World Reimagined

High-Performance Leadership: Excelling On and Off the Field with Jerod Mayo

Published
Mar 22, 2021

On this week’s episode of World Reimagined, host Gautam Mukunda speaks to the incomparable Jerod Mayo about how to consistently push past limits to achieve excellence in everything you do. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

What drives a Super Bowl champion, a top-notch angel investor, a healthcare executive, and a coach for the ultimate NFL dynasty?

Today’s guest, Jerod Mayo knows that growth and opportunity begin with getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. As leaders, how can we get to the point where discomfort is something that we lean into, not away from? We all start as rookies but not all of us become champions, and what differentiates the two? It may be the desire to never stop learning, and never stop leveling up.

In this episode, Host Gautam Mukunda speaks with mentor, leader, investor, former linebacker, and current inside linebacker coach for the New England Patriots, Jerod Mayo, about the difference between motivation and discipline, how he uses Impostor Syndrome to his benefit, the importance of asking for help, and what makes Coach Bill Belichick such a powerful leader.

The guys understood I have no pride here. I have nothing to lose. I’m going to go in there and fight for you guys. That’s how it started. The guys knew I cared about them. I think that is first and foremost what a leader has to be able to do.
Jerod Mayo

Follow @GMukunda on Twitter or email us at WorldReimagined@nasdaq.com

Books Referenced in World Reimagined Episode 11:

The Bible

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer 

Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff

Guest Information – High-Performance Leadership:

Jerod Mayo is the linebacker coach for the New England Patriots and an Angel investor. He has had an impressive career achieving success across the diverse sectors of professional sports, finance, and healthcare. Beginning by playing college football for the University of Tennessee and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management, he joined the New England Patriots as a first-round draft pick in 2008, going on to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Mr. Mayo remained with the Patriots for the entirety of his professional football career, and in 2015 won a Superbowl XLIX with the team against the Seattle Seahawks.

After retiring as a player from the NFL, Mayo went on to a successful business career in technology and healthcare. From 2016 to 2019, he served as Vice President of Business Development for UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, the consumer-technology initiative of the health insurance company. In his capacity there, he leveraged his extensive expertise leading successful teams strategically through challenges. Additionally, he has been an active early investor in several successful tech ventures.

In 2019, the Patriots tapped Mr. Mayo to return to the organization as a coach. He is based in Massachusetts with his wife, son, and three daughters.

Transcript

Gautam Mukunda:

What drives a Super Bowl champion, an All-Pro, a topnotch angel investor and healthcare executive, a coach for the ultimate NFL dynasty? How about someone who has been all of that before he turned 35? It starts with getting comfortable with discomfort.

Speaker 2:

Ten, nine-

Neil Armstrong:

That's one small step for man.

Speaker 4:

The reality can no longer be ignored.

Speaker 5:

We stand today at the threshold of a great event.

Speaker 4:

That we live in an interdependent world.

Speaker 2:

Two, one.

Speaker 6:

World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world.

Speaker 7:

I want there to be peace everywhere.

Speaker 8:

We look for integrity. We look for intelligence. And we look for energy.

Speaker 9:

Every country including the United States is going to get impacted.

Speaker 6:

An original podcast from Nasdaq.

Speaker 10:

Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity?

Gautam Mukunda:

Congratulations. You're a college football player. And you've been drafted, in the first round to the Patriots, the dominant team in the NFL. And now, you've got to perform in front of a team full of Hall of Famers who are just waiting to see what you can do. Are you good enough? Do you know enough? Are you ready? Hi, I'm Gautam Mukunda.

Gautam Mukunda:

Today, I'm chatting with my buddy, Jerod Mayo. He has been an All-Pro, a Super Bowl champion, a senior executive in one of America's largest health care companies, and a topnotch angel investor. Now, he's back in football as a coach for the New England Patriots. And he's just getting started.

Gautam Mukunda:

He's only 35. In just his second year in the NFL, Jerod was made team captain right next to Hall of Famers like Tom Brady. Even at 22, Jerod had a theory of leadership powerful enough that even the best in the world wanted to follow him. I asked him to tell us his secret.

Jerod Mayo:

So, I walked into this locker room, right? All right, rookie of the year, Tom Brady's in there, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau. These are Hall of Fame caliber players, right? And they're older. And so, when I say older, they're 28, 29, 30. Tedy Bruschi, Bruschi is 33, 34, or something like that.

Jerod Mayo:

But you come into an environment like that. And really, people say, how did you become a captain in your second year? And for me, it was, the guys knew I cared about them more than I cared about myself. And so, people say like, "What do you mean when you say that?" And so, essentially, you come in as a rookie, as a first-round draft pick as we said earlier, you have to do the grunt work, all right?

Jerod Mayo:

And so, part of the grunt work is opening up the divider in the rooms or closing the divider, stupid little things like that, carrying the helmets inside of the veteran players. But also, it's to go knock on coach Belichick's door and say, "Coach, hey, we're a little tired today. Can we get out of pads?" And so, everyone was scared to go knock on that door, right?

