Jeremie Kubicek: An interview by Bob Morris

KubicekJeremie Kubicek is the co­founder of GiANT Worldwide, a global company dedicated to leadership transformation through intentional apprenticeship. He is also a speaker, best­selling author and pioneering entrepreneur, and he is best known for his enthusiastic, impactful encouragement to leaders around the world. He is responsible for the creation of the global leadership simulcast event, Leadercast, as well as the national growth of the next generation leadership event, Catalyst. He has led national leadership campaigns for John Maxwell and Dr. Henry Cloud, as well as launched culture ­changing programs within Ford Motor Company. Kubicek’s previous book is the Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine bestseller, Making Your Leadership Come Alive: 7 Actions to Increase Your Influence.

He and his family have made it a priority to be intentional in the way they live and lead, and in his current venture at GiANT Worldwide, he and his business partner Steve Cockram have, to date, apprenticed over 50 associates to serve clients throughout Europe and the United States. Their mission is to develop liberating leaders who will change their leadership cultures in every sector and city in the world. He lives in Oklahoma City, OK, with his wife and three teenagers, Addison, Will and Kate.

Jeremie and Steve Cockram are the co-authors of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, published by John Wiley & Sons (September 2015).

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Morris: Before discussing 5 Gears, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Kubicek: My father has had the most influence in my life with his wisdom, common sense and work ethic. He is my best friend as well as biggest encourager. He is a great man.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Kubicek: My wife and I were hit by a drunk driver, in a hurricane, in Mexico in 2002. We were 30. It profoundly changed the way I look at life as I realize life is more about pride vs. humility rather than good vs. evil.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Kubicek: I luckily had amazing teachers in my formal education that trained me how to learn informally. Two particular instructors literally changed the way I think and communicate because of this.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Kubicek: That emotional intelligence is equally as important as IQ. Knowledge is important, but wisdom through social competence is vital.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Kubicek: We Were Soldiers is the best leadership movie in my opinion. There is a direct correlation to business principles. Business is a combination of strategy, people/leadership and capital. Leadership makes that all happen, or not.

Morris: From which business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kubicek: Peter Drucker has always been a favorite, but I really value Leadership and Self-Deception as a little book that packs a big punch.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Kubicek: Secure, confident and humble leaders are those that people want to follow. Resistant, pride-filled leaders don’t allow others to win, which is a huge issue in the marketplace and or government.

Morris: From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Kubicek: Leaders who are obsessed with tasks have a hard time doing this. Leaders must learn how to be in the right gear at the right time in order to say no to the right things.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Kubicek: I agree if you are a future minded person. 73% of the population are present oriented and this has no effect on the way they think, in my opinion.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Kubicek: Humans long to discover, to find what doesn’t exist in full form yet. Some of those people do it out of insecurity, some greed, but the best people are those who do it for the joy of discovery and or the benefit of others.

Morris: From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Kubicek: The balance between being present and productive is vitally important. Being and doing go together like heads and tails on a coin.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Kubicek: There pressure of many people to show that they can work hard is like the proverbial gerbil on a wheel, it never stops.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Kubicek: I think of being intentional versus accidental here. Intentional leaders are proactive, they look ahead to make decisions that affect the majority for the best interest of all. The accidental leader is reactive. Because they tend to be focused on themselves more than being for others they react with less success because their decisions are late or poor.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Kubicek: People are generally task dominated, they have ADD and are know-it-alls. Stories stop people in their tracks as cause them to remember the key point. We use visual tools with common language at GiANT to tell a story that changes leader’s perspective and causes behavior change. I wholeheartedly agree.

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Kubicek: Resistance generally comes from insecure people who are being told what to do from people that they either don’t admire or are hypocrites in their direction. The only way to change a person is for that person to look at a mirror, see the broccoli in their teeth and make the right next step.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any advice?

Kubicek: The biggest issue to most public CEO’s will be in the external threats of cyberwarfare, micro-aggressions and “crybullies.” The best CEO’s will need to be able to handle external communications effectively, while keeping their eye on continued growth. The external threats are greater in the next 5 years than any time in our history.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to 5 Gears. When and why did you decide to write it?

Kubicek: The book was written precisely because of our own weakness in the way we interact with family, partners and colleagues. It is a self-discovery to admit that if we have this issue, surely others do as well. And tens of thousands have agreed that they do.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Kubicek: There have been more than one. To realize that I don’t know how to recharge personally was a bit humiliating. I have actually had to read books and interview others on how to do something so simple as to rest and recharge as I naturally serve others and don’t take well enough care of me.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ [begin italics] significantly [end italics] from what you originally envisioned?

Kubicek: The 5 Gears finished better than I imagined. It started as a metaphor to share with Steve and ended up being something that both of us not only use, but our entire team of 75 teach it around the world.

Morris: By what process did you select a transmission as your extended metaphor?

Kubicek: As an American living in England I had to relearn how to shift a car with a left-handed stick shift. That experience caused me to analyze how some people grind gears, while others are automatic in the way that they are present and productive.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, please explain how to “be present in the lives of those you live with or lead.”

Kubicek: Have you ever been called into a meeting where the other person begins talking with you, but is obviously fixated on an email or a text or a project? That is not being present and therefore wasting the other person’s time. Being present means being there — totally there — connecting. Most adults live disconnected lives, whether at home or at work.For some of us, it could be both.

Morris: As I read our discussion of “being present,” I was again reminded of an observation by Alan Watts: “I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”

Your response?

