The Millennials are probably the most elusive bunch to figure out, particularly in the workplace setting. The Millennial Speaker and President of The Center for Employee Retention Clint Pulver help us further understand this generation and figure out how to retain, gauge, and inspire them within the organization. Letting us in on what Millennials actually think through his Undercover Millennial work, he gives us a view on the core needs that allow them to be their best selves in whatever environment they are in.
With so much information out there, it has become easy to turn yourself into an expert. Leading you onto the right path to becoming one with his own roadmap on hand is The Expert’s Expert, David C. Baker, the author of The Business of Expertise, speaker, and adviser to Entrepreneurial Creatives Worldwide. David shares some of the lessons he learned from successful firms on becoming an expert while giving his insights on opportunities, perception, and curiosity.
We have Clint Pulver and David C. Baker here. Clint is a keynote speaker and President of The Center for Employee Retention. He’s known as the Millennial Speaker. David C. Baker is the author of The Business Of Expertise. He’s called the expert’s expert by the New York Times. This is going to be a great show.
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Millennials In The Workplace With Clint Pulver
I am here with Clint Pulver who’s known as the Millennial Speaker. He works with the organizations that want to retain, gauge and inspire younger generations. He’s worked with so many companies to transform everything they do from Keller Williams, AT&T, Hewitt Packard, you name it. He’s also known as the Undercover Millennial in his research. This is going to be fun, welcome.
Thanks, Diane. I appreciate it.
I was excited to have you on the show because I was looking up a lot of your videos. You did a great job with your videos. They’re top of the line. I loved the drum playing. My dad was a drummer. My dad was born legally blind. He did a lot of drumming. I watched your video where you put on the blindfold and did the drumming. How hard is it to drum without seeing? My dad never had it both ways. You have the comparison, I’m curious.
Obviously, it adds an element of difficulty when you’re blindfolded. Much of drumming is muscle memory or technique. Every drummer sets up their drum set to certain heights, dimensions and angles because that matches our muscle memory. That matches our technique. It’s difficult but after you’ve been playing for so long, doing it blindfolded isn’t as hard as it may look.
What’s interesting was when my dad died, they played him drumming from a record he made in the 1930s. It was When the Saints Go Marching In. You can hear him playing the drums. I thought it was cool. I didn’t even know that they had that. It was a moving thing. I want to talk about your background before we get into what you do and how you got interested in drumming, too. How did you get to this place of success? I know that you’re a very well-known, highly-acclaimed speaker. Give me a little background.
A lot of kids go to band camp or they sign up for the band in school. The director says pick an instrument. For me, that wasn’t the case. When I was a little kid, I always struggled sitting still. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with ADHD but the ability to hold still and focus was never something that came naturally. I was a kid that constantly got in trouble. I was always the kid that was told to sit still, stop tapping. One day there was an educator and his name is Mr. Jensen. He told me to stay after class. He simply asked the question, “Have you ever thought about playing the drums?” He said, “You’re constantly flapping. You’re the kid that’s on the list. You’re the problem kid. You’re the kid that got sent to the Principal’s Office.”
He was the first person in my life that saw what many deemed a problem as an opportunity. He saw what people would call an annoyance solution. He gave me my very first pair of drumsticks. It was the total moment in time that changed my life. He was the first person that advocated for me, especially as an educator, and didn’t just try to develop me. In doing so, it sparked the possibilities. With the caveat, it was a commitment that he made when he gave me the drumsticks. He said, “Clint, I want you to keep them in your hands. Keep them in your hands and let’s see what happens.” I wasn’t a problem. I was a drummer. Those sticks changed my life. For many years, I’ve tried my best to keep the drumsticks in my hands.
What was that drumming movie? It was so good. It was out not too long ago.
I know exactly what you’re referring to. It’s a great movie.
It was good. I can relate to that. My dad was always tapping. Whiplash is what I’m thinking. It was a good movie, wasn’t it?
It’s intense. I remember I needed to go on vacation after I watched that film. It was intense.Each company is its own company. Click To Tweet
I can relate to that. Mine was my fingers are always typing because I love to type so much. I always thought I would be great at piano playing because it’s buttons. I always like cash registers and buttons. Yet when you play the piano, you have to do two separate things with your hands. In drumming, you’ve got feet. That’s hard to do. It’s like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, isn’t it?
It requires that independence of all your limbs, your brain, ankles, toes, fingers, hands, wrists, everything. It’s a workout.
You’re a unique speaker. I love what you do because it’s entertainment, it’s educational, you’re getting people up and moving. I appreciate a speaker who is super dynamic like that and also has great content. I was interested in the Undercover Millennial thing you did. I want you to talk about that if you wouldn’t mind because it’s interesting how a Millennial will tell another Millennial or someone they feel is near their age something that they wouldn’t tell someone else. Do you want to give some background on that?
