From Trash Can To Business Mogul with Antonio T. Smith and Building Transformational Improvement with Mark Samuel

When things get tough, a lot of people easily give up and listen to their own self-talk about belonging in the trash can. Antonio T. Smith, Jr. says though that you have to find a way to change that inner voice and stop giving up. Antonio was basically homeless from the age of six to eighteen. At seven years old, he found solace in a trash can when his parents could no longer afford to keep him legally because they were addicted to drugs. Antonio recounts his journey from living in trash cans to becoming the prolific speaker and celebrity business advisor today.


With all the change that’s happening, we have to find ways to reinvent ourselves. Mark Samuel, founder and CEO of IMPAQ Corporation, talks about a transformational improvement that can change the game in his book, B State. He wrote it as a new roadmap for bold leadership, brave culture, and breakthrough results. Mark delves deep into the subject of leadership and company culture, and introduces the concept of mid-level leadership and transformational improvement.

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement


I’m so glad you joined me because we have Antonio T. Smith, Jr. and Mark Samuel here. Antonio is a business advisor and bestselling author and Mark is a CEO and Founder of IMPAQ.

Listen to the podcast here

From Trash Can To Business Mogul with Antonio T. Smith

I am here with Antonio T. Smith, Jr. who is a prolific speaker and celebrity business advisor with clients on his roster such as Les Brown. He has delivered more than 2,000 keynotes. He has his own podcast that reaches 70 countries and 60 different languages. This is going to be so much fun. Antonio, thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you very much.

It’s fun because I get to read all these wonderful bios like yours and you have quite a background. I was looking at just who you’ve spoken to in the past and all the people on your show. Your reach is amazing. I had watched your commencement speech and that’s what I want to talk about a little bit. You give a great story and it ties into the research I’m doing in the area of curiosity because you get into listening. Would you mind just telling a little bit of story that you told on your background and growing up and how that coach changed your life?

He’s my hero for sure. I was homeless from six to eighteen. While I was seven years old, I found a trash can here in Dallas, Texas, a city dumpster. I found those big brown ones and got the door on the side. I would break my shit getting up in there and my parents could no longer afford to keep me and couldn’t legally keep me. I couldn’t do anything because they were addicted to drugs and I ran away from foster care. I ran away from parents because one side of my family won’t talk about the other side and no one liked me. At least I perceived it that way. I found solace in that trash can. I hop on the trash can but eventually, I got out of that trash. Somewhere in high school, I met a guy named Mr. Merritt. He was very conscious and he loved athletes. I was a typical athlete trying to get my way out the hood. I broke my shoulder in so many different places and this guy challenges me and says, “You should be on speech.” I’m like, “Come on. There are all those dorks over there.”

Typical masculine alpha male teenagers don’t know what to do with it. He gets me on there and I do my first speech tournament and I lose. I get to the semifinals and the judge said, “You’re too loud.” He goes, “You activated my competitive side.” He teaches me. He takes me under his wing. He teaches me to start listening because as a teenager, I didn’t listen to anybody. I didn’t even listen to me. While I’m thinking it’s about speech and debate, he ends up teaching about listening in life and accepting all information. If it doesn’t work for you, discard it but receive it because nothing is bad. It’s only how you perceive it. To this day, he is my hero. He changed my life and because of him, I made a lot of money.

I had a teacher who had a strong impact on me more in the area of math. It led to my desire to learn more about curiosity, which is what I’m writing about. When you were talking about listening, it ties into asking a question sometimes to get the answers to listen to. What I found in my research is there were four things that held people back from being curious which were fear, assumptions, technology and environment. You’re talking a lot about the environment. Parents or sometimes teachers and different influences like that can have a strong impact on curiosity. I imagine this Coach Merritt had a strong impact on your curiosity because to listen, you had to ask questions.

[bctt tweet=”Listen to life and accept all information. Receive it because nothing is bad. If it doesn’t work for you, discard it.” via=”no”]

You want to receive the answer. It’s the old nature versus nurture argument. I was born a certain way. I was born an intellectual. I was always smart as a kid. I didn’t talk much, but life nurtured me into a different way from my parents. I had to become an animal almost to survive. I’m at this part of my lifestyle, this testosterone raging through me and this animal instinct that I used to survive, it no longer serves me. What got me here, won’t get me there. He had to teach me how to pause and let other people be more important than you so you can win friends and influence people like Dale Carnegie. He’s a classic example.

Everybody is trying to be innovative and everybody is trying to figure out the success principle to get to that point. That’s what I’m trying to do. What you’re talking about ties in so well to developing that questioning spirit and to listen to what you hear. It’s not necessarily so much getting information from other people as it is from your own self-talk. You could have easily just said, “I belong here in this trash can,” and give up but you didn’t. That’s what I find fascinating about successful people like you. You find that way to get that inner voice in your head and change it. How do we get people to do more of that?

It was something so simple that turned me into the person I am now and this goes to your audience. I got hungry. I dropped out of school in second grade. I almost fell in the fifth grade and the sixth grade trying to go back, but I dropped out at sixth grade. Here’s what happened. I got hungry. I’m sitting here at the school dropout in this trashcan and I’m starving. It was right then and there that I realized that school is two meals a day. What I did was I picked up my embarrassment. I graduated late. I did all that stuff and I end up graduating. The secret that I’m trying to express to everyone here is the loud hunger in my body, no one else can hear it but me. When you quit, there was a loud noise that only you can hear and you become comfortable with the loudness of your poverty. Don’t do that because my hunger was so loud, I can hear it. I didn’t choose to accept it because I am not got hungry. My natural primal instinct is to feed this hunger is what made me who I am now.

It’s interesting to know the thing that pushes you past that one known limit. Leonard Kim was on my show and he’s successful. His story is interesting because his electricity got turned off. He had to go out into the hallway to even get his toaster oven to cook food. He was homeless too. There’s a point where you just go, “I’m just not going to do this anymore.” It’s too bad that it has to get to the point where people end up homeless. I’m looking at the average person who’s not going to end up homeless, but that’s maybe misaligned to what could be their passion in the workplace. There’s so much going on right now. People are going to be shuffled around with innovation and technology changing. I just want to see what we can do to help people listen to that inner voice and stop listening to the negative one that’s saying, “Maybe this isn’t interesting. I don’t want to do that. That sounds boring.” We haven’t been exposed to things that might be interesting to us. How do you get people to get more curious to stop that voice from talking you out of trying new things?

The kids are homeschooled. My boys attended six and if you ask them what’s the secret to life, they’re going to tell you almost in cadence, “Be happy.” That truly is the secret to life. There’s something there that I’ve taught them even if they don’t understand yet. It’s communication. If you’re going to get yourself off of the rut and make you not quit or don’t be victims of government shutdown or whatever it may be, you’re going to have to learn how to communicate. Communicate with yourself first. Self-awareness is a superpower. I don’t care what anyone else says. If you understand when the voice on the inside of you is louder than the voice on the outside of you, you’ve mastered your life. Here is what is powerful among all of these things. If you can’t master communication with others and with yourself, you will get left behind in this world. That is just a fact. It’s never going to change. The more technology takes over, the more we’re going to secretly desire for communication. Master yourself talk and then master talking to others and you will always be in a profitable position to change your life.

Self-awareness is such a huge part of emotional intelligence and I wrote my Doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence. I had Daniel Goleman on the show talking about it. I think that it’s so great how you brought that into the inside versus the outside. I love that because self-awareness ties into the curiosity factor that I’m talking about. If you’re interested in why you’re thinking these things and if we can explore that inner voice a little bit, we’re all going to be developing emotional intelligence. You’re going to develop other aspects of it including empathy, which is a better understanding of other people. You’ll be able to feel what they’re feeling. I love that you have this gift for communication. You told that story of Coach Merritt. You said that he told you your weakness was that you didn’t listen. How did he recognize that in you? What did you display that made him think that you weren’t listening?

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement
Transformational Improvement: Self-awareness is a superpower. If you understand when the voice on the inside of you is louder than the voice on the outside of you, you’ve mastered your life.


I think he realized that I was programmed. I was behaving like a typical product of CPS angry at everyone. This is a good word for your audience. When you’re talking about your doctoral dissertation and this gift of emotional intelligence and curiosity, programmed people start being curious because this society that we live in, we’re more profitable entertained and not educated. What we do is we knock the curiosity out of children and adults that program children to be average. We’re not born average, were born conquerors. Grant Cardone says, “We’re 10X in this game.” Tell us to stop beating on pots and stuff. When you are not curious, if you’ve lost your imagination, if you lost your curiosity, it’s because you programmed all the rules in this society. Here’s what I would say to this just to put a cap on this. Winners set the rules but winners never follow the rules. If you are following rules, it means that you’re letting a winner uphold your poverty condition. Your curiosity is something that tells you this rule doesn’t fit me, let me look beyond it. If you’re an entrepreneur, you look at something that works perfectly and say, “It’s broken. I could do better.” If you lose that, you lose your whole curiosity.

Status quo is very boring first of all. If you knew all the answers, who wants to know everything and then what? Every day would be boring. A lot of people have convinced themselves, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” That type of thinking and that leaves out so much that you could learn about the world. I don’t think a lot of people realize that they even do that because they’ve been programmed from such a young age. That’s what I’m trying to do with my message. I’m curious since you are a best-selling author and popular podcast host and you do this show that reaches 70 countries and 60 different languages and all this. You’re talking to famous people sometimes and authors and everybody in between. What do you think is the one thing that makes people most successful?

One thing that makes people most successful is their ability to not think what other people’s thoughts. There’s a book called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. He’s the CEO of Mindvalley. We have brules that we follow. Brules stand for something with the B and then rules. Here’s what happens. We get to be successful because Dr. Diane says, “I’m not going to follow that rule. I’d want to see what’s on the other side of this status quo.” Only the 3% after that do crazy things like that because it’s far more comfortable to be in poverty. It’s far more comfortable to be in your comfort zone because at least you know what to expect there. When you know what to expect, you know how to behave. To go outside of that is dangerous though. You don’t know how to behave. You don’t know what you were going to do with this radio show until you start doing it. Successful people start thinking with their own thoughts. That’s just something we do.

You bring up an important point about the fear factor in curiosity. A lot of people are held back because of their fear. The solution overcoming the fear is curiosity. People don’t see the next step is that discomfort. How do we lessen that discomfort so that people want to do more? That’s a tough one and I’m not saying you should have the answer to it. It’s just something interesting thing to discuss. Fear can hold so many people back. You’re very self-confident when you speak because you’ve won all these contests and now, you’re this unbelievable speaker. I have a lot of people who want to become better speakers, but they have that fear of failure or getting up on stage. They fear to look stupid or whatever it is that people fear about speaking better than death and all that they put on the list. Why do you think you were able to overcome the fear of speaking where other people are just held back by it?

I’ll break it into two parts. I’m ignorant. I am the stupidest person alive. When failure pops up in my direction, I have no idea that it’s a failure. I just rolled right past it and people are like, “You should’ve quit.” I’d be like, “Really? That was a failure. I had no idea.” I’m just stupid. You have to get to the point where you’re so intelligent that when say your pops up, “You’re just stupid.” Because if you’re smart, you will know every way to fail and you will succumb and submit to failure. That’s number one there. Be stupid enough to keep going. I don’t know if this is the answer that’ll help people with fear, but this is the answer I tell my people that I coach and mentor on my team. Fear has three parts to it as I experienced it. It is a hypothetical situation in your head that will never happen that paralyzes you in your presence. That’s the three parts of fear as I experienced it in my life. The thing I’m worried about is it only exists in my head. It’s not reality. It’s never going to happen. It’s pausing me right where I stand and it makes no sense when you break it down that way. I shouldn’t let something that doesn’t even exist in this real reality pause me into the real reality. That’s how I break down fear in my own experience. It didn’t necessarily come out of a psychologist book, but that’s how I perceive fear.

In my book, I cited one of my guests. I think it was 85% of what we fear doesn’t come true. It’s a high percentage. What’s interesting to me about failure is how it’s perceived now in organizations. In the ‘80s and ‘70s, you used to fail and it was the end of the world. You just never even wanted to have anything be a failure or you would worry about your job. You’d worry about this or worried about that. Now, I’m seeing younger generations. They’re almost looking at it so much in a learning way. I like seeing that they’re allowing failure. They’re seeing it as a learning experience. Are you seeing that more often in your experience as well?

[bctt tweet=”Let other people be more important than you so you can win friends and influence people.” via=”no”]

Good job because you taught it to me. Your generation taught it to me. You taught us, “There is something you can learn from this.” We didn’t know that but we bought into it. The reason why Millennials like me don’t buy a house is like, “You buy a house and now you have to die broke.” We don’t do that anymore. Now, I own a lot of real estates and I rent where I live because of that very reason. Other people pay my rent. We have bought hook line and sinker to what your generation has taught us. The reason why we are adapting and being smart about fear is not our credit. It’s your credit. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Your generation is such an interesting one to me. I have two Millennial daughters. It’s interesting to look at the Millennials and the Boomers and all the workplace conflict. Everybody talks about, “This group doesn’t get along with that group.” In reality, everybody is just an individual. Everybody is so different. I’ve had people on my show who have said they look at Millennials as two separate groups. There’s super motivated and the not motivated at all. Do you see that your age generation has split it all into any categories or do you think it’s hard to categorize people like that?

I’m going to agree with the first part of what you said. We are motivated and not motivated. Normally I would say, “There are no rules.” That’s about accurate. There’s motivated and not motivated. When you think about that, it’s the same thing about Baby Boomers too now that I think about it. You have some Baby Boomers that are motivated and some of them that are not. The issue with the Millennial generation is quite simple. The world is far different than it has ever been and technology is supposed to make you lazy. That’s the job of technology. We were cavemen. The moment we invented the wheel, we don’t have to walk anymore. The point of technology is to make us lazy. Here we have it, the most technologically advanced generation ever. We’re supposed to be lazy and then we have this dichotomy, “Should we be lazy with this technology or should we be motivated?” We’re confused about it.

I teach for about seven different universities, but one of them is technology-based. One of the questions they have in one of the courses was, “Define technology and give examples.” It’s so hard to do that because just about anything will fall into the category. It’s a fun time that everybody is talking about technology and artificial intelligence and all the things that are happening. This 2019 is going to be the big year that you’re going to hear so much about what we need to do to help people just be innovative and keep up with it all. You do a lot of conferences and talks about this type of thing. What’s your favorite talk to give?

My favorite talk to give is when I tried to explain to people about the internet. As far as I’m concerned, the internet is the greatest invention of mankind since the written word. That’s a powerful statement. If it wasn’t for the written word, we’ll be in the dark ages. The internet has now doubled back and it’s just twenty years old. The internet is almost not even a Millennial. It’s twenty. It can’t even drink yet. Its influence is still sky high. I started to get around and stuff like that instead of getting houses. The internet is just twenty. Look at what it’s done to the world in twenty years. You haven’t even seen what the internet is capable of and that’s my favorite topic is to remind people or bring to awareness that twenty years from now is you’re just going to start seeing the internet come into its own and that’s powerful. If any of you are older than me or didn’t start it, you are not behind. It just got started. This is the perfect place to be. That’s one of my favorite talks to give.

Jetsons was big when I was a kid and I used to think, “I was born too soon. I want to see all the stuff that’s coming up later.” That would be a great talk and you give so many of them. I’m sure a lot of people are fascinated by what you’re doing with your radio show, your podcast, your speeches and all the things you do. If somebody wanted to hire you to speak or just find out more about what you’re up to, how do they find out more about you?

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement
Transformational Improvement: The internet’s technically twenty years old. Twenty years from now, you’re going to start seeing the internet come into its own.


You can follow me on Facebook. Let me just apologize in advance because the moment you look me up, you’re going to be caught in my sales funnels. I do apologize. You’re never going to not see me again no matter how hard you try. I want to make sure you see me all the time. You can just find me on Facebook or just Google, Antonio T. Smith, Jr. I’m everywhere on purpose. Speaking of the podcast, this is the nugget that people should know. I’m not stopping until I have sixteen podcasts. I have five right now and another nine in production. Why would I do that? Because I understand that voices takeover, but I’m building a community that can’t be stopped. I imagine having a community that can’t be stopped and you’re at the helm of it.

I can’t wait to follow that. Antonio, you are the best. Thanks for being on my show. I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed it, Diane. Thank you very much.

You’re welcome.

Building Transformational Improvement with Mark Samuel

I am here with Mark Samuel. He is the CEO and Founder of IMPAQ Corp and the author of B STATE: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results. It’s so nice to have you here, Mark.

Thanks, Diane. It’s wonderful to be here.

I just want to make sure I understand how people can find you because we had talked a little bit about whether you’re IMPAQ Corp, but you’re also rebranding as B State. Is it easier to go to or How do we find that work?

We’re still going to be IMPAQ, but we are directing people towards because it’s just so much easier to say.

I want to know what it means. We need to go to that. What is A state? What is B state? What are we talking about with that?

Here’s the thing that we’ve discovered. This is a worldwide issue. We tend to look at the past and want to get ourselves better. The problem is all that does is get us to a better version of A state. I call it an A-plus state. That can sound good but the problem is with all the change that’s happening, we have to find ways to reinvent ourselves. What B state refers to is not going to do another version of A, but creating a rapid breakthrough result for your organization and your culture at the same time.

[bctt tweet=”Winners set the rules but never follow them. If you’re following rules, that means that you’re letting a winner hold your condition.” via=”no”]

B is an improvement over A then.

It’s not even an improvement, it’s a transformational improvement over A. It changes the game.

I just want to make sure I understand the meaning behind it because I know you’re trying to change behaviors. I’m very interested in that because I’m a behavioral expert. What are we talking about when we say old behaviors are no longer relevant or effective? What kind of behaviors do you think are no longer relevant?

There are a few that are no longer relevant. The first one to me is the disease of most organizations, which is silo behavior. You cannot be a director of a functional area and think that your job is optimizing that functional area. Your job is to optimize the business and the whole business results. That means working with other functional directors, other functional areas in collaboration and cooperation to optimize the organization’s business results. It’s a whole different game. That’s one thing right off the bat. The second thing is we have to engage our employees not just to engage them for employee satisfaction or because there’s an engagement survey. We need to engage them for critical thinking to develop their critical thinking to better know the business, but also to get their fresh ideas and their innovative ideas.

That ties into the research I’m doing in curiosity. It all ties back. They have all these great ideas, but they’re terrified to either share them. They’ve been shut down for sharing in the past or given more work for sharing them in the past or they don’t even know that their ideas are helpful. How do we get people to be more open in sharing?

It’s almost like the third behavior to your previous question. It’s part of the answer and that is, we have to move away from being control-oriented to being outcome driven. The problem with being control oriented is we ended up not only stifling the workplace, but we also ended up controlling activity. We make the organization activity-driven rather than producing results-driven. When you start to be more outcome-driven and looking, I don’t mean outcome in form of metrics. I’m talking about the outcome in the form of a picture of success which includes both our business results and the execution to get there. What happens is it gives people the freedom to use their own innovation in their own ways of getting there and that’s when you engage people. You can’t control when you try and engage them.

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement
Transformational Improvement: You’ve got to get away from delegating activity, prescription, and giving people the result and let them innovate to get there.


A lot of them try to do that. It’s hard not to want to have some control when you have this overall vision and you think, “I know where I want to go. I’ll just have you do this.” The problem is that we have so many creative and interesting people out there that have great ideas that you don’t even know until you go out and find out what they’re capable of giving you in terms of input. How do you get over that need to control and what are the steps? Is there some advice you have to get over that control-driven situation?

In actuality, I’ll let you control. Just control the outcomes and the results, not how you get there. As a leader, even with my own business, I have certain goals and results I want to accomplish, but I’m not going to control my team and how to get there. I give them the goal, we talk about the goal, we look at what are the parameters and what’s the best execution to get the goal. They’re part of creating that best execution. They are the ones to tell me how to get to the goal. Transformation of goals can be very reasonable. That’s what spawns creativity and innovation. I can’t be also been dictating, “Here’s how you’re going to do it. Here’s what activities I want you to do.” You’ve got to get away from delegating activity and prescription and giving people the result and letting them innovate to get there and doing it collaboratively not individually.

You may get people on your team who are inefficient or they get off track. How do you keep them on track and efficient without controlling them too much? Do you run into that at all?

That can happen and that’s where you need to steer and guide the ship based on the results. Here’s a great metaphor for it. Leadership should become the GPS of the organization. When I’m driving and I map out a destination on the GPS, I follow the plan. When I get off track, which I do quite often where I take the wrong road, the GPS doesn’t go back to the place I started. It doesn’t even go back to the original plan or map. What it does is it maps it out from there. That’s what we have to do. What the leader needs to do is keep B state. That pictures success for B state in front of people all the time and keep tracking and adjusting to that B state. The other thing that managers can do differently is we focus so much on the perfection of the plan. What we focus on is a proactive recovery. In other words, when we get off plan, when things get off track, do we already have a method for getting us back on track without blame, without judgment or without criticism? Just simply what GPS does, remapping back to where we want to go. It’s keeping that destination in mind the whole time, repeating it, talking about it, making decisions based on it and solving problems based on it. That’s what keeps people aligned and excited.

You’re dealing with a lot of things that I deal with and you specialize in healthcare as well as other industries. I had an example in my book on curiosity of a hospital that brought in a pit crew that helped them learn how to be more efficient. Talk about getting outside your silo. It’s way outside thinking. I don’t think we’re seeing a lot of that and I’m sure I didn’t see a lot of that. I worked for AstraZeneca for a long time. I was in healthcare for a long time. I see that some industries have a hard time changing the company culture because it’s always been done in a certain way. It seems that Marshall Goldsmith comes up a lot with his mentality, “What got you here won’t get you there.” How do you get the CEO to recognize that they’re stuck in their old company culture?

I don’t think the CEO is the issue. If I were to leverage, culture change super fast especially in healthcare, I bring the middle managers together to become a unified team. In charge of the culture and in charge of operational excellence but with one distinction. They have to create new habits between themselves on how they’re going to solve problems, share information, make decisions based on what’s best for the institution, the organization and not their functional area. The only way that they learn the business is by being with the other middle managers to find out how the whole organization works, not just how their functional area works. It is amazing. I’ll give you an example. A hospital we worked with completely siloed, completely metrics driven by the CEO and there was no involvement of middle management except in meetings to share information like normal. They were also about to either go out of business or to have to be sold because they haven’t been profitable. We brought the middle managers together. 50 people in the room created a unified picture of success. They created habits across functional decision making, problem-solving and took on projects. Not only did they become profitable. We started in the third month, six months or something like that. They made up for that became profitable and I found out that they are now considered in the top twenty of rural medical centers in the US by the association of rural hospitals.

[bctt tweet=”Leadership should become the GPS of the organization.” via=”no”]

The CEOs are the ones deciding whether you’re coming in to help and then you have this middle management coming in saying, “No, we need to do it this way.” How does the CEO, who oftentimes surround themselves with people who agree with them all the time, react to that?

This particular CEO fought it for six months. It was the hardest thing because he was so metric-oriented. The problem was metrics weren’t getting the results. Once we got the middle managers together, they started producing recommendations with good business cases that you couldn’t avoid. All of a sudden, the results started to happen. They started to turn. It went from a downward slope and all of a sudden turning upward and by the end of the year, they were profitable. That’s going to get the attention of the CEO. It just gets faster.

How risky is it though to the CEO? Have you had any of them say you’re out of here because they don’t want to wait?

It’s not a matter of waiting because they’re still not getting the results. They’re in a bind and the results start to happen fast. We expect results. We expect the culture change of leadership to how strong indicators within six months. We are measuring deliverables, collective execution and team relationships and correlating all three of those within six months. We’re expecting spending habits to change at a level of 60% to 80% and 35% to 50% significant habit change inside of six months. We can guarantee that in this process.

I’m curious about what you do to train the middle managers then? What do you do to get them to think this way? How do you get them together? Do they always all agree and that type of thing? I’m trying to picture it.

They don’t always all agree because this is based on consciousness. It’s not something you can develop. It’s almost an awareness and consciousness or a perspective or a mindset that has to shift. Some middle managers it takes a while because they feel still in the victim mode about things. We don’t teach them how to do it, we have them teach us how to do it. They’re the ones who redefine their collective habits, agree on them and measure on them. They’re the ones who create it and we’re doing the same. What’s B state? What’s your picture of success and how would you optimally get there, not based on style, not based on preference, not based on history? If you were to rewrite the rulebooks of how you functioned together, we all know that the way to change a habit is to replace an old habit with a new one. What we’re doing is going in and changing their habits by having them rewrite them based on their conditions of reality and their outcomes.

You mentioned transformational goals leading to creativity and innovation. That’s what I’m having them do when they figure out what’s stopping them from being curious. Once they do that, I have them create these goals. To me, the spark is curiosity. That’s what I’ve been working on. Those things that are keeping people from being creative and transformational are all the things you’re talking about. I’m very interested in what you do. You’re talking about starting mid-level leadership is controversial compared to what most people say. The culture starts at the top and if you don’t know that a CEO buying it, you’re dead in the water. It’s what most people are saying. Are you writing a TED Talk about this because what they want on TED Talk is a controversial topic?

I’ve never even thought of it but I am thinking of it now. I discovered it by accident.

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement
Transformational Improvement: You don’t develop trust by going through a trust program. You develop trust by helping each other solve problems, supporting each other, looking at each other as teammates.


How did you do that? What do you mean you did it by accident?

I’m a believer. I grew up with a traditional organization development. All change starts at the top. That’s what leads it and I ended up working with a middle management group at one point. It wasn’t a team, it was just a middle management training, but I treated them as a team. They accomplished this major transformation in their organization and the executives didn’t even know about it. When I talk about major transformation, here’s a culture change for you. When it changed a budgeting time, they all got together and did a unified budget based on the outcomes of the organization rather than a functional budget. They had an agreement between themselves that they still had to propose it functionally because that was the system. If they didn’t get what they wanted, the team would get together and we allocate resources amongst themselves.

You’ve talked about some interesting transformational goals. I’d want to get a few more examples because I think of the things that have been effective. I think a lot of times just having that picture painted like you just did. What are some other transformational goals that had led to creativity and innovation in your opinion?

This is where we’re working together and collaboratively build intelligence. I find that many middle managers aren’t in the position of being good decision makers because they don’t understand the whole business. They only understand their technical area or their function. I’ll give you an example of this. That same medical center had to reduce operating costs by $7 million, which they did. Instead of senior management decided to make the cuts, they delegated it to middle management. Together as a 50-person group, they agreed on how they were going to do that in a positive way and accomplish it in three months. Here’s the key part. The second year they did it, they had to reduce costs by $9 million. This time they did it in about three weeks because they learned enough and had enough trust.

You don’t develop trust by going through a trust program. You develop trust by helping each other solve problems, supporting each other, looking at each other as teammates rather than the other department. It just changes the game completely. The other thing that I expect middle management to do is to delegate up. It’s like, “Here’s a way that we can be more efficient and effective, but as senior managers, we need you to operate a little bit differently and here’s the business case for doing that.” They’re now intelligent business owners rather than just department managers.

That is a different way of thinking and it’s going to be interesting to see. If somebody wanted to do this and if they’re ready to transform their organization to get these results, what was the first step? How do you start all this?

I did work with the leadership team first because I wanted to make sure that they weren’t sending their middle managers up for failure just by their silo behavior or the way they did things. I had to make sure they were clear on outcomes because they’re going to be providing direction. The biggest problem I see in senior management teams is they make everything a priority. Even when they create their buckets of priorities. To me, it’s the biggest joke in the world. We’ve got seven pillars. When you got twenty priorities within each pillar, you’re still fragmented. We force the senior managers to get clear on the top six to eight and then may be offshoots of that, but here’s what we’re going to be nonnegotiable about. We’re going to align around it and we create shared ownership on the senior level, which is different. Instead of saying, “Here are the five priorities. The first priority goes to this senior member as a sponsor and this one goes to that senior member as a sponsor.” We still do that but instead, the difference is it’s not a delegation. You have a delegated leadership role but we all own it. If you fail, we all fail. That’s the thing that’s different. That changes the game entirely. We cannot allow another leader to fail on the senior leadership team.

[bctt tweet=”The way to change a habit is by replacing an old habit with a new one.” via=”no”]

How do they incorporate this? What does the CEO say as part of their cultural explanation to the company? Do they go back to everybody and go, “This is our new culture?” What happens then?

We always have the senior leadership team create a picture of success for the organization like, “Here’s what results we need to get and we need to change the execution to get there.” We have to go from silos to collaboration. We have to go from control to engagement. We have to move from compare and contrast on a very global level. The whole job of management from that point forward is to start every meeting by reviewing that picture of success just like a GPS would. In other words, you’re always looking at that. The reason for starting the meeting that way, not with a rehearsed statement, but simply as a leader, whether you’re in senior management or middle management, where are we going and let’s make that the basis of how we solve problems and make decisions. Soon you’ll get everybody applying it. I’ll give you a great example of it. Three or four levels down the organization.

I only work with the senior managers and the middle management. Three levels down in a 1,500-person organization, an employee called out another employee and said, “The idea you just raised is back to A state. We need to stick to B state.” We never even talked to them the language. It’s just now transferred down because every manager is using that as, “Here’s A state, here’s B state. Let’s stick to B state when we solve problems and make decisions.” People are so excited about going into the future. No one wants to just correct the past. That’s so negative. Let’s move to the future state where there aren’t the same issues.

You’re considered a practical visionary. I’ve seen that you’ve been on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fortune Magazine. You speak frequently at events and conferences and a lot of people will be interested in finding out more about this. This is a unique and possible TED conference conversation. If people wanted to find out more about moving from A state to B state or how to contact you, how would they do that?

The easiest way is simply to go to That’s where information is. They can purchase my new book, B State. It’s on airports, it’s on the bookshelves, it’s on Amazon.

I appreciate that you were able to share all this on the show, Mark. It was so nice to meet you. Thank you for being on the show.

Thank you, Diane. I so appreciate both of your questions and your background. I’m with you on curiosity being the core competency for the future with all employees, but especially leaders. That’s the game.

Thank you for that. I’d like to thank Anthony and Mark for being my guests. If you’re looking for more information about Cracking The Curiosity Code or the Curiosity Code Index, you can find that at I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Antonio T. Smith

TTL 311 | Transformational Improvement

Antonio T. Smith, Jr. is a prolific public speaker and celebrity business advisor, with clients on his roster such as Les Brown. Antonio has delivered over 2000 keynotes at events such as the University of Houston, University of Wisconsin, The United States Army, Wiley College, and more, which you can listen to on his top-ranked business podcast. Antonio is an internationally recognized trainer and speaker, and best-selling author in self-help and religious categories. He specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Business and Strength Training, Leadership, Teleconference Presentations, Personal Breakthroughs, Prosperity Consciousness, Mindset Training, and all levels of effective marketing, as well as scholarship in the Old Testament and Jewish Covenants, and he owns one of the most successful technology companies in Texas. He holds a bachelor’s in Christianity and a Master’s in Theological Studies.

About Mark Samuel

TTL 311 | Transformational ImprovementMARK SAMUEL is the CEO and Founder of IMPAQ Corp., and the Author of “B STATE: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results.” His B STATE methodology represents a new paradigm and roadmap for rapidly transforming an organization’s business and culture at the same time.MARK SAMUEL is the CEO and Founder of IMPAQ Corp., and the Author of “B STATE: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results.” His B STATE methodology represents a new paradigm and roadmap for rapidly transforming an organization’s business and culture at the same time.


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