Preserving capital and enhancing value for your company is paramount. That is why there are people like Dr. Stephen Long who exist. In this episode Dr. Long, the Founder and President of Motere Consulting, teaches us how he goes about with his Strategic Execution method for making teams and companies more successful. He introduces and breaks down the two elements that he uses – management assessment and management development components. With these methods, he promotes not only teamwork but also identifies risks. On the side, Dr. Long also talks about potential and shares some of his significant leadership-related experiences in the military.
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Management Assessment And Development: Behavioral Analysis Method For Growing Teams with Dr. Stephen Long
Our guest is Dr. Stephen Long. He’s the Founder and President of Motere Consulting here in Colorado Springs. Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to come by and be a guest on the show.
It’s my pleasure, Bob. Thanks for having me.
If you could, tell us a bit about your business and who you serve.
I’m the President and Founder of Motere Consulting, which is a performance enhancement firm that helps manage risk, preserve capital and enhance value through management development and management assessment services. I built a predictive model of human performance and leadership while I served as the Head of Performance Psychology in the Human Performance Lab at the Air Force Academy. The model has been successfully applied to business, athletic, academic, military and artistic performance. My business clients average 115% improvement in financial performance on average with a zero-failure rate. Basically, it’s a data company.
For the business owner that’s reading, I could do with the 115% improvement on pretty much anything at any time. If I’m that business customer and I go, “What is it that I should expect if I hire you to come in and evaluate my leadership team and my company?” What should they expect?
You’ve got to learn things about your people that you don’t know about them. Basically, what my behavioral analyses do is it’s a shortcut mechanism. Particularly with the clients I serve, what they find out in two to three weeks would normally take them two to three years to find out. And they usually find out under dire circumstances.
I’m your prospective new client and I’m getting ready to do whatever or I’m trying to hire and you come through the door, what time frame should I expect and what steps do you take to go through and arrive at a conclusion?
There are two elements. There is the management assessment component and the management development component. The management assessment component and what I’m doing there is I measure the behavioral factors of Strategic Execution. Strategic Execution is simply the ability to execute the strategy. There are some strategies that are better than others. There are some managers who execute strategy better than others. When you put a good strategy with a good manager, that’s when you blow the doors off.
You had the visionary versus the operational person?
You can combine the two. I don’t do anything with strategy. All my degrees are in education. That’s what the MBA is to determine as far as what to do. What the research has found is that strategies only deliver 63% of what they promise. Let’s say you got a proposal for $100 million. Lock that 30% or 40% off right from the start because at best they’re only going to get $60 million to $70 million. Then you combine the inability to execute strategy and it goes down significantly. This is where people don’t understand as far as what they should do because it’s what I call the Strategy Execution Paradox. When things go south, how do you know what’s at fault?
If it’s the strategy, how do you know? There are strategies out there that Jack Welch couldn’t execute, but there are people who screw up the best strategy possible. They simply don’t have the execution skills to pull it off. What my behavioral analyses do is basically empower my clients to determine which lever to pull.
We were talking a little bit beforehand about the case studies and maybe some examples, whether it’s an individual who is trying to come in and buy a company or whether it’s a new business owner or an HR department trying to evaluate a company. You had some case studies, maybe talking about a case study would paint a picture in the mind of the audience.
I would think probably one of the better ones is in succession planning. I was engaged to work with a candidate for a CEO position of a $300 million ESOP. The current CEO was charged with identifying three external candidates and three internal candidates. To be honest, because it was an ESOP, chances were they were going to go with an internal candidate. He was highly regarded in the company because he was a candidate. He had a seat on the board, but sometimes having a seat on the board — and a lot of CEOs out there will understand this — if they had some rough waters with their board is that sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.
The board was not interested in him as a candidate. He was third out of three and a distant third out of that. We ran the behavioral analyses, found out the strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and blind spots. We worked on a few issues. Not only did he become a better leader, but he started doing his job a whole lot better. He was offered the job and that’s a good thing but it goes more than that because once he was offered the job, he grew the company from $300 million to $400 million. He expanded the company. He went international and grew it to Europe, Canada and Australia. He grew the company by 25%! They (the board) would’ve never have predicted that. Our service has two different things. One, it helps identify risk factors but also, it provides data to establish a learning plan.
If you want to lead and manage others, you have to first lead and manage yourself.
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When you talk about the risk factors, in this instance, what risk factors did you identify?
It was impulse control. He would spout off in a board meeting about whatever came into his head. I gave him a tool and he brought the tool into the board meetings. He would have it on a piece of paper. He went by it. He transformed himself right in front of their eyes. He became a different person. He became a different leader and the board started seeing him in a different way.
For him, if it’s from here to there, the impulse on your commentary, what was the transformation in him when he started using the tool and the recognition factor that he had that it made a difference?
When I give a keynote, I say I have a magic trick.
Did you bring it?
I improve performance simply by talking to people and I talk to business leaders all the time. You talk about the cost as far as whether it’s IT or cultural transformation. The investment they have to make and see what comes on the backside of that. I talk to people. No chairs have to be moved. No desks have to be moved. You don’t have to get IT involved. Performance improves by me talking to them and by talking to me they change how they think about things. They change how they perceive the situation and they see the situation with greater reality.
That must be an interesting conversational technique to go into a disparate group of skill sets in a company, in different past agendas to be able to go in. Do you interview them in a group setting or do you interview these people individually?
What’s a typical time frame for an interview like that?
It’s not an interview. Once they supply the data, I aggregate it and generate the behavioral analyses. I then share the behavioral analyses with them, show them what they’re good at, what they’re bad at. From that point on, it’s up to them. They have full control. They dictate the pace. They dictate the direction. If they want to start out with strengths, okay. If they want to start out with weaknesses, okay, but if they want me to take the wheel, then I take the wheel. I say, “This is where we’re going to start.” They’re in control. The model that I’d built consists primarily of two things. It’s the assessments and the development aspect. The assessment component are comprised of psychological inventories and behavioral analyses.
It’s important to understand this — particularly for the audience — is that the biggest problem I have in my business is following people who don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of them in my business. When it comes to psychological inventories, the first thing that I ask about, “Is it valid? Is it reliable?” If it’s not, those tests aren’t worth anything. I’m sure you’ve heard of Myers-Briggs. They fail to meet the scientific standards for validity or reliability, but it’s the most popular and most widely used psychological instrument in the world. That’s the problem that I face. I only use valid and reliable instruments so that the data I get back is valid and reliable. When I share the behavioral analyses with them, they say, “That’s accurate. I didn’t know that about me.” I said, “All the behavioral analyses are a mirror.” I’m holding up a mirror. That’s all they are.
Whether you want to see it or not.
When it comes to M&A advisory in private equity firms and succession planning and things like that, there’s a certain degree of risk with a manager or management team. In an M&A private equity situation, what are you buying?
Intellectual properties are an enormous part of that?
You have the business. Every private equity firm has these smart guys. The fact is the guy down the street with his private equity firm can add just as well as this guy. What do you know about the management team? That becomes the stumbling block. What are you buying? If you don’t know what you’re buying, are you really serving your investors? I’m basically able to tell them what the risk factor is with this management team.
It’s interesting when you talk about the risk factor. One of the key tenets when you’re looking is how do you de-risk business from a buyer’s eyes? You go through and you say, “Here’s the balance sheet. Here are the contracts. Here are all the standard items, balance sheet and so on.” He’d go, “Do you have a CEO? Is the business transferrable? Is the owner of the business or not?” You’re going in and go, “Pass that point on the surface. You have a CEO. You can transition. You have all the C-suite filled out. I can look at all the other parts, but you’re doing a qualitative analysis.
No, it’s quantitative.
Quantitative analysis of the leadership team, looking for gaps and trying to de-risk that.
We identify what the risks are. There are always risks. Depending on what the market is and how valuable the product or services, how tight the market is. These are all things that the buyer or seller has a complete understanding of that I don’t know.
The M&A guys are pretty good at looking at that. There’s something in specific niches. They know it well. I think about the a-ha moment when somebody goes through and says, “I got all that. It looks like everything else.” You go, “I’ve got this management team. Is it a blue one, a red one or a green one?” What shade of that do I have and where’s the gap? If you have a gap in the leadership team when you look at a highly quantitative analyzed team versus maybe a mid-level team, what do you think the multiple differences on by price between the two?
That’s hard to tell. Within that 63%, I can get it closer to 100% but it has a lot to do with the quality of the product or service, the intensity of the competition within the marketplace and the talent of the manager and management teams themselves. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap. If they’re garbage, I’ll make them better. It still may not be enough to handle the multiples that you bought this by because they’re all paying ten to fifteen times above EBITDA. They’re under extreme pressure to get the returns for their investors.
When you’re utilized by a private equity M&A firm for the first time and you get done, what’s the typical commentary by the private equity team after you come back and go, “Fellas and ladies?”
We thought we’d take a flyer on you. We had no idea this could be the result. I’ve been in this for a long time. It’s no different than sports. I coached football for a long time. You look for talent. It’s a talent-based business. If you don’t have the horses, you’re not going to win. It comes back to strategy and talent. When you have good talent, you have a sound strategy, many times you still don’t win. What else is it? I go into what people would call the intangibles and I make them tangible. I identify what those qualities are and I put a number next to it. Nobody else is doing it. That’s why they’re intrigued by it but most of them don’t believe it until they get into it. There’s another phenomenon afterwards, they’re like, “No one knows how much impact he had.” There’s a causal relationship there. The relationship is strong because there’s no other intervention being implemented.
If you’re a data guy, being able to go through it and go, “What do you mean you can’t quantify the differential because you brought the data forward?”
I do a pre-test and a post-test. Performance is complex. There’s no cause and effect. There are relationships. All I say is like in sports, there are seven different ways to enhance performance: strategy, technique, weight training, conditioning, injury rehab, nutrition and psychology. The fact is you cannot separate psychology from the strategy. Basically, what I do is I help people put those puzzles together. The client is the person who pays me and that can be anybody. The subject is the person I’m working with. What I’m trying to help them do is become aware of how they work best because most people are either unaware or they “think” they know. They end up pushing a rock up the hill. When they get done with my program, not only are things easier, but they’re performing at a much higher level. It’s one of those things. They would have gotten there at some point, maybe three years, five years, ten years. All I do is expedite it.
I think about special athletes have a team of coaches and they go, “You have a finite period of time in the athletic arena and would you like to accelerate your progress or not?” When you go into an organization, what’s the typical push back from the team that’s in place at the company?
Everything is fine. In my sponsored ad I said, “If you’re satisfied with mediocrity, I’m not your guy. If you want to be great, this is something that people who want to be great check out.” It basically comes down between a growth-oriented mindset and a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford wrote a book maybe several years ago called Mindset. She basically explained everything that I’ve been talking about for many years. The only thing that I find as a profile attribute who’s a suitable candidate is people who have a growth-oriented mindset. The people who have a fixed mindset basically say, “I can’t get any better. This is basically what it is.” Those people are going to be stuck in the sand.
People who have a growth mindset, they will continue to grow and then they’ll realize that this is a different approach. It’s a unique approach. Once you exhaust all your other options and you’re still not making your numbers or you’re somewhat dissatisfied or you have that growth-oriented mindset and say, “I wonder if I can still get better.” That’s when people usually give me a chance. For the most part, one guy is going out on a limb and says, “I want to bring him in.” There are two or three others who are looking sideways and go, “If you want to do this, go right ahead.”
I think about doing what you did will get you where you are. It reminds me of the s-curve, you plateau at some point. You go, “If we kept doing it the same way, we’re going to keep getting a similar outcome.”
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.
People who have a fixed mindset are going to be stuck in the sand.
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You think about how you take and adjust that mindset. It’s a willingness to go, “I don’t have the answers to all of them.” I’m willing to hear some hard truth. Circling back when you were working with military and so on, using this tool and assessing whether it was cadets or military ops teams or whatever, were you surprised at some of the outcomes that you found when you were doing the assessments?
No, not when I was doing the assessments but as far as the results, when cadets started doing better academically, that was the, “Wait. What?” moment. I’m like, “They improved their GPA by a full letter grade and I never talked to them about academics. They applied what we talked about within their sport. They applied it on their own. The cadets started coming to me when they were about to graduate or after graduation. This is not a middle management program. This is for people who want to be great. These guys want to be commandos in the Special Forces or they wanted to be F-16 pilots. They would call me and say, “Doc, I’m in this program and it seems like I plateaued. What do you got for me?”
We were talking about situations. Before that, I was the director of the Peak Performance Clinic at the University of Kansas. I had some similar results, but I wasn’t there long enough to build a model as I did at the Academy. It was similar in that, not only, academics and athletic performance but also relationships. Things like that were getting better. They were just managing themselves. There’s self-management and there’s relationship management. One of the things I learned was that if you want to lead and manage others, you have first to lead and manage yourself. The cadets, who then became second lieutenants, my programs at the Air Force Academy inside the Human Performance Lab were all voluntary. You, being former military, understand that just about everything in the military is mandatory. The first thing I would start out with was team seminars. They didn’t have to show up. Maybe the coach mandated it but I didn’t. If they wanted to get up and leave, they could get up and leave.
When I think about that pre-qualifies the crowd, they’re motivated to change so if they’re a volunteer, they show up.
Also within a crowd, if you get that negative energy out, it helps. If you don’t want to get better, I don’t want you around.
We were talking about that. You’ve got this group of volunteers and there’s always a turd in the punch bowl. There’s always one or more.
Sometimes they’re all over top.
You look at that, you’ve got the group dynamic, whether you’re in a military group or you’re up in the Academy. What do you do to try to take in either to mitigate or move that?
