Watch Interview Here
The 45 Minute Business Breakthrough Creating More Income
with John Gies
After more than two decades in corporate, John Gies heard a potential client say that $400,000 tax free was not worth his time. John knew then that he wanted to work where he could make a difference. Over the next several years he gained his Coach Certification, He has taught and coached organizations around the country and he now works with small business owners and non-profit organizations to help them create the income they need to thrive.
John’s personal live vision is a world where people are inspired to leverage their power and influence to contribute to a more sustainable and positive workplace.
Read the Interview
[Due to a video issue, the beginning of interview is lost. Transcript begins when video was restored.]
John Gies: A communication coach, that transitioned from- I see your face. Was there a question there?
Hugh Ballou: No, I love that story. Go ahead. I’m excited about that.
John: When I left, what I wanted to do is I tried to look at other companies or other industries. The roads seemed to be closed. I said, What do I like doing? I love speaking in front of an audience. I love training and mentoring my teams. I love facilitating that conversation around the table where we’ve got different interests, maybe sales, operations, and technology trying to create a common vision, and trying to get to that with all those different points of view. I said, Why don’t I become a coach and a trainer?
I went to work with a company. I got a chance to do some teaching and coaching across North America and Europe around sales, sales training, presentation skills, negotiation skills. Hugh, I hate to sound stereotypical, but stereotypes do exist. The Brits were almost on time, the Germans were early all the time, the French and the Italians showed up when they wanted to show up. It was an interesting experience. The Americans unfortunately were the ones who said, “We’re doing great. We don’t need any help.” It was an interesting experience for me.
Hugh: That’s a stereotype, but it’s sad, isn’t it?
John: It is. Yet it sounds something about us, right? Stereotypes are stereotypes in some cases. His name is going to escape me. Someone once said, “If you hear a cliché, look to the truth in the cliché. There is probably something in there that led to the cliché.”
Hugh: Isn’t that why they are clichés?
John: Right. While I was working with them, when they had lots of clients, I was busy. When they didn’t have clients, I wasn’t busy, so I decided to embark on my own. Today, I work with organizations with what I call a wholehearted approach to business. It’s not a name that you often think of when you think about business. But wholehearted is three pillars. There is the profit/revenue/money. I used to work with a nonprofit healthcare executive, who I will call Sister Mary. She said, “People come to me all the time and ask why we don’t provide this for free.” Her response was, “If there is no money, there’s no mission.” It’s really making sure that we have the money to fulfill our mission.
Then there is leadership. Self leadership starts. If we can’t manage ourselves, we can’t manage other people.
Russell Dennis: Greetings.
John: Then it’s the impact we have. Same impact we have on our people, our clientele, our community, the environment, the whole thing. That’s three pillars.
Hugh: Russell, there is some background noise, so I muted you. You will have to unmute yourself when you come on. He is putting on his headset.
John, I want to get those three points. Those went by fast. Let’s capture those bullet points.
John: There is profit. Whether we are in a nonprofit, a small business, or a big business, we can’t fulfill our mission without money. People rely upon us to be here in the long haul. It’s not just a dream to serve. We have to create the sustainability for our future.
There is leadership. Leadership starts with self-leadership before we can lead others. I can share with you what I mean about that. When I think of one place that leadership is the weakest, it tends to be ourselves.
The third pillar is impact. What impact are we having on our clients, customers, employees, communities, and stakeholders?
I was really influenced by a book called Firms of Endearment. It’s a good-to-great comparison of stakeholder organizations versus shareholder organizations. Stakeholders are employees, vendors, the community, the environment, and shareholders. They outperform the S&P by 16X. They outperform the good-to-great companies by a factor of 10X. This lasted even through the Great Recession we just went through. For me, it’s how we take care of all the people in our organizations instead of just focusing on one limited subset of our stakeholders.
Hugh: Absolutely. We teach those very same things. But it’s good to have you on here because people don’t listen to us. We’re so much in sync with that. John Maxwell in his 21 irrefutable laws of leadership has the law of the lid. You hit the ceiling of the lid, and your organization can’t progress any further than your ability to lead. That is true over and over. Our boards, our teams, our cultures are a reflection of our leadership.
