There was a knock at the door, a thud of a box and a quick shuffle sound of the Amazon associate ddelivering a package to my home this morning.
When I opened up the package I was greeted with a very warm and beautifully hand written card from my new boss at work. I thought to myself this is so nice considering the team has already done such a nice job welcoming me onboard my new position as leadership training manager at the Home Depot.
As I continued to empty the contents of my package I found another card with a custom pin for me to wear on my apron and on this card was a beautiful starfish story.
I had heard about the story through many colleagues and friends, even my wife the school teacher had told it to me once before however it really moved me once I had the pin and the card in my hand.
You see a few days before receiving this starfish pin, my new boss presented it to me virtually and read me the story, I immediately fell in love with this concept, I had thought of it and performed this in my life many times and said it many times however didn’t know what it meant.
It’s a great reminder in leadership that you do make a difference in some one else’s life, even if you teach thousands and only one success, you made a difference in that persons life.
Here’s the quick story if you’ve never read it.
This principle of making someone’s day is to try and make the day better for the people you’re working with.
If you’re dealing with customers face-to-face this means engaging with them, smiling at them, taking a genuine interest in them, and finding ways to simply add positive morale and value to their day intentionally.
My boss could have simply mailed it and I could have Googled about it but I don’t think it would have had the same effect. He was intentional about this moment, he did it strategically and went out of his way to make my day today.
You see, what that young man’s actions in the starfish story represents something that is special in each and every one of us.
We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.
And that is your challenge, that is my challenge. We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, I have no questions that the 21st century is going to be a wonderful place.
Vision without action is merely a dream. Action, without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.
Here we are after a year of the pandemic, probably one of the most extraordinary experiences any of us have had.
What do you think the unexpected psychological carryovers might be?
I mean, do you think we’ve kind of been okay?
Part of me thinks that people have got more fragile, that it’s almost like there’s a sort of learned timidness.
Have you seen any evidence of that or how would you characterize it?
This is a great question asked by one of my leadership students.
I think we’ve definitely all become much more aware of mental health. And that it’s a real thing and that mental health affects strong and healthy people. We all suffered trauma during COVID. Some of us dealt with it earlier, some of us dealt with it later, some of us are still dealing with it, but nobody escapes it.
When COVID first started, you know, many of us had to pivot our organizations, had to pivot our businesses very quickly. And so I, like many others, we went into mission mode. And I called a friend of mine who is active-duty military. And I asked him a very simple question, how do I compartmentalize my emotions so that I can stay focused on the mission? And he gave me a very stern warning.
He said, you can’t. He said, we can compartmentalize our emotions for only a short period of time, but no one, no one escapes the trauma of combat. And he said, you may not even experience the trauma while you’re in it, you may not experience it when you first come home, you may experience it months later. He says, I experience it four or five months after I get home. So immediately I hung up the phone and called all my A-type personality friends and said, OK, we think we’re good, but we’re going to get hit by this at some point. And we made a deal that when we started to feel off our game, we would call each other. Safe space. And we made another deal that there would be no crying alone. That if you had to cry, you picked up the phone and you called somebody.
Well, about four or five months into COVID, I started to feel off my game and I didn’t know what was going on. And so I called that same friend in the military and I asked no leading questions. I simply asked him, tell me what your symptoms are when you suffer the trauma when you come home from combat. And he said, well, number one, he falls out of his sleep pattern. He said he starts going to bed late for no reason and doesn’t want to get up in the morning. And I thought to myself, yep.
He says he has some unproductive days and he comes up with an excuse like, “It’s OK, you know, you deserve a rest. It’s fine.” But then he has another and another and another. And I thought to myself, yep. And he said he becomes very antisocial where he doesn’t want to ask for help and he definitely doesn’t want to talk to anybody. And I thought to myself, yep. And I realized what I was going through was trauma. And I was afraid to use the D-word, depression, for fear that that was some sort of diagnosis.
I think a lot of people are afraid of that word, but that’s exactly what I was going through. I was going through lowercase “D” depression. And I followed the rule that we set with our friends and I called people. Because one of the things I asked my friend is like, how do you overcome it? He said, you have to force yourself back into a sleep pattern and force yourself to call friends and ask for help.
