04 August 2017
Leadership is extreme. Author of The Radical Leap Steve Farber joins Ronnie Altit on The Download to speak about real leadership, building a culture and three immediate steps you could implement to become a radical leader.
SOME KEY POINTS IN THE VIDEO INCLUDE
[00:01:16] Steve’s passion is about helping people understand what real leadership is
[00:03:29] Find out more about The Radical Leap.
[00:05:45] How do you build a culture, how do you create a culture?
[00:37:21] The craziest thing Steve has ever eaten
[00:39:36] 3 actionable steps that a leader could implement that would make a profound impact.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT
Steve Farber: I’m sitting in an out of the way place. Nobody’s going to be walking through this shot or anything like that.
Ronnie Altit: Mr. Steve Farber, good morning. I’ve just hit the record button so we’re going to get going, okay? How’s that?
Ronnie: Good morning, for me here, Steve. What is it, good afternoon, for you over there?
Steve: It is good late afternoon. Yes, late afternoon.
Ronnie: Late afternoon, excellent. Steve, thanks very much for joining us here on The Download. This is a different way for us to do The Download. Normally, we’re on a couch. Now, we’re doing it over a video and recording this one. This will be quite an interesting one for all of our viewers. Steve, I’m thrilled to have you with us here today. You’ve certainly inspired us within our organization. We’ve recently implemented the LEAP philosophy which has been pulled together by yourself. Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
Steve: First of all, thank you, Ronnie. I’ve been looking forward to this. I don’t get out to Australia as often as I’d like to so this is the next best thing, I guess. It’s a very far second, but it is the next best thing. Loosely put, I’m in the leadership development field, which I’ve been doing in some form or another for over 25 years. My passion is about helping people understand what real leadership is, what it means to them, and what it means to the people around them.
The application of leadership is something that happens on an individual level and a corporate level, a cultural level. My work is about developing, not just individual leaders, but cultures of leadership. I’ve written three books in the process: The Radical Leap, The Radical Edge, and Greater Than Yourself. I’ve had some phenomenal mentors. Over the last two and a half decades or so, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve worked with just about every kind of company in just about every kind of industry that you can think of.
I’m certainly not an expert in any of them. [laughs] My expertise is really in about– it really falls into that category that all companies, at least for now, have in common, that is that they’re all populated by human beings. My work is about bringing the best. It sounds cliché to say it, but it’s really true. It’s about bringing the best out of ourselves, the people around us in the business context for the benefit of our customers and clients.
It sounds like a tall order but only because it is. It’s really about personal joy and meaning, success and prosperity in our work, and changing the world for the better all at the same time.
Ronnie: That’s sort of founded on the concept of LEAP, love, energy, audacity, proof. Tell us a little bit more about The Radical Leap.
Steve: The Radical Leap is the name of my first book which came out in its original edition in 2004. As you said, it presents a framework, love, energy, audacity and proof. The framework for that, I like to refer to as extreme leadership because leadership, really, is extreme. If we’re really doing it, it’s an extreme act. It’s not about the position, it’s not about the title we give ourselves, it’s not about what it says in our business card.
Leadership is an extreme act. We put ourselves at risk to accomplish something extraordinary, change things for the better in the process. Love, energy, audacity and proof is the thing that I’ve discovered. Certainly, I say discovered, like I discovered some new element. It’s something that I’ve seen over and over again as being the framework, the building blocks, the foundation for really extraordinary, otherwise known as extreme leaders.
They cultivate love, they generate energy, inspire audacity, they provide proof. That’s the conclusion that I came to. Certainly, not in a vacuum. It’s a conclusion I came to from working with all these aforementioned businesses and the people that lead them, and the people that work in them. You can learn as much from really terrible leaders as you can from great ones. You just got to know when to emulate and when to do the opposite.
Ronnie: You’re absolutely right. When we started our business here at Insentra, we were talking about building the culture that we built, and that we’re constantly working on building because I don’t think you can ever have built a culture. It’s an evolving, developing thing that just continues, it morphs and grows. What we did was we spoke of what type of business do we want to be. When we were setting up the business, we said, “What sort of business do we want to be?”
We started looking at the things that we didn’t want to be. We said all the things that our managers have done that we hated, that we weren’t going to implement. And all the things that they did that we love, we were going to implement. Everything in between, we just wing it and go with would we like that or wouldn’t we like it. You’re absolutely right. You learn so much from the people that don’t do a great job of it as much as you can. In fact, sometimes more than you do from the people who do.
