The Change Your Mindset Podcast

Welcome to the Change Your Mindset podcast, hosted by Peter Margaritis, CPA, AKA The Accidental Accountant. Peter is a speaker, expert in applied improvisation and author of the book 'Improv Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. Peter's new book, Taking the Numb Our of Numbers: Explaining & Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity will be published in June 2018.

S3E7. The Funny Thing About Stress with Kay Frances

Kay Francis is a professional keynote speaker and the author of the book The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Laughter is one of the best coping mechanisms in dealing with stress. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic in April 2019 titled “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke” when it comes to relieving stress, more giggles are just what the doctor ordered.

The article states that the short-term benefits from laughter are that it helps to stimulate several organs, activates and relieves your stress response, and soothes tension. Long-term benefits are improving your immune system, relieving pain, increasing personal satisfaction, and improving your mood. This article describes what Kay believes is the benefit of humor during these times.

We may not realize it, but we are dealing with grief when it comes to COVID-19. Loss of life as we understand it, loss of our freedom, loss of security, loss of certainty. And that’s what happens when a loved one suddenly dies. With the principles of laughter and humor, you don’t laugh your way through something like this. You have to go through the steps of processing that grief. But even in grief, that laughter should be in the toolbox.

And we need those tools now more than ever. As mentioned above, a spirit of optimism and humor can lead to better heart health, a stronger immune system, and a decreased risk of stroke. There is no better time for this to be a focus.

Part of the process of dealing with this stress is how to manage the change in your day to day life. Some people acknowledged what was happening and how bad it was — then put their heads down and got to work on something else. Others froze, uncertain how to proceed in this new world of so many unknowns. They get stuck on our former identity. If we can look at all these changes we’re going through as an adventure, we can learn to adapt to these changes much quicker.

Remember that this is temporary and make the best of it that you can, have fun when you can, and be honest with yourself about your feelings. Finding the humor in a situation doesn’t mean glossing over the painful parts. Just take it one day at a time. Make the best of it. Look at these changes as an adventure. Try to find the opportunities in the adversity.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Kay Frances: It’s vital now, more than ever that we try to at least go in our backyards, get some fresh air. You know, it’s just so important to take care of ourselves now. It really is.

Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: Welcome, everyone. I recorded this episode on March 25th, and waited until April 11th to write this introduction. The coronavirus appears to have peaked in New York. In Ohio, we’re still under stay at home with the peak anticipated by the time this episode airs. We’re all dealing with the stress of the unknown and being self-isolated for over a month. We’re getting a little stir-crazy, I believe. Well, at least, I know that I am. And thinking about how I can provide an alternative method for dealing with the stress, I’ve decided to reach out to experts to help us all deal with this stress related to COVID-19.

Peter Margaritis: Now, my guest today is Kay Francis and she’s a friend of this podcast. I interviewed her in season 1, episode 97, wow, back at April 9, 2018. Kay is a professional keynote speaker, humorous, and the author of the book, The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Now, we’ve all heard that laughter is one of the best coping mechanisms in dealing with stress. In an article published by the Mayo Clinic in April 2019 titled Stress Relief from Laughter, it’s no joke. When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles are just what the doctor ordered.

Peter Margaritis: The article states that short-term benefits from laughter are it helps to stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension. Long-term benefits are, improve your immune system, relieve pain, increased personal satisfaction, and improve your mood. This article describes what Kay believes is the benefit of humor during these times. We discussed COVID-19 has existed up to March 25th, and Kay provided sound advice on how to deal with the stress, and she will make you laugh. You just can’t help it. I had a number of belly laughs during this interview. So, before we get to the interview, and the belly laughs, and the great advice, just a couple of housekeeping items.

Announcer: This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Sponsor: This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis, LLC, also known as The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a speaker that can bring powerful content virtually, or in person, or on-site that is memorable and engaging in a way that motivates and inspires your audience? Instead of data dumping and numbing with numbers, imagine your people and teams delivering a financial story to your stakeholders, a story that creates engaging and relationship building business conversations.

Sponsor: Would you be interested in learning more about how that is accomplished? How would you feel if the value your facilitator provided your organization far exceeded the dollar amount on their invoice? Peter Margaritis, CPA and Certified Speaking Professional delivers all of the above and much, much more. All of Peter’s programs can be done virtually in person and on-site at your location or at an offsite venue. Send Peter a note at peter@petermargaritis.com and/or visit his web site at www.petermargaritis.com to learn more about what Peter can bring to your next conference, management retreat, or workshop.

Peter Margaritis: Now, let’s get to the interview with Kay Frances. Hey, welcome back, everybody. Man, when we need a dose of humor, and we need a dose of humor now, we need a dose of some lighthearted, funny, how to deal with all the stress, so I’ve got a special guest for you. My guest today, and she is now a second-time return guest on my podcast, the very funny Kay Frances. And welcome, Kay.

Kay Frances: Hey, thank you, Peter. I’m so happy you’re out here fighting the good fight. I think we should probably tell people the date in case they catch this later. Yeah. What we’re dealing with and-

Peter Margaritis: Right. Today’s March 25, 2020, and we’re in the midst of the COVID-19, the coronavirus, and everything about that. I don’t know. We’re here in Ohio, where the shelter-at-home order.

Kay Frances: Yes, that’s a nice way of saying quarantine, but, you know-

Peter Margaritis: Yes, exactly. That’s a nice way to say quarantine.

Kay Frances: They just want to say, you’re not allowed to leave your house. But oh, Peter, I got to tell you, I did have to go out, and I did have to go get medication, and also the grocery, and maybe the post office. Okay. I had a few things. Maybe they weren’t 100% essential, and I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I am practicing social distancing, wash my hands, all of that. But I pulled out of my driveway and there’s a police officer.

Kay Frances: I’m sure he just happened to be going my way, but I felt like I was 18, and I just had a half a quart of vodka. I was driving. And then, when I pulled into the pharmacy, he kind of veered off the other way, he goes, oh, okay, she’s going to the pharmacy, she’s okay. And I’m sure that he had other things to think about, whether I was out of my house, in my car, but I just got that feeling. But it’s really a mandate for us in Ohio, and the US way.

Peter Margaritis: It is. My wife works in social services, and on Monday, she worked from home. But they said that we’re still essential businesses, and by the way, we’d like you to come in for a few hours. And she did. And when she came, she goes, "I got a letter now, that if I get pulled over by the police, I just show them this letter."

Kay Frances: Wow. Yeah. It really makes me funny. As a funny motivational speaker, I always thought that my work is so important, but apparently, I’m nonessential. You know what, our world doesn’t need me, but I disagree. I think they need not me necessarily, but they need the message that we give probably now more than ever.

Peter Margaritis: Absolutely. And that’s why I wanted to have you on this podcast. And you are the author, The Funny Thing About Stress: a Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life. Well, this is a time we need some funny because we’re all dealing with stress.

Kay Frances: Yes. And, Peter, I have had my own message tested for myself more since this broke. Where are we at, two weeks now?

Peter Margaritis: Yes.

Kay Frances: Then, you know, it’s easy in good times to say that we need to do these things. But when you begin to get scared, you begin to face literal life and death situations for a lot of people. And what the one thing we’re all dealing with is the unknown. And that can wear on you. That can cause so much stress because we simply do not know when we’re going back to work. We don’t know when we are going to be free to move about like we used to.

Kay Frances: We don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy. These are real life and death situations. This isn’t just, oh, gee, I wonder if my 401(k) went down a few dollars. It isn’t that. It’s, people are scared and it’s the unknown that makes it worse than anything. And listen, I’m susceptible to this, the same as everybody else. So, over the past, what is it, 10 days now, we’ve been quarantined?

Peter Margaritis: Maybe. Basically, stay at home this week, but then, we were reduced to maybe no more than 10 people in the gathering. We went from like, yeah, 50 to 100 to 10 to stay at home. Right.

Kay Frances: Yes. So, it’s been a struggle. I mean, I’ll just tell you, my rug was just pulled out from under me like we all are. All of my work for March and April was canceled. May, I don’t even know. And this is our busy season as speakers. But I don’t want to talk about me and my woes. But, you know, the truth is, regardless of the nature of the stress, the ways to handle them are the same. And we’re going to kind of focus on the humor. What we’re going through a similar to going through the death of a family.

Kay Frances: I just read a really interesting article about grief. And I realized that I couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling, especially those first four or five days, but we’re all feeling lost. Loss of life, as we understand it, loss of our freedom, loss of security, loss of knowing what’s going to happen next. And that’s what happens when like, say, a loved one suddenly dies. So, the principles of laughter and humor, it’s that you don’t laugh your way through something like this. You have to go through the steps. But I’ve always said, even in grief, that laughter should be in the toolbox.

Kay Frances: And when those gifts of laughter come up, because I do believe laughter and humor are a gift, take them and run with you. Now, I’m on social media. I try to post fun and funny whenever I can. And a lot of people are, have you seen more toilet paper jokes in your entire life? And that’s how we cope. That’s how we get through. You know, it’s just no, we’re not laughing every second. But my golly, we’ve got to continually work to keep our mindset on optimism and on keeping our sense of humour absolutely as much as possible.

Kay Frances: And people have been so creative. People everywhere are posting videos of things they’re doing in quarantine, that I mean, just regular folks that maybe aren’t funny for a living are much funnier than what I’ve been able to come up with. And, you know, it spurred people’s creativity, but it’s survival. That’s how we get through this because if we let these negative emotions continue to pull us down, pull us down, first of all, we’re going to get sick because that’s what happens.

Peter Margaritis: Absolutely.

Kay Frances: And now, more than ever, we have to keep our immune system up. And studies have shown that even a spirit of optimism, humor, and all of that, that people that have that over people that don’t have better heart health, a stronger immune system, and a decreased risk of stroke. So, this is science. This is science, baby.

Peter Margaritis: This is science. And by the way, the audience, when I asked Kay if she’d be on my podcast, she said, "Absolutely for two rolls of toilet paper." So, I hope they were delivered in time before the show.

Kay Frances: Well, you know, I think you insured it for like a thousand dollars.

Peter Margaritis: Well, absolutely. Yeah. People find all that stuff these days.

Kay Frances: And, you know, okay, tell the truth, I asked for four. And you negotiated down to two because, you know, I’m not famous, let’s get real here.

Peter Margaritis: And I have a 19-year-old son, so that was not-

Kay Frances: Well, there you go.

Peter Margaritis: And the other thing about it, you know, we are now being asked to work from home.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: And when all this happened, you know, so today, I only have one FTE here, my son. And tomorrow, I’ll have two. And by Friday, I’m going to put them both on warning. I won’t have to write them up. I mean, they sleep too late. I delegate. They don’t even do anything. They just sit around in bonbons and watching Ellen. I got to put them on, you know, performance warning, I believe.

Kay Frances: I love that. I love it. And for a lot of us, I mean, we’re speakers. But when we’re not speaking, we do work from home. So, this isn’t terribly new except that we’re in this strange time. The last thing people want to hear from us, "Hey, would you like me speak at your gig?" And they’re like, "We don’t even know there will be a conference. We don’t know." And I let that freak me out for a while, but I have to walk my own talk.

Kay Frances: And really, I seek out whenever I feel my mood starts to dip because I can’t live there. It’s okay to visit there, but don’t live there. When your mood starts to dip, you start to feel sad and depressed. Don’t go eat up your two weeks of rations in one day. That’s a short-term fix that makes you feel worse in the long run. Find some funny people. And it’s so funny, well, you know, when I go on YouTube, and I’m sure it’s true with everybody, they give suggested videos based on what you watch.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Kay Frances: And I like to watch some news, but I’ve gotten to where I have really stepped away from it because there’s too much we don’t know. We still don’t know. And so, they’re not telling us much. And I have relatives that will text me when the governor does something new. So, how it affects me, I will find out. I don’t have to watch it and get depressed. So, it’s so funny. The YouTube will pop up and be like funny cat videos, the news. And I start weighing out, I go, no, I’m going for the funny cats, you know. That’s a choice that we make you choose to find something that is going to uplift their mood as opposed to something that is going to bring us down. Frankly, it’s probably going to bring you down. And you’re not going to learn anything new, really.

Peter Margaritis: And you are a very funny person and what of this? An idea just came to me, what if a company contacted you or you knew of a company that we’re doing, I don’t know, they finally say,"Yeah, we can get people together on a conference call, and we just want to make it uplifting, and make them feel better. Can we include you in that, and at no cost, write down, and then maybe something will happen after the fact?" Would you jump all over that?

Kay Frances: Oh, well, I hate to put out into the entire world, hey, I’m here, I’m available, and I’m free. No. Listen, this is one way that I can serve. And, you know, when you take your mind off yourself and your troubles—and by the way, let me intervene, I realize I’m not hilariously funny on this thing. And I’m speaking more from how to use humor than being hilariously funny. So, I apologize to your listeners if they thought, you know, that Chris Rock was going to be on this. Yeah.

Kay Frances: So, I’m serving wherever I can. I had a call today at noon. I have a friend, a speaker friend that did a spoof Zoom call. And I played myself, which is Aunt Kay, exaggerated, and what it was, they’re having a business Zoom call discussing using Zoom in business. I pop in with the wrong number. And I’m like, you know, I’m looking at the screen and the buttons. It’s the first time on Zoom. I’m like, "Hey, how you doing, guys? Oh, my God, I can’t see anybody. Where are you? Oh, well, listen, I’ll talk for a few minutes and you guys come in."

Kay Frances: And I just went on and on, just stupid aunt stuff, you know, like, "Hey, I drop some three bean soup off on your porch like a half hour ago, I didn’t knock because I don’t know where your hand has been, I’m not touching your doorknob. But it’s out there. Don’t let it go bad because, you know, supplies are tough these days." I actually am an Aunt Kay, and I am kind of like that with my relatives and my little millennial nieces. And wait, wait. I had a ball with it. And so, it was really fun to kind of do an impostor into somebody else’s Zoom call.

Peter Margaritis: So, will that be on YouTube soon.

Kay Frances: Yeah, she’ll post it somewhere, I will probably post it on my feet as well. So-

Peter Margaritis: Okay. Good. And please, for the listeners, please follow Kay. I follow you on Facebook a lot. Where else are you-

Kay Frances: I do have a YouTube channel. So, if people want to see some truly funny videos. And listen, I say that because I’ve earned it. I started doing stand-up comedy 35 years ago. What I’m not so funny at, sitting here in front of my computer with just my friend here. I am funny on stage. So, if somebody wants to see, I’ve got some songs I do. And so, it’s Kay Frances, and it’s spelled with an E, F-R-A-N-C-E-S, kayfrances.com. So, you can go to my website. Facebook, I’m very active on, not so much the others. And not because I’m old, it’s just hard to keep up with them all. And I just have gotten the most response on Facebook. So, that’s where I kind of go with. So-.

Peter Margaritis: You posted a really nice blog yesterday, which is kind of what we’re talking about right now about how you struggled at first with this. And we had to walk the talk. And it’s like, you know, we can’t change anything, and we’ve just got to keep moving forward.

Kay Frances: That’s it. And we all know what we need to do, those little things, it’s social distancing, it’s—you know, I’ve always washed my hands. I don’t understand this whole, all of a sudden, this is something new for people.

Peter Margaritis: Apparently so.

Kay Frances: But we know it is. Yeah. You’ve got your Purell there. Yeah. I know. You know, in fact, if you’ve done any health care conferences, you’re in there in the room, in the restroom with nurses, I mean, it takes forever because they’re washing and like scrubbing in for surgery, you know. And, you know, you’re supposed to do it to the Happy Birthday song twice. So, I got really tired of like, "Happy birthday, dear knuckles." I mean, who do you even sing to, you know? And with all this, now, I do the album, [indiscernible], and younger people don’t know that, it’s 17 minutes long. So, just make your your song a little longer.

Peter Margaritis: And she said she’s not funny.

Kay Frances: Listen, if you want to do some new song, oh, I can do Billie Eilish. Okay. I’m a bad girl. So, se, you can do a newer song or you can do Lizzo, I do my hat toss, check my nails, baby, how you feeling? So, yeah, I mean-

Peter Margaritis: Once again.

Kay Frances: Hat toss, check my nails, baby, how you feeling?

Peter Margaritis: Oh, my gosh. And she thinks she’s not funny on my podcast.

Kay Frances: And he will love you anymore. Just walk your fine self out that that door.

Peter Margaritis: And she can sing, who knew?

Kay Frances: Who knew?

Peter Margaritis: Who knew? So, what do you hear from some of your other folks, how they are dealing with what’s happening today?

Kay Frances: You know, it’s interesting. People will deal with stress in so many different ways. I have a couple of speaker friends that it was like, okay, this is awful, this is bad, bam. They put their heads down and went right to work. I mean, they already had things that they were working on, online courses and all this stuff. And like it was amazing, really, just went to work. Other people were frozen, you know, just shell-shocked, what do I do now? And for someone like me that’s a live speaker, I’m not set up for all this Zoom—I mean, I do Zoom calls. I do podcasts, you know.

Kay Frances: It’s not that. I know how to do it. I’m not that technology-challenged, but it’s like when you’re used to doing one thing, you’ve gone all in, it’s hard to make a switch because you can’t just switch that fast, but I’m being forced to. I actually have a virtual conference I’m doing. It was supposed to be May the 8th, and it’s huge, 2,500 people. And it was going to be a closing keynote. Now they’re doing the whole conference a four-day virtual conference. Can you imagine?

Peter Margaritis: A four-day virtual conference?

Kay Frances: A four-day virtual conference.

Peter Margaritis: Are you still the closing keynote?

Kay Frances: I guess so. Well, we have a call on Friday and I’ll learn more about it. But at first, I freaked out a little, and then I thought, I’m going to embrace the challenge here. I will find a way to do this, to get my message across and make it fun and funny and engaging. I’m just going to have to learn, you know, what system they have. Obviously, I don’t have anything where I can host 2,500 people, so I’m sure they’ll have all that in place. And you just make it work. Again, if you look at change as an adventure, that was my mindset, my tweak.

Kay Frances: I was like instead of dreading this and being, but I’m a keynote speaker, I’m this, I’m that, and I’m these ideas, we get stuck about ourselves. If we will just look at all these changes we’re going through as an adventure, and what I’m noticing, and I’m sure you are too, Peter, as are your listeners, those are the people handling it the best, instead of just falling apart over it. Just falling apart. I don’t know what to do. I can’t work from home. I don’t know what’s happening.

Kay Frances: And there again, my goodness, my problems are small when I think of the health care workers that are literally going in there every day, would not have enough equipment in dealing with this. Really, minor, really, first-world problems at this. But they’re my problems, so I think we have to acknowledge our own problems, and maybe be serious about them. But truthfully, I’m fine. I’m going to eat the same tomorrow either way, my lights come on, I’m fine for a while. You know, I’m really pretty fortunate. So, that’s another thing. You know, stopping and counting our blessings and having gratitude about what we do have, that mindset.

Peter Margaritis: Having gratitude and serving others, I think, is important in this time. And we have a voice, we have a platform. We can help serve other people as well as you’re right, count our blessings, and help those who might not have the same blessings that we have. And also, so I’ve self-quarantined myself since I got back from one conference because I had a horrible non-coronavirus, but I was sick for two weeks. I’m a type 1.

Kay Frances: Don’t you love the way we had, and boy, it wasn’t coronavirus, I was sick. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Because my mother’s listening to this. It wasn’t the coronavirus, but I was sick like a dog for two weeks. And I’m a type 1 diabetic. So, I started social distancing when I started feeling better, and I’d been out of this house twice.

Kay Frances: Wow.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. But I’m used to, at times, working in this environment. I’m comfortable in a virtual world. And that’s how I’ve tried to help serve. I’ve contacted some not-for-profits who have now been forced to do this. And I know they don’t have the budget, but they still have to have these meetings and stuff. And I’m trying to help them navigate with Zoom, so they can have staff meetings, so they can communicate and still be able to connect with people versus being fearful of the technology.

Kay Frances: Yeah, absolutely. And by the way, to answer your question from earlier, I think I kind of went off unintentionally, but yes, I do want to serve. I do want to use my humor and the tips that I can offer. I’m on the path with everybody else. This isn’t me at the top of the mountain saying, hey, I’ve got it all figured out, come join me. The only reason I’m a tiny bit reluctant is I’m just getting all this figured out and getting comfortable with Zoom and all these new tools that I kind of know because I’ve always had Zoom calls and that kind of thing.

Kay Frances: But I’m learning, I’m watching webinars, and that’s another thing. Well, people have more time, learn new things. You know, I have been watching all sorts of demonstrations, again, on doing virtual presentations, and things I’m interested in. I found that for a minute there, I was feeling like, oh, I had to do this, oh, I had to do that, just watching my speaker friend’s online course. That’s that. Well, that isn’t what I do.

Kay Frances: We have to stay within our sphere because it takes time to learn something new and to be good at it. And you’ll get frustrated otherwise. And they’ll go, I do a podcast. I’ll do a Zoom. Well, unless you really dig in—now, you’ve dug into it, made a very good success of this. You are ready before this hits. Look at you, you’re all up and running, got his microphone, his headphones. And, you know, you’ve already done tons, and, you know, you’re all over the world. So, you’re already ready for this.

Kay Frances: But I can’t scramble around and try to throw something together because first of all, that’s panic and fear-based, and I don’t think I’d get a good result from that. So, I kind of go from where I’m sitting. And actual presenting for virtually, I have to do it because I’m being challenged to do it, but it’s fascinating to me. And I think I could use the medium. I just have to learn it. So, I’ve got all this stuff. I have a green screen on order, and lights. Unfortunately, everybody else is, so they’re not going to get here until April 21st. So, you know-

Peter Margaritis: So, I will say this again, I said this in e-mail, if I can help you with any of this technology stuff about Zoom or anything, all you got to do is ask. I’d love to help.

Kay Frances: I appreciate that.

Peter Margaritis: And two, I love that aspect of learning something new because I’m a Greek-American and my Greek is limited to just the bad words, the cuss words my grandmother used to teach me. So, about a month ago, Rosetta Stone had a super offer for a lifetime subscription, and I bought it, and I’ve been teaching myself Greek.

Kay Frances: That’s awesome.

Peter Margaritis: Well, it helps. I spend half-an-hour a day doing it. Like you say, it takes time. I know I’m not going to be fluent and speak at a thousand miles an hour, but I’m not telling anybody. I don’t think my family listens to me anymore on this podcast, they don’t know any secrets. But I started, what else could I do? What can I learn? And I ended up learning more about Zoom than I ever thought. It’s just also a time to soak it all in. So, do things you’ve wanted to do, but never had the time because now, we have the time.

Kay Frances: That’s right. And we’re gripped with fear. And what I went through for those first few days after, which was, I guess, a form of shock, a form of grief. And we go through the grief stages and not necessarily in order. But you finally get to acceptance, where you’re like, you know what, I can’t control this. And this is not to say that I won’t fall back. Again, two steps forward, one step back. I’ll have my moments. I just know me.

Kay Frances: And it’s just something you work on, you know, you have awareness of. But it can be an opportunity in adversity. And sometimes, it’s so hard to see. And again, my problems are not like everybody else’s. It doesn’t matter. The principles are the same. I don’t care how serious the problem is. I have gone through serious things. Not now. I was one of the mother’s caregiver, you know, and going to absolute life and death situations. These principles held more then than ever.

Kay Frances: So, it’s not like I’m, you know, flippant about this, like, oh, I don’t have a big problem, so it works for me. It works for everyone. It doesn’t matter. Ask anybody that works in hospice. Ask anybody who works in health care. Humor, it matters, and keeping your mood up and looking at adversity as an opportunity or finding those little nuggets. And, you know, in these kinds of times, people rise up too. We’ve all seen the unfortunate situations of people hoarding.

Kay Frances: And I just heard something about doctors that are writing out 400 pills of some drug that, you know—I mean, it brings out the best and the worst of human nature, unfortunately. But look for the best. There are people all around doing absolutely heroic things. And they’re amazing and they’re inspiring. You know, some people run out, healthcare people run in. They’re our new heroes. I really am convinced of that.

Peter Margaritis: Right. They run toward the issue, not away from it.

Kay Frances: That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: Well, you know, I rebranded this podcast a while ago to Change Your Mindset. That’s really what this is. We know it’s out there. We know we can’t control it, change the attitude towards it.

Kay Frances: That’s it. That’s all. We can’t control most of the time.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. The space between our ears.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: But our bodies are wired that when bad things happen, we tend to have those negative thoughts.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: Yes.

Kay Frances: Well, and not only that, I read an excellent study that they did that we are actually wired for pessimism because back in our early stages, you know, say the caveman days, optimists didn’t make it. It was the pessimists going, what are we going to eat tomorrow? Optimists were like, you know, a barrel will come along. I’m not going to worry about it. Really, I mean, if you had a rosy, optimistic view of the world. So, we are wired for survival, which makes us look for the, you know—like in voting, they say where the rocks are.

Kay Frances: So, it’s the same kind of thing. It’s a survival technique. But the problem is we’re not fighting bears. A lot of that, we just invent because it’s in our wiring. So, we have to fight it. We have to say, that’s not something I need to worry about. Keep the focus on things a little legitimate. And they’re, again, unnecessary worry, just weighs us down, find solutions, but make a plan, and then let go of things that don’t matter, for heaven’s sakes.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Even if you take an hour out of your day to watch funny YouTube videos, or do something humorous, or do something to take you away from the stress that’s out there. And I know that we have at least three members in our NSA chapter that I think to help deal with stress and have some time to think, they build jigsaw puzzles.

Kay Frances: Yes, I’ve seen a lot of people doing that.

Peter Margaritis: I see a lot of people building that. And I’m going, jigsaw puzzles, but then someone said, I was on a virtual happy hour last night, and they go, "I love jigsaw puzzles because it takes me away from everything." I can focus on, you know, these thousand pieces and trying to solve this puzzle." And I went, "That’s nice. I can only do six." Doesn’t help. But yeah, it’s just finding different things to take your mind off it. And you said it, turn the news off.

Kay Frances: Yeah. And, you know, managing our stress or whatever we do to keep ourselves sane, that’s a very individual thing. A jigsaw puzzle, my stress level would never be higher. I’m with you, brother. I’m like, really? I mean, I’ll give you an example, I’ve tried gardening one time. Some people, I mean, they’re just at Zen when they garden. They’re in the dirt, they grow beautiful flowers, and fruits, and vegetables. I’m very envious. I tried it one time, and I’m going to tell you something, I’d rather be beat to death.

Kay Frances: Let me tell you, I got in a community gardening program through the Ag Department at our little college here. So, everybody had a four-by-12 raised bed plot. And my stuff just wasn’t growing. Well, I was the newbie, so they stuck me down by the cemetery, and like the animals were like ravaging my stuff. I remember when I had a tomato, it was on the ground, and a deer had taken a bite out of it, and left it. You know, like those family members that take a bite out of the chocolate in the box, and then put it back.

Kay Frances: And I was so desperate for a homegrown tomato. I thought, how dirty could a deer’s lips really be? So, I mean, I thought like that because you see these people, when the tomatoes first come out, they’re on Facebook with a picture, look, my first tomato, like their new grandchild, you know, they go, oh, here I am with my first BLT. Eat your hearts out. You don’t have tomatoes. I have fresh tomatoes. But you could not wrench a tomato out their hands, but you wait three weeks, there’ll be anonymous bags showing up on your porch.

Kay Frances: So, anyway, one person’s stress enhancer can be another person’s stress reducer. We’re very individual in that way. So, you know, like quilting, huh? I feel like I have one quilt in me before I die, but I’ll never start it because of the tedium of it. But other people, I mean, their stress just melts away. Same with golf. Oh, just kill me, you know. Awful. I mean, I’m throwing stuff. I mean, I become a person I don’t even recognize. And other people, they’re all out there with nature and the green.

Kay Frances: So, just an individual thing. So, it’s what works for us. So, we have to nourish our soul. And for heaven’s sakes, during these times, avoid those energy vampires, people that suck you dry. Luckily, with a lot of us doing social distancing and quarantining, we can. But, you know, they’re still going to call, they’re going to text. You know, avoid them at all costs. Our time and energy are limited right now, even though we have tons of it. But still, quality time and energy are limited.

Peter Margaritis: I’m definitely going to put this video on YouTube, and people can go and see-

Kay Frances: I hope I did hair and makeup.

Peter Margaritis: I know. And I’m sitting and laughing so hard, I’m crying. I do know something, how you manage your stress and you get very creative in doing that because you like to work out.

Kay Frances: I do. I do. And, you know, I do. I become one of these people I used to hate, a health nut. And, you know, I mean, I’ve been through it all. I’m 28 years clean and sober from drug and alcohol abuse. I smoked cigarettes 25 years. This is why I don’t judge anybody where they are on the path. We’re all working on something. But I mean, for me, addiction is like a game of whack-a-mole, you know, like, oh, I drank too much, I’m going to do drugs. If this be a drug, I’m going to drink more, I’m going to smoke cigarettes 25 years.

Kay Frances: Stop that. Discover the joy of sugar and carbs. Gain 40 pounds, lose muscle then, start buying shoes online. It never freaking ends. So, I do, I work out. And I tell you, I am one of these people I used to hate. It is air and water for me. So, when my gym clothes, because in our state, it was mandatory, our gym owner opened the gym for one hour, and we were allowed to check out equipment to take home with us.

Peter Margaritis: Oh, wow.

Kay Frances: And I mean, I have a few things around, you know, but I got like three sets of weights, a band, I got a step bench, which I can do step aerobics on. And yes, by all means, get outside. I live right by a bike path, I’m very fortunate. So, on nice days, I get out and walk. And I do my exercises. And so, it’s vital now more than ever that we try to at least go in our backyards, get some fresh air. You know, it’s just so important to take care of ourselves now. It really is.

Peter Margaritis: Yes, it is. And exercise, you know, I love riding my bike. And I haven’t really been, so I brought it in the house. I got a little trainer and I got it sitting up on side of my desk and got on it last night for about half-an-hour, oh, God, I’ve missed my bike. But then, this morning, I got up like, oh, God, I forgot I had those muscles.

Kay Frances: I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: Yeah.

Kay Frances: I know.

Peter Margaritis: But, you know, that’s how I’ve always managed my stress, is to exercise and stuff. And to be-

Kay Frances: Yeah. And also, just slow down and meditate. You kind of touched on this. You know, it’s interesting. I follow Jerry Seinfeld personally, probably more than professionally. And I know that sounds weird, but he’s always been fascinating to me. And people ask him, you know, about your success, this and that and the other. He has a work ethic like you wouldn’t believe. He gets up and goes to work. He takes his kids to school and goes to the office.

Kay Frances: He says, "I’m a comedian. That’s what I do. It’s my job." He’s worth $800 million. It’s not about money with him. But he will tell you things he does. And he says, you know, "People ask me about the secret to success, is that I do this one thing that no one-", they’re like, "Oh, yeah. Okay. But what else do you do? He said, "I really believe it’s the secret to my success." For 30 years, he meditates every day.

Peter Margaritis: Really? I didn’t know that.

Kay Frances: Every day, yes. Twenty minutes. And you can get meditation like songs, you know, where it’s just a song, and it is hard. You close your eyes, your mind’s darting all over the place. And I admit, I fall in and out of it. Actually, I went through a period where I meditated like an hour a day. Well, actually, I nap, but meditate sounds much less lazy, but I fall in and out of it. And I wish I was that [indiscernible].

Peter Margaritis: I’ll leap right into that one. You do an hour?

Kay Frances: Yeah, I know. Well, I nap, but it just sounds less lazy because it’s just that I meditate.

Peter Margaritis: So, my question about meditation, and since you meditate, maybe you can help me with this, is my mind, as in Blazing Saddles, my mind’s a raging torn, flooded with three minutes of thought, cascaded into a waterfall of creative alternatives. Otherwise, it’s always going. An to stop it, I don’t-

Kay Frances: I don’t know that you’re supposed to stop it, you’re supposed to let them go by. You let the thoughts go by. I mean, read up on it. It’s fascinating. And it’s hard, I mean, at first. The times I’ve been able to sink into that state, I’m going to tell you, it puts you in sort of a state of calm and perspective for the rest of the day. It really can set the tone. So, why do I fall out of it? I have no idea. Why do we not do the things we know work? Why? We get out of habits. You know, I’m very disciplined in some areas and other areas like that. In fact, that’s going to be my new, my golly, I’m going to commit right now, I’m going to go back, I’m going to get the meditation CD out and start doing it again.

Peter Margaritis: Okay. You should post on your Facebook page, day one of meditation, I’ve committed back it. I’ve got an audience of people out there.

Kay Frances: I fell asleep again, you know.

Peter Margaritis: Exactly. And actually, I will read up on meditation.

Kay Frances: It’s interesting.

Peter Margaritis: I’ll use this analogy. When Dan Thurmon came to our chapter and he started juggling, I hadn’t juggled in years. So, after that, I was motivated to juggle, and I juggled every single day. First time, I think my first day, I was able to keep 26 balls in the air consecutively. At one point, I was up to about 350 rotations.

Kay Frances: Wait, 350 balls?

Peter Margaritis: No, no, no. Rotations. Three balls, rotation. Oh, God. No.

Kay Frances: Peter, you’re in the wrong profession, 350 balls in the air at once.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. No, that’s my day job.

Kay Frances: Yeah, right? Yeah. That’s what we’re talking about.

Peter Margaritis: And I was doing it every single day, every single day, every single day, then day 92 came and I forgot to do it. And I haven’t been able to get back into the habit again.

Kay Frances: Interesting.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. I mean, I took my juggling balls on the road with me, traveled with them everywhere, doing 4:30 in the morning, and I was committed to it. And then, well, I think complacency hits.

Kay Frances: It’s so easy to break patterns. That’s why, really, once you get serious about something, I think it should be in your calendar just like going to a doctor’s appointment. That’s one thing I do at the beginning of the month. I schedule all of my workouts because I do classes at 5:30. This is when I’m in town. On the roads, little more of a challenge. And I’m getting better at that, too. And I will schedule those and I’ll take the clothes. I’ll say, you scheduled a workout. So, a lot of times, what I do, like say I get to a hotel at 4:00, when I go in there, I do not sit down.

Kay Frances: I might unpack a little bit, I don’t sit down. If I sit down, it’s over. I go straight to those workout clothes, put them on, go down to the gym. I can’t if I’m down, I just know if I sit now, I’m done. I’m not going to feel like it, I’m going to put it off, and it’s over. So, you have to be strong enough to know your weakness. With some people, like when we are working in offices and so forth, they can’t go home first. They got to go straight to the gym. Don’t think about, just go.

Kay Frances: So, you have to find something you don’t hate. You might not love it, but at least you don’t hate it. You have to find something you, you know, can live with. Hopefully, if you do it long enough, you’ll grow to love it. And then, again, it will become like air and water. That’s my philosophy on exercise. But it takes a long time. Most people don’t have the patience because you go through—it’s horrible. Those first few months, you gain weight. I mean, to go through all that, because you’re gaining muscle, probably, you know, and it’s demoralizing. It’s terrible.

Peter Margaritis: Your appetite increases.

Kay Frances: All that time. And you’re not seeing results. And it’s torture to go through and you feel terrible after, but to hang in, just hang in long enough. And usually, for most people, it’s six months, then it’ll turn—it will begin to turn around. You won’t hate it. You’ll tolerate it. Then, you’ll like it. Then, you’ll love it. Then, you won’t be able live without it.

Peter Margaritis: Then, you’re addicted, but that’s a good addiction.

Kay Frances: Yeah. You become one of those people that you used to hate.

Peter Margaritis: Oh, yeah. I’m a reformed smoker. I think I quit 15, 20 years ago. And I actually can’t stand the smell of cigarettes. Absolutely cannot stand to smell of cigarettes.

Kay Frances: Oh, yeah, I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: One of the worst. Well, yeah.

Kay Frances: Oh, the worst. I know.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Right. But it took a while, but dealt with cold turkey. But it’s got to be something that through this time that we focus our mind on that’s good for us, that’s good for our families. You know, we try to have at least one or two nights a week here to have gin rummy night unless my son wins too much, then we can’t put up with his ego, his confidence, then we go, okay, we have to find something else to do. We’ll have a movie night, but just something to take our mind off of everything else that’s going on, and just give it a rest.

Kay Frances: Distraction is a wonderful tool. It can be overdone if we’re using distraction too much to where we’re not getting things done that we want or need to do. But as a coping tool, yes, distraction is wonderful. And it sounds like you’re doing it beautifully. And that’s great advice.

Peter Margaritis: Well, here’s the other piece of advice. We will fail. You said, you know, we will fail. And yesterday was a failure day. I just kind of walked around here, lost a little bit. And I had my to-do list and stuff, and I found about everything else in the world to do except what I was supposed to do. And then, I woke up this morning, I called BS, and I got everything done from yesterday, got everything done from today. Okay. I’m going to have those days.

Kay Frances: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a new day, just start over. It’s a new day. That’s all. I mean, same with exercise. You fall often, you get back up, you know. Maybe you fall off for a month, life gets in the way. Just get back up. Just keep getting back up on that horse. That’s what it is. And I think, too, people have to be gentle with themselves and be patient. No, new skill comes overnight, you know. If you want to learn to play the piano, you think you’re going to sit down and play Bach the first time? Nope. You’re going to learn scales. Oh, here’s a better one. Guitar. You play guitar. Your fingers are going to bleed. You’re going to get blisters.

Kay Frances: I mean, I don’t know that people who don’t play the guitar realize that it’s going to hurt. It’s going to really hurt. Takes a long time to build those calluses. And then, if you don’t play for a long time, you’ll lose them, and you’re kind of going to start over with that, but it’s day-by-day, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, and you just have to ride through. When you hit a wall, maybe take a few steps back, but then, just go around or over that wall, you know, and proceed. That’s really what it’s about. It’s easier said than done, for sure, as are all these principles.

Peter Margaritis: Right. And the part that I want everybody to remember is it is easier said than done; you will fail, but tomorrow’s another day, get up and try it again.

Kay Frances: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: And start with one thing. I’ve talked to some folks, well, I mean, I’ve always wanted to play the guitar, so I’ve got a guitar, I’m going to play that. Also, I’m going to try to learn the language. Excuse me, that was my brother in a conversation today, the three or four things that he’s going to do. I’m like, "Dude, just pick one."

Kay Frances: Right.

Peter Margaritis: You’re not going to do all three.

Kay Frances: That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: Just pick one.

Kay Frances: Yeah. You know, sometimes, you have to kind of take one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is completely overrated, I think. And I don’t think we have the ability to do it that we think we do. Literally, mentally, you really can only focus on one thing. You can do muscle memory and talk, you can crochet and talk, you might jump from one thing to another, and it’s very fast, but you’re not really multitasking. You’re doing one task, another; one task, another. So, you know, you lose your rhythm and this doesn’t really work. I mean, that’s what the science tells us.

Peter Margaritis: So, as we wrap up this interview, you’ve given a lot of advice and a lot different things out there for them to do. So, could you put that in a little package with a nice little bow and tell him the one thing to stick with to do to try to adhere whether we’re locked indoors for the next three weeks or the next month-and-a-half to help them deal with the stress?

Kay Frances: Remember, it’s temporary. It’s temporary and make the best of it the best you can, have the most fun you can, be honest with yourself about your feelings, though. Again, I don’t think people should gloss over. I find myself doing that. It’s like the grief process. You try to gloss over a couple of the steps. You’re going to have to come back and revisit or come out in another way through unhealthy habits or bouts of rage or depression, any of that. Just day at a time. You know, it’s a simple advice. It’s the stuff our moms all told us, but it’s so true. Just take it one day at a time. Make the best of it. Look at these changes as an adventure. Try to find the opportunities in the adversity. And I guess that would sum it up.

Peter Margaritis: So, I love having this conversation with you, but you just said something that’s very powerful, that struck me right between the eyes, is don’t gloss over your feelings.

Kay Frances: Yes. I believe we’re keeping it real. Be honest with yourself.

Peter Margaritis: Don’t compartmentalize them. When you’re feeling a certain way, and you can feel what was in your body, share it with your family, share it with your spouse. I have two dogs and they listen to me all the time. They just think I’m the smartest person in the world.

Kay Frances: Right?

Peter Margaritis: But just even talking to them some time—so, before this all happened, it was just me and the dogs when I was home, at times, I would talk to my dogs. So, they listened, but it’s getting it out.

Kay Frances: Sure.

Peter Margaritis: That’s definite.

Kay Frances: Wait, hold on a minute.

Peter Margaritis: Hold on. Uh-oh.

Kay Frances: She just walked by. Where did she go? I don’t have a dog. This is who I live with.

Peter Margaritis: I know. And her name is?

Kay Frances: Seisan.

Peter Margaritis: Seisan, that’s right.

Kay Frances: Hi, Seisan. Can you say hi to the people?

Peter Margaritis: Hi, Seisan.

Kay Frances: She is so over me. I think she’s really hard on me being in her territory. That’s my girl though.

Peter Margaritis: She goes, mom’s one of those FTEs I heard about a little a while ago. I’m going to have to put her on a warning. Oh, well, thank you so very much. I always enjoy the conversation. You always make me laugh. So, this has been my therapy for today, is a conversation with you, you making me laugh and also giving some great advice. And I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your day to spend with me.

Kay Frances: It’s absolutely my pleasure. And, Peter, keep doing the good work you’re doing. This is a wonderful thing you do, and you’re really helping people, and just keep fighting the good fight. That’s all we can do.

Peter Margaritis: Thank you very much. Now, I’m just going to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and implement a couple of these tips from Kay today to help ease your stress.

Announcer: Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E6. How to Recover from Disaster Faster with Jennifer Elder

In times of heightened stress, one way of coping is to reach out to the experts that know how to deal with disasters effectively. One such expert is Jennifer Elder, the self-proclaimed “Diva of Disaster” and author of Faster Disaster Recovery: A Business Owner’s Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan. We talk about what we can do to change our mindset, change our approach, and change our attitude in dealing with this global pandemic.

Under the current conditions, we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done them. The one question we need to ask ourselves is, “How can we be a part of the solution?” 

Rather than trying to fit what we’ve always done into this new scenario, take the opportunity to look at things with a new mindset and a new perspective. There are ways to do what you do in a slightly different way that becomes part of the solution to what’s going on.

This is where the improv mindset comes into play. Use the “Yes, And” philosophy to move through ideas and figure out how you can do something new. And that means planning ahead for when things do return to normal. What can you do today that will set you up for success when the world opens back up?

One of the mindsets you really need to adopt is patience. We have to be patient towards our family, our coworkers, and people at the grocery store. We are all going through this situation together. What’s hard for you is hard for everyone. If we can show a little patience and compassion towards someone else, we can make this a little easier for everyone else.

That is the best that we can possibly do. Find the positive, become part of the solution, and make this better for everyone else. If all of us contributed just a little of our resources and our energy to others, we would all be better off and pull out of this much sooner.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Jennifer Elder: [00:00:01] Right now, we all have a great opportunity to give first give to other people, help them with their troubles, and this will come back tenfold over.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:24] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, and he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:11] Welcome, everyone. I recorded this episode on Wednesday, March 18th. And I’ve wait until March 23rd to write this introduction. The corona landscape has changed and will continue to change by the time you’re listening to this episode. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, what’s an essential versus a nonessential business are things that we’re having to deal with on a daily basis. In Ohio, we’re on our stay-at-home order beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24th. You know, we’re all dealing with the stress of the unknown.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:45] Yeah, I know the hard times sometimes dealing with the stress, but I do maintain my improvise mentality to help me get through, as well as rely on friends, experts, getting their advice in helping myself, as well as wanting to help you deal with this stress. So, that’s what I’ve done. I decided an alternative method of dealing with the stress, is to reach out to the experts that I know to help us all deal with the stress related around COVID-19.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:18] My guest today is Jennifer Elder, CPA, and she is a certified speaking professional, one of only 53 CPA, CSPs in the National Speakers Association. She is also the self-proclaimed, The Diva of Disaster. Jennifer authored the book titled Faster Disaster Recovery: A Business Owner’s Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan. And that is the essence of our conversation today. And it centers around what can we do to, pardon the pun, change our mindset, change our approach, change our attitude in dealing with this global pandemic. She provides a variety of simple tips that you can employ during a time of stress. And I hope you enjoy our interview.

Announcer: [00:03:10] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:17] Before we get to the interview, I would like to suggest after listening to this episode, you go listen to Season 2, Episode 35 with Dave Caperton titled Using Humor to Open People Up to New Mindsets. This episode is extremely relevant to dealing with the stress of COVID-19. Now, let’s get to the interview with Jennifer Elder. Hey. Welcome back, everybody. Today, I have a good friend, otherwise known sometimes as my office wife, who now has a new title, The Diva of Disaster, Jennifer Elder, with me to talk about our current environment out there as we relate to COVID-19. And Jennifer, welcome to the show again. Thank you for the taking time to help my audience.

Jennifer Elder: [00:04:11] Thank you. Happy to be here, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:14] So, let’s just get right to it. What’s the one big tip that you can give to my audience? And the title of the podcast is to change their mindset. What’s the one big tip that you can give the audience to help them, off the bat, to begin to change the mindset as we begin to go through this daily dealing with this pandemic?

Jennifer Elder: [00:04:37] Well, you just stole my big line, is that that is the one big tip, is you have to change your mindset under the current conditions. We can’t do the same thing the same way under the new abnormal normal and expect the same results. So, you have to change your mindset and it’s hard right now. Everybody is—you know, we’re—how do we keep normal when there is no normal? We don’t have any routines anymore. Our business process is kind of blown up on us when everybody’s working from home. So, the one question, I think, we all need to be asking right now is how can we be part of the solution? What can we do differently that makes things better? Rather than trying to do the round peg into a square hole, you know. Let’s do the same thing that we’re doing, but it’s weird.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:36] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:05:38] What could we do differently? Where’s the opportunity? So, for example, here in New Hampshire, and you told me in Ohio, too, the restaurants are now not allowed to have dine-in.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:51] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:05:53] This is horrifying for restaurants. You can wallow in the horror or you can start thinking about what could I do to be part of the solution? Well, there are a gazillion people working from home who still need to eat. So, what if you offered lunch delivery service? What if you offered to make meals for senior citizens at a reduced cost? There are ways you can figure out how to do what you do in a slightly different way that becomes part of the solution to what’s going on right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:34] Because we’re going to lose—we’re all losing money in our businesses, period.

Jennifer Elder: [00:06:39] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:39] So, look at from the, how can I serve my audience? How can I serve my community in a way that will benefit them and still provide something to the solution of the current situation?

Jennifer Elder: [00:06:56] Yes. So, no, we don’t want to price gouge, but, you know, we’re all—like you said, we’re all losing money. There’s an economic impact to everyone right now. Even those that are doing well are still, you know, giving discounted services. So, a lot of the web service providers, the virtual meeting providers are offering free software right now to be part of the solution. So, we’re all losing money, but if that’s the case, are there places that we could make money but still do good for the society? This almost goes back to the definition of sustainability, which is that you can do well by doing good.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:43] Right. And which makes me think about, so think about your clients, think about the people who you’re doing business with. And if you know that they’re in hard times, cut the costs.

