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Marketing Leadership | Proven Management Tactics to Lead High Impact Marketing Teams (with Dave Kline)

6 May 2024
Marketing Leadership | Proven Management Tactics to Lead High Impact Marketing Teams (with Dave Kline)

Show Notes

Dave is joined by Dave Kline. Dave is currently the owner of SkillScouter and Co-Founder of MGMT Accelerator. He spent 20 years leading teams sized 2 to 200 at Moody's and Bridgewater before starting his own management accelerator.

They talk about leadership and management for people who want to grow their careers and take on a leadership role. This is a useful episode for anyone in B2B marketing who is or wants to be a team leader.


  • () - - Intro
  • () - - The Secret to Success on LinkedIn
  • () - - Building the Right Audience
  • () - - Intentional Engagement for Network Building
  • () - - The Essentials of Effective Leadership
  • () - - The Power of Hiring Right
  • () - - Crafting Clear Objectives and Cultural Fit
  • () - - Strategic Interview Techniques and Networking
  • () - - Simplify Email Campaign Planning
  • () - - Revisiting and Setting Work Expectations
  • () - - Taking Action to Navigate Ambiguity
  • () - - Assessing Resources for Improvement
  • () - - The Skill and Will Framework for Effective Recruitment
  • () - - Tools and Techniques for Effective Leadership Growth
  • () - - Motivating and Developing People in Business

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Dave Gerhardt [00:00:12]:
Exit. All right, Dave, good to have you on exit five. Goods that connect with you. So can you give the elevator story of your background really quick? From Moody's to Bridgewater to now you've made leadership your business, just give us the two minute version of who you are and your quick background.

David Kline [00:00:35]:
Yeah, I'd say the two minute version would be 20 plus years. Leading teams of two to 200 folks all sitting in one office to folks sitting in six different countries. Likely most influenced by my last ten years of Bridgewater. Moved around from the research department as their COO to a group we call core management as their COO led parts of recruiting, succession, executive development, et cetera. So I would say the through line of those 20 plus years is I've always loved being sort of the patient coach, the developer, the informal mentor. I really thought I was going to be the chief people officer at Bridgewater. Like, that was sort of like where I thought I was headed. And then as I got pretty close to that job, I realized I really loved half of it and really didn't want anything to do with the other half.

David Kline [00:01:20]:
So that organizational design, coaching development, talent management was awesome. The HR, legal, litigation, benefits, like, I have such appreciation for the work that those people do, but had no real desire or affinity to be doing it, and so left Bridgewater at the end of 2020. My wife and I started this business after a few iterations. The current form took place in March 22. We run a, an online and in person leadership program in cohorts of roughly 50 leaders. We've done that almost monthly since we started it 24 months ago. So it's been really cool to get to know folks around the world, individual leaders. We've gone into companies, large companies, startups, et cetera.

David Kline [00:02:06]:
So it's been a wild ride. I'm sure we can dig into some of that along the way.

Dave Gerhardt [00:02:09]:
Yeah. So what's interesting about having you on is this actually not going to be a tactical episode, a tactical b two B marketing episode for people, which is what we often do. But we get a lot of questions, and I think we can do a lot to have more conversations around the role of leadership, because as you know, inside of teams from two to 200, oftentimes, what gets you on the management and leadership track is doing a good job at a specific part of business.

David Kline [00:02:38]:

Dave Gerhardt [00:02:38]:
You are originally the Rockstar engineer, and all of a sudden you're thrust into this role of maybe there's a path to be an engineering manager and leading an engineering team or marketing. What made you great at marketing is not going to be the things that might make you a great CMO or VP of marketing or people leader. And that's the stuff that people want to hear more about. So I'm excited to dive into that with you. I do have just two, two side questions as a tangent. There are a lot of creators out here that listen to this. So you started writing on Twitter in two years, roughly gone from not active on Twitter to 100,000 followers. Is that accurate?

David Kline [00:03:16]:
Yes, but with a caveat. So I've been on Twitter writing for three years or two and a half. I went from like zero to about 93,000 in a year. And then while I appreciate all he's been able to do in many different domains, my growth has been about 1000 people since Elon bought it.

Dave Gerhardt [00:03:36]:
It is not grow. It's not growing for me. I'm going to just shut it down.

David Kline [00:03:41]:
I really can't shut it down because despite what's interesting is the growth is way down. The engagement's also way down. And yet when we look at the stats for our program, it's still like my second highest source of business.

Dave Gerhardt [00:03:54]:
Yeah, I see that, too. I don't get a lot of. I don't get new followers, but I'll see people be like, oh, I got exit five because I saw your tweet and I'm like, really?

David Kline [00:04:03]:
Right. It's like there's no more signal anymore. You should know that. You had like, oh, that was good. I had 2000 likes. Now if I get 120 likes, I'm like, oh, I guess that was pretty good.

Dave Gerhardt [00:04:13]:
I guess, like, it depends on what you're interested in using it for, too. Also, like, I. For me, just like you and I, you know, we connected over DM's. Like, I think there's a huge, like, networking piece of it, too. Okay, so I was gonna ask what you did to go from zero to 93, but it's like the difference, the game has changed. It was a different. It was a different roadmap then, I guess.

David Kline [00:04:37]:
Well, but I think that I. Yes and no. I think. I think I don't have the secret to X, but I use the same playbook after X on LinkedIn, and I think it still pretty much works. If I'm being totally honest with Twitter, as it sort of got all crazy with the Elon thing, I sort of walked away from the playbook a bit, which was being super consistent, like posting on there multiple times a day, having a group of people who were sort of mutually supportive. Right. I'm on LinkedIn. If you look in my comments, you're going to see 15 or 20 people who show up for me every day, and I show up for them.

David Kline [00:05:11]:
And that is part of the game. And what's great is that often matures past, just like commenting on each other's social media posts and into becoming friends, business colleagues, referring real business. And I think it's honestly not too much more complicated than that. You can juice it one more by just sort of paying attention to what's working. Right. So for a while on LinkedIn, it was carousels. For a while on Twitter, it was threads. Right now it seems to be writing things in hand and posting the image of it on LinkedIn.

David Kline [00:05:40]:
That seems to be the hot move at the moment.

Dave Gerhardt [00:05:42]:
That's the Greg Eisenberg.

