Leadership + People: Episode 59 - John Bates - Part 2 of 2

In this episode CEO of Executive Speaking Success John Bates, provides examples of generosity as a competitive advantage, putting others at ease, and how to make emotional connections that will lead to action. Bates also shares the unexpected final test in becoming a NASA astronaut.

Show Notes

  • Understanding why we do certain things and for whom, should remove the focus on us [01:25]
  • Naturally we will fend for ourselves, but to take responsibility for other and interest in them takes extra consciousness [05:27]
  • A man who didn’t look for excuses to leave early, but instead came early and left late, busy getting to know others [09:13]
  • Finding your emotional connection to your work and why that matters [14:12]
  • The final test to becoming a NASA astronaut has nothing to do with physical ability or mental skills but something many people forget to even consider [14:12]
  • Yes yes yes no situations translated into logic logic logic emotions and how to utilize the emotions to create a yes yes yes yes [19:13]
  • Shift worry from what others think of us to how we can put others at ease in our presence [21:30]
  • Give people something good to mirror back [23:09]

Show Audio


RB Hackenberg

Chris Voss Never Split the Difference

John Bates part 2-05

This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: November 23rd, 2018

Show Transcript

[BEGINS] 00:00

Before we get going with the interview, we want to offer you a free e-book from Corporate Alliance, about becoming more referable. Basically it’s along the lines, everybody knows word of mouth is the best form of advertising. But that there’s a secret to get people to refer more business to you. And that most of us are making it unintentionally too hard for contacts to help us. So, what this resource goes through is this idea of how to become 10x more referable. You can get if for free on the website. If you go to corporatealliance.net/ebooks you can download it for free. Again corporatealliance.net/ebooks


Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, Senior Executives and Entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies.  And what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.

JL: This is part two of our interview with John Bates.

JOHN BATES: “And if you take that to leadership, you know, there’s so many opportunities to worry about yourself and be selfish and be worried about what people are thinking of you. And am I doing this ok. And are they going to think I’m weak or whatever.  If you can get your attention off of that stuff and really put your attention on what do they need from me.”

Focus on the Why Not You

01:25 JL: If you missed part one, please go back and hear about raising 80 million dollars for his first start up, and all his work, and all his speaking at Ted and TedEx and for all sorts of other organisations. John, before when we were ending part one, I was saying that one of the things that I’d love to talk about here for part two,  is this idea of focusing on ourselves versus focusing on others. You know, I know you’ve done trainings for folks from Johnson and Johnson and NASA and IBM and Boston Scientific. All these great big companies. And you obviously advise all these different speakers with that type of an approach. Can you talk more about this idea of essentially conquering our own anxiety? It sounds like almost through self forgetfulness. Through being of service to others.

JOHN BATES: Sure. You know, I’ll tell you there’s two things. You know, I got this advice from Snoop Doggy Dogg and but then I got that same advice from one of the greatest leadership trainers in the world, anywhere outside the military. And Snoop Dogg said ‘Don’t be nervous. Be at their service.’ And the leadership trainer, she said ‘John if you get up on stage and you have your attention on yourself, then you have your attention on a minor ball of petty concerns that’s of no real interest of anyone but you.’ Ouch. You know, like that hurts. But it’s true. She said, ‘if however you get up on stage and and you have your attention on your audience and the difference that you’re going to make for them. And the difference they’re going to make with the people in their lives because of it, well now you have your attention on something worth thinking about.’ And you know, that is just perfectly don’t be nervous, be at their service.  So one of the things that I train my speakers in, but it’s also a tremendous leadership skill as you said is; when you notice you’re nervous about this speech, about the all hands meeting, about the board presentation, whatever it is, when you notice you’re nervous, remember nervous is all about you and that’s not why you are going to do this. You are not going to selfishly do this purely for yourself. You are going to do this because of the difference it’s going to make. Otherwise you wouldn’t even take the risk it is do to public speaking. So get your attention on the message, on the audience, on the difference you are intending to make here, and as you focus your attention off of your self and on to that stuff, some of the nervousness goes out of your body. Not all of it. But some of it. And then what’s left over, we’re now going to call excitement. Because it’s no longer… They are the same thing physiologically. So instead of calling it nervous, we’re going to re-contextualize it as excited. Now you go from being focused on yourself and nervous to focused on your audience and your message and being excited. And I’m telling you there is a fundamental difference both for you as the speaker and for your audience. And if you take that to leadership, you know, there’s so many opportunities to worry about yourself and be selfish and be worried about what people are thinking of you. And am I doing this ok. And are they going to think I’m weak or whatever.  But if you can get your attention off of that stuff and really put your attention on, what do they need from me? How can I support them? What do I have to offer them right now that’s going to make a difference for them? Where are they in their journey and their feelings? And how is this for them? Boy I tell you. It just fundamentally makes it easier to communicate with people. And you become far more effective for everything from word choice to what you actually say.

Shifting Self Responsibility

05:27 JL: It’s interesting how that lack of nervousness actually makes us more magnetic. You and I are obviously both members of Corporate Alliance. And I think about you know, that’s really been a great opportunity for our firm. You know, we’ve got connected with a CEO of a billion dollar investment fund that became a client because of what we’ve done there. And you know our other clients. And you know, it’s like one of those other opportunities to show up and think about what’s in it for me, or how do I get them? Or any of the natural self focused type of thoughts that are… You don’t have to work for it, they come to you automatically right?

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Exactly right. They’re built in.

06:10 JL: Yeah and yet there is nothing more likely to get people to not to want to talk to me than if I’m trying to get them. You know?

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Absolutely.

06:20 JL: And I think of when I am able to stop thinking about what could be in this for me and to just like genuinely be of service no matter the result, kind of thing. You know even CEO of billion dollar investment funds have things you know, they have different experience and so in this case there was something from my background that they were interested to know about and when I was more than willing to share those in a non transactional kind of way, it turned into a real relationship right?


06:57 JL: And it seems like, I don’t know, it seems like there are probably… Like you think about our work life for instance. There is probably no situation where focusing on serving others is a default. Obviously we know we need to take care of ourselves and our responsibilities but it doesn’t seem like there is a big fear of accidentally forgetting that. You know.

JOHN BATES: [chuckle] Well you know and importantly that’s built in. YOu know I think I used to kind of beat myself up and other people up for being so selfish. But the point is if I’m not paying attention to myself then I might forget to feed me, you know. Or do something else that was really important for me. But that’s where I think the opportunity is. That’s built in. And that needs to built in. We need to be selfish so we don’t just starve or you know, die of thirst because we forget to drink some water. Because we were so selfless. You know?

07:52 JL: Or call it responsible. We need to be responsible for ourselves, right?

JOHN BATES: Yes. And then there’s the whole next step of do you let it stop at just being responsible for yourself or do you want to go to that next level of involvement and fulfillment where you could take responsibility not only for yourself but for those around you. You know, like am I going to be responsible for my direct reports’ results? I could just say they’re responsible for them. But at the end of the say that is going to provide less value than if I say, look I’m responsible for their results. What do they need from me? How can I amplify their results? How can I make them better? Because at the end of the day I’m just saying, I’m deciding to take responsibility for their results. So that puts me in a different frame of mind.

08:50 JL: Yeah. No kidding. Well, let’s take a quick break from our sponsor and then I want to ask you about people who have set the example for you in this. Or folks you feel are exceptional at this others focused approach.

[sponsor break]

09:10 JL: [laugh] I screwed that up. The editors going to have to fix this.

JOHN BATES: I’m sorry about that.

09:13 JL: Oh no don’t worry. Okay so John, just before the sponsor break I was saying I want to ask you about folks that you feel like have set an example for you, or people that you feel like are able to have this others focus and kind of generosity is a competitive advantage type of approach.

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Boy so who… I mean. I’ve experienced a lot of people like that in my life. One of them is a guy named RB Hackenberg.  Who was the guy that I hired to be my boss at bigwords.com. And you know he is somebody that I think has been, you know what I would call a genuine success. He may not have more money than some people. He may not have more accolades than some people. But he has been successful both financially and for lack of a better word, spiritually. You know, has a great family. Has great relationships. Is a really wonderful loving guy. And also very successful in business. Super smart. Very capable etcetera. And he is.. You know, he was one of the first examples, the brightest example in my world of someone who just… He just loves people. And that would be the thing that would drive how he dealt with the world. And so he might go… Whereas I would be tempted to show up to an event a little bit late, and leave a little early because I’ve got so much to do. He would actually go a little bit early so he could actually talk to people and meet people. And then stay a little longer to just talk to people. And he wouldn’t talk to them about himself. He would ask them about themselves. And he would come away knowing a whole bunch about the people he met at that event because he was just genuinely interested in them. And you know, he’s still around. That’s still how he is today. We’re still in touch. And he definitely taught me a lot about being others focused. He was one of the people that really made a big impression on me like that.

11:27 JL: Yeah. Do you remember any stories or is there any examples that come to mind?

JOHN BATES: You know, the… What really comes to mind right away is the first time that I actually sat down with him because I was in the internet industry. And I was pretty young at the time. I was in my early 30s I think. And he was what… He called himself the old guy in new media. And he had a bunch of things under his belt already. He had worked at […]. He had come up with, you know, loyalty awards program from United Airlines, which was I think the first airlines loyalty airlines program and it set the stage for the all the other loyalty rewards programs. So he was just a really brilliant guy. Very famous and well known among our community. And I sent him an email and said ‘Hey would you mind meeting me for lunch. I’d just love to talk with you.’ And I’m a nobody. I was really a nobody at that world at that point. But he took time to come sit down with me. We had lunch. Apparently he had a dog that had just died and he was willing to share that with me because I had a dog at the time named Milo. He was just super open and really sweet to me. And at the end of our conversation I said, ‘You know RB. My dad is a great guy. But he doesn’t know this industry at all. So he’s been a great mentor to me and great father but I wonder if you would be willing to mentor me some because you’ve got direct insight into our business and what we do and this whole community.’ And he said, ‘Well John, gosh you know, I would be happy to do that. I imagine you have  more to teach me than I have to teach you. But I’d be happy to do that.’ And then he went out of his way to just meet with me whenever I asked him. And give me his insights. And then it turned out several years later that I asked him to be my boss at bigwords.com. And you know, he was at the root of pretty much everything we did successfully till we ended up going out of business in the dot.com crash. So, you know, just his generosity of person with his time and his generosity of being with people, you know that was one very specific instance where I got to be the recipient of that. And then I saw him do that with countless other people both inside our company and outside our company. And make a really big difference.

14:12 JL: That’s great. That’s a great story. Being a big fan of stories myself, anything that comes to mind from your work with some of these really notable organizations; NASA, IBM, Johnson Johnson, Boston Scientific? Any just observations or stories from that work?

The Final Test for an Astronaut

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Let me blast through a few. So one is Dolph Lundgren is super successful in large part because he is so amazingly coachable. Once he trusts you as a coach, he is super coachable. And I think being coachable and finding a great coach is one of the absolute secrets of life. It’s certainly what changed my life. Just completely turned my life around. I think that having a personal story is, as a leader, is probably like a well told personal story about why you care about what you do and what connects you to your work. What connects you emotionally and from the heart to your work. That is probably one of the most important factors that I’ve seen consistently with great leaders is that they all have great stories like that. And they are in touch with them and they share them. And then I have a really quick story for you about what the final test to become an astronaut, because I think it’s absolutely crucial, not just to becoming an astronaut, but for businesses, particularly startups. Should I tell you that one?

15:48 JL: Absolutely.

JOHN BATES: Okay. So the final test to become an astronaut. When I was working with… I’ve done a lot of work with NASA. And when I was doing some work with NASA a couple of years ago two the astronauts came up to me and said, ‘You know John, would you like to know the final test to become an astronaut?’ after my training. So they could obviously see that this would somehow appeal to me. And I said well of course I want to know. Like are you kidding? Of course. So they said; ‘Well okay to become an astronaut you have to pass all these tests. You know, mental tests and physical tests and comprehension tests. So you end up with this big binder full of all the tests that you have passed. And it’s kind of your test binder. And the final test to become an astronaut. You grab that binder and you go upstairs to the astronaut conference room. And you knock on the door. And as the door opens, you look in and there sitting around the big huge conference table are all of the active astronauts. And so you step in with your big binder of stuff and tests you’ve passed, and they take that binder from you and they throw it on a side table. And they invite you to sit down. And then you sit down with all the astronauts and you talk for about an hour. And then they say okay well time to go. And they give you your binder back. And as they show you out the door, as that door closes behind you, all of the astronauts now talk about whether or not they like you.

17:18 JL: [laugh]

JOHN BATES: And even… Isn’t that funny? And even more importantly than do they like you, do they think you are likable. Because you are going to be on the space station not only with them but you’re going to cramped into really tight quarters with people from all over the world at the international space station. Heaven knows where they might go with you on a mission in the future. Or what… Or how close quarters they might be cramped with you for how long. So the final test after you do everything else, that you need to do to become an astronaut, the final test is are you likable? And I got to tell you Jess, I think it is one of the most important and perhaps not talked about enough tests for hiring people, especially at startups but anywhere that you want to get stuff done with people. Are your people likeable? Is this new person you’re bringing in with all their credentials, are they actually likable too?

18:22 JL: You know it’s interesting because we love to think of ourselves as such rational beings. And we like to think that if people can get the work done, that’s what matters so much right?

JOHN BATES: Right. Yep.

18:33 JL: You think about everything we’re trying to get done at work and other places. You know typically who… it almost always requires corroboration from some other human, right?

JOHN BATES: You know tell me where it doesn’t right?

18:50 JL: Yeah. It’s funny how… You know the nature of not asking that question, you know people get a sense of that anyway but not explicitly hiring for it. You probably don’t explicitly receive it, right?

JOHN BATES: Yep. Yeah. So now Jess, can I make a call back to the first half of this thing?

19:13 JL: Yeah. Yeah.

Logic, Logic, Logic, Emotion

JOHN BATES: So when I was talking about the paleomammalian brain and the neocortex, you know you get into those situations where it’s a yes yes yes no response. Yes we like it. Yes we think it’s a fair price. Yes we think it would make a difference. No we’re not ready. Well people get upset by that kind of response. And you know, they think were they lying to me or not? Well here’s what was happening in that Jess. And people will have to go back to the first part if they missed it to get the fundamentals of this. But what’s happening is yes yes yes no. Okay, here’s what’s happening. Logic logic logic, emotion. The logical brain wanted it. The neocortex was like yeah this product’s awesome. Let’s get it. Everything lines up. It’s logical. But because we didn’t put the emotional brain at ease with some sort of an emotional connection. Which again doesn’t have to be singing kumbaya. It can just be ‘hey, you like dogs. I like dogs. Look, here’s my dog. Let’s see your dog. Oh they’re so cute. Oh great.’ Well now we’re part of the dog lovers tribe and we don’t have to kill each other. So we can get down to business because the paleomammalian ancient brain can relax now. So you know, that yes yes yes no that’s logic logic logic emotion. And the way that you actually drive action and get people to take action is by making a connection with the emotional brain and then all of you logic will matter.

20:46 JL: You know, it’s funny when you hear things that are true show up with different words in different places.


20:53 JL: You know at Mylan we’ve got one of our senior consultants is a guy who spent 22 years with the FBI. He was a hostage negotiator. He did counterintelligence work. You know, cool guy stuff.

JOHN BATES: Wow. I read a book by someone like that recently. It’s fabulous.

21:08 JL: Did you read never split the difference by Chris Voss?

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Yep.

21:11 JL: So that guy that works for us, they actually worked, you know… They were there at the same time and they knew each other.

JOHN BATES: That’s cool.

21:18 JL: And Chris Voss actually says it so well when he’s talking about you know, if you can’t get their emotions to settle down, you can’t reason with them, right?

JOHN BATES: Yeah. That’s right.

Work to Put Others at Ease

21:30 JL: So if you can’t build some report and like, kind of get that adrenaline and cortisol out of the blood stream, it’s pretty hard to have a rational conversation. And yet when we meet people for the first time we’re so worried about how we appear. Guess what? They’re probably worried about if they’re approved.

JOHN BATES: You know, you’re absolutely right Jess. That’s one of the assignments I give some of the executives I work with is, you know, from now on whenever you go into a room with other people in it, I want you to purposely stop for a minute, leave your fear of what they think of you outside the door. And when you go into that room, you’re only goal is to put everybody you interact with at ease. Because they’re all just as scared of what you think of them so if everybody’s scared of what everybody else thinks of them, let’s just divide by that and get rid of it. You know?

22:29 JL: Yeah. What’s funny is there’s probably few things more likely to get us accepted by them than accepting them first. Right?

JOHN BATES: You’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. And it’s tough to remember in the heat of the moment. You know, especially when you’re hanging out with people who technically might out rank you. Or you think are smarter than you or better than you or make more money than you or are more successful than you. But gosh when do they get to hang out with someone who is interested in them and wants to put them at ease instead of ….

23:03 JL: What they could use them for right?

JOHN BATES: Yeah. Yup. Yup.

23:09 JL: I love it. Well listen. I feel like we covered a lot of great subjects but maybe to close out, what’s something that we didn’t cover that you’re really passionate about. Or what’s maybe a final piece of advice or something that you’d want to share. Then we’ll tell everybody to come to your website and connect with you on social.

Mirror Neurons: What are you giving them to mirror back?

JOHN BATES: Okay. Let’s see. One other thing that we didn’t talk about. Gee, kind of got me stumped here. We did pretty well. I think what I might do Jess is reiterate the value of actually okay… Here we go. This is another aspect of human neurobiology. In the first part we talked about the paleomammalian brain and then the neocortex and the dichotomy that sets up. There’s one other major piece of this that really makes a huge difference in public speaking and again makes an enormous difference in leadership. And that’s called mirror neurons. Recently someone got a nobel prize for their work on this. And basically what mirror neurons are, are neurons that we have that fire in us when we see other people going through something or taking a conscious action, or something like that. So if I were here on a cooking show and you could see me and I had big purple carrots and a butcher knife, and I was chopping us the purple carrots and all of a sudden I cut my finger. Just hearing that you’re like ‘ouch!’ I don’t even have a butcher knife or purple carrots. I mean this is like… Just even hearing me. But that happens because you have mirror neurons. So you know, we mirror what we see go on with other people. Now how that applies is that I don’t think people take in to account enough that other people are always mirroring you. They’re always mirroring you. When you walk in the room and everyone turns to look at you. Now they’re mirroring you. When you raise your hand to speak they’re mirroring you. When you’re up on stage speaking, they’re mirroring you. If you’re the head of the hierarchy, if you’re the CEO, they are always mirroring you, whether you’re around or not, they’re always mirroring you. So you get what you put out. If you take responsibility for that, and you start giving people something good to mirror all the time, it will have a profound effect on your results as a speaker, as a leader, in your relationships, with your kids, with your wife, with your husband, with whoever if you are always conscious of the fact that they are mirroring you. It’s kind of like those grumpy people who think everyone’s grumpy. Well everyone’s not grumpy. We’re just grumpy when they show up because we’re mirroring them. Then the minute they leave everybody’s fine again, right? So to really take on that other people are always mirroring you. And to be conscious and cognizant of what are you giving them. Are you giving them something good to mirror all the time? That is just an enormous key to success on stage and success as a leader.

26:33 JL: Love it. Well thanks again for spending time with us. Obviously people, encourage them to go check out executivespeakingsuccess.com and connect with you on facebook and twitter and everything else you got on here.

JOHN BATES: Yeah, that’s fabulous. There’s links to some short videos. Got a lot of free content out there. So people want more of this kind of stuff, it’s there.

26:56 JL: Love it. Thanks again.

JOHN BATES: Thank you Jess. I appreciate it.

27:01 JL: You bet. Bye.

Hi. My name is Logan Wilkes and I’m the CEO of Corporate Alliance.  A few years ago I moved to San Diego to build a new market for us there. The biggest deterrent I had to success was I didn’t know a soul. I often thought to myself, if I just had a thriving network or influence this would go 100x faster. To be honest with you I had never felt so alone in my line. Because a) I didn’t have an influence and b) I didn’t know anyone who was going through the same thing I was. If you have ever felt like this and you were looking to grow your influence join us at one of our upcoming events. You can check us out at corporatealliance.net And you can request an invite to one of our upcoming experiences.

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