Managing a company is no easy feat. But imagine doing that successfully post-retirement and in a foreign country at that. Jay Andres, former CEO of Mai Dubai Water, touches on his experience of managing a business that started with just him and grew into a company of over a thousand employees in six years. In this episode, Dr. Dianne Hamilton chats with Jay about his personal anecdotes on effective management strategies that inspired his book, The Managers Bathroom Book: Things You Can Learn In One Sitting. Jay addresses different cultural challenges he’s experienced and shares insights he’s learned along the way.
I’m glad you joined us because I have Jay Andres here. Jay is the former CEO of Mai Dubai Bottled Drinking Water in the United Arab Emirates. He’s also the author of The Manager’s Bathroom Book: Things You Can Learn In One Sitting. I’m excited to have Jay on the show. He’s going to be a lot of fun.
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Crossing Borders: Effective Management And Cultural Diversity With Jay Andres
I am here with Jay Andres who is the former CEO of Mai Dubai Bottled Drinking Water in the United Arab Emirates. He joined the company as its first employee in 2013. During his six years leading Mai Dubai, he managed to grow into a competitive field. I’m excited to have him here. Welcome, Jay.
Thank you, Diane.
I was looking forward to this. We are going to be related soon, which is exciting. Our children are getting married, my daughter to your son. Congratulations to Chris and Toni. She is excited and I hope he is, too.Establish a reputation and strive to be the employer of choice, and you won't need to advertise to get applicants. Click To Tweet
We’re happy about it. We love Toni.
She’s a lot of fun. Chris worked hard. I can imagine he got his work ethic from you because I was looking at your background and you’ve done a lot. I want to get a background from you for people who aren’t aware of your work. What led you to that position? Give me your background story.
I came up the hard way. I started at the bottom. I started college part-time while I worked for the City of Los Angeles and completed my degree over the course of twelve years. During that time, I left the City of Los Angeles and went to work for a bottled water company at the bottom. Over the years, I was in Los Angeles and I made it to the top position in that region, which was the biggest region in the country. When I left, we were managing a business of about $110 million. It started out making about $45 a day and it went up after that.
I thought I’d be there a couple of years and I ended up being there 31 years. It met a need I had. I like change and different things. Moving around the country to different assignments and solving different problems in different areas met that need for a variety for me. After 31 years, I thought I wanted to retire. I tried that. I wasn’t good at it. My wife wasn’t happy about it. I started to look for work and I had a plan of taking something easy and transitional to bridge me to retirement. I did the opposite and went overseas for the first time. That’s how we ended up in Dubai. We were like a lot of Americans back then. We didn’t even have a passport. We’d been to Canada and Mexico before you needed a passport to go there. We went to Dubai and it was a big surprise for our family and everybody else but it turned out good for us.
Of all the places to move for your first time out of the country, you really went big.
Years ago, one of our owners had to fill out a thing at the end of the year identifying our mobility. This was right after 9/11. The Middle East was an option. It was our last choice. It’s not someplace we ever imagined we would live but it turned out to be a fantastic place for us. It’s great.
I saw the pictures when you hosted Toni over there. When she came back with those pictures, it looks like Vegas. I haven’t ever been there but it was ornate, flashy and fun. It looked like a great place. Were you surprised by what it was like?
We were. It’s modern and a smart city. There are a lot of conveniences. There are these all fantastic hotels. It is similar to Vegas minus the gambling. When we went over there to be recruited, we had three questions in our mind and one was, “Could we live there? Was it safe? What was the community like?” The other one was, “Could I help the company? The environment and the company, would it be a good fit for me? Would I be able to add value?” The third one was, “How much they’re going to pay me?” We got favorable answers to all three of those questions. We made the move to our first company there, which was Oasis Bottled Water Company.
Interestingly, you got into bottled water initially. Was is it the luck of the draw? Were you like, “I always wanted to be in the water.”Curiosity is a leading indicator of one's ability to be creative. Click To Tweet
We were customers when I was a kid. That’s about all I knew about bottled water. I was a recreation major. When I started my long career in college, my values changed over the first few years. I started to want to achieve more financially so I changed the business. It was an opportunity. I talked to a guy, a friend of mine who worked there and it seemed like a great company. You could make good money and you were your own boss. It had elements of customer service, accounting and there was a physical part of it. It was funny because I tell new employees that the first year there, I hated it. I come from an environment where we put more effort into getting out of work than working. In this place, when I started, everything was measured. I didn’t think I was measuring up. In fact, I was. The first year I was there, I became a sales rep of the year for the largest region. In the midst of that, I thought I was failing.
Why would you think that? Did they not tell you how you were doing?
That was part of the problem. It was a competitive environment. I knew what the expectations were. To some extent, I knew how I was doing. I was taking things personally. For the first time in my life, I had customers who wouldn’t pay me. They owe money and they become delinquent and I took it personally. I was young and enthusiastic. I remember my boss told me, “You’ve achieved this.” I immediately loved the job. It completely changed my perspective. That’s why it’s important to keep our employees informed especially when they’re doing a good job.
It is huge. I want to get into some of the things you think are important. You’re the author of The Manager’s Bathroom Book: Things You Can Learn In One Sitting. You’ve learned a lot that we’re going to get into the book. As you’re talking about this, it’s interesting that there are expectations that we have of ourselves. I am my harshest critic. It resonates so much with how I felt when I was a pharmaceutical rep.
I had a friend say to me when I was being hard on myself like that, he goes, “Diane, when you’re having your worst day, you’re still doing ten times better than somebody having their best day.” I appreciate that. It was the hugest compliment I got. It’s good that we raise the bar. Do you see that a lot of people don’t put the bar high enough? Do you think there are more people like us who are super hard on ourselves?
It’s my perspective that the good ones are more like us. If you go to the other end of the spectrum, the person who’s not good at all thinks they’re great. There are a few of those in the world. They ultimately fail. Preparing for this call with you, I found myself over preparing a little bit because that’s who I am. You run every scenario through your mind and you try to figure out how to solve the problem. As I got older, matured a bit and started having some confidence, I understood. To me, it’s a high-stakes game. It’s how we feed our families. To some extent, it defines us but it’s still a game and you have to keep that in perspective. That’s one of the things Dubai did for me is it gave me a lot of perspective on life and so forth.
I can’t imagine what that would be like. We’re both from here, originally. Going over there, it’s got to be such a huge difference. What preparations and things did you do to learn to live there?
I started networking as soon as I thought I might be going there. I tried to find people who had lived there, who had visited there or lived in other Arabic countries. I read a few books, probably the most impactful was called Don’t They Know It’s Friday? The name of that book is because the weekend starts on Friday. You get Friday and Saturday afternoon. You worked on Sunday through Thursday. This talks about a lot of the cultural differences and business differences and that helped prepare me. While there, I tried to listen more than I talked and study the people and talked to people who would come from other parts of the country. While in the US, we were owned by a foreign country. I saw the things they did correct and incorrect in terms of how they transitioned us. I learned from that as well.
What things would you have changed? Could they have done better to transition here in the US?
They tried to change our culture to their culture instead of adapting to our culture. That’s what I tried to do for the most part. One of the big examples is a meeting there seldom starts on time. People don’t show up on time. Here, that could bug you. I tried to give them the start to close to being on time. I admonish some people who are late. For the most part, I adapted to that. I still held the mind values that might show up for meetings I was attending on time but I began to understand that that’s the culture. It’s 5, 10 or 15 minutes late sometimes. It’s interesting too because a lot of the big meetings with a lot of dignitaries, they’ll start late also but they finish on time. They managed to compact things.
I think about going to Europe and how everything closes down from 12:00 to 2:00 and dinner is not until 9:00 or 10:00. How is it different culture-wise as far as that? Did you work from 9:00 to 5:00? Were the hours different?
