Podcast

Episode: 166 |
Mark Minukas:
Lean Operations:
Episode
166

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Mark Minukas

Lean Operations

Show Notes

Our guest today is Mark Minukas, an Umbrex member, McKinsey alum, and partner at the firm Co-Creation Partners.

Mark studied engineering at the Naval Academy and spent six years in the Civil Engineer Corps in the U.S. Navy before McKinsey, where he developed expertise in lean operations.

At Co-Creation Partners, he brings his hard-core engineering experience together with the deep cultural transformation expertise of his partner, Gaurav Bhatnagar.

Combining their expertise, their firm helps clients improve operations through a close focus on cultural change, and Mark discusses that work on this episode.

You can learn more about Mark’s work on the firm’s website: http://www.cocreationpartners.com/

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Will Bachman: Hello Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark Minukas: Thanks Will. Thanks for having me.
Will Bachman: So Mark, Naval Academy engineer by training, did lean ops at McKinsey. And now you’re interested in emotions and driving as part of driving change. Tell me a little bit about your firm and your practice, and how you got interested in the emotional side of driving change.
Mark Minukas: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks Will. Yeah, so my life journey has been an interesting one. I’m an engineer by training, like you mentioned, I went to the Naval Academy. I was in the Navy for about almost seven years. And I was a civil engineer as well. So it was all about just the hard numbers and just all about the intellectual pursuit of the right answer.
Mark Minukas: And so, where’s a great place to go after the Navy? With the intellectual pursuit of the right answer, I went to McKinsey and Company. And so I was part of the operations practice there, where I focused a lot on lean operations. And so got involved with a lot of different transofration efforts at McKinsey. And it was all about showing up as the expert, we can diagnose your operations, we’ll tell you exactly where all the waste is, and what you need to do to improve performance, and just trust us. We’ve got the right answer, and everything’s going to be okay.
Mark Minukas: And what I’ve discovered over time is that there’s always more than one right answer. And so, an organizations don’t just transform because you show up and you’ve got a right answer. They transform because the people in the organization connected to a different way of seeing things. And so that’s much less of an intellectual pursuit. It’s much more of an emotional process.
Mark Minukas: And so I’ve been sort of dismayed over the years, looking back at some of the clients I’ve had, and seeing them, and they’ve made some great gains initially. But a lot of times, though, those gains sort of dropped off and the programs that we put together just sort of died out or petered out, as leaders changed. Everything got diffused.
Mark Minukas: And so since being an independent consultant, and actually teaming up with Co-creation Partners, I’ve discovered and I’ve really been experimenting with how do you bring that intellectual rigor to your client work? But also really get clients to engage at an emotional level? And really shift how they see things?
Mark Minukas: And not just bring them to a point of awareness, but bring them to a point of true choice. And have them choose which way they want to go, because that’s how you create programs that are based on commitment, not just compliance to the flavor of their month.
Will Bachman: Yeah, at McKinsey, I went through the operations academy there, did three years of ops work, and the framework we used for every project was, okay, we have the operating system. We have management system. And then we have mind system behaviors.
Mark Minukas: Exactly.
Will Bachman: And I was told like okay, operating system, that’s all the technical stuff. All the processes, the documentation, it’s what where you store things. And mindset management system is reports and meetings and how you flow information and mind sets and behavior was always like the end of the project. Oh we need a page on that.
Mark Minukas: Exactly.
Will Bachman: I says, okay, what do we do about minds is the behaviors that we diagnose this and what do we do? And it always seemed, at least on my projects, I mean I’m sure Mckinsey has some great stuff on it. I always felt like I didn’t have the training there and I didn’t have any tools there. So can you maybe walk us through an example of a project a co-creation partners has worked on and give us some of the grittiness to help us understand what is the kinds of facilitation and the things that you do around this emotional mindsets and behaviors, culture, a part of a transformation.
Mark Minukas: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I that’s a good framework by the way. I do like that I’ll break system management system mindsets and behaviors framework. I think the challenge is, I don’t think mindsets it’s not a messy framework. Mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive because mindsets and behaviors sort of feeds into all the other things. If you think about it the mental models, the beliefs that people have actually affects the operating systems that they believe are the right ones and affects how people show up and structure there management systems. So the way we like to do it is to approach engagements where mindsets of behaviors. So the human is the center of everything that we do. And focus on the the human and mindsets and behaviors ends up having a really positive impact on the operating system and the management systems. And so the general flow is so focused on mindsets and behaviors first and then get to operating system and management systems.
Will Bachman: Cool.
