Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys. Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio, texasbusinessradio.com being the website. If you get a chance, guys, go see the entire broadcast in beautiful high-definition video there on the website and a whole wealth of information. If you’ve listened to this show for any length of time, you know we like to get speakers in here, guys that come into Texas, some of them even originate in Texas, but they speak to CEOs and they have a wealth of information to give about how to run your business, how to improve your business, how to improve the processes in your business. This is no different. Welcome to a National Advisor Showcase segment here on Texas Business Radio. I’m your host, Matt Register. Jay Curry’s the one over there in the cohost seat. What do you think, man?
Jay Curry: Well, I got to tell you that as a business coach, and if you asked me what is the biggest problem that business owners, business leaders have, I would say it’s communicating a vision and the communicating, the communicating, the communicating. That’s what this is all about, so I’m excited.
Matt Register: Yup, no doubt. In the meantime, guys, go ahead and get your questions in. 844-814-8144 is our 24-hour call line, or we monitor #TBR on Twitter. Get your questions in. I don’t really care how. We’re going to get the experts in here to get those questions answered. Chris Westfall out of Houston, Texas is a national-level speaker. He goes all around the country speaking to groups of business owners, business leaders, about leadership, about communication. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Westfall: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Matt Register: Tell me a little bit about what it is that you speak to CEOs about. What problem did you identify that they have that you can help them with?
Chris Westfall: Richard Branson said that the number one quality that is lacking for leaders is communication skills. I help business leaders of all shapes and sizes, and sometimes those leaders are in the military, it’s a wide array of folks that I serve, but when people want to communicate more effectively and they understand that leadership really starts with your story, how you share that story, and the connection that you create for the people that you serve, that’s what I help people to do.
Matt Register: Well, and you help people, CEOs of their companies, owners of their companies, all the way down to mid-level managers, right?
Chris Westfall: Absolutely. Companies have brought me in to help those mid-level managers and directors to really groom them for the C-suite and to be able to handle themselves in front of the media, in front of difficult customers. It’s not just about communication. It’s about the high stakes conversation. That high stakes conversation has been where I’ve helped my clients to land on Shark Tank, Dragons’ Den in Canada, even Shark Tank Australia, helping them to understand, how do you go in front of investors with an idea? When people want to bring innovation to life, that’s really my focus, and helping them to transform and change the story to change their results.
Matt Register: Now quite often, hiring practices being what they are, you get people in leadership positions that aren’t necessarily leadership-tested or leadership-trained, right? What are some of the shortfalls that you see beyond just communications that you end up helping these guys develop?
Chris Westfall: Well, the first question you’ve got to ask is, where does leadership live? Where does leadership come from? Because, as you identify, sometimes there’s a disconnect between the training. Sometimes it’s not a training initiative. Sometimes when you look at leaders, like let’s take a look at Mark Zuckerberg, for example. What training did he have for running a multi-billion-dollar company?
Matt Register: Yeah, none. He was a coding geek that all of a sudden is in charge of a very sizable organization, right?
Chris Westfall: Absolutely. He’s living proof of leaders that are made, that circumstances create leadership. Understanding how to adapt to those circumstances is really where you have to look, because I think it’s a bit of a mistake to think that leadership is about training. Training can help, but when circumstances show up that are unexpected, when opportunities present themselves, how can you prepare? How can you prepare with a strategy that you internalize so that you don’t assume attack pattern delta nine when the unexpected shows up, right?
Matt Register: Right.
Chris Westfall: Simply, you’ve internalized where leadership comes from. Helping people to see that they can have the freedom, the permission, to be themselves when the moment calls for it is really the ultimate expression of leadership in business.
Matt Register: Give me some examples of guys that you’ve been able to walk through that were failing as leaders, that by improving their communications were able to have some positive change in their organization.
Chris Westfall: I had a gent come to me. He had been working for nearly 30 years in charge of an emergency room at a major hospital. He was a very sophisticated doctor.
Matt Register: And doctors are a big example of this, right?
Chris Westfall: Yeah.
Matt Register: They’re a good doc. All of a sudden, they’re in charge of something, and they’ve never had, ever had… They’ve spent their entire life on figuring out medicine, right? Not all certainly on leadership?
