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ET Project \ Podcasts

ET-110: Leadership Lessons for Corporate Growth: Strategies and Insights for Business Success

With Mr. Peter Christian

ET-110: A conversation with Mr. Peter Christian

and your host Wayne Brown on July 09, 2024

Episode notes: A conversation with Mr. Peter Christian

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. 

Today I’m still sitting in the greater Tampa Bay area on the Gulf Coast visiting our guest, Mr. Peter Christian. Peter is a hands-on executive with 40 years of professional experience and has been a trusted advisor to all levels of management, especially new and middle managers. He brings a practical knowledge to solve problems and to help individuals grow and succeed by truly listening to them so that he can connect and understand their concerns and issues. 

Peter is proud of the key role he played in achieving a 700% growth at Crayola over his 17 years with the company. After leaving Crayola, he established ESPI, ESPI, as the founding partner and president. ESPI is a prominent business consulting company. And during his tenure, he worked with more than 300 clients throughout the United States and Europe, these organizations ranging in size from a million dollars to Fortune 100 enterprises.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

The fact that at Crayola, they allowed us to work outside of our job descriptions. In fact, it was encouraged, which was good because then you got into a variety of different areas that you may not be able to get into. I know a lot of organizations… For instance, we were bought by Omar Corporation. In dealing with the folks at Omar, they had very specific things that they were to do and were allowed to do. So it was very frustrating because if you wanted to cover a bunch of different areas, you had to deal with a number of different people there. And they saw us and we had all this latitude to do the different things that we did. So I think there was a bit of jealousy there on their part to say, “Hey, we’d like to be like that, too.” So I think that was a big thing…

Today’s Guest: MR. PETER CHRISTIAN

Peter helped their managers to grow and succeed while assisting them in reducing costs and increasing profitability by millions of dollars while saving thousands of jobs. He’s a best-selling author on Amazon with two books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” plus “Influences and Influencers.”

As well as remaining an active consultant today, ready to help individuals, manufacturers and businesses in consumer goods areas, Peter continues to contribute to a number of articles in professional journals. 

Team ET, when I look at the list of disciplines that Peter facilitates, I can’t help but feel a little bit of a kindred spirit. 

Topics such as project management, team building, leadership skills, operational strategic planning, continuous improvement, profit and process improvement, cost control and profit improvement, just to name a handful.  

Final words from Peter:

Be confident in what you’re doing. But when you’re not and you have a problem, address it. Don’t put it off. Don’t kick the can down the road so to speak or hope that it’ll correct itself. Don’t be afraid to get help but then use the help that you get. Don’t try to justify what you were doing and and let ego get in the way, if it’s your mistake it’s your mistake, own it and then deal with it. And if you do those things, and again be like me, hate to make mistakes. Hate them. I hate them. 

I just made one the other day and I said to my wife, I can’t imagine how stupid I was to do it. And it really bothered me. That wasn’t anything like major, but it just really bothered me. Well, it should bother you, but then get over it and then move on. But accept it, own it and fix it. And if you do that stuff and stay up on the current trends, but don’t give up the past. Integrate one into the other and make the changes that are necessary. And you’ll do very, very well. And again, common sense, back to what my son said, 90% of it’s common sense. The rest of it’s all the technical stuff. And you’ll do just fine…

0:00:04.4 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. Today I’m still sitting in the greater Tampa Bay area on the Gulf Coast visiting our guest, Mr. Peter Christian. Peter is a hands-on executive with 40 years of professional experience and has been a trusted advisor to all levels of management, especially new and middle managers. He brings a practical knowledge to solve problems and to help individuals grow and succeed by truly listening to them so that he can connect and understand their concerns and issues. Peter is proud of the key role he played in achieving a 700% growth at Crayola over his 17 years with the company. After leaving Crayola, he established ESPI, ESPI, as the founding partner and president. ESPI is a prominent business consulting company. And during his tenure, he worked with more than 300 clients throughout the United States and Europe, these organizations ranging in size from a million dollars to Fortune 100 enterprises. Peter helped their managers to grow and succeed while assisting them in reducing costs and increasing profitability by millions of dollars while saving thousands of jobs. He’s a best-selling author on Amazon with two books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” plus “Influences and Influencers.”

0:01:32.9 WB: As well as remaining an active consultant today, ready to help individuals, manufacturers and businesses in consumer goods areas, Peter continues to contribute to a number of articles in professional journals. Team ET, when I look at the list of disciplines that Peter facilitates, I can’t help but feel a little bit of a kindred spirit. Topics such as project management, team building, leadership skills, operational strategic planning, continuous improvement, profit and process improvement, cost control and profit improvement, just to name a handful. So with that, please join Peter and me as we discuss and share some of the learnings from Peter’s past and most memorable experiences.

0:02:18.3 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:34.7 WB: Hello and welcome, Team ET, to this episode, where we’re going to be taking a look inside companies to identify the good, the bad and the ugly. And the meaning behind that is going to become clearer during our conversation. In fact, our guest, Mr. Peter Christian, will share somewhat of a holistic big picture perspective based on his extensive career working with many and varied organizations. And this exposure has led him to develop a 20-60-20 clustering across more than 300 companies that he and his team have assisted over the years. He has a background in business consulting. And my own assessment of Peter, and Peter, I’m going to ask you to comment on this, but my own assessment would be to categorize your approach as very operationally grounded and pragmatic using some of the common sense logic and methodology. So with that, Team ET, please join me in welcoming Peter to the ET Project.

0:03:36.7 Peter Christian: Great. Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.

0:03:39.8 WB: So first things first, Peter, how’s my assessment of your approach sound?

0:03:44.0 PC: I’m impressed. [laughter] 0Couldn’t have said it better myself, so thank you.

0:03:50.3 WB: What we’re going to do is try and discuss a number of topics today, but essentially all centered around your observations of what determines current and future successes of companies. Before that, as we always do, I’d appreciate it if you could share with our listeners a little bit about your background and what led you into the consultancy business in the first place.

0:04:13.6 PC: Well, as you mentioned, I’ve dealt with 300-plus companies over my career, both working for some and working with and for some. What got me into consulting was after I left an executive position at Crayola Corporation and was looking around for what my next venture was going to be, a person who was giving me advice said, “Do you realize you’ve really been an internal consultant at your company? Look at your work history and so forth.” And she said, “I think that’s where you should head, because that’s where your background has been.”

0:04:54.5 PC: Now, when I came out of school, I had an opportunity to work for a consulting firm that was Price Waterhouse before they merged with Coopers. It was just Price Waterhouse, and they had a manufacturing consulting group. But I didn’t feel I was ready for it. I had just come out of college. Yeah, I had all that book learning and so forth, but it was the practical experience. And I felt, “How does somebody who’s in their 20s go into this organization with these senior executives who have 20, 30, 40 years worth of experience and tell them what they’re doing wrong and go, “Okay, and you’re saying that based on what?”” So I got into the corporate world, worked in corporations for about 20 years. And then when this lady advised me that I should consider consulting, I thought, “Well I thought about it when I was coming out of school. I passed on it then. But after 20 years, I think I got enough stuff. And I hopefully have the gravitas to now talk with those folks that I shied away from before.” So that’s what led me to that. And it worked out very, very well. So that was the genesis for how I got into consulting.

0:06:11.6 WB: Nice. If we look at Crayola for a while, you were there 17 plus years, I guess. Clearly, you had a large degree of success during that period. Was there any contributing factors that helped develop you and your managerial or your leadership skills during that time?

0:06:32.7 PC: Well, the fact that at Crayola, they allowed us to work outside of our job descriptions. In fact, it was encouraged, which was good because then you got into a variety of different areas that you may not be able to get into. I know a lot of organizations… For instance, we were bought by Omar Corporation. In dealing with the folks at Omar, they had very specific things that they were to do and were allowed to do. So it was very frustrating because if you wanted to cover a bunch of different areas, you had to deal with a number of different people there. And they saw us and we had all this latitude to do the different things that we did. So I think there was a bit of jealousy there on their part to say, “Hey, we’d like to be like that, too.” So I think that was a big thing.

0:07:22.7 PC: Plus, I would say Crayola was a fairly progressive company. They stayed up with the times. If you think about it, a crayon is not the most technologically advanced thing in the world, and yet it’s lasted for 130, 135 years now. And it’s still popular today as it was probably back, maybe more so than when it was invented. So that means that you’ve had to stay up with the times and make people interested to still utilize your product while still adding other products to it. But the foundation of the company is the crayon. That’s what Crayola is known for. So that certainly gives you a lot of impetus when you’re talking to other companies about how they need to have a strong foundation, but they also need to progress and deal with the times and provide new things for their consumers, interest them, keep them interested, bring on the new ones, and so forth. So I would say those are some of the big things that I got out of working for the company. It was really, really good.

0:08:30.4 WB: So let’s just look at where you are today. Aside from writing best-selling books; and you’ve got two of those. We’ll come back to that a little bit later, but what are you doing at the moment spending most of your time focused on?

0:08:47.3 PC: Well, doing podcasts, just like I’m doing today. I like to get out there, and in fact, I’m in the process of signing up to do another one with a company out of Toronto, Canada. That’s pretty cool because I get to talk to people all over the world, which is really neat. And I don’t have to leave my home to do it. So that’s pretty cool. I continue to write. The person who helped me with my first two books was gearing me towards doing a third. And I’ve written enough stuff that I could probably put a third together right now, but I haven’t decided whether I want to do that or not. But I continue to write articles. I post on Medium, if people are familiar with that. It’s a great site for posting and sharing with other folks who write in a variety of different capacities. I have a website, and I post on there different things.

0:09:41.3 PC: I am teaching. I have both some webinars that I’ve been doing. I did one on project management, one on strategic planning. I have some more coming up, dealing on business success and business plans and so forth. I teach at a university back in Pennsylvania, about 1300 miles away, remotely, of course, on project management. I’m involved in some of my old schools on some of the educational boards there to provide advice on the curriculum and mentoring students and so forth. So I’m staying pretty busy. Not bad for a retiree. And then I get to do fun things, like kayaking and going to sporting events. I’ve gone to golf tournaments down here and baseball games and football games and so forth. So I stay pretty active.

0:10:36.3 WB: You mentioned project management. I know we spoke about that when we first connected. How did you get started in project management? Was that part of something that you were doing in Crayola, or was that a later…

0:10:49.9 PC: Well, my first job was with air products and chemicals. And what I was doing was I was doing job estimates. And then when we would get the job, if it turned into a success, then I would have to create a budget and so forth. So I was managing the work, so to speak. But then when I went to Crayola, I started in the Industrial Engineering department, and that was pretty much we were dealing with standards and productivity improvements and so forth. So a lot of the stuff I was doing was project-related. Wasn’t the day-to-day stuff. It was adding new equipment or making improvement to equipment or finding out why we weren’t producing at the rate that we wanted to, what the problem was. So it was very much project-related, even though I wasn’t thinking of it that way. That’s why when that person who was advising me on what to do next in my career said, “Do you realize?” a light bulb went off, because I wasn’t. You were just immersed in it. You didn’t think about it.

0:11:54.6 PC: So a lot of the work that I was involved in was project-related, making improvements, taking what was there and making it better. And I think that’s another important thing for companies to realize, too, is you should be doing that. Don’t stay status quo because things can always improve. There are changes that are occurring in the world, ways to do things. The technology for running businesses is just progressing and progressing and progressing. And if you don’t stay up with that stuff and integrate it into what you’re doing, you’re going to fall behind. And you can think of a number of companies that led their industry for years and years and years, and now they don’t exist, because they didn’t stay up with the technology and what their competitors were doing and they went by the wayside. So another good lesson for companies to realize about how they’re running their businesses. Don’t forget, operate your foundation. And always certainly treat that well. But you’ve got to progress as well.

0:12:57.8 WB: So constant improvement, in other words, is something on the books for everybody. I also facilitate on the subject of project management. I think when we spoke first time, you said you don’t follow PMI or CMI’s methodology. So is there a specific approach that you lecture on?

0:13:18.7 PC: Well, my background had come through the AMA, American Management Association, and I got certified through them in project and senior project management. And then I even used, at Crayola, even though I had a background in projects, I had used a consultant, and he had a big influence on me when he came in to help us with our project, the way we were doing things and dealing with folks. Because I had always dealt with the technical side. Then I was in operations and now I was dealing with sales and marketing, which is a whole different breed. And you have to talk differently, you have to think differently when you… So I really didn’t have that experience, so that’s why I brought the person in, was to say, “How do I deal with all these different functions now?” People that I didn’t have to necessarily deal with before. But he impressed on me. And I’ve never found this to be true or not true, but this is what he said. Because he had developed his routine through Honeywell and then he took it out on the road to teach other folks. But he said… He went by three principles that he claimed were developed by Lee Iacocca, who was a very famous project manager besides the head of Chrysler and the bailout and so forth. And he said what Iacocca did is the first thing, he would say, “What is it we’re trying to accomplish?” You really have to define that. Because if you can’t articulate that to people, then what are you really doing? So you define that.

0:14:52.9 PC: Secondly, then, is you get your project team around you that you’ve built and you make sure that everybody is on board with that. And if there’s any disagreements, you work that all out. And then each person is going to have a role in the project. So you need to define what that role is. And you don’t do it just verbally, but you do it in writing. So it’s always there because you know that we’re creatures that forget things. And what did our memory say? But if you got it in writing and you can point to it, the person goes, “Oh, yeah, I remember that now.” So you get it in writing, and not just from the person who’s on the team, but from the person they report to. Because typically, your project team is not a team all the time. There are people doing other things and they report to other managers, and they have to know what’s going on and buy in on it. So you get the sign-off from them.

0:15:41.9 PC: And then you as the manager are not supposed to actually be doing the project work. You’re managing the people that are doing it. And when those people run into a difficulty, because, again, they’re doing other things, what you are is the roadblock remover. If there’s a problem that’s keeping them from getting done what they need to get done, you are there to help to resolve that and to remove that so they can focus on what they’re doing and get the project work done. And again, you’re managing the people, the team, just like a conductor does in an orchestra. And you’re making sure that they’re all doing the right things at the right times and so that it all comes out nice and smooth and so forth. And if it doesn’t, getting that resolved by having the team work on whatever the problem is and getting past it.

0:16:30.7 PC: There was actually a fourth, which is anybody who’s dealt with projects know they don’t all go smoothly. Changes occur. Something happens, they add a new feature to the project that wasn’t there before or you run into a problem or whatever the case may be. And when that happens, you make changes. And then you’ve got to go back to step one, which is to articulate, “Okay, what’s the new direction now based on those changes?” And again, then, “What is each person’s role, his or her role?” and getting that signed off. So you put it in writing, you make the changes to the original document and so forth and then you manage again. So I followed that philosophy. It’s a pretty, pretty good philosophy and you got plenty of tools to deal with and so forth. And I would bring in the stuff from the AMA, which was scheduling and budgeting and people development and so forth. And PMI has a lot of that stuff. I just think they have a lot of other things that they throw in that I think complicates stuff a bit. And I like to keep things less stressful and a little more simplified. So that’s why I had to do my own thing I’ve had the opportunity. People said, “Would you teach PMI?” And it’s like, “No. I have the way I want to do stuff, and I’m satisfied with that.”

0:17:53.0 WB: I mentioned at the beginning that I feel you have a holistic and operational-grounded approach. My background also is in operations. And when I’m working with clients, I look from somewhat of a systemic nature at the business, at the ecosystem, and then we look at the functions and the interplay, if you like, between the functions, and we take that big picture perspective. Quite often, we’ll see things in that process which is not in the original scope that the client wanted to focus on, and that creates some interesting conversation. I’m curious, from your perspective and about your approach, what are some of the factors that you look for when you begin the engagement? Is there any set methodology you take into an engagement or is it very edge on.

0:18:43.7 PC: Well, the first thing is to find out what the person or persons that you’re gonna be dealing with primarily think that their problem is. You wanna find that out. And a very simple way to ask that is, what keeps you awake at night? What is bothering you so much that you worry about it and maybe you don’t stay awake at night but it bothers you day in and day out you spend a lot of time dealing with it and so forth. But then also you don’t just take that at face value because that’s their perception and sometimes they’re absolutely 100% wrong about it. So you got, I would like to on, a lot of occasions spend a day at no cost to the client to spend time with the people that they’re talking about or in the different functions and so forth and get their perspective on what’s going on.

0:19:35.0 PC: And a lot of times you find out there’s a lot different than what the person who called you in in the first place is telling you. For instance, I dealt a lot in manufacturing and operations and they’d say, all those people on the floor, they just don’t get it and they’re not producing in that. So you go out on the floor and you find out, oh, do you know what they do to us? We have to set up the line and it takes so long to do that. And we just get done and we start to run. They go, oh, we got an emergency. Tear that down and start. So now we’ve got to reset the line and that takes time and that we’re not producing anything. And we just about get done and they go, oh, we’re changing it. So I said, they’ve got us constantly changing.

0:20:14.2 PC: So we’re spending more time messing around setting up the line than we are actually producing stuff. So you say to them you got to stop doing that. When you tell them to run something run it and when they’re done then they can do the emergency or whatever it is. In some cases it was the systems the systems were giving them garbage. So they were getting garbage to deal with and trying to make heads or tails out of it you find out that it’s a systems issue. Yeah, there’s always, again, improvements that can be made anywhere, but that’s not your main problem. It’s something else, and let’s deal with the something else.

0:20:56.0 PC: Because, again, if you work on the wrong problem and you solve it, okay, you’ve taken care of it, but it might be such a small impact on what’s going on. And you say, well, I spent all that time and money and I didn’t see the results that I thought of. Well, yeah, because you were working on the wrong thing. So you wanna make sure you’re working on the right thing. I’ve worked with fishbone diagrams, which are terrific because you lay out, you find out there’s lots of things going on, but there’s one or two things that are really important. That’s what you go after. And that’s what you spend your time on. And that’s where you get the majority of your results from. So Pareto analysis, right? 80-20 rule.

0:21:40.1 WB: Exactly. That’s interesting. I also use the fishbone. A lot of people say, gosh, you still use fishbone? How old are you? You’re so outdated. But the reality is it’s still such an effective tool.

0:21:52.5 PC: Absolutely.

0:21:54.8 WB: I noticed you also work with a number of companies outside of America and Europe, as an example. Do you find that the same approach works across borders? So do you have to adapt when you work with European companies versus American companies?

0:22:10.2 PC: Yeah, and it’s true even in America. I always like to say one size fits all badly. So you can’t use the exact same approach with everybody. You find out what they’re like and how they deal, whether it’s in Europe, and yes, they deal with things a little bit differently than we do in the US and you find out what their culture is like, and then you try to adapt what you’re doing to it. Because, again, if you’re speaking in one way and they’re thinking in a different, and you’re not connecting, at the end of the day, it’s up to the company to understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how you’re doing it, accept it, and then to continue with it. And if they don’t do that, you can be the best person in the world, but they’re dependent on you now. And you don’t want that as a consultant.

0:23:02.7 PC: You don’t want the company to be dependent on you. ’cause I always say, the engagement ends someday. I walk out the door. If I walk out the door and everything stops, I fail. It’s up to you to make the changes. It’s up to you to embrace it and to do things and do things well and to continue that. When I walk out the door, yeah, some people would love to have a forever engagement, but that’s not a success to me, either for the company or for the individual. I like to accomplish what I’m doing. You got another problem that you want me to work on, that’s great. If not, hey, we had a good time and think about me or recommend me or whatever the case may be, but let’s not make this a forever project. That’s frustrating. I didn’t like that when I dealt with it in business. I certainly don’t like to deal with it as a consultant.

0:24:00.1 WB: Yeah. Let’s dive into the theme that I mentioned at the beginning, the good, the bad, and the ugly, if you don’t mind. We’ll discuss this concept through the first of your two books. The book is called, What About the Vermin Problem. Would you mind providing a brief overview of the book, if you don’t mind, please, Peter? And then we’ll go deeper into the actual context after the overview.

0:24:24.6 PC: Well, the genesis of that was dealing with all these different companies. There were some really interesting times that I had, and I would say to a colleague, we should write a book and include that in the book. And the person would go, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well we didn’t, but I would catalog that stuff. And then when I was not working on an everyday basis, although again, like we talked about, I’m still pretty busy. I sat down to write the book and I took 12 instances that I had, and I wrote about them, but I didn’t have them in any order or anything. I just wrote about them. So then when I was dealing with the person that helped me to organize the book and get the thoughts and so forth, we organized into three sections called the good, the bad, and the ugly. So there were 12 stories.

0:25:16.6 PC: Four of them were in the good section. Four of them were in the bad and four were in the ugly. And the differentiation was good was there were stories about companies that listened to what I was saying, that took the mantle of ownership and followed through and so forth. We’re very successful. That was good. Bad was where they didn’t quite do what they were supposed to, they did some of it or they didn’t do it very well or that so they continued to struggle to some degree. And then the ugly was where they just fought tooth and nail which still is inconceivable to me why you would bring somebody in to help you and then not to take their advice and help and and so forth. But they did or they didn’t, as the case may be you and they not only struggled, but in a couple of cases, they actually went out of business because they did not pick up what they needed to do.

0:26:13.1 PC: Now, each one of those cases could have been different. If the folks had not followed through and done the stuff and maybe acted like the bad or the ugly, they could have failed too. The bad could have certainly if they had made different choices and and were really committed done very very well and certainly the same with the ugly, you don’t have to fail, sometimes you choose to fail not knowingly but you choose to fail by how you act and think and and so forth. So the premise of the book is, make the right choices, act like the good people. And in the bad and the ugly categories, don’t do the things that they did. Do the opposite of it. Commitment is a big thing. Are you really committed to what you say you’re gonna do? And I ask clients that, and they give me that strange look like, well, of course I’m committed.

