Bob Sutton is an organizational psychologist, Stanford professor, and New York Times bestselling author of multiple books including, Scaling Up Excellence, Good Boss-Bad Boss, and most recently, The Friction Project.

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The Learning Leader Show

  • Commonalities of leaders who sustain excellence:
    • Curiosity (ask lots of questions)
    • Willingness to try something new
    • Compassion – Assume you don’t know others’ struggles
  • Bob worked with Ed Catmull (Pixar)
    • He was one of the best at combining curiosity, willingness to try new things, and having compassion for people
  • Good Boss vs. Bad Boss
    • Good bosses ask lots of questions and then make the call (John Hennessey, Stanford President)
  • The Jumbo Grocery Stores in Holland created “slow lanes” for those who wanted to talk… They didn’t want efficiency or speed, they wanted a conversation. It’s a good reminder that sometimes we should slow down and enjoy our surroundings and the people we’re with…
  • Curiosity and Compassion are skills we can build. Take the experiment where they counted the number of questions versus statements and your talking time. Surround yourself with people who will give you direct feedback about your level of curiosity and compassion… When conversing with someone else, how often are you asking questions versus talking about yourself? Think about that…
  • It’s not always right to be efficient… Bob shared the Jerry Seinfeld story… The network was considering bringing in McKinsey to help Jerry become more efficient when making his show. He asked, “Are they funny?” They said, no that’s not what they do. And he said, “Then I don’t need them.” It’s not always supposed to be efficient. Sometimes, the hard way is the right way… To get the best result, it usually is.
  • Some things Bob believes (we should all post an essay about what we believe):
    • Indifference is as important as passion.
    • The best leaders know what it feels like to work for them. They overcome the urge to focus attention on powerful superiors rather than their followers
    • The best leaders think and act as trustees of their employees’ and customers’ time. They are “friction fixers” who hold themselves and others responsible for making the right things easier and the wrong things harder. That might mean, for example, reducing friction by eliminating and revamping meetings.
    • “Am I a success or a failure?” is not useful. It is better to ask “What am I learning.”
  • Noam Bardin (from Waze)
  • Laszlo Bock – For hiring, “If you need to interview someone more than 4 times, then you must get written approval.” This helped speed up the process.
  • One of the roles of the leader is to be the editor-in-chief. Great leaders are great communicators. You must become a good writer and speaker if you want to lead.
  • Life/Career advice:
    • Seek variation each day
    • A chief of staff job could lead to big things (if you work for the right person)
    • Be kind
  • Apply to be part of my Leadership Circle

Time Stamps

00:33 – The Importance of Showing Up Early

02:30 – Those Who Have Sustained Excellence

06:40 – Can We Learn to Be Curious and Compassionate?

22:44 – Don’t Compare Your Creativity to Others

28:29 – Use Good Friction to Reduce Bad Friction

35:56 – Acronyms within Companies? – Terrible Idea!

39:49 – Do You Have a Writing Practice?

43:35 – Slow Down to Focus on Caring

52:38 – Career/Life Advice

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership