[The following is the full raw transcript for a LEADx Podcast interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity.]
Kevin Kruse: We talk about a three-part framework for great communication, the one thing you have to do at every job interview, and a lot more. First, our quote of the day comes from Sheryl Sandberg, from her book, Lean In. “I learned that effective communication starts with the understanding that there is my point of view, my truth, and someone else's point of view, his truth. Rarely is there one absolute truth. So people who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others.”
Before I introduce our guest, don't forget that if you want to learn how to give effective feedback using the BIG methodology … And this is what turned me personally from a conflict-avoiding loser boss who people didn't want to work for, into a great place to work, award-winning boss. You can learn this BIG methodology at LEADx.org, and sign up for the free trial to the LEADxAcademy.
Our guest today is a best-selling author, executive coach, co-founder and COO of Pinnacle Performance Company. He's coached some of the world's top executives on their communication skills. We had him on before to talk about his book, The Pin Drop Principle, and now his new book is The Bullseye Principle: Mastering Intention-Based Communication to Collaborate, Execute, and Succeed. Our guest is G. Riley Mills. Gary, welcome back to the show.
Mills: Thank you very much, great to be here as always.
Kruse: I think, Gary, you might be only the second, maybe the third person that I've had as a repeat guest in over 250 guests, so I hope you feel special about that.
Mills: I do. I'm very honored. What a way to kick off my Friday.
Kruse: Now it was almost I think a year ago when I had you on. We were chatting about The Pin Drop Principle. We've kept in touch since then. I'm excited. I mentioned in your intro the new book, again, The Bullseye Principle: Mastering Intention-Based Communication to Collaborate, Execute, and Succeed. But before we talk about the book, my new first question I always ask people is give us some help for our young, first-time managers. What leadership advice would you give to a first-time manager?
Mills: Ooh, I love the question. So here's, very simply, the information I would give to a first-time manager, a young leader, or a seasoned leader, a seasoned manager. You've got to communicate effectively. Wall Street Journal, we talk about it in The Bullseye Principle, came out with a study recently. They asked 900 senior leaders and executives what's the most important thing about success for your folks or your team. They said communication. Ninety-two percent said communication and collaboration is just as important or more important than the technical skills. So I would say you've got to communicate effectively to your people.
Kruse: Love that. Literally, 10 minutes before we went on the air, I think I was surfing a social media feed or something. I stumbled on this article that said scientific analysis of what people are most interested in from all those TED and TEDx talks, and the number-one thing was communication, so that category more than anything. Again, Gary, the new book, The Bullseye Principle, what's the big idea? Why'd you want to write another book?
Mills: The Pin Drop Principle came out about five years ago, and you know how challenging it is to write a book. It's tough. It takes a couple of years out of your life. When we finished that book, I said, okay, I'm never doing that again.
Kruse: I say that after every book.
Mills: It was intense. It was exciting, but I said everything I needed to say in that book. We're done with it, so just go read that book. Over the last five years though, my cofounder, coauthor, David Lewis and I, we've been traveling around the world doing coaching and training for our company, Pinnacle Performance, and we noticed the way people run meetings, the way people create visual aids, the way they collaborate, the way they cooperate, the way they communicate, everything is starting to evolve and change because time is difficult, and there's people all over the world. You've got a team in India. You've got a team over here. We notice things changing, and then, of course, Trump came in, and that changed the way people communicate and take in information and deal with each other. We felt it was time. It was time again to revisit some of these concepts and ideas that we touched upon in The Pin Drop Principle, and that's where The Bullseye Principle came about.
In the front of The Bullseye Principle, there's a quote that frames up the whole book that is, “When the archer misses the mark, failure to hit the bullseye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself.” The archer doesn't blame the target if they miss the bullseye, same thing with all of us as leaders and communicators. It's your job to hit the bullseye with that audience, whether it's running a meeting, delivering a presentation, pitching your new book. You've got to hit the bullseye with that audience so they feel the way you want them to feel and do what you want them to do. That's what this book is about.
It's 10 different chapters. If you want to succeed in your role in your industry at your company, here's the 10 areas you have to communicate effectively in. We talk you through why each one's important, whether it's interviewing for a job, running a great meeting, defining your personal brand, building relationships, being able to inspire other people. We take you through it in each chapter, and then at the end there's what we call a Blueprint to Bullseye, which is a template, a guide that's going to help you actually apply everything that we talked about in the actual chapter.
Kruse: Wow, you said so much good stuff there. I want to make sure that our listeners really understood the power of that quote because it's not just a throwaway or an inspirational thing. It really is important and practical. It's certainly great to … We need to be accountable. We need to take ownership of our own communication success or failure, but specifically, now, I'm not a young dog in this. I'm an old dog in this game, and it was probably only a couple of months ago that I had a team member, and I was getting frustrated because we were having a communication problem. I teach this stuff, Gary, and yet my default reaction was, oh, my gosh, this person has an issue. What's wrong with this person? I'm having trouble with this person. I'm putting it on them, on them, on them.
Finally, I was able to just kind of let the emotion settle down and said, okay, if this is my fault, how could it be my fault? I started to think about it, and I thought, you know what, when I assigned that thing, I never explicitly said when the deadline was. I didn't say I needed it by the end of the day. Or when I said I needed it tomorrow, was that at 9:00 in the morning or at 5:00 p.m.? It was a simple communication thing, but even after all these years, my default was what's wrong with them. They're not hearing me and giving me what I want. As soon as I slowed down and said let's pretend it's my fault. How could I take some ownership? I saw a whole bunch of ways I could do better, and things have improved as I've gotten better in my communication.
Mills: That's great leader communication because it shows self-awareness. It shows receptivity, that, hey, I'm open to what did I do wrong. Tell me what I did wrong. You know the main reason people give for wanting to quit their job or leave their job? Poor relationship with the boss.
Kruse: That's right.
Mills: That's what most studies show. It's not the workload. It's not how much money they get paid. It's “I can't deal with her anymore,” Or “I can't work for him; I'm out of here.” Another study we talk about in Bullseye, 71% of people feel their bosses don't communicate effectively to them. That's a huge number.
Kruse: Very huge number.
Mills: For all of us, like you, like me, who have people who report to us, we're the manager; we're the director; we're the boss. How much of that 71% … Do we fall into that sometimes? How can we improve that? Sixty-five percent of people want more feedback. That's a study that we talk about in the book too, 65%. Tell me what I'm doing wrong, what I can do better. They're not getting the feedback that they need. If you work with Millennials, the younger workforce now, they want more feedback. In fact, they want to give you feedback.
Kruse: They want it in both directions.
Mills: They want it in both directions. I don't care that you've been the master of this for the last 25 years; I'm going to give you feedback on what I think you can do better.
Kruse: That's right. You also walked through a lot of the topics in the book, and, again, I wanted to really emphasize that with our listeners too because, unlike other communication books out there that are solid on theory so you get some theory, you've got your theory. You've got your model. But then you show how to apply it in so many areas. You've got a chapter about how to define your personal brand, how to land the job, communicating like a leader, motivating others, building relationships, handling these difficult conversations, how to run meetings, make a sale. I just want to stress to the leaders: This is very action-oriented in that blueprint. In this short-format podcast, we can't go through all of that material, but I want to touch on a couple.
You mentioned the feedback one, and I love that topic because, as a young leader, I just basically avoided giving feedback. I was so non-confrontational. I didn't know how to do it. No one told me how to do it. It's still not something that's fun for me, but I do it better now, and I think it's such an important topic. So give me some advice on that topic.
Mills: In the book, we do both “Here's how to give feedback effectively,” but also there's a piece in there on how to receive feedback effectively because a lot of people aren't very good at receiving feedback. The walls go up. The dukes come out, and they get very defensive being criticized because our job is on the line. We take it personally, ego, all of those things. I think, when giving feedback, another study in the book, Brigham Young did a study, and they found that people like you to get to the point. I screwed up and you're my boss. You're calling me in to tell me I screwed up and the consequences. Don't fudge around. Don't beat around the bush. Don't sugarcoat it. Just get to it. We don't like a lot of padding at the beginning is what that study found.
So I think state it clearly and absolutely. It's a fact. It's not up for negotiation. This happened, and it shouldn't have, and so now we're going to fix it. Keep it professional, not personal. Stay to the topic at hand. This is not the time to also say, and you screwed that up last week too, by the way. So keep it right to the topic. Make sure you're offering support. Make sure you're offering an action plan for them after this meeting. Let's talk again once you've had time to let it sink in and absorb what we've talked about. Also, as we talk about through the entire book, preparation is key. So before this meeting, I'm going to think about how is Kevin going to respond when I tell him he screwed this up. He made a mistake. He didn't follow this procedure. What questions might he come back at me with? I have to have the answers ready for those so I'm not caught off guard because, in fairness, I want to have you be able to ask me questions about what I've just talked to you about.
Kruse: Preparation is key. You can't wing it. People are going to think I'm making this story up, Gary, but when I was at my worst, young and dumb. I was in my 20s. I had a salesperson reporting to me. Over six months, he just wasn't working out, missing his numbers. I was working with him, working with him. Finally … And, again, I was so non-confrontational. I didn't know how to do this, and I said, alright, this is the day, I've got to tell him. He's got to hit this number this month, or we've got to let him go. He comes in, and, of course, I think, to soften the blow, to make it easier, I start beating around the bush. Hey, how do you think things have been going lately? Do you think things have gotten better since last month? I mean, where do you think you stand? What do you think your numbers will be? I start meandering around all the … He thinks we're just having a conversation about his numbers.
He starts telling me about… You talk to any salesperson, even on the day you're going to fire them, and it's like, “Oh, I've got all these leads, and this is 80% going to close.” None of them say, “Yeah, you're right, I'm horrible at this job.” By the time this turned into a 45-minute conversation, I think he walked out of my office thinking he was going to get a bonus if he hit his numbers at the end of the month. Somehow, instead of him walking out knowing that he was going to be fired, it became such a meandering conversation, I think he felt good about it, that he was going to get a bonus if he hit these numbers, not I'm going to be fired if I don't hit these numbers. I totally screwed it up. If I could have just started by getting to the point and then talking about the issue if he wanted to talk about it, it would have gone so much better.
Mills: True. One of the things we talk about in our training and our methodology is the idea of having on objective. What's my objective? What do I want at the end of this communication? Then what's my intention, a one-word verb that's going to activate my delivery and my body language, my voice, my word choices, that's going to make me accomplish that objective? I want to what my audience so they do what. If I want this person to improve, I've got to either reprimand, inspire, challenge, persuade, motivate. Those are all going to be choices, and depending on which one I choose, it's going to affect how the emotions of this person are affected and how they behave as a result of hearing what I have to say.
Kruse: I love that because, if I think back to this very real case, the one-word verb I would have chosen early on in that relationship might be motivate or inspire or something, and that verb would change when it gets to month six or seven and there's no performance. But I never paused to think about that, like, okay, what is this verb that is my intent, and what is the intent?
Mills: Just because it was clear to you, we can't assume it's clear to the other person. We have to make sure it's delivered that the bullseye, that the arrow hits that bullseye and doesn't fly off into the woods. We know what the arrow is. We're clear about it, but it's got to hit the bullseye.
Kruse: Now I just gave an embarrassing story about having to let someone go, but let's go to the beginning when we're trying to get a job, we're trying to start a job. There's a lot of interviewing advice, how to conduct yourself in an interview, how to nail an interview. How is your recommendations different? What do you suggest we do when we're looking for that job?
Mills: So that formula of “I want to blank my audience so they do what,” putting intention in the first slot, objective the in the second, same thing with an interview. You're going to start by, what do I want? Well, I want this job. I want them to see me as the person they have to hire. They wouldn't want to lose me. Now I'm going to go back and go, what intentions am I going to choose to make them feel a certain way so that they hire me for the job? I may want to excite them. I may want to entice them. Hey, here's something interesting you maybe didn't know about me; I'm going to slip that in. I may want to motivate them to ask me more questions. I may inspire them with something I've done in the past. All of those intentions are going to be great. But when you think about, people who are hiring managers who are trying to find the right person for the right job, they want you to be the one. That's a hard process, so they want you to come in and nail it. Preparation is key. That's one of the things, in the book, in Land the Job, we take you through here's all the information you should have ready to go for this interview. That's the first thing.
I'll tell you the one thing that I will never hire a candidate for Pinnacle if this happens. I sit down. It's between maybe a couple of candidates for the job. They all have the qualifications. They're great. I sit down for my first face-to-face with them. I go through everything. I go through everything. I give them all the information, and at the end, I always end with, do you have any questions for me? At that point, if they don't have any questions for me, I will generally not hire them because it tells me a couple of things. Number one, it tells me you didn't do a lot of research into what we do because you should have some questions. Number two, I want to see some curiosity. I want to see some passion. I want to see some interest, hey, anything, anything that you can ask about the company. Hey, how did you start this? What's the biggest challenge that you see for your industry going forward? Where do you position yourself in the industry? Where do you see the company in five years? What's your personal challenge right now with what's going on? How is technology affecting you? How long did it take you to write that book? How'd you come up with the idea for your new book? All those are great. They show curiosity. I'm always looking for that.
Kruse: Look how many things you just rattled off. I'm with you on that. At the very least, ask questions that show that you did some homework. You went on the website. You did some research. You Googled them, whatever it is. You checked out their
profile on LinkedIn and you're asking just even to send that signal that you put a little effort in, right?
Kruse: Last summer, I've got three kids, my oldest daughter Amanda, she was interviewing for internships during the summer. She had never gone out interviewing before, and I asked her, do you want some advice from dad? Do you want to roleplay a little? She's like, “Leave me alone, dad. I've got this,” one of those things. Then her very first interview she's trying to land at a marketing agency nearby, and I'm like, how did it go? “Well,” she says, “it kind of went weird,” and I said, why is that? She says, “Well, they asked me a bunch of questions, and I answered them. I think that part went fine. But then they asked, do you have any questions for us? I thought that was strange, and I didn't have any questions for them.” My head almost exploded because, of course, to us … She's 17 years old, 18 years old.
I'm like, Amanda, you've got to be ready with questions. She's like, “Well, what do you ask them about?” I just went through as you said. It shows you didn't do the research. Here are the things you can ask about. I think that is, for a lot of people, where you can differentiate yourself.
Mills: In the book, we give you the questions, by the way. In the book, we give you-
Kruse: There you go.
Mills: We give you questions so you don't have to try to think of what to ask. Pick one of these.
Kruse: That's an area that they can really set themselves apart from others who have memorized the model response to tell me your weakness or whatever.
Mills: Also, I love the idea of what's the one thing you're really passionate about. Find a way to somehow get that in. It's not that hard, right? Hey, you just climbed Mount Everest or you just climbed the three tallest peaks in Europe or you just finished your first marathon, find a place to slip that in because it tells us who you are. It tells us something about you, and it's great.
Kruse: I love it.
Mills: [It] sets you apart.
Kruse: Let me ask a final question, Gary. From any part of your book … Again, you cover so many areas. If you remember from a year ago, I like to end on a challenge, challenge our listeners to get a little bit better. Give us some advice, something that we can do today.
Mills: Great. So here's what I'll give you. I'll give you the gold right here. Number one, you've got to have an objective. Whether it's a presentation, whether it's a webinar, whether it's a meeting, a performance review, you've got to have something you want as a result of that communication taking place. A lot of times, people don't. A recent study came out, 46% of people leave meetings not knowing what to do with that information. That's a horrible meeting because meetings are about creating in the book what we call meetings assets, decisions being made, consensus being come to, action items being developed. You've got to develop meeting assets. Have a goal, and then choose an intention that's going to help you achieve that goal. I want to inspire. I want to motivate. I want to challenge. I want to reprimand. I want to reassure. Then let your body language communicate that, your voice, gestures, body language, word choices. Communicate that intention.
There's a very quick, three-step process for influential communication that we call the Pinnacle Method. It's what the book is about. Step number one, you have to analyze your audience. In the book, of course, we show you how to do that. Who are they? What do they know? What do they not know? You've got to start there. Second, you've got to understand how you want them to feel and what you want them to do as a result of hearing your meeting, seeing your presentation or attending your webinar. Then the third step, once you understand what you want from them and how you want them to feel, you're going to modify delivery. Like a professional actor, your voice, your gestures, your body language, your preparation all has to be congruent and aligned so that there's clarity of message so that arrow that is your message hits the bullseye every single time.
Kruse: Love it. So, listeners, just think about the next meeting you're going into, that you've called for, the next presentation to your boss, whatever it is. Walk through this process, and prepare, and be intentional. Gary, what's the best way for our listeners to find out more about you, your work, and, of course, your new book?
Mills: Go to PinPer.com. That's the Pinnacle Performance Company. That's our global communication skills training firm. We train in almost 50 countries, in six languages around the world. PinPer.com. If you have questions for me, I'm happy to answer them. You can reach me there. You can find me on LinkedIn, and you can get Bullseye on Amazon or wherever great books are sold.