698: How to Build an A Team w/ Whitney Johnson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Whitney Johnson, Author of Build an A Team.

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Are you struggling to come up with original content weekend and week out? Start a podcast, interview your ideal clients, let them talk about what they care about most and never run out of content ideas again. Learn more at sweetfish MEDIACOM. You're listening to the BETB growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping betb executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm James Carberry and I'm Jonathan Green. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to the BB growth show. This episode is sponsored by Directive Consulting, the B Tob Search Marketing Agency. We are here today with Whitney Johnson. She is a critically acclaimed author. She's an executive and performance coach in an innovation thinker. Whitney, how are you doing today? I'm doing great. So, Whitney, we've been friends for a little while now and we're going to be talking a lot today about your newest book, build an a team, and I love the the tagline. Look at your linkedin profile right now. Play to their strengths and be the boss that people love. I think there's going to be a lot of value that you're going to add here. But before we dive into the topic, Whitney tell just give a little bit more context to to your background and what led you to writing this book. Sure so, my background is on Wall Street. I actually was an award winning equity analyst, started having started as a secretary working on Wall Street and worked my way up into banking and and to equity research and then was covering emerging markets, telecommon media and then on two thousand and five I disrupted myself. I wouldn't have known to call it that then, but we'll get to why that's an important phrase in just a minute. And a couple of years later I had connected with Clayton Christians and at the Harvard Business School, who wrote a book called the...

...innovators to Lemma where he talks about the theory of disruptive innovation. And one of the big a Haas I'd had before I actually left Wall Street was that the theory of disruption that gets applied products and services and companies and even countries was actually something that also applied to people. And so for the last five year, six years now, I've been researching and codifying this frame work, because after I left Wall Street, I actually connected with Clayton Christiansen and Co founded an investment firm with him, and so we invested using this theory of disruption and we were applying it to early stage companies. We're applying to publicly traded securities, and this idea, this kernel of an idea that I'd had while I was still working on Wall Street, that this theory doesn't just apply products, it also supplies to people, I just started playing out more and more. And then the next a hat that came on top of that was a this s curve that we were using to figure out how quickly an innovasion would be adopted. Actually could also help us understand the psychology of disruption or the psychology of learning, and so I had written this book in two thousand and fifteen called disrupt yourself that applies as framework to people to help you figure out when it's time for you to do something new, when it's time for you to jump from the top of one s curve to the bottom of the next, and then also, once you make that jump, when you make that leap, seven steps to do that successfully. And so after I wrote this book, I had a lot of people say to me, okay, I get it, I get it, I get it, I want to disrupt myself, but how do I get my boss to let me do that? And, by the way, how do I create an ecosystem in my workplace where that's possible? And it was out of that question that people were asking me over and over again they came this book. Build an a team which takes this s curve posits at every single person, including you, is on a learning curve. And here's how you manage people using this curve.

And if you will use this curve to manage people, and I can go more into it in a minute, you'll become a boss of people want to work for because you're making it possible for them to learn, leap and repeat and start all over again. And who doesn't want to learn? We all want to learn. I love that. So for the leader listening to this, Whitney, what's the first thing that they need to wrap their head around to be able to approach their leadership with this and s curve? Man utality? Okay, so every single person's a learning machine, including you, the leader. Every single person on your team is on a learning curve. Now, what does that look like specifically? Well, if you can picture the S or even if it looks in your mind a wave, whichever image works best for you. At the low end of that s or that learning curve, every single person who comes into you and they might have deep domain expertise, but in this particular role they're new. So a CEO can be at the loand of learning curve. They're inexperience, they don't quite know what they're doing and for that first six months there's going to be a lot of just sorting through and figuring out. It's like this jigsaw puzzle where they don't know how all the pieces fit together, and so one of the things you, as a leader, need to know is for the first few months they're going to get discourage a lot. They're going to go home from work thinking I don't know what I'm doing and you, the leader, are going to think, why did I hire this person? They don't seem to know quite what they're doing, and so one of the things you need to know is that they're they're figuring stuff out now. That's that's the downside. The upside is is because they're brand new, they're asking lots of questions like why do we do it like this, which on your good days it's like a Pesky three year old and on a bad days you feel threatened because they're saying why do you do it like this, and that can feel threatening. But those questions can lead to lots of important insights for your organization, which is why I say the companies don't disrupt, it's the people do. It's the people who have the inside and as they are disrupting themselves, they make a possible for...

