Robert Glazer holds a variety of titles, from chairman and founder of Acceleration Partners to podcast host and author. Acceleration Partners is a global partner marketing agency that has been the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, such as the GlassDoor Employees’ Choice Award.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Bob to talk about teambuilding, identifying key individuals within your company, and the release of his new book, Elevate Your Team: Empower Your Team To Reach Their Full Potential and Build A Business That Builds Leaders.
Although the current supply side issues in the labor market make hiring difficult right now, it’s important to maintain a long-term focus. It’s tempting to shift focus to the short term when filling a position is difficult, but maintaining a long-term hiring focus is key. Hiring people who can scale with your business and provide long-term value should still be priority number one when growing your staff.
Hiring managers sometimes confuse top performers with key employees that can scale with the business. However, these are typically two distinctly different types of people. A top performer will not always be someone who is a great fit for growth and scaling.
Top performers are often people with lots of experience that are able to grow at a rate slightly below the growth rate of the company. These people are often great at their specific function as an employee, but may not be able to keep pace with the company and grow their responsibilities.
Employees that can scale with a business are often growing at a rate equal to or greater than the company growth rate. These people are typically looking for more responsibility, and they love a good challenge.
The way to keep key talent is to give them the ability to learn new skills that will help them with their job. Glazer cited a recent study that found 94% of Gen Z and Millennials would stay at a job longer if they were given the chance to learn more. Given how fluid the current job market is, having a plan for teaching and building upon an employee’s skill set is pivotal.
Realistically, those who want to focus on one specific thing or niche can become consultants or freelancers and typically make more money than they would as an employee. That’s why having a great value proposition for your employees is key in today’s job market.
Each week, I have the privilege of interviewing some of the greatest minds in business, like Robert Glazer. On the Walker Webcast, you will hear what some of the most influential people in the business space have to say on current business issues. To hear the full Robert Glazer interview, watch the entire Walker Webcast.
Willy Walker: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to another Walker Webcast. It is my great pleasure to have my friend, an incredibly insightful CEO, podcaster, author, and skier Bob Glazer. Let me do a quick intro of Bob and then we're going to dive into a lot of different things, but mostly around his new book, which hit bookshelves today and is running right to the top of the charts as it relates to business books. And I can't endorse it more but let me do a quick bio and then we'll get into the book.
Bob Glazer is the Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor's Employees’ Choice Award two years in a row. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward and the author of the international bestselling book Performance Partnerships and Elevate.
His newest book, Elevate Your Team has just been published and will be the focus of our discussion today.
Outside of work, Bob can likely be found skiing, cycling, reading, traveling and spending quality time with his family or overseeing some sort of home renovation project.
Bob, first of all, it's wonderful to have you with me today. Let's start here to give our listeners a context of what Acceleration Partners does. Explain affiliate marketing and how that creates partnerships between merchants, affiliate networks, publishers, and the consumer.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, just using those words shows that you understand more than 99% of people. But yeah, affiliates fall under this larger umbrella of partner marketing. Rather than buying an impression or a click, it's a digital form of marketing whereby you can sign up a lot of partners who talk about your product service. Otherwise, you use technology to track how that does. And then they are only paid on a performance basis. So, we help set up and manage those programs for pretty large global companies who like the notion of paying for their marketing after they get the result that they wanted.
Willy Walker: So, when you open the book, Elevate Your Team, you use some data points about how rapidly you've scaled Acceleration Partners, which actually plays into one of the reasons why you actually wrote the book. So, give our listeners a little bit as it relates to the scale you've achieved and how quickly you've grown Acceleration Partners.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, and the one change to my bio, which if you read the book is I fired myself as a CEO, so I'm now the founder and chairman, which is a better fit for me. So yeah, we grew, I think at sort of the high at almost about 30% for a decade. We've grown now to almost 350 people globally. I think probably five or six years ago that was around 100. And, you know, while we have an investment partner in the last year or two, most of that growth was all kind of self-funded. So, I think, you know, as we were sort of on that and it's interesting where the world's come today, we were on this kind of growth path of kind of growing and growing with our team and doing that on a sort of self-generated basis. And as I was watching a lot of the kind of grow at all cost types of business going on the sideline, I think interestingly, you know, timing is better to be lucky than smart sometimes.
But I started working on this book a few years ago, and now we have a marketplace where growth is almost like a bad word because I think it has been associated with, people that are tired and burnt out and things have just been hard, and they don't really want to grow. But I think organizations need to grow. I just think we're moving away from this: Hey, let's grow the business at all costs, no matter what the cost or expenses to our people. It's how we kind of grow a business that people are excited by the growth and part of that growth.
Willy Walker: So, in Elevate, your past book, it was kind of focused on individuals, in this the new book is on team. So, what was it, Bob, you called it the idiot genius epiphany that got you to sort of take everything that you'd put into Elevate, which really focuses on individuals building spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional capacity. What was it that said to you, I need to take these lessons about individuals and translate them into how you scale an enterprise and how you build highly effective teams?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, as you said, my little epiphany was, I didn't realize that the solution to my problem was something I had already kind of figured out. That framework, which a lot of people really embraced after Elevate, I think they've used it as a personal and with their own team as a leadership development framework on how to get better. I started to realize that was kind of the trick to growing the organization. We need to figure out how to make people better holistically and rather than one by one, how do we put some of those things institutionally into the culture and the organization? And I realized it was actually the same framework. And that's sort of what we had been doing and how we had been training people. And I just hadn't called it that and hadn’t organized it that way. And once I kind of saw it in that same way, it was easier to double down and say, Well, here we're working on spiritual capacity, and this is intellectual capacity when we're doing podcast clubs and book clubs and learning and feedback exercises. And we've done a lot of things around psychological safety, which is the big focus of emotional capacity in this book, right? So there's a good example of emotional capacity is kind of the individual version was how do you focus on what you control and your relationships and otherwise at the institutional thing is how do you get the organization to be a place that's psychologically safe, where people can speak up, where they can share ideas, where they can say this isn't going to work, and also one that focuses on the things that it controls and not the things that it doesn't control. I think the hallmark of a low emotional capacity organization is one that, you know, I was in sales teams. They never lost a deal that they were culpable for. It was the competitor's fault or the client's fault or the third party. They're just going to go in and make the same mistake next time.
Willy Walker: What you just said reminds me. I was on a client call, a zoom call, a week before last, and the CEO of the company said, “I listen to every Walker Webcast that's focused on economics. I love the Walker Webcast, but I don't listen to the ones where you focus on soft stuff.” And I obviously didn't argue with them and say you should be listening to the soft stuff.
Robert Glazer: See if he just hung up.
Willy Walker: Yeah, Yeah, exactly. He might be actually listening to this one and he just clicked me off. But in it, you know, one of the things you say at the beginning of your book is build your business by building your people. And I think a lot of CEOs and business leaders sort of forget about how important that is. Particularly right now, you've just referenced it at the beginning here. We're sort of in this distinct economic cycle. A lot of the big fast growth technology firms are laying people off right now. How at these stressed times do leaders, CEOs, and business heads stay focused on, if you will, the long ball as it relates to people development and not just focused on where's that next sale coming from?
Robert Glazer: Well, I do think it's better for their business overall. And look, we had Elon Musk a few months ago say, hey, if you're going to work at Twitter, you're going to work super intense and hard and a quarter of the company quit the next day, right. Or whatever it was. So that sort of playbook just hit like a ton of bricks. So, look, you can play the game to win this week, or you can try to play the long run. And I think again, in the long run, we have a lot of people playing defense right now, whether it's in my industry or your industry or otherwise. Eventually they're going to get back to playing offense. And some of the things that I think the practices we've had induced by cheap money weren't sustainable. I think these are more sustainable practices. And you want people in your organization that are excited to be there, are leading and are growing. Want to take the next role and like I said, growing because you're helping to grow the people, not if you imagine sort of a wave. I think we've either had you're surfing the wave, or you're being crushed by the wave. Right? That's sort of the two analogies.
Willy Walker: So, in the book you outline a top performer, which is through your characteristics of a top performer – understanding their strengths and weaknesses, They're voracious learners, good physical and mental discipline. They connect well with others. Hit kind of, if you will, the checklist as it relates to a number of top performers that I both worked with inside of my own company as well as at other companies. But you're very quick to point out that not all top performers can actually continue to grow in their roles and scale with a company. Describe that and what we as leaders ought to be looking for, not just in top performers, but people who can actually scale with your company.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, I think the first key is to look for experiences grade and experience plus aptitude would be great, but I think aptitude is what makes people get better and ready for the next role in the next thing. Do they have the ability to improve? And I talk in the book about so there's a chart that comes out of that shower epiphany, and whether it's a team or an organization, you have a growth rate. Right. So, imagine there's people that come in and then there's the role and sort of time and their ability to do it. Well, if the growth rate is, let's say it's like a 45% slope. There will be people that'll fall all along that plot line. They're growing faster than the growth rate because they are sort of unicorns. You get one or two of those, keep them, throw stock at them, you know.
You need a president and they're ready to be CEO. You need a director, and they're ready to be managing director. So, I talk about the A player as someone who just stays on that growth line. So, they're ready to keep taking that next leading role in the team or the organization. Most people fall below that line, what I call the capacity building zone, because if the growth of the team is 30 or 40%, a lot of people can't get 30 or 40% better a year, nor should we expect them to. They might get 20% better a year. And then there's a couple of things that happen.
If you focus on building the people and getting them better, you come to two logical problems sometimes. One, it's just not enough. You know, your business is now gone global, you have a really good VP of Finance, but you need a global CFO with experience in that. And if you promote that really capable VP of Finance into this role with none of the criteria that will make them successful in the role, you're going to have a problem. Or similarly, you've coached this person up and they are extraordinary, and you have no place for them to go and or you're not willing to displace the old stodgy CFO with the better kind of rising VP of Finance. So this is where managers and leaders earn their stripes and make those decisions where they're going to open up the space for talent on the team, or they're going to say to someone, Look, you're a great manager, you've been doing everything you can do to be a better manager, but we need a director right now, and that's a different capability set, but at least be in the position to have more people likely to have a shot at it.
Willy Walker: You have an axiom that you say every time you double a company size, you break 50% of your processes and 50% of your people. I read that, Bob, and I should have said we've grown Walker & Dunlop a lot faster. We've done 50% on W&D for a very long period of time. And I still have a huge number of the original management team and professionals at W&D over that period of time. And I sat there and reflected upon both the growth that they've done as individuals and that we've done as a team. Do you really think that there's kind of a 50% change in your processes and your people as you scale the company and double the size of it?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, look. That was told to us, and I felt we were doing better, that I didn't want to be that. But my guess is that that is the average because if your company is growing at that rate and your people aren't growing and they don't have the tools and they don't adapt, then those things will break. So, it doesn't surprise me that you've done better than the average. My guess is those people have improved at leaps and bounds. They've been willing to make changes, they've been willing to change processes and do those things. And so, it doesn't look like a break because you have growth and adaptation. But I don't I don't know that's the average. I think if you looked at the sort of Silicon Valley venture backed version of it, I think you'd be probably very close to that 50% rule.
Willy Walker: So, on capacity building and teamwork, you state that we need to really invest corporate time and resources in capacity building. And as you dive into the various component parts of spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional, you lay out some of the things that you've done in acceleration to both create the time and invest in building a spiritual framework, if you will, building personal spirituality as well as on a corporate level. Can you four just talk about, for instance, that exercise that you took your team through as it relates to the three questions to help build a broader spiritual network?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, and just to be clear, for some people who may be cringing a little bit at the notion of “spiritual”, this is not religious. For a lot of people, what are your core values? What is most important to you? What are your strengths? What do you do? Well, you know, this is a lot of the personality test that people do and otherwise to then figure out, like, what should Willy be doing and what should Willy not be doing? And then, you know, being able to share that.
When you think about Jim Collins’ definition of kind of a level five leader or transcendent leader, right, that has to be someone who is leading authentically and that has to come from a place of self-understanding. And if you have leaders that aren't clear about what they're good at or what their value, I find that their leadership style is a lot of best practices that are cobbled together, but they're not authentically them versus the leader who says, Look, this is what I do well, this is what I not do well, this is what you should love to be in my team. This is why you'll hate being on my team. And by the way, they're the same reason. And I've just seen people have some real epiphanies about why they do what they do. I've seen where the core value of trust, which often comes from a real violation of trust somewhere in their life, when we get into it with their team, if people were 5 minutes late, if they missed an assignment, if they called them and couldn't find them in the afternoon, like they just threw them in a penalty box. Like this is a core signal to this person that this is someone that cannot be trusted. Once they actually understood that they were able to go to their team and say, Hey, trust is really important to me and on my team and I'm going to trust you. But here are the ways that trust can be lost. And they were able to really kind of have honest discussion and help their team understand what was important to them and what was not for them.
A lot of this stuff and a lot of core value stuff is deeply baked in. It comes from childhood. It comes from things you have been spending your whole life trying to double down on or avoid. And so, it's not a surprise that it shows up in our leadership. And I actually think it's an asset, but it's an asset if we understand it and we know it. Right. And it's driving us not if it's driving us that we have no idea who's behind the wheel of a car.
Willy Walker: Well, as you talk about that, Bob, in the book and one's core values, one of the questions you asked your team was what would you like to be said about you in your eulogy, which reminded me of David Brooks' great op-ed in New York Times, and then he also wrote a book on it. How do you, if you will, live your eulogy and how do you foster an environment inside of Acceleration Partners that allows people to live to their eulogy and, if you will, not their W-2?
Robert Glazer: Yeah. So, look, for better or for worse, my dominant core value is to find a better way to share it. My purpose is to share ideas that help people in organizations grow. So, like, those are the two reasons why I'm here today, right? Is there something that we've learned or otherwise that can help people do that? That's what I do well in my organization, I'm not the consistent process person, I'm not the keep things safe and keep us out of trouble. I need to be paired with the keep us safe and keep us out of trouble because I'm the experiment, new ideas, try, see how we can make it better person and so those are the situations that I should be brought into to solve, and I should be removed from the situations where that would be a liability to the area. So again, just even that clarity and people on my team will use those words and my wife will use those words like they'll say sometimes, Hey, look what we're dealing with right now. We just don't need you to make it better. Like, please don't. That knowledge is helpful. Or they'll say, look, we have you've given us seven things to make better. Nothing is going to get better. Like which two do you want? So, the more that people understand, the people they work with, I think on that level then you can have those kinds of conversations and you can get to those the tradeoffs and better outcomes.
Willy Walker: Help me understand then, Bob, what happens if your core values don't match up with the rest of your teams?
Robert Glazer: That's a really good question. I get asked that a lot. And look, presumably if organizations do this right, if you have real organizational core values and you recruit for them and you reward and hire and fire based on them, then you should probably attract people who have similar values. Now, people's values don't always align. If you find that the values of the organization are not aligned with your own values, it's probably just not going to work. Or the organization finds that, for instance, like some of our value is we're a fast-paced agency, like we need people to own it. They want to make decisions. They want to drive that. If someone likes slow pace and consensus decision making and like they might be better working in a nuclear power plant than a marketing agency – and that's not a that's not a bad thing. It just may not be how we work. So, you don't have to be in total alignment, but there should be a lot of dots.
If you're working with someone on their team, or a boss, and you have two or three conflicting core values, that's going to be pretty hard. It starts the core value exercise in the book. But I talk about the big three a lot in terms of core values where you think about your vocation or the company you choose, your partner or your community. Like when those things that you choose to live in aren't value aligned, they don't tend to work very well. So, look, sometimes I would say like, I think Acceleration Partners is a great place to work. I think it's a great place to work for about 2% of the population. We have certain values that we have a certain way that we work. We are client service. A lot of people don't like that. There's running backs who need to go to a team that runs the ball. There's, you know, quarterbacks that throw the ball. They need to go to the team. There's universities that appeal to totally different types of students that are great universities. But one's a huge inner-city campus. Ones are rural, you know, smaller liberal arts. So, I think we're all trying to find places that kind of match up and there's some shared values.
Willy Walker: So, when I hear you talk about that, which makes perfect sense, I wonder whether there's a trade off from a diversity of opinions and ideas. So, I had Frances Frei from Harvard Business School on last week, and Frances and I dove into this issue a bunch, and she talked a lot about both swapping the DE&I and putting I first. So, if you want to create an inclusive company, you need to really focus on being an inclusive company before you focus on being a diverse company. Because if you're inclusive, then the diversity will come. But if you just focus on the diversity, it's very hard to build the inclusion after it. Yeah, she was sort of like, swap those two. And then she also went quite some length talking about how really great companies have a diversity of opinions, experiences and ideas that all come together into this melting pot that creates breakthrough and innovation.
And you touched on it a little bit there, Bob, as it relates to people who are kind of put outside of their comfort zone, and those are the ones who are the most creative. They're the ones who can come into your situation, glean from the situation something they've never seen before and create something new. So, I know you understand this. What I want to understand is that the tradeoff of you wanting the sort of core culture and values to match up. And yet at the same time, we all know that diversity pays and rewards. And so how do you play those two?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, I think both things are true. When I say there needs to be some alignment, the person match. You know, people talk about the culture fit and there's also been a lot of things about the verbiage versus culture ad, and I think sometimes this has been sort of Silicon Valley thing that a culture fit is a carbon copy, and everyone thinks it looks the same. That is not what you want at all. I think you 100% want diversity of opinion, perspective, and otherwise.
But the core of any organization or purposeful organization is some shared mission or vision or some strings of commonality that bring you there. For instance, pretend I'm very religious, like I might have atheists that are my friends, right? But if I have a religion club on Sunday morning, I probably don't want the atheists coming and telling us all morning that everything that we're doing is wrong. Like in that context, that's not the purpose of that organization. That doesn't mean that someone should not be friends with. So, I think any organization you have to have some shared values. But 100%, that does not mean that people are all the same or they think the same, but they're just rallying around both the vision of the organization and some shared rules. And I think this is true for sports teams, religion, and organizations or otherwise that work and that endure. They have some shared purposes or some values that they kind of hold true. But I agree with Frances, and I think within that you want all types of different people and perspectives and opinions.
Willy Walker: So, there are some assessment tools that you've used inside of Acceleration Partners, and you mentioned the book, which allows companies to sort of understand people's core competencies and who's good and how their personality types play. You're not big on Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram because you say they're a little bit too complex for the corporate environment. Talk about some of those tools and how you've used them. You've used one at a corporate retreat. You had everyone in the entire company take the test at the actual corporate retreat. Talk about how you've used those at Acceleration Partners to both give people an understanding of who's on their team, and then also to be able to pull the team together rather than push it apart.
Robert Glazer: Yeah and let me just because I know people love Enneagram and I always say this as a disclaimer. I know a lot of people are deep on it. I think if you do it, you have to do it holistically and consistently. The problem with something like Enneagram in my mind is that, you know, the answer is like, Willy, you're a six wing four or whatever it is. And I might walk in and be like, I have no idea what that means, right? And so, I have to be caught up to speed on all of that and do that. So, if you're rolling that out as an organization and some organizations do, it works. You just have to be kind of all in on it. That's my experience on that one versus if you do Strength Finders or something like that. And I tell you that I'm a relator, you'll inherently know what those things mean without a lot of training on it. So yeah, we've done the Y stuff which is super impactful, DISC otherwise, and I think you start to see a lot of commonalities when you do these around what you do well, what you don't do well, I'm someone who believes we're not focused on our weaknesses. I think you need to be aware of and understand your weaknesses and mitigate them. But you shouldn't focus on them, instead focus on the things you do well.
I think it's interesting. I remember we did the StrengthsFinder exercise with the team and then the facilitator would say, All right, now that you learned all the people on the team, if I had this project, who would you assign to do the research? Who do you assign to do the execution? And it just became really clear, like whose skill sets were aligned around certain things. On the DISC, it's always interesting too, you know, we have a very D-heavy team. You know, the S people are the ones that at some point like to keep you out of trouble, they'll slow you down on a lot of things, and particularly with a group of D. But then one time out of ten, they're really going to cause you from making a mistake.
So, one of the things I did say in the book is you should add to the diversity point before you should absolutely not use any of these things for interviewing. There is no right or wrong in any of these things. And in fact, I've seen people without the knowledge just hire teams of people who fall into the same assessment as them without even knowing it, because they look for similar things. Again, there's not a good one. There's not a bad one. I think it's just a matter for everyone to understand: How do I come to something? What is my orientation? What are the strengths? I mean, how does someone else do and get people focused on the right place, right projects? And, you know, for some people we talked about this, it's not in the book. It's not leading they have all the traits of an individual contributor who wants to be really rewarded for their direct contribution. And they thought to make more money and get more responsibility they need to take a leadership role. And that ends up being a lose-lose because it diminishes their production. And people have a leader that has no interest in leading.
Willy Walker: So, you briefly mentioned right there, Bob, that you're not a big fan of psychological tests in the recruiting process. Talk about that for a moment because we've used them ourselves. We have a number of clients who literally say, I'll never hire someone who doesn't pass this test, that this firm that we outsource to does all this psychological profiling, it comes back. And if they don't score high on that exam, I don't hire them. And any time I've gone against that exam, it's been a big mistake. And you don't buy into that.
Robert Glazer: Well, actually, there are ones that are designed for hiring. Like I know people use predictive index, they use culture index. I've heard people with a lot of success like that that I'm not saying I may not buy into. And I think what they try to do is assess if you're worried about diversity, though, they're trying to assess the pattern of the organization, hire for the pattern organization. So, I know a lot of people who swear by these things. I am saying some of these other sorts of personality tendency ones that weren't meant for hiring. I wouldn't use it for hiring. I wouldn't try to say, Oh, we're looking for this type. Because again, that assumes that one of them is better than the other. Like that assumes that, you know, certain profiles are better. What I think actually is that teams where everyone is on the same part of the profile tend to have the same strengths and weaknesses. But I do know there are assessments where people have designed them for hiring. I don't have a strong opinion on that. I'd be curious about people who understand the DEI component more, who have done the research on that. It finds that that does tend to lead to more homogeneity. I don't know, to be fair on that.
