Founders and visionary CEOs can have passion, both real and imaginary.
In Episode Four in this Tough Things First podcasts series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses how to foster real passion without looking like a phony.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. As we continue, Ray Zinn’s new series on essential leadership. This is episode four, Inspiring Passion. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo and I’m inspired to be here. I’m passionate about doing this podcast, of course, so I wouldn’t be here, right, Rick?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. When we’re all that, we’re all listening.
Rob Artigo: Well, you know this better than most of us out here in the world, as you were not satisfied with what your career was like and took the risk in the late s to pivot and start Micrel, which you ran for nearly four decades to some great success, I might add. So, you had passion, correct?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. You know, if you don’t have passion, you might as well just roll over and bury yourself.
Rob Artigo: Can you see that when somebody comes up in front of you that they’ve got an idea but they don’t have a sparkle in their eye that says by passion?
Ray Zinn: Sure. You can tell that even when you go to buy a vehicle or go into a particular store. You can tell if that sales attendant has passion because they just exude enthusiasm.
Rob Artigo: So, tell our listeners right now, just about how important it is to recognize that people can see that in you.
Ray Zinn: That’s if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to believe in the product. And so, you want to make sure that you can support that product or that service that you’re being involved. So, passion means that it’s unwavering and goes to what we talked about in an earlier podcast about Try, Try Again. The person with passion just doesn’t give up. They say, “Stick with it.” You got to stick with the task until the task sticks with you. And so that’s the key for being passionate.
Rob Artigo: You’re like me and you like the show and watch the show Shark Tank. And sometimes you get presenters on there who show passion. And it’s intriguing the Sharks that the person’s showing passion, maybe the product isn’t all that great, but they’re seeing this and they like the person. They don’t necessarily buy the product, but they like the person. But then sometimes…
Ray Zinn: Exactly.
Rob Artigo: You see somebody come on there who exudes a passion and it comes across as phony. Do you see that as well?
Ray Zinn: Oh, sure. You could tell that something’s phony. You know, it’s all about them. So, when you see a person who acts passionate but it’s more about who they are rather than about the product, then you know that they’re a phony.
Rob Artigo: I wonder how self-aware you have to be. Just what level of self-awareness you need to know if it’s not working if you are being overly enthusiastic rather than being genuine and enthusiastic.
Ray Zinn: It’s the way you present yourself. In other words, if you’re presenting yourself rather than the product or the service then you know you’re acting a little bit as a phony. You can show all kinds of enthusiasm and gestures of enthusiasm. But if it’s all to make you look good, then you don’t have the passion for the service or the product. So, make sure your passion is properly directed, that it is toward the product or the service that you’re going to provide, not about you. Again, remember in essential leadership that we’re talking about, it’s really not a focus on you. It’s a focus on others, your customers, your employees, the product and service you’re providing. And remember, it’s not about you because that’s when it becomes phony.
Rob Artigo: Well, founders and visionary CEOs like yourself have that passion. But I wonder to be really successful as a leader and to really improve your own leadership skills. Do I need, as a leader, to bring out the passion in others and also the people across my organization?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. You know, you have to feel that love for that. Well, not just for the product or service, you got to feel love for the company. The idea you’re trying to get across, you want to make sure that that enthusiasm is properly directed so that your customer or your employee feels the genuineness of your passion. So I guess we should emphasize genuine passion, not just passion. So, you can be passionate about a lot of things, but if it’s not genuine, you come across as a phony.
Rob Artigo: And do you ever recall times at Micrel, when you asks somebody to rehearse a presentation, to see how they to evaluate how they are coming across, if they’re coming across as genuine or phony?
Ray Zinn: Sure. We did this all in our leadership training that we did once a week. That’s what we would do is have them make a presentation on their particular area, either if it’s sales or quality or accounting. And we always ask them, make a presentation, different departments, and we see how they came across because we want them to get the experience of presenting. And so, we did this once a week as of : p.m. every Friday, we would do our training as you would. We got together and correlated between departments. And then we critique each other in how we were coming across with our presentation on our particular department.
Rob Artigo: How do you approach that with your organization? Say, you’ve never done that before, and you hear this on this podcast and you’re thinking, “You know what, we could benefit from this if we could self-evaluate. We could look at each other, look at our presentations and self-evaluate, and then maybe come up with a better way of presenting things or a clearer way of presenting things.” How do you introduce that to the organization if it hasn’t already been there so that people’s feelings don’t get hurt?
Ray Zinn: Well, you try not to be critical. You try to be motivating and acting as a mentor, but not being critical. The whole purpose of a leadership training. And this is what we did at Micrel on a weekly basis is as we would give each person a chance to make a presentation and then we would be uplifting. In other words, we tried to find the positives of what they were saying. Even if it was a negative, we tried to be positive about their negative and just say, “Okay, here’s what I would recommend that you do in this particular area.” And so again, don’t be critical, be kind and motivating because you’re not going to get anything across if you come across negative, even if what they’re presenting needs to be improved. And we all have that’s the biggest room we have in our house is our room for improvement is try to be more uplifting and motivating and how they can improve rather than being negative and how they can improve.
Rob Artigo: Being able to spread your own passion across your organization course is a great asset. If you really want to have that essential leadership to be able to improve yourself and work across your organization, but you have to be able to educate, like you said, being able to evaluate and be positive about it and improve things. But were there areas of presentations that kind of repeat repeated themselves regularly that came back and said to you that maybe somebody was being a little bit more, you were getting a little bit of pushback regarding a change and improvement?
Ray Zinn: Well, we all reject or have a problem with change because change implies that you’re doing something wrong. That’s not true by the way, change does not necessarily imply you doing something wrong. Change is just like growing up. I mean, we change as we grow up and we all, regardless of our age, are continually changing. And so, we adopt change and we accept change. And, that’s what we need to do is called pivoting, is that ability to change without feeling we’re failing or we’re doing something wrong just because we have to change. You know, I ran Micrel for years and we were constantly changing. We stuck with basic principles, those never changed. The basic principles of honesty and integrity and dignity and respect, and those cultures that we had, we did not change. Those were not enviable; you cannot change those. But the areas where we change is we move with the times, like who moved the cheese. We got to move with the times.
Rob Artigo: Is there a red flag that should signal to me that I may think I have passion and don’t, I mean, the rest of the organization doesn’t seem to have passion. And I sit around wrenching, rubbing my hands, what they call rubbing my hands raw, because I can’t understand why the organization doesn’t have passion.
Ray Zinn: Well, I call it loving passion. So not just passion, it’s loving. In other words you, having that smile, that kindness, that gentleness with your passion, you don’t want to be overbearing, you don’t want to be a micromanager. You just want to be a person who shows by their lovingness, their kindness that they have that passion and that rubs off. You know what I mean. When you’ve seen somebody who is passionate about anything, you can tell if it’s well directed, properly directed, you just smile. It’s just like watching an artist paint or a singer sing. If they have the right attitude, the right passion for what they’re doing, you just smile. You just want to keep coming back. And that’s the way you are as a leader, a loving, passionate leader. Then the employees don’t want to leave, they want to stay because they just love the feeling they get.
Rob Artigo: Well, thank you for your time, Ray. We’ve been discussing essential leadership on this special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. Join us next time for episode five. If you are just joining us, not to worry, you can go back and listen to each episode. They’re essentially, they’re self-contained. So, they’re individual topics, you can, if you want to listen to them out of order. Number one, and the last one will be kind of set in place. You want to make sure you listen to number one first, and then the last one lasts, but otherwise in between you can listen to them in different orders, and you can also listen to them again and again and again, by going to toughthingsfirst.com. Make sure you follow Ray on Facebook, also on LinkedIn and toughthingsfirst.com, where you can turn in your questions.
Rob Artigo: You can actually ask Ray questions and they do a really good job there, Tough Things First, to get him the questions, let him think about the answers and get back to you. He’s available to answer your questions for sure. He also has his book out there, the namesake of this podcast, Tough Things First, and also the Zen of Zinn, which has been out for a while. And the new book, Zen of Zinn, which we get some information inspiration, I should say, rather than information. I guess it’s both, information and inspiration for this podcast series from that book, Zen of Zinn and Zen of Zinn and we’re glad to have it. So make sure you take a moment also to rate this podcast on your favorite platform. Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. Good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: You’ve been listening to Tough Things First. Candid talk with Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Ray Zinn. Drop by the contact page at toughthingsfirst.com for more about the book, more podcasts and links to Ray’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages to keep up with Ray Zinn’s wisdom daily.