Leading Effective Relationships with Brett Cooper and Evans Kerrigan

Brett Cooper is President and co-founder of Integris Performance Advisors and Evans Kerrigan who is the CEO and also co-founder of Integris. They wrote the number one bestselling book, Solving the People Problem. This show is packed with hacks and tips, you’ll learn:

  • As leaders, we don’t really have as many people problems as we think
  • When people have a different perspective, that’s an opportunity, not a cost or a challenge
  • Why 62% of employees blame negative workplace conflict on personality differences
  • How using psychometric tools helps your build great engagements and relationships

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: In the news today, we explored the characteristics that folk are looking for from their leaders, particularly the end of a pandemic. The CMI completed some research to see if the behaviors that folks are looking for have changed over time. COVID weary and locked down Fatigued. Employees are looking to their managers now to lead them through the gloom and giving the much-needed energy, inspiration, direction, and hope. So, let’s dig in and find out what the CMI have told us. 

In their research, they outlined what they believe to be the five key behaviors for leaders in 2021. They are charisma, resilience, empathy, and communication. So, charisma. Charismatic leaders inspire people to feel good about themselves and do great things and feel great about themselves. Managers who can do that. Not only achieve a lot more, but they achieve deeper, meaningful relationships. Yet many of us believe that charisma is something that’s beyond us. Other people are charismatic. So how do we learn to be more charismatic? Well, by being authentic and more impactful in the way we present ourselves. Having a sense of purpose for the people around us and what we genuinely care with warmth and compassion. People naturally feel more charismatic towards us. 

Second resilience. The pandemic has demanded resilience from everybody. And particularly for those that we manage, right? To build resilience in teams, managers need to remain positive, demonstrate positive energy and show great care for the people that they lead, doing whatever they can to help them. Go in the extra mile and making sure that we do whatever is possible in the current circumstances. 

Empathy, empathy keeps it reappearing. It’s a core tenant of any leader. So why is this prolific right now? Well, according to the CMI, trust is in short supply. Will I catch COVID from the person walking past me on the street? Is my boss going to make me redundant? Does the government really know what he’s doing? So not only are we having this internal dialogue. Managers have to deal with this as well. Showing empathy is much harder to do when you remote working. It can be really difficult to gather that facial expression from a Zoom or an Ms Teams call. It means managers really need to ask how people are feeling and demonstrate they understand. 

Communication. With so many people now working from home, in the future of work, being a co-working hybrid. Communication skills have never been more important to keeping workers engaged. Keep communicating with all colleagues, telling them what’s happening, what they can expect and in return, what you’ll be expecting from them. Lack of engagement amongst staff is bad for business. Finding time to stay in touch, talk through issues either as a team or one-on-one does take discipline and does take effort, but in doing so, it will mean that you reap the rewards for you and them alike. Communicating stories of hope, positivity is just what’s needed right now. So, what’s your key essential ingredients for leading your teams? Head over to our social media, posts on our sites and let us know exactly what you think are the most important characteristics of leadership coming out of the pandemic. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any news, stories or insights, we look forward to hearing from you. 

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: We have an awesome duo on the show today. We have Brett Cooper, who is President and co-founder of Integris Performance Advisors and Evans Kerrigan who’s CEO and co-founder of Integris, and between them, they wrote the number one bestselling book, Solving the People Problem. Before we introduce them, you’ll want to stick around to the end of the show because Brett and Evans have a very special gift that you can partake in, just by being part of our community, but Brett, Evans, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Brett Cooper: Thanks Steve, Excellent to be here. 

Evans Kerrigan: Thanks, really looking forward to our conversation. 

Steve Rush: Me too. So, what would be really helpful is for each of you, maybe just to give us a little sense of how you arrived at working together at Integris and a little bit about your backstory. So maybe Brett, you can kick us off. 

Brett Cooper: Yeah, absolutely Steve, would be glad to do that. Evans and I have a long history together. We’ve been working together for almost 20 years. The first decade of our relationship was actually with a different organization. We were at the time in the early two thousand, working in the what’s called the Lean Six Sigma Space. This is the process improvement methodology that was sweeping the world in late nineties and the early two thousand. And we were helping big organizations, GE, Cisco, Starwood, organizations like that implement this kind of process improvement methodology. And Evans, and I did a lot of really good projects back then, but one of the things we kept hearing from our clients was that they wanted to change the DNA of their organization. And we recognized at the time that the efforts that we were doing to train them on the skills associated with Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement, well that wasn’t changing the DNA of the organization.

