Aligning Personal And Professional Life For Business Growth With Robert Glazer
Tiny steps can lead to big leaps in personal and professional growth to experience what success feels like. Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners picked up this powerful leadership lesson from his transformational journey. Sitting down with Tony Martignetti on the virtual campfire, Robert talks about the stumbling blocks he experienced along the way to growing his business. He also talks about understanding our core values, making hard decisions and figuring out our unique abilities for personal and professional growth.
Listen to the podcast here:
Aligning Personal And Professional Life For Business Growth With Robert Glazer
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Bob Glazer. He is the Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency, and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter, Friday Forward, and The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and international bestselling author of four books, Elevate, Friday Forward, How to Thrive in The Virtual Workplace, and Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and the host of The Elevate Podcast. Bob, it is my honor to welcome you to the show.
Thanks, Tony. I’m glad to be here.
The two key inflection points to my story were I was a very creative entrepreneurial kid. I was bored in school. I’m ADD. I'm not good at sitting down, paying attention, and filling out the boxes. In fact, I was good at figuring out how to attach two boxes that hadn’t been attached before. It’s a common story of the education system not serving me well and me underperforming. When I give a speech, I share a bunch of these report cards for seven years, they’re all like, “We feel like he could do better. He seems capable. He seems like a smart kid but we can’t get him engaged.” I went to college. I went abroad. I got into business marketing.
I was starting to love learning and realized like, “I couldn’t pretend to be interested in something that I’m not interested in.” I don’t know that’s such a bad quality, but in school and checking all the boxes, I can get passionate and into something and I want to learn everything. It was even a transition in my first two years of school in terms of that clicking, being done with my prerequisite classes, coming back and taking the classes I wanted to take and getting all A’s for the first time in my life because I enjoyed what I was doing. I loved it. I was immersed in it. That was one inflection that led me down the business and marketing path. The other was several years ago, which I talked about in Elevate.
It was in the early stages of the business growing and still doing a lot of stuff. I went to a five-day intensive leadership program. I came determined to make some changes coming out of that. I’m very introspective. I needed to understand my core values because I felt like I was values-based but I couldn’t articulate them. When you can’t articulate them, you can’t make good decisions based on them. I spent about 6 to 12 months figuring that out. When I figured that out, I aligned my business to it, my personal life, everything. I always say to people, if you’re reading my bio, all the stuff in there, not only the accomplishments but all the posts that time in terms of books. It proves what’s become my passion.
What I knew is that we all have the capability to do a lot more than we’re doing, not quantity, but quality. It’s a matter of getting aligned in the right direction, understanding your values, what you want to do, what success feels and looks like to you and then doing it. Our limitations are self-created. Those were my two inflection points. As we’ve built the business over the years, some people think my night job is my day job. My day job is still running this large global agency. I’ve started writing books and a lot of this stuff on the side, but a lot of that was because I thought we’d learned some stuff along the way that could help people in businesses do things better, which is my core purpose, as I identified, is to share ideas to help people in businesses grow.
If we come across something like the capacity-building framework or how to do remote work better or I’ve written a lot on trying to eliminate two weeks’ notice, which I’m still struggling with, but I’m determined to do. I inherently want to share those with others because it can help make other organizations better. There is an overarching theme to all of the various things that I do, which falls under that either internally in the company or externally like sharing ideas that help people in organizations grow.
There is so much I want to react to because I see this person who doesn’t settle with what is. You take it to the next level, maybe because of that curiosity that you say like, “I find this thing that works. I want to share it. I don’t want to hold it to myself.” They both feel each other, your ability to be a thought leader. You are a thought leader. It was something that you enjoyed doing. It took your thinking about what works and you kept on driving deeper inside of that and then you start working inside your organization, but then you started to see that, “People outside of this organization could find value in this.” They do feed each other. They may be your night job or your day job but they do complement in many ways. It’s such a great thing to be able to do that because so many people who are great leaders or leaders who have done well in their organization have figure out a way that works and they should be able to take that out and share it with others.
I tested out on different things, so it’s the core values. I know that’s what I will enjoy. Some people like figuring it out because it gives them satisfaction. For me, it’s like, “I like seeing this get applied and make a difference.”
You reinforced it for yourself by doing that. Is that also part of the driver?
We all have the capability to do a lot more than we’re doing, not in terms of quantity, but in quality.
It’s like testing a theorem and then putting it out in the world.
All these things like learning your values and all that, at some point as you started your journey, you are like, “I know a lot of things. I know certain things,” but you realize that you have to go deeper in order to get to the next level or to get to the next place in your life. You have to dig deeper and go down and learn what’s the next level down in order for me to send to that next place.
You got to go back to the beginning. A lot of us are playing the wrong game. We’re chasing some definitions of success that someone in our family had, or a parent had, or, “We’re a world-renowned surgeon when really we longed to be riding in a cabin in Wyoming.” It doesn’t feel good. It’s like, “I got to this mountain. I was supposed to feel great climbing it, but maybe I climbed the wrong mountain.” That for me is back to the values, the basics and figuring out what you want and value. The framework in Elevate around spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional, goes in order, like, “What do you want? How do I learn to improve and get better? How do I maintain my physical discipline and what are the relationships I need? How do I react and not react to things?” All of that works when it’s aligned.
First of all, I have to say this was not prompted but my book is called Climbing the Right Mountain.
I didn’t know that but I read the book The Second Mountain. It’s probably similar.
I love that book too. We’re totally aligned on that. I want to get back to your story. As you navigated your path in business, what were the biggest stumbling blocks that you experienced as you’re growing your business? I’m sure there were things along the way that had you questioning your values.
There are different things along the way. The first thing for an entrepreneur is learning how to let go. We’re a service business. Service businesses typically get to 30 people, and then at that point, it can’t be about the owner doing the delivery. They either go through and they figure all that stuff out and they grow or I’ve seen them go to 40 and 50 and they bounce down to 20 or 30. There is something about that number that seems to be where you’re either like you’re going to build a business or the business is only as good as you and you are broken into too many pieces at that point, doing too many things.
It’s hard in services. You’re dealing with people and relationships. When you’re growing like we have for 30% over several years, there’s a lot of difficult conversations. There’s a lot of things that worked and didn’t work. Now we get bigger even. There’s always 2% of the people that don’t like something that we’re doing. I’m quoting the Steve Jobs quote, “If you want everyone to like you, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.” In 2020, there were a lot of hard decisions to be made and not making them makes it worse.
There’s something about that. I love that you shared that because if you keep on deferring that big decision or not be transparent about what’s going on, then people will make up their own story. They’ll fill the vacuum of that void with whatever they want to say about it or what do they think is going on. That is an unfortunate situation to be in. You said that you are somebody who can’t fake it.
If I’m at a party and someone’s talking to me and the values don’t align. I had to get out of it. I can’t sit there faking to be interested for an hour. There’s some diplomacy that you have to learn in these things, but in some ways, it’s better that I’m authentic about those things. Not that I can pretend to care about things that I don’t care about.
It’s vulnerable to get out there and share something that is going to go outside your doors and provide value. What if people are going to be like, “Who’s this guy? Why is he sharing this Friday Forward?”
That was an accident. Friday Forward starts as a note to my team. I didn’t realize it was going outside the company until people started telling me that. It was written not in any specific way to our company. Once I heard and knew that, I decided to throw some people on it and see what would happen. It blew up from there. I’m an open book. Generally, what you see is what you get. I say about our company, we are not the best company for everyone. I’m not going to say everyone loves working here, but we are what we say we do. For the right people who live in our core values, they love it, but that’s not everyone. We have a specific type of work and value proposition and how we work and otherwise. What I would hope anyone that came here would say, “I picked the wrong team. That wasn’t for me. I’m a passer and that was a running team.”
I hope they wouldn’t say and I haven’t had somebody, “This company sold me a bag of goods and isn’t what they are.” If you’re not going to like me or my leadership, I hope it’s for the reasons that are consistent. I push a lot of change. If you’re someone who wants the status quo, don’t come work for me or my team. You will not like it. If that’s the reason, then that’s not going to change. Many people are afraid to tell people who they are and what they value. If you’re a competitive athlete who wants a company that’s cutthroat, tell people that. There are plenty of people like that. “Eighty percent of the bonuses go to 20% of the people.” Don’t say we value teamwork and all this stuff if it’s not true.