David Kline [00:05:44]:
There you go.

Dave Gerhardt [00:05:45]:
Nice. I like him. It does work.

David Kline [00:05:50]:
I think if you do those couple of things, it still works, but you have to show up all the time. You have to comment, you have to support to build your little community. And then if you stick with it, it'll eventually compare.

Dave Gerhardt [00:05:59]:
Oh, you got 62,000 followers on LinkedIn. You got a lot of comments. I think you can always tell about, like, your last couple of posts. Like, 37 comments, 40 comments, 50 comments. I think that's where you can tell if something is real. I also think it's because you have strong, well articulated opinions about things. I think you gotta say something. I think in that old world, this is X and LinkedIn, I think there's a path to grow that is you just kind of sharing very fluffy stuff and platitudes and memes and quote images, and that actually works.

Dave Gerhardt [00:06:35]:
You can build a big following that way. But I don't think that that following would allow you to. Then what you're doing, your management course is a four week program, right? It costs $2,500. Right?

David Kline [00:06:46]:

Dave Gerhardt [00:06:47]:
You need to build the right audience to be able to sell that type of product to online, and it's not going to get done through, quote, images and memes. And I think the stuff that you're writing on LinkedIn is. It's meaty, it's in depth. Like, if I just pull up a post from today, after 20 plus years leading teams, these are my non negotiables. I can track 90% of my management problems. Back to skipping one of these. And you wrote a couple hundred words on this topic, and so it's real, it's meaty, it's in depth. When do you write, and what is your process for writing on LinkedIn.

David Kline [00:07:14]:
Oh, man. Dave, do you want my aspirational process or my actual process?

Dave Gerhardt [00:07:19]:
I want the truth, man. I want how you actually do it.

David Kline [00:07:23]:
I tell you all.

Dave Gerhardt [00:07:25]:
I'm happy to tell you mine, too, so don't worry.

David Kline [00:07:27]:
The honest answer is, I write for about an hour every morning, and then it goes straight up. Yeah, I have a couple docs of, like, drafts of different things. And so sometimes if. If the muse hasn't showed up that morning, I might go into one of those drafts and sort of, like, finish something off.

Dave Gerhardt [00:07:42]:
Wait, so you don't schedule a post, you just go straight? Like, that morning I'm writing something and it's going straight to press?

David Kline [00:07:49]:
Yep. Because I have the aspiration of what you're describing, which is, like, my two hour writing block on Sunday. And I write it all. And I schedule it all. I mean, I have the schedulers, and every now and then I get into that. But if we're being raw and honest, it is mostly real time.

Dave Gerhardt [00:08:03]:
Okay. All right.

David Kline [00:08:05]:
Most mornings, that's great.

Dave Gerhardt [00:08:06]:
I do that, too. A lot of times I'll have ideas, like, in the moment, and I end up kind of writing it, and I'll put it in a notion or something. And I just. Throughout the course of a week, I might have already posted something. Like, you already posted something today? If I already posted something today, but I have an idea for something else, I just write it down, and then I save it, and then I use this scheduling tool. And then, just like weeks, um, are you posting once a day, multiple times a day? Are you posting every day? What's your cadence?

David Kline [00:08:32]:
I would say on LinkedIn, I'm very consistent Monday to Friday and then weekends, as the spirit moves me, which isn't very often, I just find it's not that it's either all or nothing on the weekends in a way that I.

Dave Gerhardt [00:08:44]:
Wasn'T expecting, for some reason. Sunday afternoon. When I post them on Sunday afternoon, it goes nuts. And I don't. I wonder if there's, like, people are grabbing an hour and, like, checking email and kind of just getting a little bit. It's nicer to start the week with, like, a little bit of a clean slate. And I wonder if LinkedIn's just, like, part of that workflow for people that could be.

David Kline [00:09:02]:
And then Twitter. I'm a couple times a day, and that I'll write in that little block in the morning. I'll write multiple, and then I'll schedule those for the day. But I don't usually get more than a day ahead of myself. So.

Dave Gerhardt [00:09:11]:
And do you use any signals from one platform for another? Like, if you write something for LinkedIn and that gets a really good response, are you then thinking about, like, I just use that for Twitter?

David Kline [00:09:20]:
I would say that I mostly use light signals from Twitter to drive LinkedIn. And if you'll like a lot of my posts, the COVID image of it on LinkedIn is a tweet. So that one you saw today, that image, which, again, images will do better on LinkedIn than non images. They're just pulled from the tweet that I wrote a while ago. Cool.

Dave Gerhardt [00:09:39]:
Okay. I love talking about this stuff with people, and people love getting into it, so. Okay, I like that. And this, you know, this guy we're talking, he's got 62,000 followers on LinkedIn. A lot of people listening to us are startup founders or marketers that work with founders LinkedIn, especially in our world. Dave, b two B is huge as a huge channel for LinkedIn, or LinkedIn is a huge channel for b two B. And so I like to, anytime I have somebody on that is proficient with LinkedIn, I like to just kind of dig in and ask, because I think it's such a good marketing and brand building channel, and I like to myth bust a little bit.

David Kline [00:10:11]:
So just to give one tip on that, which I'm so shocked about, for small business owners, one of the things that will drive virality but just exposure is people commenting on your post in the first hour on LinkedIn specifically. So, Dave, you put something up, and if you get 20 people commenting on it in that first hour, it's going to do way better than if those same 20 people comment over 24 hours. Small businesses, like you have this built in. Like, you could just say like, hey, as a team, we're going to make LinkedIn a priority channel. Three of our leaders are going to post something every morning. We'd like you to engage on it.

Dave Gerhardt [00:10:45]:

David Kline [00:10:46]:
And the fact that all very, very few companies orchestrate this is, like, kind of surprising to me.

Dave Gerhardt [00:10:50]:
Yeah, we do it in a small. I have a team of three, and we all post. When we post on LinkedIn, we just put it in a slack channel called social so we can like and comment on each other's stuff that work. That's a great tip. It's very simple. I also think the key to doing it, though, is not to just be like, yeah, totally.

David Kline [00:11:08]:
Great point.

Dave Gerhardt [00:11:09]:
Like, if you actually take a minute and write something meaningful, like, on that, I think that sort of, that makes a difference. I also try to do I think you're definitely right about that. I also try to do that on other people's posts. And so, like, before I post or right after I post, I try to go to the home feed and I just kind of scroll. And if I see somebody, whether I know them or not, I just try to add a comment to that post. I feel like I don't have a actual reason behind this. I feel like there's something where LinkedIn rewards you for being, like, active and on the platform. And so if you only comment on your stuff, that's one thing.

Dave Gerhardt [00:11:40]:
If you comment on other people's stuff, that's another. But I also try to go out of my way to intentionally comment on people that are like the people that I want to be seen with or around or in my network. Because then you basically curate your own feed, right, by commenting on other people's posts. So, like, I just kind of, I didn't realize I wasn't following you before, so I just started following you. I'm going to start commenting on your posts. I'm going to start seeing your posts in my network. And those comments can be incredible signals. Sometimes you write a comment on someone's posts and you're like, you know that comment gets 42 likes and you're like, oh, I just found my next thing that I should write about and go deeper on 100%.

David Kline [00:12:17]:
It's so funny how we all sort of evolve into roughly the same system, same exact same thing. You sort of get the halo effect of whoever you're commenting on. If you can drive a good conversation, you sort of then attract people to you. Like, I know some folks who have grown over 10,000 only commenting.

Dave Gerhardt [00:12:33]:
That's amazing. You got to have some good, witty comments then.

David Kline [00:12:35]:
Yeah, if that's the case. And by the way, if you can have that many good, witty comments, like you said, your top ones should become your post.

Dave Gerhardt [00:12:41]:
Yes, that's right. All right, let's talk about leadership. You run a program now where you take people through this four week program about building high performing teams. Maybe we can tap into some of that for today. So you've done this for 25 years. You build teams in the size of two to 200. You did it at a really high level at a place like Bridgewater. Where do you start with this topic?

David Kline [00:13:02]:
Well, normally, if I'm advising a single executive or an executive who's talking to us about coming in to do something with their company, I start from, what problems are they running into? I think leadership comes in all shapes and sizes and the challenges facing someone with a five person company, which might. A lot of times when folks on the founder end are coming to us, they're saying, I didn't even want to be a manager. I sort of started this business. I was a technologist, as you mentioned, or I was a marketer. And then all of a sudden, one day, I have a company, I got funding. I have humans who are looking for development and growth and promotions and guidance. They're almost like the accidental manager, and they're coming to us and saying, well, what's the 101 version? Can you just give me the basic operating system so I can sort of get back to what I was doing.

Dave Gerhardt [00:13:49]:
Versus basically my question, what I just asked you with the template. Give me the template, man. No, I'm kidding. I'm saying I don't need that. But that is kind of how I feel, right.

David Kline [00:14:02]:
Well, that's what a lot of people ask us for. It's funny, I did a keynote a couple weeks ago. I got to meet a lot of the audience first because I was later in the week, and it either makes me a good keynote speaker or a bad one, but I rewrote the whole keynote after I got to know them a bit, because I was like, oh. Everyone kept asking me for less and less and less because I would say, oh, we'll do these. Our program is sort of, in my mind, the fundamentals. If you get these eight things right, you can be a pretty darn good leader. And people be like, yeah, that sounds great, but how about the five that I should pick? And then I'll tell them, like, well, if you had to cut out three, cut out these three, but then do these five. And they're like, okay, but great, but what are the two? You know, and then, what's the one? And I'm like, well, the one is, don't hire anybody.

David Kline [00:14:42]:
But in the keynote, the keynote, I called it minimum viable management. I literally did.

Dave Gerhardt [00:14:48]:
I like that.

David Kline [00:14:49]:
I did this like, eight steps, all on a. Each step was on a post it note. I'm like, I can get you to be, like, a top 10% manager on eight post it notes. I don't know if I can get. I probably get it a little bit less, but that's about as minimum as I can get. And some of it is being really thoughtful about who you bring in. The recruiting side, people overlook. They sort of either inherit people or they sort of are, I would say, like hiring versus recruiting.

David Kline [00:15:13]:
So you're sort of taking, like, whoever you fumble upon when you need them. Versus who have you been curating to bring in over time? Who are the ideal for you? And then the other side is very much, do you have shared expectations? How do you delegate the work inside of that shared expectations? How do you check in and support them? And how do you give them feedback when they're either on track or off track? And if you can get the three or four steps of recruiting. Right. And the three or four steps of oversight. Right. That's kind of the 80 20 to get started.

Dave Gerhardt [00:15:40]:
Oh, I like that. Okay, recruiting and oversight. Let's build on that. Come back to them in a second. It is funny because I think you listen to a lot of business stuff. You read a lot of business stuff. Everybody knows, whether they have done it or not, that hiring people are the most important part of the business. But damn if I didn't learn that lesson the hard way.

Dave Gerhardt [00:16:00]:
And really what that means in that when you have the right people, so many of the management and leadership checkboxes just happen on their own. And I'm like, yeah, look at me running this team. How good am I? And it's like, actually, no, it's because you hired better people. And I remember I changed companies a couple of years ago and I had the opportunity to hire somebody and I brought this guy in and two years later he ended up being the CEO of the company. And what a treat it was to have him on my team and to have such a high performing professional being my right hand person and taking so much on. And that was just like a slap in the face of, like, what if you had. And you're not going to be able to. Right.

Dave Gerhardt [00:16:42]:
You're not always going to be able to have. Because of comp. Because of team recruiting. You can't always have it. You can't have a team of 100 people like that, but you got to have a mix. And the more you can have those types of people, the better your life is. But I just realized I just was a bad recruiter.

David Kline [00:16:59]:
Most people are.

Dave Gerhardt [00:17:00]:
It's hard and I would fall for. I'm very emotional. I react quickly to things. I'm like, yeah, I like this guy. Right away I had this one conversation with this woman.

David Kline [00:17:08]:
I love her.

Dave Gerhardt [00:17:09]:
She's going to be awesome. And then like three months into the role, I'm like, oh, my God, how did I not see that? So how do you get better at recruiting and with the lens of, like, you're not going to have the infinite budget. You're not going to be able to get everybody.

David Kline [00:17:24]:
Yeah, I'd point you in three directions. The first one would be, don't. I'm sort of going backwards from the mistake you're talking about, because I bet you a lot of your listeners are nodding right now, being like, yep, I knew that, and I made that mistake. And it's so common. So I think the first mistake is people hire when they actually didn't need to. What they needed to do was be courageous enough to stop doing as much work. If you sort of look into your team, just to give you tangible examples. I work with a company.

David Kline [00:17:53]:
Everybody's like, we're burned out. We're overwhelmed. There's too much work. And I was like, great. So all of your customers are profitable. We'll know, like, 20% of them aren't profitable at all. And they're actually the noisiest ones. And I was like, okay, for those customers, raise your price 30%.

David Kline [00:18:08]:
Will they all be profitable then? Yes. Okay, but what if half of them leave? And I'm like, they weren't profitable. So you're going to make more money to do less work. And now all of a sudden, people have capacity. They can improve it. You can go out and find better clients. It was like an aha moment. But the same is true.

David Kline [00:18:23]:
Like, okay, you're having a meeting. Is the meeting worthy of being twice a week? Should it be twice a month? Should it be once every half year? Should it happen at all? There's all these things that we sort of accept from a point of inertia. And so I'm constantly looking when people are like, I need to hire. I'm like, well, hold on. Have you actually automated everything? Have you streamlined everything? Have you gotten rid of unimportant things? And if you do all that, do you still need more people? Because we overestimate the complexity the person brings in or, sorry, we overestimate the capacity they bring in and underestimate the complexity.

Dave Gerhardt [00:18:57]:
Right. It's interesting. So we see in our exit five community, we'll often see people being like, hey, I'm bringing on a new head of product marketing. What are some good ideas for goals for this person? And I just want to jump through the computer and be like, hold on, you're hiring for this role and you don't know how you're going to measure them. Shouldn't that be like the other way around? And I think the times that I've gotten hiring, right, which I'm self deprecating, there's been some, there's been some good, right. Are the times where, like, to your point? We've maybe already been doing something in this area. Like, we want to start doing events. Let's not jump to immediately hiring an event marketing manager.

Dave Gerhardt [00:19:41]:
An event manager. Let's see if I could do this in 20% of my time. Learn the ropes, do it for a quarter, test one or two events, prove that this is working, prove this is a channel, then go and make the investment. And then I've also have a better scorecard for like, how am I going to measure this person? And then when you start interviewing people, you go into that interview and you're like, whoa, that person blew me away with how much more they know about this topic than, than I do. What do you think about an approach like that?

David Kline [00:20:07]:
It's so aligned and it actually transitions into, like I said, what was mistake number two. But again, that idea of like, can we just do it out of what we currently have? Is this thing we, is this new goal more important than existing goals? And if so, do we have to do both? Is that part of our actual strategy? Or is this so much more important? We should walk away from that and sort of really making those hard decisions? Because when the easy, the easy choice is to add, right? The easy choice is to say, well, I should just hire somebody. I do think once you get into saying, like, okay, now I want to hire, you previewed the next one. They say the next common mistake is like, people don't actually know what they want to hire. So maybe it's for the reason you're describing, where it's sort of a job seeking goals versus clear goals that then require someone to do them. In some cases, they don't spend the time really visualizing the flavor of either the cultural behaviors at their company or the type of person who would thrive in the context they have. Someone coming in to be the head of marketing at a company that's growing gangbusters in the AI space is a very different context than someone in a consumer goods space right now, which is under siege and the ads are getting harder and more expensive, and it's highly competitive, and maybe you're a shrinking company, very different marketing pros, even though they're going to have the same title. And so do people really sit down and say, well, do I know what I actually want? Do I know the flavors available? How would I articulate that? And one of the things I just encourage people to do is go have five conversations, if you can write down like, hey, I think these are the five people.

David Kline [00:21:42]:
If I could go into the world. Money is no object. These are the five people I would hire to solve this problem. Great. Maybe you can't get those five. But then what is it in common about them? What are the capabilities they have? Do they have lieutenants? Do they know people? There's lots of ways to then both use them to design the job and then also start to think about, well, who are the humans who might fill it? I think the other thing you said makes a ton of sense, which is like, can you run some experiments? You know, like, oh, before we go get a full team or add somebody, you know, can we, can we try one of these on our own? And that will also teach us about what capabilities we're missing or we had to outsource.

Dave Gerhardt [00:22:18]:
I like the idea of always of talking to more people, even if you're not ready to hire yet, because I do think so much of that is, you don't know what you don't know what you don't know. And if you think you might want to hire for an events role, like, even if you're not ready to post that job and hire yet to be talking to, just if people will take your call and give you 1520 minutes of their time, youre going to start to get a sense of what might be out there. One of the best people I ever worked for is this guy called Mike Volpe, and he was the CMO of HubSpot at the time. And I remember when I interviewed with him, it was the final round of the interview, and I was, like, the 75th employee on the marketing team. And I was like, how do you have time? And were close now? And I was like, how do you have time to meet with every single one of these candidates? Like, isn't that kind of insane? Like, this team's gonna be 100 people, and you're the last line. He's like, dude, what do you. There's nothing more important. Like, this is the job.

Dave Gerhardt [00:23:12]:
And I was like, I always thought, like, the CMO role was like, you know, you're, you came up with that witty line on the billboard, and it was from him that I learned, like, no, this is the whole job. And so that is the most important thing. And the interview with him was, eve was like, he wasn't even. His interview was like a mind game. It was like, so what do you want to know? And I was like, what do you mean? You're interviewing me? And that whole thing was a, was a test. But he also, not only would he be the last stop, that's all he did was coffees and lunches and meetings with people because he just was like, yep, we're going to need to hire, I don't know who we're going to need to hire next month, next quarter, next year, but I need to always be meeting people. What's your reaction to hearing that?

David Kline [00:23:53]:
It's funny, I literally just got someone just, oh, the who method.

Dave Gerhardt [00:23:56]:
This has made me better because this is before reading that book. We used this book when I was at drift and before using that book, there was no method. I just would go in there and go, willyou know, go Willy nilly and just talk about everything. And I was like, yeah, man, I really loved her. That was an amazing conversation. I'm like, I don't know anything other than great personality, but having that methodology and be able to drill in is amazing. But do they talk about that in that book? I don't remember.

David Kline [00:24:22]:
You reminded me of a, there was a quote in there, I think it was the CEO of Aon, which is like a multi billion dollar company. And he was saying that personally he sets a target of 30 people that he's going to bring into the company a year. It was really in the context of like referrals and talent knows talent, and that's sort of the way you constantly recruit and upgrade. But that idea of like, yeah, to get 30 humans to come into your organization, he's probably having coffees and lunches and dinners and connecting with hundreds every year. And he, like, I think he carved out 2 hours a week where it's exclusively just about nurturing relationships with people who might eventually fit a need that they have. And I agree. We use the shorthand of 25%. Like when we start our, we do it.

David Kline [00:25:10]:
We have a module on recruiting and we'll ask a question of like, who's hiring right now or who's recruiting right now. And half people will raise their hand and half won't. And I was like, well, you're wrong if you have your hand down, because if you're a leader, you're always recruiting. I think you're answering who's hiring, you know, and the best leaders that I know, who had the highest talent teams and constantly had their pick of the stars were spending like a quarter of their time doing this. Yeah, think about 10 hours a week.

Dave Gerhardt [00:25:33]:
Yeah. This is the, probably the biggest mistake I made as a first time vp. I was like, we had a small maybe 1012 people on the team and I was so busy. I had so many things to do, so many one on one, so many existing means. It's like, I don't, I don't have time. I don't have time to do this. Then I talk to people now and they're like, I don't have time. But it's one of those, like, the obstacle is the way thing.

Dave Gerhardt [00:25:56]:
Like, you have to find a way to do that. And it almost is like a test. Right? Like, you have to. This wasn't on your list, but this has got to be somewhere, like, to let go when you're the leader, you have to let, you have to let go of the day to day things. Maybe let them break even in order for you to have time to go spend recruiting, but order to, like, actually scale. Right. Is this something that you talk about? We always used to reference this article that, shoot, I forget her name now, but not as important. But it was about like, basically as your company grows, you have to be able to, like, give up your legos.

Dave Gerhardt [00:26:29]:
Right. Especially as a manager. Like, the thing you used to do all the time, you have to be able to give that away and move on.

David Kline [00:26:36]:

Dave Gerhardt [00:26:36]:
Where does, like, delegation fit in this role of becoming, becoming a leader? And do you see it as one of the hardest transitions for someone who was like the Rockstar Doer, who now all of a sudden is like, managing the team? What do you mean? I got to give all this stuff away?

David Kline [00:26:51]:
Yeah. The way I tend to think about it is delegation becomes the outcome, but mostly through setting expectations. And I think the mistake that people make with expectations is overly focusing on what and not how. So just to make that very real, when we built the core, when we built the program, I did this, you know, I built it with my wife. And this was like the one slide we were fighting about because she was in sales and I'd done everything but sales. And I'm like, oh, the what is probably more important or the what? The how is more important than the what? And she's like, what are you talking about? She's like, I was in sales. They told me, like, you got a $50 million target. Go get it done.

David Kline [00:27:28]:
The what was all that mattered? And I'm like, well, are you sure? Were they okay if you went and got clients who were going to churn really fast? Were they okay if you didnt do it? Shes at Google the time. If you werent operating in line with Google's culture, were they okay if you skipped past that and she said, well, no and no. I shared some other stories where people had done some pretty outrageous things because they had been given a what but hadnt spent any time aligning on the how. I think thats where a lot of the delegation gets you there. Like you said, where struggles, why people struggle, I think to delegate is to get over the fear. Right. The fear that someone won't do it as well as they would do it. They won't do it the same way.

David Kline [00:28:06]:
They'll become obsolete, you know, marginalized, that they'll lose control. And so if you align on the what? Well, you know what the person's going to do, like you, you know, if they're going to do it your way or do it their way, and maybe it's okay because maybe their way is better, you're going to know how they're going to report up to you versus constantly wonder if they're going to ever give you an update. You're going to know all these things. And that sort of buys down the fear so that as you turn over the work and turn your attention to doing only the things that you can do. Right. That's the people, that's the other part people forget about is by not delegating, like, you're not taking full advantage of, like, the people you brought in who are highly talented, who can do that work and they can't do the thing you're neglecting.

Dave Gerhardt [00:28:47]:
So do you need to define the what, like in that, in that relationship? I think one of the things that I struggle with is realizing that there are multiple ways to achieve the goal. And too often I'm like, no, this is my way. And so it's got to be done this way. And then you kind of step back a little bit, you're like, actually, that's not how I would have said it. That's not how I would have done it. But we check achieved the same thing and, oh, okay, all right, I got to let go more. So how do you align on the what?

David Kline [00:29:12]:
I don't think it has to be more complicated than a conversation. Again, if you took an example and said, hey, the what is, we're going to run two email campaigns this quarter, you know, for our product. And then I could just stop there and say, like, hey, you're in charge, but tell me, like, how are you going to go after that? You know, like, are we going to, are we doing that in house? Are we doing that with an agency? Do we have to, like, test a lot of copy? Do we already have proven copy? Are we going to, is there a sub segment we're going to, like, target? Or are we going to do a broad campaign? Just like, what are you thinking. And, like, they can sort of define the what, but by us spending time upfront to have that person articulate the what. And maybe it's in two conversations, right? They're going to come back to me and say, like, this is how I'm thinking about it.

Dave Gerhardt [00:29:54]:
You can ask better questions. And then your job as the leader manager is to ask questions. And you're not asking them to judge. You're just, like, seeing if you're asking questions to understand, right?

David Kline [00:30:03]:
You can ask questions to understand. You can point them to be like, hey, we've tried this before and it didn't work, but go for it. So I don't want you to do it or actually go for it. Maybe we just got that detail wrong last time. The thing that's important for me is that they help write it, because if they're co authors of this expectation, then they will stick to the script that they wrote. If it's you telling them exactly how to do everything, like, we just as humans, most talented humans, don't want to be told exactly what to do, down to the level of detail. You just don't feel ownership over it. You don't feel agency does.

Dave Gerhardt [00:30:36]:
There need to be, like, a expectation for each role, like, clearly documented? Like, hey, I just hired, you know, we just brought you in as director of marketing or senior marketing manager. Like, here are the expectations for this job. Like, do I write that as a manager? Or you're saying it's a shared doc that we create, that maybe that person might create as part of their first two weeks on the job or something?

