Workplace Relationships Matter. Here’s How to Improve Them.

Workplace Relationships Matter. Here’s How to Improve Them.

Most of the time, we don’t get to choose who we work with every day. But our coworkers’ and our relationships are crucial to our day-to-day work. Not only can poor workplace relationships be real personal downers, they can also hinder productivity and bring down office morale.

To understand the necessity of positive relationships in the modern workplace, we spoke with Todd Davis, chief people officer and executive vice president at FranklinCovey. Davis’s new book, “Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work,” is a crash course in building relationships of value across organizations. On this week’s episode, Davis explains why we need to mitigate our emotional responses, how listening instead of talking can be a better way to contribute, and how establishing your own credibility with your coworkers can lead to relationships built on trust.

MP3 | iTunes | Stitcher
 Run Time: 41:45

Take our survey to enter a drawing for a free book!

Brandon Laws:  Welcome to the HR for Small Business Podcast. I’m your host Brandon Laws. Hey, if you haven’t done so yet, please go to iTunes or Apple Podcast, whatever they’re calling it nowadays, and give us a review. Five-star would be awesome. Just let us know how we’re doing, what guests you’ve loved, anything like that. That would be valuable feedback for us.

We also have a survey. You can find it in the show notes and on the Xenium blog and we just really appreciate your feedback. We’re actually doing book drawings monthly for people who fill out a survey or leave an iTunes review. With the iTunes review, if you don’t make your name clearly stated, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and screenshot it or do something like that, so I know it’s you; and more chances to win, I guess, if you do it that way.

So on to today’s episode I interview Todd Davis. He’s the Chief People Officer at FranklinCovey and he has got a new book coming out on November 7th called Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships that Work. I have to tell you, I read this book, and I’ve been a huge fan of How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I felt like this book read a lot like those books. They have very tangible takeaways and it’s kind of step-by-step about what you need to do to build great relationships and just work on yourself as a human being.

I love this book. I really do feel like it’s a book I would read multiple times and I don’t usually say that about a lot of books. So I know I say every book is great, especially on this podcast, because I just get so immersed in them and I get to find little nuggets that I get to ask the authors about. But this one was pretty special. There’s a lot of storytelling. I think you’re going to relate to this quite a bit. So I hope you enjoy the interview with Todd.

Brandon: Hey Todd. It’s so great to have you on the podcast. Welcome.

Todd Davis: Thank you Brandon. Great to be here.

Brandon: So your book Get Better, is releasing on November 7th and it outlines 15 practices to build relationships that work. I want to go through a few of those concepts with you. I want to go in-depth on a couple of them. I’m not going to go over all of them; obviously we don’t have enough time for that and I really think people should go get your book. So let’s dive in.

The first one, your first chapter, Wear Glasses That Work. You bring up this concept and what I think you meant by that is that often people have this limiting belief in themselves or just a specific view of themselves.

So maybe it’s brought on by what people say to them or just over time they just have this view of themselves and whether it’s dealing with people or you even brought up the story about somebody didn’t think they were athletic, so running was like just totally not in their wheelhouse. So a marathon was out of the question.

How limiting can this specific view that they have, the glasses that they wear, how limiting to their growth can this be?

Todd: Yeah. Thanks for raising this one first. This is practice one, Wear Glasses That Work and for everything you just outlined, it’s practice one for a reason. Because the way we see things shapes everything else we do or don’t do.

I remember the first very real set of glasses, actual glasses I got. I was in the second grade and just to make a point here, I remember putting those glasses on and for the first time in my life, I could see the leaves up in the trees.

Now it hit me – how blind were you? But I’d been blind. And back then – maybe they didn’t have eye testing in preschool like they do now. So previous to this experience, I had seen this kind of green blob or mass up on the tree and I honestly – in the second grade – I thought that’s what everybody saw when they looked up in the trees.

That’s the point of wearing glasses that work. It’s seeing things as they really are, not as you have convinced yourself that they are, whether it’s seeing yourself a certain way or seeing other people. So I had this whole world open up to me, thinking, “Oh, wow. That’s what was really there.” Well, it’s the same in our lives, whether it’s in our businesses or in our personal lives.

We have, through experiences and assumptions, convinced ourselves about many things, that this is how they are. And this isn’t to say question everything and never feel secure with anything, because a lot of your assumptions or your beliefs are absolutely accurate for you.

But there are many more that I find, time and time again, that we have just created and they are not factual and they might have some resemblance to the truth, but they’re not actual and yet we’ve convinced ourselves that they are. Like, I’m not athletic. There’s no way I could run a marathon or there’s no way I will put that person on my project. They’re not organized or they don’t ever follow through. We sometimes convince ourselves of things that aren’t actually true.

Brandon: What role do other people play in how we see ourselves? Because I could think of situations where it was something emotionally-charged, you might say. Like, oh, you’re stupid. Why can’t you just figure this out? People say things in the moment. But yet over time those things take a toll on just how we see ourselves. So how do others play a role in this?

Todd: Yeah, absolutely. We’re human beings. We are vulnerable. Every one of us. I don’t care how tough of an exterior you have built up to hide that fact. We are all the same inside. We’re all vulnerable and so that’s what you see in so many parenting books. When your children are growing up, what you say to them, the feedback you give them, shapes who they are and so this is a real – this is a very real thing you’re talking about. Wearing glasses that work is about finding the power, if you will, inside yourself to step aside from those lenses you’ve been wearing, whether you shaped them or whether – like you were saying – other people.

Growing up here, I was the last one to be picked for the soccer team in elementary school, probably because I couldn’t see. Anyway – ask yourself, “Did I grow up thinking that I’m a wimp, I’m not athletic or whatever.” So it is. And I’m no psychologist. But this is an opportunity to say, “Wait a minute. I am not shaped just by who people think I am. I know who I am inside and I can choose to change. I don’t have to do that. But I can choose to change those lenses, that paradigm that I have of myself and that others have of me.” So it’s a very real thing that you talk about, that impacts every one of us.

Brandon: I’m glad you brought up the parenting thing. This is a very real thing for parents. I’m the parent of a five-year-old and a four-year-old and they are sponges. And months back, I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and that book was super enlightening to me, just about how you speak to your kids, specifically about effort versus praise, and how – if you say to a child, “Hey, you’re smart,” they may have this belief over time that hey, I’m smart and then they won’t try very hard versus praising their effort. So I think like just what you say over time, especially as a parent or as a manager or as anybody, can just compound and play a role on how people are thinking about themselves.

Todd: Absolutely. A lot of pressure as the parent, isn’t there?

Brandon: Yeah. Oh, so much.

Todd: And I’m glad you brought up both sides of it. There’s a side of it where I’ve asked, “Wait a minute. Why do I believe this about myself? Why do I see myself in this light or see myself this way?” But I’m really glad you brought up – as a leader or even just a colleague, whether you’re in an official leadership position or not, realizing the power of your words and your observations. And it’s not to say go around and just be nice to everybody all the time and only say building, uplifting things.

No, be transparent, but with respect, with courage and consideration. But realize that the influence you have on others, in what you decide to share with them about your observations, is really, can have – in a good way and a damaging way – long term, lasting effects.

Brandon: So in another chapter, you talked about another practice, Carry Your Own Weather. I was reminded about how people can have such different emotional responses to specific situations, like throwing somebody under the bus, or having a negative, emotionally-driven response versus they could actually just be professional about it.

You mentioned a story about a recruiter who put a lot of time and effort into a candidate thinking, hey, this candidate is the best person and is perfect for the position. But then when they get to the hiring manager, I think they went through an interview and the hiring manager then asked after the fact, “Hey, can you just give me a couple more candidates before we make this decision?” What was the recruiter’s response to that situation? Because I think that was fascinating.

Todd: I love that you brought this up. His name is Aaron actually and he’s our Director of Recruitment and he is awesome. In the book, I’ve changed a lot of names and some situations because the situations aren’t so great. But I want to be loyal to those people. But Aaron, I proudly put his name right up there.

Brandon: That was a good one.

Todd: Yeah. This guy is amazing. He’s our Director of Recruitment and like you said, he had this candidate that several other organizations were after and he had gone out of his way and recruited months to really woo her and recruit her. We got done with the interviews, and he presented her to the hiring manager, as you said. The hiring manager thought she was great, really liked her and said, “Gosh, I like her. I would love to see a couple of other candidates before making a decision.”

Now I had done recruitment for many years of my life for the role that I’m in. I was there and Aaron was there when his manager said that. Seriously, I had to put my fist through the wall. I thought, “Are you kidding me?” We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get this person and Aaron, with his maturity – and he’s much younger than I am, which tells you something about my maturity. But with his maturity, he – just as the title of the practice is Carry Your Own Weather – he carried his own weather. I watched him. He said – I will call the hiring manager Fred – he said, “Sure Fred. I can appreciate that while this is a great candidate, you need to feel like you’ve got the very best choice. So I would be happy to continue looking.”

I could have been blown over about how he handled that. Later on, we talked in his office and I said, “Aaron, I know you report to me and I know I’m supposed to be your mentor. But I am in such great admiration of your ability there.” He said, “Todd, if in the end Fred isn’t super excited and 100 percent behind this candidate, they’re not going to succeed.” So it’s my job to find somebody that is that perfect match with Fred and who he wants – and I just thought, “Wow, talk about wise beyond your years.”

But this is a perfect example of carrying your own weather. Aaron decided a long time ago: What’s important to me? Is it important to be right? Is it important to win every argument? No. It’s important in my role as the Director of Recruitment to find candidates that the hiring managers are excited about.

I’m not going to let a disappointment determine my emotional response. So that would be the perfect example. That’s why I put it in the book.

Brandon: So if we take that same exact situation and we put somebody else in place of Aaron and it’s an emotional response, what does a common person – how do they respond to that situation emotionally?

Todd: Yeah, it’s a phrase that you and I – and I would suspect most of the listeners out there – are guilty of, and that is the phrase of, “He makes me so mad,” or “She really bugs me.”

Well, that’s a natural response and my point here is not to shame us all for being human. But that is allowing the emotional weather, if you will, to dictate our response. You think about the phrase – it’s a little bit silly – but does he really make you mad? He made you mad? How did he make you mad?

No, you chose to be frustrated or mad or angry because of some things he did and that’s true. But breaking it down and thinking about the fact that, you know what, no one makes us mad. That’s a choice that we have.

Brandon: That’s an interesting way to put it because I my next question to you was going to be, “Well, how do we actually carry our own weather?” But I think you just stated it perfectly right there, which is, it’s a choice.

Todd: Well, it is a choice. And what I would like to just expand on a little bit, it’s a choice that people – and again, please don’t anyone think that oh, so you’ve arrived – you do all these 15 practices. Great. No, I stumble over them all the time.

Brandon: We’re human. You just made that point. We’re human.

Todd: Yeah. But when I am better at carrying my own weather than not, is when I begin my day or my week or a conversation first remembering – saying to myself or thinking to myself, What do I really value? I value this relationship. If I’m going to a difficult conversation with Fred and we’re going to talk about some tough stuff, I first think to myself, Look, Fred and I have worked together for a long time. I really value him as a person, the experiences we’ve had. I value that. Let that be my guiding principle when we have this discussion.


Then when we get into it and different things are said, instead of me thinking, “Well, that was kind of crappy. Why would you put it this way?” While I may be irritated at my foundation. I’m remembering that this relationship is important to me. I value relationships. So that’s how I recalibrate too. Because I get off track all the time but recalibrate to carry my own weather, through that kind of a thought process.

Brandon: Credibility is another point in your book about building relationships and you told a story that I want to bring up because I know listeners have gone through some sort of situation like this. You told a story of a woman who got a flat tire, went to a mechanic who immediately said that she needed to purchase four new tires because the tread was all off on the tires. She then was probably taken aback by the thousand dollar price tag but didn’t purchase it right away, but talked I think to a family member, if I remember right.

Todd: Yeah, her brother-in-law.

Brandon: Her brother-in-law who suggested, “Hey, go see this guy. He’s another mechanic. He will give you another second opinion.” She went and saw him and he told her, “Hey, you don’t need to purchase four new tires. Let’s shave down the tread, match the other tires. It will be like 200 bucks versus the $1000,” and I just thought it was interesting because it’s – situations like these where you can gain or lose credibility depending on which side you come out on.