We realized that there was a gap in the work that we’re doing, and that gap was really associated with activities related to leadership behaviors and team dynamics. And so, we started bringing a little bit more of the leadership and team dynamics into the work that we did and it started going so well that we decided that we wanted to take that on in a much larger way. So, we actually stepped out of the old organization and we launched our company, Integris Performance Advisors in 2011, with the idea of really going after the goal of expanding the existence of healthy organizations and great places to work. And we did that by continuing to do a little bit of the Lean Six Sigma process improvement work still, but we really got very focused on helping leaders be better leaders and teams be more effective. And that kind of set us up here. Evans, I’ll let you take it over from there.

Evans Kerrigan: Sure, Brett. So, we’ve been doing this work now for multiple years and we’ve just come more and more to the realization that if we can actually hear one another, listen to one other and understand the different perspectives we come from. It’s amazing what people can do. Part of why we got into this as Brett mentioned, doing all the continuous improvement work, what we found was the limitations weren’t that we would come up with bad answers to things. The limitations were on the execution, on getting buy-in from people, on the communication, on misperceptions that people had about what had been discussed and what hadn’t been discussed. And it really came down to the fact that it is those relationships in those communications that are so critical. And we were fixing big business processes, but not fixing necessarily some of the underlying leadership team and individual communication issues and processes that actually drive the ship for most organization.

Steve Rush: It’s an interesting philosophy, really, because for many years, folk have experienced a real kind of challenge when it comes to making change happen and efficiencies because they have a perception. You can change a process with a process. And actually, research has told us in the work that you doing has proven that’s actually the behavior that changes the process.

Evans Kerrigan: Absolutely, and I can even go one step further. It’s actually that mindset. It’s that understanding that when people have a different perspective, that’s an opportunity, not a cost or a challenge. It’s actually, that’s an opportunity. That’s where we can learn. That’s where we can move. That’s where we can go forward. And all too often, that’s not the normal human reaction to somebody having a different perspective or pushing back on a point. So, it’s really if we can get people to actually, in our language, we talk about really honor those differences. That’s really the secret sauce that enables a whole lot of challenges that have seemed really major, actually be addressed much more quickly. 

Steve Rush: And talking to the secret sauce. You guys have been working together for over 20 years, lasting longer than many relationships do these years. What’s the secret sauce in your relationship?

Brett Cooper: I got to say, it’s largely what we write about in this book. As you will learn Steve, through this conversation, Evans and I are really different guys. We have different energy levels. We focus on different things. We have different communication styles, different personality styles. And early on in our relationship, we were able to recognize that those differences between us, those things are going to make us each stronger and they’re going to make us stronger as a team. So, there are things that I bring to this relationship that Evans doesn’t bring, and there are things that Evans brings to the relationship that I don’t bring. And as Evans was just saying, we have learned to honor those differences and yeah, to your point 20 years later, it’s just really effective in being able to create and run up a pretty successful business.

Steve Rush: What was the pivotal moment in you working together when you realize that actually it’s about relationships that you need to focus on rather than process?

Brett Cooper: You know, for me, it was back, long before we started Integris, when we were really focused, almost exclusively on the process improvement kinds of methodology. And in my role with that business, I was the guy who was working with the executive teams to plan out the initiatives. And it really was one particular executive at one point used that phrase, hey, I want to change the DNA of this organization. And it doesn’t seem like we’re moving that needle. To me, that really held the mirror up and made me realize, you know what? We’re doing some great work, but something has to change. And by having that mirror held up, it really allowed me and then through conversations with Evans, kind of say, you know what? There’s a better way. Let’s do this differently.

Steve Rush: Hmm. I love that. So, Evans, you collectively wrote the book, “Solving the People Problem”. So, when I read that, I thought, well, why didn’t you write the book, “Creating the People Solutions?”

Evans Kerrigan: Well, there’s actually kind of an interesting story around that whole title of the book. What we found was, we had people keep coming to us with what they termed people problems. And it’s kind of a frequent thing in the consulting business. People come to you saying, hey, these people have a problem. At one point, the subtitle of this book was different. The subtitle of the book that we actually were thinking about using was, Solving the People Problem and the subtitle was, and You’re the Problem. Because our belief is, we don’t really have as many people problems as we think. People aren’t the problem. Our inability to communicate, to honor one another’s differences, to be able to actually see one another as individuals all the time, instead of as the issue that I have to kind of get through, that’s actually the problem. It’s not the people are a problem. It’s that we don’t necessarily communicate in the most effective way with one another. We don’t work with what other well enough. And what we found is, part of why we use the people problem is because everybody thinks they have a lot of people problems. We just think they may be wrong. So, we want to redefine that a little bit. It’s how do I actually work with people better, but it’s not that other people are a problem.

