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Ep. 136: Ralph Peterson

Ralph Peterson is the owner and operator of a management development company that specializes in building Five-Star leadership teams within the long-term care industry. He lives in NYC, is a retired U.S. Marine and an avid marathoner. He recently earned the title of Iron Man.







Links to Books: 

Congrats! Now Get Over Yourself

Managing When No One Wants To Work

The Good Manager: Being Great Is Over Rated!- Launching Oct. 2020

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. Exciting and energetic show on deck today. I can’t wait to introduce you to Ralph Peterson. He’s an author, a speaker, a motivational speaker. He’s a Marine and an endurance athlete, and he’s on our show today. Welcome to the program. 


Ralph: Thank you so much. Usually the initials that follow my name, or just “AAGG.” All around great guy. That’s all. 


Lucas: Well, you know what? I actually, I love your pizzazz. You are not short on confidence and it’s actually a really, really good thing. And it’s going to tie into some of the stuff that we’re talking about today, because your biggest mission is to motivate and develop people, especially managers. So tell us about your history and how your background has influenced you to create this company where you develop people.


Ralph: Actually, just to be clear, it’s not people. It’s people who literally want to take responsibility. So if you know someone who says, you know what, pick me, I’ll be in charge. I’ll be the captain of the team, that’s who I want to work with. That’s who I want to talk to, that’s who I want to help develop. Cause you know, there’s a huge, huge shortage in the world, in every industry- military religious institutions, government institutions, schools- there’s a shortage of people who are willing to take responsibility and say, yes, I’ll be in charge. And so you give me everybody who wants to be in charge. I’ll help. That’s my mission. 


But it’s kind of a weird way of getting here. I started working in long term care. I’ve always wanted to be a manager, but I never wanted to develop managers. I didn’t know what that was all about until I started getting into long  term care where I was tasked with the job of replacing myself. Have you ever gotten a promotion and needed to replace yourself? What a daunting task that is ‘cause you want everybody to be as good as you, but not quite as good as you. 


There’s this whole thing called Seven’s Hire Fives and Sevens Hire Fives is this theory where a person, if you rated a manager from a one to 10, a seven will only hire somebody that is about a five, right? Because you never want anybody to be as good as you and certainly not better. But of course you can’t be an effective manager if you’re going to be a seven. So you gotta, you gotta get over that hump because you know what a hire, right? A hire eight, so seven hire fives. That next leap is eight. 


So anyway, I found myself having to develop people to become managers, find people who wanted to say yes, who had some ability to get people to believe that they should be in charge, which is a big thing. And I started hosting this Wednesday night meeting with four or five housekeepers, like just regular hardworking housekeeping people who wanted to be managers. And every Wednesday night we’re sitting in this basement of a nursing home, talking about what it means to be in charge, how to handle this, how to handle that. And at the time, this is really early. This is in gosh, like 2003, 2004, when YouTube had just started, like it was a brand new thing. And podcasts were essentially really, really, really new. And I was looking for all kinds of, I was looking for something like, how do I train managers? How can I get them information? And somebody had mentioned this idea of podcasts and video, YouTube and stuff. 


And so I found this video and it was this woman and it was a called fireside chat with an executive leader. And I was like, oh, the title sounds good. And it was legitimately this woman in a business suit sitting in front of a fire talking about employee engagement. And I watched about eight seconds of it and realized there’s no chance this is for us because we’re dealing with drug addicts, we’re dealing with theft, we’re dealing with fist tides. In housekeeping we’re not dealing with- well it depends on where. I was in a pretty good size city. People weren’t even showing up to work, forget this whole fireside chat with an executive.


So I was like, let’s just go into a nursing home. Let’s go into a basement, find ourselves a room. I let’s just start having a conversation. What I didn’t know is the owner of the nursing home owned a few nursing homes. Every Wednesday night, he would be in this building in his own office, in the basement. So every Wednesday night he started hearing me ramble off about these leadership tactics and how to get people to buy into what you’re doing and how to do oversight and all that stuff. And one day he calls me into his office. I’m thinking I’m in trouble. And he goes, I’ve been listening to you for weeks and all I realized is that I want you to train all my managers. And that is legit how it happened. I went from in a basement training people, just trying to get housekeepers to become better managers, to upstairs working with the administrator, the directors of nursing, the charge nurses, all the managers.  And I was like, Oh my God, I can, I can do this. And you know, a few years later I went out of my own doing it. 


Josh: Oh man, that’s super cool. So Ralph talked to us a little bit about when you go into these communities or leadership management teams just kind of unpack a little bit. Give our audience- it’s pretty broad audience and senior care- but give them a little taste of some of the entry level stuff. Where do you start organizations and leadership teams with management teams with? Where do you try to take them over the course of your time with them? 


Ralph: I’ll give you a couple of things that we start off with. The first thing we have to start off with is what our, what our whole mission is. What is our shared aligned goal. You’re not going to believe this, but everybody in the room, it could be two people or 30 people. They all have a different goal. And first getting them all on the same page, getting them all aligned to whatever the mission of the organization is. A lot of times it is always specific to the organization where we’re eventually going to get to. But what I’ll do is I’ll have everybody draw out, just write out as many of their own goals for work that they want to have. And we’ll end up with 40-50 unique goals. Like a lot. It depends on how many people are in the room, but a lot.


And then our job is to pick the top five and then agree to stop doing all that the others and only do those five. Because all those others- the 45 others- are taking us away from the five most important things. And so if you would imagine what I do is I’ll draw a little pyramid. So the top circle is our overall mission. And then underneath that there’s three circles and those three circles are the submission. And then underneath that are the six circles, which are the day to day mission, but all of them point to the main mission, which means we’re going to get you to identify. 


Our goal is, for example, our goal as a management team is to make sure that our resident needs come first. That’s an easy one. We’ll make it not complicated. So our whole goal is to make sure resident needs come first. That’s our overall goal. It means it doesn’t matter what we do throughout the day. What we plan it all has to meet towards that end, whatever the resident needs are. That’s what we want to make sure it happens. So that means the underlying goals of that might mean that we have a monthly meeting where we’re testing the quality measures of the acuity levels of our residents, our wage going up, our wage going down our satisfaction levels of food service, our satisfaction levels of housekeeping, our satisfaction levels of the activities that they’re having. Are they getting enough activities? Does everybody like bingo? The answer’s yes by the way, it’s been a hundred years. Bingo is still the most important activity in long term care. Maybe it’ll change. I dunno. For a while there, we thought that the Wii video game console from Nintendo was going to take over. It didn’t. Everybody still wanted to play bingo. 


Every activity that we do, then from the time we start to the time we end to how much staff we use to how much money we spend over the kind of food we buy to the menu, we have to, the times food delivered is all to this one end: What does the customer want? What makes them the most happy? But that makes sense, right? That’s a pretty easy one. 


Once we can get everybody on board, then I talk to them about what it actually takes to manage. And this is a gut check. This is a straight up legit gut check, because I would say that in management, there are five rules. They’re really simple. They’re really basic. They managers are not allowed to walk by trash. Well, that’s pretty easy. If you’re in a management position, you’re probably the type of person who doesn’t walk by trash. Can we agree on that? And that’s probably how you get recognized.


A manager has to be on time. Okay? So these are not brain busters. Okay? Right. But managers can’t be late. They can’t be, they just simply can’t be. 


Managers have to dress professionally. I’m a manager. I’m going into work today, right? I dress professionally.


Managers have to get all their work done. That’s interesting. Cause you would think that that’s a no brainer because managers, they do come from the super worker pool. They are the people who get their work done. So that’s an easy one. 


And then managers, the fifth rule is managers have to be visible. Meaning they can’t hide in their office all day. We can’t not be there. You have to be visible. Those are five easy basic rules. But if we unpack those rules a little bit, we would see that those aren’t rules that we want our managers to adhere to, those are rules we want everybody to adhere to. 


I mean, those are rules we don’t want a brand new employee could walk into the door today and somebody who’s been there for 30 years. We want them all to not walk by trash. We want them all to dress appropriately. We want them all to be on time. We all want to get their work done and we want them to be visible. Last thing you want to do is go having to find somebody because they’re hiding somewhere, right? Tell me these are basic, right? That’s foundation stuff, but that’s not management. 


Here’s managing rule: 

Number one: Managers are not allowed to walk by trash and they’re not allowed to pick it up. Yeah. That pregnant pause that we got going on here, that silence is how I address every room. Everybody’s on board with me and my five rules. They’re like walk by trash? I’d never like you’ve seen me, Sally. You see me always. Well, I’d never walk by trash. No, I’ve seen her pick it up. She’ll move people out of the way and pick it up. I go, okay, that’s not managing. That’s picking up trash. You want to be a manager? No longer allowed to walk by it or pick it up. That’s a gut check. You can see across the room. People in the room was simply going, there’s no way I would do that. No, I can’t do that. Nope. Nope. I’m fine. I’m totally good. 


If this is too much for you, if that doesn’t sit well with you, please with peace and love, pack up your belongings. You’re in the wrong class. Management isn’t for you. Management is a verb and not only is it a verb, meaning it takes action, but managing is for all intents and purpose having difficult conversations with difficult people. If they weren’t difficult people, they would not be difficult conversations. If they were easy conversations and easy people to work with, we wouldn’t need managers. We’d need a directive. Hell, you could manage by just handing them the handbook. Here, just follow the handbook. It’s not how it works. Management is tough, it’s hard work, and it takes people who have the guts, the intestinal fortitude to stop it. A piece of trash, look around and find the first player next, and go, excuse me, will you pick that up for me please? You know what that person’s going to say: I didn’t put it there. I don’t know what is there. I don’t know how long it’s been. I don’t know what it’s made of. 


Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. It’s there. You’re there. Please pick that up. Let’s go on. Do you have that ability? If not management sounds great to you. It isn’t. It’s not for you. 


That’s where I start. And that’s the biggest hurdle we get over. And sometimes it takes an hour. Sometimes it takes a day or two to get over. Sometimes I’ll work with the team and we’ll agree to that. And we’ll talk about how to actually implement that strategy because there is an implementation process. If you’re in a home, if you’re in a business right now, and by the way, I’m using the word trash, you could do anything. Supplement the word trash for any job that is being left undone by your staff and you’re doing it instead. It could be changing: payroll, time punches. It could be, you know, picking up after a meal service. I always just stay in, finish the reports for them. Cause they never have time to get it all done. Never not on my, I would not tolerate that for one second. Never tolerate that for one second. 


But so there’s a strategy on how to implement that. But I’ve worked for teams where we went over, we agreed. When we agree- what I mean by agree- when we decide we’re going to work together as a team, and I don’t mean me- I mean the team itself, I’m working with them to decide, to get up together, to work with each other. We write down rules. These are the pool rules. You ever go to a pool and see a set of rules? You’d never go to a public pool and not see rules. So why would you go to an office or a team and not see rules. Every team has rules and these are the rules. And the rules are usually based on, we are all going to be on time. We are going to communicate together. We’re going to have lunch together once a week, which is the bare minimum in my opinion. Management teams need to be working together. You know, in schools, they have teachers lounges. You know why it’s not because they’re a teacher. They just no room in the lunch room. So you guys, teachers need to be with other teachers. Teachers don’t need to hang out with middle school grade kids. What a nightmare that would be if you had to have your lunch in the break room with the kids, same thing at work. 


I’m a big fan of treating managers super special. I’m a big fan of giving managers, pulling all the stops for managers. Cause we expect the most from them. We don’t let them slip up at all. I treat them big. So at least once a week, they’re going to eat together more than that hopefully, but we just make up these rules. And then even still I’ll get two months later, a year later, we’ll do a check in. And the first thing that has gone is rule number one. They just can’t. They want to, they want to, but if one manager of the 10 has trouble doing it, all of them will have trouble doing it. All of them will go, okay, well she’s not doing it because it really is one of those things where managers have to be on the same page, working in the same way. Or man, our staff yesterday, I overheard staff, we’re having a staffing shortage, which means we’re having a lot of problems getting staff into this nursing home. And I heard one of these two nurses talking and they’re talking about how their leverage, how to leverage that they’re coming to work when nobody else is for more money. So they’re using this crisis and they’re scheming. You know what I think if we go together, I bet if we go together and we both demand more money, we’ll get it. Cause what are they going to do? They can’t lose two more of us.


Lucas: Well, so Josh, there’s so much that Ralph just said. I’ve got a million questions, but you’re the guy that’s been in the business. So I want you to ask the first question. 


