How to Avoid Career Derailment with Carter Cast

Reading Time: 30 Minutes

About Carter Cast

Carter started his career at PepsiCo, where he became Director of Marketing for their Frito Lay subsidiary. He went on to lead as CEO from 2000-2007 and Hayneedle, Inc, from 2007-2011. Today Carter teaches innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University and invests in early stage tech companies through Pritzker Group Venture Capital.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.


Hi, I’m Allison Dunn, owner of Deliberate Directions your executive business coach. I am so excited today we have a fantastic guest here with us. His name is Carter Cast and he is the author of the Right and the Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade, and was listed as a must read list for 2018. I’m just going to quickly do a quick introduction of kind of your background so Carter started his career at PepsiCo, where he became director of marketing for their Frito Lay subsidiary. He then went on to lead from 2000 to 2007. During that time, Walmart became the third highest volume e commerce company, just short of Amazon and eBay, which is super impressive. He then served as CEO of Hay Needle which is an online retailer of home furnishings and decor. Today Carter is a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. And he also invests in early stage tech companies through Pritzker venture capital. Carter, thank you so much for being here with us today.


You’re welcome. Thank you, you bet.


I am a huge fan of this particular book. And the reason is, is because it is so pertinently appropriate for what happens to almost everyone as they grow in their leadership career. So what’s from idea of derailments? What inspired you to write this book?


You know, from an academic standpoint, I thought the topic was interesting because you’ve someone who teaches innovation and entrepreneurship, you look for good books that you can offer to the students and there’s so many books on leadership and how to books on leadership success, but there’s very few books that actually take a look at managerial and leadership failure and sort of dissect what happens to good people, when they run into career trouble. What about their situation or themselves, leads them into sort of choppy waters. And so I wrote a white paper on the on the topic of career derailment. And as part of my work in academics, and found that a lot of people were using a lot of the material, because there’s just not that much out there. That is, I think that’s been written on this. So I still had a lot to say, after I was done. I felt like there was a lot left to say, so I decided to write a book on it. So, you know, it’s a topic that I don’t think gets enough attention because it’s an uncomfortable topic. And secondly, um, you know, you and I encountered I’m sure as a career coach, you Do too all the time, you see great people who run into trouble. And so I started wondering, are there certain themes as to why good people run into trouble? And I found that there certainly are themes.


And can you for our listeners define what you mean by someone who’s a derailer?


Yeah, the term derailment. The way I defined it is somebody I didn’t look at people that weren’t talented. I looked at talented people who were assumed to have one or two levels of promotion in them at least. And then something happened. Either they got fired or demoted, or they were considered non promotable. They flattened out. So I looked at people with talent, people with game that were expected to go say from a manager to a vice president, or from a director to a senior vice president, or for an assistant manager to a manager They didn’t get there. What? What happens to people to make them either get demoted or fired? Or just told they’re non promotable?


Right? I’d almost joke a little bit when, when someone gets derailed, which I feel like, there, it should happen to someone could self identify with that at any point in their career eventually, but then they just go start businesses. That was the way that I kind of joke right. from, from the Can we take a moment to kind of go through the five derailleur types and what is the number one that affects most people? So what’s the most common kind of derailment?


So I did all this research and I interviewed 100 people who got demoted or fired. I looked at all the academic research. By the way, there’s a lot in looking at 360s if you look at patterns and 360s, and people that are considered at the in the top 10% of their company and managerial effectiveness And then look at people who are in the bottom quartile and look at the competency differences. Look at the competency profiles. What strong traits or skills do people have that do well? And then what lack of skills or traits do people have that are not doing well, there’s a, there was a ton of data I found, but I found these five things over and over, that kept appearing to try to make it more palatable and a little less scary of a topic. I created these sort of fun personas or characterizations or archetypes. And the number one reason that people run into career trouble the most is interpersonal skill, lacking interpersonal skills, and being considered to be difficult to work with. And I call that person, a bad character, Captain fantastic.


Captain fantastic, which I think is a perfect name for it.


That’s somebody that is um, has poor listening skills. I’m probably overly ambitious and bruises people with his sharp elbows on his quest for the corner office. Okay. And what happens is they do well early in their career because they’re ambitious. But eventually they get into an assignment that’s nuanced, and requires a lot of cross functional collaboration, and people don’t want to work with them. And notice I use the gender the male gender as I was talking about it. This reason for derailment skews male, more men to rail for being ego driven over you know, sort of bombastic and defensive than women.


That makes sense for a lot of different reasons. I would I agree with that. So, someone to self identify if they are Captain Fantastic would be like, what would be the top two or three things that you’d be like, oh, maybe that’s me, gosh.


Being told that you need to work on your listening skills and listening, okay? Yeah, not doing a good job of being empathetic and listening to the other person before you speak. I’m not seeking different perspectives on what you should do just kind of barreling ahead without listening, especially to the frontline, the employees that are closest to the customers. So that’s one is as somebody that has poor listening skills, and along with that, being defensive, not being open to criticism and having a knee jerk reaction. So you know, if you’re like that, if you don’t listen to your defense, If you’re not going to learn from your mistakes very effectively, and people aren’t going to give you feedback because they know it’s, you know, it’s like shouting in a wind tunnel. So that is that is that by far the biggest the biggest ones is defensiveness. And poor listening skills. I think it’s really, the ego needs to get back in check. This is a problem a lot of times have somebody experiencing some career success, and then starting to read their press clippings too much. Okay.


So you had that big wake up call when your boss basically told you that you were unpredictable. And it was it because you were Captain Fantastic.


Yeah, it wasn’t like actually, it was a form of Captain Fantastic. I, I didn’t like the heavy hand of authority. Mm hmm. And I didn’t like to be told what to do when I thought I knew what I was doing. And in this case, this person came in about above me in the organization. And I’d been in the position three, four years, and there were new. And I thought, well, he should just leave me alone to let me do my job because I know what I’m doing. I was very, I think I was difficult to manage. And so he actually kicked me off his team. And I ended up sort of in this desert alone, having to learn from learn a little bit of humility. The good news is that guy had the guts to do this. And it was a wake up call that I needed. And you know, in hindsight, it was, you know, one of the best meetings that I’ve ever had, because it made me start working on this issue I have, which is like, authority issue with authority figures and learning to be more coachable.


Sure, I think, you know, what a gift he gave you. And I love I think I recall you sharing in the book that, you know, decades later, you actually reached out to him correct. Thank you, I’m sure. We, as supervisors, and leaders, and managers don’t often give that type of really harsh, honest feedback. So how do you how do you get that from your manager when you need to have it and want it?


That’s a good question. You know, I think a lot of times the problem comes when the only feedback you give is negative feedback. First of all, I would say, if you’re giving a constant flow of feedback to somebody, and a lot of it is he did a great job in that presentation. I love the way you use that case study to explain our value proposition. Great job, really good job, Emily. If you give balanced feedback, then the person you know trust that you have their best interest in mind, if all you do is you give them feedback about something that’s negative then They’re probably going to not take it as well. So one thing is make sure that you give, you know, if this is a subordinate that’s underperforming, you want to be giving them constant feedback along the way, and also encouraging feedback. So that’s, I think, the most important thing. And separately. I have a friend who created what he calls the world’s simplest feedback model.


What is it? Give it to us?


Yeah. So let’s say that you, you report to me. And you just gave a presentation, and I am your boss, and I was in the audience. When we walk out. I say, let’s do let’s get let’s get feedback. And the feedback model is I say, what’s one thing that you think went well in there? And then I shut up and I listen, and I don’t contradict you. If I don’t agree with you. I listen. And when you’re done talking, I said, here’s one thing that I think Well in there. And then the second thing I say is, what’s one thing that you would do differently? What’s one thing you do differently? And then I’m quiet. I listen. And I say, Great. Here’s one thing I think you could have done differently. So what I’ve done is I leave with a positive and I listen. And then I do something that has to do with a developmental area. So one is it’s fresh, right? The event just occurred. So you can see the link between the event and my comments. The problem comes a lot of times with feedback that we give, we give it like months after the fact that some performance review, right and it’s confusing then, right?


It’s confusing. It’s not sometimes okay, for remember what you know, what the circumstances were that you’re explaining, or you’re talking themes and platitudes, and they and you don’t use specific instances. So if I say, Allison, I think you did a great job in bringing people along with you. As evidenced, by the way you asked a question to the audience within about 30 seconds, that was terrific. And then then I say, what’s one thing you do differently? And then after you talk, I say, you know, one thing I would do differently is, I would probably in the beginning of the presentation, set the agenda, tell them what we’re going to do. Tell them how much time it’s going to take, because I think we got a little bit rushed at the end. Mm hmm. So did well. did well, do differently, do differently? And then you’re done. Pick one thing. Because if I say to you time for feedback, and you know, Oh, God, I know, Carter, he’s going to go through a list of 10 things, then it’s, you know, you’re not going to remember it. And it’s also a downer. But if you picked one thing to emphasize, on the complimentary side, and one thing to emphasize on the developmental side, then it’s much you know, it’s much more you can actually look forward to feedback. Well, I’ve actually instituted this at Northwest We have a group of people, whenever we’re in the room with each other in something that’s meaningful, you know, an event or a presentation or something, we give feedback. And it takes five minutes to do, did well did well do differently, do differently. So my biggest piece of advice is a constant stream at the back, not a one time event, that consistency and recency of it, you know, being in that time. What I particularly like about that feedback loop is that you’re asking the time I’m the presenter. So you said Allison, what did you think you’re asking me to self reflect? And then you get to add to that, and then I self reflect on what didn’t go well. So I’d like the the individual gets to go first. And, you know, as opposed to going like, Oh, yeah, I know. I blew that even. I mean, you’re firm on the backside of it.


That’s cool. That’s right.


Yeah. Fantastic.


So we’ve talked about Captain Fantastic and I just want to make sure that we kind of cover the other four You have and then I’m looking for like a one minute tip on if you’re this than that. So you’ve I think you’ve done a great job at talking through Captain Fantastic as a derailer, and that being your own and derailment, but what would be number two?

Unknown Speaker  15:14 

The solo flyer wire is somebody that gets usually the there, they have trouble being a effective manager. And when I interviewed people and read a lot of research, what typically happened was, you have an individual performer that gets promoted, because they’re good into a management job. And becoming a manager as a transformation of identity. That was literally Linda hill of Harvard described it. She wrote a book called becoming a manager. That was really good, where she followed 19 different people after they promoted into management, and just observed what they did well and didn’t do well. And she came to this conclusion that becoming a manager is like a transformation of identity. You have to learn from going from me to we and from being the player to the coach. And it’s a hard transition, especially if you’re really effective. You want to dive in and do it yourself. So the problem that the solo flyer has often is they micromanage and over manage, and they don’t teach their subordinates to fish, they should they try to fish for them. smite, get demotivated, people get more automated because they say, oh, Allison’s going to dive in here and tell me how to do this. And so you lose the feeling of ownership for your projects. Yeah.


So shifting the identity from focusing on myself to how do I develop my people to be better? Okay. Awesome.


All right. So one of the most, you know, one of the things that you really want to do is have a lot of Socratic dialogue instead of being heated interactive. Be Socratic. When your conversations Allison, you, you aren’t sure there. What do you think that? What are the two or three options of what you think you could do? And then you listen and you say, of those three options, which one do you are you leaning towards now and why? So, you know, Socratic Lee just keep asking questions. And I’d say nine times out of 10. The person knows what to do. They’re just they need a little bit need a little a little boost.


Yeah. Sounds like you could be a professional coach, for sure.


Well, I can’t you know, I love what you do. I think it’s such, it’s like one of the most important jobs there is, is having a good coach, and I didn’t realize how important it is, until I finally got to coach myself and later years and thought, Oh, my gosh, why didn’t I do this earlier?


Awesome. Thank you for that endorsement. I think what we do is pretty important too. And, alright, so let’s talk about derailing. Number three, your version one.


Yeah, version 1.0 is somebody who, um, gets comfortable. They get in a groove. And the groove turns into a rut. Pretty soon they become a fossil, I say goes from it turns into a groove, then it becomes a rut, and then it becomes a grave, which is very unfortunate. So this person has trouble with adapting, adapting to change. And the biggest change they have to adapt to is usually either a new job, a new boss, so it could be a promotion, even a new job, a new boss, or a technological change, right. So something starts disrupting the way things have been done. Maybe it’s the internet comes along in 2000. Or maybe it’s everything turns into being SaaS software as a service. Or maybe everyone’s starting to use machine learning and you have to understand robotics or You know, you’re going to you’re going to do something with cryptocurrency, you’ve got to stay current on what changes are occurring in your industry, technologically. So in this case, this person needs to utilize their network and make sure their network has people that are strong in emerging areas which are becoming more important than this. So it’s really one of staying abreast of change by tapping your network and asking for advice. You know, I ask people are you on Twitter? What do you have people on Twitter see on there? My Twitter account is of venture capitalists who are really sharp who I just I study what they post


Which is a really I mean, it tells you a lot just by being in the know on it from a social standpoint, right?