Years ago, I was in New York City. I was in a mastermind group. We had the opportunity to meet with a lot of other CEOs, executives that were the who’s who in New York doing some cool things. One of the CEOs we had the opportunity to meet in his flagship store downtown Manhattan. I asked him the question, “I’m curious about your management style. Have you felt the need to change how you manage your employees now versus how you managed them many years ago?” He very confidently replied back and said, “The way I manage now is the same way I managed many years ago.”
I found that interesting because you looked at the culture and the management style many years ago, that’s commanding control. You put your head down, go to work, be glad you have a job mentality. I don’t know if that necessarily would translate to the use of the business and the market of nowadays. In his story, he gave us 45 minutes to walk around. We could buy some swag. It was a sporting goods store. Instead of doing anything of that, I was curious because I looked around and all of his employees were my age or younger, Millennial, Gen Z, young, right out of high school. I thought so myself, I wonder if they would say the same thing. I wonder if they would have the same confidence in his management style as he did.
I went up out of curiosity and I asked them, “I’m curious, what’s it like to work here? What’s the management like? Is this a long-term job for you? What’s it like?” I was so shocked because they told me everything. I’m a Millennial, I’m one of them but also I wasn’t a manager. I was genuinely curious. At the end of those conversations, I interviewed six of his employees. Five out of the six said they would not be working for this guy in his store in less than three-and-half months. Most of them were on their way out. Most of them were frustrated. They were disengaged. There was zero loyalty. I remember thinking as I walked out of that store, what if the manager could hear this? What if the CEO knew? That was the day that started for me and my organization what we call the Undercover Millennial Program. For the previous years, we got the opportunity to work with over 181 organizations that we’ve interviewed undercover over 10,000 Millennial and Gen Z employees.
You’re doing that with what? Do you put a pen in your pocket that has a camera?
We have an undercover pen and then I also will sometimes use a lapel camera. Both cameras shoot in 1080p. We get permissions from the organization. Protecting the employee’s identity is the number one priority. We pixelate out the employee’s faces. We sometimes will dub their voices or change their voice. If it’s a small organization, we don’t even film. The point of the program is not to figure out who we’re going to fire or who we’re going to boat, it’s what’s the real and most authentic way to capture the employee experience. That’s what we deliver to companies. We do it in a way that’s not a survey. It’s not a one-on-one management meeting. It’s real. Companies have found massive value in applying what we find in creating a better employee culture. How would you engage? How do you retain and create loyalty that lasts?
You talk a lot about Millennials. How different are they in their responses? Do you ask the same questions of the Gen Xers, the Boomers and the Gen Zs? What’s the difference in what they respond?
We have found and we’ve got a book. The book is called I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create an Organization Their People Never Want to Leave. The reason why I titled the book I Love It Here is because that was the magic when I would go up to an employee and I would say, “What’s it like to work here?” When the employee would respond with, “I love it here. I love my job, my management, my culture, what we’re doing here, what I get to build.” That response and the reasons behind those responses were no different. Whether they were a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Z, Gen Y, whatever you want to call it. We found that it was no so much generational as it was good business. Sometimes these speakers, trainers or generation experts, they lead off in this, “If you employ Millennials, you need to treat them this way. If you have Gen Xers or Gen Z, you’ve got to do this.”
We found in our research that’s the case. People are people. Kids nowadays are no different than they were many years ago. However, the environment that they’ve grown up in has changed. Still the basic, core needs of humanity, to feel heard, understood, valued and recognized are universal. The book talks about universal principles not specific to Millennials or to Gen Z employees but to people. We found that there are core principles. It doesn’t matter your age. If you learn how to do this and create this within your business, you give your people that opportunity to thrive, to survive and to come to an environment, a workplace where they like themselves best. That was a cool piece that we’ve tried to push and help train on.
You brought up a lot of interesting points because I often talk to groups about you can’t put everyone in boxes. Everybody is different. You got to know people on an individual basis. There are some places I have worked where I felt the male, female thing was different, how the Boomers treated women specifically. Did you find a lot of male, female differences at all?
Yeah, there’s so much that goes into a person. Whether they were raised in this culture, what their parents were like, what their expectations are, what their view is, what their perception is, what they are looking for. It is so hard to box people. It is so hard to go, “If you’re a female of this age and your manager is this age then you can expect this.” It isn’t possible.
You talk about perception and you also talk about curiosity which is the two things I study. I love that you’re curious. Perception is fascinating because you talk about what employees see versus what leaders see. You talk about being honest in company surveys and what people will say, even what they won’t say. Is perception reality? You know how they say if it is, how do we get along with each other? I understand empathy has got to be a big part of it, if we reach out and try to understand other people from their perspective. Are they working on empathy? Are they working on understanding each other’s perception through cultural cautions of some other way? What do you see out there?
Every organization that is thriving has learned to do that in some way, shape or form. They have to because we’re in a marketplace where if you don’t, this generation or this current market has options. They will bounce. They will go to another company that does seek to understand, that does a better job at listening that is willing to have a better perception of what the reality is. I do. I always talk about that perception determines reality. Whatever is real to people, it’s influencing their behavior. That’s why we’ve been so successful in the undercover program is because that’s what we’re showing. We’re looking for emerging trends. We’re not looking for the employee that had a bad day and is mad at the world, that particular instance, “I hate my manager now.” That’s not what we’re looking for.
We’re looking for the cultural trends. We’re looking for themes. Companies are listening because of the marketplace, because there are options, because to attract and retain good talent is becoming harder and harder. They’ve realized, “We’ve got to listen better. We’ve got to adapt. We have got to change perception, our branding, our culture, not just our customer experience but our employee experience.” It matters. That’s driven a lot our demand is how we figure that out. How do we know what they want in the most authentic way possible so that we can help influence a more positive perception?
You’re getting a lot of data. That’s like a qualitative research study. Have you thought of putting this in a peer-review journal?
We have and a lot of it is in the book. That’s what it is. We took all of that research, all of the stories, the emerging themes, the trends and put it in the book. It’s a great idea to do it in a peer review study as well.
They don’t do enough of that. I’d like to see what tips and tactics people are using to understand people from their own, unique perception. Tony Alessandra has been on the show. He made the Platinum Rule very famous. You want to treat others as they’d want to be treated. How do you know unless you ask? That ties into curiosity and interest and undercover exploration in a way. I like your undercover, trying to figure things out. Why don’t people do that more? Why aren’t they looking at what other people want more? Do they make assumptions? I’m curious how you look at it.
There are a lot of assumptions. You have a lot of upper management that has a competing company, a fellow company or a CEO that they had a mastermind meeting with. They said, “We’ve got bean bags for all of our employees. We provide lunch, set up ping pong tables and it’s awesome. Our people love it.” The upper management and the executives go, “We’ve got to do that too,” instead of digging deep into their people. I’m not opposed to surveys. Surveys can provide vital information. It never replaces that one-on-one connection, that one-on-one relationship, simply asking.
One of the things we found that great leaders were doing in some way, shape or form, they were conducting status interviews. It was a chance to check the status of your people. “What can we do better to keep you? We value you. We want you here. What can we do to keep you here? What’s getting in the way of your success? What can I do to help you get there?” It’s that advocacy versus developing, having that culture that, “I’m here to support you.” We found that it was mentorship versus management. Great leaders were learning how to connect people to their dreams.
That was one of the biggest caveats to digging deep into your specific culture because each company is its own company. Sometimes organizations are trying to mimic cultural trends or the fast, new, employee engagement strategy or the new, fancy thing to do for your employees instead of digging deep into their people and leaders and taking the time to talk about the hard stuff. What’s working? What’s not working? You have to create that culture of trust. You have to create that environment where people go, “You’re worth telling the truth to. You’re worth investing in to create something better for us.”The world has been Google-ized. In that sense, we no longer have any geographic barriers to our expertise. Click To Tweet
You brought up a lot of things, that inverted pyramid of support like in servant leadership. What can we do for you? When you talk about everybody doing the same thing, it reminds me of the movies. How there’s a movie about every musician. You get one thing and everybody goes, “I got to do the exact same thing.” You don’t just get Queen. You get Elton John and then the Beatles and everybody else. They’re good, but maybe we could use something else. That’s not our only interest. They get bought into what everybody else is doing.
I like the questioning to get information because people want to feel you’re tying into what they need. You’re good about doing that in your speeches. I was looking at how you tie into what schools need in your video about what you offer for college students. You customize things based on who you speak to. It’s the same thing in leadership. Your different audience, everybody you talk to. When you do your speaking, I want to go into that a little bit since I brought that up. You had three parts to what you do. You do a pre-speech, a keynote and a post-speech. You also did a lot of stuff with college students. Tell me a little bit about your speaking, who you speak to and how you do it?
I started out in the teen market, high school students, middle school students and college students. In my opinion, they are the hardest audience. You put yourself in a gymnasium surrounded by 3,000, 2,000 high school students, they will eat you alive.
What kinds of things?
They will tune you out. You are competing against their phone. You are competing against friends across the gymnasium. Kids will tell you if you suck. They will let you know. If you learn how to engage, if you learn how to connect. I tell every speaker, every audience is asking you the question, “Let me know when it gets to the part about me.” It’s the same way at business. Employees are doing the same thing. “Let me know when your organization and your initiative, your mission statement gets to the part about me.” It’s not about entitlement. It’s good business, good speaking. It’s bringing the message to them. It’s getting to the part about them.
When speakers do that, it’s magic. That’s what creates the experience. That’s what separates a good speaker from an iconic speaker, a great speaker, someone that got to the part about the audience. When you do that, it is a different experience. Speaking in the youth market taught me how to do that fast. Because of our experience with young people, organizations started to ask and say, “Clint, we want you to come and train our managers on how to connect with young people.”
That’s what transitioned into that corporate space. We start at the Undercover Millennial Program. It’s all about connection. How do we get to the part about each other? Find that win-win. It’s not always about the employee, the CEO, the leaders, they’ve got their initiatives. They’ve got things that need to happen. There’s still a business to run. It’s finding that medium of connection where both parties win and recreate that synergy. That’s how it started for me. I still speak to the youth market to stay relevant, to be a better speaker, to hone my skills, to make sure I’m sharp. It’s helped me in my presentation.
Are the high schools, the youth market any different based on location or they all could be equally as hard to find?
It depends on location for sure, the inner-city schools versus even states. You get a student leadership, like a student government conference versus a regular high school. That dynamic is different. It always is different depending on who you’re speaking to.
When you give talks outside of the university, college type of setting, and you’re an organization. Do you do a free speech consultation? Do you do that undercover speaker thing? You then give a keynote and then you do a post-keynote implementation. Is that how you run it?
It’s always a variation. Every organization has different needs. There is no one set way to do it. Sometimes they want the undercover program. Now we’re to the point, with the book coming out, most companies are hiring us to talk about the research. They go, “He has interviewed our employee population. We want to know what he found and what other great leaders did. What is the universal principle? What are the things that worked in order to ride a solution-based book?” Sometimes they want the research. Sometimes they want the actual undercover program for their company. We always customize and channel that keynote to the needs of the organization. We play a little highlight video about your undercover research if we work with that company. It’s post-keynote stuff. It’s the implementation. How do we strategize? We finish with the why and the keynote. How do we implement how to? How do we create strategy to implement the things that your employees are truly wanting?
The people who talk to you, you’re obviously male and young, if I had gone with my pen and my lapel thing, would they have spoken to me? Is it because you’re so on their same level?
Being young is massively beneficial because I’m going into the organization as an employee that’s looking for a job. I would walk into a Burger King or a Verizon store, if I’m 45 years old and I want to work at Burger King, they might question that. When I come in and I’ve got my backward hat on, my Nikes, my joggers, I’m looking for a job. I speak to them. I am the same age. That helps to gain authenticity. We are trying to capture the real voice. I want to know why you love it or why you don’t. Having that age commonality helps.
You were featured in BusinessQ Magazine as the Top 40 Under 40. You’ve appeared on America’s Got Talent and feature films with Jack Black in School of Rock and Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite. How did you get into that? Are you looking for more of a career in film too? What’s that aspect of it all?
I never wanted to be an actor. I have a bucket list. The bucket list is a big deal in my life. If I put something on the bucket list, it’s not a matter of if it will happen, it’s got to happen. Years ago, I put on my bucket list to be in a movie. This would be cool. I had some friends that were actors. They always talked about being on set. I live by a mantra. It’s a quote by Oscar Wilde when he said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world, for most people merely exist and that is all.” For me I have always tried to live and to live a life of significance not a life of success. The bucket list has helped to support that. I wrote on there, it was number 48 on my list and it said to be in a movie. Years ago, I looked at that and I said, “I’ve got to get it checked off.”
I literally Googled acting agencies in Utah where I live. The first one popped up on Google. I called it and I said, “I have a bucket list and I would like to be in a movie.” The agent was like, “Have you acted?” I said, “No, never.” She’s like, “Have you done theater?” I said, “Not at all.” “How can I cast you?” I said, “I have a bucket list. I’ve got to do this.” She found out that I had spoken a little bit, found out that I was a drummer. She reps a few musicians and she said, “If you let me rep you on the drumming side, I promise I’ll send you on some movie auditions.” I said, “Done.”
Two days after I signed, she sent me on my first movie audition which is for a film called Saturday’s Warrior. It was a motion picture. I went in. I had no idea what I was doing. I gave it a go. I was living. Long story short, I went to five callbacks. They auditioned 300 and something people, and I was lucky enough to get the part. I got the part. It literally all started from a bucket list. Once you hit the big screen or you get a motion picture film that captures the attention of casting directors, producers, other directors. That transpired into the other films that I have done. For me it’s been a fun, unique, different opportunity in a world that is all about magic. It’s all about storytelling. It’s all about a journey. It’s a performance, I love it. It’s helped me in my speaking career.
I’d imagine improv would help, all of that would help. The drumming is a cool addition. Anything you can add to entertain when you talk is always great. If anybody hasn’t seen some of your videos, they need to go ClintPulver.com because they’re great. Is there anything that you want to share? I want to make sure people are able to find out more about you if they want you to speak, read your book or any of that when it comes out. How would they find you?
The website is perfect, ClintPulver.com. Instagram, I post a lot on there, the journey, what we’re doing and where we’re at. I’d be happy to help anybody, happy to connect. Diane, thank you for the time and the opportunity to be on the show. It’s an honor.
Thank you so much.
Becoming An Expert With David C. Baker
I am here with David C. Baker, who is an Author, Speaker and Adviser to Entrepreneurial Creatives Worldwide. He’s written five books, advised 900 or more firms and keynoted conferences in 300 or more countries. He’s been published in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, Business Week. I’ve watched his TEDx Talk. It was unbelievable. It’s so nice to have you here, David.We need very deep expertise in our work lives and very broad expertise in our personal lives to bring everything into context. Click To Tweet
Thank you, it’s very good to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this.
You have a very entertaining talk. I always love to watch speakers see how everybody does it a little bit differently. You have a great sense of humor which makes your talks so much fun. You’re very methodical. You got this calm nature, the exact opposite of how I speak, which I try to be more like you because I’m so hyper. It’s hard to slow it down and connect. You’re great at connecting with the audience. Some of your messages were interesting too. I want to touch on what you talked about. I know you have a lot of books and a lot of things that you’ve done. I was interested in how you see where you have too many goals and what you mean by that. I love that you said you had eighteen careers that you wanted to do when you grow up but you can’t do them all. Give me a little background on you and what led to your talk about wanting to talk about that specifically?
I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I was born in the US. When I was four, my parents were medical missionaries, took my two brothers and me to Costa Rica to live for a year while they learned Spanish, and then to Guatemala where I lived until I was eighteen. We lived with this tribe of Mayan Indians way up in the mountains. It was pretty primitive. No electricity, no running water, no stores, barely any roads. I didn’t come to the US and live here until I was eighteen. It’s a very different background. It’s continuing the real summary fashion. I went to college and then went to grad school. It was a four-year full-time grad program. I intended to go into academia and teach. I was teaching that undergrad and grad level at that point while I was in school and discovered that politics of that academic environment turned me off. I was close enough to the program’s end that I decided to go out and finish it. My life took an odd turn. I’m not sure I would have taken the same turn if I had to do it over again. I looked around me and saw a pretty significant need in terms of how marketing was done. It felt to me like it was way too anecdotal, not scientific. I thought that I could use some of my interest and skills in that space.
I started a firm, ran that for a few years and then the final chapter in my current life was to begin advising principals of those independent entrepreneurial creative firms, ad agencies, PR firms, design firms, digital firms and so on. It was challenging at the beginning, but also so rewarding. Not because I had so much to teach these folks. It wasn’t that at all. It was more than I was learning so quickly, almost drinking from a fire hose, learning what was working in their lives and took that and applied it in other ways. All of my life for the last years has been in those three categories to that same audience, speaker, adviser, and author to the creative entrepreneurial field. That’s an overview. It is one life. It’s been lived well enough. I do wistfully look at that list of the other things I’d want to be sometimes. That’s where it came from, recognizing that at some point the clock is going to run out on all of us.
I remember years ago before digital to-do lists. I would write things on a diary and say, “These are things I want to get done now.” At the end of the day, I’d look at that list. I’d be exasperated and say, “I got so few of these things done now. I’ve got to transpose all of them to the next day.” I decided to write them on a Post-it instead so I could take the whole Post-it and move it to the next day to save time. I realized how many things weren’t getting done and how unrealistic our expectations are for our lives. There are lots of other threads in there, but that’s an overview.
You had a lot of things that I found fascinating about that. I look at things and I want to make them more scientific and quantitative that’s why I could understand what you’re saying. I created a brand publishing course with Forbes a long time ago. I know a lot of people are frustrated with how to market. There’s so much technology. It’s confusing. It’s interesting that you’re sharing what you’ve learned from successful firms, that there are a lot of great stories to share. What do you think are some of the most important principles that you’ve learned from the successful firms that you’ve worked with?
We could take two directions there because I help them with the backend, the back-office stuff. I help them run better firms, which is about managing people well, having a strong positioning, a strong program, understanding their performance financially. There’s the front office side which I don’t help them with. That’s the practice of marketing. Marketing strikes me as the least scientific of all the professional services. We know that’s the case for all kinds of reasons. One is because there are more books on the secrets to marketing than in any other professional service space, which means nobody knows what they’re talking about.
The other is that the barrier to entry for a “professional marketer.” It doesn’t even exist. You can be a professional marketer tomorrow with zero training, which tells me that if the government wants to regulate something because they’re afraid we’re going to hurt people. They’ll step in at any point and do it. In Tennessee you’ve got to have 2,000 hours before you can be called a massage therapist. In marketing you don’t have to have anything. They’re saying, “You can’t hurt anybody. You can’t help anybody. Go on, do your business, we’re not worried about you.” It’s been interesting because I thought there would be more science in marketing than there is. There aren’t. People are complex. They change all the time. There’s so much intuition in it.
It’s an interesting thing to write about and to research because it changes so much with technology. There are so many opportunities. You don’t know which way to go. None of the technology necessarily speak to one another. You’ve got to coordinate it. It’s hard. As a business expert, The Business Of Expertise is your book. I’m curious what made you write about The Business Of Expertise? First of all, how do you know if you’re an expert?
Somebody asked me to define an expert right after the book came out on a podcast. I lamely stammered. I hadn’t done that before which is odd. I define expertise now in the context that I’m using as somebody who has regularly paid for their thinking. Not their doing, but their thinking. I’m very comfortable with that definition. Why did I write a book? Mainly because I was so discouraged with how marketing firms who supposedly know how to create business plans and position products were so poor at doing that for themselves.
Their own desire for variety kept them away from the primary method of being an expert and that’s to focus and dive deep. They resisted that because they wanted to learn the inside of yet one more business and often learning on the client’s dime. I wanted to write a manifesto around expertise. How is it developed? What is it? How do you define it to your prospects? How do you act like an expert? What things that you’re doing speak against your expertise? I have benefited from so many experts in my life. I want to give people a roadmap to be an expert. It’s a very simple book. There are lots of other elements to it but I wanted to influence the conversation a little bit. That was the motivation.
You’ve been featured in the New York Times. They referred to you as the expert’s expert, which is quite a title. You said what speaks against expertise, what do you mean by that?
There’s a book that came out. I’m trying to remember the name of the book. The author, a male, is being interviewed all over the place. It’s an argument for being a generalist in this world. One of the examples in the book is that big navy ships are being developed so differently so that they can be manned by a smaller crew. The crew members need to be generalists who could do lots of different things. You don’t have one crew member who can do one thing clearly well. The book misses the mark because we’re on a Navy ship. We’re taking the Navy ship. That’s the expertise. We’re not taking trollers or tug boats. It misses the point.
The world has been Google-ized. In that sense, what I mean by that is that we no longer have any geographic barriers to our expertise. We can sell our expertise across those barriers and other experts can sell into our territories. When clients or customers have a question, they go to Google now and they have certain expectations. One of them is that the answer is going to be free. That’s a terrifying thing. The other expectation is that I’m going to find somebody who can very specifically, even more than I could even dream, tell me exactly how to do something. I was doing the lawn and the string trimmer ran out. I was having trouble feeding new string into the tremor. I’m thinking, “Surely some fool has done a YouTube video on how to do this.” I go there and sure enough within seconds I got exactly the right answer and I got it free. Google doesn’t reward generalists. Google reward specialists. That’s every search engine result, page or ranking is based on expertise.
Our world needs to be wrapped up in two ways. One is we, in our work, need to be hyper experts. In our lives we need to be complete generalists to bring that deep expertise into a safer context. If we’re weird in our work and our personal lives, then we’ll be quite imbalanced and untethered to reality. We need this very deep expertise in our work lives and very broad expertise in our personal lives to bring it all into context.
It all ties into my research and curiosity. Either way you have to be curious.
Curiosity is important.
I see a lot of organizations where people feel held back. They can’t ask questions. They’re fearful of ramifications. Either way, to become an expert you have to be able to open your mind up to a lot of different opportunities. Many of us are afraid of running out of those opportunities. That was an interesting suggestion as well. How do you address that? Talk a little bit about that? I thought that was interesting what you’re talking about on TED.
I do believe that’s true. I don’t necessarily think we should fix it. I don’t think we even can fix that fear of running out of opportunity. That may be what drives successful entrepreneurs so effectively, because they live with the scarcity mindset. It doesn’t matter how impactful or successful they’ve been up until this point. They always think that they’re one or two days or mistakes away from homelessness. It drives them to continue to innovate and to build. That’s a good thing but it needs to be balanced with this sense by our world developed nation in 2019. If you aren’t regularly busy then you either are new to something or you’re in some very isolated, odd segment of the marketplace or you’re incompetent would be the word to say. It’s not much of a compliment to say that, but how is it that we fear that somehow this opportunity will run out?
The way we operate though when we’re afraid that we’ll run out of opportunity is that we keep grabbing opportunities that we have no business chasing. We need to be a lot more selective with the opportunities that we chase, so we can knock something completely out of the park then dabble outside of that and have fun in our personal lives, but in our work lives knock something out of the park. It’s the only way you will get noticed in this world is to pick something and knock it out of the park. That comes from expertise. There are a lot of arguments about how that happens and so on. I’m on that side of history anyway.
I’m interested to know how to know the best opportunities, how to recognize them. Do you think that’s a problem for people?
It’s a bigger danger not to try things than it is to make the wrong choices. The French word for entrepreneur comes from a French word that means to undertake. That’s what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs aren’t successful because they consistently make the right choices. They’re successful because they make a lot of choices and enough of them are correct that they can cancel out the ones that were not. Entrepreneurs are fantastic at starting things. The amazing entrepreneurs are also great at stopping things so that they can start something else that’s more successful. We hang on to these things that we’ve started too long rather than starting over and stopping. They’ve also been influenced by Derek Sivers who talks about how to react to opportunities that come your way. He says, “There should be no middle ground as you react to opportunities. It should be yes. Absolutely, I want to do that. Right away or no way I’m not going to do that because that will take me off mission.” It’s a complex topic in a world that we worship opportunity and develop countries. In a world where opportunities worship, it’s anti-popular to say we shouldn’t be quite as opportunistic as we have been.Be a lot more selective with the opportunities that you chase so you can knock something completely out of the park. Click To Tweet
You brought up something I thought was interesting in that about being great at stopping. A lot of us are told we need to be tenacious, like the honey badger, no matter what. How do you know if something is you need to stop? That’s a tough decision. Is tenacity something you think is important?
Discipline is important. I wouldn’t say tenacity is important. Whatever you decide to do, it should be a considered decision and you should be disciplined about whatever that decision is that you make. I don’t believe that tenacity is all that useful outside of personal relationships and taking care of your dog and so on. Otherwise, I do think we should be a little bit more brutal with our decisions, our decisions around business, and our decisions around people. How many people who have been in a bad marriage looked back and said, “I should have hung on a little bit longer.” Nobody is saying that. They’re saying, “I should have done it earlier. I should have quit that job earlier.” People don’t say, “I should have hung on longer.” As humans, we tend to fall in love with the status quo even though we complain about it all the time. When we finally get the courage to do it, everybody else around us has said, “It’s about time. We thought you should do this,” whatever this is.
That’s a point I make a lot in one of my talks about the status quo. We’ve seen experiments where people will stand up and sit down when the bell rings for no explanations because everybody else is doing it. You tend to hold on to that. It feels good to do the status quo, what everybody else is doing or thinking. When you’re talking about some of the stuff that you talk about, you had talked about the importance of pattern, how some of us can see patterns. You mentioned a movie I love, A Beautiful Mind. Do you see yourself as someone that sees patterns that others don’t see?
I do. I’m better at pattern matching than most people. I’m worse at other things than most people so it’s not a pride thing. I’d want to tie this pattern matching to the concept you mentioned and that’s curiosity. I like to stop somebody during an employee interview if I’m a part of that process. One of the first questions I like to ask is, “Close your eyes. Describe to me the things you saw when you walked into this building. When you were waiting ten minutes in the waiting room, what were the things you saw? What are the little changes we should make to let this process unfold better for you?” To me, that is a way to measure how observant they are. Observation and curiosity go hand-in-hand to me.
The point of the book is that we can’t get intelligent. We can’t be useful in that sense until we recognize patterns. We can’t recognize patterns until we have similar situations in front of us that will enable that pattern matching. We can’t have those similar situations until we make a courageous positioning choice. I’m going to be this kind of a worker or I’m going to be in this environment. I’m going to follow this service offering. That’s how it all ties together. I do a lot of photography as well. I find myself photographing patterns, too. It’s an obsession. It’s interesting to me.
I could think of certain things. I remember taking algebra in eighth grade or seventh grade where they made us reduce numbers to lowest form. Every time I looked at the clock, I started to reduce the clock to lowest form. It’s funny how you recognize things you don’t even know. This ties into curiosity. I’m wondering about perception because I also do a lot of research. You’re focusing in on the perception in that what did you see? What impact did you see in your question to the new hires? Were there a lot of differences in their perception of what they recognized when you do that?
There is. We almost have to wander a little bit across the border into personality theory. Some people observe things and their primary perspective is, “What are the things that I could change to make this a better environment?” Folks from a different personality perspective will say, “What is different about this environment that I will need to live within in order to prosper?” We all bring different perspectives to that perception. What can we change or what of my behavior needs to change in order to be more effective? I don’t think perception and curiosity have any connection. At least I haven’t seen that. You’d be a better expert on this than I am.
I don’t think it has much of a connection with formal education or intelligence. I’ve met a lot of people who didn’t go to school who are interested and curious and had high degrees of reliable perception. It’s something that anybody can practice. It comes a little bit from your environment as well. My parents used to take us to the airport in Guatemala City. We’d watch people and talk about our perceptions. It made it okay to sit and observe. It was a waste of time. They taught us that.
In my research, my curiosity environment had a big impact on what kept people from being curious. If you had a family who didn’t do that, it would be a lot different than if you had family who did. It does impact us. Perception is reality. Do you agree with that?
I do agree with it in the classic humanist sense. Certainly, that’s true in marketing, branding and public relations.
It is interesting what you’ve gotten into this. I was curious when I was watching your TED Talk, I didn’t get to see some of the pictures you put in there that you said were random. They filmed it. Everybody’s laughing. I was so bummed I couldn’t see them. What pictures did you have in there?
The style of photography I enjoy other than to post pictures of grandkids is what would be classified as urban decay. In the middle of the presentation, I realized that people had no idea why certain pictures were in there at that certain point. I assured them, “Don’t worry, don’t look for hidden meaning. I took all these pictures and I like them. I use them on my presentation.” That was what people were laughing about.
How did you like giving a TEDx? Was it stressful? What advice would you give someone who is going to do that?
It’s not stressful. It wasn’t stressful for me. It would be stressful for a lot of folks, understandably so. For me, it’s more of deep responsibility. Here are some folks have decided to give me eighteen minutes to address. In one case it was 5,000 people at a different one. In another case it was about 2,000 people or something. I better not waste this opportunity. I want to use people’s time well. I did blow it in a big way. Maybe I pulled it off so people didn’t sense that. I ran out of time, and I was only two-thirds of the way through my presentation. You start to get comfortable up there and you feed off the audience. You stray off of some path and you realize that you’re not keeping up with the intended pace. A lot of practice is good. I love those opportunities. I love speaking. I’m not a fantastic speaker. I try to be myself and be authentic. I do enjoy connecting with the audience.
I love that you’re very calm and you have this cute sense of humor. I assume you do a lot of speaking because of your podcast, too. Do you still co-host the most listened to podcast in creative services?
Yes, I do. It’s called 2Bobs, with my good friend, Blair Enns, that comes out every second Wednesday. That’s fun. We don’t have guests on that one. He and I take turns choosing a topic and we interview each other on it. We both serve the same field so it’s easy for us to chime in every once in a while. I do enjoy that. I enjoy being a guest on podcasts. It’s a new speaking. It’s easier than traveling somewhere. You usually have a bigger distribution. You usually have a more engaged audience because if it’s not interesting to them they’ll stop listening. That’s less embarrassing than standing up and walking out of an auditorium. It’s more self-selection. I like that.
I love having interesting guests on the show. You’re definitely one of them. A lot of people find your books and your podcasts and everything you do interesting. If they wanted to reach you is there a way that they can do that? Is there a link or something you’d like to share?
More about the book is at Expertise.is. My work with the creative field is at DavidCBaker.com. They’ll find everything they need there. The latter has more than one million words. I love writing, so I put all that on there for free. People found it helpful over the years.
Thank you so much for being on the show, David. This was fun.
Thank you. I appreciate the invitation. I enjoyed the chat with you.
I’d like to thank both Clint and David for being my guests. I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Clint Pulver
- Tony Alessandra – previous episode
- Instagram – Clint Pulver
- David C. Baker
- The Business Of Expertise
- Derek Sivers
About Clint Pulver
Known as “The Millennial Speaker”, Clint Pulver works with organizations that want to retain, engage and inspire the younger generation.
As the President and founder of The Center for Employee Retention, Clint has transformed how corporations like Keller Williams, AT&T and Hewlett Packard create lasting loyalty through his work and research as “The Undercover Millennial”.
About David C. Baker
David C. Baker is an author, speaker, and advisor to entrepreneurial creatives worldwide. He has written 5 books, advised 900+ firms, and keynoted conferences in 30+ countries. His work has been discussed in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, BusinessWeek, and Inc. Magazine.
He lives in Nashville, TN. His most recent book is at http://www.expertise.is His work has also been featured in the NY Times, where he was referred to as the expert’s expert. He co-hosts the most listened to podcast in the creative services field (2bobs).
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