They de-select. It’s not part of their value system. This is something else I have to do. It’s an unwillingness to change. There was a gal. She was a soccer player. She loved soccer. She was the best player on the team. I was outside watching practice. She comes up to me after the coach dismisses them. She goes, “Doc, I need to see you.” I can see the tears in her eyes. She was going through all kinds of change. She got engaged. She didn’t take enough credits her sophomore year. She was overloaded her senior year.
For the people out there, the military academies are hard. I’m a state school guy and I went to some good schools, but nothing like the service academies. Even the Ivy Leagues can’t compare to this. It’s hard. The military experience is hard. They’re trying to compete as Division I athletes. They have to keep their grades up, but they’re taking hard classes. There are no gut classes. Even Humanity majors, they still have to take engineering classes. It’s hard. Not only that as far as keeping the grades up, but they also take 21 credit hours a semester on average. They graduate with 164 credits. BS and BA degrees at every other school is 124, 128 credits.
Fifteen hours is a load.
Fifteen credits for the cadets is light. It’s ridiculous. This gal, she was taking 24 credit hours. She’s engaged. Her family, which was military, just moved overseas. She lost that support system. This was before Skype. She didn’t have that. All she could think of is, “What am I going to do when we graduate? Where are we going to get money?” All parts of her value system were in complete disarray. I put her through an exercise and she took to it because the only option she saw was to quit soccer. That was the only option. Everybody at the Academy is on scholarship. If you quit a sport, you lose nothing. She loved soccer. That was the conflict that she was facing.
I put her through this exercise and things became much clearer to her. She was the first female athlete in the Academy’s history to be named all-conference to a Division I conference. The year before they were Division II. It was the first year they moved to Division I. She was a good player and she loved the game. She didn’t know how to manage her life with all the changes that were going on. The service academies are difficult. When you work with athletes, you want to help them achieve their dreams. It’s great when they do achieve their dreams, but it’s a zero-sum game. If the team you’re working with doesn’t win, somebody else wins. In business, it’s different. If the company goes south, it doesn’t mean somebody else is doing a whole lot better. There’s a whole company of people who lost their job, families, children and lifestyle. That degree of risk is insignificant but there’s nothing that compared to the F-16 pilots and the commandos that I worked with.
If you make a boo-boo, somebody really suffers or dies.
As you probably know, there are two ways to evaluate the mission, done or not done and did you come home?
All the people I worked with came home and they all accomplished their mission. That is something I’m really proud of. I don’t know of anybody else (in my field) who had that degree of responsibility when working with people to enhance their performance because there’s always risk involved. Where is that line? Where is that judgment?
The commander has got to take an assigned task to be done. As a commander, you don’t want to take somebody out in a poorly planned mission where you have casualties involved. I think about the responsibility of the person tasking the spec ops units to perform a mission. You think about, “Did I make the right decision? Did I take and considered all the factors?” Back to the soccer player, what was the a-ha or pivot for her? What do you think was the pivot?
There’s really not a whole lot of a-ha. No client has ever come to me and said, “That was the a-ha moment,” but a pivot, yes. She saw her life in a much different way is that she could include soccer and still do the 24 or 27 credit hours that she was working on. She was engaged, which means it’s a period of moving the boyfriend from the social life to the family life. She realized that wasn’t her job. That was up to her parents. They were going to have to make that decision. She had a greater sense of what was in her control. The financial aspect was pretty obvious. One of the things that she talked about was going to the Academy, you’re in a dorm for four years. You don’t have that opportunity to live off-campus and build up some furniture and some things like that. I was like, “I don’t know how much second lieutenants make, but as two-second lieutenants, do you think you can make rent?”
I can tell you as a second lieutenant, back in the dark ages, I made $7,000 a year.
Could you make rent? Could you afford an apartment?
That and peanut butter jellies in a 9/11.
If you were married to somebody else?
Most of them, it was tight.
From what I understand back in the ‘90s, they’re making $35,000 or $45,000. With a dual income of $70,000 to $90,000, they were fine. Once she realized that, it was like, “Money’s not going to be a problem. Now, what is that going to be a problem?” To be honest with you, how is they going to get people to come to a service academy unless you pay him something to come out and with a guaranteed job? Once you started putting these things together and all these things that she was worried about, they dissipated by her writing out in the exercise.
When she came in the next day, she had the paper and she handed it to me. I said, “No, I don’t need to read it. Tell me, what did you learn?” She told me what she learned. I said, “What’s your decision?” She said, “I’m going to stick with soccer. I’m going to do this. I made a mistake sophomore year by only taking fifteen and eighteen credits. I’m going to do it this year. That’s the hard part. I’m a senior, I know how this place works. I’ll get through it. It’s not going to be fun, but the Academies is not fun anyway.” What I always tried to convey to the cadets is that at every other school, this is where your competitive advantage comes in because they came up with every excuse why they couldn’t compete.
