#134-Transformational Leadership with Tim Cole
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host today with a fantastic guest. Tim Cole is the founder of the Compass Alliance, which is a firm that helps train individuals on peak performance and organizational performance and leadership. He is a leadership pro. I am thrilled to have him here. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim: Thank you.
John: Yeah. So I know we got a chance to chat the other day. I loved our conversation, so I’ve been looking forward to getting into some more depth with you, but probably a good place to start. I’d love for the listeners to just hear a little bit about your background. Before the Compass Alliance, you had a really kind of a storied history in the life sciences field, I believe.
Tim: I did. I did. I stumbled, John, into life sciences about a million years ago. I think it was shortly after Lincoln was assassinated. I was very unprepared, unsuspecting and underqualified. But the job I took ended up evolving into a career. And as I mentioned, when you and I chatted before, managed to navigate, I think it was five mergers and acquisitions and about twenty six restructures in the day came that I stopped and looked around at the little company that I joined, which is I think maybe seventy five dollars million in annual revenue that at that point was one of the four or five largest in the world.
Tim: And I reflected on the scope of the journey and thought, you know, this has been fairly amazing. So I wrote a book. The book is called The Compass Solution, and it’s a book on leadership. And I would say that when I pause to reflect on everything that I experienced, I think probably the most pivotal event in my career was early on when I actually brushed up against an authentic leader, a transformational leader. And that changed, I think, the trajectory of the career. And it kind of filled me with the passion to better understand why aren’t there more great leaders and what is it they do that distinguish them from everyone else? And that has become a lifelong obsession, one that now informs a big part of my company, which is the Compass Alliance.
John: I love situations like that because I’ve also been impacted by a few key people. And they definitely changed the course of my life and what I’m doing. And that’s the whole essence of leadership, I think. So what was it about this individual? What happened and what drew you to them that had such a big impact on you?
Tim: Well, it’s taken me years to really figure it out, because at the very beginning, when I watched them and how they operated with others, I figured, well, I can I can codify this. I can
figure out the formula that they use and then I’ll copy it. And I think my question is always the same thing. What is this person doing that makes all of us think so differently about them? And I think one day I had an epiphany and the epiphany was it’s not so much what they did that made us all think differently about them. It’s what they do that makes us think differently about ourselves. And so to answer your question, when I began to appreciate that the greatest of leaders really influence the heart in the head, whereas the transactional man managers, the pretenders, the actors kind of focus more on the hands and feet. And I never forgot that lesson. And when I look at the few transformational leaders that I have a chance to really interface with today, a lot of the same principles I believe really apply.
John: Do you think most leaders are and that’s a great way to put it. You know, the heart in the head versus the hands and the feet. Do you find most leaders just naturally gravitate toward a transactional type of leadership style that they gravitate there?
Tim: But I think they find themselves there more often than not. You know, it’s funny, I have a saying I use in some of our workshops, and I believe it. Those who cannot lead at best hope to manage and those who cannot manage it best hope to control and those who cannot control it best hope to coerce. And oftentimes in periods of crisis, I think it’s easy to default to checkbook transactional kinds of management things. It’s a lot harder, a lot harder to become over. As a transformational leader I use, I have a little set of questions that I used to ask privately of the people that I reported to during my thirty eight years in life sciences.
Tim: And I use those questions again and again and again. And I’ve used those to gauge whether or not the person I’m working with is someone that’s truly a difference maker. And it’s amazing how often I still use and the questions that I always ask. And I think everyone
asks of people they report to. No one is credible? Because if you’re not credible, you’re not going to get the attention of the people that you’re supposedly leading. The second is, can you help make me better? And those are basic questions all of us ask. But then you start getting, I think, into a different realm. When you ask questions like, are you committed to a person that I can tell a purpose that I can align with? Now you’re starting to, I think, delve into a different area in the last two questions. Do you care about me and can I trust you? And that, I think, is the exclusive domain domain of transformational leaders.
John: Interesting. So you would ask those questions of people when you were leaders that you had? Is that what you’re saying?
Tim: I didn’t ask it of them, but I thought they did. I continue to think about it. And now when I work with senior leaders in terms of executive coaching, I ask them if we were to take your direct reports and ask them to speak confidentially. But honestly, how many of them would say yes, yes, yes and yes to those five questions? And if the answers are maybe sorta kinda, then that usually gives us fuel to take a look at where and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
John: I like that and I love those questions. And we’ll put those in the show notes for the audience that’s listening and wants to make sure they capture those. Let’s dive into a couple of those because I think there’s a lot there. When you talk about let’s start with just credibility. I mean, I think leaders oftentimes are struggling and you see the signs of the leader that’s trying too hard to build almost this artificial credibility. What does that look like to really do it in an authentic, real way? And where does credibility actually come from?
Tim: Well, that’s a great question. You know, it’s funny, but I have spent some time studying military history. I think there’s a reason that a lot of second lieutenants die in battle and it’s because they’d been accorded a rank, but they don’t have the respect of the troops that they’re asked to lead. So to answer your question simply, I think two things at least that I look for when I look at credibility, I look at competency and I look at authenticity. Are they prepared for the job and are they authentic, authentic in terms of how they perform the job? And that’s usually a pretty good starting point I think you and I talked about before. I think there are a lot of people that get moved into management positions and they’re afforded a title like a knighthood, and they assume that because they have the title, they’re suddenly leaders when more often than not, I found leadership. Frankly, I’m not sure it has a lot to do with title, you know.
John: Well, it’s interesting, too, because I think and this for those listening in a different time, we’re still in the middle of the pandemic here. And I think in this time of uncertainty over the last year, a lot of leaders have struggled because they’ve relied on trying to be that person that has all the answers all the time. And then when you’re thrust into a situation where nobody has all the answers, you know, they’re suddenly feeling like they’re exposed or they’re not useful or they’re not credible anymore. What’s your take on that? I mean, is that credibility for that leader that may not know the answer. Is it OK for a leader to say, hey, you know what, I don’t know? The answer is I don’t know how they handle that?
Tim: Yeah, you just said something that I think’s incredibly valuable. If I were talking today to a group of managers, whether they are first line, second line vice president, divisional leaders or even CEOs, I would say here’s three words it took me a long time to learn. And you just said, I don’t know, because oftentimes I think people thrust into a position of power. I think to admit to demonstrating vulnerability is a weakness in you know, and I know it’s actually the exact opposite when you have the courage to say, I don’t know. But together we’ll find the answers. I think that is powerful. And you hit it dead on.
John: And I think to your point, authenticity is really what leadership is all about. There’s a time in my career where I felt like I had to be somebody that I really wasn’t or play the role of this leader. That or what I thought was a leader. And it was a really No. One, I wasn’t effective. I wasn’t nearly as effective once I realized that is not the way to lead. But it was also this really unsettling feeling like I was an actor playing a role. And that can only go so long before there’s that internal breakdown, internal rub and that just, you know, you almost it just you see that with leaders a lot. Do you find that leaders that are newer are kind of plagued with that problem? They’re trying too hard there. Are they not trying? Is it for that new leader coming in that’s listening? How much are they OK to just be themselves or. You know, I want to talk a little bit about executive presence and where that comes from. But what’s your take on that person that doesn’t know, OK, who should I be?
Tim: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily tied to tenure. I’ve worked with people that have 25, 30 that still struggle with the same thing that you just described, I, I found. I mentioned I do a lot of work in terms of communication, and the assumption, I think oftentimes is that great communicators are great orators or they’re great writers, they’re great in front of a group. But the greatest communicators, honestly, are capable of exactly what you just described. They can ask questions and then lo and behold, they can actually listen to the response. The strength of any team, as you know, is really the combined genius.
If the leader, whoever he or she happens to be, thinks they are the smartest person in the room, they’re probably destined to fail.
John: And such a great point and so well said, because there’s there’s leaders that almost, it seems like, get threatened when they surround themselves or find themselves surrounded by people that are smarter than them or better than them or even the leader or other leaders that are progressing and growing faster. I’ve seen leaders and even some that tend to almost try to put this, you know, cap on somebody or slow their growth because they feel like that’s taking them out of their role or relevance, making them irrelevant. Do you see that as well? Is that a problem?
Tim: Yes, I think it’s pretty common. Somebody gave me great advice early in my career. I had a lot of people that I should say I mentioned as the first transformational leader, but I have a lot of people that gave me gifts over the years. And one of the greatest gifts was someone who said to me, hey, buddy, your goal is not to create a crowd of followers. Your goal is to create a group of leaders. And you’ll know that you’ve accomplished your primary task when if you’re not there, they’re capable of greatness.