Mark Minukas: Beyond that. So, yeah.
Will Bachman: So talk to me maybe about you can sanitize a real engagement you’ve done. Maybe just walk me chronologically through like when you first start, how maybe it’s a diagnostic phase. Like what are you doing? Talk me through it. What does that mean in practice?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, so in practice, I think a lot of times we do start off with a diagnostics was probably a lighter diagnostics. So there’s a lot of interviews and just walking through the organization and getting a sense of what’s going on. And we usually culminate that diagnostic into what we call an activation session. So we have typically as the top leaders in the organization who come together and really digest what we found. So we’ll play back the interview findings and we’ll look at employee engagement reports and just other evidence that we can collect around the organization. But it’s less about coming up with our own perspective and asserting it as the answer. And it’s more about playing back those insights in a way where the leaders can one, generate some real awareness about what’s going on in their organization and to actually get them excited about making some active choices about what it is they want to create the future.
Mark Minukas: And so as part of that activation session, we’ll typically do some gallery walks very simple things putting posters with quotes from the interviews and other things. Maybe grouped by theme and just having people walk around and really digested. And then again, talk about it and figure out for themselves, what are the big themes that are coming up. What do you agree with? What don’t you agree with? What do you feel really challenged by? And then the next question, the next part of the conversation is great. So what do you want to do about it? And that creates a great conversation and that typically sets the aspiration and the vision for the rest of the engagement. And so that’s sort of the kickoff point so it’s a bit different than a traditional diagnostic where the consultants come in and you do this big analysis and then you present back the findings as part of this big PowerPoint presentation. It’s much more facilitative, as much more interactive, and it’s much more of the clients coming to their own conclusions.
Will Bachman: Can you kind of walk us through maybe a sanitized, declined example with some of the examples of the things that might be on that gallery wall? Like what would an example be? Or what was some themes be? Or give us a flavor of some of that discussion and what people want to do about it that comes out of that first session.
Mark Minukas: Yeah. So the interview questions themselves sort of feed into your course sort of course get on there, but typical questions and we’ll go across the organization, we’ll talk to leaders as well as a range of middle managers and frontline employees just to get a sense for what’s going on. And we’ll typically talk about what’s working well and this organization, what’s not working so well? What are the elephants that are there that nobody wants to talk about describe. Pick five words and describe the current culture of the organization and pick five words and describe the desired culture of the organization. And so it’s questions like that and you can see that those sort of lend themselves to quotes. And so what we’ll do is we actually our team will get together and we’ll aggregate all the interview notes and we’ll put them on post it notes and put them up on the wall and we’ll sort of start to group those by themes.
Mark Minukas: And so theme central merge where you say, wow, trust seems to be a big issue in this organization. A lack of trust. And there’ll be a whole bunch of quotes that people came up with, which is I don’t trust my manager to whatever follow through with what they say they’re going to do or I don’t, all sorts of quotes related to a trust or I don’t understand the direction of the organization. And so we’ll just group those quotes and put them on posters by scene and just leave it at that and just, and people will walk around and the leaders will pretty quickly understand the essence of what’s going on in the organization as a result of that gallery walk. And it’s not like we have to tell them.
Will Bachman: Yeah. And so how would a project like that come about? So I can imagine a client saying, hey we need to reduce the total process time of this process, or we’re trying to cut costs or something. And then you say oh, okay, great. We’re going to interview everybody about like the five best things or worse things about the organization to do this big culture survey. Some clients might be saying, no, that’s not what I’m looking for. So what would the sort of the client request be that that would lead to sort of that kind of thing as a first phase? I’m not trying to be facetious.
Mark Minukas: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think there’s roughly two flavors that there’s the organizations that know they want to focus on culture explicitly. And so the request is, hey, we have this sense that our culture is not quite where we want it to be. And so we want to look at culture. I think the other side of clients are saying, look, there’s this performance gap that we have. We can lean or some continuous improvement methodology is what we want to apply to achieve those results. And what we often do and in both of those situations is step back and really try to get a sense one, what is the performance that you’re trying to achieve and what are the human issues that are sort of part of this whole performance store it.
Will Bachman: Yeah. You’ve told me before about a framework that your team uses about how people show up and there’s different categories, I think both at the individual level and also at the company level. Could you talk me a little bit about that system that that you’ve used?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, sure. Yeah. The framework I was referring to is called the lifestyles inventory. It’s put out there by a company called Human Synergistics. And we make use of this framework both as part of 360 degree tools that they offer, which is a great tool by the way. And we also make use of the framework in and facilitated workshops either as part of that activation session like I mentioned or fall on workshops dealing with how people show up and how you can develop better personal accountability and trust and all that. So the framework itself is there’s picture a wheel where there’s two axes and the left or right access is all about how task oriented is a person. And this also applies at the organizational level as well. And how relationship oriented as a person or organization.
Mark Minukas: And then the vertical axis is all about at the top is how much is this individual or organization driven by a self-confidence and wisdom and at the bottom it’s to what extent is this individual organization driven by fear? Yeah. So and then it sort of the wheel at a macro level is split up into three chunks, right? Three pie pieces. And so the bottom right hand piece, so the people who are more relationship oriented and fear-driven we call those passive defensive as a passive defensive response. So that’s people who generally given presented challenges in the workplace, tend to shy away from those challenges. Right. There’s everything on the surface is really nice and it seems good and everything’s fine. But deep down there’s this storm that’s brewing and people just sort of avoid it.
Mark Minukas: And then on the bottom left hand side so people who are task oriented and more theory oriented, it’s we call this aggressive defensive. So these are people given challenges in the workplace are more about the fight response. So it’s more about dominating and achieving a really controlling situations and going a little bit more into attack mode. Yeah. And then then the task, so it’s a mix of task and relationship, but more based on wisdom, self-confidence or what we call constructive are there individuals or patterns or cultures. And so these people are more about welcoming challenges, not getting into these patterns of avoidance or fighting, but looking at challenges as ways to learn and to grow and to achieve better outcomes.
Mark Minukas: Yeah. And then there’s sub components within each of these, but it just becomes a really interesting way to diagnose individuals in an organization to really understand what’s going on what are the avoidance patterns that are going on for people that prevent higher levels of performance.
Will Bachman: What’s a question that could help someone differentiate between task oriented and relationship oriented?
Mark Minukas: I think I question is given a challenge or think of a really challenging situation that you’re having at work or time where we’ve had like a real intense conflict with someone in work. Yeah. How did you handle that situation? And if some people might say, well, I just jumped down into the throat and I let them have it and I shouted them out of the room.
Mark Minukas: And those people are probably more aggressive defensive and the people said, well, whoa, you like anytime you stick your neck out here like you get in trouble. So I just, I laid low. I didn’t say anything. I just made everything seem nice on the surface. Those people are probably more passive defensive and that people say, Hey, look I really tried to engage this person in a dialogue. It was tough, but I persisted through it and we worked it out. That’s more of a constructive style.
Will Bachman: And you see this at the level of not just the individuals, but you can actually kind of see whole organizations having one of these cultures.
Mark Minukas: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah this apply the individual level. But it also extrapolates up to the organizational level and what you see a lot of times is our senior leaders tend to be a bit more aggressive, defensive because they’re a little bit more about power control and being really competitive and perfectionistic. And then a lot of people in the organization, middle managers and maybe some front line folks tend to be a bit more passive defensive or green where they just, they’re sort of keeping their head down and just doing with what they need to do to stay out of trouble.
Will Bachman: So then let’s keep kind of going through a typical engagement. So you have this really strong lean ops background engineering background. You’ve started an engagement where maybe they’ve called you in, maybe because this is just say we maybe it is at second example like we have some performance gaps and you innocent discussions suggested to decline. And they went along and said, okay maybe it’s not just because our processes are messed up, but also the culture isn’t people don’t trust each other. So you start with this gallery walk kind of kickoff session. What would sort of the engagement look like from there on and is there a place where you actually bring in your lean ops skills and actually do some traditional kind of lean work on the process or so after that initial gallery eye-opening experience, what happens then?
Mark Minukas: Yeah. Then from there, so we think about the rest of the engagement typically at three different levels or in chunks. So one is at the I level, the second is that the we level and then the third is at the yet level. So a lot of that lean the real technical stuff that I get super excited about value stream mapping and looking at the nitty gritty that’s all more at the yet level and the challenges that you jumped just straight to the yet level, which a lot of clients want to do it just say, hey just let’s just jump straight there. And one thing we really try to advise as head, let’s back up a little bit and really try to understand what are you trying to accomplish here? And if this is really about higher performance and there’s really some issues going on with the culture, we have to sort of move through this, I and we level first before we get to the really higher performing stuff. So it feels like it might be going slower, but it’s really, it’s going a little bit slower up front to go much faster get on the road. And the reason we do that is because if people are showing up in feeling like, Hey, I have no choice, this culture stuck then there’s no real problem solving that that’s possible.
Mark Minukas: And so the great solutions on operating system and management system aren’t possible unless people are showing up with the right mindsets and behaviors saying, hey, I do have a choice problem solving as possible. This can be better. And then things start to move a lot faster and so they engage them from there. We typically do some workshops focused on, like I said, the I level.
Mark Minukas: This is all about how individuals show up. And there’s usually two cohorts that we focused on. One is the senior leaders and the second is a group of change agents. So these are elected, the informal influencers across the organization who carried just a lot of influence, a lot of energy. And so it could be a lot of troublemakers as well, but that’s the second cohort. So we take them through a journey of really figuring out how they are personally showing up and help them figure out how they want to shift. And then we focused on the we level, which is all about, okay, how do we create better trust among people, on teams, how do we have effective difficult conversations as opposed to either having to poorly or not having them at all. And then we move into the yet level stuff which is all about really identifying, okay what are we want to improve now? So at the system level in terms of processes and structures and in all that what are the things that we actually want to choose to go after and then we go after those. And then the real nitty gritty technical stuff happens in that phase.
Will Bachman: If I were kind of watching the workshop on the I level, tell me some of the things that I’d be seeing you do it is it role playing exercises or individual writing exercise or like walk me through what one of those workshops looks like.
Mark Minukas: Yeah, like I mentioned earlier, so it’s an emotional experience, right? You can’t have a conversation with people about how the showing up at an intellectual level ends and ends up being, having to be a real emotional process. And so it’s really, it’s a series of conversations and exercises essentially to get people to really start to understand how they’re showing up. And so one thing I haven’t really talked about in terms of facilitation is the structure of forming, storming, norming, performing and also the a framework that process that I think a lot of people have heard about, but it becomes really important to construct context of a workshop like these. And so one big insight that I’ve picked up fairly recently is that that storming phase is really, really important.
Mark Minukas: And the storming really having effective storming in these sessions is what allows people to really start to question their mindsets and the beliefs that they have and really start to question how they’ve been showing up. And so there’s, and I can talk through maybe some structures that we can use to create really effective storming, but most of the sessions, so if we have like a two and a half day session probably close to two of those days would actually be a lot of storming type activities. And so it’s an uncomfortable process, but we’re basically helping people understand that living in their comfort zone in staying in the patterns that they have today may not be as effective as, or may not allow them to be as effective as they want to be. So it’s chain people through a process of realizing, hey, we’re, we’re all stuck in some comfort zone and significant learning only happens outside of the comfort zone.
Will Bachman: Wow. Yeah. Talk me through that a little bit. So two and a half day workshop with two days of storming, what would the kind of agenda beef for that, what that looked like and how do you kind of encourage that storming to happen? What sort of exercises are you doing to facilitate that?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, so a lot of it we start off with a conversation about what does it really mean to transform. And transformation is fundamentally different from change because transformation, it’s like the Caterpillar to butterfly you can’t go back. It’s, you fundamentally create this new perspective is completely different in a change in root perspective that you can’t go back from. And then we talk about, we have a real good conversation about comfort zone and how we all live in our comfort zone and start to get people to realize that, wow, we’re all stuck in these patterns that were somewhat blind to actually and our comfort zone is in many ways defined by our fears. And so it’s taking people through these conversations and getting them to realize, wow, fear is actually playing a really big role in me being stuck in these patterns. And we talk about adult learning and how we move through various stages in how we need to it’s not enough just to be aware of what needs to happen. We actually need to make some really active choices often in the face of a fierce and then we need to move-
Will Bachman: Could you say more about the fears and how those kind of keep us in our comfort zones. And how do you help people identify those fears and be willing to say what the are? You could just say a little bit more about that piece?
Mark Minukas: Yeah. So a lot of it is … I think people intuitively understand this, but probably they’re just a little bit blind to it in their day to day experience, but it’s we all have fears. I mean, we talk about when we get into a little bit of neuroscience and brain theory, but we’re sort of designed for physical survival. We wouldn’t have survived on the savannas of Africa if we didn’t have these instant reactions to threatening situations. Right. We’d be sitting there and trying to calculate stuff and we never would have survived. But a lot of times our bodies and brains don’t distinguish between physical and emotional threats.
Mark Minukas: And so we end up treating all these emotional threats or threats to our ego as like deep existential things and physical threats, but it’s in a lot of ways, it can be very dysfunctional. It creates a lot of dysfunction. It’s getting people to understand the neuroscience and just the processes that are going on. And then getting them to really reflect on how that shows up for them. And so we’ll take people through an exercise of we call it the iceberg exercise, but it’s basically we take the human psyche or experience to an iceberg where you can only see a small percentage of what’s above the water. That’s the person’s behavior. And we take them through a process of really understanding, hey, what are the for behavior that I want to change. That’s I’m showing up in a certain way and it’s actually not allowing me to be effective at work.
