Today’s guest on The Successful Pitch is Scott Love who is the author of a great book called Why They Follow and How to Lead with Positive Influence. Scott says he shows managers how to be the boss that nobody will leave. The way he does that is by getting people to think about what’s the noble goal of your company. The more you get people to buy into that, the more they are willing to stay loyal to you. He talks about three things that you need to ask people before you hire them. Then he also talks about the three core areas of success, which are influence, resilience, and achievement. He really gives insights to everybody who’s looking for the way to get the best talent to join your team and stay there. He talks about something called emotional equity that you are going to want to be sure to find out what it is and how to use it. Enjoy the episode.
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Be The Boss Nobody Leaves with Scott Love
Today’s guest is Scott Love. Scott is an expert on the topic of employee loyalty. As we all know, investors are really interested in who’s on your team and are they loyal to you, especially when times get tough. There’s a lot of research where he shows managers how to be the boss that nobody will leave. He is a successful entrepreneur himself. He is a former Navy leadership trainer, an Annapolis graduate, and he gives managers tactical ways to build employee loyalty so that companies can increase retention, decrease turnover, and of course, attract those all important high achievers.
Scott, welcome to the show.
Thanks, John. I am excited to be here.
You are a published author as well. You have this great book called Why They Follow and How to Lead with Positive Influence. But before we get into that, I would love to have you take us back to the days of what made you decide you want to go to the US Navy Academy?
A lot of it was part economic, part, “That’s all I knew.” My dad was a Marine Corps officer and we just didn’t have the funds for an Ivy League school. Here I was, a kid in South Texas in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I made the decision, “What am I going to do with my life?” All I knew was the military and that’s what I wanted to do. Who wouldn’t want to be GI Joe when they grew up? Worked really hard, kept the grades up, did the sports, Eagle Scout, all the other things, and, how about that? I got in. I am surprised I graduated just because it’s so tough. When you set your mind to something, you can do it. In that school, whoever wants it the most is the one that gets it. It’s more about drive, determination, grit, and guts than talent and smart. If you can’t outsmart them, you can outwork them. That’s where it all started, my voyage in learning about leadership and talking about that as a topic to business people.
What a great topic because the grit, perseverance, and drive that’s needed to be a successful entrepreneurship you learned getting through this intense Navy experience and that’s what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
I have a lot of respect for my classmates that were right there with me. I am humbled to be part of that group. There had been days as an entrepreneur when I look back and I’m like, “What are you going to do? Send me underway for six months?” My biggest problems are that I’ve got a slow paying client. It’s not that bad. I’ve got friends of mine they are underway right now on aircraft carriers, in senior leadership roles. I am so grateful that they are working harder than I’ve ever worked at a lot less pay than what you can make as an entrepreneur because that is the service and it is the service. I think it’s something that does have my respect totally for people that made it a career.
I learned about leadership, I learned about getting things done. I was fortunate after I was on my sea tour to earn a spot as a leadership trainer, I was just in the right place at the right time. This was in the early 90s when the Navy had an initiative Total Quality Leadership, which was a derivative of W. Edward Deming’s concepts of Total Quality Management. That is why I really started understanding some progressive leadership concepts and teaching them to thousands of military officers, seniors enlisted, and civil service workers. I was 24 at the time. It was a good spot for me to be in prior to becoming an entrepreneur, prior to being a consultant, to doing the work that we will talk about that I’ve done as a headhunter and really developing this deep, narrow, experiential base on the topic of, why do people leave companies and how can a company keep them and keep them happy?
Are there some trends that you learned when you were recruiting people in about how important the culture fit is to making sure that that’s a good hire?
I think so. Culture is important. What I’ve seen in terms of the advisory work I’ve done with organizations is that everybody’s got a great culture. I own a company called the Attorney Search Group. I recruit partners for international law firms in Washington and New York. Every law firm I meet with, I say, “What’s different about you?” “We’ve got great culture.” Everybody has great culture. “We are collaborative.” Everybody is collaborative. “We’ve got a No Jerk Rule.” Everybody has a No Jerk Rule. I want you to tell me what’s distinct, what’s unique about you that nobody else can say and start with that.
One of the trends that I see is that everybody, and this is what I call the first cardinal rule of human behaviors, that people are going to do what’s in their own best interest. When people come to work every day, they come to work for themselves, not the boss. When people are looking at how can we attract high achievers to our company? We have to look at what is that intrinsic motivation that causes people to thrive. We have to look at what our collective vision is, what’s our purpose, and how can we align that with the intrinsic motivation of those people that are looking to join.
