How To Soar Like An Eagle with Robert Stevenson

Sometimes we just need a reminder that our attitude and behavior can be changed at any time, and the decision to be a good worker, boss, husband, or wife is entirely up to us. Robert Stevenson, author of the bestseller, How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys, says we’ve all encountered turkeys in our personal and business lives. We may not be able to change these people, but we do have a choice on how we respond to them. With a powerful blend of experience, research, case studies, and competitor perspectives, Robert’s original insights have helped organizations, business leaders, and associates understand how to unleash their future potential. Learn how to deal with risk, competition, and the ever-changing business environment in this riveting discussion with one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today.

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I’m so glad you joined us because we have Robert Stevenson here. He is an international speaker and a bestselling author. You’ve probably seen his books everywhere. Some of them are very interesting titles. We’re going to talk to him about how we came up with his title, How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys.

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Soar Like An Eagle with Robert Stevenson

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How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys

I am here with Robert Stevenson who was one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today as well as the bestselling author. He owned five companies and sold internationally in over twenty countries. He’s spoken to more than 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. He has interviewed more than 10,000 employees, managers and senior executives in more than 250 industries. He is the author of multiple books, the best seller How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys. It’s so exciting to have you here, Robert.

It’s my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to this.

You do so many things that align with the stuff I’m interested in. We’re going to have plenty to talk about. Your last book is Raise Your Line, how many books have you written?

I’ve written four books.

I’m curious of your background that led to this because we were talking and there are a lot of people out there that speak or consult. There are entertainers, there are educators. You’re very much into thought-provoking programs. I want to figure out what led to where you are. How did you get to be such a successful speaker?

I started my first company when I was 24. I owned several companies and when I sold my last company actually 27 years ago a dear friend of mine said, “What are you going to do?” I was too young to retire and I said, “I don’t know if I’m good for Corporate America having owned my own company so much.” He said, “Why don’t you come in and do some training in my organization while you’re figuring it out?” Then I went out to the National Speakers Association Annual Conference, walked around and said, “I can do this. I like this. I have got something that I feel that I could share.” Having been an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship seemed to be becoming more and more of a topic that people were trying to address, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I wasn’t industry or topic-specific because I think a business person has got to be able to handle multiple topics. You deal with change, you deal with innovation, you deal in leadership, trying to motivate your people. There are a lot of different things I thought that I could share. Long story short, I decided that’s what I was going to do. It was a very difficult industry to get into because to be a speaker you have to have a video, but to get a video you have to have an engagement. It’s like chicken or the egg, but I figured it out.  I’ve been doing it ever since.

I guess my niche would be that I customize my programs. I don’t believe in taking a program off the shelf and going out to an audience and saying, “This is the way you do it.”  I believe in taking a look at the industry, or taking a look at the company specifically, and trying to figure out what their situation is and what they need most. Then I get to wrap a program around that. I think what’s been helpful with this process is it’s also a training process for me. As you said, I’ve interviewed over 10,000 employees, managers and senior executives in over 250 different industries. I get to pick up the phone and call star players of companies and ask them, “How did you become a star player?” Then do that wonderful things. I have found when your voice is engaged, you’re not learning anything. I’ve done a lot of listening and a lot of reading trying to pick up on the tidbits of what other organizations and star players are doing to make themselves successful. There’s a quick how I got into it.

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I do a lot of the same thing with my show that I get to interview people and ask them what makes them successful. It’s interesting to me because I’ve had so many decades in the real world and business experience and things. When you were saying how you customize your presentations, but you try to cover so many areas, what I think a lot of speakers and consultants have issues because they know culture well or they know engagement well. They know whatever generations and different issues. When you’re talking to certain levels, you have to know different aspects that are a lot more complicated. How much did it benefit you to have had your own companies in that respect?

Immensely. When you start thinking about the stresses that people are under, it’s good to have been under that stress yourself. You need the people who have been there, done that, got the t shirt and understand what they’ve been putting up with. We’ve all heard that expression but I think it is helpful because I’ve had to make a payroll. I know how important it is to hire the right people. I know how difficult it is to fire the wrong people. That’s what you try and relate to. I learned a long time ago, if you talk to their heart, you can get to their head. Talking to their heart … that’s talking to their feelings, talking to the things that they’re putting up with on a daily basis because they don’t need the esoteric.

They don’t need the big picture. They need the smaller picture, the little things that are going to make them better. Having owned the companies and having run them myself, having to put up with those frustrations and failed and come back and learned how to succeed later, those things are extremely helpful when you’re dealing with your audience. That’s another reason why I also do the interviewing because they appreciate the fact that, one, you’ve been there and learned these things that you’re sharing with them. They also appreciate the fact that he also had the ability to learn specifically about them.

When you interview, are you interviewing them for any other reason other than to give a presentation to them so that you’re tailoring it to their needs? Are you interviewing for your books? What’s your end-goal with the interviews?

The end-goal of the interview is strictly for the program. You get the ancillary stuff that goes with it. I remember I was interviewing at FedEx Freight and the gentleman says, “If you see a truck driving down the highway that has any other name on it other than FedEx, that’s my freight.” You get these gems from people that make a statement and you go, “Oh my goodness,” the attitudes that you learn from them; it’s automatically going to flow into my books because they’re brilliant statements.

The goal is to do everything I can to make that program as best as I can. I’m on LinkedIn and I try and put something out every day on LinkedIn that’s helpful to my clients. You look at the things that they need, that they need to talk about or they need to read about or hear about and you share that with them. The ultimate goal is the program, that’s what I was hired to do. I need to do as much as possible to interview my clients to find what their situation is and find out how I can make that program adaptable to them.

You brought up something that interests me. I have so many people who put me out on their AWeber lists and different things either if they’re on my show or if I’m on their show or in different aspects. They send me what would be considered useful content, not spammy things but things that could be helpful. You said you put something out on LinkedIn every day and I liked the idea of that more than I do the AWeber blast email thing because for me I get so many emails. I get so much stuff that I don’t even look at it. If it’s on my LinkedIn and it comes from my thread, I’m more likely to spend a little more time with it. Do you do both? I’m curious what you think of that. Are you a fan of the mass emails or you focused on LinkedIn or do you like both?

Unfortunately, as my webmaster said and the people that I’ve dealt with in the industry, you have to be everywhere because it’s all interconnected. Do I like it? No, I don’t like it. I don’t like that at all. I think our people are totally inundated. That’s why one thing I love about LinkedIn is your only allowed 1,300 characters. You’ve got 1,300 characters and a slide that you can put on there. In LinkedIn. when you’re looking at that, you can sit there and say to yourself, “I can get through this quick.” That’s what people need. They don’t need the minutia; give it to me, head on, give me something that I can use really quickly and I look forward to getting it.”

I put it out under the title “Consider This” so they glance up and go, “That’s from Rob, his ‘Consider This’. This is going to be quick and easy.” It’s going to be something that I can use. Also, what it does for me, for that little piece to go out there, I do a lot of study, I do a lot of research. I do a lot of thinking about it because it’s my brand. It forces you to work at your craft. I’m always writing and using this material and then sometimes I’ll put something together for LinkedIn, that will end up in my next program. They offset each other and they complement each other. I liked doing it because it forces me to constantly produce new things.

I like it for that reason too; there’s always something new to write about or to think about. One of the benefits of getting older is the experience that I’ve had helps with answering the questions and dealing with a lot of things that you were mentioning of what you see when you talk to companies when you give talks. I think that we have all this experience in all these interviews and all this stuff that we get through the years and it helps you to be more well-rounded in what you can present in terms of content. I’m sure that helped you with your bestseller status with a How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys. I’m curious, what made you want to write that and did you expect it to take off like it did?

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Soar Like An Eagle: How to Win Friends and Influence People

I actually wrote the book out of embarrassment. When I got into the speaking business, after every speech, someone would walk up to you and say, “Do you have a book?” I would go, “No,” and they go, “Oh.” I’ve got so many “Ohs” and these looks on faces like, “Then you must not be credible.” I said to myself. “I’m not going to have this happen. I’m going to go write a book.” I was trying to figure out what I want to write about what would I want to share? My favorite book of all times was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I probably read it seven, eight, nine times. What I love about the book is that I can open the book to any page and not have to read the entire chapter. I can get something off of that page. I said to myself, “How can I write a book that would be helpful under that format? That on any page, you just open it up and read something useful?” It doesn’t matter, just serendipitously you open it up and go, “There it is,” and I can use that.

I wrote 47 chapters. The premise of the book was I wish someone had told me this when I first got into business. When I first started working, if someone had told me this they would have shortened my learning curve, it could cause me to make less mistakes. Then also it’s under the premise of a lot of different things. It’s talking about change and leadership and how do you handle anger and how do you handle terrible people.  Then the premise, when I looked at all of this, got me to thinking about the title, How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys; but that wasn’t the original title.

The original title was How to Soar Like an Eagle When You’re Surrounded by Turkeys. I sent my book out to my dearest friends and family, so they could tear it apart before we started getting it edited. My brother called me up and he says, “You can’t call it that.” I said, “What do you mean you can’t call it that? It’s a great title.” He said, “No, if I buy the book and I put it on my desk and one of my associates walks in, they’re going to go, “I know what he thinks about me.” When you’re surrounded by turkeys…So I changed the title.

Then also I have 86 examples of people being turkeys in the book. The original book had over 250. I had another dear friend of mine called me up and said, “Is there anybody in America you did not want to upset?” They said you’ve been very fair about this identifying all the turkeys and jerks in the world, but you might want to dial it back a little bit because remember, once you put it out there, it’s out there.” I went from over 250 examples of turkeys we have to deal with, and reduced it down to 86; I didn’t want the entire world upset with me.

I think the book took off for two reasons. Number one, people love the title because it’s so applicable to what we deal with. Number two, it’s an easy read. I write like I talk. I keep the topic short and that seems to be the thing now. I wrote this years ago and it seems to be more and more, “I don’t have time to read all this other stuff with all the supporting material. Can you tell me what I need to do, Rob?  And make it simple to understand.”

I think that there’s so much content out there. It’s funny because I found out my great grandfather wrote a book. I didn’t even know he did. I knew my dad wrote. I was at a family event a couple of years ago and they told me, he wrote this book and I looked for it, I found it on eBay and it’s like 600 pages of how to play the card game. Whatever the card game was before bridge. I can’t remember what the name of it but it’s like every hand, every pot.

I’m like, “Who in the world write this as much as read it?” It was fascinating to me that people would even ever buy, I’m sure nobody ever bought it. I think that people want bits and pieces of content, like you say. I know that a lot of my students, you lose people if you don’t stick to the more succinct topics. I think that’s a good reason why this would be so appealing. I’m curious about which one of the examples of turkeys, what were some of your favorite examples? Did anybody recognize themselves in your book and get mad?

One of my favorites was the person who parks in handicap parking and isn’t handicapped. When I do a program I tell people, “I always thought that if I pulled into a handicap, God would be looking down at me and says, ‘You want it, you’ve got it.’” Then you look at the boss side of it. The boss that takes somebody down and ridicules them or corrects them in front of other people. You go through a list of all the different things that people have done to you. Turkey to me is the person who says, “I’m going to buy them a gift, but what did they buy me last year?”

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What does that got to do with the gift? It’s a gift. I always made the statement if you give to get, then you’re not giving. I run through the gamut of it all dealing with the business side and the personal side. The person that dings your car, the person that takes up two parking spaces for their one fancy car. The person that breaks in line. When you’re driving to work, you look at the Turkeys that cut you off and don’t care. I think one reason why people related to the book is because it’s like every time you read, “I’ve been there, done that.” Then sometimes you go, “I did that.”

I wonder how many you could add now with the social media influence with what people are doing. There are people that mock people. The people online and YouTube comments and things. There are so many people doing things and you think, “What happened to common sense?”

I’m fed up with it. It’s their fifteen minutes of fame. Then again you look at it and you go, “Why were they so cruel?” In the old days I used to say, “If you’re writing somebody a letter because you’re mad at him, write it and then don’t mail it. Go read it tomorrow.” I’ve tried to tell managers do the same thing. Sometimes when you’re dealing with one of your subordinates who’s made a huge mistake and it cost you a bunch of money and you’re ready to yell, scream, rant, rave, walk away. Walk away because you got to tone it down. In this day and age of instant notoriety … of something going viral around the world, you need to be careful.  You don’t want to say later, “I can’t believe I wrote this,” because I a not a fan of apologies.

Maybe popping off at somebody is one thing. When someone takes the time to sit down and write it and look at it and then put it out, my statement is at the time you wrote that, that was in your heart and your head. That tells me a whole lot about you. Then you have always said, “I was angry. I shouldn’t have said that.” No, you’re apologizing because you found out the world didn’t like what you said. If they love it, you will take the full credit for it. But if they hate it … All of a sudden you’re going, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean that.” Yes, you did, you wrote it.

There’s so much out there. It drives me crazy. I’m sure you get a lot of people writing things in. I get my share. I’m thinking, “What were they thinking?” There are people that do a lot of that. I think your book is fun because you get to look at some of those things and think about it, but you also have your last book, Raise Your Line. That’s a little bit different title. It doesn’t quite instill the same vision in my head. Tell me how you came up with that title.

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Soar Like An Eagle: A turkey could be the boss who takes somebody down and just ridicules them or corrects them in front of other people.

When I was writing the book, I was having difficulty naming it. I picked the phone and called several people and one of my agents who had been an agent for years, I talked to her and, she said something to me that I thought was profound. She said, “Rob, if you could say one statement at a program that would change people’s lives, what would it be?” I was like, “That’s a heavy statement.” She said, “That’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to change people’s lives.” What would be the impactful statement?

I went back and looked at my other books and I looked at all the articles I’ve written and everything else. I came back to this one article I’d written several years ago when my son was twenty years old. He was sitting in my office and I asked him a question. I said, “Tyler, you’re getting ready to get out of college and you get ready to go into the business world. How do you go about making decisions?” You’re thinking to yourself. I’ve been his father his entire life and he’s been around me as a motivational business speaker his entire life.

He’s probably going to repeat something absolutely brilliant that I have said to him and that is going to make me feel so proud. So proud that he’s saying something that I’ve taught him. Tyler looks at me and he says very simply, “Dad, life is all about raising your line. That’s how you make a decision.” I’d never said that in my life. Where in the world did that come from? I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “You’re born, you die, straight line. If you do something good to me, your line goes up. If you do something bad, your line goes down. Why in the world would I ever want to make a decision that would make my line go down?”

How old was he?

He was twenty. I’m sitting there saying to myself, “Oh my God.” I kept coming back to it because it is such a brilliant statement but it’s also so simple. Why would you ever want to make a decision that would make your line go down? Sometimes they’ve got to be flat because you’re going to school for a year. You’re not raising your line at that particular moment, but you’re learning the whole time. Then you get to take that line up again. I sat there and I ran it by a bunch of people and they said, “Yes, that’s it, raise your line.”

Then  … what I did is in the book, I like to make it simpler for people, so I call them the line raisers and they’re in boxes. As you read the book, if you wanted the cliff notes, you can flip through the book and go to every major box that says line raisers and there are over 100 of them in there. Line Raisers are me saying, “I suggest you do this.” It makes it simple.

Do you have a few you’d like to share, top raisers?

One of the line raisers that was one of my favorites is when you’re in an angry situation  … that you sit there and think about the fact that you’re getting ready to say something to somebody and you shouldn’t. My statement is back off and don’t say that; I call that a line raiser. What I did in the book is I broke it up into four sections. The first section is based on having the right mental attitude.  You’ve got to be in the proper frame of mind. One of the chapters is called The Realistic Optimist.

To me, you’ve got to be an optimist in this world or you won’t survive. The other side of the coin is you can’t drink the Kool-Aid. You’ve got to be a realist about what you’re going to do. The first part of the book was based on how do you look at it from the right mindset? We’ve all heard the Five Ps. You look at the weak points, the weak practices, the weak people, the weak procedures and the weak policies and either fix them or get rid of them.

Those are the things that you do as far as a business person is concerned. Then you look at all of the things that we deal with on a daily basis and you’re trying to figure out, “What is it that I need to do now with the company?” One of the biggest problems I find with the company is that they don’t focus. I had a company, it was a billion-dollar company and the CEO called me up and said, “Rob, I’m bringing in 97 senior vice presidents from all over the world and I need your help. I can’t seem to get them on the same page;  we’re fragmented. Can you help me?” I said, “Sure. I need you to send an email.”

He said, “An email is going to solve this problem?” I said, “No, an email is going to identify this problem.” He said, “You’ve got to me going here. What is this magical email?” I said, “It’s only one sentence.” He said, “Now, you have really got me.” I said, “Send this out to all 97. What’s the number one thing we should concentrate on to be the most successful company in our industry? By the way, this is my caveat. The answers cannot come back to you. They all come back to me.” He says, “To you?” I said, “I don’t want anybody in your company to have any idea what we came up with at the very end.”

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We send it out. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but in my program I’ll ask the question: “We sent it out to 97 people. How many different answers do we get?” Usually almost every time as someone in the back says “97”. It wasn’t that bad but we’ve got 55 different number ones. This company was in the same business, same industry, 97 senior VPs from all over the world. We’ve got 55 different, number one’s. How in the world can you get your people on the same page when your senior management is so fragmented? We spent the next three days culling it down to one. “What’s the number one thing we should concentrate on to be the most successful in our industry?” Then all of a sudden, they take that back and they’ve got something that they can deliver on with their company. What do we need to do to be successful? What has made a successful?

When I go through the line raisers, I look at different things. It is like one of the line raiser dealt with constantly looking for what changes need to be made in the engine that’s driving your business. I’ll give you a quick story. I read it in a car magazine. Mercedes engineers wanted to change their engine. They couldn’t get the money out of corporate to make the change. They couldn’t get it. That’s how the story goes. Then finally they said, “Fine, great.”

They all of a sudden came up with this supposedly new engine and they chained the hood so no one could open it up and then they told the executives, “We’ve got it. We’ve got the new engine. It’s absolutely fantastic. We were able to do without the money. You want to see how it runs?”  They took it out on the Autobahn and it was screaming. It was absolutely kicking engine. Then they brought it back in. Then management asked, “What changes did you make? What is it all about to make this engine so fantastic compared to what we had? They opened up the hood and it was a BMW engine. The engineers asked, “Can we have the money to make the changes now?”

The seven keywords to kill a company. “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Organizations bring me in to talk to them about why change? 230 of the Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1980 are gone. 46% of the perineal leaders. You go back ten more years, that number jumps to 74%. Many companies don’t think they could be gone. They don’t look at it, they don’t remember the fact that RadioShack is gone. They don’t look at all these giant corporations who are gone. Kodak is gone. What I try and do is I try and relate them to these to the stories and make them applicable to what’s going on in corporate America. Probably one of my favorite stories that’s very current is Blackberry. I’ll ask the audience how many had a Blackberry? Everybody raises their hand and I go, “How many loved it?” They all go, “Yes.”

I remember when I saw my first Apple phone. I was on an airplane and I have this guy who was three rows up from me and he’s sitting there and he’s moving his hand over the top of the screen and the screen is moving. I’m like, “Where did it go? What is it? I actually get up from my seat and tapped the guy on the shoulder. He looks at me shocked. He goes, “What?” I said, “Where is it going?” He says, “What?” I said, “The screen. You’re running your fingers over the screen and it is changing.” He said, “It’s my Apple phone.” I said, “I’ve got to have me one of these.” I instantly bought it and by the way, I hated it. Then I’ll ask the audience again, “Why did I hate my Apple phone?”

Finally, someone says the keyboard. I said, “Yes”.  I was mistyping everything because I didn’t have my little keys.” I said, “I sure as heck liked all the other things that it did.” I figured out how to deal with the key problem because I liked everything else. The reason why I shared the story with the audience, when you think about Blackberry, they had a 50% worldwide market share in 2006. Then in 2007, the Apple phone was introduced. Blackberry wasn’t worried. They’ve got 50% worldwide market share. In two years, their market share dropped to 20% and now they call it zero. It’s not effectual when you sell 200,000 phones.

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Soar Like An Eagle: So many companies don’t think they could be gone. They don’t look at all these giant corporations – and now, Kodak is gone.

When you look at a company that had it in the palm of their hand and would not pay attention to what the customer wanted, how ridiculous. What I try and do is share the stories with people so they all of a sudden figure out, “This could be us that can be gone.” Then the biggest thing I try and deal with this is the manager. I ask one simple question, who is your company? It’s a person that I’m dealing with at that moment. That’s who your company is. It’s not the senior vice president of sales. It could be the receptionist, it could be the person delivering the product. It’s the person that I’m dealing with. That’s who represents your company.

When you start thinking about how you’re going to make your company better, you’ve got to make your people better. When I go into organizations, I’m there to make their people better and if I can do it one person at a time, that’s great because then now their company has gotten better. What’s disgusting about organizations, they’re not paying attention to their managers. I say, “Who’s your company? It’s the person that I’m dealing with.” I say, “What’s your culture?” “We have a great corporate culture.” No, your culture is that local manager who could be an absolute jerk. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. It’s the leaders and you know all this stuff. It’s the leaders that are going to make your company great.

It’s like when McDonnell Douglas and Boeing merged, they had 160,000 employees. The two leaders of the two organizations said, “We need leaders.” They built this absolutely fantastic training facility on the shores of the Missouri River in St. Louis. It’s a $60 million complex with 120 rooms. It’s a giant hotel. They bring in leaders, people from all over the world to train them on how to be great leaders because they know that’s what’s going to make their company take it to the next level …. in the future.

I’m still pondering the things that people need to do to succeed and you’re giving so many great stories. I’m thinking if you get 55 different answers for that question from one group and another group, you get different answers. There’s a different answer for each group. Do you see a commonality in the answers of what people think should be the number one thing to do and it isn’t? What is their commonality and what it should be and it actually is of what you see?

I called them powerful meaningless words. I remember one time, I was doing a strategic planning session. I asked the CEO, he said, “Rob, can you come in and facilitate the program? We are doing a strategic planning session and we need your help.” I said, “Send me last year’s plan.” He says, “Last year’s plan? Why do you want last year’s plan?” I said, “I want to read over it.” I read over it and I went out and pulled those absolutely wonderful words. In the plan it said leverage. It said support. It said strength and minimize, refine, established, optimized, define, accelerate, execute. I’ll turn to my audience and I’ll say, “You know what I call this in sales? I call these powerful meaningless words.”

I said, “Every one of these words in these documents should have been defined. We’re going to leverage what? We’re going to support who? We’re going to create where? We’re going to strengthen, how? These all need to be defined.” We need to define these and we can’t assume our people know this. Then we need also to explain why. That’s why I discuss the companies that are no longer here … the companies that have failed and everything else. They have to understand why we’re doing this.

So many organizations and managers say, “We’ve got to raise the bar.” Why? We’ve got to do it, why? If we don’t, our competition’s going to go right by us. Why are we making these changes? I was raised by a military father. There were three answers. “Yes, sir. No, sir. No excuse, sir.” There’s not a lot of conversation with my old man. There was one answer in the household, his. If you ever said why, first of all, you would die if you ever said it. If you were wanting to say why, how many parents have said, “Because I said so?”

That’s right into the book I’m writing on curiosity of what impacts our curiosity is our environment, our family, our teachers. If you’ve been taught to not ask questions because that type of setting, that could inhibit it. I’m curious how you became so curious when you were taught that way?

It was the opposite. My dad was tough and I was the rebel. In fact, this might be a good correlation. Let’s add to your statement right there, the attitude of what happens now with millennials. When you look at it, I’m a Boomer. I remember I had a client that said, “Rob, can you put some stuff in there about millennials into the program?” I said, “I’d love to.” There were about 2,000 people in the audience and I was talking about millennials. I said, “Let’s address millennials because it’s a real interesting study because when everybody addresses them, they talked to them like they have?” and I paused.

I paused long enough to give someone in the audience the opportunity to yell. They filled in the blank. I guess they thought I was asking the question. This person yelled, “Disease,” and I’m like going, “There you go.” Everybody looks at these millennials as if they have some kind of disease. I said, “Let’s drop back here.” I said, “You talked about Boomers. That’s who I am and my dad’s generation, the World War II guys. He fought in World War II, in Korea and Vietnam. He hated our music. He hated our long hair. He hated everything about us. We were supposedly going to be the worst generation in the world, according to his generation because we were disgusting.”

I don't believe in taking a program off the shelf and just going out to an audience and saying, okay, this is the way you do it. Click To Tweet

Then I’ll ask the Boomers in the audience, “What’s the greatest social event Boomers ever put on in the United States?” They’ll yell, “Woodstock.” I’ll sit there and say, “Yes.” As I said, “By the way you millennials out there, we didn’t have cellphones. We weren’t texting. Half a million people showed up by word of mouth.” Then I’ll sit there and say, “You Boomers in the room, you think you’ve got it going on so well.” Then I’ll start putting pictures up of things that were going on at Woodstock. They were crazy pictures. I said, “Yeah, you Boomers got it really going on.”

I read an article the other day, there was a psychologist who said the attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. He says the attention span of a millennial is eight. Then I read another article that talked about this person’s article saying, “Are you telling me a millennial only has an attention span of eight seconds and they can’t stay concentrated on it?” My statement to them is, “Have you ever seen any of them ever binge watch a TV show? They’ll watch twenty episodes in a row?”

My statement to the Boomer about the millennial is the millennial doesn’t have an attention span of eight seconds unless they’re bored. Since they’ve had choices all their lives to be able to click onto something else, they click on it, but they don’t click off if you got them. If you got their attention, you have got them. When I looked at one of my clients, they have a mentor program. That’s really easy to understand. You bring the young kid, you give him an old guy and the old guy teaches them what to do: mentor program. Not at this company. After three months, the young guy has to write about what he learned from the old guy. The old guy has to write about what he learned from the young one. We’re going to grow this business. When you started talking about what caused my curiosity and I said, “There were only three answers. Yes sir, no sir, no excuse,” … what made me want to go out there and find out? My entire life, I was like, “Why?”

I finally get to ask the questions. I actually teach it in a management program. I will say, “Let me teach you something, I call it the five why rule,” and they go, “What?” I said, “You make a statement to your people: We need to do such and such, and they say, “such and such, why?” Then I said, “If you can give them an answer to that, and then they come up with another why and you can give them a good answer to that.” I said, “If you can give them five answers to five whys, it’s a good policy.” I said, “You’ve taken it down five levels. I’ve got five really good reasons on whatever the heck they came over with. If they hit you with a why and you’re like, “Because I said so,” that doesn’t work.

In fact, in one of the posts on LinkedIn I put out, I said, “Have a why meeting.” Send an email to your top managers and have them all come in there and have them come in with one why the heck do we do this in this company.” Have a why meeting because if you can’t answer the why, you’ve identified a problem and to me that’s how you fix companies. You’re looking for the problem, a problem identified is a blessing.

I’d like to see more people ask questions and I think that’s why I’m doing my research and what I’ve looked at is the things that keep people from being curious and there are different factors that we mentioned, environment, there’s technology, sometimes answers questions for us or we’re afraid of it or different aspects. Fear is always something that holds people back as well and just assumptions that they think they know the answers to questions or they don’t even question things.

How do you get a culture of people that want to embrace curiosity and ask these kinds of questions? Normally maybe they’ve had leaders who beat it out of or they would have the opposite reaction that you had with your father instead of finally getting to ask the question that they’re terrified to.

In a strategic planning session, I search to find out what are thee problems they are having. By the way, I won’t do them unless I have young people in the room. I call them up and I said, “Send me the list of people and their tenure with the company. I get 25 years, 18 years, 17 years, 30 years, 35 years.” I went, “You don’t have any twos and threes and fives in there.” “This is a Fortune 1000 company, Robert. We’re not going to have these young people in the room.” I’m like going, “If I’m doing the program, you are.” Then they’re like, “What do you mean?” The guy has been there for 25 years, when he opens his mouth the guy who has been there for 30 years can finish the sentence. It’s the same minutia that you’re going over with over and over again. If we’re going to do stuff, change to be better, we’ve got to look at it from different perspective.

The other side of the coin is this. I know you’ve seen the TV show, The Voice. On The Voice, they have the four chairs and they’re all backwards, not facing the person that’s singing. Why? They don’t want to grade them on race, color, creed, gender, ethnic background, clothes, fat, ugly. They only want to grade them on one thing. What? The voice. Many of us are prejudices in so many different ways. The young person that’s 25 years old, sitting in a management meeting with the old guy that’s been there and he’s 55 years old and they’re with the company for 30 years.

The young person opens his mouth and that old guy sitting there thinks, “What the heck do you know? You don’t have the right to talk here. You haven’t earned the right.” Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE said, “The hero is the one with ideas.” He didn’t say the hero is the old guy with ideas. He said it’s anybody. What I do in strategic planning sessions, I don’t allow ideas to be shared on the floor. We do it via computer. You type in your ideas, it comes to a central location and we put all those ideas together and each idea is assigned a number. The only person that has your number is me.

TTL 226 | Soar Like An Eagle
Soar Like An Eagle: That’s what your company is: it’s not the senior vice president of sales. It could be the receptionist, or the person delivering the product. It’s the person that I’m dealing with. ​

Only I know John Jones is number two and Billy Bob is number three. No one knows whose ideas these were. Then in the management meeting, we put the ideas up on the screen and the people vote on the ideas. “That’s a good idea. I liked that idea. That makes a whole lot of sense.” If John Jones who is 25 years old or Mary, a young female in an engineering company, “How dare they speak.” If it had been the older guy who spoke. then the younger people say, “What the heck? He’s been doing this too long.”

Let’s say we have petty indifferences of people because we’ve been there for fifteen or twenty years working with them and I hate you for what you did to me ten years ago. Does that mean my idea’s bad? We put the ideas up on the screen and we let the ideas stand on their own. Then what we do is we start going through these ideas and I facilitate a program to get people involved … what’s good, what’s bad with it. At the end of the session, when we finally come up with the three top best ideas that are going to help the company, then I tell people who suggested them.

Invariably there is somebody young in that room and one of their ideas made it. That stock value of that person just rose through the roof. They went through three days of a gauntlet of people kicking the dog out of these ideas, trying to come up with the best ones. If they’d have said it at the beginning and their name had been attached to it, it would never made it to the end. To answer your question is a lot of times you’ve got to remove the person’s identity from it.

I’m glad you brought up that point though that It’s not only age, but it’s also people who just don’t get along. That’s huge because, “I’m not going to listen to this guy or her message because she’s annoying or whatever.”

You have to fight them. So many companies bring me in where they have the different silos who fight each other. They don’t want that person’s idea to come through because he might end up being CEOs. I’m going to do everything I can to sabotage their idea. You hit the nail right on the head.

It’s a huge issue and I’ve seen that a lot in companies and that’s a great exercise. I think a lot of people could benefit from now and then you offer so much great advice and I’m sure so many people would love to know more about what you do in your books and how to find you to speak and all the things you do. Is there anything you want to share as far as a website? If you want people to get your newsletter or anything like that, can you share some of your site information?

My website is simple. It’s RobertStevenson.org. You can go to my website and if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, you can click on a thing that says I do a weekly newsletter, like a little blog and it’s free. No charge. You won’t be solicited. No one’s going to try and say anything. I put it up there for anybody. I talk about a lot of different subjects. Then if you sign up, I send you articles that I’ve written for my clients free.

Then on the website, if you’re interested in my books, it will show you the books that are available and you can go right and we’re going to take you to Amazon. Just click on the icon and it takes you there. For the LinkedIn people, if you want to hook up with me, I’ll be happy to connect with anybody on LinkedIn. It’s Robert Stevenson Speaker. Those are the two simplest places to get in touch with me. I’m on Twitter. I don’t do as much on Twitter because I’ve found that the LinkedIn is a whole lot better for me because that’s the business venue that I’m dealing with.

You’ve got to be where your people are, your customers. LinkedIn’s a great area for the type of things that you and I both deal with. All that we talked about have been very interesting to me because I think a lot of this is very helpful for people, just some of those simple things that they could do in a business meeting. I can imagine that if you go to organizations that you helped a lot of people and so I could see why you’re so successful. This has been so much fun. Robert, thank you so much for being on the show.

It’s been an honor. I appreciate what you do and how you’re trying to help people out there because we all need it. If we only get one idea that’s going to make us better than that idea can change our life, and so I appreciate the opportunity to be able to share a little bit.

You are welcome. I want to thank Robert for being a guest on my show. He and I got a chance to speak after we ended this show and I do that with a lot of my guests and afterwards we get some interesting time to reflect on what we talked about on the show. I want to thank Robert for his story about the Roman numerals on a watch story because I’ll probably include that. He told me I could steal it. I’ll probably include that in my book about curiosity. It’s a fascinating look at what we think we know the answers to in life. Sometimes we make assumptions that we don’t always know the things that we think we do. If you have a watch on your wrist that has roman numerals, you might take a look at it to see what you see for the number four. Would you have guessed that that’s the number?

If somebody asks you what the number four looked like in roman numerals on your watch would have looked like you might be surprised. I want to thank Robert for that. I had noticed that and I would have assumed wrong. He’s helped prove my theory that sometimes we need to ask more questions and open up our minds to some different interpretations and ideas that we hadn’t thought about previously. Thank you for being on the show, Robert. You can find out more information about Robert and speaking and consulting below.

About Robert Stevenson

TTL 226 | Soar Like An EagleRobert Stevenson is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today as well as a bestselling author. He has owned five companies and sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. He has interviewed over 10,000 employees, managers and senior executives in over 250 industries. He is an author of multiple books including the bestseller How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys.

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