A Successful Leader’s Growth Mindset with Louis Efron and The Need For Soft Skills with Me’chelle McKenney

Behind every achievement is a purpose. That is what writer, speaker, and Fortune 200 HR executive Louis Efron believes and helps people look for. Talking about how he transitioned from theater to the corporate world, he shows how he brought over his love for moving people into HR. He discusses the secret to leadership and how to measure a successful leader, giving three things that these people must possess. Louis also touched on the importance of the growth mindset and being able to immerse and learn about the environment you are in while giving us some taste of the contents of his books.


Adding more wisdom on leadership is Me’chelle McKenney. She is an entrepreneur, certified leadership speaker, trainer, author, business coach, and owner of 3rd Degree Solutions. Discussing the different generations present in the workplace today, Me’chelle gives some leadership strategies for businesses to empower their people amidst their differences. She covers the need to improve people’s soft skills as well as for companies to be more dynamic, rounding it up with the mission of consultants to reach and teach more schools about it.

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies

I’m so glad you joined us because we have Louis Efron and Me’chelle McKenney. Louis is a writer, a speaker, and a Fortune 200 HR executive. He is very much into finding your purpose. He’s a very interesting guy. He writes for Forbes and Huffington Post. Me’chelle is an entrepreneur, certified leadership speaker, trainer, author and business coach. She is also involved in helping people become better at leading and a success expert. Between Louis and Me’chelle, we’re going to have a great show.

Listen to the podcast here

A Successful Leader’s Growth Mindset with Louis Efron

I am here with Louis Efron, who is a globally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer and Fortune 200 HR executive. He’s the author of four books. He’s a contributing writer to Forbes and Huffington Post. He is a lot of things, so this is going to be interesting. Welcome. It’s so nice to have you here, Louis.

Thank you for having me here. I appreciate it.

This is going to be very interesting because I was told about you through a good friend of mine, Dr. Katie Thiry at the Forbes School of Business. She had a glowing recommendation for you and I can see why. I was looking at your bio, you do everything from being the Head of Global Engagement for Tesla to writing children’s books. How do you find time to do so many things?

It’s a very strategic time management. I have two little girls in my life too, my ten-year-old and my five-year-old little girl. Between all that dynamic, it’s becoming more challenging in life as they get a little older. I work sometimes very late at night or very early in the mornings to make it all work. So far, I cross my fingers, it’s been coming together nicely.

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
Purpose Meets Execution: How Winning Organizations Accelerate Engagement and Drive Profits

I watched your video, Who the Heck is Louis Efron? and I love that. You look like you’re a fun guy on your website. I love the little icon of your smiley face with your curly hair. You’ve got a great website. I check out a lot of websites and yours stands out as fun and I liked that. I know that Katie told me she bought your book for everybody in her group because she liked it so much. You’ve written several books. The book she mentioned was Purpose Meets Execution. You’re the author of four books. You were an expert in the area of HR, which I found interesting because I went to a WorkHuman Event and it was very noticeable how many women were in HR as compared to men. I’m curious what led you to be interested in HR over other areas?

I have a bizarre, colorful background that got me into HR. My undergraduate is in Theatrical Directing. I started my career in New York City managing Broadway shows and producing and directing Off-Broadway. I’ve always been connected my entire life to the idea of trying to move people in a positive direction emotionally and intellectually. Theater was a way for me to do that and emotionally touch large groups of people and audiences. After working in the arts for about eight years and struggling to pay my rent because theater is a very challenging labor of love, it’s an amazing place to work but I don’t make a lot of money doing it. I decided I wanted to make a transition into the corporate arena to make more money and eventually have a family and buy a home.

I was looking around for what my connection from the arts would be over in the corporate arena and where I’m going to connect my passion for people and connecting to people. It turned out HR was that perfect space because I had tons of labor relations experience in theater, if you know anything about it, which you probably do, there are a million unions connected to anything you do in theater. I was doing a lot of negotiating with unions. My last three years in the arts, I was representing actors and Actors’ Equity, which is a union for all theatrical actors. Within that union, my position was organized by the teamsters. I was a card-carrying teamster within an actor’s union, as bizarre as that may sound. I had tons of labor relations experience. I thought it might crossover with the labor relations and it would be a people-driven career and that’s how it happened. I ended up joining strikers, labor relations specialist and my career took off from that in HR.

Your background as far as your studies, you went to Cornell in New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations and you ended up with JD too. Where did that fit in?

It was funny because it was Non-bar JD Program that I did while I was working at Actors’ Equity for the three years. It was a distance program and I did it intentionally to make my transitioning because my undergraduate at that time was theatrical directing. I’ve got my work certificate over in Cornell around labor relations, which helps support that while I was working at the union. I figured it would be to have a connection to the law around labor relations work would be very helpful with my transition to corporate.

I graduated in that program right before I had gotten my role at Stryker. I was being right in that window of time, but it was all designed to help support that transition. I knew from only having a Theatrical Directing degree at the time, it would be probably difficult for a corporate employee to see the crossover. That helped me get a little bit of an edge into the market. I had to sell myself pretty heavily when I interviewed that I could make the transition from managing actors and theater to corporate arena and it worked luckily.

That’s an interesting background. You must know so many things that are important to the HR arena because I know a lot of friends who have gone through the JD programs and they’ve not used it to become a lawyer. They’ve done other things with it. It’s so helpful. You focus on some areas that interest me. I research curiosity and the impact on engagement and some of the things that are so important for leaders to know and you do a lot of discussion about personally measuring leadership and the secret to leadership and that type of thing. I wanted to get your perspective on what you think is the secret to great leadership and how do you even measure if they’re a successful leader?

One thing I’ve always loved in my life is leadership in general and I had been very blessed to have a lot of great leaders in my life, my father and my grandparents and also many corporate leaders throughout my career. The consistent theme I’ve seen as I’ve watched these leaders in action and paid attention is that they all have a very clear purpose and vision. Everyone I’ve worked with that has inspired me and driven teams, the great success, they understood why they exist as a person, first of all, very personal and what they were trying to do, what the reason behind that was and then the vision of where they wanted to go. They were brilliant at painting that picture to engage and inspire people around them so that people knew where they were and where they wanted to get to.

They can see that based on the stories they were telling. They were great storytellers. Every great leader from Lincoln on that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at great storytellers and something I’ve always admired. Also, the connection to my theater because I’ve always loved that constant storytelling because it moves culture and it evolves culture and humanity. They surround themselves with great people. I had a leader when I was very young, early in my career, I’m was in retail and he said, “I want to be the biggest idiot on my team.” First, I didn’t know what he was saying because it seems odd, but what he was saying is he wants people better than him around him and he wanted people that could execute and deliver on that vision.

The team that you build around you and the leaders I’ve worked with, they built these great teams of people inspired and engaged them and around inspiring people to deliver results. Just making sure that people understand why they were there, where they wanted to go and what they needed to do each day to help drive that forward and inspire those results. Authenticity is another key aspect. When I think about leaders that I’ve worked with, they were themselves and they were genuine and you can tell. In theater that’s something called subtext, which is what’s happening below the lines of text. People are pretty intuitive and they know when leaders aren’t being genuine themselves. If they’re speaking a lot of garbage and they’re not living and leading by example.

These leaders that I’ve worked with are fantastic. They were who they are, they were authentic, they were genuine, they were led by the heart and you can tell that. You wanted to work for him, you wanted to work hard. I’d say one of the final attributes and there are tons of them, but the final one that rose to my level when about this question is growth mindset. Someone who went into every environment that they were in with an open mind and everybody they met with an open mind and what they can learn from them. I always felt very inspired because it felt like you were felt valued and you were able to share your thoughts. They were mindful and thoughtful about taking it in and absorbing it and seeing what they could do with it and how they could grow as leaders, too. It was always a two-way partnership. Those are some of the things that rose to immediate mind when you asked that question.

When you talk about the growth mindset, Carol Dweck’s work was fascinating to me and my research on curiosity. Everything you’re talking about, it ties into what I find important. Many people are held back because they don’t feel like they work in a safe environment. Maybe they were shot down in the past, some past experience or maybe nobody’s ever accepted their ideas. It’s tough to change the culture if it’s been set a certain way. I’d like to see is more work on developing that open mindset, that growth mindset that Carol Dweck wrote about. How do you think that a leader who hasn’t done that can improve in that area?

Every great leader is a great storyteller. Click To Tweet

I speak a lot about growth mindset and Carol Dweck’s work. I’m a huge fan like you and it’s incredible how a simple mind shifts in how you see the world and your perspective can change the whole world for you. My favorite quote is by Dr. Wayne Dyer and he talks about, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It goes to the core of this growth mindset concept and how do you embrace looking at the world in a very different way. This whole concept is based on child research, which is interesting to think when you’re a child, you’re born perfect because everything that you do, your resilience, your creativity, your interest and all those types of things are wired.

As you get older in life, the process of living knocks you back as you get insecure about things. You hear people tell you comments and things that derail you and knock you off-course. For me, it’s getting back to that child, that playful child, that curious child, that resilient child that continues to stand up and keep on going. In my life, I’ve lived in over 40 different homes. I’ve lived in Europe for a total of seven years, lived in Japan for a year. I moved to East Coast to West Coast all over. Every time I moved into a new environment, I learn this process because quite often if I did choose a fixed mindset when I first moved to Europe as a leader heading up UK, Ireland and South Africa HR for Stryker, I came with the mentality that as an American, which everybody made fun of in the UK initially, that you come and you think you’re American and everything that works in the US will work here.

I came with that mentality even though I had backpacked around Europe for three months after high school. It was very different living there. I thought things that work in the US must work here. After six months there, one of the leaders I was working for who was great, one of my mentors, he said, “Whatever you do, when you’re here and you’re working anywhere outside the US, don’t ever say, ‘This is the way we do it in the US,’” because the walls go up instantly. The difference is you have to go to these environments. You have to learn about the people and the culture and understand it. That was, for me, the biggest growth mindset shift as a leader is whenever I worked and when I went from UK to Japan, I took this mindset of learning about the culture, learning about the language, learning about the people, understanding what I needed to do to leverage what existed and what I learned to accomplish what I needed to accomplish.

I kept a very open growth mindset about it. Still to this day, I’m always holding myself back when I see myself drifting in that fixed mindset and make sure what can I learn from everything. That’s what great leaders do and I’ve seen over my career is they’re curious, they’re resilient, they keep on getting up, and they want to learn from every environment they’re in and that helps them grow. You can learn from anybody no matter who’s working for you or you’re working with at any level, there’s always something to learn. That’s what I’ve learned from the concept of a growth mindset, Carol Dweck’s work, and other great leaders that I’ve been around.

That’s so important that you bring up the empathy trying to put you in that position in such a big part of emotional intelligence. Everything you’re talking about is key to the bottom line of what companies are trying to be more innovative, productive and all these things help in that respect. I liked that you write about Purpose Meets Execution. I was looking on your site, you have a global purpose alignment score. I want to know about that when I was creating the curiosity scores. Did you create an assessment or is that something else? I didn’t get a chance to find out more about that.

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love (2nd Edition): A journey to purpose, fulfillment and life happiness

As you mentioned four books. My first one is How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love and that was connected to that assessment that I created. What the goal of that book was about is to help people put a strategy around finding why they exist on planet Earth and what their contribution to humanity is, what they do best and things like that. It was a springboard to start thinking about their life in a different way. I found that in my purpose, journey in life, which I discovered later in life after I look back, is that a lot of people talk about purpose and wandering and meandering and if you’re lucky enough to find it, that’s great. It’s very few people in life that find it that way. It’s like winning the lottery.

Most people when they’re on their deathbed, unfortunately they reflect back on their life and they’ll go, “I should have done this, I should have done that.” The goal of that book and that assessment was to start getting people to take a moment off the treadmill of life and take five and ten minutes and think about their life in a different way. Things like what gets them out of bed in the morning and what’s your legacy. If they didn’t have to worry about money, what would they spend their time doing? Try to give them guidance as to how aligned they are with their purpose and start thinking about these questions to help them move in that direction and put a strategy in place. That’s what that whole book was designed to do and that assessment is being a baseline to that.

I found that you’ve got purpose intertwined in all the things you do, even your children’s book, What Kind of Bee can I be?

I wrote that book because my children didn’t read the other two books I wrote.

What’s interesting though is you’re looking at a lot of the things, your purpose and your vision. Bethany McLean’s going to be on my show, the one who wrote Enron, The Smartest Guys in the Room. I had other people on the show quote Enron and how they had like their statement of ethics of what they said they would be and yet what they did was quite a bit different. When you’re working with organizations and you’re helping people determine their purpose, what if their purpose doesn’t align with the organization’s overall purpose? Do you move on from there? What’s the next step?

You’re talking the people that work in the organization don’t align with the purpose or the purpose organization align with the business model?

The people in the organization, what they want to achieve and their purpose in life doesn’t align with what the organization’s overall purpose and their idea of maybe their ethics and other areas of the company. It could be a lot of things.

I use the 80/20 rule. You can never get recruiting 100% right when you’re bringing people in. If you can get it 80% of the time, that’s almost ideal. There is always that margin of error. The true magic of people engagement is that alignment between their personal purpose and the organizational purpose where they work. I always advise companies when we’re talking about this concept is number one, make sure you understand your purpose. Every business, no matter how big you are that you start for a purpose and an owner or founder doesn’t get up one day and say, “I want to make money so I’m going to start a business,” because we all know if you run a business, it’s a lot harder than having a job. You get the ups and downs, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of energy and you have to have passion for it.

They get up and they think, “What do I want to do for some customers, for my community, for the world?” They make a business out of that and they figure how to make money doing it. As they grow, organizations sometimes forget why they exist in the first place and they start chasing a P&L, which we know is a corporate commercial business. You must achieve a P&L. That’s how you fulfill your purpose is by having more top and bottom-line growth. They forget that purpose. The first step is making sure your organization understands. Back to that DNA, why you exist in the first place. Once you understand that and everybody understands in your organization why you’re in business, then you need to recruit along those lines and you need to ask questions of people to help get to that, not ask the common questions that the candidates would normally expect to get an interview they are prepared for.

Questions that go beyond that facade of that interview to get to the heart of people. Those questions I ask before like, “What gets you out of bed in the morning? What would you do if you don’t have to worry about money?” things like that, that help connect to the purpose of that organization because you want people that have that correlation. There could be general purpose. My purpose in life is to enlighten, inspire and teach. I could do that in many different industries and many different jobs, but a good employer that is able to connect that to the work I do, so I could see that connection to how my work adds meaning and value to driving that ultimate purpose and fulfilling that purpose for the organization. That’s where the true engagement accelerator happens.

As an employer, you need to start having conversations with your people and understand what they feel their personal purpose is and have them workshop with companies to help them do this, to help you identify what your corporate purpose is, what your people’s purpose are, and what is the bridge between those two. Nine times out of ten there’s a connection. People can be realigned in certain roles so they can play to their strengths and more to that purpose. If you can get that right, it turns from a job to a mission in life and people work harder, a better-quality work.

They don’t become top clock punchers where they’re working 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM because they care about what they do and they see the connection to the bigger picture. A lot of it falls in recruiting and if you find yourself in a situation where you have the wrong people in the wrong roles or the wrong people misaligned, you have someone working for a pet company doesn’t like animals. Those people are best to move on because it’s better for them to move in some places they enjoy in their life and for the organization it’s better for the customers and everything they’re trying to do.

Constant storytelling moves and evolves culture and humanity. Click To Tweet

You say you want to enlighten, empower and teach. Is that what we’re trying to do? Try to find three words that describe our purpose or is it something more detailed when we think about what our purpose is as an individual.

Purpose is very personal for me from my perspective, and it’s something that I do believe we’re connected to a larger source in life. It’s all talking about that child of being connected to everything we want and need and desire in life it’s there already. It’s letting go to connect to it, but you do that through a time when you take the time to think about life and like I was talking about my first book, just taking ten minutes, ask questions of yourself and start thinking and then it starts rising up and looking back over your life. I discovered those three words and it didn’t have to be three words. It could be one word, it could be a sentence, it could be a paragraph.

When I started looking back over my life and everything I did, I saw a common theme, whether it be in theater or HR or all the different industries that I have a chance to work in. I always see that common theme of what made me jump out of bed and inspired me and where I was moving the needle for other people. It was around that concept is to enlighten, inspire and teach. Everything I do, I write about people purpose and leadership in my Forbes and Huffington Post and my books, all with that in. I discovered that through line by looking back. As you’re going through life, just stopping and asking questions of yourself and readjusting yourself as like a stop, start, continue. I have an exercise in my first book, which is an acronym called SLAM, what do I need to stop doing, what do I need the less of, what do I need to add to my life, what I do need more of. That’s an exercise I use on a regular basis to keep me on course. If I see myself drifting too much from that core purpose, I’m not as fulfilled and I’m not as happy. I feel like I’m not delivering as much value. It keeps me balanced to continue to go back and think about that. Purpose is very personal and it takes the time to start thinking about, “Why you’re here and what are you going to deliver and what is your legacy when you leave this Earth?” That’s how it plays out for me at least.

You had one more book, Beyond The Ink. Can you give me a little background on that?

That is about this remarkable guy. This gentleman, Mario Barth, who I wrote about, his press agent contacted me a couple of years ago to see if I’d be interested in writing a Forbes article about him and I thought, “It would be very interesting, colorful subject.” He is a gentleman who makes the majority of the ink fort the tattoo industry. He is a celebrity tattoo artist and done big names like Sylvester Stallone, Lenny Kravitz and Tommy Lee, all the big names. They have tattoos he’s done. He has many of the tattoo studios around the world called Starlight Tattoo and other brands that are these multimillion-dollar studios in Vegas. He has one in Mirage and one of the Mandalay Bay.

When I started writing the story for Forbes, I realized this guy is the remarkably-purpose driven leader that has taken his purpose and transformed what is a $50 billion global industry that used to be very much in the back alleys, blackout windows. People were embarrassed to say they worked in the industry. His passion and purpose in life as an artist were to make basically art more beautiful in the Tattoo Industry and make the profession of a tattoo artist and a professional tattoo a mainstream, respected profession. He went about doing that by opening these studios that were selling these concepts or these multimillion-dollar fishbowl studios, which were very clear and open, you can see everything, and there is an entryway in and entryway out. There’s a lot of retail psychology put into it and he gave 401(k)s to his artists and benefits to his artists, things that had never existed before.

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
Leadership Strategies: People can be realigned in certain roles so they can play to their strengths and purpose.


He created inks that were safer and transparency in his business. He provided or added corporate practices to a very back alley, unstructured business and industry and transformed it. He has a multimillion-dollar business, a global business. The guy’s very personally successful. He entered this industry with a growth mindset thinking, “Do things need to be this way, can they be different?” Based on that and his purpose and his ability to execute, he transformed this entire industry and it’s absolutely fascinating. This book is about that journey, so it’s very much connected everything else I’ve written and it’s almost like a bit of a case study of combining purpose and execution from my second book. He’s a guy whose 75% of his body is covered with tattoos. He had big loop earrings, wild hair, Austrian accent and you’d never expect to see him in a board room. He’s a remarkable leader that’s driven from the heart and done amazing things. That’s what that book is about.

I’m looking forward to reading that. Anything in the tattoo industry and marketing is interesting to me. I wonder what you thought if you were dealing with the tattoo industry, what you thought like in Russia where Domino’s had that marketing promotion. If you tattooed their Domino’s logo on your body, you’ve got food for life. Did you happen to see that?

I have not seen that. It’s interesting.

They did and it was so popular because they would get 100 free pizzas a year for 100 years or something like that. Too many people did it, they had to end the promotion, but some of the tattoos they did were creative. You might want to look them up because they’re cool, some of them. Some of them would incorporate them into other tattoos and he might find that interesting, but they had to stop it because too many people wanted the free pizza.

Many people are held back because they don't feel like they work in a safe environment. Click To Tweet

I definitely will check it out. It’s as funny as I was writing this book, I was paying more attention to people tattooed in general and when you look around, it’s almost hard these days to find somebody who doesn’t have something interesting.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of marketing will be used now that they’re starting to do that if you can tattoo things to get free things. I hadn’t heard anything like that, so I thought, “I wonder what’s next in that realm,” but what you’re writing about is so fascinating. Purpose is definitely the thread throughout everything that you do and that’s so important. I appreciate having you on the show and so many people would want to know how they could find your books, where can they read your articles, all that thing. Can you share how they could find you?

My site is LouisEfron.com. I’m on Twitter, @LouisEfron. I always love to be connected on LinkedIn, so I have a big following on LinkedIn, so you can connect with me there. My books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and I have tons of content on the web. I’ve written for many different journals, so you just punch my name into Google and you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve written. Forbes, Huffington Post, I have a lot of articles on there as well.

Thank you, Louis. This was so much fun. I enjoyed it.

Thanks for having me on the show, Diane. I appreciate it.

The Need For Soft Skills with Me’chelle McKenney

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
Get Your H.O.U.S.E. In Order: Busy People’s Blueprint To Putting Order In Their Lives

I am here with Me’chelle McKenney, who is the owner of 3rd Degree Solutions. As a John Maxwell speaker, trainer and coach, she serves as a keynote speaker, orator and panelist. She is known for designing interactive events that result in continuously sold out workshops, seminars and conferences. She’s the author of Get Your H.O.U.S.E. in Order: Busy People’s Blueprint of Putting Order in Their Lives. It’s so nice to meet you.

It’s nice to be here. Thank you.

This is going to be fun.

H.O.U.S.E. stands for hope, opportunities, uniqueness, success and expectations. I very rarely use the tagline at all because people are more curious about what is the H.O.U.S.E., what does that mean and how did that fit in.

You’re a busy person and you did the John Maxwell training.

A couple of years ago, I did. I’m still involved with John Maxwell and his team now.

What do you go through when in that process? For some people who haven’t gone through it and are interested, what was that like?

They had a big seminar twice a year in Orlando, Florida where people can fly in and take some certification classes and go through some practice tips and then they certify you. Throughout the year, we have workshops every single week to participate in, to get new material, to practice new material. In my particular area in North Carolina, we have subgroups where we get together and go through things and make sure everybody’s still on point. If anybody needs any help, we pitch in and help them out. The certification process is good. It’s been very helpful for me personally to fill in the gaps where I was missing some things. I’ve enjoyed it.

You don’t stay specifically in North Carolina. You travel around doing speaking and different types of engagements.

I travel a lot with the speaking engagements, so I have a house, a husband and a dog here. I am in and out a lot, but I enjoy it. I’d been traveling from day one from my career, from being a consultant, so I’m used to it. Honestly, I don’t travel as much as I used to because I used to travel every week for my job. Now, with my own business, not as much. I get to schedule it out more.

You’re a business strategist, so you help businesses with leadership strategies. Can you tell a little?

I started out doing leadership strategies with business and what that means is we’re in a situation now where we have so many different generations in the workplace that people are looking for different things. No longer can a company manage their business top down, do as I say, and manage people. You have to lead people. It is more collaborative. It is working together in groups and matrix teams. We don’t work in silos anymore. My company, we’re doing workshops on working with people for multiple generations. How do I get my Baby Boomers to work with Millennials and Millennials and Generation X and all of them to get to work together in the same workplace and understand and how to communicate? We do workshops for that. Then we retooled the managers to think like leaders.

A lot of them already know a lot about leadership, but sometimes you need to brush up on the skills and have refresher courses as well as understand, “How do I manage this team? I wanted to be the leader and I also need to manage the team at the same time. How do I do that?” We do a lot of delegation classes because every manager fear delegating. We have to explain delegation is your friend. That’s going to help you out. You’re empowering your people. You’re alleviating some of the stress from yourself as well as you’re given a chance for your teams to grow in different ways.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Click To Tweet

When you say they fear it, is it that they fear the loss of control or do they think they could do it better? What’s the biggest issue they have?

