276: Doug Conant – Become the Leader You Want to Be
Doug Conant Takes Your Leadership to New Heights
Doug Conant Show Notes Page
Doug Conant was recruited to work as the General Manager for a division in RJR Nabisco. After a rough first meeting with the chairman, Lou Gerstner, which turned out to be a test, Doug discovered how important it is to have the courage of your convictions and with all humility just stand up and be counted.
Doug Conant grew up in the suburbs of Chicago (Glenco, IL) with three younger brothers and a competitive drive as a tennis player. His family instilled the values of service and industriousness. He admired his mother’s forthright nature and has been inspired by the unconditional love and support of his wife and three children.
He has an admiration of Teddy Roosevelt, a love of Louis L’Amour western stories, and a passion for learning about exceptional people in sports and public life.
Doug began his career as an entry-level marketing assistant at General Mills. He held leadership positions in marketing and strategy at Kraft before becoming CEO and President of Campbell Soup Company. During his career, he also served as President of Nabisco Foods Company, and Chairman of Avon Products.
Over the course of his ten years as CEO at Campbell, employee engagement skyrocketed from being among the worst in the Fortune 500 to being world-class as measured by Gallup. As a result of this and other key transformational improvements, Doug led Campbell from beleaguered in 2001 to delivering competitive performance in the top tier of the global food industry by the time he retired in 2011.
After retiring from Campbell Soup Company, Doug still felt called to contribute, to help leaders hone their craft, expand their influence, and change the world, so he founded ConantLeadership: a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works. He has distilled his lifetime of practical leadership wisdom into his bestselling book, The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights. As CEO of ConantLeadership, he takes no salary, and all profits (after covering operating costs) are donated to charitable organizations at the forefront of championing the kind of leadership that can move society forward.
He is Chairman of CECP (Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose), and many other current and past board positions. He is a featured leadership blogger at Harvard Business Review online, writes about leadership in his suite of high-impact leadership resources at ConantLeadership.com, and he shares leadership insights and articles as a LinkedIn Influencer.
Doug currently lives in downtown Chicago with his wife Leighand has three kids scattered throughout the US and one grandchild.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Your life story is your leadership story.” – Click to Tweet
“We need a strong foundation to weather the storms that are inevitably going to come our way.” – Click to Tweet
“You are going to be tested as a leader, and when you’re being the tested the most is when you’re needed to lead the most.” – Click to Tweet
“If you are a leader, you are affecting people’s lives.” – Click to Tweet
“If you are going to lead people and affect lives, you ought to treat it as sacred ground.” – Click to Tweet
“All leaders need to work at the craft of leadership.” – Click to Tweet
“Being a leader is all about being yourself and doing it in an enlightened way.” – Click to Tweet
“Everyone feels like they’re trying to get a sip of water from the fire hydrant of life. Everyone is overwhelmed.” – Click to Tweet
“Life is complicated. You need a simple process to deal with a complicated life.” – Click to Tweet
“Forget perfection. Life doesn’t work perfectly.” – Click to Tweet
“Your life story is not the only story you ought to be paying attention to, but it’s where you start.” – Click to Tweet
“The way to get unstuck is to go inside and figure out what matters most to you about the leader you want to be.” – Click to Tweet
“Unleash the beast within and get in touch with the leader you want to be.” – Click to Tweet
“The only way to get unstuck is to go inside and to focus on unleashing the beast within.” – Click to Tweet
“He never knew when he was licked, so he never was.” – Click to Tweet
“You can either choose to walk inside of your own story or you can hustle to prove your worthiness outside of that story.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Doug Conant was recruited to work as the General Manager for a division in RJR Nabisco. After a rough first meeting with the chairman, Lou Gerstner, which turned out to be a test, Doug discovered how important it is to have the courage of your convictions and with all humility just stand up and be counted.
Advice for others
Be more reflective with my work, asking myself what mattered most.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Continuing to display my vulnerability in a way that will enable me to grow even faster.
Best Leadership Advice
Be tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people.
Secret to Success
Making it personal.
Best tools in business or life
Leveraging gratitude – to thank people for work well-done.
