1 Big Idea to Think About

  • There is an advantage to being able to make quick decisions and get things done. Executionists are able to make quick decisions, prioritize tasks, and make progress toward important goals.

1 Way You Can Apply This

  • Next time you are faced with a problem, use the 1-3-1 Method:
    • Identify 1 problem
    • Create 3 different responses to that problem
    • Make 1 recommendation

1 Question to Ask

  • What is my decision process like, and how could I make it more efficient?

Key Moments From the Show 

  • The system behind getting things done (0:47)
  • The differences between an executionist and a nonexecutionist (2:38)
  • The HP Way (5:34)
  • Identifying an executionist (7:27)
  • The 1-3-1 Method (8:35)
  • Intelligence vs. initiative (10:57)
  • Questions to help people get into execution mode (18:55)
  • The importance of giving people purpose (20:47)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown: 

Welcome, everybody. Before we get to the podcast itself, a reminder to sign up for the 1-Minute Wednesday Newsletter. You’ll be joining more than 175,000 people. You can sign up for it by just going to gregmckeown.com/1mw. And every week you will get 1 minute, or something close to it, of the best thinking to be able to help you design a life that really matters and to make that as effortless and easy as possible. So go to gregmckeown.com/1mw

I once did some research on the Olympics, not just a single Olympics, but multiple Olympics. And trying to understand the human system behind these really phenomenon, I mean, events, that’s what we would have to call them, but a sort of gigantic circus tent.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yeah, that’s a gigantic one.

 

Greg McKeown: 

You know, the biggest in the world.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yes.

 

Greg McKeown: 

There’s a whole set of people who travel to the different Olympics, and they’re hired by each new Olympics just because they have this competence. And so then there’s, you know, there’s the core Olympic committee, and there’s, of course, a whole hierarchy of people that are employed within that system. But then you have this secondary group of people who, like in Hollywood, not distinctly different to that, are just talented at making things happen.

And so these people, you know, hey, you need 10,000 cars. Okay, we’ll make that happen. We’ll get those things there. What do you need? I can make it happen. Consider it done. I’m an executionist, so this is different. Of course, the writing I’ve done is essentialist and what it takes to be an essentialist. But this focuses on the getting it done part. Executionist.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

I completely agree. And I love how this whole interview is transferred to that. But you’re right; it’s getting it done. And, you know, my company, we know how to get it done. And we’ve even had our people who hire us. They say, “Ryan, you know how to get blank done. That’s just amazing. You know how to execute. You know how to, because, you know, we’ve hired other people, and they just sit there and they just talk about it. And they, even though it’s just as simple as putting a white table, curtain, tablecloth on a table, it just, they sit and talk about it for 20 minutes. You just go get it out of your truck, you put it on, and it’s done.”

 

Greg McKeown: 

Well, what have you learned? You know, it’s almost, as I’m talking to you, it’s almost like there’s some unconscious competence here, some invisibility to it for you. What have you learned about execution? You know, what are the things that someone who feels stagnant or stuck, they’re talking too much about it? They’re thinking too much about it. They’re not actually making progress on the thing that they already know matters. What have you learned about, let’s say, actually, let me reverse the question. What have you learned about people who are nonexecutionists, people who just can’t get it done?

 

Ryan Kugler: 

You don’t want me to get into that. Okay. So, but anyway. 

 

Greg McKeown: 

I do. That’s the better question. And your reaction to it definitely makes me want to go there.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Well, the first thing is, don’t ever hire that person.

 

Greg McKeown: 

How would you avoid that? How would you know that you were hiring a non-executionist?

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Because when you interview them, and you talk to them and they sit and have to think about the question for five or ten or three minutes, you know that they can’t make a decision quickly. And part of my interview process is I actually will put down a pen and a pencil, and I’ll say, “What do you prefer to write with? Or which one’s the pen?” 

And if they can immediately answer, I know they know how to get stuff done, and they can make a decision quickly.

