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Hiring and Developing Better Leaders with Martin Lanik

BLP Lanik | Leadership Development

BLP Lanik | Leadership Development


There are so many different models of leadership and there are so many different solutions out in the market. Martin Lanik, CEO of Pinsight and the author of the business bestseller, The Leader Habit, says what makes their process different is the realization that traditional classroom-based leadership development just doesn’t work. They focus on 5-minute daily leadership exercises that build positive habits. They work with organizations to help them hire better leaders, and then to promote better leaders to identify the right high-potentials that they should invest in and to develop them to prepare them for executive positions. Martin shares some effective leadership behaviors you can practice to the point that they are your second nature.

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Hiring and Developing Better Leaders with Martin Lanik

We are in Downtown Denver with Martin Lanik. He’s the CEO of Pinsight and the author of the business bestseller, The Leader Habit. I had the good fortune of getting a copy before it was released and finished reading it. Martin, thank you so much for taking time to be on the podcast.

I’m happy to be here. Thank you, Bob.

Martin, if you would tell us a little bit about your business and who you serve.

I run a software company called Pinsight and we focus on leadership development and leadership assessment. We work with organizations to help them hire better leaders and then to promote better leaders to identify the right high potentials that they should invest in and to develop them and prepare them for executive positions and work with those high potential as we are developing them.

I’m paramilitary so the leadership model was pretty understood and taught and so on. What took you down the path of working on leadership and developing solutions and applications to help?

I have a background in Industrial Organizational Psychology. I have a PhD from Fort Collins from Colorado State University. I started very early on in my career focusing on leadership and leadership assessment and then development. Then I worked as a consultant out of Pittsburgh and London working with global organizations, helping them with their leadership strategy. When the recession hit, I identified an opportunity. I thought, “There’s an opportunity here in the market where you can take all the really good parts of general leadership programs and then streamline them so they become much more cost-effective and scalable globally. That’s how I founded Pinsight.

Let’s make leadership as natural as brushing your teeth.
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I think about the folks that are listening and they’re going, “There’s a number of leadership programs with one description or another.” It’s really module-based inside the book where you could go through and try to do some work with big topics and work your way through, what led you basically to the thought process to start chunking it for lack of a better term?

You are absolutely correct. There are so many different models of leadership and there are so many different solutions out in the market. What makes our process different is the realization that your traditional classroom-based leadership development just doesn’t work. This was actually why I decided to write the book. Several years ago, I came across an article in the Journal of Consulting Psychology that shows that American corporations year-over-year are now spending more and more money on leadership development, to the point that it was about $14 billion in 2012. Our general confidence in leadership is actually decreasing. There’s a negative relationship. We end up spending more on leadership development, but we are less confident and our leaders. Then I started thinking, “Why is this happening? Why are we producing better leaders despite all this investment?” What I realized is that majority of leadership development programs really focused on knowledge. They focus on different theoretical models of what good leadership should look like or maybe personal experience of some wonderful leaders. That does not translate to behavior change.

BLP Lanik | Leadership Development

The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead-in Just Minutes a Day

I started looking at the research on behavior change and more specifically habits. How do people develop habits? How do they adopt and internalize behaviors to a point that they are automatic? They do them without thinking. For example, like making your bed in the morning or brushing your teeth. You just do that automatically. You don’t even think about it. That’s the whole point behind my new book, The Leader Habit that you practice these effective leadership behaviors that we found through our research and you practice them to the point that they are your second nature. You just do them automatically. You don’t even think about that.

Let’s say I’m a big picture leader, but I’m a horrible detail leader. Everybody goes, “You’re really good at vision and whatnot, but you fall off the cliff on the detail execution.” Inside the book, you went through some exercise there. Could you walk us through that?

The first point I would say is you need to be much more specific. What does it mean from a behavioral standpoint? When you say that you’re not a detailed person? What is it that you’re actually not doing that you should be doing? An example that comes to my mind is, for instance, with delegations. The way you are delegating may not be the way that’s effective and successful to use delegates. We can then pinpoint very specific behaviors. For instance, we found throughout research of about 800 leaders around the world that what effective delegation looks like. Effective leaders, when they delegate, they for instance, match the project to the skill. This could be an example of why somebody might describe you as not detail-oriented because you just throw projects and tasks at people without thinking about this and do they have the right set of skills to be successful with this project.

