Transcript of Jack McGuinness' Guest Appearance on Business, Life, & Coffee Podcast

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Jack McGuinness:          Effective leadership teams are definitely a big cornerstone of helping an organization be more effective.

Ashley Graham:            Hey guys it's your girl Ashley Graham and you are listening to Business Life and Coffee Podcast with your boy Joey Price.

Joey Price:                    What are the characteristics of a great leadership team? And how can leaders set their teams up for success?

Joey Price:                    If you've been wondering these questions about your business, well, you've tuned in to the right podcast. This week we are talking with Jack McGuinness who is a leadership coach and he is the managing partner of Relationship Impact. Now Jack developed the passion for building and leading exceptional teams while serving in the U.S. Army's prestigious 10th Mountain Division. He has over 25 years of experience working with leadership teams and organizations big and small across many different industries, and he co-founded Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused on working with CEOs to unlock the potential of their leadership teams.

Joey Price:                    Another cool thing is about Jack is that he serves as a Senior Professional Instructor at the Johns Hopkins Kerry School of Business where he teaches courses on strategic management, and human capital, and is a contributing writer for Chief Executive Magazine. He also holds a MBA from the Hagan School of Business at Iona College and a BS in Engineering Management from The United States Military Academy. Go Westpoint! [crosstalk 00:01:24] Jack has incredible expertise in business experience that you will want to tune into today.

Joey Price:                    Hey Jack, thanks for coming on to the podcast.

Jack McGuinness:          Joey, thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it.

Joey Price:                    Man, I don't think I've ever enjoyed reading someone's bio as much as yours, just because you hit on a lot of topics that are interesting to me. Specifically, with the whole leadership aspect. Tell us a little bit about your service in the 10th Mountain Division.

Jack McGuinness:          Sure. Well, yeah, it was sort of foundational for me in terms of my initial learning on leadership. Yeah, I was just like all my classmates, and a lot of folks that come out of UCS, and RTC, I was commissioned a second lieutenant and then I went to a couple different schools, like airborne school and ranger school and the infantry officer basic class and course, and through that training was given an assignment to be an infantry platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division.

Jack McGuinness:          The experience was, all that training was great, but the job training that I got from a couple different groups of people. Obviously Officer Cadre, my company commander, my platoon commander, and the officer staff were instrumental. But really the non-commission officer of staff, my platoon sergeant, I think I was 22 at the time, I had a 35 year old platoon sergeant. He had a wealth of experience behind him, it's a pretty prestigious unit so he had risen the ranks and gotten some good assignments in a prestigious unit. I learned so much from him right out of the starting gate, and it was just a couple lessons that I impart with the executive teams I work with now, the importance of knowing what you know, and also trying to figure out what you don't know and doing the best you can to learn what you don't know.

Jack McGuinness:          I had the benefit of working with a platoon sergeant who, he worked for me sort of speak, but I really learned so much from him and I listened and I didn't always listen at first, but he very gently helped me become a better listener, I guess is one way of putting it. When I showed up I thought I was supposed to know how to lead and how to be a great platoon leader and frankly, I was green, I didn't know that much. So I learned a lot from him and I learned the gift of being able to receive feedback in a constructive way.

Joey Price:                    Yeah. And we'll touch on feedback in a few questions down the line, but I wanna start with, you work with CEOs on a daily basis and there have to be some trends that you're seeing. What are some common leadership faux-pas that you help CEOs correct?

Jack McGuinness:          There'll be some reoccurring themes throughout the course of this discussion, I'm sure, because they typically do come up when I talk to clients or talk to others about this topic. The unique role that I play, or that me and the partner of mine play in the work that we do is we work with CEOs but we work with CEOs in the context of their executive teams, we more consider ourselves team coaches than executive coaches because we work in the construct of the executive and his or her team. So, the common themes that we see, what I started with was feedback, we spend a lot of time up front with our CEOs that we're working with because we're typically hired by CEO and we're helping them with the skill at being able to receive feedback well.

Jack McGuinness:          Because if they're looking to improve some dysfunction on their team or build the foundation for building a new team, the ability of the CEO to be able to model receiving feedback well, and by that I mean just a few things: being receptive to it, not rationalizing negative or constructive feedback, not being overly defensive when feedback is given and not being passive aggressive or taking it out on others or whatever. Because if you are trying to create an environment from one state to another that involves things changing, both structurally and behaviorally, then the leader really needs to be able to model the ability to get feedback.

Jack McGuinness:          Feedback is not easy to get all the time. And in your role as a CEO, folks are sometimes apprehensive to give feedback, so it's important for the CEO, the leader, to be able to demonstrate that he or she is willing to receive it.

Jack McGuinness:          Number two, I think that kinda goes along with feedback is we see executive teams that we work with get in trouble because of their inability to confront each other well. Conflict is one way of putting it, but it actually they see something going off kilter or they see something that they don't like, the ability of confronting my colleague and giving my colleague some feedback or suggesting a different course of action, alternative course of action, those two related skills are severely missing in most of the organizations that we work with, frankly. And if I look back at my own career, I wasn't a master at it either. I was somewhat defensive, and it is uncomfortable sometimes to challenge others, but if you're really looking to build a functioning executive team, the ability to confront each other well and discuss the most important things that are on your plate in a productive way, is critical. So, I would say that those are the two biggest trends that we see in the work that we do. They've been consistent over the time that we've been doing this.

Joey Price:                    Okay, so it's issues that circle around communication and whether or not you're doing that effectively. Now, would you say that the CEOs that you work with want to know their feedback or are CEOs in your experience more like “I know everything, I know how to lead this organization, and I just need you to fall in line?” What's been the profile of some of the CEOs that you work with?

Jack McGuinness:          Well, by default, the CEOs that we work with are at least wanting to get better at confrontation and feedback, no question about it there. Those that don't, typically won't engage with us.

Joey Price:                    Yeah, that's fair.

Jack McGuinness:          It has happened. I've had to fire myself before where your a couple months into a piece of work and a part of the work that we do is getting individuals, not just the CEOs, but all the folks on the team to make behavioral commitments. How am I going to be a more effective team member for this team at this point in team in this team's journey?

Jack McGuinness:          One experience, I'm out to lunch with a CEO and she has not been following through on some basic commitment, basically pinning her executives against each other rather than getting them to talk to each other. She sorta played the referee role, and it was sorta getting in the way of the team working as effectively as they could be. We talked about it several times, she'd gotten feedback, and I just said you don't really wanna do this, do you? And she said no I don't. I said, well, you should stop paying me then. So, we did, we parted on good terms. She really wasn't committed to doing the work that she needed to build the team.

Joey Price:                    Yeah.

Jack McGuinness:          That being said, I'm often challenged on is this a [inaudible 00:09:13] for the success of the organization, and I wish it was. It's not and I think I can help, and I think effective leadership teams are definitely a cornerstone of helping an organization of being more effective. This woman bought and sold several companies and was widely successful. I would argue that the folks working there were miserable, but financially, they did great.

Joey Price:                    You talk about a CEO who is leading a chaotic organization. For a lead team that wants to make sure that they've got the right people on board, what are some tips that you would give to build a great leadership team?

Jack McGuinness:          Sure, I think that it goes back to, first of all, the leader's gotta model behaviors that they're expecting of others. That could be follow-through, that could be living up to your own commitments, it could be holding yourself accountable, holding others accountable, whatever those things are, and then he or she has to model those behaviors.

Jack McGuinness:          Number two is that, most executives, business people, will jump right into structural solutions for solving most problems. So, if we are having problems with our team being in sinc or there's a level of disfunction, folks aren't really seeing eye-to-eye and they're beating each other and I have to play the referee as the CEO. Whatever the issues are, it's very easy to jump to, okay we need fire someone, we need to bring in some new blood, we need to change how we're meeting, we need to put some new metrics in place, we need a new plan of attack. All those things are very valuable, very relevant, very important, but they often don't get at the root issue behind the challenges the team is facing.

Jack McGuinness:          From our perspective, it's really important to really get at a deeper understanding of what are the issues that the team is facing? What parts of those issues are structural, and what part of those issues are relational? Because, a lot of times bad structure, and we see this in young, growing organizations that are just doing everything they can, rolling up their sleeves, and growing, and not a lot of structure in place. Then you try to build a team and people are duplicating efforts or tripping over each other and the relational dynamics suffer because people start making assumptions about why is she doing that, I was supposed to do that. It seems like he got credit for that and I didn't. You start losing a little trust sometimes.

Joey Price:                    Yeah.

Jack McGuinness:          The dynamics fall down, so really getting a sense of both the structural and relational challenges that the team is facing at any one point in time and not just making an assumption that by addressing the problem with a structural solution is gonna get you exactly what you're looking for.

Joey Price:                    What are some of the ways that you can measure a leadership team's effectiveness?

Jack McGuinness:          There's a few ways, right. So the first is, obviously, the business results that the executive team has a responsibility for achieving, whether it's a new product introduction, sales and growth metrics, it's earnings, whatever those metrics are for that particular organization. Obviously, the leadership team is tied to those. The work that we try to do is put some objective measure on sort of a fairly subjective topic. We measure, at the beginning of the work we do, a number of structural dimensions and a number of relational dimensions, and we have the team look at itself and evaluate those fourteen dimensions, seven structural, seven relational. We also often times will have the board, or advisory board, evaluate the team. Always we'll have the direct reports of the executive team evaluate the team on those fourteen dimensions as well.

Jack McGuinness:          Really what it does, it provides a baseline for the team to measure itself from point A to point Z. So, we'll do it six months in and often times, I just I went back about a year and a half after an engagement and took another picture with them on those fourteen dimensions. There are things like how constructively do we interact with each other? Now how effectively do we make decisions? How effective are we at pooling resources? Those types of dimensions. Obviously, there is some correlations between them.

Jack McGuinness:          We use an outside instrument from an organization called Team Coaching International. It's called the Team Diagnostic, been around for a while, validated, reliable instrument. Really, it's been a powerful tool in terms of measuring the effectiveness of a team.

Joey Price:                    Nice. Well, Jack, you've definitely provided a lot of food for thought for a young executive or a leader looking to kinda assess their leadership structure, the leadership team, how well they are giving, receiving feedback. What are some ways that people can connect with you, and what are some final thoughts you'd give for our audience today?

Jack McGuinness:          Sure, so it's easy to connect with me. Our website is For all of your listeners, Joey, there is a complimentary offer on our website that's limited to CEOs, presidents, and general managers. It's the ability for the team leader or CEO to take a look at the effectiveness of its leadership team on those seven structural and seven relational dimensions. I debrief with the CEO over the phone and give them some thoughts and ideas based on my experience working with other teams. Those are two ways you can connect. We do monthly webinars. I also write for Chief Executive Magazine. All that stuff is on the website.

Jack McGuinness:          What are some final thoughts? I think a final thought is that leading an executive team is not as simple as it otherwise would appear. Leading a team in general, I don't think there's a lot of training and development done on how to knead teams effectively. I would really encourage those CEOs listening to just step back and take a look at how effective your team is from a structural and a relational perspective. Be open to hearing stuff that you maybe don't wanna hear. Don't have to agree with it all, but open to hearing some stuff that you may not want to hear. You might find a nugget of truth in there.

Jack McGuinness:          Just read a great article, Joey you may have seen it in the latest issue of our business review. I think it's called the Business Case for Curiosity. It's just a great discussion on, and it's a study that was done and [inaudible 00:16:21] how they do their stuff, on the power of inquiry and being curious rather than defensive.

Joey Price:                    Awesome. Well, Jack, it's been a pleasure having you on the podcast today. We are local, so I expect to grab some coffee with you soon. Hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Jack McGuinness:          Thanks Joey. Appreciate your time.

Joey Price:                    If you've recently started a business, why take away time from what you're good at only to focus on difficult, pesky HR problems? Jumpstart HR LLC offers a better solution. Jumpstart HR provides HR outsourcing support to U.S. based and small businesses and startups and was recently ranked one of the top HR outsourcing firms in the country according to From recruitment, to employee handbooks, to legal compliance, Jumpstart HR helps you get peace of mind about the people in your business. Visit for more information or follow on twitter @JumpstartHR. Jumpstart HR, let's build a better business, together.

Joey Price:                    If you've recently started a business, why take away time from what you're good at only to focus on difficult, pesky HR problems? Jumpstart HR LLC offers a better solution. Jumpstart HR provides HR outsourcing support to U.S. based and small businesses and startups and was recently ranked one of the top HR outsourcing firms in the country according to From recruitment, to employee handbooks, to legal compliance, Jumpstart HR helps you get peace of mind about the people in your business. Visit for more information or follow on twitter @JumpstartHR. Jumpstart HR, let's build a better business, together.