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July 27, 2021

A Masterclass in Purpose-Driven Leadership, Leadership Lessons from Winnie the Pooh and Three Moments of Joy with Robert Bies | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

A Masterclass in Purpose-Driven Leadership, Leadership Lessons from Winnie the Pooh and Three Moments of Joy with Robert Bies | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli talks with Professor Robert Bies. Bob Bies is a Professor of Management and founder of the Executive Masters in Leadership program at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. Dr. Robert Bies shares different frameworks and models on how to become a more purpose-driven and impactful leader.

Some highlights:

-Robert Bies shares the role social justice can play in leading purpose-driven organizations.  

-The Tao of Pooh – How Winnie-the-Pooh's simple-minded approach can help you become a more effective leader.

-Professor Robert Bies on the necessity for personal mission statements.   

-Dr. Robert Bies discusses three different kinds of trust and how leaders can build trust in their teams and organizations. 

-Three moments of joy – How to effectively deal with challenging times.

Also mentioned in this episode:

-The Leadership Challenge by Cruises and Posner

-Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

-Lives of Moral Leadership: Men and Women who have made a difference by  Robert Cole

-The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

-Tom Peters 

Connect with Robert Bies:

Robert Bies on LinkedIn

Robert Bies Georgetown University

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan Tavakoli:

Welcome to partnering leadership. I am really excited this week to be welcoming professor Robert Bies. He's a Professor of Management and founder of the executive masters in leadership program at  Georgetown's McDonough school of business. Now those of you that have listened to the podcast for a while, no, I'm a proud graduate of Georgetown McDonough and absolutely loved the program's focus on ethics as a key part of what all leaders need to consider with all of their decisions. Now, this is a special treat for me talking to Professor Bies because he was my professor. Back when I went through Georgetown and his leadership insights, his leadership teaching really had a significant impact on me over the years.

He actually used Winnie the Pooh to teach us great leadership lessons. Yes, Winni the Pooh. And in this conversation, we talk about that. He is a brilliant thinker on leadership shares lots of different frameworks and models with respect to how we need to approach leading our teams and our organizations to become more purpose-driven.

This is truly a masterclass in leadership from none other than professor Robert Beis, one of my most favorite 25 plus years later. Now I also love hearing from you - Mahantavakoli.com. Keep your comments coming. Also there's a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com website. You can leave voice messages for me there.

Don't forget to follow the podcast, and when you get a chance, those of you that enjoy these episodes on apple, leave a rating and review that way. More people will find these conversations and benefit from them. Now, here is my conversation with my professor, Dr. Robert Beis. 

Professor Robert Beis, welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you on with me. 

Robert Bies:
I am thrilled to be here in Mahan. I really am. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
Now I have to tell you Bob, many of the people that I interview on Tuesdays they're change-makers in the greater Washington DC region. Quite a few of them. I have known since the mid nineties.

So we talk about the relationship over all those years. And many other people that I interview on Thursdays are thought leaders that have had a significant impact on my thinking. But when I think about those two groups, you had an impact on me back in the early 1990s and your leadership insights have had a bigger impact on me than anyone else, which is why I am absolutely thrilled to have this conversation with you and share some of your leadership and insights with the partnering leadership community. 

Robert Bies:
Thank you for your kind words, Mahan . You are generous and I appreciate it. Thank you so much. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
Bob, whereabouts did you grow up and how did your upbringing impact the kind of person  and leader that you've become? 

 Robert Bies:
Actually, I'll go back to the very beginning.

I was actually born in South Dakota.  Both my parents are from South Dakota. I was born in Vermilion, South Dakota, which is about 90 miles south of Sioux falls, South Dakota. And  and then we  migrated to here in South Dakota, billings Montana, then ultimately Seattle, which is my hometown. And I'm passionate about my hometown.

I love Seattle. So I grew up in Seattle about two miles north of Sea-Tac airport used to wave at the planes  when they were landing.  I was one of four boys live in the suburbs. And then when I graduated high school, I went to the University of Washington from my undergraduate degree. And I went there with the sole mission.

I was going to become a lawyer because I was the sixties and early seventies. And it was about social justice needed to change the world. Do right.  Dr. King, all those Robert "Bobby" Kennedy,  Cesar Chavez, all those into social justice. So I'd go the university of Washington. I said, I'm going to get into the business school, get an accounting degree because that will help me get the analytical framework.

Yes. I know. Look at an accounting degree. And then I took a class or I was at junior Vern Buck was my professor at a course on human Relations. And he got to see, got me to see that my passion for justice could also be pursued in justice or injustice in the workplace. I could focus on those issues there.

So that's  derailed me, but the earlier roots of  that sense of justice before Vernon buck changed the trajectory of my life. My mother always  focused me on those who are excluded, not feeling they weren't part of the group and pay attention to those individuals. So I picked that up from my mother, the deep sense of how people get treated fairly with respect.

So then I decided, okay,  I'm going to get an MBA because that's a step towards a PhD. So I got my MBA at the university of Washington. I took every PhD course that was available. So I'm hanging out with PhD students, but I'm loving it, but I'm still focusing in on just a Cecil bell, Blasius of bell and Lakeville.