Tim: If they’re dependent on you, you’re not really a complete leader. You’re just simply managing an outcome. And I never forgot that. And over the years, I’ve begun to realize that if you really want to find a leader, look at the trail of people that they touched, that they influence, that carry on your legacy. In my mind, that might be more important than anything for me personally and for the leaders that I’ve encountered. The goal is, again, you breed as many of them as you can, and hopefully every darn one of them is better than you were.
John: And what does that look like for a leader that might be running an organization that’s used to being? Is there a number of people that come to mind that is used to being kind of the go to person on everything? And I always say, you know, you can either be the go to person on everything or you can be the leader. You can’t be both. How do they get out of that trap? I mean, if you’re talking to somebody who really is not used to necessarily trying to develop other leaders, but they are trying to develop followers, how do they start to make that shift?
Tim: Yeah, well, you know, you and I talked about a minute ago something that is an underappreciated asset. Vulnerability, to be very candid, was something that I had a hard time wrestling with because I came up in an era kind of like the one that you describe. The leader is almost a mythic figure, iconic. Follow me and we will win. And it took me a long time to realize, as we said, if I can admit vulnerability and if I can work with five people that are part of my direct staff and say to them in no uncertain terms, my goal is to make sure that we make you for discussion sake, the next CEO. So I’m going to challenge you and I’m probably going to put you in positions where maybe we actually run the risk of failing in our culture right now “failure” is a terrible word.
Tim: But you know, and I know that it’s OK to fail. They’ll quickly learn from it and move forward. But you have to have a leader that’s capable and courageous enough to admit, as you said, I don’t have all the answers, but it’s tough to do. And I think you and I had this conversation, especially when you’re driven by the next quarterly earnings. You know, there’s a turnstile of senior leaders and they’re trying to get things done and make sure they hit their
number. Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and say, wait, we can hit the number, but are we really building for two years out, five years out, 10 years out?
John: That’s the harder question. That is a hard question, because trying to balance that and that that really is is reality. And whether it’s a public company or not, you’re just trying so hard to drive that incremental lift over the short term and really make sure the numbers obviously are indicating a healthy direction. But at the same point, as a leader, you have to be able to do things that aren’t necessarily going to provide a return on investment in that short term. So it’s a tough balance, right? It’s really difficult for that leader that wants to be a transformational leader, but might feel the pressure of saying, hey, I feel like I’ve got to be a transactional leader. I’m not going to even be in this role much longer.
Tim: That’s right. And no one can assume or sit here in a podcast and say it’s easy, it’s not. But, you know, going back to the larger issue, I finally realized in my own journey that the most important resource that was ever. At my beck and call was human capital and human capital, when it’s fully engaged and when people recognize that they are aligned, can do amazing things. And so what I try to do is when I talk with leaders is to help them understand that, yeah, the quarter is important. But if you’re not investing in human capital at some point, at some point you’ll hit a wall.
Tim: I work with a lot of leaders, John, who they chase profitability, which means more resources against the right activities. But they lose sight of productivity, which means less resources against the wrong activities in the life science industry. You toss a lot of stuff out there and you hope you hit your sales goals. But what we try to impress on people is you’ve got to take at least an intermediate or maybe ideally a longer term view if you really want to make an organization healthy for next year and five years from now.
John: Yeah, because ultimately that’s your if you’re just focused on that short term, one is you’re going to lose people, you’re going to lose great people. And I’ve always said there’s three things your top people really need, and that’s to feel like they are growing. They also need to feel like they’re making an impact and not just an impact, but as big of an impact as
they can make. And they have to feel important and valued and appreciated. And if those are not there, you run the risk of losing those people. It’s just a matter of when. And I see that with leaders, a lot running organizations, and they’re frustrated because they’re losing their top people and maybe even consistently losing them. And that may be part of the reason.
Tim: Yeah, you know, I tell you, you referenced something there that we aren’t talking a lot about now that, you know, before covid hit in this country, in the US, somewhere around two thirds of the American workforce was technically disengaged. Now, those numbers are very dependent on industry. But the Gallup group, which has done 80 years worth of work on this, is pretty emphatic in saying if you look at 2018, 2019, about two out of every three workers are disengaged. And for millennials, the figure is even higher. Now, that was before covid. So now we have people living in a cocoon, working on average the data says on average, probably two to three hours longer per day than they were before. I wonder what the disengagement figures will be when we look at twenty twenty one. I think they’re going to be I would dare say the global disengagement was about 85% pre-Covid.
Tim: But I think we’ll probably see in this country 85%-90% of the workforce. I’m working with people right now that basically are throwing up their hands in frustration. They say to him in the first two to three months it was OK. But now I go from seven o’clock to six o’clock in the evening and by golly, people drop meetings because they can do it. I live over the company store. I can’t take a break. So I sell that because I think the difference is if you work with a leader who gets it, who cares about you, who trust you, who has a common purpose with you, I think they will help us navigate that. And to your point, those who can’t, I think they’re going to be exposed and I think they will be exposed in a big way.
John: What about that’s that’s a really interesting point and the level of engagement. You know, I know, and I know when you walk through an office, you can just sense people’s levels of engagement. You kind of take the temperature of the room or the culture. You just have a whole different level of perceptively that you don’t have now. It’s just very difficult. And just the ability to put your arm on somebody’s shoulder and just, you know, after a tough message or conversation or you lose all of that now. So I know leaders are challenged with that. They’re frustrated. They’re really wondering how I keep or bring back that level of engagement when I am doing what we’re doing and we’re looking through a computer. What’s your advice to somebody like that?
Tim: Yeah, well, you know, two words. It’s a radical concept that would be human, be human. I work with leaders who in times of crisis have rallied troops. And I’ve worked with leaders who in times of crisis have provoked and exacerbated the crisis. The people that I think are the difference maker goes back to those five questions. If I’m working with someone who I consider credible, who’s committed to helping make me better, who share a common purpose with me, I’ll follow them. I will blindly follow people who, by their actions, answer the last two questions, you care about me and can I trust you?
Tim: And I always go back to that when I’m working now with my executive coaching sessions, because a lot of people are asking the same question. And my question is always the same. How would people answer those things about you by your actions? Because the problem with it, you know, we talked about it. Everybody knows the words to the script. Do I care about my people? Oh, yes, I care about me. They can trust me. Well, now, here’s the problem with those five questions. Your actions are what? Answer them. Not not your words. Everybody knows the words.
Tim: But I work with some people right now who, when covid broke, made personal phone calls to every one of the employees in their large division to say, we’re going to work together. I don’t know what the answers are, but understand that my commitment is and et cetera, et cetera. And the effect was stunning. It was galvanizing. And then I work with other leaders who say, well, I got a lot of things to do right now. We’ll take care of that later. Now, the most important resource you have used to drive home every night. Now they live in a house. But the most important is still the people that work for you. I think that’s everything.
John: Yeah. I get chills as you’re going through it and ensuring that that leader has such a commitment to their people to reach out and make phone calls like that. And, you know, people forget that. Leaders forget how important communication is and even the difference between, you know, a call versus a text or a video chat versus just a phone call. I mean, there’s different levels of having those conversations that make all the difference in the world
to people who need to see our faces now, especially when there’s confusion or uncertainty or concern or anxiety, things like that.
John: That’s what I want to talk about, executive presence, because you talk about that. I know you work with leaders on that. And I’ve had a lot of leaders ask that question. How do you build that? So I’d love to get your take on two things. What is executive presence or leadership presence and how do you build that?
Tim: Yeah, well, it’s a good question because I think executive presence is sort of cloaked in mystery. A lot of executives, a lot of companies refer to it as the IT factor. I was in a deep recession one time years ago and we were talking about a candidate for a position in the organization. And one of the people at the table said, well, I don’t know what it is about this individual, but when this person walks into the room, they’ve got it. It’s the it factor. It’s the wow factor. They’ve got it. And the other candidate doesn’t have it.
Tim: So we spend a lot of time trying to understand and ascertain, OK, what does that actually mean? I don’t know that there’s an absolute definition, but I will tell you, this is a pretty strong body of information that breaks down what is involved in executive presence. And it’s usually three different factors. And I’ll give them to you in general terms. The first in the most important is for lack of a better term, character, gravitas, about two thirds. And the date is there. If you look at the Center for Talent, Innovation or Communication, they’ve done a lot of work in those areas. They come back to this one thing saying the essence of who you are is what really resonates for your audience. So character and gravitas is about two thirds of it, and it’s the biggest piece. And then the second piece, for lack of a better term, is substance slash communication. How you go about communicating with your direct reports with others. It’s a big part of it.
