Treating Your Employees Like Artists in the Workplace

Fletcher and Gerald discuss how looking at your team as artists can help with better understanding their role and how everyone ties into your workplace orchestra.
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This Weeks Video Transcript

Fletcher:

Yeah, I'd like to welcome everybody to the Higher Talents Podcast, optimizing the hiring process for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. And today I have a really special guest with us. We'll get in that. Gerald Leonard and he has a consultancy Principles of Execution, and he wrote a really interesting book that I'm really looking forward to getting the precursor to, here, Workplace Jazz. How to improvise. And it's, I think, all about treating your employees like artists-

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

... is kind of exactly the theme to that book. So how did you come to, I guess, start this consultancy and write a book about employees as artists?

Gerald:

Well, the way the consultancy started was an interesting story. And I had done a lot of consulting in my career. Had just left a major law firm where I did a stint for about four years. Prior to that done a lot of consulting. Did my bachelor's in master's in music. But the interesting part of the story of how the consultancy started was I got fired.

Fletcher:

Oh.

Gerald:

It was basically the owner and I had worked together and had known each other, part of association for like nine years.

Fletcher:

Wow.

Gerald:

And he wanted me to build a robust portfolio management in the commercial space, like he was doing in the government space.

Fletcher:

Okay.

Gerald:

And if we know anything about commercial business, they're not going to give you millions of dollars like the government will to do a project. They're going to give you 30, 40, $50,000 and say, show me what you can do. And can you generate profit or impact the bottom line? So, it wasn't moving as quickly as he wanted. And so we were making great progress, but it just wasn't as fast as he wanted. And, but before he let me go, I had just sold an engagement at a engineering firm. And I was the only one that had the skills.

Fletcher:

Oh, nice.

Gerald:

So, he had to turn around and hire me as a 1099.

Fletcher:

To execute that project.

Gerald:

Exactly. Oh, and that was the launching of me starting my consultant practice. I was scared as I get out, because I'd always worked full-time job. And I realized over time that I had tons of network. I had networked a lot. I had built a great platform. And I took a blog, Principles of Execution, added a service page and made it my website.

Fletcher:

Wow.

Gerald:

Sent out about a hundred or so emails or messages on LinkedIn. And two people responded and say, I have work for you.

Fletcher:

Wow. So now you got three projects.

Gerald:

I got three projects. And I, actually, within a month replaced my full-time salary and it started growing from there.

Fletcher:

Wow. Wow. Well, I think it's a pretty common entrepreneurial journey. Right. You leave your corporate cushy job or whatever it is, right. Your W2 job.and you walk into the abyss and you have no idea what's to come and it's usually pretty scary. But with just a little bit of effort and grit, good things happen. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly. I don't recommend anybody just quit their job and go do this. But at this point I was... My back was against the wall and I had a family to take care of and a daughter in college. So it was like, I have to make this work.

Fletcher:

The interesting piece. I'm a big Sandler sales guy. In the beginning of his book, How to Teach a Kid... Or, You Can't Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, tells his whole story about how he'd kind of lost his cushy gig and he wanted to maintain his lifestyle and his country club membership. And raise his family. And his back was up against the wall. Right. And so he would go and park his car in a parking garage with no... With the parking ticket, with no money in his pocket. And then he would go and sell until he could afford to get his car out of the parking garage. Right. It's amazing what you can do when you're in a kind of a backup against your wall type of situation.

Gerald:

Exactly. Because, what is this? Necessity is the mother of invention. And you... When your back's against the wall and you got to make it work and you realize that you actually have acres of diamonds in your own backyard, and you start mining your own skills and networks and things that you've built. And you really realize what you've actually built. And that became how I've built my company. It was networking. It was building relationships. It was building trust. And it was partnering. And those kinds of things. And everyone I hire or work with, they have to... It has to fit that culture. Or else it's not just... I'm not just looking for a body. I'm looking for someone who's going to add value. And that I can add value, too. And when we do that, we can make something great happen.

Fletcher:

So, how does this lead us to Workplace Jazz and the artistic employee? I think you're starting to touch on that a little bit. Right?

Gerald:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

Creativity.

Gerald:

And so, like I said, I did my bachelor's and master's in music. I went to Central State University and then at Cincinnati Conservatory, I did classical studies. Spent a year up in New York. And did some study before, as I was playing professionally. And worked with a guy at Julliard, through [inaudible 00:05:31] School of Music.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Wow.

Gerald:

And actually did a small stint in the ministry as I was doing a lot of this. And I decided after getting married and having a couple of kids and still playing music and doing a bunch of other different things that I really wanted to go full time in music. But now I got kids. And I grew up with my dad always being there. Yeah. And so I thought I'm not going to cheat my kids from that and go on the road and be a musician.

                So I decided, let me find another career. And, I picked up a computer. And because of all the music training, picking up the computer was like picking up another instrument.

Fletcher:

Hmm.

Gerald:

And it was amazing how much the mathematical part or the logic part of my brain had been developed, which applies to what we do with computer programming, project management, and so on and so forth. So, for about 20 years, I was doing both. I was playing gigs. I was recording. I was doing shows. I was doing benefits. Doing a lot of different things, musically. And I was also... Got into consulting. And I already had my master's in music and stuff. So, I wasn't planning on going back and getting another master's in business. So, I went the certification route of Microsoft Certifications, Nobel, project management certifications. But then I started realizing, as I became a consultant and worked with a really neat consulting firm out of Delaware. Taught me a lot about consulting. And you go on the client site and the teams started reminding me of rehearsals.

Fletcher:

Hmm. Okay. How so? That's interesting analogy.

Gerald:

Yeah. Yeah. Because when you do a musical... Let's say someone hires you to go and do a show, let's say a Bill Blass Show, or you play in a chamber orchestra, or your doing a jazz show and you don't know the other musicians.

Fletcher:

Oh. Okay.

Gerald:

But everyone else is hired because they're an expert in their area.

Fletcher:

Yeah. What an in whatever instrument that they're playing.

Gerald:

Exactly. But to do this show and make it work, you have to go, okay, I'm an expert in my area, but what's the idea of the show. What's the point of the show?

Fletcher:

Yeah. The purpose. The mission.

Gerald:

Yeah. You got to focus on the mission. You have to check your ego at the door, because you may have parts where you're just playing simple boom, boom, boom, boom. Or playing funky music. Or playing whatever the show requires.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

It may require every skill you have, or it may require a 10th of what you have.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

But it requires you to do the show. And what I found was that on business projects, a consulting group would come together. And you got a project manager, a SCRUM master, analysts, developer, so on and so forth. Right? Depending on type of project, whether it's a process project or software automation or cloud, whatever. Well, each one of them are bringing this unique skill that they've developed. And then someone has a charter that says, here's the mission of this project. This is the benefit that the customer wants. Here's what they want. Here's a stakeholder. Here are the sponsors. This is the people in the audience. These are the end users. These are the guys who are in the front seat and in the back seat. So, now they have to come together and subject themselves to each other, humble themselves, let their ego go and start working together for the betterment of the overall project.

Fletcher:

Play their role as designated by the project's mission ultimately.

Gerald:

Right. And exactly. It's like, you're playing the concerto, but you're playing your part in the concerto.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

You know what I mean? And so what I started seeing was high performing music groups had a certain focus or a certain mindset and else... And pretty soon there was like a flow. And I also started noticing that high-performing project teams became... There was this flow. We became friends. We really got to know each other. We would support each other. We knew who was actually soloing, because they were leading at that time. Whether it was the developer or the tester or the project manager or the business analyst. Everyone would support that person to get their job done and make them look good and it would go ba- So, there was this ebb and flow just like in music. When you go to a really good concert you should come out transformed or feeling better or excited because there's been this flow. Or nothing happens.

Fletcher:

Yeah. It's in interesting. And I mean, you mentioned something about like checking your egos at the door and... And I was actually just listening to Scaling Up business coach the other day and he was talking about, I mean, it's okay to have opinions and ideas and to share those. But at a certain point in time, the leader is going to make a decision. And the question is, are you on board or not on board? Because maybe your idea wasn't adopted necessarily in this process. But can you then subsequently say, okay, I said my piece. Hopefully it was heard right. In a positive way. Right. But the captain made a decision that this is the direction we're going and it's maybe away from the way you had wanted or thought, you were wanting to lead the ship. Right. But can you check your ego at the door and the project? And then be bought in to play your role. Right. Or are you going to be a dissident?

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly.

Fletcher:

Oh. So interesting. So, tell me more about this artistic aspect of it. I feel like, I don't know, it just, to me, it's maybe a connotation of free-spirited, no structure. Right?

Gerald:

Well, the thing is that it's not so much about being free-spirited or no structure because the idea of an artist... So when I think of an artist, I think of someone, again, who's in a very high powered jazz band or they are the first violinists or they're sitting in the orchestra in different parts. Well, okay. So, let's... The minds of an artist is, they've spent four years, maybe six years, maybe even seven years or longer at the college level, studying this instrument. Most of them have invested in their instrument in a professional, classical double base or some fancy, or violin, will cost you the price of almost a car.

Fletcher:

Oh. Yeah. Wow.

Gerald:

Some of these instruments are 15,000, $20,000 instruments that these musicians have purchased themselves, that they own. The business, the orchestra didn't buy it for them. They bringing that to the table.

Fletcher:

Yeah. They're bringing their own tools.

Gerald:

Exactly. And a lot of them will still, even after they go to college and do all this, they will still have a teacher. They will still find...

Fletcher:

A coach.

Gerald:

They'll... Exactly. They'll still find coaches to coach them. So, when you think about the idea of an artist is someone who really takes to heart, they're going to make sure they have the right tools. They're going to have the right... Make sure they have the right knowledge. They're going to be the expert at what they do. Right. And if we wanted to get the most out of them, the conductor is not going to go and tell the first violinist how to play that passage. He's going to express what he wants that passage to happen... What he wants to happen with that passage.

Fletcher:

The intent. Yeah. The purpose, the bigger picture [inaudible 00:12:53].

Gerald:

But then it's up to the artist. Exactly. It's up to the artist to then use his skill to bring that out of the instrument to create that picture that the conductor is looking for.

