Staying Relevant In A Disruptive Marketplace with Garry Ridge

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

 

In business, longevity is of critical importance, even to the most prolific of ongoing concerns. This is especially true today’s world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Our guest is Garry Ridge, President, CEO and Director, and Board Member of WD-40, a company founded in 1953. WD-40’s longevity is no small feat in this day and age where the average age of a Fortune 500 is only eighteen years. Garry joined WD-40 in 1987 and held various leadership positions before becoming CEO in 1997. Garry talks about the roots of the company and shares what it is that has helped it to stay relevant in a marketplace that is so disruptive and changing so rapidly.

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Staying Relevant In A Disruptive Marketplace with Garry Ridge

I feel very blessed to be here. I’ve got one of these autonomous moving desks and I was inspired to stand, which is good. My back feels a lot better being in this position. I’ll give full credit to the person who deserves that credit who’s the guest on the show. I want to acknowledge how I’m feeling and that is grateful and blessed to be here, to be breathing for it, to be a sunny day. We’ve had a lot of rain in Southern California. The hills are alive with color, things that some people haven’t seen for several years. There are these beautiful orange poppies that are growing on the mountains outside our house. There is so much to be grateful for.

There is always a lot going on in the world. Sometimes things that are saddening, sometimes things that bring our energy down or get our energy up in ways that are not necessarily healthy. Yet, there’s always more to be grateful for than there is to be complaining about. At least, that’s my personal experience of it. I feel blessed to have a gentleman that is joining me. I’ve known him for a little while now. I got introduced to him, got to know him and even visit him at his workplace, where he is operating an incredible company that you’re going to hear about. I have enormous respect for this gentleman.

What he will bring is not only a lot of life experience and invaluable business experience and wisdom. I look forward to that. I’m going to learn some things and I know all of you will. My guest is Garry Ridge, the President and Chief Executive Officer and Director, CEO and Board Member of WD-40. He joined WD-40 in 1987 and held various leadership positions in the company before becoming the CEO in 1997. Companies of this magnitude these days are around less and less. Their longevity has decreased. The average age of a Fortune 500 company used to be about 60 years and now, it’s eighteen years. Longevity is a big deal even in the most prolific of ongoing concerns of businesses. It is no small feat that this company, WD-40, and we’ll get to hear about its roots because it’s been around a long time, is under great leadership and what it is that has helped it to stay relevant in a marketplace that is so disruptive and changing so rapidly.

Garry Ridge is also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego where he teaches leadership development, talent management and succession planning in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program. He’s passionate about learning and empowering organizational culture. He’s helped establish that at WD-40. In 2009, he co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard outlining his executive leadership techniques titled Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A.” He’s a native of Australia. He holds a certificate in Modern Relating and wholesale distribution and a Master of Science and Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego.

Thank you so much for being on the show, welcome.

It’s great to be with you. Thank you.

That is a very significant bio and introduction. What is something that you would love for people to know about you that’s not written in that intro?

There's a difference between playing it safe and being curious about what can change. Click To Tweet

I’m consciously incompetent.

I believe that and I also want to prove that. What do you mean by that, you’re consciously incompetent?

The three most powerful words I’ve learned in my life are the three words of, “I don’t know.” When I got comfortable with the vulnerability around that, it’s amazing how the world around me opened. I read a book that was a follow on from Who Moved My Cheese? called Out of the Maze by Spencer Johnson. In that book it talks about, what do you believe? Why do you believe things? The question we need to ask ourselves a lot is, “Why do we believe what we believe now?” A fact is something we believe to be true. I love the mindset of, “I’m consciously incompetent or I’m just this basic human being bumbling my way down the road of life and bumping into stuff.” That opens up a wonderful pasture of learning. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful tool we have to change the world,” and I’d say, “Learning is the most powerful tool we have to change the world.” That’s what I mean by that.

It’s very different than being unconsciously incompetent. When we have blind spots where we think those three dangerous words, “I know that.” When that’s the tape that’s playing or the programming that is running us, we have many blind spots and we don’t have the humility, I suppose, to recognize that we know as little as we do.

