07:01 Monique: So, Francis, share with us. What is your professional career path like? Where did you start and where are you now?
07:09 Francis: Sure. Thanks, Monique. I'm an engineer by training. I did a couple of degrees in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering at Cornell. As you can hear from my accent, and just to let your listeners know, I'm not exactly raised in the United States. I was born in Massachusetts, born near Cape Cod. Lived in Jamaica through the end of high school, and then came back to college in Upstate New York, Cornell. Worked for AT&T Bell Labs, Bell Laboratories, for five years, and then started my own company. And that's what I've been doing ever since. I just moved the company to Jamaica in 2005, 16 years ago, came back with a wife, and I've been here ever since.
07:51 Monique: So, what were you, at first glance, thinking of doing when you're off to Cornell? What is it that you aspire to do professionally?
08:00 Francis: Well, I got lucky because when I did the SATs, it was a question that said, "What's your preferred career path?" And I was always good at the sciences, and I know I didn't want to do medicine. And the choices were Electrical Engineering, Mechanical, Chemical, and I was like, none of the above. And then I saw something saying, "Industrial Engineering." That was one of the choices. And I was like, "What the heck is that?" Because nobody knows what that is. And I went to go look it up, and it was the marriage of people and engineering, the optimal allocation of scarce human resources, time, money. It has to do with the allocation of resources and human beings-- human resources is one big part of it. So, I said, "Boy, I didn't know anything with this name on it, so sure, I'm interested." So, I signed up. I looked for schools that actually had Industrial Engineering, applied to those, got into most-- I think maybe all. Most or all of them decided on Cornell. And I stayed with it all the way through it, right? Up until today, I still use the principles I learned in the very first year of school.
09:04 Monique: Oh my goodness. And so, when you even made the comment about somehow you just found yourself in a leadership role, to what degree does possibly being a Type A personality play into that? Because that's what we're talking here about today. Do you describe yourself as a Type A personality, Francis?
09:21 Francis: Yeah. And just in case you're recovering, just in case your audience may not know what a Type A personality is, if you're an aspiring leader, chances are, you are impatient. You are very competitive, very driven. You're highly energetic. You use the clock and the calendar. You tend to be very highly organized. You can get yourselves into all kinds of trouble if you're an extreme Type A because you may be rough around the edges and a bit of a steam roller at times when it comes to dealing with other people, not the softest touch, because what you really care about are the results. And extreme Type A care about the results and not care about people's feelings, and therefore cause of problems. So, I've dealt with that, I would say my whole life.My father was-- easy to see him as a Type A. And I wanted to do everything he did. In the way he did it was close, not career-wise, but everything else-wise. So, I grew up always being put in a leadership position from the time I was in primary school, going into high school. I was what we call the school captain. I was always that guy. I got pretty good grades, came first in my class. I also played sports. I was into everything, doing everything the way a Type A would.
10:44 Monique: And good at it.
10:45 Francis: Yeah, I was pretty good at it. But it wasn't until years later that I discovered what a Type A was. And I was like, "Oh my God, that's my entire life." And then I read all the downsides and I thought, "Ooh, that's a part of me I don't like."
10:59 Monique: Well, and as a coach working with high-achieving professionals, that's something I certainly witnessed being a coach to individuals, as you described as a Type A. So, let's think big picture, because when you're a young professional coming up, it's all of that that you've been able to accomplish that makes you stand out. You've gotten the results, right? You make things happen. So, from your perspective now, how do you bridge that, being a young professional who knows how to get things done, as seen as successful? What's the bridge to that same individual then achieving professional career growth and satisfaction?
06:18 Francis: Oh, it takes you so far and then no more. So, you may get through college on Type A, if you will, because you'd be more organized than the average person. You'd be more driven. You'd be more focused. You'd sit in the front row of class. You raise your hand at every opportunity. So, those behaviors are great for getting good grades and they'll get you to near the top of the class and you'll graduate Magna Cum Laude. And you'll end up in a demanding major. And you'll look for the next challenge because you love challenges. So, unfortunately, that doesn't carry over too well into other parts of life like marriages or raising children, or even being a manager in the workplace where you must now contend with other kinds of people. And in your first managerial role, as you start to interact with people, all of that Type A energy and strength and competitiveness doesn't work. No, I don't say it doesn't work. It gets a lot of CEOs to the corner office. But along the way, their competitive nature and their drivenness and their energy, it'll get them to the corner office ahead of others and they'll win, so to speak. But once they've won, they run into a problem because at that point, probably before then, it's more about collaboration than it is about beating other people. And many Type A's carry that same energy all the way through, which means that when they get to the top of the hill, they say, "Hey, I'm number one." They look back, there's nobody behind them.
