Finding your fit between being a leader and being a manager with Kevin Suboski

This week on our podcast we have Kevin Suboski. Kevin talks about how to create a true leadership team, and it is not what you might think a leadership team looks like.
This week on our podcast we have Kevin Suboski. Kevin talks about how to create a true leadership team, and it is not what you might think a leadership team looks like. Kevin goes in depth on why a group of managers aren’t just a leadership team, and that there are more traits that we often overlook. Kevin shares how groups of managers often struggle to work together simply because they often have similar personalities. When we create leadership teams that look different through personalities, we find that these teams are more creative, communicate better, and bring more ideas to the table. Click here to hear more about what diverse leadership teams look like from Kevin.

Find Kevin on his website!

Full transcription below (may contain typos...):
Kevin: [00:00:00] [00:00:00] So I think it's more effective to think about. Rather than being one or the other, that you have roles where in those roles you have management moves and leadership moves. There's typically any role where you have authority where you're specific, you're taking accountability for some piece of the organization.
Keerstyn: [00:00:25] Okay. Welcome to the podcast, Kevin. We are so excited to have you here today. Do you want to give us a brief intro of how you got involved in your work and what you do now?
Kevin: [00:00:35] Brief intro. Sure. I'll try to keep it brief. So I started my career in it and I met in my twenties, a venture capitalist. And heard what he did, helping businesses strategically. And I just really fell in love with that idea, really being flying it 50,000 feet with business owners and helping them design their business.
And. [00:01:00] Strategy. And so I began my lifelong push to get to be so that I could do that kind of work. And took me through lots of twists and turns. I started a business in 1994 to, to do it. And so I really. I really took that on as an opportunity to learn, to be a CEO my best. And so I studied in California with an organization called about entrepreneurship innovation and leadership and had coaches for nine years and just really studied on how to be a great CEO and just found that I.
Was less excited about it than I was about business. And so about 14 years ago, I left that business and started focusing on helping entrepreneurs. And so that's the brief answer. I was a brief [00:02:00] enough, 
Keerstyn: [00:02:00] that's brief enough. That works. So I guess what were some of those things that led you to want to become a CEO and then where were some of those?
I guess. Expectations that weren't met when you were in that position, but what did that mean when I 
Kevin: [00:02:16] in the position with my company? Yes. Yeah. So what are some of the things? I think people who are entrepreneurs, there's a certain kind of personality type and. I, creative, visionary a little add, I think get bored easily, all these sorts of characteristics.
I think if you meet an entrepreneur, there's a certain kind of person. And I just found that I loved that kind of person and love being around them. And I couldn't say the same thing about mid-level it managers, I just. And, why do people like one kind of person over another? I don't know.
I just found [00:03:00] that the work that they were doing, the authenticity of entrepreneurs, the raw passion, the dedication to, in my experience, generally, entrepreneurs are really trying to solve some problem in the world. And I love that and I love the integrity of that and authenticity. And so for me, it was much more about designing my life and my work to be more satisfying.
And and so I think the thing that I discovered along the way was just people I want to hang out with and be of service to 
Keerstyn: [00:03:36] yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So now you're an EOS implementer. Do you want to explain EOS a bit and just give a brief background and understand what that. 
Kevin: [00:03:48] Yeah.
So I want to explain that in the context of how I got involved with EOS, because I have always been much more interested in fundamental distinctions ways of [00:04:00] thinking about, I was always curious, when you look at one leader compared to another, and one of them is more successful, it's  how did they think?
What did they what's going on in their mind? And I was always interested in the mental models. Great leaders had. And so how they think. And so that's why I went down the path that I did in terms of studying biology, especially in neurology philosophy and Linda linguistics, studying the fundamentals of human behavior and innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
And so in studying that, it became really potent for me and my business. And that's the kind of, that's the stuff that to this day makes the difference in. And the stuff that I love and what I found was a lot of people. When I would go and talk to them about the things that I'd learned, they'd say that's great, Kevin, those are great ideas, but right.
My hair's on fire. I got stuff to do. Tell me what to do tomorrow. And so what I found was people really struggling with the fundamental blocking and tackling of [00:05:00] business. And  that, that's what they really needed help with today. And then as soon as they put the fires out, then we can talk about being great.
But for now we've got to get things going. So EOS entrepreneurial operating system is a set of tools and practices to help people. Who are maybe great at the work that they do, but aren't great at business. Don't have the background, the training, the expertise to run a business, and EOS does a set of principles, tools, and tactics.
It says, just do these things and you'll run your business. Okay. 
Keerstyn: [00:05:31] Yeah. So I heard you say that you use science and philosophy and you studied all of those things, but clients were coming to you saying we need to fight these fires now.
Not necessarily. Yeah. In the future. How do you now fight those fires in the moment, but then also apply these higher level things of EOS in the 
Kevin: [00:05:51] process. Gotcha. Okay. I know that to be successful as a leader you have to know where you're going. And so I know that [00:06:00] from a sort of fundamental being human kind of perspective, where we are meaning machines we think about the future, what we want to accomplish, and we do that through language. And so the way this shows up in businesses, you have to have a vision for where you're going.
And the problem is people don't necessarily know what that means or how to do it. So with EOS, there's a very specific tool called the vision traction organizer that says just let's break this down for. So forget about these, talking about narrative and linguistics, all that. Thanks, Kevin.
That's really cool. And all, what is my core values? What am I? What's my core focus. What's my ten-year target. Break it down into very understandable set of questions that if you answer those questions, then you will have a vision and you will create an image of the future that will at a very fundamental level mobilize you and to create a future.
And so when I work with people, a lot of what I'm looking at [00:07:00] is if they're if they're trying to succeed in business, I'm going to pay attention to. W why it isn't working for them. And so they're going to look at it and say, it might be I'm I don't have finance, I can't hire a person, whatever.
And I'm going to look at what are they thinking are missing? And so if somebody does, isn't passionate about their work. A lot of times that comes from because they don't know where they want to go in the future. And so I'm going to work with them laying out an image of the future. That is consistent with who they are and that the market will want.
And so by using the tools of Vos, I'm getting them in alignment with themselves in the marketplace, but doing it with a very simple set of tools that they don't have to study for 12 years. Like I did not understand these things. Does that make 
Keerstyn: [00:07:49] sense? Yeah, absolutely. Do you have a story about how that has been successfully implemented in an organization that you've worked 
Kevin: [00:07:56] with?
So I had, I worked with a [00:08:00] plumbing company that when I was started out with the director, he was trying to figure out what job to take next, because he figured that company wasn't going to be around anymore soon. And so I started working with them and we laid out this image of the future.
And then EOS also talks about how roles and responsibilities through an accountability chart who does what and where. And so we started working on these very fundamental concepts, but in very practical, pragmatic steps that everybody could get an implement and work on. To the point where, when I, when we got to the point where we were complete, a couple of years later, he was actually spending about a third of his time on his boat and saga talk in the Caribbean and [00:09:00] really trying to figure out what to do with his free time, because the business was running so well.
Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. I want to be on the boat with them. Yeah, 
Keerstyn: [00:09:12] that's a shift. So obviously then they were planning out how did they work with them? Did they tell their employees everything that was going on? What was the transparency level? Obviously the business was working really well, but what made it so that it was working extremely well in that 
Kevin: [00:09:27] I don't think it ever comes down to one thing. So EOS is a system, that's the entrepreneurial operating system. So there's lots of pieces to it and all the pieces contribute and work in concert to change the culture of the organization to change the vision so that everybody knows where you're going and how you're going to get there and really making them just more healthy, functional, cohesive as a team.
So for instance, They had a hard time. Their biggest challenge is that they couldn't hire people. They didn't, [00:10:00] they had a hard time finding, the trades is really tough right now. And one of the things we work on is core values. And it's seems like in a theory, all kinds of concept and it is, but it has very practical, pragmatic consequences in so far as it gets everybody in alignment about who they are.
And so then when they start talking to people, the best people are attracted to a great culture. And so when they start talking to their recruiting, After they'd really resolved a lot of their core values. They were able to recruit better people. They were able to design a program because they were much better at dealing with resolving issues.
They developed a training program to the point now where they have a waiting list of potential clients. So on. So [00:11:00] having that vision. Getting everybody clear on what their role is in executing that vision, coming up with crisp goals and then reflecting on whether you accomplished them and then really moving the culture forward.
So it's, it is a simple set of tools within EOS, but they all do work in concert. And so sometimes it is, if you take any one of them away, it may not come crashing down, but it is going to make it less effective. All of those pieces before I w I had 30 people in my company and I was pretty good about using a lot of effective strategies for running your business, but there were a few key things that I didn't do.
And in reflection, if I'd have had the tools of Vos at the time, things would have gone radically different for me, even though I did. 70% of that stuff. Very well. I missed a couple of key points. Yeah. That was [00:12:00] the whole system. Sadly, I can't give, I can't break it down. There's no silver bullet part of what we tell 
Keerstyn: [00:12:04] people.
Absolutely. Absolutely. What were some of those key things that you struggled with and were missing and that EOS provided you? Or 
Kevin: [00:12:14] after the fact? Yeah. Great question. I work with the leadership teams of organizations. And I asked them to invite the leadership team. And often it's rare that I find an organization has what I consider a leadership team.
What they have is a bunch of managers and typically managers and leaders don't really work well together. It's just a nature of how we are, we're all going, we've all got her, very ambitious and driven and we've got our ideas how to do things. And so often they don't work well together.
And I had that in my organization. I had managers and I would work with them and I was a facilitative manager. I was very keeping people informed. They had a part of all the decisions, but they didn't really [00:13:00] work together as a team. We all worked as strong, powerful individuals coming together.
What I find over time with the tools and the implementation process as I implement it, that over time that those managers and the CEO and COO, which we call visionary and integrator really become a cohesive, highly functioning team. And that has a profound impact on the organization. And I think if I look back at where I was, I didn't have that great leadership team.
And as part of that, I talked about a visionary and integrator. We are really confused about the function between the CEO and COO that those roles are really. Often poorly executed, defined, and executed. So [00:14:00] if you're the president, you've got a vice president, the way those two people work together. Is often not very effective.
And that was the case in my organization. I worked at it. I had coaches, I had people I had, I was the CEO. I had a COO, but if I'd have known, then if I'd have known about visionary and integrator and how that, and that distinction and how those work together, those are the two things that really would have made a huge difference and would have gone really differently for me.
Keerstyn: [00:14:31] Yeah, absolutely. So you've mentioned during that that managers and leaders don't work well together. Do you want to explain that further and explain what the differences between a manager and a leader and why they don't work well together?  
Kevin: [00:14:45] Yeah so I will take a stab at giving you my interpretation as to why would I say.
It's true. What I would say is I'm not saying that because of some theoretical notion, I'm just saying that from [00:15:00] experience when you get a bunch of leaders together, it's often a fight,  it's very and the reality is managers and leaders. So the distinction I make between manager and leader, Is a manager controls things, a leader influences people.
And so a manager is much more of a control moving arms and legs of people, whereas a leader as much more heart and soul creating context for people to move into. Regardless of that, someone that's going to be in a role of a manager leader typically are very strong-willed people. They have a perspective and.
If someone else has a different perspective, they're willing to fight for their agenda. And so that's all beautiful as those are, that's a drive that's required for the organization. And the question is, how do you get all of that energy, which you've got multiple [00:16:00] managers in your organization?
How do you get all of that energy and sync and moving forward without having to be this, person is traffic cop that. Yeah. Navigates all the breakdowns and is puts out the fires where they work together. Yeah. Did I answer your question? 
Keerstyn: [00:16:18] Yeah, I guess then how, if someone's hearing this and are saying I'm really a manager and I control situations and they just don't know how to get out of it though.
What would you say to that? How could they become a leader instead of a manager? 
Kevin: [00:16:31] So I think it's more effective to think about. Rather than being one or the other, that you have roles where in those roles you have management moves and leadership moves. There's typically any role where you have authority where you're specific, you're taking accountability for some piece of the organization.
You're going to be doing both of those. [00:17:00] I think it's useful to recognize where your strengths and weaknesses are.  I've never been a strong manager. I've just, but, and I've put all of my time and energy into leadership. And management is about wrestling something to the ground, so to speak, making something happen in spite of all the energies of the universe conspiring against you to accomplish that leadership is much more about inventing a possible future that compels and mobilizes people to act to produce that independently of your management.
So if you're really great at leadership, you really have to do very little managements. And that's part of why I'm, I've been focusing on leadership, perhaps I'm a little. Lazy. I don't really want to do all of that work. So if I just, if I'm really good at painting a picture of a beautiful future, [00:18:00] that's compelling for the people in my organization where they want to produce that future.
And then I give them the tools and the support and the encouragement and help them along the way, and then just get out of their way magic happens, and so to me then that's. So how do you be a great leader? If you want to be a great manager, you study physics and mathematics and material science.
So to speak. If you want to be a great leader, you study philosophy religion biology, you understand the stuff of the heart and soul of people. What makes people, cause if you're going to come up with a vision, that's going to compel people autonomously, then you have to understand what drives people and not, force is a pretty potent driver, but it's exhausting.
It's much easier, love. And so one of the best things I did in my [00:19:00] organization, Is to spend. I spent time with every person in the organization. My job was to understand their ambition. What did they want to accomplish in life? And usually people had a very weak story about that. And if you talk to people, what do you want to accomplish in life?
We all are a little chagrined with how thin our story is about the future that we want to create. And especially, the younger you are, the less likely it is that you have some crystal clear vision of what's possible. You've just come out of college. You've been in the workforce for awhile.
What can you do Kirsten? You don't know yet, whereas someone that's gone before, you can look at the raw material that you are and say, you know what, you'd be great at. You have inclinations, you have desires, you have a super power, there's stuff that you're brilliant at or stuff that you love to do.
And so if you had [00:20:00] somebody that was like working with you saying, what you could do, I've been watching you and you could do this thing and have it. And I just saw this over and over again where I would bring this to people. Wow. You think I could do that? Oh my God. That would be amazing.
If I could do that. I'd say absolutely. You can do that and I'm going to help you get there. And then from then on I've got them in what my old teacher called a wrist lock because anytime I want them to move in a direction, all I have to do is say, Hey, remember how you wanted this in your future?
The thing that you're doing right now is not going to help you get there. If you do these things differently, it's going to help you get there. It's much more potent than if I come to you and I say, look, the stuff you're doing, doesn't serve. Yeah. That's not very potent. If I come to you and I say, look, the stuff you're doing, doesn't serve you people.
It's a a level of. Impact in people's [00:21:00] lives. It's a level of influence on how people behave. That is the return on investment of that time is profound. And then what you do is you build allegiance and Alliance with people who are like, they can't get that from anyone else who, someone that knows them that know something about the world.
But takes the time and paints a picture of the future that works for them and then facilitates the path for them to get there. Oh my God. Who would leave that? And so you get someone who's dedicated anyway. I could go on that. That's it? 
Keerstyn: [00:21:35] No, that's awesome. I'm really glad that you dove into that because I completely agree with you when young people are allowed to hear.
