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The Inferiority Complex of Leaders | Stories With Traction Podcast


SUMMARY: In this episode, Mike Thorne and Matt Zaun discuss Mike’s TEDx Talk, what leaders can do to unpack their early childhood trauma, and how to create a culture that’s not afraid to ask for help.

MIKE THORNE BIO: Mike is the Founder and Managing Partner of Trust Inside, a business mentor at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, the Chairman of the Board of the National Council for Adoption, and he’s a Vistage Chair, where he coaches numerous CEOs to be better leaders.

For more info on Mike, check out his:
TEDx Talk

MATT ZAUN BIO: Matt is an award-winning speaker and storyteller who empowers organizations to attract more clients through the art of strategic storytelling. Matt’s past engagements have catalyzed radical sales increases for over 300 organizations that range from financial institutions to the health and wellness industry.

Matt shares his expertise in persuasion with executives, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs, who he coaches on the art of influence and how to leverage this for profits and impact.

For more info, check out Matt Zaun HERE


*Below is an AI-generated transcript, which may contain errors

Matt Zaun

Last year, I listened to a TEDx on YouTube that blew me away. The speaker's vulnerability storytelling and authenticity quickly positioned this TEDx as one of the best ones that I've listened to.

Well, I'm excited because today's conversation, my guest is that speaker. So today I am joined by Mike Thorne, who is the founder and managing partner of Trust Inside.

He is a business mentor at the main center for entrepreneurs. He is the chairman of the board of the National Council for Adoption.

And he's also a vistage chair where he coaches numerous CEOs to be better leaders. Welcome to the show, Mike.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Thank you, Matt. honored to be on it.


Matt Zaun 

Look forward to chatting with you. Thank you for your time. know you're extremely busy, so I appreciate you spending time with us.

And I also appreciate your willingness to unpack elements of the TEDx that you launched into the world. And one of the reasons why I feel honored and privileged is because the amount of vulnerability you had with this talk, again, it really did blow me away.

And I think what blew me away about it was it's very rare for an individual like yourself that has had so much success in the business world to be that opened and that raw with your upbringing and things that you've experienced in your past.

So before we dive into some of the elements of that talk, can you just share with us why you felt the need to share that?

Was there a certain aha moment where you said, hey, I need to share my story?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Most of it, Matt, came down to all the people that I've been meeting throughout my career, even more so within the VISTAGE community of highly successful people.

And I started realizing everybody has a story. They're just afraid to share that they've got something to happen to them at some point in that holds them back.

And my whole work is around unlocking human potential. And I thought, you know, I was given an opportunity of someone at LinkedIn reached out and said, Mike, there's an amazing TEDx down at Bentley University.

And it's around rebirth, I think it'd be fantastic. I said to the guy, said, I don't understand rebirth. What do I have to do with rebirth?

it's your story. And so I just realized those two things, the concept around rebirth, which I thought I had uncovered that when I met my biological mother.

And two, I started talking to more and more people. I realized everybody got this story and it holds them back.

And maybe I could be the voice to the people start unlocking is really what drove me to go do it.


Matt Zaun

Wow. So you mentioned this, and I've had the opportunity now to speak to numerous of those groups. And one of the things that is very intriguing to me, and I didn't quite get early on, but the more I did it, the more I realized is before I had put a lot of the CEOs on pedestals, and I would look up to them as, wow, look at all that they've accomplished.

And that is true. I still do that at times. But what amazed me the most is every single person, regardless of how successful I come in a contact with, has some form of an inferiority complex.

And what's amazing is they hold that in. A lot of them are not willing to express that or share that.

And what, you know, you mentioned unlocking human potential. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I would think part of the start of that is sharing elements of our story that we've been in the darkness with.

if there's someone listening to this that. They know that they have an inferiority complex with something in their life Where would you what would you direct them to do?

Where would be the starting point for them to kind of get that off their shoulder?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

I Think the most important thing is that everybody knows What their dream the North Star is all the time they do actually know a deep down But something happened to them along the way.

It could have been as a child. Maybe someone said something to them I would just suggest that people just sit with themselves a little while And that's it's one of the strangest things amount of people that would rather be I forget to study people rather be like tasered for an Hour and have to sit with themselves for 30 seconds But when you do that and you really sit down and think about what is that story that holds you back?

Then you can start to work towards where you want to go. It's interesting Matt the Vistage group We had 50 of us going to the Training and at the end they asked this question and every single person there said I

wasn't sure I belonged. They tell people that running company, selling companies, millions of whatever, but I just believe everybody goes to this belonging, building, believing phase through everything they do in life.

think if you just sit with yourself, I think you'll understand like, what is it that's holding me back? And then I know what my dream is.

I know what I want to do and put those two together and then go from there. I think I found the work I do, people know those two things.

What does it help me back? What does it I want to accomplish and just sit with yourself and work through that would be a start.


Matt Zaun

Wow. So one of the things that you alluded to in the TEDx, and some of this was indirectly, but with all the stories that you shared, it's almost like we really get our identity often with our business accomplishments and what we're quote-unquote doing.

But back to that point that you made about just being, sitting with yourself and being, it very rarely takes place.

And I had a very interesting in conversation with with a VISTAGE chair down in Columbia, South Carolina, Lorraine Wiseman.

And she shared something with me that I was it's very dark, but she had said how she works with leaders that get to the end of their career.

So they've accomplished everything. They've built the businesses, they've made the money, they have the status, they are they are well known in their community.

And then they retire and she said the amount of depression that they have. And the suicide rate amongst people that have it all they've done it all and then they retire, they lose their sense of identity and belonging.

And she's actually she's doing research now on what this means. And she said the closest the closest element of research that we have is veterans that return from war based on this kind of study with depression and suicide.

But it is amazing because a lot of people will look at at a CEO, they're looking a hyper-successful person thinking they have it all together, the world is theirs, but they could be struggling with depression and suicide, it's sort of of thoughts.

So my question to you, Mike, is do you think a big part of that is they weren't able or willing to sit with themselves and understand more of themselves and having a tune with themselves?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Is that a big part of where this is coming from? Yeah, I think that's the symptom, but the disease is you go back in history, and when the first veterans came back from the war, and I've done a lot of work in talking people, and I love to get to the root of like, what is it?

That's how we get started. So I would say it starts when you think about when people came back from the wars, what did the country do?

The country didn't say, let's help you navigate that transition. We said, no, we're going to stay silent, going to create cemeteries for you, and going honor you every year.

So that generation grew up in this environment, like we don't share stuff, we just internalize it, and then they raise and

Next generation on we go. And I think now it just exploded with what's happened. I think that's without getting an hour, I think there's some roots to that of how we were brought along in life.

And then yes, then they get to this point time and they're like, well, I really can't share because that was not the way I was brought up and brought along.

But if I just think those are the people I work, I like high integrity growth oriented people that care about the environment and the community they live in.

When I get those people in the room, they all have a story and just sitting with it ultimately is where you get to it.

But you always find started somewhere else.


Matt Zaun 

Wow. So you mentioned different generations and how we passed that on. And recently, I saw a couple weeks ago, you put the message out regarding the why and the how, how, you know, some generations, you're explaining the why to them, some the how.

And it just, it seems more and more when we're talking about leaders, it's very challenging to navigate this. mean, there's so many.

generations in the workplace, there's so many differences of opinion. So how would you, how would you coach a CEO to make sure that they're including all the generations in the workplace and different elements of opinion and thought?

you have them think about that line, the how, and their messaging or what do you do?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

How do you coach them through that? Yeah, I'm a visual person in terms of trying to share stories. And I think sometimes as CEOs, we are snakes.

We're in the grass. We're moving around and all we can see what's in front of us. And I would just say need to be an eagle.

And there's a guy and I'm trying to think of his name. He's a great negotiator, does a lot of global work.

He talks about this idea of get up on the balcony. And the important thing that CEOs who are very experienced when they've done research on this, they say, what does the one thing you'd recommend to a young CEO?

they say, reflection. And so I don't think business owners and you know, take enough time to just step back it up on the balcony if you want to use that analogy, get above it all and say what's really going on.

So, but specific example is a lot of my members will say I'm frustrated because a young generation doesn't want to work or the older generation miss for that.

And I say you're trying to equate it to what was. And I'd like you to get away above here and say, given what's going on, if you walked into this business right now as a new CEO and you observe what's happening in the world today, multiple generations coming out of COVID, cyber, remote work, how would you go about shaping this company, building it, creating the culture.

And it allows them to have a different perspective on how they go at it. And then we have this workbook that one of the VISTAs shares gave me that it's 21 pages, but it really does allow them to reflect and start thinking that way.

So it's more just getting up here and staying out of what's going on today, because when you do that, you're just sort of reacting.

And I'm saying, you know, get up here and start really thinking like, if this is what's going on, how would I handle this, is how I go at it.

And everybody has their own way of doing it. But that's how I would suggest people start thinking about whether you're a VP of sales or a CEO.


Matt Zaun 

Well, that is really good. And, you know, you mentioned complaining, one of the generations that is complained about often is millennials, right?

And more and more are taking leadership positions, especially across corporate America. And what's interesting is at the top of every survey of what millennials want, they want an impact and fulfillment, which really ties into what you mentioned regarding the why.

Now, here's what's interesting to me, because my background is in the political world. I was a political speed trader for over a decade, and then I transitioned into debate prep.

So I would prepare candidates for debate prep and tons of millennials in the political world. And what's amazing is some of them are the hardest workers you will ever find.

And again, they have an impact. They have fulfillment of what they're doing. They're willing to work each hour today for pennies on the dollar.

so I would really challenge any CEO listening to this episode. Millennials are out there that are willing to work harder than you can imagine.

Are you creating stories that engage and connect with them that have that impact and fulfillment element tie again? So speaking of impact and speaking of fulfillment, I want to go back to your TEDx and a few things that you mentioned.

So you had mentioned a story about meaning of a certain someone. How impactful this was on your own life.

So can you take us through that story and that knock on the door and how you were feeling and kind of set the scene for us regarding that instance?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Yes, I think you're referring to what I meant my biological mother, right?


Matt Zaun



Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

It was an enormous, you know, from nine years old when I felt when I was told I was adopted all the way up until that point.

He's abandonment and trust issues and the anger that I had about how could somebody. How could somebody give a child up?

And I think up until that point in my whole life, I was always trying to prove myself and trying to keep score that way.

And so even though I was ready to have that conversation, I'd done a lot of homework, talked to all the people, they're involved in different parts of adoption, because I knew the impact of my parents, the impact of my biological mother, myself, and so on.

As I drove up that road, it's a bumpy little hill up a road and smaller house. I got a panic attack, so to speak, not an extensive one, but a small one.

And I literally wanted to turn the car around and think, I just can't do this, it's just gonna be too much.

Somehow though, the car kind of took control at that point in time and pulled into that driveway. I just remember pulling in there and I put this workbook together.

mean, pictures of my whole life, which is what my mother wanted. And I just decided, I got to know, I've always wondered, I was at a point in my life, just got to know, whatever happens happens.

And so I walked up there and I got to that. front door and took that really deep breath, just trying to make sure that I was fully present, ready, and just knocked on the door.

And I believe in life, sometimes you got to just knock on doors because you never know which one's going to open.

And when she opened that door, and I looked right in her eyes and I was like, Oh, my God, this is my mother.

I know it. And what's interesting about these moments is my sister came down the stairs. I didn't know who she was, but I assumed it was my sister.

And she looked at me and she said, Look, I'm sorry. I'm here. know you want to have a conversation with a mother, but I didn't know who you were.

didn't know if you were coming in here, like they had no idea who I was. So here I am thinking, I'm the one that's frightened.

And they were fighting like, Who's this guy? Is he really your son? So it was an interesting, but the thing that struck me, Matt was I went from this angry, pissed off, like the world screwed me and just sitting and watching the room.

when we got there and met the rest of my siblings, I thought, but I've been actually blessed. My mother made a very different,

a very difficult choice, and I understood her. I understood she was coming from, and I think a lot of my resilience and tenacity came from her.

So that really was a turning point in my life. That really was an amazing experience.


Matt Zaun 

Wow. So take me back to that nine-year-old little boy finding out that he was adopted, and then let's fast forward a couple years on what that meant to you through your pre-teens, your teenage years, and then into adulthood.

Did you struggle with an inferiority complex yourself? Was there feelings of inadequacy? Did you feel like you had to be the best at everything you touched based on this?

Is it almost like I need to be perfect so people will love me?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Is that at the mindset? Well, an issue when you're sitting there and living around back in those days with the shag-carping, the old New England living rooms.

All you hear is like we want you to know that we love you and you're adopted. was like, boom, like, what do you mean I'm adopted?

what does that mean? Like, I don't belong to you. Like, this incredible sadness and frightening feeling of, oh my God, I, what happened?

Just get shattered. Your whole self-worth just gets shattered. And from that point forward, I really spent a lot of time saying, what do I have to do so that nobody does that to me again?

And what it manifested itself and too mad is my whole life and I got into sports. became a, you know, sports became my arena.

You know, the Hank Aaron story, I mentioned that 1974 when Hank Aaron broke the record. That was like, oh my God, I was so admiral about how he was handling the grace and space.

He gave people through all that. was like, God, I want to be a professional baseball player. I made it to college and never got that far, but that was my dream at that time.

But I found sports was great because, it was a score. And you sort of know whether you want to loss, but the downside of that was which impacted me later on in life was, at first I was like, well, I was captain of my high school baseball team, my basketball team, played on the football team, I must be doing things really, really well.

But I learned later on in life that what I was doing was I was sort of forcing people to come along because I wanted to get the outcome.

And that was self-centered and it was not a way to really lead. But I kept getting these successes thinking, okay, I guess that's the way it is.

My business career the same way I went from a salesperson to a key account salesman, manager, VP to a president of a company until I got fired at 40 and really had to like start over again.


Matt Zaun 

Wow. Okay. let's talk about the sports piece because you mentioned the outcome, which I want to get to. So I also have a story regarding sports that was good and very negative.

I wrestled for 10 years. was a big part of my life. when I got to high school, my high school wrestling coach was a very abusive man, okay?

not, not , thank God, but he was very abusive, emotionally, verbally, and also physically. So he struggled with PTSD.

He was a veteran of Vietnam. And unfortunately he didn't get the care he needed.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

So he took it out on all the kids.


Matt Zaun 

So I basically, in this very important season of my life, which is high school, is I was being molded in an extremely stressful environment with just incredible amounts of abuse.

So my view of success was very warped from the sense that I had to work not only intensely hard, but in this like loop of anxiety, almost this vicious cycle of always,

having to have anxiety. And what's amazing is I recently unpacked with my counselor that she was telling me that I in many instances, I feel like I need to create anxiety because I feel like it's my natural state.

And how there's so many instances where I don't need to feel anxiety anymore. It's okay for me to be at peace.

And what's amazing is the positive is I learned incredible amount of determination. And it's helped me a lot in business just like you had mentioned the outcome piece helping you.

So it's helped me and everything I touch I work as hard as possible and I make it work right.

But I subconsciously all of this in a world of anxiety and self-sabotage to create more anxiety. it's amazing like you go back to earlier childhood and even in our adult years, we're still dealing with that and we're still processing with that trauma.

So I want to talk about that outcome piece. So, Oh, clearly you're good at outcomes. You shot up the corporate ladder.

You're president of a company. And at what point was it? Not focusing enough on your people and outcomes. That was quote unquote the downfall or what what happened regarding outcome versus what emotional intelligence was it because outcomes are great, right?

So what was what was the big wall that hit you regarding once you reached the peak of success in the business world?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Yeah, so I had never really wrestled this nine year old boy to the ground to really understand what was causing it.

So I was always pretending that things were great and I was perfect and had all figured out. Well, when you take on an organization that's under high stress, which the company was 120 million athletic business, high stress, and you can't fix it.

You can't get the outcomes you want. Eventually what started to take place was the vulnerabilities and the fears they had of being abandoned.

in right out spot out and when I got fired after 15 months so we moved the family down to Georgia nobody wanted to move but I've got this amazing wife who had married for almost 34 years now and she said you got to do this you're a sports guy you get the one chance to do something so we moved and 15 months later different CEOs in that seat and he fires me right for Christmas that 90-year-old boy comes all the way back and I was wallowing and like I'm worthless and back to where I was as a little boy but I had people that came up to me and said when you're ready to get off the mat to use a wrestling analogy I had a conversation with them and they said Mike your emotional intelligence was horrible your body lying this terrible you can't run an organization going through massive change in stress and behave in those ways and it was like getting hit by a two-by-four with cushion because I respected these leaders they had run companies I respected them and so they gave you that perspective it was like wow and that was

It was the first time in life I really went all the way back and said, what is it that I want to be, and who do I want to be, what do I want to work.

And what I found was the feedback from the employees was what changed my life. The feedback that came back and said, Mike, we're going to really miss the amount of time and energy you you took to dive into the company to meet the people at all levels of the organization to try to elevate way we were thinking about stuff.

So I've just all this feedback and I'm reading all this and saying, okay, I totally misunderstood. The profit loss is where I was focused.

What's the outcome? How do we deliver the financial obligations that we have? But I learned the real P and all that matters is the people and listening side.

And when I got that, and I'm shortening, was a long journey. don't people think it happened like in one week.

But just the combination of finding these personal trust community peoples are referred to them and then studying what the feedback I was getting and not taking it as personal.

as I normally would have really helped me say, okay, then what kind of company do I want to work for?

What kind of people do I want to be surrounded by? how do I want to lead going forward? And it allowed me to be freer and to start to think about those things.

And I ended up changing the industry completely after 20 years. One industry ever thought I was out of my mind, but it was the greatest decision ever made and it changed my whole trajectory and life personally.


Matt Zaun 

Wow, I really like that. The real piano that matters is the people's side. So let's touch on that because everyone has an opinion.

So how do you separate opinion from solid feedback?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Well, I think you got to find, I mean, as far as from employees or people that give it to you.


Matt Zaun 

Yeah, so let's say that 100 employees approach you about something and you're going to hear tons of different opinions.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

how do you know that it's solid feedback that you should run with? Well, two things I think when you go into company, most of my work was

doing less of and then the third one which was really powerful I learned later which is what is it that I could be doing for you personally or professionally and Matt I got to tell you then you would gather all that information and to your point you can't fix everything at once and a lot of times I would get like we got to fix the hundred things at once what you would find when you did this well how big the company is you would start to find patterns things that were highlighted that were like wow we got to take care of this first I'll give you a couple examples so I was working with Bauer hockey and I learned that the customer service department was telling me that whenever the corporate phone rang the computers would go down was one of the one of the things I got what are we doing need to fix what can I do a few person I was like this doesn't make sense and everybody knew about this thing and I saw I got to see this and so I did fine let's focus on that one because when you focus on something that feels like it's small but it's very common

when people start to build hope. And what you're trying to do is get hope in the company. And I uncovered that it was a real thing.

And so the I.T. senior VP of IT didn't believe me. Why didn't someone say something to me? And part of that was the culture was not great in the company.

Or at Yankee Canal asked the same questions. number one, the number of top two things where one is, can I get the ability to make decisions about when we need printer ink?

You think, and that seems like kind of a silly thing. But the person before who was in charge of the company was trying to save money.

the different people are running all these floors, trying to get a print of that ink to it, which is crazy.

The second one was really deep cultural thing. And that's why the story part really matters. I was walking at Yankee Canal at this company store.

And I noticed the bricks were all their people's names on. I didn't understand what it was. I just joined the company.

And I did this work with this book, walked around. one of the biggest things that kept popping up was bring the brick back.

So I call the meeting. and said, look, I just want to share about 100 employees. So I want to share where we are.

I said, I have this concept being aggressively patient. And everyone chuckles and says, how the hell do you do that?

I said, there's going to be something that's going be very aggressive on, and something not too patient, because we can't do it all at once.

And I said, the one thing that be aggressive on is I want to understand more about this brick. And what I was told was, 10 years with the company, you get a brick, and it gets put on the pathways where people walk in our stores.

you can always see your name, reflect on your history with the company, and so on. I thought it was beautiful.

And I said, what is the story? So we couldn't afford them when I'm buying the one. And I'm thinking to myself, well, how much does a brick cost?



Matt Zaun 

And so we immediately implemented that.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

And then what I find is there are people I describe as culture carriers in companies. And if you go around and ask all these questions and you ask people's stories, you begin to recognize the people.

that are respected throughout the company, they're going to say, oh, you need to talk to Matt. If you have these questions, you should ask Matt.

was always like these consistent people. And so then once you start to make progress on those two or three things you think you to be aggressive on, you then make sure those cultural carriers are on board and slowly but surely they become the people that help you because when you're trying to create momentum and trying to create change, you need other people.

You can't do it yourself. And candidly, it's not always a leadership team because a leader team is looking to you and they don't want it.

You're new or you've been there a while, whatever. It's the people underneath them because that's where the employees go to.

They go talk to them and say, is this real or is this a joke? We're doing this. You think it's going to happen and they just go, Matt, this is good.

It's going to be great hanging there with us and eventually the company starts to make a lot of progress and ultimately the financials will come to where they need to be because people come to a new ideas and challenges and thoughts.

And that's why that people listening is as powerful as making sure you know the financials because that matters.


Matt Zaun

Wow, I love that term culture carrier.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)



Matt Zaun 

You know, it's amazing how many leaders talk about having a vibrant company culture. This is a real thing that they can do to to spur that on.

So, I don't know if you did this consciously or subconsciously, but and to bring your your TEDx to the ending of it.

I'll include the link in the show notes. Highly recommend people go watch this again. Incredible. But you mentioned those three words.

I need help. And what you're saying right here, when you say, what can I do for you personally or professionally, you're creating a culture of people willing to ask for help.

And you talk about the power of those three words. So I want you to I want you to speak to that because there's so many leaders and I don't know what it is.

They maybe It's they fear opening themselves up to criticism, but they're not willing to ask for help, especially from their team, and we always talk about ROI and investment, and what an incredible investment you can get back from hearing from people.

So how would you recommend people create a culture of that I need help?


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Well, I was at Yankee Candle for beautiful framed picture of a canoe on the water, and they knew I loved the water, and so it said something, and I always try to find a mantra, like let's go on a journey together, so when you're going through trying to create, or going through a tough time, or you're accelerating a business, and you want people to be along.

And so they left, and Doran Exford, who is a super human being, was running Learning Development, she came to see me, and she said, what do you think?

And I saw it wonderful, I've been here three months, and I love the water, think it's just beautiful. She goes, oh, do you understand the purpose of that?

And I said, what do you mean? She said, what's missing in the canoe? And I said, I don't know.

She said, look again. I said, I think it's a beautiful saying. The water, she goes, no, where are the oars?

And I said, oh, I didn't notice that. She goes, Mike, everybody wants to row with you. But your standards are so high.

expectations are so high. cannot reach you or them. Do you know they walked around in the office and say, how's dad doing today?

I said, why is that? She said, because they don't know whether you're in good mood, bad mood, you don't share anything.

don't know who you are. They just know you have at least a man on and on again. So that was the first time in life.

Anybody like hit me like that. And she said to me recently, she was Mike back then in 2006. I asked myself, I think Mike has this thought in his head that says something like this.

If people really knew me, what they even like me. And so she started me on this journey like first and foremost go spend time walking the floor so simple like but I wasn't even doing that I'd come in the office go get business done and Then ultimately spend time sharing stories about myself my week and my family and people started sharing and then I had to do a Toastmasters event and shared even more and I started realizing wow The more people get to know you and understand you the better chance they're gonna open up I'll give you one example if I can sure I was head of Operations customer service to me great great guy a VP of sales job open up our biggest business and everyone goes Mike I know you knew here, but he's a guy Kurt you guy.

I was like God. I don't I don't see it I don't I don't know every time I asked Kurt to get stuff out the door to ship to hit the numbers We never hit the numbers and he's always like pushing back.

I don't see it. I went back to get my book out Sat down Kurt and I said Kurt let's do this again Just tell me a story what tell me what's going on and three questions again

And I uncovered that he grew up in a family with three brothers. He was very young, his dad passed when he was young, he had no mentor.

And he saw me as a person who got in this deep conversation with two or three of them. And ultimately it led to, he said to me, because Mike, I know everyone wants me to take that job.

And I think in life you have to keep going up in your career because that's how life works. And if I was to say no to this job, I'd probably get fired.

Why would you think that? Well, just a short in the story at the end, he said, Mike, what I really, really want.

I want to be in the room and that staples red button gets pushed. I don't want to be the one that has to push it to make that decision, but I want to be in the room and contribute to the conversation.

And so we went down the road and I started to give him scope enhancement. So I'm not a big fan of this outside your comfort zone.

I believe to stretch within your comfort zone. So Kurt had amazing skills that we wanted to harness. And we sent him over to Europe to do the same thing, but it stretched him, but it was with his comfort

And Kurt was a big Patriots fan, big Tom Brady fan, and finally that quarter was coming up, and I thought, Jesus Christ, we're on by private equity, you got to hit this court, I went, I'm not in his door, I said big boy, I said, it's Brady time.

Matt, I didn't have to say anything else, I didn't have to prod, plead anything, he just took control of the moment.

And from the next five, six years, we never missed trying to do everything we could deliver on every obligation we had.

And it just took an understanding of the human side of things, both for me to be that person and for them.

And I just kept, that is like the seven years I got my PhD at a drive, financial performance, but also the people side of it.


Matt Zaun 

brilliant time for them. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. One of the things I do want to bring up, and I'm very interested to hear your perspective on this, is the quote unquote family business dynamic.

Okay, so first, let me say that, really, I was talking to a gentleman and I I was mentioning an element of trauma and I said lowercase T, not capital T.

And I was corrected saying, you know, there's no such thing as up, you know, lowercase trauma, you said trauma trauma.

A did two tours in Afghanistan experience horrific circumstances and said your trauma is just it should be focused on just as much as mine right so I definitely learned not to say lowercase trauma.

However, we're talking about that we're talking about early early childhood trauma we're talking about different things and our upbringings and what what that's done and you mentioned the story of Kurt.

And he didn't have that father figure and he was desperate for mentorship but I know there are people listening to this episode that are going to think to themselves, why can't we separate the family from business where they're not in our family were a business unit.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

for a long time, which is that purpose-driven companies far outperform these command and control environments. It's kind of what I'm interpreting as I listen to you tell the story about the family business.

And the studies show that over a four-year period, the EBITDA performance is up 12 and a half percent when you drive more performance-driven versus this command control.

So I think just listening to you, a lot of people on Fortune, that's all they think about and say, let me ask you question if we could have more harmony, because I don't believe in the work-like balance.

think it's impossible. Everything's so integrated today. So one of my members talks about having harmony. Like, how do you have harmony when you have to, because it's integrated?

You're working from home, remote, whatever. And I think the financial benefit is now clear. We have something tangible that says, hey, there is a lot of value there.

So now that we know this, yes, you're clicking along, growing at five or six percent. But if ultimately you get to nine, 10, 11 percent, and you could sell your company.

If you had a higher multiple, you could build a more impactful company, would you be open to thinking about that?

Then it opens to little bit more, because when you try to push on the personal thing, it's very, very hard for those people that have kind of grown up in that environment.

So I would start with more of the statistics with them, which I don't usually like to. usually think people make decisions on emotions and support it with logic.

But I think in this case, the logic does catch their attention. They go, what the hell is that all about?

I say, well, let's talk about this. I'll give you an example. I have a member who's been fighting this concept forever, and we were chatting.

I said to him, I said, you know, I think it's time the world is telling you, you had a lot of good stuff going on his business, had a big issue.

He wants to retire in a few years. And I said to him, I think the world is telling you it's time to start saying, I need some help.

And he kind of smiled, because I haven't talked about that for a while. And I said, I think your team is looking for the air cover from you, but they'll tell you.

you through this transition and change and your kids will help you with all this stuff. I said, but you're gonna just have to ask for help.

And he laughed, smiled, I walked out the door and I saw one of his head leaders and shortened our conversation.

He said, you know, Mike, I love the family, they're wonderful people. They take care of employees, but every time we have to push towards a hard decision and the employees push back, they just give in because they don't want to lose that family thing.

And he said, if I could just get air cover, I could help them navigate all this. So I left the building quickly text him and said, Hey, big guy, air cover, ask for help.

So I think it is just hey, there's a logic now that says it works. And it's important. And the question is, what is it hold you back?

What's it that's, you know, kind of stopping you from taking ownership? Am I answering a question?


Matt Zaun 

Yeah, absolutely. And it's a story piece as well, right? There's tons of stories throughout that. even though you're expressing logic, it's backed by stories.

I appreciate it. you're sharing that. I also appreciate this conversation. Like, I really appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable and sharing the way that you did.

There's three specific takeaways that I'm going to have from this conversation. I really appreciate you sharing the difference between Snake and Eagle.

You mentioned that Snake versus Eagle getting up on the balcony to reflect. I think that there's a tremendous amount of wisdom in that.

The second takeaway for me is you mentioned the real P&L that matters is the people's side. I think as the leaders focusing on that people's side, being intentional, that's going to drive the numbers for sure.

Then the third and final piece that I've never heard this term before, I appreciate it, is the culture carriers piece, is people carrying on, propping up that culture.

You asked that one question. think it's so powerful, three questions, one of which that stood out to me, which is what can I do for you professionally or personally?

I think that that is It's so important to create that culture of I need help and the more people ask that question, you're going to get to the bottom of so many different problems, last solution things to do.

So I think there's just tremendous wisdom with what you said. So thanks again for your time. If people want to learn more about you, they want to reach out to you for mentorship.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

Where's the best place that they can go to get that information? Two places which has everything is my website TrustInside.co and then LinkedIn is where I share an awful lot of content on LinkedIn to the two places I would go.


Matt Zaun

Perfect. I will include both of those in the show notes. People can just click and go. I will also include the TEDx.

Highly recommend people check that out. Mike, thanks again for your time.


Mike Thorne (vistagechair.com)

I really appreciate it. No, I appreciate the opportunity Matt. love the work you do and I'm a big fan of storytelling.

thank you for all the work you do.


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