Reviewing the "Surveillance Footage"

There are seven patterns that almost all principals are guilty of. When David and Blair point them out, it leads their clients to say, “you must have hidden cameras in my office!"



BLAIR ENNS: David, I think it's time we talked about the patterns that we see when we review the surveillance footage from the cameras we've place in all our clients' offices. 

DAVID C. BAKER: We could save a little money by going in on these together, couldn't we?

BLAIR: I have installs in 376 creative firms.

DAVID: Yeah, I've got 377. Oddly enough it's one more than yours.

BLAIR: Of course you do. Should I explain the joke?

DAVID: Sure.

BLAIR: Somebody reaches out to talk to you about hiring you and you start saying, "Oh, you're probably going through this and that and these other things," and they say what to you?

DAVID: There's this pause and kind of a little chuckle, but they say, "Man, it seems like you've got a camera right in my office, like you really know me."

BLAIR: Or, "You've bugged my office. You've been listening to the conversations."

DAVID: Yeah. It's kind of an interesting test to positioning too, isn't it? I turned that around usually and say, "That's how people ought to feel when you're talking with your prospects," right? You oughta to know their world so well. 

BLAIR: Yeah, that's a great perspective. So we're seeing patterns, and we're seeing patterns right away, and it simply comes from the fact that we're solving the same types of problems for the same types of people over and over again. It's not because you or I, or at least you, are smarter than the average person. Right? That's not that. 

DAVID: It's pattern matching, right? 

BLAIR: Yeah. So you can say, "Have you ever experienced this?" "Yeah, just last week," et cetera. We see the patterns and I think a little while ago you wrote an article. The idea is, if I follow you around for a day, these are seven of the patterns that I would see. I want to dive into this because again, it's this idea of pattern matching. We don't actually have cameras installed, just as you don't have cameras installed in your clients' offices, but if you are a narrowly focused expert then you know exactly what we're talking about. You've had the same responses. Let's just talk about these principals of creative firms. If you were to follow any one of our listeners around for a day, there's seven patterns that you would see. What's the first pattern? 

DAVID: The first pattern. It's the one that is always there without exception and that's that principals are risk takers. And I've actually validated that scientifically, but in this context it's interesting to me because they are so different than most of the people working for them. Not all of the people, but most of the people. They take risks, and of course the people that are quietly advising them, or not so quietly advising them in the background, may not be risk takers. The advice that they may be giving the principal is difficult for them to take, but at the core of what they do, they're risk takers. They may be all over the spectrum in terms of extrovert or introvert, or their love of process, or their hate of process, but they are risk takers and I admire that so much. 

DAVID: They're so hard on themselves as well. You're hard on yourself, I'm hard on myself, but you sit back every once in a while and look back over what you've accomplished and it's like, you know, my goodness, you've met another 24 payrolls this year. You still have a firm. You're still doing good work. People still love working for you. Don't be so hard on yourself. The reason you've accomplished all of this is because you're willing to make decisions and that means you're not willing to make only right decisions. That's silly, right? You're just willing to make decisions and that means correcting a whole bunch of them. Goodness, we could talk for hours about the wrong decisions that you've made. 

BLAIR: Yeah, the world, the universe rewards action, right? Because action yields information. Even if it wasn't the right thing to do, you get the information back. In most cases, there's some way to correct that action. Inaction, there's no information that comes from inaction. Risk takers take action. Man, I love risk takers. I think anybody who's listening to this, who owns a business, who might be going through hard times right now, things aren't going well for whatever reason. You're sitting there second guessing yourself, wondering if you've kind of made the wrong decision about this business or whatever kind of investment or risk you've made recently. I'm just so proud of you for taking risk. I think the economy does not work without people taking risks. Peter Drucker says, "In business, all profit comes from risk."

BLAIR: I like to translate that into life. In life, all profit comes from risk. The people who take the most risk, they have the big highs and the big lows, and there are no highs without lows. If you want to go through life without taking any risk, then you're going to limit your downside, but you're also limiting your upside too. I think we should mint badges and send them to all of our clients and the people who are out there starting. You're starting a business. You're providing jobs for people. I'm obviously quite emotional about this. I think it's one of the most noble things to do, is to start a business and employ people, and you have to take risks, and I think it's just one of the most wonderful, amazing things about the people that you and I work with. Just to watch them take risks every day. Like they're all in every day. 

DAVID: I know.

BLAIR: It's fantastic. 

DAVID: It's amazing, and they forget that. They forget how amazing their approach to life is because they're so hard on themselves. That phrase you just used, that information comes from risk, I've actually never heard that phrase. That's really intriguing to me. 

BLAIR: All profit comes from risk?

DAVID: Well before that you said that without decisions, without action, you don't have information. That's an interesting concept as well that I hadn't heard before. But as you were talking I was thinking, you know, it's not just risk in a business environment. As you were saying, it's risk in life to. That means the kinds of conversations you have with your friends. 

BLAIR: Oh yeah. 

DAVID: It's how you interact with your significant other, or your children, or your other family members. It's about taking a stand in a community. Risk takes so many different forms, and as humans I think that's one of the most elevating concepts about us. And so as we talk about following people around a day, that's the primary theme to me, is that these folks are risk takers in a great way. It's just fantastic to see. 

BLAIR: Yeah, and as you point out, probably most of the people around them don't have the same propensity for risk that they do, and that causes some friction. I'm kinda laughing quietly to myself about some things that have happened in my household recently that are around business, because my wife is also my business partner and the COO in our business. And it's an open secret, our risk of levels are quite different, so we've had some interesting conversations recently. Okay, what's the second pattern you see in the CCTV footage? 

DAVID: The second thing, and this emerges from the first because in personality theory, when your primary drive is X, then the things that primarily drive you crazy are usually Y. We could move kind of around that circle and we would see a different Y matching a different X everywhere. If you are a risk taker, which we've just talked about, then there are two things that really mess you up, and so this is the flip side of that. One of them is when you feel out of control, and by out of control, I mean out of your control. It's not enough that somebody else has full control over something. It's like if it's not in your control, it's like sitting in the passenger seat and the driver is doing a more than adequate job, but you're not the driver and that's what drives you crazy. 

DAVID: Because of that you don't trust the system, you feel like it sort of hides some essential insight that the business needs. You're a data-sifter, but you want unfiltered access to that, and you don't like anything between you and feeling the instinct, the sense of what's happening. Feeling out of control comes with this fact that you accept risk so easily. As I talk with principals all the time, and we're really talking about principles here in this podcast, following principals around for a day. It's this idea of feeling out of control. It really, really is difficult for them to be there even if it's illogical. 

BLAIR: If you're on the plane but not driving the plane, you're a pilot.

DAVID: Yeah. 

BLAIR: So you know what I'm talking about? Hey, you were just at a professional development thing, a seminar, or an event of some kind with about 40 people in the room where you were one of the paying audience members. How difficult was it for you to not just grab the microphone and takeover? 

DAVID: Yeah. Well everybody I think who does something for a living, no matter their approach, is that, okay, this could be improved. That's part A, part B is I could be the one who could make it better. Any principal sitting in anything, and so me sitting in that event, whether it's true or not, doesn't matter. You always get the sense, "Oh yeah, this is cool. I could make it better. I'm immediately making lists of things where I could change it to make it better and yeah, I'm the guy that could make it better." So yeah, because I wasn't in control, exactly. 

BLAIR: Right, so the third, what's the third pattern that we would see if we followed people around? 

DAVID: It's feeling taken advantage of, and this comes with that particular personality profile of a risk taker. We talked about how it feels really odd to be out of control, feel out of control, out of your control. Your blood pressure rises when you feel like somebody is taking advantage of you. And your blood pressure rises way too high, much higher than it should, but also way too early because you are imagining information out there. You're imagining that people are trying to take advantage of you when there's nothing really happening. It's just in your head. Here's an example of when principals would feel this. They've had a great year, and let's say this is last year, 2016. It was a great year and there's a lot of extra money, and they're just feeling particularly grateful, and these principals love demonstrating gratitude because they are at that point, Santa Claus incarnate. They're like little gods at that point. 

DAVID: They're exercising their risk taking ability by giving money away, and being the center of attention and so on. So they decide to do a Christmas bonus, and maybe it's the first time for all employees, and maybe it's the first time they've ever done it, but they say, "Okay, this is great. We've had a great year. I want to honor these people. Let's do it." They're not verbalizing how it's going to make them feel, but that is a part of it, and everything goes well just like they thought. Now, we get to 2017 and they're thinking about doing it again. And the primary difficulty this second year is that the people who received a bonus this year are going to compare it to what they received last year and they're going to be upset if it's not as much. This is when the principal feels taken advantage of. It's just one example to sort of bring these emotions to the surface. Principals who are risk takers hate being out of control and they hate feeling like they're being taken advantage of.

BLAIR: But are you saying that the reality is that the person who doesn't get in their bonus the same amount or more than they have received last year is going to feel resentful? Or are you saying that the principal is reading that into the situation? 

DAVID: I do think that the employee will feel a little bit resentful and that the principal is feeling attuned to this. That's just one example, but there are 100 examples during a day. Like the principal, the same principal, is driving home and traffic is building up, and somebody cuts in front of them. They're immediately feeling taken advantage of, like everything is a contest and I've just been taken advantage of. These are the people who are at their core, they're very, very generous people, but they can flip on a dime and feel taken advantage of as well. 

BLAIR: I know this wasn't your point, but is the lesson here, don't give Christmas bonuses? 

DAVID: That's definitely the lesson. 

BLAIR: Oh wow. 

DAVID: That's like keeping track of when your dog pees in the right place and then settling up once a year at Christmas. It's like, that's not the way people and dogs work. 

BLAIR: Okay we're going to do a different podcast on bonuses and profit sharing and things of that nature.

DAVID: Right, yeah. 


BLAIR: Okay, what's the next pattern that you see after being taken advantage of? 

DAVID: I just have to chuckle at this one because principals love the insights that come from data, which obviously requires-

BLAIR: Data.

DAVID: ... The collection and analysis of data, right. But they are the-

BLAIR: I see where you're going here. 

DAVID: They are the very, very, very worst data compliance people in the world. 

BLAIR: They just want to put the data under their pillow and sleep on it, right? Is that it? 

DAVID: Yeah. Well they can't stand the fact that an employee doesn't participate in the timekeeping system, but it doesn't bother them at all that the records are incomplete primarily because they don't participate in the timekeeping system. Oh, that's sad, isn't it? 

BLAIR: We love you all. 

DAVID: We love you in spite of yours, but we're going to keep the cameras on. Because this is really crazy and you can ask anybody in the agency environment at who the worst data compliance offenders are and it will be the principals. 

BLAIR: Is it just time sheets or is it something else too? 

DAVID: It's everything. It's like receipts. 

BLAIR: Yeah, right. 

DAVID: Do you have to turn receipts in when you travel? Oh listen, I asked him, you don't want to go there, do you know? 

BLAIR: No no, do I have to too? Yeah, I guess I do. 

DAVID: If I asked them if you have to. 

BLAIR: I just have a special place in my briefcase, well I don't use a briefcase anymore.

DAVID: This is all bullshit, you do not-

BLAIR: No I'm just thinking through this. I just pull out a wad of paper and say, "Well." 

DAVID: "Here you go." 

BLAIR: "Some of its there, good luck." Between that and the credit cards there should be some sort of trail of where I was and what I did. 

DAVID: Yeah, or if you happen to be dealing directly with somebody in the accounting department at one of your clients that sign up for training or something, their level of compliance requirement is very different from yours. It's like really?

BLAIR: Well or I'll look at financial statements and I'll get upset that something isn't there or something isn't represented right. But when it comes to my own receipts it's like, well who cares? What does it matter? You just need one number. Why do we need to, right yeah, right.

DAVID: So you get the point?

BLAIR: I get the point. Okay, so this idea of we love the insights from data, but we're not very compliant with data ourselves. And it's probably something to do with the personality profile of the attention to detail or the being able to focus on the little things for long enough. When maybe principals are more focused on big picture, and moving quickly, and taking risk. Is that a fair assessment or have I got that completely wrong? 

DAVID: No, I think that is true. I think partly too, related to that, is that we don't really think about the human capital requirements that some of our demands yield on people. Like we think there's this cool idea, but we don't really think about how that's going to impact other people. How complying with this brilliant new idea and you've had eight brilliant new ideas this week is going to change the culture rather than just ... It's Like we don't always have to change things. We can land on a decent enough policy and we can stick with it. We don't have to change it all the time. 

BLAIR: Yeah, okay. What's the next pattern you're seeing? 

DAVID: This is assuming people are still listening, right, so it could just be you and I at this point. 

BLAIR: Well I am, I'm finding this fascinating. Let's keep going. 

DAVID: Okay, so you're comfortable with change, which means that it's not terrifying to you to just change on a dime. I'm kind of laughing to myself because for a few years we tried to take a very planned family vacation and then for awhile I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun." When you start a phrase, "Wouldn't it be fun," that usually means wouldn't I think it's fun. 

BLAIR: I've got a great idea. 

DAVID: Let's just get in the plane and fire it up, turn the weather radar on and let's see where a great place to go would be for vacation, and then I'll just file a flight plan in the cockpit and we'll just take off right there. And I thought, "What a cool idea, so spontaneous." 

BLAIR: I'll just point out that you need to have your own plane for this to work, but go on.

DAVID: My wife, we only tried this once or twice to realize this is a bad idea. That wasn't how she enjoyed doing vacations. For her, it was really about planning, thinking, anticipating, and that just didn't occur to me right? My idea of changing on a dime, principals do this all the time, they go to a conference and they write down all these ideas about how their firm could be better. And they go back and everybody is dreading, "Oh my god, he's coming back from another conference and now everything is going to change because now what was good enough for us until recently, now suddenly is crap and we have to start all over." 

DAVID: We're so comfortable with change that we don't sometimes understand that the world that we're operating in isn't as comfortable with change. They need a slower pace of change. They need a better explanation. They need policies about how this will take place, and some principals here about that and they just throw their arms up and say, "Well, forget it then." Or it happens with books too, you know? 

BLAIR: Yeah. 

DAVID: Somebody reads 40 books a year and that's how many changes are going to be at the firm. Now we're going to approach clients this way because I just read this book.

BLAIR: Or consultants right?

DAVID: Or consultants, absolutely. Consultant fatigue. I always ask when the last time somebody worked with the consultant was, because I don't want to be one in a long string of consultants just wearing people out.

BLAIR: And you probably would rather not be the first one either. 

DAVID: Generally not, yeah, right. 

BLAIR: Okay, so the pattern is that you're comfortable with change and quick responses, but you're frustrated by the fact that the people around you aren't as comfortable. 

DAVID: Right, exactly. 

BLAIR: Sometimes they put up roadblocks to that progress you're looking for through the quick changes. Okay, I think we've got two left. We're talking about patterns that we would see if we followed you around for a day or that we see on the closed circuit television cameras that we've installed in your office. What's number six? 

DAVID: The next one is making classic mistakes in hiring for certain positions. So these same people who are in charge, and who are risk takers, and who accept change quickly and so on. they value people who are respectful. They overvalue that. People who are deferential to some degree. In hiring, they will also tend, this is a separate addendum. They will tend to follow their gut instinct. They'll put too much weight on their gut instinct in a hiring decision, and part of that gut instinct tells them, "Oh, I shouldn't hire this person because they're not very deferential or they talk too much," or whatever. And the two areas where I've found principals consistently making bad hiring mistakes because of gut instinct, and the one is way more important than the other. The less important one is salespeople who tend to talk a little bit more than the principal would prefer. 

DAVID: The more important one is really somebody who's in charge of project management or what I call resourcing. These are people who are objective, they're driven by data, they follow a process, and they are not driven by keeping the principal happy. In other words, they're not that deferential. Principals need to be aware of that tendency they have to dismiss a candidate just because they are not deferential. Realizing that actually what makes somebody like that a great balancing factor in a firm is the fact that they are not deferential. The reason the principal gets their way so much is because other people are afraid of her, or they're afraid about their jobs, or they're easily persuaded. This person in charge of resourcing, the COO type, is not driven that way and not deferential as well, and so it's just being aware of your instincts there.

BLAIR: In some positions between the principal and others, there needs to be this healthy tension, right? And you're saying resourcing is one of those areas. 

DAVID: Yeah, exactly. To keep pricing high, keep clients happy and so on. 

BLAIR: There's an analogy in sales where the most successful salespeople, at least in complex B2B sales, and this comes from the book, The Challenger Sale. The successful ones are the ones who are comfortable with tension in the sale. In fact, creating tension in the sale where most salespeople strive to dissipate or ease tension in the sale. If you're comfortable in that space creating tension and operating in that space, then you're more likely to succeed. 

DAVID: That's really interesting. 

BLAIR: Okay, the seventh item on your list of patterns that we would see if we followed principals around for the day? 

DAVID: Is that they don't celebrate success. They recognize success, they make decisions to achieve success, they appreciate it, but they usually move right on. It's almost like an NFL game. There's one every seven days during the season. Whether it was a win or a loss, it's like we gotta put that behind us. Let's move on to the next game because that next game is important. Whatever happened in the past, it's in the past. Let's move on. That's not how the rest of the world thinks. The rest of the world needs you to celebrate their successes, and principals are usually not only hard on themselves, but they're hard on other people by default. They could just spend more time, kindly, respectfully celebrating what's been accomplished, and just give it time, and relax. We don't have to be so unhappy with the fact that we haven't. We've reached 110% of our goal, we really want 120% of our goal. By the way, that math makes me mad, but anyway. Should've used that.

BLAIR: I'll come back to that. 

DAVID: Yeah, we'll come back to that yeah. But we can just celebrate success and we all know that that's necessary, but principals, for some reason, I don't understand the psychology here, but principals do not celebrate success well. And it would make your firm, maybe not just make your firm better, it might make you better as a person if you could celebrate success. I know people in my life have told me this and you've actually told me this. Have people told you that you're too hard on yourself? 

BLAIR: Yeah, from time to time. As you're talking about this, I'm wondering if it comes from getting to 90% of your goal, that we just finished a quarter here, and internally as a team we looked at all of our goals that we set for the quarter. Of the eight or nine company wide goals, we only were able to check two off the list. There's this little moment of deflation, and then I pointed out that if we look at the other six goals we're between 95% and 98% of the way there, so let's just appreciate the progress. And I wonder if that part of it is that, is a principal can't celebrate success because there are these other things that were left undone, or it's that one success part of a plan of other successes that have not yet been achieved. So I don't feel like I've accomplished the goal. 

DAVID: Yeah.

BLAIR: I wonder if it's that.

DAVID: It sounds like it could be.

BLAIR: Or if it's just the healthy paranoia of the principal. Where, okay yeah, we've got this one success, but they're still coming for me. 

DAVID: Yeah, all of this could be taken away at any moment. 

BLAIR: Yeah. 

DAVID: The difference between my success today and pushing a cart next week is just one little switch in the universe happening and I need to be prepared for that. And being able to do that in comfortable shoes or barefoot is going to mean me pushing just a little bit harder this Saturday. 

BLAIR: Yeah, I want to come back to that 110% versus 120% of the conversation at the family dinner table last night in the Enns household. I was making a joke to one of my kids. I said, "Remember when your hockey coach use to go around the dressing room beforehand and say to everybody what's your plan?" And somebody would say, "I'm going to give it a 110%," and then the next kid would say, "I'm going to give it a 120%." And then another kid would say, "I'm going to give it 200%." And nobody ever said anything, and so we're laughing about that. And my oldest son who's with us for a few months, he said, he's so deadpan. He said, "Next time somebody tells me to give 110%, I'm just stopping. I'm not even going to try."

DAVID: I'm going to say, "Well I'm going to give 90% if you're going to do 110. There's not any point in doing more than 90." 

BLAIR: Yeah. 

DAVID: Yeah, bad math.

BLAIR: These are great patterns. I'm so glad we did this. Anything you want to add to this before we wrap up and debate whether or not we should remove the cameras? 

DAVID: No, let's not remove the cameras. This has been fun. I hope people see themselves in it. Maybe a great assignment would be for them to write this same kind of a thing for their client base, which you the list is going to be quite different. 

BLAIR: Oh yeah. That would be a great blog post, right? 

DAVID: Yeah for them, for sure.

BLAIR: Just basically copy yours. Same idea. What are the patterns that you see in your clients? And obviously depending on how you're positioned, that'll be easier or more difficult. I want to close by just going back to that first pattern at the top. I know we really made the point, but I'm just so proud of anybody who gets up in the morning and takes more than their share of risk. Those people don't need people like you and I to be proud of them, because the reward is there in the life that they've chosen, but I just think it's so impressive and it makes the world go round. 

DAVID: Ditto that, absolutely. 

BLAIR: Thanks David. We'll talk to you soon. 

DAVID: Thank you.


David Baker