Looking at Bryan Falchuk now, you would never have thought that he used to be obese. On his journey to overcoming adversity, Brian documents in his book, Do A Day, how he dramatically changed his life by losing over 100 pounds, running a marathon, and taking control of his diet and life. Like many of us, he faced challenges like weight problems, depression, stress, and more. He shares that we all go through things that define us and if you’re willing to recognize it, work on it, and figure out what is holding you back from achievement, then you can move forward. There is no bigger growth driver out there today than aggregating diversity of thought. Nadine Dietz advocates guiding leadership and helps CMOs build teams capable of embracing the unknown to meet aggressive growth objectives. She believes it’s important to create an environment in which everyone is heard. Knowing how to tune into the culture that you’re working with is what moves people.
We’ve got Bryan Falchuk and Nadine Dietz. Bryan is the bestselling author of Do a Day. I’m very excited to hear about his work and his philosophy that’s changed his life. Nadine Dietz is a podcast host. The name of her podcast is CMO Moves. She knows everything there is to know about the marketing world.
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Do A Day: Creating A Life Of Achievement with Bryan Falchuk
I am with Bryan Falchuk who has an inspiring story. He went from being obese and depressed to running marathons. He’s faced nearly losing his wife to illness while their young son watched. He became a vegan in just one day. He got his masters from a top school and rose to a senior executive position in a successful business. Now, he’s a bestselling author and contributor to Inc. Magazine. He’s transformed his life and developed an approach to help others do the same that he teaches in his bestselling book, Do a Day, and he shares that philosophy with others. It is so nice to have you here, Bryan.
Thank you for bringing me on.
I signed up for a half marathon once and got a stress fracture. I had to talk my husband into doing the half marathon and he ended up having to do it and I couldn’t even do it. You do marathons now. How did that happen?
I’m on in the midst of using it thoroughly, so I’ve done one and I will do another one. I have a very full day job and doing shows like this and talking about the book takes the other half of my life, but I will do another. There’s no doubt about that. The training for it scares a lot of people off, but that’s the most beautiful part. That, to me, is a good example of exactly how I go about living my life. If I let that stuff take me down, that’s life. There are always difficulties. There’s always these moments where we feel like, “How are we going to get through this?” It’s like you have a fast-forward problem. You’ve been through everything, and somehow you’re still alive. It’s uncomfortable, it’s hard. I’m not taking away from that, but you just need to fast forward through it. If you have enough faith in yourself, you’ll get through whatever it is you face.
You say you started with the revelation. Were you always this thinker?
That’s the whole problem. I spent most of the first half of my life obese, and I mean about a 100pounds right through my high school years. It wasn’t because I was eating too much. It’s because I struggled with a lot of anxiety issues. My parents had divorced when I was young. From a very young age, like five years old, I had this idea ingrained in me that everything’s about to fall apart. As an adult, you can often do something about that, but as a little kid, you’re very helpless. It amplifies that feeling, that sense of helplessness. That’s at a very basic level. That’s what kids need from a comfort and emotional support standpoint, to know that everything’s going to be okay, and I didn’t have that.
Right during my early development years and reinforced over a couple of decades was this notion that things are falling apart, and that was destabilizing for me. I couldn’t turn to my parents because they were caught up with the divorce. There were three other kids in the house, and they have their hands full anyway, so I turned to food. Unsurprisingly, food is not a valid treatment methodology for anxiety. I kept putting on weight. If the reason I was eating was that anxiety, no matter how much I ate, I never moved the needle on the anxiety.
As soon as you’re done eating, you’re still hungry because the reason is still there. That’s what followed me through for the years. The revelation came much later. I lost weight at the end of high school just through diet and exercise and not wanting to be seen as the fat kid anymore, but never dealing with the underlying root cause. No one knew me as the fat kid as life progressed. I went to college and then had a career. None of those people were around me anymore, so my motivation was gone. About half of the weight came back on. I say that passively but I’m the one who put it on. I was still in on the anxiety, and more importantly than just not being healthy, I was unhappy. I was so caught in this constant, “Who’s doing this to me? What’s going to hit me in the face because of what that person’s doing? What’s happening over here?”
It’s shocking that I’m married because I was pretty crabby. My poor wife had to deal with this anxiety and the way that it was manifesting. This wake-up moment was forced upon me when in 2011,she was essentially on her deathbed. She’s still alive today, but at that point, that is definitely not what we expected to happen. Her doctors gave up on her. She had a chronic illness. No one could figure out what it was. She was getting worse by the day, just in severe pain, bedridden, barely 100 pounds, and losing two pounds every day. When her doctor threw his hands up and he’s like, “I’m going on vacation. Take her to the ER if you need to. I’ll talk to you in six weeks,” she’s not going to be here in six weeks.
Our son is two and he is watching all this. He’s watching his mother die in front of his eyes. If I had anxiety from divorce, imagine what this means. If this kid has any shot at a normal life, as close to normal as you can have after losing your mother at such a young age, it’s not going to be with the kind of parent that I was. That was what pushed this wake-up for me. What am I doing? For her, I was not the husband she needed. I was doing things, but I wasn’t supporting her in the real struggle of what she was going through, because all I could see is how everything’s falling apart and it’s being piled on me and how am I going to do this. It’s the same for my son.
That’s hard not to focus on your own issues, when you’re depressed or have anxiety. What was wrong with your wife? Did they figure it out?
She has chronic Lyme disease, and most Western medicine does not accept that. The CDC was pretty firm that there is no such thing, and so a lot of doctors would blow her off or tell her, “Are you sure you’re not just depressed?” Of course she is. How would you feel? Here are pure and clear symptoms, here’s a positive test result. Just because the book says, “That’s not possible.” Things have evolved a bit since then, but it’s still quite a struggle and you have to work hard to find care providers who accept it and are willing to engage. That’s a big part of why she’s still alive. The other is she has changed dramatically through this process, as have I. It’s so cheesy and silver linings and all that, but it is true. They’re there if you’re willing to grab them, and of course they don’t always materialize in time. I definitely recognize that for some people, the end comes before they get to turn around. We’re very lucky. We embraced it seriously and aggressively pushed ahead. That’s why we’re both standing today, and our son is unbelievably happy and appreciative. I know I’m biased, but it’s amazing.
I know so many people who love food so much, and sometimes it’s an addiction. It’s such a big part of their lives. It’s very difficult for them to see that it has any impact on what’s making them depressed or unhealthy. What do you say to people like that?
Food is a part of our being. It’s a part of the fabric. No one says, “Let’s get together randomly and sit here and talk.” It’s, “Let’s get together for coffee,” which invariably has other stuff or it’s added into the drink and so effectively is like a meal or get together for a meal. It’s just what we do. We celebrate with food and that’s okay. It means that food has more than a biological fuel purpose in our lives. It’s an emotional thing. It feels good, but “That feels good” is a short-term thing. The problem as a society is we don’t work on ourselves. That’s why for me, I kept turning to food for the self-work and it doesn’t work.
Everyone goes through things. I’m not unique in any way, shape, or form. It’s not about, “My story is tougher than yours.” That doesn’t matter. We all go through things that define us. If you’re willing to recognize it, work on it, and figure out what is holding you back from achievement, then you can move forward. There’s a lot of focus on food because you can see the difference in me, but that’s one little piece of my story. I’m not the same person I used to be in any way, shape, or form. I have a very successful career and at that point in my life, my career was in a lot of turmoil. I was unhappy with it. I had all these emotional issues stemming from a divorce that I never dealt with. My mother ended up getting divorced again, and that’s what brought the first divorce issues to light for me. I lived through my parent’s divorce when I was in my late twenties even though it happened when I was six.
How did changing food and what you did with your diet impact your anxiety?
When I woke up the morning after that call from the doctor, I felt this very different sense of purpose around my role as a husband and how much was on the line, and not in the way it had been before, which is all like paying the bills and doing the laundry and the logistics of being a husband. My wife and son were the family and I was the guy who worked there as a husband. I liked the phrase, “I hated the life.” I saw so much in my son my sense of responsibility to him and my love for him, and ultimately for myself. I have always been resigned to this anxious fixer life. I thought that’s who I am and that’s what’s supposed to be there. I’m there for other people, but actually I was unhappy and for the first time I felt like I deserve better.
It was July 1st, 2011, and I woke up with that purpose and I was like, “I’m going to grab hold of this, because this is my one shot at getting to where I wish I was.”I started that morning with a very different exercise routine. I have done it mindlessly and now I was going to be very purposeful and do intervals and not block the screen with a magazine and zone out but do it intentionally and with purpose. I knew I needed to talk to someone about what was going on with me emotionally. I had every excuse in the book for that. What I realized is that I was looking at how am I going to get these ongoing appointments?
I’ve got things at work so I can’t leave during the day, and when I get home, my wife needs me. I’m like, “You’re not scheduling 80 appointments at once. You just need to make one. After you do one, you make another.”It was freeing from this eternity of all that I had to do. The last piece was recognizing my job was not where it needed to be. It was a great company. A lot had changed, but it wasn’t right for me values-wise anymore. I needed to start the process networking to change that. Those are three key things I moved starting July 1st, 2011. From there, I’ve achieved things that weren’t just impossible then, they weren’t even on the list for me.
I know a lot of people who maybe have depression in their family or they have anxiety. When you talk to them about, “Maybe if you worked out a little bit you’d feel better,” or, “Maybe if you ate differently you’d feel better,” and they say, “I don’t feel well enough to even start.” What do you tell people like that?
I try to find little things they can do to bring a bit of sunshine back into their life. We need to address why they’re feeling that way in a bigger way, so that’s getting help for that. For me, running is my Zen. It absolutely helps me work through things. That’s a time when I contemplate stuff. There are times when I don’t feel like I can run, and I respect that, and so I looked to other ways to get that mental process going. It’s like a drug treatment approach. It’s like, “You need to do this and that’ll fix it.” If you take this exercise or pill, you’ll be better. People need to do the work. My coaching focus is to get them started down the path of getting introspective and digging.
When they start to have epiphanies about what’s going on in them, they tend to reach for the things that move them down the path even more, like exercise or a better job. I was working with someone dealing with an abusive relationship, and she cut ties. That was crucial for her, but she couldn’t have done that without some of the other steps first because she didn’t even see the value in herself to deserve it. That’s crucial. That self-love is what will determine that maybe for some people. If you don’t think you’re deserving of it or capable of achieving it, there’s no point to anything else because you’re going to sabotage your way out of it.
What if it’s somebody like your wife who has some type of illness that no doctor believes that they have but you really do have something wrong? How do you get yourself motivated to do that and to even start to look for somebody like you to help them?
It’s a tough situation when you’re looking at life and death genuinely. One of the first steps is this spiraling of negativity when you’re in the throes of that, which is completely normal and understandable and also unhelpful to how you are feeling because the body releases chemicals that make it worse. It’s inflammatory to your system, which is only going to add to it. You break it down into steps. Absolutely validate and recognize what they’re feeling, and then try to look at one little step. What’s something that we can do tomorrow morning because right now maybe too scary for them? That will start you towards finding a bit of help because you want it. Recognize the desire in them, and don’t pile on everything.
That’s the notion of Do a Day. Every day, it’s only today. It’s never yesterday and it’s never tomorrow. We live so much of our todays with all of this pain and regret from yesterday, whether it’s things we experienced or felt were done to us or things that we were ashamed we did with the ways that we treated someone or mistakes we’ve made. We bring all that into right now and we act from that place. You got in a fight with somebody yesterday, the next time you interact with them, you’re carrying that forward. You’re probably not going to interact in a way that’s going to make everything fine. We bring that into today and we do it with tomorrow. Those 80 doctor’s appointments or therapist appointments, that’s all happening or may happen in the future. I don’t know whether that’s going to happen. I don’t know whether it’s going to be easy or difficult, but I’m not doing it right now. Why am I bringing all the anxiety of that into today and have complete inaction today? Recognize that none of these things is happening right now. Free yourself from yourself of that.
That would be helpful for my doctoral students who are thinking about their dissertation, because they think this is a huge overwhelming thing. I’ll tease them, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” but it is one little bit at a time. Your book, Do a Day, do you do training in addition to the book? What do you do in addition to this? Do you have individual clients or do you speak about this?
In Do a Day, writing the book came out on my coaching work and working with my own mentor feeling like I love what I do when I coach. I love watching people change their lives. I don’t do it; I help them figure out how to do it. Watching people have that wake-up and seeing what they achieved, that’s the most rewarding thing I do professionally. I want to scale this up, but even if I did it 24/7, I don’t think I’d feel satisfied that I was doing enough. It’s like, “That’s your challenge.”You need to think about how you can do that. The book was natural because I knew what I wanted to say. The words flowed and the structure flowed because it’s what I’ve been doing for years.
I still do the coaching with it and I’ve been speaking. I did a TEDx in New Jersey to present the idea of Do a Day. I’ve got another one on another idea that’s born out of Do a Day that will be the basis for my next book. I’m speaking on it and doing podcasts. I don’t care about the money side. I want to help. One thing that is important is if you have a true message that you see has an impact, the money will happen. If it’s not real and it’s not right, then they won’t come. I don’t put the money first. I’m firmly believing that all that will work out.
Do you coach individuals or is it groups? Are you in California? Where are you?
I’m on the East Coast, but it’s all individuals and almost everybody is remote. I have a couple of people who are local to me in the Boston area. Their lives are busy and so is mine, so we tend to end up whether it’s a video chat or a phone call even. I work with people across the country. I’ve worked with some folks overseas as well. I’ve worked for a British company for awhile, so I have a network in the UK and in Continental Europe as well. Location is not an issue, but it’s largely one on one.
How long does it take for people to see change?
Usually after about three or four sessions, they start to push themselves, but I’m not a very passive coach and I push in the sessions. I would say, “I’m annoying, but you pay me to bother for you.” I’ll give people some introspective questions and they’ll give me answers and I basically don’t accept them. I’ll just say, “It’s not for me. You don’t owe me an answer. I’m trying to push you to bring to the surface what is actually going on with you.” For some people that comes a lot faster. For others, it takes a bit longer. Once you have that realization, then we can start to make progress. I’ve got someone I’m working with that it’s taken a lot longer because what he has rooted in him has a lot more to it. There are other people that are three sessions and they are on that path that the right stuff has already changed and is changing. Get out of their way because they are going to achieve so much. It’s amazing to see.
Do you do it once a week or three times a week?
It’s once a week upfront. I have some folks who’s on it every other week and we’ll start to back off as they get into the flow some more. There’s no prescribed method. For me, I try to do things customized for what that particular person’s situation is, both what they need, but also what their life situation is. If it’s too much, they’re going to drop out before we get anywhere. I balance like, “This person needs some intensity,” yet at the same time, recognizing what’s going on with them. If I try to say, “We need to talk three times a week,” they’re going to be like, “Sounds great,” and then I’ll never hear from them again. It’s the 80 appointments feeling.
You’re not exercising and doing things with them? You’re mostly talking and hashing things out?
I’m a certified personal trainer. I have not trained anyone in at least five years, so it’s all on the self-work. It’s so little to do with the physical. If you come to me for that, we will work on that, but I don’t believe in the idea that there’s only one piece of your life that you need to turn around. That’s like a gateway drug. We’ll start with that but there’s some underlying thing. If you feel unhappy in one corner of your life, if you look at it, there are other things that you wish were different elsewhere.
I meet people who may have depression, but they’re not willing to take drugs to work on it. They’re functional. They can get around and do things. It’s not like, “Can’t get out of bed” depression, but I see people like that a lot. Is that a typical person that you would deal with?
If someone’s facing depression, I’m not a licensed therapist so I would very strongly recommend that they go there. I might help them to see that, because that may be a step they’re not ready to make. I do see a bit of that, but it’s people who are not deep in the throes of that. From a skill set inappropriateness standpoint, it would be inappropriate for me to treat someone clinically for depression. I’m not qualified for that.
If they got your book, what’s the biggest thing that the book helps them do?
For me, it’s discovering that wake-up moment. A lot of people are like, “I haven’t had a soldering gun in my face and reality-giving moments, so I can’t get there.” That’s not true. You can. It just takes work. That’s what I try to do in the book. The first part talks you through my story and uses that as a case study method to introduce what Do a Day is. The second section is the building blocks for you to do it. The third section are some specific tools to go after some of the main things that people were coming to me. Before the book, everyone came to me for health and diet stuff, and now it’s like all career and relationships.
I revised the book for its one-year anniversary. If I did a major revision, I would have to build out the career stuff a lot more heavily in that last section to speak to why people are coming to me. The key thing in that middle section is, for me, motivation. It’s understanding what your ultimate purpose is. Simon Sinek talks about starting with your ‘why’. It’s not just for companies trying to sell things. He’s like, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Your people also, they need to buy why you do it. Understanding that underlying ‘why’, that thing that you’re going to care about no matter what else is going on, that’s what you need to find because that’s what will get you through the toughest times. When you’ve got to dig deep, it’s a thing that you did for. You have to discover that.
When you were thinking of having a child, were you worried about having one because of your sense of your lack of control for food and different things? Did that worry you at all?
At that point in my life, I looked American. I was definitely overweight, but I didn’t look obese. I just looked like everybody else. I wasn’t where I needed to be. I wasn’t actively thinking about myself that way. My siblings never had weight issues. Interestingly, my father did. He had a very similar obesity pattern to me. There’s a piece of me that’s like, “Is there something in the genetics?” Maybe, maybe not, but that wasn’t front and center for me. I felt like I’m at least aware of some of the triggers for it and the eating habits, so I can help him or her. At that point, we didn’t know any better. I definitely had anxiety when my wife first brought it up, although I try to hide it. It was the responsibility stuff, the bill-paying. “Are we ready for this? Are we ready to buy a house?”
What’s your diet like now? Do you tell people that they should eat certain things or do you let them decide?
I’m vegan, and I don’t go around preaching it. I will say plant-powered or plant-based, because if you’re vegan we have some idea that’s like, “He has dreadlocks.” That’s not the case. I’ll talk to people about food choices and try to enlighten them about some of the smarter choices. It’s a continuum. I was working with someone a long time ago where dairy was a big issue for them medically. There’s a ton of dairy in her diet, so there’s a lot of weight that we could have controlled to cutting dairy out because they made a lot of other good choices. They’re like, “I can give all that up, but I can’t give up milk in my coffee so I’m not going to give up dairy.” I was like, “That’s your decision, but it’s a silly way to look at it. Why do you think it’s black and white? You’re eating three pounds of cheese a day. It’s delicious, but it’s not great for you.”
They were fine giving up the cheese. When I said that, they were like, “I guess I never looked at it that way. I have to cut out all dairy.” That’d be great, but you’re having two tablespoons of milk in your coffee. That’s not the thing that’s doing it, and so they gave up all the other dairy and they didn’t care. Their acne cleared up. They dropped about ten pounds quickly. That was the unlock. They had this mental connection of it’s all or nothing. It was the same with exercise. They’re like, “I have to do an hour of cardio because that’s what my trainer at the gym told me.” I’m like, “For what? If you do 59 minutes, your weight stays exactly the same.” It doesn’t work that way. Our bodies are not like that. I try to help people see the continuum. Once you start making better choices and find success, it leads you to the next stage of success.
What’s your next stage? You said you’re going to revise the book?
I did and the revision came out in March. I’ve been working on my second book for a while. That’s the next big thing for me, but I’m practicing self-love. I’m not judging myself for it because I have a lot going on. Do a Day is still thriving and I don’t want to dismiss that. It’s still is a strong platform. I will put out the second book and will be very happy about that. Right now, it’s still Do a Day’s moment and I’m pushing on that. I still get at least one message every day from someone who it’s helping and that’s the whole reason I did it.
If people want to be able to get Do a Day or your training or things that you offer, how would they reach you?
The easiest way is DoADayBook.com. You can buy the book there. It’s for sale everywhere, Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. It’s all over, print and e-book, and it’s on Audible. You can get to all that from DoADayBook.com. I link up all my social media and my articles and blog, everything’s there. You can also go to BryanFalchuk.com.
Thanks, Bryan. It is so nice of you to be on my show. This was so much fun.
Thank you, Dr. Diane.
You are welcome.
Guiding Leadership with Nadine Dietz
I am with Nadine Dietz, who’s a podcast host, author, and advisor. She loves helping people, especially CMOs, who have the most complicated and often thankless job in the C-suite. Notoriously stretched thin with the ever-changing technology and consumer demands, the CMO’s role has morphed into more of a general manager, with a critical need to build teams capable of embracing the unknown to meet aggressive growth objectives. Nadine is host of CMO Moves, a podcast that features game-changing leaders with great purpose, great practice, and great moves. It’s so nice to have you here, Nadine.
Thank you, Diane. Nice to be here.
I saw you’d have some great CMOs on your show. Some of them have been on my show. I know Bruce Rogers well. He’s been on my show, as well as Greg Welch. I’ve been in a lot of meetings with Antonio Lucio, but they’ve all been interesting people. I noticed you had Mary Beech, who’s the CMO of Kate Spade and my cousin, Jeanie German’s daughter. Gigi Mortimer works for her, so I thought that was an interesting interview. How’d you start? What led to your interest in creating CMO Moves?
I never set out to start a podcast ever. My husband has been asking me for years and I kept thinking, “What do I want to do podcasts for? I don’t know anything about podcasting.” It was never something I paid attention to. I was authoring a playbook for CMOs called ANA CMO Challenge Playbook. I was interviewing 30 of the world’s top CMOs to put together this playbook, which is meant to be a guide for other CMOs who are looking to develop their teams. What started as a focus area on how to provide technical trading very quickly and rightfully morphed into much more of a leadership manual. You can’t put somebody into training and expect everything to change. It starts at the top. It starts at the leadership level. It starts with the role of the CMO and how they build credibility for their teams. It starts aligning those expectations across their leadership teams and then develop their leadership capabilities to foster the right culture and environment for that talent to thrive and provide the opportunities to transform for innovation. Then supply them with the skills, both hard and soft skills, so that they can be successful in the role.
In doing that, we covered a lot of ground. There was a lot of content that never ever made it into the playbook. It was actually Linda Boff, who’s the CMO of GE, who said to me, “Have you ever thought of doing a podcast? You should think about that to continue to share these stories.” I thought, “That’s like the eighteenth time I’ve heard that.” I asked a number of folks, “If I did a podcast, would you be interested in being on the show?” Every single one of them said yes, so I guess I better figure out how to do about it.
Linda, her episode with you was mastery of storytelling, and storytelling is such a huge part of what CMOs and people in marketing must deal with. There was a Forbes CMO Summit I went to a couple of years ago in Coronado where a lot of these people were there. I know Bruce Rogers and Greg Welch were there. Simon Sinek spoke there. I went to this because I had created a brand publishing course as part of my work as the MBA Program Chair at the Ford School of Business.
We based it off of Bruce Rogers’ publisher research that he did. It was so interesting to me to listen to what the overall issues were that kept CMOs up at night and what they deal with on a day-to-day basis. I know a lot of them had issues with brand awareness and getting their product and their information out to their customers in a personalized way, but doing it at scale, I kept hearing a lot of issues with that. I heard a lot of issues of generational conflict, but I’m curious what you found is the biggest issue that keeps CMOs up at night.
To quote my business professor from many moons ago, he said, “One answer that will always work in every situation is ‘it depends’”. I’ve been doing CMO thought leadership work for a long time now. There was one point in my career where I interviewed probably more than 400 or 500 CMOs and asking them what their top issues were that kept them up at night. We got a top 25 list, which siphoned down into four major buckets. Those issues are still there, but the ones that are most prevalent today are grounded around the difference between functional leadership and guiding leadership, and how to switch from being what Seth Farbman noted was the traditional American leadership model into one that’s much more empathetic and is more grounded in servant leadership.
That’s a different set of muscles to build and there aren’t a lot of schools or classes that teach people how to do that along the way. That’s been a huge inspiration for CMO Moves. It is understanding the journey that these leaders who have mastered those skills have gone through and how they gained those skills. The answers range from, “You learn it on the job,” to, “Certain people inspire them to having strong mentors or sponsors.” A lot of it comes from trying things that fail and learning from that and reapplying it. It’s about how you tune into the culture that you’re working with.
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of young leaders make is they charge into a situation and they feel like they can create a culture. That’s not even possible because the culture already exists before you get there. It’s understanding what that culture is and what moves people. You talk about those Gallup numbers and they are scary. If two-thirds of the employee population are disengaged and a third of them are actively disengaged which means they actually hate you, and that costs the U.S. $550 billion a year. Those numbers haven’t changed for 25 years.
I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. The empathy’s a huge issue as far as developing empathetic servant leadership. I teach a class that deals with specifically that, which is unusual in a lot of courses. I teach for a lot of different universities, and so each one has a different focus on how they teach leadership. It is out there, but there’s not a lot of it out there. Greenleaf’s servant leadership is something that a lot of people should read about to know more about it in general. It’s going to be such a different focus, the way leadership has changed since I’ve entered the workplace a hundred years ago. It was a Mad Men time. Things were totally different in the way that we looked at how we help people get noticed. You mentioned sponsors. That’s something that you didn’t use to hear about and it’s so important. When did this become such an important thing that you started hearing more about sponsoring?
It’s always been there, especially within the male colleague community. I’ve done a lot of work with The Female Quotient, which focuses on helping female executives build their skills and their competence. Sponsorship is relatively new when it comes to female supporting other females. It’s also very important now for it to go cross gender. We have so many different communication styles and people are so quick sometimes to discount or not hear certain things because of the style challenge, that they miss something very important. Savvy leaders, peers, and colleagues know how to listen to the other person and recognizing their style so they can hear what that person’s saying. If somebody misses it, it’s their responsibility to sponsor that person, whether that person is in the room or out of the room. It’s more effective when that person’s out of the room to continue to represent the idea in case it was overlooked simply due to style challenge.
It’s interesting to look at the different personalities and styles in the workplace. That’s what my focus is always been, is understanding the opposite personality from what you have because sometimes, that’s hard for people. I know there are a lot of people who have mentioned the importance of finding your complimentary person to work ways that maybe doesn’t have the same qualities and traits that you have. Do you think a lot of people need to do that? Do you think you should surround yourself with people who have traits that maybe you could develop better and you don’t really have?
There is no bigger growth driver than aggregating diversity of thought. If we all work with people that look like us, act like us, and talk like us, we’re not going to grow very much. That’s what everybody is focused on today. Diversity is an action, but inclusivity is cultural. If we bring all these people together, it is equally, if not more important, to create an environment in which everyone gets heard. There’s a lot of content and training out there. It is grounded in bias, particularly unconscious bias, and that’s also a popular term. A lot of people don’t realize that everyone has unconscious bias. It doesn’t matter who you are. There’s some amazing literature that Google put out with some of their diversity training that showed scientifically that everyone has unconscious bias. It’s important to become aware. Once you’re aware, you’re accountable.
I do a lot of training with different personality assessments where you learn your personality types and different things. In these training courses, if you give people Legos and you ask them to create something, if your teams are all the same personality type versus if the teams are all diverse, it’s so interesting to see the difference in creativity because they’re not very creative things that come out of the teams when they’re all the same. When you have a mixed team and a very diverse team, they come up with far more fascinating projects. I don’t think a lot of people realize that sometimes they try to put people on teams to get along, that they all have the same personality type, and that can be a problem.
Margaret Heffernan did a TED Talk about super chickens. I took a gazillion notes because there are so many good messages in there. It was a farmer who noticed that a couple of chicken on his farm were producing more eggs than other chickens. He came up with this novel idea that, “What if I take this group of super chickens and I put them all together and over time, over the different generations, I’m going to have this incredible flock of super chickens. I’m going to have the best-producing egg farm on the planet.” After about six generations, he was left with one or two super chickens who were not producing any eggs. If you put all these super chickens together, what happens is they start to poke each other’s eyes out. It was not only because they were all alike, but they were all extremely aggressive. Sometimes it’s easy to follow the loudest voice in the room, but that doesn’t mean that voice is right.
Things seem like a good idea sometimes, but they are all theory until you put it to work. That’s why it’s so hard to make decisions sometimes for people because a lot of the best lessons you learn are through failure.
Absolutely and I come back to Linda Boff for a second because she said something so powerful and it comes down to being a leader and she said, “I have to be mindful that because I am a leader, my voice carries more weight than it probably should in certain situations. I have to learn to provide an environment where people aren’t just listening to my voice, but they are able to voice their own thoughts.” That’s such a wise point that she made.
You had mentioned that you had done 400 to 500 CMO interviews. What was your original intent for those interviews?
That was long time ago when I was the CMO of the CMO Club. I was doing a lot of research and leading all the content development. It was my job to understand what CMOs cared about.
You’ve done a lot of great work on CMO Moves and it is challenging to have a podcast. When they told me I had this radio show, I had two weeks to figure it out and do it. It was quite a challenge. Have you found it challenging at all to do a podcast?
It is a lot harder than people think it is. Once you get it down and you get comfortable with it, it’s really fun. I remember talking to Seth Farbman, he was one my first guests. He is the CMO of Spotify and he has a podcast too. We were laughing in the beginning of the podcast before we even started recording, and then when we did record, I said, “Seth, how’s it going with your podcast?” He’s like, “I’m still a podcaster in training and it takes me a couple of sessions to find your driving force”. There’s a content perspective of the podcast. It’s important that you understand what it is you’re trying to do, but the technical nuts and bolts have been exciting. I’m sitting at a card table in an empty bedroom in my house with a mic I’ve never seen before I started podcasting, all these wires all over the place. That’s my podcast set up, but it works. I’ve never preached anybody to be perfect. Get the job and the content done. You have a great show and you cover amazing content, and that’s key.
You get so many people who want to be on the show and you can’t take a lot of people because it gets broad and yours is less broad with the CMO aspect. Is there a reason why you just wanted CMOs? Have you considered the C-suite in general because it inter-relay?
One of the reasons that I decided to focus on CMOs on the onset is that it is the group of professionals that I work with all the time. I feel like it is the most complex role in the entire C-suite. It is the broadest role. It is the most ill-defined role. As part of the playbook that I was writing with the board that I had, we spent a lot of time talking about the role of the CMO and how that was ill-defined. Part of it was to bring clarity to that and the other part of it is I’m tired of people picking on the CMO. It is a very tough job and it’s so easy to throw stones.
Until you’ve walked in their shoes, everybody should respect each other. Last year was a bad year for CMOs. Everyone is talking about how horrible the job was and the lack of credibility. I’m like, “I know a ton of CMOs who are awesome,” and so my mission is to bring that forward. It’s interesting because my podcast is showcasing CMOs but it is about leadership. I’ve had a lot of people call me or send me notes from sales or IT or different roles and saying they’re still getting a lot out of it because it is about leadership and anyone can leverage those skills. I’ve also been getting a lot of request to broaden it.
There’s one sweet spot that I want to dig into and that would be the intersection of the CMO and the CHRO role. I believe culture is key right now. I’ve been personally curious about understanding how that works. It comes from an example. I’m chair in an HR event. I wrote an article on this called HR: A New Breed of People Marketers. I’m sitting in the audience before I had to go up stage and give my opening comments. I’m listening to all of these HR folks from the largest retailers in the world talking about click-through and acquisition and social media strategy and I’m like, “Am I in a marketing conference or am I in an HR conference? Where the heck am I?”
I interviewed and released Peter McGuinness’ podcast and he is the Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer for Chobani. He had a lot to say about how he operates with HR as well, but he gets a shared responsibility because it is about communication. If a CMO’s role isn’t clear now, it will be very soon. It’s a Chief Culture Officer role as well, and to do that, you have to work in tandem with HR. It’s all about employer branding. It’s about attracting the right talent to your team so you can be successful. It’s about retention, as much as it is about acquisition. It goes back to those ugly Gallup numbers.
You mentioned being curious about how HR is tied in. I’m writing a book on curiosity. Are you a naturally curious person? How do you think that came to be if so?
I’m always curious. I’m a notorious over-engineerer. It’s because I’m never satisfied with what I discover. I always think there’s more. That gets you into trouble sometimes, but in other cases it’s led me to some of my best discoveries. I’m overly curious, but that’s okay.
I would like to be able to develop people’s sense of curiosity. A lot of people are held back by fear or technology or different aspects. Sometimes it’s just the way things have always been done or the influence they’ve had from other people. I’d like to see there be more research on developing curiosity. We talked about engagement and people want to know how they’re doing. They want feedback. They’re curious. They want to know how what they do is important to the overall goals of the corporation or in the organizations. That’s what leads to productivity, is improved engagement. We need to focus on how we could ignite that sense of curiosity in people.
It’s removing the fear factor. It goes all the way back to elementary school. As you grow up in the school system, you’re taught to keep your head down almost and just follow the rules. By the time you get to high school, you have forgotten what you were passionate about, and it’s really sad. I used to spend a lot of time with an organization that works with kids all over the world. It has huge implications on very strong societal issues. When you get into college or in your MBA program, you’re being taught already from a very old and outdated curriculum, unless you’re fortunate to be in some of the more progressive schools and forward thinking schools. That’s sad because you’re already been held back before you even start.
We’re all trying to work together to fix that. There are some amazing professors out there, but that’s a big part of where the talent challenge start. A lot of CMOs volunteering their time to go into the universities and teach courses on what it’s like to be in their organization, what’s their real world look like for them and their organization, and what got them to where they are today. A lot of them have embraced the fact that you have to remove fear from an organization, so that has huge implications, whether it’s on how you create your performance objectives, how you inspire and encourage innovation, or how you reward that.
I’ve heard everything from creating a structure where everybody’s time allocation, 70% is to be spent on the current business, 30% they’re supposed to go off and play and innovate, and that’s okay. They’re giving space for that. A lot of people talk about, “Go fail, and fail forward, but don’t do it again. Try everything.” Peter Mcguinness was funny on his podcast. He told me that he has a boss once that told him that 50% of the things I do every day are wrong, but I do a lot of things, so that’s okay.
You’ve got some amazing guests on your show and I hope lot of people check it out because it’s not just CMOs that could benefit from what you talk about. Can you share how people can find out more about your show and you?
Thank you so much. Just Google my name, NadineDietz.com, and you should land right on me.
It is a great show and it was so much fun having you here. Thank you so much, Nadine.
Thank you, Diane. It’s been a real pleasure.
All my thanks go out to Bryan and Nadine. Thank you. You were great guests. I hope anybody who’s missed our past guests and episodes goes to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can go to the radio there and find all past episodes. You can also sign up to receive future episodes. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
About Bryan Falchuk
Best-selling author, life & executive coach, TEDx presenter and public speaker, and have written several articles for Inc. Magazine, The LA Times, Chicago Tribune and more.
C-level P & C insurance executive with deep functional expertise in general management, sales and distribution, operations, M & A, claims, corporate strategy and business intelligence.
About Nadine Dietz
Nadine is an active advisor, consultant, author and a host. She has authored several best practice guides for CMOs, including the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook, The CMO Solution Guide for Omnichannel Personalization and The CMO Solution Guide for Leveraging New Technology and Marketing Platforms. She created and launched the first Digital CMO Solutions Clubhouse while CMO of The CMO Club. She is the co-author of Marketing Land’s “Driving the Modern Marketing Organization” column. And she recently launched and hosts CMO Moves, a new podcast featuring game changing CMOs.
Without a set blueprint in place for CMOs – every CMO position is different based on company size, industry and needs – I’ve spent my career sharing best practices that can help shape their unique success. As a CMO myself, and with a broad and deep perspective gained from interviewing and working with hundreds of CMOs, I have helped seasoned, new, and aspiring CMOs understand what it takes to excel in the ever-changing top marketing job.
Check out my new podcast CMO Moves featuring game changing CMOs!
- Bryan Falchuk
- Nadine Dietz
- Do a Day
- CMO Moves
- Do a Day on Amazon
- Do a Day on iTunes
- Do a Day on Barnes & Noble
- Do a Day on Audible
- Bruce Rogers
- Greg Welch
- ANA CMO Challenge Playbook
- Linda Boff
- The Female Quotient
- HR: A New Breed of People Marketers