Technology has changed a lot and has helped humans perform their activities easier. As a result, businesses have recognized technology as an opportunity for growth. In this episode, our guest Steve Rice shares his view on the different aspects of companies that can bring more progress and success to their respective products or services. Steve has a wide range of skills and experience and can reach into the dispersed corners of businesses and bring them all together. Of course, the right system, culture, and people all contribute to success, but Steve shares the methodology and philosophy he follows to make all these things work. Listen and find out what these core concepts are!
Listen to the podcast here:
Combining Humans And Technology For Culture To Thrive With Steve Rice
[00:01:03] Thank you for joining me every single week for emailing me Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com for connecting with me on LinkedIn and letting me know what you like, what you don’t like, what you are interested in, and what you want to hear. I love the fact that you come back week after week and that you share this show. Thank you very much. I have Steve Rice from SR Consulting, and we are going to talk about how do we, as leaders, combine humans and technology to enable the culture to thrive. Steve, welcome to the show.
[00:01:39] Thank you, Ben, for having me on the show. It’s a pleasure and honor.
[00:01:44] We have been having a great conversation off the air, which you and I normally do. I want to be able to bring the audience and get them back up to speed to where you and I are. I want to get them to have a better understanding of who you are and what you do. Give me a 3 to 5 minutes synopsis about what brought you to this point because you have a very varied past that brought you to the expertise where you are now. Give us a little history about who is Steve Rice and what are the things that you do now.
[00:02:15] You are listening to a very fortunate human being. I have had many lives, and it’s one of the things that separates me as a business advisor in an odd way. I grew up driving across the United States with my dad going to Bass Fishing Tournaments. He was one of the people who helped invent bass fishing as a sport as we know it. I know it’s a weird thing to say but somebody had to be there. There’s a lot of travel in my late teens. I was a fishing guide in Alaska and have been a rock climbing and mountaineering instructor.
There are some of this stuff I may not have told you that already been. I’m a Manager of an outdoor store owner and buyer. I managed an international travel company. I have also been working in technology, web development, and integrations for many years with one of my other companies, Dotcomjungle. When I sit down with an owner or an executive in a company, there’s this breadth of experience that I have been a lot of people don’t. It sets me apart when I’m in a room. Some of the most important things I have ever done were to work at Taco Bell and wait tables.
Some of the most important leadership skills I learned for myself and even personal skills, I learned from working there. I like to think that there are leaders at all levels in the company, from janitor to CEO. As a big proponent of servant leadership, I don’t believe that employees work for the CEO or the owner. I believe it’s the other way around. It’s the executive’s job to figure out how they can help everyone else succeed, and if they can also figure out how to help individuals identify themselves as leaders inside their own little spheres or even leaders that needed to move up into other spheres that they are doing a good job of leading.
[00:04:03] I’m a big believer of, “Leadership is a mindset, not a job title.” Let’s go back to that because you have glossed over this, and it’s important. You said that some of the best leadership lessons you learned were at Taco Bell. A lot of people sit there going, “He worked at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Subway.” There are good things that if you are paying attention to as an employee that you can learn at these companies. I want to get into that. What were the things that you saw as leadership lessons that you were able to glean working at Taco Bell that puts you in good stead to where you are now?
[00:04:47] some of those things were poor leadership, and not that there’s poor leadership in every Taco Bell because I also experienced very good leadership there. I remember at a young age thinking that if I ever had a business, I wanted to run a business that I would want to work at. That was lesson number one.There are leaders at all levels in the company from janitor to CEO. Click To Tweet
When you are working in the service industry, you have to learn how to be amenable to people in a lot of stressful situations and be able to think outside yourself as to what their experience is. It was one of the things I loved about waiting tables. Here’s a lesson. Most people will put up with anything that’s about to happen to them as long as you give them some advanced notice.
Now, I have this million-dollar technology company, we build websites, and the proverbial, you know what hits the fan if it does in life and business. When we are at our best, and we see it coming, we say, “You know what’s about to hit the fan, and it’s our fault.” Our clients say, “Thanks for letting us know. What can we do to help?” The opposite is, “It’s going to hit the fan. I’m going to run the other direction.” If you are waiting tables and that happens, you have a bunch of people who are angry. I have had situations waiting tables where something happened in the kitchen.
All of a sudden, no food came out for an hour. I went around to my tables and said, “This has happened. I’m going to bring you bread and extra butter, and I can bring you as many salads as you want. I’m going to buy you a bottle of wine.” I took responsibility for it out there. Invariably, there were many cases where something like that happened, and I was pretty confident I was going to lose money that night. I might not make any money that night. I didn’t need to eat. Even at that age, I was more concerned about the culture that I was creating in the space that I was in.
While everyone else was dealing with people yelling at them, I had a bunch of people who were partying in my section of the restaurant. In the end, their dinner came out three hours late, and instead of getting a 20% tip, I did an 80% tip. It pays for the wine and all the tables I didn’t get to serve because all the stuff in the back happened. I walk out with more money, I’m happy, and they are happy. I applied that to business. I pre-applied it in the previous story. We tried hard with all of our engagements for Dotcomjungle.
Every engagement is a retainer engagement where someone can leave us at any time. If they don’t like what we are doing, they can go, and we will help them find somebody to replace us. We don’t say, “Goodbye, thank you very much.” It puts the owners on us to be performing and communicating at a high level.
I have found that when you do the latter, the communication, the performance often comes with it, and our clients have a very high tolerance for reality, which is a great line that one of my programmers made up. He said, “I love working with them because they have a great tolerance for reality.” The truth was stuff happens. When you have that relationship in business, instead of pounding the table, as my friend, Alex Lauver, who works for outdoor research, made this point, “How about pounding the relationship?” I love that line.
[00:08:17] Bringing it from working in the restaurant industry all the way up to business, you are right. When we can give people a heads up and say, “A mistake happened. We know in three days, an hour, 15 minutes or 5 minutes from now, you are going to be inconvenienced in this but we are going to do everything we can to fix this. How can we work with you to make this right?” People will put up with that. People will sit there and say, “I have had things mess up on me, too. I get it. I understand.”
When we ignore the situation, hide from people, duck, cover, and people have to chase us to find out what’s going on, it’s amazing how quickly and angry they get. People want to be communicated to. They want to know what’s going on, whether it’s good or bad, they want to be kept in the loop because they can’t make decisions. They can’t help themselves. They can’t do anything else unless they know what’s going on.
I’ve got a perfect example where a friend of mine told a customer it’s going to cost them an extra $90,000 for a project because now, we are dealing with the floods in BC, the roads are out, and all that type of stuff is happening. They are going to have to airlift this stuff instead of the ground shipping, and it’s going to cost $90,000 or wait three months. The client doesn’t have the ability to wait three months. They need this material, and it’s a significant enough purchase order that they need this stuff, and they need it now. It was up to the customer where the customer was able to make that decision and find the best way to make the freight work.
My friend is not making any money off the extra freight. He’s not up charging the freight. He’s helping the client make a decision. When we treat our customers as humans and don’t hide behind technology, we become far better in business, have stronger relationships with our clients, far more meaningful relationships, and probably more profitable relationships with our clients.
[00:10:22] I’m going to take this outside the business-customer relationship analogy that the stories you are telling because we can tie that right into the inside of a business and how a leader, company, and employees work because the same chain rules apply. That’s what’s exciting to me about leadership training and being in charge of technology teams for companies because, to me, it’s all connected. You were describing how somebody feels when they don’t have all that information. I like to use the word safe.
If a company doesn’t feel safe with you as a third-party vendor, they are not going to work with you. It doesn’t mean that everything is going to be perfect, and you are not going to make mistakes. As an employee, safety is important. I believe in the tenets of humane leadership. I would freely let anybody define that as they want because it’s hard to get away from what humanely means.
Build a company that you want to work for. Be the person that you would want to work for and with. Inside that company, your job is to be a servant, not just a leader. You are not there to tell people what to do. You are there to help guide people to make decisions that are better for the company, and you are there to listen. That was probably one of the hardest challenges for me. Since I came up inside companies working my tail off to do things, I was very much a very good worker like a good waiter but being a good listener is different from being a good leader.
Personally, that has been a challenge for me, and I have luckily had some very good mentors, my business partner, Stephen Sender, and the Founder of the Humane Leadership Institute, Stephen Sloan, is a good friend of mine. They helped me to be in, whether it’s a meeting with middle managers, upper managers or a bunch of executives where I feel like, “Maybe I shouldn’t be in this room.” I usually feel that way before I go in, not when I’m in there but be a good listener.
[00:12:24] Listening is a key thing. I’m thinking about the implementation of technology within companies, and the word you used was safety and making your employees feel safe. A lot of employees don’t feel safe when new technology is implemented or introduced into the company because they don’t understand how that technology is going to make their life better. They are worried that technology is going to usurp them and make them irrelevant.
