He is the former Head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations and behavior for over three decades.
He is the founder and CEO of People Formula LLC, a company that offers advanced training in personal skills and rapport building. He is a keynote speaker and conducts workshops and seminars for the government, military, and private sector- organizations.
Robin is the former Head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations and behavior for over three decades. He is certified in the use of Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Emotional Intelligence, and the Personal Discernment Instrument.
He is an author of three books: The Code of Trust: An American Counterintelligence Expert's Five Rules to Lead and Succeed, Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent's User Manual for Behavior Prediction, and The People Formula Workbook.
He is the founder and CEO of People Formula LLC, a company that offers advanced training in personal skills and rapport building. He is a keynote speaker and conducts workshops and seminars for the government, military, and private sector- organizations.
Robin offers online training courses and personal coaching through his company. These courses are built for individuals who are looking to build rapport through trust and strong relationships. They’re for individuals who want to work on their personal skills and/or leaders who want to enhance their team.
He works with C-Suite executives, Law Enforcement and Military professionals, young business professionals, students, leadership teams, HR professionals, and parents.
Learn more about Robin and the People Formula here.
Welcome Robin thank you so much for joining me today.
It is such an honor to be with you and we've gotten to know each other over the last bunch of months anyway. Through lists and other podcasts together so I really appreciate being on yours.
Oh, the honor is all mine and I do I feel like I know you because I've heard you on so many other other podcasts. So, I guess, for those listening who are not familiar with Robin Dreeke, I would love to do a little introduction and then you can kind of fill in where I leave off just so that I'm not missing anything. So, I'm excited to have Robin here. Robin is an author of a number of different books and resources. How I got to know Robin was through a book that he's written called Sizing People Up: The Veteran FBI agents user manual for behavior prediction. And he's the former head of the FBI counterintelligence behavior analysis program and Robin I'm just going to read the back of your book to give people a bit of context. So Robin Dreeke entered federal law enforcement in 1997. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy and serving in the United States Marine Core. He received additional advanced training and operational experience in social psychology and the practical application of the science of relationship management. Dreeke eventually rose to direct the counterintelligence behavioral analysis program of the FBI—Federal Bureau of Investigation and recently retired as an agent of the FBI. He is author of, It's Not All About Me, and The Code of Trust. This is his third book so welcome again Robin.
Thanks, Maureen. I got to start using that bio, that's a good one. I know I forgot the one of my websites a little different. I think that was a little bit more concise, that's good. Thank you, we often don't read the back cover of our own books so...
Thank you again for joining me here today and I think that we've had a couple of conversations and some of the work that I'm doing with executives and CEOs and business owners is around helping them prepare for evaluative conversations. Things like job interviews, conversations, even with media, sometimes with investors. And so one of the fascinating pieces of your book, or aspects of your book is around, garnering and establishing trust and rapport with other people, whether it is a recruiter, or a hiring authority, it could be a chairman or chairperson of the board of directors. A lot of our clients are preparing for those types of conversations. And in my experience, Robin, many of these individuals that we're working with have never had
To or have never been interviewed in a very long time, and they really worry about how, how to do that—how to build trust and rapport with the other person in a very short period of time. So I'd love to start there and see if you have any insights for us.
You know my foundation of everything I do is understanding the core of why human beings, interact, the way we do. You know so it starts with you know genetically and biologically we're looking to be valued and be accepted by others. And so, and even during the course of an interview, you know, if you're the one being interviewed. You have to demonstrate that you know your value and that you want to be accepted by the individuals that you're talking to and so first thing I do is I make sure that everything I'm doing includes at least one of these four things because every one of these four things is demonstrating to the person that I'm valuing you and I want to affiliate with you. One is seeking the thoughts and opinions instead of giving your own, speaking in terms of their priorities instead of your own. So let's talk about the CEO being interviewed for a job position. You know if you want to talk about your strengths, fantastic! But talk about your strengths in terms of the priorities of the organization that you're going into, instead of giving them what you think about things, ask them what they think about current challenges that their companies dealing with and then offer your thoughts and opinions in terms of those things. The third thing is you want to validate them without judging them. So validation is just seeking to understand that person at that deeper level. And finally, empowering with choices because when you give people choices, it's demonstrating that it's all about them. So that's the framework I use for communication. And then, you know, how do you demonstrate to someone else that you're trustworthy? Sizing people up is about looking at people for predictable behavior and for signs of trust in them but at the same time these are the six things you can do to demonstrate that you're trustworthy. Things like vesting, you know, demonstrating that you know you see their success tied with your own success thereby it's overlapping. Demonstrating that you see this relationship as long term, that you're not looking for you know “hey I'm looking to make a mark here”, you know, and be out in 6 to 12 months. Also, longevity is important. Then, like reliability is huge, especially I think when you're doing interviews, reliability is basically the combination of ‘are you actually competent in what you say you are in that resume’ and ‘do you have diligence and where with all to the follow through on it’? So that's important. Actions are also viewed as the next sign because actions are, especially when it comes to positive actions and what I call past patterns or key behaviors, you know, if someone sees you doing something once, twice or three times the likelihood of continuing to do that the same way again and again is pretty high language. Language we already talked about, you know, are you talking in terms of their priorities, validating them, giving a choice and talking to their priorities and finally, demonstrating the sixth one which is emotional stability and cognitively thinking through situations and stressful times without overly emotionally reacting to them and getting emotionally hijacked. So doing all those things during the course of a dialogue with someone, I think is a great one.
Yeah, and I think there's an aspect of the job interview or any interview really that a lot of the individuals I work with don't think about and I don't know if this is something that you've addressed in any of your books—around the kind of emotional hijacking, but sort of having the opposite of that. So, getting the CEO, to do some physiological and physical preparation for the interview so approaching the interview in that conversation in a way that you would approach, maybe, you know, a soccer game where you're going to prepare for that. You're going to physically prepare for that because I think that those positive neurotransmitters—dopamine, serotonin and those types of neurotransmitters really add to the rapport building piece versus the cortisol that a lot of people feel before they're going into a job interview or that type of thing.
Absolutely I couldn't agree more. Matter of fact, to me it relates really closely to coaching people for public speaking. Because I've done that and I know you've done too. You know I've spoken in front of 1000s of people, 10 people, one person, and to me it's all the same. And I don't get nervous about these things anymore because we have the ability to frame our own context of what we're about to do. The greatest thing that we have power over as a human being is we can frame, how we see the world around us. A job interview is exactly the same thing. Why are people drilling fear into themselves over an interview? Because you fear you're about to be judged. That's why we fear public speaking—we fear the unknown because again, our ancient tribal brain wants to be valued and affiliated with people and we fear being judged because we'll be ostracized from the tribe and that means we will not be passing on our genetic coding if we're not part of the tribe. And so, the best framing I give myself all the time and I tell people to do too is prep themselves so you get those good neurotransmitters going in the brain and think to yourself, I'm not about to try to convince someone that I'm good. I'm not about to be judged by someone on bad news. Have a great conversation with a friend who wants to hear my ideas or she wants to hear my thoughts and opinions. That's it. You know, that they're looking for me to succeed rather than looking for me to fail. So, you know, give your own self that confirmation bias that they're looking for me to succeed. That's how I frame everything I'm doing.
And that you know generates, sort of garner's the trust, and sort of accelerates the relationship—
—and I think that it does, and I'm sorry to interrupt—because what it's doing is it's giving you congruence between the great verbal things you're saying, and your non-verbals of your body, and because you know the creepy people that give off that creepy feeling—the ones that might be saying the right thing but non-verbally, they're really reticent, they're very strained. They're stressed you know and so that's what kind of sets people off. Rapport is really built quickly when you have lots of good open, accommodating, comfortable non-verbals that you get when you have these thoughts and you're putting those words together. Sorry for interrupting!
Not at all.
So, the way I look at it from a corporate perspective—I say to my clients is to think about this, that organizations exist to make money, save money, or solve a particular problem. And so the job of the CEO job candidate is to understand where he or she fits in that value chain so what is it that I can do to make you money save you money or solve a problem for you. And I think when a lot of candidates go into job interviews or director interviews, they really make it all about themselves don't they? Rather than thinking of themselves as a solution that they're going to present to the employer for example.
I totally agree with you because one of the things that is one of the mantras, of People Formula (what I do) is discovering the priorities of others and become a resource for their success in terms of their priorities, and that's what leaders do. You just articulated perfectly you know, what companies are looking for, they're looking to solve problems and challenges and the bottom line. And so, when you're being interviewed for a position you have to know what those priorities and challenges are of that company and in terms of your strengths and your skills of how you're going to be a resource for them in terms of priorities. I mean, I remember my last job interview inside the FBI, you know, it was, it was actually after I was running the behavioral analysis programming I was the chief of it and, you know, all kinds of politics and cutting funding and everything. Anyway, I had an opportunity to land a job, five miles from my house, you know in my last couple years, and come home for lunch every day I mean it was a phenomenal opportunity to close out my career and it was highly competitive because of this area. And I remember you know, I looked at the job application. I looked at what the, you know, I talked to people that actually work for this person that was doing the hiring, I looked at the objectives and priorities of the Richmond field office in Virginia here, and I knew my strengths. I knew my background and so when I was doing the interview, I talked in terms of my strengths and skills in terms of everything that was a challenge that they had in terms of every problem they had, I made sure I had the solution because of my background because of the skill set, and it was an easy decision for them to make because everyone else was trying to sell themselves in that 30-second elevator pitch, which…is great. The elevator pitches are great, but only if you're talking in terms of how you're going to solve the problem with the person you're talking to.
You have to know your audience.
Always, always, always.
So you might have you know 5 or 10 or 20 different elevator pitches depending on who you're speaking with. That's how I look at that.
Absolutely. You know it's like—it's called Situational Leadership—you got to know who you're talking to and you have to trust yourself for them, in a way that they want to hear you.
Right. So, given that a lot of people listening to this conversation today will be at some point preparing for a board of director opportunity or a new CEO opportunity. For the very first time, they’ve not done this before. What would you say is the number one piece of advice you would give them?
I think the best piece of advice I've ever been given is be yourself. They’ll see through anything else. Always be grounded in who you are. Know your subject matter, which you know at that point in your career, you do and be able to talk in terms of subject matter. The other thing I value when I've interviewed people to come on my team and interview anyone is my greatest value (and actually studies have shown this too), the greatest and most accomplished CEOs are the ones that are most self-aware, and it's awareness inside of who you are and as well as an awareness of what the world sees when they see you. And part of self-awareness for me is also knowing what your weaknesses and challenges are. But the most self-aware people not only know the weaknesses and challenges but they actually have a plan that they have placed to overcome them. I am—genetically coded. I'm self centered and egotistical. You know my three books are my manuals on how not to be the center narcissist I was born to be. I know what my weaknesses are and I created programs to overcome my challenges the best I can, you know, and so one thing I'm looking forward to when I'm interviewing is I'm looking for transparency, you know if someone's asking you a question. You know, you don't have to keep giving them the rose-colored version of yourself because that is so inaccurate and it's also not always right. So I'm looking for someone…if I'm asking you, tell me about some of your weaknesses, tell me about some new challenges. I want transparency because if you're transparent with me during this interview, it means you can be transparent if I hire you. And when I have transparency, that is the number one thing that garner's trust because it gives me the ability to actually have situational awareness. And if I have situational awareness, because you're giving it to me, now we can make great cognitive decisions to actually solve the challenges and sell the priorities of the company so those are the things I'm looking for.
Yeah, and I think a lot of times people forget that they're being evaluated during the evaluation process. And so one of the things that my clients are resistant to do, is to follow up after a conversation—very reluctant to do so. Here's an example, I was working with someone who managed to get two interviews with two chairs of the board of two different organization for a job opportunity—for a very good job opportunity. And it was a using the hidden job market, you know it was direct, nothing was posted. And he received two meetings with these two different people. He had two conversations with each of these two people. And then the phone went quiet, and they got spooked. And despite my recommendation that he follow up with these two different people, he refused to do so. And so, my concern when that happens is that those chair-people—the chairman of the board of these two different organizations will take note of that.
Yeah. You have to follow up, you establish this baseline normal behavior during these interviews, and then the tempo of people talking the tempo of information being shared. And if all of the sudden you get a spike from that norm of what you've established as a baseline, something happened. And if you don't discover what that something is especially because 99% of time, you're the one that caused it. You’re doomed to do it again and again and again. It's very important to understand what caused the deviation from that baseline of normal from how things were positively going and all of a sudden it goes sideways, because, again, if you don't understand, it could happen again. If you're afraid of it, you're going to constantly fear, it's going to be a thorn in your side until you fix it, until you figure it out.
Yeah, and I think a lot of a lot of CEOs are accustomed to being in control too Robin. And so if they've been in an organization for 25 years and then all of a sudden, they are not the ones in control of a conversation or a decision, they tend to fall into that kind of, the limbic brain—sort of the fight, flight, freeze, or, you know, and then they won't take the action required to go forward and I say, If you do nothing that's going to speak volumes. Even if you're not interested in joining this organization or pursuing this opportunity, you need to tell them so.
Oh absolutely. Again it goes down to transparency because that kind of transparency becomes part of your brand. And people talk reputations everywhere you go in life, I mean I experienced that. Can you imagine what kind of things the FBI has been through and in the way of brand killing in the last four or five years? It doesn't matter what side of politics you're on, you know, the FBI brand took a massive hit, but did it impact me? No, because I have my own personal brand inside an organization, and that brand proceeded me before every interview I did before every recruitment attempt I did. Before the part of my job working counterintelligence, I did a lot of cold calls on lots and lots of corporations that were being targeted by, you know, malicious actors. So how do you inspire yourself in the door on a cold call for a company that doesn't want to talk to the FBI? That comes down to the ability to get over your title position because no one cares about it and make it about them. About how I'm going to be a resource and protect their bottom line. Getting over your ego and vanity and stop relying on the title position you've had forever because, really, it's not about how you make people feel about you. It's how you make them feel about themselves, about their company, you know, and again, people are looking for you to be that resource for them and their success. It's not about your title position.
So interesting you know I follow a gentleman by the name of Garry Ridge—he's the CEO of the WD 40 company. He's a situational leader—he has a fantastic employee engagement rate. Since he took over at the company at the WD 40 company in 1997 (I think), they've had an upward trajectory of performance in every imaginable metric, including employee engagement, and, you know, to your point about, you know, leaders being in support and serving their employees and serving in terms of how they can serve as a resource as you talk about— to their employees. It's played out very well for that particular company. And so one of the challenges that our clients often have is that they will often get a job offer, and they are unsure of how to evaluate the job offer. Goes both ways Robin, because you know you can have an organization who puts the CEO through a whole battery of tests, and things like that. And then the candidate is left not knowing…how do I test the culture of this organization? So I encourage them to take their time, you know, the resume becomes a roadmap for the interview. The interview becomes a roadmap for the job offer and the job offer becomes a roadmap for the negotiation. And once that happens, that's when they are in my opinion, able to ask some of the deeper questions around the culture of the organization. And when they don't do that, they risk joining an organization that does not align with their values.
I think that's the most important question. It's the same reason why on the flip side, you know, people want to work for someone or work for organizations because individuals that are leading those organizations, know how to demonstrate value to their people. My three pillars of support that are three support legs of great leaders is one, leaders accomplish priorities and missions because that's what they're supposed to do. The second is, they create a healthy and safe environment both emotionally and physically. And that's what they're testing when they're seeing if they want to work for a company. That's the culture, you know, sort of safe and productive culture emotionally and physically and then finally, leaders in organizations…they are resources for the success and prosperity of their people without expecting reciprocity. They do it because you know, when you do that for others, you create such morale that it doesn't matter what widget you're selling. It becomes a place where people want to work and now you have to pick up the cream of the crop. You know I've done this, you know you mentioned WD 40…I'm sitting here amazed, you know just listening I'm like, that'd be a company I want to work for, because you know they do this and I've done this with great books on building trust and building relationships. Generally the clients that come to me have organizations that are doing this already, they just want to do it even better. And there's an automotive group out of New York, that I worked with a number of years ago, and I never in a million years would have ever thought I'd ever want to work in an automotive industry and sell cars and yet, after working with this group in this company, I would work there in a heartbeat. It would be my driving force in high school and trade school…to work for this company because they know how to value and invest in people. And that's, that's what I'm looking for too.
So what does that tell us? I guess that what it tells me…I'll just say what it tells me…is that it's the people. People hire people, companies don't hire people. And it's the relationship and it always astounds me at how some organizations, treat their employees, like they treat them like widgets.
It's crazy, because, you know, when companies focus on companies and organizations and leaders focus on metrics and metrics alone, you know, then that's where the problems start lying, I mean I work with a lot of companies that are engineering companies or software companies that hire from within. And so, their leadership doesn't have the soft skills, you know, the inspirational side of leadership that they want too. And so that's where they start struggling a lot because they don't know how to value people. They're just valuing the bottom line in there, because if you value the people first, the bottom line will follow. And if you know your people…you know I have the thing I called a leadership notebook and leadership notebooks are all about understanding the goals, wants, dreams, and priorities of all your people and figuring out how you're going to be a resource and offer them resources in terms of those things. Because when you take care of that, when you do that, where's the focus? The focus is on them. Now you establish a baseline of what you can expect that individual to do. And so as a leader, they're going to meet it. And now what's really great is, if something happens where they didn't meet the metric they normally meet, instead of getting angry, demoting them, firing them, moving them, because you're just looking at the metric, you know something's gone sideways in their life and then you can have a productive conversation about what can you do to ease that hurt so that that goes away so they can go back to where they want to be. And the only way to do that is when you pay attention to people and other things.
Now that's so fascinating you know I remember way back when I was working in corporate, I had to interrupt a board meeting because we had an injury at work, and you know if there's nothing that will keep a CEO or leader awake more at night, it’s an injured employee. We were working in a really high, high danger environment in this particular industry and the CEO was so distraught that we had had a fairly major injury. And you know, it was at that moment that I realized, wow, you know this company really does care about its employees, you know, and someone said, are you going to interrupt a board meeting, and I said, you're absolutely right I am because I know the CEO is going to want to know this. And, you know, it was really people first. It was actually safety first.
Absolutely, but it was all about people and you know all those things travel like wildfire. And just knowing, I mean it's all it takes is one negative instance where people blow off a person and that travels faster than all the 10 positive instances you had. That's why you constantly have to keep making sure you're doing those positive things because that creates that brand. And when people know you're caring, what'll happen is when you have that baseline of an organization and the culture that is constantly taking care of people…in the rare occasion when when someone does pay attention to a metric or where something goes sideways and someone might get a little emotionally hijacked and do something negative, that becomes the anomaly, rather than the norm. And people will likely pass those things and correct those things and move forward. The healthiest companies out there are the ones that are so focused on the welfare of their people…treating them safe and in a healthy environment. You know, just look at Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is the greatest example…Generally, when you're young, you know, your parents don't say hey I want you to grow up and work in a fast food restaurant. But you know what everyone wants to work there, because they know how to take care of their employees and they're always smiling, they're always energetic and when COVID hit they had these protocols put into place to take care of the customers and take care of their employees. The lines in our Chick-fil-A in our town were miles long, when everything else was shut down because they knew how to take care of people and they knew how to take care of their employees and people just want to work there. I mean who wouldn't want to be a part of that.
Absolutely. So if you're someone who is evaluating a company that you may want to target, what types of things would you look at if you didn't know anyone inside the organization? What types of things would you look for?
First, what I am probably going to do is I'm going to look at the turnover rate. You know I think turnover is a great indicator, but it can be misleading too. If turnover rate is high just because people are moving on and getting better jobs because they're being helped to be promoted, that's one thing but at the same time though, you know, are they hiring from within or hiring from without, what's the percentage of those things? I'm probably definitely looking at the type of retirement packages and health care packages internally because, are they skimping on them or are they taking care of the people? If they're able to do well on those things because they actually are probably making a good bottom line, their people are staying on board and being very productive. So, and then I'm looking at you know whatever kind of company reviews I'm going to get because looking at reviews of companies and the kind of customer service that people are given are another great indicator. If people are providing great customer service, that means that there's internal happiness. So, I'm looking for predominance in those types of things.
Absolutely. And one of the things I recommend individuals do as they're targeting a company or even if they're going through a process is to pick up the phone and call the investor relations department or call the customer service department or call the sales department. See how you're treated.
Absolutely. And how open are they to taking feedback? You know are companies sending customer surveys out? Are they responsive to the surveys? You know all those little, you know, basically get granular. I don't need to hear from the CEOs and executives anymore. I need to hear the health of the company which comes from the customer relations side and the employees that actually have that, you know, public interaction, because if those people are happy, generally what's going on above them is even better.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So, tell me Robin, I'd love to know a little bit more about the CEOs and the companies that you have helped. Can you maybe give us a case study or a couple of examples of the work that you do?
Sure. It's kind of twofold. Or maybe even threefold. So, a lot of times, good healthy companies are having me come in…it's actually a couple different levels. I'll work with the executive team to work with communication and communication between each other and in the team that they're having but also how to communicate more effectively with their employees. I Remember I worked with a company out on the West Coast which was an oil and gas company. And one of the challenges they had was that…they’re a union company and all the line workers are union; except they also promote from within. And so when you become an executive as a supervisor you no longer are part of the inion yet all your buddies are in the union strategizing communication and getting your union workers to do things. That was one of their greatest challenges, especially since they're supposedly buddies. And now no longer buddies so that was one of the fun challenges, but again, they had me talk to and teach a code of trust to the line supervisors now and then also to the union workers, and then to get everyone on the same communication method so everyone holds each other accountable for good communication, so you have that internal health. Then you have companies like that automotive company. One of the things that they continually did was bring me in to talk to the company as a whole, you know, so we can have that great communication between each other so that everyone knows how to demonstrate value to each other. And also, they hired me to come in to talk with their customer relations people because you know automotive companies…they generally deal with a lot of angry customers. And then they put their customer relations people through an intensive online course to really hone their skills and they were doing things great already I thought that they really upped their skills and also because it gave their people an opportunity to take more training, so they can get promoted and advanced. So, I work with the CEOs for that, you know, leadership, from the top so they can actually filter down this great communication style. I work with the mid-level people, and the customer relations that are dealing with the higher clients. And then I have the line workers that I work with a lot too, that are dealing directly with public in the widgets. So bringing all of those three different levels together.
It's fun. It’s fine…you know, all the different challenges because like my framework for the code of trust and sizing people up, it's the same every time it's just I need to know what the challenge is because a lot of times people say well “how do I deal with this this” and my first response is “I have no idea”. Let's go to the code of trust, you know this is a process of understanding how to not convince someone of something but how can I inspire them to want to do whatever the challenge is, you know, whether it's to get someone to do something, whether it's to sell a widget whether it's to, you know, motivate someone to do something better. I never think in terms of convincing them because convincing is about me. I'm thinking in terms of inspiration because inspiration has to come from within them. And so the only way you inspire someone to do something is to understand what their priorities are and then offer them resources to keep working in terms of priorities. The greatest thing is, you know, if you just start discovering and they discover that their priorities are no longer aligned with their job description or aligned with the company's priorities, well then we can be a resource for them getting out the door, because that just becomes then a bad, toxic fit, which is no good for them and it's no good for the company.
Oh absolutely, absolutely.
Also means there's no bad conversations. There's just conversations about them…you know everyone thinks ‘how do I have a conversation, how do I have a difficult conversation’. I always think there are no difficult conversations. Because if you make the conversation about them, there's no difficulty, which is in other words, you know, where do you see yourself in five years? You know if you can do anything right now, what would it be and then alright so help me understand what you're doing, helping or hindering that, you know, have you talked to someone in that position, if you don't want to work for me fantastic where you want to work? Great. What's the first thing you're going to do? If you want to work there and they call me, what do you think I'm going to say? What do you need me to say? What do you want me to say? What kind of things can you show me so I can say those things about you. Again, that entire conversation is about that person and you just being a resource to them with clarity on how to help them get to where they're going.
I always think that honoring the relationship has to come first, don't you think?
I'm working with a group…it's a board of directors and I'm the VP in the group. And, you know, we've had some conflict over the past nine or 10 months. And so, I'm no expert in conflict management whatsoever. But one of the things I have learned especially in this business over the past nine years is that if you honor the relationship first and then deal with the issues second, they'll figure out or almost settle it themselves, to a certain degree.
This is the most important thing in the entire world I've ever learned in my life, because those conflicts that you're talking about, they're what I call means goals because it is the means to an end. And everyone always thinks you have to think of these means goals first, you know, these milestones to get to the end. But what I learned is if you focus on the end first, the means fall into place and so I have these three anchors which are my end goals. And number one is what you just said which is why I’m bubbling with this…the number one ends goal of every single situation I asked myself is what am I about to say or do? Is it going to help or hinder that healthy professional relationship? Because that above all else will make everything fall into place. Number two is open, honest communication and transparency, because you cannot have a healthy relationship without that. My third is an available resource for your success and prosperity, without expected reciprocity, because I make myself available. In other words, I don't impose myself. I'm available if you want it for your success and prosperity, as you define it without expecting reciprocity. That's what great people do. That's what great relationships have. And when you honor those three things, everything else falls into place.
It's absolutely fascinating to watch this happen because during this board evolution I guess, over a period of months, I watched and I watched one of my colleagues do something very difficult. It was a very difficult conversation that she had in a board meeting, and later on, we got very good feedback from it in fact we got what we wanted, but in a very respectful way. And I said to her, you know I'm so proud of you for, for what you did, because you know she stepped up to the plate. She asked a very difficult question, but she did it in a way that really honored the other person's perspective. And I said to her after that…you have nailed that. And I said this to her privately. And I said, and above everything else you've honored the relationship. And this was a very difficult relationship over a period of time. And now I would never say that they're best friends, but their relationship is much better just simply from that very simple approach to working with this other person.
Well, it's a healthy professional relationship, it doesn't mean you like someone, it means that you've been having a healthy dialogue and relationship. And you actually did, you said two things which are completely honoring those four things I said. She asked difficult questions. In other words, she sought thoughts and opinions and she respected their opinions, which is validation. You know when you add those two things in there, you know, shields are coming down and the other person's dopamine is flowing, and you're going to have a more healthy relationship because again, liking someone has nothing to do with trusting someone, and it has nothing to do with healthy relationships, it can help, but it also can give you positive or negative confirmation bias. It's so much better if you can actually remain cognitive about how to actually have a good healthy dialogue and that healthy relationship, especially in professional settings.
Oh, absolutely and I think one of the things Robin that a lot of business leaders sometimes don't realize is how important recognition is, of, of not just their staff but of their colleagues, of everyone that they work with. And it's so overlooked. And so, I often say you know to some of the CEOs that I'm working with and other people, is you know, did you recognize them for that activity or for that result?
Yup, that is validation. And part of that recognition that, you know, people often overlook, especially busy CEOs and executives, is the power of presence. It’s huge, you know, my son was actually the one who reminded me of this, this past summer. He's a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. He's a junior there, and they've been going through some living heck like every one in the world has with COVID. And so he was recalled earlier to go through quarantine for two weeks before the incoming freshman class. A lot of stress, a lot of being locked down, no liberty, no anything. Masks everywhere they go, not a lot of fun. And it can be extremely mentally fatiguing and demoralizing, but what he learned was that, you know, leadership for him, you know he thought part of being a great leader was doing everything and being able to run really fast, lots of push ups, lots of pull ups because that's what they're tested on all the time. But he noticed the massive effect he had on his squad of new freshmen there at the Naval Academy, was just being present. Just walking the deck when they're all locked down in the rooms, he was the one that brought them their meals, not someone else. He was the one that actually took them out for what they called sunshine time, you know they were out, allowed to go out an hour a day and a lot of the other people were making that hour a day difficult on these incoming people because they think they need to, you know, train them or make life even worse, my son took them outside and had them actually look at the sky, and come up with what they thought the clouds represented. I mean he actually brought through exercises I mean, it still is hilarious, you know, and he learned the power of presence and then on the flip side, he was getting really angry about leadership above them because they weren't getting information, no passing word on things and all sudden, one day, the commandant of Midshipman (who was actually one of my classmates) walks the deck, takes 30 seconds, interacts with the midshipman running things, and the effect it had on the morale, was immeasurable, you know, having leadership just come down for 30 seconds, let them know that they see what's going on, let them understand, hey, I saw what you did when you took them outside for that sunshine time that was really inventive that was really powerful I think it's making a big difference. Like you said, that recognition, presence and recognition, have such an effect on corporate culture in a such a positive way that I guarantee you, when you see those great healthy companies, they're doing those things.
And Robin, I've been studying your profile and following you on podcasts and reading your books, absolutely fascinating career in counterintelligence with the FBI, with the Marine Corps. I mean I could talk I could, I could keep this interview going forever but I'd love to know I guess one question I'd love to ask you is, over that period of time, what has surprised you most about your career?
How wrong I was doing it for so many years. There's probably two things I would have done differently and added earlier in my life that is part of my mission in life now, to help spread this, this, this word for younger people, or actually anyone who hasn't realized that it doesn't matter when you get on the roll. One. When I finally realized that my success was more tied to the relationships I had and how I was helping other people be successful, that would have made a big difference. I mean I spent most my life as this type A, a hard charging guy, central leader, the executive, that will make you a self-centered narcissist when you're young. And so, the day I realized that it wasn't about how good I made myself look and I started realizing I need to understand how to make others look good and how to let others succeed…I started realizing that and actually practicing that…my entire trajectory changed around. The second thing that I didn't realize and a lot of us don't realize…if I had intentionally looked for and sought out mentors and guides, I would have avoided the humbling moments, much greater. I mean I look back and reflected because I am putting together a course on mentoring…how to recognize one, and how to be one, because we need, well we're both. We need both. I need to be one and we need to recognize them. I look at all the things that went sideways in my life is because I did not have a mentor or guide in those moments. I look at the times when I succeeded by mistake. It was because someone was gracious enough to insert themselves in my life as the mentor and guide, and it's in those moments, I mean in my books I write about my Jedi master called Jesse Thorn. In real life, his name is John. He retired down here in Virginia with the me in United States and he was, he inserted himself in my life, and I grabbed onto him, I was fortunate I grabbed on to the mentors and guides when I recognized them. But if I had sought them out, I would have done so much. And when do we need them? But we need them all the time but most importantly, I thought, with hard work and diligence, I can solve any problem I'm facing. Very rarely, if I recognize the problem or challenge in my life for the first initiative, I should have sought people that actually had that experience before, that actually had been there before and the people that I want to be five years from now 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and ask them their thoughts and opinions on how to move forward, that would have made the entire thing different.
I think that we're all on a learning journey, and I would be not much different from you in some of your observations. Absolutely. And I think that the individuals who have that mentorship and have people in their lives who have been able to help them along the way I agree, people need to have mentors, and they need to be mentors. Absolutely. That's the tribal way isn't it really? We learn from our elders our elders are tasked with teaching our children and are the people who were entrusted to our care. I think the number one thing for me when I look back over my career and I watch others, is how many of us have never worked on our career? We've worked in it. And to your point about solving problems and doing the things that are important to have done, but how many of us actually work on the career? So seeking out mentors and seeking out opportunities to help others in a very deliberate way, you know?
Because when you're doing those things what are you doing when you're seeking a mentor? When you seek a mentor, you're seeking their thoughts and opinions, you're going talk in terms of their priorities and validate the things they're saying without judging them. So you're using that language so you're practicing that and when you're doing that you're bringing more healthy relationships. You know I always say you know you can have the greatest genetics and biology on the face of the planet, but without relationships, you might as well be a fool on top of the mountain by yourself. Because when you start forming these relationships as a mentor, as a mentee, these are good healthy professional relationships, and they will bring you all the answers you ever need to any challenge you ever face. You know, every time I faced a new challenge of, you know, inside the FBI you know I was constantly challenged with “hey we have no information about this, about this critical vulnerability for national security. Robin, go”. I'm like, “I have no idea”. I'd go to my magnificent seven…my seven competent human sources…my great healthy relationships. And I'd say to these seven people I said “anyone have any idea”, they say “no Robin I got no idea either”, but because of my healthy relationship with them, they now have healthy relationships with others, and now it was generally…I only had to go two degrees of separation to get the answers, and information I needed to solve every problem or challenge I had, and all that came from the humility and humbleness that…I don't have all the answers, and the relationships that I had brought it to me. Because, what did I do for them? I was always available to them in the same expectation. I was always there, unconditionally, to solve whatever challenging problem they had no questions asked. Drop everything for them when they needed it, because that's what healthy relationships do. Piece of cake.
This is absolutely fascinating, here's one and I was sitting on my dock when I wrote this down. Page 3— “resumes rarely reveal what people will do when forms of temptation, or duress arise” and then another one was “plain talk is good because simplicity reveals and complexity conceals”. Those both really resonated with me, particularly the second one because I think that people feel as though they need to have this corporate speak or corporate I don't know lingo. And I think plain language really helps to anchor the relationship and to build trust. Don't you think?
Absolutely and it's not just the plain language, the true masters of their craft and information are the ones that can make it so simple that anyone can do it. You know I call these things the elusive obvious. You know, people can really think that building relationships is very complicated and people can give all these, you know, I used to teach a lot of interviewing and recruiting, you know all this, you know, high end things that people think oh my gosh you have to have all these advanced skills, but no. Al I have to do is understand a very simple truth about human beings, we're always going to act in our own best interests. If I just know what your best interests are in terms of safety, security and prosperity, your priorities and challenges and I offer resources in terms of those things we're going to have a relationship. Isn’t that simple? It’s the simplest thing and how do I make that conversation about you? It's not complicated I'm going to seek your thoughts and opinions talk in terms of your priorities validate you and give you choices. So, people that can overcomplicate things don't understand it, that thoroughly yet. And also, people always ask me “so how Robin, how do you avoid people that are manipulative or being taken advantage of.” And I'm seeking transparency in everything I'm looking for so if you're overcomplicating something to me, which I can't understand because I have a wee, small brain and I asked you, and I asked you a question so I can discover what it is you're trying to accomplish. If you don't make it clear for me. Then there's a lack of something going on in this area. I'll just back away and just not engage, because either you don't know it well enough to be able to explain it to me, or you don't want to explain it to me at that level because of something you're hiding. There's some subterfuge, whatever it is, you're not looking for a healthy relationship in this lane because you have an inability or unwillingness to be able to explain it simply, that's fine.
So, yeah, that's a really sort of interesting area to it comes down to, in my opinion, anyway, intuition and the gut. And, and a lot of times and I've proven this myself over the past nine years I, I ended up working with two different people who, in retrospect I would never work with. And when I didn't trust my gut, because it was that lack of transparency within that, you know, they wanted something and I wasn't quite sure…I thought I knew what they wanted, it wasn't what they wanted. And my gut from the very beginning, told me not to do this. And I think this happens a lot, you know, of course, it happens, that happens every day, but a lot of times…I am working with somebody close to me who accepted a position with a company. And he said, “Maureen, I just don't have a great feeling about this”. And you know, but he went ahead anyway I think it as a, as a means of sort of punching above his weight and kind of stretching himself. And at the end of the day and it took two and a half years to figure it out Robin, it was a very bad choice for him, and he said if I had of listened to my gut. If I had of, you know, paid attention to that, I would not have ended up in this situation. And so I think you know for anyone listening here today was in a conversation like that, you know, I recommend if you don't really understand the nature of the conversation you don't understand…for example, who you're going to be reporting to…this happens all the time, where people are joining organizations and then two months later, the person to whom they are supposed to be reporting has now retired, or they've moved on to another organization and your reporting relationship with your boss is very, very important in my opinion, and in my experience and so I encourage people to ask lots of questions. And so, so “tell me Robin, you know who will be my boss” and, you know, you know, “are there any plans for succession”? Those types of things because without asking those questions you may end up in that type of a situation.
Absolutely. So there's lots of different kinds of gut feelings but the gut feeling that you're talking about actually can be a very accurate one. Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble. And sometimes not so much. And this kind of gut feeling is a very good one because what you're basically talking about is, he didn't feel good because there's a lack of transparency and understanding. And when you ask those clarifying questions, you should have very quick clarifying answers. In other words, when we start interacting with someone, we're naturally establishing a baseline of what normal dialogue is. And then when you're seeking clarification in certain areas on those good questions you just mentioned, I should have the same tempo of conversation, dialogue, and answers that I was having when we were just talking about the weather. But what happens is if there's obscuring, if there's avoiding, if there's lack of clarity, if they're over complicating, if their tempo changes, that is saying we have something unhealthy going here and that's what gives us that ‘I don't have a good feeling about this’. Pay attention to it. Yes, and I think the first thing to do when you have that, that question in your head, whether you're making the right decision or not, because something feels a little off, understand why you have that, you know what gave you that feeling? You know I love exploring when we have an emotional reaction to something because we are literally witnessing something and experiencing something. Figure out what that is. And once you figure that out, you're making good observations, you know, the likelihood that you're accurate on that observation is very very high. And what’s really good is once you can identify what's giving you that feeling, you know what exactly happened at that moment, what question you asked that gave you that feeling, now you have a great opportunity to address it with that individual. “So listen, last time we got together, I left that meeting not feeling too good and I really thought of why and it was because when I asked this, I didn't really, it's my fault, I really didn't understand the answer you gave me, do you have the ability to kind of help me understand and walk me through this?” And if they do, if they're apologetic, if they own it…then you know what we might be able to move forward but if they still…if they placed the blame on you, or they avoid it, or they don't answer the question or continue overcomplicate it, that's your sign right there.
Absolutely. Well, I want to be in complete service to you here today and give you a chance to talk a little bit about your programs, and about, you know, we talked a little bit about the types of work you do with CEOs and corporations. How can people get in touch with you and what other types of things do you do besides helping CEOs build great teams?
Thank you very much. Easiest thing in the world to do is go to my website called peopleformula.com, all one word. I have multiple tiers of ways I can be of resource from, whether it's my blog postings, I put out I put out thoughts of the day through all my social media…they’re all 100% leadership based thoughts that I put out based on my books. I have three of them out, you can also order the books on their Amazon. I also do live webinars you know for groups and organizations I have online, you know, mentoring and coaching, that I do for one on one, as well as I have an online training academy, I have 3 courses bases on my books whether it's rapport building, trust, or assessing others for trustworthiness and predictable behavior. Each one of those has a course on there, whether it's a fast-track course for an hour or is a more advanced one we actually walk you through the tools, as well as a coaching, mentoring session after that. So I really try to take care of all at all levels of what people want to invest in. As well as links to podcasts like yours on there as well if you really just want to listen in. I call it Death by Robin, you know just monologuing about all my thoughts and opinions to my experiences of understanding human behavior.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I've listened to most of them. In fact I have registered for one of your programs because what I always want to do is serve as a resource for my clients and colleagues as well so I'm going to learn a little bit more about profiling and predicting behavior…I'm looking forward to it. And so, why don't you say your website again one last time before we sign off.
Sure it's peopleformula.com.
Awesome. That's amazing. Well, Robin thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today…I really enjoyed it and I hope to catch you on another podcast somewhere.
It was an honor and pleasure to share with you and your audience as well.
Thank you so much.