Kenneth Tripp, Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Logistics at Zimmer Biomet, believes that resilience is not just about surviving; it’s about thriving in the face of adversity, adapting to change, and discovering the untapped strength within ourselves. Join us in this captivating episode as we feature Ken Tripp to discuss resilience and the power of adaptability. Ken shares the secrets to adapting and bouncing back from life’s toughest challenges and uncovering the power within you to navigate through difficult times. He emphasizes how resilience is not an inborn trait but a skill that can be nurtured and developed over time. He shares the continuous process of building resilience, where every experience serves as a lesson and a stepping stone toward personal growth. Ken explains the transformative mindset of resilience—a beacon of positivity, hope, and unwavering belief in your ability to overcome any obstacle. Tune in now and learn how to embrace setbacks as opportunities to learn, adapt, and find creative solutions.
- 02:25 – Cryptologic Technology And 9/11
- 18:18 – Resilience In Small Companies
- 23:54 – The Navy Experience
- 34:53 – Failure And Accountability
- 42:34 – For The Love Of Movies
- 59:02 – Adaptability: There’s No Roadmap For The Future
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.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The Power Of Adaptability: Navigating Life’s Curveballs With Resilience With Ken Tripp
In this episode, I’ve got an amazing guest. I’m so looking forward to this conversation with this gentleman. I was super impressed with his style as a leader and his history in business as well as in life. He has a remarkable way about him. He’s a great storyteller and thought he’d be a fantastic guest. I’ll share a little bit about his background and we’ll welcome this amazing leader.
He is a person who started his career in the military, in leadership roles in that space and then has translated it into a pretty epic business career as well. His name is Ken Tripp. Let’s start there. His position is as a Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Logistics at Zimmer Biomet. He previously held senior operational roles at Cardinal Health, Medtronic, Covidien and Kendall Healthcare.
He’s retired from the US Navy and Navy Reserve as a Senior Chief with 25 years of experience and service. Ken is a remarkable guy. I love the way he leads other people. That’s ultimately what inspired me. I hope it inspired him as well but inspired me to have him as a guest on our show. He’s somebody that we can all learn a great deal from. I feel very blessed to be working alongside him in my company service to Zimmer Biomet as well. Please welcome to the show, Ken Tripp.
Ken, I’ll say this. Since the last time that you and I sat down and had a conversation, I’ve been chomping a bit. Not only to continue having a conversation and all the good stuff that comes out of it but to have you on the show. I’m thrilled that we were able to make this happen. I’ve shared with our audience a bit about “your bio” and introduced you in that way. My question is, what’s one thing that is not part of your history or bio that you would love for people to know about you at the outset?
From a professional aspect, I dove in to be a communications specialist in business and wound up in finance. I was trying to follow along the way. A lot of people don’t know this. When I was in the Navy for the first eleven years, I was a Cryptologic technician. I was working for NSA and did all kinds of interesting things back in the day as far as intel, analysis and things along those lines. It was a part of my life for the first eleven years that I was part of the Navy and the Navy Reserve. I got to dive into that world. It all started at the age of seventeen with a recruiter asking me if I wanted to be James Bond.
I couldn’t have been further away from James Bond either in looks or mission but it was certainly cool to me. I dove into it. I had a lot of fun with that. It was a great experience but I was into cryptology and understanding that and its history. It had a lot to do with my love of history. I was a History major as well and studied all aspects and facets of the State War and the South Pacific or the war in the Pacific during World War II, which cryptanalysts had a lot to do with, especially with the battle of Midway and forward and on. That put two pieces together that were very unintentional but pretty cool.
I didn’t expect to go here but I want to. I’m feeling called to do it. I’m imagining there are a lot of people that are reading this and some people watching it on YouTube as well that don’t know what Cryptologic technology is. They may have heard of crypto because of cryptocurrencies and things. Is this the precursor to all of that? If you could share a little bit of that history that you referred to, this history of how crypto and that technology was used in World War II as a part of how the war was ended and the like. You spent eleven years in that space. Before we get to what came after the eleven years, I want to help our people understand a little bit more about what that thing is.
It’s funny you say that because I couldn’t even pronounce the word cryptologic, even though at seventeen when I knew that that’s what I was going to be going into. The whole field has to do with being able to encrypt or encode your communications so that you can send sensitive information from one space to another. The enemy cannot figure out what you’re transmitting or understand what you’re trying to do. There are different sequences that are embedded in those codes. If you think about World War II Atlantic side or the European War, they talked about going after Enigma. That was driving me to understand what the Germans were saying. That same thing was happening with the Japanese.
There was a team of cryptanalysts that the US had developed coming out of World War. We think about this back then. Even the idea of having radio transmissions wasn’t even 50 years old. It was crazy if you think about it. These cryptanalysts were doing their best to read and figure out, even in peacetime to try to understand what their next moves were going to be.
Prior to Pearl Harbor, the US had broken pieces of the diplomatic code. They knew the Japanese were up to something but they didn’t know exactly what it was or the timing of it. After war broke out, it became a very high priority to work on being able to break or at least begin to understand and piece together the coded transmissions that the Japanese were putting out. JN-25 at the time is what it was called, not to get too geeked out.
What had happened was, which is interesting and I love this piece of history, is that after Pearl Harbor, as you can imagine, there were many ships that were destroyed and many of their crews didn’t have any place to go initially. This individual by the name of Commander Rochefort had a team of cryptanalysts in a basement, somewhere in some building in Pearl Harbor in that area. He brought in people from Wall Street, people who were familiar with reading, predicting and trying to understand modes and things like that. He brought in musicians as well who could identify notes or certain key letters. He had all these individuals coming in to break pieces of the code so they could figure out specific letters and what they would mean because everything would have a designation.
The code AF they kept seeing was transmitted quite often and they were able to figure out that AF was midway by having the folks on the island of Midway. The transmission was clear that their freshwater condenser was down. The Japanese reported that and they were able to piece together why they were talking about Midway and then understanding that they were building quite a fleet to go after it.
There’s a lot more to that. There was also a team in Washington that was doing the same thing. They disagreed with the analyst in Pearl Harbor for quite a bit until that transmission was caught in the clear. They were both arguing about what the next step was going to be. Many years later, in 1984, I was graduating high school and going into the Navy for a reserve stint so I could have money to go to college.
I wasn’t thinking anything along those terms. I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do in the Navy. You take this ASVAB test and get certain scores. I also learned that I was colorblind. I didn’t know that before I went to take my physical. They said, “This is a job that you’re rated for and you can be colorblind to do it. Do you want to be James Bond?” There it was.
You got to hand it to them. “How do you hook a seventeen-year-old kid?” Give him the opportunity to become James Bond.
A geeky, pit bull-faced kid at seventeen who wants to be James Bond sounds pretty cool to me. Do you know what was funny about that, Adam? When I finally got to school for cryptology, they wanted to make sure that people kept that lowkey. They don’t want you out there telling people you have top secrets clearance or anything like that. They’re saying, “Tell them you’re a cook.” I was thinking, “I don’t think I’m going to get many girls with that.”
That’s an old World War II expression, “Loose lips sink ships.” It’s so interesting. You said eleven years you spent there in that work. There’s a pivot story in there so we might as well dive into that because after eleven years, you had done well in that arena. I know part of your story already. For our folks, you had done well and then there was a change that was on the horizon. I’d be curious to know how that manifested. Is that something that started inside of you or did it come from outside?
You could label me as a patriot. I don’t know what the right term is. There are so many people and different labels for things.
You were committed to service. Is that fair to say?
Yeah. I wanted to serve and do my part. I was a pretty good cryptologic technician, I thought. I moved up at about the appropriate space as you do in rank, as you move along. Desert Storm 1991, first it was Desert Shield. When Desert Shield started, they started recalling a bunch of reservists back to active duty. It was pretty interesting because it was 3 or 4 years after the wall came down and the military at that point was shrinking on purpose. The budgets were getting lowered and people were trying to figure out what were our missions going to be. It was an interesting time. When all this went down, suddenly with Iraq and Bain Kuwait, I was like, “The bell’s going to ring. Here we go.”
For a lot of people, maybe people do know or don’t know but the Navy and the Marine Corps are one department. It’s the Department of the Navy and you got two branches, the Navy and the Marine Corps. We had Marine cryptologists that were working with us side by side. When the bell was rung, the Marines deployed and they didn’t need us. What was interesting was when things started getting heated up, they didn’t need many people doing what we were doing because they wanted communications to minimize. They wanted the circuits and the comms that were coming from Saudi Arabia and the fleets around those areas to be able to communicate directly to DC to the director of NSA without any unnecessary traffic. We were all put on minimized.
There wasn’t anything to do. At the same time, I was watching around me people with different ratings and things. I saw a lot of people trying to get out of serving. That bothered me as well because we had an active mission when we showed up at the Reserve Center. That was pretty cool. We were busy from the time we got there until the time we got home. We had our equipment and things. We were doing our stuff. A lot of folks would be reading the paper or doing courses or whatever they were doing in other units. Some were busy. Some weren’t. I saw an awful lot of people trying to get out and that bothered me.
I think too because I was mentored by some great leaders in the crypto space. A lot of them were Vietnam vets. While I wasn’t looking to go fight or kill anyone or do anything, I wanted to be part of the show. I wanted to get into the action. When that didn’t happen, I decided to go back to one of the other things that I enjoy, which is being on the water. I always enjoyed being able to pilot boats. There was nothing better to me as fun as going fast on the water. They were starting to bring back units that had been left to dissolve after Vietnam, which was the brown water-navy or riverine navy. There were special boat units and they were separate. They worked with the SEAL teams but they were bringing up more of a reserve presence for riverine and coastal warfare.
It was called inshore boat units at the time. I had a friend of mine who was a Russian linguist, best rated in the Navy, who went over to one of those units for a very similar reason. I was like, “This guy is brilliant.” He’s like, “Ken, you would enjoy this.” I cross-rated to a boatswain’s mate from a cryptologic technician, which is quite a leap. I still remember my commanding officer looking at me going, “Are you sure you want to do this?” I said, “Yeah, I want to do this.” We trained hard. We were in a commission unit. We had boats. We PT-ed. I had to learn engine repair, navigation, how to fire weapons and all that stuff like I was starting from brand new.
You had no experience at that point. You had eleven years in one particular area and now this is a completely different endeavor.
It was a huge change, a huge difference in mindset and a lot of learning. What’s interesting is when you move over like that, you keep your thinking but there were many people junior to me who knew a lot more than I did. You had to humble yourself, step back and learn. I knew I could drive a boat and I knew navigation. I didn’t know about weapons and a lot of electronics. I certainly am not the guy you want jumping in and fixing your engines. We had to learn and qualify all those things. It was quite a change. Probably the most difficult aspect of getting my qualifications wasn’t the physical fitness, weapons or navigation but the engineering. It’s not natural for me.
I got through it and lumped it. Right after, two things happened. First, on October 12th, 2000, the USS Cole got hit by terrorists at Aden Harbor and started to deploy some of our boat units after that event to go into areas where they thought the risk might be high for suicide votes. After 9/11, about a month later, our unit was called up to go. It’s flights for a year. I was very much more senior and older with kids and a family in a different world. I deployed for Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. It was quite an adventure. In 2009, I finally retired from it all after 25 years. It was a great time working with great people.
There were a lot of challenges, change and resilience, let’s put it that way, in terms of going off and being away from your family while, at the same time, moving up in the business world. You had two very different worlds going on. Fortunately, I worked for a super company that took good care of me and my family when I did deploy. I had some things a lot of folks didn’t have, which was that foundation and working for a company and people of good character watching your six when you were away.
I want to ask you what are some of the more enduring lessons but I’m sure there are so many of them so maybe we pick 1 or 2. The enduring lessons of spending 25 years in service and to be clear for the audience, some part of that 25-year period, you had dual careers. You were in business at the same time that you also were a senior reservist. When you get called up, let’s say your wife had a baby on the way. There were things going on in your life that you get baseball games on a Saturday and you’re a coach. It doesn’t matter. When you’re a reservist and you get called, everything drops and you go to duty.
What’s interesting is since 9/11, that has become part of the understanding. I would say prior to 9/11, other than Desert Storm, you never heard of reserves mobilizing very much. You might hear of the National Guard being called up during a disaster. That’s very common. They work for the state. It’s a little bit of a different mission there. They’re dual-hatted. They report to the governor as well as the president. It’s very unique.
In the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and others, it’s not as common to get deployed unless there’s a big-time emergency. It’s almost as if you haven’t done 1 or 2 tours in a reserve capacity, even with things winding down, I got colleagues at work going away for six-month deployments and they’re reservists. The game has changed dramatically.
Back then, it was very uncommon. A lot of companies stood up, especially after 9/11 and did their thing. It gets much harder for businesses and other organizations which have to support by law. There’s no doubt about it. When these folks constantly go, you’re thinking, “You go once, maybe twice.” I know folks that did 4 or 5 deployments. I was amazed they still had that resiliency. The companies had that resiliency to make sure they had a place for them and all that because that’s not easy, especially for a small business.
It was a different world. The tougher aspect of it was being away from home. The stress at home was much harder than it was for me. I knew a few days in advance what we were going to be doing, what boats or ships we were going to be escorting, what were we going to be circling, whatever it was. Whatever our tasking was, I knew what it was but the boats back home had no idea. Day to day, you’re in the dark.
Technology was changing. That was great. You could email, finally. On the second deployment, we had Skype. Skype was coming online then and they weren’t great transmissions but at least you could see each other more often. All in all, the toughest part was on the home front with the kids and all back there wondering. I remember very innocently sending a video that was being promulgated at the time and it was about the Navy and Marine Corps team and a lot of shots of the Marines going in and doing their thing and the Navy doing their thing, the aircraft and all that stuff.
I thought it was like a motivational, inspirational video. It came back. It’s like, “No, you can’t. It’s making them upset.” I didn’t even think about it and you’re like, “What a dope.” If I was watching it now, it would be going forward but you have to understand your audience. I was only trying to show them that we were doing pretty good stuff and it didn’t go over well. Even your mindset changes from where to where. Sometimes you need that slap to get you back into reality.
I want to go back to this pivotal moment or point. Shamelessly, I use the word pivot since I wrote a book with that title. Although, that book was early, to say the least. I was ahead of the curve. At that time when that book came out, that word was seen as more of a pejorative thing. If you pivot, it means you’ve made a mistake. It’s an error. It’s like you’ve run aground. I only wish I had a nickel for every time the word pivot’s been used since 2016 when that book first came out. Although we did reprint it in paperback. We got a nice new cover, graphic and all this from Simon & Schuster. They decided, “Maybe we should have a pandemic version of this book Pivot.
I’ve been pitching them to do that for two years like, “Let’s update this thing.” They finally came around, which was great. Eleven years into your naval career, you said some things to tease out some of the lessons for people that are in various areas of their life but let’s think about the fact that what is universal? Whether it’s your personal life or professional business, career, entrepreneurial journey or whatever that might be. There are times when change is upon us. You’re a waterman and so am I. You and I have that very much in common. The water is a very interesting thing.
Lakes, rivers and the ocean are very different bodies of water but there are always signs of a change that you can observe. It can be based on the tides or wind. Often, a lot of it has to do with the wind or things of that sort. There was a period eleven years into this thing where you began to feel that there were signs that a change was upon you. You would either, let’s say, buy into the sunk cost fallacy, which is to say, “I’ve got eleven years invested in this thing. I’m an expert.”
Your superior officer said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You want to make a change and start in a different area, knowing nothing when you’ve built up all this experience and credibility?” That was not a small decision to make. I’m sure you consulted with those around you and your wife in particular about that but you must have seen the writing on the wall to consciously go, “I’m going to take a step back here,” and become humble, the humility to become a learner and go back to the beginning. What was that like for you and those around you making that decision?
Those around me external to the Navy said, “He is doing something else in the Navy,” because everybody looked at it like, “That’s what you do. You’re a sailor,” even though every sailor has a different job. For me, it wasn’t a nerve-wracking thing, to be honest with you. I wanted to make a difference. I felt like that as a CT, there were plenty of them and a lot of good guys and women that were very good at what they did.
It wasn’t like that I could have gotten out of my next enlistment and the Navy keeps going. There are so many of you. It wasn’t that big a deal. We stayed friends with all the folks that were involved. It was afterward that I learned that there’s a bit of a sacrifice here. That is that when I was a CT, I would be going to places like Roda, Spain, London, Homestead Florida or Key West, all these spots. It so happens to be where we had our stations or our listening posts weren’t cool locations.
They didn’t send you to the North Pole?
No. They did have one place in Anchorage, Alaska, which would’ve been interesting to see, Kodiak Island, Alaska. They did have those things. I was going to places like that and all of a sudden, it’s like, “We’re putting a convoy together. We’re going out to the woods.” We went to Korea to do an exercise out there. It was probably the coldest, most miserable environment. It allowed me to grow. One of the things that was eye-opening for me is I wouldn’t say I was the most resilient person in a lot of things. I wasn’t a tough guy. I was in decent shape. That changed me holistically going into this unit in the sense that I could do things I didn’t think I could.
I think about things that may rattle me or get me tired. I look back at that and I’m like, “I’m not the same person.” You were doing all these crazy things before. There are a lot of people that if they were challenged to push would be amazed to realize what they could truly do. I’m not talking about even being close to special operations or a SEAL. None of that stuff. The stuff we were doing was enough to say, “This is a pretty good challenge.” I never had to climb up a long rope on an obstacle course so far up and look down or climb up the side of a ship at night with all that gear on.
Crazy things and yet we did it. Everybody in that unit did it. We were all trained well. I’m not saying you got this belief that you were superhuman. I used to always rationalize in my head, “If so-and-so can do it or if so many people can do it, well why can’t I do it?” Push yourself a little bit. I did talk to myself a lot, I still do, about those types of things. You can persevere and push. It’s okay. Everybody has limits. I get it. There are times when people hit those limits. I’m not sure if people understand where those are sometimes. That was a great learning for me and it set me up for success in the business world with that mindset.
I was going to ask what are some of those carryover lessons but before we get there, I want to say that there’s a part of what I’ve observed and I got the good fortune to spend a bit of time with some members of your team and got to visit one of the facilities where Zimmer Biomet has quite a number of employees, thousands of employees and many people in leadership roles there.
I was able to observe you working or being present with, is how I would put it some of those senior-level leaders. Part of the reason that I was excited to have you even come to join in this conversation was that I haven’t seen that many people in leadership roles as comfortable as you seem to be to me in giving people proximity and seeing those leaders be that you’d invite them into your world the way I observed.
You were as present as I saw you being with them because we know it’s every day. It’s a bit of a slog. I don’t know an industry that people are not grinding. Our philosophy about resilience is that the grind is something we have to recognize as not the thing that will carry the day. It can’t be the dog. It has to be the tail. In the midst of that context, to see you sitting down with people, giving them your time, relating to them and being present is the only way I could put it. Whereas a lot of times what I see with people that are at your level of leadership are constantly on their phones and perpetually in motion.
They don’t sit still too long with too many people. On a number of occasions, I got to witness you in and around your team. Is that you, Ken? Is that who you are as a person? Are you that way in every arena and area of your life? Do you make this intentional? In this instance, is it even more intentional because you know what your team is dealing with and how vital it is that you get facetime with your commanding officer, the person that you call your boss or mentor? Given you a compliment, I more or less want to get a sense of what’s your mindset around that observation. Am I off base there and what I’m saying?
No. First, thank you. It’s fine when somebody’s pointing out the behavior that you don’t think about very often. It does make you reflective. I’ve been very fortunate. Blessed would be the term I would use. For whatever reason, throughout my whole life, I have been exposed to some of the best people of good character. I don’t know what it is but sometimes, you fall into things and look around. I think about the boot camp class I was in and won every award. We won every flag. Every unit I seemed to be in had folks that were great characters. Not every leader was but there were some that were spectacular. You watched how they operated.When somebody's pointing out behavior that you don't think about very often, it does make you reflective. Click To Tweet
It’s very easy to fall into that military hierarchal type mindset, especially as you move up in rank. You feel like you earned it. The difference was in the military, I was an enlisted guy. That’s rare to see an enlisted guy here and then an executive there. I was always with the troops. When you go to make chief in the Navy, one of the things you go through is an induction period. It’s not a lot of fun.
They’ve done away with a lot of hazing and all of that. The whole idea of that for two months or maybe longer some of the most humiliating things that they make you do was to make sure that when you took over and took charge of your sailors in whatever unit you had, you could honestly say to them, “There is nothing that you’re doing that I haven’t done.” At least in terms of this is very difficult, sloppy, messy, disgusting or whatever it is. We were put through that.
That one aspect of it is that muscle that was built to never ever ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do. That’s key. The second piece is and I didn’t think about it until you were asking the question but my last few years in the service coincided with the exact time I started getting into senior leadership with a company called Covidien.
I was working with guys from West Point and formal naval officers and then some folks that did very well in business. They were pretty tough. Good, fair but tough. You’d go to them for counseling, for example, and ask the question, “I’ve got this situation. I could either do this or this.” They’d look back at you, especially this one senior leader. He would say, “I guess you got a tough decision,” and walk away. He would always be on your toes.
As I was finishing up my career in the Navy, I happened to work for a captain, which is very senior in the Navy, one rank below admiral. He was a commodore. He asked me to come down to Little Creek, Virginia, which was a pain in the neck going back from New England back and forth. The way this guy operated was non-conventional.
Yes, he was a senior leader. He got all the bells, whistles, salutes and all of that but he was very grounded. He was right out there right from the front with his guys. I watched him a lot. He is one of my closest friends, which is funny because usually when you get out of the service, most of your friends are pretty much the same level that you were. He’s a captain and all of his best friends are chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs. It’s the funniest thing.
I watched how he operated. Nobody would hesitate to do anything for him. I’m trying to build that character. Folks will do it for the company and they’ll do it for all the right reasons but they’ll do it because they know that I do it for them. “I’ve got your back if you do it right.” That’s what it is. You’re allowed to fail but fail fast and learn from it. Move on. You’re constantly making the same mistakes. We’ve got to be held accountable and do all the right things. I’m not afraid to change talent if I don’t have the right talent or a talent that’s going to negatively impact the culture that we’re trying to build. It’s critical.
I genuinely feel this when I’m with my folks, whether I’m in Indiana or anywhere around the world. I’ve been on several trips going back and forth. We build a camaraderie that’s built on the fact that we have a mission that we want to succeed in. If you’re in the supply chain of any company in the world, it is horrible out there. If they’re going to work for somebody who screams, yells and demands all the time, they’re going to make a miserable environment even more miserable. Let’s be constructive, creative and innovative. Let’s find ways to win and do it together. I’m probably waxing a little bit more philosophical than I expected with that question but that’s how I see it.
I’m glad you brought up having each other’s backpiece. I want to probe that a little bit further to even be not so much more granular but outside of the philosophical implications of it. What does it look like to have each other’s back in that context? In a business context, what are some of the things that you feel show that you have your team’s back?
When we started to come out of COVID and things radically shifted, as an organization like many companies, we were shocked at how fast everything sprung back to life in our world, in the surgical and orthopedics world. Through no one’s fault, we had to do an awful lot in a very short amount of time to get operations running at a much quicker pace. We had to go.
We needed to drive people to another level but at the same time, in asking these folks to do it, we also had to make sure we were taking the best care we could. If you look at a lot of organizations, you have a lot of people that are working a tremendous amount of hours and they are doing everything they can. One thing that I love about being in the medical device industry and orthopedics in particular is every product you make is going to have a positive impact on somebody.
It can be a very negative experience when you haven’t had 2 days off in 30 or you’re churning and burning it. I’m very fortunate that we have strong leaders in our organization as well that recognize that. We wanted to make sure we were paying people fairly or that instead of time and a half, we were doing double time or making sure that we were doing the little things that could help people weather this. Even though no matter what you do, it may never be enough but you always got to try.
For the folks that I’m asking to stand in the front and do this level of work, sometimes something might go wrong. We might push too hard. We have to let people understand that you can make those mistakes. Catch your breath. It’s okay. We need to make sure that we’re not doing anything that brings harm either to our people or our patients. Find that balance.
I’ve been blessed like that for many years to have people of great character with super chemistry that are very committed. One of the things I would rather people do honestly is I’d almost like have them call me, yell and scream than do it down to the troops and our folks. If you got to vent, vent up. Don’t vent down. Ensure that you have a space where you can let loose. I find myself getting into those circumstances a lot where I’m getting frustrated because you’re overtired. You’re working hard. I know that if I needed to, I could talk to my HR business partner and let it go.Don't vent down. Ensure that you have a space where you can just let loose. Click To Tweet
What struck me was the idea that when you give people proximity to those who are decision-makers and most of those people are themselves decision-makers, it models something important that you are willing to give a person the opportunity to put their guard down for a moment. Take down the facade and have a conversation about what’s real and true because without that space, as you called it, to speak, feedback, vent or whatever it might be, it’s pretty lonely. You can feel quite isolated. I suppose there are some benefits to be had in being that level of independence and being able to find your way out of situations without assistance. Frankly, I’m struggling to even say it because, to me, the value in all this is the exponential value and quality of a team.
Nobody is trying to go it alone. The go-it-alone mode doesn’t work in times of great disruptions in any arena, certainly not in business. We are so much stronger as a unit than we are individually in leadership roles. You do have to convey with much more than words but with actions that you care greatly about not just whether we achieve a KPI but how we do it. Did we leave anybody behind in the process? Did we need to leave anybody?
The best of all worlds is we hit our targets and we don’t leave anybody behind. We truly have each other’s backs. I do get that. Having not served in the military but observed and spoken to so many people in that arena too, that’s a core concept. You don’t leave a man in the field or a person behind. In business, that’s a great way to do it if you can. From our standpoint, we talk about that in resilience terms and how it is that when you build resilience individually, it’s like a link in a chain. Every link is strong and then the whole organically is stronger as a result of that.
Before we finish, I got to ask you this. You and I both have a love of movies. We share a love for a couple of movies in common. I wanted to get your thoughts on a few of your favorite movies. What is it about those movies that inform some aspect of your leadership or your role as a leader? There are two movies that you and I have discussed that we both love.
One is On Golden Pond and the other one is Jaws. Very different movies, although they are our water movies. Water is the common denominator for both those. Ken, it’s a bit far afield but I want you to for a second sit with this question. What is it about the movie On Golden Pond, Henry Fonda and other people in that movie, perhaps the theme or the through line that informs some aspect of your role as a leader? It could be Jaws or some other movie.
I don’t know how it helps me as a leader. They help form character. When I think of On Golden Pond in particular, I’ve heard this and I can’t say I remember who to attribute it to but when you’re younger and you’re going through rough times, you watch certain movies. It comes to that place that you can go to because you know how it’s going to end. When you’re younger, you’re yearning for that, “This is going to end in a good way.” Both those movies end in a good way. One is a horror movie and one is a family movie.
When I think of On Golden Pond, the reason I’m so connected to that movie is because I grew up in that same area of New Hampshire. My brother, sister and I and all our cousins lived on the lake right next to it. I told you that certain aspects of the film were filmed on that lake that we were at too. That drove a connection right away. The piece about it that I enjoyed was watching the older couple. Even as a young person, there was something to that dynamic that I appreciated. The final is the connectivity that was made between Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda.
I was no fan of Jane Fonda. A lot of people weren’t and neither was her dad. That was a big deal. From what I understand and this may or may not be accurate, you hear things or maybe read them a long time ago and then your mind creates things. From what I understand, she sought, produced and maybe even solicited the financing to earn the rights to that because it was a play.
I don’t know if it was a novel before that but I know it was a play. She wanted to do it with the sole idea of casting her dad and using that as a bridge to bring them back together. The movie was reflecting life and that was a neat thing. That tells you that you can heal, recover and rebuild. You can put relationships back together and do it in a spot that is some of the most beautiful places on earth up there. It had all of that.
On the Jaws side, which is very interesting to me, that movie was in 1975. I was born in ’66. I was 9 years old, probably 8 because I was born later in the year. That movie messed me up. I didn’t want to go swimming in a swimming pool after that movie. I kept watching it. I don’t know how many times I saw it even as a kid and then kept watching it. It is one of the best-made films ever. A lot of the attraction to the movie was learning what it took to make the movie. This young guy, Spielberg, has no idea. They build these mechanical sharks thinking, “We’re going to do this in two months.”
It winds up being 5 or 6, not even understanding what the saltwater would do to the different mechanisms. With all the delays, trials and those issues, the movie became very different from what they thought it was going to be. They made it a better movie because less became more. That was a part of it. The other part of it was taking on that big challenge that they took on. It didn’t work out for everybody. In the end, they figured it out. I thought the chemistry of those three actors was amazing. The storytelling was amazing. Also, the shots that were made, the different aspects when you see the different documentaries and what they came up with to make it happen.
The challenge of that movie was making it. They took a book that was so-so. I read the book and I was like, “Really?” I read it after the movie. It was okay. This was one of those times when the movie was far better than the novel. The Indianapolis story that was told was amazing. It had only been declassified within a few years, like the total aspect of what went down. That again brought me even closer to the Navy in that aspect too, that understanding and story of survival. John is funny. I was telling you. I’ve got a whole library back here on how they made the film. There are so many books about it. I’ve got the original hardcover of the novel, all that stuff and a great piece I’ll show you in New Hampshire when we get up there.
It’s resiliency at its core.
The whole thing is.
It’s amazing. We don’t see the shark until very late in the movie. It wasn’t by design as you said. It was because the thing wasn’t working. He’s over his head. He’s a very young director at this time. This is like his entry into superstardom in that arena because of what he was able to pivot. That was what happened throughout that filmmaking.
My connection to it is that when I was a kid, we used to go on these summer vacations. My dad was a civil servant. He worked for the city of New York. He got a couple of weeks off in a row and we would drive up into New England from where I grew up in Queens, New York. It was a day trip. We couldn’t afford to stay on the island but we day-tripped over to the island. On one of those particular day trips, they were filming that movie in the pond.
You saw them filming that scene?
No. I don’t know if it was that scene. I remember where that bridge is. That is the Jaws Bridge as they call it. I have a memory of being near that bridge while they had their camera crews out. There must have been something like that that they were filming at that time. When I was thinking about asking you this question, I thought to myself, “I have another movie that we didn’t talk about.”
There were two movies that served a similar purpose as the one you said at the beginning, Ordinary People and Chariots of Fire. My parents were going through some stuff with their marriage. Ordinary People was one of these movies that hit me hard when I was in high school around that time. That was a movie that helped me to deal with some of that stuff.
There’s a depth to that movie on the topic of suicide, which was also something that, due to some things that had happened with a friend of mine that I was working through at the time. That movie was pretty amazing in terms of an exploration into how we repress and deal with emotions and trauma that we’re not prepared for, especially as young people but at any age, honestly.
That movie is still one that I haven’t seen in a while but I look back on it. That was Robert Redford’s very first directorial film. He did a phenomenal job of that. With Chariots of Fire, there’s a moment where one of the runners is asked this question, “Where does the power come from? Where does the strength come to finish the race?” Your body is wracked with pain.
I was a swimmer in high school. This movie was about running. It wasn’t about swimming but the concept is true in every stage of my life, whether being a parent or a father, learning how to be a husband or a parent, learning how to be in business or lead myself and other people. With any of these things, there are always some parts of it that are excruciating. They’re like what you were describing when it comes to some of those tests in the military to see if you’ve got what it takes to keep going. There are all these moments when you feel like, “I could quit.”
It would be so much easier to quit. When they ask that question to this guy, “Where does the strength come from? Where does the power to finish come from?” He says, “It comes from within.” It’s such a simple line but it’s always stuck with me. There’s so much of what we’re looking for or what we need to be able to move through that pain, be on the other side of that and be able to look back on it. It’s from this place within us where we find that strength. There’s something spiritual about it for sure but it’s also how you can create some stillness.
It’s in the stillness that I’ve found a lot of those answers. I’m on the coast in Massachusetts and you’re in New Hampshire on a lake. I miss that about lakes. I was a camp counselor up in Western Massa for a bunch of years. There’s something about the stillness of a lake. I don’t even know it. You can’t put it towards. It’s like being close to the divine. It is the divine but that’s stillness.
I’ve had an uncle. He is the next generation above me so he’s a great uncle but he never went on any other vacations but then head up to Lake Winnipesaukee. Even after all these years, I still remember him sitting on the pier looking out, turning to me and going, “It never gets old.” It doesn’t. You traveled all over the world and see things but he never has. He’s been to some spots but I wouldn’t say outside the US. That’s where he went every year.
He could afford to go anywhere if he wanted to but that’s where he kept coming. It was interesting. I’ve seen Ordinary People. It’s been a long time. As you were speaking and talking through that, I remember watching it. When we finally got to what happened, stepping back and then that ending with her essentially going away was powerful. She will not be able to adapt and she’s got to go.
You were saying Chariots of Fire. The thing I like about Chariots of Fire too is the focus on the dynamics of it all. I love perseverance. I was a runner so I loved Chariots of Fire. Back when that came out, that was ‘80, ‘81 or something along those lines. I know it won Best Picture in Oscar. The other thing was of all the movies we talked to, that was true, all of it. It’s a true story. That also has a lot of weight when you look at folks. They won’t compromise on their beliefs or ethics. Some people are dealing with more prejudice and all of that stuff.
It was such an interesting movie and a great story holistically. It’s a true story. That’s what makes it pretty neat to me. One thing too I wanted to say when we were talking about dealing with resiliency. You become more senior in any organization. There’s a thought process that you’re there because of your experience. There are a few things that haven’t happened historically that don’t come about. If you’re in something long enough, you’re going to see different issues arise. With your experience, you knew what went wrong so you’re trying to avoid that. You make sure you’re doing these things.
I’ve been saying to my team for years, “Unless you’re 150 years old, nobody’s led or lived through a pandemic. This is all new.” We’re trying to figure it out. The whole world has changed. Companies have changed. Being focused is different. 100 year of evolution might have happened in 3 years in terms of how we run an organization. We’re all trying to figure this out a little bit as we go and relying on our folks to make a pressure test. “Is this working? Is that working?”Unless you're 150 years old, nobody's led or lived through a pandemic. This is all new ground. Click To Tweet
That’s a huge reason that you’re working with our teams, Adam. We needed to be thinking about things differently and how can we build up that resiliency. We don’t possess that knowledge. Be humble. Find the folks that do have it, bring them in and help us get there. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you’re doing for our teams. I’m very fortunate that you’ve come aboard. One night sitting in a hotel lobby, I felt like I’d known you for years. It was that powerful and impactful. I do appreciate you.
The feeling is mutual. I’m glad we got to steal away a little time. Thank you for taking the time. It’s Darwin’s quote. I asked this with a group of your supervisors. I said, “What’s that quote that is attributed to Darwin about how we survive?” Everybody goes, “It’s the survival of the fittest. That’s the dog-eat-dog thing.” I said, “That’s not his quote. He says it’s not the fittest that survive. It’s not the most intelligent that are the survivors. It’s the people that adapt to their changing environment.” That is what Darwin said. Those are the people that are around. That adaptability is crucial because none of us have a roadmap for the future.
I don’t care what anybody says. There’s a bit more humility in terms of economics, forecast and outlook for what’s happening in that space. This is all new ground. We have to approach it. The word that for me nailed it is humility. If we can approach that with humility and be learners, a lot of things fall into place because as a species, we are adaptable. That’s why we’re still here.
Thank you, Ken. I so appreciate the conversation. I know our readers are going to love this. I’ll say out there to our audience, if you’ve got someone in your life, whether it’s personally or professionally, that would benefit from reading some of what it was that Ken and I talked about and some of the wisdom that Ken dropped on us, please share this episode with those people around you. How this show grows is through that sharing process.
In all humility, I ask for support. We appreciate it. It helps with the algorithm too. If you rate the show five stars or whatever appeals to you, it helps with that thing they call the algorithm and puts it in front of more people. It would be great if you’ve got comments or questions for Ken or me. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/Podcasts. Leave your comment or question there. If there’s one there for Ken, I will make sure that I get it to him. It won’t be a bot that answers the thing. It’ll be us. With that, I want to say thank you for your time and everything that you contributed, Ken.
Thank you for the opportunity. I loved it. Take care. We’ll talk to you soon.
As anticipated, I loved my conversation with Ken Tripp. He’s got so much life experience having come from a background where he didn’t exactly know what his next step was going to be. He got to be in his late teens and like so many of us, didn’t know exactly what to do. He decided that he could be of service by being of service and in the service. He started in the Navy and ended up there in the reserves for 25 years, taking on a number of different roles and pivoting in the midst of it.
He tells us a bit about what that pivot looked like in an encounter intuitive role. I thought what was inspiring was that even though he had amassed a great deal of experience in one particular area and one discipline and was a rising star in that area, at a certain point he realized this wasn’t going to fulfill him and where his growth path would lie. To make that change mid-career was counterintuitive.
Other more senior leaders around him thought quizzically of that decision. Perhaps maybe they wouldn’t have had the courage to do that but he did. Ken, as you can see, is not a guy who steers away from the difficult. I don’t think he’s afraid to fail. That’s fundamentally important in any role in leadership and all of our roles in life frankly to find the great that we’re capable of and the great that we can inspire others. We have to be willing to fail and free to fail. We have to create for ourselves on some level that’s psychological safety, which you might call courage to be free to fail. That means we’ve got to trust.
We’ve got to trust in ourselves and the universe. I remind myself of this almost every single day. It’s a good day when I do and it’s not a good day when I don’t remind myself to trust in the universe and myself. That’s ultimately born out of a certain level of connection and connectivity that we have within ourselves. My spiritual practice is to sit in stillness, gratitude and prayer and connect. When I am connected and I do feel connected to my higher self and a higher plane than I do have that trust, I am reminded that I can do pretty much anything. I’m safe to fail in the pursuit of things that make sense, things that will resonate, deep within my being and my heart is calling me to do.
Ken Tripp is that kind of individual. That’s why he and I connected on a personal level at a retreat. I spent a week out in Warsaw, Indiana at the Zimmer Biomet headquarters to meet a number of their leaders, senior-level folks, as well as middle-level managers and individual contributors. I was so impressed with that organization. They are at the forefront of much of the science and development of medical devices that make our lives better.
Whether we need new knees, elbows, ankles, shoulders or any of those things, this company has been innovating in that space for a very long time. They’re led by people like Ken Tripp who understand that you can’t innovate without that freedom to try things and fail at some things to learn some things so that you can succeed later on. There is no success if you are not willing to give yourself the freedom to fail.
With that, sit back and enjoy the episode. Share the episode with a friend. If there’s somebody that you know, a colleague or someone else that could use the words of wisdom that we hear from Mr. Tripp, I would love for you to do that. Share that episode or this episode with them. Give us a rating also, wherever it is that you are consuming the show and if you could give us that five-star rating for what that does for us. I say this selfishly and in gratitude for your help in getting the show to be more widely heard and distributed so that it can have that ripple effect and influence. That’s the only reason I do it.
We don’t have any sponsors. Not that we might not at any point but at the moment, this is all self-funded. It’s something that we do. It’s a heart-centered moment for us to give in the way that we give, hopefully, give back in some ways and create value for people. We know there’s a great ripple effect in doing that. To get that ripple effect, we need your help to share it with other folks and give us the rating that makes sense to you. Thank you for doing that.
Lastly, if you are looking to find out how resilient you are in this moment, right this second, all it takes is 3 minutes to answer 16 very quick questions. 2 to 3 minutes is all it takes. You will find out how resilient you are mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. It’s a very important thing to check in and see exactly where you are, where it is you’re succeeding and where you might be not succeeding at the level. That ability to take in that feedback is a part of that freedom to fail. On some level, there is no failure because it’s all fodder for growth. That’s ultimately what we’re all after. With that, sit back and enjoy. Thank you once again for being a part of our Change Proof community.
About Ken Tripp
Current position Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Logistics @ Zimmer Biomet. Previously held senior operational roles at Cardinal Health, Medronic, Covidien, and Kendall Healthcare. Retired from US Navy and Navy Reserve as a Senior Chief with 25 years of service.