Wow. You're really good at XYZ. You should think about doing this. It's much more impactful than throwing a dart at the wall, and hopefully that's where you land. Yeah. And I also agree with you in terms of leadership versus managing leadership is looking at the future [00:22:00] and being excited about something and investing in people as well.
I did have a question about, or with Lou, for you about that. So what are some of the things that you're telling leaders right now during this pandemic during quite a few different shifts in society? What are you saying to them? 
Kevin: [00:22:20] Oh, okay, great. Yeah. So you might expect, I'm pretty deep into this right now.
And so this is going to take how much time do we have Kiersten? 
Keerstyn: [00:22:29] You can take as 
Kevin: [00:22:29] long as you want. So I'm going to do a little bit of a deep dive for you and to, because I think it's important. One of the most important things that I learned in my education and what I studied biology and how people are, is the distinction of mood, which the way that I learned it as much, much deeper and more in a much richer set of distinctions than, Hey, are you in a good mood or a bad mood?
A mood is a biological background helmets. [00:23:00] It's a long-term ungrounded assessment to future situations. So if I if you watch people, you can see the mood that has them, we don't have a mood has us and the mood that you're in dictates the actions that are available to you. So if so panic, so despair is the mood that says bad things are going to happen.
To me, panic is the mood that says bad things are gonna happen to me soon. And so if you're in a mood of panic, your physically, your peripheral vision shrinks your capacity to think in long horizons of time, your capacity to care for another human being, to be empathetic, to feel love. And joy is diminished.
You. And so if I'm going to go talk to a client where we have to do a strategic plan where they're trying to figure out, their one to 10 year plan, I know that they are physically incapable of doing the work because of the mood that they're in. [00:24:00] And so the first thing that I have to do with them is to work on their mood.
So what I see is the whole world is. Is thrown into a mood right now. We are challenged to be in an effective mood and and to me it's  life or death situation to a certain degree to become effective, to become more effective at mood management. The reality is we're going to get through this.
There is going to be something past this. And life is going to be great and good. And a lot of these challenges are going to go away. And if we spend the next 18 months living in fear and uncertainty and all the moods that come along with that, then the kind of work that we're going to do in that time is going to be not very good.
And  We're working on shifting your mood and mood of passion is the interpretation [00:25:00] that the things that I'm working on are going to produce a great future for myself. And so when you meet people, you can tell that they're in a mood of passion. Passion is a very productive mood. It's very attractive people like to be around that.
And so the question is how do you move from being in a mood of despair into a mood of passion? That to me is huge right now. And that's, and that paying attention to your mood, caring for your mood, doing all those things, to protect your biology and your  your spirituality, so to speak is extremely important.
The other thing I would say is it's an, a really important time to anticipate changes in your market. And being prepared and doing the work now to pivot, there are a lot of people that are slowed down right now that can anticipate, at some point they're going to come out of this, but it's going to be a different world in some way.
And there are [00:26:00] going to be people who take advantage of new opportunities. If, and what I see as a lot of people that are being that are in response mode that are coping. That are dealing with the reality that they have. And I think that you need to take 20% of your planning time and anticipate what's that what's the territory to take.
Where are the opportunities in your field? How can you pivot your business? To not only take care of those opportunities too, but to make it fit who you are better. A lot of people are in businesses that they don't love serving people that they don't really care that much about doing things that don't satisfy them.
This is a beautiful time to pivot your business, move it more towards where your heart wants you to be shifted to where your super powers are. Even though people think it's a little weird, whatever that is. Figure out what you want to do, what lights you up and figure out how you can change your business to do more of that.
[00:27:00] So those are the two things that I'm thinking about and talking to people how's that work for you. 
Keerstyn: [00:27:06] I'm glad that you said that, and I'm glad that you. At that at the very end said that we should be shifting our businesses to things that we love during this time, because oftentimes people are not loving their job.
They're not happy in their position or they're happy. There's parts of it. That's I don't want to be here to do this today. But yeah. And then also having that mode of passion about the certain a certain job. That's awesome. I'm so glad that you said that took a deep dive into that was really inspiring and helpful to hear, especially during this time of when you're in additions and unknowns.
Kevin: [00:27:43] So I think, we are in a very dangerous time. That to me is beautiful. There are all these, we are in a. There's a lot, that's going to change and there's going to be a lot of really good things that come out of this. And if we pay attention to that, recognize that, how can we steer towards [00:28:00] that if you're not?
So if you want to drive your business towards what you love, can you imagine how hard it is to do that? To have the thought processes, to be able to be biologically able to have those thought processes, if you're fearful and negative emotions stuck in a mood of despair. It's it's impossible to do that.
So those things, two things are that's required. If you're going to pivot your business towards something you love and take opportunity, you can't do it in an ineffective mood. 
Keerstyn: [00:28:29] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I just wrote down positive mood equals positive change. Cause I, I think that's, 
Kevin: [00:28:38] yeah, I meant I'm right in the middle of creating a couple of courses on this.
So I'm moving part of what I'm doing is taking this opportunity to put some of my work on digital. And so a lot, I had a, I had an in-person course for solo preneurs, helping them do these sorts of things. And so I'm not able [00:29:00] to, I have not been able to meet with my groups, peer groups of solo preneurs. So I've been creating an online virtual version of that.
And so  I'm deep in the, so the content creation stage of that. So I'm glad you asked me that's been having fun with it. 
Keerstyn: [00:29:17] Absolutely. So obviously they can look at your online courses once they're available, but where else can they find you? 
Kevin: [00:29:23] So I have two, two websites because I have two businesses.
And so as I am an EOS implementer and for those, my clients are 10 to have 10 people, that 250 people. And that business is So it's You can reach me on That's S U B O S K. I. I also work with solo preneurs and with solo preneurs, I do use the tools of EOS, but it's much more about [00:30:00] consulting with them, advising them, coaching them on how to to design their business in a way that's going to be effective.
And that company is called fastest route. So you can reach, find that at www dot fastest, route one It's not com it's that CEO. . 
Keerstyn: [00:30:19] Awesome. Thank you for doing that. I'm really glad that we got to dive in to us and also moods and changes and the workforce, especially today, I'm in this weird changing ever-changing time.
Awesome. Do you have any parting words before we leave today? 
Kevin: [00:30:36] Do I have any parting words? I should probably have some parting words should you're sending these parallels in party or so I do want to, I do want to put an emphasis on something. When I work with clients, I see that people are dedicated to. Doing something right. Or how an MBA would tell you to do [00:31:00] it.
I wouldn't just encourage people to really take the time to figure out what you love. What are you passionate about? If you can figure out how to make your business. Fit your passion, the things that matter most to you in the world, serving the people that you love, the most, doing the things that feel good to you.
When you do them, it may take a little while for you to figure out how to make money doing that. But eventually you'll make a lot more money. You'll live a much better life and you'll make a much better impact in the world. And I think that we just don't give ourselves permission to do that. And I just want to give everybody permission and make a passionate plea to please take the time.
Look at who you are, look at what you love. Look at where your heart is sending you. We silence that stuff all the time. We say, why are you [00:32:00] doing that? You don't deserve that. It doesn't matter. Anyway, suck it up. Be a good soldier, all that kind of stuff. And it's yeah, there's some part of that.
That's true. But take some time and find your passions. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That sounds great. 
Keerstyn: [00:32:17] Yes, that's awesome. Thank you for saying that. Awesome. Thank you Kevin, for joining us on the podcast today, it was a pleasure to have this conversation and learn more about what you do. 
Kevin: [00:32:28] Thank you.
It's been a delight. Thanks Kiersten. I appreciate the opportunity. 
Keerstyn: [00:32:32] Absolutely. 

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