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Banking on KC – Harry S. Campbell

 

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Harry S. Campbell, a senior executive with more than 35 years of success with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and, startups. He's co-owned an award-winning small business and he was a founding member of the Walmart P&G's customer team. He's parlayed all that management and leadership experience into speaking and consulting on leadership and writing three books on what he calls Get Real Leadership. Welcome, Harry.

Harry S Campbell:

Thanks very much.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's start with authenticity. I know it's a theme that runs through everything you talk about, everything that you write about; it's a real key tenant. So explain why authenticity is fundamental to leadership.

Harry S Campbell:

I think the most important thing that people feel about a leader or a boss or someone in a position of power is whether they're listened to, whether they're paid attention to, and whether they're valued. And as I look at this, I say, "One of the best ways to do that as a leader is to authentically recognize people, pay attention to them, and value them." And if you do that, what I have found is that it relaxes them and enables them to pay attention to what they feel like they should be doing for the business. Therefore, they're doing what I would love them to do, and they're not worried about all the peripheral things that happen with regard to employment. Am I going to get laid off? Is my boss going to be in a bad mood today? How's this work?

So if you authentically approach business, don't worry about information hoarding, don't worry about he said, she said, what you do is you are transparent and you step forward and say, "I'm going to pay attention to you, listen to you, and value you," I think you can win.

Kelly Scanlon:

Does the authenticity also extend to being true to yourself by not trying to be somebody that you're not as you engage and form relationships? Somebody you think you need to be as a leader?

Harry S Campbell:

I think that's a great point. Heck yes. In my book, Get Real Leadership, that I wrote 10 years ago, wow, time flies, I talk about leadership on three different levels. And the first one is getting real with yourself, leadership of yourself. And I love that because, in my mind, that's the foundational strength of any executive, person, or leader. It doesn't matter.

If you can figure out how to lead yourself and be authentic about it and present yourself to the outside world in the right ways, and, I'm going to call it, your personal brand plays that way, I think then you have the ability to lead people, and then you have the ability after that to lead the business. I contend that in the medium and long term, if you don't figure out how to lead yourself, you won't have any credibility in the medium and long term with other people, and therefore they're going to tone you, out and you're going to become Charlie Brown's teacher. So I really look at this and say, "Fundamentally leading yourself and understanding who you are and how you're operating with people and being consistent is the key to the success of the foundation."

Kelly Scanlon:

Another key part of your approach is being accessible. But you allow people to have a direct line to you. Whether it's directly email you whether it's to call you up, whether it's to come into your office, whatever, you make yourself available. And that flies in the face of a lot of leaders' embrace where they put gatekeepers in place. Because they'll say, "If I did that, I'd never get anything done all day." So why do you say that's so important, and how do you manage it, importantly?

Harry S Campbell:

Thank you for the compliment, I'm going to say. And I'm going to agree with you, that's one of my goals. I practice it. I don't always achieve it, the accessibility. But the answer to why comes back very simply to servant leadership. Servant leadership is not something that I talk about specifically in my books because I love it, I follow it, but it is an overused term that I think people kind of get sideways on. I don't worry about that.

To me, servant leadership is simple. And I got this directly from Sam Walton. And I heard him talk about it, and he believed in it wholeheartedly. It turns the pyramid upside down. And he said, "As a leader, your goal is to make the people that work for you make their jobs easier. It is to provide them help, direction, and leadership, but they are the ones that you are serving."

He said, "If you get that backward, what happens is you get into positional power, and you get into people that are doing internal activities that aren't as productive with customers or to help the business." And he said, "If you get it backward and you don't get it upside down, the way you're supposed to with servant leadership, you will not work at our company, and you cannot be an effective leader." And I love that, and it's stuck with me. And so what I do is I try to be accessible even if it causes interruptions to what I'm doing.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have worked across a broad range of company types, Fortune 500 startups, small businesses. And I'm curious to know, depending on the size of the business that you're working for, is leadership different? Or maybe the better question is, do you practice leadership in a different way, depending on the size of the business?

