344 - People, Process, and Performance with Rico Pena - John Laurito
Episode 344 People Process and Performance with Rico Pena Tomorrows Leader Podcast with John Laurito

344 – People, Process, and Performance with Rico Pena

As a leader, do you know how to help others succeed? Do you have what it takes to not only create processes but also to lead leaders to become successful? In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks with a visionary and the President of Pena Global Consulting Group. They talk about how the pandemic brought about more leadership opportunities for A players, the importance of knowing your leadership type, and more.

With over 25 years of experience working with individuals, businesses, and Fortune 500 companies worldwide, Rico is a dynamic consultant, facilitator, author, and business development specialist. He works with executives to define, hire, train, and develop high-performing teams and high-net-worth business models. He combines innovative business strategies, Tactical Behavioral Science the latest technologies to guide companies to achieve productive and profitable growth. He is bilingual and a former Marine author as well as a multi-award-winning, minority-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned business.

Rico has trained, facilitated or presented in six continents and to over 100,000 people in the last 15 years.                   

Where to find more of Rico:

[0:00] Intro

[1:45] How someone can succeed as a new leader

[5:29] On figuring out what type of leader you are

[9:59] Six characteristics of a great leader

[15:59] On being adaptable as a leader

[20:29] Paving success when you promote someone into a leadership role

[27:41] The best places to find Rico Pena

[29:20] Outro

Get a copy of “Tomorrow’s Leader” on Amazon.

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

John All right. Tomorrow’s leaders. So today on the show, I’ve got Rico Pena. Rico was introduced to me by close friend came highly recommended. I met with this guy. I’m like, wow, I have got to have him on the show. He is the founder of Pena Global. All the info will be in the show links, show notes rather. And Rico and I talked about all kinds of stuff that I think you’re going to find really interesting from Hey, you just got promoted. How do you make it successful? What are the six critical elements of being a successful leader? We also talked about adaptability. He shared some examples and stories. Really, really cool stuff. You’re going to like this. Here is Rico Pena. All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. I’m John Laurito, your host. I’m here with a great guest. As you heard, I’ve got Rico Pena. Rico, thank you for joining us today. I’m excited to pick your brain on leadership.

Rico Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

John Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, so much that I love to talk with you about, but I know there’s one thing you and you and I were chatting a little bit earlier about the common types of questions or requests or things that are brought up to us that people want to learn more, more about. And I know you do a lot of work with in next gen leaders, and this is a common issue. You’ve got that leader that was recently promoted. I know there’s a lot of listeners out there that are saying, Oh, this is a topic I want to hear about that were recently promoted and in some cases they’re now leading over their colleagues, that they’re the ones that they were colleagues with. Now they’re in a leadership position. I’d love to get your perspective on how somebody succeeds in that, what your advice is to that new leader.

Rico Absolutely. Because of the pandemic, so many key people were promoted or rose to the top. I see a lot of organizations finding where do we put our top performers? The assumption being because you’re a top performer, the next step is leadership. And for most cases, that is true. The challenge is that top performing to the performance that you did individually in that job doesn’t translate to a management or leadership skill. Add the complexity of you’re now leading the people you are in the trenches with, and that transition can be challenging. And I don’t think too many organizations are thinking about how do we improve and develop this new leader that has the capacity and the ability to do so in the right place with the right team. They spend more time training them on products and services than leading people. So one of the key things that we have found that works really well is to better understand first and foremost, what type of leader are you and in what culture are you leading in and what do I mean by that? If you are an employee or anything, you know, there are different types of leadership style and either you are influenced by it or you are kind of pushed away from it. And you have to determine from your point of view what is my leadership style. So we work with our our new leaders and understanding your communication style, your how you make decisions, what are your priorities and values that are going to position you as a great leader. And those are things that are not being taught when they get promoted because the challenge is how do you separate from that was my buddy. We used to go out to lunch every day to now I’ve got to listen to what they say. And the number two thing about that is having honest conversation with those team members to identify what is it they’re looking for and expectations. And then what is your own point of view? How do you see improving? Because you do bring a great perspective and that is you’ve been there. You know what the reality is? It wasn’t like someone came out of nowhere and has taken over a position. But this is new and there has to be a transition. And the only way to do that is open and honest conversation, finding where the gaps are, collaborating with your team, but also for them to understand your values and your direction and our lines as a value to them.

