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Transcript of The Secrets to Leading Creative People

Transcript of The Secrets to Leading Creative People written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Leading or managing people in an organization is a tough job. It gets just that much tougher when the folks that you are choosing to lead are highly creative. In this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Todd Henry. He’s the author of Herding Tigers: Be The Leader That Creative People Need. If you or your organization has creative people, and let’s face it, that’s what drives a lot of business today, you need to check it out.

Hello, welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Todd Henry. He is a speaker, consultant, advisor, and author of a number of books including the book we’re gonna talk about today, called Herding Tigers: Be The Leader That Creative People Need. So, Todd, welcome to the show.

Todd Henry: John, it’s so great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: I can’t believe it’s taken me this long. I’m a big fan of your previous work, Die Empty, in fact you were awesome enough that you just happened to be passing through town and we flagged you down to come speak at one of my events and it was very, very motivating for everybody.

Todd Henry: It was so much fun, and I just have to say as encouragement to you, you’re the most humble person in the world so I know that you would never toot your own horn, but just seeing your community there and seeing how people responded to you and responded to what you have built there, it just really showed me the kind of integrity that you bring to your business, because you were able to attract people from all over the place to come to Louisville to spend some time with you, learning about the things that you wanted to teach them.

Just as encouragement to you, it was really, really amazing to see your community in action there as well. You didn’t ask me to do that, but I wanted to do it anyway.

John Jantsch: Well, I appreciate that, but longtime listeners know I’m not really that humble.

Todd Henry: Okay.

John Jantsch: So let me ask you the big question that came to my mind as I was reading Herding Tigers. How does leading creative people differ from being a creative leader?

Todd Henry: Oh, that’s a great question. No one has ever asked me that, actually. Listen, we’re all creative. We all have to solve problems every day as a function of our job. That’s just the nature of the modern workplace. So, if you have to go to work, solve problems, figure things out, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a business owner, you are creative to a certain extent. What I wanted to do in this book was talk about the dynamics of leading highly creative people.

Leading highly creative people is different from being a creative leader, because you can be a creative leader and lead a team of engineers or a team … which, by the way, engineers are incredibly creative and incredibly bright in that way. But, you can be a highly creative leader and be leading a more mundane, process oriented business and still be highly creative, because you still have to solve problems, figure out systems, et. cetera.

This book really is about leading highly creative people. People who maybe think a little bit differently from the norm, maybe people who might be a little more difficult to wrangle. What I wanted to do is really address some of those common dynamics among teams that are highly creative. What is it that makes them especially difficult to lead, and how can leaders, especially leaders maybe that are stepping into a role of leading highly creative people for the first time, how can they better position themselves to set their team up for success?

That’s the goal of the leader is to help their team succeed, not necessarily for them to succeed because if their team succeeds, then they will succeed.

John Jantsch: I guess it kind of begs two questions. Maybe you’re defining creative person in a very strict sense like the graphic designer or the writer or the video editor. Is that fair?

Todd Henry: I think it is fair, but I think that this applies to really leading any group of people that has to figure it out and make it up as they go, so if you’re a sales organization, you’re having to come up with creative solutions all the time to reach potential clients, having to re-strategize all the time. Like I said, if you’re leading a group of engineers, that is a project based business, a project based function, but it’s highly creative because you are doing nothing but problem solving all day. You’re looking out, exploring what Steven Johnson calls the adjacent possible, looking for potentially useful fodder for your creative process.

All of those industries have some of the same dynamics I describe in the book. Now, that said, yes, my background, my experience is in leading the ‘traditional creative’ which is the designer, the writer, the videographer, those kinds of people. Yes, I was writing specifically from those kinds of experiences, but I think that the advice in the book applies more broadly to any group of people who have to solve problems and make it up as they go.

John Jantsch: So fundamentally then, what does this group, what do these creative people need that is fundamentally different?

Todd Henry: There really are two primary things that creative people need from their manager in order to thrive. The first one is stability, and stability is about ensuring that you have clarity of process, clarity of expectations, that they know that the rules of the game aren’t gonna change midstream. In a lot of industries that don’t require a tremendous amount of overhead in order to accomplish the work, it’s not that big of a deal if the objectives change midstream, because okay, now we’ve got a new strategy, that means my job is gonna be different tomorrow.

But, when you’re doing highly creative work that requires a tremendous amount of ramp up and forethought and then iteration, when the rules of the game change midstream it can be extremely frustrating. If somebody isn’t bought in to a strategic direction, and let’s say you get two weeks into the project and suddenly your boss’s boss swoops in and says, “You know what? This isn’t really working for me.” Well, your team has spent two weeks iterating on that idea, and now they have to go all the way back to the beginning, re strategize and start all over again, simply because someone wasn’t bought in.

That’s tremendously expensive to the organization. It’s very frustrating to a team of people, and so over time, the team of people just basically says, “Alright, I’m just gonna wait until you tell me what to do. I’m not gonna bring my best thought to the table or my best effort until I know it’s not gonna be wasted effort if the rules are constantly changing.” They need some degree of stability.

There’s a myth, John, that highly creative people just want complete freedom. Just don’t fence me in, give me no boundaries, I just wanna do what I wanna do, but that is a myth, because the reality is that healthy creative process has boundaries. It has rails in order to focus the creative energy. Without that, that energy is just gonna wither up and die. So, stability is the first thing that we need. Clear boundaries, clarity of expectations, clarity of process.

The second thing that highly creative people need is they need to be challenged. They need to be pushed. They want to know that their leader has faith in them. That their leader sees things in them maybe they don’t even see in themselves yet. They want to be pushed to be the best that they can be and to try new things, to tackle new kinds of projects, to venture out into those risky territories, and to know that if they fail, that somebody has their back.

This is also very important, people won’t take risks unless they know that the leader is there to have their back. If it’s a strategic risk, not if it’s a stupid risk, but if it’s a strategic risk then the leader needs to have their back and they need to know that they’re not just walking on thin ice. Hey, you could die and lose your job at any moment, or else people will begin to hold back just a bit.

The problem with stability and challenge is that they exist in tension with one another. As we increase the amount of challenge, we tend to destabilize the organization. This is where a lot of startups and entrepreneurial organizations live. We’re building the bicycle as we’re trying to ride it and we’re going a hundred miles an hour down the highway and we’re trying to avoid traffic and, oh isn’t this just wonderful?

Yeah, it’s wonderful for a little bit, but then over time, people begin to fry. They begin to burn out because we’re not wired for that kind of challenge without the supporting infrastructure to support that challenge. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you have organizations that settle in and they’re so processized that there’s no challenge any longer for the people on the team. People get bored, they get stuck, they start looking for broader horizons, and this is often where you hear people say things like, “I’m just not really challenged around here. I just don’t feel like I can really do my best work here. I feel like I’m not growing.”

Sometimes it’s because they don’t feel challenged. They don’t feel like they’re getting what they need from you as a leader in terms of challenge. As a manager, as a leader, as an entrepreneur, somebody who runs a business full of talented people, you are in the unique position to be able to identify that right mix of stability and challenge for those people on your team. If you notice somebody seems to be burning out pretty frequently, well, you need to ask, is it because there aren’t processes in place? There’s no stability there to support what I’m asking from them in terms of challenge, or if somebody’s constantly complaining they feel bored, they feel stuck, is it because I’m not giving them an opportunity to grow themselves, to challenge themselves, and to venture into those uncomfortable places?

John Jantsch: One of the places that you spend a lot of time, and I was glad to see this because I see this actually in lots of organizations with lots of small business owners even, whether they’re managing creatives or not, if they’re managing people, so often they get in this weird cycle of giving work, assigning work, creating process and structure, and then the minute something gets a little hard, they take it all back. There’s no way to grow for anybody, including the organization if you keep taking the work back. I think you called it stop doing the work.

Todd Henry: Right.

John Jantsch: You need to learn this. First off, what do you feel leads to that, and I guess, secondly, how do you solve that?

Todd Henry: I think that especially for entrepreneurs, think about somebody who started a business, I know a big chunk of the people who follow your work are small business owners, entrepreneurs. There’s a tremendous amount of identity wrapped up in starting a business, in the business itself. So, you identify yourself by the output of that business. Sometimes in healthy ways, and maybe sometimes in not so healthy ways. As you start to grow your business and you start to hand off more and more responsibility to other people, it becomes difficult sometimes to separate yourself a bit from the business from an identity standpoint, so that you’re allowing other people to take ownership of certain aspects of the business so that you’re not the one constantly there over their shoulder.

If you are the person constantly over their shoulder, then again, they’re just gonna say, “You know what? Just tell me what you want me to do.” You’ve hired great people and then you’re gonna look over their shoulder and micromanage every decision they make, that’s not the way to scale a business. It’s easy for that to happen, because so much of your identity is wrapped up in the work that gets done, in the business.

What we have to do is we have to transition from a maker mindset to a manager mindset. We have to transition from a mindset of presence to a mindset of principle, or from a mindset of control, which is what really all this is about, it’s about us wanting to control the work of the organization, to a mindset of influence.

We need to establish rails. We need to have a clear leadership philosophy. We need to help people on our team learn how we think about the work and how we think about decisions that we make, not just which decision in a specific scenario is the right decision to make according to us, and so I think it’s difficult to make that transition, to move from control to influence. I think a big part of that is just extricating yourself.

I think about the world that I come from, somebody maybe was a great designer or a great writer and they get promoted. What happens typically in organizations is somebody is really good at something and so somebody comes along and says, “You know what? You’re a really good designer. You know what you should do? You should lead other designers.” That’s a fundamentally different skill set, that’s a totally different thing, and yet that’s exactly what we do. This person, basically they’ve built their entire career upon the fact that they’re really good at a thing. That thing may be is design, or maybe that thing is financials or whatever it is. But, they’ve been really good at that thing and now, all of a sudden, they’re transitioning to not doing that thing, but leading other people who are doing that thing.

How do they identify themselves? Who are they anymore? What is the value they contribute? Before, they could point to a thing and say, “I did this.” Now that you’re leading other people, what is it exactly that you do? I think that’s where the identity crisis often resides in this. Our job is to shift our mindset from a maker mindset, from control, to influence, which means I’m going to teach my team a series of principles to help them make better decisions on their own. I’m gonna teach them how I think about what a good idea is. How I think about a good risk versus a bad risk. I’m gonna teach them how to determine the quality of a product and say, “Okay, is this good? Is this a good output, or is it not quite there yet?”

How do we define excellence as an organization? I’m gonna teach them how conflict should be handled so they can handle conflict between themselves instead of having to come to me every time there’s a conflict on the team. Once we begin to teach these principles, then we can step back and do the job that we’re actually accountable for, which is either growing the business, or leading the team to grow the business, depending on the type of business that we’re running.

John Jantsch: I think for me, at least, over the years, the lessons I’ve really learned is that this has to be very intentional, of course. But, there are times when I’m doing my thing. Like you, I’ve go out and I speak and I write and I’m doing the work really, in the business. But, I have a team of people too, and it’s almost like I have to switch on that hat and remember that now I’m leading, so I’m not supposed to have all the answers. That to me is the hardest part because people come to you as the leader, and they say, “Todd, should I do this?” And your response, or at least my response is usually, they ask me a question, I’m gonna give ’em the answer and what I’ve learned over the years is you’ve gotta establish this practice of giving it back to them, saying, “What would you do in that situation?” Or something of that nature.

Todd Henry: Yes.

John Jantsch: Then, of course, the other challenge is you’ve gotta stay so consistent, I think, with it, because how many companies have read a book like yours and the person goes back and says, “It’s gonna be different now!”

Todd Henry: Yes, that’s exactly right. The challenge in all of that is either that we, as a leader, our area of greatest insecurity is the place where we have the potential to do the most damage. As a leader, if we’re not aware of that, the fact that it’s really hard for us to let stuff go, the fact that it’s really difficult for us to let our team run with things, those areas of insecurity become the places we have to turn into watch points personally, because your area of greatest insecurity is the place where you have the potential to do the most damage to your team, and ultimately to your business if you’re not careful.

John Jantsch: How much of the job of the leader, because I think creative people seek inspiration. They tend to be maybe a little more curious about how things work and why they work and don’t work. How much of the job of the leader in this case is to keep those folks inspired?

Todd Henry: I think it’s a huge percentage of the job is keeping them inspired and keeping them focused on the right things. Setting good rails, making sure that they’re looking in the right places. “Hey look over here! Hey, have you seen this? Hey, let’s not focus on that right now, let’s look at this thing over here, because this seems to be the thing that has the most potential.” That’s not the same thing as doing the work for them, that’s basically doing traffic flow for them. It’s making sure that they’re windowing out the stuff that you can see is really not essential and focusing them then on the things that are actually most important.

The thing is, if we wanna be an inspirational leader, then we have to be inspired ourselves. This is something I find often in the lives of leaders; they want to inspire their team but they’re not building practices into their own life to keep themselves inspired. They’re not dedicating time for study, for going out, for exploring, for tilling the soil and looking for potentially useful things in the environment that they can funnel to their team. They’re not doing any kind of personal and professional development themselves and yet they expect their team to be doing that, but they’re not developing themselves.

I think the first thing we have to recognize is that if we wanna be an inspiring leader, if we wanna be the kind of leader that’s bringing ideas to the table and pushing our team in the right place and is able to think systemically in a way that’s actually valuable and useful to our team because we’re seeing the patterns that are emerging in the work and in the team dynamics, then we have to be dedicating time and energy to developing ourselves, to studying, to looking for patterns out there in the marketplace and patterns out there in the environment.

That’s really one of the things we’re uniquely positioned to do as leaders because of our perch, and yet often we don’t do that. If you are not inspired, then you cannot inspire your team.

John Jantsch: One of the things that’s gotta be part of any leader is we’ve got objectives, we have key results that we’re trying to do, we have deadlines, there are things that have to be measured and tracked. I would suggest that some people would say that that’s harder to do with creatives? Maybe a deadline works, maybe it doesn’t, but how do you define and track what might be different with a creative team?

Todd Henry: That is a really great question, because you’re right. If we’re doing accounting, it’s pretty easy to tell whether we got it right or not. You could sorta say, “Numbers aren’t adding up. Okay, let’s figure this out. This isn’t working right.” It’s a different kind of problem. With creative work, it is highly qualitative often. In the end, somebody is either gonna give you the thumbs up or thumbs down based upon, in some cases, their subjective opinion. No matter how research based your work is, no matter how tight your rationale is, they’re gonna give you the thumbs up or thumbs down, and it’s basically based on what they perceive to be right or not right with regard to the work.

So, one of the tools that I like to teach people to help them determine, in a little bit more of a not quantitative way, but a little bit more of an objective way, which idea is the right idea? It spells the word EPIC, which, I don’t like doing things like that where, hey it spells this, but it does, it spells EPIC, is, if you have a handful of ideas you’re trying to evaluate, you’re trying to decide between, I encourage you to use this framework to do it. It works really, really well.

The first thing is, you’re gonna ask, is it effective? Is this idea effective? Does it solve the problem we set out to solve, or does it not? You can even rate this on a scale of one to ten, so you can put these ideas up next to each other and say, “Okay, which of these is most effective? On a scale of one to ten, how well does it actually solve the problem that we’re trying to solve?”

The P is practical. How practical is it for us to execute this idea, given our resource constraints, given our time constraints, given the fact that we only have a couple of team members who can work on this. How practical are each of these ideas, again, on a scale of one to ten?

Then, is it interesting and cool is the final metric here. On a scale of one to ten, how excited are we about this idea? Because sometimes maybe there’s an idea that doesn’t seem as effective, but it’s really cool and so somebody is really arguing for it. Okay, well, that’s fine, give it a 10, but it’s only a four on effectiveness, or a five on effectiveness, which means maybe it’s not the best idea even though it’s got a lot of energy in the room, because it is cool, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem we’re trying to solve.

Once you’ve ranked all of your ideas using this framework, effectiveness, practicality, and then is it interesting and cool, then you can actually have a meaningful conversation. You can say, well, idea two isn’t quite as practical as idea one, but I think we can make it more practical if we dot dot dot. So, it’s a great jumping off point for iteration. It also, as a leader, it gives you an opportunity to do some teaching with your team about how you think about ideas, or how you think about practicality, or how you think about resource allocation, or how you think about what is cool and what actually is interesting from a creative standpoint.

This is, in a world of highly subjective measurements, I find this tool to be really helpful because it gives teams a framework to have meaningful discussion instead of just saying, “Well, I like it. Why don’t you like it?” Which isn’t always helpful.

John Jantsch: I grew up in a really big family and my parents, I don’t really ever remember seeing them argue or fight. I think it made me very conflict averse as well. One of the things you talk about is that really healthy teams can fight in a positive way.

Todd Henry: Yeah. Yeah, this actually happens pretty frequently. I’ll have a manager approach me and say, “We’re a really healthy team. We never fight.” I just wanna grab them lovingly by the shoulders and say, “You are the most dysfunctional team I’ve ever encountered in my life!” Listen, if you have healthy, talented, creative people in the room together, there is going to be conflict. Conflict is the natural result of talented driven people bumping into each other. It’s going to happen. If there’s no conflict it means, A, there’s no accountability on the team, so nobody feels the need to speak their mind or bring their opinion to the table, B, people are just phoning it in, people really don’t care about the work, or, C, you’ve created such a culture of fear and conformity that people feel like they can’t speak their mind without risking losing their job.

If there is never conflict, it means that there’s something that is not healthy in your organization. Now, that doesn’t mean that free-for-all conflict should be the norm. No, of course not. We have to have some healthy principles for conflict, and this is one of the things that I went into in Herding Tigers. There are a couple of rules, I think, that we have to follow, whenever we have some kind of argument about an idea or about a direction or something. I think number one, we have to agree on common ground from the start.

I think sometimes, especially in today’s culture and you’re seeing this play out in the political arena right now, we’ve seen it in the marketplace in a handful of ways, we are seeing scorched earth strategy playing out everywhere. It’s, I will destroy the ground between you and me, and I’m gonna fossilize around my opinion, and I’m just gonna fight just because I’m fighting, because I disagree with you. I think it’s important in any conflict when we disagree, to agree on the common ground from the start and say, “Okay, are we actually fighting about the same thing here?”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen in a lot of organizations I’ve worked with where two people are having an argument, and then they get about halfway through and realize, oh, we’re actually not even fighting about the same thing. I didn’t realize that. We were just fighting to fight, but we weren’t even talking about the same thing here. We actually have a lot more common ground than we thought. That’s the first thing.

The second thing I always encourage people to do is try as much as you can to articulate the other person’s point of view before you disagree with them. Make sure that you understand their argument as well, so not only that you’re arguing about the same thing, but that you understand their perspective and their argument. Try to articulate their point of view and even share with them, here’s where I agree with you, and here’s where we diverge. That way you can see what you’re actually fighting about.

The third thing is, you always fight over ideas, you never fight over personality. The moment a conflict gets personal, everybody loses. When I talk about conflict, I’m not talking about, “Oh I hate those people. I hate that person. I can’t stand that … so I’m just going to muscle up every time they introduce an idea.”

That’s not healthy conflict, that’s just stupid conflict. We can’t allow conflict to get personal. It has to always be about ideas, not personality. If we follow these principles, then we’re going to have an environment where people feel like they can bring their ideas to the table, an environment where people feel like they can disagree and we can even hash it out and it can get really animated.

Another thing I wanna say that is a little bit controversial but I think is also important to recognize, I hear often people say, “Oh, our team is a family. We’re like a family.” Well, maybe you’re like a family, but you’re not a family. I think that’s a very unfair thing that managers do or business owners do, is when they say it’s a family because I don’t know about your family, but I’m not kicking someone out of the family if they don’t do their chores this week. They’re still gonna be a member of the family. There might be consequences, but they’re not gonna get kicked out of my family because they didn’t do their job. There’s a baseline level of performance you have to maintain in order to stay employed, so saying to a group of people, oh, we’re a family, no, actually you’re not, because somebody in this room might be fired at some point if they fail to do their job.

We have to make sure that we’re treating people in our organization with trust and respect. We don’t have to like everybody we work with. You probably won’t like everybody you work with, that’s okay as well, but we have to treat them with trust and respect and we have to fight well. If we do that then our culture is gonna get sharper and sharper and sharper and more and more focused and more and more refined over time and people will trust one another, because they’ll know that people are speaking up.

John Jantsch: One of the things I love when books do this is that each chapter you kinda have some summary points. Here’s some actions, here’s ways that you can talk with the team, here’s some habits you can develop so you kinda give people a whole toolbox of ideas to end each chapter rather than saying, “Do X.”

Todd Henry: Yeah.

John Jantsch: So, Todd, where can people find more about you and about Herding Tigers?

Todd Henry: The best place to find Herding Tigers is wherever books are sold, so wherever you shop for books you can find it. The best place to find me is at accidentalcreative.com. That’s where our podcasts are and all the other work that I do. That’d be the best place to find me.

John Jantsch: Well, you have, as I know, the book is in some ways a starting point. You have, of course, training and workshops and everything that you do around that as well, don’t you?

Todd Henry: Yeah, that’s correct. We have a Herding Tigers workshop that is basically our two-day in person workshop, but it’s distilled down to basically a four hour video course with exercises and workbooks and all kinds of things. Basically it’s like me coming to your company for two days, only you can get through it in four hours. Now, four hours to experience it, but then you have to do the work beyond that, but it’s basically that distilled into a video course.

John Jantsch: You don’t do the work for us? Darn it.

Todd Henry: No, unfortunately I can’t do the work for you. Sorry. It would be so much better if I could. No, I’m sorry, I can’t do the work for you.

John Jantsch: Well Todd, thanks so much for joining us, spending time with us, hopefully next time I’m in Ohio or somewhere out there on the road we can bump into each other again.

Todd Henry: Yeah, that’d be great. John, thanks for the great work that you do.

 

 

The Secrets to Leading Creative People

The Secrets to Leading Creative People written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Todd Henry
Podcast Transcript

Todd HenryThis week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Todd Henry. Henry is a writer and speaker who travels extensively to talk about creativity, leadership, and productivity. He gives keynotes and leads workshops on the topics and has helped teams and audiences around the globe.

He has also written four books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His latest, Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Needis a practical handbook for managers who lead creative teams. On today’s episode, we talk about the processes and approach outlined in the book, and Henry shares practical tips for getting the most out of a creative team.

Questions I ask Todd Henry:

  • How does leading creative people differ from being a creative leader?
  • What do creative people need that is fundamentally different?
  • What percentage of a leader’s job is keeping creatives inspired?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why creative people need a leader that offers stability and a challenge.
  • Why our own insecurities as leaders can be the areas that cause the most damage to our teams and our businesses, if we’re not careful.
  • How conflict about ideas, not personality, can actually be healthy for your team.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Todd Henry:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Transcript of Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In

Transcript of Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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Transcript

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John Jantsch: Leadership is leadership. Doesn’t matter what role you’re in, if you’re running a company, if you’re an elected official. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Jason Kander. We talk about his book, Outside the Wire, getting outside your comfort zone to learn the lessons of leadership. Check it out.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jason Kander. He is husband, father, former Army captain who served in Afghanistan. He is also Missouri’s former Secretary of State, and the president of an organization called Let America Vote. He is also a candidate for the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, and we’re gonna talk about his book called Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Every Day Courage. Jason, thanks for joining me.

