About John Spence
John is a keynote speaker and executive coach for businesses around the world. John has created training programs for more than 30 Fortune 500 companies. He’s taught at MIT and the Wharton School of Business. His clients include Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, FedEx, GE, and dozens of other prominent brands.
Operating your business can be overwhelmingly complex… or awesomely simple!
John Spence is the author of the bestseller Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas Into Action. In this interview John shares powerful strategies that will help you turn vague business advice into highly actionable processes.
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Hi, Allison Dunn, owner of Deliberate Directions and I am bringing you another amazing guest for our podcast today. I have john Spence. And not only is he a keynote speaker, he is also an executive coach for businesses around the world. He is a creator of a training program for more than 30 fortune 500 companies. He’s taught at MIT, the war and the Wharton School of Business. His clients include Apple, at&t, Bank of America, Coca Cola, FedEx, GE, it goes on and on and on, which is pretty awesome. JOHN, I love your mission. So according to my research, your mission is to help businesses and people be more successful by making the very complex awesomely simple. So with that said, He is the author of the best seller, awesomely simple, essential business strategies. Turning ideas into action. And that’s how you have come onto my radar. And this is how we are in front of each other today because I love your book.
So John, thank you very much for being here with us today.
I have kind of a structure that I’m going to use. So are you ready to get started?
Sure, of course. Excellent. Okay.
So you started you have a company? It’s John Spence, LLC. When did you start it and why?
Well, I own several companies. And John Spence’s LLC is basically the umbrella that goes over all my consulting training, speaking executive coaching. We’ve had that for Well, I’m in my 28 year doing this so almost 30 years, which is amazing to me. And that that’s one I’ve also in a marketing firm for a while, and few other things.
Okay fantastic. So I always like when talking to people who have launched business, who was your first clients that you got and how did you get them to remember.
Oh this is a great story. I, um, when I was really trying to get the consulting, business and training, I went to a local college, I’m in Florida and I went to the University of North Florida. And I said, I really like to be a lecture and your executive series, but once a month, they would have to Beckett executive training game. And I went to the head of their training department and said, I will come in and give a free speech at lunch to your staff. And if you’d like me, I’d like to be one of your instructors went away. Okay, got in there. On the second day, I was there doing teaching Maryland, came in, tried to wanted to hire me for 70 days a year to do all their training global worldwide. So I went from first thing to first client was Merrill Lynch, eventually, head of global leadership and development.
Okay, wow. 70 days, like out of the gate.
Out of the gate. That’s awesome. And back then, and you Used to be a per person fee. So it was $500 a person for a half day. So how do you charge it? The numbers were pretty big that you don’t use that structure anymore for pricing.
No, now we’ve gone down to a, a that pricing doesn’t exist mostly in corporations. They don’t do a per person fee anymore very rarely. And we’ve just gotten to a daily rate. So if I show up with our with our work for an hour or the whole day, it’s the same fee.
Yeah, smart, very smart. And it when equity of scale, right, the more people that can pack into a room, the more you can impact the better you feel about it, I’m sure.
Yeah. So So today, you’re just a runaway success. But when you you shared that when you were first started college, and you slacked off and you were on a run away from mediocrity.
And yeah Fastlane
What? What motivated you to turn that around?
I, when I failed, I failed out of college on the first try. And I failed out of University of Miami where my father was one of the top alumni ever to graduate from the college year I got kicked out he was on the board of directors, and part of the law school was named after my dad. So yeah, it’s really hard to get kicked out of university where there’s a building named after your family. And then here’s what turned around though is not only that, that not go over well with my dad, but when I reapplied I came to where I live now Gainesville, Florida to apply at the University of Florida. I will never ever forget this. I was in line I handed the woman my transcripts from the University of Miami where it failed out to let them know when we don’t take people like you. And then she said next, and I Istepped out of the line, walked out, walked down the stairs, sat on the curb and started crying. And I said I this is not what I want to do with my life. I got to turn this around. And that was the moment right there when I said, I’ve been pretty good. I did well, up until that University of Miami thing I said, I’ve been pretty well up to now, but I’m really headed towards failure. I don’t want to do that. So I want to become an expert on success. As an add on reading 100 plus books a year every year, going to seminars, listening to tapes, getting all the information I could humanly get to help me figure out ways to run a more successful business and life.
Yeah, I am. I have. I have a bookcase, possibly as large as that. But you mentioned some significant numbers about how many books you’ve read on a weekly basis. So do you have an actual book count? Do you have to own the mower to consume it?
Well, I’ve got 1000 just I’ve got 900 just in this room because this is one of 11 bookcases, I just in my office, I have a library in my house to read somewhere over 4000 bucks. Yeah. And I’ve also listened to a lot of audio tapes and things like that I read. I also read an hour every morning on all the entrepreneur Inc, fortune, Forbes, Harvard Business Review strategy, so I keep up with it. But don’t forget, it’s my job. Right? My job is to have access to information and apply it with what I see in the real world and my own experience. So I love to read, I see business as a big game. And it’s a game it’s fun to play well and win. And this is one of the ways that I get the playbook.
Yeah, I agree. Do you have an absolute favorite go to book that you that you consume repeatedly?
Well, as a business book or a regular book, it doesn’t matter.
It’s a book he can’t get the Kindle to run the profit by Kindle cover on he’s Sufi poet. A lot of times you hear in weddings, they use a lot of his poetry in in whatever you want to say that when they’re when the preacher is talking and they’re saying stuff. Lots of people use his poetry. It’s just very touching. It’s really cool.
Oh, lovely. I like that. Thank you for sharing.
Okay, so I’d like to dive into the book that I love so much. So, in your book, awesomely simple, you have listed six principles of business success. And so I’d like to spend some time touching on each of them. But just for our listeners, I’m gonna highlight the six first and then we’ll dive into each principle.
Okay, so the first is I’m bad because I don’t remember.
Aren’t you glad I didn’t rely on you to tell me? Hold on?
Good. There’s a caveat here. I can’t keep up with it.
Oh, that’s great.
All right. So give you a highlight of your six principles, your associates.
The first is vivid vision. The second is best people. The third is robust communication. The fourth is sense of urgency. The fifth is disciplined execution. And then the last one is extreme customer focus. And I think There’s so much value in each of these. So I’d like to kind of dive into each of them individually. so vivid vision.
You’ve worked with a lot of companies, right? Yes.
What’s in your experience some a company that has a great vision, a great mission, but it’s not understood by their people. How does that happen? Because it happens a lot.
Yeah, um, when you look at a lot of organizations, one of the main stumbling blocks they have and I use the cert phraseology, because from an awesome Harvard study, is the lack of a vivid, compelling, and well communicated vision and strategy for growth. And all those words are important, vivid, compelling, well communicated, vision, vision and strategy. So the problem is, is that the senior management team talks about the vision and the strategy all the time, CEO owner the company lives it day in and day out, it’s all it’s on their mind. But typically, if you go one or two levels down an organization, they have no idea what it is. The problem is, is the people at the top are talking about thinking about all the time they’re sick of it. But and I have see, as companies asked me to john, when have I communicated the vision, the values the strategy enough, and I say when you get to the point, that if you say it one more time, you’re going to get nauseous, the lowest level person in your company just heard it for the very first time. And they need to hear it seven or 10 times before they actually understand what it is. So it’s communication is always an issue in every company period worldwide, whether they got two people or 200,000. And the problem is, is it’s not consistent, different way to say it, because not consistently talking about the vision, the values, what we’re doing, how your work aligns with the absolutely critical.
Yeah, I think it’s one of the number one challenges of that I see is that having an actual clear, like clarity, even from the leader, the top leader themselves is exactly what is our vision, and then exhausting it continuously. What’s the best way for someone to audit whether their chin is right Working?
Oh well that you even though you have a vivid vision of what the future there should be metrics that back it up, there should be milestones stepping stones on the way there. The one thing when you do metrics or things like this, it’s one of the keys of accountability or organization is to try to make them binary. You either get it or we didn’t. We reached 3 million in revenues. We got five offices, we’ve got, you know, X number of employees, we’ve served so many millions of customers, but the vision has to be made real through solid KPIs, key performance indicators, whatever you want to call it, that are measurable and clear again, so everyone can tie their work back into it. My job is this which allows us to happen that allowed us to reach that milestone. I’m proud of that work.
What KPIs Do you use for your business’s vision, I’m just curious.
From it’s a really interesting One and it’s gonna sound egotistical but it’s not. It’s to be consistently ranked among the top 100 business thought leaders in the world. And two years ago I was number eight gratulate in one area so and the reason is it because it’s, I could care less about the award, but that allowed me to reach more people. If I’m consistently ranked up there that I’m going to be the one that people call ask for help ask for advice, things like that. So it’s a credibility exposure KPI, but that’s the best way to measure it because I wouldn’t get that award if I wasn’t doing cutting edge work and helping a lot of people. So it’s we look at that as the main KPI.
Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I love that that’s that is a metric you can measure right and it in.
either make the minister I don’t.
What are you gonna do? Should you not Oh, my goodness.
I will well, we’ll have to figure out why. I didn’t make it. What did I not, I not touch that made me fall off that list, but I’m high mindfuck right now. Now that I have to screw up pretty bad trouble.
Very cool. All right. So on that is Principle number one. So I’m going to actually dive into principal asked us to dive into Principle number two, which is the best people. And I love your equation, which is talent times culture equals profits. And not only is that powerful, but it is absolutely true in every case, and what are the best ways to motivate talented people who might not be okay, the number one way to motivate talented people were to, there’s two. One is if you’ve got a close relationship with them is to understand what motivates them in their own lives, what’s important to them, and then find a way to tie their job together with something that’s extremely important to them personally. But here’s the big one. We’re seeing a lot, especially with all the millennials moving into the workforce. And I was I was at NASA Last week with their top 50 directors. And we were all saying, you know, I, when I think of millennials, I think I like teenagers doing this. Millennials, the oldest ones are 37 now. And then I looked at NASA and said, by 2025 70% of the people here are going to be millennials. And for them a major driver is purpose. I want to know that what I do makes a difference in the world, that we are uplifting a noble purpose. And I feel good about being part of something really important that makes a difference in people’s lives and in the world. So purpose is a huge motivator. And some companies that’s easy. I mean, if I work at, let’s just say Medtronic that makes pacemakers. It’s pretty easy to tie my work together with keeping people alive. It’s a little bit harder if you make you know, ball bearings or or something else. So if the company doesn’t do things that are super purposeful, maybe they do it in their community. So our company is not that you know, we make envelopes. Whatever. But we also raised more money for the breast cancer, or walk than anybody else, or we’re very, very tight into the Ronald McDonald House or the children’s hospital or whatever it is. So my job might be menial. But what our company does is meaningful, and I get to play a role in that. Mm hmm.
Yeah, that’s fantastic.
We have obviously a war on talent going on right now with the super low unemployment rate that we have. What? What things would you recommend your business clients to do that allow them to attract the very best talent they can afford?
I absolutely think this is a great question. I did a research project on this a couple years ago, it’s still continuing. But I reached out to more than 10,000 high potential employees and companies around the world from small companies up again until apple and IBM and Microsoft and I went to their very best employees. These are what I call basically voluntary employees. They’re so good. What they do that they come back to work not because they have to be because they want to. Because if they didn’t like where they work and they quit, they’d have a job at the competition the next day. So they are that talent that everybody wants. So I asked them, then why do you work where you work? And they say six key things. And here they are. Number one was fair paid, as you said, reasonable, as long as you’re 10% above or below what they would make to do the same job someplace else. Then pay goes off the table. If you get parody on paid pay is no longer a major motivator. The next one was meaningful, challenging work, what you just said purpose, something that motivates me to make a difference. So meaningful, challenging work. Next one was cool colleagues. A players only want to play with other a player sorry, if I’m really good. I want to be around other people that challenge me and lift me up. The opposite is if you take someone who’s talented and put them on a team with mediocre people, one of two things happens either they drop their performance or they get frustrated and lead. So we’ve got a reasonable pay fair pay challenging Cool colleagues. Next one is winning culture. As we said, talent, culture culture is to me, when you put culture and talent together, the two things that can either make or break a company you want to see really make a big impact on a company, improve their culture, want to drive a company into bankruptcy, dysfunctional culture, it’s pretty straightforward. So winning culture, and then the last two, I think, are really cool. Number five is personal and professional growth, personal growth, my company’s investing in me I get sent, seminars, training as a coach. But I know that I’m smarter at the end of the month than I was at the beginning and my company is, is investing in me to get better. professional growth says I can look up and see a place for myself in this company five to seven years from today. And if you hire somebody who’s smart talent and they’re not growing, then I’ll learn anything new and they look at me. I don’t really see a career path for me here. They’re gone immediately. Then the last one, which is actually the first one single most important thing by far was I work for a leader trust, respect and admire. Yeah, 80% of people who quit their job don’t quit the job, don’t quit the hours don’t quit the page don’t quit the workload, what do they quit their idiot boss? Right. What we also just learned is the single biggest factor that attracts and keep stop talent is great leadership.
People in the workforce in general want meaningful work, right? meaningful work on a daily basis is important. But often, there’s a lot of jobs here specifically in the United States that are very manufacturer driven, production driven, that are wrote like they’re the same thing every day. How, how have you seen organizations bring meaning into the work and do it well?
I’ve got a great story, this one that fits exactly what you said. I’ve got a friend who is the CEO of a company that makes gearboxes sexy, isn’t it and they make them for you know, air conditioners, big cooling units, and nuclear submarines and all this other stuff. And it can be hard putting, I mean, basically the ball bearings and these tiny things and microns and giant gears and all this stuff. And they had bought a company that made gearboxes for helicopters, just one little part of the gearbox. And that workhorse was not very motivated. They went to everyday they did the same stuff, same machine, same thing, gearbox, boom, out the door. So right after they brought in one of their top customers, which was the United military, the army, and they brought in a general who was there basically bought the most stuff, and everybody’s in a hangar, and the general walks up to the podium, and they’re all thinking like, Oh, thanks for building these gearboxes ever. He leans everything and he looks at the crowd, he goes, you made gearboxes for Blackhawk helicopters, both my sons fly Blackhawks in Iraq. Don’t kill my boys walked away. And yeah, I still get goosebumps.
Do you totally disagree with us? Maybe over the years.
Yeah, everybody went from guilty Building gearboxes to keeping American soldiers alive. And the sons of my neighbors that are in those helicopters fails, everybody dies, we return young people back to America safe and sound by building right here boxes. That’s how you take something that’s not particularly exciting, in turn is something that’s very meaningful. And it’s really hard for some companies, but typically you can find a way to put them together.
Well, that would I wish that I had that kind of meaning like, you know, where it really makes you like, it made me tear up, right? So that’s a good challenge for every company to figure out like where they’re making a difference. And so meaning that’s one side of it, but then let’s talk about the opposite or the bad side of that is that some cultures are being destroyed by poor behaviors, right? So what is the number one behavior that you see that crushes cultures and ruins Good talent.
Well do the single biggest thing that either supports or crushes culture as a senior management team period, as goes to senior management team, so goes the entire company. So you want to drive it have a stated set of values and then have a group of leaders that violate them on a daily basis. This my friend, it’s what crushes culture. And that’s probably the problem I see the most is they say, this is what we do and what we believe in. And you know, we, we respect our employees, but you got a boss over here yelling at somebody, this work in the real world. So that’s the single biggest thing is a leadership team that isn’t a living example of the values and the vision of the organization.
