Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 6 months ago

How To Navigate Change With Innovation & Keeping Communications Human w/ Bruce Tulgan


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the world saw the beginning of big changes in regards to tech and work norms. Now, having the whole transition expedited, leaders everywhere are dealing with the aftermath. And if they want to maintain those high-level employees, they’ll need to know how to navigate through the change.

In this episode of Innovation Nation, I interview Bruce Tulgan, Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Thinking, about setting manager expectations, the technological transformation, and how to innovate when the stakes are high.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Innovations that every manager should be focusing on
  • How to keep communications & interactions more human
  • Finding innovation through troubling situations
  • Bridging the soft skills gap 

Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowns to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You're listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen Hi. Welcome to another episode of Innovation Nation. This is your host, Jasmine Marchal Austin, and our guest today is Bruce Toligan, who has moved from his legal career to a successful career of a consultant and thought leader. He's company does a lot of consulting on human capital management and he's an author of over twenty books and growing. Welcome, Bruce. Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor and a pleasure to be with you. So, Bruce, do you talk a lot about the changes and trends in the market place where it comes to winning the talent war, on how to manage people, chain of command leadership, what innovations can you think about in the area that you know every manager this day and age should focus on? Well, I mean, look, there's so many things going on right now. One thing is over the last eighteen months, everything things changed. A whole bunch of people are, you know, realizing well, maybe it doesn't matter where I work and when I work, right and and in a lot of their bosses who were like, well, no, you know, you're somebody who got it, you've got to work in the office, they're like, well, see, turns out, it out. So that's probably the biggest. I mean, look, you know, this is one of these historic transformational changes. What's what's really I mean, for me, what's always in the back of my head is that long before the pandemic, or or an up to immediately before the pandemic, everything was changing already. It just that, you know them, this huge accident of history intervened. So there's all. I mean. Look, globalization and technology, I've been shaping change for about thirteenzero years, but it's really picking up speed in the last decade. So I would say what the pandemic did is kind of magnify everything and it's but that it's like if everything's on steroids. Right. The world was digital before the pandemic. It's nothing new. There was a lot of aiolready. It's nothing new. It's just magnified certain trends and made it more obvious to others. Yeah, I think that's true. I mean I think, like what I've been telling clients is we just had fifteen years of change in in eighteen months exactly. So what are people to look at, especially in this kind of rapid, rampant phase of change that was brought on by the pandemic and people's kind of self insides are changing? How our managers and organizations to respond, to stay competitive and to innovate along with that change? Well, you know, what I always look at is the more things change, you know, what can you anchor yourself to that's not going to change? So, you know, I think in this look, I started out studying young people in the workplace. You know, I'm always going into organizations that are restructuring and re engineering, you know, organizations that are trying to push power down the chain of command and drive collaboration across functions. So you know, technology is you know, institutions are in a state of constant flocks in the information tide, away, immediacy. Everything is is changing. What I always do is tell leaders, Hey, remember, these are still human beings and we're not that different from when we were running around in in in hunting bands, chasing after gazels and willdebeasts and the human element it. We're still human beings and if you want to make your way through...

