(If you would like to read the discussion between Kimberly and Rob, the video transcription is at the bottom of the page.)
Best-selling author and international speaker Robert Stevenson joined Kimberly Mackey for a candid conversation about what it takes to be a great leader, regardless of your title. Robert Stevenson is the author of “How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys” and “Raise Your Line.” He has spoken at Fortune 500 companies all over the world. We were fortunate to grab him for an hour to discuss real-world and historical examples of extraordinary leadership skills.
Grab your earbuds and something to take notes. This one is sure to inspire. Be sure to visit https://NewHomesSolutions.com/Head-to-Head for our all-new lineup for 2023. H2H is not a podcast or webinar; it IS a conversation and you are invited to participate when you join our live sessions. Even if you can’t join us live, you can always catch the recorded sessions, which are emailed to all registrants after the program.
To watch past programs or learn more about Head-to-Head, please visit: NewHomesSolutions.com/head-to-head
Kimberly: I’m so excited. This is the first time that I’ve gone outside the industry to invite someone, and I just couldn’t think of anybody better. I’ve followed Rob, for gosh, I don’t know maybe 10 years now, since I was first privileged to hear him speak at Berkshire Hathaway and have just really enjoyed him. Every Sunday evening, I look forward to getting your Consider This email. Always some serious food for thought. I’m so excited that you are my first guest outside the industry to come on and what a heavy hitter we have for sure.
Rob: Thank you for having me. And I’m looking forward to it.
Kimberly: I also have to say thank you to everybody who has been a part of this program. We started this program in December 2020 with my good friend Myers Barnes and this thing has just grown and gotten a head of steam. Now I’m happy to say that we are a silver award winner for the Nationals. The gold will of course be given out in Vegas on February 2nd, I believe. I am super excited about that. If you’re going to be at the Nationals all gussied up, I will look forward to seeing you in person because I will be there. Now the quick little announcements of who we are and our introductions here. We’ll keep this pretty loose. This is how you can reach me. For those of you who don’t know me, I founded New Homes Solutions with the challenge of today’s market knowing that not only do you need sales, but you need profitable sales that you can deliver. And to do that we have to we have to get into the nitty-gritty. It’s your systems, it’s your procedures, it’s everything that supports getting you those sales. When you’re ready to make sure that sales is the engine that drives your train, rather than running it off the tracks, give me a call. And Rob, if I read this bio, we’d be here all day. It’s amazing, so I’m going to let him tell you a little bit about his journey. Here’s how you can reach him.
Rob: You’ve got my information right in front of you, so please contact me at any time, I would love to chat with you or share information with you. You can also go to my website, and I have a newsletter that I put out she was talking about, Consider This. And there are about 135 articles that are there. Use them. Copy them. Don’t worry about plagiarism or copyright. It’s all there for information to make you better at what you do. To give you a little history, I started my first business when I was 24 years old, grew that company, and then sold it to my partner. Then started four more businesses, from selling worldwide in 20 different countries, to manufacturing furniture for the wholesale hotel industry. Sold that company. I have owned four different companies, and this is my fifth, but that’s my speaking business, so I don’t count that as a company. I’ve had employees, I understand what it is to grow a business from scratch since I did it four different times and ended up selling those companies. Then I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I got into the speaking business 30 years ago. It’s a very backward industry. You have to have a video to get a booking, you have to have a booking and to get a video. You’ve got to figure that out, which is hard to do, but it’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to share the story that I had because I remember my first book How to Soar like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys. I wrote that book because I wish somebody would have told me these things when I got into the business. It was 47 chapters and they’re short, they’re quick, they’re easy. It tells you what you need to know to make you more successful, and it cuts to the chase quickly. Then when I got into the industry, I wrote more books. She’s showing some on the screen there that I’ve written. One of my last books, Raise Your Line – I’ll give you an anecdote on that. I had trouble naming the book. I was talking to my son one day in my office. He was getting ready to graduate from Florida State and he was getting ready to go out in the business world and I said, “Tyler, you’re getting ready to go out into the business world, how do you go about making a decision?” Now, I’ve been a business speaker my entire life and I’ve been where he’s been around his entire life, so he’s probably going to say something that I probably said and I’m going to be so proud that he just fed back to me something I taught him years ago. Tyler looked at me and said, “To make a decision he said, it’s all about raising your line. I looked at him and replied, “What?” I never said that in my life. I had no clue what he was talking about. He said, “Dad, life is about a line.” He said, “You’re born. You die. It’s a line.” I’m thinking this is not going well. I’m not real excited about that analogy. He said, “but if you do something good, the line goes up. If you do something bad, your line goes down.” Why ever would I want my line to go down? I was trying to think about naming my book, I remember one of my agents said, “You know, you’ve written a lot of books, and you’ve got articles. There’s got to be something there that would have the most impact.” I kept looking at all the different things that I had written about, and it was the article that I’d written about my son about raising your line, so that’s how I wrote that book. When you read the book there are boxes in the book that highlight the 100 different things that I think you do that make you more successful. In short, I started my own companies, I grew them, I sold them, and then I got into the speaking business because I felt like I had something I wanted to share. That’s what I’ve done ever since in over 2,500 companies and 16 different countries trying to tell people or share with people how to do it. I think the thing that’s made me successful is that I don’t do a generic program. Everything I do is customized. I pick up the phone, I call my client, and I interview a lot of their people, I ask questions and then I shut up and listen. I learned a long time ago you can’t learn anything when your voice is engaged. I would ask him questions about how they were good. In my programs when I’m doing my speaking engagements that’s one of the things I share with my audience. I tell them, “This is not me telling you that you need to do this because I’m really good.” I’ve interviewed over 10,000 people – employees, managers, and senior executives – and asked them, “How did you become so successful?” Then I write down what they say and listen because these are some really, really smart people that helped me get better at what I do, so that’s what I share with my people. That’s the real short story of how I got to where I am right now.
