Joe Homs on Collaboration and Authenticity
Joe Homs a serial entrepreneur and consultant that has advised organizations large and small from Fortune 500 companies to small startups and solo entrepreneurs.
Fundamentally, I am a systems creator. I have a knack for understanding the principles of how things work and then create frameworks and systems to get the best out of them.
I combine technology and psychology in new ways to get the best out of and for my clients.
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Hugh Ballou: Greetings. Welcome to this edition of The Nonprofit Exchange. This guest today is a connection through the co-host, Russell David Dennis. And Russell, you met this guy a few years ago, right?
Russell Dennis: A few years ago, yes. They were doing an interesting project that helped you expand your mind. Since that time, he has gone light years ahead of that. Don’t let that youthful appearance that you’re about to see fool you. This man is loaded. He’s got lots of learning, brings lots of experience to the table. He’s doing things to help people be more authentic, and he is all about collaboration. That’s our language. I’ve got a bio here that’s just to brag him up, but I’ll let him tell you about himself. Go for it, young Joe Homs.
Joe Homs: All right. So hi, everybody. My name is Joe. Last name is Homs. And, I’m now a partner at a company called Your Charisma Coach. And we teach people how to charismatically influence people to just kind of be a force for good in the world, to really connect and to share your own humanity with someone else and really to just again be a force for good in the world. We teach people through seminars, products, things like that.
For myself, I came up a backwards way in industry, in jobs or whatever. My first job was at a venture capital firm, which most people don’t start out with; they usually are successful entrepreneurs or something like that, and then they take all their money and invest there. I started there and was just the jack of all trades and worked my way up. I eventually became the entrepreneur in residence role. I got exposed to a lot of different companies, a lot of different industries, a lot of different things. Then I went to college, so I started doing that job when I was like 17. It was ridiculous. Then went to college, finished out that fund, and became a management consultant. Traveled around the world, did all kinds of stuff there. My job essentially ever since has been going into organizations, and make people act quickly, get in contact with them, know them, sometimes better than they know themselves, and help them fix problems and collaborate and do that kind of thing.
I met some friends a few years ago, and we were at a seminar together. All of us are doing our own different things. These other two gentlemen are very successful in their own right. We all decided to come together and create something amazing. I just joined this company as a new partner. We are just so happy to basically connect the world because we see, at least I see the world going in a couple of different ways. One is where technology, software is eating the world. That was my old world. I have a degree in computer science. Software is doing amazing, cool technological things.
The other way that the world I see is going is we are in a connection economy. We are in that place where you reach out on Facebook: Who is the best plumber in my neighborhood? You reach out to a connection that you met years ago, like I reached out to you Russell because I saw something go by on LinkedIn. I haven’t spoken to him in a while; let me see how I can connect. I ended up being here on your podcast. This is great, of course, but it’s just a wonderful thing where you can just go up and connect with people.
We saw those two things happening, where technology and psychology are diverging. We wanted to bring them back together and give people a chance to connect with their fellow human beings and show people how to do that. Charisma is a skill. It’s something you can learn. It’s something you can always get better at. It’s an interesting thing. I hope that suffices to say who I am and what I do.
Russell: It does to a degree, but man, there is so much more there that is phenomenal. You talk about the word “charisma.” A lot of people think that charisma, they look at a figure that is out there, that everybody knows, somebody like a Les Brown or a Dave Austin or a Dan Car? That is full of energy, high profile, extroverted, but that’s not who everybody is. When it comes to nonprofits or for-purpose businesses, that is what they really are, relationships are everything. I think we went through a period in our society of extreme narcissism, and now people are starting to understand that no matter what you do, relationships are at the center of that. A lot of people probably feel like they’re in the dark. You either have all of this juice and charisma. You’re either open or you’re not. That is not necessarily the case because everybody’s a little bit different.
My first question is: Is there a natural tendency for people to step away from their authentic selves in order to try to make an impression on others?
