Even if you don’t own a business, many people lead families, Little League teams, volunteer organizations, and all sorts of other groups–and leadership has changed drastically in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, leadership isn’t something they teach in school, and the consequences are enormous.
Today’s guest, Wade Thomas, has spent 20 years in the corporate world as the head of human resources for a large company–and he says 70% of American employees are unhappy in their jobs because of negative management. This is why Wade launched Aim to Win, where he focuses on helping others lead with compassion and empathy.
In this episode, Wade returns to the podcast to talk about how we can be better leaders in the post-COVID world. We discuss how to listen to people and turn a profit, some of the powerful lessons Wade learned over the course of his 20 years in corporate America, and how to take an empathetic and compassionate approach to leadership roles.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
If you enjoyed this episode of our podcast, be sure to check out another favorite episode on leadership and helping your team through difficult times: 048: How to Lead your Team through Difficult Times with Gina Rainey
Andrew Rafal: Being a leader can mean so many things, and as most of you know from this podcast, we firmly believe in trying to better ourselves. And that doesn’t mean that we have to be business owners. All of us are leaders. You may be just leading your family, which is even important than leading a business, or you’re leading your son or daughter’s Little League team. Today’s world, it’s changed. Leadership from the 80s is not like it is here in the 2000s.
And that’s why today’s guest, Wade Thomas, is going to bring a fresh light into how we can be all better leaders. Wade has spent 20 years in the corporate world, being the head of human resources for a large corporation, and from that, realized his value that he can bring is helping to be a coach and helping leaders lead better, and more so than anything, it’s about leading with compassion, leading with empathy.
One of the areas, he says 70% of employees in the US are unhappy in their jobs due to negative management. They don’t teach management in school. They don’t teach management, there’s no handbook to it. So, part of, we want to do is understand in today’s new world, COVID or not, how we can lead, be better personally, professionally. So, a lot of great nuggets that Wade brings to the table. Take some notes. Have some fun. And without further ado, my episode with Wade Thomas from Aim to Win on how to be a better leader.
Andrew Rafal: Welcome back for a brand-new episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. Wade Thomas, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Wade Thomas: Good. Thanks for having me on, Andrew.
Andrew Rafal: Definitely, we’re excited to introduce you to the listeners. I’ve known you for several years, and we’re really excited to dive deep into some of the things you’ve been doing as a coach in helping businesses and owners and employees reach their full potential. Because that’s a lot of what our show’s about, it’s about building wealth, but most importantly, finding purpose. So, how has 2021 been for you personally and professionally? I know we’re all dealing with kind of the ups and downs of things, but how have you managed through it all?
Wade Thomas: It’s certainly been a different year than 2020. A lot of people really dread the thought of 2020. I thought that was a great year of personal exploration and growth for me. And ‘21 has really been a result of that, a result of kind of that groundwork. I was able to lay in 2020, during the adversity that obviously came out of that. And so, ’21 has been a great year. It’s accelerated as years going on, and I’m really starting to see some changes in businesses.
Andrew Rafal: Prior to starting to Aim to Win and working on the leadership side and the coaching side, your background was more so in the corporate world. Let’s talk through a little bit about how that was your stepping stone of what you did there, what you learned there, and then taking from that, to what you’ve built over these last few years. So, what was that like in the corporate world?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, so I worked my way up to the corporate world for probably about 20 years. I don’t even bother to do the math anymore. But I learned a lot. So, you learn in a corporate world, and my background ranged from sales to a little bit of corporate human resources to an HR executive where I spent most of my time, and you learn a lot about running a business, a lot of lessons. I work with really large companies and as part of the leadership team, I learned a lot of strategy. But the biggest thing I really learned was what works? What I found was compassion and empathy.
And throughout my career, I’ve called that different things. Sometimes it’s just doing right by your employee, sometimes it’s treating people with dignity, whatever the words might be. But I learned through the experiences when you can incorporate that into a culture, then it’s really powerful. I spend a lot of my time, my career with turnarounds, and then going into businesses that are just failing and really helping them rise up. And that was the common theme through them all. And so, as I get in my business, I said, “What was the key to success?” And that was it. And so, that’s really informed a lot of what I’ve done on my own these past six and a half years.
Andrew Rafal: So, when you were in the corporate world, and I forget which company it was, but head of human resources, how many people were you managing at that time and that in charge of, per se?
Wade Thomas: Yeah. Well, my team was probably between 30 and 50 at any one time, and we had a few thousand employees around the country that works for everybody. And so, it was you arranged. In a downturn, it was much smaller. And then as things came back, it grew, so pretty good-sized team.
