🚀 Breathe.



“The people who are best at collaboration – sideways and diagonal – are the ones who are really firmly anchored to their chain of command. They know what their boss would say.”

In this episode

In episode 29, Bruce Tulgan identifies what it takes for teams to be able to collaborate confidently, make good decisions, and as a result, produce excellent work. 

Bruce Tulgan is the Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Thinking, an organization that has helped hundreds of leaders at companies such as American Express, AT&T, IBM, and Mercedes Benz build a culture of “strong leadership”.

Bruce has authored over 20 books about management and leadership… and most recently published a book titled The Art of Being Indispensable at Work.

Tune in to hear why, as leaders, we should have regular meetings and frameworks to set priorities with our team.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Bruce’s most memorable boss


Managing Generation X takes off


What it means to align vertically


Structured communication means regular dialogue


Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to solutions


The responsibility of your direct report


Be a note taker


Scheduled interruptions are actually meetings


Juggling is a guarantee for you to drop the ball


Time logging tasks to make sure you are working intentionally


Saying yes to the right things and the right people


Don’t learn below the radar


How the parts of our job help the overall company


Episode Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee  2:10  

Bruce, welcome to the show.

Bruce Tulgan  2:12  

Thank you so much for including me.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:14  

Yeah, this is, you know, I was just mentioning to you beforehand that you know, I’ve been following you on Twitter forever. When I think about management accounts to follow, I feel like, you know, one of the first things people should do is go out and follow you on Twitter. So doing this actual live chat is really fun for me, and I look forward to learning from you. 

Bruce Tulgan  2:33  

Well, thank you. It’s an honor and a pleasure. And you know, my goal for 27 years now has been just to put out as much good content as we can, based on our research.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:43  

So before we get into all the good management stuff, I have to start with this fun story. I was reading about you and learning more about you. And I noticed you have a sixth-degree black belt in karate. Tell us about that.

Bruce Tulgan  2:54  

Well, so here I am. I’m in my office. Okay, my office is next door to my house. Other two adjacent buildings. Here in the office, I have my dojo, which means way place, the place where we practice the way I’ve been studying karate since I was seven years old. And I’m 53 now. So do the math, my karate teacher. From the time I was seven lives with us here. He’s lived here for five years with us. And this is his retirement gig. And his grandson, who’s 20 lives with us. And the kid’s dog lives with us. So that you know and, you know, I have students and yeah, I tested for my black belt on May 10, 1986. Five years ago, almost exactly. I was in had to go to Okinawa to test for an R style. The sixth-degree black belt is the master rank. So I tested in Okinawa with my teacher’s teacher. And so karate is a lifelong passion of mine. That’s amazing. And I’m sure that it’s kind of cool to be able to work on this one thing.

Aydin Mirzaee  4:02  

I mean, there are other things too, but it’s nice to have something outside of like traditional work stuff that you can get better at all the time. Yeah,

Bruce Tulgan  4:09  

I mean, in terms of the practical use, it’s great for health, you know, it’s a bit of a fountain of youth. It’s great for fitness, you know, in terms of sort of hand to hand combat and the opportunities to kill people with your bare hands. That doesn’t come up that much.

Aydin Mirzaee  4:27  

That’s awesome. I love it. Bruce, so you’ve written over 20 books. That’s, I mean, you know, that in itself is a lot and today obviously, we’re gonna be talking about the art of being indispensable at work. Thank you for sending me a copy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. But you also you know, you’re in the Huffington Post New York Times USA Today. You’ve won the Golden gavel award from Toastmasters. I mean, you have quite the history. But before we get into a lot of that stuff and digging into some of your insights I wanted to ask you and I know you’ve been doing what you’re doing for 30 years. So who has been your most favorite or memorable boss going back in your career, like far back,

