Watch the Interview

Mark S A SmithMark S A Smith is the author of 13 popular books and sales guides and has authored more than 400 magazine articles. He is a genuine Guerrilla Marketing guru, co-authoring three books with Jay Conrad Levinson, and is a certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach.

A renaissance man with many talents, Mark is passionate about leadership, team building, teamwork, sales, and marketing.

For over twenty years Mark has served as a strategic advisor to corporate leaders and executives all over the world who must develop the best way to bring in the right strategies for successful growth and sustainability. What makes him different is he brings a holistic view of the business instead of solely focusing on one aspect and ignoring the impact of decisions on the rest of the organization.

How to Get the Most Out of 2018
Tapping into the top five trends to grow your nonprofit:
  1. Omnichannel – allow members to consume you anywhere and every way
  2. How the growing economy creates monetary opportunities
  3. The impact of higher unemployment on your volunteer force and how to pivot to get all you need
  4. New leadership demands: what’s changing and how to stay out front
  5. Turning unrest into peace: how to divorce your organization from the media’s promotion of outrage

Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis on this version of The Nonprofit Exchange. A dear friend who I see too rarely, we have been talking virtually but now we are together. I said, Why don’t we talk about some things that are on your radar?” Mark S. A. Smith, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Mark S. A. Smith: Such a delight to be here. Thank you, Hugh. Hello, Russell. Hello, friends on Facebook. Welcome. We have a lot of interesting things to talk about because 2018 is going to be an astounding year. You might be listening to this in 2020 or 2024. But you know something? What we are talking about today will probably still be issues even in the next five to ten years. Or opportunities, as the case may be.

Hugh: We record messages that are timeless. But you’re right. We are turning the page into 2018 as we are recording this. If you are a regular listener, you know you can go to and see the video versions of these. But you can go to iTunes and download the audio there.

Mark, you are in a series of really powerful interviews we have done over three years. We are starting our fourth year of these great interviews. What we endeavor to do more often than not is find people that have business expertise. Let’s install that particular business expertise into the charity. It might be a church, a synagogue, a membership organization, or a community foundation, but it’s some sort of philanthropic work that we’re doing. Before we get into the subject matter, which I’m going to hold off in giving people a title, tell people a little bit about Mark Smith and why you are able to talk about this topic today.

Mark: I help people sell complex, expensive, high-consideration things as fast as humanly possible. I am an electrical engineer; therefore, I am a systems thinker. I have recovered. I don’t sell or do engineering very much, but I do help people sell complex things. That is where you have multiple people involved in making the decision. Each person has a different view of what creates value and what we need to do. Sounds an awful lot like this nation, doesn’t it?

Hugh: Yeah.

Mark: How do you round up consensus? How do you have people go the same way? Just like when you’re working with nonprofits, herding cats is what we have to do. It’s the same thing when you have to sell expensive technology. What I’m doing here is applying all the things I have learned about selling very expensive things to the world of nonprofits. It’s absolutely identical. I, too, do work with a nonprofit. I am on a board here in Las Vegas where I live. I’ve been involved in nonprofits throughout my life. I understand, and I am delighted to share with you my business acumen. What I like to tell people is a nonprofit is not a business plan; it’s a tax status.

Hugh: That’s not a philosophy, no. You’re very active on social media, especially Twitter. You put out little short memes with a few words on it. I gotta tell you, they are very thought-provoking. They help me focus on what’s important.

Mark: I am honored that that happens. Thank you.

Hugh: There has been this coincidence of you tweeting on the things we are actually talking about. Sometimes simultaneously. I find that to be fascinating.

Mark: The issues are the same. Whether it’s nonprofits or the for-profit world, the issues we face are frankly identical.

Hugh: I laugh when business leaders say, “That might work in the church.”

Mark: Or the other side is that the religious leaders say, “That might work in business, but it won’t work in the church.”

Hugh: If it’s true anywhere, it’s true everywhere.

Mark: We’re humans working with humans.

Hugh: I think we’ve stalled long enough in telling people what the topic is. What is the topic? Russell wants to know.

Mark: All right, Russell. You’re ready? Today’s topic is how to get the most out of this year, which happens to be 2018. We are going to talk about five trends that are going on that you need to know about as the leader of your nonprofit to stay ahead of the game, to grow, and to prosper heading forward. Some of the things we are going to talk about are technology, and some of the things we are going to talk about are psychology.

Hugh: Say that last sentence again. That caught me off guard.

Mark: Don’t you know I do that to you? And you do the same to me when you’re speaking. Some of the things we are going to talk about are technology, understanding the technology that nonprofits have to be embracing and keeping track of and staying up with. Some of it happens to be psychology, what is happening in the general zeitgeist of the world and how they impact nonprofits. Whether you think they do or not, they do. Your constituents, your members, your flock all are impacted by what they see in the news and what they experience with retail and what happens in the business world. They carry those attitudes and insights into your organization, whether you want them to or not. We have to manage that. We have to deal with it. We have to capitalize whenever possible or perhaps even neutralize it in some cases. That is what I mean by psychology.

Hugh: Absolutely. I think we’re guilty in any discipline. I know in the church, I have had people say to somebody, “You’re so heavily minded you’re no earthly good.” We all live in the reality of today. I can say that I served the church for 40 years and probably got to that space myself. I put in very carefully numbered bullet points. I noticed that I numbered them wrong. Our first one is, Omnichannel. Speak about that. Tell us what that means.

Mark: Listener, have you ever had the situation where you were multi-tasking, perhaps watching television and checking your telephone for messages or tweets, or maybe even reading the news story you are watching on TV simultaneously to see what if you were seeing on TV made sense to other news channels? That’s omnichannels, my friend.

The reality is we are multi-screening. You are getting information from multiple locations at all times in all ways. What this means to nonprofits is you have to be able to bring your message, bring your service to your constituents in every way that they consume information. Just by a show of hands, who here has for your organization—I see ten fingers there, well, eight fingers and two thumbs. Sometimes I am just all thumbs. Do you have an app? Do you have the opportunity of having your constituents consume your services, your podcasts, your sermons via a dedicated app that would alert them when something new becomes available? Are you using the technology to your benefit? Now if you’re doing that, fantastic. Just stay with it.

You have to understand we live in an omnichannel world. We are consuming many things in many different ways. Mobile apps, partner locations, maybe figuring out other locations for people to access your services. Where do your constituents go that you can have a kiosk or a corner or something like that where people can plug in, enjoy, take advantage of, be reminded of, contribute to, consume whatever it is you are bringing to the marketplace? Since I don’t know what your nonprofit is, we are spraying and hoping you will catch a couple of ideas here.

The concept here is you need to be everywhere that your people are every time you possibly can be. The reality is if you are a church, people are carrying around a sermon in a box in their mobile device. Chunk things up into five-minute pieces to give them a chance to remind, refresh, and renew. If you are supplying educational elements, keep pushing out opportunities for people to learn and to refresh. If you’re supplying the opportunity for people to volunteer, if they are standing in line or waiting at a traffic light and they can pull out their mobile device and contribute something in some sort of thought-provoking way, let them do so. That is what we mean by omnichannel. Take advantage of that any way you possibly can.

Hugh: You said something about five-minute segments. Remind, refresh, and renew. Talk more about that.

Mark: What I am finding is short segments of content that provoke people. Just like when you read something from me on Twitter, you’re telling me that I am inspiring you, I am provoking some thoughts, I am causing you to think about new things, maybe connect some new dots. The bulk of those tweets are 140 characters. There are some that run a little bit longer thanks to Twitter’s new length limits, but it’s a very short little boom. It’s a little thought bomb that goes off in your brain.

As a nonprofit, most of us are in business to inspire, to have people live a better life, to improve their condition, to stay on target, to stay on task, to stay on the straight and narrow. That requires constant reminders. Another thing to keep in mind is if you are a church or an organization where people come to see you once a week or once a month, it’s not enough. They are bombarded by all these other messages and all these other counter-messages that they may not wish to consume. Our job is to remind them there is another way of thinking. There is another opportunity. There is better potential for them that they have already volunteered to be a part of. If we can chunk our messages from a text standpoint, an audio standpoint, or a short video standpoint to refresh, renew, and remind themselves there is a reason why those of us who have a spiritual practice, it’s a daily practice if not hourly.

Hugh: Yes. Oh yes. That is so important. I think the biggest flaw I see in organizations is when people say, “They should know better because we told them that,” but they told them that in 1903, and you have repeated it since then.

Mark: Here’s the problem, friends. You may have told them that, but the other side has told them their viewpoint a thousand times since the last time you said it.

Hugh: Omnichannel. When I first saw that, I thought it was a piece of software.

Mark: It’s a concept.

Hugh: Russell is taking good notes. Do you want to weigh in on this omnichannel touchpoint? Mark, what you’re doing is top of mind marketing, isn’t it?

Mark: Yes. Let’s just keep reminding them what they have asked us to remind them of.

Hugh: Russell? He’s been very polite.

Mark: He’s been quiet. He’s been smiling. He is giving me thumbs up. He is also muted.

Russell Dennis: Not anymore. We can quickly fix that. Greetings and salutations, Mark. Good to see you again. It’s been a while. I was just typing that when you’re out there in multiple places, where your people are, and that’s the important thing to figure out is where your people are and getting out there and getting in front of them. We are in a short attention span society. If you’re not out there online, you’re left behind. It’s not a fad. It’s not a trend. It’s here to stay.

Hugh: I think it’s also in person. Where do your people hang out? I am hearing omnichannel as virtual as well as live.

Mark: Absolutely. Physical, too. It has to do with digital signage for example. Digital signage is omnichannel. Most of us have digital signage in our houses of worship. As I pointed out, as we talked about, where are they? Let’s see if we can put a digital sign in the places our people hang out to remind them of the messages they have agreed to consume.

Hugh: Great. We are sitting at the top of 2018. Our market has been growing. There are over 100 companies that announced employee dividends and financial expansion of programs since the tax bill passed at the end of 2017. There are all kinds of energy and economy. Talk about how that benefits the nonprofit sector.

Mark: We are sitting at the highest consumer satisfaction index of all time. I think it’s for a number of reasons. One is that a lot of people are feeling good about themselves again. A lot of them have hope for the future. A lot of them feel that in spite of the noise we hear on the mainstream news on a regular basis, locally, the communities are doing well. More people have jobs. More people are feeling good about what’s possible. Certainly my business has been substantially increased. As you pointed out, yours has, too. A big part of it is that my customers are looking forward to growth and therefore investing in opportunities to grow.

As a nonprofit, you can plug into this feeling of goodness and growth, asking for more than you could ask for in the past. Requesting more. Asking people to donate more for perhaps more time, for perhaps a higher level of investment of themselves into the organization. When people are feeling good, they say yes to opportunities because it doesn’t feel like it’s so heavy. Doesn’t feel like it’s such a burden. When we feel depressed, it’s very hard for people to feel good about themselves.

Hugh: What makes people say yes? I still have lots of-

Mark: What a great question! I’m so glad you asked it. What makes people say yes is because your request is in alignment with their personal identity.

Hugh: Whoa. Whoa. Hey, Russ. What does that trigger with you?

Russell: It’s everything. Everything revolves around relationships now. People are starting to figure that out. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Now you have to build relationships. In the old days, you could just blurt out at people. There were very few places for them to get a message. They were fed by three big networks messages. Think about Henry Ford when he talked about the Model T. They can have any car they want as long as it’s black. Now people have choices. They have different avenues for expression, and they have short attention spans, so you have to resonate with people because they will look for another cause if they feel like they’re not being romanced, so to say. You have to keep that connection some type of way, keep thanking them, showing the impact they are making, and staying with it. People change. There are so many different causes that they can get involved with now. It’s like anything else to maintain that brand loyalty as it were. You have to connect with your tribe. People want a sense of connection and a sense of accomplishment. Younger people coming into the work force want to do work that matters.

Hugh: Mark, I pinged Russell because many times in the interviews, he helps us remember that whether you are creating board members or talking to donors, we have to think about what it is they want, what they are interested in, what they want to achieve. There is a messaging piece that I was honing in on here. How do we form our message so that we do connect with that like-minded person?

Mark: Let’s get back to the concept of personal identity. People buy things to support their identity or they buy things or engage in things to help them transform their identity into a new place that they desire to be. It’s a really important concept because all sales, all marketing, all recruiting, all conversion happens when a person sees their identity as that which you are offering as a nonprofit. That transformation for a lot of people is where we’re heading. As people grow, they transform. As young people go from high school to college, they are transforming. As they go from college into the workforce, they are transforming. That personal identity, how you view yourself and how you want to be viewed by—Russell, you said it right on—tribe, we choose our tribe, and the choices that we make determine our tribe. In a model I generated, those tribe decisions are mission-critical. The reason why is because if you make the wrong choices, the people who you might like may just stop calling you back. They may quit inviting you out. They might leave you on your own. That is where that personal identity comes into play. Identity happens way more than people realize. A great example of that is sports. Russell, do you consider yourself a sports fan?

Russell: I love it.

Mark: Do you have a team?

Russell: Believe it or not, I root for the Cleveland Browns.

Mark: Why the hell would an intelligent man like you root for such a losing team when a logical person would pick a winning team to root for?

Russell: I grew up there.

Mark: That’s it. Yes!

Russell: I haven’t lived there in almost 40 years, but home is home.

Mark: It’s part of your core identity. It is so deeply ingrained in your core identity that I couldn’t get you to wear a piece of the opposing team’s clothing even if I paid you. That’s the power of identity. When you as a nonprofit can tap into that identity, that is where you really get that brand experience where people refuse to go anywhere else. But you have to keep reinforcing that identity. You have to make sure that the identity you’re offering continues to shift in the proper direction over time. In a growing economy, people have the opportunity of transforming that identity. That is really where we’re going with this #2 point. It gives you a chance to perhaps recruit people, to bring people in that you haven’t been able to before because they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t have the bandwidth or the money. Now they do. Get very clear. A definitive passionate, audience that wants to be recognized or grow their identity can help you as an organization grow. Get really clear. Get really sharp about this. It will have a massive impact for you in 2018. Cool?