Kimberly: if you haven’t read the book – I love the title How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys. The whole thing is certainly catchy. I will tell you it’s an easy read as far as the short chapters, but if you listen to what’s in each one of these chapters it’s not an easy read because there are some gut punches. There’s some, “Hey, I need to stop, and I need to think about this and how this is impacting what I do daily.” Very good stuff. I’m just starting. I didn’t get it in time to finish it before this program because I’ve been on the road. I’m reading this one now and I can’t put it down. I’m already highlighting it. I’ve got paper clips all over it. I strongly encourage you to get those. You can visit Rob’s website. He has a store on there, so it makes it super easy for you to get them. His client list is incredibly impressive, so thank you very much for being on. The last little bit of housekeeping I do want to let everybody know about since we’re talking about leadership today, I started something this fall. I see we’ve got a couple of people on here that are part of my program, The Lead from the Side Academy. I started this as a small mentorship. It’s peer-led for anybody who is aspiring to become a sales leader in this industry, or maybe you’re already a sales leader and you’re looking to raise your line if you will. They’re small groups of five or six so that everybody gets a chance to shine. It’s not one of these big mastermind groups where you have 20 or 30 people or more and then you end up with wallflowers. Nobody gets a chance to be a wallflower in this. It’s a true inspiration to me the success that I’m seeing with the people. I’m learning so much from the participants in the program as I’m guiding the material, but it’s that feedback and that interaction. It gives me so much energy. Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about this program. I’m super excited about it. It’s something that I start a few times a year, so there’ll be several groups of them going on. With that being said, I’m going to take the screen slides down now so it’s just you and me mano y mano here. Let’s talk about leadership. Thank you to those of you who chimed into the chat. We’ve got builder owners, we’ve got sales consultants, area managers, and a lot of raving fans for you for sure, so let’s talk about what leadership means to you, Rob. When you hear the word leadership, what does that mean?
Rob: I think one of the biggest problems with leadership is that people think it has to do with authority and if you want to become a leader it’s because you want to tell people what to do. Some of you have heard it before; leadership is to me is a certain situation. You’re there to help teach, get them to grow, care, have compassion, and have empathy to make them better. A true leader to me is a person who makes other people better. That’s what leadership to me is all about. A lot of times I’ll have the opportunity to go on a tour before my program and the CEO will walk me around and show me all the things that they’re doing. I’ll look out in front of me, and I’ll be seeing people just kind of dodging and getting out of the way because here comes the boss, here comes the boss, here comes the boss, and good God don’t say anything to him because he’s the boss! If that’s the attitude of the cultures in your company, that’s all wrong. To me, it’s you’ve got to have people that create the want to not the have to. It’s not how people perform while you’re there it’s how they perform when you’re not there. My son is six foot seven. Big boy. I found a long time ago one way that I could get his attention. You’re not going to yell at him or scream at him. People blow up when you do that, so one of the words that I use that would get to him was I’d say, “Boy you’ve really disappointed me.” Then shut up. He never wanted to disappoint me. I learned that a long time ago when you talk about the people that work for you. When I do my speaking engagements, I have a thing called F.U.B.A.R. Fouled up beyond all repair. I’ll say to managers, “Why don’t you take the mistakes that your company has made and why don’t you put them in a book? When you hire somebody, you hand them the book and tell them to read them. “You don’t need to make these mistakes we’ve already made them. Go make some new ones, okay?” It’s amazing how so many companies don’t have that. The leaders are not preparing the people for the mistakes that have already been made or making sure they don’t happen again. They’re not giving them the necessary tools. When you talk to me about leadership, to me it’s the old deal of the finger blame. One goes out and three come back. I had a great mentor that taught me when your people fail, the first thing that you should ask is, “What have I done to cause them to fail?” Not, “You did it, you did it you did it.” The finger of blame. It’s simple to blame other people, and when I see junior managers that are blame agents, I don’t want them as senior managers. I don’t need that. It’s really simple to blame. I want solutions and I want people to jump in and be able to share their ideas. To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about making people better at what they do. When you create that kind of culture, and when you care about their family, when you care about their children, when you hear them talking “Johnny had to play a baseball game.” The next day you walk by and say, “By the way, did Johnny win the game?” The most important thing to them is their children. Then suddenly you endear yourself to people. When someone tries to hire them away, they won’t leave because they love working for you. I like to take that word out of there. No one ever worked for me, all right? They work with me. That’s the kind of culture that you want to create so we’re all in this together. Then they cover your back, and you cover theirs. I could talk about this all day.
Kimberly: This is stuff we get excited about. You said something there that I like. You said, “Here are the mistakes that we already made so you don’t have to make those. We already screwed that up. Go make some new ones.” We hire the right people, we give them the tools, and we support them by having a relationship with them, but we also trust them to maybe make a mistake and that’s okay. Or maybe do things differently than we would do them. I encourage that because there’s always a better way, right?
