Transcript of Jack McGuinness' Guest Appearance on The Law of Business Podcast

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Jack McGuinness:          Without working with the team, the work with the CEO is sort of not as effective as it could be. 

Jamil Jama:                   Hi everybody and welcome to another episode of the Law of Business, I'm Jamil Jama and I interview entrepreneurs that can help you to start and grow your business. And our outstanding guest today is Jack McGuinness. He's a leadership team effectiveness consultant, and executive coach, and in this interview, we're going to be talking about how to build a great leadership team. Tips to re-energize your leadership team. The leadership role in building a great leadership team. How to measure leadership team effectiveness. The art of great feedback. And I'm going to be interviewing Jack McGuinness, and Jack McGuinness has over 25 years of experience working with leadership teams and organizations, big and small, across multiple industries. 

Jamil Jama:                   He helped build a successful boutique management consulting firm, where he served as COO for 13 years. Jack also served as a CEO of a contract packaging company, where he developed a passion for unleashing the leadership capacity of teams throughout an organization. In 2009, Jack joined forces with a West Point classmate to form Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused on working with CEOs to unlock the potential of their leadership teams. He also serves as a senior professional instructor at the Johns Hopkins Cary School of Business, where he teaches courses on strategic management and human capital. He is a contributing writer to Chief Executive Magazine and Jack also holds an MBA from the Hagen School of Business at Iona College, and a BS in Engineering Management from the United States Military Academy at West Point. SO it's a real pleasure to have our special guest, Jack McGuinness on the show.

Jamil Jama:                   Jack, thank you so much for being here. How's it going?

Jack McGuinness:          Great Jamil, I really ... I'm really looking forward to our discussion.

Jamil Jama:                   So am I ... Jack. Before we get to the interview questions, I always ask my guests this.

Jack McGuinness:          Sure.

Jamil Jama:                   What .. what is your back story? Where did you ... from where you started to where you are now? What is your entrepreneur story please?

Jack McGuinness:          I guess ... you know ... right out of college, I joined the military. I served ... I went to West Point and I served three years with the 10th Mountain Division, and while I was getting my MBA, I was trying to figure out sorta what I wanted to do, and I got very lucky. My .. brother was a senior executive at Verizon, and I guess it was Bell Atlantic way back then but ah ... was working with a consultant from Deloitte, a partner of Deloitte, and right at the time I was in business school, he was just about to start his own consulting firm, so at the age of 25 or 26, I got the privilege of ... being his first employee and helping start a management consulting firm.

Jack McGuinness:          A boutique management consulting firm that competed with the likes of Deloitte and McKinsey and all the big big consulting firms, because my partner, or my boss really, was a ... partner at one of those companies and the firms that we worked with were big ... fortune 100, 500 companies. And so I got the experience of not only ... being a green consultant to start and learning how to be a consultant, but also learning how to build a business.

Jack McGuinness:          At our peak we were about 50 employees and worked in three sectors and I wound up really running the firm operationally. I ran our three business sectors. I ran my own projects as well, but I helped build the infrastructure, the human resources, the accounting and finance, the ... you know ... all the guts of how to make a business tick. And so that was my first foray. Really didn't have the ... wasn't necessarily a plan to be an entrepreneur, but I tripped into it at a very early age. So that's ... where I really got my start, and through the course of my career, as you mentioned before I started, I bought a contract packaging company and ran that for while ... that was a fixer upper, sort of an entrepreneurial adventure. 

Jack McGuinness:          And then through the course of, since 2009, started this firm with a class mate of mine and really, we work with lots of entrepreneurs to help them figure out how to build great leadership teams, so they can effectively scale their companies. So not only do I have a little bit of experience as an entrepreneur myself, but I really work with entrepreneurs everyday in the course of my business, and help them through the trials and tribulations and obviously learn a lot from their trials and tribulations as well.

Jamil Jama:                   Yeah. In your story, you mentioned human resource.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah.

Jamil Jama:                   You have been human resource?

Jack McGuinness:          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamil Jama:                   Actually that's the most important thing right? The human resource ... the human capital?

Jack McGuinness:          It is. You know, there's two parts of the human resources thing. The first is sort of just building the transactional part of it. It's competition benefits and through the course of the growth of the first consulting firm I worked with, we saw a change in the benefits packages going from the employee paid for everything until they got too expensive, so you had to ... you know, get the employees to pay into it a little bit, you know?

Jack McGuinness:          So there's all the transactional side and then there's the, you know, how do you build a culture where people want to join your firm, and most importantly, want to stay at your firm. And so, you know, I think we did a really good job of that, and I won't take much of the credit there. I think my partner ... the guy who really founded the firm, was great at building a culture of hard work, diligence in terms of the service we provided to our customers, and a ... fun work environment. A difficult, hard ... you know ... lot of work hours and that kind of stuff, but we ... did fun work and you know, we encouraged people to learn and grow as well.

Jack McGuinness:          I ... give a lot of ... credit for where I am now to ... my first business partner.

Jamil Jama:                   Awesome. Awesome. So you invested in the people ... basically.

Jack McGuinness:          We invested ... in ... a lot of on the job training frankly, but also in bringing people in from the outside to help us with things like project management, sending people out to ... leadership training, like self awareness, those types of things, and ... yeah we definitely invested a lot in our employees.

Jamil Jama:                   Yeah, because I know it's a lot of companies, they invest in the products, they invest in the marketing, they invest in ... if they have a brick and mortar business, they invest in the building, the decoration, etc. but they really don't invest in the people that much, and the most important thing is the human resource. If you build people, the people will build a company.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah, that was sort of our mantra as well. And really our investment was we hired fairly senior people and expected them to hit the ground running, so our investment in them was in providing them with the opportunity to do really cool work with really cool clients, and in some respects, to sort of pick and choose their destiny within the firm.

Jack McGuinness:          We had some policies and procedures, in terms of how you did what you did, but on the spectrum of bureaucratic to loose, we were sort of more towards the, you know, "you're a smart person, go figure it out and do good work." So that's kind of how we really looked at the investment in our people and it was an attractive model for senior people.

Jamil Jama:                   There's a research I found on Forbes and it says basically new research shows that by focusing on teams, not just leaders, is key to business performance, so you've got to focus on a team and not just the leaders.

Jack McGuinness:          I couldn't agree any more. We were asked ever one in a while, to do some executive coaching work with an individual leader or an individual CEO and ... we really don't do that anymore, because what we've found that without working with the team, the work with the CEO is sort of not as effective as it could be. Which-

Jamil Jama:                   I think ... you need both. You need a good leader and good followers.

Jack McGuinness:          No question about it. No question about it. From our perspective, particularly with growing companies, focusing on the leadership team and getting the leadership team in sync, both ... you know at all levels, strategically, operationally, culturally ... is critical to the health of the organization and the long term prospects for the organization being successful.

Jamil Jama:                   So Jack, what are the characteristics of great leadership teams? Before that, there's a quote by Michael Jordan, this is a real awesome quote, because Michael Jordan has won a lot of championships so-

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah sure.

Jamil Jama:                   He obviously knows a lot about team work and stuff. Michael Jordan basically said, "Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships. Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships."

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah, I have used that quote before in some of the talks I give, and I couldn't agree any more. From our perspective, and it really piggybacks ... I hope it will build the foundation of that quote ... there's a few things that we think are really important from ... in terms of the characteristics of a great team.

Jack McGuinness:          The first is obviously that ... team is ... a leadership team is the steward of the organization and is really responsible for overseeing and contributing to the achievement of tangible, measurable business results. Great teams get great results. 

Jack McGuinness:          The other thing that I think Michael Jordan was getting at in his quote, there, is that we've seen that great teams have impact beyond ... way above and beyond the contributions of any one individual on the team. So you know, even Michael Jordan was arguable maybe the best, or one of the best, players that every played in the MBA, even he thinks that it was not just him. It was the contributions of the five on the floor that made the team go.

