When Mike Goldman wrote Breakthrough Leadership Team, he had no idea that it would end up releasing in the midst of a pandemic, yet, here we are. As luck would have it, the practices and principles Mike discusses in this book are more relevant and imperative than ever before. In today’s podcast, he tackles the tough situations business leaders today are trying to navigate, like how to plan for a future that’s uncertain, how to maintain culture amid separation, and how to handle some of the tough questions that might come your way.
Nikki Van Noy: I am joined today by author Mike Goldman, who is the author of the new book, Breakthrough Leadership Team: Strengthening the Heart and Soul Of Your Company. Mike, thank you so much for joining me today.
Mike Goldman: Nikki, thank you for having me, looking forward to it.
Nikki Van Noy: One of the things that really intrigues me about your book Breakthrough Leadership Team, is the title, and one of the things that you’re very adamant about from the get-go is this is not a leadership book. Talk to me about exactly what it is you’re talking about here?
Mike Goldman: Yeah, I mean, there are thousands of leadership books out there. You and I have probably read a whole bunch of them and there are some really good ones. So, I read those all the time, but for me, I woke up one morning about a year and a half ago, and for some reason, what went through my head is just crafting in a little bit of a different way, what I do for a living. I’ve always said, I’m a coach and I help my clients grow their companies, but it hit me that what I really do is I help build great leadership teams.
I said, “Okay, well that’s interesting. I’ve never put it that way.” Let me go on Amazon. I read about a book a week, and I don’t ever remember reading a book specifically about how to build and continue to develop and improve a great leadership team. If that’s what I do for a living, I ought to read a book. I went on Amazon and I could not find one book specifically about how to structure and find the right people for, and develop the right culture for, and execute, and continue to develop and improve as a leadership team. I said, “Well if that is the book I need and that is the book my clients need, I better go write that book myself.” So, a year, year and a half later, here we are.
Nikki Van Noy: In my mind, the genesis of most really great books is when someone goes looking for something and realizes, “Oh, it’s not there. Guess I better make that now!”
Mike Goldman: Yeah, exactly, and I remember that morning, I actually had a coaching call with my coach. I said, “David, this may be a crazy idea but I’m thinking of writing a book about how to build a great leadership team. I’ve been looking for two hours on Amazon, I can’t find a book that’s already written like that.” And he said, “Mike, stop looking, it doesn’t exist.”
I said, “All right, I know I pay you every month but stop kissing my butt. How do you know so quickly it doesn’t exist? I just brought up the idea?” He said, “Mike, three weeks ago, I had a client who was a CFO who just was promoted to CEO, and he realized he needed to rebuild his leadership team, and he asked me for help. Like any good coach, I’ve been looking for a book out there that could help me guide this guy and I can’t find the book. I wish you had already written this book so I could use it.”
That was an interesting discussion that morning which kind of cemented my decision to write the book.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, I agree with you. It is very surprising that this book isn’t already out there. Have you, over the last year and a half, thought about why it hasn’t been out there until now? Do you have any theories?
Mike Goldman: Yeah, it’s interesting. The book is called Breakthrough Leadership Team. If you’re on a leadership team, it sounds like well, we have to write about leadership. When people do that, their minds tend to go to the specifics of how do I motivate people, how do I communicate to people, how do I set goals for them, and hold them accountable?
They go to all the typical leadership team skills and, expertise that you need and that’s great. Thank god somebody’s written those books because I’ve gotten a lot out of them, but I think people minimize the importance of the team.
Not that there haven’t been some good team building books out there, but people minimize the importance of the leadership team. The CEOs or founders when they start a company, at some point realize, “I can’t do all these myself,” so they look for people and if they’re smart, they look for really good people. But again, they don’t really think of it as building a team, they think of it as I need to find a bunch of really good people that I could surround myself with. That’s a good start.
What winds up happening, and I find this with a lot of the clients I start working with–and I’m not talking about companies with eight or 10 people. I’m talking about companies with 75, 100, 150 people that have been around for a while. When I talk to their CEO about their rhythm in meeting with their leadership team, they tell me about one-on-one meetings that they have but even companies that are “mature,” they don’t treat those leaders like a team.
