Michael Leckie: Entrepreneur and Author of “The Heart of Transformation” (#286)
Our Guest Today: Michael Leckie
Michael Leckie’s new book “The Heart of Transformation” released on July 3rd (UK and ROW), July 27th, 2021 (US)
The Heart of Transformation breaks this cycle by suggesting that the pace and complexity of change is too great and too complex to be addressed by a single change effort or transformation. The answer lies in the organization’s greatest asset: its people. In the face of complexity, it is the organization’s people and their ability to adapt and learn that are the true engine of organizational change.
This episode answer questions such as: >> How transformation actually happens (or doesn’t happen) in a corporate environment >> How to transition from corporate to entrepreneurship (Michael was a corporate executive before going out on his own in 2019) >> What it’s like to publish a book with a publisher >> How to win a signed copy of this book and meet Michael (a really cool boss up close and personal)
Watch Our Interview
Michael Leckie Entrepreneur and Author of the Heart of Transformation.m4a – Powered by Happy Scribe
Feisworld Podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics. Nuggets can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have noneterviewbased miniseries releasing throughout the year to help deep dive into topics such as freelancing marketing, even indie filmmaking that will benefit creators like you. Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hey, guys. This is Faith from Phase World Media. I am so glad and thrilled for this conversation with my friend, my colleague, my client, Michael. Lucky. He did not push me to do this. I am so willing to share this conversation because, well, something important happened today on July 27. First of all, you know Coldplay released their new single, Coloradora You Don’t Care, because more importantly, today something else is happening because Michael released his book right here, and it’s not even hiding us right here on the 27th.
So, Michael, welcome to the show again.
Thank you so much, Faye. And thank you for making it all look much prettier. You always make me look better than I am, so you’re magical.
Thank you. I just realized our background actually matches your shirt today. Good job.
It does wrinkley and I did. As everybody knows, if you look barely behind me, you’ll see all this stuff that was shoved on the floor right before we started as fanos. Well, I recently moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, and we are still settling in, moving things around and trying to get life organized. So little real life background here. No fun green screen today.
Yeah, well, this is real. I actually love it, the fact that I love going live with you because you’ve always been so real. This is our first conversation, I believe, back in September, October 2019, and so much has happened to you. To summarize, in the past, really less than two years, you have gone from a corporate executive to an entrepreneur, and starting your business is not trivial. And in those two years, you worked very hard. I know it, at least for the first year, writing a book which will talk about the process, and you moved across the country for people who don’t know you as well as I know you. I want to briefly introduce you, but I don’t typically like to read the bio. But for people who want to learn more about Michael, his website is right in the signature, also in the description, no matter where you are right now. Michael is a former Chief Learning Officer for Digital Industrial Transformation at GE and is currently consulting on organization Transformation and Change to companies around the globe. He was also the Chief Learning Officer and global Head of Organization and Talent Development at Bloomberg and Managing Vice President at Gartner executive Program business managing teams that provide executive coaching, strategic guidance and researchbased advisory services to Gartner Csuite clients.
So you’ve done a lot, Michael, and then now you’re writing the book. So could you tell us a bit about why you wrote this book, chose this topic, and who it’s for?
Yeah, absolutely can. Thank you. And by the way, those of you watching, yes, we all put our best little bits in the credits, but I also do really dumb things too. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting question. In fact, people will see in the dedication that the book is actually for the people who are managed. It’s written specifically for managers and leaders as well as anybody in the organization that is dealing with or driving or subject to change and transformation, which at this point is just about everyone. So it’s got a fairly wide audience. But when I wrote it, I specifically wrote it with the lead and the leader both in mind and with leaders especially trying to help them remember what a privilege it is to get to be in a position of leadership and how you need to earn that. And I consider it kind of a sacred trust. I had the great good, fortunate gardener of having something happen in my career which was life changing in a career, and that was I managed a group of women and men who probably, in eight out of ten cases I would have reported to in different companies.
They were all very senior, very smart, very accomplished, you know, excios and the like. And I got to really be in that position of humility to figure out how do you add value to them as a leader? And now I think that we forget sometimes the leadership is about taking care of guiding, coaching, adding value to them, providing a space for people to be successful in the role that they’re in. That’s who the book is really written for, is the lead, but also the leaders so that they can really understand how do you effectively lead, especially through change and transformation, which is so poorly done, quite frankly, and so inhuman in many times. How do we bring the humanity back to that which is, ironically, what it needs to actually be effective and to make change or transformation happen?
Absolutely. And I have worked in business consulting advertising for over a decade, as we talked about, and definitely winners a lot of issues. And what I love about your book is you connect the neuroscience, the science side of things, but also you operationalize and help people understand how to actually do it. So could you talk a bit about the structure of the book, since not everybody necessarily have the book in hand just yet, but they should. So tell us about the structure.
Yeah, well, I mean, one of the words used there useful things being practical and operationalized. I really want it to be useful. And there’s a quote in there attributed to George Fox which says, all models are wrong, but some are useful. And you know, a model is simply a way we can look at the world to help us organize our thinking or our views to get something done. Otherwise things can seem pretty chaotic. Models aren’t the truth. They’re just a map that help us. But if they can help us move forward and make progress, then they’re useful. So that’s what I’ve tried to do. So I would say the book is organized. Really. The heart of it is talking about six different capabilities that I believe are critical to a digital age and to an age where change in transformation is ubiquitous. Things like exploring before executing, or humanizing before organizing, pathfinding before path following, learning before knowing. These are things that our concepts are not new and original to me. I didn’t invent them, and maybe they’ve been said in a better way before. But what I tried to do after I explained the concept and shared some stories of how it shows up and really leads to great success and great forward momentum, is then said, okay, so how do you operationalize these things?
Because all my career since I’ve been working in the field of change and culture, people have said, change manage the change and change the culture. And it reminded me I think I’ve told this story before. It reminded me of the only time, unfortunately, I ever went scuba diving. I was on tricks and caicos and we’re at a little resort thing and this house was really cool and got out on the boat and we were taught what to do. And we go down in the water and I was having this hard time keeping a level. I kept floating up, floating down. I’m adjusting things. And finally I see the dive instructor give me the thumbs up, which is kind of irritating. We get up just you have to stay level. I’m like, what do I do? She goes, stay level. Which, I mean, it was the most useless advice I’ve ever gotten, especially with their anger there. And I was all frustrated and humiliated that I couldn’t do it. But that’s kind of what we do to people. Stay level, change. They don’t know how to do that. So the book then moves into how do you operationalize that?
And the way that I operationalize it is through questions. The simple act of asking questions, good questions of yourself and of others. And then learning from what happens. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that. Learning from the answers, learning from the asking itself, learning from how the conversation flows is in itself a change in behavior. So my belief is that beliefs never change behaviors. Behaviors change beliefs. Sorry, guys. The other way around. People start with beliefs. They want to say, hey, here’s the new belief to change behaviors. But those beliefs won’t go in place and change your behavior. You have to start with the behaviors to actually put the beliefs in place. So questions are the behaviors that can actually change your beliefs?
You asked some really great questions. I’m going to pop up and we start working on things like this raise Canvas, which allow people, allow leaders or creators to actually, for instance, printed out, were projected on the screen or put on their smartphones, and to actually go through the questions. When you first introduced it to me, at the beginning, I was thinking, okay, the structure is quite simple. I’ve asked myself the questions at least once before. But I love your belief, which you’ve taught me in the past two years, is that innovation and change in itself, it’s not a destination. It’s actually a process. And that is something I really appreciate. But I do want you to maybe dive in a little bit about the four A’s canvas and tell us how you structure these questions and why. Yeah.
Would you want to pull it up again?
There a second say, sure, let’s do it.
Since the four A’s are simply allow, ask, ask, and ask again, and then assess and then again. So there’s more, as in there, but they allow the ask, the assess, and again, they’re the four that we talk about. So I used A canvas, and you can pull it down if you want to, but I use a canvas. I was taught this when I first started working in digital circles, like using the lean canvas and different types of canvases and camband boards and things to track what I was doing. And I find that the simpler the tool, the easier it is to use. I know that may sound kind of fascia on the surface, but it is. And so a tool like this is simply to say, look, when you’re asking a question, there’s more than just the asking of the question you have to start with. First of all, is it possible that this question is valuable to ask? Because some of the ones in the book are not the questions you would normally ask. And so people might look at them and say, well, what’s your third best idea? Why would I want to ask that?
So the first thing we do is we talk about why might you want to ask that question? Why is it good to get to the third best idea and have people work through multiple ideas? Because you’re more creative, you’re more innovative. You push past the answers that are easiest or the answers you think they want to hear. And when people run out of room with the easy answers, the answers they think you want to hear, they’ll actually start to dig into something because they have nothing else to say. It’s a really powerful but simple tool. And thinking about how you’re going to ask the question, what is the attitude or the assumptions or even the tenor of the question. Because we’ve all been asked questions that aren’t questions. The best example I think I can think of is what are you thinking? So what are you thinking? Like, that isn’t the question, it’s a statement, it says you’re not thinking, you’re kind of an idiot, it’s an insult, it’s a judgment, as opposed to what are you thinking? What do you think about this? That’s an invitation. It’s an invitation to engage in a conversation.
Same words, but entirely different. And yet I know a lot of people and a lot of people in leadership roles who will say, well, I asked them. It’s like, does anybody else have a better idea? Which is simply saying no one does. And if you think you do, please bring it forward so you can be humiliated and punished in front of the rest of the group. So we have to learn to really bring the right tone and the tenor to those. Then we have to stop and say, well, what did I learn? And it’s not just what did I learn from the answers I received, it’s what did I learn from the answers I didn’t receive, from what people said, from how I reacted to it, to how it made me feel, to what kind of dialogue it led to, to the conversation, stop the conversation, expand. There’s so many things you can learn about how you interact with other human beings and then you get to the end of that and you say, OK, what did I learn about them? What did I learn about me? And also maybe what did I learn about the question?
But honestly, the question initially its answer is secondary to what did I learn about them and what do they learn about me? And how we work together. Because as that improves, then the answers and the content of the answers come quicker, come more easier, they’re easier to get to the truth or what really matters. It’s easier to get the confrontation on, it’s easier to point out where we’re in disagreement. We want to avoid that. It all becomes much more powerful. So starting with a really simple tool like the canvas allows you to walk through it, but there’s a lot of learning and a lot of time that can take place in that canvas. And as you continue to go back to it as something to orient around, it gets easier. It gives you a pattern, it gives you a model in your mind for how you go about using questions. So then you can move past the 30, 31 questions, I think, in the book, and ask other questions as they show up and you’ll learn about what makes a good question and what makes a bad question and really understand the true power of what questions can unlock both in answers, but in relationships and ways of working and innovating.
Awesome. And I want to remind people who are watching this right now do ask questions, and we won’t judge based on good versus bad questions. And guess what? If you ask questions throughout this interview, after we conclude alive, michael and I are going to select the winner of someone winning a book, and it’s going to be a signed copy. We’ll ship it to you. You’re based in the US. And with that said, I also want to mention that on Michael’s website, there are a lot of tools, so there are courses, there are emails you can get in a sequence, and you can learn really, truly a lot more about his work even before you get his book. But I do think the book, in a way, to me, I was surprised that it’s a fairly easy read because, Michael, you decided to incorporate not just the science, but also your personal experience. And I don’t think you’re trying to take yourself too seriously here and trying to be really authentic and real. Was that style, your choice, kind of what you’re comfortable writing?
Yes and no. I mean, in the beginning, my excellent editor, Kathy Sweeney. When I first started writing it, I was very concerned about extensive research documentation and almost making it just a real compendium of other truth and bringing it together. And I was worried about just saying what I think and feel without a bunch of evidence behind it. I had some I think I had enough. I wanted more and more. And what she said to me, she was, no, no, it’s a book for people to read, and people want to hear what you have to say, and they’ll decide for themselves if that’s true or useful or not, but tell them what you have to say. And I realize that one of the things that I’ve been told in the past that could make the work I do more has made it more impactful is that I tend to be very honest, open and selfdisclosed. And I guess it’s sort of something I stumbled upon. I don’t know that it was a plan, but I’ve started to realize, of course, more great research has been done about this. The power of your own humility and vulnerability.
Look at Ed Hesson, Katherine Luddig’s work around. Humility is the new smart. Or any other Brene Brown stuff on vulnerability. And these are powerful tools we have, and they also make us feel so much better. And so what I tried to do is set a conversational tone in the book that I would hope that people could get into, because I find that real conversations are what really matter. I work with clients all across the spectrum in my career, but I’ve worked with Csuite, leaders of, I don’t know, probably most of the Fortune 500 at some point in my life, with Gartner and also me that I’ve met when I was there and then since then in other work. And it’s the conversations we have where we’re real, where they get the most value because leaders find themselves in this unenviable position of being that the higher they go in an organization and the bigger the organization, the harder it is to get people to tell them the truth. And they’re actually really starving for it. They want that feedback, they want that reality conversation. But the only way I can gauge in that is if I don’t come in as a superior person, I’m very fallible.
I make mistakes and I’m always learning and growing. And we’ve talked about this and in fact, you’ve helped me with something recently. But I’m doing two new things in my life at this point to continue to put myself in a place of humility and learning. One of them is since I stopped taking lessons when I was a little kid, I’m learning to play the piano again. And yesterday I was practicing my scales and fumbling through them. And in fact, we’ve been recording those sessions with the wonderful cosmo bono as we’ve done it, to just say, look, here’s somebody who you can look at and say, well, Michael’s got a book out and he has all these big names endorsing him and he’s worked for these big corporations and spoken in front of thousands of people and works with senior executives and blah, blah, blah. How exciting. But at the end of the day, I’m also just a person fumbling through trying to play lullaby or owed to joy or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as I learned something new in the same vein. I’m about to start taking flying lessons and it’s different. It’s anxiety provoking.
It’s scary up there. You’re bouncing around in that little plane. But at the same time, it’s something I want to learn to do. And so I’m putting myself in that place of being a little more childlike and learning. That’s an opportunity. We don’t get incorporations anymore. We’re not allowed to be childlike. We’re not allowed to play. We’re not allowed to learn near as much as we should, at least in most of them. And so I’m hoping to bring a humanity, a learning, a playfulness and really an openness to how can we all grow together, because I’ll stop rattling on here. But the bottom line is that we are in a world now where we can’t know everything we need to know. It can’t be what we know that makes us who we are. We can’t be ahead of everyone. We can’t be the best. There’s too many things to know. The problems we’re trying to solve are too complex. The solutions are too complex. All we can do is be really grateful learners and make our way through what’s coming as opposed to being knowitalls. And that know it all, to learn it all switch.
That takes humility, that takes failure, that takes vulnerability, that takes play, that takes being a bit childlike. Things which scare us and we haven’t rewarded in the past in organizations and I’d like to see that change as many organizations as I could help it change in. One of the reasons I wrote the book is to try and get that out there to more places than just my clients.
This is so lovely said because it reminds me as I started listening to the audio book by Simon as well, the Infinite Game, and it’s very much the same mindset that instead of competition we have to be at the top. He used the example of Microsoft and Apple a lot. But if we can be learners first and think about long term gains as a hard it as it can be, as there are some benefits to be short term thinkers, but in the long run you won’t win. And I want to really use myself as a guinea pig here because I really bought into the four A and then as a creative entrepreneur, as you know, as people know on my channel, I haven’t worked in corporate for more than, I think almost seven six, seven years at this point. I don’t see myself going back yet. I actually gained a lot of knowledge from this book I’m reading and it’s a type of book I want to hold on to. It’s not a temporary read, it’s not something I feel like I will learn once and I’m all set. So here’s the context. I think the context really helps.
A lot of entrepreneurs in our position really struggles with Wendy, which is to understand how to actually scale their business. And I want to be completely honest. As for myself, there are a lot of excuses not asking for help. And so I’m really focusing on change as a capability that I have to admit that it’s also difficult for me. As much as my friends, family and colleagues think I’m this growth mindset thinker, and I am not afraid to say that I’m wrong. Yet to actually make change happen, it’s challenging. Since I started my business in 2016, I slowly begin to hire people. Now I have three people on the team. But then because of your book and working with you, I had to reexamine instead of being oh, I’m really proud, everybody has something to do now. It’s like there’s more things on my list now than there were even a few years ago. I need to offload even more and let go control and it was so uncomfortable. So I really want to use this forays canvas and the change section, the change capability for you and I to explore. Maybe you can ask me questions.
I don’t know how you think it works best, but shall we give it a shot?
Sure. So you want to talk about how to kind of move forward and ask for more help?
Yeah, asking for more help either finding new people or in my case, I slowly and surely to give away off load more tasks to my very capable small team.
Yeah, it’s a great discussion because for whatever reason, again, Renee’s work has discussed so much, this being vulnerable and asking for help. But when you think about asking for help, what is it that holds you back? What is the concern or the fear that holds you back, do you think, from always asking for help right away?
Yeah, I think some of the fear that comes to mind right away is, what if my clients will leave right now? Let’s say I have the stability of having five or six clients, but they’re different sizes and different type of retainers. I also have revenue from, let’s say, YouTube advertising and partnering with different companies. But there’s always part of me is thinking like these things kind of influx, right? If I commit to paying my resource, my amazing people, a certain amount of money, I feel like I want to do right by them. And what if my client base changes? It’s just like, what if something happens?
Yeah, so it’s like that. There’s that fear of so in this case, if I engage and bring others into my little world that now they have me as a source of revenue, will I be able to sustain that and take care of them? So that fear of I won’t succeed and I’ll let people down, like, I better not try because once I get there, I might not stay there.
It’s an interesting way of thinking. Right? Because we all do that, and yet what is the logical outcome of that? I’ll just never get anywhere because I might end up back there if I try to get out of it. All you’re doing is guaranteeing you won’t go anywhere. But still, it’s that fear that we have of looking less than of looking inadequate, of looking imperfect, of looking like our knowledge is not there. Like we don’t know everything. And here’s the secret. We are imperfect. We don’t know everything. Our knowledge is inadequate, and there’s no way around that anymore. And so, really, just embracing the truth of the world, it’s one of the reasons I’m doing the piano lessons, is because I can’t do that without help. I can’t do that. I tried. I had the piano, I got the keyboard a year ago. I tried doing different things. It was kind of fun. I’d learn a little bit. Hey, I learned to play the opening part to Van Halen jump. Then I couldn’t do the whole thing. I had to give up. But with Cosmo correcting me and showing me what I do wrong and where my mistakes are, I can start to fix them.
Because if you think about it, nothing ever gets accomplished. You never succeed at anything until you fail at it first. Anything you’ve succeeded at, you fail that. And the more you failed at it, the better your chances are of succeeding at it. But nonetheless, in a world where we always are trying to look our best, and now it’s all about your brand and your presence. I mean, you know this now. Now, as an entrepreneur, do I need to get out there and say, everyone, by the way, I’m Michael Lucky and I am the absolute best at this by my stuff? Well, first of all, people aren’t actually going to believe that. And when they see that I’m another human being, but I’ve gotten somewhere through failing and making mistakes, they’re like, okay, maybe that’s okay for me too. Then you take that lesson back to our corporations. You’re a senior leader and you’ve got a group of people and you are trying to get them to change and innovate and grow, and you’re exhorting them to do this. But when they look at you, they see someone who puts on this mask of infallibility and you don’t show your weaknesses and you don’t show your soft underbelly.
They get the message that it’s not safe to do that around here. It’s not safe to not be right. It’s not safe to fail. So we have to actually, to use the old metaphor, practice what we preach where no one’s going to believe it, which is one of the reasons in the book when I’m talking to leaders, I say, look, you need to go first for two reasons. One, so you have the empathy for what they’re going through as they change. And two, so you bring in that now much of an old psychological safety that it’s okay to not know, it’s okay to learn, it’s okay to unlearn, it’s okay to change and try things you’ve never done before, and no one’s going to believe that because you say it to them. They’re only going to believe that when you show it to them.
Yeah, that’s very helpful. And I realize as I’m setting up the context, you have also provided your toolkit a list of questions. So even though part one right now says allow, why would this be a good question? Just as a hint, here are the list of questions related to this is exploring before executing. So there’s a list of questions for each and every one of the capabilities. And I think for me, as relates to change, it’s what’s the cost of not changing? What’s the cost of staying the same? And that becomes really obvious that I won’t be able to grow my business. There is no balance to my work life balance. And I am unable to learn from people who are clearly better at this than I do. And on top of that, humanizing things make me realize, as you’re talking about, even if things go south and they don’t work out, if half of my clients leave me, for whatever reason, I am able to have that conversation with my content manager, with my. Producer. In fact, they initiated not to ever underestimate the people you work with. They actually approached me first. I remember last year as I was buying a house and they came to me even offer me discounts and offer to help me out.
Between then, which was September, closing the house, the end of the year, I was blown away. We ended up getting more done, not less. So shall we? Let’s see, that’s the first question and I want to go through the list. So there is two right here. And so if the question, let’s say the cost of not changing, we’re staying the same. And here we have on screen is how do I have to ask this question? What do I want to assume as possible? What tone do I choose to use? I think the tone part is so important.
Yeah, it is. I mean, we started with go back real quick to number one. It’s the allow, right. Sorry. So why might this be a useful question to ask? Because I realize I kind of took off track where you wanted me to go there. So we start with this is why might it be a useful question to ask? And so when you were using there, I think the version I use in the book is one of those is what’s the cost of replicating our success? So we’ll take that for an example and kind of walk through here. Why might this be a useful question to ask? Well, you might think well, I don’t think there is a reason to ask that because if we’ve got something successful and working, we want to replicate and scale that and just go and make money and succeed and grow. But if you think about it, for why might it be useful? What might be useful if there actually is a cost to doing that? Because most of the time we don’t think there is a cost just replicating and scaling what works and what we’re successful and good at.
But if there’s a hidden cost, might it be useful to know that? Because might that not be something that trips us up, derails us, or catches us out later on? So if you move to the second question, then that are in the for a which is ask, how do I ask the question? So this is a question you have to assume that possibility is there and then you have to be real sincere because let’s say you’re a manager now and say you’ve got your team there and you want to ask that question what’s the cost of replicating our success? Your team has to know that you’re not probing them for their weakness to see if they don’t believe in the mission or something, that you’re actually asking a real honest question that you don’t know the answer to, that you need their help. So you’re engaging them now as equals in a conversation and you’re taking the hierarchy of the organization out of it, which can get in the way. So it’s like, what is the possible cost of replicating our success? And people start to think about that. And one of the things that often comes up when I use this question in my consulting work is, well, then that’s the only success we’re really going to have.
Maybe there’s an even more powerful, more successful success out there. The other one that’s come up a lot is and again, there are other answers to this question, the other one that’s come up a lot is, will we stop learning and innovating because we’re just replicating success? And what we know from looking at the history of organizations and products and services and businesses is that everything is successful point in time, and the time changes and the context changes. So we’ll take one of the overused examples. But if you’re Netflix shipping out DVDs right from close distribution centers to your door, not having late fees like you had a blockbuster, having to keep them as long as you want, buying it when you want it, that was a great successful approach to business. And yet they were smart enough to see that it wasn’t going to be the only success because streaming was going to go from something that was like that to something like this that actually worked and there’d be a new way of being successful. And so that reinventing of themselves kept them successful. And we can look at so many other companies that said, no, we’re just going to do what makes sense and what we’ve been successful at our core competency and not worry about the small stuff out there, because they’re right, that new thing was small until it wasn’t, and then they were left behind.
So they ask and then the third part of the canvas, the third question there is the ask and ask again that’s okay, do I need to ask this question again? Have we gotten the answers out? Do we need to go back and revisit it and say, okay, as my friend Michael Bungay Stanier would say, and what else do we need to go back and probe further? And oftentimes we ask the first time and we get one answer or two answers, and we think about it and we go back and we ask again and say, let’s go a little bit deeper in this and we get to even better answers. Now, we don’t always have to do that, but sometimes upon reflection, we’ll find that we need to. And then the fourth part of the canvas is really simple. That’s the assess part. What surprised me? What did I hear? How did it line up with my expectations or assumptions? So when I think about what I heard or what I want to do with it so in this case of the what’s the cost of replicating our success? I might say, well, if we just replicate success, then we might lose the ability to innovate and change and find new ones, or we might lose our learning capacity.
Now, the answer to that possibility is not great, let’s stop scaling and replicating what we know how to do and just go off in a bunch of moonshots. If you’re good, you’ve literally got a company called Right X that does moonshots. That’s what they do. But you don’t only have that if you’re part of alphabet. There you’ve got Google, which scales and replicates things like Maps and Search, which are their bread and butter, which they’re just improving. And you’ve got Ventures, which is trying to find some new things that are good bets. And you’ve got X, which is saying, and here’s the wild stuff that may never yield a result. And we expect maybe one in 100 of these to actually be good, but that one could be game changing. You play all those friends and you distribute your resources accordingly. You can do that if you’re Google, and you can do that if you’re feisworld.com as well. You can say, here’s the stuff I’m going to do, and redo. That’s good. Here’s the stuff that I’m going to try out and partner with some people on, and here’s that one or two things that may be completely off brand that could be crazy good for me.
I still think back on my most popular and well and highest read LinkedIn post had something to do with the experience I had with Delta Airlines. Now, I am not an airline critic or an airline reviewer, but I had this post and I can’t even honestly remember the essence of it now, but it got like 20 20, 50 00 views and comments because it struck a chord, but it was outside my area of expertise and focus. I just asked the question and played around with a little bit there. So you never can tell what off brand thing might become your new brand.
Yeah, there’s a lot of learnings as you’re walking through an example at a bigger scale. But I think about on my own, at my level, which I know there are a lot of creative entrepreneurs, especially since before the Pandemic and throughout the Pandemic, are exploring new career paths. And it’s fascinating to me to realize that true. When I think about replicating success for me, I’ve launched my YouTube channel. I’ve grown to about 160 subscribers, which I never imagined. Now I have to really make a decision, because on one hand, I could say that was my success, but I’m unable to replicate myself so that I should continue to run my channel, specifically research my title, type in the keywords, prepare descriptions and all these things. Because I know from an algorithm perspective, I have really owned this. But it’s not true. I’m able to train someone else. And when I work with Anna, when I work with Herman and Rose on my projects, I realize they bring in whole new perspectives. And Anna design the thumbnails that have higher click through rates. And if it doesn’t, frankly, and she and I have a meeting right after this, and we’ll look at the stats and we’ll figure out what works.
So that’s absolutely true. Another question I like when you ask, what is the worst that could happen? What’s the worst that could happen? Yeah. Lower view, lower click through rate. And once you put things on paper, you realize it’s not nearly as horrific or scary as you thought. So to go through that question, you realize that what’s blocking us can actually be, frankly, a little silly, and that we can actually get past that much, much more quickly than we thought.
Well, and we make these assumptions about for others. Let’s talk about me working with you, or you working with Rosen, Anne, and others, because there’s obligation if I start now, then what happens to them if for some reason I can’t work with them anymore one day? Well, the fact of the matter is that, I mean, we’ve been working together for a couple of years, and I pay you a regular monthly retainer for the work that you do, and I’m sure that’s great business for you, but yet, if Michael Lucky disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t devastate your world. You’ve missed me, but it wouldn’t devastate your world financially. And you’d move on, and you’d figure something else out. And you’ve probably done things like, I have to prepare and to kind of spread your business out a little bit. Well, Rose has and Anna have as well as they’re building it, and there’s these points in times where it’s easier or harder, and that’s what happens. But when you talk about what’s the worst that could happen here, the worst that can happen if I engage you, is that it doesn’t work out and someday we’re not working together.
Of course, if I don’t engage you, it never works out, and we never work together. We’re actually making that worst case scenario come true. If we don’t try it also with others and say, what’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes the worst that can happen is pretty big. I’ve seen companies say, well, what’s the worst that could happen if we do this? We could tank the whole business. Okay, then, you know what? Maybe that’s not the best solution. Maybe there’s an easier way to find out. We need to find out. Try it. We want to try innovate where we want to innovate. That won’t destroy the whole business. There’s great work on the book immunity Change by Bob Kogan, Elisa, Alaska Leahy, which is a phenomenal book, talking about how people are immune to change and avoid change. And I love the fact that they talk about small recoverable tests. And so you can do small recoverable tests of what might happen. You don’t have to bet the farm on everything. And you know what? You really don’t. These relationships that we’re starting to form, especially as entrepreneurs, you have a number of people, and it’s like a community, this web of services and goods and payment going back and forth, but it becomes more sustaining like that as you go forward and there’s more elements.
It’s not just you and them. You’re not solely dependent. Which is sometimes. I think. Why in organizations. We don’t take chances because we put ourselves into a place especially I don’t feel really political in the United States. Where you are so dependent on an employer for your status. Your health benefits. All of your income. All of these things that corporations we have designed tend to make people more and more conservative and take less and less chances on things because of the high risk. Whereas corporations that allow for a little more freedom and places where you’re not as dependent, you will take more risk and you will do different things, and you’ll actually be able to contribute more. So it’s funny, oftentimes we have these organizations and corporations that are perfectly designed to stop us from doing all the things that we actually want to do, but we don’t reflect upon that because we don’t reflect upon the fact that most of these structures were created in, you know, the Frederick Taylor days of industrialism. And we don’t realize that most of the things that govern them were created to mitigate risk, regardless of the cost.
And there can be a huge cost sometimes to mitigating risk.
Yeah, well, speaking of mitigating risks and to realize them, one question that has come up a lot, by the way, on your social media and through conversation, is the fact that personally, you came from corporate America, you were managing director level, you are high up, and there’s a lot more at stake as you climb the corporate ladder. So for us, our base salary from when we left corporate is very different. For me, I was thinking, I think I can replicate this at some point, or it takes some time, but for you, a couple of years ago or a few years ago, as you’re contemplating this, that was probably a pretty big risk. I mean, I don’t know. What was your mindset like if you were to flip the script? What was change like? What was pathfinding innovation like for you to start your business as opposed to just keep going, keep doing what you were doing?
Yeah, it’s a great question. I tried it before. I tried it once. I actually tried a long time ago, and it was so green and not ready for it. And then years went by, and I kind of started down that road again. And what happened is I was like, you know what, maybe I’ll do my own thing here because I’ve always wanted to, but I’m going to still look at jobs as they come up. What I was basically saying to myself was, I’m going to move on, trying to do something my own, but I’m kind of too scared to commit to it, so I’m going to keep my foot in for other jobs. And at one point, I ended up getting into something that there were some warning signs, but there were also so many things that look like, this is great, that I said, yeah, I’m going to go back into this. And those things that I’m worried about, they’re not going to be there, and they weren’t for a period of time, and then they were. And I’ve seen that experience replicated again and again by people I worked with. So when I got to the point of actually doing this, what I said to less to myself, but more than to my wife, was, I don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills.
I don’t know how we’re going to pay the mortgage. I don’t know how we’re going to make this work. And if we’re going to make near as much money, if we’re going to have to adjust our lifestyle, move somewhere less expensive, I don’t know. I just know that this is kind of what I have to do and where I want to go, and it scares the hell out of me. But are you okay to go with me on that journey? And fortunately, I have a phenomenal woman, Molly, that I’m married to, and she agreed. But to answer your question, I had to commit. I had to say, I’m going to do it. The metaphor I’ve often used, it’s kind of a silly one, but sort of like if I’m afraid to jump on the water, sometimes the best thing for me to do is to tie a rope around my ankle and the other end around a rock and throw the rock in, because eventually that rope is going to go tight and I’m going to get yanked in with it. And so I’ll do things. I’ll commit to something. I’ll commit to a deadline.
I’ll commit to something happening, knowing that then I’m probably going to rise to the challenge and get it done, even if I don’t know how to do it. And so I think, for me, that’s what I had to do. I had to say, I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but it’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a choice to do this, and then I’m going to figure it out. I think if you wait to figure it out before you make the choice to do it, there’s no incentive, there’s no need. There’s nothing that’s pushing you. You can get lazy. You can settle back into a comfortable rut. Maybe you’re not so happy with what you’re doing, but, hey, it’s the devil, you know, as opposed to getting out there and risking it all. And you know what? I could be in a much different position. I could be doing far less well than I am but I’m not, and I can’t worry about that. I just have to kind of go forward and do. And also, quite frankly, while I’ve done very well, in fact, I’ve done better financially as an entrepreneur than I did even in the big corporate roles.
But that’s not guaranteed, of course. Corporate roles not guaranteed. They’re giving you the illusion of control. You can be let go any day for whatever reason. When your manager changes, there’s an acquisition or the strategy changes or whatever happens. So I’ve just kind of embraced more of that unknowing and realized that really, that’s the reality of our world, and we spend all this time constructing false structures of security that tell us it’s all going to be all right. Who knows if it’s all going to be all right? I mean, the Pandemic taught us that. And look at the amount of people now that having learned that lesson in the Pandemic, that anything can happen. People are leaving their jobs in unbelievably record numbers. I think one of the studies I saw said 95% of people they surveyed are considering changing jobs or changing careers. 95%, because they’ve realized that the world is not a set, stable place where tomorrow is the same as today. That’s scary, but it’s incredibly freeing at the same time once you go ahead and accept that reality.
Yeah, this part is so helpful. And I know this is a segment I want to slice and dice and share Chief again and again, but is it possible, Michael, to break down your transition? Because I know that one advice I give to people is, like, now, today you have an idea. Maybe don’t try to screw up your job tomorrow, try to leave your job. Don’t burn bridges. But now, knowing your clients absolutely adore you, you still travel a bit here and there. There’s still a lot of freedom on your schedule. Could you help people understand how to go from ideation, going from passion to action, but actually build out a plan? Did you reach out to your clients, people that build out relationships ahead of time and then kind of smoothly transition into projects, if you remember what that was like?
Yeah, well, I mean, the first time I did I did more of that. I thought about what is a good app I’ve been building? What have I been doing? Where is this application elsewhere? How can I reach out, make some connection? And I was always somebody. I’m black man. His name he’ll never forgive me. Joe, I can’t think of your last name. Wonderful guy. And he told me years ago, he goes, you’re in a great spot right now where you got a great job. With a great company like Gartner, you don’t need to worry about going anywhere else. So now is the perfect time to be focusing on building your network and build it from a perspective of what can you give and contribute to people out there that need help, that aren’t in the position you are. Because when you find yourself or decide to be in that position, you’ll want that network to be there as well. And I really took the heart, I think Adam Grant’s work, meeting Adam to do some work with him around, when he wrote Give and Take, it was like, how can you give? How can you connect people?
And so I’ve always tried to be and when I was in a position to do so, I was generous with my time. I tried to help people as much as I could, regardless of any kind of return I would get for it because it felt like that was the right thing to do in the world. Of course, as a result, when I’ve needed people, they’ve been there for me. They’ve shown up. And so when I made kind of the second time I started to do this, I made it kind of abrupt. I was like, I just gotta go and made the shift. And I started looking and talking to people and putting together products, working on a business plan, all the stuff that I was learning and figuring out how to do. But the first piece of work I did that became sustaining over a period of time happened because of a relationship where I’d just given and given my time and helped out with no thought of recompense, just that I wanted to work with these amazing smart people. One of those amazing smart people had an opportunity and said to the client, you need Michael Lucky.
Here’s his number. Get him in, because otherwise we’re not going to succeed. And threw that out there. And it was a great piece of work that fell into my lap and gave me a little bit of cushion then to do other things. But I’d like to say that there was a really good set way of doing it, but the only set way of doing it, I think, is deciding to do it is committing to do it. And that’s the scariest part. You know, there are no guarantees, but you can’t live in two worlds at once. You can do a little preparation while you’re in this world easily. I mean, I did a lot of preparation towards writing the book and building intellectual property and learning what I was good at. But when you finally decide to go, you know, you need to commit to it at whatever level it is, whether it’s 10% of your time or 110% of your time. You just have to decide. And it is not easy. I’m always reminded of a corney 80s movie called Skin Deep with John Ridge it. And I remember he’s sitting talking to his therapist and the therapist and he’s got all sorts of problems.