Bruce Tulgan  5:10  

You know, we have a chain of command in my family, and it’s not me. So my wife is the CEO of the family. She’s my commanding officer. And she’s really a kind ruler. So if I said anyone other than, that my wife is my favorite boss, I’d be foolish. I haven’t really, I mean, I’ve had my own business. Now, for 27 years, I worked as a lawyer before that for 428 days at number two, Wall Street. And when I was there, everyone was my boss. You know, cuz I was a kid. But there was a guy there named Jerome Caulfield, he’s still a partner there. And he was probably the most kind of developmental leader that I knew there, whom I knew there, you know, he knew that I was a young lawyer trying to learn trying to decide if this was my career path. He, he knew that you know, you don’t really learn how to be a lawyer in law school, you learn a lot about the law. And he was really, he took the time to tune in to make expectations clear to follow up to give me some ownership over some tasks and responsibilities. I don’t even know if I knew it at the time. But looking back, I think, well, gosh, she was really good at being a leader of young lawyers. And I suspect he still is,

Aydin Mirzaee  6:37  

And so what kind of got you into this whole? I mean, again, as close to 30 years of management, thinking, and research, what kind of led you on this path and kept you on the path? 

Bruce Tulgan 6:48

Well, most of the other lawyers were not very good at managing young people. So you know, and it was in the early 90s, right? So people my age Generation X, you know, a lot of the older, more experienced people were like, Who are these young upstarts and, you know, they’re disloyal, they have short attention spans, they don’t want to work as hard. They demand immediate gratification. They want everything their own way, and they want it right now. And that made me really curious, you know, when I started doing interviews with people, young people at that time, I was young. So there were people my age, you know, I had a conversation with one of the lawyers actually, who was a good guy, and just kind of curious about he said to me, you know, what is it with all these young lawyers, you know, and I said, geez, you know, if you only knew what they were whispering about over lunch, and so I set out to write an article, what your young employees are whispering about over lunch. And that turned into my first book, managing Generation X. And that book just hit a nerve. It came out in 95. It got the attention of a lot of journalists. It was all over the place. And then companies started calling me. And they were old fashion companies, you know, it’s not like they were new entrepreneurial startups who were calling me. It was like Anheuser Busch, and GE, and the army. Were calling and saying, could you explain young people to our leaders, and that’s really how I got started, you know, and it was really one thing after another, we kind of made it up as we went along, people would say, Hey, can you help us with recruiting young people? And I’d be like, I’ll be back to you in about six months, you know? Or, Hey, how about a career book for young people? And I’d be like, I’ll see in six months. And you know, that’s kind of how it went.

Aydin Mirzaee 8:30

That’s awesome. Out of all the books that you have written, which one has been your most favorite to write?

Bruce Tulgan  8:35  

I guess I’m like somebody with a little baby, you know, so your new little baby is always your favorite, I guess right now. So the art of being indispensable at work right now, you know, is my favorite child. I wrote the book because so many people were telling me that they’re trying desperately to make themselves valuable at work, but that the biggest thing that gets in their way is it. So if you’re really trying to make yourself valuable, you’re always fighting over commitment syndrome. And so to me, that was like a riddle to solve. And so in that sense, it’s my favorite right now. I guess it’s okay to be the boss is probably my best seller all time. Not Everyone Gets a Trophy wins the best title award?

Aydin Mirzaee   9:19  

Yeah, no, that’s, I mean, I’m excited to dig in and ask you a little bit about your new book. One of the things that you actually talked about in the book is, you know, aligning vertically before going sideways, and diagonal. I’d love for you to tell us what that actually means.

Bruce Tulgan  9:36  

Yeah, because so increasingly, right mid-level leadership has been hollowed out. Leaders have bigger and bigger spans of control. Everybody’s so busy and leaders in organizations of all shapes and sizes have tried to drive this collaboration revolution. We want people out of their silos, collaborating with their cross-functional colleagues and You know, so the big mantra of the collaboration revolution is, you know, work things out at your own level. And so everybody is everybody else’s customer, you know, who are your customers, everybody, you know, and so people are inundated by requests from people all over the organization chart, people are forced to rely on people all over the organization chart, often, it’s outside the traditional lines of authority. And so people tell me all the time that where they struggle is in these sideways and diagonal relationships, these lateral relationships where lines of authority are not clear. And one of the things our research shows is the people who do best in those lateral relationships are the ones who first and foremost and every step of the way, make sure that they are anchored to their chain of command because you know, somebody is in charge, right? So people tell me all the time, I’m supposed to work it out with my colleagues, but I don’t have the authority. They don’t have the authority. What if we have competing egos competing for agendas, what if we don’t agree, right? And how do I get them to do stuff for me, and then they’re always trying to get me to do stuff for them? There isn’t an easy answer to that. But I always tell people, the first person you have to manage every day is yourself. The second person you have to manage every day is your boss. The third person you have to manage every day is anybody who goes home after work and talks about work and talks about their boss, and they’re talking about you, and then worry about your sideways and diagonal relationships. But you know, you gotta have a good vertical anchor nine times out of 10, you should already know what your boss would say people say to me, Well, does that mean I have to go to my boss before I make a move? Well, if you don’t know what to do, yes, but you should already know, right? The people who are best at collaboration, sideways and diagonal are the ones who are really firmly anchored to their chain of claim, they know what their boss would say.

Aydin Mirzaee  11:54  

Yeah, I think like that, that’s kind of like the big insight here, which is, like you said, If nine out of 10 times, you are aligned with who you’re, I guess direct managers, or whoever your leadership is that that gives you a lot more confidence that when you’re working things out with peers or other cross-functional colleagues that like you’re doing the right thing.

Bruce Tulgan  12:15  

Exactly. And if you say to your boss, well, should I do this? Should do this? Should I do this? What about this? Here’s my plan. And they’re like, Look, figure it out. Are you sure? Yeah, use your best judgment. You know, even though it’s not up to you, you know, sometimes you have to foot well, wait a minute, you know, I want to make sure that I’m aligned. So I don’t go in the wrong direction with my sideways colleagues, and then have to turn around and come back.

Aydin Mirzaee  12:35  

Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. And I think part of the challenge, and you talk about this anecdote in the book, where I guess, you know, groups are trying to figure something out, like they spend a bunch of time figure something out. And then like, after doing all that work, it turns out that leadership didn’t really agree with what was done. And so people just felt disempowered. And but again, like a lot of this could have been solved if there was a lineman from the get-go.

Bruce Tulgan  13:00  

Yeah. And a lot of times people say, Well, you know, that puts so much of the responsibility on senior executives and creating alignment. And yeah, that’s why you’re the big boss. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. The problem is that not all leaders drive alignment through the chain of command. So that puts people in a tough spot. And it means you got to go over your own head and go get power so that you have the confidence to collaborate. 

Aydin Mirzaee 13:25 

So how would you recommend people get alignment? I mean, it, it sounds like a good thing to do. How do you know if you have it? Like, what do you do to get it if you feel that you don’t like what kind of questions should we be asking?

Bruce Tulgan 13:17

Yes, so it’s structured communication, what you want to do is make sure you have a regular ongoing one on one dialogue with your boss, it depends on the person and the work you’re doing. And your boss, of course, once a week, every other week, minimum, maybe twice a week. And what you do then, is you get into a routine, you know, so you want to decisions that you need me troubleshooting, problem-solving questions, check priorities, hey, are these still the top priorities? And remember, with priorities, priorities are not just about what’s going to be done first, second, and third priorities are about what might not get done, right. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need to set priority and then ground rules, marching orders, you know, you want to make sure hey, here’s my plan. Here’s my checklist. Here’s what I’m planning to do. I need to go get such and such from Mr. Blue in department Q, you know, here’s what I’m going to do. Does that make sense? You know, Ms. Green, from department z is trying to get such and such from me, how much of a priority should that be? Right? Because I’m gonna have to backburner other things. So you want to actually drill down so the worst thing in the world you can do is Hey, boss, you have time for our one on one yet you have anything to discuss. No, me there. Okay. I’ll let you know if I need you to know, drill down. Oh, I already know well make sure you want to drill down and check for alignment, What’s changed? What staying the same? You know, show your plans drive align?

Aydin Mirzaee  15:06  

Yeah, it’s almost like the, you know, I intend to do these things. These are my priorities. This is what I’m going to do. It’s kind of like you’re laying out the playbook, the roadmap, what about like when problems are kind of brought? Like, should it be? Should you really be looking for solutions? Or should you be coming up with solutions? And then validating that your solutions are right, like, what’s the right way to do that?

Bruce Tulgan  15:27  

It depends on your level of experience and expertise, and how much of a specialist you are, how much of an expert you are, how much how professionalized have you made this particular task or responsibility? So do you have a ready answer, but one of the things about problem-solving, I always tell people, you know, 99, out of 100 problems have already occurred, you know, so so and, and that the strong likelihood is they’ve occurred multiple times, and many different solutions have been tested. So don’t reinvent the wheel, you’re looking for repeatable solutions to recurring problems. And then if something comes up that hasn’t occurred before, your best bet, is, first to look at other repeatable solutions to similar problems. Try to extrapolate I mean, if you’re on your own, right, and you have to solve problems, that’s your approach. If you’re going to your leader, manager supervisor, you know, ideally you want to go with here’s the problem here, then here’s what, here’s the solution, I think, you know, maybe here’s a backup solution. If you have no idea what to do, then you better go up the chain.

Aydin Mirzaee  16:39  

Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. And so if we were kind of to flip the table a little bit, and now like thinking about if your manager and you have a direct report, like what are the things that you can do to to make sure that there is alignment? Because you know, you want it the other way as well? Are there certain things that you know, so when you have a situation of you know, you walk into one on one, like in the end, there’s nothing to talk about, or like your direct report has nothing to talk about? What do you do in those sorts of situations?

Bruce Tulgan  17:07  

Yeah, well, I always tell managers, you know, I always try to tell them, the biggest favor I do for them is trying to tell their direct reports that they need to own part of the dialogue, that it’s not all on the manager that you know, you got to make this a partnership, but as a leader, you know, it’s your obligation to make good use of your one on one time, when managers Tell me Oh, yeah, well, you know, I don’t really need to talk to that person. I think, Oh, well, that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t need a leader. It just means you shouldn’t be the leader. You know, why have nothing to offer them? Uh-huh. Well, that’s a statement about you not about whether they need leadership. And so you know, so many men. Hey, do you have time for a one on one yet? Anything you talk about? Nope, not me there. Okay. Let me know if you need me. And that leads to management by interruption, right, we interrupt each other all day long, so pops into your head, you send a text that pops into your head, you send an email, so it pops in your head, you pick up the phone, you’re interrupting each other all day long. To know if the buildings on fire, interrupt each other. Otherwise, write it down and make good use of that one on one. The way a lot of people handle that one on ones, it’d be like if you went to the chair, and you swipe your card, and then you went out for donuts, just because you swiped your card at the gym doesn’t mean you work out, you got to go in and work out well. What am I going to do? Well, pick something. Right. So So my advice to managers is to give some ownership to your direct reports. Because most managers have more than one direct report. Most of you know a lot of people have only one manager, have them prepare in writing in advance decisions they need to be made, troubleshooting, problem-solving, resource planning they need help with. And then their plan for the day or the week, what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it, their priorities, and what to do if they run into trouble, right? So but it’s different for different people. But what you want to do is get your direct reports to get you a punch list 24 hours before your meeting six hours before your meeting, but some of the responsibility on your direct report. But you got to make these conversations valuable. You got to go in and work out drill-down and What did you do? How did you do it? Show me? Right, because sometimes people think they don’t have anything to talk about. Which shows me,  Oh, whoa. Oh, that’s not how we do that. No, that’s how I do it. Oh, no, that’s not how we do it. Right? Yeah, you got to make that you got to make use of the conversations. You gotta you got to work out.

Aydin Mirzaee  19:35  

Hey there. Just a quick note before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing. We all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single-spaced fonts, you know, lots of text. There’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spend so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to Fellow dot app slash blog, to download the definitive guide on one on ones. It’s there for you, we hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. 

Aydin Mirzaee 20:31 

Yeah, I love this tip that you talked about, which is like, you know, we’re so interrupt-driven. And we’re kind of used to this, but I love this idea of like, well write it down. And then you’ll have a bunch of things. And so when, when you do meet, you’ll actually be able to talk about that. You know, and this kind of relates to something in the book as well, where you talk about putting structure and substance into unstructured communication. And I guess like, that’s, that’s one really good example of that. What are some of the, you know, kind of other examples of like, where people can actually put structure into unstructured communication?

Bruce Tulgan  21:09  

Yeah. So one piece of advice I give everyone is to be a note-taker, when someone stops you and starts talking to you, right? Take notes. For one thing, it sends a message that you respect them and their needs, and what they have to say. And it shows them also how you operate that you do due diligence, that you keep track, that you’re that you are paying attention, and it’s going to also allow you to go back. And if you see what you understood about the conversation, see where you need additional details. So one very simple technique is when you get interrupted. And so if you’re on the phone or on a text or something, also make it clear, right? Hey, I want to take notes, right? So you know, make it clear, you’re taking notes. And it also sends a powerful message about how seriously you take these interactions. That’s one thing Another thing is, you know, interruption happens. If the buildings on fire, it’s a really good idea to interrupt somebody otherwise, you know, it’s better to schedule things, but some conversations are very brief. You’re walking by somebody’s office or somebody’s cubicle, or nowadays we don’t work together. So you know, maybe you’re walking by their window. Hey, I came over to social distance.

Aydin Mirzaee  22:32  

Yeah. Or you’re like, you know, it’s a Slack channel, and you’re just like, communicating back and forth.

Bruce Tulgan  22:37  

Yeah. Right. And, and so that’s okay. Right. And people, people value the opportunity to interact that way. But somebody who’s one of your most, here’s another simple technique, anybody who’s one of your most regular interrupters, schedule a call with, right? Hey, you know, I noticed we talk all day long, why don’t we talk first thing in the morning or talk first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, you know, keep track, so we’re not interrupting each other all day long. Now, if you’re working in tandem with someone, and you have to interrupt all day long, that’s a different thing. Or if you’re just keeping each other company, okay, you know, maybe. But it’s, it’s not, it’s not the most efficient way to communicate. And often, what happens is you communicate about the things that are top of mind not top of priority. And what happens is things slip through the cracks. Sometimes you don’t realize that somebody is making an ask because you’re just chatting, you know, and when somebody interrupts you, that doesn’t mean I don’t take interruptions. You could say, hey, let’s follow up on this Thursday at 10. So what you’re doing is taking the initiative to schedule the next conversation.

Aydin Mirzaee 23:50  

Yeah, no, I think I think that makes a lot of sense, especially now that like, everything is really changed. I think you do have to be a lot more purposeful about your conversations and to be interrupted scheduled conversations, create agendas, like throughout the week, versus like five minutes before, and if you’re writing things down in your note taker, like some of those things become easier to do,

Bruce Tulgan  24:13  

Aydin, you know, you use the word intention, right. That’s where all the actions, it’s intentional communication. Communication is all you got. Right? That’s how you create understanding. That’s how you create alignment. That’s how you get people working together. intention. That’s the golden principle.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:33  

Yeah. So I think like, you know, speaking of intention, actually not now that you mentioned it, you know, it’s a common thing that, you know, manager ends up being overwhelmed by like their day and you kind of get to the end of the day and you start to wonder, like, what have I actually done today and you don’t know like, you’re busy, you did things but you know, you don’t know what you actually did. I would imagine That you come across people with this problem all the time. What do you tell them? Like? How do we end up solving this?

Bruce Tulgan  25:06  

Yeah, I mean, you’re so right, people are so busy, but then they feel like what did I do? You know, and they’re juggling, they’re always juggling, you’re always juggling, you’re going to drop the ball. People have meetings scheduled back to back to back. And then they’re like, what, you know, what did I do, and then they’re moving from task to task. So if you want to gain control of your time, you have to really be intentional, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you’re really not sure. There are three simple techniques that I recommend. One is to do a timeline for one, it’s, it’s a little bit burdensome, right? Because if you so you need a place to take notes, and then you got to do it with discipline. Most people, when I asked him to do a time log, you can tell right away the first time they do it, you know, it’s like six hours later, and they go back and try to reconstruct what they did. So the key to a time log is you really keep it contemporaneously change tasks, write it down, time, change tasks, write it down, time. Now you don’t have to write down every time you take a sip of coffee or every time you take a deep breath. But every time you really change tasks, write them down. And after about a few hours, you’ll probably think this is ridiculous. I can’t You know what, it is probably ridiculous because you’re probably changing tasks. So often, is that why I got to write this down, I got to write this down again. And what it usually makes people want to do is slow down and focus on one thing for long. And that’s part of the point. Right, so what I tell people is keep a timeline, if you want to get a real reality check on how your time is going. But the other thing that I tell people is every day, look at your schedule, right, and you got all this stuff scheduled, look for the gaps in your schedule, and then and then grab on to those gaps in your schedule, those gaps are golden and then look at your to-do list and find some chunks of task chunks of responsibility, chunks of a project that you can actually do. So I always tell people, you know, you got your schedule, what you want to find are gaps in your schedule, you got your to-do list what you want to find, or the do items in your to do list bigger chunks of time, smaller chunks of work. And in those gaps focus like a laser beam on getting stuff done. And the stuff on your do list is for today for those gaps in your schedule, where you create a Do Not Disturb zone for yourself. And you focus like a laser beam.

Aydin Mirzaee  27:35  

I think another kind of related topic to this is and you spend quite a bit of time also in the book talking about when to say yes, and when to say no how to say yes, and, and so on and so forth. It’s an amazing chapter, there’s a lot to talk about, but I wanted to kind of talk to you about a hypothetical scenario, you know, say that, like you, you have a manager, and what they’re doing is they’re doing a really good job of soliciting suggestions. And, you know, and there’s this culture of like, people are able to come in and suggest things and so on and so forth. But you obviously can’t do all of these, you know, suggestions. And then there’s also this concept of you don’t want to come across as being dismissive. So how do you balance this? How do you say no, in an effective way that still encourages, you know, people’s involvement, but without, you know, saying, Yes, everything which will obviously lead to overwhelm?

Bruce Tulgan  28:29  

Yes. So, look, you can’t do everything for everybody. So the important thing is to do the right things for the right people, for the right reasons at the right time. And, you know, some things you can just rule out, right, because you can’t do it, it’s not possible, you’re not allowed to do it, it’s against the rules, then everything else is a business decision. And as a leader, at least you have some of the power. I mean, if if you have people coming to you who have more authority than you, you might not even have the power to say no, right? Where you have to try to gain the power to say no using more techniques, right? Because you have to try to show your leader, manager supervisor, well, gee, my productive capacity is limited. So let me show you how I’m filling my time. And if you want me to do this, I’m going to have to make time for it. Or at least I want you to see that I am superhuman, you know, if I take this on, I’m taking on a superhuman endeavor, because I’m already out straight and I’m going to do this. Also, if you’re a leader, what I hear you saying is, how do you encourage people to take initiative without being overwhelmed with all their ideas? And there I think, you know, you want to encourage people to keep an ideas notebook, right? So everybody’s an ideas guy, okay. Keep an ideas notebook, and flesh out your best ideas. Like what I tell people is, at the end of the month, pick your best idea and see how would it look in a proposal where maybe at the end of the week pick your best idea? How would it look in a proposal? And in a proposal, by the way, you should include where would you fit? What role would you play in executing this? And this goes back to in the chapter, what I talked about is, since you can’t do everything for everybody, one of the best ways to be responsive is to pay more attention to people’s requests, pay more attention to people’s ask, tune into the ask, take notes, ask questions of the ask, tell me exactly what is it you’re proposing. So you can really treat their request with respect. And very often what needs to happen is they need to put more flesh on the bones of the request. But it’s very often what you’re really trying to do is to Hey, go back and fine-tune this request, go back and put more details into this proposal. So that you the answer may not be any and maybe not yet. Or maybe or I want to understand this better. And so getting people into the habit of putting their best ideas into a proposal and getting them into the habit. You know, that’s a way to show respect for the request, but also make it clear that there’s a deliberative process. And the answer is not always Yes.

Aydin Mirzaee  31:16  

Yeah, I love that a lot. Because I guess you may be in a situation where you just heard something or suggestion and your default is to say, like, yes or no, but I love you know, the honor the requests, honor, like the proposal, and just ask it to be like better form, like, what are the pros and the cons and like, actually write up a proposal. And when that happens, like, either, you know, we figure out through that process that this doesn’t make sense, or we figure out that this is an insanely good idea.

Bruce Tulgan  31:45  

Right? Right. Right, exactly. Like, you know, something that might seem like a good idea turns out to be not that good. An idea is something that doesn’t seem like such an important thing. All of a sudden, you’re like, wait, this isn’t? Yeah, right. And insanely good idea.

Aydin Mirzaee  31:58  

Yeah. And I think like, you know, from innovation in general, you know, great ideas, and great things usually come may start from bad ideas, actually. And so it’s, you probably don’t want to kill ideas when they’re young, you want them to be fleshed out and, you know, developed and yeah, I think like that. That’s a really, really strong approach. You know, Bruce, I was gonna ask you about this, this thing that you talked about, which is this concept of learning in plain sight? I think for a lot of people even for me, when I first read this learning in plain sight, it’s, it’s a scary thing a little bit because you’re thinking, Oh, well, I don’t want people to know that. I don’t know this. I don’t want them to know that I’m learning in plain sight. Is that what you mean by learning in plain sight? Like, what does it mean? Should people do it? What are your thoughts?

Bruce Tulgan  32:44  

Yeah, I mean, I’ve noticed, you know, some people. Their style is to be a surreptitious, learner, but they don’t want people to know that they didn’t know. And they want to learn below the radar so that nobody knows they didn’t know. And, you know, the funny thing is that if you’re learning in plain sight, it tells me a few things. It tells me you’re an active learner, you’re a systematic learner, tells me you know, the difference between knowing something and not knowing something, it tells me that the things that you do with confidence, the things that you say, Yeah, I know how to do that. Yeah, that means you probably learned before, right? People who know a lot, right, they know you don’t just start out knowing stuff, you have to learn it to know it. Right? So are smart people who are very knowledgeable, recognize active learning as a sign of somebody who knows how to learn, and probably know stuff. And when they do it, once they do something with confidence, you know, there’s a strong likelihood there was a learning process behind it. And I also think you owe it to people, somebody comes to you and says, Hey, can you do this? Oh, yeah, that’s one of my specialties. Okay. But if you say, well, gee, that’s not one of my specialties. But I’d love the chance to learn how to do that and do it. But you know, you got to give people fair notice, like, I’ve never done this before. I’ve only done it three times. I’m not an expert on this. I’m gonna have a learning curve. You know, I’ll do it. You know, and I’ll be better at it on the other side. So I think, you know, it’s an attitude toward knowledge, acquisition, skill acquisition, I think smart people recognize it as the behavior of a smart person. But but but absolutely, sometimes, I don’t want them to know that I don’t already know how to do this. Not a good idea. Because it then they’re gonna say, well, gee, that’s, you know, that’s how you did that. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee  34:46  

Yeah, I think it’s, you know, for even as a leader, it actually it might be a very good thing for you to show that even you are learning in plain sight, because if you do then that kind of encourages The same sort of thing from other folks as well, that it’s okay. Like, nobody knows everything. And part of what makes work fun is that you are able to learn new things and try new things I love. Yeah. I love that the thing that you just said, which was actually no, I don’t know how to do that, but I sure would love to learn. And yeah, I think like, that’s a very positive attribute.

Bruce Tulgan  35:21  

Yeah. When do you stop learning? Hopefully, never. Yeah, I mean, when you want to start getting worse at stuff, I mean, because, you know, human beings are not static creatures, you’re either growing or you’re dying, you’re either getting better at something, or you’re probably getting a little bit worse at it, you’re just not noticing, yeah, 

Aydin Mirzaee 35:39

You know, speaking of learning, you know, there’s this, you know, a lot of people, like everybody is good at certain things, and maybe not so much at other things. And sometimes, you know, there’s this kind of, like a popular school of thought of, you know, focus on your strengths, ignore your weaknesses, and I’m exaggerating a little bit here. But, you know, really like management by strengths. And one of the things that you kind of touch on in the book, is this concept of, you know, people falling into the trap of like, really just doing, you know, that the things that they enjoy the most in the job, and like neglecting some of the other things that like, maybe they don’t enjoy, and maybe it’s the Oh, well, that’s just a weakness, and it’s okay, I don’t need to fix it. But there’s a really great example, that I think like anybody that works with sales folks can kind of relate to, which is you always have like, this incredible salesperson that for whatever reason is horrific. filling out the CRM and keeping records.

Bruce Tulgan 36:37

Right? It’s like, you know, that’s part of your job, man you got to do. It drives everybody crazy.

Aydin Mirzaee  36:44  

So why is this still like, you know, how do you solve a situation like that say that you have a person like that on your team? I mean, it’s a common enough thing that it’s, you know, the example in itself almost becomes somewhat trite. So, right, what is the answer?

Bruce Tulgan  36:59  

I mean, look, as a leader, manager, supervisor, I think what you say to somebody is, you know, if this were an amusement park, there’d be a line outside the door, and somebody would be selling tickets. And I’m glad that you like selling, and I’m glad you’re so good at selling, but this other thing is part of your job. And either you got to be such an amazing salesperson that we can afford an assistant for you. And we’ll take that out of you’re always Oh, you don’t want that, huh? You don’t want to give up that money for an assistant? Oh, okay. Well, then, good news. You know, you can do that paperwork yourself. So I, you know, it’s the work part of work. Some, you know, and so you got to get people into the habit. I mean, the good news is that actually, there’s a reason why you document your interactions with customers. And don’t just do it on the back of your hand or on a napkin or something. One reason is interdependency because the order processing goes better. If the order processing goes better, the warehouse is going to get the notice better, the shipping is going to occur better, it’s much more likely the right thing is going to be delivered to the right place at the right time. And then the customer is going to be happy. Right? So the salesperson who’s like made the sale now I’m done. Oh, well, you know, that person still doesn’t have the machine six weeks later, and you want to blame logistics? Well, logistics goes back and says, Well, you know, the order came on a napkin. You know, I found it under my, you know, under my other stack of stuff, you know, that’s not an order, buddy. And so, you know, one reason is that other people are depending on you. And the other reason is, it’s part of your job, you know, look, it’s like the investment bank who brings in a billion-dollar business, but throw staplers at people? Do you keep that person on the job? You know, not throwing staplers at people as part of your job? Sorry.

Aydin Mirzaee  38:53  

Yeah, no, it’s really interesting. I also really like this approach of I mean, the part of your job part, you know, that makes sense. But I really, really liked the way that you kind of phrased this which is, okay. Ultimately, like the things that you’re doing, like help the interdependence of the other departments and like for the company to function better, and like, emphasizing the importance of like, each and every aspect and kind of like explaining why it matters. I think that’s, that’s kind of like a really good approach that we can do as leaders.

Bruce Tulgan  39:25  

Yeah. And as a salesperson, you can go and say, Hey, I got this great idea. What if we had the order processing specialist, hold the hand of every salesperson so that when I go in with an order, you know, they have a way to lift me up and make my order better? Because I’m just not good at that. And so let’s put a little more of the responsibility for documenting the interactions on them. Okay, but you got to sell that to some, and even then, you know, well, what if you’re not taking good notes about the questions your sales lead asked and it’s and then and then you win the lottery and you’re gone. So then the next salesperson goes in and is like, there are no notes about this potential customer. And so a really great potential customer goes away because you didn’t document the interaction. So yeah, it’s just other people are counting on. That’s, that’s the number one reason you should do it. 

Aydin Mirzaee  40:18  

Yeah, it’s all part of making the overall company success. And I guess like, if there’s that kind of alignment, not just manager, direct report, but also, you know, company goals. I think a lot of these problems can definitely be tackled Bruce, we are running up against time here. But and it’s been such it’s such an amazing conversation, so many insights already. But one of the questions that we like to always end on is for managers and leaders out there that are looking to get better at their craft working hard to get better at what they do. What advice would you have for them parting words of wisdom resources, obviously, we’re going to include the art of being indispensable at work and the show notes and you know, links to some of your other books? But what other advice and you know, what, what would you leave them with? 

Bruce Tulgan  41:06  

Well, you know, I always tell people, there’s lots of free stuff on our website Rainmaker thinking, and of course, you know, I recommend my own books. But look, if there’s one piece of advice I would give anyone, it’s life and career is a work in progress. Keep trying to get better, keep practicing being the person you’re trying to become. You don’t have to be your best. You have to try your best right now. And you’re not at your best every day, but you can try your best every day. And you may not be your best self, but you’re trying to become Who are you trying to become practice being the person you’re trying to be calm.

Aydin Mirzaee  41:49  

I love that, and a great way to end it. Bruce, thank you so much for doing this.

Bruce Tulgan  41:52  

Thank you so much for making it so easy for making it so much fun.

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