The following is an interview I did recently with one of my coaching clients, Lauren Kress (aka “The Business Scientist”) for her podcast, the Oyster Live.
 
In this interview, we discuss powerful ways to scale your business, and the role that executive coaching plays in this process.
 
Read on or watch the video to discover:
 
  • Are you making this one critical mistake (so common among corporate management) that can absolutely kill the morale of your  employees?
  • The myth that most people believe about scaling your business, that can cause burnout, frustration, and poor results
  • How best to inject life into your organization and boost morale so you can reach your scaling goals together as a team
  • and much more

Lauren Kress:

Hello and welcome to another episode of The Oyster Live. Joining me today is Scott Anderson. Scott Anderson is the author of Playing Big, as well as a mental health therapist and an executive coach. Scott, thank you so much for joining me.

Scott Anderson:

Oh, thank you Lauren. Really glad to be here.

Lauren Kress:

First question for you: you do a few different things. Tell us a bit about your story and your expertise.

Scott Anderson:

Thank you. Wow, well that’s a very good question. What I do, really, is that I coach business owners (mainly entrepreneurs and their leadership teams) to scale. And as I say in the title of my book, Playing Big, that is, to scale in a way that serves themselves and their customers in an exceptional way, which is typically the path to scale and growth and success.

Lauren Kress:

It’s kind of funny, because it’s a bit of a win-win there, isn’t it? And I think… Well, I’ve had a few guests on the program who kind of talk about that importance of knowing who you are and how that fits in with scaling your business. So, in your experience, what’s the big thing that jumped out to you as a myth that a lot of your clients believe despite the evidence?

Scott Anderson:

You know, that’s such a great question. And I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come up with a couple of things that really stand out. One of them is, and I think the one that I see the most of, as an impediment to scale and really to enjoyment of your business, is the myth that if I work harder, I will accomplish more. We sort of all know in the back of our minds that there is a better way to do things, that there is a more expeditious or efficient or scaled way to do things, that doesn’t involve working harder and harder and harder. That’s good in theory, but when it comes right down to it, many of us, a lot of my clients, will quickly default to, “Yeah, but now I think I just have to work a lot harder.”

Scott Anderson:

Or even worse, demanding that their teams work a lot harder. And even if they have scaled themselves, and even if they’ve discovered that they can work less and make more personally, they fall back to that myth with their teams. There’s an expression, a Japanese expression called karoshi, which is basically to die at your desk. And that’s taken to an extreme. But that’s the kind of thing that so often, even the most progressive and enlightened entrepreneurs, when forced with a crisis will really push back on their own employees and ask them to do things that are not very enlightened and not very progressive.

Lauren Kress:

Which sort of brings me to my next question, which is, what happens as a result of… How does that affect the way people do business, when they try that strategy of just like, “Okay. We’ve just got to keep doing this, keep working really hard.” What is happening?

Scott Anderson:

Exactly. Well, we know there’s lots of evidence to support the conclusion that engagement scores plummet. It’s sort of like the expression that, “The beatings will continue until the morale improves.” And what happens is, that engagement plummets and with it, retention plummets and productivity plummets. Innovation and creativity plummet. And so, we don’t intend for any of that to happen, of course. Particularly, as business leaders, our intent is for the opposite to occur. But when we’re cornered, when we’re under pressure, and when we’re… Another kind of competing myth, or correlative myth, is about perfectionism. As owners we can often get caught in, there’s a perfect solution to something.

Scott Anderson:

But I was talking to a client the other day whose supervisor, I guess, owner, wanted him to be responding to emails throughout the weekend, pretty much 24/7. And not just opening emails, but responding to them with thoughtful, expansive answers. And unfortunately, first of all, it doesn’t really work. The kind of work that you do under this kind of, when you’re working over the weekend, is typically not great anyway, and doesn’t really contribute to the productivity. Except in an absolute emergency, it doesn’t contribute to the success of the company. But it really ruins morale. And ultimately, for every one of those emails that this poor person is forced to open and respond to, it’s really making them exponentially less likely to stay with the company or to willingly do great work.

Lauren Kress:

I kind of wonder also, it sounds like in the States, this is a bit tougher than it is in Australia. When I’ve spoken to agency owners in the States, they’re kind of like, “Oh, yeah, there’s a big expectation for us to just answer the phone whenever the phone rings.” Here in Australia, I think that’s true as well. But one thing that I had that was a real bug bear of mine, it was something really small, was when I worked in my first job which was at a comms company, my boss said to me… I’d been working really hard, I’d been staying back every day. I’d been doing work that was definitely above my pay grade, so I was an account coordinator, but I was working really as a project manager. I was working on weekends sometimes because we had events and things like that, which I was happy to do. And he pulled me aside into a meeting room, because I would come in at 8:32 in the morning instead of 8:30. And that was it, for me. That conversation was like, “I’m not working here anymore.”

Scott Anderson:

Exactly. Well, it really goes to what employees want, and I think what we all want is to work in an environment with adults, regardless of age, where we trust each other and we trust each other’s abilities. And if we can’t be trusted, then we shouldn’t be there. But this is the hallmark of a scaling, progressive company, is that in fact we do have a culture where we can trust each other and that to get the work done, in a high quality way, by the date assigned. And what I’ve found is that, even when the entrepreneur is enlightened in this way, and allows themselves to kind of come and go as they please, unfortunately sometimes they may not cut their employees the same slack. And this is really the… It’s sort of astonishing in a way, that you could have a business leader who is so attuned to productivity and efficiency and scale, and really wants to reduce the number of hours that they’re working every day to an absolute minimum. And yet, imposes old fashioned and really medieval ideas on our employees.

Lauren Kress:

Well, I know it’s something that you talk about quite a bit, which is just how bad retention rates for employees are at the moment. Can you share a little bit of that with us? Because it’s pretty scary.

Scott Anderson:

Yeah. Well, this is really the issue. And I don’t know if it’s quite as much of a crisis in Australia as it is in the United States. But unemployment is… In the US, we’re basically at or beyond full employment. We have an official unemployment rate that’s just over 3% (these are pre-COVID numbers). But for all intents and purposes, we’re at full employment. Which means that everybody who wants a job has a job, and it means that it’s an employee’s market. And I think that this is a really good thing, at the end of the day. As painful as this can be for business owners, it’s really good for American business and for American culture. Two things: one is that because we’re at full employment, it means that employers have to be significantly more enlightened whether they want to be or not, in terms of treating their employees as adults. And also, expecting adult behavior of course. But to treat them in a trustworthy, in a trusted way.

Scott Anderson:

The other part of it is, and presumably this is true in Australia as well, is that we have the biggest generation, at least in American history, of millennials as we call them, who are really driving the workforce. And to their credit, millennials really pushed back against the sort of draconian demands that some employers still make. It’s not okay to send, receive, or respond to emails over the weekend, for example. This is just one example. Or it’s not okay to micromanage people to the point of knowing whether they came in at 8:32 or not. And I think that those two factors, as difficult as they may be for business leaders and owners, are really, really good. It’s going to force us to be more efficient, to really, truly scale. Not just at the top, but throughout organizations.

Lauren Kress:

Yeah. I guess it is good, like you say. I think the part that I was thinking is scary, is the fact that… For millennials, anyway, most millennials will probably leave their job within an 18-month to two year period. But I also completely agree with you, and it’s something that I challenge people on often. When I speak in the media, it’s just this topic that comes up all the time, which is, “Millennials are so entitled.” That’s how millennials are spoken about, here anyway. And I’m kind of like, “Yeah, but isn’t it good to want more out of your life? Isn’t it good to want to become more self aware and be more mindful of…”

Scott Anderson:

I completely agree.

Lauren Kress:

Yeah! It’s kind of strange, right?

Scott Anderson:

No, I think it’s really, really good. For American culture, in particular. I mean again, ours is… Our business culture tends to be more extreme than just about anybody, even the Japanese business culture sometimes. And so, I think that this is really going to help set a more sane and reasonable standard. But without… The propaganda amongst older leaders, I think sometimes is, there will be this huge productivity loss that will occur if we sort of acquiesce to millennial requirements. And I think that the opposite is true. I think what’s going to happen to high performance companies that really do want to succeed is that they will realize scale has to occur at every level in the organization, everyone’s role needs to be optimized. No one wants to be doing work that’s beneath their skill set or is a poor match for their passion. And no organization should want that for any employee. So, it’s not easy. I get that. But at the end of the day, it is the path to scale and success. Not only financially, but also in terms of culture, both business culture and general culture, I think.

Lauren Kress:

Well, let’s talk a little bit about how tricky it is. What are some strategies that our viewers and our listeners could maybe adopt to avoid falling into this trap? I know that’s a really big question. But maybe just some top line things that they can start to think about?

Scott Anderson:

Sure. Well, I think to begin with it really does need to start at the top. And so, the leader, the CEO, the founder, owner, or whatever, needs to begin by optimizing their own role. And by that I mean that we, in a very disciplined and kind of ruthless way, take away activities that aren’t the highest and best use of the CEO, president, founder. And that anything that doesn’t rise to the level where that person, that individual offers extreme value to the organization, and to which they bring exceptional skills and outcomes, to have anything else taken away, is a step in the right direction. Among other things, this prevents the CEO, founder, whoever, from reaching back and getting out of their lane and getting into tactical areas, perhaps, or any areas where they really shouldn’t be. Because we do want to optimize their time as much as possible.

Scott Anderson:

The next step, really, is to do the same thing with the next level in the organization, and the next level under that, and the next level under that. What we really want to do is to put people in a position where they are doing the thing that they do exceptionally well, and to take away as many things off their plates that are distractions. And to get them into the hands of people that do them better, faster, and in some cases, less expensively. But it doesn’t make any sense for people to be doing work that can be done by somebody else better, faster, cheaper. So, I think that’s a lot of what we need to do. We want to make sure that there’s fit at every level of the organization between what their skill is, what their value is, and what their passion is. And is, I guess, as optimistic or as wild-eyed as that may sound, the highest performing corporations in the world are doing exactly that.

Scott Anderson:

So, I think that’s part of how we get there. And the result is, is that starting at the top end of the company, the leader, founder, whoever, is delivering significantly more impact per hour of time worked. Because they’re restricting their work to the area where they can deliver the most impact, where they have the most skill, where they deliver the most value and where they have the most passion. And we want to optimize, as I said, everybody in the organization that way, if possible.

Lauren Kress:

Well, that was actually going to be my next question, which is, what are the results that… I guess the business achieves. Obviously as an executive coach we’re thinking primarily about the executives as well. So, if we had a CFO in the room kind of looking at this and scrutinizing this, what happens in terms of overall business performance as a result of going through that work?

Scott Anderson:

Well, what happens among other things is that the company begins to scale. And by that I mean, that they deliver more profit for the same amount of work. Because again, what we’re trying to do is to shift responsibility and accountability, to the proper individuals and the proper skill sets and the proper costs. We want to reassign responsibility away from people who are overqualified or under qualified. What we want to do, ideally, is to get people who are ideally qualified. And we want to remove as much distraction as we possible can. We want to keep them out of the weeds as much as we possible can. Now obviously, there’s no 100% in any of this. But this is the way that really works.

Scott Anderson:

As you know, Lauren, I coach a lot of advertising agencies in particular, because I founded one and ran one for a long time. And that’s one of the differences, particularly for entrepreneurial companies and service organizations specifically, is that unless the owner or founder to begin with can get out of a zone where they’re doing a lot of tasks that other people could do better, faster, cheaper, it’ll be “Groundhog Day”, so to speak. I don’t know if that’s an Australian… If there’s an Australian-

Lauren Kress:

Oh yeah! We say Groundhog’s Day!

Scott Anderson:

Okay. And I think that’s the thing that infuriates and frustrates my clients more than any other single thing, is that a year has passed but in terms of progress, our company hasn’t made much. Maybe sales have increased incrementally and profits have increased incrementally, but we’re not making a substantial difference in our trajectory. And the only way to do that is to… The only way for things to change is to change things. That’s all there is to it. And the fastest impact and the greatest impact to the trajectory of any company, is by changing the role at the top of the organization and to continue to do that through the leadership team and through the rest of the organization, as much as possible.

Scott Anderson:

But that’s what we’re attempting to do, is to make everybody more efficient and productive, and also hopefully more engaged in what they’re doing. But the results are dramatic. On the other hand, the results of doing nothing and of not changing… It really is true: if nothing changes, nothing changes. And it is Groundhog’s Day, otherwise.

Lauren Kress:

Yeah. I think it’s really interesting, because I sometimes work with health clients, I often make health analogies. And I was talking to someone, a personal trainer the other day, and I was kind of saying like, you know how you say, “I don’t want my clients to be going to the gym and just spinning their wheels.” Sometimes people have been trying different diets and exercises for ages, and they’re like, “Nothing works, I just can’t get fit. I just can’t lose this weight.” And he’s like, “Yeah, because you’re going to the gym and you’re doing all this work, but you’re not doing it in the right way.” And I feel like it’s the same with business. It’s like, a lot of people go, “Oh, if I just…” I mean, I definitely did this. “If I just kind of keep working really, really hard and I do more and more and more of that, if I just keep going to the gym, suddenly I’m going to get heaps better results.” But it’s like, no. It’s those decisions at the top, like you’re saying. Once you change that, there’s a bit of a domino effect, right?

Scott Anderson:

Exactly.

Lauren Kress:

I think it’s really hard sometimes for people to realize if you’re stuck in that situation, it’s really hard to realize that, “Oh, this is a very big shift in perspective.” That’s actually what we’re talking about, right?

Scott Anderson:

Exactly. And it isn’t typically a radical change. It may be a course change of only a couple of degrees. But change is the key thing here. The key ingredient is that we have to change our behavior if we want a change in results. And it isn’t… So, putting more energy against the same behaviors, basically, may generate incremental result change. But it’s never going to cause significant improvement in the performance of an individual or a company.

Scott Anderson:

You mentioned dominoes, there’s a great book, we may have talked about it before called, The One Thing, by an American real estate guy named Gary Keller. And basically what he… and this is, in some ways, kind of the distillation of what we’re talking about. Basically what he says is, for leaders and really for anyone in business, to identify the single thing they could be doing at any one point in time that will knock down the most other dominoes. In other words, the activity that will have the biggest impact to every other area in their organization. And by constantly looking for that activity, and to use that criteria as the filter for determining what actually should I be taking in this moment, is to be continually optimizing our performance.

Scott Anderson:

For example, I have a client who is a real estate developer, who went through this one thing activity, we went through this together. And what he discerned was that of all the things he could do, and there were a number of activities, the one thing that he could do that would cause the greatest impact to his organization and to cause his organization to grow and improve the fastest, would be for him to look at ground. Period. There are lot of other things he could do, look at designs of apartment buildings, he happened to be in the multifamily development business. But what he found was that his unique skill was to be able to look at ground and see opportunity in ways that other people didn’t see it. And the competitive edge for his company would be to identify ground earlier than others, buy it cheaper than others, and take advantage of market opportunities sooner.

Scott Anderson:

And so, we got to the point where we carved out his day so that most of what he did all day was to look at ground. And we delegated almost everything else. But the growth of his company really took off at that point, and his competitiveness versus his fellow multifamily developers, his profitability, the brand itself became significantly stronger because it differentiated him to buy these unique plots of land. And so, this is kind of what we’re talking about, is… And this is a question of discernment, rather than brute force.

Lauren Kress:

Yep, I love that. I love that I brought up dominoes. And I did want to also share, so Scott has been my business coach for the last 12 months, and it’s been incredible working with you, Scott. I think the thing that, for me, that really opened my eyes straight off the bat was kind of talking about how to play to my strengths. And it reminded me, as you were just saying that, it was like a real eye-opener for me, just going, “There’s all these things I’m doing that I really… That’s not my forte, I don’t love it. I actually really dread it.”

Scott Anderson:

Yeah, exactly.

Lauren Kress:

And I could get someone else to help me do it. So, yeah, very powerful, what you do. And thank you so much for joining me. Final question for you is, how can people watching this or listening to this, how can they find out more about you and the work that you do?

Scott Anderson:

Well, very kind of you to ask, Lauren. Thank you. And my website, the name of my business is DoubleDare. And my website is https://doubledareyou.us. Though my clients, as Lauren says, are all over the world. So, contact me at https://doubledareyou.us, and I would love to talk to you.

Lauren Kress:

Awesome. I’ll make sure we put the links in our show notes as well. And actually, just before you go, just to put you on the spot, what did you think of the Superbowl Crocodile Dundee reboot ad?

Scott Anderson:

I’m a big fan of Crocodile Dundee. I don’t know about the ad, but I’m a big fan of Crocodile Dundee. What did you all think, down there?

Lauren Kress:

I think everyone’s really disappointed that it’s not actually going to be a movie. It’s just an ad.

Scott Anderson:

Yeah! Right, right. Exactly.

Lauren Kress:

But very clever, I thought it was really clever. There’s a massive boom in US tourism, outbound tourism at the moment, so I think Australia’s just like, “Let’s get as much of that as we can!” So, I thought that was very clever.

Scott Anderson:

There’s been some very clever advertising for Australian tourism. We talked about, or I think I sent you the link for the ad, and this may have been entirely in jest. But it was comparing the… It was essentially saying that Australia and the United States have a lot of the same beautiful scenery and natural things, but you’re a hell of a lot less likely to get shot in Australia, and that’s a very good point, at the least!

Lauren Kress:

I feel like that was a risky move. Because I was like, I feel like there would be maybe some people watching that that felt a bit like, “Wait! No, I’m fine here.” I did think it was very funny as well.

Scott Anderson:

Well, it was probably designed for a certain audience. And I’m probably that audience. But I thought it was very clever.

Lauren Kress:

Well, if you’re ever in Australia, make sure you give us a shout.

Scott Anderson:

I will!

Lauren Kress:

Keep doing awesome work, Scott. And it was great to talk to you.

Scott Anderson:

Thank you, Lauren. Same here.

Scott Anderson:

Bye.

 

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