Scott had huge influences on my thinking around justice in very profound ways.  And then I decided to go  I applied to PhD programs  got into different ones across the country. And chose to go to Stanford university.  So  I'm a west coast kid. Okay. This is really dressed up for Bob that just to have a shirt on and no tie.

 But I went to Stanford that dramatically changed my life. I had the opportunity to study with some of the great minds  outside of the business school, inside the business school, I had Joanne Martin, Jean Web, Hal Levitt. Whole set of people who really shaped my thinking.  And then I was able to study with Albert Bender, the founder of social learning theory with not only a great researcher, he's a good person  profound influenced the way I think about how people learn  study with Jim Marks, who was probably the most gifted scholar that I've ever hung around with.

 Just unbelievable.  Gifted man  and Dick Scott in the sociology department  Phil's, Zimbardo J Merrill, Carl Smith's in the psych department. Those individuals has shaped my thinking. 

 Mahan Tavakoli:
Bob I love your focus on social justice and it has run throughout your career. Your research, would you teach your students about, however, when people think about business school and business school professors, they don't necessarily associate  social justice and those aspects that you have been an advocate of for so many years with the way business leaders think. Partly because there has been so little progress, not in terms of the way business leaders speak, but with respect to how organizations and leaders behave.

So why do you think there is that disconnect? Both in terms of perceptions of what a business school represents and promotes, and then with respect to the actions of leaders in organization. 

Robert Bies:
 Let me go back in history to tell you how I got into social justice and teaching, and then come to your questions, which I think are really important questions and valid questions.

And I, it was in 1986.  And my wife was then fiance. Now, wife.  We were walking through Lincoln park in Chicago and all of a sudden I'm seeing three or four homeless people and Lincoln park. And there was this moment in time where it just hit me like a Thunderbolt and saying, what are you doing with your life?

And out of that came the inspiration to do a project in my power and politics class course at Northwestern's Kellogg school. So this is a bunch of MBAs  we're all the marketing type, finance types, gonna go out and make hundreds of thousands, if not millions.  And I built into the power and politics class a what we now call it Georgetown community- based learning that you go out into the community, you work on projects.

And, my argument was In order to understand power, you had to understand what it's like to be powerless. So I want you to work with people who are down and out, disadvantaged in Evanston or the broader Chicago area, and how do you work with them, understand their experiences. And then I, and then how can you help them lobby on their behalf, advocate on their behalf.

And there'll be, I've tried to get, try to get resources for them. So I really want them to see, not just in the case study, but in real life, how to work the system and realize the system is not always open to issues of social justice, which then gets me here to Georgetown. Since I've been here at Georgetown every year, I focused on social justice as a major part of all my courses.

 Whether it be the first year seminar I teach on heroes and villains to my ethical leadership class and executive MBAs. And the argument that I make when people hear the word, social justice, they all  that has nothing to do with business. It has everything to do with business. We call it at Georgetown business with social impact.

Business was social impact. And one of those dimensions is social justice. Right now, all the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging. That sense, all that sort of stuff for me is part of social justice view globally around the world, particularly in Europe, it's not just are they judged on their  economic profit.

They're also judged on their environmental aspects and you can also argue how they deal with social issues. They're judged on across three or four different metrics. And here in the states  they see those things as really, we're only about the money and it's not about stakeholders about shareholders, and that's always been the dominant ideology going back to Milton Friedman way back in the other century.

 And I think now the broader stakeholder, but I think now the way you get to business leaders about this  because in this moment of time with the pandemic, but also the systemic racial injustice, there is more awareness.

I'm not quite sure it's translated into culture change because what you're really trying to do is change the culture of an organization to be open to these. Here's the way that I would make the case. I would make the case that there's a business case for social justice. And let me tell you that business case is, you hire more, better talented people.

You make the bottom line. I asked my son once in making this case  my son, Brian, I often talk to my son, Brian and my daughter, Kelly for insights and advice on different things. And I always listen to the young people. That's my decision will young people decide. That's why I love teaching undergraduate.

I love the executives, but yet teach me young people. He said, dad, what you need to do is they need to see that what you're trying to argue for can become a bullet point on the resume. So they see the self-interest, which leads me to, when I talk about ethical leadership as I do in the executive MBA program or on all the other aspects of my class encourage a moral leadership or in my class and imagination and creativity, we would focus on creative solutions for social justice as well.

For me  it's about understanding the role of power and influence. And it's about self-interest. If you want to move people to action, you got to figure out what's in there. So hence my son, Brian saying they have to see it as a bullet point on their  on their resume.  And my daughter gives me similar insights about creative solutions, a way to frame things     and the consulting firm she works with, or really one of the more inclusive consulting firms in the world.

And it gives me a lot of great ideas, but it's that piece about self-interest. So that's the irony was in order for them people to do right. They had to figure out in their self interest. Okay.  You can it with mother Teresa Malala motives around the bounty edges to make it feel good, but they have to see what's in it for them.

And I'm telling you that You can make more money by focusing on social justice. There is a business case for diversity equity and inclusion, but it's not an easy journey. That is why when I teach my heroes and villains course  I have them read a heroes, a thousand faces, Joseph Campbell's book because I tell them they are on a hero's journey starting at Georgetown.

But each of these corporations, each of these leaders, I tell them they're on a hero's journey and it's got multiple phases and there's trials and tribulations. It's not easy. If it was easy Mahan, everybody would do it. But for me, leadership, it fundamentally is about understanding the will power and how you influence and persuade  people by leveraging the power and influence that you have.

And that was centerpiece. When I created the executive masters in Leadership Program at Georgetown University in 2005, 

Mahan Tavakoli:
And  I think Bob, to  the point that you're making is  that also takes an ethical leadership and understanding what's right and pursuing what's right. One of my frustrations has been one of the consulting firms that has one of the    most innovative thinking studies on the value of diversity on senior leadership teams, doesn't have a single person of color on their own senior leadership team.

So with respect to statements of the value of it on the organization, there's a lot of talk about that, but to act on it, it takes a combination of understanding the value and then the ethics and principles to follow up with action. 

 Robert Bies:
That leads me into the very simple model of leadership I operate from, Mahan.

And the simple model is this. See, judge, act and revise. See, judge, act and revise. First off people have to be worthy to see it. They have to see it. And often when I talk about leadership, I talk about vision as a destination. I talk about really focusing on storytelling and vision setting and all those sorts of things, which I think is central to leadership, but they have to see it.

They have to see it. If they don't see it, they're not going to act. And then once they see it and gather data, you're going to have to make some choices and judgment. And here at Georgetown, we talk about a discernment process. You've  gather all the data and you'd turn really what's going on. So you have to make the judgment, then you have to act.

And I think often we make the case for social justice. Only as socialists. We don't see the pragmatic goodness that could come out. You can do more than one thing. Social justice can yield economic gain. In fact, my argument is  that I, when I, because I teach a lot of undergraduates and they all want to be entrepreneurs, okay.

And God bless them, they'll want to be entrepreneurs. And I tell them that for me, entrepreneurship is doing the mission of social justice. And they will give me, what are you talking about professor?  Because if you create a business that creates products and services that people buy, you can hire people.

And when people get jobs, they get incomes. You can look at jobs and incomes and stability of family communities, and you're doing the work of social justice. You're doing the work of social justice. So for me to make that argument, but also understand it's culture change. And if you say we want to do DEI diversity, equity, inclusion, whatever it is you want to do, you better have the people up there that reinforce that signal because here's the reality leaders are signal senders.

And if you're signaling, we want to do DEI. That's our mission. Now, maybe because it's in Vogue, I want to see where you are a year from now. Okay. That's I always test them. You better have people up there that are symbolic of that mission going forward. It can't just be a bunch of white individuals, men, or women.

It has to reflect the mission you're trying to accomplish because you're a signal center. People picking up those signals. Yeah, 

Mahan Tavakoli:
Absolutely.  I had a solo episode and I talk about example in leadership and  how Lou Gerstner talks about the fact that  when he showed up with a blue collar, the 50 top executives at IBM, highly compensated, highly educated, changed  the color of their shirts to match the CEOs.

So the people pick out the smallest signals that leaders send. So those visuals, those behaviors make as big, if not a bigger impact and difference than any words, organization puts up on a wall or sends out in their letter to shareholders. 

Robert Bies:
People are really sensitive and smart. They pick up, particularly in times of change, they're really going to hone in.

 If that's, I tell people that when you get a new leader coming in, whether it be a team department ever, and they give their  meet and greet speech, just count how many times I say the word "I" versus the word "we". And that reveals everything about them. But as you point out, Mahan, even the littlest details and Gerster also noted that at IBM, that he realized at the end, that change was really culture change.

He was trying to change the culture and  that's  what a six year proposition it's doable, but you got to have commitment, but people pick up on even those littlest things. You're absolutely right. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
So you touched on a couple of aspects of  why I have loved what you've all been about. Part is social justice, part ethical leadership, which over the years, the more distance has been between my MBA at Georgetown.

I have seen that play even a bigger role that than any, with all due respect to the finance professors and accounting professors than any of the other aspects. And that runs core to a lot of what you talk about. Now, you also do a brilliant job and  you had us read the Tao of Pooh that you still, I believe have your students read. Part of what I want to understand is what is the message from Pooh and the Tao of Pooh that leaders can take to become more effective leaders? 

Robert Bies:
I think there's multiple things. In fact, I started using The Tao of Pooh when I was teaching at Northwestern and  it's the single most popular book I've ever assigned my many years of teaching. And I chose The Tao of Pooh, because it's a book by Benjamin Hoff. I highly recommend people to read it.  These are the sources I go to, to connect to people because most people know that Winnie the Pooh is I think more young people know Winnie the Pooh is if wouldn't approves a video game, but that's another conversation.

But the notion is Winnie the Pooh really learned several aspects of Pooh's approach was that he was simple-minded. But he wasn't stupid. He didn't get caught up in the complexity of what he did. He's sorta go with the flow, see what was in front of him, look at opportunities and then make choices. And all the choices he always made were for his friends, piglet, Roo.

He was always looking out for them, but for me, it's an approach to creativity and innovation.  So for example  he said, prof rights are allowed civil rights, the Chinese philosophy. If you want to return to the beginning, how many like a child, again, I want people in terms of change innovation, particularly creativity, innovation to go back to becoming a child again.

Okay. To see the world simply, and you have to go with the circumstances and listen to your own intuition, listening to your intuition, followed up a data collection, but listen to your intuition.  And we spend so much time working fast in getting  trying to be  busy. And we really don't accomplish anything.

Sometimes we confuse activity with progress. And what Pooh does is he looks at things as it is, surveys it, and then goes, he's always collaborating. So for me, one of the aspects of poo is he's always co-creating his reality with all of his friends. Okay. And he's even nice with Owl, okay. He doesn't always appreciate it.

 And sometimes they're just all in front of us, but we need to make use of it. We're always looking for something else, but something is always right. Improve is always about that. But he goes with circumstances.  And one of the things about Pooh is doing nothing is doing something. And that's a challenge I make to all of my students, executive and undergraduates and the corporate executives or government executives I work with.

Can you find 15 minutes a day just for silence? No, no apple air pods and not   no, just silent. And that's what Pooh was really good. And one of the things that's really quite clear. The wise know their limitations, the foolish do not. And Pooh knew his limitations. And he worked within those limitations and he went on adventures.

So it wasn't like  he was always going on adventures. And he would think in ways that we're seeing the opposite of this sort of thing when you were thinking, but you always get back. And so for me, that's appropriate for this world. We live in this VUCA world. That's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and you have to be become more Pooh like.

 You understand the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and you have to take those steps.   I think We need to focus on progress, not perfection. We need to focus on direction, not distance. That was what Pooh was all about. 

And I learned that last piece, the direction, not distance from my wife. I was playing golf with her in the local public courses in Maryland, where I live and I was up there. I had my new clubs out. Okay. By the way I started, when I was 36,  she started, she was six. I started out as 36 and guess who's better. She is. And so I hit this beautiful shot, with my my big Bertha Callaway clubs  and it was beautiful shot.

I was tigress going. It's hard. And I was walking. It was beautiful, long fairway. And my wife said to me  is direction not distance. If you hit the ball straight, cut your strokes about half and that piece of wisdom, I think, lives out in Pooh. If we just get straight, figure out a way back, even if we return, we'll figure it out.

But he never got worried and tense. He always knew that it would take care of  and  John Lennon once said  it'll be okay in the end if it's not okay, it's not the end. And I think Pooh lived that out very Pooh.  So for me, it's looking at reality as it is appreciating everybody around me, the talents and the gifts of everybody and everybody.

And that's the virtue of the characters. The AML created. They all had certain attributes and characteristics, but it was Pooh bringing them together in a collaborative culture. I know most people say I didn't read that and Winnie the Pooh we down and that's exactly what's happening. Okay. But  he would collaborate and co-create and always achieve success.

And then what happened? What is the meaning of success? This is a question that posts to executives and what is the meaning of success?  It'll probably change with, as you grow older, but what's that mean, and what was the meaning of success for Pooh? And I think part of it was the comradery and friendship of his friends and being together,  that sense of community.

 And so for me, that's why I use The Tao of Pooh. Again, it's the single most popular book of ever assign. I encourage everybody to get a copy of it and read it.  It's an easy read and fun to read. It may bring back memories. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 It does. It does also stick in your mind over the years. And in addition to that, what I find Bob is that  Pooh is a more accessible character than some of the other leaders that we read about that almost seem like they have such intellect or such capabilities that are out of reach when you read about them.

So with a leadership, as you talked about different factors with Winnie the Pooh, as a reading and The Tao of Pooh, it's more accessible for leaders to try to  take on some of those characteristics and learn from them rather than reading about some of the business icons that have transformed industries. 

Robert Bies:
 I think that's right.  I'm not saying you can't learn from those business.  But I do think you have to go back and look at Pooh was a leader, and most people don't do that. People followed Pooh but there was also times Pooh would follow his friends. And I think that shows that Sometimes the true leader leads and sometimes the true leader is led.

You have to listen.  But I think that Pooh lives out, particularly in today's world, where things seem to be so crazy and volatile, he knew had a confidence that we would get through. He had a competence that people picked up on. And again, you as a leader, a signal center and your confidence that people pick up on that, particularly these challenging times that we were part of.

Mahan Tavakoli:
And as we're going through these times, Bob, more people have wanted to connect with meaning and with purpose. You also did a brilliant TEDx talk, Let Your Life Speak. So you've been a big advocate for purpose, both for individuals and for organizations. How do leaders embrace purpose, both for themselves and bring more purpose in leading their teams and organizations?

 Robert Bies:
 It's a great question.  And I do think  that's actually how the social justice concept gets embedded in today's world. We talk about  leading with purpose.  And so the notion is you got to figure out who you are and why you do what you do. And for me, that's about letting your life speak.

Leadership is a calling, so who are you? What are your gifts and talents? And that will change across time and finding the passion that defines you, defined your corporation, defines your mission. You got to find the why the mission. So the, who are you and the why are absolutely critical and discuss a larger sense of purpose can keep people going.  Nietzsche the philosopher once said "we can endure any how, as long as we know why".

And so finding the why keep coming back to the why I don't say focus on plans and projects, but not just them focus on the  why did people do it? I was doing work with financial services company  and one of the challenges they faced and they worked in  processing  financial instruments, life insurance and stuff like that, but they realized the why of what they do is they put a human face on what they do.

So when someone in the family passes, they're not just not processing the insurance. They're actually helping people through a challenging time. We were grieving. So they put a human face on it. And they think about that the "why" of what they do. 

So I think that who and the why is really important and letting your life speak, letting your organization, unleash its greatness, because you're trying to do is unleash the greatness of everybody working there at the organization.

Mahan Tavakoli:
So Bob, how do you do that?  With maintaining some grounding in reality.    We work as a great example, wanted to raise the world's consciousness. Most organizations that I interact with and I see they do have purpose statements. And in many instances there are these grand purpose statements of wanting to feed the world, wanting to change the world that don't necessarily connect much to the organization.

How do you guide leaders to have a purpose that is closer to the core of what the organization is about rather than these grand statements that a CEO can stand up and make, but doesn't translate to reality of what the business actually does as was the case with we work wanting to raise everyone's consciousness.

Robert Bies:
Two things that I would do and the advice I'd give the executives I work with.  And that is this, that what I think you need to engage the people. And can you, co-create the sense of mission and purpose it's because the actions and the words have to align.

And it's one thing for you to say, we have this mission, but our people invest in it. Did they help co-create again? I always use the word co-create I don't use collaborate collaboration clearly as part of the co-create, but do they help co-create it? And can they see that what they're doing makes an impact in the 

Because again, people are really smart. As you pointed out earlier, Mahan, people were really smart. They could look for consistency or there is this one of the,  the bad does your  social justice or is this a real commitment? So the degree to which you've engaged people to help create the mission, co-create the mission.

And they're involved in implementing that mission. You're more likely to get that and getting feedback. Is it working and are we staying true to it? And one of the ways that you, as I said, leaders are signal senders. So the question that I would ask a leader, what signals are you sending?

Tom Peters once said, celebrate what you want to see more. And so if we are doing wonderful things in terms of the mission let's celebrate that. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
So  that purpose is absolutely critical. And I love the way you put it that co-creation helps people buy into the purpose and enables the purpose to actually be something that  the team can get excited about rather than words that become meaningless to the members of the organization.

Now, another aspect that I know you're passionate about in addition to leading by example is that trust plays a key role in how we can lead effectively. So can you share some of your thoughts with respect to the different types of trust and how leaders can have more trust with their teams and organizations in leading them forward?

Robert Bies:
Absolutely. In fact, Mahan, I talk about three different kinds of trusts.  I talk about personal trust or people trust you as a leader. They trust me as a leader, and that's a great way of thinking about trust. And that's the way we normally think about trust that we trust in leadership.  But the other two kinds of trusts are organizational trust and strategic trust and organizational trust is do people trust the organizational decision making processes?

Are they understandable? We even know how the decisions were made. And then the third kind is strategic trust. And that is a way doing the right things in terms of goals and strategies.  And those are three separate, but interrelated parts, aspects of trust. In a times of change, you really have to pay attention to all three.

If you have high degrees of personal trust, and I'll unpack each of these a little bit more detail for you in mind, if you have a high degree of personal trust, you probably get the benefit of the doubt and the other two organizational trust and  And strategic trust, but they are three separate judgments.

It may be, I trust you, Mahan, but I think are going in the wrong direction. Okay.  So let me talk about each of these, a little bit more detail, because I think they're really important, particularly in times of change, which is what we're living in.  For me, personal trust has three different dimensions.

There's one called the three C's credibility, concern and competency. Credibility,  what you say is what you do. Do you tell the truth? In fact, if you look at global surveys of admire characteristics of leadership, of different leaders around the world, almost all of those in the top three is somewhere like honesty or truth down.

Okay. So they're looking at that.  And part of your credibility is sharing more information  because it's the less you say, the more likely you are to be misinterpreted the less you say. And so part of your credibility is being authentic, sincere, sharing more information.  Often organizations I work with people tell me  it's on a need to know basis.

And they tell me I don't need to know.  That all means buyers distrust. If you want inspire trust, because trust is the fundamental social currency of leadership. If you have trust, you can do whatever you want.  You don't have to, otherwise you have to quarter spores and that's just a much more challenging thing.

Concern is this, do you listen to people? Are you empathetic?  This single most important leadership skill. And I know there's lots of research on it. I've read most of it. The single most important leadership skill, according to Bob is  listening to the most important leadership skill for two reasons.

One is when you listen to people, they tell you lots of stuff, but also makes people feel valued and important. Here's the insight from my current research on fairness and justice in the workplace and how people feel treated. People want to be seen. People want to be heard. People want to be understood. I always remind the executives understanding does not mean a green, but they want to be seen, heard, and understood. 

Think about that in the context, going back to the diversity, equity and inclusion. Do we even see the people?  Do we even try to act to listen, understand without prejudging we're in any biases that we all have, and we all have biases. So that notion of being seen and heard, but also part of concern is your visible and accessible.

