How to Actually Change Your Company Culture
Tom Cannon was hired as the CEO of Mid Florida Golf Cars, a company that had been around for over 25 years, about 3 years ago. He talks about the process of creating a common vision when stepping into somebody else’s company, as well as the process of realizing that nothing about the culture was aligned with that future vision. He describes his investment in changing the culture, including taking everybody through Radical Collaboration®, which focuses on building collaborative skills like self-awareness and self-accountability, and elaborates on growing his own self-awareness.
Laura: In this episode, I speak with Tom Cannon, CEO of Mid Florida Golf Cars. Tom was hired as the CEO about 3 years ago – into a company that had been around for over 25 years already. In our conversation we talk about the differences in creating a common vision when it’s not a company he, himself, founded:
Tom: I’m trying to, you know, myself, develop a vision for what the company can be. It’d be the first time that I was involved with something where I didn’t have a, a vision ahead of time–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –so normally when I was involved with starting stuff I had kind of created a vision and then I could go kind of fulfill it. And here I didn’t have one. I just came in and said, “You know, here’s kind of the keys to the kingdom. Make it better.”
As well as the process of realizing that nothing about the culture…the “this is how we do things” was aligned with the future vision of the company, and the process of making real change in the culture
Tom: So the, the first thing I would say if, if you think there’s a problem, there probably is. So, not to, not to ignore that the fact that there’s a, that there’s a problem with your company or a problem with the culture or the way people interact.
Tom: So you come into a culture, um, and, and you’re wanting to change this culture and it’s a very blue collar, you know, dirty– hands dirty, in the mud, you know, working every day, um, without a lot of thought for, you know, you know, the people that are in the organization. How to take care of the people in the organization. How to have the people communicate better. How to share with them the vision. So, you know, you kind of come in, you start introducing these things and you get– and I got– a lot of, a lot of raised eyebrows like, “Okay. You know, what is, what is going on here?”
We also talk about how ROI, or return on investment, plays into it, when there are other people to bring into the decision making process for such an investment
Tom: So, I mean, deep down you just have to believe it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard to prove the ROI. You just have to believe that if you do those things, in the end it will be better for not only the employees but thus the company in the long-term.
I ask him about the importance of him focusing on his own development as a leader, and how valuable it has been to focus on his own self-awareness:
Tom: And kind of just be more self aware in general, which makes it, um, I don’t know, makes life easier, makes life better and the ability to be happy.
And then we also talk about the journey of one of the leaders on his team who stepped into a role with some very challenging circumstances:
Tom: And, you know, he hasn’t, he didn’t come in to the greatest circumstances here at Mid Florida Golf Cars that he had to, had to deal with so a lot was put on his plate as a responsibility to change things, to shift things around. So, the ability to get past those, telling those stories helped him a ton. And after, it’s kind of like the dominos, so after he kind of bought in and believed in that and it was working for him and more and more things kind of fell into place for him and aligned on the things that we were working on with you around culture and interaction. It’s really changed.
And as a heads up – tune into our episode next time to hear more, directly from Ben about his journey and experience of growing self-awareness and truly transforming culture. But for now, let’s get into this incredibly valuable conversation with Tom:
Laura: Alright, so Tom, thank you so much for being on the show. Could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Tom: Great. Thanks for having me. My name’s Tom Cannon and I’m the CEO of Mid Florida Golf Cars.
Laura: Okay. So, tell me a little bit about Mid Florida Golf Cars.
Tom: So, so Mid Florida Golf Cars is approximately a 30-year-old company that was, uh, started by, by two brothers, um, in the early 1990s. ’89, ’90 timeframe. Um, they grew it to be one of the largest companies in the, golf car companies, in the state of Florida and, and thus almost the country at this point. And they brought me on approximately three years ago to kind of take it to the next level.
Laura: Wow. It’s been almost three years?
Tom: Yes. Three years.
Laura: That’s crazy. Okay.
Tom: It’s going by really fast, so–
Tom: –uh, yeah, so they brought me on three years ago to kind of, they wanted to take a step back, semi-retire, if you will, but also, um, I think that they felt they reached their, their capacity to take it to where they wanted to or their, their bigger vision was and so they asked me to, to kind of step in and do that for them.
Laura: Okay. Alright, cool, so let’s start out with like a humble brag. What is it that you think they saw in you that they were like, “Alright. This guy can take our company to the level that we have not been able to take it to”?
Tom: Um, so there’s, so there’s kind of an interesting story behind that. So, um, I, I think, uh, there’s a few things there. One is, is, is they actually tried to hire me a year before I started.
Tom: –um, I was–
Laura: Long recruitment process.
Tom: Yes. So there was a, there was a long recruitment process. I was, uh– Bobby, I knew, I’ve known Bobby for a while, he was one of the, one of the owners and he had approached me. We started talking about a year before I was actually hired. And, and so I, I got offered the job then. He really wanted me to come, come work for them then. Um, and everything worked out fine. It was, serendipity just, just happened so, so I actually turned down the job offer at that time.
Laura: Uh huh. Playing hard to get? A little bit?
Tom: And uh–
Tom: –yeah, so, I, I was having at time I was having some, some, for me, some just kind of internal conflict about what was important. You know, money, not money. And so I took something that wasn’t about the money. So,–
Tom: –it was, it was a juggle between, you know, corporate life or not-for-profit and I was kind of, like, in this space where–
Laura: [02:00] Mm hmm.
Tom: –I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. So I went less, the path less traveled, for me.
Tom: Um, and, and, and then so fast forward about eight or nine months from that point of me turning down that, that position with Bobby and, and he called me up and said, “Hey listen. I got a marketing problem. Will you come help me out?” Well, the story behind it, he just wanted to gauge my temperature to, to see where I was at.
Laura: Oh, okay.
Tom: So, he started up a dialogue with me again and that lasted approximately three months, at which time he presented another, another offer. So I think that, um, he, he had, you know, some knowledge of my past experience with business. Um, him and I had been having conversations about the company for over a year at that point, um, continued dialogue about things that the company could do or maybe should be doing and I think that, as that conversation grew, um, over that year, he had just decided that this, this was the guy. And then it worked out for me that it was, um, what I thought was more than just about money, although, um, you know, that’s always part of it. It just turned out that I thought I could have a home there and make a difference.
Laura: Oh, yeah. And, uh, you’ve definitely made a difference. And, I, I want to talk about that. I mean, I think that’s, that’s the bulk of what I want to talk about with you here on the show today. But, um, I actually want, I want you to share a little bit more about some of your background. So I, I first became aware of you, um, because you were doing a founder’s talk–
Laura: –um, with Starter Studio.
Laura: Um, and so that was for a different company, one you haven’t mentioned yet. Can you tell us about that?
Tom: Really, I didn’t know you were aware of the founder’s talk. Were you, were you there?
Laura: I was there.
Tom: Oh, wow, so–
Laura: I was there.
Tom: –the first time I–
Laura: You don’t remember me?
Tom: No. I–
Laura: I’m hurt.
Tom: –I remember meeting–
Laura: I’m hurt.
Tom: –meeting you at–
Tom: –the um, when we won the, uh, the award from the–
Laura: Association for Corporate Growth.
Laura: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom: I remember meeting you at that point.
Laura: That was the first time we had an actual conversation.
Tom: Oh, okay.
Laura: The first time I was just in the audience, just watching, you know.
Tom: Okay. Alright.
Tom: So, take me back to the question again. So the first time you were introduced–
Laura: So, yeah. So, you were doing a founder’s talk, um, for a totally different company.
Laura: Yeah. Do you want to tell us about that and your experience on that entrepreneurial journey?
Tom: Yeah, so, um, around 2009, the economy had not been doing so well.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: The business I was involved with at the time, I was actually looking to purchase. Um, the deal didn’t work out, didn’t work out that way but I still wanted to do something on my own so, um, I started, started BungoBox in, in 2009 and, and we had a really great run for, for five years. The company’s still going strong. My partner, um, still runs it, runs the day-to-day. Um, but we worked really hard, worked two years without a paycheck. I just, you know–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –just, uh, you know, 24/7–
Tom: –just, just kind of hustling, getting it done and, um, so, you know, BungoBox was a plastic moving box for our own company that we started. So, pure startup in Orlando. And at the time I got really, um, involved with the very, you know, the very first seeds of the startup community in Orlando, so, um, some of the players like Orrett. So Orrett and I were the first ones to do, um, the first startup weekend ever that–
Tom: –we, we, we did. And so those, all those people that originally got involved, that blossomed into Canvs and, and all these other things that Orrett — so we were all kind of doing that at the, at the time. So it was a really cool time. Startups were definitely, you know, really kind of in vogue at the time. Everybody was kind of doing a startup. I wasn’t doing a technology startup though–
Tom: –so it was a little bit, um, different than everybody else. But it was a ton of fun and I did that for five or six years before, before I left.
Laura: Wow. Awesome.
Laura: Yeah. So, have you always had that kind of entrepreneurial spirit?
Tom: Yeah, so, um, I’ve done that a few times. So I was involved with a technology startup, um, after, after college. Um, so I’ve been involved with several startups, um, been involved with regular, you know, kind of down-and-dirty regular businesses that aren’t technology, um, as well so I, I’ve done it a lot. Um, you know, early on in my marriage my wife was always like, “What are you doing? You know, why don’t–
Tom: –you just get a job?” So, I had a habit of, you know–
Laura: Get a real job.
Tom: –quitting, quitting jobs and, and going and starting so it’s kind of been in my, I guess, in my DNA. Um, my grandfather, um, was an entrepreneur. Um, my father was also. So it kind of was in our family, we’d always been exposed to it, so–
Laura: [05:59] Yeah.
Tom: –I can’t ever seem to be happy unless I’m kind of taking risks or, you know, running something or making the decisions or, or something. So I always gravitate towards that.
Laura: That’s awesome. Alright, cool. Alright, so I want to go back to, um, something you mentioned before which is, so you don’t, you don’t remember me at your founder’s talk. That’s okay. We didn’t have a real conversation then. But yeah, so we met at the Association for Corporate Growth. We met at the, it was, I guess it was a cocktail party the night before–
Tom: Yeah. Yeah.
Laura: –the actual lunch. So, I’m really curious. What do you remember about our first conversation?
Tom: So, I remember having this very, um, interesting con– I don’t remember the details of the conversation–
Tom: Just more about, kind of the, um, maybe the way it made me feel or that this was thought provoking. I was just really interested in the work you were doing.
Laura. Uh huh.
Tom: So just, as I kind of, you know, dug in more and then there was actually a follow-up where, at the time I think Gregg –’cause you had assisted with code–
Laura: Code School. Mm hmm.
Tom: And he had given a talk the next day or the day before I was at the luncheon and he had given a, he had given a talk and he had mentioned the work that you had did. So it was like, kind of all, kind of coming together but the, the conversation, I remember spending most of the night, sitting there talk– standing there talking to you about things I had no idea I was gonna talk about.
Tom: That, just, I was introduced to, conceptually, a lot of things that were really interesting and I think the timing was right for, um, some of the things that I was struggling with or that we were working on as a company or that I wanted to changed and, and maybe just looking for that, um, that kind of bridge to kind of help me get there.
Laura: Yeah. And you were, I mean, you were only a couple, few months in at that point with Mid Florida, right?
Tom: So, actually, it had been about a year. So, I think I started very beginning of, um, ’15 and then we had, we worked really hard that year. So, I’d come in and we made a lot of, um, changes in the company to make it more profitable and that’s when we applied for the award, after that year was concluded. So, I think that was early ’16 or it was the ’16 award that we won. ‘Cause we had applied the ’15 and came in as a runner up and then we applied again for ’16.
Laura: I think I met you when you were the runner up, though.
Tom: Okay. Maybe.
Laura: Yeah. It was that year.
Tom: Okay, so you did– Oh, yeah. You’re right. So we came in as runner up and then the next year we won, we won it. So–
Tom: –yeah, so, you’re right. So that was the first year we came in as a runner up after about me, eight months–
Tom: –of me being, being there. And then the next year we finally won it.
Laura: Okay. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. ‘Cause my memory was that you’d only been in the position for, for a short time–
Tom: You’re right.
Laura: –and you were really getting a feel for things, you know, learning the ins and outs of the business and, um, my memory of it is that you were curious about what I was doing but maybe kind of felt like, “Eh. I don’t know, I don’t know about this yet.”
Tom: Right. Right.
Laura: So, but we, you know, we had conversations for the next few months and then, at a certain point, you, you did decide to, to bring me in. Can you tell me about that decision?
Tom: Well I think the, um– man, you’re making me search my memory here– so I think the initial engagement was just some co– a little bit of coaching, if I’m not mistaken. Um, you came in and, and we, we were having a dialogue and you were actually beginning to, uh, kind of like help me out on dialogue. So, we had some phone conversations so we were talking. So it wasn’t a formal engagement and, uh, you know, there was no, you know, money exchanging hands or anything. It was just kind of–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –talking through some things, conceptually. And you kept in touch on that so, um, you did a great job on that.
Tom: But, um, so I think that, you know, in the company there was this, you know, I, I came in, I was the new guy in this company that’s almost 30 years old, had a very established way that they were doing things, a very established culture, and, and here I come in, um, with this, you know, not even– undeveloped division yet, just here’s this company, what can we do with it? And so I’m trying to, you know, myself, develop a vision for what the company can be. It’d be the first time that I was involved with something where I didn’t have a, a vision ahead of time–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –so normally when I was involved with starting stuff I had kind of created a vision and then I could go kind of fulfill it. And here I didn’t have one. I just came in and said, “You know, here’s kind of the keys to the kingdom. Make it better.”
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: And so I had no idea where to, you know, where to go. Um, so I was in the midst of creating a vision and, at the same time, trying to fit into this culture that I was more or less clashing with–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –at the time. So I think a lot of our conversations just stemmed around my struggle with how do I, you know, interact with these employees? How do I make the team better? Um, and just, you know, struggles I was having, it was challenging me personally, um, to a level that I hadn’t been challenged before.
Laura: So, and, you know, one of the things I remember a lot about: uh, your decision making in that, that whole process is that you cared a lot about, um, the team that was already in place there and you were, you know, you wanted to honor what was there and you didn’t wanna change too much too quickly. Um, I, I think it’s becoming more and more common but hiring an organizational psychologist to come in is already, it’s fairly progressive–
Laura: –you know for a fairly established company, like, that’s been doing things the way they’ve been doing things. Can you talk a little bit about, um, how you handled some of those conversations with your team? Like, how did you work to create buy-in to the process of me being around and everything that we did together?
Tom: So, at the beginning, it was, it was kind of baby steps. So you’re, you were, we were engaging a little bit so it was just kind of, “Try this out” and it was baby steps. Some of it was even new for me. The concepts I was very open to, personally, and then, you know, reading about it, investigating, and trying to, um, trying to create a better team. So you come into a culture, um, and, and you’re wanting to change this culture and it’s a very blue collar, you know, dirty– hands dirty, in the mud, you know, working every day, um, without a lot of thought for, you know, you know, the people that are in the organization. How to take care of the people in the organization. How to have the people communicate better. How to share with them the vision. So, you know, you kind of come in, you start introducing these things and you get– and I got– a lot of, a lot of raised eyebrows like, “Okay. You know, what is, what is going on here?” So, it’s, um, I was starting to change things slowly, as you said, and I was keeping, trying to keep the team intact as much as possible but also change, you know, hearts and minds at the same time. And then, so, I’m a lot, you know, potentially a lot to handle when that’s going on and then I bring in, you know, you come in and we start introducing organizational psychology, which I think is really cool, and, like, I’m so excited about and jazzed about and they think, they think I’m nuts.
Tom: It’s like, “What is, what is going on here?”
Laura: What are we doing?
Tom: Yeah. Um, so it was, it was– I’m not sure I actually sold it at the beginning as much as they just, they just didn’t disagree. They just said, “Okay. I don’t know where this is going. Um, we’ll just–” You know, I didn’t really, you know, get a lot of buy-in at the beginning. You know, I didn’t really ask. I just said, “We’re gonna try this out.”
Laura: Yeah. So, they trusted you enough to kind of–
Laura: –go along with the process and, you know, the buy-in I think was created over time.
Tom: Yeah, I think that, um, I think that over time the buy-in, the buy-in is created over time and as the engagement increased, there was always additional hurdles to, to, to jump as, as we kind of expanded the scope of, of, of what we were trying to do and what you were bringing to the table. And, and with each one of those expansion of, of what we were trying to achieve with your engagement, it was another hurdle to jump. So it was, alright, you know, and there’s always two factors: So, what does this mean? Does it make a difference? You know, and how do you– a lot of questions I got are “Oh, what’s my ROI on this?” Like, how do you quantify this? And, and those are very difficult conversations to have. So, what’s the ROI? How do you quantify them? What am I gonna make out in the end? And then every time you push it further, um, and you can’t quantify what occurred before and then you continue to spend more money, that’s the only thing that, that most business people fall back on. Well, what is my ROI? And as the spend begins to expand, um, ’cause this is more of a long-term view of things and it’s not short-term and it’s really hard to measure these things on the, on the short-term.
Laura: Mm hmm. Now you had a, a great line that you borrowed from, from somebody else –I forget where you got it from– about ROI.
Laura: Do you remember what–
Tom: Yeah. So, so, um, yeah I say this all the time. So I’m a big kind of Gary Vaynerchuk fan.
Laura: Gary Vaynerchuk, that’s right. Gary V.
Tom: Gary V. So he does this social– he’s, you know, obviously really into social media and his, his, uh, his firm VaynerMedia– and he, his story is he sits down with Fortune 500 CEOs or C-suite and they say, “Well, give me the ROI” and they’re talking about social media and his comeback always is, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”
Tom: Tell me what the ROI is on all the work and all the love and all the lift you up when you skin your knee and all the hugs that you got. Tell me what the ROI is on the man or woman that you became.
Tom: I can’t quantify that but we know it’s real.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: That’s kind of his point around it.
Laura: Yeah. I liked that a lot. You know, one of the things that I’ve been realizing for myself is, so I, I definitely believe that the work that I do can help any kind of company and any kind of leader or any kind of person that’s open to it but where I really want to focus my energy right now is on leaders that, um, maybe don’t rely so much on that. The, the leaders that just believe in this. Leaders that are just like, “Yeah. Of course I believe that investing in my people matters. I don’t need to quantify it to know that that’s important.” Like, that’s a, that’s a huge segment of the population, you know? Those are my people. Like–
Laura: –that’s where I want to start.
Tom: Right. Right. So it’s, you know, um, I’ve been reading, you know, I read a lot about it. So, I mean, Arianna Huffington’s talked a lot about it recently in her book “Thrive” where it’s, you know, take care of, take care of yourself and your heart and also take care of your people, which is the heart of your company, and it’ll be better. Um, Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, talks about, you know, taking care of your people first and he was getting a lot of pressure in 2009 when the market crashed to, like, cancel health insurance just because his bottom line wasn’t working. So, he got a ton of pressure from stockholders and he kept their health insurance intact because it was about the employees and–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –uh, and the, um, profit sharing and the, and the, uh, shares and partners that they make of all the baristas and, and stuff in the company so those two were concentrating a lot on, you know, their employees and what the difference is. So, I mean, deep down you just have to believe it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard to prove the ROI. You just have to believe that if you do those things, in the end it will be better for not only the employees but thus the company in the long-term.
Laura: Mm hmm. And there’s just so many hidden costs. You know? That’s, that’s one of the things that I always notice when I listen to leaders talk about things that they’re struggling with in terms of culture or in our personal conflict between team members or really struggling to get the productivity up from certain people. It’s like, well, you know, what are the hidden costs associated with wasting all this time? And it’s so much. Like we don’t even know.
Tom: And, and sometimes it’s, you know, a bit of speculation, it’s, you know, it’s intuition and we have those conversations and we’ve had them. You know, every once in a while, I’ll, I’ll get the call from one of the owners. “So, how’s this working out? Is it going okay? Are we– you know, what’s our ROI on this? Are we making–?” And so we have to have these conversations and I said, “You know, what’s the value of, of, um, maybe separating from employees that aren’t working out in a timely fashion because they don’t fit in the long term goal? Or the value of making sure we hire the right people on the front end ’cause we actually know what we’re about. We know what our culture is and we know what we’re looking for. Everybody knows the, the um, I mean hiring the right people and not having a turnover rate. Just in the beginning, hiring the right people is so important. But if we don’t know who we are, if we don’t know who we are at our core, at our culture and our values, how do you ever begin to hire the right people and attract the right people to your company? If you can’t get that right, then the amount of turnover and, and wasted time or inefficiencies and, you know, maybe you don’t, you know, sell enough golf cars. Maybe you don’t work on the car quick enough.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: All these things that you can’t, I can’t necessarily put a number on, I can take a guess at, but I know adds up to much, much more than the long– the short-term investment. And it’s gonna pay off for years and years to come. Maybe even past my involvement with Mid Florida Golf Cars down the road. That if it sets that core, it’ll be kind of the soul of the company.
Laura: I love that. And I think I see that happening. You know, I think that there are a lot of people at the company now that fully buy in and believe in the vision that, that you created. And I actually want to ask you about that. So, you mentioned earlier that coming into Mid Florida Golf Cars was the first time that you were stepping into a role where you didn’t have the vision already in mind. You stepped in and it was, “Okay. Let’s figure some, some stuff out.” So we actually went through a process last year with the executive team of, of pulling that vision together. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?
Tom: Yes. Sure. Sure. So, um, usually I mean, I would think, so for me –and I don’t want to speak for other entrepreneurs– is you kind of see an idea, you see a problem and you think of a way to solve that problem. In the end you kind of create a vision for a company. So, I’ve always been able to really, you know, see, like, a bigger vision for everything I was working on. I could see 10 or 20 years down the road and have this almost, you know, almost like a dream. It’s almost surreal that I can create in my mind what something will look like and almost how to, how to get there and, like you said, I couldn’t see that with Mid Florida. I just didn’t know enough about it. It wasn’t my baby. It wasn’t something–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –I started. Um, and so trying to create what that vision was. So, you know, I was starting to formulate what that vision was but I was doing it very independently without the rest of my group, which is what I’ve done a lot of times in other businesses at the very beginning. And you kind of recruit people into your idea and they go with you. Um, in this case, uh, I was starting to develop a vision but I was doing it more or less autonomously. So, I was starting to create a vision, um, but I was having a difficult time kind of, kind of recruiting the others that were already there, um, on, on where this might be, where this might be going or what the possibilities might be. So, last year, coming into 2017, we did the, um, executive team offsite. So, it was the first time that anybody in the company had ever done anything like that so we spent three and a half or four days away from, away from the company which was, you know, really interesting ’cause the owner’s like, “What are you guys doing? Like why are you spending time away?”
Laura: What are you talking about?
Tom: It’s so funny, like, you’d think you were gonna go away for two months, it’s three days and–
Tom: –can’t figure out what’s, what’s going on. Um, so we spend three and a half days away and, and you were involved and you kind of led the discussion. Some, some very basic just communication among us as executives, to kind of establish that through visioning the future of the company, so longer term goals and then, uh, what short-term things we had to do to, to kind of, you know, build blocks to get to the, to that final goal.
Laura: So, is there anything else you can say about what felt different to you about creating that vision? ‘Cause I think, in total, we probably ended up spending almost an entire day, maybe split over a couple of the days, really talking about what does that future look like? So how was that different for you, to go through that process of, you know, multiple people contributing ideas and really shaping it together versus what you’ve described in other situations where you have the vision and build towards that on your own?
Tom: So, first it was the first time it was structured in a way that kind of, um, made sure I tapped into each person’s ideas. So, not everybody communicates the same way. Not everybody has the same idea so it was a space for everybody to kind of be free with their thoughts and contribute, um, contribute to their best ability in the conversation. So it wasn’t just me kind of coming up with a grand plan and everybody just kind of, you know, “Okay, this is what we’re gonna kind of pile on and do what Tom wants to do.” It was, “Hey, we’ll sit down and we’ll figure all this out together.” So, it was good to see through that, um, experience. It seemed to me that other people were actually creating some vision on their own. So it was this, this, um, not me creating a vision, sharing the vision, they buy-in, and all of a sudden they’re just regurgitating my vision. And the goal was this shared creation that I felt that they actually had the vision too. That they felt where we were going and, and they were more buy-in because they were planning it with us.
Laura: Yeah. I love that.
Laura: Alright. Cool. Um, tell me about the, the conversation that we had about culture and values.
Tom: Sure. So, we went through –and this is, this is always ama– so the culture and values thing has been some of the things that I’ve got most out of our relationship and, and engagement is, we’ve all seen –and, and I’ll probably steal some lines from you– where there was a bunch of, you know, values in a company that we’ve all seen and, you know, there’s 10 or 12 and you could just put them on any company and it doesn’t matter. And, and trying to find out what your values are and then, like, I think you said, you know, the CEO stands up in front and says the values and there’s, you know, the handful of people that chuckle in the back, like, “Yeah, right.”
Tom: “We do those things.”
Tom: And it’s just, it’s just kind of bogus and it’s not really heartfelt. So, um, going through that process of values was really interesting to us, is we really didn’t have any values that we wanted so we went through this process and said, “Alright. Well, here’s who we would like to be and who we are today, kind of current state/desired state analysis and everything that we valued as a company or the ways we performed, so our actions kind of dictate our values so how we, how we act every day, how we treat each other every day, how we interact with our customers, um, how we behave every day is a reflection of our values. So when we broke down that behavior into, into actual values, we realized there was a bunch of values that became that we called accidental values. These things that we do do that and that’s not really that good. And maybe they started 10 years ago with the best intent and they’ve kind of, like, morphed and deformed a little bit and, and, and so we found some of the things that we do every day, the way we engage with each other, the way we engage with our customers, the way we behave in general, for the most part we didn’t like.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: And then all the things that we really valued, we weren’t doing at all. So we had this, um, all these aspiration– all these, um, accidental values that we didn’t want anymore and all these aspirational values that we were trying to achieve and all the things that, um, then this kind of blank canvas on the values. It’s like here’s a, you know, a 30-year-old company who has a blank canvas on values and, and it’s like no wonder we can’t create a vision. No wonder we can’t take the next step because we have nothing we really believe in.
Laura. Mm. And so once we, we got clear about that –and I think that ended up being pretty much a full day of discussion as well, split over a couple days– um, talk a little bit about what 2017 has looked like in terms of making those values meaningful.
Tom: Sure. So, um, we had really big, um, really big goals for 2017. Um, and we’re not gonna get them all accomplished but that’s okay. But, but just giving us a foundation to make decisions. It’s so easy to, um, just revert back and say, “Alright. Does this hit one of our core values?” So, and I think a big part of that is our decision making as leaders, when deciding to make a hire, deciding on any, any daily business decision, um, it’s easy to fall back on those, um, and, and kind of say, “Alright. Does this fit within our value? Yes or no.” So it makes it really easy. Kind of gives us a blueprint and then it gives the rest of the team a blueprint on how to behave and, and do the right thing. In order to reinforce that, we began trying to reward around* instead of just punishing for things that people don’t do that we want them to do or punish for things they do that we don’t like, we started to reward and give examples of what actually those values are. So, it’s easy to write them on a piece of paper and stand in front of all your employees and say, “This is our values” but what does that mean?
Laura: Mm hmm..
Tom: Um, the only thing I could relate it to, as a child you can tell your children to do things but until you, until you give them examples on what that is by reinforcing their behavior positively or doing it yourself by example, they don’t really know what– nobody knows what that is. You have to give context around the, the words on paper.
Laura: So, speaking of that, what is an example? Like, what’s one of the recent, um, examples where you rewarded one of the employees for aligning their behavior with a core value or aspirational value?
Tom: Yeah, so our three aspirational values are openness to change, uh, courageous initiative, and teamwork with heart. So those are our three core values that we aspire to–
Laura: I love those so much.
Tom: So, and it’s, and, and they’re taking more life and more body and it’s really interesting. I’m kind of excited to hear, you know, I hear and, you know, and they’re supporting kind of structures around those, um, but to hear people say, “Well, that’s courageous initiative” or, you know, and have actually the dialogue happen where I’m not a part of the dialogue and it’s not framed in a, in a planned conference room discussion, it’s just becoming part of the everyday language at Mid Florida Golf Cars is pretty cool.
Laura: It’s becoming core.
Laura: Love it.
Tom: So it’s, it’s becoming, definitely becoming core and so there’s, there’s a bunch of examples out there but the courageous initiative that we have is, you know, taking risks, you know, and, and part of taking risks is failing and failing quickly and, and not worrying about how that makes you look and us, as management, not punishing for that kind of failure. It’s just, “Hey, if you see an opportunity you have to go after it and get it, whether it’s a business or a new way to do things inside the company or a new client or whatever it may be.” So, the most recent one, which is really cool, is we’ve been, um –Whitney Majors, who’s kind of developed into an awesome employee, especially around business development and our rental, she, there’s been this kind of white whale client that Mid Florida has just never been able to, to land and, and for years it’s just been the one that the owners have gone after and gone after and they just couldn’t get him and couldn’t get him. Well, you know, Whitney, Whitney knew this and so she started to try to track down this client. Cold call the client and, you know, send emails, phone calls, do everything she had to do so she’s been, you know, working her butt off and, and so she got an opportunity. Finally she opened the– cracked the door to bid it. So she’s like, “I got an opportunity to, to bid it.” And like, awesome. So I worked with her on the bid but she really ran point on the whole thing. So, I, I didn’t ask her to go after the client necessarily. I didn’t tell her how to go after it. I didn’t, like, coach her on how to get in the door. I helped a little bit when she got the opportunity but then she brought it home and she closed this client that, for 20 years–
Tom: –the, the company has not been able to close and so she, she closed that, closed that deal up and, um, so that client is now on our books and the funny part is, is she wanted, there was this reward she’s been wanting. So, I said, I thought I said, “Yeah. You can have, you can have that–
Tom: –reward, so…”
Tom: I asked her, I was like, “Did you get your–” She’s been wanting a new, um, a new MacBook Pro. She’s been wanting this MacBook Pro. And, and so I’ve been really tight on the purse strings with new, um, computer equipment. So I asked her yesterday. I said, “Did you get your MacBook?” “I gotta make sure it’s actually signed but I– ’cause I don’t want something to happen.”
Tom: So, she got it. I’ve seen the email. She did a great job closing that all on her own. Um, so that was awesome that, you know, we just haven’t had a lot of in our history.
Laura: Yeah. Oh, that’s so great. Great example.
Laura: And you look so joyful, by the way, as you talk about that. Like, there’s pride.
Tom: Oh yeah, it’s cool–
Laura: It’s really, really beautiful.
Tom: Yeah, it’s cool to have people, um, you know, it’s so hard for me sometimes to, to sit back. I’ve, you know, as I’ve evolved in my career, to allow other people to kind of, like, learn on their own too. And to kind of go do things with, with resisting the temptation to, to, to step in and, and so it’s cool that, you know, it’s not just her –but she’s developing, been developing great over the last year– and there’s other employees that are developing great. And to be able to set things in motion and have, have others like believe and buy-in and take those values and perform and do well on their own is, is really cool. It’s awesome. It’s an awesome feeling.
Laura: Nice. So, um, one of the investments that you made, too, this year for the culture of the company was, um, bringing everybody in the organization through Radical Collaboration. Right? Which is all about building and developing collaborative skills. You know, what does that mean? People talk about teamwork but what are the real skills associated with that? And so that was, you know, that’s a pretty big investment in terms of time and resources. Um, can you tell me about, about that decision and also what you’ve noticed as a result?
Tom: Sure. So, um, this year, this year alone, has been a huge engagement with you. And that was part of the evolution of it. So, so to literally pull in, you know, I think we have 50 people at the company now, in over two sessions –I believe that we did two sessions– you’re basically bringing anywhere from 20 to 30 people into each session in order to kind of get them done. You ask your employees to take out, um, of you know, ’cause it’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday–
Laura: Yeah. Weekend workshop.
Tom: So, you ask them, you know they work hard all week, to kind of take that time out, um, and do it so it’s not only just the engagement of doing it but the financial resources around, you know, paying them and, and making sure they’re happy so you’re, so you know that’s why I agree to pay overtime and then it’s the travel and the hotel. So it’s just a huge financial, um, commitment for the company and then to bring, to bring those people together to work together. What’s cool about us is, is we’re– what’s cool about that that we don’t always get to do is that we’re located at four different stores so we don’t get everybody in the room that often. It’s hard enough to collaborate and work as a team when you’re working together right near each other every day but to be in four physical different locations and, and so to get them together, that was cool too. Just to have them in the same room and have them working on the different, you know, exercises that you went through with them, I think it brought some things to, to light that many of these, many of my employees had never experienced before.
Laura: What do you think were some of the most powerful concepts?
Tom: Um, so, well what I was thinking of first, what actually, what actually touched me the most out of it is not, is not just how they were good as a team. It’s how many of them came to me and how it changed their lives at home with their, with their wives and families. So, um, you kind of get, you know, caught in a vacuum sometimes in what’s at work but if people aren’t having, you know, peace at home interaction with their spouse or their significant other or their children and they’re not able to overcome those, those, those issues that they have, those disagreements or just interacting with those people, it comes to work with them. So, to have them not only feel great about how they’re interacting with their, with their teammates at work, with their coworkers, but to have them, you know, come up and give me a hug and say, “Man, this is awesome. I, I’m not so impatient with my wife now.” You know, or, “We’re planning a wedding and we just couldn’t get, get it together and I was frustrated and for the first time I was able to take a step back and work with, you know, work with her better or–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –be patient with my children.” So, it wasn’t just, uh, just the skills for work. It was just the life skills in general. That it seems to be the beginning of stages of changing their perspective on how to interact with other people.
Laura: And I, I think I shared this with you at the time, um, but I’ll say it again here. I had numerous conversations with employees, very emotional, you know, positive emotion from them associated with “I’ve just never worked for an organization that cares this much about us as people” and like how touched they were and how much loyalty they felt to you and to the organization. It was really, really profound for a lot of them I think.
Tom: No, and it’s– I don’t get to hear those things that often so when, you know, when I hear that from you or when I hear it from the employees and they come up, for me that’s what I hope happens. I hope that they have this –you know, we have to work, we all have to work– so that they enjoy their work every day. That they know that they’re cared about. They know that we care about them as a company. And that, together, we make the company better which then serves all of us better. We can take care of our families and take care of ourselves. So, it’s, it’s awesome when you hear stories like that, that is, that it, you know, it’s like, hey, the old school way of “Hey, I pay you for eight hours. Come to work eight hours. Whatever else is your problem” just doesn’t, doesn’t work. I don’t think that you get the whole person. You don’t get buy-in. You don’t– there’s no way we’re gonna achieve the things we want to achieve if that’s the way we treat our employees, so, um, it is cool to hear those, to hear those stories and to hear that, that they’re getting, getting things that they may have never gotten before, never received before. Just a new way of looking at life.
Laura: Yeah. Ah. Love that. So, I think it was the first, um, Radical Collaboration follow-on webinar that I did where I asked everybody participating, you know, I threw several concepts out and I asked them what was the most powerful for them. Um, and there was a good mix but I think that the concept that won out as most powerful was this idea of green zone listening.
Laura: Do you remember that?
Laura: Can you describe that for us?
Tom: Yes. So we’ve, um, we’ve worked a lot on, um, with you, I think we used the word “triggered.” So sometimes we’re not paying attention, I may even find myself doing it if I’m at home and if I’m having a conversation with my wife or someone at work, I’ll be thinking about other things first or I’ll be reacting to what someone is saying to me and it’ll trigger me in a way that I’m no longer listening to that person with an open mind. It’s all about me at that moment. It’s all about my feelings and my emotions and my defensiveness in those moments rather than just taking the moment to clear my mind and, and, and be Green Zone, which is open and open to what the other person has to say and not being red, which is the negative side of now I’m not listening, now I think no one would say it back, now I’m on the defensive. So, just taking a moment to just listen to what they have to say and be empathetic and be understanding. Um, put yourself in their position and not being defensive, which I could do, I think maybe we could all do, but I could do right away is “What’s going on with them is about me.” And saying, “This is not about me. There’s something going on with this person and I need to take the time to figure out what that is.”
Laura: Okay. Awesome. I like that description and characterization of it. And it makes me want to ask you– so, you know, you and I have been working together in a coaching capacity probably for a couple years I guess. What, from a, you know, personal and professional leadership development standpoint, what stands out to you about, um, what’s shifted in terms of how you view yourself or view the world or how you show up?
Tom: Oh, wow. You know, there’s a lot. And I think that, um, it’s different things on different days depending on the circumstance or the situation. You know, for me, understanding that– the one real revelation for me was, is what you don’t like in other people are their defenses. So, the, the frustration I would have with maybe how an employee would behave or interact with me or not, um, not liking something about the interaction or how he interacted with his coworkers, when I realized it’s, it’s not, it’s really what’s– something going on with that employee. It’s, it’s not like he’s trying to be, or she’s trying to be, a jerk and like mess my world up or mess up the plans that I have or just be obstinate to be obstinate. Like, there’s something going on in their defenses. So that means they’re fearing something, there’s some insecurity going on, there’s something going on with him that I need to figure out instead of all of a sudden making it about me and personalizing, like, “He doesn’t like me” or “I’m not significant enough” or any of these things that I would then, then I would get defensive about and then all of a sudden we’re both defensive. And at the moment we’re both defensive, then nothing is getting accomplished. So just understanding that was a big, big deal for me.
Laura: I like that a lot. I want to add onto it just a little bit because I hear the word personality and I use air quotes whenever I use the word personality because that word– I don’t like it. It bothers me because I tend to hear it most often as, you know, as “personality conflicts” or “Oh, that’s just his personality.” And so it usually goes along with this fixed mindset. But what you’re talking about, what you’re describing, that whatever I don’t like in somebody is, it’s not them, it’s not who they are, it’s the way their defenses are showing up and that defensiveness, that’s what I’m not responding well to and I think for any human to realize, “Okay, so that’s just defensiveness, which means that there’s something I’m afraid of which means I can do something about that” –now I can get over that fixed mindset. I can believe, “Okay, if I wanna change this I absolutely can.” And, yeah, I love the Henry Ford quote about that: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Tom: Sure, yeah.
Laura: And so, just believing, like, if I don’t like the relationship I have with somebody, as long as I believe that can change and shift then, yeah, then it can.
Tom: Yeah. So that, that shift alone for me has been, I mean I, I’ve probably– what did I say? Interacting with my wife or, you know, very simply if, you know, if she’s upset about something and then she’s upset because there’s something going on with her, it’s not about me. But I would automatically get defensive right away and, and put up my guard. And if something were going on at that point, I would constantly, I would do that. I would get defensive right away or, or think that maybe I’m incompetent, maybe I’m not a good leader, maybe I don’t know what I’m doing and so then, right away, I’d get very defensive and want to prove that I am. I am the boss and then so I’d get very kind of forceful around things. So, this, it just was kind of like a relief off my shoulders. Like, this is not about me and I can solve this problem without getting defensive about it.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: And, and take that step back has probably been the biggest, I don’t know, biggest shift in my, in my day-to-day interaction with anybody, whether it’s employees, my wife, my children. But that is, that’s a huge shift to, to not get defensive all the time.
Laura: Well and I focus a lot on the idea of recovery. ‘Cause I, I, I don’t know, I don’t personally know any humans who are never defensive. It’s always a matter for me of how quickly can I notice and identify my own defensiveness and then recover from that? Right? So, I notice I’m defensive, I’m in the red zone. How quickly can I recover and get back to green zone by shifting that? Shifting that story, like you’re saying. Oh. You’re behavior isn’t actually about me? It’s about you. Something going on with you. So, how can I support you? How can I separate myself from this and realize, “Okay. I’m just, I’m gonna funnel my energy right now into problem solving and not self preservation. I don’t have to make this story about me.”
Tom: Yeah, it’s, it’s, I mean it still happens. Like you said, it still happens. We’re always defensive and, you know, I have all my own insecurities and, and things that I struggle with. It just happens less often and when it does, it doesn’t last as long. So–
Tom: –in a moment or, um, maybe, you know, not really– where I’m caught off guard and I’m not really prepared and, and I can still get triggered and have the same reactions and I get, I’ll get frustrated with myself. It’s like, “I can’t believe I did that or I reacted that way.” Um, it’s those things that happen spontaneously, that you’re not really prepared for, that can trigger and, and so you have to slow, slow down and, and think and take a deep breath and, and understand, you know, what you’re doing. So, it definitely still happens.
Tom: It just doesn’t happen as often. But after it does, then it doesn’t linger for a long time. I don’t dwell on it for as long or beat myself up or, or struggle with it for days on end.
Tom: It’s just kind of, that happened, recognize how that happened, let’s kind of be on the lookout for it happening again and be aware.
Laura: So there’s recovery, there’s resilience, there’s self compassion, curiosity. Okay. Yeah. That happened. I–
Laura: –wanna tell this– I think I talked to your leadership team about this at one point. This whole idea of recovering from defensiveness. So, I remember when I was in high school and I would watch television shows like, I don’t know, like Dawson’s Creek or something. Whatever. And I would watch these kids, you know, having a conversation and then they’d get into a fight so there’d be tension and conflict and one of them would say something with an attitude which I could look at now and go, “Okay, that’s red zone.” So I could see that and then they would so quickly just go, “Ah… I’m sorry.” And I’m like, “Who does that?”
Laura: Like when I was in high school that was so foreign to me. I could not identify with being so angry and so upset that I throw something out there and then just immediately, like, transition into, you know, this Green Zone. Like, “Oh, I’m sorry. That’s not what I want to–” What? So it was so foreign to me when I was a kid, when I was growing up and probably even in young adulthood and that’s me now. Like I do that now. I’ll have these moments and I’ll get all triggered and I can hear it in my voice and I can feel it in my body and then I’m like, “Alright. I’m sorry.” And I’m doing it. And so it’s like I noticed, for myself, that that recovery just seemed impossible. I didn’t feel like it was within my capacity to recover that quickly. It’s like, “No. I’m angry and I’m gonna stay angry and I wanna feel right so I’m just gonna hover here in this place.” And, you know, over the years my recovery time is just faster and faster and a lot of the time it’s the other thing you’ve described where I just don’t get triggered in the first place. So…
Tom: Yeah, when it lasts for a long time or kind of– it’s just a lot of weight to carry.
Laura: It is. It’s so much weight.
Tom: So, just to, to kind of be able to get past it and, and– ’cause if you carry that weight around and that frustration, for me it would constantly just build and my interactions would be, continually be poor with other people. So I’d carry it to other places in my life. So it’s just a lot of weight, it’s just a lot of stress so to kind of be able to, you know, nothings perfect and I’m not perfect, just, it just gets easier to recognize and be aware of what’s going on. It makes, um, may be easier to just kind of deal with and cope with–
Tom: You don’t understand what’s going on but the cool part, the cool part at Mid Florida is now there’s, you know, a vocabulary, if you will, so when these things happen, um, the majority of our company, almost every employee, at least we can use words like green line and green line listening. We can say things to each other that we know kind of exemplifies what we’ve been discussing here today. And so it, it’s easier, it makes it easier when the person on the other side also knows what’s going on and can identify or you can bring it to their attention. So it makes that dialogue easier. You know, if you’re, you know, having trouble with someone that doesn’t know that and you’re just one side of it and you’re trying to work through your green and they’re still pushing–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: –it makes it more difficult. You can still do it but it makes it infinitely more easy if the other side of that equation also gets it and you’re able to say, “Hey, well I’m just being green line here and I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna be defensive. I’m not trying to, you know, upset you, I just need to tell you how I feel.
Tom: Um, so it makes it easier.
Laura: Yeah. So shared vocabulary, shared meaning, shared experiences. I mean that’s something that you’ve really invested a lot in this year, um, not just with the Radical Collaboration workshops but with the values. You know, one of the things we did, you mentioned the multiple locations, so we had these team alignment meetings and so not everyone in the organization had the benefit of talking for three and a half days about the future vision of the company and what are the aspirational values that we have and what do we want our culture to look like but we did invest the time, you know, about a half day, so everybody in the company had that experience where it was, okay what do these values mean? How do we personalize them? Let’s talk about some examples. And so it was so much more than just words on paper. Right? Creating that shared meaning.
Tom: Yeah. So, I mean we obviously had those meetings and we, we, you know, we shared the values and we talked about them but it’s just living them every day that makes a difference. So the vision I have for this is, you know, you wake up one day five years from now and this is just the way the company is. It’s, it seems like a big deal now, not that it’s not a big deal, but everybody’s changing now. They’re like, they’re trying to figure out what this is. They’re trying to figure out whether this will stick. They’ll try to figure out what it means for them. So there’s a lot of questions going on, you know, as the process and as this year’s gone on and the last year and a half, their acceptance and understanding. Because it’s, there’s real meaning behind it because it’s how we’re behaving and interacting with them. It’s not just, you know, we wrote it down–
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: I think one of the things that we talk about a lot that you introduced is, you know, willing to be punished for those values is really important. But I have this vision that you wake up five years from now and these things that we created in a room, you know, you know, five years earlier will just be how the company interacts. It’s not a matter of, “Hey we need to be this way. Or we’re changing this or we’re bad at that.” It’s like, “This is how we are as a company.” Every new employee, that’s just the way it is.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: It’s just so core to who we are.
Laura: Mm hmm.
Tom: It’s just so part of our heart and soul that there is no other way. And it, and it, and the education process and the explanation kind of goes away because it becomes a little bit more kind of self policing as long as you kind of keep it between the guard rails that it’s just the way the employees interact and that’s what they expect of each other and they will expect nothing less than, than the new people that come aboard.
Laura: Absolutely. That’s the essence of culture is like “This is just how we do things here.” And so being intentional about it now, I completely agree with you, it will absolutely get easier and just it’s all just baked in.
Laura: The longer this is something that you all focus on and the more the employees internalize it and I see, from my perspective, a lot of them do internalize it and believe in it for themselves. And I want to ask you about one of them specifically.
Laura: Um, so tell me about Ben and his, his journey.
Tom: Sure. So, um, Ben joined the company I think approximately a year ago. He came in as the, the VP of sales and, um, I know he’s had some different experiences in his career with, you know, maybe things that weren’t that rewarding or cultures that weren’t, you know, that great. So he came in and he was at the very beginning stages of, of our engagement with you and developing a new culture so I know that he has struggled a lot. At least he’s told me he’s struggled a lot on his interaction with other people and getting Red Zone and, um, and the stories he tells himself. So, uh, you know, we haven’t talked about this much in our conversation here but just the, the imaginary stories we tell ourselves about the world around us so how people are engaging and interacting with us, why they’re behaving a certain way. So we constantly weave all these stories all the time–
Laura: Yeah. Like an example, like a really simple one I use is let’s say I’ve called a meeting and somebody walks in seven minutes late and I immediately go, “They don’t respect what I’m doing here.” That’s a story I’m telling myself about what it means that they were seven minutes late. I actually have no idea what’s going on for them, right? But that’s the story and I might, like, over attach to that story and just believe it as fact rather than creating space for “I have no idea what’s going on for this person, why they’re seven minutes late.” So I just like to give that as an example.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, so Ben was, was, you know– first of all, we don’t even know we’re telling ourselves a story until it’s put in context.
Tom: And, and, um, so we tell ourselves stories all the time. And it’s what we do with the stories we tell ourselves that makes a difference. So, some things that I have conversation I’ve had with Ben is these stories, I think how he kind of characterized it is, you know, it’s just a car passing by or a dog running by or whatever he says–
Tom: –it’s like he sees a story and a lot of times it can be negative and, and it kind of enters his mind and he’s able just to kind of see it, let it pass, let it move on. So it’s helped him just interact day-to-day with the employees, with me, with the rest of the executive team. So, the ability to, um, understand and be aware that those stories are occurring and have tools to, to cope with that I think has changed, from what he’s told me, has changed his life, has changed how he interacts with the world, which in turn has changed how he interacts with the employees. And, you know, he hasn’t, he didn’t come in to the greatest circumstances here at Mid Florida Golf Cars that he had to, had to deal with so a lot was put on his plate as a responsibility to change things, to shift things around. So, the ability to get past those, telling those stories helped him a ton. And after, it’s kind of like the dominos, so after he kind of bought in and believed in that and it was working for him and more and more things kind of fell into place for him and aligned on the things that we were working on with you around culture and interaction. It’s really changed. Now, just innately, he automatically just engages in that way with his employees and he talks about it out loud. Or I think, I think a year ago people saying things that the way we talked a year and a half ago they may not say out loud. It’s almost like this very weird, maybe embarrassing or what does that mean? And he freely will talk about it out loud with the employees and everybody can hear and it’s just matter-of-fact. And so it’s really cool to kind of see his journey over the past year and then see how he can just talk about it out loud and talk about it with the employees and there’s no, no weird looks or no “What the hell are you talking about?”
Tom: And he’s totally engaged in it and so it’s been really cool to see his evolution with this. He’s, he probably been one of the best ones as far as adopting and really kind of self discovery and I think it came at a time of life that he, he really, he really needed it so I’m happy for him.
Laura: Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, he calls it “The Lifestyle”–
Laura: –which I love.
Tom: I think he’s a journeyman in your–
Laura: He’s been through Human Element. He’s been through Radical Collaboration. He’s been through Leading a Grounded Life. He’s had executive coaching with me and then, um, you know, all the culture change work that we’ve done together. So yeah, he’s definitely one of my most experienced students.
Tom: He’s almost got guru status.
Laura: I know. I told him, “My expectations are just going up, Ben. Just going higher and higher.” Um, alright, so, uh, a couple questions I like to ask towards the end. Um, what would you say to, uh, a CEO or an executive who’s considering or contemplating really investing in, in culture change and investing in people in their organization but not quite sure they’re, they’re ready for it?
Tom: So the, the first thing I would say if, if you think there’s a problem, there probably is. So, not to, not to ignore that the fact that there’s a, that there’s a problem with your company or a problem with the culture or the way people interact. Um, if there’s a point in time where you know people shouldn’t be around and, you know, you don’t want to fire them or get rid of them or separate the team because it might cause you more work, you know, then you’re getting to a point where there’s, you’re probably getting to the edge as the CEO of you need to make some changes in your company. Um, and now, you can’t wait. You know, there’s a quote –I forget who said it– “What must be done eventually– what must be done eventually must be done immediately.” So, if, if–you need to act now. Um, the worst thing to do is, is have all these problems going on when times are fairly good –and I think economic times are okay right now, I think everybody’s doing okay– because they will reveal themselves in a very bad way when, you know, if there’s a recession or something happens. ‘Cause money can cover up a lot of, cover up a lot of sins, so you have to have a really good core team. They have to be bought in to what you’re trying to achieve. They have to work well together. You have to have a shared understood vision. And it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be instantaneous, but just the effort to try and work through it over time is, is invaluable. And if you don’t –and I can speak from family members’ experience– your company won’t exist in three years, five years, 10 years, but it will be the beginning of the end if you don’t make changes.
Laura: [52:39] Yeah. Okay. And from an individual perspective, so completely separate and independent from doing anything with me, what is a piece of advice or guidance that you could offer to leaders out there that they could do today that would help them be even a little bit more effective in their interactions with other people?
Tom: The biggest thing that I can recommend is patience. Um, patience is the most important thing. Patience and trust. So you have to be very patient with the people that work for you and then you have to trust them, um, to perform. So you have to put the right people in the right role and then trust them to do the right thing. You have to trust them to do the job and you have to be patient with them for, to achieve it. But you also– to make that happen, you have to create the environment for it to occur.
Laura: So is there anything else that you wanna say to, uh, the listeners about your, your journey over the last couple of years?
Tom: So, it been, um, it’s been actually quite amazing. So, I’m 45 now and I think I’ve had the, I went to one of your workshops and it was The Human Element and I walked into the room and I think I said, “This is the first time I went to anything where I’m the oldest person and not the youngest.”
Tom: [53:58] So I was so used to, um, being the youngest at everything and to go to The Human Element and be the oldest but, with that said, kind of made me reflect on how important it is, no matter how much experience and how much wisdom you think you have at whatever age you are now, to continue to develop and, uh, to continue to learn and to continue to get better. And I was at a point in my career where I think it was time to, um, I was always, it was always about the money. It was always about the next deal. It was always about how big can you build it? And there was just something missing. There was something heart that was missing from it all. I was so caught up in, in the dollars and cents of it. So, going through this exercise kind of intuitively knowing there had to be more I could do for the employees, you know, I got the added benefit of kind of changing how I interact with people and changing, you know, my perception of how the world could be and how I could interact with other people. And kind of just be more self aware in general, which makes it, um, I don’t know, makes life easier, makes life better and the ability to be happy.
Laura: I love that. And I, uh, I have tremendous respect for you as a leader. And I know it takes a lot of courage to do a lot of this work so, um, I’m really grateful. So thank you for all the opportunity you’ve given me to work with you and work with your team. It’s been awesome.
Tom: Awesome. Thank you, Laura. Everybody loves you at our company, so–
Laura: Aw. Thanks.
Tom: You’ve done an awesome job. You’re, you’re one of us.
Laura: Thank you. That’s how I feel when I go there. I like it.
Tom: Alright. Thank you.
L: (Outro): Make sure to listen next time when I interview Ben about his journey….and if you want to explore this for yourself – growing your own self-awareness, aligning your team around a common vision, and transforming your culture to one that gives you a competitive edge, please reach out to me at Laura@gallaheredge.com, or visit the website at gallaheredge.com for more information. Thanks for listening to the show. Since you’re still here, I’d love to ask for a favor – would you please rate this show on iTunes? It’s one of the best ways to help others find the show, and I’d love to get this message out to as many people in the world as possible. Also, maybe you want to send this episode to somebody that you think could benefit from listening. Thanks for all your support….we’ll talk again soon.
- Similar to Gary Vaynerchuk quantifying the ROI of social media, Tom equates the ROI of investing in culture to the ROI of your mother – here’s the short video from Gary V on it.
- We reference Starter Studio, which originally was the name of the accelerator where Tom and Laura both volunteered as mentors and founders.
- We talk about Bungo Box, a company that Tom founded.
- We talk about the Association for Corporate Growth, an organization that hosted a cocktail evening and a luncheon for growing companies in Central Florida, and the place where we first met.
- We talk about Code School, one of our early clients, the CEO of which recommended Laura to Tom, which peaked his interest.
- The company that hired Tom Cannon as its CEO in 2015, Mid Florida Golf Cars Distributors, Inc.
- Tom mentions feeling inspired by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and his philosophy about taking care of your people.
- We mention Radical Collaboration, the 3-day workshop that Tom invited his whole organization to participate in to create a common language and build collaboration skills.
- We reference one of Tom’s employees, Ben OConnell, who also did a podcast episode to talk about his journey and “the lifestyle.”