Right. So you know, that is that is one of the biggest reasons. One of the other reasons that version 1.0 gets in trouble is they don’t do a good job when they have a transition and they have a new boss. And that’s what happened to me. I got a new boss and my old boss, I did well with that. So, you know, I say to people, your bosses treat your boss like a customer. You Your job is to make successful, what can you take off their plate? What do they need to have you do for them that they’re not going to doing themselves? What is their agenda? And how can you help them further their agenda? I did not have that attitude when I was younger. I just wanted my boss to be alone and let me perform. And if I would have taken the time with his fellow, Mike, I would have taken the time to say how can I help you be successful and you’re new at the company? Can I send you some of our strategies Did you do next? Um, do you want to go on a market tour with me? Ah, no. What time? Are you the most productive? What time? What you’re What can I do? What can I take off your plate? I didn’t treat him like a customer. And if I would have treated my boss better, he would have probably had the confidence in me.


For sure. That’s, um, that is probably one of the most common coaching conversations I have when working with my owners teams is Do you understand what Kevin’s agenda is? And what’s important and how your role serves that. So I mean, it has to be mutual.


You know, you have to be prepared to change your agenda to make sure that they’re successful with their agenda, right. And if you do that, they’re going to have more confidence in you and realize that you have their back. Mm hmm. And with that will come more trust and with our trust. We’ll come more freedom.


Wow. That’s so good.


That’s version 1.0 scares me as a venture capitalist. I’m 56. And I have to stay current to see what all the 30 year olds are using, what software they use, what tools are they using?


What was so funny, I did get a question. So I put it out over the last couple of days that I was speaking to you today. And the influx of questions from my younger followers was phenomenal. So they wanted to know what social media platform is the older generation using and I thought that was an interesting question. Gosh, what’s the answer? Carter? I’m like all of them.


Because you have to I mean, I think that we’re the, you know, the folks it’s the usual suspects, but they aren’t using slack. Now. They are, you know, they’re there. I literally, I have a Slack channel for my class and I was talking to one of my fellow professors. And I said, Do you have a Slack channel? You know, to stay abreast of what the what the kind of back and forth is by your students? And what do you think he said to me? No, No, he didn’t. He said, What? slack?


That’s what I’m talking about. Yeah. You know?


That’s fine. Have you ever been on Instagram? No. They don’t, they don’t understand these platforms. And my job as a VC is to watch, watch and understand what people are using that are younger, because the chances are really good that we’re going to make an investment in one of these phases. So, you know, version 1.0 is one that worries me because it I have to have learning agility, for sure.


Yeah, you have to have good discovery skills. So what are discovery skills, things like experimenting, always running a B tests and trying things. observational skills. am I watching younger people in in the at the school? How do they use technology? questioning skills? asking how might we why do you do it that way, you know, constant stream of questions. And you know, those kind of skills networking, you know, experimenting, questioning, observing, these are the discovery skills that will keep you from becoming a version 1.0


Huh? Sounds um, interestingly enough through each of the derailments, it’s a lot about listening and asking good questions, you know, to have a better understanding.


Listening is I think, for whatever reason, it’s sort of the heralded critical, it’s a critical skill.


Yeah, it is. Alright, so that’s a version 1.0. So tell me about your one trick pony.


This was the number one derailer for women. Okay? Okay, number one derailer for women was one trick pony. One trick pony is somebody that is considered non strategic. And so they hit a ceiling on their promote stability. So it goes something like this. But they have Gail and she’s a controller, and she does a great job as a controller. She closes the books. She’s good, as you know, that they pass the audit with flying colors. And she wants to become the CFO. And so she goes to her boss, and says, Hey, Ron, I want to become a CFO. You know, I want to talk about my path. And he said, Oh, you’re a great controller. You’re doing exactly what you’re meant to do. And she says, Well, that’s not what I asked. I asked the path to becoming CFO. And they said, well, you don’t you don’t have the, you know, you’ve never done forecasting, you’ve never done long term capital asset management projects. You’ve never worked with the strategic business business units on their annual operating plan. You’ve never dealt with Investor Relations. You don’t have a lot of the skills that you need to be a CFO, Gail. And Gail says, Well, that’s the first time I knew I needed these skills. Whose fault is that? What I just explained? Both. Absolutely. Yeah, it’s Ron’s fault for not understanding what her career aspirations were and helping her get experience in areas that weren’t core to what she does. And it’s her fault for not seeking it out. because no one’s going to take care of Gail except Gail.


Hundred percent.


Yeah. Count on that boss being the type of boss that wants to see you develop. If you’ve got a boss that is like that. Good. Fantastic, but you can’t count on it.


I think what it is an interesting point and I can see why this is more of a female derailment, is I think women are less likely typically, to say, this is what I want. And this is like how to get to see if I like it. That’s my ideal role. Where someone might sit and go, if I do a really good job, maybe they’ll see it in me and give it to me.


I agree on a percent, you’ve got to ask for the sale.


Yeah. Every time.


There is. A lot of I think, a lot attached to this. are men more strategic inherently than women? Of course not. It’s ridiculous, right? It’s ridiculous. This is a problem of access, access to opportunities, access and visibility. So, you know, the good old boy networks alive and thriving, and it’s easier for men to get cross trained in different ages. areas, then women, because there’s the business environment is encouraging of men. Now it’s I think it’s getting better, which is already. Yeah, it’s getting better. But nonetheless, you can’t count on somebody else taking care of you, you’ve got to take care of your own career, you have to ask for a job rotation. You have to ask for that, that for these sorts of opportunities, because they just don’t land on your lap.


Okay, so in this sense, it’s speaking up and saying what you want over listening?


Yes, and that one has to be on a task force in a different area, raise your hand for new assignments, network effectively with other senior managers because someone might pull you into a new area. Right. But there was a real theme here, Allison of someone moving up vertically and then topping out because they didn’t have the breadth of experience to get to that next level. So, you know, I’m sure you know, you definitely have to become an expert in a particular area, right you’ve got it, that’s your job security. But after you know, let’s say you get there for eight years, you’re really good at an area you have to start looking for opportunities for expansion, have you heard the leadership t that holds so the leadership T is at the vertical part is you moving up and then the, the, the horizontal part of the T is you managing and leading and doing broader activities, you have to do both and starts with moving up and having that the bottom of the teepee strong and high up, but then the top of the team is you expanding your breath.


Alright, so we’re down to our last derailer, the really dervish which I think is set A great term. So tell us about the whirling dervish.


So this is somebody and this was by by the way, this was the second most common reason for derailment. Okay? Okay. This is somebody who gets overextended. And they don’t manage their time, they don’t prioritize well, and balls drop. And because balls drop, they get a reputation for being somebody who doesn’t deliver on what they promised. So if you unpack this when there’s several things this person does and effectively, number one, they don’t have a system by which they organize, organizing their work. What system do you use? What method do you use to manage your inbox? Manage your meetings and you know, is that outlook is it do you use Evernote? Do you use HubSpot? You know what Salesforce what tools do you use to manage your business and your time. And if you talk to a whirling dervish, the chances are pretty good that they aren’t very systematic in the way they manage all that goes on. They don’t have a system. So I refer people to getting things done by David Allen, which is a book about time management and process management. The second thing is they often have trouble prioritizing, and doing the things that are most important, you know, first things first. So, you know, the Stephen Covey quadrant, it’s that it’s making sure that you don’t just attend to the important urgent things. You also intend to the non urgent important thing, right. And so you lay out your week and your month and your day so that you attend not only to the things that are pressing, but you keep chipping away at Working on the things that are important, but they’re not as time bound. And you prioritize and reprioritize multiple times a week. People that were really Jarvis’s had real trouble with identifying what was most important to do, they just treat everything equally as important. And they just like checking things off their list, maybe half the checks, maybe half the things on there, you shouldn’t even be doing because they don’t move the needle enough,right. I look at a worldly dervish as someone who just really wants to accomplish a lot, but it may not be the right things. Yeah, yes. You know, like best of intentions like going about it fast, but maybe not correctly. Exactly. One of the biggest traits of a whirling dervish is having the disease to please.




Yes, somebody just can’t say no. And so they end up getting pulled in too many directions because they have trouble saying no to somebody. So I offer some little practical tips to say no. One is, and I’m sure you do this a lot as a coach, one is, by yourself some time, instead of automatically saying, yes, if you have a natural urge to please you say, Allison, I’d love to do this podcast. But can I get back to you by say, 3pm today, I have to check my calendar and look at my agenda to make sure I can do this. So buy yourself some time, instead of automatically saying yes, and then when you buy yourself some time, it’s easier to say no, when you’re not as you know, when it’s not as sensitive. So that’s one another thing is sometimes just saying no, but you offer something as a conciliation, so you say, Allison, I really don’t have time to do that. But I know I’m A couple good people on this topic that you should probably talk to. Okay.


Those are both really good ones. And yes, I use those all the time. And I just wanted to say thank you for making time to be on this podcast just to affirm. That’s great. Okay, so that was our five derailleurs. What are so thinking about it from like fixing your employees derailleur, so you know, you’re the leader and you have a team, what are some of the symptoms that might alert a company that they need to play a more active role in guiding them?


Away from derailment?


Yeah, the problem we get is, by the time you start working on derailment, an issue the you know, the head has come home to roost, it’s already in bad shape. And there’s probably already been some either reputational damage or your already been typecast as being a problem. So the solution to all of this is self awareness. And how do you get improved? How do you improve and increase your self awareness by constantly asking for feedback? So if you ask after that presentation, what went well? What do you think I could have done differently? And if someone’s reticent to say you leave? Allison, I don’t think I started off very strong. That’s one of the things I noticed. What did you notice? So you give them you show them with a display of honesty that you really do want the feedback. So the number one solution to all this is, if you ask for a lot of feedback, you can make little course corrections in your behavior and not get whacked upside the head with a big old derailment area.


I think one of the things that our current younger in coming into business generation is they do ask for feedback consistently. So I feel like they are getting hopefully the feedback that they need to be able to prevent that derailments. In your book you share a statistic by the management consulting company, Korn ferry. And you said that when managers rate themselves on 67 different managerial skills, they scored worst on developing others, because developing others requires the others to be involved, I’m sure which is probably why it’s hardest to score. So if a company believes that their staff is going to be leaving in two to three years so that like longevity, longevity of an employee is getting shorter and shorter. What how do you help them overcome the mindset of not investing in them?


This person is going to leave anyway.


Or they stay forever and become your version? 1.0




The so do you remember this is A while ago, Gallup wrote this book first break all the rules 2001. And in it where they were the Q 12. These are the 12 questions that you ask employees that are the best indication of their level of engagement, how highly engaged they are. And the higher you know, the higher their engagement, the better their performance. I found these 12 questions and anybody that’s listening, go on Google or your favorite search engine, and type in Gallup, q 12. And they will list the 12 questions that they found indicate the degree of employee engagement. If you look at those questions, a lot of them underneath it is this fundamental question, which is, do you care about me boss? Yeah, and if you do a couple of things, their work product will be higher and better one Let them know that you care about them as a human being. How was your weekend? How was your dog? I know that your dog was sick? Did your kid win that soccer game? I know you’re going off to the soccer show interest in their life. Because that will make you guys have a bond and it will strengthen performance either by showing interest. Secondly, you understand their career aspirations. Do you understand where they’re trying to take their career? And then you say, how can I help you get there, if this is what you want, maybe I can help you. If they believe that you care about them as a human being, and you are trying to help them with their career, they will overlook your own foibles and they’ll go through a brick wall for you.


I completely agree. We, we have those 12 questions on our website under our employee engagement. So I’m a and we do that employment employee engagement survey is what I call it. With dozens of businesses here locally to have a an estimation of where people fall so that they know what to do what they need to work on?

Unknown Speaker  39:04 

Fantastic. The it is no, it’s no secret. I launched the Q 12. With my direct reports. And so quarterly, we would see how people were trending on the level of engagement of the employees in the merchandising department or the product supply department or whatever. And sure enough, the people that ended up getting the promotions are always the people that have the highest level of employee engagement.


Absolutely. Kudos to you for doing that quarterly. A kudos to you for doing that quarterly. That’s such great feedback.


If you would pack those 12 questions, and the center of them is do you care about me? Do I have the resources to do my job right? And do I understand how my work fits in with the goals and direction of the corporation? So the second thing I would say is make sure with your the people that report to you that you’re clear on what they do matters and how what they do links to the overall strategy and mission of the company. Because if you see that thread between your work and the company’s mission, you’re more engaged in your work because you realize it matters.


Absolutely. And I, I have a fantastic training that I do on this engagement topic. And I guess, you know, I’m not here to promote mine specifically, what training do you recommend around developing employees so there’s no derailment to increase engagement and you know, all the benefits of that, do you have something that you go to that you recommend?


We’ve had, you know, there’s been, there’s so many different tools that I view that I’ve seen used, and different modules that Walmart and Pepsi and all these things As I’ve worked abused, you know, one of the ones this is going to sound like what, but one of the ones that I find is really useful is some form of Crucial Conversations. Awesome. I Yep. Because when you get right down to it, one of the themes of our talk has been the importance of feedback, and the importance of listening. And many people are afraid to give feedback, because they’re worried on how it’s going to be received. Or they’re afraid to stand up for themselves in their career, because they’re afraid of a confrontation. And I think one of the best modules that I’ve ever seen at you know, we did this at Walmart was getting trained on Crucial Conversations. How do you deal with hard topics? How do you show empathy? How do you disagree with tact? How do you make sure a message is heard received delivered. So one of my favorite ones is how do you learn to have hard, important conversations and do them with tact and with power?




Crucial Conversations is obviously a key topic when coaching. And sometimes it’s almost you need to give permission to have a different shift around what it is that they’re doing. And so I’ve been able to have like a mental shift with people by calling it instead giving graceful honesty. Yeah, as opposed to a crucial conversation or brutal honesty or, you know, like all the others. Right, right. Right, right.


It’s great, but boy, you’re right. You’re immediately scared.


Yeah, I mean, even suggesting, well, you need to tell them that and they go, Oh, no, I can’t. And I’m like, well, let’s find a way to say it gracefully. So it can be heard and received.


That’s right.


Yeah, that’s right. So I think that time I think that topic is just right up there at the top for me, because if you get people who are actually cough get more and more comfortable with being honest, I mean, both ways being honest about great stuff just being direct. And you these relationships are stronger than the performance goes up because the communications better reason companies don’t perform well as generally. The, I mean, sure it can be a strategy is the wrong strategy, of course. But let’s say that the strategy is sound, it’s usually the interaction between departments is strong enough. That is about that is about communicating between, you know, especially these natural areas of tension you have between, you know, finance and marketing, or but, you know, between operations and customer service are these areas where there’s natural friction, you have to learn get down the vocabulary and then My wish to communicate sometimes.


I’m, I always, you know, kind of beat the drum that every employee wants to show up, do a great job feel like they’re being productive and contributing to the bigger picture. And without feedback on how to do it better, they’ll continue to do what they think is succeeding. Right.


And you know, what you said is really important because most almost everybody wants to do a good job. Everybody wants to do a good job. They’re not coming. They’re thinking, I wonder what I can get away with today. Right? They’re coming in, they’re saying, I want to do good work. And if you let them know that their good work will be seen and heard and is valued, and they will get the resources to do good work. You know, you’re going to have a good you’re going to get an engaged employee.


Absolutely. So I’m going to shift the conversation slightly to how to advance your career and I’m a coach and I’m a mentor, but in your book, you give some really Good, straightforward and practical advice about collecting mentors. So I have, I have a vast level hierarchy, employees, leaders, executives, C suites business owners. We all need more mentors in our life in some way. So what could you share with our listeners that has worked for you successfully to collect to those around you?


Well, I I’ve even gotten to the point where I don’t like to call them mentors because it’s a scary word for people trusted or meant mentor means commitment.


Like marriage, another m word that scares people.

Unknown Speaker  45:42 

So when you call it, what do you call it instead?


Seeking counsel?




Okay, counselors. Everyone loves to say they like counsel. Hmm. So instead of saying, would you be my mentor, you say to somebody Allison, I saw that module you did on deliberate conversations. And I thought it was fabulous. I learned a ton. Could I grab a cup of coffee with you sometime and seek your counsel on an interpreter on an interpersonal issue, and just helping you understand how I might approach it. So I flattered you by letting you know that, that you did a great job. And then I’m flattering you by saying that I would love your words of wisdom on a very specific topic. So you’re going to say, Sure, and I’d make it low, you know, low impact, quick cup of coffee. So then after we have our cup of coffee, you say, thank you so much. This was by the way, when you have a cup of coffee, bring a notepad and take notes, let them know that you’re totally listening and engaged in what they’re sharing. When we’re done, I say Allison, this has been such a wonderful experience. Thank you. So But do you mind if I give you an update when this is all done? And you’ll say, Sure, I’d love to know what happened. Yeah. That’s your natural step to you don’t do it right away. After you do that you send it out and say this happened. And I wonder if, you know, if you time in the future, it’s okay. If we chats again, a time in the future, you say, Sure. I’d be happy to. I’m slowly reeling you in. A wait a few weeks. I say, well, another thing came off, but wonder if you could give me your words of wisdom. So you do this in a way that isn’t scary. You also allow for natural chemistry or a natural connection to our share. And if it doesn’t occur, and it’s awkward, well, then that’s probably or you don’t receive a lot of feedback that useful. Well, then, you know, you don’t take it any further. I think of this is not having mentors. I think of like, it’s a collage. It’s a collection. of experts who are good in different areas. So I talked to somebody about merchandising assortment planning, I talked to somebody about interpersonal issues around, you know, getting feedback. I talked with somebody else about business strategy. I think of my battle with my background of having a, it’s like a, it’s like a mosaic of people that helped me in very specific areas. And I don’t put too much burden on any one of them. Mm hmm. I don’t think there’s like one or two or three mentors. I think I like 15 people that I can turn to on different topics now and again,


for sure. I think one of the things I’m recognizing is I counsel a lot of people but I don’t get the feedback on what they’ve done with it. And so it feels it feels like I’ve maybe wasted my time, right. And so I just want to encourage that if you’re seeking counsel from someone and get permission to follow up or let them know what they did, that it actually is more rewarding for the person who’s giving you counsel to know that you’ve taken the advice and you’ve had feedback or that you’ve moved forward. So I think we always get worried that we’re going to, you know, waste someone’s time or that they’re not as invested. But if they’ve invested the time to sit with you, give it you know, being thoughtful enough to give them the feedback about what they did. super important to activating that long term counsel, I think.


Great point.


Yeah. That was an aha moment for me right there. So thank you.


That it’s such a good such a good point. You want to know that your advice was you want it you want to hope you hope that it was useful.


And when someone lets you know ex post facto, you feel good?


Absolutely. Yep. And by the way, after I’ve said Allison, that helped me so much. I just wanted to thank you. You usually respond with I’m happy. I was happy. To do it and I’m happy to help in the future, you usually provide a comment of I’m happy to do it. Let me know if I can help you any other time. And then you sit on it and wait a bit. And then if another opportunity presents itself, you approach him again. Absolutely. That’s the way you develop that rapport. People come up to you and they say, would you be my mentor? You know, it’s scary. Just thinking, Oh my gosh, how much time is this going to require?


All right. Last month, Bob Iger shared the top three keys to his success and leadership. So he listed hardworking mentors and luck. If you had to list two or three of your key successes and leadership, what would you choose?




Morton Hanson wrote a book called great at work. Last year, and he looked at he talked to the huge quantitative survey 5000 professionals. And he found that the ones that were in the top tier of performance had an ability to focus in maniacally on a few things and do them exceedingly well. So, I would agree Well, you know, when I read that I was nodding because I believe that by focusing and trying to do something exceptionally well and not trying to boil the ocean, you get into all kinds of trouble when you try to do too many things. You can’t do it all well. And you’d rather do one or two or five things very, very well in the course of the quarter of the year than trying to do a whole bunch of things. It gets spread too thin. The one is focus, without a doubt. The second thing is, I would say being able to bring others along with me. Realizing the business’s like is a team sport, and that you can’t do anything alone in business. It’s there’s just full of it’s so inter woven and interdisciplinary, and business decisions are all integrated into, you know, decisions that are made by groups of people. And so if you’re effective in listening to people, letting them know they’re there on valued, reciprocity, helping them when you can help them if you’re someone that is a integrator and a uniter you go really I think you can go really far because people want you to be on the team with them. So I would say working, working well with others and bringing others along. focus and, um, you know, I think you You’ve got to say luck too. Well, I believe that’s right. I mean, sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time. And sometimes luck helps you a lot. Sometimes bad luck hurts, too. But you know, people say, Well, you can make your own luck to some extent and you do your homework. And you pick assignments and you pick companies, and even pick bosses. By being diligent. You can make your own luck too.


For sure. I truly do believe that the hardest working people usually have the best luck.


There you go.


For sure. And Carter, we’re coming to the end of our time together. And first, I just, it’s been such an honor to be able to speak with you so candidly, this afternoon, so thank you so much. I, I am a big promoter of your book. It is on our top list of recommendations that we make on our website. Do you have any new books coming out that you would like to share or pre promote?


I have a topic that I’m getting increasingly interested in.


What’s that?


Around transitions and how people can make good transitions in their lives. And it just, it’s just an interesting, very interesting transition. I think, you know, back in the old days, we can count, we could count on the tribe to help us with a transition. And so you go out in the woods, and you know, there are these rites of passage that we use down. I think a lot of times now, our society is so individualistic. Sometimes you feel alone when you’re trying to go through a transition, and you need help. And so I’ve just got increasingly interested in this topic of how can we have help in making transitions. The last book that I remember reading that was really good on this topic was by William bridges in 79.


Well, that it’s due for a revamp, facelift.


The word transition comes up a lot in when working with, with people with humans and it’s funny people are very resistant to transitions and so we recorded as transformations that they’re going through so just to share that it’s that it’s a brilliant topic I can’t wait to read about whatever it is that you create is what is the best way for people to connect with you if they would like to?


Well, my I have a website, my name dot com, so it’s And my if you just enter my name and Kellogg, this Kellogg School of Management, it has my email address there too.


Fantastic. Excellent. Carter, thank you so much for your time today. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving this coming week, and we will share this as it gets posted. Okay.


Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.

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