Jack McGuinness:          I think another thing that's really important is that great teams over time, build the capacity to solve more difficult challenges, right? SO in the beginning, you know, you tackle the challenges that are in front of you, but over time, you get to ... you get good at really attacking bigger and more complex challenges. I think one of the biggest things, from our perspective, when we see a great leadership team, is their ability to be resilient and get back on track after they fall off the tracks.

Jack McGuinness:          And so the ability to be resilient and get ... like things are going to happen, and so how do you react to that and how do you build the resilience so you can get back in sync. And all of those things, you know, getting results, having a force multiplier effect, being able to deal with more complex challenges over time, and being resilient are really characteristics that you want to build in your organization. 

Jack McGuinness:          So ... if the leadership team has those characteristics at their heart and could, then the likelihood of them being able to build that fiber into the rest of the organization is greatly increased.

Jamil Jama:                   And have you read that book, "Resilient?"

Jack McGuinness:          I have not. No.

Jamil Jama:                   You haven't?

Jack McGuinness:          I'm a huge reader too. 

Jamil Jama:                   Have you heard of it though?

Jack McGuinness:          I have not.

Jamil Jama:                   It is written by Michael Jordan's coach. Michael Jordan's Coach. I'm not a Michael Jordan fan by the way.

Jack McGuinness:          What's that?

Jamil Jama:                   I'm not a Michael Jordan Fan. Let me get the book, Resilient. The book is called "Relentless."

Jack McGuinness:          "Relentless." Okay. That one I've seen in the bookstore, yeah.

Jamil Jama:                   Yeah and it's Michael Jordan's former coach.

Speaker 3:                    98 Million 6 hundred thousand dollars in five days, can you imagine making-

Jamil Jama:                   Relentless by Tim Grover. That's it.

Speaker 4:                    So I want you to think about this. I want you to think about-

Jamil Jama:                   It was Michael Jordan's ... Personal trainer.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah. Sounds good.

Jamil Jama:                   When you mentioned Relentless, I thought of the book "Relentless." I got them mixed up. But that's the book, "Relentless." Sorry to cut you off.

Jack McGuinness:          No problem.

Jamil Jama:                   And Patrick [back there 00:15:21] channel is probably the best on YouTube for entrepreneurship.

Jack McGuinness:          Okay.

Jamil Jama:                   Took him a long time. Took him five years. He's big now. And ... there's a quote. "Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much." That's a quote by Helen Keller. There's another awesome quote, "None of us is as smart as all of us." So, Jack, how can leaders set their teams for success?

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah, that's ... a great question and the simple ... answer to that is they need to model. They need to model the behaviors that they're looking for, not only in their team, but in the rest of the organization. You know, we see a lot of organizations that have great value statements ... rules of operation ... all that kind of stuff, and often times the CEO or the leadership team is not really modeling those behaviors. So from our perspective, a foundational element of building a great leadership team is the CEO's role in establishing the conditions for leadership teams to be effective.

Jack McGuinness:          And so there's a few things they need to do right? From our perspective there's two sets of factors that go into building a great leadership team. There's structural factors like who's on the team, are they good team players, are they technically strong, all that kind of stuff and do they have a good meeting rhythm in place so that they're talking about strategic stuff when they need to talk about strategic stuff and operational stuff when they're talking about operational stuff, so there's a whole bunch of structural stuff that needs to be set up.

Jack McGuinness:          Then there's all the relational dynamics. You know? The ability for folks to trust each other, to hold each other accountable, deal with conflict well and ultimately get and maintain alignment. And so the ... leader's role is huge in establishing those structural conditions and relational conditions. 

Jack McGuinness:          And so, Leader's really need to practice what they preach. They need to be open to other's perspectives. They need-

Jamil Jama:                   They need to lead by example, basically?

Jack McGuinness:          They need to lead by example. They need to receive feedback well. Set clear expectations. Give feedback and hold a team accountable. Promote open challenge and debate. Encourage face to face conflict management rather than resolving all the conflicts for their teams. And resist the temptation to do back office deals rather than have productive discussions right in the ... with the team.

Jack McGuinness:          All the basic blocking and tackling things, yeah they gotta lead by example. Exactly.

Jamil Jama:                   And they got a whole [inaudible 00:18:22] team as well, right?

Jack McGuinness:          Absolutely.

Jamil Jama:                   Keep nothing secret.

Jack McGuinness:          That's right. Yeah, it's ... transparency is huge. Without it, you wind up having some serious problems.

Jamil Jama:                   Trust. You mentioned trust as well, because in my old work place. One of my team mates stole from me twice.

Jack McGuinness:          That's awful.

Jamil Jama:                   That got me upset.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah. Sorta.

Jamil Jama:                   Twice. And then one time, I knew who it was but I just let it go. Second time, they stole everything ... my bag, my keys, everything.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah.

Jamil Jama:                   Trust is very important.

Jack McGuinness:          Trust is huge.

Jamil Jama:                   [crosstalk 00:19:01] -I had to get the fireman to open my flat for me because they took my keys as well.

Jack McGuinness:          Wow.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah, I mean that's an egregious lack ... egregious violation of trust. Unfortunately what we see on leadership teams is some people have a tendency to trust and then let people violate that trust, and they then have a tough time regaining it. Other people-

Jamil Jama:                   So you trust them to an extent. You don't trust them with everything. You can't trust people with everything.

Jack McGuinness:          Well some people ... What we see is that ... trust is a tough thing, right? And so it's ... some people take a long time to trust others and other people are trusting right out of the starting gate until you do something that violates it. But in any case, trust is one of those things that ... you really can't have a great leadership team without having trust.

Jamil Jama:                   Trust has to be earned right?

Jack McGuinness:          Trust has to be earned and trust ... you have to spend time as a leadership team to build and repair relationships that have gone astray because of what may seem like a lack of trust from our perspective.

Jack McGuinness:          ... the more people ... the more team mates get to know each other at a little bit of a deeper level beyond just going out for lunch and drinks, and really understands ... gain some insights into the ... where people come from, where their team mates come from, it's really ... the more they can do that, the more ... foundation you have for building a trusting relationship.

Jack McGuinness:          You know, I'll give you a story from one of my clients. We were doing some initial work with their executive team and we do this little, very simple, half-hour, 45 minute exercise around personal journeys where people just talk about where did you come from? How many kids were in your family? What was the toughest thing you went through growing up through college? And one of the women on this particular executive team I'm thinking about had just a brutal brutal upbringing: an abusive father, a mother that was a drug addict, and overcame all that and was a senior executive at a fairly large company now.

Jack McGuinness:          But she's a tough nut. You know, she's got a tough surface behind ... around her. You could refer to her almost as the Teflon lady. You know? She doesn't really want to reveal too much, but when she revealed that, there was a level of forgiveness in her team mates, in terms of some of the behaviors that she gives off and an ability to talk to her about how those behaviors are impacting them and their relationships together.

Jack McGuinness:          So spending a little time getting to know each other beyond lunch and drinks is important ... very important from our perspective in building trust. You gotta be vulnerable and you gotta ... people have to see an effort to commit to living behaviors that are going to be effective for this team at this time, right? And so vulnerability and behavioral commitments are huge for building and repairing trust on teams.

Jamil Jama:                   And Jack, all teams have their ups and downs.

Jack McGuinness:          They sure do.

Jamil Jama:                   And what are some of the hurdles that hold leadership teams back?

Jack McGuinness:          We would say that the number one thing that holds, in fact I'm doing a webinar tomorrow afternoon ... July 25th at 1 PM called "The Number One Thing Holding Leadership Teams Back," and what we believe is the number one thing holding leadership teams back is what we call, "non-productive dialog," right?

Jack McGuinness:          Productive dialog is the ability for teams to challenge, debate, discuss their most important issues in a way that progresses the issues and leaves minimal scars, minimal relational scars. And so, what we see holding teams back is their inability to have that productive ... to confront, to have productive dialogue.

Jamil Jama:                   Jack ... one of my family voices for you Jack is, "How difficult is it to measure the effectiveness of a leadership team?"

Jack McGuinness:          It's not difficult, but it takes some diligence on the part of the CEO and the executive team to actually want to measure a few different things, right? And so there are long term metrics that are obviously the responsibility of a leadership team, right? There's the business results that the organization is in business to achieve and those things are, you know, the responsibility of the CEO and the executive team to achieve those things, so their ... those are sort of the long term metrics that you can say are the most important to measure whether a leadership team is working or not.

Jack McGuinness:          And then there's a set of more predictive or interim metrics that will predict whether the team is set up to achieve the business results it desires to achieve, and those are things like how productive are we as a team? How good are we at the relational side of trust, productive dialog, accountability and alignment? 

Jack McGuinness:          Right, and so we use a diagnostic instrument at the beginning, middle ... sometimes middle, and the, in about a year in to the engagements we work on from an organization called Team Coaching International, and it's called the team diagnostic and it measures seven structural elements and seven relational elements of team effectiveness.

Jack McGuinness:          And so what we're able to see is right out of the starting gate, how the team and it's stakeholders ... you know like the direct reports of the leadership team members ... how effective they see the leadership team, and then able to pinpoint a few things that the team really needs to work on. And then over the course of the time that we're working together, or even after that.

Jack McGuinness:          We've been called in ... sex months to a year after we've worked with a team to do another diagnostic to see how well they're performing in those elements. And so, we believe that those are important interim metrics ... that help you predict how well the team is going to do ... how effective the team is going to do ... how effective the team is going to be for the organization's ability to scale.

Jamil Jama:                   Hey Jack, what do you think about this quote by Henry Ford: "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

Jack McGuinness:          I ... would agree with that quote. Everyone moving forward together is really important. Unfortunately, everyone moving forward together as an organization scales, becomes harder and harder and harder. It's aspirational. It's never going to be perfect and, from our perspective, really really great leadership teams are in sync, are in alignment strategically, operationally and culturally, and are able to build that fiber into the rest of the organization.

Jamil Jama:                   There's another quote by Henry Ford, which says, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is a progress. Working together is success."

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah. That-

Jamil Jama:                   So that-

Jack McGuinness:          Love it.

Jamil Jama:                   That sums up what you just said.

Jack McGuinness:          It sure does. I love that one. I'm going to steal that one man.

Jamil Jama:                   I'll say it again. "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Jack McGuinness:          That's awesome. I like that.

Jamil Jama:                   You've never heard that one before?

Jack McGuinness:          I like that one.

Jamil Jama:                   I found it- [crosstalk 00:28:09]

Jack McGuinness:          I have not heard that one.

Jamil Jama:                   I found it on Ink. I found it on Ink.

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah.

Jamil Jama:                   I found it on Ink. On

Jack McGuinness:          Cool, I like that.

Jamil Jama:                   Yeah. It's an awesome quote. So Jack, also, that's an awesome quote Jack. So Jack, is there anything else you'd like to tell us before we end the interview?

Jack McGuinness:          Yeah, I have ... a complimentary offer for your listeners. They can go to my website at and it's a complimentary team assessment for senior executives to evaluate the structural and relational elements of their team at their current point in their life cycle, and also with that comes a 30-minute call for us to debrief on the assessment.

Jamil Jama:                   A 30-minute free call?

Jack McGuinness:          Yes. Absolutely. All free.

Jamil Jama:                   Very very generous of you Jack. If anyone had to contact you, where can they contact you?

Jack McGuinness:

Jamil Jama:                   Fantastic. And to all the listeners here, if you want to learn how to build teams, Jack and his team are a good route to go to. Remember build a people and the people will build the company. If you know anybody that this interview will benefit, please share it with them. Please also let me know what you think in the comments section and subscribe, and I'm Jamil Jama, this is the Law of Business, and our Jack McGuinness interview. Thank you very much for listening.

Jack McGuinness:          Bye bye. Thanks so much Jamil.