Business Series Podcast Ep.17 – How To Stay Relevant in Business with Rich Habets

How to Stay Relevant in Business

In this episode, Ankush speaks with leadership consultant Rich Habets. Some of what they discuss include:

– How do we stay relevant in such the fast-paced business world?

– Slowing down internally to get more done

– How can we slow down right now?

– A case study of a client Rich worked with and his approach

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Full Transcript

[00:00:00.00] Ankush: Welcome to the business series podcast. My name is Ankush Jain and I am a state of mind coach working with businesses and individuals. On each episode of this series, I’ll be speaking to a coach or trainer on a different topic relevant to your career and your personal development. Enjoy. Welcome back to another episode of the business series podcast. Today I’m joined by Rich Habets who is a management consultant who works with a range of organisations both large and small. He’s had a varied career working both in functions and as a consultant and done a number of different jobs and I’m really excited to have him with us today. Welcome Rich.


[00:00:50.18] Rich: Morning Kush, good to be here.


[00:00:51.10] Ankush: Good to have you. Good to have you. Today we’re talking about how to stay relevant in business and this topic really comes about because I know that you do a lot of work with leaders around change and we seem to be in a world right now where there is so much change happening and it’s going faster than ever. So my question to you just to start off with is how do we stay relevant in such a fast-paced world right now?


[00:01:24.00] Rich: It’s an interesting question. Well, first of all, it depends of course how you define relevant. But the way I describe “relevant” is the way normal leaders would think about, so how do stay with the ball? How do people hear what I am saying? How do I make sure that my vision is out there and people actually function in the way that I see them function right. Let’s see that as relevant. What I see is indeed that like what you see that change is, it’s still an enormous space with the invention of I.T. systems somewhere in the 1970s. And the first microchip was produced, it’s become everyday. I see organizations who go from you know they buy another company and then they have to integrate the system then they buy another company they have to integrate the systems and they go through organizational change they rearrange the processes and people are just overwhelmed by the amount of change. So they’re doing their normal job and then they also have to participate in the process reengineering job for instance. So there is a lot of change going on and I think that most people that I meet are happy with getting the things done they need to do in a day and I’m not talking about the strategical or the tactical stuff I’m thinking about the very operational stuff. So they have to do lists and at the end of the day they have the to-do list but nothing more and I see a lot of frustration with people because they’re just running in their little hamster wheel and they don’t have time to even step back and think there’s the right wheel at all? And it frustrates people and it frustrates leadership and is really hard to get out. And so you’re right I think change is, I think it’s the number one thing right now in companies and it’s really hard to handle that in a very healthy way. One of the things I’ve learned in this and it’s work that I do is that the outside world is going faster it’s going from 200 to 250 kilometres an hour, the best way to handle that is to go slower inside. But unfortunately, most people don’t do that. Most people think that if the outside world goes faster they go from 200 to 250, I speed up to and it’s very hard to see in that mental speed if you’re relevant. What’s relevant? What has priority? What’s strategic? What’s operational? Does that answer your question?


[00:03:57.02] Ankush: Well tell me more about slowing down internally because that sounds very counterintuitive.


[00:04:01.16] Rich: It does. Now it is actually very counterintuitive. You know you wouldn’t know the amount of people that when I get into a room and I tell them OK so what we’re going to do to handle the business we’re going to slow down. Most people think that means they have to talk slower, and if they walk slower actually take a longer lunches and all that stuff than even though that’s nice, what I’m talking about is if there’s a thousand things to do and you think you have to do all thousand of them before you go home but you don’t do them at the end then you feel unsatisfied. Right. But it’s the thinking about the thousand things that’s actually the problem, I’ll give you a very concrete example. I had a guy in one of my rooms and he said every day I have 300 e-mails waiting for me in the morning. He works for a global company so they work 24/7. You know he gets emails in the evening and night all the time. And he says I’m getting heart problems because of the 300 e-mails, I’m having heart problems. So the guy was serious so people started laughing in a room like are you serious and he was serious you could see it was, his face was very serious. So he said sometimes the only thing I can do is to delete all the 300 e-mails and people started laughing. Like what are you doing why are you deleting 300 e-mails? But you could see that for him, that was the only way to get rid of the stress. To slow down. Right. And then a woman at the other side of the room said, you know it’s funny I have a thousand unopened emails in my email box and I don’t have any of those problems, and the guy was like yeah but you know lucky you. She said well I don’t know, what do you think. Why do you have those problems and he says well because it’s 300 e-mails. She said I don’t think so, she went through more programs already, so she knew a little bit. And so the guy eventually came to the conclusion after like half an hour that it’s not the 300 e-mails actually it’s the level of perfection that he was asking from himself. So he thought that if he didn’t do the 300 emails that would mean that he was doing a lousy job. Now I think everybody who would have that kind of belief that if I don’t finish the 300 e-mails before the end of the job I’m doing a lousy job. If you have actually believed that you would actually mentally speed up too if you have only 100 mails done and it’s 12 o’clock already you would start to feel stress. And you would start to speed up and you would start to make more mistakes. Well you don’t read the e-mail as well as you could, you make misinterpretations you assume a lot, so the quality of your work goes actually down and then you answer somebody. It’s not the best answer and then you get an email back. Because of the answer that you did your answer was because you didn’t read the e-mail very well you get an answer back of somebody who is a little bit agitated because of the way you react. So you create your own work that way. And at that speeds people up mentally and I don’t know if we could go into why people slow down or speed up, I don’t think that’s the purpose of this podcast. But I think it’s the number one thing that people don’t see in business. Is that the way our minds really work if we see it or if we don’t see it if we don’t see it, it creates a lot of problems, creates a lot of inproductivity, creates a lot of stress and at the end the bottom line suffers. And if we start to see how it really works we become much more one with ourselves. We understand how it works, we start to work with the system instead of against it. And that’s what I really mean by slowing down, slowing down actually means that you start to see it for what it is and not for what it not is. You become much more productive as a leader and as you may be in general.


[00:07:51.03] Ankush: I remember reading somewhere or I don’t know if it’s conventional wisdom that if you want to be really successful in life you know do the opposite of what most people are doing, and I think that’s in true in investing in business in so many things and I really heard that from what you just said that most people are speeding up and the opposite of that is really to slow down. And because it’s so the opposite of what most people are doing, it really works.


[00:08:25.21] Rich: It absolutely does. And it’s not only slow down to slow down, slow down in order to speed up but that’s so counterintuitive for most people to see, they think I don’t have time to slow down because there’s all is work that needs to be done but once people get their own realization once they start to see that, wait a minute. When I slow down and have a fresh perspective I have fresh ideas on stuff that actually speaks up because I make less mistakes, I have better observation I set priorities better have more connection with people. So I also involve them in the way I make decisions and that actually speed stuff up. But it has to become a realization for them personally. I think that’s the biggest challenge in the work I do, the biggest challenge is to get people to see that for themselves, because as a theory it sounds beautiful, slow down to speed up it sounds beautiful, but it doesn’t mean anything as long as it is theory. It only starts to become of value if people start to see for themselves waw I slow down this project here, I slowed down I took the time, I saw and I mentally took a step back and I saw the priorities it was easy, it wasn’t a lot of effort and we got beautiful results, wow, this slowing down thing really works and that’s when you start to see not incremental results but exponential results. But it is a challenge to make people who are really rushed slow down for a little bit, although forcefully sometimes before they see that for themselves.


[00:09:56.05] Ankush: So if someone’s listening to this and they agree this is a beautiful theory but they feel very rushed and they’re kind of struggling to keep up with all the change and struggling to stay relevant, struggling to keep up with their prior performance, perhaps, what can they do practically to slow down and change the results they getting?


[00:10:19.21] Rich: You mean as in right now?


[00:10:22.08] Ankush: Sure.


[00:10:23.03] Rich: …what they can do? There’s all kinds of stuff out there that can definitely help you to slow down and the number one training in business right now is mindfulness training so that helps you to slow down. There are all kinds of things leaders do. I used to work with people in Silicon Valley and there was a lot of meditation going on, a lot of meditation and yoga classes and all that stuff. That definitely is beautiful to start to see how fast you are actually going and how you can slow down. So that’s beautiful you can do that. But in the end, Kusk, I think you know one thing that you really need to understand is that slowing down is not a doing it’s not okay let me slow down now, it’s not a doing, not a formula or a pill or a three-step program. It’s something you got to realise for yourself and you can only do that by, I would almost say by stepping out of your daily job for a couple of days and this is by the way what I do with businesses I take them three or four days out of their business. And we have a conversation about what’s really going on for versus what you think is going on. And we show them how it works. How bad it is to rush, how bad it is to mentally speed up so that they can have their own realization. And that’s what eventually will stick the most. But if you’re looking for quick fixes now mindfulness is definitely good, spending more time doing what you’re actually doing, being more present, like meditation practice and all that stuff. Chanting, it helps but it’s not the most permanent solution I would say.