Jerod Mayo:

They didn't want to go knock on that door, so who do they send in there? They sent me in there. And I learned at an early age, my mom used to say it all the time. If the worst thing someone can do to you is say no, go for it, go ask. Oh, I was like, "Well, if I go in there and Bill wants to fight me, I think I could take him." The guy is 65 years old at the time, so I'm like, "I can take him."

Jerod Mayo:

But I would go in his office and he'd be there typing, he used to be a two-finger typer, now he can type with all of his fingers. And I'll say, "Coach, hey, the guys are tired." This is back in the day when they could do two a day, too, right? So, I said, "The guys are tired, can we just get out of the pads today?" And I'll say, seven times out of 10, he'll be like, "Get out of here, just go back in there and tell them to get ready for practice."

Jerod Mayo:

But it was the three times, right? The 30%, I was batting 300. It was those times where I would come back to the locker room and like, "Guys, coach said, we're not in full pads today." And it was like an eruption. Literally they would pick me up, throw me on their shoulders, like, "Yeah, let's go, let's go."

Jerod Mayo:

But really what it was, was I think the guys understood, I have no pride here. I have nothing to lose. I'm going to go in here and fight for you, guys. And that's how it started, right? The guys knew I cared about them. And I think, first and foremost, I think, that's what a leader has to be able to do.

Gautam Mukunda:

The philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli asked if it is better for a leader to be feared or loved. Even today, leaders have to answer that question. They can seem warm or competent, but they often feel like they have to prioritize conveying the impression of being one or the other. It's the modern version of Machiavelli's fear or love.

Gautam Mukunda:

Ultimately, Machiavelli decided that fear was the better leadership strategy. But research by Amy Cuddy, Susan Fiske, and Peter Glick shows that Machiavelli was wrong. They found that leaders who emphasize competence at the expense of warmth and elicit fear in their followers actually inhibit learning and handicap their performance.

Gautam Mukunda:

Their research suggests, instead, that especially when it comes to initial impressions, leaders should prioritize warmth, showing that they care for the people around them over competence. People will follow you in the moments when you're not watching if they trust you. And they'll only trust you if they believe that you care about them.

Jerod Mayo:

You grow, right? You grow as a leader, you grow as a person. This is not like you just come in, born leader, right? I think this is a muscle you have to exercise as well, right? So, you got to be able to take essentially a north star put out there by the head coach, right, or the CEO of the company. This is the north star, we're all focused on this north star.

Jerod Mayo:

That next wave of guys, right, the captains on the team or the senior management and corporations, they have to take that message from the head guy and disseminate that to the next level, right? And it just trickles down until you get to the customer, or whatever it is. So, Simon Sinek talks about this all the time.

Jerod Mayo:

He talks about, when is the last time a CEO of a Fortune 500 company actually talked to the customer? Really, the CEO is serving the senior managers. The senior managers are serving the next wave and the next wave. The frontline workers are serving the customer. So, we don't take care of the captains then how do we expect this to really work? And to me, that's how leadership works.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, I love this idea that because, I mean, obviously I believe that people can learn to lead because I teach it, so if I don't, that's a big problem for me, right? What are two or three moments that you look back on? And you're like, "These were moments where I learned something important about leadership. This is something where I develop as a leader.

Jerod Mayo:

Yeah, so the one I spoke about, right, so I was-

Gautam Mukunda:

That's a big one.

Jerod Mayo:

... taking a bullet for the rest of the guys. I would say, in business, so I'm at UnitedHealth Group, so I'm at Optum, the subsidiary. So, like I talked about earlier, where you go into these large corporations and you hear about diversity and all this stuff.

Jerod Mayo:

And really, I would say, I may be armed a little different than most people at some of these places, whether we're talking about sports or in corporate America, because I always try to say what I feel and what I believe is right. Financially, I'm okay, I'm fine, so I'm not going to hold anything back. I'm going to always try to say what's right and stick to my morals and things like that, which a lot of people, they just can't do that, right?

Jerod Mayo:

I shouldn't say, never, I'm rarely scared to get fired. And so, with that comes this just power that you feel like, "Look, this is not right." I'm okay saying that. So, at Optum, same thing, we go into this huge sales meeting or whatever, it's all 60-year-old white men out there. And I'm like, "This is not right." And this is when United and Optum, they were trying to become more diverse in things like that.

Jerod Mayo:

And they've done a better job over the years. But I was able to bring that up. And there was just so many people that came up to me when I brought it up in these small groups. And they were like, "Oh, I totally agree with you." And they're like, "I'm glad you said something. We need more voices like that."

Gautam Mukunda:

Since you brought up this question of diversity, I mean, we just saw an NFL head coaching season, which among the things, you were a finalist for the Philly Eagles job, in which, as every year, the NFL doesn't seem to do very well at hiring African-American head coaches or non-White head coaches of any kind.

Jerod Mayo:

I'm trying to word this right. This is like a who-do-you-know type of business and the networking events and things like that, those events are dad used to be coaches or that's how it trickles down. As far as the hiring process, I don't want to be hired because I'm Black, I'll be honest with you. I did not want to be hired just because I'm Black.

Jerod Mayo:

I want to be hired because I was the best candidate for the job. Now, when I went to Philly, it was a great experience. It was a great experience. Obviously, I didn't get the job, but it's a great experience. And I would say there aren't enough minorities who get a chance to even go through those experiences and then come back to talk about them.

Jerod Mayo:

They either get stuck in a position, running backs coach, whatever it is, they get stuck right there. And you hear people talk about it all the time, the glass ceiling, it's there. And I will say this, too, when you look at some of these minority coaches that have been hired over the past five years.

Jerod Mayo:

Look at Vance Joseph, and they had one or two years, and then they were fired. They didn't have a quarterback, they didn't have this. And then, you look at some of these other coaches, who it seems like the leash is just forever, right? This is performance-based business. And that's the confusing part.

Gautam Mukunda:

This isn't just about football. Research by Ali Cook and Christy Glass showed that women and minority CEOs don't just have a glass ceiling, they have a glass cliff. Companies in trouble are more likely to pick a woman or minority. They need something different after all.

Gautam Mukunda:

And women and minorities, knowing that the prejudice against them makes it more difficult to get to the top are more likely to accept CEO positions at companies in crisis, because it might be their only chance. But if the company doesn't improve quickly under their stewardship, boards tend to replace these CEOs, almost always with a White male who they see as a savior.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, how does hiring usually work in the NFL?

Jerod Mayo:

People hire people who look like them, or who they grew up with, or they, I mean, they want to hire people that they trust. I just definitely think that's part of the problem. And so, when you think about these mentorship programs, right? So, these mentorship programs, no matter what business we're talking about, and I think they're great, I am a huge believer in mentorship.

Jerod Mayo:

I don't want you guys to think I don't believe in mentorship, because I think they are vital and changing the course of someone's life and someone's career path. But what I will say is, for me, as a Black man, it does mean no good to only find a group of Black men. We need to somehow get through this glass ceiling, if this makes sense.

Jerod Mayo:

And let's mix this thing up and really get to know one another. Does that make sense?

Gautam Mukunda:

Oh, absolutely.

Jerod Mayo:

That's what happens, like, "All right, we're going to have this minority coaching clinic." And I'm like, "I love the idea, but at the same time, who's getting hired in positions of power?" It's the White guy, who's been coaching the league for 20 years. How do we get this guy to come here and build relationships with these guys over here and then we take it from there? Hopefully that makes sense.

Gautam Mukunda:

Oh, absolutely. So, for me, I was at McKinsey. And McKinsey has a lot of Indian-Americans, right? So, the moment when I realized how this work, because when I was on the opposite side, so I'm in the elevator with one of my friends, who's a White guy, and the manager was Indian. I've never seen this guy, if anything, that distance, right, ever in my career, because I'm a peon and he's all the way at the top.

Gautam Mukunda:

But he gets on the elevator with us. We go up the elevator. And he only talks to me. He spends three minutes talking to me and leaves the elevator. He doesn't say a word to the other guy. I don't think he even realized that was happening. And my friend turns to me, and he just stares for a second, he says, "Did that just happen?"

Gautam Mukunda:

I look at him and I start laughing. And I say, "Welcome to being an oppressed minority." Almost 60% of NFL players are Black, but there are 32 NFL teams and only three Black coaches and of course, no Black owners. The NFL sure isn't the only industry that has a race problem.

Gautam Mukunda:

A McKinsey report, for example, found that Hollywood's lack of diversity is costing it at least $10 billion a year, something that Franklin Leonard described in a previous episode. But the NFL might be the organization where the problem is most visible. Well, I can't think of a better candidate to help change that than Jerod.

Gautam Mukunda:

He is making his way up the coaching ranks, but he's also building wealth as an investor. As a player, as a coach, and as an investor, Jerod relies on his unique skill at finding mentors, something he roots in his willingness to embrace discomfort.

Jerod Mayo:

This comes down to just being brave. You got to take a chance. Whether it's using social media, there is someone you want to talk to and reaching out, that might not work. Or you see a guy when COVID gets out of here and we're back in restaurants, you know that this guy's a successful real estate agent, whatever it is. I've done that time and time again.

Jerod Mayo:

Like I remember being at Saratoga in a horse race, right? And Seth Klarman, he runs Baupost, right? Seth Klarman is sitting over at this table. And I tell my wife, I'm like, "That's Seth Klarman." I'm a huge fan, huge fan. And I was like, "I'm going over there to introduce myself." And I walked over there, and I was like, "Hey, Jerod Mayo, blah, blah, blah."

Jerod Mayo:

And then, he gave me his card, ended up going to his office, having great conversation, but that's what it's about. It's about getting uncomfortable. To grow, you're going to be uncomfortable, right? You think about lifting weights. If you really want your muscles to grow, what do you have to do? You got to lift some heavy weight, and you're going to be sore for the next three or four days.

Jerod Mayo:

And so, that's why I'm on the whole cold showers in the morning. People say, Oh, that's so stupid taking a cold shower." But for me, it's more of an exercise to override my brain. So now, I don't like taking cold showers. But I'm going to turn the water all the way cold because I want to make sure my brain remembers who's in charge.

Gautam Mukunda:

If you like doing it, it would defeat the purpose of the exercise.

Jerod Mayo:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I don't like working out. I'll be honest with you. Honestly, it pisses me off when I see people going like, "How many miles did you run? I ran 10 miles, you know," with a huge smile on their face. I'm like, "If I go out here and run 10 miles right now, I'm going to be dead, dead." I don't like doing it.

Jerod Mayo:

But I do it. It's more of a mental exercise for me. And oftentimes we forget about our minds, our will power, our brains, as far as training.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, I always think that on squats, the way you know, you're really getting somewhere, is you should be a little bit scared.

Jerod Mayo:

No doubt, I agree. That's where you're in that territory where you no growth is going to happen. Either you're going to get it up, you're going to get the weight back up, or you're going to drop it, but at least you've felt that tension. Does that make sense? Like at least you felt like what it feels like to have this weight on my back? That's the first step.

Gautam Mukunda:

If I look at the bar and I know I can do it, then I'm not getting better.

Jerod Mayo:

Right. Yeah.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, I've got to be a little scared. And the other thing you said that struck me in the Klarman's in particular is the research tells us that the most powerful way to build a relationship with someone is to ask them for advice.

Jerod Mayo:

Right. I agree.

Gautam Mukunda:

And it's striking how much people are not willing to do that.

Jerod Mayo:

Yeah, because you know why? We're just too prideful at the professional level. Here you are at the top of the top. And now, you want to go and tell me to go talk to this businessman, who's at the top of his game, and now I would just be a practice squad player in the business world. This is my opinion. That comes into play. I don't want to ask anyone for help.

Jerod Mayo:

I want to start this restaurant myself. I'm not going to go ask this guy who started 50 restaurants. I'll do it myself. Not knowing that if I go talk to this man or woman about how do I run a restaurant, they will help you avoid so many pitfalls and potholes that are avoidable if you just were to talk to someone. That is the frustrating part for me, when guys won't ask for help.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, one set of people who have a real difficulty asking for help. You've triumphed over this, and apparently, if people who have an impostor syndrome, which is a pretty common thing for high achievers. So, you've spoken eloquently about that. So, describe what that feels like.

Jerod Mayo:

Yeah, I've dealt with impostor syndrome since I can remember, all the way back in high school. So, in high school, they give out stars, right? So, how many star athlete you are is like people ranking you, so it goes all the way up to five stars. I was a four-star guy, end up going to Tennessee. I get there, and I'm like, "There's no way I belong here."

Jerod Mayo:

Even though I'm a four-star guy, I don't belong here. All these guys are draft picks. This guy's a first-round draft pick. This guy's a second round, whatever it is. And so, I know a lot of people will look at impostor syndrome as this huge negative thing, but I use it as motivation. I use it as the kick in the butt. I need to go do this, because I'm just not good enough.

Jerod Mayo:

And so, got to Tennessee like I said, did all that, end up making an All-American team my last year. And so, then, I get drafted to the Patriots, 10th overall. I get to New England, and I'm like, "Man." And once again, I look around a locker room and I see five Hall of Famers just over my shoulder. And I'm like, "I am not good enough to play here."

Jerod Mayo:

And so, what I would do is I would use that, and I would just do extra, whether it's studying film or running or lifting and all that stuff. I got Rookie of the Year. And I go into the business world, where once again, now, I'm just trying to stay afloat. It's almost like drinking from a fire hose, honestly, with some of these health care in itself is just difficult.

Jerod Mayo:

And for me, it was full immersion, right? So, I ended up joining the board of Boston Medical Center, joining Optum. I was just like, "I'm all in." Because what, I am not good enough. And I would be in meetings, and I'm like, "Man, I don't understand anything they're saying." And so, really, it was just about how do I use this, this feeling of being uncomfortable?

Jerod Mayo:

First of all, I'm the youngest guy in there. And a lot of times I will say this, we talk about diversity just being Black and White. But there is generational diversity, right? Male, female, Black, there's so many different types of ways you can slice diversity. But most of the time, I was the only person of color, or maybe there were two of us, and I was the youngest person there by a couple of decades, right?

Jerod Mayo:

So, for me, it's like, "How did I get here? And there were times I would be in meetings and I'm like, "I just don't belong." And so, I would use that as motivation. I need to be as smart as I can be on this, Obamacare, or whatever it is, right, fee for service. I need to smarten up and talk to people about this. Same thing when I got into coaching.

Jerod Mayo:

First year, I'm way over my head, coaching for the greatest head coach of all time, and Bill Belichick. Hey, I need some help. I'm swimming here. And he did a great job. And all the coaches, honestly, helped me out a lot. And now, I'm here today. Impostor syndrome can either make you freeze or it can make you focus, right? It can make you freeze or it can make you focus.

Jerod Mayo:

And if you feel like you don't belong somewhere, get to the point where you can argue both sides of the argument better than the person you're going against.

Gautam Mukunda:

On our first show, we talked to one of my friends who was a Navy Special Forces guy who did bomb disposal. And he was like, "The thing that drives me to be able to get through SEAL training, all this stuff, is fear of failure." He's like, "I cannot be seen to fail. So, I do something and get to the point where I defuse bombs."

Gautam Mukunda:

So, he has a thing, you have a thing that lets you take impostor syndrome that for most people would actually hurt their performance. And you can invert it. And it helps you.

