12 Mar March 13, 2020 – Apprentice Robert Berk and Workplace Warrior Jordan Goldrich
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What if we made a platform for college students and entrepreneurs
to connect so the student could work year-round as the
Robert Berk is passionate about small business growth since it is at the intersection of his greatest interests, marketing and problem solving. As a sophmore, he created Solvit to drive business results through individualized efficient solutions. For over a year, he has interned for and been inspired by one of the world’s best thought leaders in social media, Dave Kerpen. Together, they created Apprentice, a platform that connects entrepreneurs and business leaders with smart job-seeking college students. Apprentices work remotely while they are in college to do anything and everything needed to make their leaders’ lives easier and to make them more effective.
Marshall Goldsmith invited the concept of feed forward. Feed back
is what I did in the past. Feed forward is, “I have a goal and asking
what do I need to do to approach that goal?”
Jordan Goldrich helps leaders end dysfunction so their teams can do great things. He is a speaker, Chief Operations Officer and Master Corporate Executive Coach (MCEC) who partners with senior executives to drive results while developing their organizations, teams and the next generation of leaders. He specializes in helping valuable executives who are experienced as abrasive (bullies) to increase their effectiveness while changing their impact. Jordan is a partner in CUSTOMatrix as well as Senior Executive Coach with the Center for Creative Leadership. His understanding of warriors has been influenced by his work with The Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on helping Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and our other special forces communities transition to the civilian workforce.
He has over 35 years’ experience working successfully as a coach, consultant, or advisor with Fortune 500 corporations, closely held and family-owned business, government, and nonprofit organizations.
Highlights from Jordan’s Interview
I’m a person who was experienced as abrasive, and I think some people would call me even a bully. Along the line, I had an epiphany that I needed to change that behavior. As I studied it, I realized that most executives who get called bully or other interesting colorful names don’t really want to hurt people. It’s that they are amazingly driven to be successful. They have an uncommon desire to succeed. They take charge, they lead their teammates, they demand discipline. And as an aside, they are often experienced as somewhere between annoying, disrespectful, demeaning, and bullying, but it’s not their main choice.
What really clicked for me was, I started doing some volunteer work for an organization called The Honor Foundation that helps navy SEALs and other special operations forces transition to civilian life, and I began looking at the Navy SEALs ethos. In my book, I actually use the Navy SEALs ethos to define warriors. Those are people who have, as I said, an uncommon desire to succeed, they take charge, have an uncompromising integrity. However, in the workplace, sometimes they don’t have some of the other commitments of the SEALs and the other groups, and that would be things like; the ability to control my emotions and my actions regardless of circumstances, to place the welfare and security of others before their own, to protect those need protection, those sorts of things. The mindset that I have is, we need them, we have a volatile complex workplace where we need people to drive results, and we also need for them to be able to do it without damaging relationships.
At the core, it’s about what is your motivation. My experience has been that most no-BS executives and the warriors, as I said, do not want to hurt people; they want to do well. If you really dig around, they really respect people. On the other hand, they have another message in their head, which is, you need to deserve respect. So, one of the core skills is to cultivate compassion for people that your brain is telling you don’t deserve it. That was my biggest challenge, to realize that even though somebody was acting in a way that, for instance, my parents would have told me don’t deserve it because I grew up in a loud New York family, that I need to treat those people respectfully and compassionately anyway. By the way, respect and compassion does not mean letting people off the hook.
Let me give you some of my ideals to get a better image of this person. If you have watched the original NCIS with Gibbs, Mark Harmon plays the main character of Jethro Gibbs. They’ve softened him up a little bit over the years, but in that show, he was dead on about, we need to do this right. There was no whining and there was no getting out of being accountable. But he was never demeaning, he was never disrespectful, and when his people needed it, there was compassion and concern. That’s my ideal of what a workplace warrior really looks like.
The other one that I really liked is on NCIS Los Angeles where Hetty was the woman who was in charge. So part of the deal of this is that you don’t have to be male to be a warrior, it applies to all genders and ethnic backgrounds. By the way, in the process of learning how to do this, I have hired several women coaches who are very tough warriors. Since I’m talking primarily about men, I wanted to make sure that what I was saying also applied to women and I didn’t say anything that was due to my own blind spots and biases. So I’ve gotten some real tough feedback as well.
There are a number of pieces to overcoming these problems and becoming different. One piece is, after you’ve made the commitment to change, you have to do some research. There is a process called Feed Forward, which was invented by a world renowned coach named Marshall Goldsmith, one of my idols. Feedback means what did I do in the past. Feed Forward is, I have a goal, what do you think I need to do to approach that goal? So when I coach executives who have decided that they want to change their behavior, one of the things that I asked them to do is to do this Feed Forward process. So it might look like going to people that you’ve been working with and saying, “I got some feedback that I can be really difficult and abrasive and a bully, and my goal is to have respectful good relationships. Do you think I’m working on the right thing?” Their job then is to listen. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask your wife and your family or your partner. But definitely, you want to ask your boss and other superiors, you want to ask your peers, and you want to ask your employees. If you can ask some of your friends if they’ve experienced you this way as well, you can get some great input into into how people see you.
If they think you’re working on the right thing, then you say, what behavior would you like to see from me in the future? Just the fact that you’re doing this, even if you change nothing, you’re demonstrating humility, you’re demonstrating courage, you’re demonstrating the desire to do the right thing, and you’re also letting people know that you know. Again, my experience is that you cannot change 100% of your behavior. If you are one of the strong driven people who gets annoying on a lot of occasions, you’re not going to turn into Gandhi.
I will tell you that one of the scariest things I ever did was, when I was the chief operating officer of a company, I took some some leadership training and they had me do something similar. Rather than an interview, my boss who was the owner of the company met with my seven rapports. It was one of the longest hour and a half I’ve ever had. Later on, he plopped back into my office and sat down on the chair said, “Well, the good news is they like you.” Then he proceeded to tell me all the things they don’t like about me.
One of the things that is helpful to do is to create a list on a weekly basis, sort of a mini journal, where you jot down situations where you got triggered to say stuff that was inappropriate or that you’ve decided that you’re not going to say, and then you figure out what could I have said instead. If you can’t afford a coach and you can’t afford a counselor, what you can do is you can find somebody within the organization that you trust, or somebody outside the organization that you trust, and ask them if they’ll help you out. So you run it by them, “In this situation, I said this. What do you think?” That way, you begin getting input and you begin building a toolbox.
Another piece that’s important as well is about rewiring the brain. So what we know is that, neurons that fire together wire together. What that means is that if you are a person who tends to react angrily or in ways that other people experience as disrespectful for instance, or on the other hand, if you’re conflict avoidant and you get anxious and your run away, either way, if we looked in your brain, we would see millions of neurons firing in a pattern. My understanding is that it’s partly genetic and it’s partly practice, so the more you focus on it and practice it, the bigger that network of neurons gets. If you start practicing another set of them, you can develop a new set of neurons and begin rewiring. There’s also some theory around how you wipe out some of that other conditioning, but I’m not a neurologist so I’m not going to get into it. But basically, the more you practice doing it the other way, the more the easier it gets. It’s almost like if you are trying to be a runner; the more you run, the stronger your muscles get, etc.
After you’ve committed, researched, neuro-analyzed, then there’s a last step I’ll give you; you need to know how to say the stuff. My experience has been that you can say almost anything to anyone if you frame it correctly. For instance, if I’m going to give you some feedback and I’m your boss, I wouldn’t be doing my job supporting your success if I didn’t give you some feedback. And if I have a an inkling of compassion and I really care that you don’t walk off the cliff, and I really care that you’re successful, then I can pretty much give you the feedback in a way that is non-judgmental. The real key here is that I should have even a small amount of real and authentic caring that you’d be successful. I might say something to you like, “When you walked into the meeting late, our client rolled her eyes. Later on, she said she doesn’t want to work with you anymore, and I’m concerned”, which would be very different than my saying, “You walked into the meeting late again, and I’m really getting sick and tired of this.” So it’s really aimed at trying to help and trying to be compassionate. By the way, in some ways, it’s stronger to say it the way I said it the first time because they can’t dismiss you as being a jerk. There could even be a little tone in the voice; a little bit of tone is okay.
The way I like to think about it is, if you and I are having a conversation outside and you notice that I’m absent-mindedly stepping backwards as we talk, and you notice that there’s a cliff behind me and you have no idea whether I know there’s a cliff behind me, what you want to do is you want to say, “Jordan, I’m concerned about you. You’re walking backwards, and if you continue walking backwards the way you’re walking, you’re going to fall off the cliff and hurt yourself. I don’t want that to happen.” You need to say it loud enough so that you get my attention, but not so loud that you offend me and that you startle me, and you want to do it well before I’m on the edge of the cliff waving my arms so that I don’t fall off. Part of the difficulty with this is that there’s a certain percentage of employees in the workforce who will respond to that with, why are you always criticizing me? So you have no control how the other person reacts, all you can control is what is your intention and how do you say it. If you do that, you can walk out of those conversations 100% successful. Even when the complaint comes in and HR looks at what it is that you did, they will investigate and determine that you did nothing that was inappropriate.
When you have warriors together in an entrepreneurial partnership, it really depends on how well they’re willing to accept each other’s personality. So my business partner in Custom Matrix, Eric, was born in a family where his mother is Mexican, and his father was I believe Dutch. Whereas, I grew up in a loud Jewish family in New York. Periodically, my wife has said to me, “There are times I hear you on the phone with Eric and I think you’re going to quit. But somehow, miraculously, by the end of the conversation, you guys have resolved it, etc.” I said, “Well, we’re just talking to each other.” So there’s an element of this that’s cultural. It really depends on how well they can do that with each other. A lot of times you could make the case that you want a more direct driving one, and one who’s more focused on relationships, so that you come out with a mixed result.
You can get a copy of the book at Amazon and there are a number of other warrior books. So if you were to go in and write “Amazon Workplace Warrior Goldrich”, you’re sure to come up with mine. You can also learn more about me at my website “jordangoldrich.com”. If you want a free excerpt from my book, you can go to “workplacewarrior.com”, and that is really aimed at Human Resources people, but anybody can go there and get the excerpt.