The Hot Sauce Principle with Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is,“The Workplace Therapist.” He’s the Founder and President of The Worksmiths, an Executive Coach, Speaker and Author of the book, The Hot Sauce Principle. In this fascinating conversation you can learn about:

  • The reason there is so much dysfunction in the workplace.
  • The best survival tactics for eliminating dysfunction.
  • How to stimulate urgency and avoid panic when driving performance.
  • What the Host Sauce Principle is, and why getting balance is essential.

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: Have you ever avoided just putting stuff off that you know, that you should be doing. Well, procrastination could be the most expensive cost in life and business. Leading to stress, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Many people put off task until the last minute. And according to psychology today, twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators. More than ever people are getting pulled in different directions and demands on time, schedules and energy are increasing. So, in order to cope with the pressures of life and work, many spend excessive time tuning out non-work activities, scrolling on social media, engaging in group gossip, reading blogs, watching TV. The activities that make us feel better in the moment yet prevent us from taking the action on our tasks.

So how can we perform at peak performance levels? When our self sabotage can often hold us back. According to an article by Balkis & Duru, procrastination occurs because of a number of things, including poor time management. I like to call that self-management by the way, lack of motivational skills, organizational skills, inability to concentrate, unrealistic expectations and personal problems, a fixation on negative thinking or negative beliefs about one’s capabilities, perfectionism and anxiety, and fear related. Also contribute to procrastination. So here are five tips for peak performance and to bust through procrastination. Number one, question yourself like you’ve never questioned anybody else. The voice in your head is the one voice you wake up to in the morning, but it can be questioned. So, have you asked that voice in your head questions like? Are you setting and realistic expectations for yourself? Am I putting pressure on myself?

What types of things are you hearing? What’s the why behind what I need to do today? What are the consequences and what are the rewards of getting this done? Take time to just keep asking those questions. Two, you might be familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix often called urgent and important matrix. In a time where everything is urgent and important. The reality isn’t really that true. So many of our tasks and deadlines can be adjusted or renegotiated and a powerful strategy that can help us do that is the Eisenhower Matrix. There are four quadrants that help label tasks, urgent and important, urgent and less important, less important and urgent and less urgent and less important. So, identify which of the task go into which quadrant which will help focus your energy time and attention. Number three is called the one-minute method. Start something for one minute.

All it takes to get into action and get moving is one minute, sixty seconds. Jump in regardless of how you’re feeling. Start that task before you’re ready. Many people think too much, take too little action. Set your timer for sixty seconds and take action. And before I call the bracelet technique. And I learned this technique while studying neuro-linguistic programming. Start out by getting an elastic or rubber band and wear on your wrist like a bracelet. And every time you find yourself putting something off or thinking negative thoughts, snap that elastic rubber band on your wrist. This act associates, physical pain with negative thoughts and procrastination. It can be an effective way to overcome procrastination and the negative thoughts that sometimes come along with it. And number five, the timeline. Can setting deadlines and timelines really help when overcoming procrastination. Well, according to a study mentioned in the psychological science journal, it’s been reported that setting deadlines does in fact, improve the ability to complete your task.

Self-Imposed external deadlines, really quite effective. Play a game with yourself, run an experiment and set a small internal deadline to see if you can complete it in a specific amount of time, a little competition between you and your internal voice in your head and your words and actions can be fun. And it also turns out the procrastination is actually a mindset. So, if we think we can do it in the time we have, and we can do it now, and it won’t cause us discomfort, we’re more likely to do it. And if we think we can’t, guess what? You’re probably right. So, the leadership lesson here is when you’re engaging with your team and the people that work with you. Think about and observe, are they holding back something? Are they’re procrastinating? And if so, how can you help them engage the voice in their head? How through the power of questions, can you help them unlock their thinking? So, they can really hit peak performance. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any news, stories, insights, you know where to find us through our social media, we look forward to hearing from you.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Our special guest on today’s show is Brandon Smith. He’s the founder and president of The Worksmiths. He’s an executive coach, speaker and author of the book, The Hot Sauce Principle, Brandon, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Brandon Smith: Steve, I am thrilled to be on the show today.

Steve Rush: Me too. It’s been a real challenge for us to get our calendars to connect since the last time we spoke. But the world’s a very different place too, to be fair, right?

Brandon Smith: That’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. You know, it’s funny. I used to think to myself. Oh yeah, I’m pretty good about predicting what’s going to happen.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Brandon Smith: The last eighteen months has been very humbling for me indeed. So, I’ve thrown my crystal ball and it’s just, you know, take it as it come.

Steve Rush: Exactly right. Now I remember from the first time we’ve met; you have a really kind of tragic slash challenging kind of upbringing that really kind of led you on the path to what you’re doing now. For the listeners that haven’t had the chance to meet with you perhaps, can you just give them a little bit of that backstory?

Brandon Smith: Sure, sure. So, I was the youngest of three boys. Both my older brothers were adopted. My parents were told they couldn’t have children and surprise I showed up. And so, both my older brothers were twelve and eleven years older than me. So, I would always tell folks, you know, if you’ve ever had older brothers like that, you know what the inside of a dryer it looks like, you know, it’s like someone say, don’t ask questions, just drink it. That’s what older brothers do to little brothers. And my life was, you know, when I look back on it, I would say generally, I feel grateful, but there was some times in my life where it’s was very dysfunctional as hell. My older oldest brother, Chris, he was in and out of either jail or rehab centers, my entire life growing up.

And when he was home, it was a lot of yelling and screaming in my house. And so, when I was ten, he ran away from a rehab center and he was living with us and he just decided life was too hard. And he took his life one night and it was very, very tragic and very, very challenging for all of us. In fact, it was so challenging for me that within about six months of that happening, I came down with an uncontrollable stutter. So, I couldn’t speak in public at all. And so, every day before school, I would go in and see my speech therapist early in the morning. I’d work on my Bs, my Ps, and my Ts, the letters that would always trip me up, and then I’d go on to the school day.

So, between growing up with that dysfunction of my house, and then the way kids with stutters are treated at school. I made a kind of a conscious or unconscious decision that I just wanted to distance myself from people. They were just way too dysfunctional. And so that’s kind of how I went through high school all the way to college and university. I just kind of kept myself kind of arms distance. Well, ironically enough, I ended up majoring in communications at university. And like most communication majors. I couldn’t find a job after graduation. And I took a job in a small chain of retail stores. It was a family-owned business. The woman who started the business had fifteen stores. And I was going to be the assistant manager at one of these stores. And my boss was the son-in-law of the owner.

So, her daughter marries this guy, he’s, my boss. So, on my first day of real work, so I’d worked other jobs before, but this was my first day post university full-time job. I show up at the store, he greets me at the door and he says, I’m so glad you’re here, before you get started, I have task for you. Waiting for you in the back room is the current assistant manager of the store, but he does not know you’re coming. So, your job is to go back there and fire him and you get his job.

Steve Rush: Wow.

Brandon Smith: That was my first task on my first day of work. And that was how my manager rolled. He loved to do everything that we know as kind of really followers and lovers of leadership. He would do everything that’s opposite of what we believe to be true and good about leadership. He loves to do surprise visits, to try and catch people doing the wrong thing. I had to do more layoffs of people in that first six months of that job than any other time in my career. That kind of experience really woke me up, made me really realized three things about my life. First, work should not have to suck. It should be a place for fulfillment and purpose and meaning for all of us. It shouldn’t be a place of anxiety and depression and worry. I mean, it is work, it’s not perfect, but it should have all those positive things. Not those negative things. We can’t always choose the families we get, but we could choose our workplaces. We have a lot more control over that. Second, if my boss was any indication of the state of leadership in the world, I really want to change that. I want to improve how we lead other people and the impact we can have on workplaces. And third, that was where my purpose was born. I decided at that moment, I want to eliminate all workplace dysfunction everywhere, forever. Having no idea what I signed up for Steve.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Brandon Smith: So, I went on and pursued a clinical therapy degree and practice in the clinical world for many years. And then also then got my MBA to kind of balance those two things. So, my version of kind of chocolate and peanut butter combined, somehow it works. And that was where my handle of kind of the workplace therapist was born. So that’s a little bit of my journey that kind of got me on the path that I’ve been on.