The one mechanic decided hey, I can make a quick buck or maybe just didn’t have the knowledge to make that choice. The other mechanic is like, hey, let’s look at the long term approach here. You need to save some money, and he probably gained a customer long term. So talk about those two different outcomes and how one mechanic maybe built credibility and one lost it.

Todd: Well, first of all, thank you for reading the book. I love that you’re bringing up all these stories that I’m so passionate about. I can’t remember the name I gave, or if I even did give the person a name in the book, but that’s one of my best friends. Her name is Leigh and you shared was absolutely word-for-word exactly what happened.

You just said the magic word and that is the “long term view”. Credibility requires that if you really want to establish and build, on an ongoing basis, a sincere credibility, it’s taking the long term view, not the quick win, not the quick thousand bucks that the one guy – and I don’t want to demonize him. Like you said, he may not have had the knowledge. And it might have been a she. But anyway, they may not have had the knowledge to do that.

But credibility – there are three things I would love to share quickly with your listeners. First of all, credibility is built on a foundation of two important things, and that’s character and competence. Both character and competence. And one doesn’t compensate for the other.

I could be the nicest guy, your best friend, Brandon. I remember your birthday. I remember your kids’ names. We do a lot of things together. But when I offer to pack your parachute for your first skydiving lesson, I can have all the “character” in the world. But you probably want to know how much parachute packing experience I have. None by the way.

So it takes competence. But on the other hand, it might be concerning to learn that the person who did pack your parachute had just been acquitted of maybe a manslaughter charge, because of a technicality.

So if something about his character is off, there’s a question there. So it takes both character and competence, and exactly what you said – it’s the long term view. Even when you have both of those, if you’re trying to establish credibility overnight, it doesn’t happen. You take the long term view because it’s behave your way to credibility. That’s the name of the practice and it takes time. It doesn’t come with a title. It doesn’t come just because I know how to buy one new tire instead of four, and shave your treads down and all that.

It comes because I earn it over time just like the second mechanic did. And while he lost out on an opportunity immediately, he knows that my friend Leigh and others that she tells, if she told a lot of people, will certainly go back to this person who knows what he’s doing and is honest and has high character.

Brandon: So translating this to the workplace when you’re dealing with people on a regular basis – when building credibility, we’ve got the character side which is being nice to people, being friendly, being there for them when they need you, being honest, thoughtful, having integrity, all those things. Now competence is working on yourself, developing, knowing or having the answers, or even saying you don’t know instead of faking it. I feel like those things, over time, you do them enough and you build credibility and I think that’s your point in the book.

Todd: That’s exactly right. It becomes your brand. It becomes who you are. In the workplace, we have two consultants. Obviously, we do a lot of consulting. We had two consultants working on a major project together for several months with a client. And the client was then going to move forward with one of the consultants just for a longer term project. But they only needed one of the consultants.

They chose one. And the other consultant who was not selected came and talked to me and told me how frustrated he was. I said, “Now help me understand what your frustration is. They only had a spot for one.” He said, “Yeah. But why would they have chosen that person over me? I went out of my way. I bought them gifts. I did all these things.” And they are also both really good consultants. They were – you know, just really things that they did, but they were heavy, heavy, heavy on the character. And the other person that they went with had great character but also had continually been reinvesting in herself and learning and upping herself. There’s more in this other consultant. Yeah, an over amount of one doesn’t compensate for the other two.

Brandon: Credibility takes time. I love it.

Todd: Yeah, yeah.

Brandon: Some people want it instantaneously and it just – it’s just not –

Todd: We all do, don’t we?

Brandon: I think that’s what the – a lot of like college grads, they come out and get into the workplace and they immediately think, hey, I should be credible. I got a degree and all that. But it’s like – but you don’t have the experience yet and it sucks to hear that I think. But –

Todd: Well, it’s because their parents when they were little kids were telling them how wonderful they were. No, I’m kidding. To tie back to your earlier –

Brandon: There is some truth to the trophy generation. I’m actually part of it. So I got to say I love this section about “See the tree and not just the seedling.” Paint the picture for listeners. You had a lot of good stories. What did you mean by that?

