Ep. 215 – Ops Academy Founder, Jhana Li

Our guest today is Ops Academy’s founder, Jhana Li.

Jhana has over 4 years experience as a COO and Operations Consultant for digital entrepreneurs. She specializes in executing scalable team & systems infrastructure, and harnessing the true power of Operations as a lever for compound growth. 

Jhana’s passion lies in scaling purpose-based businesses, and partnering with the founding entrepreneurs to unlock their highest potential & impact. 

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • What Jhana looks for and identifies as the operational talent 
  • Which areas operators typically struggle
  • How to clearly define the role of an operator
  • How to prevent staff members from taking advantage of operators 
  • How to form a strategic alignment with a CEO 


Connect with Jhana Li: LinkedIn 

Jhana Li Consulting – https://www.jhanali.com/


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Our guest is the Ops Academy‘s Founder, Jhana Li. She has several years of experience as a COO and operation consultant for digital entrepreneurs. She specializes in executing scalable team and systems infrastructure and harnessing the true power of operations as a lever for compound growth. Her passion lies in scaling purpose-based businesses and partnering with the founding entrepreneurs to unlock their highest potential and impact. She is one of our rare non-COO guests, but because she focuses on that second-in-command space, it made sense not to have her on as a guest. Welcome to the show. 

Thank you so much. It is awesome to be here.

What I mean by you are not a COO is you are not a COO anymore. You have been a COO before. You are now the entrepreneur running a business in this space. Why don’t you tell us about the Ops Academy so we know the base we are going to go off of? I want to go back into some of your COO experience too. 

Many operators can relate to the fact that they stumbled into operations. There is not a lot of supporting infrastructure, guidance, or a clear pathway about how to excel in this career path and how to even get into it or what it even is to start off with. I built Ops Academy to try and close that gap. It is a training program for operators by operators. It provides all of those key missing pieces. It got a community of fellow operators that you are able to pull support from.

You know that with COO Alliance, how important community is. It got a guiding set of content. People can close any knowledge gaps that they are walking into the operations role with. It got live coaching. People have personalized mentorship. My goal with it was to help be the bridge between operationally-talented people and what they need to start or up-level in their career as an operator.

That is a cool statement that you said, which was to take operationally talented people. You are bridging them into their career. What do you identify as the operational talent? What do you look for, or what do you see? 

I call it Level 3 Thinking, which is a word I made up. I see it as a complex systems analysis. Talent is that underlying worldview or underlying lens. I find that the best operators all have the same lens. When we look at anything, it could be a business or Thanksgiving dinner with your family, you can’t help but break it down through patterns, systems, and the interplay between these various systems and how that is creating new cause and effect over here. Any operator sees the world that way.

When I’m looking for an operational talent, that is what I’m looking for. Add in growth-mindedness, willingness, and ability to learn. That is a person that, if they make the decision, could choose to become an amazing operator because that underlying lens is there. What we call operations are sets of skills, knowledge, experience, and tools that you overlay on that talent to create world-class operations. The skills and stuff can be taught. That is what I do at Ops Academy. Talent is something that you have or don’t. That is what I look for when I’m prospecting whether somebody would be a good fit for an operations position, my coaching program, or any one of these things.

I think about Dr. Seuss’ books when they have Thing One and Thing Two. They need to have both. I have always said, “Entrepreneurs have to have the entrepreneurial DNA, and they can learn the entrepreneurial skillset. I don’t believe you can become an entrepreneur. You can gain entrepreneurial skills, but you either have that DNA, or you don’t. I agree. People are born and have that operational DNA, or they are not. Talk about the size of the clients that you have. What’s the typical size of the companies you target or work with? 

I love working with small to medium-sized businesses. From a revenue perspective, we are looking at anywhere between $100,000 to $1 million per month is my sweet spot. From teamed size, that can vary widely depending on the business model. I generally find that operations are the 4th or 5th hire that that company is bringing in once they have a person representing each of the core functional departments in the company.

You are going to take those people that have that operational talent, as you say, in that Level 3 Thinking, and you are going to help give them the skills to excel in their job or to do better with the company they are with. What are some of the skills? If you were to outline a curriculum or a baseline area of skills, what would those be? 

It also depends on the level of operator role that you are trying to step into, COO versus ops manager. At the starting point, we are looking at the ability to design and execute systems, manage communication, and optimize communication within a company, and basic team building skills, hiring, training, onboarding, and management. That is the baseline skillset for anybody trying to serve in an operations department, especially for a small company where the operator is doing everything. It is not ops for marketing. It is ops across the entire company.

On top of that as we start to ascend through the head of operations, director of operations, and COO, we are layering in executive leadership, executive team building, the ability to build and manage high-performance teams and teams of managers and all of the business owner lenses, finance, strategic decision making, and strategic alignment.

It is interesting the way that you see that in almost three layers or levels that you are going through because you are right. There is that once the team is built, the executive leadership starts to come in. You do have the real deep operational skills that have to be learned. Where do you think people struggle in being operators? Where do people, as second-in-command, struggle most in their roles? 

From what I have seen, the greatest point of struggle is in advocating for themselves and the boundaries of their role. That might be unique to the companies that I work with. Oftentimes, these operators are stepping into a team where the operations role doesn’t pre-exist. They have to build it as they fill it. They have to educate a team in a company that has never worked with operations before. It has never had that role filled. There is a ton of impetus for them to tell their team what operations are. Educate them on that, and draw boundaries around their role.

What I find is that when operators are unaware of how to do that or unsupported in their doing of that, oftentimes they end up as everything else person, like the firefighter or garbage disposal man, no offense. Because they are visionary, their team doesn’t understand how operations drive value to the company. It gets assigned to this default mode where everything goes. There is no success there. You can’t succeed at being the everything person.

The greatest thing I work with my operators on, particularly for these small businesses is, what is operations? How does it drive value to the company? What is it, and what is it not? How can you respectfully but firmly set boundaries around your role so that you are set up for success and only doing the things that only you can do?

You are not old. You are operationally savvy. You are sitting in this Star Trek pod. What do you call this? You’re sitting in the space pod. You are clearly not a 50-something. Where have you gained all the wisdom in this operation? Has it been from your past roles? Has it been from school? Has it been from the school of hard knocks, or are you super high in EQ? 

I am entirely self-taught. I did not do any formal education around operations. A lot of what I learned came from, and this is true for a lot of operators, what intuitively made sense to me, testing that within a business, and crosschecking that against what mentors said. I got lucky with a couple of key mentors that didn’t mind me constantly coming to them and saying, “Is this right? What am I missing? Where are my gaps here?” They were there for validation to make sure what I was seeing and my ideas were not off track. Everything else happened through trial and error of learning a thing, testing it in the business, seeing what data I got back from that business, and iterating from there. I read a lot of books, and I still do.

What are your favorite books? 

Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman, and First, Break All The Rules. Those are my top two when it comes to leadership and management. I love The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Scaling Up was helpful when it came to, “What are operations and how do I start to operate a company?” I have quite an extensive list. It would depend on the topic.

Have you read or seen one called the High Growth Handbook


Grab it. I’m impressed with the operational depth and the sound bites. It is strong. It is like Scaling Up, but it is easier to read. Instead of taking twelve pages to describe something, it takes four. It gives three pace studies to talk about it, which is a unique way to position it. It is good content. 

I will check that out. Thank you.

I love your whole testing and crosschecking with mentors. Was there anything you were working on operationally that mentors said, “No, you are wrong and off track?” 

This sounds worse, like egotistical, but no. What helps me understand that operation is something that I have the talent for. Intuitively, I figured it out, and I landed there most of the time by cross-checking with mentors and having that constant positive feedback loop that says, “You got it. You covered it. You thought it through. That is correct.”

I needed that when I was starting my journey because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Getting that feedback loop enough times helped build my own confidence as an operator that said, “I don’t know what the best way forward is, but this is my best guess. I feel confident enough in my track record of success to take a stab at this and let the data speak for itself, and the business tell me what I messed up.”

What do you think of your members of the Ops Academy? What are they learning most? What has been the biggest surprise for you? 

The greatest thing everybody always comes back and says, and my biggest a-ha moment was when around the definition of operations and coming to understand how their unique talent can translate into a vehicle of growth for a company. That operation is that vehicle. When that clicked for them and they realized, “My highest value contribution is not to be the on-top-of-it person, be the everything else person, and be the generally competent person.”

It is the roles and the identity they have assigned themselves their whole life. Now I can say, “Operator, integrator, and director of ops.” When they can put identity in a label around themselves, and that label protects them from all of the things that are not their job, that is the biggest a-ha moment for the people going through my program.

I was going to ask you about that in becoming everything role. What things are not their job? What have you commonly seen that starts getting dumped on them other than you mentioned the garbage man or a waste disposal person? 

The garbage man was like, “Here is the mess. Go clean it up.” The firefighter person was like, “Something is wrong. We don’t know how to fix it. Go fix that.” I see an executive assistant a lot. The visionary is treating this person like, “Can you schedule this? Can you take notes on this meeting? Can you reschedule my call?” I see a lot of those sorts of things. The rebound board is what I call the role. Where do I find this? Can you help me out with this question? Who do I talk to about this? It’s the generally competent person and the person that is always known for getting things done.

They unintentionally back themselves into this corner where they spend all day taking other people’s balls and putting them through the basket when it is not their job. The account manager should be responsible for solving that client fire, figuring out that client issue, or where that client resource is because there is this, what I call the magic vending machine, this person that you can always go to and get the right answer. Without setting boundaries around that, you will naturally become that go-to person, and it will prevent you. Your day will be filled with reacting to that as opposed to taking proactive steps toward the operations of the company.

How do they prevent that monkey from getting tossed on their back? How do they prevent that vending machine to use of themselves? What do they say and do? 

I do much coaching on this because it is hard. It is around learning to say no and truly reframing no as an act of service. If we think about raising kids, the most spoiled kids in the world are the ones that always get everything they want. They never have to work for it. We know this to be true. Your team is the same way. Operators, in my experience, are incredibly service-oriented people. It is one of the common traits that I see among us. Because of that, we always want to say yes and give them the Google Drive link, even though we have given it to them five times before, or give them that answer even though we have already answered that question for them, but we are unintentionally spoiling our kids.

It is the reframe that says, “How do I respectfully but firmly say no, and hand the ball back to them as opposed to carrying it over the finish line?” How do we say no, and how do we reprogram our own neural pathways that say, “That is not rude, spoiled, or lazy?” That is an act of service that enables your team to have the opportunity to struggle, to try a thing, to mess up a thing, and not know the answer to a thing. We know that that is where people grow and learn the most.

Simon Sinek and I used to talk about this back in the day when he was on our board of advisors many years ago. Years before he wrote his book Start With Why, we were talking about how people would come to us with questions. They would say, “You know do you know how to solve this?” He would say, “Yes, I do, but I’m not going to. You can go away and come back and tell me how you’d solve it.” They would go away. They come back and say, “We should do this.” He would say, “Don’t come and tell me. You go do it.” He kept deflecting off in a fun way. How do you say no to the CEO, especially the entrepreneurial CEO that goes away to a mastermind event and comes home with 74 new ideas and want to start sixteen of them tomorrow? How do you say no or not now? 

It comes down to the dynamic that you have with your visionary, to begin with. One of the things that I make sure every operator has with their visionary when they are first setting up that relationship is what I call a success meeting. It is a way of getting on the same page and setting that relationship up for success from the beginning. One of the core pillars in that conversation is strategic alignment.

What are the most important things that this company is working to execute? Specifically, what do I, as your operator, take primary responsibility for? Make sure that at the beginning, the visionary and the integrator on the same page about what is the integrator’s to-do list. When they come to you with five more ideas, a brilliant line that I learned from a friend of mine is, “What would you like me to take off the list to make room for that priority?”

Once you make the visionary aware of the opportunity cost of their ideas and you can’t do a million things at once, it is respectful, but it is a way of handling the ball back and saying, “We already agreed that I have these five other priorities over here. If you can justify to yourself that this new idea is more important than what we already agreed to, I will add that to the list.”

SIC 215 | Operational Talent

Operational Talent: Once you make the visionary aware of the opportunity cost of their ideas and you can’t do a million things simultaneously, it is respectful, but that is how you return the ball.


You talked about strategic alignment and primary responsibility. How do you get that strategic alignment with the CEO? You keep using the terms visionary and integrator. Those are the terms that Gino Wickman used from Traction and Gino and Mark Winters used in their book Rocket Fuel, both great books. How does that integrator/COO gain strategic alignment with the CEO or visionary? How does that happen? 

It is first important to remind the visionary and the CEO what their job is, which is to set the strategic vision for the company. At the end of the day, there is nobody else represented on the team who can fill that service or that function for the business. Your role, where you can support them in that as COO, is to hold them accountable for doing that.

At a structural level, it means making sure that there is time to have a strategic meeting on an ongoing basis where you are constantly looking at that strategy, analyzing, and answering questions that the business is bringing to you. Focus on it because they need to do that. It is time blocking time into their calendar for deep thinking time.

If you have never read Road Less Stupid, it is an amazing book to give your visionary or CEO around why their job is to sit and think. I can help you with that by giving you this book and carving out four hours of your days every single week to have deep thinking time. You are set up for success in doing your job. It is about having regular in-person events where you are stepping out of the day-to-day and focusing on the strategy. There are things we can do to create an ecosystem around our visionaries, where they are doing their best work, but that is different than us choosing the strategic vision because that is outside the scope of our role.

What is interesting is that these CEOs or the visionaries, once they hire the COOs and they get these integrators in place, they often tend to struggle with, “What am I supposed to do now? A lot of my day-to-day has been delegated to someone. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I will keep messing around in the business like I used to.” Is that how you pull them back to keep reminding them what their new role is now, what their new responsibilities are, and creating that space for them to be strategic to stay in the visionary spot? 

It is a lot of education around, “You finally get to be CEO because, let’s be honest, up until the moment I was here, you were only spending a fraction of your time in that role. You were also COO because you had to be. You don’t have to be that anymore. You messing around with the data of the business is counterproductive.” Oftentimes, what I see is that CEOs with white space on their calendar start to create problems. They can go in and solve them. That is what they are used to. The white space makes them uncomfortable. They fill it.

It is important that as CEOs start to get more of their time back, that is supported by educational resources, Road Less Stupid, Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, and Good to Great. There are so many books out there on how to be a world-class CEO. It is the business inviting them and challenging them to take the next step in their own personal development as an entrepreneur, which is, “How do you be an executive? How do you be a CEO?” That’s not something that you were born with. You have to learn it like you learned every other skill that got you to this point. Let me make you aware of that and set you up for success so that you can embark on that next stage of your journey.

SIC 215 | Operational Talent

Operational Talent: You have to learn it like you learned every other skill that got you to this point. Let me make you aware of that and set you up for success.


You talked about entrepreneurs stumbling into operations when they got this business up and running. All of a sudden, they are stuck in the day-to-day. When do you feel is the right time for these visionaries to hire their first integrator? When is it the right time for these companies to hire their first COO? 

In the early stages, it depends on the proclivity of the entrepreneur or the business owner. I have met a rare business owner that doesn’t mind operations. They are good at it. Those people can hold onto the role longer because they are doing a better job with it. Most entrepreneurs, probably the 90% of them that hate systems and SOPs, see it as this necessary evil that somebody told them they needed in their business, “Final build it.” Those people need to delegate that role much earlier because it is so far outside their zone of genius that it is taking more time for a worse outcome. They need to delegate that faster because it represents an efficiency gain earlier in the lifecycle of the company.

Once you got your first integrator in place, you were not stumbling along, but you were gaining some traction and growing the organization. At what point have you outgrown the person you are trying to give the skills to? When do you need to bring in someone who has done it before? Have you seen anything around that? When does someone’s competency gets outgrown by the scale of the organization that it is not okay to be learning it? You need to have done it.

I don’t know if there is a hard and fast rule about when but I will say that the business will always speak to you. It will tell you when that is the case. The best leadership teams that I have ever seen identify that for themselves. Nobody has to tell them, “I started this company. I was good at marketing. I ended up as CMO.” The scope of questions and challenges that we, as a leadership team, are coming up against in the marketing department is not something that I’m able to solve. I need somebody who has more experience.

The business does speak to you. When you have doubt, you have no doubt. You know that the changes have to happen. You mentioned that good operations people have that Level 3 Thinking, as you have pointed. One of them is they can’t help but see the systems. How do they not get frustrated that people aren’t as smart as they are or people aren’t using the systems they are putting in place? They are trying to codify everything, and people are winging it, not using the systems, and playbooks. 

It starts with one reframe, which is not that people aren’t as smart as you. It is that people don’t care. They don’t see the company the way that you see the company. They don’t see anything wrong with doing something that inefficiently. They don’t see the gap you see because they have a different worldview. They don’t see the company the way you do. Thank God because they need to see the company the way a marketer or a visionary does or fill in the blank.

First, it starts with it is not that there is something wrong with them. They are looking at the same set of data that you are, and they are pulling a different outcome out of it. That leads to the second part of this, which is the reality we face as integrators. What do we do about that? We can take ownership of how we roll something out.

We can take ownership of other people’s behaviors in how we present, persuade, and influence the members of our team to adopt that system or not. We can take ownership of the fact that they don’t see it the way we do. We can’t present it in the way that it would work for a room full of integrators. You have to present it in the way a marketer sees it and a salesperson will care about it.

Influence is a learned skill. It is something that I had to learn because I utterly failed. I will own that. In my last COO position, I did a horrible job at rolling out the systems. I got little buy-in as a result. I had to go back to the books and be like, “How do I influence people? How do I persuade?” What I learned is that knowing what to do is only about 40% of the job. It is the less important half. Being able to get people to do it is the true art of world-class operations. That is much harder to do.

SIC 215 | Operational Talent

Operational Talent: Knowing what to do is only about 40% of the job. It is the less important half. Getting people to do it is the true art of world-class operations. That is much harder to do.


You talked about optimizing systems and team building as core competencies. When we were building an autobody chain years ago, we used to say, “Sell them. Don’t tell them.” It is called Gerber Auto Collision in the US now. If we could sell the employees or sell the franchisees using a system, they would use it. If we were telling them to do it, no matter how right we were, they weren’t going to go after it. How does the COO or the integrator build trust with the visionary? Trust is critical. How do they build trust and continue to build trust? 

It starts by recognizing that trust is built over time. We do anything else, systemizing it. What creates trust? Trust is built from a series of promises kept. How can you set yourself up as an integrator stepping into a role with a set of promises you are able to keep? All you are doing neurologically for the visionary is saying, “When you hand me this thing, I get it done. I get it done better than you would have gotten it done. Don’t you want to hand me the next thing?” That cycle can build until the visionary feels comfortable, especially if they have never worked with an integrator before, to give you bigger projects, more autonomy, more decision-making, and more space within the organization.

It recognizes that that is a process. We can set ourselves up for success with it. Namely, when you step into a role, get clear on what those initial deliverables are, have clear timelines attached to those deliverables, and make sure that those are deliverables that you can meet. You keeping that promise to the visionary is going to go so far when it comes to them being able to trust you with the next set of deliverables.

Do you see that the integrators are happy being integrators, and they don’t want to go off and start their own companies? I find that entrepreneurs tend to worry that they got these seconds-in-command that are all of a sudden going to want to go rogue and start their own business, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Do you see anything around that? 

It is the difference between an entrepreneur and an entrepreneur. That is something that you, as a visionary, can filter for in your interview process. I filter for that when I’m hiring members of my team because I want to hire people that are so good that they could start their own business, but I also want to hire people who don’t have the impulse to do so.

Business owners undervalue the security that they provide to their team members. Somebody who has all of the competency and talent to start their own company but genuinely does not want to deal with the responsibility, the chaos, the fluctuation, and the insecurity that comes from starting your own company. They would rather work for you, provided that you are constantly providing an environment where they are feeling challenged, have grown, and feel like all of that talent and skill they bring to the table is being optimized and executed at its highest potential.

Your job as a visionary is to create that workplace environment. Why would they leave? They are going to trade serving the highest potential with you for starting their own business, hating it, working at a way lower level, and quitting because they don’t like it. Nobody is going to take that choice provided that you have provided the right environment and the right competing offer that will always win out.

Most people would never start a business if they had never started a business. If they went out there and started, they were like, “This is way harder than I thought. I am never going to do this again.” 

The operator wants to focus on sales and marketing. I have to do that in my own business. It sucks. I am bad at it. I’m having to force myself to learn it because I need to, but it is not the most enjoyable part. That is not why I started a company. For most operators, when they sit down and think of the reality of starting a business, they find that it is outside their zone of genius. It is not something that they want to take on.

You got a new ops person coming on board, a new integrator you have hired. What does the onboarding look like? What is the ideal onboarding to get them up to speed? 

I built this out as part of my hiring product because I saw many visionaries mess this up when I placed an operator with them. It is a couple of key pieces. Number 1) For the first 24 hours, present your culture deck, Zappos and Netflix have examples if you need them, vision, mission, behavioral standards, behavioral expectations, and core values.

Number 2) Present what I call their job scorecard, which is a definition of success in the role. What does an A-player look like in this role? What are they able to accomplish? I’m talking metrics, deliverables, and timelines, as tactical and tangible as you can. What does this role exist? What is the purpose of this role in the company? Get clear on this stuff at the beginning and present that to them, and transfer ownership to them. This is true for onboarding anyway and any role.

You have your operator job scorecard. That is the definition of success. They understand the ecosystem in which they are stepping into, the core values, vision, and mission. I set everybody on a fourteen-day boot camp, which is an intensive pre-planned, hour-by-hour, fourteen-day intensive of, “Here is the how that you need to know to do your job. Here is how the company works, the product, and the systems.”

For a lot of visionaries, because they don’t know what the operator needs, I recommend a couple of things. Make sure your operator has a one-on-one with all of the key players on the team. Make sure they have deep focus time to deep dive into the systems, like Dora the Explorer, get in there, and see what they see. They should be hopping on all of the team meetings and understanding the communication flow and the dynamics of the team. Let them go into full exploration mode. Make sure you have a tight communication rhythm with them daily to answer questions, provide context, identify gaps, and give them the information they need to understand what they are looking at.

The best operators come aft out of a two-week boot camp like that with their list of, “Here is what I need to do in this job. I’m telling you what needs to get done because this is the lens that has been missing in your company up until now. Let me inform you.” You get to have the success meeting that says, “I agree with that one. This is a higher priority. How about we save that one for the next quarter?” Away we go.

SIC 215 | Operational Talent

Operational Talent: The best operators come aft out of a two-week boot camp.


I love that they are coming back in with their insights. You have the meeting of the minds where you sit down, get in sync, and decide what the plan is off that. 

This is also my concern with SOPs. If you tell somebody the right way to do something, you are tunnel-visioning them because you have authority over them. If you say, “It is the right way. Why would I look anywhere else?” versus if you give them a blank canvas and say, “Find what you find, and you tell me what you think the most important things are.” Now they are open-minded, and they are free to explore. They will source new ideas you didn’t know needed to be looked at.

Talk about placing an operator. If you are a CEO or a visionary and you are looking to hire an operator, how do you decide what you are looking at? I would have been a horrible COO for 90% of companies out there, but I was perfect with Brian. How do you know what you are looking for? 

You have to go back to the resources you have, your core values, and the job scorecard tool. I recommend building it for any role before you hire. It is that definition of success prior to looking at any candidate because, as human beings, we are terribly biased. We are bad judges of other human beings. Having an avatar pre-built with the interview process isn’t one of building that avatar but recognizing it sets you up for success.

If you have a clear picture of questions I would ask yourself if you are the visionary, “Who have I worked extremely well with in the past? What do those people all have in common? What communication standards am I looking for? What level of proactive action am I looking for? What level of risk am I willing to accept? What are the core behavioral traits you have as a visionary that make you unique?” Build that into the scorecard. You can go out and recognize the person that would thrive in your environment. You have to have that predefined because otherwise, you are going to go with the person you like the most. You might have two-way different risk assessment matrixes when it comes down to it.

Are you following the methodology from Topgrading, Brad and Geoff Smart’s book, the one you are grabbing the scorecard from?

Those core three sections are what I use in my scorecard. I have taken that tool. I have moved it forward into the training, onboarding, and ongoing management process.

You got the interview process dialed. You are using that system. You got the onboarding and that fourteen-day onboarding process. Go back before that interviewing process again. Do you work with recruiters at all? If you are working with recruiters, how do you try to line them up for success? 

My company is the recruiter. We only place operations roles, but we have a rigorous intake form for any client who wants to work with us. We interview their team directly to get a pulse on their company culture. We are comprehensive in pulling in the data that allows us, with confidence, to go out and find the right operator for that environment.

If you are doing that and running the recruiter, where do you think candidates applying for these operator roles can help themselves? How can they get hired easier or better? 

The first thing, as an employee, and it is easier now than ever, is to approach your job search process from a place of abundance as opposed to scarcity. You are not the right integrator for 90% of companies out there. Your job, when you are hopping on interviews, is to qualify them as much as they are qualifying you. If you can qualify them even earlier when you are reading the job description, it is better.

Don’t apply for the role because you have the skills to do it. Apply for the role because that is a company you could see yourself working at. If you are not sure, come in with a set of interview questions that allows you to gather the data you need to make sure you are stepping into a workplace environment that is going to allow you to thrive and where you are able to do your best work. The best I always know I’m hiring or interviewing an A-player is when they are asking me more questions than I’m asking them. It means they recognize they have a unique talent. They are looking for the right company that earns the right to work with them.

You are trying to get them to turn the tables in the process as soon as possible. 

I find that they will do it regardless of whether or not I’m trying. I’m not trying to, but when I ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” They were like, “No, nothing at this time.” To me, that means they have given no thought to what company they need to be working at.

That makes my skin crawl. I can’t handle those ones. A final couple of questions. What advice would you have to people in that integrator role? How can you help them with the next stage of their career other than the obvious, get engaged in the Ops Academy or the COO Alliance? How do they grow themselves? 

Have the conversation with your visionary and make sure the company that you are at is offering you the opportunity for that growth and understand where that growth is represented. What projects can you take on that represent a new skillset for you that you are going to have to develop this skillset in the act of executing that deliverable? That is growth.

You have to be on the same page with your visionary of, “I’m going to take this on. I’m going to be bad at it. I’m going to learn how to do it as I go because that represents my next stage of growth as your operator.” A visionary doing their job is going to be looking for that. Their job is to provide an environment where everybody is constantly growing and taking on challenges that involve them and their expertise in their role.

If you have run that analysis and you are determined that there is no room for growth in your company, there is no room for growth in your company. There is only one decision, which is maybe not tomorrow, but at some point, you are going to need to look elsewhere to accomplish that next stage, and that is on you. If your visionary or company is not going to provide that, change your environment.

Let’s go back to yourself. If you were starting out in your first operations role, what advice would you give yourself back then? 

It is the understanding that nobody else in your company thinks like you. Don’t walk in with the assumption that they will. Don’t get frustrated when they won’t. Take ownership and use your own internal empathy to figure out how to do your job in a way that resonates with them. How do you roll out a system such that they want that system more than you want it?

How do you reshuffle priorities on your visionary’s to-do list in such a way that makes them more excited to do this thing than you are? How do you influence and persuade people? I would tell myself, “Early Jhana, that is 60% of the job. Learn it alongside the what to do because the world’s best system is useless if nobody uses it.”

Jhana Li, the Founder of the Ops Academy. This is huge content. I’m appreciative of you sharing your time and wisdom with us. Thank you for being a guest on the show.

Thank you so much for having me.


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