It’s hard to believe that for someone talking about stepping outside your comfort zone, Andy doesn’t like speaking and self-promotion. Author, professor, and TEDx speaker Andy Molinsky shares that when he first started as a professor, he had a hard time speaking in public and standing in front of people, especially without notes to anchor him. However, having a passion for what he felt he could add to people through his speaking and years of experience made him comfortable about it. In his latest book, Reach, Alan talks about how to step outside your comfort zone successfully and live the life that you want to lead. Renowned thought leader Todd Palmer is committed to improving lives. He works on fostering a culture of learning and growth in manufacturing industries and in different areas. Todd shares that when he work with companies through his coaching practice, Extraordinary Advisors, the first things he does is help them figure out why they do what they do, then build culture points off of that.
We’ve got Andy Molinsky and Todd Palmer here. Andy is the author of Global Dexterity and Reach. He is a Brandeis professor, a Harvard Business Review writer and a TEDx speaker. Then we’re going to talk to Todd Palmer, who’s the Founder and President of Extraordinary Advisors. He’s got some great executive training tips and we’re going to talk to him and both of them actually.
Listen to the podcast here:
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone with Andy Molinsky
I am here with Andy Molinsky, who’s a professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He has a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and M.A. in Psychology from Harvard. He has his own show. He does so many things from writing, which has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine, Psychology Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many more. He’s awarded as a Top Voice for LinkedIn and his first book, Global Dexterity, received Axiom Award. He has a book Reach, which was published in 2017 and he has an interesting TEDx Talk, which is very fascinating to me because it’s about stepping outside your comfort zone. It’s so nice to have you here, Andy.
Thanks for having me on.
I’ve been looking forward to this because I’m writing a book on curiosity and everything you’re talking about falls into what I’ve been studying. We’ve got a lot to chat about it. I wanted to start with your TEDx Talk. You talked about stepping outside your comfort zone and that you had a hard time even wanting to do that yourself because you don’t like self-promotion and you didn’t like speaking. Did you ever get to the point where you like speaking or you still uncomfortable?
At this point, I feel pretty comfortable speaking. I did the TED Talk, and I do keynotes and I do a lot of training and so on. When I first started as a professor, and even before that, I had a hard time speaking in public, standing in front of people, especially without notes to anchor me. I was afraid I was going to say the wrong thing, afraid I wouldn’t know what to say, afraid I go blank. It was very uncomfortable at first. I was scared. Having a passion for what I felt I could hopefully add to people through my speaking and then the experience of when you’re a professor, you’re speaking all the time over twenty years. My experience at least there has changed a lot, but I drew on that personal experience when I wrote my book Reach and I talked to a lot of other people. I have great empathy for people who struggle speaking in public.
What exactly are you talking about in Reach? I like to have a little synopsis of what people expect.
The book Reach is about how to step outside your comfort zone successfully and live the life that you want to lead. It’s not a fluffy book but it is an easy read. It’s based on some real solid research that I’ve done and other people’s research. I’ve interviewed 75 people across professions, executives, entrepreneurs, managers, doctors, police officers, clergy members, students, all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. From speaking in public to making small talk with people you don’t know, to networking, to speaking up in meetings. What I was curious about is what I thought most people would be curious about, why is it hard? It’s hard but why? How can we break that down? How do we avoid doing it? I suspect most of us, on some level, do. What can you do to be successful? Those three questions guide the book.
I was looking at some of the same issues in my book for what holds people back from being curious, which is not that different as what you’re talking about in some ways. It was fascinating to me to watch your TED Talk because you said that there are five roadblocks to stepping outside your comfort zone. Can you share those? It’s really important for people to know that.
This is what I found in terms of all the people I interviewed in all these situations, that people struggled with one or more of these roadblocks. The first is authenticity. Remember, you’re stepping outside your comfort zone. You’re going against the grain of your personality or your habit. It might feel like it’s not you. It might feel authentic. A lot of people told me about that. Inauthenticity, just as an example, imagine you’re a young entrepreneur, 22 years old and you have to pretend to put on a Shark Tank-like situation. Put on your grown-up voice. When you’re pitching yourself and your company to these potential, very experienced, savvy investors, it can feel very inauthentic. That can hold you back. That can be very uncomfortable.
A second challenge is likability. What if they don’t like this version of me? What if in stepping outside my comfort zone, I’m trying to be assertive, be more assertive, but what if people are going to hate the assertive version of me? That’s a concern for a lot of people, not just around assertiveness but around stepping outside their comfort zone in general. The third one is competence. What if I stink at this? What if I’m bad at this? What if other people see me as bad at this? There’s a public and private side to that.
Fourth is resentment. Some people feel resentful. They have to step outside their comfort zone in the first place. Imagine you’re introverted. Imagine you don’t feel comfortable making small talk with people you don’t know especially your boss. Then you see other people doing that and they’re the ones who get the prime opportunities, not you, even though your skills are just as good or better than theirs. People can feel deeply resentful in certain circumstances about stepping outside their comfort zone. The last one is morality. I find this in every case. I opened my book Reach with a story of a young woman who started a company and very soon after, she ended up having to fire her best friend. She felt on some level, which she was doing, in doing that was wrong. You’re not going to experience authenticity, challenge, likeability, challenge, competence, resentment, and morality challenges every time you step outside your comfort zone but even one of them can make it hard to do. That’s what I chart in my book and I give people tools to try to diagnose their own challenges.
You’ve mentioned challenges, I’m sure everybody can relate. What you said about the version of me was interesting. I know as a speaker, there’s a certain persona that I’ve always felt that when you get up on stage, if you’re not super dynamic, if you talked the way you normally talk, people are not going to maybe hold their interest as much. You have to put on this over the top. It doesn’t come as comfortably. For me on the radio, this is how I am. Although I’m a hyper kind of person, I am not very monotone. It’s just my natural thing, but it’s something different when you’re on the radio as compared to when you get up in front of the stage and people. Having your bullet points to bring you back to where you are or whatever. I spoke for Forbes once and I’m so used to having my PowerPoint with my things in front of me and they put me on a stage with these huge bright lights in my face. It was a very enormous room to begin with. My presentation was behind me on a screen. I couldn’t even see and there was nothing else I could look at, and you get that sense of, “Oh.”
I remember I took a public speaking class in graduate school and the first several sessions, the professor had us write out a little speech, like a 22nd speech then a 32nd speech then a 42nd speech. We had it on our note cards and we read from our note cards and so on. After class three and class four, we walked in and he says, “Can I have your note cards?” We were like, “Okay.” He takes them all and he ripped them up and he says, “Let’s hear your speeches.”
It’s so great when you finally get to the point where you don’t need those note cards. That’s a sinking feeling the first time it happens. Everybody wants the pictures of the fish jumping from the one bowl to the next. When you did that in your TED Talk, did you have notes to look at? I know they have the teleprompters on the floor, but do you look at those still? It’s so timed at that such specific thing. I’m just curious how you handled that.
For me, it’s interesting. Twenty-five years into my career, it’s pretty easy for me to give a speech, especially around a topic like stepping outside your comfort zone, which was a keynote that I’ve created based on my book and I’ve delivered it probably at this point, 50 or 70 times, something like that. My first book was Global Dexterity, about acting outside your cultural comfort zone. Similarly, I have a keynote associated with that book that I’ve given probably about the same amount of time since. It becomes you in some ways. It’s almost like part of you in some ways. I’m sure every time I delivered, it’s not the exact same, but I embody it. I feel you’re truly authentic giving it. It’s just part of me, but that came with a lot of experience, a lot of practice. That’s above and beyond the fears of public speaking, which is something I confronted earlier in my career.
It’s something that a lot of people have to confront. I know Susan Cain’s books resonated with so many people quiet because there are a lot of introverts that have a great difficulty being put in that situation. Would you consider yourself an introvert?
I’m in between an introvert and extrovert.
Some of the greatest speeches can be given by introverts and extroverts. I’ve seen Susan speak and she was great. If you know your topic and you’re passionate about it, that’s a big part of it. In the talk that you gave about stepping outside your comfort zone on TED, it was interesting that you were saying how you googled how to do it right, and that it took enough inspiration and you can do it. Just take the leap. Do you think that that’s realistic? What would you tell somebody who has difficulty stepping outside their comfort zone? What does taking the leap do for you and how do you even do that?
If you look on this, I do talk about that. If you Google comfort zones, you’re going to see pictures of people jumping off bridges, jumping off cliffs, fish jumping, fishbowls and so on. It’s funny because at first I laughed at those but then I started to have some idea that there is some wisdom in that, but it’s an incomplete wisdom. That’s the thing, taking a leap ultimately is the most important thing of all because you’re never going to learn about yourself unless you actually try something. You’re not going to try something until you take a leap.
Once you try something and you take a leap and you try to set yourself up for success during that leap, you’re probably going to learn that it’s not as hard as you thought it was. You’re more capable than you thought you were and that’s going to encourage you to try it again. That’s so important. Taking a leap. What’s incomplete about these memes on the internet and pictures on the internet? It’s the front stage, backstage. You imagine someone on stage, but then there’s the backstage, the curtain and what’s behind the curtain with all the work that’s entailed in getting yourself to the point where you’re capable of taking the leap. That’s what my book’s about.
There are a lot that we don’t see. When you see people up there and you think, “They make it look so easy,” and then you hear like Hugh Grant has stage fright. You would never think that, and you think that all these people take it like it’s no big deal. For me, I remember being in college when I used to have to give the talks, they make you do that in business school. I used to think, “I’m going to die if I get up there and I’d be fine.” When you get up there, It’s the thinking about it, I think when you haven’t done it that it’s all those things go through your head. Even some of the top C-Suite executives have difficulty because a lot of them think they’re going to be discovered that they don’t know as much as people think that they do if people start asking questions. How much is the question and answer part freaked people out?
There has been some research done that says that the greatest fear of CEOs is not that their business is going to fail, that the competition’s going to overtake them. It’s that they’re going to be found out as posers and imposters, that’s their biggest fear. That totally resonates.
It is something that you hear a lot of. I had a lot of consultants on my show that have agreed with that. Do you find that from the people you consult?
There’s no question about it. I was very curious in my book about trying to figure out what distinguished people who are successful from those who were unsuccessful at taking the leap. I found, and I help people with three key tools that I help people develop. One is conviction. Having a deep sense of purpose and why you’re doing what you’re doing. The second one is customization. The idea that a lot of people don’t realize they have more power than they think to tweak a situation. To make it a little bit easier for them to do and when they can realize that, the whole world opens up in a way and they have more power than they think, in a situation that otherwise feels powerless.
The third tool is clarity. A lot of people fall off the emotional balance beam. Catastrophize, think of the worst possible case and fixate on that when stepping outside their comfort zone. I try to help people have more of an even-handed perspective on the challenges. They’re not going to be the best TED Talker in the world when they first give a speech, that’s okay. You’ll probably be a little bit better than you think and you learn from your mistakes and the next time around, you’ll probably do a little bit better. That’s an even-handed normalized way of thinking. A lot of us, when stepping outside our comfort zones, initially have much more of an extreme version of thinking in a sense, emotions hijack our rationality. I help people with these three concepts, conviction, customization, clarity. That’s what my books are oriented towards. That’s what my consulting and my work and trainings are oriented towards and it’s exciting to see the effects of it.
Those are all important things to work on. A lot of what I see with people, especially now that everything’s on social media, is that it plays over and over and over and people can make lovely comments and give their opinions on everything. How much does that hold people back? You can’t pull it down once people start sharing it if it’s something bad or whatever. People can make such negative comments and say nasty things.
That is true, especially if you put yourself out there in a public way. There’s a whole range of people in their relationships with social media. I know people who aren’t affected at all. I know people who are obsessed with it. I would say that the clarity piece that we talked about before is equally applicable to social media. Sometimes on social media you’re going to get very thoughtful. Even a critique, it’s going to be a thoughtful critique that you need to treat ultimately as data. Data on how you can improve. I learned that to be honest in the academic world when I write papers for academic journals. You would not believe the critiques that you get. Four pages of single spaced critique on how awful your ideas, your theory, your research, your statistics, everything.
Early on in my career I would take that as the front and that I would be very defensive. Now I see it as data, like “Here’s someone taking the time to dig into what I’ve done and give me some solid critique.” I might agree with some of it. I might not agree with some of it, but it’s data about how one person who took the time to evaluate me, what they think about me and my work. If you can separate a little bit like that and learn to do that, critique ends up becoming a very powerful engine of growth.
I do a lot of research for Peer Review Journals and when I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, and working as a doctoral chair, all of those are all feedback things that come back like that. It’s just brutal. You think, “This was great,” and you can bring it in and then the amount of red you see coming back. It does take you down a notch at first when you first see it. Then you go, “Huh?” Because you don’t know what you don’t know until somebody shares that with you. We have interesting comment and I saw that you had a joint appointment with the Department of Psychology. Psychology has always been a very interesting factor because my degrees are in business as well. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I like the psychology aspect of it. I’m curious what you teach. You have joint appointments, so are you teaching business classes and psychology-based classes or what do you teach there?
I teach organizational behavior, which is at the intersection of business and psychology. I teach a course on global dexterity, which is the topic of my first book on helping people step outside their cultural comfort zone. In all my work, I’m always interested. I talked earlier about the front stage, backstage idea, about understanding people’s inner world, inner experiences and how that contributes to their behavior. That’s what I was trained in and that’s what I’m most interested in and also then helping people with that and helping people live more successful and fulfilling lives by noticing, understanding those things and then working on them.
How much do you work with your interviewing? I’ve seen your site, you interviewed Simon Sinek, Tal Ben Shahar. You have some amazing people that you’ve interviewed. Is this something you do as part of your teaching or you just wanted to do the interviewing for the rest of us with radio and podcast? I’m curious what got you into that?
Both in some ways. They’re very interesting pieces of content around comfort zones. I’ve been interviewing people around stepping outside their comfort zone, advice that they have for young people. I’m starting an initiative here at Brandeis International Business School, focusing on leadership for young people. This is very useful content for those folks and it’s inspirational, in some ways educational. I enjoy the conversations I learned and grow from doing these conversations and to be honest, I enjoyed doing it.
I do too. It’s a lot of fun. I use a lot of these clips in my courses because I still teach for a quite a bit in everything from graduate through doctoral students. All of this is applicable to what they’re learning in the courses. What are the topics you’ve posted maybe in your courses from your interviews that you think your students found the most interesting?
