Today’s guest is an author, Forbes speaker, and President & CEO of Project Success. Clarity in business is always important, but even more-so in today’s confusing times. “If you confuse, you lose,” today’s guest says.
With over 30 years as a project manager and leader, today’s guest is here to ensure that you don’t let working remotely add to lack of communication.
Please welcome Clint Padgett.
- 0:21 – Clint Padgett’s Background
- 1:34 – Greater Achievements
- 3:00 – Clint Padgett’s Journey
- 8:08 – Clarity in such a short amount of time
- 11:08 – Greater Company Culture
Learn more about this guest:
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Clinton Padgett. Thanks for jumping on learning from others. How are you doing? I’m doing great, man. Thanks for having me. How are you? I’m good. Well, as we joke before we hit the record button, you have this long lengthy background and we have a lot that we can talk about today, but I’m going to let you start this conversation off by answering question number one, which is what are you good at and what are we going to learn from you today?
Uh, I’m good at project management and I’m good at conversations. So I’m a people person, my background, growing up entrepreneurship with my dad and having to grow up in a small town in the rural South and work in multiple jobs from my dad. You know, you get to know people. And so to me, it’s about establishing relationships and having conversations to force clarity.
All right. We’re going to get into that more, but not until you answer question number two, which is what do you suck at? Uh, apparently I wasn’t good enough as baseball, so I wasn’t able to be a professional player like I wanted to, and that was my lifelong dream. So I guess I sucked at that. Uh, at what age were you, was your dreams crushed?
Um, well I made it through high school, but then I went in the Navy right out of high school. And so by the time I got to Georgia tech to go to college, I was a catcher. And we had a catcher called Jason Bartek, which like, he, I don’t think I’m going to play. So I’ll just stick to the engineering stuff and worry about that step.
All right. So you said you’re going to, you know, project management and you’ve done a whole bunch of things, as you said, I got this big, long list here, but why don’t you kind of. Summarize your greater achievements or, or at least the ones that you enjoyed along your journey the most, I think it’s one of the things I enjoy the most would be parachuting into a chaotic situation for one of our clients.
And then over the course of three days, really helping that team bring order from chaos, help them see that they could see their way through to getting the project done. And then the light go off and see the transformation that really happens when people start off by saying this never going to work here.
And then by the end, it’s like, Oh, my gosh, we need to do this on all of our projects. So, and I’ve been, I’ve been able to work on some, some really unique places. I mean, we have had the luxury at our company of having been able to plan all the Olympic activation summer and winter, plus the people world cup activations for one of the major sponsors of those two events.
And so because of that, you get to travel with some pretty cool locations around the globe. Now, can you kind of define that for our listeners Olympic activations? What does that mean? So, if you’re a major sponsor of the Olympics, then you get certain rights. And so you pay all this money to sponsor the Olympic games or the people, world cup, or the Euro.
You want to maximize your usage of those rights. And so what happens is in that city, you have to put all your equipment in place. You have to get all your marketing plans in place. You got to pull the team together and it’s about a two year project to pull off one of those at least two years, actually.
Yeah. How long have you been doing that? The reason why I’m curious is, um, I remember when the Olympics came to salt Lake city, which is where I’m at and, and just everything that the whole downtown being transformed in just a short amount of time. I was there actually. Um, so I’ll go ahead and say it, but I came out of the Coca Cola organization and I actually was a Coke employee after college for about six and a half years.
And then. I wanted to work on the Olympic project. And in 1994, the city of Atlanta got awarded the Olympics. So I left Coca-Cola and went to work for a company called project success. And I got to go back to work at Coke. It’s a contractor on this Olympic project. And I spent about a year on that project.
And then, so Coke is the client here. And we actually go out and help plan all of their activations around the globe, you know, help them. And again, I don’t give them the continent. They figure that out on their own, but we facilitate the process of marketing programs. Venue operations infrastructure really, uh, make sure that they, that Coca-Cola looks really good when they pull off in one big event.
Or if he, for all cup. So, how do you get into this type of thing? So you worked at Cub before they became a client of yours, but what’s the, what type of experience brings you to be able to execute on this type of thing? Well, I mean, for me, it was, I have an engineering background, so I’m an electrical engineer from Georgia tech.
And then I also have an MBA from Duke university. I have to say, I have a PhD in, in real life and growing up, as I mentioned earlier, growing up in the small town in rural South, my dad was a serial entrepreneur. So. From I worked at the time. I was six years old. And really that you learn things at six, seven and eight, about how you deal with people, because I work with the, for socioeconomic classes and different people in the town.
And so I think one of the things that that did for me is I’m a very math based person. I love math clearly as an engineer, I love doing math, but I think. The way I was raised in that environment, what that, what that different myself and also my younger brother, it kind of made us people, people, if you will.
So we learned to deal with people. We learned to enjoy people. So I don’t see people as job titles. I see people as individuals and I don’t care what your pay grade is. I don’t care what your salary is or what your title is. I see individual people, which is actually. One of the challenges I think we have today with the, uh, with this pandemic.
That’s so frustrating for me is really talk about going back to work and make sure you stay six plus feet away from each other. And I’m thinking to myself really, I want to talk to Mark. I want me to talk to Joe. I don’t want to only see them as germ caring, pathic delivery vehicles. Right? So that, that growing up kind of led me into the people side of things.
And then. My company, we love engineers because it’s all about process. You know, project management is processed basically, you know, a plus B a is two days B takes three days. Total project takes five days, but you have to have the people skills as well. And so I’ve learned over my career that I really like people and I started to gravitate more and more towards the people side of things.
That’s a really long-winded answer to the question, but really what it is is I kind of got into this. Sideways. I wanted to work on the Olympic project. My company that at the time was only hiring engineers and also like ex military people, which I was, I spent six years in the Navy prior to going to college.
So I kind of ticked all the, and I also had Coca-Cola experience, which is what they wanted. So I was the perfect person for them to then put on the Olympic project at the client. And so that’s, that’s how I got into it. And actually my original goal was not to do this forever. I was just going to do it during the Olympics and then go back to hopefully go back to Coke.
But what had happened was I love this job so much that I ended up staying and it’s been 26 years later. I’m still here. All right. So I’ve got a little bit of an off topic question for you. Um, you talking about growing up in a small rural town and yeah. Yeah. Sometimes I think, um, so I’m a father of three, and I understand the value of a lot of the things that you, you presented, um, growing up and understanding people and the things that you learned that are younger.
Now, one challenge that I, I battle internally is with how things are in current times. And I want my kids to understand those hard work ethics and things like that. But I don’t have a farm to go make them plow, like, all right. So, so parent, counselor, Clint, how do I help my, how do I help my kids understand, uh, manual labor?
Yeah, that’s, that’s actually very tough. I live in Atlanta now and I have the same challenges. My son is 13 and by the time I was 13, I mean, my brother and I was 13. My brother would have been nine we’re four years apart at the time. We were that age. We already had our own fireworks stand. We sold fireworks on the side of the road we sold, we made Boyle, you know, it’s a sold them.
And those opportunities clearly don’t present themselves in bigger cities. It’s really challenging. So I think it will be default back to is the chore thing. You know, you got to take the trash out, you got to take it down to the street. You gotta do this every, you know, gotta take the trash out and recycle that every day you got to pick up your clothes.
So it’s not the same thing as manual labor. But maybe that’s what all we had to do with the shoulder. So our kids don’t, I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah. All right. So earlier you talked about kind of getting in and exposing a businesses opportunities, and I believe you said roughly a three-day window. What, what goes on in the three days that you’re able to bring such clarity in such a short amount of time?
Well, it’s really interesting. I think that. When you, when project teams are formed, people often assume everybody has the same understanding that they do. And the problem we have with that is there’s a lot of communication that goes on, but not a lot of conversation that happens. So if you’ll allow me to, to talk about those two topics and the answer, your question.
Yeah. Um, communication. So for the. For the most of my life, I have the wrong definition of communication. I thought what you and I are doing right now is communicating. And it’s not actually the definition. According to Webster is the act or process of using words, sound signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information, or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings to someone else.
Well that by that definition, communication, it takes place in the form of emails, text messages, posting something on Slack or JIRA. And so what are the challenges with that? Well, the challenge with that is when we’re kids, we all play this game called telephone. And if you don’t know that game, it’s basically their five-year, you’d be lined up in a row.
And the first person whispers a secret in the second person’s ear and they have to whisper it on down the line. And of course, what you learned when you play that game is what comes out of person number five, his mouth. Is not remotely close to what person number one, whispered. And that’s because each individual person in between here’s what is said to them through their own biases, their own life experiences, their own definitions of the way that they understand those words and what they, what they are, what they mean.
And so it’s no, it’s not surprising that the message changes significantly between a person, one, a person five. So if you want to have the same message go throughout consistently throughout the organization or in our case throughout the five kids, what you have to do is if each individual person, when the whispered the secret in their ear is given the opportunity to turn around to the first part of the original person that said, Hey, what do you mean by that?
