436 | Improving Your Leadership Skills When They are Technical Experts With Joel Beasley

Improving your leadership skills is required in today’s professional world. The pace of change drives us to think of new ways to activate people. Improving your leadership skills will make you more valuable to your company. Joel Beasley is the founder of Leader Bits, a company that creates bite-sized training that aims to improve your leadership skills. The company mainly focuses on technical employees that want to move into a leadership role. Discover new insights on how to improve your leadership skills.

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LITT 436 Featuring Joel Beasley

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Target Audience: Joel is the CTO at LeaderBits.io and Author of Book + Host of Podcast – 70k active listeners (CTOs/Lead developers) When talking with CTOs, the same stories and lessons kept coming up over and over. So, Joel decided to write the Modern CTO book. As Joel outlined the book, he involved a number of CTO’s he had close relationships with. The conversations were engaging, intelligent and fun. He didn’t want them to stop.



Joel Beasley: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Leaders in the trenches and Your host today is Gene Hammett.

Gene Hammett: [00:04]
Hi, this is Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches. My question for you today is how do you develop the leaders within your company? How do you really engage them to lead others, especially when they’ve never done it before? Or One more difficult problem is to have someone lead the way that you really need them to lead as a fast growth company. Well, today we have a special guest with us. His name is Joel Beasley. Joel, I met him at a speaking engagement I was at and he’s developed a really interesting way to engage leadership inside companies and specifically technology leadership. So we’re going to be talking about what does it take to get those really smart, brainy kind of people to understand how to lead people. And we’ve talked about some of the details behind that and why this is so important in today’s world. So here’s the interview with Joel Beasley.

Gene Hammett: [00:58]
Hi Joel. How are you?

Joel Beasley: [00:59]
Hey, fantastic.

Gene Hammett: [01:01]
Well excited to have you here. Leaders in the trenches.

Joel Beasley: [01:04]
I’m super excited to be here.

Gene Hammett: [01:06]
Well, I have already let our audience, they’re a little bit about you and the company you’re working with and what you’re doing, but I want them to hear in your own voice. So what are you most inspired about today and who do you serve?

Joel Beasley: [01:18]
Ooh, those are good questions. I think I’m most inspired. Well, we do these reviews with our company where we actually help people. And so we get to see all the, all the different people that we help. And so we look over their responses to our leadership challenges. And so we do that in the morning since I was, I get very inspired when I see people growing and improving. So I’d say that is why I’m inspired and what, uh, who the customer is. Is that the second part of the question?

Gene Hammett: [01:44]
Who Do you serve?

Joel Beasley: [01:45]
We serve technologists that want to become better leaders.

Gene Hammett: [01:50]
That’s a real challenge because they’re really good at what they do. And they come from that world of, I know how to do this job. And then you film in the leadership. So what are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen? You hear all the time?

Joel Beasley: [02:06]
The biggest mistake is that the leadership part is just a title. Like they think it’s just a title or they think it’s not an entire craft of its own right. So they’ll be very good technically very proficient in whatever language or project management style. And then they move into leadership and they’re like, they don’t realize that it’s an entirely different a job. So then they don’t improve at it. And then when you don’t improve at I, then you’re not very good at it. And then you have a title and you’re doing this job that needs you to have these certain skills and then you don’t have them.

Gene Hammett: [02:42]
I want to walk you through something because I think this happens a lot cause I hear it within my own clients, but when someone’s really good at something and they’d done it for two or three years or maybe longer and they get promoted to do leading others, the easiest thing they do when challenges arise is to tell that person how to do the work. Because you already know how to do at work. You know how to work through the problems and whatnot. But that’s a big mistake because if they’re not thinking for themselves, there really aren’t really growing the way you want them to grow. What happens when you just as a technical leader, you just tell people what to do every time they come to you?

Joel Beasley: [03:23]
When you create a roadblock for productivity, right? Because now nothing can happen without your eyes. And that’s not how the fast growing companies and the really successful companies operate. The way that they operate is they empower talented people to, you know, have this concept of individual ownership and execution. And then they did guide those people on their, on their mission, on the human side of things.

Gene Hammett: [03:50]
Well, there’s some of those words in there. Feel like you just took them out of my speech and I don’t, I don’t own the words that whatnot. You got a chance to see me speak a few months ago. Do you remember that?

Joel Beasley: [04:00]
Yeah, I did. It was fantastic. Right? Right at the beginning, you hook to open. And I was like, oh, I liked this guy. And so I wrote down your information and give it to Chloe and I said, Chloe, we got to meet, you’ve got to meet gene after this.

Gene Hammett: [04:13]
But I talked about ownership. When you, you create programs and you do your interview with some of the top CTOs at NASA and other technology companies out there. Um, do they want their employees to take more ownership?

