Do Scale: A Road Map To Growing A Remarkable Company With Les McKeown

Scaling up is one of the most important things that leaders aspire to. It’s time to reach the level of success you have always dreamed of. Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down for a conversation with Les McKeown about the life cycle of all growing organizations, having a road map for your business venture. Les is the Founder of Predictable Success. He is an International Keynote Speaker and the author of Do Scale. Les has over 25 years of global business experience, including starting 42 companies in his own right. You have to be highly curious to build empathy and to see things from other people’s perceptions. You must keep asking questions. He explains the question you should ask yourself to drive you to be the great leader you are meant to be. Tune into this episode and learn how to achieve sustainable growth in your company.

TTL 890 | Scale


I’m glad you joined us because we have Les McKeown here. He is the Founder of Predictable Success. You’re probably familiar with most of his national bestsellers. He’s got a new book, Do Scale. I’m excited to talk to him.

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Do Scale: A Road Map To Growing A Remarkable Company With Les McKeown

I am here with Les McKeown, who is the founder of Predictable Success. He’s an international keynote speaker and best-selling author. He has a book that I’m excited about, it’s called Do Scale. It’s nice to have you here, Les.

Great to be here, Diane.

I hope everybody has a chance to look at some of your past books because you have done some amazing writing. I was excited to see you. You have something new. Scaling is something I’m excited to talk about because it comes up a lot in marketing and the different courses I teach. I want to get a backstory for those who aren’t familiar with you. How did you reach this level of success?

I’m sitting here in my beautiful home in the Chesapeake Bay, looking out over the water. I’m not from Maryland. I’m not even from Texas. I’m originally from Ireland. I grew up in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. I was a weird kid. I was fascinated by business. I have no idea where that came from. I have no idea what it meant. What turned out to be organizations in general, at that point, it showed itself up as being business.

I qualified as a CPA. The British equivalent of a CPA is called a chartered accountant. I got some great advice, which was, “If you want to understand business, either do law or accountant.” I did that. I started doing a lot of work in helping people launch new businesses. The reason is, at that time, the UK economy was essentially a branch economy of the US and South Korea. If General Motors or Daewoo got a cold, it would lose 15,000 jobs in a factory somewhere in Leeds or whatever. The UK government was putting a huge amount of incentives behind launching new businesses.

Long story short, I was advising people and helping them build their business plans, get loans, buy premises. People started to ask me if I would like to join them on the launch team. By the time I was 35, I had launched 42 businesses. There were some not for profits. I began to see recurring patterns. I started to codify those patterns. Even as a dumb Irishman, if you do something that often, you’re going to see something. I started to see these recurring patterns.

TTL 890 | Scale
Do Scale: A road map to growing a remarkable company (Do Books Book 20)

Years ago, I relocated permanently here to the US. One of the reasons was that I had moved up what was becoming, in my mind, the lifecycle of all growing organizations. I had worked right through the startup phases and worked a lot with organizations in what you might call first stage growth, second-stage growth. I thought I had a predictive pattern that would help me foretell, see, help, or accelerate growth for large organizations.

Because of a particular contact I had on the West Coast, I moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I got the opportunity to work with Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, American Express, the US Army, Harvard University. The model proved that, and I ended up with this full, holistic, what you might call soup to nuts, birth to death lifecycle, which I call the predictable success lifecycle.

I started helping organizations of all sorts, for-profit, not-for-profit, get to that peak of the arc, which I call Predictable Success. I published that book in 2010. It became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Do Scale focuses on predictable success. The first book covers all seven stages of growth. Do Scale, the most recent of four books, focuses specifically on that peak stage, the predictable success stage. That’s the only stage at which you can choose to scale rather than grow all the other stages. You can grow, but there’s usually a cap in the predictable success you can scale. That’s what Do Scale is all about.

I was a strange kid, too. I’ve always been fascinated by business as well. I certainly haven’t launched 42 businesses at that age. What you’ve done is fascinating. The recurring patterns interest me. I want to get into that a little bit. What were some of the recurring patterns that you saw?

