Video: The BB&T Leadership Series - Jon Gordon

CEO Kelly King shares insights on leadership topics from some of today's best and brightest thought leaders.

Jon Gordon - Developing Positive People Part 2

The well-known author, speaker and consultant talks about personal and professional purpose, and living on mission.

We've talked a lot about cultures, you know, at BB&T all these years. And I tell pe—I tell investors, I tell other folks that the one distinguishing characteristic of BB&T is our culture. We have good loans and deposits and all that stuff, but it's culture that makes us different. And I share with our associates, there is only one thing in our company that is non-negotiable, and that is our culture.

All the other things we do is strategic and tactical and they change all the time. But our culture will not change.

I love that.

And that's powerful in terms of driving forward. But developing and keeping—you know, people ask me, Kelly you have 38,000 associates over 15 states. How do you keep that culture alive? And I simply share, first it's hard work. You've got to be committed, and you got to do a lot of preaching. You've got to—you've got to keep selling that belief. Because ultimately what leaders I think are doing is trying to get people to believe. And this culture, of this vision, it's mission, it's values and then ultimately that belief drives those behaviors, which gives the right results.

And so it's a continuous process. And that reminds me in your book I thought this was interesting, and you do a lot of coaching with all kinds of teams. NFL teams, college teams, but in one case you sat down with an NFL team and you went through an exercise of having them write down goals. And then you immediately told them to throw it away.

Right.

And talk about that.

And they were upset about that. And I was a little scared.

Yeah.

And I did that because I wanted them to know that their goals will not take them to where they want to go. It's their commitment to the process. It's their commitment to the goals that will lead to the results that they want, because every team during training camp pretty much has the same goals to win a championship. Every player in those locker rooms, in all across locker rooms around the country all have the same goals—I want have so many touchdowns, so many passes. So it's not the goals. It's the commitment to the process.

And I love what you said earlier about the culture and in terms of takes commitment to build. It. I think a big part of that is to know what you stand for, because once you know what you stand for every decision you make is easy. And so leadership is a transfer of belief. We transform our belief to everyone about what we believe, how we do things here, which is our culture. This is how we do things here. Maybe you did something different somewhere else, but this is how we do them here. This is our culture, it's our essence.

And living, breathing essence of how we do things, and how we feel, and what we care about, and how we handle difficult conversations, and how we handle adversity. How do we handle success? How do we stay humble? But it's always driven by the leadership. It's driven by you and it's driven by all of your real leaders, which then drive it down to everyone in the organization because it must come from who you are.

The essence is within you. So you're integrity, who you are in the inside then spills out and permeates the culture. You know, I wrote about soup right, the book Soup years ago. Who stirs the pot determines what's in the pot. And when I think of culture the leaders that are stirring the pot in that culture in a positive way. The ingredients their putting into it, the love they're putting into it, the energy they're putting into it will determine how great that culture is.

Which is why leaders—you can't fake it.

No.

If it's not in your heart it's not going to have any impact.

You can't separate the leader from the culture.

Right.

And the culture from the leader.

In you're book The Power of Leadership you say something very powerful, you say join the mission and be on a mission.

Yes.

That's pretty powerful.

Yeah, because today every organization has mission statements, but only the great ones have people who are on a mission. So what's our mission? So don't just have a mission, be on a mission. Our purpose is so great. We're so fired up. We're so passionate, that every day we show up we are here to live that mission. We're here to share that mission and be on a mission. And when you have people on fire like that, and fire it up, they're going to create amazing results.

You're such an inspirational leader yourself. Is there someone in your life that was our key influential later that impacted your life? I mean there's been several along the way. Ken Blanchard, one of my mentors really showed me what leadership is all about and what you could do as a writer and speaker and how you can impact people. So he had a huge impact on me. My dad who was in New York City police officer who was actually very negative because he was getting shot at all the time. He was undercover narcot—

That's understandable.

—he was undercover narcotics. But he was very loving. So he really showed me what sacrificial love was all about. This is actually my stepfather, who raised me since I was five. So he had a huge impact on my life and his love. My mom same thing. She was my first coach, you know, who loved me more than any one else and who believed in me more than anyone else. So they were huge influences on me.

And then I would say and just that from a faith standpoint, a pastor named Erwin McManus. He's a pastor in LA. A church called Mosaic. Incredible influence. He's impacting people around the world. But he had a huge impact on me in 2005 that really changed my life and in a deep way. And I became a person of faith and that's when I start writing these books. And so like you can't take one away and have the other. Like my faith led me to start doing this and start to write and everything changed from there. So for me that was a huge impact on my life.

You mentioned a negative experience in your life, I mentioned one in my life. You talk about how when people are at a negative place it's really important to help them get to a positive place, if you can. You can't always.

But any thoughts for the audience about how to help someone move from negativity to positivity? Yeah, meet them where they are, . To meet them where they are in terms of having a relationship with them. How often do we work with people we don't have a relationship. As a leader relationship is the real driving force of motivation. We can think positive all we want but it's the relationship that drives the motivation to reach towards competitive greatness.

So for me it's about the relationship and meeting that person where they are. And then lifting them up, encouraging them, inspiring them, helping them have a vision, show them what's possible, believe in them more than they believe in themselves. And really try to get them to think differently and try to get them to tell a different story.

A lot of times they're telling a negative story, a pessimistic story. But if you can change their story and that internal dialogue to a more positive story, you can impact their life. And I realized that's what the energy bus has done over the last 11 years now, is where people read it and in some way it changes the story that tell themselves. And that's why it has an impact. So I think through story we can really impact people.

You know one of the things that I think that correlates very well to her positivity is optimism.

Yes.

And I've read some books about the relationship between pessimism and optimism. You know, pessimists are people who some bad thing happens and I say this bad thing happened, and it's going to change my life—my whole life, it's going to last forever, and I was all my fault.

Yes.

Verses an optimist who said this bad thing happened, it's not changed change my whole life. It's probably not going to last forever. It wasn't my fault anyway. I've got to deal with it. But that optimism and positivity is really hand-in-hand isn't it?

It is and Zig Ziglar said you know failure is an event it's not a definition. So these events are not meant to define you. They're meant to refine you. And it's all about perspective, how we see the world determines the world that we see. And so the pessimists are just seeing the world a different way than the optimists. And the optimists says the best is yet to come. They believe in it. Working with Clemson football and Dabo Swinney, you know, for the past seven years now. Again, you may not be Clemson fan but you can admire his optimism and belief, and you can see first hand how we transform the program with optimism.

In my talk today, I'm going to talk about an example of when they lost a national championship and what he said afterwards. He wasn't focusing on the loss. He was already thinking about the future. He was already talking about spring football and training camp and what they're going to do next year. And they come back and win it next year.

I love the story on a podcast that you do with your new positive view, and he was talking about, I think it was his second season, which was not a great season. And one of his supporters asked him said sometimes the fact that we want to be like Alabama, or we wanna to be like, you know—

Georgia, Michigan—

—Georgia—and he just kind of said, well, actually in a few years they're going to want to be like us.

Yep.

Now that was powerful vision.

He said my vision is that they want to be like us. And it's so funny because I worked with Texas, the year they went to the national championship Colt McCoy was a senior, they lost national championship—but I worked with Texas. Dabo at that point was taking over Clemson. So I don't know Dabo, I'm now at Texas. So when Tom Herman became the head coach of Texas there was a headline in the newspaper, or one of the main parts of the article, that said, we need this to compete with the Clemson's of the world.

Cool.

And years before it was Clemson wanted to be like Texas. Now Texas wanted to be like Clemson, and Dallas showed me that and said, this was my vision. And you could see how it came to fruition. Why—optimism, belief, a lot of love in accountability.

Right.

You know, I think that's a key part that we should share for people, that being a positive leader doesn't mean that you're positive all the time. You also have to hold people accountable to the standards, the values, the culture, and the processes. So we're not just here to have fun together, We are here to pursue greatness together.

And accomplish a really worthwhile purpose.

Something meaningful and purposeful. And as we're doing that and work towards this greatness, I'm have to push along the way. I am going to have to challenge you to be your best. But love must come first. So if the love arrives before accountability, accountability will work a lot more. If we lead with accountability and no love, which is what happens often, people then feel pressure, they feel frustrated, they wind up getting burned out that way.

I have found that on the road from pessimism to optimism, for almost all people, they find their why. You know, this great book Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. One of my—or a great book, and for those that have not read, it's a great read. But in that, as you know, he said when you know when you know your why, you can endure any how. I kind of paraphrase, when you're clear about your purpose in life you can overcome obstacles.

And I think that's one of our greatest challenges as leaders is to help people discover their why, hopefully see that why aligns with our corporate why. And then, as we talked earlier, occasionally if it doesn't help them find another organization where their why is aligned with organizational why. Have you found in your experiences that it's really critical to have everybody aligned on the why?

Oh, it is. You have to have the big why of why we exist, as a company, as an organization. Like why do we exist? If we were gone tomorrow, would the world notice?

Right. And the fact that we're here, well what are we here to do and who we here to impact, and what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Now not everyone is going to be living there big why within a company or an organization. But what I tell people all of the time is you can start living with purpose and you can be on purpose. And you could show up everyday and use your job as a vehicle to live your bigger purpose. So maybe your bigger purpose is to serve, to impact people.

Well, you don't have to go to the homeless shelter to do that. If you want to, that's awesome. Then go do that. But every day you show up to work and you're working in a bank, wow you can have a huge impact on people's lives by smiling at them, by encouraging them, by being there for them. So I think we often think that we have to separate our work life from our purpose life or our spiritual life. And no, you can bring them together and use your work as an opportunity and a vehicle to live your greater purpose.

I have found that when you do that, if you're meant to go be somewhere else, you know God will plant you somewhere else when you're on purpose and living your purpose. If you're meant to do it in the work, well you're going to grow in that work and have more opportunity and a bigger responsibility to lead more people and impact more people. So we plant ourselves like a seed—I wrote a book called The Seed—we then grow into the leader we're meant to be. And as we grow, why do we grow? To produce a harvest and fruit in others.

That is really, really well described. What I'm challenging our associates to think about, and what I'm challenged myself to think about, is that I believe we have a great opportunity to plant what I call seeds of hope. Seeds of hope are those smiles, those pats on the back. And I'm encouraging people to think about—imagine the morning when you first get ready even before you grow out of the bathroom and you meet your family. You think about somebody handed you an imaginary handful of seeds. And every time during the day you patch my about you smile you say hey how are you and really mean it

Yep.

Then you take one of those little seeds and you throw it. On the ground because you just planted a seed of hope and you may well have changed a life and you've done that through your life you've planted millions of seeds of hope.

You just inspired me with that. I mean, that is just such a powerful story and example, and a way to actually live it in a practical way. I mean I'm truly inspired by that. It gives me hope to hear that. And I love that idea because what I often say, and I often say this to educators when I'm speaking the schools, I say you may not see the harvest. But don't let that stop you from playing the seed.

I think often we want the immediate gratification. We want the harvest right now so that's why we don't do it. But you have to do it trusting a harvest is coming. So you plant those seeds you share those smiles, words of encouragement, and then over time you trust that a harvest is coming. And I live that way, you know, doing what I do. You don't always get the response right away. But it's weird like a year later, two years later I'll get an email. And I got one the other day from a guy who said that he read The Energy Bus and he was going to end his life and decided to keep on living.

Wow.

And I went to an event to speak, he said I'd love to meet with you, I'm going to be there. We got together, we talked and it was just one of those examples that tell you, you know, you don't know who you're helping.

You don't.

You never know you never know what an encouraging word is going to do. People think, well, you're a writer John you get that feedback. But not all the time and I didn't do it to get immediate feedback. But here's how I live. I live with the end in mind knowing that when I die I have this vision of people meeting my kids and telling them some way that reading my books, or hearing me speak, or watching this made a difference in their life. And I won't even be here to enjoy it. But my kids will hear it, and for some reason to me that's how I want to live knowing that I'm leaving behind seeds of hope—I'm going to use that from now on—and then producing a harvest, which is fruit in the lives of others. There's nothing more important. I mean I think that's what we're here for. It's so important to do that. To have those daily interactions produce meaning.

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