Hugh: Absolutely. You talked about unemployment. The numbers show the unemployment figures at the end of 2017 were the lowest they’ve been in forever. But there are still people who are underemployed. They are not unemployed.

Mark: In fact, those underemployed people are the ones who are perfect for volunteers. The reason why is as humans, we like to feel we are making a difference. Russell, you pointed that out in your last comments. We really want to feel we are doing good, like we are making a difference. When we are underemployed, we don’t have that feeling that we are living up to our potential. People in that environment can be invited to fulfill that in a nonprofit volunteer situation. Whether it’s an executive who has moved to a lower position, who needs to give back and still provide that strategic input, that is the perfect person to capture for example. Or perhaps the stay at home mom who went back to work because her kids are out of the house, and as she enters back in, she doesn’t go back in at the top level where she started. She comes in at a lower level, and she needs to fill that gap of feeling good about herself until she can be promoted up to that new level. That is the opportunity that you as a nonprofit can fill.

Hugh: You spoke earlier about working with a local nonprofit in Las Vegas where you live. Why did you say yes to that?

Mark: For two reasons. One is that I have an expertise that the association can use. I can benefit the association in quite a few different ways because of my deep history in business and as a professional. And that association also allows me, it feeds me in that I get to be with other people whose future is my history. And so I get a chance to give back because if I rewind my life back 30 years, I was the person who is being served by the mentor who I get to be today.

Hugh: So your input is important to shaping the future of their work.

Mark: And they have a desire to have a similar experience that I had. When we are looking for a mentor—this is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve had in my life—look for somebody whose history is your future. They can help you plot the path. While your paths will be slightly different, the fundamentals won’t be that far off.

Hugh: Russell, did you capture that last comment?

Russell: I did not. I was in the process of typing that. I don’t type very quickly. This is interesting because what we are talking about, there are three things that a nonprofit needs: time, talent, and treasure. We get obsessed with the money and forget about time and talent. Especially with people who are underemployed, people have different motivations for joining you. When you are clear about what it is you are trying to do and you have inventoried all of your assets, which include time, talent, skills, knowledge, abilities, those are all assets to the nonprofit. When you can leverage that and get other people, it’s like money in the bank because you go out, build relationships, get sponsors for media, cash sponsors, you go out and get people to contribute pro bono services, you bring students in, you bring professional firms. There is a number of different ways to approach getting pro bono talent. When you are clear on who you are and what you need, you can offer these folks some time. Maybe they need to build their portfolio. Maybe they are tried and just want to give back. Maybe they are entering the workforce. Maybe they are underemployed and want to have some projects and creations of their own. You can set that table. When you are clear on what it is that people want, then they will come support you and always keep evaluating, putting challenges out there for them to stretch and grow and invest in their learning. They have reasons to stick with you in that case.

Mark: Right on. I think if you get the time and talent right, the treasure follows automatically. The reason why is what is money? It is a reward for doing what others want. It’s canned labor. That’s another way of looking at it.

Russell: Canned labor, but meaningful labor. It’s not standing at a copy machine all day or making coffee. It’s actually creating things. Building your social media strategy, writing policies, it’s endless the number of things you can find volunteers to do that they can help support the organization with. Yes, even fundraising. The sky’s the limit. It’s up to your own creativity and finding out what moves people. If you don’t have any money, you probably have time and talent.

Mark: They probably know people. There is also ways of converting some of that talent and some of that time into treasure. If you think about it, that’s what a business does. It converts time and talent into treasure. As a nonprofit, you can do exactly the same thing. Your tax status permits that to happen.

Hugh: Money is also reward for providing value.

Russell: Another way to keep score.

Mark: That’s universally agreed upon.

Hugh: Back to where we were talking at the beginning of this interview about installing sound business principles into the charity. I am using charity purposefully here. Sometimes we use the word “nonprofit,” which spins us into this scarcity thinking that we can’t generate a profit. But the profit is what pays for the philanthropic work of the organization. Like you said, it’s not a business plan. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a tax classification. It’s really tax exempt work. We are getting a lot of useful content today about leveraging what is around us instead of getting stuck in our hole, our silo. You ready to move to the next one?

Mark: Let’s do it. I think we have beaten that topic up a little bit. I like it.

Hugh: #3 is New Leadership Demands. What is changing, and how do we stay out front? I remember years ago people were hiring the motivational speaker. Give me rah, rah. Then people left the room, and it was over. People aren’t hiring motivational speakers. They are hiring people with solid, executable content. What has changed in the leadership segment? What are you thinking about?

Mark: What I see is the informational speaker and the inspirational speaker versus motivational speaker. Let’s talk about that, and then we will go on to the topic of what’s changing with leadership. The difference between a motivational speaker and an inspirational speaker is very simple. If we go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I see as a fundamental to everything we do, both within the charitable sector as well as the business sector, those two lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy is physical needs and then security. Within those two levels, you can motivate people. It’s basically a pain-based motivation. Once we get to that next level, where you have love and self-esteem and move up to self-actualization, that is where inspiration comes into play. If people are in pain, you have to motivate them. If people are out of pain, then you can inspire them. Don’t try to be inspirational when people are hungry and tired and scared. That doesn’t work. It’s just frustrating. They will nod their heads and do what they need to do to get the hell out of your view so they can go get some food or drink or get warm or whatever. We have to help people to the third level of Maslow because we can start to inspire them.

With that in mind, from a leadership standpoint, understanding your leadership is 100% contextual on the state of the person and ultimately the team you are working with. That is not a blinding flash of the obvious to most of you, but we have to be reminded of that because a lot of the traditional leadership mantras that we hear are being offered from the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. But a lot of the people we are leading are way down the hierarchy, and we have to remember that sometimes it’s just giving them a shoulder to cry on and taking them out to lunch or buying them a cup of coffee. Sometimes that’s all the leadership they need in that moment.

Hugh: Wow. That’s a paradigm shift. What are you thinking there, Russ? You’re smiling.

Russell: The thought came to mind that great leaders always have a pulse on where their people are because no two people are in the same place. Cookie cutter leadership doesn’t work. It may have worked back at the turn of the 20th century.

Mark: It didn’t work then either, Russell. I hate to tell you, pal. It was just misreported.

Russell: They pushed it as, “Get in line or go work somewhere else.” That doesn’t work. Good leaders build other leaders around them because that is what makes a great leader look good. We have people who can execute or delegate, and she is doing high level functions. Sometimes you have high performance individuals, and it is really hard- When they have been driving the train for a long time, it’s really difficult for them to take a step back because they have their vision and it’s their baby. They have a hard time taking a step back. This is a way that leaders have to grow in. If people in the work force today aren’t getting work that means something. They move on. Do yourself a favor and let other people help you.

Mark: I think some of the things we have to take a look at from a change standpoint is that our millennial culture, I raised five millennial children. None of them live at home. I consider myself to be a success. They don’t put up with ultimatums. They’ll just raise their middle finger and wave you goodbye. The reality is that leadership is now voluntary. It was always voluntary, but it is now absolutely voluntary. People accept leadership voluntarily, and a charitable organization has always been voluntary. We have to become a whole lot more about what it is you are looking for. How can I help you grow? Where do you want to go? What do you need to help you get there? Can we help you get there? It’s a lot more of the let’s figure out where our tribe needs to go and bring that to them. I think that’s a big component of that. We raised our children to question authority. The boomer generation just shakes their head at, “I am a boomer.” Friends, I raise that generation. I raised them to be what I wanted to be when I was their age, which was to have the freedom to ask questions and to push back and to say, “That’s really stupid. Why do you make that?” When I was a kid, that earned a slap across the face, so I learned to shut up very quickly. I let my kids ask those questions. They were hard questions. They made me a better man.

That also means that military-style, authoritarian leadership will no longer work. It has to be collaborative leadership. But how do we do collaborative leadership? It’s simple. You just ask people. You ultimately, as the leader of your organization, get to make the decision. But you also have to have that collaboration of how we arrive at the destination. You are responsible for the destination. Then we collaborate on how we get there. That is what I see as being a major shift.

Hugh: That is especially true in nonprofits because we do attract some capable people. We think we have to do it as a leader because we don’t want to bother them because they are volunteers and are busy in their real life.

Mark: But wait a minute. That’s why they showed up.

Hugh: You got it. I set that one up good. You are really interfering with what somebody has come to do. That seems like a logical step. That is a huge problem. Bowen leadership systems, Murray Bowen as a psychiatrist created this whole leadership methodology. He talks about that as overfunctioning, and the reciprocity to overfunctioning is underfunctioning. Especially when you have a boomer, me, and you are talking to millennials, like the editor of our magazine, Todd, he says, “Tell me where you want to be, and let me get there.” Nobody likes being told the steps or micromanaged. Millennials like it the least of any particular segment. You raised five millennials, and I don’t see any wounds on your body.

Mark: I’m a much better man. Before I raised my five millennial kids, I was a jerk.

Hugh: Really?

Mark: Yeah. I knew everything. I knew exactly how to do it, and I could prove it. If you didn’t believe me, I’d write a book about it.

Hugh: Wow.

Russell: I just sense that pleasure. Here’s the thing, Mark. They’ll be back. They will bring more with them.

Mark: It gets better and better and more disruptive and more delicious.

Hugh: There is a story of this conductor, who are known to have healthy egos. This conductor walks into a restaurant with a whole bunch of musicians. One person stood up on one side and said, “All conductors are jerks.” Whoa, it got back like this. On the other side, somebody stood up and said, “I resent that comment.” The conductor looked at him and said, “Hey, are you a conductor, too?” He says, “No, I’m a jerk.” I love it. That is a reframed lawyer joke.

Mark: The way I like to talk about conductors is conductors are highly skilled. They can play every instrument in the orchestra. They can. But not well enough to make a living. At the end of the show-

Russell: [hard to hear] tickets on the train, either.

Hugh: The model you are talking about is the conductor doesn’t tell them step by step what they do. The conductor says to the oboe player, the violinist, whatever, “This is the effect I want. This is the result I want.” They guide the process.

I wanted to segue into that as a model for what you’re talking about. That has been a consistent model over the decades. If we look at that in today’s world, leadership as a profound influence and not the micro that you are talking about, do this, do this, do this. It’s a nuance of engaging people and empowering people to raise the bar. That is the essence of transformational leadership really: building a culture of high performers that respond to you.

So we are looking at what has changed, but also we are looking at- Earlier, you talked about transformation. There is a transformation in ourselves before we can be effective. How does that link with what you’re talking about?

Mark: Everybody that I know is going through some form of transformation. They are trying to add a new skill. They are trying to let go of an old habit they see as not serving their life any further. They may be going through a spiritual revolution where they are going from less spiritual to more spiritual. It may be that they are looking for a physical transformation, losing weight, adding muscle, adding health. Those transformations always trigger help because if we could do it on our own, we already would have. We need either skills or encouragement or motivation or a tribe to travel with.

Let’s talk about transformation for just a minute. Let’s have some fun with this. I know that we bumped into this idea with me before, Hugh, and let’s talk about it. I think we have enough time. It’s fairly simple. There is fundamentally a seven-step process in transformation, plus a step zero and a step minus one.

Hugh: Ooh, do tell.

Mark: The first half is about belief. The second half is about knowledge. The difference between belief and knowledge is a manifestation in the physical world. Step minus one is where they want to go. The transformation they want to enjoy is invisible. They can’t even see it. It’s not even within their awareness. It’s not even possible. They hadn’t even thought of it. If you as a charitable organization want to find new people, part of your job is to message the outcome that you deliver so that we can take people who don’t even see that as an opportunity into something that is within their awareness.

Then step zero, going from invisible to impossible. That is the step zero. “Oh, that’s impossible. I could never do that. I don’t see how that’s possible.” That’s step zero.

The transformation starts when they go from the impossible to, “Hmm, that could be possible. You have 1,000 people in this community that has made this transformation? Wow. You’ve helped that many people? It is possible.”

Then the next step is to probable. “I could probably do this. I don’t have all the answers. I may not know my path yet, but this is probable. I could do this.”

Then the third step moves to inevitable. “This is going to happen. Oh yeah. Let’s make this happen. Yeah.”

Hugh: Minus one is where-

Mark: Minus one is invisible. Don’t even know it is possible.

Hugh: Invisible, okay.

Mark: Step zero is impossible.

Hugh: Okay. One is possible.

Mark: Possible.

Hugh: Two is probable.

Mark: Two is probable.

Hugh: And three is?

Mark: Inevitable.

Hugh: Inevitable.

Mark: This is going to happen! I know how to do this. Whoo-hoo. Help me!

Hugh: Russell is scribing these. He is capturing the brilliance.

Mark: That is all based on increasing belief because the transformation has not yet become physical. It is still nonphysical. It is thought and that is about it. Now we cross over from the nonphysical to the physical, from the belief to the real. Step four is real. We go from inevitable to real.

From real to sustainable. I did it! Okay, let’s do it again. I can do this any time I want. That is sustainable.

Then we go from sustainable, step five, to step six, which is normal. “I do this all the time. Sure, of course. This is just part of my life.”

To step seven, which is historical. “I have always done it this way.”

If we are working people through a transformational process—invisible, impossible, possible, probable, inevitable, real, sustainable, normal, historical—if we can run people through that process, we can help them through their transformation.

But here is the most important aspect. You can’t take somebody from impossible to inevitable in one step. That is the psychology of leadership. We have to help them move from impossible to probable. We have to help them move from probable to inevitable. We have to help them move from inevitable to real. Each one of those is a step, as we are crossing this chasm, let’s call it a river, from impossible to historical, going from one side to the other. Every step is a slippery rock that as they reach out with their foot, it may feel like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Our job as leaders is to hold their finger, hold their hand.

When I was raising my kids, we would do- Kids were going across the rocks, and I would give them a finger. All they had to do was hang onto my finger. That was enough to give them the confidence to take the step. My kids would grab that finger, and we could move them. You did this, right? Russell, you’ve done this with your kids? Just give them a little bit. We don’t need to hold them in an airman’s grip. We just have to give them a finger to hang onto.

Russell: If you don’t want to carry them, you just give them that finger. It’s just enough. Less is more.

Mark: That’s right.

Russell: More, and they step into that power. That’s what it’s about. Whatever the mind can conceive and make itself believe, it can achieve. That is a process.

Mark: You just summarized those seven plus two steps in three words.

Hugh: Thank you, Mr. Hill.

Mark: Yes indeed.

Hugh: That is a profound statement. I was really small, walking with my father, and I would hold a finger. One day, he put a stick there. I kept going because I thought I had his hand. All I had was a stick. When I grew up, I repeated that dirty trick with my kids.

Russell: Interesting. That brings a story to mind. I don’t know how old I was. I may have been two or three. My mother used to carry me upstairs at night. One night, my mother and sister brought me upstairs, stood me in front of the crib, and said, “Okay. Climb in.” I was baffled. I didn’t do anything. So they said, “Okay, well, you will climb in or you will stand there all night.” I don’t know how long I stood there. It turns out they were there watching. It wasn’t very long. I climbed up in that crib. Oh, okay, I got to do this or it’s not going to happen. I never forgot that. I don’t remember much that happened before five. As five gets further away, it’s harder to remember. But that was something I never forgot. A lot of life is like that.

Hugh: That’s a great story. That’s a big leadership example.

The last one of your five topics for the year is Turning Unrest into Peace: How to Divorce Your Organization from the Media’s Promotion of Outrage. What ever are you talking about?

Mark: I’ll be delighted to share with you. With the broad spread availability of Internet and mobile devices, the media got out of the news business. The reason why is the news was available any time I chose to pick up my mobile device and read the news from dozens of news sources. The fundamental TV news made a wholesale pivot from news to opinion and entertainment. You watch any of the mainstream news, and they are not delivering news. They are delivering opinion, not even fact. Opinion. It’s the mot hilarious thing. I watch the news now and laugh. I just see it like reality TV. It is completely scripted. Whatever side they are trying to spin, that is what it is. What is truth? I have no idea anymore. The challenge is to get people to watch opinion, you have to generate outreach. You have to go to them and say, “Isn’t this awful? Isn’t this unfair? This is just horrible. I can’t see how we can even stand doing this anymore.” That outrage allows you to sit through the commercials for pharmaceutical products that help you fix the outrage. You laugh because it’s true.

Russell: Okay. I’m going to give up on MSNBC and Fox Noise because-

Mark: It is noise. I can watch Hannity once a week. It’s the same story every night.

Here’s the thing. First of all, you have to realize that the news business is really to do one thing. It’s not to inform you. It’s to sell advertising. Pure and simple. Their job is to create a community that wants to be outraged a specific way and to promote that outrage so people feel like something is going on. They feel like something is important, but the reality my friends, in the world of charitable organizations, we are offering another way of thinking, another way of feeling. We are offering perhaps a better feeling. I feel way better after going to church than I do after watching the evening news. That circles back to our #1 point today, which is omnichannel. We have to keep providing our message on a regular basis daily, hourly, morning, evening to counter all of the outrage that people are being fed from a commercial stream. Go ahead. Carry on. What do you have in mind there, Hugh?

Hugh: Wow. Wow. Where people are getting into an emotional state, not a factual thinking leadership functioning state. We are going into this-

Mark: Facts don’t matter anymore when it comes to mainstream news.

Hugh: We are in a post-truth culture.

Mark: We are. It’s really interesting.

Hugh: When we hear comments like “The media lies,” I watched purposefully for several weeks reports on CNN, CBN, PBS, and FOX. They were all different.

Mark: Yes.

Hugh: Which one is lying? Or are they all lying?

Mark: None of them are lying. They are presenting their vision of what they want you to believe. Facts have nothing to do with anything. They believe It’s true. They look you square in the eye through the camera and make you believe they believe it. And they do. Otherwise they couldn’t deliver that.

Let’s circle back to the facts that matter to us and to constituents of our organization. That is what we need to focus on.

Hugh: We have eight minutes. We are wrapping up here. That is a perfect segue, thank you. Go ahead.

Mark: The whole point is we need to make sure our message and our leadership and our direction and our transformation is absolutely clear. We have to supply at last some rational thinking. When people say, “Did you hear what the news was?” and the answer is, “Do you believe it?” Let’s focus on something you can believe. So help pivot people away from buying into something that we keep illustrating over and over again is patently not in alignment with the belief and the worldview that we wish. We have to substitute the worldview that our tribe wishes to see.

Personally, I see humanity as growing, expanding, being bigger-hearted than ever before. The people in my environment, the people I bump into, including the folks on the street that ask me for help, are doing better than ever before. My job is to elevate, not to outrage. I think that there are way more people that have that desire than ever before, and perhaps that is why Cartoon Network has a higher rating than CNN. It’s because we want to feel good. We don’t want to feel bad. As a charitable organization, bringing that good news to people and giving them things they can do to feel better about themselves and to improve humanity and their tribe is probably the ultimate thing we can bring to our constituents.

Russell: To piggyback on what you are saying, out of my own experience, I was an advertising salesman for WGAM TV while I was in college. Our most expensive segment was the news slots. That supports that, and that has been the case for quite some time now. That was a few years ago.

The other thing is people are looking to raise their level of consciousness. The media likes to exacerbate this idea of taking sides. One thing that happened to me as a result of my experience working with the Native American tribe is I became nonpartisan here. The people who were going to help you may be on other sides of the aisle. I was literally more interested in what was going to benefit my tribe than what fit their politics. What we are talking about really is raising our level of consciousness. Me, for the most part, I am tuned out on those things. I can’t watch that stuff. If I do happen to catch glimpses of it, nobody lives out in the middle of nowhere. There are a few people off the grid, but you will be exposed to some of the noise. Does that noise matter? We are trying to raise our level of consciousness, and there are people who need our help. When that is the driving thing, you learn how to play nice with others, but you don’t always have to agree on everything, except who is it you want to help and how can you get there. You leave all of the ego and crap on the doorstep and come together to perform missions. I’m glad you haven’t said anything that made me so angry I have to go put a nasty tweet out. I have a Twitter account, and I don’t want to use it.

Mark: Personally, I have a positive posting policy. If I can’t say something nice, I write them a letter and burn it.

Russell: As long as you don’t mail it. That could get you in a lot of trouble.

Mark: If you are writing a letter to somebody or emailing, don’t ever put their address in there as you write it. Otherwise you might by accident send it. Guilty as charged.

Russell: It’s good to write letters every once in a while. Us old guys write letters. You can write letters. Younger folks out there, it’s a dying art. It’s fun.

Mark: It’s great fun. I wrote myself a letter on New Year’s Eve. It’s part of our ritual: to write ourselves letters.

Just to wrap up this segment, an important component is what is your core principle as a leader? Focus on activities that will provide you and your tribe with those core principles. My core principle is freedom. Everything I do needs to lead me to freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of life. From that freedom, I can serve people. I can’t serve people when I am not free, from a thought standpoint, a physical standpoint, a monetary standpoint. I use that personally as my filter. If I am going to do something, say something, act in some way, the question is: Does this bring me closer to more freedom, or does this take freedom away from me? It could be anything else. It could be oneness. It could be joy. It could be love. It doesn’t really matter. All of them boil down to the same situation anyway. Just that word resonates with me. I think ultimately that is what we need to do to bring peace to our tribe.

Hugh: Our strategy is Russell and I encourage people to be very clear on their vision while they are doing something. As charities, we have to be very good at defining the impact of our work. What difference will it make? We achieve all of that through setting powerful goals. You have given us a whole lot of ideas for goals. Russell mentioned him before, and he is looking behind you there. Behind you is Henry Ford.

Mark: Actually that is Edison. Carry on.

Hugh: They lived next door to each other down in Fort Myers.

Mark: They did.

Hugh: Edison said he never failed; he just found 9,999 things that didn’t work before he invented the light bulb. Ford said obstacles are what you see when you take your mind off your goals. They are both dedicated to excellence. They were both in tune with the culture and trends of their day.

Mark Smith, I don’t know a lot of people with two middle initials. Mark S. A. Smith. You stand out from all those other Mark Smiths.

Mark: That is the reason why. That way you can find me on Google.

Hugh: They are impostors.

Mark: No, they are not impostors. They are just hiding.

Hugh: This is really rich in content. Russell, do you have a closing comment you want to leave here?

Russell: There we are. I’d like to thank Mark for the thoughts he dropped. You are preaching to the choir. It’s about who you are. That’s a message that has to ring true. Who are you? Who are you, and that way you can connect with the people that you are aligned with. I love the alignment. Great comments. Notes in the SynerVision Leadership webinar notebook. I have the notes, Hugh. It will also be out there for folks to look at. It’s a great day here.

Hugh: Super. Mark, thank you for being here and sharing your wisdom with us.

Mark: Delightful to be here. Thank you for the invitation to do so. We have plenty more in 2018.

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