Chris Westfall: Absolutely, and when the conversation changes from science to influencing others, and that’s what this gent wanted to do. He had invented an innovative technology that attacked a disease called sepsis. It’s a natural occurrence in your body. It’s a response to a traumatic event. He had been going out and talking about this. It’s a blood filtration system. If it sounds complicated, believe me, it is. He had been going out for eight years trying to get people interested and enticed and engaged in this idea, and he had had little or no success. He came to me and he said, “You know, I’ve got to have some help in telling this story, because I can’t lead anyone. I can’t bring them towards this initiative, and I think it can save lives.”
We changed the story. We took a look at the way he was presenting his ideas, and we went from a story that was dense with medical jargon and trying to convince people how smart he was, which by the way this guy was super smart. But that wasn’t what was compelling. When he understood that the real story was about a 53-year-old man in reasonably good health who presented at a New York hospital with signs of a chest cold that was turning into pneumonia, it resulted in the death of Jim Henson four days later, the creator of the Muppets. You know what killed him? It wasn’t the pneumonia. It was sepsis. It was his body’s reaction. This innovative technology could have saved the life of this man, as well as hundreds of thousands of other people. From there, the story became compelling. It became something that everybody could connect to. Remember, the investors, the people that are going to buy into a technology or an idea, they may not be medical professionals, and how-
Matt Register: They quite often aren’t, right?
Chris Westfall: Right. How do you reach across? How do you reach across the table and connect with people that aren’t like you? How do you connect with people that have a very different life experience and create that kind of engagement where people go, “Oh, I get it. I see your vision, that thing that I couldn’t see before”? That’s really what leadership is about is saying, “I have a vision,” and being able to share it in a way that brings it to life.
Matt Register: Well, as an investment banker here in Houston, we are very engineer-heavy. I can’t count how many conversations I’ve had with engineers. Every engineer worth their salt in Houston has a better mousetrap or something they’ve invented. They’re certainly prepared to give you a four-hour technical presentation on exactly what … the technology. It’s always fascinating in short conversations. We’re like, “Okay, we’re going to assume it works. How does this take a pile of money and make it bigger? Tell me the story. How are we going to do that?” Quite often, they’re lacking in that. That’s where Westfall and Associates can come in, right?
Chris Westfall: Really true, and helping people to engineer a new kind of conversation. For great ideas, if you’ve got great technology or a great innovation or a great company that’s operationally excellent, you deserve to know how to bring your story to life so that it’s not a four-hour discussion of the ins and outs and bits and bobs that no one really cares about. At the end of the day, people don’t care so much about how you make the sausage, but they do want to know how it tastes.
Matt Register: No, absolutely. Westfall and Associates is out of Houston, but you guys do consulting work all over the country, right?
Chris Westfall: Absolutely. I travel all over the country, and in fact, all over the world, working with companies to help them to reshape their brands, to understand how they can bring leadership to life, and turn leadership from a concept into a revenue generation tool that helps their employees to develop and helps them to reach new markets.
Matt Register: See, that’s the part, I think, that if you can show these CEOs how you’re going to take these skills that their employees are now going to have and turn that into revenue, that’s the sales tool right there, because being able to communicate better sounds great, but for most CEOs out there right now, I promise you they’re thinking, “Okay, that’s great, but that doesn’t pay the bills,” right?
Chris Westfall: Absolutely. If you look at communication as a soft skill, I don’t know why that was difficult for me to say, but a soft skill, I don’t think you’re seeing the entire picture, because when you understand how to tell your story in a way that’s compelling, that’s how you get other people enrolled in your ideas. When I say other people, that means people on your team. That means people who you wish to reach, your current customers, future customers. It goes on from there.
Matt Register: Okay, we got books. Tell me about books. We’re running out of time.
Chris Westfall: The first book is called The New Elevator Pitch. That’s the book that helps you to change the conversation. The second one is called Bulletproof Branding, and that takes a look at how companies are listening and communicating and connecting in new ways. It’s companies like Cargill and IBM and Cisco. It’s a great book to help you to have new insights. The new one that’s coming up later in 2018 is called Leadership Language, and that will be launched in the fall coming from Wiley.
Matt Register: Got it. We’re going to have all those things on our Essential Reading List as well from the website, Texas Business Radio. Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates, westfallonline.com is the website. We’re going to have it linked right there from texasbusinessradio.com. Chris, thank you very much for joining us. This has been fascinating. I could talk about leadership all day. Thank you.
Chris Westfall: Thank you.
Jay Curry: Great story.
Matt Register: Unfortunately, we do have to go pay a couple of our own bills. We’re going to be back right on the other side of the break with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. We’ll be back.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.