Rob: It’s praise in public, criticize in private. I’ll jump off the stage, and I’ll run out I’ll get in somebody’s face, and I’ll sit there, and I’ll start gnawing on them. They’re thinking, “Holy cow.” I’ll start yelling and screaming and ranting and raving and then I’ll ask, “How do you feel?” They reply, “I hate you.” I say, “Yeah”, and I asked, “Have you ever seen that done by a manager before?” “Oh yeah!” You get everybody in the audience, “Oh yeah!” I then question, “How dare you ever take somebody down in front of somebody else? I’ll give you an example. One of my people made a mistake so I called him into the office, and everybody was thinking, “Oh gosh, he’s going to get in trouble.” Then I’d ask a very simple question, “What do we do?” A lot of people didn’t hear the key word there. I didn’t ask, “What did you do?” I asked, “What did we do?” If they make a mistake, what did I cause them to fail? He said, “Well, I did this.” “Have you ever done that before? “No.” That’s interesting to me. A mistake is a learning experience. We’ve never done that before. So, I said then, “You’re good, and if you made that mistake, some of our other people could make that mistake. I need your help.” “What boss?” “Take a day and write a policy or procedure or something that can help us make sure no one ever makes that mistake at the company again. Bring it to me and we’ll get that out. By the way, keep up the good work.” No, let’s just gnaw. Let’s just get in their face, let’s just rant and rave and scream at them, and have them go work with their other employees and bring them down, or have them go work with customers and bring them down. No. When someone leaves your office, you’ve got to get them up before they go out, not take them down. It’s amazing how people think that leadership is tearing people down. No, it’s just the opposite. If they’re making a mistake, you identify the mistake. “You know we need to work on this, alright?” I also try not to use the word change. You need to change this. You need to change that. I’ll say instead, “You know if we tweak this a little bit; this will do a lot better.” Then ask them for their suggestion about how something should be addressed because when they think they’re part of the solution, they’ll make a solution work. But if it’s, “You need to do this.” “Why?” “Because I’m the boss. I said so.” Well, yeehaw for you. I just don’t find that kind of management works for me. I know there are a lot out there that think, “I’m the one that’s going to be accountable for everyone and everything, so I’m the one who’s going to tell them what to do.” Guess what? When you’re not away, it’s not going to get done. Create the want to not that have to. It works a lot better.
Kimberly: When you start talking and say, “You need… You need…” If you hear yourself saying you need to do anything that should be one of those times when you perk up and think, “Wait a minute. I need to shift my paradigm and think about this a little differently.” That’s a lecture when you start telling about what you need and immediately when somebody tells me I need to do anything, being the type A personality that I am, I’m going to just shut right down. If somebody’s asking me, “That didn’t go so well. What do we need to do? How are we going to fix this?” We, we, we. I’m probably beating myself up if I made this mistake. Now if I am asked, “What worked? what didn’t work? How can we move forward with this?” That’s going to get a completely different result, and it’s going to cause me to think about it and analyze it. Do that post-mortem. I like to talk with sales about what worked and what didn’t.
Rob: You’ve got to find out. I remember there was a REALTOR® that I worked with, and I asked her how she became successful. She said she calls the people that didn’t buy the house and asked them why. She said about 35 percent to 40 percent of the time they wouldn’t tell me and then some would hem and haw around, and she said, But maybe 20 percent to 30 percent of the ones would tell me why.” She told me that’s how she became better. I’ll never forget she said this one thing. She had asked one couple why they didn’t buy the house from her. The wife said, “It didn’t have your colors on the sign.” She exclaimed, “Excuse me?” The wife said, “Your sign was blue, and the other sign was red.” The REALTOR® said, “But I can sell any house.” “You never told us that. We thought you could only sell the blue houses; the ones with the blue signs.” This was a first-time home buyer, and that was an amazing lesson to her that she lost a commission on the sale of the house. They would have given it to her, but they didn’t know that she could sell any house. When she asked those questions, you find out the post-mortem on a sale is a fantastic way to make yourself better because what you’re looking for are the mistakes that you made. Tell me what I did wrong and then that way I can make myself better.
Kimberly: We assume so many things, I think, and that gets you in real trouble every single time.
Rob: Yes, it does. Big time
Kimberly: Before we started today, we were talking about what you’ve learned from your son and I said my son has probably inspired about half of my material, so in his book, he talks about TCS training. Will you tell us a little bit about that concept?
Rob: It was a setup in the book. I asked the question, “Who do you learn from?” You learn from Socrates. Do you learn from Plato? Do you learn from universities? Do you learn this and learn that? I came up with a list of all these things that I learned not just learned from. It’s an amazing list. It‘s all things we know. One of them is being able to say thank you. Then having persistence. I put this long list in there, and I thought, “Where did I learn this from? I learned it from my four-year-old.” Are you kidding me? It’s amazing how powerful it is to say the word thank you, but when it comes out of the mouth of a four-year-old, “Thank you, Daddy. I appreciate that.” You teach them that because they feed that back to you. Persistence. Do you want to talk about persistence? The greatest salesperson in the world is a four-year-old. They don’t hear no. They just don’t understand what I’m talking about. We’re going to get there eventually. I’m going to wear you down. They just don’t hear it. Just learn from a four-year-old, and then pay attention to what they have learned and how they’ve improved. Here’s a biggie. An adult knows about 20,000 words but when we turn 30, we quit learning. We learn about five to ten words per year, but in the first five years of our life, we learn about eight thousand words. That little one learned eight thousand words. Why did we just turn off learning? Why did we get out of college and turn off reading? Do you want to talk about being a leader? Read. Make yourself read something every day that’s going to make you better than somebody else because let me tell you something; it’s been invented. That’s why I interview so many people. They know about what’s going on in their company and I want that knowledge. I was a lousy student. I went to Georgia Tech, and I just got by. I just wanted the grade. Just give me the stupid grade. I didn’t want to learn the subject, I just wanted the grade, Then when I got the grade and got out, I found out now I need this stuff, and suddenly I was a sponge for learning. If you want to be a great leader, constantly be reading about how you can improve from other people. It’s out there. Go to YouTube and type it in.
Kimberly: There are so many videos out there that you can watch. People say they can’t afford it, or they can’t do this, or they can’t do that. there is so much free information out there.
Kimberly: I put stuff out every single week on my blog, and on social media, and you put stuff out every single week. There’s always something that you can learn. Curious people make the best leaders because they’re constantly investing in themselves. I’ve been traveling every single week for the last six weeks and I spent the weekend going to a workshop that was being put on by one of my clients. It was great. It was fantastic. Was it convenient? No, it was not convenient. Even though the focus was on them, I got stuff that’s going to help me and help my clients down the road because I went. You must keep putting the good stuff in.
Rob: That’s like criticism. So many people are back on criticism and a lot of times it’s doled out incorrectly. Forget the fact that they did it incorrectly, the statement is it’s all about a better you, not a better them. If you’re going to criticize me, then I’m just going to try and listen between the lines and try and take all the politics out of it or the fact that you might not like me or this, that, and the other, and see if there’s anything that’s said that can make me better. It’s about me. How do I get better? In my industry, a lot of this is going to be videotaped, I’m going to watch it, and you can’t change the tape. It tells you exactly what’s going on. I do a speaking engagement. They’re taped so I watch and pay attention to what I’m doing – if I’m walking too much, and one of my biggest problems is I talk too fast. I get excited. After people listen to me for a while, they get used to it because I want to share so much information. I know it’s wrong, but that’s who I am. I’m just going to rapid fire it out there, but I’ll watch what I’m trying to do to get my point across. We must take the criticism and ask, “How do I make myself better?” That’s what it’s all about.
Kimberly: I was fortunate to work for a large National Builder, and I was fortunate to attend The Center for Creative Leadership. It is not an inexpensive thing. It’s an intense week of your life. They videotape every moment. If you’re on that campus, you are being videoed. Your interactions with people, eating lunch, I mean everything. At the end of the week, you’re given a corporate psychologist who has followed you throughout the week. Talk about introspection. This is the most intense introspective and it’s very uncomfortable. It was honestly one of the absolute best things that I ever did in my life. You had to take every analysis, every personality test, and every 360-degree review. The binder that they give you is this thick with the stuff that we went through, and it was one of those game changers in my life to be able to go through that. While not everybody will have the chance, and like I said, it’s not an inexpensive opportunity, but I was so grateful to have it. I think that these are things that we can recreate for ourselves if we’re seeking that, and we have that attitude of gratitude of what can I learn? You’re going to find what you’re looking for. What can I learn? How can I help? How can I support? That self-talk that you have going on in your head as a leader is what will be portrayed.
Rob: I spend a certain amount of time on LinkedIn scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to find a tidbit that someone else said or an article that someone else has done that’s new and different out there, that’s from a different perspective from a different industry. You broaden your horizons, and I’ve gotten hooked up with a lot of different people all over the world because of that. I look forward to that because it’s something that’s going to make me better. When I was in college, I just wanted the grade, now I want the knowledge. A lot of people say knowledge is power, but it’s not really. It’s the use of knowledge that is power.
Kimberly: Absolutely. You must apply it.
Rob: You must have the action step there. I mean you can have all. I know a lot of smart people that aren’t very successful because they don’t have the ability to use the knowledge.
Kimberly: You take what you get from it. I always encourage people in any of my workshops and ask, “What was your aha? What did you learn and now what are you going to do with it?”
Rob: What are you going to do with it now? There it is.
Kimberly: Yes. What are you going to do with it? Write those things down because you’re going to forget 80 percent of what I said by tomorrow. It’s gone, but those ahas you’re going to remember. Then you take that next step, and you take those action steps to make it work. If you’ll do that as you’re reading the book. If you’re not a reader, there’s Audible. You can get your information in so many different formats. If you like videos or if you like to watch TV, watch YouTube. It’s there. There’s just so much learning out there. Khan Academy. Master Class is running a two-for-one right now. That’s incredible. Absolutely amazing. Saying thank you. Let’s circle back to that one because I think that’s such a powerful point. How can you advise a leader to slow down and remember to say thank you in a way that sounds genuine and hopefully is genuine?
Rob: I’ll give you an example of what I do. One of the companies I owned was a manufacturing business. We manufactured custom contract furniture for the hotel/motel industry, so we could build an entire hotel worth of furniture. We had lots of people that were on the shop floor. They were making furniture and I would get up and get out there knowing my people, meeting my people, and talking to my people. I would also always make a show of it. I would walk up to somebody in front of a bunch of other people and we would stop the machines and stop the saws. I can’t deal without you, but right now you’re getting ready to leave, and here’s some money. You’re going to take your significant other out for dinner, and I want you to bring me the receipt, so I know that you took them out to dinner. I want you to leave right now. It’s nine o’clock in the morning, so they get a day off. I did it in front of everybody. I’d say, “What you do, you do great, and you make everybody around here better at what they do.” I learned when you say that in front of people and other people see that, they want that praise. I would praise people in front of other people so they would get an understanding of that. Then I would hand them the money and say, “Get the heck out of here.” It cost me a day’s worth of labor to have a good person leave, but it was amazing what it did for the other people that saw this. They knew when I was on the shop floor someone was getting ready to get some money and someone’s getting ready to go to dinner. I would do it a lot and then and so the individual praise. Then the handwritten notes. I remember there was one CEO that I talked to and he said he carries a book in his pocket while he was walking around talking to his people. After they said something personal about their family he said when he got to a corner, he’d write down what they said. So-and-so’s wife’s surgery or son’s getting ready to get married. He would send them a note and then follow up in a week. He would put it in his daytime planner or tickle file about