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Find Enlightened Leadership with Leader, Author & Innovator, Rajeev Kapur
Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall, and in this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down with Rajeev Kapur to discuss how to chase greatness. Now let me tell you a little bit more about Rajeev. Over his career, Rajeev has been a part of the leadership team at Dell, where he built a $1 billion-plus business in the US and managed Dell’s, China and South Asia businesses.
Today, he was the CEO of 1105 Media, a leading media and marketing services company, in 2021. In 2022, Rajeev was a finalist for entrepreneur and innovator of the year from the Orange County Business Journal. He is a YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) member and received his MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business. In 2021, Rajeev became a best-selling author when his new leadership book, Chase Greatness, became the most downloaded leadership book on Amazon in November and December. He is an accomplished keynote speaker and executive coach for companies like AT&T and Amazon, and I hope you enjoy our conversation as we talk about his newest book, Chase Greatness.
Meet Rajeev Kapur, CEO of 1105 Media
Jenn DeWall: Rajeev, thank you so much for joining us on this show today. I am excited to talk about your new book. Hey, I think we could all learn a thing or two about what it takes to chase greatness. And I just want to start by saying thank you so much for donating your time. I know you are busy, but thank you for making time for the Leadership Habit audience. We are so grateful to have you on the show.
Rajeev Kapur: Oh, it’s, it’s my pleasure. So excited to be here with you guys. You know, you guys have just an amazing reputation, and I’m just glad I could be here and hopefully provide some good value.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, absolutely, I know you will. Well, I always love, and I know that every podcast starts this way, but I love a great origin story. So Rajeev, could you go ahead and introduce yourself to our audience? Tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you came to be where you are now, as well as your new book that we’re gonna be talking about today.
Rajeev’s Path to Enlightened Leadership
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, you know, it’s funny, people always ask me about my origin story, and I always think about something funny to talk about, like, you know, He came from another planet or whatever, right? But I, I wish I had something really exciting like that, but I don’t. But I’m just a Southern California boy, born and bred, you know, I was born and raised in Southern California in the LA area and you know, kind of lived a normal life in the, in the San Fernando Valley in the eighties. And so I was a valley dude. So the kids that watched Cobra Kai today, I’m like, Hey, I was the karate kid age back then, right? <Laugh>, so,
So it’s like, you know, I’m watching that show, it’s like my kids are like, Hey, you’re Daniel La Russo, Dad I’m like, yeah, I guess so. So anyway, so, but that’s kind of where I got the start. And then, you know, I did my undergrad out here in Southern California. I did my master out here. And then I think the big kind of step for me, and one of the biggest, one of the biggest lessons I learned early in my career was you have to go to the job. And so for me, it was back in 91, the economy was a little bit of a challenge down here in Southern California at the time. And I got a job working for an old computer company called Gateway 2000, which I’m sure not many people remember. And so I think we had a gateway computer. Yeah, it was the cow spotted boxes and everything.
And so, but you know, but the headquarters for game was in South Dakota, Sioux City, South Dakota. And so I went from being a southern California boy and I actually had to move to Sioux City, Iowa. There’s a tri-state area. So, cause you lived in Iowa and you drove in South Dakota every day. And so I did that for a couple years. Finally, it was like 56 degrees below zero one day with the wind chill factor. It is really bad, really challenging. And so I decided that, hey, you know what, this wasn’t for me.
From Michael Dell’s Assistant to General Manager of South Asia & India
Rajeev Kapur: And after a couple years I got recruited to Dell,and went to Dell and started off on the phones and after about six or seven months being on the phones, I got an opportunity to work for Michael Dell, first executive assistant for a little while. And that was really exciting and that really helped propel my career.
At Dell worked my way up there, eventually ran the west coast for Dell to grew that to a huge business, like a billion dollar plus business. And then, you know after after a few years of doing that, I had moved back to Southern California. Because I was spending all my time out here and I was married and preferred to be on the West Coast. And you know, Michael called one day and said, Rajeev, we’d really like you to go to China. So in 2000 packed up and went to China and went to kind of like that Beijing area for a while. And then ended up back and forth between the Dell factory and Shaman. And then there was some other challenges being in China back at that time. So ended up transferring into the Hong Kong office so it would be easier for me to fly back and forth.
And it was much easier to my wife cause we were pregnant at the time. So we did that for a couple years and built that up. And that was exciting to be there at the early days of Dell China. And then was asked to go run a big part of South Asia. So I eventually became general manager and of South and BP general manager, the South Asia market, and launch Dell, India and all these other cool countries. And that was an exciting time and an absolute amazing opportunity. And then, you know, I decided to move back to Southern California. Our second son was born in Singapore, wasn’t seeing the family much. And so made that choice to spend more time with family and, you know, became a bit more entrepreneurial. I went to a really small e-commerce company, did well there, then went to a startup, anddid well there.
