Leadership Interview with
Dr. Jeff Magee
Leadership is Redefining “Profit” see my post HERE
Hugh: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. My guest today is Dr. Jeff Magee. Jeff Magee has been a long-time friend and business associate. What kind of companies do you work with?
Jeff: You and I are so much in sync; that is what this little play was on the opening. I have been blessed. For 30 years, I grew up in corporate America, transitioning into sales positions and management positions and ownership positions of a couple companies, from small entrepreneurial businesses—$10, 15, 20 million—up to billion-dollar clients. Today, I work with companies such as Pfizer Pharmaceutical, Anheuser-Busch, Harley Davidson, and other large corporations to major government entities. I work with large government organizations. I am adjutant generals of multiple state army and national guards, as well as in the association market. I work with CPAs, EAs, and tax attorneys. Every year, they have to have roughly 40 continuing education credit hours to keep their license, and we have over 2,000 hours of accredited content in that space as well. A lot in the profit, nonprofit, small business, to large business. Across the spectrum, but where we focused in is not in a specific industry, which is oftentimes what people would do. I focus on an intellectual skillset that regardless of if you are a nonprofit employee or the executive director, or if you are a profit-based business, we look at engagement skills to make you more effective as a leader. That is our space.
Hugh: That is why you are on this podcast. Our audience is social entrepreneurs. They might be running a charity, they might be clergy, or they might be running a small business. We as social entrepreneurs are doing something different. I find that a lot of leaders in any kind of organization, but especially these small organizations, are challenged with creating revenue. This whole theme is converting your passion into profit. All of us are challenged because we get in the way as leaders. What is the biggest barrier that leaders create to generating revenue?
Jeff: Great question. There are several ways to address that. One of the ways we address that is through the Nonprofit Performance Magazine, which Hugh is co-publisher of, to the Professional Performance Magazine suite of publications. In working with phenomenal leaders that I have done interviews with and who have written articles for our magazine over the last 20 years, there is an answer to that question. In looking at it as a performance psychologist and doing the leadership work, whether that’s coaching high performers, politicians, celebrities, athletes, entertainers, business senior executives, senior level military officers, to the new social entrepreneur network and framework that we have as a lexicon today, any of those worlds I live in, it’s really the same answer. It’s important for me to set that up to answer your question: what is critically important for that leader today?
One of the things I talk about in all of my last four graduate management textbooks is business, no matter what the business you are in, comes down to five factors. All of my writings, teachings, leadership work, and coaching always is coming back to these five factors. I come into a high-performance organization, and you look at those organizations and start to do the diagnostics of the matrix as to what is leaving them to be successful. You will find certain variables are never negotiable; they are always there. By going to a dysfunctional organization, a dysfunctional leader(s), those things that are leading to dysfunctionality are always very specifically going to be one of five factors. The magic sauce for me, what I recognize, whether I am dealing with a peak performance individual or organization, five things are make-or-breaks, non-negotiable. We are always looking for ways to enhance and accelerate those five. If I walk into an organization that has lost some of their luster, it is going to be because of one of these five, so we have to identify which one it is, and then back up to see what the things are that create it, support it, and manifest it so you can get back to the one that is missing.
If I listen to a parent talk about a challenge they are having with one of their children or how their family is not as bonded as it used to be, it is also from a personal family therapy perspective one of the same five factors. I keep alluding to these five because I recognize the five do not change any time. So I will give you those five, and then I will answer the one that I think is the most important of all five.
What makes or breaks a successful nonprofit, profit, entrepreneur, or whatever your capacity is is number one, strategy. Strategy is where everything starts. What is your strategic intent? What is your strategy? What is your game plan? Strategy can have lots of names at the elementary level. It is your mission statement, your values, and your vision; all of those factors go into what your strategy is.
When I go into work with a military leader, one of the things that a military leader provides me is their strategic intent. It is their document where they write down their strategic intentions and what they are all about, what I am about, what I will tolerate, what I will not tolerate, and what I want to do with the organization. Imagine you and I are numbers two and three in the organization. Our boss hands us that document. We know strategically exactly where we should be going every day. Therefore, everyone in our orbit around us will know anything else that comes down the pike, and the rest support the strategy.
Hugh: I find in any kind of organization there is A) a whole lot of people that don’t have that document and B) people who have that document but don’t use it.
Jeff: That is huge. You can go on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and read a book called The Managerial Leadership Bible. It’s the revised edition, and it’s a white-cover book. Whether you buy it as a college textbook and read it from the perspective of an academic and are looking at the Q&A throughout the book, or are just buying it as a practitioner, so forget the Q&A and just read the content, you will see what we are talking about right here with examples from real businesses.
Hugh: And the author?
Jeff: The author would be me, Jeff Magee. I will do a shameless plug anywhere.
The reason that is important is because we are talking about this right here. A lot of businesses will have strategy, a mission statement, and values, but they don’t live them on a daily basis. That is what creates trauma with the HR world. That is why you have turnover. That is why people buy in and take ownership of workplaces. I can dissect any business knowing how to start a business, having run successful businesses, having sold successful businesses, having worked with phenomenal leaders all over the globe and learning from them, and having done phenomenal interviews with successful businesspeople in the Performance Magazine suite for 20 years.
One of my fascinations is American Indian heritage, so in every issue I do an interview with a tribal chief, as they are an operating-in-principle CEO. We always have a Fortune 500 C-suite write an article. We have New York Times best-selling authors. We have someone from a different generational set, be it a baby boomer, Generation X, or a millennial. Phenomenal personalities, but when you look at any of them, you strip back the Aha-wowness of whomever that personality is and see if they are successful. You may not have to buy into the segmentation of where they work or live, but if they are successful in that space, you will recognize they have a strategy and a game plan. Their strategy drives every initiative.
In a nonprofit or a church for example, your strategy will drive every initiative you should be doing. It will tell you every initiative that while it might sound great and serve a purpose, it doesn’t serve your purpose, and you shouldn’t be doing that.
The other problem with nonprofits is they are predicated on the HR factor of volunteers. You have a small permanent staff and a staff of potentially zero that is paid. So it’s a volunteer environment. If your volunteers are spread too thin because you are strategically trying to do way too much, you dilute your abilities, and then what will happen is you will always be in too exhausted of a run to be successful, you will always have turnover of your volunteers, and you will be dependent on the same one or three people every single time. Eventually, they will get exhausted and leave. So strategy sets everything. And you are right. It’s amazing.
A couple years ago, I was in Florida. AICPA, which is a governing and accrediting authority for CPAs, was having an emergency conference because they were realizing a tremendous problem in America with major publicly traded firms dealing with integrity and ethics and implosions and all of this peppering and spiking and doctoring of accounting books. So the managing senior partner of the top 100 CPA firms in America would be the same in a normal business as a CEO. At that conference, I gave everyone a little handheld control the size of your smartphone, and I would ask a question on the screen in the front of the room, and they would click in their answer. Within 60 seconds, we would have a composite score for the whole room.
It was interesting because we were talking about them because again, major accounting firms have consulting arms. Those consulting arms work with your nonprofits and businesses all over the globe. Part of what this practice is about is to help make sure those organizations are set up from day one strategically where they focus in on the game plan. What was interesting is it was a high number. It doesn’t matter what it was because the trend is what was important for what I am sharing. It was like 90ish% of all of them who when asked the question, “How many of you have a strategic plan, a mission statement?” said yes. Of your client organizations, how many of them have strategic plans, mission statements, etc.? They clicked in again at high numbers. That is a huge wow. What is important is the second answer, not that.
As a performance psychologist, I know about the game of manipulating people. If you are a parent, you know about manipulation; all of your kids have figured this out. But when I say manipulation, I don’t mean it in a negative standpoint. If you go into a high school college science lab, we are always manipulating ingredients and compounds to get desired outcomes. There is a positive connotation. When we talk about management and leadership issues and HR, when we talk about manipulating, there is always a negative connotation, so take the negative out.
I have learned the art and science of asking questions. We already know that a high number have a strategy, and their clients have strategies. They see the value of the strategy. Later, the question was, “How many of you actually follow and benchmark key decisions and actions and programming and hiring and termination off of those game plans?” It was amazing. The numbers were nonexistent; 20-30% of them said yes.
Succession planning. You are getting ready to retire. We know you are going to retire at the beginning of next year. How far in advance do we go back to our strategic plans and our succession plans and make sure we are cultivating and grooming the next person to take over internally, or doing the outreach program to find someone new? What is amazing is about 30ish days before you are leaving is when we go into panic mode and start executing all of these strategies. But if you had looked at the strategy months, years, decades ago, it would have been better.
The point of number one is that strategy is going to make or break you. Most don’t have a strategy, and those who do don’t follow it, which is why they are not successful.
Hugh: That is the fundamental principle of leadership when I teach. We are perfectly aligned. The number one principle is strategy; it’s your foundation.
Jeff: Bingo. When you and I started talking years ago, when we were looking at your business and how you wanted to accelerate it and focus it, it was like let’s talk about you and I. That is what I coached you on. I said that you could go in profit, nonprofit, secular, church, etc., all over the place, but if you really want to be successful, you have to focus strategically on where your business is going to go based upon who you are. Your basically 50ish years on this planet has been around the nonprofit world and the Evangelical church secular world; therefore, you need to focus in on that space so you won’t have to worry about competing with me in the corporate world where all the Jeff Magees are because I have a ton of competition, the majority of which suck. I am doing a lot of damage control from them. You have to keep in mind that a lot of people are really good at the way they dress or the way they look or the way they sound; their marketing materials are great. They can sell you. But when you lift up that hood, there is no engine underneath that hood. It is regurgitation of someone else’s practices. That is the big problem in this world.
Hugh: It is huge.
Jeff: Suc, no K. It’s one of the key things I talk about. On the lapel pin on all of my suits is a pin in the shape of a key. It talks about how attitudes are the key to your success. If you take the first three letters of “success,” you get the word “suc.” Most people don’t have success in their lives because they suck. So we teach a lot of techniques. It is a good little anchor to hit, critically important to success. That is one strategy.
If I want to have success, strategy is going to drive all of our operational systems and procedures and protocols. Do I need this software system? Do I use this system? Do I use this computer program or not? What are the systems? What are the operational protocols? The reason people sometimes resist the operational changes in your organization is they don’t see how that goes to the strategic intent of what your organization is about. If you program that this is where you are going, then they see that it is competing or diluting or taking them off track. Operational systems.
If people in a nonprofit have a job of getting new members, or they are supposed to be out raising funds; in the profit-based world, whomever’s job it is to make sales, what I have found is that the operational systems that most organizations have gather too much data, too much analytics. Oftentimes what people do is when they are lazy and want to suck for a living, they want to create slides of analytics to justify why they are so busy not doing anything you strategically need them to do, but why they are so busy. The person who is in job of getting money or members, the person whose job it is to sell your products or services, there are only four pieces of operational analytics you need. If you have those, it will tell you if you are on track for your strategy or not. These analytics will help you with the next three things you need in your business. I won’t give you what those four analytics are; you will have to hire us to figure that out because we spent millions of dollars to figure those four out. Guaranteed that you take your director of membership development and put a fire under their butt. This is how you take your director of sales and light a fire under their butt.
My premise is that most everyone in a nonprofit world and in a profit world whose job it is to make sales or generate revenue streams is working at about 25% of their capacity. The good news is that in the last 20 years in the United States especially, we have created cultures and climates and attitudes where minimum performance gets maximum paychecks. As soon as someone knows that minimum performance is what everyone does, then they will start negotiating with you to be even more pathetic than they were yesterday to get a paycheck.
Hugh: We are social entrepreneurs. We are doing things differently. These are all fundamental leadership decisions. You have to have a strategy, and the systems are the implementation of that.
Jeff: You need operational systems. Take my last tirade. But if you are starting a business or if you have a small organization that you are trying to ramp up, you have to have the operational systems that make you accountable on a daily basis to make sure you are doing the right things at the right time with the maximum ROI, as well as everyone around you. That is the thing that gets the small start-up people in trouble is that they get busy doing all of the things that seem to be more fun, and you are putting off the key ingredients to success that you are not doing.
Hugh: Actually, people who have been in business for a while, too. Just to be clear, we are teaching nonprofits not to think of nonprofit as a philosophy; it’s a tax classification.
Jeff: That’s all it is.
Hugh: Using business principles in its charity to generate revenue because otherwise we are not going to make our mission. Number one, the foundation is strategy. Number two, you rehearse by having good systems.
Jeff: As a certified board executive, and a lot of people that work with your organizations at a board level are not certified board executives, so as a certified board executive, what Hugh just said is exactly what I have learned to be critical in a profit and a nonprofit world. I have been on a lot of profit boards and nonprofit boards. Nonprofit is a profit-based business. I hate to pop your bubble, but it is a tax classification as you said. Even as a nonprofit, if you don’t generate donations or revenue somehow, you will not be in that nonprofit business to do whatever the goodness of the cause that you are committed to is. When you don’t think of yourself as needing to generate an ROI, you need to leave whatever it is you are doing because you become an employee as your mindset.
Third, strategy drives ops, and ops drives all the tactical behaviors that you need to do on a second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, and quarter-by-quarter basis to have a successful year. Most everyone fixates on #3. They are not doing the things I need them to do. That is a tactical behavior. They are not doing the right way. Tactical behavior. They are not working smart enough. Tactical behavior. They are doing the wrong thing at the right time. That is a tactical behavior. People are dropping the ball. That is a tactical behavior.
When people bring me in and start talking about the behaviors that are not happening, I go back to #2 and ask if they have an operating system to hold them accountable. Do you have an operational system that trains the members of the board effectively to make sure we have people doing the right things the right way? Or back up, do we even have a strategy that says we embrace ongoing education? Does our strategy say we embrace being the best we can be and we are going to support our people and create a culture and environment for our people to be the best we can be? All of these key planks ebb and flow together, and if you start looking at the diagnostic and say you don’t see where the problem is, you go to the step before it to say what do we do to create the program? That’s how you fix this stuff.
Hugh: So #3 is…
Jeff: Tactical behaviors.
Hugh: I find a lot of people start there. They are only executing tactics, and they have so many tactics they cancel each other out. There is no system or strategy, so you are not working within this framework of a strategy.