Steve Rush: And having met with you and looked at some of the work and spend some time looking at your book. There is a real purpose behind this. This is not something that somebody is doing for a job. You are doing this because intrinsically it’s something that you want to eradicate, right?

Brandon Smith: Absolutely. Absolutely. We have enough challenges in life, you know, if we can make work, not one of them, that would be a really great thing.

Steve Rush: Yeah, so what do you think the reason is that there is so much then dysfunction in the workplace today?

Brandon Smith: There’s always been dysfunction in the workplace for one primary reason. We bring our own stories to work. We bring our own histories; we bring our own family dramas and family place to work. And so, you know, we put that on other people. So that’s always been true about us as human beings. So that’s always going to be a challenge, but you used an interesting word in that. You said, why is so challenging today? So, today’s a little different time in the workplace. So, what I’ve experienced and you’ve experienced is, it doesn’t matter where in the world we meet somebody. There are two things that are true about our workplace today. Time is our most precious resource. It’s not money, it’s time and everything feels urgent all the time. And that creates a whole other set of distinctions to fall along with that, because we’re rushing and everything feels urgent, we don’t spend time giving positive feedback to our team members. We don’t get to know them or look to align with other leaders in the organization. It causes a lot more challenges particularly with communication. So, there are some interesting challenges, we can even go further down the rabbit hole of working remotely on some of the challenges there, but there’s a real interesting opportunity let’s say, for our workplaces today.

Steve Rush: And the world has changed as we’ve moved to more of a hybrid world working from either our desks or our homes, or a combination of both. Have you seen the change to how people are responding in that environment?

Brandon Smith: Yes, absolutely. So, in the first six weeks, two months of this event, everyone around the world probably said something to this effect. Well, you know, this isn’t so bad. I just picked up two or three hours in my day. I’m not commuting, so I can kind of wake up in the morning, have some coffee, maybe have a little bit of breakfast and then hop on my first meeting at nine am. At some point around that six-week mark, eight-week mark. Everyone realized, everyone wasn’t commuting and they start scheduling meetings at eight thirty in the morning, eight in the morning, seven thirty in the morning, six o’clock at night, six thirty at night.

Steve Rush: Right.

Brandon Smith: So now when I talk to my clients, one of the challenges they say, they say, I don’t know how I’m going to go back to the office because I have staying meetings at seven thirty in the morning. That’s when I’d be commuting. And I have meetings during lunch. So, we we’ve packed our days, even more full with all these meetings, and so that’s the first one. Second, I hear constant kind of complaints from folks about being on camera all day long and the strain that’s putting on them. I think that’s the second one. The third one is people just aren’t able to really fully connect. It’s hard to build relationships over zoom or teams or whatever platform you use. Those meetings tend to default to more task, operational things. Let’s catch up about how your weekend was. We often do those over meals and we haven’t been able to do that. So, it’s hard to build those relationships. I met a lot of people. I know you have two that have started with a new employer within the last year, and they have not even ever met their coworkers yet.

Steve Rush: Right, exactly.

Brandon Smith: Let alone go into an office. So, I would say those three at least would apply to everybody that’s been working remotely. There’s been some real challenges around that.

Steve Rush: And the principle of everything being urgent all of the time has been expedited because of that, right?

Brandon Smith: That’s right. It’s very difficult to tell what really matters and what doesn’t matter. And because there’s constant change. And we could attribute some of this to technology, we’re always available, on call all the time. We could also attribute some of this to general global media. There definitely a frenzy regardless of what media you listen. It definitely heightens that sense of anxiety and urgency really is that. Urgency is anxiety, so we’re living in a very anxious time right now.

Steve Rush: Of course, the only one person that can control it, is ourselves.

