Bonus Episode: Follow Up Conversation with Billy Taylor

Bonus Episode: Follow Up Conversation with Billy Taylor

You might recall that my guest for Episode #5 was Billy Ray Taylor, a retired Goodyear executive and now the founder and CEO of his firm, LinkedXL. His episode has been the most-listened-to by a factor of five.

We recently did a LinkedIn Live broadcast the other day as a way of sharing the episode with people (we streamed it and people could live chat with us) and then we had a 30-minute follow up conversation.

You can listen to or watch the conversation below. A transcript also follows lower on this page.

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Automated Transcript

Mark Graban (1s):

Hi, it's Mark Graban here. This is a special bonus episode. If you remember episode five that had Billy Taylor, we did a follow-up discussion. We did a LinkedIn Live session today where we did a watch party. We streamed the episode and then we did an additional bonus Q and A together for about 30 minutes. So I'm going to share that conversation here, and I hope you enjoyed this follow-up to Billy talking about his experiences as a manufacturing leader, what he means when he talks about not adhering to the standard. It's always great to hear what Billy has to say, and I think you'll enjoy this additional perspective from him.

Mark Graban (45s):

So as always, thanks for listening, please rate, review and subscribe. You can learn more about the podcast at All right, let's go, Billy. It was fun to revisit that I haven't listened to the whole thing through in a while.

Billy Taylor (1m 5s):

Thank you. Same here. Same here.

Mark Graban (1m 8s):

It's not fun to sit and watch and listen to a recording of yourself for 25 minutes. So thank you for doing that. But first off, open-ended question for you. I mean, are there any other reflections or stories that come to mind, Billy revisiting? What, what you talked about there?

Billy Taylor (1m 27s):

I started with standards are not monuments, right? I have my personal standards and my personal experiences. I'm working with a client now where the evolution of learning around your standards and, and, and what may have been great for you here may not work somewhere else. And so you get so caught up in making, staying your standards, monument. I mean, you're setting yourself up for failure as well, but until you find something better, earn the right to do something better, do not waiver. I mean, that's it that that's the most consistent lesson I've learned.

Billy Taylor (2m 11s):

Hold true to the standard until you earn the right to get something better. And we talked about fail. I mean, I don't mean to stop you. It's not because they have bad leaders, bad, bad standards in the leader. In, in most cases, don't want to hold people to the standard and I'd rather be respected than liked.

Mark Graban (2m 36s):

And, and, and that there are connections there to what Toyota talks about the phrase, respect for people or respect for humanity from your experience. Maybe if you can elaborate a little bit on, you know, sometimes even if a leader is being a servant leader, that doesn't mean people get to do whatever they want to do. This comes back to standards, but can you, can you elaborate on this idea of, of, of respect and holding people to the state?

Billy Taylor (3m 3s):

Okay, let me start with respect is a two-way street. It's not a one way lane, whereas I should show respect to everyone and they don't have to show respect back. And so very clear to start their respect for people. That's a two way street. And as you and most people will respect you. If you're consistent with the standard where the disrespect happens is when you start wavering and your standards are flavors flavor of the month flavor of the day. And so to, to garnish that set respect, it starts with one consistency, but it's a two-way street it's and that's how you build a culture around it.

Billy Taylor (3m 49s):

You know, two of my favorite leaders and I, and I'm a sports fan, but I admire Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team and Bill Belichick. I'm not too fond of their teams per se, but I am very, very, very impressed by the way they adhere to the standard. Now I don't mean to offend anyone, but I'm just keeping it. It's just, I'm going to keep it real. In this discussion. They can take a person from a poverty stricken neighborhood and a kid from a private school and put them within that system where the standard is the standard and they consistently meet or exceed expectations.

Billy Taylor (4m 37s):

And you know what, it's not the championships that they're going to admire. Nick Saban, the head coach for th the, the players that come back, they don't talk about the trophies or the range. They talk about the person that Nick Saban helped them become based on growing up in that culture. And so that's when you're saying respect for people. Listen, Billy Taylor, when he was in operations, especially at the end of my career, I wasn't working on my resume anymore. I was working on my obituary. Here's what they're going to say when I'm not around anymore. And when I, when I post something on social media, they don't say we broke the tire record.

Billy Taylor (5m 18s):

They say, you know, when Billy was here, I could go in and speak to him or Sammy, the janitor still texts me every holiday. That's around the respect, respect around consistency, constancy of purpose and constancy of process.

Mark Graban (5m 35s):

And know, I think you mentioned, you know, the janitor and, you know, I think, you know, respect for people to me means we treat everybody in the organization with respect that we recognize, regardless of educational attainment, that that people can be creative, that people can participate in improvement. Can, can you think back to times as a leader where you, you saw that being violated or where you had to coach people up to saying, look, the standard is such and such about how we treat people within the organization, regardless of, you know, setting aside the numbers and thinking about standards and process and behavior.

Billy Taylor (6m 19s):

Well, I'll talk about decisions I had to make, first of all, starting there on who was going to be on the team, right? At some point I didn't hire just on skill set and what was on your resume, right? I wanted to look at how you treated people. One, how did you respect yourself? Let's start with the respect for yourself. And then the second part of is now, how do you treat people? Because I'll tell you, companies will forsake you. An article is going to come out from a person that used to be on my team that works for another company. He recently wrote a letter, a letter, his name is Jimmy Giles. And he worked for, I think, Whataburger, and he left and he wanted to tell the chicken noodle soup story.

Billy Taylor (7m 1s):

I would tell my team, the company may buy you chicken noodle soup, but who's going to feed it to you. And so it started with that level of respect at home, as well as, as, as well as at work. But for me, what I would look at is though, what do you bring holistically to the table on how you treat people? How do you embrace the people that are on your team? Because if you can't let go without letting loose, then you're going to hold on to everything and your team's going to fail. They're going to fail. You know, again, I don't want to keep going back to sports analogies, but it's like recruiting and building a team in sports on paper.

Billy Taylor (7m 46s):

This person looks like this, this, this, this Greek God, six foot seven. And it could run blazing speed at 4.2 seconds. The question is, can that person play? That's the, that's the first question I want to answer? Can you play? And you can play all that other stuff is no good. You went to Harvard, you went to Yale. I want that, that got you at the table, but can you play? And can you play means, can you respect people? Can you treat people with dignity? And you know, when I would deal with, with people, I think about men, women, children, what I treat my brother that way, would I treat my mother that way?

Billy Taylor (8m 29s):

Would I treat my sister, my daughter, that way leaders should ask themselves that question when they're having those kinds of tough conversations. Now I praised in public. I reprimanded in private. I, you know, I didn't want to do no dog and pony, but I would tell you, there was very few times that I compromise on that standard. When you sit across from me, you knew where you stood.

Mark Graban (8m 58s):

Yeah. And having that standard, the point to makes that, you know, it's not arbitrary, it's not, Billy was in a bad mood. So he was taking it out on me. There's a clear reason. And you can point to that, not to that disrespecting of the standard. Absolutely know when you talk about, you know, can a player play. I mean, there's a difference between the measured speed and being able to run in a straight line and stop quickly and jump high. If you can't work within a team, like I think of, you know, you think of an environment. We see this sometimes in a game, you've got this highly touted recruit. Who's had nothing but success. And then the first time they start facing challenges, you would hate to see, let's say the quarterback, turn on the teammates and yell at alignment for missing a block or yell at a wide receiver for dropping a pass.

Mark Graban (9m 48s):

Some of those key performance actions as you put it are important. If we're going to hit key performance indicators.

Billy Taylor (9m 57s):

Absolutely. And you know, and I'd build a team and I still do it today. I would get this nice resume. And I'd probably read that resume for maybe 10 minutes and noon their interview. I would push it to the side and I would engage in a real cultural discussion. And I had some scripted questions and it would sort out the mindset of the person. It was sorta what, w what were the things that were important to that person? What, what were the drivers in their leadership style? Because if you can't explain it, then you don't understand it, or you're making it up. You're making, I want to hear from you some examples.

Billy Taylor (10m 37s):

And, and, and often when I, when I interview people, I'll ask you, give me your top three strengths. And I said, but if you give me a strength, prove it. Don't just tell me, prove it, show me a newsletter, show me something that would validate what you just said and adults, they get stumped. They freeze up. They want to tell them I work hard. I come to work every day. You know, I'm dedicated those things that you can just throw against the wall. I want to hear how you turn the team. I want to say, talk about what was your greatest lesson, how highlight your favorite mistake and how did you overcome it?

Billy Taylor (11m 20s):

Yeah. Walk me through things you did, because if you, the person can walk me through that. That's the Mark of a good leader. Can they be agile? That's important. How do you manage conflict? You know, nothing's perfect. I always say, do you live with someone? Are you married? If it's perfect. Yeah. Teach me all right. Cause I, I laugh. I sometimes I get two options at home being married. I can be happy are I can be right. I can't be both. So I've been happy a long time.

Mark Graban (11m 58s):

Well, it was a good leadership lesson. They're not always having to be right. Regardless of personal or professional contexts. Right.

Billy Taylor (12m 7s):

You gotta pick your battles. You can't you and I say standards and even write happy or right. I have those conversations around the standard. I don't violate the standard standards. Yeah.

Mark Graban (12m 18s):

Billy, we've got a question coming in here from my friend, Chris Burnham. He asks, can you talk about establishing a standard where there might not be a standard yet?

Billy Taylor (12m 30s):

I think you start first of all, with, with the why what's the case for change, right? What's that purpose on? Why you, why do you even need a standard? And from that, you talk about what's the variance. Why is it everything's sporadic? Why do you need that? And what are you trying to control? And from that, now your grant gang consensus, you know, play catch ball with the key stakeholders, get the feedback from everyone. I think you'll land on a spot where this is what the standards needs to be. And then after you do you create the standard? Don't just throw it out there and hope it sticks. Move to a KPA mindset. Now I have the standards.

Billy Taylor (13m 11s):

If we do these things, which are the standard, we will get this one thing that we need or we require.

Mark Graban (13m 26s):

So let's see. So one of the things I was going to ask you to elaborate on Billy, in the episode, you talked about asking employees, what do you need from me? Can, can you elaborate on, you know, servant leadership a little bit more broadly and what that means to you?

Billy Taylor (13m 44s):

Well, and so in the video, I talk about me working for the team, the team not working for me. Let me start there. Now, what I also mean, you have to be very clear of what, what need is, right. Just think about me. I want a Bentley car. I need a ride to work. They're different. Okay. And people will kind of gravitate to the want versus the need. Now, if I've given you are, we've, we've enabled you with everything you need to be successful. Then the next part of that is you're accepting something.

Billy Taylor (14m 26s):

So you've got everything you need. The next question is, why do you accept that? Why do you accept people? Not following the standards because you have everything you need. Now, sometimes it is a capability or is it a desire? You've got to sort that out. See, I can improve some capabilities, but desire that person doesn't want to be there. And that's kind of like fit and it's to, if you can't convert those leaders, it's better to cut them early than to cut them late.

Mark Graban (15m 0s):


Billy Taylor (15m 1s):

And, and, and what, I mean, I don't mean to be harsh, but I need to be real with you. Okay. When I had to make some of those tough decisions, it wasn't a whole team. It was one or two individuals that were influencing the team. And so I had to make those tough calls and I had to do that. And I would say probably three or four occasions on the new team for alignment. Because if I didn't, that person would tar PIDO the whole team's effort, because it was always centered on them. So I had to make those decisions to, I mean, get some of those bad people off the team. And I did in fact base, right.

Billy Taylor (15m 42s):

It wasn't an opinion based. And I didn't want a lot of people like me around me. That was another core principle for mine. I understood where I was weak for. I wasn't a strong, so I built a team around me that will compliment me. Right. And I would say, you know, it sounds funny until you get to the punch line. This is, yeah. I'm very smart. Right. I've got 13 degrees. I'm very smart. And people say 13 degrees and I'm yes. I was more than enough to earn to. Right. And I hired 11 and I use all 13.

Mark Graban (16m 26s):


Billy Taylor (16m 27s):

Because I, I, I don't know what, I don't know, but I know what I need. And so I don't have time to write the communications letter. I don't have time to write the safety protocol. I don't have time to, but if I build a team around me that compliment me, we build a S a standard of op of an operating system where we manage the internet.

Mark (16m 50s):


Billy Taylor (16m 50s):

And it's very clear if you can see behind me, that would be, those are intersections, those little pictures behind me. I know they're hard to see, and this is just where I'm at at the time, but those are intersections. AllrRight. And if you look at the top, the bigger square, that's how you're doing month to date, to the right. It's your today. But if you look below those three signs, it's like all three of those added up equals the big square up top. Right? So what that tells you is who owns what? And you've you see the picture? That's the owner at the intersection. I want ownership, ownership, trumps accountability.

Billy Taylor (17m 30s):

Right. And when people know what they own, they'll give you their very best to the standard. If you've ever rented a car, when you rent that car, you're going to take care of it. But do you treat that car? Like you do the one you have at home that you own?

Mark (17m 46s):

No. And somebody say, once, this is probably true. Nobody ever washes a rental car before they return it.

Billy Taylor (17m 52s):

That's right. That's fact,

Mark Graban (17m 56s):

One of the things I was, I was wondering if you could elaborate on Billy, you talked about the idea of bringing your holistic self to work. Can you talk a little bit more about what that means to you? Like what's the loss to individuals and the loss to an organization when people are not able to bring their whole authentic self to work,

Billy Taylor (18m 16s):

Right? Th they're checking their brain. People shouldn't tend to check their, their, their skillset, their brains, their innovative ideas. They keep them to themselves because one is not safe and they can't be their authentic self people hold back. And I've really saw this throughout my career, really. And people from my personal experience, I'm not saying this is the case in every other organization. People from India will come to me and they were bright, but the culture will kind of, kind of alienate them. And so with our, what, our ERG and I would walk around us as chief diversity officer.

Billy Taylor (18m 58s):

And I would see these clusters are people eating in a, and they were like-minded and they didn't feel that they could be the authentic self. But then we created platforms where people can, like, it was part of my daily management system for employee resource groups, where it was required that you do one networking event, a quarter, it was required to do one learning event, learning and development event recorder. It was required that you did one community outreach. And that demographic, what that did, was make them, allow them a platform to come to work as their authentic self. And when you can't be your authentic self, then you will go into a shell. Now, this is humbling, but this is true about me and my career.

Billy Taylor (19m 42s):

I moved from a plant-based operation where I was a plant leader to a corporate base. And I literally shut down my first stent. And in corporate America, I'd be in meetings, but I wouldn't say anything. It just didn't feel safe for me. All right. And you know, so I didn't bring my best self to work until I read the book, the four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. And when I read that book, it was life-changing for me, Miguel Ruiz is the Four Agreements. Number one, right? Be impeccable with your words, agreement, number two, right?

Billy Taylor (20m 23s):

Don't assume anything agreement. Number three, don't take it personal. Sometimes people are just who they are in agreement. Number four, always be at your best. And so at that point, I realized that Billy had a value proposition that I could bring to the table. And I became a greater asset for the company. But when people can't up as their authentic self or they're shut down. I mean, you don't have a culture of innovation. You don't have a culture of broke people just coming in to check a box and get their paycheck, go home. Yeah.

Mark Graban (21m 2s):

We need more than that, for sure.

Billy Taylor (21m 5s):

I want you to be who you are. I want you to be yourself. And that's kinda why catch ball and a lot of exercises, one of the best tools I've used, because some of your, your, your, your, your best and brightest tend to hold back sometimes because they're not outspoken, they're introverted. And if you don't have a method that you create that safe space, then you're not going to get those best ideas.

Mark Graban (21m 33s):

One other question that comes to mind, you know, you went, as you were saying, from plant leadership to corporate roles in, in operations, and then you were in a diversity and inclusion role, what did you learn during the time in that role that stands out most to you? Billy

Billy Taylor (21m 53s):

People want to feel valued over everything else. I don't care if you're the janitor or the CEO, people want to feel valued. And people, when they, when, when they do not feel that that their value or their value proposition, they quit companies. They quit leaders. And when you start the engagement process, centering on value value to the customer, right. Value to the company, and just as important value to the, every individual. You know, I have the two foot rule. If I get within two feet of you, I say, hello. I don't care if I know you're not, especially if I'm in a plant, I just say, hello, that little gesture in itself, it makes people feel important.

Billy Taylor (22m 40s):

It feels that they're valued and they want to give you more. They want to, I'm working with a leader now. And I always say, I give people their flowers when I can see him. And this, this, this leader, I'm working with him now, he's actually in the room in the building. And he showed up as a, as a senior leader. He's present. What he's doing is he's setting the standard, right? That's, what's unique. Those are lessons learned. And if you set the standard, everybody else thinks it's safe. It's okay to participate, to engage when you don't have that. Right. When you do something to me, rather than with me, then I still have the shield up.

Billy Taylor (23m 25s):

Yeah. All right. And in some cases, you'll ask me, Billy, is, are we going to, this is what we're going to do. We're going to put this system in place. Here's what I'm saying. Yes. We're going to put it in place. Sure. We're going to put it in place. My mind says, yeah, we're going to do it. Just let me know what to do, but it never, and people can't be their authentic self. But if I asked you, how should we do it? What do you think? You know, that's why we do the purpose map. It's built by the team. So it's not Billy's purpose map. It's the team's purpose map. And everybody we work with, they initially want to call it the LinkedX process. We're doing the LinkedX process.