Josh: No, I had a lot of questions just like you did. So, you know, my first question was, gosh, Ralph, how many people do you typically weed out? Just when you’re number one that like get up and like I’m out of here. This doesn’t make, make sense to me or I can’t handle this.


Ralph: Let me tell you this: Most of the time nobody leaves, but you can see that they quit anyway. You know what I mean? Even though they don’t physically get up, you know that they quit anyway. But here’s the numbers behind this: 5 million people in America are promoted to leadership every year. 5 million. That doesn’t just mean super worker to supervisor. It’s every transition from, you know, you were the assistant, you’re getting the  manager position. Or you’re the manager and you’re getting the director, you know, the district position or the regional. So it’s any kind of promotion into a leadership position, 5 million times a year. That’s the good number. 


Here’s the bad number: 3.3 million, two thirds of all first time managers fail in the first 90 days. That means 7 out of 10. That means 7 out of 10 times when I promote that person. When I meet that person who by the way is my best worker. I mean talk about playing Russian roulette here. It is terrible to go, oh my God! You know who’d be fantastic in a leadership position? Carrie. She is always doing such a great job. I would love to give her the opportunity. Well have you talked to her? Yeah. She said she’d be interested. Oh, that’s great. Seven out of 10 times, what we’re going to do to carry is we’re going to either demote her, which is really bad, or we’re going to terminate her, which is worse. 7 out of 10 times. 


So it’s important to have that conversation. I think right up front, I’m working with a brand new manager. I say, listen, statistics are not on your side. If there’s 10 of you in a room, seven of you in 90 days, are not going to be here. You’re not going to make it. Now, that’s good to know because now I’m going to tell you why you fail. Let me give you the common reasons why managers fail and I’ll just go through them. Don’t do tell them and they’ll go. Oh, okay. Okay. Okay. Not being able to do rule number one is a big reason why managers fail. 


Josh: So, let me ask you this- and this might be playing a little bit of devil’s advocate- but so how do you reconcile rule number one with what I think most organizations it seems like commonly these days are pushing, pushing, pushing, especially in senior housing, I think which is this idea of, I would put it into two categories that are pretty similar: One is servant leadership and never ask your staff to do anything that you won’t be willing to do. So how do you reconcile that verbiage, that thought process with rule one, is that contradictory? Is it consistent? How do you flush that out?


Ralph: So you just highlighted quite beautifully by the way, the dichotomy of leadership. Because on the one hand management to be effective, it’s 1 million% day in and day out serving your staff. 


What’s serving your staff mean though? Let’s unpack that for just a quick second. It just simply means that you are doing everything you can to make sure that your staff have everything they need to include time, education, training tools to get their job done. You want a disgruntled employee? It’s easy. Ask them to do something that you’re not able to do or ask them to do something new that’s an easy thing that they can see to do and put all kinds of stops in front of them to make it super complicated for them. They will check out in two seconds. Who the hell wants to waste? This is so backwards, right? 


So a management job is 100% serving your staff. Notice how I did not say management is doing the staff’s work. Serving does not mean you’re doing their work unless you’re a server, which is not the same thing. 


However, the second thing, and I have a new book coming out in October called The Good Manager: Being Great is Overrated. I know, great title. It’s where I make the argument that it’s not about being great. It’s really about being a good, solid manager. And I go through the reasons why you’re going to fail. And one of the reasons you’re going to fail in management is because you have been told your whole life that you should never ask anybody to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. 


I’m going to take it to a ridiculous level just to highlight how ridiculous this can be. Are you a doctor? Are you a doctor?


Josh: Not me. I play one on TV sometimes.


Ralph: So you’re not a doctor, but you know, lo and behold, you are really good at finance and you’re really good at operations and we put you in charge of a hospital and a patient comes in and he’s bleeding from a gunshot wound. And there’s a doctor there. Who’s done that plenty of times, has the training, but you know what, today he has an, he’s not feeling it. And he’s going to look at you and say, why don’t you do it? I mean, come on, wouldn’t you jump in and do it? When did you jump in and throw some gloves on and perform some surgery to save this guy’s life? I mean, he got shot for all. Of course you wouldn’t. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. As a matter of fact, if we take it and sometimes I go down wormholes so I apologize for that, but if you take that one step further, I think one of the biggest challenges I have with knowledge workers becoming managers like a nurse, somebody who is an RN and she becomes the administrator is when there’s a nurse shortage, she jumps into the nursing role. And what happens when she jumps in into a nursing role, she is no longer the administrator.


As soon as you assume the role of the employee, you’re no longer in charge. It may only be for an hour. It may be for a day, maybe for one shift. But whatever time that is, you cannot be both. You can not be both operating on a table and be in charge of the hospital at the same time. It’s impossible. So what is your role? Your role is to either be in charge, you ensure other people do what they’re supposed to be doing, or your role is to do the job. It’s very rare is there a time and a place where that is effective, especially over the long term where you can do both. 


I just wanna make my further point to go to the other side of this. So that’s my extreme, but he goes the other side and it’s a real thing in the early 1900s, actually from late 1700s all the way up until today, there has been a massive problem in the world. And that is where corporations and organizations and managers are run. These organizations have and continue to be unethical. They lie, they cheat, they steal, they bypass safety regulations. People get injured. People lose their lives. People lose their fortunes. People get scammed out of all kinds of things. And the last thing you want to be is associated with one of those companies. 


So in I think like 1903 or something very early on, there was a huge accident where these two young boys lost their lives in a factory. The boys were like * and 10 years old. I mean, travesty Working over the weekend, they had an accident. The accident they had was not life threatening. However, because there was poor management oversight, because there was loud machinery in a factory so they couldn’t hear the kids screaming because they didn’t have any safety mechanisms, nobody was walking around, checking on anybody. We had under age, really unskilled labor. We had eight year olds working right there. They’re very small. They’re not very well attentive. They die after not being found. After two days, the whole country goes into an uproar. First little town then the whole country goes on an uproar. I mean, outrageous the word it’s on every newspaper in America. Outrage is the headline word, because that’s how everybody’s feeling. And how were they feeling about that? Who are they feeling that against? Corporations. 


So all of a sudden corporations had to backpedal added to restart branding. And what is their brand tagline come work for us. We would never ask you to do anything that we wouldn’t do. We are ethical. We wouldn’t put people’s lives in danger. You hear now! Advertising now: we are socially conscious company. We put people first. People above profits. We do the right thing. 


In today’s advertising companies are morally pitching, pitching themselves against other companies. If you put a company in the paper like Enron, the worst company in the world and a little devil horns, every company goes, Hey, at least we’re not Enron, right? So let’s capitalize on, you know, so can we put that in our marketing. No, no, don’t say we’re not Enron. Say we don’t cheat. You know you, you can trust us. That’s where that whole nomenclature comes from. That turn of phrase. 


I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do. That’s like saying I have two feet. Okay. You’re supposed to have two feet. You’re not supposed to be unethical. If you have to make the claim. And I know a lot of managers, especially new managers, I did it myself. The question everybody, you think,  everybody’s asking is why the heck did they put that guy in charge? Why did they put that girl in charge? And you feel like you have to make that answer. You feel like you have to go up to everybody and go, Hey, listen. They put me in charge. I know you saw my badge. I know, I know, Oh, I got a little something on it. Okay. 


And here’s the truth. Most managers don’t even have the ability to turn the company to its evil end. You know, it’s a great thing to say but in practicality. It is a terrible practice. So managers, when you say, I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything that you wouldn’t do, you’re talking about legal issues. Morality issues. You’re right. If you wouldn’t kill somebody, don’t ask somebody else to kill somebody. If you wouldn’t cheat somebody out of money, don’t ask anybody else to get anybody out of money. But it’s picking up trash, finishing their job, that they’re simply an excuse for you to not do your job.


And you know why most managers want to pick up trash? Because it’s easy, it’s far easier than actually managing. Picking up trash is 10 times easier, and I still get paid as a manager? Heck yeah. I’ll pick up trash all day long. I’ll finish their jobs all day long. No, no, no. As long as you guys are fine with me, are you finishing your work and you guys don’t tell anybody so that I don’t get in trouble. I still get the nice office and the pay, I’ll just keep furnishing your work. Cause that’s way easier than going. No, no, come here. Pick that up. I know you didn’t drop it, but I, we can’t have paper there. Now, if you’re the type of person, if you’re the manager who can be there 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and you like come with a broom and dustpan in your hand and perfect, you know, we’re going to call you a great worker. We’re going to take the management badge away from you and just to let you be the worker. I know I talk too much.


Josh: Throwing the heat. Ralph’s throwing the heat this morning. 


Lucas: Yeah, yeah.


Ralph: I know. Listen, it’s all about being, being a good manager and you know, who does not, you know, who rolls their eyes at the manager when they see them picking up trash? The person who watched the other person dropped the trash. So you have to have to have two employees. One employee is constantly throwing trash on the floor. They don’t care, man. The other employees, like I wish the manager would freaking talk to them about that. I wish the manager would. Cause I work here too. It makes us all look bad until the manager comes along and she goes, Oh no, I’ll, I know, I’ll talk to him later. I mean, not now because it’s way too tough and I’m way too meek. And I’m really not into, shouldn’t be in this position. So I’ll just pick it up. You know whose respect, you’re losing? It’s that good worker behind you who’s going, really? This is the manager we have? Unbelievable.


Lucas: So you’re talking about a higher level of responsibility. And I love kind of, you know, this, you got that Northeast kinda- you live in New York, right?


Ralph: Yeah. Well, all right, here we go. Here we go.


Lucas: You got that and you’re a Marine. I love this very, very direct approach. It’s very clear, and I think that in management roles, it’s very important to be very clear which is a challenge for a lot of people. So how do you-let’s move the conversation as we start to kind of round this out. I feel like we could talk for a very long time about this too.


Ralph: That’s what I do for a living. 


Lucas: And we can tell, we can tell. 


Ralph: I talk about this for a living. I do this all day. Yeah, go ahead.


Lucas: So, let’s talk about culture because we have multi-generations in our workforces today across the board, specifically you’re very focused on long term care, skilled nursing nursing homes. We have a lot of people in our audience that are more in the AL, IL memory care space as well. And then a whole industry of people in real estate, finance, insurance, technology, innovation, a bunch of stuff. And so I think this is helpful for anybody that’s in these roles. 


But so we’ve got different age groups of people coming into the workforce. And you know, if you study, it seems like every leadership book that I’ve read recently, they always talk about Apple. They always talk about Google. I find myself scratching my head as a small business owner thinking like I’m, it’s really rough to make that comparison to these billion dollar companies and their culture and small businesses. I know that there’s different things that people can take away from that. But how do you develop culture while doing this very high level responsibility direct approach to management- And then so let me digress by saying, I think a lot of managers want to make friends, right? And cause they want to develop that culture and that comradery. How do you balance those two things between management and culture and respect?


Ralph: Well, you know, I have a friend who, they’re on a hiring board, and so every time they’re hiring a new CEO and it’s a big company, so they have quite a few, you know, regional vice presidents and CEO levels that they’re constantly recruiting for. And everybody goes around the table and asks their one question. And his one question that he absolutely loves to in his term “destroy a candidate with” is after 90 days, you take the job after 90 days, how are we going to know you’re successful? And he said 8 out of 10 of them, which means 8 out of 10 he doesn’t think they’re right for the job, say that the employees are gonna like me, like as their level of gage: After 90 days, you can tell I’m doing a good job, cause people are gonna like me. So he immediately dismisses that as even a thing to even consider.


It’s an interesting thing because I don’t want to not be liked. I want to be liked. I work hard to be liked. I think being liked is my job. I think every manager job is to be liked, well-liked because nobody wants to work for somebody they don’t like. As a matter of fact, they might stay working for you, but they’ll do everything they can to undermine you. Not in your face, not in an aggressive way, but very behind your back talking caddy, you’re not doing the full job. You know, it doesn’t do us any good to have that attitude that I’m not here to make friends. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reasons why you get terminated because you treat everybody like they’re your enemy or like you’re a God. And you just got put in front of, in charge of your minion. I don’t, I don’t think that’s helpful at all. 