There’s a series of exercises that you do on a repetitive basis that you talked about.

That’s exactly how you internalize it. Think about how do we learn new behaviors? How do we learn to play tennis or football or play a musical instrument? We practice on a daily basis. If we go with that example of delegation for instance, you could build an exercise where five minutes a day when you delegate or when you make the decision to delegate, you write down what are the two most important skills that are necessary to complete this project. Then you rate the employee you are thinking to delegate in a project to on where they are maybe on a scale of one to ten on those two skills. If you practice this for 66 days, you internalize it. After about two months, you’ll notice that you’ll automatically, the minute you think, “I should delegate this project to Tom over here,” you start thinking automatically. What are the skills that are needed to complete this project and is Tom ready to do it?

You’re an exchange student, yes?

Yes. I was born in Slovakia. Back then it was actually Czechoslovakia. I was actually a student in high school and I ended up in California. It was one of those things where I finished high school, graduated and then I figured, “I’m having a really good time here.” I was a teenager living in Northern California. I’m going to just try here for college and see how that goes. Another year of college and then graduate school and the next thing you know, it’s been eighteen years.

I think about for everyone that are here, 66 days, why not 72 or 58 or some other number?

That’s what the research shows. The popular belief that you might probably have heard about it is 21 days. That’s how long it takes to build a new habit. When you actually look at where that estimate is coming from, it’s coming from a claim that a medical doctor made in the 1960sand he said that it takes a minimum of 21 days for people to get used to change from plastic surgery. It’s very interesting how this became the popular belief that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. When you actually look at the research literature, it takes on average 66 days for people to internalize and new behavior to a point where it becomes automatic and they don’t even think about it.

That would explain why the people says 30 days is all it takes. They do it for 30 days and it doesn’t stick. That would explain that very well. Let’s say that there’s a company and they’re listening to this and we want to do some leadership development in our company. What should they expect if they reach out to you or they go to Pinsight?

It stands for People Insight. Just combine those two words and that’s how we arrived with Pinsight.

What should they expect if they were going to do some leadership development using the tools that you bring there?

We always start with an understanding of the company strategy. Any leadership behaviors or any change in leadership behaviors really needs to support the strategy of the business. We ask executives generally, what are the two to three most important strategic initiatives for you? Are you’re trying to grow revenue? Are you trying to increase customer satisfaction? Are you trying to increase the engagement of employees? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? From there, we translate that into leadership behaviors? We have research that tells us, if you are looking to increase operational efficiency, it takes this type of leader and these set of skills. If you are trying to grow revenue or building products, services, it takes this type of leader and these set of skills. We round the critical leaders through an assessment. We place them in a simulation and this actually grew out of the military, this approach. We place them in a simulation for half a day and then we observe what skills, what habits they already have. What makes these simulations different so it’s not just watching videos, you’re interacting with live actors. You are really placed in this fictitious company.

We think of it as a Harvard Business School case study come to life with these live role play. You might have an angry customer calling you, an underperforming employee calling you that you need to coach, maybe you need to do a presentation for your board. It’s very much real life and that’s the key behind these assessments. It’s not just the questionnaire or survey that you fill out. We are actually testing you and testing your skills in a very realistic scenario. That helps us understand what are the leaders strengths and what are their development. Then our software develops or designs very specific development plan for each leader based on this assessment so that you’re closing the gaps that are necessary for them to achieve your business strategy. We have an app that is based on The Leader Habit book. The app gives you daily exercises that you practice. As you are practicing these exercises, it actually tracks your progress so it works like a FitBit. Maybe you started at about 50% when you took the simulation assessment, but now you’ve been practicing for two, three weeks and you see that you have actually improved by 10%, 15%.

Any leadership behaviors or any change in leadership behaviors really needs to support the strategy of the business.
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For the companies that engage Pinsight, initially, what’s the tipping point for them to take in and engage Pinsight?

Generally, it’s changes, big changes in the business. It could be a new CEO coming on board and needing to understand, “Do I have the leadership team to help me take the company where I want to take this?” In other words, “Do I have the right people on the bus?” That’s one of the key questions we get. An organization realizing that most of their executives are retiring in the next two to three years, that’s another big trigger. General fed up or disappointment with the leadership programs that they have in place and they want to try something different. Maybe their leadership programs are feeling stale. They are looking to refresh them and that would be another trigger when they generally come to us.