And then went to another kind of sort of VC-funded company. Did, don’t, you know, that that went pretty good. And now for the last eight plus years I’ve been running a B2B marketing and media services company called 1105 Media and 1105 doesn’t have any meeting or anything. Like, that’s just what it, and so anyways, I’ve been doing that. And in the meantime, you know, I became an author. I sold my first movie script, just finished my second one. I’m a huge sports fan, big Laker fan. I went to the LeBron game the other night where he, when he went, I was there. And that was exciting. So that was really happy. That was cool. I took my son, cause it’s his birthday today, he turned 22 and so that was kinda birthday present for him. So yeah, about me I’m excited to here and CEO companies.
I’ve had three exits and I mean that smaller, small business was called Smart Home. We got the award for the best place to work here in Orange County. Actually. Lucky enough to get that award twice, you know. So again, you know, I could go on and on and on, but it’s really a testament to the teams I’ve had the pleasure of leading. And I’m really passionate about leadership and the future of leadership and I think it has to change. I think there’s an absolute ton of disruption coming not just in the workforce, but technologically as well. I think we’ve seen that over the last couple of weeks with chat GPT and these other technologies that are coming. I think there’s massive disruption coming and I don’t think current leadership, current CEOs are ready. And so that’s what I’m trying to pontificate, that you have to get ready. And I call it, and I call it enlightened leadership is what people have to embrace.
How Should Leaders Be Preparing for Leading in the Future?
Jenn DeWall: I love that. Well, you’ve shared a lot and obviously you were at Dell likely, I’m guessing. Not that we’re gonna give the years during a period of massive growth. And I mean, I think that, I remember the period even 20 years ago, like Dell was, I, I just remember it, it was everywhere and it was everything. Like what an exciting time to be with the organization. And then of course to witness LeBron, I mean, you, I love the, not only the, of course global experience that you’ve had so many different organizations, so many different leadership roles, and I really appreciate you because I know that you have so much value in insights and talking about enlightened leadership. So diving into what the future of work looks like, and I know we’re going to talk about your book, Chase Greatness. From your perspective, what do you think needs to happen or what do we need to be prepared for as it relates to leading in the future?
Rajeev Kapur: You know, so that’s a great question. So I think at the end of the day, there are two big things that are gonna be happening over the course of the next, let’s say 24 to 30 months. And we, we can go plus or minus on that. Okay? The first one is, is that you’re gonna see a lot more boomers retiring from the workforce, number one. And you’re gonna see a lot more Gen Z and Millennials moving into the workforce, right? Millennials are already here, Gen Zers are gonna be coming in. You think about, you know, the kids who are like, who are kind of just, who are now 20 years old in the next couple years, they’re gonna be 23 years old, and so they’re gonna be graduating from college. And so you’re gonna see this massive shift. And what’s, what’s happening in that, what’s happening in that is a couple things.
Rise of the JEDI Leader: Justice, Environment, Diversity, Inclusion
Rajeev Kapur: Number one is, according to the statistics, women for the first time will be the majority of the workforce in the US. And I don’t mean it’s like 60 40, it’s probably, it’s, it’s a little, it’s like 51-49, so it’s like right there. But they’re gonna be the majority for the first time ever. So, because most boomers in the workforce were mostly right. So when, when that that goes out, then you have this kind of mix that’s coming in. And so that, that’s where you’re seeing that uptick of, of female representation, which I think is awesome, right? So that’s number one. Number two is what’s happening is as this group comes into the workforce, they’re, they have a much more, you know, activist kind of base mentality. You know, they’re much more into what I call the Jedi, which stands for justice, environment, diversity, inclusion.
And you might say, rich Chief, well that doesn’t mean crap when I’m running a business. And, and I agree that when you think of it, that when you think of in a non-traditional way, you’re right, you know, or, or a traditional way, you’re right. It really doesn’t, right? How somebody thinks outside the walls, the business really shouldn’t matter how you treat them inside the business, right? You try to treat everybody with respect, treat them well, but what’s happening is, and you’ve seen this, and I’m sure you’re organization’s seen this and you know, the, the, the organization, the people that you guys support has seen this, is that you’ve got this great resignation happening, quiet, quitting, which to me is ridiculous because all that’s saying is, Hey, I’m doing my job. You’re not asking me to do more, so you’re not paying me for more, so I’m not doing it.
So whatever. So that, so that whole term is kinda ridiculous in my opinion. But regardless with what you’re seeing though, is the, the, this group that that’s coming in is saying, Hey, you know, I want to find a company that has purpose. I wanna find a company that has a passion that’s not just solely focused on the bottom line. And, you know, obviously capitalism, and I’m a capitalism sole, three companies, so I get it right. But here’s the thing, McKinsey has said that if you do focus on purpose, passion, taking care of the employees, if you, if you focus on building an amazing culture, if you focus on treating your, your employees as an internal customer, then you’re gonna actually improve your bottom line because you’re gonna have less turnover. You’re gonna promote from within, you know, people are gonna deal with you longer. So this is a whole domino effect of doing that, and that leads to a much better bottom line, right?
