Fierce Conversation with Luis Gonzales

Luis Gonzales is a master facilitator and a global communications expert. We have some fierce hacks from Luis today which include:

  • How his multicultural upbringing shaped his corporate career positively
  • Why cultures play a significant part in your communication
  • Paying attention to one conversation at a time enriches relationships
  • Why noticing how your intuition informs conversations is critical
  • Plus lots more hacks

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Music: ” Upbeat Party ” by Scott Holmes courtesy of the Free Music Archive FMA

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

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: Did you know that in every language, there are more negative words than there are positive ones. It seems we need lots of words to describe my negative feelings, but we’re content with a handful of ones to describe positive feelings. Researchers have found that most cultures have words that describe seven basic emotions. They are joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame, and guilt. So that’s one positive emotion and six negative emotions. It’s no wonder so many of us have a hard time keeping our negative comments in check. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been working with language and communication, and I’ve noticed a bunch of words in our vocabulary that are unhelpful and could adversely impact on you and your team’s outcomes.

In the news today, I’ve called out five that I think are most limiting negative words, and really could be avoided so that we don’t hurt, belittle and intimidate those around us. Let’s get into them.

The first word is can’t. When you tell somebody they can’t do something, oftentimes they’ll end up in believing you, whether you are right or wrong. This is particularly true if the person has come to trust you and to respect you and can often then limit people’s behaviours.

No, the word no is a mother and father all negative words and no can impact us down to our very core. In fact, research tells us that we rap more slowly to the word no than we do to the word yes. And that our brains respond differently when we’re told no. This is a great reminder for us to use this word sparingly and to be thoughtful when we do use it.

Failure as in you’re a failure, is that ever really a reason to use this word in relation to another person? Until a few years ago, I actually used this on my website and I used the phrase failure isn’t an option. Now I put success is your only option. And lo and behold, when people read it, they stay on the page longer. They recognize this as more of a positive enabler. It also stimulates better thinking. Positive beats negative, of course, in every situation.

Wrong, the word wrong has its place. And sometimes there’s no doubt that something is wrong. However, constantly telling someone they’re doing something wrong or that their opinions are wrong are likely to drive a wedge between the two of you. Using this word assumes that only, you know, best. You have the monopoly on what’s classed as a truth. So, reserve this word for when there is absolutely no doubt that it is wrong and it’s accurate.

And finally, the word never. Using generalizations, like always never. Often indicates that you feel very strongly something. However, it may not be an accurate analysis of the situation at all. If you want to intimidate or hurt someone, i.e. You failed everything you try then using generalizations is a great technique, but of course, if that’s not your intention, it’s probably best to take a different approach and get more specific. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. We’d love to hear your stories and insights, so please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Luis Gonzales is a special guest on today’s show. He is a master facilitator. He’s an expert in workplace performance, productivity and communications. Luis welcome to the Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Luis Gonzales: Thank you, Steve. It’s great to be here.

Steve Rush: So, you’ve got really fascinating backstory. Having now worked as a master facilitator at Fierce, you didn’t start out life that way and a very multicultural upbringing in the city of Compton, South of LA. Tell us a little bit about the journey to Compton to where you are now?

Luis Gonzales: Well many of your listeners may have heard of the city of Compton. Right now It’s known for rap music and extreme gang violence, but I’ll say that it was quite not like that back in the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up there, it was a very diverse community. So, I’m very fortunate to have grown up in such a diverse community as Compton. People of different colours and shades, et cetera. It also provided some challenges that I needed to work through as a young person, which made me who I am today, made me a much stronger person who I am today. It’s a very working-class community. And I think what sparked me to get into what I’m into now, which is, you know, all about communication, effective communication, or as we say, fierce communication, I used to observe as a child, the different styles of communication that people from different backgrounds and races had all in the same community of Compton.

