Context is King with John Reid

John Reid is the president of JMReid Group. He’s an entrepreneur and author of multiple books, the latest being the Five Lost Super Powers, why we lose them and how to get them back. In this show explore:

  • John survived cancer 4 times, find how that builds resilience.
  • Why context is king.
  • Compassion with Empathy is life changing.
  • Explore the Five Lost Super Powers and if you need to get them back.

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: Recently, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out the power of empathy in an interview with Harvard Business Review. He connected empathy with not just taking care of people, but also to design thinking, to innovation, customer care, and ultimately the bottom line. We’ve been taught since school, that empathy means stepping into somebody else’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective, but truly powerful forms of empathy, neither start nor stop there. They reach all areas of our life and work. They help us feel seen and safe, connected to others and empowered to manage conflict with kindness and inclusivity. A truly empathic leader is proactive.

Good leaders just don’t solve problems when they arise, but they actively seek out ways to smooth the path for their people and smoothing the way and removing obstacles requires empathy. It requires the ability to understand the why, the needs, the pace of people, and to respond accordingly. This kind of proactivity may require you to do your homework on the people you work with, understand their strengths and their challenges. It may also be required that you occasionally push back on things. And it’s difficult as those things may seem, the kind of investment in your people. The compassion you need will really drive empathy and pay you back richly. Cognitive empathy is just what it sounds like. Empathy based on cognitive understanding. Somebody else’s perspective. It doesn’t require emotion from us, but it does require understanding and a willingness to engage with what is their understanding.

Effective empathy is empathy that is based on emotion. When somebody cries or feels anger. This is effective empathy at work. A truly empathic leader is inclusive. More than just seeing someone else’s perspective. Empathy means slowing down and seeing others’ needs, speeds, and creeds, and then helping them find the environments that work best for them. An empathic leader is a leader who understands and not all of our brains are wired the same. Taking time to see other people’s perspectives. Seeing them as individuals with unique wiring, with unique needs and unique motivations that creates them as an individual. So, if you want the best work from the people that you work with to encourage innovation, design thinking, all of the good things that come from psychologically safe environments, then take your compassion and your empathy muscles out for a workout. Building empathy as a leader is a skill and it’s a great investment. You can do it for yourself, your people and your organization all a time when the world needs kindness more than ever. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. We’d love to hear your insights and your stories, so please get in touch with us.

Start of Podcast.

Steve Rush: My special guest on today’s show is John Reid. He’s the president of JMReid Group. He’s an entrepreneur and author of multiple books. I’m delighted to have John on the show. John, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

John Reid: It’s great to be here. Thank you, Steve.

Steve Rush: We always like to dive into our back stories of our guest, because they provide such a great landscape to how people have arrived at doing what they’re doing. So maybe we can start John by this digging into a little bit out your background and how you’ve arrived to do what you do.

John Reid: Why, thank you. I think everything’s, you know, everything’s important and sometimes nothing’s important, but I’ll leave that to the audience, but I’m the youngest of five. And I grew up in Maryland, went to the university of Maryland and got an undergraduate degree. And at that point in time in America, anyway, companies would come interview you on campus. And I got interviewed and got hired by Dow Chemical. What’s interesting there, is that I’d never taken a chemistry course in my life. And there was a brief period where Dow would hire people that they thought were good communicators for sales roles, despite having no chemical background.

Steve Rush: Right.

John Reid: And I joined them and that’s the beginning of my chemical career, which I had great success in. I was actually in chemical week magazine as a rising star of the chemical industry back in the early nineties. So I was in sales, marketing, business, I had P&L responsibility, sort of the classic path. Left all that behind to join the training and development industry because I had a real passion around that. Around the idea that people could get better and wanted to get better if the development training was better. So, I got into that industry and worked for several different companies and ultimately started my own company 13 years ago.

Steve Rush: And what was that pivotal moment for you when you thought, okay, now it’s time for me to lead my business versus work for others?

John Reid: It’s a great question. And the truth is, I’m a four-time cancer survivor. And when in America, again, at that time, when you have cancer, you need health insurance. I had four kids and I was the worker. So, I had to have health insurance and it’s hard to have health insurance. So, I changed jobs to work for a company in Dallas, Texas, and we were negotiating to be the head of sales. And I was asking for, you know, a compensation, should they decide to let me go? And they said, no, that’ll never happen. They’ll never let me go. But I did negotiate health coverage for a period of time. And within three months they let me go. They were having real cash flow problems and they couldn’t really afford me they thought. Interestingly enough, they call me two weeks later and asked me to come back because I made the point to them that they had a revenue problem, not a cost problem, but they thought they had a cost problem, let me go. That was the driver to start my own company, because I had that safety net of having health coverage and I could take a chance finally.

Steve Rush: Yeah. It’s funny, isn’t? How unconsciously, we sometimes just need a little bit of security to give us that entrepreneurial flare of spirit to moving different directions.

John Reid: Yeah, absolutely. Because we’re always making risk for work calculations.

Steve Rush: Right.

John Reid: Part of my the work that I think about when I do leadership or sales training and you watch current behaviors and how they’re behaving, you know, unconsciously, they’re making this risk for work calculation and oftentimes they’re making it incorrectly. And that’s why they’re behaving the way they are. And so sometimes you have to need to have them see a different calculation for some of these behaviors.

Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely so. Nonchalantly just said, yeah. Fourth time cancer survivor. That is, one. It’s incredibly unusual to survive cancer four times. But what I’ve learned from having met you previously, John, is you have this huge amount of resilience that comes from having been able to battle through these different events, time after time. And I just wondered, you know, how much of that drives your current approach and how much of that helped you with resilience?

John Reid: Oh, it’s helped me greatly. I had a type of cancer that you should frankly die from. It was a spindle cell sarcoma, which is a very rare sarcoma. And they don’t know much about it and all that good stuff. To survive that of course you need others. So, I had a strong social network, particularly my wife Rose. So, you know, you need to have that. What it does give you. I had a friend who was a New York Times a writer and he had the Hutspur or whatever to ask me, you know, so what’s good about having cancer? And I thought that’s a gutsy question, you know, but it is a good question. And what’s good about it is, it does give you perspective, you know, it does make you step back and what really matters? Like what am I doing? What matters?

Steve Rush: And for your perspective’s, been massive, isn’t it? In all of your work in life. And I’ve seen that through, you know, some of the articles that you’ve read and some of the writings that you’ve done. There’s lot re recall to perspective and get people to think about that context.

John Reid: If I could wave a wand across the world and if I had my wish, I just wish everybody knew they’re just walking around with a perspective. They’re not objectively, right. They’re just not, it’s all subjective. So, it’s just where people walking around with perspectives. And unfortunately, we quickly because of the way our brain processes and all the stuff we know, we quickly go to write, you know, and us versus them and right versus wrong. When now it’s just a different perspective.

Steve Rush: I love the framing of that because we all do have a perspective, but from often we come from a position of being sure or being right or being wrong about things. How do you get people to think about reframing that perspective so that it can serve them well?

John Reid: When we look at learning and development, we’re very learner centric. We’re very much, who’s the learner and where’s their head at and why are they acting the way they do? Do they even know that? And we don’t approach anything from right wrong or from bad to good people. I mean, bad is bad and bad is obvious. So, we don’t, you know, we’re not going to say, but most people are behaving good. They just could be better, better versions of themselves, better decision makers, build trust in a different way. So, they could be great, right? But most of us behave in a good way. So, to get the learner there, you first got to say, hey, you know, we all make inferences and assumptions and that’s quickly easy to do. You can have an inference test where people make all these inferences and you say, look, and then you show, them like the latter of inference, how we move from data to selecting data, to assumptions, conclusions, and forming beliefs.

And then you can have them explore another person’s ladder and show that. And so, you can get people to quickly realize, yeah, I just have a perspective. And then what’s cool is, we have this activity where we have a list of hot topics and not that hot, but topics like, I think vegan stuff is nonsense, or I think college should be free. Whatever the issue is. And the other party selects a topic that they have some interest in, that they have a point of view in, and then they’re required to ask questions to a different point of view. So, I’ll play the other point of view and adults simply cannot ask a good open ended, curious question about a topic that they believe they’re right in. The questions are leading questions. Don’t you think? Wouldn’t you agree? How about, you know, it’s just, we struggle. We can be curious and stuff we don’t know about, but once we have a point of view, we really get in our own way.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I love that. And curiosity is one of the things you were called out for when you were in your sales career at Dow, when you were in that rising star and RMB telling me it was that curiosity that really set you apart from all the other salespeople. Tell us a little bit about what happened there?

John Reid: Yeah, and it was a blessing, right? These are all hidden blessings. So, I get hired by Dow. A lot of chemical engineers, chemistry degrees, technical experts. And there’s little old me, you know, with the university of Maryland marketing degree and I’m going out and I’m actually one of the most successful salespeople in the company. And they had a rating system. And anyways, I just simply was. And I was because I would ask questions because and you know, I didn’t know anything, but turns out, surprise, surprise something with all know, people like to talk about themselves. People like to talk about what they do. They like to talk about their machinery. Now I wasn’t going around acting like a complete idiot, but I was like, geez, you know, I don’t know much about this operation. Why do you do it this way versus a different way? And people would talk. So early on I realized, you know, let the client talk. I do believe that salespeople work way too hard.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidBy that, I mean, they’re just talking too much. Just ask questions and let them talk. They’ll come to you; you know. I was lucky not to have that knowledge. There is a curse of knowledge. There is the technical expertise trapped. The more I knew, the less curious I got, there were people Steve who would say, I would never ask that question because you should know that, but I don’t know it.

Steve Rush: Even if you did know it, you should still ask the question.

John ReidYeah, and it’s not fake until you make it. A lot of technical salespeople by the way, what they do, having observed them now year after year, they’ll hide their technical expertise in the question.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidYou know, what do you think about a high membrane ion exchange system? It’s like, okay, what are you doing there? What is that? You’re trying to show what, you know, in your question. That’s terrible. So yeah. There is was a good blessing to be who I was at that time.

Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly. And it’s an interesting notion, the whole sales thing. So, you know, at some point in my future, I’m going to regurgitate this in either in articles or maybe even another book, but this whole notion of, if you want to be really successful at selling, don’t sell, ask, be curious, ask question, find out, learn. And by default, if you have a product that helps fill those gaps and problems and solutions, then people will buy it from you.

John ReidYeah, yeah, exactly. I would say the other part of that, which I’m sure you agree is, listen.

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely. Starts with 1.1, right?

John ReidA colleague of mine has a great quote that the customer will tell you what your next question should be. What I see, you know, because of how people have been trained is that they prepare a list of questions and they’re going to be consultative, but they’re really not consultative. They’re quasi consultative because they’re only asking questions about stuff that drives to a sale.

Steve Rush: Right.

John ReidThey go through the question in order. And so, the buyer could say anything, to the answer the first question and there’s no, let’s chase that rabbit. They go right to the second question, right to the third. So, they’re not really listening and then going in a conversation. So, we’re doing a lot of work now on just, how do you have a conversation? We need to untrain salespeople on, how do you have a consulate sales call? Where you ask questions and then, you know, position yourself versus having a conversation, is much more fluid.

Steve Rush: It’s ironic, isn’t it? That if you’ve got a list of 10 power questions or whatever, you know, the buzzword in that organization is, you can’t be listening because you’re cuing your next question.

John ReidAh, it’s even worse than that. And we have insight cell and hypothesis selling and it all makes great sense. The idea that before I go in, I ought to have a point of view. And I agree with that. I go in with a point of view, but it’s so hard to unwind somebody that, you know, your point of view could be wrong.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidRight. Your point of view is not objectively right. Just having a point of view going in, they get trapped by their own point of view.

Steve Rush: Goes back to your perceptions and assumptions.

John ReidYes,

Exactly right. So, in your latest book, The Five Loss Superpowers. Title, which of course I absolutely love and it’s around why we lose them and how to get them back. And you talk about these five key elements that as leaders, if we were thoughtful of them, we could pay attention if we started to lose them or indeed lost them, but here tactically, how we could put them right. And I wondered John, if we could just spin through each of those five, just to get a sense of how I might pay attention to them and notice them and maybe tactically, how I might go about fixing them. First one, ironically is curiosity.

John ReidYeah., a fan favorite with me, of course, curiosity. And it was the first one that I came up with. So, years ago, I would say, I would teach it as a loss superpower in the sales training. And of course, at one point I said, there must be at least five loss superpowers. And so, I got a team together and we brainstormed, and we came up with these five and they had to be independent. They had to research based. I mean, you know, it wasn’t just an opinion. It had to be something grounded in research, curiosity is for leaders. I mean, it’s critical, right? It gets back to this. You don’t know everything. One reason why leaders make terrible coaches. We actually ask this questions, Steve, you know, we ask people, what do you have to believe to coach somebody? And people will say, oh, that they’re motivated, that they have skills.

