Peter Rea is Vice President of Integrity and Ethics at Parker Hannifin . He is a Professor of Business Administration at Baldwin Wallace and teaches physician leadership for the Cleveland Clinic and chairs Ohio University's Medical School Advisory Board.
Parker Hannifin is a Fortune 250 with over $19 billion in annual sales, employing about 65,000 teammates in 50 countries. Parker is the global leader in motion and control technologies.
In 2012, Peter joined Parker in a newly established position to preserve Parker’s reputation and protect its financial strength. The mission is to help individuals and teams perform at a high level despite pressure and uncertainty guided by a character defined as a virtue.
The strategy is understanding and applying a strength-based approach to support existing business priorities. The business impact of the virtues has been increased engagement, enhanced teamwork, and leadership development.
Previously, Peter was Business Dean and founding Burton D. Morgan Chair of Entrepreneurial Studies at Baldwin Wallace University. He was the founding Director of Baldwin-Wallace’s Center for Innovation & Growth. The Center provides a practical forum for students, profit and nonprofit senior leaders, and entrepreneurs to create economic and social value through innovation guided by integrity.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Akron, an M.A. from Bowling Green State U., and a B.S. from Ohio U. He has completed postdoctoral studies in international marketing, finance, and marketing strategy at the University of South Carolina, Memphis University, Carnegie Mellon, and Duke.
A Quote From Better Humans, Better Performance
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
About The International Leadership Association (ILA)
About The Boler College of Business at John Carroll University
About Scott J. Allen
My Approach to Hosting
Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.
Scott Allen 0:00
Okay, everybody, welcome to the Phronesis podcast. Thank you so much for checking in wherever you are in the world. Today, I have Dr. Peter Rea, and he is Vice President of Integrity and Ethics at Parker Hannifin Corporation. He is a professor of Business Administration at Baldwin Wallace University. He teaches Physician Leadership for the Cleveland Clinic, and he chairs Ohio University's Medical School advisory board. Parker Hannifin is a Fortune 250 publicly owned company with annual sales of over 19 billion, employing about 65,000 teammates in 50 countries. Parker is the global leader in motion and control technologies. In 2012, Peter joined Parker in a newly established position with the purpose of preserving Parker's reputation and protecting its financial strength. The mission is to help individuals and teams perform at high levels despite pressure and uncertainty guided by a character defined as a virtue. The strategy is to understand and apply a strength-based approach to support existing business priorities. The business impact of the virtues has been increased engagement, enhanced teamwork, and leadership development. Previously, Peter was business Dean and founding Burton D. Morgan chair of Entrepreneurial Studies at Baldwin Wallace University. He was a founding director of Baldwin Wallace’s Center For Innovation & Growth. The center provides a practical forum for students profit and nonprofit senior leaders and entrepreneurs to create economic and social value through innovation guided by integrity. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Akron, an MA from Bowling Green State University, and a BS from Ohio University. My wife is a double bobcat, by the way.
Peter Rea 1:38
Oh, there you go. You married up.
Scott Allen 1:41
(Laughs) He has completed postdoctoral studies in International Marketing and finance, and Marketing Strategy at the University of South Carolina, Memphis University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University. Publications include ‘Better Humans, Better Performance,’ December 2022. And this book is an extension of ‘Exception to the Rule: The Surprising Science of Character-Based Culture, and Performance,’ co-authored with Alan Kolp, and Dr. James Stoller. He co-authored ‘Igniting Innovation with Integrity’ with Alan Kolp, and Pierre Everaert, 2011. And he co-authored ‘Integrity is a Growth Market,’ and ‘Leading with Integrity,’ with Alan Kolp in 2005. You know what, sir? It is a pleasure to have you with me today. Thank you so very much for stopping by. I have the perfect place from that bio that I want to start at, and it goes a little bit like this; better humans, better performance. Let's talk about that. Better humans, better performance. What do you think?
Peter Rea 2:43
I don't know that I understood this completely till you dive into the research and then start to actually put it into practice, that it's true that the so-called soft stuff, character defined by virtue leads to better performance. But maybe it's not so surprising once we understand that the word ‘virtue’ means excellence, and once we know that it's not a virtue until I act. So then, you can start to see an overlap, a Venn diagram between characters defined by virtue and high performance.
Scott Allen 3:16
And talk about how… Because you've made this transition, it's a beautiful transition from a career in academia to actually putting all of this into action in a Fortune 250. Would you take us along that journey, if you would, maybe from the beginning and kind of how that path has played out? And what you've learned as some of this theory has interfaced with the real world in 50 countries? Literally, the world.
Peter Rea 3:41
Yeah. I'll try and keep this brief. My background is in strategy, and when I was younger, I used to think that being right was enough. That all you needed to do was figure out the competitive advantage and you are good to go. And then, the older I got, it's the conclusion… I was slow to figure this out, I wish I had understood earlier in my career, that the so-called soft stuff, culture, teamwork, and leadership, that's where the action is. So, you get two teams, one team; brilliant people, brilliant strategy, egomaniacs that can't get out of their own way. And they're going up against Team B where the strategy is not bad, people are reasonably right. But, oh my gosh, can they function effectively as a team and B takes out A all the time. So, the missing piece for me was culture stuff. And Baldwin Wallace, like John Carroll, has a tradition of the liberal arts. And, historically, what it meant to be liberally educated is to understand and practice virtue, and I liked the ideas that are old as dirt. I'm old and I like stuff that stood the test of time. But a lot of the steps I love about character can be a bit abstract. So then, how do you take those ideas and apply them in a practical way to business? So, just to fast forward quickly, I started kind of tying together the culture defined by virtues. Think culture, teamwork, leadership, foundationally, how do all those excel by virtue? And was doing that at Baldwin Wallace at the Center For Innovation & Growth. And you will appreciate this, Scott, given your role at John Carroll. If you're a full prof, you're tenured, and you're an endowed chair; life is good. It's a wonderful life. And I had a lot of friends that were saying, “You're nuts to leave that and go to a Fortune 250 company.” And it actually did take both Parker and me quite a while to sort that out, it didn’t make any sense. So, I would just put it this way, that when I got to this tipping point of, okay, what I regret not doing this, this company is saying, “Bring your life's work,” and you got 50 countries and three and 350 locations have at it. Would I regret not doing that? And I concluded, yeah, I would because it's what I've been whining about that ethics was limited to the definition of compliance. You need compliance. You can debate whether we have too much or too little, but the opportunity was, if you're practicing virtue, you're helping yourselves on the downside and the upside, meaning mitigating risk and promoting growth. So, I conclude with this, is not only do I have no regrets about making the move, but this has been better than I ever expected.
Scott Allen 6:29
So you get there, and it's day one, and how have you been building? Talk about that process, and then, maybe let's go through some of the results and observations that you've had, some of the learning also. So, talk about what you started building.
Peter Rea 6:47
Right. So, the endowed chair I held was in entrepreneurship, so I treated this like an internal startup. The first thing you do is the voice of the customer. And the beautiful part of this, I report to the chief financial officer, so the argument was how do you protect the balance sheet? Our culture is our greatest asset, so what's your on-purpose plan? And I was given enough time to think this through I'm incredibly grateful. So, the voice of the customer was a piece of that puzzle. And I think what I learned from that was, that you would talk to people about what I've just said; our culture is our greatest asset, and you need an on-purpose plan. Okay, I get that, so what does that mean? Well, there's this character stuff defined by virtue. They're universal, they cut across time, they cut across borders, it means excellence. So, that's the ‘what,’ that's how we can figure out how to practice it. All right, sounds fine, so how the hell are you going to do it? Kind of moved pretty quickly from the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ made sense, but the ‘how’ was much trickier. And I think the other kind of takeaway from all those interviews that I remember very clearly is, look, pal, Parker doesn't need one more program. So, what it took from that then is how do you integrate the virtues into daily practice, into existing initiatives, which I think makes more sense, anyway, to approach it that way, rather than a standalone. So that was basically the way it got started. And then, there was dumb luck, again, back to ‘better to be lucky than good.’ I had several friends who worked at Parker, and stumbled into one in the cafeteria. He stared at me and said, “What the hell are you doing here?” He said, “You know what? I think our group president would be interested in this.” So, that moved from the voice of the customer to the pilot. At the time, this little sample or pilot was 1.3 billion in revenue, 14 divisions, all with separate P&L.
Scott Allen 8:45
This little pilot? (Laughs)
Peter Rea 8:46
It took about a year and a half to get…
Scott Allen 8:49
For your little startup. (Laughs)
Peter Rea 8:53
But what was intriguing about it is we did the pre and post-tests, at least, at a high level. And pre; the engagement scores for this group were the worst and the financial results were about middle of the pack. Post; the engagement scores were at the top of the company and so were the financial results. So, from an engagement point of view, it was kind of a worst to first. And, to be clear, I think you can draw a pretty straight line between practicing virtue and engagement. I'm not as confident about financial returns. I think it doesn't hurt, but there's way, way too many variables, I think, to kind of argue that you're going to get better margins, growth rates, all that, but you can lay a foundation for those kind of things to occur. And then it kind of took off after that.
Scott Allen 9:39
So Peter, take me through a little bit because I love the kind of notion of ‘let's have this move’ in kind of the flow of the work, the direction of the work, we don't need another program. What were some components of the intervention, so to speak, so that listeners have a sense of how did you do the work with these teams.
Peter Rea 9:59
I think, hopefully, I've gotten even better at what I'm going to say, I don't know that I was as tight as the way I'm going to describe it now at the beginning. So, I think what we're pretty good at now is you always start with existing strategies, existing priorities, and existing activities. And so, you're not kind of introducing new concepts, in that sense. And I suggest that you've got a culture anyway, it’s just do you want to be intentional about it, or does it just kind of grow? And that's the riskier one, of course. You don't need to convince anybody that culture is not only going to eat strategy for breakfast, it's going to eat process for lunch, and it's going to eat metrics for dinner…
Scott Allen 10:40
I haven't heard that one before. (Laughs) Say that one again. It’s hungry, it sounds like this is hungry.
Peter Rea 10:47
It'll eat strategy for breakfast, process for lunch, and metrics for dinner. We all kind of know that culture is a huge performance amplifier or brake.
Scott Allen 10:52
Peter Rea 10:59
And then, the hard part is, you're up here, you're really, really clear about your strategy. And Parker's engineers are backed up by accountants so we’re as metric-driven as anybody and we know precisely where we are at a point in time. But then, how do you kind of draw a line from culture to drive all those results that you want? That part's not as obvious. So, the place to begin is existing priorities. The second part that's really, really important is you need a common language precisely because culture, teamwork, and leadership, for that matter, are so abstract. It's kind of alphabet soup, as you know from your background. And then you're kind of, “Well, who is this author saying? What's this theory saying?” And it kind of makes your head numb where if you can remember seven words, there you go. That's what excellence looks like. So, at a pragmatic level, what has gone well, I've used this for a long time, is you have teams just arbitrarily come to the session with their answers to three questions on one virtue, and then you just rotate it to the others. So, for trust; what’s trust? Why should I give a flip? How do you strengthen trust? Well, what you're doing is you're building a common language. And I don't know how else you would do this without that as your foundational piece.
Scott Allen 12:19
Yeah. So, we're creating this common language and weaving it into the culture of how we exist. It's the seven things. For listeners, would you take us through the seven again? So, we've got trust, and what is…
Peter Rea 12:33
Trust, compassion, courage, justice, wisdom, temperance, hope. And those are known as the seven classical virtues, I've nuanced a couple of them. In classical means, these virtues cut across time, and they cut across borders. And that's important because we're in 50 countries. And so it can't be a US-centric approach.
Scott Allen 12:55
Sure. So we're elevating dialogue and creating a common language. We're aligning it with a strategy. Are there other pieces of the intervention that you found to be helpful? Because I like how you're thinking about this, we're kind of anchoring it and weaving it into the system versus it being a standalone ‘over here,’ quote-unquote. What other aspects should listeners know about?
Peter Rea 13:17
So, the really critical piece, once you've got the common language, you've got it integrated into existing priorities, is habits. What's tough about the virtues is when they're needed most are when they're the hardest to practice during periods of stress, pressure, and adversity. No one's going to be against these ideas where, really, what I'd like to do is work for a team where everybody doesn't trust each other, they don't give a flip about each other…
Scott Allen 13:45
“(Laughs) We want no hope. We want no hope.”
Peter Rea 13:49
Where do I get this job? Everybody wants this stuff. We all want to work for a team where we trust each other and care for each other. we’re courageous and full of hope, realistic hope, I might add. But then, the hard part is how do you practice it? So, it starts to implicate tools like coaching, deliberate practice, and what we know about habits that were all a mixed bag of healthy and unhealthy habits. And so, what do we know about trying to create these new habits or strengthen existing habits so that you can get the results that we’re all interested in? It's a reminder, I think, of two factors. It's not a virtue until I act, and there's a knucklehead inside every one of us. So, we're all going to screw this up, I just want the trend line to be favorable. That's about all I can hope for.
Scott Allen 14:34
I love that phrasing because I think some of the… Carol Dweck of Mindset fame from Stanford, says, “Becoming is better than being.” And there's this great quote by Bob Hogan, “Who you are is how you lead.” Okay, so here we are. And, as you said, we are all these mixed bags. Every one of us has great strengths and areas of growth, areas for improvement, for sure. But, for me, it's, are we becoming? Are we in this constant process of trying to be better, trying to practice the virtues? And, at least, present and intentional in that work? I think you used the word deliberate practice. So critical, right?
Peter Rea 15:14
Yeah, it is. It's a good quote: who you are is how you lead. Who you are is how you show up on a team. Who you are is how you parent. So, that's the part that I think often gets skipped over as the focus tends to be more on competencies, as opposed to character. It's not that competencies aren’t essential; they’re kind of table stakes. “Do you know what the hell you're doing? And, if not, then that's not going to go well.” Nobody's against character, but it's ill-defined. So, we're kind of morally inarticulate. And, if I've just got stuff on a wall about integrity, every sports team’s got this stuff in a locker room and some coaches are really quite good at operationalizing it and it changed the way the team functions. I'm not being critical of the one that's got it on the wall, it's not so obvious. How do you operationalize these ideas?
Scott Allen 16:08
Yeah. Any other kind of clues that you've stumbled upon as to how to operationalize these so that they do become part of the culture, our way of being, and we have people deliberately practicing? Because they have this beautiful practice field, beautiful practice field each and every day. It's called work, and it's also called home. But bringing humans to a place of looking at their workday, or looking at their home life as an opportunity to practice, that's a challenge at times.
Peter Rea 16:38
It's very hard. There's a gazillion examples of this one. So, being strength-based is a good methodology. The jargon term, as you're well aware, is the appreciative inquiry. But business people don't tend to use that language, being strength-based resonates a little bit better. And it can be misunderstood that being strength-based doesn't mean ignoring weaknesses; that's narcissism. It means “Let's leverage your strengths.” So, how do we do that? I'll give two examples. One is, in terms of performance evaluations, there's not a lot of good evidence that they work. I’d start with that. We're actually much better at helping someone be successful than we are at judging them. We kind of stink at that part of it. So, what if we asked two questions as part of their performance evaluation: What do you do well, and how could you do more of it? And the evidence is, you get these jumps, you actually only need it at the margins, about 10 to 15% more of your time and your strengths. Then you get these huge jumps in engagement because to go from I suck at something to mediocrity is not exactly a winning formula. But if you can leverage your strengths while acknowledging your weaknesses, that ups your game. That's one. The other is most organizations are more metric-driven. And so, you're going to do that anyway. And the organization -- well, this comes from a good place -- they’ll look at their red results and say, “Well, that's where we start. Who's got responsible for this? What are we going to do about it? We need accountability.” It's understandable why that starts, but where you could flip it, let's look at the green results. What do we do well there that we can attack the red with a vengeance? And you're not going to get green results with the antithesis of virtue; you're going to get it because it's present. So, you start to show, firsthand, as we do our work, the more we practice these things, we get better results. And some of this stuff is… You’re not going crazy over this, and I'm not a neurologist, but I think, half the time, we're battling this looser brain. So, you're battling fear, fear of failure, or I'm fearful of how I'm going to be seen by my colleagues, or I'm fearful that I'm going to lose my job. And the prefrontal cortex shuts down, and you get crap performance. So, it's this balancing act between, on the one hand, you do need the psychological safety to step in to get the motivation and accountability for results. And we’ve both seen a gazillion studies that basically show relationships first, performance second and the order matters. I think, too often, it gets stuck where it's either over here, and it's warm, fuzzy, and lovely. But, at some point, you got to perform. And over here, it's kind of, “Suck it up, buttercup,” and that doesn't help us either. We kind of need that foundational piece. So, it's not an ‘either-or’ argument; it's investing in the relationships and getting good performance.
Scott Allen 19:31
Yeah, it's the Blake and Mouton. Wasn't that that high-high? We're going for the process and the people, and kind of that golden mean is a little bit different for, probably, every individual. Oh, wow. Now, talk about some of the results that you've experienced because this is pretty fascinating. Because, again, you've got the engineers, you've got the accountants. They're looking to you, like, “Okay, how's this working out?” (Laughs)
Peter Rea 20:00
There is not a lot of talk until you get your numbers. Of course, everybody starts with this question, “How will you measure success?” And that came early in Austin. And the CFO who recruited me was wonderful about this. And we talked a lot about this before we even started. Let's distinguish between compliance as part of the ethics program that you have to do. It's a push strategy. And let's define character in terms of a pull strategy; you want to do it. So, one's tapping on extrinsic motivation, and the other on intrinsic motivation. So, we agree, in fact, we separated the kind of approach to compliance and character for that reason. We kind of did that early on. You need compliance, I don't want to be misunderstood on this point. If you're publicly owned, you don't have a choice anyway; you have got to do this stuff. And there's no organization that’s perfect. So, whether it's John Carroll, there's always ethical lapses. So, you've got to do it.
Scott Allen 21:00
Just add humans, right? Just add humans, and it gets pretty interesting.
Peter Rea 21:04
Exactly. It’s going to happen. The difference is not there isn't going to be an ethical breach, but how do you respond is actually, I think, the more interesting question. So, if we're going to go to the other side, it's a pull strategy. Then the first metric was, “Does your phone ring?” These are busy P&L owners; they're not going to do it unless they see value. And so, if your phone isn't ringing, you're not doing that, and there's no value to be added. So, we kept it that simple, “Does your phone ring that people who don't have to work for you, or with you, believe there's sufficient value to put a group of people in a room?” Which is incredibly expensive when you start adding up everybody's salary. To say, “This is worth our trouble.” So, that's how we started it. Then that kind of little pilot I've shared with you say, “Well, okay, well, wait a minute, looks like we're getting a jump in engagement; what if we got intentional and look a little harder at engagement, and do an experimental design, pre-post, control treatment, randomization.” And I'm compressing here several years, Scott. This is not where we started. But we did get to the place where we were running studies internally, and we're seeing jumps of 10 to 20% year over year on engagement scores. Not as a quick fix, I want to be clear: this isn't ‘snap your fingers, do a little virtue for a day, and you’re solid.’ But if it's played out over a nine to 12-month period, and you've got committed leaders and all the things that any change requires, that's been kind of remarkable. It's evolved to more kind of engagement. And you see some jumps in finance, but I'm kind of leery about making that argument that virtue is going to get you better margins.
Scott Allen 22:43
You can get into some interesting conversations, too, about the cost of engagement or the lack of engagement, right? And, of course, that's going to be a little bit all over the board, but there's a huge bottom line benefit to engagement, whether that's turnover, whether that's productivity. Have you explored? I'm not asking you to share specific numbers, but have you explored all aspects of the benefits of engagement?