David Kline [00:31:00]:
Yep. I would say that if I were having. I have three docs that I really won't manage. Somebody without. One of them is a dashboard that they own that sort of updates me on what's going on in their area. The second one is their development plan doesn't have to be any more complicated than three bullets, but it has to be written down. What is the gap? What are we doing to close the gap? How will we know if we're closing it? And then the third one is exactly this, which is what is our expectations of you and the role. How would you meet those expectations? How would you exceed those expectations? And then I revisit the expectations quarterly just to say, like, okay, you grade it, I'll grade it.

David Kline [00:31:36]:
Because we wrote this down a quarter ago. And then we're going to reconcile the differences, and then we'll adjust the expectations based on what we learned. Maybe they were too aggressive. Maybe they weren't aggressive enough. Maybe we disagree on how you're doing, and so we should reconcile that to get us back on the same page. But I have found that a lot of times, people think that they are on the same page with expectations by having a chat. And for the most part, there's just so much more fidelity and clarity when you're forced to put it down into words. And again, you don't have to overengineer it.

David Kline [00:32:02]:
You know, like, here are your three responsibilities, and here's three bullets describing you, the how that you will fulfill that with so that we can both objectively look at that and say, okay, yeah, you met the expectation, or, no, you came up short, or, wow, you wildly exceeded it.

Dave Gerhardt [00:32:17]:
And then a lot of this just ends up tie. It always comes back to, like, what are the business goals for the company to see how aligned you are. Right?

David Kline [00:32:25]:

Dave Gerhardt [00:32:26]:
That's where all the mistakes happen. When the company strategy is not clearly articulated, it becomes hard to go and execute on the how. In any department, do you have any stories or lessons from leadership as to how to wrangle that? I know that a lot of people listening, they work at companies where things might be a little mushy right now, and that makes it hard for leadership. We've all done this. You kind of play this dance of, like, the CEO's in your ear. You kind of know this one thing is happening. You can't really share all of that with your team. You got to keep them motivated.

Dave Gerhardt [00:33:01]:
Everyone's kind of, like, running around. There's too many things going on. We change the plan. We don't want to change the plan. Again. How do you be a good leader when you're in a state of. When the business might be in a state of uncertainty?

David Kline [00:33:14]:
Well, I think there's two ways you can do it. One is to realize that you are, to some degree, supposed to be absorbing the noise for your team and providing the signal management, rethinking things and going through all these iterations, there was still, at some point in time, a decision made, and you were traveling on a path. And until you, as an organization, consciously decide to change paths, you need to keep your team focused and executing well. And I don't know. A mistake that I made and I learned from was in an effort to be transparent, I was whipsawing my team all over the place. It was almost like they turned into my therapist for the fact that I couldn't get clear directions. And I realized, oh, I've got this backwards. My job is to let this noise hit me and keep them on track until we've made a decision.

David Kline [00:34:01]:
And then, great, let me bring them transparently into the decision, or if it's a collaborative process, bring them in that way. But we need to be absorbing that, not just sort of passing it along because it's unfair. You're passing along the noise without probably the same level of access and context. And so if anything, it's more alarming for them than you. The second thing that I would do is like, sometimes, though, and I think that you're also hinting at this, which is like, business is ambiguous and it's confusing. And it's not always. Your boss is not always going to be able to say, like, here are the five steps I need you to execute, and all will be right with the world. What I ask people to do is just like, express that in the expectation.

David Kline [00:34:36]:
You can express that through ranges. You could say, like, I don't know whether we should do 15 or 20 calls a week. And so let's just say you're going to do between 15 and 20 calls a week. Like, I don't know if we're going to close three deals or four deals, so we're going to say, like, three to five deals would be within expectations. It's like almost letting everybody know that there's questions to be answered and the expectation is to do the work, to answer the questions becomes your way through it, back to your obstacle is the way. The only way I know to get through ambiguity is to start taking action to generate data and then learn and continue to adjust. But sitting there frozen or using that to then say, like, I can't possibly write down expectations, you're just sort of, you're papering over the reality then that literally no one knows what to do. They're just going to make up their most sensible things.

David Kline [00:35:19]:
Which I think ties back to your point of you get lucky when you hire really good people because their sensible decisions will probably be pretty good, but you're still taking some risks because sometimes those sensible decisions go in a very strange direction.

Dave Gerhardt [00:35:31]:
What have you learned about when things aren't going well as a leader with plans or people on your team? I've had a tendency to want to just rip the band aid and just move on, really, because every week you're not making progress. But that's not the reality of things. Talk about how to handle when things are not going well, whether people or process or systems.

David Kline [00:35:59]:
Well, the thing I was going to say is that everything is always people.

Dave Gerhardt [00:36:03]:
Yeah, but this is, this is the eight actually, I shouldn't ask you this because this is the part of this is why you didn't end up being chief people officer. Because this was how the half of it you didn't want to deal with.

David Kline [00:36:13]:
Yeah. No, no, but I mean, um, I'm going to answer it as people, because even when it's a problem with process or technology, there is a person who chose the technology, who implemented the process, who set the policy. Like, someone made it. Like, process and technology don't just magically appear on their own. Someone made a call. Someone made a choice. Someone made an investment.

Dave Gerhardt [00:36:33]:

David Kline [00:36:34]:
That's the interesting part. And so if you have someone who's consistently making bad investments, you can't just say, keep changing the investments. You have to say, change the person picking. And it's funny, the last thing we skipped on recruiting, I said, a, don't hire. B, should people aren't clear enough about what they want. And then c, people settle. And I think that ties to what we're talking about here, which is a lot of times we are under immense amount of pressure. We are understaffed, and a person shows up who is probably skilled and not culturally aligned.

Dave Gerhardt [00:37:09]:
You're hitting me right in the gut right now. The amount of times that I've fallen for this one is like, yep, quick hire this person seems awesome. And then, like, two weeks in, like, the. It's like, your body, like, the organism, like, completely rejects this. And I got five messages about how they met with this guy and he rubbed everyone the wrong way. And I'm like, damn it, 100%.

David Kline [00:37:29]:
So I just wanted to set that up to say, like, the first, easiest way to, like, not deal with that problem is to avoid it in the first place. Like, and you've. You've lived it. I've lived it so many times where, like, every time I make that trade off, and I'm like, well, they have the skills, and I'm sure they'll change. They don't change. Like, they're never going to be better than they are in the interview when they're trying to impress you. So if you already have flags in the interviews, I assume it's going to get worse. And so let's say you didn't get that right.

David Kline [00:37:58]:
And so now you have this person and they're underperforming. I typically start from a place of, again, it sounds trite, but I'm like, well, why? What I find is there are four possibilities, and I sort of work through them left to right. So the first two are mine. Do they have what they need to do the job, right? Like, do they have the resources, the support, the technology, the process? Like, if I went into the world and got a reasonable person to do this job and armed them with these tools, could they do it? You'll be shocked how often the answer is actually, we didn't give them the right tools. We didn't set them up.

Dave Gerhardt [00:38:28]:
Well, I think it's hard to, I'm excited to hear what the second one is. I think I could guess. But it's also hard to look in the mirror and be like, actually, they're not succeeding because I did not step up. I did not give them, I did not set them up for success. Right, totally.

David Kline [00:38:43]:
And then the second one is related to the same, which is training. And what's interesting, and I've sort of adjusted my calibration on this, Matt Mochari, who's a big executive coach, he wrote the CEO within, when he works with a CEO, his expectation if they're trying to find like, their successor or any sort of C level executive they bring in, his expectation is that C level executive doesn't do work for three to six months, that they just come in and shadow the existing executive. And I was like, wait, what?

Dave Gerhardt [00:39:13]:
Yeah, it sounds terrible now.

David Kline [00:39:14]:
He said, well, right. That was my reaction, too. Now he said, look, when you hire the right people, they're going to start ripping work out of the other person's hands. Like, they can't help themselves. Like, you hired this, like, star type a person. They're not going to sit there and watch. But in reality, like, there's just so much to actually absorb, to understand, to train to context, relationships to build. And we skip all that.

David Kline [00:39:35]:
And they were just like, here you go. Here are the keys of the car. Drive safe. And so anyways, whether three to six months is too much, it had me thinking, like, oh, I probably sold some people short along the way of saying, like, this is all obvious. You don't need training. And so I'm using training pretty expansively just to be like, are they connected to the right people? Do they know what we're doing? Like, do they have all the context necessary? And if they, if I'm delivering the tools and the training and those are my problems, then the other two become theirs. So let's say you did that. You're like, I believe they have what they need.

David Kline [00:40:05]:
I believe we've, we've exhausted the necessary training for a reasonable person to do this. Then you're down to skill and will do they have the ability to do it and do they want to do it? And I try to get underneath those two in reverse order, because if the will. If they don't want to do the job, we are wasting our time. And that's a hard question to answer, because a lot of times, people want the income, they don't want the job. But I think if you can have honest conversations and really get under it and ask for. If you're sort of like, well, do you want to make the changes? Do you want to learn the things you have to learn? Do you want to close the gap to get to these expectations? And you'll find a lot of times, people will eventually be like, not really, man. You know, and you're like, or like, are you.

Dave Gerhardt [00:40:47]:
Are you gonna be, you know, there. There is a certain. There's a certain level, like, type of person that is gonna be like, nope. You just asked them to do something, and everything becomes personal, and everything becomes like, that's not my job. And again, I think I would go back, and I like your framework, but I think skill versus will. Do they have a willing to, like, are they willing to, like, branch out and maybe do something that's not in their job? And are they gonna do it because they're the type of person that thinks in abundance, like, all right, I'm gonna do this. Like, I'm gonna help us win. I think this is gonna mean good things from the future, or is it gonna be a scarcity mindset type person? I was like, what? They're not paying me for.

Dave Gerhardt [00:41:24]:
They're not paying for me for this. I'm not gonna do this job. This is Mary's job. She's got to go do that. And, like, yeah. When you see one of those come up in the early days, that's a. That's a big, big, big red flag, for sure.

David Kline [00:41:34]:
And that back to the cultural compromises in the recruiting process, like, that is something I am trying to hunt for there, because I don't want to learn that after I've gone through onboarding and training and resourcing and made that whole commitment and slowed down my recruiting pipeline only to learn that two weeks in, you know, so that would be something I would be.

Dave Gerhardt [00:41:50]:
Yeah. Skill and will. That's really. That's a really, like, simple framework to look at.

David Kline [00:41:55]:
Yeah, skills. The hard one. Skills, like, because imagine they do want to do it. Right? So they say that. Yep. I see that. I'm so excited, because this is another challenging character.

Dave Gerhardt [00:42:04]:
Is this from the who method?

David Kline [00:42:06]:
No. Where's this being there, too.

Dave Gerhardt [00:42:08]:

David Kline [00:42:09]:
I first heard it from a coach I had probably 15 years ago, okay.

Dave Gerhardt [00:42:13]:
Because I was at a company once, and we used to. Each team leader was responsible for basically grading all of their team, like, once a quarter. Like, you know, Dave is my head of whatever, and I'd have to say, like, you know, one through five, skill, one through five will. And you'd kind of look and be like, well, he's a five on the skill, but he's a two on the will. Okay? That means with Dave, I gotta, like, my mission this quarter is like, I gotta dig in and figure out, like, does he want this job? Is this right? Blah blah, blah verse. Like, if it's a, you know, two on the skill versus five on the will, it might be like, all right, you know what? Like, let's dig in here. We're gonna really gonna work on this and try to figure, focus on coaching. I thought that was a really useful framework for managing.

David Kline [00:42:55]:
No, I like that, too. And the skill one's tricky, right? They really want it, but the. The progression is not going fast enough. And that's. People ask me, like, well, how do you decide? And I'm like, honestly, this is where, like, managers, this is the gray. At some point in management, you get to a gray, and this is why they teach you. They pay you to have judgment. And usually the test for me is, could I get someone from the outside world who would catch up to this person in three to six months? And if the answer is yes, we should probably move on, because if you're really struggling to get them to that point, there's not going to, like, how much more Runway is there past that, versus if someone could come in in three to six months and catch them, it's going to be a much steeper trajectory to your point, of going beyond the boundaries, adding more value, growth.

David Kline [00:43:40]:
And when people are having more impact and getting more growth and bringing energy to the situation, they tend to be more engaged and happy and productive. And so it just becomes, you know, do you want to stay in a vicious cycle or a virtuous one?

Dave Gerhardt [00:43:53]:
All right, we got to wrap up. I got a. I got a question I got. I want to ask you also. I just had an idea, and I just so you know, I've been paying attention this whole time. Like, I usually take a lot of notes.

David Kline [00:44:01]:
Serious, I think, go viral, man.

Dave Gerhardt [00:44:05]:
It would go viral. No, every time I post a picture of my handwriting, everyone's like, oh, he's got the handwriting of a serial killer. It doesn't it's not that great. I would love to, I'm going to, we're going to send you a note after this because I think we should do like an AMA with our community on the leadership. This is really good. There's a lot of this tough to do. Well, this is a great, I've enjoyed this conversation, but there's so many like, layers. And I would love to give people the opportunity to ask a specific question, like, hey, I got this person.

Dave Gerhardt [00:44:32]:
I'm trying to do this thing. You'd be really valuable. Okay, cool. Give me one or two. Just because the who method came up, let's give people some resources. You can plug your own stuff at the end of, but give like one or two resources day of somebody who wants to become a, the better manager, become a better leader. Right now. They can go buy, they can go book the who method, maybe talk about why and then give us like one or two other resources you recommend.

David Kline [00:44:55]:
Well, I'm giving you the who method on, I'm only three quarters through, but I think it is at Bridgewater, we tested all the interviewers to say who was predictive of success. And I was two standard deviations positive in predicting that. But no one really knew why and I couldn't really articulate it. What I love about the who method is I think that they actually articulated, it was like, oh, that's what I was doing. And I think the secret is this idea of being very curious. I just don't really settle for any surface answers. And so I'm always like, tell me more. How? What? I just want to go deeper and deeper because I always wanted to understand the motivation.

David Kline [00:45:30]:
I wanted to understand the thinking behind it. That's what I cared about, not what their biggest weakness was. Like, you know, like, well, you can start with any question, but then it's like, oh, that's interesting. Well, what did you do about that? How did you apply it? Where did that show up in other domains? How did that undermine what you were trying to do? Like, those were so much more interesting than the first.

Dave Gerhardt [00:45:49]:
Well, also, I think what's great about that, and this is what they talk about in the book is I like to say now when I interview people, I'm like, look, I'm going to grill you in this interview, and this is not personal. This is just like, we only have a set amount of time. And like, I believe in rapport and relationship building, but like, I need to do a fact. I'm on a fact finding mission and I would get too caught up in the rapport building, like, yeah, Dave is great, but what I need to do is dig into you and say, like, art. And so it's about continuing to go deep. So, like, I'm hiring an email person. They tell me they. They've done email for ten years.

Dave Gerhardt [00:46:22]:
I'm like, great. What tools have you used? Oh, you've used HubSpot. What did that cost and what contract were you on and what plan were you on and how many times a week were you sending email? What was the deliverability? What was the average open rate and click through rate? That's the quickest way I found now to actually figure out, like, who knows their shit in an interview with you is to get really specific and really deep. But I found that if I don't give people the heads up, up front, they get very defensive and they're off. They're. They're put off by that style of interview.

David Kline [00:46:48]:
Yeah, it's very similar. I try to make it really conversational, but I'll even tell people upfront what I'm assessing. I'm like, I'm looking at these three things, like, be very clear with you, but the way I want to do it is I want to go really, really deep. Or.

Dave Gerhardt [00:47:00]:
You got anything else other than the who method?

David Kline [00:47:03]:
I would say the two that I go to a lot. The making of a manager by Julie Zhu. I just. It's a very. She was at Facebook. She's got her own company now, but she was sort of in sort of product management, and just. It's a very conversational, very accessible, super pragmatic and practical. So whether you're a large corporation or a small company, just if I recommend that to people who are relatively new to having to manage others, um, it's like a pretty good 80 20 primer.

David Kline [00:47:28]:
And then the. The other one that comes up quite a bit is traction by Gino Wickman, which has the entrepreneur operating system in it. I think it does a really good job just helping people structure some of the things you were talking about. Dave, would you go from, like, well, what's the vision and mission down to what are we doing this year? To what are we doing this quarter? To what did we do last week? How do we sort of hold each other accountable? It gives you. I think it gives you a lot of the basic components of the work, and I guess that sets up mine because I would say I feel like we're a companion piece because we're talking about the people a lot. You know, like, how do you motivate them inspire them, guide them, coach them, develop them, give them feedback, you know, which we try to do with our management playbook, which we put out every week and through our courses. Cool. All right.

Dave Gerhardt [00:48:09]:
Do you want to, do you want to plug, do you want to plug your management, do you want to plug your business real quick in case people are interested?

David Kline [00:48:14]:

Dave Gerhardt [00:48:15]:

David Kline [00:48:16]:
So the management accelerators are kind of our flagship cohort based program. It runs for 90 minutes twice a week over a month. The next one is April 30. We run it three times a year. Leaders from kind of two to ten years experience are the sweet spot. Typically companies of 50 to 1000.

Dave Gerhardt [00:48:33]:
Cool. All right. And do. So the number one CTA on this podcast is to go to LinkedIn, not X, because it's dying. Go to LinkedIn. That's where we're at. Go find Dave Klein. Connect with him, follow him, send him a note.

Dave Gerhardt [00:48:47]:
Tell him that you appreciate his perspective on the exit five podcast. Dave, I hope you get some notes. About 3000 people listen to this episode in the first month or so, so you'll get a couple, and then we'd love to do an ama at some point. I'm gonna send you a note after that. But Dave, this was awesome. I just, I like having these conversations. I like when we get outside of the marketing specific stuff. This is something that we need to do more on.

Dave Gerhardt [00:49:10]:
I got a bunch of notes. Makes me want to go hire more people. I'm not ready to do that, but in the, in the meantime, thank you. I'm going to continue to follow your stuff. I appreciate you coming and hanging out and appreciate you. I hope you get some snow when you get to Vermont. I hope you get some snow. All right.

David Kline [00:49:24]:
You and me both. You and me both.

Dave Gerhardt [00:49:26]:
Thank you so much.

David Kline [00:49:27]:
Take care. Exit.
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