Today’s episode covers 500 year old ship wrecks, 30 hour scuba dives, mastodon bones, and Iron Man racing. Jarrod Jablonski may be the most badass guest on The LeaderShift Show yet! He is one of the world’s preeminent deep sea cave divers and has turned this passion into several thriving global businesses. Jarrod’s perspectives on the trial and error approach to innovation in cave diving equipment and building a team-based culture on diving projects and in his companies is relevant for those of us mere mortals who conduct our business above ground!
Episode 26: Diving into Your Own LeaderShift Journey with Jarrod Jablonski
Shani Magosky: Hello Leadershifters and welcome to another episode of The Leadershift Show where strategy and culture finally meet. Today’s guest may be one of the coolest people I’ve ever had on my show and he’s cool for a lot of reasons. First of all, he is an underwater cave diver. If you don’t know what that is, stay tuned. It’s a very small niche of even the best scuba divers do cave diving. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, he does iron man’s, he is a renaissance man, and most importantly, he’s been one of my great friends since high school, if you can believe it. In 12 years ago folks just kidding. Leader shifters meet Jarrod Jablonski.
Jarrod Jablonski: Hi Shani, it’s a pleasure seeing you again and thanks for inviting me, I’ll do my best to try to live up to that sparkling introduction. I’ll see what I can do.
Shani: My pleasure. Jarrod is joining us from Dubai, which is where he’s been living for almost the past five years, but we grew up together in West Palm Beach, Florida, and even though you guys all know I’m a University Miami Hurricane, Jarrod is a Florida Gator, and we maintained our friendship despite that college rivalry. Let’s get right into it because I know my listeners and watchers are going to really want to know all the cool things that you do, not necessarily to emulate them exactly, but some of the tips and suggestions you might have for how they can pursue some of the more esoteric interests that they might have. First of all, how did you even get into scuba diving and then escalate into cave diving?
Jarrod: Well, that really started back when we knew each other in high school. I’ve always been very interested and passionate about aquatic activities. We grew up together near the ocean so I was regularly there. I was always athletic so I engaged in a number of different competitive sports before juniors high school, junior high school and into high school. I was swimming a lot and really enjoying the water so I got certified, I guess, when I was about 12, 13 years old, freshman sophomore kind of range in high school and I really loved it, I loved being in the water then. Then when I went to college, I started to dive a little bit more actively, and I started to teach, I needed to make some money to pay for school even though University of Florida’s less expensive than University of Miami, it’s still a challenge as you know back then for college is always keeping things open.
I liked doing that better than waiting on tables so I started teaching diving and relatively soon around that period I started doing a fair amount of cave diving because that part of North Central Florida, Gainesville area, a couple of hours north of Tampa, Orlando, Florida region has a lot of caves, there’s a lot of underwater caves specifically, so I started doing a ton of cave diving. Being landlocked away from the ocean I had to get my water fixed somehow. I started doing quite a lot of that and I realized I could actually teach cave diving and make a pretty darn good income for a college student.
I not only was able to pursue my passion, but I was able to pay for college along the letters that, you remember jobs.
Shani: I think what you just described is everybody’s dream, to be able to make money at something that for most people is a hobby and something that they are so extremely passionate about.
Jarrod: It occurred to me when I heard you say that. I want to give that advice following your dream and your passion and the thing you love and it sounds so trite, but at the same time it really worked for me. It took a while and it was a lot of work and it was more than a decade of nail-biting stress why did I do this, what am I thinking, I should get a real job, but ultimately, there was enough trial and error and I found a way to turn it into a successful career.
Shani: Absolutely, as I described you as a serial entrepreneur, you’ve got several different companies that you’re operating now, one I know is a guiding company to take other folks out to do cave dives, another one is an equipment company, correct, where you, to the best of my recollection, saw a need for more advanced diving gear than what existed to truly do the kind of cave diving that you needed and then of course I know you also get hired by companies and even countries to do exploration of caves and wrecks. Which one would you like to start with, because I think we’d like to hear about all three and how this succession went?
