Our Guest Today: Michael Leckie
Michael Leckie is the founding partner of Silverback Partners LLC. For over 25 years, Michael has led transformations and cultural change from small to huge enterprises across a wide variety of industries. For the past 15 years he has focused on the emergence of the increased need for change demanded by our digital world
In this episode, Michael and I discussed how he transitioned from a highly paid and seemingly very stable career to starting his own consulting company in 2019; how he prepared himself and his family for the change. Specifically, he was open to sharing the conversation he shared with his wife and two kids.
Now inevitably hit with the pandemic, Michael’s business is more successful than ever. He admitted making 1.5x the pay he had from not so long ago. He talks about what leaders need to do in a time of crisis, the questions they need to ask for change to take place. Last but not least, what everyone needs to know when “working on returning to work”. Check out his YouTube channel.
Hey, hello, how are you? This is a show for everyone else, instead of going after top one percent of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self-made artists. Hi there, guys. This is Fei Wu and I am finally back. It’s been a couple of weeks since we released a last episode. I want to let you guys know that, in fact, I have been live streaming or I should be more accurate by saying I’ve been multi streaming all my conversations with my podcast guests on Feisworld Network, Feisworld Media, specifically our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, my personal page and also Twitter periscope.
Let’s see what else twitch sometimes, but it comes down to me learning a new skill as a result. Some of you guys know this, that I like to teach everything I know. So as a result, I’m gathering a lot of new information and testing out live streaming, multi streaming services such as Restream. Let’s see what else Lulla and Castr. And I know that some folks are really like a number of other applications as well. What which I believe what is this one called.
Yeah, stream art. So I am signing up for these accounts. I’m testing them out equally, comparing them, and to give you an accurate and honest and authentic readout of whether they could be for you or not, you know, on how you could potentially use them to grow your business online or offline. So that’s my new discovery. With that said, I do want to talk about today’s special guest. His name is Michael Leckie. Michael happens to be a current client, but I also see him and treat him as a dear friend.
You know, I invest a lot in my clients because I appreciate them for who they are and what they’re doing as a result. That’s really the main reason why I bring them on the show. And today, I think it’s going to be a special treat because most of you guys, you know, your new listeners again, welcome. Please stick around. And if your existing listeners well, you know, I’ve interviewed a couple of clients of my on the show, but it’s not a regular thing for us.
And, you know, we choose our clients very carefully in terms of, you know, we just want to make sure we as many as on behalf of Feisworld Media. It’s not just me is my producer, her mom, my associate producer, Adam and Rose, who’s my social media manager. Everybody has their say in terms of who we want to position on the podcast next. And we want our guests and myself, everyone involved to grow the show.
We’ve been around since 2014. Some of you guys may or may not know this, and we still feel like there’s so much more to learn. So Michael is the founding partner. Silverback Partners, LLC, a company he started on his own not so long ago in twenty nineteen. But prior to that and for over 25 years, Michael has led transformations and cultural change from small to huge enterprises across a very big variety of industries. And for the past roughly 15 years or so, he has focused on the emergence of the increase, the need for change demanded by our digital world.
And his purpose is to partner with you, perhaps, and his clients to align culture, develop leaders of today and tomorrow, and tailor a strategic plan and dramatic roadmap to achieve those results. So what I’ve been able to work with Michael on is to help him produce new video content, a series of video content to introduce himself and his line of work to a larger audience, to a more public audience so you can find Michael’s work. Also on YouTube, he has a Facebook and Instagram account as well.
You know, we’re starting to work on those accounts. One thing to keep in mind is in Michael’s position and his experience. His main goal on social media isn’t just about, hey, reaching as many people as possible, target everyone. But, you know, we talk about strategically how we want to position him and his brand to a niche audience. And what I have noticed, you know, over the past six months or so working with Michael is that, you know, you can gain a lot from these even Dauman connections and to discover people in the grand scheme of social media world who can really benefit and understand your brand, that really isn’t everyone.
So I’m a true believer that, again, you don’t need a ton of fans, a ton of followers to build a business around it. So for Michael, I feel like it’s such a generous act that he has done so well professionally. Yet he is here to teach. He wants to get his message out and he has this friendly voice because he is a very friendly and very down to earth person. So very different than perhaps, you know, what leadership entails or or, you know, who or the personalities of these executive.
Folks, and what there are about so I think Michael really defies all of that and I want to represent in our conversation, but beyond that, I you know, I want him to open up the the box and and let us know what it was like for someone like him. Clearly, you know, financially very strong. And there are a lot of very promising position. He worked at Gartner and, you know, he was at G.E. and a lot of these companies that, you know, presented a very stable outcome financially.
And for him at his position, you know, Michael still has a long way to go as an executive person for these companies, yet he decided to start his own thing. So that has been a theme here, Feisworld Media, you know, starting your own thing, making something out of nothing and creating something so unique on your own. And Michael took that leap. And I wanted him to talk to you guys about how his family reacted to that, especially his longtime partner, his wife of many, many years together.
They raised two kids and one is a teenager, one I believe is around 20 years old. And so, you know, that had a huge impact on that decision, you know, when you have a family. So a lot of you guys, some of my audience have constantly asked me this question. I want to take that leap. But how do I communicate that to my family and what can I do? How can I prepare myself mentally?
So I want these real, authentic stories to come forward so you can hear directly from real people you can relate to. And I hope you like this episode again. There’s so much going on in this world. I hope you would choose to follow us on social media, but especially pay attention to the things that we’re doing. We’re growing on YouTube. We’ve had a bit of a success, if I should say, you know, growing from a few hundred followers to now closer to 4000 followers in under, you know, just two to three months.
So to me, that is a leap of faith as well, to pick up another channel, trying to grow it. So as part of these episodes, I definitely want to be able to share a bit more of what I’m doing, what I’m going through personally, but also as part of his world. If you find these stories helpful, encouraging, please let me know. And I want, by the way, these intros to be as real as possible.
