This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview David Maxfield, Bestselling Business Author in Leadership, Influence, and Communication.
For more than twenty years, David Maxfield has led high-leverage research initiatives that uncover causes of and solutions to managerial, cultural, and operational inefficiencies that directly affect the bottom line. David’s career began with his doctoral work in psychology at Stanford University. Since then, his impact on organizational performance has been wide-reaching as he has helped clients such as Hewlett Packard, IBM, Ford Motor Company, Covenant Healthcare, and VISA to increase organizational effectiveness and to become measurably more vital.
Drawing from extensive academic and corporate experience, David delivers topics that are grounded in solid research and application. Speaking in front of more than five hundred audiences ranging in size from small retreats to large keynote events, David has been featured at prestigious venues including Stanford and Georgetown Universities, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals. With an unrivaled ability to connect to his audience through engaging stories and captivating examples, David brings concepts to life-motivating listeners to put their newly-found skills and knowledge to immediate use.
Currently David is the vice president of research at VitalSmarts, an innovative corporate training company that teaches skills which deliver significant improvements to the results companies care about most. In the past thirty years VitalSmarts has helped thousands of organizations, including more than three hundred of the Fortune 500, realize widespread and lasting results through its award-winning training programs. Named the 2008 Business of the Year by The Association of Learning Providers, VitalSmarts has also been ranked four times by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in America and has taught two million people worldwide. As vice president of research, David has led a series of research projects on a variety of subjects including the role crucial conversations play in the healthcare industry, and how the ongoing failure rate within enterprise projects is consistently linked to the avoidance of a few key crucial conversations. David has also led research projects about diversity, leadership, and influence.
David is the co-author of The New York Times bestseller Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. A respected academic, David has taught at Stanford University and the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. David is the recipient of the Motorola University’s Distinguished Teaching Award and Stanford University’s Dean’s Award for Innovative Industrial Education.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
David, can you discuss your prior roles and projects and five key lessons that you wish to pass on?
“….Bad things happen and you’ve got to accept it….You have to believe in your own hard work….Find friends not accomplices….Act first and adjust later….Pick the right problem….”
In your prior roles, what were two of the most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
“….Failing to speak up when I really needed to….To look at a solution to a problem to be more simple than it really is and to end up applying a simplistic solution to a complex problem….”
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
“….If there is ever an occasion where we can put ourselves in a situation where we are responsible for someone else’s success I think that is a time that defines us, helps us to grow and is an important part of being who we are….”
Can you profile your current roles and work and the value delivered to your diverse audiences?
“….I have three main roles here at VitalSmarts as a consultant, a researcher and a writer….The kind of value that we try to deliver to the different audiences we work with is how do we identify these problems that are worth solving and then how do we organize sources of influence into a comprehensive, overwhelming, powerful strategy….”
In your current role, what are the biggest challenges and their solutions? How does this relate to business?
“….challenges within senior teams….challenges that are organization-wide….social problems….In regards to solutions….positive deviants….crucial moments….societal behaviors….Try to develop a comprehensive influence strategy combining all six of our influence models aimed at just those two or three vital behaviors….”
With the economic challenges, how can we improve the ability of companies to survive?
“….What we are looking at is called financial agility – the ability of the senior leaders of a firm to respond rapidly and effectively to changing economic conditions….”
Can you tell us more about the relationship between major financial adjustments and human behavior?
“….Often the best descriptions of a human response to economic conditions resemble a catastrophe curve….But let me add a positive to this negative: there are organizations that because of the environment they work in have become especially good at recognizing and reacting to change. A term is given them in the literature (senior researcher Karl Weick at the University of Michigan calls them highly reliable organizations) and an example would be a forest fire fighting team…….”
What are the conditions and practices that allow an organization to respond well and with agility to economic threats?
“….The first is what I summarize as ‘denial’….The second is an organization that does not have a lot of ‘undiscussables’….The third is that everyone holds everyone accountable for everything….The final is that when a leader feels he/she is giving up on the team….confronts the team and confronts the problem….Those senior teams that are able to handle those situations are five times faster in their response and ten times more successful….”
What are the most important broader business challenges and solutions?
“….External factors (short term) are a weak economy, debt, financing, consumer confidence. Longer term are the global interdependence….incredible gaps between haves and have nots….education….Internal factors are to some extent responses to the external….How do we improve responsiveness? How do we maintain common purpose across silos, regions, separate companies that co-operate? Related to all this how do we execute on plan?….More broadly how do we develop the next generation of leaders?….”
What are the key trends that are redefining leadership?
“….Globalization of where intellectual property is created and where capital comes from and how to get global efficiencies….We are more and more overwhelmed with data that we don’t really understand how to turn into actionable information….The need for greening of our industries and our organizations….As leaders we tend to neglect the bottom 80% of our population….”
What are your predictions about what leaders should be in the future?
“….It’s becoming more and more the case that we need to be true to our values and our purpose and flexible in our strategies for obtaining those purposes and values and creating resiliencies….Call it network leadership….”
Which are your top recommended resources and why?
“….My customers….Competitors….The internet….”
David shares an interesting and informative story from his experiences.