And I used to kind of study that from a very I guess, immature way, you know, why do they talk like that? How is it they’re communicating? And what’s the actual message they’re trying to deliver? How is it being received, et cetera? And again, this is in a multicultural environment. So, you could say it could be between Latin Americans, Mexican Americans, and the way they communicate and communicating with African-Americans perhaps. So, there’s two different communication styles there. So, I’m really grateful that I grew up in a diverse world, a diverse neighbourhood with lots of support. Were there challenges? Absolutely. But that has also caused me to become a better communicator today. And I would say a better person overall as well in terms of my outlook on diversity, being more accepting of differences in people, et cetera. So that’s a little bit about Compton, my background and how that kind of propelled me into what I’m doing now.

Steve Rush: And I wonder if that time that you were growing up, Luis, you had an awareness of the different types of communication because you would have not only had the multicultural language communication was physical, but I suspect that there were a number of different nonverbal communication styles and attitudes that were playing out. It’s almost like a communications apprenticeship, right?

Luis Gonzales: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll give you a perfect example of that Steve. When I was very young, probably second grade, maybe I was seven or eight years old, one of the kids in school who was a Mexican American kid, like myself, was being scolded by the teacher, by the way, I went to Catholic School, but that’s neither here nor there, but in those days there were some scolding when you misbehaved or were not behaving as you should. And the teacher was scolding this young Mexican American kid, my classmate. And I remember him looking down and looking down while he was being scolded. And the teacher kept saying, look at me, stop looking down, look at me. And he was getting in trouble because he refused to look at the teacher. And I remember telling my parents that when I went home and it was probably not at that time, I may have been too young, but later I came to understand, and my father helped me understand that’s a cultural difference. That’s a cultural communication style. That’s nonverbal, as you said. So, I’ll say in our culture and what I mean by that is, I identify as a Mexican American. So, in my Mexican background, my Mexican family culture when someone is scolded, you don’t look that person in the eye, you remain humble and you tilt your head downward. In a US American context, however, that might be seen as disrespectful. And you need to look the person in the eye, who’s scolding you, the older person, the elder, whoever it is. So that’s one example right there of different communication style, all in English, all in the same country, all within the same overarching culture if you will. Here in Southern California. And yet there’s a miscommunication that caused a breakdown in a relationship, and nobody really understood why.

Steve Rush: And it’s the subtle nuances and those cultural communication styles that you become successful at adapting and learning about, and indeed sharing those lessons. And we’ll get onto that in a little bit more detail in a moment.

Luis Gonzales: Sure.

Steve Rush: When it comes to your corporate career, though, you have a great kind of story of evolution and transformation, your corporate career in the hospitality business. Just tell us a little bit about that?

Luis Gonzales: Sure, I started with the Ritz Carlton Hotel, proud to say that. At the ripe age of, I think it was 20 or 21, and it was based here in the Los Angeles area, that hotel property at the time. And so, we receive a lot of high-profile guests, a lot of celebrities, princes and royalty from all over the world. You can imagine that this five-star hotel, the Ritz Carlton in the Los Angeles area, all the people that came through there, I was exposed again to all kinds of cultures and communication styles. And of course, with the Ritz Carlton, they set a very high standard for guest satisfaction, wowing the guests and all of that. And so, in order to exceed the expectations of a guest. That requires communication, that requires effective communication. And so, I was in the school, if you will, while working for the Ritz Carlton, I was in my own school of learning how to communicate across cultures, even within the Ritz Carlton, across departmental cultures, what to speak of. The various cultures that pass-through hotel that I had to interact with.

And please, if you will, or, you know, exceed their expectations as we used to say. So, I learned very quickly, not a lot of people were very interested in that. But for me, I took a deep interest in that. And so, for example, one example of an aha moment, if you will, that I had. Was when I was welcoming a wedding party, I had been with the Ritz probably about eight years, by that time and a big Indian wedding party, or what I thought was an Indian wedding party was coming in, everyone dressed to the hilt, all the beautiful clothing they were wearing and all that. And when the bride and her family entered the main doors of the Ritz Carlton, and I was standing there to greet them, I folded my hands in a Namaste fashion and greeted them with Namaste.

And, oh my gosh, that was one of the most embarrassing moments. And one of the best learning moments I’ve ever had, don’t assume, they were not Indian, they were Pakistani.

Steve Rush: Alright, yeah.