Jason Kander: Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: So, I’ve had a lot of authors, thousands of authors I’ve interviewed and I don’t think I’ve had one that has written a political biography yet on the show, so this is a first, but in reading your book, which I really loved, there’s so many lessons in there that are really leadership lessons in the truest sense, and I think entrepreneurs in the truest sense, the successful ones anyway, are leaders at heart, so I want to unpack the book really in that vein, if that makes sense.

Jason Kander: Yeah, it makes sense to me. Thanks.

John Jantsch: Let me start with the title, “Outside the Wire.” In kind of common military jargon, that’s sort of the idea of being beyond the safe base camp area, so how does that metaphor really kind of set the subtext for the book?

Jason Kander: Well, for me, the experience of going outside the wire in Afghanistan, going like you said, off the safety of the base, that’s an event in my life that a lot of times I kind of think about my life I guess as before and after that moment, and I think that’s true for a lot of people who have experienced anything like that, anything that can be just scary to do and forces you to get literally outside your comfort zone. At the same time, the book is mostly about … I mean there are stories in the book as you saw and lessons in the book, from my time in the military and specifically from my time in Afghanistan, but mostly what it’s about is my time going figuratively outside the wire in politics, going out and taking positions that may or may not have been unpopular, may or may not have been what I was advised to say but it’s what I believed, and so really the book is just about the idea that if you want to create change, if you want to get anything done, you’re never gonna do it from within your comfort zone, either literally or figuratively.

John Jantsch: There’s … and I don’t know if you’ll be able to do this, I’ve written a number of books and sometimes I’ll be interviewed, and they’ll say, “You know, you were telling that one story,” and I’m like, “Gosh, I wrote that a while ago. I don’t know if I remember that.”

Jason Kander: I’ve only written one book, so don’t worry, and it wasn’t that long ago so I’m probably gonna be able to get it.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, I’m gonna try to set it up and then you tell the story, because one of the really great things about why the book works so well for me is you’re a really good story teller and I’d love to have people hear the story part, so there’s one of the early lessons that you basically said you went out and kind of failed at this training thing, and you thought you were gonna get really taken to task over it, but it went a different way when you actually met with the sergeant. The lesson in that was really that here’s how real tough guys act, and I think that there are a lot of leaders and companies that feel like they have to be the authoritarian, dress everybody down, use fear in some cases, as a leadership tool. I wonder if you’ve … hopefully I’ve jogged your memory enough to know that story I was talking about.

Jason Kander: Yeah, absolutely. One of the lessons … the book’s organized into lessons which are just the chapter titles, and one of the lessons is experience is good, but perspective is golden, and that’s one of the early stories in that lesson. What happened was I was pretty new to the Army, I was an Army ROTC and we were doing land navigation training and we were doing nighttime land navigation training, which means that I was out in the woods, pitch dark in pretty heavy woods at an Army base and I had a compass and a protractor and a map and I was supposed to find these very difficult to find points, which are just like little sticks that stick up in the woods. They have little numbers on them and you’re supposed to write them down on your card to prove that you could navigate to these points. It was pouring rain. It was pretty quickly evident that I wasn’t doing well at this, it was my first time doing it at night. My map disintegrated in the rain. It was just a bad scene and it was a low morale moment, so to speak.

What the context of this is that that weekend out in the woods, we had with us an instructor who had only been with us this one time and he was this guy, Master Sergeant Matt Eversmann, and while most people listening to this will have no idea who that is, a lot of people actually have seen him portrayed on the big screen by Josh Hartnett in a movie called Black Hawk Down. The main character in that movie, it’s based on a true story, and the main character in that movie is Matt Eversmann, who at the time was a very young sergeant, and now by the time that I met him, he’s this Master Sergeant with a lot of combat experience and this was pretty soon after 9/11 that I had joined, so at that point very few people had deployed, so he was very unique. Now, somebody with that level of experience would be a lot less unique, still commendable, but a lot less unique. At that time, he was like … we were all like, “Oh my god. That’s Matt Eversmann.”

So I’m scared to death because I’m going back to turn in my score card which has nothing on it. I actually didn’t know whether I’d see him. I was just expecting, okay, some sergeant’s gonna get up in my face and tell me how awful it is that I got lost and how if I got lost in combat while I was commanding troops everybody would die, so I just figured, “Okay, I’m about to be humiliated. That’s fine. I’m soaking wet. I just want to change into dry underwear. Whatever.”

So I’m in line, I get to the front and I realize it’s Master Sergeant Matt Eversmann who I have to turn my card into and then I’m just feeling humiliated because I figure all he’s about to know about Cadet Kander is that he sucks at land nav, and that seemed mortifying. So I get up to the front of the line and he looks down at me and he says, “How’d you do, Cadet?” I said, “Not well, Sergeant. I got zero points.” I’m bracing myself. He says, “Well, you still got your weapon.” I had it over my shoulder. I said, “Yes, Sergeant.” And he slaps me on the back and he says, “Success. Get in here. It’s freezing out there. We got coffee in here.”

So I get in there and some officer comes in, a lieutenant comes in, and is demanding to know why a bunch of cadets have been given hot chocolate and coffee and Master Sergeant Eversmann pipes up and he says, “I did it, sir.” He says, “You don’t have to train a soldier how to be miserable, they already know.” Of course, given his level of experience, the officer had nothing to say to Master Sergeant Eversmann about that.

For me, the lesson was a guy like Sergeant Eversmann with what he had seen and done, he had no desire whatsoever, no need to feel that he had to prove himself to any of us, and he had the perspective to understand that we all knew that if we didn’t get any points to turn in that we knew we screwed up and we were soaking wet and we were freezing, but there was no learning point in being hard on us, and in fact I think the learning point he decided to teach us was you gotta care about your people, and you don’t gotta prove yourself, because that’s what it is to be a real tough guy is to not have to show anybody.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and you obviously learned and probably grew in your respect far more than him getting in your face, as you said, would have ever done.

Jason Kander: Yeah, absolutely.

John Jantsch: I think that’s a true, again, going back to entrepreneurs, I think that is a true leadership lesson. Part of it is reading the situation, but also clearly taking care of your people is a big part of what you have to do in a company.

So, there are a lot of lines where you have bolded them or put them in bigger text, and they just really jump out inside the chapters. There’s one that I think applies to so much of what we’re experiencing today I think, and it is “Your dignity, unlike your integrity, is negotiable.” I think that’s a lesson then, I don’t know if you have a story that I can bring forward with that, but I think that’s a lesson that, boy, integrity seems to be hard to find in a lot of corners today.

Jason Kander: Yeah. What I was trying to get across there is that there’s a lot of people who when they run for office or as entrepreneurs when they start going out to pitch or … and I think this is particularly true by the way both of politicians and entrepreneurs who have been in an environment where, maybe it’s a corporate environment where they were successful and they had a lot of help around them, and they didn’t really find themselves in a position where they had to ask for things and had to put themselves out there, that they frequently will … it feels like they are mistaking dignity and integrity for being the same thing when they’re not. You should never compromise your integrity under any circumstances. I make that point several times in the book, but I also make the point that it ain’t the same thing as dignity.

One of the stories I tell in the book is about when I was Secretary of State of Missouri and I had to go into the office of a state legislator who controlled the purse strings of our office, who chaired the committee on appropriations that decided whether we had the resources to do the important work that we were doing, and there were many things about that experience, and I’ll let people read the book, there’s some funny parts to that where it’s pretty demeaning, but nothing about it is compromising my integrity, it’s just … it’s a little demeaning and so it compromises my dignity, but that should be completely worth it. I should be … if it is a good cause, if it doesn’t compromise my integrity at all, I should be more than willing to cash in any level of personal dignity to do the right thing for somebody else. It doesn’t hurt me at all to do that.

Another place where I talk about that a lot is I’m pretty open in the book about what it’s like to have to go around the country and fund raise for a competitive United States senate campaign, and just one of the things I talk about is dragging my little rolling suitcase behind me everywhere I go all the time and how I always wanted to just plop it up on the table at the beginning of a meeting and say something like, “Wait until you see these vacuums.” Because I just felt like a traveling salesperson, but I believed in the mission and I never would have compromised my integrity to raise money, but look, it’s not always the most dignified process. You gotta get over that.

That’s what I see new candidates for office struggle with a lot. When they tell me things like, “I think I could do all of it. I’m really good at all of this, but I’m not very … I’m not sure I could do the fundraising.” I always tell them, “Why not? It’s just staying on the phone. That’s all it is. It’s just being willing to be dogged.” They’re like, “Well, asking people for money.” I’m like, “Well, you should never ever compromise your integrity. You should never do anything for a contribution, but that’s how our system works right now until we change it. If you want to do the right thing for people, you’re probably gonna have to go out there and do the work that it takes to win your campaign.”

John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits? That stuff’s hard, especially when you’re a small business. Now, I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big, corporate companies and I always felt like a little tiny fish, but now there is a much better way. I switched over to Gusto and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited-time deal. If you sign up today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/tape.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to the back cover of a book and read one of the blurbs, but I want to do this one because I think it’s … it works. “After reading this book, I concluded Jason Kander is too funny and too smart to be in politics. His motives are suspect and he should be removed from public service immediately,” Jimmy Kimmel. Where did that come from?

Jason Kander: It was very nice of him. I know Jimmy through a mutual friend and got to know him a little bit and asked him to read the book and he did and I guess it made him laugh, which made me feel really good about the book to be honest. That was a big compliment coming from him.

John Jantsch: That’s awesome. I want to dive into another one of those things that jumped out at me, and again, I think a lot of business owners, they get so, “Here’s our idea. We’re going this way. Who’s with me? We’ll never quit,” and at some point somebody has to tell them, “You know, you might be wrong about this idea.” I think that admitting that you might be wrong and that doesn’t mean giving up on your dream, but not always having to be right is an amazing leadership lesson. How did that … hopefully I again jogged your memory again on the point you were trying to make there, but that one really stood out to me.

Jason Kander: Yeah. There’s a few different stories in the book about that and it definitely is relevant … before I get into the story, it’s definitely relevant to entrepreneurs. I have not been an entrepreneur but as you know, I’m married to one, and Diana now, my wife, does a lot of innovation consultant work, and it’s always interesting to either overhear or to hear about her conversations with entrepreneurs who are just sure that they have a billion dollar idea, and when someone questions it, not in a mean way, but just the way entrepreneurs need, just sort of, “Oh, have you thought about this?”, the ones who are gonna be successful are the ones who don’t take that questioning as “I just need to convince you,” but instead are the ones who are like, “Oh, let me think about that. Let me go back and see if that works.”

My favorite story from that section of the book is I talk about how my mom picked my brothers and I up, my brother and I up from baseball practice and we were in seventh grade and we’re driving back home and she asked, out of nowhere, she says, “What would you boys think about it if a girl played on your baseball team?” We didn’t quite understand at that point yet that the objective in our life was soon to be to spend more time, not less, around girls and so we very stupidly and immaturely said, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” and she was like, “Why not?” I think my brother said, “Well, it’s tradition. Girls don’t play baseball.” The lesson that my mom then taught us was she pulled the car over and she kind of smiled and she opened the car door and said, “I guess y’all better walk.” We were very confused and she said, “It’s tradition. Girls don’t drive.” She didn’t make us walk home, but we got the point.

It also was just kind of a way of delivering to me the message that something that you were really sure of might not be right at all, and really, my mom had … she was a huge supporter of ours, she came to every game and every sport, but until that moment, she had never had an opinion on anything we did in sports, because I don’t think she really cared. She just was there to support us and that was the first time she did and it really stuck out to us.

Then I talk about how I carried that through life in a lot of different ways in the book, but probably one of the more fun stories there is a story I tell … fun now, in retrospect, a story I tell about when I was in Afghanistan. I was working as an intelligence officer and I was sitting with the Attorney General of Afghanistan and I was in this meeting with an FBI agent and she and I were meeting with him, talking about these things and he had this gentleman sitting next to him who was from eastern Afghanistan, spoke no English, the Attorney General of Afghanistan spoke English very well, he had gone to school in America, and he says to us at one point, because he’s talking about this gentleman, he says, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t speak a word of English,” and he says, “He is very corrupt and has been involved in several unsuccessful attempts to kill me,” assassination attempts. We were a little weirded out by that but we just made sure not to make eye contact with the gentleman. We all kind of laughed, like, “Oh, this is funny,” and in fact this gentleman he was talking about even laughed to indicate he understood a joke was told, but clearly didn’t seem to understand any English.

So then my partner I was with, the FBI agent, she goes outside to have a cigarette and this other gentleman decides he’s gonna leave, and he leaves and then she looks kind of shaken when she comes back and when we get in the vehicle to leave she tells me that she got out there, bummed a cigarette from her or something and they stood there in silence for a while, and then in perfectly unaccented English asked her where she’s from and tells her about his farmland in Nebraska. To me, that was a lesson I learned in always be very careful of what you assume is absolutely right because the Attorney General of Afghanistan had clearly made some dangerous assumptions about his subordinate there.

John Jantsch: I’m gonna give you one more and, again, this just hits so home for me with what it is … you know, a lot of times as entrepreneurs, certainly in politics, it’s easy to get caught up in people telling you how great you are, but you live your life with your family and friends and not your accomplishments.

Jason Kander: Yeah, that’s actually a quote from Royal’s third baseman, hall of famer, George Brett, from his Hall of Fame induction speech and I’m a big George Brett fan. Yeah, to me, in that … I don’t remember the exact story really that comes out though there’s several. I guess for me, the biggest thing I remember from that lesson that I was trying to get across is that it’s important, and everybody has said this, everybody always says, “It’s important to be able to slow down and appreciate your family and those things,” and I was getting that point across but I also wanted to get across some things like the most memorable stuff for me has been the human moments where I’ve been able to make a difference in people’s lives.

A big part of why I decided to run for mayor of Kansas City is because every campaign that I’ve been a part of, every office that I’ve held, it feels like so often when a voter or a constituent brings me an issue so often, I’ve actually had to respond to with “Well, you know, that’s more of a city issue,” because I’ve been at the state level. I think that the best opportunity I have to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives is if I’m fortunate enough to be elected mayor.

One of the stories I tell there is that when I was Secretary of State, we were able to do a lot of things that looked big and so much sweeping policy changes, but one of the things that sticks out most to me is driving home one day from Jefferson City and I see this gentleman on the side of the road holding a sign, and it was pretty clear to me that he was a veteran, he was my age and sometimes we can just kind of spot each other. It’s a military [inaudible] thing. He was homeless. I got out and I talked to him for a bit.

I won’t tell the whole story, but at the end of it what was clear was our office was able to help him and he ended up getting on his feet and a few months later he came to the office to visit and we talked for a while and as we were walking out, he asked me not only why I had stopped to talk to him but why I had stopped several times. I kind of kept at it to convince him to accept our help and I told him, I said, “Look, it’s just timing. If things had gone a little differently for me in Afghanistan, had gone more like how they went for you in Iraq,” he had been wounded and struggled with PTSD afterwards and traumatic brain injury. I told him, “It would have been me standing on the side of the road and it would have been you driving by,” and he said, “Yeah, I would have stopped for you.” I said, “I know.”

That’s the kind of stuff that really stuck for me is we were able to make a difference in his life and that’s only one person, but it was the relationship that I had the opportunity to develop with him that … that’s one of the things I’ll always remember from being Secretary of State.