If you’re coming into an organization-wide need, the assessment that you mentioned were there are role, is role play necessarily brought in or can be driven by the software that you have?

It’s all driven by a software. We have a software application that delivers all of this online so nobody travels anywhere to take the assessment. Even with the live role plays from their home and office, we bring the role players through webcam to them.

The role players are used to playing difficult customers.

That’s all they do. That’s their job to be a difficult customer.

I think about the company and the folks that are listening and you’re looking for practical transformation and not just, “Everybody read the book.” What are you getting on feedback after these companies are going through with this process?

We actually do research and launched general research, so we track the leaders over time. First of all, the assessments tend to be about 250% more accurate than job interviews that managers do, which makes sense when you think about all the biases that we have as people. When we’re interviewing people, when we’re deciding who should be the successor or who should be promoted. Then from the development standpoint, most people tend to improve their skills in about two months. You see that there is a visible behavior change that happens in about two month’s time.

I’m a company CEO and I’m listening to the podcast and I go, “I’m interested.” What’s the process for the CEO? Then does the CEO get a compiled report? What’s that process like?

As far as the buying process, we would do a demo and then we would identify the need, scope of the project and then it goes from there. From an implementation standpoint, that analytics is really one of the most valuable things. The most unique and exciting part about our software for me, is that I can see very objectively on a dashboard, the skill set of every single leader in my organization, but better yet, I can see how much they’re improving on a daily basis. I have access to the real-time data of the skill set of people on my bus.

You can tell whether they’re playing or not?

Yeah and who’s serious about their development.

I’m thinking about the software and thinking I’m about the CEO as they’re doing the review. Let’s say the organization has progressed through and everybody’s moved up to speed. What’s the biggest behavioral change that you see from the CEO now that he has this database at hand?

I wouldn’t necessarily say behavioral change, but it is more of a comfort. More of the ability to make better decisions around the people side of the business. You know as a CEO what are your key objective and what you need to achieve. The thing that keeps most executives up at night, I found is just having the right people to do it because you know that you can do it on your own. Especially in large organizations, you need fellow leaders and executives to help you achieve those goals. It’s the ability to have the right set of analytics, the right set of data to make informed decisions around having the right people, the right places to help you achieve what you need to achieve.

Is there a common weakness in organizations or do you see just distributed weakness there?

What I usually find when I do succession planning projects when you do this around the world, is that oftentimes when you put a group of leaders through an assessment, you found that the ones who have been picked as the official successors are usually the ones who are the farthest away from being ready. There tends to be these diamonds in the rough that the company has been overlooking. This process helps them identify those people that are really better fit and requires small investment and can be ready sooner.

Are you finding this as driving behavioral shift in succession planning?

It’s driving conversations and driving revaluation of the succession plans. They are really looking critically at why have we selected these people and what are the biases that came into this? What are the internal politics? They appreciate a much more objective, unbiased way to make these decisions.

How long has your company been around?

I founded the company about eight years ago.

The software came before the book too?

Yes. The several previous versions came before the book. It is last year that we’ve released the new platform of our software that also now includes a whole development solution. Previously, before that we’re focused on the assessment side. Clients where often asking, “We love the data. We can make the right decisions, but what do we do now?”

If there’s a prototypical size of a client whether it’s employee or revenues, is there a prototypical client that serves best?

We usually work with organizations that have at least $100 million in annual revenue and up. Some of our bigger clients are AIG and CenturyLink but we also worked with some mid-sized organizations.

BLP Lanik | Leadership Development

Leadership Development: It’s the ability to have the right set of analytics, the right set of data to make informed decisions around having the right people.

You have employees everywhere. Your clients are also international, correct?


You’re in Europe on a regular basis?

Yes. I was last year and almost every other month.

Do you find the acceptance rate different overseas than domestically?

Not necessarily. We work with organizations all around the world and that is really the benefit of having a virtual company and running a virtual online solution. For instance, with one client, a new CEO came on board and very quickly they needed to assess 300 executives around the world so that the CEO could understand what kind of skill set was on his executive team. With the previous, they got a brick and mortar assessments that wouldn’t have been possible, but with a software solution you can scale it very easily. Another exciting part for me is that you can streamline the process and be much more efficient if you play with the time zones. Previously, when I worked as a consultant, it took us about two weeks to get the results of that assessment back to the organization, to the CEO. Now, is a 24-hour turnaround.

