Listen to our interview with 9x turnaround CEO, Dick Cross
Today we discuss how they look at medicine in the Orient and what we can learn from them and how we can apply it to our organizations. What does it take to “shape” the perfect organization with “whole” thinking. 60 minutes, three times per week.
Much easier said than done to be sure, but whole thinking requires us to stop what we’re doing and spend uninterrupted time just thinking about or organizations.
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Patrick Wiscombe: It is Tuesday, time for another edition of The Business Fuel podcast. Good morning, I’m Patrick Wiscombe. Thank you for tuning us in and taking us along wherever and however you’re accessing the podcast. Coming up today, we will be talking to Dick Cross. We’ll get to him in a second, but first, let’s bring in the producer and co-host of the podcast, Ty Kiisel. Good morning sir.
Ty Kiisel: Good morning. How are you Patrick?
Patrick Wiscombe: Doing great. I know Dick has to be at a meeting soon, so let’s bring him in. He’s the author of, 60 Minute CEO. It’s in the Top 30 of iTunes. How are you Dick?
Dick Cross: I’m just great. How are you guys?
Patrick: Good. When did you get the news that your book, 60 Minute CEO, hit the Top 30 in iTunes?
Dick Cross: My publisher in Boston, Bibliomotion, whom I love, shot me an email on Friday. So that was great news.
Ty Kiisel: Let me say something about this book. Read this book. It’s filled with great insight that you’re not going to find anywhere else. It is everything and more that I would have expected. There’s no question you’ll benefit from it.
Dick: That’s very kind. Thanks so much Ty.
Patrick: Today we’re talking about east versus west. I assume we’re not talking about NBA Basketball.
Ty: No we’re not. This is really great. I’m excited to talk about this and I’ll like to cue it up in kind of a different way. About 30 years ago, I was living in Japan. I met this guy who did bonsai. He said that when you make a bonsai tree, you close your eyes and envision in your mind what the perfect tree looks like. Then you take your clippers and start to shape that perfect tree out of this shrub sitting in front of you. He talked about it as a spiritual journey, creating perfection. He said that it takes patience and it doesn’t happen overnight. To the younger version of me, it was insightful. But to the older version of me, it was revelatory. I think it fits in incredibly well with what we’re going to talk about today.
Dick: Phenomenal. I never put together that analogy but it is beautiful and so fitting. As you were speaking, one of my favorite quotes came to mind. “We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continuously if we will ever carve them out in grand and noble lives.” How’s that?
Ty: That’s awesome. So let’s jump in with both feet and get started on what you’re talking about.
Dick: Bonsai is so different because there’s a perfect model in thought. It takes time to conceptualize that perfect model and you have to revisit it continually. Carving out a grand and noble business is exactly the same thing. Unfortunately our whole financial and education system tends to force us to look at the little parts that are out of place. It’s a very Newtonian idea that if we disaggregate something into it’s component parts and find the single part that’s out of place and we fix that, then we can put it all back together and the whole will be fine. As a result, so many CEO’s and department heads and such, spend their whole life at work looking for something wrong and trying to fix it so the organization can go along as it was. As opposed to taking time to think deeply and conceptually. That’s kind of the eastern thought. The eastern thought on medicine is that you look at the whole person. You look physically, spiritually, and psychologically as you create a balance. Our whole western approach to medicine is this whole Newtonian thing that if you’re not feeling good, we’re going to find this little gland that goofed up and sew you back up so you can be ok.
Ty: As the Japanese man was describing how he made the tree out of the bonsai shrub, he never once said, “I fixed this broken part.” It was all about shaping it into something perfect, rather than fixing something that wasn’t. We look at systems, organizations, and our employees that way. It’s all about how do I fix them where they are weak and make them stronger.
Dick: It all goes back to the 15th century and Isaac Newton dragging us out of the Dark Ages. Newton really wasn’t looking for the law of gravity, he was a deeply religious guy. He had this overarching imagination and zeal to find out how the God he believed in manifested himself in material circumstances. So Newton would pick something complicated and pick it apart into it’s components. He made a lot of discoveries along the way. But to think about your organization as a whole and shape it, most CEOs just don’t think that way. The way we design organizations and jobs is we give everyone a responsibility or a part and very seldom does anybody think of the whole. When everybody is thinking of parts, it’s very easy to get dragged into “part” thinking. You need to reserve time in your life for “whole” thinking.
Ty: We’ve been talking about this esoteric, eastern versus western thinking. I like it. You agree with it. How do you implement it into your organization?
Dick: It is so much easier than people think. It involves actually sitting by yourself. My recommendation is 60 minutes, 3 times a week. No distractions at all, thinking clearly and deeply about your business. Most people have a hard time doing that. We don’t really have many thought models to guide us through an examination of our business. That is why I wrote, Just Run It. There are tools that can structure our thinking to get into the zone of thinking of our whole company. It makes all the difference in the world. Our research at The Cross Partnership says that most CEOs spend 95% – 100% of their time doing things other than thinking about the whole of their business.
Ty: I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you a question we’ve not talked about before. I don’t know the answer to it, but I think I know the answer based upon what you say. Is this something you push down throughout the other leaders in your organization? Do you encourage them to just stop and think about what they’re doing?
Dick: Your hunch is exactly right. But you can’t just ask them to do it. They’ve got to get the idea in their own minds. They’ve got to spend hard time figuring it out for themselves. They’ve got to be able to convey that to the next tier and the next tier to encourage them. They should spend time thinking not necessarily about the whole, but how their part contributes to that. That can be the artery that carries a conversation and an awareness through the business that is magic. It is the elixir, nitrous oxide, and accelerant to a company.
Ty: That’s what I would have expected of you. You didn’t surprise me. We need to as organizations in the west, take a more holistic, thoughtful approach to how we interact with people and how we lead organizations. I try to take a little time during the week to stop and think about what I’m doing. It is really hard.
Dick: I think that’s because so many of us spend so much time counter punching off the ropes. We’re reacting to situations in our business. The hardest part is the discipline. To take a few minutes to block everything out, close the door, and just think.
Ty: I like the idea of the framework you build in Just Run It. I like the whole idea of thoughtfully approaching the challenges you face by giving yourself permission to not answer the phone calls and emails. You actually focus your attention on your business. I love that. That’s the biggest difference between people who makes tweaks to their organization and those that do something incredible.
Dick: It’s the discipline to block out the time. It’s letting people know you think it’s valuable, whether they get it or not, and you’re going to do it and you will let them know what the result is. You will infect them with the idea of doing it on their own. It’s something that’s entirely missing in most businesses these days. We have this idea that if we’re not cursing, stomping, and running around, we’re not working. My argument is that the most productive work you do is when you’re leaning back in a chair, thinking hard and deeply about what your business could be and how you’re going to get there.
Ty: To wrap up I want to go back to the bonsai tree. Everything you described today fits into that. That guy talked about quiet time, visualizing perfection. It’s not about fixing. It’s about shaping, encouraging, and nudging. You’re training and moving forward. It’s not repairing damage.
Dick: I love the word shaping. But I think it’s also having the humility to recognize your organization is this beautiful, dynamic, and integrated whole. It’s not going to respond like a trick dog to what you say. But in fact, your job is to shape, encourage, and train. That’s a beautiful analogy and I appreciate it.
Ty: This is about demonstrating results that ring at the cash register when all is said and done.
Dick: It’s about have courage, quite frankly. Courage to think and do some things that people might just think are wrong or crazy. There are times when I have laid my job on the line by saying, “If we’re not going to make this step, you board of directors or investors, find somebody else.”
Ty: Wow. As usual, incredible conversation. Thanks Dick. Our listeners can find your new book on Amazon and all the other usual places right?
Dick: Absolutely. 60 Minute CEO gives you lots of frameworks and vignettes to play this new game.
Patrick: We’ll be excited to hear about your newest turnaround in the next few months.
Dick: Absolutely. It’s a great company.
Patrick: Dick Cross, guest and friend. Also the author of 60 Minute CEO and Just Run It. You can find both on Amazon.com. Thank you Dick.
Dick: My pleasure. Thank you.
Patrick: Ty before we wrap things up, what was your article in Forbes?
Ty: Just following up with last week. I was questioning whether any innovation was happening at banks. I’m talking about two of them that reached out with things that I think actually are innovation.
Patrick: Just do a search on Forbes.com for Ty Kiisel. So for Dick, Ty, I’m Patrick. Thank you for listening. We’ll talk to you next Tuesday.
Bringing you interviews with top business professionals and business financing tips to help fuel your American dream. This has been the Business Fuel podcast, with your hosts, Ty Kiisel and Patrick Wiscombe, heard exclusively on Lendio.com