Randy Cantrell, founder of Bula Network, LLC serves entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders. He serves owners/founders, CEOs, city government leaders, and other executives through private/confidential coaching and the peer advantage (surrounding leaders with other high performing leaders).
Traction & Momentum: Pursuing The Things That Work After Killing The Things That Don’t
Do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t.
But that sounds easy. Empty even.
Kind of like urging people who want to be rich with an admonition, “Get a million dollars!” Great advice. But how?
Today’s show is going to be full of vulnerability. Not whining or complaining, but explaining. Experience and insight are valuable. Expertise isn’t always transferrable – from person to person. Each of us is on our own unique journey. But we can all derive some benefit when we lean into understanding somebody else’s journey. It can help us figure things out for ourselves, which is the ideal outcome in all my coaching work.
Success leaves clues, but so does failure. And modern culture often fools us into thinking the path forward is something different than reality. I recorded an episode over on my “hobby” podcast, Leaning Toward Wisdom that speaks to this.
There is enormous power in a mind made up. But that can work for bad, as well as good. A person bent on destructive behavior has made up their mind. Nobody can convince them that their behavior is harmful to their own life – and others.
We want to make up our own minds. In spite of the times when we wish somebody would just tell us what to do – mostly, that’s not what we want. I’ve found that people crave somebody with whom they can shell things down. The obstacle is always safety. It’s hard to find people who are safe enough because we desperately want to figure things out, but we want to be responsible for our own lives. We don’t want others imposing on us, even if we do seek their help. Being helpful isn’t as easy as it seems. Mostly because selfishness gets in the way.
These are important truths because every high-achiever or would-be high-achiever is chasing traction and momentum. We all want to build up speed so we can get some lift and go higher. But there are no principles of aeronautics to help us. This is life stuff. Everybody is unique in their environment, situation, natural tendencies, talents, connections, experience, and most everything else you can think of.
Last week a client asked me for an answer – something I rarely do because my work isn’t about telling people what to do. Rather, it’s about helping them explore more deeply so they can figure it out for themselves. But once in a while, usually provoked by some specific challenge, a client will blurt out, “Just tell me what you think I should do.” This time I responded with more questions.
“Were you born in Ada, Oklahoma in 1957?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“Then it doesn’t much matter what I’d do ’cause I’m not you. So let’s explore your options,” I said.
We spent the next 45 minutes examining the choices before him. He settled on two and together we wrestled those down until he saw a clear winner. So it goes.
With that context in mind, I want to share with you my professional journey over the past dozen years since leaving the C-suite to set out to serve and help business owners, executives, and leaders. Traction and momentum are critical goals for every person I work with. And likely for everybody who aspires to their own growth and improvement.
One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves is, “When should I quit? When should I give up or pivot?” You don’t have to be an entrepreneur launching a new business to ask yourself those questions. Whether it’s about a relationship, a hobby, a fitness routine, or anything else we pursue – all of us wonder how long should we stick with it withou...
The Role of Safety In High-Performance Cultures (Season 2021, Episode 13)
First, a definition.
Psychological Safety. That’s the common label for the kind of safety we’re speaking of today. Of course, physical safety is equally paramount. Even in the brutal training of military special forces, safety during the training is stressed. Participants may feel as though they’re going to die as they push to never-before-experienced extremes. But there’s an implicit sense that those around them won’t let them fail to the point of serious injury or death…in spite of the fact that accidents do sometimes happen. Ditto for people in the workplace. Employees must be provided a safe environment in which to perform. Else, they’re going to be fearful and unable to perform. Unless, of course, they’re professional athletes – or police officers, or firefighters, or soldiers, or any number of other occupations that have inherent and obvious risks!
Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.
This explains why sometimes people don’t do anything. Or say anything. Too often apathy isn’t the result of anything more than people enduring ongoing discouragement…becoming less and less safe. It’s easier to stand still and do nothing – even if that results in some chastisement. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Why do something and risk an unfamiliar chastisement?
Frontline workers are often silenced because of fear and the reality that nobody wants to hear what they have to say anyway. So why bother?
Trust. That’s the real issue.
Team members don’t trust the boss. The boss doesn’t trust team members.