That’s a place where leadership lacks clarity, vision, and communication when implementing technology, and does not have that human-first or servant leadership mentality when introducing new technology into the marketplace. What are your thoughts on that, and how do you help your clients bring new technology to the table without having that immediate pushback from the teams that are going to be using it?Run a business that you want to work at. Click To Tweet
[00:13:28] I was having a conversation with Eduardo Martinez, who has worked for Cummins for many odd years. He’s an amazing individual. I’m hoping to get him to work for some companies that we work with. He used this term that hit it well that I had used or thought of before. It was a good idea. He talked about the socialization of implementations. I’m a Sociology major accidentally. I have the dubious distinction of being a Fine Arts major who graduated with a Sociology degree from a pre-med university.
What Eduardo meant by the socialization and what is embedded in the statements and questions you are asking and making is that a lot of companies, when they go to do a big digital transformation, sooner or later have to change ERPs or Trust Relations Management Software. What often happens is a company picks a few people and says, “You should spearhead this.” For some reason, I keep finding companies that put their finance department in charge of developing a relationship with the ERP vendors and implementers.
My answer is they are trying to figure out how to do this for the least amount of money. I don’t want people to spend necessarily on money if I don’t make any money off of ERP implementations myself. I want your readers to know where I’m coming from because I don’t have a pony in this race. That’s one of the places where you should spend a lot of money.
If you start thinking like an ERP tool, it thinks completely differently than almost every other database architecture out there. The job of an ERP salesperson is to tell you, “Yes,” and the job of the implementers who worked for that company is also to tell you, “Yes.” I can guarantee you, regardless of who you are, you are going to ask them to do things that the ERP should not do. They are going to tell you yes.
[00:15:58] The trainers are going to sit there like, “What did they do?”
[00:16:03] What happens is you have a breakdown in the socialization of the changes that are happening and the socialization of the training, implementation, and the buy-in. What he meant by that, to get back to Eduardo’s phrase, to socialize the process of choosing an ERP, a piece of technology. ERP is a metaphor for any piece of technology. You have to socialize the discovery process by finding the stakeholders who are going to be using it. You have to use what I call the Management By Walking Around approach, MBWA. You would have to go and watch them.
Somebody has to know how to watch them work and ask them why they are doing things, because chances are, likely, the ERP that you are using now doesn’t work very well, they are using it anyway, and they’ve got a spreadsheet or tech off to the side that they also use. If somebody comes in and says, “Ask that person if he’s using our ERP,” and they will say, “Yes,” you don’t get the same information you have as if you are sitting next to them and saying, “What’s that spreadsheet you opened up?”
The socialization process and discovery means you have to identify the stakeholders, understand their stories, and what’s working and what’s not. It’s like an as-is state. You have to uncover them by sitting next to them. You can do this remotely, so I don’t want people to say, “I can’t do that anymore.” You have to discover how they want it to be, and it takes time to do that. If you socialize the discovery process, you will also be in a better position to socialize the development of a solution, which you should be doing, and then you get to socialize the implementation because all the stakeholders are involved.
The fourth piece is you get to socialize the buy-in and the training. What normally happens is the finance department would bring in a CMO, shipping manager, and a sales manager. They don’t bring in the sales director, the head of operations, and the guy or gal that is in charge of supply chain purchasing. Somehow, the production manager isn’t at these meetings. What they have done is they identified some leaders who are interested in technology in the company but they haven’t identified the stakeholders.
Some of those stakeholders don’t want to be in that meeting because they are the salt of the Earth, hands-on workers. They’ve got a job, grinding gears and metal parts, and now they are in charge of production. They don’t want to sit in a management meeting. That is a challenge but they need to be in that management meeting. It turns out a lot of them were good at communicating and being in meetings. They feel more comfortable working with their hands.
[00:19:30] As you said before, the salespeople that sell this stuff and the integrators go this software inside, outside, backward, forwards, and sideways or at least they should.
[00:19:44] In some ways, they do. They just don’t understand their relationship to the businesses they are supporting.
[00:19:49] That’s my point. They know the software but they don’t know the businesses. They don’t take the time to understand how this business is going to integrate our software into what their current processes are and how we are going to help them do what they need to do more efficiently and effectively.
That’s a question that leaders, salespeople, and service providers forget to ask, “What are you currently doing, and where’s the bottleneck? How can we help you fix that bottleneck? It’s because we now understand what your goal is.” Everybody is trying to put everybody in a box, sit there, and say, “Here’s a SaaS solution that we can sell you for $195 per station. If you grind this down, you can get it for $179 per station.” They are not sitting there going, “Is this solution going to fix the problem that you have?”
[00:20:48] Identifying the problem to begin with so you can even ask that question is problematic, especially with a big ERP because you have 18 or 20 problems, and you don’t know what they are.
[00:21:00] How do those problems integrate into each other? How do we hand off from operations to sales, finance, marketing or whatever, and have them all get the information they need out of that one piece of software?Be the person that you would want to work for and with. Click To Tweet
[00:21:13] I want to talk about the Theory of Constraints by Goldratt. The thing called pMOCA, which stands for Performance, Motivation, Opportunity, Clarity, and Ability, and as a leader, how those can help you get through this problem that we are even talking about.
[00:21:32] Define them first. Let’s get some easy definitions without getting esoteric and into the weeds. Let’s talk about some very simple definitions of what you are talking about before we get into it.
[00:21:45] The Theory of Constraints is it envisions your business as a chain of links. The theory is that at any one time, only one link is the weakest link in your chain. From a prioritization standpoint, it says, “Stop what you are doing and focus on that linking fixing.” What it’s saying is don’t pretend you have eighteen links all at once that need to be fixed, and try and do them all because you are going to 80% of the way with all of them, and you are not going to fix the problem.
The Theory of Constraints says, “Think about all your problems, look at them, and figure out which one is your problem now.” I will give you a solid example. I put together an executive coach of an owner and put together an advisory board for him and other people. He had kept saying for about 4 or 5 months that his challenge in his business was he needed to increase the capacity of his production floor. I’ve got this board together, one of which was a financial dashboard wizard and one that happened to be a throughput expert who understood finances as well.
Throughput accounting is slightly different than operational account. He did a six-month throughput map based on the P&L and showed this guy that your constraint is not the capacity, and you need to increase the amount of stuff you make on the factory floor. Your constraint is you need more revenue. You need more sales because, based on this map, you are only running at about 60% capacity. This guy thought he needed to hire more people because he didn’t have enough capacity. You also have to have a course on the right tools and people.
What he was thinking is like, “Everybody is working hard enough, and it feels like they don’t work fast enough, so I need to hire eighteen more people.” It turned out like, “Let’s get a one-piece flow expert into your building, and also there were some cultural issues, so we had some cultural training around collaboration in there.” Let’s teach them that a production line doesn’t have to be in a straight line. In fact, some of the most efficient production lines are infinity cells shaped like figure eight.
Let’s get people starting to think outside the box, and from a cultural standpoint. Let’s get those leaders that are on your production floor who haven’t identified themselves because the culture doesn’t let them identify themselves to step up and find solutions. That’s exactly what happened when we started teaching them what one-piece flow meant, how it could be implemented, and why it was important. We even ran tests and said, “You do it faster over here. We will do it your way.” We put a one-piece flow line over there, which went 2 to 3 times faster than the other people.
[00:24:48] It’s the same equipment and people running in different effectiveness.
[00:24:54] We are talking about culture, processes, and business efficiencies. You see this on TV, people, systems and processes. A bad system and culture make everybody look bad. A good system and culture make all the good people great, and it makes the subpar people stick out like a sore thumb. You get to say to them, “Would you like to be part of our good culture and great people or would you like me to find you a job at Taco Bell?”
[00:25:45] What was the other part of the equation that you were talking about?
[00:25:49] MOCA or performance MOCA. It was handed to me on a golden platter by Stephen Sloan from the Humane Leadership Institute. He wrote a book called Human Leadership that has this in it. As a side note, he listens to people well, and he makes these things called wisdom jigs. We all have these things. The SWOT analysis and Eisenhower Matrix is a wisdom jig. The MOCA is not something he invented. He applies and teaches it differently.
For me, once I understood that I could change the way I was speaking to people by thinking in a MOCA way, I started changing the other people were thinking in a MOCA way. From a cultural standpoint, this is what that means. If I’m talking to you and you are an employee, and I ask you if you are willing to do or do something, the traditional thing is maybe you will say, “I want you to take over the social media account. I’m going to give you a $0.25 an hour raise or $1 an hour.” That’s business as usual conversation.
There was a conversation before that where someone said, “I’m interested in social media. I used to do that for the nonprofit I worked for before. I might be effective in this business.” What I recommend you do is think about MOCA, “What’s your motivation for wanting to do this job?” I have to ask myself “What’s my motivation for wanting to hire you.” Their job essentially in this MOCA conversation is to make sure that if they have the motivation or they don’t, to identify that for me.
Also, if I say, “I want you to do this job,” and I don’t give them any time to do it, let’s say they are already to the operations manager and say, “Now you are in charge of the supply chain.” It’s not like I carved out time out of their day and said, “You have two hours for supply chain work.” They’ve already got an eight-hour day job, so I’m not giving them the opportunity. If I say, “You are now in charge of the supply chain,” and they don’t know what that means, I have not given them clarity.
