A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Jones, Book Publisher and Podcast Host with askjeremyjones.com, asked me to come on his podcast, Ideas and Impact, and share some ideas that can make a big impact on business owners and executives.
Some such ideas we ended up discussing were:
- Why it's a good idea for owners and executives of successful businesses to be the best business philosophers their business has.
- Why they should think about bringing the human dimension back into their business and how to do it.
- How to shift the culture of their organization from dispassionate disengagement to passionate engagement and ownership.
- How they can embark on a journey to be the best business philosophers in their business.
The podcast episode is included below. Hope you find the conversation useful. Please let me know in the comments section if you have questions or anything you would like to add to the conversation.
Here is the podcast episode in its entirety. Also, find the transcript below if you choose to read along as you listen.
"We have put man on the moon and brought him unsafe. We hold in the palms of our hands what used to be a giant supercomputer just 50 years ago. But we still manage our people the way we did when the Egyptians built the pyramids and the Romans build the cities, which is by owning them and using fear to get them to do what we want them to do."
Note: I have heavily edited the following podcast transcript for grammar and clarity while trying to preserve the free-flow feel of ideas in a spoken conversation.
Perhaps, someday, I will speak off-the-cuff as clearly as I can write. Until then, I hope this written text is a useful tool to follow along as you listen to the conversation.
The Single Point of Failure in a Growing Business
Hey everyone, welcome back to Ideas and Impact. I'm your host, Jeremy Jones.
Today we're joined with Bhavesh Naik, and he is an expert in the human element of the organization. He has a very a simple yet very profound view on this. And I love his perspective on how he sees this, that how important the people are to organization.
So before we dive in, maybe for those that are not yet familiar with you, Bhavesh, would you mind sharing just a little bit about your background and the business that you run today?
Sure. Good to be here. I love the way you framed it where you said it's simple yet profound. It's simple, and to me it's common-sense. It just sounds profound because it’s not how we normally manage businesses and people.
I'm a recurring techie. I'm an engineer by background, by education. The first few years, maybe about a decade plus of my work, were basically technology.
I got into doing what I am doing now by accident. When I went to college, we used to study these courses called Humanities, even in the engineering college. Most of us, most of the engineering students, hated these courses. We didn't want to take those courses.
But I was one of these weird kids. I loved the humanities part, the philosophical side of things, the history and culture and those types of things. I loved electromechanical systems and probability and statistics, but I also loved the humanities aspects of things. I'm always fascinated by how those two come together, more so today than ever before. We're now starting to fuse these two very disparate areas and we're trying to bring them together in a very interesting way.
After about ten years plus of my career in technology, I slowly switched over into doing what I do, which is working with mid-sized business owners. These are the folks who have already built very successful businesses, about 20 employees plus. The business is growing, the revenues are flowing, and the customers are ecstatic.
But there is one issue, which is that the owner and the executive team are still heavily involved in running the day-to-day operations of their business. They find themselves in a strange spot where they become the bottleneck. They become the single point of failure in growing their business beyond where they are, where they're getting involved in every single aspect of running their business.
I work with that specific issue, and I have some ideas. I bring them a framework with these ideas - a different way of doing things.
So that's where you and I come together, I think.
Can you identify with this? "The owner and the executive team are heavily involved in running the day-to-day operations of their business. They find themselves in a very strange spot where they become the bottleneck. They become the single point of failure in growing their business beyond where they are." #awayre
Idea #1: Be the Best Business Philosopher Your Business Has
For sure. Yeah, absolutely.
So you had shared with me three big ideas that we're going to go through for the listeners today. And let's go ahead and dive right in.
So the first one you shared with me is if you're building a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating, long-lasting organization, you have to be your own business best business philosopher.
That was one thing that really stuck out to me when we first connected, is you have that on LinkedIn. It's just a very interesting perspective.
So first, what do you mean by that and how does someone do that?
Yeah, why be our own business philosophers or own best business philosophers?
If we go back a little bit, Jeremy, one of the things that we studied in college - I've delved deeper into this and it becomes more and more true - is the fact that we have made tremendous progress in so many areas of our lives as humans on our planet. We put man on the moon and brought him unsafe. We hold in the palms of our hands what used to be a giant supercomputer just 50 years ago. But we still manage our people the way we did when the Egyptians built the pyramids and the Romans build the cities, which is by basically owning them and using fear to get them to do what we want them to do.
And that hasn't changed much.
This is not because the leaders or managers don't know how to manage. It's, because we are all playing from the same sheet of music that was handed down to us from generations.
We went through what they call the Industrial Revolution, at least in America and the west, in about eighteen hundreds, when we tried to codify, systematize and process-ize our management practices.
What we came up with was what they called the modern management theories. We were fascinated by machines at the time. We saw the business as a giant machine and the people who work in that business as parts of the machine.
We did everything that we could in those management theories to take everything out of us that made us humans. That seems like a big statement. But if you think about it a little, the way we see human beings is basically a two-dimensional entity: intellect and behavior.
Agree or Disagree? "We were fascinated with machines. We saw the business as a giant machine and the people who work in that business as parts of the machine. We did everything that we could in those management theories to take everything out of us that made us humans." #awayre
If you look at any management literature, any management books, they don't challenge this fundamental assumption. Of course, we have to strategize, plan, do things like that. That's intellect. And then we have to change our actions and behaviors to get results. That's a machine. That's a robot, right?
So we took out all the other faculties that make us human, emotions, aspirations and things like that.
Because we are playing from the same sheet of music, if we are to get over this problem of scaling a business and building a self-empowered organization, we have to become our business philosophers.
It would be nice if someone was just doing it for us and gave us a better sheet of music. But we don't have it. So we have to become our own business philosophers.
It seems like a daunting task. The images that come to mind are Aristotle and Plato and people like that when you talk about business philosophy.
Business owners don't like to be philosophers. They think that it's sitting on a chair and thinking. But philosophy is much more than that. Philosophy is also actions and other things. So that's why we have to be our own business philosopher.
Yeah, that makes total sense.
Also, if you think of what created the Industrial Revolution, it is an assembly line, which is like workers doing these brainless activities. And because our culture has changed so much, it's not as cut and dry as just having an assembly line anymore, right? It's more dynamic.
Yeah. Our work is knowledge work now.
It's not assembly line work. So, yeah, we're knowledge workers and those principles and practices do not apply anymore.
Idea #2: Bring the Human Dimension Back Into Business
Yeah, exactly. All right.
Now let's go to the second one because each of these points, they do build on each other.
The second one is if you're building a self-empowered organization or team, you have to view people as human beings with their intellect and behaviors. More of the machines which we already touched on. You say that we have to acknowledge their human dimension rather than old management theories.
What is the human dimension?
The 7 Dimensions of a Human Being
I like to see a human being as a layered entity of seven different faculties. And I see them as self-evident. We don't have to commission 1600 PhDs and do studies. We can test it within ourselves, right? I don't know if you do you want me to go through them really quick?
Yeah, that will be great. Sure, please do.
So two are there already. The fundament is behavior, right? We take actions. As human beings, we take actions. We also have the thinking capacity. So those are there.
The third one is what I call energy. Energy is when we wake up, we are ecstatic to get to work and do ABC XYZ. We love just waking up. Or we have low energy; we don't want to get up. This energy aspect of us is something that we have completely, completely ignored.
Then there is emotion. We're afraid of emotions as managers. We've taken them out because we don't know what to do with them.
I often ask people, just think about Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech "I have a dream.” Think about the speech without its emotional tone, the emotional content of the speech. It would completely fall flat. It won't inspire anyone.
Emotion is a very important aspect of us performing as human beings. But we have taken it out of our management practices.
The next one beyond that is what I call identity, which in the psychological terms is called ego.
Ego is this idea that I'm a separate person surrounding my surrounding environment.
Beyond that, we have some wisdom and knowledge that we are hard-wired with in our DNA. We also collect some of these things. We have certain wisdom that we all have that we bring to the table.
