236 - When A Leaders Demonstration Backfires - John Laurito

236 – When A Leaders Demonstration Backfires

In this episode, host John Laurito shares his experience of a leader who decided to demonstrate how a task is done but went wrong instead. As a leader, it is good that you want your employees to learn by example from you but be careful of unexpected situations that might push them to avoid the task altogether and not trust your leadership skills.

[0:00] Intro

[0:41] Flashback storytime!

[7:55] A leader demonstrating a skillset builds credibility

[9:25] But show your people a small victory first

[11:48] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large for the last 20 years. Today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic. What makes the best leader so good? Welcome to tomorrow’s leader! 

John All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, when we dove deep on all things leader-related to leading yourself and leading others, I’m John Laurito, your host. So I was taken back recently to a time in my career. I remember this scenario. It was kind of ‘it was a funny at the time,’ I think, but if I look back, I’m like, Gosh, there was a lot of pain involved in this for the guy and that I’m going to be talking about here. So this was a time when we were actually making a transition at Ameriprise to experienced recruiting. 

John If those of you don’t know, recruiting in the financial services industry, we have been recruiting novice advisors, basically people right brand new into the industry, which required a whole certain specific set of skills that we became great at and we mastered recruiting. And it was something I’ve always been passionate about loved and we just got great at it. I mean, we had systems, we had our skills were really high and the company made a shift to now, instead of recruiting inexperienced advisors to only recruiting experienced advisors, which were advisors that were 10 years, 15 years in the industry, already they were at another firm. 

John So now we weren’t selling them on coming into the business. They have already been sold on that. We were trying to find the ones that were great, that we’re having success in another firm, and convince them to leave their company and come work with us. Totally different process, totally different skill sets, totally different conversations, totally different marketing. Everything was different. I mean, it literally was just apples to oranges. So it was really we went back. We were self-reliant achievers and we went all the way back to the beginning. 

John I mean, we had zero skills, very few skills and we were tentative. Our motivation was kind of a little bit apprehensive, you know, I got to say, but we were kind of at the stage of buying in, I would say, where we were more enthusiastic beginners of, OK, listen, hey, we see the payoff. We knew that bringing over these advisors would be a big payoff if we could figure out and do it well and learn the skills which were more than willing to do so. It was a bunch of us and I remember going through our first training on it, first real big training on it. 

John Now keep in mind, when we were recruiting novice advisors, a lot of them were coming out of college. A lot of them were two or three years into some kind of sales career somewhere else. They were just it was a different conversation. They had resumes out there. We were looking at resumes. We’re asking them about those questions. We would call them more times than not. They’d be open and even happy to hear from us or a prospective employer. These men and women were now in totally different positions. These were people that were not expecting our call. They didn’t have a resume out there. They were busy, as can be. They didn’t really have time to talk to you. I mean, it was a totally different approach. 

John So one of the big things is, OK, well, what is this look like or sound like? Like, how do we even make this phone call? We’ve never met this person. We’ve never talked to this person. How do we start this thing off? So I remember we had this training, and the guy who was heading up recruiting at Ameriprise at that time had us in a room and was probably going to say 30 or 40 of us in this room. It was leaders from all over the region and all these different district managers and field vice presidents. And I was running the Boston office, so I had my whole management team there, and he was leading it and walking us through talking us through the whole process. And here’s the script, and here’s what you’re going to say on the phone. And he said, Here’s what I’m to do. I might actually demonstrate this for you. 

John I’m going to make a live call to recruit, and you’re going to hear how this sounds. I’m going to just follow this script. I’m going to go through this approach and you’re going to hear and really witness a live interaction. We’re like, Really? All right. I mean, that’s kind of gutsy. I mean, you got 40 or 50 people watching you and listening to you. This better go, well, I mean, honestly, you know, there’s a lot riding on it. And as you’ll see in a moment, a lot more than maybe even realized. So again, we don’t know what to expect. He makes this phone call and the guy answers the phone, and it could not have gone worse. I mean, he just got battered. And I mean, it was almost I. It was almost comical. 

John He was just it was he just was obliterated on the call by this guy. He called probably the worst potential prospect of the worst potential time. And it was an example of a call not just gone bad, but I mean, it almost got personal. This guy, I remember him saying, You know, who are you, man? I mean, who are you to call me up and you sound like you’re using a script and you’re saying all these things is cheesy things, I mean, why would I ever? Are you kidding me? Like, what gives you the thought that I would even entertain an idea like this? I mean, it was literally stuff like this and this guy. It wasn’t just a quick call hung up. I mean, this guy took this leader. 

John I’ll leave his name out of it just through the ringer and just basically undress them verbally battered and beat him in front of 40 or 50 people. And now this guy I didn’t know he was on speakerphone, but we all witnessed an absolute plane crash. I mean, this thing could not have gotten worse. It was horrifying. It was horrifying. I literally felt horrible for this leader. He was embarrassed. He was mortified. He got off the phone and he is like, Well, that’s, you know, obviously not the way these calls are supposed to go, and that’s really not the way they typically go. Well, too late, buddy. The damage was already done. 