I think that would play so much to be able to decide instead of waiting to decide. Also the drawback is you don’t have time to work on it when the data comes back.

Yes. When you are especially in hiring situations, if you find the right candidate, you want to move. You don’t want to sit around and wait.

If you’re a small organization, a handful of employees, you’re the CEO of a small organization, would this be appropriate for the CEO trying to take in broader skill set?

Yes, absolutely. We worked with some nonprofits and small businesses as well and usually they are of course smaller scale projects that focused much more on development.

I think to shift gears here a little bit, this is the point where I actually quiz you to death, which just sounds depression or immortal. For you, with is your book coming out, what would be another book that you’ve read or maybe most influential book that’s altered your perception on being a CEO?

Of course the classics come to mind that Jim Collins, Good to Great. I very much like the books by Heath Brothers like Made to Stick. I think that was their first one, and then Switch. As a psychologist that was one of the probably most influential books that I have read in the past ten years. I would say those three probably.

I was thinking as you were talking, as a psychologist in consultant, in the business, helping businesses manage and lead better, how has that affected you because you’re assessing?

I founded this company straight out of graduate school. It has been quite a journey of just learning how to be a leader and how to run a business myself.

Different than academia.

Yes, very much so. Previously, I was a professor in Psychology and in the business school as well. I can tell that it really helped me. Writing about these models and talking about this research in leadership, I think you develop this special where I wonder if it’s almost detrimental, but you tend to analyze everything about what you’re doing. You analyze, what did I say? What did I do? Is that part of the effective leadership library that we identified or not? Where could I improve? You constantly just think about this.

Looking back over your career in forming the company, what failure or perhaps at the time apparent failure has served you or your company best set you up for the achievement that you have now and why?

I will answer this question different. It wasn’t necessarily a failure. It’s more of a false expectation. I think when most entrepreneurs start their business, there’s this great excitement about how wonderful their ideas and they expect overnight success. We read about these stories of the garage startups that are multi-billion dollar companies in just five years. As I reflect and that’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately quite a bit, is it doesn’t really work like that. You don’t read about the ten years of sweat and late nights and disappointments that happened until the general public or somebody start noticing this business. That’s when it becomes an overnight success, but you don’t hear about the ten years that went into it. That’s one of the things that’s been on my mind and I think it’s the lesson that I’m starting to internalize right now.

You have the veterans of today. If that veteran of today could come back and talk to the rookie that was you, starting your business, what advice would you offer to them that rookie to cut a year or two off the journey? Is there any advice you’d offer?

This is one of the advices that I give to our clients as well and that is don’t focus or don’t obsess on the results, the outcomes. What I realized, this is a story from my friend Rob who is a big basketball fanatic and he told me about Coach Don Nelson, if you were into basketball. Coach Nelson was really loved by his players because he would never tell them, “Just go out and win.” What he would tell them is focus on the behaviors we’ve been practicing, and if you do them really well, good things will happen.” I think that is what I will tell myself and that’s what I keep telling myself even now. That’s what I keep telling our clients, is don’t get discouraged, don’t get obsessed by the outcome, by the end result. Focus on the journey, focus on doing the right behaviors because if you do them and do them well, that’s when success will happen.

I think there are a couple of coaches down in South Eastern Conference Football World that talk about every played does their part really well and the rest works well.

It’s about behaviors. At the end of the day, that is what we can control. You cannot control the economy, you cannot control market shifts, but you can control your daily behavior. That’s what you should focus on.

Don't get obsessed by the outcome. Focus on the journey. If you do them well, that's when success will happen.
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I think about that in the innovation space. If you’re controlling your behavior and you’re in an industry where there’s an enormous amount of innovation so you could be innovated out of your market niche, then as a behavior, what would you recommend a company do that’s in one of those climates where they could be taken out by a latest development?

There are several extra behaviors and innovation that we discovered in our research over the years. One example would be celebrate experimentation. Don’t shut down ideas, but get in the habit of celebrating. If somebody proposes the idea, a new idea, a different idea, even though your first reaction might be, “Let’s just stick with what we have done because we know it works,” learn to celebrate it. That’s how innovation is going to happen. You have to start accepting new ideas. You have to experiment with those new ideas otherwise, there’s no innovation. That comes later. Just get in the habit of not shooting any ideas down, but really celebrating them.

If you could take and put an ad on page one of the local paper, either here or in Europe, your company message or advice, what would it say and why?

I would say invest in the people, invest in making them better leaders because at the end of the day, that is what can make or break your business.

What struck me about that, let’s say I’m the CEO of the organization and we’ve gone through the process and everybody knows where they stand and then they started making this journey, what do you notice in the behavior of the participants in the company?

There’s the behavioral change in themselves. If the person is not good, for instance in motivating employees or coaching their employees, you’d see behavior change in that regard. I think more exciting for me is to see that people learn a new way how to develop their own skills. There’s a mind shift from, “I’m waiting for HR to send me to a course and then I sit through a course and then miraculously come out a better leader,” or “I read a book and then now I have better skills in coaching or influencing.” It’s a shift. It’s a realization that any success comes from hard work and it comes from daily practice and it comes from laser-focus on particular things that we need to improve. This process in The Leader Habit is very intuitive. We do this in sports, we do this in musical education, all around, but we don’t seem to do that in leadership education.

Thinking about the businesses out there and the average person, where do you think the average person nonmilitary leadership training from?

The research shows that about 30%tends to be genetic. Some people were lucky than others in that regard, 30%. That still only 70%. It’s life experiences. When you think of habits as essentially ingrained automatic behaviors, we pick them up unconsciously.

You think they mimic previous employers?

Early on, they started mimicking their parents, their teachers, key mentors, their managers as well.

They could pick up bad habits as well as good habits?

Yes, exactly.

It’s an ongoing conversation that I have with many in whether it’s quality employee pool to hire from or they have a challenge with the leadership profile. When we have an organization and then the conversation stops, you’re going to go, “We’re not really exactly sure how to promote and improve and train in some measurable and meaningful way.”

We don’t think generally of leadership as a set of behaviors. We still tend to think of leadership as something magical that just happens. I think it’s going back to that myth of overnight success. I think we have that in leadership as well and that’s a problem. As long as we subscribe to that philosophy and we are now going to see behavioral change because success in business or in leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It actually takes hard work, experiences.

That’s what the good public speaker, people are saying, “They were born a public speaker,” rarely as a public speaker just born as a public speaker, formal training, high speed coaching.

I’ll tell you an interesting story that I’m very related. I very much enjoy the TEDx videos and I was thinking about being a speaker and submitting a speech for one of those. I got in touch with a person who was running one of the TEDx events and we had a brief phone conversation just to understand the process. I was absolutely shocked when he told me that they spent about nine months rehearsing the presentation with a coach. At first, I felt cheated because when I was watching these videos without knowing anything, I thought, “These people are just walking on these streets. They’re absolutely brilliant. I’m fascinated by what they have to say.” Then when I heard that actually no, it was really hard work. Nine months of really hard work that went into preparing that fifteen-minute presentation. What I found fascinating was my first reaction of that feeling, “This is cheating.” It’s not cheating. It’s hard work. When you put in the hard work, the results are really positive.

My story is in the military, I debrief a lot and growing up in the South, speaking slow, accent and my first boss had me rehearse, Larry Snyder. He had me rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and it was just like for days to do the pitches properly on briefing military staff. You got to the point where it almost didn’t matter what happened. You knew where you were, it affected the output. For you and the company, what is the best allocation of either time or initiative that’s helped you or your company most and why?

I will answer that from my personal perspective. I think this is what any small business owner, a CEO, founder of a small business struggles with and it’s the operation, especially strategy. That tension I think it’s always there. You have the daily issues and problems that come up and employees that need support and clients that needed support, but then you also have to set the vision for the organization. You have to be clear on the strategy, the direction that you want to take it, and that’s one of the things that I’ve been working on a daily basis. How do you really reconcile the shift and how do you dedicate time when you are focused on the strategy and the direction of the business?

I’ve had this conversation with many, the diversion between in the business versus on the business.

I haven’t heard that, but that’s a very good way to describe it.

 BLP Lanik | Leadership Development

Leadership Development: Success in business or in leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It actually takes hard work, experiences.

You think about the day-to-day and there’s this and that, the meeting and the scheduling and the employees and all that other stuff and then you good, “I’ve got to shift gears, put on my strategic hat,” and now, we’re do I want the business to be. I think about the struggle, talking about the on business struggle. That’s book two.

