Effective Leadership Modifications To Build Amazing Teams With Mike Zani
Certainly, different types of people require different languages to convey and understand information. Sales teams, for example, modify themselves massively to gain new prospects. Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index, shares with us effective leadership modifications to build amazing teams. He talks about technology and artificial intelligence and how it could help sales, identify behavioral assessments, and the overall business process. Mike also elaborates on the different software that is proving to be interesting nowadays and why we need to stop fearing changes in our lives. This is a very inspiring talk that would help business leaders direct effectively, resulting in the business to prosper. Join Mike in this episode.
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Effective Leadership Modifications To Build Amazing Teams With Mike Zani
I've got a cool guest with me, Mike Zani, CEO of Predictive Index. He joined the business, he and his business partner, several years ago. They have been growing it ever since. I'm excited because I have been in and around this space. As a PI person, I'm a captain. If you don't know your code language, I suppose you should probably check out Mike's company. We are going to dig into it a little more. Welcome to the show.
It's great to be here, Chad. Thanks for having me.
I can't help but ask about the picture in the background there. What's the meaning of Optima 21?
That is a Talent Optimization conference on May 12, 2021. We've got some great guests. We’ve got Patrick Lencioni, Guy Raz, Dara Treseder, CMO of Peloton, and Baratunde Thurston, author of How To Be Black.
Before we dig into your current company, how AI plays a role in Predictive Index and how you use AI in your sales motion, I like to connect you to our audience by asking the question, when you were 6, 7, 8, at a very young age, what was your passion? When you walked out of the house in the morning, what do you love to do? Wake up, excited about. What was that for you?
I spent more time on the water as a kid than most people ever would. I grew up sailing. My mother tells the story. I was sailing the day she gave birth and sailing three days after. I ended up being fortunate enough to coach the 1996 US Olympic Sailing Team at the Atlanta Olympics. I take sailing quite a long way, both as a competitor and a coach. I’ve got great joy from it.
The way to live an extraordinary life is lined up with your talents.
I could have used you on a windy lake at a one-seater boat one time. I remember the boom just came over, knocked me in the water. That wouldn't have been too good on the Olympics. Thinking about your time on the water and the strategy involved, how does that align to the type of work you are doing now? Is there a thread between those two things?
I certainly think seeing super high-level competition helps, full stop, sailing because it's so strategic, has a lot of parallels with business. I would have to say, my time spent coaching, where you are coaching super high performing athletes. These are people who have dedicated their life to being world-class and eking out an amazing performance. They were all quirky, different in their way. Learning to modify yourself as a coach so that you didn't teach something the way you wanted to teach it. You taught it the way that it can best be absorbed by your athletes. It's very different from athlete to athlete. It's when I went on a journey for how do I get the most out of my, then it was athletes but now it's people. How do you modify your style? You are a captain. If you just play captain all the time, that will work some of the time, but sometimes you can have to modify yourself, quite a bit even to connect and get the most out of your players.
I have been hearing about these technologies that will help me change the way I communicate, whether it's an email or on the phone. Where I see the future of this kind of space would be, "Let's go tag everyone with their PI." If I write an email to them, how cool would it be if the email could change to map to that individual who's receiving my email? It's hard to train people. If you are talking to this type of person, you want to do bullets. If you are talking to that person, do a paragraph. If you are talking to that person, use kinesthetic. I'm waiting for the day. I will put that out as a challenge to you, tag the data set. It's not your company that builds the emails that go along with it but there's got to be an email provider out there that knows how to write the language for the type of personality we are talking about.
Technology is already there. We are probably halfway there. We have a job description ad analyzer. Someone in human resources writes an ad. They try and write it as thoughtfully as they can. We can use natural language processing and AI to tell them if there's a gender bias and how they wrote it. We can also tell them, “What are the patterns from a PI perspective, a behavioral perspective that will be attracted to that?” You are a persuader. You are super gregarious. If you write a job ad, you will write it the way you would want to read it. If you are looking for a controller, who's going to run your finance department, all about systems and attention to detail, you need to write it completely different from that. We can analyze the ad and tell you how to change it but that the step that you are talking about is not that far off where you said, "We rewrote it for you. Therefore, we are optimizing this letter, email, correspondence for your audience." It's there. If that was our business, we would have it. It doesn't happen to be but the technology is there.
Tell me more about where artificial intelligence is used in Predictive Index. I assume it's used in a big way. Tell us a little bit more about that.
For us internally, with our sales processes, it's easy because almost 95% of the time, we have a prospect take our behavioral assessment before we talk to them. They are taking it because they want to try our marquee product, which is driven by psychometric underpinnings in your behavioral assessment. That's not quite fair or scalable to every company. I don't think it's quite fair to ask someone to take a six-minute assessment before you sell to them unless it's important to the product that they are interested in. Our sales team modifies themselves massively because they know in a very valid way, the prospect's profile is. You can modify yourself so that you get them what they need out of the interaction. Sales are about getting a successful response or outcome. If you can modify yourself so that they get what they need out of the interaction, you are going to influence people to that successful response a lot more efficiently.
The question would be, “How do you scale that?” Let's take a sales team for Agnico. They can't credibly send out an assessment beforehand. There are scrapers. There are some psychometric scraping tools out there that will look at their public profiles, Facebook, LinkedIn and give you an estimate or an assessment of what they think it might be. This couldn't be used for hiring. The predictability is only 50%, 60%. Scraping is a way to get started. We don't scrape. We don't teach our salespeople to scrape. We teach them how to listen using behavioral cues to what are the high drives of the individual. You may not get anything. Some people are very tight with language and sharing but we coach them to use our frameworks to say, "Assume what you think they are and start modifying yourself to that."
Oftentimes, the role can beef tell. Back to my early sales training, if you are a CEO, you care about market share, market size. If you are a VP of sales, you care about revenue, increasing cost, decrease. If you are someone else, you care about capabilities, features and functions. That's only one side of the T-chart. The other side is how do you communicate. To your point, it's not always as obvious as it seems. That's where PI comes in.
I do think the title will help a lot but listening to talk times, how much they are talking, listening, their follow-up questions about a need for structured data proof, their desire to lead the conversation if you ask them, "What would you like to get out of this conversation?" They have a very defined list. You can start understanding their level of dominance. Since you told me you are captain, you are high dominance. You would probably want to put your thumbprint on the meeting. You are also impatient. You are going to interrupt and change modes. As soon as I answer something, you are going to go on to the next thing because you can juggle like that. You need a little data but not a lot. I'm trying to pick up that you are a captain without knowing it, for sure. I modify myself accordingly.
I was watching Clarice. It was the last episode. It was number 6 or 7. It's the DA or somebody big in Washington who was sitting at the end of the table with the daughter and Clarice. She was cutting the conversation. Her poor daughter was shut down. I was like, "I hope I'm not like that."
It depends. If you are in a position of power, captains can be very direct. You have probably learned to modify yourself.
You learn to be adaptive and listened to. What do you see in terms of AI? A lot of people think of those two letters as a bad word. They were like, “This is scary. Is it going to outsource my job?” It's starting to come into play in a lot of different companies these days. A lot of people don't know they were using AI. It is built into the technology that they have chosen to use. Have you seen any interesting tech companies come out where you say, "That's an interesting use of AI?”
It's important to learn to modify yourself as a coach to be adaptive and able to listen.
Before I get into the interesting tech, it can be very polarizing. Some people are afraid of AI. Some people have grown to appreciate. When Waze tells you, "I found a faster route," they are doing just that. When a store tells you, "You might like these shoes," they are doing just that. It's nice. You are like, "I do like those shoes." I'm going to spend more time looking at your suggestions. I'm bummed at the stores that don't have suggestions for me. The younger generations, Gen Z, Millennials, have grown up with suggestions or AI, whether they call it AI or not, it doesn't matter. They have grown to appreciate it. The people who are scared of it are scared of change. Having the computer make guesses or assumptions for you, they progressively get better at it. It's fantastic that it's doing that.
Even when you are in a Gmail and writing an email to someone, it exactly knows how to finish your sentence for you, even write more than three words. It's magic.
It's stellar when they get it right. It's happening more frequently.
We talked a little bit about how PI uses AI. Is there big data involved? Is there machine learning on the back end of your application?
There is. We have 45 million data points on humans. We've got hundreds of thousands of data points on jobs. We are gaining hundreds of thousands of data points on team dynamics. You have all of this data. You have this massive data model. We use assessments to get data into the system. They are not a lot of assessments. You have an assessment for a person, a job, culture in a company and for strategy in a company or on a team. You are just looking for fit. There are a lot of algorithms trying to determine fit. My favorite is, if you came in as a captain, you weren't sure about this. Before we met, I said, "Have somebody reports to you or have a spouse or significant other take the assessment? I want to send you a relationship guide, the joys and frustrations of you together. It's not perfect but I love watching someone read this." I wish I had this when I met my spouse because the computer can predict the joys and frustrations of human interaction. It doesn't know certain things will annoy you. It can predict these styles. It's so powerful. There are a lot of algorithmic work done with the size of the data sets we are dealing with.
I have had this idea to build an app. Have you ever heard of 75 Hard? It's a workout app, mental toughness. It's two workouts a day, 45 minutes each, which you don't have to do an aggressive workout. It could be stretching, walking, a gallon of water, read ten pages in a book, no drinking for 75 days. I did it, Q4 of last year. It happened to finish on New Year's Eve. It was perfect. Talk about the day you could use a drop of alcohol. I was like, "I time this perfectly." What it made me realize is having that routine pattern was amazing. I thought, “What if we could do something where it's almost like a pay it forwards app.” Whatever I want to develop. I haven't figured out exactly what we are going to deploy to the world yet. It makes me think, integrating some PI, personality assessment or piece into the app. I'm thinking out loud here. There may be something there. I'm sure you have different partnerships with companies like ours that could embed something into our application.
We have never licensed out our intellectual property for someone to put inside of their product. We have talked about it. The two places that I get the most conversations are our relationship, people who are relationship repair. The other is high school college about what color is your parachute concept. How do you send people off to say, "What type of role will you like?" We are not going to tell you to be a doctor or not. If you are going to be a doctor, are you going to gravitate towards being a surgeon or a specialist? Do you want to be a radiologist where you don't talk to anybody, just look at images? Do you want to be a pediatrician where you have three customers? You have a child and both their parents. We can help people in that way. It's a good business practice to stay focused. It would be fun to take strong IP and leverage it towards big problems.
My business partner wrote a book called Living an Extraordinary Life. The punchline is, "The way to live an extraordinary life is to line up with your talents." It's what we are exactly talking about. My son is going to engineering school at the Colorado School of Mines. He and I are different people. There are some commonalities but he needs to have things planned out in advance. We should continue the dialogue. Robert White is one of the early people in mindset dynamics all around the world. He has graduated 1.3 million people from his courses. He gets to know you deeply in a 4 to 5-day period. John Denver was one of his students. He wrote a song called The Gift You Are as a result of one of the classes that Robert put on. Final question, where do you see AI and sales headed? I call it AI for sales but in sales for sales, what do you think is going to happen over the next 2, 3, 5 years?
We are already starting to quantify interaction with tools like Gong.io, which you probably have already covered numerous times. You are looking at talk times, interruption and use of words. We are going to get much better at quantifying the human interaction so that we get sales. We are trying to get some positive outcome, whatever that outcome might be. It might be buying something, might be taking the next step in the sales process.
As we start quantifying that relationship, it's no different than Moneyball for sales. Wins, hits or getting on base is the currency in Moneyball. For baseball, the close rates and getting people to take action are the currency in sales. It's no different. Think about baseball. When they started, they were looking at regular stats they had. Baseball put in $25 million put spin rotation. They can now say, "This pitcher has more spin rotation." The equivalent is going to happen in sales for metrics that we don't even know yet. Maybe it's eye contact on Zoom. It could be nodding an agreement, an interaction visually, verbally versus if I'm always looking down and I have shifty eyes. We are going to come up with metrics that start proving things more. It's interesting. You being a captain, would not do a ton of talking but solid talking and would not have a problem interrupting someone. You haven't interrupted me almost at all. I haven't noticed it. You are training yourself to not do that, to be a good interviewer. If you were in sales at 22, you probably interrupted all the time as I do.
Natural transition points right here. Have you heard of Balto software?
I have not.
Sales is about getting a successful response or successful outcome.
You talked about Gong. Someone used this and I'm going to steal it from her. She called it post-mortem. The calls are already in the books. You are doing retro and saying, "That call could have gone better and here's how." That's cool. You can still teach the rep. What if you could have a call guide on the right side of the screen that listens to the conversation, and then prompts the rep on what to say and when to say it? If a competitor comes up, you are into that conversation. You can set it so that it's 100% word for word or 20%. Someone who's an advanced seller, you probably would say, "I don't need you, word for word." You should talk about the three core bullets that line up with that given objection. It's very interesting.
It's real-time Gong. That doesn't surprise me. Take that to the next level. Maybe you don't want to talk to the human.
That's going to get interesting, too. I did go to the very first Alexa conference in New Jersey a few years ago. I asked the question, "When does chat become conversational chat?” They were like, "It's already here." As long as you can program it in a chat, you can make it do a conversation. You saw the Google thing where they booked on a restaurant back and forth a couple of years ago. That's going to get interesting. It's hard to build trust between a bot and a human. What Joel Le Bon from Johns Hopkins talked about in my book, AI for Sales, is he drew a box around the part about building trust. He said, "If you are a salesperson, focus there." In a one-on-one Zoom, bots not going to be able to build trust. What are those areas? There's some overlap. When you say you are going to do something and follow up, the AI does the follow-up. AI is helping you build trust because it's helping you do what you said you are going to do. It gets a gray area but interesting talk.
There was an interesting technology that came up using bots and avatars to talk about human interaction. It was more in our space than sales. It was about teaching managers how to give feedback and have tough conversations. You do role play. If you are going to do role play, it's awkward but if you do role play with an avatar and a bot, it's not as awkward. The avatar can get under your skin because it's not a person that you know. It's harder for me to get mad at, Chad, but I can get mad at the avatar. It's funny. I saw this technology and I have tried it. I was frustrated at the computer. I was like, "I want to choke This stupid stuff” No, that's not a great management technique, choking. They’ve got that reaction out of you. You are like, "This could go far," which means we are probably closer to having avatars or bots being able to elicit emotion and build that trust, not very far.
I want to make sure you gave me a question that I almost missed about psychometric data. When hiring your own sales team, like using our own AI to do outreach, I'm assuming you use psychometric data to hire your sales team. What's the benefit of doing so?
You have to understand your sales process, go-to-market strategy and your philosophy on selling. We don't hire the highest extraversion. We are hiring a medium to low extraversion because you get talk times and more listening, lower talk times and more listening. High extraversion, people love to talk. They will take the sales call. They will take it over. We have found that's not working for our particular sales process. If you have a very highly technical sale, it might differ. You are going to get some more structure and formality in the pattern. If you have collaborative selling, say it's a large ACV, long sales cycle where you might pull in many experts. The salesperson might function as a quarterback. All of a sudden, the extraversion and collaboration would come in. They can say, "I'm bringing in these different experts at the right time. You are a guide through that process." If you understand the company's sales philosophy, strategies and go to market, you can optimize the right people for that role.
Having done AI and sales for 3.5 years now, we continue to learn about new technologies, introduce technology that can say, "Who in my network knows the end prospect?" and then ask for a referral, direct through LinkedIn at 50 to 100 requests a day, email, videos. When you start to add up all these technologies, putting on the Iron Man suit, it seems to me that the personality and the person with the right fit become more important than ever. If I can be someone that's ten times more touches than I used to have, maybe I have five virtual assistants that work for me, one in one vertical, one in another. It becomes more critical to get that exact right person in the seat because you are running a lot of different processes all at the same time. It's very important.
I appreciate you saying so. Our number three entry point into a company, usually the CEO or the head of HR, is the head of sales because they are building strategic talent. They build the team that gets the number. It's usually larger sales teams that do it. They are architecting their team. The most interesting question is, “Do you want to hire A plus at the junior role that maybe not make it to the senior role? Do you want to hire B in the junior role that has a graduation path?” You need to think of your entire development process. If you are building a sales team longitudinally over time and a farm system, you may want to put people who can succeed at the end roles. That's an interesting question you have to come.
If you haven't looked into PI, I highly encourage it. The company that I'm doing work for Board of Advisors uses PI. Every single member, before you join, has to sign up and learn what their predictive index is. If you haven't heard of the tech or used it, check it out. If someone wants to get ahold of you, Mike, how would they reach out to you or your company?
It’s ThePredictiveIndex.com. If they want to take the behavioral assessment, I could give them a quick link. Try PI.com/z. That comes to me. They will automatically be sent a report if they want to play with it. Your son can take it.
We might need to do that. Mike, thanks for joining. Thank you, everybody. We will catch you on the next episode.
Have a great day.
- How To Be Black
- Predictive Index
- 75 Hard
- Living an Extraordinary Life
- AI for Sales
About Mike Zani
Helps leaders intentionally and strategically design great teams and a successful culture.
He gets to lead some of the most amazing people in the world. They make going to work energizing.