Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Jack Finnell: Author | CEO at Growth Accelerators - Episode 1017

Howard Fox:                  Hello everybody, this is Howard Fox. The co-host along with my partner, Randy Ford of the SuccessInSight podcast. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing I hope your having a phenomenal day. I'm very excited today to introduce you to a gentleman, he is the president and CEO of Growth accelerators. And is the newly published author of, Do You Want To Be a Leader Or A Manager? If You Can Do one, You Can Do Both. I would like to introduce you to Jack Finnell.

Jack, welcome to the success insight podcast.

Jack Finnell:                  Thank you Howard, pleased to be here. 

Howard Fox:                  So Jack, as I was doing the research for the show today and I was looking at your experience, I mean, you have been involved and a part of both manager and leading some major logos. And so I think it's safe to say you've been around the block a few times when it comes to leading and managing.

Jack Finnell:                   Yes, I have and I've learned a lot over the years of what works and what doesn't in the real world.

Howard Fox:                  And I'm curious, you've written this new book, Do You Want To Be A Leader Or A Manger? If You Can Do One You Can Do Both. What was the impetus around producing this book?

Jack Finnell:                   After college and a couple years, three years in the US Navy, I had a successful career at Xerox for 13 years. When I was with Xerox, I was the number one branch manager out of 86 in the US, twice. Once in Alaska with 110 full-time employees, sales, service, and finance. And then once in LA South with 330, and trust me, I am not the smartest manager on the planet. And not the most inspirational leaders, but I had to ask myself, somethings going on for this to have happened twice. And then I realized what it was Howard, all along I've been identifying, cataloging, and mastering certain activities, techniques, and behaviors that work in the real world to do two things. One spike the numbers, number two curtail employee turnover.

                                       And I've been passing these on to the folks who report to me over the years. And after I retired the second time, I started doing a pro bono management consultancy for existing managers and for management candidates in any industry, any discipline. Passing these tidbits on, I mean nobody ever charged me for it, they didn't charge me for it in the Navy. I might have been having my ass shot a couple of times on the rivers, but at least they were paying me. Same with Xerox, started a couple of companies on my own, and they turned out very well. My partner and I built them up, publicly-traded corporations.

                                       So I just feel an obligation to pass this stuff on, about 30% of what's in my course and what's in the book came out of my head. And easily 70% came from other men and women with whom I've worked over the years. But I field-tested all of it, and I have stories to show why these techniques and behaviors work. And what's kind of cool about it, you can't tell yourself that gee, I may be a natural leader but I don't know if I'll ever be any good at management or vice versa. Hey, I'm really good at management, I'm organized, put attention to detail, always on time, but I'm not going to be six foot four and a rock guitarist. That's true.

                                       However, we can transfer motivational techniques so that if you're already a good manager you're going to be able to advance your followership as a leader. And if you're already a natural leader and we all know this, that a lot of times natural leaders can inspire us, but not so hot at follow-through. Which can hurt us doubly because they got our hopes up so high. But not despair, there are techniques, there are forms, there are administrative structures I can give you, organizational tips. Again, I didn't invent all these, believe me, that work, and I've tested these things. And that's what I'm anxious to pass on. And that's what the book does in a very simple fashion.

Howard Fox:                  Share if you can the framework of the book, and as you do that, one of the things that's in the back of my mind is, I've always grown-up sort of speak in my world there's a distinction between leaders and managers. And leaders know what the right things to do are, the leaders do what they're supposed to do. Some shape or fashion of that metaphor. But what you're saying is they can kind of play a good leader can be also the manager and a good manager can also learn to lead. And so in the book the framework, what are some of the major talking points that really, the reader of the book that you really want them to get out of this?

Jack Finnell:                   I want somebody who is naturally good at management, and feels kind of nerdy and is not willing to believe in his leadership ability, I want to give him certain activities and techniques that he can master. For example, I want to teach him how to do an effective team meeting, the weekly team meeting that he does with his 12 employees that he or she does once a week. I want it to be more useful to the participants, and I want it to be more exciting. So for example, I will ask how do you open and close in show biz? You're going to a Rolling Stones concert, they're not going to open up with Angie, right. Kind of cool song, no they're going to open up with Satisfaction, or something that we've all heard of that gets us on our feet.

Howard Fox:                  Get them all riled up.

Jack Finnell:                   You got it. And that's how they're going to end as well. Now, the best way in any business meeting is to open and close with recognition. Everybody likes recognition, not just the woman or the man being recognized, but we all do, okay. And absolutely you close with recognition, and if there isn't enough to go around, definitely close with recognition and then you open perhaps with humor. I'm not a great stand-up comedian and so I would always get a New Yorker cartoon and start off and pass it around. And even when they sucked people would laugh at how terrible they were. But it got us off, it loosened them up. And then you always have an agenda, so the people feel confident that the meeting will be over at some point. And they get a chance to know, the attendees, whether their topic of interest at the moment is going to be covered.

                                       And they might ask the boss they say, "Hey Howard, are you going to be covering this?" And then Howard can say, "Yeah Jack that's going to be in there. Or no Jack, but hey why don't you and I meet afterward."  All right so Jack is satisfied, the meeting proceeds. And then it's also one of the tips I've learned over the years, to the extent that you can have the meeting participants participate, they'll love it. Other people you can have from time to time in your meeting, would be internal or external clients. Also the boss, you're boss, not too often but maybe once a quarter something like that. HR can be valuable because the laws are changing. You just want to make sure that when the meeting is over everybody leaves and says, "Oh I've got something useful out of that, that was a dam good meeting. Thanks to Howard for doing that, and I also had a good time." So that's something anybody can do who says I want to expand my leadership capability, they can start to advance the quality and the fun of their meetings. So that's one example.

Howard Fox:                  I'm curious, you led off your response with, if I can help, for example, the tech nerd. These are individuals from a behavioral perspective, probably very introverted, very detail-oriented, not used to being the center of attention or conversation. Is there more of a challenge or how much more of a challenge is there for that kind of individual who has a management responsibility versus someone who is more say extroverted and used to getting things done, including others in that process? Is there a difference in how you would work with them to achieve that?

Jack Finnell:                  Yeah, and by the way a lot of the natural leaders get up and wing it, and their meetings aren't so useful. So they need some input too, but back to the nerd who might be in charge of an engineering unit or an IT. And I've got a lot of friends like that, you probably do too, we all admire them because they're so bright and they often have a good sense of humor. Toastmasters is a wonderful thing for them to do because it forces a change of behavior, and then the attitude follows, as opposed to the other way around. So without ... I mean next to Alcoholics Anonymous, I think it's the most successful program around. And if you work for a very large company they will have perhaps a Toastmasters group that meets every Monday at noon. Otherwise, you just Google it and you'll find where meetings are in your neighborhood. It's one of those things Howard where the more you do it the better you get.

                                       Again, force a change in behavior and the attitude follows. So, I have ... in fact the way I got onto that one was I had a couple of friends, IT friends of mine who said, gosh you have no idea what fun it’s for me man. I know I only have a team of eight, but I'm so much better when I stand up in front of them, I just feel more natural because I've done it so many times now. So there are other things that people can do if they're naturally good at management to advance the quality of the meeting and make it more exciting and relevant. And if you're a natural leader you've got to make sure that you are sensitive to the benefits that are being delivered to the people. You may be the prettiest woman in the world and lots of fun and quick-witted, but if your people aren't leaving with something tangible, it gets old. S,o do management and leadership overlap? They most certainly do.

Howard Fox:                  With the managers or the individuals who are on the path to becoming a manager, they start at different levels depending on their experience. Part of the management track is also to get mentored or there could be group coaching or there could be mentored by the leader himself or herself for that manager or group of managers. Is that what's covered in your book? Or is that a topic for the book that we want to discuss?

Jack Finnell:                   No, it's a wise question that you brought up. One of the things I teach them is to make sure they get the most out of their peers. And if they're in the same discipline, that can be helpful, but at lunch, after work what have you make sure you're always learning from your peers. If they're in first-line management, then you're talking about the same kind of challenges. Then make sure that you have a good open relationship with your boss and that you're learning from her or from him. And at some point, once you develop a very good trusting relationship with your boss, you shouldn't be afraid to ask your boss if you can then have lunch or coffee sometime with her boss.

                                        And a lot of people say, oh my god does that sound like a kiss-ass thing to do. It isn't if you phrase it this way. Howard, you know I've learned a lot from you and I'm going to continue learning from you. I love it and want to ask your permission, would it be okay if I sometimes spend an hour with your boss Olivia because she's been around, she's sharp. And on the one hand, I don't want to be a kiss ass, but I don't want to be a wuss either and miss the opportunity to learn something from her.  But of course, I wouldn't do it unless you say it's okay. And if you do then I'll go to her admin and ask and say that you said it was cool.