Brandon Smith: Well said, well said

Steve Rush: You wrote the book, The Hot Sauce Principle, how to live and lead in a world where everything is urgent all of the time. So, what is The Hot Sauce Principle?

Brandon Smith: So, it’s a really simple analogy. From now on, for everyone listening to this. When you think of urgency, I want you to think of hot sauce. And why that analogy works so well is because, you know, I love hot sauce personally. I really do. I put a little bit hot sauce on something and that’s flavor, it adds focus, it adds spice. It really makes it stand out. And so, urgency by itself is not a bad thing. It’s really preps prioritize things. But if everything that’s coming out of the leadership kitchen is covered in hot sauce. The appetizer, the salad, the entree, the brownie, the iced tea that you’re drinking, at least in the U.S. we drink a lot of iced tea here. If all that’s covered in hot sauce, your mouth is going to be on fire. You’re not going to be able to taste anything and you’re going to be overwhelmed.

And so that’s really why the idea is so sticky because we want to make sure we’re very thoughtful and intentional about what we’re putting hot sauce on for our teams, but also pushing back if our leaders are putting hot sauce on everything, because it makes everything a priority, which then means nothing’s a priority. The other reason why this is also such a great analogy is, you know, we know our teams, some members of our team just need to drop or two hot sauce and they they’ve got it. They know what they need to do. And often running, we’ve got other members of our team that need a bottle or two to really get them moving. So, knowing your people and knowing how much urgency they need is another kind of important element around that analogy.

Steve Rush: I love it. It’s really, I’m quite a visual guy and therefore, and olfactory. So, I can see this and taste this and smell it. And therefore, it’s a really great analogy tip to let leaders know that actually you’re holding the hot sauce bottle most of the time as well, right?

Brandon Smith: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And what you choose to put hot sauce on and how much you choose to use is going to either create an amazing, wonderful dish, or you’re absolutely going to ruin the whole lot. So, it’s a good image for leaders.

Steve Rush: So, here’s the thing. It’s a really fine line between urgency and panic. How do you differentiate the two and maybe how do you recognize it even?

Brandon Smith: So, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate that point. So, I was having a conversation with a client of mine some years ago around this idea, this analogy, and he was an entrepreneur. He owned a marketing business and he was probably one of the most anxious guys I’ve ever met. And so, kind of unusual to be an entrepreneur. I mean, he was almost shaking when I’d meet him. He was just so wound up. And when I spoke to the folks in his organization, they said, you know, we really like it. He’s a really nice guy, but he makes everything urgent all the time. And it’s really creating burnout around here. To your point, it’s like panic. So, I told him this analogy, well, on his own, after our conversation, he went to the grocery store and he bought three bottles of hot sauce. And he put them on his desk, one, two, three, and whenever there was a new project or initiative, when he was assigned that to a member of his team, he would hand them one of the bottles of hot sauce.

And he instructs them to keep the bottle of hot sauce on their desk, representing the importance and urgency of that initiative. And until the project was done, they had to keep a hot sauce bottle there. But once it was done, they had to return the hot sauce bottle to him. Here was the beautiful thing that kind of gets to your question. He only had three bottles he could give out. So, because he only had three bottles, that was like a forcing mechanism for him. So, he was able to prioritize, but he couldn’t create panic because he didn’t have an infinite number of bottles. So, any way you can limit the number of bottles you put out, or the number of hot sauce items you create, that will help to keep it on the urgency side and not tip the panic.

Steve Rush: And what do you notice in people’s response? Either through their verbal and nonverbal communication that might help you recognize as a leader, if you’ve gone too far, you’ve nudged into the panic zone?

Brandon Smith: So, the panic zone by itself is not as concerning as the apathy zone. That’s where you get past panic. So, we pass panic and now we’re into full on burnout. And that’s when the people are just apathetic. So, no matter how much hot sauce you put on them, they just respond to the same way. That’s when you know, you’ve gone too far. And so, another way analogy around this is, I’ve often heard working today in our workplaces, it’s almost like you have to think about like interval training, high intensity interval training. So, you’re running or pushing or exercising at a high intensity, but then you need to take time to rest and then do it again, time to rest and then do it again, and time to rest. And of course, the challenge with our workplaces today is there there’s no time to rest. So, another way that we can manage panic is make sure that, you know, if you are pushing your team really hard on something that’s urgent, give them a little bit of a pause before you immediately throw another urgent item on them.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I want to go back to the apathy bit. Because something you said that really struck a chord with me, most people, when they hear apathy would maybe have a thought process or a connotation of somebody who is lazy, disengaged and not the opposite, which you described as going past panic. And I wondered what you’d noticed and how that might’ve played out for you when you’ve coached your clients?

Brandon Smith: So, when we think about love, the opposite of love is not hated. The opposite of love is apathy. We were no longer invested. So that’s why when you get to that place, it’s a really dangerous place to be because you’ve lost your people. They’re no longer invested. They’re no longer committed; they’ve got nothing left. They feel like, it doesn’t matter how hard they try. It’s never enough. They’ve almost given up at least emotionally and maybe even mentally. So that’s a real, real, a dangerous spot to be because when I see clients get to that place, really the best antidote for them is to take a vacation or holiday. They need to take some time away to reset and recharge it. Often it takes at least two weeks. And the more time they can take off the better. Because it takes at least week to get that apathy out of your system and start to really reconnect to what’s important to you in life and what really matters to you, but you need that space. So, my hope would be that leaders don’t push their folks that far because it takes time to recover from that.

Steve Rush: And most of it, of course, from a leadership perspective, in my observation, in any case, is this, isn’t an intentional thing that leaders do. It’s often very unintentional as a byproduct of bad behavior or too much urgency, right?

Brandon Smith: That’s exactly right. And I’d say that the biggest culprits in this would be your publicly traded companies, because what they do is, because of the way the markets move, the markets put pressure on them to change quickly and transform. So, then those C-level executives make everything urgent all the time and pat themselves on the back and say, I’m a great leader. I just pushed lots of urgency into the system. And all they’ve done is just given the organization an overdose of anxiety. And so, then that goes down to the next level of leaders who push it down to the next level of leaders who push you down to the next level of leaders. And it just kind of funnels all the way through. And so, it’s a real dangerous place for us to be. And so, if more leaders can be conscious of how much they’re doing of this, it can be good for not only performance because it creates more focus, but the overall health and wellbeing of everyone in that organization.

Steve Rush: And I suspect that also then contributes to more dysfunction in the workplace?

Brandon Smith: Absolutely. Absolutely. Funny when you said dysfunction, the first word that came to mind for me was kind of a close synonym to that, which was chaos. A lot of chaos, a lot of chaos, because again, if everything’s urgent, nothing’s urgent, it’s just chaos. There’s no focus. And then it becomes really hard to know what to work on, to align, and do all the other things that we need to do.

Steve Rush: Yeah, indeed. And in your book, I love the fact that you call this out, you have an emotional booster shot. Love you to share with our listeners what an emotional booster shot is and how might they want to go ahead and get one?

Brandon Smith: So, let’s think about how you can do it for yourself. So, when we talk about an emotional booster shot. Think of it as resilience, we really want to try and help ourselves have more resilience, be kind of stronger, almost more flexible, like almost like stretching. We’re going to stretch if we use the analogy again of, you know, a workout, okay. So, there’s a couple of ways we can do that. First, we can reframe the situation. So, when people are pushing down more urgency on you, you can reframe the situation as this is not a crisis, we’re going to get through this. And you do that with your teams, communicate that, we can overcome this. Second one is, think of it as a learning opportunity. I’m going to learn and grow through this.

It may be really hard and challenging, but I’m going to get stronger. And it’s going to help me, help me grow. And the third way we could look at this is kind of how can we maintain kind of hope that things are going to turn out better on the other end of this, that everything’s going to kind of work out for a reason. There was a famous theologian at Emory University name James Fowler, and he used to have this beautiful saying, he would say. As leaders, we want to give people hope and handles. And I just think that’s so beautiful, hope and handles.