Billy Taylor (24m 6s):

And I say, from this point forward, do not call it the LinkedIn process. I want you to call it your name, your operating system, the blank, blank operating system. When that happens, it's authentically theirs. And they embrace it. There's owners, right? When, when, when they don't embrace it, then I own it. And when I leave and what's another thing, that's interesting mindset. Think this mindset. When I give a proposal to work with somebody, I don't give them a proposal to stay with them. In the statement of work. It's an exit strategy. I want to be walking away in six months.

Billy Taylor (24m 47s):

That means if you follow the standard 350 degrees for 30 minutes, you'll have a strong foundation that a catapult you, but it's based on ownership and value. They feel valued to graduate from stage to stage. And so my greatest lesson is make people feel valued. And here's my, one of my favorite quotes. If you make people visible, they will make you valuable. Yeah. So every time you make people visible, even at the hotel office, if you speak to those people at the front desk, in the restaurant, just say, hello. Yeah. Why should care?

Mark Graban (25m 31s):

One last sports analogy. I'm going to bring up. Hey, have you seen the show, Ted Lasso?

Billy Taylor (25m 39s):


Mark Graban (25m 39s):

It's, it's in a nutshell about an American football coach. So an American who coaches American football gets hired to come to England coach a premier league, some will cringe at me saying soccer, but you know, come to coach what, what they would call football. And one of the things that really stands out to me, I've been going back and watching it a second time. Ted is new to that club and he meets the equipment manager. Who's like the lowest level person in the entire locker room. And Ted asks him, what's your name? And he he's taken aback. And he said, well, my name's Nate, like you could tell, like nobody ever asks his name.

Mark Graban (26m 22s):

And I think, well, how, how sad or how powerful or, you know, good on Ted. And then later that day, or the next day, coach Ted Lasso says, Hey, Nate. And Nate says out loud, you remembered my name. And it's so simple. But you know, that, that w what you're saying reminds me of this, right?

Billy Taylor (26m 44s):

Yeah. It's not simple. It's value. Right. It's it's value taking that time to, yes, no, but those are standards though. They, it goes back to standard. What's your standard, what your standard?

Mark Graban (27m 1s):

And those key performance actions on how we treat.

Billy Taylor (27m 5s):

Yes. Right. The key performance indicator is too late. Right? The KPAs deliver the KPI. If I want to lose weight, standing on the scale is the KPI. But if I watch what I eat and if I go to bed on time, and if I exercise, those are KPAs, we should spend just as much time focusing and measuring the KPAs as we do, focusing on the KPI. Yeah.

Mark Graban (27m 32s):

All right. Well, I think that's a great thought to, to leave things on. So we're, we're at the top of the hour, so I think we'll wrap up. I want to thank everybody for tuning in and watching live and for submitting comments and questions. I want to thank everyone. If you're watching the recording. Thank you for doing so. I want to thank Billy. Thank you for taking time to sort of build upon that conversation in the podcast. Really appreciate it.

Billy Taylor (27m 56s):

Well, thank you, Mark. And it was humbling to have a global audience from all over the world. I'm flattered. That's the value proposition. I have to be honest, as I say, I'm just a little quiet, shy guy from Texas. And so I thank y'all for supporting me. And there will be a book coming out later in the year, just talking about this, everything Mark and I talk about it. And basically it's called The LinkedX Process, or how do you connect the intersection? So, Mark, thank you for having me.

Mark Graban (28m 26s):

And I apologize. I, a part of my standard of my notes here, I was going to ask about the book and I apologize for not doing that.

Billy Taylor (28m 33s):

We've covered everything. That's going to be in the book.

Mark Graban (28m 36s):

Looking forward to that. And I'll post updates on LinkedIn is that book is becoming available. And please do check out Billy's website, Alright, good to see you again as always Billy. Thanks a lot. Thank you. Thanks everybody. Thanks for listening. I hope this podcast inspires you to pause and think about your own favorite mistake and how learning from mistakes shapes you personally and professionally. If you're a leader, what can you do to create a culture where it's safe for colleagues to talk openly about mistakes in the spirit of learning, please subscribe, rate, and review the podcast.

Mark Graban (29m 17s):

Our website is my favorite mistake, See you next time.

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.