Episode 0031 · April 4, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Let’s Help Jim

[Unedited Transcript]

Rich Ziade: [00:00:00] Paul,


Paul Ford: Richard, how you doing?

Rich Ziade: We are recording this on a Monday morning.

Paul Ford: Oh, let’s go. How’s your Monday going?

Rich Ziade: There’s this wonderful crossing guard by my kid’s school when she sees us. She says, happy Monday.

Paul Ford: Does she mean it?

Rich Ziade: She genuinely means it. And the kids aren’t happy.

Paul Ford: No. No.

Rich Ziade: They’re like, while she’s out here, she’s going home.

I gotta go to

Paul Ford: Mondays are hard. Mondays are hard.

Rich Ziade: kids have an extra long Monday too. They go to afterschool stuff on

Paul Ford: Mondays. Oh yeah. They’re

Rich Ziade: it’s all good. But it’s nice to be here. Nice to be talking to you, Paul. We don’t talk enough.

Paul Ford: No Jesus. Uh, yes. No. Right? Well, there’s always more to discuss. Somehow there’s always more stuff going on.

So look, you know what we haven’t done in a long time here on Ziti [00:01:00] Ford Advisors.

Rich Ziade: What’s that?

Paul Ford: Mailbag.

Rich Ziade: the audience continues to grow and swell and it’s exciting to get mail, email. You can email us@helloziti.com.

Paul Ford: Keep swelling, everybody

Rich Ziade: keep swelling.

Paul Ford: Um, so here we go.

Uh, we’ll keep this anonymous.

Well give, gimme a name. Jim, Jim, uh, or Jane. My managers need help, is the subject.

Okay, so, hi, uh, Mr. Zian

Rich Ziade: Ooh.

Paul Ford: actually I think it’s, it’s m e s s r S, which is says Mok. Like, I think it’s

Rich Ziade: like, yeah, yeah. Fine.

Paul Ford: fine. I don’t know. I tried a little French there, but I don’t have any, um, my organization is, Stated on concepts of ownership, even when the things being owned are conceptually different and therefore have inherent overlaps like an overarching capability to calculate a score versus developing a page with a feed that organizes things, including things that are Okay, we’ll come back to a lot [00:02:00] going on here. Yeah. Also, it seems my manager thinks more hierarchy means more efficiency and clarity. So now I have two managers between me and the ceo.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm.

Paul Ford: Your most recent podcast that sought to help Paul was full of great advice for managers, though that was oriented toward the CEO role.

I think it’s when I became CEO for four days. my question, what are your thoughts on me sharing the podcast with both of my managers, between me and the ceo, in the hopes of helping them become better managers? Will they understand if it wasn’t clear in, in the framing above, both of my managers are challenged by abstract, innovative, strategic, non-acting.

thinking, please advise. Best, Jim. So I think, you know,

Rich Ziade: well first, yes, of course. Please spread the word about the podcast,

Paul Ford: share it with your managers.

Rich Ziade: Why

Paul Ford: I don’t think, okay. What, how do, how do you, this is the, the actual question here, How is one to give advice and counsel up the chain

Rich Ziade: Very tricky.


Paul Ford: [00:03:00] Okay, so, Managers and CEOs and those fo those kind of types. First of all, they might put you in a position where you are an advice giver, like

Rich Ziade: what you’re there

Paul Ford: CFO is the advisor to the CEO on all managers financial. But the CEO might make a decision the CFO disagrees

Rich Ziade: sure.

Paul Ford: But they’re there to give the best possible financial, structural advice to the

Rich Ziade: They are not the, they are not the, um,


commander-in-chief, meaning you may say, look, I don’t agree with this kind of spend on marketing, but I’m telling you the consequences of it. Our margins are gonna go down 4%. And then the CEO says, I understand that. I appreciate you raising the risks.


Paul Ford: we’re gonna go ahead and do it anyway.

Rich Ziade: We’re gonna go ahead and do it anyway. In the best interest

Paul Ford: how typ, typically what happens is the CEO goes, okay. That’s really good. We’re gonna mo, we’re gonna turn a couple dials over here. We’re still gonna go ahead, but I heard you. And how would we structure this so [00:04:00] that there’s less risk? Yes. Right. So, so there’s usually a give and take, so, okay.

So those are official roles where the person is supposed to look at the CEO and say, Ooh, slow down there.

Rich Ziade: Uh, I am going to give you. Uh, the facts on the ground and the implications of it, and then my assessment, and then you are gonna, ma you’re gonna decide.

It’s very similar to, you know, uh, a Secretary of Defense. Who is not supposed to decide which country to go in on or invade or protect or any, they, they’re not making those decisions. But if the president says, I don’t like what’s happening in Panama. Give me my options. They put the options in front of them and then he decides and they say, sir, I think there’s a low likelihood of success and that the president says, I understand that.

Go do it.

Paul Ford: I mean, the purest example of that was the Bin Laden raid.

Rich Ziade: That’s a decision that you’re weighing a bunch of different

Paul Ford: could have gone very

Rich Ziade: could have

gone very badly. There’s a [00:05:00] risk, there’s a cost benefit sort of analysis. You’re never gonna get it Exactly right. And then,

Paul Ford: I mean, remember a helicopter like was destroyed. Like it could have been a lot of things

Rich Ziade: could have gone wrong. Yeah. And then you give the order and then you hope for the best. Right? So if you happen to be that person, sort of that’s giving counsel to your manager, that’s actually quite different.

Paul Ford: That’s your job.

Rich Ziade: It’s your job. Now there is the matter of

Paul Ford: well wait, that’s top up. That’s an advisory layer at the top. Now let’s go down a couple layer layers to like, um, let’s say I’m the,

Rich Ziade: don’t have to go down a couple

Paul Ford: layers. Go down

Rich Ziade: me tell you what Jim is asking for. He’s asking if he had to give unsolicited counsel.

Paul Ford: Yeah, I think he just quit. That’s the easiest way to do

Rich Ziade: unsolicited counsel is a whole other game.

It’s a whole, it’s not your job.

Paul Ford: Yeah. And you’re about to tell someone who nominally has control over you how to do it,

Rich Ziade: Correct, correct. I actually have some experience with this. [00:06:00] Um, uh, because I, I re, I reported directly to the CEO of a pretty big media company, and this was not your like, let’s all get around, let’s all sit around the table and talk

Paul Ford: No, I, I went to a couple meetings with this person and they were, I, I don’t.

Rich Ziade: just extreme alpha.

Paul Ford: Yeah, but not just that actually kind of bananas.

Rich Ziade: Bananas.

Paul Ford: Like, not like take the worst possible. It’s not the typical portrait of the ceo, like a golfing guy who’s indifferent. This was like a nihilistic capitalist, lunatic,

Rich Ziade: lunatic.

And, and I had not, you know, I had run a little agency prior and I was now in this big company that he ran,

Paul Ford: You were like chief product officer or

Rich Ziade: was chief product Officer, but there was no cto. I was effectively CTO and

Paul Ford: CPO Okay. Okay.

Rich Ziade: And the strangest thing started to come up, and this kind of related to Jim’s question.

They, they would have meetings about the meetings they’re gonna have. They would like rehearse.

Paul Ford: Well, honestly, this is normal in consulting, but [00:07:00] it is exhausting in a business.

Like if your job is to deliver information to the boss, yeah. Then you are gonna have a prep meeting. We used to have prep meetings, all.

but wait, why is it bad to have a prep meeting before you go meet with the boss? That actually sounds like a good, good idea to me. Get your story straight.

Rich Ziade: you think about the premise for a prep meeting, you have all agreed about what the right thing to do is, which is go.

so now all your energy shifts on how you can possibly convince and manipulate your boss to go east.

Paul Ford: This is tricky, and actually, I remember meeting this guy. This was someone who, because he was so toxic, knew that the only interactions he could have with people would consist of them trying to manipulate him,

Rich Ziade: which is frankly, Jim is trying to manipulate his boss because he thinks his boss is doing some things wrong and he needs to somehow convince him in a, in a, in a, in, in a context of a real power imbalance, there is a power imbalance because Jim, for better or worse, is further down the org chart than his boss, [00:08:00] uh, or his

Paul Ford: For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that for the most part, Jim is correct. Okay. So Jim has some valuable context about what helps him get stuff done. He see, sees things that could get done, like Jim could easily be wrong and like not see something the boss sees, but let’s assume Jim’s correct.

Okay. So now he has this boss who clearly doesn’t want a lot of feedback. What now,

Rich Ziade: first off, let’s give Jim credit, because most people wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t even have this conversation. Jim feels like something is. Something is out of alignment in an organization that’s now running worse than it could be if they would make some adjustments.

So the fact that Jim even cares, says a lot

Paul Ford: Jim has a concept of how things could go better, including things including that involve him. Okay. So

Rich Ziade: allowed to have those so long as it’s not purely selfish, then that’s just someone, you know, taking care of [00:09:00] themselves and self-promoting. Um, or, or sort of manipulating for their own individual benefit.

But if Jim is like, man, if they would just do these three things, this business could be doing better. Right. That’s great.

Paul Ford: We’re having trouble shipping our product on time, but I bet I could help get the product shipped on time if we could do these

Rich Ziade: So

piece of advice number one, like the way you just said it, if you can’t have that conversation with your manager, then you’re not in a, in an environment that’s aligned around the business.

You’re in a, you’re in a political

Paul Ford: environment as far as I can tell. 95% of companies, you can’t have that conversation

Rich Ziade: That’s potentially true, but you know what’s, what feels really, really great when you’re true to your own sort of understanding of things and beliefs and you’re comfortable communicating them.

Paul Ford: Yeah. The other thing, I mean, also flan. I think flan feels really, really Well, just tastes good,

Rich Ziade: you putting your fist in

Paul Ford: No. That would be weird. You’re right. Now that you’ve put it that way.[00:10:00]


Rich Ziade: look, Jim. It’s a, let me give, let me give a more optimistic outcome for Jim, no matter what happens. If he has that conversation and the manager’s like, man, I didn’t think of it that way.

That’s really helpful and I appreciate you sharing it. Then there I, there’s a little, there’s a glimmer of hope here that Jim’s relationship with his manager and his, the company, he works. Could be in a better place.

Paul Ford: Yeah, we’re just hearing that They moved him around a couple

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Sounds like Jim may be a little noisy and, and if he’s a little noisy then, then they will move him around.

That’s the thing that’s done now. What’s the other outcome? Jim, I wish you just stick to your job description, dude, and let me worry about. If that’s the case and Jim has these strong sentiments about how things can be better, then it’s not a great, he’s not in a great place. He’s not in an environment or in a setting.

Paul Ford: true. He just got a tremendous amount of [00:11:00] clarity about how it’s gonna be going.

Rich Ziade: him. Exactly. So these are actually both good outcomes for one. One. One might have a little more anxiety around it because that means he’s on his way out, whether he’s quitting or he is being let go or marginalized, which is.

Paul Ford: or has to find another job inside the org or

Rich Ziade: Or whatever, which could be just horrible and shitty. But if that’s, if that, that’s still clarifying

Paul Ford: though.

That’s true. You should just go ahead and have the

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Look, let’s step back for a second and talk about the interview or the coffee or however way Jim got this job. If you are in a setting where you’re like, okay, man, that base package is really, really good.

I guess I could live with working for this person. That’s one sentiment. The other sentiment is like, you know, offer’s good, but boy, I could learn a lot from this person. Right? And, and I don’t know the backstory for Jim. I don’t know how it landed, but if you are seeing that, wow, even if this [00:12:00] is six months or 12, I’m gonna learn a ton, then that’s, that sets the dynamic up right

Paul Ford: is the dynamic you want as much as you can.

Rich Ziade: Always,

Paul Ford: always. No, but this is really, this is, let’s go ahead and re and state it. This goes back to my fundamental law of everything, which is if you know what you want, Identify a person and stand as close to them as they will allow you. Yes. Okay. If you want money, find someone with money and stand close to the person with money.

If they say, I don’t want you here, but you can be over in the other room, go ahead and do it. As long as you can still talk to them sometimes.

Uh, great advice.

You wanna be a writer, an artist, a musician. You need to go see the people doing it.

Rich Ziade: Some of the best budding leaders I ever worked with actually ended up being actual leaders at one point would say, say, I, I would, I would ask them.

It’s like, why? Why are you trying to get close to this’s? Like, I just wanna understand how the whole thing works

Paul Ford: This was me in business. I just wanted to see how I, I was like, God, everybody’s complaining about [00:13:00] capitalism all the time. I should go see what it is.

Rich Ziade: you were curious.


Paul Ford: was. I wanted to go look inside. It turns out it’s just a lot of people who don’t actually know as much as they think they know, but that’s, that’s neither

Rich Ziade: There are, it’s a rare, it’s a rare personality type that isn’t seeking a promotion. Or money just purely, but rather just can’t stomach the wrong thing. I truly appreciate the person who just can’t sit still when the wrong thing is happening because that person is pure in some ways.

Paul Ford: appreciate them. Up to a point.

there, there is a point a lot of times people get morally righteous about the next big step that must be made.

Rich Ziade: I didn’t say anything about morals. I was talking about margins and revenue. Dude, let’s keep morals out of this for

Paul Ford: oh yeah. Margins and revenue is one thing. Right. But most people are upset about like rectangles.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, well that’s why that, that’s different. That’s different. But if that [00:14:00] person is connecting to someone and that person is actually connected to what makes the business tick and they are antsy about it,

Paul Ford: This goes back, this goes, most people, I don’t believe, I really don’t believe this, and it was true of me for a long time. They don’t know what business they’re in, right? They, they just don’t, like, if you’re a designer, like I, I see it sometimes at, at, you know, in the past you’d work with a designer and they were aligned with design.

They were aligned with their craft or engineering. Same thing.

Rich Ziade: Do you know what an engineer’s never said to me, rich, I don’t have enough clarity right now, and we’re, and we’re burning through funds, so let’s sit down and get clarity.

You know what they do instead? They refactor.

Paul Ford: it. Sure. Or they, they, you know, or they go look at Y Combinator and look at new JavaScript frameworks.

I’ve been in that role. I

Rich Ziade: engineers at a board may listen to this podcast. No one has ever said to me, rich, the burn is starting to concern me. We’re, we’re working, but I don’t know if it’s, there’s a direct line to the success of the business, so let’s talk.

No one’s ever said

Paul Ford: Never said that to me either.

No one, [00:15:00] um, no. You know who says that is VCs because it’s their money. They come in and they say, I’m concerned about the burn. What are you doing about

Rich Ziade: By the way, I don’t wanna fault them. That’s why we sit here and they sit there. That’s

Paul Ford: Of course, of course.

Rich Ziade: how the system is structured, right?


Paul Ford: for better or for worse.

So I think that this is, this is correct you, so where do most people get really confused? And I actually don’t think it’s, it’s sometimes people are good actors or bad actors for the most part. I see most careers get blown up on confusion. You’re confused because you don’t know where you sit in relationship to the revenue.

And most people will then respond, well, I’m a really good ex, or I actually am. I’m what I should be doing is X, Y, Z. Yeah, all that’s fine. Maybe that’s true. Yeah. But unless you know exactly where you are related to the revenue, you’ll never understand why things are going well or not. And most people, most people in business, in the.

Especially America cuz there’s so much freaking money. Don’t know where they stand in relationship to how the business

Rich Ziade: Uh, I mean, I [00:16:00] want to end it on this point, which you just made in a roundabout way, the bigger the org. The less likely it is that you are anywhere near the actual revenue, or I like to say

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Yep. That funds the business and makes it wealthy. And on top of that, embrace this fact. There are tons of really wrong things that could eat you alive happening in every big company. All the time.

Paul Ford: Yes.

Rich Ziade: Because they are not connected to it. That’s why I had a friend, I had a friend who, who

Paul Ford: about to talk about a giant tech company and the various purges.

I can feel it coming. Exactly. Yeah. No, no.

Rich Ziade: and, and that friend said he was one of the per people purged. And he’s, I said, so did, are they gonna be okay without you guys? You know what he said to me? They had let go 10,000. I won’t name the company, but you could probably figure it out. And he looked at me

Paul Ford: Well, that narrows it down to about 12 companies, but go ahead.


Rich Ziade: was like, you know, did you feel kind of not, [00:17:00] you know, not essential, like is there pain? And he looked at me dead in the eyes and said they could’ve let go of another 50,000.

Paul Ford: That’s right. No,


Rich Ziade: flinching.

Paul Ford: tell you one of the beautiful things that when we, when we had, we were working together, we have this agency, and I said, I want to figure out how business really works.

And I liked working with you because you seem to know how business really worked. And I’ll tell you. It it is. I a saron from freaking Lord of the Ring. It’s like just, you’re just staring into this hot beating or looking into a volcano. You know? When you’re looking at it, you’re like, that’s where the money’s gonna come in.

Do I throw myself into it and get burned up? Like, Like it is, it’s absolutely unavoidable. It hits the spreadsheet and away you go. If you don’t see that, that’s okay. Like there are enormous number of jobs, but the truth is like the further away, if you can’t work out from first principles exactly where that walks in and how [00:18:00] that relates to you getting stuff done every day, the more vulnerable you are.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And, and. So learn that and, and I’m gonna use a word that is not usually used in, this is a very businessy podcast today. Empathize with it. I know that sounds crazy. You’re supposed to empathize with like old ladies or an old man or

Paul Ford: or something.

Rich Ziade: but, or, and children and

Paul Ford: So you’re, you’re literally

Rich Ziade: literally saying

Paul Ford: empathize with capitalism.

That’s what you’re saying.

Rich Ziade: well it, it’ll help you understand where you sit inside of it.

Paul Ford: Yeah, no,

Rich Ziade: That’s like, that’s huge, right?

Paul Ford: This is, this is sort of one, ah, look, it’s an unforgivable subject, right? Because what you’re supposed to say in the modern world is like, well, we have to change everything, but that’s, I just can’t do it.

Can’t change everything. So I do sit inside of capitalism. I like knowing where I sit inside of

Rich Ziade: capitalism.

It’s okay to advocate for better.


environments and better lives for people inside of a massively profitable company, that’s okay too. You can do that. And [00:19:00] you know, the extreme of that, not extreme, but like, you take that all the way to its end and it’s, you know, unionizing.

It’s like, well, hey man, you’re making gobs of money. Come on. Like, you know, balance it out a bit. I’m okay with that, but what can often happen.

Outside of that, even in little companies that are just literally gasping for error in the first 24 months of their lives, people are advocating for that and losing sight of, again, the context of what makes it work or even exist in the first place.

Paul Ford: just it’s just humans.

Humans who hear stories then enact those stories wherever they happen to be.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Yeah. And, and for Jim, credit to Jim for caring, most Don.

Paul Ford: Interesting. So, okay, so not like, oh, here comes Jim annoying his manager.

Rich Ziade: I mean, from, for a lot of people it’s like, this kind of blows, but you know what?

I’m going to Cancun in two months.

Paul Ford: What should, okay. Let’s close this out then. What’s your advice for Jim’s Manager?

Rich Ziade: For Jim’s manager? [00:20:00] For Jim’s

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: Jim’s manager may be in exactly the same spot as Jim, meaning his manager

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: up one level also needs a conversation. And he is wondering if you should have that one.

Yeah. Right. And on and on we go. Right. Uh, politics is not a byproduct of, of just companies politics are a byproduct.

More than 20 people in the same context. Like it’s just, it is what

Paul Ford: oh, have you ever been to a large Thanksgiving?

Rich Ziade: It is what it is, and it’s going to be in place. What you should do if you really, if I don’t look, Jim may be wrong.

We didn’t talk about whether Jim is right or wrong. By the way,

Paul Ford: we’re just going with

Rich Ziade: may be bananas. Jim may be like, we gotta hit Latin

Paul Ford: If Jim’s, if Jim’s wrong, then the managers should say, Jim, I think you’re wrong.

Rich Ziade: Exactly. I’ve.

I’ve done it. I’ve had people tell me that I needed to scale back my business

Paul Ford: Oh, I love those. I had those conversations too.[00:21:00]

Rich Ziade: I, I, I didn’t tell ’em they were wrong, but, and I understood it. I understood why they were thinking that, but it was my, it was, it was on

Paul Ford: For context, when we were running the agency, people would come to us and it wasn’t just on you. That was both of us. They would just be like, why are we growing?

And it was like, because there’ll be a time when we aren’t growing and that allows us to keep employing people. And they would just look at us like, no, no, no. My employment is guaranteed. And you’re like, N I I. What?

Rich Ziade: I, I don’t know anything. I don’t know the backstory for Jim. He may be wrong. He may be right. He’s passionate about his position,

Paul Ford: but it might just might be a lunatic.

He’s looking for

Rich Ziade: first flan and Or is it flan? It’s

Paul Ford: Billy Joel

Rich Ziade: And then Billy Joel. Look, I, I think we’re talking about the wrong thing in a way for Jim, he doesn’t have the healthy working dynamic with his manager. That’s really fundamentally whether he is right or wrong

Paul Ford: now we’re back. We’re back to the A and the B, which is, go talk about it.

And if they don’t respond, you know, it’s time.

Rich Ziade: look, man, you’re gonna, you might spend more time with this person than like your [00:22:00] wife or kids.

Paul Ford: Might as well be happy.

Rich Ziade: You might as well have a healthy dynamic. Happy is a God bless. If you can be happy, good for you,

Paul Ford: Oh, really?

Rich Ziade: might as well have a healthy

Paul Ford: the next podcast. Happiness at Work. Yeah. Yeah,

Rich Ziade: yeah, exactly. Next series,

Paul Ford: Why aren’t we? Why aren’t we happy?

Rich Ziade: I’ll never be happy. No, that’s a, that’s where this isn’t a, this isn’t therapy. Think

Paul Ford: I think it’s in my grasp, but then I just, you know, then I come over here. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. All right. I love you. Love your show,


Rich Ziade: love your show. Hit us up at Ziti Ford on Twitter.

Twitter’s back. I think we lost our check mark, but we’re

Paul Ford: No, I don’t think so. Did we? I I, the New York Times lost his check mark.

Rich Ziade: That

Paul Ford: What a dumb circus.

Rich Ziade: just turns out nobody cares.

Paul Ford: No one cares about anything.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Um, but we are on Twitter and we love

Paul Ford: Yeah, go look into the

Rich Ziade: the, we love

Paul Ford: us out at the Audi Ford Hello, at the audi ford.com.

Uh, anything you want. That was a good mail bag. Send us another email.

Rich Ziade: Thank you for the mail bag.

Paul Ford: Bye Jim.

Rich Ziade: Bye Jim. Good luck. good. [00:23:00]

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