The group doesn’t trust the guy who is trying to assume leadership. He desperately wants to be in charge, but nobody trusts him – except to be self-serving.
People won’t be honest. Instead, they’ll be nice.
Kindness isn’t the same as being nice.
Friends and even enemies will often be nice. It’s not helpful, but they’ll be nice.
Nice is telling you how sorry they are you’re experiencing something difficult. “I’m so sorry you’re going through that,” they’ll say. Question? Is that helpful? Other than knowing somebody feels sorry for you, it’s not terribly helpful.
Kind is different. “I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time. What actions are you thinking of taking to move forward?” It’s not hateful, but it might be helpful…provoking them to think about and articulate what they might be able to do to improve things. Especially if the conversation continues with valuable back and forth…in a judgment-free zone with a clear emphasis on simply helping the person figure it out.
No dog in the hunt. Unselfish motives.
It’s hard to get. Selflessness in people willing and able to help us without trying to live our lives for us. People whose only vested interest is our very best!
Human capacity to work for one another. With one another. It’s extraordinarily high value. And too frequently hard to find and to accomplish. Because we get in the way. In a word, it’s pride that ruins things.
Years ago, as I observed people (mostly men) who clamored to be in charge, to be the boss, to be the one making the decisions, I watched the destruction of their careers, groups to which they belonged, teams of which they were a member and organizations where they operated. I observed the carnage created by their ego and pride.
The height of the progression is compassion. It seems to me that without compassion – or at least the prospect of it – we can’t experience trust. The kind of trust we need to feel and know we’re safe.
Persistent Learning (Season 2021, Episode 12)
Persistence is defined as:
• continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition
• continuing to exist or endure over a prolonged period
Learning is defined as:
the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught
High-performing organizations have a superior commitment to persistent learning. A relentless pursuit to figure it out. To closely examine what went wrong, not to assess blame, but to figure out what can be learned. To closely examine what went right, not to assess honor, but to figure out what can be learned.
Buffer.com published a report entitled, The 2021 State of Remote Work. I’d encourage you to review it and see what you can learn from it. For our purposes in today’s show, the persistent learning available due to this pandemic grows more evident every day. This is just one report, of many, that have come out of the changing nature of work and workplaces because of the pandemic. Organizations who never thought it possible to have remote work are finding that not only is it possible, in some cases, it’s vastly more efficient, resulting in happier employees. So it goes with learning. Sometimes it’s forced on us.
High-performing organizations don’t wait for external forces to impose learning. They look for opportunities at every turn asking seemingly naive questions. Questions others are too proud to ask. Or questions others may fear to ask. Persistent learning demands a fearless approach to asking questions. Intense curiosity.
The quality of our questions determines the quality of our decisions…and our actions.
Good questions push us to figure out better answers. High-performing groups and teams join forces in asking the questions. They don’t rely on any one person to bring curiosity to the challenge or opportunity. Everybody embraces curiosity. It’s contagious as collectively everybody is working to better understand.
The progression I have used for years has remained unchanged mostly because I’ve not found a better sequence to follow.
Persistent learning requires persistent humility and curiosity. It’s not a one-off, but it’s a lifetime habit.
Guage the level of curiosity among your group or team by measuring the questions that are asked before suggestions are offered. When you do, you may find that people leap straight away to a suggestion. “I think we should…” or “I’m in favor of…” That’s an indication of people who aren’t curious and may be disinterested in learning more so they can better understand.
For many teams, the lack of humility is manifested in self-centeredness. People can easily concern themselves with themselves. They know what they think should be done. They know their own opinions well and may tend to over-value their opinions as superior to all others.
If an opinion is truly high value, then rigorous questioning and discussion (even disagreement) will prove it more so. Defensiveness disrupts the process and stymies the learning. Humility affords us the opportunity to see if our opinions are right (or best), and to see how others may view them. Be courageous enough to be wrong and you’ll be more likely to be right more often (maybe). 😉
Persistent learning focuses on trying to figure out what we’ve yet to figure out…or trying to better figure things out we once thought we had figured out. It is NOT a procrastination tactic to avoid taking action. It’s NOT delaying so we can get our actions more perfect. It’s the realization (humility) that drives our curiosity to know more and to know it better so our understanding can deepen. The ultimate goal is compassion,
43 Years Of City Leadership: Tom Hart, City Manager of Grand Prairie, Texas (Season 2021, Episode 11)
Tom Hart has served as Grand Prairie City Manager since 1999. Prior to that, Hart was Assistant City Manager and later City Manager in Euless for 16 years. He was one of the youngest city managers in the history of Texas when he served as City Manager in The Colony from 1978-1981. Known for his attention to world-class customer service and innovative management style, Hart created the city’s popular and successful mission to “create Raving Fans by delivering World Class Service.”
During his tenure as Grand Prairie’s City Manager, he has overseen the reconstruction of the historic Uptown Theater and construction of QuikTrip Ballpark, Verizon Theatre, the Ruthe Jackson Center and Gardens, Grand Prairie Memorial Gardens, Tony Shotwell Life Center, Prairie Paws Adoption Center, the Splash Factory, Alliance Skate Park, the Public Safety Training Center, Municipal Court House, the Public Safety Building, and Active Adult Center. Check out the parks, arts, and recreation available. Grand Prairie, Texas is a living testimony to what high-performance culture can accomplish.
Today, I join Tom in his new office at a beautiful city hall. We talk about leadership and culture, two key ingredients for Tom’s success and ongoing quest for excellence.
Dr. David Childs On Level 5 Leadership Traits – Part 1 (Season 2021, Episode 10)
Today, I’m rejoining Dr. David Childs, Ph.D. for a conversation about what Jim Collins referred to in his books as Level 5 Leadership. David is highly qualified in high-performance leadership. In 2015 he published a book, The Organization Whisperer: 12 Core Actions That Ripple Excellence Through Your Organization. I encourage you to connect with him on Linkedin. Visit his website at The Organization Whisperer.
David and I have been engaged in some ongoing email correspondence conversations about leadership for months now. Today’s show is an outgrowth of some of those as David shares with us his list of 10 traits that characterize Level 5 Leadership as he sees it. We discuss the first 5 in this conversation because those are the ones David thinks deserve the most attention. We’ll cover the remaining 5 in part two, which I promise will be shorter. 😉
Here’s his list:
* Inspiring Vision
* Lives with a positive/can-do spirit
* Partners with other positive excellence
* Measures efficiency and outcomes
* Prioritizes effectively/holistically
* Innovatively improves
* Multi-tasks with focus
Where Are Your Guaranteed Lifetime Benefits? (Season 2021, Episode 9)
This photograph was taken sometime in 1982. Today’s episode is from the now unpublished archives. It was recorded on Friday, May 11, 2012. I resurrected it because recent client work went where it always seems to go sooner than later. Personal. Struggles. Sorrows. Challenges. Opportunities. It made me think about how we’re human, all of us. Sharing many similar feelings and emotions. It doesn’t matter if we’re high-performers or average-performers. That whole “check your personal problems at the door” nonsense is impractical and unrealistic. With that context, I bring you today’s show from 2012. Below are the original show notes to the episode. -Randy
Some time ago I was listening to a businessman explain his operation. Every industry has a language all its own. This man’s industry was wealth management. During the conversation, he used this phrase, “Guaranteed lifetime benefit.”
My mind wandered.
Wealth management? I muted myself on the phone (thankfully this conversation wasn’t face-to-face) in order to avoid having my chuckle heard. It struck me funny to think about a person who might have an opposite business model, poverty management. I think I could help a lot more people manage their poverty. Of course the problem is obvious. They wouldn’t be able to pay me.
But it was the other phrase that captivated me. And lingered on days after the conversation ended.
Guaranteed Lifetime Benefit
For days I considered that phrase. I thought, “What are the guaranteed lifetime benefits in my life?”
The question morphed into perhaps a better question that serves as the headline of these show notes, “Where are my guaranteed lifetime benefits?” Where are yours?
Days later. Miles later. Sleepless nights later. I realized my first answer was right all along.
Let me know if you agree. Or not.
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Great business wisdom!
Randy has a lot of business experience, and shares his wisdom effectively through this podcast. There is a _ton_ of content here; looking forward to working my way through these episodes.
Just starting listening only had 2 episodes but seems to be good information in a pleasant format.