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Courtesy of SureFire Capital's John Saunders, below is a transcript of his speaking session on 'Intelligent Automation: Why Innovation Through Optimization Is The Way' to Build a Thriving Enterprise that took place at RPA & Intelligent Automation Live.
Intelligent Automation: Why Innovation Through Optimization Is The Way
He is coming from Washington, DC, and he is at best-selling author in the areas of innovation acceleration in the areas of collaboration in the areas of building great teams. And I'm talking about mister John Saunders.
John, please turn on your camera, join us. Great to have you with us. John has spent more than two decades as a Wall Street, senior vice President, sales team leader, and award winning sales Executive. ... is the author of the Optimizer, which I have a copy right here with me. the Optimizer Building, and leading a team of serial innovators, best-selling author.
is going to share some of the content of his book with us today, great insights on how great enduring organizations and leaders build this. Teams are Syria innovators, and cultures, where intelligent automation happens much more seamless, as a result of the healthy culture that has been established.
He is Georgetown's McDonald's MBA alum part of the Georgetown University's MBA and Alumni Advisory Council and Unactive Aging Angel Investor, as well as our regular contributor to the Executive MBA Mentorship Program at Georgetown University.
John, it's a real pleasure to have you with us. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, and expertise of our global audience today.
Josey, Thank you for having me. What a pleasure, I really appreciate that kind introduction.
Good morning, everyone.
So many time zones here, it's really great to see such a global audience to be part of the beto's Intelligent Automation Live Program.
For the session today, my goal is to engage you on a number of levels. Really try to challenge your thinking on how you lead innovation. And offer solutions, as well as a roadmap to help you and your businesses become more. Move forward with research based ideas, along with practical lessons. On how to apply these ideas, and ultimately deliver results.
So, I'm gonna pose a few questions throughout the program. I truly appreciate you responding to them in the chat.
You know, let's have a little bit of a dialog here and try to learn from each other as well today.
So, my first question for everybody is if you might jump in quickly here. Right? You see the image on the screen looks like how birds fly in formation. I'd be curious if anyone can answer for me what wider birds fly in that formation? And anyone maybe throw an answer, or quick answer in the chat here, if you would.
The chat is not working, so I'll answer the question for you, Joseph. Thank you for that.
So, birds fly in this formation.
So the person behind them faces less wind resistance, right? And the idea is much like a leader there, as the leader, they're making the journey easier for their, for their team, if you will, that removing an obstacle, and as they travel, sometimes thousands of miles, they actually rotate who the leader is.
These are two key tenants of building and leading a team In my view of serial innovators or optimizers, as I like to call them.
Much like this conference, uh, much like this conference, the need for innovation, it doesn't have any geographical and industry boundaries. But the challenge is to make innovation happen by consistent.
one of the extraordinary things about going through my book journey over the last couple of years was originally the book started out as a financial services book. And I, as I quit as I deviated away from just my industry. I found these challenges across across every industry and many.
So, our journey today together I'm going to try to address you know what stops or stalls innovation, what can we learn from history about leading innovation.
And in the second part, we'll get into the very, very practical applications.
How do you enable, empower and sustain not only this innovation mindset, but to do so consistently and have your team exploring constant improvement along with why this method works?
So what's the essence of my argument?
Working as a sales executive, as Josie said in Leading and Wall Street for over 23 years. And helping leaders grow, researching leadership and innovation in studying and interviewing dozens of companies.
I believe the issue boils down to really one key concept, and that's psychological safety.
And that only comes from one place, which we'll talk about here quite a bit today.
So let me, let me, let me dive right in.
Uh, know, there can be enormous challenges. There can be enormous emotional challenges to change. So let's take a closer look.
There we go. If your company was listed on the S&P 500 and in 19 64, you stay on that list for about 33 years.
In a site, some of you might have heard of innovation, Consultancy, Predicts just a few years that that number is going to drop by 64% to 12 years.
Leadership and driving change are inextricably linked.
And the need for change is Josie I said earlier is only accelerating at the same time. Change is what drives employees into this protective mode. Oftentimes, stopping or stalling Change, which as a liter and a person trying to deliver results can be immensely frustrating, right? So, how do you connect this gap?
The answer to that question, it's highly dependent on the level of safety your team feels, and that to the degree, to the degree to which they embrace this change mindset that I'm talking about.
But at the, at the center of this idea of leading and leading and managing the emotional journey of change, it is really, it's about building trust.
Building and leading a culture of serial innovators or optimizers requires you and your team to allocate in time to create a safe space and process for consistent discovery, risk taking, execution, and measurement along the way to make sure you're actually delivering right.
You're asking people to consistently commit time to get outside their comfort zone, and that can be scary.
The way to do this as a leader is to reduce that wind resistance, or drag much like birds for your team, or, in this case, you're trying to reduce change resistance. Change resistance is highly type, is highly tided emotional journey of change. This is why incremental steps or optimizing, is the way, and why is that? Everyone can take small steps, right?
Those aren't so scary, The risk is small, but my argument is, those small steps can add up over time. And I've seen it again and again. How are we going to summarize this? I'd say, go small to go pitch.
So to make this happen, it requires intentional, thoughtful, proactive work.
Create a world where your team can be unleashed, offer their town to the organization, and quite frankly, Livermore fulfilled life as they become more engaged in their in their work and in the mission that you're trying to deliver on as a company.
So the change you need, it's not going to happen by chance.
So with innovation comes change, and the key to always be finding, the keys to always be finding time for you and your teams to get outside your normal, normal routine, or outside your comfort zone.
So let's take a closer look at what that environment can.
But that safe environment can do.
Innovation is about risk taking. There is no, there is no free risk, Right?
Without safety, emotions can quickly take over, and they can hinder innovation.
I've seen this problem again and again.
This was a key element to really what inspired me to to, to write my book because I saw so much talent that never got unleashed throughout my career, now, through Coaching over the last couple of years.
Took. But if you don't help them unleash their talents, their gifts, and make them feel safe to do it, people not only avoid taking risks. They'll actually actively fight you behind the scenes or stall you, and you might not even know it.
If you don't have that, that safe environment occurring are happening, are built into your culture.
So how do you make this work consistently, and intentionally build trust with your team, and a safe roadmap for their growth? I believe everyone can take that route.
It'd be a contributed to driving change in your organization.
No, not every idea is going to be a success, but we know that ideas are never created perfectly, Right?
That's why optimization, continuous improvement is just so important, But you can develop a process and a mindset to consistently draw out your team's creativity and value generation.
While delivering results are just so important.
So this system can be embedded in your culture.
Can pick up a tool for not only driving change, but elevating skills for everyone on your team, and what I like to call lifting the curve, or lifting the talent curve.
What if bad ideas come forward? I promise you, they will.
It's how you manage and foster those ideas That will determine your success going forward and with innovation.
So this isn't about asking people to stop, but they do the majority of the day their day-to-day tasks.
It's about reframing the intent, messaging, and mindset of the leadership teams and asking everyone to join the journey of growth and making your team members feel safe, taking those risks consistently.
So not everyone will make equal contributions to innovation, not everybody can. And that's OK. And we have to be OK with that. It's not what this is about.
This is about guiding everyone to consistently grow together.
Deliver on the mission of your company.
So, is the emotional journey unfounded for new phenomenon? Let's look at the a little bit of a perspective here for a second.
Right? Fear of change is far from new. We always have This tendency, recency bias is very powerful force and we tend to think about what happened most recently as is, what's going to happen in the future. I spent a lot of time digging up this particular story in researching my book.
But Henry Burton, a puritan minister, was put in jail in 16 36 for being deemed an innovator largely against policies of the churches and the king of England.
Innovation sparked fear, in the power structure, that's really what this was about. So, big emotion fear, right?
And it was seen innovation was seen as a as a way to disturbing the peace and refusing subjugation of the King. This was not a safe environment I'm talking about, if you came with new ideas to the table, not only were thought poorly of, you were literally put in jail as Henry Burton was 636.
It's really hard to imagine a world, that was so vilified that we rely on so much for economic growth today innovation.
But after the Henry Berton case, innovation endured a negative connotation for 300 years, which is just remarkable.
And innovation didn't stop during that time. People are pretty crafty, especially the innovators of the world.
They replaced the word with renovation, restoration and Reformation.
words that were deemed a lot less threatening.
They were still working on the same goals but just had to reframe it So, you know, marketing has also been around for a long time but it was Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian economist, it really is credited as one of the liberators of the word innovation.
In his book, Business Cycles, a theoretical, historical, and statistical analysis of the capitalist process.
That was published in 19 39, 303 years later, after Henry Berdan went to jail for this kind of work.
But since, since Schumpeter's work, the word innovation has enjoyed a lot more freedom, but it still faces the legacy of the emotional charge, uh, the emotional energy that change and innovation can bring about. So let's talk about that for a bit.
And I think I understand from Josie that the chat unfortunately isn't working.
So I'll just pose this question hypothetically to have you just give it some thought, but I encourage you to think about this.
What are the emotional responses to change that make it so difficult?
Right and and stall and make people not want to embrace this in your business.
I'll just give you a minute to sort of ponder that thought. What are those charges that come out? And what and how can they be detrimental to what's happening?
So I'll share with you a mindset and that's the elephant here. You've probably all seen this elephant somewhere in your life. Tethered to a small post.
Here's this four to £6000 elephant that could easily just pick up its leg and walk away.
Why does it not walk away?
It's been tethered to that coast since it was a baby.
And when it was a baby, it didn't have the strength to do so and it's been conditioned its entire life to think that it can't walk away. So there it stands a £6000 elephant with this tiny steak.
It doesn't run off.
leadership, and leadership cultures and leadership styles can have a very similar effect on their teams. You can keep your team tethered to that small post that they can easily break away from because they don't feel safe or feel like they're empowered to do so.
They're going to stay tethered there and not bring you the necessary help and energy you need to drive change and initiatives you need.
This is really an example of command and control leadership in many ways, which has been with us for decades. Certainly the US, there's a lot of research on this that talks about how it came back. And all the soldiers came back from World War II and took over the economy.
Became leaders of industries and corporations institutions, and brought that military mindset with them.
And, you know, we've made a lot of progress on this, but we've got a ways to go.
And it's not right, but it's really what we know.
So as I said, you can tether as a leader, your employees, your teams, to a low risk environment, where they don't feel safe to speak up or you can find a way to enable and empower them and help them unleash those gifts.
So let's take a closer look at the emotional charges that I'm talking about.
Specifically, fear, loss, uncertainty, and shayne, these are really the cornerstones of resistance to change for employees.
Which certainly coincides with innovation, right.
The history of business has been littered with stories of change not always ending well for employees, uh right when companies come in and announced big change initiatives.
Many times there's job losses, power losses, structure losses, lots of team members, things like this.
So many times when change comes about or innovation comes about, it doesn't end well for people, so the reactions are not that surprising.
These are really powerful forces that we simply can't hope go away. We have to take this proactive approach, I keep referring to that.
We'll get some specific examples to hear in a minute to help it happen.
I'd like to take a minute, though, to highlight, I would argue the most powerful force on this page, which is shame, and Shane can come from two directions. And as a leader, this is really important to be aware of, right?
It can be internally driven from the employee themselves, or it can be externally driven by the leadership or the culture around someone, internally, right?
Like anything, if I try something new or bring a new idea to the organization, I might fail, and now I have to tell people, I'm not perfect.
If you don't think people have a perfect, a perfect, a perfect bias about themselves. Just take some times, scrolling through social media pages today and see what people are putting out there, right? We all try to put this extraordinary image of ourselves out there in the workplace. The ideas, no different. So, if we take a risk and fail, suddenly we have to expose ourselves as not being perfect.
The external element I'm talking about is really from leaders, right? If you don't, act, when, change, and innovation. Come about if you don't actively.
If you don't actively and thoughtfully mehsud change, it can cause shame to your teams, Shame of having wasted their time.
I've seen firms have massively stalled innovation initiatives and found three key elements missing.
No plan or process, to make the change happen consistently in a safe environment.
Little work done, to drive early buy in from influencers inside of the organization, that can help not only shape the idea, but drive buy in from their peers.
And, more importantly, and it or equally importantly, messaging.
That change has to be framed, not around things being broken, rather that the change has to be around addressing it, external force.
So let's compare and contrast what those two things look like, right, and I've seen this happen with my own eyes, it was shocking to watch.
So, here's one way to frame change. What you've been doing, essentially, it doesn't work anymore.
Therefore, we need to change, right?
So, come with me on this new journey, versus, we have incredible team, We've done well for so many years, but the industry and our customers continue to evolve, demand a greater value proposition from us. Therefore, we all need to work together and elevate our skill sets, not to just survive, but also thrive.
Compare and contrast those two messages, the first one, right, a little bit, a little bit fictitious there, but I've seen it a very similar message delivered.
And it disrupted people for years, and they hung onto that, the anger that they felt that day.
Research has found that the shame of failure is such a strong psychological threat, that the motivation to avoid failure, overpowers the motivation to succeed.
This is not this is not because people want to be mediocre. It's because of an average. It's because they don't want to feel ashamed.
So let's look at the emotions. So that's a look at the emotions of the team members. Let's see what that looks like, on the leadership side of the table, because leadership's, leaders aren't immune to this either.
So what are the issues here?
Right, Insecurity, If we bring about change, am I going to be safe in this new future that we're bringing about? Or, if I promote one of my team members and their ideas, do I look less valuable to the company? Am I suddenly greater at greater risk for my career?
Institutionalization, we've always done it this way, You know, when I worked with, with different companies, the teams, when I hear that message, that tends to be one of the first places I like to look for driving change. If this is how we, we've always done it.
And sometimes there's a case for, sometimes there's not, but I think it's worth exploring invulnerability This is the, This is the lack of self-awareness piece, Right, I've got a monopoly on good ideas, so I'll let you know when I have one.
But until that moment, please don't bother me.
But definitely a self-awareness issue there.
You know, it's not! it's not that leaders often intentionally act this way.
It's the culture and environment they've lived for many years, And, you know, maybe maybe they do act intentionally, but oftentimes it's the culture, but this further demonstrates that inspiring someone to evolve without trust and safety. It's no easy task.
Leaders need to feel very safe in this environment, as well.
So there are key methods to employ LED change, granted an empathy and vulnerability, which we'll look at here in just a bit.
So what does it unsafe environment look like for leaders?
Has anybody been to this meeting?
Right. Just watching things fall apart and hoping, right? Hoping that they just turned around magically.
It's not going to happen.
So let's look at the principles of this optimizer mindset and then we'll get into some of the practical examples that I'm talking about here.
Love this quote from Renee Brown, if you don't know that name, she's done an enormous amount of research and work on vulnerability and Shane. So here are the four elements of the optimizer mindset in my view.
Vulnerable or being vulnerable being a problem solver.
Having a customer centric mindset and always a focus on excellence.
I want to highlight vulnerability, has been bringing Brown, put it.
It's the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.
Here's one of my favorite examples of this story, in 2008, all right? I'm sure we all remember disastrous economic environment, the Great Recession.
The stock market fell roughly 50% and the Motley Fool who was kind enough to be interviewed for my book, they've lived through the 102 disaster and had to lay off an enormous number of people.
So, 2008 rolls around the next Great recession, and people were very anxious wondering what's going to happen next.
And instead of the leaders sitting in the boardroom and saying, Hey, we're going to make a decision for everyone, and dump into your labs, take it, or leave it, likely with, lucky with some big payroll cuts, they went ahead, they brought everyone in their organization together and said, hey, everyone, we think we can survive this.
We're going to do this together, but we need everybody's help.
So, talk about putting yourself in a vulnerable position, saying, We don't know how to figure this out. Exactly. We think we can do this together.
So they made this massive announcement.
Employees across your organization worked tirelessly to say, Hey, we're all in this together. We all have a safe seat here.
Let's figure out a way to make this work, And instead of saying, Let's cut this department or that department, or 15% across the board, or whatever it was, they needed to make a cut on.
When everyone came together on this, they ended up making a decision where they all took a bit of the pain together.
But didn't have to take the big pain, which was right? cutting.
Letting people go, what they ended up doing was they all agreed to pause their retirement plan match.
So, the money that the company was putting into the retirement plan for every employee, they agreed to pause that and ended up saving themselves an enormous amount of money, they found other ways, but that was one of the biggest cost savings they made.
But think about that.
If they didn't, if they did, say, let's pick on a department, or make just to cut across the board, there probably would have been some prioritization things going on, and everyone wouldn't have taken the pain together.
In this case, they all took a little bit of pain together and fast forward, a year and a half or so when business recovered two years.
The Motley Fool ended up paying everybody back for the money that made during that time, and they paid them for the time the returns lost over that period, which is just extraordinary.
This was an intentional mindset mindset shift by The Motley Fool Leaders.
And one that created the opportunity for anyone to put an idea on the table to help the company survive and feel safe doing so.
Right, They still use this mindset to This day. This is a company that literally started out of their homes the two founders, David and Tom Gardner. And they now have over one million paid subscribers.
But none of this would have happened had, they not put themselves in that vulnerable position and really empowered their teams to jump in that journey and be a part of it.
So, why bother with optimization?
As I said, you know, the change you need, it's not going to happen by chance. It requires intentional, proactive, thoughtful, and thoughtful approach to creating psychological safety. So, let's dig into this safety idea.
So, again, we don't have access to the chat by mistake on that one, but I'll just ask you to ponder this thought for a minute, and I'll share an example. So how do you create safety, enabling innovation in the workplace?
Alright. What does that look like?
So here's a statistic that just blew my mind when I found it, one in three employees trust their manager, this is a from gallach Gallup research.
Right, so one of my favorite stories that really helps illustrate this is a gentleman I used to was on my team when I worked on Wall Street.
But, here's a key element to this story.
You know, as a leader, it's not about coming up with the right answer all the time.
Many times, it's about asking the right questions, demonstrating to your people that they're rewarded for taking risks and attempting to optimize what they're doing.
Rewarding people for taking risk, and making mistakes sends a powerful message to your team.
Here's a real live example of it.
That really was a game changer for, for me.
And my business, couple of years ago had a gentlemen leave the team, and I had to make a decision. He had a very, it was a sales team at a very small territory.
And business was a little bit slow at the time, and I thought, I went out and interviewed a bunch of folks and never found somebody I was particularly enthusiastic about, the way the territory was cut up, but just, it didn't make a lot of sense.
So after, after a lot of thought, I did a bunch of analysis and realized I can just take this territory and roll it up into the adjacent folks.
And what many times happens is you make this decision, and you just go impose it upon people.
There was one gentleman on my team, who'd bandwidth, that firm for 20, 25, 26 years, a very tenured person, good standing with the firm. This was going to have a major impact on his life.
He was going to have to get back and travel on the road a lot more once this decision was made, no matter how I did it.
So instead of just calling them up and saying, hey, Dave, here's the new situation you're going to live under and disruption to your life, I called them up and said, hey, Dave, I'm thinking about making a change and doing a bit of a re-organization here.
You've covered this part of the country for many, many years.
And I think if I get your mindset or your thoughts around this, you'll helped me discover things that maybe I missed.
He, he, literally, his answer, was what, he couldn't believe I call them and asked this question to him.
And so, he said, Give me a few days, we met at a Starbucks, he brings this planet back to me, and we had about 70 to 80% overlap. I mean, he's a smart guy. I had a hunch, this was going to happen.
So, even though, so now, think about this, whose re-organization was this, right? He essentially custom built this organization, So he, it was his, he owned.
So even though it was massively disruptive, it was largely his call.
And you can see how this could have easily gone the other direction.
If I impose this decision on him, he would have spent time going around to his peers and saying, Boy, my manager isn't very nice. He's doing all these mean thanks to me. Write this whole thing and really broken Or damaged a lot of the trust.
I'd spent so much time building with the team, But instead, he went out, embraced this moment, embraced this plan that he put together, and, within 24 months, had himself, found himself, promoted to a much bigger role.
Now, with this big region re-organized, I was able to bring in an outside person, at a much higher, much higher calipers. So, Why is trust from safety important?
Trust enables growth, just as such, a critical element of the story.
So, I'll ask you to just take another minute here to reflect actions you've taken in the past year, right, living in this remote world, we live in, to build trust with your team. Where does that sit in your, in your daily weekly planning? Such an important part of it.
It only becomes, It only has been more challenging in this remote world.
So, let's explore this a little bit further, get into the much more practical elements of this story here.
So, at the end of the day, you have to enable, empower and sustain this mindset. So what are the key elements of making this happen?
Back to Gallup again, they estimate that 70% of variants in employee engagement is driven by managers.
Let's look at the steps to further get that done.
But there's another mindset shift here that I can't stress enough, and that is, if you haven't done this already, or haven't, maybe put a good bit of thought into it.
Begin to, or continue to think about your employees as clients. Right? What do you want from clients?
You want a mutually beneficial, long term relationship. That's built on trust, and you both grow over time.
I can't imagine why we think about employees any differently.
I would argue that it's equally difficult to find and retain exceptional employees to find, to find and retain exceptional employees, It's equally difficult, as it is to find good clients.
I want to highlight one key element here, and this is about getting personal.
If you don't, this isn't a one-time event, so getting to know your team, and their motivations is so important. And you've got to schedule time to do this and capture that information just like you would for a client.
Right? Let them speak and listen.
This is such a big part of this story. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback and advice. As we saw with the folks at Motley Fool. and I've got a number of examples. I'm happy to share on that as well.
Before you go out and ask for this feedback and advice, I would strongly encourage you to go to your own peers and maybe some team members that you already have a very strong relationship with.
Get a sense of what your internal brand is.
All right, it's one of my favorite quotes on brand, from Jeff Bezos, from Amazon.
Your quote, your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room, right, And there's a wonderful exercise you can do.
Go on Google and type in my manager's and see what auto populates there. If you want to get a good sense of this.
Spoiler alert, none of the things that pop up will be positive.
Know, another another key piece of this, this empowering you give, excuse me, enabling is give credit where credit is due.
Right, when your team member comes to you with a good idea, uh, share that, let them know what's out there. Let your team members know that they brought the idea to you publicize it.
This one sounds really simple, but I find it oftentimes gets overlooked and it's assumed that everybody knows, put it out there, celebrate the fact that someone can't have the, had the, the guts, if you will, to come to you and bring a new idea.
And lead by example, just, excuse me. Transparency. You know, tell your team what's going on.
Obviously, there's going to be restrictions on this from time to time, but be as transparent as you can, At, last, to lead by example: nothing damages trust worse than telling somebody to do something, and then applying several, several separate rules to yourself, More importantly, you're living and exhibiting the behaviors you want to see, right?
Because a culture is about not just what you allow, not what you foster and promote as an organization, but what you don't allow to happen inside of our organization.
So, one quick example here, Patty Brennan, one of the top financial advisors in the country I've worked with for some time, her team, I'll go to a shorter version of this story.
Since we're running out of time, her team, every time somebody comes with the new innovative idea that has a positive business result, she literally takes all 25 people into the conference room and gets them and celebrates the fact that they brought this an extraordinary idea.
She shares the idea, she gives them full credit for it, she gives them a little trophy and she connects it to how it drove their business. If it was, whatever, it might be, A customer service change, in their model, a service, a process, that they do, whatever it is. She takes that moment to celebrate them, and she gives them a nominal cash gift.
Think about the example, she's setting, not only for her team, to aspire to get better all the time, But for own team leaders who are doing, who have their own teams, that they need to manage and move along, as well, she sets the tone from the top. Super important.
So, once you've established trust and enabled your team, it's under empowerment.
So, let's go there, right?
Creating boundaries is so important.
Because, right, if you give someone a blank piece of paper there, they're not gonna know where to start, and chances are good, that there aren't talking to deliver something that you're looking for. So I like to call this freedom within a framework.
Give them freedom to push the boundaries of growth each and every year, but set boundaries.
So, Philip Hole to Microsoft executive, put it this way.
He shared more boundaries you place around a problem, the more free someone to find new and innovative solutions.
The example he shared was, give someone a piece of paper and say, draw something, right?
Chances are good.
They're not going to get it right, but tell them to, you know, agree with them, that a tree is what you want to draw. And this is where innovation can really begin.
So, it's up to us as leaders and managers to set those boundaries, to make sure that the innovation, the change that people are working on, can actually happen, but they take note and have boundaries of where it is they want to get done, alright, and how they in and make sure that the focus that they have is delivering business results.
Learning, so important, right? This put, lifelong learning does, and this mindset, this culture and encouraging it. It helps people constantly take a fresh set of a fresh look at the change that you need and does it to deliver on the results that you're really trying to make happen.
Lastly, there's a big mindset shift here.
Think about what kind of leader, What type of leader are you, a manager, a leader, a boss, a coach, or my favorite, and what I certainly advocate here is a trusted advisor.
There's a subtle difference here and a trusted advisor, really a power as their team guides them through problem definition, not problem solution, big, big difference there.
They're not afraid to be wrong and learn from the team and helping them grow to deliver great value to the firm.
But think about that, and I'll tell you to give you a very practical example here. This is a sticky note that has been sitting on my desk for years, having coached a remote team and now doing coaching and leadership remotely. Why, how, and what, and that sticky note serves to remind me to be that trusted advisor, to help guide people towards that definition of the problem.
Rather than saying, Hey, here's a solution to go fix it.
Super, just, incredibly important.
So, now that you've developed trust, right, team feels empowered, excuse me, enabled and empowered, need to get them to embrace this new, this new mindset and keep momentum going.
So, how do you sustain this, this concept, Let's put this all together, right, You've asked for feedback, You use it where possible. You power them.
I can't stress enough the fact, that, every single year, every quarter, you know, find a cycle that works comfortable for you, that, this comfortable for you, but great change into your business plan and isn't it isn't changing everything that you do? It's finding a key element that that person has energy and passion around that, they can drive change.
And once they have that change, once they figure it out, you have to be their coach.
I encourage you by, with the approach to reaching out to them and staying on top of it. How's that going? What have you tried, why is this the way you're going about it?
Be that coach, be that trusted advisor to help guide them as they grow.
They're going to hit hit speed bumps along the way and challenges. But be that trusted advisor to help guide them as they find success with these ideas.
Let them share, let them share the ideas with the others and the beauty of this. I, I reference the idea lifting the curve earlier. If somebody spends 90 days sort of outside of everyone's purview of working on a new idea and then I have them share it with the team.
Guess what, everybody else on the team gets to start at that new 90 day starting point and skip all the hurdles that that person went through, getting there.
And, this is how you can help a team lift together, as all of your team members continue to run on this mindset, figure out better ways to operate, execute, deliver, customer, service, implement whatever it might be, but help everyone become more efficient in how they operate, and start at a much higher starting point.
And, lastly, be flexible, right? You never know what any year is going to deliver.
I'm a big believer in holding back some budget, making that very transparent to the team.
And letting them know as the year moves along.
We create pivots to help adapt, and then move on, and embrace some of these new ideas that might come up throughout the year.
So if you see persistent challenges and driving change in your business or execution, I will take a hard look at the process before you begin to evaluate the people as Harold ....
And George Stock said, Fix the process, not the problem. They might not have a clear picture of what's expected or of your mission. And don't feel like they have a safe environment to work in.
They're unlikely to surface these issues on their own.
So this standing comes from writing optimization in your business plan, enabling and empowering your team to join in the journey, that you need them on, and giving them a safe roadmap to get there.
So I'm gonna leave you with a quote before we move over to the Q and A one of my favorites, right?
Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes, right? We are what we do.
And to deliver the change we need, our behaviors need to create that environment of safety, enabling our teams to freely identify the challenges and opportunities around us, and problem solve highly valuable solutions, it won't happen on its own.
So, if you're not seeing the change that you need, I'd actually consider three ideas: Take an inventory of the level of trust with your team. Trust is the key to safety.
Take a hard look at your calendar and reflect on what percent of those activities have the potential to unleash your team's talent, Hold them along, and your business forward and develop trust.
Right? I'd really encourage you to go through that exercise and ask yourself, what are you doing to reduce resistance on your team, making the journey easier to embrace?
So, creating a culture of optimizers won't solve all your problems.
But, if you can incorporate these strategies, you'll find a team that operates with a growth mindset, consistently working to upskill themselves and the business.
This is a team that will challenge each other, to push the envelope, to get better.
They'll want to help each other, No, this process needs guidance, but has the ability to take a life of its own, pull your team along, and to deliver the impact and results that you want.
So, those are my prepared remarks.
If you want to connect with me, by all means, please feel free to do it. There's my website that says, how to find me on different social media channels.
But with that, let's move over to the Q and A.
Outstanding, John. We have had several questions come in here during your talk. I'm gonna ask you to stop showing your presentation screen to the audience and I, I want to capture with you some of their main questions here and those of you in the audience, we have about eight minutes here, if you still have other questions, feel free to submit them and I'm going to relay them to John John.
one of the themes that has emerged is, first of all, you have kind of a unique experience set because you're a Wall Street executive. And, and in the world off what we call high stress finance, because there's a lot of pressure.
Lot of things at stake here, and, uh, the overall theme on the questions that I've seen from the audience is related to, Boy, it's a tough place to be vulnerable, isn't it? And tell us a little bit about, I mean, most people in the audience are not maybe in a high stress wall Street environment, but in their own way, they have very high stress environments as well.
How do you, how do you go on that journey of vulnerability?
Will, without losing direction in the process, you know, And there is so much, there is that cultural aspect of looking like you're competent and behaving a certain ways, like drawing control. How do you balance that with this concept of vulnerability?
No, that's a really interesting question. Thank you for whoever put it in, in the chat.
It's certainly a balancing act, no doubt about it.
But what I have found over time is if you can put yourself out there in the vulnerable seat, as I shared an example with Dave and that re-organization, I will tell you after after I went through that, you know, I didn't go tell people that I made that decision. But he certainly did that. He went around and got to tell his friends, Hey, look at this. This is the empowerment that that my team member gave me, or, excuse me, my manager gave me. And, boy, did I have to be vulnerable to make that call. It could have gone in a totally different direction. But, because I'd spend some time getting to know him, and he was a person, I didn't quite have the trust.
We weren't where I wanted to be on trust just yet. So I saw this as a huge inflection point and a chance to take that risk. And it ended up paying off in a very big way.
So I think it's one of these things, to me, Josey, it's about, you know, your team members aren't going to put that olive branch out there to say, Hey, I don't like the way things are operating around here. So, I would argue it's up to you, when you do that, and give them that empowerment mindset.
Boy, the change can just be enormous. And I don't think many people see vulnerability as a weakness.
I absolutely will tell you, it's a strength, and people don't see that right away. But, as time goes on, and they see the strength of you letting them grow.
That's a really powerful force.
Very good, ah, we have a question here coming from Hank ... is coming from the Netherlands today, and Hank is asking to be optimizing an organization has to be premature.
How can less mature organizations is to profit from this approach?
To sort of more startups, if you will? Is that what I'm hearing?
Not necessarily just, I think what Hanks' alluding to is the fact that, uh, at least his interpretation of the optimization piece that you talked about is something that happens when organizations are more mature, in the sense that they have been doing some sort of improvements already, Maybe some innovations, and then they get to that point kind of a stage of optimization. And then, even if you look at it from a business process management perspective, you know, you have all this kind of like five cycles of maturity for a process. An optimization is del is the most mature of all the stages. It's the last level.
So, in organizations, there are, um, not necessarily startups.
But stablish organizations that do not have the culture, does not have the mechanisms and are kind of on the journey is still, how do they optimize if they may not even know what they're dealing with around the organization?
This is, this is where this idea of trust comes in and engaging your team in this, this feedback, and advice loop. And I will tell you that strategy has to be a two-way street.
If you're constantly just going to your team members and saying, hey, I'd like to offer you advice, or, or our year end review, or quarterly review, whatever it might be, that conversation has to be comfortable enough for them to talk in both directions, and that that concept starts with them trusting you. Because if you go to them and ask them for advice, and they don't trust you yet, you're gonna get responses like, oh, things are great around here, right? You're a fantastic bots, these kinds of things. And if you can get that trust going, your people know what's going on in the organization. Your best people see the problems, But they're not going to necessarily bring it to you. And that's why this trust element is so important. And I think this can be applied at any maturity, any level of maturity for company.
And at any level of an organization, you know, sometimes people see this as some certain level of an organization, I believe it can be applied. At any level.
Does that feel like I get it, what he's getting up there? Just like, yes, yes. Building on that, the title of your book is the Optimizer Building a team of serial innovators. So, the audience has asked some questions about that. I send them the link that they can access to kind of the background and the and the history of how does your work came, came to be.
And so tell us, building on this trust component that you talked about beyond trust. What do you need to build a team of Syria innovators? Like, yeah, I'm curious about what your research and NYU talked about in your book. Had its first about building this culture, this mindset of treating people like clients, excuse me, treating employees like clients, not not employees, if you will, and that's a very different mindset.
To bring them into the journey, and let them know that you're on this long term perspective together.
But, you know, the key steps in it, it is literally taking intentional time to get to know your team members better. I'll give you one example of a Team Member Mind. He was up for the sort of this big award, and we had worked on a bunch of things together. He had done a great job of optimizing different parts of our business sharing with the team, but he just didn't quite get the results at one of his peers delivered that year.
So we'll go to the big conference. As a manager, we always were given big hotel rooms. That was sort of the perk of being a manager and it was his 40th birthday. And so, instead of just leaving him at the award ceremony, not getting his award, I said, How can I make this right and how can I build trust and deepen this relationship?
I said it was his 40th birthday.
I called up the event planning people, I traded our rooms and didn't tell him. So, he shows up with this, you know, big room. Instead of the traditional small room. He would have had, I took his room and delivered a birthday cake with a collection of drinks that he knew, he really liked. And a note that he loved to write kinda cheesy notes to his of his clients instead.
I thought you needed a bigger room to work on some of your huge ideas, and I promise you, he was almost in tears when he called me.
To see that little, that little sort of nugget I took and you go through and know someone well enough to be able to deliver that type of experience for someone, they'll do just about anything for you.
And help deliver on whatever it is you ask.
So, John, this, you know, you emphasize that personal connection a lot. You know, the fact that, you know, 70% of the, of the employees will engage, there's a strong correlation, how they engage in, with, and their, and their, and their supervisors, right? And at the same time, one third of them don't trust their supervisors, so that may say something about engagement. If you put those geometrics together, and that, and there are a lot of questions about your environment again, because again, as a Wall Street executive harsh environment, that's the perception that the media gives to all other industries.
Was your book response to good examples that you saw?
I was really a response to, you saw people doing the exact opposite of what you're describing, and there's gotta be a better way, What is the motivation there? A little bit about a bit of, a certainly saw the opposite of some of these examples over my years on Wall Street, and certainly saw some good examples of it. That idea of giving the room away came from the CEO of my organization.
He would give a top, he would pick one employee every year, that he was very, you know, that sort of, was under recognized in his view, but did delivered very strongly. And he would give them? And he got the Presidential suite, right? So, so, I'm going to show up and have this 3000 square foot, you know, top floor room at the ritz Carlton somewhere.
So, I think it's, you know, culture is what it is. You want it to be and people in other departments or across the hall or whatever, It might not agree with what you're doing.
But if you can get this right and built this trusting building, constant mindset of growth, people are gonna get drawn to that because they're gonna see good things happening.
Right. one of those stories I ran out of time to share, but how we changed talk about adoption. We had a massive change initiative going on a couple of years ago.
Add, I know we're running out of time here, but long story short through this process of enabling people, unchallenging them in a thoughtful way, asking them what, why, how? My team ended up completely changing, how the organization embraced this concept.
And so suddenly, from what people thought, what is this guy doing, giving all these people, this autonomy to people from all over the country, calling us, and saying, What the heck are you doing over there? We need to figure out what you're doing, because it's working.
It was all built on these concepts of trust and empowering the team.
John, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, your insights for global audience today, building a team of Syria innovators, Optimizing Is A Is A Is is very important for all of us who are implementing intelligent automation solutions, and we appreciate you providing us dating site on the culture side.
What a great pleasure to be here, Thank you so much for having me. I hope everyone has a great rest of the conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen, those John Saunders, Wall Street Executive and author of the optimizer, Building a team of ... Innovators. We're gonna go from culture to hard core implementation out. We like to keep things balance around here and in our next session at the top of the hour, we are going to welcome an executive leader at Tech Mahindra, who's going to discuss with us the latest trends, solutions and best practices on conversational artificial intelligence. I'm talking about ..., who's going to be joining us, to discuss, what are the trends in conversational AI, how to look for when you watch a look, for when you deploy conversational AI, solutions across the enterprise, how to select the best use cases for deployment.
And what are some of the best practices that he's experienced to democratize conversational artificial intelligence across the organization? So we are taken up. We are taking a break now. I will see you all back at the top of the hour. Thank you.
Advisory Board Member,
Saunders spent more than two decades as a Wall Street Senior Vice President, sales team leader, and award winning sales executive. Saunders is an author, member of Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Alumni Advisory Council, an active angel investor and a regular contributor to the Executive MBA mentorship program.
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