A CONVERSATION WITH

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Kevin Strauss

“It’s funny really, I learned as a biomedical engineer that once you truly understand the root cause of a problem then the solution is typically quite simple.”  ~Kevin Strauss


AE: I was drawn in by the opening statement of your profile “I believe people yearn to feel closer to others. Not to everyone but to the people who matter most to us.” It is what made me want to reach out and ask for this interview. I am curious though how you went from being a biomedical engineer to CEO of your own company that is focused on helping people strengthen their relationships and feel more authentically connected. It is not what I would imagine from someone in the field of science.


KS: My transition from biomedical engineer to a CEO focused on connection and emotional health is much more natural than you might think. As an engineer, I’m a problem solver and there was a time I was working in the area of behavior modification; mostly for activities of daily living (ADLs) such as remembering to wash your hands or turn off the stove. At the same time, I was trying to understand why I and others struggled with personal, romantic and professional relationships. I also was very curious “why people do what they do” especially in the workplace. I just didn’t understand people’s “irrational” behaviors. Then, one day while watching the TV show Boston Public I had the epiphany that most conflict seems to occur because someone isn’t sharing what they really think or how they truly feel. This led me down a now 18-year rabbit hole which continues to point to the realization that our relationships and connections (i.e. emotional health) drive our behaviors more than anything else. As an engineer, I’ve been successful with the approach that once you understand the root of a problem then the solution is typically quite simple. So, using the tools of the day, I created a platform to help people connect authentically and business around it.


AE: The way you explain it makes perfect sense to me and I can see that my initial assumption was off base. Today you work helping businesses improve their culture and engagement by balancing their wellness – especially their emotional health. Can you elaborate on that?


KS: I’m a big fan of health and wellness which includes being a 17-year, injury-free, Ironman triathlete and coach. I’ve also worked in Corporate America for 25+ years and I’ve experienced all kinds of environments. The reality is when most people talk about health they are typically referring only to “physical” health. However, we know there are other elements of health such as mental, emotional and spiritual. So, like the four tires of a car, you cannot inflate just one and expect your car to run well. That’s what we currently do by focusing on physical health primarily. Similarly, if just one tire is flat the car will not operate well and that applies to people. Then, combine those four elements of well-being with what I’ve learned about the human need for love, connection, and belonging and now we’re able to address the emotional health spoke of the wellness wheel.


Based on the latest research, 88% of workplaces are considered toxic, 85% of the global workforce is considered “disengaged” and 75% of people quit their job because of their boss or management. For me, I know that 4 of the 5 organizations I’ve left have been due to my boss or management. So, I ask the question “Why?”. It really doesn’t matter how many steps you take each day, how much you meditate, what you eat or how mindful you are because if your boss is a jerk and doesn’t listen or value you or if you don’t trust your senior managers, you’re simply going to 1) become negative 2) stop doing your best work and 3) quit. Not feeling heard or valued is not a mental health issue it’s a feeling and it compromises your emotional health. Yes, it can affect your mental and physical health but first, and quite quickly, it affects your emotional health. 


AE: Not only do I believe that I have seen and experienced it firsthand. Everything is so interconnected and one thing affects another. To quote your website “Happy people are healthier (i.e. emotionally, mentally, physically, etc.) and they thrive in the workplace. The stronger our relationships and more connected we feel to others the happier we are.” Considering all the changes in the workplace and with the workforce, why is it so difficult for people to really connect at work?


KS: I believe our struggle to connect at work is similar to our struggle in our personal lives. Simply put, we’ve never really been taught how to genuinely connect and share our thoughts and especially our feelings. One of the greatest hindrances to connecting is the amount of shaming and judgment we receive when we do share or express our emotions. We’re training it into our children by ostracizing girls for “being too emotional” and for shaming boys by saying, “boys don’t cry”, “don’t be a sissy” and “toughen up”. Then, a child natural begins to adopt behaviors in order to avoid feeling that [emotional] pain. In the workplace (and society) we go a step further and have labeled anything emotional as a weakness. I believe our behavior to not connect at work is our way of protecting ourselves from pain which then reinforces our pain and creates a continuous negative feedback loop.


AE: Basically, it is what you say in your website profile where you describe how most people “show up” to work each day physically but their mental and emotional states are not well (including bringing baggage from home) and how they function is evident from their productivity, engagement and general culture around the office. What should they and their organizations be doing differently to change this?


KS: In 2018, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported 97.2% of employees to work their required hours each week. Physically getting to work is not an issue. The problem is what’s not happening once they’re there. People simply do not feel safe at work. It’s often presented as “psychological safety” but I believe it is more of an emotional safety rather than a mental safety issue. To me, mental refers to our cognitive abilities which include focus, concentration, and critical thinking. Emotional safety is when we feel like we can express ourselves without being judged, shamed or otherwise ridiculed or ostracized. How many people are afraid to share their ideas for fear of being shamed or judged which will hurt their feelings?


The people running organizations could adopt a non-judging and non-shaming approach to their operation. Managers could make greater efforts to actually get to know and connect with their team and work collaboratively rather than authoritarian. If you don’t really know or understand someone then you likely will not care about them. If a person doesn’t feel cared for or valued or like they matter then why would they want to put forth any effort? 


People naturally want to work hard and do good work and with real support and encouragement, they’ll do just that. When a boss/manager believes and trusts their people and the people truly feel it then great things will happen. Rather than focusing on the “numbers”, we can focus on connecting with our people and then the numbers will take care of themselves.


AE: You make a great point about adopting a non-judging and non-shaming approach. I would add to that while organizations talk a lot about employees bringing their “whole” self to work, most of the time it is just lip service and the last thing they want. As part of your company  Uchi, LLC , you offer FamilyeJournal and CorporateeJournal; can you describe how they work? 


KS: FamilyeJournal (FEJ) and CorporateeJournal (CEJ) are online platforms designed to help people connect authentically with those who matter most to you. eJournaling is similar to those “card decks of questions” a family or group of friends will use around a table at a social gathering except 100% online and asynchronous (i.e. not in real-time). So, being online and using written responses provides a host of disinhibiting effects such as time to create and review answers, not being face-to-face so people tend to share more honestly and the ability to connect deeply across great distances or under the same roof.


Also, eJournaling is designed to be used with small groups of people (e.g. 2-12) you already know but want to know better and be closer. Your answers are never shared publicly which also eliminates the online bullying issue of most social media-type platforms. In short, users answer sets of 4 questions and read each other’s answers. When done consistently and over time you’ll gain a new level of rapport, familiarity and connection with those people and that, in turn, drives behavior. The only difference between FEJ and CEJ is the questions in our database with CEJ having more “work-related” questions.


AE: Your tag line for FamilyeJournal “Connect authentically with family and friends, near and far.” That is thought-provoking. When you consider our deluge of information we get today and the various social media platforms available; are we really connecting with purpose?


KS: I believe today’s social media and most forms of communication are more superficial and based on quantity rather than quality. We’re trying so hard to fulfill our need for connection and any little bit we get feels good so we try to get more of it. However, it is so instantly gratifying and therefore has very little value and wears off fast. On the other hand, by increasing the quality of our communication, connection, and sharing we’ll significantly increase its value. Unfortunately, that requires more time and effort to achieve but not a lot when done well and efficiently like with eJournaling (shameless plug). Ultimately, we need a little of both, instant and delayed gratification, so we can reach our goals before burning out.


AE: In our initial discussion about this interview we both agree that words matter and there is a huge difference between verbal and written. Do you think one is more powerful than the other?


KS: That’s a great question Anthony and I may not have a definitive answer for you. I believe both forms of communication are powerful and both can be effective given a particular situation. Similarly, both forms of communication have their drawbacks and disadvantages too. For this question, I’m not going to take sides and rather challenge the two or more people to choose their own preferred method. That being said, when it comes to expressing feelings, the written word may be easier but not necessarily more powerful.


AE: I read your blog post “World Peace is Finally Possible” and your statement that “humans simply (have) not been capable of World Peace because it was not until quite recently, in mankind’s 200,000-year history, that our basic needs for existence have been met consistently.” Really resonated with me. It is totally in line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What do you think is our biggest need today and how do we meet that?


KS: Thanks, Anthony. I’m happy my “World Peace” article resonated with you. The reality is clean water and food are still an unmet need for 80% of the world’s population. However, I believe, for the 20% of humanity that is able to survive, we are struggling to thrive because our need for love, connection and belonging – our emotional health, is most certainly NOT being met. We know this because, from the various research studying all kinds of behaviors, most improve when the person FEELS love and connection. As I state in the article, when enough people (I’m not sure what that number is) are being nurtured emotionally THEN we will naturally decrease our destructive behaviors because we will no longer be experiencing the profound [emotional] pain for which we are trying to alleviate.


AE: There is certainly a disparity around the world in terms of people having their basic needs met. But where those needs are being met, are we focusing on the wrong things and being dumbed down and desensitized in a way with the plethora of reality television and information?


KS: I do believe people are focusing on the wrong priorities but again, I believe this is for a reason. The reason is we are afraid to feel our emotional pain so we suppress, avoid or otherwise distract ourselves as much as possible. In other words, we “kick the can down the street.” Television, YouTube, social media, etc. all help to avoid dealing with our emotions. Granted, there are benefits to all of these outlets but it is also quite clear they’re not helping us either especially in the area of emotional health. Then, we blame the symptom (e.g. smartphones are the reason our kids are depressed) and continue to avoid the root cause. Even the “top” researchers and health professionals continue to follow a symptomatic path rather than digging deeper to the root cause. I realize these are strong statements but just look at the “war on drugs” and how the United States has now, for nearly 100 years, followed the same approach and our substance abuse problems continue to worsen. How does that make any sense?


AE: I believe that sometimes we create exactly the thing we are trying to avoid or prevent. Even if you say you don’t want something you are giving it energy just because you are focusing on it. The premise behind a lot of social media is to connect us but do you think we are missing it in our oversaturated age of information and social media? Perhaps too connected in the wrong ways?


KS: The short answer is yes. However, I do not believe humans have ever truly mastered the ability to connect authentically. This is especially true in our personal lives and then it merely transfers to the workplace. Social media and constantly being bombarded with information and material is just a symptom and the fact that too many people struggle to turn it off is a sign of their addiction to it. Addiction, in my opinion, is not a disease but rather a behavior, in its extreme, attempting to compensate for a pain which is, most likely, emotional (i.e. not feeling love, connection or belonging).


AE: What does authenticity mean to you?


KS: To me, authenticity means being real, genuine and honest, in your words and actions, with yourself and others.


AE: In addition to being a coach you are also a 17-year Iron-man Triathlete, do you see a connection in how athletes develop and leaders develop?


KS: That’s a tough question and one that may require a lot more thought. Most often, I believe an individual’s development is based on that person’s own life experiences. Great leaders inspire others and gain a following because others believe what they believe or present an idea in such a way that what they believe is possible. Most of the endurance athletes I’ve worked with are making goals for personal reasons and, quite frankly, oftentimes to prove to themselves (and others) they have value in this world. (e.g. If I complete endurance event XYZ then I feel important and have value or status.) Again, when we feel valued by others it nurtures our emotional health. It’s “ok” to need to be valued by others; that’s how humans and other animals survive and thrive. (e.g. A baby needs his mother and it feels really good, as a mother, to be needed by your baby. It’s quite natural.) I’ve also witnessed athletes who have traveled their own journey of fitness and then support others in such a way as to become a leader in their community. It’s an awesome transformation and quite inspiring itself!


AE: That is an interesting observation and it makes me think about how I have seen some leaders who are trying to prove their worth, value and position. As a result, they insulate themselves from connections with people out of fear that they will somehow be upstaged or seen as dispensable. How important is leadership vulnerability?


KS: I’m not sure the key to leadership is simply being more vulnerable. A person, like a leader, behaves a certain way based on their feelings about the world and the narrative they’ve developed over their lifetime. Unfortunately, “protecting their position” and fearing they may be upstaged are all signs of insecurity, low self-confidence, and self-esteem. The reality is, without a foundation of love, connection, belonging and support, a person will struggle to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem. They’ll continue to try and “do more” and “prove themselves” to the world in an attempt to convince themselves of their self-worth but it rarely ever works because the narrative in their subconscious, most likely from childhood, continues to drive their behavior.


AE: Excellent points and I agree, and I have seen the result myself with leaders leaving an organization or a series of organizations. So how do leaders move beyond isolation and self-preservation in order to create an environment of connection, learning, and growth for themselves and those they lead?


KS: I believe leaders could help themselves and others the most by nurturing their own emotional health. Emotional health is primarily nurtured through authentic connections and relationships with others. Leaders do not have to know everything and it’s unrealistic to think they do. They’re human, after all, right? By connecting with others and building trust and rapport by sharing who you are, what you think and how you feel is the key. Then, this practice must be repeated consistently or it will degrade. It will degrade just like a person’s fitness degrades when they do not exercise regularly. Once a leader’s emotional health is supported they no longer have a need to compensate for their pain because the pain is less. Then, their behavior will change and become more constructive and will trickle-down through an organization. There’s a lot more that can be done here to become a true leader but starting with a person’s emotional health is key, in my opinion.


AE: In coaching leaders, do you see common themes in what they struggle with or the strengths they have?


KS: I believe true leaders (of which there are few) share common strengthens such as a vision that inspires others to take action. Further, real leaders value and respect their followers and understand that without willing followers they’re not truly leading. On the other hand, most “heads of organizations” are not actually leading but are rather the “final decision maker”, if you will, and behave in a way that is opposite of a true leader. More often than not they are driven by power, status, money or some other motivator in an attempt to compensate for an unmet emotional need or pain of their own. This unhealthy scenario is quite likely why 88% of workplaces are experiencing a toxic culture.


AE: I had not really thought about most leaders being the final decision maker, but you are right, in most organizations that is exactly what they are. Do you think there are there a set of common drivers to what leaders are looking for?


KS: I’m not sure I understand this question. Are you suggesting that leaders may be driven by a set of common themes or factors? It seems to me, at least the leaders I admire, are driven to make life better for the people they serve. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and others like them were not interested in selfish or material gains. They each had visions that would serve their fellow man so we could live with freedom and liberty. 


AE: Do you see common pitfalls for leaders when it comes to culture and their influence or impact on it?


KS: I believe leaders, such as in organizations, set the tone of culture. The more emotionally healthy the leader the more constructive the culture and vice-versa. When a culture is toxic, engagement is poor, productivity is low or turn-over is high, any one of these metrics is a clear sign the heads of the organization are struggling, most likely emotionally.


AE: So very true. Do you hear common themes or see common behaviors in the teams you work with when it comes to the challenges they face?


KS: Yes, most teams or people who are struggling with destructive behaviors are experiencing poor emotional health. I realize this may sound overly simplistic but humans really aren’t as complex as we seem to believe. Humans have basic needs and when those needs are not met we will behave in a way as to try and compensate.


When people struggle to listen, hear and understand each other they are more than likely desperate to be heard themselves. When people struggle to negotiate and compromise, they may be unclear of their true purpose or goal. Behaviors such as verbal abuse, micromanaging, shaming and judging do little to help improve a situation and more often make things worse. Heads of organizations can try to “motivate by fear” but that, at best, will achieve the minimum. However, true leaders who value and believe in their people will often exceed their goals.


AE: We could certainly do another entire interview on that subject! I believe that to be our best, we must be intentional about it. What are you doing to continue to grow and develop?


KS: Personally, I try to nurture my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health on a regular basis. I pursue knowledge and experience in the subjects that interest me and also take time to hear opposing views that may challenge my beliefs and values. I am by no means perfect in my pursuit of these goals. I struggle with my own personal narratives and work to understand and reframe them, when possible. I have my good times and bad times and I do my best to experience whatever emotion I am having. I try to “feel” as much as possible and rely on my family and friends when I become overwhelmed or out of balance. It’s a lifelong endeavor and it makes me happy to pursue it.


AE: What are the most important decisions that you face daily?


KS: Wow, that’s a great question! I think my most important decision daily is “am I being true to myself.” I actively try to honor my feelings, understand and pursue my priorities and ensure I’m living a life of honesty and integrity.


AE: Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?


KS: I have learned so much over the years and continue to learn every day. This question alone could result in an entire book! I think one piece of advice I would give myself is “trust your gut”. This isn’t easy for me because I find it difficult sometimes to know if there are other factors influencing what my gut is telling me but with time, practice and experience I believe it improves. And by gut I mean “trust your feelings” because your feelings are the clues coming from your subconscious mind which is able to absorb far more information than your conscious mind.


AE: What is next for you professionally?


KS: Professionally I’d like to continue to learn and grow in my understanding of the human condition and how we can make the world a better place for everyone. A world where as many people as possible feel genuinely happy the majority of their days. I believe happy people do more “good” things and are less destructive to themselves or others. With less destruction and greater happiness, humanity can achieve world peace. That is my “professional” goal. Are you ready to join?


AE: What is next for the company, what can we expect?


KS: The mission of our company,  Uchi, LLC , is to help people connect authentically with those who matter most to them. We are currently developing a dedicated app specifically designed to fulfill this mission and be a significant update of the eJournal website-platforms. In a sense, we see it as Social Media 2.0 where people will have an opportunity to nurture their relationships by sharing their real selves with 100% privacy of their accounts and information.


AE: If you could give new leaders one piece of advice, what would it be?


KS: For any new or existing leaders my hope is you will truly listen and value the people who choose to follow you and you must show them through your words and actions.


AE: I like to close all my interviews with a quote; do you have a favorite?


KS: One of my favorite quotes is from the philosophy of John Locke (1632-1704)…


“Don't unthinkingly follow authorities, whether intellectual, or political, or religious. And don't unthinkingly follow traditions or social conventions. Think for yourself. Look at the facts and try to base your views and behavior on how things actually are.”


Note: I seek to connect with anyone who believes I can help them or they can help me. I am not interested in "collecting" contacts and prefer authentic relationships. If you value the content I share then "Following" is always an option.


Kevin is a 16-year Iron-man Triathlete and Coach. After years of effort, Kevin has been able to piece together literature and develop a program to address a person’s basic need – the Need for Connection. 


Learn more at   https://UchiConnection.com  and KevinRStrauss.com

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DAVE LOPEZ

By Anthony T. Eaton | May 2019


I discovered Dave Lopez when I came across his website Harvard Misfit which led me to his book Still Point: Inner Peace is the New Success co-written with Joey McCarthy. Dave’s journey has taken him from humble beginnings in Texas to the halls of Harvard and from there to being a successful business owner. As interesting as his journey has been his experiences struck home with me and I found his responses to my questions to be thoughtful, introspective and insightful.  


“I believe that inner peace and calm are commitments we make to ourselves, Energy follows the path of least resistance and we must master our emotions to find inner peace.”  

~Dave Lopez


AE: I am always interested in where people come from so let’s start at the beginning, where did you grow up, what was your childhood like, do you have siblings?


DL: I was born in Dallas, Texas, but grew up in Munich, Germany. We moved back to Dallas when I was in Junior High and High School. It was a family of 6, with 2 sisters and 1 brother. I was always aware of the lack of money and felt like we were very poor. Dad was always trying to make more of himself, striving for improvement. 


AE: You clearly inherited that drive for improvement. At 23, after completing the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas Austin you attended Harvard and obtained an MBA in Marketing and Strategy. What attracted you to Marketing and Strategy?


DL: I’ve always had a penchant for creativity and ideas. I didn’t know when I entered into Harvard that I would find marketing and strategy most compelling. After the first two semesters, it became much clearer to me that my strengths and interests were more along those lines, as well as management. 


AE: All kinds of businesses and industries need marketing and strategy, what drew you to working in retail?


DL: The touch, the feel, the look and the fit all drew me into retail. There is a right brain activity to sensing what will sell, how customers will respond and the new fashions of the season. My right brain is very active, and I was well-suited for a career in fashion. I enjoy the flair, the theatre of fashion and was also very good at the quantitative aspects as well. 


AE: You landed a job with one of the prominent retailers in the country, Neiman Marcus, was it what you expected when you started or were there some ah-ha moments?


DL: I think there are always “aha” moments in every job. Neiman Marcus was no exception. I was shocked at the competitiveness within the management ranks. There was a spirit of trying to take down people who were really good at their jobs. The glamour and allure didn’t surprise me, but the daily dramas shocked me, to say the least. 


AE: I recall that from my early career when I worked for a short time at Dayton Hudson, probably not on the same level but there is certainly competitiveness that is unique to the retail industry. From a leadership perspective, were there challenges that don’t exist in other industries?


DL: I’ll have to posture a guess here, as I can’t speak for leadership in other industries, such as technology or healthcare. The leaders in retail tend to lean on their personalities and become bigger than life. As you might imagine, there is a lot of scrutiny about how you look in retail, what you wear, and how much drama you can create. The best approximation to me would be the entertainment industry. A lot of bravado takes you much further! 


AE: Having worked in a variety of industries I can tell you that it can certainly be similar. You managed to spend 10 years working for Neiman Marcus before starting your own business. What was the biggest lesson you learned that you were able to apply when you became the “boss”?


DL: When you’re on your own, you live and die from every relationship. There is no promise of an income stream tomorrow if you’re not hustling today. There’s no one to lean on to get the job done if you’re not up to it. Everything comes back to the owner. I couldn’t hide or make excuses. Nobody cared about those. 


AE: In 1998 you started Lopez Wong and Good Company creating branding and strategy for luxury products. Were their any aha moments in running your own business?


DL: There are always aha moments, if you’re aware and looking for them! Owning my own business is terrific and my partnership at LWGC was terrific as well. I think I learned at that time how to be a good business partner and the art of negotiation with clients. Aha moments with clients were always around every corner. Never ceased to be surprised! People will shock you with their incredible kindness and incredible insensitivity as well. 


AE: Yes, people will certainly surprise you on both fronts. What kind of a leader are you, how would you describe your leadership style?


DL: Driven and intense, but also laid back. I’m the guy who would conduct meetings and get everyone to laugh and relax and then put all my attention to accomplishing the organizational goals. I try to inspire rather than direct. I am philosophical and relational. 


AE: Were there leaders that influenced your own leadership development, someone that you would consider a great leader?


DL: Yes I experienced some great leadership as well as the bad. From the best, I learned to behave comfortably, not as a boss. Andrea Jung would eventually become CEO of Avon, and sit on the board of Apple. She exhibited empathy and concern that was genuine, without being doting. I think great leaders have the capacity to communicate clearly, exhibit understanding and inspire. Sharen Turney would eventually lead Victoria’s Secret and she was an incredible strategist. Terry Lundgren, who would eventually lead Macy’s, was the consummate people person. David Yurman, who is the designer and founder, is an exceptional creative force and visionary. Michael Jefferies, at Abercrombie, was a great visionary. 


AE: That is an impressive list! Inevitably we will all encounter the bad leader. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your worst boss?


DL: Don’t listen to bad bosses. Ignore them as much as you can. Placate them but by all means, do NOT listen to them or take their direction. In one of my “bad boss” reviews, I stopped him, told him I wasn’t interested in what he had to say and asked him to just hand over the document to me. He was a senior vice president. There is no need to take abuse, and seniority is not a carte blanche to abuse those lower in “rank.” 


AE: Leaders are just people and we all make mistakes, what has been the biggest mistake you have made as a leader?


DL: I hired a friend to work underneath me in a corporate job. It was a disaster. He blamed his failure on me, and the job wasn’t a good fit for him. In retrospect. It damaged our friendship beyond repair. I also made the mistake of creating a business outside my area of expertise (restaurants) and it did not become profitable and ended up costing me a great deal of money.


AE: I can relate to that experience, what do you think is the biggest mistake leaders make?


DL: Too emotional! Let go of the emotion - I mean, passion is great, but emotions in the workplace can get out of hand. 


AE:  Well said. Despite all of its challenges, I have found leadership has great rewards. What has been the biggest reward for you as a leader?


DL: What rewards me the most is watching people grow and develop, and of course, accumulate wealth. 


AE: How has your life and viewpoint changed since you first started working?


DL: I realize now that it takes more than talent and skills to get into senior management positions. It takes a great deal of political savvy and you have to fight for what you get. It’s not going to just be “given” to you. I realize that some things aren’t worth fighting for and to know when to stop. I’ve learned that my happiness is my responsibility and nobody else’s. The real joys of life to me are now when I am able to positively impact someone else’s life. 


“I think the notion of not fitting in is a universal concept, to which many people can relate.”

~Dave Lopez


AE: In 2018 you published Still Point: Inner Peace is the New Succes; a book about dysfunctional characters who live from one emotional crisis to the next. What was the inspiration for it?


DL: My own life that was dedicated to becoming wealthy and “successful.”  I learned that happiness comes from within, not from net worth. 


AE: How has the book been received?


DL: I’ve had so much positive feedback from people who have found truths in it. It touches a chord, especially with those who have experienced difficult times and those who are young and looking for another way of defining success. 


AE: The book reveals many things, among them 7 common obstacles that keep us in emotional bondage. Can you share one or two of those and give some context? 


DL: Attachment is one of the major obstacles to peace of mind. Are you attached to an outcome or a person or a way of being? When we’re attached, our emotions are no longer in our control, rather, they are in the hands of that to which we are attached. 


AE: How do you find inner peace and calm? 


DL: I believe that inner peace and calm are commitments we make to ourselves, Energy follows the path of least resistance and we must master our emotions to find inner peace. Events will always happen to us, but our response to them is uniquely our own. I try to meditate daily for about 30 minutes, followed by setting an intention for the day. When my environment is orderly, I find that my mind is orderly. 


AE: Your website is called Harvard Misfit, where did the idea of being a misfit come from?


DL: Well it wasn’t so much an idea, as a way of being. I’ve always noticed that I am different. From Harvard to a career at Neiman Marcus, I always felt like an outsider looking in. I think the notion of not fitting in is a universal concept, to which many people can relate. Did we fit in? To what extent did we exert tremendous effort to fit in? You look back and wonder why in the world did I try so hard to assimilate? Being different is far more interesting! I think Misfits are always looking for a home. 


AE: Was the website just an outgrowth of your journey or was there a catalyst for it? 


DL: I began writing stories about viewing life from a different vantage point. My journey was both inner and outer, and I share my thoughts and observations. My hashtag is #startbeingdifferent because there are different ways to view things, that opens up our minds. 


AE: In your bio, you say “There was a time in my life when I realized that everything I’d worked to accomplish was falling into place and still, I wasn’t happy.” Was there a watershed moment for you or was it some kind of gradual realization?


DL: I was in a hospital bed in midtown Manhattan, having just returned from Bali. I had gotten terribly sick and was near death, unable to eat, and dropping weight daily. I was dying from a parasite and sat in bed and realized that the life I had created did not satisfy me. I was incredibly unhappy. Life would never be the same from that point. 


AE: You write about a wide range of topics on the website from humor to relationships. Where do you find inspiration?


DL: The everyday experiences of life inspire my writing. I write about anything from love to friendships to how we look at life. 


AE: I read the article you wrote Create a Job in 5 Steps and I really like the way you broke it down. Is that how you approached it or were those steps you learned?


DL: I am a learn-on-the-go type guy. I’ve never been able to read a recipe and apply it.  I had to try it my way, season it my way, and make adjustments to the results. This article was a reflection of what I learned as I created my own business. 


AE: Your article to be or not to be? Reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend about how we express sorrow at the loss, recognize and sing praises of people when they pass but so often take them for granted when they are here. Do we have it all backward?


DL: I think that we are very tough on one another while we’re alive. We are quick to judge, make someone else wrong or try to bring them down. This is done mostly so we can feel better about ourselves. When we come from a healthy sense of self, we won’t need to act out negatively on another person. 


AE: In the article Coffee Talk you write “Giving anyone the “wrong” task in a group can and will cripple progress and destroy the creative synergies. You must have a strong sense of self to know your role in potential outcomes of any conversation.” I see this happen all the time. What techniques do you use to stay focused and also say no?


DL: When I enter into start-up opportunities or new relationships I show who I am without reservation. I am not interested in being appreciated for who I am not, so why not be honest? Too many times, there is posturing and a sense that we have to be a certain way to be respected or accepted. Self-reliance and self-acceptance are cornerstones to showing up in life with a degree of authenticity. I’ve said “No thanks,” too many an opportunity that doesn’t resonate with me. Sometimes I feel better about saying NO than YES. My litmus test is the degree of comfort I experience with a team or a person. If I trust ME, the need to trust another is diminished. 


AE: Will there be another book?


DL: YES! The working title is currently The Chronicles of a Harvard Misfit 


AE: What do you want your legacy to be?


DL: Kindness and love. Open the mind to seeing things differently. Let go of old paradigms that aren’t working for you! 


AE: What is next for you?


DL: Whatever the Universe has in store! Perhaps a podcast! 


AE: If you could give young people starting out their careers one piece of advice what would that be?


DL: Stay true to yourselves. Fight for what you want and think you’re worth. Don’t put up with unhappiness.- go seek it. You are the creator of your life and your destiny. Assume responsibility with joy! 


AE: Do you have a favorite inspirational book?


DL: A lot of books appeal to me. Currently exploring the Science of Mind. 


AE: I always end my interviews asking; do you have a favorite quote?


DL: “If I had a religion, it would be kindness.” - Dalai Lama 

http://harvardmisfit.com/

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A CONVERSATION WITH | Luke Williams

By Anthony T. Eaton | March 2019


The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or approximately 7 an hour, or 50–60 per day.


When I came across #Live20: Experiencing A Focused Life I was intrigued by how the author Luke Williams used blocks of 20 minutes to prioritize time, build routines, and attain goals. One of the biggest challenges for leaders is the ability to use time effectively to get the most out of it. In his book, Luke describes how anyone can use a Daily Path Agenda to build a routine that will help you take daily steps closer to your Vision. 


“#Live20 is a mindset and requires mindfulness, confidence, and discipline. This book helps shape that mindset to get the most out of life, so you are experiencing time and not just spending it.”


While the book caught my attention, it was the opening statement of Lukes Linkedin profile that resonated with me “Let's Connect & Chat! My desired outcome on LinkedIn is to connect and engage through real conversations. My goal is to have at least one real conversation per day.” and so, of course, I had to ask for an interview.


AE: We put a lot of ourselves into the writing of any kind and that is especially true of writing a book. How has the book been received?


LW: Mostly positively. A few have found that they don’t really work well in a structure, routine-driven environment. Even in those cases, readers have provided feedback that they were able to take at least a few tips and incorporate them into their lives. I don’t know how many have been sold and if I never know, that’s fine. The success of the book for me is determined by authentic feedback


I get from readers (and not my friends and family) - the more people I can help the more success the book will be. I'd rather sell 100 and help 50 than sell 10,000 and help 49. I’m proud of the book and to have my name on it, which is another factor of success in my opinion.


AE: I can appreciate that, it is important to do things for the right reason. Your book centers around using 20-minute increments to align what you are doing with your goals and objectives. How has writing the book changed your own perspective on how you prioritize things in your life?


LW: It proved to me that if I traded a small amount of time each day to experience an activity that aligned with my goals, in this case, writing, I could achieve something that I previously had doubts that I would do.


AE: That is a great perspective and approach. How do you determine what is and is not important for you to focus on?


LW: I plan my core activities a week in advance, most of which are part of my Daily Path Agenda. For other activities, they are prioritized based on alignment to my goals. I ask myself, how will experience this activity help advance me closer to my goal(s)? And, to what degree will they help me advance.


                    "1 hour of planning will save 10 hours of doing."


AE: What is the daily path agenda and how do you use it yourself?


LW: The daily path agenda is a planning tool to help me prioritize my upcoming activities and ensure that I am very intentional about how I am trading my time.


AE: That makes sense and I can see how it can work. While 20-minute blocks work well for some people but couldn't that be 30, 40 or even hour blocks?


LW: This is a common question that I get. The amount of time that is traded for an activity that is aligned with your goals is not as important as the experience of that activity and the alignment with your goals/vision. A smaller number is a good start time interval, in other words, if you have a goal that involves writing, for example, sometimes getting started is the hardest part.


Knowing that the commitment of time is small makes the activity less daunting and easier to commit to and thus build a routine. For your routine, or Core20’s as I call them, trading 40 or 60 minutes for that activity might make more sense - A good example of this is exercise. Another related point is stacking 20-minute intervals to combine for 40 or 60 minutes is great. The 20-minute interval is to help maintain focus and awareness (mindfulness) of how and why time is being traded for a given activity.


AE: What are the challenges and barriers you face and how does this help you overcome those?


LW: I’m not very good at saying no. I have a desire to help as many people as I can. A leading daily goal for me each day is to have a 20-minute conversation (real conversation in person, on the phone, skype, etc). This allows me to help others, learn from others, meet new people, but often the result is that my desire to help others leads to me offering to trade my time to work on pro-bono projects that aren’t necessarily aligned with my goals.


AE: I am much the same wanting to please and help others. It can be easy to find yourself doing things that take time away from things that are important and fulfilling to yourself. How have you seen the benefits of time prioritization and building routines?


LW: I find that I get more of the right things done. By “right things” I mean activities that align with my goals. I have more small wins and can feel a sense of momentum toward accomplishing my goals and reaching my vision.


AE: Was there an ah-ha moment for you when it comes to managing your time?


LW: I recognized that it was a challenge and as an entrepreneur, I wanted to develop a solution. It started with me planning out my ideal day. The ah-ha moment was that I had a pattern of activities that were important to me and that the ideal duration experiencing those activities was 20 minutes.


AE: The idea of breaking down your time into manageable blocks seems like it would be a great approach to use in business. How do you think that could be implemented as a strategy? 


LW: The blocks of time concept is absolutely applicable to business. I would say that communication about time prioritization is a more important strategy to think about in terms of improving performance, productivity, and culture. Related to time blocking in business, I would recommend that the highest priority tasks are blocked out on calendars. The blocked time should be non-negotiable. This is not to say that everyone’s calendar should be scheduled all day, but rather there should be a number of items daily (3-5 is a good number) that should be blocked out as priority activities to be completed.


AE: Leaders often fall into the "I am so busy" trap especially when it comes to actively engaging their teams then blame them for their own lack of engagement. What are your thoughts on that? 


LW: Great point! People, and in particular those in management positions, wear “busy” as a badge of honor and a sign of importance. “I’m just too busy for…”. If Managers don’t prioritize their time to engage their teams the culture of the organization or team will not be positive (or at least not as positive as it could be). If rather than saying “busy”, those managers instead said that they have higher priority items they are working on it would force the managers to reflect on their priorities and either admit that their teams are not a priority or change how they are approaching and prioritizing their time and activities.


AE: I read your article You Can’t Spell Busy without BS. and it made me think about how we have become a society of excuses; why do you think that is?


LW: Humans are lazy by nature I think. The default mindset is to take the path of least resistance. We also aren’t very good at facing potential conflict. In my article, and in the book, I talk about how people use the I’m Busy response as a way to replace how they are prioritizing their time. It is difficult to say that you didn’t go to someone’s dinner party because you had a higher priority thing you wanted to do (experience as I say in the book and article). It is strange that so many people are just OK with “I’m too busy” as an excuse for not wanting to do something. We all have the same amount of time, it isn’t about being busy, it is about how we prioritize our time.


AE: What advice would you give to leaders; how can they benefit from the method you describe?


LW: Develop your Vision. The vision should be a concise paragraph that describes what your life will look like in the future. The vision should include all aspects of life, including Family, Health, Wealth, Career, Community and Legacy. Leaders in business should have a very clear vision for themselves and for their teams/companies. The Vision helps ensure that there is a guiding light or North Star as a point of reference to help identify which activities are aligned with that Vision and then prioritize those activities into daily routines. This becomes easier if we dispose of the notion of work-life balance, which I believe is a myth or at the very least misrepresented. The other piece of advice would be to improve their communication to be open and honest with their teams - an easy way to achieve this is to stop using busy and replace it with labeling priorities.


AE: That is excellent advice! Today we have more distractions now than ever before including a barrage of social media and "reality" television. How do you keep from getting distracted?


LW: Being aware of how I’m trading my time and using a timer to help bring my focus back to the present to reflect on the alignment of my activity with my goals. If what I’m experiencing is a distraction, TV, for example, I just need to be aware of it and make a decision of whether or not I want to continue down that track and experience watching TV or pivot into a more productive activity. A few other tips/recommendations: delete social media apps from your phone. ….

Another issue is that many people have a pavlovian response to their dings on their phone for notifications. It will take time, but I would highly recommend either changing your notification settings and only check your phone at scheduled times. This is really difficult but helps keep people focused on the present and their current activity.


AE: As a writer, where do you find your inspiration? 


LW: I find inspiration in challenges. I think of myself as an entrepreneur who happens to write. I have an entrepreneurial approach to challenges which drives me to come up with solutions and in some cases that means writing, and in the #Live20 example, it was a method that I developed to solve a challenge that I was experiencing.


AE: What does mindfulness mean to you?

 

LW: The short answer is that it means awareness. Being aware of how one is experiencing activities and thinking in terms of the present.


AE: What is next for you? 


LW: Writing, speaking, #Live20 Workshops, and launching a podcast in early 2019 (Grab A Cloud Podcast). Continuing the #Connect20 conversations and writing a book related to that experience/project is the thing that I’m probably most excited about.


AE: Will be a second book?


LW: Without a doubt. The #Connect20 chapter and concept will be the likely follow-up in the #Live20 series. I’ve also been thinking about editions that focus more on work and possibly a student edition. In addition to adding books to the #Live20 series, I’m working on a couple of projects related to entrepreneurship and culture.


Luke H. Williams was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and remained in his home state until 2008 when he moved with his wife and two daughters to Raleigh, North Carolina. Luke is a life-long entrepreneur and has consulted small business and agencies for two decades. His ventures include A record label, a catering business, a boutique wine shop, and a doomsday novelty item business. He is best known for founding CancerNeverSleeps and GrabACloud. Luke laughs at his jokes more than what is probably normal and rarely writes about himself in the third person. 


Luke's debut book #Live20: Experiencing A Focused Life is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Luke and connect with him through social media: Twitter: @Lukewilliams712, http://www.grabacloud.com/ 

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A CONVERSATION WITH | Cory Warfield

By Anthony T. Eaton | February 2019


I don’t remember where I first came across Cory Warfield, the CEO of ShedWool; but I do remember thinking this guy is probably so busy with his business he either won’t have the time or be interested in doing an interview. So, some time passed, but more than once I came across him online and after making an initial connection through social media, I asked the question; would you be interested in doing an interview, and he immediately said yes.


Even more surprising than my being wrong in my assumption and his saying yes was how quickly he responded to my questions. 


AE: Your business ShedWool has taken off, are you surprised by the success?


CW: Not even close. We were offered a multi-million-dollar buyout pre-revenue. I think we know our product and tech is incredible and that we’re solving a real problem. Doing what we have without raising capital shocked many people, and I think our successes have surprised many others. 


AE: What has been the biggest challenge in starting your own company?


CW: Many naysayers and people who want to tell me/us how “they’d do things” or what to do. Lots of people are happy to waste your time. Also the fundraising process. Nightmare. Waste of time. I shouldn’t have been talking to investors. I should have been talking to customers. No one gives you money until you don’t need it, but are happy to waste your time.


AE: Shedwool was founded in 2015 and today you are running a very successful company, how did your past experience help you get to where you are today?


CW: 20 years waiting tables gave me a solid servant mentality and taught me patience. And helped me be comfortable public speaking even more.  


AE: Waiter to CEO, what kind of a leader are you?


CW: One who empowers and excites. I listen and get in the trenches. It’s cliche but I’ll never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do - although sometimes it’s stuff I shouldn’t do like try to write code or try to sell (I don’t have the “skills to pay the bills”. I’d rather give everything away for free; no one trusts free and it doesn’t keep the lights on)


AE: Is there anyone in the business or tech world that you admire?


CW: Tim Draper. Richard Branson. And my co-founder John Wenzler. 


AE: No one can do it all and it is important to surround yourself with people who can fill those gaps, but it is not easy. What do you look for in selecting people to work with? 


CW: I admit and supplement for my deficiencies and hire talent to compensate. I look for team players who are honest and passionate. Sprinkle in patience and I can teach the rest!!


AE: Do you see common themes when it comes to what leaders struggle with or the strengths they have?


CW: I do. Ego. Caring about public perception. And self-doubt. 


AE: I have seen that time and time again leaders the trying to protect their position. As a result, they insulate themselves from connections with people out of fear that they will somehow be upstaged or seen as dispensable. How important is leadership vulnerability in the success of an organization?


CW: Goes back to ego. Only team players who think bigger than themselves seem to excel any longer in this changing landscape. 


AE: Do you see common pitfalls for leaders when it comes to culture and their influence or impact on it?


CW: Yes. Ego. Reluctance to change/holding on to “the way things are done”. Competition rather than collaboration.


AE: How do leaders move beyond self-preservation in order to create an environment of connection, learning, and growth for themselves and those they lead?


CW: Empathy and humility. 


AE: What are the most important decisions that you face daily?


CW: How to empower and uplift my team, and where to spend my time as there’s always so much in the air. Luckily my team is strong and amazing. 


AE: I believe we are all leaders because we are all influencers in one way or another having an impact on others whether we realize it or not. What are your thoughts on that?


CW: Totally agree. If nothing else we are leading our Selves and co-creating reality collectively.


AE: Do you think there are there a set of common drivers to what leaders are looking for?


CW: Looking for? I think automation, tertiary revenue streams, lean methodology! I think innovation is the derivative.


AE: Is technology outpacing our capacity to keep up with it?


CW: Not in my mind. Although I haven’t figured out IFTTT yet. Lol 


AE: We hear a lot about artificial intelligence and technology taking the place of people. What are your thoughts on that?


CW: There will be other things people can do and or do better. Technology enhances humanity in my opinion. We all must always innovate. 


AE: I think that conversations are essential because no matter your title or the type of business you are in, relationships and meaningful connections are what really make you and it successful. Do you think we are losing some of that in our oversaturated age of information and social media?


CW: I don’t, personally, but always support #LinkedOut too.


AE: We still have an enormous gap when it comes to women working in the area of technology, how do we overcome that?


CW: By talking about it. Actively trying to flip it on its head. Case studies and awareness. By hiring more women and paying them more. By focusing on inclusive and diverse workforces. Ultimately by not accepting the antiquated paradigm. Calling out bullshit for what it is. 


AE: Have you or do you have a mentor?


CW: My advisor Prab Premkumar, my coach Rana Kordahi, and my partner Caroline Fernandes. And many more. Interestingly not one from my accelerator or post-accelerator. Also in life Dave Crane.


AE: What was it like for you growing up; how did it influence who you are today?


CW: I was kind of a “look at me look at me” type who always had a magnetism, although I’ve always been really good with being alone or ignored too. I loved raising families of kittens, speaking or playing music in front of crowds (even in junior high) and was obsessed with things from my grandparent's generation. Growing up lower middle class in the near Chicago suburbs had its positives and negatives but ultimately instilled a sense of community. 


AE: What do most people not know about you?


CW: Well, I was homeless for a year twenty years ago eating out of the garage and sleeping in parking lots; I’m a freestyle rapper and punk musician; I aspire to explore the ocean floors; I’m an amateur cartoonist; I’m a sommelier; I have two mastiffs and a wife. But many people know all that - I talk about it all openly. But also as a waiter, I served Magic Johnson, Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan, Vince Vaughn, Steve Harvey, Keith Richards, the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, etc. I’ve been on ESPN as a waiter for the bears rookie party year after year. And I’m learning Esperanto :)


AE: Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?


CW: Listen more. Love more. Fail fast. Fail forward.


AE: What inspires you?


CW: Seeing people smile and succeed. Helping teach people skills and mindsets and seeing them “get it”. The understanding that we co-create reality


AE: What are you doing to continue to grow and develop?


CW: Reading networking and listening. A lot. On all counts.


AE: What is next for you professionally?


CW: My new venture Mentor You is literally going to change humanity. Pro bono consulting and business acceleration on and offline.


AE: What is next for the company?


CW: ShedWool? Temporary shift fulfillment and data-driven staffing decisions. 


AE: If you could give new leaders one piece of advice, what would it be?


CW: Don’t waste time trying to raise money. Build a team and build culture. Listen to the market and prospective clients.


AE: I like to close all my interviews with a quote; do you have a favorite?


CW: Fail fast fail forward.


Find out more about Shedwool at https://shedwool.com/ 

and Cory on Social Media Linkedin or Twitter


COMMENTS

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 A CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL STEWART

By Anthony T. Eaton | January 2019  


As an HR professional I am intrigued by organizational culture and the role it plays in business success so when I connected with Michael Stewart's and began to read about his company, background and experience, I knew there was a great conversation waiting to happen.


Michael is the President of Work Effects and leads a team of PhD. consultants and industry leaders to help clients resolve organizational challenges. Michael has over 25 years’ experience in leadership and culture and has consulted for hundreds of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to small non-profits. 


  

AE: How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?


MDS: Like many people in this industry, I sort of stumbled into it. I started off thinking I was going to be in robotics and found this field contained a great combination of science, creativity, and the ability to have a tremendous and fulfilling impact on organizations and the people that work for them. 


AE: Where does your inspiration and passion come from?


MDS: I have always been driven to have a lasting impact. That said, it is a belief that we can take soft, squishy, fuzzy stuff (like culture) and put real science and structure to it, greatly simplify it, and accelerate the ability to for organizations to accomplish their goals. It really doesn’t have to be as hard as many people make it. 


AE: Your firm Work Affects describes its mission as “Building trusted leaders and purposeful cultures to help organizations achieve lasting results and competitive advantage” So how do you define organizational culture?


MDS: In the simplest form organizational culture is “how” work gets done. It is divided into two parts; first, there are seven traditional attributes common across organizations which measure a “healthy culture” - leadership, trust, individual/team/and organizational capacity, and climate. Second are the ten attributes which are unique to an organization and “aligned” to the strategy, eg customer approach, loyalty, operational approach, decision making, etc. To accelerate execution of strategy necessitates purposefully connecting the What (strategy & goals), the How (aligned culture), and How Well (healthy culture). 


AE: That makes perfect sense, I like the way you break it down, very easy to understand and focus in on. Do leaders define an organizations culture or is it defined by the people that make up the organization?


MDS: The elements most critical to creating an aligned culture should be defined by the people who determine the What, the leaders. Elements related to healthy cultures are common across organizations, however, the words, artifacts, and symbolisms can be defined by any and all levels of an organization. 


AE: Is organizational culture really understood or has it become a kind of cliché that is thrown around with little understanding of what it is?


MDS: Organizational culture is one of those topics in which you can ask ten people and get 20 different definitions. It is often used in the headlines and broad communications to describe an invisible force for bad actors. Mature practitioners know culture can be well defined measured and more rapidly changed. 


AE: Are there a set of common drivers to organizational culture?


MDS: The common healthy culture drivers to create an aligned culture is the need for followership, leadership, trusted organizations, and trusted individuals. However, the drivers within an aligned culture are unique to each organization. A culture needs to be aligned to the strategy and every strategy is unique to that organization. 


AE: So, it is really multiple things. Do you see common pitfalls for leaders when it comes to culture and their influence or impact on it?


MDS: The most common pitfalls I see for leaders is the belief that an event will change the culture. Events such as wordsmithing values to hang on a poster, doing a survey, conducting a town hall, do little to impact culture. Creation of a healthy and aligned culture is as simple as building daily habits for all people leaders whereby when the What is communicated so is How we think about doing the work. 


AE: Do those who don’t have formal leader titles understand how they contribute to the culture of an organization?


MDS: Often times we run into the belief that all of this culture work is just extra work. We believe it is the work for formal and informal people leaders. It is quite simply the extra word, sentence, or paragraph to communicate How the What should be accomplished. 


AE: How important is an individual vulnerability in the success of an organization?


MDS: Vulnerability is a component of building trust. If an organization’s trust quotient isn’t high enough to create followership, then a demonstration of vulnerability may be very important. 


AE: Where does culture fit into mission, values, and vision?


MDS: Mission and Vision relate to the direction of the organization, are more directly connected to the strategy, and thus those elements of an aligned culture. Values relate to how people are expected to behave with each other and are or connected to a healthy culture. 


AE: What would you say has been your greatest leadership accomplishment?


MDS: There are many to choose from so picking a greatest is like picking your favorite child. I would put them into two categories. First is the ability to be the chief instigator and push people’s thinking about what is and what isn’t possible and assemble a vision from 100’s of pieces. Second, is the ability to rally people on initiatives that should have taken 10-15 times longer and still produce quality, accurate, lasting results. 


AE: That is a great response! Growth is so important in any role, whether you have a leadership title or not. What are you doing to continue to grow and develop?


MDS: I am continuously talking to new people and discovering what unique challenges and solutions they are putting in place. This helps me detect patterns in the market of what really works and what are fads. 


AE: Is there a person that you considered as a role model early in your life? 


MDS: My biggest role model early in life is my Granny Annie. She just had a cut to the chase but insightful way about her and was always a glass is half full person. 


AE: What are the most important decisions that you face daily?


MDS: The important decisions often revolve around balancing what could be possible with what needs to be done now. 


AE: As a leader of your own company, how do you encourage creative thinking with your employees?


MDS: It is built into our DNA. It is part of our commitments to every client. It is something I encourage each person to continuously challenge the status quo and ask for multiple solutions before decisions on a path are made. 


AE: I like that, I feel and think the same when it comes to those I lead as well. How do you engage your team?


MDS: I am the chief instigator and have told my staff to please don’t work on any one of my new ideas unless I have had the same new idea for at least 90 days. I have a chief of staff that runs the daily engine which provides a great balance. 


AE: What would you say is your best leadership characteristic?


MDS: Transfer of enthusiasm


AE: What is the biggest challenge you face as a leader?


MDS: Not having enough time and resources to pull off our grand vision of changing the view of culture throughout the working world. 


AE: Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?


MDS: Take more chances earlier in my career. Failure is going to happen and embrace the failure’s as much if not more than the successes. 


AE: What has been your biggest failure as a leader?


MDS: Not carefully choosing my initial business partner. 


AE: What is next for you professionally and your company?


MDS: For me personally it is likely cherry picking the fun and exciting work to get involved in. Continuing to build recognition and an evangelical client following.


AE: If you could give new leaders one piece of advice, what would it be?


MDS: Honestly assess your true strengths and weaknesses. Leverage your strengths and delegate your weaknesses by building strong relationships with those who are great at your weaknesses. 


AE: I like to close all my interviews with a quote; do you have a favorite?


MDS: Transfer of enthusiasm and using two ears and one mouth proportionally are your keys to success.  


If you are interested in connecting with Michael you can find him on LinkedIn.

To learn more about Work Effects visit their website at http://work-effects.com/.  


COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

A LOOK BACK |  By Anthony T. Eaton

January 2019


In 2013, I did my first interview with Career Coach and Author Michael Thomas Sunnarborg who would graciously write the forward to my first book LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS.  Since then I have done dozens of interviews but the first will always be the most special because it was the achievement of a goal that would be the catalyst for so much to follow.


2019 will be a great year and off to an amazing start! As I work on finalizing my first interview of this new year I want to share the preface of my book as it represents not only what has come before, but what is yet to come with the interviews I will do throughout this new year.  


Leadership

noun lead·er·ship \ˈlē-dər-ˌship\

Simple Definition of leadership

· : a position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.

· : the time when a person holds the position of leader

· : the power or ability to lead other people

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary


The simple definition of leadership is anything but simple. It may be natural that when we think of leaders we think of Presidents, Kings and Queens, heads of religious organizations or executives. We might also think of others in a positions of authority or power by virtue of their standing in the community or affiliation.


I believe anyone can be a leader, that everyone has the potential and opportunity to be a leader regardless of their status, education, position, gender or race. Everything we do has the potential to affect, influence, and potentially change someone else's life. Sooner or later, we will all be a role model for someone else and by definition that makes us each a leader.

For more than twenty years I have had the privilege to work in Human Resources; a profession that I am grateful found me. Over the course of my career, I have worked for a non-profit, local


government, public and private companies both large and small. These opportunities have exposed me to leaders with a wide range of leadership styles and skills giving me a greater understanding and appreciation for what make a good or even great leader. It has also given me the ability to recognize and understand what makes a poor leader.


Most of us are not born with leadership skills, they are learned through observation and experience, trial and error, mistakes and successes. Sometimes we unexpectedly find ourselves in a situation or position of leadership. Other times we may seek the role of leadership out. Regardless of how one gets there, being a great leader or even a good leader requires intention and work, it doesn’t matter if we are supervising, teaching, or parenting.

Everything I know about leadership I have learned from someone else. In 2012 I started writing and posting online when I decided to do interviews with people about their leadership experiences, thoughts, and Ideas. My objective was to initiate conversations and thoughts around what it means to be a leader in the broadest sense of the word. I wanted to share not only my own experience but the experiences of others.


Instead of doing the traditional face to face interview, I chose to do all of my interviews via email. By removing the time constraints that come with face to face interviews I could allow the interviewee to take as much time as needed to thoughtfully answer questions in their own words. In 2013, I did my first interview with Author Michael Thomas Sunnarborg, since then I have had the privilege to interview dozens of people from authors to consultants. It was always my vision to put them all together in a book; and here it is.


From the very beginning I intentionally limited edits of my interviews to ensure the voice of my subjects was maintained. For this reason, you may find that this book does not adhere to the standard rules of composition. If you are a stickler for proper structure of the English language please accept my apology in advance. Because my first interviews were all with men that is what is you will find in these pages. As I have continued to write I have continued to broaden my subjects. In 2015, when I created my website LEADERSHIP AND MORE, I began a new interview series entitled WOMEN ON LEADERSHIP. Perhaps another book is already in the works.


I love quotes. Every day I post a QUOTE OF THE DAY on my website and through my social media outlets. When I began doing interviews I would end them by asking my subjects if they had a favorite quote. Here I have included each interviewee’s favorite quote at the beginning of their interview as a way to introduce them and our “conversation”.


Every interview I have done is someone’s story I am privileged to be able to share. In each one I have found inspiration and hope you find something here that inspires you the way each of these interviews has me.

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