S2Ep11: Navigating Workplace Dysfunction-Key resources to make your workplace run more efficiently

Allan welcomes leadership and workplace communication expert Brandon Smith. Brandon is a therapist, executive coach, professor, consultant, speaker, podcast host and author. Brandon’s mission is to eliminate all workplace dysfunction. In 2020, he wrote a book titled The Hot Sauce Principal. In this episode, Allan and Brandon discuss topics in the book, and how to properly use urgency to motivate your team.

The Workplace Therapist
Founder & President

The Hot Sauce Principle

How to Live and Lead in a World Where Everything Is Urgent All of the Time

Hey, everyone, welcome to the show. I’m Allan. I’m a family man and attorney and an
entrepreneur. Each week, we provide resources and advice to help build your business. Are
you ready? Then let’s go.
Everyone, welcome to the show. Today, I’m excited to welcome leadership and workplace
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communication expert Brandon Smith. Brandon’s the author of The Hot Sauce Principle,
and also the host of the very successful podcast called The Workplace Therapist Show.
Thanks for being on the show. Brandon.
Allan, really glad to be on the show and excited to chat today.
So tell me a little bit about yourself. Tell me a little bit about your background and where
you grew up and and how you ended up? Doing professionally what it is you do today.
Lots of questions there, Allan. I’m gonna start with the end first. So my handle is the
workplace therapist and what I basically do everything I do in the world, it can really be
summed up and when my purpose and that is to eliminate all workplace dysfunction,
everywhere forever. That is my purpose and sole goal in life. So that takes a lot of forms.
Sometimes it’s one on one coaching with leaders. Sometimes it’s working with teams. It
can be startup teams, it can be department teams boards. Sometimes it means teaching
sessions and teaching content to larger groups. And then it also means my podcasts
where I get to put out content to help folks have healthier and a little more functional
work environments. So that’s that’s all that I do today. I’ll give you kind of the mini version
of how I got doing this. So I was born in Dayton, Ohio. My dad worked for a meat paper
company. So we moved around from paper Milltown to paper Milltown. My parents were
told they couldn’t have kiddos. So they adopted two, two brothers through to my old over
two brothers. And then I showed up as a surprise, surprise, and both my brothers were 12
and 11 years older than me. So I always tell people, I know what the inside of a dryer looks
like, because that’s what older brothers do to little brothers,
as long as you don’t know what it looks like when it’s on.
That’s right. I think I was too heavy. To be honest, I think I’m sure they tried, trust me, I’m
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sure they tried. So we ultimately moved around, and I settled down here in Atlanta, my
oldest brother. So while most of my life I would say was pretty normal, my oldest brother
was in and out of either jail or rehab center. So when he was home, it was creating a lot of
dysfunction in my house. And then when I was 10, he took his own life. And that was
particularly traumatic for for me and my whole family. So much so that I came down with
an uncontrollable stutter. I couldn’t speak in public at all. And that was going into middle
school. So every day before Middle School, I’d go see my speech therapist, and I’d work on
my Bs and work on my piece, or cut my teeth, all the letters that kind of get me tripped up
and stuck. I think a lot of the school day. And somewhere along the lines in my middle
school years, I think between all the dysfunction that my brother created in my house and
the way kids with senators were treated. I just decided people were way too dysfunctional.
People were way too messy. I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. So I became
kind of a world class wallflower. That kind of continued all the way through college.
Somehow in college, I don’t know how this happened. But I majored in communications.
Like most good communication majors, I was unemployed at graduation, wondering what
am I going to do with this thing. And I got a job with a small chain of retail stores. It’s a
family owned business. They have 15 stores, and the woman who started the business. My
boss was the son in law of the business. So her daughter marries this guy. He’s my boss. So
he greets me on my first day of work, and I’d work lots of other jobs before Alan but this
was my first day of my real first full time job. he greets me at the door of the store I’m
going to be at he says I’m so glad you’re here, you’re going to be the assistant manager of
the store. But before you get started, I have a task for you. Waiting for you in the back
room is the current assistant manager. But he doesn’t know you’re coming. So your job is
to go back there and fire him and you get his job. And that was how my boss rolled. He
loves surprise visits. He did everything that a boss and a leader shouldn’t do. He was like,
take everything we know about leadership and do the opposite. And that was what my
boss did. He loves surprise visits trying to catch you doing something wrong. He come in
he stormed through the door ready to I don’t like what Susan’s wearing upfront go fire her.
I did do more layoffs in the first six months of that job than any other time. I Career and
working for him, it kind of woke me up. And I realized three important things. First, I
realized work shouldn’t have to suck. It should be a source of fulfillment meaning and
purpose for us not anxiety and stress and depression and all those other things. I mean, it
is work, but finding ways to make it more meaningful, meaningful for us is important.
Second, if my boss was any indication of the state of leadership in the workplace today, I
really want to change that. And third, that was where I purpose was born, I wanted to I
wanted to cure all workplace dysfunction, having no idea what I signed up for. So I would
often pursued a clinical therapy degree, I worked in the clinical world for a number of
years to get those skills honed. And then I went into the corporate world to understand
the world of business. And then I got an MBA, and then had some opportunities to go join
some larger consulting firms, but turned those down and ultimately hung my shingle
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about 16 years ago. So I’ve been on this on this mission, doing this work as a as a
entrepreneur and practitioner and business owner for about the last 60 years. So yeah,
that I really am a workplace therapist I both the clinical background and kind of the the
business background. So it’s my version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, somehow I think it
That’s crazy that your your job is to, you know, basically make things run smoothly in, in a
business, like from a it sounds like it’s from like a personnel standpoint, like a personality
standpoint, is that right? Like, basically, you come in when there’s conflict, or there’s
disorder, and you can adjust self problems.