Jeff: You can apply that to social commentary. In front of groups, I like to use examples that are very relevant and have a lot of emotion around them so I can shock you and wake you up. Even though it might be dangerous, tough crap, I’m going there. I use examples that people can turn on the news and see it right there on the nightly news every night, no matter your political views.
Look at what the causes that people are marching or picketing or protesting or talking about are. Everybody starts at #3. They are bitching because someone is doing what they don’t want them to do, or they are bitching and protesting because someone is not doing what they want them to do. I come back and say, “Let’s look at your behavior.” Are your behaviors actually manifesting and perpetuating the negative stereotypes that you are trying to fight against because if they are, you have to change your behaviors? How do you operationally hold yourself—there is a news flash—and the others accountable? All of that will only happen if you have a strategy. What are you trying to accomplish?
Keep in mind most organizations in America today have tactical behaviors that are designed to keep everyone at unrest, to create noise, to create destruction, to create confusion, to create distraction. Almost every organization. I won’t mention the National Education Association (NEA) as an example. Too easy of a target. There are phenomenal educators. I have worked with them. There are phenomenal teachers. I have worked with them. There are phenomenal administrators, superintendents, and principals around the United States. I have worked with them.
But if you look at the statistics, pick a state in 2016, Georgia as an example. 1/3 of all public schools were failing so badly they were not even on the chart of being suc; they were that much worse. 1/3 of the kids in the Georgia schools were not graduating from high school. The NEA should be at the forefront of saying every superintendent, every principal, every administrator, and every teacher who is not doing something to make it a positive environment should be immediately terminated. We don’t care about your ten years in the system. We should be a union that is only going to protect those cutting-edge social entrepreneurs that are actually going to educate and hold people accountable. If you’re not up for that, you are fired. You suck as a teacher, goodbye. You suck as an administrator, goodbye.
That is only part of it. You have to have a strategy for greatness. Then you need to have a strategy that holds parents accountable and a community accountable. Your kid should basically be in school between eight and four in the afternoon. When they are on the streets, the community should be engaged. It shouldn’t be a truant officer. The community should be engaged and asking them why they are not in school. The churches should be accountable. You should be holding people accountable to educate them. Every parent should know at the end of every single day when their child goes to bed what they did in school today, and if they had any homework. If not, why do you not have homework? That is the way it was when I grew up a few decades ago.
Today, when I hear people talking about kids not in school, they are flunking or dropping out, and parents are just letting this happen, that’s wrong. You have to hold the parents accountable. I just walked you back from one problem where everyone bitches and blames the teacher, which is not always the fact. But what is the system we are using? What is the strategy? We should have no kid in America that graduates twelfth grade that is not smart. That used to be an agreement with our public marketplace. You could get a high school degree, and strategically the businessplace knew that if you were a high school graduate, you were smart and educated, you could speak coherent English, you could write a coherent sentence, you knew basic math, you knew basic science, and you had a good work ethic. I could hire you for any sort of a job and you could have a good living the rest of your life without ever having to go to a trade school, a community college, or a four-year degree and more. But today, the reason people have to go to college is because they are idiots at grade twelve. College isn’t helping.
We break all this stuff down because no one looks at the strategy behind things. The easiest place to get people’s emotions in an uproar is point three, tactical behavior. Again, when I see someone saying that black lives matter, blue lives matter, red lives matter, I don’t give a crap, pick a color, that is the big thing in 2016 to distract you away from the real issue. People should get $15 an hour or they should get $8 an hour. Take any topic in 2016 because what I am talking about is evergreen. This conversation is not just time-dated to 2016, but those are the hot issues this year. Whether a woman should be elected president or a man, it doesn’t matter. Do they have strategically to be successful? Have they had failures? Because if you are successful, you are going to have tons of failures. Again, you can apply this model to anything.
Hugh: You can. I am listening to you talking about pointing fingers for instance. That part of it, people aren’t doing what they are supposed to do what I want them to do, so we as leaders set up the problem because we didn’t have the strategies in place. We want to blame other people for a problem we caused.
Jeff: The easiest thing to blame is to blame someone else. The easiest way to say that I have done nothing wrong is to blame someone else. Oh, it’s some foreign leader that is trying to do me down as a politician and help the other person. That is the biggest line of BS ever. What happens when you fixate on just three is that people will get so emotionally involved in a topic that we have no clue about strategy and operations, and that is what we keep perpetuating our problems about in our nonprofit world.
Yes, I have just taken some highly political problems that we are using, but remember I prefaced with saying I am going to use these to get you to think. Do you have facts and data to back up your conclusions? Do you have facts and data to back up your opinion? Because a lot of people do not. We live in a rhetoric world based upon sound bites. But what backs up where you are going?
This interplay we are having here for your benefit is this is also the reality of every organization. We get distracted every day on social commentary. What is going on with a sporting team? What is going on with violence? What is going on with terrorism? What is going on with politics? Who gives a crap what the Kardashians did this week? It is an entire family of zero talent that they are making hundreds of million dollars by recrafting that stupid is the new deal. But that is the reality where we live. And nonprofits are the same thing. And businesses are the same thing.
We have to get focused on what we have just done for five minutes should be back to almost zero of what you do on a daily basis. But these are examples of your business and your nonprofit, but in your business, you have political conversations like the one we had here. You have highly emotional issues between one person’s opinion versus another that distracts you from what you should be doing so you have the wrong behaviors on a daily basis, you are turning people off behaviorally because a lot of times this conversation has nothing to do with your strategy. If we had a nonprofit and our strategy was to create civil discourse and confusion in the marketplace, I just gave you a whole lot of clues as to what would be in our strategy. See where we’re going?
Hugh: Strategy gives you focus. My acronym for focus is Free Of Clutter and Unnecessary Stuff. You just spoke to how we get distracted.
Jeff: I just gave five minutes of clutter.
Hugh: We major in minor things. The main thing is the main thing. Strategy is number one. Operations is two. Tactics is three.
Jeff: You have that. Those three may not be necessarily new to you. If you have a graduate degree in business, finance, management, or leadership, if you have been to professional development groups and organizations—forget your college background or none—you have probably heard the first three things we just gave you.
Hugh: Or if you have studied SynerVision Leadership materials.
Jeff: There you go. Or my stuff as well.
Four and five is what really make and break the first three. Some people can song and dance the first three, but four is the discipline to execute effectively. That old statement of “practice makes perfection” is a flawed statement. Practice does not make perfection because if you are practicing the wrong behaviors and strategies, you are practicing because you are hanging around losers, then you will be proficient in all the negatives.
If you look at this person, that is exactly what I do; let’s look at their resume. Everyone has a flaw. I am not about to be pious and say that I am perfect or anyone else is. What you have to recognize is if people learn from their flaws. That’s fine. But if someone is a hypocrite, I won’t mention in essence a major political figure, Jesse Jackson, who is counseling Bill Clinton on his infidelity. At the exact same time, Jesse Jackson is fathering children with his secretary and he then uses money to move her to California. Then we have a problem with our discipline.
That is a highly emotional example, and I am sure I am going to stress someone out. But I am not stressing anyone out if you have integrity. I stress you out if you have no integrity. Whoa, I just challenged you. Integrity comes out of strategy. You go, “Wait a minute. I like some of the things Jesse Jackson is about, but you know what? There is a moral problem that someone is going to say they are the moral authority and they are morally bankrupt.” These examples I am using are highly emotionally charged on purpose because you may never watch another webcast here, but if you are watching this one and I am getting through to you by using some shock factor statements, then I am causing you to think. I don’t know what your cause is, but if your cause is to help make other lives better, are you doing it genuinely or because you have an ulterior motive? Are you genuinely doing it so you can sustain it tomorrow, or are you doing it today, and then people find out you are flawed, and then they are going to run and not want to be around you? These are important elements. Discipline for what you do comes out of your strategy. If you think strategically that no one is going to hold you accountable, that is why you can have flawed behavior and the discipline to do things that I would call not integrous.
Let’s take it back down to your level as an organization. Do your members or employees have the discipline to do what you need them to execute? If they do, if they understand behavior, and you have operational systems to hold them accountable, and they understand strategically what it all means, then it flows together.
Hugh: Four is discipline?
Jeff: Discipline. One of the problems you will have as an entrepreneurial solo practitioner or a small-business start-up, nonprofit-based or profit-based, or if you are starting up a new church or whatever your business angle is going to be: When you start something and you are committed—that is three—because you believe in two and one, then as you start up, you will have the discipline to be up before the sun is up every morning and you are working on meaningful things. You will be working when the sun goes down at night on meaningful things, but the reason a lot of times people don’t have the discipline to execute, or at least execute as hard as you are, is they are short-term participants. They want to make a ton of money, or they want to get a ton of accolades; that is when they will give you something.
Example: politicians. Most politicians, in my experience of 25 years, because in our magazine, we always have a federal or a major state politician writing on different issues. Whether it is a federal senator or a Congressman, whether it’s a governor, whether it’s one of the secretaries on the cabinet for the President, or a president—I have had the last three presidents write for my magazine, the last four first ladies, etc.—but when I find a politician that is disingenuous with the four things I just gave you, they are all accessible when running for office and accessible after the election because if they are, they are genuine with all five of these words that I am giving to you. But what I have found with most politicians is it is really hard to get ahold of most of them to write an article on success or a nonpartisan Q&A for my magazines once they have been elected for the first year or two. It’s not because they are busy; it’s because they don’t give a crap. That is your reality bubble. A politician who has been elected for years and years and years, and your marketplace sucks, your economy sucks, your neighborhoods are run down, your schools are not delivering, and there is no opportunity for prosperity, yet you keep reelecting that same politician, you are stupid. They are brilliant because they have a strategy about how to game you to get you to believe they care about you. So it stuns me sometimes around the United States that we have career politicians. The reasons I want your schools to be good is because students become young adults who become voters, and if you are educated, they will not be reelected. If you have a brain, you can catch BS a mile away.
Hugh: As the discipline piece comes in, there is an integrity piece and a focus piece. I am going to remind listeners that the whole view of this is how leadership impacts the bottom line. These are all noise, and we create confusion, which costs money.
Jeff: When you have people in your nonprofit, business, or community, and they don’t have the discipline to do what you need them to do for that piece of your business enterprise, they don’t have the right behaviors. You have not given them the SOPs. You haven’t given them the procedures. You haven’t given them the mindset, which means your operational systems are not there for people to follow and flow the right way, which means you are disconnected from your strategy. Any of these tirades, case studies, or examples we give to you, you can see exactly where you plug it in, but once you know where you plug it, you go to the step before it to see what is or is not happening that has caused that problem. In our society, we see where that problem is and fixate on it without going back and changing it.
The reason our K-12 schools are failing our students, which means they are failing the businessplace because news flash: most schools in the 1980’s stopped teaching the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers because if you know those three things, you know that those three things give us the understanding of what our nation is about. When people don’t understand that, they can plug in what they want to tell you what our country is about. Our country was created for three reasons, which is exactly you are here. Everything else came second.
One is capitalism. That little Boston Tea Party. Taxation without representation. We were not allowed to do our business; we were being mandated on what we can or cannot do. Capitalism is what drives everything on the planet. Margaret Thatcher had a phenomenal line many years ago about socialism: the problem with socialism is that eventually you will run out of everyone else’s money. If your nonprofit has a socialist mindset, you will cease to exist because you will run out of people who can give you money because no one is making money, and you will eventually be dead. Capitalism.
Second was freedom to represent ourselves and the legacy to elect people. Same thing in a nonprofit. If you are the only one that is doing everything, you better be willing to carry the weight forever or you will get in trouble, but if you can create an organization that can create its own future leaders, then your organization will have a legacy that can go on forever and have representation.
Third was freedom of religion. Read Thomas Jefferson’s letters to Thomas Locke when he was floatin’ on a boat back to England. He said, “Hey, I heard there is another religion,” after the United States was already created, “called Islam, and they read some book called the Qur’an. I have never heard about it. Can you bring me a book back?” Again, we were created as a Christian society. I hate to pop your bubbles, kids, but read some documents and you will see the word “God” everywhere. It doesn’t mean we are not for anything else, but you have to understand what we are all about to keep yourself solid.
I am using highly emotional examples on purpose because what most people do with what I have just given them is jump off to the last section of discipline in terms of discipline and behavior and start having a huge rhetoric-based conversation on “Oh, Dr. Magee, you’re wrong.” But no. I didn’t say we can’t be anything else, but anything else has to be congruent with those three things. Your business, your nonprofit: what is your strategic intent? Everything you do should be congruent with it. Your operations should be keeping people accountable. Number three is your behaviors. Four is discipline.
And five is the juice that makes everything, which goes back to your very first question. You asked the question: What have I found that is most important in business? I am going to go with five. But you can’t have five without the first four. Five is accountability. That is what everyone in the world dislikes, whether it’s pure accountability, you and I holding each other accountable; whether it’s personal accountability; whether it’s organizational accountability; whether it’s 360 accountability systems; whether it’s customer-driven accountability to us. We don’t have accountability systems.
So I fly Delta Airlines a lot, over 100 flights every year because my office is typically where you are. Whether I like flying or not, I am going to be on a plane. I like Delta; there is no negative to this story. I love Delta. But the problems with businesses becoming so big that they own huge market shares is that they forget these five, and they actually start to create their own demise over time. You could be Delta Airlines. You could have all the awards for being great, and a lot of that data is very misleading. If I give a survey as the Diamond Flyer, the highest level that Delta has, and I get an e-survey after every single flight, that is an accountability mechanism. But that is not what happens.
I almost always get a survey after a flight. When their analytics end, they know that that flight was probably pretty good. The flight left on time, arrived on time, and I get a pop-up survey. Now they are getting skewed data as to how good they are if they didn’t give it to a third party like JD Power that says, “You’re the best in the industry.”
Versus if I have a crappy flight, do they send me a survey to find out what views I had on that crappy flight so they can see what specifically the problem was so they can see if they can fix it or not? That’s accountability. I never get those. At the time I am recording this, in the last 48 hours, I was on four Delta Airlines flights. Of those four, two were great, and two sucked. Interesting. I got back last night at 10:00. Today I turned my computer on at 4:30. I had a survey on the flight last night. I have yet to get a survey for the flight I had 48 hours ago.
Again, accountability. It doesn’t do you anything good as a nonprofit leader if all you are looking for are smiley faces. It’s misleading. I used to get surveys from an audience of 100, 1,000, 10,000, doesn’t matter. Let’s use 100 as an easy number. I could have 99 surveys back with smiley faces and one that says “You weren’t that good,” and that one would get me distracted. But it took me a long time to realize, Wait a second, I don’t want 100 of those surveys because the people in my audience are not my customer. They are my indirect customer. A business owner brings in me for a reason, so he/she are my customer. I want to survey them on the front side: What do you want me to accomplish? While I’m there, I can check in. Am I on track? When I leave, what did I accomplish? If they loved me, it doesn’t matter what someone in the audience said because I learned a long time ago that I am being brought in to say and do things with the audience that is politically incorrect for the boss to be able to do. A lot of times, bosses have some great members in their organizations, and they have a large percentage of mediocre people, but they also have a large percentage of nightmares.
Keep in mind: JD Power does research, and so does Gallup. Gallup has a phenomenal survey that impacts your organization. You will see how it impacts your strategy, your operational systems, your tactical behaviors, your discipline, and your accountability mechanism. What they say when they look at any organization, roughly 56% of every organization are disengaged today. They are complacent; they are followers. We have to find ways to engage them, and that is what leadership is all about.
Once you find out why someone is disengaged through interviews or on the job, you will see how to do a better job at promoting and trying to hire and advertise to get new people to come to your organization. 56% are disengaged and complacent.
15% are actively disengaged. That is what is stunning. Today on payrolls in organizations and in nonprofits, 15% of your people could be actively there every day trying to find a way to sabotage your business.
Only 29% are engaged. Yesterday, I am in the Houston airport, and I am in the food court looking for something to eat. One restaurant has five employees standing there. Of the five, only one was truly working. The other four were moping along at such a pathetic pace. They are pathetic because let me go back to one. Their strategy of their leadership team at the restaurant (they are corporate) to engage people to give them a way to make money, to give them a fun and engaging way to do the job is not there because those people were absolutely dead. They were dead people walking. Operational: do they have a way to hold people accountable? We gotta get it going. No, dead people walking. Behaviorally: were they doing things to impress me? No, dead people standing. You are making a hamburger, folks. This is not hard work. This shouldn’t take you ten minutes to make one burger with five people back there.
I look at the next restaurant. It had nine people there. The last one had too much staff. Wait a minute, the line was moving quickly, everyone was going there, and it was not a Chipotle, but it was a Chipotle-style restaurant where you added up each ingredient. They were making tons of money because all nine of them were having fun and were dressed in their uniforms.
Hugh: There is the bottom line. Function leads to profit. These are all key leadership positions. You know my 40 years’ experience as a musical conductor. Every one of these is a strong leadership principle. It is a functional part of our system. We can reframe all of these things for music in the nonprofit or corporate workspace. Without the discipline piece that is huge and commitment, you can’t be excellent.
Jeff: That’s it. The examples I have used today as I recap were not any one example to throw someone under the bus. They were first-person experiences. The NEA is an organization where roughly 56% of the members, teachers, educators, administrators of the National Education Association are mediocre. 15% are worthless, pathetic. Only 29% are doing their job. Apply that to your local school or school district. I have worked with superintendents of major school districts in America where when they came in, it was like I just explained, and we created an environment with the five steps I just gave you to take their school districts to be #1 in their state and top ten in the country before those superintendents retired.
Politics, we have talked about today. I have worked with governors and senators and federal political leaders at the state level. Every one that I have worked with who are successful get everything I have just said. The ones that truly, if you look at their resume and legacy, they are damaging their constituents, but because they look pretty, they play the diversity card, no one holds them accountable. And you can’t do that. I have minority politicians who are incredibly successful because they don’t hide behind the diversity card. They just recognize that I didn’t choose this body; God put me in the body I have. What counts is what you do with that body and the DNA you have inside of you. Keep in mind Benjamin Franklin’s classic statement. You cannot in essence ever lose if you think of his philosophy and advice: The person who empties their purse into their head will never be bankrupt. I want to judge you not by what is on the outside of the vessel, but what is on the inside.
We talked about education and politics, and we talked about your own business. You can use those big examples on the nightly news to see what works, and you can stand in front of the mirror to see how you can advocate for them on a daily basis. If you are in the nonprofit world or the profit world, it comes down to the same thing. At the end of the day, you will thrive, and then you will survive if you do these five. You will not thrive, and you will barely survive if you are not doing these five. That is what leadership comes down to.
Think about it. Anyone can be a manager. Management is simply about the function of the HOW: How to do things. In science, labs teach monkeys how to functionally do things. Anyone can be a manager. Leadership is a different element. Leadership is the art and science of understanding the five things we just gave you and the myriad of subpoints to the five things. Leaders can write the resumes of their key constituents. Leaders can write the resume of their key employees or nonprofit members or volunteers. Leaders can write the resume of their first-line executives going on down to the second and third bench. Leaders can write resumes. Managers cannot. I have never been proven wrong in 30 years.
Hugh: Bingo. Jeff Magee. Great wisdom. You have learned it from school, you have learned it in the marketplace, and you have taught yourself to grow past the systems. That Gallup poll you were referring to about disengagement and active disengagement is key, but that is in corporate America. In the charity world, it’s probably more like 90%.
Jeff: I have been on nonprofit boards, and I have been a member of not-for-profits. You are exactly right. If I come in as a member and I am first on-boarded, engaged, mentored, sponsored, advocated for, whatever word your organization uses, if my first connectivity is with that 29% who are engaged, then you are bringing me in and I am more likely to want to come back to the next meeting. If my first experience is with the 56% who are just sitting there, if the first 56 people who are engaged are positive, you will have all positive energy. If the first people who engage the 56%-ers are those people, then nothing happens. If the first people who engage 56%-ers are that 15%, then you have a lot of people bitching in the background. If I come into your nonprofit and sit there for the first meeting and my strategy aligns with your strategy, this is why I showed up, but the first things I see are not going to your strategy, that is why sometimes it is hard to get us to come back to your second or third meetings.
As a professional, I am a member of a lot of trade associations to keep my own certifications. Within those, I will go to a chapter meeting. If that meeting is not pushing me or growing me or developing me, then the leadership typically are 56%-ers, it is attracting 56%-ers, and I don’t go back, yet they are going, “Why are we not getting the great people in our community to join our organization?” There is your clue.
Don’t create an organization designed to only benefit the 56%-ers unless that is who you are. Some organizations are about how to help mediocre people stay mediocre. If that is what you are about, then you’re good.
Hugh: Unfortunately we often lack these five principles. You want to get the magazine at nonprofitperformance.org. If you are looking at the video, there are links to Professional Performance 360 Magazine, but thank you for today. We want to engage you in the community in conversation, so thank you for being here today.
As we are departing, you have done a masterful summary and presentation. What is one tip you want to leave leaders that they can start right now in making a difference?
Jeff: Great question. Again, this is philosophical, religious, good DNA, taught in Sunday school, taught as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout. I would answer that with one of the comments I sometimes use when in front of a group. What drives you? What is your philosophy, your view, your religion? One of my religious threads—the religion according to Jeff—is we were not put on this planet to be takers; we were put on this planet to be contributors. Every day, you and I and Hugh and everyone else should contribute something meaningful to the planet. If you cannot contribute something meaningful to the planet, you should be asked to step off the planet. That is how I challenge you. What can you do that is meaningful, whether it is starting something, helping something, going out of your way to reach someone, redoing something? What can you do that is meaningful?
If I was answering that more specifically as a leader, I have lots of answers at jeffreymagee.com. You can check me and Hugh out. Our magazines are parallel. There are lots of specifics, but I will just leave you at that macro.
When you go to bed, is there anything meaningful you did to help another person or another cause? If you are in a leadership position at a company to make your nonprofit or profit-based business stronger tomorrow than it was today so that the people who are showing up tomorrow will have the ability to do something meaningful themselves and receive the paychecks they are working for? Meaningful. Quit talking about low-level rhetoric. No longer allow the politicians in your neighborhood or your head to engage you on low-level crap. Your business should not be engaged in lower-level crap. What is the big stuff?
Hugh: Make a difference starting now. No matter where you are in any organization, you will influence people all around you. Jeff Magee, you are brilliant. Thank you for being here.
Jeff: Thank you for what you do out there as well. Make it meaningful and make it another great day.
Jeff Magee’s credentials are significant. He is a Certified Speaking Professional, a Certified Management Consultant, and a Certified Professional Direct Marketer. He has been recognized as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” (TOYA) by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, and twice selected to represent the United States at the World Congress as a Leadership Speaker (Cannes, France and Vienna, Austria). A three-term President of the Oklahoma Speakers Association and twice awarded their Professional Speaker Member of the Year, today, the Chapter’s outstanding member of the year is awarded the “Jeff Magee Member of the Year Award.” Jeff served for four years as an appointed Civil Service Commissioner (Judge) for the City/County of Tulsa Oklahoma.
Many of the Fortune 100 firms today use Jeff for Performance Execution® in the areas of managerial-leadership effectiveness, human capital performance, and sales training and coaching. He has also been invited to keynote at many major associations in America and to speak at West Point Military Academy on leadership.
Jeff is publisher of Professional Performance 360 Magazine and, with Hugh Ballou, is co-publisher of Nonprofit Professional Performance 360 Magazine.
The Transformational Leadership Strategist
Here’s the transcript of the interview: