In this episode, host Tim Reitsma and Dave Ulrich—a leading voice in HR and ranked as a #1 management guru by Business Week—unpack what it means to be a leader and how we can build a better world of work. It all begins with self-leadership.
The leader is somebody who makes sure that people leave an interaction with them feeling better about themselves.Dave Ulrich
- Dave shares three ways to say to someone to leave them feeling better about themselves after they make error: 1) that you care, 2) you have great potential, 3) you made a mistake, learn from it. [6:09]
The loudest feedback a leader gives an employee is nothing.Dave Ulrich
- Sometimes in performance reviews, it’s not about the standard, it’s not about the consequence, it’s not about the behavior or the metric or even the reward. It’s about the ability to have a conversation. [9:26]
- Your job is not to share your story. Your job is to help those you lead create their story. And if you can’t use your strength so that you strengthen others to create their story, then you haven’t led. [11:00]
Build on your strengths that strengthen others. And if your strengths don’t strengthen someone else, then you probably not done your job as a leader.Dave Ulrich
- Dave mentions Martin Seligman’s work called Learned Hopefulness. And he says there’s three things that give people hope: one is efficacy, two is optimism, and three is imagination. [15:01]
- We sometimes get so overwhelmed. Looking backward we get depressed because of our history. Looking forward we get anxious because we can’t control the future. Our present day, we feel lonely. [17:08]
- When Dave coaches leaders, he ends every session with assess question: What do you do to take care of yourself? [17:44]
- If you can’t take care of yourself, you’re gonna have a really hard time taking care of others. [19:20]
- Dave talks about recognizing the triggers and the five things he pays attention to a lot: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. [24:24]
- Vulnerability all the time could be a sign of weakness. [26:56]
- Dave shares a great line, “I’m not failing, I’m learning” is how do I continue to learn so that I get better? [27:53]
- Our job as leaders is to help others do what they do better. [28:48]
- A weakness is something we recognize that gets in our way of accomplishing what we want to do, and that’s something we should be aware of. [29:48]
- Dave mentions his wife’s book called Weakness Is Not Sin. [30:59]
- Don’t listen to your friends. Listen to the voice in your own head. [33:23]
- When somebody comes to a leader with a problem, the best question is four words: What do you think? [36:46]
- Dave talks about believe, becoming, belong. Believe: that’s purpose. Become: that’s potential. Belong: that’s play together. [41:13]
Work is not a four letter word, it’s an opportunity.Dave Ulrich
Meet Our Guest
Ranked as the #1 management guru by Business Week, profiled by Fast Company as one of the world’s top 10 creative people in business, a top 5 coach in Forbes, and recognized on Thinkers50 as one of the world’s leading business thinkers, Dave Ulrich has a passion for ideas with impact. In his writing, teaching, and consulting, he continually seeks new ideas that tackle some of the world’s thorniest and longest standing challenges.
Leadership is not about you. It’s about what somebody else gets because of who you are.Dave Ulrich
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Read the Transcript:
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Dave Ulrich: Leadership is not about who we are. It's not about our strengths. There's a lot of work. Build on your strengths. Build on your strengths. I like to change that. Build on your strengths that strengthen others. And if your strengths don't strengthen someone else, then you probably not done your job as a leader, as well as you might have done it as you could've.
Tim Reitsma: I'm not failing, I'm learning. What a powerful statement. If we think about self leadership for a minute, what comes to mind? Is it that you're failing? Or perhaps learning?
I have the pleasure of sitting down with Dave Ulrich, ranked as a #1 management guru by Business Week, profiled by Fast Company as one of the world's top 10 creative people in business, a top five coach in Forbes, and recognized on Thinkers50 as one of the world's leading business thinkers. Dave Ulrich has a passion for ideas with impact.
And today we unpack an idea on self leadership and hopefully leave you with an impactful idea on how it's OK to take time for ourselves!
Stay tuned as we unpack what it means to be a leader, how we can build a better world of work, and how the only way we can achieve this is that we need to start with, you guessed it, self leadership.
Dave Ulrich, thank you for coming on the People Managing People podcast. I'm excited to have you on the show, and I know a number of our listeners who I was saying that you're coming up on the show they're excited as well. So again, thanks for joining me here today.
Dave Ulrich: Tim, what an honor. I've heard about the show and watched some of the podcasts. Just what a delight to join you today. Thank you so much.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, I mean, and I love, even in the pre-show we were, you made it very clear, Don't tell me where we're going, don't tell me the topic, don't tell me the questions. We're just gonna have a fun, organic conversation.
And so I'm excited. You know, I have a, I have an idea where I want to take this, but we'll see where it goes.
Dave Ulrich: You know, my assistant, I'm gonna move my camera so people can see a little bit my office and the background of where I live. My assistant who I've worked with for 32 years last week, she said, my husband just kidnapped me for a day.
So Tim, let's consider this, you've just kidnapped my ideas for the next few minutes. I feel totally in your control.
Tim Reitsma: Well, I love that. Well, for those who do listen to the show, you know, I ask a couple questions right off the get go. These are, I think, the only scripted questions that I typically have.
The first question is, well, tell us a little bit about yourself mostly what's top of mind for you these days?
Dave Ulrich: You know, it's, we all live complex lives right now, so I have maybe three domains. One is clearly family. We have three kids, 10 grandkids. We're trying to decide, the funny thing about our kids, I don't know if they'll listen to this, is it used to be we were a resource for them.
We help our kids like they were eight and five, and you walk them to school. Now that our kids are older, they're kind of taking care of us as the people who need help. That's a very funny shift, but we have kids and 10 grandkids, active in our church and faith. That's a part of who we are and really active in work.
Top of mind, I am passionate about learning that creates value. So I'm always concerned about what's next in how to manage people and organization, leadership that will create value for those we care about. And so those are the three dimensions, family, faith, and work that I spend my time around.
Tim Reitsma: So we share some of those core values, if you will. Faith and family are a couple of mine. And so, so I love that. And the next question I ask, and this is purely for my own curiosity. What does it mean to be a leader? When you hear that word leader, what does it mean?
Dave Ulrich: You know, there's thousands, you Google it. Somebody should Google it right now, and you get like three or 4 billion hits. And so everybody has an opinion. I love simplicity. My PhD is in a thing called numerical taxonomy. It's the science of simplicity. The leader is somebody who makes sure that people leave an interaction with them feeling better about themselves.
Let me say that again. So if I have an interaction with Tim today or with somebody else today, do I leave that interaction feeling better about myself? Well, that's what leaders do. And sometimes that's easy. I mean, Tim, you have a great show, you have a great life and you feel great cuz I have affirm.
But maybe you haven't done something very well and the job of a leader is to still say, you haven't done something very well, but I still want you to leave that interaction feeling better about yourself. I have found that a very useful test for me. When I interact with people, can I make sure they feel better about themselves?
And that's what leaders do. And then you wanna build that depth as leadership all the way through a company. Not just an iconic leader who may sit at the top of the company, but leadership distributed throughout the company who help other people feel better about themselves.
Tim Reitsma: You know, I've asked this question probably over 40, 45 times now, and this is the first time I've heard it explained this way.
And I think this probably is my, one of my new favorites is, Leave people better, leave people feeling better about themselves. And I'm curious, so, you know, if you are giving that constructive feedback, right, you missed the mark, you're not doing your job, why aren't you delivering. How do you then leave someone feeling better about themselves when it's just coming down?
Dave Ulrich: It's a conundrum. I mean, if it was easy to do, everybody would be doing it. Let me give an example. I have the privilege periodically of coaching. And I'm coaching, in fact, it happened last week, but I won't use that example. I'll use another one without naming the person or the company. That would be inappropriate.
Big company, very senior executive and one of the executives employees made an egregious mistake, cost a company an enormous amount of money. I had to deal with this executive. Before you send the email, global company, and they should have talked to him. Send it to me. Let me coach you, and here's the email.
You made a huge mistake. It's gonna cost us millions of dollars. And if you don't fix it, you're fired. And I said, May I intervene? As a fairly simple I hope so. Three simple changes. So listen to the changes if you could. Number one, I care about you. Number two, you have great potential at this company. Number three, you made a huge mistake.
It's gonna cost us a lot of money. And then number three, let's learn from it so that you can live up to your potential. Notice, I didn't walk away from that first you made a mistake. It's gonna cost us money. Leaders have to be accountable for themselves and for others. But I coached a number of leaders.
I coached a leader last Friday. She's head of a big company. She's gonna have to have a one of those typical conversations. And my comment to her is, Can you start by saying whatever language you use, I care about you. I really do care about you. And number two, I want you to reach your potential. And it probably won't be at this company, but let's work to make it happen.
I don't know how to do that any better. By the way, that doesn't always work. I'm not naive, but that leader I'm coaching, called back a couple of days later or sent an email cuz that's how that company does, and said, Wow, I got a different response. The employer sent me a note back and said, You really care and I do care.
But I hadn't connected with them. So that's, I mean, Tim, I know you love practical, concrete ideas that are not just the theory. I care about you, you have great potential and you made a mistake. Let's learn so that you can reach your potential. Anyway, that's the anchor of that simple idea.
Tim Reitsma: Well, it resonates a lot with me. I've coached a few people throughout my career and building teams and you know, one of my true passions in life create and build high performing teams. I mean, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but one thing I've noticed throughout my career and for me personally is, when we don't hear words, we fill in the void, in the absence of that.
So if I know I made a mistake, but I'm not hearing any feedback about it, where does your mind go? My mind goes, I made a mistake. I'm gonna get in big trouble. I'm fired. I should go to LinkedIn and find another job. Versus, I care about you. You've got great potential. When we made a mistake, let's figure out how to move past that mistake.
Dave Ulrich: I love it. And learn from it, not move past it, but learn from it. If I could tweak. I love what you just said. I remember talking to a parent, my wife's a psychologist. I have her picture there somewhere. There she is. She's a psychologist on the wall. And I don't wanna get the sun in the way of our conversation.
And we were talking to a couple that we know and they said, Oh, our kids are teenagers. You have this to look forward to, Tim, when your kids are teenagers. They come in late at night and they, you know, we don't know what's going on. I don't know what to say, so I said nothing. My comment to a parent is, say nothing is the loudest thing you could ever say, cuz it says one or two things.
One, I don't care. Two, I don't know how to parent. I think the loudest feedback a leader gives an employee is nothing. Let me say that again. The loudest feedback is nothing because the employee says, Oh, it wasn't a mistake. I may have made it wrong. It may be okay. Or, the leader doesn't know how to give me direction.
I think sometimes in performance reviews, it's not about the standard, it's not about the consequence, it's not about the behavior or the metric or even the reward. It's about the ability to have a conversation and to do what I just said. Let's talk, because if you don't talk, I love what you just said.
People hear what you didn't say and they may misinterpret. So I just, what a great comment, Tim. What a great comment.
Tim Reitsma: I appreciate that. I appreciate hearing that. It's, you know, something that I recognize in myself, if I'm not getting the feedback or I'm hearing mixed feedback, it's that little narrative that we make up. And sometimes it's the narrative of, Oh, well, I guess I'm doing great.
That's awesome. Or sometimes it's the narrative of, I must not be doing well. And so as leaders, when we wanna leave someone feeling better about themselves, we have to take all these little nuances into consideration as well.
Dave Ulrich: I think it's great. I mean, leadership is not about you. It's about what somebody else gets because of who you are.
I'm coaching another leader, one of the most brilliant stories and Tim, you should have this person on your show if she's able to do it. Born in the Philippines, Jenna Hut, very poor, didn't know how to read, didn't know how to write. At age six, went to a school, sat in the back corner cuz she couldn't read or write.
Now I'm gonna do it very fast forward. Ended up in the front row, read and write. Graduated top of that school. Went to a US college, graduated valedictorian. Went to Harvard, got a PhD, MIT PhD, speak six languages. I mean, just one of those iconic people that we're intimidated with. I'm coaching her. She's got a brand.
And I've said to her, Your job is not to share your story. And everybody wants her to share a story. In fact, last week we're gonna videotape her, we're gonna show her, we're gonna give her an award for rags to riches. Your job is to help those you lead create their story. And if you can't use your strength so that you strengthen others to create their story, then you haven't led. You, you've shared that you're great.
By the way, nobody's gonna have her story. I mean, I sit there and I'm in on, I love her to share it. It inspires. It's like we've seen those disabled people or keynote speakers and we just, Wow, I'm just sitting there and up. But leadership is how do I help you create your story, your brand, and then you've led, because their story, that's what parenting is.
Yeah, somebody I know's got a five year old who's just started school. Well, the job of that father is to help that young girl create her story at school. It's not his, it's hers. Now, that may not happen at age five or six, but at age 15 when they hate you, they'll be trying to, that was a joke. They'll be trying to figure out, where do I fit in this family?
So I love what you just said again, that leadership is not about who we are. It's not about our strengths. There's a lot of work. Build on your strengths. Build on your strengths. I like to change that. Build on your strengths that strengthen others. And if your strengths don't strengthen someone else, then you probably not done your job as a leader, as well as you might have done it as you could've.
Tim Reitsma: I'm really curious about this next question, and I know I'm a little scripted right here, and even in the pre-show I said I'm not scripted, but there's, you know, the purpose of our publication, when I came on full-time, I was tired of reading all of these doom and gloom stats. And went, how can we help build a better world of work?
And that became our tagline with our publication. Everything is through that lens. When you hear that phrase, Dave, build a better world of work, what comes to mind?
Dave Ulrich: You know, let me give you a metaphor that I hope doesn't offend. It comes out of any religion. It could be Hindu, it could be Muslim, could be Jewish, could be Christian.
Some prophets look at people and say, You're gonna go to hell if you don't repent. And try to get people to change. Other prophets say, Let me show you where heaven is and help you get there. What you just described to me is a second. I mean, I think in our field we often say, Look back, do after action reviews, have grip, be resilient, learn, look back, overcome all the tragedy, overcome those horrible things.
And by the way, there's a place for that. We need to be honest and candid about that heritage. But I love to be the one that says, Look forward. Look at that vision. Look at that beautiful mountain with the tree in the lake and the image that has on your wall. Look at that image and what it means to you.
How can I then help you create your pathway to discover what matters to you? That's why I love your image of looking forward, not just backward.
Tim Reitsma: I love that and it, I think it's such a close tie to, even our conversation about what does it mean to be a leader. And I think it's, you know, when we're leaving somebody feeling better about themselves, we have that, I think we just, you know I'm not a psychologist.
I don't know the inner workings of the brain, but when we leave feeling better about ourselves and having that clear image and direction, we have that ability to look forward. We can learn from our past, learn from our mistakes, learn from our journey, but then look forward and go, Well, what's possible?
And I think that's what it means to build a better world to work, is if we continue to just say, Well, this is what's happened in the past. You know, that those are data points. I think we, we still need to recognize that, but being able to look forward and the possibilities and then start to create.
Dave Ulrich: Boy, you don't need to be a psychologist, Tim, you've nailed it. There's a, the father of positive psychology is named Martin Seligman. He's a famous professor. He was the head of American Psychology Association, and he studied early in his career what was called learned helplessness. And if you remember studies where the animals wouldn't move because they felt helpless, they didn't have control.
His latest work is brilliant. It's called Learned Hopefulness. Learned hopefulness, and he says there's three things that give people hope. One is efficacy. I can do the work. If I worked at it, I can do it. Two is optimism. I have hope that I could make it happen in the future. And three is imagination. I can discover new ways that work for me.
I love that concept of hope. As, you know, that image I said about a leader who envisions a future and says, Let me show you what the future can be and how to get there with efficacy. I can make it happen. I can do something. Optimism, I can, it's optimistic. I have strikes, I can do it. And then imagination, I can discover what works for me.
I just, when I saw that, by the way, I'm committed to learning. I saw that about three weeks ago and I just got captured with his work Martin Seligman. And I mean, it's not new. I'm embarrassed that I'm still getting to his great work. But I'd love that idea: overcome a sense of helplessness with hopefulness.
And I think as leaders when we do that, we do build a better world of work because we see what can be and then we give people the path to get there.
Tim Reitsma: Well, I think it's, you know, it's a real good segue into, it's kind of the topic I was hoping the conversation was gonna go and no, I didn't steer it this way.
It was just, kind of organically has happened. You know, we talk about that hopefulness, but often I have found even throughout my career and in coaching others, is when we don't take care of ourselves. This concept of self leadership, taking care of ourselves so we can take care of others. You know, often when we talk about build a better world of work, it's like, okay, we're gonna march forward. When we talk about being a leader, I'm gonna help others.
How often do we forget to, you know, as we were talking a little bit in the pre-show, is just to put that oxygen mask on first. And to own it and say, Today I'm gonna clear my calendar because I need the oxygen mask right now. What gets in the way of that?
Dave Ulrich: You know, I think we sometimes get so overwhelmed. Looking backward we get depressed because of our history. Looking forward we get anxious because we can't control the future. Our present day, we feel lonely. I mean, those are three of the big issues. My wife, the psychologist says, depression looking back, anxiety forward, loneliness today. And we get overwhelmed and we try to catch up.
And we do, I love your comment. We gotta put our oxygen mask on first and recognize the signals in our own lives, whatever they are, and then do what works for us. I'm gonna go back to coaching cuz building a better world of work is more personalized. It's coaching. Again, I don't coach all the time, but when I coach leaders, I end every session or I try with assess question, What do you do to take care of yourself?
What do you do to take care of yourself? I had a session this morning, doesn't matter when it was. And I said to the person, moderating a discussion, What do you do to take care of yourself? And she said, I exercise. And I said, Are you doing it enough? And she said, You know, thanks for the reminder, I'm not.
Somebody else it may be sleep. Somebody else that may be shopping, somebody else that maybe spend time with family. I hope it's not drugs and alcohol. Those are usually not long term successes. And sometimes it may be stuff that's just weird that has almost nothing to do in the 90's, and I'll embarrass myself when I get stressed and we all should get stressed at times.
It's good to get stressed to push. I would watch two episodes of the US TV show, Seinfeld. I don't know why, but it made me laugh and it just calmed me down. Again, my wife is a psychologist. What are you doing? I said, I'm watching Seinfeld. So she watch and see, Oh, I get it. You're George. Now, if you're, have ever seen Seinfeld, you'll laugh at that.
I don't know why that works. I mean, and I think we've gotta be sensitive to those self-awareness sensors. It says, I need to take a, you know, is it a half hour? Is it an hour? Is it walking my child to school? Is it exercise? Is it reading a book? Is it, yesterday I was feeling stressed with some work. I went outside, I sat in the sun and I read.
I had to confess. I tried to read a book and I fell asleep for 30 minutes and I came back and I felt good. Admir said, Were you productive? And I said, Probably the most productive 30 minutes of my day. I just, Tim, I hope building a better world of work starts with me. It starts with me. And if you can't take care of yourself, you're gonna have a really hard time taking care of others.
Because they won't, yeah, you can't. You have nothing to give. Steve Kubby talked about the goose and the golden egg. You don't wanna kill the goose to get the golden egg. You want the golden egg to produce an ongoing stream golden eggs. I just think that's so critical, Tim, and I hope your podcast, in every podcast, building a better world of work, starting with myself. What a critical message.
Tim Reitsma: So critical. And yet often, again, I've been asking a lot of people this question, build a better world of work. On our website, there's over 30, 35 interviews right now when a huge backlog of interviews.
And I don't think there's one that's come up that says we need to start with self leadership.
Dave Ulrich: So I'm gonna ask you, let me ask you, Tim. What do you do to take care of yourself? I mean, you're busy with your career, you've got kids, you've got relationships, you've got family, you've got faiths. Whatever those demands are in your life, what do you do to take care of yourself?
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, it started off I started a new habit when, when I started working from home a couple years ago. And that was, I go for a walk every single morning. So no devices, my kids now call it my dad walk. I walk the same loop every single morning and every single afternoon, rain or shine, because I was finding that I was not being able to unplug.