Can they find you? Are you accessible? For example, my syllabus, cause I live in a virtual world. I put my cell phone on there. I have zoom. We all have office that we have is  whatever  and I have some students around the world. So it varies when we set up the zoom call.  But that sense of concern.

People want to know that they're cared for. If people know you care, they're much more committed to working. And as the days roll, there's a sense of uncertainty around caring and how you demonstrate caring is just the ways that you listen to people. You have to, that he tried to understand, can you help them achieve.

 The third C  is competency. Do you have a solid base of knowledge, skills? And it can also be, do you have enough knowledge of the culture, whether it be a national culture or enough of our understand the culture of the organization to try to change it. But at the end, it's all about reliability results. Do you meet or exceed expectations?

So that's personal trust. Organizational trust is do people to senior leadership communicate the same message because when people hear messages, particularly if they're diverse and round different parts of the world, or even within the same state you hear in the states, they're not all hearing the same message at the same time.

Did you? What'd you hear when I heard you  and if people hear a disconnect, it undermines trust. So the advice I give to executives is the more serious and important the issue, the more you're literally reading from the same script. I don't want anybody improvising, winging. You literally read the same script.

The part of what people look for an organizational trust is consistency. Transparency. Do people know what the decisions the criteria are before decision is? I like to say transparency is a condition before decisions. The rules, that criteria, all those sorts of stuff, the requirements after the decision, we call it an explanation.

Okay. But people are looking for transparency. Can they see it? Okay.  And they're looking at that. And they also look at when  are when burdens are benefits or are distributed, are they seeing fair?  But it leads this sort of consistent thing. At least to them. One of the things I'm working on with a colleague, I call it treating people  the justice paradox, treating people equally, but uniquely and therein lies the challenge for executives.

How do you treat people equally, but unique.  My mother, when she would raise us again, one of four boys and  and she would, so she spent the same amount on us for Christmas gifts and she would show us the receipts. My mother was pretty particular about this, but we got different gifts. That's treating people equally, but uniquely.

So the equality is some level of goodness, what that goodness looks like can be different, but that's a much more challenging issue for the need to pay attention to their specific needs.  But at the end, fairness matters, people are more, nobody likes to receive bad news. I know that from my own research and my own experience, but people are more willing to live with it.

If they believe the process of producer the spare. Strategic trust is you've got to communicate that message  over and communicate and convince people why it's the right course and how it's doable. Okay. If people say, oh, this is not doable, then they just don't engage. But probably one of the things that  in one of the things that you need to do most specifically in strategic trust is dream big.

Cause my advice is dream big, have big goals, create smaller goals, particularly new strategy. Then create smaller goals, milestones where you jump over and get a success.  Get early victories because when you get an early victory in a new strategy and new direction, just three things for you, one, it creates a sense of confidence. Oh, we can do this! Second, it creates a sense of progress, Oh, we're moving. People will, are more resilient if they believe they're moving in the right direction, even if it's challenging, but here's what that does for you also. It silences the doubters and cynics specific can't be done because you're doing it.

And those are the three different kinds of trust.  Deming once wrote in a foreword to a book before he passed. He said, trust is mandatory for the optimization of any system.

Mahan Tavakoli:
 I absolutely agree, Bob and I would like to spend a tiny bit more time on trust. Most specifically, post the pandemic and crisis.

The personal trust for some leaders has improved for others. Organizations have increased the number of tracking software in some instances that they use. So there is even less of a personal trust.  In some cases, transparency by default in some organizations has gone down, partly because people aren't interacting with each other as much.

And then specifically on the strategy front, a lot of leaders tell me they have less clarity on where the organization is headed. So they feel more insecure now than they did a year ago. So they have less clarity in that strategic direction. As organizations and leaders are dealing with crisis, how do they maintain that personal trust?

How do they maintain and build transparency to have the organization with trust and how do they communicate a confidence, vision of the strategy when they feel so unsure of what is ahead? 

 Robert Bies:
For me, the way that I focus those around trust is by leading by example. And I talk about the six F's.

Okay. And I want to share those and then add  some more aspects and make it a little bit more elaborate. And the first F is fortitude. One of the things that people are looking for in these challenging times, they want leaders who are decisive to make a decision and to be calm and part, and being calm is real difficult in these times  is that shows strength.

But part of that fortitude is your willingness to engage your people and listen to them. And that sort of willingness to listen to them and their fears, their anxieties. Do you build in sort of ways of listening to them?  Because empathy is key. And then the second F is feeling. So fortitude and feeling, and why do you spend time listening to them?

In fact, one of the advice that I would give is have updates and progress reports. You'll keep people informed on a regular basis.  And even if you don't have nothing to report, still have that meeting, be there for it. Because if you stop having that meeting people off, what does that mean? Rumors start to flow because it's, they don't see people, the rumors go viral, but that sense of feeling between gauge people.

 But also be forthright, tell the truth. And if you don't know the answer, don't hide it. And maybe when you don't know something, you'll get back to them within 48 hours. I think that sorts of fortitude, the forthrightness, the feeling, but also the followup that sort of fourth after the follow-up. Follow up, when you have more information, engage people.  I think what you have to do is going on a listening tour and listening to your people, and you can do that virtually and you can do that face to face.

Mahan Tavakoli:
So Bob obviously trust is critical for leadership. I also know that you teach executives a framework for them as they look to lead more effectively. Can you tell me a little bit more about the framework for us as we are looking to become more effective, more impactful, more purpose-driven leaders. 

Robert Bies:
Yes, I can, Mahan.  I call it, Let your life speak, Living a life of leadership, this framework that I want to  expand and unpack for you in a little more detail.

Really is the framework I used when I created the executive masters and leadership program at Georgetown in 2005, then I created a version of it for DC public school leaders, public charter, school leaders, and PCPs leaders. And it's really a framework I talk about for me, leadership is a calling it's a strong urge of responsibility for others.

Leadership is about who you are. As much as what you do for me, leadership is a way of life. And to live that life of leadership, you have to let your life speak. To live that life of leadership fully, you must harness the power of the three W's. It's the power of the whom, the power of the why and the power of the way.

It's those three W's that I want to talk about more. When I work with executive, this is what I tried to get them to unleash the greatness of who they are, their team, their departments, and their organization. Let's talk first about living a life of leadership and the power of the who or the power of identity.

It is about igniting the fire within who are you? It's a discernment process trying to say, who am I, what gifts and talents do I have to offer the world? And this is a continual process. This isn't just something you do. When you graduate from college or graduate school, you have to continually come back.

What are my gifts and count talents? Have I realized new gifts and talents through a series of experiences going through this pandemic? I am sure every person listening here has discovered things about themselves. They didn't even know they had the talent or the resilience or the skills to do, but they had to do it.

And so discovering those skills, those talents and gifts is really important. The question that I pose is I borrow from my favorite spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, who said, how do I make myself a valid offering to the contemporary world, a valid offering to the contemporary world is that world shifts.

How do I continue to make that valid offering? It's about finding the passion within that's part of your identity. Who are you? What grabs your heart? What gets you excited? But it's also about igniting that fire. Your identity is your ambition. What do you want to do? I know when people hear the word ambition, they'd probably bops.

They'll be subbed to the dark side. Ambition when aligned with self-interest can lead you down that slippery slope to the dark side, but ambition and pursuit of something larger, which is going to get me the second W something larger. That is where it is a powerful igniting, a passion. To go lead and live more fully that life of leadership , Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, which I should remind people was an entrepreneurial startup by three college roommates, the university of Paris about under 500 years ago.

It wasn't an entrepreneurial story. He just happened to go bull. But he said go forth and set the world on fire, but that leads us to the second W , the power of the way, as part of living a life of leadership. And for me, that's the power of purpose. I use language here at Georgetown. We call it button in search of the magic, something more, something bigger.

 And the question I keep asking the executives I work with in the students that I teach is "why do you do what you do?" and it can't just be for the money. It's gotta be something more and don't lose sight of that human face. Why you do what you do. When I work with a school leaders, I say, let's put the beam with this premise.

What if for your purposes, this put students first. Wow. What does that suggest in terms of leadership and what you do in the school leaders I dealt with this past year, I've done heroic work.  But it's about fanning that grander purpose. What's that larger purpose that gets you animated. And I love the phrase animate.

What gets you excited? This larger purpose? What is your personal mission statement? Do you have a personal mission statement? You should have a personal mission statement. I happen. My personal mission statement is I have two parts to it. One is "I want to change the world, one student at a time". That's my mission.

And I want to unleash the greatness of who they are. That is my mission. Then I asked the question, what have you done today to make the world a better place? It may just be listening to somebody what's that larger group. It's what keeps you going beyond getting paid? It's the purpose of something bigger, but it's also for me about, Living a life of leadership.

The third W was the way, for me that's about vision and action. It's about part of this is the practical skills, the vision and action. You need to stay close to the people as a leader, you need to be visible and accessible listening to their hopes, their fears, their anxieties. Again, as I've said before, people want to be seen.

People want to be heard. People want to be understood. They know that you care, which is part of that trust piece that we talked about. One of the keen insights that I wrote on my own research is if you touch people's hearts, their minds will follow. To motivate and move people during these challenging times need to speak in examples and stories.

Let me  bookend the purpose and the power of the Why, the Way with the piece of wisdom from Jackie Robinson, the great baseball player integrated white baseball in 1947. And this is a sentence it's on his tombstone up in New York. And Jackie Robinson said this "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives". And that's what living a life of leadership is about having the impact on other people's lives.

Mahan Tavakoli:
 And that is beautifully said, Bob, you clarify the who, the why and the way that are critical for leaders. Now, a lot of leaders have been experiencing as all of us have been a lot of difficulties over the past year.  Requiring even more resilience and a greater sense of purpose that's needed as we go through this turbulence.

How do you guide leaders as they are focusing on their Who, Why and the Way to become more resilient and be able to stick to that sense of purpose leading through these times. 

Robert Bies:
Mahan, what I do is I go back to the power of storytelling. I'm going to talk about two different strategies. When I work with leaders and getting them to engage in this, in the power of the storytelling. Why talk about creating positive narratives which you must create and share narratives or stories about the positive things that you and your organization your teams have done for your organization that help customers, clients.

In face of these challenging times, and these are stories of resilience. What I get them, I  lay out a very simple model about how you tell these, how we talk about these positive narrative and storytelling. Positive narratives are critical leadership strategy for energizing and engaging people during these challenging times.

And what they also do is create a cultural pride because when people began to talk about the stories and the, of resilience, they engage in that really pushed forward the mission of the organization. They feel a great sense of pride about that because in these crazy times, we're part of right now, we don't always know what's going on.

Because again, what happens is that once you start hearing, wow, we're doing wonderful stuff, it gets you engaged. It gets you inspired. It gets you motivated, it creates that culture of pride. And when you're inspired, motivated that culture, cultural pride, that builds resilience because we can do it.

 As Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the great Harvard business school professor once said "a self-reinforcing upward spiral: performance stimulating pride, stimulating performance". And so when you hear these stories, you feel proud and you want to go do more. It's a healthy competition to do more for the mission of the organization. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
And that storytelling is absolutely critical, has been for generations that is even more important when we are stressed than the best leaders seek out those stories, nurture those stories, retell those stories.

Now, in addition to that, Bob, do you have any advice for how we can deal with these challenging times? I don't necessarily think this is going to end  a month or in six months. They're going to be continual disruptions, continual challenges. How do you recommend to your students, to leaders, to executives, to more effectively deal with challenging times?

Robert Bies:
One of the things I invite them to do and suggest for them to do something really simple at the end of each day.  Cause they live very busy days and Heights. It's what I call the three moments of joy. At the end of each day, can you sit down with family, friends, or just yourself in a journal and highlight your three moments of joy that you had?

And it could be something very simple. It could be  that you had a really nice dinner or you had a phone call with somebody you hadn't talked to in a year. Whatever that moments of joy are. Just say it publicly. And if you'd have St Paul put it in a journal, you keep track of the joys because here's what we know from the research and practice.

The more you put positive thoughts in your mind, focus on the positives and those moments of joy, it builds resilience. I know that this sounds simple, but it works. At the end of each day I sit down with my wife at dinner and say, what are your three moments of joy? What were my three moments of joy? And when my kids are with us, we say, what are your three moments of joy or I'll email them or text what's your three moments of joy today?

Because part of dealing with the difficult times is to find those moments of joy. And that moment I use the word joy, that sense of happiness, a sense of, wow, what's that "wow"? Even if it's a small, wow. And the more you keep the positive thoughts, those moments of joy. I guess the three moments of joy each day. You'll become more resilient with time. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 And I love hearing that because  I know you practice it. Every communication we've had, you have shared your moments of joy. So this is not just something that a professor or a leader tells others to do. This is something that you do yourself, Bob, in addition, obviously to your own brilliant insights that you've shared, what are some books that you recommend to your students and executives? As they want to become more purpose driven and impactful leaders.  

Robert Bies:
Some of the books and I'll give you a website too, and some  Ted talks  I think in terms of books, The Leadership Challenge by Cruises and Posner, I think this is a good book that really  lays out many of the things  that I believe in practicing and it's research  grounded.

 I think also  the Parker Palmer book, Let Your Life Speak, Answering the Call of Vocation, I think is a really profound book.  Robert Cole's book, Lives of Moral Leadership: Men and Women who have made a difference.  Again, I'll go back to the Tao of Pooh, which we talked about earlier    as a great book or even to Nisha Caribbean's book  about 40 MacArthur fellows called uncommon genius, I think is a great read  about that.

 But also I go to, if you want a website  to go to tompeters.com, Tom is a really smart guy. Many of these things are on, there are free resources. He's just one of the smartest individuals in the last 40 some years on management leadership.  You can go listen to Ted talks by Simon Sinek or Bernay brown.

Those individuals who'll keep that sort of positive focus going, but also what I like the people to leave with is some final Sage wisdom.  Not just those resources, which are really, I think, useful resources and I access.  But I also think pieces of wisdom. I want him to leave, to lead this conversation with  which by the way, has been one of my moments of joy today.

 The first piece of wisdom is from Steve Jobs and Steve jobs said this "innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat". And so the challenge that every leader I work with, including those I work with at Georgetown University is we've had to innovate this past year. Which ones are you going to keep?

Which ones are you going to keep? And I think that's the way, how do you view change? It's not a threat. It's an opportunity to innovate. The other piece of wisdom cause I talk a lot about co-creation the Japanese proverb. It's one of my favorites and the Japanese proverb is this "none of us is as smart as all of us"," none of us is as smart as all of us".

And two more pieces of Sage was, and then a third bonus piece. My last one, the first one is from Francis of Assisi. And Francis of Assisi said this "start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible and suddenly you're doing the impossible". 

The next is from Nelson Mandela. And Nelson Mandela said this "it always seems impossible until it's done". And the last piece of wisdom, perhaps one of my favorite Proverbs, if not my favorite proverb, it's an African proverb and the African proverb goes like this "if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together and to achieve mission success to go far, you need to go together".

Mahan Tavakoli:
 Well, Robert Beis, you have absolutely been a moment of joy, both for me today and for our listeners across the country and across the globe. So I truly appreciate you sharing some of your leadership insights and wisdom with the Partnering Leadership Community. Thank you so much, professor Robert Beis.