Today we’re talking to Tom Kereszti, former CEO, author, and founder of Leadership Disciples. Our conversation specifically focuses on how to create a vision statement for your life that helps your relationships flourish.
Tom talks about several examples throughout his life that talks about ways great communication and relationship development has led to business success. One way we improve our leadership vision is bringing people into our life that can help us do that.
A huge part of achieving your goals efficiently is to pattern after someone that has already done something similar. Join us and we’ll also talk about specific ways you can identify that right mentor for your life goals.
Brent: Figure out where you want to go and then find someone that is modeling that out is a really good insight into how to choose someone for a role model, but also just how to pattern your life. What is the purpose for my life. What I want to do, where do I want to go with my life?
Tom Kereszti: Mark Twain said it best, he says the two most important days in your life is when you’re born. And when you find out why a lot of people go through life without knowing what they want to do. And, in that case, any road gets you there. I wish somebody came to me and I was 20 years old and say, Tom, you should have a vision for yourself. .
Brent: Welcome to the Lead With Relationship Podcast today, we’re talking to Tom Kereszti. former CEO, author, and founder of Leadership Disciples. He’s also a leadership coach that helps people apply servant leadership principles from a biblical foundation.
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Tom. It is great to have you. You had a book come out relatively recently and it C-suite and Beyond the Four Keys to Leadership Success, I believe you said that came out in November of last year. Is that correct?
Tom Kereszti: Yes, it is. Yes it is. And so it’s pretty much available on Amazon Barnes and noble. I’m sure there’s a lot of, online retailers. You can go to my website and get a copy as well.
It’s available in Kindle. And as I say, if you want to save the trees, then you can get it that way.
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. I was looking at it just a little bit before we came on and. Really just some great content in there. First of all, thank you for putting that out. I think a lot of people will definitely get a lot of out of that and you also have a website leadershipdisciples.com, I believe where you go into some similar content and that you may be able to purchase the book as well.
Tom Kereszti: Yeah. In the end, the, book is about leadership and it’s about how to make somebody a better leader, a more effective leader and what the website does is also breaks that down into workshops that I can work with companies, if they want to improve their leadership, if they want to improve their strategy executive coaching, if somebody wants to become a better leader.
So these are all little things that you’ll find on a website. If you need, one-on-one help.
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. That is great to hear. I know there is a lot of people that listen to this podcast that are looking for that specifically, but I know there’s also a lot of people that listen to this that are aspiring mentors, aspiring coaches to some degree.
And I think it would be really cool to get your interpretation of your journey. What has that journey been like for you and what would be your feedback for someone that is at the point in either their career or their life, where they would like to start giving back to people?
Tom Kereszti: The first thing is, in order for you to be a coach or a mentor, which by the way are two different things. It’s good to be on the receiving them of that. So you’ll recognize you understand what that feels like and what that looks like.
I would encourage everyone that before you become a coach or before you become a mentor, you get yourself a coach or a mentor. Worked with them for a while and, mentorship doesn’t happen in a week. It happens over a long period of time. It’s a relationship, same thing with coaching. The shortest period I’ve coached someone, it was about nine months, but guys like pat Gelsinger, he’s had the same coach for 20 plus years.
So it’s a relationship that forms over time. This trust. Their support it’s almost like a marriage, right? And in order for you to give something back, you first had to receive and then when you receive it, you understand how that works and how you benefited from it. Then it’s a little bit easier for you to say, okay, now I’ve seen it.
It helped me so I can help somebody else.
Brent: That’s really great advice. I believe you talk about this specifically in your book at different stages in your life you’ve had to seek out different types of mentorship and you’ve had to develop new skills in the area of leadership that you were in.
Tom Kereszti: Yeah. So look, my journey has been a long one. I’m no longer 30 or 40, so I’m well, beyond those years, I’m in my sixties now. And so I’ve seen a lot. I lived a lot. You can be mentored many different ways.
One of my mentors is John Maxwell and I met him many times. But it’s not I’ve been over to John’s house every weekend for dinner. So I’ve read a lot of his books. I’ve been part of a lot of his conferences where he was, speaking I met him, I shook hands with him.
I spoke with him. But then you also have, folks in your life who you never met, I met Rudy Giuliani once I shook hands with him when he was running for president bought two of his books. I think, I’ve been mentored a lot through his books, so I’d encourage you to pick up some leadership books and read them.
I never met Jack Welsh and, I read his book and that’s taught me a lot. So read books of great leaders and certainly that will help you on your journey. Look for role models. My father and my mother got divorced very early on.
I didn’t have a father in my life from the age of 12. What I looked at is I looked at male role models. And they were necessarily my father. They were not at my Forester father. They were not a big brother, but I just looked at him and said this guy and I’m not too crazy about how he’s living his life, and this guy.
Yeah. I really, like what he’s doing, because because of that broken marriage from my mother and my father, I had a hesitancy to be married. I I was dating my wife for almost 10 years at the time. And. I didn’t have a role model of marriage to look at in my side of family.
And frankly, her side of the family, her mother and father were really nice, but they were really boring couple. And I was like, man, if that’s fair, just like this is boring. I don’t think I want to get into that. And then we met Marianne and Joey who were friends of my my wife’s or my in-laws and they were just really fun.
My, they did a lot of stuff together. I said, all right, now you get it. It makes sense. I would encourage everybody to pick a role models, see what they’re doing see what unique in them and what appeals to you.
And then, that’s indirect mentoring, I would say indirect coaching.
Brent: I think that makes a lot of sense. You were just saying, figure out where you want to go and then find someone that is modeling that out and seek that person out as a role model.
I think that is a really good insight into how to choose someone for a role model, but also just how to pattern your life. I feel like that is an area that some people get lost in for a while, especially early life stages. They’re trying to figure out number one, what is the purpose for my life.
What I want to do, where do I want to go with my life? Then when, and if they figured that out, what is the bridge to help me get there? A lot of people, overlook mentoring altogether, but definitely overlook how to find the right person to mentor you.
And also something I think is common is to be shy about reaching out to mentors, or they’re not completely sure how the other person would perceive a mentorship.
Tom Kereszti: No you’re a hundred percent correct then. And look most people are human nature. No most people love to help. Look I have to choose because I can’t help everybody obviously. But if I have the bandwidth, I love to help.
Look, you have to ask the worst case the guy says no, or the woman says no, but if you don’t ask, you don’t know what the answer is. So at least ask, but you said something else, which was extremely important that I picked up on. And that is, The first thing they have to figure out is, what did they want to do with their life?
And mark Twain said it best, he says the two most important days in your life is when you’re born. And when you find out why a lot of people go through life without knowing what they want to do. And, in that case, any road gets you there. So I encourage, one of the things I talk about in the book is really have a vision for yourself.
And I wish somebody came to me and I was 20 years old and say, Tom, you should have a vision for yourself. Vision really helps guide where you want to get, because, if you don’t have a vision, then any road will get you anywhere.
But if you do have a vision of where you’re going, then it’s much easier to find the mentors. It’s much easier to find the building blocks that, that allow you to go along that journey and improve yourself as a human being to what you want to be. So it’s yeah that’s just great observation by you, figure out what you want.
Brent: Yeah. Having a vision is so important. I felt like it’s one of the largest things that is lost out from a younger life stage that a lot of people don’t start realizing the importance of, or maybe even know how to do until they’ve lived a little bit.
I think having a mentor, having someone pour in your life that has been through some of those similar circumstances can really help push you along a little bit. Something else that I did want to pick up on that I thought was really interesting in the story that you just told was the role model that you actually picked out was to someone to help you through your marriage and to understand that aspect of your life that you really wanted to get, right. It’s easy for a lot of people to think about mentoring from a career standpoint.
Sometimes people don’t always realize that the life side of that is just as if not more important than the career. Cause most of the time your career is supporting your life and your life is really supporting your purpose. What went off in your mind? Maybe just dive into that a little bit deeper.
Tom Kereszti: The decisions. We’re a little bit different than the decisions I make now, but let me answer your question a little bit differently. A lot of people define themselves by certain criteria.
If you limit your roadmap to success and your vision to your gender, your skin color, what you do for a living you’re shortchanging your life.
Pick something much bigger than that. My vision I, I don’t know if I shared that with you, but my vision is, man of God leader men, I don’t define myself as a businessman. I don’t define myself as, a 60 year old white guy, I, I define myself as a man of God leader of men.
Whenever I come in choices in life, I say, okay, is what I’m about to do? Is that a leadership role? And if it’s not a leadership role, then I’d probably pass on it. And if it doesn’t honor God, then I probably pass on it. So those two criteria will actually have to be met. And I can use that, in my career, I can use that in my family.
I can use that and, social activities. I can, use that analogy and that test to make major decision in my life. So it, don’t limit yourself is, will be my advice to everybody here is, and to your audiences, don’t limit what you can do think much bigger than defining yourself, just by what you do in life.
Brent: I think it’s a really powerful statement. I agree with that. One thing I’m curious of is when you’re going through some of these decisions, Getting people in your life to help you through this. A lot of the dynamics of technology was very different. Probably didn’t have social media telling you different signals, telling you different things about how to live your life.
You’ve been able to observe, I’m sure a lot of younger people that are going through that same life stage now that are facing a lot of these same decisions with the influence of a lot of these different dynamics.
Do you think that relationship building or growing as a leader has become more complicated through all of these technological advances?
Tom Kereszti: I don’t think it’s gotten any, any harder. I think if anything, it’s a little bit easier because now, thousands of people can actually listen to, what I lived in w what my story is. So I can influence, thousands of people just listening to this on leadership that was not available, 20, 30, 40 years ago, you had to be interviewed.
You have to be in a room and the room was limited to, maybe you only had two people that could sit in a room or a thousand people could sit in a room to listen to that story. Books, you had to go buy a book. Now you have electronic books and you can just download it anywhere.
So technology certainly is making that much easier, but technology also puts a lot of noise out there. I said, there’s a lot of noise of, what is the trend? What is, what is this person doing? What is this influencer doing? So you have a lot of noise out there. And unless you are sure about who you are and why you here on this earth.
That noise can easily influence you. So that noise wasn’t as relevant. It was there because, okay. You can watch mainstream news. You didn’t have the internet back then. So you had news channels. You didn’t even have cable back then. You just had, maybe three or five channels to choose from.
But we are influenced as human beings by what we read, what we see, what we observe. And now just at the bandwidth of what we see and read and observe is just so huge that unless you’re really sure about who you are. You can get distracted really easily and really go down multiple paths, oh, that sounds good. Let me try that. Oh, that didn’t work. Let me try that. That sounds good. But that didn’t work. It’s just you can be easily all over the place.
Brent: The people that you work with, what are some ways that you have seen them avoid that noise and get through a lot of the distractions.
Tom Kereszti: Well the people that you work with is easy because you spend a lot of time with them. Most of us spend at least one third of our life. I say one third. Honestly, one third, maybe I sleep about six, seven hours a day at most.
So it’s probably more than one third. A lot of people probably are close to 40, 50% is preoccupied with work. That’s easy, whoever you work with, whoever you’re interacting with is probably the person you spend up with the people that you’re probably spending the most time with.
We’re human beings. And as human beings, we use all our senses to communicate and connect with individuals. And then by the way, there’s a huge difference between connecting with people and communicating with people. And we can spend a whole podcast just on that, one topic, but people that are on your team.
You should have formed relationship with them, right? You should have formed relationships with them. You should know, their wives names or their husband’s names, their kids names what they love doing, what makes them tick. So it’s a relationship because you’re spending a lot of time together.
If it’s just a work relationship it’s very. Then probably it doesn’t work as well as the, if you do form a human bond with those individuals. So work is easy. In a case like this is a little bit too difficult. There’s a little bit more difficult. We’re miles away and we’re only using really two senses.
Brent: You mentioned something that, I agree, we could spend a lot of time on, but I do think it’s really powerful to mention, in that connecting is not the same thing as communicating.
I think that a lot of people think they are. I think a lot of people get lost in that. And it can be hard to distinguish the two because some people may be really good at connecting and socializing.
But developing relationships, I believe is probably a slightly different skill set. It requires investment. It requires sacrifice. It requires really going deeper into someone else’s life.
What are some circumstances, that. You have maybe seen where someone has transitioned in between those two from connecting to building relationships, and they’ve maybe really struggled in that.
Tom Kereszti: Look, and anybody can improve if they recognize that there is a process and working that process. So look there’s three levels of communication and I’ll show you I’ll show you some personal stories, but there’s really three levels of communication.
The first level is just basically informing you. And this is probably 90% of the communications in business. You go into a conference room, there’s a presenter, there’s 20 people sitting around and then the presenters. Slide level one, slide number two, slide number three, slide number four.
And they’re informing you of their particular idea. Then they’re not necessarily equipped to move the audience in that room to adapt your idea, they’re just danced, okay, this is my point of view and you should adapt it. And I was just like, I’m the presenter? So by defacto, you should listen to me.
And at that, what I’m telling. That’s that’s the first level. Okay. And then and everybody, everybody does that. Then the second level is where people begin to actually communicate. All right. To give you an example. I went to a conference many years ago and I heard this guy get up in front of a large audience and it says, I’m going to answer three questions for you today.
What am I talking about? Why is it important to you and how you can help? So not where beginning, even though it’s a dialogue, even though it’s a monologue from the past, It becomes a silent dialogue because now he’s asking those questions to say, okay I’m sitting in the audience. And he’s going to tell me why it’s important, what he’s telling me.
So he’s actually, involving, in pulling me in, because it’s apparently it’s important to me. And then most people love to help. He’s also going to ask for my help to bring that cause along. So it’s not an information, it’s a dialogue, even though it’s a silent dialogue. But there’s, a relationship building.
And another example, this is funny, but I was when I was a CEO of this company I flew into Ukraine to have a business review for Ukrainian. So I went in a day early to spend some time with my general manager there. And Olaf, his name was Isaiah, let’s go out fishing. So he’s got a little fishing boat, so fishing and Ukraine and the river and his CFO, Daniel, so came along.
Danny and Olaf, we’re drinking beers and having fish. We didn’t catch any fish by the way. But so I find out from Danny that his father is in the fishing business and, he’s in specifically the sturgeon fishing business. And I’m in, Ukraine I’m going Danny, man. I don’t know. I love caviar, just as small little, give me a couple of grams from dad, pack it into a, into a little, bag and then I’ll take it home with me and I’ll be forever grateful.
So nothing is said, right? So the next day we go into the business review. Everybody else flies in. So when I, we got about 12 people in the room and No, we have the corporate guys and we have the local guys and we’re butting heads. We’re trying to find common ground, but the two sides are coming down and we’re not getting a lot accomplished, so that’s about two o’clock in the afternoon, two 30 in the afternoon. So Olaf smartly says, okay, timeout, guys, we need to break. So he goes out of the room, it comes back with a, a little serving cart. And on that serving cart is a chilled bottle of vodka, but a bunch of shot glasses and two Superbowls of carrier, one red and one black and a bunch of toast.
So now you’ve got, a bunch of executives, all in their thirties and forties. Acting like 16 year olds in a candy store. So we took a break for 45 minutes and we find common ground that a common ground happened to be some really expensive caviar, but guess what? Over the next three or four hours, all our differences are resolved.
I, because we started communicating, we started to build on a common ground. So it wasn’t an argument about what we disagreed on. We find something to agree on that. Black and caviar, and now let’s go from there and see what else we got. That’s a big difference between, communicating people, right?
And then the last part is really to connecting with people where it’s not about words, it’s about emotions. And you get to an emotional connection by building a relationship and you get it an emotional relationship. You get that emotional bond, that relationship by really sharing your life and listening to the other person’s life.
You’re not going to get to an emotional relationship with facts, right? You’re going to get through an emotional relationship with. With personal stories. At one time I was I was general manager for Phillips electronics. Pulled in about a thousand of our customers, spouses, and wives.
And we had a beautiful event. It was at the the museum of modern art in Budapest. And so we had, all kinds of Phillips products displayed next to work. So bar, so it all blended. It was a beautiful event. And in the main hall, we had tables set up and I did a presentation.
And at that time I thought that was really good at it because I followed that formula. Tell you what we’re talking about, I’m going to tell you why it’s important to you. And I’m going to tell you how you can help. And I followed a formula and I thought, I’d, I hit it out of the park, but the fact is at that level I was still at level two.
I was communicating because what was missing from that presentation is lack of any personal stories. And you’re not going to get people to connect with you unless you share your personal stories with them. One of the best places I’ve been to was Ireland. Ireland is I’ve been to many countries all over the world, but what makes Ireland unique is everybody talks to you, right?
You can be sitting in a pub stool and a person next to you. They start talking to you. You could be sitting in a restaurant and the person in the next table starts talking to you. You could be walking down the street with a cup of coffee and somebody else starts talking to you and not about, how’s the weather and stuff.
They start sharing their stories with you. My wife who went to Ireland and she’s half Irish. It turns out that her long distant cousin is Sean Casey, who was, during the Irish revolution, he was, one of the guys that the English took out.
And so he was like one of the underground fighters. So we’re sharing this story with this guy sitting at the bar and then, five minutes later, he says, I’ll be right back. So he goes up to the band and then right after that, they start singing this ballad about Sean Casey. Because we shared our story.
And because he shared his story. So we made a connection with the guy because he did something for us that was very special. We listened to his story and that’s how you connect with people. You can like to be people with their life stories. And most of us don’t take the time to do that.
Brent: That is so true. Most of us do not, and it requires vulnerability and a lot of people are not super comfortable being vulnerable, but I agree a hundred percent. I think that is a strength and something probably most of us can very much improve on. I think that’s wonderful insight. Tom, this has been amazing.
We do have another episode with you coming up and really looking forward to diving a little bit deeper into some of your background. So everyone, please join us on our next episode. We look forward to seeing you there, Tom.
We will talk soon.
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