Chett Rubenstien

Sometimes we want people to do exactly what we want them to do, and behave exactly as we want them to behave. But that doesn’t tend to happen and we don’t understand why. This happens a lot to leaders and it’s a common trap that they fall into when looking for behavioral change in their team.

Today it is my pleasure to coach Chett Rubenstein, CEO at Aktiver. Aktiver is an automated end-to-end machine learning pipeline designed to help data scientists get their work done.

In this brand new episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Chett and I discuss the best and most successful ways to create and maintain behavioral change in your team.

As a leader, Chett has been having trouble with his team, as he feels that some expectations are not being met. So, it’s been a little bit complicated to understand their way of thinking and their beliefs, which, while he has managed short-term change, the long-term gains are simply not sustainable.

I point out the importance of addressing your team’s beliefs and ways of thinking in order to be able to achieve the goals that have been set. We also discuss the fact that holding people accountable isn’t the answer, but building a team of independent individuals who show up and take accountability could be the solution he’s looking for.

Are you struggling with the same problem? Or do you have anything else you want to discuss? Let’s talk! If there's a challenge you'd like to talk about on the podcast or privately, please reach out to me at:

I’d love to hear from you!

Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I'm the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, where we welcome leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in-person.

Today my guest is Chett Rubenstein, he is the President and Founder of a company called Aktiver.

Chett, welcome.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:00:29]
Thank you.

Kim Ades: [00:00:31]
So where are you in the world? What are you up to? What have you been up to? What is Aktiver? Fill us in.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:00:37]
[Laughs] You got it. I'm actually out on Long Island, outside of New York. I live on the south shore right on the Great South Bay. So, what Aktiver is, is Aktiver is a new company in the data science world.

Kim Ades: [00:00:54]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:00:54]
You know, I'm sure you've heard a lot of news. As of recently around what's going on in the world of data science, there's a lot happening and we are making a big difference in that space and really helping to forward data science efforts on a global scale.

Kim Ades: [00:01:11]
So for the lay person who isn't a data science expert and doesn't really understand what you are referring to, when you say data science, what do you mean? And what does Aktiver do for data scientists?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:01:25]
Yeah, that's a great question. You know, there's a lot of buzzwords spinning around, including artificial intelligence or AI, which people use very freely. And I'm actually trying to semantically get a little bit more specific with people when we talk about that world.

So specifically, we live in the world of machine learning and deep learning, which is a means to actually model based on data that you have, kind of create machine models so that they can produce predictive outcomes. So, you know, a good use case for that would be a computer vision model that would help you identify an image. Maybe a brain scan, an MRI where you're trying to identify disease potential.

Kim Ades: [00:02:12]
I see. So in other words, what you're trying to do, and I'm going to say it in Kim language, what you're trying to do is you're trying to teach this system to recognize, let's say brain patterns so that they could say, Hey, this looks like a red flag. We need to take a closer look. Exactly. Oh, wow. That was so much easier for me to understand. Thank you.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:02:34]

Kim Ades: [00:02:35]
Okay. So how long have you been at this for and where are you in the process of your startup?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:02:40]
So for what we're actually doing, we've been working on this for about three years in field with our actual, you know, the work that we do as data scientists, the company itself was just legally formed last year in August. I got involved right after that.

One of my technical co-founders is somebody I'd known through the data science community for a long time, and he asked me to take a look at what they were doing. And so I got involved in September and by the end of the year, my two co-founders asked me to become the CEO of the company.

Kim Ades: [00:03:15]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:03:16]
So we've literally just come out of stealth mode at the beginning of the year and had just brought a demonstrable product to market about a month ago.

Kim Ades: [00:03:24]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:03:25]
So we're in the early stages of talking to initial prospects to start generating revenue for the company.

Kim Ades: [00:03:31]
And what's the feedback been so far?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:03:35]
Actually the feedback has been overwhelming. We are producing results that are extraordinary. I mean, we're actually allowing people to do their work at about 5% of the cost and then about a hundred times the speed.

Kim Ades: [00:03:53]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:03:53]
So the numbers are so, you know, outrageous that it's hard for people to get their heads wrapped around that.

Kim Ades: [00:03:59]
Right. Okay, so you're blowing people away.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:04:02]

Kim Ades: [00:04:03]
Okay, great! So, let me just clarify, one thing. You have known one of your co-founders for a long time, the other one is that someone you knew or is that someone fairly new to you?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:04:15]
He's new to me. He knew my other co-founder for a long, long time, probably a decade or so.

Kim Ades: [00:04:20]
So he's the common bond between the two of you?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:04:24]

Kim Ades: [00:04:25]
Okay. Got it. All right, so what's your greatest challenge?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:04:29]
Oh, boy, I don't know that there's a greatest challenge. We have a lot of challenges.

Kim Ades: [00:04:32]
Okay, throw one at me.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:04:34]
So our first greatest challenge is, as an early stage company, we are always juggling funding to continue building what we're building, you know, versus bringing in revenue. So, as I said before, we literally just have a demonstrable product to start showing people, so we're really focused right now on closing additional sales and revenue.

And the challenge there is keeping everybody on our team focused to really achieve our goals in our plan.

Kim Ades: [00:05:06]
Okay. And what's stopping them from being focused? Do you think.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:05:09]
A myriad of distractions? You know, some of it's inexperience, some of it's just, you know, the myriad of distractions that come up with a company of our size and status.

Kim Ades: [00:05:22]
Can you be a little more specific when you say "distractions and inexperience"? So, what kind of distractions are you talking about?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:05:30]
Well, so as a CEO, I have to juggle, you know, everything that's going on in the company. And I also have to manage risk, right? So I have to identify all the things that we're doing and see where our biggest risks are and trying to mitigate those.

Kim Ades: [00:05:43]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:05:43]
So, you know, one thing for instance, is development on the product itself. You know, that has to be managed, that whole process and getting people to effectively work together on that. Getting a sales process together, because if you want to be successful in sales, it's been my experience, you can't just do that randomly. You have to be very intentional about how you're approaching the market, what the messaging is to that market, et cetera.

Keeping people focused on that is very difficult. And then just getting them focused on really being particular about, "Hey, who are we talking to? Is everybody communicating together about who we're talking to?" that's been a challenge.

Kim Ades: [00:06:21]
Okay. So, let's take away the development of the product and let's just focus on the other two areas, right? Your sales process creation and who we're talking to, 'cause those are related to revenue generation.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:06:36]

Kim Ades: [00:06:36]
So when you say, "Hey, here's our target market", what happens? Do they forget who the target market is? Do they go after somebody completely different? And then, when you create a sales process, do they follow it or are they having a hard time following it? Like what's the actual... I'm trying to drill down a little bit.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:06:53]
No, those are good questions, and it's a little bit of both. So when you are early in a market, like we are, half the challenge is to get out of your own head. And to get out of your own house and go out and talk to people. As many people as you can, and then listen to what they say, listen carefully.

So it's not about spouting information to people about how great we are and what we're doing. It's really about listening to them and what their problems are, so we can see how we can help solve those problems. That's a challenge for some of my team members, because they're not as experienced in, you know, in this kind of a process of really how to sell and how to ask questions. So that's tough for them.

Kim Ades: [00:07:38]
Okay. So again, let me just kind of really nail down this problem. You want them to go out, talk to people and get feedback, that requires a certain kind of lsitening skill.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:07:50]
Yeah. Listening, not speaking. [Laughs]

Kim Ades: [00:07:53]
And what you're seeing is they go out there and they present. They're promoting the product and they're not giving a lot of space for the listening aspect. Did I say that  correctly?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:08:03]

Kim Ades: [00:08:04]
Okay. I understand. Okay. So I wanna look at that in a multitude of ways, if possible. Number one is that I find, personally, a common trap that leaders fall into when they look for behavioral change in people around them.

So, you're looking for a behavioral change. You're saying, "Hey, stop talking, start listening", 'cause that's a hundred percent of behavioral change and it sounds like a very easy task. Right? It sounds easy to do, except here's the thing. The reason that people don't behave the way you want, is that something is getting in their way. And it has to do with their thinking, it has to do with their beliefs.

And so very often what leaders do is they say, "hey, here are the actions I want you to take, just go do this", and a lot of times leaders believe that coaching means pushing behaviors or directing behaviors.

And what I want to do is always like, you know, kind of go backwards a little bit and say, "hold on a minute, behaviors follow thought. First we think and we have beliefs, then we behave". And when we only try to change the behaviors without addressing the beliefs, we get poor results, or we get short-term change that is not sustainable.

So in your case, there are two things at play. One is skillset, you know, how do we start listening? What is it that we actually need to do? But the other part is those beliefs that keep popping up that, I'm guessing, haven't really been addressed. I want to pause for a minute. Any thoughts on that so far? And then we can get, go more specific.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:09:56]
Well, my initial reaction to that is that's brilliant...

Kim Ades: [00:09:59]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:10:00]
...because the light bulbs are just flashing off in my head about "aha, that makes a huge amount of sense". So, talk to me more about, you know, that idea of going into the beliefs with my team members.

So again, I can use my own admonition, right? To listen more and understand what they're thinking so that I can understand what's driving their behavior.

Kim Ades: [00:10:28]
Exactly. That's beautiful. So, what could they be thinking? What could their beliefs be? Their beliefs could be, you know, "man, I'm terrible at sales. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm already out of my comfort zone and you know, like, I'm slaying and he's telling me I'm not doing a good job".

Another belief could be, "Hey, we need to make sales. So I need to sell, I need to push the product. If this is really the thing that's at stake here, I need to go and promote. You know, we don't have time to wait and get feedback. Like, that's not sales". Right?

Another piece of it is, like, simply a skillset of "I'm not equipped with the right questions. I don't know what that looks like, so I'm trying different things. I'm a little awkward. So I don't, you know, so I'm a little trumpet too. I'm a little unsure of myself. I believe I don't know what I'm doing".

Okay. So I'm giving you three possibilities. There could be a hundred more.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:11:23]
Right. I mean, one possibility for my technical co-founder could be more that. And I'm trying to get him to understand how advanced he is. I don't think he fully realizes or understands like, how sophisticated he is as a data scientist.

Kim Ades: [00:11:40]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:11:40]
And I'm finding that as we're going out and speaking to people, there aren't a lot of people that have that level of sophistication.

Kim Ades: [00:11:47]
So they don't understand him.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:11:49]
No, they're totally blown away. And it's not that what he's saying isn't exciting and valuable, but it's so beyond their comprehension that it's almost like we need to kind of dial back, I think.

Kim Ades: [00:12:02]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:12:03]
And again, that comes into speaking less about the great stuff we've created, understanding more about what their world is like and how they're being challenged today.

Kim Ades: [00:12:13]
So then there's one other piece and I'm going to throw it at you. It sounds a little bit like you're trying to put a round hole into a square peg or the other way around. So you have a highly analytical, highly complex brain trying to sell in a simple way. The two don't seem to match.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:12:33]

Kim Ades: [00:12:34]
And so the question becomes: is this person the right person for this conversation?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:12:42]
And then the next question that follows that is: can this person let go of that so that they can let other people on the team have those conversations?

Kim Ades: [00:12:51]
Well, maybe if he can see an effective alternative.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:12:58]

Kim Ades: [00:12:59]
Right? And so that's the key. Because what does he want? He wants success.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:13:03]

Kim Ades: [00:13:04]
And so if he could see something else working, perhaps that's the key.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:13:10]

Kim Ades: [00:13:10]
So there are a lot of moving parts here, but for you, really looking at how this person is thinking and how their thinking is impacting their decision-making, their behaviors, and at the end of the day, the results, is key.

And so what you want to do is say, "Hey, what is it that you want to achieve? Is this the best way to do it? Let's discuss some of that". Right? Because clearly right now there's like this interesting kind of tension going on, where it sounds like what he believes is required, isn't necessarily going to lead him to the goals or outcomes that he wants. And he needs to see that.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:13:53]
Got it.

Kim Ades: [00:13:53]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:13:54]
Any thoughts about how to accomplish that?

Kim Ades: [00:13:57]
Well, again, you know, what you do is you say, "okay, here are the conversations we've had. Let's review them". Right? Let's see what went right, what went wrong, what happened". And you could say, "I feel like people don't understand you. You're speaking at a level that's much, much more advanced and you're losing people in translation". Right? "So your goal is this, but we're not achieving that. And here are the reasons why. And so here are some potential solutions".

But I really think that part of the issue is what is the belief about how to get from point A to point B. And that's where there's an issue between the two of you that says you have this picture of what it looks like, and he has a different picture, and you're just pushing your picture down the line without really addressing the beliefs that are causing him to behave the way he is.

Does this make sense?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:14:55]
Yeah, it absolutely makes sense.

Kim Ades: [00:14:57]
Okay, good. Any other questions? I mean, we did this pretty fast.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:15:03]
[Laughs] Well, you know, sort of related topics are, you know, that I jotted down and before we got on, I was thinking about... how do I get this small team to collaborate effectively? Seems like it's much more challenging than I've experienced in the past.

Some challenges I've experienced in the past is we just didn't have the right tools at our disposal to effectively collaborate. That's absolutely not the case here. We've got the most effective tools to affect collaboration. Getting people to actually though collaborate and not run off on their own and do things has been more of a challenge. That's one issue.

Another issue is, for me, you know, what came up is just letting go. Like, so me just letting go of whatever and just observing what's happening and then kind of give that feedback. Like, here's just my observation of what happening.

Letting go of any other agenda, aside from that, and trying to keep us on track to goals. And then last but not least, related both soliciting and accepting feedback. And that's been directed mostly at myself, like, how do I continue to solicit and then accept feedback.

Kim Ades: [00:16:21]
Do you have-- do you find yourself feeling challenged to accept feedback?

Chett Rubenstein: [00:16:28]
I would say it's more like I'm not focused on really soliciting the feedback.

Kim Ades: [00:16:32]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:16:32]
Gets back to the whole concept of speaking less and asking more questions.

Kim Ades: [00:16:37]
Right. So, and here's the thing, in a way, what you're really saying is "I need to bottle the behavior that I'm seeking".

Chett Rubenstein: [00:16:45]

Kim Ades: [00:16:46]
Yes. Okay. That's great. You know, in terms of collaboration, I find that people have a hard time collaborating when they're not clear on what the common goals are. And sometimes there's a bigger picture that causes people to get... to go in different directions.

And in startup modes, I want to, like, reduce the timeframe. So normally in business cycles, we look at a yearly goal and then we look at quarterly goals and then maybe bi-quarterly goals and we keep people, you know, attached to that cycle. But that's still a big cycle. Like, even a mid-quarterly goal, that's a six week period. That's too long for you.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:17:32]

Kim Ades: [00:17:33]
And so the question is, what are your meeting schedules like and what happens at those meetings? To help people stay on track in terms of what needs to be achieved this particular week. What do we need to learn? Who do we need to talk to? How many conversations do we need to have, etc., so that it's a little more contained.

And I don't mean micromanagement at all. I mean, getting everybody on the same page so that we understand the next milestone, the next step, the next piece in the journey, at which point feedback and discussion can happen more naturally in those meetings cycles.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:18:14]
Yeah, that makes sense. I think we've fallen into a bit of a disjointed mode of meeting. I'm finding meetings are happening in pairs. Whereas, you know, in terms of the key executive team, there's really four of us now and we need to have those meetings together. So we're all in the same page.

Kim Ades: [00:18:32]
Yeah. And they have happened regularly.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:18:34]
Yes. And what I'm seeing happen as I'm seeing side conversations going on and I'm seeing people overlapping efforts, and this is where I am challenged with the collaboration effort. There's too much disjointed work going on and no clarity in terms of what needs to get done in, you know, as you put it, in a shorter timeframe, like, to tweak, you know, what do we need to do?

Kim Ades: [00:18:58]
Right. And you, whereas a more established company may plan a year out, you might plan just a quarter out.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:19:05]
Right. Well, we're--

Kim Ades: [00:19:06]
And then shorten it on a week by week basis.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:19:09]
Yeah. I mean, I have everybody very focused on, you know, the goals that we need to achieve by the end of the quarter. There's no question. But I think that's, to your point, I think it's too big for people to get their head around it.

I need to drive weekly conversations so that I let them focus week by week on doing a much more digestible chunk of work that they can accomplish.

Kim Ades: [00:19:33]
Exactly. And again, be very careful about the whole idea of it's not your job to delegate necessarily. Not at this stage. It's your job to really come to terms or come to an agreement about what needs to get done in order to reach this weekly goal.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:19:52]
Got it.

Kim Ades: [00:19:52]
And so that everybody's coming to the table being accountable, as opposed to you holding them accountable. The minute you step into a holding other people accountable role is the minute you will continue to get side conversations.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:20:09]
Interesting. So talk to me about that. Like, how do you get people to...

Kim Ades: [00:20:17]
To be accountable instead of holding them to accountable? So when you're holding them accountable, who are they answering to? To you.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:20:24]

Kim Ades: [00:20:25]
And that's not the team you want to build. You want to build a team of independent individuals who show up and take accountability, who are accountable for their part on the team, right? Part in the process, part in the goal attainment, et cetera.

So when you come to the table and say, "okay, so what should we be achieving this week?" And everybody agrees. I don't know, I'm going to make up a number, right? "We need to hit 50,000 this weekend revenue or numbers or whatever". I'm making up a number.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:20:56]

Kim Ades: [00:20:56]
And so, okay, "what needs to happen in order for this to take place?" And everybody agrees, "I'll do this, I'll do this. I'll do this. I'll do this". It's written down. So there's your accountability. It's written down. You've agreed to this. I didn't tell you to do it. We've come to an agreement. So one week later, when we look at that list, we say, well, you know, "what's happening here?"

So it's outside of you. You're not the ruler, the leader, the manager, the director. You're not putting people up against the wall. You're having them say, "Hey, I can do this and I will do this by next week". And if not, that's okay too.

And if it doesn't happen, now you have a conversation that says, so like, "why didn't this get done? What got in the way? Does this kind of thing get in the way over and over again? Perhaps we need to relook at how we're doing this".

But now it's not an attacking conversation, it's a structural conversation, it's a process conversation.

Chett Rubenstein: [00:21:54]
Right. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Kim Ades: [00:21:57]

Chett Rubenstein: [00:21:58]
Yeah. This is huge. [Laughs] This is huge.

Kim Ades: [00:22:02]
Fantastic! Amazing. So thank you so much for being on the podcast with me today. For those of you who are listening, you know, we talked about a lot of things today.

The first thing we talked about really is how we understand why people don't do what we want them to do. And really the first point about that is that we need to look at people's beliefs instead of trying to simply fix or change their behaviors. That is super important.

We often want to just get people to do what we want them to do, and very often we are confronted with poor results or short-term results, and really in order to get longer term results, we need to make sure that beliefs are lined up with goals. So that's part A.

Part B is how do we get people to collaborate and how do we move ourselves from a position of holding people accountable to having them show up in an accountable manner. And so, in that case, you know, this meeting concept and making sure that it's structured, but absolutely in a startup having them more frequently in a regular manner and writing down what everybody's responsible for, removes you from the equation a whole lot.

Chett, thank you so much for sharing this time with us, for sharing your challenges. I think you're not alone, but I appreciate it.

For those of you who are listening. If there's a challenge that you have, that you want to share on the. Please reach out to me.

My email address is

And for those of you who have a challenge, but you're not so willing to share it on a podcast, please reach out to me as well.

My email address is

If you are actively listening to the podcast, please like and share, and we love and really, really appreciate your support.

Thank you so much. Until we see you again.

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