You might be surprised at what most employees are looking for from a business leader. Nevertheless, it’s critical to engaging employees and creating a productive working environment. Check out today’s podcast to see what Dick Cross identifies as the power of emulation.
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Patrick Wiscombe: It is another can’t miss 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 today. Let’s say hello to Ty Kiisel, producer and co-host of the show. How are you today?
Ty Kiisel: Doing really well. How about you?
Patrick Wiscombe: Just great. Today we will be talking to Dick Cross. We have him on the program once a month. Dick is the author of 60 Minute CEO and Just Run It.
Ty Kiisel: If you haven’t heard one of the podcasts with Dick before, you’re going to love it. Dick is one of the smartest guys I’ve met in the business world. This guy knows the ins and outs of running a company. He’s the fixer. He goes in and fixes companies that are struggling for whatever reason. He has some of the most common sense advice I’ve ever heard from a CEO. And both books have fantastic advice. Don’t ignore this guy. He has a lot to offer our audience.
Patrick: His latest turnaround right now is Summerclassics.com. That’s the website. They are trying to ramp up additional sales with Dick’s help. We are talking about “followership” so Ty, I will let you kick us off.
Ty: I’m excited because I believe in what we’re going to talk about today. So Dick, what is it that most employees want from the person that has the job at the top?
Dick Cross: First of all regarding Summer Classics, I wouldn’t call it a classic turnaround. Like so many other businesses in the United States, there is a hidden seed of greatness. Sometimes somebody from the outside has the ability to see the whole of the business and align the resources of the business behind the idea of what it could be. They can take a solid business to heights that it would never achieve on it’s own. That’s what I’ve been able to do a lot and that’s what Summer Classics is about. It’s got all the pieces of the puzzle to be spectacular going forward. That’s just a little background there. But what I’ve found over 30 years of doing this is that in some successful companies, it’s technology or it’s reputation. In mid-tier businesses or small businesses, the ones that are great are the ones that have this maniacal zeal across the company that lines up to get something done that everybody feels is important. Moreover, it is the spirit of who we are, why we are proud to be who we are, and what we’re going to do because of that. Recent polls show people are looking for very clear signals of consistent character at the top. And the second piece of that is confidence; confidence in something that inspires them. If you can get that going in a company, the sky’s the limit. I don’t care if it’s a corner convenience store, or a $250 million manufacturing company. And it will never occur if the top doesn’t understand that.
Ty: The brand of the company is really how the CEO makes this a reality. It’s a lot more than people think. Most organizations mirror the leadership, don’t they?
Dick Cross: Most people know it’s personal. It’s not about a business plan. It’s embodied in the individual at the top. What has to underpin that individual is belief in himself. They need to be comfortable with who they are, knowing they will make mistakes like everybody else. There’s no need to pretend you are somebody you aren’t. They care deeply about the nobility of what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s only when these characteristics are embedded deeply in the person at the top that it spreads through an organization with the power that creates huge followership.
Patrick: I recently read a quote from Mark Cuban. He fascinates me. For those who don’t know who he is, he’s on Shark Tank and he’s the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Back in the 80’s, the Mavericks were the armpit of the league. He said, “The NBA is never just a business. It’s always business. It’s always personal. All good businesses are personal. The best businesses are very personal.” I think that’s what you’re saying Dick.
Dick: What a great quote and it’s perfect. The reason Mark Cuban stands out on Shark Tank is he’s the guy who feels best about himself. He’s the guy that understands the energy in his company has to come from him. Society has pretty much made us herd animals. That means we are constantly looking for models to emulate. It’s just not that difficult to be one of those. But for some reason, so few people step up to the plate. It’s a matter of will and self-discipline to turn yourself into somebody. You may never have the following Mark Cuban has. But if you have a business with three employees, you can take the same position and have the same effect on everybody around you. We’ve turned to branding as a society. If we buy the right pair of shoes, we’ll have a 40 inch vertical leap. Or if I carry the right handbag, people will think I’m associated with Kate Spade. The best companies have someone at the top who understands people are looking for someone to be a model. It’s a powerful weapon for creating a firestorm of followership in the organization.
Ty: When you go into an organization and you see a negative culture, what does that say about the CEO?
Dick: It doesn’t say the CEO has been a bad person. It doesn’t say the CEO isn’t smart. It doesn’t say the CEO doesn’t work hard or have good values. What it says is that the person at the top hasn’t been consistent with an unwavering attention to values. Unwavering to those values through your acts. Every look you give to each person in your organization is what creates positive culture. Negative culture is always based in fear. It all starts with an understanding of the unbelievably close scrutiny with which everybody in your organization views you at the top. They are looking for signals of whether they should hook their wagon to your star or not. Then they learn how to behave themselves. If you give them consistent signals, most people will emulate you.
Ty: Years ago, Charles Barkley said, “I’m not a role model, I’m a basketball player.” What you’re saying is that the CEO not only needs to be a role model, he or she has to be a role model in order to be successful.
Dick: I love Barkley. And whether he wants to be or not, he is a role model. If you run the corner grocery store or a half billion dollar manufacturing company, you are a role model. Half of your job at the top is that you give clear, inspiring signals to the people in your organization. They need to understand who you are; that you will be the same on a good day as well as a bad day.
Ty: I bet you just shocked a lot of people when you said that is half your job.
Dick: For those who read, 60 Minute CEO, that’s one of the messages. Half of the job at the top is how you handle yourself. That’s the longest arrow in your quiver for creating a tribe who will walk through deep water for you when it needs to happen.
Ty: I think it’s safe to say that everybody has bad moments and bad days. How do you ensure what the workforce sees is good so they can emulate it? Or do you try to cover up all the bad stuff? How does that work?
Dick: It’s simply a matter of conditioning. If you’re going to run an organization, you need to spend some time by yourself thinking about how well you’re doing your job. If half of it is portraying a persona that people will fight to align themselves with, then it becomes second nature. I’ve seen so many CEOs and department heads blow up and lose their cool. When you lose your cool, you lose respect and trust. So you have to think about it and understand how important your job at the top is. Your job at the top is not about you. It’s about inspiring everyone else to be as good as they need to be.
Ty: This might be a silly question, but is this an ouvert mission or does it just naturally happen?
Dick: It happens naturally by an elevation of consciousness of your own behavior. If people could put one word in their head, it’s emulation. People are looking at you, in minute detail, of how they should act to be successful in the organization. Some organizations have open warfare and I know exactly how that happens. It’s because the person at the top is that way and everybody emulates that person.
Ty: I like the idea of thinking about perfection before it happens. 30 years ago I was in Japan talking to a man who grew bonsai trees. He said the technique for pruning a bonsai was to close your eyes and picture what the perfect tree looks like. Then you clip a little here and put a wire there to train it where it should go. You continually look at the tree keeping in mind that perfect picture. It’s not how do I make this tree perfect. Is that what you’re talking about?
Dick: That is a beautiful analogy. It’s so perfect. In this instance, the tree is youself. Great bonsai is the product of 50 years. You need to constantly look at yourself and improve yourself. Getting control of your own emotions will get results immediately. People will start using your phraseology. And that beats the bottom line.
Ty: It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a labor for your life.
Dick: It’s almost like going slow allows you to go fast. You can’t go in and start proclaiming who you are and how this needs to be. You have to go in and just be around and handle yourself in such a way that people start looking at you out of the corner of their eyes. They start to say that this is different and cool and I want to be like that guy.
Ty: My last question is how do you get started?
Dick: It’s another thing that I hoped would come up in this conversation. There are steps to getting there where you are in control and you are conscious. It all starts with intuition. Everybody says, “This makes sense.” The next step is hope. Then comes belief. People will start to say that they believe they can actually be this way. The next is faith. I not only believe it, I kind of know that I could be that way if I wanted to. The fifth step is understanding. If you continue thinking about this, you will see a path and you will understand that it’s possible. Sixth, is to internalize it in a spiritual way. Not in a religious way, but in terms of who you are and how you handle yourself. It is the notion of the spirit that you want to convey to your organization which then drives me to start demonstrating these behaviors. If people will take the time to embrace this, it can happen in a matter of days. Nothing even comes close to the influence you can have by controlling yourself.
Ty: I wrote those steps down. They seem to be less business oriented and more personal.
Dick: We’ve circled back to what Mark Cuban said. But we’ve peeled the onion and we can see more clearly. Business is personal. One of the great tragedies is that in the 50’s and 60’s, businesses schools taught that business was not personal. Business is about arithmetic and statistics. That’s all great stuff, but businesses really are personal. They’re meaningful parts of people’s lives. It’s not just someplace I go 40 hours a week trying to make a bunch of rich guys richer so that I can pay my rent. That’s not what business is all about.
Ty: I like chatting with you so much because hopefully we make a difference. The numbers are important and businesses need to profitable. But what makes business great is that it is personal. Thank you so much for being part of the conversation today.
Dick: It’s my pleasure. This company I’m dealing with right now, Summer Classics, has been built with consistent character. I’m simply traveling a different path and the alchemy is starting to happen.
Patrick: People ask why I sort of disappear. I don’t, I’m here taking notes. I look at it as personal mentoring time. And I think Ty would agree with me on that.
Patrick: Dick, thank you. Good to talk to you.
Dick: I say it every month, this is one of the moments I look forward to most.
Patrick: So for Dick Cross, Ty Kiisel, I’m Patrick Wiscombe. Thank you for listening. We’ll talk to you again 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