Jarrod: In fairness we should probably start with the manufacturing company, it’s the largest of the initiatives and it’s what everything was born from. When I was nearing the end of my college career and getting nervous that I’d have to go get a real job for once in my life, I’d been teaching very actively and I had developed a pretty good global reputation as a diving educator, but I wasn’t really seeing that would maintain enough longevity and common sustainability over time, but around that time I was also doing a lot of long-range cave exploration and if we have the time I’ll show you a few pictures of some of the evolution of that activity, but we got into serial, world record distance cave dives that we were doing dives in the end about 30 hours in total to about 12, about 10 to 12 hours in the cave at a depth of 300 feet and then that’s taking about another 20 hours to come up slow because you have to decompress from that dive or remove the cast that your blood has absorbed from spending so much time.
Shani: How many tanks of oxygen do you need to do a thirty-hour dive?
Jarrod: You have a lot of different tanks of special blends, we use helium-based mixtures called trimix or heliox, we use different oxygen level blends with different levels of oxygen in them, we use too much oxygen deep then you have seizure problems, if you don’t have enough shallow then you go unconscious. It ended up being many science experimental along the way, there was a lot to learn. We entered this activity around the time that was really just starting to become more popular and around the time the internet was starting to really develop and I hate to date you that way Shani, and myself I have to admit, [laughs] but there was and the internet was not prolific in every part of the world. During this time, there was really very little, if any, information available about this kind of dive, so we started to the active on internet lists and we built I think my first web page in 1995. We started to really promote the kinds of things we were doing and created a lot of global, a bit global following.
To short-cut a long story, during that time we had to develop a lot of customized equipment because there really wasn’t the kind of equipment we wanted for the kind of diving we were doing and we begin to modify equipment and then ultimately build new pieces of equipment to enable the dives we were doing. People started asking me questions, hey, can I get one of those and I started to develop the idea this was a pretty interesting niche market, I was starting business through that time period and looking for something like that so I settled on the manufacturing side which began to build equipment in this period in the mid to late 1990s.
That spawned the different companies you mentioned, I started originally with retail sales because in the beginning I couldn’t get any dodge shops to carry my equipment so I started my own web retail base, turned that into actually a physical store location, I kept the pricing networks so that I could add stores later so I didn’t try to come out super cheap, I just tried to come out with good quality premium equipment because I really wanted to sell globally through an infrastructure through dive shops and distributors. I kept that pricing and then over, of course, in five to ten years, I was able to build a brand enough to a point where people were actually starting to ask us now at that point if they could carry the equipment.
Then the other companies followed along with that. I started a training company that does a lot of high-end training for performance-oriented recreational divers or leading-edge technical people that like to do deep, long range, cave stuff. Those are the three main interests, I do bunch of other stuff but try to keep it straightforward.
Shani: I want to pause for just a second because what you just described, there’s a couple of really important lessons for those of you who are watching and listening around innovation. The first is one of the best ways to have a successful innovation is to recognize a need that’s missing in the marketplace and fill that need, as opposed to being an also-ran. The second thing is trial and error, you said even before you started talking about the equipment, you were talking about the trial and error you went through in oxygen tanks and blends and all that stuff. What I want to say to leader shifters is listen, the trial and error that you’re most likely doing in your What I want to say to leader shifters is listen, the trial and error that you’re most likely doing in your organizations, while yes, I get it’s serious isn’t life and death necessarily the way Jarrod’s and his team’s trial and error were trying to figure out the right combinations of oxygen and so forth to take them on 30-hour dives. Let’s get past the fear and realize that anything great that’s worth doing is going to take some trial and error and some failures and learning from the failures in order to get to the ultimate innovation. I’ll get off my teacher soapbox now, and go back to–
Jarrod: I couldn’t agree more.
Shani: We would love to see some pictures and for those of you who are only listening to the audio, Jarrod, I’ll have you describe what you’re showing to us. Go ahead and hit the screen share button and take us through some of the cool like some of the coolest dives you’ve done. Love this picture. Okay, I’m turning it over to you Jarrod. Okay, perfect. So
Jarrod: Okay perfect. I’m going to start out in Florida. That’s the area that as you know, we’re both from. This is North Central Florida, we’re looking at Wakulla Springs, which is up near Tallahassee, Florida, the state capital. And this is just a beautiful picture looking over a river. There’s a big spring under here as well called Wakulla Springs, super popular area for glass-bottom boat tours, I’m looking outward. We’re sitting at about 100 feet down and looking up in the beautiful blue sky through 100 feet of blue clear water, and there’s a glass-bottom boat sailing around on the surface. It looks air clear, really a breath-taking kind of location.
We’re shifting to the picture inside the cave now. We’re about 500 feet back into the cave at a depth of about 180 feet, and there’s a diver going in on underwater propulsion vehicle wearing some specialized equipment and several other kinds of things we developed and refined over the years. This cave, the Wakulla Springs Leon sink system is the largest cave system in the state of Florida, actually in North America. And it’s the fifth-largest in the world. Some of the spots are small. I’m showing a picture here of a diver trying to squeeze through a tiny little opening and see just the fins in the foreground and then they’re fighting their way into the cave.
There are many entrances. Well, with a little effort and a little digging, we also built specialized equipment so you can take the tanks off your back. It’s called side mount equipment. And so a number of different pioneering technologies allow divers to do a lot of crazy things that many people might not want to do. Some of the caves are really small like the one we just saw. Now I’m showing a picture of a very large chamber. These kinds of chambers can be hundreds of feet wide, couple hundred feet tall, one of the biggest, will easily hold a 747 full plane, actually even in an A380 anyway I’m dating myself with the reference standard that we’re used to use, but it will hold even the proper larger A380s nowadays. You have massive caves and small caves all throughout requiring a wide range of equipment. This early frame grab in the late 1990s first website for the retail-based company, just for a fun blast from the past. This was the manufacturing company around the same time called Halcyon manufacturing. These are early very ugly web pages, I apologize, but nobody knew how to code back then.
And then the equipment or the exploration company Global Underwater Explorers. This is their one of their first two websites as well. All very simple, old school. A picture of the manufacturing facility which is located in High Springs, Florida. That’s right outside Gainesville, Florida so it’s till about two hours north of Tampa, and this operation really ended up being the sole source of calcium. We used to have a production facility in Fort Lauderdale and a smaller one in High Springs. We ended up closing the one in Fort Lauderdale and opening the one, and opening a large one in High Springs because the labor rates were– It was practical for people to earn a decent quality of living in that part of the world where South Florida just wasn’t possible with all the offshore competition.
Building a lot of different types of equipment. This was one of our very first pieces of rebreather equipment, it’s a massive system. We used to joke it was the fridge because it’s about the size of the hotel refrigerator. Then you put big tanks on either side of it. It was just a monster system to carry around. It was just one of the very first designs that we came up with. This is just a picture so you can see a close up of double host system that allows you to breathe in from one supply and then you exhale through the other rows and that sends the gas into a system that cleans the carbon dioxide out and then remixes the right proportion of other gases into the loop, this will give you about a 50 to one benefit. If you’re familiar with regular scuba diving that that size cylinder would last about 50 times longer if using this kind of system, the benefit from a technological perspective.
This is from the mid-1990s. This is just lots of gear splattered all over that we would use. I’m holding in front of me one of the very first underwater camera systems that we would mount to these propulsion vehicles. We started documenting caves back in the old analog tape days, riding through the cave, documenting these systems. As we got further and further in the caves and got more and more interested in the environment, and were able to build equipment that let us do more amazing long-range dives, we started really falling in love with this environment. At the same time we noticed the environment was declining in quality and so we started doing a lot of different kinds of research to support longer dives.