Fletcher:

And so I think that's pretty interesting because I deal with a lot of business owners. And I think almost all of them say when they go to hire somebody, they want that person to be independent. Right. To be self-directed. To not need a lot of babysitting or handholding. Right. And so that's probably the key. Right? You got to find that artist who is super talented with some direction. Right. You can't... If you don't give him any direction, then obviously well, who knows where that's?

Gerald:

You got to paint the big picture. Exactly.

Fletcher:

You've got to paint the big picture. That's where you get your mission, your vision, your core values, your strategy. Maybe. And that as you duly noted can be even down to a project level. Right. So you start talking about OKRs or could be a subset of the bigger mission. It has its own little mission. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

Yeah. And so you got to give them that clarity, but then from there, it's let them use their skill or their...

Gerald:

Their artistry.

Fletcher:

Their artistry. Yeah. Love...

Gerald:

Their artistry and mastery of the instrument to do their job. And because the musician has learned the discipline to play within the lines to the point that if you need him to be creative outside the lines, he has enough control to know where to...

Fletcher:

The boundary. The boundaries.

Gerald:

Move the line or where the... How to play within the boundaries to add some artistic flare, but yet keep it to the spirit of the piece. And what I found is that... And what I meant in my book about art... That workers are like artists is that today we are in a gig economy. Right. I mean, you're seeing so many more commercials all about Upwork. Well, what is Upwork? It's like the human network of resources. You can hire a project manager or developers from anywhere in the world.

Fletcher:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep.

Gerald:

Right. And they're being evaluated like a dinner on Yelp.

Fletcher:

Right?

Gerald:

Yeah. Because the other clients that they've had can leave a recommendation and say this guy did this. He's great. Or blah, blah, blah. So they're getting Amazon reviews, if you will.

Fletcher:

Very subjective, depending on the consumer of the work product.

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly.

Fletcher:

And how well it was orchestrated or not orchestrated.

Gerald:

Correct. But in the same... But they're still being eval- So, they care about the opinion of the people they're serving. So, they now are really thinking, okay, if I do this job, am I going to get five stars or four stars? What do I have to do to get five stars or four stars? I've actually hired people off of Upwork to do things. And they ask me, what do I have to do for you to deliver a four or five star?

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Gerald:

Because they want their work to represent them. Because they know the more they are really focused in on what the customer needs, delivering that. But that also means that they have to be really, really good, genuinely good at what they're selling.

Fletcher:

Yep. Yeah. And executing and understanding the customer. And it's interesting. That reminds me of a book my father wrote was called the... He called it the Exchange Diagram. And he pounded this into my head as a small child. He's like, look, nothing. The only thing that matters is the other person's perception.

Gerald:

Right.

Fletcher:

Right. So, as you're mentioning, right, you got to do kind of two things really, really well. One, you got to focus on the other person and their perception and understand it because that's hard enough as it is. We call that emotional intelligence ultimately. Right. And I think it's a little there's some, a natural emotional intelligence, but I also believe it can be a trained and learned thing as well.

Gerald:

Yes. That's true.

Fletcher:

You practice it. Right. So, it doesn't come naturally to extroverts like me necessarily where I think the world revolves around me. I got to practice on that. Right. But so you got to understand it. And then you also have that artistry and the ability to deliver on that expectation. Right.

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly.

Fletcher:

Or need of the other person. But the thing that always got me about this is if you do those two things, then the reward will come naturally.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

Right.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

The money...

Gerald:

Benefits and the rewards and the revenue and whatever else you're trying to build. That will... General... That will come. Because you're adding amazing, amazing value. And people are perceiving that value. And they will pay you for that value that you're delivering.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I just read an article about See's Candy, and Berkshire Hathaway, and our buddy there. What's his name?

Gerald:

Warren Buffett.

Fletcher:

Warren Buffett. Yeah. Warren Buffett. Right. And he invested in the See's Candy. And he always... I guess he uses this as an example of the ultimate business. Right. Because they deliver such a niche product and such specialty product that it's so high value to their customers and deliver such kind of pleasure or enjoyment to them. Right. But it executes that model so well. Right. There's these people that have their unique perception. I think we've all had a box of chocolates and we all go through and we go through and they're like, I don't like that one, but I love that one. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly.

Fletcher:

See's Candy's really good at delivering the... Having that unique treat that...

Gerald:

Yes.

Fletcher:

That and such variety that everybody can love them. Right?

Gerald:

Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Fletcher:

Which allows them to charge an actual... a premium for what they deliver. Making it an extraordinarily profitable business.

Gerald:

Exactly. And that's exactly right. Because when you're delivering consistently and you build the process and the model that can deliver that, you can then begin to charge those premium prices. Because otherwise it's a commodity. Right? It's just another can of generic, whatever.

Fletcher:

Chocolate or something. Yeah.

Gerald:

[inaudible 00:19:18] or whatever the case is. But it's the difference between just a regular cup of coffee and a Starbucks coffee. Why would you pay what you pay for a Starbucks coffee? It's...

Fletcher:

Yeah, 3X.