Yeah, so think of me as kind of like your marriage therapist for workplace. I come in. And
sometimes it’s sometimes it’s working with partners. I’m currently working with the most
dysfunctional team I’ve ever worked with before. And it’s a group of physician partners,
and they are really having some issues. And they own a practice. And it’s not not
pleasant, but it’s kind of helping them kind of work through some of those dynamics. Or it
might be just working with a leader helping her or him communicate better work on some
of their rough edges. So they can be more effective and leading folks and getting out of
their own way and making that transition from going from working in the business to on
the business. So yeah, it can take lots of forms, but it’s it’s the people side of work. That is
my area of focus.
That’s interesting. I, I’ve said I don’t know how many times on my podcast that. And I’m
very passionate about partner relationships. And most of it’s because I would not be
where I am today without my partners. That being said, in terms of being an entrepreneur,
a business owner, especially a business owner that is passionate about scaling, I don’t
know that there’s something more difficult than my relationship with my partners. I really
don’t. And I always compare it to It’s funny how you talk about being a marriage therapist,
I think that there’s so many parallels between having a business partner and being
married. There’s just so much and I always say I’ve said this, Melissa, probably sick of
hearing me say this, but it’s, it’s true. So I’m going to keep repeating myself, that when I
look for a partner, and I have nine or 10 different business partners, that I do different
deals and stuff with, but I’m looking for somebody that doesn’t think it’s going to be
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everything’s going to be perfect, it’s going to be smooth sailing, that we’re just going to
be, you know, laughing our way to the bank. I’m looking for somebody that’s that’s in it for
for hire reason. And that won’t give up, right? Because just like marriage, my relationship
with my business partners is, hey, we had a rough day or we had a great day, or we had a
mediocre day. And tomorrow, we’re going to do it all over again. And we’re going to just
keep working on it. Would you agree with something like that?
Haha, amen. Brother. Preach. Amen. Absolutely. 100%? Well, it’s the same thing.
Ultimately, you have to you’re committing right? You’re just like you wouldn’t a marriage.
It’s a partnership folks, just like a marriage is a partnership. There’s a reason why the both
those things are called partnerships. They’re there, they’re more siblings or cousins than
they are different. So you’ve got it, you’ve got to have some level of commitment, you’ve
got to have some level of shared values. So I would imagine, even as you were kind of
dating and auditioning your business partners, you are looking for, you know, how do they
approach customers? How do they approach work? Can I Can I count on them, if I’ve got
an issue or fire, you’re looking for values alignment. So you know, you, you know, you it
works really easy, because ultimately you want to get to a place where you fully 100%
trust that person that you can, that they can make a decision and you and you know,
even if you’re not there, it’s going to be consistent with your thinking and alignment. And
I’m certain I might I feel pretty comfortable about this assumption, Allen that having nine
of those partners you need to get to that place of trust in order to be able to have That
many partners. And and that’s ultimately where we’re trying to go. And that involves a lot
of communication involves just a lot of time and ultimately, you know, getting that place
of trust,
just like just like a marriage. Yeah, 100%. And when I am making a decision about whether
to go into business with somebody, I’m actually more interested in the type of person that
I believe I’m sitting in front of, than I am in their idea, or what I’m at that very early and
premature point, trying to determine what they could add to the company, right, what
type of partner they can be in terms of just just business value, I’m trying to determine,
hey, do do I trust? Can I trust this person? Is this the type of person that’s going to get
down in the weeds with me when when when we lose, you know, a key key personnel or
whatever. And so for me, it’s, that’s, that’s my, my first step. Right? Now, if, Brandon, if you
so I have, I have some people that are listening to me today, and they’re trying to pull the
trigger on starting their first business, and they are trying to figure out, they have
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somebody in mind that could potentially be a partner, no question that the individual
bring, you know, great work to the to the to their company, but they’re nervous man,
they’ve heard about partnerships that have gone wrong and ended up in litigation or
whatever. What do you say to this person, they’re just about to pull the trigger on a
business, their final decision before they do show his partner or no partner without having
I know that there’s a lot more that goes into that decision, but without having any more
information, what do you say to them.
So I’m going to give you three things that just come to mind right away. The first two are
dues. And the last one is adult, okay. So the first do is a date, just like a marriage, you
wouldn’t on the second day be like, Let’s get married. I mean, sometimes those work out,
but those often are condos Las Vegas weddings that don’t last very long. So I would date
for a while. And what I mean by that is, you know, really stay connected for a period of
time a year, at least, where you can watch how they handle customers watch how they
handle problems, watch how they handle relationships, both personally and
professionally, to make sure there’s a fit there. So I think that’s first second, if at all
possible, try and partner with partners equals, so have whatever they’re coming into the
business has to be the same as what you’re bringing to the business. I think equal
partnerships are going to be a little bit better in the beginning when you’re starting off,
because you’re probably more likely to be equally committed, you’ve got equal skin in the
game, and maybe you’re bringing equal kind of strengths. Even if they’re complimentary
indifferent. I’ve got a business partner right now that he and I have known each other for
years, and where we’ve been partnered on a business, we’re building on developing
leaders in a more scalable way. And we both come in with exactly the same side
practices. So we kind of come in as equals. And it really helps when we’re kind of
operating together. The third thing I would offer is a no, no, no. As much as you want to, as
much as your heart just just calls for you to don’t partner with a friend or relative, if you
can help it, it’s a lot harder to pull off, it can be done, there are people listening to this
have done it. But it’s a lot harder. And that’s because your friends and relatives know
you’re going to give them a pass. No, they don’t quite have to exert the same kind of effort
to try and prove to you their worth and commitment. Because it’s already there. Because
in a sense, you kind of already love them unconditionally. So the level of effort and
commitment is typically not as high as someone that you’re partnering with more than
just a business perspective and standpoint. And that’s hard to do. Because you probably
have college friends or buddies and you’re like, Oh, yeah, we’ll just start a business
together. And you just Just be careful, those are harder to pull off. Because, you know, we
forgive them very easily. And they can take advantage of that. So those are the three tips
that I would kind of come right out of the gate with.
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I love it. And my first and my my kind of ongoing in perpetuity business partner is actually
my brother. And so everything that you just said, there’s truth to that. And one of my
purposes in going into business with family was actually to help develop that relationship.
And I know there’s some people laughing right now that I said, because it’s it’s actually so
natural for the opposite result to happen, right where it breaks down the relationship. And,
man it is it is tough, but that that advice is just really sound. I I would probably kind of be
somewhere in the middle. about going into business with and I’ve done it both ways. I’ve,
um, I own a share. I own a percentage of a couple of companies where I didn’t know them
before at all and And we have to, you know, different different struggles. But yeah, family
friends, it is different. And you have to, and you have to work on it. When I started my first
company, I moved out of state. And if I hadn’t had done that I was living in Arizona, I
started my first business in Detroit. If I hadn’t done that, I would have quit. If I started in
Arizona, where, you know, I was basically home. Because because of how difficult
partnerships are, do you find that you have success? helping these these partners that are,
you know, they’re they’re kind of at each other’s throats a little bit, and they’re starting to
fight kind of like a old married couple? Do you? Do you have success? counseling, some of
those types of partners? And if and if so, what are the elements that those partners have
to bring to the table in order for you to be able to work with them?
So the short answer is, yes, not in every case, I can’t just like any marriage therapist, you
can’t save every relationship. But yes, it really is less dependent upon me and more
dependent upon their level of commitment and willingness to do the work. So I’ll give you
a quick, quick example. It’s in my book, by the way, people want to kind of learn more
about it, but I’m gonna paint the picture for folks. So this is, there’s a trust formula that
helps when we think about how we build trust with others and build those relationships. So
you can think about trust, it’s a mathematical equation. So trust is, is this trust equals, in
parentheses, Authenticity, plus vulnerability, okay, so wherever the sum of that is, times
credibility gets us trust. So it’s important because the reason why it’s a multiplication
symbol in the middle of that formula is if credibility goes to zero, there’s no trust. If
authenticity and vulnerability go to zero, it’s no trust. So often, when trust breaks down, or
relationships start to break down, it’s because either we feel like people aren’t pulling
enough of their weight, which is credibility. Or it might be that they’re just not being
vulnerable or authentic or transparent with us. So it’s that side of the equation. So it’s, it’s
helping those partners identify what they need to be doing to improve the relationship.
And it’s, it comes a lot down to compromise, just like any relationship, and it comes a lot
down to commitment. But it’s understanding kind of what the other partner needs, maybe
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they need you to be more responsive, they maybe they need you to, you know, adhere to
some kind of structure. Or maybe they need you to just be a little more honest, in and
more transparent in what you’re doing. improve communication. So any any and all those
are kind of fair game, but that formula helps you kind of identify what are the issues, we
just we need to scratch here. So it’s a nice little framework or tool that I often offer. So
that’s definitely one way that it helps those partners go forward. Now, I’m going to give
you one more kind of a another way to think about it. Let’s talk about when relationships
go south. What are some of the causes. So for that, I’m going to pull from our friends the
Gottman Institute, the Gottman Institute actually studies marriages and personal
relationships. And john Gottman is got the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So these are
the these four horsemen show up in a relationship, bad news. So in no particular order,
we’ve got criticism, so we’re criticizing our partner a lot, maybe publicly or privately,
contempt. contempt is the worst of the four. contempt is like resentment. you resent them
because they’re not pulling their weight. And you’re letting them know that defensiveness,
we’re getting defensive every time they ask, offer an idea or provide feedback. And the
last one is stonewalling. And stonewalling simply, it’s just avoiding. We just, we just don’t
talk, we refuse to talk to him. I’m working with a partner, a pair of partners with a law firm.
And the issue is they’re stonewalling. Neither one will talk to each other for six months,
they’ve not they walk by maybe say hi in the hall. And that’s it. So any of those four will
break down in the relationship, and those are something you want to look out for in a
I love it. It’s interesting that you talk about credibility, I think that it’s so common, it’s
common for us as human beings to feel like we add more value in all sorts of areas of our
lives than the other person, right? The partner, whether it’s a teammate, whether it’s
somebody in our church organization, whether it’s a business partner, whether it’s a
spouse, I think it’s super common, or maybe I’m just unique, but I feel like with me and my
partner, that that’s something that comes up quite a bit. Have you ever run into a
partnership where there wasn’t an issue? Right? So you’ve come across these partnerships
that that need some help that needs some therapy? Have you ever run into one where
there’s not an issue about one partner saying that the other isn’t pulling their weight?
I think it’s very common. Usually it’s because they just look at their particular role as more
important, even though it’s equally important. So for example, maybe you have a
partnership where one partner brings in 70% of all the business, well, naturally, a partner
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is going to feel pretty good and maybe even a little bit resentful of the other partner
because they say, hey, look, I’m bringing in 70% of our revenue. And get the other partner
might be the one who’s doing all the operations, who’s basically running all the execution
of you know, delivering on those on how those promises made the customers, just like in
any relationship, it’s helping to understand and appreciate the different roles that need to
be played. And one is not better than the other. The analogy I use in any businesses, think
of a business as a car, you’ve got brake pedal functions, and gas pedal functions. So sales,
marketing, those are gas pedal functions, right, and we love those, those are fun. And
those kind of generally have kind of the spend, spend, spend orientation. But if we’re only
doing gas pedal all the time, it’ll be a fun ride, but we’ll be off the cliff in six months. brake
pedal functions are things like counting and operations, maybe legal compliance, get
bigger HR, some of those things can be brake pedal functions. Also important but if we
only do a brake pedal functions, we never leave the parking space because those those
are just say, No, no, be safe, don’t move. Or we need the gas pedal and the brake pedal
that kind of navigate those curves around the mountain, as we’re growing and growing
the business. So they’re both important, it’s just getting some of those, those partners to
recognize the value of those different roles that they may be playing. That’s more often
the not the case is just understanding and appreciating the important role that the other
person plays.
So if you run into a partnership, where, like these attorneys that aren’t talking to each
other, let’s I’m going to add a little caveat to that relationship. And I obviously have no
clue who you’re talking about. But let’s say that, indeed, one of the partners is contributing
substantially measurably more than the other to the partnership. What is to be done in
that scenario?
There are some forks in the road that have to be decided upon. So the initial fork first fork
is well, do we want to continue with this partnership? And the answer is yes, then we
somehow need to make sure the contributions get equal, the most natural solution would
be to the the partner contributing the least lesser about steps of her game or his game
and really makes that balanced and commits to it and really delivers on that. The other
possible fork in the road might be that they decide that this is just not a good partnership,
it’s not working, and that they are wanting different things going forward. And so they
might decide to either bring in a third partner and kind of rebalance the equity. Or, more
often than not, what actually happens is that is that partners contributing the most buys
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out the partner that’s contributing the least. So it’s really a decision about commitment
and effort, you know, does do the partners, particularly the one that’s maybe not pulling
her his weight? Are they willing to do what’s necessary to make the relationship work? Or
are they just wanting to move on. So it’s starting from that place, and getting everyone to
kind of recognize what needs to get done and then committing and then going down the
My guess is without any prior experience or expertise, that a lot of times it’s it’s just one
partner feeling that they contribute more. And sometimes, I could imagine a scenario
where it’s both partners thinking that they contribute more, what’s to be done in a
scenario like that, where you have two partners, they’re like, you know what, we’re not
ready to throw in the towel. Like, let’s figure it out, out. I’m going to call Brandon, I’m going
to bring him in here. I imagined that marriage therapy is kind of like this, too. I’m going to
bring Brandon in here. And I’m going to show you, john, that you’re wrong. I’m going to
show you that you’re not pulling your weight. And you know, Brandon’s gonna come in
here and tell you that I’m right.
Right. That happened to be a week ago, actually, I would I was brought in and a week ago
and they said, No, you show that you tell them how why they should listen to me. So it
really goes down the path of just helping them to understand and appreciate the
contributions from each other. So remember, remember what I said about Gottman.
Earlier I said there was four horsemen I said the worst one was contempt. contempt is also
resentment. I’m resentful that you’re not pulling your weight. It will it will be like toxic and
like a cancer to that relationship. So it’s really important that I then facilitate a
conversation to get people to better understand what each partner polls and the way
they pull and and why that’s so important and answer the question of what it would cost
them if that partner didn’t do it. So you know, let’s say we have a partner that’s bringing in
lots of revenue, but another partner is running the office said so what what would it What
would it cost you If that if your partner went away, and you didn’t see them, and you had
to do that job, what would that be like for you? So it’s it’s getting them to kind of think that
way. And understand that and maybe even put a number to it. So, so they understand
that there’s a, like every relationship and partnership, there’s there’s a balance. I think it’s
gained them, it goes back to empathy, and understanding and putting themselves in the
other person’s shoes. So it’s going through that exercise.
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I love it. All right, let’s switch gears just just a little bit here. And let’s talk about your book.
It’s called the hot sauce principle. Will you tell me a little bit about kind of a summary of
the book? What are the the key topics that you cover? And what was your purpose in in
it? Yeah, so So I’ll start with the purpose of writing it. So I was finding that didn’t matter
what client I worked with didn’t matter what world they lived in. Two things were true.
Time was everyone’s most precious resource, not money. It was time, and everything was
urgent all the time. So it was this, this urgency was just becoming an epidemic, like
everything was feeling urgent. And so the book, The hot sauce recently, it’s called the hot
sauce principle is the analogy is urgency. It’s like hot sauce. And I love hot sauce. I really
do. I love to put hot sauce on food. And a little bit of hot sauce is wonderful. And that’s
focus, it adds flavor makes it a priority. It’s great. But if everything that’s coming out of
your kitchen is covered in hot sauce, the appetizer, the salad, the entree, the priority at the
end, the iced tea, it’s all covered in hot sauce, I don’t know, if you’re like me, you’re gonna
be curled up in a ball, which is begging for relief. So So the whole idea around the book is
how do you manage hot sauce in your life. So not only when you’re guiding and leading
your teams, how much hot sauce to put on things, but also when your customers are
putting hot sauce on you. So it doesn’t feel like everything’s urgent. Because if everything
is urgent, not only is it just a world of burnout and anxiety, nothing’s urgent, you don’t
really know what to focus on. It’s all bringing you heat. So it’s so the book is all really
about that both both as a leader, but also managing others expectations. So that’s the
premise of the book.
I love it. And there was a little kind of blurb about it. I think it was on your website that
says something about how you in the book, one would learn how to properly use urgency
to motivate rather than burn out your team. Is that is that a pretty exactly right?
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Let’s talk about that a little bit. This is actually something Brandon that I struggle a lot a
lot with. And the folks that I work with that are that are listening right now. They’re like,
yep, they’re not there. I can feel it. Right. Because effort for me. I know I’m a super intense
guy. And I know that just just the way that I speak and communicate. People I make
people think that it’s super urgent, what I’m talking about. And then they’ll say, well, Alan, I
don’t think I can get to it today. And I’ll respond something like, Oh, no, I don’t need this
done for like a couple of weeks. What are some things that I can do to use urgency to
motivate rather than burnout? My team?
Yeah. So energy emotion, I had a client once told me years ago, she said, You know, I
know I need to light a fire in my people, which is inspiration. But sometimes I need to light
a fire under them too, which is urgency. So it’s just knowing when and how to control the
fires that you’re starting. So I’ll give you a great little tip that I learned from a business
owner when I was sharing this concept with him. He owns a business about 50 employees.
he’s a he’s interesting kind of business owner, really anxious guy. So not the typical guy,
you would think who would start a business in the sense that he’s a warrior all the time. So
his team was coming to me saying he’s like making everything urgent, because he’s
freaking out about everything when he comes into the office every day. So I shared this
principle with him. And he went out and he bought three bottles of hot sauce and stuck
them on his desk 123 Okay. And whenever he gave a project or initiative that was urgent
to one of his direct reports, he would hand them one of the popsicle hot sauce and say,
This is so urgent, I want you to hold on to the bottle of hot sauce. And you keep that bottle
on your desk until the URL to the project is complete. And then you bring me back the
bottle. And the beautiful thing about that approach that he came up with is it was a
forcing mechanism for him, he only had three bottles. So he could only make three things
urgent at a time. It was a great way for him to control to not make everything urgent
because he only had three bottles. So once the three bottles were done, if he wanted to,
you know create urgency for something else he needed to figure out a way to get one of
those bottles back and lower the intensity. So little tips like that are great ways to help you
make sure that you’re you’re managing how much spice is coming out of your kitchen
and what is involved in the in just the communication. So let’s say that I’m I’m giving a task
to an employee. And I’m going to say it. I’m going to say the words that I say are going to
Brandon Smith Page 12 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
The exact same what what are some things? Is it? Is it just intensity that we’re focused on
in distinguishing between something that’s urgent and not urgent, especially in in written
communication? Or is it? Is there something else? What is it about? Did you run into that
sometimes where it’s like, look at that. It’s not necessarily a thing, you know, a situation
where they think is or it’s, it’s the communication that’s tripping people up.
So I’m going to tell you a quick analogy, a story to hit this. So the US Army changed how
they gave commands after the Iraq war. They said the world gotten too complicated.
They use an acronym called vuca. It’s v UCA. It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and
ambiguous. So the world’s gotten to Luca. So we can’t get these top down directives, like
we used to, you often see military movies, you think that’s how they command, they don’t
do that anymore. They now what they do, whenever there’s a new mission or objective,
they issue what they call commander’s intent. So the commanding officer, he or she calls
a meeting with their direct reports and direct reports, direct reports, two levels down. And
they they talk about the why of the mission, the what of the mission and the one of the
mission. But they stay away from the hell of the mission, because there’s too many
variables in the battlefield. But if everyone leaves that room aligned on the why the what
the win, then no matter what gets thrown at them, they’ll move together in an aligned
way. Most companies and most leaders don’t communicate all that stuff like they should.
So the first starting place as a leader is make sure you’re communicating your
commander’s intent, you’re communicating the why behind your decision, the what of
your decision. And the when the wind really establishes urgency. If you say it’s due
tomorrow, that’s highly urgent, if you say it’s due in two months, that’s lower urgency. So
the wind will determine that, okay, so I think that’s the first part. The second part that’s
also really important around this is as the senior leader or the business owner, people are
going to be watching you more closely. And they’re going to read into what you say or
don’t say. So I often when I’m coaching my clients on a quote, unquote, executive
presence, I say, Be really careful not to think out loud, in front of everyone. Because when
you think out loud, as an owner or leader, they’re gonna think you’ve made a decision.
And they’ll start going off and doing stuff. So you’ve got to be really, really clear when
you’re the owner, that you’re that when you are communicating to your folks, you’re telling
them, Hey, this is something I want you to work on, or Hey, I’m just thinking out loud, don’t
anybody do anything with this? Because people are quick to read into what’s not spoken.
And one of the big principles I teach is an absence of communication, people tend to
assume the worst. So they’ll if you don’t say much, or leave out vacuums, or voids, they’ll
fill it in. And it’s awful, often kind of worst case scenario kind of stuff. So it’s it’s making
sure that we’re when we are out communicating, we’re trying to hit those big high notes of
the why the what the way that we’re issuing our commander’s intent. I think those are
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some good starting places. So I’ll pause there and see if you’ve got any questions or
comments about that.
Yeah, I love that. I mean, from from what you just said, My two big takeaways are one, I
need to be more clear about a when, when I’m talking about when I’m giving directives or
asking for a task to be completed. That I think that would be super helpful. And it saves
time in communication, because a lot of times, I’ll just say, Hey, we need to get this report
done. And then they have to respond and say, well, when do you need it done by? And so I
love that. And the second thing I really like is how leaders shouldn’t think out loud? Or if
they do, they should, you know, put that caveat out, hey, I’m just kind of spitballing here,
I’m just throwing stuff at the wall. Because I there was a situation where I said that we
needed to order a couple of extra trucks. But But I was thinking out loud, right? out loud.
Well, I received an email from the guy that runs the operations and one of my companies,
and CC on the email was a Nissan Dealer. When there was a, there was a purchase order
asking for my signature. And I was like, Whoa, pump the brakes here. Like No, no, I don’t
about you almost bought some trucks out. You all
bought some trucks? Exactly. So I think that’s really good. Because, as leaders, as
entrepreneurs, as business owners, as business partners, we’re kind of held to a higher
standard of communication, right? That and but that that’s what, that’s what we
bargained for. That’s, that’s why we do this. That’s it. That’s, you know, as part of the
territory, right? We we started these companies or whatever, we’re in position of
leadership. We want our people to listen to us. And so it’s our job to make sure that they
know when they shouldn’t when they shouldn’t. So that’s excellent. I love that.
Yeah. Yeah. And I would I’ll double down and piggyback on what one thing you said. I, my
personal belief is the first job the number one first job of any leader is to drive clarity.
That’s the first job everything else we know about leadership, anything you’ve ever read
Brandon Smith Page 14 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
about leadership or you like about leadership. It comes after that we have to drive clarity
first clarity on roles, goals, expectations, culture, clarity is first. And that’s so, so, so
important because when we don’t do that, we’re setting people up to go to Las Vegas,
they’re gonna guess and gamble. And sometimes they’ll guess, right, and we’ll be happy.
But often they’re gonna get wrong, and we’re going to be really grumpy about that. And
it’s just highly inefficient to have everyone placing their bets, just much better to come out
of the gate and be as clear as you can. So that’s I, I’m a big believer in that I’m so glad you
use the word clarity.
Yeah, and one of my favorite sayings is, if you want to be unfair with your people, and be
unclear with them, it’s the quickest way to be unfair to treat them unfairly is to be unclear.
And and I think it just happens naturally. Because if you’re not clear about, about what the
objective is, or what your thought process is, or whatever the scenario, then how could
they possibly know what it is that they need to accomplish? And so they just start
guessing, like you said, they just start guessing and, and hope they, you know, guess black
when the ball drops on black right? roulette tables. So, Brent, why don’t you tell me a little
bit about your podcast, I’m obviously interested in that I’m interested in, you know, the
people that that are listening right now, or they’re the types of people that listen to
podcasts. Tell us a little bit about that. Tell us a little bit about some of the guests that
you’ve had on there and some of the value that you add?
Yeah. So we’ve had the podcast now for a little over three years. And so the title of the
podcast is the workplace therapist show. And we focus the podcast primarily on helping
our listeners have better conversations at work, and create healthier relationships at work.
So all the guests that we have on basically try and hit it one of those two points. So it
could be anything from how to have difficult conversations or navigating differences or
asking for a raise or negotiations or giving feedback or partner dynamics really anything
about some of that messiness, that is the hard part of of our job, which is often all the soft
stuff. All those conversations, that when we do it, well, you know, the great things happen.
And when we don’t do them, Well, some of the stuff that you and I have been talking
about on the show becomes part of the issues we have to navigate around. So that’s the
real focus of our show. So all the kind of experts that we have, and and business owners
and other folks that we have on the show, they kind of have something to offer within that
Brandon Smith Page 15 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
I love it. So Brandon, and can you. I mentioned it in the introduction, but can you let us
know what the title is, and where people can find that podcast, you can find
it either in stitcher or iTunes, the title is the workplace therapist show. So my handle is the
workplace therapist. And if you googled the workplace therapist, I’m the only one out
you’ll find me easily. And and that’s the show. So you can even look for the workplace
therapists show. And if you can’t find it, or you’re struggling, you can just google the
workplace therapist, you’ll end up on my website, and then there’s ways to link to it from
there. So lots of easy ways to get there.
Awesome. One thing that I would, I’ll have to check out some of those episodes, one thing
that I’d be interested in learning more about is with workplace communication. I would
like to learn about some tricks and some tips to help help me especially as a leader,
remove some of the emotion. Right from my conversations. I’m a very passionate,
emotional, intense person. And so one thing that I’d like to know is Hey, when I’m talking
to talking to my people, not only Hey, let’s let’s take it down a notch Elon, but learning
those scenarios where Hey, know, now is the time to be emotional, now’s the time to be
intense. Now’s the time to not be intense.
Yeah, that’s really, really hard. So you you’re, you’ve been gifted and blessed with with
passion, and passion is energy. And you can’t it’s hard to if you don’t have it, it’s hard to
create it. So I have some I have some clients I work with, and they’re very even and steady
and they’re not very passionate people. So I have to teach them to use passionate words.
Like I’m excited. I’m this is thrilling. They have to use words like that to mimic that you
don’t have that problem, Allen. It’s a wonderful gift. That said it’s energy. And if it’s not
focused, you can burn people up. Right. And that’s the that’s the downside of passionate
leaders is they have to learn how to control it. And it’s hard. It’s hard, hard, hard. I think
one of the biggest challenges I have with leaders that have that passion is taking deep
applying the 24 hour rule whenever they have a response that is very heated or they’re
feeling that energy come up, you know, they’re really mad about something to just wait 24
hours so they can respond to it in a more measured way. And the reason why that’s so
Brandon Smith Page 16 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
important is when our on our When we’re communicating with emotion, if the emotion
peaks too high in our communication, people will only hear the emotion they won’t hear
the substance of what we’re talking about. So someone will leave leader’s office and
they’ll say, well, well, what did he say? Listen, I don’t know what he said. But he was really
bad. Right? So we don’t we don’t, we only hear the emotion, the emotion, kind of overrules
the actual content. That’s why we want to be careful that we don’t we don’t use too much
of it. Just like hot sauce. So we’re talking about with urgency. So it’s, it’s, it’s figuring out
the right the right balance of that, which I’m sure you’ve been learning and figuring out as
you’ve kind of found ways to modulate your style.
Yeah, and it’s interesting, because it’s, it’s one of those things for me that the way that I
learn is just because I’ve screwed it up in the past. Right, I screw it up. And then I, I try to,
you know, do do a little better. I recently read a book called what got you here won’t get
you there. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book, Brandon.
Marshall Goldsmith. Absolutely,
exactly. And, and he talks about, you know, all these aspects of being a leader. And he
talks a lot about getting feedback from people and and, first of all, putting yourself in a
position where people aren’t terrified to give you feedback and give you honest feedback,
backtracking a little bit, are there scenarios where a leader wants that, you know, wants
the thing that’s left, the impression that’s left on their mind to be the emotion versus what
was said, is that ever the case or leader always want just the focus to be on the content?
Yes, sometimes you want the emotion. Because if you’ve got an employee, that’s not
getting it, like, if you very rationally talk to them that they need to step up their
performance, or you’re gonna have to let them go. There may be times when you need to
light that fire under under them, as my client said years ago, and use a little more
emotion. So they really get it, they understand that this is serious. So you know, you use it
to supplement the content not to replace it, that’s a time when you definitely want to use
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it, I would use it. Second, not First, it should supplement with a message not not become
the message. Because when it becomes the message, then people can make make up
stories. They’ll say, oh, gosh, he’s really bad. Don’t go in there. Oh, he’s not, you know, I
was one of those bad days again, like they often talked about Walt Disney had, when he
was having one of those bad days, they would say, Oh, he’s wearing his bear suit. That
would mean, you know, he was just kind of really cranky, and you wouldn’t want to go into
his office if he was wearing his bear suit. Because that no one ever really knew what he’s
talking about when he’s wearing his bear suit, but he was gonna go after you. So you don’t
you don’t want that to be kind of your brand or, or reputation?
How important is it as as leaders to teach the managers that kind of that work for the
business owners, the entrepreneurs? How important is it for us to teach them how to
communicate how to teach them how to focus on on things that should have urgency and
the things that shouldn’t? Just by our example? Or is that something that that should be
talked about more in the workplace,
it should be talked about 100%, it’s extremely important, what you’re talking about their
elements culture. So you want those folks to be able to operate when you’re not around in
the way that you would want them to, whether it’s with customers, whether it’s with others
to absolutely, you want to not only model it, but explain why you’re doing it, the way
you’re doing it put some kind of attachment to some kind of value in the business, like,
you know, we always, you know, approach all of our conversations with compassion, with
our customers, for example, or responsiveness is really important. So responsiveness is
kind of something you’re always gonna see for me. And I expect us to honor that value in
however we operate. So absolutely, it’s one of the big things that it’s important for leaders
to talk about and model.
I feel like in today’s day and age, with social media, text messaging, emails, that I don’t
know if over, over communication is the right word, but too much communication. I feel
like I get looped into a lot of conversations and a lot of emails and things like that, that I
don’t really need to be involved in. Is that something that you that you see as a problem
in the workplace? And I don’t know if I’m using the right word is is that over
communication or?
Brandon Smith Page 18 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Yeah, so it’s I had a leader some years ago, he shared this tip with me I thought was
brilliant tip. He said, I get these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails a day. He
said so I told everyone on my team that if if you include me on an email, depending upon
where what subject where you put Be in the in the address determines my important. So
you’re going to cc me, I’m going to pretend that you’re just you’re just copying me. So I’m
aware, if you put me in the two line, that means you want me to do something, if you put
me in the two line, then in the email, you need to put in bold letters and highlight action
needed. So it’d be like Alan actually need it. And then I would scan for my name, and then
I’d see what you need for me. Otherwise, if you don’t put my name in there and highlight it,
I’m just gonna assume that was just an email that you just wanted to copy me on. So I was
aware, but I don’t need to do anything. So it was just a simple task of training his team on
the way that they need to communicate with him. So he knew when he needed to be
supporting them, and when he just he could just kind of skim it, skim it real quickly, market
is ready to move on.
As you were kind of relating that I’m just sitting here shaking my head thinking, Man, how
do these business owners have this time? Right, but I think I’m putting the cart before the
horse, because they probably have more time because they’re effective in their
communication. Right. Stephen Covey talks a lot about how we need to spend a large
portion of our day focusing on things that are important, not urgent, right, focusing on
things that increase efficiency, make our systems better our processes better. But I mean
that that tip just sounds. And that’s a system, right? That’s a system that that business
leader has, has developed, that works to help help the communication. And I bet you, not
only is the communication clear that he’s involved in, I bet he gets a lot fewer emails
because of it.
Right? Right. Yeah. So it’s just it’s just as you said, making that system and for our, this will
be for a whole other conversation, but it’s knowing what’s proper to seek to sit in. So for
most for the majority of our time, as leaders, we want to be sitting in the editor seat, not
the author, seat editor, see 20% 80% of the time author seat 20% of the time, Mo and the
problem is when we’re entrepreneurs, and we’ve kind of done it ourselves, we’re used to
doing and that’s the author seat, and that’s us getting into business and not on the
business. So often, it’s just making sure that we’re, we’re properly sitting in the right seats.
Brandon Smith Page 19 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
And so we’re always kind of, you know, either whether we say honoring our hourly rate, or
we say, you know, using kind of our highest and best use of our time, however you want to
say it, but we’re doing stuff that only we can be doing as the owner and leader, not stuff
that someone else could do.
That’s great. I love it. Brandon, I want your closing thoughts on this. I have some aspiring
entrepreneurs that are listening right now. And right now their heads spinning, okay.
Because these guys, they’re these guys and gals, they’re they’re trying to figure out, man, I
don’t even know if I can put enough money together to buy the equipment I need or to
hire the personnel. I mean, I need and we’ve just spent the last, you know, almost hour
talking about these nuances of communication in the workplace, give them some hope,
let what is it that you can tell them about kind of getting to where they need to be with
workplace communication, while they’re still being you know, they’re still able to retain
their focus on keeping the lights on while they get started?
Yeah, so if we go all the way down to kind of the startup, so it’s just maybe a handful of
folks or just one person, you still have customers. So a lot of the things we talked about
today absolutely apply to your customers. And though the lifeblood of any entrepreneur is
not only revenue streams, but ongoing revenue streams, and ongoing revenue streams
mean healthy relationships. So think about how you can really be super responsive with
your customers really show up as kind of authentic and vulnerable and trusting with your
customers. So they say, Oh, my gosh, this is great, I want to place another order, I want to
hire you for more services, or I want to refer you because ultimately your business will
grow as your customers refer you. So that’s I would take you could take almost all the
principles we talked about here today and think about and start with them with your
customers. That’s that’s probably the number one starting place. I think when particularly
entrepreneurs that come out of business schools or whatever they they try and make the
perfect, they try and make the perfect mousetrap before they go sell it. And really you
want to try and start to start to build those relationships with customers kind of build it
along the way. And and of course, of course, the mantra that I’m sure you preach so often
on this show, fail fast, learn to learn to make those small pivots along the way. So over
time, you you know you you’ve got a product that really fits your customers like a glove
but but all the relationship stuff we talked about today, you can apply it with customers
just as equally.
Brandon Smith Page 20 of 22 Transcribed by https://otter.ai
I love it. And I bet you can apply it in your relationships at home and elsewhere as well. I
mean, just
absolutely. Absolutely. I can tell you even from my mind, I have a practice and I the
business. And the the way I make the distinction is a practices. Just like any doctor’s office
if I if I work I can pay If I don’t work, I don’t get paid, a business will kind of, you know, runs
without you, right? You can be on vacation, it still generates revenue. But I can tell you for
my practice, and for my business, it’s all been referral all word of mouth. It’s all customers
that say we love that work you did, will you come back and do more. And then someone
from that organization leaves and goes to another organization and says, oh, we’re
gonna bring you in over here. It’s all because of those relationships I built. And that’s that I
attribute all of my success to that, and doing good work, but it’s it’s allowed and those
relationships in my work to kind of speak for itself. So building those relationships is really
important to kind of growing the business the way you want to.
Alright, Brandon, well, hey, we, we appreciate your time, you know, you’ve been a very
unique guest for us. We’ve never had anybody on the show that has this type of insight
into all sorts of different facets of owning a business. I think, if nothing else, the people
that are planning on starting their business, or that haven’t run into some of these
situations, just yet, at least now they’re aware of it a little bit. Now they know, hey, this is
going to come down the road at some point we will either with business partners, if you
use investors, with potential employees, whatever. So yeah. Thanks for joining us today.
My pleasure, Alan, this was an absolute blast. I loved all the questions you ask. So thank
you so much for having me on.
If you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast, please leave us a rating and for daily inspiration and
business tips. Follow Allan on Instagram. Until next time, remember, we build the future
one entrepreneur at a time.

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