I don’t know about you, but I was totally geeking out listening to this week’s MakingChips guest, Ted Ladzinski, owner of Motor City Spindle Repair of Dearborn, Michigan, share details of his business practices, from social media to sales management to spindle repair. It is rare that I pause a podcast to take notes, yet I found myself doing this multiple times during the episode. Mr. Ladzinski’s advice was fresh, and his detailed explanations prompted me to envision ways I could apply his experiences to my own business.
Even more rare than taking podcast notes, this was unbelievably the second time this week I encountered a profound learning experience. What are the chances?
It should come as no surprise that I am a sucker for book recommendations. I'll even admit to owning more books than I could ever read. A headline such as, “These Are the 2 Books That Made Me a Billionaire” is instant click bait for me, and when I came across that exact headline on this week’s INC. Magazine social media feed, I had to know more.
The article, it turns out, was an interview with Shopify co-founder Tobias Lütke, whose start-up idea was so great it blew up nearly instantly into a billion dollar business. Lütke was a computer programmer who had to learn management and people skills on the fly. He asked some successful entrepreneurs and leaders for book recommendations and discovered, Influence, a foundational work on the science of persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, and High Output Management by the former CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove. I ordered them both immediately and received High Output Management two days later. I read the whole book in 6 hours and I am not sure there was even one sentence I didn’t find valuable.
Lütke describes the High Output Management as "a how-to manual that deconstructs the world of business into first principles. It's like, here's what matters. Here's how to think about it.”
Lütke is not the only successful entrepreneur to find value in Gore’s book. Mark Zuckerberg claims the "book played a big role in shaping my management style.” And former Apple board member Bill Campbell says, “High Output Management is a bible that every entrepreneur and every manager in the country should look at, read and understand.” I agree with all of them.
The Challenge of Change
Remember in the podcast when Mr. Ladzinski described his process of accepting his co-founder’s revolutionary sales idea of “no protected territories” for salespeople? It takes a lot to change a person’s mind, including discipline and humility. This is even more challenging for a successful leader because it is unnatural to go against the grain or revise a process that has worked well previously. Yet, as Mr. Ladzinski explained, although his partner’s idea really challenged him and he resisted at first, the shift made so much sense based on the expansion of social media and diversified channels for new leads.
One of the things I appreciated most about High Output Management was how many times I felt challenged to examine or interrogate my personal business practices. For example, Gore writes, “A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem at the lowest-value stage possible.”
We all know that fixing problems is one of the top jobs of any manager. However, after reflecting a bit, I realized I have a tendency to write off small problems as just “nuisances” in order to “save time for bigger issues”. Gore goes into great detail about why fixing problems when they are small is the smarter practice. He also explains how to do it well.
The Challenge of Delegation
Another revolutionary concept I learned from Gore’s book was his outlook on delegating tasks.
He writes, “Because it is easier to monitor something with which you are familiar, if you have a choice you should delegate those activities you know best.” What? That’s crazy, right?
Well, not really. In the chapter, he explains how, If you’re familiar with a task, it’s easier to tell if someone else is well-qualified to take it on. Also, once they’re doing the task, you need less oversight to tell if things are going well or not. Therefore, using this delegation principle helps prevent hiring mistakes and micro management.
On the other hand, Gore also stresses that, “managers get a little more obsolete every day.”
He explains how rising in the ranks of a business almost always means spending more time managing. The more time spent managing, the more a person becomes disconnected from the experiences gained from being an individual contributor. Gore stresses that managers must be extremely careful not to lose touch.
The Challenge of Retention
One of my favorite topics Gore covers in the book relates to employee evaluation and retention. Personally I feel his insight on this topic alone was worth the price of the book. I’ve lived long enough to have worked for a variety of companies, most of which took the approach: if you don’t like it here, then you should find another job. Now, as a business owner myself, I realize I may have adopted a similar sentiment.
This mentality is in stark contrast to Gore’s principles. He is an advocate for retention and writes, “In almost all cases, the employee is quitting because he feels he is not important. If you do not deal with the situation right at the first mention, you’ll confirm his feelings and the outcome is inevitable.”
Gore makes the point that a lot has to happen for someone to want to interview and change jobs. It is his belief that if you’re at risk of losing someone from your team, you must act immediately to try to change the situation. Gore provides the following five key steps to save a lost employee and goes into detail about each one in the book.
- Drop what you’re doing. Sit down and ask why they’re quitting.
- Listen to everything they have to say, and ask questions to clarify.
- Don’t try to change their mind at that moment. Instead, look for opportunities to change things in the ways they want.
- You MUST follow through on whatever you commit to doing. You become the Project Manager of the solution to keeping them.
- Even if you will lose them to another department, you owe it to the company to keep them in the company.
The Final Challenge: Time
Gore believes, as business leaders, “The single most important resource that we allocate from one day to the next is our own time.” He stresses that managers must ruthlessly manage their time, and consider time management an investment.
I had never thought about it that way, but moving forward I plan to implement his suggestion of leveraging my time by dedicating small amounts of it to the following activities in order to have a large impact:: 1) information gathering, 2) decision making, 3) “nudging” others.
Want to know more? I highly recommend getting a copy of this book because I have only touched the surface of Gore’s wisdom in this article.
And, if that’s not enough of a push, let me tell you one more thing. At the very end of the book is a section titled “One More Thing”. In essence, it is a personal challenge by Gore to the reader, to complete a set of evaluative assignments and implement whatever your takeaways were from the book.
The assignments are incredible and I am really looking forward to completing some of them, such a:
- “For a process you are working on, identify the limiting step and map out the flow of work around it.”
- “Conduct work simplification on your most tedious, time-consuming task. Eliminate at least 30 percent of the total number of steps involved”.
- “Classify the task-relevant maturity of each of your subordinates as low, medium, or high. Evaluate the management style that would be most appropriate for each. Compare what your own style is with what it should be.”
Does this sort of application energize you? For me, I am suddenly really excited about challenging myself to make some changes.