🚀 Breathe.



You’ve got the tyranny of the urgent, you’ve got all these tasks to get done, but in the long run when those tasks are done, they’ll probably be replaced by new tasks and you’ll probably forget what they were, but when you spend your time investing and developing and coaching someone to be their best, that will pay off a million times more than accomplishing one task.

In this episode

Leaders often feel like they’re being watched. Because they are! 

Actions speak louder than words. 

If you are not getting the performance you are looking for out of your team, the first place you should look is in the mirror. 

In episode #149, Jay Powers shares how he handles the weight of leadership, manages stress, and builds trust within teams. 

Jay Powers has over 30 years of deliberate leadership development that includes 21 years of wartime service in Special Forces. Today, Jay is a Leadership Instructor helping build high performing teams and creating positive workplace cultures. 

Jay shares valuable insights from his past, emphasizing the importance of healthy habits like sleep, fitness, nutrition, maintaining relationships, and having a spiritual aspect to help with stress management.

Tune in to hear all about Jay’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!

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


New manager mistakes


How to build trust


Improving stress management


 Importance of sleep


Getting people out of panic mode


 The paradox of leadership


Empowering people to a place of discomfort


Parting words of advice



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:40

Jay, welcome to the show.

Jay Powers  04:44

Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:46

Yeah, super excited to do this with you. As I was saying before, we have had leaders from all walks of life, you know, on the show, and definitely people from the army and the military. I feel like it’s a day different level of leadership like different high bar that you have to attain, especially in, in very critical circumstances. So you’ve been in the army in the Special Forces for, I think, 22 years sort of time, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, but you’re also a coach. So you’ve also coached more than 150, executive leaders, you also teach at a university, you spend a lot of time just with leaders and helping consultant and make them more effective at what they do. So before we dive into all of that, one of the questions we’d like to start with is, do you remember when you first started to manage or lead a team? And what were some of those early mistakes that you used to make?

Jay Powers  05:42

I sure do, because the first time I was formally a leader was upon commissioning, you know, I went to West Point, they spent four years there training you to be able to hear like the whole time you there, you get leadership responsibility, but it’s all from the training environment. But the whole time, you know, you’re preparing to be able to lead, which will put you in charge of, you know, depending on your branch 35 to 40 soldiers. And so then you graduate, become a second lieutenant, then you go to about another year of training, and then you show up at your unit, and the first thing you do is become a platoon leader. And as we like to say, you’re responsible for everything that will turn does and fails to do, you’re in charge. And what I remember most from five years of preparation, and what I remember most about that time was this sense of gravity and responsibility. And I just felt the weight of leadership that was in charge of this organization was on leader to make it succeed and take care of the people in it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:35

Was there anything specific maybe an example or a story that you remember if something that maybe was a mistake in those days that you later on learned? About?

Jay Powers  06:46

Yeah, I do. You know, there were a couple things I struggled with, even after five years of preparation, one was looking back at it, I didn’t think enough about the whole person, you know, because I was a young single person, you know, and so, but lots of my soldiers were married or had families. And I cared about that, and I listened. But I don’t think I took enough initiatives, and wasn’t inquisitive enough to think about, you know, who they were outside of work, you know, because when someone shows up, you know, whether they’re soldier or come to a company, right, their whole person walks through the door every day, and what they do at home, and what they’re going through with their kids and their family, like that weighs on. And I didn’t appreciate that in those early days, because I didn’t have a family of my own. And it wasn’t that I didn’t care. You know, and I don’t know that they perceive that. But in hindsight, I should have taken more initiative to learn that aspect of people, I think, is one of the the biggest thing. And the other thing is, I think, you know, I said how much grabbed me, and I felt a sense of responsibility. I think I expected too much to be to want to have the right answer. You know, and I think that’s a normal tendency with leaders, you’re in charge, you feel like you need to be right, you need to make the right decision. But that kind of inhibits other people from bringing forth their best input. And I got better at that over time. But that sense of responsibility early on, I think, prevented me from maybe encouraging other people to provide their input and being willing to take their ideas, because I wanted to show that I was competent and capable, as opposed to you know, the ultimate confidence is being willing to listen to somebody else. And so that took a little bit of time and experience to get more comfortable listening to other people. I do have a specific example, if you want to

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:27

hear it. Yeah, I was gonna say, yeah, if you have a specific example, that that would be awesome.

Jay Powers  08:33

So one of the things you do is I was an infantry platoon leader, and the most intense training you do is called a live fire exercise, which means you’re going to practice an assault, and it’s all with live rounds. So, you know, it may look easy in the movies. But in reality, when you got 30 to 40, people run around the woods, shooting guns, it’s pretty high risk, you know, I mean, any individual making a mistake can be lethal. And I was new. And so I had lots of training to do this, I was prepared. And one of the safety considerations is before you do the live fire, they want you to do a practice. It’s called a blank fire, where you go through the kind of lane that you’re going to do without live rounds. And so we did this. And what we had is we’re shooting lasers at each other. And there was an opposing force, but it’s going down the same terrain that we’re going to do with live fire. And the whole thing was just so new that there was so much new information in terms of context. And so as we went through that practice lane, I didn’t fully understand what it meant, where the targets were going to be when we did it for real, live bullets. And so then we go back, we start doing the live fire. And I was surprised early on when some targets came up. I just didn’t understand the correlation between the practice one where the practice one went exactly the same place. So I was surprised. So then as we kept going, we got to the end of the lane, we’re waiting to be picked up by helicopters. One of my Junior Leader said there’s more targets down there, permission to engage. That’s probably you know, that’s a responding force. I mean, I wasn’t sure if those were targets that were supposed to engage or not. I just really didn’t know Oh, so I thought two things, what’s the most realistic training we could get? And what’s safe? Well, the most realistic, realistic training, in my opinion at the time was to engage those targets, so that I checked, is it safe? And so I knew, you know, what was the direction? What were our limits, I checked all that it was safe. So I said, Yeah, let’s engage it. Now, we were not supposed to engage them. And so we started lighting up these targets, and, you know, that goes on for a minute or two, you know, they come over the radio, you know, stop fire, stop firing, the helicopters come, we get out of there. And so I had, you know, approved everybody to engage these targets, and we were supposed to, and my boss was furious. He thought I had been just trying to, we had all been just trying to shoot off ammunition to get rid of it. I was looking at as a true training objective, but he thought, we just trying to get rid of ammunition. So he was just livid with me, you know, but I recovered. I mean, I got I got a butchering, and I did make mistake. But my takeaways from that were one, new leaders do make mistakes, you know, and so they let me recover from that mistake. You know, I served 26 years in the arm that didn’t hold me back at all, and learn from it. But I think that’s always important, right? Especially new leaders, they make mistakes. The second thing I took away from it is just from a communication standpoint, especially with new people, like they have so much less context, that it’s oftentimes hard to understand what’s being communicated. So I thought I knew what I was supposed to do. And there’s no doubt that the people running that exercise intended to and thought they communicated with me where the targets were, I just didn’t understand it, because so much was new to me, you know, just like fire hose, some not all the waters going down. So to me, that’s an important takeaway, when you’re a leader, you have more context, you have greater understanding. And so when you’re communicating, it’s important to take that into consideration that the people, you’re talking with people that work for you, they don’t have the same picture as you. And so you got to be really deliberate at helping them understand. When you trust people, sometimes you’re gonna get burned. So the reason we engage those targets is because a Junior Leader came to me and encouraged me said, Hey, there’s more targets down there, you know, can we engage those, and he had been in the unit for longer me now I’m in I’m in charge of him, but he had more experience in the unit. So I trusted him at that point, and I approved what we’re going to do, and it wasn’t the right answer. And so I got in trouble for it. But it all started with trusting Him. And sometimes that’s going to happen when you trust people. And the important thing is making sure that first of all, you have guardrails, that you trust people to a degree that’s acceptable. So I trusted him, it was wrong, but it was okay. Right? We didn’t, nobody got hurt, it was all safe. You know, it was just a mistake. So the trust was within acceptable limits. But then I think with managers there can be when that happens to people, they can have a tendency to, to back off and then not want to trust people because they got burned. And you can’t do that. Because you can’t do everything yourself. You can’t check everything. Like the reason you have a team is because it’s more work. It’s not possible for one person to do all the work. So you have to trust people. And every now and again, they don’t catch you. And you got to still be willing to learn from it. But keep trusting people. Those are my three takeaways from that particular mistake I had early on, very

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:01

instructive. So I am curious. So after that incident, you kind of talked about how maybe your boss was furious at you? What happened with you and the person who made the recommendation to you? What did that conversation look like? If you remember,

