Today host John Laurito is joined by Hall Of Fame Speaker, Best Selling Author, Coach, and President of Blackman and Associates, Jeff Blackman. They talk about the importance of listening to your people as a leader and how it can help you hit the mark in terms of directing your company to where you want it to go.
As a speaker, author, success coach, radio/TV broadcaster, and lawyer, Jeff combines his background to help you become an even more powerful, persuasive, and profitable—individual, team, or company.
Since 1982, Jeff has shared his positive and profit-producing messages with numerous; Fortune 500 companies, closely-held businesses, entrepreneurial-driven organizations, solo practitioners, and association audiences throughout the world.
Jeff is a Contributing Editor or columnist to many magazines and newspapers. His best-selling books include; the Opportunity $elling sales quotation book and the revised and upgraded 5th edition of Peak Your Profits. The bestselling RESULT$ and Carpe A.M. • Carpe P.M. – Seize Your Destiny books, And Stop Whining! Start Selling! achieved “Bestseller” status on Amazon within one month of its release.
In business, quality is measured by results. Jeff guarantees results. Be sure to take a peek at his incredible No-Risk Assurance. As a dynamic and multi-faceted business-growth specialist, Jeff shares his positive and profit-producing messages with corporate, association, and entrepreneurial audiences throughout the world. From the boardroom to the ballroom.
Jeff is a happy husband, devoted father, veteran softball player, avid biker—and a loyal or nutty Chicago Cubs fan! He and his family are also crazy Chicago Blackhawks, Bears, and Bulls fans. (They also love the Cubs, yet spend lots of their time, aside from the 2016 World Series Championship, consoling Jeff!) On Sunday nights, the Blackmans can often be spotted together at a local hip, happenin’, or dive restaurant…eating, talking, and laughing!
Learn more about Jeff at:
Get your own sweet sixteen!
Email Sheryl at Sheryl@JeffBlackman.com with the subject “Sweet Sixteen John Rocks”
[1:53] What’s foremost on the minds of leaders he works with?
[6:12] What keeps leaders up at night? Keeping their clients or employees?
[11:10] How do CEOs find out that there’s a problem?
[20:09] The Relationship Power
[22:50] His upcoming book, Bullseye: Hitting Your Targets At Home and At Work
[25:50] Words of wisdom from Jeff
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over 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. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John All right. Today’s guest is Jeff Blackman. He is a Hall of Fame speaker. He is a best-selling author. He’s got a new book coming out in January called Bullseye. Be sure to check it out. We get everything in the show notes. Had a great conversation with Jeff. Really impressive guy. We talked and you’re going to leave this episode with some really tangible stuff that you can use. We talked a lot about the power of listening and how leaders can really understand people and a situation better by asking the right questions. And we went through a bunch of different examples. I love their conversation. I think you will, too. So here is Jeff Blackman.
John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader will be dove deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I am really happy to be here with Jeff Blackman. Jeff, great to have you on the show. I appreciate you.
Jeff My pleasure, John. Great to be with you and your many listeners and viewers.
John Well, you are a multidimensional, dynamic, well known. I almost say famous guy, because I know in hearing about you, researching you, you are all over the place and a busy guy. And there’s so much I want to talk to you about because I know you have you have impacted so many different types of businesses and leaders. And I’m interested to get your perspective. I mean, what what is on what’s foremost on the mind right now of CEOs, business owners, C-suite executives, people that you’re working with?
Jeff Well, what’s so interesting about that question is that as much as things change in an ongoing environment of flux, there are certain things that do not change. So when I chose not to practice law, John, I’ve been a lawyer since 1982 and I began my business now 40 plus years ago, is that leaders decades ago or leaders now are still thinking about some of the same things. Why I call those principles and principles never changed. They are etched in stone. They are gospel. They are forever true. But what does change is how you choose to place the principles that into practice. So leaders of any organization. So I work with clients that might have millions of dollars in revenue, top line, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even well in excess of a billion or 2 billion plus. But all leader, CEO, Business Owner, President, EVP, SVP, Chief Revenue Officer they’re still thinking about then as well as now about the same thing. What does that include? They’re always focused on what can we do to either protect our business, preserve our business, or grow our business. They’re also focused on things like acquisition. How do we get more customers? How do we get more clients after acquisition? Then it’s satisfaction. How do we keep them happy? And then it’s retention. How do we hang on to those customers? Because as you and I both know, the cost of acquiring a new customer is significantly higher than really deepening that relationship with a current customer who knows you and likes you and loves you and trust you. But also the leaders that I’ve been really fortunate to work with, they really want a partner. And I stress to clients when I work with them as leaders or their sales teams, whomever it might be. Do not position yourself as a vendor or a preferred vendor. They go, Well, why? I go, vendors are expendable, partners are invaluable. And as a partner, what enables you to do is create that partnership relationship with a high level of trust when trust is high. John, what’s low? Fear. When trust is high, fear is low. And that’s true externally as well as internally and other things that are really important to leaders that I’m now working with. And again, it hasn’t changed over time is what do we do to find the best people? How do we make sure we hang on to the best people? What are the skills, the attitudes and the behaviors that are required to help them become significant contributors to not only our success, but the success of those that we serve? And it’s really important that there is an environment or a culture of transparency, trust, honesty. One of the greatest compliments that I ever got from a CEO of a multibillion dollar organization in the organization, happy on a multi-year retainer is you really appreciated my candor. And here’s how he expressed it. He said to me, Blackman, I’ve got so many clients that don’t call me by anything but my last name. And he said, BLACKMAN What I love best about you is the following You never protect your butt and you never kiss mine. Great. And what he gave me, John, was really a supreme compliment because he knew I would always give it to him straight without ever saying, Let me be honest, let me be straight. Let me be frank. To be candid, I always was. He might not like what I was telling him about his organization, but he valued it because he knew he couldn’t get it from those who worked for him. Right.
John Exactly. So much there. And I love what you’re talking about. I want to talk about transparency in a minute, but I want to go back to one thing that you said in that CEOs and leaders are concerned, of course, not only about acquiring clients, but keeping clients. What are they more stressed, do you think about keeping clients? Are they more stressed about keeping employees? And they’re top people and top leaders. What do you think keeps them awake at night more than the other?
Jeff It really depends upon the company what they sell, product or service. I spoke to a leader recently and they said that COVID, like many that I work with, has actually been very good for their business. Why they happened to be in the home related business with respect to interior furnishings, accessories, if you will. So when people were stuck in their homes since March of 2020, over the past now two and a half years, their business skyrocketed. So leaders are always looking for great customers who they can grow their business with, but they also need great people. If you do not have the right people in the right seat, then it’s an issue. So over the years, I have actually said to clients, again, leaders of any size organization, I’ll ask this question, how do you want me to share information with you about you and your organization? Well, what do you mean? I go, Do you want me to be honest or do I want me to be diplomatic? What do you think they say?
Jeff Of course. And I go. I’ll never say, Let me be honest or I will be honest, but I always will be. So as a result, I have gone to leaders and said, this individual is not in the right seat. This individual is hurting your organization. And I remember years ago contacting a CEO who was on the other side of the country. I was with his team in the east, and I went there to help them with respect to a sales blitz, again, ongoing relationship. I’m with them at least once a month or more. But I walked in and I went, There’s something funny going on here. And it was right before the 4th of July holiday. This was decades ago. And I went, There’s something that’s just not right. So I asked their sales leader, Hey, can I just kind of talk to your folks and little mini groups? And they had a sales force in that location, probably around 40 to 50 people, maybe even more. And he said, sure, they love you. Do whatever you like. So I got folks together in small little groups, no more than ten. I said, What’s going on? And they proceeded to tell me, John, about how they didn’t trust their sales leader. The sales leader was causing them chaos, and they were planning almost half the sales force not to return after the 4th of July holiday.
Jeff Could you imagine that taking place and the impact that would have on an organization?
John Unbelievable. Yeah.
