349 episodes

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

The Leadership Podcast Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos, experts on leadership development

    • Business
    • 4.9 • 90 Ratings

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

    TLP343: Just Start

    TLP343: Just Start

    Patrick Bryant is a serial entrepreneur, professional speaker, and co-founder and CEO of software product agency CODE/+/TRUST. After co-founding Go To Team, Patrick launched six multi-million-dollar companies, in media, and software. Patrick shares wisdom gained from his experience in start-ups, his origin as a journalist, what he accomplished in video, and the CODE/+/TRUST “BHAG” for powering startups around the U.S. He discusses culture, scaling, storytelling, and how the first thing for an entrepreneur to do is to start.

    Key Takeaways
    [1:15] If you have listened to every episode of The Leadership Podcast, please contact Jan and Jim to let them know. They would love to hear it and there might be something in it for you!
    [2:27] Most people don’t know that Patrick owns a rolling paper company that he started after investing in a cigar company. Most people know him from software, media, and other things, like speaking.
    [3:40] Patrick’s always getting into unexpected situations. He just keeps showing up for work and looking for interesting things. He’s curious and asks questions. His original profession was journalism and he learned to study industries and areas of interest to him. Many times, it results in a business idea. When he sees an opportunity, he strikes it.
    [6:07] Patrick believes entrepreneurship is the number one change agent in the world. It is amazingly helpful to society to do something new and do it right.
    [7:19] There are businesses that are built to scale and others that are not. In a field, you may have grass, bushes, and a large oak tree. The large oak tree did not start as a blade of grass! It takes time to know the “species” of businesses. Patrick started the video company, Go To Team, 25 years ago. It has 16 offices around the U.S. It hit a $1 million valuation when it was 10 years old. That felt great to Patrick!
    [8:43] Another company that started the same week as Go To Team is Google. In 10 years, Google had been publicly traded and people were using its name as a verb! Patrick wondered what he was doing wrong. He started to study innovation scale — how to build companies and products that are built to move quickly in a big way and be sold around the world. That pushed Patrick toward software.
    [9:58] Scaling is different between software and service companies. A service company can go a long time with continued operation, but not a lot of growth. A software product requires investments and a certain level of sales. If the sales don’t come, it’s over. The money’s gone and the investors aren’t going to pour more money into the company. There is risk involved in software.
    [12:43] Journalism, television, and all media have changed greatly since the start of the internet. There is confusion and fragmentation. Patrick foresees us slowly getting back to moderation and looking for experts and gatekeepers we can trust to provide us with the content we want in the way we want it. We don’t yet have the new Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw.
    [15:39] Patrick’s company, CODE/+/TRUST, sells code and trust. They help people start software companies. Their “BHAG” is to power 500 software startups in every state in the U.S. and be an official software development firm for entrepreneurs. They want to connect with good ideas, spend a lot of time on them, grow them, feel good about what they produce, and help entrepreneurs make money.
    [18:41] First and foremost, get one thing right. You can have multiple ways to attack a problem but you can only have one mission. The mission and values cannot change.
    [19:15] Patrick is working on a TEDx speech for March on the schizophrenic nature of advice to entrepreneurs. For instance, Winston Churchill’s message of never giving up contrasts with the advice to fail fast. All leaders need to understand this: mission and values do not move. We are not giving up on our mission. Tactics and goals that don’t get us the

    • 48 min
    TLP342: Fight the Default Energy of ‘No’

    TLP342: Fight the Default Energy of ‘No’

    Jay Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author of “The Decoded Company.” He is also the CEO and Co-founder of Sensei Labs - focused on technology, design, and the art of leadership. The conversation in this episode covers decision-making, connections, the six values of Sensei culture, and putting customers first. Jay urges leaders to have regular conversations with employees and use data to understand them better. Jay considers empathy to be the most important trait of a leader and he elaborates on its importance.

    Key Takeaways
    [2:34] Jay has a 13-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. For Jay, parenting and leadership are very close; he uses some of the same principles with his children and in his one-on-one work discussions.
    [3:39] The book, The Decoded Company, was published in 2014. In the years since then, the world has changed a lot. Much of the book is still relevant, but in hindsight, Jay says they should have put more emphasis on culture. It should be a headline item. That has become more true as Jay continues to grow Sensei Labs, which was spun out of Klick to capitalize on the technology they talk about in the book.
    [5:34] Jay compares a company’s culture to a garden. The leader makes sure the garden gets enough sunlight, water, and nutrients, weeds the garden and protects it from pests. Leaders can’t directly make the garden grow. They can create all the right conditions for it to grow. If you want certain behaviors, create an environment that encourages those behaviors. It’s dangerous to try to fix people.
    [8:16] There are more small decisions than big decisions. Your physical space in an office has a big impact on culture. It’s hard to radically change your office space. Day-to-day moments can have just as big an impact. There are many times more of them than there are of the big decisions. Big decisions need to be followed up with lots of small decisions.
    [10:52] When COVID-19 hit, Sensei Labs was still within the offices of their parent company, Klick. Klick allowed them to stop paying rent, which was very helpful for a small business. In the summer of 2021, as COVID-19 was letting up, Sensei Labs discussed as a team if they needed to take an office. The Toronto group was missing the moments of connectivity, collaboration, and having lunch together.
    [12:13] After funding, Sensei Labs had almost doubled in size. International associates had never worked in an office together but they wanted the connection shared by the Toronto group. Sensei Group built an office with collaboration rooms but no private offices, desks for everyone there on a day, and multi-use spaces for large meetings and holiday parties. They are not mandating people back to the office.
    [15:04] Sensei Labs doesn’t say “remote” for people outside the office. Teams pick a day to come in together. They use Teams calls for those who cannot attend that day. They also use Teams calls on cross-team meetings or customer meetings. All meeting rooms are set up for Teams, with good microphones, audio, cameras, and video. Sensei Labs is all hybrid, rather than divided into tiers.
    [16:21] All “hoteling” desks have a proper monitor and Logitech webcam. There is an events space with a screen that rolls down from the ceiling, a webcam, a projector, and an audio system, so people not present can have the full experience of partaking in the event. There are multiple presenters, some in the building, and some participating by video. All these things help integrate the teams.
    [17:30] All of that said, you can’t replace the in-person experience, or going out for a coffee or lunch together. Jay loves to see a cross-functional group who have carried in lunch and are eating together. Those are collisions, as Steve Jobs called them, where you get an exchange of ideas and connections between different teams that wouldn’t otherwise form. Those are hard to recreate on Teams or Slack.
    [18:50] At Sens