I love you’re saying it because there’s something about it that I truly think has been missing in a lot of organizations and they try to learn this big talent by trying to sell them some fake story. The more honest we can be in the way that we bring in talent, then the more likely we’ll have success in matching the right people to the right jobs.
Don’t take the Dilbert values that everyone says, integrity and all this crap and put it on the wall. See what you mean. There’s a Gandhi quote that, “Happiness is when what you think, say, and do all align.” I paraphrased that. “A great culture is when what it thinks, says, and does are aligned.” My daughter’s a junior right now looking at different colleges and universities. They’re all different value propositions, super different. The 500-person liberal arts school up in Maine versus the 40,000-person school, they’re both great schools but the value proposition is different.
One probably wouldn’t like one if you like the other because you’re looking for something fundamentally different. Our business, we are an agency-client service, fast-paced enterprise client world. If you’re a consensus, deliberate thinking, consensus builder, move carefully, you’ll hate working here. That’s not the environment. Clients want an answer. They want it quick. They want you to make a decision. We’re working remotely. Objectively, I’m not saying that those are good or bad qualities. They are not good qualities for our environment.
You have some employees who go by name recognition alone and they want to be able to check that box while thinking about schools but also thinking about businesses. They want to be able to say, “I did my stint at an Ivy League and therefore, it’s going to get me that recognition. I did my stint at one of the big five firms.” There’s a name recognition that goes with that, so some people suffer through it because they think that’s going to get them the end.
If you haven’t watched the Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal thing on Netflix, this whole chasing all of this stuff for the wrong reasons, there’s a lot of unhappy people doing this. It doesn’t make you more happy. In fact, the data would show that your long-term success and happiness come from being in the top 10% wherever you go. The valedictorian is in the bottom quarter at Harvard of his or her class is probably struggling academically. It might not ever recover. They wanted to be a doctor, but they’re in the bottom quarter of their class at Harvard. That’s not good enough to get into medical school. Let’s say Maryland offered them a free ride and they would be number one in their class. They would have any medical school in the country they could choose from. I remember Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in Outliers, but it is more important to be at the top than where you are.
I love that when you described that because there’s something about it that people often need to check themselves before they get too far down that rabbit hole of saying, “This is the status we’re going after, but wait a minute.” There are other ways to navigate that journey.
As you start your journey, you realize that you have to go deeper in order to get to the next level.
Why is that important to you? The reality is it’s important to the parents sometimes. They said in that documentary, it’s like, “If you didn’t go to Harvard, this is your chance to vicariously go to Harvard.” They put all that pressure on their kid. This whole college rat race thing is not producing better outcomes. We have a whole bunch of people, they’re not smarter than several years ago. In fact, they’re more worn out and exhausted and have more mental health challenges noticeably than other previous generations. If you were measuring this whole college achievement game on an outcome basis, the real-world outcomes aren’t there.
It brings me back to this idea of values if you’re not making decisions based on your values.
Your value is image. Maybe that’s a good decision, but you’ve got to ask yourself why you have that value. If your value was image is most important, then go for it, but you got to know that there are some real issues that come from a value like that, that you might want to talk to your therapist about.
I want to get back into the story. I know we jumped into all these amazing topics. Is there anything about your journey that you took where you ran into some other challenges along your path that we can go backwards in time?
The persistent challenge of what is enough and not jumping into the next thing and exhausting myself. I told a story in Elevate about a panic attack that I had where I thought I was done, I was having a heart attack. That was a wake-up call for me. Unfortunately, these things tend to come in cycles. Particularly as you start on a higher path of achievement, it’s very hard to be able to say, “What’s enough? What’s too much?” I even joked that in launching the book Elevate, I exhausted myself to the point where I probably destroyed my physical capacity. I’m not a great example of practicing what you preach.
We all can fall victim to these challenges even when we’re doing things that we love doing, writing a book that is our passion and running a business that we love. If we don’t check ourselves from time to time, it can burn us out. Tell me more about what it is that you’ve learned about yourself as you’ve navigated your path from being the young entrepreneur who has gone through this path of creating a company, which is thriving at this point, doing well in spite of all the challenges we face right now and having that dual-career of being the thought leader that you are outside of your day job. What have you learned about yourself?
Trying to figure out what’s your unique ability and where you should spend the time. Sometimes you understand the impact that you’re making but not the how or the why. I’m able to clarify things that are complicated for people in a way to make it accessible to them. If I look at all the feedback on Friday Forward and some of the other stuff, that’s what I hear consistently. I went through a cycle after 2020 of going through COVID, bringing on an investor, then jumping in the next couple of things and be like, “I got to slow down.” I fell over the finish line of 2020.
For me, it’s focusing on what is the optimal balance of energy. I can’t always be in do create mode but I also get bored easily and relaxation mode. There’s a 2x2 matrix of trying to find the sweet spot of, “Let’s enjoy the fruits of yesterday’s labor before we’re replanting the fields,” all the time, which is easy to do. My kids are in a sweet spot right now. I’m focused on, age-wise, going to their games, being around, and doing their stuff. I don’t like the word, balance, but trying to get better integration of the different pieces of my life.
That’s such a great insight to bring into that space because a lot of us fall out of that. Not the balance but figuring out how to integrate those two. Sometimes you’re running a sprint for a little while and then you have to stop and say, “Where am I out of balance with the other parts?” This comes back to capacity building. If I’m on the mark here to say, “Where can I build more capacity for other areas of my life where I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been focusing too much in one area?”
What matters? We all need to do less now at the age, middle age. Every week I hear some new tragedy or someone’s spouse who is given three months to live. It happens more often. The stories are very resetting to what’s important. We never know when it’s going to be one of us. How do we use our time? What will we look back on and say it was not a waste of time and it was a waste of time? That puts a lens on prioritization. I had written Friday Forward about reading this book called Chasing Daylight. I’m sitting there on the couch in tears. It has nothing to do with the book. You’re thinking about your situation and how you would do this. Unfortunately, I have to hear that a lot to know that you don’t know what you don’t know when your number’s up, but sometimes it’s hard to get ourselves off the hamster wheel.
I want to stop and take us away from this topic and change topics to say one of my favorite Friday Forwards was Uprooting Hate. The reason why is because when I first started reading it, there was a story in there about a guy who had connected with some KKK members and he had a conversation with somebody who he diametrically opposed views. He had sat down and had a conversation. That Uprooting Hate Friday Forward was a powerful one because it brought back some of those connections of how to have a conversation with somebody who you are in complete opposition with and be open to visiting that.
Our politicians are the worst at this, but we live in this incredibly incendiary time where people are racist or communist. There’s no black and white. We label people on the extremes. We don’t want to even try to understand the people that we disagree with. If I violently disagree with someone or I think they are crazy, I deeply want to understand their perspective and where it comes from. If you wanted to neutralize that, you need to understand the root of it too. There are cycles like the violence that we don’t see and a lot of stuff that we don’t see. Cancel culture is overplayed and underplayed. People like to use it when they’re pissed that the free market is acting against some of them because it is a free market.
Where I think it’s valid is there’s a tendency these days to try to say like, “I don’t like that opinion. Let’s get rid of it.” That’s not good. It’s becoming entrenched. It started with politics, now it’s ideology. It’s everywhere. We’re not going to make any progress. We don’t have to agree but to try to listen to and understand is important. The other example in that word is Julian Edelman of the Patriots, who had done a great job. He is a Jewish football player. A couple of times, people made anti-Semitic comments that I don’t even know that they realize they were making. He reached out and said, “I’m sure you didn’t mean this, but it does a lot of harm. I’d love to talk to you.” He invited one over for dinner, the other to go to the Holocaust Museum with him. That’s assuming positive intent, trying to be part of the solution and not throwing gas on the fire.
Ignoring it does make it go away. Embracing it and facing it shows real courage and the ability to see another person’s perspective and way of being. That’s the powerful way for someone to move forward.
It’s unfortunate, all the algorithm worlds we live in. If you’re spending a lot of time on Twitter or Facebook, you are living in a digital echo chamber.
I appreciate you entertaining that because that was one of the things that I wanted to share. You touch on so many things that are so insightful. I don’t even know where you get all your ideas. What are some things that are top of mind that you want to share with the audience? Are there any ideas or things that have been important that you want to share? You have a book about virtual workplaces.
One of the things I get asked a lot about from Elevate is the spiritual capacity, the values. People are like, “I get it.” At the end of each chapter, there are resources like, “Here’s how you can do it.” People are always like, “I’m into the core values thing. How do I do it?” I was like, “I have these resources, but you got to go down your path like I did because it doesn’t exist.” Parallel to that, we have been creating a curriculum at our company for several years, helping them teach new managers to figure out their core values. After 3 or 4 classes, we had it down to a scalable process where it’s like, “This is working and it’s helpful.”
They wanted to do it with their teams. I sat down. I took all that curriculum. I turned it into a course and I opened it up to anyone. Over 1,000 people have taken it. A lot of people have come back and asked to do it with their teams, with companies. You don’t have to take the course, but it’s the most important work you can do to figure this out. When you can look at your desk and say, “My core values are X, Y B, and D,” the decisions you’ll make, everything, it improves in a way that you can’t underestimate.
I’m a huge fan. In fact, I took the course because I was so curious about how it was laid out. It was a fantastic course.
There’s a lot of hard decisions to be made. Not making them makes it worse.
The other thing with remote work is we’ve survived the pandemic. We got through it. We know people can do it. Now, companies need to put a stake in the ground. Some are avoiding it and pretending that 2020 didn’t happen. I don’t tend to be one that’s hyperbolic, but since the internet deciding to go digital or not go digital several years ago, I remember those CEO saying, “I don’t need to know how to use email. That’s stupid. Someone will do it for me.” What organizations decide now in terms of their future workforce, it’s not a bet the company decision, but it has huge ramifications for what their company is going to look like going forward.
There is no in-between. You got to tell people like, “Are you trying to do hybrid? Are you getting rid of the office? Is everyone coming back to the office?” What’s going to happen is everyone’s going to declare their models and then all the people are going to decide whether they want to partake in that model. You’re going to see the highest turnover ever in 2021 as everyone recalibrates whether that company is right for them. You have people who want to go back in the office and they’re going to get rid of the office. You have people who are calling everyone back in and they don’t want to go. It’d be interesting to see how this plays out. I haven’t seen as many companies. By this time point, they probably need to say, “Here’s what we’re doing going forward. Here’s how we’re supporting it.”
Choose wisely where you go next. Your digital strategy is no longer your digital strategy. It’s your strategy because it’s integrated into every part of your business when I think of how you integrate with the internet and all of the different parts that the virtual world is.
It’s your whole talent strategy. Are you going to be able to recruit from anywhere? There are so many things that this has implications for. A lot of people moved. They moved two hours away. If you call them back in, they might not be coming.
The implications of that are pretty big because there’s also a financial implication for people working in different countries now and you’re employing them virtually, paying taxes in different places.
Do not tell your employees, particularly if you’re not like Microsoft or that size that they can work from anywhere because you may run up $1 million in legal admin finance bills sorting that out. If you’d say that and your employee goes and works from London as a full-time employee, you need an entity in London. You need to have a UK pension program. I don’t think people take into account these things when they tell people that they can work from anywhere.
We’ve gotten into a bit of a rabbit hole, but let’s come back to a different topic. What’s one book or books that have had an impact on you and why? This is always an interesting question. I’ve had people answer some crazy things, but I’d love to hear from you.
Two things that come to mind that are different. The first is Atlas Shrugged. I read that in college. I reread it as I was training for a bike event several ago on audiobook. It had a huge impact on me. I resonated with the entrepreneurial characters and their willingness to take a risk and put it out there. In some ways, now we’re seeing a lot of the characters come to life and some of the discussion that’s going on. It’s incredible writing. I don’t necessarily agree with all of her philosophy, but from a story, it was captivating.
When was that written?
The ‘50s or maybe earlier. It’s as the railroad was being built across the country, so that would probably be earlier than that. That’s a great book. The other book that I probably share with people the most and that is because it is one of the most powerful forces that make us make bad decisions all the time, is cognitive dissonance. There’s a definitive book on it called Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). I’ve given that book to more people. I see that book in reality almost every day in terms of how people do the same. They can examine what they’re doing. They can’t hold these two incongruent beliefs. If you think about all of the polarization of society and the ideology, people are deep into whatever they believe. Even questioning that puts everything at risk for them. As a leader, I have seen the ability to identify and recognize cognitive dissonance as being a hugely important trait.
There’s a story in that book that ties to some of the stuff you’re seeing around the conspiracy theorist. She did this study around that when one of these prophets says that the world is going to end and all their followers packed their house and do all this stuff. Then it passes and the world doesn’t end, you’d think they’d be like, “Scammer.” Whoever the prophet is, picks a new date and they doubled down. This is the essence of cognitive dissonance because you say, “I couldn’t have fallen for that, so it has to be true.” You do the opposite of what you think and do rather than saying there’s no credibility. You are doubly in on this because you’re like, “I’m a rational person. I wouldn’t have fallen for a scam like this. Therefore, it must be true.” This is the type of thinking that gets us stuck in a lot of these rabbit holes.
I can see that. It’s so interesting that this is so current in the way that we are stuck. This has been an amazing session to be sitting here with you and hearing all these stories and insights. I know we touched the surface because you have so many great insights. If people aren’t reading your Friday Forward yet, they should be. If they’re not reading your books, they should be too. Do you have any place where people can find you? What’s the best location?
It’s all integrated now. If you go to RobertGlazer.com, you can get the show, books, courses, everything. There’s a quick link to the core value course, which is CoreValuesCourse.com, but if you go to the website, you’ll find everything there.
Thank you again, Bob, for coming to the show.
Thank you. It’s good to finally see you.
Thanks to the readers for coming on the journey with us. I know you’re leaving with so many great insights. I know that you’re going to go out and buy some books and consume some of the podcasts that Bob has put out there.
- Acceleration Partners
- Friday Forward
- Friday Forward
- How to Thrive in The Virtual Workplace
- Performance Partnerships
- The Elevate Podcast
- The Second Mountain
- Chasing Daylight
- Uprooting Hate
- Atlas Shrugged
- Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
About Robert Glazer
Bob Glazer is the founder and CEO of global partner marketing agency, Acceleration Partners. He is also the co-founder and Chairman of BrandCycle. A serial entrepreneur, Bob has a passion for helping individuals and organizations build their capacity to elevate.
Under Robert’s leadership, Acceleration Partners has become a recognized global leader in the affiliate and partner marketing industry, receiving numerous industry and company culture awards, including:
- Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards (2 years in a row)
- Ad Age’s Best Place to Work
- Entrepreneur’s Top Company Culture (2 years in a row)
- Inc. Magazine’s Best Place to Work
- Fortune’s Best Small & Medium Workplaces (3 years in a row)
- Boston Globe’s Top Workplaces (2 years in a row)
- Boston Business Journal Best Places to Work
Bob was also named to Glassdoor’s list of Top CEO of Small and Medium Companies in the US, ranking #2.
Bob shares his ideas and insights via Friday Forward, a popular weekly inspirational newsletter that reaches over 200,000 individuals and business leaders across 60+ countries. He is the host of the Elevate Podcast, where Bob sits down with CEOs, authors and thinkers to discuss personal growth and helping others live their best lives. Bob is also the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and international bestselling author of four books: Elevate, Friday Forward, Performance Partnerships and How To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace.
A regular columnist for Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur, Bob’s writing reaches over five million people around the globe each year who resonate with his topics, which range from performance marketing and entrepreneurship to company culture, capacity building, hiring and leadership. Worldwide, he is also a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations, especially on subjects related to business growth, culture, mindful transitions, building capacity and performance.
Outside of work, Bob can likely be found skiing, cycling, reading, traveling, spending quality time with his family or overseeing some sort of home renovation project.
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