Peter Rea 23:07
Yeah, without a doubt. What I'm going to describe is public information. So, we have what many others would call a scorecard. And ours is called ‘the winning strategy.’ And so, it's intentionally laid out as engaging people, customer experience, profitable growth, and financial returns. And it's to be read left to right. So, your foundational piece is engagement. Basically, you're in control of the first two pillars: do a good job taking care of each other, and do a good job taking care of your customers. And then those are the leading indicators. The lagging indicators are you grow faster in the market and you have good financial returns. So, I think it does, yes, it does spill over if you put it the other way, good luck trying to get financial results with disengaged teammates.
Scott Allen 24:00
(Laughs) That doesn't work. So, Peter, I'm really interested in knowing this as you kind of reflect on it. How many years has it been that you've been internal? I have it on your bio, but I'm not remembering it. Is it…
Peter Rea 24:12
Scott Allen 24:13
Okay. 11 years.
Peter Rea 24:13
Scott Allen 24:15
So, what has surprised you about the work?
Peter Rea 24:18
Yeah, it's a good question, Scott. So, when you're involved in strategy, innovation, or entrepreneurship, you expect pushback that, for good or for bad, perhaps a character flaw, is interested in disruption. And the older you get, you just realize expect the blowback. And so, I expected that, and it didn't happen. That's what surprised me. It's been pretty quick around, yeah, we want to lead this way, we want to live this way. And, by the way, I think the key is making clear that there are performance benefits of practicing it. And then, if you can offer… I often get asked, “This is great for the company. Do you have any thoughts or ideas about applying it to kids?” And so, that's the other kind of key piece to it, is giving people the opportunity to say, “Well, here's the content, here's the evidence, what works for you? Do you want to apply it at home? Do you want to apply it to your leadership? Do you want to apply it to your team?” So, my direct answer to your question, I would have guessed there would have been more pushback than there’s been. And I might add, I think the private sector, I think it's easier to do it than it would be in a university.
Scott Allen 25:33
Peter Rea 25:34
You would think otherwise, but I think it'd be tough to do it. You can do pockets of it in a university, and you would think liberal arts schools would be good at this. And it's not to suggest they are opponents of it, but in terms of higher ed, the sector that I see doing it really well, nothing’s perfect, are the service academies. Where there's an intentionality about character, it’s clearly defined. I'm not a military person; they wouldn't have had me, and I'm not sure I'd have been interested, but when you start swapping data and insights, I've learned more from the military than any other organization I've shared ideas with.
Scott Allen 26:12
Yes. I need to connect you with Doug Lindsay at the Journal of Character and Leadership Development because he would love to connect with you because that is their space. They are into this topic of character, and how do we build people of character? And that formation. It's so admirable. It's so admirable. You're steeped in the research, you're steeped in the strategy, the entrepreneurship, all of that. And then, you actually get into the organization, you put it into action, you build. And what a wonderful place to experiment and learn in just a little bit of a different way, right?
Peter Rea 26:51
Right. I'd love to meet your colleague. And I guess I hadn't thought about it, your question about what surprised me. I don't know that... I was familiar with what the military did with character education before I joined, but until I started going to West Point, Naval Academy, and all that, and seeing firsthand when you look under the covers, our Navy SEALs, I came away just… Wow. The intentionality of this is pretty inspiring. Again, I don't think any of them would claim they're perfect at it, and there are plenty of examples where they got screw-ups. I liked their candor, actually. It's not that they don't hide things, and I'm not suggesting there aren't imperfections here, but I think, overall, I'm kind of intrigued that, like restorative justice, what they do in the service academies around that, that I think a lot of organizations could benefit from that. And there's a mercenary argument for it. How do we retain these freaking expensive cadets who, if we do it right on restorative justice, and it's rigorous, you actually end up with some really good officers when you're done with that? So, that's the piece that I don't know that I would have had full appreciation for what the military has to teach other sectors, recognizing they're not perfect. I don't know that I would have understood that without working with Parker.
Scott Allen 28:12
Well, I just finished Jocko Willink’s ‘Extreme Ownership.’ I don't know if you've had a chance to read that book. Have you?
Peter Rea 28:19
Yeah, I have. Uh-huh.
Scott Allen 28:21
Have you read the next one? The dichotomies of leadership?
Peter Rea 28:23
No, I haven't.
Scott Allen 28:26
So, super interesting here, Peter. I was listening to Jocko’s book and his co-author, and I really, really enjoyed it. It's the end of one or two, I should say. It's their lived experience and kind of their principles that they've put into action. So, it's not like it's rigorous from an academic standpoint, but it is certainly captivating in the stories, the principles, and how those principles can be related to business. Well, what's interesting is, in the second book, at least in the version of the audiobook I listened to, they gave us one chapter in the new book. And they spend the first part dissecting what didn't go well with the first book, and how it was misinterpreted. What they learned once it kind of interfaced with the public. What they learned about some of the flaws. Joko even says, “Look, the name ‘Extreme Ownership,’ we don't necessarily think was the right message because we don't always need Extreme Ownership. It's on a spectrum.” So, it was even as if he was doing an after-action review of the previous work. And then, of course, iterating but iterating in public in a really, really nice way. Almost modeling that after action review and that hard look within as we move forward and better understand the phenomenon. So, if you have a chance, check that out. The second book is titled ‘The Dichotomies of Leadership.’
Peter Rea 29:52
Scott Allen 29:53
I did some work with a sound engineering company once. They had one of the largest sets of this certain type of speaker in the world, and they had all these soundboards. And it was really, really an interesting experience; I promise this is going somewhere. But I looked at the soundboard, and it made me think of leadership; I said to them, “When you get into certain outdoor arenas or a stadium, or maybe you're in Madison Square Garden, all of these dials, depending on the context, have to shift and adjust to fit this new context.” And they were like, “Yes.” And I said, “Well, leadership is in many ways the same way.” It’s just you are being a little more altruistic or a little bit less altruistic. Are you being a little more assertive, or are you being less assertive in your style, or more democratic in your style? And are you intentional about some of those adjustments that are occurring, given the situation? So, it was interesting because I appreciated the fact that A) They were reflecting. And that B) Their own thinking about the topic is evolving, and they're open about it.
Peter Rea 30:57
That's very impressive. And I like the idea of it being a dichotomy. When I think about your switch to the corporate side, there's a dichotomy between, on the one hand, you have to create value. And on the other hand, you have to extract value. And that's not easy to do.
Scott Allen 31:14
Yes, at the same organization on a break. I was talking about leadership and being a gentleman. They had locations in the UK, Australia, and the United States, and their people would go on all around the world. I had a gentleman come up and, in a British accent, say, “Every aspect of what you just discussed about leadership, my mentor exhibited,” in this British accent, and I said, “Oh, who is your mentor?” And he said, “David Bowie.”
Scott Allen 31:42
I'm glad to know that Ziggy Stardust was a good guy.
Peter Rea 31:46
To your point, I think there's a lot you can learn from the arts. The level of vulnerability of putting yourself out there with your song, or your music, or your acting with no assurance that this is going to go well for you it's a remarkable act of courage.
Scott Allen 32:03
Peter Rea 32:93
And, of course, it's an interesting thought process: say, “Well, what can we learn from that?” I don't want to be a musician, well, anybody who's trying to create something; it's an act of vulnerability, it's an act of courage, you don't know how it's going to work out, you need team. So, all those kinds of things. Baltimore has a very good Conservatory, and there was a conductor I got to know pretty well. I hadn't heard this term applied to music; he said, “The musician improves once they make the empathy shift.” And what he meant by that is, say, I play the violin, and I'm technically capable, but all I do is hear myself play it. And the empathy shift is you can now hear everybody in the orchestra play. And when you do that, your game goes up. And he's listening for it, whether the student will be able to make the empathy shift. If they can't, they will be sub-optimizing their performance.
Scott Allen 32:56
Ah. Well, think about that with leadership.
Peter Rea 33:00
Scott Allen 33:02
Yes. Well, okay. We've talked a little bit about a couple of books and maybe some things out there, but what's caught your attention recently? What have you been listening to? What have you been streaming? As we begin to wind down, I always ask guests this. So, it could have something to do with something we've just discussed, or it could be just a television show that's caught your eye recently. What's been on your radar?
Peter Rea 33:23
I think the piece that I'm focused on is navigating uncertainty that, perceived to real, you got a lot of people that are full of angst. And you see the bleak side is kind of depths of despair, people being angry with one another, or sad. And all those numbers are not in the direction you want, so that's taken to an extreme. But even people who are kind of moving through the day, how do I deal with uncertainty? And, at one level, you'd say, “Well, is this the most uncertain period of time? There was this thing called World War II, that was pretty uncertain. Great Depression; not bad. World War I, you get to give it a vote.”
Scott Allen 34:09
Peter Rea 34:11
Yep, exactly. In some ways, it doesn't matter. It's just this kind of relative experience of how I make sense of uncertainty. So, at least, what the research shows, I've been doing a lot in this area, so who are these people who seem to do a better job handling uncertainty than the rest of us? And the pillars are identity, relationships, and purpose. And the identity takes you back to character and virtue; that's what's preeminent. It has an outsized impact on my ability to handle uncertainty because it's about living by conviction and not by circumstance, which Stoics taught us a gazillion years ago. So, in that sense, it's not new, but it takes it back to how do you practice it, all the things we've been discussing. Then, when you look at all the research on relationships, like the Google study, how people treat each other is a better predictor of performance than who's on the team. It just goes on, and on, and on that the relationship is key, and the performance follows. Or, if you take it on the personal side, the Harvard study that's 85 years old, and there are other studies that haven't gone as long, is who are these people that live life while living life long? And the number one predictor is quality relationships. It's one of those kinds of ‘duh,’ do we live that way? And the last one is purpose. And purpose is defined by committing my life to something bigger than myself. I think the only kind of challenge with purpose is it can get a bit abstract, like, where do I find my purpose? Do I need a better flashlight, or do I just sit on the couch and wait for a lightning bolt to hit me? And maybe a more pragmatic question is either: A) What does this time require me? Or B) What can I do to be more useful? And so, those pillars, they all can be learned, and I'm in control of all three. I can't control other people's relationships with me, but I can control how I invest in relationships. And the consequence is we'd come out a little more sturdy and a little more resilient. And in the absence of those three, we’re more fragile.
Scott Allen 36:12
So that's what you've been exploring.
Peter Rea 36:15
That's it. I think it's a big deal. I see it everywhere. Not just in Parker, but it's just how do we help people or a kid? I worry about a generation of kids, and you do this with all your important work at a university. You see, one level of college students has always been a little flipped out about going through the experience of being a student. Yeah, I'm sure. You look at some of the numbers of how students are kind of dealing with it, rather than kind of saying, “Hey, put me in the game, coach, this learning is dynamite. I'm all in.” Versus, “Oh, my gosh, I'm full of anxiety, I’m full of concern.” And, from a performance point of view, when anxiety goes up, performance declines. So, even if we're mercenary about this, how do we kind of… We're not going to eliminate the angst, but we're trying to give people tools to deal with anxiety, stress, and pressure. That's what I also see with professional athletes they're given tools to deal with this stuff because a lot of them also struggle with life. They're young. One comment, then take this where it's useful: I've done a fair amount with professional athletics, and one leader said, “Look, have you ever had your picture and performance on a scoreboard, and what you've done over the last week, and tens of thousands of people that are there watching that, and millions on TV? When was the last time that happened to you? You screw up, nobody knows about it.” I screw up, the whole freaking world knows about it. How do you help somebody who's 23, 24, 25 deal with that level of pressure? And it's learned. It can be learned; that's the optimistic piece.
Scott Allen 37:52
Yes. But it's a whole different context of reality when that's your lived reality. That's the average is up there: Good, bad, or ugly. In a really big font. (Laughs)
Peter Rea 38:05
Yeah. And your face is the biggest part of it.
Scott Allen 38:09
It's often not a good picture of you, either. Peter, thank you so much for spending some time today. Thank you for your good work. Love to have you back and keep the conversation going. Thanks so much. I just really, really appreciate your time.
Peter Rea 38:22
I appreciate the invitation, Scott. Thanks for the conversation.
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