I turned every one of those around and I said, “Look at the other schools and what do you think their toughest part of the day is? Do you think it’s classes?” No, the hardest part of the day is practice. What’s the best part of your day? The best part of your day is practice. What’s the best part about being on the team? Ramps. They didn’t have to eat with the squad. They could eat as a team. Tell me about the second-best thing. “The travel. I get to leave the Academy.” Away games were great where every other team was looking, “I got to go to one of those games.” It’s framing. It’s all about perspective.
We’re going through some of the topics here and jumping around a bit. We’re completely off-script, which is what I like. We’re talking about potential and maybe it was the young lady that was a soccer player or any of the teams. When you go in and you’re trying to analyze potential, what system or what steps, what do you do to try to take an assessed potential?
I don’t try to assess potential. We know three things about potential. We can’t measure it. We can’t predict it and nobody has ever maximized it. The talent management people are all trying to identify potential. Good luck with that.
Like Tom Brady?
If you always do what you've always done, you're always going to get what you got.
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He’s an example, but also Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, to use the sports terms. What do you think is the best predictor of success for a high school student?
It’s probably the work ethic. Is there anything else?
It’s not a GPA.
The old axiom is all the A students are working for all the C students.
It’s not GPA. It’s not class rank. It’s certainly not SAT and ACT scores. What researchers have found is that its leadership and participation of extracurricular activities.
I was talking to an NFL agent. He said predictor of durability in the NFL was multiple sports played during college, not one and said that is more of a predictor of durability than anything.
That’s why sports specialization is the worst thing you could do to a kid because they’re always working the same joints. They’re always working the same part of the body. They don’t get enough time to recover.
Didn’t Gretzky play baseball and some other stuff before he played hockey? I think he was.
Most do. You also build unique social skills because instead of hanging out with your specialized friends, you’re developing relationships in other teams.
No wonder I did so well. I couldn’t play any sport well. I moved every year so I had to survive.
Those social skills are important. That’s something you and I have in common because until I went to college, and it was a college I transferred into, I never went to a school for more than two years straight.
It’s the old application problem, “Where did you go to school?” You go, “I need another piece of paper.” Looking at your model and we were talking about key features that change behavior and changes performance for the CEO or the C-suite crowd. What can we look forward to on the features that you bring to the table?
I stay in my lane. It’s all about Strategic Execution. There are a lot of parts of leadership. I understand that. They’re all important. I focus on the Strategic Execution component is that if you have a leader who has trouble executing the strategy one, because they don’t manage themselves very well, they don’t relate to others very well or they don’t learn enough or they don’t have the right ambition. These are all factors within my model.
They’ve got to be able to do it.
I grew up as a college football coach. One thing that a lot of people don’t understand is that when you get fired, you have to walk home because there’s a courtesy car that a car dealer gave you and they’re not going to let you keep it. It’s a performance job. I was conditioned in that manner. The ability for people, whether it’s football players, CEO’s or the bakers to execute the strategy is paramount. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about team cohesion and what good leadership is and can you rally people? When you get inside a locker room in a high level of college football or an NFL locker room, they don’t care about that. They want to know if you can play. It’s the same thing in the C-suite. They don’t care about your personality. They don’t care about what your political leanings are and all this other stuff that a lot of social psychologists will get into. It comes down to performance. Can you deliver the numbers? That’s what we’re here for. First and foremost, through that and team cohesion has never been a predictor of performance. The value of performance, the value of executing the strategy when you share that, that’s when people start to bond.
How many teams and organizations do you think you’ve been in during your career? When you go in, how many times were you surprised when you go in and you go, “It’s going to be this thing or that thing?” Can you pick up on that pretty quick?
You’ve got to dig deep to find it.
I know the data and what I learned about the data is that all the answers are in the data. Where I spend most of my time, once I get the data and I put together the behavioral analyses. I keep rewriting them. All the answers are in the data because the data comes from the manager. They tell me everything I need to know. It’s a matter of finding it and keep looking at it. All the answers are in the data.
On many of the management teams, when you present the data and the findings from the data, are they often surprised?
There are blind spots. They don’t see their blind spots, but they certainly agree with their strengths. For the most part, a lot of the weaknesses you haven’t told them before.
It’s funny when you go, “I’m either a visionary and an executor, one or the other.”
One of the behavioral analyses, I call it the Executive Presence Report. It measures their managerial tendencies and measured on time and focus. Time can be the present or future. Focus can be on the organization or the individual. It shows four different tendencies. One is the executor. One is a strategist. One is the team builder. One is the recruiter. They’re going to skew one way or the other and that’s fine. If it’s a low middle market from $1 million to $2 million in valuation, there is one person driving performance. If one or two of those areas are dormant, that will show why they’re not executing a strategy to the utmost. Within a management team, what you’re looking for and I’ll go into a little bit of the analysis if you’d like. With this analysis, it’s like a baseball team.
