To wrap up 2018, RoboSource founder and president Jason Beutler sat down (briefly … you’ll see!) to talk to me about what he learned this year:

Kendra: So … not to give you a crazy-loaded question, but what’s your biggest take-away from 2018?

Jason: (laughs) Yeah right. Let’s see. Over the summer, I read Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life & Work. It really inspired me to write down my personal principles for life in a place where any of our employees could access them.

I’d say some of those principles are the meat of what I learned this year, like “Be real;” “Limit work in process to improve quality;” “Engagement drives mastery;” and “Clarity brings energy.” To solidify those principles, I wrote about each of them and connected them to books I’ve read that have been inspirational. Then I made these ideas accessible to anyone at RoboSource.

Hey … in fact, YOU can access those notes. That’s probably the easiest way to share what I’ve learned this year … just use my leadership notes.

Kendra: Ah, I see what you are doing – you are sidestepping this responsibility! You think a nasty cold, combined with end-of-year craziness, and leading your team through a brand-new OKR objective gets you off the hook?

Jason: Well … I was hoping so?

What Jason learned in 2018

Indeed, it did get him off the hook. Here is a brief summary of four principles that Jason adopted for himself this year, along with books that have been an inspiration.

Be Real

What Jason has to say about it: You know who I like to work with? I like to work with people that I know are balancing their needs with mine and working to find a solution to meet both. I trust those people to strike a balance between price and quality. I trust those people to share information I need to make a decision, even if it’s at their expense. In the end, I simply trust those people.

Those relationships let me focus on solving real problems instead of wasting efforts deciphering their intentions or wondering if they are price gouging me. Recently, RoboSource ended a relationship with a client that we had partnered with for many years. I was sad to see the end of that relationship, because we really enjoyed working on the product, but it needed to happen. You know why? It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the company’s owner. It was because the owner had been burnt before by a company like mine, and carried that mistrust into our relationship. Every step we took was questioned and analyzed. After several years of explaining ourselves to this person over and over again, we decided that it just wasn’t worth it. If we hadn’t earned trust by this point, we never would.

Business relationships that aren’t built on trust simply don’t work. If you can’t trust that I’m a real person, who has your best interests at heart, and if you don’t trust that we can do what we say we can do, the relationship is never going to be a good one.

Books that inspired this principle: 

  • No Ego by Cy Wakeman
    • “Professionals give others the benefit of the doubt – they assume noble intent.”
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
    • “The fundamental attribution error is the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities, while attributing their own negative or frustrating behaviors to environmental factors.”
    • “When team members trust one another, when they know that everyone on the team is capable of admitting when they don’t have the right answer, and when they’re willing to acknowledge when someone else’s idea is better than theirs, the fear of conflict and the discomfort it entails is greatly diminished. When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer. It is not only okay, but desirable.”
    • “When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, and attempt to find the best possible answer.”

Limit Work in Process to Improve Quality

What Jason has to say about it: Focus on getting things done rather than getting things started. The fewer items in process, the higher the quality will be when we deliver that item.

I was cleaning out my garage the other day when I took a few bins down to the basement. There was no where to put the bins, because the basement was a mess. I started organizing the basement and needed a screwdriver to setup another shelf unit. I went up to the toolbox in the garage, but I couldn’t find a screwdriver because the toolbox was a mess. I started organizing the toolbox and ran across a set of Velcro zip-ties. That reminded me that I needed to zip-tie some cables together around our television. In the end, nothing got done.

And that’s the problem with multi-tasking. Nothing gets done right. Had I focused on the garage, that task would have been done to the quality standards I wanted. I wouldn’t have had to redo it a few months later.

Focusing on completing the items allows room to start new items. The goal is to get stuff done, not get stuff started.

Books that inspired this principle:

  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
    • “Every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a give period of time.”
  • Measure What Matters by John Doerr
    • “We must realize – and act on the realization – that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.”
    • “When people have conflicting priorities or unclear, meaningless, or arbitrarily shifting goals, they become frustrated, cynical, and demotivated.”

Engagement Drives Mastery

What Jason has to say about it: In order to master something, you have to be engaged with it. You can’t become a great golfer if you never engage with a golf club and swing it. You will not become a rock climber by sitting on the couch and watching TV. You won’t become a great software engineer by only writing code on weekends. You have to fully sell out. You have to engage the discipline in order to become a master.

Engagement – the belief that you are responsible for your actions, and if something fails, it’s your fault – drives a different form of decision making. It eliminates entitlement and embraces the end result. That isn’t to say that sometimes things happen out of your control. That is to be expected. But rather than viewing ourselves as a victim, we embrace the unknown and figure out how to respond to the unexpected challenges. (Kendra’s note: like, for instance, using this already-written list of principles when time unexpectedly runs short.)

Engagement is the belief that we can influence the outcome as opposed to the outcome being dictated to us from external sources.

Books that inspired this principle:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
    • “The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win – you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”
    • “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
  • No Ego by Cy Wakeman
    • “Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.”
    • “Your happiness/engagement is not correlated to your circumstances, but to the amount of accountability you take for your circumstances.”

Clarity Brings Energy

What Jason has to say about it: In my life, I have found that when the task I need to perform is clearly understood, well defined, and explicit, I have tremendous energy toward resolving it. The clarity of expectations actually gives me the energy to accomplish the tasks. RoboSource strives to provide this kind of clarity for all of the team.

It’s not just management’s responsibility to give clear instructions. If a task is ambiguous, it is the responsibility of the team to create that clarity. It is not acceptable to sit back and wait for somebody else to clarify the situation. At RoboSource, we want problem solvers. Don’t tell a problem solver exactly how to do something. Tell them why it needs to be done. They will find the best way to solve that problem.

Books that inspired this principle:

  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
    • “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
    • “Be precise in your speech.”
    • “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
    • “There is no such thing as too much communication.”
    • “Leaders confuse the mere transfer of information to an audience with the audience’s ability to understand, internalize, and embrace the message that is being communicated.”
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
    • “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
    • “Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.”