Mike Robbins – How to Create a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging

Show Notes

Major League Baseball player and the consultant of choice for Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, the NBA, the Oakland A’s, and many more joins us to teach how to create a team culture of high performance, trust, and belonging.

  1. MIKE ROBBINS who is an expert in emotional intelligence, leadership, teamwork, and company culture. He with a large variety of big-time clients including Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, the NBA, the Oakland A’s, and many more. He is a sought-after speaker and consultant who delivers keynotes and seminars for these and other organizations. 
  2. Author of Five Books: Robbins is the author of five books: We’re All in This Together, Bring Your Whole Self to Work, Nothing Changes Until You Do, Be Yourself Everyone Else is Taken, and Focus on the Good Stuff
  3. Media Features: He and his work have been featured in The Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on ABC News and NPR. He’s a regular contributor to Forbes, hosts a weekly podcast, and his books have translated in 15 different languages.
  4. I know that you’ve had a ton of success at this point in your career, but I would love to start off at the bottom and the very beginning of your career. What was your life like growing up and where did you grow up?
    1. I grew up in Oakland and I was a baseball player. I got drafted out of high school with the Yankees and ended up turning it down. I ended up tearing up my arm in 1997 and retired in 1999. 
    2. It was tough because that was who I was. 
    3. When I was playing baseball, I was very faced with self-help.
  5. Mike, what was your favorite old school jam or favorite hit song during high school?
    1. Brass Monkey
  6. When did you first figure out what you wanted to do professionally?
    1. After baseball, I got a job in the late 90’s in the tech world at this start up. I found out that it was way different than sports but it still had a teach chemistry. It is an intangible quality that keeps groups together. 
    2. I lost my job in the dot com bubble burst and I decided that I would start writing and speaking. I felt like I had some good insight on what makes a good team. 
  7. What is one crazy thing that happened?
    1. One of our players threw a ball into the crowd of hecklers and hit a man. He gets suspended and ends up getting picked up in the Big Leagues. 
  8. Mike before we deep dive into how to create a team culture of high performance I would love to talk about your Major League Baseball career. How would you describe your time playing Major League Baseball?
  1. When did you first feel like you were truly beginning to gain traction with your career?
  2. Mike today you’ve now worked with huge companies like Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, the NBA, the Oakland A’s, and many more. Who was the first big-time client that you worked with and what kind of work did you do with them?
  3. Mike, what inspired you to write your new book, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging (Hay House Business, May 5, 2020).
    1. I wrote my fourth book and the final principle was to build a championship team. I needed a book about teamwork and team culture.
    2. What great teams have the ability to do is to unify around common values and to put what’s best for the team above the individuals.
  4. Mike, in your book you teach about four key pillars…so let’s break them down one by one…Let’s start with:
  5. Pillar 1: Create Psychological Safety…what does this mean?
    1. Group trust. The group is safe enough to speak up and even disagree.
  6. Pillar 2: Focus on Inclusion and Belonging…why is this important?
    1. The more diverse the better.
    2. Belonging is one of the most important needs. Everyone needs to feel like they belong. 
  7. In your book, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging you discuss a third pillar… 
  8. Pillar 3: Embrace-Sweaty Palmed Conversations…I would love for you to define what you mean by this?
    1. The biggest thing you let get in the way of you and great relationships are sweaty palm conversations.
  9. Pillar 4: Care About and Challenge Each Other…where do most business people get this wrong by default?
    1. Love them hard so I can push them hard. 
    2. You have to let them know that you care about them and after that, you have the ability to push them. 
  10. Where can people start?
    1. Leaders can actually tell the truth about what they are feeling and what is going on. Right now with the Coronavirus, no one knows what is going on and it’s not a bad thing to admit that. 
  11. You come across as a very proactive person…so how do you typically organize the first four hours of your and what time do you typically wake up?
  12. What are a few of your daily habits that you believe have allowed you to achieve success?
  13. What mentor has made the biggest impact on your career thus far?
  14. We find that most successful entrepreneurs tend to have idiosyncrasies that are actually their super powers…what idiosyncrasy do you have?

In your mind, how can our listeners benefit from picking up a copy of your new book, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging?


Business Coach | Ask Clay & Z Anything

Audio Transcription

Mike Robbins Thrivetime Show

Mike Robbins
Are you ready to go? I’m ready to roll. [inaudible] should I know any context I should know about your audience or the show or just like who we’re talking to?

Speaker 2:
They’re mainly albino Eskimos from the Northern. My favorite aunt.

Speaker 2:
performance. Josh Wilson, are you prepared to enter into the dojo of mojo? No, I’m ready. I’m here. Are you feeling, are you feeling the flow? I definitely am. Definitely am. Got the, got it working. We’ve got magic Mike Robins on the phone. Mike Robbins, welcome to the thrive time show. How are you sir?

Mike Robbins
Hey, I’m good. Glad to be on here with you guys. I can feel the energy and I’m already fired up.

Speaker 2:
Quick question for you. Uh, it’s a convenient nickname. It’s probably obvious. How often do people call you magic Mike?

Mike Robbins
You know, actually hardly ever when you just said that, I’m like, I can’t remember the last time someone called me magic Mike, but feel free to call me that. It sounds good.

Speaker 2:
You don’t have enough obvious obvious friends there. Josh. He doesn’t have any obvious friends. Did they do the Mikey likes it? Did they do that to you all the time?

Mike Robbins
No. You know it’s funny like my 11 year old Rosie, our younger daughter used to call me little Mikey, which drove me crazy cause kids called me Mikey when I was a kid cause it was the life cereal commercial. Hey Mikey, he likes it but it’s been years since people call me Mike Hickey.

Speaker 2:
Well Mike, you have done consulting now with huge companies. I mean Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, the NBA, the Oakland A’s, huge companies. You’re the author of five books. Tell us how it all started. They’ll walk us back to the very beginning. What was life like for you growing up?

Mike Robbins
So I grew up in Oakland, California, in the San Francisco Bay area where I still live, don’t live in Oakland, live on other side of the Bay. But, uh, I was a baseball player and I was pretty good at it. Got drafted out of high school by the Yankees, didn’t end up signing with the Yankees cause I got a chance to play baseball in college at Stanford. Went to Stanford, then got drafted by the Kansas city Royals out of Stanford, signed a pro contract and I was, uh, on my way to play pro baseball, which was awesome. Unfortunately for me at 23 years old, I threw one pitch, tore ligaments in my elbow and that was the end of my career in baseball. I mean, I didn’t, it didn’t end that day, but two years and three surgeries later I was finally forced to retire and had to, uh, you know, figure out what to do with the rest of my life, which I didn’t really have a plan B or C.

Mike Robbins
it was all baseball for me. What year did you have the injury got hurt in 97. Um, ended up finally retiring in early 99. How come you decided not to go old school and do the knuckle ball? You know, that’s a good question. It’s funny someone was, I was just thinking about this yesterday. For some reason people would often ask me interesting questions like, can’t you just pitch with your right hand? I was left handed pitcher and I’m like, yeah, no, I spent all my life doing this. The knuckleball thing, I don’t, my hands aren’t really that big and I always, I never could throw a knuckle ball. Like if I could have figured out how to throw a knuckle ball or pitch right-handed, I definitely would’ve done one or both of those things. But neither of those seem to really be in the cards for me.

Mike Robbins
I want to go back to you’re a middle school dance, high school dance. It’s in a cafeteria somewhere. Gym. Beautiful location. It’s probably a disco ball where you were school dances in a gym or a cafeteria. They were in the gym and gym. And what was the G? What was the, who was the first girl that you asked on the dance floor that said yes and what jam was playing? Oh goodness. Goodness gracious. Um, girl, the girl that popped into my mind was Julie Anderson in eighth grade and um, you know, so I grew up in Oakland, man. We listened to a lot of hip hop, a lot of rap music. Yeah. And uh, the Beastie boys run DMC both came out with albums in 86 and 87 back to back raising hell and licensed to ill do. They’ve either been, it’s tricky or brass monkey that was on and we were, uh, you know, dancing to that. Really that, okay. So I’m just to take us back for a minute.

