289: Alan Willett – Leading with Speed
Alan Willett was employed in a corporation and felt miserable about the job. Then, he came to a realization that all the work that he was doing was actually for himself and the greater good. Having shifted his mindset, Alan Willett returned to his work having the ability to say no and not just doing everything they wanted him to do. Alan took ownership of his job and the results went really well.
Alan Willett was the youngest of six kids on a dairy farm in Hunt, NY, which was (and still is) about a 30-minute drive to any stoplight. In Alan’s opinion, a stop sign would be fine in that town. The stoplight is a bit of high-tech overkill.
The dairy farm has been in the family for almost 200 years. In Alan’s teenage years, the farm won Dairy Farm of the year multiple times while other farms were failing. Alan learned how to be lucky by using data, technology, hard work, and logical decision making.
After the farm, Alan went to the Rochester Institute of Technology. There he ran track and cross-country. He actually did run across the country with his team. The team was in the Guinness Book of World Records for running a relay from ocean to ocean in record time. While at college, as a side hobby to his athletics, he received a degree in computer science, which later became a Master’s degree.
When Alan started working in the high-tech world of high-pressure product development, he found that most of the projects used data much less than they did on the farm. On his projects, he put into place the use of data and logical decision making.
His travels eventually took him to work at the world-renowned Software Engineering Institute, the think tank of the world on high-tech development work. There he was able to work with many of the geniuses that have pushed state of the art. He worked with and was good friends with the late Watts Humphrey, who received the National Medal of Technology from George W. Bush. His most fun there was running some miles with Watts while arguing about quality data.
For the last ten years, Alan has been a globe-trotting solo consultant helping organizations in South Africa, India, England, Turkey, others, and the USA. He’s also the author of Lead with Speed and Leading the Unleadable.
Alan currently lives in a co-housing cooperative with his wife and family in Ithaca, NY.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
Immutable Law of Speed 1 – You own the accelerator for the speed of your own work and the work of those that you lead
“The leader sets the pace of the pack, but the leader also limits the pace of the pack. You have to understand how to take off the brakes for yourself and how to take off the brakes for others.” – Click to Tweet
“Know that you can go faster and you can lead faster, and you have to take ownership of that.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 2 – It doesn’t matter if you’re going fast if you don’t know where you’re going
“To truly go fast, you must first answer the question: ‘Faster to where?'” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 3 – Trying harder doesn’t make you faster, you must actually do something different
“You can’t just try harder, you have to change what you’re doing.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 4 – The higher the cost of rework the slower you’re going
“The more time you spend on rework, the less time you’re doing on creation.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 5 – Catching problems earlier is generally less expensive than catching them later
Immutable Law of Speed 6 – Good designs are a foundation for speed
“Design, design, design!” – Click to Tweet
“What design does for you is create faster value on the other end.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 7 – The limits of your speed improvements are controlled by the limits of your mindset
“If you don’t set the bar higher, you’re not going to achieve anything.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 8 – The projects of the greatest value are protected by the greatest risks
“If you have an easy project it’s probably not valuable.” – Click to Tweet
“The best projects are like The Adventures of Bilbo Baggins and The Hobbit – a long treacherous journey, and at the end, the gold is protected by a dragon.” – Click to Tweet
“We need to tame the dragons.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 9 – The core of how projects finish is found in the roots of how the project starts. An excellent start with an excellent follow through is the best way to exceptional results.
“How you start defines a lot of ways how you finish.” – Click to Tweet
“From a strong opening you can lose, but from a bad opening you cannot win.” – Click to Tweet
“Know how to start high priority projects perfectly.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 10 – People who make a plan for doing their own work are the most committed to that plan
“A plan will not survive to a team that’s not committed.” – Click to Tweet
“A committed team can fix a bad plan.” – Click to Tweet
“No plan survives contact with reality.” – Click to Tweet
“The act of planning is critical to understand what you’re going to do with a project and know how to respond when problems occur.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 11 – Testing is a direct measure of the quality of the development process. If it’s broken at the end, your process kind of sucked.
“If there’s a problem at the end, you’re not executing well.” – Click to Tweet
“If it’s broken, there is something wrong at the start. Fix the process and you’ll go faster.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 12 – The way meeting run set the drumbeat for the entire organization
“Meetings set the drumbeat for organizations. Leaders need to know how to take control of that drumbeat.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 13 – Systems rust. Over time, systems decay. It will become harder and slower to add value to the systems.
“Even the best designed systems rust over time.” – Click to Tweet
“Things change externally, and you make changes internally that eventually starts to break the system.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 14 – Being constantly over-committed beyond capacity leads to mistakes, technical debt, dulled skills, and reduced capacity. Being over-committed just ruins you eventually
“You need to balance what your commitments are with how you’re actually maintaining your system in getting faster.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 15 – Regardless of whatever came before, whether it was caused by your direct personal actions or not, the day you accept the job you also accepted its history and future
“Once you own it, it’s your fault. Take responsibility, stop whining, and do something to fix it.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 16 – The center of the speed is where the most value is created. The focus should be on how to help the center of speed be faster to the high quality value.
“The center of speed means where the most value is created for your organization.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 17 – You get the results you are expecting
Immutable Law of Speed 18 – Elevating the exceptional skills of a leading team member can result in the amplifying the performance of the whole team.
Immutable Law of Speed 19 – Extraordinary responsibilities lead to extraordinary experiences
Immutable Law of Speed 20 – Constancy. A purpose across time grows an organization that masters the laws of speeds.
“If you’re focus on the speed to value does not waver, and your focus on growing the skills and talents and ownership of your organization does not waiver, you will get faster.” – Click to Tweet
Immutable Law of Speed 21 – Leading with joy from start to finish infuses those that follow with the joy of speed
“It is hard to follow leaders that are constantly depressed, that are constantly whining.” – Click to Tweet
“Lead with joy! It helps everybody.” – Click to Tweet
“See reality, accept reality, deal with reality.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Alan Willett was employed in a corporation and felt miserable about the job. Then, he came to a realization that all the work that he was doing was actually for himself and the greater good. Having shifted his mindset, Alan Willett returned to his work having the ability to say no and not just doing everything they wanted him to do. Alan took ownership of his job and the results went really well.
Advice for others
I work for me.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Too much perfectionism.
Best Leadership Advice
Do good work.
Secret to Success
I learned autonomy, and I also learned whining doesn’t help.
Best tools in business or life
Contacting Alan Willett
Alan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alan-willett-7316204/
Alan’s Website: https://alanwillett.com/
Show TranscriptClick to access unedited transcript
Jim Rembach (00:00):
Okay, fast leader, fast leader, Legion. I’m man. I am thrilled about the show today because we’re going to do something uniquely different and why? Because we can, and we’re going to do it with Alan Willett. Alan will. It was the youngest of six kids on a dairy farm and hunt New York, uh, which was, and still is about a 30 minute drive, uh, to any stoplight. In Alan’s opinion, a stop sign would be fine in that town. A stop light is a bit of a high tech overkill. The dairy farm has been in the family for almost 200 years in Alan’s teenage years, the farm one dairy farm of the year, multiple times while other farms were failing. Alan learned how to be lucky by using data technology, hard work and logical decision making. After the farm, Ellen went to the Rochester Institute of technology there.
Jim Rembach (00:49):
He ran track and cross country. He actually did run across the country with his team. The team was in the Guinness book of world records for running a relay from ocean to ocean and record time. While at college, a side hobby to his athletics, he received a degree in computer science, which later became a master’s degree. When Alex started working in the high tech world of high pressure product development, he found that most of the projects used data much less than they did on the farm. On his projects. He put into place, the use of data and logical decision making his travels eventually took him to work at the world, renowned software engineering Institute, the think tank four of the world on high tech development work there, he was able to work with many of the geniuses that have pushed state of the art he worked with and was good friends with the late Watts Humphrey who received the national medal of technology from George W. Bush.
Jim Rembach (01:52):
His most fun there was running some miles with Watts while arguing about quality data. For the last 10 years, Alan has been a globe trotting solo consultant, helping organizations in South Africa, India, England, Turkey, others, and the USA. He’s also the author of lead with speed and leading the unbelievable Ellen currently lives in a cohousing cooperative with his wife and family in Ithaca, New York, Alan, will it, are you ready to help us get over the hump? Yes, I am. I’m really excited about this show. You have a lot of stellar guests from the past and I hope to measure up. I know you will. And so I love to have you on the show for many reasons. One is because the book lead was speed aligns with some of the things that we have on the fast leader show. It’s not about shortcuts. It’s about getting things right, and doing it the right way. Uh, and so you’ve done that when the book and the book lead to speed, and we’re going to do something, that’s going to be like a micro learning. Megafaun here on the fast leader show. Cause you created 21 immutable laws about leading with speed. And we’re going to go through each one of those in a rapid fire session. So this is going to be a micro learning opportunity for everyone. Uh, but when I start thinking about, you know, this work and also your previous work, I have to ask, what is your current passion?
Alan Willett (03:07):
Oh, my current passion, um, growing young engineers to be exceptional of because I got to say the high tech world is really high pressure, just like any other place, uh, global competition and the young people really, I find that they need to understand some laws that govern how to really do well. And it’s how to gain experience, how to gain connections and how to own your own center of the court to take control of your destiny, your purpose, and do good in the world. So I have an a program I just put together called the exceptional engineer, and I’m really thrilled about it.
Jim Rembach (03:47):
And for me, you know, with this book and the things that you’re talking about, it isn’t just for engineers. And that’s the one reason where I wanted to have you on the show. So you actually have the book of sliced out into four different parts and they are exceptional leaders own the accelerator, uh, lead projects with speed and then lead organizations with speed and then create a leadership force for speed. So tell us why those four parts,
Alan Willett (04:14):
Okay. The first part own the accelerator is really a mindset. You have to know that you can make things faster for yourself and for those you lead and to do that, you gotta do something different. So what are those different things? Part two, which is leads projects with speed is really about, uh, sort of the centerpiece of any organization to me is projects because projects are what make things better. There’s the execution is really important, but to drive things forward, you have to be able to create projects, run them and have them finish well. So I talk about really the fundamental concepts of how to actually prepare to start your projects well, as well as how to start them. And more importantly, how to finish with style. So part three is some of the underpinnings of the whole organization. It’s a lead your, uh, let me see what was lead organizations was be really gets into more of the high level management.
Alan Willett (05:15):
I was talking about projects, one in projects well and managing from above well, but leading the organization with speed is how do you actually do some things like the remove sand from the gears, because what you will have to do is you have to make sure all the operational pieces work together and you’re constantly monitoring those details to make sure that you’re growing part four is the master’s the PhD level, which is create a leadership course for speed. I go beyond all those things and talk about how you actually create a culture that’s focused on speed to value. How do you take the exceptional for you and your organization and bind them together into a force that can actually multiply your ideas into acceleration of the whole group?
Jim Rembach (06:03):
Well, and hopefully it is all listeners can see themselves in every single four of those parts. Like I said, it wasn’t just for engineering. So if we’re talking about impacting the customer experience, it works for that too. And so this is where the 21 immutable laws come into play is it explains in, you know, really the details in those four parts to great degree. So I want to go ahead and start getting into those. So what we’re going to do here listeners is we’re going to go through each one of these immutable laws. So these are immutable law speeds, uh, laws of speed. And Alan’s actually going to give us some insight into each one of these. All right. And so also on his show notes page, we’ll have these in great detail. Um, and so you’ll definitely want to check it out and that’s going to be at fast leader.net/alan Willett. So, okay, you’re ready, Ellen. I am ready. This is going to be fun. So immutable law speed. Number one,
Alan Willett (06:55):
You own the accelerator for the speed of your own work in the work of those that you lead. Here’s what I mean by that. You do only accelerate. You can get faster. Most people know that you can get slower, but most people don’t think about yes, they can get faster. They also don’t think about this. There’s a mindset here, which is, uh, the leader sets the pace of the pack, but the leader also limits the pace of the pack. So what you have to do is you have to understand how to take off the brakes for yourself and how to take off the brakes for others. And that’s what all the other laws lead it contribute to. But the first one is to know that you can go faster, you can lead faster and you have to take ownership of that
Jim Rembach (07:37):
Immutable law of speed. Number two. Okay.
Alan Willett (07:42):
It doesn’t matter if you’re going fast. If you don’t know where you’re going to truly go faster, you must first ask her the question, answer the question, pasture to where I went into an organization where they wanted me to help them. It doesn’t matter as high tech or whatever, but they had a list of 21 things on the board. They wanted me to help them with. And I looked at the list and I thought about it for awhile. And I went up on the white board and I wasn’t completely polite. I went through what I marked, some of the things with the w some of the things was an O and some of the things with an F um, the O’s were observations. You’re observing things that are going on. The F’s were just, these are just facts. You can’t change those. The Bellevue is where wines, where you’re whining about this, this, and this and this, and this what’s your real problem. I said, the real problem was they wanted to go faster. I said faster to where it took us an hour to figure out the very simple answer they wanted to innovate faster than the competition. And that changed the entire conversation. And they knew a lot better what they had to do, because before that, they didn’t have a clue on where they were trying to go faster to
Jim Rembach (08:53):
Universal law of speed number,
Alan Willett (08:56):
Trying harder. Doesn’t make you faster. You actually must do something different. Make sense. I remember back in college when I was running races, um, I wasn’t getting faster pressure from the coach. Didn’t help go faster. Well, it, um, what I finally realized is I had to do something different and it took a change in mindset, a change in some of the methods I was using for training it, wasn’t doing harder. Training was doing it differently. It was preparing for the racist differently. It was changing my mindset, all, all of those things together. Suddenly I was winning races and going faster. Every single race, I find the same thing true in organizations. You can’t just try harder. You got to change what you’re doing.
Alan Willett (09:47):
Immutable law of speed, number four, the higher, the cost of rework, the slower you’re going. So there was a thing going on in the world. Uh, now this is a high tech park, but I’ve seen it drift over into all sorts of other areas, this agile movement to go faster. And a lot of what’s happening is a, uh, they’re saying, you know, it’s, it’s fine to fail. We got to fail fast. And things like that. What I see it doing is driving up the cost of rework. And what people need to know is the more time you spend in rework, the less time you’re doing in creation. So I absolutely believe that you have to figure out what the right product is or the right services or the right way to deal with customers and prototypes of those approaches are good. But to overall, organizationally, you should understand how much time is being lost to mistakes.
Alan Willett (10:40):
How much time is being lost to rework it, because it is really a law of gravity. If I take this and drop it here on the planet, it’s going to fall and I let go. It falls, it falls at a certain rate. It’s the same with this more time and rework, less time and creation, less time and rework more timing creation. I mean, animal law of speed. Number five catching problems earlier is generally less expensive than catching them later. Okay. This is a spinoff of this, but what it really says is I’ve seen a lot of people that want to hurry up and get it into a testing environment. They don’t take the time to review it with others, or to actually personally review it themselves of I made a mistake last night, I sent a bile that I didn’t actually check against the requirements I had to do.
Alan Willett (11:33):
Rework, thank you, Jennifer. Let him letting me know that I had to do some rework, but it was a mistake on my part, in what it saved us both time. If I did my personal inspection first, then if I reviewed it with others. So really it’s just the law. If you catch problems earlier, it’s going to cost much less later to do those early reviews with others, get experts, et cetera. It’s amazing how much more powerful you can become, how much faster you can become instilling that in your organizations in an amazing speed booster, immutable law of speed. Number six, good designs are a foundation for speed, uh, designed, designed design. It’s really an amazing thing. Uh, have you heard about the DaVinci robotically assisted surgeries that are going on? Uh, so I actually had what I call minor heart surgery about 10 years ago.
Alan Willett (12:34):
And, uh, and I had the DaVinci thing and that meant they actually sewed up a leaky valve in my heart, um, on Monday. And I was walked out of there on Wednesday morning. Good to go. Meanwhile, other people had the burst, the chest open kind of surgery, which is really believe it or not. The surgeons where the burst hope were against robotically assisted surgery because people were on the operating table so much longer design. What design does for you is actually creates faster value on the other end. Because when I walked out of the hospital, the other people weren’t standing up yet. They weren’t able to walk yet. They were on the table, five hours, less than I was. I was on the table, five hours longer. I walked out. So this is maybe a strange metaphor, but I find this as true in all the things I do taking to build my book designed design design made this book become much better and much faster than the first book I did.
Alan Willett (13:44):
Uh, working with high tech design design design builds a much more beautiful product, much faster than other ones, working on service organizations, taking the time to understand the customer and under designing the best interaction. The best environments leads to more closing of sales, immutable, law of speed. Number seven, the limits of your speed improvements are in, are controlled by the limits of your mindset. Back to my running metaphor. Uh, really my mind was limited by my training. I was like, okay, I’m going this fast and the workout. So I’m going to go with this fast in a race. I started to lose it. I got rid of that mindset. And I said, you know, what’s it actually take to win this race? Or what’s it take to actually compete at a higher level? I changed my mindset to say not what are my current limits, but what are the possibilities?
Alan Willett (14:40):
What are others doing? And then saying, asking myself why not? And that really led to some of the biggest breakthroughs of my running career was to go faster. I seem to find when I’m writing books or doing things like that, I say, why not? And then set the bar higher. And if you don’t set that bar higher, you’re not going to achieve it. It doesn’t happen by accident immutable, law of speed. Number eight, the projects of the greatest value are protected by the greatest risks. What do I say about this? What I find is people whine sometimes about how hard projects are and how risky it is are. And to me, that’s the joy of the adventure. If you have a easy project, it’s probably not valuable. What I like to say is the best projects are like the adventures of billable. Bogut Bob Bilbo, Baggins in the Hobbit, a long treacherous journey.
Alan Willett (15:42):
And at the end, the goal is protected by a dragon. We need the team, the dragons, immutable law of speed. Number nine, let me get my book change. There we go. The core of how projects finish is found in the roots of how the project starts. An excellent start with an excellent follow through is the best way to exceptional results of that was a mouthful, but really how you start defines a lot of ways, how you finish, uh, in games of strategy, I have played chess and I play the game of go or in Korean, but Duke. And what I have learned is the masters of that game take probably an hour to two hours for the first 10 to 20 moves. And then an hour for the next hundred, they really set a really strong foundation. And what they say is from a strong opening, you can lose, but from a bad opening, you cannot win.