Steve Rush: Love it, yeah.

Brandon Smith: What’s the future going to look like? And what can we do right now to move kind of further down that path. So those are all ways that you can reframe it for yourself. But also think about how you can use those same techniques, with your team.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I love it. I love the principle of the hope and handles and hope is a word that we sometimes quite uncomfortable in business using because it has this notion of being not grounded in purpose and not grounded in something, because it’s hopeful, but actually that’s where most vision and purpose drives from, right?

Brandon Smith: I agree with you, hundred percent. Hope feels like it’s out of our control, but if anything, over the last eighteen months as taught us, there’s a lot of things out of our control. And so, it’s okay to be helpful. We’re hopeful that we can meet our teams again, by the first of the year, we’re hopeful that, you know, life will start to resume some sense of normal by 2022. Hope is a good thing.

Steve Rush: So how do you see the future of work playing out as the workplace therapist and in the work that you do with organizations with Worksmiths, what do you think the future of work will look like for us? And how might we want to adapt for that?

Brandon Smith: Here is what I hope it’s going to look like. I hope that we we’ve learned a lot from how we’ve learned to work together over the last eighteen months, and we carry that with us into the new future. So, I think hybrid workplaces are very healthy things. That said, I still think we need that time with each other. So, I’m really worried about the organizations that say, oh, we’re going to go virtual from now on. I’ve worked with fully virtual organizations before that were virtual, even before the pandemic. And they have a whole set of dysfunctions that are very difficult to cure. Then there’s largely two of them. One they really struggle with alignment because they don’t ever get in the same room with each other, they’re virtual. And two, they struggle with giving each positive intent, assuming positive intent. So, they give each other feedback, some of the feedback in those organizations is absolutely brutal because they just don’t know each other. So, I still think we need those times and moments to meet each other in person for collaboration, innovation, and frankly, just connecting over a meal. That’s always been important to us as human beings. So, I wouldn’t want to lose that, but if we can bring in technology, I think it can allow people to have better work-life balance, a better wellbeing and a lot more care and compassion each other.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I agree. It comes back down to compassion a massive driver here, isn’t it? More we understand about people, the more we can empathize, the more we can adapt ourselves.

Brandon Smith: Absolutely, and just hearing you say that Steve reminds me, you know, now we’ve been given the gift of being invited into a lot of our coworker’s homes, at least virtually. We may see their children; we may see their pets on camera. We may be talking to them in their kitchen and they’re dressed more casually. And so, we’ve learned more about their lives, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Steve Rush: Do you think we’ll have a return to the future moment at some point in the future where we become more connected and go back to being more office and location focused?

Brandon Smith: I do think so, but I think that is going to be not nine to five, Monday through Friday. I don’t see that for most workers that are able to work virtually. Now, there’s always going to be jobs out there where you don’t have the opportunity to work virtually, you’re a frontline worker, so you’ve got to be onsite, but for those jobs that allow for virtual work and collaboration, I think a hybrid is likely, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of organizations that are going to require everyone to be back in the office nine to five, if there’s options.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? That for so many decades, we got into a routine of doing things and within eighteen months, the whole work environment has completely changed.

Brandon Smith: Absolutely. Absolutely. And most organizations that were really nervous about that change. Their fear was, I won’t be able to see my people working. Therefore, they won’t be working there. It’s going to lower productivity. And all the research that has come out has actually shown increase in productivity with people working from home. So, the good news is that fear wasn’t valid. But again, how we carry that forward is going to be the real challenge.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s going to be the game changer, isn’t it? So that we don’t move beyond urgency into panic and we maintain that trust and work-life balance as you called it. Absolutely. So, so what’s the focus of the work with Worksmiths and for you now, Brandon?

Brandon Smith: Yeah, thanks for asking. So, I’ve always still had my practice, which is the Worksmith, probably is very similar to you. I’m an executive coach and I work with individual clients as well as teams and also teach and facilitate sessions on helping people become better leaders. And that work really hasn’t gone away, even through the pandemic. There’s still been a lot of leaders and teams that have needed that extra support and counsel. The one additional change is I co-founded another business this past year called The Leadership Foundry and what we do there is we do leadership development, all virtual, but with cohorts of leaders. So that’s been a big change because a lot of organizations still want to develop their leaders, but by necessity, it’s going to have to be done virtually.

Steve Rush: Right.

Brandon Smith: But without it, it’s actually a lot easier to coordinate. You can easily schedule a two-hour session. You don’t have to find a big meeting room or a hotel ballroom or whatever happens to be location, to get everyone in. And you can give people kind of small doses of leadership tools and training to kind of keep them nourished and supported. So that’s been a new evolution that I’ve really enjoyed, kind of exploring over the last year.

Steve Rush: Great stuff and congratulations on the new venture as well.

Brandon Smith: Thank you. Thank you.

Steve Rush: So, there’s a subtle shift to the tone now is we’re going to start to hack into your leadership brain. And my job as a leadership hacker is to grab hold of those great ideas, tips, tools, or ideas. So, if you had to wrap your arms around your extensive career and narrow that down to be your top three leadership hacks, what would they be?

Brandon Smith: So, the first one, and this is order of priority. First one is, drive clarity. You can prevent fifty percent of dysfunction in your workplace by setting clear expectations, not only of yours, but also of the person that you’re working with. What do they expect of you? Whether it’s your boss, your customer, you’re a direct report. So, clarity from my perspective, it’s the first job of any leader is for her or him to drive clarity. Second, I think it’s really important that leaders look to continue to find opportunities to connect and spend time with their people. That consistency is really, really important. So, we’ve got another kind of letter C here. Consistency is really important. So, making sure that you’re consistent in your rhythm and your meetings with people, that’s really important. And that goes out the window when everything feels urgent all the time. There was a group of researchers and they did work on studying kind of what’s the most dysfunctional kind of leader to work for.

And I expected them to come back with angry, yelling and screaming boss or the micromanager. None of those were the worst. The number one worst was the one who is highly inconsistent because you don’t know what you’re going to get. So, the more we can be consistent with our messaging and consistent with our meetings, the better. And the third is just probably a really simple, easy tactical thing that all leaders can do, all individual contributors can do. Be highly, highly responsive. There was a piece of research that found that the thing that separated the best managers from everyone else is they were highly responsive to all of their people on their team and that communicated that they valued their people and respect to their people. So, if we drive clarity, we’re very, very consistent and highly responsive, it’s going to really create a strong team environment. And it’s going to prevent a lot of dysfunctions.

Steve Rush: I love It. It’s really simple, but very, very effective advice. Thank you for sharing that, Brandon.

Brandon Smith: Of course, of course.

Steve Rush: Next on the show we call Hack to Attack. So, in essence, this is where something hasn’t worked out well, might’ve even been quite catastrophic, but as a result from that experience, it’s now a learning and a positive in your life or work. So, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Brandon Smith: So, I would say probably the number one for me, you know, thinking about the way you say that, there so many Steve, gosh. Things I learned from, miss steps that I’ve made along the journey. I would say there was one. And this was probably more driven out of fear. So early in my career as workplace therapist, I kind of straddle the fence. I taught part-time and multiple universities. And then of course, I also did my coaching and leadership development practice. So, I kind of lived in both worlds. And what I found was the university world was a very political world. And it actually limited a lot of my other opportunities because it was one that consumed a lot of my time. But there was fear of leaving that because not only would I maybe lose some of the credential, I lose some of that stability. And ultimately, I made the decision to it. And it was scary. It ended up working out for the best, but I would say the learning in that was, I probably waited a good five to ten years too long to do that. So, if I could go back in time, I would probably say, wow, Brandon, you should have probably done that a little bit differently.

Steve Rush: That’s really interesting. You’re not the first person on this show. And certainly, the many leaders I’ve worked in coached over the past ten or fifteen years have also said that it’s sometimes the fear that holds us back and the stability and not being comfortable with discomfort that stops us moving forward, right?