[00:11:45.03] Ankush: I really like that what you just said and how you described it. Because I can imagine someone who is really rushed wants the quickest solution and the counterintuitive answer to that is you can’t rush the solution.  


[00:12:08.23] Rich: There’s this old saying like you cannot make grass faster by pulling on it, just grass grows and then it doesn’t matter if you pull on it just grows like that.


[00:12:20.13] Ankush: Do you have any case studies that come to mind where you’ve perhaps worked with with an organisation or with some leaders who have really been struggling to stay relevant or struggling to just keep up with their work and you’ve taken them out of their day to day. You’ve really helped them see this for themselves and it’s had a very concrete change on themselves and their result?


[00:12:48.13] Rich: Yes sure. Sure. And I have to be careful not to share too much because of my work is very very private. I always promise not to share anything but I can share this with you. There was a company I used to work for and one of their departments was in a very uncertain future this was a financial services institute and in other words they weren’t sure if they were going to be, if the business was sold or not and if it was sold then what was going to happen to the people. So that had been going on for a long time and people got more and more nervous. The best people already left because they had lots of opportunities to work anywhere else so they already left the organization. The morale went down, production went down, other stuff went down and the decision of what was going to happen to the company, they make no announcement on if they were going to do it in three months, six months, nine months, so you know we’ll tell you when we know. So they call me and they said what can we do about the morale? So like I said, I brought them together for four days. We talked about a lot of things but at a certain moment, the group dropped so deep, what I mean they got so calm, they fell down so much, they saw for themselves that they as a leadership team, they withdrew from the people who were working for them and they’d been doing that for the last couple of months. And they freak them out, they said we’ve we’ve become so afraid to hear all the complaints or hear all the people on the floor having such a negative time, that we just go in the morning we come in we go to the office we sit in a little glass cube and we don’t come out because we don’t want to engage with people anymore and now I see what’s happening because if we don’t do that, people will see that they will make their own stories. They will start to see management as the one who is withdrawing, you know there must be nothing good in our future. And they are like wow we’re not doing the one thing we are here to do we’re here to lead. We’re scared, we’re afraid. Right. And at that moment day they made that realization that wasn’t obvious for them. It just became clear that that’s what they were doing. So they decided in that moment you know what. I don’t care how bad it looks. We don’t have the answers, but what we’re going to do we’re going to go into communication again with our people and we’re going to share what we know. We’re going to be connected with them and we’re going to tell them you know up front, we have no idea but we promise you that when we know something we will let you know. But in the meantime, our door is always open instead of closed right. Now, six months later the decision was taken, the company was sold and 50% of the people lost their job. This was in a country where there was a lot of labour unions. So if anything like that is happening then the labour unions go on strike is very very bad for business. But because this management team stayed so well-connected with the labour unions with their people with each other as a management team, had a common vision common goals. Because they did that, it was flawless. People lost their jobs, of course, they didn’t like that, but it was, it never went better than this time in that whole company they had a history of lawsuits, people leaving, anger, frustration and lots of bad morale because the management team took that decision and started to really communicate, really connect, it just went beautifully and the people who lost their jobs were they got a whole package where you know they were helped to find another job and they mostly all did and actually afterwards I got a compliment and that people said to me you know this saves millions of euros. I’m just I’m happy for that because it’s not that what I did, it’s what they saw. And that might sound simple to somebody listening to this podcast like of course, you know that if you don’t talk to people they will make their own stories, but they were so stuck in their own fear and their own anger and uncertain future that they didn’t see that anymore but they saw it when they slowed down.  


[00:16:53.15] Ankush: This is a great example Rich and you’re reminding me about when I talk to my clients about blind spots and the very nature of a blind spot is that we don’t see it. It might be obvious to other people but not to us. And what I am reminded of is when when I’m sped up and when my clients are sped up and when anyone’s sped up that’s when we start having more blind spots because we’re not seeing what’s going on and what I hear you saying is this isn’t about a strategy of okay if you’re in this situation this is a strategy, there are so many factors and variables that were unique to this company and to those people and to the country and everything else, but slowing down helped that team that management team those leaders approach that in exactly the right way that they needed to, to have the best outcome for for their company and for their employees.  


[00:17:54.08] Rich: Yeah that’s exactly right. And it doesn’t mean that when you slow down stuff will always work out. But when you slow down you’re just using your full brain thinking, you’re present. You see what’s actually going on. So you make the best decision in that moment, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of stuff going on, losing clients can mean your business is still sold, I mean you go bankrupt, but at least that’s your best effort. And I don’t see and this is you know me being quite honest. I see a lot of stupidity going on in business. I see a lot of rushed people, and I’m not exaggerating I think 95% is rushed, I think even more depending on the culture. 95% is rushed running from one meeting to another, nine to ten, ten to eleven, eleven to twelve, twelve to one and they’re always late because they have to go from meeting to meeting, people are frustrated, people are not listening to each other. It’s a madhouse Kush honestly, it’s a madhouse and I’m walking around and I see this happening and I’m like how can it be productive? And then they start complaining that their customers are complaining. And from standing from where I stand, of course they are complaining because you’re only busy with yourself you’re not, who’s listening to a customer when you’re only listening to yourself? That’s a beautiful thing when people start to see that.  


[00:19:04.28] Ankush: That makes so much sense to me and I really see the slowing down to speed up. I was recently talking to a client who was struggling with with one of his employees. We really helped him slow down and in the next conversation he had with his employee, he made more progress than he had done in the previous two months of trying to change him, whatever because he moved from focusing on himself and slowed down to being able to focus on his employee and really ask what’s going on, what’s the challenges here do you not want to be here and all sorts of stuff started coming up that he wasn’t even aware of because the focus was taken off himself.


[00:19:55.29] Rich: Beautiful things happen when we, you know there’s this whole thinking that we have the matter of self, get out of the way. There’s actually room for other people when we get out the way but it only makes sense when you’re slow down actually.  


[00:20:12.01] Ankush: And would you say this is becoming more and more important in business than ever before?   


[00:20:15.04] Rich: Absolutely. You know this all goes back to when I said in the beginning crazy world out there right. Just look at the news, look at what’s happening in the US, look at what’s happening with the whole U.S. Russia thing. Look at what’s happening in the Middle East, look what’s happening everywhere. Look what’s happening in technology how fast that’s going. Look what’s happening in you know with all the trade and everything. Stuff is crazy out there and it’s only getting busier and busier and busier and busier. The only way and this is my firm belief from doing this work for the last 20 years my firm belief was the only way to stay sane and to be serving your clients instead of pleasing them. The only way to stay sane is to slow down because if you start running with all that madness that’s a recipe for burnout. That’s a recipe for bankruptcy. And, you know I put it black and white because I really believe that if you just keep running with everybody else, it doesn’t work, doesn’t work. You can’t keep up, and I don’t care how brilliant you are, how smart you are and what your IQ is what your titles are, what you’ve done in your experience, I see so many brilliant people just burn out because they think they have to know everything, fix everything, keep up with everything, understand everything that’s not the way to go. Honestly people see this, people see this in business, they almost beg me to say so how can you help right? They see it, but most people don’t understand what’s really going on behind the screens. So they go to self-help right. A lot of people read self-help books, I’ve done that for five years. It didn’t help me really a lot. I got more and more confused. It’s crazy world so I think slowing down is the only option. But you have to understand a couple of things before that makes sense to you. So my question is do we have three more hours or?


[00:22:06.20] Ankush: Well I normally ask people what’s the one thing that you’d want people to take away. But what you just said was such a beautiful summary and really you know I know we’re just scratching the surface of the work that you do and the work that I do and like you say it can’t be rushed. This is just a kind of a taste and a glimpse into that. If people did want to talk to you for longer wanted to find out more about the work that you do, how might they do that?


[00:22:39.16] Rich: They can contact me of course. So you can contact me at, that’s my personal email address. So if people want to know more a little bit about this I can always do something like this, talk with them maybe help them on their way. I don’t have any books or fancy websites or all that stuff, I just have a website but I do do a lot of marketing, just so busy with this work already. But if people wanted to talk I’m glad to make time.


[00:23:10.20] Ankush: Thank you Rich and I know you really are very very busy so I appreciate the time that you’ve put aside for us today. I hope people get value from this and really listen to this and look in the direction that might be the opposite of where they were looking before they listened to this.


[00:23:26.23] Rich: Thank you Ankush for making a stand for this, understanding and putting these podcasts, I know you’ve had some amazing speakers on your podcast, and I really think it makes a difference. Thank you for that too.


[00:23:37.08] Ankush: You’re most welcome and I’ll be back next week with another episode relevant to business. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the business series podcast. If you want to hear more you can click on the subscribe button below. You can share this with someone else who can benefit or you can like it and encourage others to listen. Also it would be great if you left a comment below. I love hearing from listeners and I want to keep creating great content for you. Thanks for listening.