Work Made Fun Gets Done with Dr Bob Nelson

Dr Bob Nelson is author of the multimillion-copy bestseller 1001 Ways to Engage Employees, he’s also is president of Nelson Motivation, Inc. and the world’s leading authority on Employee Recognition and Engagement. He has published 31 books that have sold over 5 million copies that have been translated into over 30 languages. In the humorous and insightful show you can learn:

  • How “Work” and “Fun” go together in the most successful workplaces to motivate employees
  • Why do employees rank “Fun” at the top of the list at the Best Companies to Work for
  • What the best companies do to find the latest value in employee reward programs beyond gift cards and handshakes
  • Innovative and creative ways businesses can amplify their culture and increase productivity with “Fun”

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’re going to explore how social media can really make a difference to any business of any kind anywhere. So, we’re going to look at a fast-food joint when from a local eatery to internet stardom, thanks to iconic memes and a catchy theme tune. And this is a story of Binley Mega Chippy. Now, for those that are in North America and around the world, a chip shop in England is a place where you go to buy French fries and fast food. It started out as unassuming, local, fast-food joint, and it’s now arguably the most famous fast-food joint on the planet. For years, it was just like any other English eatery, serving French fries, chips, fish, and of course, other really unhealthy, deep-fried foods.

It’s not particularly attractive to look at. It’s a vision of red and gold, but it’s a reliable Oasis to many people in and around Coventry, but the Internet’s taken Binley Mega Chippy and turned it into a TikTok fiesta for culinary destination for anybody visiting this part of England. Owner, Kamal Gandhi, 70-years-old. Now has a huge number of customers. Some of whom have apparently traveled from as far as France, America and even Australia. So how did this local chip shop go from a small fry to a huge gastronomic location of choice? Well, the first mention of Binley Mega Chippy hit the internet in just 2009, and it was a simple kind of nod to here’s where we are and what we do. Fast forward to 2022, Binley Mega Chippy began to appear, but still continued on relative obscurity, not knowing what’s to come. Viral hysteria hit the fast-food outlet. In 2022 when it featured in the slideshow of multiple UK, fast food joints and TikTok in April. It’s first month, there were 82,000 views and 11,000 likes. Fast forward now, millions and millions of people are using this as a backdrop to other memes and are joining in with the chant of the song. Decades of research and millions of dollars and pounds of advertising who have shown that society loves a good jingle, and it helps sell a product. And the same appears to be true for fast food outlets. On the 25th of May, binleymegachippyfan53 posted just a ten second clip with a static picture with a Bingley Mega Chippy Jingle. Now for obvious marketing reasons, I’m not able to play that for you now. I’m sure you can find it if you choose to. That short clip now has just over 2 million views and has spawned various spinoffs and remixes.

And now hashtag Bingley Mega Chippy has over 500 million views and naturally people have been visiting it from all over. So having fun, better jingle, the power of the internet can change the lives of anyone and good luck to Kamal Gandhi and his store, we wish him all the success. The leadership hack here is, marketing could be as simple as a ten second clip. It could be something that you say and do. What makes a difference is that emotional connection. So, the next time you’re communicating a message or you’re building a story or you’re creating an internal marketing campaign or external, is it going to hit those real emotional keys to get people stirred into emotional action? That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. Let’s dive into the show. 

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Dr. Bob Nelson is a special guest on today’s show. He’s a multimillion best seller author of, 1001 Ways to Engage Employees. His latest book, Work Made Fun Gets Done. He’s also the president of Nelson Motivation Inc. One of the world’s leading authorities on employee recognition and engagement, and Bob’s published over 31 books and sold over 5 million copies and been translated in over 30 languages. Dr. Bob, welcome to the show.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Thank you for having me, Steve.

Steve Rush: I’m really looking forward to getting into this because I remember the first time you and I met when you also then started to think about this. Over 15,000 ways to reward employees and over 1,001 ways to engage employees. It was a bit of a kind of a journey for me to get my head around those numbers. So, I’m delighted that we get a chance to dive into some of them, not all of them today. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Excellent. 

Steve Rush: Before we do that, Bob, let’s give our listeners a little bit of a backstory if you like on the journey that is taking you to where you are today.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, well, well, I’ve always been a writer and going back to high school, I remember my English teacher passing out papers and she stopped at my desk and she over hitch, she weighed my paper and said, best paper in five classes. And I was kind of embarrassed and surprised and went back and reread it. And, you know, and I just got the message that I could write. And so that’s always been a backdrop for me, and I published my first book when I was 21, a guide on job hunting and have just recently finished my 31st book. So, it’s a hard activity, somehow, I keep coming back to it, I guess, like a moth to a flame [laugh]. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, and do you think that moment in that English class, when that teacher kind of gave you that feedback at that time, do you think that was a catalyst for you at that point?

