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James Walden: Relational Leadership matters more now than ever!

The following is an automatically generated transcript of our podcast. Listen to the podcast here.

Ryan (00:10):

Welcome to Invincible Teams, a podcast for team leaders and business owners who are tired of dealing with office drama and politics, high turnover and teams not meeting their potential. We know that team leaders and business owners, like you are pretty much always under pressure to get the most out of your teams. We believe that every team should reach their potential and that if we get intentional, our teams can become invincible.

Ryan (00:49):

Hey, welcome to the Invincible Teams podcast, excited today to share with you an interview that I did with my friend, James Walden James is a friend of mine for several years now, and he's just one of the best that I know about caring about a team and leading with relationships, not just positional leadership, but with the way that he cares about people. We talk about that. We talk about some of the, just crazy things about the remote work world that we find ourselves in, how we can better balance work and life, and just what it means for people to really care about the people that they lead, the teams that they lead and how that impacts everything bottom line to retention and job satisfaction. Enjoy this interview with my friend James Walden, Right, James, welcome to Invincible Teams podcast. How's it going?

James (01:41):

Ryan's glad to be here. It's going great. Yeah.

Ryan (01:45):

Well, I'm excited to have you here. For those listening, I've known James for several years now. And super excited to have him on the podcast. I don't know. Do you remember the first time that you and I like legitimately hung out?

James (01:59):

I remember it was a poolside party and you had on some really sweet sunglasses and you were, you were fresh. I think he refresh on the ship on the shores of the United States and that's, that's the first time I remember meeting you.

Ryan (02:17):

Okay. Well the first time I remember for legitimately like hanging out, like getting some, some one-on-one good conversation in was we had breakfast one morning very early. And I remember, so I was in this thing where I'm like, okay, I'm new here. I'm going to get to know some people, this dude seems cool. So I walk up and I was like, Hey, man, I'd love to get breakfast or grab lunch or coffee or something. When is good for you. And at the time you worked in a different city that you had to be at your job fairly early. And so you said, well, I mean, it's going to be early and you know, I was like early, no problem. What you just tell me? And you're like, Oh, how's five 30. And I'm like, Hey, I committed to this. I'm in. Right? Like, so, so we I remember that we met at Bob's grill and had breakfast super early one morning and you know, the rest, as they say is history. So I appreciate you being here though. And it's 1145 middle of the day just for anyone

James (03:32):

Late, late in the day. Yeah. It's late in the day. Yeah. Yeah. The five, the five 30 breakfast are so great because, well, you can, you can read a lot cause you can read how they respond to that. First of all. And then do they actually show up, even if they said they're going to be there, which is, you know, which for me, I get Bob's breakfast either way. So I, you know, if you want to show up, you can, if you don't, that's fine too.

Ryan (03:56):

Well. I am excited to have you on the podcast. So why don't you start though by introducing yourself a little bit, tell people who you are, where you're from, what you do and whatever else you want to introduce yourself with.

James (04:09):

Yeah. my wife McKinley and I have two kids. We've lived in Conway for about 10 years and we moved here for McKinley to go to graduate school and we never left. And I'm a, right now I'm a software engineer at a local marketing data company. And I used to work at a telecommunications company in little rock before that. And I'm also a directional elder, what we call directional elder at a local church. So and I I also, I also lead worship at that, at that church. That's one of my other, probably my only hobby that I do is, is playing guitar and playing drums.

Ryan (04:50):

So it sounds like you're currently taking applications for more things to do...

James (04:55):

Yeah. Right? Sure. Yeah. What I gathered. Yeah, sure. You know, as if, as if raising kids and you know, right now isn't enough to have to do.

Ryan (05:04):

Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. As we're on this zoom call right now, I can see in the bottom corner of your screen, is that actually not your name? It's your son's name? He was doing some online school recently here.

James (05:17):

Yeah. It's just easier for the teacher that way. Yeah. Oh, for sure.