Contacting Doug Conant
Show TranscriptClick to access edited transcript
Jim Rembach (00:00):
Okay, fast leader leading to them. Excited because we have somebody today who really can help us focus in on practical application of the
Jim Rembach (00:48):
things that we need to do to be most successful as a leader and goodness be the times that we’re in right now. Uh, we have to become better at that than we ever have before. Doug Conant grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the Glencoe area to be specific with three younger brothers and a competitive drive as a tennis player, his family and still the values of service and industriousness. He admired his mother’s forthright nature and has been inspired by the unconditional love and support of his wife and three children. He has an admiration of Teddy Roosevelt, a love of Lula, more Western stories and a passion of learning about exceptional people in sports and public life. Doug began his career as an early entry level marketing assistant at general mills and held leadership positions in marketing and strategy at Kraft before becoming CEO and president of Campbell soup company during his career, he also served as president of Nabisco foods company and chairman of Avon products.
Jim Rembach (01:48):
Over the course of his 10 years as CEO of Campbell employee engagement skyrocketed from becoming the worst in the fortune 500 to being world class as measured by gala. As a result of his and other key transformation improvements. Doug led Campbell from a beleaguered state in 2001 to delivering competitive performance in the top tier of the global food industry. By the time he retired in 2011 after retiring from the Campbell soup company, Doug still felt called to contribute to help leaders hone their craft, expand their influence and change the world. So he founded content leadership, a mission driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works. He has distilled his lifetime of practical leadership wisdom into his bestselling book, the blueprint, six practical steps to lift your leadership to new Heights as CEO of kind of leadership. He takes no salary and all profits after covering operational expenses are donated to charitable organizations at the forefront of championing the kind of leadership that can move society forward. He is the chairman of CECP, which is chief executives
Doug Conant (03:00):
for corporate purpose and numerous other current and past board positions. He is a featured leadership blogger at Harvard business review online, writes about leadership in his suite of high impact leadership resources at Conant, leadership.com and he shares leadership insights and articles as a LinkedIn influencer. Doug currently lives in downtown Chicago with his wife, Lee and has three kids spread throughout the U S and one grandchild. Doug Conant, are you ready to help us get over the hump? Let’s roll. I’m so glad you’re here. And for me, I’ve had just a pure joy of going through your book, but I had to say, I think you pulled out some of those a little bit shady marketing tactics when you actually had the subtitle, this book and you say six practical steps, still lift your leadership, but goodness B, this is a lot of work. You even give a companion workbook.
Doug Conant (03:50):
So when I look at, you know, the first part of the six steps and it seems pretty simple, you know, it’s envision which has retired, reflect, dig, deep study, lay the groundwork plan, getting into design practice and then building improve and then reinforce. But while it seems simple, right, you also talk about it not being linear. What do you mean by that? Well, uh, you know, I, if, if, if we step back for a minute, my core belief is that your life story is your leadership story. All the cues that you draw upon when you’re encountering situations as a leader are informed by your life story. And if your life story is your leadership story, uh, your life story is not linear. It’s all over the place. And, and as you’re applying that life story to your leadership in the moment, uh, you’ll found that it’s not Lynn, you’ll find that it’s not linear, that it comes from left field, right field, home plate, wherever you are at the time.
Doug Conant (04:58):
So life just is not a linear war. It’s not a linear world. And, uh, but it is iterative in the sense that you, you, you experienced something, you learned from it. You apply that the next time. And, and what we talk about in the blueprint is that it is an iterative exercise where you apply, you assess, you learn, and then you reapply and enlightened practice. The next time. So iterative is important. Nonlinear is just the real world. And we also call it cyclical at times because when you step back from it all, you can see a cycle of continuous improvement that rolls through everything you do. All of us, uh, when you step back, you see people have tried things they’ve learned, they’ve tried to do them better the next time. And that cycle of continuous improvement is really part of the foundation of our book.
Jim Rembach (05:58):
Well, and another part, or just so you talked about, you know, finding your own leadership style in the first part of the book. The book is in two parts. First part is all about being able to identify and then get into the behaviors of that allow you to live it. And so when I reflect on part one of the book of the blueprint, you can actually state that it’s vital to find this out. Um, and then you also talk about, you know, some of the things that you’ve learned, talking about your own leadership story you mentioned. And what I see is the inspiration than the instigator of the blueprint. Being a Neil McKenna. So tell us who’s Neil?
Doug Conant (06:34):
Neil McKenna is an extraordinary man. Or was she passed away in April of 2006. Uh, I met Neil McKenna one day in the spring of, uh, when I was 32 years old. I’m 68, so that was 36 years ago. Uh, and I had gone into work that day and been called into my bosses office. The receptionist said, could you go up and see Larry? He’d like to talk to you from, it was called up into his office and he said, Doug, your job’s been eliminated. You need to be out of here by noon. And I had worked for this company for, for nine years and in the home office, and then in the subsidiary. Okay. If I was out of the blue and, uh, my career changed in a snap, I had to go back to go home to my wife and the two kids at the time, and the dogs and the cats and all the chaos of the house.
Doug Conant (07:31):
And tell her I lost my job. Uh, later that day I was sent to see Neil McKenna. Neil was my outplacement counselor. And, uh, Neil, when I called him that first day, having had the worst experience in my career, uh, losing my job was a big mortgage, a looming in the back of my mind nailed when I called him. He, and this was before call forwarding or self, this is the long time ago. Uh, he would always answer the phone, hello, this is Neil McKenna. How can I help? And I was never so glad to hear someone say, how can I help them when Neil’s set up that day and what I came to learn about Neil over the, over the years following every time anybody called him, he would say, hello, this is Neil McKenna. How can I help? He was there to help.
Doug Conant (08:23):
That was it. That’s what he did. And, uh, I went over and saw, he said, I need you to come over here right now. I said, but it’s late afternoon. He said, no, I’m going to wait. You need to come over here right now and we need to work through this. And then he led me through an outplacement placement process over the course of a year that I found life changing. It was a crucible turning point in my life. It’s also the story that opens this book. But Neil, he was a tough old new England guy and he wasn’t gonna give me a pity party because I lost my job. I had to get back up on the horse and get going. And then he was very tough on me when he said, you’re going to be a terrible interview. I, you know, this is going to be a heavy lift because you’re so damn shy and reserved. 36 years later, I’m, I’m better. But, uh, uh, and he called him like he saw him and he was really tough on me. But what he also was, was incredibly caring. And ultimately one of the themes you undoubtedly stumble across when you go through my work is I really believe about, I believe in the concept of being tough-minded on standards and tenderhearted with people. And Neil was that in spades. And experiencing this crucible moment with a guy who was so tough and so caring at the same time
Jim Rembach (09:47):
has influenced me in a profound way for the last 36 years. Well, and I can see it in this body of work and really starts with talking about others. Being able to do the same thing is you have to ask three questions. You talk about, you talk about why do I choose leadership and what is my promise and then what are my values? And when you start talking about the visual of a blueprint and the building process and walking through it, the answering these questions that really gives you, if you think about it from a construction perspective, that solid footing in that solid foundation, you even mentioned bedrock, right? Yeah. Well
Doug Conant (10:23):
the concept of the blueprint was inspired by architects, uh, who are designing magnificent infrastructures. And any architect will tell you one of the keys to success or the ultimate key to success is having a very strong foundation that can enable that building to weather the storms that come their way. And, uh, the same concept is true in leadership. We need a strong foundation to weather the storms that are inevitably going to come our way, whether it’s losing your job like I did or trying to weather a global pandemic like we are right now. So the strength of their time, you know, you’re going to be tested as a leader and when you’re being tested the most is when you’re needed to lead the most. Your foundation has to be strong to weather that test. And, uh, so that, that was the spirit of this foundational step.
Doug Conant (11:21):
And interestingly, as we get into it, and I’ve worked with thousands of people on this, uh, while I was a CEO and a president, but also I’ve been teaching better part of the list eight years. Uh, uh, most, these are important questions to ask that most of us haven’t reflected on. Why am I choosing to do this? We, you know, when I got out of school, I was just happy to get a job. It was the only job I had, you know, and I went to Minneapolis and started at the bottom of the ladder in marketing, uh, not knowing a soul on the entire state of Minnesota. Uh, and so, uh, but I didn’t ask those questions. I just wanted a job. But ultimately I just went to the next job and the next job and I did a little better. I got promoted. It wasn’t a straight line.
Doug Conant (12:10):
I had all kinds of shortcomings, but, uh, uh, I wasn’t really questioning why was I choosing to do this? And I think leaders before they’re going to be tested ought to ask themselves those questions and then not just why, but okay, how would I describe what I’m trying to do and what are, what are my bedrock values? You know, what are the handful of things that are gonna are the guard rails for my journey? So I don’t go off, we’re off the road. And, uh, we find you people devote a couple hours to this work. They have a much clearer idea about where they’re, where they want to go. And that’s the first step
Jim Rembach (12:56):
to actually build upon that. And you talk about five key materials, you know, thinking along the same, you know, connection with building, as you said, your leadership purpose is one, uh, your leadership beliefs, your leadership model, your leadership practice, treasury, and then your leadership improvement plan. And that really just galvanizing the foundation. Um, but when you start talking about this work and having those materials, it’s not just building it, setting it and forgetting it. Um, I mean this is part of that whole work thing and pulling people in is like, it takes a lot of effort.
Doug Conant (13:35):
It does. But, you know, yeah. I don’t want to get too preachy here, but I will for a moment. You know, I try, I think if you’re a leader, I encourage people to view it as sacred ground. You’re affecting people’s lives, including your family’s life. Uh, your coworkers, your associates, the people you’re serving with your enterprise. If you’re in a nonprofit or academic, you’re serving needy people or students, or if you’re in a corporation, you’re, you know, I work for, for food companies, we were trying to feed the world and I view that as noble work and if you’re going to lead people and affect lives, you ought to treat it as sacred ground. You oughta like anything else. If anything else you want to get good at, you ought to work at it. You know, I, you probably this, I don’t know how many podcasts you’ve done, but this podcast, you’re a whole lot more adept and capable than you were with your first one.
Doug Conant (14:41):
You know, and you’ve worked at it. It’s clear in, in our preparation for this conversation, you know, you’ve developed disciplines, practices. Here’s how it works best. And I work at it. I believe all leaders need to work at the craft of leadership and treated a sacred ground. But I don’t, it doesn’t have to be, we say work, but you can have fun too. You know what FA, it’s, it’s, it’s fun to philosophy. I have being a leader is all about being yourself and doing it in an enlightened way that will influence others. And so working on yourself and trying to figure out, well how can I do that a little bit better next time in a way that works for me is it is interesting. And so this is not meant to be a heavy lift. This is meant to be a meaningful lift that people can enjoy along the way. And the people we’ve worked with have found it that way because you’re not trying to figure out how do I lead like this person or that person. You’re trying to solve a puzzle that’s your puzzle. And that can be very fulfilling work.
Jim Rembach (15:49):
Well and liberating. I mean me when going through the workbook and going through the book, you know, you even have something to um, for me, which I found very valuable as a whole list of words to help you identify this. And uh, we ha I had a guest on the show, Rick Miller, episode two, 216, who is the author of be cheap. It’s a choice, not a title. And it aligns with all that you’re talking about. And one of the things that he talks about is identifying your core for those most important values, right? You want to deepen that and throw the work. But he talks about at least identifying those core four because he says there’s huge power in what you feel once you know what you stand for. And then he also says, once you figure out what you stand for, you can actually take this thing.
Doug Conant (16:36):
Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. And Rick Rick’s done a good job with that work. We, we try and deepen it a little more and create what I would argue is a, a relatively manageable process for people. Because what we know is that everyone, it feels like they’re trying to get a sip of water from the fire hydrant of life right now. They’re overwhelmed. My, my old mentor, Warren Bennis, uh, who passed away this year, uh, he coined the phrase, it’s a VUCA world. Uh, in 1987, VUCA, volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. And, uh, that was in 1987. Today, that world would be a VUCA world on steroids 40 years later, just moving so fast. Everyone’s overwhelmed and the change process that we’ve sort of designed here, that was basically my life process. I’m slow. It took me a lifetime. I’m finding it’s easier for others, but, uh, uh, what we, we, we felt we needed to design an approachable process that could nest perfectly in your cockamamie life the way it is today.
Doug Conant (17:50):
Because, you know, it’s like, it’s like having you, you have a diet plan right after the holidays, I’m going to lose 20 pounds and maybe you do it with your wife too, and we’re going to lose 20 pounds and about two weeks into the month of January you say, we can’t do this. You know, it’s too hard. It doesn’t fit our cockamamie life. I have these things I have to do. I’ve got to go to work. I can’t prepare the proper meal, you know? And we were very careful. I, you know, these, the process, the words sound very simple, but life is complicated. So you need a simple process to deal with a complicated life. And that’s what we designed here. We’re about to launch a, a four-part coaching series that I’m going to do in one month with people once a week, and I’m going to help them walk through the book and the workbook and figure all this out.
Doug Conant (18:46):
And, uh, we’ve gone through the hours required to do it and it takes, uh, no more than four hours each week to go through the whole thing and get it done. Uh, and so using the workbook, the workbook we found was necessary. I’m not a workbook, I’m not an online guy. I’m an old, I’m a dinosaur. Uh, but for so many of the people we work with, they hunger to, uh, to be able to use technology to go through the process here. And that’s what the workbook enables. But you know, we’re actually asking people to reflect on their lives. You need to spend more than 15 minutes, uh, doing that. But it’s a manageable process. And the way we’ve looked at it, it takes 15 to 20 hours over the course of a month to go through the six steps and develop a, you’re first passed through the blueprint.
Doug Conant (19:45):
But I would tell you that the other piece of this is that, uh, forget perfection. And we talk about that in the book. It’s never work. Life doesn’t work perfectly. So we just have people, you know, give me 80% in each step, give me 80% or 70% and then no, you’ll go back through it and you can fine tune it at your, at your disposal at any time. And making it iterative and, and knowing it doesn’t have to be perfect, uh, is what makes this whole process of six relatively practical steps, uh, uh, approachable. Well, and then the next thing is, and this is where you get into part two, is taking all of that discovery work and that alignment work and all of those things. And I would dare to say a lot of people talking about that liberating feeling are going to have a lot of energy and therefore it’s like, okay, what do I do with now? This new found knowledge, these things that were unspoken and
Jim Rembach (20:48):
unrealized previously? And then you can actually give them a four or a five day, uh, initial rollout plan. Our action plan and day one is, uh, you have to do a leadership expectations audit. Day two is you share your emerging thinking and the approach, uh, you commit to one practice, uh, and you write yourself a handwritten note and then you create some journal entries. So kind of give us some insight into how that flows.
Doug Conant (21:16):
Well, the, uh, you know, I, I’ve been doing this work not, not under the blueprint rubric, but, uh, this is the work I’ve done in my bootcamps for years now and my teaching work at both Kellogg and up in Boston. And, uh, uh, uh, so we’ve got to make it real. And what happens is you go to these experiences like the blueprint and you get inspired and then you go into the real world again and, and it’s like, well, how am I going to make this work in the real world? So we make that part of the process, the reentry process into the real world once you come out of LA LA land with me, uh, is, is mission critical. You gotta be able to look at this and the cold light of day and see how is this going to work here. I have a lot of corporate people that come through and they come up with these brilliant leadership models that express who they are and then they say, yeah, but I’ve got to go back into company X.
Doug Conant (22:19):
How am I going to make this work in company X? So we take them through a process and the first step is the most important one of all these, this reentry process. And we say, well, what is they expecting of you at work? What are you expecting of yourself with your model? And where are the areas that overlap that you can leverage that will work in both arenas for you and for the company? Inevitably they find a path, they thread the needle and it’s usually about two things. The company wants you to perform. They have expectations of performance. Virtually all the leadership models I see people create, all of which are different files in different ones, no to wherever the same. Uh, they all have a performance element to them. So usually if you focus on delivering the performance they want, but in a way that works better for you, that works.
Doug Conant (23:13):
The other thing virtually all companies want is, is for you to do it while with other people and so they care. It’s about people and performance. They may have a different approach with people then you want to have with your leadership model. But I have found if you focus on performance and you move your leadership of people more to your model than to the company model, but you’re delivering performance, it works. So that re-entry step is so critical. Otherwise this is just an exercise in futility. The, the other steps fall off that we also found step two, you’ve got to talk about this with somebody else. I remember Stephen Covey a thousand years ago. Uh, this is somewhat embarrassing. Uh, I did my personal mission statement with him when he was just starting out in Sundance, Utah. And, uh, I did my, I was out there.
Doug Conant (24:14):
It was shortly after I’d been fired over 30 years ago. And, uh, I’m working on my personal mission statement. You said right now I want you to take that home and share it with your wife. And I said, I will, but I got a little more work. It’s not perfect yet. And he smiled at me and I was going to make it perfect before I shared it with her. And, uh, I went back the next year and he said, well, what does your wife think of it? I said, well, to be honest with you, I haven’t shared it with her yet. I’m still working on it. And he gave me, he had this toy on his eye and he said, Doug, forget perfect. Which is what influenced my language in this book. You know, you just got to get going with this and you’ve got to start to bring it to life.
Doug Conant (24:53):
And it w it will never be perfect because you can always make it better. And so, uh, the same thing is true here, but I needed to say that to her until I, I’ll go back to the diet analogy. If I’m, if I make a pledge to myself that I’m going to go on a diet, uh, it’s easier for me to let go of that when it doesn’t work. If I, if I declare I’m going on this diet and I tell my wife and my kids and my friends, I’m going on this diet, I’m accountable now at a higher level and they’ll help me too, they’ll help me do it. So we encourage people to begin to articulate where they’re trying to go with their leadership, to people that they respect and that they trust. And as they articulated it, to get more comfortable with it when they express it, and then they’re ready to express it to larger groups, to the people that work for them or the people that work with them. Ultimately they get comfortable enough to tell their boss, here’s all, I’m trying to do this.
Doug Conant (25:55):
Okay. So as you’re talking I also start thinking about how you go through the workbook, how you went through the book and ultimately, okay, so I’ve done and built some competencies on, you know, this whole self awareness component and being able to ideate and create my own leadership. And then we start putting it into action in place and they’re still, to me, it’s still, I start thinking about a maturity curve. I’m still at the early stages, but to get me to take it to the next level and to look at the bigger impact, you talk about this at the 10 foundational tenants of leadership that work. Um, and, and, and so for me, when I started looking at these things, I started thinking about all of the body of content that’s associated with leadership and they’re in this list. And so let me go through it. High performance, abundance,
Jim Rembach (26:44):
inspire, trust, purpose, courage, integrity, grow or die, mindset, humility. How can I help and have fun? And through our tire dialogue here, all of those things you hit on. And so for me, I start thinking about, you know, and you even mentioned your tenure and your maturity and things that you’ve learned and now helping to distill this down and share it with others is that, to me, I think, I think getting to these points of skill, higher levels of skill in all of these areas, you’re enabling that with this work.
Doug Conant (27:19):
Well I am, but originally the book started out that was the book. But as we got into it, we realized those were my 10 they’re not your tent, they’re not, you know, we wanted people to work through their own life story first and get anchored in what they thought. And then we encourage them in the back half of the book, we call it the manifesto to, uh, to go through that and see if some of my thinking for my leadership model, uh, which I also share in the book resonates with them. And can they pick some of that? Does some of that makes sense to them? Do they want to incorporate that in their model? But the important thing is that they build their model. Virtually all the books. I have thousands of leadership books. I’ve become an addict since, uh, uh, since I lost my job and I needed to get in, I needed to lift my gang.
Doug Conant (28:17):
Uh, and I’ve got thousands of leadership books and all these books for the most part tell you how to lead like somebody else. And, uh, and to me that’s a fool’s errand. You have to, you know, I gotta be me. And uh, and so, uh, we purposely want them to build their own thinking and then pressure test that with people they work with, with his five day action plan. They’re independent of all this stuff. We do suggest they study the world around them too. Your life story is not the only story you ought to be paying attention to, but it’s where you start. We do say, study in step three, look at the world around you and see what resonates and how that can strengthen your story. And I’ve learned a ton from other people, but I’m picking and choosing, uh, you know, the only way this works is if you develop your own personal leadership philosophy because you’re going to be tested at times and you’re not going to be thinking about how Jack Welch did it or Doug Conant did it. You’re going to be thinking under the gun on demand, you’re going to be thinking of what, how I want to do.
Doug Conant (29:29):
Jim Rembach (29:29):
Well, and that goes back to the whole, and now I know where I stand, right? Not where you talk about sharing your leadership model and you refer to it as the flywheel and you explain that in the book and we won’t hit get an opportunity
Doug Conant (29:42):
to go into that in greater detail. But to me that visual is very helpful. That also aligns and gets at a whole Buka piece, right? Because the flywheel is constantly iterative in all of that. But in the back of the book, you know, to sum this all up, you talk about saying that the only way out is in sum that up for us. Uh, this goes back to the, there’s a little red patch on the front cover of the book and it says, get unstuck. In a nutshell, all of the leaders, I’m exposed to hundreds and hundreds of them every year.
Doug Conant (30:22):
When I get into a conversation with them, well, you say, well, how are you doing? Well, um, I’m busy, I’m really busy, I’m doing well, but I’m, I’m really busy. And, and then you look underneath that and to a person, they’re all stuck somewhere. They can’t get at what they want to get at because I got to do all the things I gotta do. Everyone’s, everyone’s stuck. And so the notion of getting unstuck is the way to get unstuck is to go inside, within and figure out what matters most to you about the leader you want to be. And once we unleashed that, it’s amazing what is power possible. So what we’re trying to do is unleash the beast within and, and help you get in touch with the leader you want to be and on a path to being that leader. And so the only way you can get out of it is not by looking at juice from outside.
Doug Conant (31:24):
The only way out of this is to go inside and to focus on unleashing the beast with them. That’s the idea. There’s definitely a lot of power in that little thing that has a lot of power for us on that show that we’d love to share our quotes and the book definitely is full of them. And you talk about all of the answers and the impact and you being an influencer. So I’m sure you know that you have more quotes that could fill middle most libraries, but is there one or two that kind of stand out for you that you can share? Well, you, you mentioned Louis L’Amour. Uh, I do love reading his Western novels. I’ve, he’s written over a hundred of them and I’ve read them all probably three times. It’s my summer reading and he’s written so many of them. I can’t remember one from the other and how they end.
Doug Conant (32:14):
So I’ll start and say, I don’t remember how this goes. So I read it again. Uh, he has a quote, which for me as has carried the day, uh, and his quote is just a simple quote. He never knew when he was licked, so he never was. And, uh, this not, this idea of picking yourself up and learning from what you’ve experienced and then back in the game is a powerful one. The other quote that is on my wall and my, and my office is, is, is my Teddy Roosevelt quote. It’s not the critic who counts, not the man points out how the poor men stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done the better, done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena trying to make a difference. Uh, where I live in Washington DC is two doors down from where his sister lived in Washington DC and, uh, and where he was famously walking over to that house, uh, to visit his sister over the years and to visit his second, his second cousin.
Doug Conant (33:25):
I got the name of it, Franklin Delano Roosevelt who lived in that same house, uh, to share his wisdom with them in the middle of the night. And, uh, so Teddy Roosevelt and Louis L’Amour in my lifetime hold sway. I got it. There’s one other one and I’m going to screw up the quote, but, uh, it’s from Brenay Brown who I hold enormous regard for. Uh, she was the one who, as I’m reading her book, daring greatly and all of her work, uh, the power of vulnerability. Most CEOs don’t want to be vulnerable and, uh, or presidents either don’t want to appear vulnerable. Um, and uh, aye. Aye. Aye. I always quietly felt that was a fool’s errand. And this book, I’ve, I’ve tried to be vulnerable and I feel liberated by the experience, but she has this quote about, uh, you can either choose to walk inside of your own story or you can hustle to prove your worthiness outside of that story.
Doug Conant (34:39):
And, uh, I was hustling for a long time trying to prove my worthiness but not dialed into the leader I wanted to be. And that quote from her, I did at reasonable justice on that quote. But she’s another one. Well, definitely some very good ones there. Now again, we talked about, um, a couple of things and we often refer to getting over the hump on the show and you shared some of those through our discussion here, but if you could think about a time where you’ve gotten over the hump that’s going to have an impact on all of our listeners. Well, uh, I’ve got a million, I’m not sure. One, uh, I was, uh, extended a offer to, to come work in a tiny division of RJR Nabisco writer after barbarians at the gate right after, uh, it was the world’s largest LBO. And I was hired to come into this be general manager of this tiny division.
Doug Conant (35:39):
And I basically, I basically accepted the job. I thought it was a done deal, but I, I was supposed to go meet the chairman of RJR Nabisco at the time, who was Lou Gerstner. Lou went on to be the chairman, CEO of IBM. He was an iconic leader and he was a tough guy. And so I went into, I thought it was just a handshake, hello, and welcome aboard and we’re counting on you. And he, he came at me both got both with guns blazing, challenging me on what I thought, why I thought I was good enough to be in this company and did I have the stuff, uh, to provide the leadership needed to dig out of this deep hole. And for the first 10 or 15 minutes, I was on my heels trying to, uh, politely navigate this. And then I, he pushed me to the point where I said, there’s some things that were uncharacteristic.
Doug Conant (36:37):
I mean, like telling him be fundamentally, he didn’t know his ass from his elbow about what he was talking about and, uh, and that, you know, I really didn’t need this job and if he didn’t feel I was good enough for it, that was fine. I had a great job where I was and, uh, and he had the smile on his face at the moment and he said, I was wondering when you were going to mix it up with me. And, uh, and it was like, Oh, this was all a test. And I was naive too naive to know. And, uh, we went on what was a 15 minute meeting, turned out to be about an hour and a half where we talked in a very collegial way about what needed to be done there. But I discovered in that moment yet again, how important it is to have the courage of your convictions and then with all humility to stand up and be counted. And, uh, that, that’s just a, and that’s what I’m trying to do with the blueprint.
Jim Rembach (37:39):
Well, I definitely see that being something that can happen for a lot of people and I hope they take advantage of that. You had mentioned something about your objectives or goals, you talked about this, so workshop coming up and things like that. You talked about the family being spread out. You’re actually there in DC and you have your grandchild there nearby, which is, which is awesome. Um, but if you start thinking about a goal that you would like to add, whether personal or professional, could you share it with us?
Doug Conant (38:07):
Well, you know, I, I, I do have a goal and it’s a, I have a purpose. I, my leadership purpose is, is sort of what’s, what’s the my rudder in the water right now. And my purpose is to help folks build a high performance, high trust teams that honor people, defy the critics and thrive in the face of adversity times like these. And I have enormous experience in this, in this space. And, uh, I want to be as helpful as I can be. In the spirit of Neil McKenna. How can I help? I want to be as helpful as I can be for as long as I can be helpful. And so I’m, I’m all in on this at Kona leadership. We do it as Amy, my coauthor says we’re, we’re in it for meaning that money and uh, we’re just trying to help people and that’s what I’m trying to do. And yeah, and uh, there’s always more to do and we’re, we’re just trying to be helpful. And the fast leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Doug Conant (40:09):
continuing to display my vulnerability in a way that will enable me to grow even faster. What is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received? Be tough minded on standards and tenderhearted with people. And what is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success? Making it personal. And what do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life? Uh, uh, the tour, leveraging gratitude to, uh, thank people for work well done. And what will it be? One book that you’d recommend to our Legion? It could be from any genre. Of course. We’re going to put a link to the blueprint on your show notes page as well as we’ll also put a link to your author page, the uh, the, the book that, uh, if I had to pick one book that I, I found enormously helpful, it would be the seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey, which is why we asked Steve and mr Covey to write the foreword to this book and you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fast leader.net/doug.
Jim Rembach (41:15):
Okay, Doug, this is my last question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve taken the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all. You can only take one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why? Uh, man, you’re there. You stumped me on this one. I guess I would, uh, if I could go back and start over, uh, I would be more reflective with my work and less, uh, trying to just stay in the lane with everybody else. I would be asking myself what mattered most and I would, uh, I wouldn’t just be auto robotically channeling my career. I would be more reflective and I then I would act on those reflections in a more courageous way. Doug, I had a fun time with you today, but can you please share with the fast leader Legion how they can connect with you? Yeah. Or we can be, we can be reached, uh, on, on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook at dot Kona and at Kona leadership. And we have our website at Conant, leadership.com has all the contact information and we invite you to join the 400,000 people that are, we’re in dialogue with every day talking about, uh, leadership in the 21st century leadership that will work in the 21st century. Doug Conant. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the fast leader Legion hotters you, and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.