What COOs Can Learn from No Rules Rules

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As leaders, we talk a lot about talent — acquisition, nurturing, retention — but how often do we talk about talent density?

You don’t just need one or two superstars, you need a team of superstars to reach the critical mass needed to positively shape your organization.

That’s one of the foundational concepts today’s guest, Lara Dodo, Chief Growth and Operating Officer at Newtopia, and I dissect as we discuss No Rules Rules — a book that should be required reading for every COO.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What talent density means for your organization
  • How candor should best be employed
  • The concept of ownership — AKA freedom with responsibility 

What talent density means for your organization

Good people attract good people.

So start by asking yourself: Are you a leader you would want to work with? Do you show integrity? Are you authentic in your communication? Do you share the same values with those you hire to be on your team?

If you can answer those questions with a “yes” and do so honestly, then your professional relationships will evolve into ones marked by trust and respect.

Yes, talent density is about skills and experience, but everything hinges on core values.

What to do when you’ve hired a nice but mediocre performer

Offer them a generous severance package.

Poor vs Mediocre Performers

We know that poor performance is contagious, right? We’ve all experienced that reality.

But did you know that mediocre performance is actually much more dangerous? 

Mediocre performers — the folks who are good enough and no better — have a measurable effect on talent density. They aren’t leading-edge people on top of their game. You can find someone who’s better, someone more efficient. So go find that person.

When you’ve hired a nice employee who isn’t going to uplift the group, wish them well and give them a generous severance package.

How candor should best be employed

People reject feedback because of the way it’s presented. Even if that feedback contains truth, the recipient will diminish or disqualify it just because of the way in which it’s given. So how do you give candid feedback in a way that people can hear it?

First, understand what candor is… and what it isn’t.

Candor doesn’t mean ripping someone apart. 

Candor means giving honest feedback to improve the overall performance of the business, the group, the team, or the individual.

The second thing to realize: You can’t give candid feedback unless you’ve got a team with talent density. Otherwise, you might be asking someone to perform at a level that they are not ready to perform at yet. 

If your team trusts that your intent is to help, they can receive difficult feedback in a much better spirit.

The Oz Principle (As in Wizard of…, Not the TV Doctor)

Have you read the book, The Oz Principle

In that book, authors Craig Hickman, Roger Connors and Tom Smith, explore accountability using a metaphor from The Wizard of Oz. If you haven’t read it, you absolutely should. 

That book describes two kinds of thinking, above-line thinking and below-line thinking. Below-line thinkers play the victim. Above-line thinkers take responsibility. Highly accountable, successful people — whether in business or personal relationships — tend to live above the line. That means, they exhibit a sense of ownership. 

The concept of ownership — AKA freedom with responsibility

We all need an owner mentality. 

This is how owners think: They see a problem. They come up with a plan. They execute that plan.

The ability to see the issue without blaming, deflecting, or justifying is key to having an owner mentality.

It’s tough because different people have different ideas about ownership. Some employees try to be “owners” by making decisions they shouldn’t be making. Just taking initiative isn’t always a good thing. 

Behaving like an owner means asking, “How can I push the business forward?” And then feeling empowered, trusted, and respected enough to take the responsibility to actually push.

Once you step up to the plate on the responsibility side, you get a lot more freedom.

***

Rules we learned today:

  1. Be pleasant.
  2. Be trustworthy. 
  3. Be responsible.
  4. Take your vacation.

Do you have ideas for or feedback about this show? Email your host Bill Reed at [email protected]

This post is based on an episode of the COO Show podcast. Be sure to hear every conversation about innovative COO strategies at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and our website.

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Bill Reed

COO at Sweet Fish

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