Economist and author Mary C. Kelly shares her thoughts on how to secure and advance businesses during the health crisis and recession.
About Mary C. Kelly
Mary Kelly, PhD, CSP, CDR, US Navy… Mary Kelly has EXPERIENCE and it’s this experience that your executives and your audience must learn to change the way they thrive in work and in life.
Of all her titles, Mary’s favorite is teacher and after an outstanding career, she is focused on teaching professionals to navigate the economy, build their business, be a true leader and get more done. Add inspiration, grace and a few hilarious stories and you have yourself one unforgettable keynote speaker!
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.
Welcome to Deliberate Leaders I am your host Allison Dunn, Executive Business Coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode features inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. And today’s interview is no different. I am so pleased to introduce Mary Kelly. She is the author of 15 ways to grow your business in every economy and the book, five minutes per week 52 weeks to a better business. She is a keynote speaker and an executive coach at her company Productive Leaders. As a practicing economist. She helps companies find efficiencies, solve problems and implement change. She is also a retired commander of the United States Navy and during her 21 years of active duty she trained over 20,000 military and civilian personnel. Mary, thank you so much for joining us here today.
Oh, it’s such a pleasure to be with your people and your leaders who are taking the right action at the right time to make a difference every day.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m fascinated by your military career. What did you learn as a commander that you’ve applied to the business world now that you’re in civilian world?
It’s so interesting that you would ask because many people think well, how in the world do you morph over from being an intelligence officer and a logistics officer in the military and apply that in the civilian world? Well, the challenges are very much the same. First, we how we all have a problem with resource allocation. None of us has enough. Second, we all have to worry about our budget. Even in the military. It’s not like we get a blank checkbook. It looks that way. Sometimes if you see it on TV the way some things get done, but that’s really not how it works. We have a budget and our budgets had a lot of zeros on it when you run a military base or a shipyard or something like that, there was a lot of expenses. And third, we had to deal with multicultural, multi linguistic, and international situations, issues and challenges all the time. And that’s what many businesses are facing right now with their global supply chains, with their interactions with production in other areas. And in terms of getting things done. So it’s about people. It’s about budgets, and it’s about logistics.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Do you miss being in a military setting?
I do. I do miss some things about and it’s funny that you should ask so my older brother was a career marine. He married a Navy gal. My husband was a force recon marine. Back in Vietnam days. My sister was a career Force officer. Her husband was a Navy guy, as well. And my younger brother was a Navy pilot. And so we all talk in short, choppy sentences. We all talk fast It’s just how we are. And we’re wildly direct with each other. And that’s one of the things that I do sort of miss about the military is I could walk into someone’s office and go here, and they go got it. And it would be a very short conversation, civilians need more words. And this really hammered home to me, Alli, the idea that we need to be better at communication as leaders. And a lot of times, even the people closest to us, we think they can read our mind because we married them or we live with them, or we’ve known them all our life. But the people who frustrate us the most are those people that we think they should know us, we think they should be able to read our minds. And we have a communication breakdown. And the idea behind that is, say more words, say the words that people need to hear, be very clear. If you want something to happen, say it, don’t hint at it. Don’t be terribly subtle about it. I know that especially as ladies, we are oftentimes dissuaded from being very direct because we might be labeled as something There’s a way you can be very direct, and get what you need and not be labeled any of those words, men tend to be more direct with communication and they can get away with it better. But we all have to be very direct about communication so that we don’t have miscommunications in the workplace.
I am, I am married to a former Army officer major. And our communication styles are very, very different. I am so relating to what you’re sharing right now.
And it’s so funny because somewhat when I first got out of the military, I had I realized that my emails were not okay. So for example, I was sitting back, somebody say, can you know, we’ve got this thing going on, and can you get this done? And I go, yes. I thought that was very clear communication. No, it is not. So one of the things I do talk to people about is how right now, as in the past, our emails have just exploded. I don’t know about yours, but ours have just gone through the roof. And I do have and I want to offers to your deliberate leaders that there’s a way you can help your team become more effective with their email. And they can help you be more effective with their email and the way I it’s real quick. And I thought your Deliberate Directions leaders would like this, that it’s nice. It’s called dice, dice, dice, dice, everything in the military has an acronym. So dice is decide information, coordinate, or execute, execute means or act sometimes act sounds nicer. But you put that as the very first word in the subject of your email. And that way, if somebody sends that to you, and it’s from your team, and they go decide, you know, that if you don’t make that decision, you’re holding up a team. If it’s just for your information that goes into your I can read later. That’s just a nice to know, if it’s coordinate. That means it’s a reply all and everybody on that email needs to know about it. And there’s some coordination required. Execute or act means the action is on me. That’s something everybody’s waiting for. So here’s the thing. The magic on that. So you put that into your subject header with the topic. So I don’t like to have an email that says, hey, it’s Mary checking in. Nobody cares, vanilla delete. But if it’s a subject line of decide future podcast interview with Mary Kelly by 30, May, now you know, Mary’s waiting for your decision by the 30th of May, because the June calendar is already getting full. And you know what you’ve got to do. So then really quickly, you can look at it in your phone and go, boom, this date. And so there’s very short, clear communication, it allows you to triage your email. And then if something needs to be done right away, you know that somebody’s sending that to you and they’re waiting on you. If it’s coordination, then somebody you should be expecting a reply, or you got to hit a reply. All other people are involved. And then we use this other way in the military called bluff. And bluff means the bottom line up front, it’s not Hey, Allison, it was such a great time having no time with you and your podcast yet. No, it’s so looking forward to our next podcasts on this day. Thank you so much for having me. And then the summary goes underneath that, because so many of us are doing our emails on our phone. And right now with more and more people working remotely with more and more leaders having to get involved in more and more details, we have to make it easier on our people to not only triage their email, but help us triage ours..
I love the bluff. And I have a lot of clients that write very lengthy emails, and you do have to look at the last one to figure out what they ask is right or what the direct request is. So that’s brilliant. Decide in bluff two fabulous tips. I’m going to insert it right away with my own team.
