Art Bierschbach on Clarity Power & Follow Through
All right. So today, on EntireLife Series, what we have is Art Biersbach. And I am so glad to have him on today. Art, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you ended up doing coaching, and what sort of a life you've been able to build for yourself, being a business owner.
Get to know Art
Sure. Going way back, I went to the Air Force Academy, and from there, I got in the Air Force for 23 years and flew up 111's. As a flight instructor, I would fly with young flight leads, teaching them to be better flight leads. And that's really what I do now. The long path to get there, I could give you the long story but, I tag along (I fly along) with business leaders, and I teach them to be better business leaders. And the way I got there was, while I was in the Air Force (while I was flying), I must have ticked somebody off really bad cause I got sentenced to four years at the Pentagon. After my (what felt like) 10 years there, I went to the acquisition world, and I had what's now the propulsion team doing the engine development. A great group of people but, I was still learning as a leader, and I was swamped every day. So I was buried in today's email, today's vendor issues, today's development issues, and telling everybody what I wanted them to do. So I finally decided I didn't want to live like that anymore. And now I don't think anybody else should either.
I figured out how to develop my team. I figured out how to give them broader guidance. Give them the mission and let them go accomplish it. Get out of their way, and I could work on the bigger things. The mission, vision, strategy, goals. What was it we're trying to do? And I could work on the big issues in a program spending a million dollars a day to help us reduce lead time.
Anything I could do to take a day out of the program was big. Well, once I figured that out, life got a lot better because I didn't have to be overseeing every single thing in the office. The team ran it. And I've been very successful when I've gotten business owners to understand that, and to go down that path, and develop their team, and then get out of their way. You have much happier businesses. The teams are happier because they know they're doing important work.
Yeah, absolutely. And this is good for our followers who are also startup founders, who maybe --they don't know this stuff yet. And they need to understand how to structure themselves. I'm a first-time startup founder myself, so this stuff interests me a lot.
Well, good. Yeah, well, startups actually have a particular issue because a startup (an entrepreneur) will collect people around them that are true believers. I mean that first round they bring in, they'll do whatever it takes to be successful, and they jump right in. And then they grow to a point where they need to get that next round of employees, and now they're all getting people that just want a regular job.
And their heart isn't in it as much.
Exactly. And the entrepreneurial team kind of expects them to be the same way, to jump in and do whatever. So they don't have job descriptions. They don't understand roles and responsibilities. They don't have a mission, vision, strategy, goals. They assume everybody knows the why because they've lived it. And now, all of a sudden, they have to go from this startup, entrepreneurial, everybody jumps in and does this, too (on the other hand) we've got to grow up and be a real business. We have to have business processes, we have to document some things, but we have to do it without becoming overly bureaucratic. So that's the fine line there.
Yeah. That's a challenge too because that's the thing is that small companies can move so quickly and so nimbly. And as you get older and bigger, it's like, You got this, the timeline, it's just like, (audible slowing down noise).
Yeah. You know, and sometimes the business can't get out of its own way. And so you really need to walk that line, and that's where I think I bring true value to the table. Is understanding what actually has to be documented, and I teach to many businesses. Every time there's a mistake, they want to write a procedure for it. No! As a good leader, identify the issue, correct it, and move on. You don't have to document every little mistake.
Wise words, wise words.
Not that I learned that the hard way or anything, but yeah.
Exactly. So we can learn from your efforts in the past.
Oh yeah. Unfortunately, one of the types of lessons that stick with you best is the ones you learn the hard way.
You kind of stumble through it yourself sometimes. And that's a neat thing about having mentors that you can really benefit from other people's experience, rather than having to go through it yourself. If you're willing to listen to their experience, right? Well, that's what we hope to share here.
Yeah. And the other thing is most business owners and startups; once they get going, they really don't have a board of directors yet. They don't have a lot of peers they can bounce things off of. So they need to go and find people like us, that have been there, that have been through it. And we're willing to say some of the hard truths. Now I'll try and say them politely, but there are some things you still got to hear, and I'm going to say them.
Well, that's the thing that I myself coach really high net worth individuals. And one of the reasons that they tell me that they work with me is that I'm not a 'yes' person. And so sometimes you have to get good at those hard conversations that you kind of don't really want to have, but it's a requirement of doing your job.
You just got to, and sometimes it's actually kinder if you can give them the truth and do it upfront and sooner. It's just not kind to let somebody struggle. Now sometimes, I do let people struggle when there's a lesson that's better they come up with. I don't want to give them my solution because it's my solution. If I can question them into figuring it out on their own, it's their solution. They own it. They're going to do it.
It is funny. And there are certain personality types that it's kind of like; you have to do it so that it was their own idea. Right? And we have to realize, who am I dealing with here as a coachee?
Oh Absolutely. And I think entrepreneurs tend to be that type where it's got to be their solution. So they have to figure it out, and they have to own it.
Yup. Yup, exactly. So I love to ask this question next, and then it kind of walks into perfectly what I'm going to ask you. How do you either A, find clarity for yourself, or B, help your clients to find clarity?
Art on Clarity
I think it's always easier for the client. It's harder to figure out the guidance myself. And that's why I like to say the toughest person to ever lead is the one you look at in the mirror every morning. That's the tough one. And so to get clarity, I think what we have to do is we have to be open, and we have to truly listen. And then we have to ask good questions and draw people out. One of the things I pride myself in is the ability to look at a situation and think on my feet, and then start asking better questions.
I love that. Better questions are key. They're so key.
Yeah. In fact, are you familiar with John Maxwell, the author? He is recognized today as an authority on leadership. He's written nearly a hundred books on leadership. And by the way, to tell you the full story, he does have a team of coaches. He certifies, and I'm one of them. So I am a Maxwell coach. And one of the books he wrote that I just loved is "Good Leaders Ask Great Questions." And he just walks through some of the questions, and I really kind of base a lot of my questions on that.
For instance, there's a whole chapter on questions I need to be asking myself as a leader. So that growth journey, where you're trying to figure out what do I need to be doing and what do I need to be learning next? And that's why --one reason I say anybody can become a leader if they want to is that you can study it. You can learn and grow. And it's never a destination cause you never arrive as a leader. There's always something more to learn.
Absolutely. I think in anything, you can go down the rabbit hole really far if you really want to.
Oh yeah. That's why I really stress that leaders have to be humble. And that doesn't mean you think less of yourself; that means you think about yourself less. And one reason --one thing I talk about when I talk about humility is, you have to have a learning attitude. Your eyes open and willing to learn; because everybody I meet, no matter where I go, they know something I don't know. And if I'm arrogant, they're not going to share it with me. So I have to be open and listen and learn.
Yeah. And that's the thing that, with clarity, it is that being open to learning new things. All of a sudden, you're like, oh. Oh! So that's the way that works. And it just helps you to get clarity when you're open to learning.
Absolutely does. Yeah. So you're always advancing down that path in your always trying to understand. My daily mission is to add value to somebody every day. So if I'm not looking for those opportunities and listening to people --and sometimes that's all you need to do to add value, is listen. Because so many people don't feel like they're listened to. One of the biggest complaints is, my boss doesn't listen to me. You hear that all the time. So being open and receiving that information. Digesting it and maybe adding to it if that's appropriate is a way to really make people feel valued.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so that kind of comes on to my next question (which) is power. Because we all know that, there are those days when it's tough. It's difficult. Like you just said, you're not being listened to, or things are going wrong. The team that you're leading is going down a garden path you never really wanted them to go down. You know all of those things that can kind of make you go, hmm. Why am I doing this? So once you have clarity, how do you get power? Or another way of saying it is like, willpower to carry on with that vision that you had. Tell us about that.
Art on Power
Well, and the first part you said right there. You have to have a clear vision and communicate it clearly & consistently. I get a kick out of seeing a big company that doesn't make vision statements. They spend months, the leadership team will spend hours and hours in a board meeting and an offsite, and they'll come up with just what they think is the right vision. And then they don't understand why all the workers don't get it in five minutes. You spent months on this guys, come on! You have to communicate it clearly and consistently, and over and over and over. So that's the first part.
And you were saying that especially going in that transition from the startup to the bigger company, you really need to be very specific about that vision so that you can get people engaged -emotionally engaged- with the idea of the company.
Yes, absolutely. There are some instances where you do have to give direction, but very, very rarely. Everybody looks at the military and goes, well, you got easy. You can just order somebody to do something. It's not the way the world works. The only time I have ever given a direct order is in training -like basic training when I'm teaching- or in flight. When we're in flight, and I want everybody to turn left now, we all turn left now. So we do that. Okay. Otherwise, I want to give people the mission because I know as soon as I walk away, something's going to change. So if they understand what we're trying to accomplish, they have the latitude to make adjustments.
If you think about it --what was it? I can't remember where I saw it, but it's like flight. In a flight, your flight path. And you're like a couple of degrees off, and you're on the other side of the earth. Right? But if we all know the destination of where we're trying to get to, then we can course-correct along the way individually, separately, to get to where we want to go.
Yeah, exactly because things are going to change. Something's going to be different. So we give people that latitude to accomplish the mission we're all trying to accomplish because they understand what it is. One of the things I look for when I'm walking into a business is if somebody finished the task and they wait to be told what to do next. That business is in trouble. I'm really looking for workers that, they know what we're trying to accomplish. They finished something, and then they go find something else that helps accomplish that mission.
Yeah. Initiative, right? Yeah. They've got their own self-guided initiative.
Yeah. Because you know, nobody gets out of bed and says, I'm going to go to work and screw things up today. Nope. They want to do a good job unless we beat it out of them.
Exactly. Unless we've got a disgruntled employee, right?
Yeah. Usually, they're disgruntled because somebody made them that way. It might've been in a prior job, you know, it might not be your fault, but it's up to you to fix it.
It's kind of like children, right? We all start out pure and accepting and naive and hopeful. And then, you know, the world kind of like, beats the hell out of us.
And then we learned to be a little bit more cautious about things.
