E8: Larry Dressler -- Authentic Engagement & Collaboration

Nov 11, 2019

This episode features Larry Dressler. Larry has designed and facilitated high-stakes conversations and advised leaders for over 25 years. He has mediated such meetings for Easton (to help align their purpose, core values and vision) as well as in settings ranging from the offices of Fortune 100 companies to a solar-powered chocolate factory in the Amazon. Larry has served as a trusted consultant to leaders at New Belgium Brewing, First Bank of Colorado, Facebook, Nike, and The Denver Foundation. In addition to being a skilled practitioner, Larry is the author of Consensus Through Conversation: How to Achieve High Commitment Decisions. His second book, Standing in the Fire: Leading High- Heat Meetings with Clarity, Calm, and Courage has been published in the US, China, and Japan.

For more information about Larry, his services and his blog, visit his website: http://bluewingconsulting.com/

Listen:

Transcript:

- Welcome to the Easton Online Podcast, I'm your host Eliot Marshall and what this podcast is here to do, it's here to help you gain strategies and tactics and tools that are gonna help you grow in your martial arts business, if you have a martial art school, a gym, this is one of my passions is how we spread the message of how to really grow culture in business and in some ways that we do it the best with our people, with our staff, with our clients so I hope you enjoy, give a listen. You're first, you're first Larry.

- I'm a first your?

- You're first.

- In what since?

- You are the first non Easton employee to come on the Easton Online Podcast.

- Holy, am I gonna get a job offer at the end of this?

- Are you gonna get a job offer at the end I don't know if you want a job offer.

- Well that feels like an honor at any rate thank you.

- Man so I am here with Larry Dressler and Larry set this all in motion for us. We were kind of going, you know we had meetings all the time right, we you know we didn't really ever really accomplish much. We had a culture, I would say we still, we had a good culture, we loved each other for sure.

- Yes.

- Without a doubt but like any real family we were having some struggles. I would say mostly with each other like mostly with like a power dynamic from Mike 'cause like we were trying to put Mike in charge but not really but like you know in like that shift and then along came Larry.

- Seems like there should be music that comes in at this moment, can we put that in?

- [Eliot] Jordan will do that.

- Dramatic violin.

- [Eliot] Yeah Jordan's on that.

- Then Larry came in and then the violins, queue violins.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- Terrific.

- Any we see no, I remember Mike was really mad at first. Do you remember this? Did he call, he called you right?

- [Larry] Yeah.

- 'Cause you sat down with me in a mall, but he was the one with the issues and he was the one that called you. He's like fuck you, Larry, like no man no, this I got and you're like, in this nice calm way that you do everything. So tell everyone man, like what was it like, what is it that you do?

- Whoo that's a great question. You know I think in a lot of ways, you guys are my sweet spot because you are this, you are as an organization, as a company this amazing potential, like you have amazing individuals, you have these high performance athletes, amazing teachers and superb entrepreneurs like all wrapped up into one, in your team. So there's so much potential there to be unleashed that I saw in talking with Mike, in you, in Amal and you do this world class job of forming individuals and helping them meet their potential through martial arts that you teach and so like for me, it was all there. And the stuff that had to change was where the kind of well, three things had to change really. One was, you guys had to be strategically aligned, you had to have a shared sense of where you wanna take this amazing venture of yours. The second thing was you had to, you had to take the DNA of your culture that was already there, amazing DNA of your culture, your core values and articulate it and just like together articulate it and say are we really committed to that together? Together are we committed to that? That becomes a group, your team's compass like you could actually have this now shared definition of what is integrity for us and stand by that. Before it was up to everyone's interpretation we sort of have this agreement about like what we stand for but everyone sort of goes out and does it their own way.

- [Elliot] Right.

- But together, you came together and really said, this is what we stand for.

- Once you put a ring on it right?

- [Larry] Yeah, exactly.

- You know once you put a ring on it.

- Yeah. And the third thing is the thing that you're talking about, which is just like how do we, how do we move from being great individual athletes, like when you're on the mat, only one person leaves the winner generally, like that's the goal, right?

- Right.

- One person leaves as the winner. When you're on a management team, you have to try to find common ground wins. And that's a different set of muscles and so I think part of what I was trying to bring to the table for you guys was, how do we move from the mindset of win, win the argument, win the decision, be right to how do I get the best thinking in the room, in the conversation and then come out where we're all winning where the company is winning? And that involves some tools that I taught you guys and you guys quickly got good at.

- I think we wanted it. I know I like.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- I know I think we wanted it. I can only speak really for me personally, I know I wanted it because it was what I was trying to shift in my life as well right, of this, of this fighter, who everyone listened to because I could beat the fuck out of them.

- Right.

- [Elliot] You now.

- That's why I listen to you.

- Of course of course you know, to a okay can I, but I knew where that took me to, that took me to a place that that was not very healthy for me and I didn't really like.

- Larry] Right.

- And to the now to this place where I'm trying, I have a friend big Alex and he says can you have a more skillful conversation? And that's what we like to call it now.

- Yeah.

- And I think you were that, you were the catalyst for us to have much better and more skillful conversations. And for me, it's in my whole life, it's not even, it's not even just in the business. I wanna talk about what you said is core values because what an amazing thing you did with us, explain core values to everyone.

- Yeah, so we live our lives and we run our business based on a lot of beliefs and principles. And a lot of them are important but a core value is a value for which you're willing to lose money for or end relationship for. That's the difference. It becomes this elevated guiding principle in your business, in your organization and it is as shared value, it's one that we all have to look at and say yeah, we're on that page, that is our conviction, we stand on that in the toughest times. So you may have employees who are really high performing at doing their job and may be great teacher but on a consistent basis, they may violate something that you've declared as important even publicly but you're willing to live with okay? Because they're a really great teacher but they misuse their power let's say and I know that for Easton, right use of power is a core value, it's one that you articulated. And so now you're left with this integrity gap. Okay once you've said as a team, as a leadership team, this is what we stand on as a core value, the right and responsible use of power, you can no longer turn your back on a really great high performing teacher that on the side misuses his or her power on a regular basis and it forces you, as leaders to have to find a way to have a really hard conversation with that teacher okay, that puts you back into integrity, not just individually, but as an organization. That's an example of what a core value is and I think that especially as a fast growing company, if you fail to articulate, if you fail to actually get clear together about what those core values are, there are all kinds of ways in which things can go sideways culturally as you bring in new people really quickly and there's no grounding, there's no compass to say yeah, we expect you to do a good job on your job description but we also expect you to act in ways that are consistent with these principles.

- There's no true north.

- [Larry] There's no true north yeah.

- I stole that from Jordan.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- That's his term.

- And this defines this really defines like what integrity is for you individually and for your company and I think when we worked together as your team, I had you go out and interview people and ask them about what they experience when your company is at its best. What are the experiences sort of what is guiding those behaviors? What guides you when you have to make the hardest decision? So we looked at who you were when you're at your best and then backtracked into what does that mean in terms of what we really stand for when we're at our best?

- I remember that exercise, you had us go talk to students.

- [Larry] Right and other staff.

- And staff. That was really hard for me because people don't always tell me the truth.

- Right.

- Like how you like when you when you had us do that, like people might tell Sachi the truth, I presume you got to meet Sachi.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And I think some most people tell Ian the truth and Valoy the truth but me and Amal and Mike, one Amal's God.

- [Larry] Right.

- Right. And I'm Jesus and Mike's Paul and we're super intense.

- Yeah.

- [Eliot] The two of us.

- Yeah.

- So how do you like, like I struggled with that. So somebody who, how do you, how do you have the leader or the leaders like 'cause that's the three of us bring ourselves down from the god complex because I for sure, I hope everyone got the joke there, I'm not fucking Jesus, right? But how do you bring that down so that when I can talk to somebody and say hey man, where have you seen me at my best and where have seen me at my worst kind of like those kind of exercises that they'll actually tell you.

- Yeah. Being the boss is really hard and I'm not and I don't think you ever really get to like 100% approachability of someone at a lower level. So in a lot of ways you rely on your people to be the conduit for you getting good information. That said, I do think you know, the stereotype of a leader is that we are declarative, confident and clear about what we believe. And we strike that talk as entrepreneurs or as World Class athletes, that's what you deliver on.

- [Eliot] God I did that for a long time.

- Confidence and that becomes part of the identity and we believe that becomes part of our success and so we keep relying on that. And one of the, actually I have to say and congratulate you that one of the shifts I've seen in you and I've heard about from others, is you haven't given up your clarity, your confidence, your swagger, but there is this other part that you've cultivated, which is humility and curiosity about what other people believe which and a willingness to not move toward defend when someone confronts with bad news or feedback, to be able to breathe and say, from where they sit I have to listen to their perspective 'cause they sit in a different part of the organization, they might hold a perspective, a way of seeing things or even me, that's a blind spot for me 'cause I sit in a different place. And I'm isolated.

- Man we have, I mean we just had this podcast right, Jordan, like like Peter sat down, we have this employee, he's a GM of a school and I said hey, you wanna do it? And look, man, I don't know how you feel but everyone that I asked to do this is nervous and everyone that I asked to do my Gospel Fire Podcast, if they know me, they're nervous and so we have to like get through this like this nervousness, because for most people, it's their first podcast, it's their first, yada, yada and they're like whoa and for me, I don't know we are at like 10 Easton Onlines now, I had this other podcast before. I have 70 episodes of the Gospel Fire so I'm in and this is kind of me who I am.

- [Larry] Right.

- So I asked Peter to do it and he's like yeah, but I wanna put some thoughts together and I'm like okay, great just share them with me so that I know and then he's like okay, I'm ready you know and I'm like well, can I get the thoughts? And he's like, no I'll read them to you and I'm like okay and he's like, so we sit down and he's like, I don't wanna talk to the fire marshal. Because we have this history like we started in a bar together. That's where we met.

- Yeah.

- [Eliot] Like working in a bar.

- Yeah.

- And then I became his coach, where he was just like looking up to me and like, so from my perspective, it's one thing and from his perspective, is this whole other thing and we've had some trials and tribulations with each other along the way through like we even had to fire Peter at one point because he was such an asshole.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- From the Boulder school you know, but now he's a GM. So we've both moved so much but like what you were just saying like, you have to step back and look at it from the other person's perspective possibly and give space for them to that to be their truth.

- Yeah, I think I mean your example of Peter is great because I think what will never change is that your opinion matters to Peter a lot. That won't change.

- I think he said that, didn't he?

- Yeah, what can change is Peter's perception of how much his opinion matters to you. And you can make that through the way you lead, really important, you know a priority to let him know to go first three things you do is like you learn to ask on a regular basis a person like Peter for feedback. How am I doing? How are things going around here? Okay and become skillful at proactively and frequently asking for feedback. The second thing is receiving feedback skillfully that when a Peter does come to you, rather than listening with your do I agree with this? Do I not agree with this? Am I evaluating his opinion? Is his ideas viable, not viable, just really listening, receiving and saying he has an important perspective here whether I agree at this moment as I'm listening to it or not, there's raw material in there, there's some gems in there that I really need to just keep asking questions about. So receptivity is the second skill. Ask, receive skillfully and then when it comes time for you to give feedback to give that in a way that doesn't hammer someone but that actually says, hey here's my perspective, here's what I'm seeing, what's going on from your perspective? Like I'm seeing you doing this and I'm seeing a consequence to you doing this that's not so great maybe but tell me what's going on from your perspective here? Making it into a conversation rather than a cross examination.

- That takes me time.

- [Larry] Yes it does.

- I can't respond right away.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Like that's what I so I'm not where you are yet you know, like where I am so I can I've gotten better at the asking and receiving.

- [Larry] Good.

- I cannot give my feedback right away.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- I have to say okay, thank you. Give me a couple days.

- That's not a bad thing.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- Like that you actually can create some space for you to process what you've heard is a fine thing. I mean unless the building is on fire in which you probably wanna give an answer fast.

- Right sure but I'm great in trauma situations or in high pressure, let's go all day but I don't have the calmness yet to not be declarative.

- Yeah. And you know, speed is not the important thing always. Even though in our fast moving society and the message in businesses, act fast, act now, first to market, everything is about speed, I actually think that there, that that's become misinterpreted and that many of us have come to believe that like we have to do everything fast, including respond to our people quickly you know 24/7 email, immediate response but there are times when I think it's a legitimate and actually the strongest leadership move you can make is to say, give me a few days to think about what you've said, I wanna consider it seriously. If you're saying that to me, I'm feeling heard I'm like Eliot's really considering what I've got to say and he must respect me enough to take the time to ponder over what I've shared with him. That tells me as the person that just shared my ideas with you, this guy's listening.

- He's not blowing me off.

- [Larry] He's not blowing me off.

- Actually this happened with me and Peter 'cause Ian gave everyone an exercise. All the jujitsu, all the jujitsu instructors, ask five people that you really care about their opinion where they've seen you at your best. And he sent me the email and I said, I don't wanna respond 'cause I wanna think about where I've seen you at your best. And he said man, he came back to me and said man, I really appreciate that 'cause everyone else gave me a pretty quick response within a day or two. and some of them are just total bullshit. Like they're just like okay, get this out of my email.

- [Larry] Right.

- You know, it took me like, two weeks.

- Yeah. And I'm guessing the quality of your feedback was higher than the immediate stuff he got and that he took it seriously because he knew you'd really considered the question.

- Yeah that's such an interesting thing and I guess I credit you for a lot of this cause I don't think I would have done that before. Like I like problem, phone call, now.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Question, answer, now like this is just and like you said, you always get a result. I think you said this early, you get a result and to you it might even seem like a good one but is it the best one? It wasn't the most skillful one.

- I mean if you're unilateral in your leadership, you get a result.

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- Which is compliance okay, boss.

- Yeah.

- You've pinned them to the mat and they will comply.

- [Eliot] Right.

- Right. And in the short term, that might be exactly what you want it to happen in the long term that doesn't build commitment in people, it doesn't build buy in, it doesn't build trust and it probably doesn't even get you to hear their voices which may contribute to a better decision in the past. So the unilateral puts to leadership, which you know is the one person wins, you know and one person leaves the loser is a great way to take things on the mat but not necessarily to run an organization. The alternative to unilateralism is mutual learning. Is being a leader that says in every conversation what I'm really trying to create is that I walk away from the conversation smarter and so does the other person.

- And I would 100% on all of that but I think sometimes even for a place for people to start, like school and there's like, like this that are listening to this podcast is they want their phone to stop ringing.

- [Larry] Yeah. Yeah.

- Right, they want their phone, they don't want their employee calling them with every single question.

- [Larry] Right.

- And I think sometimes that, I think a lot of times that happens because said employee is very scared to do anything because you're gonna jump down their throat if said thing goes, not how the boss wants it. Right? So even if you're right now currently in this place of well, I still like the boss and your ego is still all wrapped up in it but you want some freedom.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Right.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You want some freedom, you want and that's just a place for it to move, for you to start getting it. But I think it's really hard man for people to buy into this, especially us on the mat.

- Yeah.

- I know because not only are we the boss but we also have this black belt around our waist.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- So it's two things right?

- [Larry] Right.

- Like I'm your teacher and I'm your boss so everyone that's working for the, in our industry it's not like I hired you.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Right I didn't meet Larry and say okay, you can answer the phones really well or you're good salesperson and yada yada. I took you from this thing where you were nothing and I've made you something.

- [Larry] Right.

- And now on top of that, I'm your boss.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- So how do you go through that? Like where's like man that's like, I would say quadruply hard it's like everybody knows one kid is hard, two kids is not one plus one.

- Right. But you know, that approach to leading a school, that is I'm your daddy.

- [Eliot] Right, right yeah.

- You know that's kind of like the model because it's a power model and I think that like if you're gonna grow a school, if you really are committed to growing a school, you have to grow people too. You have to grow them in ways that actually help them learn, rather than giving them the answer and then having them call the next time for the very next dancer, to take the time on that one call and say well, tell me how you think about this before I tell you what the, what I would, how I would make that decision, tell me how you'd make that call. And then start a coaching conversation. You know how to coach. People who work in schools know how to coach.

- Right.

- [Larry] Right?

- Right. And so like here's how I'd make that move okay, how would you make that move to play to your strengths? And so the very next time that call that decision comes along, I want you to make that on your own because we've kind of gone through, you know how I'm wired now when it comes to that kind of decision, why don't you try next time and start with the lower stakes decisions obviously.

- Right, sure.

- And then move on, figure out where you feel comfortable giving more and more discretion to that employee that has been with you for a long time that you do trust but you need to start managing that person differently in order not to be their their daddy and them the kid anymore.

- That's such a good way to put it.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Because that's how it is a lot right?

- [Larry] It is.

- Especially in our industry like you're not only the owner, but you are kind of like the dad and I see it like that, I'm not saying I don't.

- [Larry] Right.

- Like like every single one of and I don't I know, we don't we try not to use this word, but like in this sense yes every single one of my students, which is everyone, they are under my care.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- In some way because and I truly, truly see it that way. And that helps me deal with everyone better.

- Yeah.

- You know but then I have to move off of that as well and give them, I want them all to leave me.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Like any child should, right?