And so I think one of the things, I think that comes out of COVID, is we recognized just the importance of human connection. You know, in this fast-paced digital world, we kidded ourselves to think that we had connections just because we were connected. But it was amazing to see when COVID started, regardless of someone’s age or a technological competency, we all picked up the phone. Like, young people were talking to each other. And I think that intense craving for a human voice and human touch, I think we were reminded just how fragile we are as human beings.
And by the way That phrase i’ve mentioned, “no crying alone,” that’s powerful. I mean, forgive me for saying this, but are you wondering if did cry with someone?
Yes. I followed my own counsel to my friends. And when I had to cry, when I was overwhelmed, I picked up the phone and I just cried. And I had friends call me and do the same.
And there was healing in that.
The most important thing that came from it was that we didn’t — none of us felt alone. And there’s intense safety. That amazing sense of safety that we all desire as human beings. You know, you can’t feel safe when you’re vulnerable, like, that’s when we need it the most.
But you have to build those relationships. You build those relationships in the happy times, the good times, where you think you’re strong, you think you’re great. It’s very hard to start building those relationships in the moment of crisis. And I think it’s a lesson for leadership, quite frankly. Which is, you can’t judge the quality of a crew by how a ship performs in calm waters.
You judge the quality of a crew by how a ship performs in rough waters. But the time in calm waters is when you’re building relationship and trust and you don’t really actually know if you have trusting relationships and trusting teams and loving relationships until the crisis strikes. And I heard this from a lot of people: When COVID happened, they commented on how they realized who their real friends were.
Some people kind of fell by the wayside, it was nothing personal. It’s just like, we didn’t call each other and we’re still, you know, weren’t angry or anything. And there are some people who came out of the woodwork to check in on us and those friendships flourished. And that’s what I mean. It takes hardship for those friendships and that trust to really bear fruit. But that’s why we have to invest in people when we’re doing well and we don’t think we need anybody. And I think we forget that.
Heres another question from one of our leaders in our community Zee Nation, What would you say to someone who has realized that they’re in this moment, what’s been a really difficult year, and they actually don’t feel that there’s someone they could, for example, pick up the phone and cry with? Is it hopeless for them until this passes? Or what would you say to them?
There is an irony. There’s an irony in when we need help. And when I was reading the book “Leaders Eat Last,” I had the opportunity to spend some time with and read about Alcoholics Anonymous. And it is a remarkable organization. And many of us are familiar with the 12-step program. And many of us are familiar with the first step, which is admitting you have a problem.
But then it’s the other 11 steps that also matter. And Alcoholics Anonymous knows that if you master the first 11 steps, but not the 12th, you are likely to succumb to the disease. But if you master the 12 steps, you’re more likely to overcome the disease. That 12th step is to help another alcoholic. It’s service. And so there’s a great irony when we need help to actually help someone who’s struggling with the same thing as us. And it is the most healing thing we can do.
So, you know, if we need someone to cry with, it’s to offer the shoulder for somebody else to cry with. If we’re feeling lonely, it’s to be there for someone else who’s struggling with loneliness. And this goes way beyond these subjects, which is if we’re looking for love to help somebody else find love, if we’re looking for the job we love, to help somebody else find the job that they love. And there’s tremendous value in service.
And you hear about these things all the time, you talk to people why they chose to go in the profession they went into, especially if they’re in the service profession, let’s say somebody is a counselor for trauma. And you say, why did you go into this profession? “When I was younger, I suffered a trauma, and somebody was there to counsel me and I decided I wanted to commit my life to doing that for others.” This is what happens with service. And we forget, just because we live in a modern world, we’re actually a very old-fashioned machine. The human animal is a legacy machine living in a modern world. And we still work the same way we used to. And we desperately need each other to survive and thrive as much as we did when we were living in huts in small tribes of 150 people. And so service service is the thing.
