Michael is a Consultant & Dog Photographer
Michael Puck, Senior Partner of Human Insights Group at UKG, talks about his passion for dog photography, his findings on how dogs can benefit your mental health, sharing dog photos in webinars, and much more!
• Developing a connection with dogs
• Getting into photography
• Mental health benefits of dogs
• Sharing his passion at work
• Meeting with prospects the night before a presentation
• Adding your hobby to your email signature
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Welcome to Episode 349 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with my book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading the book and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Michael Puck. He’s a senior partner with the HCM Advisory Group at UKG, and now he’s with me here today. Michael, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Michael: Hey, John, thank you so much for having me. I am super excited about our conversation.
John: Me too, man. We’ve had a couple of phone calls. This is going to be really cool. First, I have some rapid-fire questions that I’ve never asked you and I probably should have, the first time we talked, now that I think about it. No, I’m teasing, but get to know Michael on a new level here. Here we go. Here’s a good one, oceans or mountains.
Michael: It would have to be a combination of the two. I get easily bored just laying at the beach. Hiking is mandatory. So, a combination, I would say.
John: Mountains that go into the ocean. That works. We can make that a thing. How about a favorite sports team?
Michael: Yeah, see, I’m not a spectator, so I might need to pass on this one altogether. Now if you ask my son, it would be the Tennessee Titans, but you can see, I can’t even get the voice out saying the name.
John: That works. That works. How about a favorite band or musician?
Michael: It has to be Pink Floyd. I have followed Pink Floyd, probably for 30-plus years. Let me be more specific, Comfortably Numb, in case you’re familiar with that song, is my absolute favorite. I can listen to it over and over, for hours.
John: There you go. That’s awesome. Very cool. All right, how about a favorite number?
Michael: 13, simply because I wanted to be different. Most people would say, oh, 13, but that’s the reason why I pick 13.
John: Nice. Good for you. Okay, all right. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Michael: Yeah, so I have never watched, in its entirety, a single Star Wars movie. I know I’m outing myself really badly here, but I fall asleep well without watching these. So, Star Trek is definitely my preference, and you probably just lost half of your listeners because of that statement.
John: It’s all good, man. It’s all good. This one though, this one could be. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
Michael: Well, as a photographer, it has to be a Mac. Meaning, all the post-processing can be done only on Macs.
John: Yeah, I believe it. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Michael: The name of the flavor is Malaga. Have you ever heard of Malaga?
John: No, I haven’t.
Michael: No? So, I grew up in Europe, and the only excitement that we had during the summer, growing up, is an ice cream cafe, an Italian ice cream cafe on Main Street. Since there wasn’t really much else to do, I spent many summer afternoons and evenings with my almost-street legal motorbike, at that ice cream cafe.
The interesting dynamic was there was always a large group of people, mostly bikers, and they came for two reasons; the ice cream, but they also wanted to watch others drive by. Those driving by knew there was a crowd of spectators, and there was a red light about 200 meters down from the ice cream cafe. The goal was always to pull up the bike on one wheel and drive by the ice cream cafe on one wheel while waving with one arm.
The reason why this is so entertaining is about 10% of all bikers had the skill to pull it off. The other 90% didn’t, but they still tried to. You saw motorcycles coming by with its riders on it. Then you saw folks running after their motorcycles. So, I tried a lot of ice cream, different ice cream flavors, during that time, but the main attraction was really seeing motorcycles crashing somewhere left and right.
John: That’s hilarious. That’s so funny, but Malaga, I’m going to have to check that out, for sure. I’m a huge ice cream fan.
Michael: It’s an acquired taste. It has a light flavor of rum. It has crushed hazelnuts and whole raisins on something like a vanilla base.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah, no, that sounds good, and the hazelnut, that’s sneaky. It’s good. It sneaks into stuff. It’s in a lot of stuff. It’s all good. That’s awesome. Oh, here’s a fun one that somebody asked me that I’m going to throw to you. Socks or shoes.
Michael: Definitely socks. I don’t wear shoes all that frequently, but I always wear socks.
John: Yeah, I said that too. Since you’re in the HR space, people or processes.
Michael: Yeah, so the right answer is people, but since I’ve been in HR for 20 years — I’m not in HR any longer. I’m just working in a related field to HR. I think I coined, some 20 years ago, the term, this job really would be a walk in the park if it wouldn’t be for the people. People is what makes it interesting, but people also is what makes it frequently quite painful.
John: Yeah, or rewarding, if you’re doing it right. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Michael: Yeah, no, I need to pass on both of those. I have more hobbies and interests than I have time, and that just fall by the wayside.
John: No, no, I totally understand, totally understand. How about a favorite color?
Michael: Dark gray with orange. This is not a play on the University of Tennessee. I was a big gray and orange fan before I moved to Tennessee. I just love those two colors together.
John: Yeah, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Michael: Yellow. Yellow is kind of weak.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Michael: I would say, in recent years, Saint Lucia. It’s a nice vacation place. If I go back to Germany every so frequently, Cologne is probably my favorite city within Germany. There are many other places I love to go.
John: Yeah. No, those are two great places. That’s fantastic. How about chocolate or vanilla, just in general.
Michael: I can officially quote you that 28% of all people prefer vanilla over any other ice cream flavor because I just integrated that in one of my presentations, but neither of the two really does the trick for me.
John: Okay. All right, all right. That works. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Michael: Yeah, so that’s a good one. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Let me date myself, Sean Connery, I think who passed away earlier this year, is one of my favorite actors simply because I love the accent, the Scottish accent. On the female side, I would say Jodie Foster. I first noticed her in Silence of the Lamb, and that came out in 1991, so, yeah, old movie.
John: Yeah, exactly, and really great characters that they played as well.
Michael: Yeah, I agree, great skill in playing those characters.
John: For sure. Two more. Early bird or night owl.
Michael: Definitely early bird.
John: Okay, all right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Michael: The favorite thing I have is probably my Canon 1DX. That’s the way I channel creativity and capture things people can’t see with the naked eye. I also like to expand that question a little bit to say my three dogs are probably the favorite furry personalities that I have around. I don’t say I’m owning them. I don’t refer to them as things. They’re very near and dear to my heart.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome, which translates perfectly into your “And”, especially the photography side of it, with the Canon. How did you get started with the photography? Was it something that you did when you were younger or got into later? How did that start?
Michael: The photography itself started relatively late in life. I would say, maybe six, seven years ago. My attraction to dogs, on the other hand, is way older. It’s a 50-year-old love story. When I was four years old — and that’s really what makes photography such a powerful tool for me, the relationship I have with dogs.
When I was four years old, I burned both of my legs. I was in the hospital, in a Burn Unit for three weeks. Nobody was allowed to visit me, not even my parents. After three weeks, I was released. My parents picked me up, and I was a changed child. I couldn’t understand why my parents didn’t love me anymore, why I was in so much pain. Really, I was the polar opposite from what I was previous.
My family dog, and that happened a few years after coming back out of the hospital, but my family dog, a black Lab, was really who reintroduced me to the world around me. The bond I was able to create with that dog was absolutely incredible. I never experienced anything like that. I would even say my dog was the only living being that I trusted because I didn’t trust people. Meaning, I was stuck in a hospital, in pain, and nobody showed up for three weeks. Three weeks, on drugs, at four years old is like eternity. So, I’ll share that much. That might be a little too much sharing.
John: No. It’s cool that that connection with the dog, though, that got you out of that, to find who you were.
Michael: I was together with her for 14 years, and I tell you, I cried probably for two days when she died. I had nightmares, my parents trying to kill me, until I was 27 years old. That was all processed memories and feelings and emotions that were generated that early life, through that incident. Yeah, her name was Cola. She was a lifesaver for me.
So, I was always big into helping animals and dropping food off at the animal shelter and raising money, but it always felt like there was something missing. It wasn’t quite enough. When I then made the connection in my late 40s, that photography as a tool could be really powerful to help animals, this is where this whole thing mushroomed from one layer to another in an incredible way.
Initially, it was helping shelters with pictures to get attention to dogs that needed homes. Nowadays, I’m working with a lot of rescues and prevent dogs from going into the shelter in the first place. I also do private photo sessions and charge real money for the memories that I’m creating. That money is then used in order to help shelter and rescue animals.
The most recent project I’m working on is creating a global dog art gallery. Because I’ve actually found out, over the last two years, that businesses have a vested interest in, not only having dogs around, and many businesses cannot have dogs around, but to have images of dogs in their client, customer and patient-facing environments.
John: Oh, okay.
Michael: Yeah, and so that was somewhat of an aha effect for me. I hired a researcher in Australia, and I said, find out every single piece of scientific evidence that has ever been created, how dogs impact people. She came back with a boatload, and that boatload of information created a long list of what dogs do when we interact with them.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. If you have a dog around, you’re 21 times more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’m not sure if you have a dog, if you have —
John: We have a dog, absolutely. It’s a terrier mix.
Michael: Have you ever been out in the park, walking the dog, and people just walk up and say, “Oh, isn’t he cute?”
John: Yeah, exactly. They’re like talking to the dog. That’s how the conversations start, mostly. Or the dogs are talking. My favorite is my wife will voice what the dog is thinking. She didn’t even know she was doing it. Then we ran into someone else who was voicing their dog. So, the two humans were having a conversation of what the dogs were saying. I wish I could have recorded it because I was dying laughing. It was the greatest thing ever. But you’re right, it opens you up.
Michael: There’s an official term, and that it’s called, dogs have a social catalyst function. Here’s another really interesting piece of information. Across the 45 US Presidents, they had a total of 230 dogs while in the Oval Office, 230.
John: Oh, wow. I didn’t — wow.
Michael: If you do the quick math, that’s about five dogs per President, and the only exception is our President currently in office. Because dogs make us more human. That’s one of the traits, when we have dogs around us, then we are seen in a softer light.
John: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, have you had dogs all of your life then, or is it something where there were some periods there were — I mean, life happens?
Michael: No, I certainly had a couple of decades where I didn’t have dogs. I was in the military, so having a dog there wasn’t all that viable of an option. Then I moved from Europe to the US, and I was moving around quite a bit, so a dog was not really an option either. 15, I think 17 years ago is when my wife and I decided that we needed to have a furry companion.
Right now we have three, and that’s a good number for us. We found three is kind of the magic spot for us to have dogs around, and our entire lives circle around our dogs because they are, even though they might not be trained therapy dogs, but the way they help, the way they emotionally balance you out, especially with the pandemic. My wife had said many times, if it wouldn’t be for our dogs, I’m not sure I would make it through this.
We have a really cool routine. Every night at 9:00, we watch about 45 minutes, something on Netflix, and we invite our three dogs to jump on our master bed, sit with us. They fall asleep within 10 minutes or chew on the bone for 45 minutes, whatever. The harmony that’s being created, and the love that’s being there, it’s just so much fun. It’s so calming. It’s kind of the last thing that we do before we officially go to bed. It just makes for great, good night’s sleep, and everyone is happy. The dogs go into their spaces. It’s just a great routine.
They’re around us all day long. I have, normally, one or two dogs in the office with me. I’m working from home and have done so, for the last 10-plus years. I just love my companions around. Occasionally they bark, or they lunge at the cat, or they do something they’re not supposed to. They’re also really good protectors against FedEx and UPS and United States Mail Service.
John: Exactly. Our dog is the same. He must think that he’s an 800-pound gorilla because everyone leaves, like the delivery guy. Oh, hey, and then they leave. Of course they leave the package. He doesn’t understand that bark.
They are so intuitive. I went through some really bad health stuff in November, and it was just cool to see how he was more nurturing then, as opposed to — because we play a lot. I’m kind of the peer, and my wife is very much, he listens to. I’m like his brother, kind of, so we always have fun, and tug of war and all that. He definitely could tell that I wasn’t doing well. It is cool.
Just having them around, that’s just cool to hear that you’ve experienced that. Also too, with the rescue and the fostering and helping with that is really awesome as well, because then you can pass that feeling onto others, so they can experience it too.
Michael: Even on a large scale, meaning, doing photography and then handing over pieces of art, as I call them, where the dog owner can connect by looking at the picture with the soul of the dog, meaning — some of your listeners are probably saying, okay, he’s a little cuckoo, but…
Michael: There is that connection. Research has actually found that if we look at the eyes of a dog or the picture of a dog, our oxytocin level increases by up to 300%. That’s the feel good hormone that puts us at ease.
I’m working right now with the Wealth Management Office. Most of my customers these days are actually businesses. The Wealth Management Office, they signed up. They wanted eight of their employees to have pictures taken of their dogs, and they want to put these pictures in their new office space because they realized the bonds that people have with dogs extend way beyond your own dog. Meaning, if you’re a dog-lover, and 67% of the US population owns dogs, then you immediately react to a picture of a dog on a wall.
The person that is in that environment, the business person, the wealth advisor, in this particular case, that trust that the dog is generating is immediately extended to that person. I know from a CPA and tax perspective, everywhere where you deal with money, trust is really important.
John: Huge, yeah.
Michael: I have businesses in all kinds of different categories that they love to show my love of dogs, and if it helps my customers, my prospects, even patients to feel relaxed — the research that has been done in clinical settings on how much people heal faster and improve quicker when they have dogs around, and you’ve probably seen therapy dogs or read about stories of therapy dogs in hospital settings. They come in for five minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and then it might be another two or three days before they show up again. How about expanding that with having pictures of the same dogs, and the patients are constantly reminded of that relationship and that positive feeling.
There’s a huge application in service businesses. Lawyers, believe it or not, are big clients of mine because there’s also this really important trust relationship.
John: Yeah, and it humanizes you. It humanizes the office. It brings a little emotion in, as opposed to whatever kind of generic art that you have hanging that you got at IKEA or wherever.
Michael: I know, and this is so important, John, because think about it this way, if you can bring your “and” out, meaning if you are a lawyer or a CPA, a wealth advisor, if you can show something that is important to you that is not business-related, and you can even use that as an icebreaker to start talking with your prospect, your customer; the relationship-building goes so much faster. People connect with you as an individual and not with you as a service provider of some kind. That is super powerful, especially at times of pandemic and social distancing where people are craving to have this type of connections.
When I heard you speak on a podcast about your upcoming book, I was lighting up like a Christmas tree because —
John: Well, thank you, man.
Michael: — I immediately, I saw immediately the powerful connection that’s there.
John: It’s just interesting to, yeah, just have that human relationship first and then that’s where the trust happens. It’s not over memorizing all the work and being the best technical person. I guess that translates over to, so, do you share this side of you at work?
Michael: Yeah. I share actively, and I share passively. Meaning, if I go on video, the folks on the other side of the line can see my dog pictures hanging in my office. That’s the passive sharing. That, in itself, triggers a lot of conversation right there. I also present a lot of webinars these days because I’m not traveling to conferences any longer. I have yet to present a topic where I could not figure out how to put a picture of a dog in the presentation.
John: Nice. I love it, so good.
Michael: When it comes to webinars, it’s a very, very easy one. I take a picture of my four dogs, which we had until recently. I say, hey, I’ll just like to introduce you to the unofficial participants of this webinar. They’re not officially on the speaker roster, but they’re likely to chime in, so why not say hello right now because here they are. Then I introduce them by name.
John: That’s awesome.
Michael: This way, I get my picture in. I get maybe a sentence or two in about what I do outside work. So, for everyone who does, either participate or host webinars, you have the chat function, you have the Q&A function. I get, immediately, the comments flying in, look at the cute dogs. Immediately that connection is there that you want to build with your audience fast. So, yeah, whenever there’s an opportunity, I’ll certainly take advantage of that.
At work, I’m known as the dog photographer. Quite honestly, it’s not two different things. It has really become one, in many, many aspects. I’m not sure if you’re ready to go there, the connection between dog photography and doing consulting in the HCM space, but I’ll be happy to give you a couple of examples.
John: Yeah, no, absolutely, because I would love to know, yeah, how does this translate into work, or does it, at all?
Michael: Yeah. No, it is as effective as it is on the webinars. Because with the pandemic, I have been on a number of client-facing meetings, and what do you do first when you meet somebody for the first time? You build rapport, and dogs is a very safe topic to ask. Since I know that two-thirds of the population have dogs, and there’s normally something, there is either a wallpaper on my laptop that shows the dog pictures, so when I hook up my computer to start the presentation, I’ll make a point to have my dog show up first, before anything else comes. That normally starts the conversation right there. So, it’s a really good icebreaker.
Then you get to know — something else I’ve done, again, prior to the pandemic, always meet with prospects the evening before, for dinner, so that you have the opportunity to have a conversation about something other than work. Even though I’m not sales, I’m just a consultant, I’m just a strategist, I’m just trying to help with insights, having this personal one-on-one connection and learning about animals that they have, hearing the stories, and you know how this goes. Folks pull out their phone, look at my pictures, and it goes back and forth. We’re just sharing pictures of dogs, and 10 minutes in, we’re best friends. The official meeting hasn’t even started yet.
John: Exactly. I love that so much, that you were doing that even before you read my book, but how much that resonated with you, just means so much, and how it’s not just bubble theory, make-believe. It’s like, no, no, this, legit, works, and it’s simple. It’s just maybe not easy.
Michael: Quite honestly, I find it very easy because it is, who wants to learn — if you meet for dinner, the evening before you have a business meeting, the client doesn’t want to hear about the software that you’re going to sell them. That’s really not the purpose. You want to have, on purpose, a discussion that is not related to the business topic that you’re discussing tomorrow. You really make a genuine effort in getting to know them, and I think the easiest way to do that is to be curious about them. If you have areas where you know it resonates with you very quickly, you ask about dogs or you ask about the children, and that normally leads to the dog discussion then.
John: Love it. I love it.
Michael: This can fill an entire dinner, just talking about children or furry companions. That’s really the whole purpose, getting to know them so that you don’t have to walk cold into the environment the next day.
John: Yeah, I love that so much. That’s such a great takeaway for everybody listening, is something to do that they could start right away, or having a meeting that’s intentionally about something that’s not selling you something.
Michael: Quite honestly, when I schedule my flights, I always schedule my own flights because I want to have the flexibility to arrive the afternoon before so that I can make it to dinner. That’s always the most important part of my interaction with the prospect. Because I’m not the one who has the opportunity to build rapport, over time, and go back every two weeks and meet with them. I’m normally just flown in for a one-time gig. They have something that they need. I have the piece of information I wanted to share. It’s a one-time opportunity. I need to be very efficient in the way I build relationships. I found, having that social contact, upfront, and speaking about nothing work-related is the best way to set up the professional meeting on the next day. Now, it doesn’t always work, but I think it’s a powerful method to use.
Something else that I found, over time, as a photographer, I work with Photoshop and Lightroom and all those pieces of software that are very sophisticated, and sometimes you want to pull out your hair because it doesn’t do what you want it to do, but I also found, in my work, in my consulting work, that I have become more visual. I really try to relate through visuals. We’re not talking pictures of dogs here. I’m just saying, how do I visualize the concept versus how do I describe it with words? Looking through a lens of a camera and seeing the world in pictures much more focused than the non-photographer, I think imagery has become a really powerful tool for me. That’s something that photography has — meaning, it has always been there, but photography has further enhanced that skill, and that’s really fun. Then, again, I always put the picture of the dog in the presentation as well.
John: Right. Whether it’s the presentations that you’re giving, or it’s the collateral that you’re giving to the client, or even just how you visualize things, because you’ve seen it through the Canon lens, you see the world differently than how we see it with just our naked eye.
Michael: It’s an active form of meditation, the way I’m looking at it, because you always look around. You acknowledge beauty around you differently than people that don’t stop and smell the roses, just to use that cliché. Because when I see a formation of clouds over the horizon in a tree line, and I might be driving down the road and the rest of the family is just staring out, looking for the traffic ahead of us, and I’m looking over to the side while driving, saying, “Beautiful clouds over there.” The comment from my wife is, “Focus on the traffic.”
John: Exactly, exactly.
Michael: You do appreciate the environment differently because it almost always feels like you frame something up in the camera, and that helps with visualizing. That helps with finding the right visuals to support a story. I think I’ve become, over time, a visual storyteller because of that.
John: That passion outside of work makes you better at work.