Alan Willett (16:44):
And so what I have found is that organizations I go through and talk to a lot of the leadership. And when they talk about the projects that are in trouble, I say, how did they start? And they say, Oh, they were a problem from the start. And I say, what are the best ways to start a project? And they list 10 things. And I say, how many of those do you do? They look down two or three? And so they know what the impact is of not starting, right? They know how to start, right? The problem is they have a barrier to accept, have the courage to start them, right? So the law is notice, start the highest priority projects, perfectly immutable law of speed. Number 10, people will make a plan for doing their own work or the most committed to that plan. And basically the law goes up, but that’s really the law I’ll play on one, ask to revive a team that has not committed a committed team can fix a bad plan.
Alan Willett (17:40):
So, you know, the same, no plan engage of survives contact with the enemy or in my world was not the enemy. It’s reality, no plan survives contact with reality, doesn’t matter. The act of planning is critical to understand what you’re going to do with the project and know how to respond. When those problems do occur, you need everybody. That’s going to execute that plan to be part of creating it that way. They understand it and they’re committed to it. It doesn’t matter how bad the plan is. They will fix it. If you make the plan for them, it’s your problem. It’s your plan. Don’t make it. Your problem make it. Everybody’s minimal. Law of speed. Number 11 testing is a direct measure of the quality of the development process. If it’s broken at the end, your process kind of sucked. And you know, I have to go high tech here for a minute because there’s this big mentality for a testing, testing, testing, its way to do things.
Alan Willett (18:44):
And this is driving up the cost of rework going backwards. What I’ve really been teaching people is if there’s a problem at the end you had, you’re not executing well, it should. So when you deploy something for customers, when you deploy something for, uh, customers, uh, in high tech or in service organizations or media content, if it’s D and it’s broken, there was something wrong at the start, fix the process. You’ll go faster. Immutable laws, speed. Number 12, the way meetings run, set the drum beat for the entire organization. I love this one because I’ve learned a lot about, uh, music because of my kids. I’ve gone to a lot of heavy metal concerts, for example. And I have learned that the drummer sets the beat for the entire band and the drummer is having an off night. The band is going to do a bad job and the drummer’s on fire.
Alan Willett (19:39):
The band is going to do terrific. And really meetings are such a drum, set, a drum beat for organizations. Leaders need to know how to take control of that drum beat they mountain to make sure it’s not a Gregorian chant like Monty Python and the Holy grail. I’ll bet by Bob, which I’ve seen too many meetings be, which is repeated the same thing. Week after week after week, you need to bury the beat. You need to set a rhythm. You need to set the pace that you want for the organization in your readings, immutable law of speed, number 13 systems rust over time systems, a key. It will becoming harder to flow or to add value to the systems. Uh, you ever drive a really old car I do now. And does it periodically break more often than at the start? Not yet. Okay. But I had a car with about 200,000 miles on it, and it was a 69 Chevy. And after 150,000 miles, you could tell that every time I turned around, there was another repair and it took longer. I tell you even the best designed systems rust over time, things change externally, and you make changes internally that eventually starts to break the system. What you have to do is be have the courage to invest and keeping those systems cleaning up to date
Jim Rembach (21:07):
Immutable, law of speed. Number 14,
Alan Willett (21:11):
Being constantly over committed beyond capacity leads to mistakes, technical debt, dulled skills, and reduced capacity being over committed. Just ruins you eventually. Sorry, go ahead. I’m sorry. So the main thing here is you really need to balance what your commitments are with how you’re actually maintaining your system and getting faster go
Jim Rembach (21:33):
You immutable law of speed. Number 15,
Alan Willett (21:36):
Regardless of whatever came before, whether it was caused by your direct personal actions or not the day you accepted the job, you also accepted as history and your future. The simpler way to say this is once you own it, it’s your fault. Take, take responsibility, stop whining, and do something to fix it.
Jim Rembach (21:54):
Immutable law of speed. Number 16,
Alan Willett (21:57):
The center of the speed is where the most value is created. The focus should be on how to help the center of speed. Be faster to the high quality value. This one’s subtle. I gotta just tell you, the center is feed means where’s the most value created for your organization? Um, the negative I’ve seen is where organizations put a lot of checks and balances that slow the center of speed down because they’re trying to keep the center of speed from being stupid, as opposed to take the center of speed and train them great, give them what they need, give them proper budgets, and they will go faster.