Yeah. Cause I think this word means this. Is that what you mean? And when you say go left, do you mean like right now or at the McDonald’s. You know, two blocks down. And by asking these clarifying questions, you’re able to get the exact meaning from the original intent. And then what comes out of person number five’s mouth should be very similar to what person number one said.
So we take that approach when we do project work and we come in and we pull everybody together in a room face-to-face for three days. And the first part of that is writing a charter for the project, which is, Hey, what Damon, what do you think the project is? And Sue, what do you think the project is? And Clint, what do you think the project is?
And then arguing about it. But at the end of that three or four hour window, we have agreed on what the scope of the project is not. Lets us think, go into planning and during planning, you’re still doing the clarifying conversations. Well, who owns this? What specific person owns this? Are they in the room?
They we’re going to take ownership for it today. And then how long does that person need? So we’re really fortunate these clarifying conversations to take place. And that’s really how we bring these complex projects to fruition. So is most of the engagement that you have with your clients? Is it, is it.
Is there a scope of a very specific project or is it overall greater company culture? It’s usually for a specific project or projects. I mean, we have some clients, like I just mentioned, we’ve been doing the Olympics since actually 1992 for that one client. We have other clients we’ve been at since the late eighties.
So some clients are so broad, so, so global and so huge that we’re able to. You know, w what we try to do is work ourselves out of a job. We want to come in plan the project that by doing that actually help you understand how to do it on your own so we can leave and go somewhere else. But some clients for different reasons keep us around for, for decades.
But a lot of times we try to work ourselves out of a job. And so we’ll be there just for a set window of time for a set number of projects, just to transform the organization, culturally, but around around projects. W is there, um, a more unique memory slash project slash scenario that stands out over these years for you, just, you personally.
I think I love the challenge of the global projects. I mean, it’s certainly today it’s even, even domestic projects are complex from the perspective of geographic, you know, drew African dispersed. Right? So in, of course it’s even exacerbated now by, by the fact that we have people working remotely and virtually, which adds another layer of complexity.
But for us, it’s not that big a deal because in my world we’ve been doing that for. You know, for over 30 years, almost 40 years now, working on global projects, what we find is that, so the challenges you have there, which I think are unique and I love is most of my work is for US-based companies that have overseas facilities and.
There’s a, there’s a bias there that a lot of times the company in the U S might say, well, we’re going to have all of our meetings, you know, during the day for us. Well, of course, if you’re in China, that’s 12 hours different. That’s very frustrating because that’s the middle of their night. So we try to do is we try to basically say, let let’s hear the pain.
So this time we’ll have the meeting. During the day in the U S. And so the people in China have to get up in the middle of the night, but the next meeting we’ll do the opposite. And that way we share the pain. So what we’re really trying to do is establish relationships. So it’s us. Altogether us and not just, you know, us versus the other country or us versus them.
It’s, it’s all of us together. And that’s really important because it’s, it’s about the bonding that happens. And so one of the things people say, well, you just said a few minutes ago, you want to bring people together for three days. You’re not seriously considering bringing people from China to the U S or U S to China.
And that’s absolutely what we do. We fly people around the globe to come to one common location. For three days, because what we w what we want to do in that three days, not only plan the project, that’s, that’s certainly what we wanted to do, but we also need to do. It’s established relationships, because what we’ve learned is we can do a 24 month project remotely, as long as we establish bonds in the first three days.
And what I really want to do is turn you from an email address into a living, breathing, human being that I feel accountable to. And I do that through conversations that happen during the planning session, but it’s also the organic conversations. This is one of the challenging things I think about working remotely right now here in the U S is.
There are organic conversations that take place when you were in a face-to-face setting that are not going to happen remotely, unless you purposely make them happen. Think about how many times you’ve gotten up to go to the restroom or go get coffee and a coworker. Bumps into you in the hallway and on the way to get coffee and back, you have a fantastic conversation that added value to some other things you’re doing well.
What you’re also doing is establishing a relationship with that other person. And so if we bring people together for three days to plan these projects, when they fly back to China or Pierce Aqaba Brazil or Argentina, it doesn’t matter because now I know that Damon is a guy that I like, because he’s got two kids, I’ve got two kids, we bonded over that.
And so you establish those relationships and you can then leverage those relationships. The rest of the project remotely. And that’s why I really like the global projects. Yeah, no, I agree. What, you know, you being in these global projects for so long, I think it’s easy, uh, for a lot of our listeners, especially the younger generations to take for granted zoom and these other methods of communication.
What’s one of the, the. How was global communication changed for you then versus now, like 30 years ago? What was it? Phone calls. It was phone calls. Yeah. Phone calls, you know, email. Um, and that’s really what it was. And it was after the original, we still got people together. But after that it was all virtual.
