Making Leaders Grow by Making Them Uncomfortable

We talk to Michael Cabe, the Leadership Execution Manager at the Home Depot. In this episode, we talk about achieving exponential growth in leadership development by making leaders uncomfortable.


00:01                           Hi and welcome to leadership activation. Today my guest is Michael Gabe. He is the leadership execution manager for the Home Depot. Michael, thank you so much for being on the program today. No, thank you for having me. Yeah, so I’m really interested. First of all, I love the title of your, that you, that you operate under leadership execution that pretty much says it all. If you asked me threatening, right. But tell us a little bit about how did you get started in this whole journey of leadership development?

00:43                           Sure. So for me it’s always been a lifelong journey. I’ve managed to find myself and no matter where I worked or what I did, looking for a way to develop leaders, started out working at summer camps and it moved into the college years working with organizations and found myself just keep pulling over towards training development and really how do we unleash the potential of individuals where they are to make sure that the most effective where they’re currently at and get them to start thinking about tomorrow. Uh, went over, initially had a job with the University of Georgia or I did orientation with them and I led a essentially orientation for them as onboarding for all new students. So how do we build leaders to onboard brand new students and their parents. From there I moved over to emory. Healthcare, had a great opportunity there to work with a very young careerist as folks that were starting out in very beginning.

01:36                           So we would take them, we would bring them directly out of their undergraduate or graduate degree programs. We would put them into what will be made known as heat experiences to get them exposure and experiences outside of what they would normally get in a daily role. And during the time they really were able to get a couple of years experience kind of compounded into just one or two years. And it was phenomenal to see how quickly folks grew. And then about two years ago, I had the opportunity to move over here to the home depot, uh, and jumped in with them and actually starting to do more of those heat experiences that I think we’ll probably talk about a little bit later on, uh, with, with our leaders and trying to figure out how do we get folks to have an experience that creates learning, that goes deep into the mindsets and understands how to, how did they really value leadership, what a value in leadership. And that’s been my journey is really understanding how to get people to be their best self and their current location and always looking to see how can they be better.

02:43                           I love that. It’s not every day when you get to talk to people whose love and passion totally aligned with their work, but it sure sounds like you’ve found the right mix there.

02:53                           I did. I’m very fortunate.

02:55                           Um, so like I’m really curious. I mean, you’ve had some great success there. Do you have some guiding principles that you build into every program, every initiative that you launch?

03:08                           Sure, we really do. And, uh, going back to what I mentioned a couple of minutes ago was about the heat experience. It says, what we want to do is we want our leaders to experience what we think is the premier level of leadership. We want them to try out these behaviors and these understandings and are really dive deep into what we hope that they would value in the long run as, as a leader. So with that, these heat experiences, the key to making them successful is they’re uncomfortable. If you’re, if you’re comfortable, you’re not growing, uh, we, we fully live our principal to say there’s a comfort zone that we all tend to fall in a and that’s safe. That’s how we operate every single day. Then there’s this like small inner circle, then you, that as larger outer circle, which is the too far, very, very much outside of my realm of possibility. I can’t do it in somewhere in between that comfort zone and that just can’t do it is uncomfortable zone. And that’s where growth lives. And that’s what we’re always pushing for is how do we make a leader uncomfortable, because if they are uncomfortable. They’re going to grow.

04:22                           I love that. I guess you’ve continued to find yourself in uncomfortable positions along the way. Right?

04:29                           All the time. So its, you know, for me, you know, I’m learning how to really develop programs for job roles that I don’t, I don’t have the job role, so how do I have to take myself and put myself in their shoes and understand how we get uncomfortable and say what are the problem, what’s the problem they’re trying to solve for there? So uncomfortable on a daily.

04:51                           Very, very awesome. Just curious, just to be maybe even more so specific, what would be maybe just one, how would you describe at least one of the initiatives that you have going on that’s really having great impact right now?

05:07                           Sure. So we have a brand of programs called the leadership experience and we branded by the level in which we’re going into. So we have two of them and they’re running parallel right now. One is called the officer leadership experience and you’ll hear me refer to that as Olx. Uh, and the other one is the director leadership experience, which was referred to as dlx. And these are programs that are six months long and we actually utilize do Jubi for. That we have to create heat experiences, group conversations, and the impact that we’re seeing on that is, is quite incredible. Just to give you a quick snapshot into some of the things that we’re measuring on this. We asked the leaders of these individuals immediately the end of a five week session and we said, you know, how do you believe your has changed as a direct result of this program in the moment?

06:01                           As soon as they had wrapped up this program on a scale of one to five, we had a result immediately after the intervention of the 3.91. Well, we took this exact same group of leaders that had their participants in the program and we asked them nine months later and he said, all right, here’s the objective. We were trying to teach them. Do you see that there was a change in their behavior as a result of this program? We went from a 3.91 to a 4.51. We’re saying that not only is this being visible in the moment that we’re doing this intervention, but nine months after the entire program finished, we’re seeing continued growth and these programs and these behaviors that we want and these leaders to exhibit are showing up and their bosses or even saying it’s because of the intervention that you did. So that’s been pretty spectacular.

06:57                           That’s powerful. So you bring up a really important topic that I hear a lot of discussion about and sometimes it gets very fluffy and that is the metric surrounding leader development. And you just mentioned one which sounds like it has to do with pure behavior change, but talk a little bit more about that. And what else would you typically look for as far as the metric or an outcome?

07:26                           Sure, and we have more data than we can shake a stick at. So you know, what are we measuring? Are we measuring the right things? How do we understand that what we’re measuring is showing an impact and that we’re not showing an impact that we want to see. So the good, the bad and the ugly, really having to look into that and say, know let’s hold a mirror up to ourselves and see are we measuring things that make us better for the next time you run this programs? So we’ll look and say it’s something as simple as an attendance. So each week they have a call with their small group and it’s just holding them accountable to say, how can we look at engagement levels? By not only did their meeting happen for the week, but did they attend it? So you’re looking at attendance records on that.

08:12                           Uh, we will actually go in and at the end of each one of our phases. So our programs have four phases. At the end of each phase we will not only ask like, did your behavior change, but did your change in behavior impact the business? And if so, how? Can you actually tell me that because you are acting in aiming in a different way after this intervention. Can you give me a tangible result as to how that behavior change the way you’re impacting the business on a daily basis? And that’s powerful when we’re able to go to our senior leaders and say, listen, here’s a direct output, here’s how it’s showing up in the bottom line that this intervention happen. We can say because someone learned this or they were able to collaborate with someone else, they really added value in a way they hadn’t been able to do before. And here’s the tangible takeaway of how that happened and you’re going to see this in the P and L next year.

09:09                           Wow. Talk about a fantastic way to make sure that you get budget approval. Hey, so, so speaking of which we’re coming up at the end of 2018, people are already certainly planning their initiatives for 2019 it. Any advice for somebody as they’re starting to formulate in a formal way their strategies, their leadership strategies for next year

09:40                           get uncomfortable. We, we have a benchmark and learn from folks across the industry and they’re the folks that I have seen that are doing really remarkable work, are doing things outside their comfort zone. They are stepping out and they’re saying, let’s not just repeat the play lead done last year. Let’s not do the same thing. There are incredible things you can step out of your comfort zone and if your learning to create heat experiences, which are experiences that leaders should be doing but are uncomfortable and you’re getting them to do it within their daily role. What we’re doing in our programs is we’re, we’re blurring the line between learning in your job. So the more we do that, the more we do that as an industry, the less they feel like they’re going to an event and they’re going to learn. Just learning to do and then they’re learning by doing. They’ll get uncomfortable. Try something you haven’t tried before.

10:39                           I love that. That kinda that tagline that you have really become immersed in that you learn by doing. So. Yeah. Well done. Hey Michael, thank you so much for being with us today, sharing your insights and know it will be meaningful to an awful lot of people. So look forward to staying in touch and man, just keep up the great work.

11:08                           Thank you. Thank you. Bye. Bye.


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