Listen and learn from the best in local government

At LeaderGov we want to equip you to lead well.   These enlightening podcasts, from top local government and industry leaders, will help you gain valuable insights into a variety of leadership, management and teamwork topics, so you can lead better. 

You can also listen to LeaderGov Podcasts via Apple, Google Podcast or Spotify


Welcome, everybody to the LeaderGov podcast. We're excited that you're with us. And I want to just say a personal thank you for taking some time out of your day to invest in yourself. And we know that leadership is about you helping other people be their best, but you also have to be your best you have to invest in your skills, your understanding of somebody's leadership concept, so that you can create better teams, healthier teams. And that's what we're all about. And so my name is Bill Stark. I'm one of the cofounders of LeaderGov. And my partner, Tim Fenbert. He and I really have a passion, we would almost call this a ministry, we love what we do. We're excited to do our workshop programs for local government leaders across the country. So just again, thank you for being here. Whether you work for a city or a county, you know, animal animal care services, community development, police, fire, whatever, we really would like to welcome you and say, thanks for being with us. We have a wonderful speaker today. I'm so excited that Preston Poore is here. Preston, how are you doing today?

I'm doing well, Bill. Thanks for having me today.

Yeah, you bet. Thanks so much for being here. You know, I just love this topic that we're talking about today, because it's right at the center of leadership, I think and it's about employee engagement. And so before we jump into that, which I know a lot of people are going to get a lot out of because there's some good good topics here. Want to share just a little bit of your background. Preston, I know that you were at Coca Cola for a number of years, over 20 years at Coke and marketing and franchise development. You worked at Hershey. I'm kind of jealous of that. I love chocolate. So you know, and you look like you're in shape. So how do you not gain a bunch of weight?

Oh, there's a story behind that. Yeah.

Yeah, I bet there is. And then you were in the banking business for a while AmSouth and even worked for Purina. So you got a discount on your dog food? Probably right? I did. Yes. And and I understand you are a John Maxwell student. And so that's exciting. But he's one of the greats in the leadership arena. And you know, Preston, we often will interview in this podcast, local government leaders, who kind of have a unique vantage point about leadership from as a local government servant, servant leader, serving the public, and but let tell you, we really need to blend the two because the private sector has some some perspectives and maybe some depth in areas that local government doesn't have. And so that's really why I'm excited to have you share today. Last couple things about you, Preston, I know that you just finished a comedy class learning how to do stand up comedy. Wow, you must have a lot of guts to do that. That's Can you tell me what that experience was? Like getting up on the stage?

Or I'm awfully stupid. Either way. Look at it right. Got stupid. Maybe it's a combination of both. Yeah, thank you for that very generous introduction. And I'm pleased has anything to do with your listeners today. So the comedy class, you know, I'm an author, a writer, or speaker. And I've always been really good at the drama side of it. I can inspire people, I can make him cry. I can bring out great points and stories. But the one thing that I wasn't comfortable with in those venues was being intentional with a sense of humor when he made sure it was appropriate, certainly. But how do you how do you write a joke with a premise, and then I kind of set up and then a punch line that people actually laugh at. And so I toyed with things and I've really wanted to take some type of creative writing class around. And then one day bill, I saw an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And it was a feature on a guy named Jeff, Justus. And Jeff is a comedian from back in the day. And he was kind of one of the headliners. And he would go around the country. He knew all the great comedians that were out there. And he started getting questions like, Hey, would you listen to my routine? And would you help me write a joke or teach me how to the best way to deliver this? And as he did that, he said, You know what, I could create a workshop on it. And so he did that. And so he said, he's been doing it for 30 years. He's had 3000 graduates enrolled in the one that they had in January. And I tell you what, it pushed me It pushed me more than I've been pushed in anything in a long time. And I have a big, I'm really big on getting outside of my comfort zone and expanding that and trying to do the personal development. But I tell you what, I would go to class from 630 or seven o'clock till 10 3011. Just give me an idea of my typical bedtimes like 830 or nine so I'm in bed so I'm dead by then. You know, I've come home and I would, my wife would say you're kind of frustrated, aren't you? And I just had a hard time getting it. Initially I would write stuff and then I get it back and I tell it on stage and In front of my peers in things weren't going well for a while, but I kept kept there in it. And ultimately, Bill just kind of tidy this up for you to let your listeners know about the experience. The graduation night where we had about 20 of my classmates, my the work folks that took the workshop with me, we all had to perform on stage at the punch line in Omaha. And one neat thing about the punch line is that it's a famous comedy club here, they actually relocated it, but they took part of the stage from the old one. And it's maybe a size of a, you know, wood desk or something like that in the stage and to see the old wood there. But Jeff pointed out, and he said, every comedic or comedian that you know, has stood on that stage, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, everybody, and what an honor to stand on that stage. So I went up and I perform my skit or my routine, it was supposed to be four minutes long. I had 15 jokes that I wrote all the way from topics about leaf blowers to funny to tipping, to just different topics. And so I worked through all those and it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience. And they say this bill, and I'll tie up with this. If you can do a stand up routine, a comedy club in front of 200 people, I think you can do anything? Yeah, yeah, right.

Hey, I wanted to just say, for our listeners, for me the lesson in this and we've talked about this a little bit Preston, is this idea of of expanding your capabilities. And like you say, getting out of your comfort zone, we even talk about that in the DISC assessment. It's like, okay, I'm an island, the disc, but you know, sometimes I need to be a See, I need to get out of my comfort zone. And we really, really want to encourage the leaders listening to this podcast that, yeah, you can be great at your area, but venture out and do things that stretch you and you'll be a better person for it, we think. Well, thank you for that. That's it was really kind of cool to hear that. I hope that that was inspirational to people it was to me because to me, that's like, well, I'll give you a quick story. I just signed up for the Atlanta, Peachtree road race a couple of nights ago. I just turned 62. And I haven't run the Peachtree road race in 35 years are some crazy thing. I thought you know what I'm just gonna do, I'm gonna go buy some dang shoes and just go do it. So it's nervous. I don't know if I'll walk or run or crawl but we, we got to stretch ourselves going.

Good for you. Now that's wonderful, that challenge that staying active mentally, physically, emotionally. It's great for health and everything else, no matter what age you are. And so, yeah, so important to stress yourself.

Well, and so, again, for our listeners, I would just ask everybody right now, as you're listening to the story, you heard Preston story, you heard my story about a 10k. I don't even know how far 10k It's it's a long way. We're talking about things that stretch us. And there's something probably you've been wanting to do as an individual. Maybe it's write a book, maybe it's going up a month, sabbatical, whatever. We just want to pause right here and just say, You know what, think about it, talk to your spouse, significant other and go for it, you know, just just do it. And I suspect there's some folks listening that are like, Yeah, okay, I need to do that. So little mini sermonette right there for everybody. Well, Preston, this topic of employee engagement, I know this is like a really big deal to you. And it is to leaders in general. But, you know, we get so wrapped up in the day to day work, our tasks, our projects, we just zone out as it relates to getting being sure our teams are engaged. So I'll just want to start out if we could press it just asked if you could just describe the word engagement. What does that mean to you? And what does it mean, when we say let's have employee engagement for our little team and public works? Or in the finance department? What do you How would you kind of define for us?

Well, I have to start with this to be honest with your audience. I had no idea what employee engagement was about 10 years ago, I honestly didn't. We had a to two organizations that we're combining at the Coca Cola company. And our vice president got on there and said, Hey, I'm new. We're putting these two organizations together. So it's two different cultures. There's two different styles, all kinds of different issues. But I wanted to pull a committee together a team together that will work on these directly with me. And I had a desire to make where I was a great place to work. And so I raised my hand and I said, Hey, how can I help? Well build the funny thing is I did that I think I was the first one to raise my hand and said that And then they came back to me and asked me to lead the engagement team. So I was responsible for about 12 to 15 people working through engagement. Now, the key thing that I learned that really grounded engagement for me was understanding what the definition is. And I've used this working definition for all these years, I've been talking about this, and I got him actually from the University of Denver. And as I was doing my research, and the funny thing is, is I started asking people, What engagement meant to them and what they did on their engagement teams at the Coca Cola company. And they told me, they were putting together parties and stuff like that. And I found out you know, what, I'm not sure that's exactly what this is all about. It's not the fluff. But but here's the definition. Here's why, because of the exact opposite of just parties. And getting together, it's the level of discretionary effort, someone is willing to put forth based on their relationship with their manager and or their workplace. And there's two key phrases that I've always used on that, that you don't want to lean in on discretionary effort. People will go the extra mile, if they feel valued. If you're empathetic toward them, if you appreciate them, encourage them, point them to a vision about where you're headed together as a team, and that discretionary effort will rise, the to the surface productivity goes up, turnover goes down, the things that you want to accomplish, you can do extraordinary things just through that. The other part is relationship. You know, it's interesting, if you take a look at the relationship between managers, and the direct associate, Gallup, if you're familiar with a Gallup poll and the Gallup organization, they say that 70% of engagement, that discretionary effort based on the relationship with the manager, or the work environment, 70 percents based on the relationship with the manager. So here's the net, I tell everybody is and it's easy for people to relate to this. And I've had people raise their hands on both instances, I asked people, okay, how many of you had a great boss before? Hands go up, you know, quick, you know, what goes up even quicker? How many of you've had a bad boss before? Boom, right? And then I've been the bad boss before I get it. And I've tried to improve over time to work with my different teams, and hopefully done that through through my career. But that's, that's the definition that I use, because I understand now that if I can help do these different things to help that relationship that will help drive that discretionary effort? I know it's not a topic, we're going to talk about Bill, but I consider employee engagement fuel for your organization, their culture, cultures, the way you do things together. Well, if you have strong employee engagement, that will lead to a strong culture that will help deliver what you want to as a leader in the organization.

Does that help? Yeah, big time, and I was up before discretionary. It's like, it's like I want to write I want to rather than I have to. And of course, we want employees that want to help with this extra work, not have to help with no extra work. And yes, if I trust my manager and have a relationship with my manager, I'm more likely to, to provide that extra help, and even to teammates who are struggling, hey, let me pitch in and help that. That's so yeah, thank you. I think that that one word, those two words really say a lot. You know, I wanted to ask you to Preston about this idea of influence? How, you know, what is the influence that a manager has, in, you know, helping this process along? Or how, what, what is the influence a manager has? And how can she or he leverage that to help others and help get team results? So I know, I think of John Maxwell says, you know, we all have influence, right? Because we all have influence on other people. So could you just talk a minute about this idea of having influence to benefit the team?

Oh, sure. So a couple of interesting things. When I talk to people about influence, I startled them, I think and let them know that they will influence studies show this sociologists have studied and said this, that you will influence up to 10,000 people in your lifetime. Well let that sink in even the most introverted person will influence 10,000 people and the question is, are you going to use your influence for good or maybe not so good. And so you have to recognize that what you do people want you as a leader and you have that influence. Now, the next thing is I know we've asked about a definition of employee engagement. Let's talk about a definition I use for an influence. And John Maxwell says it influences leadership, nothing more, nothing less. It's really influence is leadership without direct authority. But the phrase I love to use I'd tell you this is not to hate to but I use a little bit different. I say that influence is leadership without the crutch of a thought. already now, yeah, it's it's easier as a manager. And there's a big difference. I hope your listeners know this, I'm sure they do listening to you, Bill, because I'm sure you're talking about these things. But there's a difference between management and leadership, there's, there's a difference. One is about organizing, controlling, planning, directing, the other is about inspiring others, helping them to achieve different goals helping to become their full potential. You know, those are great things. And so they're kind of they are different between the two. And if you're a manager, if you're a manager, and you've got a direct report, I would venture to say it may be easier to lead them or manage them than it is to lead in a group where you're collaborating with other people, and you have to go in a certain direction together, and how do you influence other people. And so you know, that could be I'm not talking necessarily about because there's different ways when you talk about power, and you express those things, but I'm not talking about manipulation. I'm not talking about force, intimidation, even being in a position of a manager or a mayor, or whatever it is, those those things don't ultimately influence others. But the best type of influence comes is when people look and see you as a leader that has vision, you know, where you want to go, and you have those people, the people in front of you that you're working with their best interest at heart. And so that's, that's influenced that's kind of around the bush a little bit. I've always told people bill, this, if you want to develop your influence skills, the best way that I found to do that is to, and this might be a point to your earlier about stretching yourself and getting outside of your comfort zone. But go get involved in another organization or charity or something like that, where you're in a position of leadership, and people don't report to you. Oh, and then here's the other thing, I tell people, what if you're a manager, and you're trying to become a leader to aspire to become grow your leadership skills, what if you treat everybody as if on your team that they were volunteers. Like they didn't have to come to work necessarily, if they you know, during the day, they they, they just weren't, didn't have to be motivated, they didn't have to, because you were their manager, right. So that's a long way around the bush to tell you about that. And I think influence is just a powerful thing that we can all develop. And then you can use it for good. You can use it for good in your organization, in your cities, your governments, it's a real great opportunity for people to develop and build.

Well, and it also says that I kind of need to own my stuff. So in other words, I can't just relegate things to other people. And it's not like I don't have any control, I have implement, even if I'm a small player, even if I'm just a frontline employee or first time supervisor, I do have impact, I can have impact. But so often we get, I don't know, complacent or maybe jaded, we don't think that we have any level of influence in the organization. But but we do and so to recognize that and as you you're you're kind of leading to our next question, which is about inspiration. Because, you know, we want to inspire our teams. Again, there folks on this pot listings, podcast that are public works, managers, and supervisors, and streets, DOD, road crews, supervisors, managers. And we want to be an inspirational leader as well, we want to inspire our teams to engage and to participate and, and go above and beyond discretionary effort. So I would just ask, you know, what? How does being inspirational fit into this? Because not everybody is outgoing and bubbly and good onstage? And we think inspiration like that. And it's probably not that right, it's probably something a little different. So could you just speak to this word inspiration?

Yeah, no, thank you, you know, inspiration in my mind. Yeah. And I love this fact that you brought this up. You don't have to be super charismatic, to be a leader. You don't. But there are certain attributes, skills, abilities in relating to people, that you can be a leader, not only leader of yourself, but a leader of other people. I know, I talked to a lot of people about connecting with people on how do you connect with them. And John Maxwell talks a little bit about this equation, if you will, about connecting with others, and then inspiring them. And if you're connecting with people, and they believe in you and trust you, then they're going to look to you. And then what there's three things that this equation says it's what they know, plus what they see, and plus what they feel. So let me walk through this real quick just for your audience. I think this is interesting. I just pulled this up. And I thought this would be good for us to chat about. But number one, what they know, they want to make sure that you understand or understand them. Okay, and then also that you're focused on them. So how do you do that? Well, you have to know what are you thinking? Well, you have to ask them questions about that. What are you saying that means you're listening to them? And then what are they doing? You're observing their actions, how are they acting? So the other thing about that is you got to have some higher expectations have people, set the bar for people, love them, appreciate them, build them up, value them. But same time, set that bar high, and they will help you get where you want to go. The next one was around what they see, they need to make sure that they see your conviction. certainly know that they that you believe in what you're saying what you're doing, you got to do what you say you're going to do credibility, you have to be credible in their eyes, you have a track record of success, and that you are a person of influence or a leader and they can believe in you. And lastly, that character is that becoming a person of influence is so important. You have the influence, but then are you somebody of character. It's interesting, I talk to people all the time Bill about values. And I asked people to if I was standing in the elevator with you now that we're back in elevators, maybe in COVID, and all that are down an escalator walking on the sidewalk. What are your five values, what three, five values, nobody can tell me typically. But the important part of that is if you know your values is going to impact your decision making the way you interact with other people. And if they see that from you, you will do well real quick, my I have my values or little values, that's a play on words, but little l i t l e and so my first one is love. Second one is integrity. Third is trust. Fourth is leadership. And the last one is excellence. And so I can say those and then way I frame that up inside, it's not just talk, I've developed those over the years. And now that I understand and can articulate those, I know that all my decisions, and the way I interact with other people come through that. So they have to see that. And then lastly, just to wrap this point up is what they feel they have to feel your passion as a leader, they'll be inspired, if they feel your passion, your enthusiasm, your confidence, you got a fear of competence. I think it was Vince Lombardi that said, conscious or I'm sorry, confidence is contagious. Vince Lombardi said, confidence is contagious, it's also a lack of confidence is contagious, as well. And lastly is gratitude, you have to show them, tell them that you appreciate them for what they're doing for you on that. So he asked me about that it's worth it, what they know what they see and what they feel all those things you connect with them should add up to

inspiration. Yeah, and thank you for that. I love that love the equation. And you're right, when you first meet this person I talk and you mentioned about connecting with people. And you know, we talk about results. And we talk about relationships in our work. And the results, that is getting the job done building the playground, whatever it is in the city that we have to do. And then there's of course people in relationships and, and there are, you know, whether it's Myers Briggs, or this, you know, about half the population is is kind of a little quieter than the other half. You know, your DS in your eyes are flooded outgoing, gregarious people oriented, it's easy for them to connect with people and the other 50% is just not their natural thing. And so we are big, big, big on on, as we've been talking about here, getting out of your comfort zone. And it does take an intentional effort to go and make conversation and ask someone about their weekend and demonstrate some of those things that you just shared, it takes getting out of your normal rhythm through normal processes. I really, really appreciate what you were saying there. And again, just an encouragement to our listeners is we want to push you out of your comfort zone just a little bit. Yeah. Last Last thing I wanted to ask you, Creston had to do with empathy. And this is a word that probably I don't know, maybe it came into more popularity when servant leadership bubbled up as a as a great idea. But anyway, empathy is wonderful. And people, you know, need to know that they're valued and desired and that they're being heard and that they're being understood. And so could you just speak to the role of as a leader, again, community development, Police Chief Fire, whatever fired Lieutenant. Empathy has is a powerful ingredient in the mix of what we're talking about. So could you just share a bit about the impact of empathy as it relates to, you know, engaging your team and and being inspirational to your team?

Yeah, sure. You know, Jon Meacham is a famous author, and he is a professor at Vanderbilt University. And he did a study of the United States presidents and he said there were three different characteristics of those presidents that were key for everybody. That was a success that considered a successful president and one of Those you brought up was empathy. It was the ability to understand and relate to other people to stand in their shoes and feel the way they are. Now you have to we talked about definitions today. So we got to talk a little bit about what empathy actually is. I've always said, it's the cognitive ability to understand what somebody is going through, or an emotion or their circumstances, things like that. It's different from sympathy. Sympathy is actually and I've used this example before. And so I hope your audience will be okay with this. But if if you've had cancer bill, and I've had cancer, I can relate to you and sympathize with you, because we've been through the same thing. But empathy is different. But it can be just as powerful if you will step back for a moment and empathize with somebody and listen to them. And by listening to somebody you value them, and when you value them, that affirms that individual. And that builds trust. And so if you're a leader listening today, know that got a lot of great examples out there. And a lot of leaders that have done really well, but one of the core leadership qualities, not only in the past, not only right now, but I've read a lot of different things about trends for leaders in the future. Empathy is one you've got to become good at. And here's, here's something I can share with you. I've taken those empathy tests, I know you've mentioned discs and all that kind of stuff, I've taken a couple of empathy tests. And I got really low scores. be quite frank with you, I actually told my wife about it. And then I went back and took the thing again, and she took it, she got a much higher score. She's a great people person. And she got a real high score. And I took it again, I got a bad score again. And that was a while back. And I thought, You know what, I've got to figure out how do I become more empathetic with people? How do I stop? How do I not make assumptions? How do I listen how to ask questions? How do we put myself in their shoes, being present is key. In that, you've got to stop it and make sure again, that's that value, that attention. And then having meaningful conversations to your point. It goes beyond just the How was your day kind of thing. It's really diving in and getting to know your people and being transparent and letting them know you as well. Now, that may sound like fluff to some folks out there. But I tell you, what, if you invest time and your people and be empathetic with them doesn't have to be all of them all the time, what right away, would start with one person and make a change, learn from that, and demonstrate that empathy. And you will see, hopefully, I guarantee you, you will see a world of difference in your relationship with somebody.

Yeah, you know, I would be curious if you if you have a couple of specific ideas, I'll share a couple that we talked about in some of our training. One is as someone is speaking to you. And expressing a problem, a challenge they're going through, you know, one of the one of the things that we recommend in their hundreds is just to say, Wow, I didn't know that. You know, I can't imagine how you're feeling right now. So if your son got in a car wreck, or whatever, something horrific happened. It's not just, Hey, what's going on my son's in the hospital? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. And then you leave you say, I can't imagine how you feel that must be so frustrating, or that must be so sad, or you must be so nervous or anxious. I just can't imagine how you feel. Or I felt that way when my child was in the hospital a couple of years ago. And it really, you know, it was a painful process. And, you know, so again, we're just trying to connect and at least say, You must be feeling something significant and giving acknowledgement to what they're saying, is that right?

I absolutely agree with you on that. That's it's it's being that presence piece is when it's if you're in a type look like me, you have to slow down and intentionally stop. And when you're listening to somebody, I don't know all the key active listening skills that I could share with your audience right now. But I've taught myself to stop asking what the next question is going to be. Or thinking in my head, how am I gonna respond to this but just be in the moment. I found that people when I talk to him, they give me the next question. And I can kind of process in my mind and my heart about how I can best connect and I have to share this with you to Bill. You got to be authentic. The first couple of times you do it you may not be right. But it takes take some time. To to practice it's skill, but it's a hard skill. You know, John Maxwell says the law of connections this he says you have to touch someone's heart before you can ask for their hand. And so if you are demonstrating empathy with people or inspiring them like we talked about or doing the other things we've mentioned today, you will become a tremendous leader. One of the things real quick I want to add this year in in your Leadership, there's three things that people are going to ask about you. They're gonna want their didn't want to have this number one, do you care for me? They'll just like you demonstrate it in a circumstance a life circumstance, you ask them questions. So do you care for me? Number two, can you help me? Help me in my career? Can you help me achieve the things I need to do? Can you help me win? And then last, but not least, can I trust you? And if you're using those empathy, principles and skills to connect with other people, and you get there with your folks, and you're transparent with them, and not wearing your heart on the sleeve, necessarily, and I'm not saying that, and I would also say this is funny. We talked about you mentioned results, results matter. I've seen a lot of leaders at the companies I've been in that were good at the soft stuff, but didn't deliver results. Guess what happened? Yeah, they weren't in their jobs anymore. So you got to do both, if you will. It's not a question of what you do. It's how you do it. And that's, that's a big lesson I had my life.

Yeah, yeah. So this, this may have been a stretch for some folks today. I know that we asked people all the time, Preston, is it easier to manage your lead. And we give them a list of all these management skills and leadership stand based as well, it's easier to manage, actually, because we know how to do it, we've done it before there's a lift, we can tell you what to do, and you just go do it. And it's pretty simple. That's management. And so it's harder, it's harder to do this. It's, it's a little gooey, or it's a little softer, as you say it's a little, it's less defined, you end up moving into places that you're not sure how it's going to turn out. Because you're entering into this conversation, this relationship that could get a little uncomfortable maybe at times. And so you know, this idea of moving out of your comfort zone, and making an investment of yourself your influence, your inspiration, your empathy and to other people's lives. It is so 100% worth it. And I thank you for kind of shedding a light on this really important topic for us today. Preston, my pleasure. Yeah. Now I know that you are a busy busy guy. Your website, by the way is P r, e s, t o n p o o r e, there's an E on the end. You said it's poor. Like I have no money plus an E. That's right. existed. Preston And so you do keynote speaking, I know that you're an author, you do leadership development training, you do some executive coaching. And we would just encourage any of the city or cities or counties listening. If you are having a retreat, if you're doing some sort of off site meeting and you need someone to come in and and help with a day or half a day or do a keynote at some event, please please look up Preston. Preston, pour p o r And check out his work. And of course, this podcast, you're welcome to forward this out to your friends. And to I want to emphasize press I was just thinking, you know if you're a director or department head, listen to this. Forward this on to your managers and your supervisors. And maybe even your frontline employees, we all have influence. We can all be empathetic, we can all be inspirational. Because if we if we focus on those kinds of things, and get the job done, get the results. We're going to have, as you said, a culture that is just off the charts. I want to be here kind of culture. So I'm inspired acts. I'm fired up, man. I'm ready to go. Great. Let's go. Yeah, appreciate it again. Hope you have a great day. And thank you for joining us, Preston. Thanks, Bill. My pleasure. Yeah, if you're a listener and you have an idea of a topic you'd like for us to explore on a future podcast, please email us at support at And we look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you