Randy Ford: Welcome to SuccessInSight. I am Randy Ford. Our guest today is John Bentley from Power2Transform Consulting Group. John, you are a leadership coach, a teacher, trainer, Air Force veteran. You have done a little bit of everything. Talk to us first of all about what is Power2Transform.
John Bentley: Yessir. Randy, thanks so much for hosting today. I primarily work with with health care leaders and what I've discovered is just like any other industry they get promoted for being technical experts, but you also have physicians who've had years and years of school but never get leadership training and they're expected to take a leadership role today operationally in a lot of their health care institutions. So what I help them do is learn how to develop behaviors that build trust, that maximize their influence so they can achieve better results faster through and with others. And here's why that's important. Today in the healthcare industry. There's intense financial pressures just to keep the doors open. Also there's constant change. It's never ending with the rules and regulations changing. There's also a shortage of qualified staff. And then, finally, there are clinical outcomes are scrutinized. So the ability for them to be able to lead themselves and influence others to effectively manage those pressures is so critical. And that's what I focus on is helping them lead themselves.
Randy Ford: Give us an example.
John Bentley: Yeah. If you don't mind I'll tell a story about me?
Randy Ford: Please.
John Bentley: It has to do with my 10th year in the Air Force April 9th, 1992. I'd signed paperwork to leave the Air Force because we were reducing the size of the force after Desert Storm. Get this now: They were going to pay me $25,000, and you know it solved this 31-year old, all his problems. Every one of his problems would be solved. What I'm not telling you is the reason I was leaving is they weren't promote me fast enough. So I signed the paperwork and I walked out of our commander's office -- which, to our listening audience, that would be the H.R. office -- and the most respected individual 1200-person organization pulled me aside said, "Hey John I need to share a life lesson with you, because you're leaving the Air Force in December never to return again." And he shook a Coke can very, very hard and handed it to me and said, "Open it." You can imagine, I said, "Nope, ain't opening that, sir. Ain't opening that." he said, "Why not?" "Well, it's going on you and me, and it's going to be sticky and nasty." Then he took that Coke can, and he set it down and he got truthful and kind. And I really want people to listen to this piece: It wasn't truthful or kind; it was truthful and kind. See, if you're just truthful people you tell them whatever you want to think and you don't care how they feel. It's about you being right, you winning. Or if you're just kind, you tend to skirt the issue, because you don't want to hurt someone else's feelings, or you don't want your feelings to be hurt. But he did it in a truthful, kind way, and he said, "John, that's what you do. You're like a Coke can when things don't go your right that someone shakes up. They pop the top and you spew all over them. John, you have all the talent in the world. But here's what I'm going to tell you. Talent will get you nowhere until you learn to lead yourself. And if you don't learn to lead yourself, you never earn the right to lead others. And here's what happens, John. You're going to struggle." I was struggling. "You're gonna be frustrated." Oh, was I frustrated! "And, finally, you're going to limit your opportunities for success." So that day I made a decision to determine why I behave the way I did. Now let the story continue just a little bit: 30 days later, guess whose name showed up on the promotion list. My name. Well, I had PLOM Disease, as Zig Ziglar would tell us. "Poor little ol' me. Sure, you're gonna promote me now." Well, I was fortunate. About 30 days later, they they sent out a document that basically said if your name was on the promotion list you could withdraw the paperwork and stay in the Air Force. So I didn't stay in because of the promotion. I did it because someone saw in me things I could do better and cared about me enough to tell me that. So what I've discovered is that through that time frame what happened was in pressure situations I'd either become a controlling parent and try to force my way on others, force him to do my way, or I would become a defensive child and pout, hoping people would let me have my way. So see in both those cases, I felt threatened but I didn't know how to behave. And during that time frame as I was starting to think about why I behave that way and staying in the Air Force and Chief Master Sergeant White working with me, what I discovered is I grew up thinking I had to do everything myself. It had to be perfect and don't trust anyone else. And you can imagine if that's the mindset I had, how I interacted related with others wasn't pretty at all.
Randy Ford: I wondered what your life trajectory would have been if he had not taken that minute to do that illustration and share that with you.
John Bentley: Here's what I believe would have happened. I was a hard worker. I grew up knowing how to work since six years old, we had a five-acre garden. My dad was a truck driver. He's gone five days a week so my brother and I had to maintain that garden.
Randy Ford: This was in Georgia.