Here we have a diver who’s going through an assessment so we can build more custom tables to allow us to ascend more quickly from decompression that I mentioned to you earlier. I spent a lot of time talking about it. The longer you go, the deeper you go, the longer it takes to come up to the surface. There’s a technical way we can manage that process. I’ve got a picture here of one of our early teams in Florida. I started to build a team-based approach very early and Shani, you might like that team-based concept. We started building teams in Florida and then globally that would allow us to expand and building on a platform of teams. I wrote my first of several books that allowed us to develop a very standardized platform for equipment and for procedures.
Some of that became a bit controversial because I was promoting a very standardized platform for the kinds of diving that we were doing. Some people thought that was a little too much. We were too militaristic about our diving, but we were very successful in setting multiple records in North American and then global records progressively for longer and longer dives into the caves. This one’s Manatee Springs, which is not so far from Wakulla. This is near to Gainesville, Florida.
We’ve been publishing books, magazines. This is a magazine for the exploration company that we publish on a quarterly business. In the caves themselves, we find fascinating archaeology and historical evidence and this is actually an old mastodon bones. This is old archaeological evidence of this region. This Wakulla Springs was actually a large Indian site at one point and so they would have probably slaughtered mastodon in the area, or they would have fallen into the cave.
Shani: When you find things like that, do you have a way to collect them and surface with them so you can give them to other researchers?
Jarrod: Yes, we do. We work with a lot of different governments. In the United States, we work with a lot of local universities. Maybe neither of us like it but I work with Florida State University a lot because they’re nearby and Tallahassee, we’re grabbing a little bit really fun. They do really good work in the region and we work with depends on where we are. Sometimes it’s international governments and a lot of other countries. Here we would work with archaeologists and biologists and geologists. Actually, there’s a hose running through the middle of this picture right above the mastodon bones. And that’s a water sampling tube that we would install meters throughout the cave, so we could measure water quality in various areas in the cave system. A picture of a few more bones that are scattered near the entrance. We would have to build underwater habitats in some of the caves because the dives were so long. This would allow us to get out of the water for short periods of time during the 20 hours of decompression as we made our way up. This just a nice exit view with a lot of equipment that a diver put in and are wearing.
Shani: I really question, how do you eat when you’re on those 30-hour dives or do you not?
Jarrod: We do. We do. In fact as the dives got longer, we started to eat more. We even started to take hydration and fuel breaks. We normally– The easiest thing to eat underwater is gel-based foods. Similar to what we would use in athletic competition, much easier to eat. Then one of the reasons for the habitats that I showed previously, it’s a little upside-down, plays like a diving bell, almost that the diver can come up and get their head and shoulders above the water. And in that case, you can now eat solid food and so we design special tubes that you could put food in and then pressurize the tubes and then depressure the tube so you could get the food out.
We’d even at the time designed underwater music players and all kinds of stuff to make our deep dives a little less miserable. Here we have two divers with a flow meter between. This is a PVC tripod with concrete field legs so it stands nice and steady in the flow and it’s a flow meter that allows the local hydrologists to get 365 days a week, 24 hours a day sampling of the flow of moving through this tunnel, and we put about 10 of these in, we called a springs cave system. This is another cave right nearby. This one of the small entrances that you have to enter with more tube that’s being run. This is some tube that can be used for water sampling purposes or it’s also showing this is a dye trace.
We would inject a dye into the water then pick it up at different locations so we could track how fast the water was flowing from wet areas. We did a lot of work to see what its contamination potential was. A lot of regional issues. Here this is just showing a picture of a diver holding that injection dye. We really reshaped the way scientists thought of the cave’s impact on the local areas.
Then the final part of Florida, this is just a map of the area. This is- I said is, the largest underwater cave in North America. It’s a little over 30 miles with about 30 different entrances going all over the place and quite close to the city of Tallahassee. Ultimately, any kind of contaminants that might enter this from septic tanks or from gas stations can travel very quickly through these conduits so we’ve been working with the State to designate green areas in critical sections.
Obviously you need housing, you need businesses but there are also better and worse places to put those activities, and so we work a lot with the State and local land developers to try to refine that process. That’s like 20 years in 20 seconds for Florida. We did a lot of that kind of work in that region. Do you want to see any other parts of the world?
Shani: Yes, I’d love to see what were some of the coolest dives or the scariest dives, you just have a few highlight pictures to show us to give us another taste of the stuff that you guys are doing?
Shani: Or either do you have pictures from ship recoveries and stuff where you’re down there exploring shipwrecks or anything?
Jarrod: I do. I’ll do that one right after this, this is just China. I’ll flip quickly through some pictures. We’ve done about five years of work here in China. A similar story, massive caves throughout pictures with huge caves that have a lot of dry caves and a lot of interactive wet caves. Massive conduits. The water here isn’t very clear so the government was really working with us to do a lot of water quality samples. It turns out most of that is just surface water like you would see in a dark river. But they were designating this whole region as a conservation zone quite a lot of pretty aggressive, repelling, and dry caving. I know you’ve done a bit of that. We built a lot of maps and three-dimensional models for the government in that sense.
Let me show you some interesting wreck diving. This is a nearly just under 500-year-old shipwreck known as Mars. It was a Swedish ship during the seemingly endless war between the Danish and the Swedes which finally did end. This wreck is amazing. You’ve got massive bronze cannons, they are more than 20 feet long. Longest warship at the time but just under 500-years-ago. The water here is just above freezing, 34 degrees and it’s about 260 feet deep. The divers are all going around looking at artifacts. We have five PhD professors assigned to this project and we do this every year for the last eight years now.
Here I’m showing a picture of some of the researchers that we work with. These are some of the gold coins that we’ve brought up from this particular wreck. Pieces of the wreck they ask us to bring up so they can put them in museums and recover them for people can come visit. These are just some of the recovery of those coins. It was pretty cool because the King of Sweden actually came to visit us. This is a picture of the King of Sweden who made a surprise visit. He’s related to the King whose face was on the coins. It was fun to bring out the coins-
Jarrod: -let him see his 500-year-old ancestor looking at the regions. Quite a cool project there. Then this picture I’m showing now is a pretty neat shot when you start to understand what it is. This is actually a picture of the shipwreck but it’s a compilation of about 5,000 images all stitched together. These pictures were actually taken like about three feet off of the wreck, then thousands of pictures were taken of the wreck and the debris field then stitched together through a computer software program.
This allows us- we do a ton of this kind of work now, even more advanced into 3D modeling, but this is the laser I’ll show you now. This is hyper-accurate so this is a millimeter accuracy scale. I didn’t load the full res image but if I load the full version of this file, you can actually zoom all the way into the file and researchers can study and measure various components of the shipwreck.
I could zoom in even on this low resolution one and I can show you this is a cannonball hole that I’m pointing the cursor to-
Jarrod: Yes. If you have the high res version researchers can really do a lot of detail research, even this low res model still isn’t half bad-
Shani: No, it’s fascinating.
Jarrod: -now in three dimensions, you can actually take this and spin it around and cut slices out of it and-
Shani: That’s so badass.
Jarrod: -below it and all that stuff. In situ archeology now is really a big thing that we do because researchers are not really capable of going 300 feet deep in 34-degree water for hours on end-
Jarrod: -but we bring them back the data that they can utilize and do a lot of great research. Then let me do the last one, depending on your timing. We also do a lot of work. This more formal globally. This is one of a couple ships that we use. We have a couple substation in Fort Lauderdale where my partner runs the sub-operations. This is from a couple years where we took the ship around through the Mediterranean and did a lot of work with the researchers in a variety of global locations.
A few of these pictures are some of my favorite because this is in Italy, in the Northern part near Palermo. This diver is uncovering a 2,000-year-old sacrificial altar that was part of a large debris field we found in an ancient shipwreck in the area. This is me bringing over some artifacts to a researcher in the submersible. I would bring things over and he would identify whether he thought they should come up or not because we try to preserve as much as we can in location, but really unique items they want to bring up.
In this case, we brought up about 10 items that were moved over to archeology. Here you can see a bit of the debris field. These are amphora which were ancient Greek Tupperware. They transported wine and spices and all that stuff in the ship. So these would all be quite old pottery. Just a few pictures of divers moving around with the subs, a little bit of a compilation image in that cave. Then this last actually image here is of a U-boat that’s up off the coast in North Carolina that we took the same ships and subs over to, and this sits in about 850 feet of water so we were down there-
Shani: The U-boat as in a German U-boat that got to North Carolina?
Jarrod: It did, yes. Not even very far off the shore of North Carolina before it was sunk.
Jarrod: It was actually sunk by merchant marine ship in the day. This is a project we did with NOAA, the National Oceanic Administrative Atmospheric Association. We’ve done several different projects with NOAA particularly in that part of the world. This is one of those 3D models, I’m not using the full interactive version of this at the moment just for simplicity but, you can see all the amphora littered around in this model and you can see this three-dimensional nature.
When loaded in the program, we can slice different areas and measure amphora relative to their various locations so that becomes a pretty dynamic effort. Sadly this is your interesting fact of the day. Here’s the 2,000-year-old sacrificial altar. This is with a couple friends of mine, sadly the one on the right was the lead researcher and the one running all the conservation work through Sicily who died in Ethiopian airlines crash very recently.
Shani: Oh no.
Jarrod: When I pulled this up to get you the picture, he was a tireless advocate for some of the work in the region. I think that’s– well, there’s Mexico. I could have go on forever but I think you might [laughs].
Shani: Yes, thank you so much for the slide show and sharing your personal photos, so incredible.
Jarrod: My pleasure.
Shani: I was blown away [laughs].
Jarrod: There’s a lot of them and it’s a pretty neat place underwater world.
Shani: Right? Most people don’t even explore what’s above the water in their lifetime let alone all the new stuff that’s below the water. I want to ask you a couple of questions about culture. I guess one, let’s piggyback off a comment you made earlier about a team-based approach. How did you think about laying a foundation for the culture, and how did you scale it as you continued to build, because that’s a huge challenge for a lot of my clients.
Jarrod: I think it is for anybody. It becomes a little overwhelming, and I think actually a lot of the stuff that I learned from running diving teams and volunteers actually helped me from a business perspective because, you know, a lot of the research we do is volunteer based, and when you’re working with researchers, you’re not paying them and it’s even harder to tell them what to– you can tell them what to do, but you don’t have a paycheck to hold on to them, so it can be harder to motivate them. I actually found that thinking about employees in that regard actually was also useful because with a volunteer you’re trying to think about, all right, how can I motivate this person, how can I keep them excited, how can I make them feel part of the team. You know, how can I get them showing up the next day? These are all really the same things we should be dealing with our employees as well.
They need clear direction, they need to have a reason to come to work other than the paycheck. Paycheck’s great but at the end of the day, you know, that’s almost like getting somebody to do what you want through fear. It can work, but it’s not very inspirational and it doesn’t help us.
Shani: It’s not sustainable either.
Jarrod: Yes. It doesn’t seem that way over the long haul. I learned a lot from that activity, and I learned that clear direction and trying to develop a clear motivating influence in people’s lives was a very significant aspect. For me standardization is the aspect that played pretty heavily through the organization because people always do what to do, where to do, how to do, and progressively it just became more and more obvious as everything that we tried to accomplishment did a nice clear handbook or a guideline that we wanted everybody to understand where everybody was supposed and what everybody was supposed to do was useful.
We got criticized in the diving world a bit for that for taking the funds forward and turning it into a military weekend, but–
Shani: But you’re doing the kind of things you’re doing if people aren’t following the standardized things that, you know, there’s no one who can recommend best practices as well as someone like you who’s done probably the most cave diving if anybody alive today. I can’t even– that seems so short-sighted to criticize along the procedures that you’ve come to know work and keep people alive.
