Labor Expert John Frehse Exposes the Right and Wrong Ways to Treat Hourly Workers

John Frehse, a renowned expert in labor strategy and workplace culture, shares his insights on the often-overlooked segment of the workforce – the hourly employees. With a career dedicated to representing and elevating the conditions of these essential workers, Frehse’s journey is a narrative of passion, empathy, and transformative leadership. His approach to labor strategy champions the dignity and value of every individual in the workforce.

In this episode of the Culture Leaders Podcast, John Frehse delves into the complexities of managing and valuing the hourly workforce. He discusses the importance of understanding the real engine within businesses and the impact of fostering a culture where every employee feels valued and heard. Frehse’s reflections on his experiences offer invaluable lessons on leadership, empathy, and the crucial role of effective communication in driving change.

Join us on the Culture Leaders Podcast as John Frehse takes us through his experiences and strategies for creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment. He shares his thoughts on the crucial role of frontline workers, the necessity of shifting leadership focus to understand and support their needs, and the profound impact this can have on both company culture and operational success.

Notable quotes

“The one that gets me up in the morning every day, not just for work, but everything, is representing a largely underrepresented or not represented at all population, which is the hourly workforce.” – John Frehse​

“If this group of people decided to stop coming to work for a week, it would shut down the US economy.” – John Frehse​​

“If leaders would spend more time understanding where the real engine is inside of their business, we would have a different outcome.” – John Frehse​

“So they’re good at big ideas, they’re good at inspirational stories, and they’re good at financial results. The challenge is… pausing from all of those activities and going to a larger population.” – John Frehse​

​”I need leaders to believe that communication equals leadership… Our only employees are generally told what to do. Things are reported to them. Things are demanded of them. They’re rarely asked anything.” – John Frehse

Useful links

Reach John at:

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnfrehse/
Bio at Ankura – https://ankura.com/experts-and-advisors/john-frehse

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Dr. Jessica Kriegel: John Frehse, what is your why?

John Frehse: So as I’ve said many times in the past, I have a lot of them, but the one that gets me up in the morning every day, not just for work, but everything, is representing a largely underrepresented or not represented at all population, which is the hourly workforce. The people that are working at two in the morning, they’re wide awake, getting the job done, and they don’t get any recognition, and they’re largely forgotten. They’re undervalued, they’re under cared for, and they are incredibly important as part of not just our culture but our economy.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, you’ve told me that in the past and I got really excited about it because so much of culture work, workforce development is focused on the white collar worker, which I know you hate that phrase, but I mean the corporate person who’s working in an office and not on the person on the factory floor.

John Frehse: That’s right. And the people on the factory floors, and that’s where I spent a lot of my time, those people are doing incredibly difficult work at generally lower compensation than one might think. And so they’re underappreciated, but we need them desperately. If this group of people decided to stop coming to work for a week, it would shut down the US economy.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, meanwhile, if you and I decided to stop going to work and everyone who has our title, the world would probably be a better place, less management consultants. Yeah, I need to get a job in a food processing plant if I really wanna be of value to the community, right? In some ways. Yeah.

John Frehse: You said, you need a passport. Yes, exactly. Market’s rebound.

John Frehse: This is exactly it. Yeah, and leaders, I’ll let you ask the questions, but I have a lot to say about this topic.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No, go ahead, if leaders, go ahead.

John Frehse: If leaders would spend more time understanding where the real engine is inside of their business, we would have a different outcome. And the reality is they’re stuck in an office with a CFO, who’s also very valuable, working on quarterly results. And it just, it kills me every time that the people that are driving those results are not even, they don’t have a seat at the table, but we’re not even trying to figure out who they are and what they need.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, but you have to dance a fine line because the people that hire you are the CEOs and the CFOs, right? So you have to speak their language and then you have to tell them everything you’re doing is wrong. Now keep paying me please. Ha ha ha.

John Frehse: It’s, I would like to come in for a cup of tea, and then we’re going to talk about terrible things. No, I mean, I think leaders in general are brilliant people that are very good at what they do. They’re missing, generally speaking, one component, and that is the ability to not do all the things they’re really good at for short periods of time, and shift their attention to the people doing the work.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: We’re going to talk about that later on.

John Frehse: So they’re good at big ideas, they’re good at inspirational stories, and they’re good at financial results. The challenge is, of course, pausing from all of those activities and going to a larger population. And finally, they say, listen, I got 20,000 employees. How am I gonna meet with all these people? So they don’t meet with any of those people, right? It’s too overwhelming to even meet with a handful of them. And so we’ve got to…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Right. Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Where have you seen this done really well?

John Frehse: So I have a bunch of clients that do this very well. And I have a bunch of clients that don’t do this well. I have a very, very large ice cream manufacturer that does this very well. And the CEO who just sold the business, he was the owner and the CEO of, let’s say the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world. He would go out on the floor.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Let’s say. You’re like, let’s say.

John Frehse: You’re Googling. He would go out on the floor and actually meet with employees individually. And he would say things like, tell me what you do, and tell me how you’ve been able to be successful. And they’d tell them all the great stories. And then he would say, what is the one thing that I could do for you that would make this better? And they would challenge the CEO. They’d say, if the ice cream scoop machine that put the ice cream on the cone and the automated machine did this instead of that, we would double production.

And it’s they prove it to me and they would fight it out. And if the hourly employee won the argument, the CEO would go solve the problem. So we ended up being, instead of a fancy guy sitting in a boardroom somewhere, he became a problem solver. One problem at a time, he had the power to do it. He had the experience, he understood the business, and he had the authority to just say, listen, we’re gonna spend $200,000 on a new whatever, because he heard it directly from the people experiencing the work.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Do you consider yourself a problem solver?

John Frehse: I do, sometimes I’m really good at it and sometimes I’m not, but I do think I’m a problem solver and I’m also highly attentional. And so I basically go solve a problem and then I jump to the next problem and the next problem. And there’s a reward in doing that and you get to learn a lot of different things. You get to solve a lot of little problems. But most of the time you don’t get to solve a lot of big problems because you’re on to the next one. Your clients hire you for hiring and retaining talent.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

John Frehse: They hire you for, come up with the best labor strategies and shift schedules. And those things are impactful. I think they’re really important, but you don’t get to stay for 12 to 18 months and see the next thing and the next thing to really build the whole business. So that’s the only shortcoming to the business I’m in.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Okay, so are you a management consultant?

John Frehse: Kind of. I’m a labor strategy consultant. I focus on the frontline workforce, and so I’m not like an executive coach. I’m not the guy that wants to sit in the C-suite and tell those stories. I’m the guy that wants to fix problems for the frontline workforce. So it’s all about labor strategy.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So the people that hire you have to already have this in mind themselves. They have to think, you know what? We need a guy who’s gonna speak for the frontline worker to come and talk to us, right?

John Frehse: And I hope he agrees with everything we say yes Yes, the story is interesting because the phone calls I get are usually I get two different kinds of phone calls phone call number one is I I’m really curious about what you do I heard you speak at this event and I thought it was really interesting Could you give my team an hour so we can ask you some questions? Sure, you talk to them, but they’re not on a burning platform. They’re just curious and so they ask you questions like is there a way that we could go from a five-day operation to a seven-day operation and not add any headcount? That doesn’t work, by the way, for those of you listening.

But they ask a range of questions, and they say, listen, we’d love to get back to you. We’re gonna talk about this offline, and we’ll get back to you. You never hear from them again until the building’s on fire. And they call you, and the call goes like this, Jessica. Excuse me, Dr. Kriegel. The call goes like this.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Thanks for watching!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

John Frehse: Hey John, it’s Dave. Is there any chance you can be here on Monday? And my response is usually Who’s Dave? I don’t know. Like who are you? And they’re like we talked 14 months ago and you gave us these great ideas and now our employees are trying to unionize and we did some things just kind of playing around and it didn’t work and You’re like, oh, yeah, you don’t want to play around. That’s not a good idea You have to have like a real plan you have to include the workforce, which is all

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hahaha!

John Frehse: Leadership teams, again, I don’t like to pick on leadership teams too much, but generally they have, like they read a book that gave them an idea and they’re going to go try stuff out. That’s incredibly dangerous. It’s like giving someone a machine gun and saying like, don’t worry about gun safety, just go pull the trigger a couple of times and it’s like, see how it works out. It’s not a great idea. Same thing with labor strategy. Leaders read books or they have an idea, they say things like, that’s a schedule that I would love.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel:  I’m going to go to bed.

John Frehse: So I’m sure everybody else would love that, even though it’s got 18 hours of overtime built in every week and you never get a Sunday off. It works for my lifestyle, so it should work for everybody else. They never actually ask the workforce, and then they push stuff in, and there’s massive pushback, and they then call me.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So this podcast interviews people who are the masters of movements. They’re people who create movement in a direction. I know why I invited you because I know what movement I think you are mastering, but what movement do you feel like you’re the master of? Do you feel like you could be if you tried harder? Ha ha ha.

John Frehse: But am I like a junior master? I’ve got my yellow belt. I don’t want to stand up. You’ll see my yellow belt But this is this is the this is the movement that I am Obsessed with okay. It is winning the hearts and minds of leaders So they understand that if they believe in the things that I believe in that culture matters They’re treating individuals like individuals instead of numbers asking them questions including them in the process to drive better results

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha ha, yeah!

John Frehse: If they believe in those things, they will behave differently. And we’ve talked about this a hundred times now. The issue for me is we show up to leaders with programs. And those programs are, follow this five-step process. Here’s how we’re going to change retention inside of your organization. We missed the step zero. Step zero is, let’s all believe the same thing first. If you don’t believe what I believe, the steps are never going to work.

If they do work, it might work for a couple of months and then it’s not gonna work anymore. We have to change the belief systems. And my problem early in my career was, I was like, look at the math. You can save $14 million by cutting 14% of your workforce and changing your shift schedule and renegotiating the union contract. I never asked the question in the beginning, what problem are you trying to solve? What does your workforce want? And how can we get a win for them and for you? And that’s changed, I’ve been doing this for 25 years.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm. Mmm.

John Frehse: I start every single engagement now with a workshop with a leadership team where I understand do they believe what I believe? Are their hearts in this? What’s going to take to get them to a place where this is going to be sustainable for them and they’re going to do it responsibly with the workforce. It’s not about ripping out cost savings.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and you know what’s interesting? You’re seeing this, the blowback of doing it through programs with DEI right now. Oklahoma, yesterday, what was that news? They rolled back investment in all DEI programs in the government and the state government and something else, I mean, affirmative action with Supreme Court last year, or I guess it’s still this year, no, last year by the time this airs, got peeled back because everyone went into this idea with like, yeah, okay, fine, we’ll do a DEI program. People think that’s important.

We’ll get behind this initiative. And not everyone held the same belief and because they didn’t hold the same belief, as soon as they were, people were able to rip it out, they did and they are. Please talk to us about DEI, middle-aged white guy. I’d love to hear your perspective on that.

John Frehse: I’m glad you asked Dr. Kriegel. So the problem was the people that were actually implementing the DEI programs and B by the way, a lot of letters, you missed a few, but it’s okay, we’re going to get through it, is

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No, you know that I actually, sorry, as an aside, the National Institute of Health does DEIA. Do you know what A stands for? Accessibility, I’m gonna give it to you just in case you’re lying. It’s accessibility. Okay, anyway, go ahead. Absolutely.

John Frehse: I was going to say absolutely. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, absolutely. Yes. So the problem is we basically said diversity, equity, and inclusion matter inside of our organizations. Diversity of thought drives innovation. All of these things are incredibly important. And then we looked to executive leadership teams that didn’t really believe this. They hadn’t been brought along on the journey. They just were told like,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm

John Frehse: Right? We, it’s, this’ll be another conversation for us, but it’s not legislation that shuts down companies anymore. It’s social activism. Social activism is by far the most powerful threat against any corporation in the world today. And so they said, we’ve got to avoid any kind of social activism, any kind of heat, let’s do this DEI thing. They put in a terrible infrastructure. They hired the wrong people, often figureheads without the qualifications to drive the results.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

John Frehse: And when they did put in people that had the qualifications, there was no buy-in from the rest of the organization. These people were ostracized and maligned for being a figurehead or just a puppet that didn’t really have the chops. And so these are the kinds of things that are largely driven by not getting everybody involved and aligned in the first place, right? It’s you have to do this or else you’re in trouble instead of.

Here’s why this can drive value for our organization. And again, these are businesses, right? We want them to be socially responsible, but they’re businesses. So DI, it was all about a stamp. It was never about doing the right thing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, for the people that it was about doing the right thing, they’re probably still doing it. And for the people that it was about the stamp, they’re like, okay, I guess we’re done with that phase of American culture. We’re gonna go back to whatever it was before.

John Frehse: And the press drove the downfall, at least the short-term downfall, let’s see what happens in the next six months, but the short-term downfall of this because it was a great headline. It started with ESG, DEI, has to happen, we’re going to have two ledgers for all publicly traded companies, their ESG, DEI, sort of how well they’re doing there and then profitability on the other ledger. And then the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times started putting up big headlines like the end of ESG, the death of DEI.

