Transcript: Thanks Allan, this is David Brower with your 20-minute podcast. Our special guest from Texas today is Jason Treu. He’s an executive coach who works with executives, entrepreneurs, and rising starts to maximize their leadership potential and performance. He was a featured speaker at a Ted X Wilmington in 2017, where he debuted his breakthrough team building game ‘Cards Against Mundanity’. And finally he hosts a podcast show and he sleeps maybe two hours a day. Hey Jason, welcome to the show. How are you?
Jason Treu: Hey thanks. I’m doing fantastic and looking forward to speaking to you and your fantastic tribe. And the two hours of sleeps sometimes I think really feels like it.
David Brower: Yeah.
Jason Treu: I’m a very light sleeper to begin with, and I have a puppy, a border-doodle that I just got from Utah. And he’s fantastic. But any movement that he makes I can just hear, even in the kennel way out.
David Brower: Oh my goodness.
Jason Treu: So that’s pretty funny.
David Brower: So if you live by a fire house, you’d be screwed man.
Jason Treu: I’d be done. I’d be done. There’d be no way. I use a fan, and people told me that, and that’s actually worked pretty well to block out a lot of the noise. But it’s just really hard for me. I’ve tried all this stuff, medication. It just depends.
David Brower: I hear you. Well one of the things that you do in reading about you, you’re a leading expert on human behavior, leadership, influence, networking, you help companies develop strong internal relationships to establish a different kinda culture where people actually want to come in and show up for work. How did you get started in this kind of excellence?
Jason Treu: Well I started my career going to law school and I realized I didn’t wanna do that. So, I went to Silicon Valley, and fortunately I got there in the gold rush back in the late ’90s. So I got to work with Steve Jobs, with Reid Hastings, he’s the CEO of Netflix now. I got to work with Mark Cuban when Yahoo bought him out. I got to work with [inaudible 00:02:31], [inaudible 00:02:31] Perkins. I mean you name it. So many people. I met Marc Benioff, the CEO of salesforce.com. It pretty much was I think a time in history that will never be replicated again.
So many people out there at one time doing all of these things and it was just about erupting. And then obviously it was imploding simultaneously. So I got to see people at their best and their worst. I got to see high pressure environments, leadership and management. A lot of good things, and probably a lot of poor things along the way. And because I’m an extrovert, it was really helpful because I got to immerse myself in all this stuff. So it was kind of like the 10,000 rule, well I had like 100,000 hours. ‘Cause I worked an insane amount, but I was engaged with people a lot.
David Brower: So when you got there obviously the right place at the right time. So how did you get in with these people and these companies to be able to be a sponge for all of these experiences? Where was the networking piece of this?
Jason Treu: Well part of it is that when I started to go out there I researched who was the best marketing and communications firm. And then I went to get a job there.
David Brower: Nice.
Jason Treu: Because I knew that when you get in a place that’s really good, you have a lot more opportunities. So I networked my way in. And I took probably some level of a pay cut, but I knew that there was a significant amount of learning and opportunities that I could have that I would never have. And when I met all the people that were there, they were just brilliant people. And you can kind of tell when you’re in a place that’s about to take off.
And the real culmination of it was, is that we had Steve Jobs when he was at Techstar, and he got fired from Apple, and he was going back to Apple to be CEO. So he’s looking at communications organizations and firms. So we got the pitch, and we were 90 people. And we were pitching against global organizations that had thousands and thousands of people. And there were a lot of them. And I remember walking out of the pitch room and thinking to myself all these people lined up, and they were the who’s who of marketing, communications, everything else. And we’re this little firm. I don’t think anyone was probably over the age of 35 other than the people that were running the company. And I was like, “Man, we have no shot.” Like zero. And we ended up winning.
And it wasn’t even David versus Goliath, it was Goliath versus an ant.
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Jason Treu: [inaudible 00:05:19], right? So I learned at that point a lot of principles. One is that it really is all about your team. And your teamwork and your collaboration, and the people that you surround yourself, and the relationships that you build. Because if you do, there really isn’t anything that you can’t accomplish. You’re pretty much essentially limitless at what you’re able to do. That’s something that always stuck with me, the ability to do that. So when I was in a situation, I value the fact of meeting people, networking. And then early on, I started to realize that for every person I met, it wasn’t just them I was meeting, they have a whole network behind them for an indirect network.
So I knew that meeting all these people, all this stuff could potentially open up for me. But there were a lot of challenges back then, I didn’t do all the work we talked about before, the podcast started. There’s a lot of internal self-inquiry and other things, and blind spots and other things at that point that I hadn’t done, and I had no idea to do, which would’ve been supremely helpful to me that I found out a lot later on, which helps in my own coaching practice now. But being in that hot bed was something that’s hard to tell people and replicate. Because literally every person you touch in some places is now a Rockstar somewhere doing something.
David Brower: I’m fascinated by that, in watching your Ted X Wilmington presentation, and debuting your ‘Cards Against Mundanity’, and talking about how important it is for teams to actually become teams. And get to know each other, and care for each other, and figure out ways to do that in a relatively vulnerable yet short period of time. To me obviously you learned how to do that through all of your experience. But how did you put that together to be able to help not only firms and companies, but individuals become more communicative?
Jason Treu: Well like anyone else …. Well one of the things is that all the people I work with work in teams, right? Whether it’s in team, whether it’s an internal team or an external team meaning a client or a prospect. And I define a team as really one or many people, rather internally or externally, that you’re having to communicate, collaborate, and just work with on something. So because every client had a challenge like this, I had to figure out how do I help them really create an environment? And I thought to myself ideally the environment would be to create, would be to think to yourself of the best team you’ve ever been on in your life; whether it’s personally or professionally. Think about the emotions you felt, what you were able to do, how you felt about all those people.
If you could replicate that environment on every single team that you were ever on, that would make you truly limitless. And there really wouldn’t be anything that you couldn’t do and how high that you could rise. And if you’re a leader or a manager, essentially at some point that’s what you’re doing. You’re leading and managing people and [inaudible 00:08:38] them to get the best out of themselves and the other people around them.
So I knew that I had to figure this out. And as I started to look and read books, and look at university data, and talk to people I found that there was a lot of mythology. So you’d read Entrepreneur Magazine and you’d see some billionaire talk about, “I did this, this, and this.” And that got their success. But there wasn’t anything you could really do or replicate. Because it was all like Cinderella’s tale, they were just talking about, “Oh we had a great team, and I hired people.” And then they’d get in saying, “Well what did you do for hiring?” And they couldn’t come up with any answers.
David Brower: Right, make it about themselves and not really what took place.
Jason Treu: Exactly.
David Brower: Yeah.
Jason Treu: Right. ‘Cause if you can’t deconstruct something and make it like a supply chain or manufacturing and replicate it. You haven’t really learned and mastered it.
David Brower: Exactly.
Jason Treu: So I realized at that point when I started to look through all this and I found this, that I would have to really dig deep and start looking at a lot of research, and reading things, and then going and observing teams. And that’s really what I did. And one of the pieces of research that I found early on that really drove me was Amy Edmonson, who’s a researcher from Harvard, went to Google, because Google was trying to figure out … It’s called ‘Project Aristotle’, for people who wanna look it up … How to create really the perfect team.
Because they found that in their research that their highest performing team sold like 17% more, were allotted by Google executives twice as often, and a lot of other things. So they thought well if we could replicate that, we could significantly boost performance globally without doing anything else. But they didn’t know why these teams were doing what they were doing, and they looked at it and couldn’t figure it out. So they hired outside people, which was smart.
Well over a two year period of time, really all their assumptions on why those teams were great were wrong. And what they ended up finding out was a number one quality, and without this they had no high performing teams globally. And the other four characteristics they found weren’t there as well was psychological safety.
David Brower: Oh wow.
Jason Treu: So psychological safety is the number one factor for a high performing team. And if you look through all the research it’s there. And if you wanna look at psychological safety for creativity brainstorming, it’s the number one factor for creative teams in brainstorming the teams that have it.
And what that is, if you break it down, it’s three steps. One it’s that you know people around you really well. As if you’d know someone that’s your best friend, but you could strip out the friendship part. It’s the information that you know around them. Because you care about them more, you know their likes, dislikes, their hot buttons, [inaudible 00:11:29] their experiences, if they’re having a bad day you can support them, all the rest of these things.
The second is they operated risk more objectively than subjectively. What that means is that people could take risks with accountability, and if they failed it was okay as long as they learned from it, pivoted, and then turned that information into something successful. And it had to be a process that an organization did. Because most people when you talk to them they work in organizations or companies where they do three very good or great things and then one poor thing, and their identify is matched with the last thing. So then they learn not to take chances because the risks are so high they have to bear this burden until they can do something great, and they can’t erase the other one, because then they’re still attached to it.
David Brower: Exactly.
Jason Treu: So what happens is, if you take a look at the Navy Seals, what they do after every mission, ’cause I’ve got a friend who’s on Seals Team Six, the same one with Chris Kyle the American Sniper was on. So after every mission, he’s told me some amazing stories. But they go and ask questions. And the questions are what were our intended results? What were our actual results? What did we do well? What we didn’t do as well? And how do we take this and implement it moving forward? And no matter whether they did everything perfect according to where they laid it out or they didn’t, they sit in a room and go through this.
Because they know that if they do that, they will and they are the best in the world at what they do because of that. And they don’t internalize it and beat each other up across the room. Sure, emotions fly. But they pull each other back and realize that the goal is for them to be the best team possible.
David Brower: So the-
Jason Treu: And the third thing … Go.
David Brower: Oh, go ahead. Yeah. The third thing.
Jason Treu: And the third thing is they just ask clarifying questions. And the problem is a lot of times is you give someone information and they aren’t really sure, but they don’t wanna ask subs ’cause they think they’re gonna be stupid because they’re question’s dumb. Well the problem is then they make a lot of mistakes. Because they don’t really have the full information. And if you don’t question what’s going on around you, you also can’t improve process. And many times, and people listening to this too, you have ideas and suggestions and probably most of the time they would actually substantially change and improve a process, or an event, or something that’s going on, if you just shared your feedback and information.
But it requires the person giving it to you to be able to take that and hear it and have a conversation with you about it. So when you take into consideration that knowing people on a deep level, looking at risk objectively, and then being able to ask clarifying questions, you essentially create psychological safety. And it’s really not complex, it’s essentially free. But you rarely see teams have it.
And the other part of this thing too is that I went through and watched 80 different teams in Forbes and Fortune’s top 10 workplaces. And many of them are sales teams ’cause I could stratify what percentage they were. And what was funny is that I could go into one company and to another one that was completely separate, and if you look at a top team they operate essentially in many ways the same way. And I think that that’s where you see this in repeatable patterns, that’s how people act. The problem is the people running those teams don’t understand the psychological safety or how to do it, and they don’t really understand exactly why the teams are doing [inaudible 00:15:18].
They equate it to performance, education, being smart, driven, the rest of that. And all that is true to a point. But there’s a lot of times where there are all-star teams that get together, and most of those teams actually fail. So that actually isn’t it.
David Brower: Gotcha. I’m fascinated by a lot. One of the things on your Seal team conversation, a very systematic debriefing, complete authenticity, complete openness, complete integrity, all with the goal of making the next mission better than anything they’ve ever done before.
Jason Treu: Yes.
David Brower: ‘Cause they took the time and the emotion and everything needed to have those conversations. And you don’t see most of the time, maybe you do, but I think most of us don’t see in the business world that kind of way to communicate to help grow a team, let alone a business.
Jason Treu: Yeah, I think it’s pretty rare. I don’t think that happens anywhere, because I don’t think people operate like that. Because one of the things that we talked about before the call is on vulnerability and [inaudible 00:16:27] Brown, who’s the amazing individual that’s really written on that topic. And I think it requires leaders to be vulnerable. And I don’t think that you’re going to be many leaders or managers who are vulnerable unless they’ve done deep soul searching within themselves that they’re willing to put themselves out there in order to do that. And I just don’t think that that happens.
And it may happen early on in someone’s career, but the problem tends to be is then when they get an upper level, then they won’t because now they have something to lose. So then you’re not really … I call it selective vulnerability and the fact you could do it once because at the point you felt like well I have nothing to lose. [inaudible 00:17:16] entrepreneur who makes $100 million and then can never replicate it again. The reason is, is that when you have zero you’ve got nothing to lose, because if you’re eating Ramen Noodles, if it doesn’t work you’re still eating Ramen Noodles. But you’re eating steak and lobster and five star and flying in jets and all of a sudden you have to go back to eating Ramen Noodles, you’ve got something to lose.
David Brower: Absolutely right. One of the things I noticed about when you talk about psychological safety is, and I think it relates to the Google business model right now, and that is go play.
Jason Treu: Yeah.
David Brower: What does that mean?
Jason Treu: One of the challenges I get when I’m working with people is the fact that they constrain themselves. So a question I ask them, I always ask them, “Well what if it was possible?” Or, “What if you knew the answer?” And if you ask people that, then they start to think without constraints. Without constraints on resources or whatever. And what happens there, is that’s where true innovation and creativity lie. And that’s where you find your purpose, other things in life. But you have to get outside of your own constraints in order to do that. And that’s I just think a hard place for people to get to on their life. Because when you’re a little kid it’s not that way. That’s why little kids don’t act that way. But after a while you’ve been told so often that you can’t do something, or you’re not good enough, or stop thinking like that, that we learn from that. It’s a lot of learned behavior.
So that’s, in essence, the human condition. It’s not that you can’t do it, it’s a learned behavior, you have to learn something new. Very few things, other than the fact that you can’t grow, right? Well maybe you can at some point, but today you can’t. That is an innate thing in your DNA. But most things when it comes to leadership, management, or career of the workplace, are all learned behaviors.
Allan Blackwell: That’s part one of our interview with Jason Treu. Listen to your 20 minute podcast with David Brower on the go. Downloads are available on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, any podcast app, and on our website at Davidbrowervo.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thank you for listening.