Kubicek: This is a different type of Present than we are suggesting. We are stating that to have real influence means that a person must disconnect from one thing to give their attention to another, whether it is talking about the future or about today. Most adults miss their kids, their spouses and their friends because their minds are in another place, while their bodies are at another.

Morris: What determines which “gears” need to be “shifted” and when?

Kubicek: We mention in the 5 Gears book that it is important to master your settings by agreeing with a spouse or co-workers what gears you should be in. For instance, if you are at work, those are typically 4th gear task and 5th gear focus modes, but it is important to do 3rd gear social mode as well. Knowing and then leading yourself to downshift is what makes one person stand out and the other person flounder.

Morris: In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge to “creating a system for communication in teams, families, and organizations”?

Kubicek: The greatest challenge is subjectivity. When people don’t have a common language then it is impossible to know what the other person means. When that occurs, here comes the drama, which leads to division.

Morris: What are the defining characteristics of such a system?

Kubicek: In 5 Gears we teach a sign language. When you hold up a 2 or 3 or 4, etc then you are in essence calling plays that everyone understands. Consistency, clarity, these are the tenets of good communication.

Morris: How best to “eliminate drama that comes from busy lives and self-absorption”?

Kubicek: The best way is to have hard conversations of what it is like to be on the other side of you once you have learned the five gears and have objective language and tools. My wife, for instance, can hold up two fingers and remind me that I am in the wrong gear at the wrong time. That doesn’t lead to drama now because it is an objective fact that I agreed to be in a certain gear, but have found myself in another.

Morris: Please explain the meaning and significance of “driving too fast.”

Kubicek: Most adults are task dominated – to-do lists and small tasks become habits that cause people to become frantic. When we live our lives like this 18 hours of the day then we often miss the other gears and drive in 5th gear in a metaphoric 2nd gear school zone.

Morris: I agree with you that “the 5 gears is a lifestyle” — or at least should be — rather than a mechanism for self-serving expediency. What are the vital signs of that lifestyle?

Kubicek: The keys are intentionality and consistency. Once people try the 5 Gears system they begin to make drastic changes that begin to form a new lifestyle.

Morris: There are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or key take-away in each of these passages.

First, Social Miscues (Pages 16-18)

Kubicek: Most people are clueless at their lack of social connectivity. We all do something that minimizes our influence, whether it is the way we eat or the lack of eye contact or the way we cut off others while they are talking. If you don’t know it then you can’t change it.

Morris: Disconnections (19-22)

Kubicek: Disconnections are everywhere in our society. If we want to connect well with people, then we need to take a long look at the mirror, understand the gears, and begin shifting appropriately.

Morris: Questions about priorities (26-28)

Kubicek: We prioritize what we spend time and money on; learning how to then shift is not just a work/life balance issue, but a major reprioritzation.

Morris: 5 Gears: A briefing (35-42)

Kubicek: This is too long to answer with one respone. The framework is that there is a right gear and a right time to be in that gear. When people are in the wrong gear then it is like being in a car w a sixteen year old who is stalling, grinding gears and near accident prone. To know the gears is to know yourself so that you can lead yourself. When you do, you will get immediate response (positively) from those around you in your world.

Morris: Using Language to Connect (43-47)

Kubicek: If I told you that you needed to improve your leadership, you most likely wouldn’t know what I meant until I explained. To connect well means that you are not ambiguous, but rather clear as you objective, concrete language.

Morris: Getting into Overdrive (52-55)

Kubicek: 5th Gear can be amazing. Open door policies, on the other hand, can be disruptive. Learning how to shift in and out of this gear is vital for productivity.

Morris: Teaching Others How to Use 5th Gear (62-63)

Kubicek: Helping others be in 5th Gear means to teach them how to shift in and out of focus. Some stay in it much too long and others do not know how to get there.

Morris: How to Help Others Get into 3rd Gear, and, Overdoing 3rd Gear (93-96)

Kubicek: Many adults, mainly men, think that 3rd Gear social mode is a waste of time. It is actually the opposite. 3rd Gear is the place where people get to try others on. It is where all business happens – from golf courses to pubs – people want to know if they like the other person or not before they do business.

Morris: Truly Being Present (102-106)

Kubicek: Being present is a gift to others. When two people are truly bonding there is little better to the human spirit.

Morris: 2nd Gear in a 4th Gear Culture (108-110)

Kubicek: 4th Gear task mode can become addictive, making it hard for people to connect properly and be present because they are addicted to the email buzz or afraid that they are missing out or underwhelming their boss.

Morris: When concluding the book, you suggest “you cannot give what you don’t possess.” In Denial of Death, Ernest Becker acknowledges that no one can deny physical death but asserts that there is another form of death that can deny: that which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others’ expectations of us. Your response?

Kubicek: The premise for my reponse is that many people tell others what to do, but do not live out what they are suggesting. Thus, hypocrisy is the feeling and the reason for the lack of influence in leaders.

Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in 5 Gears, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Please explain.

Kubicek: The most valuable aspect of 5 Gears to these leaders is the idea of learning the gears and teaching them to their family and employees. To be present is to be intentional. When small biz owners lead by example they can have significant influence because they are getting better in their relational and emotional intelligence

Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview – but weren’t – and what is your response to it?

Kubicek: This was a very thorough interview. I feel like we covered the main points. Thank you very much for the opportunity!

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Jeremie cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

GiANT Worldwide link

Jeremie’s website link

Twitter link

5 Gears link

“Overcoming Self Preservation” YouTube video link

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