SL 51: Jonathan Rubinsztein, Infomedia

Key motivational drivers.

Welcome to the Supreme Leadership podcast where we interview business leaders every entrepreneur should follow. I’m Alinka Rutkowska, CEO of Leaders Press, where we help entrepreneurs turn their book ideas into bestsellers, and today I’m excited because we’re taking to Jonathan Rubinsztein, CEO of Infomedia.

Jonathan explains how he motivates his team through autonomy, mastery and purpose, how the second mistake is the one that kills you and how you can change individual people's lives if you just stop for a moment and focus on it.


If you’re a leader with 25 years in business and would like to be featured on the show, email me at and put “Supreme Leadership Podcast” in the subject line.

If you’re a leader without a book, discover how you can quickly and painlessly get your story out either as a lead generator for your business or as a legacy piece. Download your free copy of Bestseller Creation Secrets for Leaders at now!

Click here to view in iTunes


Deborah:               Well, hi Jonathanthanks so much for coming on to Supreme Leadership today. We appreciate having you.

Jonathan:              Thank you for inviting me.

Deborah:               As you know, right now we are interviewing various business leaders about mentoring and how it has affected their career and their company. So I'm just gonna jump right in and ask you our first question. Can you tell me one unique way that you're particular company has been affected by or improved upon by mentoring?

Jonathan:              Sure. So quite recently we identified eight key leaders in our organization, and our organization is going through fairly rapid change. So both the industry we're working and our actual organization itself has been changing quite quickly, and we've been on a journey really to try and drive agility in this market. And to actually innovate faster than our competitors. One of the areas that we looked at was, identifying key leaders and giving them a process. Actually we did engage very specific business leaders who had skills in not only mentoring, but also understanding a business environment. And giving those leaders in the organization a mirror to look at themselves and try get a view on their own style, and be able to reflect on what they were doing well? How that was impacting the organization, and that style was in the real disruption that is happening in the automotive industry, and then being able to cascade into improving their style and driving that agility and innovation.

Jonathan:              We set up a program actually now almost two years ago, and we engaged that. It was a formal program, and that was in combination with what we call our Informedia University. We had eight leaders go through their program. Look, I believe it was successful in terms of we're on a journey and I guess there's no end in any of this. So it's really just the journey that's important, and therefore I'm thinking about what our success looks like and I think it is really just the function of improving the individual and them being happier. But I do think that from my perspective, it appeared to be successful.

Deborah:               Do you ever do anything formal or informal with your new hires at your company?

Jonathan:              So with our new hires we have again, a fairly standardized induction process. However in terms of mentoring, I think the first six to 12 months is really trying to understand the culture and the environment first. We do do buddying across some of the senior staff supporting the new hires, but typically as a formal mentoring program we would probably wait 12 months before engaging that.

Deborah:               Okay. Does that look like having them work closely with a senior member or what does any kind of formal mentoring look like?

Jonathan:              So we actually in fact for the first 90 days, there is typically a senior person that supports that person just in terms of understanding the organization and how it works. Which is less about mentoring and more around buddying up in the first 90 days. In terms of mentoring however, typically we would wait 12 months before we do formal mentoring. And that is more around them having enough time to explore and understand the environment that they're in, if that makes sense?

Deborah:               Right, okay. So sometimes our mentors, or often our mentors are people that we can also have a mentorial relationship with a book, you can learn a lot from those. Could you tell us maybe one book that you have read and found has served a mentoring role for you?

Jonathan:              I read a lot, and I engage in various activities that I hope improve and give me a perspective on my style and my approach in my leadership. So in terms of a specific book, the one book that stands out, and the one also that stands out would be Daniel Pink. Daniel Pink speaks a lot about motivation, and I think the topic of the book, they've been a bunch but I think it was Motivation 2.0 or Drive, one of those two. I'm not quite sure though, but Daniel Pink talks about what motivates people and he really breaks it down and defines the old models of motivation were really around a carrot and a stick approach. His view is that, in fact those models don't work.

Jonathan:              Academically they've proven that in a very routine based process you might find that a carrot and stick does work. If you're screwing caps onto a toothpaste tube, you might find that there is a way to incent the caps per minute, manually doing a tedious task like that. However, in terms of what most of us are doing in a knowledge economy, the current research shows that there really seem to be three key drivers for motivation. And those are autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Jonathan:              Those three, given that you're fairly [inaudible 00:11:42] drive better outcomes than if you want a carrot and a stick end. So then one needs to consider how do you motivate sales people, where typically commission is a key driver. Whilst his view is actually paying them fairly, and then giving them autonomy. Giving them the ability to master a skill or technique or capability, and aligning them to the purpose of their own purpose and the organization purpose is actually more powerful than something like commission. That's certainly gave me a structure to think through motivation, which I think is a key part of leadership.

Deborah:               That makes a lot of sense. On the other side of the spectrum, so we also have mistakes right. So mistakes can be a big teaching moment for us, would you mind telling us about maybe a big mistake that you've made at some point during your career that taught a key lesson to you?

Jonathan:              Look I think we all mistakes. In fact I'm going to rephrase this question simply because I can, but my father always used to talk to me about the rule of the second mistake. The rule of the second mistake is that often the first mistake isn't the one that kills you, it's the second mistake. He actually spoke physically about, for example you have a small car accident. You're flustered and you're on a highway and you open the door and you get out the car, and the car then runs you over. That's obviously a simplistic version, but I think if I can use that as a metaphor. It's been a good learning for really, which I always describe as the rule of the second mistake. Which is, we all make mistakes all the time, and we live in an [inaudible 00:13:55] world where in fact learning is about making mistakes.

Jonathan:              So I can think of lots of scenarios where in fact the way we deliver and test business outcomes, we use, and another great book I've used in the mentoring for myself, is The Lean Startup. We use a process of testing new markets and understanding how a minimum viable product operates in the world. And then iterate and change and pivot, if that offering doesn't work. Versus going and building a whole new product and investing a whole lot of money in a product that might not actually succeed. I think that that kind of iterative process to me, I live and I try and live a lot of my life by. Which is to test things and try and make smaller mistakes early and learn from those. So that's kind of a philosophical view.

Jonathan:              Can I think of mistakes I've made? I think I make mistakes all the time. Whether they be investment mistakes from a business perspective, where you think a certain market makes sense. However certainly in the last ten years, I almost describe those mistakes as the further out they are from your horizon one offering, the smaller the bets need to be made. Therefore the faster you can identify if you double down, or if you end that bet because it just doesn't make sense I think in terms of that.

Jonathan:              The final reality from my perspective in terms of mistakes that I've made, I think the worst mistakes I can make is hiring the wrong staff. I can give examples of that, where under pressure the shortlist of candidates that we urgently need to make a decision, and I make a decision on hiring the wrong staff primarily because of both supply constraints maybe and time constraints. That to me has a significant impact on the business, because simply your business is all about your staff. It's all about your people, and employ the wrong people with the wrong cultural set or the wrong capability. To me, it's less about capability and more about set in reality. I think they always describe you need to hire for the future potential, rather than the skill set. And I truly believe that.

Deborah:               Yeah, and I also just wanna say I do appreciate the concept of the second mistake. I'm gonna have to remember that one going forward. Who have been your biggest mentors?

Jonathan:              So I've been very fortunate, I really do feel I've been very fortunate. I've had mentors from both my parents. My father who really was an academic running a business, but he really was a philosopher. He lived in his own world but he was the greatest, kindest person I know. People used to love working with him. I'm not sure he made too much money in that process, but people loved working with him. My mother, who was probably more of the driver behind me. She used to always see and always used to convince me that I could do whatever I wanted to do. From an early age, she used to support me both in love and also being the Jewish mother, running behind me making sure that I did stuff and motivate me. That was really I think useful for me.

Jonathan:              Then in my career, some of my friend and colleagues that I worked with in the early days when I worked at Anderson Consulting and Atikani. Those partners are still good friends and colleagues of mine, and both formally and informally I guess I still discuss, and there seems to be a two way mentoring relationship that we have. I'm very fortunate to have those relationships 25 years on. So I really feel very fortunate that through my career I've had lots of people that have been very supportive. I've trusted their opinion and there's never been an agenda, and I've had the ability to sit down and really reflect on myself. I do think mentoring for me, it's often been about putting a mirror in front of yourself and there are things that you don't really like sometimes.

Jonathan:              If you've got an honest mentor that can help you give feedback and you know there's no agenda, sometimes it allows you to unpick some of those behaviors and reflect on why those things appear. They don't always appear. They might appear under under pressure, or they might appear in strange situations. So I really do feel fortunate and very lucky. Certainly from my perspective, I have made a concerted effort to try and pay that forward to other people.

Deborah:               So can you tell us a little bit about how you have personally served as a mentor?

Jonathan:              I will tell a personal story, so in a non-business context about ten years ago. I have a fantastic wife, who typically for a birthday present gives me an annuity contribution to a charity of her choice. Her view is that if there is a God or a religion that might help me get into heaven, so she's kind of managing my future risk if you want. So one of my own personal desires was that if I can personally try and help two people who were not specifically and directly related.

Jonathan:              So two people that were actually strangers in my life. Every year I actually can make a change to people that actually were not in my sphere of direct influence. Obviously within the business it's easier to do that, but I thought as a way of improving the world and really in a pay it forward mechanism. So for a number of years, I actually haven't done it. I've been fairly busy in the last three or four years.

Jonathan:              But I did identify two people, whether they'd be someone in the local café that wanted help around getting a job. I sat down with him, did his CV with him. We sent off his CV, he was doing graphic design. We sent off his CV to a couple of people I knew, and hadn't heard from him for 12 months. Then one of the most gratifying things was 12 months later, I was walking around the beach where I live. And he ran up to me and hugged me and said, "Had I known how much he had changed his life?" That was just so gratifying for me and yet so easy for me also, to be able to do that. So that's one example which was something that I think I did for four years, and I think I made a difference. And then Unfortunately I haven't continued, but I certainly do want to continue doing that.

Jonathan:              Then I was working with the University of Sydney in their business school, and I was formally mentoring the MBA students. I did that for two and a half years. Again, from my perspective that was an incredible experience. I always say, in reality that was a very selfish experience because I think I got more out of that mentoring experience than the mentees did. They were really smart young kids, and that feedback to me, I really think gave me a great insight and I'd love to do more of that. But that was a formal experience that I did for about almost three years.

Deborah:               Amazing. So what would you say is the area that most entrepreneurs need mentoring in?

Jonathan:              I'm going to suggest again, and I don't like reframing your question. But my experience is that often entrepreneurs don't know they're entrepreneurs, specifically when they're in the technology field. So they're very smart people who got an idea, and I think that their desire is often to go and do something and build something. But they're technologists, not necessarily entrepreneurs. They prepare to take the risk, but they often don't understand, they don't necessarily even want to be an entrepreneur. It's just a calling, a drive, a desire to build something.

Jonathan:              I've been working in the field of technology typically in various areas, and I have stumbled across lots of people who are super smart technologists, but their ability to relate to human beings is probably less of their strength. And their ability to build and design great technology, is their strength. My view is there are lots of opportunities for people to either translate their vision, help them manage their organization, work on how to execute a growth plan. That's often the gap I've seen in the technology field. Where the super smart outliers who really are incredibly visionary, their blind spot might be more, and maybe not even a blind spot, it's just really their skill set and they are wired is, that their strength is more around the engineering side.

Jonathan:              Simplistically if I can break it down, they probably have a stronger left brain focus than a right brain focus. Therefore getting them to be more rounded and to think through, and maybe the support around the people side of things, the growth side of things, and the translating a technology vision into a business vision I think is where I've seen the biggest gap in this space really.

Deborah:               Okay. So if you were to write a book, what would be your key message to entrepreneurs for them to be able to replicate your success?

Jonathan:              I find that a very difficult question, simply because there's so much that is contextual. There's so much luck, there's so much opportunity that I've had that has really made I think in some respect it not necessarily easy to replicate it. Because I just think there's a bunch of luck and the context often helps. I am halfway through writing a book, which I stopped about four years ago. So I'm happy to share with you what that was, which isn't necessarily going to replicate. But the title of the book was Zing Intuition: What they Don't Teach You in Business School. The concept was not a mystical concept of intuition. It wasn't an intuition where you hear a voice, but it really was the concept of the reality that we are taught to be so left brain and so formulaic and so rational, that often we don't hear our inner voice. Which says, "You know I've experienced something similar to his before. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something doesn't feel right."

Jonathan:              I gave a bunch of actual examples of that within a business environment, where you're interviewing someone for a role and something doesn't quite feel right. And there's a great book called Thinking Fast Thinking Slow, and in that book again I do think a great book. The author is very cautious of using the thinking fast process to make decisions, because of the risk of bias and one all has a whole of biases. My view around the intuition however, is that we have so much data and our brain operates so much faster than we realized, that there's this concurrent process which is your brain. That's sifting through billions of data points and memories, and you can't necessarily identify where that emotional, that zing, that thought that comes out, that goes, "Oh my goodness, I'm worried. Something does make sense."

Jonathan:              My strategy which I try and do is, park that feeling but take notice of it and then try and get the data to try and unpack what it is. Is is something they said? Because I think that those feelings are actually very powerful, and that they can help. I think that it's a huge part of your being, and I think we're taught not to feel in this world often. It's think, don't feel. I think that the feeling part is important. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but I do think that's it's important to take notice of that intuition. That concurrent process, and then try and figure it out. The more you do it, the better you get at it. You walk into someone's room and you get a good or bad feeling, well that might be because they've got photographs of their kids and you identify, or there are books that you pick up and you don't even realize consciously that you've made that decision. But try and work it out, because I think that we're not to feel things, we're taught to think things.

Jonathan:              And when we did our MBA, there's certainly no class on intuition I've ever seen in an MBA class.

Deborah:               Do you think you'll finish writing your book?

Jonathan:              Possibly. I think I would like to finish writing the book, and it's just a function of you've got lots of little projects going. I'm about a third through the book. When I read it, I didn't like as much as what I thought I'd written. So that's probably why I stopped.

Deborah:               Gotcha. All right. Well Jonathan thank you so much again for taking the time to stop by and join us on the podcast today.

Jonathan:              Not at all, thank you.

Leave a Comment: