Reward and Engage Employees with Dr. Bob Nelson

Reading Time: 33 Minutes

What advice would you give a new manager? How can you help them to build relationships with employees that fuel engagement and productivity?

In this interview we discuss…

  • employee engagement in the social distancing era
  • how to build a relationship with a new hire
  • how to help managers develop better relationships with employees
  • why people stay with an organization
  • the most important employee engagement activities
  • how to internalize employee recognition

After the Interview

About Dr. Bob Nelson

Dr. Bob Nelson is the author of 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees and 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees. He’s been featured on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and many others. Bob is also the President of Nelson Motivation Inc., a management training and consulting company that specializes in helping organizations improve management practices, programs and systems. His clients include IBM, American Express, Hallmark, Dell, American Airlines, and the US Army.

Dr. Bob Nelson is the author of 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees and 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees and the President of Nelson Motivation Inc., a management training and consulting company that specializes in helping organizations improve management practices, programs and systems.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.

Deliberate Leaders I am your host Allison Dunn, executive business coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode we feature inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. Today’s guest is Dr. Bob Nelson. He is the author of 101 Ways to Engage Employees and that was in 1000.

Thank you, the other ones even harder. It’s 101.

On the first after 1001 ways to engage employees as well as the author of a 1501 ways to reward employees. He’s been featured on CNN and MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times Wall Street Journal, and I could go on and on and he is the President of Nelson Motivation Inc, which is a management training and consulting company that specializes in helping organizations improve management practices, programs and systems. And then you have a very impressive list of clients including IBM, American Express or Merck, the US Army, I mean, go go army. Dr. Bob Nelson, thank you so much for joining us here today. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. So I just, I always like to kick off these episodes with a quick deliberate conversation. And so my my ask is, what is your number one leadership tip for our audience today?

Well, sure, that’s easy.

Thank people when they do a good job, okay, what you’re paying them out care how long they’ve worked for you. If someone does a good job, thank them. There you go. We’re done.

That doesn’t cost anything at all right?

Amazing. In fact all the top motivators don’t cost anything. From my research starts with that thank you people doing a good job, but also ask them for their ideas and opinions, how to improve things around here, how it can save money, which they tend to know more because they’re closer to their job than you are. If you have a decision to make, ask for their input. Even if you miss making the final decision. There’ll be a better decision. If you have their input. It’ll be more easily implemented. If they to a communication. Again, if they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, get it and get back to them. There you go. And if they make mistake and everyone makes mistakes instead of criticizing them, in front of their peers, embarrassed To them, maybe try taking a breath and saying, I’m not sure I would have done it the same way. What did you learn from that? That could be the best training we’ve done all year with you. I’m glad you made that mistake that that momentary pause to, to cut off you proven you’re the smartest person in the room and take the long term view the relationship with that employee can serve you for years, and they will value it and they will value you because most managers don’t do that. There you go. That’s my top five or six. haven’t spent a dime yet.

I love that.

Icing on that one. Bill Gates. Former Chairman CEO of Microsoft once said the biggest mistake anyone know that he didn’t say that when he said the how you handle mistakes? His biggest predictor of your long term success of any organization?

Is what he said. So,

how you handle the stakes is your long term predictor of way of success, success as a company as a company? Not sure Oh, yeah. In that relationship as a company, if that’s if that’s who you are, you’re constantly get the best bang for people, gay people, being willing to talk openly, and give you feedback, and not be guarded and hide problems from you because you react, and then you don’t know what’s going on as the company is going under. So there you go.

Right. Awesome. Thank you. Those are some short podcasts you ever had right there?

No, I have more questions. Um, I didn’t include it in the introduction. And before I actually so my Intel said that maybe you’re the coach, too. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith Is that true?

I am indeed. Okay. If he is coach, I laughed. And he said, No, I’m serious. I know, Marshall. You’re the number one executive coach in the world. He goes, yeah. And I like you to coach me and you can tell people you coach me. Okay, and it’s check cleared so we go in the coaching world like that. So like, it’s like, your DVD. You’re the one who teaches the one, right?

Yes, I’m the I’m the guy behind the guy.

I love that. So I forgot to give you that props. In the beginning. I had a fantastic interview with Marshall.

I’m sure treasure in me.

Yeah, this past fall. And it ranks up there as one of my favorite just authentic conversation conversations and, and he’s just he is who he is. And it’s pretty amazing. So you get to coach him. I am just super impressed, which mainly is is me. You know, listening. Of course, the most important thing one person can do for others to learn. Listen, and often is playing back what he said. And occasionally saying is, you really think that’s the best strategy. So you don’t you know, we all need a sounding board. And but also, you know, I and I actually, when we did that I was kind of going well, why did this happen how to believe out of the blue and I and he’s never I don’t know if I’ve ever I don’t know, I’ve I’ve intuited from that that one of the reasons might be because he’s he’s sold about one and a half a million books and I’ve sold over 5 million so I think one of them is obviously doing something he’s not doing and so he can learn from that. So we talked, we talked books, and I review his next book out kind of thing and give him feedback as well. So that’s it multiple, multiple levels, but He’s, uh, he’s definitely a joy. I’m glad I have my wife.

That’s awesome. That’s such a great story. So let’s talk about your book. So the tie back to me and how you and I have gotten connected today is that I used both are 1001 ways for to engage employees and your 1501 ways to reward employees as a feature learning tool for an engineering firm that I ran, that was very focused on creating an employee focus culture and an employee ownership type culture. And your tools were basically the model that we won awards on, frankly, so.

All right, good to hear it. Thank you. Yeah. Okay.

So it’s funny because, you know, it’s kind of common sense, but it was Voltaire in the 17th century who first said, common sense is typically not common. Practice.

That’s a great quote, common sense is not typically common practice.

Yes. And that’s, and that’s true. That’s true. It’s why I kind of had worked for a couple corporations and I knew this topic of reinforcement recognition. Thanks was powerful and overwhelming evidence that 400 studies that say, you get what you reward what you inspect what you recognize what you incentivize, you will get that it’s a fact. And, and you’ll get that in any relationship and your life by the way. And my and I kind of looked around, whereas working and how come no one does this. leaders don’t do it. How can managers don’t do it? And, and I, that was my question. That was my question. my doctoral dissertation. I said, I want to know, we know this stuff works. Why does it work? managers do it and other managers don’t. And I did. I did a three year study just to answer that one simple question. I looked at examine 67 national organizations and it each one found managers that did recognition in the same organization managers that didn’t had a three way validation, including self report and direct reports and, and organizational sponsor and, and I got these two groups, doers and non doers on this simple behavior. And then I looked at 167 potential variable variables that that differentiate those two groups. That was my took me a year to set it up, and then I was able to get a deep dive on, on why that happens. It doesn’t happen. You know what, no one I learned.

What did you learn?

Well, you’re gonna have to read check. You know?

What I learned for those managers that don’t do it, they had a long laundry list of why they didn’t do it. Starting with they they didn’t start with they didn’t know how to do it well, I really don’t pad recognize them was supposed to hug them i don’t i don’t get it, you know, followed by they didn’t think it was as important as I just indicated followed by they don’t really have time to do this, you know, I’ve got a job to do. I can’t be constantly telling people how great they are, you know. And then by the way, no one does it for them. So when they start getting it, they’ll start giving it and and afraid they might leave someone out and on and on a whole laundry list like list of excuses from my perspective. But for those managers that did use recognition, there was none of that. There was just one variable. And they had those people that use recognition had internalized the importance of that of that principle, where it was part of who they were all our behavior stems from our beliefs. So if you want to change behavior, Start with changing your belief about that behavior. And that’s and they had done that. And so they they, to a person say, Well, if I’m if I’m managing other people, I’m in charge of the motivational environment. HR is not doing it for me, the CEO can do it, I have to do it. So I gotta start paying attention to what does it take to motivate people and when you do that, you get into asking and listening and and, man, you’re off on the right track and you’re gonna be a great leader I have a lot of times, new managers will ask me, you know, what should I do as new manager? Well, I’d say, definitely what not to do not it’s like, well, you got the job. So now I gotta prove I’m the smartest person in the room. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna be critical of everything, everybody, and so they bring me their work and It’s never good enough. And then I’m gonna often take back in assignment because they got it wrong. I’ll do it for them. And then we got to have a need for them at all because they’re all getting their resume. Ready getting out here. Instead, you taking a job. And for the first week, just ask questions, interview everyone’s could report to you and what do you think most needs to be done around here? And and get all that and take that body of knowledge and prioritize it and take the top one the top thing that most people said, This is what we really need to have happen and make that happen. You know, and maybe it’s an investment in software, maybe it’s and then go to your boss who put you in this job and say, Listen, if you had you thought I could do this job, I need your support to make it happen. I see you for three years. He says not in the budget. You need to make this happen to support me in this job. And then you get the software funding, and then all your all the people working for you go, oh my god, this is the guy. You can actually make stuff happen. That helps the previous three managers, they just said, Well, you know, budget is in November and and, you know, I can’t promise anything about good are you you know, is it good or bad for us? You want to you want to make a case with your employees go to bad flooring, and they will notice and they will look at you and you’ll be on the shortlist there’s only one out of every four or five managers in Israel have in our career, one of four or five that we think are a good manager, a good leader, be that person. And when you do that, you’re going to come back to the soft side of the job in every case, you come back to the interpersonal interactions, the your how you view and treat people is going to be on top of the list. There you go. 

Absolutely one of the things that that I’ll share. Just that just completely reinforces what you’ve just said is at the time using these tools I was, you know, there’s I was encountering things like, Can I give engineers like handwritten notes? Can I have cupcakes in the in the lunchroom? Can I, you know, do an award. And it’s like I was trying to find things that would be okay to do because, honestly, I wasn’t sure I was a female in a very male dominated office trying to bring this culture of engagement and appreciation and growing the business because we were all immersed in it, and how do you how do you educate around that and create just a rewarding high engagement?

Yes. And you’re trying to lead by example.

Yes. Yeah, it’s an E 2000. record in two ways to do that.

And what was your response you got?

Um, we we were an award winning, small company. We were recognized on a statewide basis, and we were recognized on a regional and international level by the government. So if we take but we were good at right? 

And so to what degree was that softer side of things, an element in that transformation.

And I believe it was at 20. Then, in the sense of that you have to have the softer side to drive the harder side of, of, you know, we had better profitability. We had, you know, people were getting bonuses, but it was it really was the relationship. Why did people want to do that and reward them for creating that. They work harder for you.

For sure.

Excellent. There you go. And you can’t you can’t really buy that either. Because, well, I’ll just, I’ll just pay. I’ve had people say my, my boss there kind of talk to him about, you know, my workload or whatever he he says why I gave you a raise now and it goes I want a life. Or whatever it’s there. Like, listen to me Listen to me what I because I remember a interview with the reporter from the Kansas City Star and and she said on and she was a workforce reporter she said tell my tell my boss, I love my job of having my job. I don’t want a promotion, I don’t want more money. And he says, I don’t believe you. Everybody wants you want what I what I did? No, no, I it’s like, Listen, shut up and listen, you know, and then believe what people are saying. No, it’s a guess it’s that’s harder for more people. And actually, it could be hard for me to do too. But especially when you have a strong opinion on something you’re gonna want to argue now you might argue instead, yeah, and and so. Yeah, I’m working with a high tech company. Now that 30 5000 employees and it’s a man a man a man, all the stuff that never I start with saying this is all easiest common sense. It is not easy. It is not common sense for someone that doesn’t see it or believe it or and I remember the the person that you know, made it to the executive team to talk about doing all this stuff. She was literally laughed out of the room, snide comments, you know, it’s fun and games and this and that. And she, she brought me into talk to them. Nobody laughs because I got the goods. I got the reason I’ve got my own research. I’ve got the facts. I’ve got. I did my dissertation with Peter Drucker, you know, it’s sort of it’s, I can answer any question. It’s sort of they suddenly took a turn and started to hear something that they it was easy. For them to laugh at dismiss, you know, and once they did, then you start to get progress. And then and then we built on that. So it’s a longer journey that I started this whole journey when the my rewards book came out 25 years ago, I thought, well, I’ll do this for a year or two, you know, and then do something else. And, and, man, it’s it’s just how hard can it be. But if you’re entrenched, in your view that’s reinforced by everyone else with the same view. You know, business is serious, we’ll have time for fun and games. In this case I’m talking about it was, you know, all engineers and it’s a, it’s a, it’s a high tech company. And by the way, they’re 90%, Asian or Indian. And so, you know, they’re quick to dismiss this American concept of, you got to make people feel good and do that in the weekend. 

Through the weekend right now like to be on the weekend.

I know the engineers get a bad rap but and you think that they are and that you can’t crack but that is just false.

I’ll give you an engineering story just as much as everyone has written with Hewlett Packard, and heard her tell a story of a senior software engineer, burst into his manager’s office one day said you won’t believe it. I finally found that software bug I’ve been working on for weeks. It’s software Manzer, knowing the importance of a timely recognition, want to do something then they’re not the end of the month or end of the quarter Heaven forbid end of the year. That’s ancient history in any facet of an organization. This manager literally gropes run on his desk, hands, the senior software engineer a banana from his lunch with the word Great job, I knew you could do it.

Now that you how you feel if someone you work with Gives you a banana. And you know it’s kind of a joke. It wasn’t a joke to that engineer. He showed everybody wants to the office showing everyone Hey guys banana the boss gave me and and why. And it took on a life and a story as things tend to do. Now in that division of Hewlett Packard, Sunnyvale, California 17 years later, the most prestigious award recognition for technical achievement is the golden banana award, not the same banana, they retired that puppy and then they, you know, and that’s, that’s a second so so one try experiment and get in the game. But secondly, when something works, work with it to make more out of it, they took that one simple thing and they said what how can we build on this? They create a lapel pin of a banana that you were given if you were made it to the honor roll have been in the club, you know, anywhere Your name tag and everything. Oh, oh, you’re you want to? I didn’t realize you bought you’ve paid your dues here you? Yes. Well, thank you. I tried so, but it took off and then and you work with you build it and involve people along the way to be more likely to be on the mark and there you go off off you go and that’s three podcasts here in one. Okay. I’m giving away all my secrets.

Oh, you know what I read all your secrets. This is still a really fun conversation.

Yes, yes. It’s the you know, I got actually commentary on that because people, people say, you know, I know like, I, I move a lot of books. I like doing that because it’s kind of an extension of my beliefs of extension to me. So it’s really important for me to, to whenever I do to get books be part of it. And I remember I did a God This goes back 22 years ago, I did a an article for American bookseller magazine about how to sell books, how to sell blue books, and a lot of strategies and a lot of stories. And I remember the my publisher at the time, the head of marketing said, why would you want to share all your secrets with other people? I said, it’s not the secret that makes it happen. It’s doing the secret. And it’s and it’s, it takes effort and work and time. And that’s where most people drop off. They’re not willing to do that they’re not willing to. So you know, in the instance of what we’re talking about that treat employees right, and I know that sounds messy, and they have different motivations, and I gotta check in with them at different frequencies and I gotta decide each time what to do. Alice just give her one gift cards. And then you start with that initially, that was a nice thing. And then well this, give them the gift card when they want They all finished the project. So we’ll do it every you know, two months, everyone gets a gift card. And if you’re new the team and you just started, you get a gift card. Why did you get this for? Well, you’re the team, if, if you did a lot more than your job, I still get the gift card, you know. So, basically, you’ve been taking the air out of the thing. And, you know, I’d rather not do it than to do it. I worked for Ken Blanche for 10 years, he used to call that Jelly Bean motivation. That’s when you do the same thing for everybody. And you kind of spread it out to everyone. And that’s what happens in organizations. It’s like, well, we get 85 85% of organizations right now. Everybody gets the same percentage increase. Maybe I don’t know what it is right now. But maybe, maybe it’s 3%. Maybe it’s 5%. Maybe it’s 1%. But whatever that number is 85% of employees get the same thing. So if you if you if you have a sense of well, we pay for performance, yeah, look again, because you In any organization, you look at a top performer and a mediocre performer that have the same job title, you know, and the research shows that less than, than 3% of salary differentiates their, their performance so that performers going above and beyond as a matter of course, they’re only getting like 3% more in their in a paycheck. There’s something else that’s doing it for them. And it’s, it may be ideally it’d be something in the environment and the manager but but maybe they’re very self driven and have a lot of pride and they have a professionalism and they have ambition and they’re there they’re on it for that reason, but and if you if you never noticed her reinforced that you will eventually lose from that person. That person that was done anything for you will then get to the point where they’re not gonna do anything for you.

I remember some of those management team for our mission what city government. He said the one day there was a they took a photo of everyone on this, this task forces initiative that worked for eight months at some, some big thing. And he looked around at all the people that are in the photo with the mayor. And you know, that person never came to a single meeting, that person did absolutely nothing. And he said, just like that, he never took work home again.

If that’s the wreckage you get for busting your butt.

I’m in the wrong place, and I’m certainly not gonna give it my unlimited energy going forward.

Yeah. We as leaders do tell a lot by how we reward for good, not so good at mean and treating everyone equally seems to be like the mantra and yet it’s counterproductive in a lot of ways. I completely agree.

Yes, sir. Again,

And that as leaders to monetarily kind of reward everyone equally the same way, regardless of effort that the team members bringing forward, I think is it’s a double edged sword and in a lot of ways.

Yes, yes, it. I mean, there can be occasions for that. But you can also give everyone the same increase and then still pick out a few people that, that I know, you heard you did this and the client said this and so we’ve got something extra for you, you know, the bonus I had, you know, take the reverse side of this. And it’s like, well, you know, because we’re talking about money. Well, of course, money is king, right? I remember sitting next to a person on the plane and talking about stuff. And this guy was a first class and this guy was had been a senior leader in several companies, and he told me these three guys, you know, what are you saying about money? It’s so true because I remember I was working at a company and I got a bonus. And it was men a nice, unexpected bonus was $15,000. And, and the President company hand it to me and as he handed to me said, Here’s your bonus. Do you think you deserve it? And he turned and walked away. And the guy was, was kind of dumbstruck and the guy, you know, thinking he goes, What? Deserve? If you think I didn’t deserve it, we got a bigger problem here, and he quit within three days. You know, he said, If I’m working for people that think I don’t deserve what you’re giving me, then we’ve got a bigger problem and the problem is you and I’m gonna go find a place that appreciates what I bring to the party. And that’s what he did. So sometimes you can have the money and take away because we value for the, you know, the sizzle that comes with the steak. The sizzle was the wrong thing and basically didn’t matter if it made the money worthless. So the money is not the answer. And that’s hard for a lot of people to see it’s a lot in a lot of organizations and, and it’s hard for upper management to see as well because as you go higher in the organization, people become a line item in the budget called payroll and benefits and that’s a big number. And you got was, you know that they should be happy with it. We pay above industry average. If you think that’s the end of you’re not going to keep people anyway, you know, so, you’ve got to how you get upper management into the game is an important question. And it’s a it’s not an easy question, and it’s a lot of different strategies and you got it. You got to use them all. So this company I haven’t met but then working with we, we boy, we were hard on strategizing, how do we get inroads into into leadership. So one of the things we did this week we picked out four executives or vice presidents that we knew were especially good at this people side of the job and stuff. And a lot of times when someone’s grant that I was like, people don’t even know what they’re doing, because it’s a lot, it’s one on one and stuff. So we, we put them on a panel and I interviewed them. And we invited 300 other vice presidents to come here or virtually, and and we talked about, you know, why do you do this, and you’re, you run a major portion of the organization, and people respect to you. And, and, and why do you do this stuff, it takes time and, and they and they said, it takes time, but there’s no, it’s the most important thing I do. So it’s not that’s not the budget. It’s not the you know, vendor that supply chain, it’s the people side is the most important side. So whatever time that takes, you take that first. And by the way a lot of managers who say they don’t have to time while we look at what you spend your time with, because inevitably, you’re doing stuff you shouldn’t be doing anyway. And maybe you should delegate to some of your people that work for you, as a as a development opportunity. And that just because you’ve done it the last three years, you know, back out of it and then do something you can delegate to someone else and that’s your one on one. communication with the people that work for you. So, you know, you get you get people managers that really could be anyone that is, is so caught up with being busy, and they’re not very effective. You know, it’s a mantra start with a to do list and then my whole day goes sideways because there’s crisis and problems and this and that and, and you’re in the middle, putting them all out when you’re in the whole if you’re trying to lead by by correcting mistakes, fixing problems, you missed it, you missed it big time you got here’s an idea, climb out of the hole and start getting in front of the group and leading the charge. And you do that by systematically reinforcing those people that have done the things that you need them to do to send a message to everyone else. This is what gets noticed around here. And then you will find out you’ll have less and less of your time do you have to devote to fixing other people’s problems and crises, because people will do more of the things that will have success for for the group and which is a good course reflect on you. So that’s what it’s hard for a lot of love leaders to see that when they’re in the middle of it themselves. And I’ll imagine that you could feel important because you’re busy all the time.

Right? Because empathy feels good. I’m Dr. Bob, one of the premier programs that I offer is an engagement pro and, and I always start with the leadership team, because that is that is how it actually spreads most quickly to the rest of the organization. And really started off and then working, you know, down into the organization from from there.

Super, very important to do. And and especially so because there’s so many companies where managers go through programs that that executives never did. And it’s kind of becomes you know, they can, they can see things for what they’re worth it becomes, do as I say, not as I do. So we’re trained to do this stuff, but they don’t have to know this. They don’t have to do this. No, no, they’re too important.

And integrity, the whole thing kind of goes down the tubes.

Absolutely. And I’m super curious because they all look at you as obviously an expert in employee engagement. So I’m How do you personally define employee engagement?

Well, thank you for that question.


You’re welcome.


And because I like that question because I personally defined it as the as the line that between personal aspirations and organizational objectives. And I looked at a lot of definitions and I’m always kind of catalyst wanting, and I can’t, I kind of came up with this definition because to me it fits. If you which means then you got to, to effectively manage and motivate and engage anyone, you’ve got to find out as part of that, what they’re trying to where they’re trying to go in their career, what their aspirations are, where they want to be five years from now, that’s a key piece of the puzzle. And without that, you’re not managing them you’re kind of talking to yourself and hoping something sticks. If you find out what important to them, and you keep that information in the back of your mind when assignment comes up. Then you can say Gary, I, you know, we got inventory coming up and I immediately thought of you because you mentioned along the way that you I think in the management, this is the key skill set to put in your life for a job like that. I can’t promise to be promoted. But I can promise you if you’re working for me, I’m going to help get you ready for a promotion that you want. So, you know, I know you’re busy now expect that stuff to be done. If this isn’t a good time to say the word. I’m not gonna hold it against you. You’re giving them choice. Yeah. And so, I mean, the facts of the matter probably take me longer than if I just did it myself. But I thought there’d be good learning for you here. So think it over, let me know if you’re, if you’d be interested in this. One of the guys gonna say Yeah, of course. Thank you for thinking of me, I’d be delighted to do that. It’s gonna be more work. And you know what? He’s gonna get through the rote and mundane parts of his job more easily because of that, that chance for the visibility of that other project or learning new skills or whatever it might be. It helps to spark the rest of the job. And that’s, that’s not a I tell that story. Sometimes he goes down. Well, you really pull the wool over his eyes. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about alignment of personal aspirations that with real work that needs to be done. It’s not tricking someone into working harder, you know, that’s reactive, you focus on sincere alignment, which means sincerely gained to know and understand some, and that should be in conversation, one when they start, you know what?

Not, and I don’t understand that.

Yeah, it isn’t. It’s sort of in fact, I remember, Ken Blanchard worked with Don Shula. They did a book together called Don Shula is the witness coast. The coach, excuse me, but in football history. Don Shula, the Miami Dolphins recently passed away. That only perfect season in the National Football 17 and 0 season back in the early 70s, I guess and they did a book together and so you can talk to him about what How come he’s working? And I know some points Don. Don was just going, really sit tell me that again, I guess. You mean when people start, you don’t give them a clear direction from the talk about, here’s what we’re about, and here’s our strategy. And so we’re gonna do it. Wow, he just have them come in their job and they find that out for the people they’re working next to it’s, he put it in his context, that’d be like me hiring a new player and say, hey, glad you’re on the team. Yeah, go talk to people and see what’s expected of you and find out their gripes and their complaints and, you know, and good luck with it, you know, why would you do that? You’re handicapping that person and yourself from the get go. You gotta, have a clear message of this is how you fit into the organization and this is what the organization is trying to do and everyone has to you know, it was a real Beth mosque Cantor, the Harvard professor said, no matter what the mission of the organization is, everyone in the company needs to understand why. And what that is. And you don’t get that by putting it up on the wall or put in the annual report you, you get it by talking about it. And hopefully it would be in one of the first conversations would be an orientation and it would be, you know, think about this as you do your job, how hard are or take core values, which every company has core values, and men and that’s, and that’s good, but for many companies, they have the core values and they’re in the annual report and they’re not living the core values in so I often just say, you know, you want to test of your core values, just ask employees what they are, and you see him fumble around and I think safety is one of them. I don’t know what the other ones are. Well, good luck in that driving anything. Around here, you want the core values to be something we talk about all the time. And if you recognize people around this core values, they get stronger. Because every time you recognize someone for teamwork, for example, you send a message not just to them but to everyone else. And this is what gets noticed around here. If you do things that encourage teamwork, you’re going to be called out in a good way. Okay, I’m doing that and, and then it becomes more entrenched that the values actually helped to drive the mission of the organization which is intense, but it doesn’t happen by magic. You know, you got to be the leader that makes that connection and walks the talk and, and talks about it. So let me give you an example, I worked with MGM Grand in Las Vegas and they have 14 which is a lot of 14 core values or principles I think because a
lot on how they how they work with people. So every day they have a pre shift meeting for every group in the organization. And they, they talk about one of those 14 principles and they have flexibility and how they talk about it could be a recent example or they can go over the policy and discuss it, they can ask questions they can, they can do whatever they want, but they focused on you know, Principle number three whenever that is, the customer’s always right, say for example, and they and, then the next day in the pre shift meeting, they talk about the next principle and when they get through all 14 principles, they start over and they do the end. And as a result, they magically, they systematically take those principles into because we’re talking about them. And we’re calling them out and we’re acknowledging people about him and, and men, and that works. It’s not waving a magic wand. It’s working. It’s we’re having a plan and working the plan.

I thank you for sharing that. I do really appreciate your definition of employee engagement. I’m curious if you’ve seen any trends or concerns regarding LinkedIn while we have this remote workforce happening and social distancing happening and you know, this whole thing I don’t even know what it’s like the new whatever.

The new reality is still working and the whole social unrest aspect as well. So right, right, it’s up in the air.

And so what as leaders in our community, what should we be making sure that we’re doing?

Well, the the big thing with everyone working at home, is that we actually one of the programs I do is, is on managing virtual workers. I’ve done that for years. But so it suddenly has a new relevance doing virtual training on that. But I find that you know, you have to double down on a lot of the principles that we know work. So, you know, recognition, just because the person isn’t in the office doesn’t mean you can’t recognize I mean, it’s you have to, you have to make sure you’re reaching out to them. And you could do it on a zoom call. You can do a I’ve got a lot of bag of tricks. Yeah. You could do a praise barrage, which is a very simple activity. Hey, before we get started here in our meeting, just want to take a few minutes and go around the group. As I mentioned someone’s name. I like other people to say what they value about working with that person, hundred percent pause, start with John. Okay, now, Sally, and take two minutes or five minutes to do that. Let me tell you, that’s going to be a surge. You just gave a whole bucket of feedback to your people about what what’s positive from their other co workers, that just just the thought of doing that it’s going to make it a stronger team, and the things that are called out, if someone hears they’re good at something, they’re going to become better at that. It’s human nature. So, you know, we there’s a lot of evidence if you want to improve yourself, don’t don’t work on your weaknesses. Focus on your strengths, you know, because things that you’re good at maybe naturally you could be great at and that could be defining elements in your life and career in house. Wow. But first you got to realize that you got to know it and then you got to harness that power. You know, I had, okay, give you know, sometimes I find in talking management theories, talking about kids and parenting and sometimes it gets clear. I remember our son Danny was in second grade. And, and we did a parent thing in the second grade. You should know Danny’s really good at art and we all Yeah, we know. Yeah, he loves art. And so I said no, no, you didn’t hear me. He’s really good at art. You needs to be encouraged on this.

Okay, so we got a got an art teacher. Let me tell you it Danny wasn’t good. He was great at art. And he It’s incredible. He was the first person could ever in the school to win to two grand prizes with an artwork that he’d done, you know, it’s like, oh my gosh. So it’s like, it’s more, it’s more important to double down on the things that people are good at, into, you know, we all were quick to spend time on the things that were that we’re not good at and fix our faults and, you know, they never quite get fixed and focus on the things you’re good at. Or, you know, so and I just think that, that sometimes I want to tell the kids story, but I’m talking to managers. I get feedback from them afterwards that I didn’t quite understand what you’re saying to you. She said that she heard that story and then it all clicked for me you know, of course this is and whatever it helps them see the light you know, or other tell you one other quick, quick one. I’ll try to keep it quick. When Danny was, you know, five he came up from preschool he announced he’d like to take piano lessons. My wife and I are kind of, we’ve never played a musical instrument. Sure we do piano lessons and we, and we did that. And then we thought, Well, how can we handle this as parents? Do we set up a practice structure? Do we guys when it comes down to school has got practice 45 minutes before no video games were then. And the more we talked about, we said, No, that’s not good. This is his thing. It’s not our thing. It’s his thing. So let’s get behind his thing. And so this this, we decided that we would never tell Danny to practice we never once told them practice we just say Hey, you got your lesson tomorrow. Did you practice never did that once but if he if we saw him, send out the piano, we always said Danny the skills are coming along great. That song did you pick it out? We know he did. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star you get grandma on the phone. We made a big deal out of it. All we got within two weeks. Danny, Danny said to us. Could he take lessons piano lessons twice a week? Yeah, sure. We can do that. And and so he did and he got better. He went to 10 levels of classical piano and he got interested in classical guitar. He ultimately went to is one of five students selected for the the guitar program at Northwestern University in north of Chicago. And I tell you, it just it just kept going. He he ended up having private lessons from a master in Italy for two summers he, he part of his education he learned he took Arabic because the classic part originates in the Middle East. He told me once it he can hear tonality in the guitar. He couldn’t hear before he knew the language.


He spent time in Spain learning the lute forerunner to the classical guitar he spent time in Egypt, learning the food for runners to loot. Let me tell you, he’s won guitar competitions. Danny is a is a world renowned artist and musician. And is my kid.

Obviously, we all have these aspects of our life. And we have this aspects in employees and people are good at and better at some things and other things. If you treat them all the same. They don’t have to be the same standard. You’re never gonna win. It’s gonna be painful. It’s gonna be painful for them. It’s gonna be frustrated you and and I talked to employees that have you know, it’s when you manage for the things that don’t matter. It’s very annoying. It’s annoying. It’s very it’s micromanaged on things that aren’t important. And it’s very frustrating for the employee which then makes it frustrating for the manager as well. So I don’t know, sidestep that one instead focused on what people are good at and help them be great at it. For coach, that’s an important important aspect to do.

I’ve got kind of one final question.

Dr. Bob, who was your favorite manager or leader that you ever worked for? And how did they bring out that magic in you he your strength?

I wasn’t blessed with having some some great great leaders in my life. I I mentioned I, I worked for did my PhD with Peter Drucker and Marshall Goldsmith and I work for was Ken Blanchard, the Chief of Staff, women managers. Sold 14 million copies. And they Yeah, we’re all we’re all learning from every one we have in our life and, and when you have a manager, that’s the most important person in the work life for anyone is personal report to the manager so that you’re specially have the opportunity to learn from them. And so I’ll tell you a Ken Blanchard story I like as I as the vice president for his company for six years. But before that, I was chief of staff. So I had I spent a lot of time with Ken at one point he told me I knew more than better than anyone else’s life. And a lot of time with him talking about a lot of things. And as always, you know, I drive to the airport, you know, and I do with the money packing. When he’s coming home. I pick him up and and we’re always processing what’s going on challenges and problems and what’s new in that type of stuff. I’d go with correspondence, I’d answer so I noticed one time he he was gone. For trip for three months. And he, you know we’re talking as asked him about my life even be asked about my son Danny, it’s a third thing about Dan is a piano, guitar or artwork, piano guitar. And here’s the third thing, Danny at the time we asked can ask me who is about three, three and a half million. I said, Well Dan is going through the stages. He’s just crazy about trains, though. You know, just love trains. We go the weekends, we go on a train ride somewhere, you know, and so I didn’t say much more than that. And Ken’s off on this three month trip. He comes back, one suitcase the whole the whole time. I don’t know how he does that. But I’m with them in a son pack. We’re talking about stuff. And Darren is in the middle of a conversation. He pulls out this little wooden train and he picked up in in Zurich for Danny like we’ve done For the guy whose actions and systematically had my best interest, and that of my family that my career at heart, and it made it really, really hard to leave working for him actually, I had worked for him for 10 years and had five different jobs. And each one of them was created for me. It’s a Bob, you know, we’re trying to hear what how do you think you can best add value and what you know, what kind of really needs is this? Okay, can you do that back, take that on and go do that, you know, and so it helped me grow. But it, it was a good front row seat from a world leader. This is how you operate when you’re trying to make a difference.

Thank you for sharing that. And I just want to point out to our listeners that what you’ve just shared had a family component, it wasn’t about you. It was about him listening and doing something nice for your child. That’s awesome. And then obviously an awesome career with him as well. But, um, the story you shared was not about you.

I don’t know, I guess, I guess not. Or Yeah, or another time. Tell a second story candidate, I could tell you 100 but I remember, you know, it’s my wife’s birthday and so the day came up whatever, four months later, and he called he called, you know, which is not here now. He he called Five times and that day until he got a got her live to tell her happy birthday. And he’s running a company and you know, he’s got his own family yet. That was important to say something about the person. Yeah. For

sure. Um, I am gonna wrap this up. Is there anything I didn’t think to ask you? I had a whole bunch of questions and our conversation just went was there anything that you were hoping to share with our listeners today any final thoughts?

No, I’ve enjoyed this I don’t get a chance to talk about this a lot on the stuff that I write and research and teach about, at the heart of it, it’s common sense but common sense is not common practice you have to work at it. So you have to you have to look in the mirror and you have to say, am I doing these things and or what would it take for me to start doing those and make it make it a priority that no one else can do it for you? So I would leave anyone with with that thought that and I think you know, the other thing. I’m doing a book on, on fun at work, work made fun gets done, and I think I’m the kind of half you have to you have to enjoy what you’re doing and if you’re you’re not you either have to make Making fun. And I got a lot of strategies for doing that or else you can go do something else because because if you enjoy something, then you’ll naturally get better at it. If you don’t enjoy it, you can you could be in pain. And then when you’re when you’re you know you’re not at work you complain about work that I learned from Marshall that that that the average employee spends 15% of their time at home complaining about their box. Research statistic 15% of the time complain about the boss so if you’re in that bucket, you know, it’s it’s never too late to get to get out and make a game. My husband say I complain about myself too. I got home, the boss.

We haven’t complained about him once since we’ve been talking. So that’s good.

That’s great. What, what is the best way for listeners who want to connect with you where where’s the best Wait a second that worse to say?

Well, I’ve got like everyone, I got a website, www. Dr. Bob, Dr. BOB notes. Yeah. And that, that’s, I’ve got all my books there too, which are probably 20 books are so that I sell it,

Buy it at more books to buy, at least at least. In fact I just hearing you talk this, I want to send you so I’ll do that as a thank you if I get your address.

That is huge. As a matter of fact, if you do end up doing that, I would love for you to please sign it. And then I like to do these as gifts for my upcoming deliberate leader summit that I’m doing, hopefully in the fall. And I will do that as a from the stage and I’ll give you kudos.

Well, great. I will do that then I need to send you some extra is because the more I send to you is for you. So if you want to awesome You want to give some away? That’s your prerogative. But just based on what you said, I thought several ones that you didn’t mention that that I think would really resonate with you. 

Fantastic. Well, I’m forever grateful for that. And for your time here today, it’s truly been a pleasure. And I look forward to all the things that you bring forward into the future into this to this world in this arena. And I’m really looking forward to your fun book.

Well, thank you.

Thank you. It’s another about a year from now. Yeah, we’ve had a lot of time that. I don’t know. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done writing a book.

Somehow I’ve managed to do 30. So go figure. But maybe, maybe I can do a recap. Maybe we can do a new interview once that book has rolled out and we can do a promotion for it.

I love that.

Awesome. Thank you. All right. Thank you so much, Dr. Bob.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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