Our Guest This Episode: Darren Reinke
Great leaders are built from the inside out. Leadership training typically focuses on the externally visible behaviors of leadership; however, in this episode, we consider the parallel journey a leader should take internally to become an authentic leader. Darren Reinke is the author of The Savage Leader, a book which provides a blueprint for becoming a great leader through the adoption of 13 Savage Principles. Listen in as we ask Darren to walk us through some of these leadership principles.
Darren explains why the first principle, Identifying and Anchoring to Your Values, is foundational to the other 12 principles as our values help guide our decisions and keep us on track. Other principles we talk about include: Adapt Best Practices for Authenticity, Forge Unbreakable Bonds with Your Tribe, Focus on Self-Awareness, and Take Action to Maintain and Regain Focus. Do you struggle with patience, wrestle with doubts, or strive to overcome fears? Listen in as Darren describes how great leaders need to be introspective and willing to put in the hard work to develop self-awareness and become the great leaders that they aspire to be.
Darren is the founder of Group Sixty, an executive coaching and training company focused on building great leaders from the inside out. Group Sixty works with leaders and teams at Fortune 500’s, mid-market companies, fast-growing startups, and visionary non-profits.
Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:
"...you have to be willing to be introspective and look inside yourself because that’s where I think so much of the richness lies, and unlocking that allows you to be great. ....being willing to put in the hard work to actually activate that sense of intention, activate that sense of self-awareness so that you can become that great leader that you aspire to be."
"...focusing on just what I can control, and letting go of things like customers’ perspectives, employees’ opinions, those thoughts and things that go in other people’s heads. All we can really control is what you actually do. And it really starts with how you think about yourself, and everything really emanates out from that."
The podcast by project managers for project managers. Great leaders are built from the inside out. Leadership training typically focuses on the externally visible behaviors of leadership; however, in this episode, we consider the parallel journey a leader should take internally to become an authentic leader. Darren Reinke describes how great leaders need to be introspective and develop self-awareness to become the great leaders that they aspire to be.
02:06 … Meet Darren
04:31 … The Inspiration for the Book
05:58 … Great Leaders from the Inside Out
07:14 … Use Your Values to Anchor Your Decisions
09:45 … Forge Unbreakable Bonds
12:54 … Maintain and Regain Focus
15:48 … Deciding What You Can and Can’t Control
17:26 … Formative Experiences Influencing Leadership
21:06 … Embrace Patience
22:57 … Crushing Your Doubt
25:35 … Reflect on the Positive
26:41 … Positive Visualization
28:35 … More Leadership Advice
31:44 … A Savage Principles Field Guide
33:06 … Get in touch with Darren
34:14 … Closing
DARREN REINKE: …you have to be willing to be introspective and look inside yourself because that’s where I think so much of the richness lies, and unlocking that allows you to be great. And the third thing is being willing to put in the hard work to actually activate that sense of intention, activate that sense of self-awareness so that you can become that great leader that you aspire to be.
WENDY GROUNDS: Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers. I’m your host, Wendy Grounds, and joining us is Bill Yates. Remember you can still claim your Professional Development Units by listening to this podcast. Listen up at the end of the show for more information on that.
BILL YATES: You know, Wendy, Velociteach has a lot of different ways to earn PDUs. Some are free, like this podcast that we’ve been doing now, this is, what, Episode 143?
WENDY GROUNDS: Almost six years. January it will be six years.
BILL YATES: Yeah, it’s amazing. Also early in my career with Velociteach we started mobile learning, and we offer, gosh, tons of authors, maybe two dozen or more authors who have courses just to help project managers get better at their job. Those are good for PDUs. Then of course we have amazing instructors who lead classes that can also be used for PDUs. So we offer them different ways, and we’re delighted to be able to bring in great authors like Darren Reinke to discuss his book and give somebody a chance to earn a PDU.
WENDY GROUNDS: Darren is founder of Group Sixty. It’s an executive coaching and training company focused on building great leaders; and, as he says, building great leaders from the inside out. He’s also the author of a book called “The Savage Leader,” and it’s a new book that provides a blueprint for becoming a leader through the adoption of 13 Savage Principles.
BILL YATES: Yeah, these 13 Savage Principles. I wish we had time in the podcast to go through all of them. But, hey, then you wouldn’t want to buy the book.
WENDY GROUNDS: Right. We’re not going to give it all away.
BILL YATES: That’s right. But we’ll touch on them. And we’ve asked Darren to think about the ones that are most important to him and that he thinks would help the project manager the most. He’s got tons of insight, tons of advice in the book. I can’t wait to dig into it with him.
WENDY GROUNDS: Hi, Darren. Welcome to Manage This.
DARREN REINKE: Great to be here.
WENDY GROUNDS: Before we get into talking leadership, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your forays into project management and your background in executive leadership. Can you tell us how it’s kind of built up to where you got to the book?
DARREN REINKE: Absolutely. So I’ll go back in time a little bit. But growing up probably one of the very few fun facts about my life is my parents are both veterinarians, which that’s a whole ‘nother story. And for me, the only lens I had on the working world was health science. So I knew what doctors did, veterinarians, PTs, dentists, et cetera. And so I really didn’t have a sense for other careers. But midway through college I recognized that med school wasn’t the path for me.
And so I was intrigued by this nebulous concept of business. It was nebulous at that point in time. I was fortunate enough to have two very good friends on my block whose dads were very successful business people. One was the high-level executive of a very large bank. And as I was pursuing business, he said, “Hey, Darren, stick with your major, hard science major. We hire those types of people at our bank. But,” he said, “if I were you I’d look at investment banking and consulting.” And so I ended up interviewing at all the firms, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, et cetera, McKinsey.
I ended up landing a job at Accenture. And I was there in their process group, which was basically the jack-of-all-trades at the time. And so I did a lot of PM type of work throughout my time there. There was a lot of strategy consulting. But obviously the underpinning, as you know and your audience knows, it’s all about project management. So that was my foray into project management. And then over the years I noticed that so many projects would go into the ditch because of underdeveloped leaders in leadership teams, that I became aware of the importance of soft skills.
And it wasn’t things that I was working on in that moment. It was really many years later where a friend and mentor of mine said, you know, “Darren, I’m going to this executive coaching program, just training program.” And I always knew coaching through a sports lens as an athlete in high school. So I understood that, but didn’t know what that meant through a business lens.
So unlike many things in my life, I actually jumped in without knowing exactly what would come out the other end. And sure enough, I realized I don’t want to be an executive coach full-time. It just takes an incredible amount of energy and focus to just focus on that one line of work. But I did find it to be incredibly complementary to the consulting work I was doing at the time. And then just over the years it evolved from my firm started as a consulting and executive coaching company, then it evolved to be an executive coaching and training company, as it is today.
BILL YATES: So Darren, what inspired you to write the book? What led up to that?
DARREN REINKE: There were several things. And just I always thought I had a book in me at some point, but I never thought myself as a writer.
And so a couple things. A friend of mine turned to me – we used to do these nature walks. We talked about life and business. And she said, “Darren, it sounds like you’re going to write a book.” And I wasn’t sure if it was a question. I think she was actually challenging me, if I actually think about it looking backwards. So it was an interesting challenge. It made a lot of sense because everything I was talking about, speaking about, writing about, I was blogging on LinkedIn and on our website, writing some blogs about leadership and business. And so it made sense to package up a lot of the things that I was working on and thinking about into one neat book.
But I think more importantly, perhaps, is I had this nagging belief about my ability to write. And that really stemmed from not getting into AP English in high school, struggling relatively speaking in college to analyze what the Kafkas of the world meant in his literature. And I internalized it as Darren’s a bad writer. Darren can’t write something interesting.
But if I’m honest in reflecting, the data didn’t say that. The data just said, okay, maybe you don’t know how to analyze literature, and maybe the teachers could have done a better job of saying, hey, here’s the way we think about it. But, you know. So it was a way to prove that to myself that I could write. It could be interesting. It could be valuable to at least one person. And so that was really the genesis of it was that personal challenge. It made sense career-wise to put it in a big package. And so I wanted to do something that I didn’t think I could do before.
WENDY GROUNDS: One phrase that you’ve used is “Great leaders are built from the inside out.” And I really like that. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
DARREN REINKE: Most leadership courses, books, TED Talks, they tend to focus on the externally visible behaviors of leadership around decision-making, accountability, assessing risk, building strategies. But I believe that there’s a parallel journey that happens that really parallels the external journey that’s about becoming a great leader from the inside out. And so these are things like how do you understand and anchor to your values; how do you think about becoming an authentic leader; how do you connect and engage with your team in a really meaningful and authentic manner.
And then topics that are probably not really thought about in business, per se, but around patience. How do you foster a greater sense of patience, focus, perseverance. And then what I call the “triad,” which is the self-limiting beliefs that, if left unchecked, left unaddressed, they can become doubts, which can become fear. All of which get in our way of being successful as a leader, whatever that means. So that’s the idea of becoming a better leader, becoming a great leader from the inside out.
WENDY GROUNDS: You know, we’ve done a number of podcasts on leadership, but there’s always a different angle that each of our guests bring to it.
BILL YATES: Yeah, it makes it so relatable. The 13 principles that you present in the book, they resonate with me. One of those I guess right off the bat, there’s a key or foundational principle, and it is use your values to anchor and guide your decisions. Talk to us a bit about that.
DARREN REINKE: So in general the book is, I think back to growing up as a kid and those Choose Your Own Adventure books, if people remember those books. But I wanted people to actually be able to pick and choose the principles that resonated with them. Because I believe different principles will resonate at different points in their lives. That said, I think the one that’s really universal and foundational to the other 12 is the first one. Which is about identifying and anchoring to your values. So that just really gets down to who we are at our core. What are the things that we value, what are our foundational beliefs.
And once we can have a good understanding of that is how do we actually express that? How do we create a statement around our personal leadership brand? How do we express that out into the world, first to our teams, to our colleagues, and then obviously to the marketplace, if we’re running businesses or we’re in sales or interacting with external constituents, that’s really important, as well, because those intrinsic internal values really need to be expressed internally within your company, but also externally. And that really connects to authenticity, as well.
BILL YATES: That’s so true. And Darren, for me, it’s kind of that North Star. It’s like, okay, once we’ve agreed on this anchor, this principle, then we can bring situations, scenarios, problems to the table and talk it through. And if we feel like our conversation is getting off track a bit, we can look back at the North Star and say, okay, what have we agreed to in terms of what value do we put first with our organization or with our team. And make sure that our response, many times it’s the response to our customers, whether they’re internal or external. Make sure that our response lines up with that value.
DARREN REINKE: Absolutely. And what you talked about, which is so important, is not just individual leaders and their values, but what are the values of our team? What are the values of our organization? And values are so powerful to do exactly what you said. Which is they really help us guide our decisions, help us stay on track. Are we violating our values? Violating our principles? That is really important because there are so many opportunities. There’s challenge when you face stress. You tend to deviate from those things. And if you could use those as that North Star. Whether it’s personally or as a team or as an organization, can really help make sure that you stay on track and achieve that vision, that mission you have for whether it’s yourself for your team or for your company.
WENDY GROUNDS: So another one of the principles that you talk about in your book is to forge unbreakable bonds with your tribe. How can this be applied, particularly in a project management field?
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, great question. I think people tend to look at relationships and connections in different ways. And this goes back to the internal piece; right? So I talk about communication as having an internal and external component. And so what I focused on in this principle, in this chapter, was about the internal piece. Which is having a sense of curiosity for the people around you. So being curious to their backgrounds, their perspectives, their thoughts, their experiences, but also a sense of humility. Being humble enough to accept that you don’t have the answer to everything, I think that’s so important.
And I’ve seen some of the best leaders, one in particular was a CEO of a public-traded company. I remember he was leading a full-day offset with his leadership team. And if I didn’t know he was a CEO. I would have had no idea that he was because he sat in the back. He allowed people to share their opinions. Of course he would punctuate the end of each section with his thoughts, his perspective. But he created that space, and he just demonstrated so clearly and distinctly the need for humility and how important it was.
