As entrepreneurs and leaders, we want to make a difference in our organizations and the world. But, how can we create an environment where people can grow and thrive? What are ways we can pay attention to our team consistently? Let’s listen to this episode as we sit down for a conversation with Stoyan Yankov to talk about the seven pillars of building a strong team culture. Stoyan is a productivity coach on a mission to help business leaders accelerate team performance and shape strong culture while enjoying happy lives. Today, he shares valuable insights on the importance of these seven pillars in making people empowered, result-driven, and fulfilled. He explains how we can align our goals to the values of our organization. It’s time to find out how we can support and help our entire company grow while shaping our culture most effectively.
We are so excited to have you here. As always, we bring on an excellent guest to bring you a lot of valuable information and some great takeaways. If this is your first time, I want to officially welcome you. If you are a loyal reader, welcome back. We’re excited to have you here as well. We love our loyal readers because it keeps us going. Our main goal here is to give you so much value, information, and things that you can implement at your job and in your business and to engage, energize, and elevate your employees and company.
We do that by bringing on guest speakers. We’re a bit of a global panel. We’re tuning in from a little bit of everywhere. Bless technology. My name is Jules. I’m going to be introducing our speaker and the rest of our panel. I want to let you know too that this is conversational. It’s not rigid and structured. To introduce you to everyone, we have Char first up. Char is an entrepreneur. She runs multiple businesses from all around the world, from Colorado down to Mexico and everywhere in between.
She also has a very extensive experience in human resources. She came from the corporate world before starting her business. We also have Howard. He works with CompTeam. He’s a compensation advisor and expert. He does a bit of HR consulting as well. He is great at leveraging software to help companies thrive in the areas of compensation and talent management. Sumit went missing. He won’t be joining us but he is a regular here. Hopefully, we will see him back.
Lastly, we have Sam. He is the Founder of CompTeam and the Managing Consultant there. He started this business a couple of years ago. He came from the corporate world as well, but he is an expert when it comes to compensation and talent management. He has helped so many companies improve and implement better compensation, talent programs, and initiatives. He’s a very busy guy. That takes me to our guest speaker coming to us from Bulgaria with the beautiful beaches. He’s got the ocean view behind him.
This is Stoyan Yankov. We’re excited to have him here. He is going to be sharing the seven pillars of building a team culture. He’s experienced in this area because he’s a productivity coach, an author, and a keynote speaker. He has his podcast. He‘s also a busy guy because he has helped over 300 organizations, spoken in 30-plus countries, and written books helping organizations all the time. We’re excited that he had a little bit of time for us. I’m going to pass it over to Stoyan. Welcome. We’re so happy that you’re here.
I’m super excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me. By having interactions with the team prior to and in preparations for this conversation, everybody is so nice, cute, and helping. We had a conversation with Sam. I asked him, “What is the objective? What is the higher purpose of this show?” Everything he shared had nothing to do with business. I loved this because that was behind the scenes. He can be honest.
He was like, “We want to bring people together and inspire people to have happier and more productive work cultures.” Those of you who are reading, do yourself a favor. If you haven’t subscribed to the show, go to Spotify or Apple Podcasts. I was listening to a few episodes. It’s brilliant. I love it. I’m not saying that because I’m here and you are cool but they’re meaningful conversations, sharp hosts, and kind people. Make sure to subscribe before you forget.
Stoyan changed his shirt so he could match Char and me. If you’ve seen Mean Girls, on Wednesdays, we wear pink. He went out and got that. You’re plugging the show. I just wanted to interject and say that we love your commitment already.You have to figure out how to keep your people motivated and engaged because you want to work with them long-term. Click To Tweet
That has never happened in the entire time of forum. You’re the first to pick up. We have people change their lipsticks but not their shirts.
It’s wonderful having you on, Stoyan. You were broadcasting in one of your beautiful locations. Where are you?
I’m in a city called Balchik, which is on the Black Sea. It’s in Bulgaria. It’s a beautiful resort with fantastic seafood and wonderful beaches. It is my holiday but I couldn’t say no to these fantastic opportunities. Thank you for having me.
One of the great things about modern-day life is that people can work and join in from all over the world in beautiful locations. I know that we often see Char in some exotic locations in Mexico and so forth. It’s wonderful to see that you’re enjoying the beauty out there. As we get into the conversation, one of the things that I would love to hear is a little bit more about your background and how you came to help the people that you help. What drove you to write the book, Perform? Tell us all about it.
In some way, the United States will be involved in the story. I spent a couple of summers in Massachusetts and Cape Cod. It was a program called Work in Trouble. Students will go there, spend some time, and travel across the country. That drove me onto my personal journey into exploring the world. I decided, “I’m going to do my Master’s in Europe because it was cheaper at that time. I’m going to go to the US and become a Wall Street banker.”
That was my dream. I started a Bachelor in Finance. I subscribed to do a Master’s degree in Finance at Aarhus University in Denmark. Little did I know there would be another passion of mine that would take over at that time, but I would spend every single free hour organizing film festivals and directing and producing videos and movies.
At some point, I had to decide, “Should I write my Master’s thesis on some financial topic around financial markets, or should I go for my passion?” I don’t know about you but it seems like we’re on the same page. I always go for my passion. I was like, “I don’t know how I’m going to make money but I need to go all-in on this movie thing because otherwise, for my whole life, I’ll be regretting this.”
I entered the movie industry from a business angle and became a producer. I knew the business world and the creative storytelling world to some extent. I started a video production company in Denmark. I don’t know how many of you are in creative industries, but when we’re producing videos and movies, you’re always behind time, people, and budget. You have 7 production days if you want to get all your shots but you only have the budget for 2 or 3.
How do you motivate your team to get things done to get the results that you want while keeping them motivated and engaged? It’s not just for one project because you want to work with people for the long run. This fascination for productivity and team motivation brought me onto a journey of doing what I do working with companies and, in many ways relating to what you are sharing as well.
How can we empower leaders to create cultures that are not just productive? Being result-driven is very important but also a place where people feel fulfilled, empowered, and happy. How can we find this balance not just in the PR department? We are a people-first company, but in what ways can we create this environment? This is how the methodology and the Perform book came to fruition.
I teamed up with the managing director and the CEO of Europe’s leading startup acceleration program. It’s called Startup Wise Guys. We have been working closely together for a number of years. Both of us are passionate about culture and productivity. With what you’re going to find here and what we’re going to talk about, disclaimer, you’re probably not going to find anything new, or if there’s something new, it will be 5% to 10%. It’s not about what we know. It’s about what we do consistently.
PERFORM is a simple methodology that can provide leaders with a holistic bird’s eye view of their culture and team. In your dynamic life as a leader, no matter if you’re a leader in a large organization, a mid-level manager, a founder, or an entrepreneur, how can you pay attention to your team and culture on a consistent basis? It’s a very structured approach filled with many practical examples.
We have interviewed over 50 successful entrepreneurs and CEOs only for the book. I’m leading a podcast. We talk to so many fantastic people. I’ve already interviewed over 120 people on the podcast. I’m trying to get their brains. What is working in these specific areas or these seven pillars that we were going to talk about? Every company is different.
What we’re going to share is probably going to work for everybody but it might be one idea. There might be two ideas that are important for you and your team at the moment. I’m happy and passionate to continue on this journey and connect with more people like you who want to support and help people. Hopefully, we can have a little fun as well.
I’m excited to hear more about the seven pillars, but I know a lot of our readers out there are saying, “I want my company to perform better. I want the people in my company to live their best lives, be high-performers, and so forth.” When should a leader take action? What are the first steps that they should be thinking about to achieve and increase performance in their organization and have their people be happier overall?
This is the first part. PERFORM is an acronym. It’s not accidental that the first area is called Purpose and Values. This is the first place you want to look into. It’s about defining the culture. If you’re a founder or an entrepreneur, even if you’re early-stage or you have a couple of people in a garage, you need to start talking about this type of topic from day one. This is not my insight.Effective leadership is all about what we do consistently. Click To Tweet
Through hundreds of interviews, I ask unicorn founders and successful entrepreneurs. They either will tell me, “You’ve got to talk about the purpose and values from day one. I wish we started having this conversation from day one because when we become twenty people, now we have to scale. We’ve got new funding round, but we haven’t defined the culture. It is hard to do it then.”
If you’re a leader in a large organization and maybe you just got hired, you might want to check this area. Is everybody clear? Why do we do what we do? What is the bigger purpose of the organization? People are getting paychecks. They have their roles and responsibilities. That’s important but is everybody aligned and clear? What’s our mission? What is the change and values we want to bring to the world?
What most people are looking for is those purpose-driven organizations. They want to make a difference in the world. As leaders, if we don’t make clear what our company is about and what we’re trying to achieve and do, then we’re not going to inspire those people. It’s a huge opportunity to engage our folks. Get them going and excited.
I’ll give you an example. I had somebody on the show. You should get in touch with her. Her name is Lubomila Jordanova. She’s the Founder of a company called Plan A, which is all about combating climate change. They have specific software that corporate larger organizations can use to track their emissions, but Lubomila never talks about the product. She goes to conferences and major podcasts. She’s excited about the cause and the purpose.
She talks about the consequences of climate change, the why, and the cause. Because they grow fast, they landed the funding round. There are more than 100 people now in less than three years. I asked her, “How do you attract exceptionally gifted talent with this super fast growth?” She was like, “The best thing is we never have to look for talent. We have a waiting list of people who want to join us because, first of all, they relate to the purpose, the goals, and the mission. Secondly, we get a lot of referrals because people love the culture.”
That’s the thing. Hopefully, people who are reading can take this in. Maybe you cannot afford to pay the salary like what McKinsey, BCG, and the larger organizations can afford to pay, but compensation is not only financial. People in this day and age want to be part of something, have responsibility and ownership, and make a change. There’s a lot more to it, but where do we start? Start by defining the culture and be extremely radical about who you let in your organization. Who do we say yes to?
“I interviewed this guy, Michael. He’s exceptional. We can get him for this amount,” but he doesn’t fit the culture and the values. Don’t do that. In short-term, you might lose a little bit of performance but if you are very strict about who you let in, you have a chance to build a fantastic culture. You had some episodes about the Great Resignation. We can talk about these things as well. I promise you that you will have higher motivation and employee retention if you focus on building a culture and if you’re an example of living this culture.
I appreciate the point you made there about ensuring you let the right people in. Char has a great story about a situation where there was a disruptor in her organization that created a lot of problems. That starts taking away on other people. They don’t want to show up at work. Char, tell us a little bit about that.
I’ve wanted to give you a shout-out and say that’s spot-on. I remember that we brought in a partner when my fiance and I started this business. We stood in front of the whiteboard for some time talking about the vision of the company, the sales strategies, and the productivity strategies because this gentleman was apparently some massive sales expert. That’s not our forte.
A year and a half later, the way he treated our employees and talked to some of my staff and some of the hiring decisions that he made were cutthroat attitudes. What I ended up doing was trying to keep him out of the meetings, and then I started kicking myself like, “I’m a talent management strategist. Why did I allow this individual into our company?”
He ultimately became a silent partner that collected the paychecks and did nothing. I was always resentful. Sam has lived through it. He got to hear my commentary about this dude. Fortunately, our company has been successful despite this antagonist. It’s important even as a startup or a small business starting in the garage. I am with you. You need to make sure you’re partnered with the right people.
Maybe I can even share a story. My first more serious business venture was a video production company in Denmark. We started producing these amazing Hollywood-looking pictures and videos. I had a business partner, a Danish producer. He’s a fantastic guy. I learned so much from the guy. We were doing a lot of cool things, but I never knew that I had to talk to my partner and align on the vision, the values, the purpose, and managing expectations. Why do we do this? If everything goes to plan, how much do you want to work in this company for 3 or 5 years in the future?
What are we leading to? What is the vision in terms of the size of the team, the customers we want to serve, and so on? At some point, both of us realized, “We’re so different. We have different ambitions. We like to do things differently.” Even though together as a team, we were strong in producing exceptional products for clients, there was a huge misalignment, which led to stress on both sides, us splitting up, and going in different directions.
One of the red flags I realized at the beginning is this individual didn’t even want a job description. He was above and beyond a job description. I said, “Even the CEO or the president, all of us have job descriptions and accountabilities. We understand how we work better together.” All the things that I always said my entire career hit me in the face.
I was fairly new to the entrepreneurial space back in 2016 or 2017. It was one thing to sit at a table as an HR person and an HR business partner and say, “CEO or president, here’s how we’re going to change our culture. This is what we’re going to do to drive culture in this company.” When you own your business and you’re worried about paying the house payment, your staff, and your payroll, which was my biggest worry, it’s extremely awakening.
