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Humble Leadership with Jack McGuinness

George Grombacher February 8, 2023

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Humble Leadership with Jack McGuinness

LifeBlood: We talked about the value of humble leadership, what it takes to get teams unstuck, how to foster productive dialogue and get consensus, and how to get started, with Jack McGuinness, CoFounder of Relationship Impact, consultant and author. 

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Jack McGuinness

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
I’m left with this is George G. And the time is right, welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Jack McGinnis. Jack, are you ready to do this? Ready? Ready? Ready? All right, let’s go. Jack is the co founder and partner with relationship impact. They are the CEOs resource for unlocking leadership team’s potential. He’s the author of building great leadership teams. And he’s a veteran of the United States Army. Jack, thank you for your service. Appreciate you coming on, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Jack McGuinness 0:46
Sure. So tell you a little bit about my personal life just came off a great holiday season I got I have adult kids, two working ones, one one in college, and they all came home before and a little after Christmas. So we we got a lot a lot of good quality time with, with all three of them and working together, eating together, going out to dinner, all that kind of stuff, having some fun to kind of still on a high from all that. So that’s a little bit about the personal stuff. What we do is we work with executive teams like the like you said, exclusively with young, small to mid size companies and their executive teams to help them build functioning leadership teams. That’s, you know, there’s, there’s no perfect team, but but sometimes teams have people have a habit of getting in their way, their own way. And when that happens too much. It can bleed into the rest of your organization. And that’s when we think we really can we can serve a purpose and help help the teams, individuals and teams kind of figure out how to operate more effectively. I love it.

george grombacher 2:08
Help people get out of their own way. Yeah. Why do we? How How, why? Why do we get in our own way? Yeah, that’s great.

Jack McGuinness 2:17
Yeah. Adults over, I was reading something about this last the end of last year, adults over 35, I think, struggle to evolve and adapt their behaviors. More than when you’re a little younger. And so we get over time we get we get it in sometimes get an ingrained view of of how we see the world and how we see, you know, business or leading or managing, and those views sometimes conflict with our colleagues. And sometimes the environment changes that we, you know, one one environment we came from was high stress, this one’s a little less stress, and we don’t adapt our behaviors. And that’s what I mean. And that can cause some some tension, right? And, and tension is good for the most part, but sometimes it can. unchecked it can it can get caught some cause some challenges. So that’s, that’s kind of what I meant by that.

george grombacher 3:34
Yeah, I appreciate that. And I imagine that that is a, you are going to have work to be done for the foreseeable future. So I was just reading this morning that Bob Iger who’s really taking the reigns at Disney is saying everybody’s coming back to work for at least four days a week. And I don’t I have not seen the Fallout or what the response is going to be to that. And I guess to some grid, that’s not necessarily relevant. When when when when you’re looking at these organizations that are struggling with backlash from their employees, and what they believe to be true. How do you think about that?

Jack McGuinness 4:18
Yeah, I mean, that’s when that that’s when leadership, you know, the CEO, but really the leadership team, and in a big organization like that there are multiple leadership teams, right. But and so it’s, it’s a lot more complicated than what I what I do really is mostly working with, you know, an executive team and then maybe a leadership team under there, but but it does come down to that, right? It comes down to how the leaders have the leaders behave, how they, what the messages they’re sending, do they buy into the CEOs proclamation or they pay lip service to it? Have they had the opportunity to push back on the CEO and had some some conversations about why we’re doing this and what makes sense. And the messages and the tone, and the body language and the, you know, messages both verbally communicate via email, all that all that kind of stuff that they, they resonate with folks, and people look up and say, you know, those folks on the same page or not. And, and that, and that helps, it doesn’t mean that, you know, a bunch of people that don’t want to go back for days of work are going to all of a sudden be on board, but it does, it does help, right, it helps, it helps. And I, you know, this is not about whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea. It’s just how you how you message that and how you how leadership sticks, it. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s critical. And there’s a lot in what I just said, because it’s, you know, the ability for, it’s not what I’m not, I’m not saying like a CEO comes in with a proclamation and everyone just kind of says, Okay, we’re gonna do that marches, it’s more about this is this is this is what we want to do, let’s have a, let’s have a productive conversation about it, and bring all sides to the table and have a have some disagreements and you know, obviously, the CEO gets to make the call. But good leaders are able to be open to other perspectives and hear hear each other out. And, and that is one of the most critical things we find in in the work that we do is the ability for, for folks. And it really does come down to whether the CEO or the president or whoever’s a formal team leader, enables that to happen or not. But when they do, how do you create that, that what we call productive dialogue, the ability to challenge debate, disagree with minimal relational damage or hate and you know, just kind of the ability to move on. That’s, you know, it’s a critical, critical critical skill for any team.

george grombacher 7:10
And the unfortunate reality that as human beings, as we get a little bit older, past 35, we have a tendency to be more rigid in our thinking and behavior, probably everything just because we’ve gotten to this place in our life doing what we’ve always done, and it’s served me well. But what got us here is not going to get us great. Want to go? Yeah, so I

Jack McGuinness 7:32
my favorite, my favorite executive coaches is Marshall Goldsmith that that that book is what got us here won’t get us there. I can’t. That’s not the exact title. But it’s an amazing book. Just it’s just about what we’re talking about right now.

george grombacher 7:47
And so that is, I wrote down wartime versus peacetime and dies, because you’re a veteran. That’s kind of change management, right? We would love to be implementing wonderful stuff when things are going awesome. But more often, it’s when we are faced with some kind of a decision that war time that we need to be making inhibits or whatever it how do we effectively do that? Yeah, and

Jack McGuinness 8:13
so I have I’m working with a company right now to at it doesn’t matter what it is. The CEO is fent is just a great leader. And I’ve learned I really learned a lot from them. I’ve been working with them for almost three years now. And one of the things he said they had a strategy session at the end of last year and having a follow up coming up here. But he started off and saying, we, we don’t we’re not we’re not great planners here. That’s not what we’re focused on. Our focus is on preparation. And so it’s preparing for the crisis. It’s it, you know, it’s not saying we’re gonna have a crisis, but putting all the things in place that that directionally we know where what we need to be doing. You know, he’s he’s anti goal, like big picture goal. He’s antis, you know, strategic direction kind of stuff, but he is, he is big on preparation for, you know, what the environment we’re working in is and, you know, just with the pandemic, they did an amazing job they pivoted so quickly to be able to, you know, there are a big commercial bank in New York and they, they were able to pivot so quickly and did all the PPP stuff, which is a nightmare, you know, a nightmare for you know, a commercial bank and, and so that that concept of preparation, I think is really, really important. And it and I’m telling you if you don’t have a leadership team, that mo mostly can be on the same page and and put up put away their personal animosity sometimes or, or their view of, you know, of what We shouldn’t be doing versus what the team decided to do, then it’s really hard. It’s really it’s like pushing up a rope.

george grombacher 10:08
Is it possible to unring a bell? When, let’s say the CEO makes a decision and comes in like a bull in china shop, and ruffles feathers and doesn’t get? They don’t have that, that constructive, productive dialogue that you’re talking about? Can you go backwards and sort of unring the bell?

Jack McGuinness 10:31
Yeah, that’s where, yeah, that’s where the self awareness thing comes in. Right and like so. It really unformed it really does come down to though the former leader and whether they’re, whether they’re self aware enough, and not to recognize that they may be getting in the way or have gotten in the way, if if, if the CEO can have some humility and recognize that you know, that maybe they made a mistake or did something yet, then you can make some progress. Unfortunately, without that it’s really, really hard. However, when that does happen, that doesn’t mean everything’s going to be rosy, right? If there is humility in the CEO, and they do have the ability to say, hey, you know, I really messed this up, read wrong messaging, let’s regroup. Now, can the can the rest of the team regroup? And can they trust that, you know, they’re able to put their two cents on the table without retribution and stuff like that it does take it takes, it takes some repair work rebuilt, repairing trust is really hard. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s easier to build than it is to fix. And, you know, people have their own views on a lot of times that, you know, when I when we go into organizations will, will, will, you know, we dig in, and then we’ll hear stuff like we, we just don’t trust each other, I just don’t trust him or her and, and what they’re really saying is it mostly it’s not so much about trust, it’s that they do stuff differently than I do it. And I really don’t appreciate how they do it. And so therefore, they’re lazy, they’re aggressive, they’re, you know, whatever. And those assumptions get in the way of us being able to rebuild trust, because trust is really about, you know, character, capability, right. And a lot of times people focus on the capability part of it rather than the character part of it. And the capability part of it is a lot, a lot of times where the assumptions come in.

george grombacher 12:44
How are you often brought in? Is it CEO realizes I’m just not getting through? Or is it? Maybe a Human Resources leader?

Jack McGuinness 12:53
Yeah. So so that the 80% answer is, through conversations with other folks, this is really what we have found in the doing this for 15 years now is an unrecognized need. Mostly. Now, that being said, you know, we do get called every once in a while, you know, we wrote we just wrote this book, and that that has helped. Not usually through human resources person, it’s mostly through C suite executive, it was frustrated, and says, Hey, you know, we have these challenges. But oftentimes, I’d say like, the 80% scenario is, you know, I’m having conversations with a CEO or an executive. And I describe what we do, and some of the challenges the teams that we work with face and they’re like, Yeah, we got that. And, and my quiet my, my response to that is always okay, you got that. So does everyone else, how is it getting in the way? Or is it getting in the way? If it’s not if it’s annoying, and oftentimes, it is just annoying, right? Like, people get in, it’s just annoying, and you know, but the organization’s working well, their departments are are collaborating despite, you know, some silly behavior at the executive level, right and, and, and so we, you know, don’t disrupt the applecart with us right. But if it is getting in the way we we feel like we have a an interesting perspective on how to evolve a leadership team, from where it is today to where they want it to be what how they define what what great looks like.

george grombacher 14:48
So there’s always going to be problems when there’s human beings involved. You’re gonna have interpersonal conflict. That’s that’s a given. Is it actually precluding us and stopping us keeping us stuck? Like, from getting to where we actually want to go? If the answer is yes, then we engage.

Jack McGuinness 15:05
That’s right. And, and, um, you know, authentically like it’s sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. And, you know, every team has dysfunction, it’s just a matter of how, how much you want to be different.

george grombacher 15:25
Yeah. And I imagine that engagement can be brief, it can take a really long time. But it’s predicated on the CEOs ability to be self aware enough to be humble enough to say, yeah, it’s, I’m, I’m not, I’m falling a little bit short in some of these areas, and it is keeping us from getting to where we want to

Jack McGuinness 15:49
go. Right, we, we look very hard for CEOs that say they want us to fix their team. Because that’s that, you know, they that language is about my team is messed up and those individual versus on contributing to it. And, and what we always say is, every, every person in that team, if there’s dysfunction has some modicum of responsibility, some have more than others. But, you know, there’s, there’s, everyone has a has a stake in it, for sure. And, and that, like you said, like, we we don’t do anything for less than six months, because of the, you know, because of the adult behavior change related to it. Because it’s, this is not a these aren’t quick fix. It’s very developed, the what we do is developmental, not training focused. It’s very hands on with the individuals and the team. And we’re where we work on behalf of the team, we spent a lot of time upfront, helping the team recognize that we’re not just there on behalf of the CEO. And that’s not always easy. It’s. But it’s, it’s true, because we’re just doing what the CEO tells us to do, then we’re really not adding any value.

Unknown Speaker 17:10
Yeah, yeah. There’s no doubt about that. Jacket either. Come in fix my team. It’s totally broken. Really? Yeah, that’s what it is.

Jack McGuinness 17:19
Yeah, exactly. And there are questions. Yeah. Well, you’re part of the team. Right. So what are you doing? What’s good? What are you doing to get into that’s getting in the way? What do you mean? Yeah, but most times, people are like, Yeah, you know, I probably do this or that. Yeah. Most of the time, it’s, I enable the behavior. Like, for example, we’ll have a meeting, we’ll have decided on something and I’ll get lobbied I’ll get a call or get someone knocking on my door and say, hey, you know, that decision we just made? I think Bob was way off target on that. I think we should revisit that. And he engages in revisiting it rather than saying, Go talk to each other about this and then come back to me and let ya I’m happy to revisit if you guys because have having an effective discussion about it, rather than just snipe at each other.

Unknown Speaker 18:13
Got it? I love it.

george grombacher 18:16
Well, Jack, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with relationship impact? Where can they get a copy of building great leadership teams? Yeah,

Jack McGuinness 18:26
so building great leadership teams is on Amazon. You know, that so that’s, that’s an easy one. And then my website is, or our website is very, very easy. It’s relationship dash And a lot of good resources on there. And and, you know, links to the book as well. So that that encourage folks to, to take a look there too.

george grombacher 18:54
Excellent. Have you enjoyed as much as I did, so check your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to release relationship dash And check out all the great resources, find the book there you can also find building great leadership teams on Amazon. And if you are a leader within your organization, CEO, and things are not going exactly as planned, might be a good opportunity to to reach out and gauge. Thanks again, Jack.

Jack McGuinness 19:26
Thank you,

george grombacher 19:28
and until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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