Ryan (05:21):

For sure. Well, so, you know, I wanted to have you on today, cause I wanted to talk about the difference between positional leadership and relational leadership. And I wanted to talk to you about that because I think that's something that you do very well regardless of if you are in any sort of positional, you know, leadership authority. So yeah. Talk to me about that for a minute. Like what do you think why do you think relational leadership is so important?

James (05:53):

Yeah. so, you know, I explained that I've sort of been in ministry roles and then also serving in corporate roles. So in my previous job I was in lower level, middle level management. And I had a team of about eight people and we were split between three States. And so the way that, the way that I decided I was going to lead was you, cause you have two options when basically everybody's remote, you have two options. You can either, you can either trust or you can control, right? And so you can, you can check their status on ILM or all the time, or you can just trust, just lead with trust. And and I have found, you know, since we're talking about relational leadership, I have found that you at least need a strong presence. That's gonna lead with trust on a team.

James (06:48):

And, and you, you said a second ago, but one of the really cool things is it doesn't have to be, it can be anybody on the, on the team. And I think the whole team benefits if, if, if they can help establish that culture, that we are going to trust each other out of the gate. Like you're one of the hard things. So for awhile one of the roles I had at the telecom company was I was in internal audit and it was very difficult for me to have the mindset of this, this process is broken until I prove that it's working or you are guilty until I prove you're innocent. Right. Because for me, it's so much easier to say, I trust you or it easier, not a cop out, but easier. And like something in me has to, has to operate this way that I'm, I'm going to, I'm going to trust you that you're doing everything right.

James (07:36):

And, and so auditing was very difficult for me, but so, so the team that was eight people across three different States, I just decided, Hey, I, I trust you. And they'll, they'll, you know, they would ask me like, can I work from home on Tuesday? And I'll say, how would I know, you know, how, like, if you're worried about that, then I've got something that I need to fix. You know, if, if you really think that I wouldn't trust you to, you know, to take care of yourself and take care of the work. And it just kind of eases the tension and okay. You know almost like freedom, like, okay, I'm free to, that's one less thing I have to worry about that, that my leader is, is, is always, you know, measuring at a very finite level, trying to make sure that the ER

Ryan (08:21):

Yeah, well, that's interesting, like right now because you know, when you were doing that job, we are not in the middle of crazy, you know, Corona virus, pandemic and, and the, what has become a huge shift to a remote work culture for a lot of companies. Right. So you were doing remote work before, right?

James (08:42):

It's cool. Right, right back when it was a park. Yeah. It used to be a part. Yeah.

Ryan (08:47):

Yeah. So what have you seen, I mean, I I'm with you, I would rather err on the side of trust, right. Over control, like you said. But inevitably some people will take advantage of that. Right. so have you had that happen? W what do you do when that happens? How do you continue to lead? How do you not pull back your trust from your team? If someone violates it, speak to that for a second?

James (09:15):

Yeah. I, I haven't, so I've been lucky. And so when I was, when I had the team of eight I will say, I think it, I think you can't only have you can't only have people like me that are, that are always trust. And, and aren't looking at the spreadsheets every day to see what the output is, you know, because, and so I was lucky enough that there were my leader was, was a good balance of that. And so I think that was the, that was the huge benefit that he, of me being on his team was to help him kind of solve that, that need for people to feel you know, it's weird in a corporate environment, but it's, it's what I have to do is I want people to feel loved and heard. And so even mine, my metrics and it, it gets, it gets kind of, this is hard.

James (10:03):

I haven't done this, but it would be very bizarre to put your quarterly goals, as you know, I want Tracy to feel loved this quarter, you know, w when it's not, we need to, we need to hit this financial target. We need to hit this, you know, number of you know, project completions. And so I, so that's why I think you have to have a, you have to have a balance. So luckily when I was on that team, he was the, I guess, the, the hammer that would, that would keep, keep everybody moving. So, you know, to, to talk you know, since we, since I have done ministry work, it's kind of a, a shepherd mentality, right? Like I can help protect this flock. I don't really know where we're going or but, but once you're in this circle, like the flocks. Okay. And so, and that's good, you want the flop to be healthy and but you also need other people to, you know, fight off the wolves and to move the herd somewhere. And so I think

Ryan (11:00):

That when, you know, you're talking about the, your supervisor or your boss, your leader, whenever you got added to that team, do you think, was that intentional, or did, did it just get, was it lucky that it worked?