Steve: You’re bringing up a really important point, Ronnie. We make this idea of culture mysterious. How do you build a culture, how do you create a culture? The fact of the matter is, you already are. My team and I just put out a white paper on seven steps to improving company culture. I have to admit it’s pretty damn good. One of the things that I like about it is the starting proposition is there are essentially two ways to change a culture. One is to do something and the other is to do nothing.
Culture, as you said, is a living breathing thing. It’s going to change because the people change. Either they literally change, they get new people or the people themselves change and grow. The market changes, the world changes, the economy changes. As things change, the culture changes too. The question is, is it changing in a way that serves you? I think that we, as entrepreneurs, as business people, we ignore culture at our own peril.
If we get lucky, it will just take care of itself. The same is true for individual leaders. Some people are just good at it. We’re unconsciously competent. We just do great. We just inspire people, we get great things done. We don’t really know how we do it, it just happens. The same is true for cultures. There are some that they have the magic ingredients, the right people, the right places.
We have to be very cognizant and conscious about what kind of culture we want to create. The perfect culture for us is going to be the one that best serves our objectives as an organization and the people in it.
Ronnie: I agree. This is another interesting thing that we talked about. We were eighth last year in Australia’s great places to work. We’ll find out on August the 30th this year where we ended up this year. I talked to everyone in the company when I called everyone together for our monthly meeting. I speak to them about the fact that you like the culture we have. In fact, you love the culture we have. That’s evident in day-to-day behavior. It’s evident in the feedback we get.
What I also say to them is culture starts at the top. It percolates from the bottom and it permeates from within. I always say to them, “If you don’t like what’s happening in the culture, hold up a mirror. Ultimately, you’re allowing that to happen. We’ve got a framework for you, but you as part of the organization allow that to happen.”
I think what it is as well, is in that framework– this is why I love The Radical Leap and why we’ve implemented The Radical Leap within our business. That whole concept of starting from the position of love. One of your lines that I quote regularly, “Do what you love in the company of people who love what you do.”
It’s just so powerful in what it says. I think that’s something that’s really important when you’re building a culture. The question I’ve got for you though is, what do you think prevents people from extreme leadership, from doing that?
Steve: It’s a great question. There’s certainly no one answer to it. Let me give you a couple of the classics. One, I think, is just lack of awareness. There’s some people that they get very comfortable with where they are and how they do things. It works for them, they get results. There’s no impetus, there’s no incentive to try to do it better because it just hasn’t occurred to them, “I’m pretty damn good at what I do. I don’t need to change.” Just cruising along. That’s one reason.
The other, I think, is fear. That’s a pretty universal one. I know I’m overgeneralizing but a lot of people– the truism is that people don’t like change. Although one of my mentors, Terry Pierce, was fond of saying, “People don’t like change but they love progress.” Of course, progress is change. Progress is change with a purpose. I might be afraid to change how I do things because I’ve become comfortable.
Even though I see that there’s a better way, it scares me to think about taking a different approach, having a different attitude towards people, taking more risks, any number of things to be scared of. Most of us human beings, we don’t find any shortage of things to be scared of. It could be fear. The other one too is no desire. Maybe I’m not scared of it. Maybe I think I “should do it,” I don’t want to.
Ronnie: Let’s say though that people are going to do it. I think in an entrepreneurial sense; a lot of people do want to aspire to be fantastic leaders or extreme leaders. Let’s assume that there’s no fear and there is no concern about change, and they are trying to be extreme leaders. What then do you think prevents people from being extreme leaders?
Steve: It’s like anything else, it’s a learning process. What’s deceptive about it, if you look at that LEAP framework, love, energy, audacity and proof, it’s very evocative. It’s very intuitive, I think, for a lot of people. For the people that resonate with it, they go, “Yes, that’s right. I get that.” They might have some questions as to some of the subtleties around it, the nuances around it.
That’s a little bit deceptive because it’s really challenging to do every day. As one of your colleagues, Jody Elkins, said to me once, “If you want to do this stuff, you got to be willing to put your ego at the door because this is hard work.” Even though it resonates, it sounds nice, people have used the word love, and everybody’s happy all the time, we’re always smiling and everything’s great, love is pretty messy. It can be very, very challenging. It should be very challenging, one could argue.
I think there’s this desire, and most of us have, myself included, we would rather the things be easy. We try it. We try something new, we have a different kind of conversation with somebody. We try to put some new idea into practice, it doesn’t work out in the way that we thought it would. It feels frustrating so we go, “Screw it. I tried, it didn’t work.” I think that’s probably the biggest thing.
We need to allow ourselves to understand that this is all about trial and error. Which means that we have to be willing to fall on our face, we have to be willing to screw it up. It’s a little bit of a paradox because entrepreneurs were risk takers, but at the same time, we don’t like to fail. We all know there’s no such thing as risk without failure. Risk, by definition, means there’s potential failure.
We get in our own way, we want to be extreme leaders, and then the challenge of putting that into practice is very revealing. We’re holding a mirror up there to see what we’re made of.
Ronnie: There’s something that just occurred to me as you were saying that, and you kind of drew that parallel, which is as an entrepreneur, you do try and you fail, and you try again, and you try again, and you try again. No fantastic company has had everything work brilliantly for them from day zero. There’s always some type of challenge. There’s always something that’s going to come in. Because that’s the health and success of your business, and what your vision is, and your goals that you’re trying to achieve, you do get up and keep going.
I think you might be on to something that’s specifically around leadership. Where in a leadership capacity it’s like, “Well, that didn’t work, but I’m not going to go do something about that.” However, in my mind, those two are inextricably linked. If you don’t get that right at the leadership level, you can have the most fantastic business idea in the world and you can have the most fantastic product in the world, but you will never be as successful as what you would be if you could get to that point of extreme leadership.
Steve: That’s right. The other thing that particularly early stage entrepreneurs classically don’t pay attention to is the culture that they’re building, like we were talking about earlier, because we’re passionate about the product, the service, the money, the impact. Those are all really important things. I’m not downplaying those. Very few entrepreneurs that I encounter, and I encounter many of them, start out a company by saying, “What kind of culture do we want to create from the very beginning?” Why don’t we do it, because it’s a lot of work. It’s challenging. We already have a lot of work to do. We’re not used to failing on that level.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs are used to failing in terms of projects and trying something that doesn’t work, and getting funding and running out of funding, and having to get more funding, the “usual” kind of entrepreneurial stuff. I’m trying to do something really personal. Like become a better leader, connect with people, be more inspiring, have a higher sense of purpose, get people to do really great things together. That feels more personal. We don’t like to fail in those things because we take it by definition. We take it personally.
Ronnie: Absolutely. One of the interesting things that I say is that people are the heart of the business, but the culture is indeed its very soul. It’s that soul that is always going to live on regardless of what happens with the people.
Steve: It’s a cool image. It would be an interesting philosophical debate to have some time. What we can agree on, for sure, is that they’re equally important and they’re very intimately connected. In a smaller company, yes, it’s true that everybody needs to take responsibility for the culture. And in a smaller company, it really does come from the top. It really does.
Part of the culture needs to be that if the positional leader or leader or leaders are saying one thing about the kind of culture that we should have here but acting in a way that’s contrary to that, then you would hope that you have the idealist to have a self-correcting culture where the trust level is high enough. If somebody’s doing that, they can get called on it by their colleagues or the people that work for them.
Ronnie: That’s the audacity.
Steve: That’s the audacity. It’s also the love. If I love this place, if I love what we’re trying to do, if I love our product service offering, if I love that, I’m not going to be very tolerant of people that are acting in a way that’s going to hamper that. The more I love this place– Let me put it this way. What I’ve seen over and over again is cultures that really are rooted in love tend to have a higher level of debate. They’re more fiery, people argue, people are very brutally honest. Not because they’re trying to tear each other down but because they’re trying to build the place up. The standards actually go up when the love gets deep.
Ronnie: Let’s just explore that for a moment. Like I talked about here at Insentra, we’re not an adult day care center. I’m not running day care centers. I don’t want to be an adult day care center. I want to have that emotional side of the business. I want people to be able to have the confidence and have the ability, take accountability and do what it is they say they’re going to do. How do you balance that emotional that side of the business without raising a bunch of babies?
