David Elikwu speaks with Dave Kline, a solopreneur, and owner of MGMT Accelerator & Skillscouter.
He advises executives on how to build exceptional teams and improve their careers.
We talked about some of the big mistakes that both new and experienced leaders make, how to delegate effectively, how to empower teams and a lot of frameworks and mental models for making effective decisions in a replicable way.
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👤 Connect with Dave Kline:
Twitter Profile: @dklineii
LinkedIn: Dave Kline
📄 Show notes:
His parents were exceedingly different [2:27]
First thing he did after getting a good job [5:49]
Management versus Leadership [8:56]
Missing link that doesn't translate from theory to practice [11:51]
Moving from intuition to intention [16:56]
Values and their importance [18:23]
It’s exceedingly challenging to do well and to get right [21:06]
How to create values led organization [23:16]
Compatible but distinct values from the organization [23:41]
What's the most important thing could a manager to get right that unlocks all the other things [27:35]
What is the one thing you could do that it will cascade through? [28:29]
His experience in consulting [28:48]
How to level up as a leader [30:09]
One of the things that I talk about is not being lukewarm [32:11]
The usual hesitation coming from people [33:45]
The idea of delegating [34:54]
Two frameworks of Bridgewater [43:30]
Sometimes we judge something is broken based on the result [46:29]
There's a theory and then there's a practice [51:17]
The idea of having this consultative, asking more questions [52:46]
Rory Vaden, The compounding effect of being able to delegate effectively [53:17]
Seth Godin talks about this idea of ratings [54:43]
How a leader respond to different types of feedback [55:52]
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
- Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge
- Newsletter: https://theknowledge.io
- Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com
- Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge
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David Kline: The thing that jumped out at me and jumped out at everybody who goes through this is just how fundamentally different everybody is.
Your parents shape you your community shapes you, your wins and your losses shape you.
All of that gets dumped into a big pot then it becomes you. And you're very different than the next person and the next person. And so where I would want someone to start if they really wanted to level up as a leader? Is by having a really deep understanding of themselves.
if you can develop that fidelity, the richness in color goes from like black and white TV to high Def.
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life. This week, I'm speaking with Dave Kline. This was an awesome episode. We unpacked a world class leadership playbook.
We talked all about some of the [00:01:00] big mistakes that both new and experienced leaders make. We talked about how to delegate effectively, how to empower teams and a lot of frameworks and mental models for making effective decisions in a replicable way.
This was a really dense and action packed episode. You can get the full transcripts and show notes at theknowledge.io. And while you're there, you should subscribe to my newsletter.
Every week, I share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io. If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend.
And don't forget to leave a review because every single one helps us tremendously to reach other people. Just like you
You have a really interesting background, which I personally find really interesting and I'm sure a lot of people would too.
I think particularly across the breadth of areas that you've worked in and then also a [00:02:00] lot of what you're doing now as well. But what I would really love to do is maybe even take one or two steps before that and to get an idea of even from your early life, what set you on the trajectory that you ended up going on. So maybe one of the first questions I would ask is maybe in your early childhood experiences, what you might describe as like an inciting incident? What is one of the first memories that you have that set the trail for the path that you've gone on?
David Kline: I think, my parents were exceedingly different and so I had, growing up outside of Rochester, New York, someone always worked either Kodak or Xerox.
Those were sort of the two employers. So my mom worked at, worked at Kodak and my dad was like a serial and mostly failed entrepreneur and so he would also late from, he was also a trained nurse. He was the first college graduate, from his family. So he would oscillate between working nursing jobs and then trying a business and failing, and then going back to nursing jobs.
At one point the one that stuck, like the one that took off was when he put the two together, like basically he [00:03:00] started a home healthcare business, kind of when I was in high school and it was bringing nursing into homes and something he could sort of bootstrap, right. He could sort of pitch in and early on, like he was the one going to the homes and providing the care when nurses called in sick, et cetera.
And then it got to a sufficient enough scale that he'd finally had a entrepreneur ship \venture that took off. And so I think that's probably, as I reflect on it a lot of what's going into what I'm doing today right. Like my wife and I bought, we bought a business that had some cashflow and gave us a foundation.
And part of that was in reaction to seeing all the failed attempts he had taken where I saw the impact it had in our family. One of the commitments my wife and I made to each other is like, we didn't want money to become a source of anxiety, so I've worked at great places and we've been, pretty vigilant savers.
And part of the reason for buying the business was to have cash flow and give us a runway. But then as we now growing and we're building out courses in our own content and that type of thing, it's sort of hearkening back more to him bootstrapping, it's a lot [00:04:00] on us, if we want to host a free workshop, we host a free workshop. We want to run two cohorts in parallel. We can do that. It's mostly like our sweat equity going into the business right now. And so it's sort of marrying a little bit of what I've learned by mimicking him and a little bit of what I learned by not wanting to mimic him. That's probably showing up today.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I'd love to maybe dig a bit deeper on that and get a better idea of how some of watching that impacted you, because I think. With a lot of people that maybe have entrepreneurs as parents, it can go one of, two ways in terms of how it shapes both your approach to money, your approach, to stability, your approach to even on a underlying level, what you go and end up seeking out. So for example, there are some people that if you had maybe like that rocky background where money wasn't always flowing in constantly, you might strive for a job that provides a whole lot of consistency and you want the most stable job possible that you could stay in forever.
And you know you're going to get paid on time and you might not actually be interested in going into entrepreneurship yourself. [00:05:00] So I'm interested to know maybe a bit more about how you feel like that impacted you and shaped your psyche.
David Kline: Yeah, I mean, we probably do a whole podcast on that. The few that come to mind as kind of a starting point would be the money when you talked about, like, it was a real source of tension. Like my parents ended up divorcing when I was 12. And it, my childhood memories hearkening back to that was that every fight was about money.
I had, I would say my mom had a very scarcity mindset about it and yet she was the type of person who bought 25 cheap things that had to constantly kept wearing out and being replaced. And then my dad had an abundant mindset about it, even though we didn't have any money. And he's the one who would buy the $400 shoes that would last forever, even though we had no business buying $400 shoes. And so you had this like very divergent points of view and tensions.
And I'd say for me, it's been an interesting evolution. Like I, the thing that you said that resonated right away with me is, when I went to a good school, managed to get in and come at first thing I did when I came out and got a reasonably good job, I was coming out right before the dot com boom. So if you could turn a computer on, you could be a management [00:06:00] consultant. First thing I do with pay off all my debt, even though, probably in hindsight that wasn't the greatest call, like taking that same money and putting it into the stock market. Two years later, after everything crashed down would have been a much better return than paying off 2% loans. But I just didn't want the debt. I did my credit card debt. I didn't want the loan debt. I just didn't want even any of it hanging over me cause I saw sort of how that had impacted my family and I was carrying around so with that scarcity mindset.
My wife and I talk about this a lot. Like I that's something both of us that another source of the upbringing thing that kind of I think put real weight was this idea. Because my parents split up, I became the man of the house very young and I have real pride in like being self-reliant I put value into like being able to figure things out, fix things myself, just do whatever I need to do. And at some point that becomes, a drag. It becomes a drag on like what you're able to accomplish. Like, I was still, trivial examples. Like I was still mowing my own yard when it would have been intellectually and logically a much better investment of my time to spend that [00:07:00] hour doing something productive and spending 25 or 40 or $50 to have someone else mow the yard.
And so that same sort of thing, here, we are 20 years later still making calls like that at times. And so that's the, if you asked me it was kind of connected the first, the second, like something I'm worried about in this concept of bootstrapping is like, am I drifting back into that idea of doing everything myself? even though ironically I'm teaching people about how to lead big teams and delegate. But I might have kind of drifting back into some of those early mindsets versus being really thoughtful about where I get leveraged, where I get help, et cetera, is that my pride creeping back in
David Elikwu: That makes a lot of sense. And just touching on what you were mentioning about, the fact that you do talk a lot about management and leading teams. One question I was really interested to ask. Particularly because you have this side of your background, which is very corporate and I also used to work in corporate law as an example. I'm really interested in what were your early experience.
David Kline: The most corporate of the corporate, my friend.
David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. So and it was a big law firm as well. I'm not sure if you've heard of Mayer Brown, a lot in the US side.[00:08:00] So yeah, so that's where I worked for about half a decade or so. So it was a fun time. it was a really good experience in terms of learning.
But what I find interesting is that, one thing that I discovered is that I don't think people learn to lead necessarily in law, and I'm not sure how different it is in some other fields. I think there are some fields in some industries where leadership is very, very much prioritized and is put on this pedestal.
And it's your journey of scaling up within the business is about becoming a great leader. But I don't think that's the same everywhere. I think in some fields and even now being in tech, I think to some extent it can be very similar where your cache as a leader can very often just come from subject matter expertise and not necessarily your ability to lead people.
So I'm interested to know maybe from your, like the management consulting background, how you found that approach to leadership being shaped by maybe examples that you saw.
David Kline: I would probably first separate managing from leaving. Like I think in, especially in large corporate organizations, you'll see a lot [00:09:00] of management, but not necessarily a lot of leadership, right. That a lot of what cascades down is the ability to sort of command and control to kind of keep authority in place, to keep checks on people, et cetera, and you'll see that and you'll see the done to varying degrees of success. I don't think there historically has been as many organizations then saying, no, no, no what I really need from you is true leadership. Like, I need you to inspire and motivate people, I need you to clear obstacles out of the way so they can do more than they imagined that you are going to connect with them on personal levels and motivate them on professional levels. That you're all the types of things that when we look at, leaders where we all have kind of carry a shorthand, whether those are military leaders or political leaders or, entrepreneurial icons, et cetera, we looked at all of them and we see what they're doing. And we don't, many people don't do that inside of these organizations and many people aren't even asked to do that, ? And so I think that I've started there just at least separate and let's have a language around management versus leadership. And then, in terms of, the most shaping moments, that I have, and I think there's [00:10:00] probably for a lot of people, you sort of get shaped by both sides of the equation.
Like sometimes you get shaped by being lucky enough to have a mentor or a leader or a manager who is truly inspiring and engaging in the way we're describing or at least some aspect of how they approach people or how they lead teams you can sort of learn from and put it into your backpack and be able to pull that out of somewhere down the road.
I would say equally, if not more, because of the first thing we said, the there between management and leadership, you're learning how not to lead. Right, you're learning, when you encounter someone who's a bully or someone who's toxic, or someone who's using intimidation or someone who's trumping your logic with their authority and hierarchy, you sort of are almost putting away all these lessons as the inverse of like, okay, I want to remember, I don't want to do that.
In the same way, I don't know if you have kids, we have a couple of almost tweens, and it's sort of the same thing. It's like, what are the lessons I want to take from my parents and pass along? Because they gave me a gift and I want to make sure we preserve that and then What are the things that I want to make sure we don't replicate? That weren't necessarily gifts and [00:11:00] I certainly don't want to accidentally pass those along and so I think you end up learning from both sides.
David Elikwu: Why do you think there's such a big distinction in day-to-day life? Because in my mind, just even thinking about what you were saying, it feels like leadership. It sounds a lot like economics. In the way that the theory of economics and day-to-day people's lives are completely different things, right? What people theorize about what economics should look like and this perfect model of, oh, this is exactly how you do it and what people experience is not the same thing. And very much similarly with leadership, I genuinely feel like a lot of what you read in leadership books or what you hear people say about leadership and how it should be. And maybe it sounds great, but for some reason, when it translate into actual businesses that people experience in their day-to-day lives, most people's managers are not like that. They're not being taught to lead or learning to lead, and you don't necessarily get that experience of leadership. So what do you think is the missing link there that doesn't seem to translate from theory to practice?
David Kline: I have a lot of theories on the gap here. In no particular order. [00:12:00] So one of them would be, we don't train people. Like we don't actually like one of the things I was shocked and creating this course. And again, the quick backstory is like, it's sort of has serendipitously showed up. Like I didn't leave Bridgewater and say, I'm going to go start training leaders and managers of companies we've all heard of. We bought a business, we got cashflow and serendipity intervened a bit. As I started to test that idea out all of a sudden, the first signal to me was my Twitter account going from 40 people to 4,000 people to now approaching 50,000 people in like six months.
And all I'm talking about is like leading with empathy, leading with intention, connecting to people, et cetera. And just that, that response to me was like a pretty strong signal. And then as I talked to people and sort of structure the first course, I wanted to test and so I've sort of offered like, Hey, spend a half an hour with me, we'll workshop one of your problems and about a dozen people took me up on that and what was so interesting as one after the other, my first one of my early questions would be well, How is your company training you? How is your company helping you? What's your manager doing? And the answer was largely nothing. Like the answer [00:13:00] was, was almost universally. There was one or two companies that were an exception, and there's a reason that they're so good. It's probably because they were the exception, but for the other 10, it was, I had an hour of compliance training so that I wouldn't say anything dumb or get sued And then they told me to go figure it out.
And so there's one, which is like, they're not providing the training. I think one of the reasons that goes into that is for a lot of the current leaders, they didn't get training. And so, and they believe they figured it out. And so they're like, great. You'll just figure it out. That's how leaders get that's how leaders get good. Right. They just go in there like, they make a few mistakes. We'll bail them out. They'll figure it out. And I called that like leadership training through hazing. And like, we tried to discourage everybody to stop hazing at this point and so just because, that's how it happened to you doesn't mean that's the best we can do for the people who you're not leading, right.
And the same way we were just talking about with parents or what are those things you want to pass along more of the ones you don't like, you can actually help people like learn these tactics and get a running start, which sort of ties. And then a third thing, which is the failure rate on leaders, at the executive level, right at the board [00:14:00] and CEO level.
There's four different studies I found at this point, put it at around 60% within 18 months get fired CEO's and board members. These are the most well-vetted, well-funded, well-supported leaders in corporate America and they're worse than a coin flip. So if those people are failing out after they've done it for 20 years after they've been vetted by, , everyone under the sun, after they all have professional coaches, , and world-class teams, if they're failing out of their gigs, imagine the brand new person who was a developer last week, and now all of a sudden it's in charge of leading a team of 12 developers who are probably six to 12 months behind them in the journey having never done any of that before. And you're like, and the best strategy we have is to hope they figure it out. Damn, we can do better.
David Elikwu: Yeah, it's so interesting. What you were saying also made me think about, just how often leaders and businesses end up building cultures by accident. And I think it's culture like throughout the entire business, but then also the culture of leadership. And I remember, the example that came to mind immediately was when I was in corporate [00:15:00] law, within the corporate team at my firm.
And there was someone, a senior associate that was leaving the team. I think he was, on the verge of being a partner and he was going to another firm to become a partner. And we were having his leaving drinks and people were sharing stories about all the great times they, they shared with him and then his manager who's the leader of the group was then coming to share her own story and her story was nothing about the person. And it was just about this time that they worked for 60 hours straight in the office. And she was telling it as though this was like a great story. And you could see the pain in his face. You could see this was him reliving, probably one of the, one of the worst, one of the worst weeks.
Yeah, exactly. But for her, this was this great story about how we worked so hard and we got the deal done and eventually you got to sleep and things like that. And it's so interesting how even innocuously, I'm sure, that's not the culture that she might have been intending to build, and that is not on the surface, what you might want to characterize your culture as, but I think even in what you value [00:16:00] and what you don't value.
Particularly If you are someone in leadership that just shapes everyone else's approach to how they see the team, how they see the business and how they see their ability to flourish there.
David Kline: Well, it's so interesting, cause someone commented this on the last cohort, like inside of each of my modules. At some point I will say, if you take away only one thing, let it be this. and that's usually what I think is like the best lesson. And I, you just hit on, like, if I could summarize all of that and say like, you could only take one thing away from all of this.
It's that moving from intuition to intention, right? Like once you bring intention to what you're doing. It just creates so much more structure and foundation for you to work from. Right. Because in order to go from an intuition to intention, you had to, you had to articulate it. You had to put it into words. You had to decide what promises are you going to make? And which ones are you going to walk away from? Like, what are the cultural tenants you're going to hold? And which are that you're going to bend on. And by doing that, you create now something to react to like, because business is going to happen to you, right? The world's going to change, , the market that was hot last week is going to turn around and be miserable this week. You run a go [00:17:00] from rapidly hiring to try to be a decacorn, to like trimming 25% of your staff That's going to keep happening. And you needed to have that well articulated so that as those things are changing, you can, you can test and iterate against it.
Right. But without that, then you're just making it all up. And so then it starts to feel like chaos, and that idea of the, you kind of show that story. That's always jumping into my head is like listening to Brian Armstrong, who I think actually he's a pretty intentional manager and started to talk about like, I didn't have a point of view on politics in the office.
Right. And so it just sort of evolved into what it evolved into, and then he decided to take a stand, whether you agree or disagree with that, he basically changed the deal with people. And that's kind of the ramification of what you're describing, right. Is if you don't bring intention and sort of think through all these pieces it'll happen organically.
And then if you don't like what happens organically? And the thing is that that's the deal people agreed to whatever is happening, the behaviors that are happening organically, whether you meant to or not, that's, that's what you shook on. So now you're going to change the deal.
I think he got relatively lucky that be, they only [00:18:00] lost like eight or 10% of their staff out of changing the deal, but that's also a company that was doing really great, has more money than, most startups at their stage of life. So if you're a, five person firm, a 10 person firm, a 25 person firm, like that's, not being intentional with setting yourself up for that and losing, five or six people from a 10 person lot is could be, Game over. Right. And suffer that kind of turnover that early
David Elikwu: So what you were saying about Brian Armstrong makes me think about values and their importance. And again, funnily enough, similar to what you were saying, I think, my perspective on that situation has probably actually evolved over time. I think my initial reaction was particularly the timing of it. I didn't necessarily, I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but I think my position has evolved in that.
I can now start to see why that decision was made and why it might be useful because sometimes the issue is. And I think this is true with almost everything, particularly within politics, but with so many other things, when something happens, everyone loves precedent, [00:19:00] but you love the precedent and that works for you, right?
You like something to happen that works in your favor now. But if that precedent gets set and then it gets applied to something else that you don't necessarily like, then it's a bad thing. And now this is not what we want. And so I think it becomes incredibly important. It's almost better to put your foot down and draw a line in the sand and say, okay, this is we're going to be on this side, on this side so that people don't have to suffer with the ambiguity, which I feel like can often be so much worse. I think it's actually a better solution to say okay, we are not going to have this discussion here than to suffer through the internal turmoil and you see this happening at other companies where some people believe this, some people believe that, and then you have people spending a lot of their time doing internal politics, essentially, which is not necessarily what is in the best interests of the business.
And so just going back to the question that I wanted to ask you, which is around values. How important, not just how important is it, because I would assume you're going to say it's important, [00:20:00] but how do you think that people and leaders can effectively go about creating a strong set of values and a set of values are actually useful?
Because again, just to reiterate on this point and thinking of another example. So when I was leaving corporate law, I was leaving my firm and I was, just getting a few bits to gather and gathering files and stuff. And I remember coming across at the back of one of these training files. I think this file was from before I started at the firm.
So it was quite old, but I found this set of values. And I've never seen it before. I'd been there for five years. I'd never seen this, these values before. I've no idea what this is. I, I, I could bet if I showed it to anyone that was around me, no one would have any ideas what this was and so I think because often what happens when people think about values is, I dunno where the people go on Google or they hire consultants or wherever it comes from. People just write down a set of five obscure words. Nobody really knows what they mean. And we just say, oh, this is what we believe in as a company. And it's just something that you can put on your ESG [00:21:00] page or whatever it is rather than a set of guidelines that anyone actually intends to live by.
David Kline: Yeah, I think it's exceedingly challenging to do well and to get right. Even just like I worked at arguably two great companies, right? Moody's and Bridgewater in their respective domains are both market leaders. Right and my transition from Moody's they're fortune 500 company, a hundred years old, where I would have said the values were closer to what you described, which is not that we were actively violating them, but they were passive. They were sort of 10 or 12 statements written down that went in our annual report and it was never really actively considered or talked about, et cetera. That may have changed, since then. But then I moved to Bridgewater. It was sort of expecting as much there's like a much talked about principles operating system, but this notion of, Ray wrote a book, he had had it internally, then he shared it publicly. Then he published it, it's a best seller and my expectation going from Moody's to Bridgewater was that'd be sort of the same.
And it couldn't have been 180 degrees more opposite. Like we went from, I went from a [00:22:00] set of values that were written down that we rarely discussed to something that was literally talked about and evaluated in every meeting like the ideas of decisions were being made on radical transparency. There was because that was an agreed upon value. Every meeting was recorded. We never read debated that, we never read legislative that, we simply just hit record and recorded the meeting. And it had cascading effects through the organization. We believe in the side, you have an idea of meritocracy, right? And so would that idea of meritocracy the idea of the best ideas win, right? That's how they're going to be a combination of data and logic or experience or some combination thereof. And so, that again was sort of a value that would not just be live, but would come up and be discussed and debated in many meetings on a regular basis. And so I think those are almost like two extremes, right. And I don't know that you have to live at either extreme to have good, clear values on your team or in your organization. But I do think that you're probably closer to the Bridgewater model, if you really want to be a values led organization, right? Like if you're [00:23:00] Netflix and you're putting out 110 slide deck articulating your culture and your values, and you're not only like saying what they are but you're creating the mythology that shows what they are and those stories pass along. Like that was something else I saw at Bridgewater. Sort of that in my mind, you sort of need to One, take the time articulated and write them down and have them. Two, make sure there's real stories that bring them into life, and three constantly be engaging and testing them and interacting on them, to figure out whether they're truly aligned. And if you do have to change the deal, I think it's better to change the deal, than it is to kind of suffer through an outdated model but kind of do it clearly, do it swiftly, do it openly with in alignment with the values that you're continuing to hold.
One story I could share. I think people sometimes skip this part is, think it's perfectly reasonable as a team leader or a manager within a larger organization for your team to have compatible but distinct values from the organization. I ran a team at Bridgewater, it wasn't super huge, but it was, it was a new function that was trying to help create [00:24:00] more oversight in the company as part of Ray's transition. And we actually ran an exercise with that team. All of whom were veterans at the organization. I had kind of been, brought together to provide this oversight and build this new function. But we basically said, look, we all sort of know the or arching values of the org. , they're very distinct, et cetera, but like this team has its own mission, right? This team has its own identity and so what do we think is going to be our compatible but distinct articulation of our values, right. And so I remember we had that, it was both an experienced team at Bridgewater, but still skewed relatively inexperienced in the world. So we had a bunch of like more junior analysts and things on the team. Until we would articulate things like you're going to fail fast, but you're going to bounce high. It was a hard high pressure group. Like this group was working with the emerging board. And so to be 23, 24, you have a second job in your career. And all of a sudden facing off with, board members from large public corporations, you're like, this is kind of crazy, And so it was just like, we had to create a safe space, as it there's that's just like one specific value that we then [00:25:00] articulated to kind of carry that around. And when people would drift off of those values, sort of say like, Yeah, you fail fast, but are you bouncing high right now? Like, is that what we're doing? or if someone wasn't supporting a member of their team in a particular way, we could use it the same way. And so, , I think that idea of, kind of co setting them and co-authoring. And, but again, then truly living them and using them as part of the language to call out when people are either deeply aligned to them or when people are deviating from them is the way that you go from that being the piece of paper to living
David Elikwu: And where were you getting this this vision of enacting leadership in this way? And some of the verbiage that comes around that was that from examples that you saw specifically at Bridgewater or where you reading other books, was there other place that you're able to get a strong sense of what good leadership is?
David Kline: It's a good question. I do read a lot of nonfiction too, generally, skewing leadership books and articles and follow people. And that I've been fortunate enough to have that mix of good and bad leaders that I've worked for and been able to sort of cherry pick and accumulate things over 20 years. [00:26:00] And then a lot of it, honestly, though, is like experimentation. Like we, I wouldn't say that I knew the answer then was, oh, the teams coming together for the first time, it's worth us articulating our values in this way. It was more in response to a problem. Like there was a problem of 20 people who all had a different point of view of how things should go in crafting this new organization. Then I had learned a tactic through time, which is when people get a little bit too, for like of a better word, whiny about a situation, you make it their problem. Right? And so part of the reason that I wanted to have them coauthor it is I didn't want to just arbitrarily set values that no one else believed in. And so instead, I just gave him the pen and instead of like, let's collaborate and put this together. But then the other side of that is we're going to, we're going to live by it. We're going to adhere to it. We're gonna make our day-to-day lineup and aspire to meet this aspiration. So, I couldn't point back and say, like, I learned that tactic in this book, it was more at times, taking things and kind of connecting them to the situation and dealing with [00:27:00] whatever problem I had.
David Elikwu: Sure. So you run this course now on management and being a great manager and I think you mentioned that you've probably hired over a hundred managers or so in your time at Bridgewater and maybe beyond. So one of the questions I had was, I mean, going back to the phrase you used earlier, right? If you take nothing else away, what would you say is the number one management lesson I'm going to ask for more, if there was one thing one thing that someone could do as a manager in particularly, let's say if this was their first manager role, what's the most important thing to get right. That unlocks all the other things.
David Kline: I'm like hesitating, cause I don't want to, like the cliched the answer is to hire good people, right. I mean, you almost led the witness by drifting into recruiting for a second. It is very true. So like, let's start there and say like, if I were starting from total scratch with Greenfield team and I could do whatever I wanted, like of course I want to draft my team.
The reality is that happens like 1% of the time, the other 99% of the time you are getting a new job that is going to run a team that already exists. You're [00:28:00] inheriting a second team to fold into your first team. Like in almost no case, do you get this ability to like wave a wand and hire all the perfect people?
So it's like a good idea to hold in your head and iterate as jobs open up or new roles are created that yes, you should really invest in recruiting the absolute best people you can put around you. But very few people actually have the ability to do that from day one. And so saying it is cute on Twitter, but it's sort of also theoretical for most circumstances. The thing that I what I start with in the course and so if you said, like, what is the one thing you could do that it will cascade through? It's where I start and it feels the squishiest of people until they get to the end and they're like, oh, I see how that cascades through.
And that is to actually invest a lot of time in becoming self-aware.
So let me click into that, because that sounds like sure. At Bridgewater I started in consulting, right. In consulting, it's almost like you went and hired people from the same schools who looked the same, acted the same, did the same. You wouldn't train them at the same training complex because the thing you were optimizing for is when that [00:29:00] analyst quits to go to work in the bank, the next analyst shows up and no one even notices. Right. So that's how I started my career was consulting in that way. And I was like, oh, this must be how it works. Like we all just sort of get homogenized into replaceable widgets. And I leave it when I like quit. And they were like, yeah, great, see ya. The company will not end, in fact your replacement will be here Monday. Just make sure that you leave the folder on the desk. So then I go to Bridgewater, which is the polar opposite right? We probably, I probably took every psychometric test ever invented. NBTI, WPI, the golden, you name them, we took there was one, we had to hit buttons as fast as we could. I have no idea what that test is. We didn't keep that one, but it was crazy. And irrespective of what the test said, the thing that like jumped out at me and jumped out at everybody who goes through this is just how fundamentally different everybody is. Whether that's like the mindset you bring to problems, whether that's experiences you've had in your life as we were talking about earlier, right?
Like your parents shape you your community shapes you, your wins and your losses shape you. Whether it's like your values, like what do you prioritize? Even the skills, right? Like you're going to be a manager and maybe you were an [00:30:00] excellent analyst but you don't know how to delegate.
All of that, like gets dumped into a big pot then it becomes you. And you're very different than the next person and the next person. And so where I would want someone to start if they really wanted to like level up as a leader? Is by having a really deep understanding of themselves.
And I advocate that for two reasons, one is that awareness then allows you to call your number when you should and not call it when you shouldn't. Right. So, so too many people that new leaders will go in and say like, I don't micromanage because they're like, I'm best in everything. You're definitely not best at everything. You're probably not best at even half. And so that awareness allows you to know when you're the right person to call and when you should rely on others.
The second is if you can develop that fidelity with all of like the psychological biases you have on yourself, then using that same apparatus to like stare at other people in high fidelity, the richness in color goes from like black and white TV to like high Def. All of a sudden you can see that like, yes, you and I have the same name, but David, you're very different than I am and how you'll approach a problem or how you might [00:31:00] think or how we might interact.
And as a leader, I can then think about like what are all the optimal ways to get the most out of your strengths and neutralize where you might be weak. And that could be with another person. And that could be with automation that could be with coaching. There's like all kinds of levers I have to pull.
But if I with that level of fidelity, now I can get a team that's like further spread out, covering more ground, everyone's leaning into their strengths. Everyone's kind of offsetting each other. And all of that started back at, I had a really high picture and description and understanding of myself.
So that's where I would start. And again, people think it's super squishy. But you sort of go through like, okay, you want to delegate work that everyone wants to delegate. That's like the favorite. Like they can't wait to show up to class and learn how to get rid of work and guess where it starts.
It starts at looking at the situation and then thinking about like, what's that person like, is this going to go well, do I need to train them? Give them resources. Is this the person I need to like give a lot of space or I need to be close to like, is that high picture of them? Right. And so that's why you sort of go through all the [00:32:00] pieces and you end up back at like, oh yeah, having a really high picture of what I look like high fidelity and vivid will let me lead much better.
David Elikwu: Yeah.
David Kline: What do you think, are you convinced?
David Elikwu: I am. I am no, you're, you're convincing me. I think it makes a lot of sense. One of the things that I talk about is not being lukewarm. That is the worst possible thing that you could be. And even going to what you were saying about being a management consultant in some ways it's much better I think, you have to go towards one of the two poles, either you become the perfect cookie cutter. Not that not that that's where you want to be for the rest of your life, but if you're looking to get into a role or looking to get into some place on one pole is where you look to emulate what you already see and you want to look like you're going to fit in. You want to look like you're going to blend right in. You're going to fit in with everyone else that you see, whether it's culturally, whether it's how you talk, how you walk, whatever it is that you do, you want to fit right in on the other end of the scale, you want to be completely different. And I think both of those work being completely different coming in and your fresh face, and you have unique [00:33:00] views, you have a unique perspective. You have a different way of thinking of things a different view, a different lens of the world, I think is equally important and good leaders I think would look for that equally. But I think the place that you don't want to end is in the valley in between where you are very ambiguous and this applies to everything we were saying, like, whether it's leadership or values, you don't want to be mistakable where someone, there's a lack of clarity about exactly what the quantity is there. And so I think that reminded me of what you were saying in terms of having this high fidelity, where you want to be able to like narrow down your vision and have a much stronger by understanding yourself.
You'll have a much stronger understanding of how to quantify the people in your team as well.
David Kline: That resonates a lot. And the thing that I'm sure you see this as well. The usual hesitation I get from people. When we get into this place is almost by defining what they might be strong at or what their, where their mindsets might show up or what they might be weak at. They feel like they are in like creator [00:34:00] entrepreneurial terms, they're niching down. They're sort of like, oh, I'm going from being like, I could be anything. And therefore my market's totally open. And down to like, now I'm a specific, I'm like a detail oriented analyst with a background in a low income upbringing, therefore I have a scarcity like all these things. And what people are surprised to learn is actually that clarity ups, the probability of alignment so much higher then instead of being open to a market that was like here, it was never going to be interested. Like no one wants to buy the mediocre thing now you have a market that's smaller, but so aligned that you can perform better.
People are going to resonate more with your leadership. That same idea of like knowing, whether you're either the person that you just describe it, either pole, will then let you go pick the right company. Like imagine the one who wanted to be the like cookie cutter showing up at Bridgewater, like, wow, that would have lasted a week and now there's bad or good. It's just, but it all starts with sort of knowing, knowing where you start.
David Elikwu: Exactly. One of the other things I wanted to double click on that you brought up was the idea of delegating. And I think that is one [00:35:00] of those key words that always comes up when people talk about leadership. But I think there is so much nuance to it that I think often goes unexplored and this is even something I've learned myself.
I think you learn it in working particularly in the corporate world or even in tech. But I think what I have ended up finding is for example, now running my own businesses and having to hire people myself, I think is a very different paradigm because when you're hiring people within an existing business, you usually have an existing role.
There is a job that they are meant to do. You already know what that is in many ways it exists, the work exists. And you need someone to come in and do it, and so it's very easy to set clearly defined terms of I know what it looks like when you're not doing this because it needs to be done.
Whereas I think very often, Sometimes in reality, people are having to create roles, ab initio, and you're creating something from nothing and you have to figure out okay, what does good look like? What does this look like? And also if you are the person that has previously taken complete ownership of over something. What does it look [00:36:00] like if I start letting go of things and maybe there's some different models of what that looks like, and maybe that's something you can expand on. But I think that sometimes there's two ways that I see people being pulled quite often, is that, do you want to delegate the things that you already know that you're good at to someone else who can do those things Because you know what that looks like, and you can go provide some oversight there, or maybe do you want to delegate the things that you are not good at and you want someone else that can be their own kind of expert. And that allows you to focus on the things that you are better at. I think I hear people sharing different perspectives on that, and I'd love to hear what you think.
David Kline: I have my tongue-in-cheek answer was going to be like, yes, yes to everything you said. But jokes aside, I think I'll answer, let me go a little bit of a roundabout way. When I will, we'll talk about this and I'll say like, this is the one slide, it's the slide that I would talk about as the aligned how.
So usually when people think about delegating, they think about what, right. To your point, there's like a very selfish, like I've got too much and I want to get rid of some.
And my wife who helps run the course, she worked at [00:37:00] Goldman and Google, so also two great organizations. And I remember debating this module with her and I was like, this is the most important part and she's like, what are you talking about? Like, I was in sales at Google, like how they delegated they said like, you need to, here's your a hundred million dollar target, go get 'em tiger. And I was like, that's not like when, when things break, it's not because the person was unclear on the a hundred million dollar target.
Like they're unclear on the, how you wanted them to do it. And so she was like, that's not true. They don't care how I do it. And I was like, no, no, no, it's very true. Trust me. Like, because of the point that you said, which is you've hardwired in at a place like Google or Goldman or Bridgewater or Moody's or any really established organization.
So much of delegation is hardwired in, like you said, it's hardwired into the hierarchy, it's hardwired into the process, the technology, the norms, the mythology, et cetera. Like they've done a lot of the heavy lifting for you. And so what's left is like little nudges and you might be able to just get away with saying like, I want a hundred million to come out of all of that hierarchy and all of that process and all of that structure and it can work. To your [00:38:00] point when you're, that's not true. You're cause you're delegating new work or you're building a new company, et cetera. You actually have to spend a lot of time in the how, like you actually have to have to your point a visualization of what good looks like not just of what the outcome is, but how you would go about accomplishing it.
And the thing that I would encourage people to do and what I was able to say yes to both is you sort of have to go through that in a systematic way, starting with why? Like, why are you delegating? And are you delegating it because you're excellent at it and so having a picture of how it should be done is very easy for you or because you're terrible at it and it's a waste of your resource and time. Sort of back to like MIMO in my own yard. I might value it, but I probably shouldn't be doing it. But also getting into, especially when you're in an organization and there's like, are there, is there a process or a technology we already have?
Like, you'll be shocked. There were times people get given work and don't know that there's a way to get it done, right or a standard operating procedure that you might use with an outsourcer. They don't know the culture. Like the culture is sort of how we described a minute ago. Right. It's not that clear.
And so, do you want me to achieve this goal at all costs or within [00:39:00] a particular cost structure? The one I'll always use is Zappos, right, like you can be on the customer service desk there and help the customer find the shoes, but they pride their culture prides itself on being quirky. And so if you want the 10 out of 10 experience, you have to be a little bit quirky to. Do the people coming on to the service desk for the first time when they get delegated new cases. Like, do they understand that part of a how. And so I think lingering in that how and it doesn't take a long time, , or it doesn't have to take a long time. I'll take as long as you want, but that allows you to then get on the same page with the other person. It also does another thing, which is if you, coauthor this, how you empower them, right. You get to let them come in because one of the reasons you might be delegating is because they're better than you, because you're bored. That's another reason people delegate a lot. It's like, I'm kind of tired of doing this thing. Like I'm not good at, I'm not bad at it, but I'm kind of bored with it. That might be a great stretch opportunity for them or a new, they might bring a unique perspective or they might be junior in their career, but far more technologically savvy and they can automate that manual thing away.
So there's lots of good parts. There's lots of good [00:40:00] benefits to having a how conversation and not just a what and walk away. So that's sort of, that's sort of my mindset on, delegating.
David Elikwu: Sure. I think. There's one thing that I want to ask, but before that, maybe I'll just ask, what's the lay of the land? What would you say are your primary pillars of leadership? I don't know if that aligns with how you lay it out in the course, or if you just have some conceptualization of these are the primary areas of focus.
David Kline: Yeah, I mean, I definitely built the course to align with sort of my thinking on that and what I had seen work. And the good news, bad news for me is we sort of we'll do a survey at the end of every one and ask people what their favorite module and their least favorite module. So the good news, bad news for me is that the last cohort is really highly rated and that every single module had at least three people say it was their favorite.
And three people say it was their least favorite. So I think it at least tells me that like. Every manager, it kind of back to those differences. All right, everyone's at a different place in their journey and so what might feel obvious to you because you're an excellent recruiter might be [00:41:00] profound to someone who's terrible at recruiting in the same way that, the delegation might be old hat to somebody might be very meaningfully the thing that unlocks them right now.
And so we sort of covered a couple, right. That idea of starting with self-awareness and intention. And then I think about sort of the key parts of my system as, taking goals and turning that into expectations. Right, and again, it could be goals like smart goals, it could be okay hours in many cases are going to cascade down from the organization, but you need to like have goals and break them down into manageable pieces of work.
You then need to delegate that work in a way that empowers the people to like, hopefully achieve it, 11 out of 10 and not just check the box. You have to set up a way to oversee that work. So this is the place where like people will get through the delegation piece and they won't, as part of that, aligning on the, how agree on, how am I going to stay close enough to help you, but far enough to give you space.
So that might be metrics or surveys, that might be one-on-one meetings, but just agreeing on the method for that becomes really critical. Then you'd need to have a way to deal with problems. Right? We had a thing at Bridgewater called [00:42:00] diagnosis, where we would take problems and try to get to the root cause. Not terribly dissimilar from like the Toyoda five whys. There's lots of different methods, but you need to have some language to quickly and act quickly and efficiently, get through problems and make them better and fold them back into the work. And then, the thing that I was saying, I know it's a it's trite, but you will have to eventually recruit.
And so you gotta go get new people. And then I think the other thing you need to do is coach and develop your people. Right? And so if you've got. Goals turning into expectations that are well delegated overseen, and you've got great people who you can coach and developed to get better through time and ultimately replace yourself and do that in a way with like clear intention and values and thriving community. I think you end up with a pretty good foundation for leading and then you start to put your own spin and brand kind of back to that self-awareness thing, right. Like you don't have to lead the way I lead and you probably shouldn't, but those tactics will support you. Irrespective of what that appropriate brand is.
David Elikwu: I wanted to ask about, or I wanted to talk about decision-making because you mentioned [00:43:00] the, Bridgewater framework and funnily enough, a complete coincidence. I actually kind of stole it from my course. So there's a, there's a part of my course where we talk about decision-making and I, I use part of their framework.
So maybe you could talk about using Bridgewater as an example, just the diagnosis framework that guys have there but then also, maybe you can expand on how you think about that now, in terms of as a leader or just as an individual in general, being able to make sound decisions and being able to evaluate your decisions after the fact.
David Kline: Yeah, so I felt like at Bridgewater, there were sort of two frameworks that one led to the other. Right. So Ray would often talk about the five-step process. And again, I don't, know that this is particularly profound, but like lots of it just became our language for describing the process.
Right. And so you started with a goal, you would then encounter problems trying to achieve that goal. Right? Those problems get diagnosed to understand why usually for us, why meant something about the machine, the machine being either people or process and design. And so you could change one or both, right? And you could train people, you could [00:44:00] replace people, you could upgrade, you could add more people, you could change the way they do work. You could give them technology, et cetera. So you then change that design. And then finally you execute that you run that machine and see what that factory now produces.
And usually what will happen is it will hopefully achieve something better and generate new problems that starts the process all over again. So it sort of be drawn as these loops. Yeah, so that was sort of the general kind of ongoing framework. And then within the one that was most powerful for me, like I would get often called into different groups to either run this diagnosis process or to train other people into doing it.
But it was effectively like a it's like when done, well, I think it's a guided self-reflection, right? Like you're sort of going through these six steps where you're starting with what suboptimal thing happened. Because a lot of times people like there's this huge problem. And you're like, actually, that's, not even a problem. But let's agree on what it was and the way that I have people conceptualize it as a factory. Right? Well, did the, was the quality bad? Was the cost too high or the workers striking and have low morale, then you get to like, who's responsible, like who runs that factory? and a lot of [00:45:00] times you pause here because when you're doing this with a group, people are confused and that's usually your first sign of like, oh, we don't actually know who's in charge.
We don't know who the decision maker is, or we don't know who's supposed to be doing what. Then I think the most unlocking question is when you use the phrase earlier, so that it was clear to me, you'd know.. So it's like, what does good look like? So before you even tell me, like what broken, what happened in the factory, describe the factory as it's supposed to work, because one of the problems can often be like a poorly designed factory.
So it doesn't even matter that it all got messed up. It was a bad design in the first place. So he described that. And again, you'll find a lot of people who don't know what good looks like to your point of like, they're kind of faking it. And so of course then people underneath them are making all kinds of crazy decisions.
Cause the person leading and designing is faking it. But if you imagine they have a good design and you're moving into what actually broke and you're sort of trying to pick through logic and data and using the room, what were the biggest problems? And then you're asking why until you get down to the root cause.
And for us when I train most companies, I don't necessarily try to get to like the fundamental being of the person that's not usually aligned to their culture. So you can get down to the root cause and that you want to fix. For us, it was to get to [00:46:00] what do people like, like add to that picture of the person is that, Dave not being detail oriented again or something different.
And that's where you could start to develop the patterns, I know what people were like and how, again, you could use them on the field to optimal outcomes. And then in step six would just then be going to execute all those changes, whether it's move people around, change the process, update the technology, et cetera.
David Elikwu: One thing you mentioned, which I think is super key was the idea that, and again, I'm so glad that we get to unpack this through conversation, but the idea that sometimes we judge something is broken based on the result. And so sometimes when you're saying, okay, this didn't work, what you're describing is that the result is broken. That doesn't mean that the process is broken and that plays out two ways. One is that sometimes the reason that the result is broken is because you have, you are getting the perfect result of the process that you've designed. You've designed this process in such a bad way. Unintentionally, that you are always going to get this negative outcome, [00:47:00] and this is not the outcome that you want, but it's a natural consequence of the way that you're running things.
