Find a special offer from Bob at the end of the audio podcast.
Every public speaker’s nightmare is to walk onstage, stare out at an audience and look down at the wrong speech. That’s not quite what happened to me. I just prepared for a interview with the EntreLeadership Podcast folks at DaveRamsey.com, and minutes, make that seconds into the interview, learned that my associate, Derek Bell, had made Jim Collins the co-pilot on what I thought was a solo mission. Mike Hyatt and Ken Coleman set up the conversation, and the vastly more interesting show follows.
KEN COLEMAN: Bob Buford was a young businessman in his early forties when a once-in-a-lifetime visit with the great Peter Drucker turned into 30-year relationship. Rick Warren writes about the influence Drucker had on him. He influenced megachurch pastors, and of course management gurus all over the place. How has Drucker influenced you?
MICHAEL HYATT: He’s the first guy that helped me see that management was a science that could be studied, and there were good practices and bad practices. Before that there weren’t a lot of helps. He was the first guy that began to dissect, distill best practices-you could improve your management and leadership. They weren’t calling it leadership back in those days but, yes, he was the granddaddy of all that.
KEN: Before I get into the conversation let’s catch up on you.
MICHAEL: I left Thomas Nelson as the CEO three years ago, great preparation for what I now consider my life’s work: speaking, writing, interacting with people, mentoring. I’m just back from the World Domination Summit in Portland, an amazing event. The people are open and eager to learn more about leadership and how they can have an impact on the world. An incredible generation of new leaders is coming up.
MICHAEL: I blog two original posts per week, and I do a podcast. Michele Cushatt is my co-host, and we ask if it’s possible to win at work and at life. Our premise is that you can’t do one without the other.
The foundation for success in any area of life not to get but to give, and it comes back to you in spades. You must add value if you expect value. The most important thing I found in business is to build trust. That’s when sales happen, when transactions are consummated. The best, the fastest, way to build trust is to give, to add value to somebody else’s life. People will open themselves up; they’ll do business with you, so it’s a brilliant business strategy.
KEN: That segues perfectly into Drucker and Me by Bob Buford, author of Halftime. The foreword is by Jim Collins author of Good to Great and many other wonderful books on leadership. It’s about Peter Drucker, the legend, opening up, as Mike just said, his heart, his head and his time with Bob Buford. We surprised Bob. He thought it was just going to be him in this conversation. He had no idea that the great Jim Collins, his friend, was on the line and you get to hear that.
KEN: Bob, it’s a pleasure to talk with you today-and we thought we’d surprise you. Your friend and Good to Great author Jim Collins is joining us on the line. Jim, thanks for being with us.
JIM: You are great in a whole lot of ways. We could spend an entire hour talking about how great you are.
BOB: Well, and vice versa.
KEN: When we have both of you on together we want to start out asking you each to share your first experience meeting the great Peter Drucker. Bob, start with you.
BOB: I was just intimidated to no end and grateful Peter would see me. He was the leading practical thinker about how people get things done. So, intimidation, let’s say, followed by warmth.
KEN: How old were you?
BOB: I was 42.
JIM: I was 37 and at a frightening turning point in my own arc and trajectory, deciding to leave the traditional academic world to carve my own path. A good friend had facilitated a connection with Peter Drucker, and when I went to Peter’s front door it was a very understated house. I knocked and nothing happened. Knocking again, I hear this voice from behind the door, “Hang on, I’m not young anymore.” Then he opens the door and grabs my hand in his two and says in the most warm, enveloping way, “Mr. Collins, I am so very pleased to meet you. Please come inside.” One of the towering intellects of the 20th century turns out to be warm and gracious-just a marvel of a combination.
KEN: Bob, what in you had the courage to reach out and ask Peter Drucker to give you some of his time?
BOB: One of the ten values I have printed out for myself is “Go big or go home,” and that one meeting turned into 25 years of meetings, all of which I taped on a little Sony. I had read everybody else, then I just shut them aside and said, “I’m doing this the way Drucker says.” And I did, and it worked.
KEN: Jim, this teaches us leaders to maybe put ourselves out there to somebody who can tremendously help us.
JIM: Drucker was somewhat mercurial in whom he would spend time with, though in no system I could discern. My friend Tom Brown had asked me who I admired as a role model, and I said Peter Drucker. He said, “Well, I’ve had the privilege to interview Drucker. If you had a chance to spend some time with him would you do that?” Then Tom told Drucker about a young guy up at Stanford-“You don’t know who he is but he’s at a pivotal point and I think it would be worthwhile for you to spend some time with him”-and I got a call from Drucker inviting me to Claremont.
