Episode: The Top Lead to Win Highlights
Larry Wilson: Hi, I’m Larry Wilson, and this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today we have something a little different for you on the podcast. It’s a highlights show. Now, 2020 is just halfway over, but it feels like we’ve been through two years rather than just six months. A lot has happened. We’ve tried to address some of what’s taking place in our world and in our businesses here on the show.
With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to pull out some of the best bits of advice and insight of the last six months or so. Hopefully, you’ll find something new here or learn to apply it in a new way to your leadership. If you want more, we’ll have the links to all of the episodes mentioned in this show in our show notes today at leadto.win. So, let’s get started.
One of the things we’ve talked a lot about lately is crisis leadership and what it takes to lead in the face of resistance. Here’s Megan talking about one of the key elements of leadership. This is from Episode 117: How Successful Leaders Overcome Resistance.
Larry: The second tool is integrity.
Megan: This happened to us, actually, when we launched the Full Focus Planner. As a part of our vision script (the document that contains all of the components of our vision that you talk about, Dad, in The Vision Driven Leader), we have a vision for how we treat our customers. We want to create a “wow” customer experience. That lives under the marketing section of the vision script. That means we take total ownership of the experience our customers and clients have. The end-to-end experience is our responsibility to make excellent.
Well, in 2017, when we launched the Full Focus Planner, we created a preorder campaign for that, had many, many people a part of that. It was way more successful than we planned on, but as it became time to deliver on the date we had promised, there was an issue with the fulfillment. I don’t even remember the specifics of what went wrong, but at the time, it was like, “Oh, shoot! We are going to miss the day we said we were going to deliver these.”
Michael: I think it was a manufacturing deadline on the one hand, and then there was also…
Megan: Some kind of shipping issue.
Michael: Yeah, some kind of shipping issue.
Megan: Those two things together… I want to say we were at least a week or two past the date we had promised, and that’s the key word…promised our customers. We ended up deciding to expedite the shipping for those planners at our expense, and it cost us about $40,000, something we didn’t technically have to do. You could say, “Well, it wasn’t your fault.” But the truth is, as a matter of integrity, we had taken responsibility for the experience our customers had. That was part of our vision. So we decided to make that investment, really, in our vision and in our integrity for the sake of our customers, and it was hard.
Michael: It was hard. I think it’s not unusual. It has happened to me a couple of times. But when you have a vision, there’s always the temptation to somehow create a shortcut, somehow compromise your integrity. You can do it in small ways. We live in a world of compromise, and people say, “Well, it’s a little bit of a gray area. We didn’t really promise that” or “We didn’t get it in writing,” but the promise you make to your customer, the promise, if nothing else, that you make to yourself about achieving that vision… You really don’t want to compromise that.
Maintaining your integrity is important. Oftentimes, the thing I’ve seen, again, is that in maintaining your integrity, that becomes the lift that drives the vision forward. For us, I think it proved to our team and it proved to our customers that we were serious about this vision relating to their customer experience, that we were willing to reach into our own pockets, even if it meant $40,000 we didn’t anticipate spending, in order to make good on our word. That’s really what integrity is: making good on our word.
[End of clip]
Larry: There are a lot of metaphors for crisis leadership. I’ve heard it compared to fighting a battle or climbing a mountain or even facing a giant. In this clip, Michael comes up with his own metaphor for leading in crisis, and I really like it for two reasons. First, I think it really communicates the concept well, and secondly, we put some nifty sound effects behind it. This clip is also a great reminder of what your best asset is for leveling up your skill during a time of crisis especially. This is from Episode 116: How a Business Coach Can Help You Now.
Larry: You know, Michael, we’ve talked about the fact, as well, that during the Great Recession, 2008/2009, you were leading a pretty large publishing company at the time, and I know you had a coach going into that recession. Were you tempted to cut that expense?
Michael: Well, I certainly reviewed it, because everything was under review. We were trying to throw off all the ballast we could, because that was a difficult time. We were making difficult decisions about which teammates stayed, which had to go. We ended up laying off about 20 percent of our workforce. So, absolutely I did consider it, but in the end, I decided not to, and I decided not to because I felt like I needed somebody who could help me get through it.