Jerod Mayo:

My grandfather used to say this all the time, discipline equals freedom is huge. I say discipline over motivation, because motivation really is fleeting to me. And motivation, that's the initial like, "All right, New Year's Eve, boom, I'm motivated to get an agenda next day." Discipline is all right, it's March 1 and I'm still at the gym. Does that make sense?

Jerod Mayo:

Motivation is when you see guys on the sideline, like, "Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, we're going to go, we're going to hit him in the face, yeah, yeah." And then, you get smacked in the face. And that energy is just gone. That's motivation. Now, if you have discipline, true discipline, you talk to military guys all the time, I know you do.

Jerod Mayo:

True discipline, it doesn't matter the circumstances, it doesn't matter. This is what we are trained to do. If I get slapped in the face, I'm getting up. I'm going right back. I'm going right back. And so, for me, how you train that discipline, it's about good habits, it's about good routine.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, you've built a philosophy of leadership as a player, you've sharpened it in business, and then you're going to, not just the NFL, but the Patriots, the apex predator of the NFL, what was your approach to positioning yourself to do that? And then, once you were there, how did you see taking the leadership lessons you've learned and applying them in that position?

Jerod Mayo:

I would say I had some credibility coming back because I was a player. And I will also say, most of the time when we talk about mentors or teachers, we're talking about someone who's older than us. But what I will say is, I grew a lot with Steve Belichick, that's Bill's son. And the last couple of years as a player, I had some injuries, and I wasn't going to go home and just wallow in my pain.

Jerod Mayo:

How can I help the team win? How can I help the team win? And so, I would spend hours with Steve, hours, breaking down film, and he would teach me things as far as inputting the data. And I would teach him things about how the play is unfolding, how a player actually sees things. I don't want to sound I'm tooting my own horn, but I'm able to talk to different groups of people and try to bring them together.

Jerod Mayo:

That's how I work. It doesn't matter if we're talking about sports or we're talking about business, it doesn't matter. It's almost like a golden triangle. How do I take this guy who is super smart here, this guy is super smart, whatever. And I think they'll enjoy speaking to each other and bring them together, same thing in sports, right?

Jerod Mayo:

How do I get Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy to all see the same play through the same set of goggles? How do I do that, right? And so, that's how I think about it.

Gautam Mukunda:

Nobody knows football the way a player does. So, you paired that foundation with your comfort with discomfort in order to learn quickly?

Jerod Mayo:

Absolutely.

Gautam Mukunda:

Okay.

Jerod Mayo:

Without a doubt. I will say this, no matter what you're learning, you cannot be scared of looking stupid. You're going to look stupid at some point. And that's, I'm okay, looking stupid, if I don't know, I'm going to ask the question, because if I have the question, everyone else has a question, too.

Gautam Mukunda:

Yeah. Okay, so I have a theory about the Pats, which I've expressed many times, and I'm going to float it with you, which is the reason the team has been successful for longer than any other team in the history of the NFL, my read of what you, guys, do is you're committed to being 1% better at everything.

Gautam Mukunda:

That is the difference. That you have organizational philosophy that you want to be 1% to 2% better everywhere, and that 2% will add up over time to lasting success in a way that just being really, really good at one thing won't. Is that true?

Jerod Mayo:

Definitely. I do think that's true. The organization starting at the top with the Kraft family had done a great job putting the north star out there. This is the north star. And Coach Belichick has taken that north star and broken it down into almost like do your job. So, one of my biggest gripes in corporate America, I don't care what business you're working at, for the most part.

Jerod Mayo:

They all have these words that they just use, right? So, integrity, passion, competition, there's just so much ambiguity around those words, what does that mean? What is that honesty, innovation, what exactly are we saying here? This is our culture, these seven words, that's what you're telling me?

Jerod Mayo:

I think Bill has done a great job removing the ambiguity, removing all the grayness and saying do your job. There's no way around it. Like there's no way to talk yourself out of this thing. Hey, your number one thing today, do your job, clear, concise. And guys understand that, more than they understand some of these other slogans or some of these other... Does that make sense?

Gautam Mukunda:

It does, but I think that the second half of that is, it seems like there's a thing of really being able to convey very clearly that people know what their job is.

Jerod Mayo:

Absolutely. You have to be explicit about job description. You're an outside linebacker, your job is to set the edge. You're a quarterback. Your number one job is to not turn the ball over. And secondly, make good decisions. Everyone wants to talk about big arms and can this guy run, and all that stuff. This guy needs to be a good decision maker, right?

Jerod Mayo:

You're a wide receiver, which your number one job, get open and number two, catch the ball. Be clear, be explicit in job description. You are Vice President of Business Development, what does that mean?

Gautam Mukunda:

So, we want people to be clear, but at the same time, we want people to go above and beyond. We don't want them to be robots. We want them to be creative and innovative, and take ownership and do more than the bare minimum. How do you blend that clarity with trying to get people to do that?

Jerod Mayo:

Yeah, but you can't do more until you've handled your business. That's how I see it. I can't go out here and make the tackle before I take care of my gap. Because now, as soon as I tried to make the tackle, before I've taken care of my gap, this guy is quicker than me, he's going to hit the gap before I can get back. So, I haven't done my job.

Jerod Mayo:

Now, look, in saying, do your job, that doesn't mean, all right, my job is done now, I'll just stop on the play. All right, my job is done, like we're talking about business, my job is done now, how can I go support this other team. Or in football, my job is done right here, let me go bust my tail and get to the ball and try to tackle this guy.

Jerod Mayo:

As far as... my job is done, let me drop my hands. That's your fault. That's not the way we handle it around here. I have my job done. And now, what can I do above and beyond. And I will say this about Bill. We call him Attaboys. You're not getting an Attaboy or a pat on the back for doing your job. For you to hear Coach Belichick say, great job right there.

Jerod Mayo:

This is above and beyond, above and beyond. And that's just his style. Now, I'm not saying that's right or wrong or whatever. I'm just saying that's his style.

Gautam Mukunda:

You have experienced with not just the Pats, being an organization that have created cultures of performance excellence. You've learned how to do that. I wanted to get your sense of that.

Jerod Mayo:

Culture in business to me is what you reward. Does that make sense?

Gautam Mukunda:

Absolutely.

Jerod Mayo:

So, what is used hypothetically is, all right, Johnny is over here, blowing the numbers out of the water, right? He's selling left and right, left and right. But he's doing it in a way that isn't how we want to do business here, right? He's lying, whatever it is. Yet, everyone sees that and then Johnny gets a raise. He gets $100,000 bonus.

Jerod Mayo:

You just created a culture that you're going to regret here in a few years. Why? Because the people doing it the right way, they're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I'm doing it the right way." That ends up becoming your culture. Now, what I will say as well is sometimes we're too short-sighted.

Jerod Mayo:

And then, sometimes we don't really spend enough time evaluating the process, enjoying the process, and we spent too much time on the outcome. And that's one thing here in New England, we always say like, "If we have a good week of practice, in the film room is good, on the practice field, the game has already won or loss." Before we step foot on the field on Sunday, the game is won or loss by the week of preparation.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, I think the Patriots' culture is why they've been able to take players who struggled with other teams and turn them into champions more than once. But Jerod's assessment of culture and business and how it can change based on who gets rewarded, reminded me of one of my favorite case studies. It's about an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.

Gautam Mukunda:

A real guy depicted under the pseudonym Rob Parsons. Rob is a superstar performer. He makes millions of dollars for the bank. But Rob is a bully. He screams at people. He drives them to tears. And John Mack, the CEO of Morgan Stanley at the time has said that their company culture is going to center around teamwork.

Gautam Mukunda:

Rob is a brilliant banker, but he doesn't fit with that culture. His values don't match the ones Mack wants the bank to live by. The case asks what do you do with this person? Do you promote him or not? If you don't promote him, he's going to leave. That's going to cost you $100 million in the next few years. But if you do promote him, well, what does that do to your company culture.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, the last time I taught this case, I did it with Steve Schwarzman, the CEO of the Blackstone Group in the room. And 40 minutes into the lesson, the students were at the point where they had to make a decision. I asked Steve, "What do you do?" And Steve, God bless him, had actually done the reading and thought this all through.

Gautam Mukunda:

He stood up and he said, "You have to get rid of this guy immediately. This guy is a cancer." Then, he goes through every step of the process, every effect that both decisions will have, and then he said how would play it out, accurately predicting every single beat of what actually happened. It was amazing. I finally had to say to him, "Steve, Steve, I need you to sit down. You're ruining my class."

Gautam Mukunda:

This is a classic managerial dilemma. How do you handle a troublesome but talent employee? When someone is a high performer, who lives up to the values, that's an easy decision, when you have a low performer who doesn't, that's easy, too, but what do you do with people on the diagonals, the high performers who don't live up to the values and the low performers who do.

Gautam Mukunda:

Leadership is all about the diagonal. Most people's inclination might be to say, look, banks don't make airplanes or software or medicine. Banks make money. Rob Parson makes money. So, even if he doesn't live up to the values, he is the guy you should make allowances for.

Gautam Mukunda:

What Steve Schwarzman understands, what Bill Belichick understands, and what Jerod understands, is that every choice has second-order effects. And sometimes those are more important than the first-order ones. When you're a leader, everyone watches the decisions you make. If you promote someone like Rob, then you're saying, when it's hard, teamwork doesn't matter.

Gautam Mukunda:

But values are what you do when the choices are hard. Anyone can do the right thing when it's easy. What's more, nowadays, every leader talks about the importance of values and teamwork. How do you know if they mean it? After all, talk is cheap. Well, we know they mean it when the talk isn't cheap. Credible signals are costly signals.

Gautam Mukunda:

Rob Parson is worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. That might seem like a reason to cut him some slack. But maybe it's actually a reason to hold him to the highest standards, because if you hold him accountable then everyone knows you actually mean it, so they need to live by those values, too.

Gautam Mukunda:

Steve Schwarzman has seen this a thousand times. If anyone has ever been an expert at managing a financial firm, he is. But that's a high bar. Lots of people claim to be experts, and most of them aren't Steve Schwarzman or Bill Belichick. So, I asked Jerod, what does it take for him to consider someone an expert? What does it take to become one?

Jerod Mayo:

To me, an expert is someone, really, who's just validated by their peers, that to me as an expert. I started playing football, I was five years old, played the NFL, coached, and everything, I still don't feel like an expert. As soon as I put that expert hat on, now, I'm not learning at the same rate as I was before, because I feel like I've arrived.

Jerod Mayo:

And for me, it's all about being a continuous learner. And that's one thing. You talk to Bill Belichick. I'm just telling you, every single year, he is trying to evolve, every single year. People wonder why he's been coaching for a long time. Obviously, once again, had great players, I get that. But he has done a good job evolving every single year.

Jerod Mayo:

And he probably wouldn't even call himself an expert, yet 99.9% of the people out here will call Bill Belichick an expert in football. Does that make sense? It's just the way I view... it's my worldview.

Gautam Mukunda:

Yeah, but title inhibits the learning.

Jerod Mayo:

Absolutely. Or drive or however you want to look at it. No doubt. Hey, going back to your example, though, on that Steve Schwarzman thing. I do see it from the other side of the fence, though. And I'm sure you've heard both sides of the fence when you presented this case, right? It's easy for us to sit here and say like, "Get rid of this guy. Get rid of this guy."

Jerod Mayo:

But what about that mid-level manager who he or she have their backs against the wall, and they have to hit their numbers. And this is their LeBron James on the sales team. This is the last chance this... Does that make sense? It was a tough call. It is a tough call to make. I mean, who's got to fall back on your morals and how you want to run your business?

Jerod Mayo:

And it's easier for a guy like Steve Schwarzman to say like, "Hey, get this guy out of here." I just see the mid-level people who are closest to the problems. Honestly, the C-suite, it's almost like they're the Air Force. And it's almost like the sales people are the army, they're on the ground. So, the C-suite, they can see everything from above, this is the grand scheme of things.

Jerod Mayo:

But the people really getting their hands dirty are your mid-level and frontline workers. Those are the people who have to make these decisions in a timely fashion. And if they get fired, it affects a lot more than if a C-suite person. I'm talking about the Fortune 500 company.

Gautam Mukunda:

Oh, yeah, sure. So, let's say that this podcast is about leadership and more than that, it's about ethical leadership, right? So, this strikes at the heart of it. You said you've been willing to speak up when you see that, and is really self-aware to say that I have a cushion that other people don't, so it's easier for me.

Gautam Mukunda:

How do you teach people to be able to take that risk into their own hands and say, what? Values are what you do when the choices are hard. And my values say we can't do this anymore.

Jerod Mayo:

Absolutely. But once again, it goes back to culture. And are your employees comfortable enough to bring things to your attention? I mean, I'm sure you have all of these case studies of where someone saw that there was a problem and they didn't say anything. Or you see it in healthcare, right?

Jerod Mayo:

Nurses that are in the operating rooms, and doctors having a hard time or whatever, the nurse knows what to say. But because there's this chain of command, the nurse won't speak up. That's a huge problem. We talked about decentralized leadership, all that stuff. But that is a huge problem.

Gautam Mukunda:

My friend, Amy Edmondson, from Harvard Business School, studied nursing teams in hospitals. And she found that one thing, above all others, explains when they succeed. She looked at these teams and found out that the more open a team is, the more the people on it are willing to talk and admit their failures.

Gautam Mukunda:

The more they learn from their mistakes then the better they perform. Amy calls this psychological safety, the condition of feeling safe to speak up or disagree. Every time we hold back our ideas, our questions, our critiques, Amy says, we rob ourselves and colleagues of small moments of learning. We fail our companies and these moments because we don't contribute to creating a better organization.

Gautam Mukunda:

We fail ourselves, because well, we might manage other people's impressions of us, we don't grow. Let's do another business school two by two. Imagine you have an X and a Y axis, the X axis measures motivation and the Y axis measures psychological safety. If you have low motivation and low psychological safety, you are, Amy says, in the apathy zone.

Gautam Mukunda:

If you have low motivation and high psychological safety, you're in the comfort zone. If you have high motivation and low psychological safety, a place where too many of us find ourselves, well then in you're in the anxiety zone. And if you're in that upper right quadrant with high motivation and high psychological safety, then you're in the sweet spot, you're in the learning zone.

Gautam Mukunda:

That's where you need to be for maximum growth. Jerod has figured out how to make sure that wherever he is, he's in that learning zone. And now, that he's moved into angel investing, I asked him what he's learning that excites him.

Jerod Mayo:

I really enjoy the private market. So, I truly believe that a lot of value is extracted before these companies really reach IPO status. I'm preaching to the choir, because most of your listeners already understand. These companies are staying private longer.

Jerod Mayo:

You have tons of money, whether you're talking about the vision file, whether you're talking about these huge venture funds, so all these guys. These companies are able to stay private longer, I would say the whole blockchain world, not to be conflated with like cryptocurrency, but just the underlying technology, blockchain, is very exciting.

Jerod Mayo:

To me, this will allow other companies who normally wouldn't work together to be able to work together. Why? Because we're all looking at this same immutable document, we all agree this is what it is. And so, let's use health care, for example, the most precious asset, in my opinion, in health care besides, obviously, the patients, but it's the data, the longitudinal data that you can use to make actionable decisions, right?

Jerod Mayo:

But if we were all on the same chain, we could share that data and we're together. You look at what happened with these vaccines, I thought it was beautiful. All these vaccine companies, Moderna, and all these guys, what did they say? Forget everything else, forget competition.

Jerod Mayo:

This is a real problem. Let's work together. Let's reach across the aisle and work together. To me, it was a beautiful thing. And I think blockchain technology could get us there, not talking crypto.

Gautam Mukunda:

You see blockchain solving the electronic medical records problem.

Jerod Mayo:

I do. That's-

Gautam Mukunda:

Okay. That's a huge thing.

Jerod Mayo:

But we'll see. I may be wrong. Look, your listeners will let you know. But I think that would be fascinating.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, is there a book or books that you would recommend for our listeners?

Jerod Mayo:

Yeah. First and foremost, I would say, I think the Bible just... I don't care if you're a Christian or not. I think the Bible is a great just book. It just has a bunch of things in there that are applicable to today. That's first and foremost. I read this book a few years ago. It's called Moonwalking with Einstein. And I thought it was fascinating.

Jerod Mayo:

He wrote for the newspaper, he was covering these Memory Olympics. And he was wondering, like, "Hey, I wonder if I could do that." And he talks about his journey of learning mnemonics and the different tools that they use, the memory palaces, I always thought that was fascinating. That was a great book.

Jerod Mayo:

And then, the last book I'll tell you that Adam Ross recommended to me and I loved it. It was called Losing Signal. No, I'm not sure if you read that one, Gautam.

Gautam Mukunda:

I haven't.

Jerod Mayo:

But it talks about the rise and fall of Blackberry. They were at the top of their game. So, I know this is about leadership and about business. And that book, right there, encompasses this entire conversation, right? How sometimes as leaders, we don't see blind spots, right? Or sometimes as leaders, we don't listen to people that work for us.

Jerod Mayo:

There's not a culture of just being open and like, "This is what it is." And then, by the time you figure it out, it's too late, right? It's too late. Now, the president is the only guy with the Blackberry. But it was a great book.

Gautam Mukunda:

Other question, of the people you've gotten to know, right, you've actually gotten to know, who most impressed you and why? What about them?

Jerod Mayo:

I would say a guy who was my roommate in college. His name is Inky Johnson. So, the story, we're out there, we're playing against Air Force. He makes a tackle. You should look this thing. You should look it up on YouTube, Inky, I-N-K-Y Johnson. And so, he makes this tackle. And he doesn't move. He almost died that night in the hospital, right?

Jerod Mayo:

Even to this day, he still can't move his arm. He's a motivational speaker. You probably should have him on the show because he's fabulous. This guy, his story, I mean, if you're not moved by his story, then I don't know what planet you're from. Check him out.

Gautam Mukunda:

Jerod's story, joining the Pats, feeling the impostor syndrome, and using that discomfort as fuel reminds me of the very first time I met one of my greatest mentors, Clay Christensen. You might know that name. He invented the theory of disruptive innovation. In my first year in graduate school, I wrote a paper applying his ideas to the military, and in the process, had made some pretty significant additions to his theory.

Gautam Mukunda:

A mutual friend suggested that I go talk to him directly. So, you can imagine the situation, me, a lowly graduate student, the least important person you can imagine going to meet the most important business school professor in the world to tell him his great idea needed some changes. And to top it off, when I walked in, I discovered that he was literally a foot taller than I am.

Gautam Mukunda:

So, well, I was pretty intimidated. I didn't think I didn't belong there. I knew I didn't belong there. But I sat down and began explaining my ideas to him. Finally, after I'd stumbled along for a few minutes, he sat down at his desk and he said simply, "Why didn't I think of that." And that was all it took. Suddenly, I knew that this was a room where it would always be safe to say what I was thinking even if I was wrong.

Gautam Mukunda:

That meeting changed my life. And it began a friendship that lasted for 15 years until his death last year. I guess you could say that Clay was the Bill Belichick of professors, both in terms of success, and his willingness to create psychological safety and to mentor. The task for leaders is to make sure that it doesn't take someone's extraordinary as Jerod to find a mentor, to create a culture where that's just what we do.

Gautam Mukunda:

It's also a two-sided coin. We can exist in organizations that facilitate learning. We can also be people who are gifted learners. That's the biggest part of what makes Jerod so uniquely able to succeed in multiple domains, any one of which would be all consuming for most of us. He's able to learn quickly over and over again because he's willing to embrace discomfort.

Gautam Mukunda:

To recognize that discomfort is a sign that you're learning, that it's something you steer into, not away from. We all start out as rookies. But not all of us become champions. The difference, he never stopped learning. You never stop leveling up. How do you create psychological safety for yourself and for others? How are you training yourself to learn?

Gautam Mukunda:

Tell me at worldreimagined@nasdaq.com or hit me up at gmukunda on Twitter.

Speaker 6:

World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world. An original podcast from Nasdaq. Visit the World Reimagined website at nasdaq.com/world-reimagined-podcast.

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