George Bradt -There are only three interview questions and you need to know them

On this episode, our host Dr Duff Watkins speaks with best selling author, Forbes.com columnist and onboarding guru George Bradt. George shares lessons for how to secure that dream position and how to succeed and lead like a professional.

About George Bradt

George has led the revolution in how people start new jobs, engendering the structure, leverage, and confidence new leaders and teams need to get done in 100 days what normally takes 6-12 months in complex situations, reducing 18-month failure rates from 40% to less than 10%.

Author/co-author of 9+ books on onboarding and leadership:

  • “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” (Wiley, 2016 4th edition)
  • “Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employee Up To Speed in Half the Time” (Wiley, 2009)
  • “The Total Onboarding Program” (Wiley/Pfeiffer, 2010)
  • “First-Time Leader” (Wiley, 2014)
  • “The New Job 100 Day Plan” (GHP Press, 2012)
  • “Point of Inflection: Frameworks and Tools to Accelerate Team Results” (GHP Press, 2019)
  • “CEO Boot Camp: Frameworks and Insights from 15 Years of CEO Boot Camps” (GHP Press, 2019)
  • “The New Leader’s Playbook” (GHP Press, Volumes I-IX 2011-2019)
  • “Executive Onboarding” Volumes I-IV (GHP Press, 2020)
  • + “Influence and Impact – Discover and Excel at What Your Organization Needs From You The Most” (Wiley, 2021)

Author of over 650 articles for Forbes:

  • “The New Leader’s Playbook” weekly column on Forbes.com (February 2011-present)

Co-creator of iPad app:

  • “New Leader Smart Tools”

Prior to founding PrimeGenesis, George had twenty years of experience in sales, marketing and general management around the world at companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and J.D. Power and Associates’ Power Information Network as chief executive.

Currently on board of directors for PrimeGenesis, CEO Connection, Curtain Call theatre. On several advisory boards. Has served on various fiduciary, advisory and non-profit boards around the world through the years.

Episode notes 

Lesson 1: Fit in! 9m 12s

Lesson 2: Deliver 10m 15s

Lesson 3: Adjusting never ends 16m 03s

Lesson 4: Adopt a 90/10 position 18m 58s

Lesson 5: Differentiate what you will talk about; what you will do; and what you will not do 24m 54s

Lesson 6: Avoid the consultant’s roller coaster 28m 31s

Lesson 7: There are only three interview questions and you need to know them. 31m 39s

Lesson 8: Prepare answers for the three questions from THEIR perspective 35m 53s

Lesson 9: They don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them 38m10s

Lesson 10: Avoid the 100 day interview trap 42m 39s

Duff Watkins: [00:00:00] Hello, welcome to the podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we dispense wisdom, not just information or mirror fact to an international audience of rising leaders. My name is Duff Watkins, and I am your host. This podcast is sponsored by the professional development forum, which helps young professionals of any age, accelerate their performance in the modern workplace.

Here is where you’ll listen to logical, practical, honest advice that you won’t find in a textbook because it took us half a century to learn this stuff. Today’s guest is George Bradt onboarding guru and a regular columnist for forbes.com, which is a prominent business site in the U S Welcome George.

George Bradt: [00:00:47] Great to be here.

Duff Watkins: [00:00:48] Today we’re going to have 10 lessons to keep you employed anytime, anywhere for me, George, this started many years ago. See if you remember this, you asserted that. 40% of new hires fail within 18 months and I said, bullshit, I work in executive search, there’s no way that many people would be fired. I would know about, so I did my own research, and I was right, George, the number is actually closer to 60 plus percent.

And I said this to you. And you said, yeah, that’s why I say 40% because nobody believes me. If I say it was higher, but you know, ever since we had that conversation, I see it all around me. Every week. So let’s say 40 to 60% of people in new positions fail within 18 months. And I learned that from you.

That’s why your 10 lessons about how to stay employed anytime, anywhere will be so relevant to so many people. You are an onboarding guru. You’ve written nine books. You’ve co-authored nine books on the subject. You’ve written over 700 columns for forbes.com. But there are some people who may not know what onboarding is. So, could you explain that to us, please?

George Bradt: [00:01:51] Sure. And I can either do this very simply or go into extrusion, creating depth. Let’s start with simple.

Duff Watkins: [00:01:58] Please.

George Bradt: [00:01:58] This podcast is about accelerating performance onboarding is about accelerating performance when you’re going into a new job.

Duff Watkins: [00:02:10] So helping somebody assimilate into a new, a new job, a new company, a new culture hitting the ground running.

George Bradt: [00:02:16] Yeah. Okay. That’s part of it. So, here’s the analogy. Let’s this is an international group. Let us imagine. You imagined, please, if you would, you are driving from Ethiopia to Kenya, get to the border. You go, and Moyale you go into the police station. You clear your passport; you get back in your car and you locked the doors.

You wrote the windows, you put on your seatbelt, you check your mirrors, you turn the car on, you release the emergency brake, your put it in gear. You put your foot on the gas. What’s the next thing you must do?

Duff Watkins: [00:02:49] Head in the right direction, I guess.

George Bradt: [00:02:51] Good. And so, you’re heading the right direction. We’re going into Kenya.

We’re officially in Kenya now what? And Oh, by the way, just to dial this up a little bit, this is a life-or-death decision. If you get this wrong, you’re going to be dead within 30 seconds.

Duff Watkins: [00:03:05] Okay. Now I’m flustered. I don’t know. What do I do?

George Bradt: [00:03:09] You must switch sides of the road because they drive on the right and it can either drive on the left.

Now here’s the thing. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a test. There’s no reason you should have known that the trouble is every company drives on different sides of the roads and all sorts of different ways. And if you rely on your instincts and rely on what you did in your previous company, you’re going to have a head on collision.

You’re going to have a lot of them and you’re going to fail. We fix that.

Duff Watkins: [00:03:43] Mm mm. That resonates with me. When I, when I go back to the U S to visit and I rent the car in the airport, I pull out very slowly and because the U S drives on the different side than in Australia where I live now. And, and I, I go to great lengths to make sure observe, I don’t assume anything.

And I prefer to follow a car until I get reacclimated to it. Because as you say it is life and death.

George Bradt: [00:04:05] So what happens with onboarding, and I know cut me off when you get bored is if you are a new leader going into a new job, you have to get a head start because you have to get somebody to help you figure out what’s going on.

You have to find a car to follow and your new job. You have to manage your message because you’re going to get positioned in your first… You’re going to get positioned immediately. Either by what you do or what other people do or what other people say you might as well take control of your own positioning in your first hundred days, you have to build your team and set direction and then after that you better sustain momentum and deliver results.

Duff Watkins: [00:04:48] And I found the car to follow. It’s your book, the new leaders, 100-day action plan. I had been, I had been using this book for years. You want to see my annotations? I mean, I study this thing. This is in the performance coaching work that I do that pretty much is the text because.

And this is true. I can’t think of a situation that occurs that isn’t covered in some way in the book. Now, I think I steal your joke here. I always tell clients we have an ironclad crystal-clear program that we never stick to because every person is different. Every situation is different, and it is in some way, but the similarities and the comprehensiveness of this book, I just want to say to readers and to listeners and viewers that I highly recommend it’s had been of immense value to me and the clients that I work with and will, and that’s one of nine.

George Bradt: [00:05:43] Thank you. That was fabulous. And enjoy the podcast. I’m done now.

Duff Watkins: [00:05:45] And I believe listeners can subscribe to your columns @forbes.com. Correct. Okay. Just want to make sure about that. Now you’ve been in the trenches. You’ve been in sales, marketing, general management. You’ve worked for big international companies Unilever, Proctor Gamble, Coca-Cola so let me ask you, do you remember your first business lesson?

George Bradt: [00:06:09] Yeah, it was from Tommy Gillette’s mother. We were in, I don’t know, I want to say second grade. And I went to visit Tommy Gillette at the, at their house in St. Croix was just fabulous. And she paid us to weed her garden, and we got paid a dollar per basket of weeds.

And the lesson was we’d figured out that it was easier to pick up the big weeds first because they filled the basket faster. We’ll start with the big weeds,

Duff Watkins: [00:06:45] big, big weeds for somebody. Just write that down

George Bradt: [00:06:49] first.

Duff Watkins: [00:06:52] An excellent lesson you learned early on. I took me a while to work on that.

George Bradt: [00:06:56] Well, I mean, a million years later Doug Ivester was CEO of the Coca Cola company and he used to say, you’re running through the field. And, and you’re picking up money and there thousand-dollar bills and $500 bills, $20 bills, and $1 bills, which you do pick up first, a big weeds. That’s the house and dollar bills.

Duff Watkins: [00:07:14] All right. Another question. What have you unlearned lately? And by that, I mean, something you absolutely positively knew to be true then, but now no is not the case.

George Bradt: [00:07:25] I have unlearned about the importance of winning. I used to think winning was important. When I was a sales manager, I had all these great quotes, you know, show me a good loser I’ll show you a loser. Winning isn’t the best thing it’s the only thing. Whatever. And I read somewhere, I didn’t make this one up. So, I read this, this story. It, it, it’s a story. It’s an analogy. I don’t know if you’ve heard this one. Just not mine, but this teacher filled a hallway with balloons. With the, whatever it was 50 people, 50 people in our class. And she wrote each person’s name on a balloon. She filled the hallway with balloons, and she said, okay, I’m going to put you in the hallway. Let’s see how long it takes you each to find your own balloon. And they couldn’t do it. I mean, it took forever. She said, okay, let’s try it again.

I’d like you to pick up a balloon and find the person whose name is on the balloon. And everybody picked up alone and said, Jane, I bet you’re a Sue I’ve got yours. And they each got their own balloon in a matter of like two minutes. And the point was if they tried to win and be the first one to get their own balloon, they all lost. But if they work together to find each other’s balloons, they all won.

Duff Watkins: [00:08:39] The military, teaches that lesson in, Oh, so many ways that it’s the unit succeeds and it’s. They sort of redefine winning, I guess, is my takeaway from what you’re saying.

George Bradt: [00:08:50] That’s probably a better way to put it redefining winning as opposed to unlearn, not it’s unlearning the importance of winning myself, redefining, winning together.

Duff Watkins: [00:09:00] okay. Well, thank you for that. Let’s start with those 10 lessons. That’ll help. Keep you employed anytime, anywhere, lesson number one fit in.

George Bradt: [00:09:07] 40 to 60% of people fail. The number one reason they fail is poor fit and it’s, and it’s a fit between their personal preferences and the cultural behaviours, relationships, attitudes, values, and the environment.

It’s the number one risk and the number one cause of failure most important when somebody is onboarding, but always important. 

Duff Watkins: [00:09:37] in the work that I do in executive search, I’m focused on fit is the mantra, because I guess we would like to point out and please get me that 40 to 60% of people who are getting fired within 18 months. They’re not stupid. They’re not incompetent. They’re not lazy. They’re not unmotivated. They’re not free of talent. They just don’t fit in.

George Bradt: [00:09:57] Number one risk, not the only risk though. We’re going to, we’re going to talk about two other risks. I would guess as you get to numbers, two and three.

Duff Watkins: [00:10:06] So focus on fitness, number one, lesson number two deliver.

George Bradt: [00:10:11] So the second reason people fail in onboarding is they don’t get done what they needed to get done. You got to get it done and here’s what happens. When somebody doesn’t get it done everybody blames the other guy. If you ask the company, they say. They, he, she, they, whatever we’re calling people these days, they couldn’t do, they didn’t get done what we needed them to get done.

If you ask them and I’m sure you’ve had this conversation, the answer is the company didn’t give me the resources I needed to get done, what they wanted me to get done. So, delivery not delivering is a two-way street. We got to fit in. You got to deliver and guess what? They’re linked, you know, you’ve got to make sure you’re aligned, and you’ve got the resources and you are getting the people working with you and for you to deliver,

Duff Watkins: [00:11:03] Ok let me ask you to elaborate on that because I do encounter this. I work with people and they, they, delegation is a make-or-break issue and a lot of organizations and the managers that I’m working with, they delegate, they and trust are the people. And they feel that down when those people, they delegate to, they do not deliver, and it reflects badly back on the boss. The person who, and they’re the ones in the firing line. What does one do?

George Bradt: [00:11:29] So I would argue that it goes to a compliance contribution and commitment. And part of this is sort of borrowed from a guy named Brian Smith who wrote these different ways of persuading people tell, sell, test consult co-create. Happy to go into what those means, but what happens is. If you tell somebody to do something, traffic policeman on the corner go right, or go left, depending on which country, the best you’re ever going to get. When you tell somebody to do something is compliance, they will do exactly what you asked them to do and no more.

And if you tell them to do the wrong thing, they’re going to do it anyway. If you sell or test or consult, you’re inviting them to contribute. And that’s great. You can build a business. You can deliver. If the people you’re working with are contributing by people. You’re working with, I’m talking about the people working for you, the people working with you, everybody’s trying to contribute you’re fine. If you want them to commit to the cops, they have to co-create the approach and the plan. And that’s scary stuff, because if they commit, they’re not committing to you as a leader, they’re committing to the mission and they will run right through you and right by you to deliver that mission.

If the mission is right. You don’t really care because if you’re a great leader, leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together, winning together, deliver a meaningful and rewarding, shared purpose. So, if you’ve got them aligned around that, you want them committed because. It’s okay for you to be wrong, just so long as we’re all right.

Duff Watkins: [00:13:10] Just telling, just delegating, just deferring to somebody downloading the responsibility on somebody, not enough, you’ll gain compliance, but that’s about it. The higher level is the co-creation where they actually participate fully engage and I guess you might say has some skin in the game.

George Bradt: [00:13:29] Yeah, well, no, no. So, if they tell, if you tell them it’s all delegating, by the way, it’s just different, different ways of delegating. If you tell them they don’t have any skin in the game, I don’t want to downplay contributing consulting is, is, is entirely viable.

Here’s my plan. Please give me your input on how to make it better. You’ve got skin in the game and, and, and you’ve contributed. Commitment is people being all in.

Duff Watkins: [00:13:54] Okay. All right. So, so gaining the commitment of others is the key to ensuring that I am able to deliver what the company expects demands of me.

George Bradt: [00:14:04] No, sorry. It’s different in different situations, back to the rock-solid crystal-clear process, we never follow. Sometimes compliance is fine if you’ve got people doing a repetitive task. So, let me give an example. UPS do have UPS in Australia? So UPS the key people that UPS were in the company who were the key delivers?

Duff Watkins: [00:14:29] The ones who drive the trucks.

George Bradt: [00:14:31] Absolutely. That’s the game because they are the frontline sales and they’re physically delivering. The success or failure of UPS, rests on it and UPS was concerned about turnover because these people were critical. They knew their customers, they knew everything. And they said, what don’t you like about your job?

And we said, well, they loved driving. They loved interacting with people. They hated loading the truck. So UPS carved out that responsibility and hired ex-convicts of minimum wage with no training to load the trucks and told them what to do and got compliance. We will give you packages. You will put them on the truck.

They had massive turnover on these people because they’d stay three months. They’d hate it. They’d go away. UPS didn’t care because it lowered, the turnover of the drivers. So, they wanted the drivers to be committed to the cause. Not everybody has to be committed to the cause. Some people can commit. Some people can contribute. Some people can comply. If you’re the leader, you need to understand what you need against different things in your tasks. Not all jobs are created equal. Not all people are created equal. You want to focus your resources on what’s most important to deliver.

Duff Watkins: [00:15:51] Okay. That takes us to lesson number three adjusting never ends.

George Bradt: [00:15:56] Well it would end if you were fully adjusted and nothing changed.

Yeah. But if the world changes, if your customers evolve, you need to adjust to that. If your collaborators evolve, if your people evolve, if your allies evolve. You need me to adjust to that. If your capabilities evolve if you need to adjust, if your competitors change, you need to adjust to that. And not that this ever happens, but if the conditions change, if I don’t know if climate change or there’s a pandemic, you have to adjust to that.

Duff Watkins: [00:16:38] I mean, like we all have to work from home, something like that. Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you.

George Bradt: [00:16:43] And that’s why adjusting never ends. And when we’re talking about onboarding back to the analogy of which side of the street you need to drive on. It’s not only that every company drives on different sides of the street in different ways, but the rules change. Every time you get a new one boss, or your boss gets a new boss, they changed some of the street signs. And what you need is, is people that trust you enough and you trust enough to tell you when things have changed when you don’t see it.

Duff Watkins: [00:17:16] In business. Things change a lot, and they change fast. I would also say the, in my experience, the pace of change has increased due to the change in technology. Which accelerates the change. Does that resonate with you?

George Bradt: [00:17:35] Yeah, because ever everything’s instant, the book you held up as the fourth edition.

Duff Watkins: [00:17:41] Yeah. Mine’s a second edition, but I was going to ask you how many additions are there now?

George Bradt: [00:17:45] So yours is the second. This is the fourth.

Duff Watkins: [00:17:48] Yeah.

George Bradt: [00:17:49] The second is absolutely fine. The, the first edition we talked about communication, we talked about. Creating a communication plan. We said, you need to figure out what you want to do, get your message and roll it out in stages. The reason we wrote the second edition is because of the technology change.

We realized everything we’d said about rolling out a communication plan was wrong because it all happens instantly. And anything you say inside gets public and anything in the public it’s inside it in an instant, you can’t stop this. So it’s all instant and it’s all at the same time.

So absolutely adjust the pace of change. And as a leader, you have to be ready to adjust instantly.

Duff Watkins: [00:18:38] Because business is not static. Well, in fact, life isn’t static, but certainly in business it is not static.

George Bradt: [00:18:45] Absolutely.

Duff Watkins: [00:18:45] Okay. Lesson number four. You’ll have to explain this one to me, adopt a 90/10 positioning. That’s 90 slash 10 position.

George Bradt: [00:18:56] Yeah. So, I, as, as you mentioned, I grew up in consumer products and we were. Constantly looking for the 60, 40 blind winner, Tide wanted 60% of people to say it cleans better than whatever

Duff Watkins: [00:19:10] Tide as a laundry detergent in the U S or you’re doing these, this marketing research. And you want a 60, 40 better explain that to me.

George Bradt: [00:19:19] Well, we wanted 60, 40, 60% of people to prefer Todd. Okay. The Pepsi challenge was famous. They wanted 60% of people to prefer Pepsi to Coke. Okay. The 60, the 60% of people that had problems, but, but, but the data was there. And so, you wanted a 60, 40 winner.

And then I realized that was wrong because to be a 60, 40 winner, you have to tend towards the mean. You have to be close to average. And I realized it was more valuable to be the 90 10. Loser. You want to be the thing you want to be the product, the brand, or the person that 90% of people want nothing to do with, and 10% adore, because those 10% will pay more.

And it’s specifically appropriate for job interviews. I know you’ve never interviewed anybody for a job, but I would argue that to get by you, they kind of want to be the 60, 40 winner. They want to tick all the boxes and have you go this is a strong candidate.

And you know, out of my pool, if I’ve got a pool of five, I’m going to send these three, you know, everybody wants to be one of the final three. The trouble is if you’re the 60, 40 winner in, interviews, you’re going to come in second place six out of 10 times. If you’re the 90 10 lose nine out of 10 times, you Duff, you’re going to look at somebody and go, you’re not right for this job.

You’re not what they need. You’re, you’re too specialized. But if I am the best hall polisher in the world, and you’ve got a company looking for the best hall polisher in the world, I’m the only one they can on it. And. And if I get into that final interview and I’m the best in the world, again, nine out of 10 people are going to want anything to do with me, but one out of 10 has to have me. It’s a stronger, it’s a tighter, stronger, better positioning.

Duff Watkins: [00:21:17] This resonates with me. In executive search it is a culling process, but on the other side of the things, I actually work with people a lot, say in outplacement as well, and they’re looking for a job and  I haven’t phrased it as well as you do George, but I’m continually after people do disregard the 80% of companies that do not want to have anything to do with you that are incapable of appreciating your skills and abilities ruthlessly, eliminate them find the 2010, however many it is the five companies in the city that will appreciate you and value you get to those as quickly as possible because that’s where you have your value and you won’t have to spend the rest of your life. Trying to prove yourself in a big company.

George Bradt: [00:22:01] And our little, in our little business, we turned down 50% of the clients that come to us on the first phone call and we say, we’re not the right tool for you. Well, what do you mean have a strongly recommended? I read your book. Yeah, but you’re not, we’re not what you need. You only need us in this situation really. Okay. And then when they’re in that situation, they call us back. They go, okay, now I know now I need you now.

Duff Watkins: [00:22:22] Okay. It takes courage for people to want to be the 10% that is highly ardently desired rather than the, the silver medallist, the bronze medallist. And you can do it commercially because, well, as I say, you’re an onboarding guru and you you’ve been at it a long time. Nine books, 700 columns had a lot of success doing what you’re doing.

How does a person who just doesn’t have that courage? How do they make that jump?

George Bradt: [00:22:48] Well, they don’t. If they don’t have courage, they can’t. They’re just going to be part of the 60 40. There was a American football, there was a coach named Vince Lombardi and he used to say the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare, to win, easy to say, you want to be the 90, 10 loser, hard to have the courage to do it.

We started our company. My first sale was to this guy at a private equity firm when I got introduced to him and he said, oh my gosh, this is perfect. We’ve got a really important company. The CEO’s retiring. We’ve just hired his replacement. And they’re going to have a 60 day overlap and we, I cannot have this guy fail, would love for you to work with them.

We had no business, no revenue. We were brand new. Hadn’t written a book, had written an article. We were just making this up and I turned down the assignment. He said, why? I said, because we’re going to be about better results faster. Our premise is you have to accelerate progress going into it and through the first hundred days.   You want us nowhere near your guy, because junior guy needs to slow down and learn as much as he can from the outgoing CEO for 60 days before he does anything. Not only can we not help him, if you let us anywhere near him, we will hurt him and turn down the assignment. That’s courage.

Duff Watkins: [00:24:16] It is, it is. And I have other stories like that to tell, and I want to, I want listeners viewers to appreciate courage is required in life. When you’re changing careers, where you’re changing job, when you’re moving countries, when you’re moving courage is required. And I don’t think it gets spoken about enough. Really? That’s all I want to say it don’t overlook it. It is an essential ingredients.

Lesson, number five, differentiate between what you’ve talk about, what you will do and what you will not do.

George Bradt: [00:24:48] So it’s a build on the 90 10 position. So, the 90 10 positioning that the 10% you will do, that’s what you talk about. This is, this is who I am or in our case, this is who our businesses, this is what we do.

That’s the very centre of the circle. That’s we talk about then the next circle, which is still small. If what we talk about as the 10%, maybe this is 20%. Those are things that are so close to what we talk about that we will do. So, the example is we work with senior executives going into positions, help them accelerate profits.

Early on a private equity firm came to us and said, listen, I love what you’re doing with individuals, but we’ve got all these platform companies and we’re merging and other companies. Can you do it for the teams. And instead of doing individual onboarding, do team onboarding, we said, we’ll do that. So, it’s close.

It’s close enough that we use the same book. We use the same tool. It’s the same process. Of course, we never use the same process, but we’ve just adjusted. So, we will do, but we don’t talk about, I mean, it’s on our website, but when somebody asks me what we do, we talk about executive onboarding. So, circle one is what we’re going to talk about.

Circle two is what we will do. And then anything outside of that circle. We say no to, I had early on, I came to me and said, this guy had gone into a company as a chief marketing officer used us, absolutely convinced they planned to make him CEO. And two to three years, he did so well. So fast. They made him see, you know, 12 months later, get your butts back in here and help me again.

We helped them again and it was great. And we helped us had a sales and all this stuff. And after two rounds with us, he said, George, I love what you do with my marketing team and now my executive team, I want you to do that with every team in the company. And it was going to be massive amounts of work.

It was two years’ worth of work. And I said no, three times. And he kept asking me and he said, you can do this. As I said, we don’t do it. He goes, of course you do what I’ve seen you do it. I said, it’s not what we do. And I finally said, if we do that work for you, we’ll come out the other side, a different company than we are now with different strengths.

And it’s not who we choose to be. Too broad. There were too many people in the world that are too good at helping teams do whatever I want to be the world’s expert on executive onboarding. I turned down a ton of work and he respected it.

Duff Watkins: [00:27:20] What you’re saying, reminds me of what I, I say to job seekers all the time, especially young people, until you can say, no, thanks to a job.

You’re not really in a position to say yes, thanks to that job. In other words, if all opportunities look the same to you and you have no filter by which to discern them and see how, whether they accommodate you, whether they fit you, whether you fit them, then you’re pretty much at sea.

And you’re not the first senior executive to tell me this. I mean, learning how to say no, thanks. That just doesn’t suit me. That that’s a big lesson for a person in life and business.

George Bradt: [00:27:58] It’s no Thanks and ultimately, it’s, I choose not to. It’s not that the offer’s bad. It’s not that I’m bad or you’re bad, or I couldn’t do it. It’s I choose not to.

Duff Watkins: [00:28:09] Which means you’re free.

George Bradt: [00:28:10] You’re in charge of you.

Duff Watkins: [00:28:11] Just the way it always has been. Anyway. It’s just that sometimes people forget it.

George Bradt: [00:28:15] Exactly. Exactly.

Duff Watkins: [00:28:17] Lesson number six, this one’s near and dear to my heart. George, avoid the consultant’s roller coaster. What’s wrong with a rollercoaster?

George Bradt: [00:28:26] It’s fine if it’s an amusement park ride, but if it’s your business, it’s got problems.

So, what happened? The typical consultant’s roller coaster is somebody starts a business consulting. And it’s counterintuitive, but if you’ve had a real job and you go into consulting, your first sales are your easiest because your first sales are to people that, you know, it’s your old boss or somebody to work with you where you say, yes, I’ve left this company and I’m now doing consulting and marketing or finance or whatever people do consulting in.

And they go, oh my gosh, I can hire you as a consultant. And you get a bunch of work and, and that’s great. You’re, you’re going up the curve. And then you get to the point where you have your capacity and all you can do is do the work. And when the work ends, you go down because you have no pipeline because you haven’t been selling and you go all the way down and you have to start over in the second time it’s harder because you don’t know people anymore and you’re farther away from the real jobs. And so, you have to do different marketing, but eventually you build it back up and you get to capacity and then you deliver it, deliver and you sell again. And the way to avoid it is a couple of ways. One teams beat individuals, every time. We started Prime Genesis with five partners, other people who were sole practitioners start with collaborations and allies. And then the second thing is always keep time for business development. So my personal capacity is 80% of my time. I will never book more than 80% of my time in case some whack out from Australia says, Hey, you have time to do a Podcast.

I’ve got the time. Lots of reasons. What I, when I like you don’t tell anybody about it. And it’s not me. I said that I like you too. Is I like what you’re doing. I love the idea of helping young people and three somebody’s going to hear this, or see this and buy a book and tell somebody else. And eventually I’ll get some business out of it.

So it’s sort of filling the top of the pipeline, but I keep 20% of my time. All the time for business development. So I smooth out the consultants rollercoaster. So 20% of my time, and then two, because I have partners I can sell beyond my capacity. 

Duff Watkins: [00:30:40] And so, it is a lesson that all consultants learn I think the hard way. And I certainly have. Business development is an ongoing process. Going back to your list and number three, the adjusting never ends, the business environment continually changes. You know, when I first started years ago, I didn’t have a business card for two years, George, I didn’t need one. And then like, I was just thinking, as you were speaking, I think my lean years financially occurred in my 10th or 12th year. Just the way it goes sometimes. But one ought not deprive one’s business of the very oxygen and revenue. It needs to survive. So, 20% dedicated to business revenue sounds pretty astute.

Lesson number seven, one of my personal favourites, I’ve written about this myself. There are only three interview questions and you, the person being interviewed, you need to know them. What are they,

George Bradt: [00:31:34] I guess, to sort of play with this much like I did with it. The driving question and I played with it for five years and then I gave up because nobody could think of a different answer.

Every question you’ve ever been asked or ever asked in any interview is a subset of one of three questions. Can you do the job? Will you love the job? And can we tolerate working with you or strengths, motivation, and fit. I could stop there, but the twist, which is new since the second edition. Is, that’s not the right order if you’re asking questions.

And I don’t know if we’ve talked about this, but I now am absolutely convinced. The first question is, why do you want the job? Why would you want the job? And when I’m working with somebody for executive onboarding, the first question I asked them is why did you want the job? Even before ask them what the job is, because the answer to any question biases is the answer to the next question or every question biases the next question, I really want a pure unpolluted answer to why you want the job. And within six, maybe seven words. I know what makes them happy.

Duff Watkins: [00:32:41] Tell me more.

George Bradt: [00:32:43] Well, this is the George Bradt theory of happiness.

Duff Watkins: [00:32:45] Okay.

George Bradt: [00:32:47] You should write this down. Are you taking notes?

Duff Watkins: [00:32:48] Yes, I am. Yes, I am ready. I’m pen poised.

George Bradt: [00:32:51] Happiness is good.

Duff Watkins: [00:32:54] Yeah.

George Bradt: [00:32:56] It’s actually three goods. I would argue everybody in the world is motivated by this blend of doing good for others. Doing things, they’re good at and doing good for me. Different people blended differently. Mother Teresa was just way out there and doing good for others. One of my college contemporaries and Yo-Yo Ma who’s a brilliant cellist doesn’t really care about doing good for others.

Duff Watkins: [00:33:23] You know, Yo-Yo Ma I’m impressed.

George Bradt: [00:33:26] Well, I wouldn’t say no. We were at college together he doesn’t know me, but all he cares about his music. He just cares about doing what he’s good at. And certainly, my friends who will remain nameless, investment bankers, they just care about making money. Doing good for me.

Yeah. But if you ask somebody, why do you want the job? If, if their first words are, it’s all about what this company does for others, I got them it’s they care about doing good for others. If it’s, oh my gosh, there’s leverage is my strengths and everything I’ve done is led me up to this. It’s got it. They care about doing what they’re good at.

If the answer is, oh my gosh, furthers my career or the pay, or it’s in a great location, then they’re about good for me. You know what things they like. So, it’s great. It’s motivation and fit. I’d argue if you’re interviewing somebody lead with motivation,

Duff Watkins: [00:34:05] I would, in my experience interviewing a lot of people, I would say those three questions are often unspoken.

They’re like the subtext in a movie scene, for example, no one’s ever going to say to you. They want to know I’m interviewing you, George, the company. I’m not going to say give it to me straight George, are you pain in the ass to work with? Are you going to make me look bad to my boss? Are you going to, I know you’re competent, but are you going to do people never say that to you, but that’s what they need to know what they want to know?

They’re just not, you know, legally I’m not even supposed to ask people their age or, or marital status or things like there are a lot of constraints. But those unspoken questions. I think I rephrase them different than the question. My version is, can they do the job? Will they continue to do the job? Because they’re more valuable every day that they’re on the job and for how long will they do the job? Is there a ceiling built in? So, there are variations of this, but I guess the point is discerning the person’s motivation and it’s usually unspoken because the fact of the matter is human beings are lousy at discerning their own motives. They can’t even human beings are lousy at discerning their own level of happiness, according to all the psychological research, which I still read on an ongoing basis.

George Bradt: [00:35:20] Well, and there are a lot of people that are bad interviewers, and they don’t actually know what question they’re asking. So, they’ll say something and if you turn it around and say, Oh, glad you asked that, here’s the answer to that. It really an example is this, which then answers the unasked question that they really care about.

Duff Watkins: [00:35:36] which takes us to the eighth lesson. Since you know, the three questions that you’re going to be asked, even if it’s unspoken prepare answers to the only three questions that you’re going to be asked from their perspective, not yours.

George Bradt: [00:35:53] So, we’re going to come back to this in a second. If I know where you’re going, but they’re asking a question, you figure out that the question they’re really asking you is about strengths. It’s not really about your strengths. the question isn’t, what are your strengths? The question is, do you have the strengths we need in this position. If they’re asking motivations, it’s partly the way you phrased it. It’s not really. It’s not what motivates you. It’s are you going to stay in this job? Are you going to love working for us? I don’t care what you do on your weekends. I care that you’re going to love working with us.

And the fit question is it’s not a general fit quality question. It’s not, Hey, you’re a nice guy. What’s important. Nobody cares about your values. They care about whether you’re going to be a pain in the ass and hard to work with here because different companies have different, different cultures and some companies really want people to come in. And so, I was interviewing with Pillsbury a million years ago coming out of business school and we got to the end of the interview. So, they were interviewing me. And I got to the end of the interview and I said, Hey, listen, really enjoy talking to you. It really doesn’t sound like I’m a good fit for your company.

And they said, why? So, we described this Midwestern Minnesota, nice really pleasant place with a lot of nice people. I’m a hard charging, new Yorker. You guys are going to hate me. So, they invited me for a second interview. I called the guy up. I said, well, were you in the same room I was in? Because I said, you don’t want me?

He goes, no, no, no. We’re trying to evolve our culture. I said, great. Let somebody else evolve the culture.

So it’s, you know, I fit. In some places, obviously I fit in some hard charging companies. I would never fit in Pittsburgh.

Duff Watkins: [00:37:42] It does help to have a level of self-awareness as to where you belong and what you prefer. And, and that level of self-awareness is not always present in people. Lesson number nine, they don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them. Wait a second, George, are you suggesting that multinational corporations are not, they don’t care about me as a unique individual.

George Bradt: [00:38:06] It’s hard to imagine.

Duff Watkins: [00:38:08] I’m shocked. Shocked. I tell you.

George Bradt: [00:38:12] I’m shocked. I can’t imagine there’s gambling in the backroom. What’s that from? I’m told that there’s gambling backroom on cashing out my chips.

Duff Watkins: [00:38:21] Casablanca the movie.

George Bradt: [00:38:23] I knew you’d get that.

Duff Watkins: [00:38:25] Of course, of course. I’m a writer, man. I know movies.

George Bradt: [00:38:30] Yeah. You know, we almost should have started with that because it pollutes everything. You know, you, brought up, everybody had a mother and everybody’s mother cares about them at least for a little bit and start off by thinking people care about you, but they don’t. I mean, they just don’t. I mean, some people do, but it’s, and it goes back to your first question. It’s not, I’ve learned, it’s not about me winning it’s about us winning, winning together, but in the job interview, they’re not really trying to help you.

It’s sort of like. At least the United States buying a house. When you have a real estate agent, a real estate agent works with you, but the real estate agent is paid by the seller, not the buyer. And they care about the seller. Your interests are not aligned. And individuals may care about you.

Individuals in large multinational corporations may care about you. You may have a boss who cares about you. You may be a co-worker who cares about you, but the corporation doesn’t. And the shareholders who don’t know you, don’t all they care about is what you can do for them, which is why the answers to the only three interview questions. It’s not that they care about you. It’s the strengths they need. It’s not your motivation. It’s motivation fits with them. It’s fit with them. So, yeah, that’s, that’s an important one.

Duff Watkins: [00:39:45] We joke about this, but I mean, that is a major lesson in a person’s life to learn that in a businesses really don’t care about them as, as individuals. And I don’t mean to make light of that either, but I say to people, I mean, I’ve been on the giving and the receiving end of being fired and both are difficult by the way. But you know, the first time that happens, it can be quite a shock to you because it violates the cherished notion you have of yourself.

But I, I tell young people all the time that, that company, that you’re soil loyal to, that you feel so beholden to, they would put you on the street in a heartbeat if it suited them and they should, because companies want to survive. That’s one of their primary drives. And if you are superfluous to that, well then what would you expect them to do?

And that’s kind of a maturation that I, that I find in a point of maturation.

George Bradt: [00:40:37] So let me build on that. So, we used to run the CEO boot camps for 15 years, and we bring all these senior executive experienced executives to talk to young, rising executives, number one, regret by senior executives, looking back on their careers.

Have I told you this? Guess. Guess. Number one regret. I mean, like if we had 30 senior executives come and do this 29 out of 30 said the same thing, number one, regret. So senior executives, number one, regret looking back on their career is not moving fast enough on people. And they think it’s because they have to put the corporate interests first and they’re trying to be nice to people. They’re trying to pretend they care about people and they’re caring about people. They care about the individuals. More than they’re caring for the general good. What happens, the other thing they figure out is when they move on somebody and say, you know, the words are, we love you, you’re a strong person. You know, we would have to let people go. You’re just, it’s just, it’s the moment. You’re a bad fit here. They’re right. And if using your words, somebody is superfluous. It’s actually good for them to get, let go, because it frees them to go to a place where they’re going to make a more important contribution and they’re going to be happier and more successful.

Duff Watkins: [00:41:56] That’s what I tell people when they get on an outplacement program, I said, look, your company’s funding your job search. You know, I mean, that’s about as good as it gets in this world. And sometimes people get it, sometimes they don’t, but that is interesting. That is. And it’s again, I’m thinking of the military learning to accept the short-term losses for the general.

Good. The common good. That’s very interesting. Our final point. Point number 10 avoid the a hundred day interview trap.

George Bradt: [00:42:25] So we, we, we wrote this book that you found or that you found it because I gave it to you and a guy named Michael Watkins wrote a book called the first 90 days, which is excellent. Enough people read these books they said, okay, this is an interesting thing to do at final interviews. And they get to the final three people for senior level jobs and they say, Hey, tell us what your hundred-day plan would be. And it’s a nightmare trap. And the reason it’s a nightmare trap is if you answer the question they asked and come in with your hundred-day plan, you think they care about you.

They don’t remember point number nine; they don’t care about you. They don’t care. They don’t care about your plan. Even though they asked for the plan, there are only three interview questions can you do the job, you know, strengths, motivation, and fit. So, this is one of those questions or it’s combination of, but they don’t care.

And I figured out a way to twist it. And I don’t know if I told you this, but I’ve had eight or 10 people come to me and stay, listen, you know, going into my final interview and they want a hundred-day plan. Will you help me craft a hundred-day plan? And I said, of course, and we flip it.

And this one flip has meant that I’m batting a thousand, every single person that has had me help them with their hundred-day plan for an interview has gotten the job. And the flip is so simple because they start with, instead of saying, okay, well, here’s what I’m going to do before I start. They now say, all right my understanding is the organization’s mission is this. And your priorities are this and your strategies are this. So, over the next couple of years, the organization’s got to get this, this and this done. To do that, you need the group that you’re asking me to lead to get done these things over the next 12 months to do that, here’s what I need to do over my first hundred days. Here’s my hundred-day plan. And then you answer the question they ask, which is what your hundred-day plan is, but it’s just a complete flip in the positioning because all of us, it just changes the a hundred day plan from being here’s. What’s important to me. Here’s what I need. Here’s what I’m going to do to deliver what you need done.

Duff Watkins: [00:44:59] So they asked me for my hundred-day plan in the job interview, I reframe it so that I’m inserting it within what they, as a company, as an organization needs to be done. So, based on my limited understanding that you use the phrase, my understanding and that meets their need, and it almost becomes extraneous. Whether what I say is relevant or not, because there a hidden need is, am I motivated? All the things we’ve talked about in the three interview questions? Is that more or less correct?

George Bradt: [00:45:32] Yeah, actually, you know what? You just sparked something. And I haven’t explained it this way before, but I’m going to from now on and this is going to be the first time I’ve said this. The hundred-day plan, new leaders, a hundred day plan is the new leaders a hundred day plan.

It’s a personal plan, personal onboarding plan. And what they need is a business plan. They need something that’s going to the organization so that your group is going to deliver. You’re part of what the organization needs. And so, the reframing is linking your personal plan to the business plan and that’s what people miss.

They think it, I think the question is what’s your personal a hundred-day plan, which nobody cares about the real question is tell us how you’re going to accelerate your ability to deliver what we need to deliver, which is right back to what you said this whole. Thing’s about checking on my notes. If this whole podcast is about accelerating performance, this is about onboarding and the 10 things put together leading up to the hundred-day plan for interviews are about accelerating your personal ability to deliver the performance, the organization needs yeah.

Duff Watkins: [00:46:44] Accelerating performance in the modern workplace, which is different than the one that you and I grew up in, which will be different next week than the one it is today. So,

George Bradt: [00:46:52] yeah.

Duff Watkins: [00:46:55] Well that concludes my questions. George, do you have any final comments?

George Bradt: [00:47:00] Yeah, if I had a wish, I just think the world needs more other focused leaders. And I don’t want to judge too much of what drives people’s happiness, but the world has perhaps people focused on what’s good for me and too many people head down focused on doing what they’re good at and the more people in the world that can think, how do I help? How do I contribute? How do I do good for others? The better off, we’re all going to be.

Duff Watkins: [00:47:35] To confirm that I still read, I used to work as a psychotherapist and I still read a lot of psychology and all the psychological research over and over and over. It’s just overwhelming that we feel best when we contribute to the good of others.

And that’s where we get the longest, biggest buzz that lingers, and that has nothing to do with money. And you want to prove it to yourself, listeners, viewers, right down every night before you go to bed, write down the three times when you felt happiest during the day, when you felt happy, it’s not when you thought you were happy, not when you wanted to be happy when you felt happiest.

And I predict it will be small, minimal things that that will surprise you. And it’s really not about. Winning, as George said earlier, it’s not about the money, not against money, I’m a capitalist. But this is what I mean about humans are awfully poor at understanding, recognizing what makes them happy.

So being another directed leaders is. George is saying whether it’s politics or business, I mean, the need is ever present. We’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to George, Bradt giving us his 10 lessons that took him 50 years to learn. George. Thank you for being with us very much appreciated.

George Bradt: [00:48:52] Absolutely. My pleasure.

Duff Watkins: [00:48:53] Listeners. You’ve been listening to the international podcast, 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary and as sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcast, parties, anything you want, everything you need.

It’s all available. Online professionaldevelopmentforum.org is their website. Oh, best of all, it’s free. It’s all free. Speaking of which if you want to know more, if you want a copy of George’s book, email us podcast@10lessonslearned.com and we’ll find out a way to get it to you. You’ve got nine books. You can subscribe to his articles at forbes.com to get, is it monthly updates or weekly updates George?.

George Bradt: [00:49:34] So I do five articles a month and we send out a weekly update.

Duff Watkins: [00:49:39] So you’re accessible.

George Bradt: [00:49:40] Yeah.

Duff Watkins: [00:49:41] And we’ll finish on that. And there, thank you folks for listening. Thank you for viewing. Thank you again, George. We appreciate it. Please tune into the next episode of 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn.

We provide shortcuts to excellence, not just information, but wisdom for the next generation of rising leaders.


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