Business Series Podcast Ep.20 – The Invisible Factors Behind Effective Leadership with Dr. George Pransky

The Invisible Factors Behind Effective Leadership

In this episode, Ankush speaks a pioneer of taking state of mind into business, Dr George Pransky. Some of what they discuss include:

– Visible vs Invisible factors behind effective leadership

– How does this apply across different industries

– How to tap into this hidden factor as a leader

– A case study of a client Dr. Pransky worked with

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To contact Dr. Pransky and find out more about his work, you can reach him at pranskyandassociates.com.

Full Transcript

[00:00:01.23] Ankush: Welcome to the Business Series Podcast. My name is Ankush Jain, and I’m 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 or personal development. Enjoy.

Welcome back to another episode of the Business Series Podcast. Today, I’m very excited to be joined by Dr. George Pransky. Dr. George Pransky is one of the mentors of a number of people who are on the show so I’m very excited to have him here. He was the first person alongside Dr. Roger Mills who took this understanding around the state of mind seriously and he’s been working with a significant number of businesses over the last few decades. And he’s been a pioneer in taking the state of mind understanding to business. I’m very excited to have him with us and to be talking about the invisible factors behind effective leadership. Welcome, George.

[00:01:00.28] George: Well, it’s nice to do this program. I really liked what we’ve done in the past so this is a pleasure for me.

[00:01:10.10] Ankush: Thank you. Well, let’s just get right into it because it’s an intriguing title the invisible factors behind effective leadership. So I’d love to kind of ask about that and what these invisible factors are behind effective leadership? What are they?

[00:01:25.02] George: Well, if you don’t mind I want to talk about the so-called invisible and then it’ll be easier to talk about the visible ones so if you look at the brochure of leadership development companies, if you go on the Internet and look up leadership you’ll see a number of things: team building, you’ll see listening, giving feedback, strategic planning so you’ll have a working list of all the skills that are required for a good leader. And I’m going to suggest to you that you can’t do those skills unless your mind is right for those skills. So for example giving feedback like that’s one of the problems that people have. What are you going to do? How are you going to give feedback to people without them getting defensive? How do they want to hear your feedback, if they do get defensive, how do you avoid bad will? When I give feedback I get tense ahead of time. How do you deal with that? So the fact is that the effectiveness of feedback depends on the feeling state that you’re coming from when you give it. So if you have a dog in the fight, if you’re upset with the person if you’re impatient with the person you can count on them getting defensive and you’re going to see that feedback says it doesn’t go very well. You might say well that’s not a problem. Well, it is a problem because the reason you’re giving them the negative feedback is that they are doing something that’s hurting the bottom line. So it’s very understandable for people to be impatient or upset and then they go in and give the feedback and the person gets backed up and defensive. So the invisible factor behind effective feedback is the feeling state of the person that’s giving the feedback when they’re giving the feedback. Now if their feeling state is good and they feel warmly towards the person they’re talking to and they’re philosophical about the fact that people do need feedback and people do make mistakes and that’s part of their job you know, otherwise, they would be like a busboy complaining about dishes. I mean that’s why they get the big bucks is to give people direction. So if they have that warm feeling they set the stage differently they bring something different out of the person and the person responds, listens better, benefits more from it and leaves with goodwill. Now the same thing could be said of strategic planning. The problem with strategic planning is you have to get back enough from your business to see that big picture and that’s something that happens inside your mind, it doesn’t happen through reading, through discussion. People who have a leader who wants to have a vision for their company has to get into what we might call a reflective state, where their mind is free. And when their mind is free and they don’t have a bunch of fears and concerns and details, they can see the big picture. That’s why consultants work as consultants and their heads aren’t filled with the business and the concerns of the business and outcomes and all this, so they have, you might say a more circumspect view, now strategic planning requires a circumspect state of mind. If you don’t have it you’re not going to be able to do it. OK, another thing is the issue of managing people who are difficult and are resistant OK. And they have all kinds of courses on that. That’s the invisible factor behind that is the same as giving people feedback, is if you have a warm feeling and if you’re compassionate of people’s mistakes and their frailties you will have an ongoing good rapport with the people and with that good rapport you’ll be able to say and do what you want and you’ll be able to be as direct with them as you want and you’ll be able to listen to them and have conversations with them and get the truth out of the conversations, and it’s not because you have techniques for dealing with them but it’s because of where you’re coming from, your humanity is front and center and that’s what allows you to have a successful relationship with people. So everything that you’re trying to do behind it is the workings of the mind, what state of mind do you have. What’s going on in your mind? To simplify it, if you’re off balance everything’s difficult leadership wise and if you’re on balance everything’s easy. I’m going to give a metaphor for that I think would be very helpful. When I was in private school we would have lunch and we’d have half an hour after lunch for recreation and relaxation and a bunch of us would go to the gym and play basketball. But we were in our street shoes, so we would take our street shoes off and we would play in our socks and we didn’t have any traction so it was much harder to do anything in basketball when you’re playing in socks. Now one day this very uncoordinated not an athlete little thin frail guy, who everybody used to knock their books over came into the gym and he had his sneakers on and he was running circles around these varsity basketball players because he had this traction. Now when people are in a healthy state of mind, when they’re not insecure or upset or when they have their emotional bearings they will be like that kid with sneakers on everything they try to do leadership-wise is easy. And when they get, lose their bearings and get insecure even temporarily they are like the rest of us playing in socks with no traction.