                                       Take it from me, Howard, having been a CEO a couple of times, having been a high ranked corporate manager, that because of the fear of being a kiss ass, which I kind of respect. People don't ask the higher-up leaders for advice, and it's a shame. And I know that from personal experience, and I understand why they didn't want to be kiss-asses. And so it's a shame, because also people at those levels have good healthy egos, and they're more than willing to share some of their insight.

Howard Fox:                  Most definitely. You know we've spent a fair amount of time talking about the manager, and no doubt within the book there's a lot of pieces of advice, hints, some techniques, and activities to develop management. If we could shift a little bit to the leadership side of the equation. We're not all born natural leaders, some of us are, and some of us we could be born it but we've never really learned a technique to lead. What's your advice for developing more effective leadership skills? Especially in a society where everything that's happening so fast, and there are greater calls for this transparency. What should these leaders be doing to lead more effectively?

Jack Finnell:                  Are you talking about the Manger who wants to become more of a leader?

Howard Fox:                 Well, let's talk about-

Jack Finnell:                  Or the leader who wants to be more of a leader?

Howard Fox:                 The leader who wants to ... I mean because we can get a leadership position but we might not be prepared for it, so we have to learn how to lead.

Jack Finnell:                  Well, one of the things you want to do is remember this, the people reporting to you and me, they care about the same thing that you can I are about when we're assessing our leaders. When you cut through all the BS, we all care about one thing when sizing up our leader. Does he help me or does he hurt me? Think about it. Now leadership is very important, but at the end of the day, does he help me or does he hurt me? And so we have to keep thinking about what are we doing especially after we've hired brilliant people, what are we doing to lead them to their optimum performance? And if we've hired extremely self-motivated people which is very important to do, then our job as leaders is to clear out the obstacles. Clear out any demotivating factors. The first rule of management and leadership is to get the right people. Which means hire well and fire well, the second item is support them which is obvious if you've hired these self-motivated people, then gosh it's your obligation to clear out the demotivating factors.

                                       So that's the larger view, you want to make sure that you think about each of your direct reports every day. And that sounds obvious, but it's easy to miss some of the folks. You're always going to be thinking about the top people because they're asking you for support constantly, they have so much activity going. At the bottom, you're going to be thinking of people who are new because they need a lot of your attention to get off to the right start. And the ones who aren't performing you've got to give them a shot or take them out. But a lot of the really solid rocks in the middle, it's easy to overlook them.

                                       So I developed a format that lets people, managers and leaders think about or interact with each person daily. And it's a form that has over on the right-hand side the most important item that you need to talk to so and so about this week. And then you can put it on a spreadsheet and you mark it if you've spoken to the person or interacted physically or email. And then other times, you just have to think about them. In other words, that doesn't mean I have to interact with you every single day, which can be micromanagement. But I've got to think about you, when four days go by and I say, huh I haven't even sent an email to Howard. I wonder how he's doing, I better check-in and say, hey pal everything cool? That's enough, Howard knows I'm thinking about him.

                                       So that's something tangible we can do to advance our leadership profile. And then there's the aspect of managing them one on one, versus just in a group format. I remember when I was coming up fast on the West coast at Xerox in management, I had a buddy on East coast name Steve. He was coming up fast too, and we would trade secrets. And I remember when he told me about the time he took over his first sales management team. And he said, "Jack I didn't have the confidence to stand up in front of all of them and say, all right I'm Steve let's go." But he said, "I knew I could handle anybody one on one. So that's what I did, over the course of a week and a half I met with every guy or gal on the team. And I found something tangible I could do to make their life better." And he said, about four days into it, the word started to spread, hey this Steve is a pretty cool guy. He said and then two weeks later when I did stand up in front of them and say, hey everybody I'm Steve, let's go. He said they were cheering and ready to roll. So I kind of built it up one by one, and he said, "I've continued to manage that way even after I know them and feel a little more secure. And it's really done wonders for me."

Howard Fox:                  I love this idea of visiting or thinking about your staff daily and finding some way to interact. And this latter example with the leader not perhaps being as comfortable standing up in the group. But starting off and kind of leading into a little bit of fear perhaps of doing that one on one. So they can become more comfortable in a group. In the time we have left, the book I know has got a lot of pearls of wisdom here. And are there a couple of others that you would like to highlight today? Because I mean, I definitely think the book is ... there's a lot there to have it all done in a conversation in 20 minutes.

Jack Finnell:                   Well here's one that I find fun anyhow.

Howard Fox:                  Sure.

Jack Finnell:                   When I was branch manager in Alaska, I don't know if you can see behind my head, but that's a bunch of Alaskan water buffalo up there. Twice a year as the branch manager I was responsible for communicating to the 110 people, sales, technical service, and finance, what the cost of living allowance would be. It cost more to live up there, on average about 40%. If you're going up there from Mississippi you need every dime, if you're going up there from Southern California or Chicago you need less but you still need some.

                                        So it was my job to announce twice a year what the COLA would be. And generally it would back then, it was going up a half a point or two points every single time. Well, there was this one time during my two-year stint that it was going to be flat. Now that wasn't going to be the end of the world, but that's pretty negative news, particularly ... I don't know if you've ever been to Alaska, in the winter it can be very depressing.  The suicide rate goes up, the murder rate goes up. Tech reps want to unionize, sales reps don't want to sell.

                                       Anyhow, I had to communicate, I got the message on a Tuesday that I would have to tell the branch. On a Friday I'm sitting in my office saying, oh hell and then I look out the door and I see this friend of mine a guy named Fritz. I said, "Hey Fritz come on in, hey man how you doing? I heard you got a new dog have you taken him hunting yet? Listen, don't tell a soul but the damn COLA is going to be flat and I've got to tell the whole branch Friday. Well good to see you man." Well, of course, I knew my boy Fritz, he went out and blabbed it.

Howard Fox:                  Of course.

Jack Finnell:                   By the time Friday rolled around everybody knew, and it was yeah dam it what do those economists know? But anyhow because I had leaked it, it had been discounted. Kind of like the fed chairman saying that they were going to buy more bonds so the interest rate goes up, they sneak it out. And so the economy doesn't go crazy, the stock market doesn't crash. The same thing if you have the time, now if somethings going to really happen then you better communicate it instantly, go ahead. And on the opposite end of the line if you have good news to communicate you don't tell a soul. You get everybody in the room and you tell them all at once, and then emotions just explode.

                                        A quick example, back to Alaska again, found out that for the fourth quarter any salesperson in the US who was 125% of quota was going to get a $10,000 bonus, pretty big deal. So I got them all in the room, I brought them in from Juno and Fairbanks and did a half-day training session on a new product. And at the end, I said, "Oh, by the way, anybody who achieves 125% of plan in the fourth quarter which starts on Monday gets a $10,000 bonus." And they're cheering and screaming and it's echoing off the walls, and it was a bigger deal.

                                       So if you have time I've got to tell you how a friend of mine, Laura Russell was her name. She was a sales manager with the first company I started, Ameritech Communications. And I told her this years ago, and she ended up applying it to the raising of her two sons. And they've both graduated from college now, but at the time they were little boys. And if she and her husband had told them that they were going to Disneyland this coming Saturday, and it turned out that he was going to be stuck in Milwaukee on business. She would tell one of them on Tuesday, "Scotty, looking a little shaky for Disneyland because daddy's going to be away on business I think. Anyhow be a good boy in school, love you." And of course, Scott would tell Matt, and they're sitting around having dinner Friday night and then she says, "Boys listen, yeah, yeah we know no Disneyland."

                                       Other times she and her husband obviously would plan this in advance. They would be sitting there eating their bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning and she'd go, "I know, let's go to Disneyland right now." Well, you needed earplugs to block the sound of the kids screaming. So there are a lot of personal stories about how leadership and management and communication deals can come together.

Howard Fox:                  Most definitely. And I think, the book, it sounds like it's just got a lot of insights as we like to say on the show and golden nuggets to be gleaned from it. Because everybody needs something different, they're all ... whether you're a manager or leader, everybody's in a different place. One last question and I'm curious about is in our environment today, there's so much ... rapid change of innovation. Exchanging of information, we get comfortable and then we get ... then there's discomfort. How do you ... what is one technique that given your years of experience, you would look back and tell a new manager, a new leader that they can use to essentially stay centered? You know really things change but you've got to keep your eye on the ball, take care of your team, stay centered. What type of technique or pearl of wisdom would you provide to those individuals?