    • 55 min
    TLP341: The Interplay Between Finance, Data and Decision-Making

    TLP341: The Interplay Between Finance, Data and Decision-Making

    Jeremy Foster is the Chief Financial Officer of Austin-based Talroo.com, the data-driven job and hiring advertising platform that helps businesses reach the candidates they need to build their essential workforce. Jeremy shares insights into the key indicators of business valuation: 1) The necessity of leaders knowing the language of finance; and 2) The differences between startups, growth companies, and mature companies. He covers why alignment of the stakeholders is important for a company’s successful scaling, and when to use blitzscaling, if at all. He explains analytics and shares examples from his past and present work, in an educational overview of the interplay between finance, data and decision-making.
    Key Takeaways
    [2:14] Jeremy started in marketing and then ended up leading operations and retail banking for a 15-branch community bank in New Mexico and West Texas. His background was not in accounting or finance. That changes how Jeremy tends to approach the numbers.
    [2:41] Jeremy explains how he evaluates a business by looking at three numbers: the lifetime value of the customers, the customer acquisition cost, and the total addressable market. Marketing is a key component of each of those numbers.
    [4:36] Jeremy has worked with startups and scaling businesses. He’s seen a broad spread of financial knowledge within company leadership. Sometimes an executive team has problems because of their different levels of understanding. Do you understand GAAP and income statements? What are revenue, gross profit, and EBITDA; the basic terminology. Some executive teams don’t know these terms.
    [5:33] The next big question is which financial statement is the most important to look at, the cash flow or the P&L statement? It depends on whether you are a startup or an established company. There’s a transition the executive team needs to make from a stage of perpetually raising capital to a stage of starting to generate capital and focus on unit economics, and understanding sound investments.
    [7:51] Super-mature businesses are balance-sheet-driven. These are companies like banks, oil, and gas, that have balance sheet sensitivities they need to pay attention to.
    [8:06] Get an executive team all on the same page with a basic background in finances and then focus that alignment in education first on whichever financial statement is the most important to the business, according to what stage your business is in.
    [9:27] There’s an element of leadership that’s getting people to follow you and there’s an element of knowing what the right direction to go is. The math of business is useful in helping you figure out what the right direction is.
    [9:45] The first step in identifying the right direction can be self-study. Sometimes it’s about understanding the terminology. Sometimes, it’s about looking at your business and thinking about what’s most important for your business. The easiest way to do that is to rely on the ability to identify a bottleneck. What’s the most immediate limitation on the business? Is it sales, product, or capital?
    [10:58] The first thing is to recognize the most immediate pain point in your business. Decompose it. Understand what the most important numbers are in that pain point. You don’t have to understand all the numbers in the business at once. You can learn over time. Start by figuring out what’s most important.
    [11:59] Jeremy explains scaling and growth. A scaling business differs from a startup in that as the business gets bigger, it juggles an increasing number of variables. Part of becoming a scaling business is looking in advance. If you want 100 new customers how much staff do you need to onboard new and maintain existing customers? Look for limitations and plan to remove them before you hit them.
    [14:06] Past guest Margaret Heffernan identified planning for limitations as adaptability. Jeremy notes that the amount of flexibility you have

    • 48 min
    TLP340: An Entrepreneurial Journey from Hangry to Social Change

    TLP340: An Entrepreneurial Journey from Hangry to Social Change

    Mike Evans is the Founder of GrubHub, and the author of “Hangry: A Startup Journey.” Mike founded GrubHub in his spare bedroom and grew it into a multi-billion dollar food delivery business that’s a household name. After leaving GrubHub, he founded Fixer.com, an on-demand handyperson service focused on social impact, and providing full-time work for well-trained tradespeople. Mike shares what he learned from raising a startup to IPO, biking across America, and writing “Hangry.” He believes it is necessary to create a business not just to make a profit, but to be powerful levers for social change.
    Key Takeaways
    [2:27] Mike loves cycling and getting around places by bike, but not quickly. After the GrubHub experience, he rode his bike across the country. Later, Mike and his wife rode across Austria. They hope to ride across another country soon with their daughter. Mike tells what he likes about electric bikes.
    [4:41] As GrubHub grew from a few employees to 2,500 employees over 12 years, there were two things that increased his anxiety and made it challenging to live.
    [5:14] The first challenge was the fact that there are a lot of competing interests: shareholders, employees, diners, and restaurants and it was hard to balance them all. There’s no scenario where everybody wins 100%. There are tradeoffs. It was a tightrope walk to do. Mike started seeing the company making different choices as it grew beyond him. That was challenging to see.
    [6:09] The second challenge was hiring. As a business leader, you either hire your friends, or the people you hire become your friends. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are not the best outcomes for your employee-friends. When you have to let people go that you like, you cannot recover those friendships. They’re gone. You can’t fire somebody and then go hang out with them.
    [6:37] It should be hard to fire someone. You can’t be good at firing people and be a good leader. It should never get easier. You should care a lot about the people you work with. The competing interests, and having to fire friends took a toll on Mike over the course of a decade.
    [7:53] Contentment is fleeting, especially for entrepreneurs who start from a place where “something is broken in the world and I’m really annoyed by it.” Mike doesn’t think contentment was ever in the cards for him. An entrepreneur has to see the world with an expectation that it could be better than it currently is, which is not a good recipe for contentment.
    [9:45] Mike believes it’s important to have a personal definition of success that other people or factors don’t define. Other people won’t necessarily agree with it. Mike tells how he defined success all the way up through GrubHub’s IPO. Other people told him the IPO was his success, but that wasn’t Mike’s definition. Your definition of success gives you a North Star for one aspect of your life, business.
    [11:11] You also need personal definitions of success for your relationships, family, faith community, and civic community. Then you need to do the hard step of making tradeoffs between them. Work/life balance is elusive because it’s impossible to achieve. You have to make tradeoffs. The best you can do is say “I have a clear-eyed picture of what I want from a family perspective,” and make choices explicitly.
    [12:03] If you don’t choose explicitly, things happen to you instead of you making choices. That’s what causes imbalance, frustration, anger, and disappointment. Your definitions of success change during your journey. As you approach your goals, the goalposts move. It’s a destination and a journey. It’s not one or the other. As we do hard things, we change, and therefore our goals change.
    [12:54] Sometimes we fail. If you’re not going to be able to accomplish a goal, continuing to have it as a goal is only an exercise in frustration. Be able to say “This isn’t working; I’m

    • 45 min
    TLP339: The Beauty of the Game

    TLP339: The Beauty of the Game

    Mano Watsa is the President and Owner of PGC Basketball, the largest educational basketball camp in the world. PGC Basketball has taught over 125,000 players and coaches how to be leaders on and off the court. Mano brings his sports and business experiences to the podcast with stories and advice on thinking like a coach, communicating, and making a difference in people’s lives. Listen to learn how to focus on the thing you can do best. 
    “Part of the beauty of the game is your individual contributions combined with working together as a team … where five players become like a fist, not five individual fingers … and they play together as one.”  - Mano Watsa
    Key Takeaways
    [2:51] Mano’s journey has been a joy, but anytime you’re pursuing a vision, there are all sorts of challenges along the way, as well as opportunities. It’s often the challenges that don’t surface publicly. Mano has never seen a successful team or individual that has not had to overcome adversity, and he is no different.
    [4:20] PGC Basketball's founder, Dick DeVenzio, who played college basketball at Duke University and went on to play and teach the game across the world, created the Point Guard College with the point guard in mind. The point guard has to be the coach on the floor. They have to be able to run the show for their team and get their team to work together and play together. They have to “think the game.”
    [5:01] PGC teaches players to be the smartest player on the floor by equipping them with how to think like a coach, how to make good decisions that lead to winning basketball, and how to lead their team. Jan and Jim recall guest Sam Walker’s book, The Captain Class, on how the greatest sports teams in history have one thing in common, captains who were the coach on the floor.
    [6:13] Mano says PGC teaches players not only how to lead by example but to be effective communicators, inspire their teammates, hold teammates accountable, challenge them, and raise the standard for their teammates. Anyone leading a company, team, or family, is the point guard for that company, team, or family.
    [8:23] Jeremy Lin came to the NY Knicks and started the Linsanity era. Overnight Jeremy Lin was on the cover of nearly every magazine and was a household name as the first Asian-American in the NBA. Suddenly he’s scoring 38 points against Kobe Bryant at Madison Square Garden. He had a successful 10-year NBA career.
    [9:08] Toward the end of Jeremy Lin’s NBA career, Mano had the privilege and opportunity to support him in the realm of mindset and his approach. Mano has been inspired by Jeremy Lin’s story, his passion, and his commitment to the game, giving back to the game and making a difference in the world. Jeremy Lin is now playing professionally in China.
    [10:18] John Wooden won 10 national championships at UCLA and was named Coach of the Century. John Wooden epitomized what it means to be a coach and make a difference in the lives of young players. Mano and his business partner at the time, Dena Evans, had the privilege once of spending a remarkable morning with Coach Wooden. They immediately wrote down all they had learned from him.
    [12:30] Jason Sudeikis revealed that having John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success on the wall of Ted Lasso’s office is purposeful.
    [13:30] Five players that work together can be more effective than five talented individuals who don’t work together. Individual performers can significantly influence the outcome of the game, but they also depend on the performance of their teammates to determine the outcome of the game. It’s a beautiful thing to see players willing to pass up a good shot for themselves for a great shot for a teammate.
    [15:38] Michael Jordan was the best player in the world. His teammates said they found it difficult to play with him because his standards were so high. He had competitive greatness. He was at his best when it was needed the

    • 41 min
    TLP338: Trust and the Virtual Team

    TLP338: Trust and the Virtual Team

    Leigh Ann Rodgers is the CEO and Founder of Better Teams, and is driven to positively impact corporate culture and cultivate happy, high-performing teams. She is also the host of Leading Better Teams podcast. In this episode, Leigh Ann shares thoughts on accountability, bonding/connection, and why virtual teams require extra work to build connections. Listen in for how to build strong virtual connections!
    Key Takeaways
    [1:58] Leigh Ann volunteers three days a week at a local animal sanctuary for farm animals. There are pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, and cats. It’s a beautiful little farm tucked into a forest. Leigh Ann feeds them and puts the hay out. It’s a peaceful place. Leigh Ann does the afternoon shift. The early morning shift scoops the poop, so Leigh Ann is happy to go in the afternoon.
    [4:06] If members of a team are not being accountable to each other, the first thing to find out is why they are not. Leigh Ann says most of the time there is fear. It’s a risky thing to hold a peer accountable. It may lead to them not liking you, retaliation, or conflict.
    [4:57] How do we create a culture and create trust where people want to hold each other accountable and want to be held accountable? It would be a culture where team members don’t see accountability as a threat but as a way of teaming together to help everyone be the best that they can be.
    [6:04] One person can influence a team to a degree, depending on their status within the team.
    [7:17] The leader establishes the culture. The leader can tell the team that it is expected for them to have difficult conversations with each other instead of coming to the leader. It starts with the leader setting the tone and the expectation for open, candid conversation, with good intention, to help each other be their best. That requires real feedback. The leader also needs to reward that behavior.
    [9:55] If team members are unwilling to hold each other accountable, Leigh Ann loves the ADKAR model for changing behavior. Leigh Ann focuses on the first three aspects: Is the person Aware of their behavior? Do they Desire to change? Do they Know how to change? That’s where Leigh Ann starts to figure out why a person is not willing to engage in difficult conversations.
    [11:50] One of the principles in Leigh Ann’s Better Teams training is Readiness. The first element of Readiness is having the right equipment, tools, and resources. If you don’t have those, advocate for yourself. The second element is competence and skill sets. Advocate for the competencies you need. It may involve getting a mentor. The third element is being adaptive, flexible, and agile. Can you pivot?
    [12:59] Leigh Ann relates being adaptive to stress levels. People are fairly adaptive but when stress levels get high, we begin to get less adaptive and flexible. When there’s a lot of uncertainty, we start to crave certainty, which makes any new change feel bigger than it even may be. Recognize when your stress levels are high and advocate for ways to increase certainty so you can be flexible.
    [14:18] Instead of advocating for the organization to provide something for you, it is better for you to provide the tools, training, skills, and more to better yourself for the job you have or future roles. Advocating for yourself may become a barrier to doing something for yourself that is well within your capability.
    [15:09] Leigh Ann clarifies the difference between you managing your self-improvement and advocating for yourself to have the company provide an important solution that will benefit the company while benefiting you. What you can do without guidance or leadership, do independently.
    [16:38] Jan notes that past guest Kim Cameron, spoke a lot about abundance versus scarcity. As we come out of a pandemic, we hear more from our guests about abundance than scarcity. Maybe people are more open-minded than they were. Jan invites you, the listener, to connect on socia

    • 36 min

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