Joel Beasley: [04:28]
Of course we all want our employees. Some leaders have it already happening, others are working on it.

Gene Hammett: [04:34]
Well I’d love to know you’ve been interviewing all these great, CTOs about leadership and how they got there. And I know one common bond, cause I saw some of your videos, Joel, is they come up from the engineering ranks of these companies having done it. So what is some of the fantastic things you’ve learned from these leaders?

Joel Beasley: [04:55]
Yeah, so that is the most common path. I’d say the 80% is they started out and some engineering internship and then they built up over the career 20, 30 years. And then they end up as CTOs of these billion dollar companies. So that’s, that is a trend. We also get the outliers. So sometimes people, I guess one guy, Ben is pretty cool. He was an architect and then he ended up founding this company and becoming the CTO of a digital software company that stored three d objects for architects. So you, those are those are the two paths and what I learned from them, I’d say one of the biggest takeaways is how much it, how important it is the people that you work with in the environment that you create. Because I found that it’s really hard to do something very specifically on the micro in a large organization. But what you can do is you can create an environment of really great people were great things can happen. So I see them focusing a lot on the environment that they have around them.

Gene Hammett: [05:57]
Yeah, you were at the speech when I shared some stats from, from the research I do with the fast growing companies. And one of them is I asked leaders what’s more important employees or customers?

Joel Beasley: [06:09]
Now one guy was so upset, I do. There was this older, this person with an older mentality, and he was so angry,

Gene Hammett: [06:19]
He kind of what’s it heckles me, right?

Joel Beasley: [06:22]
Yeah. A little bit.

Gene Hammett: [06:24]
He was, when I asked the question and there was a little bit of Q and a afterwards, but he came back and said, well, you know, GM put their employees, you know, put their employees first. They paid them a lot more. But I don’t know if they really did create the experience so I could not debate that. But I did debate the fact that a lot of fast growing companies really do put an emphasis on employee first. So you’ve seen this within the technology world that if it’s a great place to work, people create great stuff. Right?

Joel Beasley: [06:56]
Oh yeah. And it’s, I think Branson’s the famous one for saying, are you take care of your employees and they take care of everyone else. And that is just massively true. And what I’m finding as I get older and get more experience in this world and meet more great people is that often the things that people say over and over and over that some, some people often roll their eyes at right. Like those things are so true because they’re true.

Gene Hammett: [07:25]
Yeah. And you know, I see that there is people that think otherwise and there’s some fast growing companies that will say it’s customer first. But then I ask questions to them and talking about how important their employees are. They’re like, oh my God, this is, this is the most critical thing to us. And I’m like, but you just said customer first and now you’re talking about employee. He goes, you know, they go hand in hand.

Joel Beasley: [07:47]
They do.

Gene Hammett: [07:48]
And I get the fact that it goes hand in hand, but at a certain point within the business, and I think it’s once you get that product market fit right, once you’ve gotten that kind of, the market kind of wants what you have, if you’ve already scaling up, like you’re going through this within, within your business right now, you’re hiring people, you’re scaling up, you’re having to put sales outside of the founder like that. That’s a big challenge for you that you had to address. So let’s zero in that, like what did you have to let go of when you decided to bring on someone for sales and your company?

Joel Beasley: [08:21]
Everything. No, so that’s an interesting, we spent, it took me about three months, right? Like October, November, December. I ended up following this book called Predictable Revenue. Talks a lot about how salesforce grew their sales team and it’s like why not learn from the $49 billion company, right. How they did sales. So I went out and hired some people, but the hard part was everything changed. So the pitch like pitch deck changed, it changed from my story and like believing and Joel in the to here is the actual value your organization’s going to get. And the value was there before, but it was just has to be delivered by a sales, different, like someone other than me. So we had to play a lot with that sales. We had to play a lot with the sales process because I just do all these things naturally with my customers.

Joel Beasley: [09:13]
And, so then we had to actually like lay those out and we ended up using this software called fresh sales. But yeah, everything, everything changed and it caused us to look really hard at the, at the business. And then also we ended up making some new features in the product to help communicate our value better.

Gene Hammett: [09:32]
Well, I know that you have to let go of it. And so it’s always hard to do that. And you know now the value of taking care of the people because you also know the value of that you’re pouring into each person that you bring onto your team. Right?

Joel Beasley: [09:47]
Yeah. And I’d also say like with letting go, it’s harder to let go of the things that you’ve love. All right. So, so for me, I hadn’t made a sale ever before this past year and so I didn’t, I wasn’t like in love with sales and so it was actually pretty easy for me to automate sales. It was very hard for me to put in a VP of product and give up engineering. That was, that was much harder. But I realized that I need to get good at getting good at things and then letting them go. And if I get good at that, it’s much easier.

Gene Hammett: [10:20]
Well, I want to talk a little bit more back at the, the whole technologist becoming a leader, they often see the role differently as a leader than as a doer. How would you describe that difference?

Joel Beasley: [10:37]
Okay. Leader, how would I describe how they see leader versus doer? Well, I guess when you’re early on in your career, you sort of have a disdain for leadership because the code is the real work and the real magic. So I’d say that that is a view of a lot of the engineers, at least for me and myself to like I used to think leadership, it was like what is, what are they doing? This is not important, this is important. But as, as I rose up within teams and grew, I realized like without the customer, without the need in the market, without solving problems and helping other people, the engineering doesn’t even exist. Like you have to have money or a fuel in order to do the engineering work. And so it’s definitely about a little bit of balance with understanding that yeah, you have to be good at the craft, but you also have to understand how the business works.

Joel Beasley: [11:32]
And then you have to understand that at the root of everything, as humans making all of this stuff for other humans. And so now you need some skills to work with humans. And that’s sort of the progression. And usually people love it or hate it. So you’ll either hear people talking about a technical track, like they never want to do anything with humans. They only want to pursue a technical track. And then you get the people who they get, you know as a team lead working with other engineers because you’re good at your craft, you have to have sun human skills. And then they realize, whoa, these human skills are actually really cool. And then they go far up in the business track.

Gene Hammett: [12:05]
I reminded here, I have a cousin that had a strong technology company and he’s taken that public and sold it. He sold multiple companies over the journey and was talking to them about the technical engineers on his team. These are very technical kind of hardware and software products that are being developed and never been developed before. It makes sense.

Joel Beasley: [12:26]

Gene Hammett: [12:26]
And he was saying that there are, there are some players that in within his teams that are 10 x, the level of engineer, the amount that they produced in the creativity they come up and the innovations that create in the patents, they the is 10 x what others are doing, what do you do? How do you lead someone that is that genius level.

Joel Beasley: [12:48]
Oh, well. So what I found is that when the people are that genius level, they’re really hard on themselves. So often I like to surround myself with really talented you know, outcome driven people that are those 10 x producers. And then I act more like a coach to them because they’ll beat themselves up and you gotta pull them up, they’ll get stuck in the weeds and you got to pull them out of that. And so I found it’s a lot of human human things when working with those high producers that become really important.

Gene Hammett: [13:20]
Well, I’m glad you said that because it, you know, that’s often what’s missed. When you only focus on the work, there’s the human elements of how do you listen to someone, how do you develop them? How do you ask those questions as coaches, what are the things that you guys have done there with a leader? Tell us a little bit about what leader bits is and how that came to be.

Joel Beasley: [13:42]
Yeah, so a leader bits is action based leadership development for a technologist. So it came to be, we started this podcast, just for me to give back. I was listening to this guy named Gary Vee. He talked about the importance of giving and sharing. So I started, started a blog, which turned into a book and that ultimately turn into a podcast about four months into the podcast. It really started to get popular once we had like Verizon and Microsoft and NASA on the show. And then people said, hey, we hear these leaders, they come show this advice. How do we get our technical leaders to do these things, to give credit to their team, to deploy autonomous leadership, to give, you know, individual ownership. Like how do we actively do those things? And my first thought was like, well, what does the market do today? And then I noticed, okay, it’s a lot of workshops with high intensity that are rare, like quarterly workshops or you’re the workshops and that doesn’t create this continuous habit of improvement. So the great leaders I talked to, what makes them great is they have this consistency over intensity mindset. They’re always looking for an edge. You know, you always hear the CEO’s read like 50 books a year or whatever, but this is what they do.

Joel Beasley: [14:49]
They read these books and they learn and improve and grow on a consistent basis. And so I said, okay, well I’ll actually go find that leadership program where they’re growing on a consistent basis and I will recommend that. And then that didn’t exist. So we created it. And so we took clips of the podcast, great. These leadership challenges and then built an analytics platform on them for technology companies.

Gene Hammett: [15:13]
Well, I am curious around this. You’ve got the analytics behind these little challenges. Can you give us one of the top challenges that you know, share with our audience just as a tease?

Joel Beasley: [15:24]
Yeah. Okay. So one of the top challenges would be become more valuable. So it’s, this was inspired from the senior vice president of Canon, the digital imaging company, and this is how he went from intern to running the north and South America is for Canon.

Joel Beasley: [15:43]
So what you do as you go ask your leader what skill or habit would make you more valuable to the team or the organization? So that’s step one. Then what you do is you go implement it. So you, they’ll give you something and they’ll say, okay, communication in this area, whatever it may be. And then you find this one thing and then you go implement it. So you put a recurring event and your phone like 10 minutes every other week or whatever works for you based on what you need to improve and then you work on it, improve it. So that’s step one. Step two, step three is the most important part because it’s the part that happens the least. So what happens usually like by default is the person will learn what it is. Okay, communication. Then they go hide, go hide away and they work on it for however amount of time it is.

Joel Beasley: [16:35]
And then once it’s done in a couple of months or a year, they come back and they say, hey, you said I’d become more valuable if I improved communication. And here’s what I’ve done. But that’s, that’s like not the good way, the better way, the more effective way is as you’re doing this on a biweekly basis or weekly basis, constantly send information back to the person you talked to, the stakeholder or the leader about what you’re learning on that journey. Because this is what it does. It builds a journey in their mind of you coming to them saying you want to become more valuable than giving you an answer on how then you actually go and implementing it consistently over time. And then they believe you, they have this believability and they, they know more about how you think because they’ve been seeing your progress and your updates. And so we call that part the boomerang. So that’s how you become more valuable. He learned what skill or habit. Then you implement a schedule for yourself to improve at it and then you communicate what you’re doing each week or two back to the person who you started with.

Gene Hammett: [17:37]
I love that. It makes me think of my high school days. I’d never done soccer, before I got into high school and as a freshman I was like, I want to start next year, which is an unheard of. I said, what do we need? What player do you need? And he goes, I need a left wing. Can you kick with your left foot? I can’t now, but I will next year. So I worked on it and I came back and I started that next year. So…

Joel Beasley: [18:02]
I love it.

Gene Hammett: [18:03]
When you are doing leadership bits and you’re sharing out all these, the analytics, I guess within your team. And what are you finding is the biggest with making the biggest impact?

Joel Beasley: [18:17]
The biggest impact because we’ve, we’ve been open for over a year now doing this and we have like 1700 liters on the platform. And I’d say the biggest impact is the group of people who adopt this as a consistency thing. So how we built that into the software was the user gets to pick what time and day that they received the challenge and then that stays consistently. So if you say Friday at [9:00] AM, which happens to be our most popular items, I am, you will get a challenge every Friday at [9:00] AM and then it gets into their calendar and then they just have this habit and then that is the when we create that habit of no matter what, every Friday morning at [9:00] AM, they’re spending 10 minutes improving. That’s, that’s who does the best in our program.

Gene Hammett: [19:04]
Well, I liked that. It really is, you know, reinforces the consistency that you go back to it. That’s what you started this whole thing is you found something that was really kind of not there. So you created it because you were getting so much demand from it, which is what we’re supposed to do in business. But most people don’t do that. Right? They actually go out there and think of, well this is what I can do and the problem I can solve. And then they think like, well who can I sell it to? But you, you took the, I think the more appropriate approach to this, which was let’s get to know this audience and you were very specific with these technical leaders and then you came back forth and said, you know, this is what they want, but it’s not there. We’re going to create it and create the business around it. What did you learn in this journey for yourself that you can share with us as we begin to wrap up today’s interview?

Joel Beasley: [19:55]
I learned that discipline is not punishment. Discipline is making yourself do something that you know, you should do that would benefit you even when you don’t want to. So, that was a big one. So I’ve improved my, as the founder in order to deal with everything I’ve had to improve my health, my workout routines, adjust my sleep schedule, adjust my diet just so I could get the most performance. Like I’m essentially a business athlete, right? Like I got it from in high school when I played football. Like I learned you have to train and then when you start training yourself, you get more respect with yourself and you create more discipline. And so that actually will help you make better decisions on the business side. So often people ask me, you know, what’s like the most unconventional wisdom or whatever it is that you can gain an edge with. I’d say like train yourself, like discipline yourself and learn how to respect yourself more in your personal life and that will tremendously help you in your business life.

Gene Hammett: [21:02]
Well, I can’t agree more because there’s these little police things are all connected and just look at sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not gonna perform. It’s her best. I can be there for the people when they need you. If you come in tired, they’re going to come in tired and it’s a circle because the sleep doesn’t get right until you get the Diet and the workouts right and all the other stuff, the stress levels. So they’re all connected together. It’s not just getting the work done with Joel. I really appreciate you being here at leaders in the trenches and appreciate you sharing some insights on what you’re seeing in the technology world of leadership and how you built your company based on creating something that wasn’t there and it really proud of what you’re doing. And I’m sure.

Joel Beasley: [21:49]
Thank you so much Gene. I really appreciate it.

Gene Hammett: [21:51]
Wow, what a fantastic episode. I really loved the way Joel really talks about how he can really help people become better leaders, do small little leadership tidbits, if you will, these leadership bits. It really is exciting to see a different ways to evolve as companies and really impressed with what Joel has done there with what he’s doing, leading the technology leader. So I had this on, on the show because I wanted you to understand that there are other ways to think through how to develop those leaders. And if you have any questions about developing your own leaders or your own specific leadership, that’s what I do. I help people through the defining moments as leaders in a really we’d love to help you and your team. So make sure you reach out. [email protected] as always, lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.



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