I had two jobs there, one was with a bottled water company. The owner was Lebanese and he had a certain culture. I worked for the government, which was owned by the locals or the Emiratis and that was more of traditional Arabic culture. Their workday started at 7:30 and ended at 2:30. I remember the second day I was there, I came out of my office at about 3:15 and there was nobody in the building. I thought there’d been a fire or something. I look out in the parking lot and there are no cars in the parking lot. I finally found someone and I said, “Where’d everyone go?” They said, “They went home.” I didn’t know that the work ended early. I adapted to it pretty quickly. Once we built the factory and moved to our location, we went back to start with an 8:00 to 5:00 type of schedule.
Did you have to learn Arabic?The curious manager has a big appetite for learning and doesn't just accept things because that's how it's always been done. Click To Tweet
I didn’t have to but I tried to learn. At one time, I wrote down every Arabic word that I knew. I had 60 words. Sometimes, I could understand conversations. There was one conversation where our chairman was talking to another big guy with a big position and I understood a part of it. Every once in a while, there’s an English word and then I answered the question. He looked at me and he thought all of a sudden I have learned Arabic but it was a good guess.
Was my answer, “You’re welcome? Did I get it right,” when I said that?
I know you have an Arabic son-in-law so I figured you’d learn from him.
My daughter, his wife, Tara, could speak five languages. That was one she speaks very little of. She says it’s hard. She could speak Portuguese with no accent but she said taking Arabic is one of the toughest languages. I imagine that would be hard.
There are a few similarities to English and then there are nuances to each country too, those dialects and so forth. One of the things that I read before I went there was to try to learn the language. That helps. People appreciate that if you know a few words and if you can say thank you, please and things like that.
I relied on Google Translator for that. When you went there, you got this job and did well but then that wasn’t where you ended. Tell me that story.
We’ve made a two-year commitment that was coming to an end. We told our family that we’d be coming home and in six months. We’ve planned that. I hadn’t told my employer that yet. The government started to recruit me. It’s funny because the first time the recruiter called me, I said, “I’m not interested. We’re going home.” All he said was the government was starting a bottled water company and I thought, “I worked for a government before. I’m not too much interested in doing that.”
I was telling a friend, I go, “I had someone, a recruiter from the government called me.” He said, “What did you say?” I said, “I told him I wasn’t interested.” He said, “Why would you do that?” I go, “I’ve done it and it didn’t work for me.” He goes, “Here, that’s who you want to work for. They have the influence. They have the resources. They have the connections. They have the vision. It’s the perfect employer. You should call him back.” I said, “If I do that, I won’t be in a good negotiating position. I’ll wait.” Thank goodness, they called again. We started the courtship. It took 4 or 5 months and then we decided to give it a try. That was a two-year commitment as well. We ended up staying six-plus years.
That’s got to be hard. How did your family handle that? Going back and forth, that’s not an easy flight. Is it hard?
It’s difficult. I don’t know how people did it years ago before Skype and all the other calling experiences and so forth. At that time, we lived in Arizona and our sons were in the Bay Area and in the San Diego area. We’d see them 3 or 4 times a year. Over there, I’d see him once or twice a year. My wife would see him more. She came home more than I did. That was difficult. That’s ultimately what caused us to come home. My elder son said to me once when I was home that he’s proud of what I accomplished and said all that stuff. He goes, “I want to spend more time with you. You’re getting older and I’m getting older. I’d like to see you more often than once or twice a year.” That’s what ultimately caused us to come home.
You came back to a time where you’re here and you’re stuck here. It would have been harder to be stuck there with the COVID thing. How are they handling it over there any differently than we are?
It would have been tough there. They’re strict now and the results are good. Not too long ago, I did a little analysis and if our rates of infection and death were similar to theirs, we would have the before 500,000 fewer people who died. What they did would never work here.
Too restrictive for what we’re used to.
Everyone there is mandated to have an app on their phone so that they’re tracked and you have to have permission. It’s loosened up a lot now. They got great results out of this. At that time, you had to have permission to leave your home when the lockdown was its most severe. They would just permit you to go to certain places at certain times. The mask-wearing was strict and there were fines and stuff like that. There were no half measures. They went all in terms of trying to stop it and it seemed to work. Their results were much better than in a lot of countries.
Are they letting people in and out there? Can you fly in and out?
To some extent, I think quarantines are almost ended or they’re down to five days now. I used to go every quarter but I haven’t gone since COVID. I had bags packed, I was days away from visiting and it was in those early days when we didn’t know how serious COVID was going to be. Every day it gets a little scarier so I decided to call it in.
That was a good choice.
It will be my sixth board meeting via Zoom.
You continue to work with them and I’m curious about working for the government. You said it’s a lot different there. Was it more challenging or less challenging than you thought? How did it end up being?
Our board knows a lot about business. We’re owned by the utility there and it’s a world-class utility. They have subsidiaries and they’re successful once. They didn’t know very much about bottled water, even though utility does provide tap water, they understand to some extent but the commercial side of it, they didn’t understand that well. There were times when that was a challenge but we work through that. The country is a business environment that is more about relationships than results. Results are important. You have to be profitable but relationships, trust and communication are more important.
How do they feel about you being American then?
They love Americans and many of them have gone to school here. A lot of them will spend their vacation time in the US. They have a lot of respect for the US. They’re surprised because there are not that many Americans are there, not as many as there used to be. A lot of the people who are there are for oil so they were surprised that someone with many years in the business was in their country. When they found me, they came after me pretty quickly and worked all that out. Working for them was great. I had to prove myself. We had to have results but once we did that things were opened up.
It sounds like you did that. You hired over 1,000 people in six years and that’s huge.
We had probably for a long time every supervisor up. Sometimes 2 or 3 levels below me, I was involved in the interviews as well. We didn’t even advertise. We just let the word of mouth pass that we were going to have a day where we’re accepting applications and interviewing and then we had a traffic jam. The police had to come out because there are over 1,000 people that showed up. We did that by establishing a reputation. In the early months of the company, we determined that we were going to strive to be the employer of choice and have specific plans around that in terms of how we treat people and morale and so forth.
It’s a country that even before social media, does a lot of networking in that part of the world and it’s a country of ten million, it’s not that big. News travels very fast and our reputation, when we started doing that, it worked. People started talking about it. The only time we ever used a recruiter even up until now, where there are many employees were to find me, everyone else was through word of mouth, a connection or some other resource.
I’m interested in how it works there. We have a president here and a lot of people don’t know how it works in Dubai. You were pretty close to the top of your connections. Give me that picture.
The Chairman of Mai Dubai is the Managing Director of the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority and he has a lot of other roles and responsibilities. He reports to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.
You’re one away from the big guy.
Except I’m not in the line of situation.
It’s a small part there.
A small detail but there is some sort of representative form of government. There are some local officials that represent and in some cases, there are elections on a small scale and people have access to them. Sometimes he drives his car, he’ll go out into the desert and he joined people on picnics. That’s part of the culture also that you can get access to the boss whether it be me or my boss. You’re expected to take meetings with everybody. He’s very in touch with them and he’s a beloved leader of the country.
He looked old in the picture with you. He’s not that old, was he?
I don’t think he’s old because he’s about my age. He’s in his mid-60s or a little past mid-60.
It was cool that you had a picture with him and you don’t get that kind of exposure here in the United States but like you said it this is a much larger country. That had to be interesting to see how they run things.
The first time he visited our factory, it was a big deal and they sent out protocol officers ahead of time and we are all excited and everything. It was in the media everywhere and it happened that the next day, we were flying to Ireland to meet our sons. I was at the airport, relaxing in the business lounge and I went to the restroom. On the way there, they still used to have a lot of newspapers years ago, there were about 3 or 4 national newspapers. I along with Sheikh Mohammed and others was on the cover or inside page of every one of them.There are three parts to development: You take the test, you get the feedback, and then you act upon it. Click To Tweet
I got recognized and one guy looked at me.
How many of those did you buy?
I got three copies. I went back to my wife and I go, “We got to get out of this country. We got to let things cool down.” It was fun.
I wish I had talked to you more before I wrote my book on Perception because there’s a lot of challenges that were our kind of a goal. I wrote it with Dr. Maja Zelihic and we were looking at running companies from different perspectives in different countries. As an ex-pat, you can’t give the same advice to every country. What kind of advice can you give? I know you’ve talked about this and written about this. Do you have advice that’s kind of all-encompassing or is it country by country?
The cultures are a little bit different in how they communicate and it’s hard. I always hesitate to say these things because it sounds like I’m stereotyping or being too general so I won’t say which culture but some cultures are far more compliant and some challenging more. You just have to learn who they are and embrace both. The one that’s too compliant, I would sometimes challenge them to disagree with me a little bit more. The other ones who will tell you what’s on your mind were good barometers. They were good to let you understand exactly how an idea or a plan was going over and knowing that was helpful.
One piece of advice I got from one of our former CEOs here in the US who had worked overseas, he thought the big mistake that American ex-pats do more often than others is when people don’t speak English, they think that they’re dumb or they’re not intelligent. Instead, it’s just not true. There are going to be people that might struggle with the language but that doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they’re doing. People would ask me, “How did you deal with the language?” I said, “Everyone speaks English.” They said, “Did you have any trouble with accents?” I said, “The Scottish were the toughest and they were speaking in English.”
I know. I end up putting on some subtitles for some Scottish accent. The sum of that what you’re talking about, you’ve covered in your book, The Manager’s Bathroom Book: The Things You Can Learn in One Sitting. I noticed in the chapter on curiosity, thank you for including a chapter on curiosity. It’s important to me. You touched on that. I put a couple of things that you said that you find and attribute what is a leading indicator of one’s ability to be creative, which I agree with. The manager who’s curious has a big appetite for learning and they just don’t accept because we’ve always done it that way. It’s something that we can build on, which is important. You’re talking about how you want people on your team to challenge you and you think that’s important. Did you see a lot of that there in that culture? Are they challenging you? Did you have to build that culture?
You have to pull it out but before I say that, let me say this. I was a little embarrassed when I saw your work on curiosity, which is expansive and I distilled it down to three pages.
Your book isn’t about curiosity and I was impressed that you included it because it’s usually left out so you’re way ahead.
It’s a good example. With the book or that chapter is intended to provoke thought and cause people to look at their skillset and examine where they’re at. I forgot the question.
I was agreeing with what you’d written in the book and you were saying that it’s important for them to challenge you. I was wondering if you had to develop that in them. Did it come naturally or were they more curious there or are they more curious in the US? How did you deal with that?
I would say that there are more similarities than differences. Those above you like the board had no problem at all challenging me. Sometimes those below me did have some problems and so you have to pull it out. Over time, you found out who would be candid and upfront and open with you about their level of disagreement. It’s one of the chapters in the book is surfacing resistance and how to do it? When to do it? When to leverage it? A lot of folks in the world are afraid of resistance and they don’t want to surface it and that’s where you get into trouble. You need to know how people are feeling but generally, it was a lot of them. Relationships are more important than results and them getting to know you and trusting you. Being willing to make a mistake and admit to it. All back to relationships.
As you’re talking about that servicing resistance, I’m curious if you saw a difference by the generation just because I see many of the Millennials and younger are more apt to embrace failing forward and learning from your mistakes. It wasn’t different here that the people who report to you are less likely to challenge you than the ones above you. As far as the failure aspect of how they look at it, was there a generational difference? I see a lot here and the Boomers specifically didn’t want to fail. There was a big difference in how the Millennials and Boomers have interacted here. Is it the same there?
I would say it’s a little bit different. One of the things you run into there is one, if people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t seek clarity as much as they would hear. They think seeking clarity or asking for more information might be a sign of weakness and you see that here as well. That’s why it’s important to build trust so that you get them comfortable with saying, “I need a little more on that or can you please explain?” That was one of the differences I noticed early on. Everyone’s from a different country. The illustration I like to use just to show the diversity that occurs there is I had a surprise birthday party for my wife and we were there about a year maybe a little bit more and there were sixteen couples there, 32 people. There were fifteen different countries represented at that party.
There are few places where we can meet that many people from that many places that quickly. The same thing happens at work. You get people from everywhere in the world and there are slight differences and the language and so forth. In people also, one thing we didn’t do is they tend to gravitate towards their people. You see a lot of different races or countrymen hang out with their people, we did just the opposite. We kind of had a stated goal of not hanging out with Americans. That’s what we had done our whole life. At that party, out of 32 people besides us, there was one other American.