Jeff So when I sensed this and my gut told me that before they articulated that because I kept hearing what they were concluding. But before they quite got to that message, I said to myself, they’re going to leave because they are so ticked off at this guy. I called on the other end of the country, their CEO who was traveling and I said, You have a problem. He said, What do I do? I said, You get your butt back here tomorrow. And I suggest that you have family meetings with your people to find out how you solve this. And he said, will you stay over and help me facilitate these meetings? And I said, yes. He said, What do we do with this leader? I said, We’ll have that discussion after we have these family meetings. So we had a series of family meetings. He then said, What do we do with the leader? I go. Here are your choices. Keep him in his current position. Likely lose half your sales force, fire him or find another division that he can’t create, harming and perhaps will be able to succeed in that other division. And this CEO chose that last decision. So he placed him into another division. Interesting news, John. Nobody left. They did not lose a single person. Everybody hung around. Why? Because that leader addressed it with transparency, said, I understand there’s an issue. Let’s discuss it. That’s a big deal. People really want to know that you have a willingness to listen. And that’s typically at the top of their priorities, not what’s the vacation package? What’s the compensation bill? Yeah, important. But you and I both know from your leadership work. Seldom are bucks at the top of the list.
John Yeah. So I have a great story, and I love that. I love stories and examples. You have CEOs that might be listening saying, okay, that’s the right step and the right action and solution to that problem. But how do I is the CEO find out that there’s a problem? They were fortunate to have you there to dove in and and bubble up a problem that was a fire in the walls. But if I’m a CEO, listen in. What what might I do? And what’s the lesson from this? And how might I be able to find that out before people have the team leaves?
Jeff So it’s a great question with really a very simple answer. There is a natural tendency for folks who have risen to that level of leadership, whether it’s CEO, president, business owner, anyone listening with whatever your title happens to be. And it sounds so simplistic, but it’s essential. Listen, take the time to really listen to your people, to your customers, to your clients, to your prospects. One of my favorite leaders gave him a Doug Ridge. So Doug and I began working together when he was the general manager of the Marriott Magnificent Mile here in Chicago on Michigan Avenue, or what we call The Magnificent Mile. So that was a terrific leader and he had a great team. And one of the things that he did is that he would walk the hotel on a regular basis, and he called himself the lobby lizard. And as the lobby lizard, he said he would just look. Pay close attention, observe and go up to his people and ask, hey, how you doing today? What’s working really well? What do you see that I’m missing that we could really do to improve the guest experience of this hotel? He’d introduce himself to guests, and he would do the same thing. I’m the general manager. I am thrilled that you’ve chosen our property. What do you like best? What do you think we might be able to do different? What can we do that would change or influence you to once again return and have a fabulous experience of this property? And because of that approach, they were one of the top Marriotts in the entire beer ad organization. And then Doug went on to other principal positions of leadership with other properties throughout the country with even significantly more rooms could be tied to a convention center. So he knew the significance of great questions. And if you like, I can share with you some questions that I’ve shared with leaders that they ought to ask, either external or internal.
John Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff So here are just a few. And one of the things that I suggest is to why people should ask these questions is what they do is they confirm expectations and they eliminate assumptions. Let me repeat that. They confirm expectations and they eliminate assumptions. And externally, in terms of driving business or internally with your people. The reason that you ask these questions, John, are what I call the three piece. Here’s the first one. Know your purpose? Why are you asking the question? Know your purpose. Why are you asking the question? What are you hoping to accomplish for you and the individual whom you ask? Secondly, what are your power probes? And power probes are open ended. Need development questions and I’ll give examples soon. And they begin with a who, what, when or where, why, which, a how or a tell me more about and explain to me how I described for me. Those last three are the TED principle. Ted, tell me more about explain to me how. And describe for me the third piece, Parade of Progress. So the parade of progressives, what are you going to do to keep things moving forward with a customer, a client, a prospect? Partner or one of your teammates. There should be something to move things forward. You do that with what I call the success formula, which is I will do X by Y, I will do X by Y, which is what’s the behavior? What’s the timeline? And that really goes to commitment, deliverables and accountability. Some simple questions that you can ask people. What are your challenges? What are your challenges? That works. Internal. That works. External. Here are two of not only my favorite questions, but clients tell me they become their favorite questions, which are What will you value most in our relationship? What will you value most in our relationship? Here’s another one. How will we measure results? How will we measure results? As a leader, you can ask internally of your people, What are some of the things that you’d like to accomplish? How can I help you achieve that goal? And a goal is simply the progressive movement toward an eventual realization of a worthwhile idea. That’s the purpose of a leader not to boast about. Well, when I was a salesperson. Salespeople don’t care about that. They want to know what will you do to help them be more successful? In addition, you can focus on what are some opportunities you think that we could really take advantage of that we’re not currently taking advantage of. And I have got a boatload of questions that I could rattle off now, but instead, let me make an offer to your listeners and your viewers. So we’ll share with them something that we called the Sweet 16. And the Sweet 16 are 16 questions that you can use internal. It works with your team or external with customers, clients and prospects. So if they’d like to get the Sweet 16, here’s all they need to do. Send an email to Sheryl sheryl1 more time. Sheryl s hpr while at Jeff Blackman dot com. Sheryl at Jeff Blackman dot com. And then the subject John all they need to put is sweet 16. John Rocks. So what we see. Sweet 16. John Rocks. We know exactly what that means. And Sheryl will send you this sweet 16 that others have found incredibly helpful because it’s like, whoa, because more open ended and what they allow someone to do is articulate a problem to solve, a need to feel or a dream or goal to get. When people do that, once again, you eliminate the assumption, you confirm the expectation, and that catapult you to new understanding, new possibilities, new results.
John I love it. Well, we’ll put all that in the show notes as well. So we’ll have it for for listeners definitely to check that out. And questions are just powerful. I see that the best leaders are truly the ones that are asking questions that so many leaders out there that are doing the talking and and giving what they think are the answers and and missing the whole boat on the power of asking questions. And that alienates people when they’re not when they’re just listening to a leader versus truly feeling the leaders trying to understand them. That’s just a major gap.
Jeff I think is significant. Let me just follow up on what you said, because it’s so important what you just said. So I’m chatting with a leader yesterday and I’ve been working with these folks now for over a year. And one of the folks who I also had been working with was the director of sales. So the leader who I chatted with yesterday is the leader who the director of sales reports to. And the leader informed me that one of their salespeople said that when this director of sales would show up to allegedly help them, basically what he did was just a high five way to go in was off. And that really disturbed them. Now, interesting that director of sales is no longer with this organization. Mm hmm. And that director of sales I had been coaching 1 to 1 the last communication that I had with that individual. They had requested that I have a conversation with them. There are several things they wanted to discuss with me. So I sent an email in an attempt to schedule that meeting. Didn’t hear back. Sent another email. Didn’t hear back. Texted. Didn’t hear back. Sent another email. And I went. Something’s not right. Something tells me he ain’t there anymore. And it turned out he’s not well. And he is no longer there. And in the process of his departure, he did some things that I’ve now learned that were issues of character. You can understand when behavior might plummet. There could be things tied to a personal, whatever it might be. But when you do things that are tied to your character, that sends a loud message. And that’s something that you always have to protect. Your character reigns supreme.
John Yeah. And I know you talk a lot about questioning in your books. I want to talk about your book in a minute. I just have a quick question before we talk about your books. One of the things I know you talk about is relationship power and the little R and the big are tell, tell. Tell us about that. What is that?
Jeff So what I discovered decades ago is that everybody says that their business is a relationship business. So with you and your background in financial services, if I asked you financial services that relationship business. Yeah. And if you sold the widget relationship business. Yeah. So everyone said their business was a relationship business but it didn’t dig deep enough. So that’s why we created the concept of strategy. Again, it’s a principle, but to help people put it into practice to generate profit. We said there are two aspects. Typically we only think of the little ah and the little hours, things like courtesy, professionalism, dignity, humanity, respect, the typical things we do to be a good person. The Hebrew or the Yiddish word, a mensch, a good human being important? Well, of course it’s important, but it’s not enough. That’s why you need bigger. And bigger is what I call the growth specialist aspect of the relationship. So you must be a great human being that’s helping others attain great results, whether it’s personal or professional product service, whatever it might be. And that focus on things like helping others maximize, gain, minimize loss, improve performance, productivity, profitability, peace of mind assurance. So you put little R together, great person with bigger, great result. That is a powerful combination, not for transactional result before I call long term annuitize results and that’s the goal. Annuities iteration on going why the cost of acquisition doesn’t exist anymore. They know you like you, love you, trust you, and you discover. Discover really more ways that you can help them accomplish what they want to accomplish. There are only two driving motivators, John, for any business, only two driving motivators on the part of decision makers. And this is true external or internal. The only thing people want you to do is to improve their condition. That’s the present. The next thing they want you to do is help them attain a more favorable future. That’s the future. So if you can help someone improve their condition and attain a more favorable future, you’re doing the exact same thing for you. True of prospects, clients, customers, and true of your team. So any leader should be asking themselves, What can I do to improve the condition of my people? What can I do to help them attain a more favorable future?
John Excellent. I love it. You’ve got many successful, very successful books, bestselling books pique your profits. You’ve got a new book coming out called Bullseye, I believe, early next year. Is that right?
Jeff Yeah. Bull’s eye. Right now, the game plan is for Bullseye to actually be released in January of 2023. So ideally, you and I can hop on a call like this again and talk about Bullseye. And Bullseye is hitting your targets at home and at work, and it’s really based upon what’s become a signature story of mine. And that signature story then lays the foundation for other stories that are within the book that deal with things like hope, belief, vision, winning possibilities. And it includes my personal experiences, either from business or as a talk show host, because I did radio on television here in Chicago for years. So I share personal experiences with folks like Mark Cuban or the late Bill Russell, who asked me to consult with him some time ago, or Clark Kellogg, one of the greatest winners in basketball at both the college level, the professional level, and also the broadcaster of the Pacers. Now you see him during March Madness. So I shared those kinds of stories based upon my experience with those people, including Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut. So that’s what Bullseye is all about. That will be a fun conversation for us to have in 2020.
John I would love to. Is it available for preorder?
Jeff Not yet. No, not yet. But it will be soon. Okay.
John Well, we’ll make sure that. And when it is, you’ll let us know. We’ll make sure we get it out to the audience and they get it. So can you give us a little bit of a I know there was a significance to 1972, I think it was way back when. Wasn’t there a story or something that I had heard about at something with maybe, maybe I’m not recollecting it right way back when on a fishing trip or.
Jeff Oh, 1972 or 1972 is really when the bullseye story took place. So that when I was 16 and my dad and I were up at Whitewater Lake, Wisconsin. So that story was from 1972 when something that I always told now eventually something that I wrote about that lays the foundation for the entire bull’s eye book. So that’s what 1972 was a reference to.
John Well, readers will have to wade through to get their hands on the book and and hear and read the story firsthand. Jeff, this has been phenomenal. Honestly, great, great packed half hour conversation. I very much would love to bring you back and we’ll time it when the book comes out, because I think this will be a really good time. But there’s so much more I’d love to ask you about. I know time is limited, but this has been terrific. I know you have so much more to offer. Any last words of wisdom? You got leaders out there that are that are grabbing a hold of what you’re saying and probably taking notes as long as they’re not driving. But what as we’re going into, you know, the end of the year, 2023, any any nuggets or words, words of wisdom you want to leave people with?
Jeff Well, I always tell people that you’re not compensated for intent, you’re compensated for result. And that’s true of a salesperson. That is true of a leader. So hopefully today is not just about knowledge, but it’s about action. It’s not about ideas. It’s about implementation. When all is said and done, more should not be said than done. And an effective leader is one who knows the value of accountability, self accountability, commitment and deliverables. If you make a promise to your people, deliver. If you want them to do something, follow up. If not, they begin to realize that it really don’t matter. And I have had leaders who are not the CEO or president or business owner. They might have VP in front of their title or director up. And they say to me, We succeed in spite of our founder, we succeed in spite of our CEO. And that’s unfortunate because they not only have to manage down, so to speak, who reports to them, but they got a manager up, which I highly encourage. You have to know how to manage up as well. So any successful leader shouldn’t be asking about themselves. They should be asking themselves. What can I do to help my people succeed? So someday, if I’m a really good leader, they will replace me because I taught them what they need to know for their success.
John Excellent. What great words to leave. Leave us all with Jeff. This has been a great pleasure. I appreciate you joining. Congrats on the success that you’ve helped others have. Congrats on your success. Congrats on the new book coming out as well.
Jeff Well, thanks, but a tip for us to be able to get together. And tomorrow’s leaders. Something tells me they’re really today’s leaders. They’re already there. They just have got to accept it within their own mind and then get to it and make it happen.
John You got it right. Absolutely. Well, thank you, my friend. And thanks a lot for joining today. We’ve been here with Jeff Blackmon, bestselling author, Hall of Fame speaker. We’ll have all his information in the show notes, including links. Be sure to like share, subscribe as well as go down below. Give a five-star review and we’ll see you next time. 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@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!