Best-selling author David Marquet on intent-based leadership

David Marquet submarine captain

Value through Vulnerability (boosted by HumansFirst) Host Garry Turner, Sponsored by Aequip

VtV Coalition

Garry Turner 

Welcome to the Value through Vulnerability podcast boosted by HumansFirst and sponsored by Aequip. I’m your host Garry Turner. And we come together on this podcast as we jointly believe in puting the human back into humanity through championing inclusion, and improving voice for all. Designing work to support everybody thriving.

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I’m also really excited to be on this journey with Mike Vacanti, my co host, who is founder of the HumansFirst club movement. You can find all of the open and inclusive hangouts, one of which takes every Monday at 12pm. UK, or 1pm Central European Time. You can find details for the Thursday and Friday call as well as the Monday call at HumanFirst.club online. You can also find contact details for the Aequip team at aequip.co.uk. We really hope that you’ll subscribe to this podcast so that we can send you a weekly installment as soon as it comes out. And as always, we welcome your challenges, your additions to the conversation and anything else that may resonate with you. Please feel free to share on your favorite channel. And indeed we look forward to hearing from you. We really hope you enjoy this conversation.

I’m really excited to have you here as your new book, Leadership is Language, is coming out and I’d really love to explore that a bit more with you.

Could you speak back to your previous work, Turn the Ship Around! as well. Maybe how that’s informed this new book?

David Marquet

I grew up in the Navy, I was a Submariner, the command and control environment. I was selected to be the captain of one summary. And after 12 months of preparing for that ship was shifted to a different ship. The reason I was shifted was because the captain on that submarine quit abruptly a year early. And his ship was not doing well, they had to turn around the worst performance in the fleet. The wrinkle was that it was a different kind of submarine. So the specific details that I had spent 12 months learning were all irrelevant and I show up with this weird sort of cognitive dissonance where I know I don’t know the details on this ship. 

What is Leadership? With David Marquet

But I’m feeling uncomfortable, conforming to the role of submarines. And the crew is complying with what I’m telling them to do. And it didn’t work. The very first day we went to sea I gave an order or actually suggested an order, which couldn’t be done, it was a trivial thing. It was basically shifting into second gear for a motor that only had first gear, no second gear, and the officer ordered it. This was the shocking thing about it, not that I’d made a mistake. And the crew member kind of shrugs, looks over his shoulder like you guys are idiots. What’s going on? And of course, it came to light.

And this really rocked me back on my heels, and I got my officers together. I said, because the realization I had with all my leadership training was about telling people what to do. Telling them nicely, telling them precisely, telling them so they thought it was their idea, but it fundamentally about telling people what to do. And in this environment, I needed them to tell me what they thought, the problem wasn’t I’d given a bad order or the problem was, I was the one giving orders. So we went through this experiment, basically, where we tried to reverse the whole thing. And instead of focusing in and out, and me directing and I’m reporting, everyone listening, here’s what I intended to do.

‘The problem wasn’t I’d given a bad order, the problem was, I was the one giving orders’

David Marquet

I invite feedback, but absent a veto the bias is for action. And this was unbelievably transformative. In with the most simple, simplest tools, which was the language that we use, every day, all I did think about, why did that person say it that way? Can we say it slightly different? What can I say so that makes it easier for them to share what they think, to take in all those kinds of things. And it kept going back to me. So there was this deliberate focus on language and the story is amazing things happen.

And this submarine went from worst to first on retention and performance. But over the next 10 years, we had 10 officers become submarine commanders. So I wrote that story and turn the ship around. And to kind of make this long monologue go longer. So we started working with other companies. And we kind of came up with this sort of don’t say this that don’t don’t say that say this kind of a list, but you couldn’t really remember it. And so this new book an attempt to put some structure behind the new language that we want to embrace at work? What are we walking away from.

In your new book, the word intent is used to move from more reactive language to something more proactive?

David Marquet

Well, on the submarine, first of all, I had to get away from this idea that I was controlling other people’s behavior. And we live in a world where we think the way to have success in our job is to get other people to do stuff. And I think there’s a real limitation here, which is you’re only going to be as proactive as you and they’re not going to give that discretionary effort. People who were told what to do, would do just a minimum And then we’ll set a standard, you need to shovel 400 pounds of coal a day you need to write 500 words a day. And once you reach 500 words, there’s no benefit of doing more, if you do more than then the reward is next week, you’re quoted as 600.

So it doesn’t give me all the best. The best way to organize humans to achieve greatness is to create a structure where each person in the team is internally motivated. And they are striving for greatness, not avoiding errors. In other words, it’s not playing to lose, it’s play to win. It’s got to come from within with the job of the leader here is to create the structure, the language and the direction. 

‘The words that sound normal to us are industrial age language’

David Marquet

But the how we get there’s got to come from the team, otherwise you end up running around in some sort of I’m going to manage people mode which is just a giant wait time,  just imagine, you need to coordinate people, their efforts should be coordinate. But what if they just manage themselves? And all you need to do is manage yourself. It’s enough of a challenge. So there’s this whole set of language, which I think the problem is we’ve inherited from the Industrial Revolution. And even though there’s this logical cognitive level that says, Yeah, we are not like that anymore. The language persists. We have all hands meetings, we say, that, you know, team is working like clockwork, and that’s a good thing, obeying a clock is out of an industrial age playbook.

And we here can do over to can do organization and again, we think that’s a good thing. When someone says we’re a can think organization that kind of strikes strikes your ear as sounding off weird and tinny and said, Well, why is that? Isn’t it having a can think organization more important, or equally important to having a can do? And so I think it’s this change the words that sound normal to us are industrial age language. And what we need is to start using some abnormal sounding words. They’re designed for this era when we want people to think as well as you motivate from within.

Garry Turner

This is so powerful, because what I’m sensing and I certainly read it in the book is just literally reframe, or change the sequence or the words that you use can have a transformative impact on how people hear, and therefore perform.

Reframe, or change the sequence or the words that you use can have a transformative impact on how people hear, and therefore perform?

David Marquet

So here’s a really simple example. We like to ask questions like will it work should we launched the product, should we install 737 Max software on all Boeing airplanes? And this forces people into this binary yes, no question which artificially eliminates complexity. So it’s very cognitively convenient. There’s a cognitive convenience to it. And it’s just really laziness, which is what your program brain is programmed to do. So what you want is to ask the question, the trick is to start the question with the word how, how likely is it? How sure are you how competent, how enthusiastic and now these are four questions dealing with future, and decision making.

So now what you get is a nuanced response. Because if someone is 51% convinced that we should launch the product on time, that’s a way different situation and then if they’re 99%, convinced and with the team, you get that kind of narrative. What you’re doing is getting a distribution of how you feel. And you’re embracing with the word we use is we embrace variability. The Industrial Revolution was about reducing variability. Manufacturing is a reduced variability, support variability and manufacturing error. So whole organization was tuned designed and meaning to run to reduce variability. You want to run a meeting. Have you heard ever heard this or that? I mean, let’s build consensus. What is that? That is reducing variability of thinking and squeezing out the outliers?

‘All innovation happens on the outlier.’

David Marquet

Well, all innovation happens on the outlier. So we have a meeting to say, Oh, yeah, I want to get everyone on board. I’m going to build consensus. And then I’m confused. A paucity of creativity and innovation, because your organization is designed to suppress all outliers, which is where the all of the innovation of creativity the phrase is, don’t break a variability playbook to an embrace variability game for manufacturing, on the assembly line. But for thinking, which is the how do we improve the assembly line or the Hey, there’s a problem on the assembly line? Or how do we improve our safety compliance beyond our safety record beyond your client again, now we want to flip it. We want to break this variability. So it’s a different playbook. And that’s how I think about the new playbook.

Garry Turner 

So intriguing to me this, David because as you know, the title of this podcast is Value through Vulnerability. And whilst as we spoke before in the conversation before we started, you’re not mandating I like to speak about this. You’re not mandating decision making by emotion. But I think maybe you could speak to that a bit more around where emotion fits into decision making, if you will.

You’re not mandating decision making by emotion. But maybe you could speak to that a bit more around where emotion fits into decision making?

David Marquet 

So I think this idea of vulnerability is super, super, super, super, super important. And it’s new. And the reason it’s new is because now we want the doers to be the deciders and the industrial age we divided the organization have the two castes of people, decider, leaders, managers, white collar, and then blue collar workers and doers. So the deciders got the doers to do something. And then the deciders would review how the doers were doing and evaluate them and then decide what to do or better. We didn’t need the doers to get involved in decision making. In fact, we didn’t want them to generally, and we didn’t need the doers to reflect on their own work and try to make better. None of this matters until now where the new paradigm is the doers should also be the deciders when it comes to if you want all marginal effort, if you want high performing teams, the people doing the work have to make decisions about the work.

And now, that’s going to require a couple things. Number one, decisions always pass through an emotional filter before they’re done. No matter how logical you want it to be, you buy, you’re going to buy a house, square foot, whatever, whatever. At the end, it’s like, yeah, I can see my family there or not. It’s always a final, the final go, No Go, your emotions get to vote. And then the second thing is, you’re going to want the doers to reflect back on their own work, which we didn’t need to before. Like we, we were the judgers of the doers. And we now we now know that’s, that’s not really the best for the bulk of the organizations when they relegate them to doing so that means we have to start. What I say is that we want a team to be good. So you got two competing selves.

LIL

The Hidden Power of What You Say–and What You Don’t

David Marquet 

Prove competence in the world. Hey, everyone try their best. We had it, we did the best we could with the tools we had. Yeah, everyone. I know, blah, blah, blah, no one cares. And then the get better stuff, which which lets go of all that it says, hey, how can we do better than last time but confident in the fact that not being judged. And even if I can admit that I could have done better or the team could have done better, I’m not gonna get fired, there’s the basic trust that we’re working to get better because now the appropriate organizational competence is the ability to improve, not the ability to lock a process in and run it forever.

But Henry Ford’s are building Model T’s in 1908 he built the same model for 15 years. Of course, by now we’re in the 1920s the roaring 20s in America, where wealth has expanded, tastes change and the cars are this old stale model. Ford made more cars than the rest of the automobile industry combined. But they had to retool, shut the whole plant down because they got so far behind. GM caught up and they were back in a rat race with GM for the next years, even now.

What about a real life example where there is a lack of vulnerability or a lack of people feeling safe to speak up can cause catastrophe?

David Marquet 

It’s a sad story. The El Faro was a huge container ship. Over 700 meters long, and she set sail in 2015 from Florida to go to Puerto Rico sailed into a hurricane and sank, 33 people lost their lives. The black box on the ship was recovered. So we have a 500 page 25 hour transcript what transpired. And there’s a critical point where one watch officer and then a couple hours later a second watch officer, call the captain and try and convince the captain that they need to make this detour which will snake them through the Bahamas and put them on the on the protected side of the Bahamas away from the storm. And when you hear the language is, it’s halting it’s deferential, it’s full of ums and ahs. Well, I mean, I couldn’t be more specific. I mean, they’re talking about a hurricane as big as Wales, basically. And you don’t need to be that specific we’re sailing into a hurricane. 

And when they’re talking amongst themselves, they joke about wearing their inflatable suits and whether they’ve got flashing lights that will work, and then you say, well, are these just sort of weak willed people sailing, lemming like to their death and you dig deeper and what you see is if you look 8, 12, 16 hours earlier and the captain says things like someone says, hey, are we going into the storm, the caps wouldn’t have it any other way. And he never refers to the hurricane as a hurricane first but as a tropical storm, a low pressure weather system and he makes the decision to go along the Atlantic or the exposed side of the Bahamas. He says he mocks mariners who would take a protected route, right? You can’t deviate from any storm. Oh my god, oh my god, I kind of said in a frantic voice.

‘That has the unintended effect of coercing people into complying with what they’re supposed to do. Don’t ask questions…’

David Marquet

And that comes full circle, that has the unintended effect of coercing people into complying with what they’re supposed to do. Don’t ask questions, and that lack of vulnerability. He could have said, Hey, this is looking sketchy. I really need to know what it would, I think he could have said, Yeah, I made the decision to go this way but it turns out I might be a wrong decision. He could have said a number of things. Which would have made it easier for the crew to tell them we are going to die. The ship is not ready, the ship can’t take it. But he doesn’t. 

And when I read through it, it’s too easy to say this captain is Captain Queeg like, he’s particularly dictatorial, particularly authoritarian. He’s just like every other captain I’ve ever seen. And it’s good people trying to do the right thing. The wrong playbook, the playbook what they needed was a different playbook.

Garry Turner  

In terms of your such a tragic story and as you say, not even so long ago, you know, it’s only a few years old that story.  What’s your recommendation to anyone that’s listening to us right now, whether they’re individuals, whether they’re leading a team, leading organizations, what’s sort of what’s from your work, your research now you bring this book to the world?

What are your hopes for those who are listening to us and reading your book?

David Marquet  

So so the the general thing is use language which embraces  variability in the books got 300 pages on phrases that you can use that make it easier for you, the whole sequence for the industrial age play was we obey the clock, which gives us a sense of time pressure, and then leaders coerce the doers in the eyes of the doers, their job is to comply, then we continue to run as long as possible. Our mindset is proving and we can form a hierarchy where first of all want to do now as control the clock. You can’t engage your thinking brain until we say timeout, and let’s think about are we really doing the right thing? Are we doing it right? And then we collaborate truly.

submarine captain David Marquet

‘There’s this whole set of language, which I think the problem is we’ve inherited from the Industrial Revolution.’

And there’s so many, I’ve seen so many. So many coercion plays, where we actually labeled what we think is called collaboration, the leader says, Hey, so I think we should keep going on down the Atlantic side. What do you guys think? That’s not collaboration, that’s coercion. Oh, I asked everyone, they’ll have a chance to vote. Now, what do you want to say is, what do you guys think before I contaminate you, but I just want to know, and I think it’s going to be making it harder for you to say no. The other thing is even phrasing the question that way.

If it presents a decision as the default is to just go back to continue down the Atlantic, right, versus we got to make a decision to exit versus it’s a 50/50 to retake the side path. Can we can we go channel A and channel B? And it’s very equally worded. So one of each options stands on its own. One that was really interesting was the word count analysis and some look at times when three people were on the bridge, the captain, the ships officer, and the crew member. And there’s an interesting pattern every time. Those three people were on the bridge, the word count analysis exactly parallel the salary count analysis. In other words, the captain who was the highest paid said the most words. The officer who is next is the next most words, the crew member who was significantly lower paid said the fewest by a long shot, the most any one of the crew members said on any of the three teams was 5% of the words. That’s the most, so the other two peoples at 95 or more percent of the words. Now think about it as the crewman. Well, what do you think?

‘Your job is to get them into the conversation, you’re missing out on what they think and don’t assume that they all must think like everyone else, that’s actually probably often they actually probably the ones who think differently, that’s why they’re being quiet. And then number two, if you sense someone else already being quiet. More typically you are saying too much and suppress it.’

David Marquet

I mean, that guy’s got intimate knowledge about how the because waves get worked out the shifts, I decided becomes harder to maintain course, as I’ll how’s the ship steer? It’s fine. Well, and then we say later Oh, well, you know, I really wish I knew how, how tough. Yeah, you didn’t create a structure where actually I was part of the conversation but 95% of the time, so you think it’s going to also change? No, and these patterns are really interesting. So if you’re in a meeting, I want you to be sensitive, as we call it the called team language book. How, how skewed or how even is the word can you sense? Well, there’s a couple of people that really haven’t said much. Your job is to get them into the conversation, you’re missing out on what they think and don’t assume that they all must think like everyone else, that’s actually probably often they actually probably the ones who think differently, that’s why they’re being quiet. And then number two, if you sense someone else already being quiet. More typically you are saying too much and suppress it.

And this goes back to the question. If you ask, Hey, should we launch the product? That’s a certain number of words. And the response is one word. Yes, no. So there’s going to be a limited language. But if you say shit, how confident are you to launch the product? You bought or not? Just by the way, you’ve asked the question, you’ve gotten a more even worse response. Well, I think I’m pretty confident on 51%. And here’s why now, they’re saying nearly as many words as you are.

So this this one idea of word count and how it spreads across the team really captures a lot of team language. What I love about it is, I don’t care what kind of words, I don’t care. What words. I don’t care what language the words are, this works in all cultures, you’ve tried it different languages. It’s just the number of words. That’s all you need to think about.

Garry Turner

What’s so powerful, it’s incredible.For me that is a where do you Where do you think about analyzing that shows where your mindis. But the other thing is, if you heard that there’s a model called the iceberg of ignorance. And I can’t remember who actually has done the work, but it maps identically with your research, which is that senior leaders are those at the top of organization.only ever hear 4% of the truth of what’s going on. And it maps everything in your, your Share of Voice work, which is fascinating.

David Marquet 

Yeah, and I mentioned the 737 before and now we have a CEO, the board basically gave the CEO a pass on this thing. Oh, by the way, we’re going to change reporting. That’s the engineers are closer. There’s only one person between the ten engineers versus two. In other words, what they’re saying is, which kind of gets to exactly what you’re saying, both people and the CEOs totally without blame, and there is no pressure. But what they’re also saying the flip is as well, the end of the CEO wasn’t paying enough attention to engineering that he had been. He would have been asking questions and the senior vice president about engineering question because the CEOs because all day asking profitability and product delivery questions and never how the cognitive heavy lifting of engineering and that’s what they’re going to ask their people and their people going to ask other people and it cascades down. Somehow we’re going to solve that. So in other words, what the recommendation should have been to CEO did not pay sufficient attention to engineering as culpable. But yeah, but this is exactly the thing is, it’s on you to ask the questions to create a structure that makes it easy for those signals to be sent to you.

‘It’s on you to ask the questions to create a structure that makes it easy for those signals to be sent to you.’

David Marquet

I’ve seen in the military where we’ll make a decision. And I was in the Pentagon when the invasion of Iraq happened, I sat in some lower level meetings about whether we should, what to do when we saw the same thing. It was like 51%/49% Tough, complex discussions were collapsed into a simplistic recommendation. All the understanding of what the assumptions behind it were washed out, the system, the organization was not interested in disconfirming information. So when troops goes through the first hour on the job in the first town in Southern Iraq, the population in the first town is shooting at them.

The assumption that the population will welcome the coalition with open arms  but the system was not designed to, the system was designed to suppress what you don’t want to hear . And it took a long time for that to result in this kind of conversation. So that was that was tragic so I’ve seen from the inside but but to say oh, this is a military problems. It’s an American problem, I think highly simplistic. I’ve seen it all, all over the world in corporations.

Garry Turner

It’s what I really love about the work you’ve done in this book, though, is the real life stories, again, as tragic as they are, but it really brings to life the parallels, you know, I’ve experienced my own work organizations throughout my network, the prevailing paradigm is still, you know, you have a permission to speak up as long as it’s the right thing to do, speaking of, you know, that is still by far the prevailing message. And I think, hopefully, people listening to us will challenge themselves. I think we’ve all got to.

I think there’s a joint accountability now in the world we live in. So it is about the individual, but it’s also about how do we make more of a collective move forward towards how we collaborate genuinely, isn’t it?

David Marquet 

Exactly. And so in the best healthy organization here’s what happens. The individual says to themselves, I’m going to be the best I can be given whatever the culture of the environment is, I’m excited. If I have an idea, I will share it. And I’m going to give them my all and I’m going to trust the people running the place. But at the same time, the leader say, you know, what, if my goals aren’t, aren’t exhibiting the behaviors I want, that’s on me, but they’re delivering the behaviors that the culture that I, caretaker have been tuned to deliver.

So if I want different behaviors, my job is not to yell at them, or exhort them or coerce them, it’s to fix the culture. Fix the environment, fix the system, fix the structure. So in other words, if I say, well, my people are telling me and sharing their ideas with me. Yes, because you’re running a meeting in a way that reduces variability and makes it hard for the others to speak up. But the job is you have to ask the question differently. Don’t say after you guys all there, so in other words the leader takes the leaders take responsibility for their role and the people take responsibility for their bad performing cultures, we have the opposite. People say why can’t I do my job because these guys are all screwed up. 

And there’s just a toxic culture. And then the leaders say, well, we can’t give you guys any authority or trust you because you’re all screwed up. And we are going to every time there’s a problem. So you get this thing versus the healthy culture where people look to themselves. And say what can I do better? When I do a keynote, it is very interesting, and again, a sense of the culture of the organization, big or small, top 100 global company, for people that have to download questions, those questions that are uploaded the most requested sounded like how do you deal with leaders who are idiots? I mean, it wasn’t quite that bad.

But as leaders how do you deal with a culture that’s arthritic and stay. The others, they’re all outward facing questions they’re all questions about it’s not my problem, I can only do so much as opposed to, how can I change my mind? or How can I change my behavior? But I get questions like that. Now in this culture swamp, leaders say well what what do I do? What can I do? How can I change? You know what ideas you have for running the weekly ops meeting differently?And then the people participating say, well, what can I do with my team? And now it’s become the coupling outcome with responsibility and personal ownership, and then you’re going to have a win win.