You may or may not know I am a musical conductor. What they see is what I get. What I practice in real life as a conductor works in the board room, works with the staff, works with the volunteers. It really doesn’t matter where we’re leading; the concepts are the same.
Russell is coming in from a remote location. He was trying to find a connection last we spoke. Russell is the one who connected with you and suggested you be our guest today. I have looked over your website. It’s good stuff with some nice design. I am impressed with what you do. Thanks to Russell for finding you and finding the synergy.
One thing you said was about the mindset. Thinking about the profit, leadership, and impact, and the stakeholders. [Audio issue]
Clergy, people like that. Maybe even major donors. If you want to get money, you want to make sure you demonstrate impact. We want to see a difference. [Video freeze]
Did I lose you? I’m here. Talk about that a minute, and where that fits into your thinking, how people misperceive profit, how people misperceive leadership. Can you hear me? I think he’s frozen. Maybe, we’re having a technical issue today, folks. So maybe we’ll get back together. John, he showed up over there. We seem to be having some technical issues. John, your video dropped out. There you are. Russell? Same neck of the woods as him. Is there an internet outage out there?
Russell: I am downtown preparing for the GlobalMindED event. We have leaders here, global-minded. It’s a nonprofit that provides services to help first-generation college students connect with employers. Very big event coming up here. Starting tomorrow. It will be running through Friday. That’s where I’m at. Helping with that, looking to set up interviews with leaders and coverage of the event so we have things to talk about.
Hopefully, John is back with us. He has done a lot of work. He started out with healthcare organizations and started seeing some leadership challenges around that. He has done a lot of work and worked with a lot of organizations here in the Denver area to deal with some of the bottlenecks you experience with leadership. When those bottlenecks are prevalent, you can run into issues with funding. He wrote a book about that. That is one thing I want to ask him about later and have folks get access to that. It’s a very good book.
Hugh: We did a teaser about the book. We haven’t told anybody about it yet. John, before the technology devil came in here and ate up your feed, I was talking about the misconception of the word “profit” with nonprofits, and how boards have gotten into a negative groove. Do you want to talk about that a minute? Then I will hand it over to Russell, who is the one with the real tough questions.
John: Great. Yeah. If I understand you, the question is profit versus nonprofit? It’s interesting. Russell did this for a long time. There really is no difference. If there is no money, there is no mission. We have to generate enough profit, retained earnings, income, whatever you want to call it, so we can redistribute it. I often encounter both in the corporate world from healthcare providers who were nonprofit, and nonprofits I have volunteered with over the years, that money is not the big thing. It’s all about service. It’s all about serving the customer, the patients, our clientele. If you can’t keep the lights on, you can’t deliver any service. I feel like I’m rambling a bit. This is where my wholeheartedness comes from.
If you look at the way businesses are being structured today, more and more of them are being structured to deliver a different kind of value than just the bottom line. There are benefit corporations. There are LLCs that are for-profits embedded within nonprofits. There is a whole host of ways we can use our work, I have air quotes up there, to do good in the world. I think it was Kahlil Gibran who said, “Work is love made visible.” Regardless of what we’re doing, we should be able to bring love into the world, or wholeheartedness, even at a profit.
Hugh: We generate income because we generate value. Russell has helpful observations and questions. I’m going to park for a minute and let him participate. Thank you, Russ for being here. I know it was a challenge getting on today.
Russell: Thanks. It’s good to be here. I know John is an amazing person. I am glad I met you. One of the things that you and I talked about over coffee was the notion of value, and how that is being redefined today. Folks that are running businesses to make a profit often talk in terms of value. It seems to be a word that nonprofit leaders haven’t wrapped their arms around yet. Even if they do, some of the team may not be aware of what exactly is value. How do you ramp up those discussions when you are talking to nonprofit organizations in terms of speaking to value and what that means to the different audiences they serve?
John: What a great question. Nonprofits deliver such value. Whether it’s providing a roof over our heads, food and shelter. They look and say, “That’s what we are giving to our clientele, people who need that value.” They’re also delivering value to the donors and people who are fundraisers. I met with a young man who moved here from D.C. His whole background is in philanthropy.
If I’m a donor, the example I was thinking through on this is do you remember Sally Struthers and the Feed the Children campaign from years ago? She would come on TV and see all these images of hungry children. We would make a donation. We got a letter from that child. We are in relationship to that child. Now there is this warm, fuzzy feeling of, I, as a donor, am getting real value from that donation in my heart.
What happens for a lot of us today is we don’t think about how we’re delivering value to all of our stakeholders, be they fundraisers, donors, clientele, you have different kinds of value to each one of them. For a donor, one of the big questions donors all have is, “If I give you money, will it go to the end user, or will it go to administrative costs?” There are a whole host of people who are doing valuations and rankings around that. How can I pluck John’s heartstring? How can I pluck Russell’s heartstrings?
A friend of mine had a daughter who came into the world with a lot of physical challenges. In Children’s Hospital for years. Her mom was in and out. If I deliver a message to her that talks about children and supporting people while they are waiting for a child to come out of the hospital, that is delivering value to me because it sings and resonates with me. Does that make sense?
Russell: That’s the trick. That’s the challenge a lot of for-purpose enterprises (as we prefer to call them, a term given to us by one of our guests). That is the challenge. You have multiple audiences. Value is not only something that has to be quantified in material terms. It’s different for every audience. The way that we relate to each other is through stories. People are discovering that. The big question is what is your story? Different people have different metrics, depending on their perspective. How important is it to have ways to measure what is valuable? How do you help nonprofits navigate that when they have these multiple audiences? How do you help them navigate figuring out what the message is for each audience?
John: Really good question. When I share measurements, I think to my friend Annette, who is a good evaluator, who does research to quantify numbers and cents. When you think about a sentence or a paragraph or a story, how do you measure the ROI? What is the equation? Actually, there is a lady by the name of Nancy Duarte, who has mapped a really good storyteller. She took Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech, and mapped the structure of the speech with its peaks and valleys to lead to the enrollment of the audience in his message.
To answer your question, sometimes the impact is emotion. Even though we are driven by our spreadsheets in business, those are only to back up the emotional decisions we have already made. Working with a nonprofit, when we think about the donor, we have to think about what emotions we touch on. If I am talking to a philanthropist or a fund, like The Knight Foundation, what is the emotion or feeling I want them to feel about what they’re going to do for us? When I am trying to pull people off the streets as clients into my organization, how do I want them to feel? What I find most of us do is we run, run, run. And we don’t stop to think about the value. It’s not always what we think it is. What I counsel my clients on is it’s not putting food in someone’s hands. It’s answering a question about the concern of who is giving them the food.
I’ll give you an example. Most painting contractors think they are hired to paint the house. They will tell the consumer, “We do great painting.” The reality is, the consumer is thinking, I’d like to have my house painted, but how do I know that painter will be on time, done on time, and won’t leave a mess? We have to answer the questions behind the question to call those, whether it’s a donor, a fundraiser, the clientele, or the public because the public can be very strong advocates for our for-purpose organizations.
Great word choice by the way. I’m bouncing a bit, but that changes the whole framework of how you think about the organization. There is the nonprofit and the for-purpose. There is a withdrawal and an engagement. Good choice of words there.
Russell: I’d like to go back to the statement of people looking at how you spend the money. I think we have seen some perception problems with the structure of an organization. A lot of people want to write checks for programs, but they don’t necessarily want to pay the nonprofit’s rent. You have to have a structure to deliver a program. But if you are running the organization delivering the programs, you have to be efficient. You have to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to you. Talk about some of the things you do when working with organizations of any stature to navigate that.
John: When you say stewardship, are you talking about attracting money? Are you talking about managing expenses?
Russell: Taking care of the money entrusted to you. Making the best use of it and maximizing value with it. Taking good care of it.
John: A great question. Years and years ago, this will surprise you. I ran into a nonprofit collection agency. This was an organization embedded within another organization. Their money was to support the organization they were embedded in. For them, they could have really good expenses and really nice cars and really great lifestyles, but a lot of that wasn’t coming back to what was originally meant for.
I contrast that with the man who I was telling you about earlier who sits on the board of a nonprofit. Someone came in and said, “We are getting ready to do our new benefits. We want to have a nine-month maternity leave. We want to have 35 days of PTO.” He said, “Wait a minute. How can we do that? That is stealing from our organization and our constituents.”
The easy answer for you is the mindset. What are we really here to do? Are we here to serve, or are we here to take? My experience is the more we deliver into the world, the more we give, the more we receive in return without having to strive for that.
The way I work with most of my customers is to help them attract the stakeholders they need. What prompted our conversation was this book, The 45 Minute Business Breakthrough. What that is about is to get leads. How do I get people who are interested in coming to my organization, whether it’s a client or a donor? We will often think, They will find us. It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you. We have to craft a message that resonates with those people.
Hugh: John, hold that book up again. Remember my age and mental condition. Tell us about the book, John.
John: It’s called The 45 Minute Business Breakthrough. It’s how to find revenue for your business in 45 minutes.
Hugh: 45 minutes?
Hugh: What takes so long? That’s pretty fast. That got my attention.
John: It’s simple. Think about the real estate agent who tells you, “I sell real estate, commercial and residential, up and down the range.” Here in Denver, there are 20,000 real estate agents. Contrast that to the one who says, “I help millennials find the loft of their dreams in downtown Denver.” Even though I am not a millennial, I am far past the millennial stage, I will remember that message. When I hear someone say they are looking for a loft, I can make the hook.
If you ask yourself, What would that do for my business? You can find money really fast. When you talk about how do I make an offer that is so compelling that I can come into relationship with you? Maybe it’s I sign up for your newsletter. I hear stories about the organization how you are changing lives. When it comes time to write a check, I am more likely to write a check.
There is an organization I do some work with here called Goodwill to Work. I get to work with high school students as they are preparing to enter the work force: mock interviews, reviewing portfolios, reviewing resumes. It gives me great faith in the future of ourselves. When they come looking for money, I am more open to that because I am invested in that.
It’s helping the business owner, to answer your question, look at the five areas that drive 80% of their growth. It’s leads, how to turn leads into customers, how to create an offer that gives more value so they are willing to spend more money with me, and quit discounting. You have to sell more of the product to get the same.
Hugh: There is a correlation here. We talk about selling to churches. Churches say, “We don’t sell.” Then what is evangelism? I talk to generic nonprofits about business models. No, we are a nonprofit. People are supposed to give everything. That does not mean you can beat up your employees. That is why the burnout rate is about 50% with executive directors. You are moving into the mindset. It’s a social entrepreneurial mindset.
You talked about businesses having a triple bottom line. I think nonprofits should have multiple bottom lines. One of them should be retained earnings. Russell, why don’t you weigh in on this? You used to work for an agency who had three letters. It’s about where the money goes. We need another number for profit, and we need another way to look at accounting so overhead is really clear. Overhead goes to the people we serve. The words for profit are uncomfortable.
Russell: When people in our circles call it “surplus,” but the bottom line is you have to bring in more than you push out. If you bring in more than you push out, you become what is known as sustainable. Operating with a surplus is important because you have to be prepared for all types of contingencies. There are things that happen. Mother Nature, for example. You have fires, floods, hurricanes, different events that impact different businesses that impact the nonprofits on the ground as well. It’s important to operate at that surplus. When it comes to overhead, which is everything that isn’t directly poured into the services, people think of that in terms of costs versus an investment. If it’s an investment, you get a good return on that. That means the management is taking care of the assets. They are providing superior service. They are effective and efficient at keeping costs under control. But you still have that structure there so you can go out and create more impact, as it were. The impact is in the eyes and ears of the beholders. I know John has heard this multiple times.
John, you deal with it in for-profits and nonprofits when it comes to talking about impact. What is your experience with that word? Do you find that it is overused or misused? How do you help people frame that in a way that is balanced?
John: I play with the word “balance.” If there is a balance, we are going to disrupt it. It’s more how do we create harmony around it? Impact is in the eyes of the beholder. Again, it’s about- I find this with myself often. I get up, sit down at my desk, and start working. When I get done, I have done a lot, and think about what impact I actually have. The first step is to slow down. As Stephen Covey said, “What is the end in mind?” What impact do I want to have?
One client recently, the impact she wanted to have was more visibility in her organization. If that’s what I want to have, if that’s my end in mind, how do I have to make you feel to get that visibility? Now that I know those two questions, I can ask myself, “Who do I have to be to bring it?”
In terms of messaging, what do I want them to experience? A great example. I had a customer the other day tell me. We often think about painting as putting a coating on the wall. For this company, it is a customer experience. The experience that you and I as a homeowner experience for you painting.
In the case of the Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute, what impact do they have on their small business owners as they compete in a 12-week boot camp for a microloan? The answer is they get 95% of their loans are repaid. Those companies are still in business years later. Every time I go, there is someone who would not have gotten a job in the corporate world who has created a successful business because they went through a 12-week boot camp to learn basic kinds of things. The impact is how are they feeling? What are the net results? It’s all of that. Does that answer your question?
Russell: That does, yes. For anybody who is out there making a difference, there are all these measures. How people measure things is critical. It’s getting out there, being of service, and doing that better than others efficiently and effectively as you possibly can. There are a lot of tools that leaders need to have in order to drive value, in order to grow as an organization. What are the most basic tools that you give your clients when you start working with them initially? Are there some key basics that are missing in the large quantity? Or some things that leaders overlook? In that sense, what are some of the things that you find nonprofit leaders overlook more frequently than not?
John: Great question. I think there are two big opportunities, whatever your work is. The first one is really getting clear and planting your flag on who you serve. Being clear that we are in this to serve children, sick children, healthy children, starving children, whatever the service is. And then nobody else. We all think we can serve everybody. We want to serve all sorts of people. Until we plant the flag and say this is who we serve, how we serve, and why we serve, we are noise. Russell, you know this because you’re in Denver. There are 11,000 nonprofits in the Denver/Boulder community. Many of them are duplicating services. It’s noise in the marketplace. How do they stand out? Planting the flag, being clear, and saying, “I am for the 10% that this resonates with.” Because then they will find us. We will get some of the other people who will be in that outer circle who will be attracted to us. We have to call our tribe to us. From the business standpoint, that is the biggest thing. I get this. I want to serve everybody, too. We have to get clear on who we serve, how we serve, and why we serve.
Russell: The idea of niching down and picking a category is frightening for both business owners and nonprofit leaders. I know I’ve had movement within my own business of who do you serve, will there be scarcity. I think scarcity thinking is terrible for the mindset of an entrepreneur regardless of the tax status of the organization he/she runs. How do you have that conversation with people who may be apprehensive about the idea of niching down and being more focused and targeted?
John: It’s history. It’s experience. I’m working with a company right now. They have been doing Groupons to call in their clientele. I finally got him to stop that because what he would get is people coming in looking for the discount all the time, but they weren’t coming back to purchase more. He recognized that is not the clientele he wants to serve. He wants to serve the people who really care about what he delivers. When he gets one of them, they don’t question his cost. They know he can trust him, he will deliver the service, and they will walk away with value.
You have to ask people to step out on faith and try it. I have yet to have someone who tries it fail at it. I just had this conversation with a lady at a digital marketing firm this morning. She said, “Sometimes I just have to have faith. I don’t have to worry about this deal or that donor or that foundation. I have to have faith that if I serve, I will be rewarded. It took me until I was in my forties to realize that my middle name is Faith. Faith plays a role in all of this.”
Hugh: It does. John, you talked earlier about going to the bottom for the price. We tend to race to the bottom because we think we have to have the lowest price to attract people. There is a similar model with nonprofits. We have this money shadow. We don’t want to talk about money, and we don’t want to ask for money. It’s reframing the whole conversation about what you said earlier about value. What we’re talking about is value. Money is an exchange. We have to pay the rent. We have to pay the salaries of those good people we employ. Talk about this thing with money. Do you see what I’m talking about? Is there a similarity with entrepreneurs looking at everyone else and pricing themselves under it? That’s not a good way to do it. Nonprofits are asking for too little money.
John: I lost your audio there. It’s a good question. What I find- I grew up in sales. I’m afraid to ask for more because I was afraid I was going to hear no. As a nonprofit, if I’m asking for donations, I don’t want to hear no. Nobody wants to hear no because they are afraid of being outcast. I wrote this on a blog post not too recently. I came to a realization. I was on my way to a meeting with someone to give a presentation, and I had this voice in my head say, “Who are you? Who do you think you are?” I was in the presentation watching the audience, and I saw a couple of people on their phones. “Oh my God. They’re not paying attention to me. I’ve lost them.” I got some of the highest marks I’ve ever had for a delivery. I have come to the conclusion that I want to have that voice say, “Who are you? This is not your comfort zone.” on my shoulder because I know I’m doing the work that will deliver value to my organization.
I think to get to your question of how we get past that fear of asking for money or undervaluing ourselves, we step out of our comfort zone and realize the value that we bring. I have yet to have an experience where I have said, “I can step into this, even though I don’t know where it’s going to go.” that hasn’t delivered value. All too often, we think if we don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen, we don’t want to step into it because we are afraid it might go wrong.
Russell: Life begins outside of the comfort zone.
John: It really does. I was teaching a class one time. It was very dependent on a certain program running just the right way. About 20% of the class got an update from Microsoft that eliminated that functionality. What am I going to do? We’ll get to it. We’ll talk about it. Stay away from me. Get feedback from my tech team. Keep teaching. It was some of the highest reviews I’d ever gotten. They’ve asked me back several times. I want to create something going wrong in the presentation just so that there is that kind of result.
When we get out of our comfort zone and into that place where it’s not working exactly right, we become more present. We become more focused on what we want to deliver to our audience, whether it’s one or many.
One of the things I wanted to come back to, you asked me earlier about one of the biggest things that for-purpose or for-profits or anybody struggles with. I shared with you that niching idea.
The other piece is more personal. It’s self-accountability. We talked earlier about self-leadership. Many of us are more than willing to hold anybody accountable for what they are supposed to do. We have meetings around it. We have metrics to race for it. But the thing that we’re not accountable to is our own self. The #1 appointment we break on our calendar is the one we set with ourselves. I might sit down and say, I need to plan my budget for next quarter. But if the phone rings, I will pick up the phone instead of working on that budget. Or I might decide I want to lose ten pounds. I will quit eating French fries and start running. But then it snows. When we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we can’t hold other people accountable. When we start breaking promises to ourselves, we start disbelieving ourselves when we say we can get something done. So part of it is keeping promises to ourselves.
Russell: It’s interesting that people make commitments to others they won’t make to themselves. I think that is a human nature thing. That plays into what’s best. There are a number of people who talk about self-care and taking care of yourself. One of the things about leader burnout is people drive themselves far too much and don’t necessarily take care of themselves. When you come across executives you’re working with, a lot of times they are burned out, what is the first thing you tell them as far as taking care of themselves? How do you go about finding out if that’s the problem they do have?
John: It’s about creating psychological safety. We can do this in our own organizations and families. We want to create safety so that people can be and bring their whole self into the conversation. I am a child of the ‘80s. Greed is good. We have to put up a front. If you remember the shoulder pads from back then, we literally put our armor on. But the reality is when we can bring our whole self into a conversation, we don’t have to carry the stress of trying to be someone we’re not. The first part is bringing psychological safety. People will begin to open up and tell us what is really wrong in our lives.
I tell people when they are working with me, “There is a lot to do, but you have to schedule two hours a week for you to sit back and think about, “What do I want to do this week? What happened last week? What did I get done? Celebrate! What did I not get done? What will I do to move that forward?” All too often, we run from task to task to task to task. We don’t slow down to shift our state to move into the next meeting. I work with a lot of people who have nine meetings a day. That’s incredible. When do you get your work done? I see three.