John We already saw very clearly firsthand witnessed a plane crash. We witnessed it now forgot it. We’re not going up on the plane. Oh no, I don’t want to do this. I want to go back to recruiting those novice recruits. I don’t want to do this experience thing. No way. And I will tell you that that could have had a very positive reaction. It could have had a positive influence had that been a good call. It probably would have gotten us more excited. We would have learned what the and seen, what success looks like. We would have been more motivated to take action instead. This just totally I mean, it threw us for a loop big time and it just paralyzed us. 

John None of us wanted to do anything and we didn’t. Literally, the self-talk in my head was, I’m not going to call these guys and we are going to have the same thing happen to this guy. I’m going to have that same type of phone call. I don’t want to go through that. It was massive discomfort and for months and months and months, this was everybody’s self-talk around this. So here’s what I think about, you know, on one hand, I give that leader a lot of credit because ninety-five percent of leaders would never do something like that. 

John They’d never put their skills to the test in a real-life situation for everybody to see without knowing what the outcome was going to be. I give him a lot of credit, right? That’s a risky move. Now, in this case, it did not pay off, but had it paid off, had it been successful, would have been a wild payoff. So I give him a lot of credit and I really don’t discredit him at all. It was just a function of a calculated risk, someone calculated risk that just really went wrong. Now here’s the thing I think about it had, you know, what can you learn from this as a leader? I think number one, a leader demonstrating the skill sets is great. It’s very valuable for people to see you as a leader doing something that you’re asking other people to do. 

John Now you’re not always in that position. As a leader of a large organization, you’re not necessarily always adept at all the things that you have people on your team do. And that’s why you build a great team because you have people that are doing things that you don’t have the capability to do. But as a leader, if you’re willing and able to do those things and you demonstrate those tasks, I think there’s a great opportunity to build some credibility and also teach people how to do that task. So if it’s not you, maybe it’s somebody else that knows that that concept of demonstrating is absolutely critical. 

John That’s a risky maneuver to do it in a live setting like that in one shot where you’ve really only got one shot because he didn’t go on and make any other calls, it wasn’t like, Hey, I’m going to make 30 calls. You listen to them. It was an I’m going to do one. You know, that’s not a large sampling size, right? So you got to really be thoughtful of, OK, what the impact of either one of those successes or failures is going to be massive. If it’s a success, it’s going to be a massive impact because everybody’s going to have good, positive self-talk. They’re going to think it’s they’re going to see the success. They’re going to think it’s actually not that difficult. In this case, they saw the opposite. 

John They saw what failure looks like and it was a big failure and nobody wanted to go down that road anymore. So it actually had some pretty bad consequences. And the leadership lesson I took from that is, listen, you got to show your people in easy, small victory first before you tackle the big, big stuff, give them a win. Because all of this comes down to is confidence, right? If I had the confidence to make those calls, I would have made a lot more of them. You tend to do the things that you have confidence with, right? And you get confidence because you’re good at something. You’ve had a victory with something. So give somebody a victory, show them a little tiny. Win something small, you know, maybe role. 

John Play that phone call and do it with somebody. Tell them, Hey, listen, I’m going to do this with a friend of mine. Just show you how the phone calls sound so you can get to get the flow of it. Maybe it’s not a live one, so it has a little less impact, but at least we get to see and hear what a successful phone call looks like and then work up to something with high stakes like that. But that’s critical. You got to show your team a small victory when I’ve and I’ve turned around many, many organizations and some very dramatic and it’s teams when you’re doing a turnaround, it’s a team that’s not used to winning. They don’t know what it feels like to win. They truly don’t. They don’t know what a victory looks like and how to do it. You’ve got to show them winning is a habit. It truly is a habit that you build and you’ve got to show them that feeling. 

John You’ve got to give them that, that those accolades and that mental, that energy and the confidence that comes from getting a small victory can be something really, really small doesn’t matter. I remember one of the turnarounds we did. We chose to focus on a phone appointment, setting competition that really was meaningless in the long run. But it turned out to be pretty meaningful because it was the first of a string of victories that we had and that began this big, massive turnaround. So you’ve got to choose your opportunities where you’re going to show people a taste. Give them a taste of what it’s like to win at something. Otherwise, they’re going to move quickly into that disillusioned learner phase like we did that day during the recruiting training. 

John So interesting that popped into my head. I’m like, Wow, what a great topic I wanted to share. And again, I’ll keep his name out of it. But I think about him every so often. I’m like, Boy, that was a tough day for him. So and us. But in any event, hope this was helpful. As always, I greatly appreciate your ideas for topics as well as guests on this show. 

John Like Subscribe, you know, the deal? Share and go down below, give a five-star review and I will see you next time. Thanks, bye. 

John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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