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PMP Podcast: WTF! Who to Fault! (With Matthew Gould)

Have you ever been frustrated with how a project is going, with people in your team, and with people you manage? Has this frustration ever tempted you to lay blame on others? In this episode, I sit down with Matthew Gould, co-founder of the HTI Institute, to discuss the age-old question: WTF—Who To Fault?!

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Audio Transcription:

Tim:

So I can guarantee that at some point, maybe even today you’ve been frustrated or felt frustrated with how a project’s going, with someone in your life. Maybe with your team. If you’re leading a team, maybe with people on that team. And maybe a three-letter acronym comes up, WTF. Now, I’m not going to tell you the exact definition of that acronym quite yet, but I just want to let you sit with that for a minute. You know, you get frustrated. And that comes up as, “Oh man, what in the world is going on?”

Thanks for tuning in. I’m Tim Reitsma, the resident host of People Managing People. Welcome to the podcast. We’re People Managing People and we want to lead and manage better. We’re owners, founders, entrepreneurs. We’re middle managers. We’re team leaders. We’re managing people and yes, we do human resources. But we’re not HR, at least not in the traditional sense.

We’re on a mission to help people lead and manage their teams and organizations more effectively. So if you want to lead and manage better, if you want to become a better organizational leader and more effective people manager, then join us. Keep listening to the podcast to find the tips, tricks, and tools you need to recruit, retain, manage, and lead your people and organization more effectively. And while listening to this show, please subscribe and join our mailing list on peoplemanagingpeople.com to stay up to date with all that’s going on.

Well, today my guest is Matthew Gould, co-founder of the HTI Institute, a leadership training and coaching company here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Matthew is a certified coach through CTI and has led many teams throughout his career before embarking out on his own to create a successful coaching and leadership development company. Matthew is passionate about personal performance improvement for employees and uses numerous methods including a methodology him and his business partner have created really to maximize the performance of people in organizations.

You could check him out at htiinstitute.com, follow him on Instagram @htiinstitute or hit him up on LinkedIn at Matthew Gould. That’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W G-O-U-L-D. I think I got that spelling right. So thank you, Matthew, for joining me today.

Matthew:

Thanks, Tim. Thanks for having me.

Tim:

Yeah, it’s a pleasure. So Matthew, you and I kind of know each other. We go back a little bit and you’ve given me a little bit of coaching and that’s really, really helped me to pivot and change. So I hold you to high regard. So I really appreciate you joining me on the podcast today. And one thing I’m really curious about is what’s top of mind for you this week?

Matthew:

This podcast. And working with you.

Tim:

Awesome.

Matthew:

Yeah, I’m super excited to talk about this topic and my purpose is top of mind this week. You know, serving other people to achieve whatever the greatest means to them. So yeah, really being of service is top of mind of me this week, and in particular, this opportunity to connect with you.

Tim:

Oh wow. Thank you. Well, I appreciate you taking the time and I know you’re a super busy person and so… Yeah, I know you have a true servant heart and that’s just evident in all you do and the words you choose and what you write about. And so, yeah I was checking out your LinkedIn as we were prepping for this and I didn’t realize that you’ve written well over 50 articles on topics ranging from leadership, relationships, sales, ownership, and to be honest, in my opinion, you give a kind of a unique and fresh perspective when it comes to leading self and leading others. And so has writing always been a passion of yours?

Matthew:

No. I actually failed the English comprehension test at UBC early on in my days, and only through years and years of coaching and leading and failing and getting back up again and trying again did I start to realize that one way to express myself and to be a student of this work is to write about it. And as you’ve coached people and we’ve had some work together, I find that to process a lot of the common themes that come through the coaching, there’re some tips and tricks or ideas that can cut through the topic. And so for me, writing has become a way to release the content that comes in through coaching, as well as to provide and be of service for people who don’t necessarily have access to coaching. So writing is relatively new for me and as you can tell from the quantity that’s been pushed out, it’s generally content that will provide people ideas for both their personal life and their professional life.

Tim:

Well, that’s great. You know, I’ve read a lot of your articles and this one really caught my attention and maybe it was just the provocative or pervasive title, “WTF to SWN: the leadership mindset.” I think I got that right. I keep mixing up the acronym, but I believe it’s WTF to SWN. And so what in the world is WTF to SWN?

Matthew:

You mentioned it in your intro, Tim, and I’m sure you’ve had moments yourself around just what the bleep, you know? Like something happens that you’re not expecting. Life comes at you and there’s a twist or a turn. And a normal human reaction is, “WTF.” “I wasn’t expecting that.” “That’s not what was planned.” “I can’t believe that’s happened to me.” You know, “I can’t believe my boss said that to me.” Unfortunately, cancer’s a common diagnosis that gets given and that’s hit, my family. And so there’re those WTF moments that are real and practical.

And in the coaching world, many coaching calls are around WTF. “How do I overcome this current circumstance that’s hit me?” And so where this article and this concept really came from, was listening to leaders, listening to managers rant and rave about their people. Rant and rave about how aggressive the sales targets were by their executive. Rant and rave about the market. And what I realized, Tim, was that the ranting and raving were necessary. However, it never ever addressed what was in front of them. It never addressed the WTF moment. And so when you… if you think about it, what comes next is, “So what now?”

Tim:

So it’s moving from that mindset of, “WTF,” or you know, “What the bleep?” Or I saw in the article it was, “Who to fault to?” So what now? And it’s just changing that mindset and moving past the complaining or the rant and raving and actually doing something about it. But I’m curious. I’ve been in an opportunity to lead people in a large organization and I’ve been frustrated. Is it okay to get frustrated when you’re in a position of leading people or managing people?

Matthew:

I hope so because I get frustrated. I know you do too. And I believe frustration is a sign of passion and commitment and drive. And we do miss our targets. We do fail. And a lot of success that you see out in the world, what came before it was a lot of failures. And so WTF could stand for a way to fail. And you can celebrate it, you know, “Way to fail!”. And then, “So what now?”

And at the HTI Institute, what we really believe in is it is awe. It is a we concept. So Tim, if you and I are on this podcast and something happens on the podcast, maybe there’s a technology challenge. So how do we recover now? You know, so it takes two of us. So what now? What’s needed now? And so yes, I believe and we believe, Tanya and I, my partner believe that and you can relate, you can’t be in business without another person. You, even if you’re a sole entrepreneur, you have customers to serve. It’s constantly a relationship. And so yeah, it’s really a… can you be non-emotional? I think that might show a sign of a lack of passion.

Tim:

Yeah. It’s like this image of just a robot. Somebody who is just beaten to the drum with no emotional face, no emotion coming out of them. And so it’s like, “Okay, why am I paying this person?” Or, “Why did I just hire a robot to do this job?” And so we’re all wired with emotions. And in your article, you wrote, “It is difficult to make logical decisions with an emotional mind.” And I’ve got a couple of small kids and I get fired up. And it’s true. It’s hard to make decisions and drive great decisions when your emotions are fired up. How do we move past that? We’re wired to have emotions and especially when we’re leading people like you said, we may have aggressive targets. We may have missed the mark. Somebody may have royally messed up on a project. Then how do we then move to that, so what now mindset?

Matthew:

I believe it begins with awareness and truly understanding that let’s say your children spilled milk all over your brand new carpet in your newly renovated home. Understanding the awareness that the milk is already spilled. You know, Tim, you cannot unspill the milk. It’s spilled.

Tim:

It’s already down there.

Matthew:

It’s already down there. And so what do you want to be known for? If so what now… if the N was actually known for. I mentioned I failed the English comprehension tests. So knowing is a no. What do you want to be known for as a parent? How do you want to recover from the spilled milk? So I say the first step is really as soon as you feel the emotion, because you will, and I will and we are emotional creatures, find a way to pause and think, “So what’s needed now? How do I want to parent my son after the milk is spilled?” And I don’t know if rage and getting angry and yelling is… that only gets you to the start line. And eventually, you’ll have to say, “Where’s the paper towel?” Like what do we need now, you know? And so I believe the first step is awareness. Awareness of what you can and cannot control. And you definitely cannot control what’s happened. What you can control and influence is what you do next, and what we do next as a group.

Tim:

Wow. It’s an interesting perspective, right? The problem’s already happened. You’ve already spilled the milk. You’ve already missed your sales target, or you’ve already messed up on that project and it’s, “How do you… ?” I like that. It’s, “How do you recover? What do you want to be known for?” So actually taking that pause. So we talked about spilled milk and if someone’s listening who is leading a team, or maybe even just leading themselves or maybe has an opportunity to lead a small team or a large team, taking that time to pause and move into that, “So what now?” What do you think… or first off, do you have any specific examples in the context of an organization may be from your past or a client that you’ve worked with and who really ran into some issues and pushed through this?

Matthew:

Yeah. Countless, endless examples. And I’ll choose one. I do quite a lot of work in the auto industry and in a retail environment. And sales targets and reaching your monthly goals is a common challenge and a common opportunity that teams work towards. And recently there was a sale that was created to try to drive to a month-end number, and it was a colossal train wreck. The sales team didn’t know about it. The advertising wasn’t lined up. The staff wasn’t trained the way they needed to be. And so the month went by and the results were abysmal. And the General Manager gets his team together and starts to launch into his team. “Why didn’t this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why didn’t this happen? Why didn’t that happen?” And you could just see the team already knew that they’d missed the target. The team already knew that the communication leading up to the sale was really poorly done.

And there was nothing… you can learn from it. Don’t get me wrong. You can learn from the past. It’s how you deliver what you’re going to do next. And so I really believe in this concept of what’s next, Tim. So we can learn from the past, we can’t change it. What we can do is influence the future. So whether it’s the car industry or any industry that’s striving towards some level of achievement or purpose or mission, how we move forward, that’s all we have control of is now forward. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Tim:

Oh, totally. It’s so often we get stuck in a… and I say, “We,” as in myself. We get stuck dwelling on what happened in the past and you know, “This went wrong,” or, “I wish I did more of X,” you know if in a personal life. And in the business context, it’s, “We missed a target of launching a project, or launching a new system.” And I’ve been in a situation in a previous career track where we missed the launch of a massive piece of innovation. And I was mainly responsible for that. And I got laid into pretty hard. And did that motivate me to actually do better? Well, to be honest, it was pretty early on in my career and it didn’t. Because it was just… somebody laid into me really, really hard and it became very difficult. And I just think of that concept of, “Okay, you know what? We screwed up. So what now? What are we going to do? What support do you need? What is it going to take to move us past this?”

Matthew:

So just to jump in there for one second. Laying into you hard to me is misdirected energy. Misdirected… I don’t know if you became defensive if you started to question, “Who is this leader yelling at me?” Trust may have been eroded. So that the passion that your leader had truly was for the target, I believe. I don’t know him or her. I don’t know what happened. I believe a one-degree shift rather than lean into you, first of all, if we’ve missed a target like a company, it’s a we. We have missed it. It’s never on an individual from my perspective. It’s always a we. And then rather than make it personal, you said at the beginning, “Who to fault?” WTF. “Who can we blame? Who do we fault?” Rather than that, what if we put all of our energy, all of our emotions to, “How do we go about it now?”

Because time is of the essence. If you’re a public company and you’re trying to achieve a quarterly target for your share price and for shareholders, time is of the essence. So are you going to spend time ripping into you? Or are we going to spend all of our time, energy and focus on achieving the goal that we missed in the first place? It’s just a subtle… It’s truly a subtle shift. And then you don’t have to spend time repairing the relationship. Because together you’re moving… you already knew you missed the target, Tim. You already knew you’d… you know?

Tim:

Oh, for sure. Yeah.

Matthew:

So it wasn’t adding any value. What if me and you or she and you had put all your efforts into, “What do we do now?”

Tim:

Yeah. It seems so easy to do yet so hard to remember to do. So should we all have a sticky note on our laptop or on our wall or just how do we rewire our brains? I was thinking about this as I was prepping for the podcast. As I mentioned, I’ve got two kids and if there’s a mess or your example spilled milk, and I look at my kids and say, “Well what happened?” They both look at each other and say, “Well, you did it. They did it.” And they point to each other. And so it’s almost like this wiring in our brain from such a young age of we’ve got to look to blame someone.

So you’ve mentioned this concept of a one-degree shift, and we need to shift our mindsets from this, “What the bleep?” Or, “Who to fault?” To this idea of, “Okay, well that’s already happened. How are we going to move past this? How are we going to rebuild or regroup or remove that fear? And a lot of fear is in this idea of, “I got to look to somebody to blame because I don’t want my head to be on the chopping block, or me to be the one up for a performance review and this come up.” So how do we then practically build this in or rewire our brain?

Matthew:

I think there’s two things. One way is… and Jocko Willink talks about this in a book called Extreme Ownership. And he believes, and I believe that everything, if you lead a team, if you’re parenting a family, there’s a concept that, and we write about it in our book that’s coming out soon, taking full responsibility for everything. Taking extreme ownership for everything. And so if your son spilled milk, we’ll just use that example one more time. Somehow, Tim, it was your fault. And here’s how it might’ve been your fault. You may not have told them, “Hey, don’t drink milk on our new carpet around in the living room.” Let’s say it’s in the living room. You must not have made it clear enough to them to not drink milk or carry milk into the living room. So it’s this concept that takes a lot of humility. It does take responsibility and patience to say, “Somehow, if I’m in a relationship with the person, if I’m on a team and I have a salesperson or my exec, somehow it must be my fault.”

So that’s a one-degree shift away from blaming and looking outward to the very first step to take, could be. “So what did I do to cause this?”

The second step and you mentioned it in the word the past. Something’s already happened. To shift, to go from one degree of what’s happened to what’s needed now, and I know I keep referencing that and it’s so important. We cannot go back in time. So what I would encourage listeners to do, and anyone who gains access to this podcast is where do you control your actions, thoughts, and behaviors? And the answer is right now. And now is perpetual. It’s now, it’s now, it’s now. If we listen back to the recording of this podcast and one of us made a mistake, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it except say, “Okay, we made a mistake.” We. “And so now how do we want to move forward?” And so there’s this one-degree shift to now forward, now forward, now forward.

And here’s how you can learn from the past. Tim, let’s say with the spilled milk example is, “Okay boys, who’s on the paper towel? Who’s getting the spray and wash? And how do we first of all remedy and get the milk up? Number two, how do we avoid this in the future? Because it might happen again.” You know, sales targets will be missed again. Mistakes will happen. And so you asked the question, “How do we avoid this in the future?” Oh my gosh, you’re collaborating. You’re looking at ways to mitigate risk. You’re looking at ways to prevent this from happening again. As soon as I ask you, “How did this happen?” You will get defensive.

Tim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s a natural reaction, isn’t it?

Matthew:

Yeah.

Tim:

When we’re put on the defensive of, “Why did this happen? How did this happen?” We get on that defensive.

Matthew:

Yeah, because we’re in trouble. We think we’re in trouble. And yet, if we can do that one-degree shift into, “How do we avoid this in the future?” Oh my goodness, well now we’re brainstorming. Now we’re collaborating. Now we’re looking at… we’re really taking ownership and saying, “Well, here’s how we’ll avoid it in the future. I won’t go into the living room and drink my milk, or I’ll carry a tray or you know, I’ll have a CamelBak on and I’ll suck the milk from my CamelBak.” I mean, there’re a thousand ways in the future. But now we’re brainstorming and we’re looking forward. Because we can’t go back in time. It’s not possible.

Tim:

No, I love that. Just the imagery in that of, “We can’t go back in time. We can’t edit out aspects of our career or our life or how we’ve reacted to situations. But what we can do is we can really just take a look at how we’re going to react to a situation.” And that’s I think what’s really important. And that’s where if something is going to go wrong, which it will, how are we going to react? And if you’re leading people, if you’re leading a team… you know, I think of if you’re heading to battle and you’re leading a team and all you want to do is just yell at people and just dwell on what they did wrong, are they going to have your back? Probably not. You know, you may say like, “One, two, three, go,” and you’re the only one going and your team is hiding behind safety. And so I think that’s where we have to really practice this of, “Okay, it’s happened.” We’re allowed to be frustrated. I don’t believe in shying away from showing emotion. But it’s what we do with that emotion moving forward.

Matthew:

Yeah, it’s what value gets added by yelling at someone for a mistake they’ve made or a target they’ve missed or a promise they didn’t keep? What value gets added? I don’t know. I don’t know what value gets added, especially to the relationship. And then do they really, to your point, do they really want to go to bat for you now and make different actions and behaviors moving forward? I don’t… maybe they do, out of fear. Maybe.

Tim:

Yeah but now you’re leading out of a place of fear versus out of a place of trust. And I think so much data supports this, and I’ve given a number of talks on this to University students about we need to establish relationships on trust. Whether your personal relationships or in the workplace, whether you’re starting a career or you’re leading a team, do people trust you? And that mindset of, “So what now? Hey, how are we going to move past this?” Is one way, one simple, simple way to start building trust or keep adding to trust.

Matthew:

Well, think of this. If you and I worked together and I yelled at you for something that you missed, you will… you need to make a living. We are working together and it’s not like you’re going to necessarily quit right away. Over time, you might and look for an alternative. But now your energy’s spent not on the target. You’re looking for another job. Let say though that you’re now doing something because you don’t want to get yelled at again. Your potential to take risk, try new things is extremely limited by me, the leader who yelled at you for the mistake.

And so performance is just to not do things wrong. Your team, if you’re a leader and you criticize people heavily and blame people on past actions, their forward action will be just to not make a mistake. They will be gripping the stick so hard to not make a mistake. Whereas the leader or the parent or the business partner who says, “Wow, how do we avoid this in the future and what’s possible? What’s possible? Way to fail” Like it’s a celebrating moment like, “Way to fail!” WTF. And then, “Wow, what’s possible? So what now? What… ?” And then the team member and you, you’re brainstorming and the outcome, Tim, is exponentially going to be better. Because you’re not in a place of fear.

Tim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I just love that. It’s moving from that place of fear and moving from that place of just looking to blame somebody. Just looking to yell, get out your own aggression on your team or on your people. And guess what? If that’s how, you listener, if that’s how you lead, you may want to ask your team if they trust you or if they… and if they look at the ground when they answer that question, it may be worth just doing some self-examination and heading over to the htiinstitute.com or peoplemanagingpeople.com and do some reading and reach out. Because if your team doesn’t trust you, they’re not performing. They’re not performing as best they can. Just think of a task when you do something out of fear versus do something out of… you have a blank slate to be creative. It’s really just moving past that fear.

But I love how you said, “Way to fail is a celebration.” And often we just celebrate hitting a sales target or a product launched or we hit a target. We don’t celebrate the failures. And why is it important in your opinion, Matthew, to celebrate the failures?

Matthew:

I believe it’s great to celebrate failure because it means you’ve tried. It means you’re in the game. It means you’re taking risk. It means you’re putting your neck out and you’re striving towards reaching a common objective. And if you’re in a place of believing that winning is the only way, I would argue that your target, your goal, your vision is extremely low. It’s extremely limiting, and you’re on your way to average. You’re on your way to just not making mistakes. And so celebrating failure I believe is paramount because we fail all the time. I fail as a parent. I fail as a husband. I fail in coaching my clients. And if I’m not willing to fail and we don’t celebrate that, I just think we’re playing a small game.

Now the same failure repeated over and over and over again. That is a different thought. So a repeated failure constantly means you’re not learning from it. You’re not going, “So what?” Now you’re not thinking, “What needs to change now? What new actions can I take?” And so to me, Tim, if you’re not failing regularly, although on a different failure, not the same one over and over again, then you’re in an organization that isn’t striving for true greatness, towards achieving your purpose and living in alignment with your values.

Tim:

Yeah, I think we could do a whole podcast just on that concept of celebrating the failures. Because again, I think we’ve wired ourselves to be afraid of failure, be afraid of trying something new. And you think about from a young age to starting off a career and building a career, and now maybe again, you’re leading people, we are going to fail. It’s our nature. I haven’t met anybody that’s perfect. So guess what? We’re going to fail. And it’s how we respond, and how we respond in using words and actions is really what defines us as people who lead people.

Matthew:

Yeah. And I just, as you were speaking, I want to make sure that we’re giving the listeners the right area to focus on. Celebrating the failure itself, like, “Way to go. You’ve failed,” I would say is not necessarily the language to use. It may be more, “Way to make an effort. Way to swing and miss the ball. Way to go. You stepped up,” to use a well-known sports metaphor, “You stepped up to the plate. Way to go. And you struck out. Okay, and how quickly can you go from the struck out?” Because the player knew they struck out. You’re not adding any value as a leader to say, “You struck out.” They already know that. They’re the ones who swung. It’s, “So where do you think you need to adjust? Where can we support you? What type of training do you need? Let’s do some video analysis. What do you think’s needed?

So let’s just be clear, Tim, that we’re giving your team or your audience the right direction. I would say it’s, “Way to make an effort. Now, how do we adjust that effort? You know, what do you need to do as the employee? What do I need to do as a leader? And what do we need to do together to ensure this doesn’t happen again? And then when it does, because it may, now what?” You know, just a constant, constant adjustment until the ball gets hit and the targets get reached.

Tim:

Yeah, I just think of that analogy in a business world and I led a global insights sales operations team for many years. And I can’t imagine going to this team and just looking at this team and saying, “Wow, way to miss a target,” and just head to my office and shut the door. What a great motivational speech.

Matthew:

Imagine walking into your CEO and saying, “Woo-hoo.” And he says, “What’s it… ?” Or she says, “What’s the cake for?” “Oh, we missed the target again.”

Tim:

Yeah. And just leave it there, right? It’s-

Matthew:

That would most likely be your farewell cake.

Tim:

Yeah, then it would turn into a real WTF, versus an, “Okay. You know, we didn’t hit it. But where did we go from here? What did we learn?”-

Matthew:

“And here’s what we’re doing now.” Sorry to cut you off.

Tim:

Yeah. No, no problem-

Matthew:

“So here CEO,” or, “So here team. So here’s the plan now, that I’ve come up with. And what do you think the plan should be? Let’s really study. So how do we avoid this in the future? What changes do we need to make, what adjustments do we need to make going forward?”

Tim:

Perfect. Well, I just want to wrap up with just summarizing what we chatted about. And I think right from the beginning you mentioned this idea of awareness. You know, the problem has already happened. And then taking a pause. And this is whether you’re leading yourself or leading a team, a small team, a large team, wherever you are in a career or in your personal life and taking a pause. And how are you going to react to it, and choosing the language you’re going to react to. And I think you’ve given a number of great insights into this and I just love the concept of that one-degree shift. Moving from just a purely reactionary response to a place of, “You know what? It’s my fault. I take responsibility,” and approach it with humility. And I think that they’re some great takeaways for our listeners in that. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?

Matthew:

Yeah. I’m sure today I’m going to have a WTF moment. I’m sure you will. And I’m sure the listeners will. And the whole focus of today and what I hope listeners take is rather than direct the WTF energy either at yourself, “Oh my goodness, I’m such an idiot,” you know, and get really down on yourself, or take it out on the person that’s in front of you. It’s to have the WTF moment, be aware of it and redirect the energy to solving the problem, to get… just really take that focus. You said, “The one degree.” And rather than express it onto someone else or yourself, take that WTF energy and to apply it to overcoming the obstacle.

I also want to say thanks. I also just want to say thanks to you for going out there and hosting this podcast and inviting me to attend and I always get so much energy from your authentic interactions. I love spending time with you and collaborating with you on topics like leadership and values and all the great work you’re doing and in your business and Culture Assassins and SPARK. So I just want to say thank you and… and just love working with you.

Tim:

Wow. Well thank you for that Matthew, and I really appreciate you joining me. I know we’re going to have you on again in the future and I think we could cover a lot of different topics about managing people. So for the listeners, go to htiinstitute.com or check out Matthew on LinkedIn. Also please head to peoplemanagingpeople.com and comment on this podcast as well as subscribe to the podcast. If you like what you’re hearing and have ideas for topics, reach out to me and yeah, head up to peoplemanagingpeople.com. That’s where we also have our newsletter. And so put in your information there and get access to great content that will be coming out, and it’s already out. So thank you again and have a great day.

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