333 - CEO Mindset with Christine Gaze - John Laurito
Episode 333 CEO Mindset with Christine Gaze Tomorrows Leader Podcast with John Laurito

333 – CEO Mindset with Christine Gaze

In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks about having a CEO mindset with Christine Gaze. She shares her turning point of wanting to change how conferences and meetings are handled to allow more thought-sharing and engagement, especially from the team. Christine also shares what a disengaged leader looks like, so make sure you tune in because you might be unintentionally disengaging yourself not only from meetings but from your team.

Christine Gaze is the founder and managing partner of Purpose Consulting Group, LLC, a practice management consulting firm that develops comprehensive thought leadership and training programs to engage and advance financial professionals. Over the course of her career, she has developed programs that have influenced top advisors in all channels and generated billions in new assets.

Christine is the former Head of Practice Management at TD Ameritrade, where she and her team developed a practice management platform to attract and educate mega advisors. Previously, she was Managing Director and Head of Professional Development at AllianceBernstein and was instrumental in the formation of the practice management consulting group at Wachovia Securities. Christine is also intimately familiar with educating advisors in the field, having led private banking sales teams at both Morgan Stanley and Prudential Securities. Christine built her foundation in financial services as a successful advisor at Merrill Lynch which
continues to inform her approach to this day.

Want to learn more about Christine Gaze and Purpose Consulting Group?

[0:00] Intro

[2:25] The mistakes a leader can make from the lens of Christine

[5:10] Becoming aware of a well-run or an ineffective meeting

[9:22] Righting the wrongs

[14:59] How Christine changed the way conferences/meetings were conducted

[18:33] The importance of staying focused and engaged during meetings, especially if you are a leader

[22:47] What questions should leaders be asking to approach a meeting better?

[25:54] Take time and give space for you and your organization to think through things

[29:07] Where to find more about Christine   

[30:31] Outro

Get a copy of “Tomorrow’s Leader” on Amazon.

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. Tomorrow’s leaders. I’ve got Christine Gaze, who is the founder and managing partner of Purpose Consulting Group. I’ve seen Christine in action. I’ve known her for a couple of years now very, very impressed with how she leads. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to have her on the show. I wanted to get her perspective on leadership. What I love about this conversation is she shares kind of what her journey was in becoming a better and better and better and ultimately a great leader. And a lot of that, you know, as we learn leadership, we learn it from observing people do it the right way in the wrong way. We also do it ourselves, the right way, the wrong way. We make mistakes. We have successes. So she was very candid, very open in sharing some really, really great stories. So lots of good aha moments in this. Lots of great takeaways. I know you’ll enjoy it. Here is Christine guys. All right. Welcome to this show, everybody. Again, another episode of tomorrow’s leader here with Christine Gase, founder and managing partner of Consulting Group. Christine, thanks for joining. 

Christine Thanks for having me, John. It’s great to be here. 

John It’s great to have you. I know we have tried to match up schedules for a long time. You’re super busy. I saw you. We were just talking about whatever was a month ago on stage and we didn’t quite get a chance to connect, but great to get a chance virtually to do it. 

Christine Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having. 

John Me. So there’s a lot that I’d love to explore with you. And you do some great programs and I’ve seen it firsthand with in financial services and teaching advisors how to do financial planning. You also do a lot of leadership work in teaching leadership and how to have that CEO mindset. And what I really find interesting is a lot of what you teach is based on your own experiences and learnings as a leader and things that you’ve recognized may have been mistakes that you’ve made, that you’ve now pulled into your program and how you teach leaders to be great leaders. So I’d love to explore that with you. I appreciate you being open and and honest and authentic with recognizing some of your past mistakes. I think the audience would love to hear some of it. 

Christine Yeah, sure. Well, I I’ve been in this industry for 27 years and it’s funny, just about every role I’ve ever had, many of the roles started out as an individual producer. And then as I succeeded, I kept getting called on to leadership roles. So leadership is something that has haunted me throughout my career, and I have made some of the worst mistakes on record as a leader. But they now, as I studied leadership and high performing teams for the better part of 20 years, as part of my career, some of the biggest mistakes that I make represent the biggest points of passion in the programs that we run. And the first one is not recognizing my own role as leader. So that’s something we see a lot in the financial services industry with financial advisors. Many advisors start out as individual producers and then if things go well, they hire people and all of a sudden they’re running a team and many advisors are doing that without adjusting their mindset or their behavior in the practice. And I was certainly one of those. And I think one great example of that just terrible behavior that I exhibited was the thought of the moment meeting. It’s very popular in in our industry and I think that we’re not alone in that. So my weekly staff meetings would devolve into sort of a brainstorming. I’d be I’d have a bunch of things on my mind as the leader of a department, need to be developing programs and thought leadership. And I would have some intellectual issues that I was noodling on and I would invite the team to, you know, to work on that with me so we could work through my challenge because that was what was most important to me. So I basically kidnaped the meeting and the the effect on the staff was really demoralizing and I didn’t realize it at the time. I mean, as a leader, you’re working on your biggest issues. You’ve got your team sort of brainstorming. It feels great for you, but I didn’t realize just how it felt to be a participant in the meetings that I was running. 

John What made you come to that realization? Because I think that’s there’s so that there’s so much value in what you just said, because I see it all the time. I’ve been part of meetings and I’ve caught myself in that same exact mode that you’re describing. But how did you become aware of it? Did somebody bring it up to you or did you kind of have an aha moment? 

Christine You know, I think there’s a feeling you get when you’re in a really well-run meeting. So I think that as a leader, you’re I was processing it on some level that this was not the best meeting, even though it sort of felt good for me. But I really had an epiphany about ten years ago when I was serving as a committee member for a volunteer industry organization. And this committee had the most terrible meetings I think I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been a part of a lot of them, some of them at my own hands, but many of you not the leader of the snake. So the purpose of this, it was a conference planning committee, and so there were ten or so participants. And our goal was to suggest topics and ideas for speakers to plan a conference. So the leader of these meetings, the chair of this group, was completely distracted throughout every meeting, marking the task that we could hear her. You could hear her half paying attention and typing out emails, and she was always in an airport. And so that was certainly a huge distraction. But we would spend time discussing these ideas and there was never any direction to execute. So we’d end up in this this circular brainstorming session. And each week it felt like a fresh brainstorm and there was no progress. So I would be, as a participant, I’d send a recap email like I suggested, these three, three ideas and these three speakers. Do you want me to contact them or which you very rarely have? So I could not have been a more frustrating experience as a participant. 

John Yeah, you know, it’s but again, I can relate 100% because I think a lot of meetings, it’s almost like the leader, the person that’s running these is just trying to fill time and get people talking and they define a successful meeting as a lot of people talking. And the more people talk in, the better. And in reality, you’re right. I’ve always thought, okay, think, feel, do what do I want people thinking as a result at the end of this meeting feeling and then what do I want them doing? What’s the action step? So I like that thought though it prompts me to say, okay, at the end of a meeting, what’s next? Like, where do we go from here? And you found that that was not not not even close to being identified? 

Christine No, not at all. There were just a lot of hanging chads and open ends. And and as a result, I mean, in that particular instance, I think it took maybe 12 weeks. So we had 12 meetings to plan this one conference and and it could have been done in 4 to 6. So it was just sort of not only was it really frustrating, but it was a huge time sight for not only me, but all the other volunteers. 

John Well, and you think about, you know, running an organization, you think about you put the time value of money on on that hour of time. If you got ten people in there in that meeting of any meeting and you’ve got their average hourly rate multiplied out. But it’s not just that that’s a cost, but then it’s the opportunity cost of what else they could be doing if they weren’t in that meeting. I mean, there’s massive amounts of expenditure for pulling a group of high powered intelligence, smart, influential people together. So you’ve got to make it worthwhile. So what happened? Did the did that what changed that or did it change? 

Christine Well, that round didn’t change that. I was I was actually tapped to chair this this committee for the following years. So the chair rolled off and, you know, exited stage. Right. And so I had an opportunity and it was a really profound experience for me because I so I inherited this committee who had suffered through experience alone with me. So everyone was a little shell shocked, but I was determined to right the wrongs with this group and to solve or solve for the crickets. That had always been an issue. And the team leader that had plagued me on conference call after a conference call and this was before a video conference that you couldn’t see the whites of there, I couldn’t see who was multitasking. And so so here’s what I did. I, I really established the why from the start and set the table. Some direction here is that the vision just reminding everyone, you know what we’re there for. We’re a member organizations and we’re there to serve our band members. And we need to create as much value with this conference as possible because people have a choice of which conference they go to and who they write a check to. And so I think setting the table and setting the vision and getting people aligned, and that was really important. And then for me, I set them direction. So, you know, conferences in our industry, you know, pre-COVID, there had been an explosion of conferences. So everyone under the sun was in it. Big financial services companies were doing conferences, big media conference companies were in the conference game. So there was a lot of competition and there were a whole host of speakers that were on what I call the milk run. So it’s like you see them at this conference, they’d be at that conference, and then if they’re in our conference as well, it’s like some of these speakers are knock out speakers. And so, you know, you don’t mind seeing, you know, Dr. David Kelly or Greg Valliere or whatnot in multiple places, but I challenge the team to come up. Let’s build this agenda with a third new discoveries. So let’s go to let’s roam a little farther. Let’s scour academia. Let’s bring up authors of new books that we read like let’s actually let’s try and and differentiate our conference. So give them some direction. And then I also set a goal. So we have a whole cadre of speaker scores from the work that we’ve done in the past. So and they’re rated out of a five point scale. So it’s like, let’s just only work with speakers that have if they’re, if we have a historical record on them, it’s 4.3 or higher because it’s really important that we have speakers who can make these topics come to life. You’ve got a lot of speakers who can speak on ESG or fixed income, but there aren’t a lot of speakers who can keep the audience awake and engaged and not checking their, you know, their texts or playing verbal or, you know, reading The Wall Street Journal. So my goal was to really have an engaged audience and to have the best speakers who can really bring life to the topic. And so that was kind of part of the start. But then I worked on that. So that was kind of the why and the and the why. And then there was really the how which needed to change that. And I’m happy to tell you how that. 

John Yeah. Just interesting that you know, that, that that’s what I hear you saying is you started with defining success. And I think even broader than just a meeting or a committee, it’s as a leader. How much, how much and how clearly do we define for our team? What is the desired outcome? What are we trying to do? And I love that. Hey, you defined it so clearly as to say there’s a third of this speaker group that we want to make sure we’re going outside. So if I’m on that committee, I’m there’s no question about what it is that we’re trying to accomplish. I can easily say we did it or we didn’t. And I think that level of simplicity and clarity is critical for a leader to get their team achieving a certain result. 

Christine Well, then I think it was really important for us as a committee. I mean, we’ve been as a as a volunteer organization, as an industry nonprofit. We’ve been in that in the conference game for a long time. So it’s easy to just recycle the same thing that you’ve done before. But I think it’s really important if you want to breathe new life into something or you want to produce something that is truly differentiating and outstanding to just take a step back and, and and just, I guess, reassess. So having these guardrails or guidelines really, really engages people because it kind of gets them thinking outside their own, you know, the box that they’ve created from participating these types of meetings and committees. It’s a simple act that I think it really makes a difference. And it did in this case. 

John Yeah. So talk a little bit more about the how. So you share the why and the what. What does the house look like? 

Christine Yeah. And I mean, there, there are no really magic beans here. It’s, it’s really simple stuff. But I think being awake and aware and focused is really important. So we would have a round robin and I did that alphabetically and I that. The tone that people should come with a couple of ideas, that they knew what categories those ideas should fall in to based on the goals that we had identified. And what I did with this group and it just it worked gradually over over the weeks, we ended up running the call for, I think, eight weeks, but people were originally reluctant to weigh in. So I had to sort of pull things out of people. So I would direct the meetings so people would be sharing their ideas sort of in an orderly fashion, and someone would present a few ideas or topics or speakers. And I’d be like, You know what, Jane? That’s a really great idea. I think we might have had a private real estate speaker before. John, your company had a couple of private real estate products. What can you tell? Like, do you know of any? So I would actually ping pong the participants and look to create connections as these topics and speakers came up. And little by little I would look at, I would solicit thoughts and I would be willing to I’ll sit through the silence. I will put out a question. I will ask people what they thought. I just kept drawing out and creating these cross connections. And eventually the committee fell into this rhythm where they were eager to share their feedback. So someone would share ideas, others would build upon that. They would suggest specific speakers. They would take the idea and shape it in a different direction. And so we ended up having these really rich discussions. So I think it was and I don’t know, I don’t want to say it was painful at first. There were definitely some awkward silences that I had to manage through and be patient with at first. But the committee really sort of came alive and coalesced and there was a really a sense of cohesion and and you this trust that was built among and camaraderie that was built among the group. 

John So it’s also it takes a lot I mean, it takes a lot to bring a team like that together. And as you’re talking about the silent moments, I mean, it takes going through discomfort to get a team that’s now that’s comfortable with and feeling like, okay, there’s not I’m not going to be ridiculed for bad idea or there’s no going to be not going to be a downside for me, asking a question, you think about it, how many organizations breed that type of culture unknowingly? The leaders kind of set the tone that that it’s only they’re only looking for certain ideas or good ideas, not really thinking that contradicts our traditions or what we’ve been doing in the past. So I’m just always interested in how it how leaders do that. And I wanted to bounce back to something that was interesting, too, because there’s earlier you talked about the leader that was running those calls on the phone, distracted in an airport and everything like that. A lot of leadership, I find comes down to also really people understanding the level of importance on something. And a leader in that situation sends a really clear message and sometimes unknowingly and unintentionally, that this is not really that important to me as the leader. If I’m multitasking and I’m really not listening and I’m not really engaged, it doesn’t matter what I say, even if I say this is really important. Well, my actions are not saying that. I’m saying those other things that are more important going on even right now and repeatedly when I run this meeting. So what’s your thought on that? I mean, how important is that for a leader? 

Christine Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think that, you know, so that it has paid attention to the disengage the multitasking that is so detrimental to, you know, to the culture, to the outcomes of that meeting. It’s so detrimental to the way people feel about participating in that meeting that if that’s if that’s all you can give to that meeting as a leader, then maybe you should back out of the meeting. I mean, I think it’s worse to show up and act like that than it is to, you know, to hand the baton to someone else who can be fully engaged and participate in the meeting. Mm hmm. I it’s it’s funny. Meeting management and communications is one of the core topics that we that we contend with and one of our programs called the CEO Mindset. And there are there are so many basic skills and basic tenants that that not just the leader, but anybody on their team, you know, needs to learn in order to cultivate a positive culture, in order to ensure, you know, efficiency in meetings and and and to cultivate a this that proper feeling, that feeling like I’ve just attended a good meeting. I contribute. I feel good about this cause and I’m excited to go back to my desk and do X, Y or Z that supports, you know, this mission and vision. I think it is I think it’s often, I guess, perhaps glossed over or de-emphasized or I think people don’t recognize the importance of meetings and meeting norms and communication norms as vehicles to, you know, to stoke engagement and to really build a positive culture on the team. And those are just, you know, they sound like soft terms. But, you know, every research study I’ve ever shown has shown that, you know, that positive culture and high engagement lead to, you know, double triple the, you know, the revenue and the and the growth trajectory for a farm. 

John I’ve never seen a company or an organization with a bad culture sustain long term performance. It may be short term, but ultimately the culture is going to override everything that’s going on and drive everything that’s going on. It’s interesting also when you when you and you may have leaders that are listening and saying, boy, you know what? When Christine was talking about that thought of the day meeting, that’s me. I relate to that. And I know and I didn’t realize that instead of that approach, which leads to the thought of the day meeting where you’re kind of identifying and addressing and inviting people in, do your solve your own problems that are going on in your head. What what should a leader be thinking? Or maybe what questions should they be asking or what kind of, I don’t know, lens should they be looking through to be able to approach that type of meeting better? 

Christine Yeah. Well, I mean, I think the first couple of steps are sort of the vision setting and the and the guardrails, but also setting cultural norms. And so, you know, the staff meeting is I mean, typically that’s a meeting where people are sharing updates on their progress. That’s an opportunity for team members to learn what others are doing. And so if a leader is going to hold staff meetings, some preparation is required. I mean, that was one of my big takeaways. You know, it’s like leader the last like you have to work harder than anybody on this committee because you are the one that hold the keys to orchestrating a successful meeting and ensuring that progress occurs from, you know, from meeting to meeting. So that meant for me, I’ve got to synthesize everything that happen, produce a recap and ensure that while we’re in the meeting and afterwards, people are clear on follow up and next step and who’s going to take the ball and run with this idea? Mm hmm. So I think defining your meetings and meeting meeting norms, I mean, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a brainstorming meeting, but you’ve got to label it as such, set the appropriate vision and expectations for that, and invite the the group in for that specific purpose. So there’s a whole host of different meeting types for companies to be clear on what ones are ongoing and necessary, how are they going to run and ensuring that you prepare. And if you’re a leader and you’re running, you know, not ten with your hair on fire, then maybe you declare it. Maybe you need to create a leadership opportunity for someone else to run the meeting and maybe you act as actually a participant in a meeting, and you’ve got to also be aware of your power as a leader. So in the meetings that I ran, I shared my ideas last, and sometimes we didn’t even get to my ideas because they already came up and where the group came up with a perfectly terrific agenda without the insertion of, you know, of my ideas. 

John So I’m so happy you said that because I think that’s so key. There’s there’s so much to be gained by even when that leader is is wanting, they feel like they have the solution or the best idea or whatnot to hold back and let the conversation take place. Because what you say as a leader will influence the rest of the conversation. And there’s so much to be gained by just sitting back and listening and then offering your ideas, thoughts, feedback, whatever the case may be. And your other point, I think, is also masterful of that leader that’s running back to back meeting, meeting, meeting, meeting, working like crazy. You know, you need the time, the space, the the pause, the breaks to be able to think through things. And even, you know, I used to think that when I had I was running an organization and things were kind of really well wired and I would show up at of my weekly meeting with my team and everything like that. And I got to a point where I realized, you know, I’m not prepping the way that I need to be, even though the structure is all prepped and everybody knows they’re part of that meeting and whatnot. I need to think about what messages I want to communicate and how I want to communicate it to the team. I can’t just walk in there and just have it all pop into my head. I need to make sure that I’m prepared. As great as I feel that I am as a leader, I’m talking to anybody out there that is having lots of success. You still need to take the time to go into that. That’s the game. That’s game time. You have to practice and prepare for the game. As great of an athlete as you are, it doesn’t your performance on that, that field or on the court is going not to be not going to be as best as it is if you have it prepared, no matter how great you are. 

Christine No, you’re absolutely right about that. And we think about that as the journey from accidental leadership to intentional leadership. And so we think it’s really important to be intentional as a leader, to consciously cultivate culture, to be awake and aware and focused on cultivating the norms that will will create the kind of company that that you want to espouse or you would want to work out yourself. Again, it sounds like a bunch of soft stuff to those who maybe grew up with a more authoritative or directive leadership style, but. This is the leadership style that is working today. This sort of collaborative leadership style where you not only put yourself to your highest and best use as a leader, but you have to think about your organization. And how do you try and do that for every individual on your team? You have to be thinking about the matrix or the system as a leader, not just what’s going to make you feel good day. 

John Yeah, exactly. And it’s about leveraging the talent on your team. If you’ve got somebody who’s super talented, but you’re only getting a seven out of them out of a ten because you’re not putting them in the position to really do what they do best and can do best. Then that’s not leadership. That’s the other part of it, too. 

Christine Exactly. 

John Well, Christine, this has been phenomenal. I know we’re we’re short on time here. First of all, congrats on the success you’re having and have had. I’ve seen it firsthand the impact that your company makes, and I’ve seen it multiple times and super impressed. If people want to connect with you or they want to learn more about Purpose Consulting Group. How do they do that? Where do they go? 

Christine We are at purpose consulting group dot com. So it’s pretty simple. We have we worked exclusively in the financial services space. We have a number of programs. We work both in the area of human capital competency, which is where the CEO mindset falls. And as you mentioned at the start, we also work in the wealth management competency space. So we develop a lot of thought leadership and training programs. So if you’re in financial services and you are leading a team of advisors, well, feel free to check us out. We’ve got a lot on our website. 

John Excellent. Well, I’m sure a lot of people will. And I appreciate your time today. I appreciate you sharing all your insights. I love it. Super valuable stuff. And I’ve picked up some great things and other listeners have. So I appreciate your time today. 

Christine Thanks so much, John. Have a great day. 

John You got it, Christine. And thanks to all for joining today on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. We’ve been here with Christine Gaze, who’s the owner and or the founder and managing partner of Purpose Consulting Group. We’ll have all her information and the link to Purpose Consulting Group in the show notes. Be sure to check her out and them out. And as always, like share, subscribe, go down below. Give a five star review and we’ll see you next time. Take care. Thanks for joining us. 

John 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!

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