Leading Large with Jason Bourgo
John: Over the last two decades, I’ve 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’s 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. They are tomorrow’s leaders, so I’ve got a good friend of mine on the show today, Jason Borgo, someone who I’ve worked with many, many years ago at Ameriprise, and then we’ve just stayed friends and been really good, close friends. So I’ve gotten the chance to get to know him personally and know Jason outside of work. And what a great story this guy has just about perseverance and stepping outside comfort zones and all kinds of stuff that has led to his success. He’s loved by the people, really loved by the people that he’s led. I know that firsthand. And I think you’re going to like this without any further ado. Here’s Jason Borgo. All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader-related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Lario, your host today with a dynamite guest. Set the bar real high on this guy because I’ve known him for many years and I know he’s a dynamite guy and it will be a dynamite show. Jason Borgo, welcome. Glad to have you, man.
Jason: Thanks for having me. Thrilled to be here.
John: Absolutely. So, you know, there’s a ton I want to talk to talk to you about, and I know listeners would love to hear about. But, you know, let me I don’t actually even know the answer to this question, even though I’ve known you for so long. But what was the moment you’ve been leading for those people that don’t know you? You’ve been leading financial services for years and years, very, very successfully. When was the moment that you knew you wanted to get into leadership or was there a moment that it happened intentionally or by accident? What’s that story?
Jason: It’s a good question, John. So I’ve been in financial services for 19 years, and I kind of stumbled into the business after college and I liked it. I like the aspect of going out and prospecting for new clients and sitting down and figuring out what their goals are and helping them achieve that. And the company that I started my career at the time had a lot of new advisors that would join the firm and then stay affiliated in a branch or move on and create their own independent franchise if you will. So just by the nature of how the business was structured, younger advisors like myself were asked at an early stage in their career to take a day or two out of their practice to teach and mentor brand new advisors. So looking back on it, it sounds a little crazy that somebody that might have been. Six, 12, 18 months it was starting to lead brand new advisers, but I found a lot of enjoyment out of that and that led to me taking on broader leadership roles over the years.
John: Well, you know what? That’s funny. You know that is like really soon to get into that. By most people’s perspective, it’s like, OK, you’ve got to get a few years under your belt. But did you feel at that time so you were kind of tapped on the shoulder to say, hey, can you help lead some of these other advisers? Was that what it was or did you raise your hands? Exactly right. OK, so was that like I mean, how are you feeling at that point? Did you feel like? Oh, yeah, yeah. I have a lot to offer. Were you thinking, what the hell am I doing in this role?
Jason: Probably a bit of both. But, you know, what I found is the same feeling that I had to work with a client when I’m wanted, you know, being there at the moment that their eyes opened up and they start to understand what they needed to change on a daily basis or yearly basis to achieve their goals, being able to do that through other advisors and getting the professional enjoyment out of seeing both the adviser, you know, having the same emotions or reactions or understanding of what needed to change and then being able to lead through other advisers to impact more clients. I always found that to be really interesting and enjoyable aspect of the business.
John: Well, it’s interesting, too, because, you know, and an analogy comes to mind. It’s almost like, you know, pilots when they’re flying planes, you know, they’re there might be a plane that’s, you know, 10 miles ahead of another one. And there they’re relaying back some turbulence that’s coming up. And they might not be, you know, a thousand miles ahead. They’re ten miles ahead. It’s not like, you know, as a leader, you weren’t three or four years ahead. You were a few months ahead, but you still had a lot to offer. You can let them know what’s coming down the road. And that’s part of leadership, right? I mean, if you’re better then and more skilled or knowledgeable than somebody, you’re in a position to influence them in a positive way in that regard. And that’s probably you had some success doing that.
Jason: Yeah, that’s a great point. And then also, I’ll forget exactly what the quote is, but the quote talks about how, you know, people that really refine their skill set, they get there by being able to teach others how to do it. So the ability to get out there and see more plane scenarios and helping others get new clients, the more I did that, the better I got at it myself and the more I learned along the way. And I think that’s true in all parts of my leadership career over the years.
John: It’s funny, you just made me remember a story where I remember Mike Rearden, who we both know had asked me when I was in my maybe second year to teach a class on Bycel agreements, and I didn’t even know what a buy-sell agreement was. I had no idea. And I said I can’t teach a class. I have no idea what it was. He said that’s exactly what I want you to teach a class. And that process of learning, getting to the point where I felt like I could do an OK job teaching it made it be a topic that I became really well versed in through my whole career. So it was interesting to your point, when you teach something, you become great at it. That’s a whole different level of mastery. That’s right. Yeah, that’s great. So you do get a bunch of people that are listening in all different industries, in all different walks of life that might be looking interested in getting into leadership and kind of like a formal role. What would be your advice for that person if they’re not in a formal role, they want to move up? They want to get promoted? They see that as a career track. What advice would you give to them?
Jason: A couple of things that come to mind, John, number one is and again, depending on the business or the industry that they’re in, but having them sit down with their current leader and helping them understand what their career aspirations are and putting together a development plan in place to me that be step number one. You know, once you know that you want to get into a leadership role, the other part to really be thinking about is I think people have to be that leader before they’re officially appointed to that next promotion or new title. And so you need to really start to not just continue to drive your personal business forward or, you know, what’s important to your daily activities, but also start to assume the role of that leader before being officially promoted into it. And so I think when those two things come together, your leaders clear on what your aspirations are. You’ve got a plan in order to get there and you’re starting to do the role. Good things will happen.
John: Yeah, that’s such a great point. What do you think? So when, you know, you’ve gone you have moved physically, so you’ve gone from one area to another. You’ve changed roles. So you’ve gone from one level to another. For a lot of leaders, that’s challenging. And now you’re you’ve just started you got a great opportunity with Lincoln Investment as the regional VP down in the south. So you’re leading a huge territory. Two hundred and fifty plus advisors. So when a leader goes through a massive change like that, either location, company, rank, position, whatever, what are some of the things that they need to do? You’ve done it. I know a few times successfully. What are some of the things they need to keep in mind?
Jason: Yeah, that’s a good question. I personally think you know, going back to, you know. Things that we’ve talked about on and off camera about enjoying your life professionally and personally, I would recommend that when you look to move for a leadership position, that you’ve got to make sure you know, first and foremost that it’s the right company. You’ve got the right leaders that you’re working with. But I also think it’s important that if you’re going to pick up and move to a different area from a geographic standpoint, that it’s going to be a place that’s going to be the right fit for you and your family. And I remember when I moved from Maine to D.C., actually, I had a funny story. One of the things that I was nervous about was how much time am I going to spend in traffic? And so I lived in Portland, Maine, which was a beautiful little seaside New England town. And if traffic was really bad, it took me 10 minutes to get to work. And I not spent a lot of time in the D.C. market. And so my previous foster, Lester, recommended that I go down for a couple of days, you know, rent a car and just drive around and get a feel for what it would be. And I ended up doing that and driving around one day and I realized that there was hardly any traffic down here. And I’m zipping around the Washington, D.C. downtown, the greater metro area. And I remember calling my father later that night and saying, I don’t know what the complaints are all about this. Hardly any traffic out there. And it turns out it was Veteran’s Day or a holiday like that. That would be my recommendation, is just to spend time in the area that you’re going to relocate to again to make sure it’s going to be a fit both professionally and personally.
John: That’s a great point. You know, and I don’t think a lot of everybody’s thinking about the job first. But you forget, you know, if you’re happy personally and happy with where you’re living, it’s a lot easier to do better with the job. And if you didn’t like that area, you would have opportunities in another area that you would love. You know, I’ve moved around many, many times in my life, and I remember I was in Hartford, Connecticut. Everything was going great, love my life, loved work. And I was offered an opportunity to go up to Boston with Larry Post and I said, you know, I don’t know. I don’t think so. You know, thanks for the opportunity. And it was a great one, but I just didn’t want to move. And he said, John, just comes up for the weekend, just come up, take a weekend, come on up, just like Larry does. And I did. And it happened to be this perfect, beautiful weekend. I was married at the time and my wife and I went up and it was just gorgeous. We fell in love with the place and then went up there. And it was a great decision. So I think you’re absolutely right. You got to love the place geographically where you’re going to be is as much as the opportunity for sure.
Jason: It’s good. You grew up in Burlington, Vermont, and also went to the University of Vermont. And it was interesting that to talk to the kids at school that had moved from down south and didn’t understand what a northern New England winter was like because they’d come to check out the campus in the summertime when, yes, it’s a beautiful time of the year and the lake is there and it’s warm and you get the mountains that are, you know, that is right there. So I think you want to spend the time to understand what part of the country you’re moving to. But first and foremost, to me, it’s about the opportunity from a professional standpoint. And I have people that reach out to me, you know, from a previous company and others and know we’ll run ideas by me as to whether or not they should relocate or take a different job within the company. And what I remind them of is what my old boss, Joe Wexner, had counseled me on a number of years ago, that when you’re having success in leadership, there’s going to be an abundance of opportunities. And so you don’t need to jump at the first one that comes your way. You want to make sure it’s going to be the, you know, the right fit, the right team, right leader, the right area.
John: Absolutely. Do you think it’s it’s funny and I’d love to get your perspective because I definitely have some thoughts on this? Do you think it’s good for people to stay in a role for a long time? Is there some merit to that? Some like OK, some honor to that and stay with the same opportunity for a long time and for many, many years? Or do you think it’s better for people to take on new responsibilities, even if that means changing companies or changing roles or whatever?
Jason: I think that depends on everybody. John, one of the things that I would recommend, though, is to make sure that you’re always developing yourself professionally, whether it’s getting a new designation or taking on some horizontal responsibilities across the firm or a larger part of your organization. If you want to stay in your current role in order for the role to not get scale and perhaps have the business run past you, you got to continue to develop professionally. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with staying in the same role. I was in my longest tenure. The different roles that I had were nine years. As a branch manager and the complex director positions to oversee multiple branches started coming my way before I was really thinking about moving on to a different role, you know, with the company. But what I realized when I started to learn about the new opportunities is that I was starting to I don’t want to say getting bored with the position, but it was time for me to do something different and expand my responsibilities. So, again, nothing wrong with staying in the same role. Just keep developing yourself. Keep challenging yourself. But also don’t be afraid to make the leap and go to a different, you know, a different part of the organization, take on a higher role in my case, like I just did very recently, switch firms to take on a larger responsibility here at Lincoln Investment. You want to make sure that when things start to get scaled, I think your skillset and what you deliver to your people, in my case, divisors is going to be subpar. So when you get to that spot, you want to continue to challenge yourself professionally and get to the next level.
John: Yeah, I agree 100 percent. You know, you people need to be growing. And that’s one of the things people you tend to get, you know, especially if you’ve done a role for a long period of time. It just gets comfortable. You know what to do. You know what to expect. The new challenges, you’ve kind of got everything wired tightly and it’s just going in there to maintain almost, which can feel good because you’ve got this machine running. But as far as your personal development and growth, you’re not stepping out. You’re not doing anything that’s making you uncomfortable. And I see a lot of leaders do that where they get to a point where they do stop growing and they don’t even realize it because there’s some enjoyment factor, because it’s easy. But in reality, they’re a year, two, three years down the road. They’re no better off. And I know that happened to me in a period of time in my career. That’s what actually made me make the decision partly to go to Boston was I felt like my role, it was going great, but it was there was nothing that was making me uncomfortable. Every week I kind of go in there and do the same thing. So, yeah,
Jason I think that’s something that John and I coach advisers for a living. And I see that with advisors that’s not taking on new clients and start growing their business where it just becomes a daily and weekly routine of servicing the distinct clients. And a couple of things happen just through natural attrition. They’ll start to lose clients, you know, just the clients that are taking money out for their retirement goals or are passing away or what have you. And I find that the enjoyment level and the passion of those advisors that don’t grow decreases significantly. And ultimately the business becomes less fun for them. And it’s a subpar experience for the client that’s out there versus the advisor that’s looking to move upmarket, looking to bring on a certain number of new households in on a basis or, you know, just looking to add on to what they offer in their business, doing something above and beyond just the wealth management side and perhaps targeting executives or small business owners or just doing something a little bit different.
John: Yeah, that’s a great point. So let me ask you a tough question. What you’ve seen a lot of different leaders out there. What have you seen or what do you think is one of the more common mistakes that leaders make today?
Jason: Good question, I think. I think if leaders. Just blindly follow a business plan or a playbook, so to speak, without getting a chance to know the advisers or their clients or the folks at that roll up to them personally as well in understanding what’s important to those folks, both professionally and personally. And what are what is it that why are they working? What is it that they’re looking to achieve? There’s a lot that’s lost there. And I’ve certainly been guilty of that at times. And I’ve learned from that. We’re all we’re all busy. There’s often a lot at stake with the businesses that we’re running, but we can’t lose touch of that personal interaction with the people that we lead. And that’s been a challenge in the pandemic for a lot of folks. And people have gotten really creative in terms of how to maintain that that personal touch and personal relationship. And I think the people that have figured out how to do that are coming out ahead versus the ones that haven’t.
John: Well, it’s interesting because, you know, you do there’s a whole difference with this whole world that we’re in right now where everything is virtual. You know you don’t have the physical touch. You don’t have even just the presence. I was talking to somebody assigned to people on the last day, and I was saying something like, I forget what it was that brought up the comment. But this one person had I had made some kind of comment about I’m six-three and two hundred and forty-five pounds, she said, I would never have guessed that. I thought you were significantly shorter. I’m like, I am not. But she said I’m five. I’m like, what are five three? I never would have guessed that either. Yet we’d been working together for a long time and then somebody else who had said, I’m six feet. My point with that is like you, you sometimes just lose that connection that we naturally have. When we meet people and we see them, we see how their aura, how they move their energy, whatever the case is. How how do you make those connections? I mean, you’re a super personal, personal guy. You build relationships, you thrive on that. Are there any things that you’ve figured out like, OK, in this virtual world? Here’s how I do a little better job of making those connections, even when I’m not able to be, you know, physically with them.
Jason: It’s a good question, John. I’ll say this, and it’s no secret that one of the silver linings to the pandemic in the business world has been how far and how fast we move forward in leveraging technology. So I think the skill set that we’ve all picked up doing what we’re doing today on the computer, on camera, those are going to be important skill sets that are going to be needed to continue to compete moving forward and so that there’s going to be some great benefits to that. But I also think when I’ll speak for myself as we get on the other end of this pandemic, going back to you, just meeting somebody for lunch without an agenda or meeting them for a glass of wine after work, without a business agenda and just getting a chance to communicate and really understand and see how they’re doing will go a long way to continue to build and retain the relationships. And I think people it is certainly a time and place for the more structured, you know, business conversations. And we’re probably doing that, you know, 80, 90 percent of the time during our workdays. But what I try to do during a pandemic was call people again just out of the blue randomly, see how they’re doing, you know, make it a point to ask about their family or what’s how the pandemic is affecting them personally. If it is. And I found that that one way we did some fun stuff through Zuman to keep some of the cultures up and have a little bit of fun. But I think having the genuine personal touch went a long way, and I’m looking forward to doing more than in person.
John: Yeah, I’ll bet. I know that’s coming up around the corner. So that’s going to feel good for sure. So I know that leadership, it’s not just about you’re a leader in your work life. You know, you’re a leader also personally as well. And I’m always interested to find out from leaders, you know, what does that mean to you? So when you think about how you lead your personal life, what’s important about that to you and what does that mean, and what does that even look like?
Jason Yeah, so I think one of the things that I try and do is to eat right and have the right amount of exercise. And for me, it’s a balance. I’ve never been one that can be at at the gym every single morning at, you know, at five-thirty. And I’m not one that’s going to do a lot of the meal prep for the next seven days that’s there. But just like in business, like having an outline of what my week is going to look like as I make the turn from the weekend into the workweek, I know what my schedule is going to look like, both professionally and personally. And that helps me stay on track with things like fitness and eating right, as well as having the right balance of social interactions and spending time with friends and family out outside of work.
John: That’s great. And you know, I know you from talk and talking with you. I know you’re a big biker and you’re doing this major ride this weekend. What is that like? I mean, the mental side of doing is it one hundred and how many miles? Five hundred and five miles. So with something like that, I mean, what, what’s the mental side of that like? Because I can’t imagine the physical side, but I’m assuming the mental side is probably even as bad, if not worse. I mean, how do you kind of lead yourself through that and cut yourself through being able to do something like that?
Jason: So it’s interesting at the previous company that I had the pleasure of working alongside a number of triathletes that did Ironman triathlons and John, that’s not on my radar. That’s not a gold mine. So I’m not here to talk about that. But what they would share with me is that the preparation from a fitness standpoint, from a nutrition standpoint, happens over a long period of time. And once you get into the race and, you know, they swim two and a half miles, they run a marathon, they bike something like one hundred and twenty miles. But they’ll tell me that by the time they’re in the middle of the race, it’s 95 percent mental as opposed to physical. So, you know, being able to, you know, just trust that you’ve done the right level of preparation from nutrition and from a fitness standpoint and being able to just ride through that is how those athletes are able to do it. And I think part of that sustainable business, right, when you got whether it’s an important meeting that you’re in, a stressful sales presentation, you want to make sure you’ve done your homework on who your audience is, you’ve done the right amount of preparation. You know exactly what’s going to happen in case they say no or in case the meeting gets interrupted and being able to to have that peace of mind that you can fall back on the preparation that you’ve done and knowing it’s going to get you to where you want to go is critical.
John: Yeah, that’s exactly that’s such a great point. The preparation is so key, you know, and that’s the part that really does take a lot of discipline. Right. I mean, whether whatever it is, whether it’s work, whether it’s a hobby, whether it’s racing, that’s where people ultimately fall short because oftentimes you don’t want to do it. That’s the hard work that makes the game time, you know, so much better.
Jason: Yeah, I see that a lot with my golf game, John. So I probably golf half a dozen times each year. I don’t go to the range. I haven’t taken lessons consistently and then I get out golfing and I wonder why my game is so bad.
John: Yeah, when I go out to golf with my dad every time he’s like, do you want to hit out some balls beforehand? I’m like, No, not really. He likes to hit out, you know, balls beforehand. And I have a lot of friends that do too. That’s how they get the rhythm. I’m like, I just get out there and hit and then I wonder why I hit so badly.
Jason: So probably the same mentality that I do if I hit a nice drive off of the at the range, I’m thinking, man, I just I sort of save that for exactly right.
John: I worry I’m like Ellis. I only have a certain amount of really good shots. I do not want to waste them on the range, you know, but I guess that’s why I’m a twenty-five handicap. Yeah, some. Well I know we’re coming to the close here and only got a couple more minutes but what is, is you think about moving forward and the name of this podcast is tomorrow’s leader. What does tomorrow’s leader look like in your mind? What are the traits that you think are most important?
Jason: I think it’s something is going to be able to, you know, to really adapt to what this new world is going to look like, you know, post a pandemic. And, you know, one of the reasons, John, that I took on this new role with good looking investment, I’m thinking about the independent nature of the firm and how many different business models that they have. I’ll have to do a lot of learning to get up to speed with all of that. But I think the business world moving forward is going to be more flexible. It’s going to be more complex. So understanding that the managers of the future need to do what we talked about earlier, be able to maintain that personal interaction with their people and doing so creatively, whether it be in person or through technology, as well as being a real student of their craft, to differentiate themselves from others is going to be critical. There’s so much information that’s out there. So just about everybody can get out and have that, you know, that baseline level knowledge. But I think leaders really distinguish themselves when they can bring something to the table that the majority of the leaders can’t.
John That’s such a great point. And as you mentioned before, knowing your people and actually taking the time, which, you know, many leaders don’t, you know, they don’t really take the time to understand their people’s goals and their ambitions. And that’s a differentiator, no doubt. You know, people, especially nowadays, want to know their leaders, a real person, and cares about them, not just the mission or the vision, but cares about them individually and their piece of this whole puzzle, so to speak.
Jason: And they know you’ve got a corporate or business agenda that you want to drive forward. And that’s OK. But they’re going to care more about their goals, first and foremost. But when you can bring. Both of those passed together and achieve a different result. I think that’s really where the rubber meets the road.
John: I agree. And you can always tell the leaders that truly do care versus the ones who just say they do. There are actions behind that, you know, that that that validate that. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Good stuff. Great conversation, man. I wish we had more time. Obviously will hopefully get a chance to have you back on this show at some future time. But if people want to get a hold of you, I know you’re on LinkedIn and I’ll tag you on our post. Is there any other place that you want people to go or is LinkedIn the best place to reach you?
Jason: Which is perfect. I’ll make sure that know my new contact information is updated there and my cell phone number will be there. And it’s a leadership, a real passion of mine. So I’m thrilled to be on your podcast. I’ve watched a ton of them. They’re great. And I’m happy to have, you know, anybody, you know, reach out to me to pick my brain. And I’ll in turn look to learn from them as they reach out to me as well as somebody.
John: Well, I appreciate you greatly and appreciate your time today. It’s been an awesome,
Jason: great time, John. Have a great weekend. Catching up.
John: Thank you. And thanks, everybody, for joining today. Today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. I hope you enjoyed hearing from Jason Borgo, leader extraordinaire, new RVP of the South, and Lincoln Investment. He’s available to contact on LinkedIn. We’ll make sure we tag him on our social posts and put all his info in the show notes. But as always, like share, subscribe, go down below, give a five-star review. Let us know your thoughts. And of course, as always, I’m interested in your ideas for future guests or topics for this show. And in the meantime, hope you have a great weekend. Thanks for joining everybody. Take care. Thanks, John. 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 John@lauritogroup.com. Once again, that’s John@lauritogroup.com
John: Thanks, lead on.