And that could be going back to what we said about culture. It could be values. It could be the way that you lead. It could be the way that you structure your team. It could be the way that you are delegating. As a result of how you have built this machine. You are going to end up with this, type of negative result. But the other way is that sometimes I think people fall for something, I don't know if you've come across Annie Duke who wrote this great book.
David Kline: Poker player right?
David Elikwu: Yes. Yeah, exactly. She's a well-known poker player, but she talks about this idea of resulting where sometimes we use the results to judge our decision-making. And so it's this process of being able to discern. Sometimes you have a bad result and the cause is bad decision-making but sometimes those two things are completely separate. So one of the great examples she uses and I also use it in my course as well is the Seattle Seahawks the super bowl game from a few years ago. Well, quite a few years ago now, but I remember it like, it was just yesterday because [00:48:00] they were supposed to win, you're coming down to the final play. 26 seconds left on the clock, I remember exactly there on the one yard line.
Marshawn Lynch is Yeah, exactly. Standing right there. All you have to do is hand the ball off to him. You only have to go one yard and they decide to run a toss and it gets intercepted. But, everyone was including me. I was watching the game. Everyone was upset. Everyone was angry. That seemed like the worst decision in Superbowl history. But if you take a step back from the result of the decision and you look statistically, that was actually a very high value decision. The odds of an interception happening on a play like that are incredibly low. This was a one in one in a million failure. And in this event, right on any other day, you run the exact same play. Now you're a hero. Now you win because you ran the unexpected play and everything, turns out differently. People are singing your praises, they're pouring Gatorade on you. Everything works out fantastically. So I think, again, going back to what you were saying, there's this interesting paradigm when the result [00:49:00] is broken, you have to be able to go through a robust diagnosis process in order to discern, is it the case that you have designed a suboptimal factory that turns out bad decisions? Or is this an anomaly? And actually the process itself is good and the result is bad. And maybe there's something in the intervening space that you actually need to fix.
David Kline: Well, and then let me give you a third one. Maybe you'll fold it into your course. The reason that we would linger on the very first question, right? Like what is the suboptimal outcome is the third possibility is that people disagree on what the outcome should be. So like a stark example we would use when I've trained people would be a light bulb factory.
So you can imagine, someone's like, oh my gosh, like 1% of all the light bulbs break, the factory is a disaster. Everyone should be fired. I can't believe we're doing this. And in reality, if you built a light bulb factory to have zero defects, you'd then have to sell your light bulbs [00:50:00] for like a hundred dollars, a light bulb instead of $5.
And so you allow that you've designed the factory for the breakage. So that you could build something cost efficient and by starting up here you draw out that actually the thing that people think is a disaster is a disagreement on what a good light bulb factor should even do.
And so by you can sort of then realize you don't have all these other, like you said, cascading disasters through the factory. You just have a disagreement on that. And, and oftentimes just resolving it there. You're like, wait a half an hour conversation, just turn into a three minute one, or that person is making a great point.
And now we're back to changing the goal, right? Oh, the goal isn't 1% breakage. It is 0% breakage. The world has moved away from us it's halogen now and it's like super dangerous in some way to have them breaking or something to slaughter the analogy. But that idea of, great now we're revisiting that. Now we can, can do, almost do like a pre diagnosis to say like, whoa, what do we think is going to break? We're going to change the goal. Forward-looking instead of doing it backwards looking as he kind of use the same framework.
David Elikwu: Sure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense that's a great addition, [00:51:00] I think, and it's really important to, think about as well. This whole area of decision making, I love, and I find it really interesting you can go into cognitive biases, you can go in a lot of different directions, but I think ultimately this is one of actually at least in my mind, one of the most crucial points, because going back to what we said before, there's a theory and then there's the practice. And very often as a leader or as someone within an organization that has responsibility. It's the ability to make the right decision at the right time. That makes the difference because it's all well and good that you know the leadership handbook and you know what you're supposed to do and you know that you should delegate in this way. And you know the exact way that you're supposed to give feedback to someone. But in reality, I was thinking about this earlier because I had an incident with someone that reports to me that works full-time for me and I, they made a mistake and I kind of just snapped at them and I know that that's not constructive feedback. It's not like, this is not how I would normally give this type of feedback, is this feedback that I'm giving really what is going to help them the most. And if [00:52:00] I had all the time in the world to sit down and think about it, I probably would have taken a very different approach and being very consultative and we could have done a whole different process, but in the moment you act in one particular way.
And so I think the key is, one thinking in advance about how you want to act, and then also having the ability to take a step back afterwards and diagnose what you've just done and what you've just said and reprocessing it and thinking about how you can change that and how you can make it better or do it differently next time.
David Kline: So what'd you come up with when you diagnosed that?
David Elikwu: I think I need to go back. No, no, no. We should have another, funnily enough, very much in line with what you were just saying. And I love the idea of even what you were saying earlier. It was making me think about the idea of like co-writing values and co-writing expectations and being able to set those things together.
And also what that tied to what I was thinking earlier is just the idea of having this consultative, asking more questions the other way, because I think very often something that happens frequently through the day is someone will say something and then someone will come to me and say, oh, what should we say? What should we do? What's the [00:53:00] answer? And very often, because it can seem quicker to me in the moment. Each of those times, just as give the answer, like, let me focus on this. Okay, here's the answer, go do that. But that doesn't help them to grow and that doesn't help them to think. And even though it might take more time upfront. I think Rory Vaden, I can't remember the exact analogy he uses, but one of the things he talks about is the compounding effect of being able to delegate effectively where this might only take me, let's say two minutes to give the right answer every time. And I just give it to them. But when you add up all of those two minutes compared to if it took me 20 minutes, the very first time to help them learn, to make that decision for themselves, then it's done. And now the rest of that time, I'm able to reap the compounding benefit instead of having to pay this cost. It's almost like a toll gate now where I have to pay this cost every single time this issue comes up.
David Kline: Yeah, exactly. It's such a good, I was almost trying to like, what's the picture you could draw on a really get people to see that like the payback rate on delegating [00:54:00] well, it's much higher than, you think like it happens a lot faster even though in that moment you're like, I could do this in two minutes. Why am I gonna invest a half an hour? And sometimes it's worse. Sometimes it's much more than that, like those are the easier trivial ones when you're delegating like whole jobs, you could invest months and you have all these lingering fears in the back of your mind about what if the person leaves or what if they can't do it, or, and then you just rationalize right yourself, right back into doing it again.
And you never quite get out of that cycle. So it's resonates a lot.
David Elikwu: I want to respect your time. I will ask probably one or two final questions. There's one that I do want to get off my chest. Just the idea of feedback. And I think, again, there's two sides of this one, which goes back to what you were saying earlier. I think it's both giving and getting feedback. And when you were talking about even just the feedback on your course, this is what made me think of the question earlier.
Because I remember Seth Godin as an example, it talks about this idea of ratings, like book ratings, and he doesn't read the five stars. Doesn't read the one stars. Because in his mind, they're both wrong and he wants to read the three and four stars every time, because if it's a one-star, then it wasn't for them.[00:55:00]
And I don't know if that always applies in leadership. Sometimes it's a one-star cause you're really bad. But I think it's an interesting paradigm. Because sometimes both the one stars and the five stars can be misleading because there might be kind of going back to what we were just saying. Some fundamental understanding or misunderstanding about the objective. There's a misalignment that has created such a disparate outcome or a complete alignment in the case of a five, but really it's often in the, the twos, the threes or fours that you're getting the nuance, because clearly there is something that wasn't pushing them all the way, one way or the other. And there was something that they get, but there's something that they don't get. And I think there's, there's a lot of color there. So I'm interested in your perspective, one as a leader in terms of receiving feedback and how you respond to different types of feedback. But then also the flip side of that is being able to give effective feedback as well.
David Kline: So let's take those in two parts. I think as the leader, the short version looks a lot, like say thank you no matter what, right. If [00:56:00] you create feedback when you want it to come in, because you think it's going to fuel you to be a better leader you have to show gratitude for anyone, brave enough to give it so good or bad you praise it.
And honestly you try not to debate. It's fine, a lot of times people are giving feedback and it says as much about them as it does about you. They are bringing all of their unique mindsets and abilities and values to that point of view. And that's okay, like it's just data. Like one of the advantages to sort of get uncomfortable at Bridgewater is we would get thousands of feedback, observations, positive and negative every year. And so you can sort of sit above it, just be like, it's a data. No real data point matters that much. Now the trends matter, right. And so when I'm going back to being the leader of receiving feedback, the thing that I would say is like, I wouldn't debate it, but I would sort of put it in context of like, oh, that matches this thing I know about myself or, oh, that's new and unique information for me. And then I would be clear about what I'm going to do with it. Right? Like, am I going to go change? Like, don't sign up for changing if you're not going to change. Cause that will be noticed in that will be your next piece of feedback. And so it's really fine to say, like, I really appreciate you sharing without me. Like, I'm [00:57:00] grateful, and I need to think about what to do with that.
And then at some point you sorta want to close the loop and I think it's fine to say, like I really heard you, but here's how I think about it. And I'm going to continue to do things the way I'm describing or the way that I think is effective for me and here's why and in any of that, you're just having a conversation, right? You're just, I think you want to move away from the bit being as robotic as possible. Just being like two humans on the team, someone's a player coach. And you're trying to get the best possible outcome and hopefully you're all mission aligned and values align.
And so therefore it's just like part of colleagues getting the most from each other. So that's in terms of receiving it, I would keep it pretty simple in that way. But don't let it, like, don't push back. Like, don't try to say they're wrong. Don't try to like rationalise all of it. And then don't over promise.
In the same way that they wouldn't want to be expected to change every time someone said something like they shouldn't expect that of you either. And then , when I'm coaching people on giving feedback, you're pulling on kind of the one through fives. It's actually honestly what I hadn't thought a lot about of like, do you spend more time?
Because even if you're picking, I would think usually if you're going to [00:58:00] identify something that was like, ma like a three, right. oh, you did this work and it was fine, not great. You usually end up pulling it apart into the aspect of that, made it the five. Cause you want to like be highlighting and emphasising getting them to do more of that and try to pull apart the part that's the one that held it back that they mailed in that they skipped or whatever else.
And so you sort of end up on the bookends anyways, and that ends up being the key point, which is you want to be balanced right. I think, I had heard that even Ray had sort of shared this reflection of like one thing that he wished he could change a little bit more on the operating system was it was to weakness focused and not strength focused enough, or not at least balancing the two. And so we had a lot of people investing a lot of their effort to kind of take the thing that they were bad at and make it good. And my reflection is that like, that's a big waste of time. Like you sort of want to take your weaknesses and you want to move them from being liabilities, to being unnoticed and all the rest of your energy. And they do that like the cheapest way possible, It's like, whatever that is, don't overinvest and take all your other energy and take the thing that makes you special. And like [00:59:00] triple down on that, like, just turn yourself into like the spikiest snowflake in that set of dimensions.
And in order to lead people like that. You want to at least be balanced if you're erring on one side on the other erring on the positive side, not the negative side. And the other thing you need to do is be consistent. Like, even if you have the best of intentions, if you're sort of inconsistent, if you just like swoop in and give feedback when you're ticked off and then they don't hear any feedback for three months, then you swoop back in at random intervals.
It triggers a part of your brain that just shuts down. Like you're just in fight or flight mode and you're not listening versus if it's just every week, like we're reviewing the work. And I'm saying like, yeah David, you crushed this. And this was excellent. You were super creative here. And I love the analytical point you made on this.
And then at the same time, I really wish you could have like been more pithy and the presentation of it over here, but and it's just like a weekly cadence and it's just what we do then you're just like, you're an elite team. Like that's what the seals do. That's what the blue angels do.
That's what like sports teams do. That's elite teams just get comfortable giving each other the goods and the bads. And I think you can get there. [01:00:00] So that's more, it's like consistency and balance would be the two things. If you want to know good feedback.
David Elikwu: I love that. I think you shared so many nuggets there, one I'm definitely taking away is that very last one. And I genuinely mean I'm taking it away. I'm going to start implementing that with my team, even my, the team that works for me on some of my general stuff, I was even thinking about, sometimes I can be that hawk that just sweeps in occasionally, because I think the issue is I want to default to trust and I want to just be able to say here, this is the thing, do it.
I trust that you're going to do it. A lot of the time, I'm not necessarily going to check that it's perfect until it's the time that I need to use it and I need to rely on it. And now I'm like, okay, has it been done? Is it good? is it not good? And I think part of the issue with that is that then, and maybe I bring it on myself, is that now suddenly there are consequences for not being good. And so if I had taken a more iterative and consultative approach where I could have stepped in earlier and said, okay, it's not quite there. There's no pressure now because we don't need to rely on it, but here make this tweak. And by the time [01:01:00] we do need it, it's going to be fantastic. It's going to be good to go.
Whereas I think I've probably gone far too much to the other side where I want to give people trust and I want to give people time and I don't tell people exactly how here are the different things that you need to do, figure out your schedule and you prioritize how you want to do it.
And when you want to do it, and as long as it's done, when I need it, this is my typical approach. As long as it's done, when I need it, it's all good. I don't want to micromanage people. But I think the downside of that is that sometimes you have to deal with the consequences of things not coming out right, and then there are bigger consequences. And then as a leader, you are then almost giving feedback when it's potentially too late or your feedback comes across much harder than it might have needed to be because you're dealing with the breakage.
David Kline: I'll give you one more tip on the way out. The one thing you can do is flip it to them so one thing that I find sometimes is have them self evaluate first, sort of that point of like, they did this work for you. You haven't checked it yet and just say like, give me your sense. Like 1 to 10, how good is it? and Where do you think it went great? Where do I think it went badly?[01:02:00] And you'd be shocked the number of times they actually, if you've just paused them to think about that for a second, they actually know the answer or you learn that they had a very different picture back to our aligned how concept they had a very different picture of what either, how you wanted them to do it or what you wanted them to do. And by forcing them to sort of self-evaluate, they've revealed to you what they thought good looked like, and you very quickly can hone in on where things were divergent. So plus you get more leverage that way.
David Elikwu: That is beautiful. Obviously I was expecting to learn a lot and have the audience learn a lot from this podcast, but those are some really good things that I'm genuinely going to take for myself as well.
David Kline: Awesome. So glad I enjoyed this, this is great.
David Elikwu: Yeah, thanks so much for spending the time Dave. I really appreciate it. It was great having you on.
David Kline: Absolutely. Well, let's do it again sometime.
David Elikwu: Absolutely.
Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time[01:03:00]