You don’t want three catchers and a shortstop. You don’t want three strategists and an executor. You want all four of those to be represented within your management team. When they’re not, when they are skewed, that will explain why strategies are not being executed consistently. Another one is what I call the Leadership Execution Analysis, which details seven different factors of individual execution. To use the baseball analogy again is you want everybody to hit. You don’t want to have a balance either. You want everybody to hit. I score them on a five-point scale, zero two to plus two longitudinally. It looks like a balance sheet. Anything on the left is bad. Everything on the right is good. You want everybody on the right. When people are on the left, that’s not good. That explains why strategy isn’t being executed.
From your systems in work, can you move them from left to right?
Yeah. One score improvement is good. People who score two score improvement is exceptional. That means they put a lot of work into it. The correlation is when they make that move, they make more money. That’s basically good business.
The first generation is trying to pass a business to the second generation. The people that have been there with them from the first-generation biz. You have the siblings or children coming up to the business. Do you get called into these situations?
I haven’t been called into a family situation, but I have been called into succession plans. They’re looking for a person who can execute the strategy. They’re looking for somebody who may have a strategy. I don’t get into that. It’s nice to have a strategy. If you can’t execute it, it’s no different than the paintings on the walls. It’s a piece of art. You can appreciate it, but if you can’t execute it, what good is it?
“I had this great plan.” “Do you do anything about it?” “No.”
“I did, but this happened or that happened,” and they come in with all kinds of excuses. That’s why the strategies only deliver 63% of what they promise. When you add that on top of somebody who doesn’t execute very well, the percentages go way down leading to the Strategy Execution Paradox. Which lever are you going to pull? You’re the chairman, what are you going to do?
Great leaders are thermostats. A thermostat controls the environment and reacts to the environment.
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You’ve got to do something or somebody is going to help you.
The fact is you don’t know. You may think you know, but you don’t know.
You’re the new CEO coming into an organization. You’ve got your existing team. You’re trying to figure out what you got as far as players and so on. There may be somebody that you would dictate a task to accomplish. If they’re a non-executer but they’re a big-time visionary, that’s not going to get done, is it?
No, but the visionary can develop execution skills. Anybody can develop execution skills. My model has been described as simple but robust. I like simple and it’s one thing. The fact is any twelve years old can master these skills. People who fail to pay attention to these things, whether they’re captains of industry or leaders of nations, it’s been their downfall. I’m sure you’ve heard the term emotional intelligence. It’s an important concept. What I’m on to is something bigger. It’s called “Executive Functioning.” Emotional intelligence is a subset of Executive Functioning. It has to do with the brain and where people are, what part of the brain is being exercised when they’re making decisions and conveying judgments.
When they’re not working from the neocortex, if they’re working from the lizard brain, the fight or flight, the survival center, this is where decisions are being dictated by emotions. That’s never a good thing. It’s okay to be emotional, but your decisions should dictate what your emotions are. This is a situation where I need to be angry. This is a situation where I need to be extremely joyful and grateful. This is a situation where I need to be extremely excited. Are you a thermostat or a thermometer? A thermostat controls the environment. A thermometer reacts to the environment. Great leaders are thermostats.
There was a study done by some people I know out of the West Coast. They were talking about the characteristics of billionaires and their reaction to stress. The measured thoughtful time, not time to get excited. It’s like an ER physician. If you run in the ER and he goes, “You’re bleeding,” it’s the wrong guy in the wrong place.
What they understand is the same thing as fighter pilots, as commandos, as high-level athletes are when things get tight, they slow down.
It’s think, execute, muscle memory, discipline, procedure and training a little bit.
That takes a tremendous amount of Executive Functioning. That’s where I get people to work from more than they used to. That’s the only difference in the before and after. To get there, you need a lot of data to figure it out, to see what their trigger points are, to figure out which strengths to leverage and which weaknesses and blind spots you’ve got to improve upon as far as what their own obstacles are. When they start working from the Executive Functions more than the survival center, that’s when their potential is going to be maximized. I don’t care what their potential is. My model is based on what is the mindset? What is the belief system that enables people to maximize their potential and to execute strategy consistently to the best of their ability?
Two things come to mind, one, we’re busy talking and the audience goes like, “How do I find you?” How do they find you on social media?
I’ve warned you about on quizzing, which is almost completely off-script. To close out here, maybe an example or a story of a before-and-after, where you go into an organization or whatever you do? Then what are the key takeaways from the before-and-after story?
I did finish the CEO succession story. There was a small business. It was an executive search firm. I was brought in to work with some underachievers who used to be high producers but for whatever reason, they’ve bottomed down. I worked with them and got them back to not the highest level, but in that second cluster. I went to the owners and I said, “I appreciate the opportunity to work with the low performers, but why don’t you give me a shot at your top performers?” What I’ve learned primarily through athletics is that no one cares if you have the best scout team in the country. To be a force multiplier, you’ve got to get the top people involved.
Because of the success with the low performers, they gave me a shot at the top four. That’s when the roof was leveraged. They (the firm) broke monthly, quarterly and yearly revenue records by a significant amount. What a lot of people don’t understand is that most performance is all based on a bell curve. You’ve got your 70% in the middle, you win some and you lose some. To take an athletic example, most coaches or 70% of them are in that area. They’re about .500. They might have a couple of good years, might have a couple of bad years, but pretty much they’re .500. The people on the bottom of the bell curve don’t last long. They lose a lot. They don’t stay as the head coach very long.
People at the top end, they win a lot. How do you move that needle? The biggest mistake I see in business is that they try to go uphill. They try to take their lowest performers and make them mediocre. You’re pushing a rock up a hill there. That’s hard work. If you take the top performers and you make them better, what people don’t understand is that those mediocre performers will always be mediocre in relation to the top performers. Once they see the top performers take off, they feel an internal, most of the time it’s subconscious or a conscious pressure to say, “I’d better get moving because the top performers are moving. I’ve got to stay at least average in relation to them.” That’s how you move the needle. You take your best performers and you make them even better. You’re not going to do that through IT. You’re not going to do that through a transformation program. It’s only going to happen through programs like this is that you make your best even better and that puts pressure on the middle. They start to get better. The bottom guys may or may not come along, but that’s what Jack Welch says, that’s where you cut the tail off.
I think about the top performers. You’re in and there’s a group of guys and gals that are absolutely stellar in what they do. Yet there’s a barrier to go to whatever the next level is for them. What do you typically see as their barrier to the next level?
It ranges. It all depends upon the person. That’s why all the answers are in the data. There are no assumptions I can make. They come in with a clean slate. They are who they are. That’s why they’re in control in an executive coaching situation. When I do workshops, it’s a little bit broader-based but I still have the data on them. I can tailor my teaching to them. Depending on the size of the audience, I can target specific issues.
Is there a predominant characteristic blind spot of the top producer? If you were to skew your bell curve with all your data?
No, they have all kinds of issues. This one client I just started working with, and he tested very well except my test, but his mental toughness scores were exceptional. That’s usually the toughest skill to master is dealing with frustration and overcoming adversity. His other scores weren’t all that good. I asked him, “Where did you learn that?” He’s a BYU grad. He was sent to Sweden for his mission. First, he learned the language. He got over there and realized that 90% of the people over there speak English. It’s a hard language to learn. Basically, he built a congregation. In Sweden, religion is not a big thing. He got mostly rejection. He learned how to deal with rejection, how to deal with failure through that experience. When I was working with athletes, golfers in particular, the elite golfers, they’re used to be in the middle of the fairway. For hacks like me, it’s no big thing to be in the woods. Go find your ball and hack it out.
That’s why I hunt because I spend all my time in the woods.
These elite golfers, when they get into the woods or into the rough, they’re like, “What do I do with this?” They have no idea how to adapt. The ability to learn, the ability to adapt are the key features of the model.
I think about as you’re talking, you have this broad range of strengths and weaknesses. I go through it. I’ve got my assessment. I’m good in the blue and not good enough red, but red is critical for me for success. For you, are you able to take and teach and/or provide tools or techniques?
That’s the value of the program is that there are a lot of data companies out there. They’ll tell you what’s wrong. They’ll tell you what’s right. There’s a commercial out there. The guy in a dentist chair and the guy is showing him that he has three or four cavities and said, “I’m a dental technician. I can’t fix that.” My job at Kansas and Air Force was to enhance the performance of the cadet and student-athletes. The most important thing I have, people get fixated on the analyses because it’s tangible. By far, the most important thing is the catalog of educational strategies and counseling techniques I have. Basically, I’m changing their belief system. I’m changing how they think and that’s the magic trick. When I change that, they see the problem in a completely different manner. The problem doesn’t go away. They see it in a different way so they can attack it in a different way.
They learn tools and mechanisms.
They learn how to think, that’s basically what it comes down to because our educational system does not teach people how to think. I’m grateful for that because it provides me with a rewarding profession that I don’t have to be on a campus for.
