Episode 0017 · February 2, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Paul Needs It by Thursday

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Okay Rich, Ziade Ford Advisors is the name of the podcast.

Rich Ziade: Welcome everyone, the audience is growing.

Paul Ford: It is.

Rich Ziade: Holy moly.

Paul Ford: Holy moly. I, uh, I need advice

Rich Ziade: Oh…

Paul Ford: Once again.

Paul Ford: So, you and I used to run an agency. I was the CEO and you were the President.

Rich Ziade: Welcome to Ziade Advisors.

Paul Ford: Exactly [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Yes, I was.

Paul Ford: so now here-

Rich Ziade: I was the President of the agency, you were the CEO.

Paul Ford: And, uh, I was a, I would, I would call myself a non-traditional CEO, but you know what, when you put that title by your name, uh, nobody cares what came before they’re like, oh, you’re the CEO.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Okay, uh, and now you and I have a new company, it’s called Aboard, has another podcast. We’re gonna launch it relatively soon. We’re very excited about it. And-

Rich Ziade: The podcast is live. The product will launch [00:01:00] relatively soon. We’ve made a profound pivot and we’re excited about it.

Paul Ford: Thank you for clarifying. Now, uh, guess what job I have at Aboard this time?

Rich Ziade: CEO, no he didn’t.

Paul Ford: Yeah and there was a moment I woke up yesterday and I said, “oh, crap, I’m CEO of a company again”.

Rich Ziade: You are.

Paul Ford: Now, you are the president and operator, you tend to drive a lot of the strategy and the product, but I tell the story out in the world, I have a lot of input into the product.

Rich Ziade: Partnerships, conversations, press.

Paul Ford: A lot of- it, it’s so, there is a lot of traditional CEO stuff that I’m gonna be doing.

Rich Ziade: Sure.

Paul Ford: Here is my greatest weakness, just flat out, let’s just put it out there. I have tremendous trouble holding people accountable.

Rich Ziade: Hmm. Okay…

Paul Ford: I feel guilty about it. I’m like, well, it’s hard. Life is hard and and it’s hard to get stuff done.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And I’m, that’s the only part, I’m ready to go out there, I’m ready to have people say, “CEO, you’re a servant of capitalism, burn in hell”. I’m ready for all that. I’m, I can’t wait for those tweets.

Rich Ziade: That’s, you’re not concerned about that side of it?

Paul Ford: Now I’ve already eaten that [00:02:00] plate of goodness.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And I’m, I’m ready to eat the whole, another whole plate. Also, I love our product, I’m really excited to get it out in the world.

Rich Ziade: You believe in it, you’re not just, you have, you weren’t hired into this job. You’re the co-founder of this thing.

Paul Ford: No, top to bottom. I, I’m like, how are we gonna work climate change into this? Like, I can’t wait.

Rich Ziade: Sure, sure.

Paul Ford: Okay, so I’m excited to get out in the world and, and see what kind of impact we can have.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: And, and have people, I’m, I’m ready to be humiliated In public.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: What’s hard for me is in order to do that, I need to ask for more and more stuff.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And I tend to, in, in the past, I would just kind of filter it through you and be like, “oh boy, I, life is hard”.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: I don’t wanna do that again.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: I just don’t wanna do that again. I’m, I’m too old. I just need to ask for my stuff. I need to not feel bad about it. I need to just get my stuff done, and I need people to help me. It can’t all come from me.

Rich Ziade: Right.

Paul Ford: So I’m asking for some career coaching here. I want you to put on your career coach hat,

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: And tell me how to encourage, or [00:03:00] insist on, or demand accountability from others. And let me be clear, we don’t have some huge problem in Aboard, you’re running the shop a lot of the times.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm, mm-hm.

Paul Ford: Like it’s not like people aren’t doing anything. I’m just like, but I know this is in me and this time I just gotta deal with it. I can’t be CEO without the ability to say “I need it on Thursday”.

Rich Ziade: Sure. There are, there are some tricks here. Um, I, I happen to be a very different personality than you, I think if anyone listens to the podcast, they will pick that up.

Paul Ford: It should be relatively easy. But here’s what you say: “I need it on Tuesday”, and they’re like, “it’s Tuesday”, and you go, “yeah”.

Rich Ziade: “Tuesday morning” [laughter].

Paul Ford: Yeah [laughter].

Rich Ziade: I’ll talk to you later.