Of the unexpected luck events in life, the most powerful are “who luck” (Bob Buford crossing my path: wonderful “who luck”) and whatever I had to set aside to be directly influenced by this person, I would rearrange my schedule to do.
When I came home from that long day-six hours, I think-I spent six days writing up my notes. And I still have those notes. That’s the other side of the learning and why Bob’s book is wonderful. It wasn’t just that he spent time with Peter Drucker. The real return was that he took Peter’s learnings so seriously. He wrote out his thoughts. He applied them to building the Leadership Network and a marvelous second half in life. The real lesson is not that Bob met Peter; it’s what Bob did with meeting Peter.
KEN: That leads me to this question. This idea of business for good, not just for good leadership but for the greater good-what would Drucker think of this idea?
JIM: Drucker had this high-minded and principled, far-seeing big picture lens and, at the same time, as Bob writes in Drucker & Me, he could focus on making things work right-the practical side. Drucker’s one overall idea was to make society both more productive and more humane with a deep, deep concern for the dignity of the individual, a little like the Zen master that would whack you with a stick if you got off course. One of his favorite sayings was that good intentions are no excuse for incompetence or lack of result. He always understood that a business is to make more than money. At the same time he was clear that a business manager’s fundamental responsibility is to have solid economics. You have to be tremendously successful and disciplined in business, and you have to see that your role in the world is larger than just making money. Peter would have been comfortable pushing people to do both. And if you couldn’t do both I doubt he would have much interest in you.
BOB: I’d almost say he changed the metric or the outcome of an organization from profit and big bonuses to what he called changed lives. He taught me to measure my work in terms of changed lives. When Peter moved to Britain to get out of Hitler’s nastiness, he went to a lecture by John Maynard Keynes. Afterwards Peter said all Keynes talked about was commodities, money . . . “and I didn’t care much about money.” Peter saw money as the requirement to continue to breathe, I guess, but my whole book and the whole of Peter are about relationships between people.
KEN: Jim, you wrote, “Drucker infused all of his work with a great compassion and concern for the individual, and this is the cornerstone of what made him a great teacher.”
JIM: What Bob was saying a little while ago is central to this. Drucker invested in people and in changing lives and, through them, changing other lives. Imagine a vector going out in time and space, and a teacher affects the trajectory of that vector. Bob, at age 42, is a vector with another five decades of productive, useful work in the world, and you move that vector maybe 10 or 20 degrees. At first, that may not look like a lot, but over a decade or two, three, four decades that change is a gigantic sweep. Then, through Bob, you see Peter Drucker affecting lots of other vectors-a compounding set of changes. Because Drucker changed Bob, and Bob changed others, and those changed the world, Drucker changed the world. Simple equation.
KEN: Jim, it would be fun for our audience to hear about your relationship with Bob, and we can’t cover that all in one question, so just this: what would you say has been the impact of Bob Buford on Jim Collins?
JIM: Marvelous question. If you are really fortunate, certain people open up entirely new worlds to you and make you a better person. Bob opened me to people building these important institutions of churches and non-profits and philanthropy-all those areas that could really channel my brain. More important, I had a poor upbringing in terms of people of character to show me what character is. So I’ve always looked for great father figures, people I can look to. I’m a better person because Bob’s standard and his example are like magnets that pull me upward.
One thing also about his book: in each generation, leaders know they should be acquainted with Peter Drucker, but 10,000 pages is like drinking from the ocean. Where do they start? Drucker & Me is a fabulous way to start to know Drucker and his ideas, and through that to become more deeply immersed in his writings. I suspect Peter would be pleased and proud.
KEN: Bob, from Drucker & Me, if you could share one thing from your heart to these potential readers, what would you say?
BOB: I’d like to read what Peter Drucker would say. After a big Getty Center event to celebrate Peter’s 90th birthday, he wrote to Linda and me: “Above all this is a letter of profound thanks for what you Bob have done for me for the third half of my life, the last 15 years or so. It is through you and your friendship that I have gained in my old age a new and significant sphere of inspiration, of hope, of effectiveness, the megachurch. You cannot possibly imagine how much this meant to me, and how profoundly you affected my life. I can’t even begin to tell you what your confidence in me and your friendship means, and has meant to me. With warm and affectionate gratitude, Peter.”
It’s a two-way street, and if it isn’t a two way street it won’t last.
KEN: Thank you both for your influence on me personally, for being kind enough to contribute to these interviews and to our audience as well. We are very grateful.
JIM: Bob, it’s great to hear your voice, and on behalf of all the people that benefit from your book, thank you for creating it.