Jim Rembach (22:33):
Immutable law of speed. Number 17,
Alan Willett (22:36):
You get the results you are expecting. And what I mean by this is a quick story is I have some carpenters and they always sucked for my old house because I said, I want you here as soon as possible. I want you to get started. Um, and they came the next day and then they left my house in shambles for weeks before they came back. I changed my expectations to, I want to know when you’re here, I want you here consecutive days. I want you to leave it cleaner than when you found it. All of a sudden my carpenters were great. I set the proper expectations,
Jim Rembach (23:10):
Immutable law of speed, number 18,
Alan Willett (23:13):
Elevating the exceptional skills of a leading team member can result in the amplifying the performance of the whole team. This gets what I bet said before the leadership force, uh, opinion leaders really do make a difference as opposed to doing training for everybody. Sometimes I focus on the individual that will hold their peers accountable. That’s a force multiplier,
Jim Rembach (23:34):
Immutable law of speed, number 19
Alan Willett (23:37):
Extraordinary responsibilities lead to extraordinary experiences. Uh, somebody, uh, I was working with was really worried that a lot of the senior people were retiring and the young people weren’t up to par. I said, you know what? The average age of the people on Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 mission control was, he said, no average age was 26 and there was people 40 and 50 years old in the room. I said, how many people do you have with that level of responsibility today? That’s what you have to fix. Give them the challenge. They’ll rise to it.
Jim Rembach (24:10):
Municipal law of speed. Number 20
Alan Willett (24:12):
Constantly a purpose across time grows an organization that masters, the laws of speeds. You and I were talking about this and it’s pretty thing. Persistence, persistence, persistence, and persistence specifically on a constancy of purpose. If you’re focused on the speed to value does not waver in your focus on growing the skills and talents and ownership of your organization does that waiver. You will get faster
Jim Rembach (24:38):
Immutable law of speed number 21.
Alan Willett (24:40):
And we made it leading was joy from start to finish and fuses those with that follow with the joy of speed. I have had leaders that are constantly depressed that are constantly whining. It is hard to follow those leaders, leaders that rubbed their fingers hands together and say, well, we have some nasty dragons to fight today. Let’s go get ’em gives everybody a sense of purpose. So I say lead with joy. That helps everybody.
Jim Rembach (25:09):
So going back and thanks for sharing all those. And it was awesome. Isn’t like I said, we had micro learnings that are critically important. That takes us from a, the part one, which was really the person and the individual and going all the way through to the entire organization and in a very systematic way now. But when I think about this, I’m like, okay, um, some things are in my control. Some things are, uh, I have a lot of, you know, competing responsibilities. And so I’m looking at 21 things and I start thinking overload. So I know, I mean, I can’t focus on 21 things. You know, if I’m sick, I’m sitting here and thinking about what is my, how do I start chunking this down? I know the book kind of helps us do that, but where do I really need to focus? My intention? First,
Alan Willett (25:54):
The very first thing is underlying. All of these is a mindset and the mindset is it starts with, I own the accelerator. And the second part of the mindset is I’m not alone, which is, you know, even if you’re an individual with a organization of just one person like me, I have lots of people that help me. I have lots of people I rely on and I have lots of people that I hired to help, help get things done. So I do own the accelerator and all the leaders do. It really starts with that mindset. And then the mindset of expanding that control to get other people, to push the accelerator with. You just know that you own the accelerator, you own the brake, be careful which one you’re pushing.
Jim Rembach (26:40):
Know. That’s a really interesting point because I think for many us, we just take
Alan Willett (26:44):
On the burden or our, you know, upon our own shoulders and don’t even consider in any way, shape or form that we can offload some of that to others. Uh, and, and for me, I fell into that mistake this week, matter of fact, uh, where I had two team members that were out for various reasons. And so now I’m taking on the load, their load and my load. And one of my other team members and said, said to me, why didn’t you not share that with me? Right. So when I start looking at, um, you know, there’s this body of work, and as I said, it is not just about engineering. It goes all the way down and through to the customer. And so I have to ask myself though, when you start talking about the tech organizations that you’re working with, how much does the customer actually come into the discussion and the consideration?
Alan Willett (27:35):
Oh, it really depends on the organization. Sums are better at it than others. But let me just say, what I really pushed for is, especially for those exceptional engineer individuals that will drive the whole speed of the organization, get them out to customer sites, bring customers in close that gap. I have found over and over again, that that connection is critical. I can tell you, it was for me. I worked as a engineer at Xerox when it was a really great company. I hope it’s still not bad, but it wasn’t it’s glory days. And I was out there for one of our brand new products and the tech rep was on the floor with a machine, all torn apart. And the owner of the business was saying, yeah, I have kids in college. Every minute that guy is stood in there, I’m losing money click.
Alan Willett (28:31):
Before that, I was just like, yeah, machines break, left their eyes. Like we got to protect this kid’s college education. We have to do better. I really, I was changed as an engineer, simply being out at one customer site for one day, got check, gotta have that gap closed to me. I think that talking about hitting home and making it real, oftentimes that disconnection between the customer, if it happens on a consistent basis and we don’t humanize the customer, it just becomes a widget or something to fix, not necessarily a person to serve. Absolutely too many people that are on the front lines think, well, these problems happen. They don’t think about what the impact is to the end users, to the people that are, uh, really have so much to do every day, that they can’t afford to have those kinds of things happen. And the opportunities that we have for them as well, which is how can we make their jobs easier or more enriching, more profitable, all of those things spread joy. Well, and for you talking about spreading, um, that’s
Jim Rembach (29:42):
Typically not characteristic in the tech world in engineering world. It’s like no very cerebral and you know, a lot of logic in it and not an emotion. A lot of times is removed, but you’re saying that we have to break that stereotype and that thinking and that behavior,
Alan Willett (30:00):
Yes, you can look at some of the classic greatest leaders. You know, Steve jobs is known for being kind of a jerk, but he also had a great love for beautiful things. And he had a great joy in creating them. So there is a stereotype of the typical, you know, engineer that’s just wants to stare at a screen, but really, uh, in any environment, just, I want to be clear any environment, there’s going to be a bunch of people that are complaining about the next level up it’s just happens. But the leaders that can break that cycle and say, yes, I agree with your wines. What are we going to do about it? And let’s have fun doing it, create a different kind of organization. Uh, I have to say, I came to that realization about 20 years ago, and that became a personal quest of mine to just basically spread joy and get, get a hell of a lot of fun things done, but have fun doing it
Jim Rembach (31:02):
Well. And, and to do that, I mean, we have to be inspired. And one of the things that we look at on the show to help us do that, our quotes is there a quote or two that you like that you can share?
Alan Willett (31:12):
Sure. My quote is actually a Zen joke. If you don’t mind, which is, Oh, one Zen master was known for being enlightened and the, just the apprentices were like, Oh, Zen master, we’re in a hurry to get to enlightenment. And he said, I don’t see why you’re in such a hurry. Enlightenment is hard because it’s based on three basic principles. See reality, accept reality, deal with reality. He said, each one of those are hard. If you look at the reality, if you look at any project that’s especially hard, you see that your might be over committed, which we don’t want to be. You might have some really hard risks. You might have to go and talk to people that are really angry at the mistakes made early. You got to see that reality accept reality means that you have to internalize it and know that those are real problems. And then dealing with this is the worst because you actually have to go talk to people. So to me, that Zen joke, uh, I killed the punchline, but Oh, well, but that’s that joke has really informed a lot of my mantra. See reality, accept reality, deal with it.
Jim Rembach (32:21):
Oh, I think that’s appropriate. Especially when you start talking about the day where everything’s changing so fast and will forever be that way and be, you know, um, just one surprise after another. And so I think that the, having the system that you’re talking about having, you know, the people be part of that system is really will enable organizations to persevere and quite frankly, you know, thrive in the future.
Alan Willett (32:45):
Yes. I agree. Uh, you know, the, uh, my customers that were the best at the C related, except reality, when the travel ban came, the ones that were still in denial were postponing things. They showed enough for months and months of, and the ones that saw reality accepted it and dealt with it. We changed our in person events to telepresence events and changing them to telepresence events meant we had to do a lot of things differently. And I worked with them to say, Hey, how do we make this? Okay, we got a lemon. How do we make this actually better? And it led actually two different kinds of engagement that are now going to be things that we do all the time, regardless of whether we can travel or not. So we actually made things better by the lemon we were handed. We said, okay, how do we still get this done? Because our purpose has not changed. Our objective has not changed. Our methodology has to.
Jim Rembach (33:43):
I think that’s fantastic now, but with that, you know, there’s times where we have learnings and we have to regroup and we will, you know, hopefully don’t repeat those. And we’ve talked about getting over the hump on the show. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over the hump?
Alan Willett (33:58):
Oh, sure. Um, back when I was employed by a corporation, um, I remember there was one point where I realized I was sitting in my, uh, office of darkness that I’d like to say, and I was feeling pretty miserable about the job and everything, but what I came to a realization, wasn’t a saw, I got over the hump that, uh, in a way I was a consultant even then, and I just had one client and that was a company I was working for. And I realized the person I really worked for was me and the greater good. So over the weekend, I quit the job in my head and accepted a new job, which was how am I going to make the best value for this corporation? And some of the things they’re telling me to do, I think are wrong. So I came back on the job and then I suddenly was saying no to my upper level executives on the things they wanted me to do. And I said, I understand here’s your goals. And this is how I’m going to accomplish them. And lo and behold, it went really well. I now had a lot of joy in my work and I just took ownership of it, but really, uh, it was the thing of quit whining and just which I was doing, doing a lot of to turn it around and saying, okay, what do I do to fix this? Because it often is in our circle of control, even if we don’t know it.
Jim Rembach (35:24):
I love that story. I think that’s a great approach. And I think ultimately if you were to get a negative response and say, we’ll do it anyway, that would also be a tell for you to say, you know what? Um, I think I need to start exits. Yes,
Alan Willett (35:38):
By the way, I love you said that because you know, how it worked out is my manager is all around me. Cause we often have more than one, started to learn that I would say no to certain things. And they say, Hey Ellen, this is a feed. The gorilla thing. When the 800 pound gorilla says, we need this, I have to do this, just do it. And I say, all right, I’ll take care of it. But they knew that by rule, after a while, I became clear about my rule. My rule was, it’s going to be less than 20% of those that I say yes to. So be clear, which ones you say you demand me to do. I think that’s a great, that’s actually a great point. And maybe something that all of us can at least think about and some way to, if anything, ask questions right.
Alan Willett (36:24):
And get greater understanding. Right? The thing to me has always comes back. You got to do value for the corporation. And that’s what I always did. As I said, do I understand the value you’re trying to do? Do you understand your major goals? Do you care how I do it? If I achieve your goals? And this is where I usually won is because I understood their goals. I understand what the purpose was. And now they stopped micromanaging me and I got to do it the way I saw best fit the corporation best fit the people around them. And that’s how, by the way, that’s how managers should lead. But it managers, I now in the more the mentoring role and I have to mentor people at how to take how they want people to do the work, to reverse engineer, to what their purpose and goals are.
Alan Willett (37:09):
And once they do that, they find they can read much better. So I want to be clear, my managers weren’t bad. They just didn’t know how to upset the purpose and goals properly. And that’s the work I’m doing today. Sounds good. Okay. So when I talk about that work today, I mean, you have a couple of books that you’ve written. If you were to have one goal that you’re willing to share, what is it one goal I’m willing to share? Absolutely. Um, we talked about this earlier a little bit, but I’m really looking to transform of the world of high tech development, really because it’s so high pressure, et cetera. And this might Bailey wick. I love helping others. I’ve gone into other industries, but I want to transform that world where there’s a lot more joy of work, where people doing the extraordinary programs we see from the things like Amazon has to the C a Thies, which is a great video that the people doing it have a great joy of work.
Alan Willett (38:05):
They feel like their control, their destinies, and they’re providing the best failure they can to the customers they have. And the fast leader Legion wishes you the very best. Alright, here we go. Fastly Legion. It’s time for the hump day, hoedown Allen, the hump they hold on as the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust, the responses are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Alan, Alan Willett. How you write it down? I’m ready to hold down.
Jim Rembach (38:36):
Let’s go. So what is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Alan Willett (38:41):
Too much perfectionism. I need to, uh, accept that I can do really good work without the extraordinary time.
Jim Rembach (38:48):
What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Alan Willett (38:53):
Do good work.
Jim Rembach (38:55):
What is this? What is the best? What is, what is your secret that you believe contributes to your success?
Alan Willett (39:03):
Growing up on a farm, I learned about autonomy and winding doesn’t help.
Jim Rembach (39:10):
What is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life
Alan Willett (39:15):
Jim Rembach (39:18):
Would it be one book you’d recommend to our Legion? It could be from any genre. Of course, we’re going to put a link to Lee with speed on your show. Notes pages,
Alan Willett (39:24):
Well start small, finish big, uh, by the guy that started subway. That was a really fun book. And I think it has a lot of good insights in it.
Jim Rembach (39:36):
Okay. Faster leads Legion. You can find links to that. And other bonus information from today’s show by going to fast leader.net/alan Willett. Okay, Alan, this is my last hook. They hold on question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all. You can only take one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Alan Willett (39:58):
I worked for me. Oh, and Y uh, I wouldn’t have had to spend my week around 40 in the cube of darkness. Frightening. I would, would’ve known from the start. I would have started my businesses earlier. It just would’ve changed a lot of things.
Jim Rembach (40:18):
Alan. I had fun with you today. Can you please share the fast leader Legion and how they can connect with you?
Alan Willett (40:22):
Yeah. Alan willett.com and all my contact information is there. Come see me,
Jim Rembach (40:28):
Alan. Will it thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the fast leader, Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over.
Alan Willett (40:35):
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.