That’s interesting. It sounds like my other daughter’s wedding. She’s super international and it was fun. She had belly dancing and different things that I wouldn’t ever think of and she embraces that. When you’re talking about how they were less likely to ask the questions, it goes back to curiosity. When I researched my Curiosity Code Index, I was looking at the factors that keep people from being curious and I studied it in the US. It would be interesting to study it in Dubai to see if there were any differences. Because there are four things that hold people back from being curious and the acronym is FATE. F for Fear, A for Assumptions which is the voice in your head, T is Technology, over and underutilizing it and E, Environment which is everybody around you, which is your cultural upbringing, family, friends, teachers and all that.
It tied into the work with perception as well because I saw perception as a combination of IQ, EQ, Emotional Quotient, CQ for Curiosity Quotient and CQ for Cultural Quotient brought in all these things. As I was looking at your book, I noticed you brought in some of this because I had written my dissertation on emotional intelligence and you touched on a lot of empathy, how important empathy was and that developing curiosity led to not only creativity but empathy. Did you see that the levels of emotional intelligence, empathy specifically were different there than here?
In some cases, one thing that I learned over time and I shared this with people that are in the Arabic culture particularly the Emiratis is they learn how to read body language in the crib. Not only the Emiratis but a lot of Arabic people can tell when you’re a little off even if they don’t know what’s bothering you. Some of the trusted ones that I worked with would say, “What’s wrong?” I’d say, “Nothing,” but there was something wrong either a personal problem or something else that as much as you try to hide that they could see it. If you’re talking to someone, there are certain things and thank goodness I learned this before I went there but you got to have eye contact.
Years ago, I went through a lot of tests and testing in the early years. We were all done the test and then they put us through a lot of developmental stuff and getting feedback that said I was a great listener. The other feedback and other tests would say that I was a horrible listener.” They were in conflict. We had engaged some psychologists to do some work for us and we’ve spent a lot of time with them. I was telling them this casually and they said, “Give us the test.” They looked at all these tests and they came back to me, they said, “Here’s the issue. If someone interests you and they’re engaging and to the point, you’re laser-focused. If they’re boring and long-winded, you go to your happy place.”
It sounds like me.
I know that about myself and I’m working on it. What I would do is I’d share it with my staff, whenever I change assignments I’d say, “These are my idiosyncrasies. One is if you see me doing this, call me back.” That helped a lot but over there, they know when you’re not paying attention to them. If you’re not being 100% honest, a lot of them can see that. I didn’t develop my skills in that regard by being around in any but it was interesting that they could do that.
I had Paul Ekman on my show who is the researcher behind the facial expressions and all that they use for that TV show Lie To Me. I don’t know if you ever saw it. We all have certain facial expressions. Even if you’re blind, you make it like if you hate, fear or whatever. My dad was born legally blind and I find that interesting, you don’t learn them from other people and I wonder how much they tie into some of that just reading some of that stuff.
I worked for AstraZeneca for twenty years and I didn’t realize yours was owned by McKesson. When you’re talking about telling everybody what you’ve learned from whether you listen or didn’t listen kind of thing, Daniel Goleman was on the show. We were talking about emotional intelligence since that’s his big thing and he was saying that he thought we all needed to get 360-degree feedback on our emotional intelligence. Did you think that helped you to get that outside perspective? Were you open to hearing that?
There was a year when I had a fourteen-month span and I had three 360-degree feedback sessions. I told my boss, “I’m spinning like a top.” That was one of the best things about being owned by McKesson is they invested in their employees and it had a lot to do with mind development and I like learning. There are three parts, you take the test, you get the feedback and then you act upon it. Sometimes I’ve had vendors or suppliers who administer tests. The test is good but not so good about giving the feedback. They won’t be topics they need to be. The last part is up to the employee and the manager to partner with them on doing the development work like what are we going to try to improve.Get to know your people in their environment and not just from behind your desk. Click To Tweet
You’re into helping people improve based on your experience that led you to write this book. There are a lot of books out there. What made you all of a sudden now write the book and not at another time? Have you always had a desire to write a book? What was the motivation for that?
