Sarah Interviews Piyush Patel, Entrepreneur, Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Angel Investor.

Sarah:

Hey, everyone. Very excited about interviewing Piyush Patel. He is a rockstar entrepreneur and has released this book that I cannot put down, “Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work“. And Piyush, first of all, I was just sharing with you how much I absolutely love your book, both from a culture standpoint but also your message around valuing your talent. It’s so powerful. I’m just wondering if I can just throw back to you, did you always feel this way or what’s your journey to have gotten to the point where you’re writing this book?

Piyush:

No. Recognition and culture was not where I started. I started as a sixth-grade science teacher and got thrown into the entrepreneurial world. Really, it boils down to how do you want to be treated, how do you want to treat other people.

Sarah:

I couldn’t agree more. And of course, I’m sure you’re treating your students very well like that. So how come that just didn’t beautifully translate into the business world?

Piyush:

Well, there’s this idea that because I own a business and you work for me, that by me paying you should be enough, right? And now it’s your duty to do your part. And we don’t do that in a classroom environment, right? In a classroom environment, we do a lot of nurturing, a lot of caring because we ultimately have the same goals. I think a classroom and a business ultimately have the same goals. They have things to achieve. Why change it up?

Sarah:

What happened to make you want to change it up?

Piyush:

I got to the point where I hated going into the office. It’s one of those things. You ask a lot of entrepreneurs, “Hey, would you go back and do it again?” And a lot of them will say, “No, knowing what I know now, I just realized I was too dumb back then to know what I didn’t know.” And so, I got into this process and suddenly I wake up one morning and it’s, “I don’t want to go to the office. I’ve lost the joy of running the company. I’ve lost the joy of connecting with my customers and people,” and it really boiled down to my core values were not passed on into the business. For me, I thought there were some aspirational values that I needed to have to make a lot of money and that was the only purpose of the business. And really it turned out the purpose of my business was to help people. And as a result, we ended up making money.

Sarah:

And so here you are, you’ve left behind a job that you loved, teaching, and then you started a business that you loved. And then you find out that you don’t love it anymore. Was there a turning point that helped you, sort of like an “A-ha” epiphany moment that allowed you to get back on track to living your values and figuring out what you really wanted to do for the “rest of your life?”

Piyush:

Yes. It really was a catalyst moment. I remember sitting at a business conference and this guy got up and started talking about core values. And I was thinking, “Oh, yeah. We’ve got those. We put ’em on the board.” And then he said, “I don’t really care about your company core values. What are your core values?” And I thought, “Wow, nobody’s really ever asked me what mine were.” And I never really connected the dots that mine are the company’s because it’s my company. I’m the only shareholder of the organization so I’m trying to be somebody I’m not for the majority of the day, and I just realized I don’t want to be that person. I need to be genuine, I need to be who I am. In the book, I talk about core values, not in the sense that you need to have my core values ’cause that just brings you right back to where I was. It’s really going down the journey to find your core values and then how do you present those and live them in your business.

Sarah:

What I value about what you’re sharing is that although we’re talking about your entrepreneurship journey, of which has been an incredibly lucrative journey … not only were you making a lot of money then, what folks may or may not know about your story, and if they don’t know they should look it up … in fact you do a lot of speaking, so some people may have already heard you speak or hear you speak in the future … it just expedited your business’s financial success once you got clear on this. What’s so powerful, though, about people hearing that, even if they can’t relate to the entrepreneurship component, “I need to have this lesson as an entrepreneur,” I’m sure so many people tuning in to this will say, “It’s like he’s talking to me about my career. I’m not really feeling like my values are showing up in my job as a leader, or my job as a frontline staff member.” Did you feel that, once you figured this out about yourself as the business owner, that you also noticed that same thing with your staff and the leaders who work for you?

Piyush:

Absolutely. I mean we started to attract the right kind of people. And the right kind of people aren’t the hardest working, the smartest in the business. They’re the ones who fit my core values. And what I find when I go visit with other organizations and help other companies really break through that flat-line plateau of where they are to where they want to be, the biggest thing that I see is things like core values of honesty. But everybody lies in an organization. It’s the first thing I see. I see transparency on their list, and I go, “Great! Are you an open book?” And the first thing they do is look at me and go, “No, why would we do that?” “Because you’re not transparent. That’s why you don’t do that.” And that’s what happens. Let’s talk about honesty, ’cause it’s fun to talk about honesty. I sat in a lobby one time and I heard the person I was going to meet with telling the receptionist, “Hey, tell everybody that I’m out of town.” Yet, clearly, he’s standing right in front of me. And then we go have our meeting. We started talking about core values and he said, “Well, one of our main core values is honesty.” I said, “That’s interesting. Tell me more about that.” And he said, “Oh, you know, we’re really honest with our customers and our staff, and how we run the business.” And I was like, “That’s great! But, you know, you just asked the person answering the phones to lie.” “Oh, well, I mean …” And he tried to kind of justify, “No, that wasn’t a lie. This is a lie.” Well, what happens is, when you say honesty is your core value, you attract the most honest people on the market to come work for you. And then they get there and realize, “Wait a minute. This is not real.” And that’s how they start behaving. And so what I told him was, “Hey, you should make your core value, ‘We are habitual, hardcore liars. And you will go hire the best liars in the business.’ Why are you trying to attract honest people? Just attract liars and invest in your business!”

Sarah:

It brings it back to the point that so much of these exercises, why people don’t believe in them and value them, and they roll their eyes when it happens, is because folks have seen this happen before where we put the values up on the wall and people don’t practice them. And what I find even more difficult to swallow, and I’m sure that you see this too now that you’ve sold your business and you’re doing consulting work, is that then when leaders talk about, “We need to hold people accountable around here to living the values,” and yet they’re not doing it themselves. It just creates this downward spiral of distrust and frustration and lack of recognition. Because then it’s like, “What do we value around here? What do I support and what do I appreciate?” And that’s when you really have that lack of your “BAM formula”. Tell everybody about your “BAM formula”.

Piyush:

People work for five things. They need food, shelter, so that’s pretty much handled by every employer with a paycheck. We pay somebody; that money is used for food and shelter. You need that. You need safety, which most companies provide in the form of some kind of health insurance or life insurance or retirement. Some kind of safety feeling. Every employer gives you that. After that, people only work for three things, and we made the acronym “BAM”: Belonging, Affirmation, and Meaning. People want to belong to something bigger than themselves. They want to be affirmed for their work. And I don’t just mean, “Hey, it’s 3 o’clock. Walk around everybody and pat ’em on the head and say, ‘Good job. Good job. Good job. Good job. Good job. Keep it up. See you tomorrow at three.” Right? That’s not affirmation. We know what your base affirmation … your listeners are tuned in to recognition, so they are really mastering that. I also think when people aren’t doing the right thing, it’s our duty to acknowledge that, pull ’em aside, coach ’em. And that’s part of that affirmation as well. “Hey, I’m going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation with you.” And then the last one is meaning. It doesn’t matter if it’s somebody answering the phone or somebody doing the most critical, important work. They want their work to mean something. And the hardest thing to do is to take a company full of individuals and create that environment, but classrooms do that every day. And so we just brought that classroom feeling with an instructor who’s a leader and say, “We are all here to accomplish something big, so we’re going to give you belonging; we’re going to tell you that you’re doing great ’cause we’re going to put those stickers on you and say ‘good job, good job’, and when you’re not doing great we’re going to coach you so we can say ‘good job, good job.’ “And our meaning is part of our mission, which is we’re going to go change the world.” I think when people say, “We’re going to go change the world,” they’re thinking of the entire planet. I think you look at it in microcosms. My world was people who make movies and video games, and so I didn’t want to be something to everybody. I wanted to be everything to someone.

Sarah:

Every person can connect with that, right? ‘Cause that’s honestly why they’re coming to work. Yes, absolutely, there are lots of people that would work even if they won the lottery. And the rest of us, it’s BAM that really gets people, not just coming to work, but also coming to work with your greatness, your talents, your passions, your virtues that make you want to elevate your true potential at work. Because you can do it at work, you can do it at home, you can do it in the community. There are many different places you can do it. Or you can do it nowhere, of course, and then you really have deflated folks and that’s where we’ve got mental health challenges and folks who just feel so lost and stressed and frustrated. I just love how you concretely put this into practice in meetings with folks. When you talk about the values story. Can you tell us about how people can make the connection between values and affirming people through that really helpful formula of a value story?

Piyush:

I’m a big, big believer in tribes. Everything that’s going on in the world right now is because we’re all different tribes, right? You and I may have completely different views on every single thing in life, and we can be neighbors, and we hate each other. Right?