You’re coming into a creative period where you’re going to start doing some work. There will be some publications where you’re working with some elite athletes in various disciplines and so on. That will be coming up in the future for you. I think about the feedback loop from the show where I talked to bright people on a regular basis. You go, “I get tutored effectively by CEOs, business owners and the folks that work with them every week.” It’s the unintended benefit, the things you would think of when you started. You go, “Why is that person so unique in this one area?” I’m sure for you, as you go through your career, you get continual feedback. You go, “There are some commonalities and there are some that aren’t.”
That got my attention first in Kansas and then at Air Force is when the athletes were using this not only for athletic performance but then academic performance. At the Academy, people who were not athletes who were looking to win postgraduate scholarships, they were coming to see me. The relationship part of it surprised me. One gal got engaged. She came to me and said, “Swim season is over. I want to get engaged.” I was like, “Okay.” I ran into her at the end of the semester. We ran into each other jogging on the base. I said, “What’s going on?” She showed me her ring finger and I was like, “Wow!”
Initially, it scared me but then I worked with a fellow whose wife was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was in a full commission business. He hadn’t made any money for eighteen months and he had two small children. It’s not as serious as the commandos and the F-16s, but it’s serious. He was able to turn things around. Those are the unintended consequences. A cadet that I worked with who was a boxer, he ended up into the national tournament when he didn’t qualify. He only got in because they realized that the other guy didn’t have the grades or he wasn’t even a student. They had to toss him out of the tournament. He came in and said, “How can I expect to win if I didn’t even qualify?” I said, “Put the burden of proof on the other guy. Go out there and box.” He ended up cross commissioning into the Marines as Special Forces. I get emotional about this. One day, this is after I left the Academy, I got a letter. It’s handwritten, but there’s no return address. It’s sketchy, to be honest with you. I opened it up and it’s this guy. He starts telling me that he’s being deployed to Afghanistan. He’s got 30 people underneath him. He says, “I’m going to put the burden of proof on them.” A year and a half later, I got a phone call, it’s him. He says, “Doc, I want to let you know we put the burden of proof on them and we all came home.”
You look at that and you go pebble in the pond stuff in those days. You go, “That’s not exactly what I thought would happen.” I think so much of that stuff when you function as a mentor for some description, you never know. Sometimes out of the blue somebody will come back and you go, “That’s not exactly where I saw that going.”
He ended up winning the national championship in boxing. The lessons you learn from these extracurricular, it’s just not sports, but it’s drama and debate. This guy applied it to whatever else he was doing. It is a tool, anything else that we gather as we go through life, but where else can you get it? That’s the thing. Where else can you measure it and how do you know you did something with it? That’s the part that I don’t understand with my competitors. This is what you get and this is what you’ll see who you are. You’ll get all this other stuff. You will improve your performance, but you can improve. You can apply it in about anything. It’s up to you. I’m being brought in to help you execute the strategy in this business. That’s the practical application. Wherever else you want to apply it, you go right ahead. It’s a framework and it’s universally applied.
With that being said, I have harassed you for quite some time, which is a plus. I would say to our audience, “If you’re in doubt or you don’t know, the worst thing you can do is not reach out.” Make sure that they reach out to you and at least say, “Can you help me or how does this work?” Steve, I appreciate you coming in. I appreciate it sincerely. People, reach out to him. We look for good things.
I appreciate your interest. Thanks again for the opportunity.
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About Dr. Stephen Long
As founder and president of Motere Consulting, Dr. Stephen Long applies an educative, rather than rehabilitative, consulting model resulting in an average of 115% financial performance improvement for his clients with a zero failure rate. Through his work with exceptional leaders, champion athletes, fighter pilots, military special operations personnel, top salespeople, high producers and corporate executives, Dr. Long has helped permanently raise productivity from adequate to outstanding. Applying his strategies and techniques, Dr. Long has helped a variety of companies realize a significant increase in performance through strategic execution specifically management succession, turnarounds, performance plateaus and change management practices.
A risk management expert in human capital and a primary source, Dr. Long built a statistical model of human performance and leadership that immediately enhances an organization’s productivity and efficiency. Dr. Long’s 30 years of experience and expertise has earned him a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts in performance psychology. Armed with a legacy of success from a broad array of industries, Dr. Long’s expertise in behavior change, psychometrics and performance belief systems equips clients with the skills that are neglected by other consulting firms, leaving executives with temporary improvement rather than the long-term success they require. Dr. Long’s strategies provide rapid improvements followed by long-term success.
A leader in practical applications of Strategic Execution , Dr. Long has consulted with 26 championships teams on the conference, national and international levels. He has developed over 30 college All-American and all-conference athletes, a state champion, four Conference Player of the Year athletes, a Heisman Trophy finalist, a world champion and an NFL’s most valuable player. Dr. Long has consulted with several major college football programs as well as the United States Olympic Committee. He applies his proprietary model to the business world with equal success.
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