And it really, they were kind of the leading killers of this movement.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune, wrote a book about this, and the subtitle of the book is Searching for the Soul of Business. And I heard him speak at an event a year and a half ago, and I went up to him afterwards. I was like, Hey, so did you find it? It’s like, did I find what? I was like, did you find the soul of business? Yeah. And I mean, he was super pro ESG, and he was also saying that all the CEOs he talked to are pro ESG. I mean,

John Frehse: Yeah.

John Frehse: Nothing in his pockets. Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I talk to CEOs all the time. I don’t know a lot of completely greedy, horrible people CEOs, right? I mean, this narrative doesn’t exist. I mean, it’s like not actually necessarily true. It’s a bunch of people doing the best that they can, but I do see a circular systemic lack of accountability in our system. And it looks like this, the frontline worker blames the leader for everything that’s going wrong, right?

John Frehse: No, I think you’re right.

John Frehse: Totally agree.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I work at a tobacco company. Yeah, but you know, I’m just trying to make ends meet. It’s really the executives who are hurting Americans, okay? Then the CEOs are saying, well, I have a responsibility to our shareholders, the investors. So they’re like, I would love to make changes to make sure people are feeling like they’re well-compensated and engaged, but I have a responsibility to shareholders, so I can’t. So they pass the buck to the investors. The investors, the shareholders are often generally, the general public, right? And even investors that are managing funds, it’s f*****g crazy.

For the general public who are the frontline workers sometimes. So they just say, no, it’s for the people. And then we get in this circle where no one is breaking the cycle. So how do you break that cycle of the absolution of responsibility for this kind of cluster that we’re in?

John Frehse: And I know you have to speak about it on a macro level because we’re on a podcast, but there’s like 25 other layers like the hourly employees talking to their supervisor who’s like, I’d never make you do this plant managers problem. plant managers like, listen, it’s corporate, they didn’t even tell me why. And they’re selling each other out along the way. And it’s one giant sellout circle. So absolutely. And by the way, my wife comes from South Carolina, and she helped with a congressional campaign. And they all wore pins saying tobacco pays my bills.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, totally.

John Frehse: And I have tobacco clients, I have to be very careful. But I will tell you, somehow the use of tobacco is not declining globally, like we thought it would. It’s like, you know, 0.1% or something. People like those smokes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, I actually, I have someone who’s 21 that I mentor and, you know, every, anyway, she’s a smoker and I’m like, oh, do you vape? She said, no, vaping is for losers. I smoke cigarettes. I was like, how original and vintage of you? It’s much cooler. Okay, so answer my question. How do you break the cycle? Yeah.

John Frehse: Thank you.

John Frehse: You sound tough. She’s like, yeah, no, I smoked the cigarettes. Thank you. Great. How do you break the cycle? For me, first of all, it’s like how you break any cycle. Cycles are very hard to break. So you look at the poverty cycle. You know, you look at social workers, they say we can’t break the cycle. We try and we try and we try, but it takes, you know, it’s one out of 200 people will get out of poverty no matter what we throw at it. In the cycle of accountability,

For me, I think this is gonna happen automatically, which I think is really good news, and it has to do with digital transformation and transparency in general. I know digital transformation is like a giant garbage word, but what it means in this world is access to information in a useful format. And through digitization, we’re getting more and more information. So the employee will know the reality of how decisions are being made instead of being told a game of telephone and lies the chain of command as it goes through the circle of doom.

So as we learn the truth more and more, and unfortunately there’s a lot of lopsided bumps in the road where you get a lot of lies for a period of time, lots of information, it’s all wrong. We’re getting better and better at that. And I think that this transparency story is gonna drive accountability at all levels of an organization. I really believe that. And I actually, I’m working on a keynote right now, and I shared this with you earlier, is the title of it is, Will We Ever Learn?

And it has to do with the historical conversation we’ve had about employee engagement and caring for the workforce and doing the right thing. And what happens is this, I agree with you that there’s not a bunch of evil CEOs out there. So first of all, Jessica, yes, that’s true. And they wanna do the right thing. The question is for whom, right? Who are they accountable to? They’re accountable to a board. They’re accountable to shareholders. There’s not a lot of CEOs that say, I’m accountable to my employees. There are some, but there’s not a lot.

First is board, then shareholders. So when you look at breaking this cycle, there’s a range of things that we think are important, but we keep saying, like during COVID, there’s this labor shortage. We’ve gotta stop yelling at employees and treat them like human beings, right? Okay, great. So that’s happening. And then, okay, wait a minute, the economy’s slowing down. 1.8 open jobs just became 1.4 open jobs for every one person seeking work.

John Frehse: A lot of my clients now are a little overstaffed. Even on the hourly side, they’re a little overstaffed. Still a lot of turnover, but they’re hiring so fast, and the turnover’s slowing down. So now they’re like, you know what? Maybe we don’t need to treat them so well after all. So we’re going back into a slowing economy. Slowing economy means we don’t need to care about the employees as much. It doesn’t really mean that, but that’s the translation at the mid-level management piece of this story.

Is now we have too many, we can kill off some of these programs, stop investing, and just coast for a little while. Then we go back into a heated economy where we don’t have enough people to do the jobs and we start saying, oh my gosh, we’ve got to care for you again. We’re going to invest in training. We’re going to do all of these wonderful things around benefits and care for your family. The economy is cyclical and so is our short-term memory about caring for the workforce. You can really track the patterns of the economy.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm

John Frehse: And joblessness and engagement. I was giving a speech five years ago in Kansas City and it was all the US public-private partnership people. So it was like a couple thousand people. And at the end of my speech, I’m so proud of myself that I’ve done this great rousing speech. And this lady gets up to the question, Mike, I love the mic, it’s in the middle of all the aisles and they walk up and you just know it’s gonna go badly. And she says, no one here cares about engagement.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: At Kanye West, Michael Bush, or not Michael, George Bush doesn’t care about black people, but engagement.

John Frehse: And I said, yeah. Yeah, exactly. I was looking at that Bible and it’s like, who was it with him? It was Michael Myers, he was sitting there and he was like. So yeah, it was very bad. I’ve seen that clip a lot. And this woman said, we’ve been talking about this for decades and it just doesn’t matter. And I said, we didn’t have to worry about engagement. We talked about it because we thought it was kind of a cool thing and it made us all feel good.