Luis Gonzales: They were not Hindu. They were Muslim. And what an aha moment that was for me. Now anybody else, any of my colleagues at that time, might’ve just said, oh, sorry about that. And then moved on, but I ruminated on it. Like, what’s the difference? And what made me assume that they were Indian and how can I now clue into the differences before I put my foot in my mouth and embarrass myself. So that’s an example of just one example of some of the learning, the intercultural communication style, intercultural communication learning that I had just by my exposure working at the Ritz-Carlton, exposure to so many cultures.

Steve Rush: And I guess, you almost have a conveyor belt of different cultures and different languages that on top of your diverse upbringing, it was just another layer of learning all the way through your career, right?

Luis Gonzales: That’s right, absolutely. And then not to mention on top of that communication style of the Ritz Carlton itself, they have such a genteel way, I guess this is the best way I can describe it, of communicating, whether it be hard messages to deliver, or, you know, celebratory messages or just your basic memos, just that communication style that is so smooth and gracious and concise. And I learned from that as well, in terms of, you know, another way to communicate in a business setting.

Steve Rush: I’m sure you won’t mind me mentioning you started out as a bus boy with the Ritz Carlton and ended up as a senior leader for the organization.

Luis Gonzales: I did.

Steve Rush: And at what point did you make the transition from the hospitality business to being a master facilitator?

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m glad you asked that. I was with the Ritz Carlton for a total of about 18 years. I had worked my way through the ranks, as you mentioned, starting as a bus boy slash therapist banquets, waiter, parked cars, did all kinds of things and ended up as a guest services manager, meaning in charge of all the valets and the bell persons, et cetera, and the front of the house as we used to call it. And I had reached a point where I wanted to dive more deeply into this whole idea of intercultural cross-cultural communication, global communication, something peaked my interest at that moment. And I thought to myself, okay, I’ve put in 18 years in the hotel industry, where is this career going? And is this what my passion is? And I think it just boiled down to that was no longer my passion.

I had developed another passion and that was effective communication across borders, across cultures. Within a year, I decided to go back to grad school or go to grad school and complete my education, which I had not done. So, I quit the Ritz, and I remember when I gave my notice, they were dumbfounded. They meaning my managers at the time, my leaders, who I respected at that time, their jaws dropped like you’re going to ditch a career, this awesome career that you built for yourself. Okay, good luck. I proceeded to go to the Monterey Institute of International Studies. I got my bachelor’s degree in International Studies. I got my master’s degree in International Relations with a focus on culture and area studies. And so, I just spearheaded into this whole world of intercultural cross-cultural communication. And that’s how I got into that.

One of my mentors was my professor. He owned a consultancy company, still does. Called Aperian Global. They do cross-cultural consulting. They did, at that time, I got under his wing. Long story short, that’s how I got here to where I am today. I began to start training effective communication. And in particular global cross border cross-cultural communication. I eventually ended up at Microsoft in India, where I worked for two years, coaching and training, the software engineers that were at the customer help desk, if you will, when the cloud has gone down and companies need quick help with that, they would reach my team in India. And I trained them and coach them on their communication styles with US Americans and Canadians. And from there long story short, connected, a few more dots after that and got me to where I am today with Fierce Conversations. Been with them for five years. Love what I do, because it’s all about effective communication in so many aspects. In so many different angles, if you will, but that’s the short story, Steve.

Steve Rush: That’s a great story. And I love the fact that all the while through your growing up in your corporate career, and I guess it may have even been completely unconscious. You already had the foundations for a bachelor’s and a master’s degree right there.

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, I did. But I didn’t realize. It is now I’m realizing it, but yes, you’re right at the time, you don’t realize what you know, I guess.

Steve Rush: And it’s a great story. Thank you for sharing that.

Luis Gonzales: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: So, tell us a little bit about the work that you do with Fierce, so Fierce Conversations as you called it.

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, Fierce Conversations. Let me just start with our starting point. This is a firm belief that we have, and I believe this to be true. I’ve witnessed and experienced this in my own life. Our careers, our companies, our relationships, heck even our lives, they either succeed or fail and it happens gradually then suddenly. And it happens one conversation at a time. So, conversations are the linchpin, the key to achieving the results that we want, achieving the relationships that we want, the goals that we want or whatever it is we say we want, it starts with a conversation and highly effective people like us. I’ll include you there, Steve and I do my best to be a highly effective individual. We track the trends of our lives and we look, and we can adjust. Who do we need to have conversations with to help us achieve our goals? Where are conversations missing that need to happen to avoid any kind of mistakes or perhaps disasters? Where am I not being as candid or as forthright as I could be, or as I should be in a particular situation to help me achieve whatever goals I want. So, at the core we are all about at Fierce paying attention to our individual conversations. Because as I mentioned already, one conversation at a time, we’re either moving towards the results we say we want or away from those results. We’re either enriching relationships or flat-lining them, or hopefully not, but sometimes damaging them. All happening one conversation at a time. So that’s our foundational belief. And from there, we take that idea and we branch out into confrontational conversations, all kinds of leadership conversations, how to have delegation conversations, how to confront when behaviour needs to change now. We talk about the idea of building emotional capital and why relationships, why strong relationships are so important to achieving our organizational goals and results. And so, we branch off in so many different directions, and now we are getting involved with effective conversations, effective communication, as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, because those are now topics that have bubbled up to the surface of the public discourse here in the United States, at least.

Steve Rush: Great stuff, there’s one thing that I’d love to dive into with you. And it’s this whole principle of candid and why we struggle with having candid conversations, giving your experience in the corporate world as leaders can play out. What’s the reason you find that most leaders struggle with that candid?

Luis Gonzales: Most leaders in my experience, and I’m speaking from personal experience as well. In addition to my 30 plus years of just work experience, it boils down to fear-based. If I’m candid, I fear that I may be wrong. I fear that I may damage some relationships. I fear that I might be wrong and look incompetent. So many fears, if you will hold us back from being candid. From saying what we really feel and want to say. Now oftentimes, again. I’ll speak for myself. Many of us, we say what we feel is expected of us, to say what we should say. What people want us to say. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, you will definitely say what you think people want you to say, but that may not be the real truth. So, where that gets us into trouble is if I’m not having a candid conversation with use Steve, for example, and there are pieces missing because I’m not taking the conversation to a deeper level where it needs to go, and there are pieces missing. In other words, there are pieces of the conversation that I’m not sharing with you as I’m not being so candid with you, that leads you to perhaps start assuming. You start filling in the blanks in your own mind with your assumptions and those assumptions are often wrong. And so that leads us to more in an organization that leads us to mistakes, rework, loss of clients, duplication of efforts, and all of those have a dollar sign cost to them. So back to your question, it’s fear, fear of something that holds us back from being candid.

Steve Rush: It’s also, sometimes, not even intentional, isn’t it? Some people will, most of the time, we’ll try to land some things so that they don’t choose somebody else. They don’t upset somebody, but in doing so run a massive risk of that kind of whole waterfall effect of other things playing out as a result of it.

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, I like to say by trying to avoid, you know, whatever the issue it is that you’re trying to avoid and not being candid about it, you’re actually exacerbating it because it’s going to explode later. I’ve never had an experience of not addressing an issue or a problem, and it got better on its own. So, by ignoring that, and by not being candid by withholding what we really think we should say or feel that we need to say, we’re actually accelerating that undesired result that we’re trying to avoid. Does that make sense?

Steve Rush: Right, yeah, definitely so. there’s a little part of our brain that kind of gives a little bit of a wobble when we sense somebody not being as honest as they could be with us, there is a little shift in dopamine. And that’s triggered in our, what often is referred to as gut feel is its intuition, isn’t it?

Luis Gonzales: Yeah.

Steve Rush: How do you encourage your clients and colleagues to pay attention to that intuition and to challenge where they recognize somebody is not being as candid as they should?

