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Leading Teams to Get Sh*t Done: the Journey from the Military to the Corporate World featuring Jason Scott

December 11, 2023

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Podcast Transcript

John Kelly:

What’s up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of Small Business Origins. I’m your host, as always, John Kelly, aka John, the marketer on Instagram and TikTok, and you’re tuned in. It’s our nationwide search. We’re looking for entrepreneurs that have a story to tell. And joining me virtually in the studio from Los Angeles, California. I’ve got an entrepreneur that wants to do just that. We’re talking with Jason Scott with 120VC. Jason, welcome to the show, man.

Jason Scott:

Hey, John, thanks for having me. I’m excited about today.

John Kelly:

Heck yeah. I’m excited too, man. Just going over everything. Looking at the type of person you are. I know you say you’re a regular guy, but I feel like you have some hellacious stories back there that are just going to peak all of our interests. But before we hop into that stuff, we always have to start out with an icebreaker question. And today’s icebreaker question is, would you rather see the beginning of the universe or the end of the universe?

Jason Scott:

Oh, the beginning. Easy. I just, how did it all? It’s so many questions. Yeah, and you know, I’m thinking at the end, there’s not enough time for question answering, you know, like, so yeah, I, I don’t feel like we have enough time on the planet as it is to explore everything. Experience everything. And so like, you know, if I’m gonna have a regret on the day of my death, it’s simply gonna be that I didn’t get to be curious enough experience enough, see enough, feel enough. So the beginning for sure.

John Kelly:

Yeah. I mean, for me it’s kind of along the same lines, man. Like, I wanna know where we came from. I wanna know the actual answer. Like how did this start? You know, who’s right in the religious debate? All of those things. Like, I want to know exactly what happened that brought us here. Once you know the end, it’s almost like, what’s the point? What’s the point? If I know how it’s gonna end and I know when it’s gonna end, what difference is it gonna make for me compared to if I know where we came from and I have all those answers now, and I can implement that into my daily life and live life to my fullest until the end of the universe. That’s the way to go, I think. Yeah,

Jason Scott:

Absolutely. Experiences change us.

John Kelly:

Experience, yeah. That experiences change us. And I feel like it may not be for the better if you find out when things are gonna end. I mean, I don’t know what the timeline is. You know, if we’ve got a couple of days, one week a year, or, you know, 3000 years left, I don’t know. But I feel like it would probably change the way some of us do things already. Just looking at the way people act in society, not knowing when the end is.

Jason Scott:

Well, how do you enjoy anything with that hanging over your head?

John Kelly:

Amen.

John Kelly:

But Jason, we’re here to talk about you, man. Tell me, where did you come from? How’d you get into entrepreneurship? Like, what’s your origin story?

Jason Scott:

I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. It’s simple. I, uh, you know, I, I grew up in Los Angeles, California. My parents weren’t together very long, and so my mom as a, you know, at the time they, they called a position a secretary didn’t make very much money. And so we didn’t, we didn’t live in a great neighborhood. Like, I remember, uh, going, walking to kindergarten and on the way to kindergarten, I got jumped at recess, I got jumped at lunch, I got jumped. Uh, and that day after school I figured out that I was really a fast runner <laugh> because I didn’t get jumped on the way home. So, I mean, fast forward all the way through at 17, just to kind of get away from home. I joined the Navy. That was a great experience. I mean, that was where life began for me at, because in the military, it’s funny ’cause people tell people, Hey, if you’re joining the military, don’t volunteer for anything.

Jason Scott:

That’s the best part. ’cause they will literally let you do anything that you’re willing to volunteer for. And so the opportunities to learn and grow, you know, through experiences were wonderful. And so that’s when I realized like, that I was infinitely curious. Um, and I, I literally wanted to do everything, which meant that I couldn’t make a career out of it. ’cause that would limit my ability to experience. Uh, in, uh, at 24, I left the military. After six years, I got my first job at, um, universal Studios. I was there, I was there four years. And, you know, I went from tech support to managing some of their largest projects. And so, you know, here I am, you know, high school dropout kid from the hood. I managed to do a lot of great things in the Navy. Somehow I, I was able to go to Star School and become a rescue swimmer.

Jason Scott:

I remember thinking, how did I make it through that? But I did. And then here I, I went to Universal Studios and I just worked really hard and I, they then made me responsible for some of their largest projects. And so, of course, at 27 years old, I thought I was totally qualified <laugh> to start a company, right? I had just had all these building experiences. I, looking back was totally insane. Uh, and so I, I started 120VC and the basic premise there was I had learned that I was really good at bringing people together and getting them focused on solving large problems at the time we called those projects. Um, so I started a company to help organizations get their super large projects going, right? So high school dropout, four years out of the military, I thought people were gonna hire me like Fortune five hundreds are gonna hire me, uh, and the team that I was gonna build to manage their large projects.

Jason Scott:

And they did. But again, to be clear, what happened was, my first client was Sony Pictures. I showed up there to interview for, you know, basically interview to take on one of their projects. And it turned out I knew the CIO from Universal. So that, look, there’s just no way I would’ve ever gotten a contract with a company that size directly if that hadn’t been the case. So he was like, no, let’s make ’em a vendor. And once I had Sony, it was easy to get DirecTV ’cause you know, hey, I’ve got Sony. And fast forward 10 years, it took me that long to realize the fact that I was able to get contracts with companies that large, with real, really no experience was just insanely lucky. So I would say my origin story boils down to never giving up, you know, all the way <laugh> and willing, being willing to work really hard and recognizing that no one person is ever going to accomplish anything great. Recognizing that teamwork really is how the dream works. Uh, and I probably had that instilled in me from the military. ’cause you know, the things that we have to get done in the military are never about the individual. They’re about the team.

John Kelly:

Yeah, it’s about persistence, man. I, I think it’s probably gonna come out later in the show too, but it’s like, we often hear that that saying of, well, it was luck, or it was being in the right place at the right time. You know, something along those lines. And it’s like, yeah, you’re, you’re absolutely right. But here’s the thing, would you have been in the right place at the right time had you not gotten the experience you did by saying yes to the things you did? And then probably going into the sum and doing some things that you don’t like and just kind of powering through that, where it’s like, Hey, I may not have the best job in the world. You know, when you first started at Universal, you may not have liked what you were doing. I don’t know. And then maybe when you kind of go through that, you figure out it doesn’t matter. It all kind of built me and molded me into what I needed to be into and where I needed to be in order to have those opportunities. I think that’s the big thing is it’s like, yeah, is it luck to be an entrepreneur? A whole lot of luck, but it’s also a whole lot of grit and determination that you put yourself in these places to get lucky if you will.

Jason Scott:

A hundred percent. A hundred percent. You have to do the work. You have to show up, you have to get to bat. You gotta swing the bat, right? You gotta swing the bat before you’re gonna get your first home run. You gotta swing the bat a thousand times before you get your next home run. No, I mean, luck doesn’t just find you. You have to find the luck. I a hundred percent agree.

John Kelly:

So how do you think all of that played into 120VC? And I guess maybe even a better question or second question would be, what exactly is it? And then what do you do? Is that something that you’re still, um, you know, what you were doing with these big Fortune 500 companies? Is that something you’re still kind of doing now?

Jason Scott:

Yeah, well, yes, we are. The vast majority of my clients are Fortune five hundreds. And we transitioned from a focus, uh, on getting large global projects done. We still do that. But what, what we’ve learned over the years, you know, with the, you know, project management, agile, uh, product development, organizational change management, uh, and then somewhere along the way we figured out leadership in and of itself is a change discipline. Nobody hires a leader because they want their organization to be the same in a month, six months or a year. And lastly, that whole thing, leaders are born, not made. That’s baloney. Here’s the thing, if you’re born with no leadership, anything quotient, uh, it’s pretty hard. But they’re understanding how human beings operate and how to actually get all the things that the magazines tell us. We need to get, like how to get alignment, right?

Jason Scott:

Like how to help people, uh, uh, architect their own roadmap to a shared goal. How to get buy-in, how to set people up for success there. These are all techniques in understanding people that can be taught. And so you can actually elevate anybody’s leadership game by a couple of letter grades if they’re willing to do the work. And that’s, that’s the trick. And so what we do now is we go in and we find, you know, corporate America gives a lot of lip service to teams. We’re a team. We’re a team, we’re a team except for they don’t operate like teams. They operate like a bunch, like a bunch of individual high performers. They, they don’t, they, they show up to a meeting with their executive and they’re like, everything’s great. Well, that’s never true, right? But you go to these meeting, these status meetings, I know this is gonna be video, so I’m like throwing up the air quotes, right?

Jason Scott:

We’ll have both. We’ll, you go to these status meetings and it’s like the Lego movie. Everything’s wonderful, right? Everything’s amazing. Uh, and the fact is, that’s not playing like a team. A team shows up and says, here’s all of my fires. Is there anybody available to help? More importantly, a team shows up to that meeting instead of giving a status, they’re gonna, they’re gonna ask for what they need from the team to solve the problem. They’re gonna work together. But instead, these meetings often are about looking good as opposed to working together. And so what we do is we take these organizations that are operating as, uh, high functioning individuals and we actually turn them in that to a high performing unified team that’s working together. And that supercharges their outcomes. Now in there, we look at what they’re working on. We, we help them re rationalize everything that they’re working on.

Jason Scott:

Because again, the vast majority of teams are just working on stuff that sounds like they should be working on. Instead of really asking the question, does this improve customer satisfaction, team member satisfaction and or profitability? It can be one or all three, but none at the expense of the other one, right? And so we help them re rationalize and prioritize everything that they’re working on. We help them develop ways of working because at the end, it’s not about project management or product management. These are all tools like a hammer or a saw. What, what you first need to have for the hammer to be effective or your project management to be effective or your operations management to be effective, you need to have a culture of discipline, trust, transparency, and accountability. So that’s, we, we have to change the way that people think before they’ll change the way that they do.

Jason Scott:

So we work with them to help evolve the way that they think to help evolve what they do. And ultimately we end up canceling half of what they’re working on because they can’t figure out how it improves customer satisfaction, team member satisfaction or profitability. And if they can’t figure it out and we can’t help them figure it out, it won’t. So we just cancel it and then we can take then all of that brain power that’s now available from these canceled efforts and focus them on the efforts that we did rationalize would improve customer satisfaction, team member satisfaction, profitability, and, and, and literally create velocity toward getting results that move the needle for organizations. So, uh, you know, we build the teams and then we inculcate the disciplines. Okay, now let’s look at your projects. Right? And inevitably we re rationalize, cancel 50%, get ’em to see, okay, it, what are the priorities?

Jason Scott:

I’ll go, okay, so on your number one priority project, do you have a full-time project manager or is it an ops manager splitting time between their day job and this? And you’d be surprised how often they’re like, oh, no split. We don’t, no splitting time day job. And I’m like, how’s the project going? They’re like, not well. I’m like, well, lemme tell you why it’s not going well, because this person that has a day job is always gonna choose their day job over this project, right? Like, you need to help it. But because we’ve canceled 50% of their projects, because we couldn’t rationalize how they would improve customer satisfaction, team member satisfaction or profitability, right? We’re able to then repurpose or self-fund the things that actually matter. So I, that was a lot.

John Kelly:

Uh, yeah, no, but it’s great information. I mean, it seems like, so you’re kind of doing some project management slash efficiency as well as like some leadership stuff as well as just like some operations work as far as, you know, consulting and then actually implementing these, these processes.

Jason Scott:

Yeah. Leadership, we build high functioning leadership teams that get the things done, their organization needs to get done, the things that matter. So we, we help teams get the done that matters. Yeah.

John Kelly:

And I, I love this concept that it’s, it’s not like you are out here, you’re not a leadership academy, you’re not building leaders. I would say, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re more activating leaders within the organization. You know, things that the organization maybe has failed to put people in charge of things and equip them properly for it. And your help activating them as the leaders that you know that they can be.

Jason Scott:

Yeah. That’s beautiful because, so to learn something is to be exposed, to understand and acknowledge a new idea, right? I’ve learned it. I get it, I get it. I, I see how it’s gonna help to then master something requires you to swing the bat requires you to do the reps, you have to help, you have to, you have to work at it. The problem is the first phase of mastery incompetence, and people don’t like to feel incompetent. People fundamentally wanna be successful. And so they’ve learned something, they bought into it, but then when they tried it, it felt awkward. And we, we chase pleasure and retreat from praying. And so they give up. So we do teach them, but then we stay with them. You called it activating. I love that. But we’re basically coaches, accountability partners in the trenches with them doing the work until they snatch the proverbial pedal or pebble.

Jason Scott:

And, and at that point we just go on maintenance and stay with them, strategize with them. But yeah, it’s, it’s like most academies just focus on the learning. It’s not enough to just teach people how to do things because they won’t do it. I get customers that call me and they’re like, Hey, can you come in and give some training? And I’m like, well, why? I know why. ’cause they’re not getting the outcomes they think that they need, right? And I’m like, and they’re, they tell me I’m not getting the outcomes that I think I need. And I say, Hey, no problem. I can come in and give some training. But if that’s all you do, you won’t get different results. So what I’d recommend is we come in, we give some training, but then we work with you as accountability partners to through to do the reps every week to make sure and bring you back to, Hey, this is what we committed to doing.

Jason Scott:

This is why we committed to doing it. How’s that going? Oh, it feels really awkward. Okay, great. Let’s talk about it. Why did it feel awkward? And then they’ll share an experience where they tried something that we had taught them and it didn’t go well. And here’s the great part then instead of, ’cause people think coaching is all about giving advice. Okay? Yeah. When instead I’ll share an experience about the first time that I tried it and how disastrous it was. And now they feel like, wow, God, okay, so it wasn’t just me. This happened to Jay, the guy that’s in here teaching us, right? And then I’ll share an experience where I kept at it and it started to get better. And then I’ll share another experience where I was nailing it. And in each of these, there’s a learning, right? Like, what did I do differently when I was, you know, like I’d just taken the training wheels off. It was going better. It wasn’t as awkward, but I wasn’t the master of it. And what did I do differently now that I’m the master of it? And from those stories, they get to take the learning that resonates with them, right? Because wherever they are, they’re there and I can’t possibly know what they’re ready to hear. But if I tell them a story, they can choose what they’re ready to hear to move forward.

John Kelly:

You think a lot of your knowledge on this type of stuff with the leadership, all that came from your military experience?

Jason Scott:

Oh, no, man. It came from getting everything wrong. Everything that I am the master of today, uh, I did wrong. I, I, I, I had a problem. I wasn’t getting it right. Um, and instead of giving up, I just kept at it until something worked. And then I reflected on why it worked instead of it just becoming muscle memory. Like, why did that work? Because if I can understand how that worked, that might help me understand how something else might work or how I might get something else, right? And so I’m a big proponent of taking time to reflect on my performance. Like, you know, taking at least 15 minutes every day to think about the meetings where I was productive and the meetings where I was not productive, meaning I didn’t get the outcomes that I thought that I needed. Um, and here’s the thing where I got the outcomes that I thought that I needed.

Jason Scott:

I ignore those where I didn’t. I think, okay, well, what went wrong and why do I think it went wrong? And what would I do the very next time I find myself in that situation? And so, just by virtue of having to build my own company, and in the beginning being the guy that would go into the organizations and help my customers solve their problems, you know, the interesting thing about being a consultant, especially at the executive level now, is instead of living a single brand day, I live a five or six brand day, which leads to me living a five or six brand year. And I’ll explain when somebody goes to work for a company, they go into that company and the first, like three months is probably a bit of a struggle. While they’re learning how the company functions, they’re learning, uh, about the culture and how to interact within the, the framework of that culture.

Jason Scott:

They’re building their alliances. And once you get there, that kind of goes on autopilot. And it’s really all just about solving the problem that’s right in front of you. But you have your tools, you have your supporters, right? And so you, you end up then living one brand year. I, I, I’ve already worked three brand days today and I’ve got two more to go. Meaning I’ve already spent three hours in coaching sessions with executives at three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures. And I, I literally have to switch. And here’s the, it’s great. I even said this in in my last session. I thanked my client, this executive that I’m coaching because he shared something. We started talking about it. I said something, he said something. And I was like, that is brilliant. Thank you for that one. I’m gonna put it in my toolkit.

Jason Scott:

So the other thing that’s great about having customers and working with customers to help them solve through their solutions, not only do I get the the opportunity to work that problem solving muscle for hours every single day, um, but they teach me, I learn as much from them as hopefully they’re learning from me. So that goes back to, like I said, you know, it really is all about the power of team. I’ve got my team and they’re my superpower, but I also treat my customers like we’re on the same team. And this goes back to how corporate America doesn’t really operate like a team, but they give lift service to operating like a team. And what I mean by that is, I’m not showing up for me. I’m showing up for the goal of the team. And in this case, it’s to win. I want my customers teams to be succeeding because when they’re succeeding, they have a better quality of life.

Jason Scott:

Even if the thing that they’re doing is hard, which is always the case, right? The journey might be frustrating, but when they win, everybody feels good about it. Everybody feels comradery. But also working as a team means being able to say, you know, I, you mind if I challenge that premise? I don’t think I, I I’m not understanding how that’s gonna work. As opposed to just keeping quiet and thinking, well, that’s not really my role. That’s really the boss’s role to catch him, you know what I mean? To, to coach him to school ’cause it’s uncomfortable, right? And so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and hope you don’t walk off the end of the pier. ’cause that’s somebody else’s job. That’s not teamwork, right? So I I I, I love the power of team. I’ve got my own team. And the other thing that’s really great about high performing teams, there’s no boss.

Jason Scott:

There’s no one role is more important than the other, right? Hierarchy is the killer of high performance. And, uh, just to give a quick analogy on that. So I’m the CEO at 120. I’ve got a head of operations, I have a CFO, um, I’ve got a head of transformation practices. Um, I’ve, and a couple more, but let’s just leave it there. So let’s say, oh, and head of marketing. So it’s not unusual for the head of marketing to come pitch me on some great idea that’s gonna cost money. It’s his job. Okay? So I, I get a call one day from my CFO and she’s like, why is Andrew, you know, why is Andrew called me and he wants to spend money? Do you know about this? And I was like, no. I was like, what’d you say? She was like, I told him no.

Jason Scott:

I was like, good. That’s your job. Just anybody listening, that’s a CFO. Just know your job is to say no. Okay, keep that money in the bank. So I went to Andrew and I was like, what? What are you doing? He goes, oh, I went to Colleen. She shut it down. I was like, well, I course she did. She’s not gonna approve something that I’m not excited about, right? Because I’m the strategy guy. That’s my job to say, this is where we’re going. I said, so pitch me. And he pitched me. I got really excited about it. We went back to her and she tried to say no. Okay? But I pitched her. Now, I didn’t go to her as the CEO and say, you need to spend the money. ’cause that’s not my decision. She’s the CFO. She’s the most appropriate person to decide whether we spend the money.

Jason Scott:

But she’s relying on me to be on top of strategy. And in part of that pitch to her, it’s how this marketing thing that Andrew wants to spend money on, uh, drives strategy that makes money that she’s willing to invest in. Right? And so in that way, we are all leaders and followers in the sense that when it comes to subject matter expertise, Andrew’s the most appropriate person to suggest this is how we market. Okay? Colleen’s the most appropriate person to say, this is how we spend our money. I’m the most appropriate person to say, this is where we’re going in the future. Okay? And so when Andrew’s coming to me and pitching a marketing idea, who’s leading?

John Kelly:

I mean, he is.

Jason Scott:

He is right. So I’m the CEO, right? I’m the most powerful person in the room. Everybody would say I’m the leader. But the truth is, I, I am a leader on the team and I am the leader of strategy and I’m the tiebreaker. But Andrew, when he comes to me and he pitches me on this, he’s the leader. And now here’s the thing, am I just gonna follow? No, because we’re a team. So if he pitches me and I think it’s a good idea, I’m gonna be like, oh, I see how it’s a good idea. Let’s go pitch it to Colleen and see if we could get her to write a check. Right? But if I don’t think it’s a good idea, I’m gonna challenge him. Not as the CEO, but as his teammate. Moreover, there’s times where my, you know, I’m a great strategist. I am.

Jason Scott:

I get paid to be a strategist. This is how I help my clients. And I can’t tell you how many dumb ideas my team <laugh> has helped me see that I’ve had. And so, you know, I go to Andrew or I go to Colleen, or I go to Jake in operations and I’m like, Hey, I’ve got a great idea. I’m leading cool. I’m strategy. It’s in my wheelhouse. And Jake’s listening to the good idea. And he looks at me and he goes, and by the way, it’s usually Jake ’cause he’s the one that’s gotta deliver on my crazy ideas. He’s like, dude, I, I don’t see how that’s gonna work, man. And he challenges me in that challenge. Who’s leading? He’s leading, but he’s also being a good team member to me, right? And so we, we believe that the most appropriate person to make the play or make the call is the leader. And we all constructively challenge to have each other’s back. So it’s not about hierarchy, it’s really about role. And we, we follow when other people are pitching great ideas. We, we lead based on our subject matter expertise. And we lead when we’re challenging because we’re not clear on how it’s gonna create value for the team.

John Kelly:

So I think a lot of people get scared of that mentality. ’cause when you ask that question, that’s the very first thing I thought of is, you know, he’s leading because he’s the one who’s pitching the idea to you. He’s telling you now, ultimately, while he’s doing that, leading exactly what you said, is that you are still in control as far as being the boss. If you want to say no for any reason, you can, I know I, I see you shaking your head. Like I, I know that obviously you, you have to, you have to empower them, which is going to give them that power, right? Obviously that, like, that is in the word. That’s what I’m saying. But what I, what I mean is that by empowering them, you’re not taking away from yourself. You’re not taking away from your company or your business. Well,

Jason Scott:

Empowering doesn’t mean everybody gets to do whatever they want, even though that’s sort of the general thought on it, right? Um, but back to, I still have the final say, right? I’m the leader. I’m the most powerful person in the room. Having the final say is in my job description. Now, if I have the final say all the time at the expense of my team members’ ideas, I will also have the final say about driving them out the door. They’ll just leave, right? So, you know how you said, but I, I could just shut it down. I mean, I could, but a better way to acknowledge that, to, to approach that final say is, and when would I have to approach the final say, I would have to approach the final say when we together can’t align on an approach that we both think will work.

Jason Scott:

So somebody pitches something I challenge, uh, I pitched something. They challenge. The idea is to ask questions and challenge causing light bulb moments. Just, you know, it’s being a good leader regardless of who’s leading is very much being what you are right now, like a podcast host. It’s being curious. So somebody pitches an idea and you’re like your first, your mind judges, I don’t think that’s gonna work. Well, they do. So get curious, Hey, why do you think that’s gonna work? What do you do if this happens? Right? You ask questions and oftentimes you’ll find what you’re missing, that you’ll ask a question, they’ll give you an answer, and suddenly you’re like, boom. Ah, I get it now. Now we both think it’ll work. Cool. You should go do that. Or, or I might ask a question and they might say, Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. Well, I would do the, ooh, that changes how I would do it. I would do this.

John Kelly:

Cool. Yeah.

Jason Scott:

Now we’re both on the same page. What they then, when they pivoted and they were like, well, I would do this. We both think it’ll work good leadership. And here’s it was I led by challenging. They led by challenging. I led by challenging. Like, we’re leading each other. It’s called teamwork. Right? Now, there are times when I’m doing that in a team setting. There’s four or five of us with my team or with my customer’s team. And you know what? We just can’t see eye to eye. There’s like a consensus, but there’s a couple of people, this is okay, I can make the final call when it’s my team. Right? But that’s terrible. It just shuts people down. It communicates whether you tell ’em, uh, you know, I, I trust you, I love you, but we’re gonna do it my way. They hear, ugh, he doesn’t value me, right?

Jason Scott:

Yep. And I learned this from Ron Glickman, CIO at Trader Joe’s. And I think he learned it from Tony Dottino, uh, the father of Six Sigma. Anyway, I, I wanna give credit before I throw out somebody else’s work, right? Um, there’s a difference between agreement and commitment. Agreement is in your mind. Like if you just don’t agree, you can’t agree, like you can’t change that, right? But commitment is, you know, I will do it. I will commit to doing that. So the technique that I use that I learned from Ron, is when I find myself in that situation where I have to make the, the call, I’m gonna say to everybody, listen, I wanna acknowledge that we don’t all think this is gonna work, which means there’s risk, but the greater risk is sitting here and doing nothing is being immovable. We have to do something.

Jason Scott:

And the only way to learn what’s the right or the wrong thing is to try something. Because our results will be reflective of whether this was a good idea or not. I said, so let’s commit to an experiment. Okay? This is the way that I want us to go forward. Okay? I’m not saying it’s right and I’m not asking everybody to agree, but what I’m asking all of us to do is commit to it and then keep our eyes wide open as we’re moving forward. Because this has the potential to be the right way, as much as it has the potential to be the wrong way. But as soon as we take a step, we’re gonna learn, is it cold outside? Is it icy? Is it raining? We have to take a step forward. And so instead of making the call or leveraging my authority, I ask them to align with me to make, just make a commitment to me. And no matter how this works out, we’re in this together. And so we’re either gonna succeed together, we’re gonna pivot together. ’cause we certainly aren’t gonna fail. But if we do fail, we’ll fail together.

John Kelly:

I think that two things are important there, and that’s one being open to failure. You know, Elon Musk talks quite a bit about the fact that if you’re not failing, you’re not innovating because in order for you, yeah, in order for you to change, get better and continue on. Especially we’ve seen with like COVID and the number of things that have hit entrepreneurs and businesses from everywhere, from mom and pop shops on Main Street and small town America to the big Fortune 500 companies. If you are not constantly changing what you’re doing to adapt to the new year that you are in, then you’re gonna fall by the wayside. You’re gonna go away. You’re not gonna last very long because you’re only gonna be in season for so long. You’ve gotta change. So failure’s gonna happen. The other important thing is that if you have the right people on your team, this is something that just kind of clicked with me as you were talking.

John Kelly:

If you have the right people on your team, they’re gonna be able to manage their own decisions or suggestions without you having to shut it down. Because like you said, if you are the right leader for them and they’re the right leader for you, no matter what your rank is, no matter what your job title is, you could be a janitor and lead in corporate America if you have the right information to the right person. Right? So as they’re talking, like I see this with myself talking to Andrew, who is the owner and CEO of the company, beefy marketing, I should say. Um, as I’m talking to him, when I bring something up, he doesn’t have to say, no, we’re not gonna do it. Shut me down and make me feel unwanted or not important or anything else. He can bring up these challenges, like you said.

John Kelly:

And because I’m the right type of person that wants this company to be successful, when he brings that challenge up, it’s not about me overcoming the challenge so I can win. It’s about me understanding the challenge so I can, I can access the information in the back of my brain of did I make the right decision by sticking to my guns on this? And so when he brings that challenge up and I’m like, yep, you’re right, I’m stupid, we’re not gonna do it. Alright, yeah. I wanna drop that. Right? Or a lot of times what happens is we’ll have the conversation and say, okay, so obviously this challenge is good enough that this is probably not going to work in the current fashion. How could we change this together to make this work? Or should we pivot to a different type of idea or response?

Jason Scott:

Ab absolutely. And by the right kind of people, I want to be clear, you’re talking about people that are team players oriented to being a team player or people that are oriented to playing for self, right? With the, what I call the mercenary, right? And so when people are willing to align, you have to, in order to have high performing team, you have to have people that are willing to trust that are willing to put the team first, right? And, and again, getting that alignment’s really easy when you have a team player because there’s only three reasons to do anything. Improve customer satisfaction, team member satisfaction or profitability. And so if we could all commit to that, it doesn’t matter whose idea it is, it doesn’t matter if your idea was the best idea the first time. ’cause we’re gonna all work together to figure out how your idea does one of these three things.

Jason Scott:

And if we can’t, we’re gonna throw it out and we’re gonna look for a new idea together, right? So the, you know, if that’s the biggest thing when, when you have people on your team that are like, oh, that’s, that’s my space. Stay out of it. Oh, don’t step on my toes, right? That’s the, that person is a toxic team member. That person you can’t trust to have your back. Um, and you, they’re just, they’re not gonna play for team. They’re playing for self glory. And therefore, with that one person on your team, you will never achieve greatness. I would take, I would take five mediocre performers that are willing to play for team than than two high performing superstars that just wanted to play for themselves and will outplay all day long. I, I should, you know, the numbers didn’t work there. So let just say five individual high performers and five mediocre people willing to play for team and will beat the high performers all day long. Just cut that last piece out, John <laugh>, it’s not gonna work.

John Kelly:

Yeah, no, I, I mean, I see exactly what you’re saying. I think this is a very valuable thing. It it leads to your culture, you know, and people forget that part of your training, again, correct me if I’m wrong ’cause I’m kind of speaking on your behalf here, but a lot of your training seems to be focused around, you have to have the right culture in place and you have to have the right leaders up top. The, the c-level execs and then everybody who’s a part of the team, that’s just as important. You have to empower them to be the right team member to be on there as well. So this is a cultural shift that I would assume a lot of people, they’re not really maybe hiring you for one specific project. Like, I really need to make sure that this is working better and is a well-oiled machine. It’s really a, I need cultural change in my organization as a whole so that all of my programs and processes are working a lot smoother. Is that kind of, you know, on the right track there?

Jason Scott:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we do occasionally get the call. We’ve got this one project that’s a dumpster fire, it’s business critical. Will you come in and help us? And that’s fine. We absolutely will. But that’s not all you’re gonna get. That’s not all you’re gonna get in the experience, right? Because if you have a business critical project that’s a dumpster fire, you do have culture problem, right? You, and so our two main go-tos are help develop high functioning unified teams and making sure that whatever it is, whatever the outcome is that they need, uh, that they’re getting the outcomes that they think that they need. Because that’s, again, you know, it, it doesn’t matter how cool your culture is and you should be a, a culture focused on humanity, right? But it doesn’t matter how cool it is if you’re not getting the outcomes needed. ’cause the company’s not gonna be around very long.

John Kelly:

Yeah. That’s a very real thing. You can have, you can have a lot of things going right and still be at that threat. And to me that’s even sadder because I think we’re filled with this a an a company or I’m sorry, a country of businesses that are in it for the wrong reasons and are super successful, or they treat their employees like dog. They don’t take care of people. You know, they have the, the hustle mentality all the time where all you can do is go, go, go, they want you at the office at four or five, 6:00 AM and they want you to leave at 6, 7, 8 pm have no home life. Like all of these things that are so wrong, but they’re so good at it and so successful. We need to be filled with more companies that have this culture centric, people centric viewpoint of, yes, we still have a job to get done, but there’s a better way to do it. You know,

Jason Scott:

It’s interesting. What’s really interesting is, and this is anecdotally, I I don’t have statistics to back this up, but, you know, 24 years of doing this, working with startups, you know, mid-size companies and the Fortune 500, the vast majority of the Fortune five hundreds that behave the way that you just described, treat their employees like commodities. And toxically didn’t get that big by doing that

John Kelly:

Mm. Bait and switch almost.

Jason Scott:

They, they didn’t get that. Well, and you think about it because the, the people that started it were not capable of running it once. It was a Fortune 500. That’s very, very rare, right? So the type of leader that you need to get a startup off the ground to then mature it into a midsize company to then mature it to like a public Fortune 500, these are all vastly different skill sets. And so I, you know, there’s, there’s the small companies that thrive acting Merc as mercenaries, right? But usually it’s just to a sale or an acquisition or an IPO to, to scale from, uh, a startup or a small company to a Fortune 500 dude, it’s not possible unless you can get a whole lot of people to buy in to your mission. Now, I think again, there’s the unicorns like Elon, you know, dude, you’re not building SpaceX if you don’t have people that are willing to work their mi their brains out, right?

Jason Scott:

Of course. Like it’s just not happening. Of course. You know? So he’s very, very mission driven though. He’s great at coming up with cool missions. Like ask people at, at Boeing, what do they do? They’ll tell you they’re right. Rocket scientists ask people at SpaceX what they do. They’ll tell you they’re, they’re pop they’re gonna send man to Mars, right? So they’re mission driven, they’re all about it. And in that is their humanity. They’re a, a, a unified, high functioning team focused on a, a single goal. And that’s getting man to Mars, right? And so some people wanna talk about how the culture’s mercenary or the culture at X’s mercenary, no, the culture at x, the culture at Tesla, the culture at SpaceX is GSD. And that’s what it takes to accomplish these huge things. That said Walmart, you know, like, hey, it’s this big work, work, work, work, work culture.

Jason Scott:

Everybody looks at it as this, you know, this giant box store, you know, they’re the biggest on the planet. They don’t care about people. But dude, I forget the name of the founder, like Walter or whatever it is. He was a hundred percent customer focused, team member focused. And he grew that company with a, with a, with an eye on humanity, go out and do the research until he died. And then somebody else took it and made it the behemoth that it is today. And now it’s, you know, like always under scrutiny, always being criticized, right? Like Google was great, great, great, great became a behemoth and then recently and our darling for 25 years and then recently put profit before humanity and now they’re just getting murdered in the press, right? Like, you know, I think they’re under investigation, antitrust, all that thing. They’ve gotta break, break up big tech.

Jason Scott:

Um, and, and so I, I just, I look at these companies that are doing what you’ve described, the large companies that are doing what you described, and I I think vast majority of the time they didn’t get there by behaving that way. And they’re not gonna stay there by behaving that way. Like they’re gonna nose dive, they’re gonna head downhill. Nobody’s wearing a badge of honor that works at GE anymore, though it used to be a huge badge of honor, right? And so the little companies or the mid-size companies, they just can’t become a big company by behaving that way. They just can’t. So where it looks like they’re being mercenary, it’s it’s because they’re ascribing to a goal that’s bigger than themselves, right? Whole Foods, you know, no reason to be mercenary. We could just hug each other every day. ’cause what we’re doing is we’re nourishing people’s souls. And that company became the leader in healthy food and organic food because John Mackey cared about his team members.

John Kelly:

And then it got smashed up by Amazon

Jason Scott:

<laugh>. And, and it’s, I’m not gonna say I, Amazon is a great, great company, you know, like who, but they don’t have the same culture that Whole Foods does. And I, I don’t think that Whole Foods holds the same image anymore now that it’s owned by Amazon.

John Kelly:

I’m sure. And you know, let me, let me say too, before we just ultimately demonize and write off any company that has grown and gone through that, it goes back to what we initially talked about. And that is that failure is not just an option. Failure is something that’s gonna happen and should happen.

John Kelly:

I think that that stands to reason as well that it’s like, you know, a company like Amazon, don’t get me wrong, I have strong hatred for some of the things that they’ve done that you can read about in your marketing textbooks and college and everything else where they’re, you know, warring over diapers and trying to shut down an entire company just to win the diaper war so that ultimately they could win a retail war. And it’s like half of it is genius and respectable and then the other half is despicable. But guess what? It sometimes a big company like that’s gonna learn from those mistakes too. And sometimes that is gonna be their failure so that they can turn around and do a 180 and then all of a sudden get back to people before profit.

Jason Scott:

Bezos has always held that Amazon was gonna go bankrupt at some point. Just reinforcing your point just now. Absolutely. Right. You know, we’re gonna lose our way, we’re gonna get things wrong and we then in that moment have choice. Do we, do we wanna learn from it and course correct or do we wanna keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

John Kelly:

So do I have to be, um, you know, Amazon or Sony or Trader Joe’s to work with you? Or can I be a smaller company as well? Is there something I can learn from you and kind of, you know, gather some of that knowledge without having a big budget and needing someone to come into my place to help me out?

Jason Scott:

Absolutely. So we used to, the answer 10 years ago would’ve been no. Um, but we that it became a problem for us. We were like, God, we can, we can only help people that, that can afford to pay several of us $200 an hour for six months or a year. And we thought we could do better. And so that’s when I started writing books. So, you know, a lot of the stuff that I talk about these days, there needs to be a couple more books. But ideally what we wanted to do in the publishing of the books was allow somebody to benefit from our experience for as low as 6 99. And in fact, if you then attend one of our, our 90 minute online talks for $40, we give you the code to download the book for free. So for $40 you can come and get wisdom.

Jason Scott:

And then we do offer coaching services, which are relatively inexpensive if you can get your organization to pay for it. So we, you know, for individuals looking to up their game, and when I coaching, it’s not that like huggy, touchy feely, I mean we’re, we’re about the human. We, we, we deal in humanity, but it’s performance coaching. It’s, Hey, you learn this thing because you wanted to get different results and now we’re gonna help you stay accountability. So I, I like to refer more to our performance coaching as really just your accountability partner. Just like if you were to get like a coach at the gym, they’re gonna be like, Hey, you committed to showing up on Thursday, so lift heavy weights, let’s lift heavy weights today. Right? Like, how did it go last week? Oh, you know, I, I did this, I pulled this.

Jason Scott:

Okay, well we’re gonna try this today to work that out, right? And so not only your accountability partner, but to be your guide in the adoption. And we, we have those available as low as $350, uh, a month for a single session. I always recommend two sessions. So that’s like $700 for two coaching sessions a month. And then of course all scales all the way up to full service. But frankly, having somebody that has helped Fortune 500 teams in the Fortune 500 organize and start getting the results that they need to turn around the situation that contributes now to both sides of the p and l, not just the loss, but on the profit side to sit with you and listen to what you’ve got going on and, and coach you two hours a month has a significant impact. And I, I don’t think $700 a month for an employer that can afford it is that big A, it’s not that big a lift, especially considering the return that they’re gonna get from this team member.

John Kelly:

Yeah, you spend a lot more sending people to conferences and stuff, which I know obviously entails more in depth, I would say like knowledge or teaching. But honestly, it’s once again, like you said, you don’t get that follow up behind it, which is the action I’m with you a hundred percent. Like being on a a firetruck man, it’s really given me a lot of leadership skills and knowledge that of course I learned while I went through some of the college hour classes that I had to take. And I’ve learned as I’ve gone through, um, some of the leadership training at work and whatnot. But it really gives you an idea of how much you have to do in order to master it. Because you’re right. Mastery, you know, it’s not just learning it. You can learn it. That’s great, right? And it’s not just doing it.

John Kelly:

You can do it once, twice, three times, but once you’ve done it enough times that you cannot fail at it anymore, that’s when you’ve mastered it. And I don’t think any of us ever truly get there for the big important things. We just have to strive to by being well practiced and knowing we’re gonna make as little mistakes every time we implement it as possible. So I’m with you, man. It’s the action that’s more important. We need somebody to hold us accountable and say, okay, yeah, you talked a big game about setting up this new process. Show me the last one that you ran. Oh, well, uh, I had three that qualified to run that process, but I never used it. ’cause it was just easier to do it the old way. Okay? Right. You need somebody to bring that and here’s the

Jason Scott:

Thing, and then be empathetic about it. I totally get how you got here. Let me help you. Yeah. But, and, and here’s my favorite. They recommit two weeks later we show up. They didn’t do it. Cool. Let’s do it right now. Let’s do it right now. Let’s do it right now while I’m sitting here. Right. Whatever it takes to help move them forward is what leaders do.

John Kelly:

Yeah. I think it’s just getting scared. Like you said, you know, um, you took the training wheels off. I felt comfortable on training wheels and wasn’t really even touching ’em that much, but now that they’re off and I don’t have a safety net, it scares me. So why do I want to go through that whole process when I can just do it the way I’ve done it before and even though it fails, I know at least I know how to do it.

Jason Scott:

Here’s the thing, it, it’s not always about avoiding failure. Right. You know, a lot of people are like, oh, you know, like I’m objectively failing and so it’s bad enough. Let me go work with a coach. Right? Let me bring somebody in to help us. Well you know what? There’s no different in solving the challenges that are causing the abject failure as in solving the challenges that are in your way for improvement. It’s change either way. Right? So, you know, this, this journey that you were just talking about that I’m on as a leader, that you’re on as a leader, pretty much everybody is on and a leader and you know, it’s maybe cliche, but you know, the forest for the trees thing is real. Right? You’re stuck, you’re not failing. Everybody’s happy with you and this is the worst place to be. Right? You remember good for great good to great the book. Good to great.

John Kelly:

Oh, I don’t think I’ve seen that one. I’m gonna write that down.

Jason Scott:

It’s way easier to turn a dumpster fire into something good. ’cause everybody wants you to than it is to improve from good to great ’cause everybody’s happy. What’s your motivation? Right? It’s already good. So the the idea is that it’s even harder to muster up the will to wanna change. And so that’s especially when you need a coach, right? Like you’re not just failing all over the place. ’cause in that scenario you go learn something, you’re much more willing to feel awkward and experiment with it. It’s when you go learn something that you feel like can be game changing, but everybody’s already happy with what you’re doing, you kind of try it once it’s awkward, it’s hard. That’s when you really need a coach, right? To sort of overcome that. Hey, it’s already good. So why change to get to great?

John Kelly:

I feel like it’s probably toxic, but I try to, I try to keep in my mind quite a bit that like what I’m going to do is going to suck like this is gonna be terrible, so let me just do it right. And then that way when I do it and it comes out fine, it’s like, well, cool. That’s better than what I expected. I’m happy that it worked out this way. And if it turns out amazing, it’s like, well, this is the coolest feeling in the world. But like I said, I know that’s probably toxic, but it’s like I keep my expectations low.

Jason Scott:

I don’t, I wouldn’t, I don’t know, I don’t judge yourself so harshly, um, everybody’s got their own technique. <laugh>. Okay. Right. Well, uh, everybody’s got their own technique. I, I do something similar. Honestly, when I am, when I’m frustrated when I’m doing something new and I get frustrated, I usually will catch myself and be like, oh, oh Jay, you’re at the first stage of mastery, so of course you suck at this. And then I feel okay to suck at it and keep going. Right. So, yeah, you know, I don’t, I don’t try to set my expectations low, like, oh, you’re probably gonna suck at this. I just catch myself sucking at it and remind myself that that’s okay. ’cause I’m just right there at the first stage of mastering something.

John Kelly:

Yeah, I guess it’s kinda like just moving the bar for each stage, you know, like, yeah, I, I was on par for this stage ’cause the bar is so low because it’s the first stage, but as I get better, that bar’s gonna go up. I mean, that makes sense. I’m gonna have to check out this book. Good to Great. I have not read this one yet, so that’s pretty exciting. Hopefully it’s on audible. It’s, it’s

Jason Scott:

Not just good. It’s great. <laugh>.

John Kelly:

Absolutely. Now for us poor folks that are listening that are like, you know what, this is all awesome, but, uh, 350 a month sounds like an astronomical bill. I can’t afford, which in this economy it happens. Uh, do you have like a YouTube channel or anything where I can kind of connect and find some, uh, free tidbits, like other podcasts you’ve been on, maybe, you know, stuff like this where I think honestly you brought a lot of value to the show in this past hour. So maybe some collection of things where I can learn from you without having to pay yet until I get to that point.

Jason Scott:

Yeah. So jasonscottleadership.com, is an aggregation of all the podcasts that I’ve ever done. There’s also an events calendar where I’m teaching a 60 minute or 90 minute workshops, and those are never more than $40. And if you’re a member of certain, uh, professional associations, um, we give even a deeper discount through those associations. So, you know, if you’re like, Hey, you know, where can I go? Who can I go ask for a discount? Just send me an email and I’ll be like, go talk to these guys.

John Kelly:

Yeah. That’s awesome, man. Well, I do, I appreciate the heck outta you being on the show today. I think that there was a lot of information packed into that 50 minutes that was very valuable. Uh, definitely some tidbits that I took for myself, and I know that time is the most valuable asset we have. So I thank you for spending yours with me today.

Jason Scott:

My pleasure, John. Thank you, man. Zoom high five.