Hello and welcome to the Career Success podcast. I’m Jason Connolly. If you are a regular listener it’s great to have you back, but if you’re knew welcome to the show in this insightful and thought provoking series.
We speak to business leaders and people have had high levels of career success but also up and coming an emerging business talent. We speak to such a variety of people across a wide range of different industries and we speak about their stories, their backgrounds, the trials and tribulations in order to reach the top over recent episodes, there’s been some really interesting stories. We also talk about success habits of what these people do in order to ensure they stay at the top of their game. Listen and find out hints and tips to help you in the world of business. How do you set up your own business and make sure it’s a success? How to drive business growth and get your company notice? Practical advice to help you in your career from those who have made it? In this episode, I’m joined by Peter Kozodoy. Peter is the author of Honest to Greatness. How today’s greatest leaders use brutal honesty to achieve massive success. Peter is an Inc 5000 serial entrepreneur. Ted X Speaker and business coach. She works with organisations and their leaders to help them overcome self limiting brutal dishonesty and rubbish and how to use honesty to achieve greatness. His articles and leadership featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post PR Daily and more. He holds a BA in economics from Brandeis University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He lives just outside NYC with his wife and their spoiled dog, Peter, thanks so much for joining me on so it’s great to have you on the show. My pleasure, Jason. So first of all, your Ted X talk, honest to greatness. I was watching it earlier on today. It’s really, really interesting. A lot of our conversation today is going to be about honesty with your book. With the Ted X talk and everything that you do. But how did this all kind of come about for you? In start going onto this path about honesty. How did this all kind of get started? Yeah, interesting thing. You know when you write a book about honesty, you get to be honest, right? So I know the truth is Jason, I never set out to write about, speak about or frankly even care about honesty. It wasn’t even on my radar. I actually sat down to write what I thought was a marketing book and marketing book came out of my frustrations of having seen just all the leaders in boardrooms that I worked in in for. Since I started my first company at. 22 out of college an over the years we worked with everyone from startups to Fortune 500 and even Warren Buffett himself. And it always could never quite figure out this weird phenomena that I saw in my clients would fall into two camps. The first camp we would go into their bright line employees and customers and do surveys and focus groups and unearth all these great insights and bring it back to the executive team. Or look OK. And this is what they’re saying. This is what they think you are and what you need to be. And this is what we need to do. And some of our clients would would take that and go like, Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense. Let’s do that and they would just crush it and they would get 5 six times ROI with us. We’d make them millions of dollars that stay with us for years. Others we would do the same kind of work Frontline employees customers. Here’s what they say. Here’s what they think. Here’s what they need to do. Here’s what they think you are. Here’s what needs to change, and they would look at it and they would just like blow up on the launchpad. They would descend into ego and infighting and politics, and why? I guess that’s what the data says. But I don’t really think that’s true. And then like. What an eye it just couldn’t figure out a baffled me, so I sat down to write marketing book query 400 literary agents, most of whom did not get back to me, many of whom did get back to me and said, please never email me again. You’re never going to be an author, you suck, and three of them took a meeting and one of them actually sign me in as soon as he did. He said, you know, by the way, Peter, this isn’t really a book about marketing and spoke about honesty, and I said, well, I just signed with the only literary agent in the world who can’t read. Apparently because this is nothing to do with honesty. And what the hell you talking about.
And lo and behold, as I went back, and I was looking through it, I was like, OK, Wow, he’s absolutely right. This is much bigger than just Mount marketing or sales. It’s really about you know what. What do we believe as leaders and as a society an you know what works to achieve outcomes in a business setting or even in life. In a century where everyone is walking around with a smartphone, right? We have more transparency than ever before. What what’s working now? And it is. This weapon I’ve coined as strategic brutal honesty, and I’ve sort of made that my mission to help leaders and organisations understand that this is it’s not about listen. I mean, like, I was very happy. The book premiere is number one on Amazon two categories. One of those categories was business ethics. Look Jason, I think people should be ethical, right? I think they should be, you know, nice and moral and all that crap, but