Watch the Interview
Connect with Your Authentic Purpose: Think. React. Lead.
with Dom Faussette
Executive Coach, Leadership Speaker and best selling author Dom Faussette… has been to HELL and back. Dom is a military veteran and prior Police Officer with 10+ years of corporate leadership experience. Dom is the CEO of ThinkReactLead. ThinkReactLead is a company dedicated to pushing people past their limiting beliefs by bridging the gap between their mind and heart for increased success.
► Tenured Executives with a desire to operate within their purpose
► C-Level Executives who have an unfulfilled passion
► Higher Educated Professionals with positions that aren’t commensurate with their degrees
Specialties: Leadership Speaking / Training and Facilitating / Motivational Speaking / Executive Coaching / Corporate Facilitator
For More about Dom https://thinkreactlead.com
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis again for another great session of The Nonprofit Exchange. As usual, we have a really cool person as a guest today. We are going to get right into it. Russ, how are you today?
Russell Dennis: I’m fabulous out here in the mountain west. It’s a beautiful sunny day. It’s a little cooler. We have gotten some much-needed moisture. Life is as good as each of us lets it be, whatever the weather is doing.
Hugh: You’re always an inspiration. Our guest today is Dom Faussette. We just met a couple of, three weeks ago, a couple days, we decided we wanted to keep talking, so I invited him on our podcast because his message is so unique. Dom, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.
Dom: Hugh and Russ, thank you very much for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Hugh: I know a little about you. Of course, Russell does really good research before we have a guest. There are a lot of folks wondering how Dom, I don’t know about Dom. Tell folks who is Dom? Give us your story.
Dom: All right, it’s a high-level overview. Dom Faussette is my name, as I was introduced by Russ and Hugh. I have a company called Think React Lead. Where did that come from? How did all of this come about? From the age of five all the way through, even now, I stutter. It’s something that I learned to deal with or overcome, if you will. Once I got out of high school, I joined the military. I became canine in the air Force. Once I got out of the Air Force, I became a police officer. I was a police officer in Jackson, Mississippi. I did my time there. Things didn’t- Let’s just say this. Being a police officer is not as easy as it might look on television growing up. As a kid, I wanted to be a police officer. That looks like fun; it would be a great job. You see some things that change who you are as a person. Sometimes, first responders engage in certain things that change adversely their life or somebody else’s life. When those things happen, some police officers or first responders stay. I chose to put my two weeks’ notice in.
I jumped into the corporate space, really not knowing what I was doing, but I did very well in the corporate space. I was in corporate leadership for approximately fourteen years. After my book launch, my podcast launch, I realized, You know what? I have a good base of clients. The book of business is good. I am traveling and speaking. I can hang up my corporate coat and jump into this pool of entrepreneurship.
The pool read two feet, but I think the two zeros next to that two were missing. When I jumped in, I sank, and sank and sank and sank and sank. But here we are. 13 months later. I am starting to come to the top. At least my mouth and nose are above water. It’s a great place to be.
Hugh: Wow. Wow. Wow. You mentioned a book and website. Give us a hint as to what those two are.
Dom: My first book is Think React Lead: When Success and Accomplishments Aren’t Enough. I wrote that based off things I saw in law enforcement, things I saw in the corporate space. You see some successful people get pulled off on stretchers because of heart attacks by way of stress. You unfortunately respond when somebody has taken their own life, who on the outside looks like they have everything. You get a chance to hear all those stories, and your story in itself isn’t as bright as maybe it appears to be externally when success and accomplishments aren’t enough. That is why I wrote the book. My website is Think React Lead. Think React Lead spawned from a company that I currently have called Leaders for Leaders. The mantra for Leaders for Leaders is “Think like an executive, react like a soldier, and lead.” That for me is a culmination of my life. As long as I’m thinking, reacting, and leading, I stay in my lane, I stay mission-focused.
Hugh: There is a lot of overlap here. We are champions at SynerVision Leadership Foundation for transformational leadership. Transformational leadership was defined in the 1980s by two writers, Burns and Bass. A lot of it is about the context of leadership as a culture, which would be in my case symphony orchestra, but it could also be a military. You have clear objectives, tactics to get there, plus you have a highly skilled team that is rehearsed. I am amazed at working with organizations. Russ and I have probably 100 years collection of working with organizations. Many years of working with organizations, I am really surprised at how few leaders understand how to look at the long-term objective and create the tactical piece and then rally the troops around it to get to those objectives.
We are speaking to clergy and nonprofit leaders on this podcast. You are a clergy as well. You are ordained and have a church.
Hugh: You are also a speaker, an author, and I think you serve as a coach for leaders.
Dom: Yes, I am an executive coach, a speaker coach. Yes, sir.
Hugh: Great. Russ, he said sir. That is respecting my age and mental condition.
Russell: We just can’t make it through that broadcast without that excuse. I think we have made it through two in 18 months that I have been co-hosting.
Hugh: He is very polite. In your military, in your police, we have a lot of work that some of these leaders and social benefit organizations might relate to. You have really high-level skills. You have a really clear mission. You have a lot of people who understand the importance of your mission. There is a lot of pushback. What are some of the biggest leadership gaps you see today in any field?
Dom: Based off my experience in the corporate space, there’s the start to put the tactics together, as was mentioned to engage in let’s call it a mission or a process for an end result. Then we’ll go and gather the troops. What I have found that works best, and it’s less restful, is by leveraging my team well before I start the tactics and I start the mission. If I start from the beginning, so ground zero, build a foundation with my team, gain their insight, the reason why I do that is because I am huge on diversifying my associations. In the workplace, I am only able to think by way of my childhood, my law enforcement experience, my military experience, a little bit of college experience, and any other corporations I have worked for up until that point. If I leverage 20 other people, I am leveraging their past experiences as well. As we converge, and we plan out so we have a planning session, then I get their buy-in as they are sharing their ideas. I take employee #5 and implement a small idea. Employee #17 and implement a small idea. Then we go to our phase two of a planning session, where we have more things and objectives dialed in. They come to a place where they are adding value. Their leadership shows. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Their leadership shows. Guess what’s happening? We are cultivating a relationship. Now my direct reports are beginning to trust me as a leader, but I haven’t really done much. All I have done is brought my people together and created a more familial atmosphere, a familial environment. So when we finish all of the planning and now it’s time to implement, I don’t have to tell anybody what to do. Everybody knows their lane, if you will. Everybody for the most part should have buy-in because everyone has had a voice in the process.
Hugh: You know, Russ, we’ve had, Dom and I have had just a few conversations. We escaped the conference we were in and got a quick sandwich. In that short conversation while we were away, I discovered we had lots of resonance. What you may not be aware of, Dom, is you just articulated what we do in SynerVision Leadership Foundation. It’s really important with nonprofit boards. The planners and the doers are the same. There is nowhere in the Bible that God gave a vision to a committee. The leader has the vision. You can’t escape that. This is my vision for leadership. But then we employ all of those skills, just like you articulated, to create the strategy. We don’t go into tactics until we go into long-term objectives. Then we build strategies around it. There is where we build the synergy of the team. There is where we start doing our rehearsals in music terms or drills in military terms. We perfect the systems to integrate the strategy, which is a piece of paper, into performance, which is the tactical piece. It’s a concert, it’s a play, it’s a military tactic. You are so spot-on with what we teach and what we represent at SynerVision.
Russell, you have been spending some time on his website and listening to his podcast. I’m sure you have a really good question that is percolating up there. Or you have some observations about Dom and what we have talked about so far.
Russell: It’s really scary because I have been working on an article series. What he’s teaching, these are high-powered executives he’s working with. They do all of these things. Somewhere along the line, they never asked themselves, What’s that one thing? They didn’t stop to choose themselves. They are wildly successful by somebody else’s measure. That something that is missing is that one thing they never stopped and asked themselves what really matters to them. That’s a critical question for a nonprofit leader to ask. There are a lot of people counting on you. What is that one thing? If you miss that, you leave half your potential on the table.
Dom: I would agree. Totally agree.
Russell: The other thing is that good leaders and transformational leaders build other leaders. You just articulated that so well. It makes your life easier. I don’t understand why someone would resist, Hey look at it this way. If your team is really good that you can cut your 80-hour workweek down to 30 and leave early on Fridays, why don’t some leaders want that? Have you gotten a sense of why?
Dom: I have from my perspective. I arrived to that strategy. Before I got there, I was just a people person. Coming into the corporate space and having what some would deem as a successful career, there were times I was still dealing with PTSD and things I had to deal with. I had a great salary, and sometimes I would sleep in my closet at home. That was a very small space I could control. I had to go into work with a smile in my face.
One thing I learned as a police officer is one, when you get called, nobody wants you around. There is something adverse. Those people still have to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, so they go to work. Employees I’ve had, it could have easily been them. Sometimes it was them. When you’re the only cop in a building of 4,000 people and you’re a leader, people tend to share stories with you and have a lot of questions for you. When you get asked, “What do I do? I found three pounds of weed in my 14-year-old son’s closet,” or “What do I do? My daughter came home. She is not talking to me. I think she was molested.” These are real conversations I’m having on the sales floor. My life experience allowed me to connect with these people.
I had an employee come in late one time. It didn’t bother me that she was late because I know typically when somebody is late, there is something other than their being tardy going on in their life. She told me that sometimes her husband would take a mini blow torch to her inner thigh. That is a form of abuse. When I began to see these people, and I am going to do a side note here, some leaders forget what it’s like to live check to check. Some leaders forget what it’s like to wake up and your lights are turned off. Some leaders forget what it’s like not to be able to afford diapers for your children or have to make the decision between food and gas in your car to get to work. Leaders forget that their work force is barely making it. It’s for us as leaders to encourage and inspire and motivate those around us, not jump down their throat because their numbers are off. That’s not our job.
I built relationships with my peers. I was very active on social media. I would tell them I have nothing to hide in my life. You’re more than welcome to friend request me, unless it was a regulation issue at a company I worked for. That has never been for me. I worked for some pretty decent-sized banks. Then I got to the point of just, Hey can you help me out with this? When you have employees with Masters, double Masters, PhDs, hello, I am going to utilize that. I am going to leverage their expertise. I don’t have them. Just like you said, why would I overthink it? I have three brains for people who want to prove themselves to the whole companies. I don’t want to prove myself to the company. You guys come on in, and let’s put some white papers together. Let’s strategize and build the business and build out what the future looks like. It’s that Del Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It wasn’t influence; it was how to win friends. I was just as lonely as they were, so we worked well together.
Hugh: Wow. Wow. Russ, do you have something else there?
Russell: I like that. I like a little silence. There is a lot of power in silence by the way.
Dom: There is.
Russell: I start my day with 30-45 minutes of silence, just to notice where I’m at. That is a big piece of being a leader is being reflective and noticing where you’re at, not necessarily having any judgment around it, but noticing it. As I improve my skills at noticing where I’m at, my perception and intuition around where other people are has improved. We got our regular physical senses. The sight, sound, smell, touch, and hearing. We have six other inner senses that don’t really get a lot of press. They’re imagination, intuition, will, reason, memory, and perception. All of those inner senses come out in waves that we are not always conscious of.
As a leader and an observing leader, talk about how some of the leaders you have come across might use some of those inner senses.
Dom: I really think it comes from understanding your why. Yes, that sometimes is an exaggerated phrase. My why is because I want to change one life every day for the rest of my life. That has been my why for years now. I think leaders don’t deal with stress well. Whether they are a CEO of a small business or they are in a large corporation, I am a firm believer in leading from the inside of your door before you attempt to lead on the outside of your door because I have learned through trial and error that if home is right, life is right. So life is work, play, vacation, friendships. We spend so much time investing in school so that we can promote, investing in certifications so that we can promote, going to seminars and luncheons and networking events so we can promote. We are always trying to butter up the people above us and impress them so that we can promote. But when we come home, we don’t try to impress our spouses. We don’t try to impress our children with our character traits. I am talking honesty, integrity, loyalty, and service. If we were to just I would say flip that on its head and start the impressing and start the networking and start the luncheons and start the effective communicating at home and starting the fake smiles at home as opposed to doing it at work all day long, we would find that we would have less stress in the workplace. We are more sincere, we are more authentic as leaders, which is a buzz word in the industry, and we are more vulnerable.
This is one of the pivotal moments of me connecting with my team. I was in a meeting. I thought I was going to be late for work. My wife and I don’t argue, but I didn’t leave right. I got to work, and we had a two-hour meeting. I said, “Guys, gals, I’m sure I’m not the only one this has happened to.” I live two minutes down the road. “I said some things to my wife this morning I shouldn’t have said. I didn’t curse her out. I didn’t call her names. I didn’t feel right as I left. If you don’t mind, can you run the meeting? I am going to run home real fast, and I will be back in less than 30 minutes.” But when I came back, the look in their eyes was like, “Wow, he’s a real person, just like us.” I started to share with them. I don’t have to have all the answers. The 15 of us might not have them for a day, but guess what, there’s tomorrow. It’s okay.
Making employees feel comfortable around you, giving them your full attention, the same way you would for those of you who are married, remember when you met your spouse? Day one, hour one, minute one, you gave them all of your attention because there was a connection there. There was a like. If you like your employees, it’s not their job to like you, it’s your job to like them and give them something about you to like.
Hugh: Sometimes, Dom, in my world, there are a lot of answers, and there is a discernment period to figure out what the right answer is or the next right answer. There is a discernment piece. Leaders have too much pressure in thinking A) we have to have all the answers when no, if the team is going to own it, just like you were talking about, they need to participate in sorting out the options and coming up with the answer that would serve the needs of the organization and not only individual needs. This is really good stuff.
The motto you got behind you, “Think. React. Lead.” How did you arrive at those three words to define you?
Dom: It stemmed from a couple situations, all the same type of situation. In short, there were times I could kick in a door either to serve a warrant or to get the other side of the door. I breached a door. I was under the assumption that there were two people inside based off of intel I received or whatever I saw from the outside going in. When I kicked in the door, there would be three or four people sitting in there, which in that moment, I don’t have the luxury of saying, “You know what? I’ll be right back. Obviously there are more people here than I expected. I am going to go get some bigger guys than me, some artillery, and you guys sit still.” That is not something I can do. In the moment, right before you kick in the door, you think. The moment your foot touches the door and the door kicks in, you react. Now, you may not be reacting based off what you thought, but your training positions you to react because it’s either them or it’s me. You see two people. You know how to react. If you plan on two and there is four, you still know how to react.
What I have found is that reacting comes from your emotions. We typically in my experience react to training. We react to things we have learned. We react to things inside ourselves, our intuition. Intuition would be kicking in the door. You see two guys over here unarmed, two guys over here, one has a handgun, the other guy has a rifle. The rifle is shaking, and the guy with the handgun is still. I am going to engage the guy with the handgun first because the other three to me aren’t really threats in that moment. That is reacting. As you are reacting and take action, that is leading.
Leadership is influence, as I have stated. The influence in this scenario is me coming out on top, me scaring the individuals so much with my sheer presence that I am obviously still able to be alive to this day. I wouldn’t suggest that on anybody else. That is not the proper way to do that. That is a very out there example.
But that is where Think React Lead stemmed from. As I got softer in life, which took me forever to get here, a more relatable person, not so externally tough, I applied it in a way that others can apply it to their lives. Think. Let’s not spend a lot of time here. Decision-making. Of course, none of you, but how many of us have gone to McDonald’s, and we see the same menu year after year after year, minus the McRib. It doesn’t change, but we stand here and we are looking at this menu. Well, make a decision. Thinking and making a decision, those two go hand in hand. As we learn to implement decision-making and being okay with our decisions that we make, we get more comfortable with thinking and reacting to the thoughts that we have. We become a leader in all aspects of our life.
Hugh: What I have heard often, and part of what we teach is to respond. Sometimes leaders react in a negative way. Their emotions are triggered, and they do something that creates negative results unintentionally. You’re helping me rethink this. If you build a culture, have cultural norms, have very sound principles that you will use, then part of what we do is we have old habits. I mentioned a rehearsal before. You rehearse a new routine, so you are reacting to some of those cultural norms. When a platoon drills together, and you have been in combat in the military and in the police force-
Dom: Not in the military, just close quarters combat in the police force. Not in the military.
Hugh: Okay. The bonding that happens when you are with your colleagues in that setting. There is a norm of functioning together because of that. We don’t have that in the corporate or the nonprofit work space because we are not unified in what we are doing together. Part of that bonding is the reactive piece in a positive way. I’m being challenged here to rethink the contrast between react and response. Let me kick it back to you and ask why you chose react rather than respond.
Dom: I chose “react” over “respond” because “respond,” in law enforcement, if I get a call, two out of five, “Shots fired on 1st and Central.” Responding is just getting there. If I just show up with my police car, I am responding. But reacting is what happens when you get there. That is why I chose “react” over “respond.” Respond to me is a soft word. It’s the approach. It’s almost the bridge between thinking and reacting. You think, then your body goes to respond, but the goal here is to eliminate the response so you mentioned negative emotions. If you address those emotions and find ways to either get rid of them one by one or utilize them in your favor for others, then you won’t respond negatively.
Or as I challenged some of my leaders to do in the past was go throughout the day without saying “I.” If you can go an hour without saying “I,” all of your conversations will be about the other person. All of them. That is a habit I created. I learned that when I was canine. We were deployed with your canine, your dog, at a military working dog, you don’t get to talk to anybody else. It’s just you and your dog. There is no partners. That is your partner. When we talk to our dogs or our pets, we don’t say “I.” It’s so simple. We walk into the house after a long day. Oh my gosh, how are you? That’s not my voice or yours. We get on your knees, or we pick up the dog. We talk to them as if they can’t respond. But they are responding. They are tail wagging. Their tongue is hanging out of their mouth. They are showing you they love you. We don’t talk to our pets with “I did this,” and “I am this. “I am so awesome. I hate my life.” We don’t do that with our animals. Why should we do it with people? If we were to treat, and I will say this so it’s not taken the wrong way, if we were to treat people with the same love that we treat our animals with, or even a dog running across the street, we will stop traffic and be late to work just to get a dog out of the street. Yet we won’t stop our negative emotional traffic to help out a human.
Hugh: Interesting. Interesting juxtaposition. Russ, what are you thinking here?
Russell: I get that with the difference between “react” and “respond.” Responding assumes that I have time to decide how to show up. Reacting, a leader doesn’t always get time. Look at the type of crisis that could show up for a nonprofit. For example, you could be running a day care or some other organization that works with children. You find out one of the children has been molested. You have to take action right then and there. You don’t always have time to work slowly. By building certain responses, it’s how you show up as a person. First by choosing your self. That’s what Dom did. He first chose himself. Then he asked what is that one thing, what is that one thing I have to do? As a result, he’s got a way for leaders to improve themselves, to put practices in there that work. A lot of these things are difficult because of their absolute simplicity. It escapes us because it’s so simple. If I want to get along, here we go, the I word, to build better relations with other people, trying to be the person that my cat thinks I am might be the way to go. Our pets don’t put any conditions on us. They are just loving. I would love to have other people feel that way when I walk into a room. I suspect a lot of us would. How can I make other people feel that way without letting them off the hook for things they are responsible for? That is encouraging them to choose themselves and to find out what that one thing is and to bring that all together in what we are trying to do together. The mission of the nonprofit. What is that one thing that we have got to do? Sometimes that is the only thing that can break up some office drama or get us through law jams or complications. Go back to the one thing. It keeps people from getting stuck in conditions and getting stuck in ruts and going back to the whole traffic analogy. Some days I think people just get out of bed to be on the highway in a certain point. Then I remember 99.99% of what people do doesn’t have anything to do with me. The truth of myself is taking what is larger and saying, “You don’t have to take this personally. How do I show up?” It’s about how I show up. People make commitments to other people they won’t make to themselves, which is probably why your program is needed, especially among these power brokers who drive, drive, drive, succeed, succeed, succeed. There is just that something, that gut-wrenching something, never chose themselves, never really focused on what’s that one thing.
Dom: I’m sorry. Go ahead, Hugh.
Hugh: No, go ahead.
Dom: When we ask ourselves, hopefully we ask ourselves, what’s that one thing, one of the things I have found, a question that I have asked that is challenging for people, is who are you? Where I grew up, if something didn’t go right, who do you think you are? That was a question. Immediately, you either answered it as you combatted that situation, or you didn’t, which makes you look a certain way. That means you lost. I have asked people who are you. They will start. I am a CEO. I am an executive. I am a graduate from this place. They go down these lists of things that I’m like, you named 12 things. I can take all of those and put them on somebody else: your school, you’re a husband, you’re a father. Those are titles. I can put that on somebody else. They will give me this perplexed look. I will ask, “What is the last time you were happy?”
I had an executive, a young lady. She was 40. She said, “The last time I was happy was Christmas morning. When I saw my kids open these gifts.” I said, “I love the answer. But if I were to give those gifts to your kids, would their response be the same?” Not 100%, but very close to 100%, it would be. I said, “Were you happy, or were you seeing the fruits of your labor, and you were happy for them? When was the last time you were happy?” She thought about it, and she could not come up with an answer.
Most American males have owned a bike, and we remember our first bike. Then we remember learning how to do a wheelie on the bike. Then we remember doing the wheelie in front of the neighborhood girl that we liked. That happiness in that moment or whether you shot a basketball in a hoop, something in front of some girl you liked at your school, it happened to everybody. That is happiness. But as we get older, we lose that.
I had a psychiatrist tell me. She said, “When was the last time you were happy?” That was where I got that question from. I said, “I don’t know. I’m not here to be happy.” I was a little frustrated, a little angry. That’s why I was there. But whatever. She just said, “When was the last time you were happy?” I said, “You know what? My dad used to skateboard. I used to skateboard. That made me happy.” She told me to purchase a skateboard. I went and purchased a skateboard. You can’t skateboard angry. It’s a horrible look. It doesn’t go. You look constipated. I kept skateboarding. I remember the first time I just smiled just because. It felt good. It’s simple. Those simple things.
We forget to bridge the gap between our mind and our heart because we spend so much time on a syllabus. Kindergarten all the way through college. Then we try to do that in the corporate space or in the space you guys operate in, the nonprofit space. It’s all here. It’s all here. Then we end up losing ourselves. The only way we know how to be of value is by validating who we are. That’s why our conversations start with “I.” I used to start all my conversations in the first 30 seconds with “I’m a cop.” That sounds so dumb in hindsight. But we do that. “I graduated summa cum laude.” Who cares? We’re all here. Your summa cum whatever it was got yourself here. We are on the road, and none of us really know what we’re doing. Some of us don’t like each other, and we don’t know how to effectively communicate. We don’t know how to get along. It’s costing us money. But we’re smiling.
Hugh: It’s interesting, when you go to a social gathering how far into the conversation before somebody says, “What do you do?” I want to know who you are first. Then what you do is not who you are.
I experienced Dom Faussette as a person that is precise. You are definitive, you’re focused. Even the three words that you chose. Walk us through those three words because that is begging or inspiring or focusing us to being precise. Think. React. Lead. Walk us through those three points and why those are important.
Dom: I break them down into percentages. Think. My goal as I’m working with people is to have a whole situation for you to think, react, lead through. Think should be about 5% of your time spent. When you’re dialed in, 5% of your time. Reacting should be 80% of your time. The leading part should be 15% of your time. The reason why I utilize those, again, thinking is decision-making. Make a decision. Be okay with the decision. And move forward.
Growing up, starting at the age of 11, I was not allowed to use the words “I don’t know.” Any time my mom asked me a question, I had to think about my answer. She would say, “You can’t say I don’t know.” I got the hint shortly thereafter. I grew up in the ‘80s, a different time period. I was not allowed to say “I don’t know.” Now I don’t say it. I come up with an answer. Whatever my answer is, I take that and react.
The reacting part, that is where the intuitiveness and fortitude comes into play. That is where the additional decision-making comes into play. That is where the fervor, the hard work, the effort, the integrity, all those character traits, they come into play because every left, right, left, or left right left, every step you take is a closer step to accomplishing a goal. As you’re doing this, you’re creating this level of influence around you. Again, leadership is influence.
That leads me into that last 15% of think, react, lead, which is lead. Leader or leading is more of the after effect of what you’ve done during your reacting period. It’s almost like that’s where you leave your legacy. Now your troops are following you. Your staff is following you. Your direct reports, or your leadership is following you. This is where you are an influence. This is more of a heartfelt space because the work has been done. Now it’s enjoying the fruits of your labor. You’re leading through that phase or that process.
Hugh: Very well put. Go back to when you paused after the word “influence.” Say a little more about leadership and influence, would you?
Dom: John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” I use it often because subconsciously we allow ourselves to believe that a position is leadership. No, a position is a position. It’s what you do in the position that allows you to have true influence. Yes, initially, if I get hired by an organization and they introduce you to an officer, that title is going to give me a certain level of influence. But just like the honeymoon phase, it goes away pretty quick. You have to do something during that time frame, that first week or two, to prove to your staff, your employees, the people you work with, your peers that you are truly a leader, not by way of your position. Anybody can fill a position. Everybody can’t do the position the way that a great leader does it. Somebody who is influential. A person should be able to walk into a room and be so dialed in on who they are, but acknowledging so much who the people in their environment are, so their room, their boardroom or office, that they just lead with their heart. How many times have either one of you heard somebody say, “There is just something about you.” They say it with this face of sincerity, this feeling of, they’re in awe because it’s refreshing to meet somebody like you. You just seem trustworthy.
I’m working with this CEO out of Santa Barbara, and I fly out there every couple of months to do staff development. Apparently she had been watching my videos on Instagram. We have a three travel time agreement. She said, “It took me too long to find somebody that I can trust. I’m not letting you go. We will continue to work after this.” That to me was great because online it’s very hard to decipher who is who. But I found if you’re consistent and you’re comfortable with who you are, as long as who you are is who you see yourself being 30 years from now, that’s who you attract. I’m vulnerable, and I’m authentic. I talk about the fact that I stutter and I have Turret’s. Those are things I am comfortable talking about. I talk about them because I am not the only one. Everybody has something. I just don’t hide mine. The more we become comfortable with who you are as a leader, and the more you can share some of your faults and not where you graduated from and all of your wins, the more you will connect with people, and you will be a greater influence.
Hugh: Very well put. Very well put. We as people of influence shape the cultures that we lead. If we’re not leading with authenticity, it will come back to us in the reflection of what we are representing. There is a saying in the orchestra, if they respect the conductor, they play as the conductor intends. If they do not respect the conductor, they play exactly as the conductor conducts.
Dom: Ooh. That’s true of leadership. That goes across all boards.
Hugh: What they see is what I get in terms of a choir and orchestra. It’s a reflection of the leader. Those are a lot of really good points. We got time for another couple of questions. Russ, do you want to shoot one in before I hit him hard?
Russell: I’m supposed to be the neighborhood bully, but I guess you decided to seize control of that whole thing. It’s okay. It’s your show. I’m just hanging out here.
The one response to that thing that you talked about with people meeting you and there’s that something, the proper response to that is, “Thank you.” A lot of people miss that. They feel they have to go behind and convince- These folks are already sold on you. There is no sales job to be done. There is no convincing to be done. But sometimes folks have to convince themselves that what others are saying is true. This authenticity leaks out. It’s not something that you can manufacture or something you can hide. It comes out of choosing yourself and thinking about that one thing that cannot connect you to people. It’s about relationships and connection. That’s what’s important, especially in a climate now where people are sniping at one another. We seem to be losing that ability as a general population to just talk to one another. I don’t think that’s true. I think the vast majority of people are pretty good at getting along. Those who can’t happen to be the noisiest, and they have a megaphone. Right now, it’s really about connecting with people on the deepest level. Where do you find these leaders who have maybe missed the boat somewhere on either choosing themselves or figuring out what that one right thing is, where do they have the most difficulty when it comes to relationships?
Dom: I have found that leaders find difficulty in establishing relationships. It’s so simple. Because they haven’t acknowledged who they are. I’m going to use this as an example. It wasn’t a client. He was somebody. I’d say we’re friends. But somebody I knew. This was his struggle. He’s a first-born 6’3” blonde hair, blue eyes, Caucasian male. He played sports in the Midwest. Society says he has to be great. Everything he does, he can’t fail. We were in the corporate space. He said, “Look, man, I know I can say this to you, and we’ll be fine. There is an organization within an organization for everybody but me. I can’t speak my mind, which I don’t have much on my mind to speak about, but I can’t say much because I’m a 6’3” blond-hair, blue-eyed white guy with a Masters. Nobody sees I’m a regular dude who connects with anybody from anywhere.” His individual struggles were he never wanted to play football in high school. He never wanted to be forced to be a leader in his community. He never wanted to be the captain of the football team in college. He never wanted to be thrust into leadership.
There are so many people depending on where you are in certain regions and maybe your background cultural or ethnic what have you. I think some people are thrown into leadership before they are ready. They don’t know how to say no because their life has been mapped out for them. Then they hit about 35, and this is what I have seen. Around 35 is when they start finding extracurricular activities like a girlfriend, a boyfriend. They buy a motorcycle. They do things that society says is not the norm, but it’s not that it’s not the norm. They’re trying- It’s like they are a five-year-old kid again. They are trying to find out who they are. I am not condoning cheating on your spouse. I would definitely condone buy a motorcycle because I race Ducatis. They are trying to find out what it is that makes them happy.
I met an old boss. She was 44. Same process throughout life. One day, she said, “You know what? I want to be an EMT.” She had the Porsche Cayenne. She had a 911 Carrera. She had a house, a nice marriage, the whole nine. She became an EMT. Now I think she has a small little boutique or antique shop in Colorado somewhere, but she is happy. I bet she will live so much longer now than she would have if she had stayed the course. We get so successful. To me, success is not monetary. It’s a feeling. We attribute money to success. We become “successful” with the things that we allow our friends. Guys like this or gals like this are the leaders in their peer group. Everybody comes to them and bites off a piece here and there. They’re like piranhas. They’re just here. Those are the clients I get. They will come to me because they can dump on me, and I am not part of their inner circle. They are so drained. It’s like a horse going across a warm river in the Amazon. They might make it to the end. They went in white, but they will come out with chunks of meat out of it because life is piranhas. Family. You’re the best. You make the most money. A lot of us deal with that. We have to put on this front. It stresses you out. It hardens your heart. It drains you. Your eyes get baggy. You lose your hair. There is all these negative things. Your testosterone is gone. You just exist. The next thing, you are 50-60 pounds overweight, you don’t enjoy life, your kids are gone, and you have nothing to show for it.
Hugh: We have three minutes before our closing sponsor presentation and your final thought. You mentioned John Maxwell. I want to ask about what you see in terms of leadership blind spots. Maxwell’s law of the lids says that organization cannot develop any further than the leader’s ability to lead it. He also talks about giving your skills 1-10. Those that are below a 5, you should delegate because they will never be a 10. There is people who aren’t aware that they are holding the organization back. There are people trying to work on skills that are 3s or 4s. They will never be a 10. Talk about blind spots and lack of leader awareness for a couple minutes, if you will.
Dom: Totally. There are two primary leadership blind spots. One, we forget to develop those beneath us. I am not saying you have to have a one-to-one organized, structured mentorship. But just letting your steps mentor those that are coming up beneath you and getting them, being okay with them surpassing you. Being totally okay with that. Nothing negative comes from launching somebody else’s career past you.
The second blind spot is focusing so much on our career path that we forgot about our career past. We forget where we started and what it was like and what made us happy and where the fervor came from because we are so focused on just moving forward. I guarantee you that if you look at your leadership past, based off where you’re at now, using today’s mind for last decade’s fervor, you will get a lot further in the future.
Hugh: Focus on your leadership path and your leadership past. Ah. Never heard that. You heard it right here, Russ.
*Sponsor message for Wordsprint*
Dom, what kind of a- Give us a parting challenge or a thought to remember you by. Russ, if you will close us out, we got about three minutes until we end. Dom, give us a closing thought. Then Russ will close us out today.
Dom: A parting thought would be that there is one thing I have found that holds a lot of leadership back. It’s lack of forgiveness. A challenge would be for you to think of somebody. It could be a child. It could be a spouse. Somebody that you probably should talk to, just to clear the air. Don’t send a text. First, call. If that doesn’t work, send a text. Don’t ask a bunch of questions. Say, “You know what? I was thinking about you. I love you. I miss you. I look forward to speaking with you.” Something that is warm. Do that. That will take that weight off your chest. It will allow you to lead in a more positive light.
Russell: Brilliant. I love what you’re doing. Keep it up. I’m certainly going to follow with interest and look forward to seeing and reading more of your material and learning more from you because all of us can grow. My admonition to nonprofit leaders who are out there watching this podcast is it boils down to choosing yourself. Then you get to the one thing. Dom has some tools. We have tools here at SynerVision that can help you do that. Hugh and Dom, I’d like to thank all of you for coming here. By the way, our friend Sandy Birkenmaier, who is editor of the magazine, we always request from our guests that they do a piece of the magazine for the upcoming issue. I don’t know if Hugh sprung that on you, but it’s probably not pretty good to not give people too much work to do so they don’t go running in the other direction. Thank you for coming here. I’d like to thank Hugh again and Sandy and all the people. Bill Gilmer at Wordsprint who is a wonderful sponsor we have. I’d like to thank you nonprofit leaders who are out there every day in the trenches trying to make life better for other people who are less fortunate than us. This is a universe of circulation. As we give, we receive. Thank you for that effort. Come back and join us again next week.
Hugh: Thank you, Russ. Thank you, Dom.
Dom: Thank you, gents.