I Just Think You're A Drummer. Clint Pulver's Incredible Life Story

Nov 30, 2021

When Clint Pulver was a child, he was called the twitcher, the tapper, and he was a disturbing presence in the classroom. He simply couldn't stay still, and many teachers and even his colleagues were bothered by his behavior. It wasn't until he was 10 that a teacher paid attention to him and realized he wasn't a problem or a constant interruption that needed to be fixed; he was a drummer. That professor created a moment that changed Clint's life; he became a professional drummer, traveled the world playing the drums, and won several awards. 

That day, Clint understood the power of creating moments and how being a great leader requires, among many other things, the ability to design moments where their employees feel safe, heard, and valued. 

Clint Pulver is an Emmy Award Winner, Keynote Speaker, Best-selling Author, and Professional Drummer. He is the Founder of The Undercover Millennial Program. He has worked with corporations like AT&T, Hewlett Packard, and Keller Williams to help them create stronger organizations where people refuse to leave. He is the author of the best-selling book "I love it here," a book he wrote as an "undercover potential candidate," asking over 1000 employees from several organizations how they like it to work where they worked. 

We had a fantastic conversation about leadership, retention, authenticity, and employee happiness. Clint shared the extraordinary story of discovering he was a drummer and how that professor, who decided to do something outside of his job description, changed his life. We also talked about the process of writing his book, what makes employees want to stick with us or leave our company, and much more. Finally, Clint shared three crucial questions every leader should ask as a status interview to prevent their rockstar from leaving. 

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Can you tell us a little about your story? (1:40)
  • Hearing stories like the one you just shared about an influential leader in your life makes me think, how can I look a little deeper into my own leadership? (7:03)
  • What else is getting you excited right now, in your business or in your life? (14:33)
  • I would love it if you left one top action step for my listeners today. What's one thing you'd have them act and do today? (22:25)

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Keeping drum sticks in his hands as long as he could. How Clint's story started (2:21)
  • How music helped Clint achieve countless goals (4:49)
  • What employees say when they feel safe to talk (9:18)
  • Why recognition is critical to ensure employees growth (14:31)
  • Time. What employees talk about when they are satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs (17:42)

Challenge from Clint Pulver: 

Do an employee Status Check Interview with your two Rockstar employees and ask these three questions:

1 - What can I do as your leader to keep you here?

2 - What is getting in the way of your success at work?

3 - What can I do as your manager/leader to help you get there?


  • Clint Pulver website
  • Book: Clint Pulver - I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create Organizations Their People Never Want to Leave
  • Be a Mr. Jensen - Inspirational video - YouTube

Connect with Clint:

Let's Connect!


Clint Pulver: You look at your life and what makes a great story it really is the moments some of them are at big some of our hearts number difficult but it is the moments in our lives that make our story

Clint Hoopes: This is the flavor of leadership podcast I am your host clippers together we explore the unique blend of leadership wisdom that helps top leaders consistently achieve work goals develop personally and find fulfillment with families let's get started.

 I am so excited to introduce our guest for today his name is Clint Pulver he is an Emmy Award winning motivational keynote speaker author musician and work force expert. I first found Clint a few years ago when someone shared his B. Mister Jensen YouTube video with me and it is amazing. As a leader of a hundred and fifty people at the time it changed the way I saw each person on my team and I have since followed Clint work and not just because of his great name he is a wealth of knowledge and known as the leading authority on employee retention. Clint welcome to the show.

Clint Pulver: Thanks Clint we got a great name. It’s an honor to be on the show.

Clint Hoopes: Yeah I love it I love it thank you I really do appreciate you being here I I reached out a couple weeks ago and was excited that we could find a time in your schedule to to be on the show.

 Clint Pulver: Yeah no, it's it's a busy time right now but it's always fun to jump on with good people doing great things, so it's an honor to be here.

Clint Hoopes: Thank you well getting started I want to be able to have our listeners begin to to get to know you a little bit can you tell us about your story 

Clint Pulver: Yeah a lot of people of the origin story of of you know when I talk about and and and and my performance background a little bit I was a kid I was in school I had a hard time sitting still I just struggle to focus and pay attention I would always tap always be moving I got called the Twitter I got called the tapper by the other students and it wasn't even just the kids that complaint even the teachers were constantly say I need you to hold still stop tapping sit on your hands stop moving and I eventually got to the principal's office everybody just kind of didn't know what to do with me until I had a teacher one day his name was Mister Jensen and he looked at me as I was tapping in class and he said listen I need you to stay after we're gonna have a conversation and I remember thinking to myself is that I'm getting kicked out of school as a ten year old this is it and the bell rings class dismissed everybody leads us to completely empty room minus me and Mister Jensen and he pulled me to the back sits me down and said listen thank you kind of the kid that's on the list he said you tap you tap a lot you stop in my class and you happen everybody else's and you know the teachers talk about you I know you get teased, I know you get bullied but I've watched you though and it's crazy you're you'll take a pen and you'll be working on your assignment and you're right with your right hand and then you'll tap with your left hand and then in the middle of the same you'll switch the pen and you start writing with your left hand you'll tap with your right hand and he said I I think you're ambidextrous and I was like no I'm I'm Presbyterian he's like he's like that's not me he's right he's like can you tap your head and rub your belly at the same time and I gave it a shot and I could do it he said okay now can you switch it can you wrap your head and then tap your belly and literally back and forth without thinking about it I can just innately do that.

Clint Hoopes: it's amazing.

Clint Pulver: He smiled and he said I don't think you're a problem I just think you're a drummer and I've been somebody clint that for a very long time in my life I believe in the power of moments moments moments moments moments you look at your life and what makes a great story it really is the moments some of them are at big some of our hard some are difficult but it is the moments in our lives that make our story and that's what we remember we don't remember days we remember moments and I think great leaders only talk about good leadership they are so good at doing that. designing moments where people like themselves. because there without meter moments of advocacy moments of potential moments of communicating an individual's work so well that they see it within themselves and that's what Mr Jensen did because in that moment you reach back in his desk he opened up the top drawer and he reached inside and he took out my very first pair of drumsticks and he created a moment as he placed them in my hands and he said listen these these are for you and I need you to just promise me one thing. just promise me that you'll keep them in your hands as much as you can and let's just see what happens and that was twenty-three years ago. 

That moment changed my life twenty three years I've had the opportunity to tour and record all over the world as a professional drummer I've been on America's got talent I have performed with an amazing artists and incredible venues and have done things that I never thought were possible I coach the NBA drumline for the Utah Jazz for seven years I graduated with zero college debt because of music scholarships I mean the list goes on and on of all of these things that happened because one person one educator decided to advocate for a kid not just develop them and that it really was a foundational point to my life to my story and even now to what I'm becoming to this day.

Clint Hoopes: Love it. there's something you said there that really stuck with me you said you talked about how Mr Jensen created this moment with you and you also talk about how his employers we get a chance to to create those moments and they're not something that just happens by chance. Mr Jensen sounds like was one who took the time to see you with different eyes and actually planned that moment that those drumsticks didn't make it into the top the top drawer by accident and that's why I love that I love it.

Clint Pulver: Yeah it was a design moment and I I look back on some of the other mentors in my life and the design to moments that they chose to create where they went out of their way to create something that was not in the routine of leadership that was not in the routine of their job description and they went above and beyond created significance they created something that became iconic and that's why moments are so critical and good leadership

Clint Hoopes: it's amazing yeah I can I can think of times in my own life when I've had either people like Mr Jensen in my life I I have a podcast a few a few months back that was about a school teacher as well that made a difference in my life in a in a similar way and changed how I felt about myself and how I saw myself and I've had leaders in my past that have that have done the same and and so I think that's why I've been that when I first heard that story it began to help me see the times in my life where that had happened as well and start to figure out okay how can I look a little deeper into my own leadership

Clint Pulver: I look at you know another part of my story and background and for the last five and a half years I worked as the undercover millennial kind like undercover boss without the make up.

Clint Hoopes: I love it I love it. 

Clint Pulver: I would go into organizations as a millennial that's my age my generation that's the that's the generation I've fallen and I would go into organizations as a young person who was looking for a job and I'd walk up to the first person that I saw and I am just looking for work what's it like to work here would you recommend it the employee always gets quiet now we can look around can a legal drug exchange everything everything you tell me the good they tell me the bad they tell me what's working what's not working and it because really I'm not I'm not a management survey I'm not an employee survey I am just another potential hire another fellow possible colleague and we created an environment where employees could speak their truths and over the course of this time we work with hundreds of organizations have interviewed thousands and thousands of employees and the magic of all of the research was not when an employee was dissatisfied.

The magic of the research was when I would go to an employee's and say hey what's it like to work here and they would without hesitation say I love it here I live here hello my boss Susie Susie Susie I think our culture our purpose what we do what we breathe my teammates my family like I love it here okay and then I go to the next employee and the next and they would all say the same things why what were those great leaders doing to create organizations that people never wanted to leave and so I wrote a book about it and we titled I titled the book I love it here how great leaders create organizations that people never want to leave and I believe it is the most honest and real and authentic data behind how leaders created impact how they created moments how they created a workplace where people didn't just survive at work they actually thrived and the cool part about it is it's not another leadership book written by a you know self proclaimed leadership expert I mean there's so many of those books out in the world this is a book that's written through the eyes of thousands of employees who knew when their leaders were getting it right because something that's really critical I think when we talk about leadership is something that's really important understand we talked about moments and how to create those and those are impactful those are the roots in the foundation of many things that we remember of good leadership but the reality to is that the perception of leadership versus the reality of the employee experience is usually different most of the time when I go into an organization I ask the leaders how are things going our doing good doing it Johnson we're growing you know cool corner threes coming in strong our projections are great you know please read great books and are on a mission or goals and then I go ask the employees in an environment where that employee can actually speak their truth and it's different it's a very different reality because there's no incentive this is why most leaders have no idea when they're doing poorly because there's no incentive for an employee to speak their truth you've been in leadership program Clint you understand this you know when's the last time an employee came up to you and said Hey Clint I just I just need you to know this I think this can help you, you micromanage everything that we do. Happy Tuesday  

Clint Hoopes: Exactly. Oh Ouch.

Clint Pulver: What if for once the last time an employee came to you and said Hey I just I want you to get better and I just need you to know that every time we win as a team you take all the credit. Oh I also want you to know every time we lose as a team you blame everybody else never your fault you just blame everybody. Happy Saturday.

Clint Hoopes: yeah, exactly it's like they're not going to give you that that complete unfiltered truth right

Clint Pulver: yes, yes but many employees feel that on a daily basis so instead what do they do they just they just leave your company they put in a two weeks’ notice they say peace out and then it leaves you as the manager our is the leader scratching your head going, I never saw it coming.

Clint Hoopes: And what do they say they say oh I got offered more pay, you know they they will give you don’t even get an honest answer right and and people and so you have these managers thinking oh well they just got offered more pay so everything's fine here.

Clint Pulver: And that's the mentality able adjusters chasing money everyone's choosing whoever can pay the top dollar that is so not true and it's because you perception is so skewed as a leader. It's just always a bigger picture so that's why the book is so cool that's why it might the work in and and focusing on this for the last five years of my life has been so filled with passion and I don't know a movement to do something different to do something unique something that truly could help leaders close that gap you could really know what they feel like we need you could know what they're wanting if you could create an environment where they would speak their truths well actually would tell you if they're struggling or they could tell you what they wanted how could we do that what a world what a workplace that could be and then so it's been fun said to dedicate my life to that a little bit.

Clint Hoopes: So fun your book I I read earlier this year and it was during a time of a lot of change in our business at the time we were having a big change and everything was going in and a lot of people were unsettled about different things in the book really helped me step back and say okay I need to look at it differently if people are scared this things start changing in your job start changing a little bit because of the change in the company direction there's a quote that I actually really love it I want to share from the book it says this you said “great mentors can communicate someone's potential and worth so clearly that the person begins to recognize that potential and worth in themselves”  and it made me start thinking about am I one of those people am I communicating so clearly they know their own worth to themselves and also to the company that even the midst of change or things that are happening they still know that that's how we feel about them.

Clint Pulver: It is such a simple principle but yet so many organizations overlook that one eight I talked about in the book we see potential I really am talking about growth how do we communicate the growth of an individual that they can grow in this organization we want to see them thrive that we want them to be better humans not just better employee and then the the worst side is recognition making people feel seen making people feel valued make them feel woth something and you know those two key components growth and recognition growth and  recognition and they are foundational piece if you do not communicate that on a daily basis in your organization those those companies are becoming irrelevant they are finding themselves into the solo entrepreneur world or being okay with the revolving door of turnover and the cost that affects the organization in a way every day it's it costs a lot when and when somebody leaves or even worse if they stay and then they mentally check out so yeah attention and worth very key. 

Clint Hoopes: I love that what else what else is getting you excited right now in your business or your life.

Clint Pulver: One thing that I think is really cool that I'm seeing a shift of as I speak and work with corporations and companies all over the world. There's been a trend for the last five years about company culture and engagement and performance and really supporting and listening to employees which I value I think it's really cool and we're seeing this massive shift.  I think in the next five years we will see a shift and I think it's exciting the focus is a little bit more on the leader and how the leader can create boundaries. How do leaders give themselves more time how do leaders manage stress how do leaders create not the to do list but the to don't list. I would focus on not so much what a leader is but what a leader is not. yeah I just I think time of fluence time of fluence that's what I'm excited about how can we create leaders that have more of it more time.

Clint Hoopes: Yeah more more time to think, it's time to to do everything right the I think that sometimes we get so busy in this is and this is a big thing right now we get so busy and we have so many distractions that's a common theme everyone knows that all we have to do is is just put our hand by our pocket for a minute we fill our phone and no we are living in a world of distraction and I love what you're saying give give leaders a chance to just think that's where the best ideas and the best opportunities and best improvements can happen I think.

Clint Pulver: yeah people ask all the time right clint you travels so much on an airplane so much like how do you do that that would just be horrible I always kindly say well first off you know it's not always ideal being away from my family that that there is a difficult part to that when I'm home I'm home which is great and yes when I'm gone I am gone but that airplane at thirty thousand feet in the sky that has become my my flying university that has been the place that I can, I don't I don't enroll in text messages on the plane I don’t connect to the internet I literally D bunck and the airplane for me that place that I can just be still I can be quiet I could listen I can think I can ponder I can reflect I can listen in a way that the world just doesn't allow very often and I've often thought man if I was if I was leading a massive company and I didn't have something like the airplane it would be so difficult it could be so much harder than it is and I just think more and more will see more books we'll see more literature will seem more courses will see more master classes on how to help leaders slowdown how do we help leaders give people time because I I found in my research that employees when they found I talk a lot about mentorship I think mentorship is really when it comes through the lens of an employee that's what they what they work for that's what they love that's what they talked about they don't really talk about leadership nobody really talked about management employees talked about mentorship employees spelled mentorship T. I. M. E. granted they can start out with that but that's how they so time time time time time when I found an employee that was dissatisfied with their work they talked about the manager when I found an employee that left their job they talked about the manager and when I asked why they shared moments that that mentor gave them time that that that manager that leader whatever title that person had they figured out some in some way shape or form to say no to a few things so that they can say yes to that individual they could give them more time I am a fluence how do we do that and learn how to do that better in leadership and I I wrote a whole chapter about it in the book how to keep it simple how to keep the main thing the main thing. Cut your meetings down, cut vision statements down, cut your time spent online or social media cut that down. I don't know just boundaries how do we keep it more simple so that's really what's what's getting me excited and I think it's a trend that we're gonna see we're going to see more and more of that as we move into the future with the leadership

Clint Hoopes: I love that I know a lot of leaders a lot of people that are listening right now are people that are probably struggling with that very thing you talked about there having their employees are tapping at their door every few minutes there you know coming in asking for things they're coming in and needing help they're coming and some leaders may feel overwhelmed by the amount of requests that are coming from their employees is there any part of giving these leaders more time that helps them use the time that they have more wisely or are there other places where they need to change just their structure of how they're doing things

Clint Pulver: yeah I think it's a combination of a lot of those things it's hard to kind of give us a one size fits all approach because everybody's every every leader's agenda is a little bit different everybody's construct in which they're working with them is a little bit different some people are are bogged down by emails and contracts and client deadlines and things that they've got to get off for the running meetings are there on zoom calls nonstop others are struggling with the influx of all the employees that need them for this or that sometimes it's customer inquaries I mean in the case in point is again it's it's we're busy and so I think that creating a parameter of what's what's the most important thing what do you stand for what is it that you're trying to achieve and then how many things within your day actually support that and it's easy for a leader to justify and go well everything.

 Clint Hoopes: yes exactly well I'm in charge of the whole place so of course it's everything. 

Clint Pulver: yeah  I found that for the for the most part again good leaders they know what they need to do with the great leaders know what they need to stop doing it you need to have a real conversation with yourself I saw it with the leaders that we interviewed and then we found no significant organizations where employees were thriving those leaders had created boundaries and understood the power of delegation and looking at the schedule and going okay that doesn't add to the main thing I need to get it done so who else can help me do that because I've got to give my time to this I've already committed to this we had other managers they did literally create a to don't list they said came from three to five executive secretary or their support team or whoever it was that they were working with blacked out their schedule and that was set aside for connecting with employees it put boundaries in place in the morning instead of waking up the first thing they do is check the emails they got another boundary in places as no I'm making three phone calls to this individual or we're not holding meetings anymore on Fridays we're gonna look at all of the current meetings that we have I'm gonna figure out how do we cut those down and can they be consolidate can we bring all of these meetings instead of doing five of them a week can we do only three like this making a conscious effort I also found those great leaders head coaches great mentors were always being a mentor they had somebody else in their life that had done it better than they did or was doing it better than they were doing it and they did whatever it took  to hang out with  astonishing leaders that we're figuring it out and so I think it's a combination of a lot of stuff it's it's taking inventory of where you're at what's not working and then finding someone that's doing that really well and then just creating the boundaries and then having someone to help you stay accountable to doing that it's a process and there's no like one one silver bullet on how to accomplish this I think it's like a culmination of a lot of things but the point is be aware of it and take a step to do that more because if you don't you're gonna burn out we said we spend so much time expecting the time of others expecting the commitment of others the energy of others and when you're so burnt out as a leader because you can't give any time how do you even fathom demanding that of others when you don't do it yourself so consider it go down that process think about it walk down that path because it's worth it.

Clint Hoopes: Love it. Yeah that's the only way we're going to create those moments we talk about those those moments won't come yes unless you create the time. Well Clint I sure appreciate you being on the show here today I love your philosophy I love your book and I love so many these things but I would love if you would leave one top action step for my listeners today what's what's one thing you would have them act and do today

Clint Pulver: One thing that's really key to understand right now is we're still in the midst of the pandemic and COVID with it and there's a real fight for a talent right now, during COVID we did undercover research with forty eight different organizations and employees right now really currently still have two things on their minds number one they remember how they were treated during the pandemic and how they're currently still being treated during the chaos I saw some pretty horrific things that leaders did I also saw some really beautiful things that leaders did. Point is they remember they remember and second all employees have had time to think, they had time to really think a lot of organizations the routine or or the duties and responsibilities of the job that once were are no longer there most employees are thinking my goodness does my job today look the same as it did in two thousand nineteen and most employees say no and most employees the pay hasn't changed responsibilities have grown demands have grown the stress is increased the workplace is changed people have had time to think and their thinking is this really where I want to be and for the first time ever in history for the most part people are realizing my goodness I can live in Colorado and work in New York City three days a week make three times as much and work whenever I want I think that that's that's a real thing and people are realizing that it is shaking up the economy right now and in employers are worried and they're nervous and as we're getting back to normal people are like okay we just furloughed everybody laid off half of our our staff now we got to get everybody back now we gotta build up confidence we've got a build up this culture that that covid destroyed.

I would just I my challenge right now too if you're a leader that's may be in this position your filling this you're experiencing this one thing that we've seen the great leaders have done and they do it consistently as they check in employee status regularly again the perception of leadership versus the reality of an employee's experience is usually different the reason is because the leader doesn't understand the status of the employee and vice versa sometimes so I would recommend you status interview if you're listening to this I would I would challenge you to think of two employees in your organization that are your rock star employees who are the individuals in your work place that if they left tomorrow if they came and handed you a two week notice instead I just found a better opportunity it would put your business in a hard spot who are they find those two individuals and then I would challenge you to this week next week sit down with them you're going to walk you do it over soon you could do it over a phone call and start a conversation that begins with vocal praise you just let them know how much they mean to you you let them know what you've seen them do the contributions that they've made the talents that they have an organization the loyalty that they've expressed you just you just pour  on the praise and then you ask them three questions number one what can I do as your leader to keep you here what can I do to keep you at work, number two I would ask what's getting in the way of success for you at work it's in the way of your success number three what can I do as your manager as your leader to help you get there that's it Clint it's so simple they're very simple straightforward questions but ninety nine point nine percent of employees are never asked those questions and if they are asked those questions it's usually in the exit interview usually when you sit in with an employee it's like a I mean we're just so sad to lose you I mean is there anything that we can do to keep you here so anything we do changing right now is it anything that we could have done to help you be more successful it was anything we could have done to help you stay in the company and then it hits everybody in the room like I should have asked this question you should ask these questions six months ago.

Clint Hoopes: Because the answer is probably yes.

Clint Pulver:  One hundred percent right. yeah I would conduct a status interview right now and and my goodness sometimes were afraid to ask the question because we're afraid to hear the answer you know she's a one of A. ask for more money are they want you know at the corner office and free Cheetos and I can't do that and then it gives you an opportunity to look for variables so somebody came and said no well you keep me here if you paid me more if you can't do that, be honest about it I can't pay that right now but maybe we can do something with your schedule we can give you maybe a little bit more time off can we help you you know what about moving you into management in our position to help you get somewhere we can pay you a little bit more you look for variables and if you can't find any variables then at least you asked.  At least your asked and again that's what we're in the business of doing when the business advocating and supporting people being a mentor in the story you've got to make the deposits of trust because then that allows you to make the withdrawals in the world of performance standards engagement profitability too many leaders are trying to make the withdrawals and they've made no deposits of trust so check their status get to the part about them and in doing so you'll create an environment where they will get to the part about you that's what's winning right now so that would be my challenge.

Clint Hoopes: Perfect challenge we're gonna put those three questions in the show notes so that you can take those and do that with your two people this week excellent. Clint thank you so much for being on the show today truly a pleasure.

Clint Pulver: You're welcome, Clint it's been an honor thank you.

Clint Hoopes: Thank you, all right and for all you out there until next week. Thanks for joining me on this week's episode of the flavor of leadership podcast you enjoyed what you heard please share with a friend and if you haven't already subscribe and review the show on your favorite podcast player if you have any questions comments or feedback for us you can reach me directly at flavor of leadership dot com thanks for listening.