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, it’s certainly, anytime someone gives you feedback, I think, we all need to see how other people see us and if it’s in a positive light then that’s good news. You need to hold onto that one. And I think, you know, John Lynn’s said, life’s what happens when you’re making other plans. So, you got to work into the plans, what people tell you you’re good at. And then of course, things that you enjoy doing is important as well.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Mark Twain said the two most important days in anyone’s life is the day they’re born and then secondly, the day they find out why, so [laugh].

Steve Rush: That’s great, yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: It’s ongoing journey for each of us to say, what was I meant to be here for? And if you get clues from those around you, who give you feedback, you need to hold onto those and listen to those. And so, I feel fortunate for the career I’ve had, I’ve been blessed with having worked with some true experts, each which I’ve learned from. Ken Blanchard, went to work for, he published the One Minute Manager, which has sold 14 million copies. And so, I learned a lot from him about selling books and I got my PhD from working with Peter Drucker, the father of modern management. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And I’m currently a personal coach for Marshall Goldsmith. Who’s the number one voted executive coach in the world. 

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah.

 Dr. Bob Nelson: So, I’ve been very, very blessed to have some great people to learn from and lean on. And I like passing it on to others when I can.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and we are going to pass that on for sure today. You know, I heard something that I probably read it. You’d coached or had worked with something like 80% of the fortune 500 companies, is that right?

Dr. Bob Nelson: I have, yes. 

Steve Rush: Wow. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Spanning 25 years, you get around. And that included, not that long ago, wrapped up a six-month project working for the United Nations. So that was a fun, fun activity. So, you know, life takes you a lot of interesting places and if you can go for the ride, it’s usually pretty enticing. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, it is. Isn’t it?

Dr. Bob Nelson: I found anyway [laugh]. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely so. So, you’ve managed to find a real niche or a passion, if you like for employee recognition and engagement. What was that defining moment for you when you realized actually, this is the thing that really excites you and makes you tick, and others tick as well? 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, again to me, it’s piecing together the pieces. I was taking a graduate school class and we were talking about; it was a control systems class and professor was talking about the informal control systems. And he made the offhand comment that has proven as the principle for informal reinforcement is, there hasn’t been a lot of application in the business world. And I remember thinking I’m going to do something about that [laugh] and actually that evening after my hour and a half drive home from graduate school class in Los Angeles, I typed out a letter to president of publishing firm in New York City and sent it overnight and spent two weeks trying to get him on the phone. And finally, could heard his assistant say, this guy keeps calling, would you talk to him? [laugh] and literally the president of the company, he goes, what do you want? He answers the phone like that. And I said, well, my here’s my name. And I sent you a letter about a book and he cut me off. And he said, you sent us a letter about a book. We’ll, we’ll never do a book based on a letter you sent us, you have to do a proposal, of the 70,000 books that are published this year, that year anyway. Why yours has to be one of them? And why we’re the only publisher could possibly do it right. And literally as he’s hanging up, he goes, and by the way, we get 10,000 proposals a year, we publish 24 books to click [laugh]. 

Steve Rush: Nice. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: I could have said, well, well, you know, gave it a try, but I said, hey, game on, time to do a proposal [laugh], so maybe there’s a lesson there, you know, don’t accept defeat. 

Steve Rush: Did you go back to this guy though?

Dr. Bob Nelson: I did actually [laugh]. I did the proposal, I got an agent and then next time I met with him, I was sitting across from him though. I flew to New York at my own expense, and he had the proposal in front of him and he opened it up. And my agent had said, well, it’d be helpful if you could lay out a few pages, see what it was actually looks like. I explained it. That should be good enough. No, no, no. It would help people visualize it. So, I did that, and then she said, well, could you do a few more. I go, oh, come on. And I did a few more. And darn, when I’m sitting across him and he doesn’t open the proposal to those pages and he goes, this could work. The guy was very visual. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Up here working, was his name. He was a creative genius. And, he only did books that where he personally saw that it could work. Does he see it? Does he see what you see? And so, now he’s still on project. He still doesn’t know about me. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And so [laugh], he turns his attention to me and starts asking me questions. I go, well, I’m an administrator for this company in San Diego. And, but that’s not what I really want to do. And he goes, what do you really want to do? And I said, be a bestselling author. And I could see a little twinkle in his eye and done deal. And that was [laugh]. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, they sent me to 27 markets at a time when that wasn’t really done anymore. And in the first, gosh, I think of, in the first two months, the book sold 40,000 copies. 

Steve Rush: Wow, yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, which is stunning. And as a business book and now it’s in its 64th printing and sold over 2 million copies. 

Steve Rush: That’s amazing. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So yeah, a lot of people ask me about the book story, because there’s a lot of books out there. Over a million books are published year now. When this book came out, seventy thousand. Now it’s a million books a year. 

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Publish each year, and that’s with self-publishing and Amazon and you name it. And there’s not more readers, but there’s a lot more books.

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So. 

Steve Rush: And there’s still an opportunity for the same folk to, you know, face into the resilience you did, get in front of people and say, look, you know, if you’ve got a compelling story, just tell it because there will be people who want to read and listen.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, yes. It’s, definitely more difficult because it’s more constrained and for a typical publisher, the first thing they want to know is, what’s your platform? What vehicle do you have to reach people, you know, in terms of number of followers? 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Or do you speak, do you do public speaking or are you in media, you know, are you on TV every night? You know, all that kind of goes in the mix.

Steve Rush: Does. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: As a result, just a few books get published.

Steve Rush: I remember when I published my book, which was probably about six years ago, having the same conversation with an agent. And at the time I was starting out on my entrepreneurial career, a few years into it and having this kind of light bulb moment that felt I’m not worthy because I haven’t got a million followers on Instagram and I haven’t got all of this, but you know, what I had was something that was interesting, yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Imposter syndrome. 

Steve Rush: Oh, totally.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, you got to trust your gut. I think, my moment of doubt was, I knew I could write, but then, trying to understand my motivations for writing. That cost me a couple years because I couldn’t, hard time starting, why do you want to do this? Is it to make money? Is it for fame? Is it to help people? And that really had me in a bind trying to sort that [laugh], and finally I decided it’s for all those reasons. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, I want to help people, but yes, if I make money from it, I could help more people because I could, you know, get the book a wider audience and so I’ve never quite looked back from that point. I’ve have done, like I said, I’ve done 31 books and each one is, writing is difficult. It’s very hard. It’s exposing your mental thoughts to the world. And man, you better be braced to [laugh] take the feedback and [laugh]. And so, but I’ve had good success and I love helping other people with the same journey, because there are a lot of good messages to go out there and lot of messages that could help others. And if you have one like that you deserve to be in print. 

Steve Rush: Very much so, yeah. And then your last book, Work Made Fun Gets Done. It’s one of those titles that when you read it, you go, yeah, that’s absolutely true, of course it is. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: [Laugh].

Steve Rush: And everybody buys into it. Yet, we also find that that doesn’t happen everywhere [laugh] and that some people go to work and it’s not fun.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, some. Most people actually.

Steve Rush: What did you find out in your research?

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, my books, I tend to favor kind of proven truths or maybe obvious truths that are not obvious in practice. And so, the Work Made Fun Gets Done is one of those, it’s part of the mix on having motivated employees and staying with the job over time. And the younger employees, 59% of millennials say they want to have fun at work. So as more and more workers are from that age group, almost 75% now, you know, it’s a topic you’ve got to take seriously as a company. What are we doing to make sure that people are having fun while at work? Now, if you’re a cynical or old-line manager, the answer is simple, hey, here’s an idea. They can worry about that on the weekend. We’re paying them to work, God damn it, you know, and so,

Steve Rush: Yeah, there’s still a lot of those around, unfortunately. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, there are. So, you got to say, well, I could see where you would think that, and that makes a lot of sense, but let me tell you, have you looked at your exit interviews? Why people are leaving? You know, on the positive side, for this book. We did research. We looked at the hundred best places to work in America. And we dug in their data. We found that that one of the variables they ask about is, this a fun place to work. And for those companies that work for one of the hundred best companies to work for in America, 82% of their employees, when surveys said, where they work is a fun work environment. And we contrast that to those companies that applied for that award but didn’t receive it. Only 61% said it was a fun place to work.