Brandon Smith: That exactly right. I’ve always heard this adage that, you know, when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Brandon Smith: And the opposite was true in this situation. If I say no to that, that means I can say yes to a lot of other things, but the scary thing was, I didn’t see what those things were. It wasn’t like I had a whole bunch of things I could choose from. I had nothing to choose from. So, I was kind of creating this vacuum where this void hoping that it would be filled. So, there’s that word hope again, and luckily it did.

Steve Rush: And of course, you can’t sometimes even see those things until you’ve said no. And the yes appears, right?

Brandon Smith: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

Steve Rush: Yeah, really fascinating. Love it. So last thing we get to do today is give you an opportunity to do some time travel and you get to bump into Brandon at twenty-one and give them some advice. What would be your words of wisdom?

Brandon Smith: Okay, here’s probably, gosh, I have a couple. One, here’s what I would tell the younger Brandon. Younger Brandon really watches the relationships that you’re in, personal and professional and make sure you don’t stay in some of them too long. So that’s been a big learning I had. I had a business partner for some years that I worked with, wonderful man, wonderful guy, brilliant man, not a very good business partner. I stayed in that too long. I’ve had some other folks along the way that I’ve been, you know, stayed in too long, that ended up limiting. So, I would say, you know, make sure that all the relationships you’re in, are always healthy and are getting you what you need and you’re giving them what they need. The second one I would say is, write your book sooner, Brandon, you don’t need to wait until you’re forty-six to write it. You can write it sooner, it’s okay.

Steve Rush: Yeah, there’s this strange notion, isn’t there? About putting pen to paper. That you have to have this inordinate legacy of a career behind you to share your lessons. Whereas when I coach some very young leaders now, they already have some fantastic lessons that need to be shared. And that comes back, I think, to your point around fear saying no, opening another yes, and vice versa, right?

Brandon Smith: Right, exactly, exactly. And then of course, with something like a book, a bigger project like, that no one else is putting on your plate, you’re putting on your own plate. You’ve got to be really intentional with your time and block that off and, you know, manage that. Which was a hard thing for me. I struggled with that for many years until I finally hired a book coach to hold me accountable.

Steve Rush: Yeah, right.

Brandon Smith: Yeah.

Steve Rush: So, is there a book two?

Brandon Smith: There is a book two, I’m working on a second one right now. It’ll be out at the end of the year. I’m really, really excited about it. I won’t spoil it yet, but I think it’s going to be so incredibly helpful for leaders. Very practical, easy to use, help them learn how to sit in the right seats with their leader and with their team. So ultimately, it’ll get them using their time in the way they should be.

Steve Rush: Awesome. We’ll make sure we get you back on the show so you can tell us a little bit more about it another time.

Brandon Smith: That sounds fantastic.

Steve Rush: So beyond today, we want to make sure our listeners can stay connected with you. Where’s the best place for us to send them?

Brandon Smith: The best place frankly is, just go to theworkplacetherapist. I’m the only one, so if you just google the workplace therapist, you’ll naturally go to me. And so that’s a site, it’s got free resources, it’s got blogs and articles and podcasts for my show that folks can listen too to help their workplaces become smoother and better and less bumpy. And then of course, if they’re interested in anything beyond that, then there’s links on that site that will take them to either the Worksmiths or The Leadership Foundry. But the workplace therapist is the best place to start. And if you haven’t bought a copy of the book, The Hot Sauce Principle, how to live and lead in a world where everything is urgent all the time. You can find that on Amazon and lots of other places as well. So that’s another option.

Steve Rush: Awesome, we make sure they’re in our show notes as well.

Brandon Smith: Okay, thank you.

Steve Rush: And I’d just like to say, thanks, Brandon. I think we’ve had just enough hot sauce today to get everything to spice up. So, you’ve done a brilliant job in the time that we’ve had together. I’ve always enjoyed talking with you and just thanks for being part of our community at The Leadership Podcast.

Brandon Smith: Steve, this has been absolutely fantastic. Please keep up the great work. I know you’re doing so much good in the world.

Steve Rush: Thank you very much, Brandon.


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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