Luis Gonzales: By getting curious. That’s where I always go to. So, if you’re having a conversation with someone and your intuition, your sense is telling you there’s more to the story here. I feel that there’s some things being withheld here. I don’t feel this person is being completely honest or what have you, ask questions, do not be satisfied on the surface. And when I say ask questions, it could sound something like, tell me more about that. Help me understand how you’re seeing that. I’m not sure I’m clear what I’m hearing you say, is that right? I’d like to know more about that so that you can get a more complete picture of how they’re seeing things. If they’re withholding being candid from you. So, you can learn more, you can provoke learning by what I call interrogating reality, interrogating their reality, not interrogating the person, but by really staying with asking questions to find out more. And I always say with leaders, I’ve trained, don’t be satisfied on the surface. Don’t be satisfied with the first response you and I will say across the board, even if someone is being candid with you and they are being forthright and you know, on the surface with you, levelling with you. Still get curious, ask questions because there are details that may come out that they may not have thought of or purposely withholding from you. So, it’s always good to just start with curiosity.

Steve Rush: Defiantly, I suspect also at the same time in asking more questions, you get less assumptions, right?

Luis Gonzales: That’s exactly right. I love that you said that because again, like I mentioned before, we, human beings tend to fill in the blanks. We make up stories and most of the time, those stories are not accurate. But we do that. It’s human nature. And so, when I ask the questions, it alleviates those assumptions because now I have clarity on what’s actually really going on here. I’m not making it, so you’re absolutely right.

Steve Rush: So, if I’m a leader and I’m communicating across a global business. How can I get more aware of how to adapt and change and modify my communication approach across a wider business?

Luis Gonzales: The first thing I would recommend is if you have the opportunity to observe how different people from different cultures are communicating, that’s the first step. And that’s how I learned is just to sit back and watch and observe and observe how the communication is going back and forth. And then I would say, I don’t know if this holds true today. And I say this because we’re in a pandemic, we’re all working remotely now. And I have a feeling I don’t have data to back this up, but I have a feeling, our communication styles are all shifting. Even our global and cultural communication styles may be shifting as a result of us all working remotely and all being connected now on Zoom calls, et cetera. But prior to COVID I would say the second thing that I would start with is just by exploring at a very high level, what are some of the general ways or themes that cultures generally use in their communication? Are they high context? Are they low context? How do they view time? And when I say low context or high context you know, are there a lot of explanations? Do they give a lot of context? And you have to ask questions to help them get to the point or like us, US Americans, are we direct? We just get right to the point. So, it’s helpful to understand that because from my experience, for example, working with Indians in India, very high context culture very averse to telling a client, a customer or a boss, no. And so you have to find out ways again, getting curious. Tell me more about that. Ask more questions to get the real answer. For example, I learned the hard way that when I was communicating with some of the Indian members of my team back in India, at Microsoft. If I would ask a question such as, will you have that ready by Friday end of day? Some of the answers I might get would be something like, we’ll do our best, sir. Well, as a US American, I take that as a positive. We’ll do our best. Sounds good. It sounds like they’re going to pull this off, but I know I had to learn this, that’s actually a no.

Steve Rush: Yeah, right.

Luis Gonzales: That’s a subtle way of saying no. And so back to your question, first of all, observe how these conversations are going on. Anyone has an opportunity to join in that kind of a conversation via conference call or what have you to observe it, and then just do a little research on your own on the internet. There’s plenty of resources out there to just see on a very high general level, what are those different communication styles that different cultures have? And especially if any of your listeners who are hearing this know that they’re going to be working with or interfacing with people in a particular culture, then of course, zero in on how that culture communicates.

And I will say, I don’t paint a wide brush, generally speaking. That’s the culture communication style, but not everybody in that culture may follow that style. So, you know, we don’t want to stereotype, but those are my two suggestions. First of all, see if you can observe and see the dynamics of the conversation between people from different cultures and start doing a little exploration and research on your own into those different communication styles. Last thing I’ll say is most importantly, and I almost forgot to say it Steve. It’s important for us to look at our own selves. What’s our communication style personally, and what’s our own cultural communication style. In other words, where were we born? I was born here in the United States. I’m a very direct communicator, but I also have my own personal way of communicating. So, it’s important for us to know our own communication styles and our own values that back up those communication styles, and then take a look at the other ones.

Steve Rush: Whilst I suspect stereotypes on the whole people feel a little bit uncomfortable with, there are pockets of behaviours that aren’t quite consistent culturally and internationally, and it’s a good starting point if nothing else, right?

Luis Gonzales: I agree, and you know, I think this kind of reminds me of what I mentioned a minute ago where cultural communication styles may be shifting and maybe kind of unifying. I remember it was just 10 years ago, 9 years ago at Microsoft in India, there was this term Global English. There was a thought that at some point we would all in business be speaking the standardized what they called Global English. And it was almost forced in a way, I guess you could say, you know, we’re going to you know, there was a strong push for everyone across cultures, especially within Microsoft and the teams that I was working with to use this, you know, model of the Global English. Now, as I mentioned with COVID and all of us kind of communicating even more. Now, frequently, more frequently across cultures, cross borders, et cetera. I suspect again, and I don’t have research to back it up, but I suspect it’s accelerated that. I don’t know if I’d call it Global English, but we’re all settling into some norm, I guess you could say in how we gain more of, it’s more of an internet communication style, I guess you could say.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I observed that too. One of the things that’s quite interesting that I’d love your view on right now is that we’re often speaking to folk around the world now via Zoom or WebEx or MS Teams and through our laptops and devices. Do you see that being a barrier to communication? Or do you see that as an enabler?

Luis Gonzales: Well, I think it’s a little bit of both. At first, it’s kind of a barrier and I still see the barrier, it’s just a technology thing. People are still trying to understand how the technology works, what are all the buttons they need to push and the video, getting comfortable with video on all of that. So, I see it as initially a little bit of resistance perhaps, a little bit of a hindrance, and there are some challenges, but I see this as a wonderful opportunity for the world at large, for humanity to be able to now increase our understanding our cross-cultural understanding and a humanness and communication. So, I see it in the bigger picture as a plus, as a definite boon to us on the planet. But right now, I think we’re still in the transition period. I did a webinar yesterday where I’m still helping people understand where the raise hand icon is, and please put your phones on mute and where the camera button is and all that. So, I think once this becomes more normal in however long of time that takes, I think we’re going to see a lot more benefits than challenges.

Steve Rush: I wonder also if this could be a crutch to enable some of those more candid conversations, because I’m not having to worry about the physical environment, I’m in now, I can just rely on my communication and I’m safe.

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, and that’s the tricky part. And I’m glad you mentioned that. I’m noticing that in the webinars that I deliver, et cetera, that some people, for whatever reason, maybe they have valid reasons for it, but see this as an opportunity to sit back, be quiet, do my work, not really engaged and just deliver what I need to deliver. I noticed that on my webinars, when people, you know, don’t turn on their cameras and they don’t participate. And I sense that some people may feel that this is great. This is an easy way for them to just stay below the radar, do the need full and get on with it. But I don’t see that as a benefit because I know that we, as human beings are hard wired emotionally. There’s research, there’s Nobel prizes that have been awarded to those researchers that prove that at the core were emotional beings. We need to connect with one another and with COVID happening and us working remotely and being physically separated and being physically distance, I suspect that it’s even more important for us now to really communicate, to really turn on our cameras, to really ask questions and to try our best, to give eye contact and communicate with people in as much, a way as possible that we used to when we weren’t separated physically like this.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and I think it’s a really great observation by the way, too. It starts of course, and ends with what we’ve started to talk about a little earlier on, which is just conversations and the more conversations you have as you call it, your linchpin unlocks the rest of communication.

Luis Gonzales: Yes.

Steve Rush: So, the next part of the show, Luis, we get to turn the lens on you now and we get to hack into your leadership mind. So, first thing I’d like to ask of you is what would you say your top three leadership hacks are?

Luis Gonzales: Oh, the first leadership that I have that works for me that I want to share with anybody else. We just talked about it. Connect with others, your team members, your colleagues,

The people who report to you, the people who don’t report to you, your leader. Connect with them on a human level. And what do I mean by connect? What do you mean by connect Luis? Just what I was saying a few minutes ago, if you’re on a Zoom call, if you’re on a conference call, when you have the opportunity to do so, when the kids aren’t running around in the background, when your spouse is not asleep on the couch or whatever reasons you have for not turning on your camera, when you have the opportunity to do so, turn on your camera, give eye contact and connect with others around you in the organization, on your team, and get curious as I’ve said earlier, but not the business as usual. Get curious, not the agenda. Here’s what we’re here to talk about today. It’s an investment in time. I know we’re all busy, but spend some time at the beginning of your calls to just check in personally, just as we used to do in the office, in the coffee room, how was your weekend? How are things going with everything on your plate? What’s keeping you up at night? How are the kids, all that stuff, right? Well, that’s been missing. Now that we’re kind of new reality. So, I encourage people to do that, connect on a human level. And we all know what that connect means with the individuals that we’re connecting with.

Remember the conversation is of equal value to the relationship. So, what I mean by that is. if I withhold something from the conversation, if I withhold cantor from the conversation, if I withhold curiosity from the conversation, if I will withhold going deep in our conversations, if I keep my conversations surface at a surface level, my relationship will also be surface. My relationship will not be very candid. If I’m having unreal conversations with people around me, fake conversations around me, saying what I don’t really feel. Saying what I don’t really think.

Well, then my relationship will also be unreal. So that’s my first leadership hack, connect with people.

Number two, model accountability, model vulnerability. As leaders we all want our people to be accountable. We want people to take responsibility for what they’re supposed to take responsibility for, but it’s been my firm belief and my experience over these many years, accountability, this idea of accountability cannot be trained and it cannot be mandated. It’s a personal choice that we have that we make. If it’s to be it’s up to me, given the current unfortunate situation, I find myself in. Given the current situation, whatever it is I find myself in, what can I do to move this in a positive direction, that is accountability, that can’t be trained. It can’t be mandated. It can be observed and people can see leaders model it and follow through with it. So, leaders and everybody for that matter. Model accountability, own up to where you make mistakes, jump in where you know, something needs to be done. And don’t ask whose job was this? Who’s accountable for this, oh, this isn’t my job. This isn’t my lane, stay in your lane. None of that, go for it. Do the needful, do what needs to be done. And when you model it, people will observe it. And most people will follow along with that.

Third is give ownership and accountability to your people. When I say your people, this is for leaders, of course. Give ownership and accountability. And I learned that way back at the Ritz-Carlton. For example, when we were at the Ritz, if we had a dissatisfied, yes, we would call that a guest opportunity. Even when I was a bus boy, or even when I was a waiter, if a guest came up to me complaining about something, they were unhappy. I could take care of that situation and turn that guest around right then and there, it didn’t matter my rank, it didn’t matter my title. It didn’t matter my role. That’s ownership and accountability. And we were able to turn those guests around on our own without having to call a manager, going through any necessary unneeded steps, I should say. So, in the corporate world, we all have teams. We’re all part of teams. If you’re leader of a team, give ownership to your people, let them shine, let them rise. And sometimes even let them fall on their knees. Sometimes my leaders let me do that, but I learned that way. But celebrate the successes, give ownership, give accountability to your people, allow them to have accountability and celebrate the successes. That builds trust, that strengthens the relationship. And that is an investment in returns later on down the road.

Steve Rush: Some super learning in there Luis, particularly that whole one around accountability and ownership because it doesn’t cost anything, does it?

Luis Gonzales: No.

Steve Rush: To take on that responsibility, to get things fixed and all too often organizations handed off to somebody else. And that’s where you lose impact and you lose customer relationships.

Luis Gonzales: That’s right, absolutely right.

Steve Rush: So, the next part of this show, we call it Hack to Attack. You affectionately just referred to it as maybe fallen on your knee. So, a time in your life or your career or your work where something hasn’t gone well, it’s maybe not gone to plan, but as a result of the experience, we know use that as a lesson in our life that serves as well. What’s your Hack to Attack?

Luis Gonzales: Well, my Hack to Attack, not too long ago, I worked for an organization. It was in the last 10 years. I had a very large shoes to fill, large boots to fill, a lot of responsibilities. I was in charge of learning and development for North America and South America. Living in India, my team in the United States. So, I was reluctant to delegate. I was taking everything on my own and I was not managing my time wisely. And consequently, my health suffered after about a year and a half of that, I reached, you know, I had been burning the candle at both ends. It was awful in terms of the stress that I went through, the headaches I got, the weight that I gained, the bad skin problems that I got through all of that. But now, as I reflect on that, what have I learned from that? And what do I do differently now to avoid that? Especially with the role I have with Fierce is I delegate.

There are two reasons why I delegate. Number one, obviously, to free my plate up so that I can, you know, add, you know, different types of projects or more important things onto my plate, making time for those things. But also, the flip side of that is I’m developing the people around me by delegating, giving them more responsibility. So, it’s not just taking it off my plate, but it’s actually with an interest to develop others. And so now I delegate a lot more than I used to. I used to be afraid to delegate. Didn’t like it, but now I know how to have that conversation with people around me, they’re willingly, hopefully will you know, accept what I’m offering to them as it, you know, will help them in their career. And then of course the time management falls into that as well. And that was a big challenge for me. I would say for up until about five years ago, when I joined Fierce, learn how to have a delegation conversation.

Steve Rush: And sometimes it’s getting into that burnout zone. That is the learnings, the real learning to make you realize that there are things that are still within your control that you can fix.

Luis Gonzales: Yeah, and if I can just say this really quickly, we have so many justifications for not delegating. Some of them are valid. Like I can just do it quicker myself. It’ll take time to train them to do it. So, I might as well just do it myself. They may make mistakes and I’m responsible for it. So, I might as well just do it myself and more.

Steve Rush: And that not sustainable though, isn’t it? That’s the thing.

Luis Gonzales: Nope, absolutely not. I found that out the hard way.

Steve Rush: The last thing that we’re going to do with you today, Luis is we’re going to give you an opportunity to do some time travel and you get to go back to bump into Luis at 21 and give them some advice. What’s your advice to him?

Luis Gonzales: Wow, you know, I often do this, a very reflective person. So, my advice to my 21-year-old self, imagine I’m applying for a job at the Ritz Carlton man, and I’m just a young chap and I’m a little nervous about this. Here’s what I would tell myself. Number one, follow your heart. Well, you know what? I always follow my heart, Steve, but I’m going to add to that. Follow your heart and don’t forget, use your logic. You have logic there for a reason. So why I’m giving myself advice? My 21 self-advice on this is because I’ve been like a Peter pan all my life, you know, flitting about the planet and that’s been great. I’ve had some awesome experiences. I got a great career, but I often made decisions solely based on my emotions and I didn’t use logic wisely. So there has to be a balance there, at least for me. So, number one, follow your heart. But remember use your head too, heart and head are your best friends. They go together.

Steve Rush: They do.

Luis Gonzales: Two, stop thinking and caring about what others might think. I’ve always been a people pleaser and people wouldn’t even think that would be advice that I would give myself because people see me as just someone who always does what he wants to do. But deep down inside myself, I know, you know, I’m always concerned about what other people might think about my decisions, my actions, et cetera. So, stop that. Just follow your passions, use your logic and go for it. The third one is you can’t please everyone. So be okay with that.

Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly.  

Luis Gonzales: Not every everyone’s going to like your decision, not everyone’s going to back you up. Not everyone’s going to agree with you. It’s part of life. Get over it.

Steve Rush: Great advice, Luis. So, I would love for our conversation to last longer and carry on. And we’ve had a number of conversations over the last few months and then have enjoyed immensely speaking with you. The folk, listening to us today who want to carry that conversation on with you. Where’s the best place we can send them?

Luis Gonzales: Please, first go to our Fierce website to the podcast tab. That’s where this podcast will be hosted and others there. That’s a good place to start. So, the website is from there, you’ll see the resort resources tab. We have tons of resources that are free, where you can take a deeper dive into everything we’ve been talking about today. The second way is I’d love to connect and expand my network. Our network on LinkedIn, you can find me on LinkedIn, Gonzalez, all one word, L.U.I.S G.O.N.Z.A.L.E.S Those are the ways to connect and continue the conversation.

Steve Rush: We’ll make sure they’re in the show notes too Luis, so that people can head straight over.

Luis Gonzales: Awesome, thank you, Steve.

Steve Rush: I just wanted to say, thank you ever so much, Luis for taking some time out of what is a busy time for you to join us today on the podcast. So, thanks for being on The Leadership Hacker.

Luis Gonzales: Thank you for having me, Steve. It was a real pleasure. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

Steve Rush: Thanks Luis.


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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