John Jantsch: You want to tell us a little bit about Let America Vote?

Jason Kander: Sure. Thanks, I’m happy to. So about a year and a half ago I started Let America Vote. Our mission is to create political consequences for voter suppression, which really means that it’s our job when there are politicians in office who make it harder to vote, we make it harder for them to get reelected, and we do that by running boots on the ground campaigns against them. There are folks, unfortunately, across the country and I’m not trying to be partisan, it’s just a fact. This is a Republican party strategy. I am a Democrat and all that, but this is just a fact. Republicans have decided, the top of the party Republican officials, have decided that if they can make it harder for certain groups of people to vote, groups of people who they think have a bad habit of not voting Republican very often, then they can make it a little easier for themselves to get reelected. I just think that’s un-American and wrong and so rather than just battle them in court, which is still important and there’s a lot of good groups doing that, we decided that we wanted to also take that argument beyond the court of law and into the court of public opinion, so we knock on doors and make phone calls for pro-democracy candidates who are running against candidates that are making it harder to vote.

John Jantsch: Is there a website for folks who want to support?

Jason Kander: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. Yeah, they can go to Letamericavote.org.

John Jantsch: So you kind of touched on this, you’re running for mayor in Kansas City, Missouri. That would be in the spring of 2019, is that right? Did I get that right?

Jason Kander: That’s right.

John Jantsch: Dependent upon when you’re listening to this is why I put that date in there, you were a statewide office holder in Missouri. You ran for senate and quite frankly had it been a little different time you probably would be serving in the United States Senate right now. President Obama called you the future of the Democratic Party. It didn’t seem like this is where we were gonna see your name on a ballot next. Any thoughts on that?

Jason Kander: Yeah. A lot of people had some very flattering theories and ideas as to what they thought I might do next, and just as I was saying a moment ago, over the years so many people have come to me with issues that were really city issues that I really wanted to be able to dig in and solve because they seem to be the stuff that was making the biggest difference in people’s lives and that’s what I’m most excited about, is being able to here in my home town, my family got to Kansas City in the 1880s, I’m a fifth generation Kansas Citian. My wife and I are raising a sixth generation Kansas Citian, my son, True.

The opportunity to try and make a difference for people in a real meaningful way in my home town is really exciting to me and it’s something I’m really passionate about and I’m really enjoying the campaign quite a lot. My vision for the city, where I want us to go, is I want to take all this progress that we have and it’s been great, my friend Sly James, our current mayor, is term limited, he’s done a tremendous job. I just want to take as much of that progress as we can and leverage it, continue that progress, but also leverage it to make a difference in the lives of people who haven’t seen that progress in their lives yet. There’s plenty of places in our town where that’s the case and we’ll know we got there when there’s nobody in Kansas City who feels like in order to live the life they want and they deserve who feels like in order to do that they’ve got to move out of town or across town to make it happen. I’m pretty passionate about that. Thanks for the chance to talk about it.

John Jantsch: Well you bet, and we’ll have links to all the stuff we talked about in the show notes, and just one parting thing. A couple years ago I went to the Royals fantasy camp down in Arizona prior to the season and George [inaudible] was my coach.

Jason Kander: I went this past January. He was not my coach, but it was a great experience. He was there and at one point … I went with my brother and my brother’s 6’5″ and a really good athlete and I was at one point okay at baseball. Now I’m less good. It turns out a lot of these skills are pretty perishable. Anyway, so we played Brett’s team and so I come up and I hit it straight back to the pitcher and I’m coming back from first base and George Brett’s like, “It was a good swing, though, Jason.” I’m like, “No, it really wasn’t,” and he’s like, “No, no it wasn’t.” He was being honest but trying to be charitable and then my brother comes up and he misses a home run by like a foot and I’m shooting video on my phone and immortalized, what we will always have, we idolized George Brett growing up, and we will always have this video of Mel just stroking this ball and you can hear in the background George Brett go, “Oh, nice hit, Mel,” and clearly really means it. So he’s got that over me now.

John Jantsch: Well Jason, thanks for joining me. We probably better let people go and hopefully we will catch up with you and have a beer in KC.

Jason Kander: All right. Thanks so much.

Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In

Becoming a Great Leader, No Matter What Field You’re In written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Jason Kander
Podcast Transcript

Jason KanderSince recording this interview, Jason Kander announced that he was taking a step back from political life to deal with depression and PTSD symptoms he was experiencing as a result of his tour in Afghanistan. Kander bravely and candidly addressed his decision, in an effort to destigmatize mental illness and to encourage others to get the help they need.

My guest this week on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Jason Kander. He is a former Army Captain and New York Times bestselling author of Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Everyday Courage. In the book, he discusses his time in the military and how he applies the lessons he learned while serving in his everyday life.

Upon returning from his tour in Afghanistan, Kander returned to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and became involved in politics. He served as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013 and became the 39th Secretary of State for Missouri in 2013; a position he served in until 2017. At the time of this interview, he was running for mayor of Kansas City.

In addition to his work in Missouri politics, Kander founded Let America Vote, a grassroots campaign to combat voter suppression nationwide.

Questions I ask Jason Kander:

  • What’s the benefit to admitting that, as a leader, you might be wrong?
  • What are some of the specific takeaways from your military life that one can apply to entrepreneurship?
  • Why are you drawn to local politics?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why fear is not an effective leadership tactic.
  • The difference between dignity and integrity, and why one is negotiable while the other is not.
  • Why it’s dangerous for leaders to forget about humility.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Jason Kander:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Transcript of Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

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Transcript

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John Jantsch: You know, leadership might be the hardest job for an entrepreneur. You’ve got to decide that you want that job, you have to understanding that it’s an obligation, and let’s face it, it is hard work everyday. It’s not for the meek.

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, we are gonna talk about the leadership contract and everything that you need to do to make leadership a part of your culture.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by CloudPhone. You can get big-time, modern, virtual phone functionality at a fraction of the cost. In fact, keep listening, I’m gonna tell you how to get 50 percent off.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Vince Molinaro. He is a business strategist, author of three books, including the book we’re gonna talk about today, The Leadership Contact: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader. So Vince, thanks for joining me.

Vince Molinaro: Thanks so much John for the opportunity.

John Jantsch: So let’s … So often there are key words in the titles of books that need to be unpacked a little bit. Let’s unpack this word, “contract.” What exactly is a leadership contract?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it’s really came about from working with a lot of my clients globally who had been investing a lot in leadership development, but not see it translate into stronger leadership within their organizations. And they were kinda saying, “What’s going on?”

And as I spent time really thinking about it, I think what I believe we need to do is help leaders understand that when they take on a leadership role, they’ve actually signed up for something really, really important. And I kinda use the term, it’s a contract.

But, a lot of leaders aren’t really consciously aware that they’ve done it. And, in fact, what I think many of us have done either to get the promotion, to get the increase in pay, to get the better title, is it’s more the analogy of an online contract. Wen you kinda are online conducting any transaction that window pops up with all the terms and conditions, and if you’re like 93% of the people on the planet, as studies show, you just kinda click “agree” and never read what the contract actually entails and what you’re really held to.

So, the contract says essentially that. That there is a contract, you gotta be aware of it, and it comes with four terms and conditions that you’ve gotta understand and internalize as a leader.

John Jantsch: So before we get into some of those, you don’t pull many punches in this book. You call people out that leadership is broken in a lot of organizations. Is that because of some of the things you allude to? Is that society? Is that people really misunderstanding what it means to be a leader?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s, to me, that that’s what is the most fundamental question I find I have with my clients is what does it really mean to be a leader today? Because the role is more complicated because our world is more complicated. Leaders are under more pressure, more expectations.

So the role has gotten bigger, more challenging, but I don’t know if we’ve really kept up with our thinking about what is it that I need to do individually, or what do we need to collectively as a group of leaders, to really lead our company. And I think we’ve got some baggage from the old days when we used to promote people because they were good at something technical. Best sales person, best analyst, best accountant, best engineer, whatever. Or because they stuck around the longest. They had the most tenure. And we would move people into leadership roles for those reasons, but not because they were great leaders.

And so today, because the role is so demanding, I think we gotta pause and think a little bit about what have you signed up for.

So the book is pretty direct. It does challenge people in leadership roles. And yet what I have found in all my work, and my talks with leaders everywhere, is they’re really resonating with it because they acknowledge, yeah, it is a tough job. I can’t go into it lightly, I have to really pause, and I have to make sure it’s right for me. And if it’s not then I need to kind of find another way to add value to my company.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think that’s a real challenge because I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and people that get started because they have an idea, or an ability to do something. And they, in some ways, didn’t really sign up to be a leader. They don’t like that part of it and they’d rather they didn’t have to do that. But, in a lot of ways, that’s the job, right?

Vince Molinaro: Well, exactly right. And that’s sort of why the first term of a leadership contract is that it’s a deliberate decision that you have to make. And you have to know yourself well enough, know what the role demands, what the company demands of you, and then make sure that you’re up for it, right? Or make sure you’re really ready to do what’s necessary to really step up effectively.

So I think in those instances that that is a decision that one does need to make. But, you know, the expectation now … What’s interesting is, we’re expecting everyone to be a leader, even employees. I’ve got a lot of clients that say, “No, we need everyone to step up.”

So that expectation is being put across. So I don’t even know if we have that, “Wow, you know, I wanna do this, but not that.” I think that is true in some cases. But, I think we gotta understand that we’re expecting everyone to step up in more significant ways, because I think that’s what companies need to be successful today.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and sort of with that though, we need to sort of break down the idea of the hierarchal leadership I suppose. And if you’re talking about everyone needs to be a leader, I mean that’s like describing the culture, isn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, that’s a great point. You know, that’s the other variable here is that the model of leadership has really shifted and evolved. So, certainly when I started my career years ago, it was a very hierarchical model. And the leadership strength was concentrated at the top, and they were the ones that kinda came up with the strategy and communicated the orders. And everyone else just kinda did their jobs with their small teams, and that worked for a long time.

But, in today’s world, what our clients really say is, “The world is more complex. One or two years at the top isn’t enough. We need leadership to be strong in every seat, every chair in our organization.” And that’s I think because, as you say, I think that model of leadership has really evolved and changed, and keeps evolving and changing.

John Jantsch: Accountability is a huge theme in your book. And, you know, as I read the book I was kinda struck with the point that I don’t know gets made enough by a lot of people in that accountability works both ways. That the leaders have to be accountable, but then they have to really demand, or at least expect, accountability in return.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s the other part of the leadership contract that is theme of so much of the books that are written, and there are some great books written about leadership, really try to map out here’s what the great leaders do. And that stuff is important to know and understand, but when you really come down to it I think this connection between accountability and leadership is fundamentally there.

Human beings, that’s what we do, right? We see someone who we define as a leader, we hold them to a higher standard of behavior, that’s the contract. And if they don’t live up to that standard of behavior, like we see leaders involved in scandal or corruption, or bad behavior, we get frustrated, disappointed, and we immediately ask for accountability. That person needs to account for their behavior.

So I think that connection has always been there. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new idea that I’m bringing forward. But, I think we have to make accountability now more front and center in leadership. Because as you say, those two things are really connected closely together. And I have to … In the leadership contract is my contract with myself to be an accountable leader, but then I have to set the tone for others and demand accountability in those that I work with and those that I lead.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and it’s a tough job as a leader, of course, because you can’t get away with the “Do as I say, not as I do.” And I’m sure many, many people have worked for organizations where that frustration was felt because we were supposed to be a customer-first company and boss does nothing but complain about the customers, and that makes it really tough to do your job, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think we’re always looking for our leaders, or looking to our leaders, to set the tone. And then when they sort of come up with, you know, different rules for everyone else than themselves, then they’re not being accountable. And we can kinda sniff it out. And I’ve always found interesting little kids. When they’re four and five, they’re really good at calling out adults, right? They’re saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not fair. You’re asking me to do this, but you’re not doing it yourself.”

And so I think it’s, again, hard wired in us as humans that we kind of demand that accountability and we demand that integrity between this is what you’re saying we need to be doing, and yet you’re not doing it yourself. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. So I think that’s just hard wired in us.

John Jantsch: So, you’ve alluded to a couple of the elements. Make the decision, hard work ethic, we’ve talked about, obligation. The one that I think is really intriguing to me is your fourth element is community. So, I didn’t mean to steal your thunder there with the four things, but if you wanna lighten those up a little bit and then maybe expand on that idea of community.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well as you said, the first term is you’ve gotta make that decision. That kind of visceral decision to define yourself as a leader and know that you’re kind of all-in and fully committed.

The second one is, it comes with obligation and you’ve gotta live up to those obligations because we expect a lot from our leaders. We’ve talked about that.

As you said, the third one is that it’s hard work and you’ve gotta have the resilience and resolve to tackle the hard work. And a lot of the hard work is around the people stuff, right? Giving candid feedback, managing poor performers, making tough decisions that might be unpopular for you but important for the organization and you must do it.

And then the third term says that leadership is a community. It gets back to what we talked about. It’s the model of leadership has evolved, you know? And while companies might still organize themselves as a hierarchy, how we get work done now is less vertical and much more horizontal. So we’re working together across lines of business, across departments, across functions more than ever before. And that’s because, I think, our problems are more complex that we have to solve. The customer issues need different perspectives and we’ve gotta bring the best minds together.

The Corporate Executive Board has done some research and surveying among leaders, and they’re reporting that collaboration has gone up 60% for most leaders day-to-day, and that more and more what I need to be successful is less on my own effort, it’s more on what does John do to make my team successful? What does Mary do to make my team successful? We’re much more dependent on others for our own success.

And so, as a result, the idea of building a strong leadership culture where leadership is not just strong at the top, but across the whole organization, becomes more and more critical. And so this idea of a community is really, I think, the model of the future and that’s really what I talk about.

And in many ways, that’s kinda the promise of the leadership contract is to say, “You gotta get your leadership act together,” and then you kinda commit to making the community strong. Do your part, but work with colleagues across the organization to execute the strategy, to be agile, to drive innovation, all those things that companies are really working hard to drive and be successful.

John Jantsch: You know, it’s funny. The last few years there have been a lot of management consultants charging a lot of money to train leaders how to work with this next generation of workers coming in, the millennials coming in. And I think what you just described is really that. That that’s actually just become a preferred way to work and so a lot of organizations have been caught off guard because they haven’t worked that way, and it’s been tough for them to attract or keep folks that want to work that way.

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think it’s a great point. I think what has also been missed, right, because you know the millennials have gotten a lot of attention. And I think, sometimes, there’s been what I call a lot of “millennial bashing,” right? We’ve been kinda pointing out that they’re not motivated, they’re not this, they’re not this, they’re not that. We’ve … My team and I have done global research and leadership accountability is a global problem. And it’s not as … Leadership is not as strong, nowhere near as strong, as we need it to be. And it’s in fact, quite mediocre.

So now, imagine a millennial coming into a company who has high aspirations to kinda wanna change the world, have a real impact, and now they’re working for a leader that is mediocre. Well, of course their motivation is gonna be affected. And what millennials have done that we don’t really, I think, fully appreciate is unlike Gen X and even Boomers, they’ve come in expecting to work for great leaders. And when they find a great leader, they’re actually fairly loyal. And, you know, they may not be there for 20 years, but you can really, you know, get a lot from them. And they’re prepared to roll up their sleeves, and be pretty loyal, and pretty committed, and do great work.

But, if they don’t find it what they do is they leave. And I think Gen X did a little bit of that, but Boomers just stuck it out no matter how bad it was. And so that perpetuated a lot of mediocrity, a lot of bad leadership, because we never were forced to pay attention to it.

