Storytelling with Thought Leadership | Adam Zuckerman, Mary J. Cronin, Michelle Mellon, and Christopher Brace
Connecting storytelling to thought leadership. A compilation of advice for using storytelling for…
How do you use thought leadership?
Some thought leaders use it to build a brand, or to share an idea.
My guests today come from a background of service, and they use thought leadership to help people find purpose and hope.
Ryan McCarty is a keynote speaker, co-founder of Culture of Good and co-author of Build A Culture of Good: Unleash Results by Letting Your Employees Bring Their Soul to Work.
Mark Goulston is the world’s leading Healthy Conflict Coach and author of multiple books including Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior and Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.
In this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, we discuss how the purpose of helping others started them in their original careers (ministry and psychiatry, respectively), and how they continue following that purpose through the practice of thought leadership. Ryan shares how he spent 20 years in ministry focused on community, and how he found his purpose in helping people find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives. Mark comes from a background of psychiatry, and after his own brush with depression while in med school, rose to specializing in suicide prevention so that he could help others discover hope and meaning in their lives.
Our guests have traveled parallel paths, helping others live happier and healthier lives through their work. Now, they’re bringing those insights about hope and meaning to the corporate sphere. We learn how Ryan built a Culture of Good and how that philosophy gets companies to create a meaningful and fulfilling workplace that also improves the bottom line. Mark works with executives and leaders, teaching them to carve away the negative aspects that create a culture of mistrust, fear, or hopelessness at an organization, and build trust and purpose into the everyday life of the org.
Our guests today provide actionable advice on how you can change the culture of your company and employees, and live a more meaningful life — starting today!
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick. I’m the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on our LinkedIn Live today.
Peter Winick So I’m really excited about that. I’ve got two amazing guests that I’m also glad to call friends. So let me start with Ryan McCarty. Ryan and I have known each other five years, something like that. Maybe even Ryan, maybe more. Yeah, I don’t know. Like, actually, you’re you were the motivation for my beer way before South by Southwest when I’ve got clients that don’t share what I do. You’re welcome. You’re welcome. So Ryan is the co-founder of A Culture of Good and the coauthor of a book called The Culture of Good, as well as a bunch of other things that we get into.
Peter Winick My other guest is a old dear friend. Mark and I go back 15, 17 years or so. Mark is trained as a psychiatrist. He’s written 11 books. He’s part of the emerging 100, and he’s one of the smartest, most insightful, amazing human beings on the planet. I am proud to call him a friend as well. So that is the more compliments that I’ve brought to human beings in the last five years. So, you should be happy about that and it was sincere.
Peter Winick So let me start with what I was thinking about getting ready for today. So, I’m trying to think I like to put together folks to make this interesting. And what I was thinking is both of you actually in previous lives were serving people in very, very different ways than you did before. So, Mike was – Mark was a practicing psychiatrist. You’re still a psychiatrist, but you’re not necessarily practicing anymore, although I wonder on some of our calls, for where the line is. Right. But Mark was a practicing psychiatrist and then moved into sort of helping folks in the workplace. So one of your breakout books was Get Out of Your Way, and that was Get Out of Your Own Way of work. So you basically found dysfunction in the workplace, to help people. And then Ryan in a previous life – and this it’s a fascinating story – was a preacher. Who clearly of service in helping people, and he moved on to sort of the dark side in helping people inside of organizations from a cultural perspective. So maybe, Ryan, start with your journey first, of how you got where you are.
Ryan McCarty Yeah. So, as you said, I did the ministry life and nonprofit work for over 20 years really cut my teeth in that space. You know, when we’re younger, we look for ways to serve. So, we look for, all right, what can I do? A police officer I could do be an EMT or a nurse. We’re looking for service, right? How can I make an impact? And really found that in ministry and did that for 20 years. Very missional type work, community driven purpose, giving people a sense of meaning in their everyday lives by going out into the community and making an impact together. And from there met Scott Moorhead, the CEO of the largest Verizon retailer. And he loved one of my messages around what you do and why you do it and how important it is to really know your why in that force for good or that higher purpose every day. And his thought was, let’s bring that into my business and my thousands of employees across 42 states. And let’s start a movement that engages employees in their soul and their heart. And that’s what I was used to doing, right? So I came into corporate America. Hey, there’s a lot of employees that don’t know their purpose. They don’t know why they come to work every day other than a paycheck. Here’s a great opportunity to engage people beyond a program and really give them a sense of calling in life. And that’s what I launched. So really taking the Ministry of Philosophy and bring it into business.
Peter Winick And the gist of a lot of the work you do is really encapsulated in your bringing your soul to work and Mark’s work. So, let’s go to Mark story because it’s they’re parallel but different, right? What, can you be parallel and different? I guess you could.
Mark Goulston Sure.
Peter Winick And I don’t know if that would work physically, but tell us your story, Mark. And you go from being a practicing psychiatrist to someone that’s working at the highest levels of corporate America globally for 20 years or so.
Mark Goulston Well, there’s always a back story to everyone. And one of my back stories is I dropped out of medical school twice for untreated depression, and I finished. And the second time I dropped out, they wanted to kick me out because they were losing matching funds. But the dean of students who cared more about students than funds saw something in me that I didn’t see. What he saw is he saw a future for me. And when the school wanted to kick me out, the head of the school sent me to the dean of students because he didn’t want me to do something self-destructive. And upon hearing that, I was being kicked out. And when I met with the dean of students, he shared with me that that’s what they wanted to do. They wanted to kick me out. And what happened is I’m not I’m not a religious person. I don’t even think I’m spiritual. But when he told me and he read the letter to him about that, the promotions committee was going to ask all I said, What does this mean? He said, You’ve been kicked out. And I felt something wet on my cheekbones and I thought it was blood. So, I kept looking at my hands like this. And it wasn’t blood, it was tears. And then he said something that changed my life and the whole direction of my life and what I then became. He said, Mark, you didn’t mess up because you’re passing everything, but you are messed up. But if you get messed up, I think the school would be glad they gave you a second chance. And even if you don’t get on messed up, even if you don’t become a doctor, even if you don’t do anything with the rest of your life, I’d be proud to know you. And he said, you have a streak of goodness that we don’t grade in medical school, and you have no idea how much the world needs that goodness. And you won’t know until you’re 35, but you have to make it till you’re 35. And I’m at that point, I’m just sobbing and he’s hitting me with compassion. And then he said, and then he pointed his finger at me, and he said, And you’re going to let me help you. So, he set up an appeal and I had to meet with the promotions committee and make a long story short, they saw they saw that goodness in me that he also saw. And they gave me a second leave of absence. And I went out to the Menninger Foundation, which was a big psychiatric institute, and I was able to reach schizophrenic farm boys. And I’m from a suburb of Boston. So, I came back, finished med school, and I became a suicide specialist. And for 25 years, none of my patients died by suicide. I also trained FBI and police hostage negotiators. But how this applies to what I’m doing now in the last year, you know, fast forward, I formed a company called Michelangelo Mindset. And Michael. Michelangelo saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set it free. So, what I saw in suicidal patients was hope that they couldn’t see or feel. And when I connected them to hope, they started to cry and it set them free. And so when I coach executives, what I say is inside your people. Are people who want to feel trust for you, confidence in you, feel safe with you, respect you, admire you, feel inspired by you and like you. And let’s carve away everything that doesn’t cause that.
Peter Winick Yeah. So let me just add to that and I’ve got questions for Ryan as well. So what I’ve seen in my our work together, Mark, is you’ve got these, you know, people in corporate think they’re you know, they’ve got problems, right? And they’re sweating over things. They’re sweating over things. And it’s like, okay, that’s a PowerPoint that you’re delivering tomorrow or a contract that you’re trying to get renewed or, you know, and quite frankly, no one’s going to die if it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean it’s not important. And you have this amazing ability to put it into context. Right. So you used a big part of your work, was telling stories about being an FBI hostage negotiator where, you know, we talk about feedback in the workplace. You’d get a call at four in the morning to go to some crazy scene and a drug out. Lunatics got a gun against somebody’s head. You’re going to get the feedback really quickly, whether you as the psychiatrist connected with that person and defuse the situation. I mean, that’s about in real time, high stakes feedback as it get. So you bring that into the CPL, you’re like, okay, well he could do that, I can do that. And then you work with suicide similar and I right, right. I think there’s a parallel in a lot of your work a culture of good and seeing both the trouble and the goodness in people. And I’ll just sort of set this up at the company that you work at. They’ve got 12, 1400 Verizon branded retail stores, right, in primarily tertiary and tertiary markets, typically not in a big city, not the most glamorous and sexy job. So your typical employee, probably a community college dropout in Kalamazoo, good people, salt of the earth, people working hard. But that industry has such a massive turnover because it’s you know, it’s a grind of a job. And one of the beautiful things about the impact of culture of good is your turnover is I forget what the exact number is. Less than half of the industry average the amount of people below others to come work. So tell us about what you’re doing and you know the laboratory that is culture of good say.
Ryan McCarty Yeah you know it’s really about how do you operationalize culture without losing that the soul and the heart of what you’re doing. If anything, the culture is the very heart of your business. And I like to say that employee fulfillment is really the new employee engagement. People are really longing for a sense of fulfillment, connection, belonging to be a part of a movement, something bigger than themselves, where they know that they can contribute toward that and it matters that they contribute, but also how it benefits them and being a part of a of a community of people. And really so the culture of good looks at the individual, the team or department, but also the organization as a whole, and really wants to engage every single person through meaningful, fulfilling work. And so, a lot of the basis of culture of good was originated out of the desire to engage employees and customers through community work. And we certainly continue to do that. But it’s continue to evolve where we’re really meeting the needs and problems that are arising in companies through change. And so, we’ve evolved to really address change management as it leads to cultural transformation. So, we’re identifying the pain points within a business. We have, you know, several different topics around that from recruitment to engagement, onboarding and retention all the way through to the scope of building skills within certain teams and parallels so that everybody’s engaged with change and transformation that’s taking place in the organization. Everybody knows their place in it as well. And so, we’re really we’re really looking to engage companies and organizations that have a heart for their people, but also a heart for the community. And leveraging that to really build their business and drive the success of their companies so that over time they can continue as their profitability increases, they can continue to drive purpose throughout their organization. I, I like to take those to terms of purpose and profitability and put them together and call it purpose ability. It’s purpose that’s profitable. Right? And so, you know, doing good and making good money do not have to be at odds. If anything, having purpose and a sense of meaning within the organization and engaging individuals, teams and collectively is able to be the catalyst for even greater profit so that more good can happen. So becomes that circle of success that we’re looking to define and build within companies we engage with.
Peter Winick I love it. So, Mark, I want to take you to the other end of that. So a lot of the work you’ve done historically is working with sea level execs and their senior team. Right. And. Getting that because of that group, not outrage. The beauty about Ryan’s organization is it starts at the top. They’re aligned, they’re authentic, whatever it is, and some stickers on a wall. But the CEO is doing other obnoxious things or whatever. It’s truly aligned. There’s total integrity, integrity and authenticity. You’re often called in either as an executive coach or leadership coach from an intervention on the top level. And from a style perspective. I have seen you on more than one occasion, look a CEO in the eye and be able to give feedback that’s pretty blunt and direct and would have killed somebody else’s career and say the reason nobody trust you or like you is because you do things like you just did to that person over there or everybody else was sitting around this table in fear, clenched that they’re going to be the victim of your rap at this meeting and be thrown under the bus unless you stop that behavior. This organization’s never going to grow. So maybe touch on the other side of that. How you can’t get to sort of Ryan world unless you got your act together at the top of the house.
Mark Goulston I think that’s true. And you’re exactly right that that people, especially with millennials, people are not going to tolerate being afraid or being enraged at you. They’re just not going to. Older generations are sort of used to that, kowtowing to people who are more authority authoritarian than they were authoritative. And so, what I also believe one of the ways you convert people over is you share analogies and stories that are kind of riveting. So, something else that I did in my career is I did house calls to dying patients and sometimes at the 11th hour or 1130, if you will, I tried to help them make peace with their lives. And I remember one person and I share this story with some of the CEOs I’ve seen. And I said I saw this person. He was beloved by the world. Hospitals were named after him, but he had multiple marriages. So, his personal life was kind of a shambles. And I remember I was seeing him, and I said, You look like crap, but I don’t think it’s because you’re dying. You’ve been dying as long as I’ve known you. What’s going on? And he looked at me and said, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything important. I said, Are you kidding? You got a hospital named after you. You got millions of people who adore you. And he looked at me and he said, Don’t con a con man, especially when he’s dying. I’ve got all the love that money can buy. And that’s all it’s worth. And right. And he said, maybe, just maybe, I outsmarted myself. And this is where I bring it to the CEOs. And then he said to me, everything I thought was important isn’t. And everything I thought was unimportant is. And I’ve run out of time. And so, stories.
Peter Winick Part of what you’re saying, Mark, that millennials have that piece of it, right? Because it’s better that he had that sort of breakthrough on his deathbed than not. But with not a lot of time left, it would probably be better to have that perspective at 25 or 35 than 75 or 85.
Mark Goulston Yeah, absolutely. Something I said I’ll try and go through this quickly. Before we got on, there’s something I am now calling the Four Horsemen of Alienating Millennials. And because I hold a mirror up to these high potential leaders, but they’re just these are the four things that they strike out on. The first thing is they talk over or at people. That’s the first thing. That’s a blind spot. The subject is they don’t listen to other people. The third is they don’t understand how one and two can be negatively affecting the people around them. And the fourth, which is the more the most sinister of them, is they don’t care how it’s effect. And so those are the Four Horsemen, Blindspot. So, if you have all of those things you talk at or over people you don’t listen to, people you don’t understand, how that’s pushing people away. And your good people are going to say, I don’t have to put up with this crap and I’ll go somewhere else. And the fourth thing which really people pick up and make them run for the exits is you don’t care that you’re that way.
Peter Winick Right.
Mark Goulston And that’s something I will point out to the board, because the board will hire me and say we have someone who’s so brilliant, but as brilliant as he is. And it’s usually he really doesn’t get how destructive he is. And then I’ll point out those faults. Oh, by the way, how does he check the boxes? And they’ll stare at me like deers in the headlights and say, he’s all of those.
Peter Winick Not so good. So I want I want to go to a different direction for the next couple of minutes because we’re kind of tight on time here. So underneath sort of the pinning to the foundation of both of your work is solid thought leadership. So Ryan’s done one book and I know that was a lot of work and a lot of effort and energy. Mark, your repeat offender with 11. So I’m just using book as proxy. Talk for a little bit about the importance of using ball leadership to show the world who you are, to build your brand, to find clients, and to make it really easy that, you know, when someone comes to you after reading one of the books or a piece of thought, leadership or interview, they kind of know what to expect, right? It’s kind of a warm self-selection process like Ryan. And, you know, in your case, if it’s a don’t get it kind of company that your work is going to tissue reject and I would say the same to yours. Right. You want to talk about that first?
Ryan McCarty Yeah, I think thought leadership and in terms of books and so forth, I heard something that I think is a really good idea around it is it’s really not true unless it’s written down, right? It’s not fully communicated unless it’s written down like we, we build trust with our brand and what we believe when we’re willing to put it out there on paper. You know, it’s one thing to have a lot of videos out there and you’re talking and it’s in the moment that you really sit down and say, this is this is going to matter so much that I’m willing to put it on a on a piece of paper, on a blog or something that could potentially reach millions of people. And I think being able to have that type of leadership and being ahead of the curve on because all of us have written or read a book at some point and one chapter stands out to us. There’s plenty of business books out there. And so, what we wanted to do was build a culture of good. I’ve got it right here with Build a Culture of Good isn’t just simply to give a bunch of pointers to people on how to do that, but to really share the heart and soul of the business and why we do what we do and also share stories. As Mark was talking about how important it is and the vulnerability of sort of storytelling to share the stories that the culture of good has impacted those employees and be able to share those stories, I think is really important for companies to do as well. You know, companies can be thought leaders within their industry when they stand out and they really position themselves as a forward thinking, progressive type business. But they also have to share the stories internally of the impact because that’s really what the business is about. And so, you know, we wrote the book and then at the end of each chapter, I think what’s really unique about it is that there’s several questions that Scott and I, so we wrote this together as really a conversation of sorts. And at the end there’s questions that leaders can ask themselves. But also, there’s you know, they’re really great conversation starters. You have the leaders that talk to their team and say, all right, you know, why does this matter? When was the last? Like, I just picked one out here. When you define your cause, effort, or your force for good, are you meeting the trends of your customers and employees? Like are you doing community work just because you want to do it? Or is it meeting the passion of your employees and your customers as well? So very thought-provoking ideas and questions in there for people to really take a self-assessment. And I think that’s really where thought leadership really is able to ask the curious questions that lead people to think for themselves and to ask questions of themselves and really go beyond what they thought was. And so I think it’s really valuable to have a book out to have been writing. Peter You encouraged me to write two or three blogs a week. I have not been doing that recently, but during that time I evolved as a person as well. And so I think as we help others, we help ourselves in that way also.
Peter Winick So, Mark, talk about I mean, you’re a thought leadership machine. The sheer volume I get, the quality you get that the quality time with you, just a massive amount of volume in so many different formats and podcasts and books and videos. What’s underneath that? What drives that and how does you know how much of it is cathartic and how much of it is great to separate you from the pack?
Mark Goulston Well, something I’ve been doing since, you know, because I was a medical doctor. Medical doctors, by nature are not necessarily writers or authors. But when I finally finished medical school, the day I graduated, I took out a little crappy journal and I wrote my first sentence and it said, I can’t believe I made it through. They’ve released The Crazy Person. That was 1976. I’m on volume 255, 45,000 pages. And what happens is like after this, I’m going to write down some of the things that Ryan has said because they’re so helpful. And so what I do is I just keep writing things down. And then when things seem to connect with each other, I say, Well, jeez, that’s a blog, or, Gee, I can’t get this out of my mind. Maybe that’s a book. And so I think I would say to you, if you’re watching or listening, you see, I don’t have the time to read. Well, I’ve heard that Bill Gates and maybe Warren Buffett, they read 2 to 3 hours a day. And someone once said to me, You’re an idiot to not read books from thought leaders because they’re taking the time to distill the best of what they know in something that you can read in five or 6 hours. And you can you can try and find out on your own in a hit or miss way, and it might take you months or years or never. But they’re distilling what the best of what they know in a way that’s understandable. I love the format of Ryan’s book. Something that I will mention. I’m happy to give you a blurb because of even just that question you asked. And what I would say is, you know, the best insight is the hidden in plain sight, counterintuitive but intuitively correct observations of life. It’s counterintuitive because you’d say, you know, I never would have thought of that, but that would work. And it’s intuitively social because it is so.
Peter Winick So here’s some of the things I’ve heard in my work. Why did someone go through the, you know, the effort to write the book? In many instances, forget the market intrinsic. It’s a forcing mechanism to get you to codify your thinking to Ryan. You and I work together fairly closely with culture of good and you guys had a ghostwriter and it’s a little more complicated when those two authors which really forced you to say what we mean when we say X is Yeah, yeah, that would evolve into eight-hour dinners with a couple of cocktails, whatever to say. No, what’s this? But you really get tied together internally. Then you put it on ink and paper. Then when you put it out on the market and somebody challenges you on it, you’ve got a defect. You can defend that position. It doesn’t mean it’s always right, doesn’t mean you don’t evolve and change your repertoire. But it is a forcing mechanism. The other end of the continuum is everybody thinks that, you know, when you’re introduced as an author, your IQ went up 40 points and you sit there smoking a pipe in a tweed jacket and, you know, in your spare time. So, there is a branding piece to it, and it’s a way to separate from the pack. I would say Mark and our work together, a lot of the books you’ve written started, you know, I didn’t know about the journaling you did. That’s pretty cool. Probably had a curiosity, something that was gnawing at you that you couldn’t get out of your head, whether it’s coming from a client or real interaction. So when you know, you did, you know, talking to crazy, you did just listen. You get out of your way each and every one of your books, which was not to extend the analogy, you know, sort of a chapter in your world, chapter of your life, where your head heads out at a certain space. What would you say to that?
Mark Goulston Yeah, completely. Each of my books, there’s so much of me in it and I’m in my seventies. And so there’s a lot of me to be put into books, but something I wanted to share that I think you’ll both enjoy. A friend of mine who helped design Disney, Paris, Disney, Tokyo, he came up with the term mental real estate. And what for real estate is, is you share something that’s familiar, but then you twist it. So, the familiarity causes people to open their minds to you. And when you twist it, you have more mental real estate. So just listen. Has a certain amount of mental real estate talking to crazy has even more mental real estate. And I spoke in Russia headline with Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner. And I said, Why is it that you have me with a Nobel Prize winner? And they said his book did not go viral because the Russian edition of Talking to Crazy is How to Talk to Assholes.
Peter Winick Well, I want that book.
Mark Goulston That’s mental real estate. But I think Culture of Good has good multa because culture of something, yeah, sort of prepares you. But then when you hit it with Culture of Good, it hits someone right in the gut saying, Yeah, yeah, I want to feel good about my company. I want my company to do good. I want to do good. I’m too self-absorbed with too selfish. Well, I like that. So, I just wanted to share that because I think it lands to mental real estate.
Peter Winick You know, I love that. And the culture to a culture of good and titles matter. Just listen. The shortness of it is like, okay, it broke my trance. Just listen, okay? Is that a command? Is that a question? Is that a you know, what is that? And then culture a good, you know, in a very few words lead you to this sort of. Huh? I wonder if I have one. It’s aspirational. It’s where I’d like to go. What does that actually mean? And then when you dig deeper into it, as Ryan alluded to before, they’re clearly not anti-profit. Right? Like, actually, the better the culture got, the better the business got. And it became sort of this gratuitous and that. Yeah. And that flywheel.
Ryan McCarty That’s the promise because as the business grows, so does the good, you know. And it goes back to what Mark said earlier about the friend or whoever it was that he was speaking with said toward the end of the life realization, like, you know, what did I really do with a sense of meaning? And I’m grateful to have been raised in that type of culture from an early age after losing my mom. I know we’re not going to get into all this, but I lost my mom to suicide at six years old and my dad was a heroin addict. And so me doing this type of work has less to do with business than it does to do with my own sense of meaning and my own sense of purpose. So, it comes from a place of my own heart and soul. And I think if we’re going to be thought leaders, if we’re going to be business leaders, whatever the case is, we have to lead from a place of our heart and be the type of leaders that we would want to follow. Right. And really create and cultivate those type of relationships that allow us to build a real good sense of community, like I said, and culture that leads to that good. And I’m starting another book called Bring Your Soul to Work. Peter, you talked about it like people want to bring their kids to work, but a lot of times we check our soul at the door and we have to fit in to fit into the construct of work and we lose.
Peter Winick What I love about that. Ryan, from a generational perspective is I’m a Gen X, I’m on the older side of Gen X, but Gen X still is. When I was coming up by my first couple of jobs, the mantra was whether it was written down or not, it was clearly understood. Check your baggage at the door. I mean, literally, I remember those words being used by leaders to someone. Oh, my God. How come Sheila, the receptionist, is crying? What my mother just done? Okay, well, check your baggage at the door. Somebody’s going to answer the phones. That’s the way it was. And, you know, bring your soul to work. Doesn’t mean, like, the phone rings, abuse the culture or whatever, but how do you accomplish both? Because guess what? After 9 to 5, there’s 5 to 9 and stuff happens and. Yeah.
Ryan McCarty Right, right. Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, it’s a lot healthier for us to come in fully ourselves and to have leaders in place that can coach. Sure, I can show up.
Peter Winick And there’s boundaries around that. I mean, we’re not coming in and yeah, yeah, you got to have boundaries. Anyway, I want to thank you both. I love you both. You both have been dear friends for a long, long time. I encourage you to connect offline. You can find Ryan at his website, Ryan McCartney dot com. You get your fancy QR code there. There we go.
Mark Goulston That’s my link code.
Peter Winick Thank you. And you can find Mark anywhere online, if you Google him or his books or his blog or all his other stuff. I encourage you to follow both of these guys. Read their stuff. Check them out. Watch to learn from both of them. And more importantly, they’re both real and good people. So thank you both.
Ryan McCarty Thank you so much for having us.
Mark Goulston Thank you.