But now we have to, and as you’ve seen in the last five years, we’ve actually had to at least fake believe in engagement because there haven’t been enough people to do the work.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, what if, wait, let me interrupt you there. What if it’s even more sinister than that? I mean, engagement was invented by management consultants in the 90s that were trying to improve upon job satisfaction. And they thought, you know what? Instead of just liking their job, what if we could get your people to be, engagement is focused on the task at hand. So we want them engaged in work. You’ll get more productivity and sure they’ll be happy, but that’s less important than engaged.

And that’s what I think this engagement obsession came from that. We want more out of our cogs.

John Frehse: All right, so that makes me seem like a jerk. When I say engagement, let’s change the term to employ delight. How do we actually get delight? Now, nobody’s fulfilled in this world, Dr. Kriegel. Look around.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hahaha!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Or fulfillment. Yeah. Wait, sorry. I can’t see you anymore. Your camera just went out.

John Frehse: Well, I can still see me, and that’s all that matters.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Okay, Luke, can you see John?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Okay, nevermind.

Okay, so react to me saying, what if that’s the case? Yeah, just go back it. Okay, we’ll keep going. I just said, yeah, I just said something along the lines of, what if that’s what engagement Rizli is about, the more sinister version I gave you. And you said, well, that makes me sound like a jerk.

John Frehse: Yeah, so what am I reacting to even machine gunning me with hate for so long?

John Frehse: Well, that actually makes me sound like a jerk then. So wonderful. I mean, I think we can talk about employee delight. We can talk about people actually just liking their jobs. We just have to make it much more fancy in order to package it up and sell it off to the rest of the world. But really, the reality is when we look at the data, people generally like their jobs. The job is not the problem. The problem is everything else after the job.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No.

John Frehse: So we’ve got very strong positive feedback in every industry where we play that people like the job, the work itself. When we get down to my management team cares about me, things fall off a cliff. In manufacturing, the norm is 39% of employees say yes, my management team cares about me. That means 61% say no. For communication, it’s 33% say yes. They don’t think we know how to communicate with them, which brings us to another topic.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

John Frehse: That’s important around this movement. I need leaders to believe that communication equals leadership. I need them to believe that. And leadership drives results. I need them to understand that if they stop talking and start asking questions, that we’re gonna have a totally different experience in our culture. They have to actually engage these people. Our only employees are generally told what to do. Things are reported to them. Things are demanded of them.

They’re rarely asked anything. And the worst part is they’re the ones that know how to fix the equipment, drive revenue, increase volume, throughput, what’s going on with the customer, why do we have a problem? They know all of those things. And the worst part is we don’t even ask them. So we’re just kind of guessing and using a leadership team or a management team to try and get together and figure it out when somebody else already has the answer.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and you know the reality this is, we can talk about the system, but this is deeply personal at every level. I mean, the CEOs that I’ve worked with and for that are the kind of CEOs you read about in the books, like the Herb Keller of Southwest CEO that everyone fell in love with and walked the floors and talked to every employee. The reason they’re like that is because that’s what they’re like.

John Frehse: So first.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Not because some management consultant came in and said, you know, you should really listen more. And they were like, great idea, let me start doing that. It’s people who have probably had either really great or really horrible upbringings because I could see how both would get you there. And they understand the power of connection. And that’s just how they are.

John Frehse: I agree with you and by the way, we have, I’ve got a client right now with plants all over the country, all over the United States. And I work with all the plant managers. And there’s only a handful of them that have this secret sauce. And you can’t, there’s a couple problems with them, which I think are wonderful problems, that you cannot keep them in their office. You cannot get them into a management meeting. They don’t take calls from corporates.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

John Frehse: They don’t take calls from corporate. They make somebody else do it because they are out solving problems on the floor. They can’t help themselves. One of these guys, I can barely get him into a meeting with me to talk about all the great things he’s doing because he thinks it’s a waste of time. The other guys that actually need the coaching though, I am just working constantly not to give them, again, a bunch of homework, but to explain and really try to get them the experiences where they can see the results. And so, what I often do with leaders at a plant level, though this works at any level of an organization, is I get them into a room with frontline employees, the people that are the hourly workforce doing the work.

And we have a conversation that they’re not used to, it makes them a little uncomfortable. I ask questions of all of them. And I start a dialogue. And this is very unusual in these environments. But when they all start talking, all of a sudden they start to relate to each other.

The plant manager might say, you know, I’m so glad we solved this problem. And the hourly employees go, you never solved the problem. Next thing you know, they’re talking about real stuff and why it didn’t get solved. Plant manager thought it was solved. You know, he thought this was going on. But again, it’s always nice to be attached to reality.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So your job is just getting people to talk to each other, essentially, let’s boil it down.

John Frehse: Honestly, that’s the most important thing that I do every day, is get people to communicate with each other.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. So when will we ever learn? I mean, what’s the answer in your keynote? How do we break this? I feel like we’re on repeat. The stuff that the thought leaders of today are talking about is the same stuff they were talking about 30 years ago. I still feel like I’m trying to figure out what the ROI of culture is because people need to be convinced. I mean, how do we get over this confusion about the way up?

John Frehse: Well, there’s a couple things that I do. One is I think shaming is incredibly powerful.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Shame on you, listener.

John Frehse: What I do is I tell stories that are so awful and embarrassing and terrible that everybody does. So I tell a story and the audience is thinking, what kind of a jerk? That’s me. I do that. That’s, I do it. We don’t talk about it. These are these, you know, sacred cows that we think are just perfect, wonderful things that we do every day.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

John Frehse: And I tell leaders, if you’re spending more than 50% of your time in your office, you’re failing as a leader. And they all start thinking, wow, my calendar is so full though and I’ve got those budget meetings, but like, yeah, I’m probably failing. So it’s important, like again, the leaders that, and you’ve talked about this too, is the leaders that can’t help, but get out of their office and go engage the rest of the population to learn, those lifelong learners that are not spending all their time with the executive team.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

John Frehse: They’re spending some time with them and they’re doing strategy meetings, but they’re usually applying what they’ve learned from the rest of the workforce to those meetings to make them even more powerful. The honestly, it comes down to transparency and it comes down to telling some very difficult stories. And I tell those stories in all my speeches and people are usually laughing, but also incredibly nervous. I was giving one recently where a guy said, and I think this, this epitomizes one of probably three or four key categories of poor leadership.

I was at a leadership summit, I give the speech, and the guy says, listen, in one of my departments, I’ve got 10 supervisors. Nine of them are terrible. I’ve got one great supervisor, but you just can’t fire nine supervisors. You have to have people there to do all the governing and make sure everybody follows the rules. And so it’s gonna take us forever. We’re gonna do the best we can to try and help them out and teach them to be better. What would you do?

And I said,I’d fire the nine supervisors and frankly I’m embarrassed they haven’t been fired already because the reality is if you keep those nine supervisors, you’re telling your employees you don’t care about them. You’re putting terrible leadership in front of employees that work hard for you every day. Five of them today call your HR team after this speech and say fire the nine people. Do it legally but fire them immediately. And people applauded that and it’s sometimes hard to make these kinds of decisions.

But the reality is great leaders fire people faster. They do, because they’re protecting the rest of the workforce that deserves to be in an environment that’s positive, supportive, helps them grow where they can do their job and make an impact every day.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: But John, we’re like a family here. We don’t fire our family members.

John Frehse: That’s why we’re not like a family. The family member thing is absolute trash. It’s me, we hate to see Netflix did a great job with that. He said, it’s not a family, it’s a sports team. And we’re trying to win championships.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I know.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and if you don’t play well, you are off the team. It’s so true. I mean, I…

John Frehse: Yeah, he said a couple of bad games Kregel might have a couple of bad games, but you have a bad season you’re getting traded

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, it’s interesting what we do as culture consultants and we, I mean, you and me and culture partners, we coach people around getting out of the action trap and coaching to beliefs. So they need to create experiences that will lead to the right beliefs, that will get people to take the action, that’ll get you the results. And at a macro level, that’s what we do. The most powerful experiences are stories.

It’s recognition and it’s feedback, which is what we’re doing with our clients and what we do in keynotes. And we’re trying to change beliefs about the importance of culture and the impact that it has on driving results in business. The problem is there’s this idea that it’s people versus profit and you gotta pick a side. You’re either hard or you’re soft. And that’s not true.

John Frehse: Yeah, and that’s ridiculous. It’s not true, but also you’re bringing up a really important point about, you said the action trap, but I think you need to describe that a little bit more. Can you give us a little bit more detail, Dr. Kriegel, on the action trap? Because this is super important to why the old ways are still the current ways.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha ha!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, everyone wants results. That’s the purpose of business. And all results in business come from the actions that employees take. And that’s as far as most leaders go. And they’re thinking, they stop right there. They say, okay, great. So we need to take action in order to get a result. Let’s focus on action. You guys should do this. Did that get the result? No, let’s try something else. And then they implement a new action and they go back and forth. That’s the rat race. That’s the hamster wheel of the action trap, which is that you’re micromanaging activity and telling people what to do, which is what’s making them feel like a cog in your wheel, as opposed to giving them the autonomy, coaching them to the right beliefs so that they will proactively come up with the actions they need to take to get the results. And that’s really empowerment and culture.

John Frehse: So the reason, that’s exactly what I wanted you to say, thank you, because the reason why things have not changed is when you rule based on, and don’t lead, when you rule based on fear, you do get, fear is powerful, and short-term results do happen, okay? I mean, fear is much more powerful than hope, okay, it is. And it gets you to behave, and it gets you to jump and to work. It doesn’t get a lot of discretionary effort though. I will do my job. And by the way,

That’s all I will do, right? But fear does motivate in a very negative way. And we need to remember this because we still have a lot of old supervisors, both in the white collar office world and out on the frontline workforce, that yell and scream, manage based on fear, and it gets results. It doesn’t get great results. It drives turnover. It’s a toxic culture, but people show up and do their job on the days when they’re actually at work.

So, the problem is it gets just enough done that it doesn’t break the cycle. And Jessica, to your point, like, will we ever learn? If things have got to get a lot tougher, through COVID we thought we learned, we didn’t learn anything. Nobody’s out banging pots and pans celebrating the healthcare workforce that’s saving our lives every day. Those days are over. We forgot about those people, right? When it comes to the manufacturers, the people on the front line that actually made sure the food supply chain stayed intact.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

John Frehse: We’ve completely forgotten about them as well. We’re back to yelling, we’re back to fear, economy slowing down, turnover starting to slow down a little bit in the hourly workforce. It is almost at a dead halt for the salaried workforce. They’re like, last one in, first one out, I’m gonna get fired, I’m not going anywhere. So when we look at all of these trends, it feels like we’re going right back down into the dumpster.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Um, okay, yes. And isn’t fear, I mean, isn’t fear the problem that we’re all struggling with on it? I mean, I have fear. I don’t want to lose my job, right? I mean, that’s, that’s a motivator for me. And I think every CEO, I mean, the system, you know, fear begets fear. We’re in a fear based system, aren’t we?

John Frehse: I mean, if you keep having guests like me on your podcast, you’re gonna be fired by next week. So I mean, I think here is relevant in this in this context. Yes, fear is I mean, fear is like a is a is a very sort of human basic instinct, right? And it drives survival. But have we gotten to a place in our evolution, where we can pause for a second and focus on building the hope?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

John Frehse: Building the structure, building the people, so that they will actually do more, and they’ll be happier, and they’ll be more fulfilled, and they’re gonna get better results, because they believe. And the answer is, I’m talking about the frontline workforce, but the reality is, I can’t get that out of my executive leadership teams that I coach, right? I can, but not all of them, because some of them will not jump to the other side and say, you know what, I’ve been doing it wrong.

There’s a better opportunity out here to motivate my teams, to have them be even more productive, to drive more revenue, more profitability, do all the right things, and it doesn’t cost me any money. I’ve just got to re-prioritize how I spend my time as an executive leader. That’s a tough, tough pill to swallow.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and that’s impossible because people are focused on what’s urgent, not what’s important because it’s short-term versus long-term thinking. And you hear a lot of people talking about the importance of long-term thinking, but how do you do that in a system that rewards short-term results?

John Frehse: So that’s where private equity comes into play. I do think this is a very interesting story because private equity gets a bad rap all the time for squeezing profits. But the reality is when they take a public company private, they’re not worried about quarterly results. They’re worried about a three to five year plan before they sell that asset again. That three to five year period of time allows them to reorganize the company, make investments in technology and infrastructure.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

John Frehse: Have a couple of quarters where you’re losing money. You’re not worried about quarterly results. You’re worried about a three-year plan, a four-year plan, a five-year plan. And for the bad rap that private equity gets, they’re in a perfect position to follow the results pyramid. They’re in a perfect position to do that. We’re gonna change the experiences, to change the beliefs, to drive better actions, to get much better results. They’ve got…

I mean, I think generally private equity got like kind of a piece of that figured out. Usually it has to do with infrastructure investments, capital in general and stuff like that. But I think they’re doing it with leaders too, putting the right leadership and team in place and not worrying about the next couple of quarters.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I feel like you’ve seen the private equity industry grow up a little bit in the last five years. With regards to this, you’re seeing more players that are leaning into that. You’re seeing more people investing in talent and private equity than ever before. It’s like they’ve caught up. They’re realizing, oh, wait a minute. We have an opportunity here.

John Frehse: Yeah, I mean, the head of private equity at KKR, Peter’s like one of the most brilliant people in the space and frankly, he’s gotten a ton of press for it. Overhead Doors is one of several stories that he can tout as a huge success where they bought Overhead Doors, which is a garage door company, very manual manufacturing operation and they made some investments. They give the employees all stock in the company and when they sold it, they were able to sell those hourly employees making 15, 20, $22 an hour, many of them made hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot of them, not a handful.

I’m talking about the hourly workforce really participated in the profitability of the transaction. So I think that those kinds of investments make a lot of sense. And by the way, you wanna talk about an experience that’s gonna change beliefs? I buy a company and I tell all the employees, we’re in it together and you own this with me.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm.

John Frehse: You just experience something that’s gonna dramatically shape a belief system that’s different than any other belief you had about the company before.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and Peter also has a nonprofit about taking ownership, about getting people to understand the value of not just taking ownership at an equity level, right, which is part of it, and that’s the compelling part of the story, but also at an intellectual level, at a hearts and minds level, taking ownership for the results then comes, not just because of the equity, but because of a mindset shift, a personal growth shift that can happen in people. It’s like really empowering to take ownership. It’s much more empowering than, you know, waiting for someone to give you something to do.

John Frehse: Yeah, and I’ve spent a bunch of time with the co-heads at KKR, Joe Bay and Scott Nuttall, and Mr. Kravis, Henry Kravis of KKR, his son and I went to school together and I remember seeing him as a teenager and thinking this is the best dressed man I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m absolutely terrified. But the work that they’ve done as a firm, and by the way, the book, Barbarians at the Gate, was modeled after the Nabisco takeover and Kravis and the whole thing. But like,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha ha!

John Frehse: They have really evolved as human beings and the work that they do is really impactful and fascinating and it’s not all barbarians at the gate. There’s a lot of transformation of communities based on creating value that wasn’t there before.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. So not all private equity people are bad people. Is that what you’re saying?

John Frehse: Well, some of them are my neighbors in New York, so I think they’re all wonderful people. And security code.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, Peter, if you’re listening, we would love to have you on the show so we could talk about what it is that you’ve done to transform the narrative. Because I’ve seen the video, I mean, you were the one who sent me the video of the frontline worker getting told that they’re about to get tens of thousands of dollars or sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. People are on the floor, they’re crying. This is beyond their wildest imagination. And let me, yeah.

John Frehse: Yeah.

John Frehse: And it’s how long you’ve been there, remember? It’s like, if you’ve been here for four weeks, we’re giving you 10 grand. And they’re like, 20 grand and they just. Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: It was 20, 20. Yeah. Yeah, so not only that, there’s a role that leaders can play in taking a stand around that. So Joe Terry, we’re private equity owned, Culture Partners is. Joe Terry, so is Ankara. Joe Terry, our CEO, he said, this is how I do it. Everyone at the company gets equity. I don’t.

John Frehse: So is Ankara.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I don’t run this company if we don’t do it that way. Otherwise I can’t get them behind building value in this business over the longterm. And I mean, it’s just a choice, you know, it’s a choice to make in that moment though, let’s break that moment down. Joe was potentially not gonna get the job, right? I mean, I don’t know if he actually negotiated this with our private equity owners, but there are many times where a leader has to take a stand and it could be at their own expense and it’s the courage to lead. I mean, the opposite of fear.

You have to just be like, this is what I stand for.

John Frehse: Yeah, and the only way they’re gonna take that stand is if they believe that’s a make or break for them to be successful. Whatever success means for them, whatever their definition of success. And for Joe Terry, I just saw him yesterday, there’s no way he’s gonna be a part of a business where everybody doesn’t share in the growth and the wins and everything else. There’s no way.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, I mean, which is interesting because he’s an athlete, right? He’s an Ironman competitor. He is a former NFL player. I mean, there’s a perception out there about the sports athlete and the person who wants to win. And then there’s Joe Terry who shows up and completely blows away those stereotypes. In other ways, completely feeds into those stereotypes. But I mean.

John Frehse: It’s actually difficult. I said, hey, you should go to this great bagel place. He’s like, I don’t eat before noon. I was like, I’m hanging out. It’s disgusting. I can’t be a part of this.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I gotta get Joe Terry. We just gotta ask Joe Terry, so tell us about your fitness and nutrition schedule. I once asked him that in a meeting. I said, so Joe, what do you eat? And he’s like, that’s a long conversation, Jessica. We don’t have time for that right now.

John Frehse: Yeah, what’s the regimen? Tell me the regimen.

John Frehse: Exactly. We don’t know each other well enough.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: But I’ve seen him eat carbs, so I mean, I don’t know. I’m confused. Okay, let’s go to a caller who called in and has a question for you, John.

John Frehse: I know this guy.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah? That’s not a coincidence. We reach out to your fans and we say, any questions you got for John? So how do you know him?

John Frehse: I mean, that was amazing. He’s so dead. By the way, yeah, I don’t want to say what company he works for, but he’s a very interesting financial services business where he basically is involved in all the celebrations and parties. So he’s, oh, it’s like he’s the guy for the experiences. You know, if you’re like a credit card holder and you get to do the experience, he creates all the experiences.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Oh, that sounds fun.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Is he the chief fun officer? Is that his title? It’s something like that.

John Frehse: It’s kind of like that. He also went to the same boarding school I went to. I just saw him at a Christmas party a couple of days ago. So I don’t know when he recorded this, but he’s in big trouble with me because I just did like a group picture with him and the whole thing. Super nice guy. Um, so the, the growth, the growth mindset, how do you instill that into a team?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

John Frehse: So I mean, the story for our clients generally is you have to prioritize the growth mindset. The challenge for our customers often, and what they’re asking us to help them change, is that the priority is a bunch of rote tasks that are administrative, that have nothing to do with driving growth, they have nothing to do with leading people, right? It’s all governance. And so we have to assess what are the valuable things that we’re gonna spend our time on inside of our organization.

And the growth mindset is really, really important. It changes everything else about what you do. But if you don’t understand what it is, you’re not gonna prioritize it. There’s no extra time in the day, Jessica. It’s not like, you know what? I have four hours of work today, what are we gonna do for the other eight? It’s, I have 14 hours of work to do today and I’d like to only be in the office for 12. So what are we gonna fire to start focusing on the growth mindset? I think that is the story that we keep talking about with our clients is,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

John Frehse: What is gonna get deprioritized, so we’re gonna prioritize thinking differently about how we show up for work and how we think about the work we do. And it’s sometimes tricky, especially when you have a lot of different levels of an organization in the same room brainstorming together. Sometimes some very harsh truths come out about how we really spend our time. I had a client recently say that, I’m a supervisor and I’ve been here for 25 years and…for the first 15 years, 80% of my time was spent leading people and 20% was admin.

In the last week, I knew I was gonna do this meeting with all of you. I actually measured what my time is spent on now and now it’s over 80% admin and less than 20% leading people. Yet you expect me to be a great leader. I’m doing governance work on a software system for most of my day. I don’t even get to see the people for maybe an hour a day.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

John Frehse: So we’ve got to again think about it differently.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: What’s your percentage distribution?

John Frehse: Well, you know, I somebody retired in June that was on my team that handled all of the stuff So I was 95% Outleading talking doing engaged with customers engaged with employees Being in different offices around the world with anchor employees collaborating on projects and unfortunately this guy decided that he Deserved to retire which I thought was

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

John Frehse: Ridiculous. Yeah, how dare he? Um, I wanted him to, I wanted him to live in like an expensive city, like New York, where he’d never be able to retire, but he was like Munster, Indiana. And I was like, how dare you. Um, which is also a lovely town by the way, but it’s like you get to retire a little earlier and, uh, and so that game has changed a lot for me. And it’s, it’s been a struggle. You know, it’s been a struggle. Who do I rely on? I love the wall street journal of the New York times that an article about how I do my own expense reports.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: How dare he?

John Frehse: They’re like, what kind of a global leader in labor strategy does all his own expense reports? I’ve had to let go of some of these things as I’ve taken on other administrative tasks. But yeah, it’s a problem for me too. I don’t have it all figured out.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m gonna go to bed.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, I feel like there is a battle for our attention at so many levels, right? Our attention at work, our attention, our phones, Instagram, television, the dog that’s just walked into the room and is eating something while I’m talking to you and I’m trying to act normal, you know? I mean, there’s so many things grabbing our attention right now and that’s half the battle is just getting people to focus their attention on one thing, even in a conversation that you’re having with someone on your team.

Your attention, is it on the person that you’re talking to or is it on the activity that you guys are discussing that needs to get done and the next thing and the administration of that thing, you know? I mean, people aren’t even talking to each other anymore. They’re talking at each other towards an end.

John Frehse: You know, I’ll give you an example and I’ll make you a little embarrassed by your kindness, but we were having dinner together a couple of months ago and I was talking to you and I realized that you were 100% completely zoned in on me and it was a noisy restaurant and everything else and honestly I didn’t really know what to do. I was like, oh my gosh, I’m used to having eyes like…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m sorry.

John Frehse: And you were completely, we were having an incredibly intense conversation and you were a hundred percent zoned in on it. And it was so gratifying knowing that it was, there was a hundred people in the restaurant, but it was just us. And that was super thoughtful and kind. So yes, I, I think it’s very tricky. You know, we, everybody is vying for your time, your everything. And what did Elon Musk’s wife did a Ted talk. Did you see this?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No.

John Frehse: Where she said, I was married to a very powerful man and his superpower was the ability to say no. He said no, I mean, notice they’re not married anymore, but he had the ability to say no to things that he felt were not worth his time. It’s a problem I have. I say yes to all kinds of things. There’s a lot of juniors in our company that wanna spend time talking to me about what I do and how I do it and how they can grow in their career. And it’s really…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha ha!

John Frehse: Flattering that they want to spend time with me. I do a lot of those phone calls and they take a ton of time I like doing them, but there’s other things I don’t do because of those phone calls

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve been struggling with this lately because as we near the end of the year, I feel like activity is ramping up. I’ve got, you know, I’m in school, so I’ve got two 20 page papers due this week. We recorded a bunch of these episodes of the podcast because there’s gonna be a break. I have all these deadlines, you know, I’ve got a TED talk coming, I gotta write the script. There’s a million things and…I can’t get rid of any of those things.

I mean, I could say, fine, I’m too busy to go to school, but the school thing is something I’m passionate about. So that’s not really a solution. I could say, fine, I’m not gonna take my daughter to school, but then I got a daughter at home and that doesn’t work either, right? I can’t really get rid of any of this stuff.

John Frehse: I thought you were going to say then she doesn’t get an education, but you’re like, no, she’s a nuisance because she’s at home. Got it.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, call me out on that totally. I mean, she’s a first grade. What really are they learning in first grade? I mean, come on. You know what’s funny? The other day she got like a 60% on her spelling test. And my daughter is pretty average at English, but she’s a super genius at math. And so she was, she got.

John Frehse: Nothing.

John Frehse: Well she speaks fluent Mandarin which makes up for it, but keep going.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No, she does not. She barely speaks English, but she’s super good at numbers. And we took the spelling test. She got a 60%. I said, how do you feel about the fact that you got a 60% on your English test? She said, I feel fine about it. Spelling is not important. Math is important. I said, okay. Cool. I mean, that’s kind of true. I mean, the reality is eventually she’s gonna learn how to spell. But if you’re not a math person, you’re never gonna become a math person. I’m on a total tangent. Anyway, I’m-

John Frehse: I thought she was gonna say something like, no me gusta.

John Frehse: No, but logic matters. Logic matters and math is logic. So that’s good.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, there you go. But the thing I was saying was about time management. And what I realized is all I have to do is maybe just push out the deadline on these things. I can do 20% less per day and still get it all done, but I won’t get it all done this week necessarily. Maybe it’ll take me two weeks to get it all done. And I think there is a frantic pace that we operate at right now, which eats at our mental health and psyche that makes us make bad.

Fear-based decisions that maybe we could just lower the, slow down a little bit and still do all the things, but do it a little slower. Is that an answer?

John Frehse: It actually, it might be because when we do the studies on the four-day workweek, and I’m not talking about four tens I’m talking about four eights We do studies on four eights

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: You just gotta pop off some quick shift language to make sure everyone knows that you know what you’re talking about. Yeah, okay. Okay.

John Frehse: Oh, sorry, four 10-hour shifts. So Monday through Thursday, 10-hour shift every day to say I’m still working 40 hours, but it’s not an eight-hour day, nine to five, Monday to Friday. There’s been a lot of studies about four 10-hour shifts, and you get a three-day weekend, and people love having Friday, Saturday, Sunday off. And there were no productivity losses there. The interesting, there’ve been some studies that have also said, take those 10s and make them eights, and we still get the same amount of productivity.

And the reason is there’s so much time that we waste every day inside of our work schedule. We have to get certain things done every day, no matter what. And it turns out, if you give me more things to do, I’ll just try to get them done. If you give me less, I’m gonna drag out the day. So if we give people 32 hours a week, they will focus more and they’ll be more effective in those 32 hours. And we’re not seeing any loss. So the question is, do you need an hour for the meeting?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

John Frehse: What’s the t-shirt that says the meeting should have been an email? You know, like those things, right? It’s who came up with an hour meeting or a 30 minute meeting or I did a 15 minute meeting earlier today. That was like the most effective meeting I had all day reviewing a deck. Cause we knew we had 15 minutes. We went right through it. So we’ve got to cut those meetings in half or more and then show up prepared.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: or transform them from meetings into casual conversations. Right now I’m experimenting with, cause this is what happens, right? Someone wants to talk to you, John, they got a great idea about a labor strategy or whatever. And they reach out to you via email, they say, hey, John, I have a great idea about labor strategy. Can we chat? And then you respond with, yeah, sounds good. Here’s my availability. And then they respond with, great, this works for me. I’ll send you the meeting invite. Then you get the meeting invite. It’s usually for four to five days from now, cause we’re pretty busy in the next couple of days.

Then that day comes four days later and you’ve got your 30 minute meeting on the calendar and you get on the call, you do your five minutes of chit chat and then you get into the thing and then you feel like you’ve got to fill the time, right? I’m cutting that all out. When someone sends me an email and says, hey, I have something I want to talk to you about, I say, just call myself. And then they call me right then. What?

John Frehse: Oh, I’m trying to keep up with this. We have a team in Nashville and I love them. I love them.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. Please remember people in Nashville, he loves you, but.

John Frehse: They are highly organized, incredibly structured people. They’re very organized and structured. They send out an email, I pick up the phone, I call, and it’s like straight, they’re pushing me to voicemail all day long. I know that they need to have structure, and I am no structure. I cannot waste time. A five minute phone calls, we can fix the whole thing right now in five minutes, or we could wait five days.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

John Frehse: Problem persists, maybe we don’t have the same memory of the problem at that time, it’s gonna take a half hour, we’re gonna debate all the issues, let’s just solve the problem. Now there’s pros and cons to our approach, right? I think I’ve got this great approach, but it turns out when you go right into solutioning and you don’t debate all the issues first, they always say to me, John you’re trying to solution. I go, I know, don’t we want that? And they say, eventually, but we have to figure out all the problems first.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: This is like the man-woman dynamic. I mean, this is what I say to my boyfriend all the time. It’s like, you’re trying to fix my problems right now. Can you just say, this is the key line for every man that’s listening. And John, I’m gonna give you this advice too, so you can use it on your wife. Just say these words. That must be really hard. That’s all they wanna hear. Anyway, another tangent. Keep going.

John Frehse: I don’t, that must be really hard, Jessica.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: It is really hard when people try to solution all the time.

John Frehse: I know, I’m a solutioner and I don’t always have the right solution but I feel like I can say, I think this is the answer and they can say, what about this and we work it out and it’s great but not everybody thinks that way. And I don’t always get the right answer by the way, right? Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Right. Good point. Okay, here is my last question and it is my favorite question, which is what is one thing that you never get asked in these types of interviews that you wish you were asked more often?

John Frehse: I think if I wasn’t doing this, first of all, the question people always ask is, how does your wife deal with you? And that’s what I don’t want to be asked. That’s not a great question. If I wasn’t doing this, what would I be doing?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hahaha!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: and

John Frehse: I’m not going to answer it. I just thought that you’re. Oh, okay. I think I would teach outdoor survival, which I did in northern Canada. And I worked for our bound for a while when I was much younger. And that was the thing that I loved. I always wanted to be a teacher. And then I thought, okay, I’m gonna be a classroom teacher. And then I did not like to wake for us. And I did not like the education department there. I like Wake Forest, but the education part wasn’t for me. And I thought, okay, what if what if I did like outdoor survival stuff? And I did a bunch of that in northern Canada. And I thought,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: No, you got to answer it. Now that’s my question. Yeah, if you weren’t doing this.

John Frehse: That was great and then I realized, okay, is there a way that I can teach and also get paid? And I think that’s how I ended up here, is I really wanted to be a teacher. And frankly, I wanna be a lifelong learner too. And my clients often teach me more than I teach them. But being a teacher in a different format is I think what I really would have been in another life.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm, that’s beautiful. I think that may be why I do what I do too. I like the idea of being a teacher, but sometimes it’s because you’ve got to teach what you most need to know. I often hear myself say things that I need to learn myself. So maybe that’s it. It’s a form of personal growth, right?

John Frehse: That’s why therapists are an absolute disaster. They’re like… What was it?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: You know what my therapist says to me all the time? Jessica, that must be really hard. That’s where I got that. It’s the best. It’s the best part of therapy.

John Frehse: That’s so good. I had a therapist years ago who I met with her once and then on the second meeting, I walked into her office and she had a whole bunch of books open and face down on the table where she had been researching like, what’s with this guy? So she’s like, you know, books and she goes, do you ever feel like

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. Hahaha

John Frehse: And I was like, not that. And she put that one to pick up another book. And she was like, how about this? And I was like, oh my gosh, we’re learning together. That’s amazing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Ha ha ha!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Oh, so funny. Well, thank you, John, for joining us. It is always a pleasure to learn from you. I really appreciate you taking the time and keep fighting the good fight. I like that you’re out there creating a voice for the frontline worker. There aren’t enough people doing that.

John Frehse: With them.

John Frehse: Thank you for being my partner in crime and for including me in this. I appreciate it as well.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And John, where can people learn more about you if they want to get in touch?

John Frehse: Well, call my home phone number. No. So I do two different things, right? I’m on the board of the Workforce Institute at UKG, but I also work full-time at a company called Ankara. And if you go to A-N-K-U-R-A, Ankara.com, you can find me there. A lot of different articles I’ve written in white papers. And then please follow me on Instagram and I will follow you back. Woody loves travel, all one word. I will follow you all back. I…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

John Frehse: Record all the dumb things that happen to me as I get on airplanes every week and go off and try and solve problems.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And it’s actually really funny. So I highly recommend, I second that recommendation that you follow him at Woody Loves Travel. Okay, thank you, John. Ha ha ha.

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