Hey guys, it is Ken Courtright, once again doing a podcast from a hotel room with my kids in the room. Love the fact that I can work and take my family with me wherever I go. It is truly a honor.
I wanted to do a podcast in the way of using my experience to be your wisdom. The safest way to go through a minefield is stepping in someone else’s footsteps. If you don’t see blood, you keep going. In our 20-some-odd years, we now have 80 employees, a ton of vendor relationships and alliance partners.
Years ago, I was listening to a cassette tape from a woman who had over 3,000 employees. She was covering some management techniques that were groundbreaking to me. I couldn’t wait to implement some of the information and try some of those ideas. It was immediately fruitful, even that day.
I wanted to cover some of what I heard on that cassette tape maybe 20 years ago. Since then, I have elaborated it, adjusted it, made it my own. About half of what I am going to say I gathered from that cassette tape years ago.
Management Nuggets To Help Alleviate The Pain
I am going to call this podcast “Management Nuggets.” These have given me the ability to alleviate painful lessons quicker. It has also allowed us to make great leaps forward in how we hire, how we manage, and how we grow. I am truly excited to share this because we look at all of our employees and alliance partners as family. Kerri and I look at each and every one of them as either a brother or sister or kids. Many of us know or have heard that dealing with family in a business situation is difficult. It’s trying. I am really hoping my experience can be your wisdom.
Let’s get cookin’ here. My philosophy on management and managing people centers around the five phases that people go through in any occupation. I want you guys to think back to any position you have ever had. You are currently in a position. You either own something or manage something or are an employee or starting something. I want you to think back to the job you had before this one.
Here’s the thing. That position, the one you had before, I don’t care if you were a teacher, a pastor, a business owner, an entrepreneur. Everybody, including yourself, goes through the five following phases while occupying a position.
Here’s how they work. Phase one is the excitement phase. It’s when you start that new position, and everything is exciting. It’s new. It’s energetic. It’s the continual newness and freshness of the future, of hope. You have the ability to provide feedback. People want your opinion. You know you’re about to add value to something, and it’s exciting.
The second phase people slip into is the education phase. That first excitement phase, for some people it lasts a day or two. For others, it lasts six months. Eventually, for a brief period of time, or sometimes for an extended period of time, people slip into the education phase. The education phase is where you go, “Okay, this is fun and cool, but now I have to study. I really have to learn this industry. I have to learn this position. I have to learn my bosses, the vendor relationships, how they operate, the products.” It’s a real learning journey.
Then phase three comes. Phase three is the reality phase. The reality phase is the realization that this is 40-60-80 hours a week. This is home to work, home to work, home to work. This is a process. This is a journey. I am going to be here a while. The reality phase is quite interesting because reality sets in.
Phase four is the doubt phase. Phase four says that something has just happened; it’s pretty much always triggered by another person. But some event has just happened. You are starting to doubt yourself, the position, the company, the company you’re with inside the company. You are completely doubting.
Phase five is the clarity phase. This is when things are crystal clear. I’d like to say that you know who you are. You know where you’re at. You know where you’re working with. And you certainly know where you’re going.
Five Phases Of An Employee Cycle
I want to talk about each of these five phases and shed some light on what I have learned and how it has helped me and how it really helps us today with employees, managing employees, having difficult conversations with vendors and alliance partners and employees.
Here is how this works. Some initial keys to look for are if you are managing people, or even if you are in one of these five phases, is the understanding that hurting people hurt people. People that are hurting hurt people. They don’t mean to.
But you have to remember that phases three and four, the reality phase and the doubt phase, for many people are very painful. Both of them in a way deal with uncertainty, and uncertainty triggers a physical and psychological response because it is centered around fear. It is fear of the future, fear of the unknown, and when people are uncertain and afraid, they begin to hurt. It is a primal thing. When you know you’re around someone that is in this reality phase or the doubt phase, then you want to give them some breathing room and some space.
Whether managing employees or alliance partners or even kids, it’s important to know or at least have a good guess of what phase each person is in when you are speaking with them, especially if you have to confront them with something.
Let’s do some role play quickly. If you are managing a relationship with an alliance partner or a vendor that supplies your products or a vendor that builds your website or an employee, even a boss, if you know you have to confront them on something, would it make sense if you also knew right before that meeting that they were in the excitement phase or the education phase? Or you also know that they were in the reality or doubt phase? Wouldn’t you enter that meeting, if you knew this information, a little bit differently, maybe with a different mindset, attitude, or thoughts?
For me, I am always walking into a meeting asking myself, “What are their personalities?” That was on a previous podcast. What is this person? Are they sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic? I want to know how they are wired. Then I am immediately going to, “Do I have enough information to discern what phase these people are in at this company? Are they jacked out of their mind with excitement, or fully in the educational mode, or are they truly doubting where you don’t know if they are on the way out?”
Phase one is both an excellent phase and a scary phase at the same time. I love working with people who are in phase one. They exude energy and are electric, but the challenge with phase one—and it only comes in on the sales side of the house—is in the 90’s, we had a compensation plan that was second to none. I once caught a sales rep elaborating on the size of our company back then. When I confronted this person, the sales rep said, “I don’t know why I said that. I guess I’m so excited about this job that I thought the company was bigger than it was.” The way he said it, I no question believed him.
Phase one, outside of salespeople or marketers that want to elaborate because they are truly that excited about what they are doing, is just awesome. It’s a great place to be.
Phase two, the education phase, the point of this phase is to keep everybody excited. As a manager, you want to make sure you have a clear understanding of continuing education. I say often on podcasts that the most empty room in any home or business is the room for improvement. I went to school and read books back then, so I don’t have to read books now, is something people commonly say. The truth is, great managers understand that you can’t get people to get back into the education phase fast enough because every time you are opening up a new door of education, it keeps them excited. Nothing excites people more than learning new information that is going to advance them or their cause. It’s thrilling when you learn a new technique that will add revenue or a new procedure that will trim expenses. It’s electric. Phase two is all about continuing ed, research, and development.
The downside to phase two is that I have had many folks that get addicted to learning. They forget they still have to perform their daily responsibilities. Sometimes this friction pushes them right into the doubt phase. Sometimes they jump into phase three, which is reality.
The Reality Phase Can Be The Most Difficult
The reality phase is critical. It’s the easiest phase to spot in someone because the attitude changes from phase one and two is very obvious. People go from happy-go-lucky, jovial, excited to immediately subdued and quiet. It goes from upbeat to quiet, upbeat to subdued. When you focus on the five phases long enough, you’ll notice situations like sometimes I have seen rooms of people where a joke is cracked, and everybody instantaneously breaks out laughing. But there are one or two who shrug. My mind goes, “Hmm, something’s going on there. Either they didn’t hear the joke or weren’t paying attention, or most likely, they are in the reality phase or the doubt phase.” I have a trigger inside me that says that I have to keep an eye on this person.
From a management standpoint, this is where I make that mental note and pay closer attention because phase four, the doubt phase, is right around the corner. The doubt phase is incredibly obvious to spot as well. I define the fourth phase as the wounded avoider phase. The doubt phase triggers two responses: avoidance and withdrawal. Some folks go the other way. I have seen shy people that are really subdued all the time, when they get to the doubt phase, they get nervous, and they wear an extrovert mask. I have seen timid, shy people get electric all of a sudden in the office, and I’m like, That is not their personality. I have learned over the years that something is going on here. They are nervous, and I think they are possibly in the doubt phase.
The doubt phase is not where you want to confront someone right away. This is the one phase where you want to give them some space to breathe. It’s often a painful phase for them. The doubt is usually focused on themselves, not the company. They look around, see their peers performing on a high level, wonder why they aren’t performing or energized to come to work. Digging in on many occasions, nine out of ten times I find their doubt is rooted with something at home or deeply personal. In addition, it’s almost always triggered by another person. I like to say that they were snioped. I think they are more susceptible to the negative influences of another person. That alone is dangerous. Somebody might have made a comment about their company or their future or even their attitude, and I get a sense of, “Okay, I see them in the doubt phase. Sometimes their phrases are obvious.”
My gut says, “Okay, it’s time to sit these people down. I have given them some time to breathe,” and I will always start the conversation, just guessing, “Steve, we either live life in one or three phases. We are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or about to go into a storm.” Often they don’t even say anything. If they weren’t in a storm, if they weren’t doubting, they’d be like, “What are you talking about?” But because I’m pretty sure when I am sitting them down that something is going on where they are doubting, I sat them at the table with the storm analogy, they usually go, “No doubt.” Basically they are saying that they are in a storm, not exactly sure what’s going on, but my goal is to get them talking.
I want to get them talking because a good manager has to have them buy into the fact that attitude is not circumstantial. What’s going on at home does not have to be brought into work. As tough as that sounds coming across, the reality is they want to hear that. They want to leave their personal challenges in the car in the parking lot. They want to walk into the office and go to battle for the company.
My wife says it that way, “I am not a garbage can with a hairy lid.” When she is talking to our folks, she makes it clear: You’re not a dumping ground at home. You don’t have to listen to the negatives of other people. You are not a garbage can with a hairy lid. You do have the right to tell them to talk to someone else and distance yourself. It’s like they wanted permission to leave their home life in the parking lot for 8-10 hours a day.
There are only two things that happen when I confront someone in phase four. They either quit or go right into phase five. We all know that if they quit, it’s often a great thing. It was a great thing for them, and it was a great thing for the company. Companies are energized teams. They are performance engines. When someone is in the doubt phase, it affects everybody. And let’s get real.
1905 Definition Of “Job” : Temporary Means Of Income Until Your Business Takes Off
Jobs, the 1905 definition of the word “job” was a temporary means of income until your business takes off. I don’t want anybody working for us to be here forever. Personally I would like them to work for us, learn something, go start a business, kick butt, and really make it rain financially for their family. When I have this sit-down, I want to make sure they understand the five phases. I want them to acknowledge it, buy into it, and go into phase five.
Phase five is the clarity phase. It’s where you know who you are, who you’re working for, what you’re working for, and exactly where you’re going. When you are in phase five, you have a clear respect and understanding of your company, your industry, and although you may not agree with everything, you understand the ebb and flow of people, attitudes, and business.
My favorite part of the clarity phase is that those people have a deep understanding that for them to excel and truly kick butt, they have to spend a portion of every month in phase two, the education phase. They know it is important to them, their boss, their employees, their vendors, and their paycheck that they be as good as they possibly can at what they do.
Once I understand that each employee must understand the five phases, then I go, “I have to make sure every single person is keeping an eye out for every single person. We are family.” I want people to become champions inside the company and walk up to us saying, “I think Bob is in phase four. I think you might want to keep an eye on him.” He is bringing this to me out of love. He really sincerely thinks that somebody needs to talk to this person. To me, when you understand the five phases and have a team of people that understand the five phases, these people rally together. They go out to dinner together. They know they are family, and people do live in the storms. You are either in one, coming out of one, or going into one. They get it.
Think about championship baseball teams or football teams. Think about the company Apple. It’s an iconic company. For story after story after story, you hear these divisions of Apple, these teams of Apple, that are pulling together to meet deadlines, come up with the greatest products in the world. I am not singling them out. There are other phenomenal companies.
Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, it was the same story back then. These people were rallying together to come up with the greatest technology back then.
To me, the greatest impact of the five phases comes when everybody from the top to the bottom understands the power of understanding the five phases.
A good exercise I’ve seen people do is to sit down and get a piece of paper and write down what phase you think you are in. Then you write down every major interaction you have. Do you have interactions with vendors, sales reps, your boss, your employees? Do you have interactions with key people? If you do, can you guess which of the five phases they are in right now? If you can guess what they are in, then I think sometimes it can help you in those conversations in dealing with them.
If they are in the excitement phase, awesome. Get a little excited and go into that meeting. If you sense that they are subdued or withdrawn or they are not their usual self, if you are in the same company, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble and undermine a boss or an employee. Do the right thing. Be a good-natured person. Maybe bring it to your boss and say, “I heard these five phases. I am concerned for Shelley over here.”
Great stuff here. I want to keep it as short as I can. This might be one podcast for you that you might want to review and listen to again. This is very deep stuff. It’s very meaningful. It’s impactful. It is truly awesome. The five phases have definitely made us and saved us a great amount of money when we understood them. Good stuff.
I am Ken Courtright with Today’s Growth: Growing Business Today. If any of this hits you, feel free to subscribe and shoot me a review on your laptop on ITunes. You can’t do reviews on iTunes from tablets or Smartphones. You have to jump on a desktop. I’d appreciate any reviews. For people who subscribe, I really and truly enjoy doing these podcasts. Until next time, see you on the trail. Take care.