Leading to Become the Best (Part 1): Personal Responsibility is Key
This very special episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast features part one of John Casey’s keynote address at Citibank’s “Leading to Become the Best” Conference. Throughout this keynote, John touches on many important topics such as developing and growing other people (and ourselves), why we learn more from difficult employees and personal responsibility. He applies many vital beliefs and mindsets that are practiced and taught at 2logical and applies them to Citibank and everything they have accomplished, along with what can be learned from both companies. “Everyone is born with unlimited potential. It takes a catalyst, and that’s probably leadership, to pull that out,” says John.
John also points out the fact that leaders learn much more from their difficult employees versus their best employees, a concept that many people would likely claim to understand, but truly don’t grasp. He shares that many executives when asked say that the number one quality of their best employees is that they take personal responsibility, 100% of the time. “Personal responsibility is the foundation of the best, the actual bedrock foundation of being the best,” says John. Interested in hearing more? Check out Episode 31: Leading to Become the Best (Part 1): Personal Responsibility is Key and let us know what you think. Be sure to check us out on social media!
Interested in hearing more? Follow us via LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and let us know what topic you’d like us to cover next! Help us improve the podcast in 30 seconds here!
Episode 31 – Leading To Become The Best (Part 1): Personal Responsibility is Key
As Elsie mentioned, my name is John Casey. I work for an organization called 2logical. That last go round in Q and A, talking about talent and the number two area that you would invest in, that’s all 2logical is about: identifying, developing, and retaining top talent and understanding what it is specifically and then how to do it. I love how Elsie set up. You guys are great at measuring the what, because you have to, because in the end that’s the scoreboard. You’re getting better at measuring the how. We’re going to give you some more tools for that. We’re also going to talk about the why, because that’s where the want to, passion and self-beliefs start, that’s the beginning of it all. I’m very excited to share with you a couple of the best and simplest practices of leadership and management. I’ve personally traveled over six continents to deliver this type of messaging, and it’s been embraced and instilled across industry, across teams.
I’m very excited to get going. I also want to ask you a couple of questions before we get started about what you’ve been talking about this afternoon, and that is your most valuable resource. Your most valuable asset. Everybody in this room has something in common, first of all, and that is that you have chosen a career in finance and banking. By the way, everyone chooses their career. You’ve chosen well, and if you think about finance, if you think about banking, it really is about service, whether its individuals or companies. Finances are often the most complex or misunderstood or screwed up area of individuals or organizations lives, and you go and bring clarity. You bring best practices. It is a career of the highest calling. Congratulations. I hope you’re proud for your career choice.
You’re a leader and you’ve chosen a career of developing and growing other people, and that is of the highest calling. If you think about it, every conversation you have with a client or a team member creates either positive or negative momentum. How do you consistently create positive momentum? How do you have conversations that bring out the best in others? How do you help your people get out of their own way? That might be the biggest impediment they have, some of their own flawed or limited thinking. We’re rarely taught how to be a great leader, although we’ve probably had one in our past. I’m going to ask you about that in a little bit. I love this quote, because this is a well-known international economist and banker who’s talking about what he thinks is the most important. Here are a couple of questions to get us kicked off. Can we be better next week than we are this week? I hear a lot of yeses there. Why? Why can we be better next week than this week? We can learn, we can try new things. We can make mistakes. By the way, what have you learned more from in your career? Mistakes or successes? We can be better next week than we are this week. This ability, we call it unlimited potential at 2logical. Is this ability to access and leverage our unlimited potential born to all or just a select few of us? It’s born to all, including everybody on your team. Why doesn’t everybody access it, though? What’s the missing ingredient? Sometimes unconsciousness, self-limitation, self-limits. That’s what is stopping people. What’s the antidote, the cure? Passion. Belief. Leadership. We can get better. Everyone is born with unlimited potential. It takes a catalyst, and that’s probably leadership, to pull that out. I want to ask you a question about your people. Well, first of all, a simple series of questions, more rhetorical than anything. On your team, who do you do your best coaching and mentoring with and why? Think about that individual because it’s probably safe to say we don’t coach and mentor everybody the same, but who do we do our best with? Who do we do our best with and why? Often the answer is: the one that thinks the most like me.
The easy one, the peak performer, maybe that’s who we’re giving our best to. Maybe others. If you think about it, what employee, what client, what project will cause us, as leaders, to be better? It’s probably the employee that’s the least like us. It’s probably an employee from a different generation or a different background or a different culture because we have to be innovative. We have to be creative in our leadership with them. Sadly, far too many managers look at that person, they don’t understand, and they put them in a box, “Oh, they’re just a blank.” Or “they can only do blank.” It’s funny, if we picked somebody that we do our best coaching and mentoring with, probably unconsciously, I bet we’re more patient. I bet we give them more opportunities. I bet we’re quicker to forgive. That one we can’t figure out, the one that frustrates us, we probably have less patience and less forgiveness and we probably provide less opportunity. Maybe what we’ve thought about that difficult employee, that difficult project or that difficult client, maybe that’s wrong.
How many parents do we have in the room? How many of you have kids? That’s a lot of hands. I have two. They’re both boys. They’re both teenagers. They’re both from the same gene pool. They’re completely different. I can’t figure one of them out. I have gotten on a first name basis with all the vice principals at all of the schools he’s ever been to. See, my first son is a wonderful man. He’s 17 but he’s a man. He’s mature. He cares. He hugs me and says, “I love you,” every day I see him. He thinks ahead. He cleans, he structures, and he cares about others. He’s the easy one. It’s my second son that is actually making me a better dad because I can’t figure him out and I’m trying. I’m being innovative and I’m being creative and I have a bond with him because I’m a second son, of a second son, of a second son. When he was five years old, I was trying to explain to him, I said, “You and I, Patrick, have a bond that Jackson and I will never have. We’re both second sons. We both had older brothers and remember Papa, remember him? He was a second son. You never knew his dad, but his dad was a second son, second son, of a second son, of a second son. Do you know what that means? We get no land.”
Then I realize I’m trying to explain primogenitor to a five-year-old, but needless to say, what can bring the best out of us may not be what we think. Next question. Show of hands on this one. How many of you have ever gone above and beyond? You put forth extra effort, discretionary effort to help someone that you worked with but didn’t report to. Show of hands, how many have given discretionary effort, gone above and beyond for somebody that you didn’t report to and expected nothing in return? That is almost all the hands. Why? What caused that? We’re going to go deeper into that question right there because there’s gold in that answer. What caused you in your career to do something you didn’t have to? The more you think about it, the more the answers will come. As I said, my name is John Casey. There’s my email address. I’m going to introduce you to the workbook in just a second where my contact information is. This is going to be a very interactive section. I love the fact that we have the microphones at every table and continuing with the thanks, Naveed, Kristin and Elsie, thank you for the hand of faith that you’ve extended to 2logical and Pedro, Mauricio, Sebastian and Esther, Country Heads, your colleagues I spent time with on the phone. Thank you for their time. Thank you for your time and your insight and helping me prepare for the program. A quick bio on me. I’m the Executive Vice President and Director of Corporate Development at 2logical. My career didn’t have a very glorious start. First of all, I was the first member of my family to go to college, to go to university, because all my grandparents were immigrants to the United States. My parents didn’t go to college, and my older brother didn’t go. I was the first to go. It wasn’t because I was a stellar student, I wasn’t, as a matter of fact. I guess I’m not afraid to say I graduated in the top 75% of my high school class. I realized about 10 years ago, that sounds a lot better than the bottom quartile. It’s pretty much the exact same thing, I graduated in the top 75% of my class.
The only reason I got into university is because I can chase a football and for most of you, you know what that means. That’s a round thing. It’s not an oblong thing, like they call it in the U.S. or in Australia. I’m a footballer and I went to university to play football. But when I went, I became a student and I realized why I did so poorly in high school. I was missing the three most important plans of being a student. I did not know how to take notes in class. I did not know how to prepare and study for a test and I did not know how to write a paper. There wasn’t really anything wrong with me, there were just some things that were missing. Once I figured out those three plans, I did study abroad. I did live in Europe and I did graduate with honors from university, and I became a lifelong student.
Now I’m charging out into the work world. I’m going to get my first real job and I couldn’t believe it. One of the first jobs I interviewed for, I got, and now I’m an entry level sales guy. The first three, four weeks was fun because there’s a honeymoon period, every time we start a new job or start working at a new company and they’re nice and it’s a little easier than it’s going to be eventually. But then somewhere somebody throws a switch and everybody starts talking to me differently and they start saying, “You have to do this better. You have to do this faster and you have to do more of it and you have to work longer and you have to get here earlier and you have to do some stuff we didn’t tell you about at the beginning.” That happened after about three weeks of that first job. I’m 22 years old and that freaked me out. Here’s what I learned at 22 at my first real job: you can say anything you want on your last day of work.
The important lesson here is plan that it’s your last day of work and don’t be surprised. I was surprised, so I lost that job. The next job I start, I learned that lesson. When they flipped the switch and the pressure came, I didn’t freak out like I did before. But I didn’t like it, so I quit. I didn’t actually quit the job. I just quit mentally and I kept going to work. I bet we’ve all met an employee who quit, but stayed. They can infect others, can’t they? Guess what they’re going to do when a new employee joins? They’re going to be the informal onboarding system. Think about it. That was me. Alright, I’ll fast forward the story. I’m now 25, I’m starting my fifth real job and now I’m bitter and I am envious, wondering why younger people are going higher than me. This fifth job was just like all the others, it was another entry level sales job. What was different was the boss. I had never met a man like Mark Colossi.
Now, he was only a year and a half older than me physically, but he was about 30 years older than me mentally. He and one of his brothers and another friend from school founded a telecommunications company in Rochester, New York called ACC Long Distance. I was about the 20th employee. I’d never met a man with a bigger personal library than Mark. As a matter of fact, his office was filled with books and tapes. They were all primarily about one topic: personal development growth. He let me borrow these books and audio tapes and we would talk for hours after work about the strategies and principles of success and how this person or this company came out of nowhere and seemed to build a life filled with abundance. He peeled back the mystery. We talked about how, we talked about why, and I’ll never forget those conversations. They really changed the trajectory of my career. Every once in a while, Mark would go into talking about his goals, his dreams, and he said to me one day, I’m working there about maybe six, seven weeks. He goes, “Johnny, you know what we’re doing next? Opening up an office in Buffalo. Then Syracuse, then Binghamton, then Albany.” These are all cities in upstate New York. He goes, “It’ll probably take about 15 months. After that, we go to the street. John, you know what an IPO is?” And I said, “Yeah.” I was not an economics or a business major. I had no idea really what an IPO was. He goes, “Great. You know the difference between a public and a private corporation?” I go, “Sure.” I didn’t want to embarrass myself, expose myself. I lied. He never taught me.
He goes, “John, we need to raise millions. We’re going to have an IPO on NASDAQ, probably in the next year and a half, 18 months. By the way, we’re a private company. I’m glad you know the difference. There’s no market for our stock right now. It doesn’t mean we don’t have it. As a matter of fact, we do have stock. By the way, our current strike price is 10 cents. Would you like some?” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Yeah, we can have a little bit of pay taken out and put into our stock. It’s a private company, it may not be worth anything, but I’d be worth something.” We all hear things through our own filter. My filter was very primitive and I didn’t think he was paying me enough in the first place. I really thought he was asking for some money back, so under those conditions, I said no. Don’t forget the strike price. I’m there, he’s already told me the story. I’m there probably about 18 months and we have an IPO. The opening share price was seven dollars. I can do that math. I thought the window would close, didn’t even get in at seven, didn’t even ask for options, didn’t know what they were. Within the first year, stock went to 50 and split again. Over the next three, four years, it goes to 50 again and splits. I sat there and watched The AT&Texecutives come in and buy the firm. When AT&T closed the deal to buy ACC Long Distance, what AT&T paid adjusted for stock splits was $168 a share. I watched multimillionaires get minted and that hurt because I was in the right place at the right time, but I was not the right guy. We’re going to talk more about really what causes success. Is it luck, timing, or circumstance or is it cause and effect? I developed a saying at that stage in my life, and I repeat this saying to myself every morning: win or learn. I look in the mirror every morning. I say, “Today, I want to learn. Today I win or learn.” I know a whole lot more about investing. I was okay with losing the millions because I developed a career of hiring and training people, of growing people, of opening new markets, and I loved it. I didn’t necessarily like working at AT & T though, the phone company. The old motto was, “We don’t care. We don’t have to, they don’t have a choice.”
So now it’s about 1992. My old friend and mentor, Mark Colossi, calls me up and says, “Hey, John, I’m starting my next venture. It’s called Eagle Productivity Solutions. We’re a training and seminar company. That’s my love and passion now, after telecom. Do you want to come and join me?” And I said, “Yes, I do. What’s my stock program look like?” I am asked about hundreds of thousands of shares in Eagle Productivity Solutions, and I got to work with my mentor again. It was in 1992 that I got a chance to meet his mentor. The guy who had been coaching him throughout the ‘80s that was behind the scenes and what Joe Gianni was teaching, Mark was teaching me. I got a chance to meet Joe, Mark’s mentor in 1992 and then I built a relationship with Joe. Mark always had a goal to retire before he was 45 so he retired in 1999 at the age of 43 because he hit his goals. So I stayed at Eagle for a few more years. I loved training, developing folks. I was a vice president, a big owner. But I didn’t feel the passion and the desire.
In about 2002, Joe Gianni, Mark’s mentor, called me up and said, “Hey, Mark and I have been discussing your next career move. Would you like to come and work at 2logical?” After some talk, we made an agreement. Hey, Joe Gianni, please stand up. Our president, CEO, my mentor, our founder. He’s not going to miss this. So thank you again, Joe, as always. This is a powerful conversation about how to become the best, and it’s going to be simple and straight forward. I want to start with a quote from a cultural anthropologist cause we’re going to talk a lot about culture, whether it’s Apple or Alibaba, they all start with just a couple of people on the same game page. Not only at the mindset or skillset level, but also at the activity or process level. They think alike. They share a mindset, they share a focus, then they make something happen and it’s magical. Whether it’s a small group, it’s Citi that develops a new program, or maybe it’s a small group, Citi finds a new way to engage clients and become very intimate with their business and to get that trust that’s needed to take your guidance.
So everybody’s got one of these on the table. There’s a whole bunch of stuff in here. We packed a lot in here. We’re not going to get to at all, but it’s really simple and self-explanatory, so hopefully you can take some time and energy as you go through it. We know that the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory, so if you get any great ideas in the program about growing people, developing, building relationships, growing, retaining, identifying talent, improving voice of the employee scores and voice of the client scores. By the way, here’s another question for you. What do you think comes first? Improving voice of the employee scores, or improving voice of the client scores? Employees, good.
I like having a pen and pad handy because I think the biggest challenge with innovation is not that we don’t get any ideas. I think we get ideas, but at the wrong time. Do most of your good ideas come at the wrong time, like right in the middle of something else? So we must capture them and we must get our people to capture theirs, so when we’re together, we can share them.
So there’s a place to take notes. We’re going to do some discussions. There’s going to be exercises for you to do, that comes next. Then there’s some reinforcement at the back, including my favorite article on leadership on the planet. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
So the question, “what is success?” Or “what is being the best?” has really been pondered for millennia. The greatest minds in history across culture have asked this question. Now, there’s some long and complex answers. As a matter of fact, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Success is to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and earn the appreciation of honest critics, to endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Don’t ask me to do a toast at a wedding. We like to simplify things, just like you do, at 2logical. Here’s what we like to define success as: achieving whatever you want to be, do and have. Again, you have my congratulations because you’ve exceeded this over the last few years in a difficult, uncertain time.
One of the things I like to do with my kids is sit down with them a few times a year and talk about goals. Our first conversation every year happens in the first week in January. My kids make a “be, do and have” list, and then we talk about those things throughout the year. Another thing I’d like to do with my children is find out what’s going on. At a very early age, my wife and I started talking to our children this way. At the dinner table, we play a little game called “High and Low” where everybody gets a turn and we go around the table and we talk about the high point of the day and the low point of the day. We sit there for 40 minutes, 50 minutes, just the four of us. We have real conversations. Now I can be in some of my favorite places in the world, like Kuala Lumpur, and I can call up my kids. Of course, it’s a 12 hour time zone difference, so I have to time it right. But I say, “Tell me about your day,” and we have a conversation. It’s funny, you really find out what’s important when you play “High and Low.” For example, Patrick, that’s the one who’s making me a better dad. A number of months ago, I’d already gotten a phone call earlier in the day, and I said, “Patty, tell me about your day.” He goes, “Dad, dad, dad! I made Katherine laugh.” That’s the girl he’s sweet on. That’s the girl. He says, “She’s my girlfriend. She just doesn’t know it yet.” I like the way he’s thinking. He says, “I made Katherine laugh,” and I go, “Great. Was it a nice belly laugh? Was it nicely timed?” He goes, “Yeah, dad. She looked right at me and smiled and laughed.” I go, “What was the other part of your day?” He goes, “Well, I was sent down to the principal’s office again for speaking out in class.” I said, “Were these two things related?” He said “Yes, they happened right after each other.” I looked him in the eye and I said, “Was it worth it?” He said, “You bet.” Now, his brother would have never done anything like that because he would be afraid of punishment. This other one is not. He needs to be led and managed differently because we don’t coach and mentor everybody the same. So you think about success very clear and specifically, so let’s talk about the best. Let’s talk about the best. When you think about your best employee, the one you’d like to clone. When you think about the people that you admire or respect, what are their qualities? If you take a second on page three, because I’m going to ask you some for some feedback. Write down two or three, two or three qualities you’d like to interweave into the culture of your teams, what are two or three success qualities? Qualities of the best you’d like to see in everybody? What do you have? Understanding, knowing why. Hopefully they understand why we’re asking them to do what they do. I love it, understanding and awareness. Who’s got another one? Grab the microphone. Shout it out. Passion. Empathy, wonderful! What else? Focus, laser focus. Resilience. Passion. Positivity. Optimism. Curiosity, yes! Responsibility and ownership, helping others, service. Wow. What a great list, by the way. I don’t know, perhaps you got a list of the slides ahead of time. I’m not sure. I have asked this question on six continents. The answers are the same everywhere I’ve gone. But you know what’s amazing when we ask this question? Nobody mentions some of the usual suspects, like, “They have a really high IQ. They’ve got several university degrees.” Nobody actually mentions a skill. Everything you mentioned, by the way, was attitude. Everything you mentioned was attitude. What I’ve always understood is that attitude is a choice and we can pick what we think. By the way, all an attitude is, is a habit of thinking. We pick it. We choose what we think, time and time again. I’ll tell you why we ask this question with every group, every client we ever engage with because we want to let them know that they already know what’s required to be the best. Also, this question was how our company was founded.
Joe, our present and CEO, the founder of 2logical, always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but he realized after university he had to get a mentor and he had to learn the nuts and bolts of leadership and management from somebody that was in the trenches and great at what they did. He did that for a number of years and has a great mentor. He still works with Randy. Joe is now ready to start what had always become his true passion: a development company. He’s getting ready to start 2logical. The first thing he does is he goes through his Rolodex. I guess I’m dating myself, and some of you actually remember what a Rolodex was. He looks at all the business cards of all the executives, all the C-suite people he’d met throughout his journey, and he started inviting them to a two day focus group, because he wanted to talk about developing talent. He has almost a couple of dozen folks in a room for a couple of days with him talking about developing people. He hits a roadblock about an hour into the program, one of the guys in the room, he was a senior vice president of sales and marketing for a Fortune 10 company. He goes, “Joe, I understand what you’re doing and I applaud your due diligence. But I have to tell you right from the outset, I don’t think training really works. I think people are who they are and you just got to get better at picking them.”
This whole thing about developing people is kind of getting off the rails and he goes, “I don’t have empirical data on this, but I have 30 years of experience in the trenches, and here’s what I’ve seen time and time again. We have these wonderful training programs that look like they’re going to close the gap. So, we approve them and we put everybody through them. Here’s what I usually see coming out the other side. Only about 2 or 3% of the people we put through these programs adopt all the strategies that are being taught, go out and use them and get better, bigger results, but it’s very tiny, 2 or 3%.” Some of the heads in the room nod in agreement. He goes, “The next batch of participants, maybe 20-25%, they try an idea or two. We may see a spike in their results, but then they seem to backslide. They go back to who they were, there’s no long-term change.” More heads are nodding in agreement, then he goes on to say “The biggest bunch, 70-75% of the people we put through these training programs, we don’t see any positive impact on results at all. We might see an improvement in morale because we take them out of their day to day grind, but we see no positive impact on results. This has led me to believe that training doesn’t work.” Now everybody’s in agreement and Joe’s goal of this focus group is completely off the rails. So he looks at the man, he says, “Okay, you did say it impacted 2 or 3% of your staff. Who are those people?” He says, “Well, those would be our best employees.” So Joe thought, “Wow, so training only makes your best employees better and does nothing for everyone else? That’s not right.” He goes, “Well, as a group, let’s describe our best employees.” That was the very first time this question was asked. That group spent over 30 minutes listing qualities. Then there was a senior vice president of HR and she stopped it and she said, “Listen, now we’re splitting hairs. Those two words mean exactly the same thing. What we should do next is put the similar qualities in the same buckets and see how many buckets we come up with.” So that’s what they started to do next, and they only came up with three buckets. I’m going to share with you the three buckets and remind you, parents and grandparents that these things are probably not being taught to your kids in school. The home needs to be the classroom for these things. The first set of qualities that that executive group all agreed on was that their best employees accepted 100% responsibility. They held themselves accountable.
They owned not only achieving their goals, but overcoming the challenges that were in their way. You think about personal responsibility, you think about accountability. How do you instill it? By the way, if you’re a leader, how do you remove excuses? How do you create a culture where there are no excuses? It’s all tied to this. Personal responsibility is the foundation of the best, the actual bedrock foundation of being the best.
You and I know what happens if we don’t get this as part of the culture. We get department silos, we get finger-pointing, we get blame, and the client ends up losing when there’s a lot of this. Critical, important, the next set of qualities. And by the way, I love this quote because what if we could make that happen where everyone owned it.
And by the way, these buckets are in priority order without that first one in place, the next to get really difficult. So here’s number two. It is about self belief it is about all these things you’ve been talking about, this conference, creativity, innovation, getting every brain in the game.
You can’t tell somebody.
*Episode transcription edited for clarity