How to Do Crazy Good Turns — Frank Blake

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“You get what you celebrate.” 
– Frank Blake

Frank Blake (@frankblake) served as chairman and CEO of The Home Depot from January 2007 to May 2014, and then as chairman through January of 2015. He previously served as deputy secretary for the US Department of Energy. Prior to that, he served in a wide variety of executive roles at General Electric.

Frank’s public sector experience includes having served as general counsel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), deputy counsel to Vice President George H.W. Bush, and law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Frank serves on the board of directors for the Georgia Aquarium, Proctor & Gamble, Macy’s, and is currently serving as board chairman of Delta and Grady Memorial Hospital. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a jurisprudence degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Frank also produces a short-form podcast called Crazy Good Turns, which tells inspiring stories about amazing people who do things for others. In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss a book that inspired both of us, advice from Jack Welch, the art of customer service, “productive conflict,” and much, much more.  Enjoy!

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Want to hear another episode with a fascinating leader? Listen to my conversation with Ray Dalio. We discuss how Ray thinks about investment decisions, the three books he would give to every graduating high school or college senior, how he might assess cryptocurrency, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):



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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Frank Blake:

Twitter

Show Notes

  • Frank and I discuss a book that’s near and dear to both of us. [05:11]
  • Frank talks about growing up in New England and recently celebrating his sharp-as-a-tack mother’s 100th birthday. [10:20]
  • While growing up, what did Frank aspire to become? [11:55]
  • What led to Frank’s early fascination with politics? [12:33]
  • How does Frank explain his eclectic career’s rare blend of politics, law, and entrepreneurship? [13:18]
  • Frank walks us through the decision process to leave his DC law practice and join General Electric. [16:19]
  • Frank talks about getting CEO advice from GE’s Jack Welch, and why he would “never take a phone call from him sitting down.” [18:49]
  • Advice Frank got from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus about the perils of corporate echo chambers. [25:06]
  • How did Frank disrupt The Home Depot’s echo chamber and encourage productive conflict? [25:57]
  • What did Frank learn about the importance of celebration as a CEO that he missed as a lawyer? [28:05]
  • A relationship-building technique Frank picked up from working for George H.W. Bush. [31:27]
  • How does someone in charge of 350,000 associates pick who gets rewarded for their good deeds? [33:27]
  • What makes a customer service story noteworthy? [35:20]
  • When he took the reins at The Home Depot, what metrics did Frank focus on? [37:37]
  • How — and why — was Frank asked to be CEO at The Home Depot when it wasn’t really a job he felt cut out for at the time? [39:23]
  • Why did Frank recommend selling the business? [40:41]
  • How did Frank’s legal training help with (or hurt) what came later? [44:02]
  • How was The Home Depot’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) measured? [47:29]
  • What has Frank found to be the best way to deal with business worries? [48:54]
  • Now that he’s about as retired as he’ll ever be, how does Frank cope with anxiety these days? [54:03]
  • How and why might someone unsure of a higher power decide to pray? [58:10]
  • What happened when Frank posted his phone number online and invited Home Depot customers to contact him. [1:02:08]
  • Lessons learned from Bernie Marcus. [1:04:01]
  • What changes did Frank make to The Home Depot that made hourly employees more invested in the company’s success? [1:05:30]
  • Frank talks about dealing with The Home Depot’s 2014 data breach. [1:07:51]
  • An embarrassing but important failure. [1:13:27]
  • Are there different species of worrying? How can it be constructive? [1:17:21]
  • Does Frank find value in practicing anxiety transfer? [1:19:13]
  • What advice did Frank give his successor at The Home Depot? What advice might he offer to someone in similar circumstances? [1:21:25]
  • How did Frank develop the skill of simple and portable messaging? [1:22:49]
  • Frank’s “favorite story.” [1:23:32]
  • What projects keep Frank occupied these days? [1:26:12]
  • How is Frank working to become more genuinely helpful and generous? [1:28:32]
  • Books Frank would recommend to a budding entrepreneur. [1:31:27]
  • Books gifted most often. [1:33:27]
  • Books Frank has recently read. [1:37:18]
  • How does Frank choose the books he reads? [1:38:32]
  • A recent, relatively inexpensive purchase that has had the most positive impact on Frank’s life. [1:39:33]
  • What class would Frank teach, and what would the course description look like? [1:42:22]
  • What figures from American history would Frank most like to meet? [1:43:44]
  • What would Frank’s billboard say? [1:44:57]
  • What episodes of Crazy Good Turns would Frank recommend as an ideal starting point? [1:45:58]
  • What prompted the creation of Crazy Good Turns? [1:47:29]
  • An ask of the audience and parting thoughts. [1:48:53]

People Mentioned

Posted on: March 15, 2018.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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16 comments on “How to Do Crazy Good Turns — Frank Blake

  1. Hi! Saw in the 5-bullet Friday email today that you were enjoying the Barkley Marathons documentary. You should also check out “Where Dreams Go to Die”, another documentary about Gary Robbins’ quest to complete the Barkley. He’s going back for his 3rd attempt this year!

    Like

  2. Lazarus would be a fun interview, however Tim, if you want to interview somebody with true grit, may I suggest Gary Robbins from N.Vancouver.
    Gary is hoping to be the first Canadian to complete the Barkleys and this year will be his third attempt!

    Like

  3. Tim you’ve helped me lose 40 lbs! Turned me into avid reader! Expand my intellect tenfold! And one day an entrepreneur! Question: Do you ever take extended breaks from non fictional reading? Cerebral de-load of sorts.

    Like

  4. Hey Tim, would love to hear from more entrepreneurs compared to the recent guests. Nothing against the recent guests, I just prefer the business and top performer interviews. Is it just me?

    Like

  5. Hey Tim please bring Big John McCarthy on the show. It would be an incredible interesting podcast, because he is very knowledgable and
    he has a totally different perspective on the sport. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnoqUjld2_M He seems to have a scientific like so hearing you both nerd out on combat sports would be awesome. Guys please reply or upvote this, because a request from one person in a million will be ignored.

    Like

  6. I was ready to skip over this when I heard “Home Depot CEO” but I’m glad I stayed for the entire podcast. Very thoughtful and edifying, tons of quotable goodness in there. “Optimism is a force multiplier,” “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

    Like

  7. Hi Tim,

    This was definitely a very interesting podcast, especially since you can feel the high level that was required from Frank in order to get in that position. The people who have helped in this journey to the top have also added a lot of value to this episode.

    We might need more of this kind of “best advice” your guests have received during their life, since, as we all know, no one is really self-made. Looking forward to the diversity of the podcast, and seeing how the questions and conversations are being refined for maximum quality advice and life-lessons.

    Will make a blog post on my website with the podcast notes of this episode soon, after I catch up with a few others. It’s great to identify the patterns and be able to take away, even if just one thing that can make a smaller incremental change.

    //Felix

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  8. Phenomenal. I did not know who Frank Blake was before your interview. Thank you for introducing me to him. What a gift.

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  9. Hi Tim, Thanks for creating a wonderful blog that creates an immeasurable impact on people’s lives. First of all, I am Deaf and I am hoping to get the most out of this inspiring talks. However, there is no closed caption or script provided for the Deaf readers to get the benefit out of it. Is there any possibility of attaching the rough script for our benefit? For your consideration.

    Like

  10. Hello.where could I find the script of “crazy good turn”.I am an English learner .I have already download a pdf document .But I can’t find it .Could you help me ?

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    • aaaaand this “fact finding” keeps you trapped in the past because you keep retelling the stories to yourself and looking for an “answer.” the only answers come from not looking for them. pious buddah out

      Like

  11. Thanks, Tim, for an excellent interview with Frank…perhaps among your best! His approach to business and life is worth a book, which I hope he writes. As an attorney being tagged to be CEO of a large retailer, it must have been daunting, but he seemed to fold in like he knew what to do and how to do it! Incredibly rare, as he is. As memorable of a discussion as I have heard in a long while.

    Like