Michael: It’s also the energy that I’m generating, knowing that I’m saving lives. This doesn’t drop, the moment I sit down to do work work. Meaning, that carries over. It’s always in the back of my mind. I think it increases creativity. It makes me more and more productive. It makes me look at different angles. I think I’ve also become a better business person because running a nonprofit, it’s a shoestring operation, and every dollar I don’t spend on something else, I can use in order to help animals. Again, that’s also something that I carried over to the business world where I now ask the question, can we do this ourselves? Can we do this at half the cost? Do we have to do it now? Can we wait three months? All these questions make you really operate as if the business money is your own money.
John: It’s amazing how intertwined things are, if we step back and just think about it, where normally we don’t. Similar to the smelling the roses concept where, if we don’t take the time to step back and think about it, then we don’t think about it. We don’t realize it either. It’s just powerful to hear how much you’ve done on that, and it’s cool to hear. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe feels like, no one cares about my hobby, or it has nothing to do with my job?
Michael: I love brainstorming. I’m probably one of the world’s greatest brainstormers. Meaning, I’ll do a session or two, a day, just because I love it so much. I would say, if you take just — and it’s not a long amount of time that you need, but if you take five or 10 minutes, you sit down, and you just dump out every potential connection point, without a single filter, to say, what I do outside here is something that could benefit work in the following way. I included that in a presentation I was delivering a few weeks ago, and I randomly picked three things. I think a marathon runner was one of them, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club was one, and the third one, I can’t think of right now. I just picked randomly three and I said, okay, how could those things that I do in these environments, how could they be applicable at work? Because I wanted to challenge myself. After I did the first three, I did another three and another three. I could not come up with a single positive hobby or passion that I was not able to translate to something meaningful in a business environment.
Just to give you one example, the Boys and Girls Club, if you volunteer in that environment, you have to be a role model because they look up at you. They’re like little sponges. They soak everything in that they see. So you have to hold yourself accountable at a different level than being by yourself. You do that frequently enough, you assume that role model function. Well, guess what? They need role models at work. They need mentors at work. They need folks that step up and help others at work.
I would challenge, John, if there’s anyone who’s in your audience that says, I do something that cannot be translated; send it my way, and I’ll tell you what —
John: Provided it’s legal and not taboo, like on the fringe, then yeah, absolutely. It’s a very basic thing. If no one else does it at work, it humanizes you. As a leader, that’s super, super crucial that you are a human, as opposed to an all-knowing whatever, feared dictator-type, which a lot of leaders are in the corporate world, unfortunately. It’s kind of that. That’s awesome.
Michael: It’s sad, but some environments don’t encourage it. Quite honestly, even something as simple as putting something in your signature, email signature that gives some indication of what you love doing. Meaning, do something, it’s absolutely powerful.
John: Just show a little bit of the human and see what happens. Magic, for sure. Well, this has been so much fun, Michael. It’s only fair though, before I wrap this up, that I turn the tables, since I peppered you with questions so rudely right out of the beginning.
Michael: Yeah, it was terrible.
John: It was terrible. It was terrible. So, the first episode of the Michael Puck podcast. Thank you so much for having me on as your guest, despite all of your efforts to block me from being a guest.
Michael: Yeah, John, I was working hard on it, but in the end, you made it to the top of the list because there was no one else who wanted to be interviewed. So, let me ask you a couple of questions. Let’s get it over with quickly.
John: Okay. Okay.
Michael: Now, as I said, I enjoyed, and I hate saying this, but I really enjoyed reading your book.
John: Well, thank you, man. I appreciate it.
Michael: What do you plan to cover in your second book?
John: Oh, man, writing a book is hard, Michael. Writing a second book, I’m told, is easier, but when the first one’s really hard, the second one’s still hard. I don’t know yet. I guess the first book kind of had to be written. It kind of just presented itself of, this needs to be written, so I guess, whatever shows itself that needs to be.
I feel like some people want more of the stories from the podcasts, more of that. Some people want, well, what’s the next level thing? What’s like a 201 of this, implementing this? Now, when I speak, how does this affect lifetime employee value? If you ask, what’s your “and” at very important touch points of a person’s career at your organization, then how does that lengthen their stay? How does that improve their value that they’re providing to the organization? The area under the curve sort of concept.
Yeah, I don’t know, maybe seven more books, we’ll make it a whole series, Michael, and let’s go nuts. No. If it needs to be written, I’ll write it, but I don’t need to write a book just to write a book. That’s a lot of books.
Michael: To take the pain out of writing the book, just think about what topic would be fun to write about. Based on the feedback that you received, and I’ve seen you’ve gotten a lot of five star reviews on Amazon, probably plenty of questions, comments; is there anything that you recognized afterwards where you would have said, I would have loved to include this, but I wasn’t quite evolved enough in my thinking when I was writing the book, but now that I’m getting the questions about it, I’m thinking, ah, yeah, that would have been a great chapter or a great piece of information? Is there anything that you would want to add?
John: I guess, the writing the book, it wasn’t necessarily painful. It’s a journey. It’s a journey. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about your ideas. You learn a lot about, what is the philosophy that you’re throwing out there that’s unique, that’s you, that’s not already been said? Because I definitely pushed myself hard to write a book that hasn’t been written before. I don’t want another leadership book because there’s 100,000 of them. We don’t need another one. There was that.
I think that everything that needed to be in that book is in it. I think that I’m really proud of it, in the end. I guess because it’s only a couple of months old now, it’s not like anything glaring right now, but I do feel like maybe a little bit deeper on that lifetime value of the employee is a different concept that kind of puzzle pieces in with What’s Your “And”? So then, how do you use What’s Your “And”? How do you apply this more than just my module three that has some examples? I think people really need to see, how does this apply in the real world? How can we do this? Because people aren’t necessarily creative on their own to make it happen, so maybe something like that.
John: Excellent. Going back to the last piece of your book, what are your top two recommendations for companies to enable their people to bring their whole selves to work? You had only two pieces of recommendation you could give but it’s not something that’s impossible to do.
John: Yeah, I think the simplest, simplest ones are, and you brought up earlier, like the email signature, just at the bottom of your email signatures, I enjoy dogs and photography. It doesn’t have to say a label. It could just be, I enjoy this. Because then you don’t even have to be good at it, but it’s also in your email signature. Some people will see it, and some people won’t. Both ways are awesome. I guarantee that you just throw that in there, and it’s a subtle way to open the door for people to start to have a human conversation with you. That’s a simple one.
Another one that I’m a huge fan of, is a weekly coffee chat, which you can do virtual, you can also do in person, where it’s, every Monday at 9 am, we do 15 minutes of hang out and chat. How was the weekend? I know you were taking some pictures at this rescue. How did it go, Michael? Let’s see some of the pictures. Or I know you were running a marathon, how was it or whatever.
It’s asking people about those “ands” but in a dedicated meeting time that is not work, similar to your dinner before the sales meeting the next day. It’s a weekly thing with just your little team, your little department, doesn’t have to be 200 people or whatever. It’s a handful of people and just talk. How’s life? What’s up? Because then you understand what people are really going through and what’s going on outside of this. Especially with the pandemic and all that, there are so many things affecting people’s ability to do their job, and knowing those will help you understand things more. So, those are two simple, simple things that you could do.
Michael: That’s great, John. I appreciate you indulging me in those. We actually, at work, we started something a few weeks ago. We always have Monday morning meetings, and we bring our weekends into the conversation, but we wanted to be a little bit more focused on that. So the question now is, what’s your sunshine from the weekend? What’s your cloud from the weekend? You have two specific pieces of information to share. Then the rest of the team would just go around the table. Everyone is sharing. There’s good dialogue around it. You get to know people better. Exactly what you just said, it’s a mechanism, but it’s not just hyping on the positive. It’s also saying, hey, if something went wrong, feel free to share it. Because even there is opportunity to help and to console and to be human.
John: I love it. That’s a such a great example. That’s why it’s your podcast. That’s exactly it. So, thanks, man, for having me on. I appreciate it, Michael. No, but this has been so much fun and really great and so many great takeaways for everybody listening. Thank you so much, Michael, for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Michael: John, absolutely my pleasure. As I said, I hugely enjoyed reading the book. I have enjoyed every single conversation we had so far, and today was certainly no exception either.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Michael’s work or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re in the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.