Bruce Tulgan is a prolific bestselling author and now avid podcaster (check out The Indispensables
), for which he graciously interviewed me
recently. (He also graciously wrote an article about me in Forbes
where he is a frequently contributor on Leadership Strategy. Check it out here
Given Bruce’s penchant for providing iconoclastic advice like “it’s ok to manage your boss,” or “Not everyone gets a trophy” as the subject of his many books, or interviewing guests with provocative perspectives on various leadership strategies, I thought it would be fun to “lift up the hood” on Bruce’s trademark “Rainmaker Thinking” in this week’s edition of #HackstheNewsletter. In our exclusive Q&A below, you’ll hear why Bruce launched a pandemic podcast, what people really don’t know about him and more.
AJR: What inspired you to start your podcast during the pandemic?
BT: I’ve been doing research on the workplace since 1993 and turned it into a bunch of books, white papers and articles. However, along the way I’ve given more than 2,000 speeches and seminars on our work, and frankly I’m getting sick of my own voice. I wanted to something where I could put a spotlight on some other voices. I’ve interviewed so many people over the years for our research, and I love learning about and from people in that manner. When we are doing talent assessments, I don’t ask a bunch of cookie cutter questions, but rather I really try to learn about and from the people I’m interviewing. And those conversations can be really interesting. I’ve worked with so many amazing leaders over the years — in business, in the military, in NGOs. Most of the first forty or so episodes were basically a bunch of my own clients whom I’ve admired a great deal: So, for example, General Dennis Reimer, who was chief of staff of the United States Army for four years and a great American hero was my leadoff guest; and Major General Greg Lengyel, who was deputy commanding general of US Joint Special Operations Command. I had the CHRO of the NBA on; COO of the YMCA Retirement Fund; Ray Blanchette, the CEO of TGI Fridays. I’ve also had a professional Zoo-keeper! And political science professors. And the woman who saved Connecticut Hospice. And of course dazzling entrepreneurs like Alyssa Rapp!
My goal is to shine a bright light on each guest and let their voice and their story and their wisdom come through.
The pandemic made it all possible because I went from traveling 200 days a year to not traveling one bit for fifteen months.
AJR: What are the key “hacks” you have gleaned from your decades of life as a consultant- your top 3 key takeaways that prove consistent organizations, industries, leaders, etc?
BT: Well, I give a lot of advice to a lot of people based on our best-practices research. But I love the concept of “hacks” because it implies an individually actionable tip that gives a person disproportionate leverage; a technique with impact. So with that in mind, here are three that are broadly applicable:
i.Take notes. Whenever you talk with anybody about anything important, take notes visibly. Taking notes will help you remember and keep track of things; it will give you a contemporaneous record of prior conversations to reference in future conversations, and it sends a powerful message that you are listening carefully and paying attention.
ii. Schedule regular structured one-on-ones —at least once a week or every other week — with anyone who works with you a lot, especially your boss; anybody who reports to you; and your primary teammates and cross-functional collaboration partners. One way to decide who to focus on: Who are your most frequent interrupters? And who do you interrupt most frequently? Focus in every conversation on clarifying expectations in detail; exactly who is going to do what, how, and when; end every conversation with clear ownership and timing concrete next-steps and “when will we talk next?”
iii. Spend time in the short term to save time in the intermediate and longer term: Exercise so you live longer. Prevent problems. Identify problems quickly and solve them before they get out of control. Make sure YOU are not doing anything (failing to deliver a piece of the puzzle) slowing down somebody else who is going to do some of the heavy lifting in pursuit of the same mission. Sequence activities logically (i.e. start working on the bread early because it takes time for the dough to rise). Learn to delegate: Spell out not just goals but work together on a plan of concrete actions, with clear guidelines and timelines. Avoid troublemakers and recalcitrant low performers. Bend over backward to be valuable to superstars
AJR: What’s the one thing most people don’t know about you?
BT:Gosh, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I talk a lot about my passions. Anybody who knows me probably knows I am a person of faith; that I am wild about my wife with whom I’ve been together for 36 years and, by the way, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2007; that I’m fiercely patriotic; that I’ve been really into practicing Karate since I was seven and, by the way, my teacher since I was seven has lived with us since 2015; that I have always loved the Beatles; I have always loved the Red Sox (I bleed little red socks!). Lately, most people would have a hard time missing that I’m madly in love with my dog Bentley, whom I’ve known well since 2018, but only took custody of at the end of 2020. I guess those who don’t know me well would probably have some surprises in there.
AJR: Where do people buy your books?
BT: Well, of course, this is the question my publishers enjoy the most. And, after all, I don’t have children— just books. The short answer is, wherever books are sold. I’ve published a total of 21, but the last six are definitely the best ones. I’m on a pretty good roll. I’m very proud that my new book “The Art of Being Indispensable at Work” is published by Harvard Business Review Press, kind of a career-long ambition. Of course, you can always learn more about our work at our website www.rainmakerthinking.com