Perspectives from the Top

You Don’t Need Bosses, You Need Coaches (ft. Garry Ridge)

Episode Summary

Full of personality and even more chock full of incredible experiences in life and business, Garry Ridge makes for a fascinating interview— one packed with insights and actionable advice to benefit someone in any field. Don’t miss this episode of Perspectives from the Top.

Episode Notes

You Don’t Need Bosses, You Need Coaches (ft. Garry Ridge)

CEO, entrepreneur, and optimist Garry Ridge gives his Perspectives

OPENING QUOTE:

“Happy people create happy families, happy families create happy communities, happy communities create happy countries, and happy countries create a happy world. And we need a happy world, and business is the force of good for that.”

- Garry Ridge

GUEST BIO:

Garry Ridge is CEO of WD-40, having joined in Australia in 1987. He became head of the company’s Asia and Australia efforts in 1994 and CEO in 1997. Since joining the company, he’s expanded the company globally and broadened the product range— all while building an organization that is still true to its founding values. Additionally, he’s written several books on leadership and is Adjunct Professor of Leadership at San Diego University and an executive coach.

Links:

CORE TOPICS + DETAILS:

[5:54] - The Great Escape

A reframing of the Great Resignation

Garry speaks about the trend of people resigning from companies with cultures that don’t respect them. Now is the time for organizations to ask themselves: “Are people running from your culture or running to your culture?” The question will become increasingly poignant as Gen Z will soon make up over 40% of the working population.

[17:36] - Garry’s Four Ps

People, Purpose, Passion, and Products

You can have the best strategy in the world, but if the will of the people in the organization isn’t there, you’re going to fail. Meanwhile, you can have all the passion, but without a product that fulfills a real need or without a clear company purpose, you’ll also fail. Only when all of these elements are in harmony can a company have truly global success.

[27:29] - Am I Being the Person I Want to Be?

Don’t be the Soul-Sucking CEO

After an a-ha moment when Garry realized that he wasn’t living many of the principles he felt made great leaders. So he put a post-it note on his computer that read, “Am I being the person I want to be right now?” But he didn’t stop there. He made a list of what that person looked like, trait by trait. He still uses that list as a guide for his everyday behaviors and mindsets.

[35:27] - What’s in the Petri Dish?

Creating culture is about what’s there…and what’s not

As a child, Garry grew bacteria cultures in a petri dish. When toxins appeared, they had to be removed quickly or they would make the cultures go bad and fail to grow. In company culture, the goal is the same. You have to enhance what’s in there that you want to remain, and take out what shouldn’t be there as quickly and effectively as possible.

[41:49] - Taking “Mistake” from the Dictionary

Building scar tissue at WD-40

WD-40 as a company has removed the words ‘failure’ and ‘mistake’ from the corporate vocabulary. “We don’t make mistakes. We have learning moments, and learning moments are rich. A positive or negative outcome of any situation has to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people.” 

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Discover the secrets of success for you and your organization shared by the world’s leading thinkers, doers, and trailblazers. Join Chris Roebuck, Honorary Visiting Professor of transformational leadership, leader in military, business, and government, inspiring global keynote speaker, one of HR’s Most Influential Thinkers, bestselling author, and your host of Perspectives from the Top. The show reveals a treasure trove of insights from mega trends to practical strategies and actions to take your career up a gear. From government world shapers and business mold breakers to evidence driven academics and enthusiastic entrepreneurs, each episode shows you how you can immediately use these new ideas and actions to drive your success.

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ABOUT THE HOST:

Chris has shown over 21,000 leaders in over 1500 organizations globally how they can discover their secrets of success in a way that meets and beats their organizations specific challenges.

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Episode Transcription

Garry Ridge:

And happy people create happy families, happy families create happy communities, happy communities create happy countries, and happy countries create a happy world. And we need a happy world, and business is the force of good for that.

Chris Roebuck:

Welcome to Perspectives from the Top. I'm Chris Roebuck, global keynote speaker with unique leadership experience from military, business, and government, bestselling author, and your guide to greater success. Together, we'll discover powerful insights from the world's leading thinkers, doers, and trailblazers, the must no trends, thought provoking revelations, and practical actions you can use immediately. This is your exclusive and personal shop of insight and inspiration to help you get to the top.

Chris Roebuck:

Welcome to you and all of our Perspectives from on the Top community of listeners around the world. It's great to share the insights of such successful people with you to help you get to where you want to be.

Chris Roebuck:

Now, today's guest is the amazing Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40. Now, one of Garry's first challenges in business was saving his local radio station, but more of that soon. Garry joined WD-40 in Australia in 1987, and he became head of WD-40 for Asia and Australia in 1994, taking over international development, and in 1997, becoming CEO. He's been with WD-40 for an amazing 34 years, 22 of them as CEO. That's an achievement. But not only that, he's expanded the company globally, not just in terms of WD-40 itself, but also in broadening the product range and in building an organization that is still true to its founding values from 60 years ago. In addition, he's written several books on leadership, one with the global leadership guru, Ken Blanchard. He's Adjunct Professor of Leadership at San Diego University, an executive coach, and through his advice over the years has helped literally thousands of organizations and their leaders be more successful. You are in for a great exposition of what leadership is really about.