Gerald:

[inaudible 00:19:32] It's the brand. It's the value that they're delivering outside of that. And again, with the artist's mindset of workers today, they're beginning to deliver that brand. And that's really the... To me, that's really the essence behind the great resignation. And with everything that happened. Because you think about it, the last few years have been the perfect storm. You have political up uprising and all the kind of things that are happening and the racial stuff that's happened. Then you got a pandemic on top of that. Jobs and blah, blah, blah. And pretty soon it's just like, everybody's like enough is enough, is enough. [inaudible 00:20:12] And they're going... They're looking around and they're seeing people die and other things that are happening, that's kind of morbid. But then they go, wait a minute. So they start looking in the mirror going, what am I... What does my life mean?

Fletcher:

Yeah. What am I doing?

Gerald:

What am I doing?

Fletcher:

And that's it. Everybody had a long time to sit back and reflect on what matters to them most.

Gerald:

Yes.

Fletcher:

And you flexibility and the ability to do something that's rewarding and fulfilling. Or get out of a bad situation. And to go seek out something that's more fulfilling, more enjoyable. More, in a lot of cases, providing that flexibility and that work life balance.

Gerald:

And it changes your mindset when you have survived a very difficult thing. And you look back and go, I went through this. I lost my job. I did this, I did that for two years, three years, whatever. I survived. I'm stronger. I'm smarter. I'm better. Okay. I can do this.

Fletcher:

Yep. Yep.

Gerald:

And it's like, there's not much change, except there's been an internal shift.

Fletcher:

It's a YOLO. Only one life to live. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

I agree. I mean, I'm sitting here in my spare bedroom so that I can be at home. And hopefully the dog's not barking too much. You can hear him. But here with my wife and my dog and my baby. And we closed our offices during COVID and we're not going back. Right. And I think it becomes part of our employer value proposition. It's also something that we added to our core values is this kind of like work-life balance that... Yeah. We take work seriously and we want to do a great job and we want to invest ourselves in our work. But you know what, there's more to life. And how do we as a company and as a team help support each other in that? And being remote is one of those ways that we can do that, I think.

Gerald:

Yeah. But I think, too, that the pandemic and a lot of things that we've gone through the last few years humanized work. Because everyone was forced to...

Fletcher:

Change how they worked.

Gerald:

Change how you worked. Deal with the reality. And I remember hiring my PR firm. And I'm sitting down with the young lady who's... We're talking and she's pitching me on it. And she's like, oh, I'm so sorry I have my child with me. And I'm like, that's not a problem. Let's...

Fletcher:

Yeah. No big deal.

Gerald:

No big deal.

Fletcher:

What's their name? Let me see them.

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly. Because it's like, we were all... Everyone is in this real situation where we're fighting for our lives, trying to figure things out, trying to move forward. And work and real life got blended. Got mixed up. Got meshed. And people realize that, huh, this could actually, this is not too bad. But you mean I don't have to just play this professional role?

Fletcher:

Yep. All the time. I could be myself?

Gerald:

I can be myself and be authentically myself and still be professional. And still be my... The parent. And still be the dad. Or still be whatever. And the bosses and leaders of organizations, entrepreneurs, they begin to understand. And for one, they had no choice. Because we're all thrown in this mixing bowl and we all got to make it work. And what was interesting is the companies that had a strategy were flexible, were human. That modeled excellence, that coached. They were the ones that along with their workers figured out together how to make this work. Those that were in the command and control...

Fletcher:

Pivoted and made more money and grew. And yeah.

Gerald:

Yeah. The ones that were in command and control, they are pretty much not in business because they lost people. They lost business. They weren't flexible. They couldn't adjust quickly. And, but it was the collective of, okay, let's tap into everybody's wisdom to figure out how to make this work. And again, that's a part of treating your employees like an artist. Because the conductor comes in and goes, okay, I have a baton. I got this Beethoven Symphony. You all have the parts. I've kind of told you what my vision is or explained it, and I'm going to conduct you when they come in.

Fletcher:

I got to trust. You got to trust them. Right.

Gerald:

I got to trust them. And I got to trust that when I do the downbeat to the bases or to the timpani or to the violas and violinist, they're going to come in with their parts. And it's going to be in tune and it's going to be in the spirit of Beethoven.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. And their performance will be judged by the people consuming it. Or the outcome. Not so much the journey, the road, or the every little detail or step that went into it. Right.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

It's how you avoid the micromanaging effect. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly. Because you're not going to have a conductor who's going to micromanage that orchestra. They are expecting their people to know their parts and to know their instruments and bring their best A-game to work. And so by having that standard and expecting that, then you can do the same even at a work level.

Fletcher:

And that's where practice and meetings and having structured meetings and good practices and coaching in the workplace can help keep people aligned and focused. And to figure out where those lines are, if there's any ambiguity. But ultimately still allow them to do what they do best [inaudible 00:25:44].

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly. And one of the things I talk... A number of things I talk about in the book, but one of the things I do in the book is for each of the models are skills of the improvised framework. Because that's really what that word improvise is the framework. And let's say... Let's take positive. One of the attributes is having a positive attitude. I mean, you think about why is that so critical in business? Well, you think about a music performance. Can you imagine the musicians get together to play this beautiful concerto or this sonnet or this great jazz piece of... Waltz or whatever. And they're all mad at each other.