Deloitte came out and said, they did a survey a few years ago that said, they asked all these CEOs, what percent of you, what percent of you believe that culture is important? Well, 90% said, raised their hands and culture is the most important thing, but only 10% actually ever did anything about it. And I’m here to say that culture’s really gonna matter now for future, because you can remark, you can work anywhere in the world and still get your job done. Like I can run 95% of my company on my smartphone, right? The only thing I really don’t do on my smartphone is I don’t do my board meetings on my smartphone, I don’t do my management staff meetings, right? But even those I do on the laptop, and I can do those sitting in the malls, I can do them sitting here and my office here in Southern California, right?
The First Step to Enlightened Leadership
Rajeev Kapur: So, but my point is that, so work is getting remote. I know people wanna go back in the offices and to some cases that’s important. And I think, so a hybrid work environment is probably what’s gonna win the day. But you have all these things that are coming and you have this employee set that is saying, Hey Jenn, we really wanna be with you because you have a passion and a purpose, and we’ll stay with you if you can demonstrate that. And that to me is the first step of enlightened leadership and enlightened leadership take the foundation of servant leadership that we all kind of grew up with and says, Hey Jenn, not only am I here to help you be successful in your job, I’m also gonna do whatever I can to help support you outside the walls of the business. An example of that here at 1105, what I did was we give everybody now a paid day off to go vote.
Not many companies do that. So we pay for that. So that something doesn’t, so if you’re not happy with a decision that’s being made in, in government or politics, whatever, it’s great. We’re gonna ask you, I’m gonna say, look, I’m gonna pay, I’m gonna give you a day off. Don’t worry about your paycheck. I’ve got it covered and you go out there and do this. So that’s just a small example, right? That’s, you know, and so we donate money to nonprofits charities last year, we gave the last 14 months, we’ve given about $50,000 to support nonprofits and, and charities throughout the country for whether it’s funding, scholarships for underprivileged girls who wanna go to college that are in high school on the border- that sit on the Arizona Mexico border in the Nogales, Arizona to Operation Smile to Rainbow Services. So, so we’re doing those types of things. Try to try to make sure our employees understand that we wanna do what we can to, to, to really help you know, their communities be better. And that, to me is enlightened leadership.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, I love that. And yes, it’s, I mean, would you say that enlightened leadership is because the biggest thing, you know, for me as a millennial is also that need to be treated as a human, as not, you know, as a product of the bottom line, not just a means to an end. It’s part of feeling like, yeah, you actually care about me, that I’m not just someone that’s, you know, disposable, I, what’s your take on that and that shift in talking about mental health in the workplace?
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, that’s a great point because look, you know, when you get on an airplane, you know, the flight attendant says, Hey, in case of turbulence, mask is gonna fall from the ceiling. And the first thing they say is, put on your own mask, right? Before you help the other person sitting next to you. And as a CEO, as a leader of a team or a business or whatever it might be, is, you know, they, they’re your team, right? You gotta help put on their mask first before you can worry about your external customer. So that’s why I’m saying focus on your internal customer first. Put on their own mask first. That might mean helping them with mental wellness days off, you know, having a couple of those in, in their pockets so they can go do that so they don’t have to worry about being stressed out, you know, and finding in exciting, encouraging ways, you know, to, to make sure that they take their vacations.
Getting Comfortable with Not Having all the Answers
Rajeev Kapur: Because a lot of people don’t take their vacations, right? It’s, and this is not all about, like, you know, you hear about the tech companies and a lot of these portrait articles, wait, I’m gonna give you free lunches and cokes and candies and all these things. That’s not what this is about. But what people want at the end of the day is they wanna know they can go to work, that they have really, that they have a boss that’s grateful, that they have people who are fully resilient, that they have the ability for people to have empathy. And the empathy thing is really important because when I was growing up in the eighties and nineties when I was gonna, when when I was working at Dell, I remember my mentor would say, if you’re ever gonna go talk to your boss, you gotta go with three solutions.
And I totally got that right. That made a lot of sense. Because you’re not waste somebody’s time, they’re busy, right? But when Covid hit, I realized that that was ridiculous because no one had a solution for Covid, right? No one knew what to do. But I was a CEO for a reason. And I, I think myself, you know, if people don’t come to me with ideas and like, we have to right now throw as much spaghetti on the wall that, that they’re gonna just clam up or they’re not gonna come to me. Cause they don’t have any solutions for Covid. So I, I immediately went to them and say, look, don’t worry about it. If you don’t have solutions, we’re gonna talk about everything. And that really changed my mindset in terms of how I led. And I let people know, look, if you, because my job, I realize that, look, if I’m sitting as a ceo, I worked really hard to get where I am.
Rajeev Kapur: I have experiences that they can learn from, right? Right. And if they’re stuck, my job should be, Hey Jenn, let me help you get unstuck. Thanks. Let’s go for a walk and let’s throw some spaghetti on a wall together. Right? Maybe you just need to talk something through. Maybe you just need someone to talk to, vent, listen to, so come let that be me. You know, I’m happy to do that. So I need that big shift. So, so I started to listening big more, much more empathy, but then having a lot more accountability, but then really increasing the communication to have that transparency, right? So those were the key five attributes that really were important to me. As you look at enlightened leadership and, and as we led our way through Covid.
What Was the Inspiration for Your Book, Chase Greatness?
Jenn DeWall: Well, and I love that. And so this is the great segue into your book that you recently wrote, Chase Greatness. What inspired you? Was it the pandemic that kind of made that shift in seeing like, we’ve gotta change? Or what was the inspiration? Was it, was it the pandemic? Was it just noticing, you know, some of the stuff is just not working anymore? What made you want to bring this book to reality or to real life?
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, no, so the great question. So there’s actually a couple things. So, so when Covid hit my company, look, we were doing really well. We were growing, we were doing this, you know, and all of a sudden we slammed into a wall when Covid hit because little over half my business was face to face events. And so we were no different than going to a concert or going to a movie. You know, everything was closed. We were closed. I mean, that revenue was gone. People were not coming, people were afraid. I remember hearing stories about the friends that worked as doctors who were literally writing their wills saying goodbye to their kids as they were going into work, right? So people were, people on my team. They had parents who were doctors or family that were doctors. And, and you see that and you realize you’re such a small, you’re so small in, in the world, the universe, the grand scheme of things in that there are bigger issues out there.
And so, you know, so for me, me ultimately, it was a real mental cathartic thing for me because there’s about a 24 to 40 hour window where I didn’t know what to do. There was no case study for me to go read because there was no case study on how, you handle Covid, right? There was no mentor for me to call because no mentor had ever gone through this, right? So what was I gonna do? So I just kind of decided to take the, the tactic saying, you know what I want, hopefully one day Harvard will write a case study on what we did here at 1105 to navigate this storm. And so that was the mental thing I took. I decided to put on my own mask first, and I realized I needed something to do while I was sitting at home, you know, getting, you know, late at night after having chance to play a walk my dog and do whatever and, you know, and so I said, you know what, you’ve always wanted to write this book, so write the book.
And I had notes everywhere. So I started writing the book, I wrote an outline. I wrote, wrote some chapters and that, and then, you know, as I mentioned to you before, I’m a member of this group called YPO, and I reached out to some YPOers and they hooked me up with a, with a, with a publishing company. And they then helped support me. And you know, it took another year or so to write it and, you know, there you go. But it was real cathartic for me to write it, to get this down because that’s when I started doing my research. I had all this free time, I had all this time to research and realize the workforce is gonna change. You know, the subheading of the book is Enlightened Leadership for the Next Generation of Disruption. And I looked at Covid as a massive disruption, but I also looked at the workforce being disrupted by the fact that you’re gonna have the majority of the workforce’s gonna be Gen Z, millennial, and that group women in the next 24 months.
Workplace Disruption and Transformation
Rajeev Kapur: Well, this was three years ago I wrote it, but now it’s 24 months. And so I was then, I was talking about how IOT, robotics, even kind of AI type things were gonna be transforming the way people did their jobs. Just the way the first internet transformed the way our parents did their jobs right back in the mid nineties. And so I just kinda opine that was the case. And fast forward now to two months ago and Chat GPT rolls out and they’re now talking about how it’s gonna be as big, if not bigger than when the first internet browser came out. And that’s gonna lead to massive disruption in the workforce. So that’s what I kind of decided to do. That’s why I wrote the book, and I felt like I had something to say. And I, you know, and I really felt like, and, and I’m gonna be very blunt here and honest, that if CEOs are unwilling to change, if leadership teams are unwilling to change to this changing demographic, to the changing world around them of what’s happening with technology, they’re just gonna be left behind and their company’s gonna be outta this period.
Rajeev Kapur: So, so they have two choices to change, understand it’s coming or don’t, and be left behind.
Enlightened Leaders Know You Must Adapt or Be Left Behind
Jenn DeWall: Right? And I feel, I mean, I’ve read a few different things, you know, adaptive leadership being one of the necessary skills of the future, and learning how to stand in solidarity with uncertainty. That is, you know, we no longer get the same luxury that I’m sure business leaders had 10 years ago or 20 years ago with that stability or the LY trends because everything is changing too fast. And so I love that point of emphasis that you’ve made because I think there are still a lot of people that are struggling with this. It’s a new way of approaching it. And so we naturally see the school of resistors, can we please go back to the way things were and the adopters, the people that are welcoming and, and ready for it? And I think I was probably very ready for all of this disruption because I found, as a newer employee, and I’m a 40 year old millennial, so I’m at the, I guess beginning page of that.
I felt like the workplace didn’t necessarily do a great job. I actually, when I entered the workplace, I actually thought leadership was a joke. I’m like, oh. So everything that I learned, I took Dale Carnegie when I was 18, I had done a lot of different things and I was like, oh, was that just that nice little thing that they teach kids to make them play nice? Because it wasn’t well demonstrated, it was very authoritative. But I love your approach on enlightened leadership to be able to think about that next generation of disruption, because that’s the only thing that’s going to come, even though me as someone that loves stability as all of us, oh gosh, I don’t even know the ways chat, GPT, all the ways that it’s going to disrupt and what that’s going to look like. And I don’t even think they know all the ways that it will disrupt yet. Yeah,
Rajeev Kapur: I mean, it’s just like, if you go back, look at the first browser, no one realized, no one knew what social media was gonna be back in 96. No one knew what e-commerce was gonna be. I still remember being in a meeting when Michael Dell walked in the office and he had this box and it said Mosaic on it, right? And Mosaic was the first browser that eventually became Netscape, which, you know, and he said, I want you guys to figure out how to sell computers on this thing, you know? And that to me is leadership. That to me was a vision, right? And, and so my company, for example, like at, when we did a on last last Wednesday, we did our, our annual recognition event. And in that meeting, I told every every single employee, all hundred 40 million employees are all gonna have to go through training on generative AI, on Chat GPT, and these types of tools, every single one, I don’t care who, they’re everyone.
And sure enough, and you know, now I’ve got employees are are into it. We’re embracing it. We’ve got ideas. You know, this one, I have this one employee who was using an example, almost like as a substitute marketer for her in doing her job. I mean, it was just amazing to see it. But this is, but you see this, right? And that’s today, imagine what this is gonna be like in 2, 3, 4 years, right? So that’s why you’ve got all these Gen Zers who are the most connected group of people in history. They’re the most technologically advanced in history, are coming into the workforce. And they’re gonna embrace this stuff. They’re gonna know all this stuff backwards and forwards, right? It’s kinda like when social media first started, but they say, you wanna learn social, social media? Go hire a young intern, right? So, so now you see what’s coming, right? So it’s coming and it’s coming and that perception is coming. And you have two choices. You can either stand on the track, not change, and get hit by the train, or you could move aside, retool your business, retool your teams, retool the fact, make sure that your IT team, your cio, your CTOs, whoever they might be, are embracing this and pushing this down in an organization or be left behind. I mean, really, you just have two choices. I love that. If you need help, call me. If you need help, call me. Hold on.
Jenn DeWall: <Laugh>, I love that.
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How do Enlightened Leaders Chase Greatness?
Jenn DeWall: Let’s talk about it. Okay? For those that are ready and thinking about, okay, I’m ready to embrace a new approach, a new way of leading, let’s talk about what it means to chase greatness. What does it mean to be great? Or what does it mean to chase? Great.
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah. So, so that’s great. I really appreciate that question because I’m gonna go back to, so when I was sitting in my home office when Covid hit, this was about a week after everything was shut down and we made the decision to we’re gonna go for it and we’re gonna fix this company. And we’re, we’re, I’m not gonna let anything happen. We’re gonna, we’re gonna take our big decision, we’re gonna take our pay cuts, we’re gonna the layoff, do everything we needed, right? And I walked into my whiteboard and I asked and wrote, whiteboard, what does it mean to be great?
Whatever, A couple days go by, I’m staring at the whiteboard, where does it, so then I went up to the whiteboard a couple days later and I erased that, and I wrote the word great, you know, vertically, you know, in a g you know, G R E A T. And then I wrote Gratitude, Resilience, Empathy, Accountability, and Trust. And it just happened to be, that was the acronym I kind of came up with. And I, and I just mentioned that like 10 minutes ago though, it was exact five attributes almost. And so then a couple days go by and I erased the word trust, and I put the word transparency. And I, and the reason why I erased the word trust, cause people say, well, when you think about great, you know, rates and acronym, why’d you get rid of the word trust? I go, well, I really didn’t.
I, all I’m saying is that if you wanna build that trust in an organization, you’ve gotta be really transparent with them. Like, I needed to be really transparent with my entire team. This is what Covid has done to our business. This is what we need to do. This is how I need everyone to come together. And I couldn’t just say, Hey guys, we’re gonna lay off people. Trust me. I need to tell them why I need to be transparent. I needed them to understand what was happening. So that’s what so that’s what we did. And to me, those five key attributes of gratitude, resilience, empathy, accountability, and transparency, make up the word great. And that became my north star for what enlightened leadership should be. And if I go back and I look at historically those five attributes, you see pockets of that everywhere. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, when he took over for Steve Ballmer, he says he’s an internet interview. He says gratitude was the number one thing that he implemented that turned Microsoft around gratitude.
Gratitude and the Path to Enlightened Leadership
Jenn DeWall: That’s, I love that. Let, let’s dive into that. Like as gratitude being the starting point for, you know, great, what does gratitude look like in action? Because I think that there, you know, in a traditional school of thought, maybe it was, there’s no place for gratitude or yeah, we’ve got a rewards and recognition. We’ll send you a gift card. What does gratitude look like in action? Or said in a different way? What does gratitude mean to you and how you wrote about it in this book?
Rajeev Kapur: Look, yeah, I mean, you know, the way I write about it in the book is that gratitude is a foundational integrated, like, it’s in your soul. It’s something you just do, just as, just like you breathe, just like you walk or talk– gratitude, kindness, compassion, kindness, compassion are all an outcome of gratitude, right? I am so grateful I have an opportunity to talk to you and get my message across to your audience, right? I, I am so grateful that I had a chance today to go meet with, with, with a bunch of guys this morning to talk about our personal family business and where we can become better leaders, better fathers, but better husbands. You know, better people, better persons, you know, to our communities. I had that discussion earlier today, right? So gratitude is recognizing that you have so much to grateful for, and how do you now take that and spread that message across?
And what Microsoft didn’t do for a long time is they did not embrace their community. And gratitude is a hug. Gratitude is a way to embrace your community and let them know that, hey, we wouldn’t be here unless it was for you. And that’s what you need to do, is you, you need to hug your team, hug your organization, and you let them know that you as a CEO wouldn’t be here. That wasn’t for them, you know? And that, yes, there’s gonna be times when you have to make some tough decisions, but you, but you promised always be fully transparent and you’ll answer any question. And that you’re gonna do everything you can to be grateful for them and making sure that they are, have the tools they need to be successful, okay? And when you honor their dreams that way, that becomes your why. And so that, that led to my why, which is helping to honor other people’s dreams and gratitude is the enabler of that. So that’s why gratitude is so important.
Jenn DeWall: I mean, I love that. I, I can think of the jobs that have stood, or, the bosses I should say, that have stood out to me. The ones that have made the greatest impact are the ones that have have said, thank you so much for your work. I really appreciate what you did. And honestly, the first time I ever heard that from a boss, I was like, who are you? Because that was not the traditional way to speak to employees. It was, you should just be happy. You have a job, aren’t you happy that you work here? And so to feel so valued by a boss felt like, what’s the catch? What, what am I waiting for here? And I’m curious, how do you, you know, you talked about it as like giving your team a hug. How do you practice gratitude or how do you personally show your employees that you’re grateful for them?
Rajeev Kapur: So it’s, to me now it’s become second nature, right? So to me, I just find myself doing it without even realize I’m doing it right. Whether it’s an atta-boy in an email, whether it’s randomly calling somebody, whether it’s realizing, Hey, it’s Jenn’s birthday today, so I’m gonna wish you a happy birthday. You know, whether it’s, you know being grateful for a customer that did something amazing, or, you know, we have something internally in the company called the High Five Award, which is a peer-to-peer recognition award. Whether it’s doing on-the-spots, you know, whether it is doing a research on figuring out a great tool for them to be able to use, you know, you know, one of the things we decided to do as a company is we didn’t take a dollar of PPP money, not $1. So all that government stimulus that came out a, we were, we had a really hard time qualifying cuz we had some private equity money in us.
And so we didn’t take a dollar. So I asked the team to take pay cuts. I asked the team to do certain things and so I wanted to make sure that I could return that favor. And we did. And we, we were able to restore people’s pay back fairly quickly. We do, we do, we do like a yearly bonus for every employee. You know, we, you know, we, we we allow remote work, you know, you know, I, I tell people, you know, if you’re not feeling good, if you’re tired and it’s five o’clock in the evening, that’s okay. Go home or to turn off your computer wherever you are. You know, go to Starbucks or go go to the beach. Or go to the mountains or go for a hike because that problem you have, it’ll still be there at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning and do it when you’re refreshed.
Rajeev Kapur: I’d rather you have a clear mind to go do that way, because, or if you feel like, hey, you know what, you’ve got a appointment in the day or you gotta take care of your kids the day, but, but you can get the job done at eight o’clock at night and you need, you need to have a few hours off in the middle of the day to go do other stuff. Do I care if the job gets done at 10:00 AM or 10:00 PM Yeah, I really don’t. Right? So, so we kind of really backed off of this kind of authoritarian viewpoint saying, look, company’s doing well, we’re doing fine. Knock on wood, you know, we, we trust you because we’re fully transparent and as a two-way street, the relationship we have, you know, one thing I try to stay away from is I’m not a big fan of using that word family, you know? Instead what I like to do is I talk about the fact that there is, it’s a two-way relationship. And so, you know, it’s a relationship. And so we honor we try to honor that relationship. And so that’s, that’s what we do.
Enlightened Leaders Must Have Empathy and Understanding
Jenn DeWall: I love that, I love that you make time because that’s the big piece I heard. You’re, you obviously are, you sit on multiple boards, you’re running an organization, you’ve got a lot going on and you still make the time for development. And you know, cuz I, I think that’s an important point to emphasize because there might be people that say, I don’t have time for that. But it sounds like you make the time, you take time to make that time, which is, you know, the important piece of it. And I know, and I wanna go into a few other elements of great, I know we, we will not cover them all because hey, we’re gonna get the book, but let’s talk about another one. Let’s talk about what, what empathy sounds like for you and empathy and how we’re demonstrating that. Because again, I think there’s a lot more confusion from people on the, the how, like how do you do empathy and come on, can’t they again, just be happy they have a job? You know, I know that there’s that traditional approach that comes back in, but how do you define empathy or from how did you write it?
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, I mean, I, I think the big one, I think I mentioned it earlier, to me, empathy is just all about listening big. That’s it. It’s really simple. And I don’t wanna complicate this with some sort of long drawn out or attractive answer. It’s really just about listening big. Like, I think I gave the example earlier, right? That when I was growing up, when I was kinda moving up the ladder in my career, you had to go to your boss with those three solutions, otherwise you don’t go to your boss, right? And, and so that has to change. And that, that’s where I, I think that was probably of those five attributes I talked about, I thought of, of gratitude, resilience, empathy, accountability, and transparency. I think empathy was the one where I think I changed the most. And having that attitude that say, that’s okay, Jenn, you got a problem, you know, come and talk to me.
Let’s, let’s work it through together. We’re in this together, it’s a relationship, right? Jenn, thank you for trusting me to come to me with a problem and not being afraid of my title. Because the more, the more I can take my experiences and give them to you, the better you’re gonna be right? And the better and the happier you’re gonna be your job. And that’s the, that’s empathy. That’s really all you gotta do, right? It’s, it’s, you know, it’s when you’re walking down the hallways of, of the office, you know, it’s stopping by and listening and saying, how’s it going? Right? Oh, it’s my son’s birthday today and it happens to be my son’s birthday today, you know, oh, happy birthday. But then going back to your office noting, oh, it’s Jenn’s son’s birthday today, put that in your calendar. So next year it pops up saying, oh, it’s Jenn’s son’s birthday today. Hey Jenn, who’s your son, Sean, a happy birthday. You know, whatever. Right? My son’s name, Sean. So anyways, so, so that’s, so those are small little things you do, right? I mean, you know, it’s, you know, it’s, you know, people get excited by those things, right? So that’s, but it’s simple. It’s that, that you don’t, overcomplicate that one. It’s a big word in business, but it’s a really easy one to implement.
Jenn DeWall: Where do you think, out of the, out of gratitude, resilience, empathy, accountability and transparency, what one, from your experience, do you think either for you was maybe the most challenging to adjust? Or do you, you think people in general might have, you know, a little bit more hurdles or complications with really adapting?
Rajeev Kapur: So I think as I mentioned, I think empathy was probably my biggest one. And I think the second one was probably transparency, because look, it’s hard to be able to really be, oh, there’s certain things you can’t talk about in a business, right? You know, obviously you wanna, you know, but you have to, when it come to time for major challenges and issues, you gotta be really transparent with your team. So you gotta tell ’em how you’re performing as a company, where you have gaps, where you have opportunities for growth, where you think the misses are where you, where, where do you think the hits are? Where, you know, where do you think the you know, the, there might be an opportunity to improve a performance, you know, whatever the case, you gotta be transparent, but you also have to be transparent the other way as well.
You have to be willing to listen to that as well. And that’s where that empathy piece comes back, right? And you have to learn, you have to learn that not only can you give constructive criticism, you need to be open to receiving that constructive criticism as well. So that’s what we did. Employee surveys out there. Right. You know, one of the questions I asked, so at the, at the end, and hopefully the leaders skip the book, and at the end of the chapters I have questions of, you know, Ithought provoking questions at the end of every chapter. And I think my, somebody asked me, what is my favorite question in the book? So as a leader, as a CEO my favorite question in that book is, if you’re trying to figure out how good your culture is, the question I want you to ask your employees is, Jenn, if you were to receive an offer from a Crestcom competitor making the exact same amount of money, do the exact same thing, would you leave? So granted, these things are anonymous, right? And if the answer you get back is yes, you have a major culture problem,
Transparency Creates Trust
Jenn DeWall: Right? Right. Yeah, absolutely. If they’re like, Hey, anything’s gotta be better than here. I have one final question as it relates to transparency is I think whether you’re an emerging leader or whether you’re an executive leader, it’s often really difficult to determine what is appropriate, what can I share? But the other piece is when, because when do you make the time to share this? Is it a standing meeting that you have? Because I often notice that sometimes organizations will, you know, I might have to listen to a quarterly earnings call to actually hear the update. So do you have any prescriptive advice on how to approach transparency when to, you know, communicate particular information or when it’s essential such as, hey, we just, you know, lost a big client, or, you know, here’s a crisis situation. I’m curious if you have any tips on how people can understand when they should be prompted to be more transparent.
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, no, great, great question. And so look, my, my tip is essentially is that you’ve gotta start getting it on the calendar. So, so people can start changing behavior. So for example, we do a quarterly recognition event at the end of every quarter, about three weeks after the quarter closes. So we’ll do a Q1 recognition event towards the end of April, and we talk about, Hey, who are the new employees that started the company? We’ll do, we’ll celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we’ll celebrate, you know, the what we call the 1105 of the quarter, the manager of the quarter for the different divisions, and there’s five divisions. And so, so we do all that stuff, right? And then we talk about, you know, how are we doing in our different business lines? Are they up, are they down? Are they just kind of holding, you know, sideways, whatever the case may be.