I’m really curious to see, because you know the research just came out in the last few weeks from Bloomberg that says that next year, in fact, Gen Z, Generation Z, is actually going to outnumber millennials. And so as they start coming into the workplace, it’ll be curious to see what happens. Because to me, that generation actually should be called Generation L. They should be called the Leadership Generation because they’re coming in to organizations already with ideas and thinking around leadership, more leadership development, more expectations of leadership than any other of the previous generation. So it’ll be curious to see when they come in. They’ll just kinda, “What’s all this talk about leadership?” Because they don’t know any other way on how to behave. They know how to network, they know how to collaborate like millennials. So, I think that’s gonna be another change in our workplaces over the next decade as both millennials and Gen Z start making up more and more of our employee base.

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So, if I’m listening to this and I’m a leader of any type, but certainly a lot of my listeners are running small businesses, are there some best practices for getting this thinking started? I mean, it’s tough. If you’ve run your company a certain way for 10 years, and then you read this book, and you go, “Okay, now I’ve got it.” It obviously becomes a process, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s not an overnight start.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think what’s really interesting is that’s where a small- to medium-sized enterprise actually has a lot of advantage over large companies. I’ve been in a couple of … I’ve been in three startups in my career and what I find is that oftentimes you just get naturally strong leadership because there’s an idea from the founder, from that entrepreneur or business model that’s really compelling. It just attracts people to say, “I wanna work with this person.”

And so, the early days are actually pretty easy and the best practices are always kinda in place, right? And I remember I joined a pharma company that was just starting out, a pharmaceutical company, and my first day on the job the head product manager came to me saying, “Okay, here’s how we work.” We had our pixelated and our five values, so you gotta live up to these five values. And how we worked everyday is you’re coming into a meeting, we’re not taking any notes, there’s no minutes, your job is to hear what’s going on, figure out what you need to do, and get it done. That’s how we go. Let’s go. And that was it.

And yes, there was everybody that was there in the early days were just so aligned and committed to those core ideas that we got … we grew really quickly until we hit about 150 employees. And as the research shows, that’s a funny number with human beings that once you hit that number then all of a sudden you start actually behaving like a pretty big company. Start getting a bit more bureaucratic, more process and rules get into place. You need that in order to hit your next level of growth.

And so the thing that I suggest in the book, I think, apply. The first thing is, you’ve gotta respond individually. You’ve gotta commit to being an accountable leader. Can really think about what that’s gonna look like. And then as an organization, you have to define what are the expectations we have of our leaders. What are the three, four, five things that we expect leaders to be and do in our company? You gotta really articulate that clearly so you can attract the people who are aligned to that vision. And then you can kinda start identifying who are the people demonstrating that so we can promote them. And that becomes important.

So it really gets down to that. In fact, our global research has found only about half of the companies have set clear expectations of their leaders. And so, if you do that as an entrepreneur, it already sets you apart from the rest.

And then the other thing that needs to happen is the opposite. So the expectations kinda set the vision of the future which inspires. But then, if you find leaders who are mediocre, who just are struggling interesting heir role and they’re not really stepping up, you gotta address that. You gotta address that. And what our research has also found, it only … One in five, about 20%, of the people who responded to our survey globally said that their organization had the courage to address the mediocre leaders. And so what they do is they say in conversations they say, “Well, we know who they are. We just don’t know how to do anything about it, so we’ll just leave them in their job.” And the second you leave a mediocre leader in their role, you’ve communicated to everybody that mediocrity is fine. You’re gonna tolerate a low bar. And then, that just puts you on a slippery slope which becomes a problem.

So, I think you gotta make that decision yourself to step up and be an accountable leader when you’re an entrepreneur and a business leader. And then, you gotta set those expectations for others. Create them for your company so you attract the best, those who really aligned already to your way of thinking. And that already will set you off a direction that will be pretty compelling and exciting for even a small company.

John Jantsch: And I think you just probably nailed one of the hardest parts of the hard work is that idea of something that feels confrontational. A lot of times it’s just easier to not have that hard conversation. And I agree with you 100% that that just sort of festers, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it does. And what it does is it slows us down. So in the book, I talk about the hard rule of leadership that says that what we don’t often appreciate as leaders is that when we avoid some of tough things, and they’re legitimately tough, right? Running a successful company is not easy. There are tough things. But, when we avoid those tough things, and we know a lot of leaders do, we don’t fully appreciate how it makes us weak as leaders, weakens our teams, and weakens ultimately our company. But, if you have the courage to tackle those issues and make progress, you really drive greater success.

Because if you don’t address those things, they kinda weigh you down. They’re always kinda like you’re carrying this big boulder on your back and on your shoulders, and they just kinda wear you down. But, if you chip away at them, you kind of lighten the load.

John Jantsch: So let’s finish up today making the correlation between this type of accountability, this type of leadership contract, and improved performance. Certainly, your work has hopefully returned some correlation.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well in fact our global research has revealed that … We surveyed over 3,000 organizations worldwide and we asked in the survey to self-identify … the respondents to self-identify is your company … talk about your company’s performance over the last three years. And in the last three years, were you an industry leader, top quartile, were you above average, average, below average, or a lagger at the bottom quartile?

And when we analyzed the data it was fascinating. The industry leaders completely set themselves apart from everyone else. What was most surprising, even above average performing companies, which are pretty good, look more like poor performing companies than they actually look like industry leading companies. So when we cut the data to compare everyone else against the industry leaders, we found that the industry leaders are far more satisfied, over two times more satisfied, with the leadership accountability in their companies.

They’ve done a much better job, almost two and a half times better job, of setting clear expectations for their leaders. And, in turn, they have over two times more satisfaction, or confidence, that they have more leaders fully committed to their roles as leaders. So we’re really starting to see a strong connection between having really strong and accountable leaders in place, and a company’s performance. We’re gonna be doing more research to really delve into that, but already we’re starting to see that connection.

And in many ways, it makes perfect sense, right? If you have a group of highly mediocre leaders, they’re never gonna get you there, right? Just the math will never work. And so that’s, I think, what’s becoming more and more apparent is we pay a price for tolerating mediocrity.

Now, a lot of leaders don’t necessarily choose to be mediocre. They’re in conditions that are [inaudible] or the company hasn’t set clear expectation, or they’ve never been supported in their development. It’s not all on leaders. And that’s why I say there’s things leaders obviously must do, but the organization and the companies must support them as well. You need that dual responsibility.

But, that connection is very clear in my mind now between strong accountability among leaders and company performance.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Vince Molinaro, the author of The Leadership Contract. So Vince, where can people find out more about you and your work?

Vince Molinaro: Certainly they can reach out on LinkedIn. There’s also www.theleadershipcontract.com. And on there is really the information about the books, the information about the work I do, and a number of resources that people can download to learn more about how to bring these ideas into either their roles, into their teams, and into their organization.

John Jantsch: Great book, Vince. Thanks for joining us, and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road someday.

Vince Molinaro: Well, thanks for making time, John. I really appreciate it and some great questions. I had a lot of fun. Thanks so much.

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Vince Molinaro
Podcast Transcript

Vince MolinaroMy guest this week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is Vince Molinaro. He is an expert on creating a healthy, resilient leadership culture, and is the author of the best-selling book The Leadership Contract: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader.

Molinaro is the global managing director of leadership transformation at Lee Hecht Harrison and is also a regular keynote speaker at conferences and corporate retreats.

On today’s episode, we talk about the elements that make up great leadership, and how you can foster them in yourself and your organization.

Questions I ask Vince Molinaro:

  • What is a leadership contract?
  • Do we need to break down the hierarchical model of leadership?
  • What are the four terms of the leadership contract?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How leadership has evolved in our modern world.
  • Why accountability is a two-way street in the leadership contract.
  • How to begin the process of transforming your leadership approach.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Vince Molinaro:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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