14 Jul July 16, 2019 – Blue Angel John Foley and Persuasive Speaking John Rayner
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John Foley – Former Lead Solo Pilot of the Blue Angels and Author of Fearless Success: Beyond High Performance – Read interview highlights here
Where are we and where are we trying to go? We assume that people around us know what that is. I want one sentence
of what the objective is.
John Foley is a former lead solo pilot of the Blue Angels, a Sloan Fellow at Stanford Graduate School of Business, a venture capitalist, and an expert in the “how” of high-performance teams. John is recognized as one of the top 10 most in-demand keynote speakers, and he has worked with over 1,000 organizations across the globe to create and sustain excellence in the face of dynamic change. John has worked with some of the world’s top organizations such as Microsoft, Hitachi, Intel, Cisco, Mercedes-Benz, Chevron, Marriott, Hilton, Penske Racing, the LA Kings, the Mayo Clinic, Merrill Lynch, Mass Mutual, Bank of America, GE, P&G, Gillette, and Google. In 2016, John was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from UNAM in Mexico. His foundation has raised over 1 million dollars for over 100 charities around the globe.
John Rayner – International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Trainer, Advisor & Author
Instead of going in with data, go in with emotion.
John Rayner is an international speaker and thought-leader who has advised many top Fortune 500 companies. He started his career in 1989 as an engineer, but quickly realized that engineering was not his greatest strength. John moved to Australia in 1996 & entered Corporate Marketing & Sales, for which he demonstrated strength. John also proves himself as an effective entrepreneur. He used his knowledge and skill and shares them both as a speaker and advisor for companies that need a boost. John recently completed writing Confident, Powerful & Persuasive Public Speaking.
Highlights from John’s Interview
The reason I titled it Fearless Success is there’s all kinds of obstacles, roadblocks that comes into people’s lives. When you dive into the book, you’ll see that I got rejected. First time I applied to the academies I got rejected three times, didn’t get the airplanes I wanted. I eventually worked my way through, not only flying in the movie Top Gun, being an instructor pilot, but flying for the Blue Angels. That was an experience of a lifetime. But what I do in the book is try to take people behind the scenes. What I want to try to do is take what happened in that unique, incredible experience, this high performance culture, this high performance environment where precision, excellence teamwork really has to come together, because your life’s on the line. But how do you make that into every organization, every individual? How do you do that as a startup? And how do you sustain excellence under change? That’s what the book was crafted around.
I happened to be the lead solo that year, and so I do take my audiences through that. There’s two things we call it, debrief. Debrief, it’s really a cadence of execution. And here’s the key, it’s not about planning at this point. What you witnessed and you saw in the video, is it’s about preparation and focus. In that first video, what I take people through, and then the book to, you’ll see when I say it’s OK, how do you focus? How do you block out distractions? I don’t know. Distractions are going around. How do you block that out, focus down and open up. It’s like a radar scope.
I had my partner coming at me, my Blue Angels, Thumper coming at me at 1000 miles per hour, close. By the way, that’s a mile every four and a half seconds of closure. And I’d have to be able to be laser focused, because I’m going to miss within a wing span. But as I’m focused on him, or her, I have to then open up, because a lot of other things are going on. There’s chaos out there. You know, we got weather over here. We got six planes over here. We know we’re all in different directions, right? So the idea is, how do you actually bring a focus to your day? How do you bring a focus to your team, and then the more important one, and that’s in the brief. The more important one is then you execute, and that’s that second video you saw, where we actually talk about how do we learn from this, where’s the continuous improvement, and we can go into that much deeper, because that’s critical for success.
We all know, strategic management theory is vision plan, execute feedback loop. Okay, pretty simple. What’s the vision, come up with a plan, the plan was a feedback loop. But before you can actually do what you just suggested, now you’ve got the vision, okay, what’s the vision? The clarity is important. That’s the first thing that I would do with my team. When you pull them together, What’s the clarity? Where are we trying to go? Where are we trying to go? Make sure we assume that people around us know what that is. But I want crystal clarity. I want one sentence of what the objective is and what we’re trying to achieve there. Then when I would say, okay, that’s great. That’s the vision. Now, what’s our role? Everyone needs to know their roles, responsibilities, and that’s clear. Then you actually go through how it’s going to play out. Let’s say it’s a meeting, right? Who’s going to tee it up? What’s the transition to this person? The key though, is what’s the outcome? So I call that a center point. There’s a video I like to show when I speak to organizations, where all six jets are going straight up together. That’s fine formation. That’s everything working well. Then we go in six different directions, then we come back, and we cross. Individual roles, responsibilities, and your crossover center points. The key is knowing what the customer center point is, not what your center point is. What is the customer center point, what’s important to them? Then you build a trust contract on how you’re gonna deliver.
First is you need to connect. It’s interesting that you brought up we’re going to talk about our families, because I think you’re absolutely right. Human beings first need to connect. So I say, let’s have a connect exercise. That could be asking about family, the same thing you did with me when we jumped on this call. You connect, but then you have to align. And what you just described is the alignment process of asking how are we going to transition from a human emotional connection to what we are trying to do? And you’re absolutely right; I would have that scripted enough that somebody knows how they’re going to do it. Now, after you connect them with you, you’ve got to get a commitment. And that’s the third piece that’s going to happen in the meeting, you’re going to have a commitment from individuals, the commitment is to go forward. And you get started; absolutely great plan. I would always say this, though, we used to say you can have a brief, and you can plan the perfect Air Show, and the minute you get airborne, things change. I want to make sure your audience knows that while you may have that plan, it may change the minute you walk in that room, so you have to be prepared to adapt, and that’s another skill.
Let me give you the analogy we used in the Blue Angels. We actually had three contingency plans, and it was based on weather. We had a high show, a low show, and a flat show, and it depended on the weather and the visibility. We have planned for those we practice in winter training. So on one word–when we could be airborne, even–the boss could say, “Low show,” and everybody knew what that meant. It meant we knew what the next game plan was.
Number one, most people don’t even go in with multiple game plans or contingencies. But your question went to the next one, what if you get an unexpected contingency? And that happens all the time. Being airborne, I was a test pilot, you’re shutting down engines airborne, and sometimes they don’t realize, so you better have a plan, right? And then you better adapt to the situation, so it gets back to what I tried to say earlier. And that is, you have to have a culture and a trust. You can just look at the person next to you in that room, and you can then get all you need to know, okay, we’re going to adapt here. It may not be scenario A, B, or C, we’re going to have to find out plan D, but stay true to your core values. What I mean by that is, you got to go in there knowing a no go, maybe it’s not a deal to make. You got to go in there knowing what your capabilities are. And then there’s always the, “We can get back with you.” That’s the other thing. You can even do this airborne at 500 miles per hour, you can get a sense of your teammates, right by the voice inflection of how they’re speaking. So I think nonverbal communication is critical. It’s critical in business, and it’s critical in life.
It’s an alignment tool. It’s not just knowing what the focus is, it may not be a pain point, but I like the idea of a pain point. That may be it. The example I like to use is most people will say the customer’s the center point. Most businesses, if you focus on the customer, you’re probably going in a pretty good direction, right? Customers as center point, that’s just the starting point. That’s the point we’re going to make decisions off of. But we still need to build what I call the stack. And that’s where the six jets in the video in the book, I show where we all come together, and we stack, and that’s where you get alignment. So really, the center point is a decision making tool that allows alignment. And here’s what I would align: marketing, sales, operations, product development. And you all know in a business, entrepreneurs know, you got to get all these moving parts to align. That’s the biggest challenge. So this concept of the center point is a nice tool that can help people do that quickly.
I think the idea is, it relates back to human beings, you and I, we both don’t perform at our full potential, neither do your listeners. What we actually perform at is a belief level. So the whole concept here is if you can increase your belief, your performance will follow. Now it gets more challenging if you need to increase your team’s and organization’s or even a customer child’s belief, right? So the idea there is absolutely right, is we never really are at our peak performance. What we’re at is a belief level. Now, in there, you have to raise that. So for me personally, when I showed up at the blues, okay… Just to put it in perspective, I’ve flown off the carriers, I’m a six time top 10 pilot, I flew in the movie Top Gun, I show up at the blues. And they looked at me, and they said, “You know, we’re glad you’re here. Guess what, you need a 300% improvement, and you got three months to do it.” No, kidding. That ain’t to say that physically, they showed me they were flying 300% closer together, lower to the ground than I had ever done in my life. And now here’s the beautiful part, is there was a process, there was a system. But to get someone there, it’s not just me, we do it with three new pilots every year. So it’s repeatable, it’s transferable, it works. But its key is the idea is your own personal belief. So that’s what your question targets is your own individual belief, then you got to actually go do it. And that’s the execution piece, and then the execution piece of constantly reevaluating myself. That’s the debrief piece that allows you to make adjustments and then you get this spiraling up process.