Hugh: We’re coming to the last minutes of our interview. I want to give you a few minutes to talk about one of the most important topics: communication. In 32 years of working with organizations, there has never been an organization who brought it up as one of the top topics. In a quick overview, I want you to talk about why that is significant in the work that you do. Then I will have a sponsor message before giving it back to you for a closing thought. Then Russell will end this interview. John, there are a lot of good sound bites, I must say. John, what is missing in communication? What do we need to do to make it better?
John: There are four things we need for effective communication. One is clarity. If we are not clear with our message, I ran across this the other night. It’s from Yo-Yo Ma. If we don’t have clarity of message, we are just noise. What happens all too often is I tell you I’m looking for a dog. You will tell me, “You should get a Labrador.” Russell will tell me that I need a terrier. Someone else will tell me a shepherd. I am allergic to most dogs, and my wife doesn’t want anything over 20 pounds. If I had been clear in what I was looking for, you would be clear in your response. Slowing down to get clear.
Two is respect. Every organization you and I work with has respect in their manual, their mission statement, or their vision statement. Yet 94% of the workforce reports having uncivil behavior in the last year. 54% in the last month. This comes from Harvard Business Review. What does disrespect look like? It might not be holding the door open. It might be perceived disrespect. But what we have to think about how do we create psychological safety? Even if you are a high performer, if you are not treating people right, we need to help you move to a place where your humor is appreciated.
Candor. Everyone wants more candor. If I were to show you my slide, there would be a burning plane behind me because NASA did research that said commercial airline pilots in a simulator that gave them a crisis, there were three outcomes. One, the captain took control of the plane and crashed it. Two, the captain said, “Crew, I need some help.” Everyone contributed, shared information, and worked together. The plane landed safely. The third one was the interesting one. The captain said, “Help me!” The crew said, “You got this.” They crashed almost as often as the first one. Why? Because the captain created an environment where candor was not appreciated. What happens in our organizations if we are not open to candor? What are we not learning about?
The last piece is attention. What are we focused on? How many times have you told your child, “Don’t spill the milk?” What happened?
Hugh: Spill the milk.
John: When we tell people, “Stop complaining. Stop smoking. Stop fighting.” they don’t hear stop. The brain doesn’t hear stop. Let’s focus on what we want. Those four things are what we need for good communication.
Hugh: Don’t be late to the meeting. Those four are clarity of message-
John: Clarity, respect, candor, attention.
Hugh: John, a lot of good sound bites. You are so well-read. I love this thing about the clarity of the dog. A guy goes up to an intersection in Denver to a guy with a dog and says, “Does your dog bite?” The guy says, “No.” He reaches down to pet the dog, and the dog takes a big chunk out of his arm. He said to the guy, “I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite.” The guy says, “That’s not my dog.” It’s an old joke, but it’s a good example of what you’re talking about. We are assuming that’s his dog because it’s standing next to him.
We talk about how leaders set up problems. Then we make them worse. This candor and autocratic leadership is not what we do. Thank you for this.
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Before Russell closes out this really helpful interview, what thought do you want to leave with people today?
John: I thought in preparation for this. I talked to a couple of colleagues who are active in the nonprofit community. What they shared with me is one of the big stressors for nonprofits is resiliency. They are overstressed, under-resourced, struggling against how do we deliver value to our constituents? I thought what would be helpful to them is to acknowledge the stress is there. Leaders paper over the stress or frustration. Until we admit there is something there, we can’t deal with it. If we don’t admit it, our team is looking to us and thinking there is something you’re not telling us. So acknowledge it.
Have a little bit of grace. We are all doing the best we can. Everybody is doing something for their own reasons. Let’s get clear about what’s going on.
Be accountable to yourself and to others. When everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, and I don’t have to pick up after you and you don’t have to pick up after me, there is less stress in the organization.
Clarity of values, beliefs, and behaviors. Making sure we all agree what we want to do to serve our organization and our constituents.
Appreciation of ourselves and others. We go from day to day to day, from win to win to win, and we don’t stop and celebrate. Celebrate the things you have done well.
This has been a lot of fun.
Russell: Thank you very much, John. I appreciate that. It’s been an enlightening conversation. Always remember that honesty without compassion is brutality. How we talk to each other and work with each other is critical inside so we can serve the audiences we can serve.