I recently was the guest on a podcast, interviewed by Brett Cowell of Total Life Complete.
In the podcast, I discussed issues concerning organizational change, teamwork, leadership, communication, storytelling, and non-profit organizational causes.
It hit me today that some people may not be able to listen to the audio of the podcast due to constraints in their work environment, and would rather read the content.
Therefore, I have reproduced the transcript of the podcast below. Also, there are several audio links available if you wish to use them.
Total Life Complete Podcast. Date: June 30th 2017. The Grove co-working space Dallas, Texas
EP5 – Dr Karl Krayer: Author, Speaker, Consultant.
BRETT COWELL (host)
Dr Karl Krayer (guest)
Brett Cowell: Hi, it’s Brett Cowell, and this is the Total Life Complete Podcast coming to you from the Dream Room at The Grove in downtown Dallas. Today I’m here with Dr. Karl Krayer, speaker, author, consultant, and the other half of the First Friday Book Club Team. Welcome, Karl.
Karl Krayer: Welcome, thank you very much for having me here. Appreciate it.
Brett Cowell: My pleasure. Today, hopefully, we’re going to talk about leadership, teamwork, and perhaps whether ever-present change is the fundamental essence of the universe.
Karl Krayer: Okay.
Brett Cowell: And other such things. My first question to all guests is how do you introduce yourself to people when they ask what you do?
Karl Krayer: Well, primarily what I do is, because our company is called Creative Communication Network, is we do offer a lot of communication-based skills to mid-size and large-size companies. That does include things like teamwork, presentation skills. We do a lot of things for managerial and supervisory skills, leadership development, and also individual coaching for people who want to speak, and write, and lead better. Communication is the fundamental element of it, but it’s got a lot of other outreaches as well.
Brett Cowell: Great. I’d love to come back to what the essence of good communication is in a second. What I’d thought I’d start with was around the topic of change. Is change the only constant to expect in the world today?
Karl Krayer: Well, that’s what a lot of consultants say. They say, “The only constant is change.” As you know, I co-authored a book called Organizing Change, and what we did as the premise of that book was is that if change is inevitable, then why are you in the passenger seat just riding along? Instead, get in the driver’s seat and lead it. That’s the perspective of that book, and one that I wholeheartedly adopt.
Brett Cowell: Have the nature of the changes changed since then, what changes are we facing now?
Karl Krayer: The processes and the steps for doing the change, organizing it, and leading it, getting a steering committee, and doing all the different components of it are still solid. Obviously it’s technology that has made the biggest change because we’re able to do things, obviously, swifter and perhaps more accurately than we ever did manually years ago. But the steps haven’t changed. They’re still solid.
Brett Cowell: What about the changes in the environment? You talked about technology, and disruption’s a word that we hear a lot about these days. What is disruption, and what’s disrupting us now?
Karl Krayer: Part of the thing I think that’s really happened because I’ve talked to enough managers about this that what you have today, because we’ve really abandoned in most companies the old promote from within policy. You would look at somebody who’s doing a good job, and you would say to that person, “You’re doing so well, we’re now going to promote you to a supervisory position where you’ll be overseeing the work of others.”
In that type of an environment, the supervisor did the work that he or she is supervising. That’s not the case today. Now you have a lot of people who are managing work who never did the work themselves. Well, you talk about disruption, a person like that has one of two choices. He or she can say, “I’m Mister Bigshot. I’m your boss. I’m going to tell you what to do, and here’s what we’re going to do.” Or that person can say, “You know, I’ve never done the work that you’ve done, I’d like to learn what you do. See if I can help you do what you do, get barriers out of the way, and so forth. Let’s try to work together to be successful.”
I think a lot of disruption comes when somebody tries to pull the big ego blanket, and they really don’t know what they’re doing.
Brett Cowell: There’s a couple of good points here. One is around what you might call disruption in the economic environment or the business environment, you know globalization and technology, and other such things. The companies have responded to that by restructuring. Is that the reason why people are managing work that they’ve never done before, or is there other reasons for that?
Karl Krayer: Of course, I think it is out of vogue to do the promote from within policy. I was always a fan of it, and still am. I think it says a lot about loyalty, and I think it says a lot about motivating someone to really work hard for a company if you know that the organization is going to look inside first, and that they’re willing to take on the learning curve that you will go through because you are learning a new job.
Notice what you do know though. You know the culture. You know relationships. You know how things work. When that went out of vogue and people started coming into organizations because they had the skills, but they didn’t know the culture relationships, how things work, that’s an entirely different learning curve. Organizations have tended today to adopt the idea, “I want somebody who knows what they’re doing, and I’ll teach them the culture along the way.”
That has not always worked very well. There’s been examples of companies that have merged, and 10 years later, they still don’t know how to work with each other. I do think that’s one thing. The second thing that’s happened is is that many people are, in fact, working two jobs, and they’re being paid for one.
You talk about lean organization and so forth. Many times people are very lucky to have a job. They apply for a job, interview, they get the job, and basically what they don’t know is, historically, they’re actually doing that job and another one that has been consolidated into that job, and of course they’re lucky to have a job, but they’re really doing two jobs, and never really knew it. That’s why there’s so much stress.
Brett Cowell: I lived in London for a number of years, and I think reflecting on what you said about the English Premiere League and the football, soccer teams over there. You have a manager, a superstar manager coming in with high expectations, and then they don’t win enough games, and the next minute they’re out and somebody else replaces them. I can look at this CEO of leadership culture now and say we’ve got the same thing.
We’ve got folks that are superstars or rock stars, self-styled in their own way, and they’re going to parachute into an organization and make a huge change. I think from what you’re saying is that that’s not guaranteed to work because you need cultural skills and technical leadership skills …
Karl Krayer: Sure. All part of getting results is not just revenue and profit. Of course, having the cash register ring is what keeps the organization going. Without sales, you typically don’t have a whole lot of anything else, but you can really have a damaging culture, internally and externally if you don’t pay attention to those things.
