You know, nobody in the TEDx audience at University of Arizona was moving. They were just spell struck as the Navy SEAL moved around the little red circle that they had put him in, and he was talking about forms of leadership, a very specific form of leadership, and nobody was moving. You could literally hear his
breath. You could hear the intensity of his breathing. This former Navy SEAL’s name is Jocko Willink. You may have heard of him. He’s the author of “Extreme Ownership”. He’s got a great podcast. He was a commander of SEALs in Iraq. He was telling the story.
His topic on this TEDx talk was extreme ownership. It was a really short TEDx talk. I think it was about 13 minutes, but he owned the room. As he moved around the room, he was … what Bo Eason says … he was moving like a predator. He really had command of the room. He had a connection with everyone in the room. He was, frankly, the most relatable person in the room. Everybody was completely tied into him. It’s a very, very powerful thing. At the end of his talk, everybody stood up and was wildly supportive of the talk.
You look at TEDx talks, they cover the whole gambit. You wonder what is it that this guy did that was so powerful, that was so visceral, that was so moving and compelling, that folks just jumped in behind him at the end? What was it that he did? I’m telling you, I have worked in this realm my whole life in trust depleted
areas that are skeptical and jaded, and I’ve seen leaders go in there and move people to do things they otherwise would never have done, to include defending us with their lives. It’s the same thing. Be relatable. Be the most relatable person in the room. That’s one of the most powerful things you can do as a rooftop
leader, is to make yourself relatable.
I want you to go watch his TEDx talk. Just google it. Notice several things. One, notice the emotion. He walks out emotional. You can tell right away he’s already emotional. He’s already in Iraq again. He did the pre-work. He was intentional, and he was ready before he ever walked on that stage. He was ready, but he
was emotional and he was tied into that moment.
The next thing was, because of that, he was vulnerable. He put down his body armor, his emotional body armor, and he allowed himself to be in that place. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you look at the topic he was talking about, which was fratricide, where friendly soldiers are killed by friendly soldiers. Not an easy topic. I’ve been through that myself, and it is tough. He’s allowed himself to go back to that place. He’s in that story. He’s emotional. That means he’s allowing his vulnerability in front of total strangers who, frankly, can be pretty skeptical on military guys like that.
The next thing is he took extreme ownership, as he calls it, for that event, for that fratricide event. I’m not giving away the ending. There’s a lot more to this talk. He accepted responsibility publicly. He atoned for that publicly in front of all these folks and on video that goes all over the world. All of those things, and that’s just a few of what he did to make himself relatable. That’s the key. He focused on
making himself relatable.
Now, this dude’s huge, right? He’s bigger than my producer, Wes. This guy is a monster and he looks the part of the quintessential combat Navy SEAL. When you first see him, that’s what you think you’re going to get, but it’s not at all. It’s not at all. When he presents himself to the audience, his focus is on being relatable to the audience. He gets out of his own way, and he allows his physicality and all those other things to be focused on the crowd, on one person at a time. You can see it when he’s doing it. It’s palpable. It’s tangible. That’s what I want you to do.
Why relatable? I’ll tell you something. We’re the most social creatures on the planet. Do you know that? There’s a reason that we’re at the top of the food chain, above sharks and bears and everything else. We don’t have fur. We don’t have fangs. We don’t have claws. What we do have is the ability to group as mammals, as highly advanced social mammals in a way that no other species on the planet can do. When we group like that, we can overcome all kinds of obstacles that Mother Nature throws our way. We are wired as social creatures.
When we make ourselves relatable, we take on a different persona as a human being around other human beings who are always looking for connections. If people can’t relate to you … I’m going to tell you something. They can’t follow you, and they won’t follow you. I don’t care if it’s in the boardroom or the living room or some tribal village 1,000 miles away. If people don’t relate to you, they will not follow you. They’ll only follow you to the bare minimum required. When you’re not looking, they’re done. They’re going to move on and they’re going to punt. If they can’t relate to you, they won’t follow you.
When you think about it, today in a sea full of selfies … when you think about how many people are plugged in but tuned out, it seems like everybody’s just running through the rat race not paying attention to anything. How in the world do you present yourself as relatable? Guess what? People are hungry for authenticity. People are hungry for transparency. They’re hungry for the kind of things that Jocko showed in that TEDx. Wes, what are his podcast numbers right now? It’s probably one of the top rated in the country, right?
Hundreds and hundreds of thousands.
Hundreds and hundreds of thousands. He’s a former Navy SEAL, rolled right out of the SEAL community, just doing what he did. He’s relatable. He works hard at being relatable. You can do the exact same thing. People are hungry for that. What I’m going to challenge you to do is this. Focus more on other people’s goals. If you do that, if you focus on other people’s goals … this costs you nothing by the way, whether you’re negotiating for a new house or it’s a change at work, at your corporation, focus on other people’s goals first. Ascertain what their goals are. It costs you nothing. When you do that, it immediately elicits a form of reciprocity that is hundreds of thousands of years old. It’s that simple. That’s what being relatable does on the left brain science side. That’s why it works. That’s as long as I’m going to geek out there. I promise.
The thing is, here’s the steps that you can do right now. Three things.
One, ask people their goals. Just ask them. “What are your goals?” Or try this one. “I absolutely insist that we meet your goals first.” Watch what happens.
Number two, talk about your struggles and what you learned through those struggles. Watch what Jocko does very authentically, very transparently, very honestly. He talks about his struggles and he talks about what he learned, fearlessly. He has extreme ownership of what happened and he takes full responsibility for it. People love that. Bosses love that. Investors love that. You know who loves it? Your kids. Your kids love it when you go, “Okay, kiddo. Look, you guys don’t come with an owners manual. I screwed this up and I’m sorry. As your father, I screwed this up.” Watch the look on their face.
Number three, work their goals back into the discussion. Demonstrate consciousness and command of their goals in the context of where you’re going. It runs deeper than I can even tell you. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? It runs deeper than I can even describe on this video if you will do those three things. I’ve seen it save lives. I’ve seen it move villages to fight collectively in places that had given up. That’s how powerful this is.
When all else fails, ask yourself this question. “Am I relatable?” “Am I relatable?” “Am I relatable to the people I’m standing in front of?” “Am I relatable to my wife?” “Am I relatable to my kids?” “Am I relatable to my employees?” A lot of times the question that will come back to us is not necessarily favorable. The good news is, just get back on the path. Get back in the zone. That’s how you lead when trust is low, and that’s how you make yourself the most relatable person in the room. When you do that, people will follow you to the rooftop.
Until next time, this is Scott Mann, and I’ll see you on the high ground.