from so many leaders that were not courageous enough to be honest with them, that they absolutely went catatonic when they saw this particular feedback, which I thought was just subjective.
That happens with kids all the time, too. If you want to really prepare children for success, you have to give them a nice balance of feedback. Positive, negative, again, doesn't have to be perfect, but too much positive makes it so that people get alarmist when they hear negative and too much negative means people defend themselves on good basis. You and I can do better by striving to be more balanced in our relationships. And then when we are going to be specifically in a critical moment trying to make somebody better with feedback, we need to start positive and make that that positive set of remarks be as vivid and elaborate and as detailed as the negative is going to be.
That's a behavior that you'll find that almost everybody that's created feedback, athletic coaches that are fabulous dance instructors, leaders we've studied in corporates and the like, they all tend to do it in some form or another. They're in better balance than everybody else, which is why people accept their feedback a lot differently. You and I can start doing that better tomorrow. We could look at any of our relationships right now and say which of my relationships is out of balance?
Which ones do I have more negative to positive, more positive than negative in my in my imbalance in my marriage. Am I in balance with my kids and my imbalance with each of my team members? And then we also have the ability then to say, OK, tomorrow I'm going to be preparing to give you some feedback on something that just happened. How do I prepare myself? What are the positives and what are the and how do I describe them vividly?
Let me I don't have to rehearse. Let me get ready to be in balance so that I can practice this and make the. Natural part of my leadership, that's a behavior that we consider and admired, leader of feedback.
How do you repair a relationship that's broken? Like, do you go to that person? And do you just start with like, hey, I feel like our relationship is broken, it's out of balance and we need to fix that. Or do you just start to fix it?
That's a great question. And by the way, that's not a bad strategy. It's what's called with the academic literature called Going Meta, having a conversation about our conversations and the like. There's a lot of different things you could do. But if you were in a relationship that was out of balance, you know, you're just it's going to take some time to get it back into balance. Let me give you an example for me that that's real and personal.
So so I had a chief financial officer that I worked with in a very large organization. They had joined this organization about six months before I had started working with them. And they had gotten themselves embroiled in all the the lack of performance of this organization. One of the reasons they were brought in was to help turn this thing around. And almost all the metrics, almost everything about this organization was negative. Almost all the conversations with their peers was also negative.
And this person, she was very talented. But almost every conversation she walked into your office, you knew you're going to get blasted about something that your team and your performance numbers weren't revealing or doing. And so people quickly got to to both see her negatively as well as avoid her like crazy. So when I first got involved, I looked at it and I thought, wow, I mean, almost by necessity, these relationships are really out of balance, but they don't have to be.
So when I started offering some simple advice and really the voice so simple, it kind of shocking. I said, you know, we need to balance these relationships, but not in that conversation. Those negative conversations are going to be negative conversations. But but we need to start having other conversations that were the conversations are about. So that advice, which I think would work pretty well with most people, goes like this. I needed her to start having conversations around the talent that she saw in teams and where it was good and what was going on with them personally and learning more about them and stopping it in their offices and simply showing them something that she had just gotten excited about.
And she needed to start having some normal conversations that were not negative, focus on anybody's results or metrics in a way that created the conversations and better balance, not perfectly, whatever else. And as soon as she did that, about three months after that, the relationship started to evolve and become more productive. So even conversations from one to another can can be a balance or not.
But your strategy of of talking about it first and talking about we're out of balance, that I know I've been more critical. But by the way, people with high standards that really care deeply about other people sometimes are very critical people, even censorious. And so it's not easy for them, even if they admit that they're overly critical to stop being so and stop being evaluative. I can't tell you how many parents that I've talked to that they think they're being loving and what we know from an outside point of view.
All I hear is like, wow, your child is just getting dumped on over and over again.
And they would say, well, but that but that's what the world is like. That's what that's the only thing that's going to make them better. And I agree. But it's not about not dumping on them. It's about being in balance. And so sometimes you just have to take the time to say, let's have other conversations that are so positive that are focused on that, that it equals out and increase an equilibrium for the feedback. Because once you're an evaluative climate, it is it is really hard on both parties.
The one party feels as if they have to defend themselves and the other party is frustrated that everything they say is misinterpreted. And it's a problem, by the way, great sign when somebody tells you, like, do I do anything right? Is it ever good enough for you? I mean, that's such a great sign that they believe they're an innovative place with you and you have to fix that. And if you don't fix it, it has long term consequences on the relationship for sure.
One thing I want to talk about with feedback is when we talked on the phone last, you had mentioned that. There's certain types of leaders that just naturally don't give positive feedback. You mentioned the standards that they have for themselves and sort of like they don't want to say something because it seems inauthentic, like they don't want to just find something that needs to be, like, really amazing. You're going to talk to me a little bit about that.
Yeah, well, you know, praise is tough for some people because, A, they don't personally need it. So to go back to the individual difference piece, I don't need it. So why would I give it to you? But the most common reason that I find that leaders don't get praises because they have really high standards, that when they say excellence, they really want people to to do excellent work. They withhold that. They watch people seek their approval to get that praise.
And that makes them feel powerful a little bit, makes them feel a little bit more as if they're having the influence they want. And so that even encourages them to hold it more. I've been around very few leaders who get too much praise from the people above them. In almost any organization now, you will see that I think it was the thing was Einstein that wrote the quote, you know, can't wait for us to get over this place so I can get back to my work.
People that are super dedicated to achievement will oftentimes tell you that they don't need praise because their intrinsic motivation is so powerful and so strong that the external kind of praise, approval recognition doesn't doesn't have much impact on them.
