Successful Nonprofits: All Problems are People Problems with Brad Wolff

How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage

All Problems are People Problems with Brad Wolff

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How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage

All Problems are People Problems with Brad Wolff

Subscribe on iTunes  Android  Spotify  Google Play

by GoldenburgGroup

Process, technology, and people are the three components that make an organization. People are at the center of all of these aspects. There is no cause or solution that isn’t people-based.

Brad Wolff, author of the bestseller, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Edge, joins Dolph to deliver an important lesson: all problems are people problems. Walking us through his origin story, Brad shares the experiences and lessons that have helped him understand that solving any organizational problem starts with taking an honest look at your people – especially yourself!

*****Timestamped Highlights*****

(4:18) Somewhere between birth and walking…
(6:40) Doing it wrong > Doing it right: What Brad learned as a recruiter
(9:05) Guess what? The most successful leaders are open to getting better!
(10:53) Low turnover rates may not be a bragging point
(13:28) The notable difference between a producer and a manager
(14:34) Beware the Halo Effect and Horn Effect!
(16:18) The dark period when Brad’s business failed
(18:20) The cognitive dissonance bus runs right into Brad
(22:35) Dolph finally accepts the properties of velocity and mass
(25:22) Brad and Dolph share the process of being human
(31:22) Debunking the talent myth
(32:50) Creating a safe and open work culture
(34:19) From definition to application, Brad talks habits


To learn about Habit Technologies: email Brad:
Free ebook Maximize Your People, Productivity, and Profit:
PeopleMax: Website
Brad’s book People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage

Transcript – Episode 121 – All Problems are People Problems, and How to Solve Yours: A Conversation with Brad Wolff, Author of People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage

It all starts with the leader.
Walk the walk or be silent.
It’s what you do, not what you say, that matters.

Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits™ Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg. Today we’re going to be chatting with Brad Wolff about how to solve the people problems in your organization, but before we do that, I am just so pleased to share my strategic planning facilitator cohort group initiative. It’s a 28-week, online program that will help one of your board members facilitate strategic planning within your organization. So, through this 28-week program, they will learn each component of our proprietary process, and what’s more, they will not only learn it, but then they will immediately turn around and start facilitating your organization’s strategic plan. Now, I’ll share more in the outro because I’m really excited about chatting with Brad Wolff today. Now, what I’m going to say next may sound like I’m bragging, and maybe I am just a little bit, but I curate my guests very, very carefully and stringently for this podcast.

I regularly receive solicitations from publicists and sometimes people themselves who want to be on the podcast. And I’ll tell you that I turn most of them down because I am committed to providing the absolute highest level of insight, utility and value has a return on your investment of time. And equally important, I am committed to finding guests who are interesting people, people I want to talk to, and people you want to talk to. You have a lot of demands on your time and your attention, and you deserve great guests. So, while I get a lot of requests to be on the podcast, I also cold call potential guests that I think you would enjoy hearing. If there’s a topic I want us to cover and a preeminent expert on that topic, well, I owe it to you to approach that person. Now, it’s more work for me and for my podcast colleagues, Brianna and Katelyn.

But let me tell you that it’s worth it. So, I pursued today’s guest, Brad Wolff of PeopleMax. I sought him out after learning about his book, People Problems, How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. So, I was particularly taken by an assertion that all organizational problems are really just people problems. And not only did I say amen to that, but I reached out to him and said, “Brad, I want you to be on the podcast.” And he responded almost immediately and said, “I’m flattered, but I don’t know if this is going to be a good fit. I pretty much work with for-profit businesses, and you’re doing nonprofit stuff and you know, we might not be a great fit for your audience.” So, let me just say that once he did that, you know, when you want something, you can’t get it, you want it even more. So to say the least, I wanted it even more, so I convinced him that much like in the for-profit world, in the nonprofit sector, all problems are people problems too. And I assured Brad that we would absolutely benefit from his expertise if he agreed to be a guest. So, to say the least, while, I feel lucky to introduce every single guest. I feel like I hit the Jackpot by having Brad on today.

Hey Brad, welcome to the podcast.

At the end of the day, a leader is just another human being who happens to be in a position of authority with a greater influence over the culture than someone else. We all have our own personal development path.

Brad Wolff: Thank you, Dolph. I’m honored to be here.

Dolph Goldenburg: I do have to share with you that most people when they, when I emailed them, they’re either a kind of a flat no or really enthusiastic yes, but not something as diplomatic as what you gave me but also made me really go, “Yeah, this guy gets it. I got to have him on the podcast.”

Brad Wolff: I get it. I mean that is human psychology, and I’m just upfront. I just want to make sure with anything that it’s a win-win. If it’s not a win-win, there’s just no point in it. So, once you explain to me why I would be a guest that would add some value, then I was all for it. And I appreciate how you communicated that to me.

Dolph Goldenburg: I’m really thrilled to have you on, and I would love for us to maybe start the conversation if you could share just a little bit with me about your origin story of PeopleMax.

Brad Wolff: Great Point. So, how far back do you want me to go? Birth?

Dolph Goldenburg: Somewhere between birth and walking would be just fine.

Brad Wolff: Well, I was actually born a boy and grew up, and actually, interestingly, part of my origin story is I grew up in a family. I was the fourth of four children, and it was a difficult childhood. You know, all of us had a challenging childhood with a lot of emotional, it wasn’t an emotionally healthy, it was a dysfunctional family. Not that those are unusual. And I think that is part of the origin story that’s important because I learned a lot of habits and how I thought, felt and behaved that were actually ineffective in guiding my way. So, the personal challenges that I’ve had in communicating, connecting, getting clear on what I wanted, staying focused, balancing the being persistent, gritty learning and adjusting, managing my ego, all these things came from a backdrop of really struggling mightily in the beginning. So, I think that really is a key part of my origin story.

I was very disconnected. When I went to college, all I knew is I wanted to get a degree and make a lot of money, et Cetera, blah, blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t internally focused. I didn’t have any clue as to what to do. Let me get advice. I decided to, I started off in engineering, realized I was going to study too much, and I was like, what’s the point of being in college if I’m studying all the time? Just being real. So, I decided to major in business, but I had no idea what area. So, I got opinions and people said, you know, “accounting degree, accounting degree! That’s the most marketable degree. You can always do something else.” So I said, okay, accounting degree. Interestingly, I graduated with honors and pass my CPA exam shortly out of college.

Now the thing about what I did as an accountant, those elements of getting a degree and passing the CPA exam had nothing to do with accounting theory and principles. Had nothing to do with the practice of accounting. And there’s an expression in accounting that accountants who are low in detail get fired. Those that are high and creativity go to jail. Now, I didn’t go to jail, but I got fired a number of times before I realized, well you know what, maybe accounting is not the right field for me. So, I went into sales, sold insurance and investments for five years, and then I went into recruiting. And that is really a key step because now I’m dealing with organizational results based on the people that they have. And in that 20 plus years, I saw so many situations of half the time, the hires is that companies make don’t work out.

We should learn more quickly than we do.
The smartest people we ever meet are extremely slow learners.

And companies that brag about low turnover shouldn’t be bragging cause they’re just keeping people that are disengaged in doing a poor job at what they’re doing. I was able to see patterns and the connection between how the leaders thought and behaved and the results that they had. And I really started seeing clear patterns that leaders who are so convinced and buying their own message about that they were so good at judging character of people, so good at judging fit, so good at managing people would have such poor results. So, that really got me fascinated with the topic of people are the whole key, and companies are doing it wrong more than they’re doing it.

Dolph Goldenburg: You said you really noticed the leaders within the companies and within the organization’s kind of set a tone and you could tell which ones were going to be effective at recruiting and managing and running the organization in which ones were, what types of things would you see that would kind of make you soar leaders out in that way?

Brad Wolff: Great question, Dolph. I would say a key thing, and it wasn’t obvious to me at first, but it became obvious over the years, is how well that they were aware of and manage their ego. When the ego’s driving, they’re the expert. Their judgment is the right judgment. If it doesn’t work out, it wasn’t because of their judgment. They are in command and control tendencies that they’re the boss, and if they don’t agree it’s their way or the highway led to turnover and a lot of bad decisions. But one of decision went wrong. It was always some other thing that had nothing to do with them. Well, my decision was right, but this happened. So, I saw clearly the ego was the key element that drove a lot of success. And the most successful leaders were ones that were very open. And I don’t know, let’s look at this situation and let’s discuss it. Because at the end of the day, I don’t have all the answers. I can always learn and get better. And that was a key element that taught me so much: I’m the smartest, best equipped person and that’s why I’m the boss versus I’m just a person that’s in this position. How can I get better knowing that I’m imperfect?

Dolph Goldenburg: So, really kind of leaders are approaching it from that position of, “Okay, I don’t know everything, and I’m here to help figure it out.”

Brad Wolff: That openness and humility that at the end of the day, I’m just another human being with my strengths and weaknesses, and I make mistakes, and I’m wrong. A lot of my beliefs are inaccurate, and a lot of my assumptions are inaccurate, so how can I keep learning from that and teaming up with other people and listening to their viewpoints because everyone has some value. Everyone’s viewpoint doesn’t always have equal value, but other viewpoints of people that are qualified can have a lot of value, and my viewpoint alone is very dangerous. That’s I would say.

Dolph Goldenburg: You also mentioned it, and it’s interesting and not really thought about it this way. You also mentioned there’s a lot of organizations that brag about how low their turnover is, but in reality for some organizations that just means that they have mediocre, even bad, poor employees that are sticking around too long.

Brad Wolff: Often that just means that they’re keeping people that aren’t working out a long time instead of addressing the issue, and everyone’s losing. That can be a negative symbol. Everyone stays in the same job here for 30 years. They don’t advance. They don’t do anything else. And you talk to the people, and they complain. All they do is talk about all the negative things. Why do you stay? Well because of this pension or because I’ve only got this many more years before I retired or there’s always an excuse for why they tolerate a dysfunctional, unrewarding relationship.

Dolph Goldenburg: I have to share with you the thing that drives me just absolutely bezerk in the nonprofit sector, and it’s what I refer to is promotion by seniority. Someone comes in, and they’re a case manager on a 5% on a five-person team, and eventually they become the most senior case manager, you know? And then when the supervisor leaves, there’s just this expectation, “Oh well I’m the most senior case manager, I should get the position.” Even though maybe the newest manager’s best qualified or none of those case managers are well qualified to be the supervisor. But there’s this expectation, and I think management just does not want to disappoint. And instead of having the tough conversation with the person and saying, “Well, here are the growth areas we’d need to see before we could really consider promoting you, and we’ll help you work on that, but we need to bring someone else in to be the manager.” They’re like, “Okay, yeah, you know you can be the manager,” and then they have an even bigger people problem.

Brad Wolff: That’s a great point. Companies dangle promotions into management as a reward, and that’s a danger because it should not be specifically a reward. It should be based on who’s fit for that and wants the job both cause sometimes someone may be fit but they just don’t want the job. There are salespeople that would take a big pay cut for example, to become a sales manager. It shouldn’t be used as a reward.

Dolph Goldenburg: The other thing that I also think we see a lot in the nonprofit sector, I’d be willing to bet it happens, for-profits as well, is sometimes you take your highest performer, and you make them a manager, but they’re not really well suited to be a manager. And I mean, I’ll be frank and say, I think as I’ve matured, I’ve certainly become a better manager, but you know, I was a really extraordinary grant writer in my first job. They made me a manager at like 24 25 without probably the emotional maturity necessary to be a manager. And, consequently, I was probably a pretty bad manager at the time.

A low turnover rate is nothing to brag about if what it represents is an unmotivated, disengaged workforce.

Brad Wolff: Well, that’s another very common mistake companies make is if so and so’s an excellent producer at something, then they’re going to be a great manager. Actually, it often works the reverse because someone that’s an outstanding producer at something or a technician at something, they’re focused on just getting the job done. A manager’s job is to get the job done through others, not through yourself, and their patience and the expectations of other people that may be have lesser skill or passion or talent or whatever often has a negative effect because that someone that only knows extremely success doesn’t know what most people deal with in struggling to get better. So, it actually a is an earmark for someone that may not be as good a manager.

Dolph Goldenburg: Oh, absolutely. Without a doubt, I think individual performers, so if you function best as an army of one, probably don’t function well as a manager.

Brad Wolff: Right. And if you look in sports, a lot of times the ones who were the star players fail as coaches, and the best coaches were mediocre or poor players. The Halo Effect is a big thing in human psychology and we tend to, as human beings, these are general faults or flaws in human psychology that we’re all vulnerable to. Human psychology applies to all of us. It isn’t these other people. It’s all of us. And if see someone excel at something, the natural tendency for all of us is to attribute positive characteristics to things we know nothing about. The Horn effect takes over too. If we see someone failing or performing poorly in something, we will tend to have negative predictions about other things that have nothing to do with it. The fact that someone’s good at x, that’s all you can say is they’re good at x. You cannot make any assumptions about Y,Z or any other area just from knowing they’re really good at X.

Dolph Goldenburg: I am so glad that you reminded me and our listeners of that cause I think you’re 100% right. Often, we see someone as bad on one or two things and we’re like, oh well they can’t do anything, and we write them off.

Brad Wolff: Right? The people that all of us could be top performers are fail depending on how well a job aligns with our innate core nature. So, you can take any person and put them into set them up to become a failure or a success based on that. None of us are inherently good or bad, success or a failure. Those are myths,

Dolph Goldenburg: We’ve unpacked some of that. Let’s keep moving forward with your origin story.

Brad Wolff: Okay, so another big part of my origin story is just my own business failure. It was interesting. I was co-owner at a recruiting firm. We had 14 employees. We were growing. We were making really good money. You know, my ego was puffed up. I thought, man, this is such an indicator of how smart I am, how capable I am, how well I manage people, how good I am at making decisions. I bought into this whole story about that how well we were doing was because of these great traits on my end. And that was the Fall of 2008. In January, we noticed a sudden reduction in hiring demand, and between March and September of 2009, we laid off all our employees. And then in December of 2009, we closed the company.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, literally in 12 months you went from top of the world to don’t have a company.

Brad Wolff: Yes, and I was distraught. I couldn’t understand how in only 12 months I can go from feeling so confident that I had this highly successful business that was going to continue on in smoothsailing, nothing but growth to literally being out of a business, having no job, having a lot of debt, having a tremendous amount of self-doubt and feeling like a failure, having no clue as to what I’m going to do next. I mean it was a dark, dark period, and it really helped instigate me questioning the assumptions I had about my greatness because other competitors hung in there and made it and did okay and then emerged stronger. If everyone went out of business, I can use that as an excuse, but I couldn’t do that. It was clear that was not the case. It had something to do with me and the way I did things

Dolph Goldenburg: In social work, there’s this concept of cognitive dissonance, which is when the way we perceive ourselves as different from the way other people perceive us. And it really sounds like cognitive dissonance was a bus that just ran right into you.

Myth: We should learn more quickly than we do. Reality: The smartest people we ever meet are extremely slow learners.

Brad Wolff: Right. The thing that I’m grateful about, Dolph, I did not choose to explain it away with excuses. Here’s the thing about excuses. They are infinite. And the number we can come up with in any one will do. They don’t even have to be good because we’re like, yeah, yeah, okay. That’s, that was, that’s it. Yeah, that explains it. But I chose to say, let me not BS myself. This is a time to really be honest. And the truth is I was in flexible. I was ego-driven. I made a lot of assumptions. I managed people with command and control.

I mean, I did all those things that I’m talking about leaders that run into trouble did. Not only did I notice these patterns in other people, but even more powerful, I chose to look myself in the mirror and say, “That’s me.” So that was the clincher to the whole thing was my recognition that I created my own failure because of not following the principles of success that I felt somehow I was above or I’m the exception or the ego tells us that, “Yeah, but in my case, this is different, and here’s why.”

Dolph Goldenburg: So, after you recognize that, how did you reconcile it or recalibrate?

Brad Wolff: That’s a great question. It’s a process. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and saw the light. I think a key part was it took me a while to realize, “Hey, I have a part in this,” and just over the years having some really good advisors, coaches, professional coaches and informal coaches doing a lot of self-development work really was helpful. A lot of which is an ongoing thing is personal growth/development and reading, attending different workshops and realizing, “Wow, the problems I have are related to how I think and do things. They’re not random. So, fortunately I was open because I didn’t want to keep repeating, and it was very clear I’m going to keep repeating them if I don’t change because the world’s not going to change to adapt to what I want. That I was always clear on: the world’s not going to change from me. Fortunately, I knew that lesson. I knew it, but I tested it a lot.

Dolph Goldenburg: I also think you’re so right that a lot of just takes time and reflection to really kind of reconcile it. I’ve talked about it some on here, but I had just really a major career meltdown that could potentially have been career ending, and it took me probably five years of processing it before I was at a place where I could fully acknowledge. I started off being able to acknowledge what some of my issues were, but really acknowledge, you know, what role realistically I played in that meltdown and you know, what I need to do to avoid meltdowns like that. It really took five years before I could like publicly and openly talk about it.

Brad Wolff: Yes. There are a lot of myths out there and one of the myths out there is that we should learn a lot quicker than we do. The truth is the smartest people you’ll ever meet are extremely slow learners when it really comes down to it. I’m a dreadfully snail-paced learner when it comes to a lot of these life lessons. Are you kidding me? It takes me that long to learn these things. I mean, it’s now a point of humor.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, Brad, I have to tell you, I’ve been hit by a car three times, and I don’t mean three car accidents. I as a human being have been hit by a car three times. I am definitely a slow learner

Brad Wolff: Or you’re a car magnet.

Dolph Goldenburg: There comes a point in life and I was much, much younger than I am now when you just have to accept the law of, of velocity and mass, you know, and you just have to accept that even if you got the right away, sometimes it’s better to stay where you are and not get hit

Brad Wolff: Well, can I be assured that you’re not a ghost? That this is really a physical form that’s alive still.

Our professional success is based on our personal development.
We are the only tool we have and we take ourselves everywhere we go.

Dolph Goldenburg: Well, my Skype cameras doing something funky. So I think I’m a little shaded right now, but I can assure you I’m definitely not against.

Brad Wolff: Okay. I just, I just wanted to make sure after getting hit by a car three times, just you must feel like you’re pretty lucky. If you’ve been hit three times, and I don’t see any missing limbs. There are no obvious signs of brain damage.

Dolph Goldenburg: Two of them were scrapes, only one of them hospitalized me, but two of them were really just were scrapes. Then, you know, after the one that hospitalized me as a little more cautious and then I just got scrapes. But now I can like at some point in your life you’re like, “Okay, I’ve learned my lesson. It’s a lot bigger than me, and I’m not going to force it.”

Brad Wolff: Right. So, a lot of the life lessons that seem obvious now, it’s amazing they’re not obvious when you’re going through them because the ego is the thing that tricks us. I don’t consider the ego bad. It’s just there, and it’s a deterrent to our growth. That’s why we need to always watch it and be aware of it. Because my ego didn’t go away. My ego will tell me these grand things about myself and want to tell me how confident thatr I’m 100% sure this is the right decision and nonsense. It’s just, and the thing is the good news, all humans are designed the same. We come equipped with the same physical and psychological makeup than the human design manual is the same for everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, blah, blah, blah. It’s the same manual. That’s the good news is because once we learned the manual, we can start now making some real progress.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, with those people problems in our organizations, how do we go about making some progress?

Brad Wolff: That’s a very broad question. Can you narrow it down a little bit more specific? I can start in so many areas with that

Dolph Goldenburg: And that’s fair because I know our time is limited today. For example, you know, you’ve talked about how when we bring too much ego with us to our organization, it trips us and other people up. So, if we think about that as one of the key people problems we might see in an organization, how do we help people troubleshoot that problem?

Brad Wolff: Let me back up cause your question as I think about it now because I was wondering where do I start? There’s actually a good question. So, I don’t know if you can delete that minute or whatever.

Dolph Goldenburg: If you don’t mind. I just love to leave that in and you know, let listeners kind of see us around in a circle for a minute.

Brad Wolff: something that I realized, you know what? Now that I think about it, yeah, that is a real process of, of being human. You take a path and then I reflected and I realized that’s a good question. I was looking more to narrow it and get specific, but that’s a good question. So yeah, let’s leave it in there. Real life is not clean and rehearsed, and everything is just, you know, where you’re going. You take a path and then you go, I just trip. Let me just back up and realize that I’m a trip. So I think the key is to realize, number one, all problems are people problems at their root. The traditional view is that processes, technology, and people are the three components that make an organization. And we tend to separate it, but they’re really not separate. And what I mean by that is humans design the processes, operate the processes, fail to adjust and fix the processes.

So, the processes are all human-based, and if you have the right process, but the wrong people that aren’t doing it right, the process doesn’t work. Same exact thing with technology. Behind every process and technology problems are people problems. That’s the root cause. When we’re trying to fix technology problems and process problems by addressing the processes and technology, we’re missing the root cause. We’re treating the symptoms because the symptoms are the things that we see. We don’t see root causes directly in most cases. At the end of the day, there isn’t a problem you can have out there that at its root isn’t a people problem. So, you start with the recognition that there is no cause or a solution that’s not people-based. Stop trying to fix everything with, “I’m going to bring in the right process” and all that.

It’s great for consultants and everything that I’m going to fix the process without having to address first the root cause, which is how people think, feel and do things. So that, I think that’s number one. Second thing is to realize that the leaders, everything starts with the leaders. As leaders, the natural thing as human beings is we want to point fingers, and this person isn’t doing this, and that person isn’t doing that and blah blah blah and kind of divorce ourselves as if we’re separate from the problem. The truth is the leader is part of it. At the end of the day, the leader hired the person. The leader is involved with making sure they are doing the job right, setting direction, addressing problems, keeping the person, keeping the person in the same role versus another role. At the end of the day, there isn’t any problem with a subordinate that doesn’t have to do with the leader.

The world won’t change to adapt to what we want.
We need to change.

If I’m a leader in an organization, the only one I have any control over that I can impact directly is myself. Always the leader starting with themselves. And that’s number one. It starts with me as a leader. The second thing is it isn’t what I say, it’s what I do. If I’m going to say anything, well, you need to listen first and understand what someone’s saying before interrupting or responding and really understand what they’re saying. If I’m not doing the same thing, I’m making it worse. I’m better off saying nothing than just violating my own advice. So, if I’m not walking the talk, I’m better off just being silent because at least I’m not a hypocrite. Then I’m just ineffective.

Dolph Goldenburg: I could not agree with you more. It’s like, you know, if you’re in the nonprofit sector, if you’re the executive director, you show up late every day by 25 or 30 minutes, and then you complain people are late or people are late to meetings or whatever. Well, you know, you’ve set the tone. You’ve said, “Well if you waltz in here at 8:30 instead of 8:00, it’s okay.”

Brad Wolff: Right, and look, I’m not here to lambaste leaders. A leader is just a as just another human being that happens to be in a position of authority that has a greater influence over the culture than someone else. But a leader at the end of the day is just another human being. We all have our own things we’re better at than others and have our personal development path, which is the things that were, that are helping us and the things that are getting in our way. The key thing I think is our professional success in anything is based on our own personal development. They’re one in the same thing. We are the only tool we have, and we take ourselves everywhere we go. There is no other tool. Our ability to impact our ability to make decisions, our ability to deal with difficult situations is 100% related to our own personal development. How self-aware we are, how well we manage our egos, how focused and committed we are to take action on what we need to do rather than put it off and make excuses. These are all personal development issues. That’s the only work we can ever really, truly do. Our business life is just a tool for a personal development, and we’re never going to go further than our personal development allows us.

Dolph Goldenburg: Absolutely could not agree more. I’ve always thought of this almost as a toolbox. And everywhere I go, I put new skills and abilities and competencies and my toolbox. And that’s also why I said you, when I was 24, 25 and was a first-time manager, I didn’t have the maturity. My toolbox was not, did not have enough tools in it for me to lead a department, but over time you get more tools in the box and you’re like, “Hey wait, I’ve seen this before. I really need a plumber’s wrench for this.”

Brad Wolff: Exactly. And that’s the other, there’s a lot of myths out there that I think distract us away from those truths. And one of them is the talent myth. You either innately have some talent or you don’t. And if you do, you’re going to succeed because of your talent. And if you don’t, you’re not going to succeed regardless what you do. That’s been debunked time and time again, that if you have a great talent, you’ve developed that talent. If you inherited the ultimate talent in the world in something, if you don’t put in the work and keep getting better, that talent is never going to be realized, and that that takes time and repetition. You’ve heard of the 10,000-hour rule that’s based on research that people become masters in anything. There’s no shortcut to it. It’s usually going to be about 10 years of continuous, get in there and make the effort, fail, fall, learn from it and get better, have struggles and question whether or not you can do it and all these other things. The Hero’s journey is a journey of a lot of falling and doubts and emotional difficulty.

Dolph Goldenburg: Some comedian said, um, I was an overnight success after doing standup and dirty bars for 20 years. Everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh, this person did it overnight,” when in fact they’ve been working on it for a decade or two decades.

Brad Wolff: That’s one of the myths that I think holds us back a lot is a culture that you’ve got to always do the right thing, make the right decision, take the right action or you’re punished. Growth happens in an environment where people feel safe. All the research psychologically is very clear. One of the most important things a leader can do is to set up a safe environment for people to be authentic, acknowledged their difficulties and their weaknesses and openly work on it with support and encouragement and feedback. You’re never going to get it unless you do that, and that means that the leader openly acknowledges weaknesses and openly shows a commitment to work on them and encourages honest feedback from others related to it. The culture of an organization is created by the leaders. If the leaders are complaining about the toxic culture, they created it.

Dolph Goldenburg: They should look in the mirror if they complain about toxic culture, could not agree more.

Brad, I have loved having you on and I’m not letting you go until I ask you the Off-the-Map question. Every guest gets asked and Off-the-Map question, and it is typically something that has nothing to do with the topic of the show, but today’s might actually kind of slide it into the theme of the show because I wanted to ask you what are your daily habits, and how do they impact your life?

Growth happens in an environment where people feel safe. Good leaders create those environments.

Brad Wolff: You couldn’t have asked me a better question that’s on the map. Your Off-Map-Question and was completely on them.

Dolph Goldenburg: I know. It’s a fail. I fail. See, I can own it when I fail. Okay.

Brad Wolff: Do you see this book?

Dolph Goldenburg: Oh, now I do. The Power of Habits. Yeah.

Brad Wolff: I’m a certified coach. I do a lot of leadership and executive coaching. This is the essence right here. The word habit and I write about it. Speak about it. That’s the essence. The habit is the structure that allows your whatever you want to do to be effective. That’s one of the big problems. I want to do this. I want to do that. Until you build the habit, the habit is a thing that makes us sustainable and real. So whatever experiences we’re having in life directly pertains to our habits of how we think and feel and behave. And it’s habitual. Very rarely we get an off the habit track and just completely just making a thought through, well aware decision that isn’t based on our habits. Right?

Dolph Goldenburg: So, you started off by really personalizing it. So, I’d love for you to personalize this as well. What are your daily habits?

Brad Wolff: Okay, it starts in the morning. I get up at seven. I’m not extremely early riser. Get a cup of coffee. This is a daily habit. Meditate, visualize, do praying. Then I do 20 minutes of Yoga. Then I go to work. I sit down. I do have a visualization of what’s my vision of what’s important to me. And then I map out my day, and everything I do is based on what are the things, what are the big rocks, the big key goals that are important to me, and does it support it? So, I made my priorities, and I even use a habit technology software that sends me reminders and things like that because habits are all about building the brain wiring from repetition and developing a positive association because you’re having success in what you’re doing, which takes continuous effort. So, I have key habit areas where I’m struggling that I put my focus on. And right now, my big thing, and I’ve gotten so much better on it, is to stay focused on the task I’m on without distracting away on to something else. That’s a big one for me personally.

Dolph Goldenburg: Yeah. And I think at this day and age where we have a phone and a computer that’s dinging us, both of them at the same time all the time, that’s tough cause we really find ourselves chasing the monkey of whatever’s going across the screen.

Brad Wolff: Yes. It’s a process because I’m tempted. By sheer habit, I stay focused a lot better now. And I’ll just get out of email. I won’t get on the Internet for a while. If I have an idea, I’ll just write it down real quick so I don’t lose it rather than chasing after it. And it’s just a process and commitment. Then I reflect on experiences of what makes us smarter. Experience as reflected on with adjustments based on a reflection makes us smarter. Experience without reflection doesn’t do a whole lot to make us smarter.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, I want to ask you one last question. You mentioned you’re currently using attack or an APP to help you to help remind you in reinforce your habits. What APP or tech is that?

Brad Wolff: I use something and I’m a reseller because of it. It’s through a company called Habit Technologies. I think it’s a way of personalizing things you want to work on and setting up very specifically what your goal is, what behavior you’re gonna make, and set up reminders for it. And then at the end of the day, reflect on how you did with it. And just through sheer repetition, you develop a routine because it’s about routines. A habit is a routine. And the nice thing is that habit then makes it easy because if it’s a routine, it’s not hard to get on the phone and make 20 calls that you know you need to make or to sit down and do this busy work that you really don’t like to do or whatever. If you do it all the time and it becomes a habit, you’re like, oh, okay. I would say the single biggest key to putting whatever good intentions we have into action is to build the habit. Until we build a habit, it’s not sustainable. It’s likely not to be continued on.

Dolph Goldenburg: Very cool. So Brad, if folks want more information on habit technologies, can they get that at your website, or where do they get that?

Brad Wolff: Email me at I’ll give the story on why it’s such a long email, but I think we’ve run out of time.

Dolph Goldenburg: My email addresses are also too long to fit on paper. Brad, I am so glad you’ve agreed to speak with me today. I got so much value out of this. I am sure that our listeners did as well. Now, I want to make sure that our listeners know that you have generously offered a free ebook at your website, and it is Maximize Your People Productivity and Profit at We’re going to link that in the show notes. You can also buy Brad’s bestselling book, People Problems, How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage, and you can buy that on Amazon or your independent Bricks and Mortar bookseller. It’s a great read, and I’d suggest you pick it up and let me just say that if today’s show piqued your interest, make sure you Mosey on over to Brad’s website.

The Hero’s Journey is a journey of falling and doubts and emotional difficulty.

Hey Brad, thank you again for being on today.

Brad Wolff: Thank you, Dolph.

Dolph Goldenburg: Were you trying to help the people problem in your office? Get their necktie out of the shredder while I was sharing the link to Brad’s Free eBook? Don’t worry about it. Go ahead and finish helping that person get free from the shredder. We’ve got the hookup at our site. You can just go there, and I promise you all the links you need. We’ll be right there. Now, in my intro, I also mentioned that we’re going to be conducting a strategic planning facilitator cohort group and some of the procedures that I just wanted to share with you. We’re going to help participants really learn how to interview stakeholders and train other folks within your organization how to interview stakeholders and how to conduct a thorough environmental scan, review the organization’s mission, vision, core values. I just want to remind folks, the cohort groups going to start on May 6th, and there are some deadlines, and there’s also some points at which the price goes up. I think by the time this was released, the investment’s going to be $3,500, but for podcast listeners only, which means when you call to see if your appropriate, you’ve got to say that you heard about this on the podcast, we will give you a $600 discount. So, go to if you want to find out more listeners. That’s our show for the week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.


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