Industrial Distribution recently had the chance to speak with Paul Glover, an author, speaker, and business management consultant. Describing himself as "recovering attorney," Paul is a regular contributor to ID. His previous articles on the site include Look! A Squirrel! Removing Distractions From The Workplace and Why The Good Ones Leave. Hoping to give our readers a little more background on where Paul is coming from as a contributor, we asked him a few questions about his skills, his business, and his theory on the shifting economy as management styles are changing.
- You describe yourself as a “recovering attorney” – what does that mean and how does that position you to be a better consultant?
I started off my career as a labor and employment lawyer in the city of Chicago. In 1995, I stopped practicing law and started doing management consulting. I stopped practicing, but I continue to have a lawyer’s mindset when it comes to how I approach processes and people. Because of that, I have a very good critical thinking skill set and have managed to develop a high level of emotional intelligence. If you talk to any trial attorney, they will say that the jury is interested in the facts, but just as important are the stories that give context to the facts. The only way you are able to establish that story with the jury is to use emotional intelligence to be able to deliver the story the way that they understand it, connect to it, and in some instances, enjoy it. We are not thinking individuals that act emotionally: we are emotional individuals that act rationally. The opportunities I have as a recovering lawyer allows me to take that skill set and apply it in the business coaching arena and get good results from that combination.
- What types of clients seek your counsel? What issues are they trying to solve by coming to you?
I do a variety of coaching both for the individual entrepreneur and company executive, as well as business coaching where it is more of a team effort. I’ll do individual coaching with a manager or an entrepreneur that is having specific issues or trying to determine how to grow the business or manage the business. My largest client is one that does $330 million dollars of business a year; the smallest does about $13 million.
My goal is to improve people and processes, as well as create an overall strategy that the company can employ. Because of my background, I am pretty pragmatic. I like action plans. If you are in the coaching process with me, we spend a lot of time agreeing upon what the outcome you are looking for is, and then are able to make a determination as to whether or not I can help achieve that outcome. Depending upon what the outcome is, then we develop an action plan that has a timeline. We create actions steps, and then attach responsibility to each one of those steps. At that point, I then turn into the “nag” – my job is to make sure that there is implementation of the plan. Normally, I do an every-other-week coaching call. During that call, we go over the action plan; what was to be accomplished within that two week period; who was to accomplish it; and then the all-important question – was it accomplished? If it did not happen, we have a crucial conversation about why it did not happen and what has to be done so that it does in the future. I bill myself as the no BS performance coach: I don’t have a lot of fluff attached to the process. I don’t like to hear a lot of excuses. I do make the distinction between reasons and excuses – I’ve been doing this long enough that I can identify the difference. Once we have agreed upon what we want to achieve, I want us to achieve it. Sometimes that means going after the resources, sometimes it means prioritization, sometimes it means being committed and focused and just getting the job done.
One thing that makes me pragmatic is that fifty percent of my compensation is based on reaching the agreed upon results. I’ve got some skin in the game because I am all about the results. At the end of the year when we sit down and tally things up, I either get paid or I don’t, based on how we have done. I do a one page contract. The client and I need to be clear about expectations – and it is really easy not to be clear. The client can cancel at any time, and I usually do annual contracts because I find that it is very difficult to achieve meaningful goals in less than a year. At the end of the year, there is a sentence in my contract that says “If the client does not believe that we have reached the goals, they do not pay.” It’s not to be arbitrated or to go to court, and it is not my decision to make – it is theirs. I am convinced that if I take on a task, that we are going to be able to accomplish it. I can be terminated at any time if the client decides that they don’t like the arrangement, and some do. Some clients are not ready for me to push them. I may not be a fit.
Coaching is an interesting dynamic – it is a very important aspect of growth for every executive and every organization, to have someone from the outside with clean eyes look at people and processes – but it is interesting to me how people react to the concept of performance coaching. Once you tell people what you are going to do, it is surprising how many people decline because they don’t want the pain. It is a painful process. It requires a lot of introspection, a lot of coming to the realization that you may not be as good as you think you are, but that you can be. It takes work and effort, and a lot of people shy away from it. I am not the fit for some organizations.
- You speak a lot about the “WorkQuake™” – in fact, you coined the term. What does this term mean, and how is this shift affecting our economy and businesses trying to grow in it?
The WorkQuake is what I refer to as transitional periods between economies. I look at the current one as being the shift between the industrial economy, which was very much “Command & Control,” into the knowledge economy, in which no one wants to be managed, but wants to be led and inspired. We are in the process of transitioning right now. It is amazing to me that people think we have already gone to the other side. The reality is that we have not. We have a tendency in management to be like a rubber band – at any opportunity, we snap back to Command & Control and away from Leading & Inspiring. First, it is the easiest way to manage. You tell people to do it this way or else. To keep their jobs, they will. This recessionary period caused us to snap back to Command & Control. I think that our perspective about what business is like in the U.S. has been blurred by the tech companies. We really believe that the Googles of the world are the rule and not the exception. They are the exception.
The reality is that most companies are attempting to make the transition but are struggling with it. Management knows all the words to say but they don’t really mean them. Companies are being forced to change. That is the WorkQuake. It is this tension and struggle that is going on between managers and employees. This happens in fits and starts. In a good economy it happens faster, and in a bad economy it happens slower, but it is happening nonetheless. Managers are continuing to cling to the old way of business, even if they realize that that way of doing business is slowly dying. No one likes change – we associate change with bad things. Managers are continually told that they need to change the way they manage, when really they should be told to change the way that they lead. The new workforce is less and less likely to accept management. They will accept leadership. That is a completely different skill set.
People are no longer willing to accept the “how” without the “why”. They want to know “why”. My generation never would have thought to ask. The only way that you get engagement today from employees is in providing the “why”. Otherwise, employees will do the job, but they will not care about the job. What we are looking for today are people that care about the job. Companies that only have people that do the job are not going to make it.
Paul, a "recovering employment attorney", is a Business and Executive Coach with a national clientele. He is also the author of WorkQuake, 76 ways to thrive in the Knowledge Economy, and a blogger for FastCompany.com. His writing is featured in The Business Edge, Vistage, and Industrial Distribution, to name a few. Paul can be contacted at 630-913-6555 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for “Paul’s Point of the Day,” or find out how to schedule your session with the WorkQuake Coach at www.workquake.com.