Law firms in particular can be perceived as somewhat of a commodity, especially in the law world. They specialize in different things. If they are all saying the same thing, “No Jerk Policy. We’re collaborative. We got a great culture. You should come work here. There’s going to be a lot of hours.” It can’t be something like startups in Google days, “We’ll do your dry cleaning for free and you get free lunch.” If there’s more to it than that, how do you advise people on how to get this top talent? Because the audience here are probably are startups and maybe they have a cofounder, but when they get funded or maybe even they are going to get somebody else to join the team for low money in exchange for equity, what is it that they need to define? I think it goes into what you said earlier about the vision but I’d love to have you expand on that.
Let’s go back to what most of us have heard; Abraham Maslow’s the Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow, an organizational psychologist in the 1960, he came up with what’s been the most widely adapted model of human need. At the very bottom, we have a need for basic survival needs: food, clothing, water, and shelter. Above that, we have a need to feel safe and secure. Above that, we have a need to be part of a team. We have a need for that affiliation. Above that, our second most important need is recognition, our ego drive to be recognized. Then above that is self-actualization, to be fulfilled in the work that we do.
Now, I would say if you are recruiting people that are low-level administrative, they are thinking more about the bottom two. “I’ll leave for $2 an hour or more,” or they want to work in a place where they feel safe. Most people that are junior level professionals, that are recent college graduates, they might be more interested in that third one. “I want to be a part of a team, but also I want to be part of something that is bigger than myself.” I think an organization has to look especially at those top two needs. Self-actualization, how can you be fulfilled in your purpose and then how can we recognize you for making a contribution to this team?
When I was doing the organizational development consulting and leadership training back when I was 24, young naval officer, I would go around and I would interview civil service workers, people that are working at the government, a lot of them were low-level workers. People who were mechanics, plumbers, people in the trade, joined the government, and stayed there 30 years. What I saw were people that were very loyal. They were very passionate about what they did. They really cared and the harder they worked, the more their pay stayed the same. They weren’t in it for the money. It’s interesting that if we can find out how can we harness their intrinsic motivation as it relates to their recognition, showing them that you’re significant and then also showing them that you, that the work that you do makes a difference, not just for the people around you but for the entire greater good.
Here’s an example. When I was on active duty, I was an operations officer of a very small wooden ship. It was a minesweeper commissioned in 1956. This was in the early 90s. Our sonar wasn’t working and I had to get the sonar up. Petty Officer Shaffer, he had been there every weekend for the last six weekends. I got to get it up. He had little kids at home. I had to get him to spend one more weekend to get the sonar. He had to be working Monday morning. I could have used my authority. I could have used my rank. But I said, “Let me talk with you about this. As you know, the Iraqis have invaded Kuwait. Right now, we’re the most important ship in the United States Navy. We need to get underway Monday. Right now, you’re the most important sailor in the United States Navy. I need you to get that sonar working and stay here this weekend.” “Yes sir.” I was able to show him that his work mattered to help the entire organization’s goals and that he would get that recognition. Sure enough, he gave it one more weekend. Nobody complained.
This is another lesson I learned, is that employees talk. There is this invisible range of response, that’s what I call the response ratio, that an employee chooses. It’s on a scale of one to ten. If I lead based on my authority, you’re going to give me a one. You’re going to give me the lowest level of output. But if I lead based on what I just explained, my leadership, being able to tell them, “This is how your work matters. This is why you can drive significant,” and it doesn’t have to be a formalized discussion. It can just be comments that you make over time and people observe that. They make a decision, they choose, “I’m going to give it a ten based on that personal leadership.” I think that’s the one thing I would like managers on your show to really listen to and pay attention to. What is the noble goal that my company has? It’s got to be more than making money. It’s got to be more than profit. It has to be service. It has to be value. You have to start with that and then translate how does this noble goal translate into a personal and an emotional connection with our employees?
What is the noble goal of my company? Because once you communicate with that, if I understand this response ratio properly, when people are engaged and feel that what they’re doing matters as it relates to the noble goal of the company, they give a ten effort as opposed to just saying, “I’m the founder. Do what I say. Don’t ask questions. It’s my company.” Even if you’re the cofounder and all the back and forth arguments over what I want versus what you want, let’s both step back and say, “What’s the noble goal of the company?” and let that be the deciding factor versus our egos.
Absolutely, because it’s not about us. We’d like to think it is, but it ain’t about us.
Let’s talk about this great book of yours. What motivated you to write it?
I think the uniqueness in my career is very rare. I have not built large teams. I don’t have an interest in building a large team. I’ve been in a leadership role in trade associations, leading an all-volunteer force, professionals that don’t have any time to put time into something and get them to be excited about that. That’s a lot harder than leading people that have to be there. I think just some of the articles that I’ve written in the past, some of the blog posts, I chose some of those that I thought could really help people to accelerate the goal. If I could have retitled it, I would have thought, “How Do You Get Your Employees to Work Harder.” That’s what everybody wants.
The title is, Why They Follow and How to Lead with Positive Influence. If you just remember why they follow. You showed the penguins on the cover, which I just love, that really will stick in people’s minds, the image of penguins. Let’s talk about the cover a little bit too. What is it about penguins and following that made that so relevant?
I was thinking what would be an image that everybody loves? Who doesn’t like penguins? I’ve never met anybody that says, “I hate penguins.” I think we’ve all seen those documentaries and penguins huddled together, they survive, and they take turns shielding each other from the cold. Just like in a wolf pack. There is an alpha in the pack and the alpha has to be a good leader, otherwise he gets killed. I think looking at the pack mentality, surviving together, how can we get people to work harder? “I’ve got to be a good leader. How can I be a good leader? I’m going to find out what causes people to choose to respond at a higher level.” Let me get right to the point of how you can get your people to work harder. You’ve got to find out why they follow and lead to that.
I use game theory a lot in making decisions in business and it really cuts through a lot of the clutter. What’s the most effective way to solve this problem the quickest, the most economically, and have the most fun? Let’s find out why people follow and lead to that. That’s my whole style. Anytime I come in and speak somewhere, let me give a life changing 45-minute presentation, just two or three points that stick, that makes a difference. It’s exciting to see that.
You talked about one of the chapters being the three steps to servant leadership. Is game theory part of that?
I think it is. I used to be a professional card counting Blackjack player years and years ago. Two of the alumni of the MIT Blackjack Team mentored me. I pretty much got pretty good at this game because I liked it because you’re not breaking any laws. You’re not doing anything illegal or immoral. You’re just exploiting the casino and the game legally by understanding the math behind it, because in Blackjack, there is a defect. That’s what I learned. Don’t put money on the felt unless the count is high and don’t do anything unless there is a high likelihood of gaining a favorable outcome.
I use game theory in pretty much anything that I teach, which I think is why it makes sense to most people. I believe in simplicity. What’s the simplest way to get people to change? Giving them bite-sized easy morsels. You’ve seen the book. The chapters are probably two or three pages long. It’s a book that you can read on flight and get right to the point.
What kinds of questions do you have when someone is interviewing someone that you would say, “Is this person a good fit for me and my company?” What are the questions that you recommend a founder or anybody who’s hiring somebody ask in an interview?
First thing I would look at in business more than anything, it’s all about the results. Start with that. Start with the results. Get very clear on what are the performance outcomes. One of the best books I’ve ever read on hiring is Hire With Your Head written by Lou Adler. I always give him credit whenever I talk about this because he’s got some great ideas. What are the three results that you want this person to achieve? Start with that and have them tell you, “How have you achieved this in the past? How are you achieving this currently? What action steps would you take to achieve this in the future?” I would start with that.
Other three things I recommend managers to look at are the three core areas of success. This is just my own concepts, having been a headhunter for over twenty years. As I mentioned, I just sold my recruiter training company. I’ve trained, I’ve been in hundreds of search from over 4,500 recruiting and staffing firms from over 36 countries that have invested in my training programs, of my business I just sold. I taught this a lot to other people. The three core things you want to look at are: influence, resilience, and achievement.
Influence meaning, “How can I build a team of followers?” Or if you are in sales, “How can you talk people into things where they thank you for that at the end the process?” Find examples in the past of someone that has been able to lead or sell. Second thing, resilience. Have them tell you a time where they were able to turn professional adversity into success. If they haven’t learned that now, they’re not going to learn that in the future. The third, achievement. Find people that have been successful early on, “Tell me about the job you had when you were in high school. Tell me about your grades. Tell me about your musical instrument.” I remember sitting next to a young lady once on a flight and she is a professional musician. She played the flute. I was curious about this. Her father was in the Marine Band. She was raised with musicians in her family. I said, “How many hours a day did you practice in high school without your mom telling you?” “At least two hours a day.” “Did your mother ever have to tell you to practice?” “No. I did it on my own.” Two hours every day. That’s achievement.
Look for past tells, past indicators that people have a high likelihood, game theory again, of being successful in the future. Influence, resilience, and achievement. There is one owner of a firm I was consulting to and he said, “I’m so frustrated with the people I’m hiring. They’re not working out. I see so much potential in them.” I told him, I said, “They don’t see it in themselves. You’re hiring projects. You’re hiring people that have never done anything significant in their whole lives before. They’re not going to become successful once they start working for you. They need to already have had that. You don’t need a project.”
That’s the advice I give to people listening to your podcast. What are the three performance outcomes you want them to achieve, have them tell you how they’ve achieved it in the past, how they’re currently doing it, and what action steps they’d take to achieve those three goals in the future. Then also qualify them on influence, resilience, and achievement.
I love the action steps. What did you in the past? What are you currently doing? What would you do if you were to come here? If somebody can answer that for you, let’s just say you’re hiring somebody to do your marketing or your sales, they should have some great stories; what they’ve done, what they’re currently doing, and what they would do that they put some thought into why they want to work for you.
I think we all have a tendency to hire people that remind us of who we used to be a long time ago. We like to be around people that remind us of ourselves. I think it’s too easy to fall in love with that perfect candidate. I’d recommend, have an unattached business colleague of yours from another company interview people for you. Someone that knows you, knows your business, maybe they’re a frenemy, maybe they are a friendly competitor or whatever, or if you have a professional coach, have them interview people for you and listen to their input. Because you might get all excited about that rock star candidate, but it might be for the wrong reasons.
Regarding this other area of success, what a great filter, because it’s all about storytelling. If you’re pitching an investor, you should be able to tell an investor an example of how you had influence to get your first customer or get somebody to join your team. You should be able to tell a personal story about your own resilience when things were tough at this startup or another one and how you overcame it as opposed to just saying, “I have tenacity and grit.” You need to tell a story. Then third of course, is this whole concept of achievement and being able to prove, “Look, I know how to do this and I’ve got a formula. It’s not by chance. It’s not by accident. I know what it takes to get results.” Investors in particular love to see people who have traction and know how to do it.
One of your amazing quotes is, “I show managers how to be the boss that nobody wants to leave.” You’ve touched on it a lot. First of all, on how to get that right person. Then I really think the answer to that is going back to what you said earlier about the noble goal and showing them why what they do matters, not leading by dictatorship. Is there anything else you want to expand about how to be a boss that nobody leaves?
I think it’s being someone that puts other people’s needs ahead of your own. There’s a conflict because I’ve got mission achievement and then I’ve got to take care of my people. This is something I learned every day at Naval Academy. Take care of your people. Here you are, you are working in business, and you’ve got to accomplish goals. I remember I interviewed General Walt Boomer. He retired as a four-star Marine, a Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps. This is years ago when he was the CEO of Rogers Corporation. I asked him, I said, “Walt, you’re a Marine and you’re an executive and you have to make a decision. What’s more important: mission accomplishment or taking care of your people?” He said, “That’s a tough question.” Because we know, Marines, it’s all about accomplishing the mission. He said, “Let me think about that.” He said, “It’s taking care of your people. As long as you’ve got the right people in place, they will accomplish the mission.”
I think that’s the secret. If you don’t have the right people in place, it isn’t going to happen. You get the right people in place. A leader’s job in my opinion is to be invisible. At the end of the day, you want the team to stand up and say, “We did that ourselves.” It’s a concept that I call emotional equity. You want them to have an emotional stake in the success of that business. How do you do that? By asking them questions as a boss, “What do you think we should do? Why do you think we should do that? What’s the worst thing that would happen if we did this? What action steps would you recommend? I want you to do this. Draft up a one page document on the action steps that you would take to accomplish what you told me. Let’s talk about that this afternoon.” Now, it’s their idea. They own it.
When you ask people questions, “What do you think we should do?” One of the most valuable things you could ever do is ask for people’s opinion. I tell people all the time, “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money with an investor.” It totally dovetails into what you’re saying here. If you ask an investor, “What advice do you have that could make my startup better?” They start collaborating with you. If you ask your employees, “What do you think we should here to fix this problem?” Now they’re part of the solution as opposed to just being dictated what to do. That is a big takeaway. I think we couldn’t leave on a higher note than this concept. I’ve heard of emotional intelligence but I’ve never heard of emotional equity before. How can people follow you on social media? What is your Twitter handle?
It’s @ScottLove on Twitter. My website is ScottLove.com and that’s my speaking site. I don’t do consulting on that. I speak at conferences for right now because I’m so busy with my search practice, but every once in a while l speak at conferences for business and association groups. One thing I wanted to share, just because I have literally tens of thousands of conversations with professionals, trying to recruit them. I’d be the guy that would cold call people, and I still am, and trying to get them to leave. When people say, “I love it here. I don’t care how much more it pays.” I always ask them, “Why is that?” It’s all because of that relationship with the boss one level up. That’s all a company has to do, is help those mid-level, junior level, and senior level managers just get a little bit better with that one-on-one leadership skills. If they do that, you know as well as I do, it’s easier to get a new customer than keep an existing one happy. The same thing with employees. Nobody really thinks of it like that.
The cost of turnover is so high; productivity, time spent interviewing, and everything else. It’s night and day. Scott, I can’t thank you enough for all these words of advice on how to get the top talent, whether you’re startup or a huge company. Most importantly, how to keep them loyal by emotional equity. Thank you so much.
Thank you, John.
Thank you. My pleasure.
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