This week on The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Dave Naylor and Sean Johnson interview Ryan Hawley. Ryan Hawley is Assistant Vice President, Regional Manager at Lincoln Financial Group. In his role, he oversees distribution of Group Protection Solutions to help provide employees and their families with financial well-being and peace of mind, providing benefits when they need them the most. His team of Senior Account Executives are dedicated to customer retention and expanding Lincoln Financial Group presence with employer groups of all sizes. His mission is simple: To make a meaningful impact in the lives of others.
For the past 18 years Ryan has served as a leader in the non-medical insurance industry with an operations background. He joined Lincoln Financial Group in 2008 and has served in various roles over the past 12 years. Ryan has served as senior account executive, sales manager, and executive leader. He brings additional knowledge and experience in various industries including outsourcing solution business development, real estate portfolio operations and enterprise system consulting. Ryan graduated from the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University with a B.B.A degree in business administration and management. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Holly and daughter Grace. They enjoy skiing (water and snow), golfing and hiking together.
Ryan’s remarkably positive approach to leadership and way of life both professional and personally will inspire you to be better. Check out Episode 37: Ryan Hawley. Be sure to leave us a comment and follow us on social media!
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Dave Naylor: Well, hello everybody. Welcome to the podcast today. We’ve got a very, very neat interview today on The Motivational Intelligence Podcast. Through our journey in life, we all meet many, many people, and every now and again, you meet somebody who really stands out, many times, for a lot of different purposes.
But, what I find to be real special ones are the people who just seem to operate on a different plane than other people do. They seem to get it a little bit more. They move with maybe a little bit more introspection and a greater sense of purpose. Today’s guest is one of those people. His name is Ryan Hawley.
I first met Ryan in the fall of 2018 when we were launching a leadership initiative with Lincoln Financial and as I’ve gotten to know him, what I’ve also come to realize is that Ryan is one of the strongest servant leaders of anybody that I’ve met. He really has built a tremendous track record of success. Shortly after he and I met, he actually shared with me a culture statement that he had put together for his team and I think in so many regards, it really tells you a ton about who he is as an individual and the type of leader that he is and why he’s built the success that he has. So, I want to share that with everybody as we’re kicking off. So, the culture statement starts off with, “We are driven by our non-negotiables.” I love just that, non-negotiable. Number one was integrity. Number two is urgency. The number three non-negotiable is ownership and the number four non-negotiable is caring, professionalism. Then, he goes on to talk about the common purpose of the team, which is making a meaningful impact in the lives of others through selfless service. So, I think that pretty well profiles our guest today. So, Ryan, welcome to the show.
Ryan Hawley: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you for that introduction.
Sean Johnson: Ryan, so I wanted to kick things off, one of the things is, you and I haven’t gotten a chance to talk a ton before this, but Dave kind of won’t stop talking about you.
So, one of the things that I’ve been impressed by from everything that Dave has had to say about you is that you’ve really developed a high level of motivational intelligence. You have a high level and a high ability to motivate yourself and to motivate other people. But, you do it in a way that I think is different than the way a lot of people think about it in your kind of servant leadership model and being very introspective.
So, I wanted to kind of kick things off by kind of taking us back and maybe going to your childhood to talk about, what shaped you growing up? Maybe talk about your family and the influence that that had on you and your mindset?
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I definitely grew up with an incredible support system and family system.
I grew up in an upper middle class family in Michigan. It was in a town called the Plymouth Canton area. That’s between Detroit, Michigan, and Ann Arbor. I was raised by both my mom and dad and I am the middle child, so I have an older sister and then a younger brother. I would say that growing up we were definitely, my parents kind of honored a lot of the traditions and values that were instilled in them and that were brought down from their parents.
So, definitely lots of rich values rooted in integrity. A lot of these statements that you talked about that were there, a lot of things, rooted in integrity, hard work, and respect for others. I grew up sort of watching a lot of examples around me, whether it be my grandparents, whether it be my parents, whether it be other leaders and that that they surrounded themselves with.
That sort of instilled that and as I reflect now today and think about what shaped me, a lot of those folks around me instilled a lot of those things that you don’t realize until you get later on in life, that those were kind of seeds that were planted by incredible people at such a young age.
Sean Johnson: So, were those things, integrity, respect for others, working hard, how did they instill those things in you? Were they just something that they talked about, something they said, was it leadership by example? Or kind of a combination of those things?
Ryan Hawley: A lot of leadership by example. I mean, I’ll take hard work, my father helped to run a manufacturing company for most of my life. He actually went to college, pretty much the joke is that he graduated on a Friday and started to go work for the company that he was at on a Monday, and he was there for his entire career.
But, I watched him work tirelessly at his job. He was very, very dedicated. But I also had an opportunity when I went to school, not to fast forward the story, but, I interned there at the place that he worked at and I witnessed and experienced the way that he interacted with people, the way that people talked about him and just the way that he carried himself, it really instilled those values in me because of the example that he had set and the example that I had experienced and witnessed.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. So, Dave mentioned, there might be a cool story there. So, Detroit Diesel was the company, right?
Ryan Hawley: It was Detroit Diesel. It was a General Motors business that was sold to Roger Penske and Roger Penske for those that don’t know him, I encourage the listeners to take a look at some of his background and his history, but, just an incredible leader, one that instilled, he had a saying, when you walked into, it was a very large, they made Diesel engines, their signature product was “The Series 60”, which is an on highway truck engine that still to this day has made there in Detroit, a lot of the semi-trucks that you see on the road today, they have that, one of their engines in it.
But, there was a sign when you went into the facility and the entrance and it said, “Effort Equals Results.” That was something that my father lived by. Something that was instilled and we talked about around as a family, is that nothing is given to you. You have to put forth effort. You have to prepare, you have to work hard in order to accomplish great things.
Sean Johnson: Was there some sort of deal with college and interning there? Can you tell that story?
Ryan Hawley: Yeah. So, I went to school, I went to Western Michigan University where my father went and there was sort of this underwriting rule that he would help pay for college, I had to maintain certain grades and I had to take an internship of his choosing. So, I wasn’t able to spend time goofing off over the summer. I was in there really learning some very valuable lessons. Valuable lessons of working hard, working with, lots of different people, learning to build relationships from folks from all different walks of life. I learned what I wanted to do. I learned some things, what I want, what I didn’t want to do as well. It was an incredible experience.
Dave Naylor: What a great thing to have too as a college student, you think about so many kids, they journey through school. I was actually listening to Tim Ferris’s podcast, the one he just released with Brené Brown and she was talking about sending her daughter to school and saying, “If you only take classes that you want to take, that you think are in the vein of what you want to do in life, I’m not paying for school. The most valuable thing you’ll learn in college is not what you want to do, but what you don’t want to do.” What a wonderful experience to have that while you were going through college rather than afterwards.
Ryan Hawley: When I reflect back on it, I really, and especially going through some of the training that David, you came in and did with us at Lincoln Financial was, you really start to reflect and think back on these different parts of your journey throughout your life and that was one. I think about the belief system that a lot of folks had that I believe shaped a lot of their thinking and shaped the way that they made decisions every single day. It was a phenomenal experience. That was just one lesson that I learned was being in that environment, having the opportunity to do both work out on the factory floor, I also had an opportunity to work and you definitely had kind of a blue collar culture. Then you had kind of the white collar culture within this is a facility with over a thousand people that work there, there was about 1,000,002 square feet under roof kind of a city, if you will, on the roof.
I had an opportunity to do an IT project and so, again, interacting with a lot of different people to try and accomplish things, you know, I was just an intern. They didn’t need to listen to me. So, I had to form some skills that are pretty early age of how to get folks to buy in to what it is that you are trying to accomplish in an environment that not necessarily was conducive to that.
Sean Johnson: So, you’re coming in, you’re an intern. I would imagine you, probably as a college kid, it’s hard to get people who are full time employees there. But I would imagine you had to get some sort of buy in from them on a lot of these projects. How did you go about getting them to buy in and do what you needed them to do for that project?
Ryan Hawley: It was difficult because again, you didn’t really have any influence. You had to, a lot of times, just get to know the person. You had to get to know what motivated them, what they were interested in, try to help to explain what it is that you were trying to accomplish and how them being a part of what you were trying to accomplish was going to benefit them and try and show some of the value, which is, I think at the core of everything, if you can show value to someone, so I tried to look for ways as to what we were trying to accomplish was going to maybe make their job a little bit easier or take something that they didn’t enjoy doing and try and find a way in which that was going to make an improvement to their day to day job. A lot of them looked at me and even said to me, at times, “You’re just a kid. You’re going to leave after the summer. I’ve been here for 20 years,” or however long they’d been there, and this was their life and don’t mess with it was a lot of their feedback to me. But, again, it was a phenomenal experience and I’m very grateful to have had it. It shaped who I am today.
Sean Johnson: So, you said it was kind of the internship of your dad’s choosing. Was it one internship within Detroit Diesel or were you doing kind of different jobs every summer, or was he moving you around to a lot of different things?
Ryan Hawley: So, I did it over several summers and they were different jobs that I actually had to apply for, had to be accepted into the internship program and then assigned into different projects essentially for the summer. So, they had a formal internship program. So, it was a little bit different.
So, kind of getting back to some of the leadership and seeing, really, my father has been a tremendous mentor to me. Another thing that I saw was, so he ran a big part of the engineering department and I remember they used to go to Purdue to do a lot of recruiting. There’s great engineers out of Purdue University because they grow up in these rural areas and grow up on farms and are around a lot of the equipment that they’re making there and they just make phenomenal engineers. So, he would go on these recruiting trips and I remember as a kid, every once in a while, my mom would sit us down and she would tell us how we’re going to have a special guest for dinner that night or coming up and that we needed to be on our best behavior and represent the family well. My dad would invite someone that he had recently hired that was most likely, this is the first time a lot of these folks were leaving home for the first time.
They were moving to a new city. My father took the time to invite them over to our home to have dinner with us, a lot of times before their families would move. Some of these folks were just young kids right out of school and when I reflect and I look back on that and think about that, what an incredible example of being able to welcome somebody into your home to share a meal with them, just to get to know the person that you’re going to be working with. It is just another tremendous lesson that I didn’t realize, at the time, just what an unbelievable example that he was setting for me to follow in my career later on.
Dave Naylor: Talk about a wonderful way to make people feel comfortable in a time of change in their life.
I think you’re right, Ryan, he really did set that example of what does a servant leader really look like? Just in thinking about those men and women who are coming to be part of the organization and welcoming them to both your family and the Detroit Diesel family. That’s cool.
Ryan Hawley: I remember one of the internships, we’d have to do an orientation and it was an orientation to what Detroit Diesel was about and what the business was about, but also had a lot of safety components. You’re in a manufacturing environment, that’s dangerous and there’s a lot of safety protocols and things that you have to follow and be aware of as well. Through that orientation, I had an opportunity, one of the summers where Roger actually came in and he was the one teaching part of the orientation. Now, when I reflect back on it, what an incredible example of leadership to walk in and see, he was a larger than life personality from a leadership perspective, but to take the time, these are a lot of times in the evening, this facility ran pretty much 365, every day around the clock, 24 hours a day. He would come in and for him to take the time and make that a priority was just an incredible lesson. I’ll kind of transition that story into today.
One of the things that working at Lincoln Financial Group, being on the distribution and the sales side and representing the business out in the marketplace, something that’s very important is making sure that the folks that are essentially delivering on the promise that we make every day, that they recognize the importance of their role and they recognize the importance of our success as a business. So, they actually go in and some of the folks from my team go in and we meet with the new…we’re in a claims shop, so we’d go in and spend some time with new recruits that are going to be joining to help pay claims and express that to them, that they make a meaningful impact in the lives of everybody that they touch every day, and what an incredible opportunity that they have and that they have a choice to look at their job in many different ways. I found it to be just an exceptional opportunity for me to transition out of some of my day to day responsibilities, go meet with new people that are joining our organization, share with them what I believe to be a really important message. I would say that I learned that from Roger and from my father and growing up and seeing those mentors in front of me.
Dave Naylor: You think about how often that step gets overlooked in people’s careers and you have those folks who come in every single day and they do their job and they really don’t necessarily see or feel a real sense of purpose in what they’re doing. Thus, they just kind of go through the motions. But from a leadership perspective, taking that time to prioritize that, because certainly there’s no shortage of other things that you could be doing with your time. But to go and sit with those people and really help them to see and feel the difference that they make in people’s lives. You certainly can see how that impacts the purpose with which they move, how inspired they feel in what it is they’re doing and understanding at a higher level the difference that they really make in people’s lives. I think that piece so oftentimes is just taken for granted. So, I can certainly see where that would make a difference, Ryan.
Ryan Hawley: So, there’s a challenge coin that was presented to me that represents a lot of the things that we talked about regarding those non-negotiables. The common purpose in this challenge coin is something that I have in my pocket.
It’s something that I carry with me every day. It’s really meant to remember, it says right on it, “Remember who you are and what you represent.” Then on the back of it, it says, “Make a meaningful impact in the lives of others through selfless service.” So, I think that we all have a choice in whatever our profession is, whatever our job is, whatever field that we’ve chosen to go do in our life is to get up every day and I think asked yourself that question, “How can I go make a meaningful impact in the lives of others?” So, I find that this helps me to remember what my purpose is and remember that I can make an impact in the lives of others and that I need to seek out and look and find ways to do that. So, that’s just one example. But, it doesn’t have to be something like that. Regardless of where you are in the company, where you are in whatever your business is. You may be unemployed right now. It can be just an impact you can make in the life of somebody that you’re standing in line with at the grocery store or at the airline counter.
I just find that it actually is quite fun. I find it to be extremely rewarding, energizing and fulfilling just to look for ways that you can put a smile on somebody’s face or make an impact in that person’s life. It’s woven into pretty much everything that I do and everywhere that I’m at, it’s not just a means to drive success from a business perspective, it’s really a means and a way of living life.
Dave Naylor: I remember years ago, and I’m dating myself a little bit with this story, but years ago, there was a company, I think they still exist, called Nightingale Conant, and they had a tape series that you could buy from different motivational speakers and things like that. This is back in the days when the cutting edge of audio technology in your car was a cassette tape and I remember listening to a series done by Ken Blanchard, and one of the things that he said is, “Every day in everything that you do, you have an opportunity to bring more love or more hate into the world.” I remember reflecting on that in thinking exactly to your point, Ryan, about how all of those little interactions that we have every single day, whether we’re in traffic and letting somebody get in front of us or just smiling at somebody and telling them, “Hey, I hope you have a great afternoon,” just those simple little things that we can do to bring more love into the world. It decidedly makes a difference. It makes a difference in their lives and it makes a difference in ours, too.
Ryan Hawley: I think that’s the point is a lot of people think, “Well, I’m too busy,” or “I have too much going on,” or “I’ve got deadlines to meet, I’ve got sales quotas to hit,” whatever that it is, but you get tenfold and you accomplish, I believe those things and then some by just looking at everyday interactions in whatever it is that you do in a different way. It’s truly a choice. I truly believe that it’s choosing to look for ways to do that. It’s a way of approaching each and every single day with a different set of purpose. I see a lot of very successful, very driven, I just did a Hogan assessment and got my results back. It’s amazing how they do that and how they show you from those questions, share with you a lot of things about yourself that really are a very spot on. But, I’m very driven and I know there’s a lot of folks, many of your listeners that are very, very driven. You think in order to achieve success that you’ve got to climb all over other people, if you don’t get to the top, if you help others get to the top, then you’re not going to get to the top or you’ve got to beat somebody to succeed. I’ve gone through this journey through leadership, through trying to achieve high success in everything that I’ve done. I’ve gone through this journey and approach and I’ve come to such a sense of peace related to the fact that by truly looking at ways that you can make an impact on others people’s lives, that the results come back to you in tenfold in a lot of different ways. I’ve achieved some incredible success way beyond what I thought was possible through approaching each day with looking at how you can serve others, how you can serve your team, how I can serve the folks that give me the opportunity to work with them every single day in the marketplace that I serve. It’s been incredible.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think that you’re 100% right in looking at it, that it’s a choice of how you decide to look at these things and the way in which you approach them. I love the coin. I love that as like, that’s such a good reminder to have in your pocket as a reminder to kind of make that choice consciously, every day and every moment of the day. What’s the story behind the coin? When did you start carrying that around? How did you come about it? Why did you start carrying it with you?
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. So, one of my mentors that came to me, introduced himself and said, “Hey, I heard that you’re doing some great things.”