Jarrod: I think the biggest thing is a lot of people misunderstand the propagation and the standard as if we’re telling them if you do it this way you’re doing it wrong, you know, you’re making a mistake, and really our intent has always been to build a system and set of standards and equipment and procedures that allow people to follow the same approach so that everybody on the team is on the same page. That application on the technical diving world is similar to what I’d like to use in the business world, keep all of our teams moving in the right direction.
Shani: I like that perspective, that standardization, policies procedures, whatever we want to refer to it depending on our context isn’t about making people right and wrong; it’s about establishing a system that works.
Jarrod: I concur.
Shani: Good. And so– were you going to say something else?
Shani: I want to keep going on the culture and that piece about sustaining it sounds like part of it is the standardization, and is there anything else that went into it because, I mean, it is such a challenge. Like for example, when I work with startups, they have a culture that they envision and it works for the first 20 to 50 people. As they get bigger than that, it becomes a real challenge to sustain it and, you know, we’ve seen that as companies like Google have grown and so forth, even other companies like that who have had enviable cultures to begin with have a hard time maintaining it. Any advice for leader shifters there?
Jarrod: Yes, and I think that– I think trial and error, to be honest, and I really– I try to spend a lot of time maintaining open lines of communication with team members and I really try to work hard to make sure people have the chance to do most number of things they want to do and the least number of things they don’t want to do. Most of them– and all those situations I openly admit, we all do lots of stuff we don’t want to do. I have a company and I do more of the things that I don’t want to do than I think I should, but we’re part of a team. And it depends on we need to balance that, so if you feel after a couple of years or whatever period of time you’re starting to migrate into it in disproportionate and more and more noise, it’s a signal and doing more and more things that you don’t want, let’s look at how we can change that up.
I find often making shift responsibilities around a little because a lot of times something someone doesn’t like to do, they’re just a little tired of doing. It isn’t that it’s necessarily miserable; they’ve just done if for a year and they know it really well, so having them teach the next person how to do some of those kinds of responsibilities. I realize it isn’t always practical but in a lot of cases I found, we can shift around different types of tasks and responsibilities and open dialogue where people are encouraged to talk about what they do and don’t like and give them that atmosphere. I really try to allow people to feel comfortable complaining.
Open the door and tell me what you don’t like and let’s see if we can fix it. You know, come first is obviously with a solution on your own and then let’s explore your solution. And I found many people were pretty good at that, and some are great but then they are if you give them the chance and you keep practicing it with them. Ultimately I find more and more people side on that idea.
Shani: Well, that’s the key is practicing it with them because that’s how you create that psychologically safe environment that I talk about all the time, which is that you’ve created the kind of culture where people aren’t afraid to come in and complain and start to brainstorm solutions with you. They’re not going to get penalized for it because what they see that you view it as, okay, you know, I don’t know how to keep people motivated unless I know what’s demotivating them, right?
Jarrod: Yes. Exactly. And I don’t– you know, and I like to do that especially with managers but even sometimes in larger group meetings in a different region, regional offices. I like to ask people that kind of question. What do you think we can do to motivate you more, you know, as a group? What do you think is motivational? I’ve gotten some surprising answers from different groups before, things that I would have not ever thought about, and I’m always often surprised, maybe less amongst these years, but I’m still often surprised that sometimes there are some pretty easy things that we can do as business leaders and owners that don’t really cost any or much money and that really make a difference for people, and often actually, even just being asked already means a lot to people. Just showing you care whether they’re happy or not, and even if you just say, Okay, well, collectively we haven’t figured out a way to solve that problem but I do care about it. You know, let’s go keep thinking about it and see if we can work on it, then I find if I touch base with them later, they already just feel better about it. It sounds a bit silly but people like to be cared about and respected and if you’re doing that it seems to go a long way.
Shani: Hundred percent. Re-infusing humanity back into our workplace relationships goes such a long way. I talk about that all the time as well, and I’m glad to hear that that’s the kind of leader one of my best friends has turned into. [crosstalk] what’s that?
Jarrod: I’m sorry. I was just going to say I perceive that’s going to be more powerful especially for the younger groups because it appears the millennial and the generations after them are more interested in quality of life and flexibility and they have a different set than our generation. They seem to be less focused on a little career track, material development, and a little more on life experience, so I suspect those things will mean more rather than less as the younger generation comes into the workforce.
Shani: Yes. For sure. I have one last question for you. It goes a little bit to the training for diving but I know more recently you’ve been doing all these iron mans, and for those of you who don’t iron man, it’s crazy like 100-mile run, how long is the cycling and the swimming?
Jarrod: Two and a half miles swim and 110-mile ride and 26 mile run.
Shani: All right, sorry, 26-mile run marathon. I got my numbers wrong. Insanely difficult race and it’s not just about your physical ability to do those things. I think a lot of it is up here. And so what advice would you have for listeners in terms of mindset and training regimen and not so much for iron man per se, but training for anything that is difficult and takes commitment?
Jarrod: I think just learning how to be persistent in life in general. I mean, you know, you really have to try to establish a goal in your mind and you need to hold that goal and you need to keep finding different ways to action it and to stay motivated and oriented around it. The thing about endurance stuff is there’s a certain joy to suffering because you realize progressively overtime, and I learn this in technical diving and sort of 30-hour dives as well, that the thing that seems unbearable once you push past it for a bit and you look back at it, you’re like, “Oh, I can do that,” so each thing is a progressive process. You wouldn’t want to go out and do an iron man or any long-distance or any kind of long anything, but progressively after you push past that envelope, I always sort of– I heard years ago a comment I really liked that you get the courage to do the scary thing after you’ve done the scary thing.
Jarrod: A lot of times, you just really have to put your head down and push past your comfort zone, maybe it’s just a little bit, and then the next time you come back to that thing, whatever it is, it’s just that much easier and pretty soon, you really start to learn that almost anything, I think actually anything if you’re willing to dedicate truly to it, can be accomplished. The biggest issue is you have to pick something. We only have so many opportunities and narrowing in on the thing or things that you want to pursue and attacking it with dogged determinationship and don’t let the setbacks affect you because sometimes it takes months, often years to get where you want to be, and it doesn’t happen without focused effort in my experience. Maybe some people are lucky but [chuckles]-
Shani: I don’t know anyone who is truly great at anything who wouldn’t say it doesn’t take dogged determination and focus, so thank you for that. Leader shifters, what’s your iron man? I’m not saying we all need to go out and run these crazy endurance races and swims and bikes, but there’s got to be something that is a personal goal for you. What’s your personal stretch? What is the series of progressive steps that you think you need to take in order to reach your version of the iron man? So, love that inspiration. Jarrod, thank you so much for joining us today. I know it’s the end of your workday in Dubai so have a great evening. If people want to reach you or learn more about you or are interested in cave diving, how do people find you and your businesses?
Jarrod: Well, let’s see. gue.com is probably the easiest thing to remember.
Shani: Okay, yes. Global Underwater Explorers, gue.com.
Jarrod: Yes, that’s probably the easiest, shortest number of letters. Halcyon Manufacturing was the other company and Extreme Exposure was the third company, but I think most of you who are just looking to access me, you can find me on that website under Instructors and I have my email and contact information there as well.
Shani: Fantastic. Such a pleasure. Captivating. Thank you again for the sharing of pictures. Leader shifters, hope you took away some of the same valuable lessons that Jarrod underscored today in terms of innovation takes trial and error, don’t get discouraged, keep at it, teams, the importance of teams and treating our people right and open lines of communication and figuring out what truly motivates them, just asking those questions in and of itself can be a culture builder. And, of course, what shifts do you need to make to keep things interesting for your people and for yourself to work towards some of those bigger goals that you might have. You know where to find me, theleadershiftproject.com and all of our various and sundry social medias. Until next time, Leadershifters, thanks for joining us. Thanks Jarrod.