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Season 02, Episode 14

Top Strategies For Becoming A Better Leader At Work

with Business Coach & Host of the EntreLeadership Podcast, Alex Judd

About the Episode

In this episode, I sit down with Alex Judd, business coach and host of the EntreLeadership Podcast. We talk all about the process of becoming a better leader. Right now we’re going through a pretty crazy time where a lot of businesses are having to pivot and re-prioritize what they’re doing and then communicate that to their teams. Alex walks us through, start-to-finish, how you tackle the habits, the mindset, the action plans, the priorities, and how to deal with getting out of this in a better place. So take a listen and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Alex joined Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership team in 2016 as a Business Coach and works with business owners every day to make Ramsey principles come to life in their organization. In addition, as the host of the nationally recognized EntreLeadership podcast, he is responsible for interviewing many of today’s biggest names in business and leadership. Alex is a passionate communicator who is driven by the belief that EVERYBODY wins when a leader DECIDES to get better.

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Full Transcript

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Alex:

Small business has the greatest opportunity in American history right now to prove that the private sector can absolutely make a difference in the course of how our nation is run. I think we’re going to do it. 

Chris:

What’s up, everyone? I’m Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect. As always, we’re talking with experts in process creation, automation, and delegation. Basically, the people that know how to make business easier. You just heard Alex Judd and this episode is all about the Process of Becoming a Better Leader, which I think we could all appreciate. Alex joined Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership team back in 2016 as a business coach and he works with business owners every day to make Ramsey principles come to life in their organization. He’s the host of the nationally recognized EntreLeadership podcast and is responsible for interviewing many of today’s biggest names in business and in leadership. If you haven’t checked it out, I was on episode 367 so give that one a listen. Alex is a passionate communicator who’s driven by the belief that everybody wins when a business leader decides to get better, and that’s what I liked about this episode is this all about leadership. Right now we’re going through a pretty crazy time where a lot of businesses are having to pivot and re-prioritize what they’re doing and then communicate that to their teams and Alex walks through, start to finish how you tackle the habits, the mindset, the action plans, the priorities, and just deal with getting out of this in a better place. So take a listen and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Chris:

Welcome everyone to Process Makes Perfect. I’m your host, Chris Ronzio. And as you heard in the intro today, we’re talking with Alex. Judd. Alex, great to see you again. 

Alex:

Hey, grateful to be here. Honored. Thanks so much for having me. 

Chris:

So this is like three times in a month or so that we’ve gotten to talk. I feel great. 

Alex:

I know, I feel like you’re kind of my best friend now, Chris.

Chris:

I’m pretty stoked about that and you have a really cool Instagram too, so anyone that’s watching follow Alex, @Juddontherun. Um, but let’s get into it. Today’s topic is all about the process of becoming a better leader. We’re going through some pretty turbulent times right now, so I can’t think of any better topic to talk about. 

Alex:

That’s right. I think maybe more important now than ever. Uh, and it seems like this is a season where leaders are really revealing themselves, and also people are looking for and asking for and demanding real leadership so I think that it’s a topic that resonates with every part of the org chart and every person that’s out there right now is that topic of leadership. Chris. 

Chris:

Right. I agree. And I think anybody that’s listening to this is investing in themselves and wants to step up. So we’re going to get into it here. But before we do, tell us a little bit about EntreLeadership. Uh, you know, people have probably heard your podcast and seen the brand, but what’s, what’s it for? Who’s it for? Just give us a little context. 

Alex:

Yeah. So our business was started about 30 years ago, honestly, by a guy named Dave Ramsey. Many people know him as a kind of one of America’s leading experts on personal finance. But he’s built this company over the course of several years from literally a card table in his living room to what is now a 900 person, $200 million organization.

Alex:

And in the process of building this company, he started to recognize really early on, okay, I need to start equipping people to think and act and lead the way that I do. So he started thinking like, okay, maybe I need to start teaching leadership. And for him, he felt like a lot of the leadership things that he was going to at that time, they were actually management and he started thinking about his college management classes. He, he’s like, oh, I hate that. I don’t want to do that. I don’t just want to have a management class. And so he said, okay, well I’m very entrepreneurial, which like he starts a new business every time he takes a shower probably. And he said, maybe I want an organization that has a bunch of entrepreneurial people. And then he realized, well that kind of actually sounds like a nightmare, right?

Cause you’ve got people running around doing different things every time they get on the treadmill or get in their truck. And so the idea was, okay, in Tennessee we’re going to take the two things we like and combine them together. We want the passion of the entrepreneur with the polish and the humility and the loyalty and the discipline of a great leader. And that’s where EntreLeadership came from. And it was really internally for our business that he started teaching this material. And then we started to get demand from the outside and that’s what we do now. And we really say that our primary effort and our primary focus in the marketplace today is we exist to help the small business owner win. And so we exist for Main Street, not for Wall Street. We believe that small business is the backbone of the American economy.

We believe that it is the backbone of our nation. And so those people that lead two to 200 team members, we are such fans of those people. We’re rooting for those people. We’re fighting for those people. And so that’s who we exist to serve as the small business owner. 

Chris:

I love that. And we’re so aligned there. So how did your personal journey intersect with the EntreLeadership path? Like it was a few years ago, right? That you joined the organization? 

Alex:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s when I joined. I intersected with EntreeLeadership, I think it was in college and I always, I always kicked myself because I wish I could remember the person that is actually responsible for all this. Lots of people would probably blame that person now. But in college, someone recommended to me that I have to start listening to the EntreLeadership podcast.

And leadership has always been something that I’ve been fascinated by. It’s always been an area that I’ve aspired to grow in and to improve on. And I think it’s something that we all should aspire to grow in and improve on. And so I got hooked on that podcast almost immediately. At the time it was hosted by a guy named Ken Coleman, and I was just so enthralled by the guests, by the thinking, by the encouragement, by the actionable takeaways. And I started listening to that podcast every single Monday on my run and it became a habit for me. It became a routine for me. And then out of college, I started working with a leadership development not-for-profit in Austin. And I just started leveraging the content, like I was a consumer of that content that was honestly relying on it and putting it into practice.

And I remember, it’s crazy. I was on a run and I remember the street corner I was at, I was running in Houston, Texas, and I remember the street corner I was at when I was listening to the podcast and I thought to myself, that would be a cool place to work one day. Um, and then what I always tell people is 14 interviews later. Here we are. 

Chris:

That’s amazing. So you’re, it’s almost like you’re the kid playing sports that then grew up in, played for the hometown team. 

Alex:

Yes. Which is outrageous. Like the fact that I get to do that and the fact that I get to do stuff like this and talk to people like you and the people we talked to on the podcast, it’s kind of like, I kind of don’t want to tell them this, but it’s like I would volunteer, like I would pay to do what I get to do. So the fact that I get paid to do this is just, it’s kind of stupid, Chris. 

Chris:

Yeah. That’s amazing. Okay. So, so what does it mean to have a coach, you know, in your role as a coach? How frequently are you working with business owners? What’s the cadence? What’s the cycle of check-ins? What does that relationship like? 

Alex:

Yeah, within our program, it’s called All Access. The way we organize coaching is we have executive coaching, which is one on one coaching, but then we also do masterminds, which is becoming more really familiar in the marketplace right now. And so what we believe is that every business owner to reach their potential and to reach their untapped abilities, needs a few things in their life. They need accountability, number one. So you need someone that will kick in the tail, um, but will also support you.

And more than anything, just ask you the question, did you do what you said you were going to do? We all need that person. I need that person. And, and business owners too, if you’re not careful, you’re the lid of your organization who’s holding you accountable. And if the answer is no one, we all need accountability to consistently move forward over an extended period of time. So number one is accountability. Number two is perspective. Um, and what we see is that the best perspectives are oftentimes brought by people that have the context on where you’re coming from. So it’s not like, Oh, I’m going through this crisis now, so let me explain the last 10 years of business to you and catch you up. It’s like, no, I have that context because I’ve been meeting with you every single month for 90 minutes a month. And now we’re just able to say, Hey, remember how you dealt with this last time?

Or remember your tendencies or remember where your personality goes to. So perspective to look at things from different angles and see our blind spots. And then number three is action. What are you going to do out of what you’ve learned? Right? I know this is something that you talk about a lot is like there’s a difference between insight and action. Uh, and we only learn through action. We don’t actually learn through insights. So constantly saying, okay, it’s great that you’re reading all these books. Great that you’re listening to all these podcasts. We love that we’re all about personal growth junkies here. But what are you doing?

Chris:

Right? So if you were my coach and I called you in an absolute panic with what’s happening in the market right now, there’s gotta be a sequence of questions or a, a track that you’re taking people through. So I’m curious, what would you say to me if I just called you and said, man, I’m struggling. I don’t know if I can make payroll. How, how do you deal with a leader that’s in panic mode?

Alex:

I’d say Chris wa, why are you struggling? Why are you panicking right now? Hmm. Can you answer that question? 

Chris:

Well, hypothetically, I don’t know. I’d have to put myself in that. 

Alex:

Let’s tell everyone I talked to Chris the other day about triennial. Trainual’s doing great. They’re crushing it right now. So let’s just put it on the roles and just hypothetically pretend that you’re panicking right now. Okay. Chris, why are you panicking right now?

Chris:

So rent is due in three days and I’ve got a personal guarantee on it and I can’t get to my office and my customers are so concerned with their own finances that they won’t pay their bills to me.

Alex:

Mm. That’s gotta be really tough, huh? 

Chris:

It is, yeah. 

Alex:

Hmm. What are the things in this situation that you can control and focus on, Chris?

Chris:

Well, I’ve got a, uh, my, my family’s healthy. That’s important. So I can, I could be grateful there. Um, I, you know, I can look at the happy customers. We do have the people that are paying their bills maybe get some referrals going. Um, but really, I don’t know. I’m at a loss right now.

Alex:

Well, I think number one, so you highlighted a couple things there. You can control your mindset and you made a decision that I’m going to be grateful. Um, but then number two, you said, okay, well maybe there’s some things that I can focus on that are working that I can double down on. So what are some examples of some other things that are working that we can now amplify? So I guess all that to say Chris. Um, our goal number one is we have to take panic out of the situation. Thankfully what I’ve seen, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this as well, most of the business owners that I’ve connected with in this season, even if they are in a really tough spot and I’ve talked to a handful of business owners in the past seven days specifically that are in a really, really tough spot like, like you said, are worried about making, I’m super grateful that the, a lot of the ones that I’m talking to right now are not panicking because they know that panic isn’t going to solve problems.

And so they are solution focused, but at the same time they are dealing with uncertainty. And so what, what I’ve learned, uh, in the process of coaching is that one of the things that you have to do, and Chris Voss talks about a lot about this in his book, never split the difference. If you ever read that book. Yeah man, that guy, he, he is unbelievable. But he talks about it and you know this, he talks about emotional labeling and how when you just choose to label the emotion, I can label the emotion for you. But when you choose to label the emotion as, “Oh man, I feel scared or I feel anxious or I feel angry or I feel frustrated,” you actually loosen the grip of that emotion on your mind. And when we start to rationally process the decisions and the situation that we’re in, instead of emotionally process it, we become way more effective as leaders.

So that’s, I mean there’s a whole process that you could walk people through in coaching, but I would say the first thing that we have to do is make sure that we’re removing, we need to acknowledge emotion, but emotion doesn’t get to drive your decisions. And so we’re going to walk through a conversation that will enable someone to own their emotions and then move forward anyway. Does that make sense? 

Chris:

Yeah. So by recognizing the emotion and labeling some of those things, you take away the uncertainty. It’s almost like you’re putting it on paper for them to evaluate as an outsider, you know, and instead of internalizing it. 

Alex:

That’s right. One of the things we ask people all the time because I used to think, especially whenever I got here, I was young, I’m still young guy quite frankly, but, but whenever I got here, um, I had this misperception in my head that if I was going to be a coach, I had to have all the answers.

And what I learned is that being a great coach really just means that you have to ask the right questions to get the answer that is already inside of you, out of you, and then to get you bought, bought into taking the next step to taking the next action. And um, so often if we can just bring down emotions and ask the right questions to bring out the answers about what you can control with regard to this whole situation right now, then a lot of times people can rationally process what the next step is. 

Chris:

Would you say that your role as a coach is similar to the role that a leader would play with their teammates in the organization? Is that all about asking questions? Is it similar or is there a contrast, a difference to the roles? Yeah, I think, uh, I think great leaders are great coaches.

Alex:

That’s what I’ve seen. And one of the things that I learned about great coaches, this is something that I learned growing up  in sports, but I think I’ve seen it more often with the leaders that have made the greatest impact on my life. Um, a good coach will hold you to the standard of others. A great coach will hold you to the standard of your potential. And so it’s like, I’m like, if, if you have a coach in your life that is holding you to the standard of others, that coach is actually probably limiting you because what is good for other people shouldn’t be good for you. You should be holding yourself to the standard of your potential of what winning looks like for Chris Ronzio. And so a great coach is someone that says, I don’t care what other people consider good. I don’t even care what other people consider. Great. I want to know what winning looks like for you. And let’s put together a plan that pursues that standard because that’s the standard that you’re actually going to be satisfied with and fulfilled by.

Chris:

Yeah, I love that. I am so funny. This morning I was riding the bike, my exercise bike, and it shows me the ranking of all my friends on there. And so I’m pushing and I’m trying to get past every friend. And then when I get to the topic, I see the PR, you know, the top, my own personal score. And I started chasing myself and I was able to beat the PR this morning and that was so much more fulfilling than trying to beat the friend who’s at a totally different state than I am, you know? 

Alex:

Yeah. You beat Chris Ronzio of two days ago or whatever deal. That’s huge. 

Chris:

So, so what are some things that business owners can do to build this positive mindset to create habits? So that they’re strengthening their mindset. Are there things you recommend?

Alex:

Hmm, that’s a great question. I think it’s different for every person. Um, but I’m a big believer in the idea that the things we do daily create the people we become permanently. And so I think there, there’s a lot of stuff on Instagram quite frankly, but there’s also a lot of stuff written in a lot of YouTube videos about mindset shifts and that the shift can happen in a moment and then one moment can change your life. And I understand the line of thinking there, but honestly what I’ve seen is that transformation occurs in my life from the things that I do every single day. And it’s not this grand deposit that suddenly makes me mentally wealthy. It’s making little deposits every single day. When I sit down with my notebook and I journal, when I sit down and read, I always tell people I don’t read books anymore.

I read pages because I like, you know, if I say I’m going to read a book a month, then we’re going to get to the 30th of the month. I’m going to say, Holy crud, I need to read a book right now, right? If I read 10 pages every single day, well then I become the type of person that reads every single day. So I’m going to make sure I have a constant flow, a constant intake of 10 pages a day that’s getting into my soul and getting into my spirit. I’m going to make sure that I’m having genuine, authentic conversations with other people where I’m looking them in the eye or I’m looking them in the webcam in this season that we’re in right now and making sure that I’m positioning myself to ask great questions to grow. So, I mean, those are a couple things. I would say journaling, I would say prayer or meditation to make sure you are centering yourself.

No one needs a leader this season right now that is not centered. You have to be centered and, and you’ve gotta, you gotta be in silence if you’re going to do that. I would say reading and making sure you’re monitoring your intakes is another one. And I would say making sure you’re pursuing real authentic connection. I think all of those, if you can establish a rhythm or a habit of doing those things regularly, a cadence of doing them regularly, then you’re going to look up a year from now and you’re going to say, I’m the type of leader that I want to be. That’s the type of person that I want to be. That’s so strong. 

Chris:

I want to reiterate this because what you said there about building habits and doing these things, even if you don’t want to do them, you know, you don’t wake up every day on fire ready to tackle the world, but I’ve seen in myself that when I wake up and I’m just not motivated or something, doing those little habits flips the switch of getting me back into the production mode.

And so I think that that’s an amazing recommendation that you made. Um, let’s, let’s turn or pivot into action. And with everything going on right now, people are maybe with their teams, they’re coming up with ideas, they’re trying to figure out what they should work on. So is there anything you recommend in terms of prioritizing all the possibilities in front of us? 

Alex:

Well, I think you at Trainual have been a great example of this just based on how y’all have pivoted and adapted just in the past 14 days with the whole Coronavirus situation. Um, I heard Mike Hyatt the other day, he challenged leaders to ask themselves the question, what is the thing in my business that has just been made exponentially more important to other people because of what’s going on right now? And for restaurants, it’s their delivery service or their pickup service, right?

For you it’s probably everything related to remote work and policies for the virus and things like that. And y’all rolled out a bunch of that. For us, it’s remote training and digital training and making sure that we’re still executing on what, how could we adapt our events to do an online version of that or things like that. But what is the thing that is exponentially more important now than it was before all of this started and how do we amplify those things? Um, I heard someone talk once about a, it was a leadership consultant that had worked with leadership teams, uh, in the ministry context and the athletic context and they were business or a business context and had worked with great teams and great leaders all around the country, all around the world. And he said that, uh, you said that every team that he’s ever worked with always asked the same question when something goes wrong.

They asked the question why. Right? And certainly I think we can all relate to that when we make a mistake, when we hit a failure, when we hit a pitfall, we asked the question why he said that there was one specific team and one specific leader that was ruthlessly intentional about doing just the opposite. And here’s what’s crazy. It was Nick Saban and the University of Alabama, which I don’t know where you stand on my college football spectrum, but I other just really ticked some people off or some people love me now. I’m a Texas fan, so I don’t really worry about the sec too much, but you can’t deny what they’ve done. And here’s what this guy said about Nick Saban in the University of Alabama. He said, they are ruthlessly intentional about asking the question why? When there are things that are going right and right now it can be really easy to look at all the things that are going wrong and ask the question why, but great leaders right now are looking at the things that are going well.

Even if there’s just a little uptick in some area of your business or some department or some process or some product, and they’re saying, okay, why is that working? And then how do we amplify that? How do we double down on that? How do we pour gasoline on that fire? Because we’re going to have to get that thing humming if we’re going to make it through this season that’s coming up. 

Chris:

So for everyone that’s listening, think about your business and think about what is going well, what can you amplify? What is your delivery service? If you’re a restaurant, what is the thing that you can 10X right now? Focus on that. I think that’s a great recommendation. So if you had a crystal ball, Alex, where is business going from here? What is the future? Is it, is it doom and gloom or is there a bright spot coming out of this?

Alex:

Uh, well the great thing is that I don’t think we need a crystal ball to answer that question. I think history tells us the answer to that question. And I think that small business will come out of the season that we are in stronger than it has ever been. In fact, I would say that I don’t just think that, I know that because I have seen that if there is anyone more resilient and more driven and more committed to getting through a valley stronger than the way they entered into it, it’s the small business owner. Seasons like this are what entrepreneurs are built for. And so we just need to make sure we’re not, we’re not allowing fear or anxiety or anguish to drive us right now. We just need to say, okay, we’re going to run into this storm. It’s gonna really suck.

This is something that I learned in triathlon and you embrace the suck and you don’t deny the suck. You don’t ignore the suck. You don’t pretend the suck doesn’t exist. You just embrace the suck and you say, this is literally what I signed up for. I did not get into business because I thought it was going to be easy. I got in business because I knew there were going to be times where I was blindsided by something I could never predict, but I was going to be able to figure it out. And this is where leaders are going to rise to the top. W small business has the greatest opportunity in American history right now to prove that the private sector can absolutely make a difference in the course of how our nation is run. I think we’re going to do it, Chris. 

Chris:

I agree. I think resourcefulness is the most valuable currency and small business owners are flush with that right now. So even if you’re having financial trouble, think about how to be resourceful. All right, so let’s wrap this up. We always do this double-tap thing at the end. If we can, uh, if we could zoom in and ask you these five questions, just say the first thing that comes to mind. So first, what type brand that you think has perfected its process that you admire? 

Alex:

I’d say Patagonia. Um, have you ever listened to How I Built This? So How I Built This podcast with Yvon Chouinard. Uh, he talks about how they changed their decision-making process several years ago. It was in a recession period. I think, ‘08, their business almost fell apart and they said from now on, we are always going to make decisions operating under the assumption that we will still exist a hundred years from now and we want to make decisions that we will be proud of and that our customers will be grateful for a hundred years from now. Um, I think that is a perfected process. 

Chris:

Yeah, that’s a great filter for decision-making. So who is someone who’s coached or mentored you? 

Alex:

Uh, there’s a guy named Dan Underhill, uh, in Austin, Texas that I believe that every person should have three to five people in their life that they are completely transparent with, and that, that you give permission to ask you any question. And he is, he is one of those guys for me and I have told him, you can ask me anything, you can tell me anything. And he does believe me. Um, but he is one of those people that he holds me to the standard of my potential, not to the standard of others. And man, I would be a different man, a different leader, a different person today if it weren’t for Dan Underhill. 

Chris:

Well, thank you, Dan. On behalf of everyone. Uh, what is your favorite book or podcast other than yours and this one?

Alex:

That’s right. Uh, favorite book. I think one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read was a book called The Road to Character and the follow-up called The Second Mountain. They’re both by David Brooks. Um, and those, I just like my relationship with Dan. I am a better man because I read those books. They changed the way that I act. And you know it’s a good book whenever it doesn’t just change the way you act for a season while you’re reading it, it changes the way you act moving forward. That was those books for me. 

Chris:

Great. All right. So people need some positivity right now. Who’s the most entertaining person that you follow online? 

Alex:

Oh, man. There’s a guy named John Warder. Um, I went to college with him. He is a goofball, a freaking goof on. I haven’t talked to him. I mean, I haven’t talked to him in years since we graduated college, but the guy puts out some of the best videos.

He’s crushing the TikTok game while I’m still trying to figure out what TikTok actually is. Um, but he just, and you said the word entertaining. He is so entertaining. Chris or John water. That’s funny. All right. And one app that you can’t live without. 

Alex:

Oh, man. The uh, the YouVersion Bible app and whether you’re a believer or not, um, like it, they operate that app like a business. Um, although it’s, uh, it’s associated with a nonprofit. It’s associated with the church. The functionality and the intuitive design of that app is unbelievable and the downloads are just insane. So I just am so grateful to have a source of truth that’s so accessible, but also to have modern-day design brought into that source of truth. Oh, it’s just awesome. I love that. 

Chris:

All right, well we’ll link all of those up in the show notes. If you were to summarize, is there one lesson that you want to leave people with after having listened to this? 

Alex:

I would say that if you’re listening to this, recognize that if someone depends on you, then you are a leader, which means we all need to recognize that we have leadership opportunity in this season, but we also have leadership responsibility in this season. And if you truly believe that you do hold that opportunity and responsibility, then you need to own it and you need to recognize that everything rises and falls on leadership. So take care of yourself first. Make sure that you are operating from a source of stability and strength and security and confidence and then go out and focus on using that strength to serve others. That’s the biggest lesson that I’m learning right now is that strength is for service and right now people are desperately searching for vision and strength and so we should use the strength that we have to serve and lead other people.

Chris:

Amazing. Well, I can’t summarize it any better myself, so thank you for your leadership and your service to everyone listening and I really appreciate your time, Alex. 

Alex:

Chris, I’m grateful for you. Thanks so much.

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