Podcast Episode 39

Family Business Series: Relationships and the Generational Transfer of Knowledge

With Guest:
  • Mark Herringshaw of Herringshaw Group, President

Host, Jamie Duininck, is joined by business coach, Mark Herringshaw, to discuss the nuances of family business relationships and the generational transfer of knowledge. Mark has spent over 25 years working with companies of all sizes on decoding individual performance, team chemistry, and organizational excellence. Learn how humility-based leadership and understanding personality types can help family businesses be more successful.

Episode 39 | 56 min

Guest Bio

Mark Herringshaw is the President of Herringshaw Group. He believes in a humility-based approach to leadership and is passionate about transformation as a practitioner of the principles that he advocates. 

Mark has over 25 years of experience in leadership roles and earned his PhD in Leadership Studies from Regent University in 2001. He works with companies of all sizes to decode individual performance, team chemistry and organizational excellence to lead them to success. Mark is a parent, business coach, teacher and author of three books. 

Jamie Duininck:
This is The Water Table.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Speaker 3 (00:09):
A place for people to go find information and education.

Speaker 4 (00:13):
Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Speaker 3 (00:16):
How misunderstood what we do as.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:31):
Welcome to The Water Table podcast. As many of you listeners know, we’re on a series roght now of family business consultants that we’re talking with and interviewing. And talking about all kinds of different things from mission, vision values and succession planning to estate planning to how to deal with conflict in a family, and why coaches are important and many different topics.

Jamie Duininck (00:58):
And today, I have Mr. Mark Herringshaw with me and Mark is a friend. I’ve worked with him in our family business for several years now. And I’m excited to have Mark. Mark spent about three decades, the last three decades of his life, decoding individual performance and team chemistry and organizational excellence in private and public companies. He is a recognized scholar. He’s an engaged communicator. Mark is passionate about the transformation as a practitioner of the principles that he advocates.

Jamie Duininck (01:32):
Mark has spent 25 years in leadership roles with three nonprofits. He has pioneered research into humility-based leadership communication, and earned his PhD from Regent University in 2001. Mark is an author of three books. He presently serves as a partner in a global consulting business called Giant and he has worked with my company, Prinsco, and my family for several years now. So, I’m just really excited to welcome Mark Herringshaw to the Water Table podcast.

Mark Herringshaw (02:08):
Great to be with you, Jamie. Thanks so much.

Jamie Duininck (02:11):
Yeah, excited to spend a little time with you, Mark and just talk about leadership, leadership development, and why you’re pretty passionate about what you do. Why do you do what you do, I guess, is part of what we’re going to talk about then how do you help other people. But tell me a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in this career?

Mark Herringshaw (02:31):
Yeah, well, I think if I would have looked ahead 25 years, 25 years ago, I really wouldn’t have been expecting to be where I am. I started my career as a pastor and out of some of my own leadership challenges in that role, I decided I really needed to go back and get some more understanding. And so, I went back to graduate school and did a doctorate in leadership studies, just really trying to understand the dynamics of human communication and persuasion and all the things that are such an enigma in leadership. And out of that, I just begin to get opportunity to speak into particularly generational transition in organization. So, I started off originally in kind of the nonprofit world and in colleges, seminaries and churches, some 501(c)(3), three nonprofits.

Mark Herringshaw (03:31):
And then a friend of mine, who had been working with, he lived in London. He and a good friend of his started a company called Giant, and they were living in London. And because I had done some work with these guys already, they felt like I was at least a leg up on kind of their process and their philosophy. And so, they invited me in. I was the first Giant partner in the US. They started this in Europe. And it was just, it was like having a tiger by the tail and in terms of the things that opened up for us. We anchor what we do in humility-based leadership, really, around the understanding of, if I understand what it’s like to be on the other side of the table for myself, we’ll ask that. “What’s it to be on the other side of you?”

Mark Herringshaw (04:27):
That self-awareness gives me a sense of, “Okay, if this is how others are understanding the way that I think and communicate, then I can adjust to really serve the purposes that leadership opens up.” And so, that humility-based leadership philosophy has just been, it’s been an amazing door for us. So, our company now, we’re doing work and as you said family businesses, multi-generational family businesses. We’re also working in government. We’ve got a contract with the Air Force. We’re working with Google, all the way down to just individuals that are working on maybe starting a business with a new idea.

Mark Herringshaw (05:14):
So, it’s just been a great ride. I’ve absolutely loved it and see it really as I mean, my faith is still important to me, even though I’m not working in that vocationally, it’s still a real opportunity for me to live out the things that are most important to me. So, yeah, I really love what I do.

Jamie Duininck (05:35):
Yeah, interesting, and your little description, there brings up lots of questions for me. And when you start to talk about humility-based leadership and then you talk about families and I mean, family business, oftentimes, and you described it as being across the table from yourself. And oftentimes, in families, we can work with somebody and we treat people differently at work than we do at home, because maybe we’re more comfortable with them, we spend more time with them. But that doesn’t change our human behavior or who we are as a person. And maybe we don’t recognize, those things that we bring to the table that we can’t see, as we’re sitting on the one side and somebody else is dealing with every day.

Jamie Duininck (06:25):
So, tell me just, let’s dig into that a little bit. Talk a little bit more about that. When it comes to a family and father and son or cousins or brothers working together, the Water Table happens to be a podcast that’s really about water quality and agriculture and sustainability in agriculture. But it just so happens that so many of the people listening to this are our customers, which are family businesses, small family businesses in the most part, five to 20 employees and it’s there’s a lot of generational transition that happens. There’s a lot of brothers or siblings working together.

Jamie Duininck (07:02):
And so, interesting that we kind of jump into that that way, but I guess, I’ll let you speak to that. But wouldn’t you agree that it gets even, the stakes get higher from just a job with somebody else. They see your shortcomings, but when that somebody else is a family member, the stakes are even higher.

Mark Herringshaw (07:21):
It’s just absolutely the case. I think any of us that have worked together with family can see it as it’s both, the highest honor, but also one of the biggest challenges because the relationships are so multifaceted. We’ve got this longstanding life commitment to the people that are in our family and we don’t get to choose who our family members are. We’re given that with the very nature of the family we were born into or adopted into or married into and those are just realities that we’re given. And you add into that, then the contractual relationships of business, which have to be clear.

Mark Herringshaw (08:10):
The businesses always need to have a sense of fair play about how we’re arranging things and what’s expected, what the authority, what the responsibility is. And when family’s not involved, it’s just easier to kind of divide the relationships and put the hat on to say, “Okay, we’re in a business right now.” But you add the layer of family into that and you have to be so much more intentional about deciding what hat you have on. Because in the business relationship of family, the business realities are still standing, and we’re still in that role, but the family relationships are also there.

Mark Herringshaw (08:57):
So, what we have to do is, is, is help that communication process become clear, and really specific, so that we know, okay, this conversation is in the domain of our business, but another conversation over Thanksgiving or going over for dinner on a Sunday afternoon with family, having certain boundaries around what we do and don’t talk about. And recognize that we have different hats to put on. And it’s important to clarify those. So, it’s tremendous advantage in many ways to have a family business. There’s so much depth and richness, and it’s tremendously rewarding when it works, but it’s also filled with a lot of pitfalls, because of the history and all those relationships.

Mark Herringshaw (09:48):
If we work with siblings, we still remember when we’re eight years old, even if we’re 48. And we’re working together on projects, but we’re still having these overlays of things that have been with us all of our lives. So, it takes actually a lot of work. We say it’s the soft stuff that’s the hard stuff in a family business. So, you have the business stuff, which is kind of the hard realities of knowing your profit and loss and your strategic plan. And even on the finance side, things like your estate planning.

Mark Herringshaw (10:24):
Those are all obviously very important to have from a business standpoint, but the soft stuff, which is the interplay between the business values, and the family values, and the practices of the business, and what it is to live and function in the family, that’s a challenge. And that’s really the niche we’ve carved out. When we work with families in generational businesses, it really is helping on all those rules of engagement that don’t just happen, just because we want them to happen. We really have to work on it and it can be really positive, but it has to be very intentional.

Jamie Duininck (11:09):
Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s, you’re saying a few things that as you’re talking, I was thinking about. And one of them is just the hard work that it is super rewarding to work with family, but on those soft skills, you probably have to work harder. I guess I don’t know, because I haven’t worked outside of a family business. But you probably have to work harder than you do in just a traditional business.

Mark Herringshaw (11:35):
I think you do, Jamie. Again, this is part of the great reward comes though with the greater investment on this side. Because in a purely contractual relationship, which most of our business relationships are, and we can have friends that are working with us in business, but still, it’s usually defined contractually. And so, there’s a beginning and a kind of clarity of how far those relationships go. It’s pretty hard if you get into accountability inside the family.

Mark Herringshaw (12:09):
It’s much clearer and cleaner if you’re a manager or a leader or an owner holding an employee accountable, that’s one thing, but holding a family member accountable, that’s just it just, it gets into a deeper into the pool to try to swim in. But it can be done. It can be done beautifully and really successfully. And then of course, what can happen in a family business in terms of the ability for the family as a whole to have an impact in their community, to have an impact beyond their community, the rewards are stunningly powerful. But it does take a lot of work on the soft side.

Jamie Duininck (12:56):
Yeah. And as you say that and talk about that around accountability for and how hard that is to, I think it’s a skill that needs to be learned for almost everybody on how to hold people accountable. But that’s even harder in family. Do you find that in general, kind of as a general statement that families are harder on each other than they would be on an employee doing the same job?

Mark Herringshaw (13:27):
Yeah. Well, it kind of swings to both extremes, Jamie, so they could easier or they could be harder and some of that depends on kind of the inherent personalities that we’re dealing with. So, we do a lot of work on just understanding personalities. There’s a lot of great personality assessments out there and you can argue about the pros and cons of any of them. We, in our Giant company, have aggregated a lot of that research into what we call five voices and the order of those voices that all of us carry helps to explain the kind of brains that we’ve been given. So all of us have a different firing sequence of the synapses in our brain and it’s quite predictable.

Mark Herringshaw (14:14):
So, we have, for instance, a designation of a nurturer. The nurturer personality type is the person who’s first and foremost super concerned with individuals and not offending them, not crossing them. And they would be say very different than the personality type we call pioneer, which is very goal oriented, very strategic. Kind of the flag on top of the mountain, “Hey, we’re charging up to get it.” They’re going to almost be a nemesis to that nurturer voice.

Mark Herringshaw (14:46):
The guardians are the personality types that are very vigilant to policy and precedent and want to keep everybody in lockstep to make sure that things stay in order that the things we’ve done in the past are honored. And they’re balanced by what we call the creative voice, which is the individual that’s always thinking of a new way. They’re always pressing toward the ideal of what we should be and could be.

Mark Herringshaw (15:15):
And then the connector voice, which is the fifth voice, is the one that kind of navigates between all the voices, to be the translator. Helping sort of bridge the gaps between the different types of individuals. And the connector has to watch. They all have strengths and they all have challenges. The connector has to watch that they don’t become so soft around the edges that they don’t communicate clearly.

Mark Herringshaw (15:42):
So, what we see in that question of in family businesses, are we harder or are we easier on fellow family members that we’re working with? A lot of that has to do with kind of the orientation of the voice. So, nurturers would tend to be too easy and not bring enough challenge. And pioneers and guardians might be the ones that bring super high challenge, maybe disproportionate to the way it needs to be. So, what we try to do is help the teams that we work with, help the individuals understand themselves. So we say, if you know yourself, you can lead yourself.

Mark Herringshaw (16:25):
I understand like the way I naturally tend to respond to things, how I think, what I’m going to do when I’m under pressure, if I can understand that, and then I can also understand how I might be different from the people I’m working with. Whether those are family members or even just fellow members of the team that are employees. Self-understanding gives me an ability to make adjustments, but understanding how others are gives me an ability to make adjustments, too. So, we’ve seen the lights go on in some pretty fun ways for families that and it can be actually pretty fun to walk through an exercise like this and realize, “Oh, that’s why you do what you do, or why you say what you say, or why that’s stressful for you, and why I laugh at that, and it makes you upset.”

Mark Herringshaw (17:15):
And those are all just super helpful and empowering insights because it can help us see what our tendencies are. And what you described earlier is that tendency to be, are we tougher on family or not, the tendencies are going to rise a lot out of what we would say the individual’s voice tendency is. So, I don’t know if that makes sense, Jamie, if that gets to what you were after.

 Jamie Duininck (17:45):
Yeah, it does and it’s interesting to take that back a little bit to what we were talking about a little bit before about, to actually know what you’re across the table when you add in these five voices. And Mark, because we’ve worked on this in our company at Prinsco and been part of this is as an individual, when you go through the exercise, it’s pretty easy to see what voice you are from the positives of that voice. But every voice has negatives, too, when you’re under stress, or when you’re tired, or whatever it might be. And it’s much harder for you as the individual to see your negatives, but the other people in the room will say…

Mark Herringshaw (18:31): 

Jamie Duininck (18:32):
… “Oh, yeah, that’s you, that’s you.” And so, it comes back to that knowing what it’s to sit across from you. And if you can have some self-awareness or in a lot of cases for a lot of us, including myself, that self-awareness isn’t really self-awareness. It’s having the opportunity to learn what you need to self- awareness. Because it isn’t like you can just define it for yourself.

Mark Herringshaw (19:00): 
Yeah, no, you said that very well.

Jamie Duininck (19:02):
So, interesting. Again, for those listening, it’s the Giant material called the Five Voices. And it’s a fun, what. Is there a book called Five Voices?

Mark Herringshaw (19:17):
There actually is. Yeah, Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, who are the founders of Giant. They’re actually my colleagues before they started the company and they were living in London and essentially, came up with the configuration that we now call Giant. And, again, I was over here and had a chance to kind of be first in the door. But yes, they have a book called Five Voices. They have another book called The 100X Leader and another book called Five Gears. And all of those are dealing with different facets of leadership and team organization chemistry. And yeah, it’s been fun to see the whole gamut of what we cover begin to develop over the years.

Jamie Duininck (20:02):
Yeah. And when you’re talking about, and why I say that’s fun and mentioned the name Five Voices in the book is it is really helpful for teams. We all are in teams whether we work for a family business or not, the business we work for. And sometimes the team is the family, but to be able to understand the makeup of your team by your dominant voice. And it’s probably not good for if you decide, we’re going to go out and we’re going to, grow our business for the next generation. We’re going to be four times bigger than we are, today, 10 years from now, but you have four people on your leadership team, and you’re all guardians. It’s probably not going to happen.

Jamie Duininck (20:51):
And so, you need to understand that and then be able to put people around you. Maybe there are employees that you hire and add to your leadership team, whatever that might be, that have the creative voice, that have the pioneer voice. And understand what they bring to the table, both the positives and the negatives.

Mark Herringshaw (21:13):
Yeah, I mean, that’s it’s a great point, because the statistical breakdown is not even among the five voices. So, for instance, 7% of the population are going to be first voice pioneers. Now, that’s going to be a little disproportionate among leaders. But if you take a wide distribution of a population, only seven out of 100 are going to be first voice pioneers, but 43% are going to be nurturers, and guardians are going to be about 30%. So, between the guardians and nurturers, who are both the more sort of cautious of the voices, that’s 73%.

Mark Herringshaw (21:54):
So, just to your point, you might have a pioneer or a creative who are much rarer, statistically, in positions of influence leading maybe the direction of the future, but the majority of, say, other leaders or managers or even, mid-level employees, the majority of them are not going to have the inclination to think into the future the way a pioneer or creative would. And so, this is part of what we really, that self- understanding and team understanding really helps, particularly future planning.

Mark Herringshaw (22:33):
So, when we get into succession questions and you’ve got a legacy generation. And of course, we’re in an era now, where the number of baby boomers who have built businesses are just, it’s a massive percentage of the privately owned businesses out there are led and run by baby boomers who are in the midst of retiring right now. And thinking about the future and maybe their emerging generation, could be multiple generations coming in line there, they may look and think about the future very differently. Not just because of the generation that they’re in, but because of their personalities.

Mark Herringshaw (23:14):
And so, being able to talk about those things and bring it to clarity and understanding really helps the transfer of knowledge, the domain knowledge that’s in family business. I mean, it’s amazing when you start auditing to see the kind of knowledge that is in the legacy leaders is pretty phenomenal. But they have to learn how to transfer that to the next generation, how to let it go, how to release the entrust that’s very important, and it’s not always easy. And some of that has to do with personality.

Jamie Duininck (23:52):
Yeah, yeah. And I wanted to ask, because it’s intriguing to me and some of these voices. We’ve really been able to work through things because of the voices. It’s a really good exercise, but with a broader spectrum that you see. Do you see more challenges when you have like a pioneer and a nurturer that have to communicate and get through something or do you see more challenges, relational challenges if you have like two pioneers?

Mark Herringshaw (24:26):
That’s a great question. We call these pairings, the nurturer and the pioneer, as a nemesis pair. They’re just naturally looking at the world like cats and dogs. They’re just different. And so, the conflict that they’ll usually have will be that the nurturer work will curl up in their little turtle shell. And the pioneer will just go on and be probably pretty oblivious that they’ve hurt the feelings of a nurturer. It’s not always on the surface.

Mark Herringshaw (24:59):
But if you have two pioneers, it’s like two alpha lions in the same pen. You may get some scuffles. They understand each other keenly and they have keen understanding of what’s driving the other, but their competitiveness may lead to conflict. So, that’s what you’ll see is kind of two different kinds of conflict if you’ve got two pioneers. And sometimes, we’ll see this. It’s quite common to have in a family succession maybe a legacy generation pioneer and an emerging generation pioneer. And they understand each other very well and probably respect each other, but learning to release authority from one to the other is where the tensions can rise, so that’s not uncommon.

Jamie Duininck (25:52):
Interesting. And these, I think I remember, too, that it’s natural for a higher percentage of females to be nurturers, is that correct?

Mark Herringshaw (26:01):
Yes, yes. Yeah, and that’s not just, it’s not just cultural. It actually is brain type. So, there’s some real interesting, anybody that’s interested on kind of the science side of this to look at some work that’s being done out at UCLA with the team led by a guy named Dario Nardi. And they’ve looked at brain imaging and watched the synapses fire as people are playing chess or solving a Sudoku puzzle or something. And they can predict, “Ah, there’s a nurturer.” They can see the pattern in the ways that their brains are firing.

Mark Herringshaw (26:38):
And there is a larger proportion of women who would be first voice nurturers. Yes. And the same with guardians, there would be a larger percentage of men who’d be guardians. And then the others are kind of broken down proportionately more. More men are going to be pioneers than women. And it’s not all socialized. Some of it’s organic in the way our brains are made.

Jamie Duininck (27:08):
And is it natural to assume that executive leaders or the president of a family business, leader of a family business, however you want to state that, would naturally be more of a pioneer or a creative or not necessarily?

Mark Herringshaw (27:28):
It’s a really interesting question, because, I mean, generally speaking, the pioneers tend to sort of move toward the top of influence. But we would never say and we’ve seen this to be evident in many cases that any voice can serve as a leader, if that voice is mature. If people have understood what their strength is and then are able to balance it with the kind of people they bring around them and their own personal development.

Mark Herringshaw (28:05):
So, I’m working with a CEO of a very successful family business, five generations and it’s an amazing family business, very, very successful. And their leader has very high nurturer qualities and very, actually kind of emotional in his orientation to things. But he’s very rational and he’s very logical, he’s very strategic and he’s learned to develop his left hand is the way we kind of describe it.

Mark Herringshaw (28:38):
So, any voice can lead. I think you’re right, Jamie in assuming that often, it’s the pioneer that gravitates to the top, but it isn’t, it’s not a determinative thing. We wouldn’t say, if you’re a nurturer, you can’t lead, far from that. In today’s world, I think the nurturers and the connectors and the feeler creatives can have a lot of high capital because increasingly the workplace is very sort of HR-centric. There’s a real need for people to feel like they connect at their job and helping engagement and retention of employees. Some of the gifts that a nurturer can bring can really help that.

Jamie Duininck (29:26):
And I suppose, too, if you think about it in a generational business, which would be a family business, probably more than not a first generation guy that started the business and really had to deal with a lot of challenges, probably was a pioneer. But that doesn’t mean that those coming behind them would be, and maybe not even needed as things change and-

Mark Herringshaw (29:51):
It’s a good point because it’s the pioneers that sort of have the risk tolerance and the entrepreneurial tolerance Again, it’s not saying that a guardian or a nurturer cannot be an entrepreneur and not be a successful one. But by personality, by brain type, your pioneers, your creatives and your connectors are going to tolerate the uncertainty more than the nurtures and pioneers will. And so, you’ll often see that.

Mark Herringshaw (30:27):
I think you’re right that maybe a first generation, they’re the ones that went out and plowed the field and they had a pioneer. It’s why we even call it that. They just had a pioneer orientation. And then the settlers come in, the second and third generations, and they develop things in different ways.

Jamie Duininck (30:47):
We’ve talked about five gears quite a bit, or excuse me, the five voices quite a bit. And you mentioned earlier, that you also teach and have a book around the five gears. And let’s just visit about that a little bit because it’s also, I think, really relevant probably at all times. But in today’s world with just where we’re at today, with so many distractions coming at us all the time. And why don’t you just describe what the five gears are and I’m sure I’m going to have some questions along the way.

Mark Herringshaw (31:19):
Yeah, it’s a super helpful picture, five gears. If you think about a manual transmission, and of course, some of the emerging generation wouldn’t even know what that is. But most of us probably learned to drive, I did. I learned to drive in a 1946 Willys Jeep. Well, my dad taught me to drive in the back roads.

Jamie Duininck (31:39):
You don’t still have that, do you?

Mark Herringshaw (31:41):
No, man. I’m just heartbroken every time. Oh, man.

Jamie Duininck (31:45):
Then I’d say you might have a buyer on this, the other end of the phone or some-

Mark Herringshaw (31:50):
Yeah, that’s one of those things where at the moment, it seemed like a good idea to dump it. And then, but in my early 20s when you’re looking at other things. But now looking back, I think, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for that thing.” But anyway, the gears are a picture of engagement and disengagement of our activities through the day. So, we’re all, each day, moving through different forms of the way that we’re engaged in our professional and personal life. It’s particularly important when we work with family. And we just use the gears as an analogy of that.

Mark Herringshaw (32:28):
So, if you’ve got a five-gear manual transmission, car, I have a little pickup that has five gears. And that fifth gear is the gear you go into when you’re out on a stretch and you can just go and you’re not going to have to slow down. It’s the most efficient and fastest way to get somewhere. So, we talk about fifth gear as the portion of our day, where we’re most productive and we’re undistracted. We’re not moving back and forth for many things. And so, we talk about being able to get into fifth gear as a leader or a manager and knowing that there’s some tasks in our day that need fifth gear concentration.

Mark Herringshaw (33:16):
Our IQ is at its peak when we’re in fifth gear. So, being able to say, lock away, turn our phones off, turn notifications off. Get somewhere where nobody’s going to interrupt us for 90 minutes because some of our tasks require that level of concentration to get into fifth gear and not worry about having to slow down. And that’s very important for productivity, because we live in a world of fourth gear, which is one gear down. And you can still get down the highway on fourth gear, but you’re going to wear your car out faster and you’re going to use more gas. And actually, we know from research that we drop about 10 points in our IQ between fifth and fourth gear.

Mark Herringshaw (33:57):
Fourth gear is our multitasking motor, what we think is multitasking, and it’s moving quickly from one thing to the next. So, I’m answering a quick text and then hopping over and trying to do a phone call. And then I’m preparing my last minute for a meeting that I’m going to have, but then somebody interrupts me. And that’s our day. I mean, most of us have to live in fourth gear a huge percentage of our time because we have to be responsive to customers and to providers or other members of our team or vendors, whatever. Fourth gear will drive us unless we’re really determined to get into fifth gear when we need to.

Jamie Duininck (34:46):
Yeah, just to speak to that fourth gear a little bit. I was listening to another podcast that I like to listen to and they were talking. This was a few weeks back and they were talking about this right here of the distractions in our life. And that multitasking and being interrupted and being on the phone and texting and emailing at the same time and that. And I don’t remember where this was done, but there was literally some research that said that you are functioning, and a pretty broad research, so it wasn’t just for the one person, but you are functioning at the same level as somebody that has just smoked pot.

Mark Herringshaw (35:27):
That’s exactly right. Yes, that is absolutely verified in the research, Jamie. And we think we’re getting so much done. And you talk to somebody that’s just smoke pot and they think they’re in the zone. When actually everybody’s looking at them going, “You are not getting anything done.” And that’s, this is a productivity engagement question.

Mark Herringshaw (35:50):
And so, one of the challenges we work on with our teams is helping understand that probably 70% of your day is going to have to be fourth gear, but you’ve got to carve out work time for the fifth gear, deep level work. It’s called Deep Work by some people that study this. And there’s no such thing really as multitasking in that sense. We just jump between one thing and another, and never stay there long enough to really get the most out of it.

Mark Herringshaw (36:25):
So, moving down on the gears, then third gear is a transition gear and it’s if we’re in a team meeting or we’re in a one-to-one conversation with somebody, third gear is the social interchange that is kind of the lubricant of the gear case. And we’d say in third gear, you never stay in third gear very long. You’re either going up or going down the line of the gears. And third gear is a way to kind of smooth the transition. And it’s the discussions where it can be things like, “Hey, how did you handle that snowstorm last weekend?” or, “Hey, how’s your kids doing?” or, “I understand that you had to visit your parents because they were sick.”

Mark Herringshaw (37:12):
It’s those kind of like personal engagements that we make with people and depending on your voice, you might think that’s a waste of time. But what we actually know from research is that, in moderation, those kinds of interactions with people are really important. That we remember people’s names, so we remember about their family. I mean, good business leaders know that if you’re working with a customer over a period of years, let’s say, if you can remember the details of them personally, you’re dealing with them as people and not simply as a mechanism. And the third gear is that personal engagement time like that.

Mark Herringshaw (37:54):
Going down to second gear, that even gets more personal. It gets more intimate. Second gear is the eye- to-eye contact with the people in our life, who really have a claim on us personally. So, it’s often family, it’s often the people who are close friends. Even people at work that we do have friendship with or long history with, it’s that ability to look people in the eye and really connect.

Mark Herringshaw (38:25):
And the challenge we often have is in a fourth gear world, we were supposed to be in second gear, but we’re still functioning like we’re in fourth gear. And I remember particular story. Our youngest son, we have four kids, my wife and I, and our youngest son was playing baseball in high school. And I drove in late, just before dinner and pulled the car to the garage. My son came out, because he had just had something at baseball practice that was really important for him to tell me. And as he came out, I’m on the phone.

Mark Herringshaw (39:03):
You could picture this. You can’t see my picture now, but you can picture I’m on the phone, wrapping up something in my work and in the garage. And that’s a second gear space as far as our kids were concerned. They believe they had the right to intrude into my life. But I’m still on the phone and I just held my hand up to stop him from talking because I am answering something super important here. And that was a picture of acting in fourth gear when I’m in second gear space and getting the clarity on what is okay when.

Mark Herringshaw (39:40):
And we had to set some boundaries to say, “Okay, at dinner, everybody puts their phone in the basket in the mudroom, and we’ll all pick it up after the dishes are done.” But we have that space to say we’re going to have some second gear space as a family. And knowing that, knowing the forms of engagement is really, really vital. And often fourth gear is the one again that encroaches into all these.

Mark Herringshaw (40:06):
First gear is our own recharge time and that ability, that we have to know when my energy is beginning to deplete. So, we all have cell phones and we know that if we don’t keep our phone charged, 4:00 in the afternoon, we’re wrapping things up and a couple of final phone calls for the day or something. And if we haven’t been watching the battery, our phone might die in the midst of a really important conversation. So, that analogy carries over into us physically and emotionally and spiritually all the elements, we have to keep our batteries charged to be at optimum performance.

Mark Herringshaw (40:50):
And there’s a ton of great research on this as well that actually, a well-rested leader is going to perform at a much higher level. In addition to what you were saying about trying to function in multitasking. If we’re trying to make decisions, key decisions and we’re exhausted, then the quality of those are going to be highly diminished.

Mark Herringshaw (41:16):
There’s a great study, really startling study done of judges who were making legal decisions, like county judges. And what they did was they tracked the quality of their decision based on how many times those decisions got overturned on an appeal. And what they found was decisions made after 3:00 by a judge were far more likely to be overturned on an appeal. The correlating conclusion was then the judges had this many quality decisions in the day and when their tanks were empty, they weren’t at their peak energy. They weren’t at their peak intellect, and they were making bad decisions.

Mark Herringshaw (42:03):
So, what we do in this is help leaders establish a cadence that allows a longevity through the day, through the week, through the month to keep always at peak energy. And there’s some great work on this and it really helps to understand ourselves, what is it that gives us energy? I mean, is it going out and hunting in the woods? Like I know you love to do, Jaime. Is it listening to music, reading a book?

Mark Herringshaw (42:37):
Some people want to just, go hang out with friends. We all have to know ourselves. This gets back to our voice understanding. When I know myself, I know what is it’s going to charge my battery and I need to make sure I do that or I’m not really any good to anybody.

Jamie Duininck (42:56):
Yeah. And is it, would it be true that some people can do the gears better than others like some people?
We all live mostly in fourth gear, but is there people that can be more productive in fourth gear?

Mark Herringshaw (43:11):
It’s a really good question. What we found is a connection between voices and gear comfort or gear, adequacy. And there’s nobody that does all of them perfectly. But different voices are going to find some of the gears easier than others. And understanding that, you can kind of audit our life and kind of look at that. Some voices do some voices better or are going to struggle with other voices.

Mark Herringshaw (43:51):
So, the pioneer is going to be, they’re going to live in fourth and fifth gear. They’re going to find it hard sometimes unless they’re really disciplined to really do second gear very well. They’ll usually find that they can do first gear. They’ll find the things that they do well for themselves. The third and second gear often for pioneers is going to a challenge. For nurturers, they’re going to do second gear really well. They’re going to do third gear. They’re going to really struggle with first gear. The nurturer will serve everybody else, but they won’t serve themselves. They’ll burn out themselves.

Mark Herringshaw (44:31):
So, those are connections and it’s not uniform across the board where everybody’s just. We never want to say by the way with the voices like this is prescriptive. It’s simply these are tendencies. I’m a pioneer- connector. Those are my first two voices and I don’t like that the label to say that’s what I am. What I would prefer to say is those are tendencies that are positive. There’s good things about that, but there’s also tendencies I have to watch. So, I can become and I think I probably have over the years, softened up some of my pioneer rough edges.

Jamie Duininck (45:13):
And I think people if they’re listening, I’m hopeful that they can understand or kind of connect the dots around why do these voices matter and why did the gears matter around conflict resolution and family businesses and succession. But I’m putting you on the spot here a little bit, but can you tell me about a time in your life or a situation where you were working with a team and where these kinds of things were just really evident that they helped you get to the next level rather than stay stuck?

Mark Herringshaw (45:54):
I think there’s multiple examples. I’ll share a story. One story of a family business. I won’t use names because I don’t have their immediate permission, but this business was actually, it was in South Carolina. And started by ultimately, who was the father of the family that took it and developed just a unique, very impactful business in their community. They were the largest employer in their mid-sized town. And he came to the point of starting to plan for his retirement and his succession, and there’s two kids, a daughter and a son that were involved at that point and they have very different voice configurations than each other and very different than their father.

Mark Herringshaw (46:55):
And when we first entered the discussion with them, the daughter had pretty much decided that she wasn’t going to be in the management side of the business. So, they had worked out the financial situation of how ownership and management were going to be different in their scenario. But that was clear, she just knew it wasn’t for her. The real challenge was between the father and son, and they actually had a good relationship, but they just didn’t understand how each other process things. And so, it was so much so that the son had pretty much decided he was going to leave the industry and not work in the family business.

Mark Herringshaw (47:41):
And so, we came in to really try to bring some clarity on the voice side or using that as a tool to bring clarity between the two of them. And did some pretty in depth and extended work. Just really sitting with both of them individually to kind of do life mapping work with them and getting down to key values and the things that they. We’ve asked the question, “What is your preferred future? What is it that you really want?”

Mark Herringshaw (48:15):
And you had, in this case, the father who was a pioneer, not surprising. Very visionary, very innovative, when he was starting out to invent essentially a whole process that he did to start this business that took a tremendous amount of creativity and tenacity. And it’s paid the price for all that, with the long hours that he had to, early when things start, that’s often like that. And his son was very relational, so he was a connector in the voice configuration. So, you had for him the highest value was, “Are we doing this as a team and is everybody feeling like we’re belonging.” And that can be, that can feel like just a completely different approach than the way the pioneer sees it. He defines success differently.

Mark Herringshaw (49:14):
And once he began to realize that the business could be a platform, for him really creating a sense of team camaraderie. That’s really the thing that drove him more than anything else to realize their 400 employees can feel like they really belonged. And when he saw that that was a reason to be in business, that to be successful gave them an opportunity to serve the families of 400 people, for him, he could see a different reason for doing it. And ultimately, then he made the decision to come in. They had a very positive transition to his leadership and that company has grown considerably since he took it about five years ago.

Mark Herringshaw (50:09):
But the conflict was there, but what we were able to do is show that the conflict wasn’t as personal as it felt to them. It had a lot more concrete roots to it that could be dealt with. Neither of them were ever going to change their personalities. But they could appreciate each other’s personalities, and realize they could both reach their goals, but do it in different ways.

Jamie Duininck (50:36):
Yeah, that’s a great story. And I was going to ask that question of what’s the most rewarding thing to you about what you do in your career. And it could certainly be different than this, but it’s got to be pretty rewarding to be part of something where, my words, about where you can kind of turn a light bulb on for your family that’s just stuck. And where they can then continue the legacy of that and be really productive and in their path forward.

Mark Herringshaw (51:15):
That I think is, I mean, I get to serve in a lot of different context. The majority of my work is in family business. And I’d say by far, when we can, and it’s never fairyland. It’s not that you can set something up and this becomes heaven on earth immediately. That’s not the case. But to be able to see the potential of the family business function, as close to the way it really could be. I just don’t think there’s anything that’s more delightful than that.

Mark Herringshaw (51:55):
I’m headed into a family retreat this weekend when we’re recording this on Friday night and all day Saturday. A wonderful family business, a very niche business, but a dominant business in their market. And it’s heading into a fourth generation transition, and three of the emerging family members are coming with the legacy leader, who’s not, he’s not in a position to retire yet. But he’s preparing already how his kids are going to transition.

Mark Herringshaw (52:36):
And it’s been just been a year-long engagement for us. It’s been one of the real delights because they’ve really gone at this intentionally and worked really hard at it. It’s not been easy. There had been some, there’s some things in the history of this family business that kind of heartbreaking when you get under the surface of it. But they’ve worked through that and there’s a tremendous joy. And the next generation, these are all kids in their 20s, who got to school and prepared and they’re not going to walk in here with silver spoons. They’re going to work really hard for what’s in front of them.

Mark Herringshaw (53:23):
But there’s a tremendous sense that they’re doing it as a family, and they’ve worked through a lot of stuff that. That’s the other thing, when you get in here and you have to walk through things with families. Families in business, just like every other family, have all kinds of stuff. And it’s just, it comes at a little bit higher risk when there’s a resource involved, that the family has to steward that in many cases, many, many families depend on. This family keep getting their act together and being able to transition it well.

Mark Herringshaw (54:00):
And so, there’s nothing I think, in my work that’s more fulfilling than watching that happen, Jamie. And I’m actually really excited for this weekend. I actually have my daughter-in-law works with me in this particular aspect of the business. And so, we have our own little family business in that she works with the young women in this family. And so, that’s been a real delight to watch that unfold on our side.

Jamie Duininck (54:29):
Cool, cool. Well, Mark, I’m just really grateful that you joined me today for this hour and we’re just able to talk about what you’re good at, what you love to do, and how you help others and, and my hope and desire is that some of our listeners maybe could take one or two things away from this and apply it in their own life or in their family business. And it is possible that our listeners like to get a hold of you. How do they do that?

Mark Herringshaw (54:57):
My name is Mark Herringshaw and my email is mark.herringshaw@giantworldwide.com.

Jamie Duininck (55:12):
Perfect, perfect. Well thanks for that, Mark and thanks for your time today and your friendship with me. And how you’ve really cared for who I am as a person and for our business and trying to help us continue to grow and to get to the next level. So, thanks for your time and thanks for joining the Water Table podcast.

Mark Herringshaw (55:33):
Absolutely. It’s been a super honor, Jamie. Thank you.

Jamie Duininck (55:44):
Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table. You can find us at watertable.ag. Find us on Facebook.
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