Jay Powers  13:18

well, he came up and apologized to me, you know, so I didn’t really have to like he said, I, I should have known better. You have an interesting situation in as a platoon leader. So I’m the officer in charge, we have senior NCOs that are also lead leaders. And so the senior NCO was a platoon sergeant, he mentors, these other junior leaders. And so he really took the lead on correcting and mentoring the guy who had who had brought up the idea. And he apologized to me. And I would say my takeaway was, so does that impact my trust with him? Sure, a little bit, not saying I don’t trust them. But saying, I might have to be careful what I trust him with, you know, maybe I trust him a little bit less. Or maybe I check something he’s telling me, and I got to know him over time to be a really good leader. So but someone who has a lot of initiative and someone, someone who would push the edges, you know, and so I learned from that, and okay, that’s the context coming from him that he’s got it not a lot of initiative. He’s aggressive, but I might need to check if it’s my gut tells me it’s on the edge. It might be

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:20

Yeah, that’s super instructive. I think like, I mean, as you mentioned, that the trick is to figure out which things to fully trust on, like, just based on their experience, right. Like, if they have the most experience with something, it’s an entirely reasonable approach to take. And then but but you have to let them be able to make calls so that they can also grow within that sphere and hopefully, like, you know, extend out of that sphere as well. There’s a term that you that I know, is common place but but just going back to the phrase it was used, which is like permission to engage. This is just like a phrase that people use often right? So it seems like Is that just a modality? Is that like the way that you know someone on the team will always maybe come up with the idea? In this case, the idea was to go after the targets. But is that usually how it works? Where someone will come up with an idea? And then you have to okay, it or can people actually act on their own as well?

Jay Powers  15:17

No. I mean, it really depends on the context. Certainly, there’s things even from a shooting perspective where they wouldn’t ask permission, like, because there’s no time to ask permission. Yeah. So it really just depends on on the situation. And I think it’s incumbent on leaders to help clarify that for people, when are they empowered, go ahead and do something on their own? And when do they need to come and check. I also think there’s two different approaches was motivating, inspiring people, I want him and then there’s controlling, demanding, and I think most leaders want to motivate, inspire. But there’s sometimes a tendency to control and demand and be very specific on ask me this. And I think we’ve got to be careful, because if we do too much of that, we as managers, we make ourselves the bottleneck. Now everything’s got to come to us, and now restore everything down. And then we’ll have great control, and maybe we’ll make less mistakes, or we also won’t make nearly as much progress.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:08

Yeah, I 100% agree with that. And so in this story, you were talking about, you know, coming and starting with a place of trust. And so one of the things that I know you talk a lot about and coached a lot of people on is just how to build trust. So I’m curious what your approach is, and what you advise other people like, do you default to a start from like, full trust? And then dial it back? Or do you start from like, a medium state and, and build an either direction? Or how do you think about that in your teams?

Jay Powers  16:41

Yeah, what a neat question. You know, I think that question gets to one of the things is why leading is hard, because there’s no like formula, you know, I mean, it really is a judgment call. And there’s not going to be a perfect spot. And this is how I do it. I try to default to trust in people, I’d say empowering people to the point of discomfort, but you do that based on trust. But I would never advocate for blind trust, you know, no matter how much time you have with someone, even if you just met him, you can start assessing how you’re going to trust by a conversation, you know, what’s your background, and if you’ve done this before, an independent how that goes, you’re going to allocate them a certain amount of trust. If you’re new to the organization, then you’re, you know, finding out their time and organization, what have they done, what’s their history, what, but I think it’s an assessment that you have to make, in order to figure out how much trust you’re gonna give them. But you want to be constantly building towards more trust. I love Stephen Covey’s book, Speed of Trust, the idea that trust itself makes everything go faster. And he’s got a great example, with TSA. You know, we decided that we don’t trust people anymore not to blow up airplane. So we created TSA, now we’ve got to inspect everybody. And just think of the time and cost of that. And I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, like we we probably can’t trust people now. So we have to inspect everybody, but it costs millions, maybe billions of dollars, and hours and hours of time for everybody, because we’re not trusting people. And so that’s a great example, we could trust me, we’d save all that money. And all that time. That’s like a huge macro example. But in any organization, that’s true. The more you can build trust, the faster the more efficient you can be.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:18

Are there tactical things that you can do to either build trust within your teams? Or show your teams that you do trust them? Or like, how does this work on a on a tactical basis?

Jay Powers  18:28

Well, I think one of the biggest ways is by listening. And you know, everyone talks about that from a leadership perspective that how important listening is, but when you are listening to someone and giving them attention and showing that you value their opinions, that’s demonstrating a certain amount of trust. And then when you act on their opinions, you know, that’s giving even more trust. And then when you actually empower them, or delegate them to do something on their own. That’s, you know, even further trust. And so you’re constantly figuring out where somebody is on that someone that has demonstrated a ton of expertise and experience, right, that you’re really going to listen to them. And that’s shown a lot of trust for someone who’s brand new and may not, you know, have a lot to offer where you might just give them a quick bit of hey, what do you think? And that made me more developmental opportunity with them. So you can coach them versus really, you know, you don’t maybe you don’t expect them to have the expertise to offer something. But the dialogue is a coaching opportunity.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:23

Got it in the way that you think about trust, you actually break it down into three components. Right. Could you maybe elaborate on on those?

Jay Powers  19:33

Yeah, sure. I mean, I just think trust is such an important aspect building that it’d be an effective leader that I want to reflect on. And I came up with three things that I think are necessary to build trust. The first is your character. No, because if you don’t have ethics and a good character, it really doesn’t matter how skilled you are. Somebody that works for you is really never going to trust you. And the interesting thing about that one is, you know, there’s a tendency for people To all of us, you know, myself included to check that blog quickly. Oh, yeah, I’m good on that one, right. Whale Research shows that people in generally think they’re above average, which, of course is statistically not possible. We can’t all be above average. But that’s what we think. And it’s even more true regarding ethics. So I think, you know, discussing character, sometimes it’s like sex education, middle school, you know, we kind of giggle and but I think we don’t need it. But what we got to be careful to not assume we’re good too quickly, because people are always watching us when our leadership position. And while we’ll throw labels on somebody else and judge them quickly. From a character standpoint, we may have a tendency to equivocate when it’s about ourselves, and oh, I was just rounding that, or it’ll be true tomorrow, or it doesn’t make a difference anyway. But the people we’re leading are watching. And they’re judging our character, and they are deciding whether or not we’re trustworthy. So as a leader, it’s really important to be clear in demonstrating that we’re coming from a place of solid character. The second thing is competence. And I break this down into two things. One is technical competence. And it doesn’t always apply. It depends on the leadership position, a lot of times frontline supervisors, you know, they’re leading people on with a specific technical requirement. And that’s, that’s when you gotta have expertise in that, you know, so I’m on a special forces a team, there’s some technical requirements, and I’m supposed to be the lead, I’m supposed to be in shape, I’m supposed to notice communications, I’m supposed to know our tactics. If you’re leading a team of engineers, you might, you know, need to have a certain level of engineering capability. That’s the technical expertise. But it does depend on the role, because if you’re leading a cross functional team, technical expertise might not be as important, because there might be wide range of technical capabilities. But the other vein for competence is leadership capabilities. And that’s what you always need is that critical building trust. And by leadership capabilities, I’m talking about things like communicating effectively, demonstrating leadership, presence, developing others, the willingness to empower people, the willingness to coach and mentor people or make good decisions, people are watching that, right. And they’re seeing whether or not you’re effective leader. And if you are, that’s going to encourage them to trust you and truly follow you not just do what you say, but really follow through. And then the third thing that I think is really important for building that trust is, what’s your focus as a leader, my focus, I mean, where’s your heart is your heart in it for yourself and what you’re getting out of this position, or is your focus on the organization and the people in it, and people are really good at sniffing that out. And if they think you’re in it for yourself, they just never really going to trust you. Because they they know that they can be discarded for for whatever your next personal objectives. So I think that’s really as important as leader to be clear, and demonstrating that you care about the people, and that you’re invested in the organization. And that will make up sometimes for you know, areas of competence. If if people really believe your hearts in the right place, they’ll give you a little grace in when you’re in a leadership position when they think you really your hearts in the right place, and you care about them. But to me, those are the three key components to building trust.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:03

Yeah, I love that you’re right, it’s a thing that you can’t fake. And people know when something is performative. And they do give you the benefit of the doubt if they know that your heart is in it. And this is coming from the right place. The one thing which is really interesting, right is it’s almost like from I don’t know, if you would put this in the character bucket, or, you know, maybe in the competence bucket under leadership, but it’s almost like you’re always on, right, so you’re always being watched. And it’s really hard to get other people to do any particular thing. If you’re not consistent at that thing. You know, if we talked about something as basic as, say, all meetings should start on time. But you know, if you’re not there on time, then it’s really, really difficult, right? And maybe you’re on time most of the time, but maybe not all of the time. And it’s just like that little thing. And it’s a very high bar, because it’s but you’re always being watched, like you said, so unfortunately, that’s part of the role.

Jay Powers  24:05

Yeah, that’s the burden of leadership that you are always being watched. And that’s why setting the example is so important. Your point on being on time is a great one, right? If you expect people to be on time, and you’re not as the leader, everybody’s watching. And I like to say, you know, when you’re not getting what you want out of someone, you’re not getting the performance you’re looking for. The first place you should look is in the mirror. Like your example when setting on time, or being on time, if people aren’t showing up showing up. First place. I want to look is that myself? Am I showing up on time? Because if not, I’ve just changed the expectation.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:36

Yeah. And it’s very interesting. Like when we think about it, maybe we think about it as oh, we need to communicate things using words. But sometimes actions obviously, are more important and this is maybe one of those situations. Hey, before we move on to the rest of the episode, if you’re an engineering leader, whether manager, director or VP, all engineering leaders know that one on one meetings are a powerful tool for team engagement and productivity. However, not all leaders know how to run these meetings effectively. That’s why the fellow team just released a comprehensive guide on the art of the one on one meeting. For engineers. It has over 60 pages of advice from engineering leaders at organizations like Apple, MailChimp, Stripe, GitHub, Intel, and more. We’ve also included expert approved templates for you to apply immediately to make your one on one meetings that much more effective. So head on over to fellow dot app slash Resources to access the guide and the exclusive templates. Right now. We’ll also link it in the show notes for you to check out there. But you can go on over to fellow dot app slash resources to get the guide and the templates today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. I did want to talk to you about something else which which I feel like, you know, working at the basically being in the Army for so long is something that I think you probably have built very strong tactics around. And this is just the idea of stress management, right. So especially in the last few years, mental health is really something that has come to the forefront, you know, it’s a lot more open in the way that we talked about it. But people are stressed not you know, for very many reasons. You know, we started the conversation talking about the whole person, there’s just a lot of stuff going on in the world these days. So obviously, like the stress that you you deal with when you’re on the battlefield. That’s that’s a completely different type of stress. But I’m wondering, like, what have you learned in order to manage stress or get your team to manage stress? Or? Yeah, what what can you tell us about that we could learn from,

Jay Powers  26:45

yeah, I would kind of divide it into two parts, you know, there’s the personal management, and then there’s the team management, and the personal management sense of foundation for the team management. And so a lot of the personal management comes down to just good personal habits for health, you know, sleep, fitness, nutrition, like that’s creating your foundation so that you can be resilient, and manage stress. And, you know, I’ve come to this from learned the hard way, like growing up in the army, we used to say, you can sleep when you’re dead and sleeps a crutch. And, of course, that was totally wrong thinking like sleep is really important. And I’ve become a big believer in that. I had a sleep doctor told me once, if you could bottle up into a pill and sell it as a supplement, all the things that sleep does for you, you’d be everybody would buy it, but you can’t buy it in a pill. But it’s free, you just got to get eight hours of sleep. And so that’s a great to me, a component of dealing with stress is building that sleep bank. And then you know, feeding yourself well and keeping yourself in shape in shape. Because stress, you know, puts a burden on the body and you prepare for that by you know, being in shape. I also think from a personal standpoint, relationships are really important, out of work, right? Having relationships, friends, family that you can deal with, that just helps you unload the stress, and keep a broader perspective, apart from whatever stressful thing you’re dealing with at work. And then there’s a spiritual aspect. And, you know, the armies come to learn this and dealing with the stress of combat is that people are more resilient, when they have some kind of spiritual aspect. For me, it’s my Christian faith, but it could be, you know, another religious face, or it could just be kind of a spiritual look. But having a perspective of something bigger themselves than themselves is really important for resiliency and all that helps people deal with stress. And then from a team aspect, that goes back to our discussion about trust, I think, you know, I don’t think leading in stress is any different than leading without stress, it’s just that trust becomes more important, like teams that have a foundation of trust can really thrive under stress and hardship, leading under stress, it’s just much more important to have trust, because teams become unraveled under hardship and stress when we don’t have trust. So from the team aspect, you know, first you won’t have that foundation of trust. And then as the leader, it’s really important that you’re not adding to the stress, you know, so that comes down to maintaining your composure, because you can a leader can absolutely be an amplifier. I mean, the organization is facing trust, but it’s facing stress, the leader can help manage that by maintaining their composure, and leading with the same skills, they word without stress, or they can be an amplifier by getting in a little bit of a panic, getting excited, starting to raise their voice, all that will make distress worse than everybody else will then impact performance. And I guess the other two things I’d say from a team perspective, one is practice, you know, so whatever your organization does, what’s the most high stress causing situation? We’ll practice and prepare for that, you know, if it’s a meeting, plan for that meeting, have someone act like the person who’s going to be what’s the worst way it could go and then how are we going to deal with that? Being prepared, reduces stress, and then it helps you perform better under stress. And then the other thing is, after an event, spending time in the army, we call it an after action review. But whatever term you want to use, reflect back on whatever you did, and be very candid and be willing to be vulnerable on what went well, and what didn’t and learn from it. Because that will prepare you for other future stressful events.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:12

It’s very interesting. So I’m curious, at the army these days, is sleep now emphasized? Or do people still not get very much? Or is it very circumstantial? Like, has it thinking changed?

Jay Powers  30:24

Well, yes, I mean, because the science is so clear on how important sleep is, but certainly, you know, they still put you in situations where you don’t have sleep. So you can it’s that practice thing like can you perform under the stress of low sleep. And, you know, there’s some I actually read saw an article the other day arguing about this in some training scenarios that they should add more sleep in. But the fact is, sometimes in combat, you might not be able to get enough sleep. And so you sort of, again, got to prepare for that situation, what that’s like. So I would say it’s very circumstantial. What’s the training objective? Are you trying to train yourself to deal with that stress lower than you might be going through some situations out sleep? Are you trying to be in your best learning environment? Well, then you need to get sleep because you don’t learn as well, without sleep?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:09

Yeah. So and, you know, from a team perspective, like the practice makes sense, and are there things that you found effective, like, when you were in a very stressful situation, say that there’s like panic in the room. And maybe people are thinking about, you know, their own companies where like, there’s bad news, you know, some bad things are happening, maybe people are leaving the company, maybe they lost a major deal. And maybe something like that happened. And you can kind of just see the stress in the room or their, you know, things that you’ve learned or thought about to turn the situation around, and like, get people out of, you know, panic mode and into let’s fix this mode.

Jay Powers  31:49

And it’s hard to do, right? I mean, it takes I think, for a lot of people practice and experience, but the biggest thing is just to take a second, I mean, take a breath, literally, that’s sometimes that’s all it takes, just take a breath, don’t respond immediately, you know, if you can take two or three minutes, you know, do some deep breathing. But responding to quickly tends to build momentum in that direction, and start to add to the panic. So just take a second you don’t have a lot of times in in the military will save the first report is always wrong anyway. So don’t react and add the panic on the first report, take a second, start asking questions started listening, and then you know, keep your composure, and that keeps everybody else from adding to the panic, I think that’s probably the biggest thing is just take a second, you know, there’s some other things about China, in your mind, zoom out and try to see a bigger picture. Because when you’re in that kind of stressful situation, it seems all encompassing, but in reality, it’s a sliver of the broader context of the environment. So if you can back yourself out and try to really look at the bigger picture can help you deal with that stressful situation by putting it in context. And then in when you have that time, so if you’re taking whether the time is a breath, or a minute or an hour, relying on those relationships, those trustful relationships really helps, you know, so you get this stressful information, who’s the person that you have relationship that you can talk with him about it, before you start reacting in a way that you know, might not be helpful, it might be something that works for you, it might be someone that’s appear, or might just be a mentor, not even the organization. But if you can touch base with someone that you have that relationship with? That’s tremendously helpful.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:30

So use this phrase, when you said, in the military, you say first report is always wrong anyways made? Can you elaborate on that? That sounds super interesting.

Jay Powers  33:39

Well, it’s just, I think, I guess we talk about that in the military, because in combat, there’s just so much chaos and confusion, it just normally turns out that the first report is wrong. And so when you get that first report, it’s usually most effective to ask for more information. I mean, maybe you start making a tentative plan or not to just react too quickly, because as you get more information, it will probably look a little bit different than whatever that first report is. And sometimes it can be drastically different.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:08

Yeah, I love that. That’s so true. So true in business as well. And so, you know, along these lines of, you know, stress management, there’s also pressure to produce, right. So, you coach a lot of leaders who obviously have a lot of pressure to produce, and, you know, in turn, they may turn around and create that same pressure for their teams, when this pressure work, and when does it not work as a motivating factor?

Jay Powers  34:34

Well, you know, I think the pressure to produce is one of the two things that makes leadership so difficult, leaders are put in position to achieve some kind of result, you know, like you get the bare bones foundation of what is leadership, it’s about taking a group of people and producing some kind of result. So leaders, you know, you can feel like Atlas holding the world on your shoulders, you’re trying to produce whatever that result is. If there’s an expectation, you’re going to do it, that’s what you’re getting paid for. And that crew Ah, the pressure, the stress, and people just react differently under stress. And I think that’s why, you know, you can take somebody who’s a toxic leader that you know, to create a really negative environment. And you ask him, What are important leadership traits, and they can probably give you a great list. They’ll talk about being apathetic and communicating clearly and listening, right? But that’s not what they do. And the reason they don’t do it is because they feel that pressure to produce, it’s also I can meet someone in a social environment, and you’re like, oh, this person is great. I’d love to work with them. And then you talk to somebody who actually works for them. They’re like, No way, that person is awful, because they’re different in a social environment, when they’re actually under the pressure to produce. And so to me that the takeaway from that is, leaders need to have a feedback loop, they need a way to know when their behavior is different from those leadership traits that we all know to be good. They need someone that will tell him or a system to find out that, hey, you may think that you’re holding high standards, but you’re actually driving everybody crazy and making them afraid to ask a question, you need to find that out leader and have a way. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes, you need a way for somebody to tell you you’re not wearing any pants,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:11

and what are effective ways is it obviously, you know, built building trust with some certain individuals who can just tell you as it is, is it surveys? Yeah. How do you think about that?

Jay Powers  36:21

Well, I think really, it’s you two biggest, I think you hit on right there. One, I think every organization should do some kind of survey at least once a year, you don’t want to overdo it because people get sick of filament out. And then they don’t, you know, they don’t provide a good input, but at least once a year, because that will give you a sense, the problem with that is it’s a trailing indicator, you know, someone might identify a problem, and they might be doing it for nine months, before you actually find out. The way to have a leading indicator is what you just alluded to, is having this environment where someone will come in and and be candid with you and tell you that there’s a problem or that you know, they perceive an issue. And it’s not about having an open door policy, it’s about having someone feel comfortable to be vulnerable, and come in there and actually share what they think, you know, a test I like to use to see if that environment is there is to think about, if you’re in a leadership position, when’s the last time somebody told you, you’re wrong or disagreed with you? Because if they haven’t, either you’re the smartest person in the world, or they don’t feel comfortable telling you that they disagree with you or that they’re wrong. And if that’s the case, then Okay, now, I’m identifying there’s some behavior challenges here, I’m doing something, it’s meaning, people can’t be candid with me, they can’t disagree with me, they can’t tell me when they have another idea. So I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing. It’s making people feel that

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:35

way. You know, I really like this. And it just made me think that, you know, you should think about every person on your team. You know, however, the money that is, is 510 50. And maybe your direct reports, but when was the last time either of those direct reports disagreed with you, then. So hopefully, like you can point to time for each each and every one of them because you know, everybody’s different. Some people are more comfortable, others are less comfortable. And but yeah, that’s a really good gauge. Jay, before we started the conversation, one of the things that you and I were chatting about before we hit record was this idea of the paradox of leadership. And I thought that was really interesting the way that you put it, but maybe you can explain what is the paradox of leadership, from your point of view, in my mind,

Jay Powers  38:22

the paradox of leadership is that it’s both simple and difficult. And so when you think about something that’s simple, it’s uncomplicated, easy to understand basic. And that’s really what leadership is, like, all the stuff we talked about, it’s really not new. Robert Greenleaf published his paper on servant leadership in 1970. And he did it after looking at companies at Andy for decades before that. And we’re still talking about servant leadership, which I really believe in. But you know, we’re talking 50 plus years now, it’s it’s not new. So the ideas are very easy to understand. But clearly, everybody’s not a good leader. We all have run into people that are in leadership position and aren’t effective or that we don’t enjoy following. So why is that? If leadership is so simple? Well, it’s because it’s actually difficult to do. There’s a huge difference between knowing the right thing in leadership and actually doing it. And I think there’s two things that make it really difficult. And I talked about one of them already, the pressure to produce that just people are different when they feel that pressure. And the other thing is that humans are complicated. And leadership is all about humans is all about people. And so the simple ideas that make really sense in the abstract when you go to apply them to people, you know, they all have different backgrounds, different experiences, different wants, needs and desires. And so these simple ideas, when you try to apply them to actual people, all of a sudden it becomes harder. And it’s not just the people we’re leading that are complicated. The leader is complicated. They get hungry, they get tired, they get stressed, they get distracted. And so these simple ideas, they’re just difficult to implement. I like the idea of respect for an example. I think a lot of people would say Ah, that’s a key component of leadership is treating people with respect. That’s very simple. People might grow up being told that their parents treat everybody with respect. And so then you imagine a manager who believes in this who believes in treating people with respect, and then they’ve got an enormous deadline. And the night before the deadline, they’re one year olds up all night, they don’t get to sleep. And then they come in the next day, the day deadline, and they’ve got a routine meeting before lunch. And the meeting runs long in the cafeteria closes, and now they miss lunch. And so now it’s the afternoon. They’ve got this deadline looming. And they’re tired, and they’re hungry. And someone from their team knocks on the door and says, Excuse me, Hey, can you repeat what you told me last week? I can’t remember the details. Right? treating someone with respect is really simple. But in that particular moment, how easy is it to treat that that person with respect? Can you treat them with all the respect that they hope to receive? Maybe I’m just saying it’s, it’s more difficult in that moment?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:50

Yeah. It’s all the nuances, the complications, the edge cases, it just reminds me of earlier in our conversation, where, you know, you said sometimes it’s important to, you know, train people to be sleep deprived, and still perform, because it does come up in the real world. So yes, it’s, it’s the mastery, right? Like, it’s one thing to know something intellectually, it’s another thing for it to be encoded into your way of being. And that just takes repetition, unfortunately, mistakes. But you know, doing after action reviews, like you said, and learning from those mistakes, definitely really helps. Jay, this has been a terrific conversation, we’ve touched upon a lot of different points. So a couple of key phrases that I’m going to remember from our conversation, there’s a lot to remember, but I love the phrase that you use, which is empowering people to almost to a place of discomfort, I thought that was very descriptive of like how you like to lead with trust, we talked about the Speed of Trust, I also like the first report is always wrong, take a step back, look at the holistic picture, practice, you know, helps reduce stress, amongst other things. And we really broke down trust as well into the three key components that we talked about. And so lots of lots of awesome topics. And the final question that we usually like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft, are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Jay Powers  42:20

There is one I’d love to leave you with? To me, the path to success is all about people. When you’re in a leadership manager position, it’s all about the people you’re leading. So a question I like to think about when doing a leadership position is if people are the most important resource I have, which I believe that they are, what am I investing time in them? Right? When am I helping to make them better? And so I think that’s a really important consideration for managers look at their time, their time, is there a resource, you can invest your time, wherever you want, people are the organization’s most important resource. So when are you investing your time into your people to make them as good as they can be? Because I think the most effective leaders create an environment where people can be their best. And they focus on developing them and encouraging them enabling their initiative. So you can look at your actual, you know, lay out your calendar, when am I actually investing in people, because when you do that, to me, it’s like dropping a rock in a pond, you don’t know where those ripples where those waves, they’re gonna end up, there’s always this pressure to cancel that kind of thing. Because you’ve got the tyranny of the urgent, you’ve got all these to do tasks that got to get done. But in the long run, you know, when those tasks are done, they’re just gonna get replaced by new tasks, and you’ll probably forget what they were. But when you spend your time investing and developing and coaching somebody to be their best, that will pay off a million times more than then accomplishing any one task. And so I just think that’s a really important focus for anybody in a leadership position.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:44

That’s great advice, and a great place to end it. Jay, thanks so much for doing this.

Jay Powers  43:49

Thanks for the time.

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