One of the things that I remember reading one of the books years ago was you can’t cut costs on the way to prosperity. What that really means is your eyes should be on how you make money, not how you slash jobs, and equipment, and resources, and those types of things. Quickly to your question, though, about people. There really are, of course, a couple of different types of major leaders in organizations.
Some have grabbed magazine covers. They’re on talk shows. Obviously a good example of that is Larry Ellison of Oracle. He’s been on many business shows. No telling how many covers he’s been on. In one of the books that we did at the book synopsis, Jim Collins wrote about the level five leader. The level five leader is the person who has great humility, but also a strong will to succeed.
What he said was, “You can look at an organization that has great results, because by any scope, that’s how you measure success. Are you, in fact, achieving your objectives and getting your results, but if there’s no one person who you could identify as the source for that, you likely have a level five leader at work. Strong will, but humility.”
Brett Cowell: I wanted to ask about … If I think about my leadership book journey, probably one of the first books I read was From The Gut by Jack Welch, and Richard Branson’s, I think, Losing My Virginity, that book there. Two different leaders, but the Jack Welch School of Management is that changing today. I reflect on people like Elon Musk and other leaders, to your comment about level five leaders, who build teams behind them.
Karl Krayer: I do believe that Welch is going to go down, if he’s not already, historically as the greatest CEO in American history. He took a company, General Electric, that was basically about to flat line itself, and he got the title Neutron Jack. He said that we’re going to sell off every division of the company that isn’t number one or number two. If you’re not number one or two in the market for that business, you’re out of the business. We’re going to sell it off.
Of course, he did a lot of restructuring, but what he really did well was he told a very consistent story. He told it to employees. He told it to stock holders, share holders, media, anybody who would listen. He had a great vision. I think he’s also responsible for why story telling is such an important part of a manager’s tool kit today. I don’t think anybody ever did it as well as Welch did it.
Unfortunately, personally, he got a little damage there as he had some external issues, but I don’t think that really puts a dark mark on the work he did at General Electric. He certainly was what they needed at the time. A power figure who took charge, and he made it happen. By every possible definition he’s a leader.
Brett Cowell: I always wonder where the folks that get business books written, they write about themselves or other people write about them, if they were to start again, whether they’d be successful a second time. What do you think?
Karl Krayer: Well, obviously, enough companies have brought back former CEOs to come back and run their company again, even though it’s been a number of years when they actually retired. I think that says a lot to me about a person’s wisdom and not their knowledge. Knowledge is codable. We can get knowledge.
You can write it down, record it. We have people who do exit interviews. We have people who know that they’re going to retire, and so a company tries to get all the knowledge the person has, but what you can’t do in that way is wisdom, that savviness of making judgments, and making decisions under stress. You can’t really write down wisdom. I think that’s what those people have.
The ones who come back and have been successful, sure they have knowledge, but they really have wisdom. It’s much appreciated in a company that says, “Hey, maybe we ought to look at this person again.” In most of those cases, those are people who, obviously, voluntarily retired. Now, very quickly about that, there’s also, of course, a trend that you should lead a company that you do not have industry experience in.
There’s been a lot of examples of that where that’s worked very well, but obviously the JC Penney example with Ron Johnson probably put to bed the idea that that’s what we ought to always be doing. That was a person who did not have retail experience that way, and certainly didn’t know what he was doing.
Brett Cowell: You’ve talked about wisdom. What is wisdom, and what areas is the wisdom most valuable? Is it about people or processes or …?
Karl Krayer: I think wisdom really gets down to, I guess, a keyword I would say is it’s the savviness of business. It’s not business knowledge, it’s actually business application. For example, one of the things would be working in a highly ambiguous situation where not only is there not a history of the event that someone is facing, so it’s a new sort of challenge, for example, for the person or the organization, but also one that has constraints like time, financial, maybe even hacking, sabotage, those types of things.
You really don’t have a lot of time to examine things historically, so it’s the wisdom, it’s the savvy of knowing what to do, how to do it, how fast to do it, and so forth that really makes a difference. I don’t mean to say that it is entirely a crisis situation, but I think those are the kind that are the most spectacular that we actually see.
Again, you can study and codify knowledge, but wisdom is simply that idea that do I know what to do, how to do it, in a very short period of time where you don’t have the resources to go back and look up what we did because we’ve never done it.
Brett Cowell: Let’s talk about teams. Teams, the development of teams, and I remember this early in my career and even studying self-managing teams and such concepts. How have teams changed, and what’s their role in modern corporate?
Karl Krayer: Well, unfortunately, teams have become a very lip service type of word. Many people use the word team and they actually are talking about a group not a team. Who wouldn’t say they’re not a team player? A person would be an idiot for not calling themselves a team player, and for some of those people, you only wish that they were.
Then you have, of course, situations where you simply have collaboration, people working together, but they’re not really working as a team. For example, they may not be sharing the same methods, and processes, and those sorts of things. I think perhaps one of the most irritating things we have is people who use that term very loosely. I would love for somebody to be honest, frankly.
Someone asks a person, “Who’s on your team?” Their answer is, “Well, we have some people, but all we are is a group,” and be really honest because a group is simply people who were put together to work together like a hierarchical chart or a division, or a department. They may be a team, and they may not be, but in many cases, groups are simply not all teams.
Brett Cowell: I’ve thought about the evolution of teams, self-managed teams, in a specific plant or a corporate office, and then to virtual teams. I guess groups have always been around, but they’re particularly prevalent now, but even the next stage, talking about contributors, so we’re more of a network matrix of folks inside the organization, and external, and contractors, and consultants, and all those folks have got to get something to do. How do you get all of them working together, and is that productive at the end of the day?
Karl Krayer: That’s probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get when, for example, I’m about to do a team building program or a team building enterprise for someone. The question comes up, “What do we need to do to start working as a team?” The answer is so simple I’m actually embarrassed to give it to you, but the answer is you design the work where it’s done by teams. If the work is designed where it’s silo, independent, individual, and I have my job, you have your job, and she has her job, and he has his job, you’re never going to work as a team because the work isn’t designed for teams.
One of the activities I like to do, and that’s particularly true for non-profits, boards of directors, and association officers, and so forth, is you take a look at the basic duties, and in some cases these even have job descriptions. For example, when I was in the group called today Association for Talent Development, each one of our officers had job descriptions.
We can each have our job, or we can look at this and go, “Hey, let’s bust these walls down, and let’s design the work where we all help each other, give input with each other, cross train, cross question, those sorts of things.” If you want to work as a team, you design the work where it’s done by teams.
Brett Cowell: Can corporate teams learn from sports teams, and I know there’s a number of books written by Navy Seals and other groups like that, that have been very popular recently?
Karl Krayer: I do believe, in general, people are tired of the sports analogy. I think people are tired of hearing, “She hit a home run today. He went nine. They put it in the front pocket,” and all these terms that go from billiards to baseball to golf, and all of that. I sense people are tired of that, but I will say this. Of all of the kinds of teams that I see, it seems like, to me, sports teams are faster to adopt new players, new members faster than anyone else that I’ve ever seen.
Somehow you get in the locker room, and it’s like you’ve been there for five years. They tend to grab them, and integrate them, and put them in the fold better than many companies do. I do think, in general, people are a little tired of it.
Brett Cowell: I think it’s very inspirational having worked in the corporate world for a long time. Previously I’ve seen my share of sports celebrities presenting, and it’s always very inspirational, but it’s kind of what happens next? I think you’ve got to be selective about what you try and learn from those teams as well, you can directly apply to your situation.
For example, having a shared goal. I know you talked about maybe modern forms of organization where you’re partnering with your customers, and suppliers, and contractors, and consultants, but that can work as long as you’ve got a clear objective that everyone’s heading to. I think in the sports game, or in the Army, these Seals that have written books, this is a very clear objective here.
Then in business, people go, “That’s really inspiring.” Then they sit around a meeting table with eight or twelve different objectives, and wonder why progress is not being made, even though everyone heard the same message.
Karl Krayer: That’s why when I do the team building programs that I do, and sometimes, of course, I call them partnering. It’s better together is the by-line. The first thing that we do is goals. Do we have clear goals? Are they understood by everyone, and are we sharing them? I want to tell you, in the market place, I really believe that’s pretty rare. I’ve participated in a lot of team building programs myself, and I’ve seen what other vendors do, and I want to tell you the bulk of those programs are on bonding, getting to know each other, relationships.
I’m not saying that things like trust, and climate are unimportant. Of course, it’s good to have good relationships, and frankly you can’t have a team if you don’t have trust. I understand that, but what I don’t get is how being able to say to other people, “I love you, man,” is more important than knowing what your goals are because I can love you right into bankruptcy.
Let’s figure out what we’re all about first, and then let’s work on all these things like do we know each other’s names, and hobbies, and all that? Brings up two other points though. One I think is interesting that we spend way too much time in things like trying to get people to become best friends, and best buddies, and I just want to tell you when I do team building, my only objective is can you figure out how to work with each other?
I don’t care if you like each other or not. I’ve had jobs where I guarantee you I didn’t like people, and some of them didn’t like me, but I’ve never been paid a dime for liking anybody. I’d be a billionaire. I like people. I’ve been paid, as you have, for meeting objectives and achieving our outcomes. That’s why we’re there.
People have to understand, we’re going to work with people all of our lives who we don’t like, and they don’t like us. That’s all I care about. Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer to go to a place where they like me, I like them, everybody likes each other, but that just doesn’t happen all the time, and you’ve got to figure that out.
Then secondly, back to your point a moment ago, what I’ve never understood is in talking about sports to companies. I’ve never understood how you can have a most valuable player of a team. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I do understand of a division or a league. I understand that, but there should not be a person who stands out in a team because true team work is we break down the barriers. We massage the work so much, we don’t even know who does what because this is our product.
Brett Cowell: I think the best sports teams, they escape that false modesty when they actually say it wasn’t me, it was the team because I think that’s actually true, but with a bunch of highly talented people, I guess, there’s something about getting their individual recognition, acting in different roles. You as the individual, and you as the team member, and towards that objective.
I think about just coming back to the relationship between people and organizations, the job for life, how you might go into that, and you sign up with a big company in corporate America or elsewhere in the world, and you go, “That’s it. I’m done now. It’s all about climbing the ladder and cruising through to a retirement.” That might imply a certain relationship, family relationship with the company.
Whereas now, certainly it seems people are getting a lot more comfortable with that type of role to say, “Okay, I’m going to be here for a certain amount of time. I’m not expecting loyalty from a job for life,” in that type of loyalty or provision relationship from the company. I’m a professional. I’ve got used to project work now. My work has changed.
I’m not necessarily sitting at the desk working with the same people all the time as well, so where the expectations have evolved and we’re becoming more mature and actually managing ourselves as individual contributors that might work for several companies even at the same time in the future.
Karl Krayer: Yeah, well obviously today what is valued is mobility, not stability. I think about times where, let’s say, 15 years ago if you were to work with a resume coach, he or she would show you how to demonstrate that you have stability. Been in the same job, done the same position, maybe my duties may have changed, but I basically been in this position, and I’m loyal to it and to the company.
Today if you worked with a resume coach, and you had that kind of background, they would show you how to bust it up. In fact, I don’t mean to say this is universal, but senior HR person told me recently that three years is about all you want to stay in a company. If you are staying in the same company beyond three years, make sure you’re in a different position. It’s no longer valued that you’ve been an associate sales manager for 28 years for Proctor and Gamble. It used to be, but not anymore.
Brett Cowell: Trying to balance out that savviness and the experience with the culture before, which we talked about earlier, which it seems to be a characteristic still of good leaders with an expectation more at the mid manager level that you need to move around and get different types of experiences, and be challenged in different places.
Karl Krayer: Yeah, well, and I think perhaps one of the things that has changed is, I do think for many years the ultimate was to be able to become a manager. That’s what people wanted to do, and if you were a manager, you made it. Unfortunately, many times your family, friends, and co-workers didn’t quite share that enthusiasm. They would come to you and go … Here you are all excited about getting a promotion, and they would come to you and go, “Why do you want to be a manager? All this stress, extra work, babysitting, more hours and all of that?”
They were not excited about you being one. I’ve never shared that I think we need managers, we need good ones, we need more of them, but I don’t believe any longer that that is the ultimate thing that people look for. Part of the reason for that is there are so many, what you would call just professional positions, particularly in the IT, technology area where you could be the only one in a company who does what you do. You don’t need to be managed or manage yourself.
What happens is is that you have a niche area, and we’re seeing more and more of that I think. I think this luster of one day I would like to be a manager and that’s my goal, simply isn’t contemporary anymore.
Brett Cowell: Do we need to get the people working better together or do we need to just get more robots in? That’s what I tend to …
Karl Krayer: There isn’t any doubt. You look at traditional manufacturing places, and I do enjoy going to see how things are made. I’ve been to Georgia Pacific where they make paper, and Budweiser in St. Louis to see the beer, and all this, but it is interesting to stand on those floors, close your eyes, and realize that what you’re seeing machines do, used to be done by people.
You see, obviously, when you compare ultra modern plants to ones that are less modern, you see more people doing work that’s now become automated. We’ve done some books like Rise of the Robots that paint the story that the robots are not only going to do the work, but actually think the work for us. I don’t know what we’re going to do to stop that. I don’t know that anybody wants to stop … We are about to have driverless cars. You don’t even need a person driving the car.
We’re into that already. As long as, I guess, we can remain smarter than the technology, I guess we’re going to be okay, but that may not last forever. Still, it’s kind of exciting to watch a person beat a computer at a chess game, but they don’t win them all.
Brett Cowell: Let’s talk about individuals then. We’ve talked about organizations and teams. Now let’s get down to the individual level. Do you think change is, given everything that’s going on in society, there’s something about managing yourself, which that concept’s been around for a long time, but I think taking that to its logical conclusion if you’re a sole operator with a specific skill set, working across a number of organizations.
That’s quite different than the way it used to be. There might be stressful in certain circumstances. I certainly believe that being able to manage change at a personal level is a critical life skill now, not just something you need at the office.
Karl Krayer: Oh yeah, in fact that’s absolutely true. One of my consulting friends, George Ritcheske and I, we did a program at Texas Instruments, and some other places called Manage Your Own Development. Basically what that said was is nobody is going to take the responsibility to develop you. If you want to build a skill set, and you want to have different capabilities, and be able to write a resume in a different way, then that’s on your shoulders and no one else.
If you’re waiting for someone else to do it for you, you are going to be waiting because that’s not other people’s priority, but particularly millennials. You see they’re very interested in career development, and career pathing, and skills that what they want to do is, they want to do a good job in the job they’re doing, but they also want to be practicing skills that will allow them to get them ready for their next job as well.
Their eye is constantly on being able to do something else. It’s people who, for example, challenge themselves. I don’t care what it is, an Excel spreadsheet, or a PowerPoint presentation, or whatever that may be. Are you just doing it the way you’ve always done it, or are you finding new ways to do it where you yourself are learning? That’s really all you’ve got.
Years ago, Peter Senge, said in the fifth discipline, “Your only job security is your ability to learn,” and if you aren’t taking the responsibility to learn, you’re going to be left behind. I don’t care where you are. If you’re waiting on somebody else to do it for you, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
Brett Cowell: Coming to the point about knowledge and the future of knowledge. I’m just fascinated about deep specialization and novelty, a PhD approach, and curation rather than creation. You find the best of what’s out there and you recombine it in a different way.
Karl Krayer: Well, I do think that gets down to perhaps even simpler terms than you’ve used. That’s science and art. For example, I teach presentations. I teach speech. I help people. I coach them in their presentations. We can argue all day, is speech making an art or is it a science? To the extent that you value creativity, and differences, and rules, and certainty are not nearly as important to you as are differences and doing things in ways that are unpredictable, then art is more important to you than science.
On the other hand, if you believe that there are principles that are largely governed by laws, for example, I think there’s laws that govern audience attention. There are principles that say if you do this or you do that, you’re going to have a greater percentage of people paying attention to you in an audience. I don’t think that’s art, I think that’s science.
Back to your question though, I think anything can be, perhaps, divided into that way. Is it art or is it science? [Jeff] Goin’s book, the book by Twyla Tharpe, that my partner Randy Mayeux likes so much. I remember one years ago called The Artist’s Way. It was by an author named [Julia] Cameron. I really never thought creativity was trainable. I thought it was innate. I thought you either had it or you didn’t have it. Well, turns out you can be more creative and you can, in fact, learn how to do it.
It’s that way that you approach things, is it, in fact, a science? Is it law rule governed, or is it okay to think of it as a creative something that we’re shaping? I think you can do just about anything both ways. I could, for example, craft a new job for an organization, and in making the job description, I could fill it with things that are ambiguous and vague, and leave it up to the person to do this or that, or I could realize that there are long-standing principles by which somebody who does these things is successful.
If that’s the case, I’m using science to do that as well. What I do think is interesting is you think perhaps because of discipline, we have is management science. That’s an actual discipline. To think that we are looking at business books with art, and creativity in them, and one was even called Delivering Happiness. That was by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, the shoe company. He believes happiness is trainable. This idea of science and art, to me, is how you would look at that. Kind of funny.
Brett Cowell: Both co-existing still. I don’t think we’ve reached a stage, you know, thinking about Thinking Fast and Slow, is a book. A very meticulous, detailed book, and then quite a number of other books that I kind of struggle with a little bit that kind of cherry pick “okay here’s a summary of that theory” in plain speak. I don’t think anyone thinks that Thinking Fast and Slow is a nice light book that you want to go and read on the beach. Maybe some people do, but there’s an immense value and an investment gone into to produce that and zvalue out of it.
I don’t know. I sometimes struggle with some books, business books, coming out that are very popular that are just restating principles.
Karl Krayer: Well, look what you’re doing right now. I mean think about this for a second. I know you’ve done a number of interviews, so you really don’t have to do what I’m about to say, but do you believe what you’re doing right now, this interview, is it an art? Is it creativity? Is it doing things in ways that are so much unstructured, maybe haven’t been done before, but they’re different, and you’re doing things as they come to you, and as you’re sparked to do it, or before we sat down, did you review a book and look at the 20 Principles of Effective Interviewing, and those are principles, and you’re using them? I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s the same thing.
Brett Cowell: Part of, I think, the appeal of podcasting is about storytelling, and really what hasn’t changed even though we’re now in a podcast as opposed to in written form, or a piece of art is we’re still trying to communicate a message, and as humans, in groups that we want to tell stories to each other and we want to learn. As adult learners, I think if you wanted to take that, I think we learn from experience and stories about experience. That’s really where that changes us.
I could read a book about something, but if I hear something on the radio, or now in a podcast especially, I’ve already had feedback from the listeners that have picked up individual snippets of this, and they’re going to do something about it, even though they’ve heard about it a number of times, this medium we’re sharing at the moment is amazingly powerful one, and I think to engage with a broad audience and enrich their lives in a way. That’s why I’m doing it.
Karl Krayer: There’s nothing more powerful than a story, and that’s why in doing speech coaching, and in fact when I teach public speaking, I want everyone to include stories because they are memorable, and they’re editable, and they are conversational, and so forth. You may long forget who said it, why they said it, where they said it, and so forth, but you remember the story. That goes all the way back to elementary school perhaps.
Then you look at … Just go to Amazon.com and type in stories in business, and there are a couple of dozens books about story telling as a management tool, as a competitive tool, as a business advantage, and so forth. What came out of Kindergarten is now a very heavily relied upon business tool. Frankly, as I said a minute ago, that’s where [Jack] Welch drew a lot of his power, so other people have figured out how to do that as well.
If you get out of business realm for just a moment, I think the first President that ever did this was Ronald Reagan. In the State of the Union Address he would plant people in the balcony, and he would isolate them, and tell a story about them. A POW for example, who had lived through it and came back to America.
An astronaut, a minority who might have done something. Every President is doing that in every State of the Union Address. We don’t remember what the President said, but I bet we remember those stories. They’re memorable.
Brett Cowell: There’s something about what stories we listen to now with on-demand media rather than picking up a broad sheet newspaper and reading it cover to cover, or watching broadcast network TV all night on one channel, and everyone getting those same messages. There’s a dynamic now about selecting the messages that we want to hear. Some of them, many of them reinforcing what we already know or want to believe as opposed to being challenged with different views. I wonder how that’ll play out? Your view on that in terms of communication now. Are we getting fair, and balanced, and wide-ranged in communication or are we getting increasingly siloed really?
Karl Krayer: I do think that what we’re doing is we’re getting more biased, and what I mean by that is that if you’re going to use stories as support material, then what you do is, you obviously pick out those stories that are going to support your point. Before I came down here today, I was talking about a conference that I’m going to host and facilitate on domestic violence. The question is are we winning the war against domestic violence?
I made sure to these people that they understood that we can talk about success stories, and feel good about it all day, but we also probably have some stories where we have not succeeded, where there are still problems and so forth. Yet I do think most people, I don’t care where you are, in business, or personally, or whatever.
We tend, of course, to select those stories that, obviously, support what we want it to support, so we aren’t exactly balanced or informative in what we do. Stories are actually, to me, a more persuasive tool. I think they can be very effective. I don’t mean to diminish it at all.
I will tell you one place where I think they have failed, quickly. That is think back about all the times that you, and I attended these, and they’re still being run today, where someone who’s had a tough life goes into a high school auditorium in front of students and talks about don’t ruin your life like I did, because I got on drugs, or I did this, or I did that. Don’t do it and so forth.
Well, that person’s very brave for sharing that story, but you know the people he’s talking to have not yet experienced that. People wonder why in the light of that story was it ineffective, and if people just do what they want to do? You can say, “Don’t do it. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” It’s great to say to people, but not all stories are going to be effective. Like any other type of support though, it’s not unique.
Brett Cowell: I also wonder whether there’s going to be a story fatigue because like things are cyclical in business, and at the moment, clearly there’s new technology platforms, digital etc. Also storytelling has come back on these new platforms to say well how do I tell that story on Twitter, or one of the other, on Instagram or whatever. I also wonder whether we’re going to get fatigued by that. I already am in some ways.
There’s a lot of storytelling, which I’m allergic to with big companies and picking out somebody’s story. You’re like that actually doesn’t represent what you do as an organization, and the storytelling has kind of been tacked on in a very manipulative way to try and achieve an objective.
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We started with change is the only constant. I think there was this Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, if I’m saying his name properly, who said that, I think the original quote was something like, let me see if I can find it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” He also said, “Character is fate,” which is something that I believe is true, and I also want to believe that “Good character leads to a Good fate”, just to extend that as well.
This kind of character-based message is an old one going back probably to biblical times and ancient history, but you know, is that one that is still relevant today, or one that needs to be updated for the digital age?
Karl Krayer: I don’t think we’ll ever wear out the need for credibility. Part of that, of course, is competence. Part of that is trustworthiness. Are you a safe kind of person? The other part of that is dynamism. How exciting are you? Those three things put together would allow someone to make a judgment about is someone a credible, believable source? Meaning that I believe what they say based on simply who or what they are.
I don’t know why that would not lead to great character building. It would seem like to me that’s a strong correlation. The stronger your credibility, the greater you are as a character. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as somebody who knows what they’re talking about, is safe to be around, and also is interesting and fun. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to be called that.
I do admit to you that there’s likely a lot of other elements to character building than simply that, but I can’t think of a stronger component. If you have good credibility, you likely have good character. That’s where I think you ought to put the focus, yeah.
Brett Cowell: Can a book change your life, and if so, which books have touched you, and influenced you the most?
Karl Krayer: Well, of course I’ll never forget … Randy and I talk a little bit about self-help books occasionally. I’ll never forget reading the first line of Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. The first line was, “Life is difficult.” I know a lot of people probably closed the book and said, “No kidding.” I went ahead and read the rest of it to figure out what you do if it’s a difficult life.
I’ll never forget that as at least an opening line that’s made a difference. I’m not a huge self-help type of person, but occasionally you’ll see one that you like. I would tell you, probably the greatest book that made a difference for me on a personal level, because it’s also bled into what I do in business, was a book by a televangelist named Joyce Meyer. She wrote a book called Do Yourself a Favor, Forgive.
I want you to listen to that title for just a second. You do yourself a favor. You’re not doing it for the person who you blame or who blames you. You’re not doing it for your mother or father. You’re not doing it for God. You’re doing it for you. Do Yourself a Favor and Forgive. I’ll never forget, talking about stories, the book is filled with them.
This idea of carrying around a bag of rocks because you’re angry at somebody who’s no longer even acknowledging your existence is a terrible thing to do, and how light it can be when you finally give it up and say, “I forgive you,” and stop thinking about a person who has long moved on.
When I think about that book, and again it is a spiritual book, but good heavens it had a lot of impact for me in business and with people and dealings of things. What I found is I’m able to, when I do it, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be doing and not on things that I have absolutely no control over. That was another one.
Then probably, I guess I’ll never forget the impact of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I know people are tired of it, and it’s now been around for more than 25 years, but I read it, and I facilitated it, and I went to the Covey workshops, and I found the principles to be very, very solid. So many of them made an impact on my life, particularly the one that said, “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” Really makes a difference.
There’s too many people in the world who have that backwards, and I’ve done my best. I may not be perfect at it, in fact I’m not very perfect at it, but I’ve really used a number of those principles. Those are some that made a difference to me.
Brett Cowell: On that topic of forgiveness, and I don’t want to make a connection where there isn’t one, but you had talked about domestic violence conference that you’re hosting here. You know, what’s the role of forgiveness in life? You know people are recovering from terrible traumas, and just dealing with this life that is difficult, what’s the role of forgiveness with those?
Karl Krayer: Well, I think it’s extremely powerful. I don’t know what good it does any victim to continue to be angry, and blame someone who has beaten them, raped them, hurt them and so forth. They understand all of that and it happened to them, but that person has moved on in perhaps many, many different sort of ways, and in most cases, my guess would be that person isn’t thinking about the victim at all.
What good is it for the victim to be thinking about the abuser? What good is it doing to hang onto … I just think of a sack of rocks over your back. Maybe your time is much better spent helping other people, looking at different directions, and those sorts of things, than thinking about how angry you are at the person who violated you.
In the book by Joyce Meyer, she talks about a man who was at home with his sister, and when they were teenagers, two people invaded their home and killed their parents. One of the lightest things this guy ever did in his life was go find the person in jail, and tell him, “I forgive you.” He said it was an instant flush of just anger and completely getting out of his system, all of these things that holding on with anger is not going to bring his parents back.
It was a great story I hold on to. I don’t know what the arena is. Why it would be helpful to hold on to anger when there’s not a thing that’s going to do for you. I think your time is, and your energy, and your emotions are better spent in other places.
Brett Cowell: Let’s talk about Dallas for a while. Did you grow up here?
Karl Krayer: Yeah I did. Actually I moved here when I was four weeks old, and the only time I’ve been gone from here is to go to school. I was in Houston for two years. That’s a Master’s degree. Two years in Oklahoma for a Doctorate, and then I taught in Alabama for two years. Of my years, really only six to seven years have been away from here.
Brett Cowell: I always ask my guests how to explain Dallas because I think there’s people listening here in about 17 or so different countries around the world so far. How do you explain what this city is, and what it’s about?
Karl Krayer: It’s, to me, a very vibrant city. I think it’s terrific to live in a place like this because there are so many opportunities for you to do so many different things. Those are cultural. We have a lot of … I enjoy going to musicals and plays. I even went to the symphony a few months ago, which was a little different for me. Museums, and then of course we have all kinds of sports venues.
Different kinds of restaurants. It’s a melting pot of places to eat. Then, obviously, a lot of history is here, including not far from where we’re sitting, November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot here on the streets of Dallas. What this, to me, is is a place of great opportunity to see so many different things that are put together.
I know a lot of cities have these same things, but I think we may do it in a different kind of way. What I don’t understand, though, is and I remember being around a sales person a number of years ago. He was here in Dallas for a sales conference for our company. He was telling me, he said, “I can’t wait to get back here. I ought to bring my family here,” and all this. I was listening to that. I was glad he was excited, but why?
There’s no lakes here. We don’t have mountains here. This is a city, and if your vacation is to get into the city, then we’ve got it, but this is not exactly a place to get away, and I don’t know what his ambitions were. To me, if you’re looking for a city, this is what does it. Then of course, there’s just enough of the western culture. Not quite as much as you see in Ft. Worth, but you still see enough boots and your accents, and those sorts of things to know you’re in Texas.
Brett Cowell: What about current projects that you’d like the listeners to hear about? Things you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to talk about?
Karl Krayer: Yeah sure. Right now, of course, in a non-profit perspective, I am going to host a second domestic violence conference. That is in October. It’s October 20, 2017. My company, Creative Communication Network, is the host and sponsor of that, and I’m very excited about it. Obviously it will be on the website and other places. It will be initially on our own blog, which is 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com is the name of that blog, and it’ll have some things on it soon.
Then also I am working on some things to further the work of partnering. You mentioned earlier virtual teams. You see, obviously, more and more virtual encounters today because we’re having more meetings that are held on video conferencing, teleconferencing, Skype, WebEx, all those sorts of things.
It is a challenge to have a team, not a group, it’s a challenge when you have a team in that kind of environment. I’m not the only one that’s written or studied about it, but I would say I think a lot of people have given up because you have challenges like time zones, language barriers, platform barriers. Some people are still on dial up with the blue bar.
You have a group, sure, but how do you really take those people in an environment where everybody’s not face-to-face and succeed on a virtual basis? That’s something I really want to continue to develop, maybe even do some workshops in that area. Then lastly, I’m very big on influencing. I believe in influencing, not just from a product perspective, where you’re selling a product or service, but I also believe that is a management tool.
I call myself The Influencer. I want to show people how to take a culture from telling people what to do into selling them on what to do under the premise that when you’re sold, you’re going to be a lot happier, more motivated, higher quality everything, than when you’re told what to do. What hit me was about 15 years ago, I’ve been a sales trainer for a long time, and I don’t know what epiphany hit me, what hit me at 2 AM one day, but I woke up and it hit me, “we all sell something”.
We don’t have to have a product or a service. We all sell ideas, and directions, and so I’ve made that into a management tool. I call myself The Influencer, and those are some coaching opportunities and workshops that I’m doing right now.
Brett Cowell: Great, and we’re going to come to some closing comments in a second, but look you’ve mentioned domestic violence a number of times, and I don’t want to skirt… I want to find out more about this, why this is such a personal cause for you?
Karl Krayer: Well actually, I had no idea I was getting involved with it. What happened was is that I was meeting with a person who I was helping to speak. I was actually coaching her. Her name is Carmen Coreas, so we were talking one day and she said one of the areas that she wanted to really focus on was to help victims in domestic violence and sexual abuse.
I said, “Well, that’s great,” and so forth. She said, “Maybe you’d like to do that as a project also.” I was like, “Well, I’ve got so many projects, I don’t know,” but in my usual flare, I just took off and I probably read about 300 articles on it, and I realized that there are a lot of people who simply need help.
It’s not that they necessarily need a shelter or a place to go or whatever, but they need to understand that there’s hope in their lives. They need to understand that there are people that have compassion for them. They don’t want people to feel sorry for them. That’s not what these victims want. What they want is to be able to lift the fog and find a new way that they can operate in their lives, whether that means going to a church and getting active, or going to get a degree, or working in some way with your own finances because you’ve never done it.
It’s getting out of the way that they typically have been in that cycle. Obviously not falling for the next man or woman because they happen to be cute and lonely. We’ve already been through that. We know how to do that. I think what I found was it was an opportunity to see that there were people that needed help, but they needed it in a different way.
Very quickly, the conference we did last year talked about interventions, so I brought speakers in who spoke about it from a human resource perspective, what are companies doing, what are communities doing, what are educators doing? I had a sheriff from the City of Garland who came in and talked about what the legal system was doing about it, and then we had a victim presentation as well.
That was the exciting thing to me is being able to find ways to help people in a different way. I was never abused, domestically, I hope that I never am, but if I can find ways to get resources to some of these people, it’s very exciting to me, absolutely.
Brett Cowell: It seems that what you’re doing with this is an extension of your professional skills and what you do, and applying some of those talents to make progress against a cause.
Karl Krayer: That is true, and I think it’s a number of ways. One, of course, is to talk with someone like Carmen, who wants to speak, and wants to write, and to be a representative that way. I’m very glad that she is affiliated with my organization. Also, the idea that you can provide a lot of life skills to people that never thought they could do them. Manage their own money, make their own decisions, stand up in front of people and talk, even share their story with other people.
They themselves become volunteers. It’s interesting, it does go back to partnering because we’re all in this together. If there’s something I can say to you that’s going to help you be better at something that I may not be good at, or I might be good at, let me talk about that with you. In a way, all the world can be a partnering stage for that. I do think that’s an accurate observation. I think that helping people to speak, and write, and think differently about their situation.
It does not mean at all that they are in denial. It’s not that it didn’t happen. It’s just that it happened and now I’m moving on. I guess some people say, “I’ll forgive, but I may never forget. I will forgive.”
Brett Cowell: I think it’s pulling together some of the things we’ve talked about, about story telling, and the ability of stories from people’s experience to help others. I think there’s still miles to go in that, even in our digital age, and maybe even particularly in it, that we’re deluged with so many messages and we could live in a city such as Dallas, with so much prosperity, and then not realize that there’s terrible social, the homeless and poverty, and domestic violence, and we heard about human trafficking last week on the show.
You can easily just tune out of those messages and not … or even believe that you can’t do anything about it.
Karl Krayer: Well one of the big drivers for that, of course, is to realize that when any victim realizes they don’t have to be stuck, they can be if they want to, but it’s actually their choice to do something about their situation. Maybe it’s just baby steps, but no one could really say that I am a victim, and this is what I am without also saying that there’s also a way out. There’s a different way to think.
It may take me a while. It may be difficult, but there is another way to do. One of the presentations that Carmen gives is called It Ends With You. It Ends With You. This doesn’t end with anybody else. You’re the one who makes the decision to do this, do this, do this and that. That’s a very powerful thing.
By the same token, by the way, I do teach occasionally community college courses. I actually have a very soft spot for working mothers who are working all day, go home, cook, take care of kids, then come back to school. They’re trying to do something with their lives, and it’s funny they found a way to be the best students sometimes. They really do. I’m excited about people who decide to take control of their situations, and let’s do something about it.
Brett Cowell: That’s a nice segue to my final question about kind of life advice. You’ve kind of dedicated a long period of your professional career and academic career to helping people and studying people from every different angle, and helping people to be more productive, and to communicate better, and things like that. What has that taught you about life, and what sort of life lessons do you want to pass on to the listeners?
Karl Krayer: Well, I think that particularly being around international business people and international students has really made a great impact on me because what I found was is that you simply don’t stop at tolerating differences, but you actually embrace them. It’s when people decide that I’m not just only going to give people a chance who are different than I am, who look different that I am, do things differently, have different customs, and speak in different ways.
I’m not just going to tolerate it, I’m going to actually embrace it and do something with it. I think that makes a humongous difference. I’ve been very fortunate. Since 1976, when I was in Houston, I did my first work with my executives from Exxon who were not native American speakers. We worked on accents, and I’ve worked with people who sound like you, who wanted to either get rid of, or enhance their accent.
You can do it both ways. I’ve been with people from all over the world at the University of Dallas as they worked on their MBA programs. I’ve taught ESL classes and so forth, and I think I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had a life fascination with differences and diversity. I really do enjoy learning about customs and so forth, but just a word of advice for all the listeners.
If you are your general American type person, and you’re speaking to someone of international origin, you do not need to speak louder. That’s what most people do. They see someone who’s from a different culture, different nationality, or ethnicity, and they decide they need to speak louder. These people have no hearing drum problems.
Brett Cowell: What’s quite funny, a story on that. I was watching … I’m originally from this place called the Isle of Man, which is a small island off the coast of … It’s between England and Ireland. There’s a famous motorcycle race there that happens every year [The Isle of Man TT], and the New York Times interviewed a character from there [in a video segment for the website]. You know they do when the race is on. It gets a lot of publicity.
This is someone from where I was from originally before I moved to Australia, and there were subtitles on it, this person is speaking English and they do it for Scottish people as well. We’re not too far from there, but I just thought that was hilarious that we needed those subtitles just in case people might be confused.
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There’s kind of a trend. You know people are working longer and harder, and there’s a trend toward integration between work and life. Whether you’re just a Generation X’er like me, or someone around my age or older where your work and life are being slammed together. It’s only particularly before I left the corporate world that you know you’re constantly running around with your hair on fire.
Or if you’re a millennial where you see work and life are different expressions of yourself if I wanted to paraphrase it that way. People having those honest conversations, now we’re getting towards the state of authenticity where people can say, “Yeah, I’m really interested in that team building concept that you’ve got, but I’m dying from overwork at the moment. Can we just have a proper discussion about how to work together?”
Karl Krayer: There’s no question about what really, I think, technology has done more than anything else is make us more available than we have ever been before. Frankly, work can always find you, and you can always find work. Obviously, as we’ve moved into smart phones, and tablets, and all these things, you really can’t even go on vacation. They’re going to find you, and you’re going to find them, and frankly some people have forgotten how to relax.
Even sitting here, I’m wondering how many Facebook posts have I missed? Have I missed texts? Have I missed voicemails? It hasn’t affected this interview. I mean I put them away, but frankly I do wonder about that, and I do it all the time. I’m sure I’m not unique at that.
I do think that is the case. I think that whether we plan to do it or not, we’re spending more hours working because work is just more available to us, and it penetrates our lives in so many ways that we’re not even off anymore. Of course some people, they thrive in that. That’s a wonderful thing to keep them going. Others think it’s a sad state of affairs.
Brett Cowell: I think it’s very interesting also about what we’re doing right now with the podcast, and certainly the experience of recording that is having a conversation in a room where there aren’t those distractions around. The listeners are going to be in their car or in the shower, and where ever else you listen to a podcast, maybe multitasking. This is certainly some time where it’s a time to be present.
Certainly from my perspective, interviewing, I guess, is one of the few times where people really listen to you, and you have a chance to express yourself without interruption. Any final words for the listeners?
Karl Krayer: No, I just wanted, hey I hope that many people do go on your site if you’re listening to this on your site, Brett, I hope that people will explore the other links that are on it. You’ve obviously had some good guests. There’s a multitude of topics out there that you can learn from, and it’s my great hope that this becomes a tool that people can, in fact, not just learn from, but expose themselves to new ideas and new tracks, and so forth.
And. if you are listening to this, don’t make this the last one you’re listening to. It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for having me here.
Brett Cowell: You’re welcome. Thanks so much Karl.
Karl Krayer: You bet.
On the podcast, I share contemporary thoughts about organizational change, leadership, teamwork, and non-profit causes, such as domestic violence. We covered quite a few topics in a very short amount of time! I hope you find it inspiring and interesting.
You can hear the podcast at this link: https://soundcloud.com/totallifecomplete/ep5-dr-karl-krayer
You will be able to access additional items about the podcast in the very near future from this blog.
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