Chris Roebuck:

Garry, thanks so much for joining us on Perspectives from the Top. One of the things that really interests our listeners is about somebody who has inspired our guest to go on the journey that they've been on to get them to where they are. Could it be a friend, a family member, a mentor, or a teacher? Was there somebody that influenced you to get you started on the journey you are on?

Garry Ridge:

Well, g'day, Chris. It's great to be here. You know? I am so incompetent there were many people that actually influenced me along the way, whether it was the guy who owned the hardware store that I worked in when I was a young lad in Sydney, or the sporting goods store. But in later years, I'd have to say the biggest influence has been Dr. Ken Blanchard, the One Minute Manager. I was fortunate enough to have Ken as my professor when I did my master's degree back in the late 1990, 2000 period. And subsequent to that, Ken and I wrote a book together. I was then on his board of his company for 10 years. And Ken's 83 years old now, and I am fortunate enough to get to play nine holes of golf with him most Wednesday afternoons, he only lives about 15 minutes from me. So he's truly not only been my mentor, he's become a very, very close and dear friend of mine.

Chris Roebuck:

And yeah, and also, for listeners who maybe don't know Ken, he is without doubt one of the greatest thinkers, gurus, however you describe it around the area of leadership and essentially getting things done in organizations.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah. He would probably be one of the world's leading authorities on servant leadership. Of course, the book that he co-authored, The One Minute Manager continues to be a top seller. I'm not sure how many books he's written, but...

Garry Ridge:

You know? So Ken, and then a couple of other people. Of course, Marshall Goldsmith, the number one executive coach in the world. I use his book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There in the class I teach at USD. He just released a new book called The Earned Life, and he actually mentions me on page 168. And then yeah.

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah, sorry. Sorry, Garry. He has been on the show, so I assure you, he has mentioned The Earned Life without doubt.

Garry Ridge:

There you go.

Garry Ridge:

And then the other person in later years is Simon Sinek. I met Simon about 14 years ago. We were on a panel together. We hadn't met each other until that. And we suddenly realized that we were talking about the same thing, but from two different angles. So Simon, Simon also is someone I deeply respect his point of view on some of his leadership philosophies.

Chris Roebuck:

And that's really interesting when that happens. When you meet somebody who's coming at the issue from a different direction, but the conclusions are the same, that is quite an enlightening moment.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah. You know? And I think all the three people that I've mentioned and myself, we have one thing in common and one thought in common. And that is our purpose as leaders is to enable people to step into their best version of their personal self. And particularly to create cultures where people go home happy because Chris, we need a happy world, and business has the opportunity to be the force for good here.

Garry Ridge:

I just mentioned to you, I just got back from New York last night. I was speaking at the US leadership conference over there on the subject of what I call the great escape. A lot of people are calling the great, this exodus of talent as the great resignation. It's not. It's the great escape. People are escaping toxic cultures. And in fact, I just published an article a couple of days ago on LinkedIn that really talks about are people running from your culture or running to your culture?

Chris Roebuck:

And I think that's the ultimate test. And it's interesting that the problem is only going to get worse. Because I think I saw some statistics that said that 70% of Gen Zed, if they don't like the culture will walk out even if they don't have a job to go to, whereas, previous generations will hang around and tolerate it. And everyone says, "Yeah. Well, there's not many Gen Zed about." Yeah, they're about 20% of the working population now. By 2030, they'll be over 40%. So it's what I call it's a ticking time bomb.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah. And I think leadership got a slap up the side of the head with COVID because people [inaudible 00:07:07]-

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah, [inaudible 00:07:07]-

Garry Ridge:

... were actually saying, as you just shared, Chris, "I'm not putting up with this anymore. Life is too hard, so I'm going to find a better way and a better place somewhere where I'm treated with respect and dignity, I'm given the opportunity to learn, that I'm aligned with the values, there's a purpose in the organization that I align with, that the company is thinking about all its stakeholders." Which we describe stakeholders as anyone who, without their support, we would not exist. So it's not just your shareholders, it's your tribe members or your employees. It's the environment that we get the honor to play in. It's the community that we get the honor to play. It's all of these things.

Chris Roebuck:

And it's really interesting the point you made. Because one of our other guests, a guy called Marcus. Sorry, Mathias Imbach, who actually ended up working with Ratan Tata on investments around the world. He's now CEO of the world's first digital bank, Sygnum. I was asking him, "Well, how do you measure how you are doing with your employees and other stakeholders?" And he said, "I just make sure I ask everybody I meet, whoever they are, who has a relationship with the organization, 'Do you enjoy working with us?'"

Garry Ridge:

Great question. 98% of people who work at WD-40 companies say they love to tell people they work at the company, and 97% of them say they respect their coach, who is their manager. We don't have managers in the company, we have coaches. Because our job as leaders is not to manage people at all. That's micromanagement. Our job as a coach is to stand on the sideline, observe the play, look for an improvement in the play, and spend a lot of time in the locker room, which is what you were just really saying. As leaders, we've got to spend time in the locker room. And when was the last time anyone walked up to someone and said, "Are you okay?" Just a simple question, are you okay?

Chris Roebuck:

And it is so powerful, so personal, and so simple.

Chris Roebuck:

So going to your dim and distant past, and some people may know that you were a radio DJ. But what I find really interesting is that actually you were more than that to that radio station. Because it encapsulates your attitude to helping others, we, not me culture, that sort of thing. Just give our listeners a little bit of the story about how you ended up at a radio station being a DJ.