Yeah, so I completely agree and you answered how to fix it, which is to be congruent with what you say the values are, and demonstrate those behaviors to amplify them. So Cool. All right, can we dive into Principle number three, which is communication? And I’d say the number one challenging crux of every organization. And what’s the most common thing that employees fail to communicate to their managers?
Questions? So asking the question like, oh, like, I don’t know if that’s an Okay. Question.
I don’t understand that. Yeah. Could you clarify that for me? It’s a two sided to not giving clear expectations or direction, and then not asking for clarification. When you don’t understand something that’s going on. You just hope you’ll figure it out. Well, hope is not a good strategy. So it’s that it’s two sides of that it’s not giving clear direction and then not asking for clarification. Because that what that does is things get all messed up. Now we go more time, more energy, more effort going back to fix it. Whereas if we take in two extra minutes or three extra minutes to communicate clearly, all of that other stuff would have been avoided. Mm hmm.
What is the most common thing managers fail? To communicate to their employees and so is it clear finish for that one, okay.
It is setting clear expectations. The other thing is failing to tell them when they don’t think they’re good doing a good job
They don’t say anything and they don’t say anything you don’t say anything they don’t, you know, be mean or whatever. And then all of a sudden that the employee ends up in a place that they’re about to lose their job but nobody said anything to them. I I’ve got a jack welch quote i love i never fired anybody who was surprised and now it’s a waste of any managers angry is off complaining, man, man if I cheated, she doesn’t get you know, and I’m going to get rid of ago nobody said anything to me. I didn’t know anything was wrong. That’s really unfair employees.
I agree. In your book, you recommend that managers should take interpersonal communication skills training. So what should a company look for in a training for that?
I think the number one class on that, in my opinion is conflict resolution is how to handle difficult, awkward, challenging, uncomfortable situations. And it isn’t just, you know, yelling and screaming conflict. It’s part of what I just said it’s a difficult conversation to tell someone they’re not performing at the level you expected them to. So the one thing that I see is because people are really good at handling those awkward situations, having difficult conversations. Another word is there’s radical candor. Because they don’t want to do that. They avoid all those issues, which only makes them get much. You know, for most of it’s a skill we learn way later and just this week, I read a book called I can hear you about validating other people’s feelings. And I’ve been teaching this stuff for 30 years. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t. I’ve never seen this before I do this terribly. I’m asked my wife, I am horrible at this. And I looked at it when I someone should have taught this to me 20 years ago, I would have had would have avoided a lot of pain in my life. So that’s the kind of stuff I think. And the neat thing about that is it helps in office at home.
Okay, let’s talk about the next principle, which is sense of urgency. You wrote in the book. If speed equals success, then bureaucracy, bureaucracy equals failure. So meetings, reports, procedures, all those things that we teach our business owners to create sometimes creates that bureaucracy, right?
Yes, they do.
So how do you maintain quality standards without slowing you down?
Oftentimes steps are added more steps or out a year later and other steps out into one more thing. And it can blow up into something you didn’t realize is now 10 times more work than it used to be three or four years ago. So constantly being vigilant about do we have the most effective, efficient way to do this we have. One of the ways I like to use this is Starbucks. Starbucks has a very, very clear process. For making a mocha travel, audio, whatever this is called, is going to use any Starbucks in the world at bay exactly the same. However they then tell the baristas bring your own personality to it, add it, innovate whatever you want to do, just make sure that when the coffee hits the table, it’s exactly what the person ordered. So I like the idea of here’s the rules that the guardrails need to do. Other than that, use your own best judgment at all times. You’re a smart person. That’s why I hired you. So let’s, let’s make it happen faster. So urgency is in the red tape and things like that urgency is also in the fact that deadlines passed. In many companies. Nobody does anything about it. I’ve got to see him coaching Now that said, my board book is due next week. All the files that were supposed to be for the board of directors book were supposed to be in two weeks ago. I still don’t have stuff from my CFO. I said, Well, that’s that’s unacceptable. You just didn’t feel like it. Was that important? I go well, that’s not the answer. One would want to hear is it.