...change, you got to anchor yourself to the things that aren't going to change. And so what I'm always looking at is how are people supporting each other, guiding each other, directing each other and and and primarily, how a people communicate, because in this environment, I think the thing that's in jeopardy is keeping communications and interactions human. Absolutely. So, do you have any it's on that, specifically, how people should go about keeping the contagious and interactions more human? Yeah, I think you know so. So the way everybody's wired, if it were, or why are less, to be more precise, is you know that what the way we communicate right now, okay, is we touch base with each other, then we say hey, let me know if you need me. So we interrupt each other all day long, and then we're on electronic communication and then we have an organized huddle, a meeting, right, and then what happens? When do we have the most meaningful communication? When things go wrong and people are frustrated? Right, so, everything's going wrong, then we roll up our sleeves, drill down and have high structure, high substance communication. And so what I'm always urging is, okay, if you can have these team huddles, they can't be a gesture and it's not like you're having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. So so I'm all about take a walk every day and eat your vegetables. Right. So look at why are you have right? Why? You got to do your push ups right, you got to stay you got to stay strong. So it's so, why are you having a team huddle? And who's running those and how are they being done? And, more to the point, look at your one on one communication dynamics. Stop touching base and interrupting each other. The interruption is profoundly inefficient. Communicating only when things are going wrong. You know, there's very famous for stranger WHO's a bear, talking bear, I'm sure you I loved. I love telling people outside this country about them. All. We have a talking bear. Is Very famous for strangers that be like, and so you know, Oh, yeah, and then America's be like, no, that's really true. But you know, smoking the bearers famous for thinking it's a whole lot easier to prevent a fire than it is to put one out. And so you know, I think the way people are communicating is they're touching base and interrupting each other and everything Staccato. And then firefighting. And what I'm always trying to tell people is slow down and communicate clearly, high structure, high substance, one on one's spell out expectations. Make sure you pay attention to what you're asking of each other. Much of what we say to each other at work is about asking each other for help. So slow down and tune into the ask what help is somebody asking you for, and then make sure you know yeah, yeah, no, don't yes, Esch has people. Slow down. Make sure you can do it, make sure you're allowed to do it, and and you are not ready to say yes to someone until you know exactly what you're going to do. Exactly when you're going to do it, exactly how you're going to do it and when you're going to deliver. Right. So, structure and so what I tell people is slow down and communicate, plan and every step of the way, plan, plan, look around the corner together. So what that looks like is, every day, who were your primary people who are relying on you? Who are the primary people upon whom you're relying? When was your last one on one? When your next one album? And the other thing I always tell people is who are your most prolific interrupters? You you know who's going to interrupt you this week, don't you have onyn't you schedule one on one with each of those people early in the week and maybe touch base at the end of the week too, and then ask yourself, be honest with yourself, who do you interrupt the most? So one of the things I do is I try to go right at the core of who are we touching based with and who are we interrupting and just dive down deeper and put more structure and substance into those conversations. Yeah, it's a very apt observation. When I've been language speaks for itself. Every they the phrase touching base is so pervasive, but when... think about you're so right. It's like very quick and not substantive. Some yeah, so, so, so so do our research shows what the three most common questions people ask each other. How's everything going to do? Just fine, everything I track? Huh? Any problems I should know? But I think it's under control. Those are the three most common questions people ask. How's everything going? Is Everything on track? Are there any problems I should know about? And each of those is an invitation to wrap up the conversation quickly. And then you say hey, later on, when I'm in the meddle, was something really important at the least convenient time possible. Could you please interrupt me? Right. That's how people communicate. I've even published articles on communication, where you know, when people ask somebody how's it going and something this is fine, they're not expecting any answer. I mean, yeah, it's a man, I'm just going through the nice sages, but exactly it's an invitation to wrap it up. And if you're the boss, then you're telling yourself all be pad on the back. I just talk to that person, not really know you, and it's amazing when, some days, starts telling them how they really are feeling. Very often people will become fidgetty because that was not a real question intended, you know, to get a real answer. Yeah, I always tell people. So sometimes managers will be like, wait a minute, HMM, this guy might be onto something. What should I ask? And I say, Hey, tell me what you did, tell me how you did it, show me. Hey, what do you plan to do? What's your plan? What steps you going to follow? Hey, tell me your plan. What are your priority? Say? What do you what are the things you might not get to write? What? What are the things you're gonna have a hard time with? What's going to get in your way today? Right, you know, you got to drill down and sometimes a year. You're so right. Our communications are so fleeting that people will not even be expecting to speak up and share what they are really thinking. But I since when I have whenever I have new direct reports and I do one on ones, they'll come and quiet. I'm like, this is your time, I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts? What could we do differently? What could we do better it? Yeah, and I think that you know, one of the things we do is we train managers how to make better use of that time. And all, it's your time, you do the talking, but our advice is, number one, you got to have these conversations more off the right number two, you got to get your direct reports preparing an advance in writing. I called studying for the test right. So we're not going to just come in and talk you. I want you to tell me. What decisions do you need made? What problems are you anticipating? What resources do you need help with? Show me your plan right, show me your work in progress right, so that they come in with a written agenda, they set the table, they come in prepared. Let them own this absolutely, and that sense of ownership is so important and driving change. I mean we talk in sometimes vacuous terms about the culture, or the culture is this, or culturally would do that, but we are all part of the culture like individually, all of us can shape it individually. All of us can make a difference. So kind of taking a passive approach, saying is the culture doesn't give us too far or accomplished too much. Culture is either by default or by design, and every single person needs to situate themselves in contacts and make choices about the role they're going to play and the contribution they're going to make. And what I always tell people is, you know, if things are changing and you want to be part of that change, step one, anchor yourself what's not going to change. Use the tools that make you and your colleagues human and know what's not going to change. Okay, then you can navigate through change. Same with innovation, by the way, that it's you know, you're not Jackson Poblock, right. You know, uh, in a real innovation is iterative. So what's what do we know right... Are the best practices? Right? What do we know? Are the boundaries here? What's not up to you? Right? And then you're free to be creative. Well, you know what? Jackson pollock did not start like what we think of Jackson pollock today. Right. He has early works are actually quite conventional and traditional. He had to evolve and if you look at all the artists in the history of art that have been like ground raking, you have to look at the genesis of their work in the evolution, and they all start most often very traditionally and Dan evolved. It's true of Picasso also, and even with Jackson pollock at his latest stage work. I always say, you know, he wasn't splattering paint all over the room. He was at least he knew where the canvas was, and saying if you have direct reports and what you want is for them to innovate, you gotta give him the canvas. You got to tell him what's not up to them. You got at least given parameters. It is no gift to somebody who say going to room and be creative, going to room and innovate. Right, it's it's all this stuff isn't up to you. Now Go. How do you deal with a driving abiding sets of perfectionism that so many people have or suffer from and that gets in the way of their performance? I mean, look, if you're flying a plane, you want a very low error rate. If you're if you're if if you're doing brain surgery, very low arrate. If you're running a nuclear weapons research laboratory or a nuclear weapons launch site, you want a very low air rate. By the way, we've worked with organizations in all those industries and it's true it's a different kind of quality standard. But I always tell people in your day to day efforts, you know again, look at where you were. No fail zone needs to be and then don't fall victim to the myth of one hundred percent. Right. I caught the myth of one hundred percent because I think the difference between ninety eight percent a hundred percent for most work is quite, you know, a matter of judgment. It's subjective and and and there's so much people get done to a ninety eight percent threshold. And then that last two percent is sort of the zone of failure fobes and and procrastinators now again, unless you're find a plane or running a nuclear weapons lunch site or nuclear weapons labor or doing brain surgery. You know, usually ninety eight percent. That's pretty good, you know. And what you think is ninety eight percent, somebody else might think is a hundred eleven percent. You know, you touched on the shift fear of failure, and I'm with you. If I'm on a plane, I definitely want that captain going down his check list right, but that's not an innovation. That's actually meeting the basic requirements and you don't want the pilot kind of turning the plane upside down in the name of innovation. That kind of misses the point exactly. It''s a very kind of straight trajectory. Want to go from a to be bringing people safely, you know, home or whatever they're going, or if he has you use the example of a surgeon, they definitely need to count the tools they have so they do not leave something accidentally in a body, which is very easy to occur. That you want those checks and balances right into that. And that's not in the name of innovation, that's in a name of basic meeting basic requirements. Well, but where does innovation happen? Right when a pilot gets into a pickle and the pilot has to extrapolate from standard operating procedures and best practices in order to get out of a pickle. When a brain surgeon gets into a pickle? Yeah, and and they have to and they have to extrapolate from their standard operating procedures, their best practices and their training. That's true. If soldiers, that's true anywhere we're innovation almost always comes from is extrapolating from best practices, at least iterative innovation. Now, I'm not saying that people...

...don't have wake up in the middle of the night with an epiphany in a light bulb. Is Hanging over their head and their mind and so, Oh wow, we're gonna, you know, I got an idea. Forget taxis. We're going to create uber or whatever. You know, we're you know it's going to be, you know, fudge ripple ice cream. I got it. You know. But, but, but most real innovation comes from people running into trouble and getting out of trouble, and the best way to get out of trouble is to iterate and extrapolate from what you already know, our best practice. Well then you're hitting on a very important issues and looking at everything kind of in a Kais and approach, saying what can I do better? How can I do this better, and constantly kind of building on that one at a time, and that makes a huge difference. I mean Chelsea Sollenberger. He went against every fay and procedure and against command from the tower when he pulled off the miracle on the Hudson. But he had integrative thinking and each time he had been over the years, over his career, he'd been thinking what else can I do better? And he had integrated that and he was able to pull that off in that drastic moment and save so many lives exactly. I mean that's that is exactly. I mean that's what in the real world right that I mean look, look over the history of the last thirteenzero years of human technology. How does technology happen? How do innovations really happen? So I think, you know, one of things that amuses me greatly is when we watch people in environments that are meant to be innovation environments, let's say laboratories, and you know, it's so interesting to interview those folks and you know, you put them in a room innovative, be creative, you know, and then they're all like, you know, it's that's a that's not really how it works. That's really important, but was so one of your first books focused on Gen x, managing gen x, and now jen x are pretty much in positions of power, seeing and readership roles many of them, and the languels are coming up and millenials are turning for days. So you know they're not the DEN Z of today. What trends are changes are you seeing in the marketplace that you know UN notable from your early writings that you would discuss today? Yeah, I mean look, so what's the same? You know, when jen x was were coming into the workplace. It was like they're disloyal, they have short attentions, fans, they don't want to work as hard, they demand immediate gratification, they want everything their own way and they want it right now. Like HMM. You know, there's a long range term of art. We used to describe that phenomenon. We call it kids today, right, and they're you know, some some of that is just about being the latest young upstarts. But but look, you know, there is a transformation going on here. Institutions are in a state of constant fluxed. So there's nothing grown up about hitching your wagon of the Star and established organization, pay your dues, climb the ladder, do as you're told, wait for the system to take care of you. That's very risky behavior. Now, yeah, right, like like. So, so, you know, they look at young people's old they're disloyal. They're not disloyaled. They're plugged into the reality of uncertainty and in an uncertain environment, long term hierarchical thinking doesn't make sense in it. In an uncertain environment, short term transactional thinking is what makes sense. Right. They they're saying, oh well, they're all free agents, every single one of them. Thanks. They're in business for themselves. Well, welcome to America. You know self. reliances old as the hills. That's what made this country great. See EMERSTON. You know, the information tidal wave. Now that is a historical that's a transformation of historical significance. Right, the speed of technology, immediacy, is the only real time, the information...

...tidal wave. But even that so used to be. You know, you had to figure out how to get your hands on good information. Now the biggest thing you have to do is figure out how to get your hands on good information. Now we're drowning in nonsense and and and, you know, two plus two weequals five. That is the last sentence of George Orwell's one thousand nine hundred and eighty four. Two Plus Two weekuals five. And we now live in a world where a whole bunch of people are credibly arguing that two plus two weequals five. And a whole bunch of people are like, you know, maybe it does, and they have a platform now. Right, everybody can be a publisher today. Right, and it's very confusing. Oh look, my expert says to plus two equals five. Will your experts some more on yeah, right, so, so I think that, you know, people are operating in an information title wave. The pace of change is accelerating, uncertainty is is tremendous. I think today's Gen Zer's right. You know, people say, well, Oh, well, where do they get this attitude? Where did they get this attitude? They're living in an environment of danger, of environmental collapse, danger of terrorism, danger of war, danger of economic crisis. You know, they're like children the s. But but the children of the s? If children of the s learned how to think, learn and communicate while attached to a handheld super computer, and we're raised by helicopter parents on steroids. You know, they they're like a speed new species. And and and you know, because we're living through this profound change in history. And, by the way, you know most people, most older, more experience, people look at younger people and say, well, they'll grow up and settle down right, but every so often in history that doesn't happen. Every so often in history what happens is the younger people don't get more and more like the older people. The older people get more and more like the younger people and I think this is one of those times we are living through. So so much is the same, you know, yeah, but but we are living through real transformational time and and luck. You know things like, you know, is American democracy going to continue? Like that's a big question. Nobody would ask that thirty years ago or twenty or or seven years ago. Yeah, so that that's very interesting to see how we see different questions coming on the scene that before would not even be asked or question. He said something very important. He said being able to discern the information. To me, it's one of the marks of being educated and surviving well today, knowing the difference what education is correct or not. Right. Absolutely, and I'll tell you something. So one of my books is called bridging the soft skills gas and one of the things that people are worried about is critical thinking. Right. So one of the things we did is unpacked what is critical thinking really and the first part is you have to have a foundation of basic facts and logic. And you know, we're going to teach people to think critically. Well, don't they need to know some stuff first so they have something to think about? If they don't know some facts, what will they be thinking about? You know. So. So, first you have to know a bunch of facts and logic, rules of logic, right, and and and so that's foundational learning. And then second thing, oh, problem solving. Well, now, most problems have been encountered already and solved, right. So most problem solving is learning repeatable solutions. Right, and it turns out decisionmaking is just this one small piece when you come up against problems of first impression, and and and and and. So I think that you know when people are staying. Well, how do we get people to that information? Oh, well, I that's a good source. Right where? That's not a good source. Okay, that's a good start, but you also need to be able to recognize nonsense. Absolutely any key questions that you wish I had asked you and I did not...

...bruise. I mean, you know, how can people hire re maker thinking? Where do we get your books? Tell us about your wife's new book. That spell us about that. My my wife's new book is called Madam, the biography of polly Adler, icon of the Jazz Age, and it just got a great review in the New York Times. And you know, we're holding not hold onto your hat. Wait, wait for the movie. That's congratulations. I'm happy to here and I know Raym maker thinking does a great job advising organizations on how to improve their talent management and approaches. And you know you're a very inspirational public speaker. I've heard you before and you know the audience was in rapture it. And thank you so much for taking the time to join our podcast. That's some kind of you. Thank you so much your you've done this before. You're good at this. So what you made it so easy and you made it so much fun. Thank you. Thank you so much again. This was another episode of Innovation Nation. This is your host, Jasmine march to us. Thanks for joining us. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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