the wife having surgery in a week. He would send flowers to the wife and find out what was going on with that family. Talk about endearing yourself to your people. Holy cow! So, it’s not just the thank you but we forget it. We get so wrapped up. I’ve owned companies. You’ve got all this stuff on you. You’re trying to pay bills; you’re trying to get somebody to pay you, and you’re trying to meet all your deadlines. You’ve got all these things that are going on and then you forget to say thank you to the people that helped get you there to make all these things happen. I’m thinking, “Come on! You’ve got to be kidding me!” I don’t care if you write on your desk or have something on the wall right there. Don’t forget to say thank you. You’re constantly training that to people. You hit the nail on the head when you said to make it sincere. You’ve got to be thinking about what’s personal to them. The next thing you know, it catches on within your organization. I mean a great company is a culture and culture is developed by a leader, so if your culture stinks, the leader stinks. I’ll give you another example. We just talked about thank you. I learned a long time ago when I was playing football that there are some bad coaches out there. Lousy coaches. Coaches that I to this day hate. Well, there are a lot of bad managers out there. I had one of my managers come to me and I’d say, “I want you to fire our Bill.” “Why?” “Bill’s just awful.” “Really” “I can’t stand Bill.” I said, “Okay. You’re done with Bill. You don’t want anything to do with Bill.” “Yeah.” I said, “Bill’s mine.” “What do you mean Bill’s yours?” “Well, you don’t want anything to do with him, so he’s mine now.” Then I’d bring Bill into the office and say, “This is what we’re going to do.” I put Bill in another department. Why? Because Bill might have had a problem with that manager, and he might not have a problem with this manager. I would tell the manager that hated Bill, “If you say anything to the other manager about him, I’m going to fire you, so just shut up. Let’s see if he can go work somewhere else. Maybe he can do better” My rule was three in three departments. After three departments, you’re gone. If I get the same feedback from three different managers, you’re out of here. What’s amazing, is sometimes it was just those two people didn’t get along or I had a bad manager. Then when I get two or three from that person until they’re going you know maybe I have a manager problem and not a people problem. So, a manager that doesn’t say thank you, a manager that doesn’t believe in encouragement, a manager that is it’s my way or the highway, I’m the senior vice president, I’m the big guy. That just doesn’t fire me up. I don’t think it works well in companies, so thank you to me is powerful.
Kimberly: There are times when we do unfortunately realize we have a mismatch and somebody who’s just not qualified for the job. They’re not thriving. Something I learned a long time ago is when you’ve done all you can do and you see that person is still very anxious and struggling, either find them a position where they’re not going to struggle or maybe encourage them to go elsewhere. Sometimes we have to do that. It’s always a tough call, but if you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and asked, “Self, did I do all I can do?
Rob: What have I done to cause them to fail? I’ve done all the things that I could do to help that person, and I feel comfortable with that. Sometimes you must cut them because if you don’t, other employees see that, and they bring themselves down.
Kimberly: If you’re in sales – I know a lot of the people on this call are focused on sales – if you’re not selling homes and you’re not doing what you need to do and taking all the steps, that’s quiet quitting. It can put a company out of business. It can cost other people their jobs if you’re not doing your job. When you have that person, you’re either making excuses or you’re making sales. I’ve been saying that for two weeks. I’ve probably said it 20 times because I see the people who are making sales right now in today’s market and they’re not making excuses. They’re saying, “Stuff changed. Big deal. Now, what do I have to do? I’m going to do what I’ve got to do.” Then other people say, “Oh well, the interest rates. I got this cancellation.” We can’t give them the want to but we can support them until we see that they don’t have that want to; they don’t have that drive.
Rob: When you talk about the thank you – I was dealing with a real estate company, and I
interviewed their top REALTORS® and got to the number one and I asked, “What do you do to get people to give you referrals? She said, “When they move into the house they bought, I bring lunch.” No big deal. She just brings lunch. She shows up when they’re moving into their house and she says, “I knew you were going to be busy, and I knew you’re not going have time to deal with this.” I’m talking she brings the lunch. A giant picnic lunch. Take 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 30 minutes, but she makes a spectacle of it and makes sure everything is taken care of. One simple thank you. When the neighbors ask, “Who sold you this house?” “Mary sold me this house.” They talk well about you. There are so many different – and I hate to call them tricks – but there are so many different things you can do. Birthday cards. For the people on here right now, how many birthday cards did you get last year? You can probably tell me how many you got and who sent them to you.
Kimberly: Christmas cards this time of year. The Christmas cards you get these days. I get a lot of electronic messages.
Rob: Exactly. If you want to go a step further on that you want to stand out, send them a card.
Kimberly: Snail mail. How many of you actively use snail mail today? I would be very curious to see because, so few do that. I know Tammy does. That’s why she’s got it going on.
Rob: You stand out. You get this really pretty card and think, “Wow look at that card.” Rob sent that to me. Or remember this or remember that? If you want to really stand out, get their anniversary day and then send a card to the man a week before stating your anniversary’s coming up next week.
Kimberly: That’s a good reminder.
Rob: Thank you, Jesus. I’m glad you reminded me. A great book is Harvey Mackay’s Swim the Sharks Without Getting Eaten Alive. He has The MacKay 66. They sell envelopes. His salespeople averaged twice the industry average in selling envelopes. This book is an old book, but it’s one of the best things I ever learned in my life. He requires his people to learn 66 different things about the people that they’re doing business with. Fantastic book. Now, 66 might be overboard, but it uncovers the little things that people want to talk about. When you walk into their office, you see they went to the University of Alabama or Florida or Tennessee or they were in the military or where their wife went to school. It’s the little things. You write them down. They used to call me notebook because, in my days, we didn’t have computers back then, I wrote it down.
Kimberly: You’ll remember it when you do that.
Rob: I had 350 accounts worldwide. I would call up one of my customers and they might say. “Rob, I can’t talk right now. My son broke his foot.” What’s the next thing that I do? The next thing that I did is I sent a card to his son. Hope you’re feeling better. Hope the foot heals fast. I also wrote it down in my book because how else do you keep track of 350 different customers and all the stuff? The next time I called that customer, I would look down in my book and it says son broke foot. What’s the first thing out of my mouth? “How’s your son’s foot? How’s your son doing?”
Kimberly: We have CRMs today. It’s so much easier. You don’t have to flip back through your notebook. It’s right there when you pull up your contact.
Rob: Salesforce.com. I mean here you go, baby. Type that stuff in there and away we go. People don’t spend the time writing all the personal things down that’s going to make them different, and that’s what’s going to separate you from everybody else. You took the time and you listened. If you’re going to be a great leader, the number one attribute that you need to have is listening. You’ve got to be able to listen to what’s going on with the customer, what’s going on with the salespeople, and what’s going on with your employees. Listen. You’re not learning anything when your voice is engaged.
Kimberly: It’s true in sales. I always say we’re in the relationship business. When you understand that you don’t sell houses, that’s the byproduct. We’re in the relationship business. We’re in the problem-solving business with those relationships. The same is true within your team. I can tell the energy when I walk into a company where people are they’re afraid to talk to me versus when they’re lined up at the door to talk to me when I go in to do a SWOT analysis. They say, “Let me tell you what’s going on and what we’re working on. This is hard we’re struggling. We’re on The struggle bus for this.” They’re just open. I can tell that it’s an open culture when people do that versus me having to prod and pry to try to get there.
Rob: I used a thing called Colossal Gram. I think it’s in Illinois. Just type in Colossal Gram. It cost you about 19 dollars and it’s a five-foot by seven-foot telegram that you can put 72 characters on. You wouldn’t believe how much of an impact that has made on customers that I’ve had thanking them for the order. I used to fly around the country and in 30 days make about 50 stops and see a lot of my customers. I spent a lot of money flying out there to see them. I remember one time I was dealing with this department store chain and the guy said, “I can’t see you now. Have a nice day.” I had flown from Tampa to L.A. Not a good deal, so I’d send a Colossal Gram the next time I was going out there. It said I’m looking forward to seeing you, Bill. It’s going to make a big impression and impact your sales and your profitability. I’d send that Colossal Gram to him. Well, guess what? I never had any more canceled appointments. I had one guy ask, “What are you going do to top the five-foot by seven-foot telegram?” I said, “You can give me the order and I’ll show you.” Then I sent him a hundred-foot banner. It’s things like that that separate you and make you different from other people. Do you want to get somebody’s attention? Wish them a happy birthday and send a five-foot by seven-foot telegram. I guarantee you they will remember you for the rest of their lives.
Kimberly: With Facebook and LinkedIn today, it’s easy to find out what somebody’s birthday is because they put it right online.
Rob: It’s right there.
Kimberly: II think having fun – I keep on my desk – this is my mouse pad. It’s a fish philosophy. Make their day. Have fun. Play. Be there and choose your attitude. Every day I look at this and think, “I’m going to choose my attitude today.” I might have just lost a client, or something didn’t go well, but I look at that like, “Nope. What can I learn from this?” How do you inject fun into the workplace because sometimes it can be drudgery? I think we find what we seek.
Rob: You’re going to think it’s crazy. When I was the in the manufacturing business, I had a laugh box on my desk, and we had a big, huge intercom system. Then the laugh box had babies’ laughs. The greatest thing in the world.
Kimberly: I love babies’ laughs.
Rob: When you hear a baby laugh, you’ve got to laugh. They just cackle. I would feel like the energy was kind of down I would push the intercom and I would push the laugh box. The entire factory would be hearing laughter and then suddenly people would think, “Oh, there’s boss again with that stupid baby laughing thing.” But everybody would start laughing.
Kimberly: You can’t not laugh.
Rob: What I use now are GIFs. I just type in G-I-F, click on one then type in birthday or working hard. I had a dear friend of mine who was a college football coach secretary. She works really, really hard and I knew this was recruiting time and everything else in football season and I send her a GIF of somebody – a one-armed paper hanger – doing all the things she has to do, and she’s just laughed out loud. I just sent it to her out of the blue. She said, “Thank you so much for sending me this. I needed that right now.” I said, “Just thinking about you.” Boom. Pop. Then send them a GIF. And it doesn’t take much for someone to say, “Wasn’t that nice.” Or send them a card or send them something different. I’m big on GIFs.
Kimberly: They can be really fun. One of the things with the sales team is when somebody gets a sale we want to celebrate that success. With several of the companies that I’ve worked with, we’ve implemented group texting where we try to one-up each other with GIFs. Sometimes they can go a little off course, but you just have to think, “Wait a minute. Maybe that one wasn’t as appropriate as it should be, but they have fun with it.” They like the celebration. The person receiving it is not getting a clogged-up inbox. It doesn’t go in the email, but it goes in the team’s chat or as a text or whatever form of internal communication that you have going on. Have fun and let people know that you appreciate them. You’re going to find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to have fun, and you have a smile on your face, that’s going to make all the difference, I think.
Rob: One thing we need to be very cautious of is, as a speaker, I’m going to refer to as vanilla. I think when you look at your humor, if your humor is offensive to anybody, you have upset one too many people. I see a lot of inappropriate language on stage, and I see a lot of inappropriate humor on stage. The same is true in the workplace. I’ve always said you should be able to say the joke to your mom. If you can’t say it to your mom, then you don’t need to be able to say it to somebody else because you don’t know who’s taking offense. They might not say anything, but you must be cautious.
Kimberly: Let’s talk about attitude. That was one of the things. You told a story in your book about General Creighton Abrams. Abrams with the Battle of the Bulge, so if you wouldn’t mind sharing a little bit about that story.
Rob: It was at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and he called his officers together and said, “We are surrounded on the north, south, east, and west fronts by the Nazis.” The officers asked, “What does that mean?” The General said, “It means we can attack these guys in any direction.” That is my kind of General. I mean you look at it you go We’re in a world war. There are two ways to look at it. We’re going to die or we’re going to attack them and charge forward. We’ve got our choice. That’s the kind of person I want to work for. When you look at yourself as a leader and it all comes apart, and everybody is looking at you, that’s when you have to become what? Calm. on You don’t lose it, because if you do, then it’s not going to work. They’re taking the lead off you. I learned a long time ago that sometimes being quiet is one of the best things that you can do, because once you’re getting ready to say, “It was my company. You just blew it. You just cost me thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars out of my pocket. Do I want to lose that employee, or do I want to teach that employee, so we don’t have it happen again? I remember Tom Watson, Sr. One of his top salespeople made a two-million-dollar mistake. Two-million-dollar mistake, so he packed his bag up, put his stuff in his little box, and was walking out. They said he was Tom Watson, Sr. The founder of IBM was in his office looking down and asked, “Where’s Bill going?” They put in his resignation today, sir. He’s the one that cost you that two million dollars.” Watson went down and grabbed the guy and asked, “Where are you going?” He said, “Well, sir, I cost you two million dollars, so I resigned and quit.” “You’re not quitting,” Watson said. “I invested two million dollars in your butt. Get it back in there!” You can take that error and fire the guy, or you can retain a great employee and learn from that situation. The two million is gone. There’s nothing you can do with it. That was a fantastic analogy. That was a real-life story from Tom Watson, Sr. He was asked how you can be great. Double your failures. What? If you’re not stretching the bar and learning, then your competition’s going to beat you. Tom’s theory is, “You made a mistake, and I want to invest in you, and we’re going to learn from this. If you do the same mistake again, you’re toast. You’re out of here.”
Kimberly: You have to learn from the mistake and not continue to make the same mistake. Builders tend to do this a little slower. We don’t move at a snail’s pace, but we do move. We do improve. Honestly, some of the best leaders that I’ve known have come from home building because they’re genuine people. Forgiveness is key and having that great attitude about it. We also talk about setting expectations. Communication to me is one of the forefronts. That’s one of the most important things that we can do. We were talking about assuming and what a problem that is. If we don’t have those clear expectations, we don’t have those policies and procedures, and we don’t communicate effectively, you can’t hold people accountable for that.
Rob: Two things will occur when you start talking about a mistake. The main thing is I want to know why it occurred. I don’t care who. When someone asks, “You know who did that?” I don’t. I’m not interested in who did that. Why did it occur? Then you find out why that occurred. You must figure out if they weren’t knowledgeable of what’s going on. Were they not trained properly? Whether there’s not a policy or procedure or a rule in place that is going to help them with that, because if it’s not, then it’s on you. It’s management. You didn’t have that person properly prepared for that situation. Has that situation never occurred before and they blew it and made the wrong choice? Now you have to teach them how to make those decisions. You can maybe get somebody else involved. One of the clients I had in the Tennessee Valley Authority was a big-time player. They have a thing called the pits crew, and when something is in the pits and just falls apart, they call the pits crew. What does that mean as a manager? It means that you release control. These six people show up, look at the situation and analyze what’s going on. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be the manager anymore; it just means that you couldn’t get this thing resolved. They bring in the players that have no concern about your title or tenure. Their job is to fix the problem and dictate what has to be done. This is what occurred, and this is how we make sure it never happens again. Boeing, one of my clients, has a thing called the eyes of the enemy and what they’ll do is take six or seven of their people and say, “You guys bleed Boeing blood. You’ve been with us for a gazillion years, and we want you to become spies.” Boeing has the most amazing thing I’ve ever been that I was there for three days. They have a 60-million-dollar training facility in St. Louis right there on the river, and for about 300 days a year, they bring in leaders from all over the world. They spend time teaching them how to be leaders, so I learned this when I was there for three days sharing my stuff on leadership yet I’m learning from them. and they talking It’s called the eyes of the enemy, and they’ll take these six people and tell them, “For the next six months, you’re going to be spies. We want you to take all the resources of our organization – whatever you need – and figure out how you can take us down. Where can be beaten by our enemies?” Then they return and report and they fix those things where they’re weak. They’re looking for them and they want to know and that’s exactly how they get their people involved.
Kimberly: Breaking points.
Rob: “What are your mistakes? How do you fix them? How did this occur?” On the other side of the coin, you might have a policy or procedure meeting. I have an annual policy meeting. You throw a policy out there and ask, “Why do we have that? “I’m not sure. That was good eight years ago, but we don’t do that anymore.” “Get rid of it.” Simplify. Walmart, one of my clients, has a thing called stupidity. What’s the stupidest thing? They have a meeting. They give out awards and prizes and ask, “What’s the stupidest thing that we do here at Walmart?” Then they’ll listen to what their people have to say. When I do strategic planning sessions for companies, one of the biggest problems I have is people sharing information. Also, when I do strategic planning sessions, I’ll ask about the tenure of the people that are in the room. I’ll hear 25 years, 30 years, 17 years, 18 years, so I’ll ask, “You don’t have any young people?” “Well, this is a Fortune 500 company, Robert. We’re not going to have young people in the room, only the really important senior managers.” I reply, “Then I’m not going to do the gig.” “Why?” “Because of the guy that’s been there for 25 years. When he opens his mouth, the guy who has been there for 30 years can finish the stupid sentence.” It’s the same minutia over and over and over again. We need some interjection from the younger people. I also found if they say it on the floor it’s going to get squashed by the senior people, so what we do is we have ideas shared and everybody’s assigned a number. The only person that has the number is me. When we put the ideas up on the screen, it just has a number up there, and then people vote on those ideas that are on the screen. They don’t know that was from a person who’s 25 years old and just got out of college. They don’t know that’s from a person that’s just been in the company for six months. There’s no prejudice. The only thing that has power is the idea. You put it up on the screen and then we will work with all these different ideas. We’ll do that for three days, and at the end, we’ll come up with the top two or three ideas that we need to have that are going to make the company better. Then I share whose idea it was, and sometimes it turns out to be that 25-year-old just got out of school.
Kimberly: A fresh perspective.
Rob: Their stock in the company goes way up, but if that person had shared that at the beginning, it would have never made it to the end because a lot of these people would think, “That wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t for my department. It wasn’t for this; it wasn’t for that.” I find that kills companies. Learn from the young and learn from the old. Everybody can contribute.
Kimberly: That fresh perspective is what I call the newbie perspective. So often that can be contagious, and they just have a different way of looking at it. Sometimes we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done them.
Rob: The seven keywords that kill a company are that’s the way we’ve always done it.
Kimberly: As we’re reaching the top of the hour here, what do you think the best advice for building a winning team is?
Rob: It starts with your culture. I’ve always tried to teach managers to act like there’s a camera on them. Today there is, but act like there’s a camera on you at all times because they’re going to see what you do and act it out just like a child. I’ll never forget I got hired by Anheuser-Busch at Busch Gardens. They’re in Tampa and Donny Mills was their general manager. Donny Mills had started with Busch Gardens when he was 16 years old and was the youngest general manager they’d ever had in the history of the company. He was 32 when I did three speaking engagements for him. We’re talking and we’re meeting and we’re walking over to this giant facility that’s going to house 2,500 people and we’re going to do this speaking engagement. It’s a beautiful place. We’re walking across Busch Gardens and there’s a piece of trash. What does Donny do? He picks it up and puts it in a trash can. He walks a little bit further where there’s another piece of trash, picks it up, and puts it in a trash can. We walk towards this place – mind you this is the general manager of Busch Gardens – he doesn’t need to pick up the trash as that’s not his job. He’s got people that pick up the trash. Donny’s picking it up and he’s putting it in the truck.
Kimberly: If you lead by example, it’s your job.
Rob: Right. Donny asks, “You’re probably wondering why I’m picking up the trash, Rob.” I said, “Yeah, I kind of wondered about that.” He said, “Well, one of our rules is you can’t ever walk by it when you’re on the property. How in the world could I ever walk by? It’s in my blood. I can’t walk by.” Lead by example. When you get an understanding of what’s going to make these people do and create the want to, the first thing is they’re watching you. If you’re using a screaming ranting and raving voice, guess what? Then that’s acceptable. I always taught other managers that if you see somebody taking somebody down in front of somebody else, walk over there and say, “We don’t do that here. We handle that a different way. We never do that in public and we don’t do it in private the way you’re doing it. You’re going to need to chill out here.” You’ve got everybody that’s got to see how this culture goes down. When you start your meetings, as you said, start talking about fun. Then have some fun. Have something that’s going to get everybody riled up and laughing and having a good time and create energy in the room. They learned a long time ago that productivity goes up when people are having fun. The percentages are 31 more productivity in your company and 56 higher sales because people are having fun. But no, we’re going to have a meeting, and everybody’s going to be miserable in my meeting, and I’m going to run the meeting, and it’s going to be boring. Yay. When I do speaking engagements I look at my entire program and figure out where I’m going to put different things in there for laughter to energize the audience to make them feel good about what’s going on because they’ll retain my information better. No, let’s just give them all the data and then say this is how it’s going to happen. When they leave the meeting, they need to be energized, so if you’re not doing something that’s making them fired up, you’re doing it all wrong. As far as I’m concerned, when you start talking about how you can be a better leader, it’s the attitude that you have and the attitude that you convey. People have always asked me, “Robert you’re always in a good mood.” “No, but I’m always trying to get there because I learned a long time ago that people like me better when I am there.”
Kimberly: Tracy’s shared a video in the chat, so if any of you guys don’t have the chat open, it’s a ProCon Happy video.
Rob: ProCon is a fantastic building company in the Northeast and Tracy’s their marketing director. I have seen that video and they took a lot of time and spent a lot of money putting it together. It’s of their entire company doing crazy things. If you haven’t, go watch it to see what their culture is all about. I’ve worked for them I think three times and they are just amazing people. They have camaraderie because while I’m interviewing, them, I’m talking to them and finding out what they like about the company. They love it and they love the senior management. It’s a great culture.
Kimberly: It tells you that they’re connecting with people on a human level. The thing about connecting with people in your company is you learn what other people’s strengths are and not just their job. If you’re not the fun rah-rah person for the meeting, there’s probably somebody in your company who is. Tap them and give them that job to come up with the fun, to come up with something creative, and then trust them to do it. Give them the parameters. Everything doesn’t have to fall when you’re a leader. That’s part of it. You figure out what everybody’s strengths are and then you can play to everybody’s strengths. It makes the company and team much, much better. I see we could talk about this all day and I’m so appreciative of your time and everybody’s time. We’ve had a great group here today with everybody chiming in on the chat and sharing ideas. Thank you. Thank you very much for joining us. I loved this conversation, and I hope you guys did too. I will send out the video to everybody and I’ll send out the way to get hold of Rob if you have any further questions for him. I’m sure you will. And of course, buy his books for sure. Go on his website and check those out. Rob, thank you again for joining. We’re going to have to do this one again.
Rob: Thank you so much; I’d love to. It would be my pleasure.