Monday, December 7, 2009

Laurie Joslin

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...Laurie Joslin...below! Thanks for your readership!

I met Laurie for the first time a few years ago at a Ken Blanchard event in Rochester sponsored by the Entrepreneur’s Organization – Western New York. On behalf of EO-WNY, she introduced Ken. I was immediately intrigued by her vibrance and sense of humor. Since then, I’ve participated as often as possible in sales and workforce trainings put on by her company, Unlimited Coaching Solutions. Laurie and her team are tremendous models of the strategies they teach. As a successful business owner, middle child of 14, and single mother of one, Jade, Laurie’s story is simply fantastic. It is an honor to feature, Laurie, a woman who I consider my friend and colleague, in this final issue of Bigger Impact Weekly. ~Joseph
I’d like to start with your experience as a single mother. As a successful business owner, I’m interested to hear how this life choice has affected your journey.
As you know, I’m very independent. I was still in college when I was set to have Jade. My high school sweetheart and I were together and it was a cute story, but we didn’t agree on a lot of things. Although we were together for a long time, I knew that it wasn’t going to work. Long story short, Jade was in 2nd grade when we split.
We all are on our own life path and we all need to learn different ways. I respect that we have our different views of the world. If I looked back at the relationships that haven’t “worked” for me, I can truly say that through all of them – whether they were significant other, friends, or with clients – I’ve learned so much from them. I truly appreciate the fact that I wouldn’t be who I am right now without those experiences.
Everyone has their own stuff going on. And, it’s not that I don’t believe in marriage, it’s just that I think marriage is a very antiquated approach because people change! Divorce is a new beginning for a lot of people.
It has been really interesting to raise a child as a single parent. I came from a blended family with 14 children. I had seen a lot going on in terms of communication and relationships. One of the reasons I chose to be a single mother, I saw a lot of damage happen from two parents staying together that shouldn’t have necessarily been together.
I felt like I had a better chance this way. And, growing up, Jade spent time with her father during high school and she really excelled. If it was just about me, I would never have let her go, but it was about her.
Let’s move on to your career path…
I grew up in Cortland, New York. While I was there I worked for Smith Corona for a long time…starting on the factory line. I was a single mother, getting my degree at the same time. I really got to experience all different types of jobs throughout that organization. I worked in Accounting while we went through a Chapter 11, and I spent time in Human Resources and on the sales force. At one point, I went on the Shop at Home Network for them.
Oddly enough, none of these moves were really planned. In fact, with the Shop at Home Network, nobody really wanted to do it, but I was always willing to just jump in and do something new. I had no training but I did it and I loved it!
To be uncomfortable to me was fun. It was learning. Little did I know at the time that this type of workforce development would be my eventual field.
When I started in school I was going to be an English teacher. But, because I was working at the same time, I got more interested in business so I switched to economics.
Then I met with a career counselor at Cortland who helped me discover that one of my core competencies was communication. So, I started taking communications classes and I totally loved it. Even Media Law!
Luckily, I got so many opportunities at Smith Corona. Many of my moves throughout the company were lateral, just to keep my job while the company restructured. Once, I inquired about a product development job and when I did, the coordinator gave me a manual and said, “Go home, read this, and give us a presentation on it tomorrow.” So, I did it and I really wowed them!
From that point, I moved quickly from product development to software to soft skills. And, when I found soft skills I absolutely fell in love.
I founded the training development program at Smith Corona and created a whole university of courses for them. I brought people in and created courses myself – not realizing what an opportunity that was at the time. It was like, “Hey Laurie, we need to do this but we have no budget. Can you help us?” That experience proved to be so valuable to me.
When Smith Corona was filing Chapter 11 for the second time, I could see the writing on the wall. So, I went in to see the CFO who I had worked for in the past, closed the door, and requested to get the courses I developed. Long story short, I got them and I got to start my business with a lot of intellectual property.
I’ve been inspired by some awesome people like Ken Blanchard and I consider myself really just a messenger. I have unique and creative ways of delivering that message, but if you go way back, in my opinion, people are saying the same stuff.
Please, walk me through the experience of starting the business!
In 1999, after a brief stint with Comp USA Training, I started Unlimited Coaching Solutions.
When I first started my business, I went from a very good salary to nothing. And, I’m the kind of person that jumps off a cliff then looks…so I had minimal savings. I knew that I wanted to do this so I went out there and did it. I’ve always trusted my ability to come out ok.
Jade was about 12 at the time. I was ripping her out of school, moving to Rochester, and I didn’t know a soul. It was crazy. We learn the best by throwing ourselves into a new job or new experience like that though. In fact, 70 percent of learning comes from that.
I did not have the road map when I started, but I was clear. It started with just me and slowly we built up to 6 at one point and now we’re back to 4 employees. The company has been pretty natural and fluent.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a huge part of what we do now and that happened through Ray Justice. In early 2000, he was a mentor and coach of mine. I was speaking to him at one point and I said, “I get this training thing but something is missing.” He said to me, “I just finished this book and I don’t know why, but you need to read it.” I trusted him so of the 10 books in my “to read” pile, this one went to the top.
And, as I read it, I had a movie playing in my mind of how exactly it would fit into what I was doing. It was amazing. So, I started down the path of contacting the author about using it in my training. He put me in touch with the publisher and they gave me permission to use it!

Miguel Ruiz, Jr., don Miguel Ruiz, & Laurie (Left to right)
How has The Four Agreements impacted your life?
At that point I began to participate in their trainings. Me being all business, I thought I was going to learn how to apply these materials in the workplace but it ended up touching my life in a very personal way. My life dramatically changed.
My relationship with my father improved. It was never bad, but I was the middle child of 14 so I got lost in the shuffle a little bit!
He is a self-employed carpenter and he was in Rochester working on a special job at the time so I let him stay at my house. He saw the book on my coffee table and said, “What is this?” I said, “Just read it…and if you want to discuss it, I’ll spend the entire weekend with you.” Now, I was single at the time so this was a big deal!
He read it and he said to me, “Wow, if I read this earlier I never would have needed Prozac!” My father is a Veteran. This experience started a whole new relationship between us with a common interest!
If you can help people be successful in their relationships with people, the workplace benefits. It’s really just a venue to reach people with the message. It’s all just empowering people to make a difference. To me empowering is a mix of inspiration and the resources to act.
Tell me about how you got started with the EO-WNY?
I got started with EO-WNY by a great guy, Ralph Dandria, a partner of ITX. I was at a party and we got talking. He wanted some training and he said, “Wow, you’d be a great candidate for EO!” Right away people were so generous. And, generosity to me is an attractive thing. That is EO for sure. One of our major objectives is to provide the best learning opportunities possible not only for members, but for the community as well.
It’s an organization that truly wants to help entrepreneurs grow.
Tell me more about your training packages.
Something else that I’d like to share with you is the concept that we’re using in our business. It’s a concept we call “GRIT.” It stands for “Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth.”
Those are the core of what it takes for authenticity as a human being. These things drive human relationships. GRIT happens to work well because the American way is toughness. That speaks to so many people!
I’m writing a book which is half done right now and the working title is something relative to “Getting your GRIT together.” It’s about creating a workplace that people want to be at! We want to spread the word!
We take everything that we do experientially and we change that to fit into different organizations. We do not change the flow of the material, but we do change the language and some of the activities involved. Remember, I consider myself a messenger, or a translator. I tailor the information to connect with accountants, lawyers, or construction people!
A lot of training companies will specialize in an industry, but we don’t do that. We’re specialists in people. That is our philosophy. The Four Agreements is one differentiator and customizing our message across industry is definitely unique in our marketplace. The real impact you need to make in an organization is on an individual level. We help people see what’s in it for them.
The best part about this stuff to me is that you’re never going to master it. We’re constantly learning, so the more we can lighten up and have fun with it, the better off we’re going to be! Fun is a core value of mine!

P.s. Fresh content at Check it out! <<<--- font="font">

Networking: Cultivation of Opportunity

By: Denyel Beiter

Editors Note: Denyel Beiter is a 2009 SUNY Geneseo graduate. She is currently employed at the True Community Development Corporation in Buffalo as the Americorps Vista. She was the president of Democracy Matters at SUNY Geneseo.

One of the most important characteristics that we each possess as part of the human race is the ability to connect with each other on an intimate level. This is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The ability to build relationships and to feel united with one another allows us to feel bigger than ourselves, to feel like a part of something, and most importantly, it allows us to be shaped and molded into someone we never dreamed we could be.

One of the most important lessons I have learned in the first few months of my career is the significance and impact of networking. By networking and establishing relationships, we find a little of ourselves in others. We can rely upon these relationships as steps to different opportunities in our personal and professional lives.
This is not to suggest that we use each other solely for our own benefit, but to merely extract and reciprocate goodwill and community.

As I write this article I think of this past week when I had an epiphany about the significance of networking. I work in a non-profit organization in inner-city
Buffalo where I help to run a job readiness program. A major component to the program is teaching the importance of networking. One young man in particular, who comes from a low income neighborhood, has been in and out of jail, and is unemployed, took advantage of a networking opportunity right away. After telling him my experience with working on job readiness initiatives and skills, he became wild eyed and set up an appointment with me so that I could council him on writing his very first resume.

He came into the office on time and ready to work.
We worked together and collaborated ideas and information that needed to get across to an employer. I taught him the basic structure and detailed tips of a resume. He taught me that by helping others and building relationships we can truly change lives. He began to cry, hug me, and tell me that he could not believe that someone would help him and take the time to care for him. His eyes widened and he said, “Now I have an opportunity. Now I have a future.”

Author and public speaker, Bob Burg describes networking as “the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the 'give' part."

I challenge all readers to keep networking. Whether it is for personal or professional reasons, we are human and we are here to interact, encourage, and motivate each other. When we collaborate, our ideas and output can transcend expectations and goals. We all have gifts to share as well as room for improvement.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jennifer Sertl

Jennifer Sertl is an executive coach based in Rochester NY. She has had a big impact on our publication, not only in coaching Joseph but also in suggesting that we put the Impact in VIP. Her thoughts inspire both of us and certainly will get you thinking, and hopefully acting, whether you are a CEO, out of work or anywhere in between. Especially poignant to me are her thoughts on battling the recession found near the end of the piece. There is some great content here from our conversation. Check it out! - Ben & Joseph

Early Influences

People with challenging early lives have been given a gift. Whatever you survive is your greatest gift to the world. My mother is schizophrenic. She was hospitalized for the first decade of my life. I became conscious of it when I was eight and remember spending time playing ping pong and drinking chocolate milk with crazy people every weekend when visiting her. In retrospect, I realized at that time that reality does not lie outside of us. Every person experiences reality. I got really good at putting my reality aside and taking on the reality of those in the hospital. I would be able to get in and out of character very fast.

My most embarrassing moment was when I saw my mother on a bus when I was in college and I did not acknowledge her. I was going to the University of Colorodo in Boulder and people did not know anything about me other than that I was somewhat attractive and very smart. Being smart was very important to me. If people could see me as sane then they would not know I lived with insanity. I now feel physically embarrassed that my mother was living on the streets and that I was more concerned about me than her.


I started out studying psychology and realized I did not enjoy the chemistry classes. So I went and studied existential philosophy and English. When I was 19 I read Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. There was a statement that stuck with me; “We have an imperfect but positive duty to seek our own perfection and happiness of other people.” That was the bible to me. All of a sudden I had my true north. I started making judgments if I would do something based upon whether it impacts my perfection or increases the happiness of another person. If the answer was no, then I would let it go.

It was lovely to have clarity on how to make choices at age 19.

Love and Early Career

I fell in love with a competitive ski racer. We went to Oregon to the Mount Hood Ski Academy. I taught English and he was a Ski Instructor. For two years of our life we lived in Portland Oregon.

We moved here to Rochester, New York in 1994. At that time we were living at my husband’s family’s house. The economic situation was like it is today. I had trouble getting a job and ended up working for a temp agency doing long distance phone service from 7pm to midnight. I noticed that I did not like how I was treated as a phone rep. I was probably not the only one who was smart and just collecting a paycheck and was treated like a monkey. However, I was very excited to be working.

Bigger, Better Things

It was very clear to me during my childhood who had the power. It was a survival strategy that I developed early on. I learned the rules of engagement at my job and within three years I was part of the management team of a two hundred person call center. I knew that the only way to fight the system was to be excellent in the system and then to be asked, “How did you do it?” I don’t do anything but perform, and with my performance let people become curious. Then I teach.

Then I went to Blue Cross Blue Shield and was a staff development coordinator for 1,000 employees. I helped design core competency models which are used to design hiring and firing. If you don’t hire and fire people for the culture that you want to create then you will have to constantly retrain and will not have the culture that you desire. You need to hire and fire people through the same filter. The culture is to the employee what the brand is to the customer.

I realized that I would be pigeon holed as an HR executive if I stayed where I was. Companies are still doing HR for legal reasons and not strategic reasons, which is pretty sad. This is not where the power is. I wanted to be where the power source was. So, I quit to start my own business.

The first business I had was Customer Service Alliance. We did employee and customer service satisfaction surveys and strategic intent. I then joined the group called TECH, now called VISTAGE, which runs CEO roundtables. I joined to become more sophisticated in my consulting design, and became a chair of it. This was great because I had an imagination that it would be great to work with CEOs. I saw them as having great intelligence and elegance.

I ended up running CEO roundtables for five years. The CEOs would spend a full day once a month with me all together and then two hours individually. They paid $3,000 a year for the network and whole experience. Part of me was disillusioned, but also excited by the experience when I realized that they are just human beings and they come with the same ethical dilemmas, crises, deficits and gifts as anyone else.

My greatest gift is holding people accountable. It is amazing to see how so few people hold others accountable at higher levels. Two years ago I chose to change my company to Agility 3R (Resilience, Responsiveness, and Reflection). I am doing more executive coaching and with a co author in Israel I wrote the book Strategy, Leadership and the Soul. It is about how you create designs and brand from the inside out. It is a book about accountability. We finished it in December of 2008 and are now working on having it published. Things take time so you have to be patient.

Impact and Presence

I have chosen to be impactful. I deliberately chose a practice of impact. When you are that kind of person, wherever you go you are a magnet. I met my co author Koby Huberman when I was invited to a conference in Nice, France. My talk was entitled "If you want to change the world, change your life." I also met Peter Collins who started the Global Business Network and is the editor for Doubleday Books.

Why did I mention that?

Because, it is usually when you have no agenda that you create deep relationships that will make a big impact in your life. I get really sad and scared when I see so much mechanistic sales and networking going on. I have been lucky enough and have had enough intent to connect with people at a world class level. The game I am playing is presence, to really kick the ball that is in front of you. You need to be able to kick it with elegance and with design.

I ask people, “What is your DNA?” If we can watch Cold Case and actually find out who is involved in a murder then we must conclude that we leave an imprint wherever we go. The question is, “What imprint are you leaving?” My invitation is that you shape it and name it. What is your experience and what is the experience of those who are with you? When are you the most pleased and proud and honored? Take that answer and ask if every day you are living up to it. Mine are wisdom, grace and impact. So for the last three years I have analyzed my actions in that framework, in that “brand.” I am giving others access to my brand experience and have to be very careful about who touches it and how.

What are your long term goals?

I feel complete with everyone in my life. Before I die I would like to see the book published. If I were to die today the only thing that would make me sad is that the book is not out there. In terms of my goals, I want to get more able to live up to my own expectations of myself. Also, I would like to touch one million people before I die as a coach, presenter or through the book.

I am hoping to start leveraging Skype. I think we as adults learn best through peer learning. I would like to create a Skype environment with 16 people from 16 countries and spin off leadership academies. This would be a global leadership academy. Leadership is an ongoing process and it takes a lifetime to master it.

I would be proud to be invited to the Economic World Forum or to TED Talks.

Where the Recession Came From: Low Curiosity

I do not have an MBA. I have no intention of getting one. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal pondering how people who are so educated could have created such a crisis. Often, when you are educated, you become a bit arrogant.

My husband is a competitive bass fisherman. He places really well in big lakes but not in lakes like Canandaigua where he learned how to fish. Our interpretation of this is that when you are familiar, you go by memory, you go by the past, and you don’t pay attention to the current situation. When you have a curious mind, you have presence and you make wise decisions. People get educated and they often lose caution. You need to live on a level of “I don’t know” at all times. There is an element of caution that will allow you greater access.

Planning your Life

I have this concept called 200 watts. You have 200 watts a month and can use it wherever you want. I look at things in 90 day blocks and build capacity in for learning, strategy and for presence. Input is to put more information in. Strategy is when I need to make decisions. 15% of my time is input, 15% of my time is strategy by design. The rest I commit to presence. Companies that I work with have that type of approach as well.

If you are only spending 8% of your time with your customer and 2% of your time creating, you are making a mistake. You should spend 30% of your time with your customer and 20% of your time looking at how you can change what you do. The rest of your time is spent on your delivery mechanism.

How to build a close community inside of an organization

Our brains are hardwired to need adrenaline in batches. Without it, we would be catatonic. When companies have an enemy outside of the business, the alignment process accelerates because their adrenaline has a clear target. Companies that are having trouble with solvency are not cat fighting. They are pulling it together inside because there is a real threat on the outside. Leaders who understand the physiology of behavior can design outlets for that behavior. The enemy will be inside without having an enemy on the outside.

Please define customer focus for us.

Normal painters or construction builders will build a facility. They will never leave a document that would have a swab and paint number and additional door knobs with a knob number to make it easier on the home buyer. Think about who you are serving and understand every other aspect of their lifestyle. Then you can design your business from their perspective around what would be valuable to your customer. Customer service is having it done on time and making sure there are no cigarettes butts in the parking lot. Customer focus is anticipating issues. It is being proactive instead of reactive. If you travel to a different country you see how well you are treated. People will Google me before I arrive... in a hotel that I am only staying in for one night.

*Recession Advice*

I went to a job fair recently and my heart went out to them because I saw that these people were not prepared for the challenges ahead of them. As a generation X person, I never felt I was working for someone. I always felt that I was working WITH someone as long as there was reciprocal value. I grew up in an age when people were free agents looking for a place that provided reciprocal value in money or in learning. There was a symbiotic relationship. Those people who have agility have found a way to continue to create value, or have found where the power was in order to continue to stay safe.

Those who have been laid off did not create value for those in power or were unable to create a new job where they were able to create value. They need to take responsibility right now. This happened to them because they did not make wise choices. They missed a game change and were not able to play. One must make sure to not continue to play the same game they have been playing but just harder, because the rules have changed. It is a different game. Own that you do not understand it and that you need to get some help.

Be with people who are thriving. You have no time to be around people who are not thriving, because it brings you down. You can let your muscles know that there is hope. A coach said to me a while back to make sure that you are the lowest IQ of the ten people that you most spend time with. Too many people are the highest number.

Actionable right now: Make sure you are developing three skills at all times. One is related to your core current practice. Second is a macro environmental skill, as an example: Systems thinking. The third skill is leadership or personal knowledge. Rate your development of these skills on a scale of one to ten.

Final Thoughts

You two have shown what is possible in creating connectivity. The reader’s job is to take what you have given and create innovative ways of creating value for their network and using it towards their goals.

Jenn can be reached by email at:
Her writing can be found at:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lance Armstrong: Still inspirational after the doping scandal

“I grew up a boyhood fan of Lance Armstrong. My first encounter with the man was on July 26th, 1999, the day after he won his first Tour de France. It didn’t mean much to me at the time as I was only 13, but the image of him with his arms pumped in the air on the front page of the Press & Sun Bulletin, my local newspaper, made a lasting impression on me. At the time I was just starting to get into running - the sport I would eventually compete in for the next 10 years of my life - and I was in search of meaning. It took a few more years to dig up why I fell in love with running, but a key tenant of my passion came from following Lance Armstrong. Nobody bikes over 2,000 miles in a three week span through the hills of France without a purpose. After reading his autobiography, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,” written with Sally Jenkins, I realized the truth behind this man’s story. He grew up in a single family household adopting the “man of the house” role early on. As a triathlete during his high school years he would bike 20 miles to a morning swim practice, go to school, have an afternoon swim practice, and then bike 20 miles home. After shocking the fields of major triathlons at only fifteen years old, Lance turned to cycling. He climbed the ladder fast and at age 21 won the world championship in Oslo, screaming as he made his high powered attacks and showboating as he crossed the line. But, the real trial of his life came when Lance was diagnosed with the highest degree of testicular cancer, which spread through his lungs and into his brain. He devoted his entire life at that point to researching and conquering the cancer with knowledge and a positive attitude. Lance suffered through more pain than most of us could ever imagine as the toxins of the chemotherapy ate away at his body. But he never gave up, he never lost hope, and he fought with everything he had - mind and body. After a long year of treatment he defeated the cancer. Lance fought his cancer with the same passion he has competed with. He has a heart that never gives up and this has lead him to win an all time cycling record, seven (7) Tour de France races in a row, before retiring. We can learn much about how to live life by observing and appreciating an individual like Lance Armstrong who continues to live his own life with such passion.” -Joseph Norman

UPDATE: Fresh video after the doping (performance enhancing drugs) scandal. Lance Armstrong is still inspirational in my eyes. Comment, thumbs up, & subscribe to the YouTube channel for current videos!

This article also appears on my new blog here:

The following are some excerpts from his book, “It’s Not About the Bike:”

“Then Nichols stunned me: he said that he would like to tailor my treatment to get me back on the bike. That was the one thing no doctor besides Scott Wolff had said to me. Not one. I was so taken aback that at first I didn’t trust what he was saying. The trip to Houston had so deflated me, particularly the description of the rigors of treatment and the extreme measures it would take to save me. My highest priority was survival. “Just help me live,” I said.” (104)

“Maybe I needed to tell myself I was still a rider, not just a cancer patient, no matter how weak I had become. If nothing else, it was my way of countering the disease and regaining the control it had stripped from me. I can still do this, I told myself. I might not be able to do it like I used to, but I can still do it.” (144)

“I had never embraced my life. I had made something of it, and fought for it, but I had never particularly enjoyed it. “You have this gift,” Kik (Armstrong’s first wife) said. “You can teach me how to really love life, because you’ve been on the brink, and you saw the other side. So you can show me that.” But she showed me. She wanted to see everything, and I was the guy who for to show it to her, and in showing it to her, I saw it for myself.” (169)

“The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.” (259)

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy.

By now you’ve figured out I’m into pain. Why? Because it’s self-revelatory, that’s why. There is a point in every race when a rider encounters his real opponent and understands that it’s himself. In my most painful moments on the bike, I am at my most curious, and I wonder each and every time how I will respond. Will I discover my innermost weakness, or will I seek out my innermost strength? It’s an open-ended question whether or not I will be able to finish the race. You might say pain is my chosen way of exploring the human heart.” (269-270)

P.S. Here's a link to that video above!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Customer Service

By: Joseph Norman

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” - Sam Walton

About four months ago a client of the real estate company I co-founded after college, Norwalk Enterprises, said something to my business partner and I on a conference call that was subtle, but absolutely rocked our world. He was in the process of doing a deal with us, purchasing a cash flow rental property in Rochester, when he said, “You know guys, I’m counting on you now.”

It took a few days for that to really settle in, but it did.

Now, it’s not that we weren’t focused on high quality customer service before then, but there was a definite reality to the situation after we heard our client say that. It hammered home the fact that you’ve got to treat your customers right because they pay your bills and are ultimately, your best salespeople.

As Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles discuss in their best-selling book, “Raving Fans,” if you provide legendary service, you will create raving fans.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about customer service that might be helpful!

Under Promise, Over Deliver (UPOD). Set realistic expectations for your clients that you know you can beat. Then do your best to deliver results that exceed those expectations!

Be available. If you have a client in crisis mode, answer the phone! Call them back! Communicate with them! It’s as simple as that. Showing you care about their concerns with your actions goes a long way - even if it is just to say, “I got your message. We’ll take care of it on Monday.” That means a lot to a client.

Honesty. The truth is what they need to hear. Even if it isn’t what they want to hear, in the end they’ll respect you more and be more loyal because you told them the truth.

Listen. Above all things you need to listen to what your customers have to say. When you take the time to listen, you learn all of your clients’ insecurities, fears, and inhibitions. In addition, you learn their hopes, dreams, and ambitions. By listening you make your customers feel valued. That is priceless.

Not a business owner? These four principles apply to everyday life as well!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ryan Rogers

"I met Ryan a few years ago when my oldest brother first moved to Orlando. At that point he was in the beginning of his transition from mortgage broker to realtor. Since that time he’s developed a successful real estate practice based on some simple principles; listening well, responding quickly and intelligently, and doing the right thing. This has allowed him to serve his clients well and ultimately grow his business substantially...even in one of the most troubled markets of the real estate downturn, Orlando, Florida. It is truly a pleasure to feature some of his thoughts today!" - Joseph Norman

Being a realtor in one of the markets that was dramatically hit by the real estate downturn, how has that affected your business? And, what are a few of the ways you’ve tried to add value to your clients?

My biggest advantage with the real estate is my knowledge of the mortgage industry. I worked for a bank for many years, so I have a distinct advantage in helping my clients through the closing process. Where I add a lot of value is helping my clients save money with their mortgages.

That’s a big thing. Say you go to a closing and your client is getting charged an extra two points for an origination fee when the interest on the loan is already very high. That’s something you can actually alleviate.

I’ve actually been at the closing table before and noticed that my client was being charged an additional 3 points, or 3 percent, up front. I said to them, “You’re not closing.” At that point I told the bank that we wouldn’t close unless they took those points off because I knew the bank was getting 2 points on the backside already. I won’t let a client close if I see something that I wouldn’t accept personally. Or, at least, I give them the option to make a decision either way. As long as they know the consequences, they have the right to make their own decision.

A lot of times realtors are treated poorly by the banks because they don’t necessarily know a lot about the mortgage process. I feel that you provide your people a better service if you can bring more knowledge about the transaction to the table. That has helped me get more clients.

With my internet advertising, potential clients that call me are talking to at least 3 or 4 realtors. So, my knowledge is a key way I can differentiate myself. And, about 50% of the questions I answer are in regards to mortgages.

Also, when I sell a house I actually listen to people. I don’t sell them the house that I want them to buy. I’ll send them a sheet and the first question is, “What is your wish list for a house?” Then I take that and start showing them houses that meet their desires and one they can afford.

If I have a client that can afford a $250k house, I’m not going to show them a $350k house because they’ll never want to settle for a $250k place then.

In terms of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), what are some things you do?

I have a comprehensive system that I use which funnels clients down into two categories; short term buyers and long term buyers. I consider three to six months a short term buyer. The software I use, called House Values, is a program that helps me automatically send valuable information to clients or potential clients periodically. It’s expensive, but I’ve probably closed about 5 deals from it in the last year.

I have actually increased my marketing expenses in the last year to stay competitive in this economy. The leads you get in Orlando real estate are interesting because half of the people I’ve worked with before are stuck in properties that are upside down. I knew I needed to generate more leads, so I’ve taken the necessary actions to do that.

You definitely have to spend money right now to make money. I know people that have been in the business for ten or twelve years and they are calling me now to ask me how I’m getting all of my clients. We’re talking people that are closing $7-10 million in business a year.

It’s sort of odd to have people at that level asking me those questions. But the marketplace has changed and my systems are working.

What are some things you’ve done to help you personally handle the current economy?

In terms of purchasing a house, I bought within my means. I could have afforded a lot more house when I bought, but if I had done that, right now I would be in big trouble.

A surprising fact I came across was that the top 1 percent of individuals in this country only make about $388k a year. That’s really not a whole lot of money in comparison. That means many of these people that have bought million dollar homes are actually living paycheck to paycheck.

If you’re going to buy a house, you’ve got to get into something that you can logically afford. But, that’s not always easy to do. When I was in the mortgage industry, I would tell people when they couldn’t afford something but they wouldn’t necessarily listen to me. They might even say, “If you don’t do the mortgage for me, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Be knowledgeable about what you’re making and be reasonable. Don’t live at an income level that isn’t realistic with what you actually make.

What are some of your hobbies?

I do a lot of things. Play a lot of tennis, golf, and softball. I also enjoy a variety of water sports; wakeboarding, jet skiing, etc. It’s important to stay active. It keeps you young!

You’ve also got to enjoy what you do. As for my line of work, if you don’t like being with people you shouldn’t be in this business. I meet some realtors that say I don’t like answering the phone. So, I ask them, “Why are you in the business?”

You have to run your own business and you have to run it smart. If you need structure and you can’t do it yourself, then this isn’t the business for you. In real estate the best thing you can do is talk to everyone you can. If you’re at the mall and somebody is talking about houses, give them a card. They may never call you, but they also might! You’ve got to take that chance.

What is your definition of success?

You know I think it is different for everyone. I don’t think success is measured by money, per se. It’s loving what you do and being able to make a living at it. I think that is really the key.

What your perception of living is, is what you make it. If you’re in real estate and you make $50k per year and you’re happy - it fits your income level and pays your bills - then you probably feel successful.

I must say, I have a lot of freedom in my job so I can do a lot of things. And, I make a very good income in respect to a normal job. I don’t have to answer to anyone as I’m my own boss. If you look at cost per hour what I make, I do very well. But, I also have to be available.

I may take a call at 9:30 PM on a Friday, because I’d rather have a client get an answer from me immediately then have to wait a few days. That’s another key for me. If I get a call on a Saturday and a client is freaking out, some people might not respond until Monday. But, if you let them wait until Monday morning to get them an answer, then you have probably shot their whole weekend if they’re a stressful person.

In this business, you have to answer the phone. That has to come first. All your other free time is what you want to make of it!

Final thoughts?

It is what it is. You’ve just got to keep going. If you’re self-employed like I am, you’ve got to figure out a way to do it and just do it.

Ryan can be reached by email at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Patience, Persistence, & Self-Belief

By: Joseph Norman

Last week I had the humbling and exciting opportunity of delivering a keynote address at the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony at my alma mater, Windsor Central High School.

As I was preparing my message for the speech over the last month, I struggled with getting clarity on what I was going to say. I knew I wanted it to be original and authentic...coming from where I am today; a young entrepreneur working on a dream.

So, courtesy of a recent VIP, John Engels, I told the audience I wasn’t fit to give them any advice about how they should live their lives. (Click here for John's profile) Instead, I shared with them the three most real things in my life right now.

I said, “Whatever you want to do with your life, whoever you desire to become, whatever career or personal endeavor you long to succeed in, I want you to know this. You can get there - I really believe that - but you will be tested in at least these three ways; Your capacity to be patient, your courage to persist, and,arguably the most important, your belief in yourself.”

You’ve got to be patient. Real fulfilling success doesn’t come instantly. It takes time to make big things happen and I’ve learned that it’s important to recognize that in the beginning as you’ll be more apt to set realistic expectations.

As for my message in regards to you, I’m making an assumption that in some form or another, you do have goals for yourself - whether you write them on paper or just have them in your head. First, I challenge you to write them down and second it’s important to remember that accomplishing those goals and finding your own success takes time.

In some cases it can come about very fast, but more often than not, it’s going to test your patience.

You’ve got to be persistent. People aren’t going to call you back. You’re going to get beaten down. You’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to walk away. But, if what you want to accomplish really means something to you...then you can’t.

Since I graduated from college I’ve faced some trials. I’ve been humbled by the realization that you don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve dealt with the emotional stress of not being able to pay my monthly bills at a few different times. And, I’ve struggled with the absolute mental mess associated with knowing I could get a day job and stop that pain but I choose not too because of a belief in something bigger for myself.

This lifestyle I lead is not for the faint of heart. But the truth is we can all help ourselves by being persistent. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” It’s as simple as that...just keep going.

You’ve got to believe in yourself. When you’re out there striving for some of your own big, meaty goals, people you’ve trusted and admired your entire life are going to doubt you. Tonight, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to listen to them. How could they possibly know what’s best for you? Only you know what is best for you.

If you want to be a great engineer, you can be. If you want to be a respected mechanic or craftsman, you can be. And, if you want to be a fantastic teacher or business person, you absolutely can be.

But, first you’ve got to empower yourself and believe you can.

So, remember to be patient. It’s going to take time to accomplish your goals. Recognize that and don’t give up. Be persistent. Even people you trust and admire will try to hold you back and bring you down, but at the end of the day, you control your own destiny. So, believe in it. Believe in yourself. If you believe it, you can achieve it. You hold the power to create your own wildly successful life. Use it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quote Lovers

Sometimes you just need a good quote to get you back on the right track. Here are a few that might help!

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

Reading is no substitute for action. - Colleen Wainwright

The only way to have a friend is to be one. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality. - Ayn Rand

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. - Thomas Jefferson

Do, or do not. There is no 'try'. - Yoda

If you are going through hell, keep going. - Sir Winston Churchill

If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars. - J. Paul Getty

It's kind of fun to do the impossible. - Walt Disney

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. - Samuel Johnson

A clever man commits no minor blunders. - Goethe

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence. - Xenocrates

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. - Buckminster Fuller

He who hesitates is a damned fool. - Mae West

Well done is better than well said. - Benjamin Franklin

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. - Sir Winston Churchill

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. - Benjamin Franklin

The truth is more important then the facts. Frank Lloyd Wright

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ray Major

I met Ray during my high school years at the Windsor Central School District when he was teaching and coaching and I was competing in cross country and track and field. As is often the case, I didn’t fully appreciate his tremendous sense of humor and everything he had to say until after I moved away. Although he now lives in Texas, we have remained good friends and I consider him an absolutely remarkable man. Ray has two distinct passions in his life; education and lifetime fitness. Currently, he teaches Physical Education and Health at an elementary school in the Plainview Independent School District in Plainview, Texas. Enjoy his thoughts! - Joseph Norman

In the classroom today, what are a few things that you try to pass on to your students?

The number one thing in my classroom is that everyone has value and everyone deserves to experience some kind of success. And, I tell them that. I really believe that we all have different abilities and we all have strengths. Even though we have weaknesses, we all have strengths too and that is what we should focus on.

I’ve even pushed this farther by teaching my students and athletes that you have to have a love for it. You have to enjoy it. If you aren’t doing something for you, then maybe you aren’t doing it for the right reasons. It’s that extensive. I take it from my coaching right down to the elementary level where I now teach.

What got you into education?

Gary Vail was my PE teacher in the mid to late 70s. I wasn’t a very athletic kid, I didn’t play other sports well, and I was always one of the last people picked. But I just admired the way he did things. He would post the win-loss records of all the classes in the locker room and I thought that was impressive. So, 1) I’ve got this teacher that I absolutely admire, and, 2) I’m not a very athletic kid so I’m not really getting the playing time in PE that I probably could have. From that time I was thinking about going into Phys. Ed. for education.

Now, as for my running, I got my origins from a man named Gerry O’Donnell. I always admired him because even in his late 40s he was still running with us. And, he always believed in me. I didn’t make it to the state meet but he took me with him. He wrote me a really nice letter at graduation. And, I think that is where my love of running started.

At that time running was a little more extrinsic and just for the rewards. Now it is more intrinsic, but at that time I had things I wanted to accomplish with my running. That’s what kept me running back then.

Why physical education?

I was always the one that organized the pick up games when I was a kid. I even kept stats during the games. If my brother ran the ball, I would step it off and mark up a piece of paper that he just got five yards. Who does that? My old friends still joke about it.

And, I was the type of kid that could never sit still. I was constantly moving. My grade school years I got in trouble because I could never sit still.

As I recall, almost everyday you eat lunch with students. Tell me a little bit about this habit of yours...

The number one reason I do it is for the pure enjoyment of seeing the kids get excited and looking forward to something. And, the second thing is a bit selfish, but it is the fact that I get to be with a small group. It might be two kids or it might be twelve, but just the pleasure I get from having a small group at some point during the day is a wonderful reward for me because I usually have classes of 40 or so.

What keeps you running?

Early on my running was more extrinsic. You go to a road race and win a trophy or something. But, collegiately the value came more from the opportunity to travel and enjoy the camaraderie with my teammates. After that it really got to the physiological high that you get from the runs. Quite simply it became an addiction. Now it is more of a stress reliever and social thing. There is still the love for running even though the obstacles of old age and angry joints are there. So, where I’m at now is just enjoying the connection with nature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ray is known for his rhymes. This is the beginning of a recent rendition he gave to his parents at parent-teacher conference night in Plainview.

Health and fitness is important all the time
That’s why I wrote the following rhyme
I was watching CNN
I think it was around ten
The news was about a flight attendant who made up a rap
Because during a safety debriefing, the passengers sat their like saps
I figured if he can do it on a plane
I can talk about how activity stimulates the brain
We don’t have to make fitness a whole lot harder
Even a little bit will make you smarter
You see fitness helps pump blood easier to the mind
This can help you solve problems of many kinds
It doesn’t matter the activity that you do
Grab a partner if it will help you
Baseball, basketball, even soccer
Get those sneakers out of the locker
If you golf, don’t use a cart
Walking the course is better for your heart...

Final thoughts?

I don’t know if this directly applies, but I feel like it might. My mother died just recently on April 3. Not my step mother, but my real one. And, that is the first parent I’ve lost. It has kind of set me back but it has also helped me realize that you’ve got to be grateful for what you have while you’re here.

When I get that over-ambition to do more and train more, I try to remember now and then that it’s okay to step back and just enjoy it. Sometimes we all need that gentle reminder that it’s best to take time and appreciate what you have rather than just rush through life.

Ray can be reached by email at:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BB&T Corp & Principled Leadership

By: Joseph Norman

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to John Allison, Chairman of BB & T Corporation, deliver a talk about Principled Leadership at the University of Central Florida. Essentially he walked through the corporate philosophy at BB & T which he helped develop over the last decade.

The truth is that the people that have become truly successful in this world didn’t take shortcuts. They consistently did the right thing even in the face of adversity or lack of support from others. The 10 BB&T Values are a good model of how we can consistently do the right thing in our own lives.

Without further adieu:

Reality (Fact-Based). What is, is. If we want to be better, we must act within the context of reality (the facts).

Reason (Objectivity). We cannot all be geniuses, but each of us can develop the mental habits which ensure that when making decisions we carefully examine the facts and think logically without contradiction in deriving a conclusion.

Independent Thinking. All human progress by definition is based on creativity, because creativity is the source of positive change. Creativity is only possible to an independent thinker. Creativity is not about just doing something different. It is about doing something better.

Productivity. In a long term context and in a free market, the bigger the profit, the better. Healthy profits represent productive work.

Honesty. Being honest is simply being consistent with reality. To be honest does not require that we know everything. Knowledge is always contextual and man is not omniscient. However, we must be responsible for saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

Integrity. Principles provide carefully thought-out concepts which will lead to our long-term success and happiness. We should always act consistently with our principles.

Justice (Fairness). In evaluating other people, it is critical that we judge based on essentials. Individuals must be judged individually based on their personal merits, not their membership in any group.

Pride. Pride is the psychological reward we earn from living by our values, i.e., from being just, honest, having integrity, being an independent thinker, being productive and rational.

Self-Esteem (Self-Motivation). A necessary attribute for self-esteem is self-motivation. You receive from your work in proportion to how much you contribute.

Teamwork / Mutual Supportiveness. While independent thought and strong personal goals are critically important, work is often accomplished within teams. Each of us must consistently act to achieve the agreed-upon objectives of the team, with respect for our fellow team members, while acting in a mutually supportive manner.

Developing your own set of values is not an easy task, but it is a crucial one! My hope is that some of BB&T’s values resonate with you and help you make your own world a better place.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Selling Yourself

By: Joseph Norman

"Getting your way is the gateway to getting what you want." - Jeffrey Gitomer

With what feels like Armageddon coming every time you watch the news, now is as important a time as ever to learn how to sell yourself and your ideas to others.

The truth is during times of great economic distress a large transfer of wealth occurs. With many people losing money, there is actually a large group of people and businesses out there absolutely coining money in this economy. Why? They know that turbulence like this creates opportunity.

Now that you know the truth though, it's important to discuss a little bit about how these people take advantage of times like these.

They effectively sell themselves and their ideas to the world! It's as simple as that.

Jeffrey Gitomer has a fantastic book that I've read a few times now called the Little Green Book of Getting Your Way. I'd like to focus on one particular section directly from his book on persuasion because I think it's valuable to understanding how to make your desires a reality in your own life.

Persuasion is the process...getting your way is the outcome.

Persuasion is a science. You can learn to persuade. You can learn the best ways to persuade in each given situation of your business life, your sales life, and your personal life.

Persuasion is an art. Never crossing the line to "pushy." It's showing reserve and poise. In short - being cool.

Persuasion is excellent questioning skills beyond excellent communication skills. It's getting the other person to clarify what you want in their mind. Rather than tell them "This is why that happened..." ask "Why do you think this happened" or "What made this happen?" It's a subtle but powerful difference.

Persuasion is compromise. Often there is some give and take in order to get to your way.

Persuasion is asking questions that clarify the situation. Asking for elaboration, understanding, and "why" will lead you to harmony. That harmony will permit open-minded dialogue.

Persuasion is excellent listening skills. Listening is one of the most difficult elements of persuasion because it requires patience. The two-word secret of patience and listening is NOT "shut up." It's "take notes." Taking notes shows respect and eliminates miscommunication.

Persuasion is getting the other guy to convince himself. If you question, listen, write it down, and question again for clarification, your answers and your point of view will become obvious.

Persuasion is preparation. Gathering the right information. Creating the right questions. Uncovering the right hot buttons - and acting on them.

Persuasion is victory. Persuasion is the science by which you get your way. It's not just getting your way; it's persuading with harmony and getting everyone to agree. It's you getting your way without the other guy feeling like he or she "lost."

Why would I simply rip-off and duplicate from Gitomer this week? Because this is some fantastic stuff and if it's not broken, don't fix it!

Right now is an incredible opportunity for us in Western New York to look the challenges in the face and discover what we really want out of our lives! But, at that moment of discovery, we are also faced with the ultimate test...getting other people to buy into our dream!

I'm doing it right now with my business partner Shaun and our real estate business. You can do it too with your dream! It just takes a little bit of persuasion...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

John Engels

John Engels is founder and president of Leadership Coaching, Inc., a leadership consulting firm in Upstate New York, focused on the mentoring and growth of CEOs, presidents, their executive teams and their families. His Advanced Leadership Course for CEOs has been recognized nationally for its depth and practical emphasis on high-level functioning at work and home. He has traveled widely, participating in developing world projects in Bangladesh, Haiti, and Peru. An insatiable curiosity for knowledge and a constant search for depth in life and self are a few key values John brings to his consulting practice.

Tell us a little bit about how you got started and what put you on the path of wanting to give back in this way.

I think started is a funny word. Lots of dramatic events happened in my childhood which had an impact on me. I grew up Roman Catholic. So, there was a lot of emphasis in my upbringing on service; concern for the poor and for people that don’t have enough. My parents came from poverty. They had to learn how to survive and they appreciated the small pleasures in life. I got a feel for that early on.

Though they were poor, each of my parents had a lot of motivation to succeed and get ahead. They had tasted poverty and they didn’t want to taste it again. I think it was very influential for me. I am the oldest of five, so from that sibling position an expectation was programmed into me that I would be successful. That I would be achievement oriented. It was just in there.

I’ve always had an insatiable desire to learn. To look for insight in off-the-beaten-path places, where others aren’t going. I can remember my mother telling us, “Don’t be a conformist!”

I’ve looked in very strange places for knowledge and that habit has been very useful for me; bringing a perspective to my clients that is not only different, but in many ways subversive. So, that’s a big competitive advantage. I’m like a sponge. Yes, I have the academic degrees, but that has not stimulated the greatest learning for me. Book knowledge simply readied me for the real learning, which has come in prison visits, wilderness adventures, hospital morgues, villages in developing worlds, and to a large degree, in conversations with my clients.

What does your business and its delivery system look like?

People choose to buy an apple based on the skin. Is it shiny? Dull? Red? Yellow? Does it have dimples on it? The skin of the apple is not the meat of the apple. The skin of the apple is not the apple, it is just the cover. Most leaders live in a world where only the superficial elements of leadership are looked at - personality, physical appearance, resume, compensation, etc. My team and I help veteran and high-potential leaders look at the meat of the apple - their emotional maturity, their confidence and skill as coaches to others, the clarity of their thinking and decision-making, and so on. We help leaders know, trust and communicate their substance. That enables them to influence others - both at work and at home - in more meaningful ways.

Our business model centers on a course that I founded thirteen years ago, the Advanced Leadership Course. It takes CEOs and other senior level leaders through an eight month process - one full day a month for eight months - teaching the science of leadership and developing them as high functioning mentors. The course is often the beginning of a relationship with Leadership Coaching, Inc. that extends far beyond the eight months. Half of the graduates end up in some sort of long term relationship with me. I offer an annual retreat that about 100 graduates of the Advanced Leadership Course come to every year. And, I feed them...I give them more.

My belief is that what ultimately impresses people is the depth, not the skin. That is something to know about life. Don’t just look at the outside and what seems to be. There is more than that going on. I deal all day with people that have made a living out of trying to look good, and to stay comfortable. And, unfortunately for many, that’s where their focus ends. We try to lead leaders in a different direction. For example, we make an effort to help leaders manage and overrule discomfort instead of trying to avoid it. Sometimes, progress is not possible without discomfort, so managing it becomes critical. Leaders who learn how to do this can take the world by storm.

What advice would you give to the people of Western New York?

That’s a really easy question to answer because I don’t give advice. I never give advice. Don’t know what’s best for others. It’s challenging enough to figure out what’s best for me. And, that is an important point right there.

The last time I was asked that question it was by Mayor Robert Duffy, just before he took office. He invited me to breakfast and asked me for advice. I told him the same thing, “I don’t give advice,” and I could see he was somewhat stunned by my answer. We went on to have a very animated conversation.

Everybody seems to have lots of advice for everybody else which is a sign of a toxic and regressive culture. Do I really know what you should be doing? Do I know what that guy over there should be doing? Should I tell him what to do because something that worked for me should work for him? I have no idea. That is the most honest answer I can give.

If someone asks me what I have found helpful, I will tell them. Not in an advice-giving way, just sharing my own experience.

When I say, “I don’t know what you should do”, it leaves you with the responsibility to figure it out. And, it turns out that you figuring it out provides more value to you then all of the advice you might be getting elsewhere. So, I’m actually giving you a gift by saying I don’t know. I’m driving value to you because the alternative would keep you in a helpless, dependent position.

Anybody who falls into the trap of telling others what to do is not thinking clearly. How can somebody, no matter how smart they are, know what’s best for me if they’re not me? They don’t even know me. This is true in families. It’s true with spouses. It’s true with kids. Do your parents know what’s best for you? They can’t possibly know. Most often, parents don’t even know what’s best for them! That’s just the way it is.

This is the kind of experience that I try to give my clients; discombobulating their assumptions. Challenging these things they take as automatically true. I question them. I ask them, “Who told you that?”

For example, when a client says to me, “I’d never ask my people to do something I’m not willing to do myself.” They tell me that and they really believe their practicing good leadership.

I say, “That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would you be doing what your people are doing? You’re not them. You’re not where they are. You’re leading. Why would you, as a Principal of a high school, think that you need to set up chairs in the auditorium? So your people think you’re one of them? Why do you need that coziness? Why do you need their approval? What should a top-notch Principal be doing? Do we need the Principal to set up chairs or to think about where the school is going?

This is an example of really helping people think at a deeper level. Not just trite, throw away phrases. I’ve studied people and leadership for a long, long time, so I have at least a modest idea what this leadership thing is all about. Most people are very superficial in their understanding and I’m talking about people who head businesses, families and even nations.

My business is thriving because we offer people a level of value that matches what they need. And, often times, what they don’t know they need. It is high value, high risk, and high reward type of work. It requires understanding someone’s life and work, so we can help them with the most important challenges. Meeting with people at this level brings a high level of meaningfulness and satisfaction to me, and to those who do this work with me.

I know you work a lot at the family level with people as well. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

It’s not so much work-life balance. It’s you understanding as a leader what the influence of your multi-generational history is on how you function everyday. Each of us grew up in a family system that produced patterns in us; emotional patterns, ways of acting, and ways of being that profoundly impact how we function. Those patterns are unconsciously governing our behavior everyday. We help leaders name and understand those patterns so they can make clearer choices about how they want to lead.

So, the first part of my work is to help my clients get thinking about what the connection is between how they were raised and how they lead as well as how they show up to their own kids and their wife or husband. Again, I think this is a deeper look at self.

My clients are quite wowed by this. I’m talking about people that have been all over the world and have done all kinds of things but they’ve never examined how their family history has influenced their functioning. We do a four generational family tree. We actually develop that with all of my clients, in an effort to help them go deeper and broader with their thinking. They’ve expressed profound appreciation for this aspect of what we do, and I think it’s because they’ve never thought about it.

We do individual coaching, work with teams, and give presentations all over the world on leadership, but the Advanced Leadership Course is our core. I give those 25 people each year everything I’ve got because every one of them is hungry to grow and influential to many others.

Where did the search for depth come from?

It came from my own experiences as a youngster. I experienced a lot of chaos in my life growing up. I grew up during Vietnam and the assassinations. There was a lot of heaviness during my childhood, in our home and in the world. The war was on TV every night, so I got sensitized to it all. It wasn’t something that I could ignore. I was thinking about it a lot. Then, my twin brother was killed in a car accident when I was 21 and a senior in college. That just rocked me.

From an early age, I was on a mission to find myself. So, what I’m asking my clients to do I am familiar with. I had to figure out how to grow up, deal with pain, with loss, and with the fact that I only have one life to live. What do I want to do with it?

I have been fortunate to marry a woman who is a person of great depth. We have shared questions and conversations with our three children from way back. We have tried to make conscious decisions about exposing our kids to the often-overlooked realities of life. As a quick example, we’ve made three trips to Bangladesh and two trips to a Harlem soup kitchen with our kids, but we’ve never been to Disney World. We don’t have anything against Disney World because for some people it’s great, but it’s just not our thing. My two sons would rather be wilderness camping than hanging out in a resort.

Bangladesh is a pretty out of the way place. I was introduced to it many years ago when a cyclone hit and I was wondering how I could help. Then I met a girl in an orphanage there who is now our daughter. One thing leads to another.

My purpose in life is to live at that deeper level. That’s what I want to do, and that’s what I invite others into. Some of the world’s best thinkers, individuals like Dr. Murray Bowen and Dr. Ed Friedman, have been my teachers; I know I did not arrive at this place without help. So, I have committed the rest of my life to teach others the ideas, principles and strategies that relate to being a more emotionally mature and responsible self. That’s what I’ve studied and that’s what I’ve tried to live.

It’s not really about business, it’s about life.

What’s next for you?

Lately I’ve been thinking about putting many of these ideas and principals into print. So, I think that’s next for me.

In addition, I’ve been doing this advanced level leadership work with CEOs for 25 years and a large percentage of my clients have reported to me that they wish they would have been exposed to this material earlier in their careers. These people are generally 35 to 60. One of my dreams is to deliver these ideas to 22 -30 year old high potential leaders.

These are life changing ideas. It would be great to find a way to give these skills to people earlier in life.

Final thoughts?

One thing that I’ve tried to do in my career that has really helped my business tremendously - and, it’s a great way to live - is win-win relationships. I never want to take from somebody unless I can give and I don’t want to give unless I can take. I’m always looking for the mutual aspect of an exchange.

I have three children; Nick, 23, Joe, 19, and Maria, 18. It’s important to me that our children see a lack of pretense when they look at my wife and myself.

My business is not slick or fancy. It reflects my own blue-collar background and values. This lack of pretense is what our clients are looking for. At the end of the day, our clients respond to the genuineness they see in us. They know we will ask them the important questions and challenge them without worrying about their approval.

John Engels
Founder & President
Leadership Coaching, Inc.