Harry S Campbell:

I love this topic, and the answer is no, it doesn't change. I have this as a slide, and I talk about it extensively in my keynote speech on leadership. And here's what I say: irrespective of industry, size of company, geography, or any other factors around a business, the issues are the same. And the reason why is because issues tend to be driven by people. And people hire people, people fire people, people follow people, people leave companies because of people. And people issues are the same, whether you're talking about Sprint or you're talking about MAI, which was a small company I owned in corporate woods. Doesn't matter, because people are consistent.

And so what I always say is, "Operationally what you do differently at a big company, as a leader, is dramatically different because you have all sorts of different responsibilities, and you tend to have a large org, and you have HR issues, and you have call center issues. But at the end of the day, those are not the things that drive the success in the long term. It is the people issues and the leadership issues. And they are the same for a five-person company as they are for a 50,000-person company.

Kelly Scanlon:

In the past, when I've spoken with you, and just in some of the things that I have read about you, I follow you on social media and various places, you have been rather skeptical of other leadership books that present a path or a roadmap for how to become a successful leader. Yet you now have three books on leadership. Granted, they're Get Real Leadership. So what is it that's different about your books than these others?

Harry S Campbell:

I love this topic too. First of all, I have three books, and one's on leadership, one's on culture, and one's on mindset. So leadership is the arching theme over the three of them, arguably. But the second and the third one veered off to a specific subject with regard to culture and mindset. But I'm going to tell you, I find leadership to be fascinating. I find it to be hard to identify. I think the simplest thing is to say, when someone is a great leader to point to it and gain agreement and a lot of head nods. But the problem is, what are the metrics you get to define that?

What I believe is that I've dumbed it down. And I dumbed it for a very specific reason because I think it does not need to be complicated. What I do is I try to treat people like adults. I like to give them the tools they need to do their job. I didn't say the skills. That has to do with management, training, recruiting, et cetera. The tools to do their job. And I also do everything I can to help them feel connected to something bigger than their current position.

If I can accomplish all three of those things, what happens is once again, the shoulders don't get tense, people, people get loosened up, they bring whatever positives they can, they're not worried about their status or their position in the company, and they start doing great things.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of those three ways, making them feel part of something greater, that's one that, in my experience, I've seen leaders forget to do. Why is that so important?

Harry S Campbell:

That is critically important because, in the absence of it, it's very easy to be bored or to be distracted or to not do what you need to do on a day-to-day basis. Sure, you can be fired up enough to be very good at your job for the first one month, six months, 12 months. But if you end up doing a job for two years and you don't feel connected to something bigger, there's a human nature factor that really causes problems, at least what I've seen. So for example at Durrie Vision, where I ran the business for five years, and worked with Dr. Durrie and Dr. Stahl quite extensively, our primary product was Lasik, but we also did lens replacement and cataract work.

We could have said, "What we're doing is we're using a laser to do Lasik eye surgery," but what we were really doing was setting people free from their contacts and glasses to do athletics and/or helping grandparents being able to see their newborn more clearly. And when you put it into a context of something like that, then everybody in the organization that buys into it and believes it's not hokey but it's truth. And if they do that, what happens is the greater good happens, and everybody working in unison make greater strides than they would have individually.

Kelly Scanlon:

Absolutely. You injected the humanity into it, the real purpose for why you do anything. You talked about simplicity. And for people who haven't seen your books, read your books, they're very simple books. They're short. And the print's rather large. They're not textbook-like, like a lot of business books are. Tell us about the books, the format of them, and why you wrote them in that manner, that type of format.

Harry S Campbell:

My books are a hundred pages, but they're double-spaced to get them there. They're a perfect length for a one-segment Southwest Airline. An hour and 15 minutes you can get it done. And the reason I did that is because I had the time and I had the want to narrow down to prioritization. There's a famous statement that says, "Pardon the length of the letter I wrote you. I didn't have time to make it shorter." It is harder and oftentimes more important to spend the time you need to take something and boil it down to its essence. And my books are very, very simple.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have obviously influenced a lot of people throughout the course of your career, whether it's as a manager, a business owner, a top-level executive, or all the above, as well as through your books and through your speaking. So I'm going to turn that around a little bit and ask you: who has had the most influence on you and your career?

Harry S Campbell:

I'm going to give you my blink reaction, how about that?

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's have it.

Harry S Campbell:

Which is exactly right.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's have it.

Harry S Campbell:

I have a business connection to somebody named Tom Wegman. He happened to be a senior person at Sprint in Kansas City. And he was two levels above me when I got my first job at Sprint in 1992. I was a director of marketing. He was my boss's boss. I loved the way he approached problem solving, communication, how he did his organization right with regard to culture. And it was a great role model.

I'm going to give you another one, and his name was Sam Walton. When I moved to Northwest Arkansas, I was part of an 11-person team. I was about 10 years younger than any of the other P&G employees that moved, so I didn't have any kids, and I ended up doing a lot of things that we needed volunteers for, for one person from the P&G team. And I did them because I didn't have kids, I didn't have soccer, I didn't have basketball practice, anything like that.

Sam Walton saw me, and I was hanging around a lot. And I was listening and absorbing. And I got a chance to hear him speak and be around him quite a bit. And some of the things, the lessons that he taught me as I was listening about management, by walking around MBWA, servant leadership and then the cover of my book Get Real Leadership, has a quote directly from him that I heard him say. He said, "You can deliver relationships, respect, and results in a positive way altogether. You don't have to do a trade off."

And when I heard him talking about that, I said, "Tell me more about where you're coming from." And he said, "Too many people believe that in order to get results, you can't have positive, productive relationships because you need to drive it, and you got to use fear and humiliation occasionally, and you got to information hoard occasionally because you don't want this person to know or that person. Or you just believe that if you get everybody to work 70 hours a week, it's going to do better." He said, "That's not true."

And by the way, when he was speaking to me, he was the richest man in the world. So he's got some credibility. And he said, "My goal is to have positive, productive relationships with not just my direct report teams and their families, but with as many people in the company as I can because I need to show them respect because they're just as important as I am. And I want to have that kind of relationship and respect, which will lead to the results."

Kelly Scanlon:

You talked about your personal brand when we started this conversation. What advice can you give to leaders for shoring up their own brands, what you call their personal brands of leadership?

Harry S Campbell:

When I wrote the first book in 2012, I hearkened back to the mid eighties when I started working at P & G. And all they do at P&G is talk about brands. They never sell P&G anything that's on the label as a manufacturer. But they sell Dawn and Crest and Tide and Pampers. They sell brands. And I said to myself, "I have a brand, and I wonder what it is." And I decided that the personal brand, this is Harry Campbell's revelation, which is not particularly fascinating, but it's me. Your personal brand is the seven words that the world uses to describe you.

So you can choose words that you'd like to be described with and that you think people would use to describe you, but I want you to try to find out anonymously the seven words that are most frequently used by people to describe you because that is your brand.

And you may think you're a strategic genius, and the world thinks you're a micromanaging ninny. Or you may think you're hilarious, and people think you're rude. Here's what I would contend: the gap between what you think your personal brand is, and the words that are used, and what the world gives you, is more important than the actual words. Because if you don't understand yourself, you are not going to be effective. I don't care what your words are, but I have a tool that's on my website, harryscampbell.com, that you can go and try to effectively get input, so you find out what your seven words are for your personal brand.

And if you do that, then you'll understand much more clearly about whether what you're doing in words, tone, body language, and actions, whether it's matching up with what you think and the world is reflecting back at you. I think Costco and QuickTrip are examples of other companies that really know their brand. I say, think about yourself the same way.

It may be the simple reason why you do or don't get the next promotion or job that you're looking for because you either understand very thoroughly who you are, and you're comfortable with it, or you don't understand and you don't get the job because you don't match up, and you didn't know it.

Kelly Scanlon:

Leaders are routinely confronted with challenges that they aren't expected. I used to say, when I'd walk into my office, "Every day is a pop quiz." You can prepare as much as you want, but it's going to be different than what you thought. And often, these challenges are things that they've never dealt with before.

Right now we're living through some unprecedented times. So what is your advice for leaders who are dealing with the uncertainty that comes with the current situation that we find ourselves in?

Harry S Campbell:

I want you to think about my third book, Get Real Mindset. It's not quite as businessy as the other two. It has to do with more with what's inside your head and life as opposed to business. But it directly addresses what you're talking about, Kelly.

I have three points that I say that you need in order to have a higher probability of winning in life. I think life is a series of photo finishes and tossups. There's really not that much stuff that you're better than almost anybody at or worse. Everything is clustered in the middle, and life is a series of tossups and coin flips. That's the way I think about it.

And what I do is I try to give you strategies and/or tools to put in play to take a 49-51 loser and turn it into a 51-49 winner. It's not a huge change, but it's a win versus a loss.

And you know what six consecutive 51-49 wins means? It means you swamped somebody. It doesn't look like it, but you barely beat them six times in a row, and they're demoralized. And as a business leader, you might have a chance to take over the category leadership. So I really look at this and I say, "How do you do that?" And there's three ways. And one of them directly addresses what you just talked about. First of all is, I say, you need to be an attractor. I'm not going to get into a long explanation, but an attractor is someone that people want to be around, they want to work with and they want to do good, with, and for. Okay? Be an attractor.

Second one is: embrace the crookedness of life. I literally say this in my book, and that's exactly what you were talking about. And the way I talk about it in my keynote speech, One Mindset, is very simple. What I say is, "Make a plan." Everybody needs a plan. It can be a plan for today, three months, five years. I don't care what it is; you got to have plans because plans are important. But you need to understand the plan is not going to happen. Now, it might only change slightly, but the pop quiz is coming. And it might be a speed bump in the road that you didn't know it, but it didn't affect your car, and it doesn't make you late, and it's no problem. But it also may be you run over a nail on the road, you get a flat tire, you miss the most important sales meeting you've had, whatever.

And I use, tongue in cheek, the word crookedness because it sounds like it's an integrity issue. It's not. It's the crookedness of life. Life is not some sort of straight shot down Broadway in New York City. It is not. It looks like a bunch of spaghetti jumbled up. And it can be personal life, it could be can be business life. But at the end of the day, my statement is: embrace the crookedness. And what I want people to realize is it's going to change, so quit getting so darn wrapped around the axle when it happens. "Okay, now that happened. We're going to use this as our differential advantage because we're going to handle it better than anybody else."

Kelly Scanlon:

As you think back over your own career, Harry, what do you consider your biggest challenge? And what did you do to overcome it?

Harry S Campbell:

Very easy to answer. The biggest challenge was in February of 2004. My wife was diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable brain tumor. We knew it was inoperable after she had a craniotomy trying to resect it at. And we went out to San Francisco. Had one of the best brain surgeons in the world and could not remove it because it's enmeshed in her motor cortex. That's changed everything. They were able to biopsy it. They know it's malignant. But it was slow growth, so that was the good news. In something like 10 to 12 years, they expected it to have taken her. It's now been 18.

But the way we lived our life, what we had to change and how we operate became different because we were living with something different. We actually named the tumor Louis because we wanted to trash-talk the tumor and also pray against it. And we also had a couple of younger kids at the time. And the word tumor's a weird one. So we decided Louie was a better name for it. That was named after a dive bar in San Francisco that my wife and I went to prior to her brain surgery. So Louie became the focal point of all of our prayers and trash-talk.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, and it's also become the focal point for your charitable endeavors. You raise a lot of money for the Head for the Cure Foundation as a result of this. And what's interesting is that you've really been able to marry your leadership experience. You've been able to leverage what you've learned there to create some nontraditional ways of raising that money. So can you elaborate on that?

Harry S Campbell:

Wow, living with Louis has changed everything. And I was hearkening back to 2010 or so, and my wife had been living with this tumor for six years. And it got old for me and very tiring to support her with words. Eventually, it starts to feel hollow, even if it's not hollow. "I'm so sorry this has happened to you. I'm so sorry." So I decided to take my skillset and see if I can support my wife and our family differently.

And I came up with a keynote speech. PowerPoint first, turned into a book. And all of a sudden, I had a speaking business, and I started it 10 years ago. I tend to blurt things out to hold myself accountable. So I blurted out that I was going to give a hundred percent of the gross proceeds from my speaking fees to brain cancer research. Turns out that there's one in Kansas City called Head for the Cure. You mentioned it, thank you.

And 100% of my book proceeds also. So at that point I was off and running. I now, 10 years later, have written a second and a third book. I did the math a couple days ago. I've raised $572,000 through keynote speeches and book proceeds. All that money has gone to Head for the Cure, which is on Oak Street in downtown Kansas City. And we are, every day, making progress toward finding a cure for brain cancer. And I'm glad that I can take the skills that I have, combined with my love for my wife and my family, and put it all together to make a difference.

Kelly Scanlon:

If there was one thing that you wanted our listeners to take away today, that could help improve their lives or that could help them help others improve their lives, going back to what you said a leader does, what would that be?

Harry S Campbell:

I'm going to give two answers. I'm going to give a professional one. And I love this, I love this, I love it. And the statement that I would make is: anyone can be a leader. My definition of leadership, which by the way, if anybody writes a book or talks, gives a speech on leadership, they better give their definition. Mine is influence and impact.

I don't care how big your organization is, how big your budget is. I don't care how many people work for you or anything like that. What I care about is if you have influence and impact, even if you're an individual contributor. And so I would say that everybody listening to this should understand that they can be a leader and are a leader if they make that happen.

And I love that. Because then what happens is you take your purview and/or your definition of your role, and it broadens. And I've seen people just blossom when they understand that they can be a leader. So that's number one. And then the second one has to do with a direct challenge my wife gave me when I retired the first time. I'm on my third retirement. I think this one's going to stick.

Kelly Scanlon:

But here you are, doing a podcast.

Harry S Campbell:

Oh, I do a lot of stuff. I'm W2-retired. I'm sorry, how about that?

Kelly Scanlon:

There you go.

Harry S Campbell:

Is that cool?

Kelly Scanlon:

I'll take that, yeah.

Harry S Campbell:

What I talk about is you have to... And she insisted that I focus on this, and I love this. Chris gave it to me. What's your sense of purpose? "You can retire W2-wise," she said. "It doesn't matter to me, that's fine. But what are you going to do, and what's your sense of purpose?" Writing books and speaking, that wasn't enough to fill the time, but it was a big start. And so we got into investing in small businesses and startups to try to help the Kansas City business community and to help us because we enjoy doing it and we're engaged in quite a few small businesses. And then the third piece is I started to do more mentoring and coaching.

Now, I had a twist to this one in an interesting way. I have no interest in your to-dos. And when I get up from the table after having coffee for an hour and a half, I don't want to walk away with to-dos. So I have a very, very interesting, zero-charge consulting business that I do for coaching. Somebody calls me, we get together for coffee for an hour and a half. They have questions. I love to engage with them. I try to help them in any way I can. But I'm not going to sign a contract, I'm not going to ask them for money, and I'm not going to do their to-dos.

In six weeks, we may be getting back together for a different set of problems, and I have no problem with that. So I have a fascinating, loosey-goosey consulting and mentoring business that fits my lifestyle at this point very, very well.

Kelly Scanlon:

For anyone who would like to find out more about you, perhaps look at the exercise with the seven words for finding your personal brand, give us your website again.

Harry S Campbell:

Harryscampbell.com. S as in Sam in the middle, with no spaces, dots, or anything. Www.harryscampbell.com. And the tool is in the navigation bar at the top that talks about seven words.

Kelly Scanlon:

And you can find the books through your website as well.

Harry S Campbell:

You can. I'm on Amazon and kindle. And I've sold just over 11,000 between the three books combined. Way more than I would've thought. And I'm kind of proud of that given that they're a hundred pages each.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, you should be. Absolutely you should be. And Harry, you should be proud of everything that you have done to help others, as you say, improve themselves, improve their businesses. Certainly you fit the definition of leadership that you have established. You personally fit that definition. So thank you for all of that work, and thank you for your time here today too, and sharing with us.

Harry S Campbell:

Kelly, you're welcome. This has been delightful.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Harry S. Campbell for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. We read about and hear from well-known Kansas City business and civic leaders every day. What we often don't hear though is the leader residing within each one of us.

Campbell says, "We all have the ability to be a leader, even if we don't recognize it yet and haven't identified our personal leadership brand. Getting real about that brand helps us to become more self-aware of our leadership style and skills and to use them purposefully in all aspects of our lives, to accomplish goals and to get results from others." Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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