S2Ep118: How To Achieve Your Peak Performance with Exceptional Leadership Skills

In today’s episode, Allan welcomes Mark Herschberg. Mark is the author of “The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You.” Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s. Mark shares his insight on the importance of developing leadership skills within an organization and how to do so by leveraging the knowledge of existing team members. He also discusses his career experiences and the skills he believes are necessary for success in the modern business world.

Guest Links





00:04:43 Lead without authority.

00:07:05 Learn skills through practice and discussion.

00:10:51 Upskill team for success.

00:16:06 Grow professionally through peers.

00:22:09 Be open-minded and communicate.

Hey, everyone, Welcome to The Business Growth Pod. I’m your host, Allan Draper. Happy to be with you today. And thank you so much for joining me, I know how busy you are, I know how busy entrepreneurs are. And you have a lot of options, a lot of great podcasts out there a lot of great content to consume. So thank you for joining me today. I appreciate it. Appreciate your time and we’re going to add some value to your life. We are going to help you realize those business goals those financial goals that you have.

Today, I’m excited to welcome to the show Mark Herschberg. Mark is the author of “The Career Toolkit: Essential  Skills for Success That No One Taught You.” From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web, to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems. Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures that startups and fortune five hundreds and in academia, excited to have you welcome to the show, Mark, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve gone through your resume, I’ve checked you out on LinkedIn, I’ve you know, checked out the website with your book and all the details with that. And you have an incredible background education looks like significant education from MIT, which is unbelievable experience at Harvard. And, you know, I, I dabbled in law before I started my first business. So I went to law school and I practice law for a few years, a lot of entrepreneurs don’t go the education route. It’s not like a, you know, the right fit for them. They’re not the type to sit down in a class or, you know, take a course for extended periods of times, especially in furthering their education after high school, you talk a lot about applicable skills, and talents and abilities in these things. And as someone that doesn’t have near the Educate formal education that you have, but that also has kind of this entrepreneurial side, I think that there is something missing from formal education, in terms of how it translates to the real world. What is it that you would do if you could make an immediate change? And let’s say to the high school curriculum, what would you do to change that? If it were for somebody that specifically needed an entrepreneur’s skill set? How would their high school experience look different from where it is kind of traditionally today? As you note, our education system is really misaligned for the modern workforce. Modern education was set up a little over 100, maybe 150 years ago, designed for an industrialized system when we walked off the farms and went into the corporate world, which began where we were primarily on assembly lines. But even when we moved into white collar jobs, and that became more common in the latter part of the 20th century. Still, it was originally for very hierarchical jobs. And I think of us in that kind of 1950. Think the 1950s movies what you think of as a corporation, where you are that car, you sat at your desk, and your boss came to you and said, Do this, you say yes, sir. Here. I’m done with it. What next, sir? And that’s what the system was designed to teach people to do. That doesn’t work for entrepreneurs, because you’re not a single cog. You’re doing everything. You have to know a little bit of everything. Even people who aren’t entrepreneurs in modern workforces. We have flatter organizations, we got rid of middle management. It’s no longer engineers just talk to engineers and marketers talk to marketers. Now you’re dealing with different people and cross functional teams with different goals and objectives that all need to line up. And so we need a different set of skills. It’s not just I knew how to be a market or engineer, but need to know how to work effectively with other people how to communicate and negotiate. We often think of negotiations as well we do with our custom numbers are clients or partners, we negotiate all the time with our co workers, with our spouses to by the way in our kids, we need to build effective teams we need to lead and manage. Now, again, that 1950s view is someone more senior can command you to do something that military view. But these days, I have to manage people who either yes, I’m their boss, but in today’s labor market, if they don’t like it, they’ll leave. Or many of us manage or lead when we don’t have the authority over other people. But we still have to use the skills and all of these things that we’ve just been talking about. They’re never covered in the education system. So what would I do to change education? I would do two things. First, I would raise the standards. I think we’re graduating too many people who have deficient skills in core competencies like reading, math and other fields. And there’s no shame in saying you’re not yet ready. There is today think, Oh, you were held back, when you say no, you need to reach this level. Some people do it faster, some slower, but you can’t graduate till you hit that level. But then I would also add additional skills, the skills, leadership, networking, negotiating, communicating skills we all need in our jobs, in our careers, and in life, that we just assume people magically pick up and sadly, most don’t. So we need to add that to the formal education, there are such important skills to have. A lot of those things are, you know, skills that I work on regularly. And I think one of the problems mark is that, I feel like those are more difficult to teach in a classroom setting. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just the way I’m approaching it, trying to think about it. But it seems like those things are more difficult to teach then math or reading or, you know, something that is a little more straightforward. They’re not more difficult, but you’re on the right track that needs to be taught differently. So if we take math, for example, we remember we all learn the quadratic formula and teacher said, here’s the formula. Here’s how it works. Now I’m gonna hand out worksheets and each of you try to do and if you have a question, let me know. And the teacher could teach all of us at once. And that tower monitor education system works, it’s this, I’m going to just spew out information of broadcast form. And you all just memorize and write it down. Now the catch what you’re alluding to is, there’s no formula for leadership. There’s no do these three things, and you are now an effective communicator, it’s a lot more subtle. The analogy I use is learning these skills. It’s more akin to learning sports or music. Now I can put you in a classroom and say, here’s how to play basketball, here are the rules of basketball, here’s what to do. When you shoot the basket, get off the backboard aim here. And you can all write this down and memorize it, but doesn’t mean you know how to actually play basketball. What do we do with sports, we have drills, we have scrimmage games, we’ll have coaching, we’ll have reflecting sometimes people will videotape the game themselves or their opponents and watch and learn. And that’s how we want to teach these skills, the way we teach them at MIT. The way top business schools teach them and the way your organization can teach them is through pure learning groups. What you want to do is create groups, I recommend about six to eight people. But there are ways you can scale it up. And you get folks together in the small groups, make them cross functional, don’t just have all the salespeople in one group and all the finance and other, get people from different groups. And by the way, if you’re at a small company for saying, Well, we’re only four people, or I don’t have a company to do this, go find other people create a local meetup group, just pulling people cross company. And so you get these small groups of people, and then engage with some content. Now, yes, you can use my book. But if you don’t want to use my book, use another book, use articles use a great podcast like this one. And you listen to the episode or you read some pages, and then you come together and discuss it. Because it’s in that discussion. When we’re talking about leadership challenge. You’re gonna say, well, here’s how I would approach it. And someone jumps in, she says, Why would have done that differently? And someone else says, Well, I have that similar situation. Here’s what I did. Here’s what worked, what didn’t. And we all start learning. Just like we learned to play basketball through the drills through the scrimmage. That’s what this lets us do. And that’s how we want to really learn these skills, not through the standard teacher says Write this down and memorize it. That’s interesting, because it’s so different from having the teacher students scenario. So I think that a lot of the learning and progress that would occur in that scenario would be just kind of figuring out how to learn, right? Because you don’t have somebody. It doesn’t sound like that, quote unquote, knows more than ever

Anybody else that’s in a position to direct the conversation? Or what are the strictures? What are the guidelines? Or what’s the, what does that system look like in order to be effective? Yeah. And you have, once again, hit upon here is a secretly industry. Now, as you know it, I wrote a book, and I do go into companies, they’ll bring me in to go speak at the company or speak at a conference, I very much don’t do coaching that many of my peers do. But here’s the real secret, I don’t have some special knowledge that no one else has. If you look at me, you look at my peers, you look at professors, you look at corporate leaders, we all know, more or less the same thing. Some of us know more about one thing than another. But it’s not like I’m the only guy in the world who knows this secret to leadership. And you can only get that for me. In fact, there’s lots of people within your organizations, who knows something about what it means to be a great leader, they might not know everything, maybe they don’t know quite as much as some professional speaker or coach, but they know something more than the rest of the team. And if they can teach that to the team, then you don’t need an outsider like me to come in and help you do it. And so what we’re recognized is that all of us have some type of knowledge, if you remember that stone soup parable, where everyone contributes a little and then we get the stew at the end, everyone knows something when we get into the small groups, if each of us in that group can talk about here’s an experience I had, and the challenge, and what we can learn from it. Great, you can learn from each other. Now it may be if you have lots of junior people, if you have people who can’t explain very well, who are just incoherent their stories ramble, there’s no clear lesson, then it’s not going to be as effective. And what you can do is certainly have those discussions to be more guided, you might have at a bigger company, someone from HR, or you might even bring in outside or to guide some of these discussions, especially for some companies that are big, where they want guide discussions, this is where you can scale up the teams, if you don’t want to be six to eight people, you can scale it up to groups of 2040, or even larger, and you get that professional to guide you through the conversation to make it more effective. But for more experienced or senior teams, you might be able to do this yourselves, there’s a lot of interesting kind of corollary benefits that could come from this, especially within a company, one of the most important things that I think is involved in procuring a great relationship with your team or your employees, is having this ability to really listen to what they have to say. And if you’re creating this kind of proactive design system, where it’s like, Hey, we’re going to sit together in groups. And we’re going to listen to what you have to say we want you to share your expertise, your experience, things that you’ve seen other leaders do that affected you in negative ways, along with the positive. I think that’s, that’s really valuable. And one thing that I do with my companies is I’m consistently trying to create a culture of feedback. And it’s hard, it can be really hard. Because for lots of reasons, different personalities involved, some people aren’t going to openly give feedback, or contribute in a group setting because they’re worried about their job. They’re worried about, hey, how does what I say, affect my job, my position, my reputation here, whatever. And then I think there’s also this opportunity gives them this floor to create a lot of complaints and come up with negative talking. But so there are some issues, I think, but I think just giving them this platform, I think it’s fantastic. I really like that you said break it down into smaller groups. I like that, because I think a lot of my concerns that I just mentioned, I think those are kind of set aside with smaller groups, especially if we’re talking about peers, especially if we’re talking about cross departments, right, I think that there’s an opportunity to share information, which is interesting mark, because a lot of companies specifically keep their departments segmented from others. When bringing an engineer, I’m developing a software right now. And my engineer partner, he thinks so differently than how I think I’m a finance budget projections type of guy. And he’s a project manager and developer. But when we get together, magic happens, and it’s and it’s because we allow differences to be okay. And I think I wanted to get your thoughts on that mark. How do you encourage one this culture of feedback, this culture of being open and transparent, and also this idea that you know, we’re fighting against this idea that different is bad

Add, because different is better, right? Because there’s so much that can come from that. What are some pointers that people that are listening to this can employ within their companies where they can increase, you know, transparency. And they can encourage this idea that having different voices is that great thing, different absolutely is better. Now, you might find your conflict goes up a little conflict doesn’t mean we hate each other. But that we might find we’re talking about different things or different priorities, because we’re not all the same. But it also leads to more creative solutions and opportunities. As long as you’re respectful with a disagreement. Hey, I don’t think your plan makes sense. Because we really have to emphasize a say, no, no, no, we have to emphasize B go, Okay, well, wait, let’s talk about that. As long as we’re respectful and doing that, this type of conflict is good. Now, I’ll note this paradigm I gave you of these peer learning groups, they actually do four great things for you. And then we’ll talk about other ways you can do it. So not only are you upskilling, your team, that’s the first benefit, you’re upskilling your team with these important skills. Second, you’re creating that engagement, because you’re saying to your team, it’s not just about you get a paycheck. We know today, people want to feel engaged and supported, saying I care about helping you develop professionally.