I compare it to this. It’s like white-water rafting. Class I rapids are defined like this: moving water with small waves that tug at the boat. It’s a relaxing way to spend the day. You could probably do that without a guide. Frankly, that’s the economy we came out of. It was flourishing. Everything seemed easy, certainly in retrospect. Was it wise to have a coach? Sure. But a lot of people got by without one.
Class V rapids: waves up to four feet; long, difficult, narrow passages that require precise boat handling; spray frequently washing over the raft; huge rocks that obstruct the flow; constant spinning and turning; a real danger of capsizing. Now, would anyone in their right mind take that on without a guide? I don’t think so. In business, we were catapulted from Class I to Class V rapids in a matter of days. A month ago, it was a good idea to have a business coach. Now it’s imperative.
Megan: It’s funny, Dad. As you read that description, it’s the perfect metaphor for what we’ve just been through. I think people probably feel like you just read their mail, like, “That’s exactly how I felt.” It’s something that occurs in nature, but it’s also something we’ve all just been through together and we’re still going through in many ways.
We need to get beyond this idea that coaching is a luxury. This is not a perk just for high-level execs, like getting stock options or a company car or something like that. This is a normal part of intelligent business operations. Everybody needs ongoing training, and leaders are no different. In fact, I feel like the stakes are so much higher right now than they ever have been to get it right, to make the right decisions at the right time. There’s just not a lot of margin for error.
[End of clip]
Larry: We talked a lot about vision during the first quarter of 2020, and that was because, well, vision is always important, but also because Michael has a new book out called The Vision Driven Leader. That book was released on March 31, just after the worldwide pandemic really hit hard. Listening to this clip, it’s amazing how insightful Michael’s advice turned out to be as we’re all now dealing with how to move into a new future.
Megan: When you’re creating a vision, your perspective is that you’re standing in the future and describing what you see. You’re not looking around you in the present tense and describing what you see. That’s a very, very different thing. When we’re in the present, our attention is really limited. We’re focused on constraints, and those things are kind of driving what we think is possible. So, our current staffing, our current products, our current customers and market share. That’s a recipe, if you’re trying to create vision from the present, of creating incremental change.
That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with incremental change, but that’s not really what we’re talking about when we talk about vision. We’re talking about something much bigger than that. The other problem is it’s really hard to get people aligned around incremental change, because it’s just not that exciting. It’s, frankly, boring. That makes it really difficult to accomplish goals and accomplish big objectives if they’re just kind of a little bit better than they were last year or last month. It’s tough to get people on board for that.
Michael: One thing about standing in the future and describing what isn’t is, all of a sudden, you’re standing in the realm of possibility…not what is but what might be possible. In that realm, there really aren’t any constraints. The only constraints you bring into the future are the ones you drag from the present. So, if you can free yourself up from those, stand in the future, and begin to think, suspend disbelief about how it’s going to happen but begin to articulate what it is you see, that’s really where you get vision. That’s where you get excitement. That’s what drives businesses forward and creates the kind of growth we’re talking about today.
Larry: I love the story that’s in the book about the creation of Uber. That’s fascinating. Do you mind if I tell that real quick?
Michael: No. Please.
Larry: Well, there’s nothing new about a taxicab. They’ve been around literally since the automobile was invented, but one night in Paris, Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick couldn’t get a cab. Instead of trying to think of ways to put more cabs on the street, they said, “What if there’s a way to get a ride without a cab just by hailing it on your phone?” That thought was the genesis of Uber. That’s thinking about what isn’t, not what is.
Michael: The funny thing about it is… Talk about non-incremental change but exponential change. Uber is now the largest ground transportation company in the world, and they don’t own a single car.
Larry: That’s amazing.
[End of clip]
Larry: Understanding how to leverage the best in both your team and yourself is one of the key attributes of a leader. This question from our Q&A episode, which was Episode 106, really gets at the heart of this matter.
Larry: Okay. A question from Matthew A. Anderson. He asks, “Is it okay to request another position in the company if you just don’t have the passion or drive for the position you’re in now?”
Megan: Yes. Please request another position, because probably, if you have the self-awareness to realize that you don’t have the passion for the position you’re in, that’s kind of the first step to leaving or, hopefully not, finding yourself being terminated because there are issues in your performance.
I would always rather someone come to me and apply for another position or ask if there’s a way to adjust the position they’re in in some way so we both have a chance to collaborate and look for other opportunities rather than just have someone leave. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, but I’m disappointed when someone leaves because they’re dissatisfied with the position when that’s usually a solvable problem, if you’re in a large enough organization or a high growth enough organization, if you know ahead of time.
Larry: What would that kind of conversation sound like?
Megan: Well, if I were going to have this conversation myself, I think I would go to my supervisor and say, “Hey, I want to share something with you that I hope we can find a great win-win solution together about.” I would start with the things I love. “I love serving this company. These are the things I enjoy the most about my work here. These are the things I’m really grateful to have been a part of.
But one of the things I’m learning about myself is I feel like I can make my greatest contribution in this area, because while I’m proficient at doing this other thing, I’m lacking passion, and I know that passion and proficiency together are the duo that makes me really effective, that makes me able to make my highest and best contribution to the company. I know that’s what you care most about.
So, I’m just wondering if there are perhaps some other opportunities that exist or will be existing in the future that I could apply for or be considered for, because I love this organization and I want to stay, but I just don’t have that feeling that I’m making my greatest contribution.”
That language of contribution is really all about what you’re bringing to the table for the benefit of the company, not coming to the conversation with, “I don’t like my job, and it’s your job, as my direct supervisor, to fix that for me.” It’s not my job as your direct supervisor to fix that for you. That’s your problem.
Michael: The thing I would add to that is I think I would say to my supervisor, “Look. This isn’t urgent. This is something we can take some time to think through. I’m certainly not giving you an ultimatum, because I’m committed to the company and I’m willing to continue to serve in this role until we can find something else, but I’m just trying to give you a heads-up so we can make the best and highest use of me so I can benefit the company even more.”
Larry: It’s a little bit back to what you said a bit ago. It’s about selling. Show your boss or your supervisor what’s in it for them and for the company, not just you.
[End of clip]
Larry: Now let’s go all the way back to December 2019, which, honestly, feels like something out of a history book at this point. This clip features Megan Hyatt Miller and her husband Joel Miller, who is also the creator of the new Full Focus Pocket. Little did they realize at the time they recorded this, but just weeks later, many people were going to have to figure out how to manage work from home with both spouses finding space in the same house along with, in many cases, kids home from school.
This episode is called How to Have Two Successful Careers in One Happy Marriage. I really love this, because it’s such an important topic, especially now, and it’s really great to hear this from two people who are actually doing it very well.
Larry: Joel and Megan, here’s a concept I want to get your opinion on. Jennifer Petriglieri, in her book Couples That Work, mentions a concept called couple contracting. She says this involves in-depth discussions in three areas between partners: values, boundaries, and fears. She goes on to say negotiating and finding common ground in all three gives couples borders and direction for the path they will walk together. She refers to that as contracting. How does that strike you? Is that what you’re talking about, making a contract together, or a deal?
Joel: It is kind of like a deal, because if you think about it, all of those inherited social norms are all deals too. They just got struck without your awareness, and you’re just operating in terms of that contract. So, now that that contract is a little problematic to employ or maybe not even tenable in your own relationship, you have to kind of open it up and renegotiate it.
Megan: I like that idea. I haven’t read that book, but I’d like to. I think those are good categories, especially when you consider the fact that, really, emotions are part of what make this conversation so difficult. At the end of the day, deciding who’s going to unload the dishwasher and who’s going to pick up the kids and who’s going to take the dog to the vet are not, in and of themselves, inherently emotionally charged.
What we believe those things represent and who should do them and why we think a certain person should do them is where the difficulty is. So, I really like that, and I like thinking about a vision for your marriage and your partnership before you even get into this, because I think if you have a perspective of equality that’s really big and kind of exciting, like, “What could we do together if we were both 100 percent all in here and we weren’t just pushing stuff off on one person? What would that mean for us?”
Joel: I think the other side of equality, which sounds very angular at one level, is generosity. I remember reading an article by Emily Smith in The Atlantic years ago now called “Masters of Love.” It was about the way relationships work in terms of the most successful relationships. These scholars looked at marriages that were really successful, and they called those folks the masters, and they looked at folks who were not-so-great, and they called those folks the disasters.
If you wanted to be a master of love versus the disaster, kindness and generosity were the operative things that popped out in these relationships. So, when you think about generosity as a part of equality, like, “I’m going to give in order to help make this work,” I think that’s the easiest way to approach what equality might look like.
Megan: I love that, and I think that’s one of the things you have done really well and modeled in our marriage. We’ve been married, by the way, for just about 11 years. We have five kids, so we have some water under the bridge there. I think you have done a great job of choosing kindness and generosity when you could have chosen something else. I think that goes a long way to building trust for this conversation we’re talking about.
By the way, if you’re thinking, “Okay. All that’s great. I’m in. But how do I start this conversation?” here are a few tips for you. First of all, you need to practice self-awareness. Before you even get to the place of “Honey, we need to have a conversation about this,” you need to ask yourself, “What am I feeling? Why am I feeling that? What’s not working for me right now?” and get some perspective on your own internal landscape before you show up at this conversation.
Joel: Yeah. You actually do this well for me, which is to challenge my narratives. I have 62 stories going in my head at any one time, and at least four of them are true. You have a really good way of asking me the kinds of questions that enable me to get to that place of self-awareness where I’m actually questioning things in a useful way. The real step is: Can you do that on your own? Because you need to do it on your own sometimes. When you walk into a conversation and you’re not self-aware, that’s sort of like walking into a room with the lights off. You’re going to bump into the furniture.
Megan: That’s a good point. Also, you need to assume positive intent in your partner. This is a concept that comes out of one of our favorite business books called The Loyalist Team. It’s an idea where you’re committed to speaking candidly to each other, to telling each other the truth, but you’re doing it from a basis of trust, where you assume always that the other person has your best interests at heart, that they want good things for you, that their intentions were positive even if the outcome or the actions that followed those things were misguided or problematic in some way, which often they are, because we’re people.
But when you look at your spouse and you say, “I trust that you want what’s best for me, that you have my best interests at heart. Even though we’re not aligned on this right now and it’s not working, I trust who you are, even if I don’t like what you’re doing right now.” That’s a really good place to start from.
Joel: And if you know there’s a pre-commitment to kindness and generosity in your partner, then it’s really easy to trust them. Even if, like you said, there’s disagreement or misalignment, you at least know they want what’s best for you. You at least know they want to give and to be generous. If in that moment there’s no clear path to that or if in that moment that generosity failed somehow, that’s not a deep crisis; that’s just a circumstantial problem that needs to be solved.
[End of clip]
Larry: The next clip is from the episode titled How to Defuse Conflict Before It Begins. That was Episode 105, and in it, Michael and Megan explored five steps to defusing conflict: stop, probe, acknowledge, confess, and explain, which together create the acronym SPACE. Let’s listen as Megan and Michael take a deeper dive on step four.
Larry: That brings us to the fourth step, which is C…confess.
Megan: This is a tough one. This is where the rubber meets the road, whether you’re a spouse or a friend or a leader or a parent. This is the part where you have to acknowledge and affirm, confess, what it is you’ve done that was wrong. This is really unpopular in our culture. We’ve kind of gotten out of the habit of being able to admit when we’re wrong. The more of a power differential there is, as you said earlier in our conversation, the more difficult this can be, but if you don’t do this step, you will not get resolution.
There is a wonderful book, Dad, that you and I read years ago called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink all about taking ownership of your mistakes and the results that happen, particularly in your business. It’s through the lens of a Navy SEAL. One of our core values at Michael Hyatt & Company is total ownership. We believe that, as individuals, it’s our job to take total ownership for the outcomes we create in our business and in our personal lives.
That means being willing to say, “I am so sorry that I did [fill in the blank].” You’ve just repeated back what they understand to be the problem. This is where you own your contribution to that. It does not help you to diminish it or to make it smaller or to try to save face. That will only hurt you. This is the moment where you either build or undermine trust in a relationship.
Michael: One insight I got on this word confess was, frankly, from the Bible. The Greek word from which we get the English word confess means, literally, the same word. That’s the transliteration. So, to say the same word as somebody else, to agree with them. Again, maybe we disagree with 90 percent of it. This is not the time to correct their impression or to say, “Oh, you totally misunderstood me,” or whatever. No. It’s to agree with those things we can agree with and to literally ask forgiveness.
It might sound like this: “Megan, I’m so sorry that I did…” And then literally state it. “I’m so sorry I did [this].” Again, I think it’s important to use the same words inasmuch as you can. Use the same words they used so they feel like you’re confessing to the actual thing they’re charging you with.
Megan: Don’t pick a lesser word.
Michael: Right. “I’m sorry I made that mistake,” when it was a flat-out violation of a boundary.
[End of clip]
Larry: Our last clip is from Episode 113, which was released very early during the pandemic. Many of us have found ourselves working from home, and here, Megan offered one of those great “Wow, I never thought of that before” sort of tips. If you are working from home and struggling to keep your focus and tune out distractions, this is going to help.
Megan: This might be my very best tip of all, especially for those of us who are trying to figure out how in the world to get our work done with our kids home at the same time. For the last few weeks, I’ve been recording a couple of podcasts every week. I’ve been doing webinars, Facebook Lives, basically a bunch of livestreaming or live broadcasting where my kids walking in or having them loud right outside my door would not be a welcome thing.
My office is right at the front of my house next to my front door, so if the dog barks or if the kids are out there playing, you’re going to hear it. So, my solution is that I actually have two of these noise makers right outside my office door in the entryway of my house, tucked into a little corner, and the truth is I’m rarely distracted. This has been a huge lifesaver for me. I want to say they’re maybe around $40 apiece. You can get them on Amazon. They come in a bunch of different colors.
There’s something about the particular frequency they use that really is effective at cutting out background noise. If you have ever been to therapy or maybe even some kind of a doctor’s office, you will often see these in the hallway outside of doors, because they’re just that effective. For me, this is one of my real secrets to success when working at home when there are a bunch of other people at home.
Michael: This is something we actually use in our physical office as well. We haven’t been there in a month, but that’s something we use in our physical office, because our office is built for collaboration. It’s primarily a coworking space but just for our team. It does help create a psychological space when you don’t necessarily have a physical barrier. I want to mention one other option if you don’t want to buy the machine. I have the white noise application on my iPhone, and that’s actually great.
I use it every day when I take a nap. You know, this crisis is a good time to take a nap so you can stay rested and show up as the best version of yourself. The white noise generator, the white noise app, is a great way to do that. And it’s not just white noise. They have brown noise, which is my favorite. They have streams, rain, rivers, oceans, wind…I mean, a gazillion different kinds of sounds, whatever masks the distractions and the noisy stuff that would keep you from doing your best work.
Megan: I use the Dohm white noise machines when I’m trying to keep noise from coming into my office, particularly if I’m doing something like this, a broadcast or a recording of some type. But if I’m trying to focus and, therefore, I really don’t want to hear anything…I’m not so worried about the sound bleeding in, but I want to quiet my own mind…one of the tools I love is called [email protected], which is a subscription music service that has been engineered for productivity and focus. That’s something I learned about from a friend a long time ago and have really found it to be something I go back to over and over again. So, that’s another great solution.
Michael: Come on. You learned that from me. What do you mean, a friend?
Megan: It was from Stu, our buddy Stu.
Megan: Shout-out. Stu McLaren.
[End of clip]
Larry: Well, that’s it for this edition of Lead to Win. I hope you found some actionable insight in these highlights. Remember, we’ll also have links to all of the shows mentioned in our show notes today on leadto.win. Since Megan and Michael aren’t here with me today, I guess I’ll wrap it up with my own final thought.
I believe your best days as a leader are still ahead of you. We all know 2020 has been extremely challenging so far, but we’ve learned a lot, and I think we’re all better leaders today than we were on January 1. I really believe this can still be your best year ever. So, stay safe out there, and join us right here next week. Until then, lead to win.