13:24 Monique: People are spread out.
13:27 Francis: They have run for the hills. I've had that happen with clients as well, people that I've worked with. And after working with them, I say, "Okay, we're never again." And I actually made a pretty much deliberate attempt because early on, somewhere around high school, I picked up a book on the four types, which was basically a DISC, a book on the four descriptors, four types, and used that and it was very insightful. And I thought, "Oh my God, I could use this." Later on, I did the MBTI as soon as I joined AT&T. And I got really interested in my potential, how to tap into it. I picked up a Tony Robbins book for the first time. I started to really think about where I wanted to go in my life. And it forced me to look at myself. Not forced, but it led me to look at myself in some more depth and start to see some glaring inconsistencies and weaknesses. And that began, I would say a concerted effort between the second-- first and second year at AT&T all the way through-- about 2010, I'd say, to improve my interpersonal skills. I also actually took coaches training at Coach University, 1994, Thomas Leonard.
14:48 Monique: You are on the front edge.
14:50 Francis: Nobody knew what coaching was really. But I did the training and that was, of course, very, very helpful.
14:55 Monique: So, what was that evidence that you were experiencing in the workplace that led you to that thought process of, "Oh, I've got to do some things differently"?
15:06 Francis: It was a commitment that I had. Shortly after arriving in the United States, I realized I've been away for so long that I wanted to return to Jamaica. And what made me want to go back was this kind of commitment to make a difference where I knew it could be made in bucket loads, so to speak. We're a very impoverished country by US standards. And it doesn't take much to make a big difference here. We're also very connected community-wise. That's a big plus. But the fact is we have a legacy of 300 years of slavery and we got our independence in 1962 as a country, but we were left with severe deficits that continue to today, including just basic literacy. So, we have some big, big challenges. And as a freshman on campus at Cornell, we had all-you-can-eat luncheons and dinners. And I was on a meal plan. I remember just being boggled that there was so much food going to waste. And I knew people, guys in my class in high school, who sometimes went hungry. So, the contrast just firmed up my resolve to be back in Jamaica contributing. It took me 21 years to close the loop, but I'm glad I did.
16:29 Monique: So, as you now reflect on who you were during this process change, what did you identify as your greatest, let's say growth elements within you? How did you grow?
16:44 Francis: I struggled to list every single soft skill that exists, because that's how it was. I was raised as a technical professional. There was absolutely no soft skills training in college. I may have taken an Industrial Relations course. But afterwards, because of the rule that I was in, I was fortunate, or maybe I chose this work because I really liked it. I was in an Internal Consulting unit in AT&T and we had the fortune of flying around the country and helping different units in AT&T improve the way they did their performance. So, consulting is a very, very soft skill. Once you get past the initial where you need to have a technical background, okay, what's next? Okay, it's all soft after that. It didn't say it to us that way, but that is in fact what was happening. That's what happened. Now, after a couple of failures, I said, "Okay, so what's going on here? Why am I not-- what are people just grasping the logic of what?" And I remember my first day on the job, they actually our second day? Second day, it was a Friday. I joined the Thursday and it was a Friday. They had soft skills training for a half a day. And I laughed. I was like, "This is nonsense. This is foolish." Distinctly remember saying, "This is foolishness where we are engineers, why are we doing these soft skills? Nonsense." It took the failures for my eyes to open. And then combined with my wanting to come back to Jamaica and I wanted to be a successful consultant, I realized that I had not been taught the basics of what I needed to do the job as an effective coach and assistant to other professionals. I hadn't been taught the basics of how to deal with people effectively. So, that began intense. I don't think I've learned another technical subject since I've started.
18:37 Monique: I'm curious, what made it a failure? I mean, just one example, as you think about, you were talking about your consulting and you had experienced failure.
18:45 Francis: Yeah.
18:46 Monique: So, what made it a failure? Was the project just shelved, did not go forward, did someone want you removed off of the assignment? I mean, what made it a failure?
18:54 Francis: Well, no, it wasn't as dramatic as that. I just had a sense that it wasn't reaching my standards because there are people I needed to influence. So, I'd meet people for the first, second, third time and I'd want to move them along to be able to implement the suggestions I was making. So, this is where-- it's happened to be in factories. And the way they were doing the work wasn't working. And I could see it from a technical point of view. So, my job was to convince them to change their behavior. And that seemed like a very logical process to me. So, I would be logical and tell them--
19:24 Monique: Tell them and tell them louder.
19:24 Francis: Thank you. More logic, more volume, more emphasis.
19:30 Monique: I have the answers. I'm going to tell you how to do it. And I'm going to tell you more. I'm going to tell it to you in a different direction. And so then, we discovered that it didn't work.
19:41 Francis: Yeah. Type A, this is the Type A of story. This is what happens with Type A's who have the benefit of being in a job that they can't do without other skills or having a failure, like a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a spouse giving them feedback. For me, it all happened very early on because I was married like one month out of college. I was one of those folks who got married right away. So, a lot of things were happening that were making me scratch my head and saying, "This is not quite what I envision and I don't understand why."
20:15 Monique: Because we're so in our head, right? And coming up through high school college, and you're getting accolades, so the accolades reinforce that, "Well, I must be doing it all right." And then in the workplace, colleagues, oh, and now you're responsible because you're now leading these other people. "Huh? Why aren't my talents have-- what got me to this point working now?" And so, what is it that you're doing to support the Type A personality that's out here in the professional arena?
22:01 Francis: Well, I've made a bit of a discovery, or I put, I guess two and two together in the work I'm doing in productivity and task management. And what I've stumbled across in a way is, based on my own examples, Type A's tend to pick up more projects because they have higher ambitions. And this is not to say all the people aren't ambitious, but the most ambitious people tend to be Type A. This just goes with the territory. High ambitions leads to lots of projects. Lots of projects leads to lots of tasks. Lots of tasks requires a peculiar approach in the way you manage your personal productivity. So, what I've said to you may sound very obvious, but there's very few people who actually say what I just said. The connection isn't made. The thought is more like, "Well, people, we know that people need different approaches to their productivity and task management, but we don't know why." And there certainly is-- the research is like, "We don't know why." But I've gone ahead and said, "Well, it's because the Type A's, that's the big driver and it's their ambitions. They're wanting to accomplish more and more and more and more. That's what leads them to push themselves harder than other people push themselves." And that practically means that, for example, and this is the end of the story in a way, this is why they need to use a calendar and not a to-do list. It's almost like a huge jump from where I'm coming from to where I'm saying. But in my work, I've laid out a careful set of reasons that says, "Here's why. If you're this way, you need to manage your tasks in this way." And I laid out a logic that says, "Here's what you got to do because if you're this ambitious, it goes with the territory?"
23:48 Monique: Well, and what I love about this is, for our listeners, you will be joining me in another episode where we're talking more specifically about time management and managing those tasks. I believe it does start however with how you are wired in that personality, those behavioral tendencies that you have, because what I've now, as I hear you describe the Type A personality, those characteristics that get in the way, and then the awakening of how to get to the tomorrow, is almost like driving a stick shift car. You're in the same car, but you have to then develop the muscle on when to draw certain talents and skills down, level it down for the sake of the situation, for the sake of the results, and then kick it back into a higher gear.
24:38 Francis: That's a very well put. Very well put.
24:41 Monique: Because I work with clients, I'm a certified Strength Coach, and it's not denied. People often want to go, "Let's talk about our weaknesses." And when we have an opportunity to get there in a discussion, either with an individual or a group, your weaknesses are probably right there with the same strength. Those things that make you strong are those very things that get in your way. It's you having to discover when and how to apply it at the right time in the right situation. Because trying to go into some self-discovery mode and thinking you've got to become something you're not, okay, let's just get rid of that.
25:19 Francis: Right.
25:20 Monique: You're not trying to be something you're not. No one's trying to have that happen. There are traits and characteristics that support you in your greatness. And so, Type A personality, yes, getting things done, achieving the goals for the individuals, the teams, the organization, when to-- how to manage that for yourself?
25:40 Francis: Well, to be an effective leader in circumstances in which you may not need the person in the front, kind of leader, because there are many ways to lead. But the Type A really only knows one way, which is, see if you can keep up.
25:55 Monique: Exactly. Keep so up. So describe, if you will, an example or a situation of someone that you've worked with and what that transition was for them.
26:05 Francis: Yeah. So, there's one fellow I worked with who pulled regularly 20 hours a week-- 20 hours a day, sorry, kind of shifts, seven days a week, during intense periods for several months. So, the shift is not complete by any means, but he's understanding himself at a level where at least he's accepting that this is not sustainable. I mean, this is someone who's worked-- if you've ever heard of people who work themselves sick, this is someone who has enough energy to work himself sick, and he's done it about three times from what I understand.
26:44 Monique: So that's the evidence, right? Physically, his body responds in some way.