Joe: Absolutely. And you’re correct that not everybody is Oprah. I would posit that you don’t need to be. We already have Oprah. She is great at being Oprah. I personally am not Oprah. I don’t want to be. My business partner is completely different from me. Russ, you’re different. Hugh, you’re different. We are all different. That’s what makes us that much more valuable. There is definitely a natural tendency for people to step away from their own greatness. They look at those very charismatic people who are out there showing the world who they really are. The natural tendency for people to step away sadly happens to most of us in the Western world for various reasons, social circles telling us we’re not good enough, the media giving us unrealistic expectations of who we should be or what life should be like. You’ve got to realize that most people are afraid to express who they are. That natural tendency is definitely there, but I look at people who eventually get to a point in their lives. It’s usually someone who is a little older, and they realize basically no one else cares, so why should they? You look at someone who is old enough, experienced enough, and they just don’t care anymore. They’re truly who they are. They’re themselves. They just go, “You know what? I’m just gonna be me.” Those people are the most interesting people to meet, to talk to, to work with because they’re just being themselves. I’d say that yes, there is a natural tendency to step away from being their authentic selves, mostly because there is fear there. If there is, it’s hard for you to be silent with another person, if it’s hard for you to go out there and express yourself, if you’re constantly having to say, “I’m going to fake it until I make it,” an authentic person doesn’t have to fake it. They’re going to say, “This is me.” Look to reducing that fear for yourself to help yourself there.
Russell: I prefer “Act as if,” to “Fake it ‘til you make it” because you’re not putting up a façade or trying to be something you’re not. I think that throws people out of their greatness because really the further we move away from our authentic selves, the less greatness we have. You work with business leaders from Fortune 100 companies. You work with nonprofit leaders. You work with government entities, a little bit of everybody. People interact. It’s all about relationships. How might the idea that people think they have to put up a certain impression, how could that hamper them in their role as a nonprofit leader or business leader or government leader?
Joe: The important word there is “leader.” In business, in life, in government, in for-purpose businesses or nonprofits, however you want to call it, you’re there to lead for a change. If you’re going to step away from your greatness, that is going to hamper your ability to actually lead. An invisible magnet sit sin between people. It’s called trust. We have huge sections of our brain that are dedicated, hard-wired to figure out congruency, trusting people. As human beings, we have to evolve over many thousands of years to learn: Is this person taking advantage? Is this person contributing to the group? We’re very good at sensing any incongruence. When you have an incongruence, you don’t trust that person. If you don’t trust that person- Think about it. If you didn’t trust someone, could you really be influenced by them? If someone is holding a gun to your head, you can’t really trust them. They might influence you in that moment to get what they want done, right? But if the external threat is removed, you don’t trust that person. You can’t rely on their word. You can’t rely on them to say what they’re going to do. If I say, “I’m going to take this left turn, and I go right,” that erodes some trust. Sure, there are different things in life where you say you’re going to do one thing and circumstances make you have to do another. That’s fine. Again, if you’re the kind of person who says, “You know what? I promised you this; this happened. Here is how I’m going to make it right,” an apology makes all the difference. We make mistakes. We all screw up somehow in our lives. It’s the way we get back into trusting relationships with the people around us that really matters.
If you are going to step away from being your authentic self, people will see an incongruence. They may not necessarily know what it is. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will say, “I don’t know. I don’t know about that person. I don’t know if I can trust them.” So it will hamper your ability to be a leader in the world, to get the change that you’re looking for in the world. If you’re not going to be your authentic self, whomever that is- There are people out there who are, as far as I would be concerned, super weird. I’m not just gonna connect with that person. But they are totally authentic. And their audience is massive and exploding because the people who love them are there with them. The people who don’t, mostly it’s just like, “I don’t care. I won’t pay attention.” Being authentic creates trust. It creates relationship. If you step away from that, you’re only hurting yourself and your cause.
Russell: I think one of the important qualities that leaders in nonprofits recognize is this need to influence people. You have to influence people to serve on your board. You have to influence people to give to your cause. You have to influence people to use your services. Probably a lot like other businesses, this notion of influence makes people very uncomfortable. One of the troubles that I have seen leaders have in all types of organizations is this need to be a Superman or a Superwoman, where the buck stops here and they get it all done. How much of that have you run into? What are some of the problems you’ve seen that people have created for themselves as far as being able to build good collaborative connections that serve both parties?
Joe: This is a multi-part question. In terms of people being a little bit worried about influencing and leadership, the right kind of leadership that you want is the kind where you go first, where you’re the one out ahead, forging the path, doing the thing that you, creating the world that you want to see. If you’re doing that the right way, people will follow you. The very definition of being a leader. If you are having to convince someone and cajole someone and force someone into a position, you’re not really leading. You’re forcing. And the idea of force versus influence is an important distinction. I could force lots of things to happen in my company, in my relationships, in my life. But force requires constant attention. It requires you to always be there forcing the issue. Eventually, force tends to backfire. The idea of physics: If you are pushing on something, whatever force you have, an action has an equal and opposite reaction. You want to be leading someone. You want to be pulling them along rather than pushing them along. That’s first. That’s what true influence and authenticity is about. You’re saying, “Look, this is the world that I’m creating. Do you want to help me create it? Let’s go! However you want to join is going to be up to you, of course.”
The second part of: How do people go wrong? How do they get trapped in this? They will have several complexes. One is that savior complex of, “I’m the one who has to do this.” They feel that if they are not the one to do it, they somehow won’t get credit. They won’t feel good at the end of the day. But you look at massive organizations that tends to have to be a way—human beings, we set this up—is what business doesn’t have one or two leaders at the top? Do they get all the work done in these massive organizations? Absolutely not. What they’ve done and their real contribution is systems, to delegate, to make this kind of thing happen.
Stories that I hear where people do well by themselves in this is companies like Toyota. Massive corporations. They didn’t use to be as massive as they are now ,but still pretty big. They’re making cars for the American market. Long story short, any worker at Toyota could just stop the line. They had a little pull chain. You pull it like this, and this entire lane of cars, hundreds of cars in a row on the assembly line, just stops. Everyone rushes over and realizes there is a problem here that they have to fix. We have to fix it for good, not just fix it today. If someone collapses, that’s obviously not good. But that is a system you have to put in place. Why did that person collapse? The idea of the five Why’s comes out there. You’re asking Why? five times in a row. You get to the root cause of the issue there. You can read about that kind of stuff.
The other stories I remember of this guy I know is named Derek Sivers. He had a company called CD Baby for a long time. He sold it in an interesting way. He created a nonprofit that pays him while he is living. When he is gone, it is going to go toward music education. Very interesting guy. If you ever need to look him up, I believe it’s Sivers.org. Really cool guy. What he did when he realized he was the bottleneck of his company is he did the same thing. He would get a question from one of his employees. He would stop and say we would create a system that solves this problem for the company. I never want to have to deal with this again. For the first few weeks, it was hell. I don’t want to have to do this. He took the initiative. He led, and then he showed his team, “This is the way that I think. This is where the idea of culture comes in. Let me show you how I think about this kind of thing. Then you guys get to go and do this.” Eventually he said, “You guys come up with your own systems and your own things.” Eventually, he was able to exit the company because he had created this massive set of systems that let the company run and become its own organization and make its own way.
Russell: And that is the work that SynerVision does. We teach people-
Russell: How to implement systems that serve them and move them forward. Through creation of systems, co-creation of systems, everything comes together. In order to make an impression on people, good leaders need charisma. We talked about charisma. Marcus on Facebook asks, “What is your favorite book on charisma?”
Joe: Ooh. Marcus, it’s funny, is one of my partners. He is trolling me a bit. Let’s see.
Russell: He wants to make sure you are not sleeping in the board meeting.
Joe: One of my favorite books on charisma is a book. I’m going to have to look up the name here. Give me a second. One of my favorite books is, there is a book called The Way of the Superior Man. I like this book because it’s got a few really good insights in it. For me, I read this book about once a year just because I find it so interesting. Don’t let the title scare you away if you’re a woman. In fact, if you’re a woman, you should read this because it’ll help you understand the men in your life to a greater extent than I think a lot of self-help and development stuff might show you otherwise.
We talked earlier about being authentic is one of the best ways of being charismatic. Without that authenticity, people aren’t going to trust you. They’re going to wonder are you for real? This book at least for me broke down what it’s like to be a man in modern society, what you need to know, and helped me figure out. I remember there is a chapter in the book that says, Pretend your father is gone, that he’s dead, that he has no more influence on you. What are you going to do now? I had to sit with that one for a while because my dad is one of my heroes. He is an important figure in my life. We also go about life in different ways. When I read that chapter, I remember going like, “You know, I’m going to choose this path for my life rather than another one.” It’s an important book, I think, that people may not consider to be a leadership and influence book, but it helps you to discover yourself a bit more, especially as a man, but also again as a woman to understand yourself, too. We also have masculine and feminine parts of ourselves. Identities that we play into. Really good book. I would recommend that one to people.
Hugh: Can I punctuate that, Russ? Joe, what generation are you in? Russell and I, we’re both boomers, aren’t we?
Russell: Yep. We are crusty. We have been around for a long time. I plan to be around for a lot longer.
Hugh: Crusty. So which generation are you in, Joe?
Joe: I believe it’s X. And maybe on the cusp of millennial.
Hugh: Russell and I are champions of transformational leadership. You’re anchored in your authenticity. You model, you practice what you preach. You model what you want to see. As a musical conductor, that comes back to me instantly. Your culture is what they see in you. Authenticity is a real key. When you talk about millennials, that is a key factor. It’s a key factor, I think, more than any other generation. They don’t want to put up with the BS they have seen us boomers create. We are on our way out of some corporate jobs and church jobs and nonprofit jobs. They come in with a whole different sense. There is a similar set of values. When you’re looking at this community of collaborative thinking, how does this authenticity-? That is a really interesting book. I am hearing you talk about reading it again. I want to probe that authenticity as far as generations, how does that affect collaborations? As you read the book, tell me if you see different things every time you look at it.
Joe: I’ll answer the last question first. I see different things out of it every time I read it because I am a different person every time I read it. That is not the only book I read. My viewpoints change. My life changes. My circumstances change. I had a son a few years ago. When I- before having him and after having him, my life drastically changed in terms of the things I was doing, the businesses I had, and all kinds of stuff. But some of my risk tolerances changed for instance, like I used to go skydiving and motorcycle riding. You name an extreme or dangerous sport. I was there. Kite surfing. You name it. After I had my son, I said, “You know what? I’m going to hold off on that for a while.” I know there are people who would agree with that. I know there are people who would disagree. A bunch of the people I used to do things with were like, “What? Just because you have a kid, that doesn’t change.” But honestly it changed for me. What’s most important to me is going to be less important perhaps to someone else. To me, some of my most important values are family and freedom. I like to spend time with my family. I like to be the man around the house that’s fixing my house. I fix stuff around here all the time. My life changed, and so in reading that book again, I got the one chapter I talked about, imagine your father is dead, I imagined myself as being dead and what I would want my son to know. I wrote some stuff down in a letter. It’s in a fireproof safe or whatever. If I was ever gone prematurely, my son could get hopefully some of my wisdom passed along to him in some way. The book doesn’t change, but I change enough that I notice different things in the book. It makes all the difference. That’s why I read it about once a year.
In terms of your other question, authenticity between generations, I don’t think people are less authentic or more authentic between these generations. I think that technology has made certain things a bit more magnified than they were in the past. You look at stuff like: We’re on Facebook live right now. Potentially thousands of people could be seeing this at the moment, whereas right now we are talking as this is a personal conversation between us three. These kinds of things have changed the social dynamics of where we’re at generationally but also just as human beings. Normally, this would just be between us, and we’d get a good impression of each other. Maybe we’d learn some things, and we’d go off to our separate activities. Now this is recorded. People can watch this over and over. Hundreds of people are watching this outside of just us three. We have a different take. Human beings, when we know we are being recorded, when we know someone else can listen to this later, we edit our speech. We do these things commonly.
I have gotten to the point in my life where it’s like this is me. This is who I am. I’m going to express myself in the best way that I know how. Like I said, I’m not Oprah, nor do I want to be. I’m Joe. Nice to meet you. If one of my business partners Marcus was on here, he’d be joking with you guys a bit more. He’s the more funny guy of our little group, and we love him for it. Marcus exudes this charisma in his own special way. Another partner of mine, Johnny, he’s the hard-charging, intense guy that if you ever want something done, ask Johnny because he will just get it done until it’s done. I am more the reserved type, but it works for all of us.
If there is much of a generational gap, it’s just because people have different values. They have different ideas of what they think life should be like, how they should conduct themselves. If you just look at the other person and look at what they care about the most, what they value, you’ll find you have a lot more in connection than you think. You guys have probably seen the movie The Breakfast Club for instance. There is the stoner kid. There is the outcast. There is the jock. There is the whatever. Ostensibly, we all went through that kind of high school experience. Many of these groups don’t really come together. All of these kids had detention on the weekend. It sucks. They’re there, but they’re all different. What they come to realize of course is that they’re all very similar. They all have the same struggles in life. They all have hard things going on. They all realize they can support each other. It’s a great movie, a great metaphor for how I think different social groups and generations can come together and realize we are all human beings. We are all here to live our lives. We are all here to connect with people. We are all here to collaborate, communicate, do all those good things. When you realize that powerful things can happen.
Russell: These are the types of tools I use working with people. These are the tools we use with SynerVision: try to look at how all these different pieces and parts put together. The strength comes in the variety and diversity across different areas of knowledge, different skills, different personalities. The more you have, to find that common ground is phenomenal. This is what collaboration is about. I think a lot of people are afraid to look at collaborating because they feel that there is a piece of something that they’re going to lose out on if they collaborate with other people. It’s a scarcity mindset. Have you found that in business in general? I know we find it in nonprofits. What are some of the things you do to help people get comfortable with that and back up and understand how the differences that people have aren’t as scary as they think they are?
Joe: Yeah. You’re totally right. The differences that people have are actually their strengths. An example I use when I talk about collaboration is when I was running a team in Atlanta, great city if you’re ever there or want to go there, it’s awesome—I was working for this really large corporation. Being a management consultant, I am staying in a hotel all week and living out of a suitcase. The hotel gives these little soaps and shampoos. I don’t have a lot of hair. It’s not long. I only need very little.
Russell: It could be worse.
Joe: It could be worse, right? But hey, I don’t need a lot of shampoo. I definitely don’t need all the lotion they give you. It’s hot and humid down there. I’m good. I would often just look at these and leave them in the room or throw them away. One day, I went, “There’s got to be something I can do with these.” I set up a box. I had about 40 employees working for me at the time. I set up this box in our team room. 40 people in their hotel rooms at the end of the week would throw their extra shampoos and conditioners and the hotel stuff that the hotel was going to throw away anyway because they can’t really use this stuff. They put this all in a box. I went and took this box once it was full, it was just 100 pounds of stuff, I took it down to a local shelter and said, “Hey, this is for you guys.” They’re like, “Whoa, what’s this?” They got very excited because people need this hygiene stuff. “It’s here for you. Take it.”
That could have been the end of it. But I decided to- At Your Charisma Coach, we say, “Find your edge.” I went, “You know, this isn’t enough. I gotta go one step further.” What I did was I said, “I am going to come next time with another box of this. Would you mind when I do this if I called up a news producer here in Atlanta, and we’ll do a little news segment on your work here? I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about you. But that will use what I’m doing as the in because it’s news-worthy to do this.” They said, “Yeah, absolutely.” In the next month or so, I got enough of these bottles again and called up a news producer and said, “I am going to go down to this thing. I am donating 100 pounds of shampoo, conditioner, all that stuff. I think it would be interesting if you talked to these people, interviewed them, talked about why this was important to them, how it is going to help, and everything else.” The news producer said, “Absolutely, this is great. I’ll meet you down there.”
I met them down there, and I had the nonprofit do a quick interview about why this helps, what we were doing. I got on screen for a few minutes, not even a few minutes, like 30 seconds, and said, “Hi, I am a local guy doing this. I think it’s important to support our local communities.” That kind of stuff. Through that news story, a ton of the hotels around have consultants there. They all started their own programs to be able to do this. It got to the point where this particular organization couldn’t handle any more of the donations, so they started sending them out to other organizations in the city. The word got back to my corporate headquarters. They started doing this in every other city that they were in. This consulting company was all around the world. Around the world, people unlocked this potential.
What’s the key takeaway there? I looked at this as abundant thinking. I have this resource. I’m not using it. Maybe someone else can. The news media needs a story for the day. Great. I helped them create a story. That story helped influence a ton of people to say, “I could do that, too,” and they started doing that. Everyone in the community got to raise up. I couldn’t have done that on my own. I couldn’t be buying thousands of dollars of shampoo and donating it. Sure, I could do that. That would be where it stops. Instead of forcing myself to do that or forcing my employees to do that, I said, “Guys, I’m going to do this first If you want to join me, great. Then I will have other people get involved with their unique skills, gifts, abilities, and talents. We are all going to collaborate together.”
When I look at companies and they say, “I don’t know how to communicate or collaborate. They’ll take my clients or my customers away,” I’d say, “Look to find someone who you can partner with. Look for someone to collaborate with who can do something you can’t.” You guys together, one’s chocolate, one’s peanut butter, together, you’re even better. Why not look at life that way where it’s a positive sum game? The more that you put in and collaborate with people, the more you will get out than you would individually.
Russell: Abundant thinking. That sounds like a quality that leaders should have, especially nonprofit leaders. How do you help them tap into the notion of abundant thinking? Put that into practice.
Joe: Oh boy. That would take perhaps a little while longer than we have here, but I’ll give the short answer. When you are collaborating with people, one of the best ways to do that is to listen to them, to find out what they actually need and want. When I want to collaborate more with people, individuals or businesses, for instance, a friend of mine was looking for a job. She has a decent one already. She just didn’t like where she’s at. She feels she is stagnating there; she wants to grow. I took it upon myself without her asking- A couple friends of mine are looking to hire in the same kind of role she is in. I sent them a message that said, “Hey, you need to reach out to this person because this person is great. They can do really good work. They are kind of looking for a move, but they don’t know where to go yet. Can you reach out to them for 10 minutes and talk to them?” Fast forward a week later. I get this call, like, “I just got this offer from apparently a friend of yours? What did you do?” We say this at Your Charisma Coach as well. We try to put rabbits in hats. The other phrase is we put treasure in a chest. She didn’t ask me to do this. I didn’t have to do this. I look for opportunities to say, “How can I serve this person? How can I make it so that they’ll get to shine in their own lives?” In a five-minute, ten-minute call from me to a couple of friends of mine, I got her a great job. She loves where she’s at. My friends as well who had the company are ecstatic because they have someone who wasn’t really even on the market. They didn’t even know they were looking for her. They got a great fit. That was my gift essentially to all of them. I looked at it as like, Could I have gotten a fee for doing that? I recruited her. Sure. But the best way to collaborate with people is that you just give to them. You don’t have a need to collaborate with them.
I don’t really want to collaborate with people. I’m not going to say, “Will you please collaborate with me?” It’s more like I am out there doing cool stuff in the world. I want to make it so people are knocking down my door to collaborate with me. Do something interesting.
Going back, be authentic. Be the organization, the person that you are in life, in the world, and people then kind of show up. At Your Charisma Coach, we have people emailing us, “How can I work for you? How can we intern for you? I will do unpaid work. I don’t care what it is. I just want to be around you and absorb whatever it is that you have and maybe some of it will rub off on me.” We don’t actually go out and look for most of these things. People show up because we are being who we are. That is so interesting to people. It’s so, for lack of a better word, charismatic to people that they will want to collaborate with you. If you are having trouble collaborating with someone, look to yourself, be someone who you would want to collaborate with, and you’ll find people starting to come out of the woodwork. Then all it takes is a dose of creativity.
The example I gave before is, I had something that was going to waste. I guarantee you there is waste in your organization in some other way that it’s something you’re doing, or something like this, a conversation between high-level business people that would normally just be between them, record it, send it to an audience. Some people will like that. Other people won’t. That’s okay. But you will find people who resonate with those kinds of things you’re doing. They will want to contribute and collaborate. There will always be people who want to compete and tear things down. I don’t really pay attention to them. I look for the people who want to create more in life, to make something better in the world. I go, “You’re doing that. Great.”
There is a charity in the UK. It’s called The Loneliness Project. We are looking to do some collaborations with them as well. We’re not going to be like, “Please collaborate with us.” We are going, “Hey, we’re helping people be more charismatic. Your message and our message are closely aligned. If you’d like to work with us, great. If you wouldn’t, great. We will still support you anyway. We hope to send some people and some attention your way.” We’re there to give. We’re there to give all the time. We are not looking to force anyone into some interaction with us, but just to have fun.
Hugh: Joe, speaking of drilling down on nonprofits, charities, for-purpose organizations, there is not really experience and knowledge on collaboration. We’re duplicating efforts with multiple charities in the community. They are competing for donor dollars. What do you think is the bridge to help similar charities that are even local or around the country, what is the barrier that charities, leaders in nonprofits need to consider to break through to- Russell and I see collaboration as opening up a vault to a lot more success. What is the biggest barrier, and what is the antidote to that?
Joe: The biggest barrier to collaboration? I’d say the biggest barrier to collaboration is value misalignment. If you value one thing and I value another, then it’s gonna be difficult for us to collaborate. I would say don’t partner with those kinds of people. Don’t collaborate with them. You just won’t have a good time. You could make it work. You could force things to happen. But again, that is force versus influence. But if you both want the same thing, if you both have the same kind of mission, then it’s easy for you to say, “You know what? There is more than enough donor dollars to go around.” Believe me, there is. There is so much cash available in the world; it’s just finding it and creating it in some cases that becomes the interesting challenge.
Hugh: Sometimes the people who have the closest alignment, the most similar values, the most overlapping missions, see each other as competitors. Besides if they are aligned, what are some more barriers to thinking collaboratively from a leadership standpoint?
Joe: That scarcity mindset of there is so many donor dollars to go around. That is just a belief. It’s not true. I haven’t seen that to be true in my experience. That is one of the biggest things that stops people from collaborating. They think that they do that. I think also another example is that many people don’t have examples of how to do this. They don’t know. It just doesn’t occur to them that it might be possible to collaborate with another organization that maybe has a very similar mission or a very different one. They just don’t do it. It’s like saying, “Well, I didn’t consider that I could use my car to drive to the store, but I drive to work every day.” It’s the same stuff. You’re just going to a different kind of destination. With organizations, often I tell them, “You can look outside of the nonprofit sphere for people you can connect with and collaborate with if that is where you want to start.”
One way that is really great is something that I’ve done in the past with nonprofits and with larger corporations. This is a model that comes from a guy named Brendan Brouchard. What he does is similar to my hotel story where if you’re some kind of a business or creator or someone that has a product or service that a nonprofit would be interested in, or if you’re the nonprofit and you’re interested in someone’s services- Let’s say Tony Robbins has some special seminar that you’d love all your people to attend, but Tony Robbins’ stuff is high-end, it’s expensive, so maybe you don’t have the money to pay for that out of donations, or maybe your donors wouldn’t like that. So what can you do? Add a third party. Let’s say the Red Cross. Or scale this up and down to the size of your organization and who you can access. Let’s use some well-known examples. If you’re the Red Cross and you say, “I want to send 10,000 people to a Tony Robbins event,” great. How do we pay for this? How do we get this done? Tony needs to make some money to put this on at the very least. We need to get people excited and invited. But let’s add in a third party. Let’s call up Coca-Cola who really cares about people being able to buy Coca-Cola around the world. They have millions and millions of advertising budget for instance. Bigger corporations like Coca-Cola literally have entire teams whose job it is to help put funds in the right place to nonprofits. If you don’t know that, go research it. It’s pretty interesting. What a nonprofit or company who wants to offer this service can do is go out to the nonprofit or vice versa and say, “Can we use your name?” If Tony Robbins said, “Can I use your name, Red Cross, to go to Coca-Cola and say, ‘I want to put on this cool event.’”
I did this for a local charity in LA. We created an event where we got a bunch of local businesses around LA to bring a lot of their employees and to donate some money to an event. This event was teaching charisma, soft skills, those kinds of things to the particular people who were 18-25-year-olds. They are called the transition age youth. They have aged out of foster care. They are technically adults. After 18 and up until 25 is this age range. They are in a very vulnerable age when you come from a disadvantaged home, life. These people are looking for jobs. They are looking to get out there in the work force. They are good kids. They want to do things right. What we did is we said, “We are going to bring these kids. They are going to come for free.” These businesses around LA, we said, “Please either sponsor the event, and we will put in a small advertisement in a flyer, or pay for a ticket and have your people come. It’s still useful, great information for your employees, for your leaders to get in on.”
Fast forward to the event. We had what amounted to a training event. At this training event, everyone got to learn greater skills on how to communicate better, how to collaborate better, how to connect with their fellow human beings. These kids got to learn a ton of stuff they wouldn’t have learned otherwise. These companies got access to young, fresh employees who are great people. They wouldn’t have known about each other otherwise. We put them together in a mentoring relationship during this weekend. The more seasoned employees got to sponsor and mentor a younger kid. Everyone really loved it. It’s now an event that runs every year and has continually grown. We took this spirit of collaboration. We said, “This nonprofit can ask for donors. That’s great. This company can try to advertise to these people. That’s great. I as a businessperson can try and get into these groups and maybe partner with them. That’s great. But all three of us together can do so much more.” Once this started going, they now understand this model, so they have taken it out. I know one of their executives left the organization and is now at another one, doing the same thing in another city. These ideas, these means start to spread out into the world.
If you are looking to collaborate, look beyond just your local experience. Go out into the world and say, “Who has what I want?” Your problem I guarantee you is someone else’s solution. You’ll be able to find someone who wants to contribute to you in a meaningful way.
Hugh: Russell, this last seven minutes has been a capsule of possibilities. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking we need to get on the phone with Joe Homs and see if there is a collaboration with SynerVision that we can pop out of a bubble and put some of these things to work.
Joe: I’ll show you how.
Hugh: Joe, I have to be the hard nose guy here. We have come up to the end of our interview. We try to keep these under an hour. It is fascinating. We could talk to you all day. Russell, thank you for inviting him here.
I think we are going to try to get you to write for Nonprofit Performance Magazine. I think there’s a story brewin’. What do you think, Russell?
Russell: Oh yes. He’s done a lot with that. We talked at some length a little while back when I bounced the idea to him about the podcast. We talked about a number of different projects and the power of collaboration. The time has come for that. It’s really time for all of us to point our thinking in that direction. The business networks I’m in do that. The organizations I’ve been working with do the same thing.
Hugh: For those listening, go to email@example.com. Send us an email if you are interested in having a conversation. Our new website will be up soon. SynerVisionLeadership.org is up now just as a placeholder. But we have a lot more in our community for community builders.
Before Russell closes us out, Joe, what would you like to leave our listeners with?
Joe: Given that we are talking about community and leadership, a lot of leaders and organizations think they have to be really impressive to make an impression out there, to get donor dollars. I would say if you are going down the impression route, you’re going to run into most likely the fact that it’s going to be inauthentic in some way. People are going to lose the congruence that you have. Instead, look to express yourself in the world. Don’t worry about what other people think. Don’t worry about how you’re going to be judged. Just be you. Be that person in the senior living home that is like, “I don’t even care. I am just going to show you what I’ve got. This is me. Take it or leave it.” Think about all the most interesting people you know from celebrities like Oprah to even just the guy next door that you think is fascinating. Every one of them does not care what you think about them. They’re just out there expressing themselves. I would say if you are going to be a leader in your organization, go first. Express yourself. Be who you really are. I know that is the best worst advice ever. Just be yourself, right? The reason people say that is because you are enough. You are everything you need. Express that in the world, and look to be the most relaxed, easy person in any conversation you’re in. You will be more charismatic than you think. If I can leave you guys with that, that is what I would leave you with.
Russell: Great stuff. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk with you. I am looking forward to talking with you some more because I have some tools we want to provide to these nonprofit leaders out here. Thank you out there, all of you, who got out of bed this morning with the thought of how you can do something to make other people’s lives better. What and why are you doing your job today? How is none of your business. Trust. Trust and move forward. Pick up the tools, and you’ll have it.
This is Russell Dennis signing off. Joe Homs, thanking him again. My good-looking colleague, Hugh Ballou. There was a point in time where he was jealous of my naturally curly hair. Once he got over that, he decided he’d like to have me hang out with him and be here with all of you great folks every week. Keep doing what you’re doing. The world is becoming a better place every day, every day that you’re out here, swinging and going out here and doing a service and being you. This is Russ Dennis signing off. We will see you right here next week.
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