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Interviews

We're All in This Together: An Interview with Mike Robbins

Dylan Schleicher

April 23, 2020

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“For us to do our best work, have the kind of impact we truly want to have, and unlock our full potential, we can’t do it alone; we must to do it together. If you and your team are willing to do what it takes, you can build and sustain an incredibly strong culture of trust and performance, and accomplish remarkable things.” -Mike Robbins

imageohtim.pngHow do we lead during COVID-19 and times of physical distancing? First of all, we have to remember that we're all in this together, so when a friend of the company sent us an interview with the author of a book entitled We're All in This Together that is, in part, about leadership during COVID-19, we felt that it was something we should share. So, here is the jacket copy for the book followed by that interview. Enjoy!

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Have you ever been on a team where the talent was strong, but the team wasn’t very good? On the flip side, have you ever been on a team where not every single member was a rock star, but something about the team just worked?

We’ve all had these types of experiences. And yet, it can be difficult to understand what makes one team successful and another one not.

In this book, Mike Robbins dives deep into the ways great businesses build trust, collaborate, and operate at their peak level. As an expert in teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence, Mike draws on more than 20 years of experience working with top companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as his baseball career with the Kansas City Royals. And, while each team and organization have their own unique challenges, goals, and dynamics, there are some universal qualities that allow teams to truly come together and thrive.

The book’s core principles include fostering an environment of psychological safety, fostering inclusion and belonging, addressing and navigating conflict, and maintaining a healthy balance of high expectations and empathy. Throughout, Mike shares powerful exercises and tools he’s successfully utilized in the keynote speeches, group sessions and corporate retreats that he delivers, so that you and your team can communicate more authentically, give and receive feedback with skill, and create deeper connections. We’re All in This Together also features personal stories and interviews with high-level business leaders and thought leaders to provide insights into an ever-changing workplace culture.

“For us to do our best work, have the kind of impact we truly want to have, and unlock our full potential, we can’t do it alone; we must to do it together. If you and your team are willing to do what it takes, you can build and sustain an incredibly strong culture of trust and performance, and accomplish remarkable things.” -Mike Robbins

 

An Interview with Mike Robbins

What is the key message you want to voice through We’re All In This Together?

Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He was right. I spent 18 of the first 25 years of my life playing baseball and have spent the past 20 years working with some of the best teams in the worlds of sports, business, and government. And, what my research and experience has taught me is that what separates the good teams from the great ones is their team chemistry—the intangible qualities that bring them together and allow them to bring out the best in one another.

Why is the timing behind We’re All In This Together so significant?

We are in unprecedented times. The country and the world are so divided, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and people are trying to connect with each other in more authentic ways, especially at work. The pace, stress, and expectations are ramping up, and it’s easy to feel disconnected from one another. However, right now as much as any other time in my lifetime and maybe in history, it’s essential that we come together and find common ground with each other—at work, at home, and in society at large.

What are the four key pillars of your book?

Pillar 1: Create Psychological Safety—Establish a team climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves and can have a sense of confidence that their team will not embarrass, reject or punish anyone for speaking up or taking risks.

Pillar 2: Focus on Inclusion and Belonging—Create an environment on the team and in the company where everyone feels as though they belong, regardless of who they are, the role they have, and their background.

Pillar 3: Embrace-Sweaty Palmed Conversations—Embrace conflict and feedback as a natural aspect of growth, collaboration, and success. Be willing to have those awkward, uncomfortable, sweaty-palmed conversations.

Pillar 4: Care About and Challenge Each Other—Develop a deep level of trust where everyone has each other’s backs, has good intentions, and is moving in the same direction.

Can you explain the shift in perspective from “Them” to “Us” and why it’s important?

Although the main focus of the book and my work is on leadership, team performance, and company culture…I specifically wrote this book, called it We’re All In This Together, and wanted it to come out in 2020 because we are so divided as a nation and a world in so many ways right now. The overarching themes of this book are about finding common ground with one another (even and especially when we are different), remembering that we are way more alike than we are different, and understanding that there really isn’t a “THEM” it’s all “US.”

Why is it vital for leaders across industries to address the stress, disruption, and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus?

Strong leadership is essential, especially in uncertain times. It’s not easy, but leaders have to be able to navigate the stress, challenge, and fear of the situation themselves, and, in turn, support those around them as they deal with these things as well. Leaders have to manage diverse perspectives, dynamics, priorities, and changes. And, in a situation like we’re in right now, so much is unknown and this whole thing is both unprecedented and evolving rapidly, which makes it both more challenging and even more important for leaders to address.

How can people lead authentically and effectively during this coronavirus pandemic?

Here are five key aspects of authentic leadership that are necessary, especially right now:

1. Take good care of yourself: It’s easy to let your self-care and stress management practices go by the wayside when things are nutty and you have people counting on you. However, it’s important right now to double down on taking care of yourself first—not in a selfish way, but so you are able to be there for others authentically.

2. Communicate constantly: People are freaked out right now, understandably. When things are stressful and uncertain, folks tend to assume the worst possible scenarios in their minds—“the business is going to go under, I’m going to lose my job, me and my family are going to get sick, the world is going to come to an end, etc.” The more openly you communicate, the less likely people on your team are to make up stuff that is unproductive and unhealthy.

3. Check in with people on a personal level: Work and life still must go on in the midst of all of this, and while you may have a lot of specific things to check in with people about in terms of their work, projects, and deadlines, a big part of your job, especially now, is to check in with people personally. Ask how they are doing and really listen.

4. Be Flexible and Nimble: It’s important to remember that you and everyone around you has never been here before. There’s no playbook. Because of this, you’re going to need to be as flexible and nimble as possible. Some of the things you’ll do won’t work, and you’ll have to adjust—both in a practical and leadership sense.

5. Be Real: This is a hard and scary time for just about everyone involved. Your team doesn’t need or expect you to be perfect or super human, they want you to be real. It creates the psychological safety that is necessary for your team to adapt, adjust, and perform in the face of all of this. And, it reminds everyone around you that you’re all doing the best you can and, most importantly, that you’re all in this together.

With everything happening in our country and our world right now with the coronavirus, a lot of leaders have been saying “we’re all in this together.” How does this relate to this book and your work?

Facing an unprecedented, global pandemic and all of the ways this impacts the economy, the way we work, and how we live, is a painful, but important reminder of how interconnected we all are. And while some of us are more specifically impacted by this crisis than others, it doesn’t matter who we are, where we’re from, what we look like, the job we have, the way we pray, who we love, how much money we make, the title we have, or anything else—we’re all dealing with this same global situation and we can’t control the outcome. While this can be humbling and scary, it’s also something that can bring us together, allow us to have compassion for each other, and find common ground with those around us.

You mentioned this situation creates common ground; how can we hold onto that idea during a time like this?

There is a lot of understandable fear and uncertainty in the air. This can be hard, scary, and uncomfortable, but we must remember: This, too, shall pass. I don’t pretend to know why this is happening or what comes next. However, I do believe with all of my heart that we’ll get through this together if we operate with authenticity, trust, compassion, courage, and love. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember that there really is no “them,” it’s all “us.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Robbins is the author of Bring Your Whole Self to Work; Nothing Changes Until You Do; Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken; and Focus on the Good Stuff, which have been translated into 15 languages. A sought-after speaker, consultant, and thought leader, Mike works with a diverse group of clients throughout the world, including Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Gap, and the Oakland A’s. Mike is a regular contributor to Forbes and the host of a weekly podcast called We’re All in This Together. His work has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, as well as on NPR and ABC News, among many others.

About The Author

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of Porchlight since 2003. After beginning in shipping and receiving, he moved through customer service (with some accounting on the side) before entering into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the editorial and creative aspects of the company. Outside of work, you’ll find him volunteering or hanging out at his kids’ school, catching the weekly summer concert at the Washington Park Bandshell, or strolling through one of the many other parks or greenspaces around his home in Milwaukee (most likely in his garden). He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.

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