Steve: I don’t think it’s either or. If you’re really focusing on the love side of the business, there’s no room for babies. As one of the old classics, “It’s not a place for little boys in short pants.” It’s adult level work. The stereotype is we want everybody to love each other. That’s the stereotype. If we love each other, then we just do everything that make everybody happy all the time. If you need something more from me, I’ll do whatever I can to provide it for you even when it’s completely irresponsible of you to ask me for it.
That’s not what this is. This is real, in the heart, mature kind of love of cause and purpose, as well as people. I don’t have any tolerance for that sort of thing either. I really don’t. There is such a thing as tough love. Sometimes there are people that find their way into your organization that take advantage of the empowerment and freedom that goes along with an organization of adults. You give them a chance, you give them some feedback. If they can’t rise to the situation that we have here, then see you later.
I got no problem with that. I could really sincerely deeply love you and fire you at the same time. Because if I really love you and it’s not working here, why would I want you to stay? There’s a place out there that’s better for you. I’ll love you from a distance, thank you very much.
Ronnie: Steve, I would say to you quite confidently that that’s exactly how I look at things. It’s very interesting in terms of communicating it. I think that the way you’ve communicated it there that I’m going to take away from this is the tough love concept. It’s also about people having the confidence and the trust in you. I call it if your time is done on the train here, because we refer to Insentra as a train, as I know you’re aware.
If your time is done on the train here at Insentra, guess what, I’m happy to help you find another train. That’s not just going to work for me, but it’s also going to work for you. If you’re not happy here, I actually don’t want you here. I don’t want you here from a place of good, not from a place of, “Bugger you, get out of here.” I just don’t want you here because I don’t think it’s right for either of us.
Steve: Right. Also, you have a– as I would argue, we all do. Let’s just talk about you for a second, Ronnie. You have a fiduciary and moral responsibility to the health of the company. If there’s an individual that’s really compromising with that, it’s your responsibility to say, “Farewell.” There are very compassionate, humane, loving ways to do that. The only thing that I get concerned about is sometimes people get so impatient. They jump to the conclusion that you’re on the wrong train too quickly. I’m all for giving people a chance.
The responsibility falls back on us as leaders is that we have to be really clear about what the expectations are and not assume that it’s going to be obvious to everybody. That’s why stated values are important, and I strap a living from those values, the behaviors that we expect from each other around here. We have to be really overt about the expectations that we have of each other, so then when somebody’s not living up to those expectations, it’s not a shock to them, “I never heard that we’re not supposed to do that.” That should never be the case. It should be really clear. Not only what we’re all about but what our behavioral expectations are of each other.
Ronnie: I think the struggle that comes with that is you can get to that point with the individual and you can get to that point with people around, then the whole interpersonal side comes into play. The somebody who hasn’t been necessarily performing or isn’t necessarily fitting in as it were, isn’t working in accordance with the company values, et cetera, at the interpersonal relationships that other people have with those individuals make them go, “Why would they have done that to that person?”
Getting to a point where, generically– and I think it’s easier in a smaller business but much harder in a larger business to get to that point where people actually trust in the leadership. That the leadership’s making the right decision for the individual that they’re deciding it for and for the business. Therefore, ultimately, for the other individuals in the business that you’re impacting as a result.
In the same way as making the right hiring decision. People don’t sit there and say, “Oh my God, you made the right hiring decision,” and have all of that same emotion attached to it for bringing the right people in. There’s a lot of emotion attached to letting the wrong people, or the people who were the right people who are no longer the right people.
Steve: Or the people who appear to be the right people and turn out to be somebody else once you hire them.
Ronnie: Absolutely. We’ve all had those scenarios. We’re in IT here at Insentra. We’re in a massive transformation in the IT industry. Globally, we’re seeing the transformation of IT and the move towards a digital workplace, et cetera, all becoming part of it. What do you think the function of leadership is within that new paradigm now with the introduction of AI and the introduction of a whole stack of other things that are coming into play? What do you think the future of extreme leadership looks like?
Steve: It’s really interesting. The trend, since I started doing this work 25 years ago, has been really consistent. If you think about the changes in technology over the last 10 years, let alone the last 25, is just massive. There’s been this consistent trend through all that changing technology. That is the place for meaning and purpose, and joy and fulfillment at work.
Thirty years ago, this wasn’t even a conversation. It was a very limited conversation because that’s the stuff that you did at home. Work was about getting shit done and making money. That’s still true, but now more than ever. This is not something that’s just the sole domain of millennials. We all want higher meaning and purpose at work. We want it. We want to feel like we’re making a difference. We want to feel like we’re being authentic. To put it in another way, we want to be authentic. We want to have an impact.
Yes, we want to make money. Yes, in all that, but we want to have that higher level of engagement from every aspect of our being as it were. This conversation has become more and more mainstream. That’s been the trend. I think as we project that out into the future, technology– Obviously, the change in technology, I don’t claim to be an expert on that. The limits of my futurist capabilities are, “Man, this is going to be a lot of new shit. It’s going to be amazing.” That’s about it. That’s all I know.
I’ll never say that I know. I feel, I predict that the future of leadership is going to be more and more personal. This is not a fad, it’s not a passing thing. It’s not, “I’ll just close my eyes and hold my breath for a little while and all this touchy-feely crap will disappear.” More and more we’re seeing that there’s a direct correlation between things like engagement, and joy, and love at work tied directly to results in the bottom line.
It’s no longer an argument, for example, that companies that show higher levels of employee engagement tend to be more successful. We don’t argue that point anymore. There’s just too much evidence to know that it’s true. I think we’re going to see a deepening of that. That’s why this discussion of love in the workplace, love is a competitive advantage in the business, this idea that love is just damn good business, we’re at the very beginning of that conversation.
I’ve had people tell me, almost every day it seems, I hear somebody say to me something like, “You’re the only person I know of that writes about this stuff, that talks about this stuff. I’ve never heard anybody use love in business before.” I hear that every day. The fact is, it’s just not true. There are a few of us out there who are saying similar things, and using that language, and doing the research on it.
It’s still so contrary to the way we’ve been trained. It’s a very new conversation. Maybe I’m a little bit biased when I say this but I think the trend towards love is a hard core competitive business practice. We’re going to see more and more of that in the future.
Ronnie: Having implemented the LEAP philosophy, even prior to that, without necessarily having put such a great framework around it as LEAP. We’ve been doing a lot of those types of behaviors and perhaps, actually, very consciously since we started the business. There’s one consistent piece of feedback that I get, which is when we’re recruiting people, I will meet every single person that we bring into this business. It’s really important to me that they understand from me, at the top of the organization, exactly what it is I’m looking for, the vision of our business, et cetera.
When I go through the culture and I explain what we’re trying to build as an organization, I consistently get, it’s too good to be true. It can’t be that way. And then when people come and join the business, there is a period of time, and that period of time vary sometimes from a few weeks. There’s some cases, six months, where people are sitting back watching. Watching to see if this is really true and if it’s really possible, and if this is truly how the organization behaves.
When you keep hearing, “Steve, you’re one of the only people that speaks about love.” You may not be the only person but there’s so few. There’s so few who truly passionately lead from the heart and who passionately want to create that environment where love is at the core of it. That it’s a long journey, I think, ahead of us to get everybody, to get the masses behind the concept of the way it should be.
Steve: Exactly. Let me say a couple of things about that. First of all, I’m really excited about this. I might have shared this with you before, Ronnie. For your listeners, I think it’s really important for them to hear this. This idea of love as a business practice and specifically the LEAP framework, love, energy, audacity and proof applied on a cultural level, we’re seeing some pretty amazing case studies.
You guys are at number eight best place to work in Australia. In Seattle, Washington, there’s a company called OAC Services. They’ve been strategically applying this LEAP framework to their culture. It’s a 65-year-old company. They’re an architectural construction consulting company. Last year, they made number 14 best place to work in the state of Washington. Think about who’s in the state of Washington in their size category. This year, they were number two.
Ronnie: Fantastic, and that’s against a lot of the tech companies, right?
Steve: Yes. These guys are engineers. I just love that because it flies in the face of the stereotype. They will tell you it’s because of this very conscious strategic application of LEAP. They want to create a culture that people love working in. Shawn Mahoney, I was the senior principal when he gave his acceptance speech at the awards there where he got number two. I was unbelievably gratified to hear him say it. He opened his speech with, “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” That’s their thing. That’s what they do.
Then in Jacksonville, Florida, there’s a company called Trailer Bridge, very different industry. A shipping logistics company were just voted number one best place to work in Jacksonville. Love, energy, audacity and proof is a major part of their culture. It is possible. It can be the norm. You’re right, it’s not. Here’s the way that I like to think about my work, and your work, and all of our work by extension, people that feel as passionately about this as you and I do.
It gets back to what you were saying about when people first join the company, they’re going, “Is this real?” Just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Here’s why. When you’re talking to a friend that you haven’t seen for a while and you’re just catching up, and your friend starts telling you about this place that they work, about this idiot boss that they work for, and these stupid people that they work with, and the company’s all screwed up and the customers are idiots. You’re just going on and on like that.
You listen to that person, you listen to your friend. Typically, you feel compassion. You feel like you want to encourage them, maybe, to find new work, or to keep a step up or a lift, or whatever. What we typically don’t do, we don’t respond like this, “What? You hate your job? Are you kidding?” That’s not how we respond. We never respond with surprise because that’s what we expect people to say about their work.
On the other hand, if you’re talking to somebody that says, “Man, I can’t wait till Monday. The people I work are some of my best friends. I can’t wait. It’s hard for me to tear myself away from the office at the end of the day.” That’s when we react with surprise, like, “Are you kidding? Are you sick? Are you people crazy?” That’s the way I like to think about my work. I’ll know that we’ve made a difference when the response reverses.
When somebody talks about how much they love their work, our natural response will be, “Well, of course, you do.” You spend so much of your life there, why wouldn’t you? We obviously have a long way to go until that’s the norm.
Ronnie: No, but it’s a great journey to be on. I’m enjoying it. Clearly, I can see your passion for it. You’re obviously enjoying it too. Steve, tell me, outside of the three fantastic books that you’ve written, and I’ve read all three of them. Each one of them had some pearls of wisdom in them. Outside of those, what book would you recommend? If you could recommend one book to business leaders who are watching this, what’s the one text that you would recommend that people read right now?
Steve: A book called The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. That’s K-O-U-Z-E-S, and Barry Posner, P-O-S-N-E-R. I think it just came out and it’s fifth edition, or something. It’s a cliché to call anything other than the Bible, The Bible, but it’s the Bible of the leadership research.
Ronnie: Tell me why.
Steve: My disclaimer on that is, if it’s a disclaimer, Jim Kouzes, is probably my most significant mentor. We worked together at the Tom Peter’s company back in the day. He’s the one who hired me there. He was president of the company, I was vice president of the company. He’s had a huge impact and influence on my thinking and my practice as a leader.
The Leadership Challenge is research-based. They’re constantly updating it. It’s a good read, a lot of case studies. It’s not just that I highly recommend it, it really is required reading for anybody who’s serious about leadership.
Ronnie: Fantastic, what a great recommendation. Now, on a totally different angle. You’ve traveled a lot. You’ve visited many countries around the world with your work that you do. In date, you live in America, so there’s a possibility it could be local there. Tell me the craziest food you’ve ever eaten, Steve.
Steve: Craziest food. I think it would have to be the stir-fried hornets that I had in Thailand.
Steve: Hornets, yes. Maybe a little baby larva, hornet larva.
Ronnie: That sounds interesting.
Steve: The adult’s mixed in just for crunch. That’s stir-fried.
Ronnie: How did you go palating those?
Steve: It wasn’t too bad.
Ronnie: Tasted like chicken? Like a lot of those things do?
Steve: No, it didn’t taste like chicken. I think that’s a myth. I’m not sure what it tasted like. It definitely didn’t taste like chicken, but it wasn’t bad. Stir-fried, it’s oil and spices, and all that. That’s pretty much all you’ll taste. I was really proud of myself for having eaten that. I was with a friend of mine, we were there with some Thai people. They were ordering for us.
The waitress brought out this big plate and put it on the table and said, “Stir-fried hornets.” I said, “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” My friend looked at me, he said, “I can’t believe you’re eating that.” Taste like chicken. Actually, at that same meal– this was in a restaurant. It wasn’t a tourist restaurant. It was out like in the jungle somewhere that these locals took us to. I also had wild boar. Wild boar, which was actually hunted in that jungle that we were sitting in there.
Steve: Probably, the most memorable meal. Here in Southern California, In-N-Out Burger will do the picture.
Ronnie: Hey, don’t give the In-N-Out Burger a hard time. We love In-N-Out Burger at Insentra. It’s a ritual visit when we’re in sometimes.
Steve: Absolutely. It does for me too, unfortunately.
Ronnie: The thickly animal style.
Steve: Wow, I’m impressed.
Ronnie: Told you. Definitely, we’re fans of it here.
Ronnie: Steve, you’ve been very, very good at giving us the time that you have today. I’ve got one last question for you. If there were three actionable steps that any leader could take when they’ve been sitting here and listening to this. Any three actionable steps that a leader could implement that would make a profound impact, what would those three be from your perspective?
Steve: You mean aside from coming to San Diego for my various events, or hiring me to come in as a speaker, or hiring me as a personal coach? Aside from those?
Ronnie: Steve, because I know you well enough and I know how non-self-serving you are. I know how tongue in cheek that was. Tell me.
Steve: There’s a few things. First of all, I think it’s starting with asking yourself a really simple and very important question or some variation in this theme, “Why do I love this business and how do I show it?” Or, “Why do I love my team and how do I show it? Why do I love my clients, how do I show it? Why do I love this work, generically speaking, and how do I show it?”
What I’m asking you to do is to literally– By the way, literally is a word I use literally. Literally, sit down and ask yourself that question. Especially when the answer is not forthcoming. We’ve all had those days where it’s not an easy question I answer. The question doesn’t even come up, “Why do I love this work?” It’s more like, “Why the hell did I sign up for this?”
The more difficult it is to answer that question, the more important it is to answer that question. Why do I love this, how do I show it? That’s going to lead to all kinds of behaviors. They’re going to be a lot more powerful because you thought of them versus my prescribing them to you. Number two, I would say, make sure that you know the people that you work with as people.
A good place to start with this is just to do what I like to call a story inventory. Think about the people that you work with and just make a little list. Either a literal list or a mental list of all the stories that you know about them. Stories that you know about their accomplishments, their family, their adventures. Just let that be a litmus test to see how well you know them.
Sometimes you think you know somebody really well and then you realize, “I don’t know a damn thing about them.” I couldn’t tell you what their favorite ice cream is, I couldn’t tell you what their favorite TV show, I couldn’t tell you if they have kids or not. Number two, do story inventory as a way to help you get to know people better. If you don’t know the stories, go find out, spend some time. Go get a cup of coffee and sit down, and just have a chat, get to know them.
Kind of along those same lines but on a very different level. This is really at the heart of what I talk about in my book called Greater Than Yourself. Find somebody, at least one person, ideally more, that you can take on, with you on the role of being a significant mentor. What I mean by that is, that your job is to invest yourself in that person or in those people.
Invest yourself in such a significant way as to make them greater than yourself. In other words, other people that you’re going to invest yourself in, so that by the time that you’re “done working with them”, they’re going to be more successful at whatever this is than you are, and then ask them to do the same for somebody else. That’s a very significant way to change the culture, one person at a time.
To really build a culture not just of collaboration but a real culture of love. Where we’re investing in each other’s success versus seeing success as a zero-sum game, where my success is somehow predicated on your failure. Instead, it’s changing the mindset that says, “My success is going to be predicated on your even greater success.”
Ronnie: I think when you do that, the sense of pride that you get in watching that and seeing where someone has gone. In turn, when you do mentoring, you always get things in return. When you watch someone who then becomes better than you, it’s interesting to watch that reverse. You start to learn so much more from them, and then you can go and apply that to the next person in it, so too, will it just increase.
I think that is a fantastic thing to be suggesting to people, to leaders that they do in effect. Not just leaders but to anybody. These three things that you’ve given, find out why you love and find out how you love, and find out what that’s about. Creating that story inventory, and then giving that to other people and helping other people become greater than yourself. Three fantastic pieces of advice.
Steve Farber, thank you so much for taking the time to spend with me here today. I’ll always enjoy talking with you. I always pick up tidbits myself when I talk to you. You definitely make me laugh too, which is really always important.
Steve: Thank you.
Ronnie: Steve, thank you very, very much.
Steve: It’s my pleasure.
Ronnie: That was just superb. Thank you.
ABOUT STEVE FARBER
Steve Farber is the founder and president of The Extreme Leadership Institute.
Listed on Inc.’s ranking of the Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts in the world, and #1 on Huffington Post’s 12 Business Speakers to See in 2017, Farber is a bestselling author, popular keynote speaker, and a seasoned leadership coach and consultant who has worked with a vast array of public and private organizations in virtually every arena