No, not at all. We do get what we allow Is that not true?
That is exactly true. You, you train people how to treat you, for sure.
In and you offer some great advice in your book about the four levels of decisions. And I’m going to put you right on the spot. Can you quickly recap what those are for our listeners?
Yeah, sure. I learned this was when I was a young CEO. I thought it was so cool that everybody was coming to me for decisions I and I got, and I looked up one day and I saw everybody stand in the hallway waiting for me to make their decisions. So I got my whole team together. And I said, From now on, there’s four levels of decision making in our organization. Level One, your decision you on the outcome. That’s what I hired you for. This is your area of expertise. This is your part of the organization. You make the decision, you make it immediately you own the outcome level one, level two, go get some advice. It doesn’t have to be for me, the CEO, you might want to go talk to the director.
The organization asked for advice, feedback, input information, then you make the decision and you want the outcome. But make sure you talk to only because he would bring me something that I’d have to go, you go here, you go there, boom. And if you do that level two, a couple of times, it should become a level one because you understand the answer already, right? level three is a team decision. We’re going to get together and as with the appropriate people in the company, and we’re going to make a decision as a team and me as the CEO, I will go along with you, even if I don’t agree, if it’s not mission critical. You all say you want to go one direction, I think we got to go the other way. But when I say is, I trust you, you’re my team. And if you want to go that way, I’m going to go, I’m going to go with you. And I own the outcome, though, if it’s great, you get all the credit if it bombs, my fault. So I take all of the negative consequences. Then a level four decision is I’m making this decision. It’s my call. I’m the owner, leader, boss. And when I do a level four, I need you to back me And say we’re behind you. And then of course I on the outcome, very important idea here. It’s the level three decisions you make over and over again, where you allow your team to overrule you and do what they want to do. And it turns out great that when you ask them to trust you and say, Just trust me, I’m making this decision. They go, you’ve always trusted us. We’ll trust you. Yeah, that’s awesome.
That’s a desert. That’s a good clarification on the four levels. What is the fastest way to create a culture of urgency?
A culture of urgency is to is to make and keep dates so that that when we separate someone encounters something due on a certain day, it’s actually doing that day. And then the other thing I think, is a thing called meeting cadence. Where we have short huddle in the morning, maybe a half an hour, 45 minute meeting at the end of the week with a senior managers and stuff. So you know, a lot of people when things get busy, they stop having meetings. Because they think it slows things down. Actually, keeping that cadence allows everyone to know what’s going on, keep things moving, keeping things going at pace. If there’s a problem, I can fix it now, instead of having a problem on Tuesday and have a meeting Friday morning and going, ever since Tuesday, this stuff’s been going terrible. So it’s it’s keeping communication open and constantly checking in. And, and understanding what’s the word I want, honoring due dates and actually getting stuff done on the right day.
Um, have you I’m just because you’re talking about meeting cadence. I think my team has a great cadence. But is there a rule of thumb on how often you should meet? We’re doing it twice a week and it works for us? And I guess that might be the right answer. But is there a minimum and a maximum?
If most of this comes from meeting cadences Vern Harnish in his book, scaling up that really, really good book, and he talks about daily, huddles quick 15 minute huddle. The key with the huddle is it’s not a this is what happened yesterday. It’s a this was an undoing today, and it here I need help or here’s what I expected. Here’s what might be a bottleneck. So the huddle is always forward looking. Then some sort of a quick weekly meeting, maybe during lunch or something to make sure that except 15 minutes every day, maybe lunch once a week, once a quarter, is a half day, full half day devoted to strategy, what’s going on the company making sure where are they and then you’ve got your semiannual and annual planning meetings, your strategic plan and six wait six months through the year, you should take a day to make sure you’re still on plan and see if there’s any adjustments. That sounds like a I will tell you that the organization to do those meetings effectively and do them quickly and stay on task. It totally changes the cadence and they can as I like to say kill the monster wallets small. They could catch problems people before they become catastrophic problems.