Fletcher:

Yeah. This...

Gerald:

I mean, what's that going to sound like? And it's like, okay, I got to play my part, but I don't like this pal here.

Fletcher:

The emotion comes through in the music. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. Well, guess what?

Fletcher:

Just like it does in work. Right. How you write the email, how you talk to your coworker, how you deal with the customer. Oh my gosh. I mean, I had one of the craziest experiences this weekend. I think it might tell the story quite well. We show up to this restaurant, I won't name the name. And... For brunch. And we got a one year old, as I mentioned earlier. Going out to eat is precarious at best. Right? You try to get in there. You do your work. You get the food. You maybe have a margarita and you get out as quick as you possibly can. Right. And we show up and the very first thing the server does is comes up and just basically tells us that this is going to be a disaster. That everything's on fire. That this... That she's having the worst day ever. And please bear with her. Oh, well, okay. Let's... Thanks for informing us. But, as us, as the consumers, we're like, well, I feel sorry for you, but I'm here to consume.

Gerald:

It's not about you. Right.

Fletcher:

Yeah. It's not about you. I'm sorry about your rough day. But I'm hoping that you will be able to pull it together for us and get us some breakfast in a relatively timely manner.

Gerald:

Yeah. And give us a decent meal.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Give us a decent meal. Get the order, hopefully, mostly right. Hour and a half later, we never saw our food.

Gerald:

Wow.

Fletcher:

Never saw our food.

Gerald:

But think about what that performance... Right. Now it's like, okay, do I go back to that restaurant? That's always going to be there in the back of your mind. Right? And it-

Fletcher:

Probably great restaurant. I mean, it, theoretically was a great restaurant, right? It was busy. Packed. You know?

Gerald:

Right. But it was a negative attitude and they down regulated with all the negativity or whatever, instead of up regulating and having a positive attitude and really enjoying the process and even...

Fletcher:

Embracing the pro- embracing the challenge.

Gerald:

Right. Well, even having a safe... But that says a lot about the culture. Because even to have a safe place to say, wait a minute, I'm having a really bad time here, a really bad day. I need to talk to some coworkers. I need to talk to my boss. I need to just kind of voice this out, work it out to either step back for a little bit and do something else instead of serving a customer. So I can work through my emotions-

Fletcher:

In a positive... Yeah.

Gerald:

Yeah. In a positive. Yeah. Exactly.

Fletcher:

Positive way. Productive way. Right? Yeah.

Gerald:

Exactly. Because at the end of the day, people remember how you make them feel. And that's true not just in relationships. That's true when you go to the restaurant.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

That's true when you go clothes shopping. That's true when that's true when you buy shoes from Zappos.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yep.

Gerald:

You remember the experience of how you felt. And how you were treated. And here's why that's so important. And I talk about this support also in my book, for each one of the principles. I talk a lot about neuroscience. I did a certification. I love studying. I love reading. I'm always taking classes and I have coaches. And I did this program called Conversation Intelligence from the author of the book, Conversation Intelligence, name was Judith Glaser.

Fletcher:

Okay.

Gerald:

She passed away a couple of years ago from cancer. And the world lost a beautiful person that really was smart and a genius in what she was doing. But what I learned from her was that within 0.7 seconds, we feel whether the person we're getting ready to communicate with, we can trust them.

Fletcher:

Mm. Yeah. It's like that the energy. There is this...

Gerald:

Exactly. Because-

Fletcher:

It is driven from that emotion. Right? Like if the emotions are consuming you... In negative emotions... But positive emotions. Right. We see somebody who's very happy and confident. Right. You... People naturally want to gravitate towards that person. And sort of like, I want some of that positive energy.

Gerald:

Exactly. And the reason why is because from a neurological standpoint, emotions are nothing but neurological chemicals.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

So when you-

Fletcher:

The brain chemicals.

Gerald:

Have a great conversation. And you've heard of the words of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, all those... GABA. All those positive neurochemicals that make you feel good and happy. Well that's what your brain starts emitting. Even, and so our conversations are more than just verbal they're chemical.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Through the emotions that are triggered through the energy of the other people we're around. Right.

Gerald:

Exactly. So as a leader, I can do... I can come up with exercises or activities that even in a virtual environment that can change the chemicals that my employees brains are emitting. So that they're emitting those positive chemicals. Now at the same time, I can do things. Manage in a way that admit that gets everyone to emit cortisol and adrenaline.

Fletcher:

Yeah. So fear and defensiveness and yeah.

Gerald:

Right. And the amygdala kicks in and now we're going, okay. Fight or flight. I don't feel comfortable here. I'm concerned. I'm scared. Then we start jocking. Then we start criticizing. And that's called down regulating.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

And that literally starts with management leadership. And again, treating your people as artists.

Fletcher:

Yeah. The first... The very first interaction of the day or in general. Yeah.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

That's pretty interesting. I also think a lot about the concept of you affecting the world or the world affecting you a little bit here. And I think that it's this like personal responsibility, and I think that's a big difference between kind of those A-players and then maybe the not so A-players. Right?

Gerald:

Yeah. Jack Canfield has a formula that he teaches in his book Success Principles, called E plus O... No, please. E plus R equals O. And E is the event. R is your response to that event. And O equals the outcome.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

And so we can have a negative event.

Fletcher:

Yep. Everything's a disaster at the restaurant today.

Gerald:

But we can respond positively. And turn... And have the outcome turn out okay.

Fletcher:

Yep. Yeah.

Gerald:

We can even have a positive event and respond negatively. And turn it into a negative outcome.

Fletcher:

[inaudible 00:33:08] I think about... So interesting thing about like taking the negative event and then having a productive, positive response to it, and then having a positive outcome... Some of the best customer service or customer experiences come from a place that starts bad, but then the other team, party, or person you're dealing with-

Gerald:

Takes responsibility.

Fletcher:

Takes responsibility. And then does something to help resolve that. Acknowledges without putting it blame back on the customer or whatever. Right.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

And then because I think we're all human. We all understand that things don't always go right. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. And we actually appreciate even... You overlook it when everything just goes perfectly, you might even forget to acknowledge that how wonderful that experience is. When something doesn't go quite right, but yet it's dealt with in such a positive, productive way and creates a positive outcome. Right? Because of that, then we remember that experience and that experience is way higher rated than the one that's just was perfect, frankly. Right?

Fletcher:

Exactly. Exactly. Because it's kind of like the perfect story. Right? It's like this. We love the movies where it starts off and seems like everything is going and all of a sudden everything just falls apart. And then rest of the movie, the guys like... The guy or the girl is spending their time becoming the hero and transforming. And takes this negative situation. They can't walk. Or they can't do this. Or they can't do that. And they turn it into this positive thing at the end of the movie, you're sitting there crying. And you're like, oh my goodness, this is so good. This such a great story, because it hits us at our core as human beings that we all know that life is not fair.

                And life is not always going to give us what we think we deserve. And sometimes life we just get hit over and over. But it's not how many times you fall. It's how many times you get up. And again, we take that to the employee situation. It's not, am I people messing up. It's, are we using those as teaching moments? Do they realize that they have the opportunity to take risks? And am I giving them the boundaries and the guardrails? Again, am I treating them like artists? Am I respecting them? Am I there to serve them? Am I there to be the model? Coach them and care for them through the process. So that... Because then once people know that, Hey, I got someone who's going to try to lead the way and model. They're going to coach me and ask me questions and let me think through things and come up with ideas and they accept my ideas. They actually care for me as a person. Where do you go to work after... To some other... Why would you want to leave that place?

                Yeah, exactly. So, and that's what we call the three CS of the employer value proposition culture. Right?

Gerald:

Yes.

Fletcher:

And so what kind of culture are you creating? And since we spend a lot of time at work, is this an environment... Culture is the environment that you're in. Right. And that's created through the values and way we operate. Right. And is it one that makes you feel good or is it one that makes you feel bad? And ultimately the three C's. Compensation, career growth, and culture are hopefully driving us towards an improved quality of life. And if the culture is making us feel bad, that's diminishing our quality of life and subsequently, yeah, our experience there and driving us... And a big part of what you mentioned earlier, part of the great resignation, is that those things-

Gerald:

Exactly, exactly.

Fletcher:

... aren't being addressed, right?

Gerald:

Yes. Yeah. And that ties into what my first book, which was called Culture Is The Bass.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we talk about it a lot. It's a tricky subject and it's... And to make culture real is one... To talk about it is one thing. But to make it real is a whole nother ballgame.

Gerald:

Yeah. Yeah. Again, I kind of refer to culture as the bass from the standpoint of any great song has a great bassline. And as soon as that baseline comes on, you know exactly the artist. You know the song. You know the style of music it is and so on. And, to me, a company's culture is like that bassline. As soon as you experience that culture, you know exactly who you're dealing with, the kind of service they're going to provide, whether you're going to like it or not, and so on and so forth. And so culture is king in so many ways. Peter Drucker says, culture eats strategy for breakfast. I think both are pretty equal. But if... You can't really deliver on the strategy, if you have a bad culture.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's why we liked working interviews. It's a great way for people to experience the culture before they take the job and vice versa for the team to figure out whether this person...

Gerald:

That's perfect. I know when I hire team members, I always have a 90-day plan in my mind.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

And that person has to demonstrate that within that 90-day period, they're going to add value. They're going to be a learner. They're a cultural fit. And if that's not a match, then we shake hands and I go, this doesn't work.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Move on. Move on.

Gerald:

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And so, because that way you give them... To me, 90 days, three months is enough time for you to prove yourself.

Fletcher:

Yep. Yeah.

Gerald:

Right. It's enough time for someone to come in, learn the organization, identify quick wins even if they don't have control of a budget or any big thing. If they come up with... If they come to work and they come to projects and they're coming with ideas and they are giving and they're collaborative and they're talking about things they're learning, then I know I have someone that is really going to be a game changer. And that's going to be a great culture fit. But if they come in and do the minimum...

Fletcher:

In getting some... Those first wins. Right. They may not be the home runs, but they're initial wins.

