Advice for Leaders: My Radio Interview with Maureen Metcalf

skip prichard radio interview

It was a crisp autumn evening when I drove to the radio station in Columbus for an interview. Not knowing what to expect or where the questions would take us, I decided to just enjoy the experience.

My interviewer was Maureen Metcalf. With her extensive knowledge of leadership, she made the process enjoyable with insightful questions and a great conversation. In addition to her role as CEO of Metcalf & Associates, Maureen is the host of VoiceAmerica, an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership. She also writes about leadership and organizational transformation for Forbes.com.

In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about a number of topics:

My upcoming book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.

  • Why we self-sabotage
  • Why a book about mistakes
  • How to define the competition so you can win
  • The difference between success and failure
  • The power of self-talk
  • Building a powerful culture
  • Driving change throughout organizations

Click below to hear our interview:

Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Leadership Skill: Asking for Help

I don’t even recall how the argument started.

Somehow a simple text message morphed from a few sentences to an arrow that found its mark, spearing into an area that was still inflamed from other hits.

You know how that happens. A few words conjure up deeply-held emotions, past hurts, yet unspoken pain.

We worked it out, my friend and I, and our friendship survived and deepened because of it.

At the end of one difficult conversation, he said something that stuck with me: “Skip, you may think you’re fully transparent, and I guess in some ways you are. But,” his voice trailed off.

I waited, wondering what the next words would be.

“But, you’re not really good at asking for help.”

For many years, I’ve told the people who work for me that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

There is truth to Richard Bach’s quote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” -Richard Bach

 

My Request for Help

Keep reading to see my personal request for help. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for the assistance.

 

Learn to Ask for Help

I prefer to give—to be someone who serves. When I was a teenager, I worked in a restaurant and just felt better when I was the one pouring a drink rather than sitting there getting served. It just makes me comfortable. I’d rather host a party than attend one.

Pride can stop us from asking others. But so can humility. Pride says, “I have no need of anyone because I can do anything.” Humility says, “My needs are not worthy enough to bother anyone.”

So you can’t judge the “why” behind someone not asking.

Learning to ask for help just seems harder for some people than for others. When others ask in a polite manner for something, I’m in awe. It impresses me. I guess because it’s hard for me to do. And it’s a crucially important leadership skill.

Keep reading to the bottom and see what I’m asking.

 

Asking for help:

Shows vulnerability.

Brene Brown teaches the power of vulnerability. She says that, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

 

Increases our connectedness.

Nadeem Aslam writes, “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” As I ask you to help me, I’m increasing that attachment to you and to others.

Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders

Tales from a Reluctant CEO

Maxine Harris and her partner Helen Bergman started a business and grew it to $35 million through trial and error and constant change. In her new book, Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, Maxine shares lessons that can benefit all of us starting something new. She shares how they overcame obstacle after obstacle to succeed. I recently spoke with her about the lessons she shares in her new book.

 

When should a start-up start thinking about culture?

Culture is not really something that you think about when you first start a business. You might say, we want to be casual or formal, or we want to maintain an air of professionalism, but short of being doctrinaire, you can’t really control what organizational culture will become.  More than anything, culture evolves from the personalities of the founders. I happen to be very chatty and like to ask a lot of questions.  Some employees see that as friendly; others see it as intrusive.  When I push people to “think smart” and try to do things in better and more creative ways, some people see me as demanding and judgmental, others feel that I am encouraging and stimulating. In both cases, it is the employee who identifies culture based on how they interpret what is going on.

Culture is one of those things that exists in the eye of the beholder.  An employee, an outside consultant or a business colleague takes a step back and sees the unspoken rules and nuances of the organization.  Sometimes people are only aware of the organizational culture when they are asked what they like or don’t like about their jobs. When we asked people who were joining the organization what they were looking for in their selection of a job, we got a glimpse into the kind of culture in which they would feel most comfortable.  And while many said they were looking for an environment in which their opinions were valued and respected, others wanted a cultural milieu in which the boss would tell them what to do and they would have clear guidelines for performance.

Over the years, as Community Connections grew in size and diversified in its programs, culture changed. You could feel the difference. A business with three employees can’t help but be informal and casual.  But as we grew and increased our size to over 400 employees, it became impossible not to have some hierarchical structure. You can remember the names of three people, but when the size gets big, and leaders are rushing from one meeting to the next, it’s hard to be as friendly as you’d like to be.

 

“Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” –Thomas Wolfe

 

You wrote fairy tales for each chapter. That’s unusual in a business book. Why did you decide to do that?

3 Qualities of Innovation Leaders

Elephant With Butterfly Wings

When You Need Radical Innovation

Innovation.

It’s at the top of nearly every organization’s strategic priority list. Whether due to tepid growth, robust competition, globalization, budget constraints, or a myriad of other reasons, almost every organization is seeking innovation. Looking for the next big thing to transform the business and to improve a customer’s experience is always top of mind for a leadership team.

 

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” –Drew Houston

 

Steven Hoffman is Captain and CEO of Founders Space, a Top 10 Incubator in Inc. and the #1 Accelerator for startups coming to Silicon Valley from overseas in Forbes. He is constantly innovating, and he is a serial entrepreneur and investor. From his vantage point, he’s seen what works and what doesn’t. His book, Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation, is a practical guide to help startups achieve breakthrough growth and help more established organizations find a path to successful innovation.

It is a compelling read, filled with great examples to help you achieve faster growth. I recently spoke with Steve about his book.

 

“Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” –Steven Hoffman

 

Copying is Brilliant

One of your chapters is focused on copying vs. creating. You say, “Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” What role should copying play in radical innovation?

All great innovations are built on top of previous discoveries. Copying is an essential starting point. Steve Jobs copied Palm Pilot when developing the iPhone. Mark Zuckerberg copied Friendster and Myspace when developing Facebook. Brian Chesky copied Craigslist when developing Airbnb. But all these brilliant entrepreneurs innovated radically, and that’s why they were able to breakthrough and become so much bigger than their predecessors.

To innovate, you must start with something, and it helps to pick a business model that works. That’s where copying comes in. Once you’ve identified the customer need, then you must figure out how to radically improve it. There are only two ways to break through:

1) You create a product that is exponentially better. This is what Google did with its search engine. It was ten times better than the preceding search engines.

2) You create something new, something that offers a different value than the competition. This is what Twitter did with its micro-blogging platform. It wasn’t like a typical blog because it limited posts to 140 characters, which created an entirely new experience for readers and bloggers.

How to Increase Team and Company Morale and Performance

people skills

Increase Company Morale

 

People issues. Many leaders will tell you that people problems keep them up at night. From dealing with the under-performers to retaining and motivating the superstars, people problems dominate a leader’s thoughts.

One primary difference between a great culture and a poor one is this: a great culture has stars in every seat and a poor culture tolerates under-performers.

That’s what Trevor Throness explains in his new book, The Power of People Skills. His book teaches how to make the right people decisions. Don’t let the difficult people problems slow you down. His book is a helpful guide to everyone in management. I recently spoke with him about his work. Trevor is a coach who has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and organizations fix people problems and build exceptional cultures.

 

“The one quality that all successful business leaders have in common is tenacity.” –Trevor Throness

 

Attracting A Players. Many say they want to do this, but they don’t put the time and resources in to show it’s a priority. Why is it so important?

It’s important because A Players are up to 300% more productive and valuable to you than others.  Think of your best person; wouldn’t you rather lose three other weaker players than lose him?  One great employee is worth three adequate employees.  The irony is that often the best employees cost nearly the same as the worst.  50% of medical doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class, but they all charge the same!

 

“A-Players are up to 300% more productive and valuable to you than others.” –Trevor Throness

 

2 People Myths

What are some of the people myths that affect many companies?

Here are two of the biggest myths:

  • People’s basic weaknesses will change if they’re coached

Often leaders believe that, through their expert intervention, the basic construct of someone’s personality will change.  “Sure, today they’re a quiet, detail-oriented person who prefers to work alone, but once I show them the way, they’ll become an aggressive leader!”  The truth is that leopards don’t change their spots.  The best case scenario for any employee is that he will become a better version of who he already is.  If you’re unhappy with the fundamentals of who he is, coaching is not going to fix that.

  • The point of coaching is to help people fix their weaknesses

The focus of coaching should be to capitalize on strengths, not to build a set of strong weaknesses.  When I’m coaching someone, and we’re discussing weaknesses, I’m hoping that the person will grow in self-awareness so she can see how her weaknesses affect her team and then moderate that behavior.  Mostly, however, I’m looking to adjust her role so that she can spend more of her day capitalizing on her strengths, doing what she was born to do, what makes her feel strong, and what accounts for most of her results.

 

“One great employee is worth three adequate employees.” –Trevor Throness

 

Which myth most surprises people?