That’s true and that’s why at the company a long time ago, we said we’re going to take the word, failure, out of our vocabulary. We don’t make mistakes at WD-40 company. We have learning moments and we emphasize that a learning moment is a positive or a negative outcome of any situation that needs to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people. By taking that fear away or failure and opening these fields of learning, it’s amazing the culture that allows to build within the organization.

It is telling that failure or the desire to avoid failure is something that is ingrained and programmed like a computer program. It’s something that we receive when we’re very young, even in kindergarten where the idea that if you make a mistake, there’s a consequence. It’s later when we start to get grades assigned to us. I remember when our girls were very little, our second born, Lindsay, she brought home a paper and she must have been in second grade or third grade and the teacher had these stickers that she’d put on. Sometimes it was a sunshine sticker and it meant, “You did great.” Sometimes it was a cloud with the rain and the lightning bolt. Our kid came home with a paper that had a cloud on it and we were pretty blown away by that whole idea of creating that judgment about the good and the bad, the right and the wrong out of this effort to be creative because it was a creative assignment.

When we’re programmed that way from childhood, we end up trying to play life safely at various points because we realize there are consequences for making mistakes. This is my question to you, in a business that is evolving, it had quite a bit of time on the planet but is evolving forward. Knowing that the state of the environment that we’re in is one of constant change, can you play it safe? Do you want to either invite people onto the team or encourage people on the team to be playing it safe? I think you’ve already answered the question, but from a cultural standpoint and from the business bottom line standpoint, how dangerous is it to be playing the game of business or the game of life safely?

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: A learning moment is a positive or a negative outcome of any situation that needs to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people.

 

There’s a difference between playing it safe and being curious about what can change. I think that’s important. In fact, Simon Sinek is releasing a book and it’s called The Infinite Game. A lot of organizations play the finite game, but life is an infinite game. If we think about the power of saying, “What are we here to create over time?” We know that everything is not going to go the way we thought it was going to go. Being curious around what it is we want to achieve. I’m not sure what safe is now. I’m not sure I know what that means.

We live in a world that’s full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, but that’s what makes it fun. That’s what helps us drive those creative juices and move forward to a better place. I’m grateful that I’m standing here. Life’s a gift. We don’t want to send it back unwrapped, so let’s just understand it. The greatest satisfaction I know I get as a human being is not marking people’s papers but helping them understand clearly what our A looks like together and then helping them get that A. Being the sweeper to help them sweep out of the way because life’s about getting A’s. It’s not about some stupid normal distribution curve.

First, back to safety. I would define safety as the status quo and that’s where the great danger is for a company and even for individuals when we work in organizations. One of the things that they bring us in to do is to look at where there is a status quo. Where is there a belief system that’s running unconsciously? The book, Pivot, that came out a few years ago, one of our chapters is about unbelieving. What are the things that are essentially lies that we’ve either been led to believe by people who have influenced us, which is always the same case? It’s our parents. The parents get thrown under the bus first, but then it’s teachers and other influencers. We adopt those beliefs but don’t question them. I love the words curious and curiosity and to encourage that within an organization. In many ways, it’s probably a big part of it, the innovation of that organization as well as what brings daily juice. The feeling that people are alive. Because when we stop being curious about things, we stop moving anything. That’s what’s so insidious about the status quo is it when things stand still and stop like water, when water stands still, what ends up happening to it?

It stagnates. It gets full of stuff you don’t want to be in there.

It gets toxic and ultimately it turns to something that amounts to death. When we stopped our bodies entirely, there’s a name for that. I want to read the purpose of your company because you inspired me. When I got to come to the WD office, the corporate headquarters in San Diego, I was moved by not only the physical layout of the office. I know you took a lot of time to design specifically with things collision zones, which I hope you’ll share what the collision zone is. Just the idea that the physical environment as well as the things that you were teaching, the things that you were learning together as an organization, we’re creating this culture that has a very significant purpose. I thought to myself looking at that and thinking about what we’ve been ourselves as an organization have learned. A lot of times companies are trying to figure out what their true purpose is.

When you ask them, it’s usually somehow related to the benefits of their product to service and they confuse those things and they get confused with vision and mission and purpose, etc. For some time I’ve thought, “Whatever your purpose is, you should be able to write it on a t-shirt. It should be succinct and clear enough that it could go on a t-shirt whatever that might be.” I want to read your purpose because I thought this was just so clear and it’s counterintuitive when people hear this. This is WD-40’s purpose, “We exist to create positive, lasting memories in everything we do. We solve problems, we make things work smoothly, we create opportunities.” You’re in the memories business, but for people who don’t know what WD-40 is, which would be shocking to me, please share what the products and services are that this company that’s in the memories business is selling in the marketplace?

We’re selling solutions, but WD-40 our core product the blue and yellow can with a little red top. The product was developed over 65 years ago here in San Diego. It’s a true example of being creative and never giving up. There was a problem with corrosion and condensation and the umbilical cord of the Atlas space rocket. The company was then called Rocket Chemical Company. The chemists got together to solve that problem and 39 of the formulas failed and the 40th formula was successful. That’s why it’s called WD, Water Displaced and the 40th Formula. That brand is certainly a champion brand here in the US because it’s an honest product that does what it says it’s going to do.

Not only why we exist, but how we do it is important. Click To Tweet

We market in 176 countries around the world. There are eight out of ten households in the US that have a can and thank goodness, there are a lot of households outside the US that is still getting their first can for the first time and a lot of artisans. A lot of people don’t realize even though they look at us as a household consumer product, I often say we’re not a consumer product. We’re a product that’s consumed by a wide range of end users and particularly artisans and tradesmen and people who are creating memories for other people. One of the wonderful things about being with the company, I’ve been here for 32 years, is when I talk to people and they say, “What do you do?” I say, “WD-40.” They say, “I remember when.” I said, “Yes, it’s working.” It’s important.

What are some of those things that people tell you about? I can imagine that I’m just thinking of myself now of, “What are my memories of WD-40?” They’re very specific places. What are some of the things that you hear? Are they memories about putting together their son or daughter’s bicycle at Christmas time and things like that?

I was talking to someone and they said, “I always remember my granddad. I was out and he had a farm and we used to go out. He’d be working on the farm and I can still remember the smell of WD-40.” We sometimes say we’re a rocking chair brand in a lot of ways because there’s always a connection to some positive outcome in most cases. Those are the memories that got created. I remember fixing my son’s bike with him as you’ve just said. It’s that connection of a positive outcome. You’re probably going to cover it but importantly, not only why we exist, but how we do it is important. You would have seen that here. This is a powerful thing in our company because we say, “We create these positive, lasting memories by cultivating a tribal culture of learning and teaching, which provides a highly engaged workforce who live our company’s values every day.” There are some important words in there, tribal, learning, teaching, engaged, values. People are hungry for true purpose.

Our role as leaders is to create environments where people go to work every day. They make a contribution to something bigger than themselves. They learn something new and they feel safe because of the values and they go home happy. Happy people create happy communities, and happy communities will create a happy world. To think that 65% of people who go to work now don’t like their jobs, to me, is a sin. Whose fault is it? It’s our fault because we as leaders create these toxic environments. I’m not sure when you were here, whether I birthed Al, the soul-sucking CEO or not. I have a guy called Al who was a soul-sucking CEO. I talk about him when I’m out talking about leadership and he has these behaviors that you don’t create a culture of inclusion and a culture where people feel they belong.

We’ve got to spend some time in the headquarters. You have a teepee. There’s a teepee downstairs to represent that tribe, that idea that we want to belong, that people crave that sense of belonging. We spend more time at work than anywhere else. The statistics are not right as much as they are startling in the fact that so many people are unhappy and more than 50% according to some Harris polls of the workforce are actively looking for another job. What does toxicity look like in the organization? There are people literally trying to get out. The bottom-line cost to turnover is I don’t think it’s even calculable because you’re losing talent than having to attract talent and retrain talent and all the things that are lost in that process by way of productivity. I don’t know that you can even put a number on it. I’ve seen some numbers that say it’s something half a trillion dollars in the US alone, but I don’t even know that that could be accurate.

The sad thing is we’re slow learners because in 394 BC, Aristotle said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” How long is it going to take us? Here’s the other thing that works against it is that in most organizations, the leader’s ego eats empathy instead of their empathy eating ego. My Al, the soul-sucking CEO has an enormously enlarged ego. His cousin is short-sighted Sam. You get Al, the soul-sucking CEO and short-sighted Sam together and you put them in an organization, you get absolute terrible culture.

It’s interesting because everything is there to be observed and therefore learned. Millennials who are the misunderstood group of the workforce, they’re exiting organizations at about eighteen months. That’s a lot of transition. Even for somebody that wrote a book about career transition, every eighteen months is a lot of transitioning. It’s what you’re talking about when they find themselves in a culture where their souls are being sucked. It’s one thing if you’re making a lot of money and that’s also a part of what’s happening in the tech space and some places where the prospect of becoming very wealthy is having people think that workaholism, it’s an aspirational lifestyle to work 110 or 120 hours like Elon Musk is declaring you must do.

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: Happy people create happy communities, and happy communities will create a happy world.

 

I don’t know that that’s the answer, but there’s a great purpose that’s driving that, whether it’s to get rich or it’s to go to space and whatever other things are being dangled in front of folks. Where there’s a lack of purpose or where you can feel that your soul’s being sucked and you’re not being taken care of and rewarded financially, there’s no reason to stay. I think they’re so much smarter than we were, or at least our generations because we would put in ten years before we’d figure that out. We give our life’s blood. I did it for eighteen years. I was an attorney for eighteen years and most of that was my sense of responsibility to my family, to my clients and the fact that I was making an obscene amount of money.

There was a great song by the Beatles, Money Can’t Buy You Love or a good night sleep.

I would love it if our community is always chomping at the bit for the pivot stories. Was there a place in your career where you might have found yourself in that situation where you didn’t know which way to go next or you’d hit a bottom point? It could be in the business side of things and the model wasn’t working or you weren’t working in the model or it could be personal, but anything at all that you want to share. I know people would love that.

One of the big pivots in my life is back in 1994, I moved from Sydney, Australia to San Diego. I came from an environment which I’ve lived in all my life. I knew which side of the road to drive on and it’s a different side over here. Anyhow, I arrived here and suddenly, I realized that there were lots of things I didn’t know. In 1997, I got to leave the company and I realized that micromanagement was not scalable. I was the typical be brief, be bright and be gone guy. On the DiSC scale, I was probably a turbo-D and I was a driver. I looked at, “How am I going to take this blue and yellow can to the world?” I went back to school and I went to the University of San Diego and I did a Master’s degree in leadership and that’s where I met Ken Blanchard. He was my professor in one of the classes. My goal going back to school was I wanted to confirm what I thought I knew and learn what I didn’t know. What I didn’t know and what I learned was there’s a balance between being tough-minded and tender-hearted. If you can get that balance right, you can absolutely create an organization.

If you look at most organizations, they are very focused on strategy and execution, but there are some elements that need to have equal focus, people values and learning. We put this model together that says, “We’re going to spend an equal amount of time on what’s our purpose, what are our values and how do we learn as we do on strategy and execution.” If you just spend it in that strategy execution, I call that “the typhoon zone” because eventually in the short-term you may be very successful, but you’ll blow out either personally or the organization because it’s not sustainable. You can’t build an enduring life or an enduring company over time if you’re burning out in this typhoon zone, and that to me was a big a-ha moment. That was the pivot that I took. I consciously went from saying, “I’m going to not be a turbo-D anymore.” I’m going to say, “I’m going to get the balance between tough-minded and tender-hearted as good as I can.” I worked on it and that was the time when I made that change and it was hard.

What was hard about it?

Letting go of the ego.

People are hungry for true purpose. Click To Tweet

The harmony between tough-minded and tender-hearted has to do with letting go or release or dying of the ego?

If you look at tough-minded and tender-hearted, tender-hearted is empathy, tough-minded is ego. If you get either of them out of balance, people who work in organizations that are too tender-hearted feel at risk. People who work in organizations that are too tough-minded feel at risk. Servant leadership is not about holding Kumbaya singing lessons on a Friday afternoon. If you don’t get that balance right, if you don’t balance those two out, you don’t have the optimal cultural environment where people expect leaders to be able to make tough decisions, but they also want them to be tender-hearted in thinking about what they’re doing. You’ve got to get that balance.

Ultimately, this is what contributes to resilience, to the longevity that we talked about. When I’m going in more often than not these days to do keynotes at companies, that’s what they bring me in for. What does resilient leadership look like and how does that contribute to performance? We all know, whether you’re a public company or a private company, performance counts. You will get graded, so to speak on how the company does perform. If the company’s not around long enough, you can’t win a race that you don’t finish for one thing.

That’s why one of our values is sustaining the WD-40 economy. That’s our final value in the company because a robust economy supports the resilience and the ability to be able to develop the people. If you don’t have the people performing at a high level, then you’re not going to have a robust economy.

What’s the proper allocation of resources, especially for companies that are maybe less mature that don’t have a lot of cash reserve sitting in the bank? The allocation of time, energy and money toward the personal development, not the development of the talent as well as the organizational development as a learning culture versus the, “We’ve got to make sales thing. We’ve got to get our marketing straight to make sales to be able to survive in a difficult economic environment.” Is there a way to look at that allocation that you learned along the way and part of it is going to be trial and error?

I’m not smart enough to tell anybody how they should allocate their resources in their business, but I don’t think it’s a resource issue. You don’t have to be an “us” is what it’s about. How much does it cost to say please and thank you? How much does it cost to recognize people? Most people only know they’re doing a good job because no one yelled at them. It doesn’t cost anything to treat people with respect and dignity. That’s what it gets down to.

More than 80% of the people who say they’re dissatisfied at work are dissatisfied because they can’t stand their supervisor.

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: A robust economy supports the resilience and the ability to be able to develop the people.

 

They hate their boss because he treats them badly. He treats them poorly. Care, candor, accountability and responsibility are what it’s all about. Care for your people. Be candid with them. No lying, no faking and no hiding. Hold you and them accountable but be sure that you’re clear at what we’re holding each other accountable for and then be responsible as a leader and a coach. A coach doesn’t spend time on the field, the coach is in the locker room and on the sideline watching the play and helping the player win. It’s called side by side leadership. Get alongside your people and help them get an A. We’re not here to mark their paper. We’re here to help them step into the best version of their personal self and treat them with respect and dignity.

From a leadership that’s modeling as well. If you’re a parent, most parents realize that their kids don’t listen to them. I’ll speak from my own experience. Our youngest is now eighteen and leaving the house, but the other ones are older and they very rarely listened. They were always watching us and seeing, “Is there congruence or the story that’s coming out of my dad’s mouth, does that match up with what he’s doing himself and in his life?” One thing that I want to underscore that you said was that you don’t necessarily have to have a big budget. Let’s say to create the environment as Yogananda said, “Environment is stronger than will.” The environment that you can create is one that would long-term create a culture for sustainability, for longevity, for resilience. At the same time, you’re creating that culture, you’re also watching the things that you have to measure to know whether you’re on target or not.

You’ve got to look back at learning. We had these principles that are described of how in a tribal culture of learning and teaching of values of belonging and of celebration. We started all these several years ago. Back then we had employee engagement nearly as horrible as most people have in the companies they’re working for now. Looking back we said, “We deploy the principles that we know of care, candor, accountability, responsibility, our tribal culture and go forward.” What’s happened over that period of time? Now, our employee engagement is 93%. 99% of our people say they love to tell people they work at WD-40 company.

Here’s the cut. Our market cap is gone from just around $300 million to $2.4 billion over that period of time. We’ve had a compounded annual growth rate of total shareholder return of about 12% and in the last couple of years, it’s been 20% and we sell oil in a can. No, we don’t. We’re in the memories business. I think we have an absolutely demonstrated record of if you build employee engagement and you build a place where people want to go to work every day and make a contribution and learn something new, you will drive your economic engine. At the same time, our revenues are quadruple by the way.

Since we’ve got those four things, I’d love it if you’d just give us a one-liner for each of the four because I’m sure at this point people are taking notes. What are those four things again, start with care if you would.

You have to have an environment where you care for your people. Candor is no lying, no faking and no hiding. Most people don’t lie, but because of fear, people are faking and hide in organizations. If you’ve got an organization that is riddled with fear, you’ll get people faking and hiding. Accountability is, “What do you expect from me as a leader and what do I expect from you? Do we have an agreement around that?” The reason we let people down in life in most cases is that there’s no clarity around what we expect from each other. Have the conversation.

It’s not expectations that are the issue, it’s unstated expectations.

There's a balance between being tough-minded and tender-hearted. If you can get that balance right, you can create an organization. Click To Tweet

What do we expect from each other? Be brave enough to hold each other accountable. If you care enough about your people around accountability, you won’t be afraid to have those loving conversations that some people sometimes call tough conversations. The more I care about people, the more I want to say to someone, “I care about you. I want you to succeed. Here’s what I’ve observed is getting in your way. How can I help you get that out of your way? You’re better than this and I know that you can achieve personally and professionally what you want in life and there’s nothing that will give me more joy than to see you do that.”

Do you like baseball as an Australian living in the US? What I love when it comes to accountability is the example that’s set in baseball where if the pitcher’s not doing well in a game, what’s the first sign of that typically? The balls are flying out around, runs are being scored, but then what happens on the field? The third baseman comes in, the catcher comes out and the coach comes out. They’re huddled on the mound. To me, that conversation isn’t a conversation that’s based in judgment. They don’t go out there and go to the pitcher having a hard time. They go, “You suck. You don’t belong in the Major League. Hit the showers and then head back to Little League baseball.” That conversation looks very different when they get out there. They want to know how you are doing.

My son was a pitcher for a while, and I used to coach him. I remember what those conversations even in the Little League would be like that everybody came in and they had only one goal in mind. Pump them up and what’s the goal for the team? That’s to win a game. That’s all they’re interested in. That accountability isn’t based in judgment. It’s based on love. It’s a pat on the back, “How’s your arm? How are you doing? Do we have mixed signs or do you feel you want to leave the game?” It’s a conversation, but it’s based on love. That’s one of the hardest things in leadership is to be able to hold people accountable as you’re saying from a place of love versus a place of fear or judgment or anything else that has people playing on protection. They will protect themselves and avoid taking responsibility if they think they can’t get a fair shake anyway.

Have you heard of Ubuntu? It comes from tribalism in Africa. What it is, is this. If in a tribe someone does something wrong or makes a mistake, what Ubuntu is, the tribe takes that person and sits them in the middle of the tribal surroundings. For two days, they tell them how good they are at things, to encourage them out of the bad behavior. If you read up about it, it’s fantastic.

We’ve got care, candor, accountability, and responsibility.

You may have read our Maniac Pledge. It says, “I’m responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers and making decisions. I won’t wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I’m responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn’t get this sooner. If I do something that others should know about, I am responsible for telling them.”

You hit the point that I wanted to go to, which was what was the culture like? What was the company like before you had your awakening? I know it didn’t all turn around in a day, we might as well just declare that out loud as well because the results you’ve got are fairly uncommon. I’m not saying it’s the only company that’s ever had that change or transformation, but you’re a model for it. How long did it take and how ugly was it in the process of getting from point A to where you are now?

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: Be brave enough to hold each other accountable. Don’t be afraid to have those tough conversations.

 

I often say it was simple, not easy and time is not your friend. This is a journey, it’s not a short journey. Culture is no different than when we went to school. Remember, when we used to get a petri dish and we could put stuff in it and we made culture and it grew over time. What did we do? We had to mind the petri dish. We had to take out the antibodies, we had to make sure the right ingredients and we had to put it in the right temperature. Maybe it was in a refrigerator or in a heating cabinet. That’s the same. This thing has to be nurtured and that’s the job of leadership.

The pivot is constantly making a little change in direction, which is Buckminster Fuller’s trim tab analogy of small changes, the Law of Small Changes.

I was at a luncheon and a young lady made a comment. She said, “I haven’t come this far not to go further.” That’s what’s important about culture. When you have a culture, you haven’t come this far not to take it further. You have to continually take it further.

That states the fact that as a company you invest in education. You continually, not you yourself writing books and educating yourself, being a model for that, but the company invests in education for the company and for the people that work there as well.

Our house statements say by being in a culture of learning and teaching. The number one responsibility of a leader is to be a learner to teacher. That’s the number one responsibility.

It’s at the top of the pyramid for society as a whole for communities because that goes to the same thing that circle around the fire or someone stood up and shared what they learned. That person was the shaman, the wise person, the chief, but that leader learns something and then shared it with others. That’s teaching and it’s the highest value we’ve got. We know that teachers are not always valued in our society the way they ought to be. Garry, this has been a wonderful conversation that I know we could keep going on forever and ever. I’ll ask you about your personal rituals and whether there’s something in particular through all those hills and valleys and people know what that’s like themselves. Something that you’ve been doing on a ritual basis that helps you either physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually that you’d be willing to share.

I learned this from Marshall Goldsmith, “Let it go.” I think that’s important in life is you’ve got to empty the rocks out of the backpack on a daily basis because eventually if you don’t, that backpack will weigh you down. I try to make sure that I live each day and that’s important. I’m always up early around 4:00 every morning. I start my day with a little understanding of who I am. I try to center myself. I have some personal meditation that I do, which is just to center myself and make sure that I have clarity around the importance of understanding that this day is the only day I have. I’ve got to do my best. I have a personal why statement. I wake up every morning to help people create positive lasting memories. The most exciting part of that is finding all the different ways to do it.

A coach doesn't spend time on the field. The coach is in the locker room and on the sideline watching the play and helping the player win. Click To Tweet

I want to hold up your book as well. This is the book that you wrote with Ken Blanchard who was your professor at the time, which is pretty flipping cool, Helping People Win at Work. I invite people certainly to check all that out. The last thing I want to say anyway is that I respect the fact that you’ve put in the years that you have to create the model for a sustainable positive place for people to go and share their gifts with the world. That is no small feat. I’m sure you’ve heard of a few good things, a few positive things about your job, but that’s a pat on the back, a moment to celebrate and be wonderful. Thank you for doing that. Thank you on behalf of the whole marketplace.

I rejoice in an abundance of worthwhile work.

I have my own set of beautiful memories attached to the WD-40 product. I only look forward to the ones in the future because we have a particular use for that product every summer. It’s all about family and it’s all about friends and just enjoying life. Thank you, Garry. I appreciate it. I know that our community will have lots of comments. Those comments can be addressed to AdamMarkel.com/Podcasts. You can leave a review on iTunes. We love that. You can go to our Facebook group, Start My PIVOT Community in Facebook and leave questions there for myself, for Garry and we’d love to get your feedback. As we started our program with gratitude, so shall we conclude and that is with a great reminder. I’m going to ask you a funny question, Garry. I know the answer already, but did you wake up?

I did.

PR 108 | Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: You’ve got to empty the rocks out of your backpack on a daily basis because eventually if you don’t, that backpack will weigh you down.

 

I get the honor to ask that question to people all over the world and it’s a curious question because some people are ready to say, “Yes, of course, I did.” They get it and then there are folks that are not so sure on how to answer. They’re still working on it. That’s the truth. We are in many ways, not always awake. In fact, many of the years I worked in Manhattan I would walk past people and see deadness, just the lack of life in the eyes and thinking that people are walking around dead, not knowing it. To wake up our awareness to be more consciousness is clearly a goal. My hope and my prayer are that everybody that’s reading this wakes up again. That I wake up, Garry, that you wake up and everybody at your company does as well because that’s not a guarantee. When we also recognize that we are taking our first breath of the day, we can be similarly aware that there will be people taking their very last breath in that same exact moment.

It’s not something to take for granted. We all have challenges as plenty of things to complain about, but my belief is that we all have an assignment and that’s why we’ve been given another day. Three are steps to my waking ritual. That we wake up, first. Let’s wake up. Two, that we can feel that gratitude for that moment where we realize we have been given another day. The third, if you’re willing to take ten seconds out of your precious day before it gets going. Put your feet on the floor and feel gratitude and appreciation for yourself and that you might even out loud declare these words, “I love my life, I love my life. I love my life.” Garry, what are the words?

I love my life.

Ciao for now. We’ll see you soon. Thank you again.

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About Garry Ridge

PR 108 | Staying RelevantGarry O. Ridge is CEO and a member of the board of directors of WD-40 Company. He joined WD-40 Company in 1987 and held various leadership positions in the company before being appointed to CEO in 1997. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego where he teaches leadership development, talent management, and succession planning in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program.

He is passionate about the learning and empowering organizational culture he has helped establish at the WD-40 Company. In 2009, he co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard outlining his effective leadership techniques, titled “Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy called ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A.’ ” A native of Australia, Mr. Ridge holds a certificate in Modern Retailing and wholesale distribution and a Master of Science in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego.

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