Tim: And then the last piece, surprisingly enough, it’s only about five to six percent is style slash appearance. Now, it’s important if you are a six foot three and you’re a male, your chances of having a little bit better leadership presence is better than if you’re five foot seven and obese. And that’s just what the data says. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but style slash appearance does play a role. And so those three factors in combination are generally what goes into executive presence. That’s the very general definition, how do you build it?
Tim: Well, I think the way you build it is the same way you build a lot of other skills. You break it down into what’s involved in behaviorally, what goes into each of those characteristics. And we do full-day workshops on executive presence with senior executives and actually help them begin to take a look at their effect and whether or not they’re demonstrating what we consider to be a high level. And it’s fairly revealing because a lot of very, very, very bright executives are struggling there. And I think what we hope to be able to do is to give them something that says, OK, I can sink my teeth in this. If you can remove the aura, the mystery, then it becomes something that I can begin to work on.
John: It’s interesting because that’s when I hear you say gravitas, I think of confidence and I think of just self assuredness and that also and I’ve been asked a lot about that topic, how you build that. And I I think a lot of that comes it’s a culmination in the aggregation of these small, little, tiny things, which are really big things. It’s the willingness to fail and consequently willingness to take some risks. It’s a willingness to be vulnerable, to be authentic, to to, you know, to show your cards and not try to be somebody you’re not. And
it’s also that feeling that you’ve got people around you that also accept your failures, your weaknesses, because you do theirs as well. What else do you think comes into building somebody’s confidence and getting more of that gravitas? Is there more to that?
Tim: Yeah. In terms of helping others build confidence? I think that, you know, if you think about if you played any kind of sports when you were growing up, I always remind myself that I’ll give you an example from the business world. One of the first transformational leaders I ever worked with had a unique quality that I never quite appreciated until I didn’t work for him any longer. And in my book, The Solution, I talk about it. And here’s the way. Here’s the simile or the metaphor that I might use. It was like if you were playing a basketball game and you’re one of the five starters and the scores tied and there’s three seconds left on the clock and there’s going to be a shot taken, I always felt like in the business sense he would looked at me and said, Okay, Tim, after you hit the shot, we’re going to make sure that we hustle down court because there’s a chance they could throw the length of the court.
Tim: And it was a matter of fact that, OK, you’re going to take it and you’ll hit it and then we’ll go. And I remember thinking and I was a young leader at that time. So he instilled in me a level of confidence. It was a foregone conclusion. You’ll get the shot. And so what I learned from that is this Pygmalion effect, if people believe they’re capable of more than perhaps they’ve ever done before because they’re looking at someone they care about, they care about and that they trust, I think I think it’s powerful. And to your point, even if you missed the shot, there was no hey, how could you have done that? It was OK, we’ll get them next time. You were the guy that should have taken the shot.
Tim: And I think that’s the difference maker. It’s amazing. You know, I’m so passionate and I believe that great leaders of the world, I really do. And when I wrote the book, I tried to say in the preface, this is to thank those few people that changed everything for me, because by rights, there’s no way I should have had the career I had. I shouldn’t have I wouldn’t have had I not had that brush with such a rare, rare, transformational leader, I never would have happened. So to answer your question, that’s at least a start in terms of building confidence.
John: Yeah, that’s amazing that I’m smiling because of your sports story, I had a very similar one and it was in baseball and it was a coach that had a very similar type of comment. I was a strikeout king. I would strike out more times than not. And I was in a high pressure situation. He did a very similar thing and it turned out to be a great result. And I think leaders, you know, there’s a lot to be said, first of all, from what you learn from sports or school and the things that when you were a kid that you didn’t necessarily even pay attention to for leaders to go back and think about that and really think about, OK, because you have right away a couple of people that really made a really big difference in your life.
John: And you’ve carried that with you for many, many years. And now you are doing what you’re doing because of that. I think there’s a lot of people that if they thought back and said, OK, who are the teachers? Who are the coaches? Who were the parents? Who were my friends, that said something that impacted me, whether it’s positive or negative. And I carried it with me. And what was it and how did they say it? There’s a lot to be learned from that. Right. Is that whether it was the tone or the matter of factness or what they said at the right time, that’s leadership. And I think people don’t realize that sometimes.
Tim: I think you said a mouthful. You know, if we could all take the time to send a note or make a phone call or reach out and say, you know, I knew you. In my case, 30, 40 years ago, and you said something that I carried with me for the rest of my life, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that there’s this myth that leaders are born and maybe someone somewhere is. But most of us, I think, are made over time, like Clay and dropped a few times on our head. But the people that helped mold us are usually the ones that stand in the background and smile and hopefully know they made a difference. And sometimes sometimes it’s worthwhile to go back and let them know that I tried to do that, but I probably haven’t done as good a job as I should have. And I would also say I have a lot of people that technically reported to me, taught me just as much as leaders that I might have reported to. I had a good fortune of working with a lot of people who led other people, and more often than not, I found myself stealing ideas from them. I’ve learned that if you take an idea from one person, it’s called plaisir plagiarism. But if you take it from a lot of people, it’s called research. So I did a lot of research.
John: I like that. I’m going to steal that. So, yeah, that is that is great. And you know what? I think that’s a great takeaway for listeners today to go back to those people and let them know what impact they made. You know, I I think about speaking about sports. A quick story. I had a coach who Coach Pingatour taught me in baseball a way of living life, and I never would have realized that. But his attitude around playing the game, I mean, he would have us sprint full speed from the bench to our positions when we were starting at the top of the inning. You don’t see that I was a pitcher. So he would have me to sprint 30 feet or whatever it was, 50 feet. And it would take people by surprise. He would make us dove headfirst into first base instead of running through the bag, you know, passed back.
John: I mean, things you don’t see, but it’s hot. What happened is we got this confidence level. We had this feeling that we were untouchable. We intimidated other teams. I mean, they’d see us and they’d say, wow, what are these guys doing? But it was a really life changing season because I carried that mentality through a lot of my life that goes for it and play, you know, play as hard as you can. And, you know, you don’t go halfway. You go all the way when you’re going to play. So it’s amazing the impact that leaders make on our lives.
Tim: You know, it’s funny. I’m curious, why do you think that type of approach had such an impact to include intimidation on the other teams? Why do you think that happened?
John: I think in a way, any time somebody sees they saw us playing our hearts out and doing things that other people aren’t willing to do, and it was an attitude. It was a culture. It was a certain type of gravitas that we had. We had a presence that before we even played or as soon as we started playing, they realized, wow, these these guys are made a little differently than everybody else. I think that’s what did it.
Tim: I think it does, too. That’s why I ask the question I mentioned. I do a lot of work in team building in the business sector. But you just described something that I think. Has tremendous applicability to the business world that when I work with teams, one of the first things we try to impress on them is look at the greatest teams have a level of trust, you know, whether it’s Patrick Lindsay on these five dysfunctions of teams, every great team I’ve worked with, whether it’s a group of five or 5000, they have a constancy of purpose that
other people look at and go, whoa. And I’m sure those teams that saw your whether it was high school or college, saw that they saw their unified.
Tim: And I’ve always said if you have a constancy of purpose and if you have an integration of effort, then ultimately you’ll have shared ownership. And we preach those three principles. But your example actually, I may plagiarize that, too. I have to write that down because I think that’s actually a very good example that unfortunately we don’t see very often in the business world. We’re disjointed. We’re you know, we’re herky jerky. This left hand has no idea the right hand even exists. But occasionally you get that symmetry. It’s like they say you can’t whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra.
John: Yeah, it’s well it’s interesting because you know, I remember back and we were all hesitant to do it to dove into first base, but once the first guy did it it was easier for the second guy. And then before you knew it, if you didn’t do it, you were kind of the odd guy out here, you were not part of the team unless you did. So was this great unifying thing that brought us together. And we didn’t even realize the impact it would have on the other team.
Tim: Did the coach know what you ended up being and ended up doing?
John: You know what he doesn’t. And my take away from this is to reach out to him. So, Joe Pingatour, if you’re out there listening, you’re going to get a call from me.
Tim: That’s awesome. Good for you. Good for you. Yeah, that’s fantastic.
