Watch or listen below to see Mitchell Levy’s interview with Jen Thornton on Leaders Living Their Values (25 min).
0:00:00.1 S2: Hi, I’m Mitchell Levy, Global Credibility Expert and I am excited to be here after being off in Europe for four weeks It is absolutely amazing to be back. It really is amazing to be back And this is one of the funnest times of my days And this is talking to somebody and really uncovering who they are and how they show up. The show is Leaders Living Their Values and I’m excited to have Jennifer Thornton with us today. Jennifer. Hi Hi, thanks for having me.
0:00:31.9 S1: It’s gonna be such a fun conversation today.
0:00:34.4 S2: I don’t know. We’ll make it that way. Absolutely And uh, and I love just throwing the ball in the air and saying Jennifer.
0:00:42.0 S2: Hello. Who are you? Oh my gosh, who am I? So that’s such always an interesting question to try to answer. So I think who I am Um is someone who is excited to see what’s around the corner? I’m excited to see what’s possible I’m an avid traveler book reader always curious about someone’s story And how they arrived where they are and where they’re going tell me Tell me about Listening to somebody’s story. I get by the way. It’s one of the things I love doing as well um as as a publisher as someone who Uh, we publish over 750 books. I just love listening to stories How does that work for you?
0:01:30.9 S1: Well, it’s interesting I was talking to someone earlier today and they asked me what was my favorite leadership book, right? So I do leadership education as an organization and they’re like, what’s your favorite book and I was like, uh, Actually, I don’t read leadership books Um, and they were very surprised by that and the reason I said, you know, but I read a ton of books But I really enjoy fiction. I enjoy historical fiction And I think that what you you grow from other people’s stories and that’s how you expand your mind and expand your experiences You know, I could never travel Um to some of the places in the world But I can read someone’s story from that location and get an idea of it through their eyes and for me It’s the ability to experience more that I you know can experience in one lifetime But also to learn and learn how to be a better human a better Educator a better Friend family member spouse all of those things I think I personally learn from stories and um just watching people work through life and their grit and their experiences and um, so yeah, so I I look at um Experiencing life a little different sometimes through my own eyes and sometimes through the eyes of someone else Hmm.
0:02:48.2 S2: Yeah, there’s so much similarities in who you and I are tell me your your favorite book Where you where where this story? Sort of maybe shocked you but also you’ve you’ve you’ve used it You’ve you’ve applied it to what you do day to day Oh my gosh, so many options there and I always try to think of one that maybe isn’t as popular that no one’s ever You know, most people haven’t heard of there’s an incredible book called.
0:03:15.6 S1: Um the same kind of different as me And it’s a true story about two gentlemen in fort worth and one of them is an incredibly wealthy art dealer um, you know million billion dollar painting type world and the other gentleman is a homeless individual and um, They both have obviously very different stories, but the world brings them together And they become best friends. It just gives me chills thinking about it and um You know, you would think as you’re you’re reading it that the person who struggled with Um, you know secure home and secure food would be the one that needed help, but that’s not true It was the very wealthy fancy art dealer that really needed help and um, denver Um came through for him. And so I’ve even seen um, the two gentlemen speak One of them has since passed but um, it was a very powerful book about Um, you never know who your friend needs to be in your life I could see how that would affect you how How have you been able to apply that concept?
0:04:26.4 S2: Inside an organization Yeah, that’s a great question and you’re getting me to think about it and I love that Um, so I think that oftentimes when I’m working with leaders are very focused on their vertical on their responsibilities their team um, and One of the you know early questions as I’m onboarding a new client that we talk about are who are your key?
0:04:50.4 S1: Who are your key adjacent partners? But who are those influencers that maybe are not key to your success on the surface? But If you really kind of think about it differently or think about what they bring to the table what you can learn from them Who they are adjacent to you know, how could that person help you? And how could you most importantly help them out in their team? And so I think there is a lot of value in having a diverse group of friends a diverse group of co-workers Um, and you know being around people that might not be on the surface who you would think you would spend your time with That’s fascinating I can see if you do a A collection of responses from asking that question I’m curious how many people when they initially give you the response.
0:05:46.5 S2: It’s only Halfway there or a quarter of a way there and when you start digging deeper they really fill in the blank They do they um, you know, they always you know, if you’re in accounting all of a sudden it’s someone um, and you know I don’t know the finance planning department, right?
0:06:03.1 S1: So it’s like really adjacent but in their mind it seems far away And that actually is very telling it says that you know, someone who’s fairly close feels far away. And why do they feel far away? Um, what have we done to build that relationship and make them feel close and make make them feel like they are a partner? And the objectives that you’re trying to reach or the organizations trying to reach And then those who get a little bit more creative, um, you know, you can kind of tell that they’re a little bit more curious um, but those types of um, conversations and going a little deeper with clients help you Understand, you know where you want to go with them and where they are in their journey Now do you incorporate those?
0:06:46.9 S2: Partners that are farther away in the 360 Or do you how do you how do you make sure that the person you’re coaching? Sort of is open opens up the opportunity for for uh, A stronger relationship with them Well, and it’s a good question because in today’s world it looks a little different, you know It had been really easy a few years to see a partner You know, make you know have lunch with someone different every day, right?
0:07:12.0 S1: Like all that silly stuff. We’re told, you know, go do Um, but that doesn’t necessarily work in today’s world. And so a lot of it is around Um, if you have something that you are going to present or you have a strategy you’re working on Reaching out to individuals and saying I’m working on this strategy. I’m, not sure if it touches your department But I think it’s important for me to know if it does Because that opens up a conversation That’s worth someone showing up for someone can cancel lunch on you someone can cancel a touch base on you But when someone says oh, hey, they want to know if what they’re working on impacts me They’re a lot more likely to show up And have that conversation and they appreciate the fact that you would reach out and so reaching out with purpose makes a big difference And helps them start to build those relationships That can be instrumental in their career Kind of curious is what I know you have your own tool that you built.
0:08:06.3 S2: Maybe that’s the answer What are some of the tools that? That companies should be using to check on overall employee culture Oh, there’s so many I mean, you know the you know the surveys that we do there’s you know, the pulse surveys There’s a big long ones that we do.
0:08:25.2 S2: Are they effective? Do you learn from them? Yes. Um, but I would say that most organizations do the work to get the information But don’t always do the work to impact the information and I think that’s one of the most dangerous things you can do is ask Someone’s opinion and do nothing about it Because you know if you ask my opinion and I took time out of my day to give it to you But yet you never told me the results. You never told me what was going on. So I think that’s one of the things that you can do My day to give it to you, but yet you never told me the results. You never told me what was going to happen I see nothing changed All of a sudden my problems that were maybe like yeah, I’m not so excited about that or like well How dare them like I told them and they did nothing right? So the problems actually grow when people do nothing about the feedback that they receive from a culture survey, I think some of your your best ways to To understand if your culture is healthy and your environment’s healthy is to just have casual conversations with the people in your organization And and you know for ceos, there’s a ceo that I work with and he um has x amount of um 30 minute sessions a week that are set aside just for meeting people that are in the organization and it’s a large organization I mean, it’s a you know billion plus dollar organization um and different people, um Uh, he’ll say, you know, I want to meet someone this month from supply chain and from accounting, right?
0:09:46.5 S1: And so they’ll say okay and they’ll look for someone that’s been there for years or maybe someone that’s been there for new But he just sets down and has conversations and he said, you know You can tell how people feel about their job and I just think that’s a great example of checking in on the culture That most people don’t make the time to do I actually tend to agree Although many people would say you’ve got to take a survey and yeah I love that answer right because so you have to take a survey you have to do the following you have to let people Know and then at the end of the day It’s randomly checking with the people who work with you and how they’re doing And now here’s the question is how do you make sure that they tell the truth?
0:10:28.7 S2: Oh, yeah, that’s always hard.
0:10:30.3 S2: I used to get in trouble for that a lot work telling the truth That’s why I always joke. I now get paid to do what I used to get in trouble for because I’d be really honest at work And um, that’d get me in trouble. So that’s why I’m a consultant because that’s they pay us to do Um, but you know you you ask more questions or you synthesize the information you learned that month and that’s a big piece of it is Thinking about you know, the messages that you’re getting from maybe your direct reports And then when you talk to your clients And then when you talk to um someone else is that a completely different message? So it’s not always about is that person telling the truth because they could be telling their truth It’s about understanding. How is all that information? Is it consistent? Is it um, you know? Is the message the same everywhere or are you getting three different stories from three different parts of the company? That’ll tell you a ton That tells you that your message isn’t clear And um years and years and years ago. I had this leader I worked for and um when he would um, I was in retail for years and when he would visit stores he would say Um, I’m always excited if everything’s right or if everything’s wrong Because then I know that there’s consistent communication right or wrong at least it’s consistent And I always thought that was an interesting way to look at it.
0:11:48.3 S1: Um, and it’s always stayed with me And it’s always stayed with me that is really interesting I actually think about that Everything right or is everything wrong?
0:12:00.7 S2: Hmm? That one of the most important elements of talking of making sure you’ve got culture is a constant stream of consistent information That’s fascinating.
0:12:12.1 S1: How do you make sure that happens? Oh, you know, there’s a lot of pieces to it. I I don’t know if there is one straight line A lot of it depends on your organization what you’re trying to achieve Um, you know, are you a startup and fast growth mode or are you established? I think it’s about um simplicity at the end of the day the consistency across all of those are simplicity And it’s simplicity But it’s also making sure that the leaders act in the way in which they’re talking Um, you know words on a paper really mean nothing. It’s it’s how we actually interact with each other and how we show up And that’s what creates the culture. There’s the culture on paper and then there’s a culture we all live in And um, those two are not always consistent So The culture that you work on when you work with companies tell me about the culture in home, whatever home is for you Oh my home.
0:13:13.3 S1: Oh gosh. So, um, you might have heard there’s some dogs Um, it’s that time of day everyone’s coming home. So my dogs are greeting all the neighbors Um, so my home is um, it’s actually very consistent. Um, we live a very consistent schedule Everyone that comes to our house are like, how are your dogs? So well behaved. I’m like well, they get fed the same time every day They get up and go to bed the same time every day, you know, they just know what’s going on Um, but I’d also say that our home is very independent. Um, all of us are very independent individuals Um, we enjoy our lives as individuals and we enjoy our lives together. Um, and Both of those are important to um, my my husband and I I always find that to be really important to have Your own life have your partner Have their own life and then have a together life and for for some odd reason We don’t really think about that in the workplace Hmm, it seems it sounds like that’s something you bringing in you bring into the workplace as well when you’re when you’re helping your clients Yeah, I mean you can definitely take some of those same Practices and a lot of it again goes back to our early conversations Around who do you spend your time with at work?
0:14:31.2 S1: Who are you working with? Is it? Are you so dependent on the same person? Every week or are you, you know creating relationships cross-functionally? So that you’re more educated and can make better decisions You know having kind of your your own. Um, You know little board of directors inside of your department of board of directors Um so that you get to meet a lot of different people and you know, you can kind of You know, you can kind of have a conversation with your board of directors So that you get to meet a lot of different people and and um, just learn from what they are experiencing And um, you know, I think I learned the value of that. Um, Uh many years ago. I moved from a domestic position into an international position and when you work internationally you have to get um, very creative Creative with time zones how you connect people. How do you create a team where no one speaks the same language or has the same culture? Um, you have to get really creative and um, I look back on that time as is a pivotal moment for me as a leader And really started to develop some of the skills that I use in my business today hmm You know what popped into my head I was curious because you talked about books.
0:15:43.0 S1: I was also thinking about movies Is there a particular movie that? The characters in a movie affected who you are and how you how you show up or gave you this super cool story that you You deploy and in your uh in your work life I don’t know if I have a movie. I I mean I’d watch some tv I’m not much of a tv person or a show person Um, gosh, what is a good movie? Um, I like a lot of dark comedies. I don’t know what that says about me um Um, in fact above me for those that are watching you can see my tim burton um Uh book about his life. Um, we talk about dark comedy and very intellectual dark comedy um those types of things again human nature if it’s about human nature and the the ways we interact, um, I enjoy all of that, um, and those are probably more the movies I Uh lean towards and learn from than like a big blockbuster that you know, everyone’s out watching Which is your so is it is tim burton one of your favorite Uh movies you like to watch I’m thinking about dark comedy.
0:16:57.5 S2: What’s your favorite?
0:17:00.3 S1: Oh, um gosh, um Uh, probably the royal tenenbaums. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that Yeah, I had another one of my big fans in fact behind me. There’s also wes anderson Um, so my two favorite directors are tim burton and wes anderson, but they’re dark Um very unique characters the characters have a lot of depth to them and a lot of um history and baggage that they’re walking around with Oh interesting Okay, I could see it.
0:17:28.5 S2: I was hoping you weren’t going to say weekend at bernie’s Yeah, well, you know what?
0:17:33.3 S1: That’s a pretty good one, too.
0:17:36.3 S2: Oh, it’s a good Yeah, oh, yeah, it really is That’s fascinating Yeah, so I I I like who you are and how you show up I see I see the person you are What what has a client taught you? That Surprised you you know I’m talking about this is there’s a lot of learning and it you just look at at jennifer’s LinkedIn profile and and there’s a vast amount of stuff you follow through with their website There’s a lot of stuff there that’s powerful And I’m curious what lesson did you take away from a client obviously don’t mention client names that you know Oh, that was fascinating. I’m gonna I’m gonna deploy that tomorrow or to other people Oh my gosh, that list is probably really long.
0:18:26.1 S1: Um, I think that um One of the things that I’ve learned is actually from my very very first client who’s still a client today and He is incredibly comfortable with risk And at times makes me a little uncomfortable and nervous And I’m okay with that too, but I’ve watched him grow his business so quickly Um, he provides a lot of jobs, um to communities who needs needs jobs And he has done it at such a pace Um a pace that I don’t know most people could stomach. Um And he is able to retain information and synthesize information and make some really good business decisions. But um, definitely the the ability to stomach risk and what that can mean Not only for yourself as a business owner, but the amount of jobs that he puts out into communities is pretty impressive hmm And how does that how does something like that help you coaching other clients?
0:19:36.1 S1: One of the things we talk a lot about um in my philosophies is around the balance of fear and innovation And the more fear we have the less access we have to innovation and how do we manage ourselves? Um in a place with lowered fear we never can make we never can make it go away Um, but how do we lower it and how do we more importantly lower it for our team? And you know innovation and risk can kind of go hand in hand, you know, if you’re innovative you will be taking risks You’ll be trying things that others might not try And so working with people to really understand how fear um can cloud their judgments fear can make them Make decisions on the surface that look really easy, but you know down the road those will not be great decisions Um, you know, the ripple effect is there but really helping um leaders understand that um Fear is holding them back from risk and innovation and and maybe while why they’re either positioning themselves Innovation and maybe while why their either position has stalled out or their company has started to stall out hmm That’s really that’s a very interesting response I see that as very powerful as well So Jennifer, is there a question that I should have asked you that I didn’t Let’s see, um How about um if a leader wanted to lead?
0:21:03.9 S1: Um in a place that was more innovative and had less fear in it. How would they do it?
0:21:10.1 S2: Ah The complementary to the the last statement absolutely, please share Yeah, so um a lot of it has to do with our language And how our language sets people up to respond to us And oftentimes you’ll have a new employee, right? You hire that new employee. You’ve told them, you know, bring me your new ideas Tell me what’s this tell me what’s that and then they come in and tell you and you go? Yeah, we’ve tried that now No, I’ve looked at that now. No, no and when people come to us and Um offer ideas offer suggestions offer innovation if we shut them down consistently Um, then we’re teaching them. We have no interest in doing things new. We have no interest in innovation risk And we’re also creating fear. Oh gosh, they didn’t like my last two ideas. I wonder if they’ll like this one You know what? I’m just going to keep it to myself and see how things go And um that happens a lot We teach people not to be creative in the workplace through our language and one of the favorite things that I teach Executives when someone brings them an idea or problem solve that they don’t necessarily love Instead of shutting it down say I don’t see it but change my mind And that way you’re still honest I don’t get it but I’m open to seeing your point of view And that creates a conversation and I can’t tell you how many people have come back and said I did that and guess what?
0:22:34.0 S1: I changed my mind Or I learned something so we kind of have a hybrid approach now or sometimes you still say no and that’s okay, too But you created an environment where people can still be creative innovative and bring you ideas without fear I love that I’m not convinced I ever strung that sentence together that way Even though that may be my intention.
0:23:00.8 S1: So I I’m gonna say thank you It is now part of my vernacular I don’t see it, but change my mind I got it this I’ll even quote you and spread some cred dust your way on that one because that one is Your you’re you’re you know, you’re you’re you’re you’re You’re you’re sort of taunting be innovative change my mind. I love that Yeah, and just think of the great conversations that come out of that, you know If you have to show up and you know your boss wants you to change his or her mind Then you’re showing up, um with your research under your belt. You’re passionate you’re excited about it Um, and just imagine a team of people who were willing To come to you with those types of ideas that they’ve really put work into and want to share them with you To drive the business forward and you know, what would be possible for your company if you promoted that kind of conversation daily?
0:23:51.6 S2: Oh, I love that Wow, that’s a great that’s a great place to uh, a great place to end. Thank you Jennifer you’re you’re amazing. If if people want to reach out to you Um, maybe garen you could share Jennifer’s website and Jennifer. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you?
0:24:11.9 S1: So you can reach out to us through our website at 304Coaching.com You can also reach me directly on LinkedIn at Jen Thorton ACC and obviously we can continue the conversation in either location. Awesome Well, thanks again.
0:24:26.8 S2: I really appreciate you spending your time and energy and and uh, Allowing me to ask some very strange questions Well, and thank you for making me think and um be a little creative.
0:24:38.1 S1: I appreciate it Are you you welcome?
0:24:41.2 S2: Hey, so listen if you’re still here This is now time to spread Jen’s credust Click on the like button share with your friends write down the aha moments that you got or even write down mine And said Mitchell said he’s going to do it. I’m going to make sure he does that And I look forward to seeing you at the next episode of leaders living their values. Thanks so much. Take care everyone. Bye.