John Bentley: In Georgia. Absolutely. Back home. And what would have happened, I would have ended up working probably in what we called the trailer or mobile home factory. So that'd have been that 8 to 5, 9 to 5, or I would have probably learned to drive a truck, because that's what my dad did. And you know, all of those are good professions. However, what I believe would have happened, it'd be like me being in a jar out of being capped at a certain level and I do not believe I would have been happy, because my talents that he saw in me would have been squashed. And I think that's the important thing with people. It's helping them take their potential, transform it into high performance that yields a desired payoff. And, you see, payoff could be anything. You get to define what payoff is. And you know for me today now, it's just helping people learn how to accept and love themselves so they can accept and love others. When I see value in you and I show you mutual respect, now we can sit down and have a discussion about mutual purpose. Where are we moving this organization to? And let's focus on then how to get there once we agree on where we're going. That way people have the opportunity to fully invest their talents in helping move the organizational foot forward.
Randy Ford: I bet another way things would have been different is you would not be as afraid of Coke cans as you might be now.
John Bentley: That is a great point.
Randy Ford: I want to get back to this idea of truthful and kind. The relationship between those two.
John Bentley: Yeah.
Randy Ford: Yeah. Because that sounds like something that you took away from that moment as well.
John Bentley: Yeah, it's interesting that I'd never had that I could remember -- and I'm sure because I respected the gentleman so much -- that I could remember that someone said something to me that I could have taken as harsh, as derogatory or "I'm not good enough." Because I think that's another thing I grew up believing. Even though my dad just wanted me to always do my best, as a young kid growing up, you know, emotionally we don't know how to process that because we're not emotionally mature. And so I took a lot of things as "I'm not good enough, no matter how hard I try," and I probably would have walked away from that if I didn't respect him as an individual. So that goes back to that mutual respect. I mean you're a human being. And if I can't see you as a human being someone that has value, someone that brings talents and strengths to the table and draw those out of you. If I can't speak into your listening in a way that makes sense to you, then I'm not going to be -- and I'm putting my hands together now, clasping -- like with you versus -- now bumping my fist together -- at you. And I see a lot of "at" going on in organizations today, because people simply do not understand how to lead themselves.
Randy Ford: You started Power2Transform in 2003 and have been working with health care and the healthcare industry throughout that time. What changes have you seen organizationally and at the individual level? Because It's not an easy industry to work in, especially these days.
John Bentley: Yeah. A lot today, and I'll go back to Peter Drucker. I believe it was 1995, I'd have to look it up. He started talking about the knowledge worker age, where now as individuals we're more responsible for managing ourselves, because a lot of the work we accomplish is how we think about the work and how we interact relate with people, especially, you know, in the healthcare industry with patients and physicians and nurses and also the support staff that help make a lot of things happen. And just being able to collaborate with others, to show respect, to work as a team is more critical than ever before with a short staff, can you imagine having to see more patients? Can you imagine having timelines that seem to get shorter and shorter and the pressures are on you, but you don't know how to deal or handle that and the impact it can have on not only the patient experience because their perceptions of how you're behaving and acting but also the perceptions and the stress it causes amongst teammates between leaders and employees. So as we continue to evolve and get faster and faster, but also we have those tighter constraints with money and less reimbursables. If I can't deal with that stress, I'm going to be less and less effective. So turnover goes up. Sick days with people not coming into work increases. And it just has a snowball effect, almost like a downward spiral of like "I'm never ever going to catch up." And that's what I see going on with people either going into what I call a parent ego state or "I'm going to force people to do it" or "I'm gonna just do all the work myself because they're not listening" versus a defensive child, "because I'm not getting my way" ego state, or a helpless child ego state. You see, those ego states are based on past experiences. As a child, I got my way through to my emotions how I felt is how I behaved, but that adult ego state is formed on how I view my parents and other authority figures treating me. They're the first leaders we see. But when I can start understanding my tendencies in those two extremes and then recognize what causes that, now I do something about it. And that's what I learned to do. That's exactly what I learned to do.
Randy Ford: If you're working with an organization, and you are in a room with some health care providers or the support staff or others you mentioned and you see that they're facing these issues that you know are there, what is that moment that makes you think, "Oh, wow, this is this is now gonna get better. They're figuring out a way to get past this, and I feel like we've done something here."
John Bentley: Well, for me it's validating who they are and listening to them. In the classroom, I'm really on with looking at nonverbal behaviors and paying attention to tone of voice, because if I can see that whether that change or there is a shift in their behavior or I can see to where they're just frustrated. And a lot of times when there's activities going on in the classroom, group activities, I'll notice one or two people that I want to go over and have a little bit of an individual conversation with just to let them know that I understand them and validate them as a person. See, when that happens, whether that's in the classroom or you're a leader, once somebody feels understood and valued, now you're with them, and you've earned the right to speak into their listening, because they know you get them whether you agree with them or not.