James (11:13):

I think it was lucky that it worked out. Yeah. I don't think it was intentional because like, well, and because I think, I think that was, I probably felt the need for that to, to help guide the culture in a certain way. And so I kind of morphed to like, make that happen, but, but that's easy, you know, we're talking about enneagram, like I'm an Enneagram nine, like straight up and that, like, so that's very easy. That's very easy for me. Right. Like, I, I make friends very quickly and I don't lose them. So, and so I think it's good to have somebody, it was, it was good for that team to have somebody on it. That's, that's just gonna make friends with everybody. But but in a very, but in a, you know, not in an, in an agenda way, you know, it's and the other Ryan, the other thing is like in a corporate environment, it's when you're held to quarterly goals.

James (12:07):

Like I have this deep conviction that if you're, you know, you'll boost loyalty. If, if I love you are my team, regardless of where you are on the team, if I love you and I serve you and I sacrifice for you, and I show up for you, I show up to, to the, to the birthday, to the happy hours after work, I show up to the, the, I donate to something you care about. I show up. Then I think that drives results that might not drive results next week. But if somebody, but if somebody needs to stay late on a, on a Friday night to get something done there's, there's more buy-in to do that versus well, it's five o'clock, I'm shutting down the computer. It's like, no, you know, James has been there for me and, and James needs help and I'm going to be there for James.

Ryan (12:54):

Yeah. I love that. It's like, you're, you're building up relational credit. Right. so that, so that when there needs to be a withdrawal, you have something in the account. Right. and you know, maybe that's cold to turn it into a formula like that, but yeah, I think that's how, I mean, that's one way that those kinds of relationships work right. The other way is that you have a, just here's the rules and you can try to mandate it and create a hard culture like that. Which, I mean, I think everybody knows, like eventually that wears people down. Yeah. I agree. I love, yeah. I love the idea of like building loyalty, like you said, is really good too. Because that, that really does have a longterm dividend for teams. I think just like what you said, it may not be next week, but it will happen. Right.

James (13:48):

And it's also you know, so if, if, if you have a team of, of I'm trying to think of a generic job position, like an analyst, you have three analysts, ones on your team and three analysts twos. And on, you know, you're looking at Excel and analysts, one only output this much, and analyst three did this much. What's what's wrong. You know, like they're all machines, why aren't they all producing the same? Yeah. But it happens to have somebody step in and say, well, you know, analyst three robot son got divorced and moved back into the house with their, with the grandchild. And it's probably been very distracting. And and so maybe that's why the output is less and maybe, you know, maybe we need to be gracious and come alongside and see if anybody else has availability instead of, you know, scolding analyst, three robot.

Ryan (14:45):

Yeah. That's interesting that you say that because I mean, that's a problem that could be a problem that would pop up in any given time. Right. Right. But now to go back to the remote work or work from home world, those kinds of things have a much bigger impact, you know, on people than they did even before, because now not only is, you know, their kid and their grandkids at home. They are also there with them all the time. And you know, you bring that up. So yesterday I actually wrote a new blog post for our website. It's not on the website yet, but I wrote it yesterday. I think it'll be out by the time this podcast airs though. And that's one of the things that I talked about was that one of the things that has changed is that work and life have become more intertwined than they've ever been before. And I think leaders need to be hyper aware of that. Yeah. Especially when they've got people working from home, how have you seen that play out with teams that you're currently on?

James (15:48):

Yeah. the team, yeah. The team I'm on now has been very hyper aware and, and gracious and understanding. And, and for me, it's I, I try, I try my best to be fully present with whoever's right in front of me. And so this has kind of, this has, you know, dope coffee on the motherboard of my system because I like it. And I also have hierarchies of like, if like my kids, my wife and kids take precedent over other things. And so now if we're talking and my wife comes up, so I can't, you know, I can't, well, how, how do I be fully present and fully loving to both people at the same time, you know, in, instead of have to stiff arm children at home. And to me it feels like saying you're not important right now. Right. when, whenever we were, it was when we could compartmentalize things, I could say, you're, you know, I'm giving you everything I've got right now. And so when I come home, I can look at my kids and say, I'm giving you everything that I've got. I'm not distracted, I'm fully present. And so now I'm always distracted and never fully present regardless of where I am in it. And I think it's not, I don't want to say it's unloving, but it's just, it's not optimal. It's not, it's not effective. You know, if you can't,

Ryan (17:07):

So what do you think it looks like, what do people need to do? What do leaders need to do for their teams? Right. In order for people to be able to be more present wherever they are, whether it's with a coworker in a zoom meeting, or whether it's with their family at their son's T-ball game, like, what do we all need to be doing right now?

James (17:28):

That's a really good question. Yeah. I think something not something I've done, which has helped is, is taking a couple steps back on notifications. So, you know, I spend lunchtime with my kids and normally I would have Slack on my phone just in case I need to know if something urgents come up, but I've, but I've turned that off. And that's, and that's, that's obvious obviously, but, but I think basically having hard, hard, you know, blocks of time that that, that you don't you don't let seep into each other. And, and you know, luckily I have, I have an office that's that's detached, but but the kids can still find me. And so, yeah. So it would be ideal if there was a way to, or if you could set up boundaries in a way to say from eight to 11, do not just start like off, you know, I have to be present and it's, what's best for our family.

James (18:27):

I have to get resources for our family and for me to do that well on, I need no distractions. And then you know, of course he got to, the tricky part is though, man, it's a tough conversation. Well, and, and it's tough from the work side too, right. Because it's not like expectations are, we still have goals we have to meet. And so, you know, if you have to find time at night and weekends you know, weekends are, yeah. Are, are available now where maybe we didn't use to have to use weekends, but now we do.

Ryan (18:58):

So that's what I was going to ask like nights and weekends. Do you find it more difficult to protect those times? Oh yeah. Yeah, for sure.

James (19:07):

Well, and I do find it difficult in, in luckily, you know the team I'm on now is, is encouraging of, Hey, you need, you need to find ways to, to keep mentally healthy. So like take time, take time to do things that are refreshing. And and it's not like I'm, I'm not working here, you know, all weekend every weekend, but it it's just, I think right now, at least it's necessary to log more hours on Sunday afternoon or on Saturday morning or just to make you know, to make up for distracted time during the, we call it, we call it work life balance time. Right. You know, we have, like, we have a note, we can set our status and Slack to work-life balance, which is, which is helpful just to say, Hey, by the way, I'm on work, I'm on work-life balance right now. And so if I don't immediately get back to,

Ryan (19:54):

So is that like a, a third option between work and not working? Is that what that is?

James (20:02):

Yeah. Well, between like active and, and inactive, you could have, you could have or any status you want. I mean, but yeah. But yeah, you can have work-life balance. And just to say, just to tell people I'm, my computer is on, but I'm but on tending to childcare to eldercare. Yeah.

Ryan (20:19):

Yeah. That's really interesting. I like that. Especially for a team that is like really committed to the remote thing and maybe using something like Slack, it's just kind of like you know, I've seen in office systems, like where, you know, you're trying to, if you're on a focus task, maybe there's, I've seen offices with different like flags or little things on the desk, you know what I mean? Like, okay. I'm in deep focus mode, please don't bother me unless it's an emergency, it's kind of the same thing except in the digital online world. Right? Yeah. So that's cool. I haven't heard anybody talk about that.

James (20:53):

The other, the other thing that I gave myself permission to do this week was just to close the out email and, and I just close it down. Yeah, totally. Yeah. There was somebody, I think it was Donald Miller or somebody podcasts talked about scuba diving and how like this totally related to me how, you know, you spend all this time getting the scuba gear on and then like, once you finally get in the water, if like, if you get a ding or like a notification on your phone, you're like, you gotta go all the way back up to the surface. And then you got to dive down again and see how far you can go. So if I just shut it off and I can go all the way down to the bottom and do the deep, the deep work I need to do.

Ryan (21:34):

Cause, you know, if you remember back in the old days when we used to travel you know, and specifically when we would fly on airplanes I, you know, I think one of the things that I honestly, I wish wasn't a thing is Wi-Fi on airplanes. You know, airplanes used to be kind of this protected space where you couldn't get those notifications, you couldn't access your email like you were in this unreachable place. Which I think is, is just a little bit of a microcosm of, you know, the, the problem that we face now with this remote online, always available workforce. And you know, when all this first went down and everybody was moving remote, I think one of the big fears that people had was that people were just going to Slack off and not work enough. But studies have shown that the number of hours on average that I've worked has actually gone up not down. Right. And I think it's because we're addicted, you know? And so I, I wish that more people would do stuff like what you're talking about of, of going down, putting on the scuba gear and going down and turning off email, turning off Slack, you know, I've made a practice at the end of my day of not like when I am done, I literally shut down my computer. Yeah. Right. I think it's good that way

James (22:57):

I run into that too. Right. Where I never, I never, I never do though, you know, Workday shutdown routine. And so yeah, my computer is still open from the day before, and I've no idea what I was working on. You know,

Ryan (23:11):

Funny ones is for my work phone, I use Google voice and on my phone I can program, you know, certain apps to not work after certain times, right. With iPhones and stuff. You can do the, I forget what it's called, but it's basically, you know, only certain apps work. And so I made it to where Google voice shuts off at five o'clock. And it's funny because I've been on phone calls with people like work calls and, and the connection just stops at five o'clock. And and I'll have to talk

James (23:46):

To you tomorrow. Yeah, I have.

Ryan (23:48):

Okay. Sorry. This is just kind of a rule I've put in place for me. I'm done working right now, like which I know doesn't work for everybody in every situation and I have that luxury being the, you know, business owner. But man, I, I'm a big fan of having those hard boundaries and, but it's about protecting that time. Yeah. And I think just as intentional as we have always been about scheduling meetings and scheduling, you know, tasks for work right now, one of the things that we have to be equally intentional about is scheduling personal stuff. Just like what you're saying is blocking off chunks of time. Otherwise, if we're just on autopilot, things that we, you know, are already doing for work will just naturally take over that time without us even trying. Yeah.

James (24:37):

Right. Yeah. So I haven't done that well, but I need to, I need to do that better. Put it on the calendar, even just go for a walk when it's 70 degrees and sunshine. Yeah.

Ryan (24:48):

Yes. Yeah. You know, one thing I've been doing the last couple of weeks, whenever the weather has been decent is if I can take a walk while I'm taking a call, even like I was on a zoom call yesterday and I was walking around in my neighborhood while I was doing it, just because my goodness, like I'm in my home office here and it's like, now I like it. But when it's every day

James (25:10):

It felt like a prison. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't want to go there today.

Ryan (25:15):

I got to get out and do something. Right. and so I've been doing the kind of walks with lots of calls this week, which has been great, but that's and that's kind of a long departure from where we started on the relational leadership thing, but it's, it's really, really good stuff. I do want to ask you though. Like what do you think people that are really good at relational leadership, what do you think that looks like for different people? And how does that impact teams

James (25:43):

What does it look like for different people?

Ryan (25:47):

How would you describe relational leadership when you see it?

James (25:50):

I think people, I think there's, there's joking around on the team, but, but in a productive environment, so you're not, so it's not, it's not only joking, but if sure. If people can, if they're comfortable enough with each other to kind of make fun of themselves around each other and and, and crack lighthearted jabs, I think that's probably a good sign that of course that that's not, I can just see like a naturally positional leader say like, okay, make fun of, got it. Make fun of that. No, it's not what I'm saying to be like, like the episode of the office where Michael sets up a roast does not go well. Yeah.

James (26:31):

I think you can just sense it where well, and hopefully, you know, the ultimate goal in, in, in that is engagement. I mean, that's what you want. Right? You want, you want your team to be engaged and you want them to be about being on that team and being loyal. So I think if you have a team where people are, are in, I'm thinking engagement, you know, from the corporate world, we have quarterly surveys, right. What's our number now. So if people are, if they're not looking for other jobs actively and they enjoy the work they do. And they, they, they respect each other and they sacrifice for each other. Yeah. And I think relational leadership is happening one way or another either within the team itself or or the leaders modeling that. And if people, I think if people volunteer for, if people absorb blame frequently and if they volunteer for, for difficult projects. Yeah. But I think that's, yeah, I think it's happening there. Hmm.

Ryan (27:30):

So you said something about a leader modeling it. What do you think, you know, for, for small or medium-sized businesses, maybe it's the business owner for larger companies, organizations, maybe it's team leaders, division heads, things like that. But what do you think the leader's responsibility is in encouraging relational leadership among the, their team, the different people that they lead.

James (27:54):

So I think that the leader should and this is what I was kind of what I was handing out before somebody got to be strict on the goals and the numbers exp you know, especially in the, in the corporate smaller business, you might have a little different timeline than a quarterly. We've gotta hit this quarterly target or else. Right. you probably have more leeway, but if the, if the leader's not modeling, serving his, his or her people, well, then he needs to find somebody that will and, and get that because I don't think, you know, if and I think they have to be willing to if they're willing to find somebody that will provide relational leadership, oftentimes this is bad, but it's true that the unifying factor is going to be the, how do I say this? I can't, I'll just say it.

James (28:42):

It's good. It's going to be like, complaining about the leader. Oh yeah. So, so almost like if that's what draws this team together and, and here's the deal though, if the leader is okay with that, who cares? Right. Like if they're willing, if they're willing to be the sacrifice for, well, if it takes, you know complaining about me to bring you guys together where your friends and you sacrifice for each other and you're in the wrenches, then who cares. And if you're self-aware enough to say that and to be okay with that, then I think it's great. Like, yeah.

Ryan (29:14):

That's so funny. And this it's so random. I don't even know if you'll know this reference or not, but do you remember the old movie from like, Oh gosh, probably early mid nineties called major pain. Yeah. Damon Waynes. Right. I remember that was his exact strategy. I don't know why I just thought of that movie. I promise I have not seen it anytime recently, but I remember that was his strategy. He was this drill Sergeant who intentionally like so rough on these guys because he wanted them to unify around the fact that he was a true. And he was also seeing who would rise up in that too, you know, to be kind of the figurehead for that team. If, if he was the coach, then he was looking for a captain. Right. Which is kind of what it sounds like you're saying right now is it's okay to be the coach that holds people to the fire, but you might need a captain to lead them and support them. And, and I think that's, I think that's valid right now. I think that can go overboard. Right. And it can become toxic if everybody just absolutely hates the person.

James (30:23):

Yeah. And I, and that's why I was hesitant to say it. I didn't want to make it sound toxic. I just, you know, sometimes that's the easiest, unifier is the one thing you all have in common. So yeah. So, you know,

Ryan (30:38):

You're going to hate this part probably, but I think relational leadership is something you do. Well, how have you gotten to that point? Like what has, what has helped you become that way? What influences, what lessons have you learned along the way to get to what I am objectively judging as you being good at relational leadership?

James (30:59):

I appreciate you saying that that's honoring. Thank you. Right. So, so I don't know if I already said it, but I I'm an Instagram nine. I have said I'm an Enneagram nine. And so like unifying a team and keeping peace and making everyone's voice heard and respecting, like, that's just water for, that's so easy for me. It's not something that I know how to do or how to like strategize to get it done. I just, I can just do it. And it's, and I don't realize I'm doing it. And it's funny cause I'll oftentimes, I'll, I'll find like, how did, like, how did we become friends? Like we've only talked twice, but yet, you know, I feel like we're close friends. And you know, I think the trust thing too is the, if you can, if you can trust people and if you some of the things I've done is tried to, I've tried to do tangible I'll get it at my former job.

James (31:55):

I would host what I, what we just call it good news breakfast every Friday. We would stand around our cubicles and ate donuts. I bought from Julie's and, and we could, we were only allowed to say, good news. Nice. So somebody is having a baby somebody's going on a trip that weekend, somebody got a big project done. And so we would all just kind of stand around and it be an accidentally, it became this thing where we did. And, and and that wasn't intentional. That was just, I'm going to eat donuts on Fridays and I'm going to buy a dozen because it's cheaper and something, you know, and I would rather talk about good news, the bad news. And so let's celebrate this things. And then before you know, it we're encouraging each other and our whole floor. And now it's beyond your team now, your whole floor.

James (32:47):

And, you know, because I would walk around, I would walk around with a dozen chocolate donuts and shoved them in someone's face and say, Hey, would you like a donut? You know, and know, oftentimes they'll say no. And I'm like, okay, would you, what about this donut? You know, it's just like and so that was one thing. Another thing is just like very small. Like I used to, this is not good, but I used to our cafeteria, our cafeteria had really good cookies. They would make cookies on Monday morning and they'd sell them all week. And they were just really good. So almost every day, sorry, McKinley almost every day, I would go down to the cafeteria and of course I'm not going to buy one cookie. Right. I would buy six cookies. And I would once again, like drop them off at every member of my team's desk and not say anything, it's just, Hey, I bought some cookies, there's one on your desk.

James (33:39):

Or, you know, I would just leave it on their desk if they want to eat it great. If they want to throw out the garbage great. But, but I think what I was communicating was I remembered you and I, I care about you and here's a gift and it's a cookie and it's not a big deal, but if you can end, like, you know, but, but it's, it's an inclusive way to just a simple, like, Hey, here's a, here's a kid. Sure. There's no expectations. I just, I care about you. And it's, that's, what's funny. And in a corporate environment, it's like, you can't hug people and you can't say things like, I really care about you. And, and I'm thankful that I'm thankful we get to work together, even that, which is very mild for me can be kind of strange in a corporate environment, but sure. But you drop it, you drop a cookie on somebody's desk and I just communicated all of those things I care about you. And, and and I'm really thankful for you today. I know I was yesterday and I will be tomorrow, but like today I'm so thankful. Here's the cookie. Yeah. So

Ryan (34:42):

I think that, stuff's awesome. And I guess, you know, my advice to you right now is don't share this podcast with anybody that you currently work with because they're going to be quite upset that you haven't continued that tradition

James (34:54):

I've tried. I've tried, it's just different. The cookie, the cookie game. I got refused enough times on cookies that I just, I quit. I was like, okay guys, I'm not doing good. What do I need to bring diet mountain Dew? Or I'll bring whatever, well, whatever need

Ryan (35:12):

Just as you think back, have there been any influences or good examples of relational leadership that you have learned from and followed like over the years, any big influences you can think of?

James (35:23):

So, so Simon, Simon Sinek's book leaders eat last was was a really big a big influence for me. And the not to spoil the book, but the idea is in the military, the higher ranking officers let the lower ranking officers eat before them. And then if there's not enough food that the high ranking officers do without. Right. And so this idea that I'm always going, I'm going to serve. And once again, the beautiful thing is like, you don't have to be a high ranking officer to do that. You know, you can, you can always let somebody sit shotgun. You can always you know, if there's, if there's a, a really sucky, frustrating project, you can volunteer for it. There's you can find ways to serve. And but yeah, I mean, it's Simon, Sinek's all of Simon Sinek stuff is gold, but that li leader seat lasts, I thought was a great, because one of the things he challenges is this is a, it's a, it's a long play, right? It's not a short, it's not a short place. It's a long, it's a long play that I've got your back and you'll have my back. If it's, if I ever, if it's needed, you're going to have my back and I'm not tricking you into having my back. You just will, because that's how we are.

Ryan (36:40):

Yeah. That's good, man. So, wrapping things up here if you were, in a room right now, talking with a handful of, of business owners and team leaders you know, and there was a banner over the top of the room that said, you know, relational leadership seminar, what, what's your key takeaways? What are the one, two, three things that you're trying to get them to walk away with?

James (37:06):

I would say genuinely care about your people and probably probably start there. So if it's one time, I had a, I had a leader that every time, the same time every week would come by my cube and ask me how I was doing. And I knew he had a reminder on his calendar and I was like, that's, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about, you genuinely care about the health and livelihood of your employees. And so I think that changes if, if maybe one of them is struggling with something, I think it gives you a softer approach to address them. And, and it depends. I was going to say this if I haven't already said it like, so I, I think this would be, you have to, if you're a small or medium business owner, you have to have certain targets, but I think, I think some of your targets should be, do my, do my employees feel supported and heard and loved whenever I left, whenever I left my previous company, I have the email here.

James (38:09):

Here's the, you care if I just say the email that I wrote, because I think it's great for it, go for it. And it has an office quote in it. And so that's, that's helpful. Cause I th I think this kind of summarizes what I would, what I would say. So I said, well, it's, it's truly been an honor and a privilege to work here alongside you all. We've accomplished a lot in the last three and a half years that I've served on the team. And then I list out the different projects we did. We reduced millions of dollars of expanse. We, you know improved all these efficiencies. I crack a joke about one of the, one of our ladies got a new nose ring. We, you know, we, we launched new business intelligence reporting platforms. We did some really cool things, but they're not saying I said, but the memories that I will take with me are the friendships and the comradery that we've shared.

James (38:56):

And I do hope that I have served you all well, but most importantly, I hope that you have, have felt loved, heard, and supported during my tenure here. So, and then the, the office quote is this is from Jim you'll. You knew that already Ryan, but if, if, if you're a family stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, one parent might want to just keep rowing. But if the other parent wants to play a game, it's not because they're crazy. It's because they're doing it for the kids. And so I think I was the one playing the game with the kids while the other leader was rowing the boat. And I'm not crazy. I'm trying to take care of, I'm trying to take care of the kids. And and so my, you know, regardless of all the accomplishments that you have as a company, or you have as a leader, for me, all, that's a wash. If my employees don't feel loved, heard, and supported, but if, if they feel loved, heard, and supported, then, then I'm walking out of there, smiling feeling accomplished. And of course you can nuance that with, yeah, but we've got to grow. We do have to go revenue. We did, but for, for me, if you want me on the team, like, here's what I'm going to focus on.

Ryan (40:03):

Oh, man, I love that. And that goes to show even more like how important a team like a true team is and how it's just not one person running the show, but it's a team effort and everybody brings their own strengths and values to the team to add to it and create something that is healthy, that can grow that people actually enjoy and find purpose in. And that makes an impact in whatever industry you might find yourself in. So I love that that email is phenomenal. Gosh, I may get that from you. We'll like put that in the show notes so people can just copy and paste it to their own companies. Cause that, I mean, that's an incredible gesture when you're looking at

James (40:48):

Cried, as I sent it, I cried, you know, and that's okay.

Ryan (40:54):

But, but there's no way that the people that receive that didn't feel loved and supported. And I think that's such an incredible way to, to leave with grace and dignity and honor those people. And so man, just super cool, kudos on that. And and yeah, this is, I've loved this great conversation and I think a lot of people will enjoy listening to it. And at this point in the episode have enjoyed listening to it. Yeah. So man any, any closing thoughts.

James (41:26):

I think I've said it all. Awesome.

Ryan (41:28):

Well man, thanks again for taking the time to be on and to chat a little bit about this stuff and yeah, just appreciate you and your thoughts.

James (41:37):

Thanks Ryan.


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