Garry Ridge:

You said long and distant and dim past. You know? The interesting thing about that is I actually had hair back then. That's how long ago it was, Chris.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah, I was involved in, in Sydney, Australia. This has got to be now 40 years ago, I guess. [inaudible 00:09:53] ... There was a local community radio station that had an ambition to get on the air. It was struggling. It had no real leadership. There was a lot of enthusiasts, a lot of enthusiastic people, radio people, "Let's get on radio, let's get on radio." But they didn't know how to do it. So the actual, the mayor of the city approached me and said, "Hey, you know? We've invested some substantial money in this. Do you think you can help us get this thing up and going?" And I said, "Well, let me have a look at it." And I had a look at it, and I thought, okay, here's what we need to do. We need to put a great team together. We need to make sure we've got clear objectives. Let's make sure we've got some timelines that are reasonable. And anyhow, we got it up and going.

Garry Ridge:

And then funnily enough, there was a Sunday morning slot that was open, and we hadn't found a program to fill it. And my brother and I said, "We'll take it." And we started, and we did over a hundred and some radio shows from 6:00 AM till 9:00 AM on a Sunday morning, 2CCR FM 90.5, Garry and Les Ridge, up the stick over the hills.

Chris Roebuck:

Love it. That could only be an Australian title for a radio show, Garry. It's just beautiful. And listen, you're the first CEO who has been on the show who has been a radio DJ, so credit to you.

Chris Roebuck:

Now and so WD-40, and for listeners who don't know, WD stands for Water Displacement, which is why all of you out there who have some of it in your cupboard, which is why it works so well. But it was created in '53. And so why did you join WD-40? Because it seems to have been an organization with quite strong values, and your journey was sort of through heading up Australia, Asia. And now as CEO, 34 years is a long time, so give us some insights into the purpose you had behind that, and why this WD-40's such a great place to work.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah, sure. Thanks, Chris.

Garry Ridge:

Well, before joining WD-40, I was in Sydney, Australia. I worked for the licensee of that brand, a company called Hawker Pacific. It was at Hawker Pacific was actually a division of the Hawker Siddeley group, a UK-based company. And WD-40 had gained that licensee because of the connection to the aviation industry. As you said, WD-40 was invented in 1953, and it was invented to stop corrosion and condensation buildup in the umbilical cord of the Atlas space rocket. And so it was born in that aviation space industry, and a connection happened, and Hawker Pacific, or Hawker de Havilland, which were into building aircraft, et cetera, and they got the licensee.

Garry Ridge:

Anyhow, around the mid-'80s, WD-40 Company US, which is the public company that owns the blue and yellow can with the little red top, started to think more seriously about how it could expand around the world. It was already a reasonably strong brand in the United States. I had been traveling over to the US a couple of times to attend some meetings here with the people at WD-40 Company. The licensing arrangement was coming to an end. I'd done a reasonable amount of work up in Asia working for Hawker, and I got a call one day from this head of the company. And they said, "Garry, this is a confidential conversation. As you know, our licensing agreement is coming to an end. It wasn't a hidden thing. We really want to start focusing on how we can expand globally. Would you like to join the company and open our Australian subsidiary?" And I went, "Wow!" Here, I was a young guy, and I thought what a great opportunity, what a great learning opportunity.

Now my dad, who worked for the same company for 50 years from when he was 15 to 65. Dad was born in 1907. He started as a fitter and turner, ended up as an engineer. I said to Dad, "Hey, Dad. What do you think about me actually working for WD-40?" And he knew the product. He said, "You can't go wrong with that stuff, son." And so my dad was right.

So I joined them in '87, and I opened the Australian subsidiary with a fax machine under my bed. And for the next six months, we built up the operation. We opened for business on January 1, 1988. I worked from '88 to '94 basically in the Asia Pacific region. And in '94, I was having a conversation again with my boss, and I said, "Hey, Jerry, is there," His name was Jerry. "Jerry, is there anything else you'd like me to do?" And he said, "Funny, you should ask. Do you want to move to the United States?" And I said, "To do what?" And he said, "Well, we really believe that there is a market, a bigger market for the brand globally. I can't do it. Would you come over here and help me?" And I said, "Okay." What a great opportunity, disrupt yourself. Packed up our toys, moved to San Diego.

Three years later, he retired, and for some reason, the board of directors thought that this Aussie bloke should be the CEO of a US public company. Now, I think the reason they thought that is I truly believed we could take the blue and yellow can with the little red top to the world.

And as I come to the end of my 25 years as CEO with the company, we are now truly the only global brand. 65% of our revenue is outside the United States. You'll find that blue and yellow can with a little red top in 176 countries around the world. And since I was given the privilege to lead, we've nearly six Xed our revenue, and our value has gone from 250 million to nearly $3 billion. And more importantly, we have a 93% employee engagement, because we truly believe culture is our competitive advantage.

Chris Roebuck:

Well, to be honest... Okay, first of all, for listeners, Garry's just quoted a 90% employee engagement rate. Let's just cut to the chase about what the average rate is. The average rate is probably 25 to 30%.

Garry Ridge:

It's actually 16. Hubert Joly, who wrote the book, The Heart of Business, he was the CEO that turned around Best Buy, he's a friend of mine. In his latest book, he actually did some research during COVID. ADP research did it. They surveyed the 1,900 companies around the world, and it was actually down to 16% during COVID. Can you believe that?

Chris Roebuck:

Well, that's interesting. Because Marshall and I, Marshall Goldsmith and I discussed that. And you know? We said that we thought that actually the engagement had dropped in COVID because leaders were not living up to the expectations of their people. And then there was some data that came out from Gallup a couple of weeks ago that confirmed that, in fact, yeah, engagement had dropped during COVID, to the point leaders are just not doing what they want.

Chris Roebuck:

But certainly, in terms of WD-40, I think the perfect combination of a product that really works well and engaged people. You know? You, to some degree, were just filling in the bits of the jigsaw as you expanded across the world.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah, there's two things you need to be. Well, there's a number of things you need to be successful in an organization. The four main ones are people, purpose, passion, and products. Now, you can have the best strategy in the world. You and I could write a business strategy. Let's take it over to London Business School or to Harvard, have some smart professor, Chris, mark it up. They'll give us 70 out of a hundred for it. Great strategy. Congratulations. Good strategy. But if the will of the people in the organization, or translate, will of the people to employee engagement is 10, so only 10% of your people are going to work every day engaged, 10 times 70 is 700. But if you've got an 80% employee engagement, 80 times 70 is 5,600. So I just don't understand why leaders don't understand that what Aristotle said, and Aristotle was born in 384 BC. He said, "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." So how much longer do we have to live before we'll actually take what Aristotle said seriously? Our job as leaders is to put pleasure in the job.

Chris Roebuck:

Absolutely. And you know from our previous conversation that that is exactly the quote I use to say, "Come on, guys. Can we not get it right after 2000 years?"

But yeah, but what you and I find interesting about leaders is that when you say to a leader, "Okay. If this is done to you, how do you respond, and do you give super performance?" And they'll say, "Yeah, I want my boss to show they care, understand, [inaudible 00:19:21] mistakes, develop me," et cetera, et cetera. But then I don't understand the fact that they fail to rationalize if that is what they want to deliver super performance, unsurprisingly, it is actually what other people want, as well. But that leap from their own emotional experience to a rational deduction about their course of action never seems to work terribly well, other than for a few who get it naturally

Garry Ridge:

It's ego. It's ego eating empathy instead of empathy eating ego.

You know? I think I introduced you to this person I created called Al, the soul-sucking CEO. And if you look at Al, he has some attributes that are pretty common in soul-sucking leaders. He's a master of control. He's a know-it-all, he has all the answers. He thinks he's corporate royalty, "I've worked my life to climb to this higher position of authority. Thou shall bow down to Al." He thinks learning is for losers. His ego absolutely eats his empathy instead of his empathy eating his ego. He's a micromanager, he loves to micromanage. He doesn't follow through with his commitments. He hates feedback. He must always, or she must always be right. And these are the attributes.

But if you look at a servant leader, someone who's creating a culture where people actually are engaged? They involve and love their people. They're always in servant leadership mode. They're expected to be competent. They're connected with emotional intelligence. They love learning moments. They have a heart of gold and a backbone of steel. They're champions of hope. They know micromanagement is not scalable. They do what they say they're going to do, and they love feedback.

Chris Roebuck:

What I find really interesting is that you've been at WD-40 now for 34 years, and the organization's been going for 60 years now. No, more than that.

Garry Ridge:

It was 69 years this September.

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah, 69 years. And so I get the feeling that there are a set of core values that link to servant leadership that existed in WD-40 that you have just built on over that 34 years and produced the results.

Chris Roebuck:

And I suppose it's worth me throwing in here that many listeners will have heard the phrase servant leadership mentioned, and some of them might be confused. But it's about creating a we, not me culture. It's about you, as the leader, enabling the team to be their best. And in terms of how powerful that is, most of the listeners will know I'm an ex-British Army officer, and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and indeed, the military academy in Australia, they have the similar principle. The motto of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is, "Serve to lead." And if you are going to take people through situations like the military has to do, they have to believe. They have to believe in you. They have to believe in the purpose. Because at some point in time, you might ask them to risk their lives for you.

Garry Ridge:

It's interesting. I mentioned to you I was in New York yesterday. One of the speakers at the conference that I was at was that was a general, I guess, from West Point Academy. And they were talking exactly the same. You know? Our language was different, but our message was the same. Clear purpose, a set of values that keep people safe, build trust, great communication. You know? Those are the important things that we have to put in place in any relationship to build psychological safety. And unfortunately, it doesn't happen.

Chris Roebuck:

So listen, it's worth mentioning that to some degree, for leaders in the military, the advantage that they have isn't actually as people say, "Oh. Well, you people have to do what you tell them," which is garbage. Because if stuff starts flying around and they don't respect you, they ain't going to be doing. You know? They're going to be doing other stuff.

Chris Roebuck:

But fundamentally, people who join the military accept that the core principle is we, not me. I have joined the military. I must put myself at the service of the team for us to be successful and achieve our objectives. I think the challenge for leaders in other organizations is that there is a tendency to think me not we, and if in the process, other people in the organization benefit, then so be it. But the whole point that you're making and I think is so valid that the more that you as a leader can take your commercial organization from me, not we, to we, not me as you have done over the last 34 years, the success is provable.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah, and exactly true, and you talk about servant leadership. You know? Servant leadership, I think about it like a pyramid. At the beginning of the process, the leader is on top. And what is the leader's role? The leader's role is to ensure that we have a clearly defined purpose, that we have a clear set of values, that we have a strategy that is executable, and that we have the resources, and the ways and means to be able to execute that.

Garry Ridge:

Now, when that happens, when that happens, you turn the pyramid upside down, and the leader goes to the bottom, and the leader's job is to be the cheerleader, the enabler, the coach to help all those who he's or she's serving achieve what we've all agreed we want to achieve.

Chris Roebuck:

And it's interesting there's a group of leaders that you and I know that get that naturally. And the challenge that you and I have, and anyone who's in an organization, is helping people who don't get that naturally to realize what it is, how it works, and the benefit that it can accrue. Because if you quote your soul-sucking CEO, the problem is that getting somebody who has that particular perspective to alter that perspective to go with the servant leadership is, from my experience, quite tough.

Garry Ridge:

Well, Chris, I think it's a matter of an awareness. When I got the opportunity to [inaudible 00:26:16] ... lead the company in 1997, I'll tell you frankly, I was scared. I didn't know. And I went back to school and did a master's degree in leadership. But more importantly, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, 35,000 feet up in the air in a Boeing 747. It was the only light that was on was mine and I was reading. And I was reading some work of the Dalai Lama, and this is what I read: our purpose in life is to make people happy. If you can't make them happy, at least don't hurt them. And what I thought about for the next I don't know how many hours until I touched down at Kingsford Smith International Airport is all I see around me is [inaudible 00:27:09] ... people who call themselves managers in organizations hurting people, and I don't want at 97 to have on my tombstone, "Great leader, hurt people." So I decided I needed to do something about it. That's why I went back to school. That's why I learned the things in servant leadership. That's why...

Now, and that's really, that was my huge "Aha!" Moment. Because I had all of the attributes in some degree of abundance of Al, the soul-sucking CEO. I had them. And you know what? Sometimes even now, they sneak in a little bit into my life. Because I have to be aware. I have a little post-it note on my computer here, and it says, "Am I being the person I want to be right now?" And I then have a list that says, "What is that person?" And I want to be grateful. I want to be caring. I want to be empathetic. I want to be reasonable. I want to be a listener. I want to be fact-based. I want to have a balanced opinion. I want to be curious. I want to be a learner, and I want to throw sunshine, not a shadow. So why does a guy in his 60s need to have a stupid post-it note, and a lot more behind me here, to remind me of who I really want to be? I have to because the world will try and pull me into a place I don't want to be.

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah. And as you well know in terms of business, there are pressures that come from the market and other sources that effectively say, "The money counts more than anything else, and that's number one." The problem that I find is just, to some degree, frustrating is that there is so much evidence out there that if leaders do the things that you have discussed, it will actually make more money. But that message doesn't seem to have got through to some people.

Garry Ridge:

And it will send people home happy. And happy people create happy families, happy families create happy communities, happy communities create happy countries, and happy countries create a happy world. And we need a happy world, and business is the force of good for that.

Chris Roebuck:

And to the classic comment from Friedman, that it is all about shareholder return. You know? And people keep quoting me, and I say, "Look, that was early '60s. The world has moved on since then." What society expects from business in terms of its contribution to society in 2022 is not the same as it was in '64. It's like saying in '64 what you expect to do in a business is the same as it was in 1921. It's nuts.

Garry Ridge:

And it won't be the same in 2030 either.

Chris Roebuck:

No, and that's an interesting point. That my view is that in terms of all the things you've mentioned in relation to leadership, leaders are going to have to step up between now and then. Because as we quoted at the beginning, Generation Zed, they're not going to tolerate bad leadership. They're just going to walk.

Garry Ridge:

If leaders don't get up on the track right now, not only are they going to be left behind, but organizations are going to not be able to sustain themselves. Because just like that song, there's a song, "I'm not putting up with this anymore."

And what's interesting. Larry Fink, who's the CEO of BlackRock, the biggest investment company in the world, he made a statement in his letter to CEOs that came out just a few months ago. And in the first few paragraph, he makes the point that organizations with strong cultures perform better during COVID than others. And I was quoted, I quoted his quote in an article in the New York Times. I just added two things to the end of it, "Oh, duh."

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah. It goes back to that sort of disconnect that I mentioned earlier. And this sometimes comes out when I'm mentoring. A certain leader says, "Well, I said this to member of my team, and they seem to be quite hurt, or upset, or annoyed by that." And then you just say, "Okay. So if your boss had said exactly the same thing to you, what would your reaction have been?" "Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Maybe I wouldn't have been too happy either." And it's that disconnect between, I'm sorry, if this annoys, upsets, doesn't develop, doesn't help somebody else, it's the same for you. You're a human being. Going back to Aristotle.

Chris Roebuck:

One of the things I, yeah, so the Dalai Lama. So let's give our listeners that quote from the Dalai Lama again. So your objective should be to, for people to be happy, and if you can't make them happy, don't hurt them.

Garry Ridge:

Our purpose in life is to make people happy. If we can't make them happy, at least don't hurt them. And leaders, toxic leaders are hurting people, and they're hurting families, and they're hurting communities, and they're hurting countries.

Chris Roebuck:

It's yeah. And one of the things, talking to leaders, you say, "Well, what I'd like you do, try and focus more time on your people, because that's the way that you are actually going to get greater performance." And one of the things that I get back will be, "Oh, I don't have time. I've got to do this. I've got to do that. I've got to do whatever." And now, okay, so that in itself is questionable.

But it's interesting. In 2000, I did some really basic research in the city of London and various other places to see what core task management and leadership skills were, had been put in place in groups of leaders. So I said, "Have you ever been given time management, delegation, communication, giving feedback?" et cetera, et cetera. And the figures back in 2000, 2002 were such that 20, excuse me, only 25% were being given any development in how to delegate.

Chris Roebuck:

And I started asking the audiences I speak to about three years ago exactly the same question. I just said, "Look, simple straw poll. How many of you in this room have been taught how to delegate effectively at any point in your career? Please put your hands up." Never more than 20%. And I'm thinking, okay, so no wonder things aren't going particularly well if organizations haven't bothered to teach leaders who they want to delegate on a daily basis how to do it well. Duh, again.

Garry Ridge:

Well, Chris, I laugh. I mean, I laughed when you talked about the time thing, because imagine how much time a leader would have if instead of 20% of his people coming to work and being engaged 90% of his people were engaged. That opens up an enormous amount of resources.

Garry Ridge:

Now, sure, you've got to put some work in the beginning to be able to build that culture. You know? I have an algorithm for culture, culture equals values plus behavior times consistency. So to build a great culture, do you have a compelling set of values? Are you as a leader, brave enough to be able to redirect behavior? And do you love your people enough to reward them and applaud them, and are you doing it every day?

When I went to school in Australia or at Drummoyne Boys' High School, the teacher gave me a Petri dish, and they said, "We're going to grow culture [inaudible 00:35:05] ... in this Petri dish. So what we're going to do is we're going to put ingredients in, and then what are you going to do, Garry?" And I said, "What am I going to do?" The teacher said, "You're going to watch that Petri dish every day. And if you find toxins getting into that Petri dish, you'll treat the toxins or get them out. Because if you don't, it's going to [inaudible 00:35:25] ... send the culture sour immediately."

So as a leader, decide what the ingredients are that have to go in your Petri dish to grow a thriving and meaningful culture. And then you and all of your other leaders watch that Petri dish every day with [inaudible 00:35:43] ... two objectives, to enhance what's in there, and to take out what shouldn't be in there.

Chris Roebuck:

And yeah, it's really so simple, but I think it's a challenge of pointing people in the right direction. And for listen for listeners on that delegation stuff, if you haven't been taught how to delegate effectively at any point in your career, the experiment I run is I just say to leaders in the audience, "Okay, fine. Write down four things you do every week for just four jobs. Look at each of those. Could any of those be delegated to any member of your team who has the time and capability? If you did, how much time would you save?" I let them do that for two minutes. And I say, "Right, hands up, you save two hours a week, hands up, you save four hours a week, hands up, you save six hours a week." And in less than five minutes, at least half the audience has saved half a working day a week. And you think why were you not told this? If you've been a leader for 20 years, if you'd been told that at the beginning of your career, you would've saved 18 months time. Then when you add your multiplier effect of creating engagement, the whole thing just flies.

I think your phrase that struck with me was taking care of who is in your charge. And what I find interesting is you've built this organization, your tribe, you've only got 550 people. It's got to be about the relationship that you don't just have with those who are the WD-40 tribe who are employed. It must be that wider WD-40 tribe across the world with the other stakeholders that you've got. Because I saw that even in the pandemic, you've taken on more people.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah. So that statement, I stole from Simon Sinek. He said, "Leadership is not about being in charge, it's about taking care of those in your charge." And although, we only have 550 and it's probably 600 now, if you look at the people we influence through our business, because we outsource all our manufacturing, we have [inaudible 00:37:50] ... it's thousands of people. It's thousands of people. And yeah, we've increased our number of tribe members. Funnily enough, during the pandemic and the year 2000, we had the best [inaudible 00:38:04] ... during the company's history. And that was very interesting because we'd gone virtual very quickly, but we'd done it deliberately. You know?

People are going through their own personal hero's journey, and it's our job to ensure we're touching people, and reaching out to them, and just asking them, "Are you okay? Are you okay? What's on your mind?" And not just telling people what we want them to do, but sharing with them why what we're asking them to do or asking them to be involved in has an outcome that's going to meet what we call our tribal promise. And our tribal promise is a group of people that come together to protect and [inaudible 00:38:49] ...

Now, halfway through COVID, as you know, Chris, we do an employee opinion survey since the year 2000. Our employee opinion engagement level actually went up during COVID from 93% to 93.5%. Right in the middle of COVID, I wanted to do litmus test and see where we [inaudible 00:39:08] ... cultural equity because of us all being virtual. And [inaudible 00:39:13] ... we did like a mini survey. One of the questions that came back that was really amazing was 98% of the people right in the middle of COVID globally said, "I'm excited about my place in the company's future." And I said, "Why? Why would you say that?" We're in the middle of COVID, uncertainty as is it the highest level ever, why are people saying that? Here's what they said, here's what the feedback we got. If we can get through this together, we can get through anything together. This is the place I want to be.