John: Yeah, that’s good stuff. Wow, this is terrific. I know we’re a little short on time here. There’s so much more I want to talk to you about. But what would you say right now for leaders that are now hopefully or soon to come out of, you know, covid and now back get back to somewhat of a normalcy and get back to what used to be the norm. But now it’s different. I mean, what does the leader do now that they go back to is it the same as it was before? Is it our what learnings are we taking? How would the future of leadership look from here?
Tim: That’s a great question. You know, I think the best leaders are probably going to be asking the same question. You just ask, what are the insights from this past 18 months and what do they mean to our business, into our future? That’s a powerful question. Really good leaders will ask more questions than offer declarations. That’s the first thing. And I think they will do their best to make sure that they’re touching the human spirit and helping people get to the next level. I don’t know. Nobody knows what the post-Covid world is going to be, but there will be an after.
Tim: I tend to think that one of the things that will happen from covid is that to your very first point, the real leaders. Will be revealed, and I say again, most managers focus on how are we going to get to our results? What is the result? How will we get their leaders to focus on a little bit more of the why and the how. But the transformational leaders, I think they focus a lot more on this, on the who that the human equation. There’s a quote by Emerson that I use when I’m working with leaders. It says, “Who you are is speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying”. I love that quote. And I think that’s probably going to be the path that the great leaders take, moving forward, connecting with people, helping them find their own identity and figuring out what the future is going to need to be.
John: Do you think a lot of leaders will find them themselves becoming irrelevant a little bit if they haven’t become a certain type of person? And if so, what type of leader would become irrelevant in the future?
Tim: I think a lot of leaders I use that term loosely have already become irrelevant. I work with clients right now. They’re asking hard questions in the life sciences. How many leaders do we need? Maybe, maybe we’ve learned we need far less than we thought. And so I guess my simple answer is the circumstances have a tendency to reveal. And in this circumstance, I think we’re going to find some leaders are already there. They’ve lost their groups. You’re going to see in certain industries, I think we’re already seeing some massive attrition, which means for the few that are really, really good, I think it’s going to be an incredible time.
Tim: You know, I mentioned the Gallup route earlier. I’m a big fan of their research before covid. If you looked at senior leaders based on some of their research and asked the question, how many of your management team, what percentage would you keep? Because they’re truly difference makers, the answer is usually about 15%-20%. So that means you jettison 80%, maybe more. I tend to think that’s probably about right. I think for almost every company there’s something like 10% that are transformational and about 80%-90% percent that are transaction.
John: It’s almost pretty amazing. I mean, could you I mean, is that transformational leader that much more impactful where a company literally could have less significantly less transformational leaders and do significantly better and more impact and larger reach?
Tim: Well, again, there’s a body of information that looks at the difference between what they consider to be the truly great leaders and the average. And the numbers are stunning. The problem is exactly what you said. So how do you build transformational leaders? What do you do? How do you do it? I’ve always said and I know we’re running low on time, if you look at most people, leaders, all of them basically do in some way three things. I mean, I hate to make it too simple, but every great leader can, first of all, attract and recruit exceptional talent. The second thing that every great leader can do is they can develop and retain that talent. Third thing, and this is the difference maker, is they can build the individual pieces into a hole that exceeds the sum of its parts. Your definition of that baseball coach, I think, is a classic example of the third piece. He took those individual pieces and said, this is the way we play the game. We’re going to be greater than the sum of our parts.
Tim: And that, I think, is where you’re going to find the realm of transformational leaders. But you’ve got to look at each of those and ask, are you doing the things to develop that quality leader and spending a lot of time now helping companies in the post-Covid world build their leadership development curriculum, including some of the things that we’re talking about now, executive presence, communication, leadership, competencies and capabilities, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s a rich time to be in the consulting world, especially for those companies that are pretty darn serious now in the aftermath of saying we need a higher caliber athlete in our leadership roles.
John: Yeah, well, and that’s I think it starts with people understanding the definition of leadership and what is a transformational leader. And then it’s a real it’s probably a different recruiting process, interviewing process when people are bringing people into their
organization. And, of course, you know the development of them. But I just think about when I’ve hired leaders in the past or other leaders that I’ve worked with have hired leaders. The interview process is really not looking for that. It’s not set up the recruiting process, necessarily the standard one to identify those transformational leaders. So that’s interesting. Is there a certain like lens you want to look through or things that you want to look for or examples that you want to look for and somebody passed that would tell you that or go into that?
Tim: I think it’s a very difficult answer and has a number of different layers. You know, I came up in an era where. The standard fare was always the best predictor of future performance is past performance, and so we would always look at levels of past performance, the conditions they operated in, the attitudes, valid values and feelings, the knowledge and skills. And we would take that and extrapolate and say, OK, given that, can this person be a great leader? And I think that is probably a good starting point. But I don’t think it’s all I think I think we’re in an intellectual slash information age where we need, again, a lot more right brain thinkers than maybe we’ve had in the past, left brain thinkers in the world I came from or predominant logical ordered linear thinking this than this, than this, than this.
Tim: But what I’m finding is there is a lot more of an appetite for people that are a little bit more creative, a little bit more right. Brain thinkers than they were before. And I think I understand why, because there was a time when if you do the right things, you’ll get results. We need people that can think a little bit more outside the box. So, again, I won’t go into too great a detail, but I think this notion of looking at the right brain in addition to the left brain is probably going to be pretty important. Ironically enough, some of the people that study in the humanities are or the arts, I think are probably going to find a place in a big part of the industry that we’re not a part of 15, 20 years ago.
John: Yeah, that’s interesting. That’s that, I think you’re right, without a doubt. I mean, you think about that. I mean, it’s interesting because almost very few interviews that I’ve seen or been part of or whatnot, do you even ask somebody about their core values? And that’s probably a great starting point just in of itself. And you’re going to learn so much about somebody and what’s really important to them. You had said earlier about understanding that leader’s mission and purpose and is that something you can align yourself with? You know, understanding what somebody is, life purposes and mission is, I think is key. And figuring out is this person really a transformational leader?
Tim: That’s beautifully said. If you’ve ever read anything about Ernest Shackleton, the voyage of the endurance Antarctica, you know, this guy died over one hundred years ago, but they always said that Shackleton, who took people through a frozen hell and brought them all back alive, they always said he didn’t hire for skills. He hired for values. He figured I can teach them the skills, but I have to have people that when it is absolutely the darkest, when we’re facing an uncertain future, in fact, facing death, I have to have people that have a different core than the norm. And so he would pass on a scientist with an incredible degree and take someone that was a. A foreman who was working on the docks because he saw something in the ladder that he didn’t see in the former. So I think you’re right, those values and some of the things that go into it probably are going to have a heavier role than in the past.
John: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you, man, this has been amazing. I’ve loved talking with you and I wish we had more time because there’s so much more I do want to chat with you about. But you are without a doubt a very obviously accomplished person. And you’re now in a position of being able to teach other leaders how to be great leaders and organizations, how to develop them. Where do people find out about you? How can they learn more?
Tim: Well, first of all, thank you. It’s been a pleasure. We only met, I guess, a week ago online. But this has been a pleasure. And I’m hoping that we can continue that. The dialog moving forward, the best place to go is thecompassalliance.com. That’s my website. You’ll see some of the blogs I’ve written, get a little bit of a sense of who I am. You can find my telephone number there and they can always reach me at
TimCole@thecompassalliance.com. I’m always ready and willing to talk to anyone and I love what I do. I’m in probably the most important chapter of my career right now because I feel like the vast majority of what I do is purposeful and there’s no greater blessing. So I appreciate it and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I appreciate it as well. And we will continue our conversations for sure. Any last bits of wisdom that you’d like to leave the audience with? And that’s a broad question. But anything that we left out or any last tidbits?
Tim: Well, I think the only thing I might say is that leadership matters at every level, whether individual contributor or managing a company of ten thousand leadership matters. And I hope that everyone is prepared to make a difference out there.
John: Excellent. Well, I hope you come back another time when we can continue our conversation. But it’s been great having you on here, too.
Tim: Thank you, John.
John: Yeah. I’d like to thank Tim Cole. We’ve been here talking about leadership and transformational leadership. Tim is the founder of the Compass Alliance. Appreciate all of you for joining in today. Hope this was valuable. I’m sure it was. Make sure you like, subscribe, share, add your comments and go down below. Give a five-star review. Of course. I appreciate that. And thank you for your time today, Tim. Thanks again.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at email@example.com Once again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! Lead on!