Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Liz Wiseman. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos.
Liz Wiseman: 00:00 I have my job at home, I have my job at work and I’m really clear which one of those is more important and I think people who, who try to straddle these and treat them equally I think really struggle and they end up torn between them. I’m crystal clear on which one wins, like my family is more important than my work and I love my work, but I love my family.
Doug Smith: This
Doug Smith: 00:24 is the L3eadership podcast, episode number 170. What’s up everyone and welcome to another edition of the L3 Leadership podcast. My name is Doug Smith and I’m the founder of l three leadership. We are a leadership development company devoted to helping you become the best leader that you can be. In this episode, you’re going to get to hear our lightning round interview with Liz Wiseman. I first heard Liz speak a few years ago at the global leadership summit and I was blown away by her content and so I’ve been following her and her work ever since and it was such an honor to get to spend some time with her. If you’re not that familiar with Liz. Liz is a researcher, speaker, executive adviser and author of three books including her New York Times bestseller multipliers. Liz spent almost 20 years of her career working for Oracle where she created Oracle University.
Doug Smith: 01:08 She was the VP of human resource development and she also led several global initiatives for the organization. This has also been named one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world and the lightning round interview, you’re going to get to hear what she’s learned from coaching, some of the world’s greatest leaders, how she’s approached it, how she approaches work-life balance, what quotes you would put on a billboard, her advice to your 20 year old self and so much more. You guys are going to love this. If you didn’t let get to listen to part one, I would encourage you to go back and listen to that. And in episode number 169 but you don’t need to go listen to that in order to listen to this, but both are extremely valuable. But before we jump into the lightning round with Liz, just a few announcements.
Doug Smith: 01:48 I want to let you guys know that we recently introduced L3 Leadership membership. That’s right. You can now become a member of L3 Leadership. You might say to me, well, Doug, why become a member? Because I believe every leader needs a group of leaders to go through life without all. Encourage them, hold them accountable to their goals and help them reach their potential. At L3 Leadership, we’ve developed a community of leaders that will help you do just that. As a member, you’ll get access to our community of leaders. You’ll have the ability to join a mastermind group, which I believe is absolutely critical to your success. You’ll get access to extra resources, content, and a member only forums on our members-only website. Membership is only $25 a month and you can sign up in L3leadership.org/membership I want to thank our sponsor, Henne Jewelers.
Doug Smith: 02:29 They are jeweler, owned by my friend and mentor, John Henne, my wife Laura and I both got our engagement and wedding rings. Through Henne Jewelers and they are just an incredible company. Not only did they have great jewelry, but they also invest in people. John gave Laura and I a book to help us prepare for our marriage and he’s been investing in me as a leader, a dad and a husband now for many years. So if you’re in need of a good jeweler, check out Hennejewelers.com I also want to thank our sponsor Alex Tulandin. Alex is a full-time realtor with Keller Williams Realty whose team is committed to providing clients with highly effective premier real estate experiences throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region. He’s a member and a supporter of lL3 Leadership and he would love the opportunity to connect with you if you’d like to learn more about Alex and ways to connect with him, go to Pittsburghpropertyshowcase.com and with all that being said, let’s dive right into the interview with Liz and I’ll be back at the end with a few announcements. I just want to take a few minutes and talk to you about coaching and consulting., you get to spend time with some of the greatest leaders on the planet. And I’m just curious, what are, what separates the people that you love working with the leaders you love working with versus the ones who, who might frustrate you to work or consult with?
Liz Wiseman: 03:32 Well, you can imagine. I love working around multipliers. I think most people do. But I also enjoy coaching someone who’s trying to explore and get rid of some of their diminishing tendencies. But I’ll tell you the thing I noticed in the very, very best leaders and you know, I’m sure there are people who’ve done really rigorous research on this, but here’s what I notice is that the best leaders have a filter and a bucket. A filter and a bucket. And they, they have this ability and it’s about presence and it’s about space that when you go into meet with a really great executive and this ability to be in the moment and to filter out everything else that’s happening around them and, to just focus on this issue at hand, it might be sort of a form of focus, but it’s not just, okay, I’m focusing in on, okay, Liz is here to see me and we’re going to talk about this.
Liz Wiseman: 04:32 It’s not just focus, it’s what they’re able to put aside and cast away and let go of for that moment. And you feel as if they have no cares in the world and that the issue you’re there to talk about them is the most important issue on the planet. I was blown away the first time I went to go meet with Tim Cook. I’ve coached a number of executives on Tim Cook’s team and when I first went to meet Tim, he just, you would not have guessed this man was running Apple. He just had this ability to put everything aside and just be present and it’s this filtering thing and it’s not saying everything that you think of. It’s this ability to hold back and keep things at bay and create this container for a conversation. And I also noticed that the very best leaders have a bucket, meaning that they don’t let loose everything that they’re thinking or everything that they want to do.
Liz Wiseman: 05:35 They release their ideas slowly, they dispense their opinions in small but intense doses and they release things at the rate that organizations can absorb them. And in other words, they have a bucket, a holding tank that they can say, okay, that’s a really good idea, or that’s something we should do, but I’m going to put it over here and I’m going to hold that until the organization is ready for it. I worked for the CFO at Oracle for a number of years, Jeff Henley, is a great executive and I was, one of the things he taught me, like we were coming up with all these programs and he was like, whoa, slow down their cowgirl. You know, you, you’ve got too many programs. And I thought he meant we were spending too much money. And he’s like, no, you’re producing things faster than the organization can absorb them, work at the level that the organization can receive and absorb. And so those are the things I noticed about some of the best is, and I really have had a great opportunity to work with some amazing leaders and executives.
Doug Smith: 06:38 Yeah. So when you work with leadership that level, where do you find yourself spending the most time with them? So what are you focused on more often than not? Do you see patterns in the issues that they’re dealing with?
Liz Wiseman: 06:48 Well, probably the kinds of things that people want my help from tend to be around, issues around engagement. How do I engage an organization? How do I, one of my favorite things to help coach someone on is the art of inquiry. And how do you ask good questions and how do you get a perspective-taking an inquiry happening around your organization.
Doug Smith: 07:17 And your advice is if you don’t mind sharing, we have to pay for that?
Liz Wiseman: 07:22 No, no. I tell less, ask more. You know, really shift your ratio to ask a lot of executives think that asking is a weak position, but asking is really a powerful position because you know, the, the best leaders not only ask the questions, they asked the right questions and it’s an asking a question that we focus the intelligence and energy of our organization, that we can provide incredible leadership by just asking. And that when leaders ask more and ask more often and ask hard questions, they actually earn more people give them more.
Doug Smith: 08:04 That’s good. Last question on coaching and consulting what someone’s, as soon as they’re saying, wow, I can’t believe the executives of Apple needed coaching right there. It seems like they’re doing pretty well. Why does any organization or any individual actually need coaching and or consulting?
Liz Wiseman: 08:18 Because being, leadership is lonely and leaders live in what I call an arranged world and an echo chamber. We hear a lot about this term echo chamber right now that, you know, it’s lonely at the top. People don’t get feedback very easily. And even when leaders really work hard to create open and safe environments, most people don’t like to deliver bad news to the boss. Most people don’t like to tell the boss what he or she is not doing well. It’s hard to get feedback. They live in an echo chamber where their ideas most, you know, I find that most of the leaders that I’ve coached aren’t power mongers. They actually underestimate their own power. They don’t realize that, oh, a word from them goes a long way. And they might say, oh, I think that’s a dumb idea. Or, Gee, I think we should do that or we should change our pricing.
Liz Wiseman: 09:15 And they don’t realize that the organization is scrambling around doing that. And so often their own ideas become more powerful. Their own ideas bounced off of them. And you know, people become like, not sick offense and yes men, but people tend to echo back what executives want to hear and they live in this arranged world where everything is sort of convenient for them. It’s like when celebrities get out of touch, they don’t realize that their celebrity status has caused them to not have the same kind of problems that the rest of us have and executives experience all of this. And part of what a coach can do for them is to help them see what they can’t see. Like there are certain, they’re like a car with designated blind spots that you just can’t get around and coaches become like mirrors. Like, let me help you see what you can’t see at that thing that you do that you think is really working is actually the thing that’s causing the most damage. And it’s just giving people a little bit of an adjustment to how they’re seeing things.
Doug Smith: 10:26 Well, hey, I want to jump into the lightning round, so we’ll just ask a bunch of questions. There are so many things I want to ask you. Thank you.
Liz Wiseman: I feel like I’m on a game show.
Doug Smith: This should be a game show. I’m going to talk about family and work-life balance. So we were talking earlier, you travel, you have a crazy travel schedule. I know for Mother’s Day you wrote an article called why moms make better bosses. You’ve clearly done, from the outside, it seems like you’ve clearly done a good job for this. So how do you balance your work and life and family and why do moms make better bosses?
Liz Wiseman: 10:57 Okay, let me start with moms making better bosses. Okay. So I wrote that article in Fortune and you can find if you just Liz Wiseman Fortune Mother’s Day or something like that. I didn’t title the article, so I wouldn’t claim that moms make better bosses. It’s probably a little bit of clickbait, because the editors, titles, I think moms make great bosses not necessarily better. And, the reason why is there certain skills that you gain as a parent. And these same skills are as available to dads as they are to moms. But you learn, you learn to prioritize as a parent. You learn to decipher the signal from the noise. You, you know, like I have a rule in my house is if it’s the, I have four kids. And so it’s like, if it’s not broken, burning or bleeding like it’s not an emergency.
Liz Wiseman: 11:44 And so you learn at the same things at work, you’re like, okay, wait a minute. This isn’t like business ending career ending. Like, no, but he’s bleeding here. We’re going to be fine. You learn to work with diverse teams. Like as a parent, you, what is the saying that, you know, parents often say their kids, like you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. And I’m going to, with parenting, like you don’t hire your kids, you don’t get to fire them. I didn’t get to like dial in. Like I want a bunch of genius kids. Like my kids are really average. And you learn that you’re not trying to raise thoroughbreds. You’re just trying to help people be the best that they can be. And, I think it’s the same thing as a team. You know, you, it’s a really important skill to learn as a manager. Like how to lead a team of very diverse people that often you don’t get to pick that aren’t thoroughbreds. And, you know, I think those are a couple of those there. There’s so many skills that you gain as a parent that make you a better leader.
Doug Smith: 12:45 And then how have you balanced the time with your family? Cause I mean, I know the demands at Oracle and I’m sure starting your own company. It had to be crazy. I have a 16 months old and my wife and I are trying to figure all this out and I’m like, I can’t imagine more than one.
Liz Wiseman: 13:00 Yeah, well actually I found more helps at one point. I was, I kept saying to my kids, I had four kids and I kept saying like, guys, guys, guys, we got to be patient. Like there’s four of you and one of me for a view and one of me, and I kept saying it over and over, four of you and one of me. And then I like, I heard myself, you know, you hear yourself saying kind of crazy things and I’m like, four of you. One of me. I’m like, well, I don’t have dependents. I have staff. Like, I’m like, okay, let me reframe this. Like four of you, one of me, I have four helpers, I have four helpers. And so instead of me like doing everything for them, I would, I would be like, okay, Megan, can you take care of that? Amanda, can you do this?
Liz Wiseman: 13:45 Christian, can you? And so I think it forced me to put more responsibility on to them. You know, in a nutshell, how have I done this? There’s nothing magical. I think if I’ve done one thing well with, I think I’ve done two things that have helped. One is I’m really, really clear. I have two very important parts of my job or my, I have my job at home, I have my job at work and I’m really clear which one of those is more important. And I think people who try to straddle these and treat them equally, I think really struggle and they end up torn between them. I’m crystal clear on which one wins. Like my family is more important than my work and I love my work, but I love my family a lot more. And so being really clear on which one of those wins has really helped me to manage them because I already know my family wins.
Liz Wiseman: 14:42 And that’s not that I don’t ever go on the business trips. I don’t do the things, but I feel no tension because the outcome of that decision has already been made. And then in tried to sort of straddle two worlds, I really have tried to integrate my worlds and I’m unabashedly working mom. I’ve learned a lot about leadership from my kids. I’ve learned, I brought all the skills I’ve had learned at work home with me. And what I’ve tried to do is not sort of work and be a mom. I’ve just tried to focus on this core skill of leadership, like learn how to lead really well. And I find that the leadership that we need in today’s corporations is the exact same leadership we need in our homes. No one likes the hovering, micromanaging parent and it produces the same bad results as the hovering, micromanaging boss. So I’ve just tried to lead and be really clear on which one wins. It hasn’t been that hard. I wish I could say it was a battle.
Doug Smith: 15:46 No, that’s awesome. It gives me a lot of hope. Yeah. I’m looking forward to growing our staff then. It’ll be, so what, I see a bunch of books behind you. I’m assuming your reader. What, what books do you find yourself giving away recommending most often?
Liz Wiseman: 16:00 Well, I tell you, I, the book that I have recommended a lot his Work Rules by Laszlo Bock. I think it, you know, he’s defining kind of like, here’s how Laszlo Bock is the former head of people operations for Google is fine. Like, Hey, here’s how we think about people operations at Google. And I find it’s a great recipe for the modern organization. I was given that away. I’m looking over at my bookshelf. I’ve got a lot of books I’ve, I love, Good to Great. I love it Forever. You know, the problem is as an author, so many of these books that I have now in my shelves are written by my colleagues, fellow authors. There’s this really lovely author community, and so every, there are so many books up there where I really know quite well the people who wrote those books. And so I feel like I can hardly recommend one because then I’m like, man, I want to recommend them all.
Doug Smith: 16:55 Hey, I’ll take those two. I do want to ask you about writing quickly to two questions. I’ll let you answer what have you learned and what I would just do. What advice would you give to aspiring authors and what have you learned about selling books? The more and more authors I speak to, it almost becomes the writing part’s the easy part. Selling them is the difficult part. I’m just curious what you’ve learned about?
Liz Wiseman: 17:18 These are hard questions, but what I’ve learned about writing a book is that your job as an author, here’s what I told my publisher. I’d finished to Rookie Smarts, my third book, and I said, Hollis at the end of these projects I feel like these, oh, go had to, how to explain it. I like maybe like, I feel like a kidney. I said like when you’re writing a book, it’s like you’re taking poison into your system and then you’re having to purify that and produce something. So like you take in this messy, messy stuff and all this research and data and your job as an author is to purify it and to, to create something that is simple. And you know, I guess my advice to would-be authors is the best books the author has gone through a painful process of distilling and purifying and producing something that is simple rather than complex.
Liz Wiseman: 18:18 And it’s not easy and it’s a painful process. When I told this to Hollis, she said, please do not share that with my other authors. No one wants to do that.
Doug Smith: Yeah.
Liz Wiseman: And what have I learned about selling books is that no one really cares about your book. That’s what I’ve learned about writing books. Like when you write your first book, you’re like, Whoa, look at me. I have a book and nobody cares about your books. And even when your books are popular, nobody really cares about and people care about the value that the idea has had for them. So quit obsessing over your dumb book and share ideas that help people. That’s what I’ve learned.
Doug Smith: 18:54 Love it. If you had to put a quote or one phrase on a billboard for the whole world to see, what would it say?
Liz Wiseman: 19:03 Well, if it was where my children drive, put it back after you use it. That’s what I put on the billboard. But if it was just somewhere for everyone, I think I would put,
Liz Wiseman: 19:20 put God in charge. Let God navigate that might be a little sketchy on a billboard because people might actually think that, you know, I had something to do with directional advice, but you know, I
Liz Wiseman: 19:32 I have just found that when you, and this has a lot to do with like that work-family balance is that when you really
Liz Wiseman: 19:40 put your faith and you put God as the center pole in your life, that everything else works out to everything else makes sense. And that, you know, this is certainly not my, my saying I, I’ve heard many people say this, it’s like that, that God can make more of your life than you can, but it really requires this process of submission and humility to say, you know best, I’m going to put you in charge and I’m going to, I’m going to drive, I’m going to do my bit, but I’m going to let you navigate and why don’t you tell me where to go.
Liz Wiseman: 20:13 And maybe I’d put something like, put God in charge.
Doug Smith: 20:17 Yeah, I love that. To follow up with that, I was, I’m curious, how do you, how do you incorporate your face into your work? Obviously, you can’t bring billboards like that into to Apple. I’m, I’m guessing, maybe you can, I’m just curious. How does it, how do you move out you’re facing,
Liz Wiseman: 20:31 Well, I, I’m kind of conceptual level. I just am sort of, like I said, I was, I’m unabashedly a working mom. I don’t like hide the fact that I have lots of children and in my work, I let my personal life come through and I’m a person of faith and I’ve never been shy about that. And, I’m so, I just, I bring it up because it’s like hiding a part of who I am. But I, I do have to say that I do make a practice every time I give a speech or a presentation. I usually find some way to, to say I’m a person of faith. Maybe I’d tell a story that just mentioned prayer or something. And I don’t ever, I don’t preach, I don’t in any way, but I just am. And I, I would do that in a group of,
Liz Wiseman: 21:22 unbelievers and like just like that. It’s just who I am and I’m really, um, what does it, there’s a scripture I think, is it Romans 1:18? I’m not great at the quotes on this, but it’s like, you know, I’m unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and you know, I don’t need for you to make the same choices I am, but
Liz Wiseman: 21:45 I’m a believer and I’m not embarrassed about that. And I live in a part of a world where I think on the show, so that TV show Silicon Valley, I think it would, there’s quoted there that it said it’s almost illegal to be a Christian. You know, I live in a very secular part of the world. Very liberal, very secular.
Doug Smith: 22:03 Yeah. Well, I love that. I loved it even though you’re facing what an awesome opportunity to have on a daily basis living there. Um, so thank you. Last few questions. If you go back and have coffee with your 20-year-old self, what would you tell her?
Liz Wiseman: 22:16 You know, I would, I would be more interested in channeling advice from my 20-year-old self to me now, which is like I feel like I had it figured out then. I often think what would I do if I were 20 and unafraid, you know, at that stay hungry, stay foolish is what I try to do now. But if I had to say something to my 20-year-old self, I would probably say,
Liz Wiseman: 22:42 have your sister-in-law frond to be one of your bridesmaids. That’s what I would tell my 20-year-old self. I made a really bad mistake of having my girlfriends be my bridesmaids and I was just in a process of acquiring a sister in law who has become one of my dearest friends for life, but she wasn’t one of my dearest friends then. And you know, I think as you age you realize that your family are the people who stay with you and friends kind of come and go. And of course I have friends for life but, but your family are really your, your lifelong friend and, and treat your family like your very, very best friends.
Doug Smith: 23:20 Yeah. If someone’s listening and they fell in love with you and they’re like, I love Liz, how can they connect with you, support what you’re doing, serve you? And more importantly, how can we be praying for
Doug Smith: 23:31 you as a leader?
Liz Wiseman: Well, I’ll tell you, here’s what I’m, I’m taking on right now. Um, I’m going to try be fast lightening round on this. I’m very concerned about the divide that’s happening in our nation. I’m very concerned about our inability to talk about hard things and our, our tendency to sit in our echo chambers and disrespect people who have political views that are different than our own. And I feel like we need to be building bridges and crossing these divides. So I’m doing some work with some colleagues trying to, we establish civil discourse where people can talk about things they disagree with and they can talk about them with love and with respect. And, so I’m, I’m doing some work with this and I think I would love to have us all praying for each other that we can open our minds and our hearts to people who think very differently than we do.
Doug Smith: 24:30 Yeah, I love that. Out of everything you’ve accomplished up to this point in your life. When are you most proud of?
Liz Wiseman: 24:36 The relationships and particularly the hard-fought relationships.
Doug Smith: 24:41 And one day looking back to your funeral and looking back on your life, what would you want people to say about you?
Liz Wiseman: 24:48 That other people grew around me. That would be, that would be sufficient.
Doug Smith: 24:54 Love that.
Doug Smith: 24:55 Then the last question, open-ended. If you had any advice to leave leaders with today, what would it be?
Liz Wiseman: 25:00 Well, do you want what I really would want to say?
Doug Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Liz Wiseman: Just don’t be an ass.
Doug Smith: Yeah.
Liz Wiseman: You know, just, just be human and treat other people. Yeah. With the same respect you want to be treated at work. I just, it’s amazing how many people when they become bosses, they become jerks and they forget their basic humanity is, you know, be curious. Be Hopeful. Beef, you know, be hungry, be foolish, but just don’t be a jerk.
Doug Smith: 25:33 Yeah.
Doug Smith: 25:34 Thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.
Liz Wiseman: 25:36 Doug, very nice talking to you. Thank you for what you’re doing.
Doug Smith: 25:42 Hey everyone. Thank you so much for listening to my interview with Liz Wiseman. I really hope that you enjoyed it. You can find ways to connect with her and links to everything that we discussed and more at L3leadership.org/episode170 you can also listen to part one and episode number 169 if you haven’t gotten a chance to do that, I would highly encourage you to do that. As always, if you enjoy this podcast, it would mean the world to me. If you’d subscribe and leave a rating and review, it really does help us grow our audience, so thank you for that and thanks again for being a listener. I’d never take one of you for granted, and if you want to stay up to date with everything that we’re doing here at l three leadership, you can simply sign up for our email list at L3leadership.org as always, I like to end with a quote, and I’ll quote Brian Houston and this time he said this about a leader’s goal. He said, “Relax on trying to be everyone’s leader and just focus on being their friend. Leadership speaks for itself.” I love that. Thanks for listening and being a part of L3 Leadership. Laura, and I appreciate you so much and we’ll be back next episode.