Jack Finnell:                   This is somewhat mundane, but every Friday night or even better, Saturday or Sunday, you should go into the office and make sure you're set to lead on Monday. That something isn't going to rock you back on your heels. You need to ... if something is coming from your boss or from headquarters, either regional or national or somethings happening in the market place. You've addressed it, and if there's anything you can do on the spot to respond go ahead and do it. But come Monday, it's your job to be leading and you want to be the person providing guidance and enthusiasm to the group. So either Friday night, Saturday or Sunday, get ahead of the game, go into the office figure it out.

Howard Fox:                  I think that qualifies almost as an Insight2Go. I mean I think that's extremely profound, we'll offer you another one in a second. Jack if our listeners would like to learn more about you and your work, what's the best way to get to know you?

Jack Finnell:                   Well you know, I'm coming out with this book.

Howard Fox:                  Of course.

Jack Finnell:                   In fact, it's out now, or what I do here in Southern California is I do pro bono leadership and management development work. I'll meet with somebody for 90 minutes once a week, generally four to six sessions. They have a couple of submissions including a one or two-page business plan focused on a single objective. And the best way to reach me for that would be my email address, which his jack@growthaccelerators.com

Howard Fox:                  Excellent, so jack@growthaccelorators.com. We're also going to provide a link in the transcript to Amazon where your book is located. And so very excited, congratulations I imagine authoring a book is like ... I equate to having a baby. I don't know what you would attribute it to.

Jack Finnell:                   You know something, that's a good insight. I did it so that my daughter and my two grandchildren will remember me. So, it is like having a baby, right?

Howard Fox:                  Well that's the perfect legacy, I mean it's no small feat, and certainly congratulations. And in this day and age, we need wisdom from folks who have been there and done it, led, managed, and created and you've done that all. So folks, go out to Amazon we'll put the link on the transcript, by Jack Finnell, " Do You Want to be a Leader or a Manager? If you can do one you can do both. Jack thank you for spending time with us on the SuccessInSight podcast. I will ask one last time, just in case, is there any other pearl of wisdom or insight to go you'd like to leave our listeners with?

Jack Finnell:                   Yes, I would recommend a book that was written a few years back that's been my most useful business book. And it's called, Analyzing Performance Problems. And the two authors, they're last names are, M-A-G-E-R, and Pipe as in smoking a pipe. And what it does, is it helps you decide whether you should fire somebody or not. Sometimes it's obvious, I'm not talking about sexual harassment or embezzlement. I'm talking about this isn't the right fit and it's about time everybody admitted it and got rid of so and so. But you want to make sure that you're not acting emotionally, and you want to be able to justify to HR and to your boss. What this book provides it's a series of decision trees that make it very logical and honorable.  My favorite question is, would he do it if his life depended on it?

Howard Fox:                  Right.

Jack Finnell:                   If the answer is, well no, then find him another job in your company or put him in on the street. And there are other questions too, and it's not a very long book but a lot of HR pros have heard of it too. And it's really a fine book, it's good for you, the manager, and it lets you cover yourself honorably if that's the decision that needs to be made. And remember, that if you've got a lot of hot shots on your team, those men and women don't like working with people who aren't into it and doing their best. You owe it to them, honor them by having successful hard-working teammates at their side.

Howard Fox:                  Most definitely, and thank you for that. Folks Analyzing Performance Problems by Mager and Pipe. Jack hang on for just a second while we sign off. There you have it folks, Jack Finnell, CEO at Growth Accelerators.  For my cohost Randy Ford, this is Howard Fox on the SuccessInSight podcast. Remember wherever you are whatever you're doing, go out there and have a phenomenal day. We'll see you next time. 


Jack Finnell is the CEO at Growth Accelerators and the author of the book, DO YOU WANT TO BE A LEADER OR A MANAGER?: IF YOU CAN DO ONE, YOU CAN DO BOTHJack invites you to read his book and leave a review. 

To also learn more about his work, Jack invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jackfinnell/


Click Here to Purchase Jack's Book on Amazon

Click Here to Purchase Mager & Pipe's Book on Amazon

The SuccessInSight Podcast is a production of Fox Coaching, Inc. and First Story Strategies.

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