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Tips on team building to grow your business with Jack McGuinness

  • Step back and ask, “What do we want this team to look like? How do we want it to operate?”
  • The ability to listen and hear other people’s perspectives, that’s really, from our perspective, a pretty important skill in building and growing an organization
  • If you just take some time for reflection in terms of getting to know each other it really can be the key that unlocks some potential that you didn’t even know you had.
  • There are some great psychometric instruments. All of them have their benefits. If they’re used with the purpose of,  “how do we leverage our differences and capitalize on our similarities and commit to some specific behaviors that are important for this team at this time in its journey,” then they can be really valuable.
  • The first is what we call the structural foundation or the structural dynamics that are really critical for building an effective leadership team. And the second bucket piggybacks on the conversation we just had, is about similarities and differences at the individual level.
  • Be prepared to hear feedback, be curious when you hear things that are different than your perspective, and curious when you receive feedback
  • There’s no perfect situation. In those situations where the leader is the problem, it’s really hard. To be very frank, it’s really hard to build a really great leadership team when the leader is the problem.
  • Without addressing relational dynamics, the ability to trust and confront each other well and hold each other accountable, then you’re sort of not attacking the right problem.

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Doug Morneau: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing, Real Fast. Today we’re going to take a slightly different approach, go in a different direction, but I think you’ll see where we’re going and why it’s important to our organizations. My guest in the studio today is Jack McGuinness, and today we’re going to talk about leadership. And you might be saying, “Hey, what does leadership have to do with sales and marketing?” And it has lots to do with sales and marketing, because how you effectively lead your teams, the feedback and the communications you get will have a direct result on how your marketing campaigns, your business grows, and how those tactics are actually executed in the marketplace.

So in preparing for this episode, I had a little bit of a background on Jack. He’s had 25 years’ experience working with leadership teams, and he’s worked with organizations both big and small in multiple industries. So after serving as an airborne ranger with the U.S. Army’s prestigious 10th Mountain Division, he helped build a successful boutique management consulting firm where he served as the Chief Operating Officer for 13 years. Jack also has served as a CEO of a contract packaging company where he developed a passion for unleashing the leadership capacity of teams through an organization. Back in 2009, Jack joined forced with a West Point classmate to form Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused working with CEOs to unlock the potential of their leadership teams.

He also serves as a Senior Professional Instructor at John Hopkins Carey School of Business where he teaches courses on strategic management and human capital. He’s a contributing writer to the Chief Executive Magazine, he also holds an MBA from the Hagan School of Business at Iona College, and a BS in Engineering Management from the United States Military Academy at West Point. So you can see that Jack is both well-decorated with his career in the military, and also with his leadership training and consulting work that he does. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome Jack to the Real Marketing, Real Fast Podcast.

Doug: Well, hey, good morning, Jack. I’m super excited to be talking to you today on the topic of leadership. So welcome to the Real Marketing, Real Fast Podcast.

Jack McGuinness: Thanks so much, Doug, I really appreciate you having me. I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Doug: Well, as our listeners will know, most of the time we focus on marketing tactics and things that move the sales dial from an execution point of view, but you can’t help but think that without a good team and a good leader at the helm it doesn’t matter what tactics and tools and advertising you have, you’re likely to fall flat on your face. So do you want to share just an overview of who you are and what your firm does?

Jack McGuinness: Sure, absolutely. We are … The name of our firm is Relationship Impact, we started about 10 years ago. There’s me and a classmate of mine from college, we both went to West Point and met each other at about 17. And started this firm in about 2009, with the sole purpose of working with CEOs to help them build great leadership teams, because our point of view from the experience we had as management consultants and business leaders ourselves, in running companies or divisions in companies, we really believed that the executive team, the leadership team of an organization, particularly … Young growing organizations, it’s absolutely pivotal to the success and the overall health of the organization.

So with that point of view in mind, we said, “Okay, let’s put our experience together, put our skills together, and really focus on working with the executive teams of growing companies to help them build great leadership teams.”

Doug: Well, it’s funny that you mention that because I was making some notes in advance of us talking today and I was thinking, “What are some of the points that I think would be relevant to our listeners?” And one of them, specifically, was … I have my notes here. Scaling up, so a company in growth mode. So you’ve got a CEO with maybe a small team of two or three or four or five, and then it’s starting to ramp up quite quickly.

Jack McGuinness: That’s right.

Doug: So what are the challenges that you most often see in that sort of situation where you maybe have a CEO who doesn’t have a background in leadership and leading larger teams?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, and so … Some of the biggest challenges we see in … And most of the organizations we’re dealing with, frankly, are dealing with scaling up issues. There’s no question about it, and so one of the challenges … And it’s a very natural challenge in particularly young, growing companies is the fast pace with which organizations have to operate. And the resource constraints that they have, particularly as they’re trying to grow. And so the fast pace kind of hinders your ability to step back and say, “What do we want this team to look like? How do we want it to operate?” I think another thing that sometimes can get in the way, and it’s related to pace, is we have a strategy in mind, we have an idea of where we want to get to, and what happens in the natural course of growing a business is that when we put time aside to dedicate to figuring out what the future needs to like and how we need to get there, we often spend most of that time talking about the day-to-day operational things because they’re so present in the forefront of your mind.

And then there’s … Yeah, there’s often fires to put out and that kind of stuff. So those are two big issues. I think another issue that is often overlooked but is probably equally important to the first two is that there is oftentimes a lack of skill at being able to seek out, listen to others’ perspectives, and to hear points of view that may be a little bit different than ours. Because you start a business, you got a couple of partners, probably fairly like-minded in many cases, not all the time. And then you add another person in that has a different perspective, maybe came from a different startup, they came from a different organization, whatever it might be. And they have a different perspective on how the organization should or shouldn’t operate, and so the ability to listen and hear other people’s perspectives, that’s really, from our perspective, a pretty important skill in building and growing an organization. And particularly, running … Building a great leadership team.

So those are a few of the hindrances that we see in terms of organizations that are trying to scale up and building a team as they’re doing it.

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Doug: Well, and I guess then you also add in teams that are diverse. I’m just reading a book now called Driven By Difference by David Livermore, and it’s talking about diverse teams. So not only do you have different points of view based on your previous experience, but you may have different points of view based on your culture or your age group, whether you’re a millennial or you’re a boomer, or you’re an X.

Jack McGuinness: That’s exactly right. And very simply put, not enough attention is dedicated to spending some time to talk about those similarities and those differences, and how do we actually leverage those versus beat each other up about them? Yeah.

Doug: And what I thought was really interesting in this particular book, it was all focused on innovation, and what it clearly said is … To your point, that if the teams have a high level of understanding of each other, that they consistently out-perform every other team.

Jack McGuinness: I would agree with that. People view that oftentimes as the soft stuff, and we’ll get to that later, and I … Look, I get it. When you’re growing a company and you’re working at such a fast pace and you gotta put a new application out, a new product, whatever it might be. Yeah, it’s hard to step back and say, “Where did you come from, and how do you look at the world? How do you address problems, and what motivates you the most?” I tell you what though, if you just take some time, just some reflection that in terms of getting to know each other, a little bit of a different level of understanding, it really can … It really can be sort of the key that unlocks some potential that you didn’t even know you had.

Just a simple example of that, you got a team of three people, they add a new person that’s coming in now to lead their business development group, right? And he is an aggressive go-getter, take no prisoners, kind of looking out for the next deal, right? And then you got a bunch of guys that are maybe more programmer or engineering-focused, because they built this company based on a product, right? And then so those skills had to be really in place. And the challenge you have is you have two types of styles that don’t necessarily mesh with other. Right? They can mesh, but without some attention paid to how they mesh, and how we have to adjust our behaviors just a tiny bit … So the new guy that comes in as the business development guy, you’re dealing with three engineers that are running the company? You gotta slow down just a tiny little bit and let them know where you’re going, why you’re going after what you’re going after, for example.

And the engineer guys have to say, “Hey, look. This guy’s doing this so we can grow our business, so we have to be maybe a little less rigid in terms of asking the 15th question.” Right?

Doug: Yeah.

Jack McGuinness: So it’s just spending a little bit of time, and there are some great tools out there that help you do that. There are some psychometric instruments, all of them have their benefits. Like DISC, or Meyers-Briggs, or Strength Finders, or whatever they are. But if they’re used with the purpose of,  how do we leverage our differences and capitalize on our similarities, and commit to some specific behaviors that are important for this team at this time in its journey, then they can be really valuable.

Doug: Well, you must be reading over my shoulder, because I was writing down PSI and DISC personality styles and style shifting, and I went and I took the training to understand how that worked, and I was just totally shocked at how we viewed people that had different personality styles. They basically broke us into four groups, and then each person got up to have a conversation, saying, “This is how I view this personality style.” I’m going, “What do you mean I’m arrogant and I don’t listen? I’m just trying to get stuff done.”

Jack McGuinness: Just trying to get it done, man.

Doug: “You’re asking a million questions, just quit asking questions and go …”

Jack McGuinness: Exactly, exactly. So you’re hitting a point … The hammer and the nail, right? And taking the step back, just paying a little bit of attention to that is not soft, it’s important. It’s important for building the relational construct for how the team is gonna operate together.

Doug: Well, I mean I think of Stephen Covey’s book, and I think what you’re saying is that developing leadership is highly important, but it’s not urgent. So as entrepreneurs are growing enterprises, we’re usually working on the highly urgent, or putting out the fires and the highly important. And this put this to the back, to the back-burner until it becomes a problem or somebody comes in as a new CEO and said, “Hey, we need to deal with this.”

Jack McGuinness: Exactly. Exactly. We often talk about it in sort of our selling processes, that it’s an unrecognized need. It’s often an unrecognized need.

Doug: So what’s the best way that leaders can focus and set themselves up for success with their team?

Jack McGuinness: I think there’s two things that they need to focus on, and for young companies, it’s just making sure you’re paying some attention and devoting some time to these two buckets that I’m about to talk about. The first is what we call the structural foundation, or the structural dynamics that are really critical for building an effective leadership team. And the second bucket piggybacks on the conversation we just had, is about similarities and differences at the individual level. It’s really getting an understanding and talking about the relational dynamics that are really critical to building an effective team. And from our perspective, there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two of those things.

So let me tell you a little bit of what I mean by structural dynamics. Structural dynamics are things like, “What is the purpose of this leadership team at this juncture in the organization’s history?” If it’s scaling up, then all of our attention, our focus should be on the metrics around how we scale up, right? That may change 18 months, two years from now when we’re having, maybe, a different challenge of diversifying our customer base, or adding a new product to the mix, right? And so identifying what the purpose is and what our collective purpose as a team, how do we leverage the unique strengths of the three to five to 10 people on the leadership team?

Jack McGuinness: Secondly, is what are the roles and accountabilities of each person on the leadership team? And not just their functional roles, but their cross-organizational roles. And what are the … The one thing that we see that doesn’t happen very often is, what are the overlaps? What are the integration points between roles? Because if you don’t have a discussion about that, what happens down the road sometimes is you wind up tripping over each other mostly unintentionally. Right? And so you got two lines of business that are out selling those lines of business hard without a common go-to-market approach, and you’re gonna wind up tripping over each other and calling on the same customers, for example. Right?

So talking about integration point is really critical … And then there’s just basic blocking and tackling things structurally. Like how do you coordinate and communicate? How do you meet? When you meet, how do you devote time to the strategic stuff versus the operational stuff? Those types of issues. And then, related to that is what are some of the norms of operating? Or the operating principles with which you’re gonna operate from, are we gonna challenge each other? Or are we going to let the CEO drive all accountability? When we meet … This is a stupid thing. When we meet, are we going to allow each other to type on our computers and leave the meeting with DARF because we got a call? Those types of things can get in the way, they’re seemingly trivial issues but if you don’t sort of have a little bit of a discussion about how you’re going to operate, then things can, over time, fall into disrepair.

And so there’s a whole set of structural things, and then there’s all the relational dynamics. How do you build a sense of trust across the team members? And I’m not just talking about do folks like each other, but do they trust each other’s intentions? Are they able to be vulnerable with each other and admit failure, admit mistakes and not be crucified or judged? And so trust is a big thing. And probably the most important thing we find in most of the leadership teams that we work with is the number one issue is the ability to have productive dialogue, which we define as the ability to challenge, debate, confront each other well to push the most important issues you’re facing forward in a positive way with minimal relational damage, right? And ultimately those things can help you hold each other accountable.

So there are two buckets of stuff, and there’s a lot packed in there, right? And so all I’m suggesting is that you step back and you talk about both of those buckets and what is your expectation for each other around both of those buckets?

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Doug: Well, how much … You’re talking about communication and kind of setting the boundaries, and I guess expectations being responsible. But I often have seen … At least in my experience, I can’t say that it happens everywhere, but as the CEO or the founder, you kind of hold the gun in the relationship because there’s the employer-employee relationship. So how often do you have to work with people to make sure that the dialogue’s coming back to the CEO or to the C-level executives is in the best interests of the organization and not somebody just playing politics or somebody that’s afraid to say, “Hey, I disagree with my boss. I disagree with my marketing manager, I think he’s going way off on the wrong track,”?

Jack McGuinness: Well, you’re exactly right. And it starts with the leader, the formal leader. So our construct is we work primarily with executive or leadership teams, and we spend a lot of time with CEOs, presidents, up front on a few basic but really important modeling behaviors. First is the ability to receive feedback well and to be challenged well is really important because the first time a CEO responds defensively or angrily or even with body language and sends the signal that, “You know what? I really don’t want to hear your point of view,” then … Maybe they do want to hear their point of view, but their message they’re sending to their direct reports is, “Wow, I better be careful about how I communicate to my CEO because he’s gonna shut me down.” Right?

And so being prepared to hear feedback, being curious when you hear things that are different than your perspective, and curious when you receive feedback that’s … Like you said before, someone said that that work-style is arrogant, right? And so you’re like, “I’m not arrogant.” And so you have to ask yourself … The best thing to do is be curious in that situation and say, “Hmm, what about me could be arrogant? Why could they think maybe I’m arrogant?” So getting CEOs to be able to model feedback and curiosity and understanding that they need to listen to other people’s perspectives is a critical, critical skill for leaders to have if they really are interested in building really, really good leadership teams.

Doug: Now, do you spend or focus any time on working with the C-level on how to lead up?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we do. We start with the leader, though, we start with the CEO because it’s really important for them to model those behaviors. However, they’re not perfect, right? No one’s perfect, so …

Doug: I’m just thinking in terms of you building a team out really deep. I remember I worked on a large government project and I thought, “Hey, I’m working with really senior government guys at a high level, they don’t really need me holding their hand and keeping them happy. I’m just gonna execute with the tasks they’ve given me.” And what I learned was, “Well, we executed the task. They really needed me to lead up,” and so that probably cost me future work. And it wasn’t until after it was done, I thought, “What was the difference between what I was doing and the other contractors were doing?” And that was the weak point, at least in that relationship for me.

Jack McGuinness: Tell me more about what you mean by that, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

Doug: Well, we were on a large team building out a very large digital and physical plant for three different levels of government. And each project manager had their team and their task, and we reported, and we just had … This seemed like endless meetings to keep things going, I thought, “Man, when do you guys ever get any work done?” Because I come from a small business, so I’m thinking at some point we need to execute, we just can’t talk about it. And as a result, I didn’t spend any time talking to the political people that were really the stakeholders and had put their neck out to get this thing done, because I thought, “Hey, you know, you guys are smart guys, you’re there because you’ve done things right and you understand the process, so what you don’t need is another meeting, me coming in and giving you some direct feedback and having a conversation with you.” So I pretty much just left them alone.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah. No, I understand that. So do we talk to mid-level … Or direct reports of CEOs about managing up? Absolutely. It’s a critical skill. In fact, I’m working with a pretty large pharmaceutical company right now, with their commercial organization, and one of the challenges they have, they have a fairly Draconian leader. The Senior Vice President of the commercial organization is not a great listener, not … Doesn’t model any of those behaviors that I talked about before. And so the message or the advice that we give to senior people that are reporting to a person like that is, “Look, we all have constraints in the work that we do, and you have choices to make in terms of how you deal with those constraints. So in this situation, your constraint is a very difficult, Draconian boss, who is a yeller, who is a micro-manager. And those are not pleasant things.”

“The way you deal with that is to sort of take the high road, and you can complain about it or you can move on.” So in this situation, there was a Chief of Staff that sort of has the ear of the commercial SVP, and so the advice to her was, “You have his trust. So you need to be the conduit for the rest of the team to provide him with some feedback that he probably doesn’t want to hear.” And now she can choose not to do that, but then from our perspective, she’s not really doing her job, right?

Doug: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.

Jack McGuinness: So it’s hard, there’s no perfect situation. In those situations where the leader is the problem, it’s really hard. To be very frank, it’s really hard to build a really great leadership team when the leader is the problem.

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Doug: Yeah. Yep, that makes sense.

Jack McGuinness: And oftentimes they don’t even realize it.

Doug: And they don’t want you to tell them that either.

Jack McGuinness: They don’t. We do, and we’ve often fired ourselves from jobs because of that.

Doug: Yeah, been there before. Especially with the client, the client’s going, “Well, I don’t appreciate that.” It’s like, “Well, that’s okay. I don’t appreciate the way you deal with your people, so I think we should just do something different.”

Jack McGuinness: Exactly, exactly.

Doug: “But not together.”

Jack McGuinness: Exactly. And we’re at a point in our careers where … Well, the other thing here is we can be in the role that we play as team coaches, executive team coaches, we can do harm if we don’t monitor how we consult to these organizations. So we can set up a team for failure if we feed into the sometimes narcissistic mantra of a bad leader.

Doug: So just a different direction, we’re talking about internal teams, so I’m assuming teams that are on the payroll, is that correct?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah. For sure, yeah.

Doug: So what about external teams where you’ve got partners and key vendors that are vital to your business? Do you ever dive into those relationships?

Jack McGuinness: To be 100% honest, we really don’t. We started this firm with a very narrow focus on working with executive teams, my gut would tell me that some of the same principles are probably prevalent in those relationships, but really our focus is on building the effectiveness of leadership teams.

Doug: Okay, well fair enough. So is there an example you can give us of a company, so you can name them or not name them, where you had an opportunity to come in and work with their team and they saw a significant turnaround, whether it was to the bottom line or culturally with the company?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, sure. So I’m working with a 25 million dollar construction company that has grown very rapidly. I started working with them a little over a year ago, and their biggest challenge is that they’re growing so fast. And they had a fairly ill-defined leadership team, the CEO, the CFO was sort of doing all the day-to-day managing of the operations, the warehouse, the project management. All that. And so naturally, there was a lot of … Because of lack of clarity, there was a good bit of strife among the next level down, in terms of who’s supposed to be doing what, why is the CEO stepping in, why is the CFO stepping in, sometimes on the same issues, right? And so unintentional dysfunction I would call it, just because they didn’t really structure themselves well to be able to scale effectively.

And so lots of relationships were damaged because of a lack of structure. And so what we did with them is just … The CEO was very adamant about wanting to set up the leadership’s infrastructure to enable the organization to scale without him being involved in everything. And so we helped him identify and structure his organization, so he identified some key leaders to run operations, project management, the warehouse, different geography, right? And so he built a leadership construct, or a management team construct where he could hold people accountable to a set of metrics, and rather than him having to be involved in every meeting that was going on about the warehouse, or about a problem in operations or in sales. And so that construct has helped them tremendously, they were able to … Last year they had a goal of putting in … They bought a new warehouse, and by the end of the year, it was fully operational.

They were on a path for … Probably not to be operational until the middle of this year, because they really had no plan of attack on how to put it in place. So they built a project management construct using their leadership team, as they identified someone as the project manager, the key folks that contributed to … Were either impacted by or impacted the warehouse, were involved in each facet of how it got put in place. So when they hit the ground in the beginning of January things were a lot more fluid than they otherwise would have been. And do they all love each other? No. They all don’t necessarily love each other and want to go out for beers with each other all the time, but they are working much more effectively and they’re communicating. And that concept of productive dialogue? There’s a lot less defensiveness, there’s a lot more being able to challenge each other and, in a supportive way, to be able to put the organization in place to scale.

Doug: Now do you find that’s a common approach from CEOs with the story you’ve just shared? I think it’s a great story.

Jack McGuinness: It is. It is, particularly with young, growing companies, right? As we talked about, it’s an unrecognized need. I know to put a team together, I’ve led teams before, I’ve been on a team. Right?

Doug: But that’s what I mean, this CEO identified that they needed somebody to help them do that. And to me, that sounds unusual.

Jack McGuinness: Very unusual.

Doug: That they would say, “Hey, I don’t want to be in every meeting, I want to build a team.”

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, it is unusual. It’s usually when the situation is a lot more dire than this one was. They were still very profitable, their service was pretty good, they were starting to see some chips in profitability, or mostly productivity, chips in productivity and chips at service. They were having some customer complaints and stuff like that, but that wasn’t all their problems. Some vendor issues as well, but he was smart enough to say, “Hey, look. We need to figure something out here. We can’t keep doing the same thing the same way we’ve been doing it, and I can’t keep doing the same way I’ve been doing stuff.” He’s a sales guy, he built the business based on the backs of his relationships, right? And so he recognized that he needed to have a little bit of a different approach as well and not be involved in everything.

And he’s now involved in priority issues, so we meet every Friday afternoon for about an hour, and he has quarterly priorities. So he has four priorities that he has that are focused for him and that everything that he does every week is laser-focused on those priorities. And that’s really important for CEOs, in terms of how they lead their teams, so they’re not redirecting their teams like from one priority to the next without thinking about it.

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Doug: And I would think there’s a couple other big benefits that just come to mind. One is that you’re not chained to your desk, lots of times you’ll see people that build big companies and they built the company around them so it can’t operate without them, so as a result, guess where they are all the time?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, and that’s … He’s got an exit in mind, right? Some sort of exit.

Doug: Yeah.

Jack McGuinness: So when you start thinking about, “Okay, what kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? I don’t want to squander this. And so how do I do that? And I don’t want to be here five, 10 years from now and everyone asking me how do I do this, or what do I do?” So he’s building the next level down, he’s really doing a good job with it. And to be totally frank, he had already started doing this in his own way before I worked with him. He’s a very smart guy, he had identified some people that he was turning to for their advice and counsel, all I did was help them sort of codify it more than anything.

Doug: Well, and the other point that I was thinking of and you brought up was an exit plan. At some point we’re gonna stop doing what we’re doing, we’re gonna want to retire or maybe we’re gonna just shift, we’re gonna get into a new enterprise or a new venture, and so to your point it obviously makes the company way more saleable and way more appealing that somebody from outside come and buy it and see that the company will continue to grow without you being there as a CEO.

Jack McGuinness: Absolutely. Yeah, because it’s more valuable.

Doug: Yeah, I mean we’ve got a saying that we used to say, “Are you a time-teller or a clock-builder?”

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, that’s a good one.

Doug: So yeah, I don’t want to be a time-teller, I want to be a clock-builder. So do you want to share kind of the biggest myth about investing time, money, and resources into leadership and growing your leadership team?

Jack McGuinness: The biggest myth? Yeah.

Doug: [crosstalk 00:32:15].

Jack McGuinness: The biggest myth is that it’s easy and that it’s soft stuff and it’s not hard work. It’s brutally hard work because it really involves adult behavior change. You can’t … Necessarily, you can’t keep doing everything the way you’ve always done it. And that’s hard for adults to step back and recognize, and that is a big deal in terms of building a great team, is recognizing that I have to change, and that means every person on the team.

Doug: Yep, there you go. Well actually, I like change for that exact reason, because people don’t. So for me, I always see opportunity where there’s people that are resistant to change.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, it’s a … There’s a great book called … By Marshall Goldsmith, have you heard of that? It’s a classic called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There?

Doug: No, I haven’t.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, it’s a great book on … I give it to every CEO that I work with because it basically just talks about, “Do you have one of these 20 bad habits that many CEOs have? And if you do, what are you doing about it?”

Doug: Off the top of your head, do you have a couple of those bad habits you can share with us?

Jack McGuinness: Oh, yeah. I have to be right at all costs. I have to be involved in everything. I get too emotional when I hear things that I don’t want to hear. I play favorites to certain folks in the organization, and on, and on, and on.

Doug: Yeah, I can relate. Having been on both sides, I mean I’ve worked on various teams and I think back, and I’m thinking, “What was I thinking?”

Jack McGuinness: Yes.

Doug: It’s not surprising that that didn’t work when you step out of the situation, you look and you go, “Why didn’t that team produce the way it should produce?”

Jack McGuinness: Right.

Doug: And I’d have to look in the mirror and go, “Well I can see why now.”

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, yeah. Look, it’s easy to give advice. It’s easy in some respects to be a team coach. Right? It’s hard to do the actual work. It really is, and I know it. I’ve run two companies, so I know it.

Doug: Yep. So what’s some of the bad advice that you hear in your space?

Jack McGuinness: Well, what I see is that … And it’s a very natural tendency, is that most business people solve team dysfunction problems by focusing on structural solutions only. And so if we are having team dysfunction, folks aren’t on the same page, then we solve it by either in the extreme, firing someone, restructuring, changing people’s roles, changing how we meet. And those are all potentially good ideas, but without addressing what often becomes the root of the problem, the relational dynamics, the ability to trust and confront each other well and hold each other accountable, then you’re sort of not attacking the right problem.

Doug: Right, okay. That makes sense. That’s obviously a very deep topic, and I’m sure there’s a ton of time we can spend talking just on that one topic.

Jack McGuinness: It is, yeah. There’s a lot there. There really is, but don’t assume that by addressing a problem, dysfunction, with a structural solution, is going to solve the problem.

Doug: Yeah, creating another system or another flow chart isn’t gonna fix it if there’s … As you said, there’s …

Jack McGuinness: No, it’s not. It’s just not.

Doug: I’ve tried that, that doesn’t work.

Jack McGuinness: Yep.

Doug: So what are you most excited about as it related to the work that you’re doing in leadership? Or your business over the next six to 12 months?

Jack McGuinness: What I’m most excited … Yeah, from my business perspective, is that I’ve done some pretty cool stuff marketing-wise that is beginning to pay off, just basic thought leadership stuff. Using my website, using some social media, and for the second year in a row, we have a very strong pipeline going into this year, so that’s sort of a personal thing that we’re excited about. Secondly, I’m just excited about the client base that we’re working with right now and the potential to help individuals tap into some potential that they didn’t even know they had. Because that’s the benefit of the work that we do is when you see the light bulbs go off and say, “Wow, we can’t keep doing this stuff the way we’ve been doing it,” and they start doing stuff differently and it starts working a little bit. That really is really fulfilling.

Doug: Well, and I think if you can, in your organization, obviously you can raise up great leaders. Look at how many people that impact in terms of their vendors, their staff, their staff’s families, their community, because you’re building good leadership.

Jack McGuinness: We hope so. Yeah, we believe that that’s the case for sure.

Doug: Well, you’re still in business so you must be doing more right things than wrong things.

Jack McGuinness: Absolutely. Well, to be completely honest with you, and this is probably not a great sales tactic, but it’s not a slam dunk that you’re gonna hire us and you’re gonna get a great leadership team, it requires commitment from everyone on that team, and we can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make them drink all the time.

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Step back and ask, “What do we want this team to look like? How do we want it to operate?”

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Doug: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like saying, “Hey, I hired a personal trainer.” It’s not gonna guarantee you get in shape.

Jack McGuinness: Exactly.

Doug: Don’t go to the gym? Guess what, you’re still gonna be out of shape.

Jack McGuinness: Great analogy, great analogy, yeah.

Doug: So a couple of questions for you as we start to wrap up, who is one guest you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Jack McGuinness: I would say, my partner, Neil Brady. He’s a Ph.D. in Leadership, he’s one of the most thoughtful, innovative people on the topic of leadership that I’ve ever met, I’m fortunate to have him as my partner. And he’s a great speaker, I think your audience would love him.

Doug: Okay.

Jack McGuinness: So he’d be a great, great guest.

Doug: Well then we’ll have to make sure that you hook us up.

Jack McGuinness: And I’m happy to give you other ones, too. But he’s the first one that jumped in my head.

Doug: Well good for you, that’s normally a really tough question. I think that’s the question that stumps most people, and I don’t know whether it’s they don’t know, or I think more than likely they don’t want to offend anybody, so they’re very particular on who they suggest.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah. And there’s another, one of my closest partners, business partners in building out business, helping build our business together, is a strategic partner named Mark Stephenson, he runs a company called Smart HR, it’s an outsourced HR firm. And we have a very symbiotic relationship, he’s a master seller and marketer. He’d be a great person for you to have as a guest as well.

Doug: Well hey, thanks for the bonus guest suggestion, that’s great.

Jack McGuinness: No problem.

Doug: So now, Jack, what’s the best place for people to reach you? So if they want to connect and learn more about you, your company, the things that you’re doing, where would they find you?

Jack McGuinness: Best place to get me is on my website, it’s at www.relationship-impact.com. We believe that over the last couple of years we’ve built some great content, webinars, podcasts, blogs, articles about the topic of building great leadership teams. And so that’s where we’d go, and there’s a complimentary assessment there that leaders can take on to kind of take a quick look at how’s my team operating from both structural and relational side of things.

Doug: Oh, perfect. Well, listeners, you know that we’ll have these notes transcribed, so I’ll make sure that Jack’s contact information is there. Now, social media, where do you hang out in social media? I heard you say earlier that you’re happy with your marketing, your website, and your social, so where can people follow you?

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, so Facebook and LinkedIn, primarily. Those are the two places we post our content.

Doug: Well excellent, I just want to say thanks so much for sharing today.

Jack McGuinness: Thanks so much for having me on, I really appreciate it and I enjoyed the discussion.

Doug: For me, this is just a super bonus, there was great information for our listeners to think about like you said. The thing that’s highly important in the business, and that’s developing a good leadership team. And for me, it was just a reminder of why I need to spend more time in that area as well, and often it gets neglected for various other reasons.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, it’s a natural thing.

Doug: Yeah, I prefer to be out selling and doing strategy than I do sitting down and talking to HR and developing our team.

Jack McGuinness: Yeah, I understand that.

Doug: So there you go listeners, there’s another episode of Real Marketing, Real Fast. Like I said, we’ll have all the notes transcribed so you can follow up with Jack and take a look at relationship impact. So thanks for tuning in, I look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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Step back and ask, “What do we want this team to look like? How do we want it to operate?”

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Get in touch with Jack:

Find out more about Jack:

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"Innovation isn't just thinking outside the box; it's about setting the box on fire and building something extraordinary from the ashes."

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