I wrote the book years ago and I didn’t write it with the intent of publishing. I just wanted to put my thoughts down on paper. I’ve done a little bit of it. I have the curiosity section years ago before I met you, I did three pages.
It’s three pages more than I did.
I felt like I could communicate better in writing than verbally in some cases and I enjoy it. That’s why I wrote it, to begin with. I set it aside and COVID gave me the opportunity or took away all excuses for publishing it. Writing and publishing a book for me meets the three things I like about working. I like achieving something. I like learning and I also like helping other people. It has done that. There was one thing that motivated me. There’s one section there on tips for newly promoted managers and this happened twice. I’d given that out years ago to someone and then years later, someone contacted me with a scanned copy. When I gave them to him, you couldn’t even scan things. Years later, he scanned it to me and said, “I’ve held on to this and I’ve given it to others. It helped me years ago and I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”
You have to give us some of those tips. Can you give us a few?
For a newly promoted manager, a lot of it is about learning and listening to your people and visibility.
I’ll just touch on a few of them here. Get to know your people quickly. Getting to know your people seems to tie back into curiosity again. Everything does with me. You have to ask a lot of questions. I had Doug Conant on the show who turned Campbell Soup around. One of the things he did was learn about his people and he turned them around in terms of engagement. They were low on engagement but he wrote more than 30,000 handwritten notes before he retired there because he’d found out a lot about people and he would thank them. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he started the handwriting thing and it became a huge thing. I taught a business course, where his case is in there somewhere. How did you get to know your people?
One of the tips I always tell people is to try to do it in their environment, not from behind your desk, either near their desk or near their workstation. I had multiple locations I managed and I drove to a lot of them. When I did, sometimes they take someone along. A road trip is a great way to get to know people. Also, to remain conscious of catching them doing something right particularly when you’re new. Everyone thinks the boss is going to come in and change things. It’s very important to have transition meetings and ask people, “What do they want to let go of from the past? What do they want to hang on to? What would they like to see change in the future?” I made a lot of mistakes when I was a first-time manager and I reversed those mistakes. Don’t try to change the world in one day.
I never forget that you’re the manager but I want to touch on that because I can remember one of my last managers. I don’t know if he felt intimidated because we were all older than he was. I’m sure it wouldn’t be fun to get me as an employee if you’re younger. He was like, “If you’d only read this or if you’d only listen to this,” or, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” kind of personality. I think he did a lot of that because he was intimidated by people and he wanted a blowfish or a pufferfish or something that looked bigger than he was. That’s a big mistake in my mind. You want to never forget you’re the manager but you don’t want to be their friend. How do you get away from doing that where it’s over the top?
When you work for people or with them for a long time, to some extent some friendships do develop but you have to remain conscious that there are some people out there that will try to leverage that relationship. You have to also find or realize that they’re doing perceptions reality and even if you’re even-handed and fair with that individual, people will think you’re showing favoritism. Be conscious of the optics and then watch out for the ones who are working too hard to get close to you and invite you to go camping every weekend and things like that. There are some tips on some of the watch-outs there. There’s another chapter on regime change on how to manage your new boss and the opposite side of it.
That’s always tough.
One of my favorite tips is casually asking your boss what his favorite business book is. Not all of them have a favorite business book but most of them do.
It’s Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.
That’s a good one.
I read a lot of Warren Bennis’ stuff on leadership. The first one I read was Managing People Is Like Herding Cats. I love reading his books and I think he wrote about twenty books.
It’s interesting you learn from people from the books that you read. For me, I find it hard to keep up with all the books. After a while, they all start to sound alike. I had from everybody from Tom Peters In Search of Excellence , StrengthsFinders and Tom Rath’s work. A lot of them are great. I like Range a lot and I think that Quiet was a good book for a lot of people because it helped them get an idea of the value of introversion. For all of us who are extroverts, we talk all over them and sometimes they get lost in the shuffle but having a book is critical as somebody who’s trying to be a thought expert and you are. I’m wondering about the one topic that you write about because I don’t see this in a lot of books and it’s resisting a bad idea and surviving. What was your intention behind writing that? What do you mean by that?
When I was younger, I would resist and there was no science behind my resistance. There was not a lot of emotional and smart-alecky and it held me back ultimately. Most lessons you learn the hard way. This gives some tips on how to resist and when to resist. As a result of reading some of that chapter, people will resist less but when they do resist, they might resist a little more effectively. That’s not a chapter I shared with my employees until now. I didn’t want them using it against me and you need to understand your brand equity, if you will, in terms of do I have enough juice to resist. Is this worth resisting for the company? The other big tip is the worst thing you can do is resist right away. You always have to try to listen. If you’re one of those people that every time there’s a new program, you’re the resistor, it’s not going to be good for your career. Keep some of the resistance to yourself.
There was a particularly bad idea one year that one of my staff and I were on the team that was going to be administering this change and we both didn’t like it. After the first call, he said to me, “I thought you didn’t like the idea.” I go, “I don’t.” He goes, “You acted as you did.” I said, “That’s the way I want them to think. I’m still gathering information. If I resist that first meeting, it’s not going to do as much good. Let’s just take our time.”
That’s important. You have to seem open and otherwise. You don’t want to get stuck in the status quo by not going with anything but you can’t jump on everything. It’s a tough balance. You’ve touched on so many important things. I know we touched on just a few of the chapters but there’s quite a bit of information in here that I think a lot of people are going to want to know more about. As I mentioned, the book is The Manager’s Bathroom Book: Things You Can Learn In One Sitting. It’s a small chunk of content that you can read in small amounts of time, which is a great idea. I think what it said is that you like to read it in increments of 3 to 7 minutes and you meet that with this. A lot of people like that. It’s a go-to book. If somebody wants to get your book or find out more from you, is there some website, link or something you want to share?Make mistakes and reverse those mistakes. Don’t try to change the world in one day. Click To Tweet
It’s on Amazon.com and it’s available in most countries not just in North America but throughout Europe, parts of the Middle East, Japan and so forth. I’m trying to expand the distribution and hopefully it’ll be more widely available. Also, I’ll have an electronic version in the near future.
This was fun. I know we haven’t had a chance to go this much into the book and some of the stuff that you’ve been working on. I was looking forward to this.
It’s great spending time with you.
It was fun.
Thank you so much for having me on your show and I appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.
I’d like to thank Jay for being my guest. We get many great guests on the show. I enjoyed having him on and I’d also like to give a shout-out to my future son-in-law Chris, his son who’s an amazing leader. He works at Tealium where he met my daughter Toni who no longer works there but she had a long time working in that company and Chris is an amazing kid. I am excited to have him join our family. We’re are getting the best guests on the show and Jay’s story was amazing. I’m very excited to see his book be successful. I hope you take some time to check out his book and to look at the site. You can find out more at DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you enjoyed the episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Mai Dubai Bottled Drinking Water
- The Manager’s Bathroom Book: Things you can learn in one sitting
- Don’t They Know It’s Friday?
- Curiosity Code Index
- Paul Ekman – past episode
- Daniel Goleman – past episode
- Dr. Maja Zelihic – past episode
- Tom Peters – past episode
- Tom Rath – past episode
- Doug Conant – past episode
- How to Win friends & Influence People
- Managing People Is Like Herding Cats
- In Search of Excellence
About Jay Andres
Jay Andres is the former CEO of Mai Dubai Bottled Drinking Water in the United Arab Emirates, where he joined the company as its first employee in 2013. During his six years leading Mai Dubai, they managed to grow in a very competitive field. Today they have over 1,200 employees and hope to be number one in the market very soon. Jay continues to serve on the Mai Dubai Board of Directors.
Prior to moving to Dubai, Jay spent 31 years in the Bottled Water Industry in the United States, attaining the position of Vice President & General Manager for the Greater Los Angeles Region. He is the author of The Managers Bathroom Book: Things you can learn in one sitting.
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