Beyond that is what I call the inspiration point. Sometimes we call it awareness. Human beings are the only entity who can see themselves and say, ”Here's me, looking at me.”
Right. Self-awareness. And that is the point of inspiration for everything.
Only human beings have all these seven faculties stacked like this, as far as we know.
This is probably sounding kind of abstract and esoteric, but there are ways to make this practical for a manager in his or her daily management practices.
Yeah. So I jotted down two of them to make it practical to see if I can get some insights from you, because I really like how you break it down into these seven elements that can be measured. Because a lot of times, with like the human element, it is hard to measure that, but it can be measured whether someone feels energized at work or they don't feel energized.
Whether it's emotionally draining or it's emotionally fulfilling. Those are the two that really stuck out to me, because almost more important than managing your schedule and managing your calendar is also managing your energy. I'm a big believer of that, because if you feel completely drained of energy, it's really hard to just push through your day.
But if you have good energy, you can accomplish a lot in a very short period of time.
So with that someone that's leading a team, I'd like you to just pick one of those. You can give some maybe practical suggestions of how they can start to make improvements or recognize that more within their team. Either energy or emotion, because I think those are both very important.
What do you think?
Yeah. Can I take a step back from that a bit? There is a process that I've taken folks through that brings those elements together.
A Simple Tool for Engaging Humans
What I would ask leaders to do is…. They can do this on themselves and they can do it with their direct reports, which is my recommendation… that they do a face-to-face meeting on a weekly basis, or at least on a monthly basis. That they do a face-to-face, one-on-one, at least half an hour meeting with their direct reports.
If you have six people reporting to you, you should do that with each one of those six people.
And what do you do when you do that? What I ask folks to do is to get an eight-and-a-half by eleven blank sheet of paper and fold it in half.
At the top of that sheet, write down the overall context. You can do this exercise on yourself. You can also help someone else do it. You become their coach and you help them do it for themselves.
So if I am doing it for me, I will write down at the top something that gives me a context.
Agree or Disagree? "I like to see a human being as a layered entity of seven different faculties. And I see them as self-evident. We don't have to commission 1600 PhDs and do studies. We can test it within ourselves." #awayre
If I'm a business owner, I will say “My Business” at the top.
And then four questions. So we folded the sheet in half. On the front of that, the first question I would ask is “Why?” Very simple question. Everybody understands what that question is.
The second question below the fold is “What?”
And then we flip the sheet over and we have two more questions. They're both “Ho?”.
The first How question at the top of the back of the sheet is “How: Brainstorm” or “How: Strategy?”
The second How is “How: Plan of Action.”
I have had folks do this with an eight-and-a-half by eleven. I've actually done this in a meeting on the back of a business card. You can just write two lines and you have four quadrants and you do this.
So Why question is extraordinarily important.
If you do this exercise from top to bottom, it brings together those seven elements.
When you ask the question Why to yourself, “Why this business?” it's going to go into… The answers would be something like “Because it's my dream. I want to make the world a better place.” And some mundane things like “I want to pay my bills, I want to be able to send my kids to college, I want to live in a beautiful house, I want to drive amazing cars,” and so on.
Why is important. It brings together the top three things: the awareness, the identity and the intellect.
It does. Yeah.
Although the words we use are the same, among different people, the meaning of them is very unique and very personal and subjective.
So that's the Why question, right?
I ask folks to just write down one thing.
If you're leading an employee through this, you can ask them to do the same thing. Write down at the top of the sheet your job, your job function, and then ask the question, “Why are you here? What makes you show up at work in the morning? What are the reasons?”
Their reasons will be very different from the manager’s reasons, and they don't have to match.
The second question is, “What's your vision?”
So as me, I would say, “What's my vision? Two years, five years, ten years, 50 years down the road, 100, 200 years down the road. Where do I see myself?”
That's the vision, in bullet points. And I always ask folks to write down just one or two things to kind of get going. And once you get going, sometimes you get into a state where you can't stop. You begin to come up with different things.
Agree or Disagree? "The manager and the employee need to come to some kind of an agreement on their vision. My vision of that employee, as a manager, and the employee's vision of that employee have to match." #awayre
Same thing with an employee. I can ask them to write down, “What's your vision for your role working for this company? Where do you want to go? What are some of the things that you're hoping that you would be two years, three years, five years down the road?”
This is an extremely important conversation, by the way. The manager and the employee - they need to come to some kind of an agreement on that vision. My vision of that employee and the employee's vision of that employee, they sort of have to match.
Otherwise we have a conflict, right? If they think that they're going to make $300,000 3 years down the road, and I'm thinking that they can only get up to $250,000, we need to figure out what's the discrepancy there. And we need to have some kind of an agreement on the vision.
And then on the flip side of the page, the question is “How: Strategy.”
This is about some brainstorming, some ideas. How can we make this happen?
For myself, I would say, what are some of the things that I need to do to make sure that my vision is attained with the Why that I have?
And those are ideas. They're noncommittal ideas, meaning that we don't have to commit to doing anything. These are just crazy, wild ideas or simple ideas that could be seemingly mundane.
And then we begin to put the fourth question in, we put together the plan of action.
So we write down one action that I'm going to take today. It doesn't have to be a huge action. It could take 60 seconds. Text someone, or pick up the phone and call someone - those kinds of things.
Or it could be bigger actions. And then we begin to write down what actions we need to take to bring that vision to reality.
This becomes a communication tool between the manager and the employee. It's a very powerful tool. It's unbelievable how simple this tool is. Also unbelievable is how few of the managers that I talk to ever, ever have this kind of a conversation with their employees.
Yeah. It opens up perspectives and paradigms of how people view things. It opens up that communication that just wasn't there before. Right?
Yes. And this process between the manager and the employee won't work if there's a trust issue.
So then it goes into creating a culture or an environment within which people feel safe to bring these kinds of issues to the boss. The boss becomes a different thing, becomes almost a coach or a guide to the employee.
If the trust is not there, they will not share. They will not share some of these things, or they'll tell you untruths. They'll not tell you the truth. And if that's happening, then the leaders and managers need to figure out how to create that trust.
It makes perfect sense. So then once you do that, almost like an audit, you're finding out where people's energy level is, where their emotion is, what their motivations are, what their vision is. It's to open up that channel of communication then, right?
Yes, absolutely. In terms of energy and emotion, one thing we need to do is create a safe environment within which it's okay for them to feel ABC XYZ.
We need to create an environment within which they say, I feel crappy today, or I don't feel right, or I feel ecstatic, or whatever. And it's okay to feel that.
Now you probably say, okay, what if you are talking to customers? Certain emotions may not be appropriate, but they at least need an outlet and a manager or an environment within which these kinds of conversations can happen that allows you to air them out or talk about. Otherwise, they're going to go somewhere else and do it.
And that may not happen the way that the managers want it to happen, right?
I'd rather have it happen in front of me.
So energy and emotion, they are tied closely together. They also apply to recruiting. I don't know how much time we have today, but one of the reasons why people don't have energy is that... and this is one of the other things that is completely ignored…
The Consultant Who Revolutionized Quality in American Manufacturing: Dr. W. Edwards Deming
In this conversation, I mentioned a "process, quality consultant" but could not think of his name. That consultant was the legendary W. Edwards Deming.
You can read more on Dr. Deming, his work and his ideas here: Deming the Man
Applying the Engagement Tool to the Recruiting Process
When we hire people, we hire them based on their skills and certain things that they bring to the table in terms of their know-how.
And that's mostly behavior and intellect.
We don't look at their temperament; we don't take them through a process like this.
I've taken the same process and also made it a recruitment process where you can have this kind of a conversation with the candidates. So that you can look at that person as a whole person with all their dimensions, and you can flesh out whether or not they are the right person for the job.
Not just the skills, but also the temperament. A lot of us, probably 50, 60, 70% of us actually end up taking jobs and getting degrees that is really not a fit for our temperament, who we are and what our wisdom and what our hard-wired-ness is.
So energy is a function of these kinds of things. We hire the wrong people. We don't give them a place to air out some things that they need to air out, have a conversation where they can go within themselves, deep within themselves, and talk about some things without fearing that they can be used against them.
The biggest key that I see happening there is that's really smart. What you've done is, rather than waiting six months a year down the road of an employee that gets more and more and more discontent with the role they're in, to get proper expectations of the team member and then proper expectations of the team leader to find a match there and doing that in the recruiting or enrolling process of bringing a team member. You're identifying that early on, right?
Even before they come on board?
Before they even come on board, yeah.
Yeah. There is a fellow by the name of - I don't know if the name will come to me - but he was a consultant. He was an American who was in Japan because the Americans wouldn't accept his ideas at first. He's a quality guy, process, quality guy. The name will come to me in a minute. But he basically used to say that most of the problems in a product can be traced down to the beginning of the product, when the product was being conceived.
I can see that.
We've done the exact same thing with our hiring process. About 80% to 90% of the time, when you have employee issues, they can be traced down, traced back to the time that we hired them. We didn't hire the right people in the first place.
Agree or Disagree? "Energy in employees is a function of two things: 1) We hire the wrong people, and 2) We don't give them a place to air out some of the things that they need to air out, have a conversation where they can go deep within themselves, and talk about them without fearing that they can be used against them." #awayre
Idea #3: Shift Your Organization's Culture from Dispassionate Disengagement to Passionate Engagement
Yep. That makes sense.
All right, perfect. That that was very, very helpful. I appreciate you sharing the different elements and then how to look at that for the proper expectations. Makes a lot of sense. Let's go now to the final third big idea, and that is when you shift the culture of your organization from dispassionate, disengagement to a passionate engagement and ownership. Do you mean like, they own the role, right? So talk about that one.
Yeah. So ownership is basically emotionally feeling attached to the role that you've taken on.
The idea here is that if I'm having these meetings with my employees one-on-one, I need to give them the place and space, safe space where they can talk about what is it that makes them tick about that job.
And once again, we should be doing this on a weekly basis or monthly basis so that we are coming to this place where we're talking about Why are you here? Why am I here? So it's a heart-to-heart conversation and staying in touch with that.
So it's an emotional ownership of the function that they're filling. When they connect to that with their heart and with their awareness, soul, spirit - however you want to put it - when they connect to it fully and own it, they become engaged.
And then it goes into delegation. Although I think most of the stuff that we talk about in delegation is, I don't know how to say it, but it's wrong. Most of us either abdicate the role or we micromanage, but 80% of the delegation happens somewhere in the middle.
Basically, we either have a James Bond who is just going rogue and doing his thing and says, “Don't manage me,” or someone who needs micromanagement.
But we need to strike a balance between the two.
So the ownership basically is emotional ownership. This is my job, my role.
The same process, by the way - the Why, What, How and How - same process allows us to do this.
And something else...
If you're a bigger company and if you've got six employees working under you, and then those six people have six under each of them, we can also coach them to do the same to their employees, to their direct reports.
And that's how we build the culture.
So it starts with me, the leader. I give them a safe space to be talking about their job and their work from this new perspective. And they're doing the same thing with their direct report. And when they do that, we create a culture of openness and being safe and talking about things that matter to us most from the depth of our humanness.
Agree or Disagree? "Most of us either abdicate the role or we micromanage, but 80% of delegation happens somewhere in the middle." #awayre
The Transformation Framework
So, other than that, what other kind of tips or advice can you give? You gave a great one with doing a regular one on one. What other sorts of communication tools to keep a really healthy open communication line?
Yeah, there's a four-step process that I've shared with folks. Let me see if I can get it right: Assess, Organize, Engage and Activate.
And you can put "re" in front of each one of these words.
If you've been in business for a while, you can Reassess, Reorganize, Reengage and Reactivate.
Assessment is very simple. In about four or five functional areas of an organization, what we can do is give ourselves a rating of 0 to 10.
Most businesses will have four or five functions - Sales and Marketing, Product Development, Customer Service, Operations, then you have what I call LIFT: Legal, Insurance, Finance, Back Office Support Systems, and Leadership and management.
In each one of these four or five areas, we give ourselves a rating on a zero to ten scale and be honest with ourselves.
You can do this with the team as well. This is a great thing to do in either all hands meeting or even departmental meetings. You start the meeting with this. It's a great opener. And you do it for five minutes, ten minutes, and then you get off that topic and you do something else, whatever the function of the meeting is. We assess our company in these functional areas.
Then engagement is what we talked about before with the sheet and those four questions.
Activation happens when the behaviors are taken after all this. Because then the behaviors are more meaningful.
Go through the four again, real quick? Assess. Was that the first one?
It's Assess, Organize, Engage, Activate.
Yeah. That's great.
Or you can also call it Re-assess, Re-organize, Re-engage and Re-activate.
Yeah, I love that.
That is excellent. Well, we are at the end of our time here. We covered so much.
How to Start Your Journey to Being Your Own Best Business Philosopher
I think you have a really unique genius that a lot of our listeners will appreciate. It's kind of like an engineering look at things as a whole organization. But such a simple perspective on that human element that just cannot be taken out of an organization, because that's what an organization is. It's a group of people working together.
So it's a very unique perspective that you have on it. So I appreciate you taking some time to share some of these insights with our listeners. I know it will be very helpful. What's the best way if someone wants to connect with you online? Maybe follow what you're doing or reach out to you for some support in some way? What's the best way to connect with you online?
My website is Awayre.com. Awayre is spelled with a Y. It's a-w-a-y-r-e dot com.
If you visit that website and go to the top right corner, there's a button called “Start Here.”
If you press that button, it takes you through some of these assessment processes that we talked about.
It'll ask three questions and then help you assess some parts of your business, depending on what role you play. I think that's the best way to get started.
Excellent. Well, I appreciate you, again, being here and sharing a few insights with our listeners, and I know it's going to be very helpful. So thank you.
Thank you for having me on the podcast, Jeremy, and I felt like we were a bit all over the place. I was all over the place, because it's hard to talk about. We can do a two-hour workshop just on one of these ideas - there's so much to it. I hope I didn't overwhelm the listeners.
There's a lot of elements to it, and you did. You shared it in a concise way. So thank you.
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, good stuff. All right.
For all of our listeners, thanks for joining us. Here today. We'll link up Bhavesh's website and some other resources that we have on the show notes for this episode. You get those by going to ask Jeremyjones.com. Click on podcast and you'll see this episode. It right at the top. Thanks everyone for joining us and we'll talk to you next time.
Bye for now.
"We see human beings as a two-dimensional entity: intellect and behavior, basically as a robot. If you look at any management literature, any management book, they don't challenge this fundamental assumption."
Conclusion: How to Build a Self-Sustaining, Self-Perpetuating, Long-Lasting Business Organization
Owners, Presidents, CEOs and executives responsible for managing a team of business professionals often have to get heavily involved in running the day-to-day operations of their business. The result is that, without intending to be so, they become the single point of failure in their business and the biggest bottleneck in the future success of their business.
If you can identify with this phenomenon, there are 3 things you can do to create a self-empowered, self-sustaining organization that can last a long time:
- Be the Best Business Philosopher Your Business Has: The bedrock of today's management philosophies has its roots in the Industrial Revolution era from the 1800s that treat humans as robots. When you are your own best business philosopher, you can craft a new template that allows you to bring the missing human element back in your business management philosophy.
- Bring the Human Dimension Back Into Your Business: When your business philosophy views your people as human beings, it can fully leverage their gifts, talents and wisdom in achieving extra-ordinary results without the owners and executives to get involved in running their businesses.
- Shift Your Organization's Culture from Dispassionate Disengagement to Passionate Engagement: When a business organization fuses the human element into its organizational culture, it can build a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating organization that last generations.