The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 204

Keith Ferrazzi

Leading Without Authority

Is bad blood or a simmering feud in the workplace getting in the way of your productivity? Keith Ferrazzi, leadership coach and author of Leading Without Authority, says that co-creation—supporting each other and working towards a common goal—is an important role you as a leader must facilitate with your team. Discover Keith’s hard stance against office gossip and talking behind your coworker’s back, the importance of creating a co-creation space for behavior transformation, and his method of leading with Serve, Share, and Care.

About

Get the book, Leading Without Authority, from Amazon here:

Learn more

Website: Virtualteamswin.com
Bio:  Keith Ferrazzi is the author of the bestsellers Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Alone. Ferrazzi has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Fast Company. He was the youngest person to make partner and hold the position of Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte Consulting, where he raised Deloitte’s brand recognition from lowest to a primary position, spurring the highest growth rate in the industry.

Video

Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today is Keith Ferrazzi. He has written most recently the book leading without authority, how the new power of co elevation can break down silos, transform teams and reinvent collaboration. He’s the number one bestselling author of never eat alone. And who’s got your back. He spent over 30 years coaching executive teams and I’m lucky enough to call him a friend. He’s a really lovely guy. And so, you know, as always the criteria for being on this podcast has to do with being an exceptional leader and also a stellar human being. And and I’m glad to say that Keith fits both. So Keith

Keith:

Well, and, and, and, and also having shared tea and coffee, and you’re in your living room in New York.

Peter:

Yes. Right. Actually knowing me personally helps. But it’s great. It’s a, I’m glad, I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other. And I’m happy to have you welcome to the leadership podcast.

Keith:

Peter. I was looking forward to catching up with you. I’m really looking forward to a great dialogue with a great thinker like yourself.

Peter:

Thank you. You’re kind of Keith, what is leading without authority?

Keith:

As you know, my, my primary focus is I coach executive teams. I don’t coach executives. I coach the team and the team’s performance. And I have noticed over about, you know, 20 year process of doing that, that there are some mindsets associated with leadership that some people are still clinging to that are fundamentally broken and they need to shift to meet the pressures of the marketplace today. And of course, the first was of the marketplace today, post post immediate COVID crisis. And I say, post a media COVID crisis, we may be in COVID crisis for, you know, six months a year, who knows, but you know, we, you and I both know, organizations have to meet constant transformation today. Organizations have to not just adopt agility, but a word that I’m calling radical adaptability. And in order to do that, it is not any more the role of a leader to be the hub and spoke.

Keith:

It is not the role of the leader to play whack-a-mole of all of the insights coaching, you know, push toward collaboration, babies, whatever it takes, right? And I believe leaders need to begin to unleash the team to a new word, co elevate, a team that co elevates is a team that is unbounded by org structure. A team that elevates is a team that says, we’ve got a vision. Who do we need to team with to get the job done? We’ve been talking about breaking down silos for a long time. We’ve got to start organizing teams around, breaking down silos, leading without authority focuses on that. Then the team needs to co-create, you know, so 71% of teams, 71% of teams say that they don’t get value from being a part of a team. Meaning they’re sitting in the team, they’re bringing their work to the team. They report out to the team, they plugged their work into the team, but is their work exponentially better because of being a part of the team? No.

Peter:

So let me ask you a question. Let me actually interrupt for a second to ask you a question about this, because in the book you say that we’re all hardwired for co elevation and co elevation is really like supporting each other and helping me help you be successful here. And my question is I was reading that is, is that really true? And given what you’ve just said, which is, most of us are sitting in meetings going this isn’t working for me. It might be working for other people, but it’s not working for me. And evidence seems to point to people prioritizing themselves and often being threatened by the success of other people. So I’m curious, like I was curious when you said we’re all hard wired. I wonder about that. Like whether this is really something we have to learn to prioritize the interest of the group over our individual interests or whether this truly is something we just have to remember.

Keith:

So anthropologically, when I say hardwired, I mean, what is the species hardwired to do? Right? And we both know that 70,000 years ago the species to survive, we were born in tribes. And so what is hardwired is to thrive in a tribe. But when you spin ahead to today, past you know, the books like bowling alone, which was basically calling out the fact that we’re living in, in isolation and in, in silos in the world the worst of all things occur, which is we are living in tribes, which is our natural instinct, but our tribes or tribes of one or tribe, the two or three, right? The key for a leader is to demand that the team thinks of itself as us. And that is a leadership trait that is not often coach too. So I watched leaders be very happy. Now they don’t say it this way, but they’re very happy to have individual members of the team come behind other members of the teams back with conflict avoidance and tell the CEO what the other members of the team are not doing well, instead of having us have enough conviction, courage, but also care to bring this out in the open.