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Brett Cooper: If I can chime in just to add to that. Steve, there was a research study on conflict in the workplace a couple of years ago that really was instrumental to do what we do. This study uncovered that 62% of employees blame negative workplace conflict on personality differences. Now, if we peel that back, it’s actually a startling statistic. What’s that saying is that 62% of us experienced the innate differences in the people around us as a potential source of conflict. So, we think that’s a really big problem. 

Steve Rush: That’s huge. 

Brett Cooper: That’s what we call the people problem. It’s not that the differences exist, but it’s that far too many of us don’t understand those differences. And more importantly, don’t honor those differences. So, as we were naming the book, we recognize that the ideas that we were sharing really are at the heart of solving this people problem. And thus, a book title was born.

Steve Rush: Awesome. Love it. And to help peel back some of those layers and to help improve some of that, self-awareness, you’ve relied very much on psychometric testing to remove some of the emotion and provide some of the reality to those folks. How did you arrive at psychometric testing Evans?

Evans Kerrigan: Well, that was actually kind of really an interesting and simple way for us to go. Some of the research around emotional intelligence, which has been out their kind of over the last several decades. Show that people really kind of resonated with the general idea of if I can get better at my emotional intelligence, I’ll be more effective. What people seem to struggle with though, was what were the steps I could take to actually start on that journey. And some of the research that we took a look at said that people self-identify themselves as emotionally intelligent, but those same people who identify themselves as having emotional intelligence at the same time, struggled to actually identify their own emotions unless they were relatively strong emotions. So, our ability to actually even discuss the topic and have that self-awareness most people are somewhat limited in that area.

So psychometric testing gives us the ability to get us into that conversation, to provide us a language, to talk about what are our patterns, our biases, our general tendencies and strategies, and to do it in a non-judgmental way. Where emotions are bad. It’s emotions just are. So how can we actually discuss them in a rational way to kind of take a look and better understand my own reactions, my own behaviors and what I might do to start to modify those. So, from a self-awareness perspective, it enables us to kind of pull back layers of the onion so that we can actually see how we are interacting with the world around us.

Steve Rush: And therefore, it becomes much more thoughtful in the conversations you have and less subjective, I guess?

Evans Kerrigan: Yeah. It’s really helped us move from the almost natural human reaction of I’m right? So, others must be wrong. To say, no, there’s actually a bunch of different perspectives. All of which may have some value, but if I start with that I’m right, so others must be wrong. I can’t even hear the value on the other side. So, how do we kind of lift that conversation up a little bit? So, we can say, hmm, you know what? Those differences are opportunities for me, not stressors. And how the human brain works, we don’t differentiate physical threat from social threat. So, if I look at somebody having a different perspective as a threat, I had that same fight or flight response that I might, if I were being chased by a wild animal. So, I’ve got to do something to interrupt that practice so that I can actually slow down a little bit, actually hear what the other perspective is and see what’s there to learn, what’s there to gain from and how can we move forward?

Steve Rush: Now, there are a number of different psychometric tests available in the marketplace. Many of which have been born from the work of Carl Young. You arrived at DISC and I just wondered how this helps you provided that language to help people better understand themselves, right? 

Brett Cooper: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There are a number of tools out there and we believe that all of those tools have their place. Some of them are really good at helping you really understand yourself. Others are perhaps something you might use during the hiring process. What we have found is that DISC is a framework that works very, very well in the space that we’re talking about here. The space of team dynamics, of getting people to understand what drives themselves and what drives other people. What allows people to communicate more effectively with each other. So, I can give a quick little understanding, explanation here of DISC.

Steve Rush: That would be great. 

Brett Cooper: DISC is actually an acronym. It’s D-I-S-C and it’s an acronym that stands for dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. And the thing that we love about this, DISC model is it’s something that’s very simple for people to understand and utilize in the workplace, because what it does is it uses two spectrums of observable behavior. The first spectrum is how fast paced and outspoken are you versus how cautious and reflective are you. And now most of us can think about our own pace and view others. And we can kind of say, hey, you’re know what? That person is a little more fast paced. That person’s a little more cautious, a little more reflective. So, it’s something we can observe. The other spectrum looks at. Are you more questioning and skeptical when it comes to new ideas and new people, or are you more warm and accepting?

And again, this is something that we can essentially observe as we interact with people. So, what DISC does is, it takes those two spectrums and puts them together in a cross and essentially creates four quadrants. So, when we talk about the D the I, the S the C. Each one of those quadrants essentially is identified by this spectrum. So, taking it to the next step, D the dominance personality style, these are the people that are fast paced and outspoken, and they’re questioning and skeptical. These style people are results driven, they’re action driven. And they’re going to challenge your thoughts. If we look at the, I quadrant. The I quadrant is people who are fast paced than outspoken, but they’re warm and accepting. So, these are people that are moving really fast, but they’re really focused on enthusiasm, collaboration. They’re kind of life of the party, kind of people.

If we keep going around this DISC circle, we can get to the S, the steadiness quadrant. The steadiness people are warm and accepting of new ideas of new people, but they’re a little more cautious, a little more reflective, right? There not speaking up. They’re not the first to speak up in meetings. They really care about supporting other people, but they like things a little bit more on the stable side, and then rounding it out. The final quadrant C, conscientiousness. These are the people that are questioning and skeptical and more cautious and reflective. These are the people that really focus on accuracy and getting the job done, right. They’re typically more private people. So, they’re not likely to share their whole life story right out of the gates, but they’re really get focus on how do we get the job done.

So, there’s a little overview of the DISC kind of circumplex there. 

Steve Rush: Like it. 

Brett Cooper: I actually have a story from the books. Steve one of the things that we did in this book is, as we were writing, we reached out to a whole bunch of people to have them tell us basically their stories about the people problem. And we got a number of really fantastic stories back of people getting the aha moment. And I have one short story in here that I’d love to read. 

Steve Rush: Please do, yeah. 

Brett Cooper: It highlights an aha moment. So, it’s titled saying good morning. And it’s by a woman named Megan who is a performance and learning consultant. And so, this is what Megan told us. She said, my boss and I get to work early every morning. We’re the only two people in the office. For a long time, I would be at my desk and he would just blow past me. After barely saying, good morning, he would close his door. And I was left thinking, why does he hate me? What did I do? So that right there, Steve gets back to that 62% of people blaming differences on conflict. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? 

Brett Cooper: So, she continues. It was very frustrating and my feelings were hurt every day. Then our department began increasing our DISC understanding, and I discovered that I’m a relationship-oriented S and my boss is a results-oriented D. The next day, when he blew past my desk, again, I was hurt. But then I started thinking about the characteristics of a D style person. When he was walking into his office, he was probably thinking about all of his tasks for the day. He is in business mode and his decision not to stop and chat, isn’t a reflection on me. As soon as I embrace this way of thinking, I no longer took his behavior so personally, because I realized it had nothing to do with me. She concludes by saying, I still don’t understand why he shuts the door. And I chuckle when he does, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I understand that we are different and neither one of us is right or wrong. We just are different in how we approach the day.

Steve Rush: Love it. Difference makes a difference.

Brett Cooper: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And we have story after story, both in the book and just that we’ve experienced on our own over the last, you know, 10, 20 years that uncovered exactly that kind of thing, where people explain that. Yeah, the personality differences used to be a source of negative conflict in my workplace, but as soon as we started to understand them and then embrace and honor them, things changed for us. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely. And that Evans, you also overlay EQ and you talked about emotional intelligence earlier on top of that psychometric testing. Can you maybe just describe how that EQ has a relationship with DISC?

Evans Kerrigan: Oh, absolutely. So, if you think about an emotional intelligence is, more and more studies are coming out about how important it is for our long-term success and our ability to work together. And in reality, when we are called in to work with senior leaders, it’s most frequently actually an EQ type of issue. It’s not about their business skills, it’s about their relationships, their personal skills. So, we know this stuff is really important. And as I mentioned earlier, part of the challenge for people is I know I need to do it, but what are the steps I can take? What are the things I can do? So, we found that DISC provides us a language to actually start to talk about kind of a very simple model of EQ that says there’s really kind of four elements that we need to really build.

The first is about looking at ourselves and actually being aware of, who we are? And how we interact with the world? How we make decisions? How we move forward? So that self-awareness, we call it, know your style, is really all about that. And DISC is a wonderful way for people to kind of better understand themselves. We’ve had people who will take a look at what they get in a DISC report and realize, oh yeah, boy, this really describes me very well, occasionally a little bit too well. I honestly, the first time I did it, I was pretty sure somebody had been following me for the last several weeks to write the report. So, people get a little bit of self-awareness. They understand how they are interacting with the world around them. They also need to have awareness of others, right?

