How does an effective leader constantly calibrate his or herself and does it boost consistency? In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn explores the value of self-awareness through a regular inventory of personal strengths and weaknesses.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. How are you doing today?
Rob Artigo: I’m doing great. You recently told me that the key to having consistent drive is good habits. I think you called it the law of consistency. Tell me a little bit about that.
Ray Zinn: Okay, we all know that inconsistency is a negative. Would you agree there?
Rob Artigo: Sure, yeah.
Ray Zinn: So we don’t want to be inconsistent. We want to be consistent. So they say life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. So it’s a consistent effort at consistent improving the self-awareness, understand where your weaknesses are to make your weaknesses strong. That’s the key. The stronger you can make your weaknesses, the better off you are. You don’t have to improve on your strengths. That’s an oxymoron. You want to improve on your weaknesses. So having that self-awareness, that calibrating, we talk about instruments that are very important and very accurate, are instruments that are constantly calibrated. In fact, they have this little calibration sticker on them that says, “Here’s when it was calibrated. Here’s when this next calibration’s due.” It is that consistent reevaluation, that consistent self-awareness, is how you improve on a day-to-day basis. So again, it’s calibrate yourself. Be a self-calibrator.
Rob Artigo: What can we do to improve consistency as entrepreneurs and business leaders?
Ray Zinn: As we just kind of covered, you have to constantly calibrate yourself. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Accept criticism. It is not always negative. Criticism can be positive if it helps you become a better person. So accept criticism. Don’t shun it. Don’t get angry because you get criticized. Look at it as really positive. So I call it don’t be afraid of criticism. That should be another podcast that we do, don’t be afraid of criticism.
Rob Artigo: You did mention, I liked what you had said about writing down your weaknesses and shortcomings.
Ray Zinn: Yeah, because then you acknowledge them. When you write them down, you put them in hard print, it becomes now something you’ve documented. So write it down. Don’t be afraid to make a list of things you’re not good at. That’s the key. Granted, you should know your strengths. You should know them. You absolutely should know your strengths, but you should also know your weaknesses. In fact, it’s more important to improve a weakness than it is to improve a strength because then you become a more of what they call a well-rounded individual.
Rob Artigo: I guess if you want to be part of a team, then if you can trust the people in your team, then you can share the fact that these are my strengths and these are my weaknesses. I think, obviously, one of the themes that runs through this podcast throughout its history is humility. You mentioned it in a previous podcast recently. The idea of humility comes into play here because you have to be able to, like you said, accept the criticism that’s out there, but within the team, you have to be able to share the idea that goes, “Look, we want collective strength. And in order to do that, all of us need to be honest about where we’re strongest and where we’re weakest.”
Ray Zinn: Right. We all are willing to acknowledge our strengths, but one of the areas we have the difficulty with is acknowledge our weaknesses. I’d like to go back to this calibration thing. The only reason we calibrate equipment is because it tends to drift. It means it becomes weak, as you would, and we become weak. So good leaders, successful people are calibrators. They calibrate themselves. So think of it when we talk about this self-evaluation or self-assuring, is to calibrate yourself and find out how you’ve drifted. We’re not perfect, and we drift and we get out of calibration, and we need to do that. None of us are so perfect that we never change. We never do anything poorly or bad. All of us drift. All of us get out of sync, as you would, and we need to resync ourselves.
Rob Artigo: When we collect together our strengths and weaknesses. I think one of the things that you suggest is to say that you should then share that information with somebody. It is hard to share intimate personal information, like your weaknesses. But if it helps you understand, if it helps you calibrate, then it’s a good thing. I wonder, who are the kinds of people we might confide in with that list of strengths and weaknesses so that we can hear their feedback?
Ray Zinn: Our close friends, our spouses, our parents, our siblings, don’t be afraid of acknowledging your weaknesses. There’s nothing wrong with that. Acknowledging one’s weaknesses is a strength. That is a strength. Hiding your weaknesses is a weakness. So vocalize. People are willing to help. Most people, especially your good friends, are willing to help you. So when you tell them, “Hey, can you help me with this issue or that issue?” Or whatever, that’s a positive. They will. A close friend, a relative, or your spouse, they want to help. The fact that you acknowledge the fact that you have a weakness in a particular area actually is comforting to them because they already know it. When they know you know it, that makes them feel even better, and they’re more willing to help you.
Rob Artigo: Is that where the accountability part comes in?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. That’s that. Acknowledging your weaknesses is what we call accountability. Hiding your weaknesses is not taking accountability. Disavowing a weakness is not taking accountability. Acknowledging your weaknesses is taking accountability.
Rob Artigo: Before we wrap up this podcast, let me ask you just, can you think of a time when, maybe with a team, with some of your staff or leadership, where you ran into this problem where suddenly you find out there was a weakness that people knew about but didn’t want to acknowledge and therefore weren’t accountable for it or tried to avoid being accountable for it?
Ray Zinn: Yeah, especially when it comes to… They made a mistake. People know when they make a mistake. The problem is, when they acknowledge it, then they have to go fix it. That’s one of the problems we have when we acknowledge a mistake, we have to go fix it. We’re selfish with our time. We’re selfish with the effort. So when you fix a mistake, that means you’re going to repair it without harming someone else. In other words, for example, let’s say you made a mistake in a design of a product at your company, and then you just charged the company to fix the mistake. That’s not right. That’s not taking accountability. Accountability is when you repair the mistake on your time, at your cost, rather than make the company pay the cost of your mistake.
Rob Artigo: I think that’s where you always suggest that you come to the reckoning of the mistake with a solution rather than an excuse.
Ray Zinn: Right. So again, if you’re truly going to correct or take accountability for a mistake, you have to correct it without causing somebody else harm. In other words, you can’t put the mistake on someone else like, “Oh, I’ll just sit here at my desk and repair the problem, but the company still paid me.” Stay overtime. Come in on the weekends. Whatever it takes, don’t charge your company, your employer, your spouse, or whoever. Don’t charge them for your mistake. If you pay for your mistake, then that’s taking accountability.
Rob Artigo: Ray, Tough Things First, of course, as you know, is a fast-growing podcast rated one of the top in Silicon Valley, and we’d like to keep that up. So we’d like our listeners to make sure they give the podcast a good rating on their favorite platform. Please also check out Ray’s books on the Zen of Zinn series. There’s one, two, and three, and also Tough Things First, the book that you need to get. I look forward to the next time, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. I appreciate you being here.