That would actually be a very good title for it.

You think about the course differential. There’s a CEO I know in Downtown Denver. He said that was probably one of the bigger shifts for him a number of years ago as we said, “I went from billing to be on the business.” He said 70% of my time now spent on it instead of in it. It’s been a watershed moment for them. Of course maybe that has to do with delegation, somebody you can trust so you can be on instead of in it.

I’m going to look at it from the perspective of leadership skills. You need to be able to have comfort in the operations and you have to have the right people there and you have to be able to delegate to them really well.

It’s interesting, years ago, in the military, I was working for some senior officers and there was the command process and you’d have all the G staff level guys that the division come up and they would have plans A, B, C and D maybe, and the commanding general would go, “I’d like part A and part of C and that will allow him to step back from the minutia planning and get a bigger picture of what he could do. That’s really formalized in that environment.

It’s a very good strategy to mitigate risk as well.

As long as you surround yourself with people that don’t say, “Yes.”

You also need time to prepare those plans. That’s when the vision and the strategy comes again, is you need to be able to separate yourself out from operations to dedicate time to creating plan A, B.

If you don’t have the time, you’ve got to be able to train to react and have the muscle memory. If I was to ask somebody, what’s your most unusual habit or what others may consider out of the ordinary that you or your company most?

I’ll tell you what people will generally tell you about me and that is not giving up. I don’t know where that came from. You might call it even resilience. I’m thinking about what does that actually look like from a behavioral perspective? That ability to not to get discouraged when things aren’t going the way you want them to go and then be able to change your thinking, look at it from a different perspective and keep going. I think it’s one of the habits that really helps with my business. What you said about 85% of new businesses fail in their first three years. I completely understand why, living through that.

You have a notion of I’m going to get to work for my own business or work for myself and I’ll be in control and you go, “I don’t know what I was thinking.” I think about so many of the business folks out who are there just tenacious default. Put your hand on the back which can go, “What’s good about this?” There have been many books written about pivot and the fail fast, which I’m going on about that. Your previous comment, where your advice to your younger self, it’s the process.

It’s the journey. With anything in life, there is no arrival. There is no ta-da moment when you say, “I’m here.” It’s always a journey and there is always something else around the corner.

Over the past few years, what belief or protocol have you established in your company that has most impacted you or your company’s success?

Focus. I think if there is one thing that’s behind our success, it’s the laser-focus and not get distracted.

Here we are. We’re in a big company meeting by teleconference because they’re everywhere and our guys were going to focus. What does that look like? How do you communicate focus?

Let me explain what I mean by that. What I mean by focus is that being very clear on what is our core business, what is it that we’re doing and what is it that is we’re not doing. It seems simple and you hear a law about this at again, a lot of books about that but to internalize and to really start thinking about this on a daily basis and asking yourself, with every decision as is part of our core business or not? Being able to say no when it’s knowledge or finding ways how to outsource it, move it out of the business so that it’s not really convoluting your operation.

Not everybody’s your client.

Not everybody is your client. Not every leadership methodology is our solution. Not every person that we like is going to be an employee. That’s why I have one more and this comes from The Lean Start, Eric Ries that really spoke to me as a scientist. The whole notion of looking at every single thing in the business as a hypothesis that needs data collection, needs evaluation before you move on to the next one. Then when I combined these two philosophies, so you have that focus, you have to hypothesis, you need to have a very focused hypothesis in order to evaluate.

To prove or disprove.

The smaller you keep it, the quicker, the smaller each hypothesis, the quicker you can prove it or disprove it.

Which is back to your data collection from Pinsight?

Yes, exactly.

What advice would you offer to a new CEO that’s assuming the role of CEO for the first time and why?

Thos various CEO, I would say just get a very clear understanding of the landscape. You got a very good understanding of the people because you cannot get anything done in the business if you don’t have the right people on board. If they don’t have the right skill sets, probably, again, something that we hear over and over, the people really are the most important part of it.

With anything in life, there is no arrival. It’s always a journey and there is always something else around the corner.
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Let’s dig into that a little bit. Let’s say you just got put into the role of CEO of a large company and you’re aware of Pinsight, I have this tool. I arrived here, I said, “Before I do anything, I’d like to have the whole organization go through this process. Have you seen that happen or would you recommend it?