So, I build that awareness of myself. I build that awareness of others. And in this case, we talk about no other styles as a way of kind of shorthand. So, in those four styles that Brett talked about, there’s still a great deal of variation in there, right? In any one of those styles, you’re looking at a quarter of all people. So, there’s a lot of variation, but there are some similarities. Those similarities, let us get into conversation to better understand other people. Better understand other people’s needs. The things that make them uncomfortable, the things that get them really excited. So, it’s helpful for us to build that. So, awareness is one piece of that, both self and others. And then we take it to the application of it, because just having knowledge, doesn’t actually make anything move. It’s really about how we apply that. And when I better understand my style, I start to understand what are the things that I do that are helpful and what are some of the things that I do that I need to be a little bit more aware of and a little bit, I need to adapt to my behavior a little bit. So, we talk about making our decisions wisely and actually deciding to behave in a certain way. I am an S style. I tend to be a little bit slower to respond. I tend to be a pretty good peacemaker. So, when things get a little bit tense, I might have a natural tendency to kind of pull back from that conversation. I’m a CEO, that’s not a great idea for me to do, right? I’ve got to step up and spend some more energy to modify my behavior, modify my natural style in situations where that’s called for.

And then the fourth of those elements is that we have to adapt our behavior for mutual benefit. So, my style is knowing other styles in a team situation, in a leadership situation, in an organizational situation saying, what can we do to be positive for all? It’s not about how do I win a conversation? It’s about understanding, oh, there needs enough that we can make sure that their needs are getting met along the way as well. So, those skills of self-awareness, other awareness and self-application and other application fit really nicely into using this DISC language as a roadmap for deepening my understanding of each of those four elements and moving forward in ways that we can be more effective in those elements. So, the beauty is that EQ unlike IQ. I can continue to develop and I can grow. So, we all take a look at where we are now, but figure out what are some steps along the way to getting better. 

I was just having a conversation last week with a team that’s been working together for several years. And we started talking about styles and about who we were as people. And I had them share just a couple of things. And it was really remarkable. And this happens all too often in the work world, as they shared a little bit about childhood and a couple of other things that I asked them to share about. Every person on the team, said they learned something about every other member of the team. These are people who have been working together for a while, the fact that we work together and we don’t actually know the other people we’re working with creates a lot of opportunity for us to have friction where we could have understanding.

Steve Rush: Yeah, really interesting overlay, isn’t it?

Evans Kerrigan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, we look at it. If you can build relationship, understanding and caring and honor those differences, it’s amazing what problems just melt away.

Steve Rush: So, here’s the thing. With all your experience and knowledge of psychometric testing and people behavior, is there a trend or a zone or a sweet spot within the psychometric tests that you’ve completed that creates that high-performance leader?

Brett Cooper: You know, there’s a number of tools out there Steve, that we found effective. There are two that we actually use quite frequently. The, the first is an EQ survey that connects up with the model that Evans was just talking about. So, this is a survey that we can actually let all of your listeners take as soon as they want to for free. It’s associated with the book, but the EQ survey is something that we designed to give people that opportunity to kind of self-reflect on those four areas that Evans was talking about of knowing your style, choosing your actions wisely, knowing other styles and adapting your behavior for mutual benefit. So, if any of your listeners want to take that EQ survey, they just go to solvingthepeopleproblem.com, look for the what’s my DISK EQ link? And when they click on that, they enter the access code, “HACKER”. 

Steve Rush: Brilliant. 

Brett Cooper: For Leadership Hacker Podcast, of course, but if you enter “HACKER”, they’re going to be able to take that survey. And as soon as they’re done with the survey, which takes most people about 5-10 minutes to do. They’re going to get a personalized report that is going to give them not only a high, medium, low kind of a score in those four areas, but more importantly, it’s going to include some very specific tips, things that they can do right now, either on their own or with their team to help improve their own emotional intelligence and try to get themselves to that next level. So that’s kind of the first tool that we have for folks. It’s really a mirror for people to kind of hold up and get an idea of where they sit on this framework of emotional intelligence. And then the other tool that we use quite broadly is a tool called Catalyst. 

Catalyst, it’s essentially a DISC oriented assessment that creates a directory across an organization of every employee and what is their DISC style. So, this is a fantastic interactive platform that an organization can embrace, get all of their people on it. And what it allows them to do is it allows any employee to double-click on another employee’s profile, learn what their DISC style is. Learn what are some of the things that really energize them? What are some of the things that stresses that person out? And it even does a direct comparison between your own DISC style and that other person’s DISC style and gives you very specific tips on, you know, how do you connect better together, if you’re working together on a project? Here’s some ideas for how you can be more effective. So those are the two tools that we find are really powerful for organizations who are really trying to drive metrics like employee engagement and team dynamics, team cohesion. You want to increase those two things? Use the EQ survey, use the Catalyst platform.

Steve Rush: We’ll make sure that the link to the EQ surveys in our show notes, and we’ll make sure that anybody who listens to this has the opportunity to get out there. So, thank you for allowing that as part of your gift to us for being with us. 

Brett Cooper: Absolutely. 

Steve Rush: So, this is part of the show where I get to flip the lens a little bit and look at you as individual leaders in your own right, and I’m going to ask you a number of questions and hack into that to great minds of yours. So, first thing I’d like to ask Evans, what would be your top three leadership hacks Evans, if you had to distill them?

Evans Kerrigan: Sure, oh, I love this question because it actually made me think a little bit to get it down to three. I’ve heard so many over the years but here are the three that really jumped out at me. The first is for a good leader is work on your questions. There’s great power in questions. And in keeping that curiosity alive and making sure that we’re asking the question so that people can find answers themselves rather than us supplying them answers. I think a good leader helps grow the people around them by asking those questions, by bringing people up by helping them to look at the world and continue to grow their competence as well as their confidence in the fact that they can solve problems going forward. So that’s my first one, work on the questions cause that’s where the power is.

The second I’ve already been talking about this one, a bunch, but it really is important, which is to honor the differences. When I view somebody coming with a different perspective, as risk, as a challenge, I tend to get little bit locked up. I get defensive. I’m not hearing as well. And in the real growth opportunity for me as an individual and for our organizations is when we can actually hear one another. And we were kind of specific around. It’s not even just understanding the differences or hearing the difference. It’s really honoring those differences because other styles, other preferences in ways, people kind look at things, they all have value. It’s actually really about honoring that value so that I can really truly listen and learn and understand. And then the third is for me, almost the definition of leadership, which is always focused on the success of those around you. It’s not actually about focusing on your success. Leadership is a service job. It’s about making everybody around me successful and I’m going to accidentally end up being successful if they all are. So, as long as my focus is on making sure that the people around me get great things done and are growing as individuals, I can’t help but be successful. And the other fun part of that is, if you can actually really celebrate the success of those around you, that’s the fun part of the job anyway.

Steve Rush: Yeah. It is. Isn’t it? And celebrating the differences that created that success is even better, right? 

Evans Kerrigan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Steve Rush: So, Brett what would be your top three? 

Brett Cooper: Yeah, my top three, not surprisingly similar to Evans there. And I would say they’re all rooted in the concept that leadership is a relationship. So, any relationship takes two to tango. So, the first hack really is to know yourself. And I think a lot of leaders really have a good understanding of their strengths, but they have blind spots. You know, as leaders, we sometimes think that, hey, everything we’re doing is so great. And we don’t really recognize how we’re coming across to the world on the negative side. We all have strengths, but there is a truism that very frequently is, strength overused can become a weakness? So, the first hack I would say is know yourself, take an honest look at yourself and really try to understand how you come across the world, too the world, both in the good and in the perhaps less good.

The second is kind of the opposite of that. If leadership is a relationship, you need to understand other people. And we like to talk about the platinum rule, I guess, as everybody has heard the golden rule, right? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We actually abide by the platinum rule and the platinum rule is to treat others as they would have you treat them, right? It’s a nod to the fact that we all have our own preferences. And if your leadership philosophy is to treat everybody the way that you want to be treated, you’re going to be missing out on a ton of opportunity to build relationship. You want to be treating other people as they want to be treated. And the only way to do that is to really get to understand the preferences and the styles of other people. And so, my final leadership hack really would be the combination of those two things. And as a leader, you need to go first and as a leader, it’s your job to help everyone on your team and everyone in your organization to do those two things, to understand themselves and to understand others. So, you know, don’t keep these ideas to yourself, get out there and embrace them with your team. And everybody is going to learn more about themselves and more about each other when you do it together.

Steve Rush: Definitely. I think they are great. And the great news of having you both on this, we get double hacks, so that’s awesome. 

Brett Cooper: Nice. 

Steve Rush: The next part of the show, we’ve affectionately called Hack to Attack, and this is just simply a time in your life or your work where something hasn’t worked out well, it may be gone wrong, but the experience has taught you a positive outcome. And you use that now as a force of good. So, Evans, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Evans Kerrigan: So, this really made me think a lot. Partially I created a long list. And then, kind of trimmed it down because I think those things that don’t go well, those are the fantastic learning opportunities. That’s where you make the jump forward. But one that really sticks out to me is very early in my career. After I got out of the air force, first started working in corporate America. I did a project; I been involved with quality stuff for a long time. And so, I did a project. I did an analysis around something our organization was doing that I didn’t think was really the right way to approach that situation. And I did a really good set of analysis and really kind of ran through it and came up with, you know, what we should do moving forward and then went to present my findings.

Very proud of my analysis. I had missed an aspect of my analysis that I think I probably should have known. I mean, I call this a BFL, a blinding flash of the obvious. I looked at the details. I looked at the data. I did not look at the context and history of what I was now challenging. Had I looked at the context in history, I would have realized that most of leadership in the organization had a hand in putting that policy into place for the organization. And I might’ve had discussions with them ahead of time because to this day, I still think it might’ve been a good idea to move, but I didn’t do any of that groundwork. I didn’t do any of that change management. I didn’t have any of those conversations. I rested on the pure data, the logic of the situation. And the reality is change never happens just by logic. Change happens by being able to approach people and being able to talk with people about the logos, ethos, pathos, all of the matter, right? I can’t spreadsheet my way into change. And so that was a really good lesson for me. And actually, kind of has changed my career a great deal in that. That’s really the part of quality that we talk about first now is know who your people are, know what are the things that are important to them, et cetera, because that’s going to enable you to actually make change happen, not just activities,

Steve Rush: Such an important lesson, thanks for sharing it. So, Brett you’re Hack to Attack? 

Brett Cooper: Yeah, my Hack to Attack actually came from an exercise that we did with our team a number of years ago, it’s something that we use with clients and it’s something we use internally. And it turned out to be a major aha for me, it’s an exercise that we call the appreciation seat and what the appreciation seat simply does is something that your listeners can actually use with their team. But we get everybody on the team. And one at a time, one person on the team sits on what we call the appreciation seat. Now this is a figurative thing, and you can do this over Zoom, so you don’t have to have it in a chair. But what happens is when the person is sitting in the appreciation seat, everybody else on the team goes around the circle and gives two pieces of feedback. The first is, here’s something that you do that really helps move the team forward, keep doing it, thanks for doing it, we appreciate it. And then the other thing that each team member will give is some kind of a tip or a piece of feedback around something that you do that might slow down the team a little bit. You might be a little more productive if you don’t do that quite as much. And so, when we were doing this exercise, a number of years ago, one of my colleagues, Renee, I was on the appreciation seat. She came to me and she said, all right, first of all, Brett, the thing that you do that really moves our team forward is you’re always ideating. You know, you’re always thinking about the future. 

What’s next? where are we going? And, you know, you get the projects on the list for us, and that’s fantastic. Thanks for doing that. Then she said, and you know, Brett, the thing that you do that slows us down a little bit is you’re always ideating and everybody starts laughing. And I mean, almost immediately, I recognized what she meant, but she continued. She said, you know, after you’ve created these ideas and after you gotten us engaged in pursuing the idea, we’re now getting to work and we’re rolling up our sleeves, we’re going through the details of, okay, how do we implement this? Well, you, in your ideation, you’re always onto the next thing. And you don’t give us time to focus on making a reality out of the first idea that we all agree we were going to work on.

And for me, the reason that this is a Hack to Attack is that, all of my ideating going back, as far as I can think of, I was always looking at it as productivity. I was being productive. I was being effective. I was helping my team. And because of this experience, by having one of my team members kind of hold up that mirror and say, that’s good, but there’s another side to it. It has made me realize that I need to check myself. And it really has driven me to change some of my behaviors. So, Evans might not believe this, but even though I still come up with a lot of ideas, there are so many more that I don’t mention for this exact reason. 

Steve Rush: Just in case. 

Brett Cooper: Just in case.

Steve Rush: It’s funny though. I think one of you talked a little earlier about that whole strengths and overdrive becomes a development, that’s an example of it, right?

Brett Cooper: Right on.

Evans Kerrigan: And I would say this is a work in progress.

Brett Cooper: (Laughing)

Steve Rush: Moving swiftly on, I don’t want the 20 years of relationship to start breaking down live on air. The last thing that we’re going to do is metaphorically, hold the mirror up for you once more and just ask you to do a little bit of time travel and you each independently get an opportunity to go back and bump into yourselves when you’re 21 and you get to give yourself some advice. So, what would your advice be at 21 to you Evans then?

Evans Kerrigan: And so, I think my advice to myself at 21 would be to own each challenge. By that, I mean, when things aren’t going well, to own that problem in the perspective of taking a look at what I’ve done and saying, how have I potentially contributed to this? How might I have been part of this so that I actually give myself agency to say, what can I do to improve it or to make it better? If I look back at my younger self, I’m sure there are times when, you know, blamed people around me for things that happened that I probably have at least a partial hand in. And I think it’s so easy, especially in a team, if other people agree with you, for us to commiserate around what leadership has done or around what another group has done or something like that. But as soon as I do that, I’ve given away my agency to actually make a difference in those situations. So, if I look back and I look at the things that I’ve regretted at times in my career, it’s probably times when I may not have stepped up, at least not early enough in a process to say, you know, how am I part of this? 

Steve Rush: Like it. 

Evans Kerrigan: Because if I wasn’t part of it, I can’t actually fix it either. I think too often we separate those two.

Steve Rush: Yeah, you’re right. So, Brett, how about you? 21, what’s your advice to Brett then? Yeah,

Brett Cooper: Yeah, 21, I actually have an 18 and a 19-year-old daughter right now. So, the advice that I would give to myself at 21 is pretty similar to the advice that I’m trying to give them right now, as they’re entering college and trying to figure out their next steps. And that really is to be conscious about what you really want out of life, what you value. And don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way. My dad used to tell me that there are three types of people in this world. Those that make it happen. Those that let things happen. And those that just wonder what happened. So, I I’d tell my 21-year-old self, as I’m telling my 18- and 19-year-old daughters, be the first kind, be the type of person that makes things happen and be proactive in making your life what you want it to be. And again, don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way. You are going to be learning and being exposed to so many new things. As you go through this life, that if something comes across your life. You get an opportunity or you learn something new, don’t be afraid to embrace that. If you find a you know, a change to your path, embrace it and live your best life.

Steve Rush: Awesome. I don’t think I know anybody actually, who still does, 20 years later, what they were doing at 21. I’m sure there are many people who are, but you know, often our paths will take a different route and a different perspective, right? 

Brett Cooper: Yeah, gone are the days of, hey, I’m getting a job with a company and I’m going to retire with that company, to your point. See, some people do that, but it’s the vast minority of people that have that kind of career path any more.

Steve Rush: Absolutely. So, time has whizzed by, I would love to spend another hour talking to you, but I’m not sure our listeners would subscribe to that episode. Albeit we could have version two next time around for sure. So, for folks who have been listening to us talk today and wanting to a little bit more about the work that you do, where’s the best place for us to send them

Brett Cooper: Best place for them to go is to solvingthepeopleproblem.com. If they go to solvingthepeopleproblem.com, they’ll be able to connect with us directly from that website. Importantly, they’d be able to take that EQ survey that we talked about. Again, they just need to look for the what’s my discount DISC link and enter the access code hacker, and they can learn more about the work we do. They can learn more about that catalyst platform. And we also share some of our ongoing ideas and observations about the world through that website.

Steve Rush: We’ll make sure it’s in the show notes, along with any of the social media links that you are frequenting so that there are a multitude of ways people can connect with you.

Brett Cooper: Fantastic. 

Evans Kerrigan: Thank you.

Steve Rush: So, I just wanted to say it’s been great talking. I’ve really enjoyed the way that you approach what you do and how systematic you make something that is really complex, become really transparent and easy for people to understand and allows us all to embrace the differences in our world. So, for being on our show, thank you ever so much, Brett and Evans.

Evans Kerrigan: Thank you. This has been a lot of fun. 

Brett Cooper: Thank you, Steve. This has been really fun. 

Evans Kerrigan: This has been a lot of fun. So, thanks a lot. 

Steve Rush: Thank you both.

STOP PRESS Get your free special gift – DISC EQ REPORT https://solvingthepeopleproblem.com/disc-eq/

(Access Code HACKER)


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 there @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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