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Transcript: How to Find Balance While Working in a Corporate Culture (TPS140)

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Listen to the audio for TPS140 here.

On this episode, dojo member Gary Smith joins the podcast to discuss solutions to some pressing corporate productivity problems. Mike and Gary talk about how to balance your personal goals with your corporate responsibilities, how to advance your career no matter where you find yourself, and how to stick to your vision.

Episode originally published 24 Apr 2017.


Mike: [00:00:06] Welcome to The Productivity Show, the Asian Efficiency podcast dedicated to helping you make the most of your time, attention, energy, and focus. In this episode, we welcome dojo member Gary Smith to the podcast to talk about solutions to some of the most pressing corporate productivity problems. We talk about how to balance personal goals and corporate responsibilities, how to establish appropriate boundaries in a corporate work environment, how to advance your career no matter where you find yourself right now, tips for avoiding burnout, and much more. As a businessman and a business owner for over 30 years, Gary is uniquely qualified to address common corporate productivity problems and he shares solutions from his experience training consulting with and coaching businesses and individuals to help them achieve new levels of success. You can find links to everything that we share in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/140. And now, on with the show.

Mike: [00:01:05] All right. Today we have another dojo-inspired show, where a couple of dojo members were asking about how to find balance between building career capital to achieve the future that you want, while still balancing work responsibilities. And that is especially difficult in a corporate culture so this really got me thinking about productivity at the organizational level and how you can find balance especially when it comes to personal growth. As maybe the company that you’re working for doesn’t always see the value in you developing your skills, so today we brought in an expert somebody who deals with these types of questions on a regular basis and that is another dojo member Gary Smith. So welcome to The Productivity Show Gary.

Gary: [00:01:42] Oh great to be with you Mike. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Mike: [00:01:46] Awesome. I am too. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with Gary, he’s a businessman and a business owner with over 30 years of experience in leading business organizations developing people and helping them both achieve their dreams. And I got that from your web site Gary, you’re the owner of Optimum Performance Technologies which you founded in 1998 and according to your Web site the vision is to create an organization that would help businesses and individuals achieve optimal levels of performance and being committed to staying on the leading edge of personal and business development technology. Sounds very in line with what we’re all about here at Asian Efficiency, so really excited to have you on the show today.

Gary: [00:02:22] It’s really great to be here and that’s one of the things that has attracted me to Asian Efficiency is there’s so much synergy between what I do and what you folks are trying to contribute to the to the world today. It’s just it’s amazing. But I really love you guys and really am glad to be part of be part of the dojo.

Mike: [00:02:41] Awesome. Well we’re glad to have you in the dojo. You’re a very active member on the forums and you’ve basically answered the call whenever we’ve had questions about what you guys think about X Y or Z so I thought that would be a great person, definitely qualified person, to answer this question which a couple of Dojo members are kicking back and forth so maybe let’s start here and then we can kind of talk a bit more about wherever this goes in terms of personal professional productivity, but what sort of advice would you give this person who is trying to develop their career capital in an organization where maybe they don’t see themselves long long term. And I know that we’ll get into some of that stuff later on where maybe there is opportunities for long term advancement in your in your organization but you’re just not recognizing them but let’s just start where they’re at right now. They’re trying to figure out, maybe they’ve got a dream to do this business a side hustle they’ve got this personal goal but they also feel the pull of these corporate responsibilities, so maybe the term for this might be work life balance but what would you tell this person specifically right where they’re at right at this moment?

Gary: [00:03:52] So Mike if we can let’s let’s back up just a little bit and talk about the whole concept of work life balance. Where did work life balance come from? I think it came back in like the 1950s and 1960s because I remember my father who worked in an office but he was in at nine o’clock in the morning and work until five o’clock in the afternoon and then he came home and he didn’t work Saturday. He didn’t work Sundays, he very rarely brought any work home. And so I guess there was a couple of things that come into play here one was he was leaving his work at work and then he could come home and he could do whatever he wanted to do he could spend time with his family. He could go out to dinner or he could enjoy his hobbies he could go out and work in the yard, whatever he wanted to do. But I think there’s been a fundamental shift in how we look at our work today and it’s being driven by a lot of different things. I mean as an example: Economic conditions are driving things, because companies in many respects have had to cut back and when they cut back and they lay people off that doesn’t mean that the workload changes it just means that there are fewer people there to do the work. And so as I look at my own family I have three daughters; a doctor, a nurse practitioner, and an attorney, and they probably work on average 80 to 100 hours a week. So when I sat back and I started looking at the math we have 168 hours in a week. That’s what’s given to each one of us and if we’re being we’re trying to be healthy and sleep eight hours a night that reduces our waking hours to 112 hours a week. When you have a hundred and twelve hours a week but you’re only working 40 hours a week. You only have about a third of your of your waking hours at work. And so that creates a much different scenario than when you’re at 80 hours a week. When you’re at 80 hours a week you’re spending 70 percent of your waking hours working. And even if we moderate that number down to 60 hours a week you’re still spending half of your time working. And so the whole concept of work life balance shifts because of the of the time constraints and the amount of the amount of time that your that your career is sucking up.

Gary: [00:06:13] But I think there’s there’s also part of the dynamic that we have to deal with is that when I think about work life balance sort of what I picture in my mind’s eye is the scale that’s sort of evenly balanced. And that’s really not the case. I mean there may be times in our lives when when if we work on one side in our personal life on the other side that we have a balance. But I think it depends on where you are in your career. I mean I’m in my early 60s and so even though I still work a fair amount my my life is much more skewed towards spending time with my wife so spending time with my children pursuing the hobbies that I have in life as I am beginning to prepare for some sort of semi-retirement at some time in the next you know eight or 10 years. But when I was 22 years old I was spending 12 hours a day seven days a week at work and I did it for two reasons; One is that I didn’t have a family I wasn’t married didn’t have kids didn’t have any no responsibilities outside of work. So there was nothing that was keeping me from working. And number two I realized that I was in the early stages of my career and I had to establish myself in business. I had to prove to the management of the company that I knew what I was doing. I had to begin foundationally getting more education so that I could advance myself in the in the in the field that I was in. And so I think we have to be careful of that you know in looking at the dynamic so part of it is is I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think there is such a thing as work life balance anymore. It’s just life. And so when we look at trying to answer this question, I think we need to more focus on another word and that’s purpose: why are we here? And there’s a different answer to that question for everybody in the world. But why– have we really sat down and have we really taken the time to figure out why we are here and and as Steve Jobs would say what kind of a dent do we want to put in the universe? And then what does that mean in terms of our personal lives and what does it mean in terms of our corporate lives. How do we pursue the things that we’re passionate about? And how do we begin looking at answering questions like are the things that I want to accomplish in life culturally aligned with the organization that I’m working for? And if not what I’m going to do– what am I going to do about that. You know I am I really pursuing the things that are important to me in life and I think that’s where the sense of balance comes from is having that sort of unity of purpose across your entire life I don’t I don’t know if that makes sense Mike but that’s sort of my thoughts about it.

Mike: [00:09:01] Yeah that makes perfect sense. And there’s a lot in there I’ve got a couple additional follow up questions but I really I really like how you brought it back to purpose and really what kind of dent do you want to leave in the universe that quote by Steve Jobs I actually had hanging in my office and looking at it right now. A framed poster of his. “Here’s to the crazy ones” poem which is for those who aren’t familiar.

Mike: [00:09:21] “Here’s to the crazy ones the misfits the rebels the troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes the one who’s who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them disagree with them glorify or vilify them but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones we see genius because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Mike: [00:09:45] And I think that totally applies to the people who maybe find themselves in the situation where they’re trying to balance building their career capital and the responsibilities of the job that they happen to be in because I think what you’re saying is that. I totally agree there is no work life balance there’s just life and you’ve got to balance it, that’s the Asian Efficiency position as well. So asking yourself why are you in this job that you find yourself in? Is it because you need a paycheck to pay your bills? Is it or is it really contributing to your purpose and what you will that the dent you want to leave in the universe. And I think you know I’m speaking for you but what I think I hear you saying is that if it’s not in alignment with what you ultimately want your life to be about then the long term maybe this isn’t the place for you.

Gary: [00:10:35] Exactly. I think that’s exactly true. You know not only from the standpoint that it’s not helping you to achieve your purpose but that lack of alignment between who you want to be and what you want to contribute and the environment that you’re working in if there’s that if there isn’t that congruity if there isn’t that alignment. I think that creates a tremendous amount of stress and dissatisfaction for us because we that’s where we get to a point where we feel we’re pulled in directions that we weren’t designed to go in.

Mike: [00:11:06] Yeah definitely. There’s obviously a lot to unpack there in terms of alignment but let’s just say that you are in a position where you are in alignment but you still find that the work that you are doing tends to creep into your personal life. So you mentioned use the example of leave your dad in the 50s in the 60s where he left work and you left work at work because there was no way for them to say hey we need you to fix this thing real quick whereas now your boss can send you an email on a Saturday and throw off your entire day. So if you’re in a position how do you determine what boundaries are acceptable in a corporate environment? Any tips for people who kind of feel like they want to establish those boundaries but they just don’t feel… I don’t know maybe they just they just lack the courage to go up to their boss and say hey don’t do that or I’m not going to check this on a Saturday and just kind of nudge things towards the scenario where they have that life balance?