If I tell them they are in charge of the supply chain, and they don’t know what they are doing, I have offered somebody a job that they don’t have the ability to do. I set them up to fail. Applying MOCA in a conversation is a two-way street. They get to apply it to me, too. Let’s use the example of a performance review. When I use MOCA, I use it in performance reviews. I tell the people that are in the performance review that we are going to talk about this.
I want them to assess themselves in their job. Whatever they think their job is, I want them to tell me what they think their job is. Even though I have told them what that is. They get to tell me back and say, “I’m motivated. I’m not motivated. I have been given opportunities in this area but not in these areas. I’m clear on this. I’m unclear on that. I know how to do this but I don’t know how to do that.” My experience is that inside those four acronyms, you can have a conversation about everything related to business processes, systems, culture and have it be a win-win for both people.Being a very good listener is different than being a good leader. Click To Tweet
I know it sounds weird because when I heard it, I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I will give you an example of how weird a situation can work and why I’m so committed to it. I had two people in the business. They were great people. One of them came to me at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. He walked into my office and opened the door. I didn’t even have hinges. I had no doors. He says, “I can’t work with that guy. He does this and that. I’m frustrated. I don’t know what to do, and you need to fix this.”
I said, “Thank you for sharing. Let me think about this for a bit.” He left at 3:00 or 4:00. The other person walks in and says, “I can’t work with that other person.” I was like, “Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry this is happening.” I did little empathy and thought about it for a while. These were people who had been trained by myself and Stephen, and we talked about MOCA.
I went downstairs and said, “Come here. I don’t know how this is going to work but I want you to know you are both very valuable entities to this company. I don’t want a company without both of you here. I enjoy working with you. I don’t know what’s going on with you two now. Here’s $20, and I want you to go across the street and get a beer. I want you to use the MOCA framework to talk about your relationship and how it works inside this business.” I’m like, “I don’t even know how you would use MOCA to talk about a relationship but you know what it is, and you have to figure this out because this can’t go on.”
Those people are best friends. They came back three hours later. They each had a beer and left a $5 tip. They worked it out, and they said to each other, “What’s your motivation for speaking to me in that way?” One of them said, “You don’t give me the opportunity to respond when something happens.” There’s self-reflection going on. The other said, “I’m not sure I have the ability to have empathy at the moment because I get triggered by you.” They learned a lot about each other. It works on the human level.
[00:31:23] It comes down to leadership and enabling people to figure out things for themselves. If we, as leaders, dictate everything, give everybody the easy button, and tell them the way it’s going to be, they don’t learn. Probably to this day, there would be animosity between the two of them or they would be working somewhere else. Enabling the two of them to sit there and say, “Here’s a framework for you to sit down. Figure this out yourselves and come up with something that’s going to work for the two of you. Let’s try that first. If not, fine. I’m the boss. I’m going to end up having to get involved, and we will figure it out a different way.”
At least you are giving them the opportunity and a framework to make it work themselves. We have gone through a lot of different things. There have been some amazing opportunities and a lot of conversations on how to bring technology, bear, be a more human leader, make sure that we use technology, and enable a culture to thrive. I’ve got one question that I want to ask you. This is the question that I ask everybody when I let them out the door. When you leave a meeting, you get in your car and drive away. What’s one thing you want people to think about you when you are not in the room?
[00:32:46] One thing I have learned about myself for better or worse is that it’s important to me that people like me. I know that doesn’t always happen. I have found that I’m concerned with, whether people believe I’m competent or not. There are pros and cons to those. When I leave, what I hope is that people feel heard. They are part of a meeting of two or more people where they’ve got to say what they wanted to say and part of a team that’s going to do something extraordinary.
[00:33:18] That’s so important because when people feel heard, they feel valued, and when people feel valued, they are motivated to move forward. I love that.
[00:33:29] My job is not to be the smartest person on the ground. It’s to be the person that facilitates all those people that are smarter than me to collaborate together and build something exceptional.
[00:33:39] Thank you for being such an amazing guest. Thank you for all your wisdom. This is the start of a beautiful friendship.
[00:33:46] Thank you for being such a great host and asking great questions, Ben. It’s much appreciated.
- LinkedIn – Ben Baker
- LinkedIn – Steve Rice
- SR Consulting
- Human Leadership
- LinkedIn – The Globally Conscious Leader
- Humane Leadership Institute
- The Globally Conscious Leader
About Steve Rice
There is no box to contain Steve Rice. His wide range of skills and experience make working with him a mentally expansive experience. He has the ability to reach into the dispersed corners of your business and bring them all together. He is technical, personable, and knowledgeable. This unique blend makes him a strategic superpower.