He’s womanizing and destroying his relationships. And his therapist says, you know what I tell my patients who are alcoholics? I say first, stop drinking. And he goes, what does that mean? He goes, we’ll talk next week. No, no, no. What does that mean? He goes, we’ll talk next week. But I think what that means is it’s that easy and it’s that hard, it’s incredibly hard just to stop drinking. But that’s the only thing that you can really do in that case. And so for me sometimes I just have to think what is the just stop drinking choice here and then make that choice, not knowing how it’s going to turn out, not knowing if I’m going to stick to it, not knowing I’m going to make it work. And quite frankly, the first time I kind of made the decision I said maybe I should cut back on the addiction to a corporate life a little bit. But I didn’t actually say I’m done. I’m there. I’ve hit kind of, if you will, rock bottom in a sense with the life that I had, which brought me many good things to move into the new life that I wanted.
Was that helpful?
Yes, it is very helpful. Keep nurturing your relationships and don’t underestimate anyone. And for me, for instance, I remember being in my late twentys, I was basically nurturing kind of coaching on my own terms. A lot of these kids who are just fresh out of college now fast forward ten years later, they’re now in midmanagement situations. A lot of them have reached out to me. It’s so hard to imagine that they’re in their thirty s and have done a lot for me. So we have our first question come up from Don Africa production and interesting. So Michael, now you have a company. What kind of culture exists in your organization and how did you establish that? What’s your culture? And Michael lucky.com, well, it’s a small.
Organization and it’s all people that are partners like you and other just kind of partners and friends. But I guess the culture in the organization is one of generosity and curiosity and, you know, possibility. And that fits really well excuse me with my personality. But it’s led me to people who are like that. And so if I think about my organization I’m going to use the term loosely. Like one person in my organization is my friend Bob. Mesta and Bob bob bob is a genius. Bob is bob is a mad man genius. He created jobs to be done theory with Clayton Christensen. He has innovated on thousands of products. And you get in your car and you want to know, hey, which side is the gas tank on? There’s that little arrow next to the gas gauge. That’s Bob he created that years ago. Now, Bob was also a person that was told when he was young because of severe dyslexia that he would never amount to anything. In fact, I’m not mistaken, probably when he was a kid that they officially used the R word to describe him. And yet he’s a brilliant man who lectures at Northwestern, Harvard and MIT and is incredibly successful.
Bob is a part of my organization and culture because we share a love of possibility, of openness, of challenge, of curiosity. And so we interact on things. And while we’re not meeting like an organization, he reaches out about a project he’s on, and he knows I want to be a part of and vice versa, and we connect with each other or my friend Michael Bungie Stanley I worked with over the years, and I learned so much from as well. So I find that I’ve created a culture that really fits me and what I love and who I want to be in the world, and that draws me to and draws in people into that organization, whether formal or informal, that share that. So that’s the kind of organization and I think I established it by going ahead and being the person that I want, being the kind of person I want to be working with, being that first without regard for whether or not it was going to come back to me that way. I have had people reach out, and I’ve given, and it’s been helpful. I’ve not heard back from them since. They’ve done their own thing, and I don’t regret that at all.
And I’ve had people that have reached out and I’ve given and we’ve stayed in touch, and I’ve still continued to give and help them, and I’ve never got anything for it. And I have people that I’ve connected with and give it a little bit, and then they’ve turned around out of the blue, given to me something I never could have anticipated. So, you know, it’s not a it’s not a zero sum game. It’s not one for one. It’s not quid pro quo. It’s just a matter of, you know, as Dolly Parton said, you know, figure out who you are and then do it on purpose. That’s kind of what I’ve tried to do.
Yeah. I think it’s very, very true in that regards that I learned a lot from you. And the same thing is how I treat people. No matter where they are in the world, their background, they choose to work with me at every level, whether it’s just a single episode going live on my podcast or working with me on a regular basis. I want to give them full respect, and I work with a lot of young people too, and I tell them there’s so much I want to learn from them. So thank you for sharing that. There are a lot of people we want to thank. We feel thankful for the launch of your book, but there is a second question. Wonder if you want to acknowledge that quickly as well.
Yeah. How do you market your business? You’re, again, like, sole entrepreneur who collaborates with a lot of big thinkers. What are some of the tactics have been most successful? I’m smiling. Because I should know the answer to this as well, because I’m helping you market your business to a certain degree phaseroll.com.
That’s the answer. There you go. Easy commercial no, because you’ve been a huge part of that. How I market my business is two ways in the ways I know how and the ways I don’t know how in the ways I don’t know how faye and her team do that. The social media products, all the things that all the magic that she works and all the ideas that she has that she brings to the table with her team. The other one is the ways I know how, which is by conversation and personal connection. And so, you know, when it comes to things that are mass, like those of you who are watching, I don’t know you personally. So this is a way through this medium to connect with you. The people I do know personally, those ones I connect with individually, and they’re more people that may be interested in what I do or may benefit from what I do. And so it’s very, I guess, targeted and focused, and other ways I do it is just by learning how to do it. Writing the book certainly is a way to market myself. Now, the primary purpose of the book, very honestly, is I want to have an impact on the world, but also, it’s the kind of thing that puts my name out there.
It’s a calling card. It bestows legitimacy on me. And so I do things like that. And the tactics that have been most successful this may be an annoying answer are the ones that have worked. And I’ve tried a lot of things. I just keep trying things, seeing what works, putting a little in here, putting a little in there. One of the reasons I love working with you, faye, is that you’re a great experimenter. It’s like, let’s try this, let’s try that. Let’s talk about this. Let’s do that. This one worked. This one doesn’t. Great. And I loved I used to work with some folks, I think it was an amgen, and they would say they would celebrate every time a clinical trial would end in failure, just like, yes, one more path not to pursue. We’re getting closer to the real path. And that’s sort of the way I think of marketing myself and the tactics around it.
That’s great. I want to add to that as well for don africa production. Which is. I think. For michael. Coming from this background and with his experience. A few things that we did since the beginning of the year. Which includes these virtual hangouts because of the pandemic and the fact that it’s just so much easier to reach out to other people because. Michael. You have connections worldwide. And even if there isn’t a pandemic. It’s unrealistic to gather everybody to kind of celebrate your book and tell everyone about everything you’re doing. So we started consistently launching these virtual gatherings using housebased with a combination of zoom. We have one this Thursday on the 29th, 11:00, a.m. Eastern Standard Time. I did include in the comment of how to actually sign up for that. So that’s AMA. You can have follow up if you have more questions. I always do. Every time I watch a live stream, there are more questions. So you can ask Michael then on Thursday. But we’ve been doing that consistently, not just for the month of launch or two days after launch, and we were able to meet people from really around the world.
So virtual events have been very helpful as well as I love the course that Michael put together, which we you know, it’s basically a series of videos, but Michael put together these really interesting questions which leaders and people from any part of the organization can study together, learning and then answering via survey and then really reaching out to Michael directly. I think it’s a very human experience that made the launch kind of oneof a kind and really helpful for people who engage as opposed to, oh, let’s put together a gamified plan to have 10,000 people enter into the email list and 99% of them remain inactive. For people who don’t know well, Michael currently uses ConvertKit, and we can look at the engagement. It is a smaller list, but the engagement is nearly 50% 50. That is huge. So I would highly recommend that. So, yeah. So with that said, we’re just a few minutes over. Mike, I want to invite you to maybe let us know your mentors, people that you admire, people who inspired you and helped you throughout the book process because I want to give them a quick spotlight as well.
Absolutely. Well, I mentioned my friend Michael Bungie Stanier and Mark Boden as well. We’ve been the two Toronto boys there. We’ve been partners in crime for years and they’ve been very generous. You dig back farther. Chris Warning, my graduate thesis adviser, who I still work with and I’m friends with, and the great Edgar Shine, who I think is influenced my thinking more than anyone I can think of, and who’s actually taking the time to read the book and endorsing it for me was an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience. That’s really all I needed. The book is a success for me if nobody buys a copy because it thought it had value. But there are so many people I work with day to day. And what’s nice is a lot of people who endorse the book. People like, you know, Sue Mormon, who has been so generous and wonderful, me and just a brilliant thinker who took time to engage and build a friendship. I could go on and on and on with people in my life, but I suppose that the number one person who has I would want to thank would again be my wife.
Because if I’m on my own, I can make all these choices and take all these risks, but with a family, we have to do that together. And I have watched relationships that are very, very different, and it scares her, what I decide to do sometimes. But her belief in me has given me a belief in me that I probably wouldn’t have had without. I probably would have kind of crumbled and decided, I can’t do this. So having someone that you’re loving is your best friend, but who also really believes in you. That’s been the most probably amazing relationship in my life. It’s given me the ability to do what I’ve done, which is why I tried to capture a fraction of what I feel about her and the acknowledgements in the book.
This is so lovely. Molly has been great. I got to meet her briefly on Zoom as well, just immediately. She’s been such a huge supporter because I have to ask Molly to take videos of you during the pandemic, and we put them on your YouTube channel, and she’s done a great job. You know, there’s so many partners who would just be, you know, not be interested or not trying to help, and she’s been so consistently there and to be so supportive. So thank you. Molly and I will conclude the livestream today, but I really urge people to check out this book and tell your friend’s, family, colleague about it, because it does change you and your organization for good. And it’s a lot of effort that Michael put in there so that I don’t have to so I can just consume the content and apply it accordingly. Anything else, Michael, before we conclude, any last words for our audience?
Yeah, I think we’re talking about mala, maybe think of it. And one of the things that she’s done that doesn’t have to be just your spouse doing it for you. But one of the generous gifts she’s given me is listening to me. And most of the things that made their way into print, make their way into products, make their way into Fortune 50 boardrooms or into auditoriums filled with thousands of people started in a conversation as I talked out loud with my wife, and she has listened to me blather on more than anybody. As soon as I realize I’ve been talking to Blue Streak for, like, 45 minutes, I look at her. I said, I’m sorry. She was no, it’s interesting to me. I like to know what’s going on in your life. And she’s allowed me that ability to speak out loud. So find those people that you need that will give you the gifts you need. One of the gifts I need is someone who can let me talk out loud, which is really interesting because the majority of my most powerful work comes working with people who don’t get that space to talk and think out loud because they’re so pressured by what’s going on in their job.
And when I pull them into that space, they’re able to do things they weren’t able to do. Not because I tell them how, not because I showed them the magical way, but because I just create that space and pull them into it. She’s allowed that space for me. I think that if you find the people that can help you do what you need to give to others, it can be really a kind of a magical cycle. There.
Absolutely agree. And I have so many people thank for after this livestream. I feel like I should email them and let them know and yes, thank the people who support you and love you on a regular basis. And believe it or not, I did listen to Cole Plays new release to celebrate today. And one cool. It’s so funny. It’s a band I listened to when I was like 19. It’s been many years, so there’s one and their lyrics tend to be very simple. There’s one thing I remember from an hour ago was in the end it’s the love you give is what matters. Right? And I think you’ve been so helpful to so many people without expecting anything in return. And the people you influence, maybe you’ll never hear from are actually there thinking of you. So please know that. And I hope some of you consider buying this book. If not, go to Michaeleike.com. There’s so much to learn about his work. So much of the resources and books and blog posts and courses are completely free. Alright, so consider.
We’ll build more, right? What is it that and we’ll continue to build more.
Yes, absolutely. There’s so much we can build together. I absolutely love it. Thank you so much. Lovely to have you. Michael, take us offline now. Bye guys. Bye everyone.
This episode of the Face World Podcast is brought to you by Phase World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand.
Our chief editor and producer, Herman Sevillos. Associate Producer Adam Laffert. Social media and content manager. Rose De Leon Transcript editor, Alina Ahmedova. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Phase World. Thank you so much for listening, my son.
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