That that 20-point differential was actually one of the largest in their database [laugh] on sorting successful companies from also ran. So, if you want to look at the positive data that supports making fun, a serious part of your business, it’s there. And that’s why, you know a lot of companies have even made it a core value of their firm, like Best Buy, it’s their number one core value is have fun while being the best or Jet Blue, number four, LinkedIn, number six, Mercedes-Benz number three. So, it’s workday number five. So, not everybody, but a lot of companies are staking it out saying, yes, yes, we agree. This should be a core value for what we do every day. And if we do that, if we do that well, then guess what? People will pass it on to their customer and to the colleagues. And it’ll be easier to come to work, because you’re enjoying who you’re working with and who you’re serving and just everything will go more swimmingly, you know. 

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, it’s a simple, it’s a simple thing, but common sense, not common practice, an observation first made by Voltaire in 1640. 

Steve Rush: [Laugh]. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Those things that are common sense are not very common he said [laugh].

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And hey. 

Steve Rush: Wise words.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Still true, still true today.

Steve Rush: And there’s also direct correlation to revenue here as well, isn’t there. So, the companies you just mentioned are all profitable or high revenue generative businesses.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, yes, yes, they are. And so, it’s a flip side of you know, if work is fun, it’s going to be more profitable. If it’s more profitable, then of course it’s more fun and we’re able to pay people better and have better benefits. And so, it’s kind of a chicken and egg type thing. I know what comes first. We think that, just make sure it’s part of the mix. It doesn’t have to start with that. And increasingly we share stories in the book about how people found their way to this. Like the President of Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, he did a year sabbatical where he examined high performing companies and he came back and he said number one thing he learned is that every place he examined, high performance companies, they were all fun places. And so, he said, we got to have more fun here. And he immediately created a fun committee and volunteers and charged them with, to do fun things, you know, find out what needs to be celebrated and work it into our culture. Had a group and focused on that. Maybe gave him some budget, and when there was a time, the morale is low, or we have good news to celebrate. Let’s do that very well. Let’s do it as a group. Let’s do it as a team. Let’s do it individually. And that’s what they do, or I’ll tell you another company. I was in Seattle years ago, I was presenting to 800 people and this person in the front row, go, you look really familiar.

And she goes, yeah, yeah. I met you six weeks ago when you were speaking here before, back in Seattle again, after six weeks. And I had to come tell you what happened. I go, well, tell me what happened [laugh]. And she worked for a company. She said, I left your presentation with one thing in mind. I said, this is real. It’s happening. I’m going to do it. I’m not asking permission. I’m doing it [laugh] because I believe in it. And that’s what she did. I said, well, what’d you do? She goes, I did a bunch of stuff. Like I created a happiness committee in my department, and it had three members of it. No one knew who they were, but anyone could say, it’s time to do something. I go, well, something like what? She goes, well, we held a picnic up on the roof in downtown Seattle to celebrate. We bartered meeting space with a company on the next block. That was a limo company, so now we have limo rides we can give people for letting them in our meeting space once a month and you know, on and on. They are just you know, didn’t start with a big budget, started with some creativity and some fun. And what difference did make? And she goes, it had a stunning difference [laugh]. People could see it, it changed how they came to work. And she said, I had other managers saying, what are you doing in your department? Your people are so excited. You’re on fire. You go, hey, come to the next meeting. We’re don’t having any secrets here. And it just grew organically. And you know, and now she’s giving me part of the story. So, I went back, and I wrote it up and I put it in the press and navigated external validation for what she’s doing internally. Well, fast forward 18 months from that first day I met that woman, that company, Perkins Coie, a law firm of all things, entered the best places to work in America. Number 23 on the list. 

Steve Rush: Amazing.

Dr. Bob Nelson: I would content from one person, one person standing up, not at the top. Sometimes we feel only the CEO can make a difference, you know, but in the middle, she was a finance manager in one department. And I would suggest that she personally converted that culture and made it more recognition savvy, where people felt more valued for the work, they were doing every day. Anyone listening can make that same thing happen, where you work. 

Steve Rush: Great story. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: You could light the fuse. It doesn’t have to all be on you, but you can get it going, get going in your walk, in your realm of influence, whatever position you have and invite other people on board. And you can make something happen.

Steve Rush: It’s because fun is infectious. So too is misery by the way. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: [Laugh]. 

Steve Rush: And I suspect, you know, that’s why, you know, you get that dichotomy between different firms, different teams and in different organizations. But if you were given some advice to our listeners today who may be thinking around, yeah, I want to take some of this fun and energy and ideas forward, but I know that I’m going to bump into maybe a stuffy boss or a stuffy culture. How would you think that would be the best way to maybe break into that?

Dr. Bob Nelson: One of two approaches, either ignore that and make it happen anyway, for the people that are interested. So even if the boss isn’t interested, get it going with others, or the second thing is make a personal appeal to your boss and say, this is why I like to do it, or why we should do it and try to sell them on being on board or let’s try it. Let’s try it for a month. Let’s try it for three months. Let’s do a pilot program, because I think, you know, I think for example, that if we did this, it would impact our turnover rate, which it will by the way [laugh].

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: If you create a culture of recognition where people are valued for what they’re doing. Research indicates you will be seven times more likely to hold onto your people if they feel they’re in an environment where people are celebrated and thanked for doing a good job, as simple as that. Seven times, seven times for their career by the way, not just for another, for another six months or another year that they will once they feel that they will want to stay working for your company for their career. 

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: So that’s the price of admission right there, right now. 

Steve Rush: Right, yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: In the midst of the great resignation, where at least in America, four and a half million people a month are leaving their positions. This has been for the last 18 months straight. Four and a half million a month are leaving their positions. And often they find another position and now they’re leaving that one [laugh].

Steve Rush: I know. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, because they’re in search of a place that you know, the pandemic taught us anything. It’s like, you know, life is short and unpredictable. You better have a good job now, better enjoy what you’re doing now. And so maybe what a lot them realize that what they’re doing, it’s not worth what they’re being paid for, and they’re not getting enjoy from it. And they, they hate their job. They hate their boss and time to [laugh] go, to seek out something that’s more meaningful to them that gives them, makes them feel they’re part of something larger themselves, where they can have pride in working there and enjoy the people they’re working with and who they’re serving.

Those jobs are out there, and they are they’re plentiful. And so, if you hold your sites to that type of standard, you will find it. Of course, you have to have the skillset. So, it’s a mix, clarity of purpose and mission. But I know people, for example, I worked with Walt Disney World for 15 years, and I met people that moved to Orlando Florida, because they had to work with this company, had to work for this company and they got there, and they didn’t care what the job was. They had to be a part of this organization. They’ll pick up trash in the. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: In the park, you know? 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And maybe they started there, but they quickly moved on up and man, oh man, because people are treated right. And then they blossom and then you get more of them and their best thinking. And then all of a sudden you got a career. So, it could be frustrating for people that feel that they’re in a dead-end position or a position they don’t enjoy. How do I get to a different area from where I’m at? But you know, maybe that starts in the current job you have. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Maybe look at that differently. Because a lot of times you can get to the job you want, start with the one you have and start to ask for responsibilities or make it known what things you’re interested in doing. And that might be a selection for responsibilities and assignments, especially for a small company. They need people to wear many hats, you know. And so, there’s more of flexibility and variety that you can help morph your job towards what you want to be doing. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, you mentioned reward and recognition as being a key component of that fun and you cited that, that law firm’s growth was one of the reasons that they focused on was kind of how they step into recognition. And when you think of the subject and the notion of recognition, most organizations typically have a recognition program, which could have, you know, e-cards and buttons and gifts and. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, years of service awards. 

Steve Rush: But it’s way more than that, right? Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, but often, they’re doing stuff, but it’s not the stuff that matters to people. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, I’ve never met an employee that, you know, stayed another day at work to get their 10-year pin, you know, it’s sort of like [laugh]. So, along the way, the topic was started in an incentive industry with people trying to move merchandise. And this is another way if we can get, you know, people to buy you know gifts for employees and we’ll sell a lot more merchandise and that’s kind of how the market started and for many companies, that’s where it ended too. So, it never really got to the motivations. It got to, hey, you get stuff, you know, and it becomes really a money substitute to get points or gift cards to be thanked for a job well done. So that’s fine, but that’s a limited view on this topic because I tend to find that the most powerful motivators are things that don’t cost money at all. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, a personal, thank you, or being part of a team or being asked your opinion, being allowed to pursue an idea you have, being thanked, certainly when you do, do a good job or for helping someone else. And if you make a mistake, you know, it’s easy to criticize someone that makes a mistake. You know, they already usually know they did something wrong. Why don’t you embrace it and say, hey, what’d you learn from that? That’s the more important thing here [laugh]. And take the long-term view of the relationship instead of being critical in the short term, be supportive in the long term, you know, Bill Gates, former chairman of Microsoft, he once said, you could tell a lot about the long-term viability of any organization simply by looking at how they handle mistakes. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Because if you embarrass people [laugh], and in front of their peers and make them want to quit, they probably will [laugh]. And, yet it’s opportunity to take a long-term view into, and to say, we’re bigger than that. And that’s good news. You made that mistake because that’s the best training you’ll have all year. I’m glad you made it. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And see what else other people can learn from it. So fundamental difference in a simple choice that comes up daily, really.

Steve Rush: Culture plays a massive part in this. And I think what I heard you talk about directly and indirectly was, those organizations who have fun embedded into their values, embedded into their culture, their employer brand have a better chance at not only acquisition, but also retention.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes, and they got to the, you know, they didn’t start with that. Maybe they put it on the table. 

Steve Rush: Right.

Dr. Bob Nelson: As the core value, but it’s working the value to say, what does that look like in practice? And if we were having more fun, how would things be different? And maybe they’d say, well, maybe upper management would be more involved. I worked with in California, the pension fund. Teachers’ Pension Fund of California, which is a nine billion. 

Steve Rush: That’s huge. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Billion-dollar fund. Yeah, and they brought me in, consultant and sure enough, they had very little recognition. And when I brought the topic up, they go, no, we can’t do that stuff because, you know, we’re a public entity. I go, really, that’s what’s holding you back from doing the right thing. Yes, yes, it is. We got to think about something we might do might end up in the headlines of the newspaper and that will not be appropriate, our fiduciary responsibilities. I go, well, I’ll just hold on a minute [laugh]. What if I brought you a list of other federal state and local governments that are doing this type of stuff, what exactly they’re doing? The legislative authority, they have to do it [laugh] and the contact information. And they go, that would be very interesting. And I [laugh] created that you know, it was like a 20-page list, and they took it into a board meeting. They came out and they said, we’re doing it. 

Steve Rush: Good. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And they started investing in low-cost ways to thank people. In fact, one of the first things they did out of the shoot. This is a state government, okay. They decided to make a music video that they had their senior managers all sign up to be in a music video to talk about the changes they’re making in the direction of the firm. It was an enormous hit [laugh], you know, because people saw that their leadership was coming, you know, was now part of them and helping lead the charge. And it was very exciting, and it was very fun.

Steve Rush: It is often a mindset shift for some of the senior executives in these firms and organizations, isn’t it? 

Dr. Bob Nelson: It has to be, it has to be. Yeah, so it’s okay if you’re not comfortable with something, but, if you have the logic, if you have the data, especially if you have the data from your own employees where you know why they’re leaving, or what would make them stay, you know, right now, one of the big things is on flexible working hours and ability to work from home. God, we’ve got enormous data on this, 36% of employees said they would skip a pay increase if they’d have the ongoing flexibility to work from home, 40% said, you can give them a pay cut if they.

Steve Rush: Yeah

Dr. Bob Nelson: [Laugh], you know, if you give them the flexibility and the time they work from home, because that’s more enjoyable to them, it’s more convenient for their life that not even counting the, you know, the commute time, you know, the hour or two hours or three hours that they have to waste a day to get to a central office and to get ready for that. And you know, besides saving that time, they’ve got more control over their life, and you know, and you want the data. It’s like overwhelmingly people are allowed to work from home are more productive. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And I’ve tracked this with my own employees. I had people log their time. It turned out to be twice as productive, you know, like I could see the work of the results they got, because they weren’t interrupted. There wasn’t as socializing. They were able to dig in further and get more done. And so, it all makes sense. What holds a lot of companies back is, senior manager saying, well, that’s not what I’m used to, you know, or if I can’t see them, I don’t know they’re working or the CEO of JP Morgan in New York City finance firm said, if you can go out to dinner in New York City, you can come to the office and work in New York city.

So, okay. Well, that’s a point. Narrow minded point, but you know, I guess if you pay people enough, you can force them to do anything. And so, but over four and a half million people moved out in New York City during the pandemic, because when we shifted to allowing people to work from home, if all of a sudden, they didn’t have to be in New York City anymore. So they went to work in a smaller town or where their family’s from. And a lot of Zoom towns popped up, you know, where people preferred to live. If they can live anywhere, they’re going to go live in Bend Oregon. They’re going to live in you know. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: In places that they can enjoy living more. They can work from anywhere. And, people are holding onto that, 65% of employees that had a chance to work from home during the pandemic said, they want to continue that flexibility. It worked better for them. It was more productive. And, if they’re forced to come in, which is kind of the dance we’re in right now, where companies are saying, no, you have to come back to the office. Fortunately, only 4% of companies have said everyone has to come back five days a week, but you know, half the people say you have to come back, you know, at least three days a week. And the other half have more flexibility. So, my wife’s a virtual employee. She has to come in one day a week, you know, and that’s that kind of borderline for her, you know, [laugh], she does it begrudgingly the whole time.