Andrew Rafal: In our working years these last 20-plus years, coming out of college, I didn’t really see empathy in some of it before starting my own firm as part of culture, right? The empathy and providing positive reinforcement for growth, a lot of it in the 80s, 90s, and then maybe to the early 2000s was about like win at all costs and not thinking about maybe the mental adversity that a lot of people were going through. Did you see that as well as you built your career over those two decades in the corporate world?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think the two objectives are necessarily opposed. It’s not a versus…
Andrew Rafal: Or nothing.
Wade Thomas: Yeah. And I’ll tell a story to kind of illustrate, kind of how I came to this. I started off, I came out, I had an MBA from Indiana University, a very well-regarded program and came into a corporate environment, supposed to be there about three years, and then you do a rotational. But after six months, they took me and they shipped me off to be the head of HR for a 500-person nearly unionized plant in Eastern Indiana. And so, I went in there and really, the only instructions I had going in and saw it happened in the course like an hour. That was pretty much a battlefield kind of situation. The only instructions I had is there are two entities, there’s management and a union, and your job is never let the union win.
And by the way, that’s consistent with what they taught in regular school at the time. A lot of what we’re taught was how do you not let the union win? Of course, you use different words, but that’s basically what it came down to. There are two entities. So, I come walking into the plan. I’m not going to let the union win. And then, one of the things I did the first few weeks, and this is what a lot of people would do is I got out onto the plant floor and just started talking to people and meeting people and kind of seeing what was going on. And it really became apparent there are more than two entities out there. It wasn’t the union and management. It was Bobby, it was Priscilla, it was George, it was Fred. And all these people were different with different agendas and different things that they had to offer.
And so, I went back to the plant manager who was new in that role at the time as well and pretty open-minded. And I said, “You know, why are we looking at this through the lens of two entities? Why don’t we try to figure out what is motivating and what is driving Priscilla, Bobby, George, Fred, and then try to manage it that way?” And this was a plant, I should say, that never made money, huge loser in a company, and unionized about a year and a half before, they had just signed a contract after 18 months in negotiations. Terrible relations. We got that thing turned around in about a year. We turned a profit the next fiscal year. And we’re in the fourth quarter of that year. So, it was pretty quick, turned a profit. Safety numbers got better. Turnover dropped below average, and it was a huge turnaround and it was really, really attributed to the relationship we had built with the employees.
Now, did that mean that we weren’t really interested in profit? No, we love profit. All our jobs are dependent on profit. If we weren’t profitable, we’re all going to be gone. So, they weren’t really adverse to each other. By really getting that and listening to our people, having the empathy, showing compassion when we needed to, it created profitability. So, I learned that the two are not opposing forces. They can really be put together. And then I repeated that formula many times throughout my career. There’s never been a time where the empathy hasn’t worked.
Andrew Rafal: And just trying to think of this MBA, this college grad, in their mind, you’re basically being thrust into the union world, into this small town. What was that like? I mean, you didn’t know anybody. There was nobody on the corporate side that you knew, and you’re just being as a 25-year-old, boom, what were you like driving out there? What was going through your head?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to say because, yeah, I didn’t know anybody. It was about an hour and a half away from where I lived. I lived in Dayton, Ohio, at the time. This was Richmond, Indiana. And I had a baby face, so we should throw that in there, too.
Andrew Rafal: Well, you still do all these years later.
Wade Thomas: I try to grow a beard to cover it, yeah. And so, I was really going into a strange environment. It’s kind of interesting, at that age, I never really thought of the idea that people would look at me and say, “He’s young and he’s from outside of town.” It has never occurred to me until I got in there. And then, people told me that, right? But the mentality I took is, okay, fine, I’m young, but let’s talk about how we can work together. That was aided by a couple of things. Around the same time I went in there, they brought in some other young people or promoted young people in the leadership roles. So, our whole team was young. And so, that helped. A lot of them were brought from outside. So, I wasn’t alone in that perspective, so that helped then.
The other thing too is there are 500 employees, which to me seems like a lot. To the UAW in Indiana, it’s not. Instead, the UAW didn’t really spend a lot of resources on that particular plant, so they had nobody to turn to, to learn how to– and there were no union officers in the union. And so, I really helped grow them as leaders. And so, I think they saw me in a different light than they might have otherwise.
Andrew Rafal: And what kind of software were you using at that time? Were you kind of making it up on the fly? Was it Excel? Like, what were you using to keep organized on all levels? Because I imagine as an MBA and being thrust into this, that was one thing that you had to be pretty good at.
Wade Thomas: Yeah, I made it up on the fly. Excel was kind of a new thing back then, and I did actually use Excel, I mean, and I think before my time, everything was done on paper. And so, I used Excel to kind of keep it organized. And so, that’s how I knew who was where. And that really kind of helped me look at it from an individual standpoint, too. On paper, we have six machine operators. Well, now, on Excel, I knew who the six were.
Andrew Rafal: And were you guys doing like we do now, these assessments of personality tests, that Kolbe’s, the Prevue’s? I assume it’s something like that. You weren’t able to have each of them take a personality test to see where they stood, right? They’d probably throw you right out of there.
Wade Thomas: My personality test was out there standing next to you, a melter and a foundry, and talking to somebody.
Andrew Rafal: Smoking a Marlboro, ride with them, and finding out a little bit more of what their day to day is.
Wade Thomas: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew Rafal: So, as you evolved and you climbed the ladder, did you start seeing or did you start building out the program that eventually became Aim to Win in the scope of that you had to kind of transition or see where the generations were changing and what was going to be successful as businesses grew and helping everyone prosper from the top down? Let’s walk through a little bit of that before you decided to make that break and become an entrepreneur yourself.
Wade Thomas: Yeah, I had somewhere around 20 years of writing a program, then I had the book, so to speak now, but it was in my head. And so, if you look at the book itself that I wrote, it really does stem from all these experiences. And so, I learned a lot in that Richmond experience. And then I learned a lot when I went to Kanata and Gas City and Richmond the second time. And when I went to the homebuilding world and did work in Atlanta, in the Carolinas, and then throughout the country, the book changes with every situation because people change. Technology changes, the culture and environment that we’re surrounded in really changes. And so, when I launched Aim to Win, it was a sum of those experiences, it was the basis for what I’m able to bring to market, what I’m able to bring it there to help organizations and executives solve their problems.
Andrew Rafal: When did you make a full jump 100% into Aim to Win? How many years ago was that?
Wade Thomas: About six and a half.
Andrew Rafal: And was that for you, corporate world, it’s safe, secure, great benefits, having a family, and so forth, what did you weigh out as making that leap? Was it difficult for you six, seven years ago?
Wade Thomas: It was not difficult for me six or seven years ago. It was difficult for me 10 years ago. And it was something that had been on my mind a long time. It’s interesting, first things I did was I called on my grad school friends after I went in business myself, and he’s like, well, it’s about time. We all assumed you’d go into business for yourself right out of school. We thought that you weren’t really a corporate guy. And so, the thought really hit me maybe 10 or 11 or 12 years ago. But like you said, I was making a ton of money, great benefits, what I perceived as stability at the time, and young family, all that kind of stuff kind of played into it until such a time where it just made sense. And it’s interesting that the stability, as you know, is very much a perception thing. So, when I’m in a corporate world, my stability is based on the whim of the CEO or the board of directors. Now, my stability is based on my own, my own decisions, my own performance, my own ability to get it done and make it happen.
Andrew Rafal: Did you have any clients lined up seven years ago when you made the leap?
Wade Thomas: Not per se, but I knew enough people that they were lined up within a week. So, I came into it, called some people I worked with, and they’re really into doing business. So, I built up a big war chest before I went into business myself. You do well in the C-suite. And I didn’t really live a C-suite lifestyle, so I was able to bank a lot of that money, I mean, I was profitable from day one. I landed a couple of big contracts right off the bat. I didn’t have to really think about that war chest until COVID. And then 2020, I’m like, okay, good, going to have that.
Andrew Rafal: Yeah, that adversity is probably good for you to face it because then it helps you even of all of your coaching. And the other nice thing of being a coach is that you don’t have much overhead. You are the overhead, besides traveling and things like that, which you may even get reimbursed on. So, it’s pretty good margins when you have the clients that you enjoy working with and you’re getting that consistent payment and so forth. One thing that, at Bayntree, my firm, we work with a lot of business owners and even myself, the one thing as somebody who’s an entrepreneur who maybe starts off, and there are one or two employees, and then it keeps growing, and that’s the minority of companies that actually make it, the odds are against a lot of small businesses.
