I never ty to rush right in and ‘report’ on what is said in the general sessions of a conference for two reasons; first, I don’t consider myself a ‘reporter’ so I am not that great at composing on-the-go while a speaker is presenting in order to have an article ready for publication almost before the speaker finishes. But secondly, and most important in my mind, I want to take time for the message to sink in, for me to digest it (like a great meal) and then give you some speaker content as well as my own impressions and interpretations on that content in a ProAdvisor-to-ProAdvisor context. With this in mind, here is my first Take Away from this year’s General Sessions – which began with Joe Woodard’s keynote address.
So you are probably wondering what ‘technology’ Joe talked about this year in his keynote, or what emerging trend will be the ‘next big thing’ or advancement impacting the ProAdvisors across the United States and beyond. Well, what Joe gave the almost 1500 attendees was his ‘5 Spices to Up their Practice to a Firm of the Future’. Playing on one of the most central themes of New Orleans, “great food, notorious for ‘spice’’ (I mean this is after all the home of that “Bam” guy with his own spice recipe who cooks on TV), Joe’s Spices are intended to flavor, enhance and bring out ‘the best’ that a ProAdvisor (and their practice) can be. It’s interesting that this theme was carried throughout the conference, from the initial announcement just over a year ago, through the promotional material and even the PowerPoint formats. But this wasn’t something ‘new and exciting’, it was a new way of looking at concepts that have been taught for thousands of years, but perhaps overlooked in this growing era of ‘tech.'
So let’s taste Joe’s spices, the first is “TRUST”, while Webster defines trust as, “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.; assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”, Joe was speaking in a higher sense, going well beyond. Joe described being ‘open and vulnerable’ without concern for being taken advantage of. It made me think of a line from a movie I had recently re-watched, “Have you ever put your life in the hands of another individual, and ask them to put their life in your hands.” It is about becoming both rescuer and the one rescued. It is the freedom to share and confront others (your clients, your associates, your team, even your superiors if you work for someone else) knowing that that your share the same ‘common’ trust.
We’ve all seen depictions of the person on the 3rd floor of the burning building and firefighters yelling up “trust us, we will catch you.” Well it is like that, but again it is more, because Joe’s 'trust' reflects both sides of the equation as I mentioned above. Not only must the person in the building place their trust in the firefighters, but the firefighters must instill trust in the one being rescued.
ProAdvisors need to ‘spice’ up their practice in order to instill that level of trust, and in so doing pass that sense of trust on to their clients, but also have so developed the trust mentality and trustworthiness that their clients sense that we are in fact also placing our trust in them. The relationship isn’t just dollars-n-cents in either the numbers we crunch, the papers we prepare, or the exchange of value between us, the real exchange comes in the ‘bond of trust’ that ties us together.
In that sense, Joe’s second spice is ‘VULNERABILTY’. While most people view vulnerability as weakness; that is not what Joe was describing, rather it is being willing to expose all. It manifests itself in openness, honesty and transparency.
Now this is how I first fathomed the difference in my mind as Joe was telling us that vulnerability is not weakness. We all know that when a person is ‘naked’ they appear very vulnerable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘weak’. The television series ‘Naked and Afraid’ clearly demonstrates this, in each episode two people (who never knew each other before) must become a team in order to overcome their fears (as well as their naked vulnerability) and perceived weakness in order to concur their situation and environment.
Fears tend to create our sense of vulnerability; fears of business loss, embarrassment and rejection manifest themselves into vulnerability; but those fears can be overcome for the benefit of both ProAdvisors and their clients. When a client perceives that we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by intentionally ‘lowering our natural defenses’ then we can create an essential bond. Because we make ourselves vulnerable, we allow others to truly see us for who we really are and to meet us there, and when they meet us there, that connection allows us to accomplish anything.
Joe’s third spice is “CONFIDENCE” which is neither arrogance nor insecurity. Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain. It’s not being certain of ‘ourselves’, as what we are in fact representing in our lives. It’s easy to confuse confidence with pride, especially self-pride and that can soon turn to arrogance. That kind of pride diminishes us, it turns our focus from where it should truly be, and turns our focus on ourselves verses others.
Aristotle said, “Courage is a mean with regard to fear and confidence”, courage is really the ability to confidently overcome our fears by truly demonstrating our character. This alone is want enables us to say the words that need to be said, to hear the words that need to be heard, and to give whatever needs to be given, no matter how great the sacrifice.
ProAdvisors must be willing to confidently ‘give it all’ for their clients, to not hold back, to have the courage to do for the client as we would have the client do for us. It is only by putting ourselves out there that we can turn the numbers we compile in our profession into the measures of relationship more than dollars and cents.
“SERVANT LEADERSHIP” is Joe’s fourth spice ProAdvisors need in their practice. It’s about pouring out your own cup to benefit others. The concept of servant leadership goes back at least two thousand years, but the modern servant leadership movement was launched by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 in the publication, The Servant as Leader.
One might think the days of ‘class’ (kings, nobles, commoners and such) may seem long behind us, but they are actually prevalent in the world we work in as ProAdvisors. Most military organizations are based upon a strict ‘chain-of-command’ in which lesser ranked individuals always report to a higher ranking position. In the business world, large corporations and small, are built around a hierarchy from the most entry level worker to the boss that might be a business owner, the CEO or Manager.
Now we might tend to confuse servant leadership with role reversal as shown in the television series, “Undercover Boss” where the head of a company goes undercover to determine what is going on ‘down in the trenches’ and in many cases performs the most ‘grunt’ labor associated with his business. That really isn’t servant leadership either, although the outcome of that process may in fact be demonstrative of the true servant leader.
So what is servant leadership really about then? Well servant leaders value everyone’s contributions and seek out the opinions of others no matter how diverse those opinions may be. As a result this approach cultivates the culture of trust we have discussed (above). Organizations where the boss simply has a bunch of ‘yes’ men surrounding them are not businesses led by a servant leader. A servant leader is always seeking to develop others, in effect it is about replication of the same traits in others. A servant leader reinforces this concept by giving up power and deputizing others to lead.
Servant leaders are encouragers; for them their leadership role is really about persuading, not commanding, they do not see themselves as a dictator. But unlike a dictator, servant leaders think of others rather than themselves, this selfless quality also allows them to help people with life issues, not just work concerns. We frequently see this at the end of ‘Undercover Boss’ in which the Boss makes substantial investment in the lives of those who impacted his journey while undercover. It really boils down to humility and concern.
My own observations are that Joe Woodard’s entire organization is an exercise in servant leadership both internally and externally. Everything Joe personally does is dedicated to the benefits of others, both for his team members and those he ‘serves’ through the various programs and offerings of the Woodard Group. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the Scaling New Heights conference, or a consulting engagement, Joe and his entire team are always focuses on benefiting others. This is exact the kind of servant leadership that ProAdvisors need to demonstrate in their own practices, as well as when dealing with clients.
The final ‘spice’ in Joe’s spice blend is “LOVE”. With the addition of this spice some people may be thinking that this is starting to sound more like a ‘sermon’ than a keynote to professionals, but the reality is that ‘love’ is simply a way of looking at the value of every human being. I mentioned earlier the ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ concept, well that concept personifies love. Sometimes it comes down to ‘tough love’, telling or showing another person exactly what they must be told or shown even if they are resistant. Conceptually it is the reality that our clients, our employees, and in fact everyone we encounter is worthy of being loved.
Our modern society has come to define love is so many ways (many of them incorrect), because the source word for love is “Agape” which first occurs as a noun in the Septuagint (the oldest known Greek translation of Jewish scriptures occurring between 300-200 BC). Yet the verb (or action) form of love goes back to the Greek poet, philosopher and writer, Homer (751-651 BC), and is properly translated as ‘affection’ (the implication being ‘great affection’); but this term is also commonly translated as concern, caring and compassion.
Neither Joe, nor myself, are talking about sappy, syrupy, sentimental love. Genuine concern and caring for your client (and your employees) is how we demonstrate love as ProAdvisors, and when that kind of love is ‘one’ with our nature we will be a personification of the fifth spice.
So the question is, “are you ready to ‘spice up’ your ProAdvisor practice?” Joe’s 5 spices are not unique in concept or use, nor are they to be used one-by-one, but as a blend, the way that famous New Orleans ‘Bam’ Chef has blended his spice mix. So give Joe’s five spices a try. I’m confident that, when you put his five splice blend into your ProAdvisor practice, their inclusion and fulfillment will become a magnificent obsession.