0:27:10.3 PC: Well, no, you’re not. Your actions will tell me whether you are or not. When we come down to, you need to make these changes. If you make the changes, you’re committed. If you don’t or you do it poorly, you weren’t committed. You say you were, but you weren’t. So I asked them that. And in some cases I turned engagements down ’cause I just didn’t feel comfortable, and I basically said to them, you’re wasting time and money. You’re gonna fight me. Just keep doing what you’re doing ’cause you’re obviously satisfied. And I’m not here to fight with you. It’s not about a fight. It’s not about, well, are you smarter than me or am I smarter than you? It’s about you have a problem. I have ways that I can help you to solve that. Are you willing to listen and do what I recommend? And if not, let’s say I’m in effort and we’ll just, we’ll leave. And we’ve done that. I had some engagements that never got off the ground because of that. I had something ended because in the middle, I found out they weren’t doing it. And I approached them and I said, this ain’t working, either you change your attitude or let’s just part company at this point.

0:28:22.7 WB: So as you mentioned, the body of the book is broken into the three sections, the good, the bad, and the ugly. At the beginning I mentioned the 20-60-20. Essentially the good equates to 20% of the companies, the 16% is the bad, and then 20% is the ugly. Is that somehow like a bell curve analogy or how did you come up with the percentages?

0:28:48.9 PC: Yeah. You just get that way, over time you just measure and you come out and again it’s a plus or minus type of thing. It’s just like dealing with people in a company. There’s a 20-60-20 rule. 20% of the people in your company, you don’t have to give them instructions. Or you give it to them and they just run with it. You might call them the superstars. Now they have this big thing about rock star. You’re a rock star. They’re the rock stars in the company. They just do it. 60% are the middle and they’ll do the job, but they’re also looking at you and they’re looking at everybody else and they’re looking to see how you treat them.

0:29:36.8 PC: So if they can get away with some nonsense and not doing stuff, they may do it because they go, what the heck? There’s no penalty if I don’t. And I get the same reward if I do in that. So that’s the middle ground. And then there’s the 20%, which are the old school, we’ve always done it this way. If you’ve ever heard that why do you do it? Well, we’ve always done it this way, or they’re close to retirement. They don’t wanna be bothered. They just wanna do their job that they’ve done for a hundred years and they don’t want anybody to bother them. And they’re the pains that you deal with. And they’re the 20% that again, that 60% is looking at how you’re dealing with them.

0:30:16.0 PC: And if you let them get away with murder, 60% go, what the heck? Why should I bust my tail then because they’re not getting penalized for it. So you’re playing to that middle ground you don’t have to play with the upper 20% ’cause they’re, again, they’re motivated they just… You’re dealing with that 60% you wanna move them towards the upper 20, now you get 80% on your side and the bottom 20 you deal with up to the point where, if you can’t take it anymore, you may have to take some drastic action like letting some people go or moving them to other areas or whatever the case may be. And that’s an indication to the 60% that you’re not playing games. You’re not gonna tolerate it. You have expectations and they better meet them.

0:31:07.3 PC: And the same is true with companies. You find out maybe about 20% will follow what you’re doing and they’ll do it willingly. And then there’s the 60% that are in the middle that are dodging and you got to… Pokes them and all that stuff. And maybe you introduce them to the upper 20 to see what can really happen if they do a good job. And then you got the bottom 20 that just, again, like I said, I can’t tell you why they bring you in in the first place to fight with you, to argue with you, to tell you that everything is fine. Well, if everything is fine, then what am I doing here? And what are you paying me for? And what’s your expectation? Because everything is fine. So just keep doing it. Save your money save your time and all that stuff. So yeah 20-60-20 rule.

0:32:00.3 WB: So if we then look at each of the three and we start with the good, the 20%, these are the successful companies. And throughout the book, you identify a number of attributes. And I think for the successful companies, you identify trust, relationships, and agility, as three of the attributes that successful companies have. Trust, relationships, we probably hear a lot about. Agility, I thought, might be interesting because I know you have four principles around intelligence. Being flexible, utilizing people, developing cooperation, and then providing a benefit to customers beyond the product. Maybe we can focus a little bit on those principles, if you don’t mind, if you can just go in a little bit deeper on that.

0:32:51.9 PC: Sure. Agility has progressed and some people that follow it might say, well, there’s more than that. Well, that’s true. The original founding of agility was done by some professors out of Lehigh University in the early 1990s. What they did is they went out and did studies to find out why some companies were very successful versus other companies. And they found those four principles that you just mentioned was what they were following back in the 1990s. And they defined it. They didn’t discover it. They defined it and said, if you do what these companies are doing, and they put a whole practice together on trying to teach companies to be agile then, you can be successful too, like they are. And the one that you mentioned about flexibility and staying up with the times is what I had mentioned earlier.

0:33:50.2 PC: You have a solid foundation as a company, maintain that because that’s what got you to where you’re at today. And you don’t wanna throw the good stuff out. No company is a 100% bad. They’re doing some things right. You wanna fix the things that they aren’t, but they also see the changes in the trends of the business that they’re in. Let’s take one, video rentals. Remember you used to have to go to the store to the Blockbuster video to rent that DVD or cassette tape or whatever it was to play at home to watch that movie? We don’t have them anymore. You see them every now and again. They’re red box. You’ll see outside of a store that. But by and large, you do it. What do you do? You click on your TV and you go to demand.

0:34:43.0 PC: And you can rent the movie right online and it downloads and you play that movie. You don’t go anywhere and you pay your $5 or whatever they charge you for it. And Netflix was the one that really made that happen. Well, Blockbuster doesn’t exist anymore. Blockbuster aren’t on the market. When you said, I’m gonna rent a movie, where were you gonna go? Blockbuster. Well they’re not in business anymore. But you hear about Netflix and now with Netflix you buy a subscription and you just click on, you go to your Netflix channel and you click on whatever it is you wanna watch, your concert or your movie or your television show and boom you got it. So that was a change. Blockbuster didn’t stay up with it.

0:35:30.7 PC: By the time they got involved with it, it was too late. Netflix owned the market, and they were cleaning everybody’s clock, and bye-bye Blockbuster, hello Netflix. So that’s just one example of it. The other one, adding services, Apple. I always use them as an example. Do you know what the largest part of Apple’s business is? It ain’t the computers. It’s not the watches. It’s not the iPads. It’s the services. It’s the apps that you put onto those devices. That’s 70% to 80% of their business these days. We think of Apple and we say, oh, I got an Apple, and you’re talking about the device, but it’s all those services that are on there that you’re utilizing. Again, change of the times, all right? Yeah, they had the devices. Now, what are you gonna do with them? They provided the services for it. So that type of thing. Those are the things that the forward-looking companies do, and they don’t wait until everybody and their brother has done it, and then they’re like the last ones in.

0:36:34.9 PC: By then, it’s too late because they’ve lost a large share of the market. So you got to see what’s happening. And you got to deal with it as quickly as you can and integrate it. Now, Apple still sells iPads and computers and all that stuff. They didn’t get out of that business. In fact, every two months, a new iPhone is coming out, but they’ve got all those other things that they’re doing as well. So those are the types of things that you’re doing when you’re involved with agility. People, as those changes occur, you’ve got to make sure that your people are up on it. If you’re making the changes and your people have no clue what’s going on, that’s a recipe for disaster too. So people are truly a valuable resource to your company. Make sure you invest in them and you keep them up to date on the latest things that are going on. And then you’re agile. So those truisms continue today that were discovered back in 1990 or thereabouts and if you do them you’ll be successful.

0:37:46.8 WB: At the end of the book, you summarize and you talk about leadership itself being one of the areas for success or one of the core areas. And you talk about three elements, commitment, not making excuses, and then setting the plan and working the plan. Again, practical advice. When you’re working with the companies, how often do you not see this happening with leadership?

0:38:13.2 PC: More than I would like. And again. With all the stuff that’s written, with all the examples that are out there of companies that have failed or are doing things wrong versus companies that are doing things right, you would think that people would pay more attention and you’d have a lot less headaches and problems. But I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Some people just shouldn’t be in business, quite honestly. You look at them and you go, how did you ever get to where you’re at? You shouldn’t be in business. But I wanna go back to what you said about common sense. My son who’s now in his 40s. But when he was in college, he worked a couple of summers with me in the consulting practice. And he came to me one day and he said, Dad, he said, 90% of what we’re doing is common sense. He said, it has nothing to do with the book learning and all the technical.

0:39:10.0 PC: He said it’s just pure common sense. He said, why don’t companies, why don’t people do that? And I said to him, I can’t explain it to you. I can’t tell you how to teach common sense. I said, but thank God for that because that’s what keeps us in business, and it’s true. It’s getting people to sit and to think and to be rational about what they’re doing. It’s not about the Xs and the Os and the big formulas and the systems and all that stuff. It’s about how you use them, how you apply things, how you approach a problem and deal with it and not go crazy and all that stuff. It’s common sense approaches. And try to teach people the best you can, but some get it and some just don’t like anything else. But if you have a good common sense approach, and I always like the KISS principle, keep it simple and you can add the last one if you want, stupid.