Randy Ford: Is that something that you find that you carry into your daily life as well, this kind of kindness toward other people that maybe isn't inherent in everyone?
John Bentley: I think I'm wired that way. Part of it, too, was I had two people that I really focused on growing up. My dad was my hero, and then my grandmother. My grandmother loved everyone. I never ever heard her say anything bad about anyone, even though when I thought she had the right to do so, because I could find fault very easily; it's easy for me to become critical when I get triggered. Not her though. Not her. She always found the best value in everyone. And you know this is a woman who had maybe a first or second grade education if that, had nine children, but she knew the value of treating each person in a way that they wanted to be treated. So you know the Golden Rule is "Treat others the way you want to be treated." She she had a rule of "How do you want to be treated? I'm going to love you that way."
Randy Ford: Wow. That's powerful. And your father?
John Bentley: I'll share a little bit about my father, because as I went forward, my dad and I had a great conversation. He's passed away now going on eight years. But I discovered when he was two and a half years of age, 1933, his mother died giving childbirth to the seventh child.
Randy Ford: Wow.
John Bentley: So now six months later, so he's about three now, his dad remarries, and his dad and his second wife have six or seven daughters almost as fast as you can have them. So you imagine from three years age to that second mom taking care of those children. I don't believe my dad got the nurturing or the love or the care that he needed. Therefore, what he learned to do was work and survive and take care of himself, and all he wanted was for me to understand that, is that was about always do your best, take care of you. And I think that's what got passed down to me. Do everything yourself. Be perfect. Don't trust others. And I think it's just a simple process. It's not psychology, it's not therapy. Hey, why is it you get triggered when something happens? A great question -- my grandmother used to ask me this all the time -- "Where did you learn that behavior?" So when I would act rude, I would act bad. "Where did you learn that behavior?" It kind of stops you. And I'll use that sometimes in my coaching, as well. Just ask someone in a truthful, kind way. "Here's what the feedback from the 360 says. I notice you're getting a little tense or maybe agitated. That's my assumption. You'll have to tell me if that's true." And if they agree with me, I'll just say, "Well, stop for a minute. Where did you learn that behavior?" And when they can recognize where they learned it, now they can make a decision to do something about it.
Randy Ford: You mentioned parenting, and I assume that a lot of these same lessons apply. John Bentley: Yeah, I've got two biological daughters and grandchildren, and then I was fortunate to marry a young lady that had three children. And you can imagine going through a divorce how sometimes you, at least for me, again the story I was telling myself was that "You know I'm not lovable, I don't know if I can love again." Well, the one thing she taught me was that's not true. Now I'll also share with you that I came again from a father who was very disciplined, and my beautiful wife Laura was on the other scale. So I had to learn quickly that my role in this family was not to be the disciplinarian. My role was to be an example, to work and to love the children, which it took me time to learn to do that because I'm overcoming some scars from a divorce. The one lesson that I'll never forget my son Mike was six years old. We were at the YMCA, and he was playing basketball for the first time, and it was their final practice. So I'm going through my head, "Wow, I wonder what type of influence I'm having on Michael and then Kelly and Jennifer, the two older daughters." I'm sitting there kind of with my head down a little bit after the basketball practice in the bleachers, and I'll never forget Mike walking up to me and he held out a t-shirt. On the front, a basketball with Millbrook YMCA, and he handed it to me. But before he handed it to me, he turned the t-shirt around. Guess what was written on the back of it.
John Bentley: "Mike's Dad." See, as a leader, sometimes we wonder are we having an influence. And I'll share with you that when you're doing your best, when you're understanding other people and know that they're there to support you, and you're there to serve them, that there's nothing you can't get through, no matter how tough it is. So recognize that there's a lot of things you're doing right. And one of the things I do in coaching and a lot of other -- I was taught this. There's three questions that I like to ask when it's performance report time -- and I prefer to do it quarterly -- and that's bring each employee in, and I've already set them up for success. First question I'm going to ask is, "What do you want me to stop doing that may be causing harm for you and the team?" Write it down. "What do you want me to start doing that may be helpful for you and the team?" I write it down. And then the third question is, "What do you want me to continue doing that's helping you and the team?" You see now I'm asking them for feedback, and then when I collect that data, I look for commonalities. And then I present to the whole team. "Here's what you told me. Here's a commonality on what you want me to stop. I have too many ideas and you don't have time to implement them. That's the one I want to focus on this next quarter. You OK with that?" Write it down. "Here's one you want me to start. You really want me when you come into my office" -- and this is what I've learned to do. I turn off my monitors to my computer, after I close the email, because I don't want the little dinger to go off the notification to go off or pop up in the bottom, and I also unplug my office phone and put my cell phone on silent. Now that's me letting them know what they asked me to do. They're the most important person at that moment. And then to continue the behavior. There's a lot of different answers for that, but I've learned just spending two or three minutes with each employee on a quarterly basis asking those questions, let them know that I'm there for them and they matter and they care.
Randy Ford: When you see a manager use that same approach in an organization you're working with, what is that like when you when you see how successful that is?
John Bentley: One thing that I'll share with you: when I worked with a group of leaders at a local hospital, they were going through a huge process, and they thought the process needed to be changed, but they weren't involving the workers day to day. So I'll say going in and listening in this case, is that what they discovered was the process was fine. It was the handoff of the nursing home patient, because what one leader discovered is that the employees believe she wanted them to make all the decisions, that she wasn't giving input to decision-making, and they felt like she did not want to be accountable if something did not go right. So when she asked that question and understood that, the conversation went to, "Well I wanted y'all's input." They said, "We got that. We want to give you our input. However, we want your input as well and then us make a collective decision. But if we can't make a collective decision, our expectation is, you being our leader, you would make it. And then our goal is to get on board and help execute that." So one of the issues that that they help resolve was they were trying to, they were going to lose a couple of FTE's but that meant -- and that's full-time employees -- that meant that the process needed to change. And what they ended up doing was improving a process that saved $49,000, not just one year but every year. So it came to the leader being present, not just showing up and asking for input and walking away.
Randy Ford: And that must must make all of us feel like you're having an impact on people who are impacting patients.
John Bentley: I think one of the top competencies at the Center for Creative Leadership identifies today that's required is participative management. Well that requires participation not only on the leader's part but the employees. So that means it's a us versus them mentality. And I think that's a big shift for a lot of leaders, because I'm in charge. I'm responsible. I'm the one that needs to do everything. Or I go right the opposite sometimes. I want my employees to do everything. And if that's the case then it's not no longer participate if it's, it becomes again we're at each other.
Randy Ford: Everybody who comes on SuccessInSight podcast, we ask them to make a recommendation to us as the audience, something maybe that we don't know about. And it could be anything. What is something that you would want to introduce us to.
John Bentley: I'll introduce you to a book, and I'll pull out one of my favorite portions of it if that's OK.
Randy Ford: Please.
John Bentley: Its "Leadership Is an Art." Max DePree. He was the CEO of a furniture company, and throughout his tenure they were ranked number four in overall quality in any industry. But in the furniture industry, they were ranked number one for hundreds of years. I shouldn't say a hundred, quite a few years. When I read the book, it was all about helping people give their best. And the one thing that stood out to me that was an eye-opener for me is Max stated that the moment as a leader you recognize how much you need others is the very moment you can choose to abandon yourself to their strengths.
Randy Ford: That's something that you've you've held on to, it sounds like.
John Bentley: Here's what I've come to believe is that a lot of people say that "you don't need to like me. I don't want people to like me as a leader." I totally disagree with that. They don't know me, like me and trust me, they're not going to allow me to lead them. They may do two or three things that I ask them, but they're not going to be innovative. They're not going to go above and beyond. And they may even make decisions that they think are better than my own that may move the company or our organization in a direction it doesn't need to go. It's not that I'm doing things for people to get them to like me; I'm just understanding who they are, what makes them tick, what they care about, because here's what I know: Randy, if I learned one story about you, something that's very important to you, and we have discussions around that story that has nothing to do with work, then you know I'm starting to care about you as a person.
Randy Ford: I feel like there's so much that we can still talk about, so I hope you'll come back on the podcast sometime, and we can talk more. For now, how can people find you?
John Bentley: Yeah. The easiest way is of course through the web. w-w-w-dot-power (that's P as in Paul) -O-W-E-R, the number two, transform dot.com.
Randy Ford: Thank you so much, John Bentley in Hartselle, Alabama. Leadership coach, teacher, trainer, Air Force veteran, Power2Transform Consulting Group.
Randy Ford: Thanks again for being here, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.
John Bentley: Hey, thanks, Randy. Appreciate a great interview.
John Bentley is the Founder of Power 2 Transform. John is a leadership coach, trainer, and facilitator. He works with healthcare leaders to develop behaviors that build trust, maximize influence & achieve better results faster through & with others so they can effectively manage the daily pressures caused by: financial pressures, scrutinized clinical quality outcomes, extremely high levels of change, and chronic staffing shortages. John invites you to visit him at https://power2transform.com
The SuccessInSight Podcast is a production of Fox Coaching, Inc. and First Story Strategies.
The SuccessInSight Podcast is a production of Fox Coaching, Inc. and First Story Strategies.