Paul Ford: No I mean you are, you are fully comfortable with, with somebody squirming and going, “I don’t know how I’m gonna do that”.

Rich Ziade: I have a few tips I could put forward here that I think will help you and others. Frankly, you don’t have to be CEO, you could be the manager of a group of people. You could be running a small business.

Paul Ford: Sure, I’m CEO of a, I’m [00:04:00] self-appointed or co-appointed CEO of a 15 person company.

Rich Ziade: Sure, yeah.

Paul Ford: So let’s put it all in, in scale here.

Rich Ziade: This is useful and frankly, relatively universal advice. Here’s a prerequisite before I give you the advice,

Paul Ford: okay.

Rich Ziade: Don’t ever expect anyone else down the chain to empathize with you, ever.

Paul Ford: That was a failing. That I, I used to, I used to really suffer from that.

Rich Ziade: We ran an agency. An agency is a wildly volatile business, has its ups and downs, has some bad phone calls in the mix. It’s hard, and that is not something that can trickle down. That is leadership, leadership absorbs those that shock and stress and actually insulates everyone else and don’t ever go out to everyone and say, “Guys, I hear you. But it’s things are tough and I need some love too”.

Paul Ford: Let’s go behind the curtain for a sec. There was a point where you and I had a, a serious conversation, not like a confrontation, just like, [00:05:00] boy, what is, because the agency was growing and we’re like, boy, this is tough.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Why are these dynamics so complicated? And you looked at me and you said, it’s really simple I demand loyalty and I’m not getting loyalty. You look for love and you’re not getting love.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, and very different.

Paul Ford: And as we scale, in a small organization, there’s lots of loyalty and love to go around.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Everybody’s drinking coffee and doing the best they can.

Rich Ziade: It’s a more intimate setting as it gets bigger and whatnot.

Paul Ford: As it gets bigger, people are looking out for themselves in a very specific way and that like that is just life.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: So that never leaves me like I know, do not go to the company looking for emotional support.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. I’m gonna give you four pieces of advice.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: First, get in there and do work that, raises an eyebrow as to why that person is doing that work.

Paul Ford: Okay, so wait a minute, hold on, cause this was a, this was a problem I used to program or [00:06:00] jump in on things. That’s a disaster when the boss starts to do a project.

Rich Ziade: Yeah craftspeople don’t like it when you come into the, the wood shop, right? They don’t like, they don’t, they don’t appreciate it. Um, they are the experts, you are not. You have your job, they have theirs. But I don’t mean you need to do their work. You need to do work, you need to not just be waiting for deliverables and wagging your finger. That may be you holding up and writing a major like position document about the strategy of the business. That might be something else. That might be you saying, you know what? I don’t want you just deliver this to me. I wanna workshop this with you, brainstorm before you hold up and do stuff. I want to work with you, I want to collaborate with you. That is different than the corner office and just “what’s going on in there? He doesn’t seem to do anything”.

Paul Ford: This is interesting, right?

Rich Ziade: “They are, the door is closed”, et cetera.

Paul Ford: See, this will be, this will be interesting in practice because you’ve been driving.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: At, at our company, at [00:07:00] Aboard.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: You’ve been driving and I’ve been kind of sitting by you while you drive, and so-

Rich Ziade: Yes, and that’s just out of fairness to you. I’m a force. It’s not like you were like, “oh, cool, I get to chill”.

Paul Ford: No, no.

Rich Ziade: I kind of take a lot of the oxygen in the room.

Paul Ford: I’ve been doing lots of stuff.

Rich Ziade: Yes, you’ve got different responsibilities.

Paul Ford: I’ve been doing lots of stuff. I feel good about it, but I wouldn’t actually qualify it in the way that, like what you’re describing, like here’s the position document, here’s what I want to do about X at Aboard. I haven’t been writing those documents because frankly, honestly, at the phase we’re in, at the scale, we’re in, if I drop in with that, it will blow up the world. Like we can only afford one track right now.

Rich Ziade: No, it could, it could be you lining up a handful of meetings on the west coast. That’s work, right?

Paul Ford: I’m not denying that like that all needs to happen. I’m just saying like, okay, so that’s, that’s A like A is I need to lean in and transition and go like, “Hey, this’ll be my part of the house. Let’s go”.

Rich Ziade: Look man, there are people who do have the corner office cause they, they’re good political actors inside of large organizations and they’re full of shit and you know, good luck to that, right?

Paul Ford: Well there are companies that are so big that just saying [00:08:00] like, “Jim seems like he’s doing a good job”, is enough to get you promoted. Like you just-

Rich Ziade: He’s got a good smile.

Paul Ford: Yeah [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Right? Like that, that happens. That is, that is the world in some ways.

Paul Ford: You move paper across the desk and then you make $700,000.

Rich Ziade: That person needs to not complain about not being respected and having a hard time with his team, that particular person, right?

Paul Ford: Yeah. Go on the internet, shop for jet skis. Live your life.

Rich Ziade: Do your thing, live your life.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Second thing, when you need a group of people to do something, don’t just tell them to go do it. Have a conversation, explain why, explain why you’re not maybe a hundred percent sure, but you’re 80% sure, but explain why.

Paul Ford: Well, this was the fantasy of management that I had like in my thirties.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm.

Paul Ford: Was that you could delegate, you would just look someone in the eye and you’d be like, I need you to do this.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And, and they would go and they would do it.

Rich Ziade: Look in, in some settings they would, we happen to be in a sector, where professionals where it’s, it’s [00:09:00] much more of a collaborative dynamic or pure-ish dynamic.

Paul Ford: It’s also, it’s just an unrealistic fantasy. Things are complicated that we work on. It’s not, I’m not saying go, go get a letter to Mike down the street.

Rich Ziade: Right. That’s right, that’s right. And so when you do that, you– a couple of things happen. First off, you are actually kind of vulnerable in that setting, which is you thinking out loud about how you arrived at this ask rather than I just, just do the ask.

Paul Ford: Interesting, but here’s the thing you’re saying, I think is it’s critical. I used to think that to demonstrate leadership, I had to know everything. I had to show that I knew everything top to bottom.

Rich Ziade: No, no, no.

Paul Ford: What you’re actually saying is you don’t know everything. You’re just, you’re the guy in charge. So drive forward and let everybody tell you what you’re missing.

Rich Ziade: Yes, I’m gonna make a confession as I’m giving you this second point.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: Which is explain rationale, don’t just give directives, which is sometimes I get a lot of pushback and sometimes people hope I’ll forget.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: After I said it on a Monday and it’s Thursday [chuckles].

Paul Ford: Sure, sure.

Rich Ziade: And sometimes I gather everyone [00:10:00] again and I say, I explained it, go do it. And it happens and that is part-

Paul Ford: Well, and you, you will, you will forget, and they know you well.

Rich Ziade: I sometimes-

Paul Ford: Sometimes, yeah, yeah.

Rich Ziade: Sometimes, but if it’s real important, I’m not gonna forget and look, sometimes as a leader, time is ticking, the clock is ticking.

Paul Ford: Yes.

Rich Ziade: And you need them to just do the thing. You are in the position you’re in, you’re in the cockpit for a reason, and you need the thing, and you had the discussion and they may not agree with you.

Paul Ford: Yeah, but this is another tricky one.

Rich Ziade: It’s hard.

Paul Ford: Cause the, the worst leadership I’ve ever seen was when someone stood up in front of a room and said, “if we don’t get this done, I’m gonna look terrible”.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, that ain’t, it ain’t about you my friend. It ain’t about you, Mr. Manager. That isn’t about you, which just leads me to the third tip. Uh, the third tip is share a common goal. And by God, you getting promoted and not, or you not getting fired is not a common goal. That’s your goal [chuckles]. That doesn’t, that, that’s your career.

Paul Ford: I think you’re right. That’s the definition of the bad manager. The person who’s like “you, you [00:11:00] don’t know how this is gonna look when I walk up the chain”.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, and what they’re insinuating there is, I am the glue that’s keeping this together. If, if this domino falls, if Mr. Manager Domino falls, they all fall. So you’re all under threat. A, it’s fear, and B, you’re showing how feckless you are, right?

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm and we’re and we’re kind of back to like the love challenge, right? Which is, if you don’t care for me, then I don’t know how it’s gonna go for you.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: As opposed to, and look, what are we actually saying there? There’s all sorts of personal dynamics you could like or hate somebody, whatever. But all the, all of that conversation is, is away from the shared goal of just getting the damn thing done and getting it out into the world.

Rich Ziade: Hopefully to everyone’s benefit, right?

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Like a lot of times people don’t understand, like a lot of engineers don’t get marketing.

Paul Ford: Oh boy, don’t they– no.