And so you say, how does that pertain to project management, I think it just – it’s about just being curious and humble because things are going to change; right? I mean, you have change orders. You have things that come up that you need to be curious about, you need to be humble about. You can’t just say, look, this is the plan, and so we’re not going to change it. Which I guess goes back to a little bit more of the Agile methodology that’s currently obviously a big important trend, I imagine that’s really impacting PM, as well, is adapting to things and being curious enough and being humble enough to say, look, let’s not be rigid. Let’s be flexible to change our course, to achieve that original outcome.
BILL YATES: Yeah, Darren, you’ve got great information for a leader creating a safe place, a safe environment for the team. You describe what that is. You talk about, you know, the behaviors, that if the environment’s not safe, this is what it looks like. If it is safe, then this is the type of behaviors you can expect and the benefits from those. And what I love about that, this idea of curiosity and humility kind of switch gears. Instead of being a telling leader, being a leader who asks questions to prompt conversations.
I just want to give an example of some of these questions because I thought they were really insightful. You know, as I go into a future meeting, one thing I can think about is what is one thing I want to learn more about? What skills or experiences does my team member possess that I want to better understand? What can I do to ensure that I listen first and talk second? I thought these insights for ways to both create a safe environment for the team. And then to really dig in, tap into the team’s strengths and have them take ownership and feel valued. I thought this approach was really powerful.
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, I mean, those are just great demonstrations of humility and curiosity. So to think about what can I learn from somebody else. What can I learn, not just from my teammates, but even from my direct reports who, you know, a lot of people have that command-and-control mindset. But it’s like everyone brings something different to the table. They have different skills. They have different strengths. And they have different experiences, frankly. And those can be really powerful.
WENDY GROUNDS: So the next point that we wanted to pick your brain on is take action to maintain and regain focus. How do we apply that?
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, so focus is something that’s so important. I think all of us, at least I struggle with on a day-to-day basis is you get just frazzled when emails come in. It’s like, wait, I forgot about that one most important thing that I’m going to be doing during the day. So it’s still important because we do have competing priorities. Whether it’s just you may have a plan for the day or for the week or for the month, but then everything changes. You know, a customer request comes in, or your CEO knocks on your door or your cube and says, hey, I need this one additional thing. And that can really change that.
So this was more written from the perspective of personal focus for yourself. And it starts with things like journaling. And a lot of people have written a ton about this. Tim Ferriss, I think, writes a lot of really neat things about it in terms of journaling what you hope to accomplish that day. He talks a lot about bookending the day. Start the day and end the day with journaling. One which is more intentioned, and then the second which is about reflecting on what you actually achieved and what you did that day.
I would layer some soft skills, some probably really squishy topics. Which I don’t know how open PMs are to this. But in terms of looking into the day and just setting some intentions for the day and what you hope to achieve, and they may even just be mantras of sorts, you know, look, you know, I am a great leader. I’m a great communicator. I do have something of value to offer in this meeting. My perspective is valuable.
And then I think, thinking about reflecting on a day or a week or a project, it’s acknowledging yourself. Because what I advocate for is about change, and behavior change is hard. And you’re not going to always get it right. You’re going to do something different. You’re going to maybe stumble, and you try to be more curious, be more humble. You try to adapt your communication to the other person. And it’s important that we really acknowledge ourselves because you don’t always get that acknowledgment from your quote, unquote “boss” or “manager” or “client.” And so a lot of it comes from inside that we have to acknowledge the fact that we’re trying, first of all, we’re trying new things. It’s focusing on the process, not the outcomes, which Nick Saban has famously talked a ton about.
The other thing is just meditation, which I think can also be really helpful, which, has been, widely written about, “The Miracle Morning” and different topics and using meditation to really focus your mind on what you want to achieve. Because people, myself included, start the day, if you can do one thing, just do not turn on your phone, do not check your email if you want to do something creative. I’m very selfish with my mornings. I try not to take calls and video calls early. That’s when I write, that’s when I create, that’s when I think. But as soon as I see a text, even if it’s from a friend, or an email, I immediately go into just scatter mode, execution mode. Which is the opposite of that creativity mode.
BILL YATES: I recently read “Deep Work,” that book, and so much of it reminded me, so many of the tips that he gives and just the realities of when you’re able to stay focused. The benefits of that productivity in that time versus when you think you’re quote, unquote “multitasking.”