Gerald:

Quick wins. Exactly. Just quick wins. And that pays the way to, okay. You know how to come in and produce results, even on a small scale. Now, if I give you more rope in more time, I know that you are going to produce those results on a much larger scale. And I... And if there's a knowledge gap, that can be trained. But it's very difficult to train on a culture gap.

Fletcher:

Yeah. And we have a cool tool. A talent greater tool that looks at culture fit. And effectiveness. And the coach, I was... The Scaling Up coaches... Comes from Scaling Up is modeled after their best practice. And he's saying, when you have a new employee, or even any employee, you meet with them... They have a one-on-one with somebody, maybe not CEO, but maybe depending on the size of your organization, but a leader. And really every week when you have those one-on-ones, you're looking at that. Right?

Gerald:

Yes.

Fletcher:

And if you're plotting them in this quadrant, because it's a chart. So they're either up here like perfect culture and effectiveness match and that's a 99%. Or your way down here, which would be not good. But more often what happens is somebody's maybe a culture fit and they're not in the effective... As effective as they could be. Or, and also problem is when they're very effective, but not a culture match. Then that also is a big challenge. But having... And just constantly talking about it in terms of those terms and looking and evaluating performance. And having that conversation on a regular basis. And it's even so important in those first 90 days. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. And, honestly, I would prefer to have someone who's a culture fit that may not have all the skills. But if they are open to growing and learning and they're culture fit, then I can get them there.

Fletcher:

Yep. Yeah.

Gerald:

I think I can teach the mechanics. I can get them there. I can... Soft skills, hard skills. You can give them a plan of action and help them to grow into it. It's hard if you have someone who's an expert at what they do, but they're not a culture fit.

Fletcher:

Yeah. We call them talented terrors. And they're difficult. Right. I mean, I think we've all worked with them. And a lot of times they can stick around in organizations for far too long. Right. Because they're effective. They're a great salesperson, a great programmer. I see them with technical people and with sales people the most. Those are the two biggest culprits of that. Right. They're really, really effective at what they do. But, man, they almost always, eventually... There's always a climax there that is not the good, feel good end story.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

It's usually the car goes off the cliff and nobody survives.

Gerald:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:42:06] They end up turning into the villain. Exactly. They end up turning... They seem like the good guy in the beginning, but they end up turning into the villain because they... Again, they just...

Fletcher:

Hellbent on world destruction.

Gerald:

They don't know how to check their ego at the door. And in the Workplace Jazz book, I talk a lot about in one of the chapters being open to feedback. Also, surrendering to support. And when you think about... And why is that so important for musicians? Well, because as a musician, the way you learn is feedback. You get an instrument, you start taking lessons. The teacher gives you something to work on. Or your coach gives you something to work on. You go work on it. You come back. You play it for them. And they go, no, don't do it that way. Do it this way. Hold the bow this way or do that then. So they're constantly giving you feedback. You go work on it. And then pretty soon you're getting close to where things need to be. The audience gives you feedback. And so what I... One of the things I discovered or just kind of wrote about was just how the highest paid people in the world all love feedback.

Fletcher:

Yeah. They all have coaches. They're all work on personal development. Right?

Gerald:

Exactly. Exactly. And they deliberately practice, not just like, okay, I'm going to practice my stuff, but they deliberately... They time...

Fletcher:

Malcolm Gladwell stuff. Outliers.

Gerald:

You don't have to be great by a mile. Sometimes you just have to be great by a nose. I think of with the Kentucky Derby. Right?

Fletcher:

Right? Yeah. Yeah.

Gerald:

I think the last horse was like, just kind of came out the back. Of the back. And won. It was like, where did thing come from?

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.

Gerald:

But, normally, those races are won by a nose.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. They're always close. Or...

Gerald:

And that's all you have to be is just be better than the other group by a nose. And it requires practice.

Fletcher:

Yeah. That's where practice comes in and openness to coaching and development. Right. And if you're constantly defensive or the world's affecting me, not I'm affecting the world mentality, then it gets very difficult to accomplish...

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

... to practice and become masterful at what you're doing. Right?

Gerald:

Right. Exactly. Exactly. And then the other one that I... A lot of people will take a look at and ask me about, in the book, is this idea of surrender to support. And I always tell the story of a gentleman that I've gotten to know he's a really, really good jazz bassist. His name is David Dyson. And David Dyson went to Berkeley College. I think he came out and was hired by the Backstreet Boys and became their music producer or director of the band. And then he started Pieces of a Dream, the jazz group. And a couple other... Secret Society is another band. But one of the things about David is that everyone who's at the top tier, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz, Peter White. These guys are always asking, is David Dyson available?

Fletcher:

Oh.

Gerald:

And every time I turn around, he's on somebody's album or he is doing...

Fletcher:

Yeah, he's-

Gerald:

He lays out his week. He says, and I'm doing this show, that show, the other show. And all these guys are hiring him. And after having some conversations with him,, doing more research on him and just learning about him, David has made his life's career of being someone who surrendered to support. In other words, when Pieces of His Dream was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in Detroit. They're doing this performance and they're being inducted. The entire, at least the main song that they were doing, was one that he wrote and produced. Right?