The way I like to start, because this is how we did it on the blues, is we start with what I call a general state. First thing I want to know is, I don’t want to get into specifics right away. The minute we get out of that meeting–and this could be in the car, this could be on the phone, this could be with your arm around Bob–you basically start with how did you feel about the meeting in general? You just told me that didn’t go great, but I think we accomplished x, y, & z. It’s a very quick general statement, because I want to know your mindset. Then, the next thing I want to know, I want the individual, all of us to self-assess. First, I want to know what you thought of your own performance, and was there anything out of parameters? If there wasn’t in there, shouldn’t there be? Next is after you do that, you go around the table, you go around the room, and get everybody’s input first, how did they feel? Is there anything that went out of parameters? Then you go through a timeline of the agenda, and then you start to unpack very specific items. Maybe this part of the meeting went well, but here’s where we had, a glitch. Here’s what went well, and most people don’t focus on that, by the way, we should focus on what’s going well. Here’s some things we could have done better. And what I always want to know is the decision point; I want to know when it occurred, and what was the decision we made, because that’s what you learn from. So it’s that inflection point that you try to unpack in a very quick debrief.
There’s different types of debrief. I love in the corporate world of stand up meetings, I’ve had the red zone meetings, Pete had heard the PTS. That’s a good one. Red Zone? You know, it’s same thing as stand up. It’s going to be happening quick. You know, football, at the 20 yard line? The idea is that this is important. Let’s have a very quick meeting to discuss what’s important. This could happen on the stock market floor, it could happen anywhere. I mean, you can change these things. But there are different types of debrief, some of them demand a focused, long, and intense debrief. And that’s what we were doing on the blues because of the intensity of what we just did. So our debrief would last at least twice as long as the brief and sometimes four times as long as the actual flight. And the reason we’re going there that long, is we very quickly hit the high level, that’s what I showed you earlier, but now we want to get into very clear specifics, so that we can tighten it up, get closer together, lower the ground. And that to me, is more of a maybe it’s a quarterly meeting that people have, maybe it’s your monthly meetings. I teach three different types of debrief, there’s an event debrief, so you had something happen, let’s talk about it. Like a you know, maybe you had a speech that day, maybe you had this case, a meeting, then you would have your quarterly type, scheduled type meetings, we typically do that in my company on Fridays, we talked about the week, right? Of course, Monday we always set the goals. So you have a brief and then a debrief. And then you have these stand up meetings that are very quick, this is more just on the spot, what can we do quickly? So I believe in all three, and I think you just need to know when to apply the different ones.
I almost titled the book Glad to Be Here, but it is the ethos of the book. And it’s a term that we have used on the Blue Angels in our debriefs after everybody finishes their comments, they always say, “Glad to be here.” I’ve taken it to a whole new level. To me, it’s a way of life, and it can change one’s life. They’ve done a lot of science on this, the science of positivity, of gratefulness, but it goes beyond science. You know what, in your heart, I don’t even need to prove it to you. You go because you feel it’s right. I live a life that’s glad to be here. I wake up every morning, I start with, am I glad to wake up? What am I grateful for in the present moment? Then I go back 24 hours, it would happen yesterday. I’m grateful for that, then I go forward in the day, and think about others. Like today, I thought about you and I said, “I want Jim’s show to be the best I’ve ever, we’ve ever had.” Here’s the thing, you gotta earn that stuff in life. It’s not just given to you, right? I think though, here’s the key, I’ll rejoice on this. And that’s in business, if we can do this, if you can combine operational excellence with a glad to be here mindset, I believe those are the secret sauces, that’s what will get you whatever you’re trying to achieve.
When you get to core values, I actually don’t see a change in the Millennials or any other generation, the people that I engage with. And that’s where the glad to be here becomes a ubiquitous message. People want to be part of something larger than themselves, this purpose larger than themselves. I don’t care what age you are, you want to be part of something that you’re making a difference. And I find that is true, no matter what age group. Now, how you go about it shifts. People want more flexibility in their work, they want more of certain travel, that’s great, but we still gotta stick to those core values. And I love your three core values. Be on time. Be dependable is an even better word. I want someone dependable. I want you showing up with your A game every single day. I love the glad to be here. And being happy doesn’t mean you’re just smiling. It means you’re grateful for the opportunity, and then go do something that’s productive.
The book is out everywhere. Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, all the airports. But if you go to our website, and it’s johnfoleyinc.com, we’ve bundled a special package of not just the book, but also what I call Breaking Belief Barriers, which is another book for the audience, because I want them to have the full suite of what’s possible. So our website is the best thing. We’ve got a special offer going on right now for your audience. So that would be great. You can get it anywhere. Definitely connect to us on social, we’re on all the mediums, we’re under gladtobehere, run the job fully. Unfortunately, you can’t come to one of my events. They’re all private events that are brought in by big corporations or individuals. But we are going to have, in the future, an event that will be open to the public. So if you go to my website, you’ll get a chance to download the first chapter of the book free. And if you want to connect with us, please do, and we’ve got all kinds of free information for you. But more importantly, you’ll be on the list for future developments. And we’re going to have some cool stuff coming out soon.