I read a profound quote recently that stopped me dead in my tracks while I was doing some leadership research in the evening after dinner and it read something along the lines of … This orange blooded philosophy is never going to work!

Do I have your attention?

It was about a book – it was a book written by McKinsey. They did a study on six companies, and it was called The War for Talent. And it was run out of their Chicago office where their most senior partner from McKinsey in human resources was living.

For those that are not familiar – McKinsey & Company is an American worldwide management consulting firm, founded in 1926 by University of Chicago professor James O. McKinsey, that advises on strategic management to corporations, governments, and other organizations.

Arthur Blank, who’s a super stud by the way, he owns the Atlanta Falcons 🏈 , The Atlanta United ⚽️ was the last person that they interviewed in our company, at Home Depot. Oh and he founded that too. 🧰

And Arthur said that he remembers coming in, and the gentleman saying to Arthur, while sitting down, he said, “I have to tell you something.” And this gentleman was in his 70s then.

And he said, “I’ve done this my entire life, human resources and all this kind of stuff and connecting to associates.” He said, “We traveled all over, basically all of your stores.

We went to Mexico. We then Went to the United States, and im talking all over the United States. We Went to Canada. We even went down to South America.” At that point, we were running stores in Chile in case you didn’t know.

He said, “You know, we spoke to a hundred of your associates– from cashiers, a lot of engineers, assistant managers, store managers, presidents,” he said, “every single one of them.

And we asked them ‘tell us about this thing, what you call orange-blooded philosophy, these core values,’ every single one of them, every single person without exception, could describe them.

Now the words were a little bit different, but the essence of all these core values were described fully.” He said, “I don’t know how you could do that. I don’t know how you’re able to maintain that with a half a million associates.” 

And it really goes back to an earlier story that when Arthur and Bernie went public in September of ’81, Arthur had a visitor from Wall Street, Joe Ellis, who was the senior partner at Goldman Sachs at that time.

And Joe said, “You know, your culture in these Atlanta stores is really unique, but you’re not going to be able to maintain it.” He said that he didn’t even ask him his opinion.

Can you believe that? He just told him what was going to happen. He just told him that this orange blooded philosophy was never going to work.

Arthur was 37 years old, and this guy was like the King of Wall Street, and so Arthur says, “Oh, God.” So he went in to see his partner two weeks later, Bernie Marcus.

He says to him “Bernie, I had a visit. I had lunch with Joe Ellis and he follows the stock and all of this he said the he was assured that this culture that you and I both know is so critical, was never going to work.

And so the only way we could do this,” he said to him that time, “is that when we promote people, we promote first on the basis of: Do they understand the culture? Do they live the culture? Are they great examples of the culture? And then if they are, then we could consider them for promotions. And if they didn’t do that, we couldn’t consider them in any other opportunities.” 

Nothing else mattered.

Arthur said – Nothing else mattered as much. So, therefore, the people that were promoted, it created the leadership group in our company, and all of our existing companies today are people that understand what our core values are.

◦ Leaders, I tell that story in my values based leadership class and here to you today because I have always found that even after my 30 years of sales and leadership experience in business, today as a post pandemic leader, the great litmus test is to ask the associates… because if your associates can recite the core values, you’re onto something.

Why? Because that’s the place where many usually can’t. Senior managers know it; people who just onboarded know it, but the new associates don’t, and they’re really the key to getting things done.

YOU are the orange key to getting this done,

I am so proud to be orange blooded with you on our journey together. I’m so proud of you, now let’s do this Home Depot and go be better versions of ourselves.

If you got value out of this, hit me up on Twitter @ZarirMerwanji


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Give people permission to make mistakes and the obligation to learn from them.

Mistakes will happen; it is inevitable; what happens after differentiates average organizations from great ones.

When errors are made, our actions shift from doing the right thing to covering our behinds in many instances. Pointing fingers rather than accepting personal responsibility, hiding errors rather than fixing them, and allowing minor problems to become big ones because they’re inadequately addressed.

Remember that mistakes are vital to our growth; we often put way too much pressure on ourselves to seek some unrealistic ideal of perfection. As the leader, let your team know that there’s no shame in making mistakes, and most importantly, you have their back when they happen.

I have seen people in leadership positions duck and throw their people under the bus when mistakes happen, and this leads to mistrust, lack of inspiration and the fear to try anything new.

The most extraordinary people in their fields have made countless mistakes; they didn’t give up. They persevered and inspired many people to follow their example; as Albert Einstein puts it, a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Try this … “Alexa, play the Zarir Merwanji Podcast …” it would mean the world to me, thank you so much.



This one is for my business owners, CEOs, founders, and bosses.

How much time are you putting into your employees? How much time are you spending meeting with them one-on-one?

You need to go all in on your people. In the early days, I was really “sticky” with individual people — DM-ing them, having meetings, etc. And even now, I still do it as much as I possibly can. If you’re upset about the “revolving door” at your company and having your employees leave is really affecting you, you need to figure out how to get stickier.

It all comes down to figuring out what makes your employees tick. Is it money? Responsibility? Acknowledgement? Title? The trick is knowing that the answer is gonna be different for different individuals. Think about your own life…there have been times in your career where you valued money more. There have been times where it was about respect, reputation, work-life balance…it’s not only figuring out what those few things are, it’s about what those few things are for each employee today. It never ends.

Keeping an employee might just be about paying them a little more…or it might be about you investing in your relationship with them and taking them out to coffee. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing your people.

Being a boss or an owner or a leader is about reverse-engineering your employees, not them conforming to you.

🎉 Heri ya Mwaka Mpya! How do YOU say Happy New Year 🎊 Let me know 🙂



Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions using the #askzarir so I decided to bring the hash tag ask zarir show back on LinkedIn and you’ll find these posts there once a week, I’m also on iTunes or anywhere you consume podcasts, Spotify is cool too and of course the noisiest of all platforms youtube and Tiktok.

If we’re just meeting welcome, my name is zarir and I’m a master trainer for the worlds largest home improvement retailer in the world where I’m responsible for training our front line sales and leadership associates.

Here’s a question I got from Angelo recently in one of my selling skills classes

Angelo asks, how do you keep from struggling with balance in your life? I just moved my family to a new city, I’ve got a little one and one on the way and just started a new job and I’m really stressed out, any advice ZARIR?


I teach that the most important areas in our lives are what keep us in balance. In my initial teaching on balance, I cover four areas:

Emotional Stability
Physical Fitness
Financial Independence
Spiritual Fulfillment

Please note that I weigh them equally and the order listed above does not reflect their order of importance.

Let’s compare this concept to a four-legged stool. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of sitting on one that was out of balance–with one or even two legs shorter than the others. It was uncomfortable, wasn’t it?


It’s the same thing when we’re out of balance. It’s uncomfortable to say the least. The challenge is that we can get used to being out of balance and forget that it’s bad for us. We can linger on that teetering stool too long and it hurts us.

Let’s go over the four areas in a little more depth:

Emotional Stability

This has to do with your ability to cope with life crises, and to be generally happy most of the time. Under this concept are the topics of self-image and self-esteem. When we feel stable or good about ourselves, we will have the courage to face what life hands us.

Physical Fitness

This is a matter of taking care of our bodies so that we don’t become rich and sick. Don’t let work take over your life so much that you stop exercising, that you eat unhealthy foods, or drink too much of anything (coffee, soda, alcohol). If the machine that is your body fails you, you will be able to do little else but work to its limitations. Yes I love coffee and I drink a lot of it, my boys call me a POT HEAD 😂

Drink better ☕️ #MugLife

Financial Independence

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Creating enough wealth to life well without the help of others is important.

Spiritual Fulfillment

This means to believe in something. This is a very personal matter, but an important one to recognize. You see, if what you believe in doesn’t make a difference, it doesn’t make a difference what you believe in.

Learn to recognize your weaknesses in any of these areas. Then set goals for getting back in balance. Ideally, you will achieve success in all four areas and live an enjoyable life!

If you got value out of this please leave a comment, smash that like button and share this with a colleague of friend that needs this, please follow me, it would mean the world to me.

And I’ll see you next week where I’ll be answering another question, this article and video is also available on my other social media channels.

Thank you for reading ✌🏽 😉 ☕️


Many first time managers face significant challenges as they go from a place as someone who “executes” to someone who’s responsible for a team.

Here are some tips to remember if you’re transitioning to a management role for the first time:

This one is hard for a lot of leaders to understand.

Most new managers think that becoming a manager is the “graduation.” Truth is, it’s the reverse.

1. Leaders work for their employees.

That means you have to understand what your employees want at a deep level. You have to be constantly adapting to their needs and what they want from the organization.

For example, one of my employees might want higher pay when he’s 24. But maybe he falls in love at 28 and decides he wants to spend more time with his family. Another might be more interested in a fancy title. Another might want to get access to me and build a relationship. Another might want to go to our state of the art corporate headquarters and work there.

There are a million different variables, and it’s on you as a leader to adjust to reality as it changes.

When you go from being someone who “executes” to someone who’s managing a team, you go from trading on IQ to trading on EQ. You go from doing the actual work to listening to employees, catering to what they want, taking blame, and being the bigger person.

The best managers are actually the best mentors.

2. Lead with empathy and kindness

Empathy and kindness are two massively underrated qualities when it comes to leading a team. They’re not qualities that most people would think makes a good leader, but I believe in them so much.

I genuinely believe that the best leadership qualities are maternal, not paternal. It’s a lot more appropriate and helpful to have a caring, empathetic, understanding personality when you’re a leader than something stern, paternal, or aggressive.

A lot of people overlook the idea that showing emotion is important.

Even if you already think of yourself as an empathetic or kind person, becoming a manager will change how you practically apply that empathy.

A lot of this just comes down to self-esteem. If you’re not secure in yourself, you’re not going to feel as comfortable being kind, positive, and empathetic to other people. It won’t come as natural to build someone up (instead of tear them down). It’s why so many leaders lead with aggressive, mean personalities. Many of them are just insecure on the inside and they project that insecurity on their understudies.

At Many companies today, you can’t lead with ego. They suffocate that out. People who lead with negativity and ego get fired really quickly too from what I’ve seen in business the past 3 decades here in America.

3. To Build Culture, Focus on Coaching and if they don’t shape up, don’t give up on them!

When I hire, I do look for certain qualities.

For example… emotional intelligence matters above everything else. Then, I care about the actual tangible skills candidates have.

It’s not even close. If someone’s a jerk, I won’t hire them – even if their numbers are phenomenal. It’s similar to sports — a team that sticks together will end up beating a team of superstars that were put together for one season (over the long term).

Another big piece of advice I give is hiring people that complement your strengths. If you’re a visionary type of person, hire someone who is obsessed with excel and freaks out if you’re a minute late. Hire someone who loves details.

A lot of leaders get “caught” because they hire friends that are similar to them, but aren’t what they actually need.

But ultimately, to maintain great culture within your team, you have to do one thing:

Focus on getting rid of the cancer by suffocating their negativity with coaching and mentoring. It takes time but it’ll be worth it in the end.

In the early days of my company, I would hire people real easily — but I would fire quickly if and when I realized they weren’t a good fit on my team. It didn’t matter to me how great they were on paper or how talented they were — if they didn’t play well with the other people on the team, they were out.

If you don’t cut that “cancer” out quickly, your team will crumble long term. Nowadays I limit my time with the toxic crabs, my hope is that through my content they’ll succumb to my POV.

4. Being nice is ROI positive

Truth is, you could have the greatest HR tools and software of all time to “monitor” how your employees are doing – but if you don’t actually care about your people at a deep level, you will lose. None of those tools are going to do anything.

As a leader, it’s my job to give my employees 51% of the value in the relationship.

But I’m not Mother Teresa. It’s just practical.

If you’re using negativity as a way to extract value from employees or people on your team, they’ll build resentment towards you and it’ll kill your culture long term.

I want to create a conversation around the practicality of positivity, kindness, and empathy within my organization. I’m not just saying it to be ideological — instilling those characteristics and traits as part of your culture has significant long term impact for your business.

And if there’s ever a debate on what’s good for our employees vs what’s good for our bottom line, she’ll win that debate nine times out of ten.

5. Say “Yes” to Everything

As a leader, I’m very “yes” minded. I say “yes” to virtually everything.

I say “yes” to everything because I look at business as a net-net game.

Let’s say I say “yes” to 12 things, and 7 succeed. On one side, I won 7 times. On the other side, I have to deal with failures — including trying to make up for them because I may have let people down directly or indirectly through those losses.

Even if it breaks down into those two categories, I will still take the 7 wins that resulted from saying “yes” to everything rather than just trying to do 2 or 3 with the goal of “getting them right.”

6. Give Trust Easily

I give trust a lot easier than most CEOs would.

I think it’s just smart. It’s offense.

The reason most people don’t give trust is because they fear losses. They’re afraid of an employee messing up, failing, or creating short term losses in business. But the truth is, at some point, you have to let your kid swim. You have to let your kid swing the bat.

And for me, I’d rather do that sooner than later.

Too many managers put restrictions around their employees, and then lift those restrictions as employees prove themselves. I’d rather give my employees unlimited trust in the beginning, and then slowly take that trust away if and when they do something to lose it. That’s what helps me move fast.

Giving trust also minimizes the risk of micromanagement. When people who are amazing at execution move into a management role, they tend to still be in that “execution” mindset which leads them to be stuck doing other people’s work instead of focusing on managing the team.

But the problem is, most managers are either 1) afraid of short term losses that come with giving trust, or 2) they’re afraid of potentially allowing their understudies to be better than them.

7. Communicate with underperforming employees

There are different types of employees that you’ll have to deal with as a manager — underperforming employees that have strong talent, hardworking employees that aren’t talented, and more.

The way I deal with them is strong communication.

When you have the luxury of being the “judge and the jury” as a manager, the pressure and the onus is on you. If there are employees at VaynerMedia that are highly talented but underperforming, it’s my fault for not creating the infrastructure for them to shine.

Maybe their bosses aren’t “clicking” with them and that’s making them feel demotivated. Maybe they’re just in the wrong department. Maybe we haven’t asked the right questions when it comes to the interests they have.

If you have an employee that’s talented but underperforming, sit down with them in a meeting and ask them:

“Hey Gabriel, I noticed you have talent oozing out of your eyes but you’re not delivering on the hustle – and that’s an important variable here. What am I doing wrong? What’s the company doing wrong? How can we help you succeed?”

Unfortunately, most managers have conversations that go like “Noah, you’re being lazy. Step it up.”

When you’re a leader, you have to put the onus on you. You’re the one creating the rules of the game.

If you don’t like how it’s played, change the rules.

If you got value from this article, it would mean a lot to me if you could share it on Twitter 🙂 #leadership #zarirmerwanji