that’s not what this book is about. This book is about how do you earn outsized profitability? How do you annihilate your competitors? In a world that’s more transparent than ever before, and the way the method is honesty, well, I was the target market for this book. Was it dishonest people or? I think it was my wife. The point of this automation is like the people who really need to read this, or the ones that will never pick it up. You know that right? And I said yeah, of course, yeah, right? Of course. How do you get them to read it? You know, I hope that the book ends up. You know, naturally towards the folks that that really need it. But but in addition, I wrote this book for the folks that actually get get it. You know, we’re working cultures that are misaligned, right? Who work under leaders who don’t embrace the truth, don’t. Look at the data and make rational objective decisions because it’s like, hey, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy. You know there actually are leaders out there who understand honesty, weaponise. Honestly, I tell the stories of a ton of them from Quicken Loans to Domino’s Pizza to Berkshire Hathaway to Bethany Frankel to an 11 year old Girl Scout. They sold 30,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. I mean, over and over again. The way you know, the way to achieve these outcomes was was through honesty. So it’s sort of, I would say everyone in business. Anyone who wants to. Understand you know what it takes to to have a transformation. We can talk about this book definitely in more detail, but were never going to unpack everything. But this book has to offer through this half an hour, but it sounds to me initially with this book was wrote from a place of kind of frustration from you for being in these situations. Was it coming from that place? Was it coming from a place of more? You know, trying to problem solve what the problems are at board level of these big corporations or companies that you work with? It was totally frustration. I tell people you know, if you want to write something you can be proud of, and that’s really compelling. Ask yourself what really ****** you off. You want to go out there and change and I would you know that can be my legacy and I’ve always sort of thought about life in terms of the long term right? In fact, I make the case that to be honest is to think long term and only long term because that’s really the you know the wise thing to plan for is as many of the best leaders in the world or were best investors in the world will tell you what’s interesting is I wrote it out of frustration in the way that we’ve talked about. Right seeing these leaders and just not being able to come up with an explanation for. I mean listen I in every course that could have taken at undergrad, I took it at the Business School, ended up back at Columbia, did an MBA. I can promise you, Jason, there is no course on what to do when the CEO abandons all sense of logic and rationale in favour of ego. That is not a course title. You’re going to see right? And yet you see it over and over and over again. So the first point of frustration was that. And the second point of frustration that that’s much more personal is I was going through, you know, when I sat down to write this book, I was going through my own. Crisis of honesty and I had just crossed the 30 threshold and turned the big Three O and that was a devastating time in my life and I really had to get honest about who I even was. What I really wanted. I built a 7 figure business and I wasn’t even happy about it. Was like what’s going on here. You know what’s really true here and then having to struggle to figure that out taught me the personal side of honesty by OK you mentioned in University, but people aren’t gonna talk this. Do you think that people are ’cause? I often figure in universities people aren’t all come in the real. Our skills of what they actually need that taught the theory and practice behind you know the industry of which they’re in. But these real life skills are things that you know a lot of the time admitted from. Kind of University courses and things like that. Do you agree? Well, I think we sort of know like we’ve all seen that thing like. Well, it’s all about people, yeah, but it’s I don’t think that’s emphasised enough that like, no, no. It’s really, really about the people. It’s not about the spreadsheets, not about the valuation models is not about discounted cash flows, is not like. It’s about do you understand human psychology? Do you understand honestly what makes them tick? Do you understand how groups of people work, and if you can understand that you can absolutely kill it in business and that fits into a. I use a framework in the book I call the hourglass of honesty and the second level is getting honest with and about the others around you. And if you can understand that if you can understand how to get honest with the people around, you know personal and professional life and how to get honest about the people around you, you know about. There he goes, their fears, their desires, their self limiting beliefs. You can absolutely crush it in business because so few folks take the time to be a studier of that. It takes more than just one person to be honest. If you’ve got a company culture, you work in a company that has an inherent dishonest culture. I think a culture is something that it’s really difficult to change a culture. Do you think that you can apply honesty to accompany that? Maybe isn’t used to working in that way. If one person speaks out there, not. You know he’s the kind of pendulum going towards the blame and do you think it’s something that it has to be a whole company culture of that honesty is the best policy for that to work. It is absolutely. You can use honesty no matter who you are and where you are. If you’re the janitor, if you’re the CEO, if you’re an entrepreneur of a startup, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Honesty works universally and in part three of the book I actually take you through like here’s how to use it as an entrepreneur. Here’s how to use it as a middle manager right here, but The thing is, we have to use it in different ways, right? This is the same weapon that. When you change the warrior, it can’t be wielded in the same way. So for instance, you know to your point. If you have a frontline employee or middle manager that’s going to walk in the CEO’s office and say, hey, you’re a lying sack of crap and you know this organisation says that one of its core values is speed and the slowest damn organisation ever worked for in my life. And like what’s going on here, it’s probably a good way to get fired, right? So there are ways there are tactics that I lay out in the book to get around that. One of them is don’t go it alone. You know it’s very easy. For a manager to dismiss one wayward employee, it’s very difficult to dismiss 10 of them. Schedule a time on the calendar, walk in with the presentation an make it together as a united front. Saying, like hey, here’s here’s what we’re seeing, and because we care about the place we work in because we want you to be successful. Here’s what we want to show you, and the second, very important part of that Jason is bring data. This can’t be like we think, and we feel, and we believe it’s like, no, this is what the data is saying. And literally, I mean, people have said to me like. Now I have this whole book Peter that you wrote full of case studies. I can actually use these and I’m like. Yeah, no kidding. That’s why I wrote it. So you can literally take these cases and say hey, look at what? What can happen when we embrace honesty. And by the way, look at the opportunity cost were incurring when we’re not being honest and in all these strategic and tactical ways, so it needs to be wielded. And I want everyone to feel empowered out there that no matter where you are in the organisation, you can use this very effectively. Did you have a kind of talking end of the book? More rain towards directors and CEOs or? Was this kind of a one glove fit? So guide to you, know, achieving greatness. No matter who you are, where you are, you know in an organisation. Yeah, I mean, it’s a good question Jason, because it violates my answer to your question about who’s at 4 violates like the central tenet of marketing, right? Which is the narrow right? Dinero have an itch. And really, I mean, The thing is, if honesty is the best policy an every human being learned that at two years old, then shouldn’t it work universally? And that’s what I set out? That was the question in my mind. Where does this work and where doesn’t it work and how do I prove that one way or the other and Intel and honest story right? And you know over the course of framing out the book and thankfully my publisher was really helpful ’cause the first draft I wrote was, I think in the British parlance absolute rubbish. I don’t know if I captured the accent, I felt the essence, my stuff. So you know what they help me understand is structurally how do I lay this out in a way that accomplishes that exact goal? Does this work universally? And so Part 2 of the book literally takes you through. Like what is honesty look like? And how do you use it in sales in marketing, in management, in culture, right? In finance, in account like all of the different facets of business and loan? Behold, I was able to find exceptional examples in every single one to help folks answer exactly that question. Like what, what can it do for? Me and of course I talk, you know, at the centre of the book about getting honest within about yourself, because oftentimes like, let’s be honest, right? How many of us run around trying to control the things we can’t control and Meanwhile the one thing we can control is ourselves. And yet so few of us are willing to be honest with ourselves and so we can totally agree that ability, you know, it’s very sad. We’ve kind of honesty. Do you think that the world is becoming generally more honest now in terms of business? Because you mentioned about transparency about the well being more connected, we all are more than ever. Do you think we’re moving more towards an honest way of doing business or did you know do you think we we haven’t changed in the last decade? One of the examples listed out to me in the text or that you did was you mentioned about Blockbuster next flicks and that and that kind of example. Do you think we’re getting more honest as a kind of one world nation? Yeah, it’s funny. As I’ve gotten the comment that like Peter, you say you know it’s a transparent world and we’re getting more honest but. You know, look at all the dishonesty out there. Look at all the corporate scandals. Look at all the political scandals and I turned to them. And I smile. And I say yes, exactly, exactly now, there’s nowhere to hide all of those things eventually come out, you know, the truth comes out. We have that phrase in the English language, and that’s what we’re seeing. So while it can appear like we’re more dishonest than ever, that is transparency at work. And so my thesis is that from here humanity goes one of two directions. Either we descend into a global society in which we decide. Yeah, let’s just keep lying to each other. Let’s just keep ************ each other. Let’s just keep you know where nobody’s going to tell the truth and we’re just going to see how that happens or people are going to say to themselves. You know if everyone’s going to find out the truth anyway. In the long run, maybe I should make a different choice here. I have hope that it’s the latter. I don’t know Crystal ball, so I can’t tell you which ones which, but we do know anyone with a child can tell you that humans behave differently in the dark than they do in the light. Right when there’s a camera on someone, or when mom and Dad are watching or like you’re going to behave differently. This is human nature. So what I’m hoping is we all recognise social media and smartphones and everyones recording someone somewhere as as that big spotlight and begin to change our behaviour. And I think we’re already listen. The evidence that we’re moving that direction is all around us. We were having conversations about race, gender, pay, equity, political divides, all sorts of I mean, look at all the documentaries that are. Coming out about hey, we thought this about food and now we know this about dieting. I mean that it’s upon us pay people are craving on the level of exposure and a level of transparency. And I think I think Netflix is 1 platform where you go on there and there’s documentary after documentary about things that have been covered up in the hidden and I think I’ve always adopted an honest policy so I could never imagine having a dishonest policy to business. But I can see businesses I’ve worked with over the years. Haven’t had that policy, but haven’t had that level of transparency and where they’ve kind of fallen flat over the years and even my business is kind of. I think the recruitment industry has an awful reputation as an industry anyway that people not necessarily telling the truth, and I think that’s why it’s been so easy to stand out. One thing that I was reading here on the sort of case studies and interviews that you conducted at Bridgewater Associates, Quicken Loans Domino’s Pizza, the Ritz Carlton, and so on you had down here that you can attract and inspire the best talent in. Any industry who only really attract one thing now. I don’t want to say the honest the obvious, but is that honesty? 100 client for awhile right? Yeah, and I touched on this a little earlier. One of their core values was something like speak OK every single initiative this company tried to do took forever. I mean literally they needed 18 sign offs and four PowerPoint presentations, but people only ever looked at two of them and way too many cooks in the kitchen and they had to vet every alternative. It was a total pain in the neck to get anything done. Yeah, and here’s the problem with that people come in. They have an expectation speed. OK, great, that’s good. I resonate with speed. OK, now one month in they realize that’s weird we had that meeting an initiative, and that’s not moving fast at all. It must be a fluke. Two months go by six months, go by and now they’re frustrated. They were excited that they were going to have speed and now they don’t have speed. And this is when you get really good people who leave, you know, they leave because they’re not a fit for the organisation they leave because they’re not a fit with their boss, right? That’s actually the number one reason who’s usually carrying out an edict from the organisation and their core values culture. So this presents a massive problem for recruiting and retention, and the ping pong table in the corner is not going to make up for that. Now imagine Jason if that company just said, you know what our one of our core values is. Being slow as hell. We love being slow. We love taking our time. We don’t do anything quick. We like to daughter eyes and cross Ortiz and bet every alternative. And then what they would what would happen is they would attract people that are like oh thank goodness I hate rushing. I love dotting my eyes and crossing my T’s like this is fantastic. And they would feel at home and that would be a much better way to attract and retain the right kind of people that are going to fit the culture. But there’s this weird thing where companies try to pretend to be something that they’re not, and that’s when you get into the most danger is managing expectations, and I think speaking to me as a recruiter, I know that all too well. One of the number one reasons people leave is managing of expectations, which again goes back to honesty. So you work as a business coach. Obviously coaching people across the whole. Range of different industries. What is it that you tend to find the successful traits that people have really risen to the top in any industry seemed to have from your experience of working in different businesses. And you know having exposure across the board? What is it that you tend to find that you know make someone successful? Versus maybe someone who starts a business that doesn’t make it to the top? What have you kind of learned over the years? Interesting question. I think one of the I mean, listen mindsets everything. First of all, I have a quote that’s you know entrepreneurship leadership is 10% about. Business 100% about people and 1000% about the self and the entrepreneurs I’ve coached to have made it had a very unique and objectively honest mindset. The internal chatter went something like this. I have no idea whether I’m going to be successful or not. I have no idea exactly how I’m going to figure out this particular problem, but today and tomorrow and the day after, I’m just going to keep doing the activities that I know should eventually lead. To success, and they have that attitude and they take those actions without the emotional involvement that my least performing clients have the least performing ones come from a place of I’m going to be a millionaire. And there’s, you know, there’s a sort of desperate emotional plea that goes into their vision of the future. And because they’re obsessed with that vision, they actually fail. They block themselves. From just doing the objective daily in the trenches work, do you think it’s the focus of what people are actually focusing on their core value? Because I guess some of it’s focusing on I want to be a millionaire and solely focusing on the money and the byproduct is missing. Maybe the focus of delivering the great service or focusing on the product. I guess if James Dyson just focused on cutting profit margins and having a Hoover that was the cheapest in parts regardless of your viewing Dyson Hoovers then maybe he would have, you know, come up with whoever that was. Revolutionary at the time. Do you think it’s about focusing on the right thing in business? Then I think it’s partly unfocused, but I think it’s a lot to do with belief. You know, belief in self and you know, really being comfortable with like who you are and what you want. And most importantly what it’s going to take to get there. And the last part is the part I think people love to lie to themselves about, which is what it takes to get there. Alright, OK? OK, I’m hearing so I want to build a $1,000,000 company. I did $10,000 in sales this past week. You know there are a million things that could be wrong, right? But one of the things that’s usually wrong is they haven’t thought through their business model to even understand what makes $1,000,000 company right like what? What business model? What kind of customer, what kind of profits? What kind of process do you even need to have to get to 7 figures or 8 figures or so on and so forth? Most haven’t even done that kind of work, but like oh, I, you know I made $10,000 next stop million. It’s like that’s not. That’s not honest. Have not. The reason is what drives you these days the same as what drove you when you was at the? You know, those early days of you being in your early 20s growing a business? Or has your kind of drivers changed as you’ve got, you know progressed more in your career and got wiser and maybe older and so on. Yeah, imagine like anyone you know my my drivers have totally changed. I’ve started to ask myself different questions now because I went through my sort of crisis of 30 and had this deep feeling like I hadn’t done enough. And so I set out some really big goals for myself. One of them was. Write a book and Ted X talk. I had a bunch of them and literally like this past summer when I launched honest to greatness, those are now all done. So I was like Oh yeah, well, now what the hell do I do? An it really made me it forced me to reflect back on like all the cycles that have now endured. And what’s interesting that I’ve learned about time and reflection is after going through not one but two and three sort of cycles of life where things sort of come and cycle through and move on to the next thing. It’s like OK in a world where there are only more cycles and then more cycles. It’s not about like oh, if I don’t climb this mountain, I’m a failure like well, there’s plenty of other mountains in this. Plenty of other ways to define failure and successes, but so you know it’s just sort of broadened the way I look at it. All kinds of things, and it’s made me ask like it’s maybe ask a very important question, which I like everyone to ask, which is what would be even better than that. You know, I feel like in my 20s I was so like close mine. It’s like oh build multi $1,000,000 company, right? It’s I could have stopped to ask myself like what would be even better than that. And they probably would have come up with build a multimillion dollar company while living on the beach in Mexico. And you know what? I had like other criteria, you know. And so I want people to sort of take those Blinders off. Realize that there are self limiting. BS, oftentimes can prevent them, help them achieve success only for them to see that like oh success could have been so much better. I, I really failed to define it. How do you define success? I defined it as a feeling you’ve come to define it as a feeling now like if you feel successful, you’re successful. That’s it. Stop. Up in the great explanation, I think it seems to be The thing is Jason. I wouldn’t have believed that like 10 years ago, right? You could have told me that I could have heard on a podcast would have been like what an idiot that guy is applied to learn that the hard way that you do in your 20s. I think you do. I think sometimes it takes to get into your 30s and 40s to realize that and you know my definition of it is changed. As I’ve got older I tie it into happiness. Now is how I define success. We’re going up to the end of our time together. I’m really enjoying this conversation, but we have a lot of people who listen to this show who. Starting out in business, who you know it may be graduating from college, University, or people who starting up businesses and kind of in those early stages of journey. Now obviously the one thing we can take away from this conversation is definitely honesty. But what? What advice would you give to people who may be starting out on this business journey? Being in a much wiser and much more kind of advanced age in your career now? It’s so simple to go and find a mentor who’s done what you’re trying to do and ask them. Here’s what I find happens right, ’cause I’ve literally mentored, like hundreds of entrepreneurs. Now what happens is first time entrepreneur gets idea, thinks their idea is the most amazing thing in the world, sets about doing the idea, crosses their mind at some point. Like maybe I should ask someone who’s done this before, like a more successful entrepreneur like what I should do and what I should change. But then they don’t and the reason why they don’t is just pure ego. They don’t want to hear that their idea may suck. They don’t want to hear that the things they put in motion probably aren’t the best use of their. Time or resources and that they may want to do these other things over here, you know you asked me about most successful clients and not like the most successful clients. I say do this this and that. I had a client a couple of years ago. He was balancing a family business and he had sort of moved away from that and he was trying to launch his own thing and the business he was trying to launch was a terrible business. It’s just a bad business model and I told him that I was like that’s bad business model was tell me about your family business. He said I don’t know if we don’t do that. So I really want to be an entrepreneur and prove myself and I was like listening. That family business is a great business. They’re willing to have you go prove yourself there. The only reason you won’t do that is because of ego is big and you sit there and you say to yourself, no, I can’t build on what someone else did I gotta do my own thing and it was difficult for him. But he took my advice and three years later he was is a multi millionaire. He said Peter, I never, you know I. How do I think? I mean this is I really needed to hear that because it was in my own head and it’s not that hard, right? There are certain things that make a business great. There are certain things an entrepreneur should be doing. And 90% of the things entrepreneurs do. They should not be doing it all, and if you were honest enough to hear those things, you two will be successful. Just make sure you don’t let your ego get involved. Yeah, I agree with that. I think for me I I didn’t necessarily reach out to people in the early stage of my career because I think it was sort of thinking no one is going to give me the time of day me going to more experienced people, but I think now I’ve got older and wiser myself. I realize that actually a lot of the time people are all too willing to help, but you know, I think mine was was probably lacking. Ego was the reason I did it. Go to people. Yeah, it could be. There’s so many mentor groups now out there. I mean, yes, LinkedIn is people love to help. Specially people have done the trenches, you know and gone 10s of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars into debt doing the wrong stuff. They’re happy to help you avoid that. Yep, I agree on a closing note, Peter, if people want to find out more about you and your text talks and the book, where can they go to? Sure. So come have an honest conversation at honest to greatness.com. That’s honest TO. Greatness.com there you can take the 21 question honesty quiz is totally free. It will tell you your honesty profile if you’re brave enough to find out. It’s free free 21 question quiz. It gets you into the material and of course pick up a copy of honest to greatness. Wherever books are sold, grabbing for your team. It’s really great to work through with your work team or with your company. And if you want to buy some books through me, I’ll actually do a little half hour workshop with your team as well. Fantastic, yeah you can do over there. Just my only warning is like try not to like get a copy for someone and hand it to them with like a wink and be like oh you really need this one that probably won’t go over well, no, I can imagine that’s probably not the best way to start the engagement process of the journey to honesty is to insinuate a level of dishonesty. Listen, Peter is absolutely lovely to speak to you. Everyone find out more. They can also go to your website.
Goes right there and it’s easier to write OK, fantastic Peter. Thank you so much for joining me on this podcast. It’s been enlightening. It’s been really refreshing to hear your views and that’s it. For this episode of the Career Success Podcast, do join me another time. I’m Jason Connolly. Thanks very much goodbye.