Third, you’re creating these internal networks. And you noted at so many companies, people don’t talk to others outside their departments. I’ve been in companies, someone asked who’s that person who’s sitting 15 feet from you. So I don’t know if she’s been there for a year I I think she’s in accounting, but I don’t know her name. She’s 15 feet from you. But why would you talk to an accountant. So we create these internal networks that are cross functional. So we start to know these people, we have more conversations, we learn more about what’s going on. I’ll get back to that in a moment. And then finally, you’re creating a common language. Because if we all read the same book, for example, if we choose Good to Great, well, they talked about the hedgehog model. And then I can say to you, hey, let’s use the hedgehog model. And you say, Oh, I know exactly what you mean. So you get these four great benefits. But now you can do this other ways. And here’s an example we did long ago, I’m a big fan of lunch and learns. So and your company can just create a lunch and learn. And each week or once a month, just someone talks about something couldn’t be work related, could be fun, related. I had a guy, he built his own barbecue. And so one lunch, he’s talking about how to build a barbecue. What’s kind of cool, but we all showed up were from different departments. And Neff starts to create some of that mixing. We went further, we used to do a trivia contest. This was at a travel companies, we used to do travel trivia. But the way we set up is you had to pair up with someone whose teams have to, you have to pair up with someone from a different department. And all of a sudden, you’re now sitting down, you’re spending an hour doing fun trivia with someone you may not have talked to before. So little things like that can start to break down these barriers. And we do want to have more of these conversations, whether it’s formal, whether it’s getting into we’re going to do a strategy session, and let’s make sure everyone from different groups are here, to even the casual that when I go out for coffee, it’s not just people from my group, I did trivia with this lady from some other group, hey, you’re getting coffee, me too. Let’s go get coffee together. And you’re encouraging those conversations. And that’s gonna really help the communication and different perspectives. Because you all have a different perspective on the organization, you’re all seeing different parts of it. And that’s going to help you get a much clearer, bigger picture. The reason why I was thinking about good to great is because you mentioned this, you know, scenario where people say, hey, let’s focus more on subject a versus subject B or whatever strategy a verse strategy B. And principle from good to great that is kind of unveiled, is that the great companies have this ability to have really difficult conversations, where people are very, you know, aggressively arguing from a point of view or whatever. And they go back and forth. And when they come to a consensus, they all leave the room and champion, whatever was the ultimate idea that was chosen as if it were their own. And great companies have this ability to do this, where they go through a really tough discussion, people have different point of views. But once something is decided, they all back that decision, they really show that camaraderie and that teamwork by doing that, let’s shift gears just in the last couple of minutes that we have here, Mark, I want to talk to the individual that doesn’t have a team yet large enough to create a scenario where they can have these discussions in these groups of six to eight individuals. What would you recommend that that person do to

To find somebody that might be interested in participating in these group settings, you can find them in different types of communities. So you can literally start a community from scratch with meetup.com. Or I’m not necessary advocating that particular company and there’s probably competitors to them these days, you might go to your local religious group, your church, or mosque or synagogue and say, who else here is interested in developing these skills, you can maybe do something through your alumni network, you might be in certain professional organizations, certainly, a lot of entrepreneurs, we have our entrepreneurial groups, or I have groups as a CTO, I’ve got groups of other CTOs, in addition to my groups of entrepreneurs, as I have, feed them both. So whatever community you’re in, find other people and say d y, create a subgroup. Anyone in this group of local accountants in the Cleveland area we get together once a month. Does anyone want Korea subgroup we’re gonna do a low reading group for this peer learning group. For those interested, totally optional, and there’s no extra cost. And you can find other like minded people. So be open minded, be creative look at any community or group you’re part of, especially today, you can even do it virtually you can do this online. So be open, be very creative about who can be in that community, you get to the point where you identify an individual or two that isn’t contributing to the group or is taken away for one reason or another. What’s the right way to uninvite them before uninviting? And what we’re about to describe this applies to issues in the companies as well, you talked about when someone how do you have this disagreement, but that’s respectful. So whenever I see there is that conflict or someone’s not meeting expectations, drill down, understand why, why is the person doing it this way and not that way? It may be a misunderstanding. Maybe he thinks, Well, this is how we’re supposed to engage, or this is how I find value in this. And when you get down to that root cause thinking, because when you say do it this way, no, do it that way, this way, that way, you’re just fighting. But when you get down to the motivation, why do you think it’s this way versus that way, then you can start to say, either there’s a misunderstanding, you know, it’s easier if we all go around, and each take a turn, instead of jumping in interrupting, the meetings will go much faster. So, okay, you know, I get your point, I’ll do that, versus No, I, that drives me nuts, I hate that I have to be the person who jumps in. Okay, I respect that. That’s a good way to do it. But the rest of us prefer this other method. So it may not be the right fit. It’s not that your method is better or worse than ours. But we just have a value disagreement. Find a group where there’s better values, or I should say, that’s fantastic. And, you know, it reminds me, and just the last couple of seconds that we have here, it reminds me of when I first went to law school, and I became really good friends with people that had completely different beliefs than I had both, you know, in terms of religion, in terms of politics, all these things. And I realized they were really good people. And a lot of times Mark, we wanted the same result. But we had different ideas about how to get there. When I came to that realization, hey, this is a really good individual positive person, I liked them. I genuine, genuinely liked being around them, I, you know, feel like I’m a better person because of them. We have different beliefs. But you know, what we’re trying to accomplish? It’s the exact same thing. And I think in this group setting, you hit on communication really early into this. And I’ve discovered in my businesses, most issues, like 90% Plus, could be solved or would be solved with clear, more precise communication. And so I think when we’re talking about these small group settings, and we’re talking about, you’re not just saying, Hey, don’t do that, that’s not how we act. This isn’t this process. But you’re saying why? If you get people together on that fundamental basis, that level where it’s like, this is why we’re doing this. This is why we have kind of some of these rules in place. And this is the structure, this is why I think you’re gonna get a lot more people to adhere to kind of the social norms within that group. That’s exactly right. You drill down. I talked about in the book, The Five why’s technique, when we’re doing something, why are we doing that because of this? Well, why is this important? Because of that, why is that important to keep drilling down to get to that root? And then you can discover I had an employee, he kept butting heads with everyone else. And what we found as he was a perfectionist, he really felt you have to get everything 99.4% accuracy wasn’t good for him. He needed to get at least 99.9

If that wasn’t cost effective for us, but he was bothered by the fact that we wouldn’t do that. And venture rates, were not the right company for him. There are companies, you’re working in medical device company 99.9%, not good enough, you need to be 100% every time, he would be a better fit at those companies, and we helped him find a job where he was happier. So it’s really getting down to what is that core value? And then seeing do you align or not, but now you’re no longer arguing? Yes, no, yes. No, saying, Oh, we disagree on this assumption. Okay, end of story. Mark, where can people reach you, if they have questions about your book, if they want to learn more about how you can help them, I’m gonna give you two websites, the first the career toolkit and book.com, you can get in touch with me, follow me on social media learn about the book, there’s also a free resources page. And on that page, the very first download is how to create this peer learning group. I don’t get it, I don’t charge you don’t even need to give me your email. In fact, you can take it cross out my name, put your name on and say to your CEO, I had a brilliant idea. I’d rather you take this and use it than I get a credit or money. So all of that is that the career Toolkit book.com. And then I’ve got another free app, the brain bump app. So if you go to brain bump app.com. It has the key tips from my book, but dozens of other books, podcasts, blogs, and an ever growing set of sources. That’s done in tip form. So you can pull things up as you need it by topic. Or you can set up like a daily reminder, it’s like a daily affirmation, but with business advice to help keep it top of mind that is completely free. And that’s available from the Android and iPhone stores but go to brain bump app.com to find in the stores and learn more about it. So those two websites the career Toolkit book.com and brain bump app.com Love it. I know as soon as we wrap up this recording where I’ll be headed to check out some of those resources. I know they will be a lot of help to my companies. So thanks so much for joining us today. Mark wish you nothing but success in the future.

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