In the highly anticipated follow up to The Mirror Test, Jeffrey Hayzlett now brings us Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits due from McGraw-Hill in January 2012. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know Jeffrey, he’s certainly a unique bird. He’s engaged me not only on stage buy off with invites to special events at conferences, restaurants and has already introduced me to many interesting people I never would have met otherwise. I can only imagine what lies ahead! The mutual lifelong learning and fun back and forth is awesome. Jeffrey was kind enough to grant us one of the first reads of the book and interviews. Let’s get to it!
Q: You mention Henry Ford creating the assembly line: “Productivity was so astounding that Ford stopped measuring it. By 1914, other companies needed for five times as many workers to build the same hundreds of thousands of cars as Ford.” Henry Ford was also known for paying workers well. It seems the best way to improve standards of living is large productivity gains?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: That’s one way, I don’t know if it’s the only way or the best way. It’s more of a philosophy, give people what they want and get the things you want. Provide a great product or service, of high quality, and there will be consumers. The same theory can be applied to anything you are advertising, marketing or promoting. For example, use the workers in Henry Ford’s plant and productivity. In Ford’s plants they became so good they stopped measuring. It was about not only paying workers a fair wage – a good wage – but about offering them other things, enticing them, so they could buy the product they made, have pride in ownership, pride in building the products they created. There are lots of different ways to go about getting the things you want. Money may not always be the greatest incentive when gaining productivity or motivation. Again, find out what people want and then give it to them. Motivating my salespeople isn’t always about making good money – it can be a way to keep “score” – but sometimes it can be offering incentives such as golf balls, trips, even cowboy boots to get the team excited to want to go out and do more on the company’s behalf.
Q: Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but didn’t launch it back then……why?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Their success led to their own demise. Because they were trying to protect the great margins film had – you had a product that was 70, 80 even as high as 90% in terms of profitability. They were doing everything they could to keep that alive for as long as they could. The problem became they forgot what type of company they were. They started to believe they were a film company rather than a company that would help people make images and move information, a company focused on innovation, a company providing emotional technology. They had the only product people would actually run into a burning building to save, yet they focused on being a film company rather than a company that can innovate and recreate itself again and again and again. If we look at the most successful companies, whether it be IBM, Apple or a host of others it’s about being able to reinvent yourself as well as remembering at the core of it all who you really are.
Q: You suggest a fear of change and that this can inhibit healthy debate with those that disagree with us. What is the best way to create culture that can thrive on healthy debate, starting with how we pick a new breed of leaders?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: We all know that leadership starts at the top but is also reinforced and thrives at the bottom. So across the organization if you don’t have leaders at the top of the org that are willing to not only to create tension but take it as well then you are not going to get the give and take that you want at an organization. You won’t be able to encourage innovation, encourage change and encourage growth because everybody will be looking out after themselves because they are afraid of what they might say because the boss might have retribution. So the key is to create an organization where people can stand up and question things. By standing up and questioning things you create the tension in the system and you get something better than you first started with. If I start with item A and someone starts with item Z and we start creating so much friction back and forth and this friction creates a fire of new ideas somehow we’ll go one way or the other to move the new idea to a better place. I think that’s what great leaders try to do.
Q: When I worked at BlackRock(BLK) there was discipline around process, but it was flexible to allow breakthrough ideas. In Chapter 14 you wrote “Some people get caught up in the idea rather than the process, but I think the process leads to the idea.” Please elaborate on this concept…
Jeffrey Hayzlett: It’s a little bit of both in this particular case. Certainly you can have a great idea but if you can’t get it out and get it through the process it will never see itself through fruition – it will never make it to market. I can remember one time sitting in a meeting with a chief technology officer – one of the smartest guys in the world that I had ever met. He said, “Jeff, you realize because I make this product, I create this software program – if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a job.” I had to remind him that it could be the greatest product in the world but if it weren’t for me selling it and marketing it – getting it out through the process and to the customers’ hands that he wouldn’t have anything. So that’s what I’m talking about the process leads to the idea. By having great processes and great systems set up then you can try to push things through to allow things to be able to win. If you don’t have a great process, even the greatest ideas will lose before they begin.
Q: So when done right, this can allow a company to focus on the future more effectively?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Absolutely, by having a great system, a great process, a great way of channeling greatness then you’re going to be able to look for more things to put through to your following. Look at the greatest sports teams in the world, it is those that focus on the fundamentals of having great athletes – not just one great player or two and then try to build the team around them but yet having a great team made up of different people and that’s what process does for us.
Q: In the 1993 classic book, Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and John Champy they mention that executives are “frighteningly unfamiliar” with three forces, separately and in combination: Customers, Competition and Change. You actively did this in those retail stores. Given the popularity of that book almost two decades ago, why do you think companies are still so unable to focus on these basics?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: I think so many companies focus on the next big thing, the big peel, the magic peel. I think especially in the US we look to that one big thing that will do it for us rather than again getting back to that process, getting back to good and hard work. If it was easy anyone could do it – it’s not supposed to be easy. Therefore, the focus on competition, the focus on customers, the focus on change are just as good today as they were decades before. It’s important for us to be able to take a look at how we implement change, look at customer and competitors to be able to drive and channel the forces behind being successful.
Q: “Radical transparency is not a one-way street of engagement.” Why do people have such a hard time developing a 2-way mindset in search marketing and social media?
Jeffrey Hayzlett: Inherently, I think it’s because people are scared. Most people don’t like to get feedback. I was one time in a phase in my life where I wore all black all the time. Someone asked me why and I said because it makes you look slimmer. The person turned back to me and said, well it’s not working. I think a lot of people are afraid to hear that feedback sometimes and it takes a very strong leader and a strong person to get into that 2-way mindset, that it’s ok to get feedback – both positive and negative. By the way, look at the negatives as a gift because that’s a way for you to be able to change, to turn around that potential customer or that person who’s had a negative experience. I’ve heard from brand leaders and internal departments (HR, Legal) where they want to try to control the situation but you can’t control the situation. When it comes to brands especially, you can’t control it because a brand is nothing but a promise delivered. It’s about delivering a promise and when you deliver that promise or opportunity up to the customer it’s going to be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes that’s positive and many times its also negative. Yet you should be strong enough in your leadership abilities, strong enough in your offering to be able to understand that this will come with everything. There’s going to be a good, a bad and an ugly but the good should always outweigh the other two.
For more information, please visit http://hayzlett.com/. Thank you!