We talk about that stuff, we talk about the priorities, how are we doing against them? So we have a set of KPIs, key performance indicators, how are we doing it against our KPIs? And we make it simple stoplight format, green, yellow, red, green, hey that kpi, man. Yeah, we’re, we’re, we’re gold. That, that, that’s a good, we’re we’re going, we’re driving the car. We’re, we’ve driven, we’re we’re driving down the road so that, that, that, that KPI is going. So that’s green. So I mean that we’re on track. Yellow means, hey, you know, we’re not on track, we’re not off track. It’s just kind there. It’s kind muddling a little bit, but I think we can do it. And red means we’re off means we’re stopped. And so obviously your goal as a CEO is to take your reds, turn ’em into yellows, and take your yellows and turn ’em in greens, right?
And keep your greens, greens. So that’s ultimately the goal, right? And those are your KPIs. So we share that group with people. We do that. And then that every division, so every division GM does a monthly town hall just with our specific group. Cause at my recognition events that we do quarterly, they’re very high level, right? They talk about more high levels going across all the businesses.
Give Your Team Control of Their Calendars
Rajeev Kapur: And then, look, I, I only have two set standing meetings. Well, I have more than that, but you, but in terms of set, like we’ll set individual one-on-one type meetings. So I have a staff meeting every Tuesday, and then I have one-on-ones with every single one of my direct reports, which is about 10 direct reports every week. Other than that, I try not to add more meetings to people’s calendars. I get invited to meetings, which I go to, but I try not to add more meetings to other people’s calendars.
I want, I want my team to be control, I want them to be controllers of their own catalog to their own calendar, to their own time. Like, so, so we, so I decided a couple years ago to decentralize all decision making and push it closest to the customer as possible. And, and we change incentives, we change bonus structures to say, okay, you’re gonna be responsible for profitability for your business. If that’s the case, I’m gonna give you the keys to the car to drive, but here’s the number you gotta hit. What decisions are you gonna make now to deliver that number? Now you can do your hiring, you can do your firing, you can do, you can decide what groups you gonna do, but, and we’ll, we’ll review that progress every week and we’ll see how that’s going. And so, so that’s that, that, that’s, that’s essentially what we do.
Jenn DeWall: I love that example, and I know that you can speak about it with competence because clearly you’ve been able to articulate this, but I also just wanted to acknowledge that that is actually one of the things that’s really hard for people, a following through on strategies and actually checking up on the KPIs or milestones or whatever that is. But then two, whoa, you’re giving people the keys to the car to drive that or letting go of that control is honestly, I mean that’s e that’s a challenge again, at every single level of leadership. And so I just want to acknowledge and hopefully reemphasize to our listeners of the value that can come if you do give away some of that control if you do allow more autonomy or decentralized decision-making. And I just, I appreciate that example because I think there’s a lot of people that have more fear with that. And it sounds like you really lean into it with a lot of trust and I, you know, and I know that that’s part of your last piece. So Rajeev, I really enjoyed our conversation. How can our audience connect with you? Where can they get the book? How can they get in touch with you?
Where to Find More from Rajeev Kapur
Rajeev Kapur: Yeah, no, thank you. I appreciate that. So look, I mean the book’s obviously available on Amazon. It’s available, it’s also available, so it’s available in Kindle format. It’s now available in audiobook format through Audible. You can also buy the hard cover through Amazon and you can just search in Chase Greatness, Rajeev Kapur, last name is K A P U R, or Chase Greatness Enlightened Leadership, that will pull it all up right there. They can go on, it’s available book’s available at an audiobook on Spotify as well now. So if you go to spotify.com, you can’t go to the app, you have to go spotify.com and get it there. And over time it’ll be rolling out other places as well. So that’s where it’s available on an audiobook format. So I think through Spotify and Audible.com, You got most of those covered in terms of getting hold of me.
Obviously I’m on LinkedIn. If you just want LinkedIn, type in Rajeev. My first name is spelled r a j e e v, like Victor, then, then people will find me 1105 media. It’s not that hard. You know, and then of I’m on social media fairly, I’m pretty active as mostly on Instagram. I’m not a big Twitter guy, but I like Instagram. And so my, my Instagram is at @TheRajeevKapur. But anyways so that’s kinda, those are kinda really good ways to get hold of me. Also, you know, if they can go to RajeevKapur.com and also to 1105Media.com and there’s ways to, to connect with me there. And of course they can always, I guess, get ahold of you. You can send them my way as well, so,
Jenn DeWall: Yes, absolutely. Well, Rajeev, thank you again so much for carving out the time to help us all think differently about how we might approach and actually chase greatness. Thank you so much for coming on the leadership Habit.
Rajeev Kapur: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much. Proud I could be here today.
Jenn DeWall: Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit. I love the examples, and especially Rajeev just sharing even the ways that he practices what he preaches. Now, if you want to get in touch with Rajeev, you can purchase his book Chase Greatness, and you can find that on Amazon, or you can head on over to his website, RajeevKapur.com or even check out 1105 Media. And of course, if you know someone that might benefit from hearing this message, please share it. And don’t forget to leave us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.