I don’t want to edit them down or up. I don’t know, like so much. So I want to just pour my heart out and share these stories with you guys and and hopefully to see you some see you on some of these live streams moving forward on Feisworld and so much love to this community and I can’t wait to see at the end of the show. In a while, it’s really been a while since I’ve interviewed executives on the show because I started the podcast about five and a half years ago, and at the beginning I was working my corporate job.
And so I had all the reasons to kind of go to the creative departments and talk to folks similar in your position, which is like senior leadership. But now we’re coming back full circle because since then you’ve started your company called Silverback Partners and your author, speaker, consultant. You made that transition. And could you talk about, you know, that transition? What made you realize that you want to try something outside of the corporate world?
Well, there’s very positive and not so positive answers to that. I mean, a friend of mine I worked with, Evan Smith, said to me, because, you know, we’ve got to face it, like we’re probably not well suited to be employees anymore, you know? I mean, too arrogant, too opinionated, just too impatient, you know, not able to deal with some of the B.S. that goes on. And but on the other hand, on the positive side, it was really about trying to find where am I, where my great work was, where my kind of purpose was in the world.
And as I went through a transition out of a corporate role, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do this. I was certainly scared about doing it and wondering, you know what, I’d be able to make it work. I mean, there’s that that safety and security comes the corporate job or at least the illusion of it. But I went and I looked at a ton of jobs with some great companies, with huge brand names and some that were less well known, but also some really cool jobs, the great people.
But my my sense of my ability to actually really make change happen, it felt like I was going to be too constrained if I fit into a role that existed there. And even if they created one, it was so hard to kind of break out and do something different. So I thought, you know, if I’m going to make the world a better place to live and work, I’ve got to do this from outside, being a part of the organization and building a relationship to be enough a part of one as a consultant.
And so that’s why I decided to do.
How long ago was that, by the way? When you me the for the first time, the first time I actually tried doing it was about 20 years ago and I did it for about a year and was really lonely and wasn’t ready. It was way too immature and uneducated. I decided for certain to do it and made the hard commitment to it. Last June, I started the June before that, both interviewing and kind of starting to build up some consulting on the side.
But I wasn’t yet committed to it. And I took another corporate role that ended up being a short term three months. And I left that and thought, nope, now it’s time just to, you know, put my eggs in this basket and trust him. So I told my wife, you know, buckle your seat belt. It could be a bumpy ride. It can be financially a challenging ride. I was prepared for it to be really, really difficult.
And, you know, I’ve been so fortunate that relationships of the past and other things seemed so in a long time ago, resulted in work almost immediately and continue to have more opportunities for work. And now working with someone like you, I’m getting even more opportunities. And so, you know, I’ve been very, very fortunate in that regard and very pleased by that. But that’s only really been since June.
Wow. Yeah. I was walking around outside and I was just doing like the calculation. I said, yeah, I think it’s been just about a year since Michael started working on his own. I have a lot to say about I. I haven’t even officially met Molly, your wife, face to face, but I it literally makes it so funny. This just got stuck in my hand. But I already adore her energy because when we brainstorm about content creation and then I see her holding an iPhone a number of times to film you even I couldn’t see her for the longest time, but I could sense that energy of her support that how much she appreciates the work, because I’ve also been in the other situations where I work with clients, whether it’s a man or a woman, that their partner might not be in such agreement, not any negativity towards me, but saying, hey, you have a super steady job.
We have a couple of kids were going to college. Maybe you shouldn’t take that leap right now, but I could just feel, you know, I knew I was going to like Molly. And I so appreciate her for doing that because, you know, if I ask you to otherwise record videos with a tripod and in a forest somewhere just to be so much harder. So I want to thank her first and foremost.
I have I got to thank her as well. And it’s interesting. I mean, I’m at times I’m very aware of the fact that, you know, she’s an artist, but it’s not like art is what pays the bills. I’m I’m the the breadwinner in the family, as they used to say. And I’m very aware of the fact that you have two smart, educated people, both who are perfectly capable of doing that. And when we have an opportunity, we’re in California together, both of us in graduate school.
And I had an opportunity for a job that was kind of one of those step change or sea change roles for me. We knew it was going to interrupt what she was doing, which is getting her master’s degree in marriage or family therapy, and that it was going to be harder for her career if we invested in mine. And so we made a decision together to do that. And I tell her this all the time because I just wanted to remember that I have no doubt whatsoever that there’s no way I could ever be me without her.
I mean, we are truly a partnership in that regard, which I feel very, very fortunate to have. I mean, it’s just a wonderful wife and a best friend. We have great fun together, but she has been a real partner and she has been that support that’s allowed me to do things. And she’s always believed and you know, but at the end of the day, I I’m smart enough to know that nothing is just about me.
In this case. It’s particularly true.
Oh, I love hearing that, because I feel that not not every man or every husband, every partner realizes that. I think it’s so important to acknowledge that decisions that have been made together and I can’t wait to check out her artworks and, you know, some behind you there. So.
Oh, I love that. This is wonderful. And I want to kind of just circle back to you because I don’t want people to get a sense for all, you know, Michaels’s, you know, serious guy with a really serious job. I mean, it’s real. And I’ve seen a lot of the testimonials as part of collaborating with you on building your new website, for example. But I mean, let me just throw some names out there.
The companies you’ve been with, Gartner, GE, Bloomberg, I mean, you were at one of them, you know, chief learning officer on. So actually, what is the chief learning officer and what does that role entail? I love these kind of creative positions.
I know it well. It’s interesting. I mean, the you know, there’s been a proliferation of, you know, chief something or other officers over the years. It started with the CEO and then kind of just grew CFO and I. More and more and more enough times to get kind of made up now, but if you think about learning itself, learning has basically come from a background of training. Most of a compliance based or safety based and training was something you delivered.
And a lot of times you checked the box and got it done because it was more compliance based. And sometimes people are investing in more training for different things that will really be useful where their hard skills, soft skills are. They may be. But the chief learning officer role, I think, is only just evolved to mean something. In the past maybe decade, as organizations have started to make that mental shift from we have to train people to we have to know how to learn.
And learning is a skill. And as you well know, in the middle of writing a book coming out beginning next year on Kogan Page, they’re publishing it and it’s about transformation and change. And one of the things we look at is learning over knowing in the fact that you just can’t know enough anymore and you can’t know it fast enough anymore. So you have to be able to learn quickly and discard what you knew yesterday and learn something new. That’s hard for most of us, because a lot of us, our our sense of who we are is is bound up in what we know and our sense of how we got to where we are.
And the money we’ve made and the status we obtained at our level in the world is about what we know. And it starts to feel really shaky if what we know doesn’t matter so much anymore. So I think the chief learning officer role is one that is to help organizations move from a place of knowing to a place of learning if it’s done right in other places. It’s just they have to give them a fancy title because they want more money and they’re still the head of training.
Yeah. Speaking of how a growth versus fixed mindset, some people hear this interview. Let’s say they don’t know you very well. And even if I watch, say, a couple of videos and I think that I don’t really I still don’t know Michael very well. He certainly has a very impressive resume. But there are moments of us working together, talking with each other that help me to learn more about how you practice, what you preach and how you really live that as a role model, which is there are things that as we’re working together, neither one of us, we’re very sure, and there sometimes are third parties involved technology wise.
And when they’re not like innocent mistakes, we’re trying to triage a technological issue. You’ve always been very accommodating and very comfortable in the world of the unknown. And to be honest, that surprised me because I really did not expect a senior executive coming out of the corporate world after twenty, thirty, twenty years. Twenty five years to react that way. I expect part of you to be like, oh, I’m in freakout mode. This has to work.
This has to be perfect. Right. How do you buy that?
Yeah, you know, it’s it’s learned and it is more recent, but if you. If you think about media organizations, they are all the things they’re grabbing onto, they’re excited about, you know, disruption, change and being more agile and more digital and all of these things. I think one of the great gifts that the software world gave us and the sort of first digital revolution is that it taught us the value of fail fast and all of that kind of stuff that basically says, look, the point is.
To try something, something workable as soon as possible and see if it works and count on the views of the people who are actually using it to see if it’s working and then to shift and change or to pivot whatever you want to do, as opposed to being concerned about being right and having just the right answer the first time. So I anticipate it’s going to be wrong the first time because that’s the only way you can actually get to. Right.
Unless you’re really, really, really, really lucky. And so, like, when you I mean, obviously, I’ve done a lot of work like this on stage, a lot a lot of a lot of video spoke in front of small groups and enormous groups. But even then, you said, look, Michael, the first you know, first hundred videos might kind of suck. Just keep doing it, because eventually you get to one hundred and one.
Right now, whether it’s 50 that or five hundred, eventually you get there. And I guess I’ve learned enough to know that it’s only by learn those lessons, by trying and failing. I often kind of tongue in cheek in a quote person I refer to as the great 20th century philosopher share, which you said if you if you are willing to look foolish, you’ll never have a chance at achieving greatness. And I think that’s so true. So put yourself out there and enter the role model piece.
I mean, it’s the least I can do to not be a fraud, you know? I mean, if if someone looks at me and people say wonderful things, look at your background, your resume and they’ll say accomplishments, you start believing in your own hype, you’re really screwed. I mean, I know what I’m good at and I’m confident in that. I also know that I have a lot to learn and grow. And I know that the best thing for me to feel better about who I am, what I can do is by knowing that I have a lot to learn and by displaying that especially, I found out that I guess in positions of leadership, it makes it OK for those below you.
I won’t read a lot about this, but this is a great book and it’s called On Everyone Culture by a Bob Keagan and Lisa Lehew done some amazing research up at Harvard Business of Education School, but they talk about the amount of time people and organizations spend hiding, hiding their inadequacies, hiding their fears, hiding what’s really going on, playing politics. It’s it’s enormous the time we spend putting on our image and our mask. It’s exhausting. And you know what?
You’re looking at Bernie Brown’s research. If I just be who I am and show you who I am and vulnerable about that, while it feels scary to me, invariably to you, it looks like strength. So what have I got to lose knowing that? Let’s just go ahead and be real?
Well, let’s talk about the most popular piece of content that we’ve delivered to date. So I I was watching your video again. In this case, Molly was taping it and I laughed so hard in my office that, you know, a family member has the run in to say what’s happening. I literally laughs I realize that this is a I see you as a friend, as a colleague. And and just to see some of the mistakes you made.
I wasn’t I was having my happy tears. I realized these authentic moments were so precious where you do have to stop, start again and you’re super chill about it. And then I remember the background in the forest, a little forest near your house, bugs everywhere. And I like kind of tape, videotape. And I threw the idea to you to say, hey, Michael, what if we do like a blooper video was originally Adam’s idea. I want to credit that to Adam Lefort.
And, you know, and it was so popular and I was a little nervous, to be honest. I I ask for your permission to say, hey, let’s share on LinkedIn and Facebook. But at the same time, I was also nervous that somebody could post a negative comment or to be making fun of you. And the reality was so opposite. I’m not sure if you remember it. Literally within the first 30 minutes, a couple of men and women immediately said, this made my day like brother.
I’ve been there so many times. How did that make you feel?
Well, obviously, it makes you feel good. And nobody nobody likes negative feedback either. But, you know, there probably is somebody out there who thinks it’s a waste of time or I’m being indulgent and putting it on and trying to play. I don’t know that somebody is going to Trillian no matter what. But, you know, when you get the great feedback and someone says, I relate, I understand that. And somebody saying thanks for, you know, kind of on behalf of us who have been in a similar place putting it out there, I guess you feel like you’re making the world a little bit safer to be human in.
And and it was fun. I got to tell you. I mean, I sent it off to you. I didn’t actually watch through all the bloopers and your credit, you know that and made the suggestion and you thought and you put some little little snippets in there, like the little laughing and the. Oh, God, no. You know, the Steve Carell. And that was so funny. It made me laugh when I got it. I thought, you know, you got to share that.
But, yeah, the feedback feels great. And it’s it was it’s fun, you know, it’s a fun moment and, you know, we got to have fun and not take it so seriously all the time because I think that. You know, sometimes I used to get this, you see people on stage, you see people and there’s a lot more of us behind her in front of a camera now, I guess, than ever, ever work as the cameras are small and cheap and we have such unlimited bandwidth to share and not like it used to be.
But the fact of the matter is, you start to create this fantasy around how smart or strong or professional or polished somebody is. And they’re most of the time just an idiot, just like you, you know, making mistakes and doing dumb things. And it’s great to admire and it’s great to aspire to, but more so. I think it’s great to be inspired and realize that, you know, you can do what they can do. It’s totally attainable.
You just have to go out there and do it badly for a while until you get better at it. And I see so many people caught up in the trap of perfection that they don’t move anywhere because they’re afraid will. If I do that, I’m not going to be perfect, that it’s I better not do it because that’s shameful. No, it’s not. I think shameful as this is staying where you are not living your life.
So I love these growing messages, especially even, you know, for for me to kind of really take that in to think about myself as somebody in my 30s. And you look on YouTube, everybody is like 12 years old. I literally found myself listening to advice from a 12 year old, which was really liberating because she sounded good. She looked good, very confident. Right. And now there are no boundaries of people learning from different generations, people who look like you look nothing like you, you know.
And so I’m thrilled to be sharing this conversation with people on my social media channels for for people who are wondering on my personal page, on Feisworld Media company page, on your company page, and hopefully soon on LinkedIn, they’re like, you need permission first. What do you here in the future? How often? And then it’s also on YouTube under my channel’s Lifestream, which where I was able to build an audience now close to twenty eight hundred people as I were recording this and one hundred and fifty thousand views every single month.
I want people to hear this message, even though they at the beginning right now that most of them are independent creators and fitness entrepreneurs. But I got to tell you, Michael, I get phone calls if I wanted to ten times a day. But I. I won’t I won’t just call everybody. I don’t have the time. Is that people now a lot of these Zumba and dance and fitness instructors are in there between 40s and their 60s, 50s and 60s.
They felt like such idiots when they use Zoom to teach dance lessons for the first time, there were absolutely miserable. There were telling me about it sound work. The video didn’t work. They felt terrible. And then it took so many of my videos and what I learned, what I heard from to say you’re really not alone in all of this, given the pandemic. You’re using this for the first time and many other people are in your position.
So don’t please don’t worry. Don’t beat yourself up. So, like, I feel like you have such a light hearted way of treating life as well as work. I mean, how do you kind of pick yourself back up in a situation like the pandemic or possibly, you know, failures and road blockers earlier in life is a wake up and do this again? Yeah.
Yeah, it’s a great question. I you know, I think you get better at it. I think you just have to realize that it is going to happen, you know, and it’s funny, too. I mean, as human beings, I think it can make these blanket statements and have them be relatively true. One is, is that human beings generally have a desire to grow and grow and evolve and get better and be more. We also have a desire to be seen.
They want to be recognized. They want to be noticed in life our most time. We don’t want to be seen to be growing because that can be kind of awkward, which is sort of a strange little conundrum. But yeah, that’s right. But, you know, I’ve certainly had my share of failures and setbacks. I’ve had jobs. I could have done a lot better out. I had choices I could have made that would have been smarter.
You know, it’s funny when I get well in the past when I would have, you know, recruiters or executive jobs call up and saying, you tell me about a mistake, about how long do you have? You know, we can go into that. But it’s I guess I guess what it is, is that I know. When I make a mistake that when I fail, then I’m probably not going to fail that same way again, if I’m willing to look at it and to learn from it and to have it be a part of my growth, which means I have to really deal with it and just lay out there and say, hey, what was it about this that I did?
I could I could say, here’s the circumstances that caused it, OK? And I’m a victim. I could say there’s the people that caused it. And I’m using one model. I’m a persecutor. You know, for me, it’s like, what did I do wrong? You know, what would I do differently next time? Great. Learn from that. Go on. And that’s one less thing. A long time ago, I learned about one of the I can’t think of which one it was, maybe Imjin, but one of the one of the pharma companies, biopharma companies out on the West Coast, that when a a trial they were going down a specific road of investing a lot in a medication or medair, a pharmaceutical solution.
Finally failed, and it wasn’t the answer, they’d hold a party because it was one less dead end that was now closed off. It was one less bad road. They weren’t going down. And I think that that always stuck with me. It’s like, hey, you know, you mess it up, you learn from that. You don’t mess it up that way again. And pretty soon, you know, you start cutting off some of these ways to mess up.
But the people you see that make the same mistake over and over again and really get stuck are the ones that are unwilling to look at their contribution to how it went wrong. And for whatever reason, I had people smart enough around me that I trusted who pointed that out to me. And I listen to them and I’ve always been. I’ve always been pretty good about saying, you know what, I’ll take that help. I’m not too proud to get help.
And that’s helped.
Yeah, I think accepting help and letting people to be part of that process is something I learned a great deal in the past few years. You know, I feel like for especially for four women out there, you’ve been a provider and you’ve cared about everybody else’s emotions and needs for so long. And it’s actually really liberating. And to accept something that and then to make people part of the process, like I literally try to set up a patron’s account for Feisworld Media on YouTube.
I certainly did not expect people to contribute a great deal or a having to relying on on that. But the conversation that started, people believing in your message and trying to do their part doesn’t matter. Only nine dollars, 20 dollars, it makes a huge difference. Yes, it’s wonderful. So I. I mean, I feel like I’ve so many questions. I’m going to pivot just a little bit because something I learned from leaders in your position to then starting a company, there is a struggle that many people confronted, which is how do you transfer and translate the knowledge, the skills that you had prior to the work that you’re doing now?
I would while you’re thinking about answer, I would also say that when I interviewed Chris Voss, who wrote the book and I split the difference and now is part of Master Class, he said it was part of my documentary. He said, well, it was really challenging to translate the actually the FBI work, even though it’s relevant to everyday life negotiation. But to actually translate that knowledge to practice and and to set up a company was actually challenging.
So I would love to know what that process was like for you.
Well, you know, I think it’s I think for me, it’s getting clear on what it is you do well, and that means that you have to step aside because most of us identify with a role. In fact, some of the work I do in organizations is try to help them understand that if you treat people as a role, you’re wasting your resources, treat them as a whole human being, understand what they want to do, what they don’t want to do, what they’re good at, what they’re still learning, what they don’t what they don’t want to do with their family situation is like what kind of time they have, how they work, understanding someone as a whole human being.
You can figure out better how to get your work done together, really humanizing them as opposed to just an organization in a role. So I think for myself, if I look at the roles that I’ve done, I would have been really locked into something and trying to find that role again. It’s one of the reasons, by the way, if any of you out there are executive recruiters or heading up search firms. Find a way to stop putting somebody who’s done and failed at the same job for 30 years and the next job because it feels safe, because it’s not sorry, a little bit of a rant, but how many times I’ve been called and said, yeah, well, you haven’t actually had done this and their company and their industry with them at this level for this long a time.
Have you. Yeah, no, I had one. They basically said, here’s this thing that’s never been done. Show us you’ve done it before. I said, you’ve got to be kidding. But all that rant aside. Sorry. No, no, no, it’s real.
It’s real life.
It’s just a matter of saying, what is it that I actually do? Well, what is what is underlying what I do in that role? And so for me, the things that I seem to do well is create space that allows other people to step up and step into something. And I learned that a long time ago, actually, the way I passed that out, one of my close friends and the person who was widely read his his books, The Coaching Habit was a huge bestseller, Michael Bungay Stanier.
We spent a lot of time together and he’s got a little book that he wrote, much smaller, one way less popular called Do More Great Work. But it basically says that you need to find what your great work is. And one of the ways to do that is to tell a story of great work. And so I thought back to a time and a great work means something personal. Write something where you in the flow, you feel really good, but it may not be something that’s being noticed.
You’re getting paid well for. It’s just it’s just something it feels good. And I thought back to a time when someone that worked for me that when they first started working for me were suspicious. They had a right to be were wary. They’re a little older than me. They didn’t see why they should be doing this. And I ended up creating a space for them to step into. And they went from being someone that was considered, you know, probably wouldn’t be right for this to someone who became so good at it that my need in the organization became redundant.
And I moved on from the organization. So it’s how I lost a job. But it’s a story of great work because I created that space. So I sort of think, well, how do I create spaces? So some of that is by facilitating groups. Some of that is by coaching my clients one on one. Some of that is by creating a structure or a set of tools that they can use to do something they haven’t done before. I just figured out how do I create the space for others to do better and better and even great work.
And once I knew it was that category, I can find a lot of ways, a lot of techniques to do that. And it really opens up possibilities in my life. And back to my rant earlier, there’s nobody out there that saying, hey, we want to hire somebody who’s great at making space that others can step into and really achieve and overachieve. They should be HRR and recruiters should be looking for that. But they’re not they’re stuck in the old way of just filling the role because that’s what’s expected and they’re not pushing back enough.
So anyway, for what it’s worth, is that useful? Ask the question.
I think so. Do you think I feel like do you think maybe people in your position are feeling that way, but there isn’t necessarily a role that’s current and available to them in an organization? And how do they process and think about that? Should they then become creative entrepreneurs? Because honestly, that was my struggle. I learned a lot, made a lot of friends actually really enjoyed part of the job that I do, working with people, growing other people, like making yourself obsolete, but helping other people grow was my biggest joy.
And, you know, when that becomes very challenging or too political or whatever it may be, I definitely found I’ve found so much joy in doing that currently as a freelancer, as a great entrepreneur. So what’s your advice to people like, oh, I resonate with this message so much. What should I do?
I wish I could say you could do it inside and outside of organizations. But, you know, that wasn’t my immediate experience. I think there are more organizations now where you can really find the place that’s right. For you. But there’s still, I think, probably most of them that you can’t. And hence, you know, the how to gig economy is is skyrocketing. And, you know, platforms of a friend, Chris Christine, CEO of a company called Jigsaw.
And they bring the best minds in technology who don’t want to work inside one corporation anymore. And when they go to the corporation, they’re promises we’re going to solve your problem faster and better than you could do it with all your own internal people. Just outsource it to us and we will partner with you and take care of it. And we’ll bring the best of the best because they get to work on the stuff that’s the most exciting and then do other stuff they want to do.
And so platforms that allow for that are really proliferating in the gig economy. I think that there’s organizations are missing the boat to not become their own platform for the gig economy with the people they have, because with some of the things we like, we’ve talked about, you know, medical insurance and what a nightmare that can be in the United States to get it figured out if you’re independent and so attached to your employer. So employers have these things that they can offer if you’re a full time employee that are beneficial, if they can then create their own gig economy, that allow people to find their place as opposed to somebody in management making that decision and trying to build the perfect machine.
Mm hmm. I think that’s a huge opportunity. But right now, I think, yeah, most of us are having to go out on our own or wish we had. And, you know, sometimes we just stay because, you know, the fear of the unknown is is too hard to face or we don’t have, you know, support in our family or understanding or we don’t quite know where we’re going. And also, we’re not willing sometimes to pay the price.
I mean, for me, it was interesting. I had to be willing and we sat down and I said we have to be willing to earn a third of what I’m making. We have to be willing to go back 15 or 20 years in income if I’m going to do this. Wow, that’s terrifying.
How did your family and your two boys the most viewed know? You have two sons. One is in college, the other one’s going to college like, wow, you know what I mean? Like, how did the family take or process or how did you facilitate that conversation?
Know, I sat down, I knew I’d figure out the boys stuff and I had a little money that we’ve saved. But I sat down with my wife and I said, this is kind of the reality, what we could be facing. I believe we’ll get past it. I believe that I’ll be able to achieve this. I know there’s a need out there. And, you know, if in the end I’m wrong, I can probably get a decent job back in a corporation, but we have to be willing to do that and have that happen.
So we got to tighten our belts. We’ve got to stop going out to eat as much. We got to stop spending. We’ve blown useless money out of our backsides for years and stuff because I started making more money this year. You spend it, you know, at one point I’m making X thousand dollars a year and we have everything we need. And next time you’re making five X, you’re like money is kind of running short. What happened?
How how does that happen in life? It’s ridiculous. But we just had the honest conversation and I said, you know. Can you be there for me in that, can we work that together and, you know, she’s really smart and knows that. What I do either brings me joy or brings me pain, and I think having me come home and being happy and probably have the impact that has on our marriage and our family just just wasn’t worth it.
And, you know, even if we step back that far, we should be able to find a way to live on that money. This means our life is going to have to change. And the interesting thing was, since we’re willing to do it. We didn’t have to.
I know I was going to go there next.
I probably work. You know, active, hard working, you know, a full week, but don’t have to work all weekend, so I’m on the weekend writing my book, but sometimes I slack off a little bit during, like, yesterday, I just I wasn’t going to work in the morning when I went for a run up and running more and trying to get back in shape. I did an eight mile run and felt great and didn’t do any work.
But yet right now I’m making probably one hundred and fifty percent of my last corporate sea level job and not working full time.
Because I got some great clients and now that may drop off. But I’m I’m also looking at I know, like I said to people, I’ve traded the illusion of security for no illusion. And so now our relationship, I invest in my monthly retainer to have you be my marketing guru and supporter and do all the things that you do around social media that I can’t do. And it’s a great investment because it really helps me prepare and to grow and to be seen by people and to make those connections that are going to bring in that income because it’s so indirect and to create new opportunities to to bring in income and actually create content that’s monetized.
Well, I’m aware that it all could stop tomorrow. And so I’m living a little bit differently than I did before as well.
I love that level of awareness that you have on not just yourself, but on your work. It’s such an interesting dynamic that we need to be aware of because and this is why I enjoy working with you, because, as you know, not everything is measurable. It’s interesting when we’re in, you know, but either business school or in business in general, everything needs to be measurable. And what they mean by that, it’s not emotional measures, but actual hard core numbers.
And you have to approve the growth. I think. I think that’s cool. That’s interesting. But there is another element where, you know, Seth Godin talks about the dip, the dip. When you try something new, when you make a fool of yourself, when you don’t see a substantial income as before, but you kind of have to get over that. And, you know, I still feel that pressure. Sometimes I’m developing a course right now basically is a how to guide for virtual assistants who support work for podcasters.
Right. Know. And a couple of nights ago, I had this, like, slight panic. They say, wait a minute, wait, why am I doing this? Why is it so nesh like, who’s buying this course now is a podcast or is investing or virtual assistants investing in themselves and like all of a sudden became kind of unclear to me. And and I thought about our work to say there was always going to be that mystery, kind of the kind of mushiness and like vagueness.
And then you kind of see the tree through the forests and. Yeah, so, yeah, you kind of laid out for me. We first started talking about, look, here’s the likely stuff that we’ll be doing. But as I got to know you and develop some trust and I got to appreciate what you brought, it’s like, OK. And by the way, it’s not a commercial for Phase World, but if you need the services, go get them, which is good.
But as we built the relationship, you know, you’ve brought things that you didn’t expect because we’re working together because you have the time to do it. I like I would with any employee. I believe that you have the goals and the best interests at heart and you’re going to figure out how to use the time that you have that I’ve paid you for to the best advantage, and that if you feel like you’re not delivering value, that fits it, you’re going to find a way to do it.
And if you hopefully and I believe if I start taking advantage of that time, you’re going to say, wait a minute, that’s too much. I mean, they will have that honest relationship. But going forward, I would imagine that, you know, I can I can measure the dollars I put into my face world investment and I could set up some sort of thing. It doesn’t by this date. I have to have got this return on investment or what I do know is that there’s going to be a lot of stuff that gets done, a lot of things I’m going to learn a lot of ways.
I’m going to grow things that are unexpected. And then one day something’s going to happen that on that pure ROIC perspective, more than justifies all of the cost. But I can’t be kind of just saying this is the path is hard path I have to follow because I’ve seen that in my own work. I mean, I built a relationship with someone who I had read their graduate school textbook 20 some years ago, and we got to know each other.
And as I left, I had some time and I gave time to some stuff that they were working on. And I got to know them just because I wanted to be able to give something. I wanted to connect with these people that I thought were really interesting and smart. I wanted to learn. I wanted to contribute and. I didn’t have any perspective that that would ever benefit me financially, and then in the midst of me starting off this new business and wondering, you know, where’s the money going to come from?