Willy Walker: So, the final one on spirituality. Talk about finding why.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, Simon Sinek wrote this great book about Find Your Why, a huge bestseller or the first one. And then and then it was kind of like, Hey, go figure it out. And turns out that's really hard to do. I've come on the work of a gentleman named Gary Sanchez, who then kind of really got into that and interviewed hundreds of people and figured out their why and then found these kinds of seven, eight, or maybe it's nine archetypes. We have done this in our organization. This is sort of what is your driving purpose both inside and outside of work. I have found it to be one of the highest correlations. It typically ties to one or more people's core values, but it just when you get into conflict and stuff and you tell me people's whys, I can tell you exactly what the conflict is. All of our leadership team knows these things. We reference it a lot. I have just found it to be one of the most reliable predictors of the kind of orientation people committing to and why they do what they do. And I just found these archetypes super powerful. We did it seven or eight years ago, and it's still one of the things that we use and talk about daily.
Willy Walker: So, the next area is intellectual. We talk at Walker & Dunlop about learning and earning and being able to do those two things inside of the company is a great way to build a career. You reference a LinkedIn survey to Gen Zers and millennials that said that 94% of respondents said that they'd stay in a job longer if they were chance to learn more. How important is this learning not just inside the office but outside of the office and having a company give you the ability to do both?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, I think that great people want to learn and get better, and we have an incredibly fluid job market today. Location is not an issue anymore. You can find people, visibility. If you don't have a compelling reason why they can grow your career, if it's just a job or just a function, people can be a consultant. They can go into the gig economy. I think there's a higher threshold of saying what do you get from being part of this team rather than doing work with that? And so, if you don't have people that want to learn on your team, you got one problem. If you have people that want to learn on your team and you're not giving them opportunities inside and outside, you have another one. And I wouldn't restrict those things, right? We had someone on our team taking advanced Spanish lessons, you know, Spanish they're really passionate about. Well, we have a lot of clients that are operating in Latin America and elsewhere. And like, that's a skill that we're going to need someone who knows how to affiliate and handle the language component. I just think that a great book you probably read knowing you called Range, that was written a few years ago, you know, David Epstein, and he just kind of said, like the more, you know, from different areas and learning, the more you bring those things in cross pollination is where a lot of innovation and new things come from and that you're actually better off being a renaissance person than a super specialist in some cases.
Willy Walker: So, we talk about that. In the super specialist, you point out the S-curve on learning and you got the inexperience in engagement and the mastering. How do teams, how do leaders have to focus on intellectual capacity and moving people through that initiates into engagement, into mastery?
Robert Glazer: Yeah, My friend Whitney Johnson had sort of, you know, taken the S-curve adoption and talked about it as a personal development curve. And I think what is interesting when you think about a leader is that when you get the most learning and growth is in the upswing at the rapid adoption, when people get to mastery, it's kind of dangerous in some ways. You might say, Oh, this person is just really good at their job, but at that point they may actually not be learning anymore, and you may not realize that you're kind of at risk. Like if you don't have the next job or the new thing or the next thing for that. In general, people that like to climb those curves can get a little bored at the top. So, I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind, is that sometimes when people actually are struggling and learning and getting going up the curve, their engagements highest, when they reach the top, their engagement can start to drop out. That's what her work found.
Willy Walker: So, you give a couple of tips as it relates to productivity routines and habits, as it relates to things like email and time blocking in morning routines. I was fascinated as you dove into this, Bob, because a) I was sitting there sort of saying, Yeah, there are a couple of things here that I do. And the way he's describing or kind of the way I go about doing them. But talk for a moment about what you do to train people on email management, time blocking of GSD, and then the morning routine.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, I mean, this is part of the thing. This is holistic, right? I think these are things that you get better outside of work. You get better inside of work. I used to say it's not like you show up to work disorganized, bad with money and tired and you have all those things inside work. Now you don't even have to drive to work. You just log on so you're not going to change personality.
So, I think we focus on what are really high performing habits. You know, we've encouraged people to think about and model good morning routines and what are the most productive people do and how do they start their day on offense and, give people the space to do that. Thinking about blocking out time in their day, having get stuff done time, turning off notifications, having turned off all the Slack notifications, the email notifications you don't need. It's 18 minutes I think, when you're distracted from something to re-engage with it. So, we're trying to have people get better behaviors overall that that again, will improve their workplace performance, but should also improve their performance outside of it. Goal setting too.
Like how do you take a three-year goal and reverse engineer that into annual goals, quarterly goals? And when you see that happen at work and you also see how you can use that same process, personally I think you start to have better discipline and habits and start to see like, hey, like I'm telling myself some lies here about the things I'm not getting done about how I'm using my time. So, we've always focused on just high-performance habits. One of them too, and this gets in physical capacity. I think there's two types of leaders, right? And what I've never found as a leader or as a parent, that people will do what I say they must. They will do what I do. And, Willy, if you go on vacation, you say, I'm going on vacation with my family this week, but text me, call me or email me if there's anything that comes up at the client. You know, let me know. Like that sort of model to everyone that vacations are not vacations. Like, vacation is the inverse of that which is a partner at First Round Capital. I shared this email in a presentation recently. He said, Look, I'm going on vacation with my family unless it is a dire emergency. Please here's that personal phone number that you can get me out, but you shouldn't need to use it. And otherwise, you can email, interrupt my vacation at firstround.com. I think it was. And just the tone that that sets with the team of like hey the boss is like actually checking out like that’s okay for me to do.