So one of the things that you brought up, Darren, which I thought was a really great point, it’s also a soft skill, but I really find value in this, is there are times when I feel like I’m overwhelmed, as either a team member or as a leader.
One of the pieces of advice you had was it may make sense for you to pause and just make a list. And on the right-hand side I’m listing those things that I can control. And on the left-hand side those things that I cannot control. I think that can bring peace to somebody like me who feels like there are a lot of people I need to please. A lot of things that I need to get done, and I feel overwhelmed. So, okay, what’s actually in my circle, and then what’s in somebody else’s circle? Was that a personal discovery or was that something that you had just observed through your years of experience?
DARREN REINKE: That’s a good question. And just, by the way, all 13 principles, these are things that I have lived through, I’ve gone through. I apply them. Maybe I’m not applying all of them now, but I have in the past. And I promise I definitely will in the future, as well. So for that one in particular, it’s hard to let go of things that you can’t control.
And so it’s an aspiration for me to get to focusing on just what I can control, and letting go of things like customers’ perspectives, employees’ opinions, those thoughts and things that go in other people’s heads. All we can really control is what you actually do. And it really starts with how you think about yourself, and everything really emanates out from that. So, you know, it’s something that I struggled with in my personal and professional life was letting go of things that I couldn’t control. But it’s hard because those things do creep into your head. You do care. I do care, as someone who’s highly empathetic, about what other people think. And that is not just professional, it’s personal, as well.
BILL YATES: So, okay, Darren, I’m going to get really personal with you about when you were nine. You had a life-changing experience. Your parents decided, hey, let’s move from California and take the family out to Switzerland for a year. Let’s live there. So as a nine year old, you were in a school with people you didn’t know. And you didn’t even speak their language. You didn’t speak either one of the languages. So I feel like that’s something that maybe, maybe had a slight influence on you and the type of leadership that you write about and talk about. I feel like I’m reading that as I, you know, I see that interwoven throughout the book and throughout your experiences. So, do you look back on that year as formative to the type of leader you are today?
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, absolutely. And it wasn’t really until reflecting back, and that’s why that last chapter is about looking to your past to really inform some of the things you think and believe today and how you act. So for me just to tell you a little bit about the story. I always thought my parents were risk averse. And they had this idea. They were both veterinarians, my dad ran his own practice, and they decided it was a good idea just to yank us out of school for a year and to move abroad. And so I remember sitting there on the Lufthansa jet on the tarmac in San Francisco and thinking, oh, wow, I’m flying off to happiness, and not knowing what I was going to get into.
We flew over there, and they had us lined up to go to an American school. And I just remember, the weather was different between Northern California and Switzerland. It was the fall, getting towards winter, and I remember just, you know, walking, taking the tram, getting to school, the hallways. It reminded me of one of those, like, psychological thrillers, like the lights are flashing above you, those fluorescent lights. And I guess I came home that night, I told my mom, I guess I was always the easy kid, actually my best friends dad called me “the okay kid” as a kid, and said, “You can do whatever, but I am not going back to that school.”
So they made a few phone calls, and they got us into this Swiss public school that was right up the street, not realizing I was going from an English taught-school to a German-speaking school. And so what we alluded to with the two languages is, so I walk in, and problem number one is they speak High German or Hoch Deutsch in class. Which is the same language, it’s the national language. They also speak the same language in Austria and Germany.
But problem number two is they speak a fundamentally different language called Swiss German, which is really not German at all, on the playground. So I had to learn those languages pretty quickly. High German academically – to get up to speed, and then Schweizerdeutsch, or Swiss German, on the playground to earn my stripes, so to speak. So that was a real challenge, dealing with both of those things.
And the lesson I really learned, beyond just learning foreign languages and the beauty of that and how I love, when I travel and I live different places, I love going places that are not English-speaking. I think it’s more of a challenge, like there’s so much richness in the language. I’ve lived in Italy and Spain and Brazil for different points of time, for different reasons.
But what I gained from that experience is that I was the new kid, the foreign kid, and the American kid. And it was in the early 1980s, and just it was challenging. And what I learned from that was just an incredible sense of empathy for other people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and the experiences that they had. That was really a tremendous impact on me, and also really prompted this greater sense of self-awareness and awareness of others that’s really been instrumental in terms of my own leadership style.
So much of becoming a great leader, it starts with just that intention, like a burning desire to be great, whatever that may be, which is different for different people. The second piece is you have to be willing to be introspective and look inside yourself because that’s where I think so much of the richness lies, and unlocking that allows you to be great. And the third thing is being willing to put in the hard work to actually activate that sense of intention. Activate that sense of self-awareness so that you can become that great leader that you aspire to be.
WENDY GROUNDS: Talking about what you can control and what you can’t control, another value that you mention is embrace patience. And I think for a lot of us we probably think that’s something we can’t control. It’s a hard thing to really embrace. How do you recommend that?
DARREN REINKE: So like I said, I lived these chapters personally. And so it’s my own journey of becoming more patient. It’s still probably one of, I guess, I think I have more than one Achilles heel, if that’s even possible. But becoming more patient. And I used to say in my 20s and maybe early 30s, I used to say patience is a virtue for other people. Which is so naïve and so arrogant. And what I realized in thinking through that was, you know, here I was, an Accenture consultant, and I was focused on always achieving outcomes and took a lot of pride in getting stuff done, completing these just incredibly challenging projects with really demanding deadlines. Most of the time under-resourced, with high client demands and so forth.
But what I learned to separate was having an impatience for action, that’s fine; right? You want to have action. You want to move forward. But you’ve got to have a patience for some of the outcomes sometimes. And not outcomes like client outcomes and project outcomes, but in terms of the outcomes, your personal development. For myself even, being patient with myself, to work on that patience and to make it part of my own journey with that. Or to become a better communicator, to be a more empowering leader, to be more empathetic, to be a better listener, all of those things take patience.
And it gets back to that comment I made earlier about acknowledgment, is acknowledging some of the effort that you’re putting in because these things are not easy. These things are deeply ingrained in who we are. And changing behaviors is really hard for most people, probably for all people. It’s incredibly important to have that patience for some of those outcomes which aren’t exactly – it’s not a direct line, it’s not a direct project plan from, hey, I want to actually adopt this behavior to, hey, I’m actually executing and delivering on it and exhibiting it 100% of the time.
BILL YATES: Darren, I want to jump ahead to what I think is one of the key principles that I don’t know that we really talk that much about. And it’s crushing your doubt. Man, as project managers, we get in over our heads, you know, we’ll have personnel issues. We’ll have conflict within the team. We’ll have conflict within our organization, or with our customer. And we’ll have technical issues, and we’re like, I did not sign up for this. This was supposed to work, and now it’s not. And I have no clue how to solve it.
Even on a real personal level, sometimes we’re asked to give a presentation or to present bad news to someone that we know is not going to like it. And man, we just are filled with doubt. We go into situations where, like, I’m going to just embarrass myself and the organization. I can’t lead through this. So one of your points directly faces that, crush your doubts. So give us some advice on that.
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, doubts are, as I mentioned, it’s part of that continuum of those self-limiting beliefs that can become doubts and become fear. And we all face our doubts. Whether were getting a new promotion or we’re asked to lead a project in a new area, something we’ve never done before. And those all spark those doubts in our head. They play those old tapes in our head, those doubts that come from somewhere; right? I didn’t go to a good enough school. I don’t have the right level of experience. And I’m actually mixing and matching my comments between those last three chapters because there’s so much overlap and integration between those three principles, self-limiting beliefs and doubts and fears.
But it’s getting at the data, like what’s that data come from? Oh, like, yeah, I didn’t go to a good enough school. It’s like, well, actually, I’ve led this kind of project for five years, or I have been successful in getting other promotions. It’s looking at what that data is and what it’s saying and what it’s not saying. For me it went back to the ability to write a book. I had no data to support that. I did have data to say, hey, double down on your Kafka work and how you analyze the literature pieces. And I think that’s part of it is looking at the data.
I think also it’s important to actually look to your past to identify things you’ve done in the past that show that you can do that. Hey, you know, I did go into the scary situation, this challenging situation. I got this promotion. I said yes. When everything was saying no, I said yes to a new project, a new assignment. And I was successful in the past. And I think looking back to those points can be really helpful. Yes, of course, positive self-talk is something, and definitely on the squishy end of the continuum.
But similarly practical and tactful things you can do is just like looking at the data, getting a sense for what that data is actually telling you, and most likely not telling you. But then as important is to look to the past, to look for and find wins you’ve had to give you some of that feel to actually take on and tackle some of those doubts.
BILL YATES: That’s good. I remember, gosh, I can’t recall if it’s somebody I worked with or that’s just somebody that I’ve met through our work here at Velociteach and the training that we do. But this person gave the advice of, hey, when you get that email from a customer where they’re praising you and your team, or you get an email from a manager giving you an attaboy or something, print it out and put it in a folder. And when you’re having those moments of doubt, pull out the folder and reflect on what you did three months ago, three years ago. You know, here was something positive. And, man, I remember we were in a really tough situation there, but it was okay, you know, we all survived it. So, yeah, that’s good advice.
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, in fact, I have a folder in my email called “props.”
BILL YATES: Okay, there you go.
DARREN REINKE: You know, some things that I got that were positive. Because, as I mentioned, those things are so – they’re few and far between; right? If you’re lucky enough to work for someone who really gives you that acknowledgment, that’s great. But those things, you got to bookmark those things. You’ve got to file those somewhere. But you also have to acknowledge yourself, too. So that can be a great part of journaling, as well. Acknowledging some of those wins, some of those successes that you’ve had. Because you don’t always get that external validation.
BILL YATES: Yeah. Darren, one of the concepts that you talk about, too, is just positive visualization. I heard an author who was doing a TED Talk. And she said that she was going to do her very first TED Talk. She was very nervous. And she’s literally walking through the, you know, the background to get up onstage and present. And the handler said, “Hey, you shouldn’t be nervous.” She said, “Think about it this way. What could go wrong?” And she said her mind went really negative. She said, “Well, this could go wrong. This could go,” you know.
So she said for her it would’ve been better had she thought, what could go right? What’s the best thing that could come out of this situation to kind of help her put it in a positive spin? And it helped me reflect, too, like sometimes I do think about how poorly could this go? Well, what about how great could it go? So putting a positive spin on some things I think can help frame a situation or put me in the right mindset to face that challenge.
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, I think a couple things I’d add to that, as well. And I do believe, I think we overestimate the likelihood of failure. And we also overestimate the amplitude of that failure. I think we underestimate the likelihood of success. And underestimate the likelihood of the amplitude of that success, as well. But I think also working with this guy several years ago – he’s actually a very successful pastor. He does some leadership work, too. And he just said, you know, “Focus on serving the audience and being of service. Don’t think about making yourself look like a rock star. Go up there and serve the audience”. I think if you take that focus away from yourself on other people, whether it’s you go into a meeting as a leader, and less of how you come across and more about what you’re trying to convey.
I also think something I’ve learned from actually Little League baseball with my kids. A lot of times people will say “Have fun up there”. And just like getting them in the right state of mind to just go have fun. The same thing if you have to public speak. And whether it’s successful or not as successful as you want it to be, it’s important to really enjoy that moment and have fun up there.
BILL YATES: Darren, one of the things I appreciate about our audience is we have people that are early in their career, some that are kind of in the middle of their career, others who are later, you know, they’ve had more years of experience than most. But we are all at different places in our leadership journey. What specific challenges would you put out to those people that kind of fall into those groups, beginning, middle, and end?
DARREN REINKE: I think there are some foundational leadership skills that are really important. And I wish I’d had this focus as I was growing up and early in my career. Starting with those values and what really matters to you and what’s the leader that you want to be, and try to, like, identify a forward-looking view of that leader and then figuring out what’s the plan that actually you need to execute on to actually get there. That can apply to anybody.
Maybe they’re in the middle of their career, even later in their career and very senior, and going, gosh, this isn’t the kind of leadership that I want to exhibit. The way I am in my personal life just is in direct contrast to how I am in my professional life, and making some pivots there. But if you can, early in your career, identify those values that are really important to you because I think you’re going to have so much more fulfillment, for sure. But I actually believe you’re going to have so much more success, as well.
I think another thing is create that learning map for yourself and identify what are the gaps you need to close? What are the things you want to learn? And that’s where it’s going look different for someone early, middle, and later.
Communication is an absolute must. And I think mastering the basics of communication, being brief, being clear, being concise, I think that’s really important. That’s especially important for people really, really junior in their career because they can come across as really unpolished. Especially people who are growing up in this digital world where they’re using LOLs, and they’re using all these, you know, IDKs and things like that for acronyms. But that’s not how you speak in the world of business. And I can promise you that, even if you’re working with your peers, you’re going to be judged for that. So I think just getting some absolute basics around communication hygiene is absolutely critical. And I think that’s just a must-have for anybody.
I think also for earlier in the career just time management. So the ability to really manage your calendar, manage your time because I haven’t heard anyone say, oh, I have way more time. I have all the resources in the world. There’s no cavalry coming with extra time, money, and people, even from CEOs of Fortune 500s. I think people say, oh, they’ve got all the resources they want. It’s like no, they actually don’t. They still have to prioritize. They have to make really tough choices. And I think that’s a really foundational building block for leaders. Communication, time management, those are probably two of the really important ones.
And that quest to be more authentic, I think that’s definitely probably more of an advanced skill because I think people are probably a little bit scared to be more authentic when they’re in their more junior roles.
But I get the fear. And I think people say, well, I can’t be how I am at a backyard barbecue at work. I’m definitely not advocating for that at all. But I do believe that if people understand their values, there’s like layers in the onion of what you express to different people. It’s important to have those all within alignment in terms of just having greater fulfillment and satisfaction, but a greater impact, frankly, as well.
WENDY GROUNDS: One thing that you designed was a field guide called “A Savage Principles Field Guide”. Could you describe how one can use that to the best of their advantage?
DARREN REINKE: One of my pet peeves when I read a book or I listen to or watch a TED Talk or a podcast or go to a course, is the engine is going, but I need to put that thing into gear and actually make some forward progress. So that’s, as you can see, the way I structure the book is a challenge, a practical challenge at the end of each chapter. But I wanted to go deeper and give people more tools, more insights, actually apply those principles in their life. So that’s what “The Savage Leader Field Guide” is. It’s really a practical exercise. It’s a PDF that you can either print out, or you can use the digital version, fill it out, and save it. And just a way to actually apply those principles.
Actually we’re working on a second edition of the book, and there’s actually some other tools we’ve created, as well. So we’ve created an action planner, which is about how do you take your goals and line up some of the Savage Principles to help you accelerate the achievement of those goals. We also created a Quick Guide which is basically a poster of sorts that you can print out that has all the 13 principles as a quote and as a specific lesson so you can help to keep those top of mind.
So all those tools are free. The idea is just that I want people to actually apply these principles in their lives, not just get inspired and put this thing back on their bookshelf or have it on their Kindle app or whatnot, and actually go and apply these in their lives so they can achieve their own definition of greatness.
WENDY GROUNDS: Working it from the inside out. There you go. Darren, if our listeners want to talk to you, reach out and learn a bit more about what you do, how can they get in touch with you?
DARREN REINKE: So LinkedIn is probably the best way. So just Darren Reinke on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in the book and all the tools and blogs and podcasts, which is all an extension of what’s in the book, go to TheSavageLeader.com, and you can get information. You can buy the book. Also all those free tools, you can go to SavageLeaderTools.com.
BILL YATES: Thank you for this book. This is the type of book that really challenges somebody like me when I’m reading it to take a look at myself and how I’ve acted in the past in certain situations and how I can improve on that. So well done. Thank you for this contribution, and really appreciate being able to discuss this with you today.
DARREN REINKE: Yeah, likewise, appreciate I have a chance to you guys and your audience. And, yeah, thanks for your kind words on the book. And I did say initially, if it helps one person, it was worth it. But for me it’s just a way to share my own lessons, things I’ve learned from the remarkable folks that I’ve been able to meet in my life. My hope was that it was actually helpful for people.
WENDY GROUNDS: That’s it for us here on Manage This. You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can also subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show. To claim your free PDUs which you’ve just earned by listening to this podcast, go to Velociteach.com. Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page. Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps. Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.