So it's, again, this whole concept of it's not one of us [inaudible 00:39:51] ... is as good as all of us. Everybody has a position, a place. And as Bob Chapman from Barry-Wehmiller often says, "Everybody who walks into your company every day is someone's precious child." I add to that, it's someone's precious child, husband, wife, father, son, cousin. Let's pay respect for those. It's better that all of us take a little pain than a few of us take a lot of pain.

So again, it's how do you dedicate your culture towards maintaining that within your tribe?

Chris Roebuck:

It's one of the things that you do outside WD-40, you are an adjunct professor at San Diego helping leaders become better. You're a coach, a culture coach, coaching people across the world. And as we just discussed, interestingly, we both work with Marshall Goldsmith.

Chris Roebuck:

When you're coaching leaders. And to some degree, I caveat that in terms of, if a leader's going to come to you to be coached, there is an acceptance in that leader's head that they could possibly improve and they want to improve, so there's an element of self-awareness. Because to be blunt, some of the leaders I've met over the years who need coaching more than anybody else don't have sufficient awareness to realize they need the coaching or leadership development.

But what do you find are the key things that when you are coaching leaders ask questions about? One of the classic ones that comes up is the fear of making a mistake, when you've used the phrase mistakes are just learning moments.

Garry Ridge:

Yeah, exactly. You know? One of the biggest fears we have as human beings is making a mistake. Because the feedback we normally get from a mistake is very negative, someone's going to pay us out for it.

Garry Ridge:

Years ago, we remove the word failure or mistake from our vocabulary. We don't make mistakes. We have learning moments, and learning moments are rich. And what's the definition of a learning moment? A positive or negative outcome of any situation that has to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people. The reality is we're going to have learning moments. You know? I talk about my scar tissue. I have an enormous amount of scar tissue, and I'm okay with it. Because if you don't take risks, you don't learn. And if you don't learn, you don't grow. So let's embrace the fact that we don't know it all, and that we're out there to be able to be curious.

And you heard me say on that list of what do I want to be? One of my want to be words is I want to be curious. So I say to leaders, "Firstly, you're right. I'm not going to coach anybody who doesn't believe that people can make an enormous, positive difference in their business. I don't want to talk to you. I don't have time for it." That's it.

Chris Roebuck:

Exactly. Well, you know? It's precious, and you can only bang your head against a brick wall a certain number of times before you realize it's not a good move.

Garry Ridge:

And with no hair, hitting my head against a brick wall hurts.

Chris Roebuck:

Absolutely, Garry.

Garry Ridge:

What I do, who I do want to talk to, and when I go out and speak publicly on this, I get people coming to me later who are curious and saying, "You know what? I, as a person, I, as a human being, really would love to send people home happy from my organization." So then I can sit down with them and say, "Okay, let's look at your organization now." And I just have a model that I go through with them, and we identify where are the missing pieces of the jigsaw? It's a bit like what you said earlier. WD-40 had a good culture, but there are pieces that need to be amplified. So we say, "This is where we need to amplify. This is what we need to do. Now, how do we do it? Well, here's a roadmap for you. But at the end of the day, you, as the leader have to do it, and you have to be committed."

Chris Roebuck:

It's really interesting, your comment about the jigsaw. When I was global head of leadership at UBS, we spent an absolute fortune developing the top 1% of the organization. Not the top 10, the top one. But seriously, we're talking global bank, seriously clever people. Told them they were the greatest thing since sliced bread, told them that they were the future of the bank, and then we sent them off after this amazing leadership development program, and they had a coach, and you know? And then three of them came to me and said they were leaving potentially. And I said, "Why?" They said, "Because after what you said, I just realized how bad my boss was."

And exactly that. That's the jigsaw. We'd done the best leading edge stuff to develop talent, and then we sent them back to an idiot who didn't care and couldn't do anything about it. So as an aside, we pretty quickly got our hands on all the line managers of all the talented people, and pushed them through effectively a coaching and blah, blah, blah course. But you're absolutely right that, yeah, unless you look at the holistic picture, you can actually miss really critical stuff that has a ripple effect and prevents everything else from working.

Garry Ridge:

Most people leave organizations cause they don't like their boss, period. You know? They don't feel like they belong. Everybody who's with us today has left a party, an event, maybe even a relationship because they didn't feel like they belong. Why do they leave organizations? Because they didn't feel like they belong. You know? Ken Blanchard says, "It's a shame that the only reason most people know they're doing a good job is no one yelled at them today."

Chris Roebuck:

Oh, that is an indictment.

One of the things I did want to ask you, though. In terms of what you've achieved, and your attitude to learning moments, and all the rest of it, is do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or a corporate leader? Because what I find really interesting is talking to all the guests on the show who have either been entrepreneurs or who invest in startups, there is that difference in mindset that says, actually, you're going to have to make mistakes. Because if you're doing something new, no way you're going to come up with the right answer straight away. Whereas, I've worked in organizations where the attitude [inaudible 00:46:29] ... to the corporates, where the attitude is, "No, no, no, no. No mistakes. No risk. That's what we want." And what I discovered certainly at UBS was the power of getting people in a larger organization to accept that they could be entrepreneurial with the permission of senior leadership to think and make mistakes. And just the unbridled joy on people's faces when they were told they could think for themselves was staggering.

Garry Ridge:

You know? Interesting, Chris. I don't think I'm either of those two things. I'm not an entrepreneur. I'm not a corporate leader. I'm a consciously incompetent, probably wrong, and roughly right human being that respects the fact that I can't do it on my own, and someone who values people and wants to send them home happy.

Chris Roebuck:

Yeah. And it is that concern, it is that concern for people. And sometimes, we just don't get that in terms of its importance.

It's interesting. You know? You were talking about you were in New York. Last week, I was up in Aberdeen facilitating a day for the leadership body of the organization that's responsible for safety in the UK offshore oil and gas industry, reviewing the strategy in terms of what's happened since COVID. Because interestingly, during COVID, we won't have time to cover this, but during COVID the accident rate dropped. But being in a room talking to people where their mission is to send people home not just happy, but safely.

Garry Ridge:

Alive.

Chris Roebuck:

And alive, yeah. Because that business, you are throwing around 30 meter, 18 inch diameter steal pipes on a drilling floor. But that just emphasized to me the importance of good leadership. Because for those of you out there listening who aren't in a safety critical industry, and I've worked in a number of safety critical industries, you just have to send them home happy. If you are in a safety critical industry, you have to send them home safe.

Garry Ridge:

Well, I think being safe actually comes with being happy, so do both.

Chris Roebuck:

That it.

So pulling it together then, what do you think? Our listeners, some of them are wanting to be leaders. Some of them are leaders, junior leaders, developing leaders, or even senior leaders. What are a couple of key headlines you would say to them to take away from your time with us today?

Garry Ridge:

Number one, it's not about you. It's about those that you lead and you influence every day. Number two is you don't have all the answers, you need help. Number three is get really comfortable with the three most important words you'll ever learn in your life, and those are, "I don't know," and get comfortable with it. And number four, have a heart. People, life is a gift. Don't send it back unwrapped.

Chris Roebuck:

Ah, absolutely. That's absolutely super, Garry.

And finally, how can people learn more about you and your great organization for a little while longer? Because I think what you have achieved in your tenure as Chief Executive is an absolute example that people should read more about.

Garry Ridge:

Well, great. You know? If people want to work for a great tribe at WD-40 Company, go on our website to our careers page at wd40company.com, and go to our careers page. And if you want to learn more about or read more about what I've been learning and where, how I share my scar tissue, you can find me on LinkedIn. And I also have a website, which is www the learning moment.net, thelearningmoment.net. Now, if you forget that one, just go to thesoulsuckingceo.com.

Chris Roebuck:

So soul... I love it, the soul-sucking CEO.

And actually, for listeners, as a quick aside, do not think that in 2022 all Garry does is produce the little blue and yellow tins with WD-40 in them. They now have an amazing range of really, really clever other stuff that you must go onto the website to investigate. Because I didn't even know you could get stuff to do the things that you guys do now.

Garry Ridge:

Thank you. Yeah, there's a great range of products on WD-40 Specialist. We also own 3-in-One oil, which our people in the UK will know. We own GT85. And yeah, and there's a great range of... You know? What do we exist for at WD-40? We exist to create positive, lasting memories, solving problems in factories, homes, and workshops around the world. We solve problems, and we create opportunities.

Chris Roebuck:

And I am going to guarantee you now that virtually every single listener who is here now, myself included, has somewhere a tin of your product. So Garry, thank you so much. It's been absolutely brilliant.

Garry Ridge:

Great, Chris. Thank you.

Chris Roebuck:

Thanks.

Well, listeners, what can I say? That was, without doubt, just amazing insight from a man whose not only proven his ability to lead a significant organization, but also, his depth of understanding and study of what makes leadership work. Seriously, I would suggest that you listen to this interview twice. There is just so much value in here for everybody.

The headlines that I really think you should take away are that in order to enable your team and your organization to perform at their best as a leader, you need to enable people to become their best themselves at work, and reach their full potential through what people commonly call servant leadership. Now, that's essentially proactively supporting everyone to grow and develop, to show you care, to inspire them with your passion, and give them a purpose in what they do every day. Garry's great comment about empathy should be eating ego, but not ego eating empathy was just perfect. His beautiful comment, also, that micromanagement, everybody listening, is not scalable, so don't do it. Also, his staggeringly high employee engagement figures in WD-40 at over 90%, when most other organizations are languishing down at a sad, low twenties prove it works in the real world.

So I would just pose a question to everybody listening. Look at your people, look at yourself, and look at what's going on. Ask yourself, are you truly enabling your people to have pleasure in their job, and to reach their full potential? Ask yourself what specific actions you have taken for each one of your team members in the past month to achieve that. I challenge you. See if you can write down one action for each. If not, find one, and make it happen. Have a think about how you can use some of Garry's ideas to help you get to where you want to be. Certainly, I will be using some of these in my keynotes and master classes to help my audiences in the future. Just Garry was just so good.

Chris Roebuck:

Don't forget that in a week, I'll give you more in-depth view of the key takeaway from what Garry said, my insights and ideas for action in my reflection. And if you've used any of the insights you've got from Perspectives from the Top and they've helped you, please send me your success stories. I'd love to hear them. In the meantime, you are welcome to connect to me on LinkedIn. And don't forget to sign up on the website so you don't miss any of the great future guests.

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