Willy Walker: I would say one of the things that I find to be amazing is how much email traffic we as leaders generate. So, you pull yourself out of the question asking and then response driven piece to it, and all of a sudden your email inbox goes down dramatically. And I'm not saying that leaders shouldn't be there prodding and asking questions and what have you, but I'm always shocked at how much when I unplug, the volume of email traffic goes down dramatically. Just because so much of it is generated by me. And it is a little bit of a self-reflective moment to just sort of say, if I'm not showing up their time doing that, maybe they can go back and get stuff done. That GSD time you talked about previously and I thought it was great in the book, Bob, you put in a screenshot of your schedule where you have in there GSD, you just sort of like get off the email, get off of meetings and just get stuff done.
Robert Glazer: Yeah. By the way, if and we use different words and stuff normally, but if you can teach the team too to synchronize that and say look, there's also a lot of data out there and Dan Pink's book WHEN that if you are not a night owl that most of your minutes in the day is in the morning, and I know that that's from sort of 8 to 11. And that's when I'm good at reading and writing and analysis. So, if we can synchronize those times, so if we can have as a team, hey, from 9 to 11, we all have GSD, so we're not bothering each other, we're not interrupting each other, and that's our kind of put our heads down time and let's do our meetings later in the afternoon. Then that also kind of multiplies that benefit because we all have it at different times.
So, I've seen teams kind of make that pact, you know, in time and then where they're going to hold that space in and that's the time when it's fine. You turn off your Slack, you turn off your email and you work on the stuff you need to work on.
Willy Walker: You've mentioned Slack a couple of times. I've been watching the Full Swing Netflix series on golf. And one of the reviews that they wrote in The Wall Street Journal was that they thought that the town of Jupiter, Florida business development group came in and sponsored it because every two seconds they're putting up Jupiter Florida. I have a feeling you're doing a little bit of Slack sponsorship here.
Go to smart goals Bob, because I think a lot of people forget about what smart goals are. And you just talked about making goals achievable as things that are in smart talk for a moment about how important that is, because I think a lot of us who are very goal oriented and try to drive our teams towards something, kind of forget how important smart goals are.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, and SMART is an acronym specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. So here would be a not smart goal. Like, you know, we need to work on leadership. Our leaders need to work on building their bench this quarter. Like that's not a smart goal, right? A SMART goal would be that every leader on the team this quarter needs to identify two people on their team that are up and coming that have been identified as top prospects, go through their last couple reports, and produce a personal development plan that is shared with them and the leadership development team.
At the end of the quarter, now it'll be very clear. So, if all 15 people on my team do that, I should have 30 reports of a talent bench. in the first one, I have no idea whether we did it or not did it. So, you don't want to ever word a goal that gives you any ambiguity and not that you should hit 100% of your goals. You probably won't hit 80% if you're setting it at the right level. But you should not give yourself any ambiguity whether it was done or not done. It should be clear whether it was done or not done. And I think a lot of the things that we set have a ton of wiggle room. Now, you also can set goals that are outcome oriented or that are input oriented. Let's just say I want to improve my fitness. I could sign up to 5K and say I'm going to run the 5K, which means I need to run a certain amount to do that. Or I can say I'm going to run at least four days a week, right? Because what I want to do is I want to be running. So, there are a bunch of different ways to set up goals. I think it's something you actually do often or it's a specific goal you want to get to, but most of the goals I've seen are super wishy washy as to whether they were actually achieved.
Willy Walker: You expand in the intellectual part of the book on reviews and feedback, giving and receiving feedback and how people can be better at both. I was just curious as I was thinking about it. How do you keep that in the intellectual chapter of the book and not the emotional chapter of the book?
Robert Glazer: It's definitely both. I think you need to have psychological safety to do that. But then the intellectual piece is there are good ways to do it and there are best practices to give and receive.
So, on the giving feedback side, the most damage I've seen done to people in the least helpful is to tell them that they are something or they aren't something. They are not smart, they are not strategic, they are not good at whatever. That stays with them for years and it doesn't think they are something that they can improve. You know, all feedback should be about the behavior. I talk about sort of situation, behavior, outcome. And it should be about what you can do better and how you can get better at it. It's very different to tell someone, Hey, and I think a lot of people have had to deal someone on their team that they felt maybe wasn't strategic enough, but to say, hey, Willy, you're just not strategic versus on that presentation yesterday to the client, we were presenting a lot of tactics and it was very clear to me that they were looking for strategy and things that looked like A, B and C, and they didn't seem to be getting it. Those are completely different approaches, and one doesn't work very well and the other might actually help the person to understand what they can improve for next time.
Willy Walker: So, in that, Bob, you talk about creating a psychologically safe workplace and one that has the norms that allow people to build trust readily and at Acceleration, one of the exercises that you've done is OLTs your last talk. Talk for a moment about One Last Talk and how helpful that's been to creating that emotional safety inside of Acceleration Partners?
Robert Glazer: Let me just say, this is like this is not where I would start for most people. This is not 101 level. But we had a while at our annual summit. We had TED talks, employee TED talks. Employees would talk about personal things or otherwise or really interesting stories they would tell. One year, we decided to work with a gentleman named Philip McKernan who had this program around One Last Talk, which was kind of, Hey, if you're going to leave the world tomorrow, what's the speech you need to give? Or the thing that you need to say? And Philip's not the type of person who lets you get away with top three things for a great life like these are pretty, pretty serious. And so, we had employees volunteer to do this more than we thought. They coach them at our annual summit in front of 150 people. They delivered things that they had never shared before, kind of in a maybe in a lot of personal environments and professional that were deeply personal. And not only was everyone just incredibly moved by it and in sort of discussion with the people around that, but it also just opened the floodgates of discussion and sharing around people who had worked together forever and didn't really know each other. And we had kind of this crazy day. We had to then eventually kind of put the genie back in the bottle. And I said in the book, but it was just so interesting that because four people were willing to put themselves out there and really kind of model that vulnerability, it just set the tone for the rest of the team.
Willy Walker: And did you find that the sort of the rest of the meeting wanted to stay on that level? In the sense that when I hear you say that and how engaging it was, my tummy tells you that the team wanted to sort of stay at that level and potentially not revert back to, if you will, mundane business issues. Did that ever cause kind of a problem as far as your agenda of people wanting to stay at that personal level and not get back to sort of issue at hand?
Robert Glazer: Well, a lot of the things we were doing personally, but it was more like some of the topics started to get into things that people didn't have the ability to handle or manage or give the right answer, you know, where they actually needed to have a discussion with someone who knew how to handle that. So, the nature of that thing, that retreat was actually a lot of personal interactions. I think people wanted to do that, but we had a bunch of things that we wanted to do and yeah, eventually we had to try to kind of reign that in a little bit, but it actually carried over for weeks and months and beyond that, the tone of that, and just people seeing that they could have that discussion, it was safe.
They could talk about the things that were important to them. They were supported by their colleagues that we just created the space for something like that. I think it gave people confidence that they could have those sorts of discussions. There are a lot of these difficult discussions around stuff that's personal, that comes into your life and your schedule and your availability. And I think a lot of people are scared to have those, maybe rightfully scared to have those because they see the poor reaction, or they were shut down or otherwise.
Willy Walker: Were the OLTs done by senior leaders in your organization or are they done by, if you will, anybody who raised their hand?
Robert Glazer: They were actually anyone. And they were mostly, I would say, mid-level or junior people.
Willy Walker: That's really interesting. Did you feel any need after that great outpouring, if you will, one of the things you talk about as it relates to creating a psychologically safe workplace is that leaders need to list their core values, tell their why, etc. And you're very prescriptive as it relates to how do you create that emotionally safe environment as a leader after having such a sort of eye-opening experience with those four people who were kind enough and open enough to share? Did you feel like your senior management team needed to go and do OLTs?
Robert Glazer: No because I think it would have been performative. These were people who had some pretty extraordinary stories that they wanted to share. However, in offsites and things like that, there's a powerful exercise called a lifeline that people do in teams or otherwise, but we always talk about the leader who goes first. They will set the tone for the entire example. The level at which they share their personal lifeline history will set the tone for what everyone does. So, in general, when we are doing updates, when we're sharing highs and lows, when we're doing that stuff, we talk about a quarterly meeting where I want to talk about something they screwed up, I went first. Like the leader sets the tone. I think that was sort of a unique case where these were people who had a story they wanted to tell, and it was the right type of story for that situation.
Willy Walker: So if we go to physical for the final piece here, first of all, you underscore sleep and you give some really good examples of some very successful business people who both didn't sleep enough and might not have been that successful, and some other people who sleep plenty like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, who have built massively scaled organizations in two of the most successful business leaders ever, who both get eight hours of sleep a night. So, you underscore the need for sleep, but you also underscore physical capacity and the brain and the body depending on one another. Talk for a moment about that as it relates to both giving the people at Acceleration, the ability to take care of the brain and the body. And then also as it relates to recruiting people into Acceleration, who might understand that symbiotic relationship between the brain and the body.
Robert Glazer: Yeah. So, look, one basic science thing, and I am not a science prolific person by any way, shape, or form, but I have friends who shared with me is that stress is, is a primitive flight or fight or flight reaction that we have. So, it is the bear, right? You see the bear in the woods, and you need to be able to run or fight it. And so, your heart starts pumping and cortisol comes in. And this is a system that was designed to save your life.
When we are stressed all the time, we are running that system in like a white-collar way, your body feels the same reaction when you have psychological stress about a deadline than it does that a bear, that might kill you in the woods and it physically makes you unhealthy if you're running at all the time. And so particularly with more people working from home with more hybrid work, we've just lost the last line between kind of work and home. And this is where that email example before like leaders need to help people create the space. They need some rest, they need some relaxation, they need to go to bed and not be worrying about an email.
Look, we all have emergencies, and we all have huge proposals, but that should be the exception, not the rule. Someone once told me their sleep was always ruined recently because there was always an email from their boss at 11:00 at night and they were always looking for the email because it was always there. So it was like this bad Pavlovian cycle that they were in. So, look, I think genuinely like this is the short term versus long term. You can do this stuff for time. You can run it all day, you can have people available all hours, but they eventually will burn out. I would rather have people engaged, working at a high level, getting the rest, any athlete, interval training, you need some rest and relaxation, feeling like they have some safe space for their family or otherwise, and then come to work and do a really good job.
So, we've even hired people, coaches for staff who wanted to run triathlons and do stuff. And we're like, super. Anyone on your team who's training for a marathon or triathlon, which is not a distraction. They are going to be in like really good physical and mental wellbeing while they're doing that. Like it's a healthy thing to do. So, it's one thing to do, to model it or to say it, but then, you know, if you don't actually create the space, if you're emailing people all day, if you never let them have time and we've tried to do wellness things in work. We had a wellness competition, you had to take off a half an hour during the workday. We've paid people part of their wellness bonus in the past if they go on vacations or something you said before and they don't email or check in because a lot of them have designed everything that goes through them, so therefore they can't take a vacation. So, I believe in explicit or implicit incentives. So, hey, how about we pay you? Because we really believe you want to have a vacation. We're going to pay you to stay offline and not talk to anyone during vacation.
Willy Walker: There's some accounting rule that if it makes people step aside or they can't be in the chain to make sure that there's nothing wrong inside of it. And that rule being applied to email and chain of command and being in the middle of everything is a really good one. But Bob, you're also really straightforward and I mean really straightforward in saying never put pressure on your employees to be healthy.
