Leadership in a Digital World with Frank Zinghini

Frank Zinghini is the guest on our show today, Frank is the CEO of Applied Visions Inc and one of the world’s top thought leaders on digital applications: You will learn

  • How he grew his business from his basement
  • The parallels in leading people and the digital agenda
  • The role trust plays in leadership
  • Leading his customers is as important as leading his team

Plus lots of leadership hacks!

Transcript:Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

 TRANSCRIPT BELOW

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Steve Rush: Some call me Steve, dad, husband or friend. Others might call me boss, coach or mentor. Today you can call me The Leadership Hacker.

Thanks for listening in. I really appreciate it. My job as the leadership hacker is to hack into the minds, experiences, habits and learning of great leaders, C-Suite executives, authors and development experts so that I can assist you developing your understanding and awareness of leadership. I am Steve Rush and I am your host today. I am the author of Leadership Cake. I am a transformation consultant and leadership coach. I cannot wait to start sharing all things leadership with you.

Frank Zinghini is our special guest on today’s show. He is the founder and CEO of Applied Visions, Inc. He is a founder and board member of Code DX and also the world best thought leaders on digital applications. But before we get a chance to speak with Frank. It is The Leadership Hacker News.

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: According to research, your smartphone is about 10 times dirtier than the average toilet seat; and given that you spend about 47 times a day on average touching it, that’s pretty disgusting at the best of times, and during a pandemic it’s downright dangerous, but it doesn’t stop there. Just think of how many small items you touch frequently throughout your day, that you can rarely clean. Your computer mouse, your keyboard, maybe remote controls, jewellery, keys to name just a few. All of these items are likely to come in touch with some form of bacteria, which could be potentially harmful, right? So as you consider stepping up your disinfecting routine and as we come toward the end of this wave of the pandemic, we shouldn’t really be taking our hygiene for granted. Now we bought you leadership innovation stories before and innovation is an important part of leadership and leadership development. Along with digital tech and innovation, it now means that you can carry your own disinfecting case with you anywhere like. Developers have created what they call the Clean Tray UV light sterilization case. It portable case uses four UVC led lights to kill the bank 99.99% of germs and bacteria on dirty surfaces and it can be done in as little as five minutes. The company said that sort of average twice as fast as any other UV devices, completely eliminating and disinfecting any material surface from plastic to leather. It is about 8.3 inches and Clean Tray is lightweight, enables you to carry it anywhere and disinfect just about anything you can, that you carry with you. Such as your iPod, AirPods, phone, tools, jewellery, watches, and so on. And for those of you that are in touch with your senses, they’ve even integrated a whole for essential oils, allowing you to infuse your belongings with a fresh smell.

Creative thinking and innovation is a key component of leadership. Our listeners have shared with us a couple of crazy Apps that are trending right now. The first is called Cuddlr. It is a location based social networking app, and basically allows you to find people in your area who just want a cuddle virtually or in person. Cute or creepy? You will be the judge. If you have ever misplaced your car in a multi-story car park or in a location. There are a number of apps that will help you “find my car” but this one is a find my car app with a difference. It is called Carrr Matey, You guessed it. It’s got lots of rrrs and it lets you know where you parked your car, but instead in a Pirate Accent, crazy, you may think, but its trending now and stealing all of the Looty from all of the other trending apps, there must be some secret pirates among us.

And if you’re considering building an app, maybe now is the time. In 2008, when Apple launched the app store, there were only 500 apps available. At the last count between iOS and Android, there are almost 5 million apps in usage and of these apps, there were over 400,000 apps that help you…. you guessed it, build Apps. That has been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any insights or information that you would like our listeners to hear, get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: I am joined on today show by Frank Zinghini, he is the founder and CEO of Applied Visions Inc. He is an entrepreneur and one of the world’s best thought leaders on software development and digital development. Frank, welcome to the show.

Frank Zinghini: Oh, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Steve Rush: It is our pleasure too. You are very welcome, so you have are really interesting backstory. You now lead a multisite, multi-disciplined business, of three companies, but it did not start that way. You started off your business from your basement as a one man band. Just tell us a bit about the backstory?

Frank Zinghini: I did. I don’t know if it’s a typical backstory, but it’s an interesting one. After graduating college, worked two very interesting jobs that I really enjoyed, but in each case after about five years or so on that job, it just got a bit stale. And the first time I went on to a second job, and the second time I had sort of stumbled into an opportunity to do a little bit of freelance work at night. Moonlighting work in my basement, as you say, and found that interesting. I was actually building a helicopter simulator for a small business here in my area. And finished that one and they asked me to do another one and I was sufficiently disengaged, I guess at my day job that I decided to take the chance and try doing that as a full time engagement. And that led to another thing and another thing and another thing and hired people and got more customers. And 31 years later, here I am

Steve Rush: Awesome, so from flight simulators to digital development, that world has changed significantly in 30 years, hasn’t it?

Frank Zinghini: Three or four times over, yeah.

Steve Rush: Right. So how has your business morphed, changed or adapted?

Frank Zinghini: Oh, it’s well.. it has changed; as I said, several times over the years. Where we are now in terms of what technology is capable of doing for businesses and for consumers. I mean, it was the stuff of daydreams when I started all this. I mean, I started this before we even had personal computers, which I just realized it makes me sound old. But the value that you can realize by applying software and technology to pretty much any domain that you can imagine is just incredible. The ability to build something effective and get it out in people’s hands and bring value out of it in a relatively short period of time compared to how it used to be. It is just amazing and it has really become an integral part of every business.

Steve Rush: Right.

Frank Zinghini: When I first started it was sort of a back office thing and, you know, yes, there were computers and yes, there was software, but it was always in service of some internal function and now it really is the business.

Steve Rush: Yeah and that digital forms part of every single business and across all channels.

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: Whether it be marketing, frontline, back office.

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: You almost can’t experience going to work these days without having to bump into an element of technology that’s continually evolving. Right?

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely. A message I try to convey to customers all the time. I sum it up, as your App is your business. There is a lot more to it than that, of course, but you really cannot, you know, with few exceptions you cannot have an effective business in today’s market without a digital presence.

Steve Rush: Right.

Frank Zinghini: Without a digital side through the business.

Steve Rush: So Applied Visions Inc. At the moment, what’s your core focus with your clients, helping them with their thinking, their digital footprint, et cetera.

Frank Zinghini: There is a phrase. That I am not particularly fond of but maybe it is just because I don’t like phrases like this. But digital transformation, but it’s really building that digital side of your business, exposing your business to the digital world, having that presence being in your customer’s pockets, on their phones, being in their lives, wherever they are. Being in the physical devices that are either in their homes or in their businesses or in their factories. Your business needs to be where your customers are wherever they are whenever they are there. And that is all summed up under that digital transformation phrase, but it’s really helping companies achieve that.

Steve Rush: Right? And it starts with that conversation, I guess, with leaders as to, you know, what’s their vision for the organization and then you come in and help them decipher and translate their future business vision and how your technology and apps and applications can support it. Right?

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely. That is actually on a good day, it is like that. Very often, my job starts with helping them form the vision in the first place.

Steve Rush: Okay.

Frank Zinghini: There are so many businesses out there that are just, you know, fighting the good fight day in and day out. And they’re working the way that they’ve always worked and trying to keep it going. And the world is changing around them and they’re slowly sensing that maybe things are different enough that they need to do something, but they don’t exactly understand what it is and how to do it. And I get involved with those leaders as early as I can to help them see that and understand it and get their arms around it and figure out what that means for them and how to get to that next step in their evolution. 

Steve Rush: That’s key critical, Isn’t it?

Frank Zinghini: I love it when a customer calls me up and says. We want to this digital transformation thing. Can you come in here and do it for us? I love that, but more often than not, it is, “what is all this digital stuff about?.. and how does it feel affect me?”

Steve Rush: There is also a common misconception, Isn’t there that digital transformation is this thing of the internet and Apps and applications and platforms and software; actually digital transformation starts with human people thinking about what it is they need to try and do and therefore vision is absolutely where it starts. Isn’t it?

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely and to the theme of your show, it is all about leadership at the customer side as well, because you can’t just throw up a whole digital platform and tell your staff, okay, here it is, start doing this stuff now. It is an enormously transformative process for the business and the people inside that business need to understand it. They need to see where it is going. They need to see how it affects them and they need to see how their lives will change when you go down that road.

Steve Rush: And in your experience, not only being a leader of a digital and software business, but actually facing into organizations whose leaders are going through an element of transformation, change or digital transformation. What would you say has been the biggest impact for leaders as they have gone through this evolution?

Frank Zinghini: Well, there are lots of impacts, good ones and bad ones. I think the biggest impact on a good way that they see once it all starts to work. Is that they have a much closer bond to their customers than they have ever had before. There is this initial fear that I see and I deal a lot with mature businesses. Businesses that grew up around older technologies or without technologies at all, but they have an established business. They have an established customer base and I am talking about business to consumer, business to business, it is all the same. It is what, is your relationship to your customer? And they fear that going digital will somehow change that. You know, when I want to talk to my customer, I pick up the phone and talk to them and that is all I need and that is okay and you can still do that.

But once they have the technology in place, once they realize that now their business is in their customer’s pocket, 24 hours a day, they actually have a better relationship with that customer. They have not given up anything. They have gained the ability to reach out to the customer whenever they feel like it. They have gained the ability to bring back data about that customer’s behaviour that they never had before. And they could still pick up the phone and call their customers. Except now, they are much more thoroughly equipped for that call. They know more about what that customer is doing. It is always a joy to see that take place and to see that realization, the customers that wow, this stuff really works.

Steve Rush: Data driven insights is fundamental, not only for the way that we interact with our customers, but actually how we interact with our internal teams as well. Right?

Frank Zinghini: Oh, absolutely. It is so much easier to lead people to a conclusion that you think that they need to be led to when you’ve got the data to back it up. And you’re not just trying to influence them and you’re not trying to convince them that you just know what you’re talking about. You’ve actually got data. I mean, there is plenty of things in life and in the world where data is not quite enough. But when you have data, you have data about your customer’s behaviour, about the preferences, about their businesses, about their practices that can help support other decisions that you have to make to move forward,

Steve Rush: Given your experience of your clients and helping them with their thought leadership, Frank. How has the pandemic impacted underway organizations? And indeed individuals are either rushing towards digital or using digital in a different way.

Frank Zinghini: Interestingly it is, yeah. It has had all kinds of effects on people’s behaviour and the way they look at the world. But when they actually sort of pick themselves up and start thinking about what does this mean to the business? What it really is doing is sort of helping accelerate their move in that direction. They are not necessarily saying, oh, now I have to do things completely differently. Although there is plenty of elements of that but in many cases, they are saying, well, I have been thinking about this for a long time. And I guess now’s is the time to actually do it. I can’t meet my customers anymore. They can’t come into my business. I have to have a different way of reaching them in a different way of interacting with them. These are all things that they should be thinking about anyway, and they should be doing anyway for all the reasons we just discussed about where digital relationships are going.

It is just causing them to think about it more quickly. Now that said, there is plenty of businesses where a true business transformation is forced by this. We have a little corner of our business, where we have a software platform that we built that helps commercial kitchens manage meals subscriptions, prepared meals subscriptions. People can get on the website order, you know, meals for the next month or week. On a certain schedule, pick off a menu and then you can deliver these meals on a subscription basis. And that’s been a popular business for a while with small commercial kitchens and now Freshly as an example of a large business doing that. Now we are being contacted by restaurants who are seeing how their lives have changed, probably permanently in terms of how many people they can bring into their place and how many people they can have in the front of the house. And yet they’ve got this commercial kitchen in the back. That is capable of so much more. They are looking at; can they add this sort of subscription meal delivery to their business? In addition to serving people in the restaurant and to dealing with one off takeout orders through whatever it is. Uber Eats or DoorDash or those things. Is there a way that they can work a recurring revenue subscription model into their business without losing the character of their restaurant? So that is just one example of how I think this current situation is forcing some businesses to actually think about a radical change to what they do and how they do it. But for the most part, it’s really an accelerant.

Steve Rush: Sure.

Frank Zinghini: It is getting people to do things or at least think about things that they should have been thinking about for a while.

Steve Rush: And do you think there is an element of digital maturity? So we’ll see the businesses that survive and adapt the most, who have a greater and more comprehensive digital strategy versus those that don’t?

Frank Zinghini: I think so? I think it is a very necessary thing for them to do. One of the challenges I face when I carry my messages around and talk to businesses and they say, well, we did all that digital stuff. We have a website, and then we had somebody build us an App. But it’s nowhere near a digital business. It is a little island of capability, and they don’t talk to each other and they don’t allow customers to really interact with the business and to serve themselves. It is not a true digital transformation. It is just a couple of pieces. It is the businesses who recognize that and say that was just our first step in this direction. How do we get to the next step? How do we make all this stuff, an integral part of our business? How do we make it really one big digital presence with just several doors into the room? There is a mobile app door. There is the website door. Maybe there is an intelligence device door, but all of it is a digital business that customers are interacting with not little stove, pipes of capability.

Steve Rush: And of course, digital will help them all connect to those elements together to be more effective and provide the right outcomes, for their customers.

Frank Zinghini: Oh, absolutely. And that gets back to your observation earlier about the leadership challenge for the customer. Doing these things because many businesses even to this day are stovepipe internally. You know, people have their domains; they have their areas of responsibility. They can be protective about it and, you know, for years, businesses have struggled to sort of integrate that smoothly internally, but there’s still obstacles to that sort of integration when you come in with this digital integration and say, okay, now all that stuff that all you guys do, it’s really just one big thing. Everybody is sharing data; it is all available to everyone. There is fluidity between departments. That can be a real leadership challenge to the CEO who recognizes the value of this transformation. Is trying to get his team on board with doing this.

Steve Rush: One of the core tenants of creating a great leadership partnership in the business you’re in. Is that element of trust, because you are dealing with some really sensitive areas of conversation, strategy, but also things that could cause huge potential upturns and downturns for the organization. In terms of their risk.

Frank Zinghini: Oh yeah.

Steve Rush: How is it you go about creating that trust with your partners?

Frank Zinghini: That is probably the single biggest challenge that I have as a service provider. Doing what we do, it is all about trust really at the end of the day, all I’m ever selling to customers is trust that we can deliver on this thing that we’re all talking about and it’s enormously difficult. But we work on it, we work on it by making sure that our message is valid by making sure that we understand their business very well before we even start talking. It’s about listening first and talking later, there’s a lot of people in this space that think they know everything, and we’ll go into an engagement with a customer and start waving their arms around and saying, this is what you should do. This is what you should do, and we will go in and we will listen for a very long time. As long as the customer is willing to talk, we are willing to listen to really understand what they are doing today, why they are doing it and what they hope to achieve. But in the end, it’s all about earning that trust because if they choose to have us help them. There is nothing tangible there to start with. They are basically saying, okay, here do this. They are trusting us to deliver on the promise of everything that we’ve said. I do not take that lightly when a customer finally says, okay, let’s do this. I recognize that they have just, you know, handed over their futures to us and their tactics, we can use. We move forward incrementally. I am sure you have had guests talking about agile development and there is this ways of doing this work so that you’ve got total transparency. Constant visibility as to what is going on and where are you going?

And, we work every day to keep our client’s comfort level manageable, so they understand where we’re going and that we’re moving in the right direction. Let me tell you just a really quick anecdote. I had a client many, many years ago. It was a great client. One of the early stages of the businesses. We brought a lot of successful DOS products over to windows and again, I’m dating myself, but we got into commercial product development very early, and we bring a product field, everything we do. I was working late in this fellow’s office once, he was the owner, this a great guy and I wanted to stay. He wanted to go home and I said, you know, do you mind if I stay? And he said, sure and reach and takes his keys out and hand them to me and gives me the alarm code. I said, you sure he trusts me with the keys? And he looked at me, he said. I am trusting you with the entire future of my business, I better be able to trust you with my keys. I had not ever really thought of it that way because I was very young at the time. This is one of my first clients and I never forgot that. Never forgot that, yeah. It is all about trust.

Steve Rush: And it is interesting how we apply that position of trust isn’t it and perception of trust?

Frank Zinghini: Yeah.

Steve Rush: There was, you know, perceiving the keys, as a commodity or as a product. Where actually, it is much, much bigger than that. Isn’t it?

Frank Zinghini: It was hugely symbolic to me and as I said, I have never forgotten. That was probably, I don’t know, 25 years ago, maybe.

Steve Rush: And now as a CEO as well. That trust plays across the way that you lead the team.

Frank Zinghini: Oh, of course.

Steve Rush: Tell us a little bit about kind of how, from an leaders perspective you apply the similar principles.

Frank Zinghini: Yes, it is a slightly different and again, you know, it comes from being a service business. You know, sometimes I envy companies make commodity products, whether they’re making cheese or auto parts or something, because there’s an inertia to building products and you know, people can come in and go and your products will still come out the factory door. In a service business, the people in the business are the business. They are my inventory, they are my product, they are everything and I love it.

Steve Rush: And that is very different. Isn’t it? To a traditional manufacturing business.

Frank Zinghini: Yeah, extreme.

Steve Rush: Because without those individual people who are providing that capability, knowledge and insight, there is no business. Right?

Frank Zinghini: Absolutely and a lot of companies will say that. Our people, our biggest asset but in a service business, and this is true of any service business. And, you know, I have tremendous empathy for anybody who’s in a service business. It is absolutely true. The work that your people do, the relationships that they build with your customers. I will earn the trust of a customer and then turn around and hand that trust off to a team and now I have basically put my trust in them to serve the customer. So the whole process of making sure that we are constantly communicating. That I know what is going on and then I have sort of tried to instil the right values in people, so that that trust is earned every day of every relationship with every customer.  It is a different sort of leadership and its great fun. I get tremendous satisfaction out of watching our teams do great things for customers. I used to get to do it for myself. I used to write the code. Now I don’t do that anymore. Now I get to achieve that satisfaction by watching them do it, but it is a huge responsibility.

Steve Rush: Sure, it is and the other thing that you have become renowned for is that whole thought leadership, which is in fact what the whole Applied Visions is. You know, they hear some information here is some insights. Here is how we apply it. How do you go about helping individuals, organizations with how they lead their thinking or how you lead their thinking?

Frank Zinghini: I said before, it is more listening than talking. What I find in most of my relationships is that customers deep down know what they need. They know where they need to go. They just need to be encouraged to give it voice and they need to be reassured that it is actually the right idea. Too many people in my end of the business treat every relationship as a technology thing. And they’ll go in and in the first meeting, they’ll start talking about Azure or AWS or this or that or JavaScript, you know, they’ll talk about all the technology that has to be brought to bear to solve this problem. But that comes much later. That is the plywood in the two by fours to build the house, but you’ve got to start out with, how do you want to feel when you’re living in this house? What do you want to get out of this house? You know, it is all about that. And it actually become sort of my favourite part of the process now is to work with business owners to really understand what they think their challenges are? What do they think the right answers are and it is very rare that I would tell a business owner or leader is like, no, you are wrong. You are just wrong. Here is what you should do? because they know better than I do. They are right. My job is just to help them see that, well, that is absolutely correct. I see where you are going with that, but here is what that means in today’s world. And here’s the direction you’ve got to go with that to achieve what you just said. That is kind of my role is to lead their thinking along until they see the light. I hate to say that, but they see the solution. They see where this could go, and how it can actually benefit them. But they know, they know better than I’ll ever know, so my job is just to help them realize that.

Steve Rush: I love that. It is almost coaching, but coaching through a digital lens, right?

Frank Zinghini: Yeah. Actually, I never thought of it that way as coaching, but you are absolutely right and I think, I don’t know the number but I’d say 80% of leadership is coaching. One form or another. Coaching or coaxing or getting others to see where they should be going and not just telling them. Maybe sometimes you just got to tell them but most times, most times you’re influencing, you’re coaching them along, moving them to a conclusion.

Steve Rush: Right.

Frank Zinghini: So, yeah, coaching, I like that.

Steve Rush: Cool.

Frank Zinghini: I will use that.

Steve Rush: If we start to think about you as a leader of your businesses. And how you lead several businesses and you are a board member of another. This is the part of the show where we really want to get into your leadership brain and how you are constructed as a CEO. So at this part of the show, we’d like to talk about your leadership hacks. So what would be your top tips, your top leadership hacks that you could share with our audience?

Frank Zinghini: It is interesting because I consider myself, even to this day, sort of an accidental CEO as I said earlier, I kind of eased into this business and it kind of grew up around me.

Steve Rush: You became the CEO because of the growth of your business?

Frank Zinghini: Yeah, so I never really stopped to think about like, okay, now I should do this and now I should do that. But tips and tricks, hacks. I guess, you asked earlier about how do I get customers? Look at the customer relationship first that, aspect of leadership. You know, how do I get customers to move their thinking forward? And one thing I learned a very long time ago is never to be afraid to invest in building something, to show the possibilities, building a prototype if you want to call it that or even just a really well-crafted mock up or demo to help people realize where their vision could go. Nothing sells like a demonstration. You’ve got to put that image in people’s minds and you know, a lot of people in businesses like mine would say. You can’t spend that kind of time and money. That should be paid for but I guess on a larger scale hack that I’ve learned is to always take the long view and it’s worth short term investments to build a long-term relationship. So if I want to have a couple of my guys go off for a week or two, or, you know, build some mock-up of what I believe to be this customer’s vision so I can bring it back to them and show it to them and have them go, yeah, that’s what we want. That is huge and that is part of building that trust. That wins their loyalty. It generates excitement. It is worth that investment. So yeah, I reinvest a lot in things like that and it is one of the reasons, I credit the fact that we have been doing this for 30 years, where a lot of companies like us have come and gone.

So that’s probably one of my bigger, outward, focused hacks. Inwardly, I may have all kinds of things I do. That I just sort of take for granted that everybody does, especially with service businesses. I mention before, you know, you can’t just go running around, shouting at people, telling them to do this, do that because you need them to be as invested in the relationship with the customer as you are. So I spend a lot of time influencing, understanding what drives individual people and making sure they’re in positions where they can realize that and get the satisfaction that they’re looking for. For whatever particular thing actually motivates them and then making sure all that lines up to meet the customer goals. There are businesses, some of them legendary where you can succeed through arrogance, shouting people and calling them stupid and telling them to do this, do this, because I know everything. This is not one of those businesses. I lead a lot more through influence, through guidance, through leading by example. We are all kind of moving along in the same direction. It is not my position to tell people what to do. I don’t know if that counts as a hack?

Steve Rush: For sure. It does. You know, the whole kind of philosophy of the traditional kind of 1960-70s leadership is still kind of present in some organizations today, but people recognize that is never going to serve them well in the future. And the only way that you can really be a leader is to be amongst other leaders that you’re instilling, in developing and creating.

Frank Zinghini: Yup. Yeah a big part of that is his ego. You know, we are all ego-driven to one regard or another, but when you are in a situation like this and you are leading. You have got to learn to put your ego in the background and look for your own self-satisfaction in sort of larger things down the line. You don’t want to just be right all the time. You don’t need to be right all the time. Andy Grove, I may be dating myself again? The CEO of Intel wrote a great series of books and one of the things he said that always stuck with me is you can be right, but you can also be dead right. And I try very hard not to be dead right and it often comes from your own desire to prove yourself right. So in that whole influencing thing, it’s very important to put your own ego in the backseat and eventually you will have some successes. And then you can quietly in your own little study at home with your glass of single malt scotch. Look at the thing that you just delivered to your customer and say, you know, yeah, I did that. It was really your team that did it but you can say, yeah, I did that. You can satisfy yourself that way, but you don’t need to do that in the office.