But then what happens is you start getting six employees and eight, and part of what I’ve seen personally is that there’s been a bottleneck where the entrepreneur wants to own and control everything, right? They want to micromanage or they just think that nobody else can do it as well as them. And then that leads back to the leadership, you’ve got some great stats here on your site, this huge leadership gap, and I think a lot of these stats I’ll walk through is because people become accidental business owners, and a lot of people maybe aren’t great leaders, but you say here, 70% of employees in the US are unhappy in their jobs due to negative management. That’s a pretty high number there and that’s something that is just going to bring down morale. Is that just, you think, consistent over time that it’s like that?
Wade Thomas: I think so. I think it’s trending higher. And I’ll have data from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I can tell you anecdotally that in my career, those numbers jived. When I would come into a turnaround situation, those people who were unhappy, they went home, thinking their company didn’t care about them.
Andrew Rafal: Right. And you say almost 90% feel that way. And so, is that because there’s a lack of communication? Even though the leader may care, they’re not able to because they get so caught up in their day to day, maybe they’re not able to disseminate that through how they’re leading meetings or how they’re treating people. Why do you think 90% feel like this company doesn’t care about me and F them?
Wade Thomas: Yeah. So, I think there’s a couple of different things that come into this whole compassion and empathy thing, right? The first one is having a compassion and empathy. So, part of that is leaders don’t. I mean, a lot of leaders do. And there’s another group of leaders that have it in them, But like you said, they get caught up in a day to day, or they’ve been taught, their parents were taught, their grandparents were taught that’s a win at all costs kind of mentality, and you’re going to do what I say. It’s command and control. So, there’s that element to it as well.
But the second part of it is having compassion and empathy, it’s also getting the word out. So, the opportunities to show compassion to somebody, they do come up, but it’s not necessarily an everyday thing. So, a big part of building a culture of storytelling. When you do have that, you have to get the word out. It’s almost like an internal PR situation where– think about the stories we tell and organizations, we’re great at telling stories about somebody that’s knocked it out of the park with sales, or somebody that they put in 80 hours a week to get this done. We tell it like hero stories like that, but we don’t necessarily tell the hero stories about the leader that stepped outside of the handbook and gave somebody three weeks off because their mom had cancer. We don’t tell those stories. We’re actually a little bit afraid to tell those stories. And so, that leads into that 90% number. So, it very well could be there, but we’re not hearing about it, but certainly, we are hearing about the 80-hour weeks.
Andrew Rafal: Definitely, and I think back to some of the companies that I work for. A lot of time, unfortunately, very successful businesses are run by almost what I’d call a psychopath, that definitely not win at all costs, but as an entrepreneur, you have to have the certain gene of taking risks. But then there is that there is no empathy, it is I will do anything I can and I don’t need this. If you’re going to screw up, then I’m going to get the next one, and that turnover rate’s really high. And at some point, they may be really successful for a period of time. But I would assume at some point, it’s just got to collide unless they ended up selling to a larger firm, which a lot of them do. But it’s like you see this constant trade of wow, this guy’s or gal’s like lunatic. And somebody like that, they’re probably not even going to call you. They don’t know their issue, right? They may be such a narcissist that they just have no idea what they’re doing. Do we take them and say, okay, they’re not even in this mix that probably 10% that run businesses like that, and we want to focus on the 90?
Wade Thomas: I don’t necessarily give up on those businesses. And I look at compassion and empathy from a whole different perspective. I don’t look at it as it’s a nice thing to do, right? I look at it because it works. You want to make money over a long period of time, this is the way to do it. And so, that’s how I try to reach that 10%. Now, are they calling me? No, they’re not calling me. Well, am I running into them? Yes. I have a book out there. I have a podcast out there. I’ve got videos out there. I get the word out. And it is interesting, I do speaking engagements as well. And I’ve actually had that come up. While I’m doing speaking engagements, somebody says, “Well, what if my boss wants to hear this?” And so, I do a lot of work with that next layer down. In talking to that group and coaching them through, how do they get their boss there? Maybe the boss isn’t going to give me access, but they can get access from people below them. So, I don’t believe that we would give up on that 10%.
Andrew Rafal: Well, do you think, empathy and compassion, can be learned? Can it be taught or is an innate that you have it or you don’t?
Wade Thomas: So, generally speaking, most of the population has it, unless you are legitimately a sociopath and you have no sympathy for other people. So, most of the population has it, it’s a question of how and when to use it. And so, that’s what you teach. You teach how to actually get it out there. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t really– yeah, I want to be compassionate or I want to be empathetic, yet I don’t really understand what it means. And so, a lot of us teaching them, what does it really mean? And how does it go into your day-to-day process?
So, I don’t have a class on compassion and empathy. What I do is I bake it into other things. So, I bake it into accountability, I bake it into influence, I bake it into time management, I bake it into strategy. All the things that a leader does naturally, I build frameworks for that that incorporate the empathy and the compassion into it.
Andrew Rafal: So, when you’re working on the program, and we’ll go through it in a little detail here in a second, but are you working just with the leader? Or are you trying to incorporate in them in a sense or having them create a leadership team and trying to get that hierarchy turned more flat and having a leader and his or her trusted teammates stakeholders?
Wade Thomas: I generally work with the leadership teams, so the top leader, and then maybe a couple of layers deep in the organization, that’s really where it starts. And that’s the group that makes happen an organization. The person running a trend for us, compassion and empathy is great for them, but they’re not going to have as much leverage in the organization as the CEO or the CFO or even a frontline supervisor. I generally work with that group.
Andrew Rafal: And that’s probably where you’ve seen most businesses or owners not have that leadership team. Well, actually, perfect timing on this, we had a consultant in my industry come in last week. And finally, we’re putting together this leadership team and giving the ownership to these individuals, letting them collaborate. And what’s happening is, when they all said to this individual, who do you report to, and it was all me, that’s not a good thing, right? And that’s where I learned that I’m the bottleneck. And so, now, what we’re trying to do is build this out to have everybody on the leadership team have their ownership of what they control and disseminating that down. And it’s been just a week, and we’re already starting to see. It’s exciting, it’s very much exciting as we’re going about and trying to get this thing started for 2022.
Wade Thomas: And there’s a lot of transitions in business. There’s a transition from, I was working for a company to now I’m running stuff by myself. I’m a one-person shop. The next transition is when you hire employees. The next transition is when you get maybe to that 25 or 30 levels, so it’s different from each organization. That’s when, okay, now I need to build a C-suite. So, I’m working with a couple of clients now that, one in particular comes to mind, he’s got a team of C-suite executives, and none of them have been C-suite executives before. He was an advertiser. His COO is his best friend, that kind of thing. And so, that’s the other transition is now, you’re putting people in leadership roles, and they’ve got to develop and grow it, too. But what a great opportunity then, you could get somebody before they’re set in their ways.
Andrew Rafal: Sometimes when you’re going through this process with the leaders, as you’re putting together or helping to put together a leadership team, do they sometimes realize that there are people that maybe finally come to head that that person shouldn’t be in that position, and ultimately, it helps them understand if we want to continue to grow that we need to have the right people in place?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. Not everybody, you may not be able to fill every leadership spot with people within that can do the job. There are a lot more leadership opportunities in this country than our leadership-ready people. And it goes a little bit further than that. So, you may have people on your team that can lead the group now. But when you get to 100 employees, the 500 employees, or 1,000 employees, they may not be able to make that leap. There are certain transition points where the business gets bigger, and there’s a different skill set that it takes to manage it. And so, it’s really managing those transition points is a big deal for a company.
Andrew Rafal: And in your book From the Heart: Achieve Epic Results, you’re building a heart-based culture of compassion and empathy. I know part of what you mentioned is this next generation, the millennials. And we’re fortunate to have half our team as millennials and they’re kicking butt. But part of what you indicate is that a lot of them feel they’re not being fully developed as leaders. And with that then, there’s a higher probability that they’re going to leave and go on to the next thing. So, as they become from us Gen X versus now handing off to not so much the baton, but knowing they’re coming up right behind us and they’re going to be taking over leadership roles, what do we need to do there as business owners that may be a little bit older, Gen X or even a baby boomer?
Wade Thomas: It really comes to empathy and understanding them as individuals. So, I talk about millennials and I talk about baby boomers and things like that. But I’m not a huge believer in putting people in a generational box.
Andrew Rafal: Okay.
Wade Thomas: I think there are millennials that behave as Generation Xers, Generation Xers that behave as millennials, so forth. Millennials often behave as baby boomers because most of them were raised by baby boomers, especially the older part of it, right? And so, I think it’s really important to understand them as individuals, what do they need, what do they want? Look at the generation that’s 21 or 22, and the things we say about that generation are things they talked about you and me, our generation when we’re that age, right? And so, I’m not a big fan of the boxes but really trying to get to know, walk in their shoes, understand who they are. Now, one thing I’ll say about millennials is you better do it because the baby boomers are retiring. Generation X is a small generation, and we’re in a growing economy. Millennials are going to be thrust into leadership positions much earlier than historically we’ve seen.
Andrew Rafal: For somebody who hasn’t read your book, not in your coaching program, can you give us, let’s say, three things that we could take away today as a leader, that we can try to start implementing next week to become a better culture and a better empathy and to start allowing our team to lead themselves?
Wade Thomas: Yes. Let’s see if I can narrow it down to three. I think the first one is the empathy thing, right? That’s where it all begins. And I like what you said earlier, I’m not a proponent of tobacco in any way, shape, or form, I smoked the Marlboro Red with them. Don’t rely on the personality tests, I believe in personality tests, I think they’re a great starting point, but don’t rely on these. Get out there and know them. Do their jobs, sit next to them for a while, even the lowest job, to get to know your people. The second thing would be, you really have to provide support for your leadership teams, especially when it comes around compassion. Showing compassion is not necessarily an easy thing because it might require you to give somebody six weeks off. And your handbooks or your HR departments or whatever you have in your organization, they might not agree with that.
And so, one of the things I talked about in the book is compassion over compliance. Well, when you go out that compliance area, that gets you in trouble. And so, it’s really important for a top leader to support their leaders when they’re showing compassion. And the third thing is the storytelling, identify your hero stories from a different lens. It’s not all about the 80-hour weeks or hitting the sales goals. Talk about the compassion and empathy things that went into that. And you’ll find them, those stories are out there. And get those stories out there, make it part of the everyday language. That’s a much better conversation at the water cooler to say, “Yeah, can you believe what they did for this guy? He had this issue at home and he really took care of him.” That has a bigger, longer-lasting impact than, can you believe Jim worked 80 hours last week to get this project out?
Andrew Rafal: Right. And I think too, with COVID flipping everything on its head, knowing we can work from a virtual place, we can work from anywhere, from that standpoint, it was like, we start thinking about what’s most important. And our generation was brought up to work 80-hour weeks and that makes us who we are because they did it. And this next generation that we’re seeing with the millennials and the Gen Z, and again, not to box them, but even from the standpoint of those in their 40s, it’s becoming more of feeling that they’re part of something, that they’re doing something, be on making money, having this clear vision of what is our mission and what are we doing, what’s the greater purpose? And then, like you said, being flexible, having the ability, saying, we know some firms that don’t even have any PTO, it’s like, hey, you do your job, you’re a responsible adult, take off when you need, but make sure if things don’t get done that that’s going to be a problem, and then we have an issue. So, trying to formulate that it’s easier said than done. But as you said, if we don’t, then we’re going to lose these talented individuals to companies that are abiding by that.
Wade Thomas: Yeah. It’s really interesting, throughout my career, I’ve really been blessed. I’ve never had to work with an employee base that was under 12 years old. And so, I’ve always worked with adults, and you can treat people like adults, it’s okay. And like you said, this war for talent, it’s been going on for years, right? It’s getting in a press now, but we’ve really been fighting for a long time. And there’s only so much money you can throw out there. You’re never going to win the money game. It’s always stupid. Money is going to come about it. And so, you have to get it through something else, like compassion and empathy, like the mission. You need to create some kind of bond with each and every one of your employees that you want to keep. And if you don’t have that bond, if you’re just relying on the transaction as compensation, yeah, you’re going to lose, I’m sorry.
Andrew Rafal: Well, you’re going to have employees that are just about themselves, it’s about what they can get it, eat what they kill, and then that’s not going to be good morale and probably good culture. One thing that’s been really helpful for us is when we do, in a sense, team-type of events. We try to give back to the community at least once a quarter, inviting clients, but more so, when we’re putting together boxes at St. Mary’s or Feed My Starving Children, now we’ve got 12 of us that are outside of work, outside of the hustle and bustle and the pressures and all the different tasks and things that are coming at us and we’re able to see each other for who we are and learn more about each other. So, those things from our standpoint, have been really successful in building the bond of this team that Bayntree has right now. And that’s something that when we had that last week, it was everybody crossed the board, even though there were issues X, Y, and Z that each everybody had, the culture was on point. And so, that was something that we still got to get better, but we’ve consciously worked on it.
Wade Thomas: Yeah, it’s really interesting too, that example is great because no doubt, what you did is you showed compassion, you’re showing compassion to the community and great stories, right? And the group of you goes out there and does it with Feed My Starving Children. But another interesting thing to do is find out what people are doing outside of what you’re doing as a group and tell those stories because that’s reinforcing the idea of compassion, but also, it’s the empathy, right? You’re learning what’s important, what causes their support? But the more you can know about your people, the better.
Andrew Rafal: I mean, I know we’d probably go in a rabbit hole on this, but like if you were to– a lot of companies, it’s inundated with meetings upon meetings upon meetings. As you’re working with teams and leaders, like what’s an ideal situation for a meeting? Should we have less meetings? And what does it look like, than just, oh, I got another meeting, and it’s like, everybody’s just rolling their eyes?
Wade Thomas: Gosh, I could talk for hours on meetings. The easy answer is less meetings, but that’s not really necessarily the answer. The real answer is look at each meeting. What value is it bringing? And what values are bringing that too? Who is adding value? So, we kind of look at it as this binary decision, should we have a meeting or not? It’s more complicated than that. So, look at things like, okay, yeah, we do need this meeting. Okay, second question, does it need to be an hour or half an hour? So, I call it the tyranny of outlook, how that kind of pushes us to schedule meetings and increments of 30 minutes. Well, maybe this meeting only needs to be 15. They only need to be seven, but we feel the time that we allotted for it most of the time. So, it’s very rare that we feel comfortable having a meeting early. So, look at the time, then look at who’s involved. Do they really need to be here? So many times, I see we invite people just so we don’t have to make them feel left out, and then they get out of it and they’re like, gosh, I hate this meeting. Oh, no, another meeting, right?
Andrew Rafal: But they’re not going to tell you, they’re not going to tell the leader that this sucks.
Wade Thomas: Right, exactly. So, you have to take a look at who is involved in it and then ask yourself, is it a meeting or is it an email? Is it an IM? Are there other ways to accomplish this? Sometimes we have meetings where we just report out. And you know what? Probably, if there’s no problem-solving, it probably could have been done in an email.
Andrew Rafal: Again, just last week, we started it, because our Monday morning meeting, it was kind of getting stale, and there’s definitely people in there that didn’t need to be in there for certain things. So, we’re trying to flip that on its head, but what we’ve started just late last week is this daily huddle, 8:45, nine o’clock, the team gets together. It’s 10 minutes. Let’s see what’s happening today. Let’s talk about wins. Let’s see what do we got going on? Any issues that are brought up, so we’re not waiting till Monday, right?
And it’s aligning everybody versus me coming in and everyone’s in their different areas. And we all know that some people may not even know who’s coming in, and it’s like, oh, yeah, it’s that person’s birthday, or they just retired or those type of things. So, it’s been quickies, eight minutes, ten minutes, maybe at some point, it’ll be shorter and some days, it may be longer. Infancy of that right now, but we can tell that they’re digging it in IM, and that means that those Monday meetings, they’re going to be more set where this person needs to be in here, this one doesn’t.
Wade Thomas: Yeah. The other interesting thing you said is timely. So, that’s what happens in meetings too is it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, I have an issue, well, we got the Monday meetings, so I’m missing a way to bring up the Monday. Well, you just lost three or four days. And by the way, people’s attention spans are short, in case you haven’t noticed. So, a one-hour meeting, and there’s one client I have, it’s got a six and a half-hour meeting every Wednesday. Well, think about the attention span on that one, and what is really happening in our thought, right?
Andrew Rafal: So, it is one of your jobs there to get him or her to reduce that to about an hour?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, that’s the ongoing battle, right? Yeah, that’s something I work with. What do you really need about this? And does everybody need to be there the whole time? Or is this really six meetings that you’re rolling up into one, right? And so, kind of taking a deeper dive into the meetings. It makes more sense in saying more or less meetings, right?
Andrew Rafal: And I like what you’ve done, and it’s something in this environment where we’re in, it’s about pushing out good information and jumping headfirst just over the last two years into the podcast, into the book. So, what’s been the passion with the podcast Aim to Win, which all of this will be in the show notes? I know you’ve had a lot of guests on and you’ve been cranking them out, but what’s the purpose of the podcast? And what type of people are you bringing on? And what can people learn from it?
Wade Thomas: The podcast is really aimed at leaders no matter where they are. So, it could be a small business, it could be a corporation, it could be nonprofit, it could be the local soccer team. But what it is, is the idea that I want to bring in topics that aren’t explored in leadership development. And I look at leadership topics from a much broader point of view, right? It’s not necessarily how to lead people. It’s also how to lead an organization. So, you’ve been on a talk about financial things, and I’ve had people on and talk about strategic things, kind of the broader scope of leadership. I like to bring in different people with different thoughts.
And the idea is you’re not going to implement every podcast episode, but I want you to think. My goal is you come out of that episode and you’re thinking about something that you haven’t heard of. And in a lot of times, you might say, “Well, gosh, that’s a lot of crap.” And okay, good. If you’re thinking about it, there’s something in your mind, there is this, okay, what could I take away? And so, yes, I try to find really interesting guests that bring a different perspective. And I’ll be honest, a lot of times, I go into an interview saying, “Oh, boy,” I don’t believe in any of this stuff, but it’s important to hear those perspectives. And then at the end of it, I’m always, yeah, I can see how that can be incorporated into what I do.
Andrew Rafal: Awesome. And then the book From the Heart that you recently wrote, is that just more of a high level of your core beliefs, your program, some of the areas, they don’t have to work with you, they can take from the book and start putting into practice some of the things that you’ve been passionate about?
Wade Thomas: Yeah, there are really two things that go on in the book. One is I’m helping companies, and people realize how powerful this can be. And then the second part is a blueprint, it’s how do you do it? What does it look like? And how do you implement it at a very high level? And I can help them with that, for sure. But the idea is that, the book, you can really take that and make some differences in your company for that $7 or $11 investment.
Andrew Rafal: And I know, as having coauthored two books, it’s definitely a labor of love to get the messaging out there. And it’s one you look back, and I can’t believe I actually got that done. So, congratulations. That’s fantastic. So, as we look to close out show today, if you had to choose, just kind of off the cuff here, but like, one leadership book that you would say, this is the book, if somebody wasn’t a reader or hadn’t read anything on leadership, is there one book that you think would be the Bible that would help somebody at least get, besides your book, of course, but one book that would be beneficial?
Wade Thomas: I’m going to give you the answer you probably don’t want to hear, but I wouldn’t give one book.
Andrew Rafal: Well, you can’t. Yeah, that’s not the answer. But yeah, do go on, I’m sorry.
Wade Thomas: Yeah. So, I like a lot of books, and there’s something from every book and there’s a blend that it will work for you. There is not one book that’ll give you the blueprint, not even mine, that’s going to give the blueprint that works for you. I will tell you, I do like Brené Brown’s books. That’s a really good one to start with, I think.
Andrew Rafal: What’s the name of the book?
Wade Thomas: I can’t think of the name off the top of my head.
Andrew Rafal: Perfect. Well, we’ll figure it out in the show notes. So, we’ll get that in there, listeners.
Wade Thomas: Yeah. But yeah, the important thing, though, is sample the books and see what resonates with you and what you think works right into your model.
Andrew Rafal: And then, finally, with COVID still hanging over us, what do you think’s in store for the business world 2022? What’s next year look like? What are you focusing on?
Wade Thomas: I think the biggest issues coming into 2022 are going to be dealing with a labor shortage and material shortages, supply chain issues. And companies that are going to be able to innovate and solve problems, the idea that companies to succeed are the really great strategists and planners, they have a great business plan, I don’t think that’s valid anymore, at least not for next couple of years. It’s the companies that can shuck and jive and ride the wave, change and adapt and be nimble quickly, it’s really going to be the key to success in 2022.
Andrew Rafal: I think that’s right, especially the labor shortage. How do you keep and retain and also bring in the best people? It’s going to be all based on what we talked about today, empathy, providing the ability for them to grow and have the bigger mission than just top-line revenue and how much net income that we brought in because that way is out the door.
Wade Thomas: Yeah, and that’s the thing. It’s not really a labor shortage. There are plenty of people out there for your company. I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, but I think the workforce is around 100 million. I don’t know any companies that need more than 100 million people. The real question is, how do you…
Andrew Rafal: Maybe Amazon.
Wade Thomas: Maybe. But the real question is, how do you get your share to keep people there? The pie is big enough. The challenge companies have is they can’t get their piece of the pie.
Andrew Rafal: And listeners, you get it from Aim to Win. So, this is awesome. We just hit on a high level some of the areas that you’ve excelled in and helped other businesses and leaders become better, better leaders. So, we thank you today for coming in and giving us some of your nuggets. All of the items, listeners, that we talked about today will be in the show notes, plus the ability to order the book From the Heart, as well as to subscribe to Wade’s podcast Aim to Win. So, Wade, appreciate it. You are a good mentor to a lot of people. Keep doing what you’re doing, and know we’ll be talking real soon. Thanks for coming by.
Wade Thomas: All right. Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
Andrew Rafal: Alright, listeners, stay tuned for later this month a brand-new episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. Happy planning, everybody.