Episode:09 Servant Leadership with Jon Abboud

Episode:09 Servant Leadership with Jon Abboud

Today we're speaking with our special guest, John Abboud, who comes to us by way of many various paths, including a background in the United States Marine Corps, and academic study in management and leadership. In this episode was talked about servant leadership, communication, and when you are a leader is nothing about you.

Jon D. Abboud

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jdabboud/


0:19 Opening

0:49 Jon Abboud Bio

6:26 Leading in the Military

10:47 New leaders

13:01 Types of Leadership

18:51 Leading people

20:18 Transition from peer to leader

28:28 Allusions of communication

40:01 Recommenced books

47:38 Closing


Mentioned Books

https://www.amazon.com/360-Degree-Leader-Developing-Organization/dp/1400203597

https://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/080701429X

https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/0812993012


Hosted By:

Brian Comerford
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/briancomerford/

Nick Lozano
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-lozano-97356621/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickLLozano

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Show Transcript

Brian Comerford  0:19
Thanks for joining us for another edition of lead.exe. I'm Brian Comerford in Denver, Colorado.

Nick Lozano  0:25
And I'm Nick Lozano in Washington DC.

Brian Comerford  0:28
Today we're speaking with our special guest, Jon Abbott, who comes to us by way of many various paths, including a background in the United States Marine Corps, and academic study in management and leadership. We're happy to have Jon here. And we'll ask you to Jon to just kick things off by giving us a little bit of a background about yourself.

Jon Abboud  0:49
Sure, first of all, thanks for inviting me to be on the show here today, it's gonna be a lot of fun. So I'm looking forward to it. A little bit about myself, I joined the Marine Corps at the ripe old age of 17 years old, which was a lot of fun watching, your parents have to sign the documents that tell you that you're owned by the government, actually, but uh, my parents really loved that one. But I should specify in the Marine Corps Reserve, about going on 14 years now. Like I said, I enlisted in 2006, at the age of 17, I actually finished boot camp before I got my high school diploma, which is kind of cool and fun. From there, you know, did the basic entry level training for the Marine Corps, I became a communications technician out spent about seven months in 29, palms California. So if you have any Marines on your, in your audience, they'll have fond memories of that lovely little oasis in the desert. So yeah, from there, I ended up going to my undergrad at East Stroudsburg for university in Pennsylvania, where I ended up studying history, which, you know, we can talk about a little bit later how studied history is kind of impacts my career and my leadership style. ended up moving down to the DC area, I started out as a contractor working at a federal agency under Department of Justice. From there, I've ended up working at multiple federal agencies, you know, one of the cabinet level one is a sub cabinet agency, I won't go into the specifics of which ones they are not for any security reasons, just in case I say something dumb. I don't know what to get fired. But all jokes aside, I mean, it's been a great career working down for government. You know, while while working, I ended up getting a master's degree in management and leadership into the whole Marine Corps Reserve life. You know, with the civilian sector, I think, what I like to say is, I like to think that being good at one kind of makes me better at the other. in both directions, I think, you know, being a good, quote, unquote, civilian or normal employee working with normal people. I like to think that kind of makes me a better marine leader. And I think the experience in the Marine Corps makes me a better civilian leader.

I really strive to be one.

Yes, but in a nutshell, I didn't deploy, I didn't have the opportunity to play the Middle East, like, like so many other service members. But I did spend some time in Europe, as well as an Africa doing some cool command center type work and theater security cooperation missions. So it's been a fun ride. I do like a specified just closing the podcast world, there are a lot of, you know, combat veterans out there telling really, stories about really tough service, I'm not one of those. I do not have any direct combat experience. But, you know, the experience I have picked up in the Marine Corps been incredibly valuable to me, and I'm happy to share what I can with you guys today.

Brian Comerford  3:43
Well, I appreciate that introduction, john, and, you know, any of us who have been part of any type of military service branch, or have had family members who have served know that it takes a lot of different roles for any mission to be completed with success. So combat, you know, being on the front lines of combat isn't necessarily the only place where, you know, the the value is being created in, in organizations as large as all of our service branches. So thank you for your service. Well, let me let me kick it off with a question really related to what got you interested in joining the Marine Corps in the first place? Did you just decide I want to find the absolutely most difficult thing I could do as a 17 year old. And that rose to the top of the list?

Jon Abboud  4:33
Yeah, so actually, it started a lot younger Matt, probably second or third grade. You know, I was just kind of had this thing I wanted to be in the military when I was younger. I don't know if I saw a Top Gun or something like that. But I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I thought that was really cool. Then I realized I was not not super good at doing math in my head at you know, Mach two or whatever. So I thought I'd leave that to those those types of people. And then you like every, every tough are in their head, tough young man does they have their I'm going to be a Navy SEAL or a special forces kind of guy. So I had my little phase, I think, and that was going to be the path. But you know, as I got into high school and got more serious about it, the Marine Corps just seemed to be the right fit. For me, I had a couple friends who had gone ahead of me, and it just seemed to be the right service, obviously, you know, I was a young teenager when 9/11 happened. So that was when it really kind of solidified my you know, I need I need to serve, I need to get back and do my part kind of thing. So yeah, that's where it really happened. For me. I enlisted my plan always didn't actually go officer. There was a time where I considered ROTC or, you know, even trying to get into the Naval Academy. But what I really realized that, for me, personally, was that if I really wanted to be expected to lead troops, lead people on the ground, I wanted to have that lower level experienced first. That's not the only way to do it. I've met some great officers who were never enlisted. I've met some great enlisted, who would have made great officers and you know, and the like, but for me, I just really wanted to have that enlisted man, man or woman's experience and perspective before I was ended up ended up going to the leadership role, considering my title is still Staff Sergeant, I obviously never never got through with the the officer side of things. Still a little bit of time. I'm not too old yet. But that's kind of the path I'm on right now.

Brian Comerford  6:26
Well, that's very interesting to me, and a commendable path as well, I think, having been someone myself, who went through Air Force ROTC, and, like you a variety of reasons where the the questions came up about how I wanted to pursue, ultimately, whether or not I would continue on that course. And and where is that effectiveness? The most critical? Is it actually, in you know, kind of as you just characterized, is it coming at it from that officer perspective, or up through the ranks of the enlisted? So, again, a commendable path, I think, for you to have taken then I'm curious, in particular, how you think that has helped characterize some of your own perspective around a leadership style that is this one that you would say is unique to you?

Jon Abboud  7:23
Yeah, sure. Um, so I mean, as you know, being a veteran yourself, there's a, you know, I don't I don't know a whole lot about the Air Force. But at least the Marine Corps, you know, we push leadership and responsibility down to the lowest possible level at all times. One of those kind of decentralized command type things. And that really starts day one at boot camp, you don't realize it at that time, especially when you're 17 and scared out of your wits, getting screamed at by your drill instructor, but you're, you're really learning those basic leadership skills and what leadership looks like, from the ground level early on. What's really cool about the marine or not, and I'm sure it's similar in other services is that enlisted folks actually train the officers, especially in officers, Candidate School and the basic school, you know, you're going to have, you know, a staff sergeant or a Gunnery Sergeant who's actually responsible for making a Marine, out of a reason high school graduate, or even not formally enlisted marine, and, you know, making a marine officer out of them. So that's been a really cool thing to witness and see, you know, especially as I rose through the ranks, and we would get, you know, a young lieutenant or a First Lieutenant come to our unit, or, you know, I'd be paired up with them for a task is that, you know, you know, your sir, you're the boss, you're the officer or your ma'am. But at the end of the day, you know, I'm the one with 10 plus years of experience here. So it's your decision. But let me let me give you a few suggestions on how to maybe best go about this decision, and then you can make that decision. So and you can see right away, you know, the officers that are going to be a good one, they come in with their ears open in their eyes, and they're ready to listen, they're ready to learn. That doesn't mean they're going to get walked all over that they don't know what they're doing. They're not consummate professionals. But you know, the ones that come in and think they're going to tell you how to do everything, that the team is just going to listen, because they're going to listen, because you told them to because you're an officer, those the ones that aren't really going to do well. And it's really a shame to see. You know, one of the programs I worked in with the Marine Corps involves taking business executives on kind of a day to the Marine Corps experiential type leadership program. And it's, it's really cool to see people from the private sector come in and kind of see how we lead and how we do things. One particular experience, it kind of speaks to your question, I think, was I had an exec, I believe he worked in the finance industry, but I could be remembering someone incorrectly. But either way, you know, about halfway through the day, he looks at me and says, You know what, man, I, I wish I had Marines in my workforce, you know, you guys just take all the decision making it out of it for these people, you just, you know, tell them to take the hill and they go ahead and they go do it. And it's, there's just no question about it. And I had to kind of stop myself from laughing. But as you know, let me let me frame this for you a little bit differently. If I could, sir. Imagine you have, you know, let's say 40, young, mostly men ages, you know, 18 1920, maybe 21. You just spent about a year training them and convincing them. They're the meanest, greenest, baddest fighting machine on the face of the planet. And then you go ahead and tell them to do something just because you told them to. And you let me know how that works out for

Not very well.

exactly. So as soon as I've kind of, you know, opened a little bit wider. And I said, You know what, it really comes down to a servant leadership, leading from the front, leading by example, you know, not asking your Marines to do something you wouldn't do yourself.

Brian Comerford  10:47
Any closing thoughts around, sort of, you know, that, that dichotomy between the, you know, new officers that are coming in, you were saying that you can identify pretty quickly, who's going to be, you know, a good leader versus someone who, and we can never got to the second example, where if they don't have more of a servant leadership role where that kind of breakdown could occur?

Jon Abboud  11:11
Yeah, sure. And I think, you know, to be honest, you don't just see it in, in the military, I think, I don't know if it's a human thing that we're, you know, biologically or psychologically wired to notice. But I mean, I think you see it, you know, you're sitting in a room, you're in a meeting, you're at an organization or a function and someone walks in, you're in the room yet, hey, that guy's a leader, or that woman, you know, I would follow her. A lot of the skills I think, are learned and picked up over time. And, you know, there's always this nature nurture debate on, you know, our leaders born or made, or, etc. But I think it's a combination of both. And I think that what's most important to kind of put a pin in the servant leadership thing is, is authenticity. You know, there are a lot of different leadership styles that can fall under, you know, servant leadership, transactional leadership, or transformational leadership, etc, etc, the list goes on, I think every other week, you know, a business writer decides there's a new type of leadership. But for me, what it really comes down to is authenticity is, is the style that you're using, are the words that are coming out of your mouth, and more importantly, the actions that you're taking? Are they just techniques that you picked up in an HBR article? Or do you really believe those things, and you know, are your actions really, you know, mirroring the words that you're speaking, so, Stephanie is probably how I put a pin on that, you know, you know, bad leader, when you see one pretty quickly, most of the time, because they're trying to tell people to do stuff, instead of asking people to do stuff, where they have to tell people to do stuff instead of their team, you know, automatically, hey, this is the bosses intent, this is what they want, want to get done, I understand why I need to do these things. And I'm going to do my best to get this product or this project done. For my team, and for my boss, and for myself. So

Brian Comerford  13:01
yeah, you know, you touched on something that I think is really important characteristic to my mind. And, you know, authenticity is certainly, I think, at the top level of one of those most important factors of creating trust within the team as well, and a leadership structure. But one other thing that you said that, you know, really resonates with me is need to have an inquisitive mindset. coming in who role particularly as a new leader, whether you've just been promoted in or you've been hired in, or, you know, in coming straight out of something like Officer Candidate School into working directly within the ranks. That's something that, you know, I think it's, it's second nature, to those of us who have been exposed to the demands of leadership for a long period of time. But it's not always something that's first nature to someone who, you know, is brand new to that leadership role coming in from an authoritarian perspective where the belief may be, in order for me to be a strong leader, I need to know, and therefore, I'm going to tell, versus I'm going to be open to learning, and I'm going to question and receive the information openly.

Jon Abboud  14:25
Right. Yeah, that's totally right. And I think what, uh, what I was kind of thinking about when you brought that up, is that leadership really is and then you hear people say this a lot, you know, you got to learn how to lead yourself before you can lead anybody else. And when I kind of embarked on this, quote, unquote, leadership journey of mine, really, really seen leadership is something that I wanted to, you know, hone in myself and grow in myself, as opposed to just a thing that I was kind of passively doing, I guess, because the Marine Corps was guiding me. But I guess you know, that some of this rambling, you know, taking an active role in my own leadership development is probably the best way to put it. I really realized that it's an internal thing that you need to do. And it starts with asking questions of yourself, and reflecting on yourself and asking, you know, did I hand do I handle these situations properly? Do I listen when other people speak, and I've been the best person I can be? Am I being the best leader I can be for my people, and all those things. So I think before you can even ask questions of the people you've been asked to lead, you need to kind of go through that self discovery on your own. And frankly, it's not always fun. It's, it can be painful. I mean, once you really kind of embark on this leadership journey, you realize all the things you've been screwing up for a long, long time. And it's you know, and some of them are kind of serious things, you know, I didn't handle that relationship appropriately, or I burned that bridge, or I said hurtful person to this person thinking I was motivating that or, or this that the other thing. You know, I started freaking example, on the advice of a good friend of mine keeping a journal A number of years ago, and it's, you know, it's not any, you know, there's a number of different ways. Tim Ferriss has his Five Minute Journal, and, you know, you can buy journals online, that prompts you have questions, but for me, it was just sitting down putting pen to paper for a few minutes every morning, and just writing down my thoughts, kind of having a conversation with myself. And it's a really interesting process where you, if you're doing it, honestly, and earnestly, you know, you'll figure out some things about yourself. you'll, you'll do it, and I do this myself all the time, I'll be writing something that, you know, I'm thinking if someone found this journal five years from now, I want them to read this. But in my mind, I'm like, you know what, man, you know, that's not the truth. That's not what you actually think that's how you actually feel you're embarrassed of yourself. And I guess that's a painful, difficult thing to go through. But I think it's so important to do as, as a leader at any stage of your career, you don't have to do it through writing, you don't have to do it through meditation. For you, it's going out for a run and just thinking whatever it is, but kind of going through the down to the depths of the that terrible person that you might be inside. And and finding that good piece in there that you want to resurrect. That, to me is the first step. And I know, that's not exactly the question you asked. But think before, like I said, you can ask anything of anybody else, you have to ask a lot of yourself. And that's where you can see those types of people that have done that, or were kind of innately more self aware than others or that have that, you know, higher EQ or emotional intelligence, it really just goes such a long way.

Brian Comerford  17:36
I love everything that you said. And even, you know, I think where you went with it was very beneficial, considering that you've got a an actual method as an example, you know, that can can help. Drive you know, exposing some of that in your awareness.

Nick Lozano  17:54
Yeah, you know, what I really liked that. That is you you went through, you know, the matter of being honest, authentic with yourself and with other kind of reminds me this great quote, are you much of a reader john at all? I don't know. But

Jon Abboud  18:09
I am. I love reading. So there are some books me I'll write them down.

Nick Lozano  18:14
There's a great book called Creativity, Inc. By Ed Catmul, one of the co founders of Pixar.

Jon Abboud  18:23
I haven't read the whole thing. I've listened to about half the audio. Yeah, he has just finished Yeah.

Nick Lozano  18:30
Yeah, there's this great quote, I was just thinking of when you're talking about, you know, he says, It's be authentic, it's Be patient, be authentic, and be consistent, and the trust will come?.

Jon Abboud  18:41
Yep, absolutely.

Nick Lozano  18:42
that whole quote, right, there just completely sums up everything that you just said, I feel like it in a nutshell.

Jon Abboud  18:51
Well, I think the thing that I would add to that, with this authenticity thing is that there's, it can be a little bit of a misnomer, or there's kind of a catch, if you will, is that, you know, you'll you're I've run into people that are like, Well, you know, I'm just brash, and I say what I think and I'm, you know, blah, blah, blah, and that's just how I am I'm being authentic, it's like, well, you know, you're authentic person might be kind of a jerk. So, you know, you need to go and I've been that way, you know, I look back again, as a leader at times where, you know, I'm on the squad leader here. So it's just do what I say, because I say so and, and, you know, things get done. But did they get done as well as they could ever as often or, you know, as efficiently or effectively as I could have the answers, probably no. So I think again, you know, that's where that ties back into that self discovery. There's another great book, and I'm totally blanking on the title right now. I think the authors last name is Novak, he was the former CEO of the company that holds like Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut and whatnot. And I might be screwing his name up. But anyway, he has this quote in his book that it says something along the lines of, you know, being yourself doesn't mean ignoring the impact of your actions on others people. So you can be authentic all day. But if you're not working on making that authentic person, that you are into a better person into a good leader, and an empathetic person, someone who listens, someone who genuinely cares about their team, that authenticity isn't going to get you very far.

Nick Lozano  20:18
You know, I think you make a very valid point there, too. When you say being authentic, it's it's not about being brash, and just speaking, whatever's on your mind. It's about being a real person, and kind of admitting when you don't know something. You know, when you're a leader, you have a team, you're leading the team. And, you know, you might have an infrastructure guy, or in your case, you know, someone who's a rifleman, a point, man, they're working for you, they're going to know that job better than you do. And, you know, you're going to have to trust and their opinion, and what they bring to the table. And that kind of brings me to the question I have for you is, you know, when you become a new leader, and you move from being a tech addition to having to get things done every day, a more hands on level, and you get promoted, and like let's say it's within the same team, that you used to be a member of now you're in charge of them, do you have any tips or tricks, kind of like helping to make that transition from being a peer to being a manager? I mean, you know, sometimes in these blue collar jobs or even like it jobs, when we all work in a server room, or or, you know, a data center, we kind of get buddy, buddy, like it like it's almost like, like, We're friends, and you kind of have to take that friend dynamic. And and now you're, you're in charge of these individuals? Do you have any tips or tricks or words of advice for somebody to help them kind of make that transition?

Jon Abboud  21:44
Yeah, I think so. So I think a couple things that we could talk about here. One is that that is one of the things that's, in my opinion, a little bit easier in the military, it's very plain and simple, you know, I used to have one stripe up on my collar. Now I have two, so that means that this relationship has changed a little bit. And I think that, you know, most the best people I've had relationships with in the military, understand between that uniform on a uniform off type role, you know, one of my longtime mentors, great guy, great leader, you know, he has chewed my butt to no end in the past for things that, you know, he rightly should have said, you know, at the end of the day, it's like, all right, man, let's go get a beer. And and it's, you know, it's, it's understanding this is the job, you know, is authentic anger, it wasn't it or, you know, redirection might be a better way of putting it. He wasn't faking it, he was walking the walk and talking the talk. But I understood that it was in that scenario, in that in that line of business. So that's one thing that I think you can have those honest conversations with your people is, you know, you got a small team, especially if you're a younger employee, maybe you all got to this company to the same time, and all we're kind of coming up together, and you're the one that gets promoted ahead of your peers, a couple things, is, they should be happy for you. If you got that job, you know, authentically, you weren't playing office politics or, or doing anything behind anyone's back, and you really were the right person for that job. These people, if they really are your work, friends and your colleagues, they'll they'll be happy for you, and they'll be ready to follow your lead, because they know you're a good leader, and that you know, you're doing. Another thing to do is, you know, when those lines start getting cross or blurred, have those conversations, you know, hey men. I know, we started at the same time, I know, you know, you applied for this position as well and didn't get it and I did. But I really want to work together to make our whole team successful. Because if I'm successful, then you'll be successful, we'll all make more money, the team will do better, etc, whatever that is. So I think honest, and frank conversations with people and having candor goes a long way. And you know, if the person on the team can deal with that, then well, guess what, you've just been promoted to a leadership position, you're now in a position to do something about that. Maybe it's honestly, maybe it's talking to your boss and saying, Hey, you know, Joe over here is having a real tough time. With me being his boss. I've tried what I can to mentor him, here are the concrete things that I've done to try to make the situation better. And you have to have those concrete things. You can't just say, Oh, I talked to him a few times. No, what did you really do? Did you have a counseling session? Did you get to the root of why he's having trouble following your lead? Is it something that you're doing? Are you being a bad leader is that the power go to your head, all those things, you have to take real concrete steps, having honest and frank conversations, and again, continually doing that constant introspection into your own life and how you can be doing a better job. And then the last thing I'll say, is the idea of why. You know, we always say, you know, what's your why, or, and this idea thing, there's that book start with why. If you've been taken over as a leader of a new team, you know, and I'll, I'll use this example, you know, when I was a junior Marine, and you come home from the field, and you're on the bus, and you're tired, and oh, now you get it, you get home and you you're on the bus for two hours thinking and cold and, okay, everybody busts out your weapons and cleaning before they go into the armory. It's like, you know, a man, I just sat on a bus for two and a half hours, I could have had this weapon clean, and I could be hot meal right now, why don't they ever let us clean our weapons on the bus. And then you get into that position where you're the one telling guys Hey, bust out your weapons and clean up. And you understand, it's just one example. But once you get that higher level of leadership, you realize why some of the things that you thought were really stupid, when you were that ground level person really weren't that stupid, you know, if you had asked you to bust open your weapons on the bus, half, you would have lost your firing pins, because it's a bumpy ride, we would have been missing stuff, the weapons wouldn't have gotten cleaned appropriately, we wouldn't have had appropriate accountability, etc, etc, etc. and you start to realize those things. So being able to translate that back to the folks that maybe didn't get the promotion, or maybe are in that lower. And, you know, this is why we have to do this this way, or this is why I'm asking you to do this job.

That's it hugely helpful. And, and you'll get to the point, hopefully, again, if you're being authentic, and you're doing your best to do your best, where people grow enough trust with you that, hey, I'm just going to ask you to do this, I can't explain why right now. But I need you to do it. And if you have built if you've done a good, good enough job building that foundation, those relationships with your people, they're not always going to Why ask why every step of the way, because they're going to trust that you're asking them to do something for the best interest of the team or for their best interest. And then, you know, make those mental notes in the back of your head, you know, I asked, so and so did you do a few things today, we didn't have time to go over why, you know, next time I talked to him, or next week or tomorrow, I'm going to sit down with him and or her and and you know, go over, hey, here's what the task was, here's why I need to do that. Do you see how is important? And since we're in such a rush last week, you know, is there any way we could have done this better couldn't have been more effective if I had taken the time, or if we had had the time to go about in a different way than I asked you to do it. So again, it's just that constant empathy, constant reflection, constant grading yourself, on how good of a leader you're being that I think you'll get along this way. And that was a lot to unpack right there. So

Nick Lozano  27:09
no, that's great stuff. In a lot of what I hear you saying too, is that, you know, a lot of people are really good at keeping the communication lines open, when things are going great. You know, the team? Well, but they're not really good with the tough conversations like, hey, Brian, you been coming in five minutes late every day, the past five days, what's up? Is there something wrong or something I can help with? You know, instead of just letting Brian keep, you know, coming in late, and then eventually, he's an hour late, then he's two hours late, if I don't say anything, you know, and then I talked to Brian, and like, hey, Brian, why you're two hours late. But you know, he's been coming into our sleep for the past month. So you know, the time to have that conversation was, you know, two months ago. Not not right there.

Jon Abboud  27:53
Or not? So is this your not so subtle way of telling Brian, that he's been late lately, or

Nick Lozano  27:59
Brian, constantly late al lthe time.

Every time he was late now, Brian is a punching bag in this example, just, you know, I feel like people are always afraid to have this tough conversation. You know, it's nice to have them when when they're easy, but when they're tough, when, you know, that's when people need the communication the most.

Jon Abboud  28:28
Yeah, no, I totally agree. There's a saying out there, you know, the, one of the biggest illusions about communication is that it's actually taking place. So that's something I always keep in the back your mind that the words that are coming out of your mouth are that the things that you think your team understands, or just an individual on your team, the things you think they know, or the things that you think you've communicated, are often far from what they actually think they know, or from what they actually receive that communication. So that's one point of that. The other piece in my mind is that, you know, there are not a whole lot of easy ways to have a hard conversation. hard conversations are hard. But guess what leaders do the hard things. That's why you've been asked to be put in this situation or in this position, as a leader, and it's time to step up and have those conversations because you know, what would have been like a kind of card hard conversation after maybe the first or second time someone's late or second or third time, whatever your your red line is, for lack of a better term, you know, it's going to be a heck of a lot harder conversation. If you let that person get away with it for a year and a half. And suddenly, that's why you need to fire them. Or that's why you need to, you know, demote them or put them on a performance plan. And you know, they're going to come a Hey, man, I've been doing this. This is how it's been my steady state operation for six months. What do you just call me out for it now? So you know, there's that quote, I think we've talked about this before, you're a you're a Jocko Willink fan. Extreme Ownership, you know that one quote from that book that I really liked by the co author, author Leif is, you know, it's not what you preach what you tolerate. And so if you're tolerating someone being late all the time, but but you know, your official memo says that we will arrive to work at eight o'clock in the morning, and you let your people slink in it, you know, 8:05 8:10 and 8:15, you know, it's going to become a problem, because you're not communicating through your actions. And then, you know, one additional thing I would add to that is that this really is a important part of performance management as well. You're coming from a government background, we have our GS levels, which are kind of similar to ranks in the military, you can come into a position that's, you know, let's say it's a GS 9,11,12. And what that means is that you're pretty much a basically assumed to get your promotion from a GS nine to a GS 11, after one satisfactory year, from your gs 11, gs 12, after another fully successful year. But it's not guaranteed, if you're not performing appropriately, and your supervisor does not believe that you're ready for that next level responsibility. They're under no obligation to promote. But what I've seen happen time and time, again, with those sorts of positions, is that, you know, this GS nine comes in, maybe there's three or four of them hired, you know, they do a pretty good job. And that year, they get their promotion of their gs 11, next year comes around, they've kind of been slacking off, they're not doing a great job, she has 12 time comes up that second year, all their peers get promoted, but their supervisor says, you know, you're not ready yet. We're going to leave you as an 11 for another six months or another year. That's an oversimplification of the process. But then, that one person who's not getting the promotion is furious, they're filing a grievance, all my peers got promoted, etc, etc. And all of that could have been avoided, had three months into that performance here, six months into that performance of your nine months into that performance, you're regularly, this manager supervisor was having conversations with that employee, hey, you know, you've been slacking lately, or you know, your work really isn't up to snuff lately. And if you keep down this path, you're not going to be ready for promotion six months from now, 12 months from now, and I'm not going to be able to give it to you. So here's some concrete strategies we can work on to make sure you're ready when that time comes. So like I said earlier, you know, it's easier to have that somewhat tough conversation, the first couple times something isn't going well, than the way to the end of the year, when that person doesn't get the promotion they were expecting. And it's like, well, I have this laundry list of reasons why you're not getting promoted. It's like, Well, yeah, you never shared it with me, buddy. So you really are responsible for that, for that development of your team. And, you know, like I said, it's easier to have a difficult conversation. See, a bad news doesn't get better with time. I guess it's the old saying.

Brian Comerford  32:43
Well, certainly one, one other approach that you can take is the public humiliation route. So you can be sure. For any of our podcast guests, I'll never be late for our

Jon Abboud  32:58
mission accomplished.

Brian Comerford  33:00
That's right. That's right. And honestly, you know, we hear we hear this terminology in the corporate world, in particular, around having courageous conversations, was just an idea that I'd like to invert right now based on someone we're talking about. It's, to me, it's far simpler than that. It's really just being honest. And part of what john that I agree with is, it's being honest as quickly, in alignment with the behavior of the incident that needs to be corrected as possible. So the opportunity for these things to fester over time and, and become behaviors that are harder to correct. later on. So let's just call it what it is.

Jon Abboud  33:41
Yeah. You're absolutely right.

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. You know, I've heard the same before you to, to fail, to be honest, is to fail to be kind. And I think that one of the things that people often confused as being nice and being kind. You know, I always use this example, if I, I got a bigger hanging out of my nose. And I say to somebody, you know, hey, how do I look being nice as I Hey, man, you look great. Like, go get em. Being kind is like, Hey, man, you're gonna want to go grab a tissue and get that booger out of your nose before you walk out the door. So I think that's a really good example of being being nice is telling me I look good. And I feel great about that, you know, thanks. But I'm going to be walking around with this junk hanging out of my nose all day. And that's really embarrassing. So you fail, to be honest, and you fail to be kind. And I think that absolutely, like you were saying, Brian applies to work conversations. And, you know, the the term courageous conversation, you know, I always liked this idea, like, think about kind of human psychology and that kind of stuff a little bit is, you know, are you even being courageous? If it's not difficult? Or if you're not afraid? Are you being brave, if it's not hard, are you being brave, if you're not scared of it, and you're, there's a whole deep psychological and philosophical conversation to have there. But the simplicity for me, as far as pertains to leadership is that, you know, these things are difficult. They don't have to be difficult, like you were saying, if you're honest and open up front, where they don't have to be as difficult. But the job of being a leader does require a certain measure of bravery, a certain measure of courage to have those difficult conversations, but you need to

Nick Lozano  35:16
also say, actually, it's not, it's not all about you, when you're the leader anymore.

Jon Abboud  35:22
In fact, it's not about you at all. And that's one of the difficult things for people to, to understand is that, you know, when you're the leader in any now you should feel good about that, you get a promotion, that's a good thing, it's an accomplishment. But it's, it's a career change, it's not a promotion, you're now responsible for, for other people, and in a very real way, whether it's the military example of making sure they're, you know, properly equipped and trained to do the mission. In the civilian world, whether it's, you know, they're properly equipped and trained, and, and led to be successful, so they can feed their families and go home at night and live rest alive. So it's a, it's a very rigorous real responsibilities. One that I think shouldn't be taken lightly?

Brian Comerford  36:03
Well, it's one that I'll add in an ever increasing, flexible, sort of work style that is more and more prevalent. And, you know, certainly in the world of technology, we're very familiar with remote work as just part of a common, you know, method by which we get things done, it's even more critical to be able to have those honest conversations and to make sure that they're timely, when you're not physically in the same office as others, you know, it can also just compound what some of those challenges can be.

Jon Abboud  36:43
Yeah, it's totally right. And, and I think, you know, I don't have a ton of experience leading remote teams. But one thing that I've observed a lot and, and that I think really rings true, is you know, that that particular instance starts with the hiring of people. And it really goes with with trust very deeply is that you know, trust is a two way street. If you have employees that you don't trust to do a good job, because you can't see them, you probably shouldn't have hired them to begin with. And if all you're doing is checking in on your employees every 30 seconds, because you don't trust them, while they're working remotely. Again, why did you hire that person to begin with, so it's a two way street there. And, you know, that remote situation really is difficult. But I think there are a lot of strategies and, and especially with, you know, advances in technology, these days, which is much more your guys world in mind, there are ways to do it and ways to be effective in

Brian Comerford  37:38
the micromanagement and leadership are not synonymous is that part of what I'm hearing?

Jon Abboud  37:44
A little bit, I would say, I think if you have to micromanage your people, you're you're doing something wrong. That doesn't mean that you don't have one on one conversations, it doesn't mean that you don't you know, get intimately involved in making sure they're, they're doing good work. But you should really, in my opinion, set people up with the tools, they need to be successful and set them free. You know, build, build the capacity to push information and push responsibility down to the lowest possible level, I think nine times out of 10 people really surprise you with what they can do. If you just give them the opportunity, as opposed to standing over their shoulders, trying to do everything. And if you do find, frankly, that you're standing over people's shoulders, monitoring every second of your work, you got to ask yourself, What am I missing, because I'm on now in the position, I'm the one to lead, I need to be looking out over the top and, and looking at the strategy and looking at the approach. And and seeing what's coming down the pike rating of snacks in the side of the head. And if you're constantly over the shoulder of your employees, you're not you're not looking further down the road. And that's a problem.

Brian Comerford  38:49
So well said thank you, Jon. And this point of clarification, before we let the podcast completely get away from us, I do want to make a correction, I appreciate you. thanking me for being a veteran, I'm not a veteran, I did go through ROTC all through high school and kind of like about you reach a decision point where you know, there are a number of factors that you have to consider about, you know, what's a long term career fit going to be for you either stepping into the ranks or not. So in my case, I you know, kind of like you, I was very passionate about aerospace engineering, I had dreams in the pilot. And with eyesight like I've got those dreams that forever elude me. It's, it kind of took the bloom off the rose for me with some of the other things I have to deal with within that. That's true.

Jon Abboud  39:51
I'm sorry for the confusion. But, uh, thanks for serving anyway, and helping people be better leaders how

Brian Comerford  39:58
much appreciated. Thank you.

Nick Lozano  40:01
Really great stuff. So we're just going to kind of wrap up here, just want to ask a question here that I generally ask all our guests here. Like I know you already mentioned a couple books. But is there any book that's had like a big influence on you, that you want to share with us?

Jon Abboud  40:20
Yeah, sure. One that I recommend and that I've actually given away a number of times is Victor Frankel's Man's Search for meaning. It's a book that I actually reread every single year. My copy has all kinds of weird notes and things in the margin. And what's really cool, that is a very quick read, I think it's, you know, under 200 pages. For those that don't know, Viktor Frankl was a psychologist who was also a Nazi concentration camp survivor. And he actually kind of refined and build out his his theory of psychology, partially during his time in the camps. And one of his one of the quotes that he uses a lot that I believe is a quote from Nietzsche is that, you know, he has a has a why can bear on this any how. And it's, it's really just a remarkable book about, you know, deciding, you know, what is what is meaningful in my life. You know, what direction do I want to be going, am I living in the service of others. And it's just been a tremendously impactful book for me that that's a good one to refresh every single year, more specifically towards leadership. The book that kind of started me down this journey, if you will, was a book by John C. Maxwell called the 360 degree leader. It is an amazing book for young new leaders. It really talks about how you can lead up down and across your organization. Now you don't have to be the CEO or the chief of staff or a VP of anything. To be a leader, you can lead right now today from where you are in your organization. Whether that's, you know, whether you have the title or not, or whether you are how five minutes ago, you can be a leader.

So that's another great one that I that I recommend to people quite often

Brian Comerford  42:08
appreciate both those recommendations, Victor Frankel's book has been an influence on me as well, and one that I've given to many people over the years, I think it's got a lot of tremendous areas of benefit and I love. Exactly the context that you pulled out. If you've got a sensory why can bear just about anyhow.

Jon Abboud  42:32
It's really great. I'm glad there's another Frankel fan out here

Nick Lozano  42:36
the middle while since I've read that book now. Now let's go back and reread it my cue starting to stack up on me here. Yeah, exactly. You know, so I lately, you know, I've been trying to do more audio books, read on my Kindle. You know, sometimes, you know, it's just a little little difficult to squeeze something and but you know, you always gotta try, right, you always got to try to find somthing new.

Jon Abboud  43:00
before we close out, I think that's one real good point there is that, you know, there always is time to become a better person become a better leader. If you're, if you're saying there's not enough time in a week. You know, I think nine people out of 10 are probably just fooling themselves and not taking the time because, you know, you probably sat down and watch TV or did something that could have been productive time. So yeah, like I was saying at the beginning with the journaling and whatnot, self reflections. Don't lie to yourself, either. And either make the time or don't, you know,

Brian Comerford  43:31
words of wisdom. Thank you, sir.

Jon Abboud  43:35
My pleasure.

Nick Lozano  43:36
Like I said, so you're basically getting on me for saying, I can't read

Brian Comerford  43:45
your public humiliation, Nick, it works both ways.

Nick Lozano  43:50
Whatever works, kind of at.

Jon Abboud  43:54
I'm not saying I never make excuses, either. You know, we're all human. You know, life does get away from us. But I think you guys both do a great job of trying to stay sharp and your leadership skills on I'm more talking about the folks that are, oh, yeah, I don't really read I don't really have the time or this that the other thing, or not a workout or I don't listen to, you know, good information, good podcasts, good audio books, I just don't really have time. But, but they'll tell you everything that was on sports center last night, or their favorite sitcom. So for what that's worth, that's what I meant/

Nick Lozano  44:29
know, I was just giving you a hard time.

Brian Comerford  44:33
people complaining that they don't have enough TV watching time.

Jon Abboud  44:36
That's true.

Nick Lozano  44:40
And I think that's I think that's a fair point. I mean, you know, there's so much more ways to learn content nowadays, you don't have to just necessarily read a paperback book, between audio books, and podcasts. And you know, people have blogs, there's, there's some form of content that you can read within two or three minutes. I mean, I know for me there, there's this marketing podcast, I listened to every now and then it's called the marketing school. And it's maybe like, a weekly podcast is like three minutes long. It's like this little chunk of section of like, something you need to know. And it's three minutes, and it's daily. So you sit down, waiting for the doctor, you got a couple minutes, just listen to one of those, you know, everything that they save, to stay on top of, you know, some of that data space as well, because as Brian will tell you, you know, us and it we're kind of working a lot with, you know, the CMOS lately, more than we used to in the past. Right, kind of good, you know, brush up and kind of learn us a little bit about their world.

Jon Abboud  45:45
Absolutely. And, you know, while we're talking about different ways of learning and stuff, I know, you said we were going to wrap up a minute ago, and I keep jaw jacking. content, I told you, it's hard to get me to shut up. But I think that one thing is really important, at least for me, and you know, everybody learns differently is actually the talking piece to you know, a big part of leadership, obviously, is listening and being an empathetic leader listener, an active listener, but, you know, setting a time part time, like we're doing right now to talk about leadership, talk about management, talk about issues. I firmly believe that human beings learn through talking, I know I do. I know, I've started conversations on you know, one side of an issue and after saying it all out loud, and hearing myself say it and hearing other people's positions on it, you know, I, I arrived at a completely different destination than I thought I was gone to the beginning. And I think that's healthy, as long as you have an open mind to having your mind change or an open mind to learning something new from yourself or changing your position on something. And it doesn't mean you compromise your values, or you can be flip flop at this at the drop of a hat. But that open mindedness of for exploring difficult ideas, I think is incredibly important.

Nick Lozano  46:53
No, that's great. And a good friend of mine, you know, who it's he's an engineer, and he has this great saying he's like, you know, says, I love being proven wrong. Because at that point, then I've learned something.

Jon Abboud  47:06
Absolutely.

Nick Lozano  47:07
And I think that's a great book to have. It's like you, you need to be open that that what your idea is, is probably not correct. Or maybe someone has another idea. That's not for you to learn.

Brian Comerford  47:18
Absolutely. Well, Jon, thank you very much for taking the time to jaw jack with us today. It's been it's been edifying and entertaining, all wrapped into one. So and I know you've got a busy schedule that you keep as well. So thanks for making the time for us. It's been terrific.

Nick Lozano  47:38
Yeah. Thanks, Jon. People are looking for you, where can they find you?

Jon Abboud  47:45
Uh, you know, I'm actually it's funny, I worked in the communications field and I am really not big on social media and that kind of stuff. You know, I haven't and it exists. But uh, I'll just tell people to stay tuned. One of these days as I get a little more into the the leadership development world, I might have a website or a more public facing social media presence, but uh, but for now they can listen to my words of wisdom here on the podcast and keep listening to you. You find folks. So I

Nick Lozano  48:16
really appreciate your time. I know it's just like, you know, the chef who cooks at work all day long, doesn't go home and then cook a gourmet meal for himself. So

Jon Abboud  48:27
Exactly.

Nick Lozano  48:31
That is want to thank you for your time. Really appreciate what's to have you on again, I feel like we just barely scratched the surface of some of the items we were talking about.

Jon Abboud  48:41
Yeah, yeah, sure. It's been a lot of fun. Thank you for the invite. Happy to come back.

About Nick Lozano

Co-host of the > Lead.exe_ Podcast and owner/consultant at CornerStack, LLC.

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