Oh, that's funny. Okay, awesome. So what about follow-through? How do you help people --now they've got the clarity, they've got the power. How do you help people follow through on what they said they were going to do?
Art on Follow-Through
That, for me, was the toughest one going from the military to the civilian world. The first flight I was in -when I get briefings, I have a picture- it was kind of a social dinner, so we're all in really old-fashioned blazers and stuff. And the people in my first flight, one was a space shuttle pilot, another one retired as a two-star -and he is a governor Polis' lead guy for bringing aerospace into the state of Colorado- you know, so a very accomplished group. If one of those people in that picture told me they were going to do something, I checked it off. I considered it done. Never followed up. And then, when I retired from the Air Force, I went to Raytheon as a program manager. And it was like I got kicked in the head because people are telling me they're going to do things; I'd check it off, and wow. It wasn't done. So I struggled with that one. It was tough. And a little bit of this is personality-driven. I'm a real adherent to the DISC personality profile assessment because they're quick. You can do them --you can talk to somebody and get a really good feel for what they are pretty quick, and then you can respond appropriately for them.
So there are some people that you're most effective if you point out, you said you're going to do this and, if it doesn't get done, it's going to really hurt our relationship. Because they're really relationship-focused, there are others that if you just give them the specific task you want done, well, these are checklist people. They're going to write down each item and check it off when it's done.
I'm one of those.
Yeah. You feel good when you put a checkmark in, don't you? Isn't that cool? Yeah. So with somebody like that, I'm going to notice it, and I'm going to say, yeah, I see you got that one checked off. Thank you.
Use their language, right?
Yes, exactly. And you're not going to change who you are. You're going to be a checklist person, no matter what happens. But you can lean in that direction a little bit. So you can pay a little more attention to relationships and make them more comfortable. And it helps you, and it helps them. And it's just a less stressful place to be working in.
Yeah, you have to always kind of get in the head of who you're working with to speak their language. And that can be really challenging. I think that's one of the skills that, as a coach, that's something that's developed. It's not something that --well, maybe for some people it comes innately. But I think for me, it was really a skill I had to develop in time.
Yes. Well, can I quickly share just a couple of tips on how to tell who you're working with?
You know right away, if somebody's talking real fast, you'd pace them. You talk a little faster, and you don't give them all the details because they don't want it. Where if somebody is speaking a little more slowly and they're very deliberate, you're going to want to give them one point at a time; because you can give them three points, they're still digesting the first one, and they totally missed the next two. The other thing I look for is if I can get them to talk about something. Do they say, I think, or I feel? If they say, I feel, they're probably very relationship-focused.
Visual or kinesthetic, Right?
Yeah. And if they say, I think, they are probably very task-focused. So just with those little cues, I can start figuring out how do I want to treat somebody? And I love Myers-Briggs, but I can't tell if you're an ISTJ in 30 seconds. I can get a feel for a DISC profile in 30 seconds or a minute if I can get you talking.
Yeah, that Myers-Briggs thing is pretty interesting. There are only 0.08 of me in the world. I'm an INTJ, the architect. You wouldn't know it from my background, right?
Some of that is situational, and some of it is changes as we mature. For DISC, when I first started, I was an off-the-wall D when I came out of college. But I'm a little more moderated now. And I'm a little more adaptable. One time in my life (I never expected this to happen), I went right down to the relationship-focused, absolutely totally non-aggressive. And that was when the first time I met my grandson after he was born. I just never expected to go there, but I did.
You gotta love that. So, tell us what your free gift is for people because I know that you've definitely got something of value here, knowing your background.
Yup. I think we show people we value them by the way we treat them. So what I have is a PDF; if you just jump on yourbusinesswingman.com, they'll be a pop-up. You put your email in, and it'll give you a link to go get a PDF on behaviors for success. So these are ways, if you treat people, they're going to respond. So it's integrity, respectfulness, forgiveness, selflessness, humility (like I mentioned), commitment, kindness. And the one my wife, will tell you I struggle with probably the most is patience. There's a little blurb on each one. And what I really love about these behaviors is, it's not just the way I treat people; I demand my team treats each other that way too. Part of the reason is that I'm lazy. If there's a whole bookshelf as most HR units, I never want to go read. All that stuff up on workplace bullying --but, if they're treating each other respectfully, we don't get close to that. I don't have to go read that book.
Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Good point. Good point. Well, we'll make sure that we post that below here. So that people can grab that. And I thank you so much for coming on today.
Oh, it's my pleasure. And the other thing I really believe strongly in, I should show I can add value before I ask for money. So if anybody just wants to talk for a half-hour, an hour, about their business, or about a situation they're trying to deal with, let's talk. We'll grab a cup of coffee, get on zoom. Or, you know, if you're in Denver somewhere where I tend to be, I'll be happy to sit down with you. And we can talk about things and see if we hit it off. And if somebody needs a coach and they don't hit it off with me, the John Maxwell team has over 30,000 coaches. We can find somebody that's a match. I'd be happy to help them.
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on today.
Well, thank you. I enjoyed talking with you, and I'll talk anytime you want to give me a buzz.
Okay. Sounds good.