But when we talk about culture, culture is an interesting thing. There’s this one of the largest aquariums is in Atlanta, Georgia. And it is massive. If you ever get a chance to see if you like aquariums, I think it’s like 5 million gallon tank. Like it’s, there’s a hundred thousand species of fish, a hundred thousand in one tank. Imagine that! I was there a few years ago and I remember just walking around in awe because every five steps you take, you’re seeing a whole different ecosystem of fish and schools of fish going this way and large fish and small fish and these behemoth fish and stingrays. And after about an hour, I thought to myself, I haven’t seen one fish on fish murder. You know, I’ve not seen one fight. I’ve not seen blood in the water anywhere. And so it took me a while to find somebody to ask a question to, and I said, how do you have you know, the biggest of fish in here and the tiniest of fish and nothing’s eating anything. And they said something very interesting. They said, we just keep them fed. Oh, huh. 

You know, when, Oprah was accepting your lifetime achievement award, she had this great story about growing up. Her dad was a barber and every year as a barber, he would cut homeless people’s hair for free at Christmas time. And so you just a few weeks in the month in  December, he’d be just cutting hair all December long of homeless people for phrase his charity. And inevitably, this is Oprah story, inevitably he would invite two, three, four, five homeless people to Christmas dinner every year. And when you’re a little kid, it’s disconcerting to see these not well-dressed a little stinky with a brand new haircut. The hair is still on their shoulder from their dad not able to get it all out, their clothes coming in and joining the dinner table for Christmas dinner. 


And Oprah says, she said to her dad, one day, she said, dad, how come you always have to invite those homeless people to our Christmas dinner? And he said, Oprah, they don’t want the same thing you want. And she said, what’s that? He said to be fed. 


I think when you talk about culture, that’s how you got to look at it. What are your employees wanting to eat? You’re right an 18 year old does not eat what a 50 year old does. I have an 18 year old? If she can live off pop tarts and we let her, she would live off pop tarts. I don’t eat pop tarts. You got to engage me with something a little more than a pop tart, but you know what? We both are. We’re both human. We both like to be good workers. We like to be recognized for what we do. We like to make a difference. We both do. There’s not a generation that doesn’t want to make a difference. There’s not. They just fed differently. We just eat different things. 


Lauren what’s your organization made of? Find out what they need to make them happy and do your best to give it to them. Do your best to give it to them. You know, one of the, one of the greatest books is by Peter Drucker and it’s on management. It’s the Bible of management. And he talks about the knowledge worker. And I’m just gonna make this final point. 


Try to consider it like this: knowledge worker means the employee comes with no knowledge. I don’t know anything. And then you teach them a skill. Then once they learn that skill, they can go to work anywhere, do that job anywhere. You can be a nurse anywhere. You can be a housekeeper anywhere. You can work on cars anywhere. Now, all of a sudden, once that happens, you must treat them like volunteers because they don’t have to work for you. So imagine if your whole staff don’t have to work for you. How are you going to treat them? What’s your focus you’re going to be? I know you had a question asked to me, so what does the volunteer want? A volunteer wants: they want an opportunity. They want to do something they believe in and they want to make a difference and they want to see the results. So we can do all of that for our current employees. Our success rate to building a better culture is way better. Did I answer your question? 


Lucas: You did. Ralph Peterson, motivational speaker, developing managers. This has been an exciting and energetic conversation. Thank you so much for coming on our show today. 

Ralph: You’re welcome. I appreciate the opportunity. 


Lucas: And so if people want to find more about you, we’ll definitely put that in the show notes, but what’s the best way for people to contact you. 


Ralph: It’s just through Just go to the website. From there, you can email me, you can call me, you can send me a message on LinkedIn. You can do whatever you want. But if I’m able to part with one thing, one call to action and it’s this: there really is a need for managers. And it’s really, really, really the best job you could ever have, to affect somebody else’s life, to be able to help people overcome things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do without you is the best job. So please, please, please. Don’t be dissuaded by what I say. Put your feet in the water. If you have any desire to be a manager, we have the need. You don’t have to be born with any special skill. You don’t have to have a college education. You don’t have to have 30 years of experience. Listen, we need people to step up. So with peace and love, step up. 


Lucas: Awesome conversation. Josh, you know this is gonna be really helpful to our audience and a great, wonderful way to wrap up a wonderful conversation. Thank you, Ralph. Have a great day. To all of our listeners. We’re thinking about you. We’re rooting for you. Have a great day and thanks for listening to Bridge the Gap.

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Ep. 136: Ralph Peterson