Purpose and values are super important. Stoyan, tell us about the next letter in PERFORM. What is the next piece that we need to think about?Your employees are not just after financial achievements. In this day and age, people want to be part of something. They want to have responsibility and ownership. They want to make a change. Click To Tweet
E is my favorite one because I’m a geek when it comes to productivity, efficiency, and so on. E stands for Effective Planning. As an organization, how do we set objectives? What are the system methodologies that we use? How frequently do we do them? What strategy sessions do we have? How do we ensure that everybody is clear on what their priorities are? It sounds very simple.
I’ve done hundreds of workshops with hundreds of companies. Almost nobody gets it right. You go to an organization and ask the managers, executives, or leaders, “Can you tell me what are the top three priorities of the people that you directly manage?” They say, “I don’t know. I know but I’m not sure they do.” You talk to them. There’s so much misalignment.
I want to share a metaphor that I heard from one of the guests of my show, Productivity Mastery. His name is Shane Hurlbut. He’s a Hollywood director of photography. He’s a guy who shot movies like Terminator: Salvation, Need for Speed, Game of Thrones, and major productions. He’s one of the top guys out there. I asked him about leadership, and he said, “One of my biggest challenges as a leader is to make sure that every person from the team is making the same movie.”
He sometimes had 250 people in the camera department, “If we go on set and everybody is trying to make a different movie, we will end up with a very interesting production.” It’s the same as what we do in business. Are we all making the same movie? Are the marketing, sales, and operations department making the same movie? Maybe it’s something to reflect on.
Effective planning is an exceptionally important area. It’s to master the area and make it simple. Sometimes we can go too far and make it so complicated and useless. Simplicity wins. How can we create structures that make it simple for people to be clear about what the goals and objectives are on a day-to-day basis as leaders to coach our people to be better in self-management and master their time management? That’s the core of the second area.
Howard has been there as well as far as ensuring that goals are in alignment across the organization. Howard, as far as goals and alignment, what’s your experience with larger companies?
I was thinking about that. The challenges in a large company are astronomical. In a small startup, you have a chance to say everything is new and you’re growing but if you’re in a company with thousands of employees and all the different departments, everyone is doing their thing. It becomes challenging. How do you get everyone in alignment?
You may think you have this great mission and value statement, but a lot of times, it’s just words on paper. It’s getting people to embody it and living it every day. How do you enforce it? How do you get rid of the people that are not buying in but they’re seen as top performers? I don’t know if you’ve had experience with that or not in terms of consulting work, but it’s probably quite difficult.
I worked once with a client in Denmark. It’s a large Danish company and we did a workshop on values, purpose, and culture. I start with the question, “Out of curiosity, can you name your company values?” Zero hands go up. One guy raises his hand, “We do have some values on the webpage.” I say, “What are they? Tell me one.” Everybody is quiet. It’s like, “It doesn’t matter. It’s for the HR department.”
It’s interesting. The HR lady was in the back. She was not feeling happy about the answer, but that’s what happened. How do we not just have a list of values that the leadership decided on, or a consultancy came in and brought these things? I want to share something that I learned from a gentleman called Chris Robbins. He’s the CEO of the leading Estonian telco. It’s called Tele2. Chris is a value-driven leader. He has been in different organizations and he’s a CEO of an organization now.
The first thing he does when he enters an organization is, “I need to figure out what are the values of your organization but I don’t want the executives to tell me.” For those of you who are in a large company, maybe that could be useful for you. He goes and talks to everybody like the cleaner, the marketing person, and the IT. He asked them, “Can you name somebody who’s a Tele2 person?” It could be a Pepsi person or an Apple person.
Usually, people are like, “There’s Michael and Maria.” He brings those people that everybody names as a Tele2 person. They are the heart of the organization. He sends them to a company retreat. He has a rule, “No executives nor myself can join this. Go to this company off-site. I want you to define and articulate what are the 3 to 5 values that we as an organization stand for. What are the behaviors that if you see us from outside, this is who we are?”
He’s like, “Every time we do it, it’s the truth and authentic. This is who we are.” You might agree afterward with the leadership, “That makes sense. That’s great,” but you want to observe. “We are punctual and honest.” Are you? If we ask twenty people from your organization, are they going to say that’s the truth? Who are we? What is the core of our DNA? Hopefully, some of your audience can get some inspiration from this example by Chris Robbins.
Having those conversations and merely talking to your people is so important. You were talking about effective planning and goal-setting. I went into an organization once. They were saying, “There’s too much bureaucracy.” I interviewed people and talked to people in recruiting. I said, “What’s going on?” They said, “One of our goals this year is we’re trying to hire as many people as we can because we’re growing so fast. We need to get this in, but we always get this pushback. It’s difficult to get things done.” I went in, “Who do you get pushback from?”
They’re like, “From Finance. They’re the ones that are doing the approvals.” I went into finance, and I go, “What are some of the problems that you’re having?” They’re like, “We constantly are having problems trying to meet our goals. People are challenging us all the time.” I go, “Tell me what’s going on with recruiting.” They said, “They’re constantly coming over and trying to hire people as fast as they can. They have these rates that are higher than what we’re used to.”
I go, “What’s your goal?” They said, “Our goal is cost containment.” They have recruiting that is trying to hire people as fast as they can, and then in finance, it’s cost containment. They’re rubbing up against one another. Part of the thing is that a lot of companies, especially large organizations, simply don’t spend enough time talking to one another, understanding what their goals are, and working together to accomplish something. I’m glad that’s part of your acronym there. Stoyan, what is the next letter in the fold here?Effective planning is an important area to master. We have to make it simple. Sometimes we can go too far and make it complicated and useless, but simplicity wins. Click To Tweet
The first R stands for Roles and Responsibilities. I have to be honest with you. Me and my co-author were sitting together and lining up the framework. We were like, “What should be the R? We’re missing an R.” I said, “How about roles and responsibilities?” Everybody knows what their roles are. He’s the CEO of the company. She’s the CTO, but what do we do?
The chief marketing officer of one company is going to have completely different responsibilities from the chief marketing officer of another company. The more we started doing workshops, training, and coaching organizations, the more we realized this is the area that probably is the most neglected one because it’s so obvious and common. We are so busy doing stuff that we forget to have these conversations and create alignment.
In a large organization, it’s hard to define and clarify what responsibilities are. This is probably the number one complaint I get from employees, “I don’t know what my priorities and my responsibilities are. I have a few places where I’m delegating tasks from. I don’t know what to prioritize. Is that my priority? Is it my colleague’s? It’s hard for me to manage my time.”
Roles and Responsibilities are an exceptionally important area. It’s connected to talent attraction. One thing that I hope we can push forward even more, and I’m happy that we are on the same page on that one. Many organizations are still hiring and attracting people and even delegating responsibilities mainly based on what people’s strengths and skillsets are.
It’s a necessity. We need to have strengths and be skilled in a specific position or role we’re put into, but if you want to retain people and if you want people to be engaged and motivated, this is the role of every manager. Part of the description is to consistently have conversations and understand what the people that they were managing are passionate about. This is very practical. This is not fluffy woo-woo stuff. What are the areas that they might want to develop?
It’s hard in large organizations but to some extent or more, it’s to have the flexibility to allow people to change their responsibilities and roles after a certain time if that makes them more excited and passionate. It’s hard they’re not specific positions and roles but the more we can create an alignment on putting people in positions that they are good at and they’re passionate about, the better.
Assessing is a good fit for the culture. People get wild, “Look at the technical skills and the expertise this person brings.” They bring them into the organization. It’s a horror show because it’s such a bad fit.
By talking to our people, we understand what they’re passionate about and what they love to do. Often it’s great to ensure that we know what their special talents are. Some people are super good at Excel or maybe are great at talking and negotiating with others. Knowing these superpowers that people have can be wonderful. It makes them feel so valued when you come and say, “Tell me your opinion on this.” Also, it helps us perform overall better as a company.
I used to do orientations for a very large healthcare system. Howard referenced larger organizations. We would have anywhere between 80 to 100 brand new hires in the room. It was a mass event. We did this a couple of times a month. That’s how much we were hiring, so HR was busy. One of the questions I would always ask the new hires is, “How many of you have read and seen your job description? How many know your mission, vision, values, and purpose?”
Hardly anybody would raise their hand. It was phenomenal to me. I would suggest that new hires would manage up. Go to your manager and say, “I’ve been working here for a couple of weeks. I haven’t even seen my job description yet. Can we talk about my number one purpose and priorities in this first year?” I go back to the managers. This is what Howard was mentioning.
It was so difficult to change the mindset because it’s HR’s job to do that. HR does not sit down with every new hire and review the job description. You get the HR assistant that offers the job, the pay, and the benefits but never goes over the details of the beginnings of the coaching stage. It was such a paradigm shift. It was interesting how many leaders would resist a basic and simple process in training and development.
Thank you for that, Char. Stoyan, what does the F in PERFORM stand for?
F stands for Focus and Execution. We talked about planning before. There are organizations and leaders that are exceptionally good planners. They always have the goals, the structure, and the frames, but how do we make sure that we and our team stay focused on the things that matter most? It comes down to learning to say no, which is difficult in a big-structure organization.
The fourth area is Focus and Execution. In the book and the PERFORM methodology, we identify the five villains or enemies of focus and execution. I’m happy to share it. We all have and know them. The first one is the Lack Of Clear Priorities. That could be solved if we master the area of effective planning. The lack of clear priorities is the number one villain of focus and execution.
The second villain is the Shiny Object syndrome, “This new thing is so interesting. Let’s do that. We are all grown-up kids. It’s the new marketing idea or the new business opportunity.” Not everybody but most of us want to do the new stuff. The problem is the more you’re adding to the list, the less the quality will be because you don’t have unlimited capacity. We have to put this villain in check.
The third villain of focus and execution is Procrastination. There was a study that was done with close to 1,000 people in the UK. It found that employees in companies spent more than two hours procrastinating every day. It’s probably a lot more. That’s what they report. We’re all procrastinators. The question is, how much? Where is it coming from? Can we take control of our time and empower a culture where people are not procrastinating but focused on what matters? They’re getting results.We are so busy doing stuff that we forget to have meaningful conversations and to create alignment. In a large organization, it's hard to define and clarify responsibilities. Click To Tweet
Number four is Multitasking. They say multitasking doesn’t exist. It’s a term that has been coined for explaining computer processes. You cannot listen to a podcast and solve a mathematical problem at the same time. You’re jumping from one thing to another. It’s dangerous when you’re switching. There are multiple research studies that show how much dumber you become when you are switching all the time.
There are some positions or roles in the company. Maybe you’re in customer support. You have to switch constantly from one chat window to another, but for the most part, we have control. Multitasking is the fourth one. The fifth one is perfectionism. How many of you here in the room are perfectionists or have some perfectionistic traits? It’s me and Sam.
Perfectionism has positive sides, but on the negative part of things, it can generate a lot of stress and be on your way to finishing things because it’s never good enough. Often we do workshops with small teams. You can try that with your team if you’re leading a small or a bigger team. Show them the five villains and ask them, “Which of those villains can you relate to? Which of these five is visiting you most often?”
Have a real discussion, “Why is that the case? Where’s it coming from?” “It’s procrastination.” “How do you deal with that? When you have a highly productive day and you managed to beat the villains, how did you do that? What can we do as your teammates to support you?” You can have a productive discussion and hopefully improve the amount of time people spend on the things that matter to their role and position.
I do believe that many leaders paint themselves in a corner per se by focusing on their superstars and dumping too many projects or priorities on their superstars or the top performers of the organization. Oftentimes, those individuals get resentful or overwhelmed even though they’re superstar performers. They may have their eye on leaving the organization because their boundaries are not being respected.
Meanwhile, you’ve got some average performers that could probably use some more accountability and focus on priorities that could learn and expand their talents and skillsets. I’ve had way too many leaders, “It’s always Sally. She’s our number one. She’s going to execute and achieve everything. Let’s get George off the bus.”
It’s the number of times I’ve heard that. It’s like, “George has been here for 30 years, so why is he still here for 30 years? George could probably do a lot in this company.” I’ve had so many dialogues about this with leaders as an HR business partner. It’s hard to overcome. It would be great if they could read your book or do your workshop and understand these pillars.
Char, you brought the topic of managing up, which is not just about being a candidate and being hired. You have to manage up, read the description, and learn a lot about the culture and the company. When you join our organization, you’re not in school. Some people continue with this school mindset even in their 50s or 60s. You are here, so you’ve got to manage yourself up. The best performers are the ones that are not waiting for stuff to happen.
To anybody who’s reading, if you’re an employee, how do you give the most value to the company? What is the one thing you do that gives the most to the business? How often do you self-manage yourself? When you are running out of tasks, you’re the one that goes to your manager, and you’re like, “What should be my priorities? I have not received the report you sent me. It’s my ownership to deliver it by Friday. I need this report.” You manage your managers. This is an attitude. Hopefully, we can empower more people who are employees as well to decide to show up, take ownership, and manage their managers and executives.
It needs to be at all levels of the organization. Even the managers have a manager. Even the director, VP, or CEO has the manager of the board or the president. We all have to manage up, make it a cultural mindset, and also talk about boundaries, “These are the things I can successfully achieve. I focus on the essential few. I can master these. If you give me twelve priorities, I probably will fail.” I’ve had that conversation with my VPs, “If I’m in 11 different states with 12 different priorities, I’m going to always fail.”
I love what you’re saying there, Char, as far as knowing the boundaries of your people and respecting those. That’s super important. Stoyan, tell us about the O in PERFORM.
O stands for Optimal Energy. This is about the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the leaders and their teams. This is probably the one that we know most about. Every single person has common sense about each and every area that gives them energy. Optimal energy is the state in which you operate at optimal performance and are fully present in the moment. How do we get there? We love frameworks. We created a simple framework for this area, which is for every person here. It could give you a bit of a structure, “Where is my energy coming from? What is dragging my energy out?”
ENERGY is not a framework. It stands for Exercise, Nutrition, and Excitement at the workplace and out of the workplace. R is Relationships like your friendship, intimate relationships, colleagues, friends, and so on. G stands for Good-Quality Sleep, and then Y is You Time or time for yourself. It’s a very simple thing. Have a look at these areas and ask yourself, “How am I doing? If I look into the last few weeks, from 1 to 10, how am I doing in each of these areas? One is the lowest. Ten is the highest. Is there any specific habit that I need to develop to be at the top of my energy?”
It’s so important. Those are the things we often neglect in our lives. They’re so critical for our high performance, especially sleep. You have to have that sleep or you stop operating. What’s the second R in PERFORM, Stoyan?
The second R stands for Robust Communication. We touched upon it a little bit in talking about, “Are we all making the same movie?” We can make a four-week seminar on communication. It’s not going to be enough. Looking at all of you, you have so much experience. You know what I’m talking about, but in simple terms, what structures do we have in your organization? We try to be on the same page. We don’t overcommunicate but we communicate enough internally.
The second part is creating a feedback culture. One thing that many organizations are struggling with and executives are complaining about is, “How do I create a space where my people tell me we are not doing well? In the sense of the last couple of years, there’s a hybrid workspace working from home. How do I know that my people are not okay? They’re not going to tell me. They are afraid to share that they made a mistake.”We have to know how to control our time and empower a culture where people are not procrastinating but actually focused on what matters. Click To Tweet
Many of you are consultants. You probably know that when you do a workshop and start talking to people, they start sharing. This is one of the main things, “I’m not feeling safe to share when something is going wrong because I don’t know how that’s going to affect me in this organization when I share a mistake.” There is so much stuff that’s not going well and people are afraid to talk about it.
We’re missing out on innovation and experimentation because innovation and experimentation happen when you create a safe space for people to experiment and allow a certain percentage of projects and activities to fail to not work the way we want. Communication is a very complicated topic, but it’s something we need to pay more attention to it as leaders.
The test of having a psychologically safe organization is those organizations that respect failure, allow it to happen and be a learning exercise, and not be so critical of it. It’s important that we have good managers that can guide people effectively and allow them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep going. The final letter there in PERFORM is M.
Last but not least is Mental Toughness. It’s our capability to deal with uncertainty, navigate challenges, and remain calm as leaders. Sometimes we say leadership, we mean the executives or the management, but in simple terms, everybody is a leader. Everybody needs to show up and manage up. Mental toughness is the capability to show up when things are not working by plan.
It’s very interesting. I’m sharing a lot of those stories, but they inspire me. There is a company in Europe. It’s one of the leading companies in Estonia. It’s called Funderbeam. It’s a FinTech with an inspiring female founder, Kaidi Ruusalepp. She shared with me, “As a CEO, you’re also the chief motivating officer.” I’m like, “That’s interesting. Tell me more about it.” She’s not a morning person. She woke up. There was traffic. It was raining. She’s not in a good place, and she goes to the office.
She used to work for an Italian stock exchange. She was the CEO of the stock exchange. She goes to the office and gets her coffee, but she didn’t drink it yet. It’s like, “I’m not in the mood.” She walks through the office but her office is the last one at the end of the corridor, so everybody sees her. She’s not in the mood. Nothing happened. She didn’t say a word. She goes to her office. Fifteen minutes later, the head of HR knocks on the door. He’s like, “Can I talk to you? What’s wrong? What happened?” She said, “Nothing. I didn’t have my coffee yet. Traffic was terrible. Everything is fine.”
“I had three people from the team knocking on my door asking me, ‘What’s going on? Is somebody getting fired? Did we lose an account? What is happening? Why is Kaidi like that?’” Think about how you show up because it matters. All eyes are on you as a leader. You might have a bad day. It’s nothing related to work, but the interpretation of people is going to be completely different. Remember that you’re the chief motivating officer as the leader.
That’s great feedback. The thought is, “If I go into the office and pretend to be happy, then I’m not being genuine,” but what I often say is, “The thing is if we have that positive attitude, then we start to feel it and live it.” It’s like when we say, “If you’re uncomfortable smiling, then you will start feeling better.” It’s living it until it happens. That’s the way to get us out of those moods sometimes. I love Mental Toughness.
I can elaborate on that. Thank you so much, Sam, for emphasizing this subtlety because we want to be the chief motivating officer, but leadership also comes down to telling the truth, as ugly as the truth is, but telling the truth from a place of strength. You can lose your strength, “The pandemic is happening. There’s a recession. It’s going to be a few rough months. We might need to do some cuts.”
“I’m here for everybody. I’m here to talk to everybody. We will go through it but I might need you to be even more focused than before. Here are the things that I’m afraid about in terms of our risks. Don’t worry about it. If we come together, we will go through the storm.” You tell the truth. You’re not like, “Everything is fine,” and then people get fired.
I’ve lived through that. The senior management is always wanting to focus on positive and spinning a good story but it came to the point where no one believed them anymore.
What happened during the pandemic is all of a sudden, communication stopped altogether. Managers were afraid to say anything. That was horrible. There’s a lot of good information here. Stoyan, I appreciate your time in sharing all this with us. Before we go, some of our readers are saying, “I want to know more.” Tell us about your podcast and how people can learn more from you.
Thank you so much, Sam. It has been such a pleasure being with all of you and sharing the same color code. I’m so accessible and easy to reach. First of all, you can find me, Stoyan Yankov, on LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok. Reach out, send a message, and get in touch. You can go to any podcast platform if you’re into entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership like this fantastic show. I have amazing guests like the Founder of Reebok, the President of Starbucks, David Allen from Getting Things Done, and those kinds of people. We talk about these topics in high energy.
If that might be something interesting, check out Productivity Mastery on your favorite podcast platform. You can learn more about the PERFORM methodology by finding the book, Perform: The Unsexy Truth About (Startup) Success, including over 50 cases and examples from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in a region we like to call New Europe. It’s Central, Eastern, and Nordic Europe. That could be something for you. If you want to go even further, feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to join teams and support them to create a more productive and caring culture through keynotes, training, consulting, and team off-sites. You name it. Reach out. I’m happy to connect.
Thank you so much. This was such a wonderful conversation. We appreciate your time, Stoyan.
Thank you very much. It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for changing your wardrobe for us. It shows how adaptable you are at a job.
Thank you so much, Stoyan. Have a wonderful week. See you, everyone, on the next episode.
Make sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite platform. I’m already a subscriber. It’s awesome.
I’m a productivity coach on a mission to help business leaders & entrepreneurs to:
1) Accelerate their personal & team performance
2) Shape a strong culture in their organization
3) Enjoy a more mindful and happier life
I’ve worked with 300+ teams in 30+ countries.
WHAT MAKES ME DIFFERENT?
I try to stay in my lane and to utilize my natural strengths & passions.
In every workshop, seminar, bootcamp, keynote or coaching session I bring in:
▪ Simplicity, clarity & structure
Frameworks, tools, metaphors: you name it. I love turning complex concepts into easy to understand and actionable ideas.
▪ Proven & practical tools, strategies and ideas
I only recommend what I have personally tried and tested, or in some cases: what has proven to work for someone else.
▪ Knowledge from the best
I have the privilege to spend time with some of the most influential thought leaders, thanks to my career as a professional speaker, my passion to meet new people and recently through my podcast.
▪ Massive energy & positivity
That just comes natural. I’m very passionate and I love telling stories and examples to make a presentation more engaging and relatable.
▪ Coaching & facilitation
To me every session should be an experience. I love to moderate meaningful discussions and help the participants to share learnings and connect better.
▪ Entrepreneurial DNA & innovation mindset
I am an entrepreneur myself, but I’ve also worked with hundreds of startups and that passion, energy and drive is now engrained in everything I do.