...your company to disrupt and to innovate. So that's the Lowane, is a curve. Then after six months you moved to the sweet spot. Six months to a year, I should say the sweet spot about learning curve. You're going to be there for two or three years. This is where you know enough but not too much, so you're not bored, you're optimally engaged, you feel competent, you're confident and so you can stretch people and stretch them and stretch them some more, and that's where you're going to get a lot of innovation happening because as you're pushing people and they're figuring out how do I get myself out of this box at my job boss just put me in. They're innovating for your organization and then after three, four years at most, people are going to get to the top of the curve and it flattens out again. So a lot of times going to pass and not much is happening. And the reason is is that while you are a master, you are very good at what you're doing, because you're no longer learning. Your brain is not getting those feel good chemicals, that dope, a Meine that comes when you're learning. And so this high end of the curve is actually a huge danger zone for you as an organization, because this person, because they're bored, they're either looking for a new curve to jump to and you want to be inside your organization. But if you don't have anything for them, they will jump somewhere else or they're just going to get complacent and they stay, which is really bad for you. And so once a person gets to the top of the curve, and you can be on a curve for about four years on average, you need to let them jump to a new curve. So it's it's the learn, it's the leap and it's the repeat. So that's that's the basic of what you, as a manager need to know is that your people are learning machine. Everybody is on a learning curve and you optimize for innovation as a team by having seventy percent of your people in the sweet spot, fifteen percent at the low end, fifteen percent at the high end. And if you're looking for a surefire back of the envelope way to know if you as a team are about to get disrupted, take the pulse of your workforce, because if you have two both the high end,...

...your at risk because, as I said, for and complacent people don't innovate, they get disrupted. It's story time, and this growth story is about e sub, a project management SASS company specifically for subcontractors. Even though they had incredible customer retention, they struggled with growth. Being a niche service, they discovered that there was a little demand expressed for their solutions within the search engines. To take on this challenge, E sub hired directive, consulting the B Tob Search Marketing Agency. After refining targeting, pre qualifying clicks with an add copy and developing custom landing pages, directive was able to increase e subs marketing qualified leads by seventy one percent, while decreasing their cost per lead by sixty five percent. I have a hunch that directive can get these kind of results for you too, so head over to directive consultingcom and request a totally free custom proposal. That's a directive consultingcom. All right, let's get back in the show. That makes so much sense, even as I think back on organizations that I've been a part of, Whitney before starting my own thing. It was around that kind of, I feel like, the round the two and a half to three year mark, where I was just kind of an autopilot, and that's where I started to really get disengaged with what I was doing and it was noticeable in the organization. I wasn't really excited about about what I was doing and I was still performing the tasks that needed to get done, but there was definitely a clear distinction between kind of even a year prior to, you know, towards the end of my time there. What would you say, Whitney? So is it a matter of constantly thinking and kind of planning like, okay, I have this leader within our organization, I want them to stay with us because they've got a norms of talent. They're great for a culture. Is it a mix between kind of roll creation or kind of always thinking about like, okay, what it is the...

...next step for this person? Or is there something else kind of to it that that allows companies to maintain or it to really hold onto their rock stars? Yeah, so there are a couple of things. So it's interesting. You said that you got to the top of the curve at two and a half to three years. I'm going to hypothesize, and this is probably a risk for me to do this, but you probably came into that role you were already kind of in this sweet spot. There wasn't necessarily a ton you needed to figure out. Or let's you just worked lots and lots of hours. who cut up the curve more quickly? Which one it was? It out of curious curiosity. It was a brand new industry. I'd never I'd never done it before, but a lot of the kind of what actually needed to be done in the job was was stuff that I had already been doing in my corporate roles before. So a lot of like communication and like back and forth, like logistics planning and stuff like that. So it was a new industry. I've never done that specific thing before, but I was you know, it didn't take I don't feel like it took me very long to kind of get up to speed with what was going on. Right, okay, so you had the domain expertise, so you were able to move up the curve much more quickly because it was change of industry. Got It. So yeah, all right, that's interesting. So a couple things I would say. First of all, look to hire for potential, not for proficiency. So as much as possible, hire people at the loan of the curve. Now, sometimes you're going to hire people at the Hind because that's actually what you need, but you're going to have people stay longer and be excited about the work longer. If you're, you know, the lower on the curve, you can hire people because time plus competence equals boredom. The second thing that you can do is really ask yourself, am I giving people stretch assignments once they get into the sweet spot of the curve? So often, in fact, just the other day I was having a conversation with one of my clients who's a WHO's a Hrroh, and he was telling me about this woman who is working for him and he's like she's a rock star and I was like okay, so are you pushing in her is like, HMM,...