She was involved in an engagement with the client and she said to them, you have something missing. What do we do? You need Michael Lecky. You call him and you ask him how much of his time you can have. Here’s his number. And they called me and said, we need help here. How much time can you give us? And I said, I’ve got plenty right now, you know, so I’ll give you this amount of time and been working ever since and a great relationship with the company.
I’ve really grown to love and love the people there and my clients and what they’re trying to do and feel like I’m a part of something that’s important in this organization and touches people’s lives. It came out of the blue because of seeds sown earlier. So I’m not quite sure how we got there, but I guess started with kind of just a conversation about, you know, you and I have working together. You’ve got to invest and you’ve got to sow those little seeds.
And you’ve got to not worry so much about when or how they’re going to pay off. Just know that they will and know that you’re going to invest some of that time and money in that future and without having to have a doubt, have to prove itself immediately.
Yeah, no, I love this message because I, I can you know, as a digital marketer for a decade, I can absolutely put together metrics. I I’ve seen people be dishonest about the work or the analytics, and I know how that can be done fairly easily. But I choose not to do it that way. And I never position myself or my brand in that fashion because I know that, you know, we got to play the long game.
We’re going to play the infinite game to really understand. And I also think that it’s important to invest in ourselves. So for the content creators, on leaders, speakers, authors out there, I got to say that as much as I love this format, this interview, and I think people these days crave bite sized content, which is precisely what you and I are working on each week, we have our status. Then we brainstorm the content that you’re creating.
You’re speaking to some are scripted, many are not. But you are a natural speaker and presenter that comes easy to you. But I also see you grow and progress and get better and better each and every time that you know, these days, I’ll tell you the truth. And the reality is I open up final cut pro. I’m ready to like edit something out for your video before I publish them to YouTube and I sit through the whole thing.
I realize these are a couple of natural pauses. There is nothing really to edit down except for Olian hands audio and you know, I’ll do my keywords and all those things. So I see the dramatic shift that’s already happening to you after working you too for a couple of months. And I love the fact that now instead of people having to go through a longer interview, I mean, this is great. Please, everybody keep watching it. But they’re also besides sized content on your YouTube channel, which is silverback partners, where you are so blunt and authentic about, hey, working on going back to work, you know what to do in a time of crisis, how to lead in a time of crisis.
These are the tips you can use right away in your organization. I’m throwing some a lot of these things out there and how management actually work. It’s not by assigning managers and policies to say make sure people do this, but to to find a natural sort of evolution within teams and make it flexible. So I love I really love those messages, you know.
Thank you for that. I really appreciate that. You know something you said that actually I think one part is incorrect in one part I hope is correct. And it was about me in like in front of the camera and being a natural, I don’t think I am. And I’ll tell you why, because when I first started doing it, I was horrible. But I started doing the horrible stuff long before you had to see it. And I’ve mentioned my friend Michael Bungay.
And you’re also my friend Mark Bowden. I think I said to his TED talk from Toronto to Toronto, you know, also just a I mean, a superlative communicator. He’s he’s worked with heads of G7 countries on their communication and changed how they relate to people. And I’ve been taught how to do what I do in front of a camera. I mean, I’ve been taught or I’ve learned. I haven’t looked at you once during this interview. You know how I’m looking at I’m looking at Sandra Bullock.
I’ve got this little smiling Sandra Bullock taped right on top of my camera because it keeps my eyes. And so I’m talking to you because I’m talking to her simple little things like that. I’ve learned that the use of my my hands and what Mark would call the truth plain makes a difference. And I use my hands down here and talk like that. Or if I am up here and talking like this, I’ve learned these things and I would hope that I continue to learn and get better.
But that’s one of the things I think is really important for people to know, is that, you know, if I had any natural talent at all, I got. I think I did maybe that’s a judgment call, but all of this can be learned and you can learn to do anything, you can learn to do anything, and that is incredibly freeing if you just. Take a leap of faith, if that’s true, and then learn something, and the more you learn, the more you realize you can learn more and it becomes just a way of life and I think a way of life that I mean, I believe that one of the things I’ll do in my my career is I will help organization A B, an organization that learns better than organization being an organization A is going to win in the marketplace because of that.
That’s exciting to me to take something I truly believe in and know it’s going to help business, but also make people’s lives better. I mean, if you can kind of make money and have a good life and be happy, it’s sort of what you want. Why do we have to have one or the other, right?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been great. And, you know, I’ve taken up a lot of your time, Michael. Is there anything that you want people to know to to learn from resources that you want to share before we close?
Oh, gosh. You know, I don’t think there’s anything in specific I mean, but you’ve had me starting to do is put some of my favorite books on my little bookshelf. Now we’re creating on my website, which I love doing because I love reading. But. You know, one of the one of the things that a friend of mine said, you should write a whole book or build a whole business around this, and I haven’t quite, but I’m integrating into the book that I’m writing is.
If there’s something that. You don’t know how to do or you don’t think will work. It doesn’t fit your assumptions, but if it did, it might be useful or good and you want to try it. The thing to do is not to speculate on it, not to figure out how you do it perfectly, and I say to people is just just try it, try it three times with your whole heart and then see what happens if you try something three times your whole heart.
You know, it’s like eating Brussels sprouts. Try it three times with your whole heart. Zoom going to like these Brussels sprouts. And if it doesn’t happen, you like Brussels sprouts as it happens. I like Brussels sprouts now because I forced myself to just try and say I’m going to enjoy these. And so, you know, anything you can drive three times your whole heart, it’s going to open up a world of possibilities to you. And so I would just encourage you to do that.
You know, don’t be afraid. Be willing to be willing to look foolish so you can have the chance of achieving greatness.
Awesome. This is wonderful. So everybody is watching this. It’s in a description, everything you’ve been looking at. So Michael’s a social media handles silverback partners. The links for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all in the description. If not, I’ll be sure to update that. But it’s been such a pleasure, Michael. I really I really appreciate you being part of my life, working with me and growing with me together, exploring new ground. So thank you so much.
Likewise. You’re welcome. Thank you.
All right. Like me looking for the button. All right, now it’s paused. Yeah, so this recording is just like internal for us. That was great.
Good. That would give you what you wanted.
Yes, absolutely. And I’m going to get a transcript as well. So. OK, cool.
Yeah. Yeah, there are some probably some some good little blog posts can come out of some of those conversations are.
I think so. I think so for both of us. Did you find it different than how you’ve been interviewed by other people or when you interview other people?
Yes and no, I mean, you know, most of the time it’s a pretty free flowing conversation. I’m not worried about that. Your questions are excellent because they’re not. So many interviews have a bit more of an agenda and your agenda is pretty wide, let’s let’s learn, let’s discuss, let’s see what the thing to talk about is as we talk about this, you created some questions that help set the stage for that. But no, I mean, it felt that they felt like real.
I mean, obviously, I can see the experience you have on the stuff that you do in your documentary and everything else because you have a really good interview style and also not afraid to. Just listen to the person, but also make a contribution, make interpretations and kind of bring it to the next place I thought was a much like you suggested, it would be a kind of a back and forth. I didn’t ask any real questions, but, you know, whether I felt more like a conversation than an interrogation.
Yeah, interrogation. Yeah, exactly. I love it. And, you know, I definitely teased out some some of the questions I sent you via email, but I love the fact that you you knew that we weren’t just going to go rely on the script because it’s so important to listen as an interviewer and actually go into the pockets of the conversation and dove deep and take a different path and find opportunities if they’re really important questions down the road and kind of look back and find out.
If not, that’s OK, too. I think we all got to, like you said, be OK to like, you know what? We’re not doing this anymore. Now we’re doing this.
And I mean, you’re still recording for us here, which is probably good, because one of the things this makes me realize is that. It’s so much more useful to say something for the first time than for the fifth of the five hundredth, right? Yeah. So to be asked a question and again, it’s one of those things that people don’t want to do. What if you stumped me? OK, what if you ask a question? I have no idea how to answer.
Yeah. I’ve had people tell me that. What if I could ask a question. I don’t know how to answer. I say, here’s what you do. This is a technique that never fails. It’s so miraculous. You go. I don’t even know how to answer that, yeah, yeah, that’s all you have to do. Yeah, just be honest, I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t have any thoughts on that. That’s not something that I’ve considered.
That’s an OK answer. Now, you may develop some down the road, but the fact that some people can’t even be put in a place where they don’t have their expectation of themselves as I have an answer for everything. And that’s right. The first time. Yeah. Yeah. You know, let’s have a conversation. And when you ask me questions, that makes me think I’m like, I got to think that through. Is there is there is there something I actually can connect on that?
And that’s that moment of my, you know, neural pathways, finding something, connecting to something and some learning happening because I’m talking or even at the grossest level teaching by talking to others. That’s how you learn.
That’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s interesting, but how we found each other, because the way that the way that that we’ve been talking about work is exactly the same way that sometimes, you know, like, oh, what is happening to Buffer? That didn’t happen before. When we use Buffer for this, I found myself like in a moment, it’s like, OK, there’s a new feature that’s cool then used to do this before and now there’s a message to Facebook doesn’t allow us to do this.
We need to get around and you as a creator need to do this. And you’re like, wait a minute. But it didn’t used to do this before. I just like, OK, calm down. And this is a you’re learning. I just like you said, I feel like the neurons are connecting and doing all that. I interviewed another a young gentleman in his late 20s from now, Cirque du Soleil, but another circus machine, the Cirque in Montreal.
And I was recording for the first time on a PC, I, I have everything that’s Mac. I decided one day I’m going to get a PC laptop. And then I was interviewing him and I was like, oh, which button? I where’s the control key? And he’s like, hey, your neurons are connecting. I mean, this is good for your growth too. Yeah. This is a different machine. And exactly like you said, I love that.
I’m like, wow, he’s right. He doesn’t see like I’m making a fool of myself. Yeah.
No. And what is interesting about how we work together as well, I mean, I’ve never said this, but the reason that I spend my money on you in growing my entrepreneurial business as opposed to Doree or someone else is because you also just do the things I don’t know how to do and the ones that I should know how to do, like, hey, you should you should think about your hashtags here. You should think about the captioning. You should do this, those things you’re teaching me.
But like today, it’s like, yeah, I’ll edit the video. Rose, don’t worry about that. You know, Michael’s not learning video editing right now because that’s probably a less important use of my time when you’re so good at it already that I can pay you to do that. And I can make the most of my time to earn money that I can earn doing something else as opposed to becoming my everything. And so I think that that and that’s one of the things I find with my clients as well.
It’s a combination of, you know, here and here, you know, I mean, some of them, like my own clients, they we talked, you know, for forty five minutes of our thirty minute call and just kind of talk through some of these concepts and ideas that he’s still forming and continue to form around how he runs this company. But also at the same time, I sent some of their H.R. department some information and kind of pull it together and look this what’s going to happen with return to work?
This is kind of what’s going on. Performance management things. Just look at this. Let’s come up with you know, here’s here’s the document. Here’s the deliverable. So I do those deliverables and sometimes I’m just having the conversation and having that practical side of it as well. Makes makes a real difference.
Hi there, it’s me again, I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode, and I hope you were able to learn a few things. If you drill what you heard, it will be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the Faizal podcast. It literally takes seconds. If you’re on your mobile phone, just search for Phase Roll podcast in the podcast app on iPhone or an Android app such as Podcast Addict and Click Subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically.
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Learn more about Michael and his company Silverback Partners: https://www.silverbackpartners.net/