They have capability. They miss the most important thing that you have to believe to coach somebody. And that is that the person you’re coaching knows something you don’t know.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidOtherwise, why would you ask questions? Except for, to lead them. But we act like we know it all. It’s just the human condition. We act like we know every everything, you know. And so, curiosity’s critical to be more curious about why this person’s behaving the way doing this thing, you know, how did that get done? How can we leverage that? What we talk, it all gets squelched, by the way, most of these get squelched, you know, in school.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidAnd with our parents, right. We have our parents blame. We have society to blame. I mean, it’s just, you know, we grow up wildly curious and all of a sudden, we stop asking questions and we’re rewarded for answers and all that good stuff. We say here, you know, cast a wide net, you know, read fiction. A variety of things that fiction does, but you know, cast wide net, read a lot of different things, be a person of interest, right. That you read a lot of different things, you know, ask better questions, questions that make the other person think, questions that demonstrate you really care. Not just, how’s your day going? Which, you know, do you really care? Do you really want to know? Is that the best you can come up with?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidSo, there’s better questions in there. There’s perspective seeking, of course, you know, your own perspective, you love your own perspective. You want to be great. Good for you. Who cares?

Steve Rush: Exactly.

John ReidFind out a different perspective and learn something.

Steve Rush: Yeah, that’s really neat.

John ReidYou know, and then of course the whole system is sort of designed. I came upon this in the research. I can’t remember the researcher but explored then exploit. Like the idea as we explore stuff. And then as we get older, we exploit what we, you know, to make money, to make a living to do that. And we sort of lose that explore part.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidSo, I like the explore exploit idea. They continue to explore.

Steve Rush: I like that too, yeah. Your second lost superpower is resilience. Now, if ever there was time, we needed to grab hold of some is now, right?

John ReidOh, absolutely. And it’s doable, right? It’s teachable. It’s not something that if you’re not resilient it’s not a fixed state, right? It’s all learnable. The key things around resilience are always, you know, the network, your tribe, your group. Do I have a group that supports me, or do I have a group that brings me down? In other words, when things are going bad, they, hey, you can get through this or they say, yeah, you know, they took advantage of you. You ought to leave. You know, they don’t like you, you know, what group am I hanging around? So, the tribe matters. Of course, optimism, right. Having an optimistic viewpoint. And that’s all the, you know, is this permanent? Is this temporary? Can I get through this? But there’s an Optimism Seligman from University of Pennsylvania calls, explanatory styles.

How do I explain things when they happen to me? Do I explain them as I’m a victim? Or do I explain them in a different way, that’s more optimistic. Of course, meaning. Finding meaning in what you do with what you do is a way to get through resilience, find something of meaning. So, there are techniques and of course being present.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidYou know, being mindful, being in the moments I don’t subscribe to, you know, go out and meditate. I’m not one of those people, you know, I meditate it every day. Because I think it’s all up to us. I had cancer four times. I’m almost always in the moment.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I should well imagine that. Gives you a sense of focus that meditation just won’t give you, right?

John ReidPeople will say, oh, you know, I’m always in the moment where, but I know that people in other places are worrying. Whatever their words are, searching for. But you know, they’re worrying about the future. They’re thinking about the past, but I’m pretty much in the moment. And you have to decide for yourself. Now we’re not necessarily good, right. It’s self-assessments, but nevertheless, you have to figure out what what’s going to work for you.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidBut the point is, you want to be present when it comes to resilience.

Steve Rush: And it’s got to be right for you. There’s no good trying to read a journal or replicate somebody else’s behavior. So, it doesn’t fit for you, right?

John ReidYeah, context is king, which is, you know, it’s the number one premise of my company. When I went through training in the chemical industry, what I was shocked to find out and still happens is that, you know, a training company built something let’s say in 1980 and there you are in 2021, and it’s the same program being delivered to you and voila. They just happened to have designed an 80 for you. It’s the silly season.

Steve Rush: Right.

John ReidI mean, nothing off the shelf was designed for you. Does it have value? I guess some, but we all want to be considered unique. We want to be appreciated. We want to be respected. And you do that by understanding the context and, you know, treating me with some respect versus treating me as an empty vessel that you’ve got to fill with a model.

Steve Rush: Sure. Now authenticity is your third superpower that we’ve lost. Now, it’s interesting because 10 years ago, everyone was blogging around authenticity and is almost become a little bit cliche in so much as a little bit overused, perhaps. How do you think we did end up losing some focus around authenticity and how do we get it back?

John ReidYeah, I that’s a good question because I think it’s anything, so authenticity is just the latest, you know, in the bag, is the answer, right? So unfortunately, there is this desire for simple answers to complex problems.

Steve Rush: Yep.

John ReidSo, the simple answer is empathy. Oh, the simple answer is grit. The simple answer is purpose. The simple answer, you know, it just drives me up the wall, frankly, as a learning professional, and these people participate in it. I mean, the people that create this stuff, you know, don’t say, no, this is just an answer. It’s not the answer.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John ReidThey go full in it. This is the answer. You’re right, it was in the mill. I think it gets it because, you know, people know when they see it and there’s genuine authenticity and transparency. And there’s something that you learned in a classroom that you’re trying out, which by definition isn’t authentic,

Steve Rush: Exactly. You know, the other funny thing I hear a lot is I’m going to be my authentic self. Well, one, if you’re having to tell me that, then you’re probably not going to be. And because you’ve given it a label, you’re probably not going to be.

John Reid: I always think I’ve operated under an…. So, you know, there’s a better version of yourself, right? That’s why we’re all after, right. Where after a better version of ourselves

Steve Rush: And that’s the right language

John Reid: And there is a better version of yourself, right? When you fly off the handle, you know, there’s a better version of you that wouldn’t have flown off the handle. When you were gossiping, there’s a better version of yourself that doesn’t gossip, whatever it is, there’s a better version. You want to be the best version of yourself. And that best version of yourself, you know, is authentically you, it’s your true self that we’re after. So, we have a relationship with a company called The Wise Advocate. The idea that there is this wise advocate inside of us, all, you know, there’s two mental pathways. One is the habitual sort of reactive. How do I get out of the situation? The other, gets in the executive center and what’s the right thing. And what we want to encourage people is to take that other path and think about, you know, is this decision, is this behavior aligned with my best true self?

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely spot on. Allied with that is compassion, which is your next lost superpower. Tell us it about that?

John Reid: Well, Compassion’s probably my favorite, again, I had other authors, so I should have said this earlier, not just me, but there was Karina Chase, she with Authenticity, Lynne wrote Resilience, Andrew Reed. My son wrote, kept on compassion. So, I have other authors here, which I should have mentioned earlier. Compassion, I love compassion. And I’ll tell you why I love compassion because I was tired of empathy a little bit on so many levels.

Steve Rush: So, here’s the thing, what’s the difference then between empathy and compassion, is there a difference?

John Reid: There is a big difference, and it depends on whose definition. So, everything becomes definitional, but I think the majority of people would agree that compassion is empathy with action.

Steve Rush: Nice.

John Reid: Empathy is, I feel your pain. I can take that perspective. I feel what you must be going through, but I don’t do anything about it except or verbally maybe acknowledge it. Compassion has risk. Because now I put myself in that situation, that’s personal risk. I take action. So, compassion is, I think what we get judged on, not what you say, but what you do. And we want to encourage people to take more action, an inclusive environment. It’s not like sitting around going, oh, you know, it’s got to be tough. And I know, you know, I’ve thought about this a lot and being different but what am I going to do about it? You know, am I going to become an ally? Am I going to risk my neck? Am I going to say something? So, Compassion’s the right word.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John Reid: And I think Compassion’s the next authenticity, unfortunately. As you point out that authenticity might be dated, compassion might be, I might be cutting edge on compassion. So, part of my problem with empathy, and this is debatable, but I had cancer four times and I did not want empathy. I wanted sympathy.

Steve Rush: Yeah, big difference too.

John Reid: And Brene Brown acts like sympathy is some horrific thing. And I’m like, she’s wrong about this? She’s brilliant. I think she’s brilliant, but she can be wrong, right. And I don’t know. I would like to have her on the podcast now to explain, maybe I’m understanding it wrong, but all I know is in that moment, I wanted sympathy. I don’t want you to say, oh, I know what it must like to have cancer four times. You have no idea. You just have no idea.

Steve Rush: Absolutely.

John Reid: And you look foolish and why are you putting yourself into my pain? If you’re not going to do something about it. So, the other thing about empathy that is problematic Steve, is that we are empathetic to people who are like us. This is the us, them quandary. I’m very empathetic to people that look like me act like me or in my socioeconomic. It’s the them’s that I of trouble with, right? Humans now, not me personally, but you know that doesn’t get talked about enough. We get told you that we’re not empathetic, which is not true. And we know it’s not true because we are empathetic or, you know, so we ought to be told, hey, we teach empathy, we do, and we do in terms of emotional intelligence, we say, look, you’re wildly empathetic. We tell that to the participants, right? Because they are when it comes to people like them. So, we say, hey, here’s the data, here’s your empathetic, here’s the bad news. So, we have to expand, we have to have a different way of viewing the them’s in a more inclusive way or a more belonging way to think about the others in order for us to tap into our empathy.

Steve Rush: And for mean, compassion is a little bit more experiential as well. It means, I’m actually really thinking and immersing myself into that situation so that I can change either a behavior or a skill, or indeed my approach to other people in different situations, right?

John Reid: Yeah, it takes bravery. The five lost superpowers, we have the superpower theme. So, we try to carry that through the book in some degree that wasn’t hokey. But for each of the superpowers, we have like a tool belt and the tool belt for a compassion is Bam and the B stands for brave, right? It takes a level of bravery to be compassionate.

Steve Rush: It does, yeah. Because you put yourself out there, right?

John Reid: Yeah, you’re putting yourself out there.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

John Reid: You’re taking personal risk. I mean, he took personal risk, obviously again and again and again. So yeah, compassion is very deserving of being a superpower.

Steve Rush: Your Last Lost Superpower. I absolutely love, and I’m really excited to kick this around with you. And it’s a whole notion of playfulness. Now, as kids, we had no boundaries and we would’ve done this willingly, vast majority anyway. And yet it’s something that when we get to become more mature and we get careers and jobs, we do less, and it can unlock such a lot of greatness in our lives and work. Just wondered if, what your take on that would be?

John Reid: Yeah, I mean. I loved playfulness because, you know, I’m writing a book for businesspeople and, you know, there’s risk, right? With playfulness, you know, we don’t want to be silly and we’re adults now and we shouldn’t be playing. And that sounds like a waste of time. I mean, the biggest thing is that being playful sounds like a waste of time, you know. But in fact, if we look at imagination, we look at creativity, we look at innovation, there’s a sense of playfulness you have to have. So, we went playfulness versus the other words. The time I came upon playfulness in the business context, when I was reading, unfortunately, the report about the towers 9/11 report, and it starts with, it was a lack of imagination and I thought, wow, that’s, you know, we never could see that happening.

We weren’t imaginative enough. Which lends itself to we’re taking ourselves so seriously we couldn’t just like go there and think wildly. And then as I got in the business world, I ran into this theory by Lev Vygotsky that really transformed our thinking around this. Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist who talked about children on the playground playing ahead, taller, meaning he observed that five-year-old played like eight-year-olds and eight-year-old play, twelve-year-old. We took that quote to mean that kids from a playground would take these risks. They played head taller. They took risks, but eventually we play head shorter and that’s tragic, right? We don’t take those risks. We don’t extend ourselves and it’s not the best version of ourselves again. And so that really struck me. And then when I looked at like things like brainstorming, I always had this resistance to brainstorming. This idea, that great ideas come in this antiseptic where no ideas are judged and everybody’s ideas the same. And I always thought, boy, when people are being creative, they’re having fun. They’re laughing. They’re making fun of your idea. That’s a stupid idea, it’s just like, we forgot to have fun. Now it needs to be safe, and people need to be respected and talented, but you can interrupt people and laugh at some idea or, you know, be a fool yourself. And I think you get more creative than what we’ve been led to believe by a lot of this stuff. So, and I think we know that now to, even to a large degree, but playful is an exciting one to think about. It’s not being silly. It’s just not taking ourselves so seriously. And there is a gift of going second. I love this idea, Steve. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but if I, as a leader can be playful and make fun of myself. I’ll give you an example. Can I give you an example really quick?

Steve Rush: Yep, yeah. Please shoot for it. Yeah.

John Reid: So, I’m six foot four and I weigh too much, but I went paintballing once in the woods and there was a tree and I tried to hide behind tree, but the tree was a small tree. And so, people were pelting me with paintballs because they could see me. Well, years later years later, I find this picture of a bear hiding behind a tree. So, I send it to all my employees. I say, this is me at the paintball game. Now they thought it was funny, but that allows them to be silly. So that’s the gift of going second, if you, as the leader can say, you know, we’re all human. We have foibles, we do stupid stuff. I’m like you, and you get people’s again, you get their best self at work. You get their playful self, their imaginative self, to try this self, a sense of that can take risk. You know, not everything is life or death. I mean, I think you want that in your environment. I’m glad you like that chapter. And I think it deserves its own space.

Steve Rush: And also, this is not about whether somebody’s introverted or extroverted because there’s also an unconscious assumption that if I’m introverted, I can’t be playful. It’s just a different style of playfulness.

John Reid: Yeah, I’m one of those introverts who can do extroversion obviously by the pace at which I talk and all this, but I am, you know, much more regenerated when I’m alone reading, thinking, or small groups than I am in large crowds. It’s where you get your energy from and it’s so easy to judge somebody quickly or you’re an extrovert and like, see, you don’t even know what it means and that’s not good. And why are you putting me in that box? And what does that mean anyway?

Steve Rush: But it happens all the time, right?

John Reid: Oh Yeah. We love boxes.

Steve Rush: Labels.

John Reid: Labels and boxes, and you’re one of them and you’re this style is this. And you’re inside style is that, and therefore this and you do that. And it’s like, oh my gosh, what’s that about?

Steve Rush: Well, listen, I’m delighted we had the chance to spin through those. We’ll give you an opportunity at the end of the show so we can connect people to find a copy and the rest of what you do before we do that, though, just going to turn the tables a little bit. Now you’ve been a successful leader in lots of different businesses, including of course leading your own successful group. So, I’m going to tap into your leadership thinking and your leadership brain right now, John. And I’d like you to distill those down to your top three leadership hacks, what would they be?

John Reid: I would say, what we did, which was very clever of me by accident, I think. We didn’t declare values until we lived them. So, I had a company that was going on for four or five years and I said, okay, what are our values? Because we give grace, have a perspective, you know, we actually lived the values before we declared them. So, I like that, well, I like the idea of having alignment, right? If you’re going to say you’re about this, you got to hold yourself accountable to that. Because people are going to look to when you’re not. So, I think as a leader, you always want to be very clear. You don’t want to leave it. People try to figure it out. You want to be able to articulate. Here’s what matters to me, and here’s what it looks like.

So, people have trust in you. So, there’s building a trust. I would say the other one related to trust, because trust is the coin of the realm. As a leader, you’ve got to show an interest in the whole person. So, if they say, hey, I’d like to take off, my dog’s sick. You got to ask, oh, what’s wrong with your dog? Most leaders are like, okay, no problem, you can work later or something tomorrow. They miss the opportunity to build a human-to-human connection. And then they wonder why people don’t trust them, don’t like them, don’t confide in them, don’t leave, you know? Well, because you just missed all these report cues.

Steve Rush: Compassion again. Of course.

John Reid: Yeah, it’s just taking that extra step and show you’re listening and oh, and that doesn’t mean you have to care about this person’s dog. No, what you care about is this person and you know that to care about this person, have a relationship. The dog’s important to them. So, I’m going to ask about the dog. People get all caught up and that’s not authentic, that’s not me. I don’t care about dogs. Now, you do care about a relationship though, right? So, get out of your own way and ask about the dog. So, there’s rapport building, there is aligning your values or whatever it is. I think the last one and this is where the training industry always gets it wrong. Not wrong, I shouldn’t say that. But candor is a compliment. Being honest with people about their performance is a compliment, good and bad.

Oh my gosh. Could talk so much about this. If you do nothing else, start recognizing people more. When they do something, right, thank them. That was great. I like how you did this. That makes having the difficult conversation so much easier.

Steve Rush: Exactly.

John Reid: You can just go right into it because you’ve got that. You’ve done that. You’ve told them when they’re good. It’s much harder when you’ve never said anything good to them. And now you want to deliver some bad news and then you try to hide good news in it and create that infamous crap sandwich. So, people that work for me never have to wonder what I’m thinking about their performance. They just don’t, that burdens gone. Sometimes they’ll say, wow, that’s terrible. Oh, don’t do that again. What was that? You know, but I do it in a playful way. We shank that one, we talk about that in the book, I shank that one. But that’s what you want to do as a leader, you want to recognize people and then be honest about their performance. People deserve honesty. People deserve to be treated a like adults, not children. And they deserve the truth in a way they can hear it. Not just let it all hang out, but in a way that is intentional about the way they can hear it.

Steve Rush: Love that, great advice. Next part of the show, John, we call it Hack to Attack. Now this is typically where something in your life or work hasn’t worked out. But as a result, the experience you now using as a force of good. Now, we’ve already talked about surviving cancer four times. But if there was a moment in your life where you look back and think, well, that’s definitely something that was pivotal for me. What would that have been?

John Reid: I think the moments that are pivotal in my career were when I was under stress, and I didn’t and deal with things in the best way. And that happened a lot. And so as much as I said, I was mindful in the moment, I still had stress, right? Because you have cancer. You’ve got kids, you have kids in college. And I worked for some managers who were great. And I worked for some managers who were really not good human beings. They were really, you know, dysfunctional human beings and those dysfunctional human beings got to me. And one of them made me cry. I was like 50 years old or 45 years old. I don’t know. It’s a long time. It was like 45 years old. And I’m crying because this person is making my life hell. And it was funny when I did my ex-interview, I said, you know, you made me cry.

He said, do you think I meant to? And I said, I don’t know what you meant to do. All I know is I cry. And I’ve never cried before, but I think those turning moments are, you know, not dealing with it, trying to wish it away, not taking control of it, not taking action on it, but just becoming a little bit of a victim, right? Where you look at things that are being done to me and losing your sense of agency. And that’s where I first fell in love with the word agency, right. That we have to have agency and we don’t have agency work so helpless until we got to regain it if we don’t have it, we got to find a way to regain it.

Steve Rush: And that’s where it’ll make you stronger and you’ll become more resilient and more effective as a result of the learning that you get from that experience.

John ReidSure, and I want to give people agency, I want them to know everything. I mean, I tell my employees, we just had a meeting and here’s all the numbers. Here’s everything you need to know. Here’s everything I know. So, you know, you’re making choices with full information. Because you’re an adult and you’re entitled to that, and you have agency and I want you to know how we’re doing.

Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely so

John ReidThe right thing to do.

Steve Rush: So last thing we get to do today is we get you to do some time travel, bump into John at 21 and give him some advice. What would your words of wisdom to him then be?

John ReidWell, I would say to John at 21, there’s some things about you that the world is going to say is wrong, but it’s actually your secret sauce. So, the secret sauce was, I was always authentic. I was never anybody, but me. I was always curious and always playful. I think those three qualities I had from the beginning, what I would tell 21-year-old me is, you know, it’s not about you though, right? I mean, I was that guy. I was a little bit too much of that. Hey, look what I did, look what I accomplished, and nobody likes that guy. And also, there was a better version of me, a sort of a more controlled. I used to walk in a room of people. This is what I would tell younger me. I would walk in a room, a group of people, 21 and probably just start talking. And I would defend that behavior by saying, well, that’s me and the people around me go, that’s John, look at John, only John can walk in a room and just start talking. But you know, there is a good percentage of people in the room are like, you know, I hate John, John’s a jerk. I was talking and John interrupted me. And this John that some of you like is kind of a jerk. And it took me a while to realize that you can be authentically John without being a jerk. And you know, I think that’s what I would tell 21-year-old, John. I hope he would listen. He wasn’t a good listener, either 21-year-old John.

Steve Rush: It kind of all figured out at the end, right?

John ReidYeah.

Steve Rush: So, John, listen, I’ve really loved chatting and I could spend all day chatting or be at our listeners will probably drop off about now, because this is typically where our shows kind of run to and from, but before we wrap up our conversation today, how can we make sure our global audience can connect with you and the work that you do, maybe get a copy of some of the books.

John ReidYeah, please reach out. A couple ways, one, is the website, and I’ll give my email. Can I do that Steve?

Steve Rush: Absolutely. We get really connecting with people, so please do.

John ReidIt’s John, J-0-H-N at J-M-R-E-I-D And please email me, any emails I get I’ll send a copy of the book if it’s in the United States of America area. But the book also available.

Steve Rush: Hashtag expensive international postage.

John ReidExactly. but you know, we’re on Amazon. We’ve had good success with the second book and the first book. So, you know, they’re readily available. We’re going to have an audio version coming out, I think in the next month.

Steve Rush: Sure thing. We’ll make sure that the links to your books, as well as to the jm reidgroup and your email are in our show notes. So, folks can click straight into when we’re done.

John ReidGreat. Thank you, Steve.

Steve Rush: John, I’ve had a ball and thank you ever so much for being part of our community. Wish you ever success. I know that you are in the moment, and I know that there are some great things ahead for you and the jm group. So, thanks for being part of our community.

John ReidThank you.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handle there: @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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