Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

6.5 years ago, when a San Diego-based client asked for our help to codify their core values, I immediately reached out to WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge. I was first charmed by Garry when I heard him speak at a leadership conference. His Australian accent, the catch in his voice when sharing a story about balancing the weight of leading a publicly-traded company while making time to be a good soon to his aging mother, the self-deprecating humor, made Garry one of the most approachable speakers I’d heard. And when I emailed Garry to ask if he would be willing to host my client for a “culture field trip” to WD-40, his response was an unqualified yes.

I explained to my client that in order to accelerate their work, I wanted them to experience what it looks like when a company’s core values are hard-wired into their behaviors and, ultimately, organizational performance. This basic connection is true for every organization. The key difference is that a few leaders like Garry Ridge take personal responsibility for codifying the connection between culture and performance. They don’t outsource it to HR or delegate to Marketing. They live it and model it every day.

When I showed up at the WD-40 headquarters with my clients to learn about this culture connection, Garry Ridge personally met us at the door and led us through a one-and-a-half-hour tour. Here are three of the top takeaways we heard from Garry on that culture field trip:

  1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization. “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said. He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments. Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not. At today’s WD-40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.
  2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. In Helping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system. Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets. They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager. The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As. Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”
  3. Get your values off the wall. WD-40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens. Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall. Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance. He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.” Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.

WD-40 Garry RidgeOn August 31st of this year, Garry is stepping down as CEO of WD-40 after 25 years of service. He plans to launch a consulting practice called The Culture Coach. I, for one, look forward to supporting Garry in this next chapter just as he has so graciously supported mine. So, farewell to Garry as WD-40 CEO and G’day to your new, exciting role!

Ten “A-ha” Quotes from My Work with  Clients This Summer

Ten “A-ha” Quotes from My Work with Clients This Summer

By: Sheri Nasim, President & CEO

This summer, I’ve had the privilege of working with teams from Ivy League Schools to government contractors to startups spawned from UC Berkeley labs. I’ve partnered with a 31-year old CEO/Founder to discuss how to build a leadership team, I’ve facilitated training for high-potential employees and senior leaders interested in mentorship, and I’ve worked with teams to refresh their 3-5 year strategic plans.

Regardless of what I’m asked to help with, leaders from organizations of all types and sizes are searching for answers to improving communication, getting better traction through aligned goals, and managing change. Throughout these meetings, there are usually one or two “a-ha” statements that serve as a catalyst for moving from what is to what is possible. Here are ten such quotes that have resonated with my clients, that may inspire you as well:

  1. If you have 100% of the information needed to make a decision, you’re not actually making a decision. You’re just stating a foregone conclusion.
  2. Your power as a leader does not lie in having all of the answers. Your power lies in your ability to ask the right questions.
  3. The need to change is not an indictment of your past performance but a recognition that you are farther than you have ever been but not yet where you want to go.
  4. Strategy without execution is meaningless; execution without engaged people is impossible.
  5. One of the hardest lessons we learn as change agents is that we have to change ourselves first.
  6. A change in a belief occurs before a meaningful change in behavior.
  7. Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin.
  8. People are down on what they’re not up on. Communication matters.
  9. Strategic goals are not aspirational. They’re about having the discipline to make good tradeoffs about what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.
  10.  Surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.

I hope you find a statement or two from this list that resonates with you. Write it down. Share it with your people. The lessons learned through others can be extremely impactful on your journey.

Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

“There is a big disconnect between what science knows and what business does.” So claimed Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. One of the three elements of true motivation, Pink found, is the deeply human need to learn.

Our workplace training typically takes place in multi-hour or multi-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering starts to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. By Day 40, our chances of remembering drops to just 10%. That’s an incredibly expensive and inefficient way of learning.

So, how do you find the time for learning and sharpening your leadership skills when faced with the urgency of work?  The answer, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology and Harvard Business Review researchers alike, is microlearning. Microlearning is learning that has been curated specifically to take advantage of your brain’s natural tendencies. Your working memory can hold only four to five key concepts at any given time. Microlearning, then, is designed to share only a few key concepts in any given lesson. This makes the transfer on learning to the desk much more efficient.

What’s more, microlearning greatly improves retention. Although science tells us how our brains are hardwired for learning, our workplace training still typically takes place in half-day or full-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering what we just learned begins to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. Just 40 days after the training our chances of remembering drops to just 10%.

That’s why we’ve partnered with awarding-winning Blue Ocean Brain® to bring microlearning journeys to your laptop or smart phone. The platform is used by trusted brands like MetLife, Siemens, and Panasonic to deliver microlearning to give their employees globally-relevant, fresh, on-demand content.

For the price of a cup of coffee a day – and in less time than it takes you to drink it –  you could learn how Appreciative Coaching works, or find out Why Saying, “Good Job!” Really Isn’t that Great and what to do instead.

Coaching Others

Need to have a difficult conversation? Check out How Effective Leaders Deliver Difficult News, or How to Name the Elephant in the Room.

Microlearning topics like these helps keep you competitive in today’s market. You can feed your need to learn the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and retain what you learn as you go.

Question: Where do your turn to get just-in-time solutions to your most pressing workplace challenges?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

5 Key Steps to Giving Critical Feedback in the WFH World

5 Key Steps to Giving Critical Feedback in the WFH World

For two years, managers have been waiting for ‘the day’ when everyone goes back to the office. The expectation, back in early 2020, was that once the pandemic had ended, we’d all collectively resume our pre-Covid patterns of office-based work.

During that period of collective pause, managers leaned on the side of giving grace while their direct reports who were able to work from home (WFH) navigated the complexities and uncertainties of pandemic life. “My meeting link isn’t working,” “I’m recovering from my booster shot,” and “It’s not going to be a camera day for me today,” became familiar and forgivable lapses in engagement.

But, with the emergence of Covid-19 variants like Omicron, managers have abandoned the idea that there ever will be a day when we’re all permanently back at our office desks. That also means that critical performance feedback cannot be postponed and must be given remotely.

Giving critical feedback is one of the most challenging responsibilities of a manager. If you’re a manager whose team is working remotely, here are some key steps to update your approach to giving critical feedback in the WFH world:

1. Lead with curiosity. Ask open-ended questions to get your employee’s perception of their performance before expressing yours.

2. Point out their value. Show specific appreciation before laying out criticism. They’ll be more likely to be receptive to your feedback if they trust that you value them.

3. Partner for performance. State your positive intentions. Something as simple as “I’m in your corner” can go a long way.

4. Clarify and contrast. “I’m saying X, but I’m not saying Y.”

5. Close with their summary. Ask your employee to state their key takeaways from the conversation.

We’re all under long haul stress from the pandemic. Some of us are dealing with it better than others. Take care to deliver your feedback with clarity and sensitivity to help your team member focus on the reality of how their performance needs to improve, even in a remote environment.

Question: What are some ways you can update your approach to giving feedback in a WFH world?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

12 Powerful Quotes that Highlight MLK Jr.’s Leadership Legacy

12 Powerful Quotes that Highlight MLK Jr.’s Leadership Legacy

This month, Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 93. While it is customary to look to our elders for sage advice, King knew that he was walking a path of imminent danger, but that his words could not be silenced by a bullet. Before his assassination at age 39, King reached deep within himself to find messages that would ring as clear and true today as they did during the turbulent times in which he was called to lead.

Here are 12 quotes from 1960 (at age 31) to 1969 (the night before he was killed eight years later) that are part of Dr. King’s enduring legacy.

1. In the final analysis, the question will be, “What did you do for others?”

(Three Dimensions of a Complete Life, Sermon delivered in Pasadena, CA, February 28, 1960.)


2. I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other. 

(Lecture given at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, October 15, 1962.)


3. History has proven that social systems have a great last-minute breathing power, and the guardians of the status quo are always on hand with their oxygen tents to keep the old order alive.



4. We often end up with the high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.



5. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair.

(Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written while in solitary confinement after being arrested on charges of violating Alabama’s law against mass public demonstrations, April 16, 1963.)


6. Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 

(I Have A DreamAddress given at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963.)


7. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

(Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, Norway, December 11, 1964.)


8. We must learn to live together as brothers — or perish together as fools.

(Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, Commencement Address for Oberlin College, June 1965.)


9. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus. 

(Domestic Impact of the War, Speech before National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace, November 1967.)


10. I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear. 

(Where Do We Go From Here?, Address delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention, August 1967.)


11. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. 

(The Drum Major Instinct, Sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church, February 4, 1968, two months before his assassination.)


12. Either we go up together, or we go down together. 

(I’ve Been to the MountaintopSpeech given at the Mason Temple, Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968, the night before his death.)


The last words of King’s speech at the Mason Temple were borrowed from The Battle Hymn of the Republic, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” At his funeral, his wife, Coretta, completed the stanza that King had been too overcome by emotion to add, “His truth is marching on.”

Question: Which of these quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. do you find most compelling today?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

The 10 Most Popular TED Talks of 2021

The 10 Most Popular TED Talks of 2021

Want to get out of that “meh” feeling and start finding your flow? Interested in learning more about how mRNA works? Looking for ways to have constructive conversations and deepen your relationships? From speeches on education to the practice of mindfulness, TED Talks are the perfect source of inspiration and taking tiny steps toward showing up as your best self.

Here are the talks that most intrigued and inspired in 2021, including talks by Adam Grant and 7-year old Molly Wright.

10. The Counterintuitive Way to be More Persuasive by Niro Sivanthan

About the speaker: Sivanathan is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the London Business School. His award-winning research has garnered international press coverage and he is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including being selected as one of the World’s 40 Best B-School Professors under 40 by Poets and Quants in 2016.

What this talk is about: How our judgments, decisions and behaviors are regulated by the psychological experience of being cloaked with status and power.




9. The Cure for Burnout (Hint: It Isn’t Self-Care) by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

About the speakers: Emily Nagoski is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Come As You Are and The Come As You Are Workbook, and coauthor, with her sister, Amelia, of the New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.

What this talk is about: In an introspective and deeply relatable conversation, the authors detail three telltale signs that stress is getting the best of you — and share actionable ways to feel safe in your own body when you’re burning out.



8. Meet the Scientist Couple Driving mRNA Vaccine Revolution by Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci

About the speakers: The German couple and founders of BioNTech teamed up with Pfizer on a vaccine that was found to be more than 90 percent effective.

What this talk is about: In this illuminating conversation, the immunologists share the fascinating story of how their decades of mRNA research powered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — and forecast what this breakthrough science could mean for the future of vaccines and other immunotherapy treatments.



7. Using Your Voice is a Political Choice by Amanda Gorman

About the speaker: Amanda Gorman is the first youth poet laureate of the United States. She is best known for her performance of The Hill We Climb during the 2021 presidential inauguration.

What this talk is about: In this fierce talk and performance, Gorman explains why poetry is inherently political, pays homage to her honorary ancestors and stresses the value of speaking out despite your fears.



6. How Your Memory Works – And Why Forgetting is Totally Okay by Lisa Genova

About the speaker: Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist and novelist whose fiction beckons us into the lives of people with neurological disease, making their worlds real and relatable.

What this talk is about: Genova wields her ability to tell a story and her knowledge of the human brain to discuss medical conditions like Alzheimer’s in warmly human terms. She explores how we remember, why we forget and what we can do to improve and protect our memories.



5. The 1-Minute Secret to Forming a New Habit by Christine Carter

About the speaker: As a sociologist, Christine Carter, PhD, inspires large-scale, systemic change in our most common and influential social structures: organizations, families, and schools.

What this talk is about: You know how resolutions often go: you set a goal and start strong … then the motivation runs out and feelings of frustration and shame creep in. The struggle is real — but what if it doesn’t have to be? Carter shares a simple step to shift your mindset and keep you on track to achieving your grandest ambitions.



4. The Science Behind How Parents Affect Child Development by Yuko Munakata

About the speaker: Yuko Munakata is a professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

What this talk is about: Parents, take a deep breath: how your kids turn out isn’t fully on you. Of course, parenting plays an important role in shaping who children become, but psychologist Yuko Munakata offers an alternative, research-backed reality that highlights how it’s just one of many factors that influence the chaotic complexity of childhood development.


3. How to Have Constructive Conversations by Julia Dhar

About the speaker: Julia Dhar is a partner at Boston Consulting Group, where she leads the firm’s behavioral insights and behavioral economics initiatives. She helps C-suite executives and frontline managers apply those same tools of communication and negotiation at the moments that matter.

What this talk is about: In this practical talk, Dhar shares three essential features of productive disagreements grounded in curiosity and purpose. The end result? Constructive conversations that sharpen your argument and strengthen your relationships.



2. How to Stop Languishing and Start Finding Flow by Adam Grant

About the speaker: As an organizational psychologist, Adam Grant rethinks how people lead, work and live. Among his guiding principles is to argue like he’s right and listen like he’s wrong.

What this talk is about: Have you found yourself staying up late, joylessly bingeing TV shows and doomscrolling through the news, or simply navigating your day uninspired and aimless? Chances are you’re languishing — a psychic malaise that has become all too common after many months of the pandemic. He breaks down the key indicators of languishing and presents three ways to escape that “meh” feeling and start finding your flow.



1. How Every Child Can Thrive by Five by Molly Wright

About the speaker: Molly Wright, a student from Queensland, Australia, is a passionate advocate for early childhood development. At just seven years old, she’s one of the youngest people ever to give a TED Talk.

What this talk is about: Breaking down the research-backed ways parents and caregivers can support children’s healthy brain development, Wright highlights the benefits of play on lifelong learning, behavior and well-being, sharing effective strategies to help all kids thrive by the age of five.



Question: Which of these remarkable TED Talks did you find most inspiring?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!