 

Greg McKeown: 

Hold on. Explain that to me again. You give them a piece of paper, a pen, and a pencil.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Well, no, not a piece of paper, just a pen and a pencil. And I’ll just say, point to the pen or give me the pencil. And if they could do it rapidly and quickly, so then I know that they can think quickly. They’re on their toes.

 

Greg McKeown: 

That’s an interesting, that’s a very interesting micro test. You’ve learned that someone who’s indecisive in that moment will tend to be indecisive in anything that they do later.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

That’s what you, but I will ask him other questions. “What’s the last movie, what’s the last movie you saw?” 

And if they have to think about it for a minute, I go, “Huh?” 

Or I’ll even say, “Who’s your, what’s, what’s your favorite music? You know, do you like Taylor Swift? Do you like Madonna? Do you like, you know, Bruno Mars?” 

And if they have to think about it, I know that they’re not on. They’re not, really. And I’m gonna do a few questions just in case I catch them off guard. And it’s a test, and people get nervous at a test I don’t want. So, I’ve hired people for events. And I’ll say, hey, go pick up the black table and move it over there. Or, hey, we need to set up this tent. And then they just kind of walk, and they whistle while they walk. And I’m like, dude, we have to have this place set up in 49 minutes. We don’t have time. Let’s just get moving. You could whistle, but, like, walk a little faster.

So to answer your question, the indecisive, you don’t want to. I should say I don’t mean for just any labor. I mean someone at a higher level executive job. But here, the first part of your question that you asked, and I forgot it was, but here’s my answer. Someone who can make a decision quickly basically will make a decision. 90% of the time, that decision will be correct. 10% it will not be correct.

The 10% that is not correct, that person will admit I messed up but will fix it and make it 100% correct within five minutes.

 

Greg McKeown: 

Two thoughts that hit me there. One is I did some work with the then-CEO of HP, Mark Heard, before he went and became co CEO of Oracle. And he came in, and one of the challenges that he was faced with at HP was that HP had, in its heyday, created modern management. It was the case study of how you run a business. It was an enlightened way to get the right things done. And they called that, of course, both the book and then, internally, the HP way.

But that idea of the HP way became, how would I say it? Like it became corrupted as a term over time. Instead of saying, are we doing this the HP way or not? It was everything we do, no matter what is the HP way. So, it became an inversion of its intention. It was everything we do. All of the scar tissue, decision making over time, all the zombie projects that are just never, this is all the HP way. This is all the thing.

And so when he came in, he famously said, the last thing we need is a strategy. This is all about end-to-end. It’s about execution. And in fact, that was the project that I was involved with, was assessing all of their talent, VPN above, specifically around their ability to execute. It was an execution initiative to make sure that the leadership of the whole company could make it happen. I didn’t call it that at the time, but an executionist is not a bad name for what he was doing himself and what he was trying to have other people do.

So, coming back to this, how else do you assess whether people are going to be that kind of a person, that kind of an employee?

 

Ryan Kugler:

Well, it’s also, it’s, do they sit and ask you 100 questions back if you say, “Hey, can you go take the black table and put it over there?” 

If they’re like, “Well, which black table? Where is it?” After I pointed to it. “Well, where do you want me to take it?” 

“Well, over there.” 

“Well, do you want me to walk it over there? Do you want me to run it over there? Do you want me to go get a forklift?”

 It’s like, “Man, I don’t care how you do it. Just go get the table and put it over.”

 

Greg McKeown: 

I want you to make it happen.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yes. You figure it out.

 

Greg McKeown: 

This is close to a universal expectation. Although maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m overstating it, but surely the majority of, certainly of executives want you to make it happen. Make it so. Take care of it. Do not supplement me with the thinking process because that’s why you’re here. And if you put that back on me, if you put the thinking process back on me, then you have reduced significantly your value to me.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Right.

 

Greg McKeown: 

I read something just yesterday about this. It was called the 1-3-1 method, and it was a—I would say it’s a thinking tool, but maybe it’s better to describe it as a decision tool.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Decision is better. Thinking takes long, a decision you just decide it’s done well.

 

Greg McKeown: 

And this is back to 90%, 10% right. You get it right 90% of the time. And if you’re not right, but you’re already moving, you can change.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yeah. Fix it. You’ll fix it within a couple of minutes. Yeah.

 

Greg McKeown: 

You’ll learn by doing, through the execution of it. Now, this was the idea is that you name one problem and you come up with three reasonable responses to that problem. You do a little bit of research, and you come up with three things, and then you make one recommendation. And I just thought that was a very helpful management tip in terms of empowering other people to be executionists so that when they come to you with the questions, you say, “Okay, do the 1-3-1 with me. Have you done that? Go back and do it. Come back with the recommendation.

And I think that what I suspect is that as people do that decision process, they will learn, “Oh, yeah, I already made the recommendation. I already know what I need to do. Get it done.” 

And that’s different than what you’re saying because it’s so hands-on the get the table here, move it there kind of in this event situation. But I still thought that was a nice little tool.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

It is. And here’s a funny little story that’ll go along since you and I are on a roll with this, and you’ve probably had this happen all the time. How many people have come to you and your listeners to listen to this? How many people have come to you, Greg, and said, “Hey, I have a question.” 

And you go, “Great, what is it?” 

And they tell you a story. They don’t ask you the question; they tell you a whole story about the question, and then you have to go, “Oh, what is the question?” 

I don’t need the story if I want the story. I’ll ask you later. Just ask me the question because I guarantee I’m going to give you a good answer. But if I don’t get your question, then I want your story. That happens quite frequently; I found in companies they want to tell a story to get you ready for the question when, if someone just says, “Hey, do you want me to put the crane over there on the cement or in the parking lot?” 

I don’t need a story of why the crane should go either way. Just ask me, and trust me, I’ll say, “Put it in the parking lot because that’s where we’re going to move the bleachers.”

But then if they say, “Well, wait a second, the parking lot’s flooded, da da da da,” then they can give me that data. But I’m going to give them a quick answer.

 

Greg McKeown: 

Warren Buffett has three rules for selecting great people. I refer to them simply as the 3 I’s now because they’re alliterated. He says integrity, intelligence, and initiative. And he says, if you don’t have integrity, the other two will hurt you. All right, but I’m curious for you. Between intelligence and initiative, which matters most to you?

 

Ryan Kugler: 

You know, that is a good question, Greg, and I’d have. That’s something I’m going to think about probably when I’m driving home. I think that if I had to pick one, I feel that both are equal, but if I had a gun to my head and had to pick one, it’d probably be initiative because, again, that goes back to five minutes ago in this conversation, someone who can make a decision quickly. So if they can make a decision quickly, then to me, they’re already intelligent.

If they can’t, then they’re not as intelligent. Because, yes, there are great minds who have to think about something for a minute or ten minutes, or mathematicians have to put it on a board. Totally agree. But there are certain professions and certain things where you could just make a decision and just go with it.

 

Greg McKeown: 

What other things do you do in the interview process to assess whether somebody is this kind of executionist that we’re talking about?

 

Ryan Kugler:

I want them to ask me questions. My interview process. I always stop my questions, and then I say, “Ask me three questions, any questions you want.” And if they’re quick on their feet and they ask me questions, I love it. I don’t want to hire them. If they don’t ask me questions, bad sign. Probably not going to hire them 100%. 

They go, “I don’t have any questions for you.”

 

Greg McKeown: 

Well, that. That’s one of the. That’s a no-brainer, right? Because every interview you ever do, there will come a point where someone will say, what questions do you have for me? And if you have no questions in that moment, it’s never a good sign.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

It’s just not a good sign.