John Mm hmm. That’s a great point. And I think there’s there’s naturally there’s a lot of discomfort with that because of of just okay, I don’t want to I don’t want to suddenly become this different person. So you bring up a great point is is understanding and really figuring out what type of leader you are, what your style is. Talk a little bit more about that. I mean, how how does somebody kind of find that? Because I know from for myself it took a lot of years to figure that out. I kind of felt like I was an imposter. I was trying to be somebody that I really wasn’t. It took me a lot of years to finally get to the point where I felt like I knew who I wanted to be.

Rico Well, I think you hit it right on is that there is this assumption that if I’m now the leader, I got to know everything. I had to be correct about everything. I’ve got to have an ass on my chest, whatever that may be. And what we work with is how to identify who you are as a person. You were promoted for a reason. And one of the first fundamental questions I always ask is outside of the title, outside of the money, do you really want to be here? Right? Do you think you need to be here or are you afraid? Are you going to let the company down? Or you might lose your job if you don’t take the position? Be honest with yourself. I have a saying here by Thomas Watson senior that I keep on my computer. Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself. You’ve got to start with yourself, being honest with yourself. If this is not a position you really want, have a conversation with your boss. And I find that more often, I’d say about 40% of the time they were promoted because of their performance, but they were much better suited to being left where they are and setting standards and training the next generation because that’s where they were better. Too often we lose top, top talent because they were promoted too quickly or put in a position. They just didn’t have the capacity to do that. It doesn’t make them a bad person or person doesn’t have skill. It’s just a different career path. So imposter syndrome is real and it’s something that definitely needs to be addressed. But imposter syndrome comes from the assumption I need to be something before I can validate why I’m here. So that’s why I asked the first question Do you really want this position? What motivates you to be in this position? Is it money? Is it the title? Is it the ability to grow? Is this in alignment to your future? Until you start to answer those questions, which took us years to figure that out and get comfortable with, then you are doing your team a disservice because you’re pretending to be something you’re not. Mm hmm. And leadership. There’s three way if you think of a pendulum. There are three things that are going to occur when you’re put in a decision making environment as a leader, a new leader. You’re either going to be comfortable in that position and making accurate decisions with integrity that people can follow. You’re either going to collapse and say, Oh my God, what am I doing? Which is in-depth imposter syndrome in a sense of I’m not good enough, I don’t know why I’m here. I got to pretend or posturing. You’re going to be like, that’s that loud voice, stressed micromanager that is trying to control their circumstances because they don’t want to be exposed. Mm hmm. And most of the reason is because they didn’t take the time to understand. What is it I expected? Do I want to be here and how am I going to do this efficiently? Mm hmm. Well, great. Great leaders are not afraid to ask for help. The understanding is a collaboration in your job is just to emphasize the vision and protect your team so they can accomplish their vision of their life in their career.

John Mm hmm. You said something a few minutes ago that really I’m going to circle back to, because I think it’s so important, the assumption that a leader knows everything and has all the answers and how important it is for a leader to recognize that’s not the case. It’s okay to let people know that you don’t know the answers and you don’t have all the solutions. And I find the best leaders are ones that really do as you say, ask for help. They leverage other people. They ask the great questions. I mean, they’re really asking and listening with the intent to do something with those answers. And if nothing else, have a leader came in with that perspective. And also, I just want to listen and I want to hear and I want to ask questions and I don’t necessarily need to be the one doing all the talking because so many times we’re in meetings and the leaders, the one that’s running the whole meeting. Right. And taking up the whole meeting. But it’s really about asking great questions. What would you talk about? And I love this the six key characteristics that you look at as being these are characteristics of all great leaders. Can you go through that a little bit?

Rico Sure. I learned this when I was in the military and how to lead teams in very dangerous situations. And that’s why I learned that you don’t need to know everything. But what you do need to know is the skills and abilities, talents of your team. And as a leader, you put them in those positions to thrive because you’re naturally good at that. And one of my sergeants sort of positioned this in a way that always resonated with me. And it’s one of our foundational pieces that we work with leaders on. The six six key things are communication skills, emotional intelligence, the ability to make clear and confident decisions, being adaptable, leading with integrity, and in learning how to inspire and motivate your team. Those are the six key things. And if you think I have a little visual here, leadership when you first start starts like this, that’s a lock, right? Mm hmm. Do you see that?

John Yeah.

Rico And this is a clear lock and underside. There are six pins, and we are job is to identify which one of those pins are you’re familiar with. And which one of those pins do you need to work on? The more you work, then you have the key that allows you to unlock your leadership potential. And that is what those six steps are. So communication is critical, but something you just pointed out is the most important form of communication, how to ask questions. So as leaders, there’s a lot of spotlight on you. Well, great leaders make the other person more interesting than themselves. You want to be more interested in knowing, acknowledging, understanding, because you need to understand where is that person better suited to thrive and succeed instead of you being interested. Look at me on the new leader. Mm hmm. When we talk and that leads into emotional intelligence, emotion dungeon is the ability to develop your self-awareness. Where are you? What am about to say, and how does that going to affect the other person? Can you really put yourself in that other person’s shoes and understand their point of view? In order for us to change our point of view, we’ve got to change our point of reference. And that means their point of reference. Do I understand where they’re coming from? Mm hmm. And when you have those two balance of communication emotion. Intelligence. You cannot build trust. You can now improve how you make decisions because they trust you and where you’re going because you have taken in consideration their abilities. So leaders who make confident decisions. When I was on the battlefield with my team, I knew each and everyone’s abilities, how they interacted with each other and their times. I let some of my team members lead because that’s what they were good at. Mm hmm. I just had to be clear what our mission was and how to best deploy our skill, our talent and our team in an efficient manner to be able to accomplish the mission. More importantly, bring everybody home. Mm hmm. That was the overall concept of leadership, which then it becomes more adaptable when you have confidence in your team. They have confidence in you. You can communicate clearly why we’re doing it. Where are we going and what impact you will bring. You can put yourself in their shoes. Now, it’s a lot easier to be adaptable because you have a team behind you that is willing to adapt because you’re listening to creative ideas, innovation, suggestions, adjustments. You don’t have to be the one with all of the answers. Mm hmm. You just need to work on this. What’s good? What’s bad? Where does it go? Towards the big picture. But that’s where integrity comes in. This is why I always start with that question. Did you want to be here? Why are you here? What’s important to you? Because without integrity, it’s manipulation. We have to have the integrity that what we’re doing is in the benefit of the organization. But also each member of that team. And if you can’t define your own values and in alignment to what’s important to the team, putting your team first, then it becomes self-serving. Mm hmm. And that’s going to seep through. Your team is going to see through that. And that’s where conflict, struggle, toxicity comes in. Mm hmm. And if you don’t have your integrity, you can’t motivate your team. Now, I’ve had the experience of leaders trying to motivate by fear that is short lived and inevitably blows up. Mm hmm. So those six key things, if you’re listening right now, if you think about where am I good at, but what does this new role require me to get better at? Your output is directly related to the input of that skill. Mm hmm. So if you know your communication skills, your social skills, you’re maybe not as good at connecting with your team. Well, what can you do to improve that? It is a skill, after all. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. You may not be good in a group, but you may be better one on one. Mm hmm. So who in your team is better with a group that can communicate your message effectively while you still have one on one conversations, or even vice versa?

John Mm hmm. I love that so much. Great stuff. There we go. So one of the things I want to dive into a little bit is, is adaptability, because that means different things to different people. It could be adapting to different social styles, it could be adapting to different circumstances. It could be adapting your leadership style, your decision making. Kind of a two part question and not to put you on the spot here, but what how do you look at being adaptable? But is there also an example that you can share with the audience? Like, hey, here’s an example of what I’m talking about with a leader being adaptable?

Rico Sure, adaptability is the ability to not focus on yourself, focus on the environment, the person in the circumstance, so that there either the goal is achieved or the best outcome is achieved, not in your modality, which is that integrity, but overall. Right. That’s where that clarity of communication is important as to what is the end goal, what are we trying to accomplish and then why is each person’s individual actions important? Once that’s clear, then decisions become easier. But Murphy likes a show and rears its ugly head and the unexpected happens. So adaptability to me is the ability to confidently and clearly determine what is the best course of action without changing the end goal, without sacrificing teams, without sacrificing standards. Is readjusting the direction or how we get things done? And I have a great example of that. I worked with a client who was an entrepreneur, a successful chiropractor, and he got tapped to be a president of a really big chiropractic college. He’s an entrepreneur by nature, and that’s why they asked him if he’d be willing to take this role. The school was in challenge. It was in trouble. They needed someone who was more of a business mindset instead of an academic, which is what they had previously. So of course, this individual walked. In and goes at it as an entrepreneur would. What’s the problems with the challenges? What are the issues? If we don’t reach this certain level of revenue, we’re we’re bankrupt, in essence. The challenge was he was walking in from a very analytical, direct, result oriented mindset as an entrepreneur would, into a complete academic environment. Slow down. Let’s look at the information. You know, let’s look at long term. How are we going to make these changes? Changes are not something they’re comfortable with. So he kept hitting a wall. And again, the more that clock starts ticking, the more issues they are. So when I walked into the door and I worked with the executive team, I recognized this these two divides of academia and business and entrepreneurship. And I had a conversation with the CEO and said, you need to adapt how you communicate now that your directions around your delivery and for them to see why you’re doing what you’re doing and what it means to them. And really when you pull that down, as the academic side was more concerned with their legacy and their quality of the education is what separated this college from anybody else. The CEO never related to that. He was trying to solve all the main problems so we could stay afloat. Justifiably so. So he adapted his communication style. He adapted the how we’re going to get there. And he adapted from telling to listening. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And even though the mission was still survive and bring the school out of problems, the approach was adjusted enough so that everybody was on board. He helped everybody to motivate, and it took about three years to finally get it to where he wanted to. But now he’s one of the more proficient speakers. He notas the school loves him because he quickly adjusted his natural ability, his natural sense of success and results to adjust and adapt to the culture and the people he was leading. And he actually found that he got results faster and more efficiently without him thinking, I have to have all the answers. And that was a great example of how we adapt, because there’s a greater purpose in yourself. But adapting to what does the team, the organization, need to still accomplish that goal?

John Love it. Great, great, great example. I want to I want to circle back a little bit to another topic, and it has to do with what we were talking about earlier with that new leader that’s getting promoted and all the uniqueness that they’re dealing with and how to succeed in that situation. What about the leader that is promoting someone? What can they do to pave the way for success? What are some of the things that they can do and what are some of the things that they shouldn’t be doing of the mistakes that you might see leaders make when they’re promoting somebody into a new role?

Rico That’s such a great question that is not being asked enough. The biggest mistakes I see is that most top performers or individuals that are promoted are based on a very few criteria. Either they’ve met their numbers and they have some experience of success in the role and a position is needed. So they want to hire and promote from within. So they look for who is doing the best job that we would like to duplicate. And hopefully they get other people to do what they did. So it’s either numbers or years of experience. What I do an analysis of the role and I look at what does the role really require to be successful. There’s a lot of key criteria that whether it’s h.r. Or the executive or the managers not considering the environment that they’re going to be in as a leader. There’s a lot of different pressures. There’s a lot of other challenges that come with the role that were not existing. If they were just in their position, they’re there, say it’s sales or customer service or whatever it was that they were performing. And they’re not providing any training and education to elevate the talent. So just because you have talent doesn’t mean you have the skill. Talent does not equal skill. Talent means you have a natural aptitude for something. Skill is the ability to execute consistently to an end result. So the skill is not being developed. So what is that person? Do I want to do what I did to get here? And I’m going to expect everybody else to do that. Creating that friction. The next thing I need to look at is what is the people they’re going to lead going back to what type of. Leader does this position need? Does it need to be a very result oriented? A very technical, outgoing and relational or more collaborative in nature as a whole? What resonates the most is going to get the most out of that team. Mm hmm. And third, what are the key responsibilities for that role? Why was that role created for and not how does it affect the overall organization? Are they some new skills that that individual is going to need? Instead of learning on the job, they should be putting through training in those three key elements? So as a leader, what’s the environment? Who are the people? What are the new responsibilities that are going to be required? So think of the job first. What is the criteria? Pace, environment, people and skill. Mm hmm. And then match that to who you’re considering. How many of those skills are they naturally good at? They have displayed in their job? What are some skills that are going to require a little bit more hand-holding or training or development? No different in hiring someone. They go through an onboarding process. They go through a training process, maybe a shadowing process to make sure they understand our way of doing things, what is our standards, and that the learning curve is. SHORTEN It’s no different for leaders. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I always argue with leaders that you always put people and performance improvement plans because is it the last resort to get them to improve? Well, if you took that same level of detail, planning and accountability at the front end for leaders, you’re setting them up for success.

John Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Exactly. That’s such a great point. You know, and it’s funny, I as you’re saying that, I’m thinking, wow, that’s absolutely the case. I see. There’s so such a a lag in in the leadership that’s needed to develop someone in in reality, it’s got to be proactive from the start. I mean, what is what are the areas that this person needs to develop in and and really in order to succeed in that role, but also prepare them for the next roles and beyond. It’s that point where you feel like and as leaders, a lot of organizations, what what is the plan and what are you doing to develop leaders in turn? I mean, many organizations don’t have one. They don’t have anything that they’re doing other than somebody just kind of learning on the job, which is almost like a pilot learning how to fly plane with passengers on board. That’s you don’t do that.

Rico So and that’s a great analogy. I mean, say you’re a pilot, right, And you’ve never flown a plane, but they put you in a in a front, see going, okay, take off. Right. Where’s the manual? Right. There’s a reason you had to have hours in the sea to get better and better and better. The same concept here. So I tell a lot of organizations just start with developing a career path. Mm hmm. You start here if you want to get here. Here’s all the standards and criteria you must meet. So you’re already developing that mindset. And the individuals who want to do the work have a plan, have a guide, and they will stand out above everybody else. But you almost say three quarters of the way already there because they have been preparing. Mm hmm. Every position should have a succession plan. And that succession plan should have standard operating procedures and criteria to get from one point to the other. It helps people know that if I do these things no different than college, right? You have to have certain credits and certain classes to graduate. Mm hmm. This should be no different. Between position to position, people have more clarity, they’ll have more confidence and they’ll give you more because they’re working towards a greater purpose. Mm hmm. And when they get there and you give them better training, because this is our standards. Now that you’re here, you’ve met the criteria. Now we’re going to help you develop even further. They can see a future in your organization. You won’t lose as much talent. You’ll get so much more creative out of them and more loyalty from them because you are investing in their future, not just managing by a number. Too many organizations are defining the value of each person by the number they’re bringing to the door. Well, why else with an employee or any team member see any other value other than the number that you’re bringing in? Mm hmm. So instead of just the PNL sheet or the quota or the goal for revenue, what are some behavioral KPIs you can create to create a well-rounded employee that wants to be there? Mm hmm. You know, every value should be a verb. It shouldn’t be your poster on a wall.

John Mm hmm. Great stuff. Really? Really. Terrific stuff. Rico, I appreciate you joining us today. I know we’re sure time. I know a lot of your audience is going to want to engage with you and find out more about you and what you do. What’s the best place for them to do that?

Rico Absolutely. So there’s a couple of ways. I’m on YouTube. You can join me on the panel Global on Twitter and Instagram, also in Opinion Global. You can you know, if you want more information. We spend ten years developing a lot of these processes that have been great for Fortune 500 companies. It’s on my book. It’s Not Business as Personal can find it on Amazon or Panya Global BNA Global dot net. Reach out to me. I’d love to have a conversation with anybody.

John Excellent. And I know on your website you get a lot of free stuff. Everybody loves free stuff and you’ve got great free stuff. It’s really valuable. On emotional intelligence and and disk profiles and assessments and all kinds of stuff. So absolutely, I was having fun checking it out. Excellent. Well, we’ll we’ll have all that in the show notes. Rico, thank you very much, honestly, for joining us, sharing your wisdom today. I hope you come back at some point in the future. There’s a whole list of topics I still want to cover with you. So keep in touch and we’ll make that happen.

Rico This was fun. I had a great pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on your show and I look forward to having you on our show.

John I love that. Well, we’ll make that happen. Definitely.

Rico Absolutely. John, thank you so much into your audience as well.

John Thank you, Rico. And thanks all for joining us today and today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. We’ve been here with Rico Pena. All his information, all the links are in the show notes. Be sure to check him out, his organization out, incredibly impactful leader and organization. And you know the deal, go down below, give a five star review like share, subscribe, all that kind of good stuff. And we’ll see you next time. Thanks.

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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