Jennifer Elder: [00:07:55] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:57] At least cut some of that costs so they can maintain their service with you and you can restore it when we get back to normal, but provide some relief to those around you.

Jennifer Elder: [00:08:10] Yeah. Or if you are a manufacturer and suddenly, you’re being hit with your customers canceling orders, what if you called some of your good customers and say, you know what, instead of canceling that order, how about we defer it? How about we delay it? And if you give me a small deposit, then as soon as you’re ready, I will hop on it and get you exactly what you need when you need it. So, there’s a win-win in there because once demand does come back, oh, some people are going to find out that they can’t get the supplies that they now need because everybody’s coming back at the same time. So, think about—again, restaurants are easy right now. When the ban on dine-in is lifted, every restaurant is going to be scrambling to fill their restaurant with food, their freezers, their shelves. And so, the grocery suppliers are going to be swamped. So, I’d rather give a deposit to somebody so that I know the minute I need my stuff, they’re there for me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:26] Right. Right. Once we get past this panic thought process, that we’re scared, and now, I have to work from home, I’ve got a laptop, and I’ve got, you know, my kids jumping on my head, and both spouses are in the house now all day at all times. This is a new normal that they’re uncomfortable with.

Jennifer Elder: [00:09:52] Yes. And so, we are going to have to be creative in our solutions. And, you know, you mentioned our customers, our clients are in pain right now. Touch base with them. We all need an outlet right now. So, if you were upset at work, you could just walk into the lunch room, grab a cup of coffee, and there’ll be somebody in there and you can go bitch. Right now, we’re all stressed. We got issues, and there’s nobody to talk to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:29] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:10:29] You know, the dog, yeah, they wag their tail, you think everything is wonderful, but we don’t have that opportunity to have an outlet for the things that are bothering us. Yes, we can call some of our co-workers, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that, "Well, I don’t want to bother them. There’s already enough going on. They have their kids at home, their spouse at home. I don’t want to pile on." So, people are keeping it in. So, why not call your customers and just say, "How are you doing? What’s going on?" Find out what their pain points are, and then have a brainstorming session with your staff and your team, "What can we do to help?" Now, I know, Pete, you’re all about improv. I think this is where it’s going to come into play.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:19] Absolutely.

Jennifer Elder: [00:11:19] How can we do things differently right now? How do you pivot? Now, use your "yes, and", we got to be mindful of this when people go, "Yeah, but we can’t do that." Oh, no. Let’s just keep going with, "Yes, and how could we do that?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:38] So, as I saw a lot of my business fall off and realized that it’s probably going to continue for a bit, I went into, "So, what can I do?" I’m not going to sit here eating bonbons and watch Ellen all day or binge-watch or anything like that, maybe binge-drink, but no, that will come later. And I went, "So, I’m used to working from home. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’m used to a remote work force. I’m used to doing virtual presentations. I know how to operate Zoom. I can work with GoToWebinar." And I went, "Do you know how many small nonprofits have no idea how to use this stuff?"

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:20] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:20] So, I contacted the Ohio Society of Association Execs, the CEO, Jarrod Clabaugh, and proposed that, "Let me help your members. Let me help you. If any of your members have issues or they want to learn more about how to use Zoom or how do you conduct—no charge. You’ve got my time. You’ve got my—I’ll even help you do this stuff." And it’s just—and I’m not expecting anything in return. I just want to help serve so when things do come through, everybody’s in a better spot than they were, and then maybe they’ll remember that I helped, and they will help me at that time.

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:00] Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, I’m doing the same thing, was talking to some nonprofits, sending out emails to my newsletter list and saying, "Hey, if you’re not used to doing virtual meetings or don’t know how to do it or don’t have the ability to host, I’m here to help, and at no charge."

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:27] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:28] And I think this is where you become part of the solution, and you’re making an investment in other people, they will remember this. You know, you and I both talk about networking, and one of the things we both talk about is how you have to give in your networking before you can get. And I know all of your listeners, this will resonate with them, how many times have you gotten a LinkedIn request to join my network, and you say yes? You have no idea who they are, but you say yes anyway. And 30 seconds later, "Now, let me tell you about my special one-time-only offer, Can I call you right now?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:14] No.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:16] Unfriend. So, that’s how not to do networking, that’s how to take before you give.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:23] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:23] Right now, we all have a great opportunity to give first, give to other people, help them with their troubles, and this will come back tenfold over. It’s not karma. All right. If you believe in karma, it’s karma. If you don’t believe in karma, it is a—you know, it’s like you put money in the bank, and there’s interest growing on it. This is putting virtual money in the bank.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:53] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:53] And you will earn interest on it. And when things do come back to normal, we’re going to remember the people who helped us out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:01] And also, it goes, so we’ve lost our sense of community a bit since we’re not in the work force, we’re not having that face-to-face contact. And I don’t know if you had the same issue, but when you took the business, home-based business for the first time, I didn’t know what to do. The refrigerator and I were best friends. The refrigerator would call me and the pantry will call, "Hey, come on up. I got some good stuff in here. Come." So, I put on about 20 really easily. But the only way—then, I said, "You know what, I can’t do it here", so I’d go to Starbucks and Panera. Well, those, they’re out right now. So, I ended up—you know, so I went to that phase where at one point, I said, "You know what, I have to develop a schedule, a discipline to do day in and day out."

Jennifer Elder: [00:15:46] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:46] And we still have to do that in coping with this. We still have to have some type of—and just to be transparent, I’m working on this with the family upstairs, and having a little bit of an issue with a 19-year old, realized that this is just an extended spring break.

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:07] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:08] But you need people on a schedule again.

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:10] That’s huge right now. When your world gets turned upside down and you have so little control over what’s going on, you need routine again and you need to control what you can control. So, people who start working from home right now, they’re probably, you know, in the last week or two, three, four, however many they’ve been working from home, but that first couple of weeks, it’s awful. You have no routine, everything is an interruption, everything is a distraction. So, you have to decide for yourself, you’ve got to change your mindset, that this is my new normal. What does my new work life look like? Now, for some people, they have a home office, others don’t. I’ve seen some really creative solutions for creating a home office, a standing desk that you’re used to at work. I’ve seen people use ironing boards as a standing desk.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:15] Nice.

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:15] People are working from the dining room table, the kitchen counter, they are—from a laundry basket. You know, they’re having to figure out a space to work from. You should also set some new hours, and set some boundaries with your family. So, in my house, I’ve been working from home for a while, but with being The Diva of Disaster, had all kinds of requests to help, which is fabulous. Happy to help, and happy to help your listeners, too.

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:56] But I’ve had to set ground rules with my spouse so that if I’m in my office and the door is shut, that means I’m working, don’t even think about coming in, don’t interrupt me. Previous to that, it really—I didn’t need it. But now, we’re doing so much work virtually, this podcast, we do virtual meetings, you’ve got to set those boundaries. Home is not home anymore. Home is now home and an office.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:28] Yeah. And we can get isolated during this time, and I would recommend, I have no affiliation with Zoom, other than that I use it or Facetime or Skype or whatever you use, but when you want to call, when you want to talk to a friend or family member, use that feature on there just versus the phone itself because now, you’ve got a human that you’re looking at, that-

Jennifer Elder: [00:18:56] We need face-to-face feedback.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:58] Yeah, we do. We do.

Jennifer Elder: [00:19:00] It’s so important now, families can set up group calls with their families, so everybody can be on at the same time. And, you know, it’s not the same as getting together for the holidays, but it’s better than being isolated and by yourself. And I think it’s very important—you made a really good point that it’s important to reach out. I think there are going to be a lot of people who are going to become even more isolated.

Jennifer Elder: [00:19:37] Because, particularly people who are usually positive, when they’re feeling anxious or concerned, they don’t want to share that with other people, they’re used to being the positive one. So, they’re not going to reach out when they’re upset. So, if you haven’t heard from somebody for a while, reach out to them. They’re not ignoring you. They just don’t want to impose their bad mood on you. But really, we all need to be able to get it out of our system right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:07] Right. Right. And so, if I have any superpower and I’ve seen this superpower really come to use of this last week because I love making people laugh, and I’m probably taking it too far at times, but, you know, little bunny Foo Foo running to forest. I mean, cringy stuff like that, but it just makes people—just that that laughter just helps.

Jennifer Elder: [00:20:29] Yes. Or if somebody is, you know, panicking over COVID-19, I will go, "Oh, my God, the sky is falling. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God." Then, yes, I’m making fun of them, but I’m making fun with them, too. I’m making fun of myself. And we do need to laugh. It’s so important. With my family, we’ve started a group text where every day, people are posting goofy memes, small jokes, just something so that we can all smile. And even if you go, "Oh, that’s stupid", you’re still laughing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:14] Yeah, somebody sent me one of a video of a guy in a car, stops and this shady-looking kid there, and he calls him over and he says, "You got the stuff." Was it, "You got the money"?

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:23] I sent that to you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:24] Yeah. And then, it takes on a lot of pondering-.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:27] It’s a drug deal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:28] Yeah, it’s a drug deal, but it’s really, "Here’s some toilet paper and some hand sanitizer."

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:34] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:35] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:35] Yeah. And you know what was the funny part about that, is like three days later, there was a kid who was suspended from school for selling squirts of hand sanitizer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:48] Hey, that’s an entrepreneur.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:50] I was like, "Oh, my God. It really is happening." We’re having drug deals every hand sanitizer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:56] Hand sanitizer. And, you know, I’ve had conversations with a lot of, I don’t get the hoarding of toilet paper. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it unless they’re trying to TP a bunch of houses. You know, it’s like, "Stay calm."

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:13] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:14] Here’s my concern, though, this is going to air around April 13th, as I believe, if my memory serves me correct. And this—and today is March 19th. So, we’re a month from now. We don’t know what that’s—the landscape is going to change. We know that.

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:33] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:33] Because well, you just did a webinar for the Maryland Association of CPAs on the COVID-19. And it was aired over maybe a-week-and-a-half, and they’ve asked you to re-record it because the landscape has changed.

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:48] Yes. Landscape is changing every day at the federal level and at the state level. And for business owners, business leaders, they have to stay on top of employment law changes, and that really is changing daily. So, no, a month from now, we’re not going to know what the landscape is, but I can tell you, being able to change your mindset, being able to pivot, being able to stay positive is going to be crucial regardless of what our landscape is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:25] Right. Doesn’t matter. You know, we’re going to see numbers increase, that’s the forecast. We’re going to see this—you know, we’re not at at the peak now, and the anticipation is sometimes between now and I guess, next three to four weeks, I don’t really know, but as we say in improv, don’t focus on the things you can’t control. Only focus on the things you can control, and that will help with your sanity.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:52] And you can control your reaction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:55] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:56] And one thing that we all have to be mindful of right now is psychologically, humans are hard-wired to pay attention to the negative because your body is designed to keep you alive. Negative can hurt you, so your brain instantly latches on to anything negative.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:16] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:24:16] The issue with that is for every negative thought, it takes three positive thoughts to get back to zero, just to get back to even.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:26] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:24:27] So, it’s really important for everybody’s sanity to forcibly change how you look at things, don’t—I mean, yes, we can’t help but lament over the things we can’t control, but then focus on the things that you can, focus on your reaction, and at least be mindful. You know, I’ve been wallowing in "the sky is falling" mentality, let me go take two minutes, five minutes, let me go to YouTube, and watch goofy dog and cat videos, just something that makes you laugh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:08] Yeah, just something. So, now that the world has turned around and what I’ve decided to do is in my day, between 4:00 and 4:30, no more working past that, and then go spend time with the family. So, I’ve moved that time up an hour, hour-and-a-half because it used to be 6:00 or 6:30 at times. Now, I want to take the time and like tonight, we’re going to play—well, I asked Steven if he wants to play Rhyme, he goes, "Sure, as long as you guys don’t mind getting beat."

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:48] Yeah, I mean—

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:48] And then, we’re having a family dinner. But it’s-

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:51] Yeah. So, you know, think about, again, changing how you look at things. The opportunity here is you have time to spend with your children, your spouse, take advantage of that. And for some people, you may have to change your work hours. So, if you have smaller children at home, they’re up early, they’re bored to tears, they’re going to need a lot more of your time, so you may need to adjust your work hours. You may not be able to work from 8:00 until 4:00.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:26] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:26] You may need to wait until starting your workday at 3:00 in the afternoon or you may need to alternate with your spouse. And your spouse takes the morning shift, you take the afternoon shift, but we’ve got to figure out some way of dealing with this. The people I’m actually worried about, Peter, are those that do not have good family relationships.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:49] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:49] And now, they’re forced to be around each other 24/7.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:54] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:54] And this is going to be stressful.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:57] Yes.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:57] People with teenagers, this is—you know, teenagers get stressed, they’re hormonal, they’re going to be snappy, not in a good way, and how do you deal with that? You know, one thing we haven’t mentioned yet is one of the mindsets you really need to add in here is patience. We have to be patient with each other. And that’s with your family. It’s with your co-workers. It’s with people at the store. I was out doing my normal grocery shopping. If I was panic-buying anything, it was two cases of beer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:44] Only two?

Jennifer Elder: [00:27:48] But it was bizarre. I mean, the store had been wiped out. Canned goods, yes, toilet paper, paper towels. I bet there were just swaths of the store that the shelves were empty. And there were a couple of people that I saw in the store that were running around in a frenzy with their cart and they’re bumping into people, and getting mad that they ran into somebody. It’s like they’re trying to go around somebody, but they bumped them, and then they’re like, "What are you doing?" And then, they go to find something that’s not on the shelves and there’s a string of four-letter words that are coming out. They have to understand we all need to be a little bit more patient.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:37] Right. So, I’m purposely wearing this t-shirt because of this podcast. And by the way, because I wanted Jennifer to kind of be in a happy mood. I know she’s in New Hampshire and I know she loves to ski, I’ve got a virtual background of a snow-covered mountain for her that have that calmness to it, but my shirt reads, what does my shirt say?

Jennifer Elder: [00:28:58] Be good to people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:59] Be good to people.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:01] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:01] As simple as that. Be good to people. And it’s, take care of people. It’s about us, but then it’s also about the people around us. It’s also about checking on our neighbors. It’s also about checking on our elderly parents. It’s also about checking on each other. And actually, I ask Steven every day, you know, "You can talk to me about it. If anything’s bothering you about what’s going on, you can talk to me about it."

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:30] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:31] "Right, Dad. Oh, by the way, can you fix me something to eat?" We’re getting there, slowly but surely. But it’s also-

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:37] It’s just giving the opportunity.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:40] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:40] Saying you’re there for them, "If you want to talk, I’m here to listen." I shared this with a friend of mine, I said, you know, "If you want to talk about this-", because a friend of mine now, there’s a possibility that she was exposed. Not a big possibility, but still, it’s a possibility. So, I said, you know, if you want to talk, I realize there’s nothing that we can do, there’s nothing we can fix. But if you just want somebody to listen, I’m happy to just sit and listen to what you have to say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:15] They were appreciative of that offer.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:18] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:19] Of course, yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:19] And actually, what was kind of funny, when she said, "No, I think I’m good. I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m good." And then, 30 seconds later, she’s talking about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:33] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:33] I let her go. I just listened. And then, she came around after a couple minutes and said, "I said I didn’t want to talk, didn’t I?" And then, realized that she had just been talking for five minutes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:50] I’ve got a good friend who this doctor believes, and this was before they freed up how to test, this doctor believe that he came down with it, that he has it. And he self-quarantined himself at his lake house in northeast Ohio. And ever since I found that, every day, I just send him a text, "How are you doing today?" And we’ve just been having this conversation every single day. You know, it was getting worse, "Not feeling well." And I go, "Okay." So, I, "Hey, do you have Netflix? Hey, I just watched this movie on Netflix", and just give him suggestions and stuff. And then, yesterday, he said for the first time, "I think I’m starting to get past this thing."

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:31] Nice.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:31] But it’s just making that contact, and especially if you know somebody who—because, you know, I’ll talk to him after it’s said and done about his thoughts while he was dealing with COVID-19 on a daily basis, on an hourly basis.

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:48] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:49] Yeah. It’s-

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:50] Because the impact is from one extreme to the other, so I can’t imagine the thought that somebody has if they have been diagnosed, worrying about themselves, worrying about their family, their co-workers, I’d worry about even people I ran into at the supermarket, you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:11] Yeah. And as you know, when we got back from one of our conference, I got to speak with a non-coronavirus and I kept going, "Oh, my God, I hope not everybody that I came in contact with, but nobody who I was around was sick over this period of time." And so, I must have caught it in an airplane, but even just that little bit of uncertainty there for a while was, "Do I have this? Do I not?" with that. And I’m a Type 1 diabetic, your thoughts start running. And I had to say stop. Yes, and you don’t have this. You probably don’t have this.

Jennifer Elder: [00:32:51] Well, two things my sister always talks about, and you’ve heard this—many people have heard this before. Fear is an acronym of false expectations appearing real.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:08] I’ve never heard of that.

Jennifer Elder: [00:33:09] Fear, very often, what we worry about, what we’re afraid of never actually happens, and we spend a lot of our time worrying and stressing. My sister’s variation on that is worry when the time comes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:28] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:33:29] So, you can worry, "Did somebody else get sick?" I’ve got no control over that. I can’t do anything about it. If somebody that I came into contact with does get sick, now, I actually can do something. I can apologize or I can, you know, share what I did. There are things you can do. When something happens, now, you have control. You can actually do something to react to it. But the worry, there’s nothing positive you can do about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:04] Exactly.

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:04] So, there’s another change in mindset.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:07] So, as we wrap up, everything that you said has been spot on. What’s the one last thing you want to leave them thinking as they’ve listened to our conversation?

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:22] I will end with right where we started, Pete, which is find the positive, find where you can be part of the solution. That works for the people around us, and it works for us personally.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:38] First, thank you very much. And two-

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:40] Oh, no, no, thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:42] And I hope you and Sam stay safe, stay healthy. We will keep in contact. And The Diva of Disaster, thank you, and my audience thanks you as well. I’m going to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be healthy, practice social distancing, be safe, and just implement a couple of tips from today’s episode, as well as the episode with Jay Sukow to help ease your stress. Be safe.

Announcer: [00:35:24] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E5. An Improviser’s Approach to COVID-19 with Jay Sukow

Friend of the show Jay Sukow is an improv coach, and although improv is probably not the first thing you turn to or think of in a crisis, he has some great tips for dealing with our current situation.

We are all dealing with the stress of the unknown circumstances regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Improv has always been an incredibly impactful way to deal with the daily stressors of life and — in the midst of this global situation — is more useful than ever in helping to cope with overwhelming levels of stress.

Finding our new normal

The improviser’s mindset is not to hold on to anything too dearly because everything is changing all the time. You have to be willing to let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore and move forward with new information. We are constantly being updated with new information right now.

“One of the things that helps me in these situations,” Jay says, “is reminding yourself to stay present, stay present, stay present.” You have to take inventory of what is an immediate threat right now. Look at each situation individually. Rent is due eventually, but is it due now? Don’t ignore that it’s going to need to be paid eventually, but train yourself to take in each thing moment to moment.

Breathwork is another thing that’s going to help you stay present. Put down your phone, breathe in for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds. You’ll be amazed at what this can do to calm your system.

Getting out of your head

Stress isn’t doing us any favors. If you’re crawling up in your head, it’s hard to get back out. If you can think of your worries as two big, heavy suitcases, imagine that at the end of the night you are putting them down and letting go of all those worries.

Another thing to be aware of is how much screen time you are having right now. Whether it’s social media or the news, you’re bound to be exposed to more and more stress. Limit your time to just a few minutes a day. You can still catch up on all the news without worrying over every update.

When you’re feeling those heavy feelings, it can be helpful to figure out what the truth of the situation is right now. How are you feeling? When you can start naming your feelings, it helps you get out of your head even more.

The world needs improv

The world needs improvisers now more than ever, whether it’s your mindset, the focus on the group, or just to bring laughter to a situation. This is very serious and people are being affected by this, people are dying, and there is sadness and anxiety around that. But improvisers can bring empathy to the situation and look at it as an opportunity to share that empathy and to share that joy and that hope and that love. That is something the world can’t get enough of right now.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:08] I mean, we need to laugh now more than ever.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:11] Right. Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:13] And like a friend of mine said, you know, this self-quarantine doesn’t have to mean self-isolation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:19] Right. Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:21] And that’s something, you know, you got to kind of just look at it as like you’re establishing a new normal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:27] You think like that? I think like that. Most the population doesn’t think like that. Adaptability and trying not to use the word pivot because it’s being overused now in this situation, but the ability to adapt to a changing landscape is very, very difficult for a lot of people, period.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:47] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:48] Us, we can do it on a dime.

Jay Sukow: [00:00:52] Well, it’s also, you know, for us, in addition to the improviser mindset, it’s also your life and how long you’ve been freelancing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:04] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:01:05] And, you know, this whole terminology now of like the gig economy, it’s like I’ve been doing the gig economy for almost 30 years. And so, in this situation, it’s like that’s kind of prepared me. You know, you’re in—we’re in a state of fear because it’s also—it’s not just fear of this unseen enemy, it’s fear also of the unknown. And, you know, if you sit down and you list out all the concerns, they’re very valid and real, it’s like, "What am I to do for work?"

Jay Sukow: [00:01:38] What if you’re someone who’s a—you know, you work at a fast food restaurant or you work at a coffee shop or you’re a driver of some sort and you can’t go out, it’s not like—you know, there are some people who can’t transfer their work online. So, how do you keep that mindset? And they’ll look at this as like, you know, to accept—I think it’s you accept the fact that, yeah, everything is very scary right now, it’s very uncertain. Whatever happens, there are going to be some pretty cool opportunities that come of it.

Jay Sukow: [00:02:11] Now, you might not know what it is right now, and that’s the thing. If people knew right now, I think they’d feel a lot better. But because you don’t know, you’re dealing in these unchartered waters. I mean, literally, in at least our lifetimes and recent human history, this is unchartered. I mean, this is something that went from, you know, what is this thing that doesn’t affect me, too? Now, I’m quarantined.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:36] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:02:36] And now, how do you deal with it? How do you keep up your sanity? How do you keep up your spirits? How do you keep up staying outside of that? That could be easily be falling down that spiral, into that abyss of like, "Oh, man, I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent, I don’t know how I’m going to survive. I mean, those are very real concerns.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:03] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believe that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:50] Welcome, everyone. I’m recording this episode on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020, to be released on March 30th. And I’m aware that the coronavirus landscape will have changed and we may be dealing with the peak of this pandemic in the US at this point in time. We’re all dealing with the stress of this unknown. And think about how I can provide an alternative method of dealing with this stress? Improv, as always, helped me, my family and my friends in our daily dealing with the COVID-19 stress, as well as dealing with everyday stress with that, the coronavirus.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:30] So, my guest today is Jay Sukow, who’s also my improv coach. And Jay’s going to share some tips on how to deal with our current situation. Jay will gladly talk endlessly about how much better the world would be if everyone just took one improv class. Jay began teaching for Second City in 2010 and teaches in both the improv and conservatory programs. He’s also a facilitator of Second City Works, teaching improv to business professionals in order to drive behavior change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:02] Previously, he was on faculty at the Second City Chicago, IO Chicago, and Comedy Sports Chicago. He’s performed professionally for over 25 years and get his start on stages of the Second City Northwest, where he spent two years performing both original and archive material. He’s also been seen on several improv and sketch comedy teams, too numerous to mention. He has taught and performed improv and sketch comedy throughout the world, including big IF4, Copenhagen International Improv Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Del Close Marathon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:40] He’s been on several podcasts, including Tales of the Teachers Lounge, Improv Yak, Improv Nerd and ADD Comedy, and was featured in the improv documentary, Weather the Weather. Jay’s a great guy. He’s got great information. And I hope this episode will provide you some new ways or new ways to think about how we deal with our current stress levels in dealing with this coronavirus pandemic.

Announcer: [00:06:11] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:18] Now, let’s get to the interview with Jay Sukow. Welcome, everybody. My guest today is, and he’s a repeat offender on this show, Mr. Jay-.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:31] I keep coming on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:32] Keep coming on. I love it when you come on, Jay Sukow. And Jay is a professional improviser, as you’ve heard already in his bio that I’ve included at the introduction of this podcast. And actually, we’re going to get right to the conversation. And so, first, Jay, welcome. Thank you.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:50] Thanks.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:50] I’m sitting on the beach in Malibu and Jay is hunkered down somewhere in LA. My backdrop is the actual beach in Malibu. So, I’m trying to, you know, have that kind of mindset, that kind of emotion coming out, just to—versus looking at the back of my wall, just have some calmness out there for you. Jay, welcome. Thank you very much. Looking forward to this conversation, buddy.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:14] Peter, thank you. And look at that. It’s just—you’re right up the street. Look at that background. The blue skies, the birds, the water. Oh, wonderful. At home.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:27] And there’s nobody on the beach as well.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:29] No. I mean, that’s pretty accurate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:31] It is pretty accurate.

Jay Sukow: [00:07:31] Everyone’s inside. Thanks for having me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:36] Oh, thanks. Thanks for taking the time. I know you’ve got a lot of going on in trying to figure out our new normal as it exists. But as an improviser for 30 years, I’ve learned so much from you and our interactions over this past year. How can we help my audience in dealing with this new normal? And it’s not even new. I mean, it’s new, but it hasn’t become that normal because it’s rapidly changing.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:11] Yeah, I think that that’s the key phrase right now, it’s like new normal. And, you know, as improvisers, we have a mindset that like don’t hold on to anything dearly because everything changes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:23] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:23] And you have to let go of that which doesn’t serve you anymore, and then move forward with new information. And we are constantly being updated new information right now. And so, I think one of the things that helps me in these situations is, you know, reminding yourself to stay present, stay present, stay present. What’s happening right now? What is an immediate threat to me right now? You know, I look at something like rent. It’s like, "Well, do I have to pay rent right now?"

Jay Sukow: [00:08:55] Right now, I don’t, Now, let’s not ignore the fact that it’s going to happen, but if you could stay present and you just—you’re trying to train yourself to take things moment to moment. So, moment to moment, realizing everything’s going to change. And another way to do that is to, you know, focus on breathing. Sometimes, I just take a moment, you know, turn off your computer or your phone and just breathe in for a four count, and then breathe out for a four count.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:23] And you’ll be amazed at what that does. It also keeps you in the moment, which is one of the biggest things right now because there’s so much uncertainty. There’s so much—if you thought your life was uncertain before, now, it’s like, oh, man, now, it’s not just uncertainty of things you can do, but it’s uncertainty of things that are happening all around you. So, I think take a breath. Another thing that can help with this is, you know, find those people who will bring you joy.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:49] I had a friend and he said, you know, this whole self-quarantine doesn’t mean to isolate yourself. You know, it’s not a self-isolation. So, take a moment. And I got a call from my friend, Dave, last week just saying, "Hey, how you doing?" And it was such a wonderful gesture of him to reach out and just go, "Hey, I’m just checking in", especially when you’re in the similar boat, if you’re both freelancers or if you’re both accountants or if you both work in an office or you have the more shared experiences, then the more you could just let out what your fears and concerns are.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:22] And I’ll be transparent with you, Jay. I’m really good about being present and being in the moment and trying to focus on the things that I can control, but I slipped yesterday. I got out of being present. And I went down this path. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:10:38] It’s fun, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:39] No.

Jay Sukow: [00:10:39] It’s a bit fun.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:40] Not one bit. I love following the fear.

Jay Sukow: [00:10:43] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:44] But this was getting outside of I think just getting, all of a sudden, caught up in this rush of—and it wasn’t a good thing. And the only way I could get myself out of it and you just shared, I said, "Take a breath, dummy."

Jay Sukow: [00:10:58] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:58] "Just breathe", because I wasn’t breathing.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:01] And you—and it’s so hard to get out of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:03] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:03] You know, you have to—it’s, you know, what we’re trying to do as improvisers, is we’re always trying to get out of our heads.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:10] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:11] And once you get up in there and you climb up in your head, it’s hard to get out. And you’re very smart, so you will—your brain wants to always be right. So, your brain wants to say things like, "Well"—you know, like your brain doesn’t want to say, "Hey, man, everything’s going to be fine. You survive. You’re a survivor. Things are going to look different, but you’re going to be okay." Like you start now looking around to it. There are examples of—I think in general, humanity wants to take care of itself and wants to protect the herd.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:45] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:45] And so, there are examples happening all over. There was a guy on Twitter who said, "Hey, you know, F the coronavirus. If you have a bill you aren’t able to pay, post it here, give me your Venmo." And then, that started the chain of he started paying people’s bills, and then people would follow him, and then people would say like, "Oh, I got that bill for you." So, people started helping each other out. There’s a lot of resources as well that you can reach out to in your city or county or state, where you can find ways to help, you know.

Jay Sukow: [00:12:16] So, I think things are slowly starting to change. I think there’s becoming—there are certain landlords as well that are saying, "Hey, can you—if you can only pay me half or maybe not this month", like—but what you have to realize with that as well is like all those people have mortgages that they have to pay. So, I think there are these examples where we’re starting to slowly take care of ourselves, but it’s going to take a while. This was something that, you know, people didn’t take seriously for a while. And now, all of a sudden, it’s like, "Oh, man, now, it’s here."

Jay Sukow: [00:12:50] So, that’s adding to the nervousness. But yeah, like you said, if you could take a moment and take a breath, sometimes it’s—I remember I had a therapist who said, "Imagine you have two big—visualize two big suitcases, heavy, heavy suitcases. At the end of the night, visualize your—just say to yourself, ‘I’m done’, and visualize putting them down." And then, that represents all the burdens you’re carrying in the day. Just go, "I’m done. I’ve done enough today." And it’s something that really has helped me, where I go, "All right. I’m spiraling. I’m thinking about all of what’s happening right now." I’m only focused on the bad because, you know, it’s just my brain’s way of focusing on surviving.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:34] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:35] But if I can say, "Hey, wait a minute, let me put these down right now, these heavy thoughts. I’m going to put these down." And another thing is, you know, how much screen time are you having? Because the more I go on social media, especially Twitter, or the more that I see all this stress and anxiety pop up.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:56] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:56] So, like another thing is can you limit your amount of time you’re on social media because that just accelerates the anxiety?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:05] And for old folks like myself and older baby boomers like myself who’s still stuck to like TV in the morning, watching the news and stuff, I did that this morning, I said, "I’m going to watch the first 10 minutes of the Today Show and that’s it."

Jay Sukow: [00:14:20] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:20] I’m going to work.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:21] That’s great. That’s great. I think like, first, you know, if you want to do the first—you know, set a time like the first few minutes in the day or at the end. You can go online at the end of the night.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:31] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:32] And you can get a recap of everything that’s happened in a very short amount of time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:36] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:36] So, there are things you have in your control of things you can do to kind of limit your exposure to that anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:44] Well, the one quote that you said, I’m giving you credit for it because I think it came from you in one of our conversations, "Improvise the scene you’re in, not the one you wanted to be."

Jay Sukow: [00:14:57] Yeah. And that’s, you know—any of the quotes I say, as you know, are not mine. I don’t have a single original thought. I heard that from someone. Well, I mean, a lot of these, like I’m sharing from other people I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:10] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:10] And it’s true. That’s the one—that’s a great philosophy of life. It’s not the time we want right now, but it’s the time we’re in. And it’s all to do with, you know—and I’ve been thinking a lot about acceptance. And for a lot of people, acceptance might equal weakness. And it’s like, no, acceptance is a very brave and strong thing to do. It’s like I’m accepting the situation I’m in. Once I’ve accepted it, then I can make decisions based on it. But when I’m not accepting the reality, I’m just struggling.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:39] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:39] When I don’t want to accept what’s happening, it’s like, well, that gets me in trouble. But if I can accept it now, I can respond to it. And I think we’re in this constant state of just being in response to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:50] Yeah. And I will admit that every—since this started, "Improvise the scene that you’re in, not the one that you wanted to be", Is what I said at the very beginning of my day. And to your point, when I put the suitcases down at the end of the day. And just to route in order to—okay. So, apparently, I had a problem yesterday because it helped keep me present and focused on how am I dealing with this and not getting stuck, like you said, up in your head. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:16:16] And with that, be compassionate for ourselves. Like this is all a huge, very steep learning curve. And so, if something happens during the day and you get frustrated with yourself, whether it’s like I wasn’t present or I didn’t handle things a certain way or I wish I could have, you know, the old phrase like, "You’re should-ing all over yourself", like, "I should have done this, I should have done that", you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:42] I’m glad you verified that.

Jay Sukow: [00:16:44] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:45] You’re should-ing-

Jay Sukow: [00:16:46] You’re should-ing all over yourself, man. What my friend says, "You’re practicing the art of must-urbation." Like, "I must do this, I must do that." It’s like if you can let go of those and you say, okay, I shouldn’t have done anything, I did what I did. Sometimes, if the opportunity presents itself next time, I’ll change my response. But what I did, I have to accept that that’s what I did. And now, it’s time to continue to move forward and build this momentum.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:14] And sometimes, you know, I had a therapist once who said, "Jay, if you’re depressed, be the best depressed you can be." And I was like, "Man, forget you." But what? And I was like, "I don’t want that." And I went, "Oh, right. That’s the problem. I don’t want to sit in this emotion. I don’t want to feel this. I want to be happy all the time. I feel like I’m entitled." And it’s like, no, that’s not the way it is. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re feeling depressed like it will all change, but you just sit in it and you go, "Eventually, this, I’ll ride this out."

Jay Sukow: [00:17:52] You know, the friend of mine once told me like, "Just tie a knot and hold on." And sometimes, that involves other people. You know, when it’s very hard for people to reach out, it’s very hard for us to reach out sometimes. And I’d say like, "Hey, I need help" or like, "I’m not feeling well" or—but you’re just like in an improv scene, you’re just calling out what the truth is. And those scenes are always more fascinating when someone says like, "Hey, you look sad", rather than we’re trying to hide what’s going on. It’s like, "What’s the truth that’s happening right now?" versus, you know, in improve scenes, we talk about truth and fact, where it’s like, the fact is we’re at the Starbucks, but that’s not the truth.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:30] You know, the fact is we’re in the situation where there is now becoming a lot more like a self-quarantine and we don’t know what’s happening, like that’s the fact, but what’s the truth? Like what are you feeling? Like when you can start naming those feelings, you start getting out of your head even more, you know, get out of your head, into your heart. Like, "How are you feeling right now?" And another thing that helps my friend and this, to me, goes a lot with improv is playing from a sense of gratitude.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:56] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:56] When I improvised with people and I walk into a scene like I’m very grateful to have this moment with you right now. Like, if you have—if you change that mindset, and it’s very difficult. But if you change it to like this is a sense of gratitude, I don’t know why this is a good thing right now, but I’m grateful for this situation. And then, you know, you look at it and you go, "Maybe now is the time I get—I’m finally forced to do this thing."

Jay Sukow: [00:19:22] Like I wonder how many people are going to try to really learn guitar now. I’m thinking about that a lot. How many people have guitars and they’re like, they’ve been trying, they’ve wanted to learn it, wanted to learn it. And now, finally, they might find themselves with some free time. You know, another thing that helps with this is establishing the new routine. You know, treating the day like it’s still a workday.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:46] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:19:46] Like for me, it’s still a workday. Most of my time when I’m like, let’s say I’m looking for work or I’m reaching out to people, I’m kind of doing the schedule anyway. So, establish what your new routine is, even if you just write it down. Like writing things down, it’s amazing because a lot of times, those things happen once you write them down, but you put them in the light and you’re like, "Okay, now, I can look back to what’s my routine."

Jay Sukow: [00:20:10] And, you know, maybe—and everything changes. Everything is going day-to-day so that the improviser is able to be more flexible because that’s what our instinct is or we’ve been trained to do, is like, "Okay, everything is—what’s happening today, not going to be the same tomorrow." I’m undergoing some training with one of the theaters I work with and they’re always saying, "This is for today."

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:32] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:20:33] And everything’s going to change. And, you know, now, we’re trying to teach improv online. And I’m finding it fascinating because for years, I always thought I’d love to be able to improvise with someone who’s not in my city, a friend of mine who moved away. It’s how—and it’s like, how can we make that happen? And now, we’re forced to make it happen. So, for us, it’s—in a way, it’s scary, but in another way, oh, this is really exciting because also as a teacher, how fun is you don’t have to leave your house and you can still affect people and you can still teach people. And now, you just—you know, it’s forcing you to be more creative and innovative. I mean, this is forced innovation right now in my area of business. It’s the same for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:13] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:21:13] Same for like anybody, this is like forced innovation. And you look at it and you go, "Okay, I need to do this. This is what I’ve been doing. Is there a way I can adapt or change this to fit what this new world is?" And right now, the new world is going into these virtual meetings. Now, I think once things settle a little bit, we’ll get back to having these in-person needs, but I think this is a valuable tool set that we can have to say, "Okay, now, here’s another offering I have, which I didn’t have before."

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:46] And to a sense of gratitude, and improviser is very good at doing that, to the fact of, "Okay, I’m pretty proficient with them, in virtual meetings, and I’ve taught online courses and I’ve built-"

Jay Sukow: [00:21:57] Look at your background.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:59] I know, seriously.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:00] Green screen monster.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:02] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:02] And it’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:03] So, I contacted an association and said, "Hey, how can I help you and your members? This is my expertise. And your members are being forced into a virtual environment that they’re not accustomed to. Utilize me. I’m not charging you. I’m not asking for any money. I’m here to help you and your members."

Jay Sukow: [00:22:27] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:27] And it was very quick to move to that mindset. It was almost—I mean, I was brainstorming with a few of my speaker friends and someone made a comment, "Perfect. I love it. Let’s do it." I mean, that’s the thing.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:40] Right. Because they’re improvisers. Whether they’re performers or not, they have the mindset.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:44] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:22:44] And it’s changing that mindset to saying, "Yeah, let’s do it." And not just, "Let’s do it, but how can it work?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:51] Yeah. And another thing you said about playing the guitar, thank you for placing that in my head. But actually, three weeks ago, when I realized my business was beginning, to things were canceling, my mother and family have always wanted me to learn Greek because I only know the dirty words.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:09] Those are the best words.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] Well, the best words and my grandmother taught them to me. So, I went out and got a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone at a one-time cost. And I’ve been—now, I got to let the secret out. I’ve been teaching myself Greek on and off of the last three weeks. Who knows what’s going to happen in like another three months?

Jay Sukow: [00:23:29] I think that’s a great example, where you’re looking at, this is like—these are acknowledge the fear, acknowledge the anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:37] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:37] Be like, "Yeah, absolutely. I’m very anxious."

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:39] So, for some people, it’s writing this down. Some people is just thinking it, some people is saying it out loud. Once you’ve acknowledged it and you say, "Yeah, there’s a lot of uncertainty, I’m very scared", now, you move into, what can you do? What actually can you do? And you’re a perfect example of like, "I’m going to learn Greek. I’m going to do this. I’m going to purchase this. And I’m going to be of service." Like I have a scoop that I’m going to share with you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:05] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:24:05] It’s that—and I’m going to reach out to some people I have as far as like people that I coach or clients or things like that, and it’s until this whole thing settles, I’m going to start offering free sessions to be like, "Hey, we’re all in this together. If it’s a situation where you can’t pay, that’s fine." Like—and I’ll just start reaching out to the improv community and say, I want to have these one-on-one sessions with people and say, "What do you really need to work at? Let’s do that", right? And like, "Let’s spend this time doing it." It’s going to help me—I mean, it’s—in a way, it’s a selfish reason because it’s going to help me become more comfortable with online teaching.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:38] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:24:39] But in another way, it’s like I want to be able to be of service and that’s something I learned in improv is you’re of service to the show, you’re of service to your scene partner. How can it be of service right now? And what you said when you reach out to the associations, perfect example. It’s like, "Let’s be of service to each other right now." There are things we can and can’t do. Like right now, a lot of my friends and myself and you as well, a lot of people are seeing their incomes dry up. So, you go, okay, that’s the reality of situation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:08] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:25:08] If I self-isolate, it’s going to be a lot worse. I’m going to feel a lot worse. And it’s going to be on top of everything that’s happening now. It’s going to be harder for me to get out of that crevice. It’s going to be harder once I’m in it. Once I’m in my head and once I go, "Oh, man, this is it, it’s the end, I’m not going to survive", it’s so hard for me to get out of that. But if I can maintain this momentum and still do things and say, "Hey, you know, I’m very grateful for this opportunity."

Jay Sukow: [00:25:36] Now, I think you’re still accepting what’s happening, but I think it’s changing that mindset, you know, which is like one of your big focuses, like how do you change that mindset? And it’s a muscle. You know, you’re also dealing with X amount of years of thinking a certain way, whether that’s X amount of years of like I come into this office every day, this is my job and I’m rewarded for it. Like that’s your mindset then, it’s all changing now. So, you can hold on to it or you can let go of what that is because it doesn’t serve you. Now, I move on to something new.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:09] Right. It’s just being adaptable to a very changing landscape. And I will say this, I’ll offer this up, I’m intrigued by taking improv online to bringing it as a function of an online-so, if you need to collaborate with me about online environments, I’d love to help you guys with that because that’s fascinating to me.

Jay Sukow: [00:26:32] I also have a friend, too, who’s like she does online, like online universities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:38] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:26:38] So, I had mentioned something. She goes, "Yeah, I’m interested, too." So, it’s like, okay, you know how it works that way. Now, reaching out to you, Peter, to be like, okay, how does it work with like the interaction, like having that discussion? And I think it’s forcing people to move in that direction and to go like this, you know—and I think the issue for years for us improvisers is you have to change how you look at it. You can’t look at it like how do we adapt these games that work well live into this format. You have to look at it, no, how do we adapt this—use this format? This is the format. What can we do knowing that here are the formats and here are the limitations? But here are the things that we couldn’t do in person that we can do now based on technology. It’s a very exciting time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:25] It’s funny you should say that because a friend of mine who’s a CPA and an improviser, Kristen Rampe, when I met her about three years ago, we were talking, you know, "We should kind of get, you know, an improv troupe together of accountants." We’ll be like two of us or five of us, it’s not that many. And we know people around the country, but we did know—and we’re not in the same city. And we kept—we should do this online. And we kept trying to think through how would we—how would this work?

Jay Sukow: [00:27:55] You know what you do?

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:57] And we weren’t forced into it. But now that-

Jay Sukow: [00:27:58] You’re not forced into it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:59] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:00] And you know what you do is you just, it’s Nike, Just do it. You do it and you go, my buddy, Will Hines, has written a couple of great improv books. So, if you’re looking to nerd out improv-wise, one is like, How to Be the Greatest Improviser—I think it’s, How to Be the Greatest Improviser on Earth?

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:20] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:20] It’s a—and he’s just a very funny guy. And then, one is like—I think it’s called Pirate Robot Ninja, which differentiates you into different types of improvisers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:29] Okay.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:29] But, you know, I’m in the midst of I’m trying to write this book on improv and he goes, "You just can’t accept the fact that the first draft is going to suck."

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:39] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:39] It’s going to suck, because you just got to get out there. And the same with what you’re talking about. It’s like, how do you do it? I don’t know. You get together and you try it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:46] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:28:46] Like Google Hangouts, we’ve done a couple of shows there and it’s starting to happen. My friend, Amy Gurlitt does e-improv and she’s been doing it for a while. And it was kind of, she put it on hold for a little bit and now, she’s starting it back up again, which is like, how do we do improv online? And I think it’s the same thing of our get together in a Google Hangout, try it. If you think about years ago, like when wireless phone was—when she was creating a lot of these improv gigs, she created the gigs out of a sense of there was a problem, how do I solve it?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:18] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:18] So, it was like there’s a language barrier. Instead of set—you know, I have students from all—who don’t speak English at all. They all speak different languages. How do I still get to them and affect them? She didn’t go, "It can’t be done." She didn’t sit there and go, "Well, here are the problems." She went, "Huh? What if we had them create a language that they all share called gibberish?" And that’s how gibberish came out. So, a lot of the gigs she did wasn’t for performing, it was for helping solve problems.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:52] So, when you look at what you’re doing, it’s like, okay, cool, we’re not in the same space, but we have the internet. We have this online capability. We have the connections there, right? So, now, let’s just get up and play. Let’s—you know, it goes back to—it reminds me of my old days when I first started improvising, when nobody knew what improv was, you know, when a handful of people on earth had ever heard like a form called the herault, which is pretty prevalent now throughout the world for improvisers.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:23] But a lot of people back in that, they had no—you were like, "Well, what it’s like Saturday Night Live, but you make it up." So, they—like people didn’t have a reference to it. So, it was the excitement of just getting together and sitting in a classroom somewhere and saying, "Oh, Peter, when you walked in, Pam left." So, what if we do, every time someone walks in, someone leaves. And what—and you just kind of—you got very excited about creating this because there was no blueprint at that point.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:53] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:53] And I think the same thing for online.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:54] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:54] It’s like, I don’t know, let’s give it a try. Get six accountants who are improvisers together in a Google Hangout, don’t even necessarily do it for an audience, but like the more you do something, the better you get. It’s just reiterations, improve. So, do it, sit, and that’s how we would work on forms as well. It’s like, "Oh, here’s an idea for a form." We go through it and you go, "What?" Don’t talk about the things that didn’t work. We all know that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:21] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:31:22] What are the moments that worked? And let’s build on the moments that worked.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:26] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:31:26] And I think that’s the thing as you continue to move forward is like we’re all going to make mistakes, we’re all going to be stressed out, but each day, keep focusing on what worked, what worked for me yesterday, and then celebrate. You know, there was a—I forgot who it was, but I heard there was a family who would have family dinners once a week and the whole like once a week, they would celebrate their failures. Somebody would say, "I did this", and everyone would clap and go, "Hurray." And I think the same thing is like you could celebrate the failures but build upon what’s been working. I mean, that’s what is really a good improv scene and a good life scene is like. What worked for you? What got you to this point? Build on what’s working.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:10] I like this idea. I mean, I’ve got like 14 ideas from this conversation on how to help others and how to stay engaged and stay creative in this time of uncertainty even much more so than I began this conversation with. And it’s—you’re the guru, I keep telling you. The improv guru.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:30] These are—I’m just the conduit of other voices. I just have an ability to remember things. And I’m passing it along. You know, this is the information, too, if like you were talking about, take this as an opportunity to pass along the information you know. That’s how you keep it, is you got to give it away.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:46] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:46] So, if there’s something you’re good at, you know, go online, do a Facebook Live thing and, you know, do a—send out an email, reach out to people. What is it that you are good at? What is it that you can offer? And people, you know, a lot of times don’t—they’ll be like, "Oh, I don’t have anything to offer except." No, that’s not true. There are things that we all do that people don’t have experience in. Like your knowledge of accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:12] Easy there. Easy now.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:14] Well, no, but I have zero knowledge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:16] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:17] And I remember, too, my friend, Tony Llewellyn once. I was at a theater and they gave us a brand-new curriculum, like completely changed everything. And I was like studying this thing. And I’m like, I talked to Tony—and Tony is one of the most in the moment people I’ve ever seen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:35] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:35] And I go, "Tony, man, how do you feel about this new curriculum?" And he just looks to me, he goes, "I just got to be one week ahead of the students."

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:45] It’s true.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:46] It’s like, same thing, like so your knowledge of accounting is so much more adept than somebody like me. So, that’s an opportunity to say like, okay, I am this, if anybody wants to share, you know, I have this information. And you’ll be amazed people at this point, now, too, they’re dying for information. They’re dying for information to improve themselves. You want to learn Greek. So, you’re like, "This is an opportunity I’m going to take to get that subscription."

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:12] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:12] And so, there are these opportunities and we have to—if you’re looking for opportunities, it’s going to help change your mindset, too. But if you’re looking if you find people to commiserate with how bad things are, absolutely, but it’s not going to improve anything. It’s not going to improve anything. All you’re going to be doing is you are just going to be focusing on that negative with someone else who’s co-signing your BS, as I was told once. It’s like, "Oh, yeah, they’re co-signing your BS." See? And again, none of these are my thoughts. I’m just like a storyteller, I’m just passing along what people have said.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:47] Well, yeah. And I like to pass on the same thing. I like to be a conduit as well. And by the way, for those of you who aren’t watching this, he was just handed a coffee cup. I’m not sure what’s in the coffee cup.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:58] It’s tea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:58] It’s tea?

Jay Sukow: [00:34:58] It’s tea. It is tea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:01] I thought that—it looks like Irish whiskey.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:04] Hey, man, whatever gets you through.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:04] I thought that was yesterday.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:04] No, that’s yesterday.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:08] I mean, great information. And it’s just—I think it improvises them to stay positive more than most and calm. But-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:20] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:21] Because, you know, we focus on the things that we control, have control and we don’t focus as much on things we don’t have control.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:30] It’s just wasted energy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:32] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:33] The same with like at a certain point, two things happen for an improviser so they continue, one is you realize, "Oh, that scene we just did, I don’t have to think about anymore because we’re not going to do it again. So, I don’t have to focus on it." Focusing on what I could’ve done better in that improv scene is useless. The other is, as you continue, when you first start improvising, you’re so afraid and you’re so convinced the scene is going to be bad, the show is going to be bad. As you continue, you just assume it’s going to be good. You just assume it’s going to work out and you go, "Man, if it doesn’t, if this show isn’t good, of all the shows I’ve done, that was one of them. Of all the shows I’ve done, that was the most recent.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:21] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:21] And you move on. And it’s something that you are constantly practicing. I’m better at it only because I practice it more than maybe other people do. But there are people who’ve never taken an improv class who have this mindset already. And you’re like a born improviser and they might never be on stage, but you deal with people in your life. There are people that they always seem to like take things in stride or when, you know, everything hits the fan, they take a breath and they go, "Okay, here’s how we deal with it" or they make you feel heard.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:52] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:52] Another thing is people, it’s very important right now for people to feel heard. So, sometimes, it’s just calling somebody and saying, "How are you doing?", which might be a follow the fear thing. Like think about those people that you’ve—you’re like, "I’ve got to reach out to them." And each week it gets harder and harder because you have it. This is the perfect excuse to do it, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:11] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:11] This is like—it’s a hard reset of society, man. This is a hard reset. And you go, I can use this whole coronavirus as an excuse to reach out to somebody and go, "Hey, you know what, I haven’t talked to you in a while. I feel bad. I wanted to check in. How are you doing? Because now, also, you’ve got something to talk about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:28] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:29] And if you’re afraid of what am I going to say to somebody, which we all have that fear of, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:33] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:37:33] There’s a simple trick, you just say to them, "How are you doing?" Could we just focus on them? Everybody’s going to talk about themselves. You know, it’s like, when you walk into a room, you’re always scared of what like people are looking at you, talking about you, I got news, man. They aren’t. We’re all thinking about ourselves. Rarely is it like, "Oh, everyone’s-", no, they’re not. We’re all thinking about ourselves. So, you can use this opportunity right now to say, I’ve been meaning to send an email to somebody, I’ve been meaning to reach out to somebody or, hey, I just haven’t checked in with that person, how are they doing? And you’ll be amazed at the impact it has on them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:07] Absolutely. That’s good advice. And I have been using that.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:11] In a podcast that’s sort of after yours. And I had a friend who his doctor believe he did contract the coronavirus, but it was during the testing period that he couldn’t get tested because he didn’t meet some of the criteria that he wasn’t out of the country or he did not become in contact.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:29] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:30] But he self-quarantined. And every day, I send him a text, "How are you feeling? How’s it going?" "I’m feeling bad. It’s terrible." I said, you know, "I’ll keep checking in." "Hey, by the way, I watched the Knives Out last night on Netflix, love the movie, might want to watch it." Oh, I watched, you know, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." So, I would just give them, you know, these movies and stuff that I was watching and just, "Oh, man, I really like that movie." So, I’m trying to help lift the spirits. And last check, he’s doing better.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:59] That’s huge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:00] I mean, I don’t think you’re going to understand the impact until later, what you had on him. Just a text saying, "How you doing?", is huge. And then, given those suggestions. I mean, that’s something—that’s a great example of what we can do to people in our circle and how we can affect them in our circle. And you look at it like, "It’s not that I’m not going out because I’m afraid of getting it, I’m not going out because I’m afraid I’m a carrier." I think that’s how we have to shift it to, be like, "I’m going to hurt people."

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:29] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:29] Like, it’s not that I’m afraid I’m going to get it, it’s like, you have to assume you already have it. Like, that’s part of the change in mindset. But you just got to assume you’ve had it or you—because then, you’re really making your choices based on other people like yourselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:42] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:42] You know what I’ve got, I’ve got so many wonderful, talented friends like my buddy, Bill Cut, does this live jive thing on Facebook. And he’s utilizing that time to say like, "I’m going to do some characters" or "I’m going to share some comedy. If you want to tune in, great. Tune in and watch that." And it’s—you’d be amazed at the amount of people that it affects, you know. You don’t, like I went on, I will follow the Fear Friday, where I post something on social media and it’s like, "Hey, fault. What are you going to do to follow the fear today?"

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:11] Oh, yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:11] And last Friday, I just went live on Facebook. And I was like, "Hey, let’s talk about it." And I was amazed that—I remember thinking to myself, maybe a handful of people tune in. And I was amazed how many people sat and watched that. And then, it started the conversation for people as well. So, I think if you do something where your focus is on helping other people, you know, try to do either of these ones, too, try to do something good and get away with it.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:40] Trying to do something good for someone else and get away with it, like that, again, changes your mindset to, I’m not there to do it for a reason other than I’m just putting it out there. So, I’m going to steal that, what you’re talking about. It’s like reaching out to people and just saying, "Hey, how you doing?" or like, "I watched this movie", like giving people—you know, our job as improvisers, too, is to give people hope and bring comedy and laughter.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:06] We need it now more than ever. The world needs improvisers now more than ever, whether it’s your mindset or the focus on the group or to make sure to look good or just to bring laughter or just hang out. You know, I have a class that I teach and I was like, "Oh, we’re not—we’re going to go dark and not have class." And they’re like, "Well, can we just do a Hangout?", where we do a Google online Hangout. Because for some people, that’s the only interaction they’re going to have that day with another human being.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:31] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:32] We have to remember that. And check in on those people. Check in on the people who are more susceptible. The people that are in their, you know, 65 and older because they don’t want to be inside. They don’t want to do this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:42] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:42] So, now is the time to check in.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:44] It is. And it is the time to check in, but not just by phone.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:48] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:48] But by FaceTime.

Jay Sukow: [00:41:50] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:51] By this. By Hangout. But it is having a face-to-face, seeing that other person goes a long way. Our NSA Ohio chapter’s doing a virtual town hall meeting tomorrow from 12:00 to 1:00 to our professional members and just asking them, "How are you doing?"

Jay Sukow: [00:42:10] And it’s perfect.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:13] Because we’re isolated. Those who are in a gig economy, those who are so open doors were used to working alone, but also used to get in a plane, also used to getting out of the house. But now that we’re—we tend to get isolated, we’re realizing that. It was like, how can we help our members? So, we’d start out to be—you know, through a conversation, we’re not going to do it once, we’re doing it every week.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:35] That’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:36] Every week of virtual town hall meeting. Let’s get together. If you show up—and, you know, something might branch out, maybe I’ll take groups, say, "Hey, I’m going to do an improv piece on this and help", and whatever. And have that other type of meeting just see what we can—see how we can serve.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:55] Opportunity.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:57] Opportunity.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:58] You know, not downplaying the fact that it’s very serious and not downplaying the fact that people are affected by this and people are dying like that is—accepting that, like that is true. And there is sadness and anxiety around that. Absolutely. There’s also, improvisers can bring empathy to the situation and look at it like an opportunity to share that empathy and to share that joy and that hope and that love. And you know me, for me, improv is about the love, too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:26] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:26] It’s like, when people are like, "What do—what advice would you give to improvisers?", I’m like, "More love, more scenes that involve love, more sharing of that." Like that’s something I would tell people. It’s like you can’t get enough of it right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:40] Right. You can’t. You know, we just need to keep doing that. I need to respect your time because we’re getting up to about 1:00. And I think you had something going on.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:48] Respecting my time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:53] What?

Jay Sukow: [00:43:56] What?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:56] Yeah. Because we did—you did tell me you had something going on at 1:00 and we’re butting up against that. I don’t want to mess up your day.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:04] You tell me what you need.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:06] I need more of your time. Not doing the podcast, but, you know, I love having these conversations because you give me a lot of ideas. And I’m serious, let me help you, however I can help you, just ask, it’s there.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:18] No, that’s great. Thank you. And I think one thing is like as we’re continuing is there are going to be a ton of these online improv shows popping up. And so, I think what would help is if people tune in and watch those. And if you just—you know, I’m sure if you go on social media, you’ll see it. But I think that’s one way, it’s like, you know, support people and local artists. Support like there are people that are having a hard time paying rent, so they’re offering some services, either discounted or maybe a barter or something of that. So, if you see an opportunity to do that or throw a kick-starter.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:52] You know, for my birthday, I did a fundraiser. Facebook said, "Do you want to do a fundraiser?" I’m like, "Sure, why not?" And I did it for Room to Improv, which you know, I mean, I like Kahana and you’re wearing a Room to Improv shirt right now, which I love. And I’m like, "Hey, if you’ve got a couple bucks, throw it up there." And I think we raised $1,200, which I was blown away by, was like—and it was people that also I knew there were people that didn’t have the money to share that did it. And I knew then, I was like, "Oh, my God, I can’t believe people." That’s why I go, we have to keep that thought that humanity, overall, is good. They are looking to help other people.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:28] So, if there’s a way that you can help, you know, reach out to your local restaurant or bar and say, "Hey, you’re hurting right now, is there a way I can help out?" And even sometimes, it’s just they might say share this post or something, but I think to be of service and to look to help other people, I think that’s the best you can do. And a lot of my people because I’m in a circle with a lot of artists and a lot of my artist friends are really hurting right now and very scared. So, if you wanted to take a voice lesson or learn how to sing, now’s a great time to reach out to, you know, a local singer or voice teacher and say, "Hey, I want to do a couple one-on-one sessions." So, there’s always opportunity to help.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:10] Absolutely. Great advice. And because of everything that’s been going on, completely slipped my mind, but you just reminded me of something. Was it March 15th was your birthday?

Jay Sukow: [00:46:22] March 14th, the same birthday as Albert Einstein.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:26] Oh, that’s what it is. And so-

Jay Sukow: [00:46:28] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:29] And you are going to have this big party in LA for, you were turning what? 40 or something like that.

Jay Sukow: [00:46:37] Oh, you’re so kind. I’m not going to say I was turning 50, but I’ll take—yes. It is my big 5-0, buddy, the big 5-0.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:44] Welcome to the club. Well, you know, a big old happy birthday to you, Jay. And I’ll have a little barbecue in your honor tonight and wish you a happy birthday, because, you know, with everything going on, just slipped my mind, but, you know, it did jug my memory. Happy birthday, buddy. And-.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:04] Thank you, man, my friend. That means a lot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:07] Cool. And do me a favor, at least initially, when you know that these improv shows are coming online, send me a note.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:15] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:15] Just send me a quick note and say, "Look for this." And then, once I get that into my routine, then I’ll be able to do it, and I’ll share that out as well.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:23] Oh, perfect. Yeah. Oh, when I’ve got it, I’ll drop you a line, for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:28] Perfect. I appreciate everything that you’ve done, everything you continue to do, and I look forward to it the next time we have time to spend together again.

Jay Sukow: [00:47:35] I appreciate you, my friend. Thanks for having me on. This is great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:40] I’m going to end this podcast in a different way. I want to sign off by saying, please, everyone, be safe, try to stay healthy and just implement one or two tips from this episode today. And I hope it helps all of you in dealing with the current situation related to the coronavirus pandemic that each and every one of us are dealing with. Be safe.

Announcer: [00:48:14] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E4. Being an Authentic Leader with Christopher R. Jones

Christopher Jones speaks, coaches and advises leaders to become the type of leader others want to follow — as he calls them, authentic leaders. Over the past 30 years, Christopher has held leadership development positions and consulted leadership teams at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies and multiple industries, including information technology and advanced education as well as leading nonprofit executive boards through capital fundraising campaigns. He also hosts The Authentic Leader Show podcast, where he interviews CEOs, executive directors, and occasional celebrities.

The very first time Christopher was put into a leadership position he failed miserably. He had thought before getting that position, “How hard can this leadership thing be?” He had worked with great leaders and terrible leaders beforehand, and those that were great made it look so easy. But once he got into that role, he realized it’s just so much more complicated than it looks on the surface.

The very best leaders are those leaders who you would do anything for. The first leader Christopher worked for was a pool manager where he used to be a lifeguard. He would do anything for him because the manager was doing all the same work he was asking others to do — he wasn’t telling them to do anything that felt beneath him.

Christopher has identified seven disciplines of authentic leaders, characteristics that are essential to being the kind of leader that people want to follow:

  1. Self-leadership: If you are trying to be a better leader, you can (and should) get started before you are even in a leadership role. Being a better leader starts with learning to lead yourself well. That means being clear about your aspirations, identifying goals, actually achieving them, and having discipline about how you conduct yourself.
  2. Leadership statement: Get clear about the type of leader you aspire to be and paint a picture of what it will look like to get there.
  3. Goals: You are very clear about your goals but you are also very effective at helping your team identify their personal and professional goals.
  4. Decision making: You are good at making effective and appropriate decisions, and also letting your team know how to autonomously make their own decisions.
  5. Communication: Teams rarely complain about their leader over-communicating… but if you do start to get complaints, that means you’re probably right on the mark!
  6. Delegation and accountability: You have a methodology and approach to consistently and appropriately delegate, and also a way to hold people accountable for doing the things they have been assigned or have accepted without being confrontational.
  7. Relationships: You need to have strong relationships with everyone you are working with. Have recurring one-on-one meetings with each member to learn more about your team members.

Strong leaders ask for help

If you are in a leadership position, you need help. That’s why you have a team — you can’t do everything on your own. Too often, we see leaders trying to know it all, trying to do it all, and acting as if they don’t need any help. They need to let go of their ego and let their teams know that they need help.

We are still struggling to see this kind of leadership style go mainstream in our culture. If someone recognizes they need help, it’s a lot easier to get them asking for help. But if they don’t want to be a better leader, or they think they are already an excellent leader, they may not be open to learning more. But even fantastic leaders can still get better.

The common thread

The biggest thing that most leaders struggle with is delegation and accountability. One thing leaders can do to improve, though, is to think about the phases of delegation based on how much you trust your employees. You start off by giving out a very specific task, with explicit instructions on how to do it and a rigid timeframe expectation. From there, you work slowly up to the point where the task becomes a full part of their job and the employee barely even notices it happens anymore.

Delegation takes time before the benefits pay off. It takes more time and more work up front, but it ends up paying dividends in the long run. You have to invest that time knowing that it will work out.

It’s so important for people to do a self-evaluation and check themselves. Those who have a strong ego in their leadership don’t realize or want to admit they have a strong ego or have room to grow, but those leaders who feel like they aren’t as good as they can be and need to be better — those are humble leaders who will become even better leaders in the future.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Christopher Jones: [00:00:01] Those leaders who are terrible leaders I find and I certainly have learned that most of the time, they’re not trying to be a terrible leader, they just don’t know any other way, which is why I was failing as a leader, I didn’t know any other way. So, it comes down to the very best leaders I ever worked with are those leaders who I would do anything for.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:28] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:15] When you hear the words authentic leader, what is your first thought? Who do you picture? What is the definition of an authentic leader? How does one become an authentic leader? And what are some of the characteristics of an authentic leader? Well, my guest, Christopher Jones, will answer those questions and more during our interview. Christopher speaks, coaches and advises leaders to become the leader others want to follow. In short, authentic leaders.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:49] Over the past 30 years, Christopher has held leadership development positions and consulted leadership teams at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies and multiple industries including information technology and advanced education, as well as leading nonprofit executive boards through capital fundraising campaigns. He also hosts The Authentic Leader Show podcast, where he interviews CEOs, executive directors and occasional celebrities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:19] He goes deep with his guest into their journeys of leadership and personal effectiveness. Christopher has served on the boards of the Richmond Christian Leadership Initiative and the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce. And in 2017, Christopher was named the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year. I hope you enjoy this episode. But before we get to the interview, let me take care of some housekeeping issues.

Announcer: [00:02:42] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:49] And now a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:02:52] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis, LLC a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:41] I have put in the show notes the various ways you could connect with Christopher through social media along with the link to his podcast, The Authentic Leader Show. Now, let’s get to the interview with Christopher Jones. Hey, welcome back everybody. I’m real excited about my guest today because I mean, we go back, I think now, a very long period of time of probably three, maybe four months now.

Christopher Jones: [00:04:11] Yeah. We go back months. We really do. Months and months.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:13] Months and months. And that is the voice of Chris Jones who is a man of many talents. I’ll just start off with that. A man of many talents. He is, first and foremost, a leadership person. He understands, trains, helps, promotes one’s leadership to take that leadership to that next level. He offers a variety of services around. And those services are coaching. He’s also a podcast host and a speaker, so let’s put two and two together. Yes, I was on his podcast The Authentic Leader podcast show. Did I pronounce that correctly?

Christopher Jones: [00:04:57] You did, The Authentic Leader Podcast show. And you are a fantastic guest, I must say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:01] That’s another $20 I have to give to Chris. Geez.

Christopher Jones: [00:05:04] I’ll take it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:04] I’ll be broke. It was a lot of fun. And we met at my very first NSA chapter event. And I came to the Virginia chapter and did a program on improv to improve your speaking business. We got into a conversation afterwards. So, I had a blast on his, so he set the bar high. Hopefully has a blast on mine. And, Chris, thank you so much for taking time to spend some time with me and my audience on this podcast.

Christopher Jones: [00:05:34] Well, it’s an honor to just spend some time with you. Every time I talk with you, I have fun, so I’m expecting to have fun today. And if people can learn something at the same time, even better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:43] Even better. Exactly. And for those of you who are listening, if you want to visit my YouTube channel, I’ll be posting on social media a raw unedited version of this video out there because you need to take a look at Chris’s office. And the most unique thing in his office right now as I’m looking at it, he has one of those very old, very, very old telephones. And I’m not talking like a flip phone. I’m talking his phone that they used back in what, the 1920s?

Christopher Jones: [00:06:16] Yeah, or even earlier. I looked it up one time, it was like 1915 or 1919, something like that. It’s a very old phone my grandpa gave me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:25] And I can’t remember the last time I saw such a cool phone. And that’s such a great piece to hang on the wall. That’s really cool.

Christopher Jones: [00:06:34] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:34] So, Chris, tell us about your business. Tell us about what you do and how you have an impact on other people through your leadership programs.

Christopher Jones: [00:06:44] Yeah. Well, it all goes back to the story I tell when I very first became what I call a titled leader. And a titled leader, I call, a leader who like in your title is an expectation that you’re leading a team. So, I think people kind of get what that is. But I had my very first team and I was leading and I failed miserably. I mean, it was very different on the other side of leadership than it was before you get into leadership. I remember thinking before I was formally a title leader, how hard can this leadership thing be?

Christopher Jones: [00:07:15] And I’ve worked for some great leaders, I’ve worked for some really terrible leaders. And I just didn’t get it. And those who were great leaders, they made it look really easy. And those who were terrible is almost like they were trying to be a bad leader, right? I think if people can appreciate that, probably, maybe they work for the same boss as me. And it frustrated me because then, once I became this titled leader, I started to realize, actually, leadership is much more difficult than what it looks like on the surface.

Christopher Jones: [00:07:46] And those leaders who were really good and look natural, they had to become that leader. Leadership is rarely just natural. You have to become a natural leader. And those leaders who are terrible leaders, I find and I certainly have learned that most of the time, they’re not trying to be a terrible leader, they just don’t know any other way, which is why I was failing as a leader, I didn’t know any other way. So, it comes down to the very best leaders I ever worked with, are those leaders who I would do anything for, right?

Christopher Jones: [00:08:18] And I think we probably have all had leaders like that. The first leader I ever worked for was a pool manager where I used to lifeguard. And he was just one of those where you would just do anything for him because he was doing all the crappy work, too. And when he’d ask you to go clean some toilets, well, yeah, we all just jumped on it because he wasn’t asking us to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.

Christopher Jones: [00:08:40] And it took me about a year once I started this business to come up with this concept. It’s like, gosh, you’re just leading so authentically. Wait a second. He’s being an authentic leader. And ever since then, it just has stuck. And I’m so proud, I guess, of coming up with that concept and then, for people to really kind of get what that means. So, I’m not sure if I totally answered your question but it’s how like the early days, how it came about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:09] Right. And you did and you said something very key right at the beginning of that, you failed as a leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:09:16] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:16] And then, you went on to say—basically, listening to your story, you were promoted without having any leadership training or any leadership—anybody teaching you. You’ve got the technical stuff. You’ve got this other stuff that you’ll be fine, you’ll learned that on the job, but that doesn’t fly anymore.

Christopher Jones: [00:09:34] No. I see so many people promoted to a leadership role because they were fantastic contributors, right? They created great results and then, all of a sudden, oh, well, if they’re great, you know, producing results, they’re going to be great as a leader, too. No, no, not necessarily. The biggest thing with my leadership clients is if they’re getting ready to promote someone, like, "Please just talk to me first", right? So that we can make sure that we set up this person you’re getting ready to promote up for success. We want them to be successful in this new role. And many times, they are not set up for success.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:07] Right. The old Peter Drucker, the Peter Principle, we’re going to promote you to your level of incompetence.

Christopher Jones: [00:10:11] Yeah. Right. We’ve seen it too often, it’s a shame. That’s where my passion is, is I want to help others to avoid what I had to go through.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:22] So, thinking about that, can you give me an example of kind of wish I had known this before I got it, I was promoted into this role, what skill set that was lacking at the time that you got, God, I wish somebody would just take me aside and said this?

Christopher Jones: [00:10:37] Sure. Well, you know, what I did realize, I talk about this thing called the seven disciplines of authentic leaders. The very first of those seven disciplines, it’s self-leadership. And I think this is something you can do whether you’re in a formal leadership or titled leader role or not. I wish I would have been better at leading myself well before I became a leader. And what that means is just getting really clear about my aspirations.

Christopher Jones: [00:11:06] Where is it that I see myself going and how might I get there? Being clear with identifying goals or writing them down and then, actually achieving those goals. But also, just having discipline in my day, having discipline about how I conduct myself. One of the most powerful things, I think, that leaders and really non-titled leaders alike, anyone can do, is to not only follow through on commitments that you make to other people consistently, be known for that. But additionally, do the things—follow through with commitments that you make to yourself, especially when no one knows.

Christopher Jones: [00:11:44] Because I’m sure as you’re thinking of leaders who you admire and you think that they are just fantastic leaders, you’re probably also thinking, there’s something about them that just makes them so attractive. And what it typically is, what I found is that they’re making commitments to themselves and they’re following through on those commitments. And then, again, especially when no one knows they’re doing it because you can just tell there’s an aura around those kinds of people. So, I think that’s a secret weapon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:11] You said, aura around those people. And it just—you know what just pops into my head when you said there’s an aura on these people saying they’re authentic and that’s why you saw me jerk back, well, yeah, that aura, you know they’re being extremely authentic in their leadership style. So, you mentioned the seven disciplines.

Christopher Jones: [00:12:29] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:29] So, you’ve hit on the first one.

Christopher Jones: [00:12:31] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:31] Let’s go down this path. What’s number two?

Christopher Jones: [00:12:36] Okay. Well, number two—and many these are not going to be a surprise to people, but I found that if you stitch these together, again, you’re set up for success, I think, as a leader. So, it’s your vision or mission or what I really call like your leadership statement. Just being clear about the type of leader you aspire to be. Getting clear about what does that statement look like. Almost really painting a clear picture.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:00] Once you get there, here’s what it looks like to be that type of leader. This is number two. Number three are our goals. You’re very clear about your goals, but you’re also very effective at helping your team identify their personal goals, personal and professional, I should say. And then, setting them up for success to actually achieving those goals. Giving them opportunities. Giving them experiences that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:26] Also, they’re very good—authentic leaders are very good at number four, which is decision making. Making effective decisions, but making appropriate decisions. Many times, those decisions are need to be made by the people on your team and knowing how to appropriately help them to make their own decisions because that’s really the epitome, right? Because you want your teams making their own autonomous decisions, on their own, without needing you to be involved with every decision.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:54] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:13:54] So, that’s number four. Number five is communication. Authentic leaders, they are effective communicators. I find that most teams rarely complain about the leader over communicating, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:07] Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:07] And if your team is complaining about you over communicating, then you’re probably right about on mark, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:16] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:17] And I would go a little further. I’d communicate it even a few more times.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:20] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:20] So, that’s number five. Six is they’re very effective at delegation and accountability. They have a methodology and an approach to consistently and appropriately delegate, but additionally, to hold people accountable to doing the things that they’ve been assigned or that they have accepted in a way that is not confrontational. Too many people will avoid delegating work or they avoid holding people accountable because they want to avoid the confrontation that goes along with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:51] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:14:51] When done right, you can actually avoid that confrontation, but hold people accountable. I think your team, they want to be held accountable. They want to receive delegated work. And when done in the right way, man, you’ve got a team that, again, they want to follow you. And then, the last one of the seven disciplines is number seven, which is, it’s all about relationships. It’s a very high priority for authentic leaders to have relationships with everyone they’re working with, but especially their team. And to do that through one-on-one meetings, having dedicated scheduled recurring time one-on-one with each member of their team to learn about things they could not learn otherwise if they didn’t have these one-on-one meetings.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:34] So, I’ve asked leaders about their teams and I go, "Do you know their birthdays?"

Christopher Jones: [00:15:42] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:42] And eight, maybe seven out of 10, "Well, no. Why?" "Don’t you want people to know your birthday? Did you say like happy birthday to them?" Just that little—I mean, you are getting to know them. I mean, if they’re a part of the team and helped to build that level of trust and cohesiveness, we have to learn more about the people that are on it. We spend more time with them than we do with our families.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:09] Right. And it’s not one of the things where you can just go out, "Okay. Go find out everybody’s birthday", right? Because that would actually be inauthentic. "I want you to know I’m checking this off because I know I need to go to everybody’s birthday." No. It’s having those regular recurring times when you’re meeting one-on-one. In time, you’re going to learn that because you are, and not to plug, but I mean, you’re authentically having conversations with them. And those things you need to know about your team, they will come to the surface at the right time without it being forced.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:39] Right. Well, it goes to the relationship. What type of relationship are you building with your team? And I’m just taking it further, your stakeholders.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:51] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:53] It’s all about relationships.

Christopher Jones: [00:16:55] Yeah, you better embrace your team because if you didn’t have the team, they wouldn’t need you, right? Your job is to lead your team but you better really appreciate them because the results that they produce is a direct result of how you lead them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:12] And appreciation goes—there’s so many ways of giving appreciation as a boss, as a leader and even comes from the tone of your voice.

Christopher Jones: [00:17:25] Oh, yeah. You know if it’s real.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:28] Right. And, you know, I was raised by the Olympic yeller. My father could have been a multi-gold medal yelling, he was an athlete, he was outstanding. So, I’m trying to break some of those habits because nobody gravitates the yelling. Nobody.

Christopher Jones: [00:17:49] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:50] Kids, adults, nobody. It’s just, "Okay. You made a mistake. Okay. So, let’s fix it. How are you going to fix it? What are we going to do? What do we learn? And let’s move forward."

Christopher Jones: [00:17:59] Yeah, yeah. It’s your job to create that environment, right? And that’s not, again, something you do overnight. Over time, you create an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes. And as you said, too, let’s learn from this so that we can now prevent it from happening in the future. Nothing wrong with making mistakes. The very unfortunate thing about life is that the very best way to learn is to make mistakes. Unfortunately. I wish that wasn’t the case. And believe me, I am a master black belt in making mistakes. I’m really good at that. So, I’m a genius because-

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:34] Oh, my God. That was hilarious. It was so funny. Thank you so very much. I mean, I was-

Christopher Jones: [00:18:40] To make Peter Margaritis laugh, now, that is something that I can put that on my wall.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:45] Oh, my God. That was even—no, that was more than a laugh. I had a slight tear coming out of my eyes, I was laughing so hard because I wasn’t expecting master black belt boom. Yeah. Making mistakes. That was—yeah. But, you know, unfortunately, in today’s workforce, a lot of cultures are, well, it’s punitive if you make a mistake.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:07] Well, yeah. It’s risk-adverse culture. It’s so dangerous. A quick story actually, I had done some executive coaching at nuclear power plants for a period of time. So, I was traveling to nuclear power plants and doing face-to-face executive coaching. And one of the problems of one of the plants we’re working with is that they had a risk-adverse culture so much that they were not getting anything done.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:32] It gets, "I’m too afraid to stick my neck out and to do something needs to be done because if I make a mistake, man the hammer is going to come down hard on me." And they were not making progress. They were not moving forward because they had too much of a risk-adverse culture. Now, you can imagine that’s a very hard balance at a nuclear plant. I mean, you’ve got to be safe. Yeah, I guess, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:54] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:19:54] But not to the detriment of growing the business in and growing the culture, so you’re learning from these mistakes. It’s that low-risk mistakes are okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:07] So, that behavior had been learned at some point in time by someone that, "I made this mistake. I took a risk, I made a mistake and it was very punitive." And as that leader was probably going to their team, "No, no, no, don’t make that. Don’t do that." They’re not allowing them, "Don’t go up those ladders or whatever because something bad is going to happen." And it just—and now, it creates several subcultures within the organization.

Christopher Jones: [00:20:37] Yeah. And let’s be honest here. Those types of cultures and those type of mindset, it all comes from the top. There’s no other place. The responsibility for that type of culture is from the top.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:51] Yes. And it’s the wrong culture to have. I get being safe. And recently, I was at a company that supplies some of the stuff to nuclear power plants and builds these things. And they had a very safe environment. But they are not all risk-adverse. They’re allowed to take risks or allowed to lean into those things. So, it just—and it also empowers, inspires new ideas.

Christopher Jones: [00:21:28] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:28] And right now, that’s the key. And leadership is the ability because I’ve said this before on this podcast, and I may have said it on yours, that the collective knowledge outside of your office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside your office.

Christopher Jones: [00:21:42] True.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:43] So, how well you are utilizing your team, how well you are helping them to help you solve your problem versus, "I’ve got all the answers."

Christopher Jones: [00:21:52] That’s old-school thinking. The fact that the leader has to have all the answers, that’s gone. That does not exist anymore. There’s not a requirement of a leader anymore.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:02] But we see it.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:03] I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:05] We see it and there’s still some companies that are operating that way.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:10] And you kind of wonder, "Oh, hey. Wait a minute. I’m going to get shot for this one." But leadership styles and things, Macy’s department store, just recently said they’ve been closing 125 stores.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:22] I saw that. Including their headquarters, I think, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:24] Headquarters in Cincinnati. It’s been a long-standing building. And then, you’re thinking about, "Okay. Is that also leadership?" And then, you go, "Okay. Let’s look at Kmart and Sears and GE." And how—maybe that thought process is what has driven them out of business versus that new leadership thought process, which is just the opposite. But as you well know and you can attest to, this doesn’t come overnight.

Christopher Jones: [00:22:55] No. Well, you know, one of the things that I tell leaders and one of the most powerful things I think a leader can say is, "I need help." Because your team, they’re waiting for you to ask. I know a lot of leaders will think, you know, "I’m the leader. I have to have all the answers. I feel like I look weak if I ask for help." Think about this. The fact that you have a team is proof that you need help.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:19] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:23:19] Because if you didn’t need help, you wouldn’t need a team. They’re doing all the things you can’t do, but they’re waiting for you to say, "I need your help. And I don’t have all the answers."

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:30] And I think you just described a leader being vulnerable.

Christopher Jones: [00:23:35] Yeah, that’s key. Don’t pretend like you are this fantastic leader because your entire team knows that you’re not, right? Have you ever worked for a leader that are pretending to have it all together and they know all what they’re doing, but you know that they don’t, like just admit it, "Just admit you don’t and we’ll help you." But the fact that you’re pretending like you have it all together, you know everything actually is eroding your effectiveness as a leader.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:00] Exactly. But what’s getting in the way? What’s stopping that from happening for the person who thinks they know it all? Their ego.

Christopher Jones: [00:24:09] That’s exactly right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:11] Their ego is so overdeveloped, it’s eating itself.

Christopher Jones: [00:24:15] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:15] And I had a situation not too long ago and of course, I was teaching and a gentleman walked in on, "Oh, it’s that guy again."

Christopher Jones: [00:24:22] Oh, gosh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:23] The I’m the smartest guy in the room and nobody can say anything because I have all the right answers and all this information should appeal to me. And then, we go on, "How do you-" And he manages a team. I just sit there and go, "I’m not sure. I wonder what the turnover rate of that team is."

Christopher Jones: [00:24:43] I know. Well, I tell you, it’s higher than others that aren’t acting like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:47] Well, right. But then, we look we look at these leaders out there and they set the tone, they set the culture, but the business doesn’t grow. Now, how do we get this new leadership style to be more—it’s getting better, but there’s still that resistance. How do we get it to become more mainstream? How do you work with your clients to get them to change their mindset?

Christopher Jones: [00:25:18] Well, that’s a real struggle in my business. It certainly is. It’s very difficult, if not impossible for me to be assigned someone to coach as a leader. I’ll tell you a quick story. Actually, one of my first coaching clients I worked with at the nuclear plant was with this guy. He’s called the shift the shift manager. Now, when I think of shift manager, I think of when I worked at a grocery store, there was a night-shift manager and a day-shift manager.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:49] Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:25:49] That’s not what we’re talking about here. At a nuclear power plant, the shift manager, they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens at the nuclear plant while they’re on shift, including the site vice president. They have to—anything he says needs to be done, he’s accountable for it. So, in other words, if something really bad happens at a nuclear plant, they’re the ones going to prison. So, this guy has been a shift manager for 30 years. And I will tell you, nuclear plants are scrutinized beyond belief.

Christopher Jones: [00:26:22] You would not believe—they have laborers of the day coming and all the time trying to fix them and trying to—so, I had one of my early coaching sessions with this leader. And of course, he had an attitude. And he’s like, you know, maybe the second or third meeting with him, he said, "Chris, I got to tell you, first off", this one-page plan thing which we helped them put together, their leadership plan, he said, "that leadership plan, that’s really good. I can see myself using that with my team, so that’s a great tool. But this whole coaching thing, I think it’s a waste of time. I think it’s a waste of money. I really don’t want anything to do with it."

Christopher Jones: [00:26:57] It’s one of those kinds of out-of-body experiences where I don’t know where the words came from, but somehow, these words came through me and came out. And what I said to him was, "First off, thank you for sharing with me that you think this is a waste of time and money. I can appreciate that. And I’d rather know than to not know I’m banging my head against a wall, like, ‘What the heck? Why am I not getting through?’ So, I appreciate you being transparent with me and sharing with me."

Christopher Jones: [00:27:22] And I went further on then say, "Now, I’m being paid to be your consultant and to be your coach, what I’d like to suggest is that why don’t we continue to meet? I’m going to share with you the same concepts and tools and ideas that I’m sharing with the other leaders I’m working with here so that when you go to a meeting, you’re just not caught off guard. But I’m not going to expect you to do anything. I’m not going to ask you to do anything. I’m not going to ask you to do any homework. I’m not going ask—I’m just going to give you all of the information I’m sharing with everyone else."

Christopher Jones: [00:27:51] He looked back, he’s like, "Well, it’s hard to argue against that one. I guess let’s try that. We’ll try that for a while." He ended up being one of the very best leaders I ever coached because I disarmed him, right? And I said, he’s an adult. I mean, he’s seen every flavor that they go through. I totally get it. I can never make a leader do anything. All I can do is present to them some concepts or ideas or some suggestions and really quite honestly, help them to discover the answers that are already inside them. Most of the time, the answers are right there. I just help them to discover on their own.

Christopher Jones: [00:28:27] And if they discover on their own, they’re way more likely to actually do it. So, to go back to your original question, you know, I have a hard time when I get assigned to someone to work with as a coach. I have much more success if the leader recognizes they need help and they come to me for help. So, that’s where most of the leaders I work with are those who recognize that. So, if someone does not want to get better as a leader, it’s very hard—you cannot really force them to. Except to help them have that aha moment like, "Maybe I could get a little better." That’s what I love about great leaders. I mean, some of the most fantastic leaders you know, they know they still can get better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:07] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:29:07] It’s never over for them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:09] So, when you’re working with these folks that want to become better leaders, is there a common thread that all of them are struggling with? That-

Christopher Jones: [00:29:20] Yeah. No question. It’s actually the delegation and accountability one is I think what most leaders struggle with that is pretty consistent with just about every leader I work with. So, I work with them and help them understand new ways to think about how to delegate. One of the things I shared with them is what I call phases of delegation where when you’re delegating something, you just don’t throw it over the wall and just expect them to do it.

Christopher Jones: [00:29:49] It all depends on the amount of trust they’ve earned with you. So, it might be, "I’m going to give you a very specific task. I need you to go do this. And this is exactly how you do it. Go do it right now." Like that’s phase one, right? And it goes up through four phases. And ultimately, the ultimate delegation is where it’s now a full bona fide part of their job and you barely even know it happens anymore.

Christopher Jones: [00:30:13] But there are steps to go through between this. So, you have to decide at what level or what phase the delegation is appropriate for what you’re asking them to do and then, delegate at that phase. So, I help leaders with understanding and thinking about delegation differently in ways they don’t think of otherwise. Because most people don’t get really an education and delegation in how to do it effectively.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:35] Right. And what I hear most people say is, "So, I can get it done quicker and better and right. It’s going to take me much more time to do this." And then, I go, "Well, yeah, but is this task that you—is it still in your job description or is it in that person’s job description?" Because if it is in your job description and you’re doing it, you can’t complain for being there for 12, 13, 14 hours, that’s you. But there’s some folks, and I know a few and I’ve recognized myself, I was one of them, who had a little bit—they’re control enthusiasts in certain parts of their business, in certain parts of the leadership that I’m the only one who can do it. Well, you know what, I got to just let go.

Christopher Jones: [00:31:23] Yeah, you do. Was it—Mark Victor Hansen I think said that he delegates absolutely everything he possibly can except for his genius. What he’s really saying there is that he’s very clear about what are the things that only he can do and no one else can. And if there’s anything that anyone else could possibly do, he delegates it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:50] I love that. And as a solopreneur who’s had this business now—this is my 10th year and I’ve just now delegated some—and I’ll do it—I’m following your approach. I’m not just going, "Do this."

Christopher Jones: [00:32:09] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:09] Well, I know it’s going to be a six-month curve for me and them, but I’m now starting to push stuff off that I need to be focusing on the genius aspect of it and continue to work on my platform skill, continue to work on my craft, invest more of my time into that versus the administrative side. But it does take time. But I’ve noticed that, okay, all of a sudden, this time subject free up, all of a sudden, more things are getting done. I just had to—well, is it the movie Frozen, let go? Is that the song or something like that?

Christopher Jones: [00:32:40] Yeah. Something like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:41] It’s something like that. Yeah. Yeah.

Christopher Jones: [00:32:43] Yeah. The unfortunate thing about delegation is yes, you’re right. It does take time. And it’s not quick. As a matter of fact, it can take more time to delegate than it does to actually just do it. But as you were saying, it’s an investment that pays you dividends in the long run. So, you just have to invest that upfront knowing that it’s going to pay dividends way, way down the road.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:06] And it doesn’t happen overnight.

Christopher Jones: [00:33:08] No. I wish it did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:09] And it’s—yeah, I wish it did, too. I wish I can hit a switch. And it becomes even more challenging when you’ve got remote employees that you are trying to delegate to, as well as lead.

Christopher Jones: [00:33:23] Which means you have to delegate even more. I mean, it’s even more important you’re delegating this the most effective way possible.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:31] Exactly. Because you empower the team, you get more out of them in the long run, but it takes a while to build up trust. And that’s the key. You know, I worked for some really terrible leaders and I’ve worked for some really great ones. And one of them was to this day, I’ve learned more from—she had this little edge about it, but I loved it. And she called me a human being one day and no leader ever called me a human being. Have you ever been called a human being by some of your own leaders?

Christopher Jones: [00:34:05] I was called an FTE one time. More than one time, actually.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:10] Well, yeah. That’s probably the ultimate insult, but I had made a pretty large mistake and I thought she was going to like just shoot me upside down or the other and she didn’t until she asked me what’s my solution. And I had none. Then, she did that. But when she was done, she said, "Look, I expect you to make mistakes because you’re human."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:35] "Well, I also expect you to come in here with a solution. Now, get out of my office. Come back in an hour with a solution to the problem."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:44] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:44] I shared that in a lot of my presentations. And you wouldn’t believe how many leaders, managers would go, "No, I just take care of that. I don’t-" They come in with their problems. I go, "It’s just eating up your day."

Christopher Jones: [00:34:59] Well, back to what you’re saying before, that’s ego right there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:02] Right.

Christopher Jones: [00:35:03] I get to solve the problem. I get to be the firefighter that puts out the fire. And that that feels really good, but it’s not what is healthy for your team and your organization. As a matter of fact, when you’re a leader you hardly ever get credit when done right. If you’re getting credit for being a leader, you’re doing it wrong. Your team should be getting all the credit for all the great work that they do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:26] Right. Exactly. And I use this example. And I pulled up the article recently NFL, the Arizona Cardinals are playing the Seattle Seahawks. Game ends in overtime tied 3-3. Both kickers missed field goals, this game-winning field goals. And during the press conference, Bruce Arians, coach of the Arizona Cardinals just basically through his kicker under the bus, said, "We pay him to kick the ball.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:55] He’s supposed to kick the ball through the upright." And so, you can hear the muzzle, thump, thump, thump, thump, as he just—Pete Carroll said, "I love my guy, Christopher is my guy. I love Christopher. He had a bad day. He’ll do better next time. But I have my faith and trust in him." And two days later, Inc. magazine and I think Fortune both came out with articles on that leadership style.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:19] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. There’s abuse of power. That’s a powerful contrast between the two. I love that story. You got to tell that story every time. That’s a really good one. Aha moment.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:32] I will send you the article. I did pull it, save it to my evidence. I’ll find it and send it to you, but it was. And I actually watched the game. And then, I heard about it and I went, "Wow, there are two different styles of leadership." Two days later, man, they will write it up big time. So, this about three, four years ago.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:50] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:51] But we see that dichotomy in leadership.

Christopher Jones: [00:36:54] What’s that kicker thinking on the Cardinals team the next game? And when the press is really on, what’s he thinking?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:02] He better not miss it but he’s going to miss it because now, he’s overthinking it.

Christopher Jones: [00:37:06] Oh, absolutely. Oh, my gosh. I do not want to hear the wrath of the coach here. But now, he’s spending all this cycle time and energy on not getting chewed out rather than I’m just going to do my job and kick the ball. I’m going to do my very best right now, which is what the Seattle kicker is doing. "I know my coach is behind me. He’s going to support me no matter what. I’m just going to focus on doing my job and doing the very best."

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:31] "And I’m allowed to make a mistake."

Christopher Jones: [00:37:33] Yes, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:34] "I’m allowed to have a bad day." I don’t—I should research this. I don’t believe that kicker was with the Cardinals very much longer after that. I don’t know if he made it through the end of the season or they didn’t pick him up the next year, but I would please somebody else to take me.

Christopher Jones: [00:37:54] Please. I know. Anybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:56] Anybody but this team right now. And leadership, it’s like you said, it’s not easy, but why do people think you it is this? Why do people think they can come to you for coaching and want you to leave, "Oh, I’ve got it all. I could go or come to a seminar. Oh, now, I’m a leader." No, you’re not. You’re starting to become the leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:21] Yeah. It’s a lifelong development. It’s a lifelong learning. And unfortunately, those who are really good leaders, like we said earlier, they make it look easy, but it’s taken them maybe 20 years to make it look easy and natural. You just don’t see what it took for them to get there. Most have learned through hard knocks.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:40] Exactly. Through a lot of hard knocks. And the other aspect of it is I don’t believe people take the opportunity. I believe that not everyone wants to be a leader.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:52] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:52] I also believe that there’s people out there who do, but they don’t look for the opportunities to learn early on.

Christopher Jones: [00:38:59] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] In volunteering, I learned a lot of my leadership style through what volunteers of the Ohio Society of CPAs. The CEO, Clark Price, who, I mean, I learned more from that gentleman in the leadership than I have in many other organizations. But I would volunteer for committees, I would chair committees. I would put myself and yes, I would fail and I would screw up, but I learned. But I think that those other opportunities other than what’s inside the building. We’re shortsighted in ourselves and that training, that learning.

Christopher Jones: [00:39:33] Yeah, it’s a great place to practice, right? Practice your leadership. You said another thing that not everybody wants to be a leader and I hope people listening to this will hear that. It’s okay to decide not to be a leader. Not everybody is meant to be a leader. And it’s perfectly fine and okay to decide, "You know what, I’m not just going to be in a leadership role. It just does not like get me excited." Fantastic. You can still have a hugely successful career without having to be a leader. So, don’t think that being a leader equals being successful in your career.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:09] Right. And perhaps something early on that, you know, we get these folks who are very competent in their job and they get promoted in the leadership positions and they fail. Two years ago, there was an article in Harvard Business Review, you know, high-performing people don’t make the best leaders or something along the title. And they talked about these highly technical individuals, these very competent, but they don’t want to become leaders. They don’t want to manage people. They don’t like talking to people. They just want to do their job. But when we shove them in those roles, they fail and then, they have to leave. And that knowledge is walking out the door. Find a way to keep these people in your business, make them happy, create new job titles for them.

Christopher Jones: [00:41:01] Yeah. Embrace them, love them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:03] Love them for their technical and their knowledge, but just recognize not everyone’s a leader. Don’t try to keep putting that square peg in a round hole.

Christopher Jones: [00:41:12] So true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:13] So, you remember the National Speakers Association. You’re in the Virginia chapter. How long have you been a member, professional member?

Christopher Jones: [00:41:20] You know, I just joined this past summer, actually. Over the past probably two years or so, the speaking part of my business has really grown actually without me trying very much. So then, I realized, maybe I should put a little more effort into this whole speaking thing because obviously. I got a lot of people asking me to speak. So, I just put that on the back burner for so long as I was trying to build my business. And then, when everybody’s coming to me asking me to speak, that was my message, saying, "Chris, it’s time to make that a bigger part of your business now." So, I just joined this past summer, actually. And it’s a great group.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:55] So, you’ve just joined and you’re a professional member of NSA and the Virginia chapter and Mary Foley.

Christopher Jones: [00:42:02] Oh, I love Mary Foley.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:03] I will have to tell you, I love her to death, but I have to give her a call because—well, maybe, let me ask this question. Are you now on the board?

Christopher Jones: [00:42:13] I am not. I believe she’s looking for board members at the moment, actually. It’s time to fill those gaps. I actually saw a video from her recently.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:23] It’s funny because I mean, when I joined the Ohio chapter, they caught wind of my experience. I’ve been on the board from the Ohio Society of CPAs and so on and so forth, that, you know, "We have a new member. Oh, he’s our new board member, too."

Christopher Jones: [00:42:39] That’s a way to get a board member right there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:41] Exactly. And actually, a couple chapter meetings that goes, someone said, "Yeah, we have some new members. Hey, welcome to the board." And everybody started laughing and they had this look of terror on their face.

Christopher Jones: [00:42:57] That’s funny.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:57] But I tell you, leadership in NSA does create or develop new leadership skills. Immediate past president of our chapter, I’ve learned a lot added stuff that I didn’t have there before through that process of spending time as the president. And Mary has doubled that by spending two years in the role as president.

Christopher Jones: [00:43:26] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:26] She’s going to go off and into the sunset here coming up and probably sit on the porch and just sip some nice red wine.

Christopher Jones: [00:43:34] I tell you—yeah, I’m sure it’s some red wine for sure. She’s so amazing. Seriously, I don’t know there’s anyone better in that role as president right now for where the chapter is at the moment. She’s just—truly, I’m such a big fan of Mary Foley. She’s just a terrific person and she’s doing a great job for this chapter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:53] If she’d just be a little enthusiastic, don’t you think?

Christopher Jones: [00:43:56] I know. She’d maybe explode actually if that were to happen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:00] Right. Yeah. Mary has a ton of energy. Love her energy. Love her passion. And she epitomizes what a true leader can be. And to your world, an authentic leader because everything about her is extremely authentic.

Christopher Jones: [00:44:14] She is. You know, I’ve had her on my podcast as well. Since we’ve talked about her, we should probably tell people how to reach her because there’s enough interest, I’m sure, people—I think it’s maryfoley.com if that’s okay to plug someone that’s not on this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:27] Absolutely. And her e-mail is mary@maryfoley.com. Website is maryfoley.com. She’s a wonderful leader, high energy. I’ve known her now for two or three years. And I have a question sometimes, call her up, send her an email. I mean, she’s all over it. She’s wonderful. And now, she’s going to have to buy us cocktails at Influence because we really helped increase her brand out there.

Christopher Jones: [00:44:55] She has my favorite website when you first come to the very first picture that shows up of her and I won’t say any more about it so that we can tease people to go check out her website. The picture she has on there is so 100% Mary Foley. And you’ll get what I mean when you look at it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:11] Yes. Yes, you will. And as soon as you said that, I had the picture of her home page, it’s very powerful. I absolutely love it. Now, we cannot end this without you plugging your website, your business. How can folks get in contact with you?

Christopher Jones: [00:45:29] Yeah. The best way to reach me is christopherrjones.com. We talked before how there are a lot of Chris Jones’s in this world. So, the best way to be in the unique is I’m christopherrjones.com. Also, I live a lot on LinkedIn. So, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to reach me. I post a lot of things on LinkedIn. I do a lot of commenting on there. So, I would definitely encourage people to check out my LinkedIn page. And then, try to think even what—probably, on your show notes page, you’ll have a link to it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:01] Yes.

Christopher Jones: [00:46:01] I think it’s something like I am Christopher Jones or something. I can’t remember exactly what the name is. But additionally, I use Instagram. And Instagram is kind of a behind the scenes of Chris Jones. I post on stories there and it’s typically not necessarily where my clients see, but if you want to kind of see what’s Chris doing day-to-day and what’s some of the weird stuff that he does and where is he right now, Instagram Stories, I’ve been posting on there pretty frequently.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:32] Oh, cool. I follow you on all social media. I didn’t realize you’re on Instagram. I will connect with you there as well. So, as a parting word or parting piece of advice to the audience, what would you tell them on this topic of leadership?

Christopher Jones: [00:46:46] I should be better prepared for this question. I think it’s just so important that people do a self-evaluation and just check yourself. Unfortunately, we talked about this earlier that those who have a strong ego in their leadership don’t realize or want to admit that they have strong ego, but those leaders who feel like they aren’t as good as they can be and need to be better, I mean, those are humble leaders.

Christopher Jones: [00:47:12] And those are the leaders who are going to be even better leaders in the future. My strong encouragement is to just be recognized as the kind of leader that your team would follow you anywhere. They would do anything you ask for. And it’s because, like I mentioned before, that you would do anything that you’re asking them to do. And if your team is following you, because they want to, it has nothing to do with your title, you’re a very effective leader.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:38] And with that, we’ll call it an end. Thank you so very much, Chris, for taking time. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I look forward to crossing paths with you soon.

Christopher Jones: [00:47:45] Me, too. You’re a fantastic interviewer. Thank you, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:50] I’d like to thank Christopher for taking time to share what it takes to be an authentic leader. Now that you know what an authentic leader is, what changes in your mindset do you need to employ so that you can be calm and authentic clear? Something to ponder until the next time you listen to my podcast. Thank you again for listening. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please take a moment and leave a review on iTunes or whatever platform you download your podcast from. Also, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Make today and every day your best day.

Announcer: [00:48:32] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S3E3. Making Accounting Come Alive with Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton has found a way to make accounting come alive. Peter is a financial literacy advocate. He’s a Co-Founder of Color Accounting International, which teaches finance to non-financial people using a breakthrough graphical system. What lights Peter up is awakening people to a life of abundance.

Peter started his career at KPMG and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia, New Zealand. He’s an adjunct faculty at American University in Washington DC and has taught at a wide range of organizations from large Wall Street banks and law firms through micro-businesses in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. 

A better understanding of accounting will only help you and your employees become better stewards of your organization. The more that you and your employees have a basic understanding of accounting will only help the organization thrive because everyone can see the financial impact that they’re having on the organization.

Peter was an exemplary student in high school, but in my first year at University in South Africa he failed accounting — the first thing he had really failed at in his life.

He left South Africa to go to Australia, where I got his first job at KPMG as an audito. It was then that he began to realize it wasn’t just him — nobody really understood accounting. He shared his story with Mark Robilliard, the national training manager at KPMG, and he said, “There must be a better way.”

Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying “You can’t connect the dots moving forward, you can only connect them looking back.” One of those dots for Peter was the accessibility of the color printer. Before that, it was harder for the average person to publish their work in color. Peter and Mark printed a color-coded diagram to help make things easier to recognize and understand.

Accountants know how to record and measure, but they can’t get the message across to others. Being able to communicate is a declarative ability. It is absolutely critical.

For accounting professionals, make no mistake — the Color Accounting work is communication work. They will learn techniques and develop insights that will enable them to communicate their value so much better, making a positive impact on people by communicating more powerfully. And in the end, the work will be more productive and more appreciated.

How are you and your organization going to improve your financial literacy? The first step is to change your mindset and recognize that learning accounting is not as scary as you thought, and vitally important in growing your business.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Peter Frampton: So, I want to look you in the eye and I will find your missing link. And when you get it, you will be elated. And it’s fantastic. And yeah, I don’t want PowerPoint to get in the way of that. I want to be with you as a human being.

Peter Margaritis: Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv Is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. the Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: When you hear the words accounting seminar, is the first thing that comes to mind is that you would rather have a root canal with no novacaine than to sit in an accounting seminar or are you remembering your college experience when you are registered and mandatory required to take an accounting course or does the words accounting seminar make you very, very sleepy? Well, my guest, Peter Frampton. Yes, you heard me correctly. Peter Frampton, but not the one that you’re thinking of, has found a way to make accounting come alive.

Peter Margaritis: Peter’s a financial literacy advocate. He’s a Co-Founder of Color Accounting International, which teaches finance to non-financial people using a breakthrough graphical system. What lights Peter up is awakening people to a life of abundance. And he talks about this during our interview. Now, Peter started his career at KPMG and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia, New Zealand. He’s an adjunct faculty at American University in Washington DC and has taught at a wide range of organizations from large Wall Street banks and law firms through micro-businesses in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Peter Margaritis: Peter currently lives with his family in Geneva, Switzerland. Peter was recognized for founding South Africa’s most successful technology incubator in the country of his birth. Now, I’ve taught accounting for many years at a variety of university and colleges and I’ve always, always, always tried to make accounting fun and simple. Now, I’ve gotten close, but as Maxwell Smart once said, missed it by that much. Yeah. Not close enough. However, in March 2019, I attended a demonstration of Color Accounting and almost immediately recognized that they had found the solution.

Peter Margaritis: I went through Color Accounting’s training to get rewired in their way of teaching and communicating accounting concepts. Now, I facilitate my first course to a group of 24 engineers and project managers at Westinghouse in Chicago last month. Wow. This really is a game changer. And I shared my experience to Peter in this interview. Now, anyone who’s in business should listen to this episode to help grow your business.

Peter Margaritis: A better understanding of accounting will only help you and your employees become better stewards of your organization. The more that you and your employees have a basic understanding of accounting will only help the organization thrive because everyone can see the financial impact that they’re having on the organization. This is what I witnessed at the end of my seminar at Westinghouse. I hope you enjoy this episode. And before we get to the interview, let me take care of some housekeeping issues.

Announcer: This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume off on business.

Peter Margaritis: And now, a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritas, LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: I have put in the show notes the links to Color Accounting website, a PDF of the basis framework and a link to a 30-minute video that outlines the methodology. If you’d like to contact Peter, please send him an email at peter@coloraccounting.com or his co-founder, Mark Robilliard at mark@coloraccounting.com and mention that you learned about them from this episode. And now, let’s get to the interview with Peter Frampton.

Peter Margaritis: Hey, welcome back, everybody. My guest today, you may have heard of him. My guest today is Peter Frampton. One, two, three. But not that Peter Frampton. This is the accounting and finance version of Peter Frampton. And Peter Frampton is the Co-Founder of Color Accounting. And Peter, first, thank you for taking time out of your hectic schedule to be with me on my podcast.

Peter Frampton: It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. It really is a pleasure to be here.

Peter Margaritis: And I have to admit, so back in February or March of last year, I get this LinkedIn request from Peter Frampton and I go, "This is so cool." And then, I went, "Wait a minute."

Peter Frampton: Oh, disappointing.

Peter Margaritis: Actually, not so much disappointing, but curious because it’s a really cool name. I know you get compliments and people make comments about it all the time. But that is a really cool name.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. You know, it’s not such a common name because it’s an English name, you know, from England. And actually, I went to the concert of the one that we all know, like the famous guitarist. And I waved him down and I said, "My name is Peter Frampton." Actually, I wasn’t waving him, I was waving his manager down. He went backstage with my driver’s license. And then, now, I wait backstage and got this autograph from the famous Peter Frampton, who I think, yeah, what, he had the biggest live album in 1976, which was in Guinness Book of Records for Michael Jackson. And his famous one or his famous song is Show Me The Way, right? So, I feel like yeah, I’m showing people the way in my work, too. And yeah, it was fun.

Peter Margaritis: And if I—correct me if I’m wrong, you have a picture of Peter Frampton, autographed picture from one Peter Frampton to the other Peter Frampton?

Peter Frampton: You know, when he was autographing that he’s actually Framp and hang on, it’s not Framp, its’ two, so he crossed it out in two and hang on, it is Framp. He had a little momentary identity crisis.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. And when you started this business, you actually called it Accounting Comes Alive.

Peter Frampton: Well, that’s what we do. We make accounting come alive. And yes, sometimes, we still trade by Accounting Comes Alive. We’d like to think that we make accounting come alive.

Peter Margaritis: And you do from somebody who has taught accounting at the university level for 10 years and someone who’s a CPA and has gone through all of this continuing education. In March of last year when Mark and Craig came to Maryland and did the demonstration. Jackie Brown, the Chief Operating Officer for the Maryland Association sent me a text, what, "I love watching your face and you’re bouncing up and down in your chair during this demonstration." And she was right. I was sitting there just bouncing up and down because I realized you guys figured it out. You figured out how to make accounting simple. And I commend you guys. I mean, give us the story in how you—I mean, that didn’t come in overnight.

Peter Frampton: No. Things don’t come overnight. And yeah. I mean, how far do you want me—you want me to get back to the genesis, right?

Peter Margaritis: The genesis, yeah. Kind of start at the beginning.

Peter Frampton: That’s me failing accounts 101. And I got honors and all that from my high school exams and suddenly, on my first year at University in South Africa that’s connected here and I failed accounting. And I feel stupid because it’s like I’m helpless. I’ve tried, I’ve tried. I was so shocked. It’s the first thing I’ve really failed in my life and I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. And over on the other side of the world, Mark Robilliard was having his own story.

Peter Frampton: And so, you know, I guess, you go back to the scene of the crime, so I immigrated. It was the bad old days of apartheid. And I left South Africa and I went to Australia where I got my first job. Well, I thought, "Well, what do I do? I’m going to Australia", right? And there was military service that I did go on or I did back in South Africa. And I got a job at KPMG and was an auditor and so on. And then, started to realize, you know, people don’t understand this stuff.

Peter Frampton: I mean, I didn’t either. I think accounting is a subject where there’s quite a loose correlation between qualifying, passing your exams and truly understanding it. You know, understanding it. I mean, it’s a little bit intimidating, perhaps, but that’s how I felt. And I shared my story with Mark Robilliard when I’d been posted to the national office and he was the national training manager. And we said, "You know, there must be a better way. It must be solvable, this issue of accounting, learning accounting being hard."

Peter Frampton: And so, we began a quest. And now, we parted ways. You know, we started to experiment. We looked and parted ways. And actually, I found myself back in South Africa running a not-for-profit incubator, a startup incubator, which was fun. And I liked it and I’m proud of it. It won awards and things in the end and it’s still going. So, it’s South Africa’s oldest information technology incubator. And I started incubating Mark and my ideas in that incubator.

Peter Frampton: And that’s why it was called, Accounting Comes Alive. In fact, you know what, it was actually called The Radical Accounting School because it was radical. But something had happened that looking back—you know, the brilliant Steve Jobs, he wasn’t a very nice guy, was he? But he was brilliant. And the one thing he said was, you know, you join the dots later and the little pieces, like in my case, even the failure, you know, they will make sense later.

Peter Frampton: And one of the dots that then we joined and realized, well, that was historically significant was the color printer come along. And like literally, of course, it being color printed, don’t get me wrong, it was hardboard Heidelberg presses and factories all around the world. But the desktop color printer, in fact, was the HP 500C, Hewlett-Packard 500 color printer come along, along with desktop publishing, right? What they then called desktop publishing, obviously.

Peter Frampton: And you could not print and muck around with color yourself. And so, that’s what we did. And we printed a diagram and eventually, we printed it. Let’s put the balance sheet and income statement together. And now, we were using—we’d use color coding, which was one of the sort of original formative ideas with like debit is green and credit is orange and mucked around with this diagram. And then, here’s the important thing. We started to realize that we didn’t understand the diagram.

Peter Frampton: So, he wrote a diagram to explain accounting, but you realize you don’t understand the diagram. And for example, you know, it also—what it does is it unpacks—the most confusion in accounting is inherently caused by the duality. You know, we all know about double-entry, right? Double-entry accounting. But double-entry is actually a consequence of the fundamental duality which gives us both sides of the balance sheet. And it’s the collapsing of the duality that causes the problems.

Peter Frampton: People think revenue is money. People think liability is the money that you owe. Both of those are wrong. Revenue is not money and that liability is not money. They’ve monetized, but they’re not money. And so, it went. And, you know, stumble, stumble, stumble and the courage to look a bit foolish as we were trying different things. You know, one of the fabulous memories for me was quite early on in the piece. This young man came in, probably, you know, 22 years old or something, he was a Black South African man.

Peter Frampton: And he came back and we were running the early versions of the Color Accounting workshops over four nights, so they’re four Wednesday nights. He came in on the second Wednesday night and he said, "I’m so excited I couldn’t sleep." And there was the middle-class bourgeois side of me that said, "Oh, get a life." You know, really. But I quickly caught myself and realized, no, hang on a second. For this guy, it’s the difference between life in a shack, literally a tin shack.

Peter Frampton: I mean, you have to be in Africa to know that kind of level of poverty and a middle-class life. In a way, he would own fridges and cars. And so, I realized it was more than that. He was so excited that he couldn’t sleep at night and he’d paid for four private courses because, of course, the apartheid state and the bad old evil days before Nelson Mandela had deliberately under-educated him. That’s what the apartheid education was set up to do, to under-educate Black South Africans, so they could only do menial work.

Peter Frampton: And so, he had paid for these four very expensive courses. And finally, he got it. And then, he said, "I’m so excited. I’m not stupid." You know, Peter, the privilege and, you know, the honor for me of being part of having that impact in someone’s life from this point, education is just the best and most noble and best fun you can have because what an impression you have, you can have on people’s lives.

Peter Margaritis: And you guys are having a huge impact on individual lives as you interact with a variety of individuals, a variety of companies. So, I witnessed this firsthand. So, I did my first Color Accounting earlier in January 2020 to a group of engineers and project managers, about 24 of them. And you—I mean, for the company. May I say the company?

Peter Frampton: Please. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: It was Westinghouse. And you guys have been in Westinghouse for a couple years. So, there are stories about how powerful this is. But still, these guys are taking time out of their life to sit in an accounting class? So, I kind of mentioned, "Wouldn’t you guys rather have like a root canal without novacaine versus taking an accounting class?" They all chuckled and stuff. But as I was going through this method, the basis method and the duality and all that, I started to see them get it. But the more powerful thing was when they actually got it and realized their impact, individual impact that they have on the financial position of the company was just—it just blew my mind.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And they walked out and said, you know, this far exceeded their expectations.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And like I said, you guys, I’ve been struggling trying to find a simplistic way for years, I shared with you guys. You have found it. And the impact that you have on organizations and have them understand the financial responsibility of employees.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Once they get it.

Peter Frampton: And it—well, yeah. Once they get it, it’s so—you know, accounting is amazing. Accounting is absolutely amazing. And it’s one of the greatest inventions in history. You know, we say it goes back 500 years to Pacioli who—but of course, it goes back much further than that. Pacioli was just the first Italian friar who wrote it down in that book, Summa de arithmetica. But it makes such a difference in people’s lives. You know, we tease accounting. We tease accountants. We call them bean counters. But actually, it’s like grammar. You know, we take it for granted that you need grammar.

Peter Frampton: You know, you don’t get to lead organizations or be a functional adult in a corporation without grammar and other skills. But we’ve tried to be functional people in organizations and leaders without the grammar of finance. Accounting is the grammar of finance in the sense that it’s just the basic, you have to have it. And it hurts people when they don’t have it. They stay silent in meetings when they should be engaging in meetings, you know, they buy the bullshit. Companies go bankrupt, frauds happen. I mean, that was all the big examples.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: But it’s just so impactful on people’s lives. You know, going back, oh, Peter, I don’t know if I’ve told all the stories about my career before I discovered accounting, which is—you know, did I say that I ran an impotence clinic? A very—medically viable with medical doctors, impotence clinic and so on and so on. Another day, Peter. Another day. I know you—but anyway, so I was in the medical business and things like that.

Peter Frampton: As I said, Color Accounting for me started when sort of the next thing didn’t work out and I thought, "Oh, geez, I should just work on that idea for a better way to teach accounting. But that’s my personal journey. Anyhow, you know, on those—on my travels in medical centers and things like that, you know, I’d meet a nurse and just, "Oh, wow. Isn’t nursing great?" "Yeah, but I didn’t want to be a nurse. I wanted to be something else, but I couldn’t pass accounting." You know, people all over who are just being hamstrung.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: There’s always a moment in our workshops where I say, "And this is the moment the lady in Washington, DC said, ‘I can finish my MBA’ as she shrieked from the back of the room." And I mean, I literally said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, people. Sorry about that. I got to stop the class." "What? Are you serious?" She says this particular point, trivial point, I’ll have you say, that, you know, it is where she couldn’t get it, so she checked it in and it was a prerequisite for MBA. So, she didn’t get an MBA. That’s a little tragedy. That’s a life.

Peter Frampton: You know, here’s probably a single mother working hard, trying to improve herself, trying improve the life of her children and yet, a tiny, trivial thing tripped her up. I’ll tell you what a trivial thing was. It was the statement that you have to have an entry on each side. I collect books that say you have to have an entry on each side. You don’t. You can have two entries that cancel each other out, as you know, on one side. She thought and had been told or misunderstood that you had to have an entry on each side. And she didn’t.

Peter Margaritis: So that was the magic right there, just her realizing that she didn’t need that.

Peter Frampton: Just that, you know. Well, so she could get her head around how it worked. She could get her head around how it worked. And yeah, oh, yeah, you have two entries on this side, you have two entries on that side, you have one entry on each side. It all balances out. That’s the genius of double-entry bookkeeping.

Peter Margaritis: I think also, the issue that neither accountants have when they have to take an accounting class is—or when I work with the CPAs, ask them, "Does MBA speak a foreign language?" And I get his hands raised up and I hear French, I hear Spanish, you know, someday, maybe Greek, Italian, whatever. And I go, "Let me reword that. I mean, you speak the foreign language of business called accounting. And they all laugh.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And I go, "But think about it, when you say depreciation to a non-accountant, they think that’s the value they lose in the car when they drive it out the car lot and you sit there thinking, "No, no, no, it’s a systematic allocation of an asset over time."

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And we have to become better translators of this language, so they can understand.

Peter Frampton: Absolutely. And in a sense though, I’m tempted to say, and it’s much worse than that because depreciation, we all get a sense of, it’s a kind of set anyone’s second or third-order accounting issue. But actually, the disconnect at the language starts much lower. So, Color Accounting is about color. We took color because we’re color print and we use color to explain debits and credits and so on. But actually, as you said, this didn’t happen overnight. And we looked at that diagram, we realized we didn’t understand it and we realized we didn’t understand the words.

Peter Frampton: And this is profound. And actually, Color Accounting is more about the language, the words than the color. For example, it’s kind of shocking. We accountants, you, me and our industry, we’ve got these massive blind spots and we don’t realize, for example, the ambiguities that we have. Like Americans, accounting professors do not realize that income means something different in America to what it means in Europe.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: So, you know, income. And never mind the fact that income, by the way, doesn’t come in. Money comes in, but income is not money. So, income doesn’t come in. You do income. You don’t get income. And then, if you ask an accountant what revenue is, you know, I have the greatest respect for accountants, but we’ve got our blind spots. And one of them is we can’t explain what revenue is and we can’t explain what an expense is. I’ve got to be careful, because if I ask an accountant that it sort of puts them on the spot and it could get a bit awkward.

Peter Frampton: Now, as I said, accountants know how to record it. They know how to measure it. And know where to find it and report it and with the impact it has on profits, the impact that it has on the balance sheet, et cetera, et cetera. But they can’t get the message across. And it’s called a declarative ability, the ability to communicate. And, of course, it’s critical. So, revenue, by the way, we define it as a verb, not a noun, because revenue is what you do to get the money that you get.

Peter Frampton: It’s the activity. That’s why another name for the income statement is the statement of activities, which means, by definition, the things on the income statement are activities and it has real impact and consequences in people’s lives. So, I’m at a law firm and I’m working with a senior partner then and we talked about the meaning of the words and we’re clearing that up because that’s what’s required. And he said, "You know what, I’ve just come off a defense of a chief accounting officer for revenue shift. It was a week-long jury trial. We failed. We were the defense. We failed. And he’s gone to jail for, I don’t know, 10 years or something."

Peter Frampton: And he says, "And you know what, at the end of the trial, I think that—well, I’m sure that the jury didn’t understand what revenue was and I think they thought he put the money somewhere like mattresses, secret safes. Here’s a man in jail for 10 years because a jury of his peers thought that he put money under a mattress, which, of course, we know he didn’t. He just used judgment in a very, what’s the word I’m looking for, vague and subjective recognition issue, which is revenue.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Right. So, when I was at a demonstration, whatever, the way you guys—it’s like you said, you said two words, you said noun and verb.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And actually, this was before we started, I was speaking to the chief people officer at White Castle Systems yesterday, a friend of mine, John Kelly, who was an accounting student at my MBA class at Ohio Dominican. And I was sharing the story with him, I said, John, "When you think of the balance sheet, they’re just nouns." And he had this really inquisitive look at his mind because he was going through those accounts, he goes, "Okay." And I said, "The income statement are just verbs." And he goes, "I’ve never thought about it that way." And I said, "I never taught it to you that way because it was never taught to me that way." But just that little clarity, that little shift in mindset.

Peter Frampton: A lawyer said to me, "You’ve blown a fuse." And I said, "Okay, well, that’s good because I’m in the rewiring business."

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. And that’s your job within Color Accounting, is to rewire the mindset out there because we have a lot of very smart people teaching accounting, but they’re teaching it the way that it was taught to them.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. And then, there is such a body of momentum and inertia to the way it’s been done. And we quickly—there’s so much to be learned. And we become such experts that we quickly, you know, develop unconscious competence.

Peter Margaritis: Yes.

Peter Frampton: So, we don’t even know what we’re good at. But we’ve got so much competence that’s undistinguished that it’s hard to challenge. And, you know, often, when I’m working alongside, you know, what I call traditional accounting teachers using the traditional approach, they’ll say, "Well, we don’t call it the balance sheet here in the United Kingdom. We call it the statement of position." I’ll get to that. But really, that’s not important.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: I mean, we’ve got to learn that eventually, but that’s a second or third-order issue. The first-order issue is, what are the three things with the—no, what are the two things on a balance sheet? You know, there are just two things on the balance sheet. That’s what we’ve got to tell people. There’s assets and obligations, which—and by the way, equity is an obligation, the FASB is getting it wrong. Sorry, I’m going to say it. FASB says it’s a claim. It’s not a claim. It’s an obligation. A claim is not an obligation. An obligation is me to you. A claim is you to me.

Peter Margaritis: Right. Right. So, you said FASB is wrong. I don’t know if you know this, I just had an article published in Accounting Today on January 15th and the title is FASB is the Villain.

Peter Frampton: I’ve seen it and I haven’t gotten to read it. Damn it.

Peter Margaritis: FASB has it wrong in a lot of instances. And it’s confusing and it’s not relevant to business owners, where we need to really make it relevant to them so they can understand and those who they employ have a better idea. They don’t need to know the nits and bits and, you know, the debits and the credits and all that stuff. It just needs to be that 10,000 foot.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we haven’t—have we talked about the issue of accounting literacy and what accounting literacy is. What you’ve said has just reminded me of that. So, you know, this is what my work—my work is ultimately, I want to just bring abundance to the world. I want people to know that, you know, you can have abundance. And even if having people get clear personally and at work, get financed out of the way so that they can go forth and be abundant, you know, and that’s the real driver, right?

Peter Frampton: So, our mission is to promote accounting literacy. And we want the world to be accounting literate. So, what is accounting literacy? Well, everybody talks about financial literacy. Governments all over the world are spending a fortune on financial literacy to promote it. But financial literacy is this overly big church. I mean, it goes from savings rates to credit card usage to 401(k)s to portfolio theory, to risk analysis and, and, and, and. That’s financial literacy.

Peter Frampton: But whoa, whoa, what needs to be underneath that and actually unpacked and seen as a distinct form of literacy in accounting literacy, which is, where am I? And how did I get here? And then, we can talk about all the fancy stuff. But, you know, if I want to get to you, if you want me to tell you how to get to New York, I need to say, "Well, where are you?" And I’ll tell you how to get to New York. And it’s so empowering when you get the accounting literacy piece right. All the fancy finance stuff just falls into place.

Peter Margaritis: That’s true. So, accounting is the foundation of financial literacy.

Peter Frampton: Absolutely. And it should be broken out. And often, people are trying to fix financial literacy, but really, the problem is accounting literacy.

Peter Margaritis: So, if you get the foundation right, then financial literacy comes into play. But I guess the overarching umbrella is now, you have better business acumen.

Peter Frampton: Yes. Yeah. Oh, accounting literacy underpins business acumen big time.

Peter Margaritis: Share some stories about yours and Mark’s and your team’s travels around the globe and companies that you’ve impacted. And I imagine you have like thousands of stories.

Peter Frampton: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of stories. There are some good stories. Yeah, there’s lots of good stories. I slipped in a restroom in Qatar and broke my fingers, so that, it’s fantastic to be bringing this work to the Middle East. You know, the Middle East needs all the help they can get, right? Because if people are literate and abundant, they won’t be fighting, you know. So, yeah, we sort of feel being out there is tiring. You know, being a road warrior is tiring.

Peter Frampton: But it’s, as I said, a privilege to feel that we’re out there making a difference. And we feel we’ve stumbled onto this historically significant, not improvement to accounting, but improvement to making accounting more accessible. I mean, it does need to be accessible to everyone. It’s the fourth R, reading, writing, arithmetic and reckoning, right? So, everyone needs this work. So, we’re being ambitious and we’re trying to spread it worldwide.

Peter Frampton: So, we have a presence in Australia, in New Zealand, to Southeast Asia, to China. China is going big. And Europe, South America, Brazil, North America, Canada, Africa and so on and so on. Yeah, we’ve got presence, we’ve got—we work with partners, so people sign up and it’s not quite a franchise. We don’t franchise it, but we license them to use the system and we show them how to use it. And then, we love going and meeting them and working with them and running workshops, all of—and we do a lot of pro-bono work, you know, in particular, with my heritage in South Africa.

Peter Frampton: We’ve really tried to give this away and spread the word in South Africa and in Africa, where it can make such a difference. And boy, I mean, you know, the stories are stories of joy, but they’re also stories of heartbreak. We’ve got a very generous benefactor named Mark Michel. He bankrolls our work, pro bono work in South Africa. And we paid for all the teachers in one particular state, province, like a state to kick off the work needed in the high school system. We work in schools, universities and in business, right?

Peter Frampton: So, in the high schools, what’s often needed is the teachers need to understand the subject better. So, we’re working with the teachers and then, we gave them the materials, sponsored materials and so on for them to follow on and use. And then, we’re speaking to them a few months into, "How come you haven’t used them?" "You know, we were going to, but we lost two children on the playground today to stabbings." I mean, it’s heart breaking. And you realize, wow, how privileged we are, you know, and so on and so on. So, you know, that’s the sad end of it.

Peter Frampton: And the joys and the sadness—I mean, going back to Washington DC, so we’re working a lot of not-for-profits. But working with not-for-profits is really important because they’re very mission-driven, they make an impact on the world. But it depends on the plumbing. You’ve got to get the plumbing right. It’s not the sexy end of the not-for-profit work of the mission, but not-for-profit organization, accounting is more complicated accounting because you got restricted funds and federal unrestricted funds done by what I like to call less interested people. They’re not there for the money. They’re there for the mission, right?

Peter Margaritis: Right. Right. Right.

Peter Frampton: Not-for-profit organizations regularly fail because of financial mismanagement. And they’re working over big distances. They’re often—you know, they might have a head office in Washington and a field office in Africa kind of. So, they’re stretched and we do the work. And so, we were running a program, actually, in Washington DC and there was a wonderful woman called Nicole Dile. We remember her fondly because our mascot is a logo—our mascot and logo is a zebra.

Peter Margaritis: Okay.

Peter Frampton: And it came from her saying, "Oh, goodness, when I see a-" You know, as we were just introducing us off at the start of the day, "When I see a balance sheet, I see a zebra." And meaning just rows and columns and blurriness and camouflage and disguise and just this sort of buzzing black and white rows in front of her. And it came alive for her. That’s what our job is. And it came alive and she made sense of it. Actually, as a little aside, I think she was almost stating a neurological truth that people, as human beings, we were evolved to see shapes on the plains of Africa.

Peter Frampton: We were there to see antelope and pears and apples and nuts and berries. We do shape, we make sense of them. But it’s a very learned skill to do rows and columns and analysis and pick this number out of the zebra and so on. The sad part of the story is that Nicole Dile went to Afghanistan, where she was teaching children and she was murdered by the Taliban. So, we remember her fondly. And yet, it’s been full of—the journey is full of ups and downs like that.

Peter Margaritis: Well, that’s an interesting story about the zebra because actually, I guess, in essence, you’ve added color to that zebra.

Peter Frampton: That brightly colored zebra now. And yes, that’s our mascot. It’s got full of color.

Peter Margaritis: So, you’re other—well, so what about here in the States? I know Mark is the North America—head of North American operations. I’m not sure what his title is, but it consists of basically this area. And he’s in, what? Based out of Wisconsin, which I think I would’ve gone to a warmer state at the time, but-.

Peter Frampton: I would have, too. Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: So, what organizations have you partnered with or worked with here in the United States?

Peter Frampton: Right. So, you know, I moved to the states, it would be early 2000s. And I got the states going. And then, Mark—I actually left because my wife is Swiss, so we moved back to Geneva. We weren’t allowed actually to speak French in Switzerland. So, Mark kind of replaced me in the US. So, we’ve been doing that for a long time. And, you know, we’re proud of the fact that while we work with micro-entrepreneurs in Africa and entrepreneurs in the US, we also work with the biggest of the big in the US, the Wall Street banks, all the big names that you know. I think I’m not meant to say it, but you could work it out. The biggest names in Wall Street.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah.

Peter Frampton: We work with them and, you know, 500 a time with the on-boarding programs. And what’s gratifying there is that, you know, people, they hire liberal arts grads, who’ve never done any accounting. So, in a day, they get it. And then, even the people who’ve done accounting, they say, "Oh, wow, I’m seeing a whole new way and I can communicate it better." So, yeah. You know, 500 people at the time. We have to—we don’t like doing groups that big, but, you know, we’ve got these buckets and tickets and you know how the system works, it’s very hands on. Everybody gets a little kit that’s laid out in front of them.

Peter Frampton: There were 500 people with little tickets going to buckets and on this little couple of folders. And we’ve got these giant PowerPoint screens across the room and we might have four facilitators wandering around the room. It’s wonderful. And then, we worked with law firms. Law was interesting because, you know, a lot of people don’t realize what’s possible with this learning, so they’ve kind of given up on accounting. So, it’s quite a hard sell. Oh, not as terrible. At university, it’s going to be terrible again and I may do without it, but that’s what we’re up against.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: But lawyers know that they need it. And they’re working with these financial documents all the time and the legal market is our first runaway market, where we teach most of the big law firms. I’d say about half of the top 100 law firms in the US are using Color Accounting. We do it in shorter seminars, in three, four hours. And so, sorry, one more thing. I’ve got such respect for lawyers, the definition is they stock in trade, where we accountants have been weak on definition.

Peter Frampton: I’ve alluded to the definition of equity, I think we’ve had wrong. The definition of revenue and expense is too complicated for people to fully understand and things like that. We call revenue value-generating activity, for example, that’s the definition of revenue. We call it a transitional working definition towards the official definition. And lawyers get that because they do definition because they stock in trade, as I said.

Peter Margaritis: That’s interesting. And I’ll turn the tables on you right now, Peter. So, you mentioned revenue.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And you know how to play this game because you play it on other people. So, when I say what’s the sound of revenue, which sound do most people say in this case?

Peter Frampton: Nine out of 10 times—no. 99 out of 100 times, you and I know it’s going to be ka-ching.

Peter Margaritis: And the way you respond to it is?

Peter Frampton: Of course, it’s, no, it’s not. That’s the sound of the money. And the money is not the revenue. And I’ll say, you know, "In a hair salon, what’s the sound of revenue?" And if your listeners might see me, you’d see I’m going snip, snip, snip with my fingers.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: And yeah because actually, the revenue is the snip, snip. Ka-ching is what you get because of the snip, snip. Revenue is the work action. And then, for example, I’ll then say to a lawyer, "So, are you generating something of value right now as you’re talking? You know, you’re charging your first six-minute increment as these lawyers do. And this is, "No", you know, thinking that he’s not getting paid now, so he’s not generating it.

Peter Frampton: So, "Well then, stop, please, please stop. If you’re not generating value, stop." Of course, you’re generating something of value. You’re entering the right to bill the client. You’ve got six minutes more billing that you can do than you could do six minutes ago. Absolutely. The work itself you’re doing now. In other words, you and I know that what we’re disabusing them of is the sense that sort of cash accounting in their head, again, with cash becomes the revenue. No. No. No. The revenue is the work.

Peter Margaritis: So, I imagine because I’ve done some work with attorneys at World Bank a few years ago, there were more investigators. Attorneys by nature tend to be combative. Is that the correct word? Argumentative?

Peter Frampton: Yeah, certainly. Yeah, certainly. Yeah. I mean, I got the greatest respect for them. So, what—I’ll tell you what’s fun, is I use the word quirky, right? I like to be a bit self-deprecating. And you know, when you know your shit—excuse me. When you know your stuff-

Peter Margaritis: You’re fine.

Peter Frampton: … then you can look weird because you know your stuff, right?

Peter Margaritis: Right. And I know that I kind of get a little quiet kick out of this about that arriving and kind of looking weird. "What? Red? No, sorry. Orange? Green? Diagrams? Whiteboard? Verbs? Nouns?" And I go, "Just you wait. I’ll get your respect in a moment." And I love that, that they realize, "Okay. The man might be a bit crazy, but he’s got reason." And eventually, they see that it’s an exquisite construction of the logic of accounting, which is a beautiful thing.

Peter Margaritis: And I do want to make a point. You mentioned when you did the 550 individuals, you said the PowerPoint word, which that is very rare in your presentations because you guys go old school PowerPoint called a whiteboard or foot charts and you draw straight lines. My lines look like you know, an EKG. But I think that that also helps keep the audience engaged because there’s this premise that, "Oh, God. It’s another PowerPoint presentation." And they will come a little bit disengaged. But when you’re up there with the attorneys or whoever, it also helps them keep engaged watching what you’re doing.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. And yeah, your back is turned from them for a second while you’re drawing, but then, you turn around and it’s very human, we want to keep it human. It’s a human endeavor, me making sure that you get it. And, you know, when people get it, it is an epiphany because they get these little ahas. We often talk about a learning chain when we—if people don’t get accounting, it’s because of one of a series of breaks—or sorry, it could be just one break in a series of links in the chain of logic. You know, it could be the revenue thing. It could be the equity thing. It could be the balance of the two entries on one side thing.

Peter Frampton: It could be—you know, there’s a whole of those small things, if it could be the point of view, I think that’s a huge one. We’re standing in the wrong point. You’re standing from the owner’s point of view instead of from the company’s point of view. And it only takes one of those. So, I want to look you in the eye and I will find your missing link. And when you get it, you will be elated. And it’s fantastic. And yeah, I don’t want PowerPoint to get in the way of that. I want to be with you as a human being. And, you know, tears, people bring their personal fears around the personal finance to it and so on. Yeah, it’s funny. It’s such a human experience.

Peter Margaritis: If I might say because, you know, in my other work that I do, I tend to rely on PowerPoint, but I I design things very simplistic and I bring things in, it’s just—but when I did this with Westinghouse, it is a very human experience because I recognized there was one individual who wasn’t getting it. But I also recognized that she or he did not want to say, "I don’t understand", because of that judgment factor.

Peter Frampton: Yes. Yes.

Peter Margaritis: So, you know, I recognize that fact, so I went over to look at her stuff. And I looked down the sheet, have anything written down, she was struggling. I said, okay. So, I just went around, just sat with her for a moment. I said, "You guys talk amongst yourselves and try to help her figure it out." Because people learn at different pace.

Peter Frampton: Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: Also, people don’t want to look stupid, which is really the wrong thing because there’s no such thing as a stupid question. A stupid question is one that you don’t ask.

Peter Frampton: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And how did it go? How did she-.

Peter Margaritis: It went well. I mean—and then, luckily that was—Mark was with me and I asked him to kind of keep an eye on her because, you know, we had like 24 other people in the room that there were a few other people who were still starting to struggle with it, that, you know, I needed to spend myself around.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: But actually, at the end, she go—so, after I’m done, then Westinghouse showed a 45-minute to an hour video of—and this what I think what the additional power of Color Accounting is or that somebody from the accounting, finance department was explaining how Westinghouse operates using their numbers, using their situation, using their examples.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah, it was on video.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: So, this woman was walking out and she said, "I really enjoyed this workshop, except for the video."

Peter Frampton: Right.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: Right. She probably understood what was being said. Although, you know, video can make it—it gets a bit dense and dry over a video.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: But, you know, often, we’ll invite the CFO or some senior finance person into the end of a one-day Color Accounting workshop. So, let’s say the last two hours, we’ll have the time come in. And the look on the learner’s faces is wonderful. It’s kind of like, "I’m finally getting what she’s saying."

Peter Margaritis: Yeah.

Peter Frampton: And the look on her face as she stands at the front, the finance officer, you know, and say, "Oh, my goodness. I’m finally getting through to them. I’m getting through to them."

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: And that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. That’s the magic that’s out there, when they do recognize, they do get it, they had that. Oh, and the point of—then I turned to kind of, "How do you contribute as an engineer, as a project manager, in the financial success of this organization because we can break it down into just out of your office. I’ve always said that to accounting firms that, "When you hire these kids out of college, make their cubicle, make their space their own business. And teach them the business of public accounting so they can realize their impact in the organization."

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And partners will say to me, ‘But we can’t tell them everything." I’m like, "Okay, you don’t have to. You make it too complex." and I think it goes to the unconscious incompetent kind of whatever.

Peter Frampton: Unconscious incompetence. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. Yeah. It’s that they’re here.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Staff is here.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And there’s a gap in communication.

Peter Frampton: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You don’t have to tell them everything, but yeah. And just—you tell them the basics and, you know, it gets, for example, down to this definition of revenue. If you think revenue is money coming in, well, that engineer in that cubicle doesn’t see any money coming in.

Peter Margaritis: Right.

Peter Frampton: It’s got nothing to do with revenue. No. But if you see revenue as value-generating activity, the moment you walk in that door, you’re generating value for the firm and you’re also consuming value, by the way. So, now, you have this consciousness that there’s only two things happening at Westinghouse. Value is being generated and value is being consumed. Oh, wow. So, I’m part of that. Now, that’s the story I’m part of. And it becomes about engagement. You know, from a business point of view, Peter, let me—have said it, that we’re there to—we want people to collaborate effectively, to make better decisions and to amplify value. That’s what we’re really trying to do. It’s not about the accounting. It’s about value.

Peter Margaritis: Right. And at the end of the last hour or so of my presentation, then we start talking about, "Okay. Here’s some metrics and systems. So, let’s look at this information. Look at the changes, what’s going on?" Because the one thing that really, my eyes open up big time back in March was I think it was Mark that said this that we’re really storytellers. We, as accounting professionals, are storytellers. And we need to tell the story.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And the story is not—first, we have to understand the construction of it. But then, the story—my favorite class in university and solely accounting thing that I still do is I love financial statement—excuse me. I love financial analysis.

Peter Frampton: Yes. Yes.

Peter Margaritis: And part of that is understanding financial statement analysis because numbers don’t move themselves, people move the numbers.

Peter Frampton: Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: A five is not sitting there saying, "I’m going to be a seven tomorrow. And then, on Thursday, I’m going to a 20." No. There has to be some type of human interaction to make that number move.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Right.

Peter Margaritis: So, when it moves in a direction that we’re not anticipating, we have to find the story. And not a data-driven data dump story, the human element story there. And I think that’s the magic of what Color Accounting is bringing to the business community, is to help them understand how to find that story to tell.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah. And become more powerful to change the story in a way that they want to change it. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Exactly. Peter, I could sit here and talk to you for hours. And we’ve had some conversations in the past and we’ll have more, but I want to be very respectful for your time. And I want to say, well, first, thank you. But before we depart, what kind of last advice would you give to those who are listening to this podcast?

Peter Frampton: We often have CPAs sitting in a workshop, they might have come with the client or something, they haven’t generally come under just because they needed it, of course, but they are surprised and they say, "Oh, is that what they don’t understand?" So, for accounting professionals, make no mistake, this is—the Color Accounting work is communication work. They will learn techniques and develop insights that will enable them to communicate their value so much better.

Peter Frampton: And, you know, it’s not a case of giving our secrets away, it’s a case of having people and their clients better understand what they do, like literally realize, "Oh, wow, it’s not counting beans, it’s something much more than that." And it’s about, yeah, just making a positive impact on people by communicating more powerfully. And at the end, it reflects back and our work will be more productive and more appreciated.

Peter Margaritis: Man, I couldn’t have said that any better. If I could get back to my book of Taking the Numb Out of Numbers, having the finance—accounting financial professionals realize it’s not about them, it’s about their audience. And how can I make my audience understand the business, what I’m trying to communicate, so they can have a more impactful financial impact, lack of—on the organization and the people within the organization.

Peter Frampton: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: Knowledge is power.

Peter Frampton: Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: And the more knowledgeable they are, the better the organization will ultimately be.

Peter Frampton: Absolutely. And when people are communicating, life is better.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah. Communicating and understanding.

Peter Frampton: If you have understanding, you can make the best on communication.

Peter Margaritis: Yeah.

Peter Frampton: Yes.

Peter Margaritis: We’re in accounting, but we’ve been communicating for a long time. Nobody understands us.

Peter Frampton: Well, our mouths have been moving. I don’t know if we’ve been communicating. I have a specific definition of what communication is. It’s when, yeah, something’s happening on your side.

Peter Margaritis: Exactly. Well, Peter, I appreciate it. Thank you so very much. I look forward to it-

Peter Frampton: It is my pleasure.

Peter Margaritis: … when our paths crossed again and keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

Peter Frampton: Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: I would like to thank Peter for his time and passion for helping companies and individuals become more financially literate. Now that you’ve listened to this entire episode, how are you and your organization going to improve your financial literacy? Step one is to change your mindset and recognize that learning accounting is not as scary as you thought and vitally important in growing your business. Step two, are you going to contact Peter to learn more? Well, I hope you do. Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please take a moment and leave a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever platform you download your podcast from. Also, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Make today and every day your best day.

Announcer: Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.