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Telling 4 Truths

Telling the 4 Truths

Graphic with photos of Jonathan Lambert and Karla Nelson. Text: "Telling The 4 Truths with Jonathan Lambert"

Insight = Foresight + Hindsight.  This is the start of a conversation that leads to Telling 4 Truths that transcend technology and delve into leadership.

Jonathan Lambert describes himself as “the biggest failure who has ever succeeded.”  He is an executive leader with proven success leading and growing high performance teams, structuring partnerships, creating agencies, building platforms and bringing new or reimagined products to market. He specializes in software engineering management, marketing and sales, strategy, cloud, user experience, prototype, and design. He truly enjoys solving client problems, setting strategic direction, coaching ambitious people, and learning something new every day. Jonathan has extensive experience with clients from the NYSE, Euronext, Disney, NBC, Atari, MTG, THQ, Acquia, The United States Federal Government, Playboy, Major League Soccer, and many. Jonathan also has conceived and created multiple successful companies over the last 10 years. His true pleasure is running teams and helping companies win by creating and improving Strategies and Platforms that combine outstanding Engineering & User Experience driven by data-driven Strategy and Design with Data, Cloud, and Operations to support long-term growth and business objectives.

Email: j@bring.company

Twitter: @jlambert

LinkedIn: Jonathan Lambert

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Jonathan discuss Telling the 4 Truths

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalysts Podcast Jonathan Lambert.

Jonathan Lambert:  It’s great to be here, Karla. Nice to have you on here.

Karla Nelson:  Oh, great to have you. Oh, my goodness. Well, we’ve had clubhouse together, we’ve had long conversations, and finally get to have you on the People Catalysts podcast. So happy to have you here today, Jonathan. And you have such amazing interesting entrepreneurial stories, so I know you can’t touch on all of it, but you definitely have to give the listeners and viewers a little bit about kind of your journey, where you started, where you’re at, and definitely you have to mention how the kids were jumping on your servers.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. Well, so I started off working… I was very lucky, I had very close friends in the computer community. I grew up in the sort of hacker scene in San Francisco, and had a number of friends who were like, “Don’t go environmental engineering. Don’t chase the security. Come out here and work on the Internet.” So in 1995 I got a chance to come out here and work at some of the first e-commerce companies. I got to work for-

Karla Nelson:  Wow. ’95 was really the cusp. I mean, wow.

Jonathan Lambert:  It was. It was. I mean, I was here in late ’94 looking for a job, and it was because my friends were early technology people. They’re folks that wrote some of the major platforms that we use even today. And so I got really lucky in that I was in this little circle of people who were working with a lot of the sort of early Internet. And I got a chance to work for an early catalog e-commerce company that’s still around. Sure appreciate the break. It was a company called MarketLive at the time. I was building Tony Robbins’ first website and doing all this kind of stuff, and I worked my way up from there to working for companies like medical, Logiq, which is now GE Medical, and NexsCard, working with my good friend Pete Atkins and building the first kind of online credit card stuff, and then eventually over to Apple, got the big company experience.

When I left Apple I decided to start running my own companies, and so for about the last just coming up on maybe 18, 19 years here I’ve been building essentially just disruptive technology companies, some service companies, and leading some mission-critical projects for startups and fortunes basically. And so what I do is I use technology, user experience and design to build a transformative business platform. So if you want to basically start an initiative to build a new product line, or you want to turn something around that’s not working, a lot of times people get themselves in trouble in the technology projects. I jump in and I rebuild the whole business model, and then bill the company.

Karla Nelson:  Oh, sometimes? Sometimes?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. It’s a lot more common than people like to talk about. Well, I mean, technology-

Karla Nelson:  There’s a reason I’ve stayed in finance, because you have to have the money to be able to execute. But that kind of brings us to a question I have for you, and you have such an amazing way of communicating this. We were doing a clubhouse, and Jonathan jumped in, and we were talking about the difference between education, coaching and training, and how all are important, but understanding the different lanes and how you utilize them. And I think applying that to technology is even more critical than is you say like a service-based industry.

Jonathan Lambert:  I think it’s absolutely the case. One of the things that happens with technology is the pace, right? We’ll talk about time, I’m sure, but the pace increases the amount of exposure. So if you are not functioning well, you’re not steady, technology’s a great amplifier for the consequences of that behavior. Because whatever it is rue not doing right, you’ll get yourself in trouble in a hurry because these projects typically are large, expensive, and require a lot of good functioning to kind of get them built.

Karla Nelson:  And so much of it is not tangible, it’s intangible. And then you’re working with the intangible.

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s exactly right. Time.

Karla Nelson:  That’s a very different space than working with the tangible.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yes. And it’s almost always team-led, which means that the personality matters. So what we were talking about in terms of training versus coaching, I think some of the key points there. If you look at coaching, coaching is typically a one-on-one, and it’s generally something that is designed to improve the person, right? Whereas training is really about teaching a specific skillset. It can be one-on-one, but it’s often one-to-many, and it’s about sort of bringing somebody in. And training is something you typically do at the beginning-

Karla Nelson:  It’s a skills transfer, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. It’s a skills transfer, that’s right. That’s right. So, but if you put these two things together and you start thinking about it you go, “Okay, well, if there’s training…” I mean, in education of course we could talk about it all day long, because that’s the size of it. It’s an ocean, right? It’s just a massive, massive market with many facets. But if we look at just training versus coaching, one of the things that comes up in the coaching work I do a lot with startups is sort of dealing with the anxiety, and how do I make decisions, and what is the framework I can use in order to kind of… Because especially if you’re just starting out in entrepreneurship it’s absolutely difficult, painful, to be at the helm and figure out all of these choices. And so I have a framework that, this is what you’re referring to. I have a framework that I often use which is basically, if you look into the future, you look to the past and you look to yourself, right? So it’s called foresight plus hindsight equals insight.

And so sitting down and making the effort to look at the impact of the decision you’re about to make, right? And you can use a Bezos-style framework of if it’s reversible or irreversible. If it’s irreversible then you really need to take your time with it. If it’s reversible, just make the decision, right? It’s a high-consequence, low-consequence. Those are the pieces. Then you look backwards in time and you say, “What’s my previous experience? What do I know here? What is it that’s going to guide me in my decision making, and am I being objective and unbiased in it?” And then those insights allow you to make a decision without sort of the tendency to kind of second guess and second guess and second guess, because you’re really making an objective decision based on what the future impact is going to be, the history that’s leading up to you. And it can be personal; it can be some of the emotional impact of decisions you’ve made in the past, and then you make the decision…

Karla Nelson:  One of the things I love about that, Jonathan, is you know the WHO-DO method is based off 110 years of marketing research, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. Right.

Karla Nelson:  The law of diffusion of innovations, how people adopt new ideas.

Jonathan Lambert:  Right.

Karla Nelson:  Then you’re actually taking both the early adopter and later adopter and you’re saying, “Okay, let’s look at what could go wrong in the hindsight. Let’s look at where the puck is going, and then let’s come somewhere in the middle and decide what we’re going to do.” And then, is it reversible or not reversible?

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s right. That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  I think that’s a great way to get people comfortable, because either you have those that are very comfortable with doing new things and adopting new ideas but don’t know how to execute them, or you have those that are great at executing them, but unless they’re embracing it it’s really hard to get anything done.

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s it. That’s it. And I think as you accumulate experiences there’s an emotional price to pay for making executive decisions. Not everyone is a sociopath. Most people aren’t, so there’s consequences to decisions inside of organizations.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, no doubt. And kind of interesting, we were just talking with a startup company, actually it was just yesterday, in regards to hiring. And what most people don’t know is that whatever that individual salary is, the studies have shown that turnover costs you 33% of what it costs to hire that person. So if they’re $100,000 a year, it’s going to cost you $33,000 if you can’t get them trained up and then integrated into your system and your process.

Jonathan Lambert:  And those metrics are only attached to the cost of replacing the employee, not the impact to the business.

Karla Nelson:  That’s exact. You got it. That’s where I was going. I was like, “That’s only the hard cost.” But all those different soft costs that go into it; the momentum, the culture, all of those things.

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s the word.

Karla Nelson:  And I would actually venture to say that probably even costs you more over time.

Jonathan Lambert:  I would say it’d cost you a lot more. One of the things-

Karla Nelson:  And that is definitely one of the places that it sticks out, because it is an intangible and you’ve got all these different people that you need. And I always tell everybody, “We need you all. We need you at different times.” So if you haven’t set them up… And actually, scrum has been one of the best implementations of utilizing the law of diffusion of innovations in my opinion, and still doesn’t take into account what your core nature of work is. But I think that’s why a lot of tech companies, they end up going belly-up, because they don’t know what to do with the cash. They spend it in one way, based off the fact that they’re trying to not get in trouble. Or they’re changing their mind every other day, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, I mean, you just laid out some fantastic… I mean, there’s literature written about what you’re talking about. It’s an incredibly important sort of area. I mean, if you look at sure, scrum and lean, that’s something I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at. The ODO method, and lean and agile and scrum, and all these processes that are designed to support ultimately what one of my former business partners who I love dearly used to call basically the hierarchy, right? Which is, first you have communication and then you have process and then you have tools. But if you don’t have communication, your tools and processes don’t matter at all, right? Because no one is going to be talking on them. And so I remember working with a giant software-

Karla Nelson:  Or they’re going to be rolling their eyes, right? They’ll lay it all out and just roll their eyes. Really.