[00:08:24.07] Ankush: What would you say to people who are listening to this and say they might be thinking well that sounds very good in theory George but surely this is dependent on the industry you’re in, maybe this is just a leadership style because I know you’ve worked in lots of different industries and with lots of different leaders I’d love to hear you talk to that does this apply across the board with every kind of business, every industry, every kind of leader?

[00:08:48.05] George: It applies not only to every industry and every leader but it applies to every aspect of life. This applies equally to your relationship with your wife. It applies equally to parenting, parents that lose their bearings bring out a whole different behavior in their children and parents who can keep their bearings in it and they have a warmth and an understanding feeling, find parenting would be very easy but no matter what the agency is, what the business is, whether a person is able to keep their bearings and stay in a healthy state of mind just depends on them and their understanding of how the mind works so there’s no such thing as a business or industry that’s inherently stressful. The stress has to be manufactured inside the mind of the person via their own thinking. Now ironically into the companies and the industries that objectively would have the most stress, like brain surgeons, for example, have very little stress. And if you ask them why they would say I can’t afford to lose my bearings so that every company and every employee and every company it’s up to that employee as to whether they feel tense and tight or disheartened or disappointed. So the internal mental life of a person is dependent on what goes on in their mind and that is always true. There’s no exception to that, there’s no way that what’s going on around you can affect you unless it comes into your own thinking.

[00:10:48.25] Ankush: So is that the invisible factor you’re talking about. Is that state of mind? And you know how you feel the warm feeling you were talking about?

[00:10:58.03] George: Yeah it is the invisible factor. It’s the foundation from which people live their lives and using that analogy, if your foundation is sneakers in traction, you live a very different life than if your foundations is socks on a waxy floor. Now the reason that I say it’s invisible is because the world is oriented towards behavior is what people do and what people say. In the end, all the strategies are based on what behaviors should we do, and what should we say and that’s what all the books are about. You know even like the books on values it’s how should we act? What should we say? Now what’s invisible to all of us is the workings of the mind and the feeling states within people, but those are our words making the world happen the way it happens the behaviors in what people say is after the fact.

[00:12:08.14] Ankush: So if I’m a leader listening to this and I might be thinking how do I tap into that I might have some view around, okay when I’m in a good state of mind I’m a better leader and I listen better or I can give feedback better but they might not know how to tap into that state of mind for themselves.

[00:12:30.06] George: Well, the key to the optimum state of mind is resilience and the reason I say that is because everybody has mood swings. Everybody its life is a full-contact sport. Business is a full-contact sport. So you’re going to take your lumps and you’re going to take your bumps and you’re going to take your bruises. What really matters is how you come back from that. How long does it last and how often does it happen that you get, that you lose your bearings. Everybody is going to lose their bearings sometimes but as you understand how the mind works the deeper you understand it the more infrequently you’ll lose your bearings and the quicker you’ll get them back. Now it’s not, it’s not difficult to understand how the mind works once you hear it and you look, you’ll see yes that is how the mind works and the way the mind works is that we are in continuous thinker’s, continuous thoughts throughout life, continuous thought processes OK. And the thoughts are brought to life by what we call consciousness through the five senses, well more than five senses of the senses so the thoughts that we have will appear to be true. So if the market turns down let’s say the economy gets bad and I’m a sales person and all of a sudden instead of making six calls to make a sale I have to make twelve. The question is what are my thoughts going to be if I have thoughts of discouragement, I’ll feel discouraged, my spirits will drop and when my spirits drop I won’t present as well to my prospects, I’ll look desperate to that, I’ll look insecure to them and they won’t like that, they won’t be inclined to listen to me or buy my product. So now it goes from making twelve calls to making 15 calls. Now if that memory of that bad experience of losing the sale, of losing sales that that gets to me I’m like a baseball player in a batting slump. My spirits go lower, my performance goes down, my spirits go lower, my performance goes down and it’s a spiral. If a person understands that all this is happening inside their own thoughts, and the only reason their spirits continue to drop is because they’re fighting themselves and thinking themselves down and they see that it’s a hundred percent thought, it’s not the economy, it’s not their success rate. The thinking is directly related to the discouragement, and that’s all it’s happening, they will become resilient because thoughts are transient by nature and their thoughts will turn around in a positive direction. And one company that we talk this to we did the company training and we did for the mental well-being of people because the company looked like it was going to go under, it was a sales company and they were in a bad market. Later one of the general managers, the owner of the company told me that the company had become discouragement proof, the salespeople and they even said I hope this bear market lasts for another three months because we can increase market share because we’re making calls and our competitors aren’t because they’re sitting in bars discouraged to any company sales company that’s discouragement proof, that’s resilient about discouragement is going to be very successful no matter what they’re selling that’s just an example.

[00:16:55.26] Ankush: And I can imagine that would be an incredible trait for a leader to have if a leader was discouragement proof because it would set the tone for everyone else they were working with.

[00:17:04.23] George: Absolutely. And not only would they set the tone but they can gently remind their people that the problem is happening in their minds and that discouragement is a freestanding variable it’s not tied to anything, it’s not tied to success, it’s not tied to success rate, it’s free standing. So every, any person, at any moment that understands that it’s just you thinking that that’s free standing well knows that without any effort the thinking will head north rather than south.

[00:17:43.09] Ankush: So what I just heard you say George and correct me if I’m wrong here is that effective leadership is all about a leader seeing the role of the state of mind in their reality leading from that place and showing their employees the same thing in them too. And by doing so they become very resilient, very creative, very effective and in doing so they help their employees to do the same for themselves.

[00:18:18.13] George: Exactly. Can I give you an example of this?

[00:18:20.06] Ankush: Yeah please do I’d love to hear a case study about where you work with someone around this and the results of that.

[00:18:25.07] George: Yeah. Let me let me give you a case study I mentioned the advertising company, I’m going to mention another one. I was hired by a defense contractor and it’s essentially a company of engineers. I mean they are really high tech particularly high tech company. And their problem was that they had a 100 million dollar engineering budget and a 40 million cost to poor quality which means throwing stuff out that you make. So, they were only selling 60% of what they were making because they had this cost of poor quality now. So, they were saying well the reason that this is that we have so much cost of low quality is because we’re very high tech. You have to make a lot of guesses. We have to bid on it and you know it’s tough to bid right. And when you bid wrong you want to skip steps and because you skipped steps you have cost of poor quality. We have a lot of processes but we don’t have enough supervision so we can’t supervise every single step and therefore things fall through the cracks. And this is just the nature of a high tech business, is the cost of poor quality and they even said to me I don’t even know why the management thinks this is a problem. That’s what they said. OK. So they start as all these visible conditions that make costs the poor quality high. Now when I interviewed them the invisible factor going on in their minds was they were frantic and frenetic. Their minds were going where they were so rushed that when they were meeting with me for a half an hour they were looking at their watches I remember saying to one of them John you have a pill to take or something? What do you mean? You’re looking at your watch every few seconds. What is it? Well you have no idea how much you have to do. I have to, I have work sitting on my desk. How long is this going to take? Half an hour to them was like an eternity. Now, this was true of every person. If you went into the corridor you’d see people rushing around. They weren’t walking, they were half jogging. OK. Now the implications of this is that rushed people in life make more mistakes than non-rushed people. When people rush, they make mistakes. That’s one thing. The other thing was they were so rushed that they would skip steps in the process, because they didn’t have time for them. And because they would skip steps it would end up as scrap. So what the company did to solve that is they put in more supervision. Well the more supervision took their time and they became more rushed and when they became more rushed, they skipped more steps. And when they skipped more steps they had more cost of poor quality and that wasn’t even the worst of it. The worst of it, you know how I said earlier that they felt that a lot of the cost of poor quality is because their bids weren’t right. Bidding too little to do the job. Well the reason that the bids weren’t right is because they were so rushed that they didn’t have time to meet and think through each project before they put in their bid, so you know what they did? Each person would send an email. And somebody would take the e-mails and try to come up with a bid. They didn’t think it through. They didn’t think what difficulties might we have that we’re not anticipating? What type of a slush fund should we have in there? How much is this really going to cost? What problems are we going to have with the suppliers. Everything was done on the fly and to their amazement the bids were either, they either bid too much, in which case they’d lose the case or they’d been too little in which case they would be up against the wheels, up against the blades in their way they dealt with up against the blades was to rush, so in my mind and in their minds once I talked to them, the whole problem was put into a six inch area the distance between their ears. So we did a program to show them how the mind works, show them how thoughts made their thinking very inefficient. The velocity of their thoughts, we showed them the relationship between rushing and being overwhelmed and making mistakes, they began to tell us about skipping steps and how that added to their problems. Now, when it was all said and done not only did they eliminate the 40 million dollars but they even found secondary uses for some of the things they made. Originally they would make it for one person for one time but they found some secondary users so they had they had a zero cost of poor quality. They even had a plus a little bit because of those uses. Now that factor of rushing what was going on in their mind of being overwhelmed, they would have a meeting and people would walk out and they wouldn’t even remember what was said in the meeting because they were distracted, that whole world of psychological functioning and feeling states was completely invisible to them. Once it was made visible they on their own made adjustments because every human being is connected to the intelligence behind life and that intelligence informed them how they could use their minds better and it kept them at a same pace. And that’s why they had no future cause of poor quality.

[00:25:09.05] Ankush: So it sounds like this was not only costing them you know in terms of mentally mental well-being but it was a huge bottom-line cost, there that you’ve talked about. Now you’ve worked on a lot of businesses would you say that was an uncommon business or do you think that’s something that you see in a number of businesses that you’ve worked?

[00:25:28.18] George: In my mind state of mind healthy psychological functioning psychological fitness is another way I talk about those things as synonyms. That to me is the last discriminator. The only discriminator competitive discriminator left because the other ones have been used up, you know like work ethic. Right. I mean every company has good work ethic. There’s not that much difference between the work ethic in companies. Technology, maybe you’re ahead in technology but I assure you the people are catching up as we speak. Credentials, people say well we’ve got people with good credentials. Well, every company is looking for good credentials you can’t get better credentials in your company than other people. Incentives was thought of that’s how you could improve your business, that’s a competitive discriminator. It’s not a competitive discriminator anymore because the people who don’t need the incentives are getting all the rewards. And the people who don’t work are not as creative as they should be, don’t even try to get the incentives because they’re competing with the people who are very good and much better than them and creative. So incentives is a wash, you see. So creativity is a discriminator but until you understand where creativity comes from, it comes from the mind, it doesn’t come from all from experience it comes from the state of mind that you’re in. So if you if you see state of mind as a competitive discriminator you’ll be able to see that it’s even behind all the things that I have mentioned, in other words the traditional discriminators are all state of mind driven. Work ethic is state of mind driven, people don’t have a poor work ethic because they don’t care about the company, they do it because they struggle with bad feelings, they don’t like discomfort so they come off as lazy. Logical advantages come from a state of mind, of creativity. So the healthier people are, and the better the climate is because people are in the healthy state the more synergy you’re going to have amongst your employees and that’s what’s going to give you advanced creativity that will give you a technological advantage. There isn’t a single competitive advantage that doesn’t rest and depend on people’s state of mind, it’s nothing you do that will improve your company other than the psychological fitness of your employees.

[00:28:44.19] Ankush: What you’re saying is very interesting George because it explains why they’re now and we’ve seen them in recent years, huge companies both in the US, UK and further afield who’ve got great people working for them. They’ve got you know training budgets they’ve got everything else, they’ve got the brand name and yet they’ve folded, gone into administration and really struggled. And whilst we now certainly in the UK have seen people are taking wellbeing and you know trying to look after people more and more and yet the costs of stress anxiety etc are increasing. And what you’ve just started around, state of mind being the only discriminator well the last discriminator really makes sense because if that’s what’s being overlooked it’s no surprise and it explains why companies are failing to adapt and are failing and also why costs of mental wellbeing are going up. Would you agree with that?

[00:29:42.04] George: 100%, I think if you step back from it you can see logically how it happens because once a business doesn’t do as well, what’s to say the business cycle and you’re in a little bit of a recession it feeds on itself, and you say well what about in good markets George? That feeds on itself too because people get fat and unhappy when their functioning isn’t good. Instead of taking advantage of a good market, they work less and they get lazy, because of what’s going on in their minds. So it hurts them on both ends, and the stress, and I’m not even bringing up the fact that the stress has a cost in terms of absentee, in terms of people leaving the company, happy to replace them. The medical cost of employee assistance programmes, now if you raise the level of psychological functioning in England say, by 10%, so people are more resilient, they have more freedom to reflect, they get over things faster, they feel warmer towards others, they have a good rapport with other people. That would have maybe a 50-60% increase in productivity because everything would get better all at once, costs would go down, and sales would go up.

[00:31:16.26] Ankush: So what would be the one takeaway or the main takeaways you want people who are listening to this episode to leave with, what would you want them to kind of tie it with?

[00:31:28.10] George: Well the one takeaway I would have is that there’s good news and bad news in this presentation, which do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?

[00:31:39.27] Ankush: Let’s go with the good news.

[00:31:39.27] The good news is, what’s going on in your mind, is providing the script for your life, and in businesses what’s going on in the minds of the employees is their success factor is their potential, is a way to increase productivity, very quickly and very significantly. The bad news is what’s going on in your mind is shooting you in the foot, everything you’re trying. Like you know how they have these books on value, well it shoots you in the foot, you can’t do these values unless you have psychological functioning that allows you to do it. In order to be generous you have to have a certain medical well-being that allows you to get away from your own needs at some point and be generous with others, so to tell someone to be generous isn’t enough, so everything, the mind, and understanding the mind is what improves people’s psychological functioning. So there’s all kinds of resources I’m sure you can list on your site. You know we have online courses and there’s people that we learn from, there are webinars like yours, if you just understand the mind a little bit better, you’ll see an improvement in your day-to-day experience of life.

[00:33:14.17] Ankush: Well that’s a good point and I know you’ve got some fantastic audios and products on your website. If people wanted to get hold of you George, if they wanted to find out more about the work you do, what’s the best way for them to do that?

[00:33:25.18] George: Well, we have a website, pranskyandassociates.com, and if you have something specific like if you’re a business and you’re saying, well this is a problem that we have, we want something, not just general, you can call us, 360-466-5200, so we do calls with people to kind of scope out what we might do for them, and we also try to collect, if we don’t end up doing something for them, we will clarify what needs to be done, because we’ll show them what it will take in the minds of their people in order to solve this particular thing that they have, this particular problem that they have.

[00:34:13.27] Ankush: Well thank you for joining again George, that was a fantastic episode, and I’ll be back next time with another interviewee for the Business Series Podcast.

[00:34:22.27] George: Well I’m really glad you’re doing this and I love the cast of characters that you’ve brought in to do this, you have really top people doing these talks, I’m honoured to be among that group.

[00:34:34.18] Ankush: Thank you so much George, really appreciate it. 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, as I love hearing from listeners and I want to keep creating great content for you. Thanks for listening.