Keith:

I literally just dealt with in my own organization this morning, where two individuals were, were, were lobbying against each other in terms of the relationship. And I, I do what I often do. I very awkwardly get the other person on the phone and I bring ridiculous and full transparency to the dialogue. And so, you know, that’s, that’s my solution as a CEO to coach the team to don’t do that shit. Right, right. I have no appetite for people talking behind each other’s backs. I think it’s as bad as stealing from your expense account, that level of cowardice, that level of erosion of shareholder value, risk management innovation. And I think it’s just shitty mediocre leadership that it’s allowed. So I deal with it. You deal with it all the time. You deal with it all the time. I see it, right. You hear the passion and you hear the frustration and the anger. And so I bring this shit out in the open, in my coaching and I make it, you know,

Peter:

And I think there’s very little that we do that increases shareholder value as much as breaking down the silos that you know, of like individual interest in order to get people to collectively aligned behind kind of a common focus. And the reason when we go in it doubles and triples of stock value is because even people who call us in who are already a high bar, because if they’ve called us in, they’re already interested. They want to be better. Right. We it’s, a lot of people don’t want to be better, but so even the people who call us in it’s already a high bar it’s rampant, which makes which, which first of all, is why I think the book is important, but also why a question, whether we’re really hardwired that way. And I don’t know that that matters or not, but, but it’s because I, I think we live in a state of danger the hard way.

Keith:

But my, my point is if, if we were hardwired to distrust each other, yes, I could have easily said that too. We’re hardwired to distrust. That’s true too. And that’s, that’s what prejudice is born from. And this past weekend, depending on when this is watched, we have just literally coming out of a weekend of suffering of national riots where, where us and them was at the forefront of the dialogue, right? Whether it was around racism or economic disparity, or what was the trigger for the behaviors this weekend, or both they’re about us in them.

Peter:

And what I love by the way, what I, the moment I love about these moments is when you see a police officer put down their Bhutan’s, which has gotten a lot of press too, and said, I’m going to walk with you. And to do that requires I think an overcoming of fear, meaning that police officer has, has to say, I’m going to take my protection, the stuff that I hide behind that, you know, the badge and the stuff that I hide behind, and I’m

Keith:

Going to put it aside and I’m going to walk with you without that. And that leap of faith is rewarded, but it’s also scary, right? Well, chapter a chapter three, earning permission to lead. And my philosophy of earning public permission to lead is a methodology called serve, share, and care. And what I find is that, first of all, in the beginning of the book, you have to understand that I’m making an assumption and that is, if you’re going to be transformational, then you have to see your team as a group of individuals that you don’t control. Right? That’s the first weakening, right? So what, what I often see in companies is people fighting for more control, right? So that they can be transformational. So I’m curious how you help people let go of control because I think that’s so essential and I know you do it in your work.

Keith:

I understand that perspective. What I do is you don’t think your way into new way of acting. You act your way into new way of thinking. And so when I’m coaching, I hold them by the hands and say, okay, I understand that you’re going into this project with an assumption of your team that you control. And then these individuals that you have to get buy in from, and these individuals that are obstructionists and you’re pissed off by, right. But let’s imagine both the people from buy-in, which I’ve always thought is bullshit. I don’t like buying, buying beans. I baked an answer and I’m selling it to you. You should buy into my answer. Let’s get that in those individuals and the people that are obstructionists, let’s get them in the room and let’s really figure out how to co-create. And there’s an entire chapter about how do you really do cocreation well, right.

Keith:

And you and I have the benefit of coming in as coaches and we can call the cocreation meeting. And our ability to manage that meeting well is easier often than somebody inside the company. So as coaches, we get to do this with a little bit of superpower because we have that permission, but how does an individual inside of a company call a co-creation? And the first thing that I do is I get the person to start small enough. And you don’t start with a room full of 25 Vipers in a pit and say, okay, now we’re going to try to make this work. You start incrementally, you start with your vision and you invite your first co-creator in. Now you have to be awakened. This is a mindset shift, but you have to be awakened that the vision is no longer your vision. It’s your, it’s your in both of your vision book. When I talk about there’s a chapter called who’s your team, and there’s a line I use, which is the first person you invite into your team, you’re inviting them into their team. And when you invite somebody into their team, you’re inviting them into co-create. And the good news is I really do believe that co-creation yields transformation more than individual ideation, meaning more than two or three people coming together will create a better answer than you will by yourself.

Peter:

Well, I’m curious about, so cause you, you coach teams not necessarily individuals. And I’m curious about when you’re helping someone who’s oriented towards bias, meaning they’re saying I’ve got an idea. I need to convey it to the leadership team so that I get their buy in and we spread it through the organization and how you help them shift their mindset to one of co-creation.

Keith:

Yeah. And it’s, I usually do it through action. So I actually hold their hand through the act of inviting somebody in differently. Right? So we are just doing this down at a very large insurance company in the South. And, you know, they, the, I was hired by the chief operating officer and the focus was how do we reengineer our operations process, which is a very large call center operation. And the reality was we could have spent all the time we wanted on the call center, but the real breakthrough is needed to happen in terms of how the sales organization uses the call center. Right. Right. And, and so we could squeeze all the improvement out of the call center, and we’ll still not meet our, our numbers of head count reduction, plus customer satisfaction, grading. Right. It’s a great must be change. How many people in the call center or are calling us for stupid shit.

Keith:

Right. Right. So, so what we did was I, and they, but here’s the problem. The call center didn’t think it had permission to get the people in the sales organization to change their behavior. One of the reasons was higher up in the organization. There seemed to be some belief that two of the executives didn’t like each other one in sales and one in ops. So literally we’re talking about significant shareholder value. We eroded because two executives don’t like each other. And again, I get indignant when I see that and I bring those two people in and I talked to them like I would any other adult. And I let them know that that is thievery from shareholders and that their indulgence. So chapter two, I talked about the sec, the six deadly excuses for why we don’t do this. And one of them is indulgence. You’ve, you’ve literally indulged your resentment at the sake of your fiduciary responsibility. Right. Keep doing that and you should be fired.

Peter:

So let me ask you two questions. I love this. I love this key. So two questions. One is you know, from my perspective, I’m that sales leader, I don’t see it, I’m guessing, but I’m curious whether this plays out. Like, I don’t see it as, I just don’t like this guy, I see it as opposite self-involved they are small minded. They don’t appreciate the role that sales has to play in, in kind of generating revenue. And they’re worried about their Datsun. I’s and T’s, and, and I’m, I’m really worried about, you know, leading a customer centric organization. Right. So it’s not that I don’t like you, like, you’re perfectly nice guy. I’d love to go for a beer with you or a perfectly nice woman. I’d love to go for bear with you. But, but I, but, but you know, it’s not a personal thing. It’s just, I think you’re incompetent. And so, and I don’t know that they would use that language or say that, but more often than not, it’s, it’s, it’s not a personal, it’s a personal resentment, but it’s, that’s how a professional disagreement is showing up. How do you, how do you help them around? Yeah. So

Keith:

You and I you’re, you’re in my job, the reason we were brought into these companies and these situations is we’re holding space to be, to have these two people be heard. Right? And the first thing I do is with the use of a book like this, I awakened somebody to their indulgence. Once people start to think through the logic of this stuff, they start to realize that they are indulging behavior, that isn’t particularly high levels of professional behavior. Right, right. And the wakening, there are a couple of there’s one chapter in this book, it really hits you over the head with an awakening that’s chapter two, and the chapter is called it’s all on you. And I use, one of the analogies I use is my foster son, who is a real son of a bitch. 12 years of age, he had been in 20 homes.

Keith:

We’re recording this, right. I just want to be okay. I know he’s 21. Now he can hear it. So at 12 years of age, he was, he was horrific and angry and violent, literally violent. There were times my partner and I literally thought that there was a good shot of our losing our lives to this boy. At some point I’m literally like go to bed and think there’s a good shot. Right. And, but yet my responsibility to my family, to that boy, to my, my higher power was that I would go 99.9% of the way to be his father, even when he wasn’t being my son. And, you know, I couldn’t cross my arms and say, when you’re my son home, when you meet me halfway too much, when you meet me, halfway occurs in business. Right. And then we stopped. And I, I always talk about everybody in companies that are, that are working against you.

Keith:

You and I both know that there are more bad words shared about headquarters from the field. And there are about the competition, right? And, and I make people aware that these things that are going on that piss you off and you’re indignant about, and they shouldn’t happen. They’re just market forces chill out, just like an entrepreneur faces an obstacle in a government policy, or, or competition comes up with something new. They’re just market forces. What are you going to do? How are you going to work it right? We get ourselves twisted emotionally. So part of it is literally me de cloaking the, the allowance of this victimization and this demonization that does exist once that occurs, I open up a window. And then with that window, I try to build some empathy. Because if you start to under really understand where ops is coming from, if you start to really understand where sales is coming from, then you start to have a perspective that you might not have all of the data, and you might not have all of the perspective.

Keith:

And this sounds very rudimentary, but you and I both have lots of stories where our job was to uncloak empathy. And with that, you could get to a place of, of co-creation. And, and, and that’s what the book teaches you to do. Meaning look, you and I are coaches. We come into a company Mo what I was trying to do when I wrote this book was make everybody a coach, right? The original intention of the book was that I thought every leader really needs to be a coach of their peers, making their peers better so that they could co-create. And of course, the answer is you also have to make yourself better so that you can co-create. And then you’ve got to do the hard work of holding the space for co-creation. Right. And so that’s why I wrote this book to put into everybody’s hands. What you and I do is as consultants, Keith, you’ve given

Peter:

A number of different examples of brave conversations of bringing two people in a room of, you know, your own organization, even if they report to you in your own organization. Like we both know, and this is part of cocreation and leading without authority is that even though people report to us, it doesn’t mean that they do what we say and that, you know, we control them, like, that’s the whole point of what you’re writing and it’s the truth. And, and when you’re consulting, bringing into, you know, a sales leader and an ops leader, neither of whom report to you, and neither of whom, you know, have to do what you say. And I’m curious, these feel like brave conversations to me. And I’m, I’m curious about whether you’re scared when you have them, whether, like what goes on for you, what humps do you have to get over? If any, that allow you to sit down with, you know, a couple of people or a room of people, or et cetera, and say, here’s how I see it.

Keith:

So I grew up in my old man was an unemployed steel worker. My mom was a cleaning lady and I never, and as a poor kid, I never felt I deserved to be in the room. My parents got me into wealthy schools to get a good education. They got full scholarships and I never felt I deserved to be in the room. And, and I’ve lived with that insecurity all my life. And it creates sometimes important behavior, like when I was younger and even now bragging like the need to, to credentialize myself so that I feel like I, I deserve to be there. You know? And, and also the fear of someone’s reaction. I also had an angry father that like a lot of Italian immigrant dads, he led with authority. He didn’t lead without authority. And so, yeah, I have a, I’m going to, I’m going to do as quick to aggression.

Keith:

When I read Ray dahlias book, I looked at it and I even had a chance to talk to Ray at the Ted conference recently a year ago. And I said, Ray, you know, it’s kind of easy for you in your book principles to talk about Ruth was candor, peer to peer feedback, having exit discussions online about each other after every meeting where you grade each other. I said, Ray, that’s easy for you because Ray, you hire assholes and you have no problem. You have no problem. Because you hire for resilience. I know plenty, you and I both know people by name. Who’ve gone to that company and bounced after two months cause they couldn’t hack it. Right. And I’m not saying they should hack it. The rest of us have to deal with egos. We have to deal with insecurities. We have to deal with fear. I have to deal with my own every moment. Right. And I actually think minor grander than most because I’ve got a lot to overcome in terms of psychological challenges that I’ve had when I was feeling insecure and not worthy. So maybe it’s with that empathy that I know that giving feedback to another human, you own, making sure it lands with care.

Keith:

And that was the conversation I had with these two individuals this morning. I said, you know, you both with through conflict avoidance, you, you did end runs and you’ve not served our mission. And now you’re pissed off at each other because you both talk behind each other’s backs and you’re not serving our mission. Would you, both of you recognize that you’re both trying to do your best and you please have a conversation and wipes the slate clean and starts and says, what are we trying to go create here? Right. And so, you know, I generally find that if I keep my North star truthful and I get my, my insecurity out of the middle of it and I keep my care at the forefront. Right. And my sense of service at the forefront, then I get away with a lot. Right. I get away with a lot.