They don’t get together and have regular meetings of the leadership team. They don’t build a culture as a leadership team, develop and improve as a leadership team. It’s just a bunch of smart people that are out there doing the CEO’s bidding. I guess then, people don’t think of it as a team and that is a really big miss.
Leaders Working Together as a Team
Nikki Van Noy: Talk to me about why that’s such a big miss? Why is it so important that there’s cohesion?
Mike Goldman: Well, if your leadership team is weak, if the members of that team are overwhelmed, for instance, they’re not skilled enough to bring fresh ideas that keep your company growing, that problem is going to spread to the rest of your organization. If the people on your leadership team aren’t working together as a team, the way a great sports team would, then the people beneath them are not going to work together. If the members of your leadership team don’t hold themselves accountable, not just to the CEO but to each other as a leadership team, well, their teams are not going to do that.
If the leadership team is more concerned about individual goals, they have the VP of sales says “Hey, my job isn’t marketing, my job is sales, or my job isn’t customer service, it’s sales and man, I’m hitting my sales goals, so I don’t know what you guys are doing over there in service or operations.”
If they build those silos at a leadership level, your company’s going to be fractured down below that. So, I really believe, as the leadership team goes, so goes the rest of the organization. And while me saying that might sound obvious to some people, that’s not the way 95% of the companies look at things.
If there is a problem with the level of customer service, well we have to figure out how to train our people to be better at customer service. If there’s a problem in sales, they say, we need to teach our salespeople how to be better at closing the deal. If there’s a problem in receivables, we need to get our account receivable folks to follow up on receivables more often. That all sounds logical, but I have seen over my last 30 years, that the place to look to fix those things is first the leadership team level.
If you create a stronger leadership team, a more collaborative leadership team, all of those things are naturally going to cascade down.
Nikki Van Noy: What I would love to do while I have the benefit of having you here to talk about this today, is to touch on the general things that people need to be looking for and cultivating in their leadership team. Then I would really like to focus on what leadership teams should be thinking about now in light of this pandemic we find ourselves in. Let’s start with the general and then we can move forward and really shine a light on the current environment.
Mike Goldman: At a general level, I’ll focus on the six major areas I focus on in my book and I’ll keep it high level. Nikki, if you want to jump in and drill me down, you know, either after I go through the six or during, you’re the expert, I’ll leave it to you to interrupt me.
Nikki Van Noy: No, that’s what I’m here to do is to pester.
Six Things Leadership Teams Need
Mike Goldman: Exactly. That’s what I do as a coach. I tell my clients I’m the chief pain in the ass officer, that’s what I do for them.
Of these six things that I think leadership teams need to do, the first one is really less about team actually, surprisingly enough, and more about the individuals on the team.
Number one, the members of the leadership team need to be great self-leaders. As individuals, they need to be continuously learning and improving, they need to be leveraging their strengths every day. They need to keep their heads on straight and that’s most important when there’s a crisis going on like now. Number one, it’s about self-leadership of everybody on the team.
Number two, this is a part most leadership teams miss is there needs to be a focus on how to structure the leadership team. Not only how to structure it right now, meaning, what are the different roles on the leadership team and how those roles work together, but to look out one, two, three years at the growth of the company and say, “How do I need to project what the structure of my leadership team, not only needs to look like now but what does it need to look in one, two, three years from now? So, I can constantly be ready for those things.”
If I’m not ready for how my leadership team needs to be structured, nine months from now or 12 months from now, what happens is, I only restructure my leadership team when I realize, “Hey, I need this new position on my leadership team. I had a head of sales and marketing before but now, I need to separate out sales and marketing.” Companies tend to realize that when stuff falls through the cracks. I believe very strongly, I’ve seen very clearly, that you need to figure out and project that structure beforehand, so you could be proactive before things fall through the cracks.
Number one, it’s about self-leadership, number two, it’s about structuring the team, number three, it’s about executing with discipline. How do you figure out what’s most important on your leadership team? How do you figure out what you should be measuring on the leadership team, what does success look like and how do you measure that, and how do we better communicate and what’s our planning and communication rhythm as a leadership team?
The third is executing with discipline, the fourth is about finding the right people on the leadership team. If I structure the leadership team right, how do I find the right people as opposed to getting a bunch of superstars for my team, how do I find the right leaders for the right position who are all going to work well together?
The next one is defining the right culture on the leadership team. As the leadership team culture goes, so does the culture amongst the rest of the team, and from a cultural standpoint, I talk about three things, having the right values, having the right vision, and having vulnerability as a leadership team.
Then, lastly, it’s about developing and improving as a leadership team.
This job of becoming a breakthrough leadership team never ends, you don’t wake up one morning and say, “My god, I’ve got a breakthrough leadership team! I’ve got the perfect leadership team, I guess I can go play golf now.” Developing and improving the leadership team says, there needs to be time spent each month, each quarter, learning and growing as a leadership team.
You also need to be consistently evaluating the talent. Who are your A players, your B players, your C players, because frankly, that CFO that was the perfect CFO when you were a 10 million dollar company, may not be the right CFO for you as a 75 million dollar company. We constantly need to be developing, improving, and assessing the talent on a leadership team.
I think you’re always working on those six things I just mentioned, and any given quarter, one or two of them may be more important but it’s a never-ending process.
Nikki Van Noy: I really love the fact that this is not a static thing. Just in my experience working at different companies, I think that when you can see a lot of problems happen is when things just operate in a certain way and that’s when you’re not analyzing leadership anymore.
Mike Goldman: I agree with that and part of it is I get bored really easily. I want to get out there and figure out what we need to do next but what makes that so much more important, so many obvious things that make what you just said important, but what makes it most important I think is you want a team of A-players. A breakthrough leadership team is a team of A-players.
For the A-players on your team, if you as a company, as a team, if you’re not challenging your individuals on the team to learn and grow every day, those A players get bored and go somewhere else. If you want to keep your A-players and keep challenging your A players to get better, then the way you’re going to keep them is to change things up and challenge them to do more.
I remember of my 30, I guess it’s 33 years now, out in the real working world after school, I had three years with a real job where I had a job in the industry working for someone else, the other 30 years has been in some form of coaching and consulting. I can remember being about a year and a half into a job, and I worked directly for the CFO of this woman’s footwear and accessories company. I was a director within that organization, and I sat down for my performance review with my CFO.
Literally, the performance review was, “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.” I thought you have got to be kidding me! I was in my early 30s, you know, man, I’ve got more room to grow. I’m still a kid. When he said that I knew it was time for me to look elsewhere. That’s when I started looking elsewhere because if he thought I was doing great and he had nothing else to coach me on and challenge me on, then my growth within that company was pretty much over and I needed to go look for something else.
Navigating the Current Crisis
Nikki Van Noy: Mike, great news for personalities like yours right now. This is certainly not a time we find ourselves in for boredom or stagnancy. I know you didn’t plan on releasing this book during a pandemic but here we are. I think that this is a happy coincidence because leadership has never been more important than it is today, obviously as companies are looking at so much uncertainty in this completely unprecedented situation.
What have you been saying to leaders that you’re working with right now? What do you think they really need to be focusing on as we start to navigate our way through this and the aftermath of it?
Mike Goldman: It’s a great question and I’ll start by saying, I actually struggled, and Nikki, you know this, I struggled with the decision to launch this book right now. I said, “Wow, is this the right environment to launch a book?” What I came to is this book is necessary for this environment, not only do I have to put away everything that’s going on, and is this the right environment to launch the book?
I said, “I think leaders need this information now more than ever.” You know, there are certain things that I think every leadership team needs to do, not just to survive this. Most of my clients are beyond whether they’re going to survive this or not. I know there are certain people listening to this who are still focused on whether they can survive this. But whether you’re focused on that or if you’re pretty sure you can get through this, the bottom line is what we need to be focusing on now, is how do we actually come out stronger on the other side of this?
I believe very strongly that companies are either going to come out on the other side of this, whatever that new normal looks like they’re going to come out on the other side of this either much stronger than before they went in or much weaker than before they went in. I don’t know about you, but I want to be on the stronger side. I want my clients to be on the stronger side.
I think first, what leaders and leadership team need to do is they need to keep their own heads on straight. Self-leadership is more important now than ever. If you are scared and you don’t have confidence and you’re showing that, trust me, if that’s the way you feel, if you’re not managing your emotions, that’s going to show very clearly to the members of your team and that’s going to cascade down. That’s going to kill your organization, kill your culture.
If you are 80% confident things are going to work out, then your team is going to be about 30% confident things are going to work out. There’s something called the Stockdale Paradox, which says, you need to believe everything is going to work out in the end but at the same time, confront the brutal facts. That means you’ve got to keep your head on straight.
Number one, I think you’ve got to keep your head on straight as a leader. Second thing is, you need to double the frequency of communication with your team. If you had weekly meetings with your team then you need to go at least twice a week, if not, daily huddles with your team. If you were talking to your clients every couple of weeks, you need to be talking to your clients every week, so you need to double the frequency of communications with your teams.
This is a time that you need to show that your culture, core values, core purpose, that those aren’t just plaques on the wall, those aren’t just nice words, these are the times to really show empathy and to show that those things are more than just nice words and that you’re backing them up because again, a time like this is going to make or break your culture.
I think for a lot of companies, half the companies out there, times like this are going to break their culture. Where people will say, “When times got tough, these guys really showed who they are.” What I want to stress is for those of you listening to this–when your people say, “Hey, times got tough and my company showed who they were,” they ought to say that and have them feel even more loyal and more engaged and more passionate about the company.
This is a time to strengthen your leadership team, so that the next time some unexpected situation arises, you can be even more resilient. You know, no one expected this. I mean yeah, if you watched Bill Gates’ TED talk back in 2015, you could say, “Hey, we should have expected this.” But let’s be honest, no one was expecting this to happen. But what I’m finding is the great leadership teams that were resilient before all of this are reacting really well to this.
So, this is the time to strengthen your leadership team so the next time something unexpected happens you are able to respond to it. This is the time to assess the talent of your team. Who is rising to the occasion? Who isn’t rising to the occasion? Again, so you can be more resilient moving forward. It is a great time to make sure you have the right external support system.
How is your accountant supporting you through all of this? How are your bankers supporting you through all of this, your attorneys? Do you have a mastermind group of other leaders that are supporting you through this? If you have a business coach, somebody like me that’s working with you and your leadership team, how is your coach standing up to all of this? Now is the time to make sure that you have the right external team.
I’d say two more quick things, one is now is the time to make sure you are becoming more of a steward of your cash flow. Companies by necessity more than ever are getting down into the real nitty-gritty details of their cash flow every day. What is the cash coming in, what is the cash going out? I think we need to use this to get even stronger on the other side by being stronger stewards of our cash. I would say this is a great time to increase your learning and development as an individual, as a leadership team.
We are all being bombarded with webinars and Zoom meetings and all of these things. You’ve got to pick and choose what is most important because we could spend 24 hours a day on Zoom meetings and webinars. But I will say while you need to pick and choose what’s important, now is the time to get on the ball with learning and development. We always say, “Oh we don’t have time. We don’t have time.” Well for a lot of you now you have the time, so excuses are out the window. Get stronger, learn, and develop it as an individual and as a team.
Heart and Soul
Nikki Van Noy: Mike, I am so struck by a lot of things that you just said. One of the things I keep coming back to in an overarching way is the subtitle of this book, which is “strengthening the heart and soul of your company.” One of the really cool things that I am looking out and seeing right now is the humanity that so many companies are exemplifying. Of course, I am also noticing the companies on a consumer-level who aren’t doing that, but I agree with you completely, this is certainly a scary and uncertain time but it also seems like a time where companies can grow and become better than they ever have been before.
Mike Goldman: It’s so true. I am thinking of one client in particular that fits that example. A client that frankly has had some challenges, challenges at all levels, and challenges on their leadership team and we have been working really, really hard. I have been working with the CEO and leadership team really, really hard over the last year to strengthen those things and to strengthen their culture, because frankly, things were not great.
It was so satisfying to see that. I will tell you that as of two months ago, man, it was unsure if they were really making the progress that we all hoped they would make. They have done such an incredible job managing and leading through this crisis.
The CEO, a couple of weeks ago, did a wonderful all-hands meeting with the team and really just put it out there and was incredibly honest and, frankly, this team has had to go through some layoffs like other companies have had, but what they did is they looked under every rock for ways to pivot and ways to manage their cash flow.
As a leadership team, they all took a cut in salary and they just did everything they could do and really showed who they were and showed that they lived their core purpose and lived their core values. The response they have gotten, even though they have had to make some really tough decisions that impacted people’s lives, it was so gratifying to see the response the CEO got to that all-hands meeting.
People were saying, “We are behind you, and thank you so much. I feel so much more part of this team right now. I so love who we are and what we do.” It almost brought tears to your eyes to see the difference between who they are now and the level of engagement and passion that that organization has and who they were three, four months ago.
They will come out the other side of this, and it is not that they are not struggling, they are, but I am so confident that they are already stronger than they were before, and they will come out of this twice as strong, five times as strong as they were before.
Nikki Van Noy: The thing that really struck me about what you were just saying is the acknowledgment that they are struggling, that seems important to me right now, and I know this is easier said than done but we almost find a way to relax into the fact that yes, we are struggling. We are struggles ahead but it can still be okay.
Mike Goldman: Yeah and that was hard to do. That was hard to do three weeks ago, four weeks ago, five, you know, that was really hard to do because it felt like, back in late March, every day felt like a year in the past because every day the world was changing. It went from, “This is nothing, we can all travel,” to, “Maybe we shouldn’t travel,” to, “Absolutely let’s not travel,” to, “We need to all stay home,” to, “Oh my God, how many?” You know it was just every day the world was changing.
The challenge for me as someone who really my job was to make sure my clients had their heads up looking to the future and they are marching towards this wonderful future, as a coach, I had to shift gears and say, “You know what? Let us focus on getting through the next week,” and that was the right thing to do, but where we are now, the new normal, is kind of a tired phrase already at this point.
Where we are now is, you know this has become a little bit more of okay, we’ve got to pick our heads up now and start looking beyond just the next week or two because again, I think people have realized that the focus has got to be not just survival, but we’ve got to be stronger on the other side. That is a challenge as a leadership team when everybody is focused on who is healthy today, who is not healthy today, and do we have enough cash to get us through the next month or two? What is going on with our PPE loans? All of this different stuff.
It is a real challenge. But great leadership teams are really able to focus on those two things at once, survival today, but let’s pick ourselves up and let’s be stronger on the other side of all of this and look at our three-year plans now, which is so hard for people to think three years out. Man, we have to look at our three-year plans and say, “What do we do now that is going to get us closer to our three-year plan?”
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s land there for a minute. I would love you to speak to that a little bit more about how we incorporate the long-range from the short term from a business sense right now since as you said, everything is changing so rapidly and we don’t know exactly what to expect on a lot of different levels?
Mike Goldman: Leadership teams–and by the way I am not sure that my answer is much different than if you would have asked me six months ago–because most leadership teams whether in this environment or in a more “normal” environment, most leadership teams tended to every once in a while focus on, “Hey, it is time for us to create a three to five-year plan,” and they create a three to five-year plan and then I’d say five or six months later that beautiful plan is sitting on a shelf and gathering dust.
Why is that the case? It is not because they didn’t create a good plan, it is not because it is not a good strong team, but it is because the world has changed and that plan no longer makes sense. So, what I really stressed six months ago, and I stress now, is there’s got to be a regular planning rhythm that the leadership team has and that rhythm cascades down throughout the rest of the organization. So, it is not about creating a three to five-year plan.
Yes, I work with my clients to figure out where they want to be in three to five years, and 10 to 15 years from now, but what companies need to do, what leadership teams need to do, is they need to focus on yes, where do we want to be long term, but what do we need to do over the next 90 days to get there? With these 90 days sprints, it becomes a living breathing plan, so you never wind up with a situation where the plan is gathering dust because you are reworking that plan every 90 days and saying, “What’s most important?”
