Barry O’Reilly welcomes Rick Weil onto this week’s show. Rick Weil is a Head of Global Product and Analytics at Amazon. He started off as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, then worked at General Dynamics and Microsoft before his current position at Amazon. Rick and Barry discuss key human-centered approaches to unlocking team motivation and performance. [Listen from 00:34]

A Positive Culture

“When you can create this culture where everybody wants to help each other towards a shared goal, you’ve unlocked some incredible opportunities for performance,” Rick comments. He is focused on creating a positive culture in his working environment where peers selflessly help each other excel versus competing with each other. He stresses taking time to listen to his employees and their concerns, as well as deliberately stepping back at times to let team members address challenges on their own. This is especially important when managing ‘managers of managers’ and dealing with internal conflict. [Listen from 6:51]

360° Feedback

Barry asks Rick some of the things he noticed about himself that have evolved over time. One of the many things Rick has learned at Amazon is the power of “taking check x-rays” and using 360° feedback to identify leadership patterns to pay attention to. This helps us know what levers to pull to improve team culture and performance. Rick also talks about the importance and power of genuinely caring for people in the workplace over following scripted leadership behaviors. “Just because I can read all these books on leadership and follow the recipe doesn’t make me a good leader,” Rick comments. As a leader you need to find ways to effectively sense how your teams are doing at the human level and connect the personal needs and motivations of your team to business goals to drive organizational change. “Mission First, People Always”, Rick says. [Listen from 14:00]

Leadership and Relationships

Being a transformational leader is rooted in building strong relationships with the people you lead and work with. One way to do this is through intentional question asking. We often use questioning to assess the health of work operations, yet the true power (and intrinsic leadership fulfillment) comes from getting to know people at the human level, teaching, developing, and being part of your teams’ career journeys. Ask how your team members are doing (and mean it). Get to know about their aspirations and what’s important to them. And for leaders where this genuine, human-centered approach may not come natural, Rick urges them to give caring a try. “Care about people. That will change your perspective, it’ll impact your mindset,” Rick expresses. When you look at leadership as a platform for positive human impact and not as a position of individual power, it changes the way that you think about life and work, and directly correlates with the performance of your team. [Listen from 21:00]

Looking Ahead

Barry asks Rick what he’s looking forward to. He responds that he is looking forward to his partnership with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and developing a product, called Kickoff, which is an intuitive, web-based guide to project management. There are so many resources available for project and program management practitioners, but few for non-PMs who need to know how to better get project work done, essentially to know PM “as a skill”. Kickoff starts with basics, includes helpful templates and examples, and is aimed at helping individuals get acquainted with the fundamentals of project management. This product has the potential to fundamentally enhance how work gets done for millions of people, from students putting together class projects to start-ups creating new products and support functions tenured PMs who need project support from other, non-PM team members  [Listen from 33:58].