Keith:

So yeah, you’re right. Actually I was not modeling that. Well, I was, I was saying to you with some, some level of bombastic voice and tone, how I would say to executives should talk to each other. And sometimes I will say it with all of that bravado. If they both know I care for them, but if they don’t know, I care for them, then I have to do the tone. I’ve just now used. And I have to lead with serve, share, and care serve. They have to know I’m here to be of service to them. Share. I have to share vulnerably that I know exactly how they feel and I’d done the same stupid shit myself, right care. They have to know deeply that I care for them as individuals, as well as the business that they’re both serving that I’m serving, serve, share Sharon care. And I go into detail. And the reason I haven’t grant love this book so much is because he said, you know, there’s, this is the first real model. We’ve all been talking about working networks. This is the first roadmap at a very granular level. And human level is figure out how to do it.

Peter:

Thank you for that, Keith talk to us about remote teams and the work that you’re doing with remote teams. And it’s something that everybody’s sort of struggling to adapt to you. You, you know, in your book, you talk about the way to create transformative outcomes is radical inclusion plus bold input plus agility. And that seems to be like particularly important at a time like this. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on it.

Keith:

Well, I wish, you know, if I had had one month to rewrite the book a little bit, it would have been easy, but in a few years ago John Chambers, when he was CEO of Cisco gave me 2 million bucks to research, what are the new role for people in a virtual world? Because they had WebEx telepresence, et cetera. And my belief was, it’s fine to have the systems, but what are the people worlds to use them? And so I solicited Harvard business review and we went on a journey of 20 research studies that we did and published them all in HBR. There’s a website I, we created with all of these resources. It’s called virtual teams win.com. So virtual teams, wind.com. And what I found was that virtual or remote teams will degrade their performance unless the stuff that you, the critical stuff that used to happen accidentally or serendipitously becomes purposeful. So for instance, candor and challenging in a room, you get less bold candor and bold challenges in a room, in a virtual meeting than you did in a physical meeting. And we just talked about it. You didn’t get much in physical meetings, but you got more of it in those walked down the hallway around the corner conversations, which now even happened less. So it candor can be radically eroded in a virtual environment unless you make it bold and you put it forth. Right.

Peter:

Well, and I imagine also some of that has to do with groups versus pairs. Like it’s hard to be, to, to be really honest with people when four other people or 10 other people or 20 other people are watching and yeah, unless you

Keith:

Recontract it right. And that’s what I call for. So there is a, there’s a process like a recontracting, which we give for free at virtualteamswin.com resource page. We think that there are set of new social norms for executive teams. There are new social norms for executive teams. One of them is the willingness to challenge in a room. So the way I do the challenging in a room is we stop in the middle of the meeting. And instead of just saying, okay, who has a challenge for what was just said? And then you’ll hear crickets. I break them into small groups, which is so easy to do on zoom, push your button, break into small groups. And in the small group, they identify, what’s not being said, that needs to be said, and then they come back and I get it. So it’s what I’ve done is I practice a fide high performing teams in a remote environment, and we actually created a product.

Keith:

You and I were just talking to my business, model’s changed. Right. I used to have do what you did, you know, bigger, larger, longer term projects with teams. Now we’re offering like an $8,000 bootcamp for how do you reboot your team in a remote environment. Right. And, you know, I find that that might be, you know, an entry into a different product, which would be, you know, an ongoing coaching, et cetera. But it’s also just a good product and I can actually train other coaches to do it, but we need to re negotiate the social contract. Will we give each other open candor in a room? Yes or no, that’s a social norm. The answer was no before the answer needs to be yes today. Right.

Peter:

And then of course we need the skills to do it with empathy and with care and in service because otherwise we’re back to Ray Dalio and that’s where the coaching comes in. Right? Yeah. Right. So at least at some point or reading the book, I mean, I’m trying to do a combination of, this is the cheapest product offering I’ve got, right. Then you can go to the reboot reboot, and then you can go to the hire a coach from [inaudible] same as, and I, you know, just that idea of the stepping stones, all of our businesses changing, you know, we just, you know, it’s all up in the air, right? Keith, it’s been such a pleasure speaking with you, Keith Keith Ferrazzi has written leading without authority, how the new power of co elevation can break down silos, transform teams and reinvent collaboration as always a pleasure. Thank you so much for being on the Bregman leadership podcast.

Keith:

Thank you, Pete. Thank you so much. Thank you.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *