Two Things Leaders Need to Know Now with Gregory Offner

Two Things Leaders Need to Know Now with Gregory Offner

Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down with Gregory Offner to talk about the two things that leaders need to learn now! Gregory Offner is one of the most in-demand experts on this topic of professional performance and navigating disruption. His clients include fortune 100 companies. He is often asked to keynote at conferences where industry leaders and executives turn to him for new perspectives on how to elevate performance, eliminate disengagement and make work suck less. Yes, we could all benefit from having a better culture to come into and, hey, loving to come into work. So I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Gregory as we discussed the two things that leaders need to know now!

Meet Greg Offner, Keynote Speaker, Dueling Pianist and Consultant

Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It is Jenn DeWall, and I’m so excited to be sitting here with Gregory Offner, Jr. We are talking about the two things that leaders need to know now, now that the future of work is here. Now that heck, we’re likely being asked to do more than what we ever had before, but Gregory, I’m so excited to have you here on The Leadership Habit podcast. If you could just go ahead, tell us your story. What’s your story? Sure. I mean, that’s a huge question. What is your story?

Gregory Offner: It is a big question, Jenn, you know, it was 1982, and I saw a bright white light and then was smacked by a doctor and started crying, but that’s a little too far back, so let’s fast forward to make it relevant.

Jenn DeWall:  <Laugh> I think I had the same experience,

Gregory Offner:  You know, in1982, you know, I, I do that in front of audiences, and I have to tell them like now as a new father, I’m legally required to put three dad jokes into my presentation. So if that’s happening in this podcast, there goes number one. Uno. So my story, my story’s a lot. Like most people I meet, I graduated from school and immediately started doing a job that had nothing to do with my degree. I had studied psychology, philosophy and music in school, and so naturally became a sales professional when I got out. 15 years later, I had moved through a few different industries, moved through a few different leadership roles and positions even worked internationally, building some sales teams. And I had kind of become disenchanted with what I was doing. The money was good, but the fulfillment was really lacking. I, I felt like I was sort of just getting through every day and not really giving the best that I could every day.

And for my bosses, that was fine. They were getting the productivity they needed, but for me, I would look in the mirror and, and kind of go, is, is this it? And what most people didn’t know was that during that career, during that 15-year career to try and fill that is this it gap that I was feeling, I had started a career in the evening as a professional dueling piano player. So during the day, I would meet with clients in boardrooms, and at night I would serenade patrons in bars and in theaters. And I’ve traveled all over the world doing this. And so I had this really neat existence where during the day I had a nine to five suit and tie type job. And at night, I had a very different experience. But then, in 2015, through overuse misuse, and just a couple factors that contributed physiologically to it, my voice gave out on me, it just stopped working, which I know sounds weird to most people that aren’t vocal professionals, but your voice needs rest.

It was scary— because remember,  I’m making my money during the day and my passion during the evening with my voice. And so now, all of a sudden, it’s not working. The doctors tell me it might never work again. I need surgery. If it even has a prayer’s chance of working. And that left me in a place where I was confused and frustrated. I felt alone because I can’t talk to anybody about this cuz my voice wasn’t working. And ultimately, over the next five years, I would go on to have 15 surgeries to repair and rebuild my vocal cords, spend over two months in complete silence while the vocal cords themselves healed, and spend hundreds of hours in voice therapy, relearning how to talk, how to sing again. And in that process, I made the decision I wasn’t going back to that day job. I wasn’t gonna go back and spend what little voice I might have left in my life doing something that I wasn’t 100% super duper into. And that brings us to how we got connected. That now, the work that I do around passion, around engagement, around employee retention, around performing at our best every day with organizations around the world enables me to use all of my interests, philosophy, psychology, music, persuasion, and business skills that I learned from 15 years like we talked about and I get to be on stage in front of others and see those aha moments every day in their eyes, which I know you, you get to do as a facilitator as well.

Jenn DeWall:  Yes, no, I think, you know, that’s probably my. What you went through is probably my biggest fear as a speaker is potentially losing my voice. I have multiple sclerosis, and that is potentially something that could happen. How did you, but here’s one question that I also, that as it relates to your story, how did you express your emotions if you couldn’t actually communicate them? Like what techniques did you use to be able to process that? And you know, especially if you’ve never been used to having to adapt in that way before

Relearning Communication

Gregory Offner:  It is a few things to answer that my, the, my, the dad joke that I now have to insert is that I just have a temper tantrum. I would just stomp my feet and get people’s attention. And that’s not true. What I actually did was pull out an old college trick, and I got a whiteboard. Remember we had whiteboards on our dorm rooms in college, right? So people could leave notes, or they could write silly things if they came back from a party after having a couple too many beers. Well, so I would walk around, I would walk around with a whiteboard and a dry erase marker. And I would have to try to write down my thoughts to, to get involved in a conversation, but I like to make jokes. At least I try to be funny. I like to participate in conversations and it’s very hard to do that when you’re writing.

So invariably, I’d wanna contribute something. And by the time I wrote down what I was thinking, the conversation had already moved on. So then I started realizing that the best way to have a conversation with people, if I was gonna be involved, was if we all did a group text. So if I were getting together with friends, we would be out, you know, to eat, and we would just be texting. And it’s really something amazing that the iPhone or smartphones allow us to do, because vocal issues have been around for a long time, certainly longer than cell phones. And so understanding the struggle that folks had to go through before you could text people at dinner. I mean, imagine passing notes throughout an entire dinner when cell phones didn’t exist. So I feel lucky that this happened to me when it happened. One, because it sparked the opportunity for this new life that I live. But two, because I had the technological tools around me to, to at least make it a little easier, to be able to express myself and communicate.

Jenn DeWall:  That’s a really powerful story, just in terms of your own resilience, your own adaptability of figuring out, you know, what’s a different way that we can still do and enjoy the things that I want. I think in a lot of those instances, many people can relate myself included. It’s really easy to just stop, take no action and just kind of be at the mercy of the circumstance. So it’s incredibly inspiring to hear your story of how you looked at that. And it actually catapulted you into a completely different life trajectory. That, which is where we are today. Talking about the two things that every leader should know, or the two things leaders should know now, Gregory, what are the two things that you think that leaders need to know today?

What are the Two Things Leaders Need to Know Now?

Gregory Offner:  Okay. And I wanna preface those two things with one little caveat. I believe that a leader doesn’t have to have subordinates to be a leader when you and I look in the mirror, there’s the person we are responsible for leading every day. So if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, I’m not a leader, I don’t have the title. You look in the mirror and that’s the person you’re responsible for leading. So these skills are gonna be just as these tips are gonna be just as valuable for you as they will, for someone who runs a company of thousands. But the two things that leaders need to know right now is number one, how to use skill acquisition as a competitive advantage, because if you’re like me and you get your news from somewhere and you’re paying attention to the news that relates to business and talent and staffing and productivity, you know that there’s a skills gap, a widening skills gap right now, as people reshuffle, they think about going solo, doing their own thing and leaving the corporate world. There is this institutional knowledge drain that’s happening as workers leave the workforce and that’s creating this skills gap. So a leader needs to understand how to use skill acquisition, how to use training and development as a competitive advantage right now. And the second part of that, the second thing leaders need to know right now is what skills should we be training and developing? How, how some skills for an organization are like rocket fuel when it comes to increasing productivity and performance.

1.    Leaders Need to Know Skills Acquisition is a Competitive Advantage

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. So let’s level set. How do you define, you know, how to use skill acquisition as a competitive advantage? That sounds like fancy corporate-speak. What does skill acquisition mean? How do we like at the simplest level,

Gregory Offner:  It means learning stuff.

Jenn DeWall:  <Laugh>

Gregory Offner:  Make it real simple. It means learning stuff. We all, throughout life learn in one of two ways. We’re taught by others where we teach ourselves. And my bet is, if you’re listening to this, you’re already a high performer. If you wanna be an even higher performer, you’re taking the initiative and you’re teaching yourself things outside of work, you’re digging in when you have the opportunity to be developed inside of work, but outside of work, your development doesn’t stop. So wouldn’t it make sense if you’re gonna spend your personal time and your personal money, maybe even to develop yourself that you pick the skills to develop, they’re gonna create a rocket-like experience with your career that is gonna propel you exactly where you want to go. Maybe even faster than the people you’re trying to compete with. Absolutely. So this can be a real competitive advantage, not just for an individual, but for an organization.

Because when we talk about the competitive landscape, what dictates a company’s success are the people within it. And if those people are faster, better, more adept at learning, unlearning and relearning skills that the business needs, that business is going to Excel. That business is going to experience that rocket fuel like propulsion and they’ll leap out ahead in whatever vertical or whatever market segment or whatever industry they’re they’re playing in. So this, this is industry-agnostic. As my dad would say, this is, this is not specific to the insurance or financial services industry. Where I come from, this can, this can be applied anywhere.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that. Well, and I wanna talk about the ability to relearn unlearn. I mean, I know there are probably a lot of people that are with me. I read Adam Grant’s newest book. Think Again, I love that, you know, thinking and reflecting that we all think we know more than we actually do, but that has gotta be one of the biggest challenges that in an organization or a team is to get them to even open their mind, to consider relearning an approach. So I’m curious, what’s your take on how to support people with unlearning and relearning and even being open to doing something that they’ve not done or doing it different than the, what they have before?

Gregory Offner:  Yeah, well, it’s what, and so Alvin Toffler is the futurist that that quote comes from, he said the illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read or write. It’ll be those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn. So one, when we talk about what skills we want to develop, I mean, you hit the nail right on the head. A lot of us operate in a closed environment. That is, we’re looking to learn a skill. And then, as Ron Popeil would say if anybody gets that reference from the old, late-night commercial, set it and forget it, remember that infomercial, how do we cook the chicken? You set it and forget it.

Jenn DeWall:  I don’t, but I feel like I, I should, because we’re the same age, but I don’t know about this!

Gregory Offner:  Go Google it, and look at it on YouTube. It’s hilarious. But here’s my point. When I talk about that, set it and forget it, that closed mentality, the quo has lost its status, and nothing is made that clearer than the pandemic change is going to continue to accelerate. The velocity of change is not stopping. And so the old way of doing business, where you got good at a skill, and then you coasted, that’s no longer going to work for organizations for large organizations for two reasons, predominantly. One, the competitive landscape got a lot tighter. Now that individuals can open up their own businesses. I mean, we need is a PayPal or Venmo account, and Wi-Fi. And depending on what you do, you know, maybe five or maybe Etsy, or maybe you just do it on your own wholly on your own. The barrier for entry in business is much lower, which means that if we’re going to be an organized business and have all of that overhead, all of that li all the liabilities that come with being a large organization, we need to excel with an open approach.

That is to say, the new way. Here’s a great quote for you for those folks who just won’t let go of the old way of doing things. “The new way is the right way.” Because this is what I see. When I work with organizations who have very tenured, let’s call them. We’re not gonna call them old, but they’re very tenured employees, right? Long-tenured employees who have been doing it, the air quotes the “right way” for a long time when we start working together. And we talk about some of these new programs and procedures and methodologies that we’re gonna implement, they say, well, that’s, that’s not the right way to do that. See, I’ve been doing this the right way for a really long time. Let me the right way. And that’s when we gently and kindly say, the new way is the right way. And I’m gonna need you to follow along and just give us a day to show you how this is going to work. So the skills that are like rocket fuel, one of those skills is curiosity.

Gregory Offner:  Wondering what if, instead of being intent on knowing, I got this quote from Tim Ferris, he asked a lot of his podcast guests. You know, if you could put anything on a billboard, what would it be? And the one guest he was interviewing said, I would put on a billboard, Learn More, Know Less. And that always stuck with me because if we’re willing to say, well, I’m not sure. What do you think we’ve opened ourselves up. We’ve created an open mindset and we’re, we’re ready to learn. Versus, have you ever had a conversation with someone maybe you’re talking about an issue that’s controversial or that’s new, or that’s unproven, and you’ve got your point of view and they say, no, no, no, Jenn, listen, listen. That’s not how it works. Let me tell you how it works. We’ve all had those conversations, and we want to get out of them about as quickly as they started. Yeah. Because that person’s got a closed mindset, that conversation isn’t going anywhere, it’s like beating your head against a brick wall it’s gonna hurt. And it won’t do very much of any good. So one of those skills that we try to develop in the organizations we work with is the skill of curiosity that opens the door for this learning, unlearning and relearning that you were talking about, Jenn.

2.    Leaders Need to Know the Skills That Are Like Rocket Fuel for Productivity

Jenn DeWall:  Well, yeah. And the curiosity like starting there, I feel like is it has to be that, or maybe it’s not the foundational skill, but it’s, or like starting point number one. But I feel like that might help some of the people that maybe are more seasoned or tenured and just have a lot of confidence based on the way that they’ve done things. Maybe that’s the skill that will allow them to open up the possibility of dropping that dang ego <laugh> of letting it just, you know, they don’t have to be right. Because you’re right. The, the barrier of entry is incredibly low right now. I think, I don’t even remember the stat that I read yesterday in terms of the amount of millennials and gen Z that are actually really participating in the short gig economy, wanting to just do something different, not necessarily wanting to follow that traditional, like I’m going to stay in this company and just being curious about how are things done? How can we challenge that? Because there’s a lot of workers that are ultimately just choosing that. And I mean, if your organization isn’t curious, then I guess it’s really hard to want to engage. So we’re starting to talk about the skills that are needed right now for rocket place. What are some ways, or to rocket or like rocket fuel, like rocket place, like rocket fuel right

Gregory Offner:  Now I’m a rocket man….

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. And then we’ll start singing Elton John, and everyone’s gonna be happy. Curiosity, like how do you actually practice that? Because I think about the thing that gets in the way, you know, that defense, that, that need to be right or feel like people see you as they’re smart. How do you, what do you practice to allow yourself to be curious when you know that you can default into a judgment? So you can maybe say that you’re smart or kind of where you like, oh, let me tell you what my experience right. We wanna offer and help. What tips do you have to be more curious?

The Foundational Skills Triad: Curiosity, Energy Management and Gratitude

Gregory Offner:  So you mentioned something. I, I wanna answer that question, but I want to address something you said just a moment ago about, is it a foundational skill. Maybe it’s the foundational skill. So there are seven skills that we’ve identified that are truly transformational when we start to develop them in our people. And of those seven, there are three that are foundational. Curiosity is one of them. We call it the triad, cuz there’s three of them. And in music, a triad is, is basically a chord. It’s playing three notes at the same time. Yeah? So when these three skills are deployed at the same time magic happens. So they are very foundational. Curiosity is one of them, energy is the other, how do we manage our physical energy? How do we manage our emotional energy, our mental energy. And in some cases, even how do we manage our financial energy?

Cuz if you’re thinking about all the money you don’t have and all the bills you do have, it’s really hard to be present in the work that you’re doing. So financial literacy is a part of that energy component. And then the last component is gratitude. And I wanted to mention that because gratitude really lifts is that, is that sort of, what’s the expression– the tide that lifts all boats. Yeah. If there’s one place that I can work with someone it’s, it’s gratitude. If I start anywhere, it’s going to be with gratitude because once we have gratitude, everything else opens up. And gratitude is really linked with curiosity. So to your question, you know, how do you practice? How do you become more curious? Yeah, there’s exercises that I work on with my clients and that, and that we go through. And, but the number one thing I think we could start to do to develop more curiosity is to develop our gratitude because the first part of a gratitude exercise is thinking about what we’re grateful for.

And if we haven’t done this before, it, it feels kind of hard, feels kinda weird. And once we start, it’s inevitable that we’re gonna run out of the big moments and then we go, oh man, is that it? Is that all I have to be grateful for? And that’s where the magic happens with this process because what makes the gratitude it’s called the three blessings, the exercise that I’m referring to. So in positive psychology I don’t know if this was invented by Martin Seligman but certainly popularized by him. He runs the positive psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. So the, the three blessings exercises every night or at a time that’s convenient for you. I do mine right before I go to bed. You write down three things that you’re grateful for. It could be three things that happened that day. Three things in life really doesn’t matter.

But what’s interesting is that the smaller, these things are the better it is for your practice. So if I opened up, let’s just do this on a fly. So if I open up, I, I use notion. So three things I’m grateful for today. This is from yesterday, I got to fly to Chicago and enjoy an hour drive and a comfortable rental car- that is not an oxymoron friends. It was a comfortable rental car! <Laugh> And present to a room of HR professionals. Number two is I got to hear my daughter being silly on the phone when I called to say hi to her. And I mentioned how she’s starting to be a really great communicator. And number three is that I enjoyed a sandwich, a torta from one of my favorite sandwich shops in Chicago O’Hare airport. And I haven’t been out there since the pandemic started.

This was my first gig in Chicago. So I was thrilled to be able to get this sandwich from this sandwich shop! Those, when you think about gratitude are not monumental things, right. But they’re so important to this practice because it trains our brain to start looking for the little things and noticing them. And when we talk about curiosity, it’s I wonder. So as I’m reflecting it’s I wonder what I could be grateful for today. I wonder what if, what if it didn’t have to be winning a million dollar power ball for me to write it down on my gratitude journal? What if it could be as simple as a sandwich in an airport?

Leaders Need to Know Curiosity and Gratitude Can Shift Perspective

Jenn DeWall:  It’s thinking about, I mean, It’s that shift. Shift into recognizing that we all have so many more things around us than I guess that, you know, going from that scarcity or lack mentality, like we have so much, but yet we’re operating too fast, or we’re too busy or maybe we’re just overwhelmed that we can’t even stop down to or stop and slow down to smell the roses. I love bringing in gratitude. Yes.

Gregory Offner:  And, and, and Jenn, it’s also about gaining perspective. So one of the most gratifying experiences for me in terms of international travel we were talking about me going to Africa with my wife on our honeymoon a couple years ago. And while we were there in South Africa, there are townships. If, if someone’s listening and they’re not familiar with what a township is, it’s a ram-shackled development. I mean, development is using that word liberally it’s, it’s where people who can’t afford to live anywhere else live. And they’re generally not living in the best of circumstances and it’s generally not the safest place to live, but it’s, it’s where they live. And so I was very adamant that we take a tour of one of these and not to be disaster tourists, so to speak. But because I really wanted to understand, I mean, I live in Philadelphia, which is the poorest big city in the United States. And so we’ve, we’ve got poverty. I mean, I drive through it every day.

But I wanted to understand what it was like in another place. And what, what I, what I had been told was some of the poorest of the poor live in these townships. And we had a really amazing experience because there were only six of us on this tour. We were all about the same age and I guess the guide liked us. So he, he kind of was telling us more and showing us more and then ultimately invited us to go to a bar, basically in this township with him. And I was chatting with one fella at the bar who happened, I guess his kid was just there. I don’t know, maybe three years old max, that the kid was just hanging out. Kid’s smiling, he’s smiling. Everybody’s having a good time.

Gregory Offner:  And I said to him, I said, Hey man, do you mind me asking, what do you do? Like, how do you, how do you make money? And he said, oh, I I’m an HVAC technician. Now at least where I live in Philadelphia, HVAC technicians can make 70, 80, a hundred thousand dollars a year. I mean, that’s not a bad job. You certainly would have a home. And I said, man, like that job where I’m from is well-paying. And he said, I know. And I said, does that frustrate you, that you have a great job skill-wise, but your circumstances are having you live in this township here. And he looked at me and he said, I’m smiling. My son’s smiling. I have friends that I get to hang out with. He said, it’s all about perspective. And that has stayed with me ever since that conversation, because gaining perspective is truly how we can appreciate what we have.

If we’re not stepping out of the bubble that we live in. And we all live in bubbles, no matter how hard we try, we, we live in bubbles. But if we try at least to step out of it, what we learn about ourselves, what we’ve got is really transformational. And so this exercise, I think, will be so valuable to the listeners to try, because it starts to train the brain to look for those things that to us have become ordinary. It’s like, do you ever go, do you ever go visit a friend’s house for the first time? And you look around and you go, gosh, this is a beautiful house. I wish that I lived in a beautiful house like this, you know, my house, oh, the paint in the one room isn’t even, there’s some paint that’s on the ceiling. It’s not just on the wall, like bled through. And there’s always that crack on the baseboard that I see. And, ah, man, this is just a beautiful house. Maybe I do that because my dad was a carpenter and in construction. And so that’s stuff that I look for. But if you know what I’m talking about, you know that the second, third or fourth time you go over that friend’s house, you notice that there are some places where they have paint on the ceiling too, and where their baseboards are cracked. It’s just a matter of perspective. So give yourself the gift of that perspective of gratitude and watch what happens. Watch the transformation.

Jenn DeWall:  I want to go out and like stare and ah, and I think you’re right. There are points where it’s easy. You just forget. I live in the mountains or not in the mountains, but adjacent to. And I can forget about the beauty of the mountains because I see it every single day. Almost every time I walk, I see the mountains and we just need to remind ourselves to see things again. I just love that challenge kind of to asking us to think, how can you see it differently? See something old as new. Maybe I dunno if that’s necessarily the truest way.

The Hedonic Treadmill

Gregory Offner:  That’s exactly it. It’s about, I mean, it’s about habituation. So in psychology, there’s a term called the hedonic treadmill, and it talks about– the easiest way to exemplify what that means. If you’re not familiar with the term is that let’s say you make $40,000 a year and tomorrow your boss gives you a raise of $50,000. Eventually that $50,000 you will habituate to as the new norm. And it won’t matter. And you’ll need more money to get that same hit of dopamine. That same feeling of accomplishment. If money is how you’re judging your self worth and your accomplishment. Yeah. And you can call that the new car phenomenon and how we go out and get a new car. And then a year later, it’s just my car. It’s not the new car. You’re not necessarily in love with it anymore. Or maybe you get a new romantic partner and then a year later, they’re just that person I live with, I’m not saying that happens. I’m just saying we habituate to what we’re used to. Good and bad. Yeah. Folks put into bad circumstances can habituate to them. And then not notice that they’re in a bad circumstance anymore.

Jenn DeWall:  I honestly had this self conversation last night, driving over to bring a meal to a friend and I was driving her car. We just bought a new car in August. So exciting. This is the nicest car I’ve ever owned in my entire life. And I already started to look at it as like, it’s just a car. And last night I had to sit and be like, Jenn, you have a really nice car. It’s I mean, it’s not like a Ferrari, but for like me, like, this is a beautiful, nice car. Like I want to be able to step into it and be like, yes, I get to drive this. This is so exciting. It’s way better than my 2001 Volkswagen Jetta that I had with like broken things. Like I want to be able to constantly remind myself.

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Leaders Need to Know Energy Management

Jenn DeWall:  So – the skills we talked about, curiosity, and you talked about also energy. I wanna go into energy because I don’t know what you, when I entered the coaching space, if I said the word energy to people, it was like I said, the most Fu-Fu like high overly-conceptual word, but I it’s not and not, and not in how I experience. So how do you define energy? Let’s talk a little bit more about that. I know you kind of gave us the, you know, the triad, but what do you mean by energy as a skill?

Gregory Offner:  So you, you brought up your car. I’ll tell you, tell you my car story. I am not a sports car guy. I am not even a car guy, but I love the color blue. And I saw advertised online a Corvette, a blue Corvette, and I thought, Hmm. You know, maybe I’ll think about buying this Corvette. And so I started to look at it, the specs, the details, everything about the car and this advertisement. And I went to Kim, my wife, and I said, Hey got a question for you. I know it’s a little out there, but I’m thinking about buying this Corvette. And she gave me that look, and you can all probably hear this look, right. You’ll know it when I make this noise… Right?

You know, when you say something stupid and your partner, your friend just does the eye roll, like, okay, go on. And so I said, well, alright, it’s got brand new tires. The whole electronic system has recently been redone, like super dope stereo system. The seats are this gorgeous, like peanut butter leather, you know, like the light with like the dark pin stripy seats in there. It’s manual. I love manual. I haven’t driven a manual car in a long time, but I know how to do it. So like, that’s really cool. It’s just, it’s beautiful. Look at it. And it’s blue. She’s like, how much is it? I said $300. She goes, what? I said. Yeah. The thing is <laugh>, it’s just the shell of the car. They’re selling it without an engine. So I’d have to get an engine. And as like a summer project, my cousins built engines before, put an engine in the car and she goes, what is the point of buying a car without an engine?

<Laugh> yeah. And I feel the same way about this concept of energy. That our body is the vehicle for our brain. And if we’re not taking care of that vehicle, I don’t care if you’re an Ivy League graduate, your brain is not functioning effectively. So managing your energy is a business imperative. It’s not frou-frou Lululemon, crunchy granola on a mountaintop at sunrise. It’s a business imperative. And the fact that we don’t emphasize that or help our people understand how to better manage their energy is a crime. I mean, Zig Ziglar. One of my favorite motivational speakers used to have a bit about, would you if you owned a million dollar racehorse, would you let it stay out all night, give it cigarettes and whiskey to drink and then let it come home in the morning. And everybody goes, no, of course, I said, what about a $20 dog?

Would you let a $20 dog? If you owned it, let it stay out all night, howling at the moon, drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes. They said no. He said, what about a $5 cat? He said no. And he said, and yet how many of you spend a night out at a restaurant, late night drinking, maybe having a cigar. You are a billion-dollar asset. You are irreplaceable. And yet we treat ourselves like a car without an engine. That’s a problem. And that’s where the energy really focuses in, on creating change for individuals and the businesses with, and the individuals within your business.

Jenn DeWall:  I love the way that you just described that Gregory. I think that’s, I’ve never heard it described like that. I think that’s a perfect way to describe it, and hopefully to drive home the importance of why we need to practice self-care and why we need to make sure that we’re treating ourselves with the utmost respect, love, and just, I don’t know, treating our needs, putting oil in the car, gas in the car at the right times, tuning it up, what we need to do. And I just feel like that’s still the thing that, how do you think people are resistant to like maintaining that in the workplace? Is it because there’s still this place of, we don’t talk about emotions at work. You just put your head down. Like I know that we’re seeing with the future of work. People are starting to be like, no, we have to pay attention to this. This is burnout here. And right now, so many people are stressed. I guess I stacked a lot of questions in there, so that’s probably gotta be real confusing to follow.

The Shifting Workplace Culture

Gregory Offner:  <Laugh>. Well, no. No, I we’re coming from a culture, and I remember my first year in sales <laugh> now admittedly, I had these Zig Ziglar tapes. So I’m gonna, I I’m, I’ll just tell the story and then I’ll explain why I think it’s ironic and funny. So I remember my first year in sales CEOs would want to schedule a call and they’d say, how early, you know, can we schedule? And this was my first job outta college. I finally have some money. So like, I’m going home and drinking. I’m going out. I finally got some cash, baby. I’m gonna go enjoy my life. That’s how I was living at the time. Now, admittedly, things are different since I was 23 or whatever I was. But so I would say to the CEO I don’t know. I was like nine. And in invariably they would say, look, I’m in the office at six so we can get started. And I would think to myself, I’m sorry, your life sucks. Like we are done this era of who’s in earlier, who stays later

Jenn DeWall: Preach!  <laugh>

Gregory Offner: We’re done! We’re done. And what the gig economy is a sign of is that people are not willing to sell their life to a company anymore. They’re just not. Cuz that’s what it was. What it was, was a job offer for. Here’s a salary, here’s the benefits. But we’re getting at you anytime we want. You’re a salaried employee. We effectively own you. That was the mentality of most corporate jobs and folks who are entering the workforce. Now, kids, I guess I can say that. Cause I’m 40 kids saw their parents go through this. They saw their parents go through 2008. What do I have to show for all of that sacrifice? And they said, not me. And again, back to that conversation of wifi, peer to peer payment, like we have new tools. We have tools that our parents and their parents didn’t have. And those tools, those new tools require new rules. And you’re seeing the workers of tomorrow, the leaders of tomorrow stand up and demand it. And there’s not a thing that business can do except adapt. So you ask why people are so resistant. I wanna know why businesses are so resistant? Hint- businesses are run by people. So there’s probably a tie in there. <Laugh>

It’s, it’s this, it’s this fear of change. And I had to confront that when I was losing my voice and trying to understand what my life was going to look like in the first couple of months, the first year of that process was, was scare, fear rather. I was scared. I was defensive. I was, I mean, I was moving money around trying to guard, how do I put this here? How to put, I was in protection mode. I’m not even 33. What protecting what? Like, dude, you got you hopefully ever whole life ahead of you. Like you protection mode is not where you’re at. You’re not like retirement age. You gotta figure this out. Yeah. And that’s when I started developing the skill of asking better questions and all of this led to increased curiosity. Well, so I, I may have stray a little bit for, from your, from your question there-

Jenn DeWall:  That’s okay. And I wanna get back to it cause we didn’t hit this as much yet. And I know in our prep call, we had talked a little bit about the gig economy and really what that is. You can go willing with it or you can go against it, but it is pushing organizations to change because it’s changing the way or the expectations that workers have. Why, you know, talking about what the gig economy is. And maybe we can level set to what that is for someone that is still, maybe unfamiliar. Hasn’t heard that term before. Why do we need to bring the big or the gig economy into the traditional workplace? Because these are, that’s what some of these skills are curiosity, right? Like that’s what you were driving toward energy. Why do we need to bring that into the workplace?

Gregory Offner:  Yeah. So I mean, if I go back to thinking about like the Mad Men era of business you made and met professional friends, you know, you get outta college and folks move on and they move geographically. So you made new friends at work. Well, we’ve got social media, we’ve got all sorts of ways to interact with and meet people all over the world. So work no longer needs to be this social club that people go to and, and maybe, you know, for good reason, it, it shouldn’t be anymore. Folks wanna go to work, do something, and then leave. Whatever that something is, needs to be quantified by the employer. But previously the employer didn’t have to put that much thought into it, cuz it was just expected that you show up at nine, you leave at five we’ll figure out what to do with you in between, here’s your money and folks are going no, no that, that don’t work anymore.

Putting Productivity Before Physical Presence

Gregory Offner:  Cause see, I can make money here over here on my own. I can make money here over here with my friend. We can start this other business. There’s a lot of negatives right? To the gig economy. For sure we can. We, we don’t, we can avoid that for this conversation and focus on the one positive. The gig economy allows people to show up, engage fully complete their job efficiently and effectively, and go on with their life. And business is so resistant to this idea ex unless you’re in sales, if you’re in sales, you can make your quota and then you can goodbye. You can go golf. You can go to Tahiti. I mean, it depends on what you’re, you know, what type of boss you have. But generally if you’re in sales and you’ve, you’ve met your number, nobody cares what you do with your day. You’ve done what’s expected of you.

Jenn DeWall:  I wish that organizations knew that. I’ve a few friends in sales and it’s always like, oh yeah, I hit my numbers in February this year. So now I get to coast and anything I make on top of this, like that is just so foreign to me to look at. But it makes sense in terms of I hit the numbers, I hit the targets. I created value in the way that, you know, I overly exceeded it. I don’t even know what other organizations would do to put that level of trust into people to extend that. Or so many other things to change and evolve.

Gregory Offner:  Well, the first thing they’d have to do is they’d have to decide exactly what they want done. And so this is gonna put more of the onus on, on the leaders, on the managers, to better define what success looks like in a given day. And then they’ve also gotta provide an offramp for accelerated success. So using in the insurance world, let’s say there’s an account manager and their job is to create certificates of insurance, a lot of administrative stuff relating to policies and policy holders.

So what if the bosses figured out exactly how many cert certificates need to be issued a day? How many of this and that, and the other item need to get done each day and then said, all right, if you decide to do this much extra, here’s the bonus we’ll give you, they need to start paying for productivity or else. The employees are going to choose options that will pay for productivity. Because I’ve met very few people who are like, I can’t wait to go to the office and sit there and watch Netflix and pop my head up over my cubicle, like a little cubicle gopher every five minutes to make sure that when the boss is coming, I open up a spreadsheet and pretend I’m doing something like who likes that game? Nobody.

Jenn DeWall:  No, I, you know, I, I mean it is time for a change. Like I worked for a large organization, and I just remember it, it, you know, how stifling or how much your motivation and even your sense of like why bother being productive? I think about a corporate culture where it was expected. Like first one in last one out, like you must be really just slaying your business, doing really great, but then you got no reward for being efficient. And the only reward that you got was essentially met with, well, it seems like you’re not doing your job because we looked at you and you were doing this, even though we didn’t look at your performance, we just looked at the time in and out. And it was, it drove me bananas, like I would see. And I still think that there are organizations where people are held to that standard of prove it to me, how much you want this and they are productive. But the only way that they’re supposed to prove it is by being in and out at these certain times, instead of saying, are you efficient? Because why would I continue to be efficient then if I still have to be there for the full day? Like, why would I be efficient?

Greg Solves the Traffic Problem!

Gregory Offner:  This? This is why traffic in America will never get better. My dad, I told you earlier is in construction. And the first day on a job site, if you’re new to the crew, you learn what speed they work at. Doesn’t matter how fast you can get a wall up. It matters how fast they’ve decided they’re putting walls up. And if you don’t fall in, they will push you out. Because there is no incentive to build that house, to build that structure any faster than you absolutely have to because, oh, they’re all paid hourly. So let’s just get to the end of the day. Don’t break your back, literally and figuratively, and let’s go have some beers. Same thing with road crews, same thing with road crews. So what if, what if instead we realigned incentives? What if, what if we created a situation where let’s say repairing a stretch, a five mile stretch of I-95, right? That’s a road here in the east. If you’re on the east coast, you know, I, 95, it’s the misery <laugh>. So let’s say repairing a five mile stretch of I-95. And I don’t know, these numbers are gonna be way off, but let’s say it’s worth $30,000 to every worker, right? Let’s pretend that’s a great number. I don’t know. And let’s say that it’s project it to get done in six months, five mile stretch repaired in six months. Great. If that crew gets it done in eight months, they still get $30,000. But if they get it done in three months, they get $30,000. They effectively double the value of that job to them. And we all know that road work is not going away. So it’s not a question of, we don’t wanna do it faster cuz there won’t be any more jobs! Buddy. There’s more jobs.

Gregory Offner:  There’s more jobs for road workers for sure. But the question and the pushback that would naturally come next is, well, they’re gonna cut corners. It won’t be safe. This is what I mean by realigning incentives. So if you pay the workers, the production workers per project, and then you pay the supervisors and the safety engineers and the auditors per hour. So they’re incentivized to go as slow possible. Take the extra time to check every defect, just make the double-check. Let’s make sure it’s done right. And you have the workers pushing against them. Come on, come on, let’s hurry up. We want it. We wanna get this done. Right? We wanna get outta here. The workers are now incentivized to come up with more efficient, safer, more effective ways to get that job done. Everybody wins! So why aren’t we doing it?

Jenn DeWall:  Why aren’t that’s because we need to. And in conclusion, we need to be willing to relearn. <Laugh> like, I love that you’ve provided so many great examples of what we can do. Why maybe we need to be curious, you know, going back to that foundational skill of thinking, like I forget, what did you say in the beginning as it relates to defining your future success? Like the plan is you’re doing the plan right now or right now, the way you’re doing it is the right way. I forget exactly the language.

Gregory Offner:  Oh, I see what you’re asking about. Yeah. So it’s the new way is the right way, is a way of thinking about those folks who are a bit resistant to change. And you know, let’s say you’re a new manager out there and you got that old salt on your team. That’s been doing it for 30 years and you’re, you know, you’re the junior Lieutenant. So to speak, to, to use an army reference. And they say, well, listen, listen, young whipper snapper. Does anybody say that anymore? Listen here. Listen here, sonny. Yeah. I’ve been here for 30 years and there’s a way that we do it. A perfectly acceptable response is to look at that individual and say, I appreciate that. But the new way is the right way. So let’s get through this together. Let’s figure out how we can win together.

It’s Not About Being Certain – Learn, Unlearn, Relearn!

Gregory Offner:  Cause that’s what it’s about. It’s not about being right. It’s not about being certain, you know, talking about, learn a no lesson and learn more. It’s not about being certain. It’s not about being right. It’s about making progress and moving forward, the folks who wanna stop progress tend to have a vested interest in the way things are. And so we have to have an honest question with them about, okay, what is the purpose of the work that we’re doing? What is the impact of the work that we’re doing? And then when we look at processes, I’d invite every leader here to turn themselves into a process hunter, to stop trying to justify a new way and start forcing the justification of the current way. If you didn’t do it this way today, would you start? That’s a great question to take back to your organizations, look at a process, any process, the way you track sales data, the way people clock in and clock out. If it wasn’t being done this way today, would we look at this and go, this is the best way for us to do this. If not, it’s time for a change.

Where to Find Gregory Offner

Jenn DeWall:  I’d love that. That’s a great, closer, Gregory. How can the audience get in touch with you? How can they hire you, bring you in.

Gregory Offner:  So I wanna, I wanna give them more than we had really time to go over today. I wanna give them access to all of those seven keys. So the first thing I’d invite them to do is to take out their smartphone and text the word “keys” text the word, K E Y S to the number 33777. So if you do that, if you text the word keys to 33777, I’m gonna send you, I think it’s gonna ask for your email and your phone numbers or, well, it’ll have your phone number and your name so I can send it to you personally. But I will send you a one-sheet with these seven keys of success so that you can decide how you wanna move forward. Maybe you, you get a book or you watch a Ted Talk or I can help you if you want some extra help in your organization with this development.

And if you don’t have access to texting 33777, I’ve been told this works all over the world. You can go to my website, There’s a button on there that says “Email Gregory“, send me an email, mention this podcast. I’m happy to send it to you. And then if you just wanna connect and see pictures of my daughter and where I’m at from place to place, you know what sandwiches I’m eating in airports across the universe, you can follow me on Instagram at GregoryOffnerJr. Or I’m also on LinkedIn. I I’d love to connect with you there. And tell me what stood out in this episode. Tell me what meant the most to you. What you’re gonna put into practice. I really do wanna hear from you.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that Gregory. Thank you so much for all the insights. I would love to have you back on the podcast again, just to have another discussion, but thank you so much for giving your time, your energy and your expertise to The Leadership Habit audience. We are very grateful for you.

Gregory Offner:  It’s a privilege and a pleasure, Jenn, thank you so much.

Jenn DeWall:  Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast with Greg Offner. I love my conversation with him. I felt like he just had such great energy and insight, but I know what you’re thinking. Okay. I want to implement this competitive advantage right now. I want my people learning, unlearning. That’s the important piece in relearning quickly and effectively, but where do I start? Gregory is offering us access to his performer’s process overview as a special thank you for our listening guests. Just go to And you can get access to this video series right now. Absolutely free, no spam, just results.

And, of course, if you want help with your additional leadership needs to focus on engagement, communication, storytelling, or innovation, reach out to Crestcom. We would love to come in and offer a two-hour complimentary leadership skills workshop. And if you enjoyed today’s podcast episode, please leave us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service. Or, if you know someone that could benefit from hearing Gregory’s message, share it with them. Thank you so much for listening! Until next time.