Episode #262: Keith Yamashita – The Keys To Great Execution (Oprah, Starbucks, Steve Jobs)

Keith Yamashita  has led SYPartners for the past two decades, a practice that collaborates with CEOs and their leadership teams to build great companies and organizations. He’s worked with leaders at Apple, eBay, IBM, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, Nike, Starbucks, and Target Corporation, among others. SYPartners has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune for its unique, human-centered approach, applied to both business and social challenges.

Earlier in Keith’s career, he was the chief writer for Steve Jobs.

Keith is a frequent writer on the topics of innovation, culture change, transformation, design. Keith has published in the Harvard Business Review, penned a popular business book called Unstuck, lectured at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, The Yale School of Management, and the Jack Welch Leadership Center in Crotonville.

Episode #262: Keith Yamashita – The 3 Keys To Great Execution

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

Action Step – “Build a daily contemplative practice to create mind-fitness.”

Show Notes:

  • Sustaining excellence:
    • The ability to envision a future that doesn’t currently exist — Make it a reality
    • Optimistic
    • Creative
    • A diverse background
    • Authentic communicator
    • Daring and bold
  • People Keith has worked with who have sustained excellence:
    • Oprah Winfrey – magnetic personality, she can envision the future we want. She constantly re imagines herself. She has a strong creative core. She has a sense of deep creativity.
    • Howard Schultz – He’s always restless, reinvents regularly. He’s earned 9,000% return on investors money
  • How do you respond when Oprah calls you for help?
    • “We are always on the outer edge of incompetence.  We take on projects that we don’t know the answer to.  And then figure it out.  We respond to those calls with deep humility.”
  • Why choose Keith and SYPartners?
    • “If a leader wants to try something new… We help them experiment.”
  • Starbucks:
    • Closed 8,000 stores for racial bias training.
    • Keith and team helped them build new habits
  • SYPartners origin story:
    • “Our goal has never been to be famous, our goal is to be impactful”
    • 25 years ago with “three partners and $912 in my checking account”
    • Started as a communications firm –> Strategy –> Innovation –> Culture –> Transformation
    • There are 200 employees now
    • “We fight for greatness. We help leaders choose a more daring path”
    • “Everything is set with intentions” –> “Set your intentions and be very open to the universe”
  • How do you respond to skeptics?
    • “When I started I had $912 in my checking account.  I had to borrow money for rent.”
    • Only you know what’s inside of you.  “Your skepticism needs to be inward, not outward.”
    • “If greatness is your choice, it’s not made in big leaps, it’s made in daily focus.”
      • “Micro actions add up”
  • How to make the leap from individual contributor to manager?
    • Leadfully.com has been helpful
  • What was it like working for Steve Jobs?
    • “I showed up with writing samples. He said they were awful. He was testing me to see if I believed in my work.  It was the worst interview of my life… However, I got the job.”
    • “He’s the toughest boss I ever had.  But I learned more from him than anyone I’ve worked for.”
    • Steve was gifted in seeing what people were capable of and he was willing to push. He knew how to motivate you to your capacity
    • The danger in mimicking Steve’s behavior? “People try to mimic the behavior, but they don’t have his intentions.” Mimicking the behavior without the intentions is a recipe for disaster.
  • Execution and implementation:
    • Mind-fitness – Creativity in moments that matter. Be connected to others in a calm way. Ideas are just ideas. “You can train your mind to be present in this moment.”  Don’t judge others. “Build a daily contemplative process.”
    • Build a daily creative practice – Read, write, take notes, be awake, alive, aware. Get a folder, cut out articles, pictures. Create inspiration.  Recall past events.
    • Understand what moment you’re in – What’s happening? Develop keen awareness to the moments
  • Why books are the greatest investment ever (my thoughts)
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“We are always on the outer edge of incompetence.  We take on projects that we don’t know the answer to.  And then figure it out.  We respond to those calls with deep humility.” — How Keith responds when Oprah calls

Social Media:

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 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom