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It Doesn’t Matter What Color Is Your Parachute If It Doesn’t Open

When 70% of the people hate their jobs and 90% of CEOs fail because they can’t implement new ideas in their own company  it’s time to take a new look at the way we do our work. 

It doesn’t matter what color your parachute is if it doesn’t open. 

The real title, What Color is Your Parachute?, by Richard Nelson Bolles has sold more than 10 million copies since its introduction in 1975. Unlike so many business books, they update it every year.  

Why it’s a good book.  

It’s one of the most thorough books about how to get a job. This book will keep you from being blindsided by something you don’t know, and make sure you have the best possible chance of getting the job. (Unless you’re tall or good looking, in which case you won’t need the book. Studies show that’s who gets hired more often.)  

What’s missing that would make it even better.  

Once you get a job, something more important takes over, how to keep a job. And better yet, how to be a high performer.  

How to fix what’s missing.  

Have a common language about who should be in what role.

Have a process that gets things done handing off strength-to-strength. 

 Quality Guru W. Edwards Deming said “94% of failure is not the people, it’s process failure.” 

These qualities will move you from Function Management to Role Management, which produces three to eight times more. 

 So simple, you can do this on your own. 

 Listen to the podcast here:    

“It Doesn’t Matter What Color Is Your Parachute If It Doesn’t Open   

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to The People Catalysts podcast, Allen Fahden. 

Allen Fahden:  Hello, Karla. 

Karla Nelson:  Hello, how are you my friend? 

Allen Fahden:  Oh, I’m excited because we have a very different podcast today. 

Karla Nelson:  It really is. This book is different. It’s unique, it’s awesome. And then there’s a lot of things that we can talk about focusing on extending the reach. I’ve never seen a book, I don’t know about you, you can jump in here, that has been revised annually since 1970. 

Allen Fahden:  Oh yeah. And they’re very smart to do that because the subject matter changes so drastically and the laws change. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, and technology. Technology has completely changed based off of in 1970 what you would do and what you would do today. And so the book we’re going to talk about is, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. And this particular book, it came out in 1970. It has been translated into 22 languages, 26 countries, and over 10 million copies sold, which is amazing. But I just really thought the revised annually since 1970 was completely unique. Right? How many times have you heard a bestselling book? That’s a real long running right there. 

Allen Fahden:  That’s going to keep the author busy. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And what was interesting too, Allen, is you brought up this book and that we should read it and go through it, and it’s one of the few best-selling business books I never read. But guess what? I’ve never had a job. 

Allen Fahden:  Why would you ever read it? 

Karla Nelson:  That’s probably why I missed this one, even though it was super awesome. I thought there was a lot of really great content on hired. It talks a lot about the personality aspect of that. And I think for today, we should shift that a little bit and talk about, okay, let’s get a job. But let’s keep a job. And I love what your improv actor says about. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, that’s Charlie, the guy who runs our improv group. And he’s been an actor, he’s been in so many films. I don’t think he’s ever played a character, it’s like “salesman.” But he’s been the Johnny Depp and Dustin Hoffman and Martin Landau, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and what he says is that being a good actor will not get you an acting job, being a good auditioner will get you an acting job. Isn’t that what this book is about? Being a good auditioner. 

Karla Nelson:  Yes. And both are critical, right? So you want to get the part, but you also want to do a great job when you get the part. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, you don’t ever want to be banned from the set for life or anything like that because you keep missing your mark and spilling coffee on the director. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, exactly. And so, while the book is completely, I thought, was great when it walked through all the different things that you need to do. And you can go through each of the years. So there is a 2018, I don’t know if they came out with 2019, summary of, What Color is Your Parachute? that you could look at and it walks you down the step by step on how to get a job or as you just said, Allen, how to audition. And so one of the things I thought that was missing from the book to help people be successful, and we have to take into consideration both … We’re talking about the business owner and the person applying for the job. Because there is a simpatico relationship there in the fact that number one, you want to hire the best people and then you don’t want turnover from those people for two different reasons. 

And those are the number one and number two largest costs to any company. It doesn’t matter if you’re small, and if you’re small it’s bigger than corporations. And so thinking about making sure you have the good hire and then retaining that hire. I thought that was completely missing from the book in the process of doing that. And some stats that I read, I can’t even remember the article, where that millennials, they’ll graduate from college, go to work for a corporation, and the first couple months they’re realizing they’re not being paid enough, they’re not in a power of position, and then they’ll sit there for another 12 months. It’s like an 18 month turnover. 