0:40:14.8 PC: I like the KISS approach. If you make things too complicated… And again as a consultant you need people to understand what you’re doing and to accept it. If you make it so complicated they’re giving you that look, like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. How do you expect them to understand and accept it? They won’t. And I had one instance, we were working with the department of transportation out in South Dakota and we were gonna put a new system in, and they were gonna go to activity-based costing. Now, I’m not a big fan of activity-based costing. I think it’s got a lot of flaws to it, but anyway. And the company that we were working with, we were a sub to them, it was run by two professors, both who were big into activity-based costing. So we had our first meeting with the entire department.

0:41:06.0 PC: They brought people in from all over the state to meet. And the one professor stands up and he’s blabbering along about activity-based costing and he’s putting in all the technical jargon. And I’m just reading the room, and I’m looking at people, and they’re just sitting there with their eyes glazed over, and he’s getting no reaction. So then he says to me, now this is my first time there, I hadn’t really done it before, but he asked me to step up and to say a couple of words. So I did, and I spoke in terms that they understood. I told them what the pluses would be of doing it and why it would work and how it was a bit different, but I brought it down, I wouldn’t say I dumbed it down, but I brought it down to the level where they understood what I was talking about and they could relate to it.

0:41:55.3 PC: Well, now all of a sudden people are reacting and they’re asking questions and they’re making comments. Oh, yeah, we can do that. So we got all done and they cleared the room. And he comes up and he goes, that was amazing. I’m going, well, what was amazing? I just spoke in a language they understood and they accepted it. You were taught… You’re trying to, oh, I’m the expert in that. But it’s not impressing them. And in fact, it’s turning them off. They’re not gonna wanna do that. They’re going, what the hell is he talking about? Again, you don’t need to dumb it down. You just need to make it so that it’s understandable to people. Stop using all the acronyms and the big words and that, and just give them the basic. And then show them. And if they, and then let them do it.

0:42:38.5 PC: ‘Cause there’s nothing better to learn than to do it yourself. And that’s what I do when I teach project management. I said to the people who graduated from my class, you’re not gonna be expert, but you do it over and you do it over and you do it over and you’re gonna get better and better and better. And you will be expert at some point, but you’re not gonna be expert after taking this class. You only took so many hours of it. You got to keep trying it and find out the, and you’ll find out that there are things that I said where you go, yeah, that’s nice, but I’d rather do it this way. And it works better for you. I said, that’s great. I’m not mad about that. I think you should be. That means you’re thinking about it. You’re just not being a robot and doing the rote stuff. And I think that’s what it’s all about, really, with people. People who do that and take that approach, they’re gonna be much more successful.

0:43:31.5 WB: Anything we haven’t spoken about today that you feel is important for the listeners to hear?

0:43:40.3 PC: Be confident in what you’re doing. But when you’re not and you have a problem, address it. Don’t put it off. Don’t kick the can down the road so to speak or hope that it’ll correct itself. Don’t be afraid to get help but then use the help that you get. Don’t try to justify what you were doing and and let ego get in the way, if it’s your mistake it’s your mistake, own it and then deal with it. And if you do those things, and again be like me, hate to make mistakes. Hate them. I hate them. I just made one the other day and I said to my wife, I can’t imagine how stupid I was to do it. And it really bothered me. That wasn’t anything like major, but it just really bothered me. Well, it should bother you, but then get over it and then move on. But accept it, own it and fix it. And if you do that stuff and stay up on the current trends, but don’t give up the past. Integrate one into the other and make the changes that are necessary. And you’ll do very, very well. And again, common sense, back to what my son said, 90% of it’s common sense. The rest of it’s all the technical stuff. And you’ll do just fine.

0:44:55.7 WB: Great advice. Where can people go and connect with you if they like what they hear and they want to learn more?

0:45:02.7 PC: Okay, well, three places. Number one, I’m on LinkedIn. So Peter Christian on LinkedIn, just look for writer, author, adjunct professor, ’cause there are some Peter Christians out there besides me. So that’s number one. Number two, I have a website. My email is ehchristian53@gmail.com. The other one is, my website is ecpublications.com. So any one of those three, they have sites where you can or sections where you can send comments you can read stuff, you can get in touch with me. Of course, email would be the easiest ’cause that’s a direct to say, hey, I heard you speak on the show and I would like to to follow up on something you said, or I have a question or, or you can even say, I disagree with something you said. Let’s talk about it. I love to do that because again, I’m still learning. Get in touch with me and we can have a conversation.

0:46:07.7 WB: Great having you as a guest on the ET Project. Much appreciated. All the best with everything you’re working on. I look forward to book number three.

0:46:17.0 PC: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars, and blogs @coaching4companies.com

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