- That's right. That's right. And I think like there's a hard conversation maybe for people in your position to have with a someone who's been your student and as an employee also which is, being my student has always meant being different to me. Taking my word for it. You're in this role now where being, the best way you can respect me now is when you feel that you have a different opinion than I do, to express that. Okay, so there's an ask there that you have to make as a leader, which is I wanna hear your perspective, especially when you differ I mean, with me and people like on your team, I've seen people on your team sit across the table from you and say, Eliot, I have a different take on this, I don't see it exactly the same way as you do.

- [Eliot] Right.

- Now the way that you respond to that very first time, someone who's doing that for the first time is challenging you, if you defend or tell them why they're wrong, they'll never do it again. The very first time you respond to someone after you've made the invitation has to be, wow, I hadn't thought about it that way let me take a moment and consider that, it's a really different way of thinking, you and I think really differently about this, you're not agreeing with them you're just saying, you've just brought a different perspective to the table thank you. Thank you for doing that. Now we can talk about the merits of your idea versus mine.

- [Eliot] Right.

- But thank you for taking the risk 'cause you care about this school to differ with me. Your response is gonna make all the difference in the world, whether they grow up into being that great staff person who's willing to put their ideas on the table or stays in student mode and just defers and sits quietly at the table.

- Man I'm gonna give another story here.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Where I think this all helped us. We did a sensitivity training 50% of it was amazing.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- 50% of it was terrible.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Like awful.

- Now I really wanna hear about this.

- Yeah. The guy, I don't know, Jordan, you were there for it right? He first started off the conversation by apologizing for being a white male which I mean, I get I mean I understood what he was doing but this dude did nothing wrong.

- [Larry] Yeah right.

- Like he's done nothing wrong, like stop it.

- [Larry] Yeah. Right.

- And then they went into this idea of micro aggressions where the example that they gave, are you ready? Hi, Eliot nice to meet you.

- [Larry] Nice to meet you Elliot.

- Where are you from?

- I'm from Boulder, Colorado.

- Oh nice that was a micro aggression on this was their example.

- Yeah don't ever do that again.

- don't ever do that again I've really felt the aggression.

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- What happened just now according to your teacher?

- I'm assuming that by the way you look and how you are portraying yourself that there's no way you could be from here.

- [Larry] Okay.

- And I mean this was just left field for me because that's how I start every conversation.

- Yeah.

- Hey man I'm not from here, where I'm from? Right

- Right. So your basic way of interacting is wrong according to this teaching.

- [Eliot] Right.

- Yeah.

- Hi, how are you, where are you from?

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- You know?

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And this has gotten me really far in the world like I've opened up a lot of like and don't be so fucking sensitive a little too.

- Right.

- Right, like.

- Yeah.

- Like someone's just asking you where you're from, you can gladly say Boulder. I'm not assuming you're not from here.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You know, so. And what we do with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we might go aggressive all day long, we're beating each other up.

- I would call it macro aggression.

- Yeah I would too.

- Mega mega aggression.

- Mega right like this is what we do and my whole thing with our schools is I wanna make people anti fragile.

- Yeah right.

- Like you are not fragile.

- [Larry] Yes.

- So but the other part about like the sex and the employees and all that was was amazing. And I didn't handle it. I didn't set this thing up.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- So and neither did Mike and Mike wasn't happy with it and Amal wasn't happy with it but we had to go in and have a conversation in a way that wasn't like hey, you fucked that up.

- [Larry] Right yeah.

- And we'd like get people in the room from a bunch of different perspectives and I think it went really well we came to this common ground you know.

- Yeah. You were willing to like spend the first half of the session being incredibly uncomfortable.

- Well I didn't, I wasn't I mean, I had to I was in the session and I didn't know what was coming.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Like I found all this out in the session and then after the session, I was like, okay this has to change, what's the best way that we can get change out of this?

- Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think when you're in the middle of something that's not going well it's really hard and especially when there are other people who have set it up and want this to happen and when you're not sure actually what's gonna happen next, the good part, the good part might be coming, it might not be coming.

- [Eliot] Right. Right.

- And your ability to not take action like I think that there's this, there's this impulse in the martial arts to take action right.

- [Eliot] Oh yeah.

- To make the move, the right move and the first move and be the aggressor, to initiate, initiate, initiate.

- 'Cause you've got to be ahead.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Cause if you get behind.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Now you have like, you mean, you said it perfectly like to expand on that analogy, if you get behind then you can get tired and if you can get hired now you've got to use this declarative side of you to get out of it a lot of times and we all know how that can go.

- Yeah. And so like the moment of discomfort, I think the impulse is to initiate, to step in, to intervene and sometimes like when you don't, when you just allow the space, the silence, the stillness for things to play out a little bit and work your way through that discomfort, some good stuff can happen, some good stuff can emerge from that from the bad and uncomfortable stuff. And it sounds like that's kind of what you did, you chose not to take action, not to intervene, not to say, hold on, this is bullshit people just need to toughen up but to sort of allow for the workshop to play out and for some of the good stuff to to happen and then you could take action afterwards and say, let's talk about it, if we were to do this again, we would probably do have some different messages here.

- Right. And we had to because the, we did it per school so this was just the first one at Boulder.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- So I was like okay.

- [Larry] That's good news.

- Yeah we can't give that everywhere else but I think again that conversation came back to all these skills that we learned you know. I wanna stay on the same topic a little bit and then I wanna go back to something else you said 'cause I just watched it too today. So sometimes I'm in this conversation with my friend Alex who is a Buddhist and he's, he's all about the my perspective, your perspective and the most skillful ways to have conversations. And I made a post the other day, hold on, let me get it.

- [Larry] Okay.

- And we, come on stop pulling up my emails and we have been discussing said post. So it's a picture of some football coaches like getting in it with some of their players. And it says what champions consider coaching is what the entitled consider abuse. Parents, if your son is gonna grow, is gonna be great, he will have to take some ass chewings along the way. Get ready. And I do agree with this.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Right you know, so where do we balance is like sometimes in the heat of battle when it's on, like so where does, I mean some of my best times like I'll say it like, I can remember I was a white belt and one of Amal's teacher, maybe as a blue belt, I don't know but very early on in my stage, one of Amal's teachers came and he's from Brazil so yeah the opposite of everything we're talking about. And he says in Portuguese man, Amal that fat kid over there is gonna be your best student. 'Cause I was a little chunkier at the time and I was like okay, I'm never gonna be fat again.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Like no one's ever gonna call me fat again.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And then I went on to be a champion.

- [Larry] Right.

- Right.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And that had a profound effect on me. But he kind of gotten my ass you know and told me like hey man, you're not living up to, like the way I took it is you're not living up to the standard of what a champion could really be. So where does that space play or does it never play?

- No it plays.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- So I believe that leadership, part of leadership is creating an optimal level of discomfort in the system in people and in the system, which is in order to create resilience and learning 'cause I think when you when everyone's in their comfort zone, nothing interesting is happening right, which is there's no need to change, there's no need to learn, there's no need to innovate. We're all comfortable. And so leadership is about creating ideal levels of discomfort among your employees in the system, which means pointing out the gap between what is and what could be, right and what's possible okay and constantly focusing on that creative tension between what is and what could be. That's the way you motivate people, it's the way you inspire change, it's the way you create resilience in people. In terms of how you show up, first, you have to understand what are my motives? Is my motive to evoke change in someone? Okay in other words to create enough discomfort to have them move to another place? Or is my motive to cause suffering and pain? What's my intention here? What's my mindset here? And I think too often what happens is we get leaders who are bullies who say I'm really motivating change in my people but actually their intention really is to punish. And so I think first of all, the leader has to look inward and ask the question honestly of themselves, am I just unloading my own internal anger or pain or anxiety on other people in ways that I self justify as my own style, unique style of motivation? Okay or am I really trying to intentionally and deliberately create a level of discomfort in this person? That's one thing, looking inside. The other thing is looking at the person across from you and asking yourself, who is that person individually? What is their level of readiness to hear what I'm going to say and how I'm gonna say it? Each person is different. Another kid who heard the same thing from the teacher as you heard, might have left the dojo forever. So there's a question to me about understanding who's sitting across from you and what's gonna motivate that kid or that employee, that staff member, that student and understanding their level of resilience or fragility and what could inspire them?

- You bring up yeah, I mean, my kids.

- Okay.

- My kids like.

- They wouldn't have responded to that kind of coaching.

- No one will, one won't. Like Canaan, Canaan my oldest is this softie. He is soft.

- [Larry] Right.

- As far as like his emotional inside he's very tough you know, but.

- Different things motivate him then your other son.

- Yeah, disappointment. If I say man, you really, you really upset me right here and like he'll crumble.

- [Larry] Melts yeah.

- Melt. Like if somebody ever hit him in a form of discipline, I would beat the fuck out of them.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Simon, I get it. Like I get it. He's just a different kid. Like he'll get mad but then he'll like people like I don't wanna get hit again like you know, like it won't be this, it won't be that.

- [Larry] Devastating, yeah.

- Yeah, where Canaan if you, if you hit him that might be the end of your life that day because one, this child does not need that and he's a child. And a lot of times I think I yeah, some adults don't need that.

- I mean for me like there are always two truths. As a coach, I'm always dealing with these two these two truths as well. As a coach I have to when I'm trying, when I'm being tough and direct with my clients, there's one piece of me that is people are able. I believe that people are able to hear the difficult things and to deal with those things. The other truth is, you never know how fragile someone is in any given moment and what they're dealing with in their lives. And so I learned a couple of weeks ago, that from a client of mine, that the client checked into behavioral health clinic because they tried to hurt themselves. And I didn't know that. And it made me think okay, like I can be pretty tough and direct with my clients and I had to like ask myself, like what is my tone in any given moment? And how do I come to those conversations? And in any moment you know, do I come with a level of aggressiveness or even frustration or anger that could tap into something and so it's super important I think that we don't treat everybody as fragile but we hold these two truths, people are generally able to hear this stuff and they're resilient and also you never know on any given day where someone is and to see them as people and not as objects that we need to change. As long as we're seeing their humanity, while we're being provocative and creating discomfort, I think we show up in a different way with a different tone.

- It's somewhere in the middle all the time.

- [Larry] Yeah. And depends on the person.

- Depends on the person and it might even move for the person depending on where they might be.

- Yeah. But I always ask myself, am I being motivated in the moment by anger, revenge, anxiety? And if that's the case I pause, 'cause I'm not gonna act. I'm not going to intervene at that moment if those are my core emotions and motivations. It's not gonna go well for me or the other person.

- Yeah, it's gonna be terrible.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- So yeah, such great 'cause we just like to do it, this is how I do it.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- This is, you know, this is how I motivate people and yeah, it's a tough spot you know, it's a really tough spot. I have these two kids that I work with, older kids you know, they're 20.

- [Larry] Right.

- And you know, one's male, one female, they date.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And I have to, I've learned that like, the like, the male I mean, Nick, I have to be very different with him like 'cause he sees me as like I don't, it doesn't matter how I see our relationship all the time, it's how he sees our relationship. And it can you know and he sees me as his dad and I'm not his dad but like, if I criticize he's like, fuck you watch this I'll show you like that's always his response. And I have to learn like and this is hard for me because I don't see our relationship like this, and I'm still fucking it up don't worry. You know but we love each other so much that there's space for both of us to blow it.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You know, where I have to move on it and be like, damn it this is how he sees me, I can't be getting in his ass all the time, his big brother might be able to, his uncle might be able to, like Jordan over here you know and Mike and Ian and all these other people, they might be able to talk to him in a certain way and joke with him in a certain way but I for sure can't.

- Yeah. And that changes, I think we have to always ask ourselves as teachers, what is my student needing from me right now, especially with young people at this moment in their development what does this person need from me right now? And at one point, it may have been that tough love strict, you know, criticizing, guiding and then another point, it may be a lot of affirmation, a lot of mirroring back like here's the good I see in you, here's where you're on track right now. Keep that up and it changes I think in relationships.

- [Eliot] It changes man 'cause this is exactly where it was like he was this 14 year old kid that was a total fuck up.

- Yeah.

- And like we saved his life but the way we saved his life was, hey, you're graduating.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Hey, don't you come in here you're gonna show me your report card. Don't you come in here with less than a C. I'm not asking you to get straight A's. You know.

- Exactly.

- [Eliot] I'm not asking that from you.

- Exactly.

- But don't you come in here with less than a C and I'm gonna be picking you up at school.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You know and you're gonna show me and we're gonna talk and we're gonna this and you know like, but now he's older and I don't wanna be his dad anymore but he it's still there.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Right it's still there but he's 20 now, he's not 14 so he needs something different from me and I struggle with this.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You know, it's a constant thing.

- Yep. You mentioned something earlier that I wondered whether you would be interested in us getting into a little bit which was how much meeting sucked at Easton and what we changed about that.

- [Eliot] Yeah we couldn't do it.

- Yeah. And I think I am asking 'cause I think it might be something that a lot of schools when they get their folks together struggle with.

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- And I have some ideas around that, that were, that are really basic but I think can like really help and you'll recognize when I like share what they are. One is I call it goals, roles, rules and tools. Okay so goals, like we don't step into a room unless we know why we're meeting. What are we trying to accomplish in this meeting? What decisions are we trying to make? But what is our purpose? And we walk into that meeting, having done the preparation we need to, to accomplish that goal. Okay so but clear and advanced why are we getting together? Why are we taking all this.

- [Eliot] Don't just have the meeting.

- All this human time and energy in a room together, those are dollars, those are school dollars that could be out there making money on the mat. So if we are taking ourselves into a meeting room and off the mat, why are we doing that? Being clear about that, that's the goals piece. The roles piece is like what's our job? What's each of our job in this meeting?

- [Eliot] You said roles?

- Roles.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- So like do I have a specific job in this meeting? Am I leading the meeting? Am I supposed to have some expertise that I'm bringing into the meeting that I was supposed to do a research that I have an assignment coming to this meeting? What are our roles and those have to be really clear coming in. And if you're the owner but you're not leading the meeting your job is to.

- I was just about to ask you, so sometimes it's me shut the fuck up.

- Exactly, exactly. And then the rules you remember, we had a flip chart with like eight agreements on.

- [Eliot] Changed our life liked changed our life.

- When we get together as a team, this is how we show up these, these are our rules. These are our shared agreements about who we are when we're working together. Okay.

- [Eliot] Can I talk about that for a sec.

- Yeah.

- I think the best thing that you did with that with the rules is you let us come up with the rules.

- [Larry] You generated them.

- You didn't tell us what the rules were.

- Yeah, there was no playbook here.

- No.

- [Larry] You created the playbook.

- We created the rules.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- You know, we did. And now we're able to take those rules to our community and then add sometimes in certain meetings and things like that but that was, that was so strategic I guess, in the fact that you knew we needed this and you knew we needed this in place but you didn't tell us what they were gonna be and sometimes we do that as leaders so much.

- If I would have imposed my best ideas about rules on you, no one would have bought them. They'd be okay like, that's Larry's thing we'll behave while we're in his meetings but then we'll be on our own when you know and act ourselves you know, into whatever we act ourselves into.

- [Eliot] Right.

- But 'cause you came up with them, you own them, you took them away, it was your work. And that's a big part of leadership too, is that people don't invest in what they don't create.

- Yeah we took so much pride in those rules.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- We take so much pride man, in our rules and our core values.

- What are one or two rules, just not a test but what are like one or two rules about like how you guys meet that have made the most difference that have changed the dynamic?

- One, don't interrupt. Right, like let the other person talk.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And two don't think, don't take things personally.

- Yeah, yeah yeah, I remember those rules. And those are huge because we spend a ton of time in meetings right, interrupting each other and defending.

- Right. I wonder if Sachi thinks the same. Those are the two rules that I remember 'cause I'm an interrupter and I take things personally. So I wonder if, I wonder like Sachi who's not an interrupter.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And I don't know if she take, I mean God, she's dealing with us, how could you take anything personally?

- One thing that I would say in the beginning of our work, she was the person that spoke the less.

- [Eliot] Right.

- Okay, the only female on your team.

- [Eliot] Right.

- And I would say the last meeting I had with you all, she was very vocal, she weighed in on a lot of different things and one of those rules was actively invite others into the conversation and speak up honestly, speak your truth.

- [Eliot] Speak your truth.

- And so.

- And I don't remember them 'cause I always speak my truth.

- Right that's not one you're working on.

- No.

- But it may be that those are ones that she took to heart and was really pressing herself on to model.

- [Eliot] To make happen, yeah.

- Yeah.

- [Eliot] So anyway, sorry, go back to.

- So that's the rules. So was goals, roles, rules and tools. So tools like okay, how do we articulate shared values? Or how do we document what we just, all the brilliance that we just came up with? Or how do we confront each other in ways that don't escalate conflict but allow us to disagree or give each other tough feedback? Those are tools or methods that we brought into your team that allowed you to do the collaboration thing more skillfully. So there's a skills piece that I call tools that we built that kind of muscle on your team.

- [Eliot] Right.

- And for me, that's how you can get to better meetings is by cultivating those four kind of dimensions of, of high performance teamwork.

- [Eliot] I mean Larry, Mike can even have meetings with me and Amal now.

- Wow that's an accomplishment.

- Yeah. And where he leads it and just takes us through things.

- So he's talking to the two owners.

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- And he can be the leader.

- And he's the boss.

- Because you know your roles in that meeting you are clear.

- It's so clear.

- And you add value by letting Mike lead and just you guys being smart owners in the room while he creates a structure for that conversation.

- [Eliot] It's amazing.

- Yeah.

- And I wanna say the other thing before I, there's one more thing I do wanna talk a place before but on this topic of people and roles and stuff like that and just like the culture of people, Mike and I, like we, I mean, we are, we are strong nosed right, we are bulls and what we realized and I think a lot, I think this came, Ian is the one of gave us the suggestion but it came from you, people was we were only ever talking about problems and therefore his problem with whatever, my problem with whatever and then we were starting to get contentious you know and Ian was like man, can you guys just hang out? Can you guys just call each other to see how you're doing and like not talk about work? And like I mean sure, like if it goes to work, it can go to work. But it goes back to like the people think where like so even me and Mike who are I mean, Me and Mike are brothers right like when we when we talk about core values, I don't think that I could ever lose them. I don't know what they could do.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- Cause one of my core values is them.

- [Larry] Right.

- You know like almost like your kids right? You're always gonna love your kids.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- No matter what. Like he might murder somebody and well you know, I might not like it so. And we've started that again. Go ahead sorry.

- Well I think what you're describing though is, when we are pressed up against the wall when we're under pressure, we our default is that we can begin to see others even others that we love as either obstacles, adversaries or vehicles to get done the shit that we wanna get done, its job descriptions essentially. And and when we turn them into that we turn them into objects and they're no longer people so we feel self justified in not speaking to them in a tone that's useful and it's so when, I would like encourage your listeners to notice the moments in which they're beginning to see their people, their partners, the people they love even as adversaries or as vehicles or as obstacles. And in that moment, you're making whatever they need or what they're saying less important than what you need or what you're saying and take a breathe and remember, their needs are as legitimate as yours, there perspectives are as legitimate as yours.

- [Eliot] He says the shit so much better than me right?

- [Man] He's pretty good.

- I mean your stories, though I mean I think bring out the reality of like what it looks like and I'm just putting you know, the sort of framework on top of it and saying here's what's going on there.

- You're putting the broad stroke that everyone can take to their place.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And go Okay, there's this like little there's an instant which is kind of what I do.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- that's how I make conversation and but then there but you're taking it be like look, here's what it is.

- Yeah. The personal becomes the universal.

- [Eliot] The universal.

- Yeah.

- And that's the key, you know. So the last thing that I did wanna talk about was when you were talking about your best instructor, your best sales guy, whatever it is.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- 'Cause I just, again Alex sent it to me, he sent it to me late last night, but it's Gary Vee and I love Gary Vee.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And it was like, you might have to fire your best salesperson.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And then he went on because they don't make the people connection. They are not part of the who you are, you know of your company.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- And yeah, they bring you the most money.

- [Larry] Right.

- You know but they will also be the cancer that kills you.

- They will take you down eventually it will take you down you know and it doesn't mean the answer is to fire them you know, it can mean, it must mean though.

- [Eliot] He said might, he said you don't have to, you might have to, that's right.

- It must be confronted, the behavior must be confronted that's not working that's so counter to what your core values are because if you don't, not only does it hurt the company, but it sort of makes your credibility laughable that you as a leader, lose credibility 'cause everybody knows that person is tolerated in your eyes. And you must not really believe in that thing that we've said is, is an important core value core, why would that person keep, why would you continue to tolerate that behavior? So the core values become diluted and so the laughingstock and as a leader, you also, your authority and credibility become diluted because everyone knows that that's what you tolerate.

- Just falls apart.

- [Larry] You can.

- Yeah.

- It can yeah, yeah. I'm noticing that you haven't plugged my book "Standing In The Fire" and I just wanna say in the same way that Al Gore invented the internet, I really invented fire. And so the Gospel Of Fire I'm not saying it's a complete rip off of my title but let's just say you know, internet fire Larry Dressler and then there was Elliot Marshall.

- I love it. I have never seen that side of Larry before ever Jordan and I loved it. I'm speechless. I guess I just want to end with a little personal talk.

- Yeah.

- You know, how did you get into all of this? Like where did this, where did this where you know, where'd this come from for you?

- It's a great question. And say, when I was in fifth grade, that's how far it goes back like when I see my work is bringing people together to have the very best conversations. I was bused across the railroad tracks because the laws change in California and we were trying to integrate schools at the time. So I was bused from my ethnically diverse middle class neighborhood to a really tough gang dominated environment, essentially a farm workers ghetto. Literally five miles from where I lived. I got off the bus the first day, I immediately got pushed up against the bus by six really tough looking sixth graders who I remember as having facial hair and tattoos, right I was like, that's my memory of the trauma of like being pushed and they told me what they were gonna do to me for walking onto their turf. This little white kid from across the tracks. And the only thing I could think to say in that moment was, can we talk about this first? And I'd like to think about that as my first attempt at a facilitated intervention with a group and it did not work out well for me that day. Or the next day, or the next day and literally between fifth grade and 12th grade, going to a school where I had to be hyper attuned to violence and power, I learned to create unlikely alliances with powerful people, to observe and be able to read people's emotional states, to see crowd behavior and when it became threatening to me and by the time I got to UCLA as a sociology major and had these erudite professors saying, here's my theory of you know, group dynamics and behavior, I was like dude, I had to invent that theory in the seventh grade what else have you got?

- [Eliot] Right.

- Like I know this stuff in my bones. And I think in a lot of ways my career has been a redo of that first day of fifth grade. It's been me sort of attempting to like see that group of kids not as bad or evil but as like frightened, anxious, confused, which is are often like what the rooms I walk into and do this work.

- I gotta stop you because I didn't know that as this little white kid who I'm taking it these people were not white.

- That's right yeah in that neighborhood yeah, yeah.

- How did you not become a racist?

- That's a great question.

- [Eliot] 'Cause I think most people do.

- Over those years also my closest friends were the kids of farm workers, the kids of first generation immigrants so in addition to being beaten up on a regular basis by kids that look like that I was also being protected and nurtured and loved by kids who look like that so.

- You were able to the look like that out of it.

- Yeah my conclusion was like and I got beaten up by white kids too in a violent school district and so my conclusion was like, make good friends who are good human beings who stick with me and turns out there's not a lot to do with the color of their skin or the language they speak. There's something deeper there that I've got to try to figure out and how to discover and assessing who becomes my friend.

- Man. It's not, it's people again.

- [Larry] Yeah.

- It's not the look of people. Right. Right, right. Yes. The actual person. Yeah, I just went back to my 40th high school reunion and had this big bear of a guy who I remember as a kid who was now skinny and recovering from a disease. But he was a bear of a football player at the time Mexican American. And he actually reminded me Do you remember that time, Larry, when you were surrounded by five guys? And I walked up to the group and got between you and them and said not today. This is my friend. You're not. You're not taking this guy down. And he said, did you know that I was afraid to that day? And I said no, but this is my chance. to buy you a drink today. And to say thank you. Because that happened a lot for me as much as I, you know, had to figure out a way to go down fast. Because there was no way for me to fight that many guys and take the beating just as many times people showed up in my defense, and the opportunity 40 years later to thank somebody for doing that, for me was amazing.

- So I guess just my final question, maybe, how do you deal with someone like me? Because I am kind of, like, at first glance for sure.

- Yeah,

- like, intense like that.

- Yeah,

- it could go very badly for you. Like take my talking about like my skin color or anything like that.

- Right. Right. Right. Right. Just my demeanor.

- Yeah.

- Like, have you just learned really well of which one's the safe one and which one's not the safe one or like, because like, I could see how this work for with us.

- Right. Could have been very hard for you. Yeah. Because of me and Mike.

- I could see how you would That. And there's a lot of testosterone in that room. Oh, yeah. When we're together, let me put it that way. And there's never a moment at which I feel unsafe. I see beyond, you know, the world class athlete bodies and be the aggressive enthusiasm there. There's never been a moment that I felt unsafe. I see you guys as deeply intelligent, huge heart, as big as your muscles are one of those muscles is your heart. And you've got huge hearts for caring. I see that too. So for whatever reason, like you've let me see you beyond like who you are as just high testosterone leaders and athletes. And I love working with you guys. There's never been a moment in which I've that it's triggered some sort of trauma and I've done my work to write. But yeah, that's just a for whatever reason, has maybe with a different group of guys, that would have been the case.

- I would say we're genuine friends now.

- And I absolutely and I actually feel like in a room where you guys are doing something that's not working, I can say, Elliot, sit down and shut the fuck up.

- You did

- in a way, in a way where we can both laugh because I can pump up my chest, you know, at 180 pounds, you know, skinny non muscular dude. And we can both laugh and say, yeah, dress loose getting World Champion, you know, and that's fun for me. But it's also a way for us to use humor to say, to say, you know, yeah, that's not gonna happen. Well, Elliot just sat down. And shut up And I'm like, that's pretty cool.

- But I think you did in such a skillful way. And you also always gave us time. Right? Right. You'd always I guys take five minutes, do you think?

- Yeah, yeah. And us kind of stayed out of it.

- Totally. Like you just let us bullshit and talk shit. And yeah, you know, so yeah, it was amazing man, and I greatly appreciate it. I could, as much as I appreciate it on my businesses end, again, like everything that we've been able to do as a group. Since then, I think I appreciate it more on a personal end, because I just do life a little better. Post Larry Dressler.

- Wow, that's I'm going to take that in that's you know,

- I appreciate here and like, I like my life got better. Since then, I deal with situations better I deal with everything better. And I couldn't I can always make more money. Everybody can.

- Right. Right. Like that's, it never touches me in that way. Yeah, I'll figure out how to feed my kids and all of that. But what will that do to me?

- Yeah.

- and you have moved me so I appreciate it, man.

- Thank you.

- You know, I really appreciate it.

- It's fun to have this conversation.

- Yeah.

- Thanks for inviting me.

- It's great guys. I'm Eastern online. Larry If they ever need you tell them where they where anybody Listen. This could find you.

- So the name of my company's blooming consulting, and they can go online and find the contact information on our website and I write a blog three, four times a month. And if they want to learn more about some of the stuff we've been talking about, that's a good place to learn about those ideas.

- Sounds great ,Jordan. That's the first time I had to do that.

- Right. Because everyone else their business was Easton. Oh, yeah. It's like in your book, right?

- Yeah, plug the book, what is the book?

- So the book is called standing in the fire.

- Okay, leading high heat meetings with clarity, common courage, and it's about sort of like in those moments when everybody else in the room is on fire in the worst kind of way is heated and things are getting conflictual. How does the leader maintain a kind of calm courage and clarity internally to be able to show up in that moment and turn that conflict into productive creative raw material?

- I appreciate I always do it on the gospel fire because I always have a guest like right like, like that's a personal brand Only.

- Yeah, yeah. So they always have something right. Where can people find you blah, blah, blah. Yeah, but this is the first time that you know, it wasn't an Eastern thing.

- You did it. You did it. Well.

- All right, man, I appreciate it. You're the man bro. So have a good one man Drive safe in this snowy way.

- Yeah, I've got my reindeer and sled out there. So yeah, it sounds good.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates Easton.Online. Your information will not be shared.

Close

Subscribe to Easton.Online