Todd: Yeah, thanks. Practice five is See The Tree, Not Just The Seedling. This is all about seeing potential in others. Just a real quick story.

On my 35th day of employment, with what was then called the Covey Leadership Center – Covey Leadership and Franklin Quest had not yet merged to become FranklinCovey – my 35th day of employment at the Covey Leadership Center, a woman who hired me, her name is Pam – I was their recruitment manager – and she walked me up after a leadership meeting to where the senior leaders of the company whom I had not met during the interview process, and introduced me to Bob. And she said, “Bob, I’d like you to meet Todd Davis.” And I’d been there 35 days. She was like, “I’d like you to meet Todd Davis.” And then she said, “Let me tell you what Todd has done and accomplished during his first 35 days of employment.”

Brandon, I thought I was going to pass out. I thought, “What is she going to say?” I couldn’t think of one thing I had done in 35 days. So I was shaking his hand and terrified at the same time.

And then she went on to say, “He filled this position in Chicago that has been vacant for so many months. He put together a recruitment strategy for the next years. He has got a relocation policy in place.” And this list went on and on. And please know, I’m not sure that what she just said wasn’t all cool and all that.

I’m telling you that because I remember that day which was, gosh, 21 plus years ago like it was yesterday. I don’t remember day 34. I don’t remember day 36. But I remember that because in that moment, she communicated to me that I could do anything. That she just thought the world of me. And so, what did I do the next 4 or 5 years that I worked with her? I spent all my time making sure I did not disappoint her.

The late Dr. Stephen R. Covey who’s the bestselling author of 7 Habits and many other books and the founder or co-founder of our company, he said, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it themselves.” And that phrase has stuck with me. And you don’t have to be in an official leadership position. Leadership is a choice, not a position. So we can all be leaders. We can all communicate to colleagues, to family members, to others their worth and potential so clearly they come to see it themselves. That’s exactly what Pam did for me that day and that’s what Seeing the Tree, Not Just the Seedling is all about.

Brandon: Yeah, and I love it because I think you brought even concept of coaching in this practice where maybe somebody is having performance issues, maybe something is going on but that person – it doesn’t mean that they’re always going to be that way. Maybe we just need to coach them on a couple of things. And as a manager and as a leader, you need to see the potential in them.

So, how do you split up the point where maybe it’s not correctible or maybe they do have a limiting potential versus you actually spend the time and coach them?

Todd: Yeah, such a great point you bring up. And I guess, fortunately or unfortunately, we have these conversations, not often, but occasionally, we had one just the other day with a person that we had enrolled who was a good person, great character. It’s not about them as a person. It’s about them being a match for the role. And in those situations where we call on the phrase, we don’t call it about the person, maybe the right person or at least the right thing but in the wrong seat on the bus.

We had a very transparent discussion. And I said, first and foremost, not just to be nice, but because it’s true, I said, “Gosh, you’ve got so much great potential. You’ve got many great strengths.” “In my experience,” this is what I said, “In my experience, from my 21 years here, I see this being a wrong skillset for what you’re trying to accomplish. I could be wrong. And here is what you would need to do to show us, based on your credibility, you need to show us that you can do it. But I want to bring to your attention, your manager and I want to bring to your attention, that here’s where we see the gap. Again, you are a great person full of tons of potential. We think this maybe a wrong match here. Here’s what you would need to look like for you to make it successful. And if not, let’s look for other opportunities either within the company or help you transition to something else.”

So that’s a very sincere conversation that I have had many times in my life with really good people who are misaligned with the world that they’re in.

Brandon: For those familiar with Stephen R. Covey’s work on the emotional bank account concept, you brought up a really interesting story where – I’m going to butcher the names and sorry if I don’t say the right names – so there’s one person who receives a phone call from an old friend who says, “Hey, it’s so good to talk. Maybe we should catch up.” And at the very end of the conversation, feeling good about it, they’re going to reconnect as life-long friends. And the person who was calling and wanting to reconnect just says, “Hey, your uncle, can he get me tickets. Can you see if he can hook me up with …”

And so, I think that person who is on the receiving end had an immediate withdrawal from that emotional bank account. Just like, “Really? this is what you wanted?”

Todd: Exactly, right. So the person was me that was on the call.

Brandon: Oh, it was you.

Todd: Yeah. I’m just smiling because I’ll tell you, the person was me who received the call. A friend that I used to work with at another company, hadn’t talked to me forever, called. We were really close inside our company. We laughed and talked for 15 minutes. And then it was at the end of the – and I was thinking, how great that he reached out and we’re reconnecting. And then at the end of the conversation, he said, and I’ll change this part of the story, but he said, “Hey, does your uncle still get discount tickets for the friends and family thing at this store?” And I thought, in my mind, I thought, “Wow! That was the reason you really called me, isn’t it?”

Brandon: Yup. Yup.

Todd: So I mean it felt like a manipulative deposit, so to speak, or withdrawal in the emotional bank account, which Stephen talks about. But I’ll tell you something, Brandon, it got me thinking and maybe we’re not all guilty of this, but I have been before. I need to ask somebody that I haven’t talked to for a long time. I need to ask a question or something I think they only know, like I don’t really call them for a favor like that, but something. And I’m a little bit embarrassed that I’m reaching out only when I have a question for them and I haven’t been reaching out just to connect with them.

And so I have, and I’m not proud of this, I will call somebody and make small talk so that they don’t think, “Oh, so the only reason you call me is when you need something.” But after that happened to me with this friend, and if he has listened and found out who he is, and we have since connected several times. But when that did happen to me, it did get me thinking about, “Gosh! What are the most important relationships in your life, Todd, and what are you doing to stay connected with them on a regular basis not just when you need a favor?”

Brandon: Absolutely. So you brought this up and it’s a good segue. You brought up the idea of taking stock of your emotional bank accounts. So how do you recommend doing that? Because it sounded like that was an “aha” moment. You had to go through this situation where somebody would take a withdrawal out of your emotional bank. So that caused you to say, “Wow! What am I doing to my relationships?” And that’s how you took stock.

How do you recommend other people do that?

Todd: Yeah. It was a great segue. I didn’t mean to come up with it. So the whole premise of the book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work is built on the fact that we can spend all of our time, like many of us do, pointing a finger, saying I wish so and so would do this, or she makes me so mad, if she’d only do this as my boss, my wife, my husband, whatever. And we can do that, and maybe they do need to make all these improvements.

But the most influential, effective, and quite frankly, the happiest people in life are those people who look in the mirror every day and start with themselves, and say, “What do I need to do differently? What do I need to model differently?”

So taking stock of your emotional bank accounts is looking at the most important relationships in your life and saying, “Wait a minute. What amount of deliberate intent am I spending on those important relationships? And are my “deposits”, are they sincere? Are they from the heart? Or are they unintentionally somewhat manipulative? Am I making an intentional withdrawal from someone?”

Sometimes we tend to make unintentional withdrawals, especially with people in our personal life and our family members, because I believe we feel like, well, there’s this kind of contract there. I mean not being my family.

Whereas, we tend to be, in some cases, not all, but in some cases, more respectful and more deliberate about trying to respect the work that we do in our personal life because we think like, “Gosh! I need people at work to like me so I keep my job, or so I get promoted, or whatever. But at home, if I’m kind of on autopilot, so to speak, and I’m not that cautious about unintentional withdrawal, they’re my family. They’re my loved ones. They’re not going to leave.” It’s a big mistake. I think we need to focus on what deliberate deposits am I trying to make on a continual basis?

Emotional bank account is about making small, consistent deposits over time, not being a jerk for so long and then doing some really nice thing and pretending that that’s going to make up for it.

Brandon: Another one of your practices, you said, “Talk less. Listen more.” It’s funny because just the other day, I was listening to a podcast and somebody was telling a story about a very influential executive or investor, and this person would come to very important board meetings and would say zero the entire time except for, they may drop a line and it was like a bomb. Whatever they said was so profound, thoughtful. And I thought that was interesting. Because on the other side of it, when I’m in meetings, if I’m not saying something or trying to insert every once in a while, I feel like I’m not contributing whatsoever.

So I wanted to ask you, you bring up this point, “talk less, listen more,” how do we do that without feeling the way I feel?

Todd: Yeah. Now, I think you identified something that we’ve all felt before when we’re in meetings, and people are saying things and they’re saying really nice things. You’re thinking, “Gosh, I’ve got to come up with something.”

Brandon: Yeah, you want to contribute.

Todd: Yeah. And that’s – these practices are all getting tied because of the other practices examine your real motives. And is my motive and my intent here to be smart and to be seen a smart or is it to really contribute?

Everybody is different so I don’t really think there’s one answer that’s right for everybody. But I think you do need to understand what your real motive is on this topic of talking less and less. Do you listen with the intent to understand? Or are you listening with the intent to reply? Am I listening? That’s the question that I ask myself. Am I listening so that I can come up with something really smart to say so that I’m seen as smart? Or am I listening so that I really understand the issue or the opportunity and then, after thoughtful consideration, I can make a contribution?

Our CFO is such a talented person like Stephen. And he is one of those people that you just described who doesn’t talk very much in our meetings. He is the CFO of the company. He is the CEO’s right-hand person. And we’re all talking and putting our two cents in, and I don’t think it’s all to look smart. I think we’re all trying to contribute. And then when everybody is done on a particular topic, our CEO, Bob, will turn to Stephen and say, “Stephen, your thoughts.” Because Steve is that person who has been listening intently, trying to understand, and he will say something like, grand poobah on the mountain. He’ll say something so wise and so thoughtful and with such humility. It will always be, “Well, I’ve been listening and I’m sure I don’t have the right answer but it seems to me …” And then he will go on and it’s just …

Brandon: Amazing.

Todd: Talk about behaving your way to credibility. The guy has so much credibility because of that style. And that’s not to say – you know, I talk a lot – I’m not talking a lot to be smart. I’m talking a lot because that’s my style. So this isn’t just saying that the only good people are smart people. They also don’t talk at meetings and then say one final thing at the end.

But it’s about understanding what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Are you listening to understand and then contribute? Or are you listening to reply and then just talk?

Brandon: I want to bring up one last concept and then I’ll let you go. I’ve taken a lot of your time and I’m sure the listeners are just loving it.

Todd: Oh, I appreciate it. I’m really passionate about this, so thanks for the opportunity.

Brandon: So one of the books I read when I first got in the corporate world was the Speed of Trust. And what I got from that book was that you’re better off extending trust because things are happen a lot faster. People communicate a lot easier. Business get done and I think relationships build. It’s a really foundational piece.

But I think a lot of people are afraid to extend trust whether they’ve been burned in the past or they’re not trusting the big business, their employer, people around them, because they think they have ulterior motives.

What do you say to people who are afraid to extend the trust?

Todd: Stop that! Yeah. One of my good friends and colleagues here, she tells a story about when she was in the car with her two sisters, so three daughters, and then mom and dad. And her mother – I don’t know how what the situation was, that was many years ago – her mother turned to her and said, “I want you three to know something. The only people you are to ever trust are in this car right now.”

Brandon: Wow!

Todd: And my friend said, “Boy, it has taken me …” we talked earlier about how you shape your paradigms and with the glasses that work and she said, “It has taken me years. While I have a very loving mother and father and I have huge respect for them,” and her mother probably has good reason for in that moment saying that, she said, “It took me a long time to kind of break out of that and learn that others actually can be trusted, but it is a balance.” You can choose to say, “Well, I’ll trust you once you earn my trust,” or “I’m going to trust you until you break my trust.” And that sounds like a simple thing, but it’s a huge differentiator.

So the Speed of Trust, bestselling book, awesome book, Stephen M.R. Covey is such an incredible author and leader.

Brandon: It’s a great, great book.

Todd: Yeah. His premise is lean on the side of having the propensity to trust, not blind trust, not being taken advantage of.

Brandon: Totally.

Todd: Yeah. A person I worked with many years ago – a brilliant person, super talented. On the competency side, this guy was off the charts. He never said it this way but he delivered the emotion that, “I trust no one. And you earn your trust by me.” And as brilliant as he was, no one wanted to work with him.

Brandon: Yeah, that’s right.

Todd: Yeah. In fact there is such a great quote that John Wooden uses but it’s from Abraham Lincoln. “It is better to trust and be disappointed once in a while than it is to distrust and be miserable all the time.” And I have that saying on my desk as just a mantra to say, “Look, assume the best in people. Don’t be dumb. Don’t be taken advantage of. If you’ve seen things that would cause you to have suspicion, certainly, be aware of those things. But in general, when things are kind of neutral starting out, lean on the side of having propensity to trust. And yeah, you’ll get disappointed once in a while but if you do that, you’ll gain far more than the person who doesn’t trust.”

Brandon: Todd, if you could recommend how people should use your book – whether they’re an employee, a parent, a manager, CEO, whatever – how do you recommend people use your book? Because there are so many nuggets in it. And I want to hear from the author himself, how should people actually really use it?

Todd: Thanks for asking. I find that people would be most successful at using my book if, first of all, they buy 10,000 copies and then give those copies to all of their friends. I’m kidding. I’m kidding.

Brandon: I don’t know that many people.

Todd: I bet you do. No. It’s a great question. I find the book begins each chapter, each practice so to speak, begins with a couple of questions. So you can really go to any chapter and say, “Oh, that title seems interesting. Carry your own weather.” I mean the question then was, “Do other people determine your emotional weather? Or do you ever find that your mood is controlled by others, their circumstances, or some of your own knee-jerk reactions?”

So each chapter begins with a couple of questions. So, you could really go anywhere. But what I would recommend, highly recommend, is that you start with chapter or Practice 1 – Wear Glasses that Work. As we said earlier, the way we see things, the way we see things determines everything we do, including the way you look at any of the other 14 practices.

So I would say, get the book. Read Practice 1 first, Wear Glasses that Work, just to make sure you have on and are aware of the lenses that you are looking through. And then read it start to finish and go through any of the practices in any order that makes the most sense, based on what you might be struggling with, or what opportunities you might have.

The last practice in the book, I would make sure you read if you don’t read all the chapters, and that is, Start with Humility, Practice 15. And I purposely put it in the end of the book just to kind of remind ourselves that having humility, humility is the greatest strength we can develop, especially with the business world, people view sometimes humility as a weakness. It’s absolutely the greatest strength, reflecting back to our CFO.

Just one example, this gentleman who was so nice and because of his humble nature, absorbs it all in, and listens all in, looks at where he could really add value and doesn’t let his ego get in the way like some of us do and say, “I’ve got to talk. I’ve got to contribute. I’ve got to say this before somebody else does.” Start with humility.

You think that the greatest, most influential, not just leaders but people, in your life and throughout time, they have a foundation of humility and it’s critical. So that’s how I would recommend going about reading the book.

Brandon: Your book comes out November 7, 2017, hard cover, Kindle, Audible too?

Todd: Yup. I finished – yeah, that was a fun experience. That’s a wonderful idea.

Brandon: Did you do it? Yes. You have a good voice.

Todd: I think just the opposite. I had to listen to my voice for four days of recording like 8 hours. So anyway, yeah, there is an audio.

Brandon: Oh, you’re going to be exhausted from that.

Todd: It was interesting but glad we got the opportunity to do that.

Brandon: I have to check out that version of it. That sounds interesting.

Todd: Yeah.

Brandon: Yeah. Well, anything else you want to mention before we part ways? I really appreciate your wealth of knowledge. This book is great. I love it.

Todd: Well, you flatter me, Brandon. I appreciate your time. I appreciate you reaching out to have me participate and I appreciate all of your listeners. And I just would end with this … We all have frustrations and challenges and challenging people and relationships in our life but if we focus on our relationships, it sounds like a nice thing to do, it’s an imperative. It’s an imperative. It’s a critical thing to do. Because all of us, unless you are, I don’t know, a pro golfer or maybe you own a company where you are the only employee of that company, the rest of us get our results with and through other people.

And so, we’re measured by our results. In the end, all of us are measured by the results we get. We get our results with and through other people. And other people are really difficult to change or even influence. And those who focus on their relationships, building effective relationships, they start with themselves. They’re the most influential, effective people there are.

So that would be my parting shot.

Brandon: Love it. Well, Todd Davis, thank you so much for being part of the podcast. I know I’m better from this conversation and I appreciate you.

Todd: And so am I. Thank you, Brandon.


Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn 

Submit a Comment