But for the most part, most of us want more praise that we get and leaders are stingy about it because either they don't need it or because their standards, especially results, space leaders, their standards are such where they want people to strive and get to excellence before they offer something positive. And by the way, once you're out of the habit of praise, it's really hard to get back into the habit of praise, which is probably why Ken Blanchard's old book, The One Minute Manager, was so powerful for in the 60s and 70s because it's such a such an important piece of of leadership.
But praise is just one box of of offering feedback. And it's an important box.
But most leaders don't offer it nearly as much as
you give me one tip when we are talking to to sort of like as a means to to get better at that, which was the third party praise. So don't don't praise directly. You want to expand on that just for a second.
Well, first of all, you know, tips and techniques. Yeah. One behavior. So here's what we know. We know that most leaders are stingy, but when you study the best leaders, they're not any less pressed. Prestage again, the best leaders are really results focused. And and they are they have a tremendous investment in around excellence and achievement, which is one of the things that makes them fabulous leaders. But if you talk to even the most admired leaders and their teams, you'll find their teams go.
This person doesn't offer near the amount of recognition, approval or praise that I would I would prefer.
But when you go deeper than that, what you find is they have committed themselves to a routine that actually has more impact, which is third party compliments or praise, which is to say when somebody does something really excellent, where they see excellence any place if they can, I want them to tell the party directly. But but when they can't or if they're not comfortable, the object is to always tell a third party. Now, why is third party praise so, so powerful?
So why no one? I made you look good in front of somebody else. That's always a good thing. Number two, there's no buts in that in that praise. In other words, high, high standard people will always have a body like that was a great presentation, but. Right. You could do this better. There's no but if you're telling a third party. But but the real power in third party compliment or third party praise is that I perceive a higher level of sincerity about it.
If you didn't really believe it, would you would you actually tell a third party? And by the way, it's time release vitamin. It's going to come back to me. It might come back to me tomorrow, might come back to me three weeks from now. I might come back to me in two months from now.
But that person who that third party that I've shared that prays to will actually mention it at some point.
And you will see the sincerity of the view that you really think that I did excellent or I was excellent in that given context, go straight to the roof, because that's the power of third party praise. And we can all get create a routine and a third party praise in a much more powerful way and more consistent way. I coach leaders all the time. Any time you see excellence, I want you to tell the first person is what should you can but always make it a rule like a hot potato.
You have to tell a third party and when you walk in and you you praise your leader to one of your leaders peers or or your son or your daughter with one of their friends, them not present or or your spouse or partner to one of your in-laws or one of your neighbors. It always comes back and people are always astonished that you would go out of your way to offer third party praise, that you must really have thought that was special.
And you can get you can get to a place where it's not just a tip or a technique. You can do it all the time.
And stylistically, it's how you give feedback
that's part of your your routine thread.
let's talk about elevating performance, which is sort of what are the behaviors that we can use to improve the performance of others and sort of like maintain and their focus.
And yeah, listen, again, you wouldn't think performance could be a universal like performance is very specific to the job, to the task, to the organization in the like. But in fact, when you study the best leaders and you try to make sense of how some of them drive or elevate higher level of performance, there's a lot of them do some some of the very similar things to one another. And so we've identified twenty five thirty different behaviors of how the best leaders elevate performance.
And and some of them are anything but common sense. Some of those behaviors I think are really simple to do, but they're not intuitive. Let's take the idea of priority, because I think that's a really interesting one. It's just not intuitive to me to distinguish between issues of, say, objectives or goals or outcomes or KPIs or OK hours if you're into that jargon and so or the idea of a priority. So. So what's the difference? Well, it's just it's just long term.
Short term and it's level specificity. A priority is something that's shifting all the time. It basically says it's my focus right now. It's it's maybe my highest focus, never my day job if it's truly a priority, because that's that's an ongoing commitment. But there's always something that I should have is a higher focus of my attention, my time, my energy, and that I'm more fully engaged on. What we have found is over and over again, that when you get people's priorities right on the short term, a lot of the longer term goals and issues take care of themselves so that you'll find that you'll get higher results if priorities are set.
But in fact, what most leaders do is the opposite. They're very, very clear, maybe even to clear, because there's too many of them, of all the critical success factors and the objectives in the long term goals and the target goals of the stretch goals and everything else. And they're not nearly as focused on the short term priority of everyone is focusing on right now. One of the reasons they're not is because it's hard in one sense, because you have to constantly calibrate, recalibrate people's priorities.
You've got to be checking with them all the time, asking them, what's your focus right now? What are you really spending your time on? What's what's your where's your energy? What's the most important thing this this week or even today? And and then when you listen to them to be able to help calibrate them, to say that really is important. But isn't this more important or isn't this of a higher focus? And what you find is when teams or individuals have their priorities right, lots of other things happen in a really good way.
My view is that every single person in your leadership life should have a priority right now. And if they don't, your job is as a leader is to make sure that they have that priority. And by some, starting with you yourself, because good leaders always start with themselves and say, here's what I'm focused on right now. This is my priority. How about yours? And then if they hear a response that is of a smaller priority or less priority, then let's talk about it like that surprises me a little.
Why is that such a high focus for you? Isn't this more important than the like? And listen, every parent should be doing that with kids, every every team, leadership doing with a team. Every CEO should be doing it with their with their business heads. Everybody should have direct priorities going on today, tomorrow, next week. Most priorities don't last for more than a couple of weeks, and we should be recalibrating them and covering them all the time.
The best leaders do that. They do that in round robins. They do that in staff meetings. They do that in conversations. They're constantly asking people and sharing their own priorities and then asking people to think about is this a higher use of their time and refocusing people's efforts. And that has a bigger impact on long term results than does making clarity around multiple outcomes and and metrics.
Can you make that real, like you did with the the other example for the behavior?
I had a teenager once. I mean, he's older now, but I had a teenager once. And I remember distinctly him coming home. And I would say and I said to him one day, what's your priority this week? And he said he was a lacrosse player and he he was looking forward to a particular game. He said, is the big game on Friday. That's my priority. I'm working out. I'm practicing. I'm really focused. And I said, oh, that's great.
I said, as far as I remember, your calculus exam is like fifty percent of your grade is on Friday's exam. And you said, yeah. And I said, I think that's a lot higher priority. And let me make something clear to you. If we don't do well on that exam, we're not prepared. You're not even going to play in the lacrosse game, right? I mean, that's a much higher priority. That's a simple fun one for me.
But it makes the point sometimes people have self-interest that hold something up higher. That, in fact, misses the point too many times. They don't have priorities. But I'll give you another example, which I think is more concrete than that in an organization that I'm in. I've recently asked a senior leader of all the things going on with the team, what is the highest priority? What are they really focused on? And he gave me a much longer range piece.
And I said, well, short term, what? What is it? So the long term goal was around, of course, achieving certain kinds of outcomes and process redesign. And then as I got them narrower and narrower, this was a gentleman. But then there was one relationship that had been problematic for the last few weeks that he and I talked about. And I said, without you resolving the conflict in that relationship, isn't everything else a little bit dysfunctional?
And he agreed. And I said, shouldn't that be your highest priority? And then he admitted, yeah, I've been putting that off and I go to such a high priority. You're going to put it off forever. You need to make it a priority in the next couple of days to sit down, aired this out and try to at least manage this conference best you can. He agreed, called me a few days later and said, oh, my goodness gracious.
He goes, well, that's my next priority. After that. I said, then only you can decide that. Right. And and by the way. But you've got to have one. And and I'm happy to be a sounding board to say that doesn't sound right to me. Sounds like with what I know, there's something else that should be a high priority, that that would be an example for me,
as you were saying, that what are some of the questions that you ask when you go in to sort of calibrate where you are with a particular leader?
So so I want to know from their own point of view what what they consider to be their signature strengths and weaknesses. I want to know what they consider both. And they'll always ask what you mean as a leader. And I know as a human being. Right. Because to me, they're all the same thing. If you're impatient as a leader, you're impatient as a as a spouse and as a parent.
And you're somebody that's decisive. You're decisive everywhere.
So I've never seen anyone take any strength and turn it on and turn it off that they have just about everywhere. So I want to know from their perception, I often want to know whoever knows them best in the world, whether that be a partner or spouse. What do they think the strengths weaknesses are?
I'm amazed at how many people will go. That's a really good question. Like, I don't know that well, they should ask and then I'll normally ask them, well, what would your leaders, what would they say? Your greatest strength and weaknesses? Because I am learning a couple of things. A, I'm learning that that really what are some of the things that are helping them achieve outcomes as well as things in their way. But I'm also learning how self-aware they are when I go talk to that manager.
Where is the gap between what they told me, what the manager is going to tell me and so forth and the like? And I'm also learning a little bit about are they able to articulate and be as detailed on the negative as they are on the positive? Because that's a sign of self-awareness to a lot of people can really get specific around their positives, but then gloss over their negatives, which means they're not operating on their names. So that's one of the things that I ask.
I ask many different things, but that's probably if you told me I only had 20 minutes with somebody and I was, I can only explore one topic more than knowing their work history and and the size of their team and who's doing what and where and what. I want to know what they what their self perception is around their strengths and weaknesses, how other people, they perceive seeing them. But by the way, one of my favorite questions of all time that I ask everybody is when you first meet people for the first time, like, what do they get wrong about you?
Like what what do they misperceive about you? What do they overestimate about you? Underestimate about you? Like what do they just get wrong? And by the way, it takes self-awareness in order to answer that question. And I eventually come to learn whether that was accurate or not. And that tells me an awful lot about that leader. So that's a that's a really important piece for me. I'm trying to figure out who people are by knowing how where they are of themselves and what they think are the greatest strengths and weaknesses that they have.
That's probably the the primary piece of them.
And I want to get back to some of these behaviors in a second, a brief sort of tangent here. What is the hardest behavior that you teach or offer to transfer to others?
Yeah, I'm not sure there is one. I mean, because that's going to come down to how committed and passionate you are to change that thing. Sometimes that's going to be a function of whether you've gotten a lot of resistance or you haven't been very effectual in that area and so forth. But I would turn your question around to say why are some people coachable and other people not coachable in any given behavior? And what my experiences, some people like themselves too much.
They aren't open to making change because they like the outcomes they're getting. They've been very successful. When they look in the mirror, they like what they see. By the way, most of those people get almost all their advice and counsel in the same year. They are very comfortable with the kinds of responses and reactions they get. They're good enough. And so when I come to them and say we should probably work on X or you want to change Y, their response is yeah.
And they'll they'll dabble at it, but they won't really be committed to it. So I find that this whole issue of of ego, a vanity of success, of being comfortable, of of being good enough, is as big an impediment. And that makes it true of any behavior that I'm trying to teach them or show them or get them to do differently. And some people have just been rewarded by the to the wrong things. They they've drawn the wrong lessons from good outcomes.
A classic example with a lot of organizational leaders is they've been harsh, stern people and people generally perform at a high level for them. And they think it's because of their harshness and stubbornness that that's why they've gotten there. That's the lesson they've learned when, in fact, I can prove to them empirically that it's actually in spite of their harshness and stubbornness, that they would even get even more out of people if they if they varied that style in different ways.
But they've learned that lesson and they're not going to give it up because they've been that successful on that particular style trajectory for a really long time.
A lot of this seems unsustainable.
I remember working in a large organization before, and what I noticed was this common pattern of stories and the stories where I came into this team, I cleaned it up and then I left.
Right, because you don't stay in these teams very long. You get promoted, you sort of move on to a new job and then but the next person would always come in and tell the exact same story.
Yeah, no surprise
is that a common thing or it is,
yeah, it is. I mean, because the larger culture and the talent in that organization is what is influencing whether different kinds of processes are acts or strategies are going to be enacted in a way that produces sustainable outcomes.
And I believe it was Peter Drucker that said Culture eats strategy for lunch. I would tell you that talent sets the table. And so with that talent, you've got nothing. If I'm trying to influence an organization at the deepest level, I want to deal with talent first. But the culture has a big impact. And that's what you're really describing. You're describing a culture that is either self-satisfied or that believes everything is going to be a fad. They're going to wait new leaders out there, really, they like the outcomes are getting by being dysfunctional.
You know, I have to tell you one story from when I was first starting to work with senior leaders in organizations, I was working at a large insurance company and they had a problem that had been a perennial problem for them. And the CEO had asked me to work on this problem with the team. And I worked on the problem. I came up with what I thought was a very practical, a very powerful, very elegant solution. I presented it in front of the the executive team.
They all believed similar to me, that it was really a beautiful piece of work. And so I was very pleased. And then and then I watched and they didn't do anything, but they didn't change.
They didn't they didn't bring it up. They didn't execute on it or anything else. Then about six months later, the CEO and I were talking and I said, you know, Yosfiah, we really need to commit ourselves to that and and we need to revisit that. And so we revisit it again. And I brought it up again and we talked about it and they didn't do anything about it.
So I was scratching my head and they were paying me a very nice fee. And so I didn't want to complain too much by scratching my head. And I was talking to a mentor I had at the time and I described the problem to them. And they said, oh, that's an I can tell you exactly why that's happening. And I said, well, why? And they said, oh, because because somebody maybe multiple people are benefiting from that problem.
They like that problem. They want to own that problem. They want to keep that problem because they're benefiting from that problem.
And when I really started thinking about that, that is the essence of why a lot of changes occur, because people like the outcomes, not all of them. They admit that there's dysfunction on one side of the equation on that problem. But to give it up and to change and get away and lose that issue means that they lose something and they really like it. They're committed to that thing. And so a lot of change organizationally and in families and in relationships don't occur, not because there is no the right answers.
We don't know what to do, but because people benefit from both in terms of power resources.
Right. They benefit from those problems existing. You and I come up with all the solutions we want. But one of the reasons that people don't do things is because they like the dysfunction that they have. I don't mean the complete part of the dysfunction, but they they like they like the outcomes that they're getting right now. They don't want change.
How do you address that or do you just leave it and people need to see it themselves?
Yeah, to a degree, people learn when they're ready to learn. People act when they're ready to act. There's nothing that I can do to to propel them forward if they're not ready. But but sometimes we can talk through if you expose why people don't want to change or what the benefits or change are exposed, the people are benefiting from this issue. I remember going in large organization once there were like eighty six different mediums for communication in this organization.
We were working with the person that was in charge of all of them. And one of our advice piece of advice was, well, first they needed to really narrow them down. They needed to create a little bit of communication council to control them and have a common message. They needed to vet the messages with the executive team and all common sense stuff. Nothing, nothing that's surprising. And he got honest with me one day and he goes, OK, that's great.
You do some great work.
We're not going to do any of that. And I said, what do you mean? He goes, if I do what you're suggesting, the communications organization will get tremendously better, but I won't control.
I won't come for me, it'll come from lots of other people. And right now our messages are powerful because I'm basically the editor. I'm the one that controls all eighty six mediums. And so so you're right. But you're wrong. And so I'm not going to do anything to keep it exactly the way it is. That's a perfectly great example of this idea that I benefit from this problem. And so I'm going to keep this problem the way it is.
People want to stay in power. They want to stay in control. They want to they want to have influence. They want they want to be paid as much as as they can get paid. And so they do things that are not just self-interested, but they do things that are in the interest of maintaining those things, even when it's not obvious.
And a lot of times that's just subconscious to write like they're not.
Yeah, sometimes. Yeah, yeah. Sometimes
let's talk about some of the behaviors that we can use to inspire others. Do you have a favorite one?
Well, can I talk about fairness first. Yeah. Can we get into that. Yeah. Yeah. So inspiration.
Motivation. I know of very few leaders who think they're too inspirational too motivational. So and it's such a big part of leadership. It's such a big part of being a great parent and a great team leader, a great CEO, a great anything, a great instructor being able to inspire and motivate people. Now, let's talk about the difference between those two things. First, so motivation is generally not, by my definition, academically thought to be anything, any action that compels other action.
So when a leader does something that makes it so that you do something differently, then I've motivated you to do that different thing. So that motivation isn't is a compulsion to do things. So it's an action that compels action. Inspiration is lighting the fire itself. It's inspiring you to want to do better, to do different things, to achieve and to excel. And so it's just a larger term. Almost everything that is inspirational to some degree is motivational.
Not all motivational things are inspiration. So, for example, I might offer you a disincentive. That is, if you don't do something, I'm going to give you the cold shoulder. I'm going to not talk to you. I'm going to act out of sorts. Now, that may motivate you to do what I asked you to do, but it doesn't inspire you. It doesn't it doesn't light your fire in any way. In fact, you're just you're just complying and you're in you're being motivated to this thing in order to avoid my my distaste, my pain that I'm giving you by giving you the cold shoulder right now, all things motivational, inspirational, but most things that are inspirational, actually motivational to some degree.
But I don't bandy the terms about I use them kind of fluidly because I want world leaders to be both light the fire as well as to get people to act both. Right now we have a lot of good things in our head, but it all comes from that psychological view. It all comes from individual difference. And those things are are really a lot of them, very compelling. So we know that what motivates one person, inspires one person, isn't what inspires somebody else.
That I give one person high standards a really big challenge, a high bar, a swift kick in the butt, some fiery rhetoric, and it motivates them to do more. Somebody else, I give them exact same message and it actually motivates them. They feel singled out. They feel as if I don't have confidence in them. They feel as if that challenge undermines their ability to to concentrate and focus. I mean, so people are really different.
One person I, I offer praise. I give some recognition. They'll do anything for my recognition. Somebody else. It's like they were forcefield bounces off them as if it has no effect at all.
People are really different. So the first thing that we normally do is we try to size people up. We know that we have to understand what motivates people and inspires people differently. And so there's a fairly tight list.
There's some that are more popular than others. If if you read somebody like Daniel Pink or we read the people that wrote Primed to Perform, which is a really good book or something, they'll tell you that things like mastery is something that really inspires and motivates people, that investing in your being better, especially with the newer organizations, the idea of of of having a higher purpose, the the ability to to answer the question, why are we doing this?
And and giving people higher reasons. That's motivational and inspirational. They will say which which is all correct, by the way. They will say things like autonomy, control, responsibility. Right. That giving people more autonomy, more control is very inspirational, although those are very different things, because I'll tell you that there are some people don't really care about the higher purpose. Some people aren't trying to master anything and other people that will, for the most part, if you give them responsibility, they will run from it.
So so even though they would say that those are things that more contemporary leaders do an investment and I agree 100 percent people are really different. Now, let's add to that list. We know that incentives play a big role, especially organizationally, in motivating and inspiring people. And incentives can be not just compensation that can be affectionate in time and resources and knowledge is lots of ways to send people in large organizations. I've been in financial services and coaching a lot of leaders there for a long time.
I mean, there are some people that are really coin operated. They only do things for the coin. They compensation drives everything for them and other people, not so much. We know that some people really like to belong to have status, to to have a certain title, to drive a certain car, to go to a certain university. They're very motivated and inspired to to achieve those kinds of desires. Other people, not so much. You and I both know that in addition to praise, that that sometimes it's just relationships, having watching somebody that we admire, respect and wanting to be like them, be around them, gain their respect and have their their recognition implicitly is a is a big influence on whether whether we'll do what, what what we should be doing or letting our fire.
Right. But but people are really different. So the deal is what happens is most of us try to become more inspirational by sizing people up and then deciding you need more incentive and this other person needs more autonomy and control and somebody else needs more mastery. And by the way, praise will never get you in trouble. And so so we try to adapt and flex. And what we realize is that life is really much more emergent than that. In the ongoing conversation that happens all day long with many people and all these relationships we have, it's almost impossible to adapt and flex like that, that even with our kids, we see all the time we're with a spouse or with a good portion of the time.
It's really tough to to size up every situation and know exactly what motivates inspires them and then to react in the emergence of of the meaning that transpires between us in conversation and in action for us to actually pull that off. So so what most leaders do in defenses in a very calculated way, every once in a while they'll sit down and try to do something that's inspirational, motivational, but generally they have a go to and their go to is whatever inspires them.
So if there's somebody that's inspired by praise, they generally offer a lot of praise, just about everybody.
And if there's somebody that really is inspired by the idea of influence and empowerment and control and autonomy, then they give that to everybody and they they kind of say and so they they have a go, too, which means they're missing some people completely and other people it depends. And and so, lo and behold, we go off and we're not as inspirational, motivational because we just have a hard time becoming skillful and masterful at this thing of inspiration. Motivation.
And that's where we kind of are. But when we started studying leaders a really long time ago, what we learned was there's actually universal of motivation, inspiration, one that everybody on the planet independent of culture, gender, age, experience, everybody wants it that that everyone desires it.
And in the process of that, if we can master that thing, it doesn't mean we don't do the other things. We should be doing those, too, but that if we get good and skillful at this one thing, then it becomes the game changer of how you really have the best leaders. Really motivate, inspire. That's where I want to go. So the way I like to to to offer the frame of this or the way that I like to introduce this idea is by offering a frame, because we've been able to able to identify 40 plus behaviors of inspiration, motivation that are all about this idea and maybe cover one or two of them with you right now.
But in the process, you can figure out the rest of them if you have the idea in your head. So what's the idea? So so I want to tell you a story because because golf has always been an important thing to me.
I don't know if you've ever played golf, but I played in college and I competed for a long time. And I love the game and love what it represents and the like. And so I've been a big fan of afficionado of golf.
And so so I want to tell you a story about Tiger Woods. So so in two thousand five, Tiger Woods was at the height of his prowess way before the nine hour and went through his windshield and all the the different unseemly things came out and his life fell apart and things changed. Right. But in twenty five, he was he had he had the skills that nobody had ever seen on a golf course. And he was doing things that nobody could ever even imagine that he could do, especially in competitive under competitive pressure.
And so in in that particular spring of twenty five, he's at Augusta, he's playing in the Masters Golf Tournament, something we all know about that we don't watch television. And one of the majors of golf is the fourth round. The last round. The final round. And he's on the 16th hole. He's got a one shot lead. It's par three over some water and he's hit his shot right on what's considered the collar of the fairway in the rough, which means there's two or three or four inches of rough right behind where the ball is sitting.
And then there's clip grass.
So that means that when the ball when the club face comes through the ball, it has to cross that high grass first, which takes a spin off the golf ball and is very difficult to hit the golf ball squarely in that regard. It's a very difficult golf shot in the any shot, much less in that particular moment in the broadcasters. You can watch this on YouTube if you like. The broadcasters who are commentating are talking about how difficult a shot this is, how if he tries to get tricky and get it close to the hole, it's liable to drift off into the bunker, that this is really something that is is very, very hard to do.
And so Tiger Woods, though height of his prowess, does something that most people can do. He and his caddie pick out a spot about 20 feet away the size of a dime, and he is able to take the club back steep enough. And in a way where he's able to put a spin on a shot in that particular spot, hits the Caddy later and hits exactly the dive spot. Not sort of close to it, but exactly the spot rolls up into the side of the hill, stops and checks because it has spin and then it starts to trickle back down toward the hole.
It's moving directly toward the hole. And the people around that green can see what might happen. They start to freak out. They start to jump and scream and clap and and yell and hoot and holler. And so that ball gets slowly and slowly toward the cup and the volume continues to go up, I guess, about a foot of the cup and the volume increases and then it sits on the edge of the cup for two point two seconds. Now, think about how long that is.
One second to second. The Nike logo is not perfectly, but pretty closely framed on camera. I'm not even sure what that was worth because that was on his golf ball. And then it makes the final revolution and drops in to the cup for what's what's considered a birdie to. He's now got a two shot lead and he goes on to win the golf term. One of the more amazing golf shots in competitive history. If you're an aficionado of golf, it's always in everybody's top few.
It's my it's my favorite one, but it's always there right now. What do I tell you? That story sportswriter, major sportswriter standing on the side of that green watching all of this had been to every major sporting event in the world, said that when that ball started trickling backwards toward the cup in the ampitheater of what that ground did with the trees and the grass and everything else, or about five thousand people there, he said he had never heard or seen anything like that.
The enthusiasm for that shot was unequal. And when it got closer and closer to the hole, he said people were making so much noise and that they were so enthusiastic about what happened. He said everything was moving. The ground was shaking. He could feel the vibration up to his thighs. So he so he wrote the next day in the newspaper that that ball made the final revolution for one reason and one reason alone, because everybody around the green wanted to go in, not because they thought they could make it go in.
They didn't think they could glued to that. But their enthusiasm for that shot is the only reason that made the final revolution, he wrote. There was no way that ball could sit on the edge of the cup. Everything was moving. The ground was shaking.
It was like an earthquake. OK, can I tell you that that is the universal motivation, inspiration, because here's something that everybody on the planet, once they want, the people that they respect, that they admire, that that they that they look up to, they want them rooting for them. They want they they want them clapping, cheering for their ball to go in. And what that really means is they want them to say and do we'll talk about that and prove that they're a fan and that they would do anything for them to succeed.
And that's the universal and there's no exception to it, you have that and I have that and everybody we're ever going to lead has that same desire to have those people. Maybe they respect us. I hope they do. But they have those people that they respect. They want those people rooting for them. And it's not enough to simply tell people that you are. You have to prove it every day. So we've been after for a really long time because we learned about this way before Tiger Woods story that just a story that helps illustrated we learn started learning about the Universal almost 30 years ago.
And in the process, we've been able to identify all kinds of behaviors and you'll be able to figure out any of the behaviors if you simply ask and answer one question in this given situation, what would a fan do? What would a fan ? Now, most of us are decent fans with good news. Most of us when when the report card comes back and they have high grades and the team is achieving their results and the sales are up and revenues up and and when when marriage is in a good spot, not having strife, most of us can be decent fans.
We can root, we can cheer, we can be positive. But the deal is the best. Leaders say, no, no, no, I have to be a fan all the time. Good news. Bad news, because it's not it's not dependent on whether I offer hard feedback or hold you accountable and have difficult conversations about your performance. It's about my leadership. And I can choose to be a fan consistently all the time. It's not about giving people mixed messages.
It is about saying my fanness. And that's the term I want to use, that my fanness, which is really what the ideas, has to be consistent and it has to be with everybody that I lead directly and I have to prove it in my ongoing behaviors. And so I have to ask myself, what would a fan do? And when you study the best leaders, what you're going to find is they're great fans of everyone, of everyone.
They lead and they prove it on an ongoing basis behaviorally in ways that you and I have never heard about that we can easily master. What would a fan do? Because most of us do is we celebrate that good news appropriately to the event. We have a dinner or we call somebody out, a team meeting or we acknowledge somebody or or we simply tell somebody that we're proud of them or we can't believe that they've achieved that result in spectacular. That's what most of us do.
But what a fan really does is it only a fan would do this. No one would ever ask somebody to do this on purpose. A fan keeps that great news alive. They actually stand it in time. They take that accolade or that that that wonderful outcome. And they don't keep it alive forever, but they keep it alive for longer so that you as as a person that I lead, has the ability to benefit and bask in that in that accolade for longer.
And by the way, everybody loves it when leaders do that. So how how do they do that? They document that piece. They they take a photograph of it and frame and they they make a screensaver out of they make a t shirt from it. They write a letter about it so that you can reread it. That letter they decide to to share with you an inch of scotch every every month for for a year. They they celebrated in different ways, but they keep that they need the name of conference room after after you temporarily they name a sandwich in the in the lunch room after you for that accolade for three weeks, not forever and not inappropriately keeping you alive, but keeping it alive longer and extending it in time.
Only a fan would do that. And it inspires and motivates people like crazy by itself, not not enough, but consistently. If you're somebody that extends and expands and keeps great news alive, you'll find that people respond differently to your leadership. You add to that lots of other behaviors and like third party praise and now all of a sudden you have somebody that you would do anything for because they're doing things that you would never ask for, but that make you feel differently about yourself.
That's what it means to be a fan and fan. This is something we can all master or we can all work harder at. And there's nobody that isn't already a fan. Sometimes the question is to purposefully go after that and figure out what would a fan do in this particular moment.
I like that a lot.
I think it's sort of like if you're the employee or the person, I think of it as sort of the difference between having a job and being all in right. When you have a job, you show up from nine to five. You do what you're told, you go home. But when you're all in, you're constantly thinking about it. You want them to succeed, you want to succeed with them, and you want to do everything possible to make that happen.
Agreed. And by the way, that's the way to get them all in. Yeah, right. Because that's really what the outcome of inspiration motivation is all about. You light that fire so they want to excel. Makes your job a whole lot easier, too. By the way, what we found is that when you're a fan, you'll be a fan back.
I love that conceptualisation. Sort of like being the people that you care about the most and being their biggest fan. I think that that's a really good way to frame it.
It seems easy when everything's positive. How do you deal with bad news and still be somebody? And how do you have a tough conversation with your your spouse or somebody at work when you want to be their friend, but, you know, the end result is going to sort of not be what they want?
Yeah, you're not being a fan in that moment. I mean, you're being a fan generally in the sense of if I look at the composite of our relationship, is is the composite the tenor of our relationship is that when we're you're a fan of mine, can I tell by all your behaviors that doesn't mean that you're trying to be a fan when you give me hard feedback or that when you're holding me accountable or when my performance has really been in the basement.
And you have to have that conversation with me. I know a very few people that can be a fan when when we were having those conversations. But the question is, at the end of those conversations, where is it that I can feel about our relationship and what's the composite? Am I do I feel your fan is most of the time? So I would just have to tell you that, again, leadership has different functions. Being inspirational, motivational as an example, is a really important function.
But it's not all of leadership. If the only thing you were it was inspirational, but you couldn't make great decisions. You couldn't hold me accountable. You couldn't elevate my performance. You didn't offer me good feedback so I could get better. You weren't able to establish a connective relationship with me. Well, then your inspiration. Motivation is not horrible, but it's not enough.
What I find is the opposite, though, that more leaders are better at making decisions and offering feedback and elevating. But a lot of them are really have shortcomings when it comes to inspiring and motivating because they just don't know what to do. But this is what to do. They they can instantly become better fans of people and and ask the question, what would a fan do? What I think is the harder question is what happens if you're somebody that reports me and I don't like you, your personality or your style, you're just hard to work with or you're arrogant or you're petulant or whatever else.
And if I had my druthers, you wouldn't be on my team. But I've inherited you. I can't get rid of you. Wouldn't wouldn't be good for you or for me. You produce great results. But I mean a fan I don't even like you like what do I do about that?
And the answer is you have to find different behaviors. You have to find different things to celebrate. You have to do it in different ways because because your job as a leader is to inspire and motivate everybody. It isn't just to selectively decide who you like and who you don't like and inspire only them. I mean, heaven forbid if we did that, we'd have some inspired children and others never inspired. Right. Because, you know, like if you've ever had a teenager, that's not a simple thing to go through and always be a fan.
But that's your job, your job as a leader. And it's kind of thankless and it requires a lot of of creativity and thought. But that's that's the job. And and some of us are better at the job and more committed to the job than others. And that's the point. The point is, even with the people we don't like or identify with or feel comfortable with, we still have to figure out a way to show fairness. We'll actually show it differently, easier to to introduce somebody than create a different kind of conversation to somebody that isn't as comfortable to you.
But you might say to me, well, listen, I don't want to even be around those people. You got to suck it up and really decide you want to lead or don't you? And and I think your choice should be to lead, but that that's an individual choice. But all of us can do that anytime we want. All any of us can be a fan of anyone and and and choose to lead in that way.
What does it mean to to lead during a crisis? Is there anything different about that than leading during status quo time?
Yeah, I think so.
We know lots about when leaders I always call it when things go wrong because all crises are when things are going wrong, because it kind of encompasses tragedy, crisis. I had both the the the privilege as well as the dis consternation of leading a lot of senior leaders in New York City during or right after 9/11. And so that was a horrible time. And I learned a lot from that in terms of that. That was a different kind of crises, crises like the social injustice, things that are going on contemporarily.
That's a different kind of crisis. But anything that's changing reputations of people and leaders is crisis. So you can have a crisis with a given client and that's equally real. I mean, if that's a significant client that's been long standing of the firm and they're changing their reputation about our reputation in their minds because of something we've done or they at least perceive we've done that, that's real crisis for us. And so what do you do? What are the best leaders doing?
Crisis. And I you know, I could regale you for a long time in terms of just the behaviors that we've identified. But maybe the one that matters the most is this.
It's not the actual act that defines you. It's always your response. It's the response that defines your credibility. In every case, people will eventually forgive you and forget about or hold in less saliency the actual incident or act. But they will never forgive you for the response. The response has to reek of competence, integrity and sincerity. You have to think about what's my response? And that means there are certain kinds of rules in a crisis. No.
One, I don't respond to little pieces. And then. Change my mind, I wait until I get the facts and then I respond as quickly as I can, right that I do so in a transparent way, that I do so from a set of values and character, that I respond in a way that I think produces remedy, that that isn't just apology, but produces remedy. There's a lot of things in the response. But I always tell everybody, write this down in your notebook.
And when you have a crisis like remember it, it's your response that defines who you really are in other people's eyes. It's not the incident. As bad as the incident is. You get fired for the lying, for the cover up, for the response. You don't lose your your career or your marriage for the actual thing. Very often you lose it for the response. And if your response is consistent with who you've always been and who you really are, people will forgive you for the incident.
And so so you are always the larger context. But so Paul Bear Bryant, the old Alabama football coach, had a sign over his desk for years and years that I love. I have little picture of it in one of my notebooks. It says, don't try to hide behind anything or anybody. They're going to find you anyway. And what that means to me is the truth always comes out OK. And so your response needs to reek of that truth early on.
I don't want to find out later that you knew more than you told me, that you weren't as as forthcoming as you should have been and the like. That's what I have seen over and over again. And once I don't I don't trust your response. I don't believe in the integrity response. I can never trust you again. That that I can I can forgive you for an incident I can give you for the event. I can forgive you for X, but it's the response that defines who we are and what we are as leaders.
And to me, that's the most important one of all to keep in mind, it's not a behavior persay. It's many different behaviors that make up the response. And there's there's standards inside. But it's the thing that I think of most when I when I work with leaders and think about crises.
I love that I do that with my my kids now, which is when when I sort of catch them lying or I think they're lying.
I sort of say I like your choice right now is going to make this better or worse and sort of like just indication that you can you can dig this hole deeper or you can sort of like, tell me the truth now and it's going to be a lot easier.
I love that.
What lessons have you you try to teach your kids and not just behaviors, but what lessons have you tried to teach them from not only your exposure to a world of amazing people who've accomplished so much, but sort of like all of your learnings about leadership?
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I have one son. He's older now. He's in his late 20s. And he's he's he's a different kind of kid. He's very independent. He's somebody that needs to be self-sufficient. So he's I didn't have the failure to launch problem that a lot of other people have. He's very creative. He's he's wickedly smart. But that also means he's a handful. And he was a handful growing up. And he was you know, he's but he's still a handful.
But the thing that I think that you leave your kids more than anything else is not just the lessons you learned, but the values you hope. And as long as you hold them consistently and it's you leading by example and I don't mean on on every moment basis of every action. But, you know, if your kids don't know what you really stand for, what values really matter to you. And by the way, there are some that I think he he knew that I held that it took him a lot a long time to come to come to those values.
I think he holds most of the same values that I hold now based on his own experience in the like. I think, you know, you have to talk about them explicitly. You have to act on them and live them. And it should not be something that people it shouldn't be Obi Wan Kenobi like. I don't know what that really is. That's a mystery to me. It shouldn't you shouldn't need slogans for them either. You should be able to be transparent.
And this is what I stand for. I'm not saying you have to stand for that. This is what our family stands for when you're younger, that you don't have a choice at a certain point, but then you do. You're an independent minded and think and this is what I value. And I think that's the thing that we leave our kids more than anything else, because at the end of the day, it's the values that underline and guide their their actions.
They're the principles by which they form their choices. So when you said, listen, when you say your kids listen, this is you can you can make a good choice, you're a bad choice. You're really thinking like think about where that comes from, like by what value are you going to make that choice? And you've seen me. You've watched me and you kind of have a sense of what what choice I would make, not based on just the choice, but on the values that would drive that choice.
And the more you're transparent about that with kids, the better.
How would you answer that question? Our family values?
Oh, I think every family values different things. But at a certain point, I think when kids are young and they're very impressionable and they haven't had a big peer influence yet and education hasn't hasn't decided to take our parenting from us and and so forth and so on, I think it's important that they have a common sense of what the family stands for. One of the most common things that family stand for is the family comes first. That's a very common value that it's about us.
First, we stand together. We have solidarity as a family. We're always here for each other. We have unconditional love, which is another value. That's part of that. I think that's a comfort. But there's no right set of values. But I think it's early on while the kids are younger and they don't have the ability to form their own values or or have their own experiences where they can generate their own independent views, you've got to have you've got to say this is what we all value together right now.
You'll be able to make up your choice on your own soon enough. But for right now, that's who we are and what we stand for. And by the way, you and I both know that has a tremendous influence on what eventually shapes their independent values.
That's a great place to leave this, Randall. Thank you so much for the time. This was an amazing conversation.
I appreciate you taking the time and engaging. Is there any chance that we can talk a little bit about our course?
Yeah.Do I know we're still recording, so let's do that.
OK, great. We've invested a tremendous amount of time over the years. We've we've been coaching senior leaders and have a fairly large firm. We try to stay low profile about it, but we've had a tremendous amount of success. And for reasons that I can be very brief about, because of having larger influence and wanting to influence thousands of people instead of hundreds of people and as well as as it's time for some of this information to to not be lost, we've decided to put together a digital leadership course that includes and describes and teaches people a lot of these behaviours.
And I know you've spent some time inside of it.
I loved it. I thought it was one of the best things I've done ever.
Oh, that's wonderful. Thank you for that. And so we picked 10 modules of of leadership that is functions of leadership, feedback and change and and time management and so forth. And and then we took 10 behaviors inside each one. We explain those behaviors in 10 minutes or less in a video that involves a bunch of people. And we have outlines and examples and we're excited as all get out about being able to put it to the world. And we think it's it's going to have a big impact.
Again, there's not many exemplars of a behavioral view. I'd have to go back to Dale Carnegie and then maybe can Blanchot. But there's not many most most leadership works courses and books and and seminars operate either from an individual viewpoint or from a principal viewpoint. And by the way, both are good principles, are guiding guiding values. In essence, these are there are also universals in many cases, but they're not the specific actions of behavior. So these are all very, very specific actions.
We chose one hundred out of a set of several hundred. We're kind of proud of it and we hope that it'll have bigger, bigger input. So the reason I decided to offer and come on a podcast, because I've been trying to be anonymous for the last 30 years and have done a fairly good job of it's going to say I've done a good job.
I didn't really find any interviews or anything when I was doing research.
Exactly. And it's on purpose because I'm a big believer that leadership is about other people, that we're supposed to be in the background, not in the foreground. The Bob Dylan was right when you said when you're on top, you're really on the bottom. That doesn't mean you have to be a servant leader. But I think you have to think in the mentality of this is not about me. So we're excited about this thing. We call it admired leadership and the landing pages of my leadership.
Dotcom, there's a couple of things that'll change your view about leadership that you can anybody can access. And so I'll leave it there. But I would love it if your audience went to admire the leadership dotcom and checked it out.
We've definitely linked to that in the the notes to the on the show page. Thank you so much.
My pleasure. Shane, thank you for taking the time.
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