The Growth Connection Episode 1

By Elizabeth Sande | January 11, 2021

Welcome to The Growth Connection, a podcast to help us all look forward to this year with a growth mindset. We'll feature interviews with cmi's elite roster of experts in the areas of diversity, leadership, the future, mentorship, performance, teamwork and inspiration.

On today's episode...

GC episode 1 Copy 2 (1)

 

cmi's CEO and Super Promoter Karen Harris and keynote speaker, author and former Blue Angel Pilot John 'Gucci' Foley sit down to discuss the Glad to be Here mentality and get to one another on a deeper level.

 

Takeaways

  • Learn how John Foley got the call sign Gucci and what it was like filming the Top Gun movie.
  • Explore how the Glad To Be Here mindset can change not just your professional life but your personal life
  • How to find different and unique ways to increase communication between leaders and employees while converting to the virtual world
  • Why you have to start looking inwards to see an outright result

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Transcript

Karen
So here we are with the first edition of The Growth Connection. It's a series of interviews designed to help us all look forward to this new year with a growth mindset. I'm joined today by John "Gucci" Foley. Welcome, John!

John
Glad to be here. Such an honour.

Karen
Glad to have you here. So okay, first of all, this call sign named Gucci. Where did this thing come from?

John
Well, here's the thing with call sides. So all fighter pilots, we get called sides. But here's the key. You don't get to pick it. If you'd like it, it doesn't stick. So one day, I was with my team, and we were about to go out, and I showed up with this thin black leather tie on now that wasn't even cool in the 80s—right, Karen? Buddy looked at me they go 'What is that?' That's Gucci. Well, no fighter pilot wants Gucci. You want Hitman, Viper, Iceman, you know, something. But it didn't help us living on a sailboat and driving an alpha male at the time too. So it stuck.

Karen
oh, it's done. It's stuck. So my one of my all-time favourite movies is Top Gun. And of course, you know, Maverick, goose, they're my most favourite characters of the whole movie. So when I when, when we were talking about, you know how you got your callsign coochie? I'm thinking, Okay, so how did they choose, say Maverick or goose or whatever? So, from your perspective, it's, if you don't like it, it sticks.

John
Yeah, it's a little both. Well, you know, I actually did some of the real flying in that movie Top Gun. I'm not sure. Right, right. Yeah, yeah, that was on the carrier enterprise. And so I got to meet, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. And so Hollywood did a great job, by way of capturing the air to air scenes. It was incredible. You know, I did some of the flying, and my teammates did some of the flying. But I think what was really powerful was the captured the essence, a little bit of that competitiveness. And so that's what you're getting in those call sites. You know, Iceman is the far You know, right hand, you know, very cold and calculated. Mavericks, you know, kind of on edge, you know, push no limits and reality is that somewhere in between, right, but call signs, yeah, they come up in all different shapes and sizes. Hey, by the way, when this podcast comes out, I know it's coming out in 2021. We'll get to see Top Gun Maverick as it's going to be hitting the theatres probably late in the year.

Karen
I know, I'm so excited.

John
It's great. It's great flying footage, my buddies fly in, and it's incredible stuff, you're going to really like it.

Karen
oh, man, man, it was just so great. And, you know, I'm female, right? I'm a woman. However, it doesn't mean that we as women don't get excited about that sense of competition, that sense of accomplishment. So I'm very excited about that movie coming out. Okay, so I'm sitting here with a very accomplished individual, John. You're a former Blue Angel. Before that, you were an instructor pilot, a top 10 carrier pilot, plus you got a degree in mechanical engineering, and you have three master's degrees, two of which are from Stanford. So you have a thirst for knowledge for learning, for growing? Yeah. Where does that come from? Any idea where that's come from?

John
I think for me, it's always been part of my ethos. I think it came from my parents in the upbringing, you know, always trying to, to get better, right and, and do the best you can and accomplish something in a giveback way. And that's where I've got a new mantra now. It's called give, learn, grow. And I gotta be honest with you, I used to call it learn how to grow, give, and then Okay, lies that actually, the essence is to give first like we're doing right now just giving, what we can share with the audience, hopefully, being able to give them something of value, right. And so I realized that giving is first, and I do that with the course and all the engagements we have, it's just given as much as you can, but then you're continually learning. And I think that thirst is always been there and it really was strong on the Blue Angels, you know, we had an ethos of glad to be here, which means we're grateful. So we're really trying to put out this positive energy, but also an ethos of operational excellence, that allows you to get better every single day, where it's constantly trying to get better building trust building teamwork. And I think that that's always been a part of who I am. I mean, this whole zoom, this last year has been a great experience of learning and growing. And what we found is we're actually able to impact clients at even a deeper level, a more intimate level.

Karen
Yeah, yeah, you've really adopted this whole virtual space that we're in terms of finding ways to help your clients to deal with some of the disruptive pressures that they've been under all year. And it's probably not going to end into 2021. I think disruption is here to stay forever, major disruption. And so as a result, we need to find a very different unique ways to communicate with each other, and, you know, leaders with their employees, etc. So you've really been sort of one of the leaders in the space to do a great job of converting to the virtual world. Tell us a little bit about what that took for you. You know, since learning is one of your piece of your mantra, what did that take for you?

John
Well, first off, it's listening, right? It's listening to, you know, the customers and finding out what do they need, right. And if you remember, when it first happened, we weren't sure everybody was trying to have it, you know, and all that. But it became clear that people need a connection. That's why I like what you call growth connection, right? Before you can grow, you got to connect, right? And so especially virtually, with people, you know, some companies, most companies being remote, but a lot having hybrid cases, and I found it, that's what people are asking the most of how do I get my people to stay connected? How do I keep them inspired? How do I keep them not just motivated, but you know, feeling positive when there's all these challenges around us? So that was number one. But what I liked is that most clients, if that was it, that was would have been fine. But what we realized that it's not enough just to connect, we got to align everybody, we have to look at the glass as being half full, not half empty. And so how do you do that? Well, you got to paint a metaphor. And you got to connect people that, you know, these, these new tools we have that allow us to go into breakout rooms allow us to do these beautiful word clouds, allows us to do surveys allows the interaction that you know, people come out of these meetings, more inspired and more pumped up, but also with a clear action plan.

Karen
Yeah, yeah. You mentioned connect and alignment. In a recent tweet that you did, like, just a day or so ago. You talked about seeing something, seeing things from a different perspective. Yeah, which gives you greater context. And then that context gives you a greater understanding of how things connect. And then from that alignment grows. And that makes you that causes you to pay less attention to the insignificant things. Yeah, which allows you to become more strategic now. Holy, moly, there's a lot to unpack in there. I'd like us to unpack that. So I know You talk a lot about Connect, align, commit when you're presenting and with your clients, and you're doing training and advisory work. How does this what you tweeted about, you know, the different perspective gives you a greater context? Let's start there. Let's unpack that out.

John
Yeah, well, it's a, it's what you do. It's how you build trust and teamwork. And then the commitments get you whatever we're trying to achieve, right, which is taking care of our people first, taking care of the customers making a difference in people's lives. And what I learned was, there's a lot of science behind having this glad to be here a positive state of mind, it turns out, Karen, that when you're in a grateful state of mind, it lights up the area of your brain, okay, where your observations come from how you perceive the world. Now, then, also, when you're in a generous state of mind, so you're giving you're sharing with people, right? It lights up the area of your brain where self-esteem comes from. So here's what's powerful. When you connect those two dots. When you're in a grateful state of mind and a generous state of mind, you will see things others don't see. And you have the confidence to take the action. That's innovation, that's creativity, that's seeing a glass half full, not half empty. And so it's amazing. When you can get people not just, you know, myself, when you can get a whole organization to take on that mindset. It's amazing what can happen.

Karen
So gratefulness is something I've heard up for a long time, lots of us have heard about having a grateful mindset. But there's a lot of people that are probably pretty fearful, right? You know, even you know, going into 2021, there's a lot of fears. So how do you connect that dot between Oh, my gosh, how the heck can I be grateful when I'm scared? Right now I'm just scared.

John
Well, I like to make a distinction because you're absolutely right. The biggest thing challenge we have and the biggest call it an enemy out there is not the Coronavirus. It's fear. It's what you just said it's fear itself. And and so how do you overcome the fear? That, by the way, I think it is natural, it's okay to feel fear. I actually to flip it though, I say that I'm scared, but never afraid. And this is a subtle point, they that's a big difference. See to me scared is awareness. All right, it says little hairs that stand on the back of your neck. It says, Let's wear rpp equipment, let's take the precautions we're supposed to. I mean, companies are doing that they know that right? But how do you deal with the fear and in an individual's heart, right. And actually, the antidote for fear is joyful effort. Most people would have no idea that, but it's it's having a joyful effort. You watch, you will overcome that fear. And so with me, you know, whether it was flying jets off aircraft carriers, or final blazers, or more importantly, you know, what I've done after the military, you know, like I said, Business School worked with now over 1000 companies, and you get to see this at a real level, right. And what you can see is that, you know, we can show and analogies and give people the inspiration, but more importantly, the tools to overcome their own fear. And one of them is being scared. So again, what I mean by that is you don't walk down a dark alley late at night, you don't go off things, right? You're aware of it, you increase your awareness. And with that awareness, what you want to do, and what companies are asking for is alignment, right? Let's get our people aligned, because there are so many distractions out there, and there are so many things that are gonna pull us away. So if we can, we can get them connected and aligned, then what we want to do is be very strategic, and what's the commitments we want to make, and I call those high trust contracts, by the way, and those are verbal and non verbal. And with those high trust contracts, bam, you get some great operational excellence execution.

Karen
So how do you create those high trust contracts?

John
Well we do itright here in the zoom rooms, we are the breakout rooms, we do it right here in a virtual way is you get people to number one, lay it on the table, I have what I call five dynamics that create a high trust environment, Okay, first is you got to have a safe environment. And I'm not just talking physical safety, I mean, psychological safety. All right. Second, is you want to check your ego at the door, you know, I mean, we get to work with so many great people, there are so many amazing companies out there, right. And so what I've noticed is that everybody is good, let's just check our ego at the door, because this is about the we not the AI, this is about better together. So that's the second element. The third element is to lay it on the table. And that's just openness and honesty. Karen, it's you know, it's it's getting people in a room and saying, Let's be open and honest about this. The fourth is ownership mentality, I like to call it an own and and fix it, which is really accountability. You know, but when I learned and this is this was really critical, is it's not about accountability, if all you're working on is accountability, you're not a High Performance Team yet, because what you really want to have is personal responsibility. And when you have personal responsibility, accountability and ownership becomes a given. And then I think the fifth and most important one is to have a glad to be here mindset, you know, that out of respect and gratitude and gratefulness. And what I found, Karen, is that that works in every organization in every vertical, whether it's you know, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, I mean, it's about people in teams, right? And that's what's making the difference.

Karen
Yeah, I, you know, I've watched, obviously, I've watched some footage, footage of you doing a debriefing session, you call them I believe, I have a briefing session with the Blue Angels. And then I've had the honor to sit in on some of those debriefing sessions with some clients lately. And, you know, I've been thrilled to participate with you, where you were saying, hey, my safety, that was my, my error, or whatever you would say, that doesn't happen a lot. You know, in these kinds of environments when you're working with a client, so yeah, tell me what you feel that does by by saying, hey, personal responsibility, accountability, and my safety and being meaning, hey, I made a mistake, right?

John
Yeah, yeah. Or there's things we could have done better, right. Or we could have done better. And that's what we're always trying to give, right just give value. And I think the first thing is, you got to come from a humble mindset, right, that humility. So, you know, you mentioned it with clients and the debriefs are so powerful right after an event, right. And so what I've learned, Karen, is that, first, I paint the picture by showing a video. You've seen this in that briefing room. It's one thing to talk about it but it's a whole nother thing to start. See it, and you viscerally can feel it. Right. It's, it's, it's unique. And I always do a breakout with them and talk about, you know, well, how is that in your company in your relationships? Right? And and they get it, you know, people talk about those five dynamics. So then what we do is we actually implement them right after the event, I mean, right then and there, and they get to see how quickly you can, you can implement this. And it starts with an inward look for an outright result. That's why I always talk about myself, and what am I grateful for big picture. And it's such a, it's such a blessing to work with so many individuals, right, and to be able to share and give back, and then I'm always looking to improve. And I thought the way to improve is, number one, notice, is there anything you could have done better, and then just ask the client? And they'll tell you, and it's it allows us to get better for the next event.

Karen
Yeah, absolutely, for sure. And you mentioned earlier that you know, glad to be here and give learn grow are mantras of yours, right?

John
It's about better together. This is about leadership, this is about teamwork. And we are better the more diverse, the more we embrace other people's ideas, the more we learn to listen, and, and, and, and, and care about each other, then all your processes, your procedures work so much better. You reminded yourself How fortunate you were to be part of that team just to be selected. And I think of all the companies we work with, and actually it's not it's also the individuals, that's the secret sauce is just being grateful for the opportunities we have. Right? And, and that becomes the game-changer. Because when you can instill a culture of Glad to be here. And it's not just words, okay. And I think that's the essence that you're feeling is what I've noticed is it's an ethos, it's it's the way to see the world, it's about being respectful, but also about challenging each other in a beautiful way. It's about appreciating others, it's about a growth mindset, you know, glad to be here and mixed in with this operational excellence. So you got to have a plan got a process, right? And we show that when you when you combine the two, it really is exponential results. It's it's not one plus one equals two, it's one plus one equals 11. And most importantly, the people leave feeling better about not only themselves but about the world, and and the people they get to work with.

Karen
So has the Blue Angels always had that as a mantra? How long has that been? It's a cultural thing. It's something that, from what I understand is a long term cultural perspective there.

John
Yeah, when I joined the team, I, you know, you never get to sit in on a debrief. When you're an applicant. It's only when you're a Blue Angel, right? Because they're very, it's a sacred space. And I remember the first time I sat in on a debrief, I had just gotten selected, and I was blown away. Number one, just with how humble everyone was, number two, how they were constantly looking to improve what I thought was excellent, they picked apart and said, you know, we can be a lot better. But they always ended with this, just the words Glad to be here. And that's that stuck to my heart. But what I've really done is, is I've realized that I've taken in a whole new to new way of it's much more than just being grateful, all right, it's actually a culture of excellence. It's actually a culture of caring. And and this culture is what is the most important because when you have that, and you know, you can create these little small teams first, right? It doesn't have to come out. It's beautiful. And I've never seen anybody not only embrace it, but actually take it home. And people you know, they'll text me and they'll say, Hey, I used it up at the table with my kids. You know, when we when we talk about what are we grateful for today? And and what are we grateful for when we wake up? And this glad to be here is the secret sauce?

Karen
That's it. And it sounds I mean, obviously to me, it would also really help to increase performance, right? Personal my personal performance and my organization's performance, right?

John
Yeah, yeah, it's, it's the starting point. And actually, most people think that Well, after I increase performance, then I'll be happy. It's actually just the other way around. You know, once you create that gratefulness and gratitude in your heart, you watch not only your own individual performance go up, because it's natural, the energy I can create it right and but the team environment goes up the organization environment goes up and that to me is the benefit of having a process and a mindset that's called glad to here.

Karen
Now you created a foundation for at the glad to be her foundation. So kind of work has had that foundation, but doing

John
well. You know, Karen, in the last decade alone, we've been able to sponsor over I think 347 different charities around the world. We've donated over $2 million We sponsor my wife and I sponsor 47 kids. And I know you do, too, in countries all around the world. In fact, my vision and dream is the sponsor child in every country of the world, because I want us to come together, you know, but it started really, one day, I always wanted to give back and I said, Well, wait till I make a lot of money, and, and then I'll be able to give back. And that wasn't happening. You know, I finally said, hey, what the heck, just start tomorrow. And what we do now, and we've been doing this last decade is every time we get hired, it's all future revenues. I give 10% to charity. And and the clients, they usually don't know this when they select this, but there's 10% is going to go to charity. And then I realized that probably, you know, there's so many good works out there everybody is, is really caring that we give now we let the client pick where half of that goes. So that's where we've done 347 charities, because probably 300 of those have been clients, charities, and a bow impact. And when you see so many people out there, just really caring, and a lot of local stuff. I mean, because you know, it's wherever the client is, will support them. And yes, changed my life. I you know, our business took off like crazy. I don't know if that's because the business got better, or because we were giving more, I think it's a little both.

Karen
I think it's a little bit of both, but I think I'm a big believer in you give and you shall receive. I'm a big believer in that, that mantra. So, you know, Top Gun world Blue Angels rolled, it's historically very masculine. And I mentioned earlier, though, that I've really kind of identified with the Top Gun world from way back, when did that movie goodness, what is it 2530 years ago that they made that movie, whatever, a long, long time ago. So, you know, I had somebody asked me, just last week, you know, how do your ideas appeal to a more gender-diverse audience? males females?

John
What are your thoughts about that? Well, first off, thanks for bringing it up. It's it's always a challenge at first. But what what happens is, at the end of glad to be here is universal, okay? excellence is universal. It's it doesn't come from any, you know, male, female, it's not masculine or feminine. And what people find is that actually, I'm very proud of the military and the Blue Angels and what they've accomplished, since, you know, back in the 80s, and 90s, when I was there, much more diverse. I mean, if you look at it, it's amazing what the country is going through and, and how powerful that is, you know, I actually get more people standing in line to talk and say thankful there are more women than there are men, this message actually resonates more with the the women in the audience, because they realize that it's it's this caring piece, it's this idea of having both excellence with a deep compassion and a deep caring, and actually coming from a male, they're surprised a little bit. But they feel it. It's not rhetoric. Right. Right. And, and I think that that's, that's what we care about, right? It doesn't, it's about bringing the whole world together. That's why I met sponsoring a child in every country, it's, it's about better together. This is about leadership. This is about teamwork. And we are better the more diverse, the more we embrace other people's ideas, the more we learn to listen, and, and and care about each other, then all your processes, your procedures work so much better. Yeah,

Karen
I agree with you. 100% there. So, you know, this has been amazing. Thank you. I'm so grateful for the time that you spent here. One last thing, you know, if you could speak to directly to one or two people today, what do you think is the best next step for us as leaders or individual employees? Or just, you know, somebody doing whatever at home?

John
What's our next best step for this new year? Well, first, it's just embrace the change that we're seeing in the world. And what I mean by that is, I truly know that it's an optimistic timeframe out there to be aware that yes, we still have challenges, and we're going to take care of those. But I think back to my dad always said embrace challenges, because challenges, build endurance, and then endurance builds character. And with strong character, you're ready for anything. And I think that's true. as an individual, as a team and as an organization. We're building the character and the culture is making a difference. I'm super excited for 2021 I'm so grateful for all the opportunities we get, and let's continue to help others and help the world. Yeah,

Karen
I am with you. They're Glad to be here. I hope you enjoyed your time with John is glad to be here mindset has already helped me to reach new heights. Remember, embrace challenges and change. Growth is uncomfortable because you've never been there before. Keep growing.

Posted in The Growth Connection Podcast