“What are the two, three, four things that are most important you need to be working on?” Now right now, some of those things that are most important are things that are going to get them to their three-year vision of where they want to be. Some of those things that are most important are things they focus on today like how do we keep our culture strong through all of this? How do we make sure we are maximizing our cash flow through this?
How do we make sure that we are keeping as many of our clients as we can through this? There are some of those things that are important now that seemed less important 90 days ago but of that 90 day plans there is going to be a mixture of what we do to survive today, and what do we do to come out the other side as strong as possible?
Nikki Van Noy: I want to land on culture for a second here, what are some things that leaders can do to maintain and perhaps even enhance culture during this time when so many businesses are all separate and our culture is existing over Zoom or Slack?
Mike Goldman: One of the anchoring ideas within a culture is a set of core values. I spent the first half of my career working for big Fortune 500 companies and they all had their set of core values, and there was a plaque on the wall. But if I asked one of the leaders, let alone anybody in the company, “What are your core values?” They would have to go and look on that plaque to figure out what they were.
Because all it was, was a plaque on the wall. Now is the time, in the time of crisis, you figure out whether you are really living your core values or not. So, I think companies need to talk about their core values, tell stories about their core values, live those core values, and frankly not just take the core values, but make things fun as part of the culture. So, I’ve got one of my coaching organizations this evening doing a happy hour over Zoom.
I had a meeting last week with a client where it was, “Okay, wear a silly hat to the meeting.” I mean these silly things that just try to make things fun. I had one client that had a contest on people taking pictures of their home office and the creative things they have done with their home office or funny things that happen when their pet joined the Zoom meeting. So, I think there are things you can do to live your values and make it fun.
I think you’ve got to keep people focused on that vision. Part of your culture as a leadership team is you really need to be an evangelist of that future vision. You need to help people take their minds out of surviving today, try to convince them to stop watching the news so much. I couldn’t bear the news for about 10 minutes and then I shut it off. Stop watching the news, if something really important happens somebody will tell you.
Get people to stop watching the news and focus on vision again and picking your head up out of the day-to-day. I also think as leaders, show some vulnerability. Be real people, yes in this time we need to certainly hold people accountable, the way we held people accountable before. It is not like, “Okay, don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything because we are going through a crisis.” No, accountability is just as important now as ever.
But, you also need to have a heart and you need to show some empathy and vulnerability and understand that you are going through some difficult times, your people are going through some difficult times. I will tell you I have gotten to know my clients on a personal level more now than ever before because we are having these Zoom calls and you would think there is a distance there. You know, don’t you get to know people better in person, when you’re there?
Yeah, to a degree, when we are able to shake hands or give each other a hug or eat together, yeah, you get to know people better but I have got to tell you, having Zoom calls with clients when their dog jumps on the couch, or their toddler wanders in the room, or their fourth grader won’t stop bothering them to help them with their homework. You laugh at things like that and deal with it and roll with it. You actually get to know these people better than ever before.
So, I think there are things you can do to build your culture and I think the most important thing you can do as a leader to build your culture is to show your team you care. It is such an easy time to get inward-focused because we are worried about our own survival, and our company’s survival. It is easy to have an attitude of, “Don’t people know that I am going through some difficult times as well and I am drained by the end of the day and I am frustrated?”
Yeah, you are allowed to feel all of those things but you have got to show first and foremost, you have got to show your own leadership and that you really care about your people, and when you show you care and you do everything you can to help them, even through some really difficult decisions. Again, I keep saying this phrase, “You’ve got to be stronger on the other side, but your culture is going to be that much stronger on the other side of all of this.”
Nikki Van Noy: And Mike, I have one last question for you it is a pretty specific question but I do feel like it is important especially as we are talking about this topic. That is the idea of a place for honesty and leadership right now. I think so many people have a lot of questions and the truth is that some of those answers might be a little bit scary, quite frankly. How should leaders navigate situations like that, and can you just talk to me about how honesty comes into play as best practice, right now?
Mike Goldman: Yeah it is an important question and I am going to start with honesty amongst the leadership team and then we’ll cascade down. I will go outside of this crisis, but then related to the crisis when I start working with leadership teams and very often I am not working with a lot of big public companies, I work with smaller and mid-market companies. Some of them are family-run. Very often on the leadership team they are not even sharing the numbers.
The VP of sales has no idea what revenues or profits were last quarter because they don’t share that. So even in “normal times,” there is not a level of honesty and vulnerability on the leadership team. Now more than ever, the leadership team needs to truly be a team and they need to be vulnerable, honest, and sharing information with each other. If the CEO looks at the numbers and says, “Oh my god we only got seven weeks of cash left before we run out of cash,” the leadership team needs to know that.
They need a team of people behind them to work on this if the CEO is taking it all into himself or herself then what happens is there are a whole lot of brains in the room that are not being leveraged and multiplied to solve the problem. So, I think you’ve got to have that vulnerability and total honesty and transparency on the leadership team because you need that leadership team to come in and help.
So, that is number one, now as you cascade that down to the rest of the organization, you may not want to have a webinar with your 300-person company and say, “Oh, by the way, don’t worry, we only have seven weeks of cash left, but I think we are going to be okay.”
So, there is a level of honesty that is important on the leadership team but one of the things I do with my leadership teams when we meet during this crisis but also before this crisis is we do an exercise that I learned from Pat Lencioni, who wrote a bunch of great books, but my favorite is The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. He talks about the idea of cascading communication and cascading communications is okay, we have just been brutally honest with each other as a leadership team. We’ve made some really hard decisions. Now, before we end this meeting, let’s do this cascading communication exercise which says, “Okay what are the things that we absolutely need to proactively communicate out and down through the rest of the organization and how should we communicate that?”
If we’ve got some real cash flow problems, what do we want to communicate? We really want to communicate that we really have some challenges and we need to speed up our receivables process, or slow down our payables process, or we all need to look at terms with our vendors. Whatever it is you want help from the rest of the organization, so what are we going to communicate? So that is kind of the yes column, what are we going to communicate to the rest of our team?
But then just as important is the no column, what did we talk about today? What did we decide on today that we absolutely do not want to communicate with our teams at this point? Maybe we talked about potential layoffs and a decision is going to be made a week from now and until those decisions are made, guys please don’t talk to your teams about it and get everybody running around scared. Maybe we had a discussion about who our A, B, and C players were on the team.
Let’s not go out and start telling our C players that they ought to get their resumes ready and telling our B players that they’re just B players. You know, that was amongst us on the leadership team. Maybe we had a difficult conversation about a department that is really struggling, and we need to solve that problem as a leadership team, and we don’t want to go on and talk to the individuals within that department.
It is really important as a leadership team, A, that you are honest with each other. But B, you decide what you’re going to communicate, when you’re going to communicate it, and how you’re going to communicate it, and what you’re not going to communicate yet down through the rest of the organization.
Nikki Van Noy: I like that idea of discernment there. Mike, thank you so much for talking to me today. I know that this was a tricky decision, but I am so glad you decided to release this book now.
Mike Goldman: I appreciate that. I am glad as well and I want to get it in as many hands as possible because this is something that’s going to add value now, and I hope they keep on their desk as a handy guidebook a year, two, three years from now as well.
Nikki Van Noy: Absolutely. Again, the book is Breakthrough Leadership Team: Strengthening the Heart and Soul of Your Company. Mike, outside of the book is there anywhere listeners can find you?
Mike Goldman: They can find me on my website at mike-goldman.com. There is also a website, breakthroughleadershipteam.com, about the book and really that is going to be the best place to find me, at mike-goldman.com and you will see I have a YouTube channel on there, and you can find me on social media as well. I forget all of those hashtags and @ signs but you’ll find all of that stuff at mike-goldman.com.
Nikki Van Noy: Perfect Mike, thank you so much and best of luck with the book.
Mike Goldman: Nikki, thank you very much.