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CW Ep. 29: Leadership & Culture with James Lee

James Lee shares how to NOT suck as a boss. He discusses a leadership reminder that you have to build trust through rapport building before you demonstrate your competence. Heart before head, otherwise people will be threatened by you rather than reassured by your presence.

In this 2-part episode, Ep. 29 focuses on how and why people might buy into you. People buy into you before they buy into your vision.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesdays. My name is James Lee and I am so grateful to have had this platform this year and to have been a part of this group of the Contributor Wednesday series. Just got to stop for a moment and say, thank you to Josh and Lucas and Sara, and the whole team at BTG for inviting me and others to participate in this this year, I thought the experiment was a resounding success. And I think Josh and Lucas speak to that not from a just a numbers or listener perspective or download perspective but really it’s a success, anytime that an idea that you have to educate and influence and inform people in the space that you’re in echoes and it has a next level, and it has other people who choose to do that. And so from that perspective it’s been a privilege to be a part of this initial group of contributors. And in this final episode, this is a special episode in that it is a two-part episode. So we’re going to have today’s and then next week, same time, same day, we’re going to have the release of part two. So I get to end the year with you with a two part episode, and I’m thrilled to know that this contributor series is going to continue with a new class next year. And by the time this episode airs, we may already know who those people are, I’m not sure. We record these pretty early but I am really looking forward to hearing who those voices are. And again, thanks to the BTG team for inviting others to be a part of it.

Today, I wanted to talk to you about something very near and dear to my heart. I started this six to seven part Contributor Wednesday series with the intent of talking about organizational psychology and really as a subset of that organizational culture, leadership values, leadership skills. And so, we went through a whole bunch of different topics through the course of this series, and I want to end where I started. And that’s the talk about leadership, because at the end of the day, this thing that we do which is to serve seniors and serve the people who are working in this industry, it comes down to leadership. How well are we at an individual leadership basis? We can talk about organizational culture and companies and psychology of organizations all day long, but really it begins with the heart of a single leader, one leader, and then the next, and then a group of leaders. And then it just kind of cascades from there, but it starts with one person. So as we end this series for me, I wanted to talk about the individual leader, and I don’t know why, but this phrase just kind of kept appearing in my notes. And so it’s maybe not an elegant title, but this episode, both parts is entitled ‘how to not suck as a boss’. I have had a lot of great bosses. I’ve had some bosses that you know, maybe we’re not going to send each other Christmas cards, but I learned something from them. And at the end of the day, I do respect them. I have been a boss to other people. I’m a boss to people now and not, everybody’s gonna love me and get me and respect me as a boss. Some people will. And that’s okay, I’ll never bat a hundred on this, but I try, I endeavor, and that’s the point. So as weird as that title is this is about how to not suck is a boss. There’s a kind of a two-part answer to that. I’ve long subscribed to the idea that a really effective leader is going to be well-balanced and well-versed in two kinds of critical areas. And it’s divided pretty equally that you have to have some kind of dexterity between both. The first is emotional intelligence and the second is what I call business intelligence. Now, both of those terms and phrases by themselves represent I’m sure you know, schools of thought and other thought leaders who’ve spoken on that. So I’ll expand on what I mean by that emotional intelligence and business intelligence; you can call it left brain, right brain; you can call it soft skills, hard skills. A lot of people think about it in different ways, but at the end of the day, it’s about harmony. It’s about the work between the two when you kind of go to that left brain side, when you go to the right brain side. I think leaders who go too far in one really just kind of capt themselves. There’s a ceiling of effectiveness and it takes a lot of effort to go and build the other skill set in particular. All of us are gonna kind of default to one position. We’re either just going to be kind of good at people’s processes, we’re going to be good at relationships and we may not put a lot of focus into the business stuff, or the opposite is true. We are probably wizards when it comes to analyzing performance and looking at financial statements and dry as a bone when it comes to the personal relationship side. There are skills within both and I think that an effective leader is going to be very proactive in strengthening both sides. So today’s episode is about emotional intelligence and next week’s episode which will air one week from today is going to be on the business intelligence side. So why am I starting with emotional intelligence? Because I happen to think that that is actually the multiplier. I know earlier I said, it’s kind of equal parts half and half, and that’s true that you want to spend 50% of your time kind of building out emotional intelligence skill sets, and 50% of the time building out your business savvy, your business acumen; however equal does not mean equal in this particular case. Emotional intelligence is a multiplier in that whatever skill set you have here, multiplies the total effect of your leadership. And I saw this article, I wish I had written down the kind of author or who shared it, but I guess in a way I want to share that it’s not my own thought, but it directly kind of comes off of this image that I saw. And basically the infographic talked about the impact of warmth versus intelligence and that the order in which a new leader kind of presents those two really matters in the way that they’re perceived. I think it’s called connect then lead. And connect then lead means you got to show the warmth before you show your competence. The warmth, you know there are two ways that people are going to judge you. One is, can I trust this person? And then the second is, can I respect this person? The trust this person comes from warmth. And I think that talking about emotional intelligence is the ability to read and perceive your own emotions and the emotions of other people and then kind of factor that in, in the way that you make decisions. So, can I trust this person has to do with warmth? Do I like this person? Do I trust their intention? The second part of it is can I respect this person? And that comes from competence that comes from your know-how. You know, this I think is a very sensitive topic for me because I’ve stepped in it in both ways, you know and not in not good perspectives, I mean that this is an area where I’ve definitely kind of screwed up. But it’s also where I’ve learned the most. I look back on my leadership history and I think, how is it possible that I for the most part, feel like I act and behave and in, in very consistent ways from this role to the previous role, to the previous role but across all of that, despite my feeling of consistency and actions and behavior, I have been perceived very differently; pretty widely, that reaction is pretty wide. There are some people that just really, really love me. They reach out to me, they respect me, and then there’s other people from the same position from the same era of time that feel like, thank God I don’t work with him anymore. And which is true, which is the true beam. And I think the answer is it’s not about me. The truth is in the perception that the other person had. You know, my leadership is somewhat owned on my end and it’s somewhat owned on the receiver’s end. So I think when I look back on it, though, that there were times that I probably pressed too far on the competence side and not enough on the warmth. And in particular, I did it in the wrong order. So when leaders are introduced to a new group, I think there’s a lot of just kind of self doubt and insecurities, particularly when you’re a leader in a role for the first time, meaning that’s the first time you’ve served in that kind of promoted role of responsibility. I think we tend to lead with competence. We tend to lead with, Hey, I’m smart, I deserve to be in this seat, I deserve to be in this room and here are all of the reasons why. And maybe subconsciously we project that, we project here’s all the stuff I know so will you please respect me? And we bypass the warmth part. I think we sometimes wrongly assume that if people respect me because of my competence, then they’ll get the warmth aside after that. You know it’s a false cadence, it’s the wrong way to go about that. And I’m speaking from personal experience here, I’ve really kind of stepped in it in the past. I probably still do it now when I’m introduced to new people in particular. So this is where it kind of the thought of emotional intelligence in terms of this episode came from, was this idea that if you connect first with people and that’s the E.I. emotional intelligence side, your leadership is going to be a gift to other people, it’s going to be a source of reassurance rather than a source of feeling threatened. So again, your leadership is a gift to others when you do it this way and not a threat to them. So let’s dig in. 

The topic of emotional intelligence, I don’t know its entire history, but I believe from what I’ve read that the term, the phrase itself emotional intelligence was kind of brought to prominence by an article and by the work of Daniel Goldman back in I think the mid nineties. He published an article in Harvard Business Review, and I don’t think he was the first person to coin the phrase. I’m not sure, listeners may actually know that and please comment on that. But I believe the work that he did though kind of brought that idea into prominence emotional intelligence. And so the way that Daniel Goldman divides up those five kinds of main constructs of EI is; one: self-awareness, two: self-regulation, three: social skill, four: empathy and five: motivation. So my episode today is not gonna go into those five, but they’re definitely formed by those five. Self-awareness is really about, do you know your own emotions? Can you label them, do you know your own strengths, your own values, and can you label them with specificity? Not just I’m angry or sad or I’m happy but can you take happy for example, and be able to really define specifically, am I feeling content? Am I feeling confident, am I feeling thankful, you know, there are various kinds of levels and degrees of happiness or feeling of happy and emotional intelligence means that you have a really wide emotional vocabulary. You can really pinpoint how you’re feeling. So you’re not just feeling anxious, you’re feeling vulnerable or cautious or nervous. So the better you can label that, the better you can really be self aware. That’s the first part, second part, once you’re self-aware, then you can self-regulate. Self-regulating is controlling or redirecting in particular, your disruptive emotions and your disruptive impulses. And so in simpler terms, here’s what self-regulation feels like or here’s what not self-regulation feels like. When somebody attacks you verbally, when they attack your integrity, when they Intacct your work deserved, not deserved, doesn’t matter. But when somebody kind of comes at you and says; James, what the heck is this about? This is sloppy work, etc. Hopefully you’re not having too many people talk to you that way. But if you’ve been in that situation, that kind of fight or flight impulse comes in, you get angry, you say things, you start mentally typing that email in your head that, Oh my God, I got something I want to say, and some people say it, and that’s not good. Some people just kind of react and say, well, you know, how dare you and then fill in the blank. The opposite is also not good, holding it in not being able to express it and not being able to kind of redirect that energy. But self-regulation is if you don’t have good self regulation skills, here’s the conversation you have with yourself at some point; dang it, why did I react that way? I know that gets me in trouble, but I just, I can’t help that side of me and okay I just need to avoid that situation in the future. That’s what it sounds like. That’s what that self conversation sounds like. If you’re not good at this part, self-regulation. Self-regulation when you acquire and build and refine that skill, it means that you’re always in control of that disruptive emotion and that you’re able to redirect the impulses. It doesn’t mean hold it in. It doesn’t mean being a doormat. It just means that other people can not push your buttons, you know, they can try, but you will always be able to control how you react to others’ emotions. Third is social skill. So these, these kind of layer on top of each other, you have to start with self-awareness and then you build to self-regulation. And then from there, I think you move into the other parts of social relationship management. Social skills about the awareness of other people’s emotions. And if you have that emotional vocabulary, you’re also able to very succinctly describe what emotion they are feeling. So again, they’re not feeling hurt, they’re feeling jealous, right? And not in a judgemental way, Oh, they’re just jealous, but you can recognize, ah, these are feelings of jealousy, these are feelings of discontent, these are feelings of feeling rejected and here’s how I kind of circle back on that. Fourth is empathy. There’s probably many podcast episodes about empathy in itself, but this is considering other people’s feelings, especially when you’re making decisions. So empathy is not just seeing it from the other person’s perspective. But it’s being able to proactively adopt that perspective. It’s being able to kind of think through what emotion will this incur, what’s the emotion that’s likely to be the response here and how do I adjust for that, even before I speak. I think that is incredible emotional intelligence is knowing; hey, you know what Bob typically responds with fear on this, he’s gonna respond with a feeling of inadequacy on his own part, he’s going to kind of spiral from there. All right. So let me think through how I approach this with warmth. Let me build my relationship with him and strengthen some of the feelings that he has about himself in his work. And then I really do need to talk about it, this thing with him. But here’s how I’m going to do that. All of those things matter. So the ability to consider other people’s feelings, especially when it comes to making decisions, I think that is empathy in a professional perspective. Five is motivation. It’s understanding what truly motivates you, what really gets you up in the morning, why you log in to zoom, why you answer those emails, why you sign up for work every single day. Your motivation it’s the engine for your work. And, you know, I think particularly in senior living we almost assume that the motivation is that you want to enrich the lives of seniors, you want to improve the quality of life for older adults, and that’s not necessarily what I mean by motivation. I think that has become kind of a casual talking point. Not that I think people don’t believe it. I just think that it’s something that we have kind of made bland because of our over use of that as a motivating behavior. I mean motivation in terms of why do I work so hard? Well, I work hard because I want to make my family proud. Why is that important to me? Because I came from humble beginnings and I didn’t know that I’d make it very far. Well, why did that fear exist?

You know it’s being able to kind of go back and back and back into the very core center layer of that onion and be able to understand; ah, I’m motivated partly because I want to prove to myself that I’ve risen above my humble beginnings and that I’ve gotten into a position that I’m able to influence others self perception, ah, that is motivation. That’s an example of motivation. What is not an example of motivation is I am motivated to do the best work and to produce the best quality work of anyone. And I’m going to work hard to get there. Hmm. That’s a good starting point, but you’ve got to dig further. And the shovel that you’re gonna use is the question why? I liked that I didn’t prepare that statement, but sometimes I just like something that comes out of my mouth and that’s one of them, the shovel that you’re going to use to dig deep into yourself is the question why.

Okay, so those are the components of the constructs of emotional intelligence. Now I’m going to zip through some of the things that I think you should be thinking of if you want to not suck as a boss. Okay. Number one, I don’t know if these are rules or categories, but I like to list things. So here’s number one. How to not suck as a boss, number one; know thyself, know yourself. Again, that’s kind of grounded in some of what I just talked about in terms of the emotional intelligence components of it. Know thyself it’s first, it’s foremost, and it’s final. It starts here, it goes through here and it ends here. The more that you understand and know yourself, the better leader you’re going to be. You are going to suck as a boss if you focus all of your attention and energy on somebody else’s strengths and weaknesses, that’s not leadership. That’s just, I don’t know, that’s a bad version of a supervisory bossness that I think we need to go ahead and kill and bury in 2020, let’s not revive it for 2021. Leadership is not about what you recognize in other people. It is first and foremost about what you recognize in yourself, know thyself. Leadership I think about it this way, in the wild there’s the alpha animal, right? There’s the alpha male typically in a pack of wolves. You know, and in the business world, thankfully it doesn’t have to be the alpha male, it’s just the alpha person. The alpha kind of person in the pack of wolves. Let’s say they get some privileges. Sure. Yeah. Maybe they’re the first to eat, maybe they rest while people hunt for the animal. You know, we’ve seen enough nature shows that we know that that happens. If you look at lions, lionesses are the ones who go out and hunt and the big bad alpha male lion comes along and he’s the first to eat. But why does that happen? Why does that privilege get to that leader? Well, if you watch enough nature documentaries, you also know that when there is threat to the group, when there’s a threat to the pride of lions, where there’s a threat to the pack of wolves, the first the instinctual response by the pack, by the group is to be that alpha male is going to go defend the group. Right? And I think that’s a really beautiful kind of analogy of leadership. Leadership is not about the privileges. People are willing to give up certain things and give you that privilege. And in human terms, that means privilege of the position, the pay, the corner office, whatever it may be. The esteem like these are things that you’re going to be privileged with and others that are going to give up a little bit on their own, right? Just by nature of the way that we have constructs of leadership in our world, leaders of prominence, leaders have esteem, all of those things. And I’m willing to give up a little bit of that. I’m willing to give up the spotlight to myself because you are protecting me when it counts, right? The responsibility of the leader is to protect the pack. And I think a lot of people forget that, the strength that you have is not for yourself, it is for other people. So you have to know your strengths, you have to know your weaknesses, you have to work on all of that if you hope to be an effective leader. And in 2020, I think that was really brought to the forefront, that great leadership isn’t just about; here’s where we’re going, here’s how we adjust to it. It is first and foremost about knowing yourself and that your role is to protect other people in times of danger. And there were a lot of times of danger this year. Knowing yourself also, it allows you to kind of control and redirect again, your disruptive emotions. If you’re a boss and you know, that you kind of have an emotional reaction to something first, you kind of calm down and then you kind of approach that situation more calmly the second time around. Well, it’s your responsibility to go to do it right the first time. It’s your responsibility to know. If you tend to react very negatively to something and then you just kind of blow up at the other person, and then you back off and you know you always do that. You always kind of back off but you know the harm is in the first part, not the second. So your ability to control and redirect your impulses particularly your negative emotions is going to really be helpful if you want to build long-term trust within your group. Again, people are going to judge you not based on how much do you know, but do you care? Do you care about me? You’re a warmth over your competence. So knowing yourself is a big part of not sucking as a boss.

Number two, get awesome at putting a team together, get really good at that. So if you know yourself, you know what you want to do, you know your vision, you know your motivation. Now, you got to put an awesome team together. Putting an awesome team together is more than just hiring for the right person. Sometimes it’s firing the wrong person. But I think when you think about putting an awesome team together, a lot of people think that they need a hire for culture fit. In fact, I’ve been a part of many conversations in the past where people will ask; okay, this person has experienced, but are they a culture fit? Do they think like us? And I’ve certainly been kind of back and forth on that bandwagon, but I think I’m firmly on the side of; we don’t hire for culture fit. We shouldn’t hire for culture fit, we should hire for culture complimentary fit, if that makes sense. But basically what it is, is that if you hire for culture fit, you’re basically embedding more group think, you’re just embedding that kind of, ah this person thinks the same way as we do, ah they think the problem that we’re addressing is the right problem to address. Great. Let’s bring them on board. And the idea is that it’s going to speed your team up to work because they think like us, they’ve been trained like us, they view the problems the same way as us; we’re going to keep marching in the right direction. But again, it invites groupthink into your team. When you hire for culture compliments, you’re going to fill the gaps that’re missing in your culture. And every culture is always missing something, culture is constantly evolving, it’s constantly moving. If there was kind of an image I have of culture, it’s like if you have a bucket of water and you put drops of food coloring into that bucket, that movement of color throughout the water I think that’s how I view culture. It’s never static, it’s always moving. If you add more water in, it’s gonna move the dye around and then you’re going to need more dye. So I think when people hire for culture fit, you assume that color, that dye that’s in the organization is static; it never moves. This is what it is now and forever. And other people just better adopt it and get on board. But think about how difficult that would be, or has been for people this year in 2020. If you did not have people who thought differently, who didn’t challenge the status quo within your own organization and within your own leadership circle, if you didn’t have other people to flex muscles that you don’t have, then you probably have hired for culture fit too much. Fill the gaps, know what your culture aspires to be and hire the people who compliment the culture. It is the job of the leader to make sure that really all you are is the ambassador to culture. You are not the protector of it, you are not the librarian who grants access to the books within your culture. You are a curator of that museum, you invite people in to change it. You may have an idea and a vision of what that museum exhibit is going to be, but other artists, other people have to contribute to it. So that’s the job of a leader. And the last thing I’ll say about putting an awesome team together is that be quick to fire. There’s nothing that de-motivates good people more than having a work with people that everybody knows is just killing the culture. And they’re not looking at that person, they’re looking at the leader, they’re looking at the leader that allows that to happen. I think we’ve all been a part of teams where, maybe it’s not even the under-performer, maybe they’re performing well. But they have social capital within your group and the leader who allows that person with social capital to stay in the group that is really hurting the group, the culture killers are cancer on your team, and the leader has to cut it out. They have to get rid of that person. You know, we value decisiveness and leadership but oftentimes leaders are not decisive in this area and it’s not about disrespecting the person, right? It’s not about going to the person and saying, ‘Bob you’re fired’. And by the way, I don’t know why I use the name Bob in so many situations like this. I don’t know a Bob and I don’t have bad experiences with a Bob. But anyway, that was a weird kind of aside. But if as a boss, you allow that person to stay on the team and everybody knows that that person is just kind of a drain that they are constantly the naysayer, they’re constantly late to work, they’re constantly on the phone during the meeting. If the leader doesn’t recognize it and change it quickly, that is probably more damaging to a team than being slow to hire.

So rule number one; know thyself rule, number two; get awesome at putting a team together. Rule number three for how to not suck as a boss; teach don’t preach. Again, these are things that I have learned through mistakes, these are things that I still make mistakes on and these episodes and the things that I post on LinkedIn, it is not a rebuke of other people’s leadership. If anything, it’s just a reminder to myself, like here’s what I know, here’s what I believe, just kind of be disciplined back to it. And think about this; like I put these thoughts out here, the people who work with me and particularly that people for whom I’m their supervisor or leader, they have everything in their hands to be able to hold me accountable to all of this. So I think that’s just kind of a little bonus aside here on how to not suck as a boss, is let other people know what you believe. They’re going to hold you accountable to it, they should. And so that’s part of my motivation here. All right, teach, don’t preach. I think about mirrors, mirrors tend to reflect our insecurities. I don’t know many people who look forward to turning the mirror on or turning the lights on and looking at the mirror as a source of strength. Now not many people naturally think that. I think maybe you can get yourself there and not get to the point of arrogance. I think you can work yourself to, I love the reflection kind of staring back at me and that’s about self confidence and self acceptance. But by and large, you know, outside of that kind of self-help work. I mean that when you turn the lights on, when you look at the mirror, you see your insecurities first, don’t you? I do, I see my insecurities first. So I think that leaders should not be mirrors to other people. And what I mean by that is that we need to focus more on people’s strengths than their weaknesses. As a coach, as a manager, if you want to not suck as a boss, you need to focus on people’s strengths and make their strengths better and kind of deemphasize the weaknesses. You know focus maybe 80/20 on that; 80% on strengths, 20% on weaknesses. Now it doesn’t mean that if you have under-performers on the team, or if you have people who are not part of moving forward with the culture, they’re resistant to it, they’re all of those things. I’m not saying the same thing here, I’m not saying focus on 80% of the strength of somebody who’s not wanting to be a part of the team right? So earlier, like three minutes ago, I was talking about how leaders have the responsibility of curating their team and they have to get rid of the people on that team that are not contributing to the culture. 

So with those people, you’re not focused 80% on their strengths. I don’t think that’s very honest and sincere, but I mean that the people that you legitimately feel like, okay, they’re on this team, they’re part of the long-term future 80/20 strengths to weaknesses. Coaches tend to, or bad coaches tend to focus on weakness. They tend to focus on; hey, you know, last week we talked about you’re not doing XYZ great so let’s go back to XYZ, let’s build that skill. Well, maybe ABC instead is what you should be focused on. You know, when you lift people’s strengths, most of the time it’s going to overcome their weaknesses. You’re not going to get unicorns on the team all the time. You’re just not going to get people that are great at every single thing. I mean who is that person? What you should do is to figure out; hey, Bob, here now I’m using Bob in a good context. Bob has really, really great strengths, here’s 80% of them and here are the strengths that fall into that category. Susan compliments his weaknesses, because those are her strengths. You know, it sounds simple, it sounds basic, but in practice, we don’t do that very often as leaders. So there is my challenge to you: teach, don’t preach. When you’re preaching you’re just going on individual people and saying, Hey, you’re, you’re bad at this, you’re pretty okay at this, but let’s fix the bat. And then you just kind of keep going down the line and you have that kind of preaching one-on-one visit with people. But I think a really great leader, think about a basketball coach, a basketball coach doesn’t need five people on the floor that can all shoot three pointers, right? So if in practice, they went and said, Hey, you know, seven foot two center, go work on your three-pointers, you really suck at three pointers. And then they went to every position and was like, Hey, you’re three point percentage in the last game was 5%, come on, let’s get that up. It sounds ridiculous, you wouldn’t have a team of players that all are 90% three point shooters. You would have one or two or three on the roster, and then the rest you’re going to compliment their strings to their weaknesses. When I talk about it in a sports context, even if you don’t follow sports, I think you intuitively get: no, you don’t need five people on the floor that can all shoot threes. Same thing for a professional team, you don’t need a team of people that are all good at all the same things. So when you focus on people’s weaknesses, first ask: does it serve them; is it to their benefit that they improve this weakness? If it is great. But if you can fill that weakness by somebody else’s strength on the team, that’s the way to go. Right? I want somebody who’s great at three points, I want somebody who’s great at blocking and defending, I want somebody who’s awesome at passing the ball and directing the offense. These are things that you would do as a coach, but how often do we think that way as leaders in senior living? That’s where I’m going with this. Along with that, I think that it is really a non-issue for me. Like it’s not up for debate that leaders have to have the skillset of training and coaching and development that learning and development is not a department. It is a skill that all leaders should have. 

So, you know, a lot of leaders may think I’m just kind of good at this. I’ve learned it over time, I know what works for me, and this is the type of leader I want to be. BS. You need to open the books, I mean literally open the books, go take a class on it. Linkedin has all these great courses that you can access about adult learning. And I’m not saying you’re gonna go off from your path as the COO and carve out a path in learning and development. I just mean that you need to go learn that skill. If you fundamentally kind of understand basic adult learning theory, right? How do adults learn, how do groups learn? What is social learning versus formal learning? If you can understand some basic kind of buckets of how people learn within professional organizations, it will make you a better leader. When you do your one-on-one coaching sessions with your direct reports, if you’re just kind of going based on your gut feeling of how to conduct those meetings, but you’re not doing a lot of prep going into that from a learning perspective, you’re leaving some coaching on the table, you’re leaving some performance on the table if you’re not improving your own skill. So rule number three; teach, don’t preach. Okay, we’re going to keep going with this rhyming motif a little bit, rule number four: heart before smart. This kind of goes back to the earlier kind of introduction to this episode about warmth before competence. But, you know, here’s my version of it, heart before smart. If you show that you care, you’re building trust. If it takes you 30 days, if it takes you 90 days, if it takes you a year, whatever it’s going to take you. Well, I take that back it shouldn’t take you a year to build rapport and trust with somebody. But let’s just say your first 30 days on the job, you need to disproportionately put attention into building relationships and conveying warmth before you flex your competence. This is definitely something that I’ve messed up in the past. And I think I continued to make this mistake in particular. And if you really think about where that comes from, there are some positive potential motivators to it. Maybe you see urgency in the work and you want to contribute right away to the team and you feel like they’re doing great work. You just want to jump in and be a part of it. Fine. That sounds positive. But at the end of the day, you know, if you use that why shovel, right? If you keep asking yourself why, why, why, why? And you digged down and if you can trace that to some kind of an insecurity, right? Well, I’m flexing my competence because I want people to feel like I deserve to be here. That’s a shirt, that’s a legitimate concern, that’s a legitimate insecurity. But if you’re informing your relationships from that place of insecurity, then you’re projecting your stuff onto other people, right? And that is a really great way to suck as a boss. So heart before smart just means that once you’ve established your warmth, your strength is reassuring to other people rather than threatening. So you’re definitely going to screw up on this, i do. But here’s the thing, when you do screw up on that, when you make your mistake, broadcast it, normalize it, let people know, yes, we all make mistakes. I make mistakes. And I don’t mean that in lip service, here’s how I actually made this mistake. And I just want to talk through it, apologize whenever you can apologize, do not make you a weak leader. It makes you self-aware and it makes you better at the social regulation within your team. So you are going to make a mistake. And when you do as a leader, broadcast it to your team. And I don’t mean talk about your mistakes so often that people don’t have confidence in you anymore, but where it really matters. You know, I think you need to expose that vulnerable side of you, if you want it from other people. If you expect your direct reports to be vulnerable with you, and you never are, think about how crazy that sounds. Like if you were in a personal relationship with somebody and they expected you to tell them your fears, your concerns, and to be vulnerable with them and they never gave that to you in return. How long does that relationship feel equal? In the professional sense we do that all the time, especially as leaders. We tell our direct reports to be vulnerable, let’s talk about your weaknesses, let’s talk about the things that you need to improve and we never talk about what we are working to improve with others. So this is part of it, heart before smart, and it kind of relates to teach don’t preach. So if you’re doing all of these things together, you’re going to have a much better chance of not sucking as a boss. 


Number five, there are six of these, so we’re going to work through quickly now, I know I’m taking up quite a bit of your morning. All right. Number five: 80/20, the 80 20 rule. I wish I would have written down where this comes from, but there is some kind of a principle here, and I think it starts as an economic principle and then it kind of has played into these types of phrases. But the 80/20 rule of leadership basically means that you’re going to get 80% of productivity from 20% of input. That sounds pretty crazy and outlandish, but this has played out in multiple studies. If you think about the 80/20 rule of products in your company, you’re going to get 80% of profits and sales from 20% of your products, right? So you’re going to get 80% of productivity from 20% of your team. And you’re going to get 80% of performance from 20% of somebody’s skill sets. I realize these are generalizations, but over time, these things kind of play true. And so where I’m going with this is that as a leader, 80% of your effectiveness is going to come from 20% of your kind of highest skill sets.


So, let’s follow that 80/20 thread into just a couple examples here. Meetings; how many people love meetings? Meetings kind of suck for the most part and the reason that they suck is because the person putting the meeting together has not really thought through what is the purpose of this. And again, if you’re not teaching yourself, if you’re not learning the skills of coaching and development, if you’re not learning the skills of facilitation, you know training facilitation, that’s what meetings are, right. If you’re meeting for an hour with your team, whether in person or zoom, you’re asking for their investment of time and that it is more valuable than what they would be doing otherwise, right? Just that’s what we’re implying if we’re doing a meeting; that this is more valuable than what you’re going to do on your own. So if that is the case, the leader who’s facilitating that has to put a lot of work into it, 80% prep, 20% meeting. That’s kind of my thought, that’s my rule on that is that I have weekly sales training that I do with my team in the organization. We spent about an hour together on Monday afternoons. The 80/20 rule basically means if I’m asking for one hour from our sales directors, roughly, I’m going to put about four hours worth of prep into that. And I don’t mean just in one sitting like I’m sitting for four hour blocks and preparing for the sales training, but incrementally over the previous week, I’m going to chunk time together to really think about what value am I going to give to the sales directors in that hour. And typically it’s going to take me about a four to one ratio of prep going into it. So maybe that’s pulling the right statistics, maybe that’s having a conversation with somebody ahead of the meeting to say; hey, this was something that that you experienced that I think is relevant to other people would you mind talking about it? And here, let’s kind of discuss it before we get on the call. All of those little things put together, roughly amounts about four hours of prep to one hour of meeting. So leaders think about it this way, if you can’t invest the four hours to prepare for the meeting, don’t do the meeting. Don’t do the meeting because the opportunity cost is the people that you’re asking to be a part of the meeting could be doing something really productive with their time. So if you’re going to ask for that hour, put your prep into it. Another 80/20 kind of rule here coming from the sales world, 80% listening, 20% reflective speaking. I think sometimes people think about that role. And sometimes it’s 70/30, sometimes it’s 80/20, but the basic principle here is that you listen more than you speak. I think sometimes leaders hear this wrong, 80% let me let others talk and then in my 20%, I’ll get to speak. When I say 20% reflective speaking, I mean that you have actively taken the input from other people and that your speaking is going to reflect that. So if you’re just waiting your turn to speak to be impactful, that’s not not sucking as a boss. That’s the opposite actually, because others will, you know, people are smart. They kind of get like, okay, James, isn’t really listening, he’s just doing the 80/20 thing. He’s letting us talk for 40 minutes, but we know his agenda is going to come in the last 20 minutes. Right? That’s not good, people will kind of train to that and they’re going to tune you out right as you start speaking. 80% means to facilitate that listening skill set in others. And one of the things I’ve done in the past to facilitate that is I used to have a role as an executive director, that if you come to a meeting, you leave your phones and your laptops. I’m going to give you breaks, I’m going to give you time to step away from this meeting to answer that. Everyone knows what room we’re in, if there’s an emergency, everybody knows to come here. But we’re going to give each other our time, we’re going to give each other our undivided attention. And that means no technology in the room. Okay. I don’t know if that sounds extreme, but it worked for us. So if you’re going to have active listening skill sets as a leader, you have to facilitate active listening in other people on your team. So that’s rule number five. There’s a lot of different applications of 80/20. But think about it this way, that 80% of results are going to come from 20% of factors of input. So figure out what those 80/20 ratio things are within your team and within your own leadership style and focus intently on that 20%. 

Rule number six, this is the last one; know thyself. I know I already said that, but you know, I did say it’s first,foremost and final. So this is final. It’s going back to where I started, rule number six, a separate role, know thyself; go back to role one. As a leader I think it is so important that we are constantly improving ourselves and that doesn’t have to happen in a vacuum. It doesn’t have to happen in a retreat that is confidential and you know, you never talk about it with other people, do the work of leadership in full visibility of the people you’re leading. I think that’s a really great role. I’m doing that right now. I’m talking about these things in a podcast that’ll live forever and ever it’s a digital recording and anybody can pull it up. Particularly my team members can pull it up. My direct reports can pull it up. They can look at things that I’ve put on LinkedIn and they can hold my feet to my own fire. They can hold me accountable to the things that I believe. And again, I’m not going to be perfect, but I am doing the work of leadership development in full visibility of those that it impacts. And I think that that’s something that leaders just need to get better at. We need to show other people that that self work is a part of leadership. It is not about having the best ideas. It is about saying I’m working on myself and it’s okay for other people to work on themselves too. 

I’m going to end here on kind of a component of knowing thyself. It’s making decisions as if others can hear you, make decisions as if the people that this decision is going to impact can hear you discussing it right now. Doing the right thing always, always happens in private first. Doing the right thing in public, doing the right thing in front of other people is easy, it is not hard. It is not difficult to do the right thing in front of other people. I think generally people want to be good. And in front of others, we’re generally going to be okay at doing the right thing, but doing the right thing always happens in private first. Here’s what I mean by that. If you’re making a decision and it’s going to impact somebody on your team and in particular is going to impact them negatively, discuss that as if that person can hear you. I don’t know where this came from, maybe it was Disney or Apple. But there’s a kind of a prominent CEO of an organization that’s wildly successful at least financially. But they have a rule that in their boardroom, in their C-suite room, they leave a seat open for the customer. So if there’s a meeting of nine people, there’s going to be a 10th chair in the room, and everybody’s been trained to kind of think that it’s our stakeholder that is not in this room that is represented by that empty chair. So as we’re talking, let’s reference sometimes literally like let’s reference, there’s an empty chair. Let’s think about our decision from that person’s perspective. I love that. And I think that’s where this is also coming from, make a decision with that empty chair in mind, with the empty chair being filled metaphorically by the person that it impacts. So let me try to come up with that specific example here, bonus, you know, we’re coming to the end of the year. Hopefully you have a bonus plan. That’s the very objective that’s here are the kind of stipulations, there’s no favoritism. That’s going to show on the bonus distribution in the first of the year, but let’s say that you’re discussing; hey, does Bob deserve a 20% bonus, does he deserve a 10% bonus? And you’re just discussing it. You’re like, well, you know, Bob, just, you know, he did okay. His performance was there, but he just really kinda just, he really messed up on these things. You know, let’s give them a smaller bonus. I think it’s a signal to him that he needs to work harder, blah, blah, blah. If you’re having that conversation, you’re assuming that Bob can not hear you, right? So you’re making a decision as if Bob can’t hear you making that decision. So my role here is to discuss it as if Bob can hear you, right. Say the things out loud that if Bob were in the room, you’d be mostly having the same conversation. And I get that leaders are sometimes going to have to have private conversations you know, offline. That’s not what I’m saying, that everything has to be transparent, but I think the process has to be transparent, right? Make decisions as if the person that it affects can hear you making that decision. And as a second part of that, doing the right thing always happens in private before it happens in public. So there it is, there are my six rules on how to not suck as a boss. Rule number one; know thyself, rule number two; get awesome at putting a team together, rule number three; teach, don’t preach, rule number four; heart before smart, rule number five; has to do with the 80/20 principle and then rule number six; know thyself that one shows up on on the list twice for good reason. Join me next week, we’re going to talk about the business intelligence side of how to not suck as a boss. And I’m going to share with you a little bit of my vision of senior living. So we’ve talked through all of the soft stuff, all of the skills that I think again, our multipliers. These are the things that multiply what I’m going to talk about next week on the business intelligence side. We’re going to talk a little bit about revenue. Are we going to talk a little bit about technology? We’re going to talk a little bit about how we get the best talent on the team.

So we’re going to talk about a lot of practical things, which is a little bit different from these kinds of qualitative topics that I tend to focus on. But again, a balanced leader is going to be able to go back and forth between the two. So I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, and next week’s episode we’re going to dig into business intelligence and my vision, my personal vision of what I think senior living can look like in the future as we come out from COVID and 2020. Thank you for joining me this week for an episode of Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesdays have an amazing week. I hope you’re having a great holiday season with your loved ones. Looking forward to talking to you again next week. Have an awesome day.


CW Ep. 29: Leadership & Culture with James Lee