Kill the monster while it’s small. I might have to use that as a quote from you if that’s okay.
I absolutely yeah.
I think I also think that when you have that type of meeting cadence, you’re driving home your culture and vision consistently and making the small adjustments, killing the small monster, you know, pivoting your navigation.
So that’s great. We talked about communication and how do you keep communication? You can face it often. Yeah, you’re having a quick huddle. We’re meeting weekly, we’re meeting monthly. It’s gonna be hard to have a major communication breakdown. Yeah.
Very true. All right, let’s talk about principle of disciplined execution. In your book, you list nine steps of execution. What’s the most often missed step or underdeveloped step in a small micro sized company?
We talked about this earlier, I believe, is binary goals. If If I don’t know what my expectations are, they’re clarified, I don’t understand them and I don’t have a measurement on it to know whether I achieved it or not. It’s very hard to execute effectively, but it’s a very possible to hold someone accountable if they don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing. The other key thing about binary metrics is they take all emotion, politics, personality, all that out of it. You say we’re going to close $3 million of business, you’ve closed 2.7. You’re great. I love you. You’re fantastic. However, your performance isn’t to what we agreed upon. How do we execute against that? So it’s happy being able to have a high level of accountability and key and letting people know where they stand against those goals. That creates a higher level of execution, through that accountability, culture, a culture of accountability.
In so having clarity on what someone’s goal is and then the accountability to whether or not they met the goal, and then adjusting in remedying the strategy of what they’re using. How long do you allow that to go on when they’re not meeting their goal?
Um, it depends on the speed of your business. So if you’ve got something that’s fast moving, and you can’t, I mean a week, it’s gonna be a problem. You can’t let him go a week or 10 days, it’s got you got to be other companies move at a much slower pace. And if somebody is missing the goal slightly, you’ve got a little bit more time to fix it. But um, let me give you an idea, a quick tool that I teach a lot that people say is very powerful. And I learned it when I when I was, again, a young CEO. And I had employees that were not performing at the level needed to be their manager and talk to him the managers manager and now they’re with me, they just didn’t have a sense of urgency. So I said, Come to my office and bring four pieces of paper. Sit down Sarah and on piece of paper. Number one, what I want you to do is write down everything you’re going to do to prove to me and everyone else here in the next 60 days, that you should stay in the company. You obviously know that things are on shaky ground here. I prefer that you didn’t leave the company. But we need to turn this around. So you tell me what you’re going to do to show everyone You’re going to stay on the team and I want it measurable and specific and observable. So there’s no guessing boom. Then we both sign it. It’s not a legally binding contract. It’s just a promise between two professionals piece of paper number one piece paper number two, what do you need to meet for me to make that happen? What support training resources help? You know, what do I have? What rules do I have to change whatever it is, again, we sort of negotiate that we both sign a piece of paper number three is if you turn this all around and you deliver everything you promised, what would you like us some sort of a small reward and have dinner out with your significant other a little bit more flex time, gift certificate, whatever it might be. We agree on that that piece of paper number four is if I give you everything you asked for a piece of paper number two, and you do not achieve everything you promised on piece of paper number one, what are the ramifications P and almost everybody says you’ll terminate near all quit so then you just have a meeting with them once a week how you doing a piece paper number one, do you anything from up these paper number two, looks like you’re going to get piece of paper number three, or looks like we’re heading for a piece of paper number four, two things on that. I’ve been the owner, CEO of many companies, I’ve only had to terminate a very few number of people, but I’ve had a lot self terminate. They get out in 50 days and they go cheap this. The other thing about having them write it is they can’t come back and go, Oh, it’s not fair. I didn’t know what the goal was, or I didn’t understand it. Or, you know, it’s not I didn’t think it was reasonable. No, you’re the one that wrote the goal. You wrote the metric. You wrote the goal. It’s in your handwriting. You signed it. We didn’t give me everything I needed. Yes, I did. We checked off everything. You got everything. I gave you everything you wanted. You didn’t achieve what you want. You’re the one that wrote the goal. That’s usually the point where they go, you’re right. I’ll go clean up my desk. I’m sorry.
Yeah, that’s pretty powerful john. And I like I have no idea where I’m on that or if I made it up, but I’ll just take credit.
You totally should take credit for it. It was one of it was one of the points that you made in the book that I enjoyed the most of it. Everyone can do that everyone can get out four pieces of paper and do this, right? Like it’s an easy system.
For anybody watching this, don’t go back to your scope for you for me.
That’s good advice, too.
That’s great. Um, so that piece of advice may apply to my next question in the sense of, you know, in coaching, in your coaching experience in the execution steps working with big businesses. Are they more challenging than smaller organizations? Or are they dealing with a bigger issue of urgency?
Again, it depends on the industry. Some move fast, some move slow. If you’re a technology, we got to fix it yesterday. Yeah, if you’re making gearboxes, that’s probably not going to change too much for the next year. So it’s not the sense of urgency as much. Here’s what I’ve learned. For the most part, big businesses and small businesses are almost exactly The same, it’s just more zeros. Now admit in the larger organization, it’s more complex, more moving parts. But you get down to the fundamentals around leadership, the things we’re talking about, it is no different at Microsoft, as it is, and I, it’s gonna be stupid. Just about through this Mike’s garage or something. Mike’s cake company. It’s exactly the same fundamentals are zeros.
Yeah. I’ve found that small, in my opinion, what I’ve experienced, it’s just as important and they are just more zeros, but sometimes it’s harder to get the urgency in a bigger business, because the layers that it has to go through so Oh, absolutely.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Okay, on to the next principle, extreme customer focus. So, I mean, a lot of companies that I know they just sent out that annual survey, you know, through Survey Monkey to, you know, get this sense of whether or not their customers are happy and some people rely on their customer happiness, truly by their like Google reviews only right For our listeners, what are what are some really cool extreme ways that you’ve seen people focus on customers?
Well, I, how long do we have?
Unknown Speaker 38:16
About 50 minutes. Yeah, there’s surveys or social media. Do you have a VIP users group you have a new member users? Do you have to comes in, you know, helps you advisors that helps you? And this is small companies, big companies. Um, are you doing your net promoter score? Do you have, you know, any way you can think of to get feedback from your customers? Make sure you’re not pummeling him like this is a survey to find out how you like taking our survey this morning. We don’t want to hit him quite that hard, but every way you can think of to get as much feedback now Mike, give you one piece of advice that I just gave to someone right before we got on the phone. One of the most important customer feedback you can get ever is to go to a group of your top customers, what I would call your target customers, when you’d love to have more just like them, who are already doing business with you and ask them this question, why specifically Did you hire us? Or why specifically, do you do business with us? What are the top three or four reasons? And go and ask, you know, 510 20 hundred 500 of your best customers that and what will happen is a pattern will emerge and they will all say roughly the same two or three things. When you hear those two or three things, that’s your brain. That’s your brand. That’s the areas to focus on. Put that on your business card, put it on your you know, your, your website, make sure you do those things superbly. Because I’m guessing if a bunch of your top clients are paying you for these same four things, most of the customers or at least the customers you want probably want the same three or four things that is one of most powerful voice of the customer tools. There is an almost nobody does it almost no.
That is guidance, I’d say the one piece of guidance that people are most reticent about going to do, right? Like, oh, you know, they’re like, I don’t know why people buy, what’s our unique selling proposition? I don’t know. I’m like, well, let’s ask your customers. And they’re like, Oh, we don’t want to do that. Exactly the opposite of that. The more you know, the better you can do. They’re the ones who pay all the bills when I’m checking with them and see what makes them happy. Yeah. Yeah. Completely agree. All right, we’re coming down to the end. And you point out in the book that most of the time customers will judge a business based on its frontline people. So for retail companies and restaurants, what are your top tips for training your frontline staff to provide extreme customer focus?
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