He invited me out for breakfast one morning. He first wrote me a note, and number one is just the power. One of the lessons that I’ve learned from this person is the power of a handwritten note. Get some good stationery and make it a habit of writing regular notes to people and share your thoughts because it’s so meaningful.
That’s something that I cherish, the notes like that. So, this mentor, who was a mentor of mine, nothing from a formal perspective, it was really just somebody that reached out, gave me the opportunity to spend some time with him. He shared the story about the coin and about how he has challenged his organization and his business to inspire, aspire to be these things each and every day and how that it’s worked.
He talked about situations with customers where this was brought up and how he shared what their common purpose and vision and mission was, so that’s kind of where it started. I have really taken it to adopt it and utilize that within a lot of the things that I do.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. That’s really cool. I think that’s such a great reminder because it’s so easy to get caught in just the day to day stuff, especially when you’re trying to really build that habit to make sure that you’re embodying the mindset and the mentality that you want to be. It’s easy to kind of get swept away in the flood of emails and texts and phone calls and all that kind of stuff. So, that’s a really cool way. I love the coin.
Dave Naylor: Just the physical anchoring point of that…
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Right. Especially with so much digital now. I love the physical of the coin and even just the handwritten note…
Dave Naylor: Every morning, putting it in your pocket. The conscious act of putting it in your pocket makes you think about it.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. We might have to get some coins.
Dave Naylor: I’m thinking bare minimum, we’ve got to put this in the show notes so people can link to it. Now, Ryan, do you have any idea where the coins came from?
Ryan Hawley: I mean, it was really developed by this individual. Certainly, he’s just an exceptional leader, had studied really the history of the challenge coin. There’s a very large, big, military history with it. I don’t know if you know the whole story, but a lot of it originated back from a World War 2 squadron.
There was a young pilot, an aircraft that was damaged by ground fire and it was forced to land behind enemy lines. When he was captured by the German patrol, he was able to escape and he went to a French outpost on the front lines. They didn’t recognize him at first that he was an American and the French were going to execute him.
But then he showed the French his challenge coin and one of the French captors recognized the insignia on it as American and the American challenged his French captors to contact the Americans to identify him. The result was that instead of him facing the firing squad, they gave him a bottle of wine and set him free.
So, that is some of the history of the challenge coin. But really, this mentor is just an incredible leader. Someone that recognized that, and really adopted it into running his part of the organization. It’s a symbol too that we use every day to remember who we are and what we represent. It challenges us to be at our very best with others, especially in our business from client encounters, to be fully present in every single moment that we have the opportunity to have with our clients in the marketplace. So, also to kind of really hold ourselves to the highest standards, each and every single day. So, it truly meets that purpose, which is to challenge us to do those things each and every day.
Dave Naylor: I also love what you said about the handwritten notes and I think that’s a lost art form. Taking that time to hand write a note to somebody and you’ve actually been kind enough to give me a couple of books since you and I met. That’s one of the things I always cherish. Every time I get one of those books, you always hand write a note inside the cover. It just elevates the sense of importance and it conveys a great message. I think that is another wonderful leadership tip that people can take. It doesn’t really take you that much more time to hand write a note than it does to type an email. But the impact in level of importance that it conveys is entirely different and the permanence of it is entirely different.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, I have a drawer than my office that I put a lot of notes on. People give them to me and it’s just a reminder to myself how important that it is to me. Just a leadership tips for those that lead other people, it’s a great gift or a great way to not only thank your team on an accomplishment or whatever kind of milestone or something that you may want to recognize is, go get some personalized stationary for them. You can go to any stationary store or order it online. I think I got mine from an online store and get personalized stationary for them and give it to them. I’ve done that in the past and I really think that it helps to instill a great habit for them as well, that you’ll see dividends be paid off because of that. But it all started from just great lessons from mentors that I’ve had in my life that have done those things and paved the way and showed me those things. Then, I recognized the way that they made me feel and the impact that those things had in my life, and I sort of take an inventory of those things and just taking inventory of the things that impact you and then trying to do those for others. Again, back to that selfless, more of what you can do for others based off of things that people are doing for you that you really enjoy or that you like.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think you mentioned taking stock of what things have really affected you and incorporating that into your leadership style. One thing that I think is really impressive and probably something that not a lot of people would guess about you was that when you were a kid, you actually had a learning disability. Is that right?
Ryan Hawley: I did, yeah. So, I went to a small Catholic grade school and when we were looking to go on from grade school and to middle school, most of the Catholic school systems, you moved schools at that point. I was really struggling in school at that point.
I would say that it was affecting my self-esteem. It was affecting my relationships with friends and family. I was just frustrated. It was an area of failure, if you will, at that point in my life. All the way to the point even to where it impacted, I was getting incredible migraine headaches and looking back on it now and talking to my parents about that stage in my life, those headaches were very much brought on by a lot of the feelings and a lot of stress that I put on myself because of that.
So, I transitioned to, we’ve got a wonderful public school system there, and I moved to an middle school and there was a person that greeted me essentially on the first day. I was not real thrilled about changing schools. I didn’t like school to begin with and then I certainly wasn’t thrilled about changing schools and going into this whole new environment.
So, it was very scary for me at the time, as I’m sure it is for a lot of kids at that stage in their life. There was a person that my mom had called the school and kind of expressed some of these challenges. I was greeted by very tall, very large man by the name of Mr. Waters is the way he was introduced to me. He invited me into his office. He was a guidance counselor that was there and said, “Hey, you don’t have to go to class today. Just come on in. We’ll, , look around. You can leave your lunch here in the office. You don’t even have to stay if you don’t want to.” When I reflect back on that, I think about just the empathy and the caring and really taking the time to meet with me and go through that at that stage in my life, it’s impacted me. It’s impacted me, it’s certainly something I work through and have overcome, but it made an impact in my life for sure, and made an impact of an example of how you can meet people during challenges or difficulties in their life, seek to understand kind of what’s going on and then help guide them through some of that process.
Sean Johnson: It sounds like he did such a great job of, especially as a kid coming into a new school, there’s so much anxiety and fear of the unknown and all that. It sounds like he did such a great job of just from the moment you walked in the door, making you feel comfortable.
Ryan Hawley: My mom tells me, I stayed the rest of the day and really the rest is history, it kind of started me off on a whole new trajectory. I was able to get the support that I needed within the school to really sort out and get me the proper classes and training and things like that to manage some of the learning disability that I had at that time. It changed literally my confidence in myself and I got back to playing sports. The headaches went away. I mean, it was a game changer and really a lot is owed to that first interaction and really because of Mr. Waters and because of the impact that he made in my life.
Sean Johnson: What were some of the things that you and Mr. Waters talked about?
Ryan Hawley: To be honest, I don’t remember all of those details. I just remember a sense of just making me feel comfortable that I didn’t have to do something that I didn’t want to necessarily do, that it wasn’t anything that I needed to be frightened about, that he was going to be there to help and support me along the way. That’s what just sometimes people need a little bit. Sometimes just people need some support at certain points of their life. He provided that for me. But as far as all the details, I really don’t remember.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s very true of the Nelson Mandela quote, “People won’t remember what you say or necessarily even what you do, but they’ll remember how you make them feel.”
Dave Naylor: Yeah, that’s exactly it. Well, and it speaks to, again, the impact that one great leader can have in those times of transition, in those times of doubt, which we all have, knowing that you’ve got somebody there who’s caring, somebody there, who’s got your back, somebody there who will support you when you need the support. Whether it’s a kid who’s in transition, whether it’s somebody who’s coming into a new school, whether it’s somebody who’s starting out in a new job, taking on a new role, any of those times when we encounter doubt and uncertainty, the difference that that person makes, you can’t overstate.
Ryan Hawley: I think an important lesson that I kind of took away from all of that is that we have a choice and we have an opportunity to make an impact. We are and can make an impact in people’s lives that we don’t even know that we’re impacting. This was something that he was just doing his job and probably would have no idea that 40 years later, 30 some odd years later that I’m talking about interaction with this person and the impact that he made in my life, probably has no idea.
That’s a powerful takeaway for me, is the fact that you can make those impacts in people’s lives and they may never tell you, but if you look at every interaction, you look at every opportunity to where you try and make an impact, or you look for ways to make an impact.
You just never know the seeds that you’re planting and the things that will happen in the lives of others.
Dave Naylor: That’s exactly right. You said something earlier that it always comes back around, and I think you’re 100% right that we don’t always know how it’s going to come back around, the difference that we make in people’s lives, but it always does come back around in some regard.
You think about whether it’s something directly that that person does to repay you or say, thank you. Or whether it’s the difference in the way that they move and how that effects somebody else’s life or 40 years later that you’re on a podcast and your name comes up and you’re telling the story to thousands of people about the difference that somebody made. So, I think that’s very cool.
Ryan Hawley: I remember it kind of reminds me of this story with John O’Leary and he talked about it and wrote about it in his book “On Fire”, which was about the nurse, I think it was Nurse Roy, that was there during the period of time in his life that was really pushing and challenging John and part of his recovery. For those that don’t know that story, so John O’Leary was burned on close to a hundred percent of his body and he talks about how that has through all that adversity and the challenges that that’s completely changed and transformed his life. He’s decided to live a life on fire.
It’s a great story. It just kind of reminds me of that of, he talks about going back and sharing with Nurse Roy, just the impact that he made in keeping him alive and inspiring him to go day by day. I just think about the fact that we can be those people in other people’s lives.
We have such a sense of purpose and an opportunity to make an impact on other people’s lives. It’s just a choice to look at it that way. I think a lot of folks walking around and get up every day, that’s not what they’re thinking about. I just don’t believe that they’re living their life and they feel like they don’t have a purpose. I think we all have a purpose and all have an opportunity. We just have to make that choice for our own life.
Dave Naylor: Yeah. We always hear about the most popular radio station in the world, WIFM, what’s in it for me? So many individuals, they walk around with that very myopic perspective in everything that they do and every decision they make and every action that they take is, “What am I going to gain? What should I do? How is this going to benefit me?”
There’s a ripple effect from that, just as powerful as there is from thinking about, “How do I make a difference in the lives of the people around me?” It’s just a profoundly less impactful difference that it makes. I think you’re right. I think you see that a lot in leaders, there’s a self-centeredness with which they might move or narcissistic thought process that they may have. You see it in people just in everyday life and in the simple things that they do, but to shift it around and really think about, “what’s the positive ripple that I’m making here?”
What’s the difference in the folks around me that I’m making? How am I helping this person to smile or feel better about themselves or feel worthy and what it is? Or doing or seeing the purpose in what it is that they’re doing. It’s a very, very powerful message to send.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah. I think there’s lots of examples of that around us. I think you can turn on the TV, you can turn on the radio, you can look everywhere at just that very self-centered culture that exist out there. There are a lot of folks that have become very successful through those ways.
There’s some great books that are out there. One of them that comes to mind is that book, “Give and Take,” that was written and talks a lot about givers and takers and the success of the takers versus the givers. There’s just so many examples out there of where that self-centered behavior, and I’ll tell you through my journey of leadership, of being an individual contributor and the different roles throughout my career, I’ve struggled at times trying to think about, what is the right approach, how do you approach each day? I guess what I’ve learned through trying to study life and to study the ways to be successful at the highest levels while also being very true to what’s most important to me is to lead the way, the way that I do. It’s been very, very fulfilling. It’s been very fulfilling. I’m a better leader at work. I’m a better husband to my wife at home. I’m a better father to my daughter. I’m truly happier versus getting up every day and thinking about how I’m going to get whatever it is that I want for myself and kind of missing the whole boat at the end of the day. Why achieve the highest success or climb the biggest mountains and lose the point of why you’re there or where you’re going? Why you’re going there and who’s most important to you?
So, that’s been through incredible mentors that I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with and talk about these things to the examples of the people that have been in my life from birth. Just great examples of leaders from that perspective. But it really makes for a very fulfilling life when you approach each day that way. So, some of these tools that we’ve talked about today that I’ve incorporated in my life have helped me to live that life.
Sean Johnson: There’s a great investor actually out of Silicon Valley, Robert Kahn he says, “Self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself.”
I think when it comes to the give and take side of things, he talks about, “You always want to do the right thing because even if nobody else finds out, you’ll always know and that reputation you have with yourself will suffer.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that. You talked about being happy and I think so much of that is just peace of mind of being, like you said, at peace with the decisions that you make and the intentions that you have with them.
Ryan Hawley: It’s completely unrelated but the late Jim Rohn and a lot of folks know him, he wrote, one of the famous, “The Art of Exceptional Living.”
That was something my parents gave me. You talked earlier about cassette tapes. I still have the original cassette tape set of the Jim Roan, “The Art of Exceptional Living.” One of the things he talks about, which just kind of when you were talking about this, that you’ll know, he talks about tipping and he talks about, if you are going to tip somebody and let’s say you’re going to tip them a dollar or $2 or something just to use a simple example, is that you’ll know the difference between whether or not you you gave them that extra, especially if they’ve provided exceptional service for you, the feeling that you get by giving them that tip, that you feel, it gives you a sense of satisfaction. You’ll never walk back. That person’s never going to go chase you down and say, “Oh, thank you so much for that.” Sometimes that happens, but it’s interesting what happens to you inside because you know that, and I think the same thing with these other things that we’ve been talking about that when you lead a life that way, you feel much more fulfilled inside regardless of ever getting something back in return, maybe for that selfless act that you gave.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think you’re such a great example and proof of, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Meaning, it doesn’t have to just be giving and serving others, and you’re sacrificing your own success for yourself. You’ve won the Integrity Award at Lincoln, which I’d love to hear a little bit more about. But even beyond that, you achieved, I think it was 156% of your plan this year for your team? So, I think you’re a great example of how those two things can go together.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, exactly. I appreciate you bringing that up. So, I work in an industry that we have, being in kind of the sales and distribution, we get together once a year to go through a lot, it sets up the strategy for the next year and there’s sort of a rewards component to it to celebrate our past year’s success.
At the end of the evening, there’s an award for the Integrity Award and they read through all of these great bio’s around what that means to the organization and how it’s a very important tenant obviously being Lincoln Financial, i’s embedded in that name and what Abraham Lincoln stands for. It was a tremendous honor. It was a tremendous honor to accept that and it was something that’s very, very special to me. That was the first national award that I had ever received within a large fortune 200 company. To be recognized for that was just incredibly special to me and the success has come. I think that’s the thing this year we did, we received the highest performing regional office in the country and it really taught me that you can lead the way that I’ve been doing it, and by really supporting your team.
The relationships that you build with them, leading by the person and not their performance. Dabo Swinney talks about leading their heart versus their talent and really building those relationships with the team and really building things at a personal level with them so they can go out and achieve their absolute best.
Everybody’s a little different. Everyone has different things that motivate them. There’s things that are going on in their life. So, taking the time to truly build relationships with them, to understand how you can help them to be the absolute best that they can be, has truly proven to produce exceptional results.
It’s been tremendously rewarding sticking true to what truly is kind of my natural leadership style, and I’ve tried lots of different things. To find one that is true to me and at the core of who I am and then to be able to produce that kind of success has been very, very rewarding.
Sean Johnson: I love what you said about leading people versus leading performance. Could you talk a little bit more about that? Or maybe give us an example of what would somebody who’s leading people, something that they would do versus somebody that’s more leading performance?
Ryan Hawley: Well, I think that you’ve got to be true. Just because you have a really top performer may not be that they’re doing all the right things and you can’t necessarily lead by their performance, but lead by the person. The same may be true for someone that’s an underperformer.
So, somebody that may not be performing at their absolute best is that really trying to understand, building a relationship with them, getting to know them, getting to understand, what it is that’s going on, that can change their performance. So, it truly is being able to drive results on maybe the things that the person, just because they’re a good performer may not be that they’re exhibiting all the things that you would want them to be doing.
They may not be operating under integrity and with a sense of urgency and all of the other non-negotiables. They may not be taking ownership and being a caring professionalism with others. So, just because they’ve got great performance doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing all the right things.
So, I found too that you build exceptional trust by doing that. We focus a lot on, there’s a pretty basic formula as to how we approach the marketplace and the way that we approach all the folks that we have the opportunity to serve. I’m part of running a sales and distribution part of the business. So, one of the things is connecting with each of these folks on a level that truly enables them to be their best.
Dave Naylor: So, Ryan, I’m curious because my instincts tell me that this is an area where a lot of leaders struggle and perhaps they struggle for different reasons. Maybe they struggle because they don’t know how to build that kind of relationship. Maybe they struggle because they think that they have to solely focus on the performance aspects of what somebody is doing or maybe they just lack the confidence to invest, that if I invest the time and energy in building this relationship that it’s going to work out in a beneficial fashion.
So, how do you go about building that caliber of relationship with people where you can establish trust, you can pull down their walls, you can have real conversations with them? So if you’ve got, let’s just say, somebody new, joining your team. Walk us through. What do you do with somebody when they’re new, to kind of put the right foundation in place?
Ryan Hawley: Well, I think it really starts first with being genuine and authentic. It starts with me from the hiring process. When I reach out and I’m hiring, I’m having conversations with people. I want to get to know them. I want them to know a little bit about me. This doesn’t mean that you get into all of their personal details and into dive into things that people, you don’t want to be creepy about this stuff, but it’s truly being authentic and genuine and that you’re being genuine and sharing things about yourself and things that are important to you.
It’s asking them questions. A lot of times I think, and I know I did this, for many, many years is, I would dive right into, when you think about the difference between leadership versus management, I would dive into all the tactical things. I’d read the resume, I’d ask them all the technical questions, and I’ve completely taken a different approach to all of that.
The first is to get to know them. I want to understand what their thoughts and beliefs are. I want to understand a little bit about them and not only what they’ve accomplished and what their skills are, but a little bit about what they believe and what they think. So, I think it starts with truly in the beginning, right from the interview process or right from the time that you meet people, so whether that be new customers that we’re meeting with or new, we work with consultants on a, on a regular basis. It’s also sharing them with what you’re about and what drives you. So, one of the things that I have really found to be rewarding is being able to share some of these fundamental principles about what I stand for and what my team stands for and what our business and our organization stands for. I believe through that, you create a trust and you create a foundation that you then build upon from there.
Dave Naylor: Just standing for something, I think that in and of itself is sadly unique. I think a lot of leaders haven’t taken the time to really crystallize, what are those non-negotiables? What are those absolute fundamental tenants that we stand for as an organization and I don’t remember who it was that said that, “You stand for something or you fall for anything.” I think it might’ve been John Cougar Mellencamp who said that? I don’t know.
Ryan Hawley: It makes life really easy. It makes it really easy to be honest. When you just go back to those fundamental things, you can’t replace those fundamentals and when you stand for something and when everything that you do points to certain specific things, it makes it easy to make decisions.
It makes it easy to have a conversation about a particular situation, it makes it easy for them to understand what the expectations are that you’re going to have upon them. I mean, right off the bat, when you sit down and you share with somebody and you say, “Listen, we have four non negotiables in everything that we do, we’re going to act with integrity and we’re going to have a sense of urgency. We’re going to take ownership. It may not be your problem, you may have a customer that calls you and it’s a department that’s you’re not responsible for, but you do need to take ownership in making sure that that gets handled properly and transitioned and you seek to understand what’s going on. They brought that to you and you have to take ownership of that.” So, when you share those things, it makes it really easy. Another fundamental thing that we talk about in the marketplace is “know, like, and trust.” That takes care of literally the whole sales process for us and that’s another part that we sort of lay out is people need to know who you are and know what you do and what you represent. So, you have to be out in the marketplace and people need to know you. Your solutions aren’t going to sell themselves if people don’t know who you are and what you sell.
People want to do business with people that they like. So, you have to find a way of creating some sort of rapport. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to be best friends. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to that person’s wedding or their kid’s wedding, but you definitely have to find a way for you to have some likability.
People aren’t going to do business with you if they don’t like you. Ultimately, they may know you. They may like you, but they ultimately have to trust that you’re going to be able to deliver. You’re going to have to be able to deliver whatever that solution is that you’ve been talking about. The one thing that I found with that is not only they trust you, but they have to trust the organization that you represent. A lot of times I know folks in kind of sales types of roles and distribution types of roles is that if something doesn’t go right, it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s the home office’s fault,” we get into those. But no, you’re the home office, you’re part of this broad organization, and they ultimately can’t just trust you, they have to trust the entire organization and literally the entire sales process in a lot of ways is driven off of those three things. When I have meetings with my team and we start talking about what’s going on in the marketplace, it really centers around, do all the folks that need to know you, know you? Do they like you and have you found a way to create some sort of relationship with them to where they want to do business with you? Then third, do they trust that you can deliver whatever solutions you’ve talked about and do they trust the organization can do that for them? It makes it pretty simple.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I love the simplicity of the non-negotiables that comes with that. I think a lot of times, so many people avoid that kind of thinking of just making a stand for something and having non-negotiables just because they’re trying to keep everybody happy. If there’s somebody that doesn’t buy into one or the other, they’re trying to play every scenario as it comes. But I love the language of the non-negotiables because like you said, it makes things so much simpler. I think it’s kind of because it almost removes so many decisions that you would have to make otherwise, that the decision is kind of already made once it comes up. When you’re kind of having these non-negotiables, you’ve made the decision six months ago or whenever you decided to join this team and embrace these non-negotiables, when something pops up, you’ve already made the decision that you’re going to take ownership for it. So, the decision of what to do is not one of you’re weighing the pros and cons or anything, you’ve already made the decision. I think you’re right. It makes life so much simpler when you remove so many of the little decisions that you would have to make otherwise.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah. I mean, with that foundation, I have not found, you kind of mentioned where people are trying to pick and choose and they’re trying to please people. In the time that we’ve been really utilizing this as a foundation for running the business that I’ve incorporated within everything that I’m responsible for. I find it to be the responses, the opposite where people are truly looking for and starving for something to stand for and that they know what it is that’s expected of them and that they feel good about the fact that they have guiding principles to go out and act upon and to take to their customers, to take to the marketplace. It alleviates a lot of guesswork as to what they should be doing. It truly drives everything that you do. So, it’s very purposeful as to this is what we’re driven by because it truly does drive every aspect of everything that we do every day.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think you’re right. If people are starving for that, and I think when it comes to non-negotiables, I think people might have hesitated to embrace those or implement those as a leader in order to keep people happy.
But I think you’re right. Most of that’s in your head. That’s really what people want and that’s just kind of a myth that they have in their head of drawing the line in the sand. They feel like they’re cutting people out when in reality, they’re really becoming a magnet to attract the people they want.
Dave Naylor: Yeah, people opt in and if you’ve got somebody who is prone to move without integrity, who likes to do the dirty deals and the backhanded things, as soon as they see that you’ve put a stake in the ground and said, “This is what we stand for,” they can look at that and make the decision, “Well, do I stand for that?” or “Have I never really thought about what I stand for?” or “Am I something contrary to that?” In which case you attract the people that you want to attract and you repel the ones that you don’t want on the team, anyway.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s been some exceptional leaders that you see today on the biggest stages that are truly, they have a lot of these methods and they drive their teams. Just look at sporting teams, for example, and just the success that a Dabo Swinney has had at Clemson. A lot of these same fundamentals, I mean, he stands for something, has his team and his players know that and he’s creating men, they’re going to go off into the world, this football is just one part of their life. You look at Matt Rhule that just joined the Carolina Panthers from Baylor. Again, someone that stands for, this is something we talk a lot about, this is something we talk a lot about as a group and a team is, how you do anything is how you do everything.
It kind of goes back to the saying that when you stand for something, it dictates and drives how you do everything. But it makes it simple. That’s the thing that I’ve found that I think that people, when they’re going through their careers and they’re having ups and downs in their careers, I had some big struggles and parts of my career and in different parts of my professional life where I struggled with what to do and I struggled with how to approach things. I’ve found that I have such a sense of clarity knowing these fundamental principles that truly help make the decisions very simple. It’s amazing how that impacts every day, every decision, what you do when you have that.
Dave Naylor: I think there’s such wisdom right there and I think there’s value for each of us as human beings to really sit back and ponder, what really are our non-negotiables? What is it that we stand for as human beings? What are those things that we’re just not willing to compromise on? That allows us to move through life with a level of clarity and purpose that I and Ryan, you said it earlier, people desperately want, but so many people struggle to find.
Ryan Hawley: Yeah, absolutely.
Dave Naylor: So, Ryan, I’m curious, you’ve done a wonderful job as a leader, you’ve obviously had tremendous impact in your career, both in terms of what you’ve accomplished and the difference that you’ve made in scores of lives around you, of all those men and women who are fortunate enough to call you their leader.
So, knowing what you know now, if you could go back and give advice to a 20 year old Ryan Hawley, who is just starting out his career, what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
Ryan Hawley: I think one would be to really lean into the things that are important to you and that are true. Don’t search for things that you believe are going to make you successful, but then sort of lose the whole point, if you will. There were stages of my life where I put work and I put my success ahead of a lot of other things. Now, I’ve realized through this journey, first and foremost, that what you do in your career and what you do for work is really not letting that truly define who you are. I’m a husband and a father first and I am an exceptional person in the business that I do, but that doesn’t define me.
So, I’d first say that to my younger self, because I definitely spent a lot of time putting stake into that. Secondly, is really believing in yourself. There were times where I failed at things that I did. I truly looked at them with probably more of a fixed mindset versus a true open and a growth mindset of looking at my failures and looking at the things that I didn’t do as tremendous opportunities to learn from. Then the last is, I think seeing these fundamentals, really getting these guiding principles, these fundamental things that you stand for and breaking them down into a way that you can define very easily, whether it’s adopting things from others. A lot of this stuff, I didn’t come up with this stuff on my own, but I’ve been a student of, I read lots of books and consume lots of information around all these concepts that we’ve talked about today, whether it be on podcasts, whether it be on the books, whether it be through all these different apps today that you can consume material in a pretty quick fashion. I think finding what resonates with you and what you stand for and then defining that and then living by it and being open to changing it along the way as well. Probably not some of the fundamentals, but if it’s not working for you, is being willing to continue to grow and learn and change along the journey and to enjoy the journey.
This is truly the moments, the big moments, the night that I was presented with the Integrity Award. Wow, that is a great feeling to stand there on stage and accept that and be recognized. But that’s one small, fleeting moment. There are so many moments each and every day that we get up and that’s what it’s really all about. It’s about those moments in between the big moments and not to live just for the big celebrations or the big goals that you accomplish. But it’s really living each and every day and enjoying that journey. So, I would tell my younger self a lot of things, because I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Dave Naylor: That’s a measure of a life well lived my friend. So, Ryan, thank you so much for sharing some time and most importantly, sharing your wisdom with us today. I think that there are tremendous golden nuggets in what you have built and how you have built it. So, I’m quite certain that all of the listeners will find a lot of value in the conversation. So, Ryan, thank you.
Ryan Hawley: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with you guys today. It’s been fun.
Sean Johnson: It has been fun. Thanks, Ryan.
*Episode transcription edited for clarity
2:32- Ryan’s Childhood
5:29- Leadership By Example
11:19- Getting Buy-In
20:01- The Challenge Coin
32:26- Hand-Written Notes
34:07- Struggles With School
40:19- Making An Impact
51:35- The Integrity Award
54:39- The Right Kind Of Leading
58:12- Establishing Trust
1:00:57- Standing For Something
1:11:25- Advice To Ryan’s Younger Self & Concluding Thoughts