Empowering employees by ‘Giving, not Getting’ - Bob Burg [Interview]

About Bob Burg

Bob is a well known renowned author and international keynote speaker, who concentrates on sales, marketing and influence. He is the proud author of the book ‘The Go-Giver’ and his books have had a sale of over two million. He was named among the 30 most influential leaders by the American Management Association and also among the top authors in the world by Richtopia. He has a simple belief: The amount of money you make is directly proportional to how many people they serve.

Empowering employees by ‘Giving, not Getting’ - Bob Burg [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Bob Burg today to our interview series. I am Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team, before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Aishwarya

Welcome, Bob. We’re thrilled to have you.

Bob 

Oh, thank you, Ash. Great to have you. Congratulations on that wonderful award that your company won and I just want to say hello to all my wonderful friends and the beautiful country of India. 

Aishwarya

Oh, it’s a pleasure to have you Bob.

And Bob, let me begin with asking you, if you could tell us a little bit about your book, you know, The Go-Giver series that you have so well crafted and you’ve put in so much effort into it. What is it about? 

Bob

Sure. And it’s a series of parables. So they’re short stories. Actually, three of them are parables. One is not. One is more of an application guide to the first book, ‘The Go-Giver’. But the rest of them are parables. And they were co-authored with a wonderful, wonderful writer by the name of John David Mann, who is a brilliant storyteller. I’m much more of a how-to person. I’m step one, step two, step three. I’m kind of boring, but John has a way of taking things and weaving a wonderful story out of it. 

And the books themselves are really based on a premise, if you will, and that premise is that shifting your focus and this is really the key Ash Shifting your focus from getting to giving.

“Shifting your focus from getting to giving.”

And when we say giving in this context, we simply mean constantly and consistently providing immense value to others. Understanding that doing so is not only the, not only a nice way of a more fulfilling way of conducting business or leading an organization, it’s actually the most profitable way as well. 

And whether you’re a salesperson focusing on creating value for your potential customer or client, whether you’re a leader who is focusing on those on your team, helping them to become leaders, helping them to become more effective, helping them to accomplish their goals through your leadership, when we can move that focus on to others Moving from what we call an ‘I’ focus or ‘me’ focus to what we call an ‘other’ focus.

“Moving from what we call an ‘I’ focus or ‘me’ focus to what we call an ‘other’ focus.”

That’s really when people respond to us, it’s when people want to buy into our ideas. It’s when they feel good about themselves, and they’re much more likely to be very productive and very happy. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely, I agree with you, you know. It’s probably like a candle that you light and then you light another candle with that and it just, you know, passes on and it’s just so beautiful, it creates so much more positive energy. And that’s how you help others. And it’s a very beautiful concept, you know that you built out there.

And tell me, Bob, you know, what does it really take to go from getting to giving? Are there some baby steps that we can start with? How does it go? 

Bob

Yeah, well, I think it begins with understanding that doing so is actually going to be more advantageous for yourself as well. And let me explain what I mean. If someone’s doing business or acting in a certain way, and you said to this person, ‘So how is this working for you?’ And they say, ‘Oh, great. I can’t imagine it being better’. Well then, they’re probably not going to be open to the idea of making a change. 

However, if they, whether it’s a salesperson, they’re working very hard, but they’re not creating the kind of business that they think they should be, people are not buying from them or as a leader, you feel you’re operating out of compliance as opposed to bringing on commitment. You know, you feel like people are fighting you. They’re doing only what you tell them to do if that and nothing more. Okay? And so you feel you know, as a leader, I’m really not as effective as I could. 

And maybe you are effective and a good leader, but you feel there’s more that you could be. Okay? Then you’re in a position to even ask the question, okay, how do I do it?

How do I go from where I am now as a leader or a salesperson or a, you know, a parent or a friend or whatever to this next level? And that’s what we’d say, okay, you’re gonna do so by focusing more on the value you can bring to others. And so in understanding that, let me put this into the context of sales, if I may. 

When I speak to sales organizations or when I speak at sales conferences, I’ll often say, I’ll ask the question, how many of you would agree with the following statement? Nobody’s gonna buy from you because you have a quota to meet, right? And we all laughed, right? Because we know they’re not gonna buy from us because we have a quota to meet. Yeah?

How many people do you agree that they’re not gonna buy from you because you need the money, right? Or even because you’re a really nice person? No, they’re gonna buy from you only because they believe they’ll be better off by doing so, than by not doing so. 

The good news about that is it means that that salesperson who can shift their focus from getting to giving, what’s giving? Giving time, attention, counsel, education, empathy, right? That’s the person who’s gonna earn the trust of that client. It’s the same in leadership. It’s understanding that nobody’s gonna follow you because you want them to. Okay? They’re gonna follow you because they believe their life will be better as a result of doing so. 

Now, you might say well, but compliance should be enough for that. I’m paying them money, and they should be, well, that’s fine and you’ll get, you know, through compliance, you can get the minimum amount of action from that person. But you’re not going to get their best. Because it’s understanding that people first of all want to feel valued by others. They want to feel valued by their leaders. They also want to feel as though They’re part of something bigger than themselves.

“They’re part of something bigger than themselves.”

And as Dan Pink talked about in his great book, ‘Drive’, namely, they want a sense of autonomy. They want to feel they have control over their destiny. 

And so when you as a leader come to understand this, now it’s a matter of understanding why you should want to move from getting to giving. Then you know, it’s a matter of learning how to do it. Now, you know, in ‘The Go-Giver’, we talk about actively looking for ways you can bring value to others looking for ways you can make their lives better. We look at, how you know, by the number that the amount of lives you touch, that’s how profitably you’re gonna be or how big an organization you’re gonna grow are or what have you. We talk about the law of influence, which is about Putting the other person’s interests first.

“Putting the other person’s interests first.”

That doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. It doesn’t mean you’re a martyr or self-sacrificial. It’s simply the understanding as we say that all things being equal, people will do business with and allow themselves to be led or influenced by those people they know, like, and trust.

And there’s no faster, more powerful or more effective way to elicit those feelings toward you and others than by genuinely and authentically moving from that ‘I’ focus to that ‘other’ focus. We do this authentically. We make sure that where we are acting according to our values and that we’re acting like ourselves, we’re showing up as ourselves. 

Now this doesn’t mean and I think this is very important for leaders when we say, you know, be authentic. That doesn’t mean you use authenticity as an excuse to not grow. For example, the leader who says, ‘Well, I yell at people a lot, you know, I have anger issues and if I was changed, that wouldn’t be authentic.’

Well, that’s no, that’s totally wrong. What it would mean is that that leader has an authentic problem, that that leader needs to work on in order to become a higher, more effective, authentic version of themselves. So we never want to use authenticity as an excuse for staying where we are. We want to use it as a motivation to step into our highest nature. 

And then law number five law, the law of receptivity, really talks about the fact that Not only do we need to give but we need to be willing to receive.

“Not only do we need to give but we need to be willing to receive.”

It means that when we’re helping people with a product or service that they’re finding extraordinary value from, we deserve to receive financial compensation for that money.

It means that that leader, when they’re leading in the correct way and they’re earning that loyalty, they’re earning their trust, they’re earning that commitment. It means they have the right to enjoy and gratefully receive the fact that they’ve got a lot of people out there now who are rooting for them and who want to be part of their mission. 

Aishwarya

Wow, that’s wonderful. That gives so much insight and there are a number of things that you spoke about that were very interesting, you know, the law of receptivity and how you should kind of pay it forward, you know, to not, you know, limit yourself or just limit your knowledge to yourself but have a mission to kind of give purpose to other people. So that’s where you have to talk about others, not just yourself. 

Bob

And, you know, you bring up a great point because, and I remember that in the classic book written in 19, I think 37 by Dale Carnegie ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, what I felt was the underlying message of his book was where he wrote, ultimately, people do things for their reasons, not our reasons.

And it reminds me that a great leader, a great influencer, what we would call, I guess a ‘Go-Giver’ leader always asks themselves questions to make sure they’re focused correctly. So they asked themselves, How does what I’m asking, and let’s say, in this case, they’re leading an organization. They have people who they’re leading, people who they may be looking to develop as leaders, what have you?

So this leader is gonna ask themselves, How does what I’m asking this other person to do, how does it align with their goals? How does it align with their wants, their needs, their desires? How does what I want this other person to do, how does it align with their values?

What problems am I helping them to solve? How am I making their life better and more meaningful and Aish when we ask ourselves these questions thoughtfully, intelligently, genuinely, authentically not as a way to manipulate another person right into doing our will, but as A way of building everyone in the process.

“A way of building everyone in the process.”

Now we’ve come a lot closer to earning that person’s commitment as opposed to trying to depend on, you know, that compliance that so many leaders depend on.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And you know, as you say, it’s not really about using your vulnerability as an advantage. Your authenticity as an advantage, but you must realize that even if you are vulnerable, if you are being transparent, you know, you need to grow other people using that and not just, you know, show yourself as weak because that would be a weak leader.

And that really makes me think, you know, what is our limit of being vulnerable, how much of ourselves as leaders can we really expose to employees in terms of being transparent or in terms of authenticity? 

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Bob

You know, I would say this. It kind of, it’s sort of when you’re talking about character and character, the word character comes from an old Greek word, meaning to scrape or scratch.

It came to mean an engraved marking and eventually a defining quality, we could say the sum total of all one’s qualities is their defining quality or character. Right? And it’s interesting about leaders that we’ve all had who had high character. They always seem to stand for something, and we always knew where they stood. 

Now, that didn’t mean we always agreed with them. That’s not the point. But we always knew where they stood, and it also didn’t mean they didn’t make mistakes. Sure they did. It didn’t mean they didn’t apologize. People with high character greatly, they apologize when they make mistakes. It also didn’t mean they didn’t course correct. They absolutely did. And it also doesn’t mean that they’re not flexible on strategy. Sure, flexible on strategy. 

However, when it comes to those values-based decisions They are immovable, immutable and unchangeable.

“They are immovable, immutable and unchangeable.”

And that’s why I think we have so much respect for them. So when it comes to, how much you know, do you show as far as well, I mean, I think that’s just, it’s just a matter of staying congruent with your authentic nature.

Now, here’s an interesting thing, though, and people say well, and I think sometimes we look at authenticity and we think it’s the same thing as transparency. I think the two words are related. I don’t think they’re exactly the same. And here’s why. 

Let’s say, and again we’ll put this in the sales vernacular. You have a client, you’re calling on and this is a client, Aish who, they’re a nice person, but they’re not a really personable person, right? They’re not really a relationship person as much. They kind of, you know, they want to get down to business after a quick hello, they get down. We have to respect, obviously the people’s ways of doing business that you know, and so let’s say you have a really bad back, Okay? And you couldn’t even sleep last night.

Your back and I hope that never happens to you. But I’m just saying, we’re just using an example. A bad back and you go into the person’s office. The person says, ‘Hi Aish, how are you?’ And now if you were being totally transparent, you’d say, oh, my back is just hurting me. I could hardly sleep last night, I’m in so, but he doesn’t want to hear that because that’s not him. Okay? And so you say, oh fine. How are you? No, there’s nothing wrong with that, you know, that’s you. You don’t have to be transparent and that it’s not appropriate to be transparent. Now, if it was the kind of client where that is, the relationship, well, you would be, and that would be authentic there. 

Now, when you go to the chiropractor later on and he or she says, how are you feeling? Now, it’s totally appropriate to say, oh, my back is hurting me. I couldn’t sleep right. So, so I always think we need to, you know, to be the judge of the appropriateness of a situation whenever we can, of course, be transparent, always authentic, always honest. But we, but that’s not the same as having to bring someone into every nook and cranny of our lives when, when it’s not serving a purpose.

Aishwarya

That makes a lot of sense and I think a lot of people will benefit from this because sometimes you know, there’s nobody to guide us as such to tell us what are our guardrails, what is it that we must and must not do that there’s, like plenty of books out there, but not somebody who can tell you clearly that this is something that you might not want to do This this might be dangerous territory or you might be just exposing yourself too much. 

Bob

Right.

Aishwarya

So, that’s really wise, it really is. And you know, in terms of sales professionals right, now, you know, the business is down and a lot of sales professionals are anxious, their hands are itchy.

What do you think they should be doing right now just to come themselves down? Can they focus on something that would enrich them, make them better?

Bob

Well, yeah, I think there are a few things here. One is, you know, successful people, they deal in truths, they don’t try to say, Oh, this is inconvenient. So I’m not gonna pay attention to it. Okay? They first look at what is and we have a very difficult situation going on right now, there’s no question about that. And no amount of motivation or wishful thinking. No, we deal in truths. 

Okay, then we look at what some of the ramifications are. Certain things we cannot do. What, the choices we don’t have. And we, we look at them honestly. Now, though, we don’t stay stuck on that. We don’t focus on the problems. We acknowledge them. We understand them but we now focus on what we can do, and there are lots of things we can do.

“We don’t focus on the problems. We acknowledge them. We understand them but we now focus on what we can do, and there are lots of things we can do.”

We can work on ourselves. We can read books that we feel will be helpful or watch videos on YouTube. There are tons and tons of videos that would be helpful. We can learn new skills,w e can, connect with our prospects, customers and clients and just let them know we’re thinking of them. 

There’s a woman who’s an account executive with one of the major telephone companies here. And one day she was calling a client just to check in on them to make sure they were Okay. And it was around lunchtime and she said, Oh, I’d really like to take a break, but, you know, if she had a little daughter and she said, and I have to keep her entertained and she said, you know what?

And she, she happened to, she happens to look somewhat like Elsa from the ‘Frozen’, the movie. And so, she put on a little, Elsa princess kind of costume type of thing, he said. And she started reading stories to the little daughter, to give the mother a break, well, the mother started telling other people about it, and they said, would you do that again?

And so she contacted all her clients and let them know that if they have children, she’d be glad to read. And so she’s been really dressing up now in full Elsa costume, reading children’s books to the kids at lunchtime. 

It’s just a way, now again doing that just because it’s something she wanted to do, to bring value. But wow, Did she? I would guarantee you that she has some loyal clientele at this point. And you know, one person said to me the other day, in fact, this person is a neighbor of mine, he’s not a, not a client or customer, he said, you know, I asked him how things were going and he said, well, it’s frustrating.

He said because I certainly can’t call my customers because they don’t want to hear from a salesman right now because they’ve got their own problems and it is a business in which they don’t right now. He would not, his materials would not be helpful. Right now, they’re trying to figure out what their, you know, what happened. 

And I said, well, you know, an associate of mine, a colleague, Dan Burress, who is, has for 30 years been one of the leading business forecasters in terms of trends for 30 years, is great. He’s holding a series of webinars to help company executives to determine what to do in this. I said, why don’t you contact all your customers, your prospects, your clients and send them the link to Dan’s webinar?

And that way you’re gonna really help them. Dan will get some new listeners and readers, and you’ll be a star because you’ll have called them with the idea of bringing value to the, right? And of course, others, you know, we are in a position where we can still, you know, do business. So I think it’s a matter of what’s appropriate, what’s within your choices that you feel are appropriate now. 

Another thing, though, is to, aside from all the books you can read and the learning you can do is, I know with me I’m re-reading some books right now that have been very inspiring to me by a guy by the name of Michael Singer, who wrote ‘The Untethered Soul’ and ‘The Surrender Experience’. And I’m fine. And I love those books because they help us to really deal with what we cannot control.

And to be able to not have that rule as in and I need that same reminder as everyone else. We all do. I think most of us do. And so I think that’s what we want to do. We want to live in the solution, you know, focus on the solution. Keep learning. Ask, how can we add value to others in whatever way it’s appropriate and also keep ourselves in the right frame of mind by reading those books or re-listening to those audios that we have found to be helpful. 

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Aishwarya

Absolutely. But that would be so much better to just try and be productive at this point in time. And then, you know, there is so much material out there on the Internet and everything’s for free. So it just makes so much sense to kind of put things in perspective at this point in time. And to just grow yourself as an individual and, you know, upscale or re-scale, or re-read books, as you said that. That would really make so much sense.

And you know, Bob, right now, money is just, it’s so tight for all businesses, right? There are some businesses that are making money out of this, but most of them are not.

And you know, very aptly, you put it that money after all, is just an echo of value, right? So, it would be wonderful if you could expand on that idea. And how does it apply to businesses right now? 

Bob

Sure, well, when we say money is an echo of value, what it really means is to the degree that you focus on bringing immense value to others. Now remember value, a price is a dollar figure right? It’s just a set figure. Value is the relative worth or desirability of something to the end-user. People will exchange their money for that which they feel is a greater value than the money they’re exchanging it for. Okay?

And so we say money is an echo of value because to the degree that you’re able to provide value to another human being, a customer, they’re going to exchange money for that. So money is simply an echo of value. The key, though, is to focus on the value, not focus on the money, because if you focus on the money, they’re going to sense that.

“So money is simply an echo of value. The key, though, is to focus on the value, not focus on the money, because if you focus on the money, they’re going to sense that.”

And again, they’re not buying for your reasons, they’re buying for their reasons. So when you can discover and this is really what selling is, it’s discovering what the other person needs, wants and desires and simply helping them to get it, then the echo of that value, the result of the value you’ve provided will be money. 

Now, money is tough right now. There’s, there’s no one magical answer. Okay, once things start to get back to whether you want to call it normal or the new normal or whatever it happens to be, it’s still gonna be the same, you know, basic market-based system in which you’re finding people to bring value to in exchange for that money.

But yeah, right now, money is very, very difficult. You know, it’s a tough situation and there’s nothing, there’s no magic solution. 

I will say this to the degree that we continue working now though, that will pay off afterwards. So and that’s why I think it is so important to keep in touch, in the, to the degree that’s appropriate to, with our prospects, customers and clients.

And if your product, your service is not something that’s appropriate right now for them, we can still in some way try to find value to stay on top of mind and you know, again the work you do now has the best chance of paying off later after this thing is over. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense because I think, you know, businesses were becoming people-centric and then suddenly had the pandemic, and then they had to be business-centric again.

And now, now, while we’re very, you know, we’re trying really hard to be people-centric, we’re trying to be, you know, empathized with employees but we have to take care of the business also. So there’s a constant, you know, riff-raff between being business-centric and people-centric that a lot of leaders are going through. 

So, you know, do you have some advice for them? How do they work remotely with teams? Because they’re suddenly forced into this. How do we cope with that? 

Bob

Sure. We’ll remember, being people-centric is very profitable, so it shouldn’t be a matter of, you know, in regular life when we’re not involved with some going on right now, in regular life, it’s not as though it’s a trade-off between being people-centric and profit-centric It should always be people-centric because to the degree that you’re people-centric, that’s the degree the profit is gonna be much higher.

“It should always be people-centric because to the degree that you’re people-centric, that’s the degree the profit is gonna be much higher.”

Okay? That’s been proven so many times and again, for the reasons, it always goes back to logic and ration. 

If you want to inspire people, care about them, right? Create a context where they want to do well. Create the context where they feel, now obviously right now though, it’s, it’s different only because we’re in a different situation, that there’s businesses trying to stay in business, never mind anything else.

Now, answering the question, it should still be people-centric but we also have to decide if a company is gonna have to make tough decisions, whether it’s laying off some people, whether temporarily or as some companies are doing, having everyone take a little less and doing it that way, I mean, that people will make decisions based on what they feel is gonna be best for all involved. 

As far as you know, leading virtual meetings, I think now more than ever, it’s very important for that leader to express their empathy and express their concern and really show up as a human being for a couple of reasons. First, if you go into panic mode, they’re gonna go into panic mode. That’s why you’re called a leader, not the follower. Okay, so the first one is to again, you acknowledge the situation. Again, a good leader doesn’t just, it’s not what we call unicorns and rainbows and making believe nothing. 

No, you acknowledge the issue, of course, but you also have to be the strong one, you have to hold that vision, even though right now that vision might be difficult to hold. But that’s why you’re a leader. And then as you go around, you know, on the call and you’re talking to the different people, make sure you have, and I heard this from someone else and I wasn’t told who it was, I wish I could credit them because it’s always right to credit people with ideas.

But I don’t know who the person is but this one CEO who, when they went around on the phone, they first asked everybody about their families and how they’re holding up and what’s going on with you and so forth and what it did is It helped people to see, yes, we’re talking business, but this leader is not just ignoring us as human beings.

“It helped people to see, yes, we’re talking business, but this leader is not just ignoring us as human beings.”

You know, and then that’s very important. And so and then you know, you do the business that you need to do, while you’re, while you’re on those calls. I think for right now, obviously we’re gonna do a lot more of this online. And that’s fine. You know, we’ll do that for right now. Will we continue doing this afterward? I don’t know. It depends if people find a lot of these meetings have been very helpful. 

I think it’s important to meet in person when you can too, I’ve never thought of it as an ‘either/or’. I’ve always thought of it as an ‘and’, but people might find that these meetings are, you know, save a lot of time without costing relationship building or others may not, you know, so we don’t know what’s gonna happen with this. So, you know, we have to play it by ear while at the same time again, and as you make the best point, staying human, staying people-centric.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. That is so important. We just have to be a little humane towards others at this point in time and to connect with them, to be relatable. But it would be extremely important because we don’t realize what employees are going through when they’re working from home, right? 

We have no idea. Everyone’s brought home into work. And you know, now the lines are really blurry so, you know.

Bob

Yeah, they are.

Aishwarya

So being you know, empathetic towards them, empathizing and really trying to stay productive. Trying to join the negative and positive would definitely be a challenge, an interesting challenge.

And we’ve just got to see what happens in the future. It’s gonna be very, very interesting. Don’t you agree, you know? 

Bob

Absolutely. Yeah. Now it’s gonna be very interesting where the fact is we don’t know and you know, it seems like everyone has an opinion of what’s, what it’s gonna be, and that’s fine. And I always listen because I want to know what you know so, but we don’t know. We won’t know until it happens. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And just to wrap up this interview up, Bob,

Do you have any advice or any other important soundbites that you’d like to leave our audience with? 

Bob

Well, I mean, I think it always goes back, at least when we’re, when we’re talking about leadership in sales, it always goes back to what a mentor a long time ago said to me, he said, you know, if you want to make a lot of money in business, he said, don’t have making money as your target. Your target is serving others.

Now, when you hit the target, you’ll get a reward. That reward will come in the form of money. And you can do with that money whatever you choose. But never forget, The money is simply the reward for hitting the target. It isn’t the target itself. Your target is serving others.

“The money is simply the reward for hitting the target. It isn’t the target itself. Your target is serving others.”

And I think whether we’re talking about sales, leadership, relationships, friendships, you know, wherever, whatever and wherever we happen to be, I think when we can, when we can remember that to the degree we can focus on bringing immense value to others again as they understand it as being a value, that’s the degree that we will be successful.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. Could not agree with you more. Money is a consequence you need to focus on. Others need to focus on value, as you so rightly said. You know, it was wonderful talking to you, Bob. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you sharing your views with us. It’s been a learning experience for me, so thank you so much. 

Bob

Thank you, Aish. I appreciate you greatly.