All sounds pretty simple, David, we just slow down a little bit.

Oh my gosh. No, no, I feel bad having these glib responses. But it’s only because I spent hundreds of hours writing and rewriting and trying to uncover the pattern, the hidden pattern behind like what, why are all these phrases wrong, and the hidden pattern is these six plays that don’t obey the clock, control the clock, don’t coerce, but collaborate. Don’t come. Don’t comply, but get a commitment to collaboration. Don’t continue but complete, do the work in small chunks complete. Okay, I’m just going to stay over here then we’re gonna begin, we’re just gonna run a product for two months and we’re just going to try the software, whatever.

And then improve not prove. Connect as humans not conform to hierarchical roles. This is where it’s square in your wheelhouse, Garry, with the podcast. Connect is about vulnerability. The other concept is called the power grid, how much more important people in the hierarchy people level one, how much more important level two, or whatever. And the rule is that information flows inversely proportional to the steepness of the hierarchy. So in your example of the iceberg of ignorance, 4% of leaders, but if you can make it less steep, you learn, you know, 5% or 6%. And it’s steep.

‘I can tell from the physical layout of the office…That physical separation that sends a signal. I’m better than you.’

David Marquet

And I can tell from the physical layout of the office, I can make a quick assessment. I look at carpeting, office side, physical separation, private parking spot, private executive dining room, all the time. That physical separation that sends a signal. I’m better than you. I can’t mix with the unwashed.  So then we say oh, like I’m hiding behind my closed office or executive dining room all the time. And then I shrug, oh how come I didn’t know that the engineers were cheating on diesel engines? Emissions testing?

Well, I don’t know that true that they didn’t know but that kind of thing. How come  I didn’t know. Scandal after scandal, Wells Fargo, people creating fake account lists. 

Here’s a good example is the RBS headquarters in Gogarburn,outside of Edinburgh and the office for the CEO something like either 100 feet or 100 metres. Anyway, it was this huge office and their security guards keeping the whole building. The executive living was highly protected, you’ve worked there for a long time. Physical separation. And this was just before they went bust, they needed the government, the taxpayers to clear them, to bail them out. Anyway, good news is it’s now an incubator for startups. But you just just walk around and you can see the trappings around it. It’s not confusing why these people are out of touch and only know 4% of what’s going on.

Garry Turner

It’s so interesting. You’re not oversimplifying it to me because I think I think part of the challenge that I see David regularly is we also have an education system that is still churning out that outdated playbook. In many instances, maybe it’s parents, maybe it’s education. So I do also empathise with some extent, leaders that are sort of stuck or maybe afraid to sort of step into this new playbook. What’s your recommendation or maybe just some ideas of how many times someone is stuck in the old way?

What would you recommend them try and do to try and gradually step into this new paradigm which of course they need to step into, to survive?

David Marquet 

So that’s a whole other topic is the education system because the education system is an industrial age education system design, remember the plays course comply? So we can conform, that’s what we do if I didn’t want too much trouble out of you. When I told you what to do. I just wanted you to comply in the industrial age and think about it, so the teacher says, What’s 10 plus 12? The answer is 22. It’s not, well, you know, it could be this, could be that, we’re not going to reduce complexity, we try to reduce complexity. What are the three reasons for the War of the Roses?

We are just reducing complexity.

And I’m eliminating, because it’s cognitively convenient, and I’m eliminating these complex hard heavy lifting discussions. So that’s a whole other thing. And I am very sympathetic to it. Again, our target is not the point oh 1% of people who are psychopaths and evil people. Our target is 99.99% of people who are trying to do the right thing, but they’re not equipped. This is exactly the way I see if they’re equipped. They’ve got a basically a soccer playbook and they’re trying to play football or the other way around, or cricket and rugby maybe to use it better. And it’s just not working. And we say, Oh, you know, we’ll make a better Scrum and we’ll do whatever. Yeah, but you’re playing cricket.

It doesn’t work. It does not matter how good of a scrum you make. You’re playing cricket. And people don’t know a game they’re playing and so to answer your question number one, eat these things. You can start super small. Control the clock is the right thing I think is the easiest way to start. You want to do two things, you’ve got to make it easy to transition out of doing performance mode into thinking mode. But you also want to make it easy to perform to get out of thinking and go back to doing. If you just make it easy to go in one direction, then you end up spending all your time in that direction. 

‘that’s why I love things like agile in terms of Agile software development, which is It basically pre planned the pause’

David Marquet

But in general, most organisations are overly biassed towards doing and reducing variability. So what you want to do is be able to say, Alright, timeout, let’s take a look and give your people a tool so that they can call timeout. This is what the hand on cord does in the Toyota Production System. Unless the worker on the production line signal, hey, got a problem. supervisor comes over, they shift into thinking mode. And they see if they can solve the problem. They can’t within the time that the park would spend on that person’s area, then the line stops. And then thirdly, you want to pre plan or you can pre plan the next stop.

So that’s why I love things like agile in terms of Agile software development, which is It basically pre planned the pause. It says we’re going to go do a two week period of work. And then after that we’ve got on the calendar, we’re going to reflect back on how we’re doing, we’re going to take feedback on the product, we’re going to celebrate also what we’ve accomplished. But we don’t need anyone to, we’re not just going to keep working until someone sees a problem raises their hand. We’re pre planning the next pause. And so this idea of controlling the clock, I think, is where it starts. And if you do that all you’ll figure out all the other plays on your own or you can buy my book, but basically, it’s like, Okay, well now that I control the clock what I want to do, I need to hear what they think.

Therefore I have to again change the way I ask questions. Okay, now we’re gonna make a commitment back to production work. Okay, great. And then so we got to think about the work in small chunks now, okay, so that’s complete and we have to have an eye towards them. And it all fits together. At least in my head. 

Garry Turner 

It’s quite brilliant.  I really love that you’re starting to control the clock parts. I think what I see in my own journey, the last five years is definitely we need to give ourselves permission to slow down more often. Yeah, that’s on an organisational level and individual level team level is we still as you say prize busyness over presence.

David Marquet

That’s a great way to say it and and I and as I was writing the book, I was sort of in this you production mode for the book and I was also in the production mode for running my company and I was also in production mode for running around the planet giving speech. And it just hit me one day, I said, you know, this applies to my life. It applies to me.

I end with this sort of whimsical, if this the education system is designed so that we learn and then we do graduate at 22 and we just perform for the rest of our lives, and I feel like my life would be improved if I could get out of my self imposed. Look at what we’re doing all the time. Look how many speeches I gay, look how much revenue we did, look how many new partners, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so well, what, what do I want for the next chapter in my life? And I just, I think about like, say Bill Gates, he would go on these think retreats, and you bring a whole pile of books. And so what if I took two years off and sat, you know, cross legged on the floor.

But he’s injecting small periods of reflection throughout the year. And I think that can happen at that level. It can happen bigger, a sabbatical. One year, every one year out of seven maybe. And that requires a different approach to education and a different approach to how we run our lives. And it requires me to, to, to practice that. So I’m trying to figure I’m trying to figure that out. Wish me luck. 

Garry Turner 

Good luck, David. Well, as we look to wrap up, fantastic conversations, and I just really love you. You’ve mentioned a word a few times around separation, I think what your new book speaks to, is really back to the who and what we are as humans. You know, there is a product to be made, there are businesses to grow, there’s a planet to look after.

But what you speak to I think so beautifully is our ability to connect to be human together. It is the USP of our time.

David Marquet

Yeah, I’m totally with you on that.

Garry Turner 

Go and get the book. It is a good book, I can genuinely recommend reading it. What else would you like to leave our listeners with today? 

David Marquet

No, I just thank you for listening thanks for what you do to help make the world a better place and in particular, making the world of the people who you work with every day and your families, make it better for them so that they can be the best they can be just exactly the way they are.

What’s the best way to reach out to you?

David Marquet

I’m on social media, Twitter, Instagram, that kind of stuff. Facebook,our program’s called Intent Based Leadership. You go to our website or on our LinkedIn page, and just connect, Say hi, send us your story. And if you do something and you pause your life and you do something interesting, let me know (only if it works out!). But again, thank you.

Please Note: The content above is a semi-automated transcription of the podcast episode. We recommend listening to the podcast, in case any of the content above is unclear.

Garry Turner

With over 20 years of international sales, business development and relationship-building experience combined with a deep understanding of people, team and culture dynamics, Garry Turner serves individuals, teams and leaders as a strategic advisor and interpersonal catalyst.

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