She’s kind of swearing on the commute, but yeah, one day a week is, you know, and that’ll work. If they increase that, she will definitely quit. I was surprised that she stayed just for that because you could get another virtual job, you know, and we already proved it works. 

Steve Rush: Right, yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: [Laugh] so it’s like, we don’t need to keep proving it works. We know it works and well, we can make excuses while you can’t be as collaborative. Well, maybe make some adjustments to be more collaborative, you know. So, Anyway, we’re still on the journey on that one. And again, you know, fun would be part of that, recognition would be part of that. And, you know, or what I find is like, I say, well, we’re on Zoom calls now, how can you, you know, we can’t do recognition. Oh, yes, you can, you know, come on, you know, next Zoom call you have, before we get in our agenda, I like to just take a few minutes and go around the group. And as I call out someone’s name, I like everyone else to say what they most value about working with that person. Let’s start with John, okay. Now, Mary, now Sally, and 10 minutes later, where are you? Everyone’s gotten personal feedback about what the people they work with most closely think most highly of what they do and their work, they contribute. Well, that’s pretty powerful. Make people feel great about the job they’re doing. I guarantee you that whatever they’re called out for, they’re going to do more of that same thing, because what gets recognized gets repeated. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: So, it’s a universal rule. And then, you know, the groups could be tighter working unit because they now have insights into each other, and they know so it’s going to be more of a team going forward. So, you could do that in, you know, 10 minutes in the Zoom call. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: You know, I call that a praise barrage. You just take time and we’re just going to focus on praise. No negative feedback, just praise, just thanks and praise from open mic from employees to other boys. 

Steve Rush: Love it. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Very powerful. Very simple. 

Steve Rush: Very much so. So, we’re going to turn the tables a little bit now. We’re going to start to hack into your mind. Now of the 31 books and the 1001 Ways to Engage Employees. We’re going to try and dis distill all of that down now into the top three leadership hacks that you can share. What would they be Bob?

Dr. Bob Nelson: There you go. Okay, well, here it goes. I’d say all motivation starts with the person. So, ask them what motivates them. Don’t try to guess. Just ask them, ask them individually, or as a group, would be the first thing some, again, advice I’m going to give you is going to be very simple, because this is what I swim in. So, ask the questions, take the answers seriously, do the top one or two things that they mention. So today that might be you know, and managers often are scared to do this because they say, well, when people are going to say they want more money, well maybe they will. And you know, is that valid? Then maybe they should be paid more. I don’t know. But more times than not, I find that the things that come up are, do not involve money, but being thanked by someone, they hold in high esteem by their manager or upper manager.

As I indicated. Being involved in a decision, especially one that affects them, 89% of employees say, they’d like to have that. 92% say they’d like to be asked for their ideas and suggestions. And if they have a good idea, given autonomy and authority to pursue it. So again, from my research and application of these concepts, most of the things that come surprisingly amazingly delightfully don’t cost money to implement, just a little bit, you know behavior. So, a little bit of insight, a little bit of thoughtfulness. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: And then actually doing it. So, it’s not good enough to know you should do it. You got to actually do it in your practices, in your daily regimen as a leader. So, ask, prioritize and do. That’d be the three I would say.

Steve Rush: And it sounds so simple that we get caught up in our busy worlds. And it’s just one of those things that we don’t pay attention enough to. So, I love that, great stuff. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yes. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Next part of the show we call it Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something in your life or work has not worked out as you’d planned, might have been quite catastrophic at the time, but as a result you’ve learned from it and it now serves you well, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, I’d say, not just me. For a lot of people doing a switching gears and tact, and what you’re doing when somebody’s not working. So, the pandemic change work for a lot of people. I was making my living probably 9% of my revenue was from physically speaking at conferences and traveling to work with companies and that kind of all stopped overnight actually [laugh] and so. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: They go well, okay. So, I pivoted to do, you know, other things and to do things that were not in person. So, a lot of that’s virtual. I’ve done a lot of webinars and I’ve been doing more consulting. So, you know, I think pivoting would be my recommendation when something’s not working, try something else. And if that works a little better, then do more of that. And actually, my personal [laugh], strategy over the last 30 years has been, if I’ve got three or four or four or five strategies in play, then, you know, two or three are going to pay out and that has happened in my career. So that, I think [laugh], I think that canon could work for anyone. That whatever you’re doing right now, isn’t working for whatever reason, you could fight that and fight that, or you can change and modify and pivot and try something different, maybe build off of what you’re doing, do something different. And, then you try different things. One probably going to work better than another. So, there you get your own feedback, right there will take out in that direction.

