PR Garry Ridge | Building Resilience


No matter where you are in business, you will have to face disruptions one way or another. Garry Ridge, the Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company, understood this, especially with the challenges brought by the pandemic. In this episode, he joins Adam Markel to share how they have built resilience in the company by learning to embrace uncertainty. He tells us the lessons they came to know around fear and worry and why creating a culture of belongingness can help overcome pressing organizational issues. The world has undeniably changed since COVID-19. We either sink or swim. Tune in to this conversation as Garry helps us see the light out of the tunnel, taking care not only of our business but our people as well.

Show Notes:

  • 02:43 – Humility In Leadership
  • 04:15 – Building Resilience In Times Of Uncertainty
  • 19:28 – The Great Escape
  • 22:28 – Culture Of Belongingness
  • 34:12 – Engaging Employees To Be More Resilient
  • 41:44 – Ritual For Personal Recovery During Uncertain Times

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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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Overcoming Challenges In Times Of Uncertainty By Building Resilience With Garry Ridge – REPLAY

In this replay episode, I’m going to be speaking with Garry Ridge. Garry was the Chairman of the Board and the CEO of a company that we are all familiar with, I believe. That is WD-40. It’s a publicly traded company. It happens to be headquartered in my hometown of San Diego. Garry is a special guy, a leaders’ leader, and somebody that knows probably more about management and organizational structures than many people are alive and walking the earth to this day. He has probably foregone, as the old saying goes, more about organizations, structural components of organizational development, and how it is that you create a transformational culture within an organization.

That is rarefied air. Highly skilled and sophisticated experience is required to take on roles. That’s what will be required. That is Garry’s forte. That was his calling when he started at WD-40 in 1987. He worked there right up until a few years ago. He retired after many years in service where he also mentored and prepared to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders and leadership.

Garry is somebody that I got to know pretty well personally before I had him on the show. He was kind enough to invite me to come down to the headquarters, which was a brand-new building that they had designed in San Diego to have many of their people, their most senior leadership folks, as well as other individual contributors and managers housed in San Diego before the pandemic. I remember when I visited that office and looked at how it was constructed. I thought it was unique and different.

Garry educated me on how that went down architecturally speaking because he wanted to create by-design areas where people would randomly run into each other. He called these things, interestingly enough, collision zones. He crafted a plan for the design of this headquarters or this HQ for the company. By design and by intention, people from all different departments would collide and run into each other so that somebody from accounting might run into somebody from marketing, sales, or HR.

In those unexpected or random run-ins or collisions, to use his term, people would be able to speak to one another, get to know one another, connect, and feel part of something greater than themselves. All of that he called being a part of the tribe. It’s this concept of creating a culture where people feel and understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves or that tribe and where tremendous psychological safety is baked into the design so that people could feel part of something and be willing to speak up, share their thoughts and ideas, sometimes push back, question things or the status quo, or offer up ideas and suggestions. That’s how innovation occurs.

WD-40 is an innovation company. It’s something that they made popular through their multi-use product, the 3-IN-ONE oil, and the patents around that. They have been an innovator for many years. Innovation isn’t guaranteed. It’s not something that you’re always going to be able to say, “We can innovate when we want to.” You have to create the environment for innovation to occur.

Often that innovation occurs by accident on some level. I’m not saying that it doesn’t require skill, talent, or having all the right pieces in place to do it for those things to happen but for sure, the greatest innovations that I’ve ever read about or been informed of happened in an environment where people had these accidental collaborations or where it was that people with diverse ideas, backgrounds, and opinions were put together or brought together. It was through that diversity of thought, expression, ideas, and experience that those innovations occurred.

You could call that the mastermind principle or lots of different things but I thought, “How amazing that Garry Ridge in his role as Chairman and CEO was thinking about how this company’s legacy would continue to expand, even the structure or the design of the physical premises where people were working when we were all going to work or when WD-40 was going to work in a physical location that was common to all every single day?” You could design for innovation in that way.

There’s a great study from the early ’70s. It talks about weak-tie connections. That is one of these concepts based on people that don’t necessarily work together in the same function or have the same managers or the same responsibilities when they have conversations, whether in the break room, at the water cooler, or in collisions that happen in the hallway. Those interesting conversations ensue, and often innovations are the result of that.

That’s some of what I was able to glean from my experience in meeting Garry Ridge and then having him on the show. We got to also explore the importance of humility and leadership, how he faced uncertainty during COVID and the lessons that it taught him, and why it is so important to separate worry from fear. We talked about the way WD-40 kept their employee engagement high, why that matters so much, how leaders can help employees working from home to be more productive, and why he loves the Pause, Ask, Choose method. That came from my book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience. We talked about that as well.

I hope you love this conversation with someone who is a seminal business leader, a mentor’s mentor, and a mentor to CEOs. This guy has the whole package, and he’s still out there creating content, sharing his thoughts and ideas, and teaching. He’s got the heart and the soul of a teacher. There’s nothing that could be possibly better when you’re in the role of leadership of others.

Enjoy this episode with Garry Ridge. As always, let us know your feedback. We will answer those comments personally. There won’t be any chatbot that will answer those things for us. You will get a direct response from me or Garry. We look forward to getting your comments. You can go to to leave that comment or that question for me or Garry. Sit back and enjoy this replay of my conversation with Garry Ridge.

Garry, it’s a pleasure as always to get together with you. Thanks for being a guest on the show.

Adam, it’s a delight to be here. My real introduction is, “Hi, I’m Garry Ridge. I’m the consciously incompetent, probably wrong, and roughly right Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company.”

As you can already tell if you don’t know Garry, and I hope you will get to know him, not just through this show but by following him on LinkedIn and other places, you will see he is a man with humility. 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 dive in right there. How important do you think humility is if you think it’s important in a leader?

Now, 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, our job as leaders has been to bring people together as the world has pushed them apart. That has 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. This journey, as disappointing as it has been to the world, has been one of tremendous learning. We’re better for it. Maybe we were gifted this awful experience to wake us up in a number of ways.

Leadership fails when ego eats empathy instead of empathy-eating ego. Click To Tweet

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

I found an interesting definition that I like about uncertainty. It became more real to me going through COVID. It is a series of future events that may or may not occur, and most of them don’t occur. 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? Disruption is more the norm than it is the exception. 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 if 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. You sent me an early copy of your new book. Congratulations on Change Proof. I’m a big fan of Winston Churchill. I love this quote 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.” To me, 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. You pause, ask, and choose.

It’s so interesting. When we think about resilience, we will define it. My experience is many people ask the question, “How do you define resilience?” You will get many independent different definitions of it but one thing that’s also important to talk about is what defeats get in the way of resilience. You’ve brought something up right out of the gate, which is important. That is worry. You’ve got a lot on your plate. You have a long history with this company. This company has been a model of longevity and resilience and has done quite well. It has done very well unto your stewardship. With everything that’s always been going on in that arena, how important has worry been to you? Do you think has it gotten in the way?

I would like to separate worry from fear because fear is something that fuels worry. What is worry? People often ask me what keeps me awake at night. 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. I’ll give you an example of that. In March 2020 when COVID hit, it was like, “Turn off the light switch.” There were so many things that were once optional that became compulsory, and one of them was working virtually.

PR Garry Ridge | Building Resilience

Building Resilience: One of the things that became clear during COVID is in times of great need, people can pivot around fear.


We had installed and quipped 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 were worried about all this stuff that didn’t matter. It became compulsory. 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. How do we work out what’s making us afraid and what’s making us worry? If we can move that, we become much more competent and resilient in what we do.

My history is I spent eighteen years in the legal profession before I pivoted. During 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 is take on their worries and all. At this juncture in my life and over many years of now thinking about it, writing, and researching on it too, I feel like worry in many ways is energy wasted. It’s energy-depleting. 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 what Traci Fenton at WorldBlu 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’ll say, “What are you afraid of? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What will you do?” Bring these things out. 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. There’s a difference between worry and concern.

As we went through COVID, I was concerned because there was uncertainty in this series of future events that may or may not occur, most of which don’t. I spent a lot of time sorting out the possibilities of these events happening or not happening. Where does your energy go against the ones like, “There’s a chance that this could happen. How are we going to protect ourselves? How are we going to work around what may happen?”

That Winston Churchill quote, which is based on Mark Twain’s tongue-in-cheek take on that as well, is ever-present. I’m curious. How has uncertainty impacted WD-40? You brought us back to the start of COVID. That was the beginning. When I’m speaking with organizations, I get the great honor of keynoting and getting invited as you do to speak to organizations on a regular basis. Uncertainty is something I hear constantly. People were waiting and anticipating that somehow, the uncertainty would come to some head, would end, or would be going back to something that resembled the past. Inside of WD-40, what has uncertainty looked like? How has the company been dealing with that?

When this first broke back in March 2020, I was in Italy at the time on my way to our half-yearly meeting in Europe. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones having this boulder chasing me with COVID. 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. Initially, it was like, “What do we do? I’m uncertain.” We went through a process to secure, reset, revive, and thrive. That’s what we looked at.

The first thing we did was to secure the business. We came out and said, “We have 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. It’s the safety and the well-being of our tribe, taking care of our customers, and securing our business to thrive in the future,” but as we went through, the uncertainty got worse because suddenly, it was becoming real.

At that stage, we thought, “Maybe it’s a sprint.” 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, things were pinging all around the world. It’s interesting to talk to people 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, and then as it went through other geographic locations, the uncertainty was real.

However, we got a little bit comfortable with it, saying, “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 were coming out of this little bit, you can’t turn that light switch back on again. It’s like a dimmer switch. We have to turn it up. We turned it back a little bit because if we turn the switch back on again, people get blindsided. It’s like, “There’s a bright light in my eyes.” It has certainly been a journey.

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

PR Garry Ridge | Building Resilience

Building Resilience: People have been going through their own hero’s journey. The person back in March 2020 is not the same person we’re going to interact with again in October and November of 2021.


That is such a powerful point that you brought up 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 in the morning and then in the afternoon the same day to their senior leaders, the, “Are you okay?” is not culturally a thing in many branches of the US military.

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 and use leverage even the uncertainty itself as a catalyst for individual growth and 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?” is not gratuitous, “How are you doing?” If you ask somebody on the street, “How are you doing?” they’re going to say, “I’m good. I’m hanging in there. How are you doing?” There isn’t a depth to that inquiry. It sounds to me like that’s what you did. You were asking your people, “How are you doing in your personal life as well as fulfilling your business role?”

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 Institute that showed that employee engagement globally dropped 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. Halfway through COVID, I said, “We need to go out, 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 redid our employee engagement survey. We do it in seven languages across the world. It’s confidential. The numbers came back, and they were as good as or better than they were before COVID. We have done a survey in March 2020. One of the numbers that changed that I had to dig into was a question we asked, “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.

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. We wanted to find out why. What came back very clearly is we are living our tribal promise of a group of people that come together to protect each other. We feel safe in this environment. 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 low employee engagement.” There’s a lot of talk right now about this.


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. They’re not going home happy. It’s not the Great Resignation. Anybody I talk to who’s moving from one organization to another says, “I’ve had it. I can’t put up with this toxic environment anymore. This has proven to me there must be something better.” This is the Great Escape. That’s what it is.

I went through a period of my career where I used to commute, living in and around New York. My office was in Manhattan. I was living in the suburbs. The commute was an hour and a half or two hours each way each day. That’s four hours more likely each day. It’s twenty hours a week of being in the car and commuting. While being home 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 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 but do you think 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, it depends on what their environment is at home. You’re in the United States, and you’ve got room in your house to be able to find a place to work but we’ve got people living in places like London and Shanghai. There’s nowhere to put a desk and a computer and nowhere to work. One of the things that became clear to us early is 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. It depends.

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

Not so much. It’s more of the relationship-driven cultures in Europe, Italy, France, and Spain where relationships are so important. They work on them so hard versus the US, which is more of a direct type of culture. It’s more dominant here than anywhere else. 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. At least when I went there, I was able to find some belonging.” 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. I was reading some stuff from the Society for Human Resource Management. They’re all talking about the importance of belonging.

Maslow in his hierarchy and his self-actualization has it as the third rung, and it has 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 or a high will of the people.

When an organization provides that belonging, that’s when you start to get a high engagement or will of the people. Click To Tweet

It’s the connection. That’s so enlightening to me to hear that because when the connection piece, that tribe, or the family piece of it was taken out, what exactly am I getting out of this if I don’t feel that but I’m feeling other things that are not necessarily showing me, or I’m not feeling taken care of?

That’s interesting. I’ve been observing. After Labor Day in the US, we opened the Teepee because we’re a tribe. You’ve been to visit. 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 has to happen.

We also were challenging ourselves. Not internally but externally, people would say, “You have to have a work-from-home policy.” I said, “We’re not going to have a work-from-home policy. We’re going to have a work-from-where philosophy.” People are not working from home. It became very clear to me they were working from anywhere. We said, “We’re going to let people make their decisions where they work from. We’re not going to have them have to go and crack up the hierarchy to their boss or their leader to get permission. We want them to use our values to make a decision of where they should be working at the time.”

I’ve been going into the office probably three days a week. I would be there all the time but I want to set the example. I want to say, “You can be flexible.” I got goosebumps observing our tribe members come together in some of our collision zone areas that you’re aware of. They were so happy to see each other. They sit and talk. I see them leaving the building with a smile because they reconnected with the people they love and they care about, which was 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 one thing. It’s funny. I was thinking about you because when I went to visit the office, and I heard the term collision zone for the first time, I didn’t just hear it. I saw it in the architecture because you designed that building for that purpose in many ways. For people that don’t know what we mean, it means areas where people can come together without planning it or it 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 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 you can’t predict it or measure it in some ways.