26:50 Francis: There's another evidence too. I mean, he's literally the-- he heads up a company. He's literally the hardest worker in the company by far, by way far. So, he just works with everyone. Everyone else is exhausted and they don't want to have anything to do with the lifestyle he leads because it's extreme. It's like, he's an Olympian and running 100 meters in nine seconds. It's so extreme and there's no one who can really keep up. And he doesn't really-- because Type A's don't really hang around other Type A's and talk about their feelings. It's more like, they meet together and brag. "Oh yeah, I got a boat. Oh yeah, I got a Mercedes."
27:28 Monique: Exactly. All that external stuff, right?
27:31 Francis: Right. It's more about the competition than it is asking questions. "Well, can I sustain this pace?" So, he's on this journey of reversing a lot of really accepted behaviors. His job, the work he does, it completely supports his Type A-ness to a point. But the employees, of course, they notice. And they want-- as I said before, nothing to do with that lifestyle, so they have no interest in staying to become like him.
28:02 Monique: Well, let's look at this, look at the possibility of an outcome in trying to continue 20 hours out of a 24-hour day. What happens when you flat line? Where's the company then? Where are your employees then?
28:20 Francis: So, he had a partner who-- he told me, they worked something like 15 days straight at this pace. The following day, he collapsed, but he already won.
28:31 Monique: Right exactly.
28:36 Francis: Like, "I worked myself to the point where I couldn't get out of bed." A day later, then someone else who-- but this is-- so Type A's can easily go off the rails and not listen to other people because of what their-- where their ambitions take them. And it can produce-- I mean, forget about kids and the effect that that can have, or parents or spouses, or-- we're just focusing on the workplace for now. But it has an all-around impact and absolutely has an impact at work with other people who work with this individual. And they are impressed by, ooh, 20 hours. And they say to themselves, "Not me. Not ever." I believe before this bub catches me.
29:20 Monique: Right. It's that extrinsic value, that values that's coming from something outside of yourself and--
29:27 Francis: Well, let me add to it, though. He is intrinsically motivated. He loves what he does, but he loves what he does in a way that causes him not to pay attention to the other things that are important in his life. And I could even say he was doing it for the money. Or he's not doing it for the money, he's doing it for the love of the--
29:47 Monique: It's like a sport. It's the chase, right?
29:50 Francis: He loves the chase. Right. Which is why it's so insidious because he's not unhappy until he is in the emergency room.
29:59 Monique: So, that's a CEO example. So, think of a young professional working in it. Let's say, what is AT&T of today's environment, right? And a young professional with executive ambitions. What are some of those watch-outs? What are some of the clues that, hmm, maybe time to gain some self-awareness on how you can be effective and dial back some of that personality, Type A? What are some of the evidence of, hmm, maybe it's time to explore getting some new tools and processes in place to support you?
30:35 Francis: Well, I don't have good news here because my experience is that Type A's need to crash. They need a hard landing. It's not-- it didn't come easily for me. It didn't come readily. It tends to be a slam, something--
30:51 Monique: What's the crash look like so that people know it? Because sometimes people don't even know when they've crashed.
30:57 Francis: Like somebody who was working for you quits, or they give you-- or you get feedback from your boss that everybody hates you, or your team goes on strike effectively, or in the workplace, or your clients. I remember one Type A, she was a consultant. And her clients told her boss that they don't want to work with her anymore. They want to work with the company. They love the company, but they don't want her come around anymore. So, until something like that happens, you can get pretty far, especially if you're working for yourself, especially if you're in a profession that tends to reward Type A's, like some sales professionals, for example, some legal professionals. A lot of doctors are Type A. There are these professions in which your appreciation for other people and yourself doesn't come until later because you don't necessarily need it to get the job done. You're a great surgeon. You can get by cutting and slicing and dicing to some degree, not really great bedside manner, but they'll overlook it because all these skills are so exquisite. But at some point, the devil will come for his due. And if you're a young Type A, and if any of this resonates guys, if you're listening to this, the first thing, if you think you're not a Type A, just ask someone close to you. Tell them some of the things that we just talked about, the impatience. And if any of that rings true, then you are definitely a Type A. Just take their word for it, even though you may not see it. It's a great idea to get this awareness before the slam happens, because the world is actually sending you signals right now. It's just that you're tone-deaf. So, other people are covering their ears because the noise of the problems you're creating is so loud and they can barely bear it. And they are probably distancing themselves from you in subtle ways. But because you're tone-deaf, you're not hearing the sound and you're not seeing their reaction to it. So, if you assume that that's true, and take my word for it a little bit, do a little investigation and ask people around or compare yourself to the most Type A person you can find and ask yourself, "Am I-- do I have some of that in me, and to what extent?" And ask somebody else, if you can't see it, "Do I like that guy?" And they're like, "Oh yeah, you're worst. Are you kidding?"
33:21 Monique: "You're worst." Well, and here's the thing is when organizations fail, their organization, they continue to advance this individual, right?
33:29 Francis: Without any coaching and intervention.
33:31 Monique: Yeah, because then the individual continues to get reinforced for these behaviors that are not serving the organization well. And then it makes it harder to slow it down, to do some self-assessment because why it's working for me.
33:46 Francis: All the way to the executive suite.
33:48 Monique: And so, that's why I even work with clients, we don't even have to-- with young professionals, yeah, maybe your company's not going to sponsor a leadership 360 or a coach, but there are a wealth of coaches out here. You can still engage the services of a coach who knows what they are doing in that space. And you can just create your own 360. It doesn't have to be a formal online. You can create a slate of questions that you invite others to respond to just to get some awareness for yourself. So--
34:19 Francis: Yeah. I can attest to that. For 12 years, more than 12 years, I had a coach, same coach, brilliant coach who figured me out, and I couldn't get anything by that person. You know it is--
34:35 Monique: Yeah. You can keep telling me, but I'm seeing something different. Your behaviors and your words are matching up. So, what is it?
34:41 Francis: They can see you coming. Your tone of voice tells them everything about what's going to happen in this coaching session because they know you so well. When you've had one person coaching you for that long, you get a lot of movement as you go along because they figure you out. You can't trick them anymore, whatever you do with your body--
34:59 Monique: So sure.
35:00 Francis: But I also had a therapist for a couple of years. I had multiple coaches in other roles. So, I broke the news to one of my clients recently. And I don't do a lot of individual coaching, but I told him, "I think you should have a coach for the rest of your career." He's like, "Oh my God." And definitely, I said, "Yeah, pretty much, but it's not an indictment on your personality. It's just that you are now about 50 and you haven't had the investment that others have had in the prior 30 years. So, you missed the first 30. It's no catch-up time where--"
35:35 Monique: "You're here now." Right?
35:36 Francis: "You're here now. And from now until the time you retire, if you want to continue to operate at high level that you aspire to, these skills really should have been there a long time ago. Now is the time to learn them. Put as much as you can into learning them because they'll serve you, starting right away and they'll serve you for the rest of your career. You might as well go through retirement, I guess with your faculties intact and not on a heart attack." I didn't say it like that. That's what I meant. Don't be a Monday morning heart attack like everybody else. It stresses themselves out. And then at the end of the-- "No. Deal with yourself now. Deal with other people. Get the skills that you need. And just book an hour a week for the next 15, 20 years." And I said, "That would be the best thing you can do." It's almost like a crazy medicine, but what could I say, Monique?
36:25 Monique: Yeah. Well, and that person, because-- and I say a qualified coach, because Lord knows there are many coaches. But a coach who is listening to you and challenging you and knows how to challenge and stretch you in a way that opens up new possibilities, there is some magic. So, coaching is just one option. But I tell you, for many individuals who maybe aren't trusting of other people or haven't found another way to get out of their own way, coaching certainly may be an option.
36:57 Francis: Right. Especially for those Type A ingrained behaviors. I don't underestimate the power of, for example, a two-week offsite residential training. I think those are awesome. I've done those as well. They serve different purposes. I think they both have a place. So, for a Type A, I would say, definitely do both because after you do the residential, you'll definitely want to coach because you want to keep all the gains that you made when you were away doing whatever it is you were doing. So, I think there's benefits to combining both classroom, experiential and having a steady hand at somebody who eventually doesn't take much energy to keep you straight. Tremendously valuable.
37:40 Monique: As we're going to draw our time to a close now, what is it that you can share about your services to organizations that may be beneficial to our listening audience?
37:49 Francis: Sure. I'll actually share a bit about the strategy work that we do. So, this is like a room of Type A's, typically leading a company, and we help them put together strategic plans. And we bring a facilitatory role, but we get to spend time before the actual retreat, getting to know the executives and understanding what their ambitions are, and then bring them together and get their ambitions to all line up. So, that worked. If you're interested in knowing more about it, I've written extensively about it at fwconsulting.com, which is my website that I use to focus on my strategy work. So, that's one that folks could use if many Type A's need to get along with other people and put together strategies that include other people. Some of them believe that they don't need the other people, but they usually do. You just got to talk to them.
38:44 Monique: And knowing where the resources are is so critical. And so, I will definitely be sharing with our listeners ways to get in touch with you, to connect with you if what it is that you have to offer is of interest to them. So, Francis, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate having you on the Tuesdays With Coach Mo podcast.
39:02 Francis: You're welcome.