 

Greg McKeown: 

It is not. It just doesn’t. You have. You have demonstrated that you haven’t thought about anything; you’re not curious about anything. There’s so many things to ask. But again, it seems to me that for you, it’s speed of question would be more important than even the quality of those questions because you’re saying, hey, let’s make stuff happen. Is that true? It is.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

I am very fast, and my employees do tell me all the time. “Okay, you got to slow down for a minute, Ryan. Just. Let’s just think about this, okay? If we’re moving this truck from here to there and da da da da, what do you think?” Because I will make quick decisions, but, you know, sometimes they’re right. And I do have to be patient in some things because I am very quick, and my wife tells me this all the time, too, and my kids, but I’m just always just on the move, ready to go and ready to go make another short with Ted Danson. So that’s why I’m just like, “Hey, let’s just get moving.”

 

Greg McKeown: 

Okay? So that behooves a harder question, which is, you know, are you difficult for people to work with? I mean, if you’re being honest about the answer, does your team find you? Is it exhausting for them to have someone who’s just always in sort of execution mode?

 

Ryan Kugler: 

So, yes and no. So, number one, yes, I can be sometimes. It depends. Like, if we’re trying to go somewhere or catch a plane, I’m gonna be like, we’re getting on this plane. We’re not stopping for anything. We need to. We got. We got a clock to watch. So, yes, I could be difficult in that area. Yes, I 100% agree, and I will take responsibility for that. But I think most of the time, no, because I can do what I need. But also, if someone thinks I’m difficult because you said they or them, and I don’t mean the pronouns in today’s times, but I meant whoever might have that viewpoint, they just might not be compatible. Because when you’re working with people, you need to be compatible. You and I are compatible on this podcast, which is great.

Sometimes you’re talking to people that just, they’re out to lunch, they’re looking at the thing, they’re looking at their phone the whole time. You’re not compatible. And that’s just, you just got to find the right compatible person, like a best friend, a wife, a kid, you know, a co, a co-worker, and you try to hire. Going back to the interview process of finding people who are compatible with you, where, you know, where I said, “Hey, ask me questions.” Where some other company might be like, “I don’t want them to ask me questions. We don’t want to know this. So why am I going to listen to Ryan and Greg talking about this?”

 

Greg McKeown: 

It seems to me that all of us should come with a sort of user manual. 

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yes. 

 

Greg McKeown: 

Here’s the competence I care about most, or here’s how I work. How to work with me the best. So that is not an expectation, failure constantly. And anyone who comes to work with you has had many experiences before. Before we started the episode today, we were talking about interviewing people straight out of high school or out of college and the challenges that you found in finding talent in that situation and went and wrote a book about it. The sense of frustration, of like, “Oh, my goodness, there’s some foundational things you have to know. You don’t seem to know them.” 

But it’s like, this needs to be codified. You know, the executionist needs to be codified. How does an executionist think? What do they do? How do they, you know, what results do they get? And the clearer that can be articulated versus nonexecution, what does a nonexecutionist think, do, and get?

So that right from the beginning, literally, in that first interview, or certainly the first day on the job, you go, “Okay, listen, this is how it works. This is what I value. This is what I don’t value so that we can just make stuff happen. I care about the speed, of course, and quality, but the speed of execution and not all the reasons we can’t. We’re going to. That’s already defined. We’re going to. So now, how would we do it?”

 

Ryan Kugler: 

I 100% agree with you. I think this is a great book that you should write or somebody should write versus not.

 

Greg McKeown: 

So let’s just, let’s do this. Let’s just, let me share my favorite question to help people get into execution mode, and I want you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a question. It could be your favorite tip, you know, trick anything that people who otherwise might not be inclined to help you, or, well, let me tell you all the reasons we can’t. Or let me share the concerns. 

My question is this. I’ll ask someone like, imagine that there’s a few versions of this, but it’s something like, imagine if we were going, somebody was going to die if we didn’t do this.

How would you do it? But the whole goal is, don’t tell me all the reasons I can’t. Imagine that we were going to do it. Imagine it had been done. How would it have been done? Because I want to try and get people over the hump of telling me why it can’t be pushing against the idea. That’s not what we’re trying to talk about. You could spend a year in that conversation, but we’re having the wrong conversation. So I’m trying deliberately in those moments, to get somebody over that chasm of thought to how would we do it? Versus why we can’t do it.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

I want to make sure I understood correctly what you said. You want to know? Okay, so that’s your mission statement in life, and you want to know what mine is.

 

Greg McKeown: 

No, that was my, you know, that’s one thing that I’ll do, one trick I will use, or a question to ask to help someone switch their thinking from being a nonexecutionist to being an executionist. 

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Ahhh. Okay.

 

Greg McKeown: 

What do you do when you’re facing somebody that’s probably quite helpful, in one sense, they think they’re being helpful in explaining the complication with your ask. But that isn’t what you’re wanting from them. You’re asking them to get to make it happen.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

I know where you’re going now, okay? I give them purpose. So when I am, when I need something done, and I say, “Hey, we gotta, I say, listen, I need you to go move these cars.” I keep using things with the vents. Sorry, “but we gotta move these cars out of the way right now.” 

Sometimes they don’t get it. So young kids or people they just don’t, “Why do we have to move the cars? Why do I need to do this? I’d rather go on Facebook. I’d rather drink my macchiato, whatever.” 

So, I give them purpose. I say, “Listen, so you got all these people coming, you got a thousand people coming, right? And if they want to go over there, there’s cars over there and they can’t really get over there. So if they need parking, where are they going to park?”

And the guy goes, “Oh, yeah, you’re right.” 

I said, “So, hey, why don’t we go move the cars?” 

“Oh, okay. Yeah, I’ll get the cars moved.” 

I give them purpose. I tell them the reason for something before I tell them what to do so that they have reality on it and can see it themselves and go, I know now why you’re about to ask. Because a lot of people in today’s times, the new generation, is like, “Why are you telling me to do this? Why are you asking me to do this?”

They don’t want to do it. So you have to give them a reason to do it, which really dissect it more, give them the purpose and say, “Listen, if we don’t move those cars or if we don’t turn in this report, or if we don’t send in this email, the whole world’s going to explode. And we don’t want that, right? No. Okay, good. So let’s send in the email.”

 

Greg McKeown: 

I like that you use the word purpose for that. I would normally use the word context for it, but I have found. But I think the word purpose is a nice way of framing it, and I found that to be so helpful. Absolutely essential. If you want to help somebody. If you want someone to do something, you must give the context. You know, another word would be the story. But it’s like, why this is urgent, why this matters, why it would be helpful for you to help me, why you’d be doing a good thing, why.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

By just coming to work today?

 

Greg McKeown: 

Yes. Yeah. But of course, sometimes it’s not with an employee that you’re in these situations with. It’s somebody that you don’t have direct responsibility for. But you still need to be able to persuade them to take action, not just wait for them to think your idea is good or to agree with you in principle. It’s like, this has to happen. How can you make this happen?

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Right? And if they get by explaining the purpose, the context, then they have reality on it and they might get behind it and then give it more love and support to get it done, as opposed to just picking up and dropping and walking away and not really putting it in the right spot or doing the right thing. That’s all. 

 

Greg McKeown: 

The difference in what you’re suggesting in this tactic is the difference between somebody being able to hear the music themselves and dance versus dancing because you’re telling them to dance.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Right? Good way to put it, yes.

 

Greg McKeown: 

All the difference in the world.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Yeah. So, did that answer that question that you had a minute ago?

 

Greg McKeown: 

It was marvelous. What a pleasure it’s been to be able to talk today, to be able to explore this ability. We all need to be more executionist in our lives. We all need to be able to make things happen, something that we’re stuck in, something that we’re procrastinating, something that other people are pushing against. There’s resistance. The ability to make it so is surely one of the primary skills in all of life. And it’s been a pleasure to be able to explore this in this interesting journey and to be able to talk with you today.

Ryan Kugler, thank you for being on the show.

 

Ryan Kugler: 

Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.