Right. And so I do think that I’m not anti text or, or you’re anti email. I just don’t think that should be the only thing you do. I’m a big proponent of conversation because. By definition, a conversation is an oral exchange of ideas, which means I have to listen to what you say and understand your position.
Don’t have to agree with it, but at least need to listen to it. And so I’m always a big fan of having any conversations and to be a good conversationalist. You need to use your ears more than your lips. If you’re not listening, then you’re not having a conversation. You’re just throwing data back and forth.
And I think that’s one of the doubt. One of the downsides of working virtually. Is you, you tend to fall back into your silo and you assume everybody understands what you’re doing and they really don’t. And this, the other thing that happens is we tend to rely a lot on email, text messages, you know, posting something on a collaboration tool like Slack or JIRA or mess ger.
And, you know, I think the reason we tend to do that, honestly, Maybe I have a negative slant on this, but I believe the reason we honestly do that is I want to check things off my to-do list. I want to Mark them off. And I probably going to be able to do that. If I can shoot it to you in an email or a text message and then say I’m done and really hope what I’m secretly hoping is I never hear from you again, I’ve thrown it over the fence and they really now what’s your problem.
Whereas if I pick the phone up. Orcs walk down the hallway, stick my head in the office and go, Hey Damon, did you get that email? Is that what you were looking for? I might find out the bad news that that’s not what she wanted. And so rather than it being able to check something off my to-do list, I just added three things to it.
And I’m not happy about that. And so I think conversations should be the most the thing you do most often. And then, yeah, shoot text messages and emails and posts. That’s all great adjunct things. I just don’t think you want to make them the only way you communicate, which is unfortunately what a lot of us tend to fall back in.
Do you think so? I agree. And it’s, it’s one of those frustrating things because I’m a type of person that wants to take ownership and make sure something gets done, even if it’s not necessarily my responsibility. But, um, one of the most frustrating parts is just about. Mentoring or whatever other relationships have on other people is seeing the lack of ownership that most other people take.
And it’s, from my perspective, maybe here’s my negative slant, but it seems like the minority of people. And I’m curious, do you agree? Take full ownership of, of opportunities. And I see them as exactly that opportunities, but it seems like most of the people don’t. Yeah. I think people do tend to hide from things.
And I don’t know if it’s because they don’t truly understand it or they don’t want to be, it may also be that the culture and the organization is one where the deliver bad news gets shot. Right. It was called a shoot, the messenger. And what we believe strongly is. First of all to your point, we do want people to take ownership.
And that’s why we do little things. Like the person whose name gets assigned to the activity actually has to be in the room with us. So you probably have heard people say, I’m afraid to leave the room because when I do my name gets assigned to everything. Well, you love us. Cause we don’t let that happen.
If, if Dame is not in the room and his name is not going on the activity, right. And then we look at you David and say, David, do you agree? This is your task. And you have to say yes. And then with David, how long do you need for this activity? And then only you can give me the duration for it because we’re trying, trying to drive ownership down to the team member level.
And what we really need to do is establish mutual accountability between ourselves on that project team. So I think that. So we do those little things to try to really force accountability down, which by the way is really important because it’s, most of the world today works in a matrix organization where the project manager doesn’t actually own the people on her, his team, they get their job reviews and their pay raises from their functional manager.
And it is dotted line to my project, plus five other projects. So not only do I not own the people on my team, I’m competing for their time. So the only way that I could possibly be successful in that, in that environment is if each individual team member holds themselves accountable. So I’m looking for people like you that are willing to take ownership, right?
We have to have that in order to be successful inside the organization, but the tie back into the first part of my statement. One of the things we find is, is that can really be deleterious to successful projects is if the leader of that project creates an environment where the truth is not acceptable, it is simply not realistic because I live in the rock.
I said, I have a PhD in real life. So I live in the real world and the real world problems are going to happen. Things are going to COVID is going to happen. Hopefully not often, but it’s going to happen. Factors are going to burn down, you know, trucks are going to Jack knife that we’re delivering your special product.
These things are going to happen. It’s definitely not realistic to say, Oh, by the way, keep the same date. Right. So we have to have those hard conversations. And I’m understanding about as a, as a project manager and as a leader, you need to be understanding of that because again, what are, what are people actually going to do?
They’re going to want to tell you the truth. Until you beat them over the head with it, then they’re going to walk away saying, huh? Okay. That’s not going to happen again. I see. Now you’ve created a situation where, or an environment where this, the truth was not acceptable. And so now what people are doing, they’re hiding from you.
They’re not telling you the truth and you’re a train wreck and you don’t know it. It’s much better to get bad news early. So you have time to deal with it then to have people hide from you. It’s interesting. You point that out because, uh, so me owning a, an SEO agency, what I’ve learned is the bigger the client, the more detached they become, and in your example of global global entities, and so much to the point now where I I’ve even told our team to start declining some of these mega companies, because what happens is.
We get assigned a point of contact who is so detached from the owning the best interest of the campaign that they don’t even care. And we get no feedback and we get minimal, um, you know, progress. And, and I guess me pointing this out is more, just a comment that. Even me from a totally different industry.
I can see these issues that you come in and solve, especially from these mega brands. Yeah. Cause what we do is we get both, both groups in the room together. We bring you in on the client side, bring them in. So we establish who does, what, what are the handoff points? You know, because what we also want to do frankly, is protect each individual.
So if you’re not getting the feedback you need from your clients, and yet there’s, they’re going to hold you to a deadline that you’ve agreed to upfront, then that’s not fair. And so we want to make sure that. The client understands, listen, this act, this, this approval. If everyday you delay it, you may as well add a date to the project because Daymond can’t do anything else until he gets into this.
And so we need to understand what those touch points are. And I don’t think there are people that are, that are bad people. I just think they don’t understand the role they play because they don’t see the big picture. They just see their one little piece of it and think, well, if I’m a few days late, it’s no big deal.
We try to make sure that people do understand the relationships. Yeah. Yeah. Well kind of, we got a ton of other stuff we could talk about. I want to be respectful of your time. Um, and I want to give you a last few moments. Um, thanks for jumping on learning from others and, you know, there’s, there’s all sorts of other things.
We, we kind of glanced already. You’ve written a book, you contribute on Forbes to all sorts of stuff. So what’s the best way that people can keep in touch and find out what your latest thing is you’re working on and maybe reach out to you and contact you. Yeah, two easy ways. You can go to my firstname.lastname@example.org or you can reach me.
You can also reach me on my personal website, which is Clintonmpadgett.com either way works. Very cool. We’ll put those links in the show notes, and I want to say, thanks for jumping on learning from others. Hey, can I give you one more tidbit before I leave? Yeah, go for it. Awesome. So one of the things I like to remind people as they are working remotely, because we know that this is going to be the way it is for a little while, at least, you know, we can argue about whether it’s sorry.
Got to go back or not. But one of the things I needed people to remember, especially when working remotely is, let me, let me use a story to touch, to tell you this. So back in 1997, us news and world report did a survey of a couple thousand people. And the question was, what chance would you give the following person to get into heaven?
And then they listed a bunch of people. So when I, when I go through the people you got to, you’re going to see it was a late nineties cause they bill Clinton. Right? So bill Clinton, they gave 52% chance of getting into heaven. Hillary got 55%. So I guess she got an extra 3% for putting up with bill princess Diana.
Now, ironically enough. Or sadly enough, that’s probably a better way to stay at this survey was done just weeks before she passed. They gave her a 60% chance of getting into heaven. And then on, down on Michael Jordan, 65% chance, Oprah Winfrey, 66% chance. So apparently you can indeed buy your way into heaven.
Then they said, how about mother Teresa? And when I first heard about this survey, I’m thinking mother Teresa, it’s gotta be in the upper nineties. I’m nobody gets a hundred, but man, it’s gotta be like 96 97. Uh, reverse that 79%. Not 97, but 79% said, mother Teresa had a chance to getting into heaven. So only one person scored higher than the 79%.
They scored 87%. That person was the person taking the survey. So the person taking the survey gave themselves an 8% better chance of getting into heaven, the mother Teresa. And so when I first read this article, I love the way the guy who wrote it, put it. He says, if I get this right mother Theresa and I show up at the pearly Gates together, Saint Peter says we only have room for one of you.
I look at mother Theresa, say, excuse me, ma’am the spots for me. Great. So why is that? Why would somebody do that? Well, I think what it is is we judge ourselves off of our intentions. I intended to get this done by Friday. It’s not my fault. I didn’t, I put in 60 hours for the company this week. My boss gives me too much work.
I did my job. I just didn’t get to this. And so I give myself credit, even though I didn’t get done. I judge everybody else. Based on results. So remember because everybody else and their silos are judging you based on results, not your intentions. Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot to be said to that. Now. Now I want to go, I was waiting for you to say Mr.
Rogers, he’s not on the list. The lowest one on the list actually was Dennis Rodman at 28%. Well, that’s even kind of funny cause I just watched, um, the last dance with Microsoft and Dennis Rodman. You talk about those too, so yeah. And I appreciate you sharing that and uh, couldn’t patch it. Everybody.
Thanks so much. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.