It’s all of that, but the biggest one is the fear of losing control. Fear comes from because you haven’t taken the time to get to know your team and know what their strengths and their weakness and explain what delegation means. By taking the time to meet with them, explain to them what you need, having a checkpoint, follow-up, making sure your teammate or your coworker is still going to be able to hit that deadline. Without those pieces in place, that’s what creates the fear, the unknown, like, “I gave this away and I’m the one ultimately responsible for it because I’m the one ultimately responsible for it.” People tend to say, “Let me hold it and I’ll take care of it right here.” Even if it means I’m working longer hours, I have all these balls up in the air and I’ll try to catch them when I can.

It’s hard because sometimes you can do things so fast and then you think, “It will take me longer to explain it.” Those kinds of things start stacking up and then you start doing everything.

The thing is if it’s something that’s going to empower and help somebody else, in the long run, it’s not bad for you to do it yourself.

Isn’t that what the end goal is? To some extent, you want to make sure that when you go to the next thing that they could replace you. They’ve learned it all.

We don’t want to replace ourselves. We say we do all the time as managers and then we’re like, “If I teach them and they become better than I am, then they’re going to replace me.” No, they’re not. They’re going to move you to the next level because they see that you are able to create a team, get them functional, high momentum and everything. They’re ready to move you to another position.

You deal with a lot of the same things I deal with generations and soft skills and all the things that are hot topics. I’m curious what you’re seeing when you’re talking to organizations about the men versus women, how they deal with each other in different generations. Is it any different in the Boomers than it is in the Millennials or the same issues?

Very much so. What I’m noticing is with the Millennials, they don’t care if you’re male, female, black, white, Asian. They want to make sure everything works, “Let’s tackle this so we can go home.” Millennials want work-life balance. They’re going to have a work-life balance. If that means that’s all jumping in helping each other, that’s what they’ll do, then they’re done and they’re going home. They don’t care who’s on the team. They want to know are you capable of getting the job done and they want you to communicate and talk to them a lot. Either talking to them because a lot of people, “Millennials don’t talk.” They do. They only communicate though on what they know. If you start stretching them outside their comfort zone, they will shut down and they will go back to texting.

What happens when they come into teams, I’m having to coach a lot of the university students now with their communication skills in that stretching out, coming outside of your comfort zone and people asking you questions is not them putting you on the spot. That’s them trying to relate to you and understand you and you communicate. I do a lot of classes on the university level right now for soft skills because there’s a gap in between graduating from college and getting a job. That forming with teams is hard for the Millennials coming out now.

That’s so fascinating how much we talk about the same things because soft skills are so important. There are so many people who were fired because they have problems with their interpersonal skills and different things. I’ve done a lot of research on emotional intelligence and on curiosity. You were talking about asking a lot of questions. That’s my passion is that people learn to ask a lot more questions. A lot of people fear doing that for being shot down or maybe they’ll look stupid, do you think Millennials are more likely to ask questions than Boomers, or does it matter across generations, do you think?

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
Leadership Strategies: A lot of people fear asking questions because they might get shut down.


The Millennials are not going to ask a lot of questions. They’re going to make a lot of assumptions, which are not good and those assumptions come from their environment and what they see globally. They’re in a situation where we grew up in our little neighborhood in our little town. They are growing up globally. If they have to hit the internet or something they can watch on YouTube, they believe that’s the gospel. You have me coming into a company culture that’s totally different and I’m trying to figure out how does that fit with the information I know. What happens is you have these Baby Boomers that are already there and Generation Xers and they’re saying, “I need you to come and do this.” They’re like, “They are attacking me. They’re questioning me. I don’t know how to do that and I don’t know how to tell them.”

I’m working with them to say, “No, you need to be able to tell them. That doesn’t mean you’re getting fired. That doesn’t mean anybody thinks you’re stupid because that word is all over the place with them. It is them trying to help you by asking you those questions.” I work with the Generation X and Baby Boomers and say, “It’s the delivery. You can’t attack when you ask the question. You have to work on the delivery of it.” I’m not saying, “Come on, please can you.” No, but it can come across as attacking. Sometimes when you’re in a rush and you’re in stressful situations, it does get a little tense. We have to also realize we’re talking to people and now we’re working in with people not just pawns on the board.

A lot of people are reacting based on past experience with each other. If you’ve been snarky in the past or had any bad past experience with someone that they’re basing what they’re going to do on that. It’s important for everybody to discuss and you brought up in your other statement about fear and assumptions and environment. All those are the things I found that hold people back from being curious and I add technology to that.

There are four major factors. There’s so much focus on being innovative now in the workplace and engagement’s a huge topic, culture, all these things that you and I deal with organizations. They all boil down to if you can communicate well and ask the right questions and be curious to become innovative. You’re talking about a lot of interpersonal skills, which boils down to emotional intelligence issues. You’re going to organizations and you’re also talking to college students. What kind of training are they getting for emotional intelligence skills for curiosity development, critical thinking and those things?

They’re not and it’s a gap. At the beginning of 2018, Research Triangle Institute of Raleigh did a survey of all the companies and research triangle parts of what companies are looking for from the employees now? What are you looking for? What are the top things that you need? The top ten were soft skills. They said they didn’t care if you didn’t have any technical skills. They can train you on the technical skills, they can teach you how to be an accountant, but if you don’t have any soft skills, they can’t deal with you. They can’t work with you. You can’t form with the team. I stood up and asked the question, “If we know that’s an issue, what are we doing for funding for colleges and high schools to get that back in place because it’s not there anymore and nobody said a word?”

Each university’s a little bit different. When I was running the MBA program at the last school, I found that I had control over what classes we offered. Our focus was to add more soft skills, so we need to get to the program chairs, the deans and teach them that. I agree that organizations will say they’ll teach them the hard skills, but they don’t want to teach the soft skills in it. I don’t know if they see that it’s hopeless or they’re not prepared to teach them. What do you think something like that?

Delegation is your friend. Click To Tweet

I don’t think they are prepared. I think it’s also the timing of it. They don’t have the timing. We used to have corporations that had a full-blown training company on site. With the economy changing and everything, the training companies were the first groups being released. You have all these pop ups going on and you have full-blown training companies that companies will contract, but they’re saying, “I need you to come in with at least the basics.” Our kids are missing the basic sometimes, so we do have to go back to the deans and I work a lot with the deans and say, “Why don’t you let me come in and do some soft skills training for your school?” I have to explain all the time like presentation skills, what is your brand because you have to know who you are. Leadership, what is leadership? They say, “We have student council leaders. We can get you to work with them.” “No, not them. They know about leadership. What about the everyday person walking on this campus? What is leadership? What does that mean?” Teaching those types of classes and communication. You walk on a college campus, most people are on their cell phones.

It’s a different time and they’re communicating so differently. You have to learn to communicate virtually. That takes some skill as well that we teach netiquette in the online courses that I deal with. Netiquette is etiquette on the Net. We teach them all caps means yelling and certain things, but a lot of schools don’t teach a lot of that and what appropriate tone is in communication that’s not face-to-face. We need a lot more of that. A lot of organizations can teach a lot of these soft skills through hiring consultants or if they don’t have the training program.

That was probably one of the main reasons I created the Curiosity Code instrument because a lot of consultants, they go and they teach DISC, they go and they do emotional intelligence or whatever it is that they help organizations with. We need to get foundationally back to going in and helping them with soft skills and curiosity, emotional intelligence whatever it is. They need to go over so many different areas that tie into engagement and some of the issues they’re having. I don’t think that they know what the problem is. They know they need to be innovative to compete.

It’s interesting because when you look at it, even now with all the companies have remote employees because they are global. I’ll say, “Get on a WebEx or get on the Zoom meeting,” but you’re still going to connect over technology. Even if you’re visually looking at that person, how are you engaging to them?

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies
Leadership Strategies: People are moving all the time. Nobody’s staying at companies like they used to.


It’s hard because a lot of times there are a lot of people on the call. I found it fascinating how many people didn’t even use Zoom because the technology was there, but they didn’t get it or they would use older technologies that didn’t work. Their voices wouldn’t sync and they gave up. They went back to audio conference calls and everybody’s checked out on an audio conference call because nobody’s watching them. They’re multitasking. It’s a challenging thing and what you talk about is so important. I was interested in the work you do because you definitely are right up my alley and everything you are interested in. I was interested also in your book because I like getting things in order idea. Your book is titled Get Your H.O.U.S.E. in Order: Busy People’s Blueprint to Putting Order in Their Lives. Does this tie into the same things we’ve been talking to or is this something completely different?

It started out something completely different. I wrote it because I was in a space in my personal life where I was all over the place and accomplishing nothing. I’m a little OCD if you ever come to my house. Everything is in order. Those words were given to me about Get Your H.O.U.S.E. in Order for hope, opportunities, uniqueness, success and expectations. The interesting thing is now that I’ve been teaching soft skills, now I’m telling people, “You’ve got to get you together to move up in the corporate ladder. You’ve got to know who you are, what your values are, what you stand for and what do you want to do, what’s the next step in life?”

People are moving all the time. Nobody’s staying at companies as they used to ten, fifteen or twenty years. Every eight years somebody is moving into a different position. How do you do that? People say, “They don’t move me and I’m doing a good job,” but are you leading it? Are you showing them what you’re doing? Are you helping others? That’s the thing that’s catching everybody’s eyes and giving you the ability to move. You have to step outside your comfort zone. You have to work yourself in a matrix that you’re helping everybody, you’re pushing everybody because as a manager, I’m looking at that person to lead the next group. That’s getting yourself in order.

I dealt with a lot of students where we do SWOT analysis in terms of businesses in class. I started having them do personal SWOT analysis. Some of the things that we do for organizations you could transfer over to the individual level to look at what’s your value proposition or whatever it is. I like the idea of looking at it that way. There are so many people who don’t know what to expect when they graduate from college, how they get out there and how to present themselves. A lot of people are overwhelmed because there’s so much technology, there’s so much to learn. Are you finding there’s information overload or what are you seeing out there?

You have to know who you are. Click To Tweet

Some information overload, the other thing is they don’t know even where to start. They know, “I graduated and now I’m looking for this job, but I’m not even sure which job I’m looking for. I know I need to get a job.” My question to them all the time is, “Why did you wait to graduate to look for a job? If you are graduating in May, why aren’t you looking in December because graduation is coming?” When I talk to students that are freshmen and junior, I keep saying, “You’re not going to be a freshman forever. You’ve got to start thinking about what you want to do.” “I’m not sure.” Do an internship. Get the exposure. Your internists say, “I don’t like that part of finance. I realize I am not an accounts payable person. Let me try the accounts receivable next semester.” You try different things so that by the time you graduate, you already know what you want, what company you like, where you want to live because you’ve gotten exposed to it. If you go to college, let’s say four years and all you did was participate and go to school, you’re going to have some issues when you graduate.

I taught a marketing course and one of the assignments was to have a two-semester plan of how they were going to market them to get a job when they graduated. They should have something like that almost required in universities where you have a business plan. I don’t know why they don’t do that. There’s a certain amount of Business 101, Management 101 or whatever your course is. That would be an important component of a course to add because they are demonstrating of the critical thinking and soft skills and all that stuff. I wish they could come up with some template in these courses for everybody. When you talk to these people at these universities, are you going into the courses individually or do you talk to a big group of students? How do you go talk to them?

I originally started out in career services and that did not go well at all because career services are focused more on getting the job or getting an internship. I started going directly to the department heads and to the deans and talking to them and saying, “Have you talked to your kids about what they’re going to do at the college? Have you talked to them about what businesses are looking for and have you given them the soft skills to do it?” When I say it that way, a bell goes off and they’re like, “We haven’t thought about that. We probably need you to come in and do some workshops for us.” I come in and did a workshop. One school in particular, they wanted me to do it with their organization and that particular organization dealt with students that we’re dealing with the brain, the mind, autism and stuff like that.

That first workshop, she said, “I don’t know if we’re going to get a lot of students because it’s at 6:00 at night, most of them are going to dinner, but we did want you to come in and at least get the ones that are in the clubs.” That first night I had six students. I taught the exact same class seven times on that campus for that group because people started telling other people and the room got so big. I had to get one of my teammates to come on and teach another class while I was teaching. We ended up with 74 students.

What you’re doing is important because these schools need to prove gainful employment. I think that the trick is to find out which programs are about to go under program review. For example, the MBA program is due to go under review, talking to the program chairs and the deans about, “When you’re doing this review, here are some ideas of what you can do as suggested improvements for the program.” It might be soft skills improvement and the things we’ve talked about here.

A lot of consultants could help a lot of schools if they talked to the important people. Maybe a lot of people who teach these courses or even run the programs haven’t been out in the world for a while to see the changes and it helps to have consultants come in and do that thing. What you’re doing is important and a lot of people could benefit from finding out more about you. I would hope that you could have some websites or something you could share for everybody if they want to find out more.

My website is MechelleDegree.com and I also have another website, ThirdDegreeSolutions.com, which is focused more on the corporations’ end. They can email me at Info@ThirdDegreeSolutions.com.

Thank you, Me’chelle. It was so wonderful to have you on the show.

I’m glad to be here. If you need me again, just give me a call. I’ll be here.

I want to thank Louis and Me’chelle for being my guests. We have so many great guests on this show. You can also find out more about the book Cracking the Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index if you go to CuriosityCode.com.

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About Louis Elfron

TTL 262 | Leadership Strategies

Louis Efron is a globally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer and Fortune 200 HR Executive. He is the author of four books: How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love; Purpose Meets Execution; Beyond the Ink and the children’s book, What Kind of Bee Can I Be? He is a contributing writer for Forbes and Huffington Post and the founder of The Voice of Purpose and the charity World Child Cancer USA. His career credits include Head of Global Engagement for Tesla, International VP of HR for JDA Software, VP of HR for the Fortune 300 medical device company, Stryker, Broadway theatre and currently serves as the VP of Teammate Experience for DaVita, a Fortune 200 medical company and on the HR Advisory Board for Ashford University, Forbes School of Business and Technology. He studied Labor Relations at Cornell University, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Advanced Leadership at Harvard Business School. He holds a BA from California State University, Fullerton, as well as a BS and JD from Saratoga University School of Law.


About Me’chelle McKenney

TTL 262 | Leadership StrategiesMe’chelle McKenney is the owner of 3rd Degree Solutions. As a John Maxwell Speaker, Trainer and Coach, she serves as a keynote speaker, orator, and panelist. She is known for designing interactive events that result in continuous sold-out workshops, seminars, and conferences. She is the author of Get Your H.O.U.S.E in Order: Busy People’s Blueprint to Putting Order in Their Lives.


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