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#036 - Nine Lies About Work Series: Lie #4
Episode 3612th April 2021 • Wanna Grab Coffee? • Robert Greiner, Charles Knight, Igor Geyfman
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Today we continue our discussion on the Nine Lies About Work book series with Lie #4 The Best People are Well Rounded.

We talk about the tradeoffs of investing in your strengths instead of weaknesses and how leaders can work to build an exceptional team through mobilizing the diverse strengths of those around them.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at hello@wannagrabcoffee.com.

Transcripts

Igor Geyfman 0:05

It's pretty binary sort of reactions. Like, I was feeling great. And then I was feeling really crummy, and now I'm great again.

Robert Greiner 0:11

How long after you got the shot? Did it take for you to start to feel crummy?

Igor Geyfman 0:14

I started feeling it and maybe four hours after, but then I took a nap and went away. And I was like, oh, man, maybe I just had a super mild reaction to the vaccine. I was like, really stoked. And then when I woke up Monday morning, I was just like a goner. It was bad.

Robert Greiner 0:28

We didn't plan this well. But Diane and I are getting our second vaccine Thursday of next week at the same time, and I'm hoping that

Charles Knight 0:37

You've, you've got you've got in laws to kind of help their kids.

Robert Greiner 0:40

They are out of town. Yeah, otherwise, it'd be fine. We would just maybe just leave them there for a day or two. But I think we'll be okay.

Charles Knight 0:48

I did that too. I got vaccinated on the day that I picked up the kids for spring break. And if I'm laid out for a day that they know how to make themselves cereal, they can have cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I was fine. Yeah, mostly fine. Yeah. Yep. Yep. Yep.

All right.

Let me shut down some stuff to minimize CPU usage.

Robert Greiner 1:10

Yeah. How's that new computer looking? You're gonna get one

Charles Knight 1:14

and I keep forgetting. Let me just ping Louis right now.

Robert Greiner 1:17

It's kind of mind boggling how difficult capturing audio is. Sounds like your typing speed has increased as well. Charles?

Igor when's your Ugmonk coming?

Igor Geyfman 1:27

End of the month. It was backordered.

Charles Knight 1:30

What did you call it?

Ugmonk.

Robert Greiner 1:31

That's the company. I was very productive today.

Charles Knight 1:34

Well done. Well done, man. All right. Out of slack.

Robert Greiner 1:38

You should get a Mac book

Charles Knight 1:39

me? Yeah, it's time is it is time to join the club.

Maybe? Okay, I'm ready to go guys. Whenever

Robert Greiner 1:46

we're recording.

Charles Knight 1:47

So what are we gonna talk about? If we're not, if not the lie?

Robert Greiner 1:52

Yeah. Let's wait till next week to talk line number four. Because, Igor, if you want to,

Igor Geyfman 1:56

we can riff on it. If y'all want. I just usually I reread the chapter right before but I did not. But the lie is the best people are well rounded. Did you read the chapter? Robert?

Robert Greiner 2:08

Yeah,

Igor Geyfman 2:08

maybe maybe you take my role this time? And then I can I can take the the middle roll?

Robert Greiner 2:13

Yeah, I actually. Yeah, I really liked this chapter. So I think that we are just going to look at my notes real quick. Yeah, I think we could totally talk about this and have a good conversation still, is, my mind already jumps to certain topics that I feel are connected to this, even though I haven't read the chapter and what will be.

Okay. So we'll start with the lie, a little bit of what the truth around it is, and some of the examples and I think we'll get into a good conversation pretty quickly, I think, and I liked this chapter. So the lies, the best people are well rounded. And again, it's on the surface, it's not really what you might think the truth and want to make sure I get this right. The lie is the best people are well rounded. And the truth is that the best people are spiky, I think is what they say. I was trying to find just real quick.

Igor Geyfman 3:02

Yeah, that's basically the premise. Right, is that they're in favor of specialists, rather than generalists in the book.

Robert Greiner 3:10

Yeah, and maybe not even the the word specialists. Oh, hold on one sec, though, because I really should not spend a spike, or like swinging into the day, what they really are saying is, you need people who have these quirky, harsh strengths, right? Like, really good strengths that they can build on and lean into, and also mitigates maybe some weaknesses. And then you build a team or an organization around lots of people with diverse interests and strengths. And in aggregate, they're like really good, which I tend to, like agree with, let me just do this real quick. I just want to make sure I'm getting it right.

Charles Knight 3:43

I'm gonna withhold my questions until we really get started here. But yeah, this is good.

Robert Greiner 3:48

this is the

truth that people are spiky. I can't oh my gosh, what is wrong with me? Yeah, the best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spiciness, they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth and ultimately, their greatest joy. So, to start off, the book talks about Lionel Messi, who's arguably the best soccer player to ever live or for our international listeners, listeners, football player. And Charles, you know who this guy is? I know Igor does, okay. So this guy is not who you would, based on his physical attributes is not who you would think would be the best soccer player to ever live because he's shorter. And then he's well under six feet, not quite built out, like a soccer player is built out, but he's like, ultra quick, and over time has really been one of the most prolific scores like is on all the highlight reels, wins all the awards and is generally phenomenal. And when you watch him play, he's on another level. Even if you don't know anything about soccer. He was like, This guy looks differently than the other ones. And it turns out he does like everything with his left foot. He rarely uses his right foot and everybody knows he's gonna try to dribble pass you using his foot and they adapt for it. And he does it anyway. So he's like that good. And so the idea here is you can't build a prototypical design of what it takes to be a phenomenal soccer player, and apply that to people and have it work because people like Lionel Messi, show you that mold breaks down. Does that make sense?

Charles Knight 5:22

Yeah, Yeah, it does.

Robert Greiner 5:24

Cool. And I have some thoughts against that. But that's really basically the idea here is you have people that you can't fit into, you should not try to fit people into this rigid structure of performance management and analysis on these basic categories, which may or may not make sense. And try to evaluate them against those categories. When the idea is, you're gonna get the most out of people using their strengths, their core strengths and building off of those, and those are more spiky, versus being well rounded. And the book also takes a bit of a swing, and it doesn't make sense to just try to get better at your weaknesses, and downplay your strengths. You should really be leaning into your strengths.

Charles Knight 6:05

Yeah, that's consistent with what we've talked about, with the perma v discussion late last year around, lean into your strings, use your strengths to overcome some professionally detracting weaknesses. And yeah, okay.

Robert Greiner 6:19

And they actually use the word signature strengths. So I highlighted this because it ties into one of our prior podcast episodes. But this is a quote from the book. So as we've seen, what's most striking when we look at excellent performance is not the absence of deficit, but rather the presence of a few signature strengths honed over time, and put to ever greater use.

Charles Knight 6:41

Yes, this kind of leads to the questions that are running through my head. Is the book here in terms of well rounded and spiky? Are they talking about? I think you said it, they're talking about strengths as opposed to expertise. Is that right? As opposed to?

Robert Greiner 6:59

I think those are one of the same

Charles Knight 7:01

is that you say the same or

Igor Geyfman 7:03

I think they use them interchangeably?

Robert Greiner 7:06

That's a better way to say, Yeah,

Charles Knight 7:07

They use them interchangeably. I think they're very different, though. I'm curious. what you all think, because expert to me, being an expert, is when they define spiky, what am I trying to ask here? What is spiky mean? It's having a few character strrengths that stand out and set their definition of it.

Robert Greiner 7:27

So the idea of spikiness is that a, it's it's like a strength, right? It's a, maybe what's a good way to say it, their area of biggest contribution, right, like a unique mix of traits and skills, which like, allow you to cultivate and grow your experience. So the idea is, we don't, we're not well served, or humans don't try to find fulfillment in their uniform ability, right? Like they're were not fulfilled by us, raising our weaknesses, but rather, growing and doubling down our strengths, which, because we're human strengths are unique. Even you take something relatively fixed, like soccer, the best players in the world play soccer differently. And the outcomes are goals, assists, you're looking at outcomes of exceptional soccer players, not they can't really kick very hard with the right foot. And so the same thing, the same analog they're saying applies to the business world.

Charles Knight 8:28

Yeah. I think going back to what we talked about in the last episode about the lie, there's, you need both, you need spikiness. And I would say you need well roundedness, too. And I think the challenge for leaders is to help our team members identify and cultivate their spiciness, but also to make the well rounded in areas where it's professionally detracting of kind of what we talked about before. Yeah,

Robert Greiner 8:58

totally agree there. And they didn't really cover that they did say, as a leader, it's your job to help understand and maximize the strengths of others. So there's alignment there didn't really get into the what got you here won't get you there moments. But even the book, what got you here won't get you there by Marshall Goldsmith talks about these like 20 bad habits that can derail your career, and essentially makes the recommendation, like, first of all, the assertion is, you had these quirks which actually helped you get to where you are. So you always have the right answer. You always first to have the right answer. At some point, that's not a good thing. As a leader, and or in a career, when you get a leadership role. It's not a good thing. And so it can become a bad habit that can derail your career. But Marshall Goldsmith recommends Don't worry about fixing these unless they're detracting and so I think in the book, it's the same thing where keep focusing on your strengths, right? Some of the best homerun hitters in baseball, they never they have the worst batting averages, but they really can change the game with the swing of the bat, or maybe they're not very fast, but you need that specific skill set. So you accept more strikeouts. And so I think if we're not talking about these career limiting detracting behaviors, then that's okay. Because the idea then would be as a leader, you have people with certain strengths and weaknesses, you want everybody maximizing their strengths, that leads to job satisfaction that leads to growth that leads to better output and performance. And your ability to help cultivate and enable that as a leader is really important. not focusing so much time and energy on growing the deficits, which we, which they would argue we spend too much time focusing on.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, have a quick couple of questions that come to mind is whether it's spiky, or well rounded, which is a metaphor, the analogy that the book is trying to talk about in terms of people's growth and development. Because that those are, it's used to describe where people should grow and develop as like, do you push out your spike even further from the center? Or do you push out those low areas to become more of a curve as opposed to a spike? It's all about growth and development of people. And that's what the spike in the well roundedness are meant to cover. It's very similar to what we talked about at our company about generalists and specialists. Do you all see those as similar to me? They're very different, like spiky and well rounded, generalist specialists. They're all different. I don't like that. They're saying that strengths and expertise are interchangeable. I think it's too much of an oversimplification. But do you agree with the Do you see the specialist generalist debate? The same thing as the spiky, well rounded debate?

Robert Greiner:

No, not really. Now, this is around people bringing their diverse set of strengths to a team, and really railing against the trying to normalize people into this rigid structure. This one size fits all performance structure, which measures things that are really hard to measure. So then it becomes subjective. So it doesn't really get into specialists versus generalists. I don't think they tried to either like I don't think those things are conflated. It's really more around bringing your key strengths to a team.

Igor Geyfman:

That's what I got out of it got out of it, too. And they I don't know if they use the word generalists, either they, they think well rounded versus spiky.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, no, that's I get that's what the book says. I get that's what the book says. But remember, we talked about last time that we'll just accept the book at face value, acknowledge the polarity, and then apply that to what leaders should do for their teams. And I'm trying to just understand your both of your individual perspectives on what is the difference between the specialist in generals debate and the spiking, well rounded debate, if at all?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, I don't, I don't think there's a specialist generals debate here. The idea about being well rounded, says that people are judged on this one size fits all list of categories. And the emphasis for career growth or for fitting in at an organization or where the organization puts its energy is forcing people expecting people to raise their lowest points, not to double down on their strengths. And to your point that there's a balance there for sure, especially with career limiting career, detracting behaviors, but at the end of the day, that's what they mean by the pursuit of well roundedness in an organization is lowering, or is raising the lowest points in performance.

Charles Knight:

This leads to just boring people. All right, like we're trying to mold. Yeah, right. I get that.

Igor Geyfman:

But I think for a lot of companies, that's very reassuring, because it creates companies think of people as resources. And it helps them treat their resources as fungible the same way that they could take a some sort of robot that mounts tires and replace it with another robot that mounts tires and have the expectation of similar performance. It gives, creating an army of clones gives companies a feeling of predictability, which a lot of companies conflate with safety.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, which is very much a kind of industrial mentality.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And the world, just simply

it doesn't work. That way. Things don't work. That way you make up for this massive collection of strengths across the team, and then hope what you're hoping over time, or what you're measuring for, or calibrating for over time, is that the strengths of any one individual are offset by are the weaknesses of any one individual offset by the strength of another, which we've talked about before. That's what we essentially try to do is surround ourselves with people that are good at the things that we're not as a way to mitigate. So you can mitigate the weakness with other humans not asking the person weak at something to level up. And also, if you're doubling down on the strength, and I do definitely agree with this point, when you observe excellence, you're not observing well roundedness, you're observing world class performance on a dimension and I think that's, that goes for careers too. That's where you can get the most growth and, and uplift and make the most impact when you're getting multiples of return on your strengths.

Charles Knight:

I think they're there. I think it depends on the type of work that companies are expecting of individuals. And I think, Igor, I think that's what you were trying to point to. I think, Robert, your point makes a lot of sense when you think about knowledge work, which is the world that we live in that absolutely you don't want a cog in a machine. You want unique experiences and perspectives, because that's required to create value from knowledge work, but I'm sure there are places where it is appropriate and makes sense. I don't know. Like when you're dealing with nuclear power reactors, maybe where you want such repeatability and redundancy and safety and that everything is rigid, and you must follow things to a tee. And it requires a very specific individual and skill set and personality. But that's not the world we live in. And I don't think that's the

Robert Greiner:

that's not the world that most people live in.

Charles Knight:

Oh, I don't know about that.

Robert Greiner:

You don't think so?

I think most people act that way. I don't think that reflects the reality, though.

Igor Geyfman:

Can we do a little thought experiment? Question?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah,

Igor Geyfman:

let's say that as somebody that you know, and love has to go in for a, let's say, like a specific surgery, like a shunt, or something like that. So some serious surgery that they're going to have to get opened up and so on. And would you recommend that they go and have a surgeon that's performed, like 1000 surgeries, or 1000, shunt surgeries, obviously, the ladder, and that's a, there's a joke on the, in the medical community, it's like a left hand versus right hand surgery specialist, right. Like they get really specific and specialized in in their strength. So most of the time you would want all the time, right, you would want the one that's done 1000 of the thing that you need, not just general expertise in areas that may or may not apply to you. Yeah, but sometimes there's something that goes wrong, that has nothing to do with the specific system that's being operated on. And that surgeon, you know, the specialist surgeon might have a really hard time handling that, as opposed to a surgeon that's had a broader exposure to to different body systems.

Robert Greiner:

Let me add to that. So we just talked, we've talked about chick fil a multiple times, on the podcast, the cooking of the exact same chicken sandwich and delivering it to customers is, could be classified as a very kind of rote, reductionist straightforward endeavor. Charles, just like you were talking about the way that they do it around customer service, and food quality. And every step of the way has components of what we're talking about strengths here, if you have someone who's really good with people making minimum wage at chick fil a, you would put them in more of a customer facing role. And so there are even in the most like predictable closed loop systems, still opportunities where you, there's still a need for a team of diverse skill sets that you bring together and ultimately have like an outsize performance.

Igor Geyfman:

I do wonder what chick fil A's practices are around that? Did they cross train and rotate people across all the roles? Or do they have people really specialize and somebody be Front of House cashier and somebody else you drive through and another person be a cook in the kitchen and so on.

Robert Greiner:

And those maybe it matters? Maybe it doesn't, I think that the point is the some of the abilities or the some of the strengths of the team is what you're what you're aiming for, as a leader not trying to get people to, to raise that low point. Again,

Igor Geyfman:

there's a book it's an I thought it was a really great book called range that explores kind of a generalist or specialist conversation. And I think one of the biggest premises of that book, and I'm trying to make sure I'm remembering this right is around. If you're working within a predictable system, then specializing makes sense. But if you're working across unpredictable or volatile, or are changing systems, you want somebody who's a generalist, because they're going to be able to better adapt to changing circumstances. And so I was thinking of that a little bit earlier, Charles, when I made my sort of comment.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. And I think, to me, the big difference between what the book is talking about with strengths spikier well rounded individuals from the standpoint of strengths. The generalist specialist debate, to me is more about knowledge, which to me doesn't have anything to do with strengths. It's, you can be knowledgeable in something and have I'll even know what a weakness would be. Yeah,

Robert Greiner:

I'll tell you right now, I would consider myself highly knowledgeable about golf, and I'm terrible at it. I know a lot about it. I watched a lot of videos.

Charles Knight:

Yes. Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

I can sell golf clubs, as good as anyone else on the planet. I know how everything works. I understand the physics behind it. I'm terrible at golf

Charles Knight:

That illustrates the point. really nicely. I think maybe what I'm trying to get at is that as a leader, yes, we have to help develop our team, help them be spiky, ever often detracting behaviors, but also I think we have to help them and guide them in cultivating their knowledge gained through experience, and study, and education and learning, because strengths alone doesn't solve problems, right? It strengths when applied to a problem solved with knowledge that really creates really elegant solutions. And that's where I think that the generalist specialist debate is pretty interesting to me. And again, it's one of the things you need both, right? You need the specialist, knowledge of specialist doctors when you need them. But then when you can't be diagnosed, you need a generalist doctor with general knowledge of human anatomy and systems to help figure out well, what do you go look at next, to try to figure out what's wrong with you. It's so similar to where you need a diverse team in terms of strengths. You Need Diverse knowledge amongst a team as well to make sure you're solving problems appropriately. Otherwise, you'll just solve the wrong problem. Like you'll solve a problem that's predictably, when you should be trying to solve a problem that is volatile and ever changing. Yeah, yeah, I guess the whole complicated versus complex problem spaces that we talked about,

Robert Greiner:

let me get your thought on this. Because this is one idea from the book, I couldn't quite sort out. So I get the argument about Lionel Messi. And here, you have very clear evidence of a world class performer. That doesn't mean meet any of the typical standards, you might apply broadly to soccer players. But like, we're not Lionel Messi, like you're talking about the best performer in the history of the game in the history of the most popular game ever. Right? Billions of people have exposure and access to play this game, this guy went to the top across time and space. Can you use him as an example of how to make your argument and point here? Like I'm not anywhere near greatest of all time at anything in, especially in the professional setting? So how do you how do we reconcile that like on our team, you're not typically working with the very best person in a field? What does that look like? Does this change the argument at all?

Igor Geyfman:

I don't know if it changes to the argument, I think that it's easy to point to a really superlative example, to give more credence. But I think at lower amplitudes, it's still it still holds true. And Messi is playing within a pretty predictable system. Like there's soccer, a soccer game is fairly predictable, in many ways, right? Like, it's not, the rules aren't

Robert Greiner:

It's not a complex system. It doesn't. Yeah the rules doesn't change anything.

Igor Geyfman:

And so it would really make it really makes sense for a specialist to do really well in that sort of environment, because they're not always having to change and adapt their play. I think part of it is this idea in the book, that there's no single path towards excellence. And I think they refer to it as idiosyncratic that pathway to excellence already a Socratic, and they're different for every individual. And then part of the way that you get there is by bracing your spike, or you're

Robert Greiner:

the only way to get this way, the only way to get there

Igor Geyfman:

the only way to get there, which is interesting, and it definitely isn't a specialist versus generalist argument there. But one of the things that it railed against is, it's hard to manage that if you're a manager, it's much easier to have a constant consistent set of criteria for everybody that you're measuring them against, and have some expectation of performance. And just manage to that if you're going to be managing to people's spikes or unique uniqueness. A requires a highly tailored, highly adaptive management style that can recognize people's strengths and weaknesses that can flex to coach on different strengths and weaknesses. I think that was one of the points of the book that it's it's much easier just to have a factory that you're using as a management principle.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And then yeah, the idea here would be to define outcomes and help direct people towards those outcomes, not command and control type.

Igor Geyfman:

That's right. Yeah.

Charles Knight:

I'm really curious about what is the guy's first name? Lionel Messi.

Robert Greiner:

Lionel Messi

Charles Knight:

Lionel. Okay. Yeah. You said he plays with his left foot. Like that's his. Did he

Robert Greiner:

almost exclusively. Yeah.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. So I wonder when you ask the question, Robert, is it appropriate to point to him and does it change the validity of what their time? I don't think it does? My intuition says it doesn't I agree with Igor because I think it's more of a rewind the clock. Let's look at him when he was a boy when he first started playing soccer. Did he always play with his left foot? predominantly?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, I think they covered that it's been pretty consistent. And the idea here is that he just he keeps honing the thing that he's exceptional at and doesn't really, he's so good at this one way of playing that even though people know that can predict what he's gonna do, he still gets away with it. And so what is

Charles Knight:

was he exceptional as a eight year old playing soccer?

Robert Greiner:

So yeah, yeah, he joined the FC Barcelona club when he was like, 13. Yeah, he's been exceptional his whole life,

Charles Knight:

then I think this is a this is not a good example. Like I don't because they're pointing to somebody who through the genetic lottery is world class upon birth in something. And they discovered that something early on, and that I don't think that applies to the mass population. And so I actually don't like change my mind completely on 180. Because if it's like, hey, he started off playing soccer like everybody else. And he struggled or got coaching and guidance to say, Hey, I noticed that you favor your left foot, go ahead and lean into that, and develop that as a strength and that grows over time. And then it becomes exceptional, then hey, that thinks that's great. Like, that's what we we do as coaches and mentors, and that's what everybody should do. But if they're saying it's like, Hey, he's exceptional, because he does it differently. Nah, I don't like this argument at all anymore. They need a different example. Maybe like a tiger woods? I don't know. I don't know. Yeah, we're talking about Tiger Woods.

Robert Greiner:

Maybe I think he just might be good at everything golf related, though. So Diane and I are watching this documentary on Netflix around the college admissions scandal. I think it's the same people that did the fire festival, one who's watching it a little bit last night. And I remember this interview from Chris Voss, who was a FBI hostage negotiator he wrote never split the difference. And he was saying one of the cool things about working for the FBI is there's always somebody some group of people committing a crime in an area that you're really interested in. So if you really like art, there's tons of people committing crimes about art, you get to go investigate in these areas you're strongest in and so he showed this idea of you have all these people, government entity, very rigorous investigation standards, investigating, like the these world class crimes, and people who grew up in their careers as police officers and all sorts of different backgrounds have this kind of niche interest at paired with their law enforcement experience. And there's no one on the planet better at if your family member gets taken hostage to get them out of there, then Chris Voss at the time, right? Like he was the guy he went to for all the big negotiations. And he honed that one skill, but he might have been useless in an art heist, or some other kind of racketeering thing. And so he just leaned into and built his craft around hostage negotiation. And that's, I think more around what the book is talking about, for your people, cultivating what their interests are paired with some of their strengths, and leaning into that, and really only focusing on the weaknesses when they're detracting and the book doesn't recommend that specifically or not. But I think you can infer

Charles Knight:

that there. I was gonna say I agree with that. I like that, Robert, I think that is the right mindset. And it's like, cultivate people's interests and strengths and encourage them to become more spiky and areas and learn more gain more knowledge, because that's, I think that's really what the other thing that came to mind, too, is, is it really about spiking this or well roundedness? For generalists or specialists really, you just need adaptable people, people who are interested in curious about learning and growing and can take coaching and advice and seeks it out. That's because it's expertise. Spike Enos, well, roundedness specialization, generalization, those are all kind of things you measure point in time ago, at this point, I have achieved a certain level of specialization as measured by a degree or a certification. But that's just a point in time measurements, like what you want to see over time is that there's growth, and that's part of what as a leader we're supposed to do is understand where people are on a trajectory and help them get to where they want to go by a certain time period. And it's in doing what you just said,

Robert Greiner:

If you focus on outcomes, the whole idea of commander's intent and things like that, and you have an outcome you're driving towards, it's much easier to have a conversation about mobilizing and combining people's strengths to achieve an outcome versus this, again, this reductionist how do we lower or raise the lowest points, you know, in your performance, which is again, it's that's boring, right?

Could you imagine a multi decade career where the majority of your focus is just like in a rote way trying to incrementally improve things that you're not great at, or you can exponentially improve the things that you're solid at, become exceptional at them, and have moments in your career where you have a really outsized world class performance, because you've been working on this one thing So it's more inspiring, as a member of an organization to say the leadership here is really focusing on mobilizing our strengths to achieve great things like that's, that's a cool thing to rally behind.

Igor Geyfman:

I think it's, I think it's hard to do that sometimes, though, because groups are naturally predisposed to enforce, like conformity, and for good reason, right? Like conformity is, in many ways, like a social lubricant. And groups that have high degrees of conformity, also tend to be more collaborative, because they conform to each other's thinking patterns and standards, and so on. And I think it's hard for some groups to focus and allow for uniqueness and not hammered out in in pursuit of conformity. I don't know how y'all react to that, or this is something that I observed that maybe y'all haven't seen in your professional lives, I see it even early on with kids, where I talk about this all the time. There, I do a presentation on creativity. And one of the big questions during that presentation I'm going to give it away is I ask, there's a spectrum from something to creativity, what's on the other side of the spectrum? And there's a lot of answers, there's a lot of I can give incorrect answers. But for me, the best answer is can and and you can see it early on by like teachers saying, hey, horses aren't blue, why are you making that horse blue, it should be brown, or tan, or something like that. And that's like a micro signal, just tell the kid that they're wrong. And that they should conform to the social norm of drawing a horse in a realistic sort of color. And it's the accumulation of these interactions that create a highly informative people and organizations. And it starts early, and it continues all throughout your life. And sometimes you get punished pretty severely for not conforming to the group or the organization. So I do think it is hard in a lot of organizations to focus and reward, and encourage people's uniqueness and special skills.

Robert Greiner:

It's what it's not what people tend to default to, I do think there's some benefit, if you go back to the previous chapter around cascading, meaning articulating values. And if people are generally bought into the ethos of the organization, I think that makes things easier, you can be a little bit more different or weird in a system where you all have the same values. And so you're maybe you can anchor to that, which is like a deeper connection. But yeah, I do think there's a level of professionalism, everyone, where we work dresses roughly the same, we go to a lot of different clients sites. So we see different organizations and everyone at those organizations around our dress roughly the same. And sometimes when we go and are there for prolonged periods of time, we dress like they dress, you know what I mean? And so you do adapt a level of conformity to the group. I don't think that precludes you, though, from really leaning into your strengths, though, I mean, that the expression of strengths is what we're drawn to, as humans. That's why we watch highlight videos, and things like that. So I don't think that's any different than professional world. But I do think you have to, maybe those are, I don't know, if they're two sides of the same coin, or it's just a separate skill, but there is a skill to work effectively on a team, you have to fit in a little bit if you're going to be

effective as a member of a team.

Charles Knight:

I guess what I'm trying to make sense of Igor, based on your your comment is that when you think of individuals, I feel sad for that kid that got told that their pictures ugly, because they drew a blue horse instead of a brown one. And that forces conformity upon them, I guess, when I'm wrestling with and this is not a completely formed thought is that pretty much on every dimension imaginable that we can think of within a human humans can will fall upon a bell curve, like creativity, tendency to conformity, all of the character strengths, you know, we probably fall on some sort of bell curve. That's why when we took our character string surveys, we had different ones, right? It's just, we don't all have the same strengths. We don't all have the same desire to be creative. We don't all have the same desire to conform. And so I guess I'm asking myself a question given that myself, and people on my team fall in different parts of a bell curve, as it relates to strengths, interests, abilities, things like that, how should that inform how I help them gronckle I almost say it doesn't matter. Like I want to say, oh, it doesn't really matter. Like we should treat every person the same as it relates to giving them opportunity to cultivate their strengths and to grow and learn and to express those strengths. But the reality is, not everybody will be able to be a world class person. But that doesn't really matter, though, because everybody has the capacity to grow. And we should encourage that and support that everybody. good at something and interested in something. Yeah. So I don't know. Again, this is not a well formed thought. But this idea of bell curve came to mind that we all fall on a spectrum. And does that at all factor into how we as leaders engage with our team, what do you all have any thoughts or reactions to

Robert Greiner:

certainly the

understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people on your team, clearly communicating the agenda, and outlining the objective that we're moving towards, and helping to facilitate the arrangement of those strengths towards that objective is very important. I think maybe what you're asking is, what about all this stuff that falls outside of that scope? Maybe? Is that what you're saying?

Charles Knight:

Maybe again, I don't really know what I'm saying. So I appreciate you just reacting to it.

Robert Greiner:

That's what I'm here for.

Yeah,

I'll pretend like I know what you're saying.

Charles Knight:

You don't have to pretend that you could just say doesn't make any sense. I guess respond as if I know, yeah, maybe just knowing the fact that people fall on a spectrum on a bell curve. It's just a reminder, ourselves included. It's a reminder to be humble as leaders, and to be empathetic to those on your team. Because not everybody is interested in the same things. Not everybody on our team is as equally intelligent about a certain thing as as the other person. And so maybe it's just more of a reminder, that, hey, I'm somewhere low on some bell curve. And I should be humble, and not all of your people are the same. And you shouldn't treat them that way. And you should show compassion, if people are struggling as a result. And that's I think that's the big takeaway from this chapter to me, is, if you're a leader, and you're reading this chapter, and your question is okay, when I'm done with this, what is the thing that I need to take away, that's going to help me be more effective and help my team be more effective.

Igor Geyfman:

And Charles, I think he hit it right on the head. It's having empathy and compassion towards people's, where they, where they're at, towards your skills, and their place on the bell curve, and realize that there's different bell curves, and there's value in the combination of those things for your team, and the diversity that it brings to your team, to make your team more, you know, adaptive, and performant, when they're all brought together. So I love those two words, their empathy and compassion.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And that's the whole point and to fight the urge to have everyone conform to us. One size fits all standard. That's the anti pattern, what you're talking about, those are behaviors that are squishy and hard to, to nail down and require equal amounts arts and science, art and science and practice. But that's the optimal approach. Everyone wants to go down, the simpler one size fits all, raise up your low points, idea, and that should be avoided.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. And that inherent in that, trying to treat each person as the individual that they are, show them empathy and compassion, help them grow, where they want to go at the pace at which they can and want to grow, while also trying to accomplish a task for the team and the company that that you work for, at scale. That's the hard part. That's hard as a leader to do is like at that point, you're giving up your attention, and your energy across so many different dimensions. And that's really hard, right? That's really hard if you've got a team of five, and they're all wildly beautifully diverse and unique. That's a full time job trying to coach and develop them. And so that's when the rubber meets the road, it's really about how to spend your time and energy efficient, efficient

Robert Greiner:

The book has three, three phases, which maybe would help be helpful to get into I will say, though, in that configuration, it's harder, the upside is much higher. So you pay, you pay a price to have that higher upside, which is paid down in effort from the leader, which I think is okay,

Igor Geyfman:

agement from your team members and the relationships that you build with them. If you approach those relationships, in or your relationships with with your people, and you understand their uniqueness, and you lean into it, and you allow them to lean into it, and you recognize them as an individual. That's a huge relationship trust, building moment. And relationship, positive relationships, high levels of trust, leads to higher levels of engagement, which eventually will lead to higher levels of, of performance. And I have had a colleague that really struggled, that person had a really rigid standard. They applied that rigid standard to everybody that worked for them. And it really drove a wedge into their ability to form deep, trusted meaningful relationships with their team because the folks on that on their team didn't feel recognized or heard as unique people and were just felt like they wanted somebody wanted them to be interchangeable parts. So there's,

Robert Greiner:

we've all experienced the opposite. We y'all know Sean, we might have him on the podcast at some point if he's willing, very early on. When I worked with Sean. He came to me and said, Hey, We have this really big client presentation where we have to build a narrative around what we've done, and basically justify to people who don't have a lot of visibility into our specific work, why we're worth keeping around and investing in the next sort of wave of functionality and work, or are they going to give it to someone else.

So the stakes are pretty high. And he said, I need you to own the the deck and the narrative, because you're really good at that stuff. You're really good at writing and you're going to PowerPoint, I need you to own this. And he had an outcome, which is a we need to show people that may be skeptical of us that we're doing a good job, he identified a strength of mine, whether that's true or not, is remains to be seen. And I mean, killed myself for that project I did, I worked extra on it. I did my best work on that project. Because Sean came to me and said, Hey, I had this outcome that's very important. You're aligned with something that's very meaningful. And I want you to apply your specific strengths in this specific way. And that was, I still think about that. That's the difference, right? That the feeling of you're trying to force me into a cog in a wheel, I don't feel heard or understand. Or, man, this. I remember working with Sean, that was so great when we built that presentation together. And maybe I don't know why maybe I can't articulate why. But that was a really good experience. And I think those over time are what, you know, really make a career.

Charles Knight:

That's a beautiful story. That's, that's, that encapsulates the right behavior as a leader is to acknowledge a strength, make it really clear what the outcome is the importance of it, and the stakes of it. And, yeah, well,

Robert Greiner:

it came from a guy. My very first time I talked to him, was at a happy hour after some review sessions, and he came up to me said, Hey, Robert, do you wanna know what your problem is? And I said, Yeah, of course I do. Because Yeah, you talk too much like you don't ask enough questions. And you may be on this rocket ship in your career, but eventually, you're gonna run out of gas. And unless you learn how to ask good questions.

Charles Knight:

Awesome.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And to which I replied, how do I do that?

Charles Knight:

respond with a question. That's great!

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. But that kind of got, yeah, that kind of guy who is willing to give you the feedback. And this is where I think it does help to have conversations definitely helps to have conversations about where you can grow. I knew he wasn't trying to just play to my ego when he came to me and said, hey, you're strong at this, I need you to work on it. Because he also had built trust with me that he's willing to have a difficult conversation about things I'm not good at. He's not just trying to butter me up to get something. And so I think that's where the balance comes back in on trust. If you're only saying nice things to people, I'm not sure they're really going to get it.

Igor Geyfman:

And I think if you ask me to assign two adjectives to top adjectives to Sean, it would be empathetic and compassionate. And he really exudes that in all of his interactions. And that's why his feedback lands in a particular way. Because there's people that don't exude empathy and compassion, and their feedback lands like 100 ton hammer across your face.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, that's right. That's definitely right. So I have a bit of a theory on this on my derail a conversation, but we've gone through four chapters. We've liked every other one. And there's two authors. I'm wondering

Igor Geyfman:

if like there's a specific author that we're agreeing with, it's a good point

Robert Greiner:

We'll have to see if the pattern holds up. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if that means anything. But it wasn't easy, because I thought chapter one was really strong. Definitely people care what team you work on. best plan wins. Oh, no. Two in a row. were rough. Two and Three, were tough. And then this one was good.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

So it wasn't every other one. Yeah. But I did enjoy the chapter. I think it got it didn't get so conflated. And clickbaity as the other ones did. And I loved the idea of doubling down on strengths. And really focusing on objectives and mobilizing strengths to meet objectives. And I think as a leader, if you can do that's a great way to help your people grow. It's a great way to build trust with your team. It's a great way to have people want to work with you and have great experiences. And remember,

little things like building a presentation together because of the way that you made them feel. So I'm completely aligned with what the advice here

Igor Geyfman:

for the next three chapters are going to be really interesting. We're coming off of our quarterly review season. And the next three chapters. The next three lies our people need feedback, people can reliably rate other people and people have potential and very much at the core of like, performance reviews and evaluations and so on. And in the clickbait perspective, those seem to be fairly antithetical to the process that we go through and spend a lot of time on or where we work.

Robert Greiner:

I'm glad we talked about this today, Igor, and I know you weren't feeling up for it because you're shot but I feel like you you really did a great job in hell drone today. I've been pre triggered about line number five now for weeks. I really want to have this come and I have another chapter and I'm always reading the one right before And so I purposefully I wanted to dig in. I had a little bit of time over the weekend, but I decided not to. So I still don't know what it's about. But I know

Igor Geyfman:

people lie people need to see back that is a major trigger. For Robert. Well,

Robert Greiner:

not if you want to be a world class performer or have any kind of meaningful responsibility, maybe, but

Charles Knight:

I see where you fall on this.

Robert Greiner:

Oh, yeah, I think I've made that very clear.

Charles Knight:

I'm just, I'm just get all geared up as you want. But I'm ready to be let down. Because it is such a clickbaity thing. And I'm just, let's just get to what it's really trying to say. And I bet there's some truth we can find.

Robert Greiner:

Oh, yeah. And I love the conversation today. I think these are really good prompts. We're talking about the right things. Leadership is so multifaceted. It's really, you can have wildly ranging conversations that all are under this umbrella. So it's been really good.

Charles Knight:

Well, in apologies to our listeners, at least for me, I felt like I was rambling and incoherent. But it's because you know, I'm trying to wrestle with these things. And I think that's part of the job of a leader too, is to, is to learn new things. And even if that first glance, it doesn't make sense, or you don't know what to do with it. Yeah, you have a responsibility to try to extract some truth and goodness from it, and put it into practice. And that's what I was trying to do on the fly in real time. Because I haven't read the book, right? Like, I don't have the benefit of the context. And I'm just reacting in real time. And sometimes it doesn't click for me all that much. And it felt a little bit like that today. But I appreciate y'all guiding me along. Yeah, it was fun.

Robert Greiner:

These are again, we'd be talking about this that what's the I don't even remember the coffee shop now.

Igor Geyfman:

Foxtrot

Robert Greiner:

Foxtrot places, Oh, my gosh, this is exactly what we would have had this conversation. It just when it came up one day. So it's about as authentic as you can get rambling and all that

Igor Geyfman:

this chapter really triggered me when I read it a couple years ago, it was the first chapter that connected with me emotionally from this book, rather than just intellectually, because at that time, I felt that I was being asked to really conform. And I was chafing at that.

Robert Greiner:

You're saying this spoke to you?

Not you didn't have a negative trigger.

Igor Geyfman:

A positive trigger.

A positive trigger.

Robert Greiner:

Got it. Got it. Got it. Yes,

Igor Geyfman:

where I was reading this chapter. And as I was reading it, I was like, I would really love it if my direct would treat me this way as an individual with with a unique skill set. And as somebody who's spiky, and be comfortable with me leaning into that. But I felt like it was just very much the opposite, that I was being asked to forget all that stuff, conform. And so reading this, to some degree was sort of validating. And I think for people that are in a situation where for whatever reason, they feel like their manager or their organization is really working hard to beat up their uniqueness and make them conform. This is a chapter that might really resonate with you, when you read it, like it did with me. And then because it resonated with me, it also reminded me that I need to exhibit empathy and compassion with the people that work on my team. And maybe I'm doing some of the same things that bother me with the people that I'm managing and leading. So

Robert Greiner:

yeah, especially if they're more on the conforming side here, three standard deviations. spikey. Igor, like you're one of the spikier people I know. And that's a really cool thing, because you can get some exceptional thought leadership and, and quality content out or delivery, or whatever some of the ideas you come up with are just from another plane of existence,

Igor Geyfman:

or they can be an amazing dud.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, that's right.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, complete trash.

Robert Greiner:

That's right. And you know, so again, like the home run hitter analogy, you have to accept that the variance between those two things are wider as a leader and to throw away someone ultra spiky, is short sighted because you can get such a high return. And trying to try to force back into the conforming mindset doesn't make any kind of sense. There are ways to mitigate the downside of spikiness.

Igor Geyfman:

And whether that's through teaming them with somebody that makes up for those things. Whether it's structuring the goal or the vision or the objective in a way that aligns with it. There's definitely the these mitigation strategies beyond just No, just conform. Forget about your spike.

Robert Greiner:

That's right,

Charles Knight:

Igor, let me ask you, I don't remember who your direct was at the time. So this I don't know,

Robert Greiner:

supervisor, right.

Charles Knight:

Or whoever was asking you to, okay, yeah, I don't Yeah, that's right. I do remember when you recommended this book to me, probably when you read it really resonated. I never read it. But I remember you sharing that with me. Were they really asking you to conform? Or were they wanting you to demonstrate adaptability over time? Didn't do is that I ask? Because in our firm, I guess I hope we we have a more open minded view about people's growth and development. And we just want to know, can you grow and adapt, and then we can let you flex, depending upon the circumstance. The vast majority of companies out there, though, may actually want people to conform, don't get me wrong. But in your instance, even though it may have felt like they were asking you to conform, was it really about just demonstrating adaptability?

Igor Geyfman:

Maybe and I think at the time, I just had a different perspective on it too. And maybe conform is, like the wrong way to phrase it. It was like, Hey, I don't care how good your spike is. That was the message, right? I don't care how good your spike is. I need you to do this. And so that's probably it's fine misconstruing by saying that's, you know, conformity. But it totally felt like, I don't care about the thing that makes you unique. And you can be really performative. Forget about all that. Right? Like you need to do these things. And it just felt bad. Yeah, it felt that at the time, even if the conversation was just slightly different. And if it was just like, Hey, you really great at this stuff, and I want you to focus on it. And we need to incorporate these other things. But it was just like a complete, you get no credit for the stuff that you bring and the stuff that you're really good at that by the way, probably nobody else can do in this.

Charles Knight:

completely invalidates, yeah, it invalidates your spike. No that matters. Okay.

Igor Geyfman:

And so that I was thinking that was pretty emotionally hurtful. Yeah, at that point. And so that's Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

And if you're listening as a leader, oh, sorry. Let's start that over. Sorry. Love it. He wanted some of my drink. Hold on. There we go. Man, my co workers are super cute. These days.

Charles Knight:

I want what daddy's drinking.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. So,

Igor,

you brought up a really interesting point that I had not put together here in your experience, which I mean, thank you for sharing that these things are tough to share. Sometimes the worst thing you can do as a leader is invalidate someone's strengths. Even if you're asking them to apply some effort to step outside to meet some objective, like it's okay to ask people to perform outside their strengths. It's okay to ask people to grow and get better at things. It's okay to ask for something different. If you do it in such a way that robs of autonomy or invalidates strengths, you're going to, you're going to really leave a sour taste like you'll you're going to remember that until you die, dude, we're gonna be 85 on this podcast, you know, Episode 13,422. And you're gonna bring that story up again, like, you're never gonna forget that. That's not an impact you want to leave as a leader on your team.

Charles Knight:

Amen.

Igor Geyfman:

It definitely felt bad. Yeah, no bad. And, and I have but like, for me, it's also like, I, when I really look back at that situation, I don't have resentment towards it. Because there was a learning opportunity for me both, there were things that I needed to focus on, right outside of my spike, for sure. And it also reminded me to be more empathetic and compassionate and not ignore people's obvious strengths. Because I have, I thought, sometimes I'll catch myself do that. There's an objective, the team needs to meet it. I'm really committed towards getting the team there. And boy, it's I'm driving that thing. And when you're driving really hard, it can create blind spots for you and your your peripheral vision. And it becomes easy to ignore things like recognizing people's uniqueness, and practicing empathy and practicing compassion. And because I knew what that felt like on the receiving end, it's a reminder for me to not have those blinders as maybe as often as I otherwise would have. There's positive things that came out of that experience. And it was a big learning opportunity for me in several ways. And I'm grateful for that. Even though at the time it is was like it was tough.

Robert Greiner:

We're way over time. This has been good. We almost didn't do this today. I think we just we always just go for it, guys. Yeah, this was a great conversation. Charles, if you want to be if you want to view some world class performance in areas that you're not super familiar about. You should check out some Lionel Messi highlights that guy's incredible. So maybe that's some homework for you. turn you into a soccer fan. Maybe

Charles Knight:

I'll check it out. I'll check it out. So fun, guys. Thanks.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, Igor. Glad you're feeling better, man. Looking good. You're muted. Again. Still muted.

Igor Geyfman:

So like I have my window set up in such a way where my browser is blocking my mute button on zoom. But then I got my windows out of order. Anyway. So are we doing the one with Tiffany anytime soon, because every time we have a podcast comingin up I'm like, Oh, that's a Tiffany one but I hate the next. I know.

Robert Greiner:

We moved it. She went on vacation. And so I think we had a couple of things where our schedules didn't align. And it's been performance review season and yeah, so, okay, I know it's on the calendar though. Like, I'm not sure where it is, though.

Igor Geyfman:

Perfect. Yeah. So next week, I think we're doing two and none of them are the Tiffany one. So we are, we're going to definitely cover two out of the three triggering performance review.

Yes, topics people have potential.

Charles Knight:

sacred cows.

Robert Greiner:

That's right. Move some cheese and kill some cows. What are the other crude business analogies for pissing people off? Alright, y'all. It was great to see you today.

Igor Geyfman:

Yes, likewise.

Charles Knight:

Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

Hope you have a great week and talk to you soon.

Charles Knight:

Hey, Robert. Yeah, thanks. Bye. Bye.

Robert Greiner:

That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at Hello@wannagrabcoffee.com

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