David speaks with Dave Kline, an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and coach who trains leaders on the playbook for leading high-performance teams. He is the founder and developer of the MGMT Accelerator, a cohort-based program that helps executives improve by developing established management playbooks and systems. He also owns SkillScouter, a leading source of online courses, learning techniques, and career guidance.

They talked about:

📉 Lessons learned from failed ventures

🤝 Managing vs Leading

🌐 The reality of theoretical and practical leadership

💡 Empowering teams through unique values

📌 The number one management lesson

🔄 The power of delegation

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📄 Show notes:

[00:00] Introduction

[01:13] The lessons of early childhood experiences in entrepreneurship

[03:17] Parental influence on entrepreneurship

[06:30] Leadership expectations in different fields

[07:46] The difference between managing and leading

[09:57] Leadership Theory vs. Leadership Practice

[13:37] How businesses end up building a culture of leadership

[15:53] The idea of moving from intuition to intention

[18:06] The role of leadership in shaping values

[23:25] The importance of co-creating team values

[25:12] Learning from good and bad leaders

[26:45] The most important thing a manager could do

[29:59] Knowing when to lead and when to delegate

[31:52] The importance of knowing your strengths

[34:54] Delegation techniques for leaders

🗣 Mentioned in the show:

Kodak | https://www.kodak.com/en/

Xerox | https://www.xerox.com/en-us

Mayer Brown | https://www.mayerbrown.com/en

Bridgewater Associates | http://www.bridgewater.com/

Brian Armstrong | https://www.brianarmstrong.org/

Moody's | https://www.moodys.com/

Netflix | https://www.netflix.com/

Ray Dalio | https://www.bridgewater.com/people/ray-dalio

Greenfield Team | https://www.greenfieldteam.net/

MBTI | https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

WPI | https://www.ixly.com/tests-work-related-personality-inventory

Goldman Sachs | https://www.goldmansachs.com/

Google Company | https://about.google/

MIMO | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIMO

Zappos | http://www.zappos.com/

Full episode transcript below

👤Connect with Dave:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dklineii

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkline/


SkillScouter | https://skillscouter.com/about/

MGMT Accelerator | https://maven.com/dave-kline/mgmt-accelerator

👨🏾‍💻 About David Elikwu:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.

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📜Full transcript:



David Kline: I think one of the reasons that goes into that is for a lot of the current leaders, they didn't get training. They just go in there like, they make a few mistakes. We'll bail them out. They'll figure it out. And I called that like leadership training through hazing.

We tried to discourage everybody to stop hazing at this point and so just because, that's how it happened to you doesn't mean that's the best we can do for the people who you're now leading.

David Elikwu: This week, I'm speaking with Dave Kline. This was an awesome episode. We unpacked a world class leadership playbook.

We talked all about some of the big mistakes that both new and experienced leaders make. We talked about how to delegate effectively, how to empower teams and a lot of frameworks and mental models for making effective decisions in a replicable way.

This was a really dense and action packed episode I know you're gonna love it. You can get the full transcripts and show notes at theknowledge.io. And while you're there, you should subscribe to my newsletter.

If you [00:01:00] love this episode, please do share it with a friend. And don't forget to leave a review because every single one helps us tremendously to reach other people. Just like you.

The lessons of early childhood experiences in entrepreneurship

David Elikwu: So maybe one of the first questions I would ask is in your early childhood experiences, what you might describe as like an inciting incident? What is one of the first memories that you have that kind of set the trail for the path that you've gone on?

David Kline: I think, my parents were exceedingly different. Growing up outside of Rochester, New York, someone always worked either Kodak or Xerox. Those were sort of the two employers. So my mom worked at, worked at Kodak and my dad was like a serial and mostly failed entrepreneur and so he would also late from, he was also a trained nurse. He was the first college graduate, from his family. So he would oscillate between working nursing jobs and then trying a business and failing, and then going back to nursing jobs.

at one point the one that stuck, like the one that took off was when he put the two together, like basically he started a home healthcare [00:02:00] business, kind of when I was in high school and it was bringing nursing into homes and something he could sort of bootstrap, right. He could sort of pitch in and early on, like he was the one going to the homes and providing the care when nurses called in sick, et cetera. And then it got to a sufficient enough scale that he'd finally had a entrepreneur ship venture that took off.

And so I think that's probably, as I reflect on it a lot of what's going into what I'm doing today, right. Like my wife and I bought, we bought a business that had some cashflow and gave us a foundation.

And part of that was in reaction to seeing all the failed attempts he had taken you know where I saw the impact it had in our family. One of the commitments my wife and I made to each other is like, we didn't want money to become a source of anxiety, so I've worked at great places and we've been pretty vigilant savers. And part of the reason for buying the business was to have cash flow and give us a runway.

But then as we now growing and we're building out courses in our own content and that type of thing, it's sort of hearkening back more to him bootstrapping, it's a lot on us, [00:03:00] if we want to host a free workshop, we host a free workshop, we want to run two cohorts in parallel, we can do that. It's mostly like our sweat equity going into the business right now.

And so it's sort of marrying a little bit of what I've learned by mimicking him and a little bit of what I learned by not wanting to mimic him. That's probably showing up today.

Parental influence on entrepreneurship

David Elikwu: I'd love to maybe dig a bit deeper on that and get a better idea of how some of watching that impacted you, because I think. With a lot of people that maybe have entrepreneurs as parents, it can go one of two ways in terms of how it shapes both your approach to money, your approach to stability, your approach to even on a underlying level, what you go and end up seeking out.

So for example, there are some people that if you had maybe like that rocky background where money wasn't always flowing in constantly, you might strive for a job that provides a whole lot of consistency and you want the most stable job possible that you could stay in forever.

And you know you're going to get paid on time and you might not actually be interested in going into entrepreneurship yourself.

So I'm interested to know maybe a bit more about [00:04:00] how you feel like that impacted you and shaped your psyche.

David Kline: Yeah, I mean, we probably do a whole podcast on that. The few that come to mind as kind of a starting point would be the money when you talked about, like, it was a real source of tension. Like my parents ended up divorcing when I was 12. My childhood memories hearkening back to that was that every fight was about money.

I would say my mom had a very scarcity mindset about it and yet she was the type of person who bought 25 cheap things that had to constantly kept wearing out and being replaced. And then my dad had an abundant mindset about it, even though we didn't have any money. And he's the, you know the one who would buy the $400 shoes that would last forever, even though we had no business buying $400 shoes. And so you had this like very divergent points of view and tensions.

And I'd say for me, it's been an interesting evolution. The thing that you said that resonated right away with me is, when I went to a good school, managed to get in and come at, first thing I did when I came out and got a reasonably good job, I was coming out right before the .com boom. So if you could turn a computer on, you could be a management consultant. First thing I do with pay off all my debt, you know, even though, [00:05:00] probably in hindsight that wasn't the greatest call, like taking that same money and putting it into the stock market. Two years later, after everything crashed down would have been a much better return than paying off 2% loans. but I just didn't want the debt. I did my credit card debt. I didn't want the loan debt. I just didn't want even any of it hanging over me cause I saw sort of how that had impacted my family and I was carrying around so with that scarcity mindset.

And then, my wife and I talk about this a lot. Like I that's something both of us, another source of the upbringing thing that kind of I think put real weight was this idea. Because my parents split up, I became the man of the house very young and I have real pride in like being self-reliant. I put value into like being able to figure things out, fix things myself, just do whatever I need to do. And at some point that becomes, a drag. It becomes a drag on like what you're able to accomplish. Like, I'm still, trivial examples. Like I was still mowing my own yard when it would have been intellectually and logically a much better investment of my time to spend that hour doing something productive and spending 25 or [00:06:00] 40 or $50 to have someone else mow the yard. You know I took that same sort of thing and here we are 20 years later still making calls like that at times.

And so that's the, if you asked me it was kind of connected the first, the second, like something I'm worried about in this concept of bootstrapping is like, am I drifting back into that idea of doing everything myself? even though ironically I'm teaching people about how to lead big teams and delegate. But I might have kind of drifting back into some of those early mindsets versus being really thoughtful about where I get leveraged, where I get help, et cetera. It's not my pride creeping back in.

Leadership expectations in different fields

David Elikwu: And just touching on what you were mentioning about, the fact that you do talk a lot about management and leading teams. One question I was really interested to ask particularly because you have this side of your background, which is very corporate. And I also used to work in corporate law as an example. I'm really interested in what were your early experience.

David Kline: The most corporate of the corporate, my friend.

David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. So and it was a big law firm as well. I'm not sure if you've heard of Mayer Brown, so that's where I worked for about half a decade or so.

David Kline: Oh, nice.

David Elikwu: Fun time. So it was a, it was [00:07:00] a really good experience in terms of learning.

One thing that I discovered is that I don't think people learn to lead necessarily in law, and I'm not sure how different it is in some other fields. I think there are some fields in some industries where leadership is very, very much prioritized and is put on this pedestal.

And you know your journey of scaling up within the business is about becoming a great leader. But I don't think that's the same everywhere. I think in some fields and even now being in tech, I think to some extent it can be very similar where your cache as a leader can very often just come from subject matter expertise and not necessarily your ability to lead people.

So I'm interested to know maybe from your, like the management consulting background, how you found that approach to leadership being shaped by maybe examples that you saw.

The difference between managing and leading

David Kline: I would probably first separate managing from leading. Like I think in, especially in large corporate organizations, you'll see a lot of management, but not necessarily a lot of leadership, right. That a lot of what cascades down is the ability to sort of command and [00:08:00] control to kind of keep authority in place, to keep checks on people, et cetera. And you'll see that and you'll see that done to varying degrees of success. I don't think there historically has been as many organizations then saying, no, no, no what I really need from you is true leadership. Like, I need you to inspire and motivate people, I need you to clear obstacles out of the way so they can do more than they imagined that you are going to connect with them on personal levels and motivate them on professional levels. That you're all the types of things that when we look at, leaders where we all have kind of carry a shorthand, whether those are military leaders or political leaders or entrepreneurial icons, et cetera, we looked at all of them and we see what they're doing. And we don't, many people don't do that inside of these organizations and many people aren't even asked to do that.

I've started there just at least separate and let's have a language around management versus leadership.

And then, in terms of the most shaping moments that I have and I think there's probably for a lot of people, you sort of get shaped by both sides of the equation. Like sometimes you get shaped by being lucky enough to have a [00:09:00] mentor or a leader or a manager who is truly inspiring and engaging in the way we're describing or at least some aspect of how they approach people or how they lead teams you can sort of learn from and put it into your backpack and be able to pull that out of somewhere down the road.

I would say equally, if not more, because of the first thing we said, the there between management and leadership, you're learning how not to lead, right. You're learning when you encounter someone who's a bully or someone who's toxic or someone who's using intimidation or someone who's trumping your logic with their authority and hierarchy, you sort of are almost putting away all these lessons as the inverse of like, okay, I want to remember, I don't want to do that.

In the same way, I don't know if you have kids, we have a couple to almost tweens, and it's sort of the same thing. It's like, what are the lessons I want to take from my parents and pass along? You know, because they gave me a gift and I want to make sure we preserve that. And then what are the things that I want to make sure we don't replicate. That weren't necessarily gifts and I certainly don't want to accidentally pass those along. And so I think you end up learning from both sides.

Leadership Theory vs. Leadership Practice

David Elikwu: Why do you think there's such a big distinction [00:10:00] in day-to-day life? Because in my mind, just even thinking about what you were saying, it feels like leadership, it sounds a lot like economics. In the way that the theory of economics and day-to-day people's lives are completely different things, right? What people theorize about what economics should look like and this perfect model of, oh, this is exactly how you do it and what people experience is not the same thing.

And very much similarly with leadership, I genuinely feel like a lot of what you read in leadership books or what you hear people say about leadership and how it should be, and maybe it sounds great, but for some reason, when it translate into actual businesses that people experience in their day-to-day lives, most people's managers are not like that. They're not being taught to lead or learning to lead, and you don't necessarily get that experience of leadership.

So what do you think is the missing link there that doesn't seem to translate from theory to practice?

David Kline: I have a lot of theories on the gap here. In no particular order.

So one of them would be, we don't train people. Like we don't actually like one of the things I was shocked and creating this course. And [00:11:00] again, the quick backstory is like, it's sort of has serendipitously showed up. Like I didn't leave Bridgewater and say, I'm going to go start training leaders and managers of companies we've all heard of. It sort of, we bought a business, we got cashflow and serendipity intervened a bit.

As I started to test that idea out all of a sudden, the first signal to me was my Twitter account going from 40 people to 4,000 people to now approaching 50,000 people in like six months. And all I'm talking about is like leading with empathy, leading with intention, connecting to people, et cetera. Just that, that response to me was like a, a pretty strong signal. And then as I talked to people and sort of structure the first course, I wanted to test and so I've sort of offered like, Hey, spend a half an hour with me, we'll workshop one of your problems. And about a dozen people took me up on that and what was so interesting as one after the other, one of my early questions would be well, how is your company training you? How is your company helping you? What's your manager doing? And the answer was largely nothing. Like the answer was, was almost universally. There was one or two companies that were an exception, and there's a reason that they're so [00:12:00] good. It's probably because they were the exception, but for the other 10, it was, I had an hour of compliance training so that I wouldn't say anything dumb or get sued. And then they told me to go figure it out. And so there's one, which is like, they're not providing the training.

I think one of the reasons that goes into that is for a lot of the current leaders, they didn't get training. And so, and they believe they figured it out. And so they're like, great. You'll just figure it out. That's how leaders get that's how leaders get good, right. They just go in there like, they make a few mistakes. We'll bail them out. They'll figure it out. And I called that like leadership training through hazing. And like, we don't, we tried to discourage everybody to stop hazing at this point and so just because, that's how it happened to you doesn't mean that's the best we can do for the people who you're now leading, right.

And the same way we were just talking about with parents or what are those things you want to pass along more of the ones you don't like, you can actually help people like learn these tactics and get a running start.

Which sort of ties into the third thing, which is the failure rate on leaders, at the executive level, right. At the board and CEO level.

There's four different studies I found at this point, put it at around 60% within 18 months get fired, [00:13:00] CEO's and board members. These are the most well-vetted, well-funded, well-supported leaders in corporate America and they're worse than a coin flip. So if those people are failing out after they've done it for 20 years after they've been vetted by everyone under the sun, after they all have professional coaches and world-class teams, if they're failing out of their gigs, imagine the brand new person who was a developer last week, and now all of a sudden it's in charge of leading, leading a team of 12 developers who are probably six to 12 months behind them in the journey having never done any of that before. And you're like, and the best strategy we have is to hope they figure it out? damn we can do better.

How businesses end up building a culture of leadership

David Elikwu: Yeah, it's so interesting. What you were saying also made me think about, just how often leaders and businesses end up building cultures by accident. And I think it's culture like throughout the entire business, but then also the culture of leadership. And I remember, the example that came to mind immediately was when I was in corporate law, within the corporate team at my firm.

And there was someone, a senior associate that was leaving the team. I think he [00:14:00] was, on the verge of being a partner and he was going to another firm to become a partner. And we were having his leaving drinks and people were sharing stories about all the great times they, they shared with him and then his manager who's the leader of the group was then coming to share her own story and her story was nothing about the person and it was just about this time that they worked for 60 hours straight in the office. And she was telling it as though this was like a great story. And you could see the pain in his face. You could see this was him reliving, probably one of the, one of the worst, of

the worst weeks. Yeah, exactly. But for her, this was this great story about how we worked so hard and we got the deal done and eventually you got to sleep and things like that.

And it's so interesting how even innocuously, I'm sure, that's not the culture that she might have been intending to build, and that is not on the surface, what you might want to characterize your culture as, but I think even in what you value and what you don't value. Particularly If you are someone in leadership that just shapes everyone [00:15:00] else's approach to how they see the team, how they see the business and how they see their ability to flourish there.

The idea of moving from intuition to intention

David Kline: Well, it's so interesting, cause someone commented this on the last cohort, like inside of each of my modules. At some point I will say, if you take away only one [00:16:00] thing, let it be this. And that's usually what I think is like the best lesson. And I, you just hit on, like, if I could summarize all of that and say like, you could only take one thing away from all of this.

It's that moving from intuition to intention, right? Like once you bring intention to what you're doing. It just creates so much more structure and foundation for you to work from, right. Because in order to go from an intuition to intention, you had to, you had to articulate it. You had to put it into words. You had to decide what promises are you going to make? And which ones are you going to walk away from? Like, what are the cultural tenants you're going to hold? And which are that you're going to bend on.

And by doing that, you create now something to react to like, because business is going to happen to you, right? The world's going to change, the market that was hot last week is going to turn around and be miserable this week. You run a go from rapidly hiring to try to be a decacorn, to like trimming 25% of your staff That's going to keep happening. And you needed to have that well articulated so that as those things are changing, you can, you can test and iterate against it, right. But without that, then you're just making it all up. And so then it starts to feel like chaos, and that idea of you [00:17:00] know the, you kind of show that story.

That's always jumping into my head is like listening to Brian Armstrong, who I think actually he's a pretty intentional manager and started to talk about like, I didn't have a point of view on politics in the office, right. And so it just sort of evolved into what it evolved into, and then he decided to take a stand, whether you agree or disagree with that, he basically changed the deal with people. And that's kind of the ramification of what you're describing, right. Is if you don't bring intention and sort of think through all these pieces it'll happen organically. And then if you don't like what happens organically. And the thing is that, that's the deal people agreed to. Whatever is happening, the behaviors that are happening organically, whether you meant to or not, that's, that's what you shook on. So now you're going to change the deal.

I think he got relatively lucky that be, they only lost like eight or 10% of their staff out of changing the deal, you know, but that's also a company that was doing really great, has more money than, most startups at their stage of life. So if you're a five person firm, a 10 person firm, a 25 person firm, like that's a not being intentional with setting yourself up for that [00:18:00] and losing five or six people from a 10 person lot is could be game over, Right. You can't suffer that kind of turnover that early

The role of leadership in shaping values

David Elikwu: So what you were saying about Brian Armstrong makes me think about values and their importance. And again, funnily enough, similar to what you were saying, I think, my perspective on that situation has probably actually evolved over time. I think my initial reaction was particularly the timing of it. I didn't necessarily, I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but I think my position has evolved in that I can now start to see why that decision was made and why it might be useful? Because sometimes the issue is and I think this is true with almost everything, particularly within politics, but with so many other things, when something happens, everyone loves precedent, but you love the precedent and that works for you, right?

David Kline: yeah.

David Elikwu: like, you like something to happen that works in your favor now. But if that precedent gets set and then it gets applied to something else that you don't necessarily like, then it's a bad thing. And now this is not what we want. And so I think it [00:19:00] becomes incredibly important. It's almost better to put your foot down and draw a line in the sand and say, okay, this is we're going to be on this side, on this side so that people don't have to suffer with the ambiguity, which I feel like can often be so much worse. It's actually a better solution to say okay, we are not going to have this discussion here than to suffer through the internal turmoil and you see this happening at other companies where some people believe this, some people believe that, and then you have people spending a lot of their time doing internal politics, essentially, which is not necessarily what is in the best interests of the business.

And so just going back to the question that I wanted to ask you, which is around values. How important, not just how important is it, because I would assume you're going to say it's important, but how do you think that people and leaders can effectively go about creating a strong set of values and a set of values are actually useful?

Because again, just to reiterate on this point and thinking of another example. So when I was leaving [00:20:00] corporate law, I was leaving my firm and I was, just getting a few bits to gather and gathering files and stuff. And I remember coming across at the back of one of these training files. I think this file was from before I started at the firm. So it was quite old, but I found this set of values. And I've never seen it before. I'd been there for five years. I'd never seen this, these values before. I've no idea what this is. I could bet if I showed it to anyone that was around me, no one would have any ideas what this was.

And so I think because often what happens when people think about values is I don't know where the people go on Google or they hire consultants or wherever it comes from. People just write down a set of five obscure words. Nobody really knows what they mean. And we just say, oh, this is what we believe in as a company. And it's just something that you can put on your ESG page or whatever it is rather than a set of guidelines that anyone actually intends to live by.

David Kline: It's exceedingly challenging to do well and to get right. I worked at arguably two great companies, right? Moody's and Bridgewater in their respective domains are both market [00:21:00] leaders, right. And my transition from Moody's they're fortune 500 company, a hundred years old, where I would have said the values were closer to what you described, which is not that we were actively violating them, but they were passive. They were sort of you know 10 or 12 statements written down that went in our annual report and it was never really actively considered or talked about, et cetera. That may have changed, since then. But then I moved to Bridgewater, it was sort of expecting as much there's like a much talked about principles operating system, but this notion of, Ray wrote a book. He had had it internally, then he shared it publicly, then he published it, it's a best seller. And my expectation going from Moody's to Bridgewater was that'd be sort of the same. And it couldn't have been 180 degrees more opposite. Like we went from, I went from a set of values that were written down that we rarely discussed to something that was literally talked about it and evaluated in every meeting.

You know like the ideas of decisions were being made on radical transparency. Because that was an agreed upon value, every meeting was recorded. We never read debated that, we never read [00:22:00] legislative that, we simply just hit record and recorded the meeting. And it had cascading effects through the organization.

You know, we believe in the side, you have an idea of meritocracy, right? And so would that idea of meritocracy, the idea of the best ideas win, right? That's how they're going to be a combination of data and logic or experience or some combination thereof. And so, that again was sort of a value that would not just be live, but would come up and be discussed and debated in many meetings on a regular basis.

And so I think those are almost like two extremes, right. And I don't know that you have to live at either extreme to have good clear values on your team or in your organization. But I do think that you're probably closer to the Bridgewater model, if you really want to be a values led organization, right? Like if you're Netflix and you're putting out 110 slide deck articulating your culture and your values, and you're not only like saying what they are but you're creating the mythology that shows what they are and those stories pass along. Like that was something else I saw at Bridgewater.

In my mind, you sort [00:23:00] of need to, one, take the time articulated and write them down and have them. Two, make sure there's real stories that bring them into life. And three constantly be engaging and testing them and interacting on them, to figure out whether they're truly aligned. And if you do have to change the deal, I think it's better to change the deal, than it is to kind of suffer through an outdated model but kind of do it clearly, do it swiftly, do it openly with in alignment with the values that you're continuing to hold.

The importance of co-creating team values

David Kline: One story I could share. I think people sometimes skip this part is, I think it's perfectly reasonable as a team leader or a manager within a larger organization for your team to have compatible but distinct values from the organization. I ran a team at Bridgewater, It wasn't, it wasn't super huge, it was a new function that was trying to help create more oversight in the company as part of Ray's transition. And we actually ran an exercise with that team. All of whom were veterans at the organization, I had kind of been brought together to provide this oversight and build this new function. But we basically said, look, we all sort of know the or arching values of the [00:24:00] org. ,they're very distinct, but like this team has its own mission, right? This team has its own identity. And so what do we think is going to be our compatible but distinct articulation of our values, right. And so I remember we had that, it was both an experienced team at Bridgewater but still skewed relatively inexperienced in the world. So we had a bunch of like more junior analysts and things on the team. Until we would articulate things like you're going to fail fast, but you're going to bounce high. It was a hard high pressure group, like this group was working with the emerging board, you know. And so to be 23, 24, you have a second job in your career. And all of a sudden facing off with board members from large public corporations, you're like, this is kind of crazy, you know. And so it was just like, we had to create a safe space. There's that's just like one specific value that we then articulated to kind of carry that around. And when people would drift off of those values, sort of say like, Yeah, you fail fast, but are you bouncing high right now? Like, is that what we're doing? Or if someone wasn't supporting a member of their team in a particular way, we could use it the same way.

I think that idea of, kind of co setting them and [00:25:00] co-authoring them. And, but again, then truly living them and using them as part of the language to call out when people are either deeply aligned to them or when people are deviating from them is the way that you go from that being the piece of paper to living

Learning from good and bad leaders

David Elikwu: And where were you getting this, this vision of enacting leadership in this way? And some of the verbiage that comes around that was that from examples that you saw specifically at Bridgewater or was this, you know where you reading other books, was there other place that you're able to get a strong sense of what good leadership looks like?

David Kline: It's a good question. I do read a lot of nonfiction too, generally, skewing leadership books and articles and follow people. And that I've been fortunate enough to have that mix of good and bad leaders that I've worked for and been able to sort of cherry pick and accumulate things over 20 years. And then a lot of it, honestly, though, is like experimentation. I wouldn't say that I knew the answer then was, oh, the teams coming together for the first time, it's worth us articulating our values in this way. It was more in response to a problem.

Like there was a problem of [00:26:00] 20 people who all had a different point of view of how things should go in crafting this new organization. Then I had learned a tactic through time, which is when people get a little bit too, for like of a better word, whiny about a situation, you make it their problem, right? And so part of the reason that I wanted to have them coauthor it is I didn't want to just arbitrarily set values that no one else believed in. And so instead, I just gave him the pen and instead of like, let's collaborate and put this together. But then the other side of that is we're going to, we're going to live by it. We're going to adhere to it. We're gonna make our day-to-day lineup and aspire to meet this aspiration. So, I couldn't point back and say, like, I learned that tactic in this book, it was more at times, taking things and kind of connecting them to the situation and dealing with whatever problem I had.

The most important thing a manager could do

David Elikwu: So you run this course now on management and being a great manager and I think you mentioned that you've probably hired over a hundred managers or so in your time at Bridgewater and maybe beyond.

So one of the questions I had was, I mean, going back to the [00:27:00] phrase you used earlier, right? If you take nothing else away, what would you say is the number one management lesson I'm going to ask for more, but if there was one thing one thing that someone could do as a manager in particularly, let's say if this was their first manager role, what's the most important thing to get right that unlocks all the other things?

David Kline: I'm like hesitating, cause I don't want to, like the cliched the answer is to hire good people, right. I mean, you almost led the witness by drifting into recruiting for a second. It is very true.

So like, let's start there and say like, if I were starting from total scratch with Greenfield team and I could do whatever I wanted, like of course I want to draft my team.

The reality is that happens like 1% of the time, the other 99% of the time you are getting a new job that is going to run a team that already exists. You're inheriting a second team to fold into your first team. Like in almost no case, do you get this ability to like wave a wand and hire all the perfect people?

So it's like a good idea to hold in your head and iterate as jobs open up or new roles are created that yes, you should [00:28:00] really invest in recruiting the absolute best people you can put around you. But very few people actually have the ability to do that from day one. And so saying it is cute on Twitter, but it's sort of also theoretical for most circumstances.

the thing that I, what I start with in the course and so if you said, like, what is the one thing you could do that it will cascade through? It's where I start and it feels the squishiest of people until they get to the end and they're like, oh, I see how that cascades through. And that is to actually invest a lot of time in becoming self-aware.

So let me click into that, because that sounds like sure. At Bridgewater I started in consulting, right. In consulting, it's almost like you went and hired people from the same schools who looked the same, acted the same, did the same. You wouldn't train them at the same training complex because the thing you were optimizing for is when that analyst quits to go to work in the bank, the next analyst shows up and no one even notices, right.

So that's how I started my career was consulting in that way. And I was like, oh, this must be how it works. Like we all just sort of get homogenized into replaceable widgets. And I leave it when I like quit. And they were like, yeah, great, see ya. The [00:29:00] company will not end, in fact your replacement will be here Monday. Just make sure that you leave the folder on the desk.

So then I go to Bridgewater, which is the polar opposite. I probably took every psychometric test ever invented. MBTI, WPI, the golden, you name them, we took them. There was one, we had to hit buttons as fast as we could. I have no idea what

that test is. We didn't keep that one, but it was crazy.

And irrespective of what the test said, the thing that like jumped out at me and jumped out at everybody who goes through this is just how fundamentally different everybody is. Whether that's like the mindset you bring to problems, whether that's experiences you've had in your life as we were talking about earlier, right? Like your parents shape you your community shapes you, your wins and your losses shape you. Whether it's like your values, like what do you prioritize? Even the skills, right? Like you're going to be a manager and maybe you were an excellent analyst but you don't know how to delegate. All of that, like gets dumped into a big pot then it becomes you. And you're very different than the next person and the next person. And so where I would want someone to start if they really wanted to like, level up as a leader? Is by having a really deep understanding of themselves.

Knowing when to lead and when to delegate

David Kline: And [00:30:00] I advocate that for two reasons, one is that awareness then allows you to call your number when you should and not call it when you shouldn't, right. So, so too many people that new leaders will go in and say like, I don't micromanage because they're like, I'm best in everything. You're definitely not best at everything. You're probably not best at even half. And so that awareness allows you to know when you're the right person to call and when you should rely on others.

The second is if you can develop that fidelity with all of like the psychological biases you have on yourself, then using that same apparatus to like stare at other people in high fidelity. The richness in color goes from like black and white TV to like high Def. All of a sudden you can see that like, yes, you and I have the same name, but David, you're very different than I am and how you'll approach a problem or how you might think or how we might interact. And as a leader, I can then think about like what are all the optimal ways to get the most out of your strengths and neutralize where you might be weak. And that could be with another person. And that could be with automation, that could be with coaching. There's like all kinds [00:31:00] of levers I have to pull. With that level of fidelity, now I can get a team that's like further spread out, covering more ground, everyone's leaning into their strengths. Everyone's kind of offsetting each other. And all of that started back at, I had a really high picture and description and understanding of myself.

So that's where I say, I would start. And again, people think it's super squishy but you sort of go through like, okay, you want to delegate work that everyone wants to delegate. That's like the favorite. Like they can't wait to show up to class and learn how to get rid of work. And guess where it starts. It starts at looking at the situation and then thinking about like, what's that person like? Is this going to go well, do I need to train them? Give them resources. Is this the person I need to like give a lot of space or I need to be close to? Like, is that high picture of them, right?

And so that's why you sort of go through all the pieces and you end up back at like, oh yeah, having a really high picture of what I look like. High fidelity and vivid will let me lead much better.

David Elikwu: Yeah.

David Kline: What do you think, are you convinced?

The importance of knowing your strengths

David Elikwu: I am. I am no, you're, you're convincing me. I think it makes a lot of sense. One of the things I talk about in my course, and my course is [00:32:00] also career related in some ways, but it's more about, being able to like build and design a career that you want.

And one of the things that I talk about is not being lukewarm. And that, that is the worst possible thing that you could be. Even going to what you were saying about being a management consultant in some ways it's much better I think, you have to go towards one of the two poles, either you become the perfect cookie cutter. Not that, not that that's where you want to be for the rest of your life, but if you're looking to get into a role or looking to get into some place, on one pole is where you look to emulate what you already see, and you want to look like you're going to fit in, you want to look like you're going to blend right in. You're going to fit in with everyone else that you see, whether it's culturally, whether it's how you talk, how you walk, whatever it is that you do, you want to fit right in.

On the other end of the scale, you want to be completely different. And I think both of those work being completely different coming in and your fresh face, and you have unique views, you have a unique perspective. You have a different way of thinking of things a different view, a [00:33:00] different lens of the world, I think is equally important and good leaders I think would look for that equally. But I think the place that you don't want to end is in the valley in between where you are very ambiguous and this applies to everything we were saying, like, whether it's leadership or values, you don't want to be mistakable where someone, there's a lack of clarity about exactly what the quantity is there. And so I think that reminded me of what you were saying in terms of having this high fidelity, where you want to be able to narrow down your vision and have a much stronger, by understanding yourself, you'll have a much stronger understanding of how to quantify the people in your team as well.

David Kline: That resonates a lot. And the thing that I'm sure you see this as well. The usual hesitation I get from people, when we get into this place is almost by defining what they might be strong at or what their, where their mindsets might show up or what they might be weak at. They feel like they are in like creator entrepreneurial terms, they're niching down. They're sort of like, oh, I'm going from being like, I could be [00:34:00] anything and therefore my market's totally open. And down to like, I'm a, now I'm a specific, I'm like a detail oriented analyst with a background in a low income upbringing, therefore I have a scarcity like all these things. And what people are surprised to learn is actually that clarity, ups the probability of alignment so much higher that then instead of being open to a market that was like here, it was never going to be interested. Like no one wants to buy the mediocre thing. Now you have a market that's smaller, but so aligned that you can perform better. People are going to resonate more with your leadership. That same idea of like knowing, knowing whether you're either the person that you just describe it, either pole, will then let you go pick the right company. Like imagine the one who wanted to be the like cookie cutter showing up at Bridgewater, like, wow, that would have lasted a week and vice versa. And now there's bad or good, it's just, but it all starts with sort of knowing, knowing where you start.

Delegation techniques for leaders

David Elikwu: One of the other things I wanted to double click on that you brought up was the idea of delegating. And I think that is [00:35:00] one of those key words that always comes up when people talk about leadership. But I think there is so much nuance to it that I think often goes unexplored and this is even something I've learned myself.

I think you learn it in working particularly in the corporate world or even in tech. But I think what I have ended up finding is for example, now running my own businesses and having to hire people myself, I think is a very different paradigm because when you're hiring people within an existing business, you usually have an existing role. There is a job that they are meant to do. You already know what that is in many ways it exists, the work exists. And you need someone to come in and do it, and so it's very easy to set clearly defined terms of I know what it looks like when you're not doing this because it needs to be done.

Whereas I think very often, sometimes in reality, people are having to create roles, ab initio and you're creating something from nothing and you have to figure out okay, what does good look like? What does this look like? And also if you are the person that has previously taken complete ownership of over something. [00:36:00] What does it look like if I start letting go of things and maybe there's some different models of what that looks like, and maybe that's something you can expand on.

But I think that sometimes there's two ways that I see people being pulled quite often, is that, do you want to delegate the things that you already know that you're good at to someone else who can do those things, because you know what that looks like, and you can go provide some oversight there, or maybe do you want to delegate the things that you are not good at and you want someone else that can be their own kind of expert and that allows you to focus on the things that you are better at.

I hear people sharing different perspectives on that, and I'd love to hear what you think.

David Kline: I have my tongue-in-cheek answer was going to be like, yes, yes to everything you said. But jokes aside, I think I'll answer, let me go a little bit of a roundabout way.

Well, we'll talk about this and I'll say like, this is the one slide, it's the slide that I would talk about as the aligned how.

So usually when people think about delegating, they think about what, right. To your point, there's like a very selfish, like I've got too much and I want to get rid of some.

My wife who helps run the course, she worked [00:37:00] at Goldman and Google, so also two great organizations. And I remember debating this module with her and I was like, this is the most important part and she's like, what are you talking about? Like, I was in sales at Google, like how they delegated they said like, you need to, here's your a hundred million dollar target, go get 'em tiger. And I was like, that's not like when, when things break, it's not because the person was unclear on the a hundred million dollar target. Like they're unclear on the, how you wanted them to do it. And so she was like, that's not true. They don't care how I do it. And I was like, no, no, no, it's very true. Trust me. Like, because of the point that you said, which is you've hardwired in at a place like Google or Goldman or Bridgewater or Moody's or any really established organization. So much of delegation is hardwired like you said, it's hardwired into the hierarchy, it's hardwired into the process, the technology, the norms, the mythology, et cetera. Like they've done a lot of the heavy lifting for you. And so what's left is like little nudges and you might be able to just get away with saying like, I want a hundred million to come out of all of that hierarchy and all of that process and all of that structure and it can work. To your [00:38:00] point when you're, that's not true. You're cause you're delegating new work or you're building a new company, et cetera. You actually have to spend a lot of time in the how, like you actually have to have to your point a visualization of what good looks like not just of what the outcome is, but how you would go about accomplishing it.

And the thing that I would encourage people to do and what I was able to say yes to both is you sort of have to go through that in a systematic way, starting with why? Like, why are you delegating? And are you delegating it because you're excellent at it and so having a picture of how it should be done is very easy for you or because you're terrible at it and it's a waste of your resource and time. Sort of back to like MIMO in my own yard. I might value it, but I probably shouldn't be doing it.

But also getting into, especially when you're in an organization and there's like, are there, is there a process or a technology we already have? Like, you'll be shocked there were times people get given work and don't know that there's a way to get it done, right. Or a standard operating procedure that you might use with an outsourcer. They don't know the culture like, the culture is sort of how we described a minute ago, right. It's not that clear.

And so, do you want me to achieve this goal at all [00:39:00] costs or within a particular cost structure? The one I'll always use is Zappos, right, like you can be on the customer service desk there and help the customer find the shoes, but they pride their culture prides itself on being quirky. And so if you want the 10 out of 10 experience, you have to be a little bit quirky to. Do the people coming on to the service desk for the first time when they get delegated new cases. Like, do they understand that part of a how, Et cetera. And so I think lingering in that how and it doesn't take a long time, , or it doesn't have to take a long time, I'll take as long as you want. But that allows you to then get on the same page with the other person. It also does another thing, which is if you coauthor this, this is how you empower them, right. You get to let them come in because one of the reasons you might be delegating is because they're better than you, because you're bored. That's another reason people delegate a lot. It's like, I'm kind of tired of doing this thing. Like I'm not good at, I'm not bad at it, but I'm kind of bored with it. That might be a great stretch opportunity for them. They might bring a unique perspective or they might be junior in their career, but far more technologically savvy and they can automate that manual thing away.

There's lots of good benefits to having [00:40:00] a how conversation and not just a what and walk away. That's sort of my mindset on, on delegating.

David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time

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