Now, you pick us both up. You put us in the same town T-shirts, and you drop us off in Germany. And we bump into each other. All of a sudden, we’re now best friends. “Wow! We have so many things in common!” That’s all tribal. All of a sudden, we found somebody of something similar to our tribe in a world that’s different.

I recognized it and I created that same thing in my environment. Our monthly meetings were called Campfires where we all come together and have a full staff meeting, and we open with, “Everybody’s going to share a story around one of our core values. Now you can share one of yourself or you can share one of the ones you saw.” What are the rules? Everybody plays. We don’t go around; we go in whoever would like to go, that way everybody matches their comfort level.

But we practiced this every single day. At 9 o’clock every single day, we sit down and do this activity called “The Three Happy’s”. And The Three Happy’s allows every employee to create BAM for themselves, and it’s really simple. It’s just a name and date, and then there are three things. Two things at work that made you happy in the past 24 hours, and one thing personally that made you happy in the past 24 hours. And what happens is I now, as an employee, I’m telling everybody in my team, “Here are two things at work that created belonging and meaning for me. And now I’ve self-affirmed, and I’ve self-affirmed because I’ve said it out loud and you’ve listened.” And so we teach every employee on their first day of employment this activity called “Listening is an Act of Affirmation”. And so to be a great listener, you’re affirming somebody. And we do this every day, 9 o’clock; you could set your watch to it.

Sarah:

And so, when you teach the art of listening, I would be curious to know how many people brought that home and had better relationships in their family lives, as well. Did you hear any stories about that?

Piyush:

Oh, my gosh, so many. And doing The Three Happy’s with the kids and wife or husband at home at dinner, and just doing it with parents, and just creating this movement around, “Let’s just pause for a second and be really happy for what we have.” “We’re a bunch of nerds and we sit in front of a computer. How hard is life?” It’s just a little bit of perspective.

Sarah:

Well, and one of the things that I think you have done in your culture, that you work really hard to build … I’m sure this wasn’t oh, you had an awakening and then overnight you had, “Oh, I’m going to do Happy’s and I’m going do core value stories.” I’m sure it was a lot of soul searching to get to this place, and when you arrive there, what it comes down to, are basic human needs. I know you were talking about a framework of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that we need certain things first before we can get to that point of self-actualization and meaning. Absolutely people need meaning in that, and you’ve taken it one step further to talk about “What is an every-person need?” No matter what your education level; no matter where you live; no matter what type of work you do, this transcends all cultures.

And so I’m really hoping that folks take that away. They start doing their own Happy’s each day if that’s how they feel that their level of influence is at this point. Do it with your closest colleague; do it in a team meeting. Try it once, see how it goes, because what’s the worst that could happen? And really, all of the things that you’ve been talking about is what people who’ve read my book and my co-author book, and people who come to my sessions, they realize it starts with self-recognition first. Your Three Happy’s is another version of you also get to acknowledge yourself, and in your core value stories. People can choose to talk about themselves or each other.

And when we feel filled up with who we are and what we’re contributing first, we can see all the contributions all around us. And it just becomes so much more authentic, and that goes back to living our values too, right? Because it’s coming from that place where you are your most resourceful and the best version of yourself. Incredible. Any last words of wisdom to share with folks before we wrap up?

Piyush:

I think you did a great job, Sarah, of reinforcing that everybody can start. Honestly. And if they feel pressured that they can’t start in their office, they can definitely start at home.

Sarah:

So powerful. And, you know, that’s a great place to end because, just last week when I was doing some speaking for a really large community, all staff and leaders were invited, it was “mandatory” so you know how thrilled a few people were showing up. And I’m not sure why some people feel they need to declare it to me that they have to be there, but I guess it’s their way of saying, “I’m not thrilled to be here.” But by the end, a couple of those folks said to me, “Okay, I’m not going to guarantee I’m going to do anything differently at work, but I am going to try some of this stuff at home.”

Wherever we need to shine and be our own version of great, that’s perfect. Isn’t that the best place to start? Focus where you’re most comfortable? Thank you so much. It’s just been such an honour to speak with you, and I’m going to make sure that we include in our comments section here, how people can get a hold of you. I’m sure that they’ll want to chat with you more, learn about the type of work that you do now, as well as potentially find out about your speaking, as well, because that would be amazing to have you share this message. We are in the midst of a talent shortage, I tell everyone. I know I talk about this all the time. You do such an amazing job of talking about how it’s one thing to recruit great people; it’s another thing to recruit great people to your culture.

Connect with Piyush

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“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

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