It’s all about clear communication and setting the expectations. And so if you just say we’re going to start doing it this way, it comes across as a little bit in your face. But if you say hey, Mary said we should try this because I don’t know about you, but my emails are out of control and everybody goes all my emails are out of control. Now you’re helping each other, and you’re helping each other with clear communication. And that is a huge sense of relief for everybody there because one of the things.
For sure, absolutely. Exceptional communication tip, can I ask you for what would be one of your, what would be your number one leadership tip to give our listeners.
The number one leadership tip. Besides being great at communication, you can be forgiven a lot of things if you’re great at communication. But right now, people are feeling uncertain. They’re fearful. They are unproductive. There’s lots of distractions. You got to be providing more information, which is that communication more timely, even if you don’t have a lot of it? Because that builds trust. And right now people are whether you articulate it or not, whether your people are saying this to you or not. They’re worried about Will my kids ever go back to school There’s a big difference between homeschooling an eighth grader and a first grader, you cannot homeschool a first grader the same way it takes more time. So some people are worried about is my family life ever going to get back to normal? Wow, I love that I get more time with my family that was the first three days and now all of a sudden, oh gosh, will they ever go back to the office. And some of us are worried about our aging parents and some of us are trying to get other things done. When everything is just harder, things are taking more time. So we as leaders have to be building trust with the people who work with and for us, and we also have to be doing a better job of supporting our boss. So wherever you are in the organizational structure, you can say to your people, how’s it going? And they’re not and they’re going to give you the same answers. Good. Fine, great. It’s like having a conversation with a teenager who wants to borrow the car keys. Good, fine, great. How was school? Good, fine, great. Anything more? Nope, good. Everything’s good. They’re not gonna tell you anything. But if you say Hey, on a scale of one to 10, how’s your family dealing with everything? Not you? How’s your family dealing with it? Now you’re going to get a more honest answer. Now you’re going to get about a six, we only have two computers in the house, there’s five kids, everybody’s competing for the same computer time, the bandwidth in our neighborhood goes, you know, absolutely downward as of three o’clock every afternoon. So we know we have to get up early. This is happening, this is happening. My spouse, my partner, Mike, all of a sudden you’re getting good information. And then they will also open up about you know, my parents or this or, or here’s what’s happening here. And now you know how to respond as a leader, right now. leadership has never been more required. And it’s never been more difficult for our generation in terms of the workplace environment we’re in. So people need more of it. They need more of your time, and it needs to be more individualized.
Yeah, that is, that’s a great tip. And I think The scale question is a question I often ask and it is funny as we progress in the weeks of, you know, we’re almost in the two month period for our area and people have gone from this is great to this is like, you know, to a two and back up to a five and back, you know, it’s been It has been a roller coaster so to have get that gauge as opposed to It’s okay. You don’t I mean, there’s a lot behind that for sure.
And people want to be mostly upbeat with their boss, like, you don’t want to whine to your boss, but you as the boss, you as a leader or a manager or supervisor, you also need to know if there’s something you need to know. And, you know, in one situation, I had a client and one of their people was just not participating and kind of the, the daily calls and I said, Well, what do you do? And he goes, I don’t know what to do. He’s just, you know, he’s not showing up for our morning meetings, like Well, did you pick up the phone and call them like that would be a good idea. And it turns out his wife was really sick. They thought maybe she had the virus. They have two handicapped kids and The guy was just at his wits end and couldn’t make those morning calls. His kids are on a schedule. And they’re the logistics just weren’t working. He wasn’t trying to avoid work, but he was really struggling. And this is where bosses are trying to balance right now holding people accountable and the flexibility and the empathy that people need. And right now it’s a tightrope. Your people were performers before, and now suddenly, they’re not. There may be another situation that you need to know about. And it would give you that element of flexibility. But in some cases, what we’re finding is those top performers that are working from home, they were always your top performers, but because they’re not charismatic, or they’re not overtly personable at the watercooler in the conference room, they’re not always the people who speak up all of a sudden you’re like, wow, this person is smart. They are producers, their sales numbers are through the roof, and the person I thought was my top person. They’re not. I was kinda being blinded by their personality. So in some ways, working from home is a great equalizer.
That is a perspective. I think that is coming out in conversations. But you just articulated that really well, that you can actually see your producers once you eliminate some of the things that kind of showcase you right? In the day to day environment. Interesting. I am eager to talk about your 15 ways to grow a business in every economy. And I think that is such a relevant conversation right now because our economy feels different than it has been.
What guidance would you give? I mean, my question that I was going to tee up is how can you recession proof of business? And I’m not sure if that’s a thing, so sure, if there is?
Sure. I think that’s a great question. So I wrote that book at the tail end of the last recession. I am a card carrying Christabel toady economist. That’s my PhD. That’s what all my work is on. My research was all on poverty alleviation and business growth. That’s what I focus on. So right now, for anyone who’s listening, who might have a business, there’s a few things you can do. That allows you to really tee up your business and focus on the most important things. Because remember, we don’t have time, or resources or people or money to focus on everything we’d like to do. So we have to make sure we’re getting the best ROI for what it is we’re doing right now. And a few things that you can do when, when you’ve got a few moments to be strategic. Number one, take a good hard look at the products and services you are providing to your customers. Are they relevant now? And some people say oh, we’re always going to need fill in the blank. Well, that’s what those people who made a track tape said to my first car came with two eight track tapes. It was the best of the carpenters and Sonny and Cher. I know Eight track tapes. And then and then there’s this evolution. So right now is a great time to see not only what you’re providing right now to your customers, but what they’re going to need from you in the future. And the businesses that are doing the best right now are those that have quickly responded to the changing needs of what’s happening. The doordash, the grub hubs, the Insta cards, the all those young entrepreneurial folks who’ve decided, wow, I’ll come over to your house and wash your car for you, mobile, dog grooming, all of these things that allow you to have the services you want are going to continue. and certain other businesses that thought that kind of, well, let’s face it, last 10 years, we’ve had such good growth that we kind of didn’t have to work that hard to be successful. It was nice. We thought it was okay status quo was good enough. Well, now it’s not. So a couple things that your folks can do if they’ve got a business so again, look hard at what your customers wants and needs are moving into the future. Look at how you are best able to provide those services and products to those people moving forward, number one. Number two, make it easy for people to buy from you. Please do not have complicated web systems memo you have to have a membership before you can buy from me or otherwise you have to go through this whole long list of we’re going to prove you to buy a refrigerator. Are you kidding? Make it easy for people to buy from you take a fresh look at everything you are selling. And ask the question if I was at five years old, what I understand the value proposition if I was 10 years old, what I understand the value proposition if you can get those two right, then guess what? You’ve probably got it right. But a lot of times I see font that’s way too small specifications that are in lingo that nobody as a consumer understands. You’re making it hard for people to say yes, it’s like the worst possible dating thing. Don’t make it hard for people to say yes to you. If you’re trying to date them. Make it easy for people to say That’s number two. Number three is you’ve got to know your numbers, you absolutely must know what it is you need to be doing in order to make a profit. Profit is good. Before all this started, only 25% of companies worldwide had more cash than debt. That’s horrible. With a 10 year economic run, where everybody was doing really well. Why would you not have more cash on hand, and many people are the same way. Before this all started 59% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. Now that’s down from 78%, three years ago. But again, it doesn’t mean they’re badly paid. It means they’re badly budgeting. And then you would ask the average American family Do you have an emergency fund and 44% of them said we don’t even have $400 to get us into the next month. One, one little emergency would wipe us out and all of a sudden the emergency happened. So you can see that. Yep. So you’ve got to know your numbers. So look ahead at the products and services. Make sure it’s easy for people to say yes, and then know your numbers.
And one of my biggest grievances when trying to buy something online is to have that that process be so complicated where I’m just like, like, it’s I don’t know, where I don’t know if I made the purchase or not, I don’t know. I’ve seen a significant advancement just in that one element for a lot of businesses just in the last few weeks or so. And people are finally figuring it out.
And many people don’t want to change and I understand that because, you know, we’ve had enjoyed such a nice run for so long. My. And again, there’s some age demographics that you’d think would be at play. My parents are 85 and 88. And they are rocking this whole thing. They’re doing fine. I know they’re resilient. They’re tough. They’re like, we got this no problem. My mom, she’s 88 she went to Costco today. She went to Costco, she’s like, I’m there. I got my mask. I got my cart. She races through Costco now. You kind of don’t want to get into a situation when you over but she’s they’re not scared of this because they’ve been through other things. And this is where our leaders, I think need to help their people bounce a little bit better. Many of their employees, many of their people have never had adversity before, certainly not to this degree. And so they don’t know how to get through it. They don’t know how to get through it. confidence to get through things like this comes from having done it before. confidence comes from doing and you know that from your husband, he did some crazy silly things. And you look at him now and you go, You did what? And you’re thinking, Well, why weren’t you scared? And his answer was probably, uh, maybe afterwards, maybe, I don’t know. But when everybody else around you is doing it, you kind of don’t think about it until you look back and go, Oh, of course, I can handle that moving forward, because I’ve already done fill in the blank. confidence comes from doing so sometimes we as leaders have to help our people take those baby steps that leads into that big accomplishment so that they can get that confidence by doing.
I love your tips on what businesses should be thinking about doing. Have you noticed any industries that I really have not made a pivot necessary and are almost refusing to shift the way that they’re thinking?
Very worried about the airline industry. I’m one of those people who’s normally on 20 planes a month. And customer service over the last 10 years has just gone downhill. And I have pretty decent status on some airlines and you do get treated better with status. And that’s a very snobby horrible thing to say. And I don’t think we Yeah, and I don’t think we get treated that well. And I don’t need much like I know my job when I fly, sit in seat. Don’t make any chaos. Be quiet strap in clean, you’re clean your tray table like that’s my job. I do think the airlines have gotten it wrong for several years. They have treated their passengers like cattle, and they’re continuing to miss the mark on that. And they are not when this whole thing started. I think they were very slow to adapt. I think they have been very slow to reassure people that planes are clean. And I think that is Causing part of the reluctance that many business travelers have right now in terms of traveling. And if you’ve had to travel now to see your aging parents, you don’t want to get on a plane, you’re like, you know what I might drive even though flying would be cheaper right now. I think the airlines need to do a better job of reassuring people. But that reassurance is going to come from all industries where safety is always a concern. Now it’s more of a concern. Hotels are going to have the same challenge. They’ve got to reassure people that when you come to our hotels, they are cleaner than your own house by a lot. And in fact, they’re sparkly things. And in fact, we walked you know, the fact that people would walk down hallways and touch walls, and we’ve got somebody behind them cleaning things or we Lysol 18 times a day or we fumigate 17 things and we have this pledge or whatever it is put a cleaning checklist in the room, that safety and cleanliness has taken a big step forward. Frankly, that’s kind of nice to see. And we as we as humans, we’re kind of gross, disgusting creatures. We’re made up of all kinds have bacteria we carry viruses. And, you know, I mean, we’re gross. So we need to make sure that we are reassuring people, that our facilities are clean that our food preparation is exemplary, even if we are a fast food place, that we are hiring people who take sanitation really, really seriously, that our food production is safe. And those are areas where frankly, we got lazy and we needed to take a step forward. Now, and now is a good reason for those companies to get out ahead. The ones that are at the head of this are those that have embraced new standards and new customer concerns.
I don’t know where Colorado is in its phasing of coming back to work. We, I’m based in Idaho, and we basically opened back up on the first February I’m sorry, Friday, May 1. And to you know, in the weeks coming up to it, everything was locked down and super cleanly and then we open up First and all the practices that I had noticed, and was really impressed at some of our large chain stores doing completely stopped.
So I think that’s going to have to shift a little bit. And again, I’d always had such low numbers. I mean, I think that’s really true. And for anyone affected by this either through ancillary friends, family, peripheral, whatever it is, I mean, this is a terrible in the economic terms, we call this an external shock. This is like a meteorite. This is something that came out of nowhere, has affected everyone and we just have to deal with it. On the plus side, as leaders, we can see very clearly those who take this seriously and those who don’t, and those who don’t take certain things seriously, such as the cleanliness, they’re probably not going to be around in the long term. In the short term, I realized people are trying to cut costs or maybe they don’t have certain things available or something like that. Maybe they’ve got sick people, whatever. But I do think this is going to force companies to be better. We certainly have to be more responsive. Colorado, I’m in Colorado, and we went from Safe at Home to safer at home. So they’re like, okay, you probably need a haircut, which I do. But if you could wait for a while, that’s good. I’m like, Oh, that’s fine. I’ll, you know, I can put a ball cap on, it’ll be fine. We, we’ve moved forward a little bit, some restrictions have been lifted. But again, some of the companies that have tried to remain open the restaurants who have tried to do take out, some have done it so badly, that they will never recover. Because now should be a time where people are saying buy from local restaurants and supporting your local restaurants and your local businesses whenever possible. And they’ve made it so hard for people to give them money. Like I said, you have to make it easy for people to say yes, that they will never recover. Some people are have closed down and they’ve just given up and they’ve decided they’ll decide in six months whether or not they’re going to come back and we certainly hope they’re going to come back. But right now is when we need real leadership. And for the past 10 years, it was nice to have real leadership, but it was a little bit more optional. Now great leadership is necessarily mandatory.
Yeah, I would have I would agree with that. Um, I am just curious. So we just talked about kind of airline industry not to doing it well, as an economist. What do you think are the biggest businesses business opportunities that you can see in the next five years, based on where we are today?
I think retirement communities are going to shift and for example, we are not we I say we, I think you’re a little younger than me. But we are baby boomers, Gen Xers we are not going to retire the same way that our parents did. This whole idea of moving into a retirement or assisted living. That is not great care, great service where you’re kind of banished to your room, we’re not going to do that we want to live with the same purpose we’ve always had. We want to be surrounded by people we like. We want to keep our pets, some assisted living says you can have one cat or one very small dog sometimes too. But that’s it, well wait a second, I’m not going to move into assisted living without my dogs. And you’re going to not let me have my 30 pound dog because my 34 pound dog because you’re limited 30 pounds, really. So to put my dog on a diet to get see, we’re just not going to do that. So we want to be surrounded by the people we like, we want to keep our pets and we want to maintain our purpose while we’re pursuing our passions. So I think as a in the real estate world, that those people who get ahead of this and build communities that are truly communities, I think that is going to absolutely explode as an industry, especially if you provide really, really clean and I’m talking sparkly gyms and community centers in a bar and a pool table and that all these fun things that people can get together. We can crave each other. And this has been a little bit of a social experiment, we’ve figured this out. Okay, we can sequester at home. But we like each other, and we need each other. So that I think that’s going to be a big shift moving forward. I do think we are going to see more mobile, everything that we in the United States, we’re pretty bad at public transportation anyway. Surely. Yeah. And we’re I mean, and I don’t even know if there is any real public transportation where you are, there really isn’t where I live. I’m in a tiny little town. Not really. Yeah, well get back in our cars. We’re all getting back in our cars, and we’re driving and it’s cleaner, it’s safer, we feel better that way. So I think that is any, any way where we can do more mobile things that’s going to happen. The other big shift I see is an education. And that is many parents have realized that Gosh, my, you know, my eighth grader, got five assignments for the week and they were all done Monday by noon, what is my kid doing in school the rest of the time, and by the time you wake up your teenager who wants to sleep till noon, and you get them fed, showered and fed and And dressed and then they walk to the bus and then they get on the bus and then they get to school and it’s long ride to school and then they’re tired and there’s sometimes you’re on people they don’t like or maybe there’s some bullying going on in the school and maybe it’s not the healthiest environment and then get in the classroom sit down have homeroom Johnny Be quiet, Jane, stop doing that. Stop picking on each other Everybody listen to announcements. And then classes finally start. And then again, it’s, you know, Johnny, stop picking your nose and Jamie, stop doing that and stop punching that person. You know, all these things, and all of it and then there’s lunch, and then there’s recess and then they’re out at 230 parents are going Wait a second. What? Why am I sending my kid to school, especially if they are able to homeschool if they are self motivated if they can get dual college classes at the same time. They’re finishing up high school, I think it is going to fundamentally shift schools because many parents don’t want to send their kids back to a school that is not being sanitized as often as it should have been. And all of a sudden they’re realizing that they like their kids and it’s kind of fun having them home. And if you want socialization with other kids, you can Sports in the afternoon and now your kid is not exhausted. They’re not cranky all the time. They’re pleasant to be around. They get to spend time with other nice kids, the ones that you choose not necessarily the kids that are not the best possible influence. And maybe that’s going to shift. I also think community colleges are going to take a big leap forward. As more high school kids take community college classes in an effort to get that dual high school and community college credit and money for your universities who are saying now they’ve moved online. Well, wait a second, where’s the college experience? If your classes are online Anyway, you might as well do that the community college for one 20th of the cost, and I realized it’s gonna mean salutely wildly unpopular with some of your higher ed people. I was in higher ed for over 30 years. And those same classes that I taught for the four year universities were the same classes I was teaching for the community college, both online and face to face, same book, same material, same lectures, same tests, as I would expect it to be.
Right, right. So for people sending their kids off to college, especially freshmen, sophomores. You may be rethinking that right now to say, you know, do I really want to risk this with my kid at this big school, and they’re just going to be taking online classes Anyway, I’m not sure how that works. So I do think education will shift both at the elementary school level, certainly at the high school level, and at the college level.
Those are very fascinating insights. And I’d say from like, my mother coming off of Mother’s Day, this past weekend, I’m really sad that I didn’t get an opportunity to be like, all of our kids are now grown, and they’re all almost all married, to not be able to homeschool and have this experience that my staff is. So I’m envious, I think is the word that I would use. Although people are like, You’re so lucky. I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know. You raised great people. And the fact that you missed time with them, when they’re sitting in class, and maybe they were bored and maybe they were miserable. Maybe they didn’t like fifth grade or maybe whatever. And all of a sudden, schools across the country, especially elementary schools, have mobilized so fast taking the curriculum and putting it online making it easier to homeschool again creating those communities that we crave, where you’re not the one teaching biology. Your neighbor two doors down who has a biology degree is getting all the neighborhood kids together to do a biology experiment. And that there’s a curriculum that helps walk them through this, that we’re making it easier for people and not just kids to learn. Look at all of the colleges and universities that have put courses online. It’s been for free. It’s fantastic. Facebook has a business section with online business courses on marketing and digital things and how did there’s a LinkedIn has these courses. It’s fantastic. There’s more available information. The danger there is there’s so much information and some of it is not great. And this is why programs like yours are so valuable.
Thank you. I we’ve kind of talked about some industries. I’m just thinking, you know, just to pick your brain is, is there anything on the technology front or on the cultural front that you think will be changed because of this as well?
Absolutely. I do think that leaders have to embrace both people and technology in order to move forward. And that means exploring new technology. And that’s hard. I, I am the same as everybody else. I think what I have works and why should I have to change everything is fine, until somebody says, you know, there’s this new thing, and I’m like, Oh, so every day I try to push myself into learning something new. Because I just think it’s good for me. And sometimes it’s technology. And I do like exploring new technological solutions for more and more things. I have a booking app that works for me instead of my assistant, calling people what’s good for your schedule. Can you do this? No, I use a booking app for that. We do. We are seeing more AI I do have a chat bot on my website. So if you go there, you’re gonna see so it’s actually it is actually one of my friend’s husband’s face that you see. And we gave him a made up name Casey, because it was considered a friendly name, but he’s my chat bot. And then and his job is to just go, Mary would love to talk to you, you know, do you want to talk to Mary? And the idea, again, is if I just said, If I just have a thing that says call Mary, people don’t want to call Mary because it just seems like Well, that seems a little maybe intimidating or daunting, or really, do you really want to talk to me, but a chatbot makes it seem friendlier, I think we’re going to see more AI that’s going to be stronger and easier to use. And we as leaders have to embrace that new technology. We also have to be again, understanding that some of our employees are not going to want to return to the workplace. Okay, so, are there things you’re saying? Are there things we can do to automate certain things that either make it easier for our employees or have a robot do things that formerly our employees were doing well, somebody says to manage the robot, but we are theirs. There’s a terrific company that called motiva robotics. And they use robots in classes for autistic children. And the children, it’s so interesting will respond to the robot because there’s no judgment from the robot. Now the teacher is running the robot from a few feet away. But all of a sudden, this is an enhanced learning experience with these children. And you think, well, gosh, yes, some people are afraid of robots. They saw too many weird movies where robots take over the world, somebody still has to run the robot, somebody still has to do that. But it’s so interesting that we can use robotics for so many different things. We can deliver prescriptions within a hospital, and then nobody’s touching it. And things can be sanitized. There’s so many more applications. So I think those leaders who are actively pursuing technological solutions will be those who are best able to merge those technological solutions with the talent they have.
It’s fantastic in Just the last two months, I’ve had more technology clients that are instituting and really using AI, which I think is absolutely fascinating, completely over my head, in the sense of like, how it goes out and does it but the way that they’re applying, it just blows my mind. It’s super exciting, exciting stuff.
It is exciting. We’re so lucky to be living during this time, where were the changes being forced on us. We don’t have a choice we have, we have to advance this is going to be this next revolution. And we have to be advancing, we have to be pushing forward. And we have to be leaning forward into this. And it’s a terrible thing, this pandemic absolutely awful, and people are suffering. And we as leaders have to help our people get through it. We have to communicate in a way that helps them again, a lot of our communication is based on what works for us, we have to do it based on what’s best for them. We have to encourage trust, and we have to be the leader. They need us to be not the leader. That’s easy for us to be
Are you good if we shifted to your five minutes per week? 52 weeks to a better business? Yes, yeah. I just enlisted in a I’m totally going to disclose this a little embarrassed but it’s 14 days to you know, sleep, you know, sleep, a sleepless. So it’s it’s an arm exercise. It’s just an exercise program, but it’s five minutes. It’s so powerful. I’m, I’m in I think day 11 and absolutely loving it. So, and you have not missed a day.
I have not missed a day because it’s only five minutes. It’s five minutes, and I’m enjoying it.
It’s doable, and you get a sense of accomplishment.
Absolutely. So what can you do five minutes per week to build a stronger business?
So what I did in this book, in the military, as you know, we have checklists for everything. If somebody’s already done it, the chances of you being able to reconstruct that entire checklist on your own especially for things like maintaining a plate Launching a plane off a carrier deck flying a plane, you know doing maintenance on a tank, whatever it is, there’s a checklist for it. Now it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to know what to do you do. But a checklist just kind of has your back. You know what you need to be doing? Well, many people in business, we have so many things going on in our head. Maybe we’re trying to run a medical practice. Maybe we’re trying to run, you know, a dog grooming company, maybe we’re trying to run a restaurant, we have lots of things to think about. And part of that is the business side of running a business is probably not the reason why we run a dog grooming company. We love dogs, and we love people and we love making dogs better looking for their people. This is fantastic. But the business side that’s harder. So I was using this five minute checklist and I started with real estate. And the idea was a century 21 said they wanted all of their agents to have a business plan several years ago, and I said great, no problem. I’ve got like a 40 page, fill in the blank and they’re like, not gonna work like Okay, I also have a one page five minute plan and make Oh, that sounds good. So then I went home and wrote that out, that’d be a good idea. And that five minute plan gave way to the five minute business plan is now have it has friends. So now it has the five minute vision plan, the five minute brainstorming plan, the five minute working from home plan, the five minute focus and meetings and the way the book is lined up. It’s it starts with business planning, and then business growth, and then leadership, and then productivity and then teamwork. Those are the five main sections. And each of those is its own five minute plan. So for your folks today, I wanted to give them a special bonus. And so it’s productiveleaders.com/slashfivedaychallenge. So it’s five minutes, over five days, and you get to pick and it gives them the fillable downloadable the vision plan, the sales plan, the marketing plan, the business plan, and that allows them to go in and go, Oh, you know what I needed this today. And because it says five minutes, if you’re crystal clear on what’s going on, you can do it in five minutes, it might take a little longer if you’re not quite so crystal clear. But again, think about where your business is going to be in the future in six months, 18 months, three years. And think about it in terms of that, and then figure out how you can best allocate those scarce resources. So I love forms and checklists. Because again, it’s somebody else thought of this and it may not be what you thought of. And that’s why it works. Because somebody else might be seeing your business in a different perspective. And you and I both know this, it’s why I can go into somebody else’s company and look around and go, you know, we could increase our total revenue by 23% if we just change these four things, and that’s our low hanging fruit because again, I don’t I don’t do the interior design in my own house. I can’t see it. I’m good with status quo. I unlike really avocado, green countertops, not good anymore, really. So I’m kidding. I don’t have avocado green countertops. But that whole idea is we tend to get, we don’t see it anymore when it’s ours. And so that’s where the checklist idea came from. And then we finally put everything together into one book. It’s on Amazon. And thank you for mentioning it. It’s five minutes per week, 52 weeks to building a better business, and the idea and that comes with the online vault. The online vault has all of those 52 plans, as well as about 15 bonus plans in there. And when you get the book, you get access to the vault, which is kind of cool. Again, they’re fillable download, they’re downloadable fillable reusable, so you could get at once instead of all your friends. I’m good with that.
Outstanding. I love that’s one of the topics that you teach on is managing change. Do you have any advice for our business leaders on managing the colossal change that we’re seeing right now?
Thank you so much for asking. And yes, there’s this thing called the J curve of change that many leaders don’t quite Realize that people are going through. So the J curve of change starts with denial. Oh no, this can’t really be happening. And then there’s resistance. I’m not going to stay home. I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to wear a mask. This is dumb. And it doesn’t matter what the change is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new software program. I’m not going to learn a new software program. I’m not going to do that to a new person coming in the office. Oh, we just hired Sally. I’m not going to learn Sally’s name I don’t care about Sally people only change the hub Daniela of our brain. This is the part that’s kept us alive. For how many years we’ve been on the planet that have been a lot of our brain resists change. There’s the denial phase, which is number one, and then it moves into resistance. And even if it’s sometimes a good change, you’re like, wait, what are we going to wait? We’re going to scout potatoes instead of mashed potatoes with gravy with meat love. Wait a second, why? Little changes our brain doesn’t like that either. For the most part now some people love change. And in fact, they get stimulated the chemicals in the brain get excited about change new things for dinner, new things to try new way to work, but most people Not so much. So we as leaders, we have to understand that we may be embracing the change, and we can see where it’s gonna lead us. But many of our folks don’t have that. So the denial phase, then the resistance phase, and then people move into the exploration phase. That’s the what’s in it for me. Well, I like scout potatoes. There’s cheese involved in that, right? That’s okay, that’ll be alright, what’s in it for me? How am I going to be okay with that, and then they get into the commitment phase. These are good. So we have to lead our people through those changes, knowing that everybody moves through those four changes, or those four stages slightly differently. So at work, when people don’t want to change, you’re going to see increased absenteeism. Lots of complaining, people won’t go to training, even if it’s mandatory to learn the new software, they’re going to push back, they’re going to come to you with problems instead of solutions. Your most productive people. Sometimes if they don’t like the change, they don’t see what’s in it for them. They’re going to actively resist. Let them work through that and help them Bye bye. Announcing the change, give people a little bit of time to get used to it, but then rip off the band aid and have it ready to go. If you delay the new software rollout for two years, three things happen. First, people get changed fatigue, they’re just tired of waiting for the next thing that are hired of Oh, so tired of it. And there’s like, just get on with it already. Second, the software is now obsolete. So now they have something else to change, or you have to do all the patches that go in it. And now people, they perceive that change as not helping them be better. And all of a sudden, you’ve lost some of the early adapters of that change because of that. And then the third thing is if you just prolong it over time, your people now view you as being less effective because you couldn’t make it happen. And your high achieving people want things to happen. So helping your people get through that j curve of change, which means things get worse before it gets better. There’s the denial, the active resistance, and then the exploration, and then the commitment phase. And this is where most People are right now at work as well. They’re still trying to adapt. They’re still trying to wrap their head around what’s going on. And we as leaders have to help them get through this resistance phase and into this exploration of, Okay, what happens next? What happens next? And then give them that vision of what happens next. And that’s really our job as leaders. What’s great is our manual of our brain. Once it realizes this change is going to happen. It goes, Okay, we got this. And, and people adapt. We’re wildly adaptive. Once we decide to adapt, it’s that indecision part that happened before that it’s kind of like your heart rate before you jump out of a plane. If your husband did that, yeah, you’re like, am I going to do it am I going to do because there’s still that little doubt, maybe I don’t have to do this. Maybe I’m not going to do this. Maybe we’re just going to turn it back around. And then as soon as you jump out of the plane, the decisions been made, and then you’re good, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. So getting to that we’re at that point with the decisions been made the band aids ripped off or you’ve jumped out of the plane. I just use a lot of metaphors all in one example.
We have to help our people get there.
I often in coaching, talk about well, what will help you decide to decide, right getting there faster some way, what I really love about kind of the image and the idea of the J curve that you just provided. It’s important for our teams, but it is also important for our customers to help them through that as well and understand. It’s not just an internal challenge that this colossal changes we’re facing. It’s also with people who buy from you, right? Absolutely. And it’s not to say it’s do so you can say you do something, but if you don’t actually do it, then people do not, do not have faith in you. And now is a time when people are looking for certainty. So don’t make a promise if you can’t deliver. If you’re going to say you can do something, show that you’ve done something show that you can do something if you say we are you know sanitizing everything like selling everything, whatever, you know, show video, somebody analyze all five o’clock in the morning at the store, wiping down doorknobs doing all these things, because people need to hang on to certainty. For most people mass level is right security is a top priority. So now people that’s been shaken a little bit people need the reassurance. So do it. There’s Yoda probably said something like this, but you need to do you need to show people that you’re actually doing it. Don’t just say it. It’s easy to talk. It’s a whole lot more difficult to deliver.
Super good advice in in what has been going on recently, I don’t want to use the word lie. I wish there was a better word for it. But we’ve been given a lot of misinformation, maybe misinformation unintentionally, at the beginning whether you know, we don’t need face masks, and then we do need face masks. And I think with all of the things that we were learning on our curve of what we might need to do as a society, I think Were to feel like we were fed certain things because we didn’t have the tools to give everyone what they needed. So we told them, they didn’t need it.
What do you think causes leaders to choose one not to be transparent and maybe even to the point of being unethical, no information that they give. It’s, um, you’re touching on several different things. And I want to get excited about all of them, of course. Okay. So in the book that I co wrote with a guy named Peter Stark out of San Diego, there’s a book called Why Leaders Fail. And the seven prescriptions for leadership success. It came out in 2016. Chapter Two is all about trust. And we surveyed over 100,000 employees, and then we tax optimize their answers into the seven buckets, which are the prescriptions. And what was interesting to us was that trust was clearly a bucket and the ways that we call it the path to failures that in every channel There’s these paths of failures. And sometimes leaders are failing their people. And they don’t realize why. For example, when this whole thing started, we just didn’t know, we didn’t have good information. We still don’t know where this thing came from, like, what was it bad? Was it a lab? You know, all these things? Who knows? So we just didn’t know. So one of the things one of my generals might one of my army generals taught me my favorite. My favorite Boss, I think, was he said, You have to make the best decisions based on the information you have at the time, and you will never have perfect information. And that same boss said, but you also owe it to your people to tell them what you do know, so many leaders and many businesses especially didn’t, and they are still not communicating enough with their people, because they feel as though they don’t have complete information. When you are not communicating with your people, they think you know more than you do. And that’s a big problem because you may not know more, and you’ve got to be sometimes saying the same thing over and over. This is What I know these are the numbers we have, this is what we’re doing. You have to say it over and over and over. Because remember, some people will believe what they want to believe it’s confirmation bias. On second, we can increase that trust by being as transparent as possible. So there’s a company that if I mentioned, you would know, the computer companies named famous for laying off people through the media, people would wake up and see that their company branch had closed, and they would find out on the news as they were dressed and getting ready to walk out the door. absolutely horrible.
It’s horrible. And from an employee perspective, you’re like going, wait a second, my boss, Hey, boss, you know, why didn’t you tell me this? And your boss’s answer is well, because I didn’t know. And then you’re like, You’re a terrible boss. If you didn’t know, why did you not know why did you not have the trust relationship with your boss, that I expected you so that you would know this before I saw it on the news, and your boss is like, Hey, I’m at home too. I didn’t know. It’s not good enough. People don’t want to hear bad news on the news. If it affects them. They want to hear it from you. And that builds trust. So this whole idea of what to do when to do it all of that there’s still going to be medical disagreements on this. I’m not a medical doctor, I’m an economist. So what I focus on is, what decisions can we make? What do we know? For certain? What do we absolutely not no? And what are we going to do to protect our employees, help them get through this crisis, help our customers help our clients and come out on the other end successfully. And that’s really all we can control. There’s a lot here we cannot control. We can control certain things. We can certainly shift offices to more home offices, we can set up hotlines, we can help people with working from home IT support we can do all of that. But here’s one of the problems. Leaders tend to see things sometimes myopically, too. We think sometimes employees think their leaders are like super people like there’s Wonder Woman and Superman all wrapped into one. Well, you No, you should be worried about my needs. And this, they’re at home with their own five kids, they’re struggling through this to maybe their spouses sick. And again, we’re wherever we feel threatened by whatever’s going on around us, we do tend to circle the wagons, we hunker down and we get more myopic as leaders, it’s really incumbent upon us to be less myopic, we have to be looking outside of ourselves, even when we feel like crawling under the desk and hiding, which by the way, they told us would protect us in the 60s from nuclear war. Not gonna happen, but that was that was we had to practice those drills. How ridiculous was that? In any time of insecurity people, it’s very natural to feel myopic, and to worry mostly about yourself and your family. And that protective instinct, again, kept us alive for a long period of time, as leaders communicate what you know, communicate as soon as you know it. You say, you know what I realized? I don’t have all the information and I may not have all the answers, but I will tell you what I do know when I was in the Navy. I was part of A couple bases that were brought back means you’re closing down the base, which means a lot of people lose their job. And I was doing this at one base and the person in charge, I was not the person in charge, looked out at 1000 faces in the audience of people who are going to lose their job. And the boss looked at me and says, I can’t look at them. I can’t face them. You do? It turns around and walked out. I was like, What? So they’ve been prepared by the lawyers and the HR people. And I went out there and I said, Okay, so here’s the deal. Um, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything. And I didn’t say, and this was a surprise that I’d be talking to you right now. did not say that. But I said, but I will promise you one thing. And that is, I will show up here every single morning at seven o’clock and tell you what I do know. And we will take notes and we will send it out to you every morning by nine o’clock. And we will because we didn’t have nidoqueen transcription services then and you will know everything I know. And if I don’t have the answer to tell you, I don’t know and if it’s something I can track down to For you, I will do my very best to do it. And that’s really all they all you can expect. And they said that they understood that we didn’t have all the answers, that the data was incomplete. But they all did feel as though we were working very hard on their behalf to do what needed to be done. And that was good. And this is what I think state leaders are really struggling with that on local levels, people are struggling with hospital administrators are certainly struggling with this. And my heart really goes out to those folks who are trying to make this balance between do we reopen? Do we not? Knowing that whatever we do, it’s going to be second guessed, whatever we do, it’s going to be wrong, according to someone. And one of the points I was trying to make yesterday with a group of entrepreneurs was, you know, life is about risk at all life is about risk. You open your door to your house and step outside, there’s risk involved and there always has been. And so now we have to balance that risk with what it is we want to be doing. And whether It’s working or going to the park or going to school risk has always been there, it’s just now more clear that there’s a risk. And we have to be able to balance that. And that’s where leadership comes in. Again, if it was easy, everybody would do it. So true.
There’s a lot to think about there, especially at this time of how we’re, how we’re being very transparent about how we’re handling everything in our businesses.
Because we just, you know, we just don’t know we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns. Now the great thing about that in business is in the short run, like let’s say you go to buy a car, you get to pick the color, you get to pick whether or not you get a sunroof, maybe leather seats, that not too many variables, right in the long run. every single detail is on the table, everything. Everything is on the table. Why can’t cars fly? Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to touch doors to open them? Why do we have to do it this way? So everything is now seen through a toddler’s perspective. Why why why and then why not? And why not? Well, what if so all of these questions are popping up. So think about it in terms of leadership, you’ve got that one person who works in your organization, and they’re always questioning you. And oh, it’s irritating. It’s like they never got out of the terrible twos. That is when you need this person right now you need because everything has to be on the table. What if, why, and why not? These are the questions my leaders are answering. We’ve got to get out of the mindset of what we did was good enough. We’ve got to be leaning into the future. We’ve got to get ahead of what’s going on in terms of future needs. And for many people thinking outside their box, it’s really hard. The box is a comfortable place to get ideas. And for that, I asked my leaders I say so you’ve got to ask questions, if your team questions that creates specific relevance. So you can’t again just say I don’t find good, great, no housing. Going on the line today? Fine. Anything we need to change? We’re thinking light blue instead of dark blue. Okay, see, these are not deep thinking questions. We’ve got to create deep thinking questions, and then listen really hard for the answers. So in six months, what will our customers consumers and clients need more of from us? How can we better package better equipped better so that they can better utilize things? For some people, there was a packaging issue that they were making a product for the over 65 crowd and they were marketing it through like the AARP of the world. Well, guess what, nobody over the age of 65 could open the package, because it was welded shut with this, you know, this massive machine that you took it, you need a chainsaw to open the package. So of course, they’re talking to each other and it failed. Why? Because the packaging, details matter. In the long run. Everything is on the table. So what are you looking at now? What do you work to your focus? need from you in the future? How do you become more valuable? Where are you the most unique? What problems are you solving in the future? And how do you best position yourself right now to do that?
Yeah, I’ll share and I’m sure that this has come up in your if you’re out and about into the community, but I was working with a client and they’ve it’s that retail facing so they put all their I’m gonna call them sneeze guards, for lack of a better word, and all their staff wear masks to make their customers feel comfortable. And they have, you know, the squares and six feet apart and everything separated, and they have you stand back while they’re scanning and running your transaction and, and everything is, you know, like really thought out, but they’re handing each customer the same pen to sign the credit card receipt. And I was like, well, do we have to be signing anything? And they’re like, well, it’s a process and I’m like, we can figure it out. Like we can’t be handing everyone the same pen that we don’t need to be signing Why would we do that?
And I do think that touchless transactions because even the whole idea of exchanging credit, nobody wants touch dollars anymore. One good thing about it is we may finally get rid of change in America that would be amazing.
Pennies needed to go away 75 years ago, quarters, dimes, nickels, gone, gone, gone gone. And dollar bills. Who wants to care of dollar bills? I don’t even want to know how many germs and viruses and bacteria are on those.
But does anybody remember living as a species after creating currency?
Why I know so gross. So this idea of handing my credit card to somebody else who’s going to put it in a machine that somebody else’s stuff has been in, yucky, I mean, this is now yucky. So I do think we’re going to see more. You know, wave your major wave your magic watch over the top of it. That there’s going to be more touchless transactions. But I also do feel that when we come out of this, we are going to want to get together again. We are a social species we like each other. We like to hang out with each other even the people you know crazy uncle Luke who you know does silly things that Thanksgiving, we still invite him every year because we are a social species and we cannot sanitize the world right now we have to sanitize a lot until we develop the antibodies, the vaccine, the immunity to this, it is a challenge as all humankind is dealing with and we’ve just got to be better technologically so that they’re touchless we’re going to see on doors that open automatically everybody’s going to be using those handicapped things and they’re going to go faster because we’re not going to stand there for five minutes waiting for the door to open. Open the door press button open door and touch it with your elbow not with your hand. We’re going to see things like hey you know if you if you were part of hand sanitizer before this Yeah, you because your business is strong, but also those those big scary things. You know, those big scary wipes that hospitals have that killed like everything mersa SARS, everything, those are going to be now commercially made, so that we can do a better job ourselves. But you’re not going to give a valet your car keys to park your car that’s going to be gone. That because you don’t want somebody else in your car, they could sneeze in your car could kill your kid. I mean, these are the kind of things that we’re now thinking of. That’s slightly ridiculous. But now we have to think about it because everything is on the table.
I want to know what our new handshake is going to be.
Uh, yeah, the whole elbow. That’s, I don’t get that. That’s where I see. See. So, yeah, or, you know, we’re not going to be rubbing noses like Eskimos, I’m pretty sure that’s out. I don’t know, Wasn’t there a Saturday Night Live skit on this where people, you know, greet each other by touching foreheads? I don’t remember what that was. I don’t think I’ve seen the show. I do think I saw that though. That’s, you know, are we going to, like kick each other with our shoes? You know, I don’t I don’t know. I think it’s going to be a very interesting social experiment as to what the new normal is and how we adapt to it. I do know we will adapt.
For sure I am right there with you we will figure it out. I just I can’t thank you enough this has been such a fun conversation Mary and I want to make sure I leave our listeners with the best way for them to be able to follow you.
I’m usually you can find me around wine and dogs and but having said that, if that’s not readily available and online is still working, productiveleaders.com is where I am. If anybody has a question on anything I said it is email@example.com and again, the free resources for your people are productiveleaders.com it’s a forward slash five day challenge all strung together. And that has some of those fillable PDFs that I thought might be helpful to you’re deliberate. You’re Deliberate Leaders in Deliberate Directions.
Fantastic. All of those hyperlinks will be below the podcast. Right where you’re listening to it today. So, Mary, such a pleasure, thank you so much for your time and all of your generosity. I look forward to the opportunity to see where our economy and our country goes and reconnecting with you at some time in your in the future.
Allison, you are great fun and you are so easy to chat with and this time has just flown by. I’m so grateful to you for your time and looking forward to a time we can chat again soon.
Fantastic. Thank you.