So when you think about that in relation to the book, I just think that they’re missing … Well, one part is to get a job. The other part is to keep a job. And to excel in that. And the language is the piece that’s missing. The language of what do we do in order to hire the right person, number one, and then how do we get something done? It’s that language that I thought that was missing from the book. 

Allen Fahden:  Well, and it’s a huge void and that’s exactly why some of you may have seen our parody covers. We do parody covers of these books to kind of get at the point we’re going to make in the podcast. And in this particular case, excuse me, the parody title is, “It doesn’t matter what color your parachute is if it doesn’t open.” 

Karla Nelson:  Exactly. It’s like get the job but … All right. Right? It’s funny you say that and bring that up, Allen, as I was just at an air show recently and they had these parachuters come out from so high. And of course you see them jump out of the plane and they’re just jumping out, because they don’t open their parachute until so many feet far down, and you’re just crossing your fingers. Please, please, make sure- 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. Please, open. Please. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, please open. And then what’s a great analogy, and I didn’t even think of that until I was just visualizing it is, first is, did your parachute open? The second is, after your parachute opened, are you directionally making that so you’re not crashing into something? Based off the wind and based off of … That’s a great analogy for ideation and implementation, by the way. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, absolutely. That is beautiful. Now, one of the things also is, think about this if you’ve ever been in a job where you are not respected, you’re marginalized for some reason, you’ve got a nasty person as a boss. It’s all about what happens after you get hired. And if you think it’s that important, what you do to get hired, yes, it’s important, but a lot of the research says is that taller people get hired more often and good-looking people get hired more often. So I would say get taller and you won’t need to buy this book. 

Karla Nelson:  Just where stilts, you’re done. Which is so ridiculous. It’s absurd, but you know what? A lot of things are, right? 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. The employer is always thinking about what’s going to happen after the hire and make sure they make the right hire so they can get their own goals reached. But we’ve got to do that a lot more from our end too, us being, say, the applicant. And I would say the same things, it’s not what happens to get you hired, your life could change for the better or the worst dramatically if it’s a good hire or a bad hire. If you go into a good place or not a good place. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And you know what else is a good point of that? Is the fact that the book teaches you how to get a job, but yet after people get a job, 70% of people hate their job. So basically you’re a slave to your income that you need, and we all know that we need that. However, I think the shifting gears, Allen, that you were talking about, is okay, if you get the job then how are you working in that job? And making sure that you’re not one of those 70% of people who wake up every day hating what they do more hours of the day than we spend with our family. It kind of reminds me of that story, Allen, and I know this was early on in your career, when … Well, you can tell the story. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. I ran a creative department in a very large advertising agency and I had 22 people reporting to me. And this is about the time that we started developing what we have today known as the Hoodoo method in The People Catalysts. And we were measuring the core natures of the people with the very first assessment to do so. Found out that out of my creative department, the 22 people, 15 of them were provers. Now, for those of you who don’t know the nomenclature, a prover is somebody who’s going to look at any idea and tell you immediately what’s going to go wrong. And while this is very important, it can also be quite unsettling if you’re in the business of trying to get ideas implemented. So 15 provers. Now, and also one of the things we also know is that certain core natures of people tend to be attracted to certain subcategories of jobs or industries, and most of these people were graphic designers. And graphic designers are big, big attraction for provers because they can sit there and learn- 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. That’s not the right color. You’ve got the bright color. You’ve got the zero zero of that inch not appropriate for that. 

Allen Fahden:  They’re not preserving the integrity of that triangle. 

Karla Nelson:  Which we love. And by the way, and that’s the best thing you’re leaning to is, it’s great, but it can not be great. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. Well and everything has a light side and a dark side. And so one of the- 

Karla Nelson:  You have the Yin and the Yang. 

Allen Fahden:  One of the ways to get the happy side going is to put people in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, implying a process. But the interesting thing was we couldn’t even do that because we had a hundred people in the company, we only had one mover. Now, a mover is a person who intuitively tells you exactly what’s going to happen next and they can set priorities so easily and so beautifully that they can pick an idea out of a hundred ideas and tell you that’s the one that’s going to work. And we just put a little bit of idea number eight into that and here’s the plan to launch it, and give me that, I’m going to run with it. And so movers are the people who get new things done and no other model will identify these people. We only had one. 

And so what were we going to do and what we did was we made her available and took away a lot of her day-to-day job description, her function management duties and got her into what’s called rule management, which meant she could go to a meeting as a mover, identify the best idea and run the whole process. And it worked like crazy. And what happened was we were supposed to double the company with 10% fewer people to get to $15 million, we had started at 7 million, and at the end of the year he shot past 15 million and we did 29.7. $29,700,000. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. The crazy was the booking up the next year. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, the next year we booked up another $44 million and that year we froze every competitor out of the business. Nobody got any new business at yer except us. So, that is like, wow, this is pretty powerful. 

Karla Nelson:  Well, and there you go. A whole team, come on, how did they feel when you were like, “Hey, were going to do twice as much revenue.” We just cut 10% of the employees out of the company and then, “Oh by the way, yeah, you’re going to have to work way harder and do a whole bunch more.” And literally a hundred people, one mover, put them in the right place. Don’t give them a job description. Tell them this is your role, not your function, your role, is somebody that runs around managing all the different departments and things get done. It’s incredible to think, but it’s so different. See that’s the thing, you have to change the status quo of the way it’s always been done. And I think that was the big thing that the company did. 

Allen Fahden:  Oh yeah. And also, two things have to happen. One is you’ve got to have support from management and leadership to make sure that nobody’s going to push back and kill the whole thing, because that’s what happens, especially with a lot of provers in the company. And the other thing is this wonderful belief that everything has to be fair. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Oh yeah. But it’s also the common language. It’s that common language that you talked about that started that, which was everybody in the company had a common language. So they could fit into that space because they were agreed upon that, “That’s your space, that’s my space.” And we have a language for, and I think, again, that’s what we were talking about with the book kind of missed, was the fact that, okay, get a job, but what are you going to do after you get a job? And by the way, we’re not even going to go into the chapter, one whole chapter of, then start your own business. That’s hilarious. 

Allen Fahden:  That’s six new podcasts. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, exactly. Okay, do you have five years? Because there’s a reason 90% of new businesses fail. But I thought one thing, Allen, that I also read in the book that was unique … And again, I never read this book until you brought it up and said, “Hey, we should review it and take a look at it.” And it’s been a bestselling book forever and amazing in its own right, no doubt. But however, there’s always something else that you can look at. The thing though that spoke to me was when the author said you could go to your employer and say, “Hey, these are my strengths,” and that “If you could work around my strengths and just give me a position based off my strengths, that would work really well.” And it was almost like an outlandish kind of thing. It wasn’t like, “Do that,” it was like, “Hey, if you could do that.” 

And it was almost like, okay, after you get the job, then you could do this. It would be totally better if they actually hired that way. But it’s only half the problem because if I pick you, and you leaned into it earlier because you’ve got to be fair, that if I pick you and you say you’re good at that, but I only do it with you and I don’t do it with the entire team, that’s only half the problem. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. Then everybody complains. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Yep, exactly. 

Allen Fahden:  You have one golden child and the rest are victims. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Instead of having a whole bunch of golden childs. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, exactly. And that’s what fair really is, when everybody gets to have the respect that they deserve for how good they are at what they do, and they get to work in their core nature because they get the best chance to succeed. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And that’s exactly what we talked about earlier, which was the function management versus role management. And this reminds me way back in the day when I worked in finance and we were working with a really large company. There’s always an 80/20 rule. So you’ve got your 20% on the top, the crazy producers that are going out and making it happen. And then you’ve got your 80% that you’re constantly trying to make better and teach them and train them and all that stuff. And so you’ve got your producer that is just knocking it out of the park and saying, “Hey, can I get somebody to underwrite the deal and to do all the paperwork?” And the answer was, every single time, no, because that wouldn’t be quote unquote, fair. You’ve got your top producer that’s producing 10 times the amount of somebody and you’re not going to give them somebody to help and support them to do the underwriting and the creation of the documents because it’s not fair? 

Allen Fahden:  We’re going to cut their territory because they’re making too much money and they’re embarrassing senior management, consuming more than the senior managers. And we’re going to cut their territory instead. 

Karla Nelson:  It’s ridiculous. And honestly banks are really, really poor at doing it because everybody has to be seen as, “Oh no. That’s your job description.” And everybody has to have the same job description and if you’re in that position, that’s exactly what you need to do. All those things. And honestly, finance is a great metaphor for this because they’re expecting you to find out and think of the ideas of where to find people, then go find them and figure out this is a person that needs financing, and then underwrite alone, which anybody who’s ever done that before knows. And I don’t care if it’s a home loan, corporate financing, SBA, factoring, you name it, it takes a lot of detailed work to be able to do that. And then you’re printing documents. Okay, literally going into a system and making sure all the documents are correct and then hitting print. That’s 1% of the population. 

Allen Fahden:  Who can do all that. Who can do all of those things, yes. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. As a salesperson. How do you think that goes? They could completely, in my opinion, and this goes probably for a lot of different verticals, but they could completely obliterate the 80/20 by, typically you always have to cut somebody at the bottom, but what if you helped and support that group through that process? How would you be able to dominate your marketplace just by saying that you don’t have to be the 1%? Can you imagine if all you had was people out there and their entire existence was simply finding those people? 

Let me give you an example of that. What if your idea was somebody just called up a painter? Are they going to sell their house? Do they need financing? There’s so many questions that you could ask and ideas if you just sat around and thought of them. But you’re not even giving them the opportunity to think about the ideas. You’re just saying, no, you have to do everything. It becomes stressful. Instead of doing the part of the work that you’re great at. Or as a mover, movers are fantastic at finding people and finding the set of people that you need on the team. Well, what if that’s all they did? 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. I’ll give you an example. We worked with a TV station owned by a big company and they had salespeople, and one of those things that the salespeople had to do was do follow up. And the first follow up thing they would do is they’d send them a handwritten note. And so that means it had to go through the mail and everything. So there were 10 salesmen and nine of them were shakers, one of them was a maker. A maker is just a great detail person. And it took each one of them an hour to write the note and go through all the stuff to mail it, find the address and all that stuff. And it turns out that all the shakers, it took them only 10 minutes to figure out what to say in the letter. And then the rest of the rigmarole, finding the envelope, sealing it, putting the stamp on, getting the address or whatever you do to snail mail a letter, took them 50 minutes, 5-0. Except for one person and that was the maker. 

And the maker who was the exact opposite. It took the maker only 10 minutes to do all that stuff because they were so good at the details. But it took that maker 50, 5-0 minutes, six times as long to figure out what to say because they weren’t sure what to say and they kept killing their own ideas and everything. And so we just did a little swap and the maker wound up doing all the detail work for all 10 letters, to make his own letter and the other nine shakers’ letter. 

And the shakers, they all just did the ideas for their own letter and then one of them also did the idea for the maker’s letter. 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes. So if you do the math, instead of 10 hours to write 10 letters, which would be 600 minutes. Instead you had each shaker do their own idea plus one more, that’s 10 times 10 minutes, that’s 100 minutes. And then you’d have the maker do all 10 details, again, 10 times 10 is 100 minutes. So there’s 200 minutes total. And it was 600 minutes. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. 600 minutes down to 200 minutes doing what is easy for you. 

Allen Fahden:  One letter at a time. Yep, and that’s the kind of results we find again and again and again when people do their strength work and only their strength work, or mostly their strength work, because they do it much faster and they do it much better. There aren’t mistakes to correct. 

Karla Nelson:  And you love it, it gives you energy. My goodness. There’s things I do for free because that’s in my core nature of work. Well, it reminds me of that quote that you talk about with the bosses. 

Allen Fahden:  Oh yeah. “The best bosses are the ones who defend the team from the managers.” 

Karla Nelson:  Who said that? 

Allen Fahden:  Oh, I don’t know. That’s just been kind business cliche. We’ve all been in those places where if you have a really good kind of a mentoring boss, your immediate supervisor who says, “Hey, Jim’s on a rampage right now. Don’t worry about it, I’ll run interference for you. You just keep doing this and that, so we’ll be fine.” 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And I’ll just really quickly talk about this is how movers have it easier is the fact that movers have that in their gut. They don’t even need to like you, they just know that they need you because they want to get the object of the exercise done. And so this is why in not understanding mover, shaker, prover, maker and how you’re responding to them, you’re literally having interface happening just saying, okay, don’t worry about your job. 

Allen Fahden:  Yep. And you know what’s funny too is Peter Drucker, the great management guru says, “The world would be quite different if in companies we started worrying more about the work and quite worrying about the people in the next office.” In the next cubicle is even worse. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Especially in corporate America. But you know, even in small businesses, that’s a big thing. They’re constantly thinking, oh gosh, real estate is really bad. I started out in the title industry and I swear, I was 18 and I thought every person in that office thought I was after their job, which I kind of was. But after I learned the mess that was made, I was like, “I’m off on my own. I don’t think I want one of those things called a manager or a boss because those people have got too much stuff going on.” I wanted to start with a clean slate. 

But for this book, Allen, I think that the really two things, and an amazing book, however, there’s two things that I think would just put gasoline and a match on it is if they really figured out how do we, after we get the job, a common language? So a common language gives you context versus content. We’re not talking about the stuff, we’re talking about what’s happening with the stuff, or as you always say, “The context in the bowl.” 

Allen Fahden:  Marshall Thurber talks about, “The content is the fruit and the context is the bowl,” and that’s where the power is. You don’t work on the the content as much as you work on the context. 

Karla Nelson:  And for some reason the content always has emotion. The context removes the emotion in an organization. And the second thing is, have a process. And by the way, on the employer side, you should have a process for who are you hiring and not hiring for the here’s the job description, which is function management. It’s like, no, what role do we need to sit on this team? Like just like you were saying, the one story, there was only one mover in 100 employees. And that is critical, I think. And there’s two parts. It’s like, how do you be successful after the book? How do you not be one of those people that hates their job? Who wants to be the 70% that comes home drained, frustrated. This hurts our kids. It hurts our relationships. It hurts our finances, it hurts- 

Allen Fahden:  It hurts our health. 

Karla Nelson:  You hit the nail on the head. Your health. Your stress levelAll of these things. So it’s great to get the job, but understanding how do you have a process after that that you can ensure that you’re successful and doing the work that you really excel at. 

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely. So one of the things I’ll just say too about a common language. Even that can help you. When we worked at Amazon with Jeff Bezos and his top management team, his 12 reports were a lot of shaker, provers, but one of the things six months later they talked about was just having a language and they could put people in the right role was very valuable to them. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, that worked out pretty well. I think they were still losing money and I think he’s the richest man in the world now. 

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, it’s a good start. 

Karla Nelson:  But it’s also a testament of look, try, fail, try, fail, try, fail. But you know what? They implemented the process. That’s the other thing. It only works if you work. 

Allen Fahden:  That’s right. 

Karla Nelson:  But I love it. So, apply the language and the process. And remember, there’s two complete different aspects of this. Ideation, what are we going to do? Implementation, command and control of getting it done. And then the balance of those two as you’re running through implementation. 

Allen Fahden:  What could you wind back kicking back up to the ideation stage when you run into a big barrier in implementation. So it’s a real dance. 

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, it’s a dance. Back and forth. And understanding that, and I’ve done this a million times, on our leadership team, I never speak to the maker. I will not send an email. Well, that’s not true. I’ll send it if it’s already an agreed upon execution piece that the prover on our leadership team has trained that person to do. I know that, why? Because I can start a fire. That’s why. Not on purpose, but that’s a red light relationship. Even though I’m the glue on ideation between Allen and our prover, it’s … So when you understand the dance, you can appreciate and love somebody for what they are, instead of being so frustrated by the fact that they’re not that. 

And I think What Color is Your Parachute is a fantastic, amazing book. I think especially if you’re coming out of college, it’s great. I think that the piece that it’s missing is, well, what if you hate your job. It’s not just about, oh, I just got a job. And it’s understanding who you are. It’s understanding your team and how you can be successful within the team that you have. 

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely. 

Karla Nelson:  Any last thoughts on that, Allen? 

Allen Fahden:  Well, it’s interesting, Peter Drucker also said, “How do you succeed today in business?” He said, “There are only two things that you need to do. Marketing and innovation.” And unfortunately, on innovation he says, “Yeah, people work in teams, but nobody really knows how to do that.” And he said this about 15 years ago and that’s one of the things I think that we are talking about here is there is a way to do it and there is a way to solve it, and it’s handing the work off strength to strength. People feel a lot more confident about who they’re getting the work from and who they have to please. And even more importantly, they feel confident about the person they’re handing the work off to because that person is not going to push back, they’re not going to humiliate them, they’re not going to shame them, they’re not going to yell at them. 

Karla Nelson:  Yes, they have a common language to appreciate the other person. And we say this all the time, we are all leaders. Leadership is a ridiculous word. We all lead, we just lead at different times, and we have to be given the power to lead at that time. It’s not just the movers and the shakers that are leaders. We need you all, we just need you at different times. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being with us here, Allen, today. Which was funny because when I first read this book, I thought this one was going to be challenging and of course it ended up being probably one of our longer podcasts. 

Allen Fahden:  It’s funny how that happens. 

Karla Nelson:  No kidding. 

Allen Fahden:  And just remember everybody, tuck your parachute wisely no matter what color it is, because you do want it to open. 

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Because it doesn’t matter if you have one if it doesn’t open. All right, until next time, my friend. 

Allen Fahden:  Thank you. 

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