It depends. I don’t think that there’s at least a single topic that all students find interesting. I think that people tend to gravitate towards different topics, depending on who they are and where they are in their stage. A lot of students close to graduation, whether it’s undergraduate or MBA students are quite interested in the stuff that I write about pitching and promoting yourself, about small talk, about networking, about stepping outside your comfort zone and those types of circumstances. People who are foreign born professionals who I work with or teach are quite interested in the cross-cultural side of things that I write about. It depends. I’ve multiple people who link in with me at multiple vantage points.
It’s fun because no matter what, when you start doing enough of these interviews and from the hundreds of people I’ve talked to, there’s always something that I think, “This would be great to talk about in this part of the lecture.” Since I teach online, it’s easier for me to just grab a clip and put it in. Now, you teach in person classes. Do you do online as well?
No, I don’t do online with my university. I do a lot of web. I do webinars, some webinars associated the university and some on my own. I do a variety of things.
I noticed that one of the first things you said in your TED Talk was that you were curious about the topic and I’m curious about that topic, but I’m a very curious person. Do you consider yourself as a curious person in general and do you think that came naturally for you? What do you think holds people back from their curiosity?
I’m definitely a curious person, there’s no question about that. What holds people back from curiosity? I don’t know. It’s a good question. There’s probably a whole set of reasons that people might have a curious instinct in the first place and then there might be some reasons why people wouldn’t pursue that curious instinct. Those are the things. Someone who might not pursue a curious instinct might be someone who would be afraid of, might be self-conscious and afraid of asking the “dumb questions” that might be associated with curiosity, for example. Putting themselves out there. Having the patience to be able to pursue something from a creative instinct that might not give you immediate gratification and so on. There are probably a lot of reasons, a lot of psychological reasons that people would either not have the instinct in the first place or have it but not feel confident or capable of pursuing it maybe. It’s an interesting question.
I think it ties in a lot to what you talked about and that’s why I asked you that because it’s almost the same thing. You look at what’s holding them back from stepping outside their comfort zone just like I’m looking at what holds them back from curiosity, which is almost similar in respect. I found that fear was a big factor and you’re looking at fear and comfort. You don’t want to feel stupid. You don’t want to ask the dumb questions in all the things in social media or all the people looking at you. A lot of it overlapped. That’s why I thought it was very fascinating to hear what you did. I’m a fan of your work. You’ve done some amazing books and I liked that. Anybody who hasn’t seen your TEDx Talk should check it out because I thought it was great. I was just wondering if you had some information of how people can reach you and find out more about you.
I have a website, www.AndyMolinsky.com. I’ve got tons of stuff up there like all sorts of articles that I’ve written and video and self-assessments. I tried to create a website to be the kind of place I would want to visit myself. That was my inspiration and I’ve got all my links to social media there too and I love to connect with people.
What’s your favorite self-assessment of your own that you recommend for people? Myers Briggs or Desk?
There’s a lot of debate about the validity of Myers Briggs, whether it actually measures anything of value. My viewpoint on the Myers Briggs is that perhaps its greatest value is to open up the conversation itself about personality among a group of people who don’t talk about personality. They might start to attribute things to personality as opposed to, “I just hate that person,” instead of saying, “Maybe they have a different style.” I think that ended up itself is perhaps a useful learning even if the Myers Briggs itself is not fully reliable. I feel mixed about a lot of assessments. The assessment that I have on my website are a little bit lighter, a little bit more fun. They’re not scientifically validated. They’re not meant to be. They’re meant to be entrees into a topic and into a conversation to inspire people to think about issues around stepping outside their comfort zone and cultural differences. That’s what you can find there.
A lot of these self-assessments, you get it and realize it’s self-assessment and some of it is great for opening up the dialogue. I appreciated all your information that we had here because a lot of people can benefit from all this. I hope they take time to look at your site. Thank you so much for being on the show, Andy.
Thanks for having me. It’s was fun.
It was fun and you’re welcome.
Building Culture Points with Todd Palmer
I am here with Todd Palmer who’s a renowned thought leader and top staffing and recruiting executive who is committed to improving lives. As a successful entrepreneur, business owner and industry advocate, he works with individuals and companies to support career growth, foster business startups and guide leaders in the area of talent management, work force planning and organizational development. In his book, The Job Search Process, he provides practical, targeted guide to landing a new job in only 30 days and his work was nominated for both the Axiom Book Award and the Ben Franklin Business Book Award in 2016. I’m so happy to have you here, Todd.
It’s great to be here. Thank you very much for having me.
I’m interested in what you’re doing, Todd, because I know you’ve helped thousands of people secure employment and do all these things and you have these books that you wrote a couple of years ago that’s very successful. You’re also doing some speaking and coaching. I love the title of your key note, Failing Forward in to Success, because I teach so many business courses and I hear people talk about failure a lot right now. The fact that you put failing and a twist on the word, was it interesting to me. I’m curious what you talked about it in your speech.
The challenge is failure is often seen especially in the entrepreneurial community as a win or lose, either I succeeded or I failed. I tell stories when I’m on stage about a lot of my failures and what I try to use those is opportunities for people to see failure as nothing more than stepping stones to success. One of my favorite authors is a gentleman by the name of Dr. Daniel Friedland and he talks about his book and he defines failure as, “If I’m here today and I’ve done everything I can, how can I truly have failed? If I give it my all and I’ve learned I haven’t failed, if I’ve invested in the experience and I’ve learned from it, I haven’t failed because the learning takes place.” When the learning takes place, the success is going to be a derivative of the information we’ve gleaned in failing forward in to success.
We were in alignment of what we both talked about and what we’re interested in. What I was writing about was for my book on curiosity about the importance of innovation for curiosity and part of it is to allow people to fail. A lot of being successfully innovative is having the bravery to not worry about, “What if this doesn’t work?” Do you think that leaders are letting people fail enough to let them be innovative?
I’m not sure that that I’m the best person qualified to answer that because I worked so much in our recruiting company, works so much with old school manufacturing. They are so measured in their lean principles to really, failure is almost a dirty word. When you take a look at the tech space or other innovative categories, failure’s part of everyday life. That’s where they’re working on things. My computer was shut down for two hours as my computer was getting new updates, which is nothing more than debugging something that failed and didn’t work. The tech space, I’d love to see it encourage more in the soft skills categories, like HR, like marketing. In the hard skill categories of, hard skill manufacturing, it’s a challenge. It’s such a pivot and I’m sure you know, the pivot of the mindset to recognize failure as nothing more than, again, the opportunity to grow and to be curious. How did I grow and then what did I learn from it?
Soft skills are such an important thing and you mentioned that I was looking. You’re the Founder and President of Diversified Industrial Staffing and you launched skilled labor training centers to train the next generation of machinists. You were talking about some of the stuff that you do and I want to make sure that people had that background on you because you work on fostering a culture of learning and growth in manufacturing industries and in different areas. What do you do to help foster that culture? What can we teach people about that? What you’re talking about, the culture of learning is what I’m trying to get with the curiosity as well.
It’s important to start with why we do what we do as entrepreneurs. One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek and he has the whole process of figuring out and discovering your ‘why’. When I work with companies through my coaching practice, Extraordinary Advisors, the first things I do is help them figure out why they do what they do, not what do they make or how do they do it. Then we build a culture points off of that and that’s where the magic takes place. Some of the things that we’ve done here are diversified, once you figured out why we did what we did, which is to improve lives. It’s simple to remember, but hard to execute. Then we build a culture points off of those. One of our culture points is we hire for DNA not for resume, were then able to get the right people on the team and the wrong people off the team in order to drive the business forward. The businesses we’ve placed skilled trades talents around the country, the manufacturing space.
I like that you hire for DNA, not resume. Companies are hiring for hard skills and firing for soft skills. When you say you hire for DNA, what do you mean by the DNA?
In 2006, my business was struggling and I realized that I had the wrong people on my staff. I was $600,000 in debt. I was 60 days away from running out of cash and I had a toxic culture within my organization. I, as the leader, had contributed to it and I allowed that to occur. Looking at the finances, looking at the numbers, I recognized and realized that I needed to do some things differently rather fast. I did, I told this story on stage. I walked in on September 9th, 2006, fired my entire company and I started over. I started over because I realized that I could take people who were great people, who had the right DNA and teach them to be great recruiters.
What I couldn’t do is take people that got a lot of recruiting experience who didn’t fit the culture and make them a cultural fit. We’ve embodied that in what we use, we use the Desk program, we use Kolbe, we figure out what people have, who they are, who they’re not. We want to play to their strength, not their weaknesses, so that we can see them flourish and foster not only a great opportunity for them as a professional with us, but also a great opportunity for them to enjoy the work that they do.
My sister’s a recruiter for the nursing industry and I’ve seen that that’s a stressful industry. It’s hard because there’s a lot of competition and you’ve got to deal with a lot of different factors and it’s interesting that you use some of those personality assessments. I’ve written a book about all the different personality assessments including Desk and you talk about playing into their strengths. Did you ever use StrengthsFinder? Are you mostly focus on Desk or what other assessments have you tried?
I love StrengthsFinder and I’m a big fan of Marcus Buckingham and the work that they’ve done over there. All those different pieces come into play. What we really did is the bottleneck within every organization typically seems to be at the top of this; like a bottle of your favorite wine, the bottleneck is at the top. What I chose to do is I’ve removed myself from a lot of the hiring decisions. I put a process in place, but I let my team actually pick and choose whom they want to work with. That’s been a real big challenge that we call it the American Idol round of the interviews. The candidate who comes to interview with us for our internal positions sits with three of their peers and they have a lot of questions they go through. They get a feel for who that person is to take a look at the assessments and see who that person is and they figure out will this person be a good fit for who we want to have? Because I’m a people person, I like everybody and I found that when I was involved in the process, we ended up making unfortunately some not so wise hires.
I had to take personality assessment for a few jobs before I was in. I had one where they gave us a personality assessment once we were in and then made us put our results on our cubicles, so everybody knows what your type was. It’s tough, do you pick people only based on, can you say that all sales people in the past, for example, salespeople we’re supposed to be like extroverts, but now I’m hearing while some of the better salespeople are introverts because they’re listening in a different market than it used to be. What do you think about that?
A great salesperson listens 80% of the time, especially for what we do. We sell not only to businesses we take on our employees, but we also sell new job opportunities to people who have jobs. You mentioned the stress of being a recruiter, it is true. It’s a job that you were only going to fill anywhere from 10% to 30% of the opportunities that you received. Even going back to the failure mindset, that means you’re feeling anywhere from 70% to 80% of the time, often through no fault of your own. Just because the tail is not out there. We’re in a country right now where we have full employment. We’re in a country right now where the highest category of the unemployed is the millennials and we have the lowest labor participation rate in 45 years. That makes it really difficult to be a recruiter, whether there’s just fewer and fewer people every day to put to work.
What do you think the reason is for the millennial’s lack of being out there?
If I could crack that code. It’s really hard. You’ve got your cultural thought processes, you’ve got your family dynamics where a lot of millennials frankly, are not forced to go out and cut their own path in life. They’re the generation that’s really been given everybody gets a trophy. Competition is not seen often in that category as a healthy thing by the parents before them. When you’ve got a country at 4% unemployment rate, you’ve got a category that’s almost at 13%. That’s a big issue right there, tied into how millennials work. My experience has shown me and the research I think supports this. Most millennials want to work in teams. Most millennials want work life balance and most millennials don’t want to work beyond 40 to 45 hours a week.
It’s very difficult in tough spaces to attract somebody to those jobs if they don’t want to put in the hours. You’ve got the accounting space. You’ve got the medical space. You’ve got those categories where they’re typically have to work in excess of 40 hours. The millennials don’t want to do that work, they’re going in other directions and if they’re supported at home and they don’t have to go out and have a mortgage, go out and have a car payment because mom and dad or family are taking care of them, it’s a multipronged problem.
Do we need to change the work requirements because everybody’s shifting to a different mindset or what do you think the solution is to appeal to millennials?
I think the millennials are telling us what the solutions are and they’re really becoming more and more part of the freelancer nation. Data shows that upwards of 35% of that category of workers are not working for companies. They’re working for themselves. They’re working when they want. Even with our recruiting company, we’ve had deep discussions about how we create an environment where people are measured on the work they produce, not how they did the work. In millennials, my son’s 27 years old, he’s an accountant out in Irvine, California. I had this conversation, I said, “You, in theory, could literally buy a Winnebago, drive around the United States, and work full-time without having to have an apartment. You can produce quality work in the accounting space and you can work whenever you want to.” and he’s more of a night owl than I am. He’s ideal time to work would be from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM. As long as the work is done. I can’t do that either. As consumers or as employers, as long as the work is done? Does it matter when it was done and where it was done from?
I’ve worked virtually pretty much my whole career. Even when I was a pharmaceutical sales, basically you don’t have an office. It’s nice to have that, but you have to be very self-motivated. How do we get people to become self-motivated?
As recruiters, we do this all the time. For someone to be self-motivated, we have to know what is important to them and we tapped us. We have to then sell it to our employers. It’s a tough balance. A lot of people don’t have enough self-awareness to be self-motivated. For my son to have his big key driver as a 27-year-old millennial is to have freedom and flexibility in the work. He’s happy to do the work. He’s happy to provide a quality product, but he wants the freedom, the flexibility to go do other things with his time. Sometimes those things are at 2:00 PM on a Wednesday.
Think about a single mom. If you’ve got a great single mom who, for whatever reason, is not able to put in 40 hours a week, but her work is high quality, as the consumer I want the high-quality work. I don’t care when she does it. She’s going to spend her time with her children during the day and she’s going to work from seven to midnight at night and she provides great work as a consumer, as an employer with a lot of things with technology. With the Trello’s, with the titles, with other programs. It seems like we can work with those people to give them what they want as well as the consumers are getting what they wanted to. There was an opportunity out there for a win-win scenario.
It’s very challenging to find good virtual jobs if you don’t have an end with somebody or hear about it. Because if you look something up like those kinds of parameters on something like Monster or whatever, you’re going to end up with all these work at home scams or different things, maybe not on their site, but on certain sites. You’re not going to get anything maybe manufacturer or something at home for $10 for eight hours at work type of thing. How do you get a people to align? Do you think that there’s enough companies out there that are aligning the people who want to work that way with those types of jobs?
I don’t think there is, but I do think in the end, the data points are showing it’s heading that direction. It’s going to have to shift that way. It’s no different than in the seventies and eighties when we were doing offshore manufacturing, it was new, it was different. In some spaces it was seen as anti-union and the anti-American. Flash forward 35 years later, it’s the norm. We’re a global economy now. There’s no way around it. That’s how things are going. As that knowledge share continues to grow, the best talent may not be in your communities. The best talent maybe overseas or across the country. If people want that best talent, that’s the way it’s going to go. You’re going to see an evolution to occur. There are companies out there right now like a guy I know, Ari Meisel, created a company called Get Leverage where they literally can bill you by the second for the work that’s provided by their freelancers.
That’s an interesting concept, because what I could do in a minute compared to what somebody else can do in a minute is different. Are we rewarding or not rewarding efficiency?
If the person is efficient and what’s most important to them is freedom and flexibility. They want it and they can all tear it out too. If you’re going to take out of someone like yourself who’s got, several degrees, a wealth of experience versus a new person, as the middle person, as the website, as the aggregator, I’m going to charge more for your time and pay you more because the quality of work is going to be higher. It’s almost like if you walk onto a car lot, I’m going to pay $100,000 for this Lexus or I can get a step down for $25,000. They’re still cars and they’re still going to get me from point A to point B, but the quality of the experience is going be very different.
I’ve worked with other PhDs and some of it will be very slow and inefficient, but they have the same background and experience. I could see people milking a system if it’s pertinent. It’s so hard to see how to pay for people
If you take that mentality and take a look at the people that are working within our companies right now, the average eight-hour employee is only working about four and a half hours on your site. It’s already occurring. We are being essentially adjusted by our eyes to see when someone’s been here for eight hours. I must be getting eight hours’ worth of work out of them when they’re really not.
I’ve had some other schools I teach online courses and I’ve had some of the schools start to change instead of giving you a fee based on your courses that may, some courses may only have six students, some may have 35 students or whatever. They’re starting to pay you per student to make it more, it aligns better. There’s got to be different ways of setting up these companies and different ways of paying people, so that’s fair. What you do is interesting because now you’re in Michigan, right?
I was looking at all these awards that you’ve won, Inc. Magazine 5,000, one of the best, fastest growing companies in America six times, Michigan 50 company to watch. There’s just, their list is so long, I would be here a while listing it. I had attended a Forbes summit in the Midwest where they were talking about how it used to be that the hub, with the cars and everything else. That was the main thing. Then we’ve got the Silicon Valley or that’s the main focus. As we’re starting to become more virtual. It will be interesting to see if we’ll have the same hubs in wherever they’ll change. What’s the Midwest right now? Is it hard for them that this was the hub and then now it’s trying to reinvent itself?
It’s definitely reinventing itself in it and I have to give a lot of credit to a gentleman by the name of Dan Gilbert. He goes Quicken Loans, the Cleveland Cavaliers and he is Michigan’s most progressive entrepreneur. When Detroit was in its bankruptcy a few years ago, Dan has purchased 120 plus buildings downtown Detroit, and he spill those buildings with employees, white collar employees. He’s brought over 15,000 white collar jobs to Metro Detroit in less than eight years. Those jobs are typically held by people who are under the age of 35 who wants to have a city experience. Not only is he filled the jobs or the buildings with people who want the jobs to create a unique environment, he now has. He’s brought restaurant and retail down there. He’s this one person through the vision has essentially given downtown Detroit a massive rebirth. That’s going to bleed out into the suburbs. It’s going to bleed out into the rest of the communities.
Detroit really is becoming more and more tech focused every day and if you take a look at even manufacturing, manufacturing has become very tech-focused. It’s just incredible. Fifteen years ago, I’d walk into a plant, I’d come out and I’d smell of oil. My shoes would be dirty. I walk into plants, especially for places like to do aerospace device manufacturing. They’re cleaner than our homes. These places are air conditioned, they’re carpeted. The mentality is also different of the employees. We’ve got a real battle for talent going on out there for people to do technical jobs but also for people to do non-four-year degree jobs. I know there’s a guy who was a plumber, he’s a 35-year-old plumber, makes $125,000 a year and he have no college debt.
There’s not enough talent here in the United States. When the president was saying, “I want to bring jobs back,” whatever my political affiliations aside, I’m saying, “Please don’t bring any more jobs back. Please educate and help our workforce and our next generation of workforce reformat their thought processes and what work can be.” We’ve got plenty of jobs, but we don’t have plenty of people to do the jobs.
You bring up an interesting topic about education with your hiring for DNA not resume. In manufacturing, you may not need the education so much. You can do a lot of the training as far as formal education. What about higher level management and above, executive C-suite and that, do you still see that we’re going to need formal education, or do you think that we should be learning on the job?
That is the million-dollar entrepreneur question. I do a program every year and I’ve done it now for eighteen years. Our MIT University in Boston and it’s 80 entrepreneurs from around the globe and we’ve been getting together again for nearly twenty years. The very first year they asked the question of how many of us had an MBA? None of us had an MBA. They asked how many other 80 of us actually had a four-year college degree. I believe it was about fifteen of us, so 65 of the 80 didn’t even have a college degree and this is almost twenty years ago.
As entrepreneurship and as technology is very user-friendly and as places like YouTube are now the number one search category or the number one search place for people to become educated. Education is shifting and changing. Plus, you tack on the cost of an education. I sit on a board for a local university and the cost increase in the last ten years exceeds 100% for a student. That’s not a sustainable business model. They can go to the Khan Academy, they can go to YouTube, people can become educated and things they’re passionate about to play to their strengths without having to set foot necessarily in a four-year university program. Education is going to change significantly.
How are they going to get the soft skills?
That’s really tough. The soft skills, as I’m sure you and I both have experience, soft skills are precious. They are hard to find. The employee EQ is painful. It’s hard to find. I There has to be a passionate revolution for those soft skills and I think those soft skills are going to bleed out not only beyond the workforce environment but also into the families, into community. We’re a country right now that has 50% divorce rates. We’re a country that has 80% new business failure rates and a lot of those issues really come down to very simple basic human things such as communication. If we can’t communicate as a culture, if we can’t communicate as a people, that’s going to be a big challenge.
When you throw in the technology where you can hide behind cyberbullying and you can hide behind your 280-character attacks, that doesn’t help that mindset and that shift has to occur as a culture. It’s not just an entrepreneurial problem, not just a family problem. I see that whole shift required really to come from a cultural standpoint and unfortunately, I don’t have the answer for them.
It’s a challenging thing. When I ran the MBA program at the university where I taught, that was my focus as a Program Chair, was to try and incorporate much more soft skills because it’s the glue and you can take as many business courses as you’d like but you need the humanities, you need the soft skills, you need all these other things to make you be well rounded and in my opinion. I learn everything I can on YouTube, one of those people that will look up how to do stuff. In fact, when I got my radio show, that’s one of the ways I’ve found out how do it. I didn’t know how to work an equipment and I’ve got to learn the settings.
When you try to work on the complete person, there’s so much that companies can do to help train and that’s one of the reasons I’m writing about curiosity is because I want to test and find out what things are holding people back from being curious. If we could work on some of these wanting to explore and learn and fail forward, as you say, into success. That’s the future of innovation and productivity for organization. What you’re talking about and your keynotes and your work is important and I think a lot of people will probably want to know more about how they can contact you and learn more. Can you share how they can reach you?
People can reach me through our website at ExtraOrdinaryAdvisors.com. If someone is interested after hearing this and they want to learn more about it, I’m happy to. If they just mentioned that they heard me on Diane’s show, I’m happy to give 30 minutes of my time just to talk, to communicate and to connect with the audience members who are maybe struggling with things. I’m happy to give a 30-minute consultation just by being on the show. I think that could be potentially, hopefully impactful to someone. When you need to go to the point of the question of curiosity, that’s a huge question of if people were able to set aside the need to be right, to set aside the need to feed the ego and the need to satisfy their pride and just approach working with another human being, working with a family member with a huge sense of curiosity and that seek first to understand mentality. We could change the world and that’s why people like you and I do what we do. We want to change the world. We want to make that impact because you never know who we could impact and, that one person could just make a huge difference.
I agree and thank you so much for offering that. Thank you so much for being on the show, Todd.
I had a great time. Thank you so much for having me, Diane.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much to Andy and to Todd. This is a really fun show. You can catch us just about everywhere on iTunes, iHeart, Roku, just about any place where they play shows. I really enjoyed having you on the show, Andy and Todd. Thank you again. I hope everybody comes back for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Andy Molinsky
Andy Molinsky is a Professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School, with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology. Andy received his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and M.A. in Psychology from Harvard University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a B.A. in International Affairs from Brown University. Andy’s work helps people develop the insights and courage necessary to act outside their personal and cultural comfort zones when doing important, but challenging, tasks in work and life. His research and writing has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine, Psychology Today, the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, NPR and Voice of America. Andy was awarded as a Top Voice for LinkedIn for his work in education. His first book, Global Dexterity (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), received the Axiom Award (Silver Medal) for Best Business Book in International Business & Globalization and has been used widely in organizations around the world, including Boeing, AIG, the US Air Force Academy, and the Clinton Foundation, among others. His new book Reach was published with Penguin Random House in January 2017. He teaches, consults, and lectures widely to university and corporate audiences.
About Todd Palmer
Todd Palmer is a renowned thought leader and top staffing and recruiting executive who is committed to improving lives. As a successful entrepreneur, business owner and industry advocate, he works with both individuals and companies to support career growth, foster business start-ups and guide leaders in the areas of talent management, workforce planning and organizational development. In his new book, The Job Search Process, Palmer provides a practical, targeted guide to landing a new job in only 30 days. His latest work has already been nominated for both the Axiom Book Award and the Ben Franklin Business Book Award for 2016.
- Andy Molinsky
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- Todd Palmer
- Extraordinary Advisors
- The Job Search Process
- Diversified Industrial Staffing
- Get Leverage
- Take The Lead Radio on iTunes