Karin Hurt and David Dye on “Winning Well”: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Hurt (S)As a keynote speaker, leadership consultant, and MBA professor, Karin Hurt helps leaders improve business results by building deeper trust and connection. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, marketing, customer service, and human resources.

A few highlights from her time at Verizon include:

o Developing a sales team (1.5B in Revenue) that led the nation in store sales to the small and medium business space and winning the President’s award for Customer Growth

o Transforming customer service outsourcing (96M calls/year) to reach parity in quality with internal. Karin was named on the American Management Association 2015 List of 50 Leaders to Watch, Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers For Your Next Conference.

She’s frequently featured media such as Fast Company, Inc. and Entrepreneur, as well as on TV, radio, and podcasts around the world. She’s the author or co-author of two books, Overcoming An Imperfect Boss and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.

Karin has a BA from Wake Forest University, a MA from Towson University, and additional graduate work at the University of Maryland, where she currently teaches in the MBA and Executive Education programs.

Dye (S)David Dye works with leaders who want to get their team to the top without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. A former nonprofit executive, elected official, and internationally recognized award-winning author, David understands the challenges, headaches, and tensions business leaders face – and he also knows the rewards leaders experience when they lead well. He is the President of Trailblaze, Inc, a leadership training and consulting firm. David shares his expertise through keynote speaking, workshops, consulting, and coaching. His most recent book is the aforementioned Winning Well, co-authored with Karin.

Known for his optimism, for making difficult concepts understandable, and for moving leaders to immediate, practical action, David’s workshops, presentations, and seminars help leaders increase their influence, solve common leadership frustrations, and improve productivity through practical leadership inspiration.

He believes that leaders at every level can master the essentials of influence, the most critical component of success. David writes for the Huffington Post, has appeared in Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and on radio and television throughout the United States and has been listed with leadership influencers including Seth Godin, Tom Peters, James Kouzes, Barry Posner, and John Maxwell.

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Morris: There are several ancient sources for thoughts about leaders who win well. For example, here’s a passage 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.”

Hurt: Winning Well managers understand the important balance of confidence and humility…having the confidence to surround themselves with people who will challenge them, and whom they can learn from, while at the same time having the humility to know the mission is more important than their ego or what they can accomplish alone.

Winning Well leaders inspire others to be more confident in their own gifts and ability to make a contribution—they leave a legacy of people with an increasing capacity to lead themselves and others.

Dye: I’ve also appreciated this leadership wisdom from the Tao Te Ching. There is so much here:

First, leadership is a relationship – “begin with what they have” and “build on what they know” are powerful directives for every team leader and manager. In Winning Well we share the idea that when you “Walk with them, they’ll walk with you.”

“When the task is accomplished the people will remark ‘we have done it ourselves’” captures the influence that the most effective leaders have – the ability to draw greatness from their people.

Morris: Here are more recent business insights. From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not  to do.”

Dye: This applies at the individual level as well. When we talk with harried managers about how to strategically use their time, it comes down to eliminating everything but one the one most important thing they can do in that moment.

Hurt: One of my favorite bosses would begin each year asking us to “plan our failures.” She would sit down with our scorecard of 27 metrics and say, “there’s no way you’re going to nail all of these, so which of these do you think are least important. If you’re going to drop a ball, I want you to be very strategic about which one.”

As an entrepreneur, I have had to make the “what not to do decision” every day. There are hundreds of choices David and I could make each day on how to accomplish our Winning Well mission, it’s a matter of prioritizing what will add the most value for our clients and our community.

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

Hurt: To me it’s about staying open to ideas and innovation that may feel “scary” or unfamiliar at first glance. Progress depends on staying open to, and exploring what’s possible—not settling for yesterday’s solution.

Dye: There is a natural lifecycle to innovation. After all, change is a constant. Effective leaders regularly scan the environment for the changes that will impact their fundamental business model, service, or product and look ahead to ensure they’re able to remain relevant. At the same time, they maintain a consistent focus on lasting values. Regardless of what innovations happen in the marketplace, the values of confidence, humility and focus on relationships and results never go out of style.

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….’”

Dye: It’s true in science and it’s also true in business. One of the greatest avenues of growth available to every leader is to examine your successes. What worked that you weren’t expecting? When you find one of those moments and hear yourself say, “That’s odd…” you’re probably on the cusp of new opportunities and growth.

Hurt: Leaders are sense makers, and they are constantly on the lookout for patterns that don’t make sense or outliers from the norm. Staying genuinely curious about the “why” in situations and people is a vital starting point for progress.

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

Hurt: Some of our favorite feedback on Winning Well is that it’s “insanely practical.” In fact one Amazon reviewer shared that it’s written so that you could “pick up the book on the way to work, read the chapter you need in the parking lot, and implement the solution with your team—although this is not the preferred method ;-)” Our mission is to provide managers with easy execute processes and tools that we know will lead to sustained results.

Dye: You can pick up most books on leadership and find an implicit denigration of “management.” The leadership literature of the last thirty years has done a real disservice to frontline and middle level leaders with this false dichotomy. Success requires every frontline and middle level leader to lead and manage effectively. That takes vision and execution. If you own your own business or are the CEO, you can hire execution and keep looking ahead. Otherwise, you’ll need to do both.

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

Dye: In workshops I always invite participants to keep a “stop doing” list. It’s futile to try new behaviors or pursue new business opportunities without making space for them. This quote pairs well with Drucker’s maxim that leadership is doing the right things while management is about doing things right. Ultimately, we want the right things done well.

Hurt: In a lot of my consulting work, we focus on isolating the one or two behaviors that will consistently produce the desired results. That conversation always begs the question of what behaviors (or work) can be eliminated so that more time can be spent doing focused on what will make the biggest impact.

Morris: Of all the greatest leaders throughout history, with which one would you most like to be closely associated for an extended period of time? Why?

Hurt: Eleanor Roosevelt. Talk about leading through influence and acting with confident- humility across contexts, and doing the best you can with the hand you’ve been dealt.

Dye: If I could spend time with only one historical leader for an extended period, I would choose Nelson Mandela. He blended so many amazing qualities: the ability to persevere through dark times, forgiveness with strength, understanding of people – both those who would naturally follow him as well as the ‘other’, and he also grasped the political aspects of influencing entire populations in a positive direction. Those are rare qualities – and even more rare in combination.

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?

Dye: The first step is to understand that change resistance is a healthy, normal human reaction. After all, from your brain’s perspective, if what you did yesterday got you here clothed, bathed, and fed, why should it spend energy to do something differently?

Once you have that firmly in mind, it helps you cultivate an environment that makes change more likely.

Specific questions to answer as you cultivate change:

o Are the reasons for the change and the benefits clearly understood?
o Were stakeholders involved in creating the change (at minimum with input that is considered before taking action)?
o Have you removed obvious barriers to adoption (e.g.inconvenience, loss of status, dysfunctional technology)?
o Have you scaffolded new behaviors with ongoing training, support, celebration, and accountability?

Hurt: My favorite way to overcome resistance is to build confidence that the change is in someone’s best interest and that they are capable of the behaviors required in the change. When someone is resistant it’s because “they don’t want to” or they don’t feel the can be successful.

Throughout my career, I’ve used a technique we call “Confidence Bursts” in Winning Well. It involves breaking down a change so it feels incremental and easy.

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

Hurt: Globalization. Technology is making it easier than ever to compete globally for customers, resources, and talent. So many companies are ignoring this conversation. My advice to CEOs is to be very deliberate about including this changing dynamic into your strategic planning.

Dye: The continued breakdown of loyalty to institutions, increased availability of information (whether legally provided or illegally distributed), and the decreasing barriers to freelancing all combine to make desirability a vital quality for top companies. In other words, for the motivated, skilled workers that CEOs want to attract, their top question will be: “Why would I want to work there?”

There are many potential answers to that question, but at the core they remain consistent:

o Meaning and purpose in the work
o Opportunity to grow
o Encouragement
o Sense of power or self-efficacy (as opposed to being a cog)

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Karin and David cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

Link to Winning Well free chapters, free self-assessment, free toolkit, and other resources

Winning Well ecourse link

Karin’s website link

David’s website link

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