Fletcher:

Okay.

Gerald:

Everyone else is taking a solo. The guitar player is taking a solo. Keyboard player is taking solo. The horn player's taking the solo. David is just sitting back playing bass.

Fletcher:

Yeah. So he's let... Yeah, he's playing that supportive coach type role.

Gerald:

He's playing- Exactly.

Fletcher:

He's not in the forefront. He's... Yeah. He's... Servant leadership.

Gerald:

He's playing the quiet, supportive leader. Right. And he's making all of us look good by making all of them look good. And he has the chops to get out and play all the funky things and play all the solos and whatnot. But he chose for that event to play a song that actually didn't highlight him, just highlighted him as the leader who supports others.

Fletcher:

And you see that in entrepreneurship. I mean, a lot of small entrepreneurs are stuck being the mechanic, the manager, and the visionary. And they do all the jobs. Right.

Gerald:

Exactly.

Fletcher:

And remind me of the book, but it's that famous book, they're...

Gerald:

E-Myth.

Fletcher:

E-Myth. Yeah, exactly. Thank you for coming up with it. And that is the first fallacy, right. Is to...

Gerald:

You can't do it all.

Fletcher:

You can't do it all. And ultimately, if you're going to be a leader and a visionary, then you've got to be able to have the mechanics and the managers and you got to let them be the best at their job, and be supporting them in that journey. Right?

Gerald:

Right. Exactly. And the way I look at it is that you have to know how to do it. You have to know what goes into making it happen, but doesn't mean that you have to be the person that does it. And in fact, once you learn the basics of the accounting and... When I started my consulting business I used to do all my books. I used to... I was selling, client interfacing, the whole nine yards. But as I got better, I realized, you know what, I need to hire a bookkeeper. But now I know what to look for.

Fletcher:

Yep. You can expect-

Gerald:

When I get my reports, I know what-

Fletcher:

Expect and you can lead and you can guide. Yeah.

Gerald:

I know exactly. Okay. Okay. They're going to go and do the updates, but I know what I'm looking for when they're done to make sure that the books are done properly. I don't have to do them. Now, okay, I...

Fletcher:

Trust and inspect.

Gerald:

Exactly. Now I'm building some websites that I need developers. Okay. Can I write code? Can I do HTML? Can I do some Java? Can I do SQL? Yeah. But I need an expert who can get in and do some things, but I also know what it requires. So I know if I get a quote from someone and they're blowing smoke. Yeah. And I go, no, I don't... No. We're not doing that. But I also know when I got someone who's really good and they know how to deliver.

Fletcher:

Hm. Yeah.

Gerald:

And so it's... And, again, that's where the conductor mindset comes in, where conductors actually, when they go to school, they actually have to learn how to play each one of those instruments, to some extent.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. They have to have that familiarity.

Gerald:

Exactly. But they're not the expert.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Yeah. They're the Jack of all trades and then they hire the all stars in each role. Right?

Gerald:

Right. Right. And they... What they become experts in is how to engage, how to deploy, how to set the intent, and then allow the artists to do their thing.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Well, this is a great analogy. And we're going to run out of time here. And obviously we can talk about this all day long here. So before we wrap up. I mean, I was totally curious where you were going to go with this. And so I'm glad we were able to have a conversation. It's outside of my area. So I'm like the least musically inclined person you'll ever know. I always make the sports analogies. And you've brought the artistic and musical analogy. So I really appreciate that perspective. And it's something new for me. And so this is really enjoyable. But where can we find you? And we'll obviously put links to all of your materials here in the page that this is posted on. But tell us a little bit about where folks can find you.

Gerald:

You can find me on my website, GeraldJLeonard.com. And you all... All the different links and all the different things that I'm doing there, you can find links to my online store. You can find links to my music. I've done some...

Fletcher:

Nice.

Gerald:

I've done some bass songs that I wrote, or just some jazz songs that I wrote working with a producer named Donald Robinson. But you can also... I'm very active on LinkedIn. And so if you just, again, search me on LinkedIn as Gerald J. Leonard, you'll find me there. I did Facebook and Twitter. But those two places are the main places you can go to find me and everything else kind of will is connected to those.

Fletcher:

Great. And we can find your book, Workplace Jazz, How to Improvise-

Gerald:

You can find it on Amazon or any bookstore. And my publisher was Business Expert Press. So, it's in bookstores.

Fletcher:

Nice.

Gerald:

It's also on Amazon and other online platforms.

Fletcher:

Well, great. Well, Gerald, it was a great pleasure speaking with you today and continue sharing your message. And I wish you the best of luck moving forward.

Gerald:

[inaudible 00:50:47] Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. And thanks for having me.

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Gerald Leonard

Author of Workplace Jazz

" Gerald J. Leonard offers a unique approach to accomplishing more productivity in the workplace. As an accomplished musician, creativity, innovation, and peak performance are part of my world. Gerald leverages these very principles to give your business the edge needed to succeed in a highly competitive workplace. He's the author of Culture Is The Bass: 7 Principles for Developing A Culture That Works and Workplace Jazz: How to IMPROVISE – 9 Steps to Creating High-Performing Agile Project Teams." 

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