Robert Glazer: Yeah, you can't tell your employees what to eat. You can't tell them to exercise or stuff, but you can create environments and allow that, and you can encourage it and help them have the space to be healthy and whatever that means to them. And look, your job is not making it worse. I think generally if you give people the space, if they have time off, if they have flexibility and there are things they want to do, they will do it.
I think one of the biggest benefits of remote work that I've heard is like I talk about splitting the difference, You know, someone who had a two-hour commute before and doesn't like, if they even split the difference with working out some of that time. And then they were able to actually go to the gym in the morning or do something like that. So, if we focus on outcomes and results and not the hours that people are working, it's actually better for both parties.
Willy Walker: Yeah, you talk about that of managing outcomes and not hours and in the context of the virtual world. One of the things that I'm seeing a little bit right now is that when times were good, the affected flooded the system with lots of the good old bad stimulus checks and stock market valuations were going up. Everyone's like work here, work there. No big deal.
Now all of a sudden we've got real decisions as it relates to office space and companies supporting keeping office space in place or getting rid of it. And then also, as times have gotten tough, people sort of say, well, when times get tough, people need to roll up their sleeves and showing me that rolling up your sleeves is being in the office. Have you seen that in your world? And what's your counsel to people as it relates to go ahead and revert back to that old habit which says that if you're here rolling up your sleeves, you're on my team, and if you're at home zooming in and being productive, but I can't see it, I'm going to kind of ding your effort. What's your take there? Because I'm feeling a little stress on this one as it relates to in the office versus remote work right now.
Robert Glazer: Well, there's context on this. And obviously, I'm very centrist in a lot of things. I wrote a book on remote work, but we have a team that gets together a lot and wants to get together a lot. And I think the way that some of the firms are handling it is not outcome oriented because they sound like a strong arm. So, if you need everyone in the office so that they're on their own Zoom calls and not talking to each other and working in isolation for the day, like that's a power play.
If you have a $10 Million pitch with a huge client and this is where I agree with the investment banks, like you should be in the office for that. You should not be on Zoom, like that's a huge client! So, I think this gets back to the context and the outcome. There are certain outcomes. There are certain things like if you're going to have a huge, really important meeting that's going to decide a strategic project or a people decision or otherwise like, and you say, Look, we need you to be here for this. Like we need you to be here in the room. But to me it should drive from the context of the work and what needs to be done.
Again, think back to the investment bank. Like let's say that they're pitching that deal. It really might make sense that everyone is in the office that day. Let's say they're in the last day of that deal and everyone is crunching spreadsheets and on calls. I don't know. Do they need to come in to lock themselves in a spreadsheet all day like that? That might not make much sense. So rather than focus on these sorts of rules or generalizations, I think if the leaders can get back to the outcomes and show, Hey, when people aren't here for this, there is a worse outcome. So that's why we're asking you to do it. It's not a power play. It's not a preference. Like we lost that deal because our whole sales team was on Zoom, and they were taking them out to dinner. You know, there's a real implication there.
Willy Walker: So in these times where as you started the call, various industries are under serious pressure as the Fed continues to tighten, rates continue to go up, credit gets scarce, the cost of credit is more and more, etc., You have a quote in the book which I love, which is by Larry Bossley, and it is: “There is no way to spend too much time on obtaining and developing the best people.” Talk for a moment about where we are in the economic cycle and the need to remain focused on that quote.
Robert Glazer: Yeah. I'm hoping the Fed takes their foot off the gas sometime soon. We seem to be further to the end of that. But until then, everyone seems to be playing defense. And it's interesting, we work with growth companies. They're not looking to grow. They're looking to see if things are okay this year. And you see that everywhere. So, there won't be headwinds forever, like there will be tailwinds again. But when things sort of shift, I think the companies that are best positioned with the best people who want to be there, and grow are going to be really well positioned. This is not a time when you want to lose all your best people. I think it's a time when you want to look carefully at what's working and what's not working and be really smart about that. But it's usually the people that sort of get all the squirrels in the winter that seem to do really well when the spring rolls around.
And so, I think more than ever, keeping your highest performers performing, growing, seeing more opportunity at your company, look, they can read the world. They may not realize, hey, I'm not asking for a promotion tomorrow or this month that might not be appropriate with what's going on. I can see our volume and we're not transacting or otherwise. But they don't also want to feel like it's a dead end for the next five years. That's not going to keep them super motivated. So there always ways that cost little or no money to invest in people focus on learning. Yeah, if you're the CEO podcast club with the CEO, I gave an example like we'll pick an issue like whether it's a ChatGPT or something like that. We'll pick a couple of podcast people listening to them. We'll set up a brainstorm, we'll talk about ideas for how we can take advantage of that technology. Like, that's a totally free thing to do where people on the team get time with the executive team members and they get to share ideas and brainstorm.
Willy Walker: So, Bob, I know you're headed off to go ski in Utah, so have a great time skiing. For those who listened in today. The book is Elevate Your Team. It hit bookshelves today. You can order it on Amazon.
Robert Glazer: I got mine, too.
Willy Walker: I only touched on the surface as it relates to all that is in here. But as I hope you can tell from my questions, there's a ton in it that gives not only great theoretical framework to how to build teams and grow teams and upscale your team members. But then there's also very practical things that you can implement as it relates to training, intellectual capacity, and for instance, the podcast exercises that Bob does with his team on a weekly basis. Congrats for all you've done. I greatly appreciate you taking the time and it's always fun to spend time with you.
Robert Glazer: Thank you for having me back. Really appreciate it.
Willy Walker: It's great to see you. Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for joining us today and we'll see you again next week for another Walker Webcast.