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Episode 14 – “Be Confident” ft. Shaun Mahoney Transcript

Chris:

No matter what stage of your career that you are in, whether you’re at the top at a CEO or you’re aspiring and climbing that ladder, we all need a push, we all need some fire, and we all need a coach, and that’s what we’re talking about today. Welcome back to the Get Overit Podcast. I am your host, Dr. Christopher Fasano. We are back with another episode and another great guest. But before we get into the interview, I just want to remind you to subscribe to your favorite pod player to get all of our new episodes at the Get Overit Podcast Spotify, Apple Podcast, wherever you listen to a podcast, you can find this show.

Chris:

Today, our guest is Shaun Mahoney. He is the CEO and founder of The Mahoney Performance Institute. Shaun, thank you so much. Welcome to the show.

Shaun:

Awesome. Thank you for having me.

Chris:

All right. So Shaun, let’s start with MPI, The Mahoney Performance Institute. Tell us a little bit about the business, what you do there. And then I want to get back a little bit. I want to go back in time and talk about the progression and how you got to this business and this business model.

Shaun:

Sure. We call it MPI, and really what our focus is on three things. We focus with companies on their strategy, we focus on culture, and we focus on leadership development. We actually started out probably 10 or 12 years ago doing leadership development programs. And it was from that I met a ton of CEOs over the years that put people through our programs, and before I knew it, they basically said, “Hey, do you think you could help me in some other areas like strategy, like culture?” The way we look at it is that there’s really three pieces or three areas that CEOs think about each and every day.

Shaun:

Number one, “Do I have the right strategic direction?” And so that’s where we started to focus in on strategy. Number two, “Do we have a culture that’ll support that growth strategy?” And then lastly, “Do we have a team that can execute on that strategy?” It was really from that that I built a consulting practice. Obviously, with everything that’s happened with COVID, now it’s pushed us even in another direction, which is to say, “Okay, everyone doesn’t want to do things face to face like they had always done it. Now, they want to do some… Is there a hybrid approach?”

Shaun:

And so we’ve really developed and moved our model towards something we call the manager’s marketplace. That’s really where we’re heading, really trying to create a central place where leaders and managers can go to get the tools, the templates, the resources, the access to training that they need in order to be successful.

Chris:

Now, for people that aren’t in this area that might be listening, we are in Albany, New York, in the Capital Region. Has your business, the brick and mortar, has your business always been up here since it started?

Shaun:

We’ve had clients here and there, because my career as we’ll talk about, I think, on some level, has been outside of our region as well. I had contacts in other regions. We’ve had clients down in Florida, we have a client in Utah, a couple clients out in California. And so I would say more recently, we’ve made a real push to get outside of our region. I viewed the Albany region as being really a great laboratory for us, where I could work with a lot of people, a lot of CEOs and executive teams that I knew, really find out what their needs and their challenges were, and then start to build the tools and the templates that you need in order to help them.

Chris:

Interesting. And I want to get to the progression, but it just brings up an interesting question to ask is, do you find that the locale, the location, the market of the business… I imagine when you’re running a business, there are overlapping approaches and strategies. A lot of business, like you said, are going to have to focus on similar things. But the places that they’re in, the different locale, the geo, the market, it affects the strategy, I imagine. When we market into things, there’s always geo. But the strategic approach to a business, and now that you’re able to have a sample size, the business is not just in this area, does that really affect it? And obviously, have to take into consideration the strategic plans?

Shaun:

There’s no question that geography will have an impact on things. You find out that when you’re working with companies out in California, particularly in the Silicon Valley area, they tend to be very progressive, they like to be on the progressive side of things.

Chris:

Right. Social issues, things like this.

Shaun:

Yeah. It becomes more important to them. We have a big client that we’ve had for a number of years down in Florida that’s in the insurance business. Hurricanes go there all the time. And so as they’re getting hit with hurricanes, they have to build a strategy around not just dealing with being in the insurance business, but in the geography fee that they serve. So I think that’s the challenges that you’ll see in some of the businesses. And then there are certain businesses. If you go to New York City and you’re in our business, there’s a lot of private equity firms there. And private equity they have a timeframe that becomes important to them.

Shaun:

I would argue that some of the geographies just bring different challenges and probably different concentrations of industry that I think really would maybe change strategy or change the way they’re building culture. I know I’ve got a daughter out on the West Coast, and the talent, we think that it’s tough to find great talent here now, it is a talent competition each and every day, someone ups the ante. And so the whole idea of culture and the whole idea of how do you attract talent is just at a premium out there. And that impacts more of the culture side.

Shaun:

And then if you’re in any of the really big, high-growth areas, you’re going to find CEOs coming to me or coming to us and saying, “Hey, listen, we’ve got people who last year were really good technicians, and we need them to lead a team of 25 people now, how do we get them up to speed quickly?”

Chris:

Right. How do we do that?

Shaun:

And so ramping people up very quickly in fast-growth companies is another challenge altogether. And some of that’ll be based on geography, it’ll be based on, are you in a real high-growth market or are you in a slower growth market? So I think those are maybe some of the things that impact that.

Chris:

Culture and employees and that is something that right now, since COVID and what’s going on is a big… Getting the most out of the current team you have, and how do you build a team and scale a team and the market that we have is a big topic of conversation. And I know I want to talk about that. But before I do, I want to talk about how you got to where you are, because I always like to focus on a journey. The destination is great but the journey sometimes is better, because that really puts a spotlight on the decisions you had to make. And we like to say, what were your get overit moments where you made your left and your right. And I imagine, in a consulting business, I assume the expertise that you’ve acquired was from doing it yourself, being in the trenches and really trying to get in.

Chris:

So tell me a little bit about the progression of your career as the springboard to MPI.

Shaun:

Yeah, sure. No, it’s absolutely true. And now I often tell my daughter, she’s now in her professional career, I have a son who’s in a professional career, I’ve got two kids in college, so they’re not too far removed. And when they ask me, what did I really do right from the beginning that I would recommend to anyone their age, I said, “Over time, take on as much responsibility as you can, whether or not you get any pay increase. The pay will come if you accomplish things. And if you accomplish great things, people pay for it. And so worry less about pay and worry about”-

Chris:

So don’t chase the money, right?

Shaun:

No, take on responsibility because responsibility gives you the opportunity to accomplish things, and what people pay for is accomplishment. So that would be one lesson. I also shared with them, and then I’ll get to the progression, but I always share with them, what I basically did is I traded up and role and down in size of company. With the idea being that when you accomplish something at a certain level, now you go to a little bit smaller company. And when you go to that smaller company, they’re willing to give you more responsibility and a bigger role. And so at a very young age, I was able to really move up through the ranks and be the CEO of a business, a good-sized business at a relatively young age.

Shaun:

So I think that that was probably something that I benefited from most. But in terms of my career progression, I actually grew up in the area here. I went to school at Fordham University down New York City. I wanted to go to the biggest city in the world and I wanted to be successful there. I took a job with now who is JP Morgan Chase, at the time it was Chase. And I was in their corporate finance area and I had a great opportunity to travel around the world, working on a project team.

Chris:

So your finance background, that’s where your education was in?

Shaun:

Finance background, yeah. Finance background. Yeah. So finance background. And I really enjoyed it. And then I ended up moving into the corporate finance area and I was working on deals. And I liked working on deals, it was exciting, it was thrilling, etc. But I knew something was missing, I wasn’t sure what it was. And then I got hired away by a company called Equifax. If you don’t know who Equifax is, they know who you are. They’ve got financial information on all of us.

Chris:

That’s great.

Shaun:

And I was able to work in a couple of different roles there. One I really enjoyed was on the corporate development side, working on acquisitions, which was a logical for me moving from and Chase, and worked on acquisitions. And I was able to drive strategy there for them. So I got to work with the 34 different business units at the time that they had and work on their various strategies. And some were in early stage. So if you think about a big company like that, some of them are going to be very early stage, almost like a startup, a corporate sponsored startup, and some are going to be in very mature businesses.

Shaun:

And you’re actually looking at, “How do I harvest cash and maybe even sell it off over some period of time?

Chris:

So that allows you to use a big toolbox for you to get in there.

Shaun:

Absolutely. And so you’re working with all these different organizations, and you’re getting to know, “Hey, wow. All things aren’t created equal. Equifax has a lot of pieces to it.” Anyway, I learned from a lot of people there, but the most important thing that happened to me, there were actually two things. My dad died while I was there, which was hard. He died at a very young age. But at the same time, just like you always hope, someone else walks in your life. And there was a guy there, a guy by the name of Dan Cole, who really became a mentor of mine. And he said, “You’re pretty good at this deal stuff. But I really think everything that we work on together relative to deals, you talk about culture, you talk about people, you’re interested in that. I think you’d be good in general management.”

Shaun:

So I put that on the back burner. I got hired away to be the CFO of a public company down in Dallas. And that was really exciting for me.

Chris:

Did you move to Dallas?

Shaun:

I moved to Dallas. I moved my family. But it was a turnaround. And really what I learned from that experience is turnarounds can be one of the most exciting fast-paced learning experiences, because not only are you in trouble, but you also have to find answers quickly.

Chris:

Explain to the audience what a turnaround is if they’re not really familiar with what that means.

Shaun:

Yeah. So what a turnaround is, is typically, you’ve got a company where their business model is what we’d call upside down. Financially, they’re not performing, generally, they’re losing money, but most importantly, they’re probably burning cash. And most companies, when they’re in a position where you’re burning cash or your business model’s not successful, it’s really hard to raise additional capital.

Chris:

Right, right. Because why am I going to throw more money into the fire.

Shaun:

Why am I throw the good money after bad? So basically, what happens is, in a turnaround, you have usually a defined time horizon and a limited amount of capital. It’s not like you can say, “Hey, come work with us on this turnaround because I’ve got all this money I’m going to throw at you.” You generally don’t have a lot of that. So you’ve got to motivate people and you’ve got to say, “Hey, we’ve got something that we’re going to do here together that no one will ever take away from you. And what that is that we’re going to transform a business, we’re going to turn it around, we’re going to take it from not only where it is today to break even, but then we’re going to grow it.” So it’s the ultimate challenge in my mind in business.

Chris:

Now, is that considered a risk for you to take that position? In other words, is that a standard thing? I don’t want to use the word standard, but is it… You said it’s a public company or no?

Shaun:

It was a public company.

Chris:

so you’re going to jump in there and you’re going to try to ride that ship. Now, that seems like a risky endeavor, is it or no? It’s more, “This is what happens”?

Shaun:

I would argue that there’s two sides of a turnaround. One, yes, it’s risky. But you got to think about where I was coming from. I was coming from Equifax and I was trading down in size and trading up in responsibility to be the CFO. So this is another example of that.

Chris:

I see what you’re saying. So while it was risky for your career it wasn’t-

Shaun:

But if it turned out okay, then it was a home run.

Chris:

That’s a big deal.

Shaun:

So it’s a high risk, high return.

Chris:

high risk, high reward. Yep.

Shaun:

But here’s the other thing that I’ll tell you about turnaround. This is one of what were three turnarounds I worked on, which was the basis for me gaining a lot of experience at a very young age in a real expedited timeframe. Is that the other benefit of a turnaround, a lot of people think, “Oh, turnarounds are tough.” They are tough for the reasons I just mentioned. One of the benefits is that everyone knows in the organization that things have to change. And so they’re more amenable to change, they’re more willing to change.

Chris:

They’ve recognized.

Shaun:

Really, what it comes down to, are they going to trust this team? And they think they can be part of something special, or is it that, “You know what, I’m just taking career risk and we’re all running for the hills?” And so to me, it’s the ultimate leadership challenge because you’ve got to not only tell people that we’ll be all right, but also you’re going to tell people as to what we can create together and stick with me.

Chris:

Right. Because you’re coming into a situation where there are people that have been there and established, and they’re hopefully empowering you. You’re coming in, this guy, and they have to be able to trust you and say, “Okay, we’re going to go with it.” I imagine that like in any leadership role, you have to feel empowered and you want to get everyone behind you. And like you’re saying, in that situation, they’re hoping you can turn it around. They’re not rooting against you, I imagine.

Shaun:

No, they’re on your side, number one. But the biggest thing that you got to deal with is that they’re scared. They’re scared. The fear of the unknown.

Chris:

That makes sense.

Shaun:

It’s not like, “Hey, we’re up, up, and away and we’re talking about how much we’re going to grow next year.” We’re talking about, “Can we survive?”

Chris:

“Are we going to be around?”

Shaun:

“Are going to be around? And should I stick around for that?” Knowing that if we are successful, it is something… To me, turnarounds, it’s the most rewarding thing, because when you’re successful at turning around a business, it’s like your confidence source. It’s like, “Hey, if I can get through that, I can get through anything.” And so it does so much for your career, it did so much for my career working on three successful turnarounds because really, I view it as, “Hey, no matter what you throw me into now.” And that’s why I went and started up my own business-

Chris:

Right. “I can handle that.”

Shaun:

I said, “Hey listen, I can do this, I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, but I can do it.” And so you’re confident. The difference between a new manager and someone like me, for example, after having been through several of those is that I have confidence. And so a lot of what we’ve built at MPI is the idea of what we want to do is we want instill confidence in the leaders and the managers that we work with, whether it’s a confidence in developing their strategy, confidence in improving and scaling culture, or confidence in terms of leading their team of people.

Shaun:

And the only difference between them and me, people who have never really led people before, is I’ve been through that, I’ve been through these turnarounds-

Chris:

Right, you know it. You’re confident.

Shaun:

And I’m confident that we can figure it out.

Chris:

I’m telling you, there’s nothing worse than a leader that you know is just non-confident in this situation.

Shaun:

And you know it. You see it.

Chris:

Because if I’m going to go to battle with someone, whether I’m going to win or lose, that’s always on the table. But if the man or the woman who’s leading us into that battle is confident and is reinforcing that and pushing that, I’m going in. But if it’s uncertain or they’re not, why am I going to go in and take that risk? It really does matter. Forget about the outcome, but when you’re in the battle, it really does matter and confidence means a lot.

Shaun:

Yeah. So I left there and I went back to-

Chris:

How was that though? How long, Shaun?

Shaun:

That was about two years. It was a turnaround. Then the company was sold to a large, publicly-traded company. They asked me to stay on as a regional controller, and I said, “Hey, I like this executive leadership stuff.” And I got a phone call from the guy that I mentioned before, my mentor. And he said, “Hey, you ready to work on another turnaround?” I moved back to Atlanta. My wife was very happy. We had two young children at the time. And honestly, I learned one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned about leadership working on this turnaround. So it was in the home care space, they were involved in hospice and other home care therapies, spread all over the Southeast, publicly traded.

Shaun:

And this company was exciting because the people were so passionate about what they did each and every day. They got up and they felt like, “We’re doing good for the world?” And I felt the same way. And so when you’re getting ready to go through the turnaround and you’re working through it… What I really learned from then and what I learned in that instance is something that I’ll never forget, which is, the most important thing you do for your people is don’t let them wonder. I learned that people will go through a turnaround with you, they’ll go through tough times if they feel like you’re being honest with them, if they feel like you’re being transparent.

Shaun:

So my biggest thing is the biggest evil to a turnaround or frankly, running any business is that if your people wonder, they’re not focused on the good work that they need to do, they’re not focused on trying to take their game to the next level, take the company’s game to the next level, what they’re really worried about is they’re wondering. They’re wondering, “Hey, is this going to happen?” And generally, people, what I’ve found in tough situations is they think the worst. So when they wonder, they’re actually thinking the worst, “Why is Shaun behind closed doors? He must be selling the company.”

Chris:

They tend not to worry about the positive stuff that is-

Shaun:

They actually think the worst. And so I have really worked with leaders, I’ve worked with a lot of CEOs on saying, the most important thing that you can do is not let your people wonder. And if you can do that, you’ll earn their loyalty, you’ll earn their trust. And honestly, even if you have to tell them bad news, like, “You know what, we’re going to have another significant layoff,” that’s okay. They’ll continue to ride with you as long as they know you’re being transparent.

Chris:

Right. Because they’re not wondering about it. Now, is there a balance to that, Shaun, where they’re not so much under the hood that you’re involving them and things that they probably shouldn’t be involved in? How does that balance?

Shaun:

Oh yeah. I think there’s a big difference between not letting them wonder and telling them everything. The reality is that, and you’ve probably heard this many times over, is that a lot of people complain that, “Hey our company doesn’t do a great job with communication.” And really what it is is that what they’re thinking is, “I really would love to know everything that the CEO knows.” So they all want to know more, but what you’ve got to ask yourself as a leader, as a manager, is you’ve got to ask yourself, “Am I sharing with them information that’s relevant for them to be successful, for them to be able to make really good, confident decisions, and put them in a position where they can lead their teams effectively as well?”

Shaun:

And if I’m doing that, then I’m doing okay. I don’t have to meet their threshold of what great communication is, what I do need to do is make sure that they’re not wondering about, “Are we going to be in business?” Wondering about, or we’re headed in the right direction, wondering whether we’re going to win versus the competition, wondering whether I’m on the right-

Chris:

That the Xs and Os is not what they’re involved in.

Shaun:

Yeah. So I think there is a fine line, Chris, to be honest. And I think that you can go overboard in terms of sharing and you can spend a lot of time, but what we don’t want people doing is being at the water cooler talking about out and speculating about, “Well, what’s Shaun doing behind closed doors? What’s he doing? Is he moving us in a different direction?” No, I want to be right up front, “Here’s the good, here’s the bad, and this is what we’re doing about it.” That’s the most important thing, is that people can deal with bad news if they know that you have a game plan and they’re clear on what the game plan is for moving in the right direction.

Chris:

Correct. Right. Yeah. They’re respected more too. They trust you. I think that’s really when you’re going to get the most out of them. So then in Atlanta, you were there for how long?

Shaun:

I was there for six years. So then that brought me back to upstate New York, which really brought me home. So a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I actually grew up in the Capital Region. I always wanted to get back because as you start to grow and grow your young family, and I have four kids, there is always a pull back toward home. Now, whether you move there or you just visit there in a regular basis-

Chris:

You feel like you’re connected.

Shaun:

I wanted my kids to be around their cousins, I wanted to be around my mom, I wanted to be around my cousins. And I thought, “Boy, this is a great time for us.” So I ended up getting a phone call from a guy who said, “Hey, listen, my brother’s got a business, it’s been growing considerably very fast, but he feels like he needs adult leadership, and he feels like there’s a lot of change going on in the industry that’s going to all of a sudden hit.” Anyway, I started talking with him and his name is Pat Maney and had a business called NextRidge up here, technology services business.

Shaun:

So he and I talked. I came up, worked with him for about, I don’t know, 48 hours, and he offered me the job. And he said, “Would you like to be a CEO?” So I’d been a CFO, COO, and now I had an opportunity to be a CEO. This is not a public company, but it brought me back home. At the time we had a lot of employees, 455,000 employees, we were growing in fastest growing list, but really what was happening was, if you remember, this is back in 2001, 2000, 2001, you had the.com bust. Well, you also had the telecom bust and they were serving the telecom sector. And so it was really tough.

Shaun:

We had to go down to about 130 employees very quickly from about 700, I guess it was about 700 at the time down to 150. So there’s anything worse than coming back to your hometown and having to execute massive layoffs. But we got the company profitable, we started moving it in the right direction, started growing it again. Company has grown significantly over the last 10 years or so. And so I really worked on turnaround and it was a lot of fun to try to pull a young team together, get them all speaking the same language and say, “Hey you know what, we can get there.”

Shaun:

And that’s when I learned another great lesson, which is, there’s a big difference between being a number one, and a number two or a number three, depending on how you view those other roles. When you’re a number, the buck stops with you.

Chris:

And you feel that, right?

Shaun:

You feel it, you feel the pressure, you feel the need to be able to protect the families, because you start to get to know the families, not just the people that you work with and you know that every layoff, there’s probably four or five other people that are attached to that layoff and you feel the way to the world. And really what you have to do is you have to look out the other side and you have to say, “Okay, but that’s not our goal longer term. Our goal longer term is to grow the business again and get it moving in the right direction, and generate jobs, and create great stories with the families and stuff like that.”

Shaun:

And that’s what keeps you going when you’re involved in a big turnaround like that, but it was through that I got really involved with the Center for Economic Growth, it was through that that I started meeting a lot of other CEOs. And when I got to the point where I was basically the business had been turned around, I talked to Pat who was the majority owner and I was the minority owner, and I said, “I really want to create something special myself.” He said, “You really should do what you did with me with lots of other people.” And that’s really how MPI was born.

Chris:

That’s was the Genesis of MPI.

Shaun:

And I thought to myself, my wife thought I was crazy because I had two kids that were on the verge of starting college and she’s saying-

Chris:

What are you doing?

Shaun:

“What are you doing? Go be a CEO of another business, and you keep it safe and secure.” And I said, “You know what, I’ve turned businesses around, I’ve worked in some other great growth businesses, I think that this is something that I have a passion for, because I can help a lot other CEOs and executive teams.” And that’s how we built the business.

Chris:

To your previous point, though, about when you’re the number one and that person, everyone wants to be there, not everyone, but a lot of people want to get to that level, but they don’t recognize that power comes with great responsibility, I feel like. And then you get in that seat and you can no longer, like you said, look behind you and say, “Well, it’s not my call.” I imagine there’s a learning curve to that, no matter how much experience you have, It’s a big jump and it’s got to take a toll on you.

Shaun:

Yeah. And it’s not always about, “I got to make the call.” One of the great areas of art that I’ve learned about leadership and management is you’ve got to figure out when is the time that you want to make the call, when is the time that you want to bring your executive team together and do something that’s maybe more consensus driven, because it’s going to take more than you to be able to drive that decision.

Chris:

Even though you are that number one, you can’t just do it by yourself.

Shaun:

Yes. You’ve got to decide, when do you make an autocratic call? Other times it’s like, “No, I need to involve a lot of people. I got to get their feedback, I want to get their buy-in, and I’m going to need it in this particular one.” And I think that that’s something that comes with experience because I think all of us think move into that number one role, we feel like, “Oh, we’re responsible, we’ve got to make the decision, it’s up to us. And we’ve got to make fast decision.” And that’s the other big lesson that I learned is that, no, you don’t always have to make fast decisions, you have to make depending on the situation.

Shaun:

If I’m getting ready to evaluate whether I sell my business or not, do I have to make a quick decision? No, I generally don’t. What I want to do is I want to make the right decision, and that might require that I’ve got involve other people, it’s going to take some time, I’m going to have to assess other alternatives. So all of these people that always say, “Hey, being a leader is about making fast decision,” I’m saying it’s about making the right decision and identifying when you have to move fast versus when you have to move a little slower. And I think that that’s a really important lesson that I probably learned through turnarounds is that everyone thinks you have to just move fast because you’re burning cash.

Chris:

There’s an element of moving swiftly, but it’s correctly that is in the end.

Shaun:

It’s correctly. If I’m betting the ranch, I better take the time that it takes to decide whether that’s a decent bed or not. If I have to make a decision about what t-shirt we’re going to wear at the corporate challenge, then I can probably make that pretty quickly. So it really just depends. And I think that’s what we try to teach a lot of the leaders that we work with is that some of these things that maybe they’ve read or they’ve heard are not just absolute. I think there’s situations that come into play and that’s where the judgment of a leader and ultimately the experience of a leader is what’s required.

Chris:

A mentor of mine back in the day once told me that if you have a bunch of smart people in the room and that’s all they are, they’re just a bunch of smart people in the room. But if you not willing to listen to them, and actually listen to their opinion, whether you agree with it or not, and you don’t take that in and weigh it, you got nothing. And it really doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody in the room, whatever they say you’re going to do, but I think it matters both ways. It matters to the people in the room that they’re in the room and they’re given the ability, “Tell me what you I’m genuinely interested and want to know what’s on you, how you feel about this.”

Chris:

And that it’s not just an exercise, but you really are listening to them, because there’s nothing worse than when I ask your opinion and I don’t care what it is, because I’m just asking you to ask you and no matter what you say, I’m going to do this. I feel like that as a leader, now Imagine there’s some people that do that, but to me, if you really want to hear my opinion, I want to know you’re genuinely going to listen to it and not just be like, “Huh, it’s just an exercise.” Do you talk to leaders about that?

Shaun:

Absolutely. One of the things that we talk to leaders a lot about is, I’m a big believer in surveys, whether it’s employee survey, customer survey, we use the Net Promoter Score, we use the Gallup survey for employees, is that you can ask people for feedback, but if you don’t really want their opinion, they’re going to figure it out real fast and your credibility as a leader is going to change immediately, you’re not going to motivate people. People want to be a part of something, they want to feel like their voice is heard. Now it’s okay that if you give me your feedback on something, I say, “Hey, Chris, I hear what you’re saying, here’s where I disagree,” and you talk through it, and ultimately make a decision that’s contrary to that.

Shaun:

What I can confidently say is that you’re going to feel like, “Well, at least my voice was heard, number one, I had a seat at table.

Chris:

I had a seat at table.

Shaun:

I tell people that all the time, what’s the great opportunity when you become part of an executive team? The great opportunity is you have a seat at the table. You have an ability to influence whoever the final decision maker is. But what I tell leaders, the CEOs that are leading those groups of people is, don’t pull a bunch of people in a room, ask their opinion, and then really not really factor that in and not tell them why you made a decision to the contrary, because immediately, you will start to lose your executive team.

Chris:

Right. And why am I going to want to offer my opinion in the future and I’m going to be down on it.” And that’s what you are.

Shaun:

But I say the same thing with employee surveys is, or even customer surveys, if you’re going to take the time, the valuable time of your customers and of your employees to ask their opinion, you better tell them what you’re going to do with it, whether you agree with it, whether you’re acting on it, whether you’re not. If they think it just goes into a black hole, eventually, they’re not going to want to waste their time to fill out that survey. The employees are going to say-

Chris:

Why does it matter?

Shaun:

… Chris is sending out his typical survey that he does every year and never does anything about it. And honestly, that’s demoralizing, that will be demotivating to your team.

Chris:

What’s the data you’re acquiring? Is useless at that point, because it’s not a true reflection really of what you really want to get out of it because they’re just going to-

Shaun:

I love using that as a big motivational tool, “I heard what you guys said in that survey. These were the three most important points that you made to me, and here’s the two things we’re going to do about it. This other one I’m going to table for a while because I just don’t think we have the resources or whatever it’s going to take.” But you want to talk about motivating people, that’s how you motivate people, is let them feel like their voice is heard.

Chris:

Wow. What you said really stuck with me. That’s good. So, in your career, you’ve come into businesses, they were established. And some were doing better than others, and so you became this fixer, this art, now you got to start your own. So you’re not going into something that’s established, new set of challenges.

Shaun:

Yeah. I wanted the challenge because I said, “Hey, I’ve worked on turnarounds, which I think is the ultimate challenge.” And then a couple of people have told me, “No, harder than turning something around is starting something from scratch and trying to generate demand for your services and things of that nature.” I’m not sure which one is more difficult.

Chris:

It’s own set of difficulty.

Shaun:

Yeah. Here’s the thing that’s different is that I think that when it comes to a startup, it requires more of your visionary skills to be challenged. I think when it comes to a turnaround, it’s more of you faring out what is the wheat from the chaff, and how do I ultimately revamp the business model. A lot of it is you rolling up your sleeves and figuring out, do you have the right team? Do you have the right processes? How do we fix it and then recreate value for our customers? I think it’s a little bit less on the visionary side, I think it’s more on the, “I have to lead and motivate people.” Over here it’s, “I’ve got to try to figure out whether we have something or we don’t have something.”

Shaun:

And so I think it’s a little bit different challenge, but I always love challenges. So I wanted a new challenge. I’ve worked in growth businesses, Equifax certainly, Chase was certainly growth businesses. I’ve worked in three big turnarounds, and so now this was my opportunity to start something. And I’ve loved it. I’ve loved every minute. I’ve kept it small intentionally because what we really did over the last seven years is we’ve been building content. And what I mean by content is we’ve been building the tools, the templates, the processes, the checklists, the things that will make the CEOs and executive teams that we work with much more efficient and effective quickly.

Shaun:

And so the idea was to build as much content as we could over the first seven years and build the library. Now, we’re trying to take a lot of that online and create this manager’s marketplace. And then I think there’s going to be, okay now, how do we scale it?

Chris:

How do you scale that?

Shaun:

How do we scale that? And actually the next phase in our development. And so for me, it’s been trying to figure that out, trying to keep a small elite team together that believes in what we’re doing, service a great group of customers. I work with many of the best companies in our region. And then like I said, we’re beyond here, but I learn from them every day. My job is never boring because situation is different, every leader is different.

Chris:

Right. You have these new things coming in.

Shaun:

Every business is different, every leader is different. And so I never know when I walk in to work with one of my clients, what we’re really going to be working on that day. That is so exciting.

Chris:

It’s so interesting because I’ve never worked at an agency before, I’ve always worked in one thing at a time. And the thing that some people dislike about an agency, which I really like is that I work with so many different kinds of businesses, all different verticals, all different industries, and it presents a new challenge all the time. It’s a core approach, but it’s a very different set of challenges, and it keeps it fresh. When you get into a corporate setting, sometimes it feels like sometimes the wheels are just spinning, but now, I love that, it keeps me sharp, it keeps me going.

Chris:

Before we close, I want to just ask you this, I think you would agree, but I think that no matter how successful a leader is, CEO or someone in a leadership position, there’s always room to get better. And I feel like no matter what level you’re at, whether you’re still trying to climb or you got to the highest point, you could always get better. Is that a tenant you believe in and do you push that? Because I have to imagine that some people are making lots of money, they got all this big stuff, it doesn’t mean that you should stop. And I feel like that happens a lot. So do you try to keep pushing people no matter what the level?

Shaun:

Absolutely. Every year, with any of my coaching clients, so I coach a number of CEOs, and when I’m working with them, one of the biggest things that we try to focus on is what’s next, what is next for you? A combination of personal and professional. And part of the reason why you do it is when you do get to be successful, and I’ve seen this with other, you can get complacent. And honestly, you can get to a point where, I’ve actually seen it, where they’re unhappy. With all their success, they’re unhappy. And it’s because we all need some purpose.

Chris:

You need to fire.

Shaun:

We need something that we’re going to drive toward next. It could be something on the personal front, “You know what, I’ve always had a good relationship with my daughter,” you could say. And I have a great relationship with both my daughters, but it’s like, “No, this year, what I’m going to do more than anything thing is I’m going to focus on building even a stronger relationship with my daughter or my brother. I’ve known my brother for years, we’re very close, but we’ve drifted a little bit. I want to do that.” That could be on the personal side

Shaun:

On the professional side, it’s like, “You know what, I’ve always been really, really good at managing a good operation, but I haven’t really grown my business like I’ve always wanted to. I’ve never really been able to figure out how to create wealth for my key employees. I really want to work on that this year.” There’s always things that you can want to take your business to the next level. There might even be a new segment, there’s a new customer segment that I want to serve that I’ve never been after before. And honestly, I’d like to do new a lot more business.

Shaun:

A couple years ago, I started down that path because I’m thinking, “You know what, I started out in private equity, private equity has 50 or 60 companies in every one of their portfolios. They all want to grow them and they want to grow them in a short period of time. What better group could you go after if you’re in my business?” And so I looked at that and I said, “That’s a really interesting, compelling place to go.” And so we’re trying to move a bit in that direction. But my point is, for me, I looked at it and said, “Hey, can’t we change the game here in terms of training?”

Shaun:

When I look at training, I grew up being trained just like everyone else, we have our foundational programs, but you know where people are going? They’re going to personalization. The training program that you need is a different training program than I need, and how can you create that personalized experience? I’m all geeked up chasing that. And so I think that every business leader has to be thinking about, “Okay, how do I stay relevant? How do I continue to move my business toward relevance and prosperity?” Because honestly, your people are counting on it, they are counting.

Chris:

Yeah, they are. People that are listening to this, I want them to just to be clear that we’re talking about leaders, we’re talking about CEOs, but your services are not just relegated to those guys at the very top.

Shaun:

No. Absolutely not.

Chris:

I know you have products and services and for those managers and people that are aspiring or wanting to be better leaders. So just a little bit, talk a little bit about the breadth of that.

Shaun:

Yeah. That’s a great point. I appreciate you bringing that up. Why I’m talking about CEOs and executive teams, our thought process originally was, we started out in leadership development and we had a lot of people that were training their people. And you know what their biggest complaint was, their biggest complaint was, “Is there any way you can do this with our executive teams because we agree we want to grow, we want the business to move in this direction. We think this is good leadership, but they’re not exhibiting good leadership?”

Shaun:

And so what we’ve tried to do is we have all of our core programs that cater to all the way from people who are really new to the workforce. We call that our personal leadership program. And then we have people who are first-time leaders or managing their first team of people. We call that our team leadership program. And then we have our organizational leadership, which is really for executives. But we’ve been trying to squeeze in both directions and say, “You know what, we’re not going to be successful at helping you move the needle in your organization by you just training your various members of your team.”

Chris:

You need a whole approach.

Shaun:

We look at CEOs, we call it an ideal CEO. You’re an ideal CEO for us if number one, you want to grow. Not just want to grow, but you’re committed to growth. You have made decisions, you’ve made investments that are going to really demonstrate that you want to grow. Number two, you don’t think you have all the answers. And number three, you’re committed to developing all of your team, including the executives, and really trying to take their game to the next level, to your point you made earlier, which is, we all need to be aspiring to be better.

Shaun:

Your people are counting on you to be better, so you need to expect that of your executive team as well. And so we’ve tried to create a whole family of programs that really flow through the whole organization. I would argue strategy. A lot of people think strategy should be relegated to the executives. I think that’s baloney. I honestly believe that, what about your high potentials that are out there? What about other people that are servicing the customers and are close to the customers? You probably want them involved in the strategy process.

Shaun:

They might not be involved in the final strategy. The final decision is really just strategy, but boy, their perspective is a lot closer to the client than maybe some of the people that are sitting in the ivory tower. So make sure that you have the right people involved in strategy, make sure that you really are building a culture that is going to make you successful and that is scalable. And a lot of that information comes from people a little deeper in the organization.

Chris:

Well, for everybody listening, if you can’t tell by Shaun’s passion, I’m talking to them right now, I’m getting fired up. And I think that if you’re listening out there at whatever stage you are in your career, in a business, and you want to advance, you want to learn how to become a better leader, a better manager, you want to be able to grow, or if you’re already at that higher level and you’re saying to yourself, “Man, I lost some of that fire,” you can reach out to your team, mahoneyperformanceinstitute.com, right?

Shaun:

Yeah.

Chris:

I know there’s phone numbers, you can fill out a form there. That’s the best ways to reach out to your team if they’re hearing this and they want to see what they can get out of it maybe?

Shaun:

Yeah. Either email us or there are phone numbers there where they can reach out to us. We love to talk to people, so if you reach out to us, we’ll get back to you right away. I think it’s pretty informative. We’ve done a lot of work on our website and I think there’s a lot of good content there that’ll give you a good sense for how we work with companies and what we provide. I think the best thing to do is reach out to us, let’s have a discussion, see if we can help.

Chris:

Shaun Mahoney, mahoneyperformanceinstitute.com, thank you so much for the time. Appreciate it.

Shaun:

Awesome. Thanks Chris.

Chris:

Thank you.