Rich Ziade: So they’re, they’re like, okay, you gotta have this ready for that conference in San Francisco. And they’re like, oh, that conference in San Francisco, they don’t get, it’s not that they don’t get it, they get it.

Paul Ford: [00:12:00] No, this is, this is the hard part.

Rich Ziade: They don’t connect to it, right?

Paul Ford: The, the, the most brutal fact of life is that the discipline that you love and care for is utterly irrelevant without the other disciplines that you tend to despise.

Rich Ziade: Yes, yes, exactly.

Paul Ford: Right? Like marketing can’t stand engineering, can’t stand cause they’re just like a bunch of babies who won’t get it done.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Engineering can’t stand marketing cause what you’re gonna go tell a story?

Rich Ziade: They don’t appreciate the complexity of what’s involved.

Paul Ford: It’s not just that all people are gonna download the app and use it. What do you need to tell a story for?

Rich Ziade: Right, exactly [chuckles].

Paul Ford: It just like, and and it’s unfortunately you’re just in this position over and over in this role of being like, ah-huh, well I need both.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, right. That’s right. Um, I think, look, there-

Paul Ford: Let me be clear also, just quick confession. Aboard is like the place that we’ve built where everybody does understand the value. Like, you know-

Rich Ziade: Oh, it’s a great group.

Paul Ford: Cause I know our employees are, are probably listening to this, like, we are really special right now. We won’t be in the future. In the future it’s gonna grow. And then all those things from [00:13:00] the world are gonna come back into this org. so I’m planning for that.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah Um, let’s talk about the Nirvana state. Very few managers get to it.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm. You’re like on sub pop, you put out bleach, and now you butch vag is gonna produce, nevermind. That’s the Nirvana state [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Yes, but I, It’s a different Nirvana state. That’s one Nirvana state, lemme talk about another Nirvana state. This nirvana state is actually, um, achieved by the manager who over time has gained the trust of their judgment by everyone else. So that a lot of the legwork that’s often required to get people to do things is kind of gone. Sometimes people get that just, just sheer power.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: Power is the ability to get people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. Michael Bloomberg doesn’t really need to explain why he wants you to do a thing.

Paul Ford: No, he could walk in this room right now. First, I don’t know if he’s ever been to Brooklyn, but he could.

Rich Ziade: He’s flown over [00:14:00] Brooklyn. That’s about it.

Paul Ford: In his, in his private jet helicopter and he could say, I need you both to take off your pants.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And we’d probably do it.

Rich Ziade: I’d probably wait on your cue, Paul.

Paul Ford: I’d be like, oh.

Rich Ziade: I’d probably follow behind.

Paul Ford: Well, I mean, we’re here. I’d be, I’d be like, okay, Mike, what, what, what’s next, sir?

Rich Ziade: [laughter] Right now that’s an un, I mean, that’s a, that’s a rare figure. Uh, and, and you know, the CEO is strolling through, but sometimes people and smaller teams, you see this sometimes where the leader is, there’s just true trust in their judgment. It sometimes stings because you may have worked on a thing over the weekend and they shoot it down.

Paul Ford: You know, the, there’s-

Rich Ziade: Oh they got it right.

Paul Ford: It might be trust, but there’s an element of fear there too.

Rich Ziade: Which is my last point.

Paul Ford: Mm-hm.

Rich Ziade: Sometimes you just need to get what you need. And you need it quickly and it’s tough and it’s-

Paul Ford: Rich, can I be this guy? I’m Mr. snuggle bunny.

Rich Ziade: No, I don’t think you can. You can’t be who you aren’t, right? The, the easiest way to get people to line up, and this goes back to common goal, is [00:15:00] if there is an external actor or commitment that you’re all looking at. Like our client, Sally, we promised her Friday.

Paul Ford: Interesting, so it’s not coming, it’s not like, “Hey, I want it”.

Rich Ziade: You are a conduit for external pressure, right? And, and I use this trick, I used this trick, I’ve used it my whole career, which is like, we’re gonna throw a party.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: Like a really big one and we’re gonna show these things so we can’t look like clowns.

Paul Ford: It needs to work for the party.

Rich Ziade: It needs to work for the party. We’ve done it with the Aboard.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: It’s, I, I don’t view it as wily or underhanded, frankly.

Paul Ford: Everybody knows the value of the launch, working backwards from the launch.

Rich Ziade: It’s a tangible, common goal. It doesn’t have to be software, it could be anything, right?

Paul Ford: It also clarifies, because otherwise you’ll try to do everything.

Rich Ziade: That’s the easy one though.

Paul Ford: Mm-hm.

Rich Ziade: You have a client that’s expecting something or there’s an event you’re preparing for. The harder one is just you saying, “I just want it by Friday. [00:16:00] Why are you still spinning on this?”.

Paul Ford: That’s where I want to get to. I gotta, and it’s not, it’s not natural for me.

Rich Ziade: It’s hard.

Paul Ford: But I’ll tell you what, I don’t have the emotional energy for the other stuff.

Rich Ziade: Well-

Paul Ford: I just need to start asking and let people, I used to be terrified of being disliked and then, you know what happened to me?

Rich Ziade: What?

Paul Ford: People disliked me a lot.

Rich Ziade: A lot.

Paul Ford: Alot, a lot. And it turns, you know what else happened? I survived.

Rich Ziade: Let, let me give you Paul Ford specific advice.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: You were the CEO, which frankly is a do or die position to be in.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Your agency could have cratered, maybe you could argue, should have cratered, it didn’t and you had an incredibly successful exit and now you’re CEO again, the, I’m not gonna untangle your psychology.

Paul Ford: No, don’t even bother.

Rich Ziade: About feeling like an imposter.

Paul Ford: Always.

Rich Ziade: All you have to do is look at the story so far and that should give you, that should arm you with the ability to [00:17:00] ask for something for Thursday.

Paul Ford: Um, or it could be an argument that we’ve over-inflated the value of the CEO. No, no, not doing that.

Rich Ziade: Don’t do that. That’s not gonna help your cause.

Paul Ford: I’m not doing that, that’s not gonna help my cause.

Rich Ziade: We’ve been talk, sorry-

Paul Ford: I will say, I mean over the last, like it, it’s funny cause this flip back on this, this like mode of CEO hood , like, like I said, 15 person company. I’m not taking it like I’m not running Microsoft here, but at the same time, like, I’m remembering, hey, this is what I need and this is what I need to do. I’m gonna just start doing it Rich. I’m gonna start asking for things. I’m gonna write notes in my little org mode file, and I’m gonna check them off if they’re done or not done. And I-

Rich Ziade: You’re gonna give people deadlines.

Paul Ford: I don’t think there’s any other way for me to be right now and do a good job. So I better do it.

Rich Ziade: It’s the right way to be. And I’ll tell you something else, Paul. Most of the time people want it.

Paul Ford: I always did. I always, I, I-

Rich Ziade: People want it. They wanna know what success looks like.

Paul Ford: I grieved and [00:18:00] really lost, uh, something, when I left a world of deadlines and discrete tasks that I could complete.

Rich Ziade: It frames your work life.

Paul Ford: And I was a writer. Like that’s a high level thing to be right?

Rich Ziade: It’s real, it’s real.

Paul Ford: And you’ll be like, I got the thing done, aren’t I a good person?

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: And they’d be like, yeah, you are. I still do. When I write for Wired.

Rich Ziade: You have a deadline.

Paul Ford: I have a boss who is younger than me and my editor, and he tells me what to do and he fixes my work and he says, good job or bad, and I still feel it.

Rich Ziade: Yep.

Paul Ford: I think it’s actually, it’s a really fundamental human thing to want.

Rich Ziade: It’s necessary.

Paul Ford: You want someone to say, good job every now and then.

Rich Ziade: Yes. Uh, I hope this helps you and I hope it helps others, Paul.

Paul Ford: Well, I think there’s two things going on. I mean, one is like kind of quiet, which is here I am announcing to the world that if you knew Paul, he tended to be a little wishy-washy. I’m still deep inside, gonna be a pretty wishy-washy person. I’m sure I’ll still see all the ambiguity. I’m tired and getting older, and I’m gonna ask for my stuff because life is short and [00:19:00] it’s just how it’s gonna go from here on out.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, right. Welcome Paul Ford CEO. Uh, hopefully next time I’ll have something I need advice from you on. Uh, you owe me one. Thank you for listening to the Ziade and Ford podcast. We are Ziade Ford @ZiadeFord.com And everywhere you can find podcasts, give us five stars and spread the word, free advice.

Paul Ford: Hello@ziadeford.com. Uh, any questions let us know and uh, we’ll, we’ll check in on how I’m doing.

Rich Ziade: Have a lovely day.

Paul Ford: Bye.

More Ziade+Ford Advisors
RSSApple PodcastSpotify