There are two sets of them. One is the seven stages that have distinct personalities of their own. You’ve got the early struggle, which most of us call startup. That’s three years. That’s a huge generalization, massive mortality rate. Eighty percent of all new ventures fail within that period of time. If you get through that stage, you get to the second stage, which has got a highly technical name. I call it fun. It’s fun because it’s an early struggle. We find our profitable, sustainable market, and we say yes to everything. We make it up as we go along. We over-commit and then somehow over-deliver. What happens is, that brings success because customers and clients love it.

At some point, we fall forward into the third stage, which I call whitewater. Whitewater is an existential phase in any business’s life. There’s a binary decision, which is, “Do I stop and go back to where I was? That was fun. I liked that.” “Do I want to break through this and get to the next stage?” It means, “I got to do something that’s going to drive me crazy, which is I have to put some enterprise-wide systems and processes in here. I’ve got to mature. I’ve got to grow up.” It’s when the business grows up and becomes an entity in its own right and not an owner-driven fund organization.

If you choose to do that and you do the right things, you get through to the big stage, which I call predictable success. At that stage, as Jeff Immelt put it whenever everything was okay in GE, “I put my foot in the gas pedal, and this car goes forward.” That’s what it’s like to be in the predictable success. You’ve got the perfect combination of innovation, creativity, risk-taking, but also quantified systems and processes that allow us to replicate this, and that’s what unleashes scale.

In theory, you can stay in predictable success for as long as you want. Sadly, unlike the human aging process, which I’m proving every day, it’s irrevocable. What happens in most organizations is that having done something painful, putting all those systems and processes in place, we do what I do at the dessert table, you think, “That was good, so I’ll do more of that.” We then put too many systems and processes in place and begin the decline stage.

We have a stage that I called treadmill, which is when the organization becomes over-processed. If we don’t reverse that, which we can do, if we don’t do that, the organization will fall past the treadmill, which is a natural stage. Most organizations will touch the treadmill for various reasons at times. If you don’t halt that decline, you’ll fall into the penultimate stage, which I call the big rut.

The big rut is essentially a long, slow slide into irrelevancy. We’re a huge organization. Think of any utility company, it’s essentially what we’re talking about. Think about a visit to the DMV, it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. It’s a long, slow slide into irrelevancy. You hit the final stage, which I call the death rattle, where it looks like something’s happening. We had it with Kodak a while back. From the past, that popped up. All it is is a whole bunch of activity as we this sucker to bed.

Those seven stages are the key patterns that I saw. Any group of two or more people will go through those stages as we’re trying to achieve common goals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a for-profit or not-for-profit, manufacturing service business, cause-based charity, church, they all go through those stages.

That was one side. The other side, which I would be happy to talk about, is what drives businesses and organizations in and out of those stages. Believe it or not, it’s the four inches between the ears of the leadership team. There are four leadership styles. It’s the choreography of those four leadership styles that interestingly decides where an organization will go next and whether or not it can get in or out of a stage it doesn’t want to be in.

I want to know the styles. You got me curious.

TTL 890 | Scale
Scale: If you do the right things, you get through to the big stage called predictable success. The business grows up and becomes an entity on its own.


I’m happy to share. Diane, you’ll be familiar with this. As soon as I start saying it, I’m not going to tell you, no. I’m going to probably could work on something that may stitch a few things together for you. You look back to that early struggle stage. We’re seeing that 80% of all new ventures fail. Eighty percent of that 20%, the original not only left employment but they left a high paying job where they were getting somewhere between 1.25 and 1.5 times market comp. In other words, these were high performers. Eighty percent of all the successful bond owners and not 20% that make it was previously well paid in a good position in an existing company.

What person do you need to be to step away from a bigger paycheck than you should be getting to try something that has an 80% chance of failure? You’re the type of person that I call a visionary. That’s a visionary leader, big picture, 30,000 feet, thinks that everything happens seven times faster than it does. It gets their endorphin rush right in the shower at the point when the big idea hits them. They get this massive endorphin rush. That’s the first of our four steps. Whether they’ve ever heard this terminology or not, intuitively, they know that nitty-gritty details drive them crazy. Sure, they can do it if they have to, but they don’t want to.

What they’ll do, all of the successful ones, they will go out and find themselves what I call an operator. The operator is somebody who doesn’t want any hyperbole. They’re not comfortable with strategic planning sessions. They want to be told what to do, and they will go and do it. It will not be pretty. They’ll take a straight line from A to B. They go through breezeblocks, but they make it happen. It’s that combination of a visionary by the time we get into the fun and a team of operators that they conduct like an orchestra. That’s what got you to end up following.

In your thinking, would you say Steve Jobs would have been the visionary and Wozniak the operator?

That’s the classic one that people would do. You’re right. You might sometimes walk into a fun organization, and there’s a group of people there, and others call them the leadership team. In fact, they’re not leaders at all. They’re enablers. They’re enablers, not in the derogatory sense, of the founder’s vision. The others are there as water carriers to make it happen.

With the visionary who is conducting a series of one on one discussions with individual people, you go to this or you go to that. These other big dog operators build their own autonomy and freedom within the organization. They build trust and sweat equity with the founder. We then are successful, then we have whitewater.

Here is where all the interesting stuff starts. Until this point, we’ve had a team who can finish each other’s sentences. The operator knows to stay away from the vision. They’re on a Monday morning after they’ve been on vacation because they come in with fifteen rabbits to chase and a book of matches to burn stuff up. They learned how to work with all of that. They can finish each other’s sentences.

I’m conflating a whole bunch of stuff into a high-level summary here. When they hit whitewater, it doesn’t occur to them. In the first instance, they think, “We’ve all got stupid. Why are we doing dumb things here?” When the visionary operators realize eventually, “What we need are enterprise-wide, system-wide systems and processes.” In fact, we had some systems and processes enough to keep us out of jail. We pay our taxes, filled in forms, and got the right side of health and safety regulations. Now we have to codify stuff.

Eventually, they realize, “We need somebody who knows how to do this.” For the first time in the leadership team, we appoint, hire, or raise somebody up who’s got a third style. The third style is that of the processor. That processor might be a controller, HR, quality control, legal, it depends where we were splitting up. The problem is the visionary operator processor is not a stable triangle.

[bctt tweet=”The perfect combination of innovation, creativity, risk-taking and quantified systems and processes allows us to scale. ” username=””]

The visionary thinks the processor is essentially Doctor No and will never say yes to anything. The processor thinks the visionary is full of hyperbole and talks stuff that isn’t true. Any visionary is worth themselves. $1 million is anything north of $600,000. They’re like, “We signed a $1 million contract.” For a processor, $1 million is 1 followed by 6 zeros and pushed up to more zeros. That’s $1 million. They have a different worldview. The visionary starts with yes and the processor starts with no.

The visionary wants to do it, “Who cares how we do it? Get it done.” The processor doesn’t care what the thing is but they’re going to do it right. The visionary is all about doing the right thing. In other words, to please the client. The processor does the thing right. The poor operator who wants to do stuff becomes like the kid in a broken family. They’re looking at mom and pop arguing. The operator who doesn’t want to be in a meeting, to begin with, and is supposed to be doing stuff, absent themselves. Conflict happens between the visionary and the processor.

What happens is, the processor has no sweat, equity, no footing, everything feels even worse than when we bought this sucker in, we get rid of him or her, and the whole cycle starts again. Whitewater takes 2 or 3 times for the visionary operator team to realize we need this processor. To finish this one part of it, what they also realize is that it gets them into predictable success but with a lot of friction and a lot of problems.

This took me fifteen years to discover. This is what I came over here to the US to parse out. What I discovered is that in those organizations that get into predictable success and stay there for a prolonged period of time, they develop a fourth learned style. These first three styles, visionary, operator, processor, they’re innate. They were born with them. There’s a learned style and I call it the synergist style. It’s the title of my second book, The Synergist.

The synergist style is simply a style that says, “I realized something here. When I’m with this group, I’m going to focus on what’s best for the enterprise. It’s not what scratches my visionary, operator, or processor.” Teaching that is my greatest joy when I can get teams and organizations to realize that it’s not that Joe is a jerk. You’re a processor, and Joe is a visionary. Joe is wired differently.

If the two of you can become a processor-synergist and Joe becomes a visionary-synergist, now you’ve got some branches for communication. That was the second element of the model. The seven stages and the four styles, if you put those together, you can get to any stage you want and stay there for as long as you want.

As you were saying that last part, a lot of that ties into empathy, which I wrote a lot about in my research on emotional intelligence. Seeing that we’re not all the same and putting ourselves in somebody else’s vantage point is hard for people. That’s why perception was such an interesting thing for me to study. It still comes back to curiosity to me because to build empathy and to see things from other people’s perceptions, we have to be highly curious. Where does curiosity play in everything that you’ve researched and studied?

It comes in a particular manner. I have a little quiz. You’ve seen bazillions of them on the interwebs where you answer 30-something forced ranking questions, and it will spit out what your visionary, operator, processor, synergist. Over 600,000 or 700,000 people have taken it over the years, and it proved that pretty well.

One of the things that have come out of that over the years as I’ve worked with the patterns is there’s a scoring involved, and the numbers are irrelevant. As you know, with these things, it’s the relativity between the numbers that are important. To put some numbers on it so that it makes sense for the readers, the maximum you can score is 960. It’s for no particular reason, but that’s the way it is. If it’s scored 960 on visionary, you’ll be all in there. You have no other element. You’ll be a visionary.

Below 120 is a trace score. That means you don’t want to do that. This doesn’t measure competency. You could be perfectly good. I know a lot of accountants and lawyers who are perfectly good processors, but they have a trace processor score because they don’t want to do that part of their work. They want to do more visionary and operator.

It sounds like Steve Jobs has a low operator score but has a high visionary score.

That’s correct. Between 120 and 240 is what I call a secondary score. You can dip into it if you have to for a while, but if you’re forced to do it for too long, you’ll go crazy. The sweet spot is between 240 and 480. In there, that’s a primary style. If you’re a 270 visionary, that’s your primary style. You work with ease and grace. People recognize you as you recognize yourself.

Here’s the interesting thing when it comes to your curiosity point that I’ve noticed it took me quite a few decades to see the nuances of this. Once you pitch over 480 and the closer you move up towards 960, the style at that point is what I call a dominant style. A primary style is great. You wear that style with grace and ease.

A dominant style, the closer you get up to 960, the more it owns you. You can’t think any other way. You won’t accept any other solutions. If you’re a dominant visionary and somebody comes to you with a processor solution, even if it will perfectly solve the problem, it’ll drive you crazy. It’s those dominant visionary, operator, processor, and synergist that I find are the ones that don’t have curiosity. In some cases, they’re not even aware of that. Sometimes they are. They don’t want to know.

I’ll let a dirty little secret out here. If I’m asked to come in and work with a team, one of the first things I’ll do is ask them to take my little quiz. If the entire team is dominant, I’m not even going to start. It’s nice to take their money, but nothing is going to change there. I’m not saying that someone with a dominant style cannot change. That’s not the case. It requires intense coaching and a disciplined approach to make that change. You’re 100% right, a lack of curiosity is a big part of that.

A lot of people ask me when I researched it because I was looking at the things that inhibit curiosity, and I found it was fear, assumptions, which is the voice in your head, over and underutilization of technology, and environment, everybody around us, were the things that inhibited curiosity. They asked me to define it. What I was looking at was getting people out of status quo behaviors. If you are not open to seeing any other styles or any other ways of doing things, you end up like the Kodaks, Blockbusters. What worked great in the past, they keep doing it because you think you’re right, don’t you think?

Sure. It could be like what I’m talking about blind spots. Kodak is a fantastic example here. We’re edging into a question of how much does a culture of a lack of self-awareness attracts people who thrive in that environment? Look at Kodak as an organization. For our younger readers, Kodak was a company that made film, which my kids only understand as being something on their teeth that they got to get rid of. For those of us with a different generation, we used to put a film into cameras. Cameras were not our phones. We had a separate thing called a camera. We put a film into it. We took it to what we call back in the UK chemist’s drugstore. Two weeks later, you’d get actual artifacts, which were photographs.

Kodak, until to the day they were delisted, they were listed and called themselves a paper and chemicals company. That’s what they listed themselves under in the stock exchange. Kodak should have been Instagram. Kodak should have been Pinterest. They should have owned imaging. What they thought they owned were paper and chemicals. What was that? A lack of curiosity. It makes it back to your point. If you think of that environment, that’s not going to attract people who are naturally curious.

If it does, the people who get there won’t be happy. It’s interesting that sometimes you’ll work for a company because it sounds good. A lot of people get the golden handcuffs, and they’re in a place where they think they can’t leave. I had Francesca Gino on the show, and we talked about the paper that she had with HBR about her case for curiosity.

TTL 890 | Scale
Scale: The enterprise commitment is what binds teams together. When you get too many dominant people, it’s not a team anymore. It’s a group of individuals.


Leaders, when you research them, they’ll think they encourage curiosity. You check with the people who follow them, and you get the same sense that they do. It’s an important thing to discuss as we’re talking about scaling. You have to be willing to ask questions. How do you scale? How do you get to that next level? Do you find that the people who are able to scale ask a lot of questions?

Yes, they do. There are two different things though, one is the event, and the other is the process. What can happen is that a team can catch a wave and ride something to scale.

Sometimes it’s right.

It’s not sustainable because they don’t keep asking questions. It comes back to the whole blue ocean notion that if you’re not asking enough questions, there are two guys, a guy and a girl, or two girls in the garage who are going to eat your lunch in due course because that’s what they’re doing. They’re asking the question, “What do the customers want?” At the end of it, that’s the question.

Rita McGrath writes a lot about this out of Columbia. When you boil it all down, if you’re going to be curious about one thing, be curious about that, “What does the customer want?” I mean that even for our not-for-profit brethren. If you go to church, you’ve got six people all over 80, and you’re wondering, “How are we going to survive?” You’ve got to start asking, “The people who aren’t here, what do they want?” That question drives everything.

At that point, you get into a degree of personal preference. I personally prefer working with people whose curiosity goes beyond that. I’m not that turned on by working with people who are motivated by nothing other than finding out what the customer wants so that they can scale. That’s not of interest to me personally. I have to accept that, structurally, you can scale and make it sustainable. If you struggle with being curious, discipline yourself to be curious in that one area and that will work for you.

I wanted to ask you the question of the curiosity factors that I found that keep people from being curious. What did you see the most? Did you see it was more fear? Did you see it was what people tell themselves? Did you see it was the over and underutilization of technology? Was it their experience with the people around them? Do you see any of those as standing out more than any other?

In terms of what makes people like curiosity?

Yes. What kept them being curious? In my research, it was pretty evenly distributed between those four things. I wonder what the real world experience is telling you.

If I can turn the question back to you, Diane, to what extent did it emerge that this is a trait that people have? It’s the way they are. They’re not naturally curious.

It didn’t. We all start out curious. Around age five, it starts to tank for everybody, even bees, birds, or whatever. Birds will flap around a bush, and if they aren’t curious, they don’t have. They have this innate curiosity. When we get into the school system, we get into these different factors. The teacher can’t answer all our questions or your parents keep telling you that you should be seen and heard or whatever it is. As we get older, we all start to lose this. It’s the same thing with creativity. You can see it over Sir Ken Robinson TED Talks. It’s about age five, where we all start to diminish dramatically.

I can only pass on my own experience with this, twofold. Interestingly enough, I don’t work with them much these days because it’s not a group that I’m comfortable working with. I do find successful senior executives who are innately uncurious. I know several people who pride themselves, for example, “I’ve never read a book. I wouldn’t waste my time reading books.” Amazingly, they can find somewhere, someplace, some organization where they can thrive.

With regard to otherwise curious individuals, they are not exhibiting curiosity in their organization. In my experience, that’s usually done to learn helplessness. What has happened is the culture in the organization or sometimes if it’s a smaller organization, simply the reactions of one or more specific individuals have led this curious person to realize that the discretionary effort they put into being curious, finding out things, experimenting isn’t rewarded. Either nobody picks up on it or cares about it. Sometimes, it’s that their boss is either a micromanager or a control freak that the boss ends up ignoring all of the efforts that their employees put in and doing it their sweet way. People develop a state of learned helplessness where they say, “Why should I? What is the point?”

[bctt tweet=”Always be curious about what the customer wants. ” username=””]

That goes back to these assumptions we tell ourselves. That’s exactly in some companies. They put you in a committee and do not pay you kind of thing. People would go, “I’m not going to speak or ask anything because they’ll give me more work and not reward me for it.” That’s a problem that we see. Getting back to what we were talking about, about scaling and how we can sustain this level of success that was challenging for others. I’m curious, do you see more people wanting to flip companies and be a serial entrepreneur and start something and get it out because it’s too hard to scale up? Do you think they quit the joy of the new thing?

I see three different patterns that play out. You have a successful entrepreneur. The decision point comes in this whitewater stage that I talked about. They can navigate through fun. Here’s what happens, most people who start a business only have two stages in mind, maybe three. If they think about it at all, why wouldn’t people, in advance, think about lifecycle stages?

If you were to press somebody who’s about to start a business and say to them, “Draw a little graph or a pattern here. Show me what you think this is going to be like.” They almost certainly draw a squiggly line at the outset and say, “It’s going to be tough at the start. I hope we get through it.” They then draw the next line, which is more stable. That’s the early struggle and fun stage, the two first stages in my model.

If they are deep thinkers, they may say, “Someday I might exit, close down, or shut it.” There would be an exit, a final stage. I don’t know what that’s like but I don’t want to think about that. What happens is you get through the existential period of early struggle. By the way, these folks are being told by everybody that their family and friends are all looking at them and saying, “You’re brave.” What they mean is, “You’re crazy.”

During the early struggle, they have dark nights of the soul where they think, “These people might be right. I might be crazy.” When they get through the fun, there’s a huge amount of validation that happens at that point. That’s the first thing. The second thing is this is how they assumed it was going to be. For them, this is a predictable success, this fun stage, “That’s it. That’s what I started this for.” They’ll never be anything else. Why would there be? Of course, nobody’s told them there are five more stages.

When they hit whitewater, it is bewildering to the extent that they doubt themselves. Whenever you hit whitewater, a year before, you’re being interviewed by local newspapers and asked to sit on boards because your business is at the top of fun. They’re like, “Suddenly, it feels like I got stupid.” There are three different patterns that come out of there. Sadly, the most common one is they get a little bewildered and confused and start throwing a lot of stuff against the wall and get stuck in whitewater for long periods of time, 3, 4, 5, 9, or 10 years, and that’s a problem. You can’t make the profits you were making before. You’re running around trying to hold this thing together with duct tape.

The second pattern is they intuitively realize that this has something to do with growth. I’ll give you a real-world example really quickly. I won’t give the people’s names. I used to live in a beautiful old village in Massachusetts. In that village, there was a coffee shop run by the husband and wife team, and everybody loved it. They opened the second one in another part of the village and then the third one in another time not too far away. Everything was great until they opened the fourth one. That was when they hit whitewater, and they tried a fifth.

They realized intuitively, without knowing any of this vocabulary, a simple example, that they could go back to having 2 or maybe 3, in other words, go back to fun, and they could manage everything themselves. If they wanted to be the local Caribou Coffee, let alone become Starbucks, if they want to open 6, 60, 600, 6,000 units, they were going to have to learn things like hiring, refrigeration storage, bulk purchasing, training managers, all those systems and processes.

They went to the 2nd of the 3 routes, which is to say, “I didn’t want to do that. I’m going to go back to where I was and I’m going to cap my growth.” That leaves the third group, which are the ones who say either knowingly because they’ve read my book or other similar models or they’ve heard me speak or whatever or because they’re unsure themselves. They say, “If I do the right stuff and break through here, I can take this to a whole other level.”

Let’s say that we’ve got our three patterns, get stuck in there and don’t get it, go back to where you were and enjoy it. Of this third pattern, let’s push through and get to the other side, about half of them, are not the right person to do it. They can’t make the change in terms of plasticity in how they think to be the person to do it. That’s a painful thing for them to realize. It often takes quite some time.

In my subjective experience, but it’s been over many decades now, those that decide to make the move, only about half of them can make the changes they need to make themselves behaviorally, which is all about being a role model for adhering to the process. About half of them need to step aside, take a different role, and bring in somebody else to be CEO at that time.

When they take that personality test, what would they come in at, those people that have a hard time?

They’re the dominant visionaries. They’re the original founder or owner. They’re addicted to certain aspects of the visionary mindset. All of those four styles have got a good side and a bad side. The visionary is good, the operator is good, the processor is good, the synergist is good. Here’s what happens, you get up to that dominant level, and it doesn’t happen immediately.

The closer you get up towards that 960, visionaries turn to arsonists. They’re always setting fire to stuff, starting new things. They’re crazymakers. They can’t stick with anything long enough for it to grow roots. They’ll come back from a vacation or a workshop or a Zoom conference, and they’ve got a virtual or a real legal pad with twelve new things they’re going to do tomorrow, and it’s going to revolutionize their business.

TTL 890 | Scale
Scale: If you want to develop as a leader, the first thing to work on is yourself because that’s the foundational building. If you don’t have that, you end up trying to imitate other people.


You see a squirrel, and you’re going to go that way.

Two weeks later, they shut down eight of them. It’s like planting a seed and then pulling it up by the roots the next day to see whether it’s growing or not. Those are the ones that can’t make it. Our operator, processor, and synergist have the same issue. Operators who go up into dominant, the closer they’re up to 960, the more they’re closer to becoming a maverick. Instead of being an operator, which is good, they become a maverick. “Screw your meetings. I’m not going to them. Screw your emails. I’m not reading them. I have a job to do. I’m not filling in your stupid forms. I’m certainly not firing up my computer and turning on your dumb proprietorial software and entering stuff three times. I have a real job. Leave me alone.”

Processors are good. Dominant processors become bureaucrats. They don’t see their job as putting efficient and effective systems. They see their job as preventing anybody from getting their work done, even our friends, the synergists. Synergist is good, a dominant synergist. I teach my licensed practitioners to say they become people-pleasers. They can become sleazy. They’re concerned about, “Are you okay? Is everything alright? Are we all stacked hands on this? Let’s all go sing Kumbaya. Can I have some time to talk to you again tomorrow?” Everybody else that’s in, “Don’t you have anything to do? Please, leave me alone. I want to get on with this?”

Is it in the middle of all these types? You said there’s a sweet spot. Is it best to be 200 to 400 or whatever the range was? You said there was a sweet spot on all four. Is it best to be down in one? What’s the ultimate? Is there an ultimate?

The sweet spot is for the team to come up as close as you can get to 240 on the four styles. You don’t want that being for each individual because then they’re all mini-mes, clones of each other, and you get a group thing. You want a strong operator, a strong processor. A team can survive with a third or last of its individuals being dominant. Statistically, it’s never going to be perfect, but if all four styles are active in a primary sense, a team of six can have two dominants, and it won’t fall apart.

