Robert Richman is a culture strategist who was the co-creator of Zappos Insights, the program that taught other companies the secrets behind Zappos’ amazing employee culture. He’s also an author and speaker and a phenomenal storyteller, as you will soon hear. In our fun and engaging conversation, you’ll learn the number one misconception leaders have about culture and how to avoid it. He’ll address specific ways you can have a positive impact on culture in your organization even if you’re not sitting at the top, and the importance of staying true to your core values. We talk about how to be more influential and persuasive, and Robert shares his exciting new project, the Xpill – it’s definitely unique, so check it out. Plus, as we do on every episode of the TalentGrow Show podcast, we end with a very actionable tip you can use to take your own leadership skills to the next level. Listen and enjoy (and be sure to answer my question at the end)!
What you'll learn:
- How Robert networked his way into a perfectly tailored job that didn’t exist (4:37)
- Robert’s advice: stringing the yes’es to create opportunities (8:30)
- “People want to work with people based on energy and emotion and vibe.” Robert suggests you focus on enjoying the current state! (9:43)
- What’s the one big misconception about culture that many leaders make and how to solve it (11:10)
- Great leaders create an invitation for people to engage – they make it highly relevant and know that you have other choices (and he explains what he means by ‘invitation’ and how to make a well-crafted one) (12:22)
- We’re increasingly flooded with options and invitations, so you need to craft yours to entice (16:23)
- People feel respected when they’re given a choice – get people to opt-in (17:30)
- What can you do to change the culture if you’re not sitting at the very top of your organization – what are the questions Robert suggests you ask yourself? (Here’s the thing: you’re not alone) (19:21)
- What should you do if you discover that your current job violates your core values? (19:50)
- How can you create the possibility for change – there are two routes. And two key words (one of which Halelly uses a lot too) (21:40)
- A little tangent about influencing and pre-suasion – based on Robert Cialdini’s work (23:10)
- “Influencing is not inherently good or bad – your intention is key” ~Halelly (24:45)
- What’s Robert’s new project? (Hint: he wants to help you hack human consciousness!) (25:40)
- Robert shares a story that will give you an actionable idea you could steal to pre-frame your new initiatives for amazing success (sneaky!) (26:36)
- When everything is going faster and faster, Robert’s new product creates total breakthrough in 10 minutes. People sometimes need a catalyst! (28:36)
- Robert’s actionable tip in the form of a question (specifically worded) to ask people for feedback in an unusual and highly effective way is great! (31:21)
- I (Halelly) have a question for you -I really want to know your input about the format for 2017! (33:36)
LEAVE A COMMENT: What have been your experiences with building a great culture, creating your own career opportunities, or having more influence? What are your reactions to this podcast episode? We’d love to know! Please leave a comment below.
- Robert's website: robertrichman.com
- Get Robert’s book on culture The Culture Blueprint: A Guide to Building the High-Performance Workplace – it comes with a free audio book!
- His new project is the Xpill (and watch his talk about it here)
- He mentions the Tribal Leadership book
- Robert talks about talking with Zappos' Tony Hsieh about their shared affinity for dating expert David DEAngelo
- Once again, Halelly brings up The Startup of You. [Dang I like that book. I'm still trying to get its co-author, Ben Casnocha, on the show!]
- The Slack ad in the New York Times – an open letter to Microsoft - that Robert found insightful
- The Culture Game by Dan Mezick
- We highly recommend you read the great work by Robert Cialdini about influence, especially his most recent book Pre-suasion and his best-seller before it, Influence. And here's the podcast interview of Cialdini by James Altucher.
- Download the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them free tool!
- Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of Halelly's.
About Robert Richman
Robert Richman is a culture strategist and was the co-creator of Zappos Insights, an innovative program focused on educating companies on the secrets behind Zappos’ amazing employee culture.
Robert built Zappos Insights from a small website to a thriving multi-million dollar business teaching over 25,000 students per year. Through his work, Robert has been helpful for improving the employee culture at hundreds of companies.
As one of the world’s authorities on employee culture, Robert is a sought after keynote speaker at conferences around the world and has been hired to teach culture in person at companies like Google, Toyota, and Eli Lilly. He has pioneered a number of innovative techniques to build culture, such as bringing improv comedy to the workplace.
His new book, The Culture Blueprint, is a systematic guide to how a workplace can help people grow, inspire amazing service, and ultimately drive revenue through amazing culture.
Robert graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in film, as well as from Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program. He is a member of the Transformational Leadership Council, and he is based out of Los Angeles (though he’s on the speaking tour most of the time).
Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. This is episode 43 and I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and this episode, my guest is Robert Richman. He is a culture strategist who was the co-creator of Zappos Insights, the program that taught other companies the secrets behind Zappos’ amazing employee culture. He’s also written a book about that and he’s a popular speaker and a phenomenal storyteller, as you’ll soon hear. His path has been rich with varied experiences that have informed his wealth of wisdom and insights. I cannot wait for you to hear how he has networked his way into his unique career opportunities, using courage, confidence, optimism and what he calls stringing the yeses. You’ll learn the number one misconception leaders have about culture, and how to avoid it. He’ll address specific ways you can have a positive impact on culture in your organization, even if you’re not sitting at the top. And the importance of staying true to your core values. We take an interesting little detour to talk about the work of Professor Robert Cialdini and how to be more influential and persuasive and Robert shares his exciting new project called the X-Pill. It’s definitely unique, so check it out. Plus, we end – as we do every TalentGrow Show episode – with a very actionable tip that you can use to take your own leadership skills to the next level. Here we go, Robert Richman, on the TalentGrow Show.
Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and my guest today is Robert Richman. He is the author of The Culture Blueprint, a systematic guide to building the high performance workplace. He was a manager and culture strategist at Zappos.com and he co-founded Zappos Insights, which was and is an innovative program focused on educating other companies on the secrets behind Zappos game-changing employee culture. Everybody wanted to get some of that, so he was helping to teach others how to do it. He took Zappos Insights from an idea to a multi-million dollar business line, and Robert has spoken to consultants for Google, Toyota, Eli Lily, Whole Foods, Intuit and many other companies. Robert, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.
Robert: Thank you Halelly. It’s great to be here.
Halelly: Excellent. And I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your work with culture and all of your expertise, but before we go there, I always like to ask my guests to tell us a very brief synopsis of their professional journey. Where did you start? How did you get to where you are today? So that we get a sense of your I guess meandering path – usually?
Robert: Oh dear, is this a six-hour podcast?
Halelly: No, so you have to do it quick.
Robert: I will. I like to get through it really quickly. The short of it is I changed careers about every three to four years, so I’ve had a lot. I went from being a film student at Northwestern to going into software development to being a bartender and a waiter when everything seemed to fall apart, to getting back into the world of web development and I’ve run a fashion company, I ran a magazine. I think it all started to click and make sense though, finally, when I started the web development company. We then created what some people knew was the first co-working space called the Infinity Lab in Washington, D.C. And through that experience, I started to help the businesses at the Lab, and I found out there’s a whole world of coaching businesses. Georgetown, right in our backyard there, took the leadership coaching program there, and loved coaching people, and then I kind of used the world of web and coaching, when the Tony Robbins’ organization contacted me to help them develop a business plan for their online ventures. And that’s when I got to really get into Tony Robbins' work and learn about that. Eventually ran an online community, like a Facebook, for life coaches, and at Georgetown, I met Dave Logan, who is the author of Tribal Leadership, an amazing book on culture.
I marketed that book for them and part of that was getting to Tony Hsieh of Zappos. When I got it to Tony, Tony tweeted out to his millions of followers and said, “This book really captures what we do at Zappos with the culture.” And they invited me and Dave and the other authors to Zappos to speak about tribal leadership. Then we had a happy hour that night at Zappos and I mean, it’s better than most parties. Not corporate parties, but most parties in general that I’ve been to, because they invited us to this happy hour that started at 4:00 and had all these drinks and food and karaoke and skits and sketches and I started to connect more with Tony there. We oddly enough really liked the same dating expert, named Dave DeAngelo. And he was there at the party too and we started bonding over that and started talking all about how he wants to use a similar model to teach culture to the world through information products. That’s where he and I started a conversation all about it and I started emailing him all my best ideas until he finally said, “Hey, what would it look like for you to come in here and do it for us?” I had no experience really doing it, I just loved the business model and sent all my ideas, created a plan, we had a lot of meetings. Finally got into Zappos to launch this idea in Tony’s head of how do we productize culture?
Halelly: Wow. The way that you describe … and you’re 80 years old! Dang. You get around. That’s amazing. I’m very impressed, and I want to have, yes, I do want a six-hour podcast so that I can learn more about everything you just described. Darn it. Okay, so I’m going to have … it’s like everything for me is going to be to practice de-cluttering and streamlining all of the things that I’m interested in following up with you on and just sticking to one thing. And maybe we can have you back on and talk about some of the other stuff. Very cool. So, what I love about that story is it sounds like you kind of networked your way into making a job for yourself, and helping create a job that didn’t exist, that was perfectly suited for your interests and skills, and a need for that organization. And you did it through relationship building, is that right?
Robert: So well said, and I realize that was a string for a lot of the careers I’ve had. I wrote even a short e-book on it called Create Your New Career and how you can create your own job role. One of those I didn’t even mention, I was a marketing consultant for a credit union and I started off where this was … it’s a story that totally relates exactly to what you’re saying about creating your own position, because you start off saying, “Hey, do you know about new technologies?” This was the early days of blogging, of podcasting, of all those things. It said, “Do you want to work on this?” It was an assistant level position. And it was way below the pay that I wanted to receive, but I sent an email anyway and said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you I’m really into all these things. They’re fabulous. It’s not the role for me, but I’d be happy to come in and talk shop with you and just see if I can help or we can talk about these technologies.” They said sure and I went in there and we had such a good time talking that he said, “Hey, can you just stick around and I want to bring in my VP and I want to bring in this person and the President.” By the end of that day it had turned from an assistant level position into a Director level position.
Halelly: Oh my God. And you must have been relatively young at that time?
Robert: Yeah, this was my 20s.
Halelly: Wow! So good for you. It sounds like you have a lot of courage and confidence, probably, to be able to do something like that?
Robert: Thank you. I’m not sure where that comes from. I like advising people on it, because the main thing I’ve found for this – whether it be creating your own career or getting a business development proposal done or getting anything – is this idea of what I call stringing the yeses. For example, with Zappos, it wasn’t like, “Oh, do you want to do this? Great, here’s a job.” It took months and a lot of work. But it always was to what the next yes was. So rather than letting it stagnate, I said, “Can I send you a plan for how we would do this?” And I would send the ideas, and then I would send a plan and then we would have a meeting. It wasn’t going from point A to point Z of getting the job, it was just what’s the next step? What’s the next yes? What is that next way to move the ball forward? That’s how it happened in all these jobs including Zappos.
Halelly: That’s awesome. I hear also optimism in that, that you believe that it can happen, so you just sort of keep going forward with that vision of what’s possible, maybe not even a specific vision?
Robert: Yeah, because the way I’m able to do that, I feel, is by seeing the value of the current state. So for each of those states, like whether it be the meeting with the credit union to talk about technology or hanging out and talking with Tony, I felt like I was getting to enjoy myself even if nothing moved forward. And I found that people want to work with people based on energy and emotion and vibe, and if we’re in that situation and we’re just having a great time, we want more of that. Whereas if I was only focused on getting the job, then it creates this desperate needing, I want something from you kind of vibe that people don’t want to hang out with.
Halelly: That’s great. That’s a great distinction. Thank you for sharing that. I’m fascinated by how people can create their own path and really think of themselves as … like I like the book The Startup of You, that whole idea of you are the brand, so when I hear interesting stories like yours, I kind of feel like I want to chase them down a little bit. But let me move us back over to what you did with Zappos, because obviously you are sought after the world over for what you’ve created, what you’re helping to create there, and also for your advise and expertise on how to create a great culture. And there’s tons of stuff, I mean, your book – I hope people go out and I’m going to link to it – go out and get your book, there’s tons of really good information in there. There’s tons of stuff on the web in terms of your keynotes, your blogs and all kinds of things you’ve created. But if you could share with us one big misconception, or something that you think leaders are getting wrong about culture, that you’re seeing maybe prevalently or repeatedly, and that you can help them either avoid this mistake or fix it, what would that be?
Robert: I think the big misconception is that we can tell people what to do. Because I’m seeing more and more that culture is really about the opt-in. It’s about that we have a lot of choice, that if you have people, you can’t tell what they’re doing all the time. They might be on Facebook all day. They might be appearing to do what you’re telling them to do, but not actually doing it, and there’s a lot, a lot of choice that people have. People have choice not only minute-to-minute, but if they’re going to stay there in the job, how much energy they’re going to give you? Am I going to give you 80 percent of my energy? 100? 10 percent? Am I going to phone it in? Am I going to be active and promote this company to other people? People have so much choice, and the preconceived notion is because I’m paying people, they have to do what I say and they have to bring all of themselves, and they have to just do it. They don’t have to. They don’t.
And so the way to solve it is two things. One is just being very, very clear on what your standards are, and it can’t just be something very vague, like I want you to act like an owner. What does that mean? So being very, very clear on what your standards are and what’s okay and what’s not, but the other side is the corollary to opt-in as invitation. That the leaders that I see, that are really great, are creating amazing invitations for customers, for their people. Acknowledging and respecting that I have a million ways I could use my time, so why should I be focused on you and this job and this role and this product? And they make it highly relevant and they create great invitations and they fully know that you can have other choices. Like I just saw this great ad on the back of the New York Times yesterday of Slack and Slack wrote this open letter to Microsoft, like an advice letter on how to be in this whole corporate communications market. It’s a very open letter and it even says, “Yeah, we’re scared that you’re coming in and you might eat our lunch, but here’s what we’ve learned and why and here’s how you can play and here’s how you can really upgrade this field that we’re all in together.” It was like this invitation to Microsoft to come play this bigger game. Like, “Okay, if you’re playing on our field, this is how this game is played and we want to make it fun for everybody.” It was just this brilliantly crafted invitation.
Halelly: That’s very interesting. I’m going to have to go look that up. I wanted to ask you also to clarify what you mean by invitation, but let’s put a pin in that for a second. So for that ad, did you get a sense that they were manipulating the situation for their own benefit? Or were they strictly writing a letter with no strings attached or no agenda?
Robert: All of it. They threw everything on the table. So you can see, it is a good advice letter to Microsoft. And it is a good promotion saying, “Hey, guess what, we’ve got millions of customers. We’ve been doing this and we obsess over getting them improvements within a 48-hour turnaround time, etc.” All these things that are also saying, “Hey, guess what? We’ve got our A game on, Microsoft, and we acknowledge that you’re huge and here’s how the game is played and here’s how we can all win.” So everything you say, from is it a gift to Microsoft, is it an advertisement for them, is it subtle manipulation – it’s all of those things.
Halelly: Wow. Very interesting. Curious. Okay, so when you say things like leaders need to – I forget if you say make an invitation or bring an invitation – but I think that maybe some of the listeners might not really be clear about what does that mean? What does that look like?
Robert: Well, an invitation is very enticing and very clear. So the example, Dan Mezick, Author of The Culture Game, gave me this one. It’s a great example of how if I say to you, like let’s say we’re acquaintances, and I invite you to dinner and I say, “Hey, Halelly, do you want to come over for dinner on Wednesday? I’ve got some people coming over.” You might all the sudden, you’re thinking, “Umm, well, I might have stuff to do. Who are going to be those other people? Are they going to serve stuff, is it gluten free? Am I going to be stuck there until 10:00 at night?” All these questions that might invite you to say, “Okay, I’ll let you know,” or maybe just say no. Because it’s not a very clear and enticing invitation. Whereas if I say to you, “On Wednesday night I’m having 10 people over. Let me tell you about these two who are authors in the HR space I think you’d love meeting.” And I tell you a bit about them and I say, “I’ve got this great chef, and it’s going to be gluten free, it’s Italian cooking that I’m excited about. We’re starting at 7:00, drinks until 7:30, going to start at 7:30 sharp and we’re going to end by 9:00 so that people can get home. If you want to say, great, but you’ll have a chance to leave by 9:00. I need to know by Friday, let me know.” And then you’re like, “Whoa, wow. I know everything I need to know. I’m clear. It sounds good. He just took the time to really entice me to say this is why it would be great to have me there, and the boundaries are clear. I need to know here are the times it’s starting and tell me by Friday.” That’s a really, really well crafted invitation.
And to bring that example into the corporate world, current corporate model is, “I want Halelly at my meeting, and I’ll just throw her in the required field in Outlook.” That’s the extent of the invitation, which used to work, because that used to be the culture. But now I’m talking to companies where leaders have to say no to 60 percent of their meeting invites, just for sheer nature that they can’t be in more than one place at once. So how do they make those decisions now? I’ve got five meeting invites for the same time. We’re getting more and more just flooded with options. So now if one person just throws me in this meeting that says “BizDev products,” and says required, 3 p.m., versus if I send an email to that person and say, “Hey, I love what you did on that project for the sales goals that you had. I thought it was brilliant. I’m really needing help with this project. It would just be 20 minutes of your time at 3 p.m. tomorrow. It’s important to me because of this and I think you’re brilliant at this. Would you come?” And now that’s way different than being thrown into the required field. It’s an invitation. It’s an invitation that respects that I have a choice and it entices me and it gives clear boundaries and reasons to come.
Halelly: That’s a really good example. So I think that you’re suggesting that leaders shift to seeing their staff and colleagues as partners, and in a way, you can’t just command them to do anything and that opt-in idea, that you suggest, is that you’re asking them to do something and they get to say yes or no.
Robert: Exactly. It respects choice. People feel respected when they’re given a choice. I’ve even heard people using this with kids where they’ll be like, “Do you want to clean your room right now or do you want to help me make dinner?” And the kid is like, “I want to help make dinner.” Now they’ve opted-in, and it’s way easier to get them to help do that than, “Hey, help me cut these vegetables.”
Halelly: And it taps into our need for autonomy, which of course we know from everything that’s coming out of neuroscience and cognitive science. We have a strong inherent need to feel autonomous about our choices, so it honors that. Awesome. So what do you think is something that leaders – a lot of the people that are listening to this podcast are not necessarily at the top of their organization, so they might be somewhere in the middle, in that great big sandwich – and so they can’t change the whole culture. I know in my workshops, when I talk to people about how to improve their own leadership skills, a lot of times they feel frustrated by that. “Why don’t you tell that to my boss? How come my organization doesn’t do that?” And sometimes we talk about you start in sort of the grassroots and you create these sort of ripple effects around you. What can they do to change the culture that they can take action on where they are?
Robert: Great question. So the first question to ask yourself in the situation is am I all in? Because if you’re not all in, it’s going to be extremely hard to do anything. What I mean by all in is saying, “Okay, what am I getting here? I’m getting a salary. I’m getting the opportunity to do this, this and that. These things I don’t like, I don’t like that my leader is this and this and that, but I’m getting all of this value here,” and saying, “Is this truly, truly worth it to me?” Because the first thing to understand is am I actually sacrificing my values to be here? Is it that my boss is somebody that’s so mean that I actually feel like I am violating myself just by being at this company in this culture that is so awful? If that’s the case, and it’s something that you can’t change, then I think the hard part of that is just getting real and saying, “Wow, I need to look at other options.” And being really, really honest with yourself. If the issue is you’re violating your own values, that’s not something somebody else is going to be able to solve very easily. Although sometimes by stating this and saying, “Hey, I’m out of here for this reason,” sometimes people do change, because they realize you’re serious.
But if that’s often times not the case, because cultures aren’t usually that toxic. If they are, you’ve got to really say, “Am I here to support this or not? Or am I just here for a paycheck?” If you say, “You know what? I don’t like this, this and that, but I get this great opportunity, I get to work with these people, I get to learn, I get to grow. I am all in.” Then, you say, “Okay, how do I let go of these grievances because I’m all in? And then what are the things that I can change? What are the things I can focus on?” Because the misconception about culture is that you can just do this whole big sweeping change. What’s crazy is if you’ve talked to the leaders, they’ll tell you that they don’t even feel like they can make big changes. They feel like it’s a beast bigger than themselves that they can’t quite change and have all these different people to report to and the shareholders and the stockholders and the customers and this and my wife wants this and that and they feel torn in a million different directions. They will tell you that they don’t feel like they can change the culture. The point being, everybody feels disempowered to a certain extent, and it’s true and it’s not, at the same time. The truth is taking a look at it and saying, “Where can I have an impact?” It’s usually by finding some type of frustration.
The first thing to do is to realize you can’t change anything that you don’t understand. And to understand it, we kind of have to remove our judgments. And to understand why is it this way, why does it have to be this way? Then creating the possibility for change by saying, “What is the impact that I can have?” And there are two different ones. Where can I just take action by myself? The other is if you needed approval, how can I make it safe for the organization to change? This is the key word – how can I make it safe? Because when you’re talking about change, it makes people feel really, really uncomfortable. Because however we’re doing things right now is comfortable. It may be bad. It may be awful, but we know it. It’s the devil we do now. So when you’re proposing any kind of change, in order to make it safe – I talk about this in my book under the blueprint chapter – of how do you limit the scope such that even if it goes horribly, no puppies are going to die? Nothing is going to happen bad to the business. So you say, “Hey, can we just do this, for one week, or with this department, or this and that?” As an experiment. And then use that with things that the boss likes, that says, “You love revenue? Can we do an experiment for two months where we are all doing this for two months and see how it impacts revenue?” If you use that word experiment, it’s inherently non-threatening, because people don’t have to commit to a forever change.
Halelly: That’s funny, that’s something that I teach all the time and I love that. Experiment or pilot. Cialdini calls it, I think, lowers the risk of compliance. Like there’s an out.
Robert: He’s got a new book that’s called Pre-suasion.
Halelly: I have not read it yet.
Robert: I just started and it’s like one of those where it’s ninja techniques that you’ve got to make sure you’re using for good. It goes through this one example – are we on a tangent? Is it okay to say an example?
Halelly: It’s okay. Go for it.
Robert: So everybody, we’ll get back to the high value stuff, but this is just entertaining. He goes through an example of where how you do things before a decision is even made that makes a decision easy. He went in and studied all these people who were selling something for homes. I forget what it was. But their star salesman, he went and modeled the star salesman and saw what he did. He noticed that every time they would start checking out something, he’d say, “Oh, wait, I left my assessment in the car. Can I go get that and come back?” They’d say yeah and so he’d leave, and sometimes they’d say, “Oh, there’s a gate out there, here’s the code, or here’s the key to get back in, etc.” And he would consistently close. And Cialdini kept asking, “Why do you do that?” The guy wouldn’t tell him and then finally just says, “Think about it! What kind of person do you allow to just walk through your house without you being in there? What kind of person do you give your key to? It’s somebody you trust.” And so he builds up that trust with that as one of the techniques, such that then going into the decision, they trust the guy.
Halelly: I love it. That’s great. I think all of his advice can be used for right or for wrong, all of it. Influencing is not inherently good or bad. Just your intention is key. I just listened to an interview with him on the James Altucher Show.
Robert: That must have been a good interview.
Halelly: It was good, and I learned a lot about it. I look forward to reading it, I love his stuff. Dang it, see, I told you, we needed six hours! But we don’t have it. So, I want to hear, I always end with a specific action and also how people can stay in touch.
Robert: Are we at the end already?
Halelly: I know, can you believe it? But what’s new and exciting for you that you’re working on? I know that you have a new project and I didn’t know if you wanted to talk about it here or not. Can you give us the highlights of what you’ve got going?
Robert: Yeah, I’m in the process of hacking our brains, hacking human consciousness. It’s been a lot of fun, about how we can … because at the core of this, what I’ve found, and especially the way it relates to the culture work, is that I go into anything from small startups to big huge multi-national companies, and what amazes me is that all these companies, everything is just people. It’s just individual people. Like a company is a fiction, in a lot of ways. It’s just individuals. So when I go in for this culture work, it’s often times the culture hacking process is about one individual and their resistance to change, or what they want to do, or blaming somebody else or something else. And it comes down to this coaching process. I actually helped co-create the coaching program at Zappos, and we used the influence model in a lot of ways there to launch the coaching program. I found out that companies want life coaching programs within them, and they often times kill them later, because they say, “This isn’t worth the ROI.” But I knew that to create it and it had to become part of the culture, so strong that it could never be killed. What I did was we started the program and had people apply for the positions of becoming one of the coached people. But from the coaches that we hired. And we had the first coachees, the first clients, be the most driven, incredible people in a program. And oh, wow, isn’t this shocking, Halelly, that 100 percent of the people who went through the program achieved their goals? It’s like I can’t believe it. What did we do that’s so amazing here? It’s like that persuasion. I call it stacking the decks.
Then what happened is there are these stories now. Did you hear, this person got a raise? This person got a new job. This person got a home. This Zappos coaching program must really work. And they’re going into it with this mindset of, “Wow, this actually, really works.” And that’s all to say, I mean, the coaches, like Augusta who is there, is incredible. It’s not like she’s not. But you need something of actual value. That persuasion, that setting up, that pre-framing, worked really, really well. So what I’ve been experimenting with has been the pre-framing of the placebo experience. I’ve studied placebos for a long time, but I’ve also played with them, of using actual pills with nothing in them – just inert substances – to commit to goals that people have. And it’s been extraordinary the results of using actual pills to help people and companies and individuals have total breakthroughs that happen very quickly.
Because what I’m finding is that everything is going faster and faster. We are in this Twitter generation. We want it now, we want it immediately. We don’t have time for the seven day program or even to read an entire book, so what this is – which is called the X pill – is a process that I’ve been working on that creates a total breakthrough in thought and mind hacking within 10 minutes.
Halelly: That’s insane. It’s so exciting. I watched your talk about it and I was like, “Man, it sounds crazy, but I can see how it would work.” I can see why it would work. Understanding human nature as I do, and what you’ve described, people sometimes just need a catalyst.
Robert: Yes. Yes. Exactly.
Halelly: That’s very cool. Well, you know, if somebody wants to use some kind of a cliché to put down this business, that whole snake oil thing, like you’ve got it packaged!
Robert: It’s kind of like going back to that Slack advertisement. It’s all of it. It’s all out in the open. And so that’s what I do with X Pill. I’m telling you, this is exactly what it is. Here’s what’s in it. Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s why it works. I’m actually explaining to you why it works as we’re talking about it.
Halelly: And it still works.
Robert: And it still works, because at the end of the day, that’s what people want. We’re like, “Okay, I don’t have to be attached to the way I think it should be.” By putting, in a way, our faith into a pill, it’s not that we’re saying, “I’m going to dupe myself,” but it’s symbolically saying, “I can let go. I don’t need to put all this pressure on myself. I don’t need to get down on myself so hard. I can just let go for a moment and let things happen.” I think that’s what’s hacking our brains as well, is I heard from this spiritual church here in L.A. where we both are, and they were talking about this like this, secret and how you create your own reality and you’re responsible for your entire reality, and they actually stopped using that language. Because people beat themselves up so much for all the bad things in their lives. And it turned out to be not very spiritual. It turned out to really create this way of people blaming themselves. So I think this kind of technique, like we’ve developed is a way to let go and just say, “I don’t have to be in control. I don’t have to be in charge. I can take responsibility and let go at the same time.”
Halelly: Very interesting. We are going to have to get you back on here so we can talk more about that, because that’s just fascinating. I know that you’re building it, so very exciting and I can’t wait to hear about the success stories that you’re creating. Before we wrap up, what is one specific action that you can recommend our listeners take today, tomorrow, this week, that you think can help ratchet up their effectiveness in terms of their own leadership or culture?
Robert: Sure. This is a tip that I might have even gotten from Cialdini because he co-wrote a book about small changes making a big difference. I’ll have to look it up, because it’s one of those where I’m not quite sure if I got it from him or not. But a hack for this, that anybody listening – you can use this immediately. You can use this in your marriage. You can use this at work. You can use it with your co-workers, with your boss, anybody, and it’ll create a massive change in both your life and your relationship. You say to somebody, you ask them for some feedback, whatever you want to ask about, but here’s the key words to use, is to say, “I’d like you to tell me the thing you think that I don’t want to hear.” You can say that to customers, to clients. That’s the way, it pre-frames it to get to the truth, because when we ask for feedback, people don’t want to go there. They don’t want to go negative. They don’t want to upset you. They want to get out of that conversation as fast as possible. When you say, “Tell me the thing I think I don’t want to hear,” you’re giving full permission and safety. And especially if you’re doing that face-to-face, eye-to-eye, it’s vulnerable for both people and it creates a stronger relationship for that reason.
Halelly: Great. Love it. That’s super actionable. Robert, thank you so much for sharing your insights and your wisdom. I wish we had more time, but I really thank you for the time that you’ve given us. How can people learn more about you and stay in touch?
Robert: RobertRichman.com is my website. You can find almost everything there. Culture Blueprint is the book, you can find that on Amazon or CultureBlueprint.com. It comes with the entire free audiobook as well and some great resources. Then if you’re curious about X Pill, it’s xpill.com.
Halelly: And I will link to everything in the show notes, so that people can definitely check it all out. It’s been fascinating and thank you for sharing your insights Robert, and I look forward to hopefully learning more from you in the near future. Make today great.
Robert: Thank you. Great to be here.
Halelly: I’m glad you stuck it out, all the way to the end, to get all the juicy input from Robert. I really do wish that we had a six-hour format, because oh my goodness he has so much to share. Speaking of which, I have a question for you. As I'm planning for 2017, I really wonder – should I keep the 30-minute-ish duration format for this podcast? Or how would you feel if we went longer, like 45 minutes or an hour? I have no idea, if that’s something that you’d welcome, if that would cause you to not enjoy the podcast as much or be a barrier to you listening, so I need to hear from you, please. You consume this podcast and your needs are the only thing that matters in this decision. So please send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org - or comment on the show notes page where all the links to everything we mentioned during this episode are. That’s at talentgrow.com/podcast/episode43. It would help me so much. Thank you. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for listening. There’s only one more episode in 2016 but until then, make today great.
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