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, operations, or what have you. They collide not physically but they’re in the same proximity to one another and have a conversation about something. All of a sudden, there’s an idea that is birthed out of that. There’s some innovation that occurs.

You have those, “What about? What if? Have you thought of?” conversations. It’s interesting because 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.

Many people define it more often than not as this capacity to bounce back. That’s what we hear. The book Change Proof is debunking a little bit of this myth that it’s about bouncing back. It is more about the process by which we recharge than it is the process of endurance or enduring. 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. Tomorrow will be another day and a year from now. Since the race has no end, 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, the word you used earlier.

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. That was when we were having rapidly changing times during COVID. It’s not like, “This is what we’re going to do.” It’s like, “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 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. Asking our teams and tribes, “Do you think this is the how that we should do? Is there a better way? What have you learned with this?” is important.

It’s interesting. I’m going to be self-serving here for a moment but I’m truly observing this in 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, Choose earlier. 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 and benefits to pause before you hit send on an email or you react to something. As a father of four, I can say pausing has helped me in good stead for a long time. Ask the why as you pointed out to pause, “Why are we doing what we’re doing before we choose that next step?” I’m observing the way those two things overlaid nicely.

I was fortunate enough. Thank you. You sent me a PDF to review. I love the Pause, Ask, 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?” Many times, we don’t realize we have a choice. It’s so powerful. 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 or that survey. Was there anything in the survey that you noticed that you thought you had some concern about? You tilted your head and went, “That’s interesting.” Was there anything that came up like that which 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. For two reasons, I can’t prove this. This is just Ridgeonian Theory but the receivers were more tuned in than ever before. The people that we wanted in our tribe were more tuned in.

I sometimes think about communication like, “Here’s a radio station that’s sending out a signal. Here’s a receiver that’s receiving it. There’s a lot of interference in the middle. If you don’t have the radio finally tuned, you won’t get the clarity of the message.” 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? What information do I need to give me a sense of security?” They were more tuned in than ever before.

PR Garry Ridge | Building Resilience

Building Resilience: If you don’t have the radio finely tuned, you won’t get the clarity of the message.


There’s no question that certainly in times of uncertainty or change, people feel stressed. We know that to be able to think outside the box or be strategic in your thinking is never the strategy. Thinking strategically and reacting out of stress are things that are almost mutually exclusive. I would 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 dealing with that stress.

It seems like the company is faring better than a lot of companies. We have presented for the likes of The Home Depot on one side and a company called Vogue Tyre that has been around for more than 100 years based in Chicago, a small but successful company, a very large and successful enterprise, and everything in between the SAPs, the equitable, or whoever it is. Everybody seems to be exhausted. 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 have ever done before.

I have a friend that has been working in Kraft Foods forever. More people are buying food than there have ever been. If the numbers are great, companies are doing phenomenally well, 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. Maybe there are some folks that are feeling like their tires are getting bald in the process of keeping up with the supply chain issues, other changes, and other 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, and even spiritually? By that, I mean in terms of their alignment between what’s important, their values, and what they do at work as well. Is there something like an initiative within the company already?

When we talk about the spiritual and emotional, that has been a big part of ours going in. If a lot of companies went in with low employee engagement, which means that there are no values protecting them, they’re not having a feeling of belonging. They don’t have bald tires. They’ve got no tires. They’re running on rims but on the other side of it, through the whole year, they’ve 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?” and then saying, “Take your time off, please.”

PR Garry Ridge | Building Resilience

Building Resilience: A lot of companies with low employee engagement have no values protecting them. They do not have a feeling of belonging.


We have had a number of workshops in the organization. We had Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick come along and do a couple of sessions on gratitude and anxiety at work. Facing the things that are facing people and 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 Calm app and did workshops on how you may use this and what should you do.

Turning up the volume around the things that were important to us is what’s carried us through. We had the best year in the history of the company. Our revenues were up 19%. Our profits were up 16%. We have 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 in the supply chain. That hasn’t been easy but empathy is important, showing people we care.

I send out a daily message every morning to the tribe, one of inspiration and encouragement. Every day, it’s, “For today, from.” Unfortunately, it has been, “For today, from Poway,” too often in the last few years but it’s wherever I am in the world. We were sending weekly updates and video updates to our tribe. There’s transparency. We’re telling them the truth loudly, “This is where we are.” Brené Brown says, “In the absence of facts and data, people make up stories.” That is something on my mind all the time.

Ask yourself as a leader, “Am I being the person I want to be?” I ask myself that many times a day, “What do I want to be? I want to be caring, empathetic, and 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 have pulled me off that road very easily. I had to keep coming back, “You don’t want to be out there. This is where you feel comfortable.” I was doing this with all our leadership groups as well. It’s awareness of where you are.

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. It feels to me that you are more bought into the value of constant never-ending improvement of learning, personal development, as well as business development than some folks are. Are you still teaching your class now virtually?

We taught it in person. It’s one of the first things we did in our Teepee. We held a class at the Teepee 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 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. The uncertainty and the lack of a lot of clarity on a macro level have 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 case study of a business that was dealing with this uncertainty. First, things have to be tangible. It’s great to talk about stuff. 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, not something that gets written and put in a frame in a break room people aren’t in now or something.

Two, we have to try stuff. That means often failing to find out. I’m sure you’ve had your share of fail-to-find-outs 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. Lastly, take the time to check in with people and to genuinely care, which is then having those uncomfortable conversations in which you keep asking questions beyond the point of 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 and your mental reset?” For example, on the resilience side of things, we believe in a recovery map or a simple process where people in those four areas of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual can do something several times a day. That can be as little as 30 seconds or a minute on up to 25 or 30 minutes at the longest to create a recovery zone for themselves.

It’s exploring and asking questions about what a person’s rituals and 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 they don’t know it. First of all, is there a challenge that you faced? I would love to get a sense of how you dealt with it. Lastly, what’s one ritual that you have for your personal recovery, given the fact that you’re looking after a global organization? That’s no easy feat.

It’s the willingness to fail and find out. We have never made a mistake ever at our company. We took the word failure out and replaced it with learning moments as you might recall. We don’t make mistakes. We have learning moments. A learning moment has a positive or negative outcome in any situation that has to be openly and freely shared to benefit all people. That simple change in the definition of failure has paid off so well for us. We would be here for months if I was to tell you all the learning moments I’ve had over time.

One of the things that I was born with and I’ll 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.” That was one of the big learning that I had during COVID. Look at our values, do what you think is right, do your best, let it go, and move on because if you don’t, you will get bogged down, which is where you don’t want to be.

Feedback is vital in recovery. Here’s the last thing. Is there something that you do on a ritual basis even on a daily basis?

I have my daily questions. I ask myself, “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?” I ask myself these questions and 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 or a signpost for how you’re doing on a particular day so that you can take the feedback, pivot, and recalibrate as needed.

The world will rip us out if we let it. We have to recenter ourselves.

The world will rip us out if we let it. We’ve got to recenter ourselves. Click To Tweet

Everyone is well with you and your family.

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

Nothing in the world could be better. I can relate to you now, sir. It has been a blessing to have you on the show. I want to say this publicly. Your support for the book Change Proof is so appreciated. I know how much you got going on in your world 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 this show.

I love the Pause, Ask, Choose. I’m looking forward to getting my real copy.

I’m looking forward to it too. It has been a pleasure. As always, we welcome your comments. Have a blessed day. I hope that 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. That is the key. I’m grateful at this moment as well. Ciao, for now, everyone.


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About Garry Ridge

PR Garry Ridge | Building ResilienceGarry Ridge is Chairman of the Board and chief executive officer of the WD-40 Company (NASDAQ WDFC) headquartered in San Diego, California. WD-40 Company is the maker of the ever-popular WD-40 multi-use product, as well as 3-IN-ONE Oil, Solvol, and Lava heavy-duty hand cleaners and X-14, Carpet Fresh, Spot Shot, 1001 and 2000 Flushes household cleaning products.

Garry has been with WD-40 Company since 1987 in various management positions, including executive vice president and chief operating officer and vice president of international. He has worked directly with WD-40 in 50 countries.

A native of Australia, Garry has served as national vice president of the Australian Marketing Institute and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association.

Garry received his Masters of Science Degree in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego, CA, in June 2001.
Garry is an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego. He teaches leadership development, talent management & succession planning in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program.

In March 2003, Garry was awarded Director of the Year for Enhancement of Economic Value by the Corporate Directors Forum.

In April 2004, Garry received the Arthur E Hughes Career Achievement Award from the University of San Diego.

In 2006, Garry was awarded the Ernst & Young – Master Entrepreneur Award.

In 2009, Garry co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard titled “Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”, Release in May 2009, FT Press. #MG 100 coach.