Mark Minukas: How do I want to shift that? And it’s saying them through a process of saying, well, what are the thoughts and feelings that are driving that? What are the values, priorities and beliefs, and then underlying that. What are the fears that are actually driving or the met or unmet needs. Yeah. Beneath all that. Yeah. And then it’s, it’s helping them understand how do you shift? And so it’s not a matter of shifting behavior to service level, because you can do that for a little while, but until you really get down and shift the underlying values, priorities or beliefs that you have and this relationship that you have to your fears, which never go away by the way. But it’s really getting people to have a new relationship to these fears. And if he can’t get to that point then there’s no real enduring change to behavior.
Will Bachman: Yeah. I mean some fears that probably a lot of independent professionals have, or maybe I’m just projecting. But that I’ve probably had and continue to have is that one common one probably is just a fear of reaching out to maybe past clients or people that you’ve served. Right. And a lot of times if you actually do that I’d just call him up. They appreciate it, but it’s I think you can have a lot of fear around that or fears about kind of raising your fees. People might fear like, I mean if I raise my fee 50% or 100%, the clients would laugh at me or feel like it’s presumptuous, but sometimes he might do that and clients are yet totally reasonable in or not even pushed back at all. What are some of the, can you give us some like examples of like specific kinds of fears that you encounter in this work and how you might help people not get over it, not sort of have this fear of disappear but have that different relationship? Like what are some specific fears that you’ve seen?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, I mean, I can speak to some of my own, right. I mean, this is all an ongoing process, but I have a very deep fear of failure. And it’s interesting. So for me, I’ve I feel like I have this deep feeling of failure but also disconnection with other people. And so the way I try to win people over is I try to win at everything. So my history is all about being very competitive through the navy and Mckinsey. It’s I’ve chosen these environments where I’ve had to be very competitive to stand out and sort of to win people over, but it’s also very dysfunctional at the same time where I’ll be in situations where actually being competitive with other people creates separation from other people.
Mark Minukas: Because I can be sort of either overbearing or I’m trying to make myself look better than other people and that’s actually not conducive to really good team relationships. So the work that I’m doing on myself is really to understand, well, hey, one, what’s the belief that I hold that’s sort of driving that and it’s sort of winning is everything and I’m sort of, I’ve discovered over time that wow, I see the world as this zero sum game and if other people are getting some stuff then I’m not getting some stuff. And that sort of drives my behavior. So that the mindset that I’m trying to hold that was that the world isn’t a zero sum game. You can win and I can win. And we’re actually both can happen at the same time.
Mark Minukas: And so how do we lift everyone up at the same time? And that’s actually, I can’t say that that process is fully complete for me because it shows up in funny ways. I’ll notice like these little just feelings of either envy or fear and at different times, but it’s helped me quite a bit to process that because now I start to show up and rather than trying to pull people down or be overly critical and situations that I can actually be much more affirming and positive. And that’s actually leading to do just better either certainly better client work, but also better teaming relationships with my colleagues and all kinds of people. So that’s an example.
Will Bachman: Yeah. Mark, thanks for sharing that. I mean, I would probably say that I share kind of a similar fear and that the school system so much those of us who’d kind of did well in school and went to league colleges and stuff, it’s all designed to really reinforce that particular thing.
Will Bachman: It’s all about doing better. And then at some point in life you’re like, okay, well I don’t really need to be number one anymore. Who Cares? But it’s difficult to get past that. Like, I want to get an A, say it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no report card anymore.
Mark Minukas: It serves you well in some cases, but it’s funny patterns that served us well in the past don’t necessarily serve us well now. And so it’s getting people to, how do you stay in this zone of constantly learning so you can change those mindsets. And it continued to be effective. And for me as you mentioned that I reflecting on my own journey about how I’m trying to shift out of like being this expert where before as a consultant I used to show up and I’ve almost felt like I had to know the answer.
Mark Minukas: If I didn’t know the answer, then what good am I. But now I’m in more of a mode where I can show up and I can help bring some structure and some insights, but it becomes much more of a dialogue with clients about how to achieve better outcomes. And I’m actually finding that that’s one, it’s way more fun. And two, it’s actually a lot more effective at creating choice with clients and getting them to really be committed to a way forward and that they really, and that leads to higher performance. So, yeah. So there’s real implications to shifting your own mindsets for sure.
Will Bachman: You mentioned adult learning a couple of times. Could you share kind of what you’ve discovered about adult learning and how you help people change their behaviors? Because Lord knows it’s so hard for me to change my own behavior. I’m hesitant to going to go tell other people how to change there’s. What have you learned about adult learning?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, wow, I mean, it’s still work in progress, but I think the big insights that I’ve had is that there’s, and there’s a few big stages. One is awareness, the second is choice. And then the third is confidence or practice. And so I think for a while I was blind to that progression. And so I always thought, well, if you’re aware of something, then obviously you’re going to do something about it. But that’s actually not the case. And in some cases you can create awareness in a way that undermines choice for individuals. And so this applies to consulting engagements. When you’re in more of that facilitation mode, it also applies to leadership coaching as well when you’re working with people.
Mark Minukas: But it’s helping people really understand and have them become aware of what it is they want to change, but then also doing it in a way that actually creates choice for people. Because if that choice isn’t it’s hard for people to make choices again. And that’s where fear comes in and those patterns that we talked about the passive defensive or aggressive defensive patterns that stay sort of show up time and again. And so it’s helping people become aware of some of their patterns. And yes, they’re probably serving you in some ways, but in other ways they’re not serving you. And so given that that your own assessment of how it’s serving you, how it’s not serving you, what choices can you make? What can you learn here? What do you want to try to do differently? And so it’s getting people to that point, but where they themselves and making an active choice. I think that’s really been the biggest insight for me.
Will Bachman: We were talking earlier about storming and how you would actually kind of facilitate and allow to happen over a course of a two and a half day workshop, like a couple days of storming. What are the kinds of exercises or things that you’re doing to allow that happen in a way that doesn’t just explode and destroy relationships, but how are you sort of facilitating and allowing that storming to happen?
Mark Minukas: Sure. It starts with a really good forming in the session. And so really good forming is all about how you create feeling of trust and safety with the group. I think that’s step one. And so how do you do that? So there’s a couple of ways. One is just being yourself and actually sharing like you get all my story and introduction. This is something that I’m really challenged by because my whole adult life it’s all about like don’t be vulnerable and don’t share emotions. But I found that while you actually have to share some emotions and be a little bit vulnerable in front of the group to make it safe and to signal to other people that hey, it’s okay to admit know and to actually have some feelings.
Mark Minukas: So I think that’s step one is facilitators is to sort of kind of role model that net profitability. And then another thing we use and in the formation stage is and this is something I’d recommend to any team out there, it’s pretty easy to do, is this thing called a check in. And check in is all about, it’s really just asking a few simple questions. How are you feeling today? Do you have any interferences that are preventing you from being fully present. And in typically there’s a third question. It could be what do you hope you get out of today’s session it’s a nice safe one or it could be a just some fun question to get to know each other better, but, and just going around the room and as you as facilitator really role modeling going first and going around the room, it’s amazing how much that creates some human connection and just sort of raises the emotional intelligence of the group.
Mark Minukas: And it makes it more possible for storming to happen in a way that won’t destroy relationships, like you said. So that’s step one is really good for me. And then as you get into to storming. So there’s I’ll share a couple of this is by no means a comprehensive list, but just little tactics that I’ve discovered over time that I found to be helpful. So one is and this may really challenged a lot of people out there, but it’s not using flip. You are not using PowerPoint presentation but using flip charts is one way to create some storming because it’s the feeling people get when they’re presented to is the sense of Hey, this is a foregone conclusion. There’s certain to hear, we’re presenting to you what’s going on.
Mark Minukas: But the flip charts is just, there’s a different psychological interaction when somebody is actually writing up on a flip chart. It just feels like there’s more space for creativity and new ideas and stuff like that. So that’s just one general idea. Second technique that I really love is this thing called a pulse check. And a pulse check is basically a way to take a group of people. And have them interview each other on some very provocative questions. So it’s almost a way of doing like a diagnostic in the room. And so it’s a great way to sort of kick off storming, but because they’re asking each other questions and then presenting the findings back to the group themselves it’s safer than having a facilitator say, hey, you guys are screwed up. Right?
Mark Minukas: So it could be a series of questions like what’s working really well in the organization today? What are the main challenges in the organization? What are the elephants in the room and what do I need to improve or do differently as an individual on this team? And each person would have a question and they would move around and interview everyone else and each question would basically summarize their ideas or what they heard on a flip chart and play it back to the group. But it’s a great way to take what would otherwise be some really provocative, and challenging questions. But asking them getting the group to actually unearth all this stuff and play it back to the group itself. So those are a couple of tactical things I can keep going on with a couple of other ones.
Mark Minukas: But those are just some ways to get the ideas flowing. I also like voting like from two voting. So I mentioned the human synergistics framework where you could have there’s actually 12 different profiles that fit within the constructive passive, defensive, aggressive defensive cultures and actually having up on the walls a number of different profiles for an organization and giving everyone three dots to vote and say what are your current culture and people go up and they vote on the current culture and then then they vote on what’s the desired culture. And immediately you create a current condition and the target condition that again, them be really processed and start to spark a lot of debate amongst the group. So those are a couple of ways to do it.
Will Bachman: In the storming is how would you sort of define that it’s people kind of not misled accusing each other of things, but like trying to air differences or how would you characterize that face? What does it look like?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, it’s a lot of uncertainty, right? It’s a lot of uncertainty and it’s a little bit of uneasiness. you want people as part of these conversations to be really wondering, Hey, what’s really going on in the organization? What’s really going on with myself? We talked about the iceberg exercise and some other things we do as part of the eye workshop, but it’s really getting people to really question their beliefs and mental models about what’s going on. And so that’s the essence of it. It’s somewhat control, but it’s just it can go in any sorts of ways.
Mark Minukas: And so that’s the challenge with having a stretch agenda where we say we’re going to do this for 15 minutes, this for 30 minutes. It’s amazing if you just pose a couple of questions and you create the right conditions people start to debate it and it starts to come alive. And that’s where new possibilities emerge. So it’s creating the space for the things that people probably want to talk about anyway. But just creating the space for them to do it in a way that’s a little bit more productive.
Will Bachman: That sounds really, really powerful. Different topic. I wanted to ask you getting away from consulting a little bit is you own a crossfit of it. Tell me a little bit about how that came about.
Mark Minukas: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I moved back to DC about eight years ago and I was out of the navy at that point and my brother was in the navy and he was talking all about this like cool crossfit stuff that people were doing. And I was like, I gotta try it. So I started doing crossfit here in DC. It was what this guy, Tom Bros, who was running some crossfit classes out of another gym. And after I’ve been going there for a few months, I was like, this is awesome. I mean, I was just, I was completely in it and I loved it. And I was like, Tom, you need to start your own gym. And I’m like, running classes out of another gym is just, is not cool. There’s so much more you can do here. And he said, yeah, I know, but I just don’t have the money I can’t get us started.
Mark Minukas: I said, let’s figure it out. So I basically invested in and Tom and crossfit DC and eight years later we’ve got two locations that are doing really well here in the city. And it’s been a bit of fun experience, great learning experience to actually start your own business. And I can say I’ve actually grown quite a bit as a consultant as well because having to change and influence your business partners in colleagues is a real challenge. And I find I have much more empathy for my clients now who are trying to do the same thing and their organization. So it’s been a ton of fun.
Will Bachman: Give me an example of something that you’ve learned from running crossfit in how it’s applied to your consulting practice?
Mark Minukas: One thing that I’ve learned, so there’s actually, there’s four main partners in the gym. There’s another guy who came in to invest money as well. A really sharp guy. But I found I had a lot of very different viewpoints from him about there was a couple of times where we had just a real challenging business situation. We had to move out of one location because the landlord was more or less kicking us out and we had to find a new location. And so there’s a real inflection point for that organization about do we continue to invest more money and getting a new location? Do we settle for a less than ideal location? And I think we found, we unearth that, we both had very different values.
Mark Minukas: I think he was looking at the business from a certain way. I was looking at it from a different way. And I think my initial reaction to go back to my whole story and my own iceberg, I was super competitive and I was like, I got to win? And it was all about this competitive mindset and I realize, darn it, I’m not getting anywhere with this guy. And so I realized I had this really soften my approach and really listen to what he was he was doing. And I through that process we came to a much better understanding and we were able to save this location and keep things going. So that was a big thing I learned just to really stop trying to win every argument and really try to incorporate the viewpoints of other people on the team. Because that’s just a pathway to a better outcome.
Will Bachman: I suppose if you own or a co-owner of a crossfit, you also kind of have an obligation to be pretty fit yourself or are you a pretty active gym goer now that you own on your own location?
Mark Minukas: I am. It’s no obligation by any means. But I love it. I mean, I do love it. I do, if I’m in here in town, in DC I’ll try to go at least a few times a week at different times. And also when I’m on the road and there’s crossfit gyms all over the country, all over the world, frankly. So usually when I’m in another town and I’ll try to drop into a crossfit gym usually early in the morning just to see how they operate and just to get a good workout in and all that. So it’s something I love, like I get a lot of energy from it. So it’s something I try to do on a regular basis for sure.
Will Bachman: What’s something about running a gym that most people would be surprised to hear?
Mark Minukas: In some ways it’s a pretty simple business. It’s a membership model. I think the one thing that I’ve been surprised by, I dunno if it’s for gym business as a whole, but how attrition in term member turnover becomes such a limiter to growth? I think when I was running my financial models when I was starting to invest in the business and making some big, high level planning decisions, I think I made some very simplistic decisions about how the business was going to grow. And I just see the whole member attrition piece was just like it’s going to be pretty low. But it turns out it’s actually really high, particularly in a city like DC where there’s a lot of people moving away. There’s just a lot of churn and the population, particularly the younger population of the city to begin with. That was a real eye-opener for me. And so how you actually try to continue in that attrition and improve member experience and get out there and market. I mean, that’s been a really cool learning experience for me, but it’s also been a little bit humbling because I realized all of the assumptions I made in my business model where not quite true.
Will Bachman: This was a lot of people start with good intentions and then-
Mark Minukas: Yeah, right.
Will Bachman: Yeah. Life gets in the way and they-
Mark Minukas: Exactly. Reality always jumps up in [inaudible 00:44:20].
Will Bachman: Awesome. Are there any sort of daily routines or habits that you have been doing either for a long time or recently adopted that you find have really help your effectiveness?
Mark Minukas: Yeah. There’s a couple things. So I think in general for a long time I’ve been what is it, I forget the full name of the book, but is it Getting Things Done? I use a method there where I try to flag things for follow-up because I’m actually pretty bad at once I get going on to something else I’ll forget it. So I try to flag emails and other things if I can’t get to it in the moment. So they’re all sort of in a couple of inboxes that I know I need to go back to by the end of the day at the end of the week to sort of close out. So that’s been a really helpful routine for me just to stay on top of the little details.
Mark Minukas: One thing I’ve started to do more recently is get up early in the morning and meditate. I found that that’s actually been really, really helpful for me to better understand what’s going on for myself and just to kind of notice my own feelings and mindsets and all that. And then I also was, right after I meditate, I tried to really reflect on what am I intentions for the day. So before I jump into stuff and I get busy and it gets stuck sort of multitasking. I really try to say, well by the end of today, what would make this day a successful one and really get clear on what that is.
Will Bachman: Do you write down the intention? Or is it just something that you kind of think about?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, I’ll try to write them down on a little post it note and then I end kind of keep that on my computers like that Just so it’s a subtle reminder that today Mark I know you want to read another newspaper article, but this is what you really reflected on what success is for the day. So get back to it.
Will Bachman: Interesting. Okay, cool. And what sort of form of meditation have you adopted?
Mark Minukas: Really, I don’t even know what I would call it, but it’s sort of mindful meditation. Just really focusing on the breath, being okay with what other, whatever thoughts and feelings show up. It just sort of labeling it. And that’s a thought. That’s a feeling and just trying to come back to the breath and just strengthening that ability to notice and recognize what’s going on for you.
Will Bachman: Any books that you have gifted most often or that just have meant a lot to you?
Mark Minukas: I don’t know. I read so many different books. It’s hard to pinpoint one. I think right now I’ve with in a lot of cultural work I’ve been reading a whole bunch of books, particularly not to say recent books, but slightly older books like the Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge and this book called Leadership Without Easy Answers by this guy Ron Heifetz and some other books that in that Universe. So those are the ones that I like consistently recommend to other people just because I think there’s some deep insight there. Yeah. A recent book I read actually that really got me thinking about how people show up and think about things differently is the Righteous Mind by Jonathan Pate. That was a really interesting read as well. And I’d recommend it to a lot of people.
Will Bachman: Yeah. I just read his, his latest book the Coddling Of the American mind, which has been on a lot of the best of books for 2018. That is fantastic. Mark, this has been really a fantastic discussion. You’ve shared some really going to brave and vulnerable things and it’s really amazing the work you’re doing. How can people find your firm if they want to follow up with you, what’s the best way to find you and get in touch?
Mark Minukas: Yeah, absolutely. Our website is cocreationpartners.com, so no hyphen, just cocreationpartners.com and people can email me at mark@cocreationpartners.com.
Will Bachman: Fantastic. We’ll include that in the show notes. Mark, thanks so much for joining. It’s been great having you on the show.
Mark Minukas: You got it, thanks Will. Really appreciate it.

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