As your business grows, you need to pass on a lot of your responsibility to others, essentially building a leadership team that serves as your organization's brains. With host Melanie Parish, Mike Goldman introduces us to the Breakthrough Leadership Team, the critical factor you need to focus on as you scale your business in these uncertain times. Mike is a nationally recognized speaker, author, leadership team coach, and the Founder of Performance Breakthrough, where he works with midsize companies to build their leadership teams and achieve dramatic business growth. In this episode, he teaches us the importance of getting the right people into your organization’s leadership positions, as well as leading yourself in order to better lead others. His incredible grasp of leadership team development is a product of his three decades’ worth of experience working with clients ranging from local entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies. Don’t miss this opportunity to latch on as Melanie picks his brain!
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I'm here with Mike Goldman. He's a nationally recognized speaker, author and leadership team coach. He has over 30 years of experience consulting and coaching companies that include local entrepreneurs and Fortune 500s. Throughout his career at Accenture and Deloitte consulting, he's helped brands like Verizon, Disney, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Dillard's, Liz Claiborne and Levi Strauss. In 2007, Goldman founded Performance Breakthrough to help midsize companies achieve dramatic business growth. He does this by working with leadership teams to ensure they have the right people, strategies and execution habits for growth. His clients value his vast expertise with organizations of all sizes as well as his incredible passion and energy. His no nonsense practical style enables individuals and teams to uncover opportunity areas and achieve revolutionary results with laser focus.
Mike, I'm excited to have you on my show.
I'm excited too, Melanie. Thanks for having me.
I want to dive right in. Can you tell me a little bit about the work you do and what you're up to?
I'm going to start by telling you why I do it versus what because that'll provide some interesting perspective. I believe that retirement ought to be a dirty word. It always amazes me that people have this goal of working for 40 years so they then can stop doing what they're doing and play golf or travel. I'd be bored inside of three weeks doing that. People do that because they don't feel great about what they're doing. Everyone ought to have a chance to feel incredibly fulfilled by what they do for a living. The way I help with that cause, with that purpose is a few things.
Number one, I work with leadership teams to help them grow, that leadership teams can create great companies that people love to work for, learn and grow and feel fulfilled. I work with leadership teams. I get out there and do public speaking. I did a webinar for an industry group. The third thing is I write books. My second book came out end of April 2020 called Breakthrough Leadership Team. That's what I did. What I do is I coach leadership teams. I do public speaking. I'm an author. Those are the three things I do to move that vision that I have forward.
I share a similar stake in the ground around people loving their work. I feel like we're fellow travelers, which is pretty exciting. How are you experimenting in the work you do right now?
I'm doing a lot of experimenting. I'm helping my clients do the same. The perspective that I have is when all this COVID stuff hit in a big way back in early March, my goal for myself and for my leadership teams, the companies I work with is that a year from now, we would look back and say, “That was a pretty horrible period of time. The world's shut down. People died. I never want that to happen again.” It sounds weird, but my business would never have been this strong if that didn't happen and I didn't pivot because of it. Pivoting is important. I struggled with whether I should launch my book at the end of April. I struggled with whether I should launch that new book, Breakthrough Leadership Team. Is this the right time to launch it? Is anybody going to pay attention?
I launched it in the hopes of doing a whole bunch of public speaking tour based on the book. I said, “Nobody's public speaking now. Nobody's going anywhere live.” I decided to pivot my business and say, “People need this message now more than ever,” number one. Number two, I pivoted my business. I'm working now on an online course based on some of the concepts from the book and that's going to help me. I will now have coaching, writing, speaking and an online course. I'm pivoting to help me diversify my business. I have already seen that my business is now and will be stronger than it's ever been because of I've had to pivot based on everything that's happened.
I'm going to push in here a little more. I'm super curious. What are the challenges and bottlenecks that you're facing as you go online? What are the hardest parts of this journey?
It's gotten easier. Most of my clients are long-term. I work with my clients 4 or 5, 6-plus years. Going from meeting with them live to doing Zoom calls and using tools like MURAL and other virtual flip chart tools was pretty seamless, but I did have a new newer client. That credibility wasn't built up yet and they hadn't done a lot virtual. It was tough to get them over the hump. They wanted to cancel everything until life got back to normal, whatever normal means. It took some convincing to get them to shift over to this virtual world and do the things we needed to do. I work with my clients monthly and quarterly. They often create growth plans to help and make sure they've got the right people to help them execute month after month in quarter after quarter. It took some convincing to get them to say, “We can do this virtually.” Now that we all are, they're not looking back. It's been amazing.
The other thing that's gotten a little easier, but it was initially a challenge is we've all heard about Zoom fatigue. I will tell you when I'm with my client in a conference room or with an audience up on stage, when I finished that talk or that session, I feel even more energized than I did before. I feed off that energy. What I found is doing all of this over Zoom drained me. I couldn't believe I would get to the end of the day and where did my energy go? It's amazing how doing it over the last few months, learning some tricks around how long you go before you take a break and how long your breaks ought to be. Getting used to this new world, I'm now able to do it. I had a two-day Zoom meeting with a client. I felt fine doing it, believe it or not. It's amazing how for me and my clients, we've been able to pretty quickly get over that hump.
I want to go back to something you said, which was that your client wanted to cancel everything and you pushed back. I'm curious. It takes some real confidence to do this. I had a similar client where I said, “You may need a break from payment, but you don't need a break from coaching and we'll figure out the money later.” What did you rest on? What were the values or principles that you rested on when you went back to your client and said, “I don't think you should cancel everything?” How did you do that?
First of all, I rested on the fact that they hired me because they had a real need. That need didn't go away. That need was even greater than it was before. While I was going back to why they hired me in the first place and saying, “Let's wait until life goes back to normal,” seemed like a crazy answer, number one. Number two, one of the things I work on with my clients, it's one of the first things that I have to make sure they build a habit on, is this habit around a planning and communication rhythm with their leadership team. It’s knowing how quickly. If you remember back in March, every day, it seemed like three months went by because the world had changed so much from day-to-day. It's calmed down a little bit now, certainly.
I rested on the fact that they needed that planning and communication rhythm, even more than before, instead of planning for the next 90 days, they needed some plans on what they were going to do tomorrow. They needed me even more than they did before. The other thing I rested on is I don't know when and if we're going back to normal, so to say, “We're going to hold off on this until we go back to normal,” what is normal? Let's keep working so we can figure it out together. The other thing, by the way, I've been coaching and consulting for many years. Frankly, it's a confidence in my own ability to help them. It's a confidence in my own ability to help them virtually. I felt pretty good that I'd be able to have almost as much value virtually as I could live. Interestingly enough, I'm finding that I have as much value. It's amazing how productive we can all be virtually. Part of it was my own confidence from years of working with dozens of clients and thousands of leaders in knowing the value I could add.
What do you think the biggest mistake is that CEOs make when they're trying to build a breakthrough leadership team?
My book, which is all about how to create that breakthrough leadership team, because that to me is the heart and soul of your company. I not only relied on all of the work I've done over many years working with clients, but I interviewed dozens of CEOs. They’re not just any CEOs, but successful CEOs with great leadership teams. I asked them that exact question. I said, “What's the biggest mistake that you made in growing your leadership team?” All of them, except one, had the same answer. That answer was that they kept a C player. They kept the wrong person on their leadership team too long. They didn't do anything about it.
I have never ever spoke to a leader who has said, “That person I fired a month ago, I fired them too quickly.” I've never heard somebody say that, but I have probably hundreds of instances of hearing, “That person I let go last week, who was a toxic C player on the team, why didn't I do that six months ago?” That I've heard over and over again. The biggest mistake people make leaders make and building that breakthrough leadership team is they hire or promote the wrong person onto the leadership team and they keep them way too long.
I always know when I have had about three conversations with a leader about a team member in our coaching. I always know they're going to fire them, but it's how much time they're going to use and ways before they do it. It's painful to watch. I'm with you on that perspective.
I had a client say to me because I always challenge my clients on, “You're either coaching them or cutting the cord. You got 90 days to coach them. If after 90 days you're still coaching them and you haven't cut the cord, then you may be the C player.” I had a client. I had a conversation with, who had to send one of his leadership team members off to go work for the competition, how to cut the cord on that C player. He laughingly said to me, the reason why he did it is he said, “Mike, I didn't look forward to that phone call with you where you were going to beat me up for not making the right decision so I cut the cord. It was the smartest thing I ever did.”
I'm wondering, how do you put a team together? What are you looking for in terms of diversity or skill sets? How do you help somebody put a great team together?
Structuring the leadership team is something that most leaders don't think much about. Here's what the strategy for structuring a leadership team looks like, “I'm working too many hours. I'm sitting around the kitchen table doing everything myself, who could I get to help me?” They get someone to help them. It's, “We got too many fires to put out. Who else can I get to help me?” Before you know it, you've got a bunch of direct reports, but they're not necessarily a team. They're not necessarily the right team because you haven't proactively structured that team.
I work with my clients no matter where they are. They could be $1 million or a $500,000 company putting a leadership team together for the first time or they could be a $200 million company that's scaling and saying, “What do we need to do next?” The first thing you got to do is you got to figure out what are all the functions on your leadership team, very simply list out your functions. I've got head of the company as a function, sales as a function, marketing as a function, services as a function and finance as a function, but list out those functions. Next to that function who owns it, who's the one person accountable? Early on, your name may be in every box. What you need to do is plan out the growth of your organization.
What are you planning for revenue growth over the next 3, 4, 6, 8 quarters? What are you planning for profitability growth? What is your cashflow going to look like? How many widgets are you going to sell? How many new clients are you bringing on board? They’re financial and nonfinancial targets and then you've got to take those functions. Take those functions and draw out what I call a functional org chart. A functional org chart basically takes a picture and it may show your name in five different boxes on the org chart. You use that forecast, that plan for your business out over 4, 6, 8, even 12 quarters. You proactively say, “At what point do I need to replace me with a real sales person? At what point am I not going to be able to do HR anymore? At what point do I need to take this person who now heads up sales and marketing? Do I need to split that out and say, ‘Now I need a head of sales and a head of marketing?’”
You need to proactively figure out what that structure of your leadership team looks like because to do it right, you need to start looking for that next person on your leadership team. If it's internally or externally, if you're promoting from within or you're going out, you're going to start figuring out who that next person is six months before if you're looking externally, maybe nine months before if you're looking internally. You got to make sure that person is ready for the role. It's all about proactively structuring the team so you could find the right people before things are falling through the cracks and you've got fires all over the place.
It’s interesting the way that you could think about that you want to move someone in nine months and then you're developing that person to be to move into that new leadership role. It's so easy in the noise of leadership to lose those long-term or longer-term thinking decisions.
It challenges you to do some of that longer-term planning that you ought to be doing anyway.
We ought to all be doing it all the time and different timeframes. I love the idea of thinking in the two-year timeframe, the six-month timeframe, the month-long time frame and the week-long timeframe. Let's shift to your own leadership in your own company. What do you do to take care of yourself?
By the way, my company is me and a whole bunch of outsource marketing, web design and all that stuff. Self-leadership for me and self-leadership for other leaders out there is the most critical thing. If you are not leading yourself, you cannot expect that you could lead others. You cannot expect that you could lead your clients. To circle back to an earlier conversation, if I wasn't a good self-leader, if I wasn't taking care of myself, I don't think I could have had the wherewithal to push back on that new client that said, “We're going to cut everything off until the world goes back to normal.” I had to be comfortable with myself and manage my own emotions to challenge that client and do the right thing for them. Selfishly is the right thing for my business as well.
Self-leadership is critical. I'll pull out one of the tools that I use with my clients as an example. It's called the Locus of Control. Locus is a very fancy word for point of control or maybe center of control. We could have as individuals an internal locus of control or an external locus of control. An external locus of control means that we believe the problem is outside of us. Why are my people all leaving at 5:00 and I'm working until midnight? How come my clients are so unforgiving every time we make a mistake? How come my people ask me the same questions over and over again? That's an external locus of control. It makes the very dangerous assumption that the problem is other people not you.
I will tell you, as long as your focus is on something you can control and trust me, you cannot control other people. If you have kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you have an external locus of control, you are playing a game that you cannot win. You need to shift that locus of control to an internal locus of control. Instead of saying, “How come my employees keep asking you the same question over and over again?” An internal locus of control might be to say, “I wonder what I can do to better communicate with my clients and my employees?” If your clients are unforgiving, every time you make a mistake, instead of saying, “What's wrong with my clients?,” you might say, “I wonder what I can do or what we can do as a company to create better, more loyal relationships with my clients?”
I challenge my clients to take that internal locus of control. It's funny, a lot of them start using it as a team where I may get a leadership team together and someone starts complaining about something and someone tongue in cheek, but it's productive says, “It sounds like you're taking an external locus of control on that.” They laugh a little bit about it. They're using strange language they don't typically use, but it's important. You get what you focus on. It's important you take that internal locus of control. It's important you focus on what you want versus what you don't want. Some of the ways you can do that, that's where things like meditation and exercise and listening to good music. You've got to figure out, what is that recipe for you to keep your head straight on your shoulders so you could be the best you can be for your company, for your team and for your clients.
A little earlier you talked about how you've outsourced a lot of things. It's you and your company. Here you wrote this great book on teams and leading teams. Tell me a little bit more about that thinking why did you choose to outsource in your own business?
I decided a number of years ago that I absolutely love what I do. What I do is not an administer, a firm or a company. What I do is I work with my clients every day. What I do is I write books. What I do is I get up on stage and hopefully inspire people to make changes. That's what I love. I have a mastermind group of other leaders that I work with a couple. My practice very often is full or near full. They'll say to me, “You ought to hire a bunch of other coaches. That will help you grow your business.” There's nothing wrong with that. I know folks that have done that. I love what I do every single day. I am so fulfilled by what I do every single day that I decided for me, it's about staying out there, working with clients. That means me doing it for myself. Over time, again, I have outsourced my public relations, my marketing, my web work and a whole bunch of other things and some financial work, but I love what I do every day. I decided I'm not going to build a team of other coaches. I'm going to work with clients and do what I love every single day.
Where can people find you, Mike?
It’s a couple of different ways. My website is Mike-Goldman.com. You can find more information about me there. You could also go to BreakthroughLeadershipTeam.com. That's going to have more on my book. There's a Breakthrough Leadership Team Assessment that anyone can take from for free, that would help you assess you and your leadership team. It also has some tools from my book that you can download. You can buy my book either paperback, Kindle or Audible version. If you want to hear my voice for about six hours, you could do all that out on Amazon.
Thank you so much for being on the show. It's been such a pleasure getting to know you and hearing about how you work with organizations, leadership teams and leaders.
Melanie, thanks so much. It's been fun.
I've had such a great time chatting with Mike Goldman. I loved hearing how he thinks about timeframe. If you're doing an internal hire, you want to plan for that nine months ahead. It's fascinating to think about preparing them in their role to move up into the next. We all know we should do this, but I love hearing him think about that. I also like hearing how he proactively structures the team. In the show, we talk about timeframes in terms of vision being the longest timeframe, mission being the next longest timeframe, and then strategic intense, operational, intense and tactical intense. All of those can help zero in on the right timeframe to be thinking of as a leader. I love how he's using online tools. I love how he's thinking about how those tools can help him connect virtually with the teams that he's working with. I was impressed by the fact that his client wanted to stop everything when the pandemic hit and how he pushed back, reminding them of the value that they wanted from him, the need they had that he could fill and that he was able to retain the client. More than that, he was able to continue to add that value for them. They were able to get that learning and take their teams forward. Go experiment.
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.