And again I don’t know if these count as hacks, but the other thing that I try to instil on everyone as a cultural thing is that we should never be afraid of failure. I think fear of failure is a great obstacle for people and if you have a culture that punishes failure or mocks it or whatever no one is ever going to take any risks and nothing really interesting is ever going to happen. You’ve got to encourage. I mean going so far, what is the Facebook expression? Fail fast or something like that. You know, that has become part of this, whole break things fail fast. I don’t mean that kind of thing. I mean, try something new if it does not work, backtrack, you know, don’t go crazy about it, but don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to speak up in a meeting and say, yeah, we tried that thing, thought it was a good idea, but it turns out to be a really bad idea. So we’re not going to do that. Great, you learn so much from that. You learn so much more and there is lots of good quotes about this, that I can’t pull out of my head right now, but you learn so much more from a failure than from a success.

Steve Rush: You do, don’t you?

Frank Zinghini: Yeah. Always, always. And you have to have a culture that says that’s okay.

Steve Rush: We have a lot to the digital world for that principle of failure in business and getting comfortable with failure because it kind of was born in the digital evolution of experiment test and learn and agile development and we have kind of taken some of those principles now. Most organizations recognize that and it might even be labelled as failure. It might be labelled as learning and we just do that. We learn from it. If it does not work, we do something else.

Frank Zinghini: Yeah. It is a little harder in our business and this is again, where, sort of my job to make sure these messages are carried. You know, when you are doing work for customers, it is a service organization and they see something that we might call failure. They think, well, wait a minute. No, I thought you guys were experts. I spend some of my time helping customers understand as well that certain kinds of, I mean, there is bad failures don’t get me wrong. I am not saying all failure is good. But you know, I have to help the customers see that this is a natural part of making progress of innovating.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Frank Zinghini: You can’t innovate and be perfect at the same time.

Steve Rush: Was it Thomas Edison who, who created the electric light bulb said that I have been really, really unlucky for many times, but I’ve only been successful once. It was a thousand times or something like that. He tried to get this light bulb up and running, but it was on the thousand and first time it actually worked,

Frank Zinghini: He got a couple of great quotes like that. I can’t remember those either, but yes, and he’s a smart guy, obviously. Don’t be afraid to fail because if you’re not failing every now and then you’re just not trying hard enough.

Steve Rush: And failure is where we go next. So this part of the show we call Hack to Attack. Now, anybody that is evolved in business for as long as you have Frank and has been successful. There has always been times throughout our career where we can look back and think, oops. Well, that did not work out as well as I had expected, or maybe I have screwed up. And we call this section Hack to Attack. And it’s where we’ve taken an experience or a lesson in our careers where it didn’t work out. But we’ve used that as a positive in our work in our life. What would be your Hack to Attack?

Frank Zinghini: Oh boy, there is so many of them. Probably the biggest one and it is interesting because we talked a lot about trust earlier. And you know the biggest lesson I’ve learned is. I talked about how I built a great team and you have great people and you trust in them and all that, but you have got to be careful not to mistake confidence for competence. I have made that mistake a few times, you know, really understand people’s capabilities, get past their own bluster. I have gotten much better at that over the years. You know, I have had situations where I have just put too much faith in people because it seemed like they could do it. And I’ve learned how to really understand people’s capability and kind of related to that. It is probably not a surprise that as a service business, my biggest lessons are all around people. Because technologies come and go as stuff, come and go, but it is really all about the people.

Steve Rush: Right.

Frank Zinghini: So there is that and kind of related, but kind of not. I believe very strongly in compassion, being a compassionate leader, being a compassionate vendor to my customers. I mean the world needs compassion. I think there is a tremendous lack of compassion across all domains. And you can get so much farther if you just really understand what other people’s needs are and what motivates them and what drives them and help them achieve their visions of success so that you can achieve your vision. To this day I live by that, but in the earlier years, I was probably too far in that direction. And I tended to put individual people’s needs ahead of the needs of the business. And I have learned over the years that business has to come first because actually I had more and more and more people in the business and the needs of any one person as important as those needs are to that person. If there is a conflict between that person’s needs and the needs of the business and by extension of the other people in the business. I have to make the call and it was not so good back then, but got better at it

Steve Rush: Awesome and learning and testing and learning, getting it right is all part of evolution of anybody’s leadership responsibility.

Frank Zinghini: And that is a very important point. I am glad you said that because I think it is very easy and tempting to just sort of settle into a pattern after a while and think, Oh, I got this, I’ve done this before. I have seen everything. I know everything. I don’t have to grow anymore. I don’t have to learn anymore. I got it done and like, that is never true. You never stop learning. I learned something new every day. I learned several new things every day and you have got to be open to that and you’ve got to be open to letting go of past assumptions. That is not the right word.

Steve Rush: Assumptions is probably the right word. Right?

Frank Zinghini: Letting go of the things that you thought you knew. Yeah, maybe. Yeah, you got to let go of the things you thought you knew because what you thought you knew and maybe it didn’t know it. Maybe it was true, then. It is not true now and you have got to, you have got to be flexible. You got to be fluid.

Steve Rush: And that is a direct parallel between digital and leadership. You know, the level of both continually just evolve.

Frank Zinghini: Exactly.

Steve Rush: And it is being thoughtful about what I need to do to take advantage of how they are evolving.

Frank Zinghini: Exactly.

Steve Rush: The last place we would like to take you Frank is to do a bit of time travel now. I am going to ask you to jump into the time capsule. Bump into Frank at 21, and you have an opportunity to give Frank some advice. What would that be?

Frank Zinghini: Wow, 21. Other than, get a haircut. 21, where was I at 21? I guess just graduating college. Interesting, I guess it relates to what we were saying before. I have no regrets over the path I followed. I would run and follow the same path, so I would probably tell that 21 year old. And it’s interesting you say that because the timing is about right. I talked about trust before. I talked about not buying into people’s confidence over competence and all that and I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember Ronald Reagan when he was president, but I am.

Steve Rush: I certainly am.

Frank Zinghini: He famously said in some context, when talking about arms control with Russia, let me see if I can remember. Something like Doveryai, no proveryai. Or something like this. Trust, but verify and I think if I could tell 21 year old Frank, one thing. I would say listen to that. Trust people, but make sure you know what you are trusting in, make sure that trust is deserved.

Steve Rush: That is great advice. Isn’t it?

Frank Zinghini: Because everything else flows from that because all of life is trust. People are trusting me I am trusting them. I am trusting the people that work for me. It is all about trust. Even now I am trusting people to wear a bloody mask in public, you know, so it is all about trust, so you’ve got to make sure that your trust is earned and deserved.

Steve Rush: Cool. Folks are listening to this thinking, how do I get hold of some information about Frank and Applied Visions? Where would we best send them to find out more about you and the work that you do now?

Frank Zinghini: After they have listened to this podcast, of course, because this has been great. I have really enjoyed this and I have said a lot of things. I never thought I would say, so this is terrific. Well we have a website and talking about vision. I was smart enough to register a three-letter URL when I could.

www.avi.com Applied Visions Inc. So it’s real easy to find, you will find me there. You will find me on LinkedIn. I love interacting with people on LinkedIn. There is not a lot of Frank Zinghini’s in the world, so I should be pretty easy to find. There is a few, but not a lot. I try to blog regularly so you can subscribe to my blog and heck you can pick up the phone and call me.

Steve Rush: And we still do that, right? We still actually can speak to people, even though the digital world has replaced many mediums of communication. The phone is still a fantastic way to connect, right.

Frank Zinghini: You know it is funny. It is and interestingly enough. Our stay at home life over the last few months, I think has revived some of that. The need to just speak to people on the phone, because you know, you can’t just go walk in and chat with them and we’re kind of rediscovering how to have conversations like this. But yeah, I’m easy to find. And I love talking about the stuff. I will talk to until I am blue in the face about these things. And you know, I don’t need to know that there’s anything for me on the other end of it. I just like talking about this stuff.

Steve Rush: We have loved talking to you as well, and we will make sure that in the show notes, your links to both LinkedIn and your website are there for our listeners to click on as soon as they are done.

Frank Zinghini: Terrific.

Steve Rush: So Frank Zinghini. It has been absolutely awesome. Thank you ever so much for being on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Frank Zinghini: Well, I really appreciate being on your show. Thank you.

Closing 

Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler their @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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