When I would shut down my laptop and walk up the stairs and I would, my brain was still going. But just recently, I canceled a week of meetings. I had emailed people and said, I need to put my oxygen mask on this week. And so we'll reschedule everything. We'll push everything out.
And I'm originally from Northern British Columbia here in Canada. So I went back home, spend a week with my dad on his little farm, help him get ready for winter. And it was amazing. I mean, it was a 14 hour drive, did it straight in a day. And yes, it was exhausting, but you know, marriage, I've been married 12 years, two kids, I haven't had that time to myself.
And it felt very selfish. I felt guilty. It was about three hours into my drive and I thought I should turn around. But once, you know, once I hit that, about that six hour mark and was just listening to my own thoughts in my brain as I was driving down the highway, went, you know what this is how I can be a better father, a better husband, a better man of faith, a better leader, a better worker is taking that time to focus on yourself.
Dave Ulrich: And now the danger is if you were to say, so, Dave, you should do that. That's dangerous because I think each person finds their path and your path is going into British Columbia. By the way, for those who don't know, Tim lives outta river in British Columbia that bisex the ocean.
Any of us who've been in British Columbia in Vancouver, know it. And he probably ends every walk with a Nanaimo bar. So, that now that's what I've done to take care of myself is eating Nanaimo bars.
Tim Reitsma: Oh, love it. I may or may not have had one last weekend.
Dave Ulrich: Now everybody who's in Canada will say, Yes, I'm gonna get one of those.
I don't know what works for everyone else, but I think most people know enough about themselves what is it I've gotta do, is it? And, and exercise, sleep, diet, connecting with loved ones, shopping, faith, prayer, meditation, whatever it is. And I really encourage leaders to find the energy so that their strengths will strengthen others.
That's, that by taking care of yourself, you can then care for others. And it has a lot of elements. I mean, physical, emotional, social, spiritual. And I get in trouble when I don't. I mean, then the next thing I'd say on that is recognize the triggers. I got snarky with a client last week. I never do that cuz I wanna make them feel better, but I got snarky.
And as soon as we hung up the interaction, I thought, something's going on here. Dave, you're overstretched. You're overdrawn, the emotional bank account, Stephen Covey's line. Go find Seinfeld. Watch two episodes, it took three. And I had to send an apology, run into the mistake. We've all made 'em, we've all made 'em. Run into it, face it, acknowledge it.
And then with that client today, we had a great interaction because I took care of myself. I think the client took care of the client, and we both went, Wow, that was a healthy experience because we got better. I love what you're doing make the world a better place by starting with your place and,
Tim Reitsma: yeah. And let's, I'd love to spend a couple minutes here just on recognizing the triggers.
So I've recognized my triggers. You know, one of my triggers is when I sit down on my computer and I stare at the screen for three minutes without moving my fingers and going, Okay, something's a little off here, you know, maybe you gotta get up and stretch or, call one of my best friends and have a quick 10 minute conversation so you can, you know, gimme a swift virtual kick in the pants to get going.
But how do we recognize triggers?
Dave Ulrich: I don't know for sure cuz I think everybody's gonna have their own triggers. I like five things I pay attention to a lot. One is physical. Am I gaining weight? Am I not sleeping? Something about my body is not responding the way it could or should. Emotional. I laid out three depressed about my past.
I'm obsessing about what's happened. I'm anxious about my future. I'm lonely today. Am I feeling some of the emotional angst that I sense in myself? Intellectual. You're sitting at the computer, but there's no ideas. Oh, I'm ready to write, but my idea friends went away. No I don't have it. Social. Am I finding myself short with those I love and care about?
Am I just not feeling about the relationship I should. And spiritual. Am I finding this is not about a religion as much as am I finding a sense of the divine, a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose? Am I feeling the calling or the manifestation of a spirit? Emotional, physical, social, intellectual, and physical. I just hear it.
Some of those triggers. I encourage people to be aware of their own, and if you're not, it's really easy to figure out. Go to the people who know you. You've got 12 years. I bet if you said your wife, whatever you call your wife, your nickname. Do you ever notice me, just before I get off a little bit, could you tell me what you see me doing is a physical, social, emotional?
I'm almost willing to bet the entire fee for this interview, which is zero, that she'll know what to say. That she knows that and my wife knows it. In fact, my wife came in on Saturday. She knew I was stretched and she said, Dave, go outside. Open a book and fall asleep. And I can do the same. I mean, what relationships are about to help people recognize those triggers.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. It's it's scary. It's scary sometimes to be vulnerable, ask the people that are around us, whether it's, you know, in my case, in your case, our partners. Again I had the, a similar conversation with my wife, even before I went on my trip, but also afterwards, and I could feel myself, you know, lashing out.
I get very critical. And she said, Tim, you know, she put her foot down and I appreciate that. I think after I hang up here, I'm gonna have to go tell her that. But in the moments I didn't. But it's, you know, the people around us, whether, even if it's our teammates. You know, if you're a leader, it's okay to go to your team and say, Hey, I've been feeling a little off.
I know I've been coming across a little off, how have I been showing up lately?
Dave Ulrich: Oh, that's such a great question. Now, vulnerability all the time is a sign of weakness. I mean, I wanna acknowledge my weaknesses so that I can improve on them, and so that I can help you improve on your strengths as well.
But I, yeah, I hope those relationships that we have outside of work become iconic for insight. I think another source is our kids. I remember when our daughter, our youngest daughter, who's incredibly creative, was about 15 or 16. I was at the computer doing something. She said, Dad, what are you doing? And I said, I'm making a list of things I do wrong.
And Tim, you can look forward to this. And she looked at me really quick and she said, I can add 10. And and I said, You haven't even seen it. She said, I can add 10. And I go, Oh, that's sweet. Let me know. And she told me. And, you know, Thank you. That's great. I mean, and I think when we become open to feed forward, Marshall Goldsmith line, we learn.
And there was a great line, "I'm not failing, I'm learning" is how do I continue to learn so that I get better? And I'm not perfect. Nobody's perfect, but we're improving as we go.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. I like that. Not failing, I'm learning. And a good friend of mine seems Matthew Gould, and he's been on the podcast a few times, and his thing is about, you know, feedback is a gift.
So you're saying, you know, like your daughter comes in and says, Oh, I've got 10. It's like, Okay, tell me more.
Dave Ulrich: Well, don't tell me more. 10 is enough for me, but no, I've...
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. Ten's enough. Yeah. Yeah.
Dave Ulrich: But let's talk, I mean, you know, and one of the great lines, it's not mine. A lot of people are taking credit.
We judge ourselves by our intent, and others judge us by our behavior. So back to the coaching one on one. I intended that, that example I started with, I intended to help you be better. But the way you said it, you failed, you cost us money, you're gonna get fired. That's not gonna accomplish your goal at all.
And others judge you. And so when we think about how what we do is impacting others, and our job as leaders is to help others do what they do better. Build on your strengths to strengthen us. You use your power to empower others. And when we have that headset, that's not always easy to get. But I think when we have that, then we build a better world through the leadership that we offer.
Tim Reitsma: You said something a couple minutes ago that has really peaked my interest. And it was around vulnerability and weakness, and so walk me through that a little bit. Yeah, I think you said something along the lines of if we're too vulnerable or always vulnerable, it could be a sign of weakness. So I'd love to unpack that a little bit.
Dave Ulrich: Well, I love the concept. You know, I think we have weak things that allow us to get stronger. They're not sins. They're not mortal failures. I'm not always very good at listening to people. I actually cut you off if you listen twice, and I hit me, I cut, I cut Tim off twice a little bit before he was done.
I apologize for that. That's a weakness. A weakness is something we recognize that gets in our way of accomplishing what we want to do, and I think that's something we should be aware of. Now, if all we do is go around and say, Oh, I'm terrible, I'm terrible. People will go, Okay, I'm starting to believe you.
But we do, we recognize our weakness so that we can take care of ourselves and then care for others. So let me apologize again, twice I cut you off in the early part of this, even this interview, and I know that's a weakness. I'm prone to that and I'm trying to be aware of when I do it.
Tim Reitsma: Thank you for apologizing. I did not notice. But appreciate your recognition in that and apologizing.
And I love that. Just that, that clarity that you provided around vulnerability and weakness, right? If we're always being vulnerable about like, I'm terrible at this. Oh, I wish I could be better. Oh, I wish I could be better.
And that goes on for days, weeks, months, people are gonna start going, Okay, well you're vulnerable at sharing how terrible you are, but what are you gonna do about it? Versus, Hey, I'm terrible at this, or, I'm really struggling with this, and here's how I'm working towards it. It's that, that second piece of that sentence.
Dave Ulrich: You know, if people wanna look at that, my wife did a phenomenal book, she's a PhD psychologist, called Weakness Is Not Sin. That sometimes we sin and we make egregious errors when we don't live our values. You've done something against the values. That's a mistake. We've gotta repent, we've gotta change, we've gotta fundamentally changed.
Whereas weakness is just mortal reality. I didn't listen as well. I did, I was sharp with my partner, whom I love when I didn't intend it. Those are just things we can learn from. And again, I'm gonna share this, I don't usually share this. There's a great line and I put it on a pillow for my wife. I'm not failing, I'm learning.
I think that's a great embroidered pillow. I brought that into my office for an earlier call this morning with someone. I'll show up to your group as well. I think that's weakness. I'm not failing, I'm learning. Where sometimes we, again, the metaphor is, comes out of a religious herd, but sin is when you violate your values. You steal money, you kill someone, you, you do something that violates a value you have.
That takes a really serious change of mind. But weaknesses, I'm learning and I hope we can get that, that headset. It's a great headset.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. And I think even on the, the topic for the, for our conversation is that self leadership. I've talked with so many leaders throughout my career as, no, I, I cannot show that sign of weakness.
I need to be that show of authority. If I admit that I'm not doing well, then it's a sign of weakness, but it's not. It's, you're not failing, you're learning. And it's that self learning, that self leadership, which then can plant your feet solid on the ground again, to go and lead your team and guide your team or guide your organization.
Dave Ulrich: Or work with them that they help guide you.
Now I've cut you off again, I'm sorry. But if I engage them, they help guide me as much as I guide them. And together we move forward, which is what leadership is ultimately trying to do.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, and so I, I'm curious. For somebody who's listening who knows that they need to put that oxygen mask on first, they know that they've heard self leadership, they've read about it a hundred times, they keep hearing it and reading it all throughout LinkedIn.
Friends keep telling them, It's like, Oh, you need to take care of yourself. Exercise more, eat better, sleep better. It's all easy to hear and to read. What is what practical way to start? Like how do we actually start on this journey?
Dave Ulrich: My first line is I wouldn't listen to any of my friends. I mean, by the way, I'm trying to be counterintuitive. I've gained weight and I've lost weight. And if you look at pictures, you can see both. When I was heavy, everybody would come to me and say, Here's the secret to losing weight. And finally I'd look at people and say, I am so glad you know what works for you.
I am so glad you know what works for you. It's a walk every day by the river that may work for you. It's whatever diet, whatever nutrition. I'm so glad it works for you. And so I would say, listen to the voice in your own head. I think we carry, most people have whatever you wanna call that, self image, self voice, spirit, whatever it is.
What do I need to do? What do I need to do? And you know what, it may not be what everybody else suggests to you. Now, you're close partners may give you insights that they are wise, but what's gonna work for me? And I encourage people to be really thoughtful. What am I doing to, well, I'll get more personal here.
I don't do this very often. Every morning, that's not true, most mornings I try, if I'm being rigorous, you're very disciplined, obviously, on your walks. My discipline is, in my morning meditations, whatever you wanna call them, the musings of prayer is who can I serve today? Who can I serve today? Go through my checklist of my close friends, family, loved ones, my near friends. And listen, does a name come to mind?
Probably five days out of 10, some name comes to mind. Go serve. Send him a note, drop him a, send him a box of chocolate, whatever you know. And by the way, I'm now gonna have people saying my name came to your mind. But, you know, and probably 80% of the time, not a hundred people say, You know, I really needed that today.
I don't know where that comes from, but I know that when I'm in that reflective mood, that there is a sense that if I look for opportunities to give back, they will present themselves. And not every time, but most of the times, that will be a rewarding experience. Sometimes very rewarding.
That's a personal pattern that I've tried to do.
Tim Reitsma: I love that. I love that servant leadership that, you know, who can I serve? And it's something that I know, I know I aspire for and I aspire to be and to do. And often, you know, my to-do list gets in the way and that's just an excuse. But I love that you also said, don't listen to your friends.
Dave Ulrich: I mean, that's counterintuitive. That's counterintuitive.
Tim Reitsma: It's super counterintuitive. It's often, you know, even if my friends, and I'm really guilty of this is, I've got an opinion and I've got advice to solve everything. And yet we don't necessarily take the time to really understand people's situation, understand what's going on behind the scenes.
Maybe it's health related or family or per something personal. It's like, Oh, you look tired today, Tim, you should probably go to bed earlier. It's like, well, actually I've got health related problems that are causing this. So I could go to bed right now and sleep for 16 hours and I still wake up tired. So, you know, we all have that advice.
Dave Ulrich: I love that. Oh, I think we all fall prey to that. One of the things, again, I'm going back to coaching cuz a lot of our conversation is around personal relationships. When somebody comes to a leader with a problem, I'm struggling with this, I'm struggling with that. Let's go to the emotion, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Many leaders wanna jump in, get more sleep, get more exercise. The best question is four words. What do you think? What do you think? Because most people who come to a leader with something they're working on and thought about it a lot more than I have. So what do you think? What would work for you? How would you solve that?
And sometimes all they need is for someone to say, You know what? That's a pretty good idea. Tim, you may need to go to the doctor. Tim, you may need to go take a 14 hour drive by yourself. Go into outer boom docks in Northern British Columbia and go back to the roots and just spend a day with your fingers in the dirt.
And Tim says, I think I should do that. And I say, Tim, what a great idea. Bring me back a vegetable. I mean, what do you think? And I love that because most people may know if they're free to take care of themselves. Anyway, I find that question actually quite helpful. What do you think? What do you think would help?
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, I love that. What would work for you versus Hey, let me tell you what has worked for me and maybe you should try this.
Dave Ulrich: Well, I, my line now, I'm cynical when people say that. I love to say, I am so glad that worked for you. I have a really close friend when I was heavy, Dave, you need to exercise.
You know, How much are you exercising? Well, I do an hour a day. I am so proud of you. That's really good. And implicitly, I'm saying in my head is, that's not working for me. That doesn't work for me. There's something else that I need to discover.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. Yeah. When we're in those coaching conversations, whether it's in personal life or in work in our leadership lives, let's take ourselves out of the center of that story.
And it's not about, it's not about me as a leader and say, You know, look at me. I'm higher than you, so I'm gonna tell you what's worked for me and now you should go try this. It's, tell me more.
Dave Ulrich: So I know our time's running down. I've gotta ask, Tim. You've done 30 to 40 interviews, you've done magazine, you publish a great People Managing People. What's one of the lessons you've heard lately that just not in our call, so take mine out of it, but what's one of the lessons you've heard that you're just saying, You know what, I gotta think about that a little bit. What's something you've heard? And that's not scripted for me or for you.
Just tell me something you've learned that's been kind of on your mind lately that you grab.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, what's really been on my mind or a theme that I have noticed throughout the publication and the interviews, whether it's podcast or written, it's the human side of leadership. It's less about the, Okay, I'm gonna, we just need to implement a great strategy to get things done.
It's like, well, for me it's, who's gonna implement that strategy? A bunch of humans. And guess what? We're all uniquely different. I have beliefs and values that guide me. You have different beliefs and values that guide you. Everyone on my team is uniquely different. So how do we, as leaders or organizations, bring the human side back into that organization. You know, we definitely need to be paying our people.
We need to provide safe places to work. We need to take care of that. There's a great book on my shelf, I, and I love this book. It's called Primed to Perform, and it's we need to be offering people play, purpose, and potential. And so as a leader, we have, again, unique individuals.
And so that's what I'm hearing as a theme throughout the interviews and I've been talking to bestselling authors and CEOs of companies and founders. I've also been talking to people at various levels of organizations. And people are craving that human element of leadership. People are craving like, get to know me, you know, ask me questions like even before we hit play, you were asking about my kids and where I live and about my background and about the painting on my wall.
And, you know, within five minutes, I felt like, Oh, Dave, we've known each other for years and it doesn't take long. And I think that is the big theme that I am hearing and that I'd love to continue that conversation. I'd love to see more and more leaders going, Okay, we've got a great product, we're generating sales.
How do we just take care of our teams? How do we create these happy, healthy and productive workplaces?
Dave Ulrich: I love play, purpose and potential. I wrote it down cuz we've been doing, we've done a lot of work on what engages people. What's the new term? Quiet, whatever it is. Quiet quitting, which is kind of an old term and anyway, experience, whatever you call it.
We talk about believe, becoming, belong. Believe: that's purpose. Become: that's potential. And belong: that's play together. So I really love the three that you came up with. Play, purpose and potential. For us believe, become and belong. And when a leader creates that purpose, potential, and play, the same metaphors, you create something magical.
Work is not a four letter word it's an opportunity.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, I wish I could take credit for that. It's it's a book by Neel Doshi and his partner Lindsay, and her last name escapes me, and the book is called Primed to Perform. So for anybody who's listening, I'll put a link in the show notes. It's just, it's a phenomenal read and it's a great study that talks about well, believe, become and belong.
It's, you know, it's a, maybe a different metaphor, but that's where I continue to see, you know, we continue to see stats of disengagement, quiet quitting, which again, isn't new. Quietly quit a job in my late teens, in my early twenties.
It's been around for 20 to 50, I don't know how long, but people have been doing it for generations. But if we want to continue, if we want to help people build and have amazing lives, us as organizations have a stake in that. And if we own that and say, You know what, Dave, if you are on my team, how can I pull out the potential in you to accelerate your career?
And maybe it'll only be for a year or two in my organization, but man, I'm gonna set you up for my goal as a leader, as an organization is to help you succeed.
Dave Ulrich: Totally. Again, the lead we may end where we started. A leader's job is to help other people feel better about themselves. And when you get that headset, value is what you get from my interaction.
Use your power to empower others, your strengths to strengthen others. Whatever metaphor you want, that's leadership. And I wish more did it. I mean, I hope we see it with parents, with children. I hope we see it in government with political leaders. We've all been around political leaders.
Whatever country we're in of those who don't do that, I hope we see it in organizations. I hope we see it in church settings, religious settings where the purpose of that leadership is to embed, is to help others create their value, not just to distribute your value. Great. Great comment. Thank you.
Tim Reitsma: I love that and I think it's a great place to end.
And I know Dave, I think, you know, if I had six hours of your time I, we could just continue on the conversation and let it flow. And...
Thanks so much for coming on and having just a great conversation with me about, you know, we talked about build a better world of work, self leadership. We've talked about how to become a leader.
Dave Ulrich: Tim, thank you. I feel better about myself. I don't need to watch Seinfeld today. I'm doing fine. So,
Tim Reitsma: well, thank you.
I don't know if I could replace Seinfeld. You know, my wife is an avid Seinfeld fan, and so she often turns to Seinfeld versus me. So, you know, I appreciate hearing that.
And for those who are listening, we'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Please feel free to drop me an email, send me an email to Tim@peoplemanagingpeople.com. Like and subscribe and all that good stuff.
And Dave, again, thanks for coming on and for those who are interested to hear more, to follow you where's the best place people can reach you at or to connect with you?
Dave Ulrich: You know, I decided during Covid, go to LinkedIn. I really like LinkedIn because it's a global platform. It doesn't matter who's communicating.
I don't look up where they're from. You could be from Sri Lanka, you could be from New York City, you could be from Calgary. But engage, and I try to respond. Somebody said, Do you do all those responses or do you have a team? It's me, all me. And I enjoy those.
Tim Reitsma: Well, we appreciate that. I appreciate you Dave, and thanks again for coming on and for those who are listening as well as yourself, Dave, have a good day.