Jonathan Lambert:  Oh, god. Yeah. Well, and I just wonder. A lot of times it’s like the attachment theory around dating, and how all that goes down. When you look at disengagement in the workplace, if there’s not some equivalent metric that I haven’t figured out yet. Because a lot of times it’s the same people that are disengaged, and it has a lot to do- And really that’s the cost of having a bad hire, what you were just talking about, is that you can cause disengagement across the enterprise. The people who made the investment in the business believe in you, believe in what you’re working on, and want to go double down, triple down, and be invested. And then they see you make a bad hiring choice and they’re going, “Man, did I make a mistake?” Or, “I wish this leader had listened to me,” right? Or, “I wish I had been consulted about this.”

And so when you messed up with a key hire, especially if it’s really traumatic, the consequences can come slamming down on the organization and it can be far-reaching, even permanent, in terms of cultural shifts. So I just feel like a lot of times we look for the quantitative information, and that’s been a big part of my learning over all these companies that I’ve built, is the qualitative management is the hard part. I mean, and I assure you, I’ve made every mistake you can possibly make in the book times 10, right?

Karla Nelson:  Well, and that’s why you know they exist.

Jonathan Lambert:  Right, yeah. Yeah, no, yeah. The biggest failure who’s ever succeeded, right?

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lambert:  I mean, that’s basically any good entrepreneur. Yeah, so and that-

Karla Nelson:  Well, I love that, though. Communication, process, and then tools. That is really a great insight in regards to understanding that. Because we always talk, everybody knows the hierarchy in business. Which doesn’t work actually, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right.

Karla Nelson:  That’s the old way of looking at business.

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, and that’s my old partner Kenzie Stewart, who was just-

Karla Nelson:  And…has identified that it doesn’t work, and they’ve had to adjust and amend.

Jonathan Lambert:  Right.

Karla Nelson:  But the communication and making sure, “Okay, we’ve got a solid foundation of communication.” And then you put a process, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yup.

Karla Nelson:  So now we’re communicating, and there’s a process. Now I’m going to give you another tool to be able to… Regardless if it’s something like a DISC, or a Myers-Briggs, or strength finder or something else, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  A tool to support that. I think that’s a-

Jonathan Lambert:  Management tools, right? Well, isn’t it-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. I think that… But you know what? What do we start out with? The bottom.

Jonathan Lambert:  I mean, we start with a hire. Well, and yeah, we’ll-

Karla Nelson:  Well, yeah, but most of the time we’ll give them a tool and just be like, “Nobody’s communicating.” But …

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, yeah. I mean, that’s why tool adoption fails, because it doesn’t address the human needs underneath it. I mean, I worked really intensively to help get Jive Software off the ground. We were one of their first major partners, and they were the social business software company. And I watched as that software grew and grew and grew, and the critical piece that made that software work was that there were highly invested individuals inside of companies that were firing up the implementation and putting all the information into it. It really is critical.

And when you really back up, Karla, when you go back to that core of it, though, around sort of communication process tools, what you have ultimately, again, just to boil the simple out of it, is you’ve got hire well or manage hard, right? I mean, and when you look at it through that matrix of two by three and you go, “Wait a second. If I don’t hire well I’m going to manage hard? Oh.” All of those upper-level echelon tools get used to manage, which is cancerous to organizational culture because you’re imposing things on people, rather than having them organically pick things up and find that they’re helping them do their jobs.

Karla Nelson:  Well, and Jonathan, that really means something coming from your background too, based off of technology, because it shifts. Technology is moving. It is never-

Jonathan Lambert:  Yes. Right.

Karla Nelson:  I mean, it’s a constant. You want to talk about an area that the law of diffusion of innovations has a complete… And the different people that you need in order to create. The craziest thing is we need everybody to create the new innovations. Not just the early adopters, but the later adopters that can execute it. But the fact that the puck is constantly moving.

Jonathan Lambert:  Right, right.

Karla Nelson:  So you’re actually working in a organization that’s in a vertical that’s going nuts constantly, especially today.

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, I mean, has there ever been a time when we weren’t living in constant change? I mean, I thought everything would be run by steam engines by now.

Karla Nelson:  It just gets changed faster now, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, I wonder about that. We have a tendency to kind of look at our current situation and be like, “Yeah, it’s changing rapidly.” Certainly the modern industrial revolution has brought about a pace of change in technology that certainly feels like a burden, like you can feel it. But I wonder if this hasn’t been going on relative to what people… for maybe 150 years or longer, right? I mean, you’re looking at steam… Certainly the level where we’re going, maybe we start from mining coal and now we’re mining coal with a steam engine that does the water dumping for us, and those are major technology shifts. But I think in terms of human adaptation to technology, what we’re really noticing at these later stages of this particular cycle is that our adaptation is getting disrupted. We’re almost in, it feels like we’ve reached a frenzy of technology change where you can’t keep up, right?

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jonathan Lambert:  And where it’s subsuming things that… this lower sort of need to be centered inside of yourself, and I think people really struggle with that. Yeah, but at the same time I think it’s been going on a long time. I mean, you have to look at the airplane, and the airplane will tell you everything, right? 1906 we’ve got Wright Field, and then the next thing you know 30 years later we’ve got B-52s, right?

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lambert:  I mean, that’s a… What? Where did that come from?

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, exactly. Well, that’s really an interesting point. And we were chatting just earlier about VR, and how for a lot of the stuff that’s been adapting it’s like, well, everybody kind of has to catch up too.

Jonathan Lambert:  Right.

Karla Nelson:  So it’s really expensive in the beginning, and so not everybody can utilize it. Or they have to have this computing system behind it, and then that’s less expensive. And it’s just really interesting to think of, and I love the law of diffusion of innovations because it’s how people adopt new ideas. So if you’re looking at technology, or you’re looking at a tool or a management tool in business, or a communication strategy, or any of those things, if you can’t get your team to adopt whatever that is… I mean, that’s exactly what scrum was designed for, to have a team work together to be able to agree upon, right? The project owner, the developers, and the person in between saying, “Hey, let’s play fair here and agree upon everything.” And then also identify where somebody is on that spectrum. And they used it just for a marketing tool, and you can use it for everything. So it’s like the largest body of marketing research about human behavior, and human behavior is critical if you’re going to get anything done. Especially in technology because you’re dealing, like we talked about earlier, just so much of the intangible.

Jonathan Lambert:  It’s really interesting to watch as this generation, the millennial generation, Gen Z generation, are taking a critical eye to some of this. And I really have a ton of respect for the way that they’re doing it. There’s a level of critical thinking going on, that when people are like, “Oh, this generation this, that and the other,” I’m like, “No, no. This generation sees clearly through everything.” It’s really interesting. Like you’re talking about with sort of the law of diffusion of innovation, right, with sort of the early adopters. Early majority, late majority, and what’s the last one? Laggards, right?

Karla Nelson:  Laggards.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. I just love the term laggard. Like, “You’re a laggard.”

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Well, and I love what Simon Sinek said on his.

Jonathan Lambert:  What’s that?

Karla Nelson:  He was like, “These are the people that…” I think he said something about a telephone, still would have a rotary telephone if they could, and so forth.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Everybody’s got their Ford horse, right? So I mean, if you look, you’re really looking at the innovative people being 2.5% of the general population. And the idea of building… And I’ve worked on projects that are full of innovators to the point where there’s nobody doing the work, right? Everybody’s got great ideas, and you’re like, “Okay, you still need to write it down. We have to have a product brief.”

Karla Nelson:  Exactly.

Jonathan Lambert:  And then the early adopters, if you look, it’s really like the early adopters and those early-stage people typically are arguably 15 to 20% of the population, right? So you’re looking at that sort of being the first move.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, it is. And the shakers, 35% of the populations, and they’re thinkers.

Jonathan Lambert:  That’s right. That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  That’s the other part that they don’t put on that scale, that they’re thinkers so they’re in their head. And so we have these negative notions about squirrel, or our chief idea fairy… that’s what they call it in the Air Force… or your head is always in the clouds, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Yup.

Karla Nelson:  They’re the person that looks at something and goes, “Hey, I thought about that 20 years ago.” Yeah, but you didn’t get it executed because you didn’t have the team to be able to then get to that point.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yes.

Karla Nelson:  And then you’ve got your movers that are early adopters, but they’re doers. So that team, I mean, if a shaker doesn’t have a mover to connect with, man, it’s like who do you hand it off to next to actually get something implemented, right?

Jonathan Lambert:  Right, right. Right, and-

Karla Nelson:  So, but I love how you talked about that you have to have somebody do the work and do the end result, and poke a hole.

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, ultimately, yeah. Exactly. And I think we have a lot of processes like the lean process, right? Where we go in and do tests, and prototype test and iterate, right? And then we have the IDEO design process, which is like observation, ideation, rapid prototyping, feedback, iteration and implementation. And these processes, I mean, they’re really common sense, right? Basically, you should basically check to see if people want your crap before you build it. It’s a good idea. Let’s formalize that, and let’s make sure that everyone can get behind that idea, but then let’s make sure that people actually want it. And so now the conversation with investors, and in my lane I run a venture incubator, so the conversation is oftentimes, “Hey, what exactly is the early traction, the early evidence that you’re using to build your business?” And I think that it’s one of those things. And we’ll get back to some of the PR bit, but I wanted to go back and talk a little bit more about sort of the personal dynamic of what it takes to kind of build your company.

Jonathan Lambert:  Because one of the things I was saying in that meeting the other day when we were talking about coaching and we were talking about training is how personal that stuff gets, especially with coaching, and how business, this whole generation… I’m going to tie all this together for you. This whole generation, this Gen Z millennial generation, is like, “Nah. This is all nonsense. This has to matter to me personally. I’m not just going to get on the treadmill and work 60 hours a week in order to get a good 401k. It also has to make the world better, and I need it to be meaningful. I’m just telling you, I need it to be meaningful.” And if you look at that in that context you’re like, “That’s pretty reasonable.” Like, “Yeah, I think I would like to have some meaningful work. I would like that.” And then you go, “Okay, well, what are the frameworks for that?”

Jonathan Lambert:  So if you look at coaching and training and you start thinking about that, looking forward to the consequences, right? Which is where we use our creative visualization techniques to look at the impact of choices creatively. Looking backwards into the history going, “What can I learn? What are the lessons?” Now I’m using a learning framework towards the world. I look at life like a giant school and everything we do is a lesson. So when you look back and you look for the lessons you’re like, “Where in my library of lessons is something that can inform this?” Then you go into the insights. And I really wanted to kind of put the point that I had in that talk we were having the other day.

It comes from a beautiful friend of mine, Daiki Fox, who’s one of my mom’s best friends. And we were having a conversation, and she introduced me. I don’t know where she got it, I’m sure she got it somewhere, but it was one of the most beautiful frameworks I ever heard for telling the truth, which is a great framework for when you’re making these critical decisions. And she said to me, she goes, “First tell the truth to yourself about yourself. Then tell the truth about yourself to others. Then tell the truth about others to yourself, and then you can tell the truth the others about themselves.” And that framework in the context of major organizational decisions has been transformative for me because it makes me look at things from every perspective, like a slap-in-the-face perspective. If you really take that to heart, tell the truth to yourself about yourself. Wow.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lambert:  So I think that these kinds of tools are where technology doesn’t really give us enough, because it’s not asking us to bring our deeper emotional personal selves into the conversation. It’s great at organizing information, but in order to be a great leader you have to be someone who has passion and connection, and ultimately underneath that is oftentimes a deep caring about what you’re building and about the people around you, which comes out in whatever form you want to call it as a form of love, right?

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jonathan Lambert:  So ultimately the question you have to ask inside of that is, are you being loving in your decision making? It doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re enabling people, because you may need to lay somebody off, but doing so in a way that is telling yourself the truth, is telling the truth about your own self to the other person, to listen to what their truth is, and then to tell them what your truth is to them. Imagine if you were applying that framework to a layoff, and you were actually operating with that level of integrity as a company. I think that that’s something that kind of gets missed in the technology conversation.

Karla Nelson:  I love it. That’s beautiful, Jonathan. So how can our listeners and viewers get ahold of you?

Jonathan Lambert:  Well, yeah, I’m pretty easy to get ahold of. My email is just the letter J, @bring, B-R-I-N-G, .company. So that’s the name of the venture incubator I run. So it’s just letter J@bring.company.

Karla Nelson:  Awesome. I know you’ve got like 15 email addresses.

Jonathan Lambert:  Yeah. Yeah, well, I’ve been really blessed to work with a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs in helping to build these kinds of programs with this venture incubator over the last couple of years. I’ve been able to kind of work across fintech and security and artificial intelligence and large-scale e-commerce businesses and see kind of the trends that are going on. But the truth is that we’re all kind of growing and learning together, and I’m learning more from the people I’m working with than anything else. It’s been astonishing to watch how people have been able to adapt and react to COVID.

Karla Nelson:  Well, you know what they say. It’s either grow or die. So Jonathan, it’s been so amazing having you on the show. Thank you so much, and I can’t wait to hear more.

Jonathan Lambert:  It was my pleasure. I look forward to more chats in the future


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