...interesting question. He's like no, I could push her more. And I think oftentimes we get people into that suit spot and everything's working and so we just we kind of leave them alone and and what I would say is they're not the problem child, so don't make them one by ignoring them and in fact, you know, give them constraints, give them challenges, give them things where there's actually the real risk of failure, because that's where they're going to stretch and stretch and they're going to stay engaged longer and when they're engaged they're much more likely to innovate. So that would be my second piece of advice for you, and that their piece of advice is just remember if people are really deep domain expertise, sometimes you can't kind of move them from one generalist role to another generalist role. There are a couple things you can do. One is that deep domain expertise, marketing people in particular have more and more really strong quantitative skills. So there actually might be opportunities for people real quant Docs. It doesn't necessarily need to be in marketing. It might be somewhere else inside of the organization where just this really interesting reconfiguration of skills could be very, very valuable to the organization. So that would be one thought. And another is is that there are lots of different ways to jump to new learning curves. If domain expertise is something that's just not on the table, you can have new configurations of teams, you can have sign people new clients, can assign people new regions, you can assign them a new boss, because every time you get a new boss you're actually kind of jumping into new learning curve. So there are lots of different ways that you can come out this. But what I would say is that there whatever your bottom line or fundamental criteria has to be is when they jump, do they are they uncomfortable enough that they are having days where they say, I don't know what I'm doing? If they don't have any of those days, then it's not it's not a big enough jump. Interesting. This is a fascinating idea to me, Whitney, because I think I before I thought about it in terms...

...of okay, how do I how do I get the person to a point where they feel like they know what they're doing and they're super comfortable. But I had never really thought about and after that and too much of them being comfortable actually, you know, can become a bad thing, and I am I understanding that right, absolutely, a hundred percent. You can have them be a master at that top of that curve for a while, maybe six months, maybe nine months, and because there is something to be said for climbing a mountain, getting to the top of that mountain, surveying all that you have accomplished, there's something to be said for that. But once you've been there for six months, a year most, you're going to start getting bored. And so if you're managing those people who are at the high end of the curve, what you want to do is say to them, okay, I know you're here. I also know, even if you don't know this, you're about to get bored, because sometimes he will do want to just dial it in there, like I've paid my dues here. I am so some people will be itching to jump, but even if they're not itching to jump, you, as a managing you to say to them, I know that, in order for you to contribute at your best, at your highest level, and for you to be happiest six months to a year we're going to have to find something new for you to do. So I want you to be thinking about what that is. All think about what that is and ideally they will find sometimes there's going to be a role ready for them. It's a lateral role. It's somewhere inside of the organization. It's with a client, it's with a vendor, but ideally it's in your organization and they're looking for places to play where no one else is playing, that they can go play. We all know lots and lots and lots of the jobs that are going to exist in fifteen years don't yet exist. And if they can find somewhere to play for themselves, they'll be finding somewhere for the organization to play. And that's what disruption looks like, is it's is playing where no one else is playing. I love that, Whitney. This has been fantastic. If there's somebody listening to this, and I want to stay connected with you, they want to check out your new book, what's the best way for them to go about doing that? If they want to check up...

...out the new book, probably the best way is just to go to my website, Whitney Johnsoncom, backslash or forward slash. I'm not ever sure which it is. It's a team and you can download the first chapter. You can also go to Amazon. It's built an a team. It's Harvard Business Press and Whitney Johnson and by the book. It covers what I've talked about here. That's probably the easiest way and well and my email is wj at Whitney johnsoncom on the off chance that for some reason you have a question you want to ask me. Oh sorry, one more thing, website. I just thought of one more thing. If you want to take the diagnostic to see where you are in your curb and kind of map out where your team is, you can go to my website again, Whitney Johnsoncom, forward diagnostic, and take the learning curve for you and your team. But with me, this has been incredible. I really appreciate you being on the shows. Thanks a lot. Thank you for having me. There are lots of ways to build a community and we've chosen to build the BEDB growth community through this podcast. But because of the way podcasts work, it's really hard to engage with our listeners, and without engagement it's tough to build a great community. So here's what we've decided to do. We're organizing small dinners across the country with our listeners and guests. No sales pitches, no agenda, just great conversations with likeminded people. Will Talk Business, will talk family, will talk goals and dreams, will build friendships. So if you'd like to be a part of a BEDB growth dinner in a sitting near you, go to be tob growth dinnerscom. That's be toob growth dinnerscom. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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