Growth In Uncertain Times With Garry Ridge – Replay

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty


COVID-19 emerged like a thief at night, shrouding our lives in uncertainty. It stole many opportunities and lives, casting a long shadow across many industries. In this episode, Garry Ridge, Chairman of the Board & CEO of WD-40 Company, explains how building resilience is the catalyst for growth during uncertain times. Garry dives deep into how WD-40 transformed anxieties into fuel for growth, fostering a resilient mindset that helped them navigate the pandemic. In our new world of remote work, Garry reveals the secrets to building strong virtual teams by bridging the distance and creating a workplace that feels connected, even on screens. Building resilience isn’t about avoiding the storm; it’s about weathering it with grit. Join Adam and Garry in today’s conversation to equip yourself with the power to navigate chaos and uncertainty because the world can feel like a house of cards in a hurricane during those times, after all.

Show Notes:

  • 02:49 – Humility and resilience in leadership
  • 05:43 – The importance of worry
  • 11:46 – How WD-40 deals with uncertainties
  • 19:39 – The “greatest escape”
  • 21:30 – The desire to belong
  • 28:34 – Ushering the greatest disruption
  • 32:18 – Employee engagement survey assessment
  • 34:11 – Check-in phase and addressing stress
  • 40:39 – Never-ending improvement
  • 41:42 – Episode summary
  • 45:55 – Garry’s rituals for personal recovery

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How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world? 
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.

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Growth In Uncertain Times With Garry Ridge – Replay

I hope this episode finds you in great spirits and ready for some valuable insights. Before we dive into today’s replay, I want to remind you that life is an unpredictable journey and sometimes the best lessons come from revisiting past conversations. This episode is one of those gems. It’s a replay featuring an incredible expert guest that we’ve had the pleasure of hosting before. As always, thank you for being a part of the Change Proof Podcast community. Your commitment to growth and resilience inspires us every day. Without further ado, let’s rewind the clock and dive into this incredible replay episode. Get ready to be inspired and motivated, and become even more change-proof.

In this episode, I have the wonderful honor of interviewing somebody that I’ve known for a couple of years. We got introduced through a mutual friend and I’ve been admiring his work for many years. He’s done a tremendous job as a leader and I want to start by reading his bio and then we’re going to spend some time digging into some pretty difficult concepts. It’s nothing easy, which is good because it’ll be meaningful.

Garry Ridge is the chairman and CEO of the WD-40 Company. He joined WD-40 in 1987 and held various leadership positions in the company before being appointed CEO in 1997. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego, where he teaches the principles and practices of corporate culture in the Master of Science and Executive Leadership program. He’s passionate about learning and empowering the organizational culture that he has established at WD-40 for a long while now.

In 2009, he co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard outlining his effective leadership techniques titled Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A. I love that. He’s also a native of Australia, as you might gather when you hear him speak. Garry, it’s a pleasure as always to get together with you. Thanks for being a guest on the show.

Good day, Adam. It’s a delight to be here. As I said before, my real introduction is, “Hi, I am Garry Ridge. I’m the consciously incompetent, probably wrong, and roughly right chairman and CEO of the WD-40 Company.”

As you can already tell, folks, if you don’t know Garry, I hope you will get to know him not just through this show, but by following him on LinkedIn and other places. You’ll see he is a man with humility and it’s not a thing you always find in somebody at the level of leadership that he’s at. I appreciate that about you, Garry. Let’s just dive in right there. How important do you think humility is if you think it’s important in a leader?

The Importance Of Humilty

Today more than ever, Adam. I often say that leadership fails when ego eats empathy instead of empathy eating ego. Particularly in the last couple of years when our job as leaders has been to bring people together as the world has pushed them apart, and that’s been a wonderful opportunity for us at WD-40. We have a tribal promise, which is a group of people that come together to protect and feed each other. Also, this journey as disappointing as it’s been to the world has been one of tremendous learning, and I think we’re better for it. Maybe we were gifted this awful experience to wake us up in a number of ways.

You’ve had to be resilient. Is that fair to say?

Yes, absolutely. I found an interesting definition that I like about uncertainty and it became more and more real to me going through COVID. It is a series of future events that may or may not occur. In fact, most of them don’t occur. I think part of the resilience has been understanding what it is that we need to focus on during these times because we could get disrupted very easily.

Isn’t that the truth? I think disruption is more the norm than it is the exception. I think it’s always been the case, but more these days than ever before. Do you have a personal definition or even a corporate definition of resilience that you can share with us?

I don’t know that we have an absolute definition, but I would suggest that it’s us being able to understand the situation we’re in and make conscious decisions about what we need to do. I was lucky enough that you sent me an early copy of your new book and congratulations on Change Proof. I’m a big fan of Winston Churchill and I love this quote that’s in there. This is a Churchill quote. “When I look back on all the worries, I remember the story of an old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” There’s a lot of resilience in thinking about that as well, but I thought that was a great reflection on making sure that we get rid of the clutter. As you say, you pause, ask, and choose.

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty

Times Of Uncertainty: Understand your situation and make conscious decisions about what you should do.


Worry is so interesting. When you think about resilience, we can define it. We’ll define it, of course. My experience is as many people as you ask that question, how do you define it? Resilience, that is, you’ll get that many independent different definitions of it. However, one thing that is important to talk about is what defeats or gets in the way of resilience. You’ve brought something up right out of the gate, which is important, and that is worry.

You have a lot on your plate. You have a long history with this company. This company has been a model of longevity and resilience. It has done quite well and certainly, has done very well under your stewardship. With everything that’s always been going on in that arena, how important has worry been to you or has it gotten in the way, do you think?

I’d like to separate worry from fear because I think that fear is something that fuels worry. What is worry? People often ask me, what keeps me awake at night? I think that’s an interesting question because if it’s keeping you awake at night, I don’t think you’ve thought it through. The world is not perfect. One of the things that became clear to me during COVID is in times of real and great need, people can pivot around fear.

In times of great need, people can pivot around fear. Share on X

I’ll give you an example of that. Before COVID hit in March 2020, it was like turning off the light switch. There were so many things that were once optional that became compulsory and one of them was working virtually. We had installed and equipped our tribe to have the virtual tools they needed, but they were fearful of using them because it wasn’t the norm.

They worried about how people would see them. They worried whether they would look good. They worried about all this stuff that didn’t matter. It became compulsory and suddenly, we had to pivot around that fear and not worry about the dog walking in or barking or something going on. We became competent around that. I think if we can work out, how do we work out what’s making us afraid that’s making us worry? If we can move that, we become much more competent and much more resilient in what we do.

My history is I spent eighteen years in the legal profession before I pivoted. Much of that time I used to say things like, “You can’t win without worry.” I used to tell my clients that I was a professional worrier. I worried for them. What I got paid to do was take on their worries and all. At this juncture in my life and over many years of now thinking about it and writing and researching on it too, I feel like worry in many ways is energy wasted. It’s energy-depleting and it is rooted in fear. If we pivot around that fear, what ends up happening is that those worries don’t have to keep us up at night it seems.

We know why WorldBlu had Traci Fenton who says, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” That’s an interesting question. I’ve used that a number of times with some of our leaders where they’re stalling on making a decision. I said, “What are you afraid of? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Now, what will you do?” Again, bringing these things down, it’s amazing how many things we’re not afraid of if we face them and go, “Do I have the right to be afraid?”

Worry doesn’t do anything. It’s such a negative place to be. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned. That’s the difference between worry and concern. As we went through COVID, I was concerned. I was concerned because there was uncertainty. This series of future events may or may not occur, most of which don’t and I spent a lot of time sorting out the possibilities of these events happening or not happening. Where does your energy go? There’s a chance that this could happen. How are we going to protect ourselves? How are we going to work around this that may happen?

Indeed, that Winston Churchill quote, which I think is also based on Mark Twain’s take, the tongue-in-cheek take on that as well is this ever-present uncertainty. I’m curious, how has uncertainty impacted WD-40? You brought us back to the start of COVID and that was just the beginning. I think what I hear when I’m speaking with organizations, I get this great honor of keynoting and getting invited like you do to speak to organizations on a regular basis.

Uncertainty is something I hear constantly and I think people were just waiting and anticipating that somehow the uncertainty would come to some sort of a head or would end or we’d be going back to something that resembled the past. I’m curious, inside of WD-40, what has uncertainty looked like and how has the company been dealing with that?

How WD-40 Deals With Uncertainty

When this first broke back in March 2020, I was in Italy at the time on my way to our meeting in Europe and I felt a bit like Indiana Jones having this boulder chasing me with COVID. I think when it broke and got serious, I didn’t think any of us thought it would have the longevity that it had because there was a lot that we didn’t know.

I think initially it was, “What do we do?” I’m uncertain. We went through a process of secure reset, revive, and thrive were what we looked at. The first thing we did was we need to secure the business. We came out and we said we had three clear objectives from day one. We activated our global issue response leadership team.

We said, “Here are the three things we’re going to focus on. The safety and the wellbeing of our tribe, taking care of our customers, and securing our business to thrive in the future.” However, as we went through, I think the uncertainty got worse because suddenly, it was becoming real. At that stage, we thought, “Maybe it’s a sprint,” then it became a marathon and then it turned into multiple marathons along the way.

Fortunately, we got to learn as we went. Being a global company, as you know, things were pinging all around the world. It’s interesting to talk to people just in the United States who didn’t understand what was going on in other places around the world. We have a subsidiary in mainland China. It hit there first. We were seeing what happened.

As it went through other geographic locations, the uncertainty was real. However, I think then we got a little bit comfortable with it and said, “The world is probably not going to come to an end. What do we need to do? How do we need to focus?” Coming back is interesting too because as we’re coming out of this little bit, you can’t turn that light switch back on again. It’s like a dimmer switch. We’ve got to turn it up and we turned it back a little bit because if we turn the switch back on again, people get blindsided. It’s like a bright light in my eyes.

It’s certainly been a journey. The other thing is people have been going through their own hero’s journey. The person we said, “See you Monday morning,” back in March 2020, is not the same person we’re getting to personally interact with again in October and November of 2021. As leaders, we have to invest in making sure that we get that little catch-up done. We got to be asking, “How are you,” personally. We kept connected a lot virtually, but we got to keep asking, “How are you? What’s gone on in your life? Are you okay?”

That is such a powerful point that you just brought up Garry, because in the discussions that I’ve been having, even with the Marines. I was privileged to deliver a workshop to a group of young Marines and their senior leaders. The “Are you okay” is not culturally a thing in many branches of the US Military and it’s becoming the case because they are more conscious of the long-term and even the short-term impact of stress, exhaustion, and burnout in their ranks as well. From our standpoint, we look at resilience as a way to become stronger, as a way to use or leverage even the uncertainty itself as a catalyst for individual growth or organizational growth.

That requires an understanding of what resilience is, what contributes to greater resilience, and what gets in the way. One of the things that get in the way of the military is not feeling permission to speak honestly and transparently about where you are. For a leader to ask the people in the organization, “How are you doing?” It’s not the gratuitous, “How are you doing,” because if you ask somebody on the street, “How are you doing?” They’re going to say, “Good. Hanging in there,” and there isn’t a depth to that inquiry. It sounds to me like that’s what you did. You were asking your people how they were doing in their personal lives, as well as fulfilling your business role.

As you know, we’ve got a very high employee engagement or what I call the will of the people. During COVID, there was some research done by the ADP Research Group that showed that employee engagement globally dropped down to 16%. Ours is 93%. Halfway through COVID, we were doing everything we could to ensure that we kept that cultural equity high by a whole lot of fun things that we would do and connecting things that we would do.

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty

Times Of Uncertainty: The ADP research group showed that employee engagement globally dropped to 16% during COVID.


Halfway through COVID, I said, “We need to go out and do a midterm employee feedback survey and see if we can capture any areas where we’re failing our people. Are we not connecting? We went out and we redid our employee engagement survey. We do it in seven languages across the world. It’s confidential.

Anyhow, the numbers came back and they were as good as or better than they were before COVID, which we’d just done a survey in March 2020. One of the numbers that changed that I had to dig into was a question we asked and it is, “I am excited about the company’s future.” It came back as 98% of our tribe globally said they were excited about the company’s future. Adam, here we were in the middle of COVID. There were no signs yet of us being able to see a new world.

We did a little digging and we wanted to find out why. What came back very clearly was we are living our tribal promise of a group of people that come together and protect each other. We feel safe in this environment and if we can get through this together, we can get through anything together. I thought, “I would hate to be trying to lead an organization through this that entered with a very low employee engagement.”

It’s because there’s a lot of talk right now, Adam, about resignation. I’ve renamed it. It’s not the Great Resignation. Here’s what it is. It’s the Great Escape. People are escaping from organizations where they don’t feel they belong. They’re not treated with respect and dignity. They don’t go to work each day knowing they’re making a contribution to something bigger than themselves. They’re not learning.

They’re not being protected and set free by a compelling set of values and they’re not going home happy. It’s not the Great Resignation. Anybody I talk to who’s moving from one organization to another said, “I’ve had it. I just can’t put up with this toxic environment anymore and this has proven to me there must be something better.” This is a great escape. That’s what it is.

Do you think, Garry, that in the time that people had at home, because I went through a period in my career where I used to commute. Commuting living in and around New York, my office was in Manhattan. Living in the suburbs, the commute was 1.5 or 2 hours each way each day. That’s 3 or 4 hours more likely each day. It’s 20 hours a week of being in the car and commuting. Being home, while that was new and different and a challenge for folks at the beginning, do you think that people were able to come back to themselves, as my dad would say?

They had the time to contemplate and recognize that they enjoyed that time at home, maybe time with their kids, maybe they were able to be at the dinner table. They were able to see how they could integrate work and home life. I know that presents its challenges where there are no boundaries between the two. Do you think that that’s part of this Great Escape that people have realized that they can have more of what’s important to them in life?


Particularly about working from home, I think it depends on what their environment is at home. If you’re in the United States and you’ve got a room in your house to be able to find a place to work, we’ve got people living in places like London and Shanghai. There’s nowhere to put a desk, put a computer, or to work. One of the things that became clear to us early was that we had to find out how we could help people find a place to be able to work if they had to work from home. I think it depends.

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty

Times Of Uncertainty: One of the things that became clear is we had to find out how we could help people find a place to work if they had to work from home.


Was the Great Escape a thing that you’re seeing elsewhere in the world because at least at this point I’ve been hearing, it’s mostly in the context of the US, but are you seeing some similar things happening elsewhere too?

Not so much. In more of the relationship-driven cultures like in Europe, Italy, France, and Spain where relationships are so important, and they work on them so hard versus the US, which is more of a direct type culture. I think it’s more dominant here than anywhere else right now. More so, people said, “It’s not that I’m not at the office, but now that I’m not there, look at the way they’re treating me. When I went there, I was able to find some belongings.” This gets back to this thing about belonging. As human beings, one of the most dominant things we have is the desire to belong.

I know that some people missed going to the office because they didn’t like being at home. They wanted to belong to their people in their tribe. It’s interesting. Right now, I was reading some stuff the other day from the Society of Human Resource Management and they’re all talking about the importance of belonging now. Maslow in his hierarchy of self-actualization has it as the third rung and it’s been there for many years. Organizations provide safety, security, and a means to feed your family. Most of them do that. The next one is belonging. When an organization provides that belonging, that’s when you start to get a high engagement and a high will of the people.

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty

Times Of Uncertainty: When an organization provides belongingness, you really start to get a high engagement of the people.


The connection is so enlightening to me to hear that because when the connection piece or that tribe, the family piece of it was taken out, you’re right. What exactly am I getting out of this if I don’t feel that, but I’m feeling other things? Things that are not necessarily showing me or I’m not feeling taken care of.

I’ve been observing. After Labor Day in the US, we opened the TP. It’s because we’re a tribe. You’ve been to TP. You know what it’s like. I said, “We are going to make our place as safe or safer than anywhere else you would choose to go. If you want to come back in, it’s your decision. If you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask. If you’re not, you have to wear a mask. We had all the protocols in place to meet everything that had to happen.” Also, where we were challenging ourselves around people, not internally but externally, is people say, “You have to have a work-from-home policy.”

I said, “No. We’re not going to have a work-from-home policy. We’re going to have a work-from-home philosophy because people are not just working from home. What became very clear to me was they were working from anywhere. We said we’re going to let people make their own decisions where they work from. We’re not going to have them have to go and quack up the hierarchy to their boss or their leader to get permission. We want them to use our values to make a decision about where they should be working at the time.

I’ve been going into the office probably three days a week. I’d be there all the time but I want to set the example. I want to say, “You can be flexible,” and I tell you, Adam, I got goosebumps just observing our tribe members come together in some of our collision zone areas that you’re aware of and they were so happy to see each other. They sit and talk. I see them leaving the building with a smile because they’ve reconnected with the people they love and they care about which is amazing.

It makes the job so much more than the money, the responsibility, or even the other fulfilling things that they do in a day. It’s more holistic than that. We’re holistic. It’s never just one thing. I was thinking about you, Garry, because when I went to visit the office, I heard that term for the first time, the collision zones, and I saw it. I didn’t just hear it. I saw it in the architecture because you guys designed that building for that purpose in many ways.

For the people that don’t know what we mean, it means areas where people can come together without planning it or it’s just happening spontaneously that you run into somebody. I was doing a bit of research on this concept of weak ties, which you probably have heard of and know what this is. It’s this idea that right now the whole water cooler connection has been lost where innovation often occurs that you can’t plan for.

You can plan in the way that you plan for it, but what you can’t predict or measure it in some ways is that people will run into each other and they don’t have strong ties to one another because they don’t work in the same department. Somebody from accounting is running into somebody from HR, from operations, or what have you and they collide, not physically, but they’re in the same proximity to one another. They have a conversation about something and then all of a sudden, there’s some idea that is birthed out of that. Some innovation occurs.

You have those “What about what if have you thought of” kind of conversations but it’s interesting because as we’re talking about this light that’s up behind you, resilience is how you recharge. What we’re talking about now is people personally recharging.

Resilience for so many people define it more often than not as this capacity to bounce back. That’s what we hear. That’s what the book Change Proof is debunking a little bit of this myth. It’s about bouncing back. It is more about the process by which we recharge more than it is the process of endurance or enduring. As you say, if what we’re doing is running a single marathon, we could create the perfect environment for training for that task but it’s not one marathon.

It’s like saying at the beginning as you did that there’s one disruption or that this is the greatest disruption that any of us in our personal or professional lives will ever face. This is a day in the norm and tomorrow will be another day and a year from now. To know that the race has no end so to speak, it’s one endless beautiful marathon. What the research is clear on is that to have longevity and performance capacity at high levels over time, we have to have rituals for our reset.

That’s so clear. The other thing that was clear to us too is not talking about what we’re going to do, but talking about why we are doing it. I think that was when we were having times of rapidly changing times during COVID. It’s not like, “This is what we’re going to do.” It’s, “This is why we’re doing what we’re doing. Does everybody understand the why?”

You know how much I admire Simon Sinek. It’s the why, how, and what. It’s not what we’re going to do. It’s why we’re doing it. This is how we think we’re going to do it and then ask our teams and tribes, “Do you think this is the how that we should do it? Is there a better way? What have you learned with this,” which I think is important.

It's not what we're going to do. It's why we're doing it now. Share on X

When you said that, I’m going to be self-serving here for a moment, but I’m truly observing this at the moment. I want to enthusiastically say it out loud. I love Simon’s book and I love the way he describes those three things. You brought up pause, ask, and choose that comes from Change Proof. It’s that concept of what do you do with the pause? Pause is its own reset. In many ways, it is its own benefit to pause before you hit send on an email or you react to something. As a father of four, I can say pausing has held me in good stead for a long time but the asking the why, as you pointed out. To pause and to ask why. Why are we doing what we’re doing before we choose that next step? I’m just observing the way those two things overlaid nicely.

Employee Engagement Survey Assessment

They do. As I said, I was fortunate enough. Thank you that you sent me a PDF to review. I love the pause, ask, and choose. That makes so much sense. Many times, we don’t pause. We rush in. Many times. we don’t ask, “Is there a better way,” and so many times, we don’t realize we have a choice. I think it’s so powerful and I can’t wait for the book to get out there so others can benefit from it. It’s exciting.

Thank you so much. I want to go back to the assessment that you sent out, that survey. Was there anything in the survey that you noticed that you thought you had some concern about or you tilted your head and went, “That’s interesting.” Was there anything that came up like it that you recall?

The other thing that I thought was interesting was that we have one question that talks about communication between our coaches and our tribe members. It was a pleasing thing because I thought that being virtual, the opportunity for communication in its intensity may have dropped, but it went up and I think for two reasons. I can’t prove this. This is just a theory right now but I think the receivers were more tuned in than ever before. The people that we wanted, our tribe were more tuned in.

I sometimes think about communication as here’s a radio station that’s sending out a signal, and here’s a receiver that’s receiving it and there’s a lot of interference in the middle. If you don’t have the radio finely tuned, you won’t get the clarity of the message. I think during this time, people were more tuned in to receiving the messages that we were sending because there was so much going on that was uncertain that they had a deeper interest in. Like in any change, the first two things people think about are personal concerns and information concerns. How is this personally going to affect me and what information do I need to give me a sense of security? I think they were more tuned in than ever before.

People were more tuned in to receiving the messages because there was so much going on that was uncertain. They had a deeper interest in any change. Share on X

There’s no question that certainly in times of uncertainty or change, people feel stressed. Also, we know that to be able to think outside the box or just be strategic in your thinking is never the strategy, or thinking strategically and reacting out of stress are things that are almost mutually exclusive. I’d love to find out more about how you are approaching that check-in phase or what it is that you are recommending for people inside the company for their dealing with that stress.

It seems like the company is faring better than a lot of companies. We’ve presented for the likes of Home Depot on one side and a company called Vogue Tyre. It’s been around for 107 years based in Chicago and the other are small but successful companies, very large, successful enterprises, and everything in between the SAPs, the equitables, whoever it is, everybody seems to be exhausted.

Also, when asked, often the exhaustion is bordering on burnout in some places. It’s not because the company is struggling. Most of these companies are doing better than they’ve ever done before. Kraft Foods, I have a friend who’s been working there forever, and more people buying food than it’s ever been. The numbers are great. Companies are doing phenomenally well and yet I liken it in some ways to Formula One racing where you cannot drive one of those high-performance cars fast and win a race on bald tires.

There’s this element of maybe there are some folks who are feeling like their tires are getting bald in the process of keeping up with the supply chain issues, other changes, disruptions, and things that are there. Is there some intentional work that you are considering or already engaged in to help people in the company be more resilient mentally, emotionally, physically, or even spiritually? By that, in terms of their alignment between what’s important, their values, and what they do at work as well. Is there something like it that’s an initiative within the company already?

As you know, Adam, when we talk about the spiritual and emotional, that’s been a big part of ours going in. I think a lot of companies went in with low employee engagement, which means that there are no values protecting them, and they’re not having a feeling of belonging. They don’t have ball ties. They have no ties. They’re running on rims. On the other side of it, through the whole year, we have done a lot of work around ensuring people and setting the example with people to say, “Let’s prioritize. We can’t do it all. What’s important? What’s less important?”

Also, saying, “Take your time off.” We’ve had a number of workshops in the organization. We had Chester Elton and Adrian Kosnik come along and do a couple of sessions on gratitude and anxiety at work. Facing the things that are facing people. Giving them tools to be able to try and understand what’s affecting them is important. We gave everybody in the company a subscription to the ComAp. We gave everybody a subscription to that and did workshops on how may you use this and what should you do.

I don’t think other than turning up the volume around the things that were important to us, that’s what’s carried us through. Also, you’re right. We just had the best year in the history of the company. Our revenues were up 19%. Our profits were up 16%. We’ve just paid out the largest growth rewards to our people. Our employee engagement is higher than ever before. They’re more excited about the future than ever before. However, there is a lot of pressure, particularly as you say in the supply chain. That hasn’t been easy but I think again, empathy is important. Showing people we care.

As you know, I sent out a daily message every morning to the tribe. One of inspiration and encouragement every morning wherever I am in the world. We were sending weekly updates and video updates to our tribe. Just transparency. Telling them the truth loudly. This is where we are. Brené Brown says, “In the absence of facts and data, people make up stories,” and that is something that’s on my mind all the time.

Also, ask yourself as a leader, “Am I being the person I want to be right now?” I ask myself that many times a day. I ask myself, “What do I want to be?” I want to be caring. I want to be empathetic. I want to be reasonable. I want to be a listener. I want to be fact-based. I want to be balanced. I want to be a curious learner.” I have to ask myself that more during COVID because the COVID hook would’ve pulled me off that road very easily. I found myself that I had to keep coming back. “No, you don’t want to be out there. This is where you feel comfortable.” I am doing this with our leadership group as well. It’s the awareness of where you are.

I think that’s a bit of the way you’re baked if I might say that too because you’re a teacher. You’re an adjunct professor and it feels to me like you are more bought into the value of constant ending improvement of learning and personal development, as well as business development than maybe some folks are. Are you still teaching your class now virtually?

Yeah. Now, we taught it in person. One of the first things we did in our teepee was hold the class at the tepees, but the year before we did it virtually, which was another wonderful experience with my co-teacher, Dr. Janice Thompson. We had to take our syllabus and turn it into a virtual program, which was a great learning experience. I was pretty scared at the beginning but it worked out pretty well.

As we wrap up, I so appreciate this conversation. Uncertainty isn’t going anywhere. Our response to uncertainty is in part what we’re talking about but the uncertainty and the lack of a lot of clarity on a macro level has taken a toll on people in a way that we have not seen before. This has been a truly global event. That being the case for other leaders like yourself, making an impact in terms of the organization is more important than it’s ever been. It can’t be lip service.

There are three things that I pulled out of a recent case study of a business that was dealing with this uncertainty. The three things were 1) Things have to be tangible. It’s great to talk about stuff, but if they’re not put into motion. You could have talked about collision zones until you were blue in the face but if you didn’t redesign your offices to create that, it wouldn’t be living and breathing in the culture. It’s tangible. It’s not something that gets written, put in a frame, and put in the break room that people aren’t in now.

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of Uncertainty

Times Of Uncertainty: It’s great to talk about stuff, but if they’re not put into motion and redesign your offices to create that, it wouldn’t be living and breathing in the culture that.


Number 2) We have to try stuff and that means often failing to find out. I’m sure you’ve had your share of fails to find out along the way. I might ask you to share one of those before we depart because it’s always important to get a sense of how people who are in successful enterprises have dealt with even a small or modest failure or something larger too. It’s failing to find out.

Lastly, it’s taking the time to check in with people and to genuinely care, which is then having those uncomfortable conversations. Uncomfortable in that you keep asking questions beyond the point of it being just politeness. You’re so curious. You want to know. How are you feeling? How are things at home? What are you doing with your time? Are you taking time away? Are you doing things for your body or your mental reset?

For example, on the resilience side of things, we believe in a recovery map. It’s a simple process where people in those four areas, mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual can do something several times a day. That could be as little as 30 seconds or a minute or up to 25 or 30 minutes at the longest to create a recovery zone for themselves.

Again, exploring and asking questions about what a person’s rituals are, what their habits are so that you get a greater sense of whether they’re riding on good tires or whether the tires are bald. Maybe they know it or maybe they don’t know it. First of all, is there a recent challenge that you faced? I’d love to get a sense of how you dealt with it and lastly, what are some or even one ritual that you have for your own personal recovery given the fact that you’re looking after a global organization? That’s no easy feat.

Garry’s Rituals For Personal Recovery

Thanks. The willingness to find out, as you know, we’ve never made a mistake ever at our company. We took the word failure out and we replaced it with learning moments, as you might recall. We don’t make mistakes. We have learning moments. A learning moment is a positive or negative outcome of any situation that has to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people. I think just that simple change in the definition of failure has paid off so well for us.

We’d be here for months if I were to tell you all the learning moments I’ve had over time. One of the things that I was born with and I thank my parents for is I don’t remember bad very well. I often think, “Do what you think is right, do your best, and then make peace with it.” Let it go and I think that one of the big learnings that I had during COVID is to look at our values. Do what we think is right. Do your best, let it go, and move on because if you don’t, you’ll get bogged down, which I think is where you don’t want to be.

Do what you think is right. Do your best and make peace with it. Share on X

Feedback is vital and the recovery. The last thing. Is there something that you do on a ritual basis, even on a daily basis that helps you recover?

I have my daily questions and I ask myself, “Did I do my best? Did I do my best to make clear goals and achieve those goals? Did I do my best to find meaning? Did I do my best to walk my 10,000 steps? Did I do my best to listen? Did I do my best to reach out to family? Did I do my best?” I ask myself these questions, “Did I do my best?” I grade myself. Yes or no. If I didn’t, then I need to refocus again. I love the daily questions.

I have a code of conduct that resembles that in a different way. It seems like we all have very similar things like a signpost for how you’re doing on a particular day. You can take the feedback, pivot, and recalibrate as needed.

It’s because the world will rip us out if we let it. We’ve got to recenter ourselves.

Is everyone well with you and your family?

I just became a granddad again. My daughter in Australia had a little baby girl and I haven’t seen her yet, but I’ll be flying South to meet my new granddaughter.

Garry, nothing could be better. It’s been a blessing to have you on the show. I want to say publicly your support for the book Change Proof is so appreciated. I know how much you’ve got going on in your world, so to take time to read but I know you’re also a lifelong learner. I hope the book also provided some insights for you. That would be my highest hope. Thank you for being on the show.

I love the pause, ask, and choose. I’m looking forward to getting my copy.

I’m looking forward to it too. It’s been a pleasure. As always, we welcome your comments. Have a blessed day. I hope wherever you are and whatever you’re doing at this moment you love your life, every bit of it, all of it, no matter what. I think it is the key. I’m grateful in this moment as well. Ciao, for now, everyone.


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About Garry Ridge

Change Proof Podcast | Garry Ridge | Times Of UncertaintyGarry Ridge is the Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company. He joined WD-40 in 1987 and held various leadership positions in the company before being appointed as CEO in 1997. He’s also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego, where he teaches the principles and practices of corporate culture in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program.

He is passionate about learning and empowering the organizational culture that he has established at WD-40 for a long while. In 2009, he co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard outlining his effective leadership techniques titled Helping People Win At Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get An A”. He’s also a native of Australia.