Not the entire organization, but definitely the top executive team and then mid-level leaders. That’s where the biggest impact usually is. If you don’t have a solid executive team then you cannot have a solid strategy because that’s their job and if you don’t have a really good mid-level leadership team, then you can take whatever strategy you create and translate into operational reality because you don’t have the people that can take the strategy and make it happen.

For new CEOs, it might not be a bad toolbox.

I would recommend it.

What are the most common misconceptions about you or your role as CEO?

You mean from the perspective of employees?

I think so. People say, “You’re the CEO, therefore.”

You’re the CEO therefore you should be involved in everything or aware of everything. That’s one of the common ones. I’m sure as many listeners can relate to, you get sucked into all these different detailed problems that you pretend to be interested in. That is another habit. I think that would be one that you need to know about everything or you need to be informed about everything, but I think that’s also a habit of the CEO is just being able to say this is how much information I need to know and you can run with the rest.

Looking back over the past few years, what would or should you have said no to and why?   

There are definitely several clients and accounts over the years that I look back and say, “We shouldn’t have taken that business.” I can see those signs, but usually it’s projects where there’s not really buy end. It’s really driven from the C-suite as projects that are largely driven by HR or organizational development. If we’re known working for the C-suite and for operations and projects are generally not successful.

Leadership has got to get behind it.

It’s about leadership. Who sets the tone for leadership? The CEO.

In the day-to-day operation of your company as CEO, what is your personal habit or self-talk dialogue that keeps you and the company focused?

It’s always asking questions. Is this part of our core business and then having clarity on that. I would say that’s one that I do repeatedly. I do that not only to myself but also in all the meetings. When I meet for instance with the head of R&D. We talk about the platform and what’s new on the horizon, I always bring the question. Is it part of our core business or not? I think the other role is really acting as a coach and mentor and helping people get comfortable and help them to grow in the company. Get back to the operations side. If my leadership team is successful and has the right set of skills, that frees me up to focus on other things like the strategy and vision that I need to be doing.

For folks that want to find you on social media or reach out to you, how do they do that?

I have a profile on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Those would be the true best medium.

Is there a quote that you find meaningful that you use frequently?

There is one that is very popular at Amazon. I’m thinking so that I don’t mess it up. It says, “In God we trust, but everybody else needs to bring data.” That I think speaks very much to my background as a scientist and I think it’s just really good decision-making. We don’t make business decisions based on that I think, you think. We collect data and based on that, we decide.

If colleagues were asked what your best at, what would they say and how do you utilize this particular strength on a day-to-day basis?

I would say asking questions. That would be one of my best strengths perhaps. Being able to ask the right questions to quickly get at the root cause of problems. It has helped not only in decision making and problem solving, but also in helping people to grow. Very quickly being able to identify what are the strengths of different employees in the organization, different people, and then asking the right questions to help them think through the problems that they are trying to solve. That ability to define a problem and identify its root cause I think would be.

BLP Lanik | Leadership Development

Leadership Development: We don’t make business decisions based on that I think, you think. We collect data and based on that, we decide.

Martin, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking time. I’ll tell you guys every day in Colorado looked like. We have about a 270-degree view on this building. I can see Pikes Peak to the South. I could see the Front Range. It’s all snowcapped. We have a bluebird sky. There isn’t a cloud anywhere.

It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful place to be.

For those out there in the leadership space and they’re looking for some tools to try to take in and teach and move leadership through their organization, I would recommend The Leader Habit. It’s worth the time to read and I would take a look at Pinsight if you’re trying to do some assessment and train your folks. Martin, thanks again.

Thank you for having me.


About Martin Lanik


BLP Lanik | Leadership DevelopmentPinsight was founded by its CEO, Martin Lanik, whose leadership-development solutions have received awards from Chief Learning Officer and Brandon Hall. Martin’s solutions have been utilized by over 100 of the most recognizable corporations (including AIG, CenturyLink, Coca-Cola, Henkel, and Kia) and have helped thousands of leaders in 30 countries build stronger skills. Martin has written numerous articles and book chapters and is the author of The Leader Habit (AMACOM, April 2018), in which he shares the surprisingly simply 5-minute exercises that can turn anyone into an effective leader. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences and has been quoted in media outlets around the world. Martin holds a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology from Colorado State University.

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