That sounds like, even for someone who’s not feeling, like, depressed or at the edge right now, but there is a good checklist-question to ask and ill share this with you in just a moment. You have to ask yourself this, is there someone I could reach out to actually, there maybe other people who are in a much worse situation and maybe there is a call I could make that would be incredibly valuable to that person and help build a relationship with in the future.
These “are the questions you think you need to ask and you’re dead wrong – Are you OK?” “How are you? You know, a friend of mine, George Flynn, he says his test for a leader is if they ask you how you’re doing, they actually care about the answer. And I really like that.
OK, I could talk about this for hours about this, but we’re going to go to answer some questions now from my super chat. So here’s a question from Malik. “If there is no way to get back to normal,” as you said, “then are we on the right path of building new normal already? Or can you help us with a blueprint that new normal should be based on?”
So blueprint? No. Guidances? Yes. I think that humanity has to be — We have to remember that humanity matters. And when I say humanity, I don’t mean big-H Humanity, I mean little-H humanity, our humanity. When COVID first happened, so many leaders leaned on their humanity, whether they were effective or ineffective leaders prior to COVID, many of them picked up the phone and said, “Are you OK?” They called their teams just to check in on them. Or they called their friends to say, “Are you OK? How are you?” Well, we don’t need a global pandemic to do that.
That’s called good leadership and we should be doing that all the time. And we should be encouraging those in our charge to do the same for those in their charge. You know, the hierarchy can still be effective that way. I hope that remains. I genuinely hope that remains. I hope the use of the telephone remains. That we don’t just go back to texting all the time. I hope that putting our phones away and having family dinner remains. I think there’s a lot of kids that will actually come through this with stronger relationships with their siblings if they have them, and stronger relationship with their parents because they had so much time together.
And kids who may have struggled prior because they weren’t getting the kind of attention they needed because their parents were so busy with work, you know, even if mom or dad are busy on a Zoom call all day, that hour that they would ordinarily just go get a cup of coffee or something, that they could focus on their kid. I think a lot of kids actually will come out of this. And kids are remarkably adaptable. My boys? 21/18/13 They’re remarkably adaptable!
Here’s a question from Marie. “Could you give us some tips on how to discover our Why?”
Read books by Simon Sinek lol. All joking aside, Absolutely. I’ll give you a little exercise that you can do with your friends. It’s called the Friends Exercise. Find a friend you love and who loves you. The person who, if they called you at three o’clock in the morning, you take the call and you know they would do the same for you. Do not do this with a sibling or a spouse. Do not do this with a parent.
Those relationships are too close. Do it with a best friend. And go up to them and ask the simple question, “Why are we friends?” And they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy because you’re asking them to put into words a feeling. You’re asking them to use a part of the brain, the neocortex, that doesn’t control feelings, and to put the thing that exists in the limbic brain into language, which it doesn’t do. And so it’s actually a very difficult question. They’re going to say, “I don’t know.” It’s not that they don’t know, it’s that they can’t put it into words. Ironically, you stop asking the question why and you start asking the question, “what” because “what” is a rational question. “What is it about me that I know that you would be there for me no matter what?” And they won’t know how to answer it.
They’ll start describing you. “I don’t know, you’re funny, I trust you. You’ve always been there for me.” You play devil’s advocate. “Good. That’s the definition of a friend. What specifically is it about me that I know you’d be there for me no matter what?” And they’ll continue to do the same. They’ll keep trying to describe you. You keep playing devil’s advocate.
You get the idea. Eventually they’ll give up and they’ll start describing themselves. And they’ll say, and this is what my friend said to me when I did it with them, “I don’t know, Simon. I don’t even have to talk to you. I could just sit in the same room as you and I feel inspired.” And I got goosebumps, I’m getting them right now. They will articulate the value you have in their life and you will have some sort of emotional response, goosebumps or you’ll well up, because what they’re telling you is your Why, your Why is the thing you give to the world. You can do this with multiple friends and they will say almost exactly, if not the exact same thing, because that is your Why. That is the thing you give to the world. So it may not give you exact language, but it will put you squarely in the ballpark for what your Why is.
Here’s an anonymous question. “I have a friend who is currently struggling with depression, and he’s just not like he used to be. I don’t know what to say to him. He’s actually annoyed by the question, ‘How are you doing?’ How can I offer my help?”
So one of the things I learned by accident a couple of years ago is sometimes statements work better than questions. Because questions people can avoid, right? This is what we all did during COVID. “How are you?” “Fine. Fine.” Everyone’s fine, right? And then what do you do with that? And so try making a statement, right? Something’s wrong. Something’s different.
You’re not the same. I’m worried about you. Make statements. And it leaves very little room for somebody to divert the conversation. You’re not the person I know. And do it with love and empathy and the most important thing, don’t show up to solve the problem. Especially when you’re starting to have a difficult conversation, you don’t show up to solve the problem. You show up to create an environment in which they’d be willing to open up to you. That’s the only goal. So try a statement instead of a question.
So here’s the last question, I’m going to ask this from me to you. What do I mean, when I say that everyone is a leader? Can everyone be a leader? drop your 2 cents in the super chat down below.
Leadership has nothing to do with rank or title. I know many people who sit at the highest levels of organizations who are not leaders. We do as they tell us because they have authority over us, but we don’t trust them and we wouldn’t follow them. And yet I also know many people who sit at very low levels of organizations that have no formal rank and no formal authority, and yet they’ve made the choice to look after the person to the left of them and the person to the right of them, and we would trust them and follow them anywhere. Leadership is the responsibility to see those around us rise.
It’s the responsibility to take care of those around us. That’s what leadership is. It’s not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in our charge. And the only thing title and authority allow you to do is lead with greater scale. Every single one of us has the opportunity to be the leader we wish we had.
Every single one of us.
So many are hurting silently.
You are not alone.
Leave a comment if you got value and please share this with someone who needs it.
HOW TO STOP STRUGGLING AND GAIN YOUR BALANCE BACK IN BUSINESS AND IN LIFE.
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:
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:
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.
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 😂
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Creating enough wealth to life well without the help of others is important.
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.
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 theydon’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
I have no doubt that there are many people who, upon their introduction to me, didn’t like me – whether it was at a conference, or through a video I made online–
Or maybe they liked me and thought “this guy is full of it.” The cynicism around me and my brand is pretty high, and I’m very aware of it.
But I love it.
The reason I love this is because I know that once you look under the hood of this Alfa Romeo, I deliver. You can market your ass off, but if your product sucks, you’re dead. Your steak can sizzle and look crazy appetizing, but if it doesn’t taste any good, your customers aren’t coming back.
In order to build a functional business that can take on a life of its own, your product just has to be real.
You need to spend all of your time and energy on creating something that actually brings value to the people you’re asking for money!I know it sounds obvious, but it’s something I can’t overstate. It’s imperative.
So let’s take a step back and talk about me. I was 30 years old when I began to produce THE ZARIR MERWANJI AUDIO EXPERIENCE episodes. I had already built a very large business in my 20’s and 30’s.
By the time I segued into making videos about business and marketing, I was 45 years old. So as far as a spectator was concerned I came out of nowhere and was all this and all that, but I had already built the businesses to back up everything I said.
One of the reasons I created a personal brand in the last few years was to remind everybody (and myself!) that I actually build businesses.
It is insane to me that people can speak on marketing and business without having even built a business.
I mean I can respect that sometimes the best sports analysts never played the game, but those people tend to have other qualifications like being the son of a head coach who was groomed since birth or some other variable, they are also far and few between.
Do you have any idea how many social media experts were literally selling real-estate four years ago?
Now I’m not going to get dragged into that mess because the truth remains undefeated.
I mean how in the bloody hell does anybody listen to a marketing author if her/his book is a best-seller on its first week when he gets all his friends to buy, and then is ranked 100,000th on Amazon two weeks later?!
Now this is where some people might talk about the whole idea of “Fake it ‘till you make it,” but they’re missing a really important detail that’s right in front of them.
The part of that statement that really matters is that you actually have to make it eventually.
There is no such thing as “Fake it ’till you fake it.”
Even though I think a lot of people behave as though that were the case.
If you read this far, I just wanted to say thank you 🙂