What if you had four on your team and all at the 900 and up range? Would they have any empathy? Would it be awful?

People talk to each other. The team loses something I call the enterprise commitment. The enterprise commitment is like a twenty-word phrase that summarizes what I see in what I call a highly synergistic team. An enterprise commitment says, “When I’m in a group or team environment, I put the interests of the enterprise ahead of my own. Not that I want a bigger car or a corner office. I have my need to scratch my visionary, operator, process, or even my synergist itch.”

The enterprise commitment is what binds teams together. When you get too many dominant people, it’s not a team anymore. It’s a group of individuals. It’s a little bit like those all-star sports teams you see. I’m from Europe. I’m a soccer fan. Every night, somebody decides to put on an exhibition game with the best players from each of the eleven positions from around the world. Here they all are, the best players in the world. If you put them together as a team, they’re useless because they’re a bunch of primadonnas trying to get their way. That’s what happens with an overly dominant team.

It’s interesting to look at some of the companies. I had people on my show that talk a lot about how new entrepreneurs are all trying to fake it till they make it. We’ve had Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos and the things that are coming out from some of this. Are you seeing a lot of people trying to be something that they’re not?

Yes. As much as anybody else, it’s not something particularly tied to the visual, operator, processor, synergist model. That’s more tied around cultural expectations. We’re well past the Information Age but that’s what got it started, the huge growth of availability and access to so-called role models. It means that it’s people’s perception of what they should or need to becomes worked. Sadly, we hear a lot about that from the Theranos’ trial as an example. Groundedness is always something useful. I tell people all the time that if you want to develop as a leader, the first thing to work on is your self-awareness because that’s the foundational building block. If you don’t have that, you end up trying to imitate other people.

That’s a great point. It was a huge part of my dissertation on emotional intelligence. That’s a great place to end this. A lot of people are going to learn a lot from what you write. I’m excited about your book, Do Scale. For people who want to read that or take your assessment or do something with you, how would they reach you, and how would they find everything?

[bctt tweet=”Put the interests of the enterprise ahead of your own.” username=””]

I could spit out all my social media handles and all that stuff. Readers, if you go to, there’s a page there for you with my contact details. You can download a free extract from Predictable Success if you’d like what you’ve learned in this episode.

That’s awesome. This has been interesting. Thank you so much. I enjoyed our conversation.

My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

You’re welcome.

I would like to thank Les for being my guest. Les had some great information. I was interested in his experience. I loved taking his assessment. I hope you guys get on his site and do that because it’s interesting to find out what type of leader you are. Some of these assessments sometimes give you some perspective, not only of what you are but what other people may be so that you can maybe develop some empathy.

Developing these teams can be important to have different qualities in each part of the team. You don’t want everybody to be all the same type. They’re helpful for that. I thank Les for being my guest. I appreciate everybody reading. If you missed any past episodes, we have many of them. They’re all available at I hope you take some time to explore the site because there are so many great shows there. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Les McKeown

TTL 890 | ScaleLes McKeown is the Founder of Predictable Success®. Les is an International Keynote Speaker and the author of national best-seller ‘Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track, and Keeping It There’, ‘The Synergist: Leading Your Team to Predictable Success, and ‘Do Lead: Share your vision. Inspire others. Work towards a common goal.’ His latest book is, ‘Do Scale’.

Les has over 25 years of global business experience, including starting 42 companies in his own right. He was the founding partner of an incubation consulting company that launched hundreds of businesses with thousands of employees. A native of Ireland, Les was awarded the Samuel Smyth Memorial Prize as a Chartered Accountant (CPA) in the UK and was, at that time, the youngest qualified Chartered Accountant in the UK. After a brief period with Price Waterhouse (now PwC), Les became Ireland’s youngest ever accounting firm partner. Les’ clients include Harvard University, US Army, Pella, Chiron Corporation, Microsoft, United Technologies, Overture Services (a Yahoo! company), Canadian Defence Department, MI-SWACO, St Vincent Health, Verisign American Express, and many others.

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