Speaker 4:
Yes. We’ll just let that, let me just give you a 30 seconds of it. Here we go. Oh yeah. Oh good. I have not heard this forever. Come on now. If you’re in quarantine, get up, get out the corn teeny today folks. I know some Corona quarantined, he listens. Some brass monkey. You’re stuck at home, cranked his hit up, make your wife dance with you. Wow.

Mike Robbins
Okay. Now I just want to go. That is impressive, by the way. I don’t, I don’t think anybody else is busted out brass monkey after, you know, two minutes, two seconds after me saying it’s so nicely done. I build rapport. It’s I butter Bora ends in a, uh, you know, Josh usually goes really bad. Really well, but you wrote poorly though, most of the time. So now we move on. So you’re out of baseball, you’re done with the baseball thing. It’s gotta be tough emotionally when you’ve, the big dream is gone, especially when you’re that good, you know? Yeah. It was tough, man. I mean, it had been, you know, that was who I was. I mean, I was Mike the baseball player and so it took me a while to sorta get my footing under me after that. So how do you go from the baseball player to your, your, your, your career that you do now?

Mike Robbins
I mean, what was, when did you first start to gain some traction? Well, you know, the thing was when I was playing, I was interested, I was reading a lot of books about sorta mindset and psychology and sort of personal growth for myself. And I was also fascinated by team chemistry and team dynamics. Even as an athlete. I mean I love the game, but I was always interested in like how come some teams that, you know, we got really good players but the team’s not so good. And other teams it’s like the players are, you know, talents, decent teams, really good. We like beat other teams that have better players. I don’t, I didn’t understand that, but I found it fascinating and I ended up back home in the Bay area after baseball and I got a job in the late nineties, uh, working in the.com world, the tech world, which was, you know, booming at the time.

Mike Robbins
And I get this job and at this startup, and it was interesting. I didn’t really, really know if I, what the heck I was going to do necessarily, but I found right away, Oh this is way different than sports. But that whole team chemistry thing that I erroneously thought was the sports thing that has nothing to do with sports. That’s a human thing in business. They just call it culture. It’s the same thing as chemistry. It’s just that intangible quality or those sets of qualities that like bring groups together and we can do something great even greater sort of than the sum of the parts or that gets it gets in the way and and creates, you know, all kinds of problems. And so what ended up happening is I worked for a couple startups and then the.com bubble burst in sort of late 2000 and I lost my job like many other people at that time, which wasn’t a, I mean I was bummed and a little worried like okay, what am I going to do next?

Mike Robbins
But it was kind of a blessing because it gave me the time and the space to really think, well what, what do I really want to do? If I could do anything, what could I do? A mentor asked me that question and I said, well, I would write and I would speak and I would try to share some of what I learned earned in sports and in business and in life, both through some successes but also through failures and disappointments that might benefit people individually, personally. But also I think I have some curiosity and some insight into what makes a great team and I want to learn more about that. So for the last almost two decades, that’s really what I’ve been studying and what I’ve been writing about, the mindset that it takes for us individually to be successful and to persevere and then the qualities that teams need to really create the kind of a environment where everyone can perform at the highest level.

Mike Robbins
Now I, uh, played basketball and sports like that growing up and, and uh, I’ve always been a reader I like to read, but most of the guys on the teams I played with were reading magazines about chicks. I don’t know their reading necessarily, but I’m just saying it’s like, um, were you the only guy on the team reading meeting? Were there a lot of reading it. It’s funny, when I was in the minor leagues, I remember being, you know, long bus rides and I did two things. I would read books, not magazines and the books had no pictures in them. And I also was writing in a journal and the guys on my team were like, Robbins, what the heck are you reading and what are you writing in that book? They’re right. And I used to joke with them, so I’m writing about Jew and I’m going to write a book and tell all kinds of terrible stories about all this stuff that you do.

Mike Robbins
And which would of course freaked him out and was not true. But I was a little weird. I mean, to my teammates, they thought I was a little strange in that regard. Um, but I found, especially once I got into pro baseball, you know, very team oriented. I really enjoyed a lot of my teammates and we had fun together, but there was a lot of time and a lot of downtime and I’m an extrovert, but I actually turned more inward and started reading more. Started listening to more in those days, cassette tapes on different topics of things that were interesting to me and started writing. It was really when I started to write for the first time, I always hated writing in college. I hated writing papers and when I had a deadline or a topic I was forced to write about, but I started writing in my journal and most of my journal stuff was just me sort of processing some of my own, you know, feelings and thoughts, but kind of contemplating different things. And that sort of led to all these years later, I still prefer speaking and then writing, but you know, somehow or another I’ve figured out how to write five books, books, which still sort of surprises me and my wife and just about everybody who knows me.

Speaker 2:
Well. I want to go into rapid fire mode here, but before I really crank up the intensity, I have one more question about baseball, then we’ll move on. It’s people are just fascinated about the backgrounds of our, of our guests. Uh, craziest thing that happened in your mind, really career. Craziest thing. Craziest, uh, player teammate you were with craziest behind the scene. Dugout moment. I mean, what was the thing where you, I mean it was, it was it when you picked up a cup and you thought it was coffee and it was filled with coal spit or what was the craziest thing?

Mike Robbins
We had a situation one night in Durham North Carolina plan against the Durham bulls where, um, one of our guys, our closer was getting heckled by the drunk fans in Durham that night as he was warming up and he reached a point where he couldn’t handle it anymore. Right before he came in the game, he took the ball and this kid threw like 95 miles an hour. Oh boy. Any, he hooked the ball into the stands that the guy who was heckling him did, he hit him, missed him, hit a guy next to him on the side of the head. It ricocheted off that guy’s head and out of the stadium. The guy goes down, the security comes running down, our guy goes into the game, strikes out the side to win the game and then gets arrested after the game as he leaves the clubhouse.

Speaker 2:
Oh, Oh yeah, yeah.

Mike Robbins
Well and I’ll, and then to add to the story, he gets suspended for a month, kicked out of the Carolina league for the rest of his life. Told by the commissioner, you’re never going to come back and play in the Carolina league. He’s a prospect. So they send him down to extended spring training. He gets to work out a bit. The major league team, the Royals are, are going to play an exhibition game against the triple a team. They fly him from Florida up to Omaha to pitch in that game cause it’s an exhibition game. So he’s allowed to play even though he’s suspended, he pitches so well in that game that after his suspension is over, he gets called up to the big leagues. Wow. Wow. So he gets arrested, kicked out of the league, does something no one should ever do, could have killed someone and ends up in the major leagues.

Mike Robbins
Like, you know, I don’t know if there’s any poetic justice in the world, but that was totally bizarre and all of us were like, maybe we’re supposed to throw a ball in the stands and we’ll end up in the big leagues. But you know, step one for a success is throw a ball very hard at, at a fan and then you go to jail. And then step two, three, four is a lot of steps, but we have time for step seven. We play step seven here. Probably my best tip is tip number eight. Always keep bags of your own poop collected throughout your shake. Oh is tip eight. I hit the wrong tape. That was the wrong tip. Okay. It’s private Raleigh kids listening. Please don’t throw balls into the stands. That’s a terrible thing to do. You should never do that even though it worked out for this guy.

Mike Robbins
Okay, now you, uh, I’ve written a new book here. What inspired you to write this new book? We’re all in this together. Creating a team culture of high performance, trust and, and belonging. Well, I wrote my fourth book. Bring your whole self to work came out in 2018 and there’s five principles in that book. And the fifth and final principle is create a championship team. And I decided after that book came out that I really wanted to double click on this. And I, again, I’ve been studying this and talking about this for years, but I hadn’t actually done written a book just about teamwork and team culture and because of so many dynamics going on in our world right now and the pace of business and the global nature of business and all of this, I really wanted to research what’s going on right now in today’s world and what can leaders and what can team members in, what can teams as a whole do to create the strongest culture possible.

Mike Robbins
And so that was really the impetus. You know, I had no idea this book was going to come out in the midst of a global pandemic. That’s unprecedented. And what’s interesting though about it is so many people are uttering the phrase right now in variety, in a variety of contexts. We’re all in this together, which is absolutely true, but what I’ve learned over the years of working with great teams and being a part of some great teams is that what grade teams have the ability to do in the midst of all the egos and all the agendas and all the ambitions and all the challenges and everything is unify around not only some common values and goals, but figure out how to put what’s best for the team above simply what’s best for all the individuals on the team and when that happens, and it’s more of the exception than the rule, but it’s really a magical experience.

Mike Robbins
And what we know now from a lot of the research is it allows individuals to perform at the highest level when we can’t and be focused on something bigger than just ourselves. In your book, you discussing you in your new book, we’re all in this together. You, you break down these four key pillars. So what I’d like to do is go rapid fire. It’s almost like soft toss because I want listeners to to get enough of a glimpse of the book to want to go buy that thing because we are shameless capitalists here. Okay, this book was booked. Folks is great. It’s a great book, but you got to buy the book and someone says, yep, clay, I’m on a tight budget. It’s the quarantine. I said, listen here buddy. You’re sitting around and you know what you’re doing yet today, nothing. And you know what you’re doing tomorrow.

Mike Robbins
Nothing. So get out there and get a copy of this book and if you say, clay, I’m super busy. Well maybe you’re busy going the wrong way. So listen to the pillars. See if this is a book you need to buy here. Pillar number one, create psychological safety. What does that mean? Basically group trust. It means the group is safe enough to speak up, to take a risk to disagree so that we focus on creating an environment where that can happen. Pillar to focus on inclusion and belonging. Why is this important? Well, because look, one of the things we know from a lot of research is the more diverse a team is, the more successful it’s going to be. And if we can do everything possible to make it as inclusive and ultimately get to a place where people really feel like they belong belonging.

Mike Robbins
If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy, right? It goes physiological needs, safety needs. Yup. Belonging is the third on that sort of pyramid of five before we get to esteem and self actualization. So everyone needs to feel like they belong and for a team to really perform, there has to be a sense of belonging. Anytime a guest mentions the word Maslow, they earn a mega point, which is not redeemable in this lifetime, but in the afterlife we believe it’s very, very viable, very Lou clad, bad to know. Now pillar number three, embrace these sweaty palmed conversations. What are you talking about? So a mentor of mine years ago said this thing to me. Clay said, Mike, you know what stands between you and the kind of relationships you really want to have with people? I said, what’s that? He said, it’s probably a 10 minute sweaty Palm conversation.

Mike Robbins
You’re too afraid to have. He said, if you get good at those 10 minutes, sweaty Palm conversations, you’ll have fantastic relationships. You’ll build trust, you’ll resolve conflict, you’ll give feedback, you’ll talk about the elephants in the room. Great teams need to create an environment where it’s safe enough for us to disagree and challenge each other and talk about sensitive topics in a respectful way, in a productive way. But so often we avoid those conversations because they’re uncomfortable to do our own detriment personally and to the detriment of the team. Pillar number four, care about and challenge each other. What does this, where does this pillar all about? I had, um, one of my former coaches, Dean Stotts, who was my pitching coach at Stanford on my podcast about six months ago, and he said this great thing. He said, Mike, my philosophy, and he coached at Stanford for 37 years, incredible human being.

Mike Robbins
It’s been a mentor of mine, friend for years, ton of success. He said, my philosophy for coaching was always this, Mike, I got to love him hard. So I can push him hard. And I said, what do you mean by that day? And he said, I always knew that if I was going to get the most out of you as an athlete or any of the guys that I coached over all those years, you had to first and foremost know that I cared about you, that I had your back, that I believed in you as a human being. Then I would have permission to push you as hard as I needed to push you to get the most out of you. And when he said it, I was like, well, that’s what great leaders do. That’s what great mentors do. That’s what great coaches do. And great teams create an environment where they do that for each other.

Mike Robbins
Mike Robbins, you are a an a player. You are I a great American and I hope everybody out there pick picks up a copy of your book. We’re all in this together creating a team culture of high performance, trust and belonging. And if not, and if, uh, if we don’t have enough people that buy the book, you may have to perfect the of the knuckle ball. I’ll keep working on it, man. It didn’t work out so well years ago. But why not? Awesome brother, I appreciate you so much. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thanks you too. Thanks for having. And now without any further ado,

Speaker 5:
boom, boom.


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