Mike: [00:12:08] You know I think I think that’s a tough question to answer Mike because it is so so individualized. And I think a lot of it has to do with when we go to work for a company what level of understanding do we have about what the responsibilities are. With my youngest daughter as an example, when she joined the law firm it was with the understanding that we’re going to give you a cell phone 24 hours a day seven days a week if their phone rings you answer it. And she accepted that because that’s what she wants to do. That’s her passion in life she is pursuing what she loves to do and being up at two o’clock in the morning to check e-mails or to get on a conference call with a client in China because it’s [2:00] o’clock in the afternoon there is perfectly OK with her that– you know her alignment is there. If it’s not there then it’s time to have a conversation with you know with your with your boss. And unfortunately it may not go well because a lot of times companies are focused not on the individual they’re focused on the bottom line and the bottom line is that the job has to get done. From that perspective, they might say yeah I understand. But as long as you’re a part of this company this is the culture this is the way we work and I’ve worked in both kinds of environments I’ve worked in environments where you don’t go home until the job is done. And if that means you have to come in on Saturdays and Sundays oh well. I’ve worked in other companies where at [6:00] or [6:30] at night as I’m sitting in my office working the president of the company comes in and says What are you doing here. Go home and be with your family.

Mike: [00:13:49] Yeah and that actually brings up another another question and it’s kind of an interesting scenario. You can probably speak more appropriately to this because you have a lot of experience working and a lot of different companies. But in my own experience it seems like a lot of the expectations that we have regarding how accessible we have to be are placed by place there by us. We have this technology we just leave the door open because we project that that’s what our boss expects. And I’m wondering how common it is for the exact scenario you just described where we think that we’re doing what our boss wants. By staying late working on this project. But they recognize that, like Asian Efficiency has always said, Thanh says it all the time, happy people are productive people and after 40 hours there’s a decrease in your effectiveness. And ultimately what they would want is for you to go spend that time with your family go work on your side project a lot of companies explicitly say that because those types of people the people who have the balance they’re more effective in the time that they are at work so I would say and maybe you can kind of respond to this that the first thing you have to do is to have that conversation and really clearly identify what are the expectations to make sure that you are seeing them correctly, would you agree?

Gary: [00:15:09] Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think you’re right. I think in many cases we’re our own worst enemy in that respect because I think that there is a tremendous misnomer out there in corporate America that the harder I work and the more hours I put in, the better things are going to be and the more notice I’m going to get from the company. But I remember I remember a conversation I had gosh it had to be 30 years ago with a fella in an organization where I was working and he had just about three months before that had gotten promoted. And literally when I got into the office in the morning he was there at his desk working away and when I went home at night he was there at his desk working away and he came to me and he said I had a really strange conversation with the guy who used to have my job. And I said What’s that? And he said well he stopped by and he said Eric why are you here? And he said well I have work to do and he said he said something really funny to me said Gee he said when I had that job I always managed to get it done in eight hours. And he turned around and walked away. And it’s like yeah. Do you see the difference here? And I think part of some of it has to relate to as I said the fact that we’re sort of jaded ourselves into believing that he who works the hardest is going to get the promotions and stuff like that. And in a lot of cases that’s not true. And it also goes to the whole thing that you know that you know you and I and the whole Asian Efficiency organization talk about and that is, there is a tremendous difference between being busy and being productive.

Mike: [00:16:45] Yeah absolutely, busyness is not necessarily equal productivity there’s a term for that. I think as Parkinson’s Law which says that work will expand to fill the amount of time that you allot it. And from a corporate productivity perspective your work is never completely done so you can’t just say OK I got my project done I’m going to leave for the day. Going back to the example where you just described the guys like I managed to get it done in eight hours. My interpretation of that is that after eight hours he probably called it a day recognizing that it’s still going to be there in the morning and I’m going to be able to pick up right where I left off and everything is going to be fine. Whereas me personally I can relate with the other guy who’s working there 12 hours even more because I get so focused on the thing that I’m doing and him that I just need to finish this. And once you finish it there’s one more thing that you have to finish. And if you’re driven that can keep you it at the office for a very long time.

Gary: [00:17:46] Well not only that but let’s think too about the time that you’re away from the office. I mean how many times have you been in a situation where when you’re at work you feel like you need to be home and when you’re at home you’re constantly thinking about work. You know we have that and that’s where the whole work life balance discussion comes in is that everything bleeds into everything else. And so we have to be we have to have mechanisms to be able to help us cope with that and to turn the switch off sometimes because especially if you work in a creative role or if you’re a constant problem solver like I was when I was working as an engineer I could leave work but I would be thinking when I was at home sitting watching the news on TV at night I’m still thinking about the problems that I’ve got going on at work or that machine that I haven’t been able to fix and what’s wrong with it and what am I going to do. And so there’s a whole bunch of little spiderwebs that sort of go out from you know from this discussion that touch so many areas of our lives not just where we’re spending our time physically but where do we spend our time emotionally.

Mike: [00:18:53] I can completely relate to that. I’ve done freelance web development in the past and I’ve basically decided that I can’t do it anymore because I’ll be working on a Web site and I’ll run into an issue and I won’t know how to solve it. And usually I can Google and find some forums of other people who applied the fix that I’m looking to do and apply that myself. On a code level, I’m not I don’t know enough code to just manufacture it from scratch but I can always find a way to do what I’m doing. But when when it’s time to quit if I haven’t solved that problem I will think about it. It will keep me up at night. I’ll be up at 2 or 3 in the morning figuring out you know how do I get the hover effect to apply on my portfolio page.

Gary: [00:19:32] Exactly. Exactly.

Mike: [00:19:34] So I’m curious you mentioned when you started working you put in the long hours to advance your career and it kind of sounds like you’ve kind of changed your perspective since then and I’m wondering if you could go back and give some advice to younger you what would you tell yourself? Are you happy that you invested the time at the beginning, or do you think that maybe you didn’t really understand the whole concept of balance?

Gary: [00:20:01] I think I would go back and do the same thing over again because it’s sort of I look at it from the standpoint of almost like a financial investment. You know you’ve probably seen– the read the materials or seen the financial people talk about it and you know they talk about if you invested $10000 when you were 20 years old and waited until you were 65 to touch it versus if you waited for 10 years and you didn’t invest that $10000 until when you were 30. The results, the difference of that 10 years cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the accumulated interest that you got on that $10000 for the first 10 years. And I think it’s the same way with the career, that you have to be willing especially when you’re when you’re just getting out of school and you’re wet behind the ears and you really don’t know what you’re doing. You have to dig in and figure things out and begin to you know begin to build that foundation for your career and I think the foundation if it’s built properly you know really becomes the launching pad for the rocket that becomes your career. And I know personally the things that I learned in the first five or six years that I was out of college and it wasn’t just a matter of investing the time I was very very fortunate to have good mentors around me who were you know willing to, off the clock, teach me the things that I needed to know and as an example there was one fellow that I worked with who was also in the engineering department but he had come up the other way. He started out as an apprentice toolmaker, became a master toolmaker, was a tool room supervisor and eventually worked his way into engineering and after I’d been working in his department for maybe a month. One day he came to me and said Gary come have lunch with me and we were sitting in the cafeteria at work and he said you know he said you’ve got the book learning and you’re intelligent. But he said I’ve got the practical side of engineering and he said I’m 63 years old I’m going to retire in a couple of years. He said if you’re willing to kind of grab onto my belt loops and follow me around for a couple of years I will teach you the practical side of engineering. And my immediate response was oh where did you say those belt loops were? And I learned I learned more from his name was Elmer and I learned more from Elmer in two years and I have learned in the rest of my life about engineering and how to make things. And so I think that depending on what you’re doing for me anyway it was the right choice because it gave me that leg up you know and especially once I moved from engineering into operations management and I began running manufacturing operations. I knew enough about what was going on that I knew the right questions to ask and I knew somebody was trying to you know it was trying to blow smoke at me and I was able to find you know find those things out really really quickly. And so for me it was the right decision. But I think again I think it’s a very individual thing for other people just kind of slow and steady wins the race. You know can be can be very good but it all depends on what you want out of life and it gets back again to that conversation about what’s your purpose. What are you trying to do. My goal has always been to be the best that I can be at what I do. And now for the past 18 almost 19 years I’ve been running my own company working as a business consultant working as a business coach and all of those years that I pushed hard have really paid off in spades because I have the ability to relate to people and I’m a good problem solver and I know what questions to ask and it just really really worked well for me.

Mike: [00:23:49] Yeah. I think that the key here is what you just said. What is your purpose. I ask that question because I personally believe that you’re 100 percent correct that your situation isn’t necessarily unique. If you know where you want to end up if you have that vision and you know that where you are right now maybe it’s not perfect maybe it’s not exactly where you want to be but it is in alignment with where you how you’re going to get to the future that you want. Then there are going to be seasons where you’re going to have to push through some things. I wrote a book called “Thou shalt hustle” and the definition of hustle that I use is to force to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction. And you can break it down into three components. You’ve got the force or the work and that’s what most people see that is the long hours. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be at a job it could be working on a side project it could be it could be working on anything but that’s the busyness if you’re not careful. If that’s not directed in the proper direction, which is where the rest of it comes in to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in the specified direction if you don’t start with that vision then you can’t make sure that what you are doing is actually hitting the mark and that’s where I think there’s a lot of opportunity for burnout so I kind of use the analogy of you’re going on a trip, you get in the car you’re not going to just get in the car and drive. You’re going to unless you’re going on a road trip I guess. But you’re going to start with the destination. And then once you have a destination you can plan your rout. And then once you know where you’re going how you’re going to get there. That’s when you get in the car and you drive and you know you’re going to encounter road construction, there is going to be detours. But if you don’t have that strong vision, the strong why, the purpose like you were talking about, then it’s easy to give up on those things and say oh this you know this is hard. So I guess it isn’t meant to be. But when you have that vision and you have that purpose clear and in front of front of mind all the time then you can that can help you overcome a lot of those obstacles so I think that’s probably the first tip– you have a section here on how to avoid burnout. But do you have any other tips to make sure that you you don’t burn out with what you’re doing and you make sure that you’re connected to that purpose or that vision?

Gary: [00:26:06] Yeah I think that I think that staying connected to it is you know is constantly keeping it in front of you. I mean we all have. We all have days when we wake up and we think Lord why am I doing this. You know and we end and the problem is when you don’t have a purpose you don’t have an answer to that question. And I think we need to constantly reinforce ourselves, I mean one of the things that I do as I have a mission statement and I read that mission statement out loud every morning. It it just is a constant reminder of here’s who I am and here’s what I’m doing here’s why I’m here, and it’s not that it’s not going to change over the years, it will, because I think that one of the things that we struggle with is that when we’re in our early career when we’re in our 20s and 30s, the things that are important to us in life at that point are not the same things that are important to us as we get older. And so we have to realize that it is a dynamic process and that it’s something that we have to revisit and revalidate every so often to say OK this is what I said is really important to me is it’s still important. And for me it’s been a process of continuing to focus in so it’s like I’ve gone you know it’s just like changing magnifiers on a microscope. You know you go you get narrower in and narrow in and narrow in and just focus focus focus focus as you go through your life. And you know we still stay focused in the same general direction but it becomes much more specific. So I think that you know I think that doing that is important. The other thing that I think is is really really critical and this is one of the discussions we have on the dojo a lot and that is focusing on your highest priorities, because I think that so much of the time we get caught up in the busyness of our careers and again we get into this whole trap of thinking that activity equals productivity or that activity equals results when it doesn’t. And so we have to be very very careful about where we’re investing our time and to make sure that we’re majoring on the majors and not majoring on the minors and always be looking for things especially if you get into a management role. Look for those things that where do I need to focus and what can I do? As far as either not doing other stuff or delegating stuff to you know to other people so that I stay focused on the things that are that are part of what I’m passionate about that’s part of what I’m good at and that’s what’s going to drive the organization and my career forward.

Mike: [00:28:46] I really like what you talked about, that you mentioned the evolving focus. How your your focus will will change as you progress in your career path. And I’m curious how did you know when the evolution was the thing– Like you mentioned you started off as an engineer so I’m sure you started there and then there was one thing that was kind of related but not really that you you identify that this is the thing that I’m going to do and then that led to another similar decision which eventually led to you in the position you are now where you’re coaching both personal individuals and businesses, so I’m curious from your own personal experience any tips for identifying when to make those those shifts in your focus? Not just to go in a different direction but to identify when one of those like offshoots for example, how do I determine if that really is the right thing?

Gary: [00:29:39] Boy that’s an interesting topic and I can talk about that for hours I think. You know I think for me, some of it has just been following the logical progression of things. And I know you wouldn’t think about it it wouldn’t even occur to you because of the way you and I are talking right now. Well one of the reasons there are two reasons that I became an engineer one is because I was fascinated with how to design and make things. The other reason I became an engineer is because I hated people, and machines and processes don’t argue with you. And I wanted to stay away from that, but I learned fairly early on in my career that if I was going to I was going to have to do one of two things I was either going to have to commit myself to staying on the engineering pathway, never being in a management role getting to a senior engineering role and be happy with that. Or I was going to have to learn how to deal with people, and pursue a career in some sort of management. And I think initially the thing that was driving me there was financially because you know at that time I had three small children and I was looking and saying how am I going to put these kids through school and you know get them through college and grad school, if they want to go there. And what am I going to do about retirement? And so a lot of it at least initially was driven by a desire for money. And so I did that and I got up to a point where I was working as an engineering manager and a director of engineering. And then I had an opportunity to move into an operations role– the vice president of operations who I was reporting to, got fired. And the next day the president was in my office saying you’ve got the skills, do you want to move over and take over operations which I did. And that turned out to be a great decision because it really ignited my passion and it got to a point where yeah I was making good money so the financial equation was satisfied but I was doing what I really love to do and that was being out on the manufacturing floor working with people helping to solve problems getting to know people figuring out what it is that they wanted helping them achieve their dreams and helping to guide their career paths. And that was what really really drove me. And then I got to a point where I guess the next big change in my career was going from working for other people to working myself working for myself. And when I originally did that I sat down with my wife and I talked to her about starting my own business and she said well why is it that you want to do that? And I said because I have a message to share.That’s bigger than what I can do working for somebody else. And so from that point forward it’s been sharing the years of knowledge that I have in sharing that larger message and building a bigger platform in that bigger sphere of influence.

Mike: [00:32:38] That’s really good. And that comes back to the whole idea of passion because you mentioned you found the thing that you’re really passionate about. Most people I would argue who are in that situation where they’re like oh I wish I could do this. But if you view it that way you’re probably never going to get there because a lot of people view passion as something that you like to do. And now maybe you’re in a position where you really do enjoy what you do. I can say that for myself but when I started off on my path to join Asian Efficiency it’s not– First of all not how I saw it playing out. But second of all I didn’t set out to do the thing that I really enjoyed doing that was kind of a byproduct in fact that the word for passion is pati- which literally means “to suffer” so I would say that passion is the thing that is in your heart to do that. It literally hurts you to not have it done and that if you if you have that vision of now in my instance it was it was the book you know I never considered myself a writer. But I had this passion and this vision this purpose I needed to get this thing out. It hurt me to keep it inside. So that led to one thing, led to another, lead to me getting connected with Asian Efficiency, and eventually finding it being joining the team full time creating content for the Dojo, the products, helping out with the productivity show stuff like that things I never really pictured myself getting to but it started with that that passion where there’s this thing that I just have to make sure that this gets done. And I think that there’s probably a lot of people who are in a corporate situation specifically where they’re kind of just waiting for their big break the opportunity to come where they can just do the thing that they really enjoy. And I would say and I’m curious to get your response to this statement if you find yourself in that position then just start because that keeping that inside is going to create this tension and it’s going to make you unsatisfied unfulfilled. But I know this is something that you put here that no matter what your situation there is almost always potential for growth. So if you can’t find that in your specific situation then it’s usually your own fault because you’re not putting anything out there.

Gary: [00:35:06] I couldn’t agree more with that. With that Mike, and I think that’s really really true. I mean are there some circumstances where just because of the way the company culture that you reach a point where you can’t go any further? Yeah I suppose. Don’t I don’t think we can exclusively say that that’s not true. But I think that in most cases there’s room for growth. But as you said in your expressed it beautifully that if you’re if you’re sitting back and waiting for something to happen – My question is, what are you waiting for? Get out there and do something. You know and it’s funny. I happen to be I happen to be a spiritual person I’m a Christian and I remember years ago a fellow who I was a partner with in business he lived in Illinois. I live here in Connecticut and I remember talking to him on the phone and saying to him you know I’m really praying about this one particular thing. Well you know what I should be doing and stuff like that. And he said that’s great Gary. And you should be. But he said let me ask you a question. He said have you ever pictured God sitting on his throne in heaven looking down at you and saying I would bless him if he would just do something, you know, we have got to be willing to take that risk, we have got to be willing to step out, and show some initiative in developing the things that you know that we’re passionate about. And yeah there may be there may be some constraints that you have to deal with. May maybe some dialogue that you have to have with senior management to say listen I really see an opportunity here. May I have your permission to dive in, and at least do some background work on this but those are the kinds of things that we need to do, and I think that this whole concept of growing also sort of gets back and has its foundation in personal development. Do we have the ability as people to be brutally honest with ourselves and look at things from the viewpoint of where are the gaps? Here is where I am here is where I have a vision or a passion for being, what’s the gulf that’s in between? And what skills do I need to develop, what experience do I need to have in order to be able to be preparing myself and moving down that pathway? So I think it starts with personal development, and a lot of times personal development will get you noticed by the management of the company as they see you changing and it could very well opens a very very interesting doors for you.

Mike: [00:37:38] Yeah absolutely. Jim Rohn had a quote that I really liked he said “your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

Gary: [00:37:47] Oh amen, that is so powerful and I love Jim Rohn.

Mike: [00:37:53] You mentioned at the beginning of that having that discussion with your boss, your manager and really I think that communication piece is really important. So we’ve kind of come full circle and I know we started off with that. Have that difficult conversation and just identify whether there is actually room for growth in this situation or not but let’s kind of flip the script now I know there’s a lot of people who listen to the show who are entrepreneurs so maybe from an organizational perspective what can they do to make sure that their employees are fulfilled and they’re growing personally and professionally?

Gary: [00:38:29] Well I think there’s a number of things that they can do. And one of my one of my favorite people in the entrepreneurial field is Steve Jobs. I studied Steve a lot and although he could be brutal at times, I think he had many many of the key ingredients that good entrepreneurs have. I think the first one is be available to your people. And it’s it’s not just a matter of — how many times have you heard you know how management by walking around and I have an open door policy. All those things are good. But I think even more importantly than that it’s attitude. Do you have the kind of attitude that anybody in the organization can approach you for any reason at all and know in their heart of hearts that they’re welcome and that they’re not putting you out you know that sort of thing so I think it’s you know it’s really that true emotional availability to people. Get to know your people. And a lot of times people will say well I just don’t have time for that. Listen a number of years ago I ran an $80 billion business with 150 people spread spread across three shifts. I knew every one of those people I knew their husbands I knew their wives I knew their children I knew the things that they were struggling with in life. I knew what was going well and what was not going well. I knew their struggles on the job because I was willing to spend 60 70 80 percent of my time out in the operation with them getting to know them working side by side with them and building the trust to a point where they would open up and share with me, and that gave me a much greater understanding of how can I help these people. And what is it that they want to do? What are their capabilities what are their passions? And within the framework of what the company has to offer what can I do to help them become the people that they’re really interested in becoming because if I can do that they will stay here and they will do a great job for me for the rest of their careers. And that was that was my whole approach. You know sort of hand in hand learn what motivates them and what drives them what do they want from work? What do they want from life? Listen to them. That is really really critical. In fact I was listening to a video earlier today and it was actually part of a health care organization training system and one of the fellows in there who was a personal care attendant when they asked him what his success what he attributed his success to as a personal care attendant he said listen twice as much as you talk because because he said it. And he said don’t just listen for what’s being said. Listen for what’s not being said. Watch the body language when people are communicating with you and realize that success in life is based on your ability to communicate with other people and communicating with people starts with you know as Stephen Covey said you know seek first to understand then to be understood. And I think that’s one of the problems especially when you live in a fast paced world when somebody is asking you a question are you legitimately listening for the question and trying to understand where the person’s coming from and what’s driving the question or have you already started to formulate the answer in your mind before the questions even been completed. You know that’s a good test. If you find yourself grasping for those answers or thinking about the answers before you really heard the question that’s a sign you’re not a good communicator. Some other things encourage people to you know to innovate. You know Steve Jobs’ approach to things was not the best person wins it’s the best idea wins. And that’s what we want is we want to encourage people to innovate and give them the freedom to fail. It’s OK to fail if you’re learning from your failures. I always used to tell people who worked for me when I was a manager go out there and fail. It’s OK because if you’re if you’re not failing you’re not. You’re not pushing the envelope. You’re not trying. It’s ok to fail. I will never ever never give you a hard time for failing. The only time I will give you a hard time is is when you keep making the same mistake over and over again because that’s telling you you’re not learning from your mistakes but as long as you’re learning from your mistakes and moving forward that’s ok we can we can work with that. Connect the people to your customers. Back in 2000 I want to say it was 2014. I wrote a book called “The Customer Conundrum” and one of the things that I focused on was that a customer centric business is first an employee centric business. You can’t expect people to take care of your customers until they know you’re taking care of them. And in many of my organizations I’ve built that sort of employees centric customer focused team to a point where we when we would have a customer come in to deal with a problem with one of the things that we were manufacturing for them I would put them out on the floor with my people and they would say well we can talk to you now you need to talk to so-and-so because they’re the expert when it comes to your product. And it worked out beautifully that way and it really got that people engaged with the customer and understanding what it was that the customer needs. And that’s what we want to do. I mean our goal is to get you know to get people engaged and keep them engaged in the things that are going on. I read a statistic at one point you know within the past two or three years it says only one out of every nine employees and businesses today are really engaged with and care about the business and that’s a travesty if you’ve got less. You know if you know if you got nominally 10 percent of the people in your organization who really care about what’s going on that’s a tremendous condemnation of the leadership of the business and the way they’re doing things. And again as I said before. Communicate communicate communicate constantly communicate with your people. And for me that means running an open book business. Everybody knows everything because they’re entitled to know that and I realize in some cases when you’re dealing with a publicly traded company there are things you can and can’t say. But as much as you possibly can let your people know what’s going on in the business the good the bad and the ugly and most importantly let them know how they can help.

Mike: [00:45:03] Yeah definitely. I really like the tip that you mentioned make sure that they’re connected to their customers. That’s something that we do at Asian Efficiency. Everybody deals with customer support because Thanh wants everyone in the team to know what problems the customers are having so that we can help solve them and also have a pulse on what they’re dealing with because the better we understand their their problems the better we are able to craft solutions for those problems. So that means that I’m in there answering help scout tickets. I’m in the dojo which is one of the things I really like about the dojo is you have direct access to a lot of the customers and you can understand their situation and their stories which is kind of where a lot of these podcast episodes are coming from. So so important and it just adds a whole nother dimension to the work that that you do. The other thing I really wanted to touch on here you mentioned communication a lot. Another quote I really liked by George Bernard Shaw is that the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. And I just want to add that from a from a from a boss’s perspective or a business owners perspective that means that the onus is on you to make sure that your vision is communicated. I was at the Sean West Conference last year and Sean McCabe mentioned that you know you’ve communicated your vision when you hear people say it back to you in their own voice. You know they’re not just regurgitating what you have given them they’re not just reciting this thing that they’ve memorized but they have internalized it and they are able to communicate your vision to you. But that doesn’t mean that just because you say something once the once you communicate the vision to your team one time that they’re I’ve communicated there is a lot more that has to happen in order for that to really be internalized I think the tendency can be to just check that box off and your task manager there I told the team we had this meeting. They know my vision. Not necessarily. And then also that’s not just a management level, CEO level skill communication really is getting into the whole area of soft skills which was another point on this outline so you want to talk a little bit about how developing those soft skills is how that is so important and how that can actually help you advance in your career no matter where you find yourself.

Gary: [00:47:19] Yeah I mean I I’m firmly of the opinion that soft skills are everything in business today. You have to have the ability to get along and communicate with everybody in the organization from the janitor all the way up to the boardroom and communicate with them on their level and with their level of understanding. You know you’re doomed if you don’t know how to work with it effectively communicate with people because that’s what makes the world go round. And and I think one of the biggest flaws that I see in leadership or management today is those people who manage everybody with one style and it doesn’t work that way. You know you have to and there are. There are situations that I’ve been in where I manage everybody individually because I know who they are and I know what they’ll respond to. But it’s also caring for the people. I mean there are some people that if they make a mistake and they need to know they need to correct it I can go out and literally now verbal a kick him in the butt and say listen you know better than this get out there and get it done. And they will charge often and get it done. But I could turn around to another person in a similar situation and if I treated him the same way the guy would be sitting in his office in tears for three hours. What he needs for me is to come up and put my arm around him and say Hey Mike come on you’ve got this man I’ll work with I’ll work through it with you. We’re going to do this together. And he will respond to that. And so you know developing those skills learning to read people and read situations. And one of the other things that I preached a lot about is be astute. Always have your antenna up you know looking for things that are going on and whenever it’s possible get out in front of the train wreck before it happens. If you see it happening don’t ignore it and think that it’s going to go away– fix it before you know it before you know the little firecracker becomes an atom bomb and rips your organization apart. And again tying back to soft skills are part of personal development. You know do you know have you read books like you know like Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends And Influence People”? You know do you take advantage of those communications seminars and things like that and there are tons of them out there that are very very good to develop those skills and to fill the gaps in so that you really know how to relate to other people and then you get out there and practice practice practice practice until it becomes something that really becomes a habit with you it just becomes very very natural. And that’s one of the things especially if you’re an entrepreneur is really critical. Do you have the ability do you have a good enough read on people that you can meet somebody and within four or five minutes of talking to somebody instantly establish a rapport with that individual. If you could do that you’re going to be successful as an entrepreneur if you can’t you’re going to struggle for a long time. That’s that’s really good. I want to respect your time so we’ll wrap it up here. But before we go, are there any other additional resources that you would recommend for people maybe they want to develop soft skills or just interested in personal growth in particular and then also where can people go to connect with you if they want to they want to continue this conversation?

Gary: [00:50:40] OK well. On the you know the soft skill side of things there would be several resources that I would recommend. One I’ve already mentioned which is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. There’s another program I don’t know if it’s still available or not but it’s an excellent one. It was by Earl Nightingale called “Lead the Field”. And it’s a very very good thing and you know not only in personal development but in soft skills. And the last one that I would recommend. And this is funny because we were talking about Jim Rohn earlier and I remember watching a video of a Jim Rohn seminar where he had a couple of hundred people in the room and Jim as you know was an advocate of continual learning and reading and studying and there was a fellow sitting in the front row and he said Jim you’ve talked about you know the importance of reading and learning and stuff like that he said would you give me the top four or five books on your list that we should read and he said Jim looked at him and he said I’ll give you the first one and that will take you a while. And he said what’s that? And he said the Bible. And the fellow the fellow you know sort of was taken aback by it and he said the Bible isn’t a business book. And Jim said Oh really? He said well let’s make the assumption that that’s true he said it isn’t. But let’s make the assumption that’s true he said. Even if the Bible is not a business book the Bible is a book that will develop you into a person who has a heart to be successful in business. So that would those would be the top three things that I would that I would recommend as far as where people can connect with me that can go to my website which is Optechs dot com that’s o p t e c h s dot com. They can connect with me on Twitter. It’s Twitter dot com forward slash Optechs or Facebook Facebook dot com forward slash optechsonline, and you can also search for Optechs on LinkedIn, I’m there as well. I’m on the dojo as you mentioned earlier Mike, I’m on the dojo frequently so people can private message me there and I’m more than happy to communicate and help anybody in any way that I can.

Mike: [00:52:53] Excellent well we will definitely include links to all of those resources that you mentioned including your book you mentioned customer conundrum. So if you got a link to that we’ll put that in the show notes as well. Yeah like you mentioned another place that people can go to connect with you is the dojo which is the Asian Efficiency online productivity community where Gary is an active member. In fact that’s how we got connected. So if you want to access the Asian Efficiency team if you want to access a comprehensive video library of exclusive productivity training courses and some of the smartest and most supportive people on the planet then you’ll definitely want to check out the dojo and as a podcast listener you can actually sign up for the dojo and get access to everything that the dojo offers including the private Slack team and software discounts on some of our favorite apps for only $1 for the first month and the URL to get that special $1 offer is theproductivityshow.com/dojo. After the first month its only $29 a month and you can cancel at any time so if you want to join in the conversation if you want to take advantage of the special $1 offer which is again only for podcast listeners, then go to theproductivityshow.com/dojo, and don’t forget that you can find links to everything that we shared and discussed in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/140. So thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next productive Monday.

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