Steve Rush: Yeah, paying attention to oneself is really important. That you’re often the barometer of those decisions, but we.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah. 

Steve Rush: Sometimes get a bit stubborn when it comes to ourselves.

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, and it’s easy to say, well, this should work. It worked before. Well, okay. Times changed somehow. And for whatever reason, it’s not working now. So, you could sit in that in state for a long time and you can begrudge why the world has changed, or you can. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: You can change with it. I’m far more taking positive action to make your life better.

Steve Rush: So, the last part of the show, Bob, we get to give you a chance now to do a bit of time travel. You get to bump into Bob who wasn’t the doctor at the time at 21 and give him some advice, what would it be?

Dr. Bob Nelson: I would say double down more on my instincts. So I, which I think is good advice all the time, to trust one’s instincts, but you know, a lot of times we don’t because we feel well, we don’t know much about this topic, or, you know, and so we override our instincts, even though our gut tells you this doesn’t seem like a good person to work with, or this doesn’t seem like, you know, we stick with it. And I would trust my instincts more. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: You know, because when I’ve had those, they’ve been good and I would have gotten even better results had I’d done more of that. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: There you go. 

Steve Rush: Awesome. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Opened myself up to you there.

Steve Rush: [Laugh], thank you for that, Bob. Appreciate it. So, we’re coming to the kind of top of our show now, and I think it’s really important that we allow all our listeners to tap into some of the fun and energy that you bring to your work and that your career has proven to be so successful around Bob. How can we best connect our audience to you?

Dr. Bob Nelson: Well, I’ve got, wouln’t you know, an email and website, my email is That’s so they can email me or even call me directly, 8582185049 in San Diego, California USA would be ways. I have a website. My website’s had some glitches here lately, so it it’s been on and off, but it’s That’s I’ve got an online store and a lot of my books are on that store at discounted prices, cheaper than Amazon or. 

Steve Rush: Cool. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: You know, and then of course the book is available wherever books are sold. My books, Work Made Fun Gets Done. Latest, the one before that is 1001 Ways to Engage Employees. And the one that most people know before is, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees Now in the new addition, 1501 Ways to Reward Employees.

Steve Rush: [Laugh], and as you keep collecting them, the books are going to keep growing and evolving, I’m Sure. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: I guess, yeah, I guess. 

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Bob Nelson: It’s an ongoing story [laugh].

Steve Rush: You’re probably the only guest we’ve ever had on an international show, like ours to give away their phone number. So fantastic, and homage to you for that!

Dr. Bob Nelson: Yeah, no, I love hearing from people. I love helping people. And of course, if you have an opportunity that you’d looking for a speaker for your organization or for an event or for your association, I still do a lot of that and would love to help you out.

Steve Rush: Awesome, bob. We’ll make sure those links and information’s all in our show notes as well. So, people can demonstrate over to your website and have a look at some more of the stuff that you do. From my perspective. I just want to say, thank you. It’s been super fun. You’ve been really insightful, some great stories, and I’m just delighted that we are connected through this medium and welcome to our broader community, The Leadership Hacker Podcast. 

Dr. Bob Nelson: Thanks so much for having me. Steve, it’s been a pleasure. 

Steve Rush: Thanks Bob.


Steve Rush: I want to sign off by saying thank you to you for joining us on the show too. We recognize without you, there is no show. So please continue to share, subscribe, and like, and continue to get in touch with us with the great new stories that we share every week. And so that we can continue to bring you great stories. Please make sure you give us a five-star review where you can and share this podcast with your friends, your teams, and communities. You want to find us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter @leadershiphacker, Leadership Hacker on YouTube and on Instagram, the_leadership_hacker and if that wasn’t enough, you can also find us on our website Tune into next episode to find out what great hacks and stories are coming your way. That’s me signing off. I’m Steve Rush, and I’ve been your Leadership Hacker.

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