Before you can work well with others, you need to focus on improving yourself. That counterintuitive fact separates terrible companies from thriving ones, and enables self-aware leaders to outperform their peers. In this episode Nathan discusses how he was confronted with that lesson in his own businesses, and how he strives to improve his people skills each day.
This is the Life on Target podcast. I’m your host, Nathan Spearing. I’m so glad you’re here with me today for the second installment of People Skills. If you’ve been with us on the journey so far, you’ll remember that we are doing a series on the four languages of agency—agency being an individual’s ability to make their own free choices, affect their own power to achieve the end state that they want, or to arrive at the end state that they want through those choices, through those actions.
And I broke people skills up into two different episodes. Because the point of this podcast right now is to give you some value in a concentrated form, I’m working to get you stuff that gets you back out into life, living it more fully for God’s glory, achieving what you were put on this earth to do. And if you’ll remember—just a quick framework—I’d encourage you to go to at least listen to the first episode of People Skills.
If you’re not ready to commit fully to listening to all the podcasts from this point, quick review here: People were made in the image of God and that knowledge that they were made in the image of God, no matter how flawed gives us the ability to interact with them differently, than we would say an animal or whatever. And just that belief that everyone has something to offer, that there is an aspect of their humanity that gives them the ability to teach us something is a way to move forward. But go back and listen to the episode to get a little bit more understanding.
Today, as promised, I’m going to focus on a couple of different books that I felt like were very informative, personally, as I develop a framework for dealing with people and then move into some practical applications about how to employ kind of this framework and this knowledge that I’ve gotten from different books.
Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People
So one of the primary resources, as far as books go, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. And I’ve had discussions with people about this, that they actually avoided this book just because the title was a little bit corny and/or they felt like manipulative —that they’re going to learn these hacks to kind of be a politician and affect what they’re doing.
And I think that if you’re in that position and you’ve kind of stayed away from that book, at this point, I would encourage you to go read it because he starts out with a pretty fundamental paradigm shift. And that is to deal with people, you have to focus on you and yourself getting better. So he begins with:
And I know Confucius is, is quoted a lot, but let’s remember the Bible verse about taking the speck or the log out of your own eye. Before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s. And so this fundamental belief that you need to be working on yourself, making yourself better before you start going around and nitpicking other people is kind of the foundation. And also talks about Ben Franklin being tactless in his youth became so diplomatic that he was made an American ambassador to France.
The secret to his success? This is what Benjamin Franklin said:
Carnegie talks about this and says that “Any fool can criticize condemn or complain and most fools do, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Are you the fool or are you someone with character and understanding that’s able of to forgive?
Another quote from the book: “Actions speak louder than words. And a smile says, ‘I like you.’ You make me happy. And I’m glad to see you.”
The Power of a Smile in a Masked World
This is why I feel like COVID is so insidious, in this day and age and the masking of people and their smile is fundamentally making it difficult for humans to relate to each other. That nonverbal smile. That communication with your body. That you are glad to be with the person is being hampered and it must stop, honestly.
And even through this whole past 2020, I did not regularly—almost never—wore a mask. And it was amazing. One particular story, I was going into a Bank of America last year, and they’re a big New York / Charlotte based firm and is rigid and on all these procedures. And I actually don’t bank with them anymore. But I would go into the bank in the midst of the pandemic, and they’d have that security guard and he’d be like, “Sir, Sir, Sir.”
And I’d say, “Hey, you know, I’m, I’m not gonna wear it.”
It seemed like their policy was that they were going to let the tellers decide whether or not they were going to risk their life to take my deposits or not. And the tellers—I had a relationship with these tellers because I have been banking there for a while, and I always have great conversations—they’re really sweet ladies. They would always be like, “Come over here, sugar, don’t worry about it.”
I would get to smile and come in and be pleasant in the room while everyone else is covered and hiding and masked. I am in there, and I’m the only one that can smile. I’m the only one that can communicate with my body language—in a full capacity—that I’m happy to see them. And you could see that that was unique. And that is really what I try to do everywhere I go. And those that have kind of gone around with me sometimes, and my kids even, will make fun of me, but there is an opportunity with everyone that you come into contact with to use a smile, to have eye contact, to be happy that you’re interacting with that person. And that’s going to be difficult, because there’s going to be some people that are a pain.
There’s going to be a teller at the bank or someone at the checkout aisle just going slow. And you want to get back to making money or doing the things that you think important. I would encourage you to slow down smile, look them in the eyes and communicate that you’re happy to be there. Even if that is not a hundred percent genuine and see if the actual feelings and actually follow.
All right, I’m gonna go back to Dale Carnegie here:
“You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.”Dale Carnegie
There’s a lot more in that book besides those quotes, but hopefully I’ve given you a little bit of it that makes you maybe want to go read that.
Jim Collins: Good to Great
The next book I want to talk about is Good to Great by Jim Collins. So, Dale Carnegie as kind of the general practice for all people and kind of an overarching framework; Jim Collins goes a little bit more focused and did some very in-depth research on what it was that made the best companies in the world excel when others in their industry were failing.
He ultimately found out that the person at the helm was the critical thing to a company’s success and even discloses that he didn’t want that to be the conclusion, and in some ways was rigorously employing the study to try to make sure that it would be conclusive that it wasn’t the person in charge.
And still that came out and became the conclusion. And he speaks of that person, that person that is able to lead a great company as a “Level Five Leader.” And he says that
“Level Five Leaders look out the window to attribute success—to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. The comparison CEOs often did just the opposite. They looked in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results.”Jim Collins
So, they found the best company and the one that was excelling and then a control company or one that was failing. And they contrasted the CEOs and it was not a fake, “Oh no, it’s not me, it’s the team. You know, we can’t do it without, you know, the other people and, and the organization,” and just kind of playing lip service while you’re, strutting around thinking, you’re the greatest, like some professional athletes around—also feel like that’s politicians. Anyway, I digress. Back to Level Five Leaders. That innate capacity or that ability to always be focusing on yourself. And as a leader realizing that that is the problem and that you are the problem. And then whenever things are going well, looking around for the people on your team and feeling like they are the ones that in spite of you are making things happen. And culturally, that being a great thing.
I remember very early on in my entrepreneurial journey, kind of being mired in self-pity, and mired in “this job sucks.” I started a construction company. I was coming from sexy, special operations world, and now I was remodeling bathrooms and things weren’t going smoothly. And I was blaming everybody. And I’m listening to this Jim Collins book, and I’m listening to Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. Those of you may have heard of that. As much as I hate to admit that a Navy SEAL taught me something, he did. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was looking around, I was blaming everything around me, just like Jim Collins talks about. And Jocko articulated it in a military vernacular that I was especially receptive to due to my background.
And I realized that I was that guy.
I was that leader that was blaming subcontractors. That was blaming clients. That was blaming material suppliers and supply chain and all that kind of stuff. And I was wrapping myself with a blanket and my company was not progressing. And I immediately realized that I had those terrible qualities and that I needed to get to work on myself. I needed to change my heart. I needed to get to work on getting the log out of my eye and creating an organization that has communication, that has processes, that can run, and being the one that institutes that, and that’s a lifelong journey. I still have tons of work to do in that regard, but just simply flipping my mindset or shifting my mindset to focus on me and to fix the things that I had going on was revolutionary.
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman: First Break All the Rules
The next book that I feel is great in this framework or, or practical understanding is First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Now this is a summary of all the Gallup polling information. So they did a study with more than 80,000 people, and they learned that people leave managers, not companies. “People don’t change much instead of trying to put in what God left out, try drawing out what God left in.” And that’s “Advice to Managers.
And they specifically focused on companies figuring out how to let people work in their areas of strength, not promoting them to a management role if they’re a good technician or good practitioner, but just pay them more.
So they came up with a list that’s called the Q12, and that is basically a list of reasons or things that equal job satisfaction. And if somebody shows up to work and says:
- I know what’s expected of me at work
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
- At work, I have the opportunity to you do what I’m best at every day
- In the last seven days, I’ve received recognition or praise for doing good work.
- My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person.
- There was someone at work who encourages my development
- At work, my opinion seems to count.
I read this book the first time as I’m on my way out of the military. And it was just a confirmation, and put things down on a list of why I was on my way out. And I was in this big, bureaucratic organization. And I oftentimes didn’t know it was expected of me. I often didn’t have the equipment that was needed. I did believe I had the opportunity to do what I was best at every day, but with all the things with respect to the ability to do it, and what was expected, the supervisor caring about my progress, that was not always there. And I realized that the culture I was in was not conducive.
And I’m sure that some of you are out there, you’re out there listening to this likely and assessing your own work environment. If you’re a boss, hopefully you’re figuring out how to implement this with your managers and realizing that that the one person that is in charge and that you’re working for is the thing that can make or break you being happy, job satisfaction wise.
So enough about books. Let’s get to some practical application of that. But I wanted to go into kind of a practical application of what we’ve talked about. I briefly talked about being able to smile, being able to encourage using your body language, to show someone else that you care.
Most Communication is Non-Verbal
I got some statistics here for, from the London Image Institute and it’s Dr. Albert Mahas 7, 38, and 55 rule. So seven percent of communication is the spoken word. Thirty-eight is voice and tone. And fifty-five is body language. So, we’re looking at ninety-three percent is the way your tone of voice, your voices, your inflection, and your body language. So generally at your core valuing people, valuing what contribution that they are making and seeing them as image bearers made it by God knit together in their mother’s womb allows you to authentically value people and to communicate authentically in that 97% part of communication in a way that they will receive and that they will know, they’ll be able to a feel that you care about them and your relationship with people will be better.
Now, I know this from some tactical questioning and interrogation training that I received when I was in the military, but I didn’t actually take hold of it as mine until I was out in business. And when there’s a disconnect, the spoken word, what someone is saying, their voice and their tone and their body language. So when they’re not cohesive, that is lacking authenticity. And I believe everybody out there has the capacity, in varying degrees, to detect that inconsistency between body language, tone, voice, and words. So, just for example, you know, the used car salesman or something, somebody coming up and just saying things with their words, and you know, that they’re just words. The way that they’re saying it, the way their body language is, where they are. You’re able to discern there’s a disconnect. And I would say that it’s not something that you can just put your finger on and, point out exactly what it is. It’s just a gut feeling.
When Dealing With People, Listen to Your Gut
And one of the guys that work for me, you know, we have some miserable clients in our history of working. They’re people that have a lot going on. And they were made in the image of God, but they’re miserable people. And they want to make the problems about everybody around them. And it’s really hard to work for those people. But one of my guys was telling me, “You’ve called these people from the very beginning.” And I didn’t realize this, but I had said, “Hey, this is probably gonna be a little bit of a difficult job.” And I kind of just make a side to them and say, “But we’re gonna, help ’em, we’re gonna do this.” And he just said, “You’ve called these really difficult people to work for every single time at the first meeting. Why are we still taking these jobs with these people?”
you know, that’s another topic probably about business, but that ability to recognize that your gut is likely right, even though there’s not data there, that you can point to. That feeling in your gut that this person has a lack of authenticity is an indication that they don’t need to be in your closest circle of friends, that they probably, you probably don’t want them writing checks to you depending on them to write checks to you for your family’s livelihood, for the people that you are over your employees, livelihood and not entering into business relationships with them. And that’s an important thing to know.
And finally, I just close out with the proverb that “Even a, a fool when he is silent is considered wise.” So just that understanding that if all else fails, just not say anything, being quiet, not engaging with somebody, and when things are happening, that you can actually come away as being the wise person, because you just didn’t say anything in certain situations around certain people.
Another thing about people skills, if you are the one that can assemble the team that can get as Jim Collins says, “Get the right people on the bus.” And even if the bus doesn’t have an exact destination in mind, if you can get the right people and assemble them on the team and start driving to figure out where it is, you’re going be the one that makes the most money. Now, we’ll talk about this more later on in the podcast about money and it having its proper place, but in short, providing for your family, providing employment for those around you is a noble thing.
Serving People by Delivering Value
And in a free market economy, dollars indicate that you’re serving people, that people are giving their money up voluntarily for your services. It is actually an indication that you, as an individual, are serving people more. So, if you have built a company, and you’re employing lots of people, and you’re making these products, that is an indication that you serve people more than others, because the act that you have more money. Now, obviously if you’ve done it by ill-gotten gains, it’s manipulative, it’s not right. But if you have, by having a good business, ethical business, made a profit, you’re serving your fellow man, and the dollars indicate that.
So this is an example from my industry. I’ve talked about this with a friend, the guy with the clipboard or the guy with the smartphone and the tape measure is the guy on the job site that’s making the most money. And that’s not to discount the good work that people do, or that if you are a guy that shows up to work and gives everything and gets it done and wants to then just clock out and shift from business and go home and be with their family and take part in leisure and the hobbies that they have, that is awesome. We need good employees. We need people that work hard.
But also, if you’re somebody who’s enterprising and is seeking to gain more influence and more money, and to have more freedom, ultimately, with your time and to not be hamstrung or constrained to only making money with how much time you spend working, the ability to build teams, the ability to organize people towards a common goal is the way that you do that.
For an example, we’re doing a remodel on a house and we bring in an engineer. And it’s crazy to me that the amount of schooling that a professional engineer has to go through, the testing that they have to take to be able to stamp, the software packages, the insurance that they have, to prescribe a specific structural thing in a job. And I get to charge more than he is charging to meet him there, to come up with it, and then to implement the actual solution.
So, the ability to know the engineer to call, the crews to come in and do the masonry, the crews to come in and do the structural members, with the wood or it’s steel or whatever we’re doing. And the ability to build that for the client. The client has a structural issue they need resolved. They call me, I call a dozen people, bring them, schedule them, stack on the materials, and execute it, and end up making five, ten, twenty times what that engineer makes depending on the size and scope of the project, because I’m the one that found them and hired them and executed it.
And that’s just one example in construction. There’s, dozens of examples, hundreds of examples, throughout industry of how that happens. And I would encourage you as someone who is maybe in an employment position wanting to take control over your time and be more in control of time, to look for ways that there are problems that people need solved, that have multiple people involved and be the guy that is willing and learn. I am always learning how to do this better. I am always trying to cultivate that skill, because I know that if I can bring a qualified team solve problems for people, I will never be out of work.
In summary, we talked about a couple books. Realizing that the majority of communication is non-verbal that you actually have to at your heart know and care about this person as made in the image of God. And then realizing that if you’re somebody who can build a team of people, you’re going to be able to have more freedom with your time. You’re going to be able to make more money. And that that’s a lifelong pursuit.
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