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Mindbody Podcast

The BOLD Show | Episode 12 | Leadership


Being a leader is a key trait for any successful business owner and in this episode of the Mindbody BOLD Show, Luke Carlson, CEO, and Founder of Discover Strength shares his 10 fundamentals of leadership and managing others with host Mike Arce.


(Mike) In this episode, I’m here with Luke Carlson, the founder, and CEO of Discover Strength. Luke speaks around the world on the fundamentals of building successful businesses and leadership. He was one of the speakers as the 2017 MINDBODY BOLD Conference, and today he’s going to be sharing his 10 fundamentals for leading and managing people.


Growing a small business isn’t easy, and to be successful we know three things for sure: You have to work hard. You have to be bold. And you must constantly learn. We’re gathering some of the best minds in the business world to share their ideas and strategies with you, so you can grow your business easier, be more profitable, and have a lot more fun being a business owner. We are on a mission to connect the world of wellness and this is The Mindbody BOLD Show.


(Mike) What’s up, everybody! I’m Mike Arce and welcome back to another episode of The BOLD Show. Luke are you ready to be bold? (Luke) Absolutely, Mike. Thanks for having me. I’m excited about being here. (Mike) You have 10 fundamentals for leading and managing people. I’ve gotten to see your videos. You definitely not only appreciate leadership and how important that is to a business, but you’ve studied the game. And you’ve also helped hundreds of people develop leadership within the organization.


(Luke) Absolutely, Mike. I think when it comes down to it, we are all attracted to this industry around the technical work that we do. We are passionate about being a coach, about being a personal trainer, a yoga or Pilates instructor, and that work is important work. My message to the entrepreneur, to the operator in this field, is, the real work, the real calling is that of being a leader and a manager, and really both of them. Because I think that is the best way that I think we can grow our business. And I think when it comes down to it, as satisfying as the work we do in this wellness community is, being a leader and a manager is the most rewarding, fulfilling work we can do. And I want to open up that calling to so many people in this space.


(Mike) Absolutely. There are a lot of people that think they are great leaders, or maybe they even are. But what happens as your organization grows, you have to develop different levels of leadership as you experience more growth, and maybe sub-leaders below you. So, you have 10 fundamentals you are going to share with us on leading and managing people. So, I want to dig right into that. Let’s start with your number 10, and work our way down.


(Luke) Sure. First of all Mike, I think there is a difference between leading and managing. For some reason, over the last 10 years, specifically, we’ve assumed that management is falling out of favor. I want to lead my people. I don’t want to be a manager. Somehow, there’s a negative connotation with being a manager, and I don’t think that is the case. So, I’m going to start with leadership, and then we will move into management. But to be great, I think you really need to understand leadership and management. So, the first leadership practice is providing a clear direction. As the leader of an organization, you have to communicate to your team, this is the direction we are headed in. And the way we do that is just answer some really basic questions, like: What are our core values? Where are we going to be 10 years from now? What’s our big audacious goal? Where are we going to be three years from now? What’s our purpose? Why do we exist? And what’s the niche? The one area we want to be the best in the world at, and put all our energy into that one area. What’s our three-year goal? What’s our one-year goal? And lastly, what are the three things that make us different on paper?


So, that’s about six things I just covered there. Those six elements really define the vision of the business, the direction we’re going in. And after we’ve defined that direction, we have to get everyone else excited about that direction. Because ultimately Mike, no one that works with me—none of my employees want to work for Luke. They don’t want to execute Luke’s vision. They want to be inspired by a vision that becomes theirs. So, the terminology that we use is instead of shared with all, the vision is: shared by all. When you come to work in the morning you want to be a part of that vision. And you want to row in that same direction. So, that’s number one: great leaders provide clear direction, first and foremost.


(Mike) Alright, number two. Let’s dive into number two. (Luke) Number two, is they provide the necessary tools. So tools are resources, time, attention, training, people, technology. The Gallup organization does a survey called The Gallup 12, where they interview employees of all different sized companies to understand their engagement and the work that they do. And one of the things that leads to disengagement is a “no” answer to this question.

The question is: Do you feel like you have the tools to do your work well? And if they answer no to that question, it’s a very emotional response. So we have to give the tools, the resources, the training, the people to our direct reports.

The most important tool we can provide is also the least expensive—it’s time and attention from the leader and the manager. That’s the one we spend the least amount of time on, and it absolutely has the greatest impact on engagement and the performance of our direct reports. So, when we are thinking about tools, think about the time and attention from you, as the leader, to your direct report.


(Mike) OK, cool. Number three. (Luke) Number three is, now that we’ve provided that clear direction, and we’ve given that person tools, we need to get the heck out of their way. So, we call this: “letting go of the vine.” We want to have the mentality of delegate and elevate. You want to delegate things off your plate that other people can be doing because you’re not great at them or they don’t bring you energy. It’s just not your sweet spot. And then you elevate yourself to working on the things that you are uniquely, genetically, encoded to do. And as the organization grows, you continually have to look at what you are doing as a leader, take things off your plate, delegate them and elevate them to working on the work that only you can be working on. And then you have to give your people autonomy. Letting go of the vine is what we call this leadership practice. Let your people run with their work. Give them autonomy. One of my favorite authors, Daniel Pink, he writes a book called Drive. And he says there are three things that contribute to motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So here, we are speaking to autonomy. Great people need to be able to run with their work. So, that’s number three, the third practice.


(Mike) Awesome. And guys, that book Drive, is incredible. So, that’s something you can pick up right away, to really dive into more of what he was talking about. (Luke) So number four is what we call: Act with the greater good in mind. The greater good is not some fuzzy, altruistic concept. The greater good is the vision that we talked about at the beginning. It’s that clear direction. As the leader, I need to make sure my actions, my decisions, and my personal example are all in line with the elements of that vision, that clear direction. So many times in organizations, leaders make decisions based around what’s best for me, rather than what’s best for the organization. And I tell you, you grow faster when everyone thinks about the greater good in all of their discussions. In all of the issues, they are processing as a company it is: What’s the greater good? And we have defined the greater good. It’s the direction we have all decided that we are going to head in together. That’s number four.


(Mike) When you find that somebody isn’t a good fit for that direction. Maybe you just realize they are not passionate about it. Is there something you do about it at that point? Whether it’s have a conversation with that person, or possibly even part ways because it can hurt the feeling that everyone else in the group gets? (Luke) Mike, that’s a really great question. So, part of that greater good is core values. If that person is not aligned with our core values, then we can’t teach them values. Your values are ingrained in you. You need to go find an organization that shares your same core values. I’m not going to train you on core values. I can train you on skills and technique and so many other things, the technical skills. But I can’t train you on values. You’re going to be happier, you’re going to be more engaged if you just go find an organization where the values align with your own values. So, if someone’s not a value fit, we’re going to manage them out of the company. Some people say that’s so hardcore. Actually, that’s the best thing we could ever do for that person.


(Mike) And not just that person. Let’s say you have a company with eight people there. And seven people really want to see this dream come to life. That one person could be frustrating the other seven. And you may lose A players that really want the vision, but they feel they’re being held back. (Luke) The best thing you can do to demotivate you’re A players is to allow a B or C player to exist in your culture. So, when we define core values, we don’t just want to have core values. We want to have committable core values. We’re willing to make difficult, uncomfortable decision around them. And that’s when the core values really come to life.


(Mike) And part of being a leader is making the decisions that others can’t. Let’s go into number five. (Luke) OK, and the last one is what we call: Take a clarity break. A clarity break is just taking time away from your work. Getting out of the office. This can be in your den in the morning. It can be at Starbucks. It’s once a week. It’s once a month. For 30 minutes to an hour, where you sit down with a blank notebook in front of you, and you just think on the business. You’re not working in the business, you are stepping back. You’re taking a 3,000-foot approach to looking down at the business, asking yourself some key questions. The first few times you do this you’re going to stare at a blank notebook for 5-10 minutes and put nothing on paper. Pretty soon, you’re going to have this stream of consciousness and you’re just going to jot down, capture these thoughts. Capture this in a journal or notebook and build this into your weekly routine. I do it every week, on Friday mornings from 5:45 to 6:45 at Starbucks. Everyone has a different cadence to this. But I would say, once a week, once a month. For some people, it’s an hour. For some people, it’s once a month, a full day. They do their critical thinking about the business. About their people, about the direction, about the values of the organization, about their competition, about their strategy. The toughest, most important work we do as a leader is thinking. And so many leaders, with the stress of the day to day, never take the time to truly think about the organization and the direction it is taking. So, we would call this “take a clarity break.” Protect your confidence. Think about how you’ve been showing up as a leader.


(Mike) You know, the funny thing is, this is something I was recommended to do by mentors. My problem was, as I started thinking on the business, I started solving problems in it, and I had to keep bringing myself out. So I was given this advice, because I’m a very competitive person, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of business owners watching and learning now are competitive as well, and this worked great for me. Where you go, OK, if a competitor with the same resources was able to double their business in the next month, what would they have to do? And I just start thinking about that, because my competitive nature is breaking down what they might have done, and then I just start doing that. And I do that regularly, for little problems, big problems. I always think, if my competition did it better, what would they have done in order to make that happen?

OK, let’s talk about number six.

[00:11:55] (Luke) Now we are going to move into the management side. Everything else we talked about was being a great leader. Now, what a great manager does is they are working in the business. If leadership is vision, direction. Management is bringing it down to the ground and executing on it. In order to be a great boss—if we can use that term—we need both. So, the first practice of being a great manager is having clear expectations. We said leaders provide direction. Managers, now, provide clear expectations. And those expectations are really around just three things.

[00:12:28] Number one are values, are we really clear on values. Number two is roles. Do you understand high-level, the top five things that you are accountable for in this organization? You and I have to be on the exact same page as to what I expect of you and what you expect of me. So, I want on paper the five things that you are responsible for. This is kind of like an 80/20 rule. If we can just document 20% of what you do that really produces 80% of the results in our business and so we are on the same page then. I don’t want to go home and be upset at Mike for not doing his job when Mike thinks his job is different than what I think Mike’s job is. We have to have the same view of what those same key roles are. So that’s the second thing we need, clear expectations around roles.


(Mike) And that comes down to what we talked about earlier, is having really good alignment and communication. (Luke) Absolutely. And the last one that we need to have clear expectations around is: What’s most important now? And we would just call this your quarterly priorities. So if you can have every direct report understand the values of the organization, number two, what their key roles are, what are the five things they need to show up and do. And then, lastly, do they really understand what’s important in the next 90 days to keep moving us toward our one-year goal, and a three-year goal, and our big audacious goal that is 10 years down the road. So that’s the first management practice, with three components.


(Mike) Perfect. Now let’s go to the second. (Luke) Communicate clearly. Great managers are great communicators. And there’s just a couple of tools that I want your audience to think about when they think about communicating clearly. The first one is a question-to-answer ratio. As a great manager, you should be asking far more questions than you are providing statements. And let me tell you when we are the entrepreneur. When we started the business, and we were the only employee for quite some time, then we had two employees, we were the arbiter of all decision-making. We made statements all the time. As we start to grow our staff and we manage other people, we have to transition into a position where we are asking most of the questions. So, 80% of what comes out of our mouth when we are interacting with a direct report should be a question versus a statement.

[00:14:51] (Mike) You know, I actually learned that from Dick Vitale. And what he said, a lot of coaches, they make the mistake of telling their players what to do all the time. Like, as they’re on the court. And he said it’s better to take a step back. They know what to do. Now, let them do it. And then just ask them questions later as to why they did what they did. Do they think they could have done things better? And the players actually start talking more. They start communicating with each other more. And they actually come up with plays and ideas way more on their own. So, I think the same thing translates in business. If you tell people what they should be doing all the time, you never let them start developing the skills to come up with the ideas and solutions on their own, because you’re doing it all for them.

[00:15:36] (Luke) And then you bog yourself down as a leader. If I have six direct reports and every day they are coming into my office saying, “I have this issue. Help.” And I say, “I’m going to solve that for you.” I’m not doing any of my own work. You need to come into me and bring me your issue. I’ll ask you some key questions, and send you out the door, and you have to go and find an answer to that. I can be a sounding board to you, but I’m not going to provide you with all of the answers. (Mike) Eventually, they will ask themselves the questions before they get to you and then they are just giving you their ideas.


(Luke) The second thing I want to touch on around communicating clearly is the idea that I should not make assumptions that I know where your head is at. Man, if we come out of a meeting or an interaction and I’m thinking, Mike is upset at me. I can’t make that assumption. If I think you are mad at me, if I assume you are, I have to go to you and ask, “Where do you stand on this?” Great managers don’t hesitate to have that difficult, uncomfortable conversation. And just look you in the eye and say, “Mike, tell me where you are at. I sensed in that meeting you were uncomfortable with what I was introducing. Tell me where you are at.” And I might find out: No, Mike’s not upset with what I rolled out in that meeting at all. He’s got something going on at home that is really on his mind. I was reading him wrong during that meeting. And we can have that conversation. So, no assumptions is the litmus test of whether or not we are truly communicating clearly as a manager.

[00:16:57] (Mike) OK, cool, next one. (Luke) Number three, and before everyone falls asleep, let me just get right into it. I’m going to talk about meetings. Everyone despises meetings. And I’m obsessed with meetings. I think a well-run meeting is the most important thing a manager can do for his or her studio or business. The reason I think, culturally, we’ve grown to despise meetings, Mike, is—and Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called Death by Meeting. It’s so en vogue to say, “I could actually get some work done if I didn’t have to go to so many meetings.” Because most of the meetings we go to are poor meetings. They’re bad meetings. So, it’s not that meetings are innately bad, or unproductive, it’s how we are running the meetings. I think if we run the meetings in the right way: We get the team together. We have the same agenda, the same time, the same day, week in, week out. And we are solving key issues in the organization, not just talking about stuff but actually solving issues. And there’s action that takes place after those meetings. We are having conflict in those meetings. Great meetings should have conflict—ideological conflict. We are arguing over the key issues. Not interpersonal conflict, but ideological conflict. There is nothing more exciting and engaging than being a part of a meeting. Deciding the direction of your organization and wrestling with the key issues of the organization. I mean, that’s as good as it gets. If there is conflict, if there is that interchange in the meeting, you want to enter that danger. So, number three is have a meeting pulse. Meet every week with your team, whether it’s an hour or 90 minutes. If you have that discipline, the organization will always grow faster.

[00:18:47] (Mike) So, Death by Meeting. Get that book. Another great book that you may have read as well, that talks about conflict and trust, is Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s an incredible book. If you have a team of two, three, four people, which most small businesses have, this is a very important book that can give you the fundamentals of how to cooperate with different types of people and personalities. (Luke) It’s one of my all-time favorite business books. I would say, don’t read it. Read it and study it. Read it over and over and integrate it with everything you do with your team. That’s an awesome recommendation. (Mike) Number four.


(Luke) Number four is this practice of what we call quarterly conversations. So, not a performance review. A quarterly conversation. Every 90 days I have scheduled a one-on-one meeting with you. And here’s the key, it’s outside the office. We’re going to coffee. We’re going on a walk. I’m taking you to lunch. We are getting outside of the office, and I’m not bringing paper with me. I have not filled out a form. This is not going in your file. If I bring paper, it’s just because I wanted to jot down some notes. Don’t let the form get in the way of having an honest conversation. So, quarterly conversation. I’m going to sit down and talk with you around three things: How you are living our core values, the soul of this organization. How you are performing in your key roles. You have five key roles. How are you performing in them? And then lastly, where are you on those 90 day objectives? How are you doing this quarter on our most important, urgent objectives? That’s what we are going to talk about. Around each of those three things, we are just going to talk about what’s working, and what’s not working. And this is a conversation, meaning it is a two-way street.

[00:20:30] You are going to tell me what you need from me as a manager. What am I not doing well in terms of communication, in terms of resources, in terms of how we are interacting with each other? I’m telling you the natural tendency between the manager and the direct report, every 90 days this relationship is going to start to fray if we don’t do something. Meaning, if you don’t schedule this quarterly conversation for us to connect and talk about where we are about values, roles, priorities in the next quarter, that relationship starts to fray. It’s your responsibility as the manager to schedule this, so we can strengthen that relationship and continue to move toward our stated objectives together. Remember before, we talked about time and attention being the most important resource or tool that we can give to our direct report. A quarterly conversation is the best way to do that. Unfortunately, so many managers and leaders say, “I don’t have time to do that.” Or, “I see my people all the time.” Or, if there’s an issue, I’ll just go find them and tell them. No. Schedule this for 30 minutes to an hour once a quarter and it will change your relationship between you and that direct report.

[00:21:39] (Mike) I love that. OK, last one. (Luke) OK, the last one is: Reward and recognize. So, I want to give you a couple key points around reward and recognize. First of all, 24-hour rule. Provide that feedback within 24 hours. (Mike) When you say provide that feedback within 24 hours. You mean within 24 hours of them accomplishing that awesome thing that they did? (Luke) If something awesome happens, or they do something that’s not aligned with their value, or something moves them toward one of the objectives. We need to have that conversation within 24 hours, good or bad. Now if I’m giving positive feedback, I want to do it, if I can, in public. If I’m going to criticize you, I’m always going to do it in private. Here is the key. This is the most valuable tool I’ve learned around rewarding and recognizing. You can remember it with this acronym. TSP. TSP stands for: Truth. When I’m giving you feedback, I have to always tell the truth. The S is specific. I can’t just say, “You did a great job, Mike.” I have to tell you what about your performance is exceptional, in incredible detail. T is truth, S is specific, and P is positive. I want to give you as much positive feedback as possible. If you think about it, managers and coaches were great at the T and the P. Heck, when we played T Ball when we were 5 years old, all of our coaches gave us truthful feedback, and it was positive, but it wasn’t specific. We are all craving specific feedback. It turns out that that is the most important thing a fitness coach or an instructor can do. But my goodness, it’s the most important thing a manager can do. Truth, specific, and positive. Whenever I’m rewarding or recognizing, I do it with TSP.


(Mike) Awesome, guys. We just got 10 fundamentals for leading and managing people here with Luke Carlson. And, you dropped a couple of books already, but what are one or two great leadership books you would recommend? (Luke) Two books. The Leadership Challenge,  which is the largest, most evidence-based look at what the work of a leader truly is. And the second book that I think is so much more practical, and this is where so much of this information comes from, is called, How to be a Great Boss, by Gino Wickman. The first book is by Kouzes and Posner, two authors, and that book is in its sixth edition. And How to be a Great Boss was written just a year ago, and that author is Gino Wickman. There are two books that help you change the way you think about leadership and management.


(Mike) I love studying leadership. Those are two books I actually haven’t read. The book that got me fired up and started, is a book called Multipliers. Incredible. And then I just got this bug and realized how important it was to develop that part of my game. Businesses and relationships, in general, run a lot better when you learn how to communicate and how to lead. Luke, thank you so much for spending time here. I know the audience had a great time too. (Mike) Thank you all for watching and for listening. We will see you next week.


Thank you so much for joining us today. If you like this episode, then subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher, and to our YouTube channel to never miss an episode. You can get all the links by going to Thanks, and see you next time.

[00:25:20] End. End. End.  

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