Conversations on Leadership, Business and Ethics
Finding the Humility to Listen at Home and at Work
Cory Carlson and Joe Walden
Photography by Ali Wolfe
Cory Carlson believes executive coaching can’t be confined to the workplace. It has to be holistic, taking into account that what applies at work applies at home as well.
That is one of the main tenets Carlson uses as he helps business leaders reach greater levels of performance.
“Home is a microcosm of work. If you can’t create a healthy and productive climate at home, you are not going to do it at work. For work to thrive, home has to thrive first,” Carlson says. “More than ever it’s hard to compartmentalize. Look just what smart phones have done. We get instant news from our family at work and vice versa. The two are integrated.”
After a corporate career in sales and marketing leadership positions, Carlson was introduced to Five Capitals coaching and consulting, established by Brandon Schaefer. Carlson says the approach uses a Biblical application to find an integrated life and helped him experience transformations at work and home by understanding how faith can be incorporated in all areas of life. Due to his transformation, he left his corporate job to become a Five Capitals certified coach and help others experience similar results.
“Our tools and concepts come from the Bible,” Carlson says. “But the spiritual language can be dialed down for a secular client. We can quote Steve Jobs as well as Jesus. With all clients there is a belief in a higher purpose, a greater calling. There usually is some spirituality in everyone.”
Above all, Carlson says for the executive coaching experience to be transformative, some action on the part of the client is required. And that’s where the coach comes in, not so much trying to fix weaknesses, but trying to get people to perform at a higher level, provide accountability.
“You need to discover how to be intentional about work and home relationships,” Carlson says. “You need to find the confidence and courage to take action. You can sit through all the sessions and seminars you want, but if clients don’t take action, there is not going to be a transformation. You need the humility to listen and the courage to act.”
Carlson recently sat down with two area business leaders – Ron Beshear and Joe Walden – for conversations on how they integrate a spiritual leadership style, how to find a home-work life balance and the importance of being a servant leader where ethics and business decisions don’t have to clash. Their conversations follow, edited for space and clarity.
Ron Beshear has had an illustrious career in the financial services industry serving as managing partner of Northwestern Mutual. Beshear is a founding board member of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, and he currently serves on numerous trustee boards in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Beshear and his wife, Mary, founded Serving Your Purpose, providing inspirational self-help programming for 25 years.
Cory Carlson: You’ve been involved in a lot of different business and community efforts. Are there some things common
Ron Beshear: Early on I understood that management is getting work done through people, and leadership is getting people done through work. Whenever I was in a position to develop people, I knew we will get the work done if we get the person done.
We live in a world where there are so many self serving leaders, the attractive model to me is servant leadership. A self serving leader doesn’t want feedback. They want to do it their way. As a servant leader, I need feedback because I want to serve my employees. I can only do that if I know what they are thinking.
It is so attractive to have a set of metrics outlining how we are going to do things. But the great leaders are situational leaders. They know each person is different and we will get the most out of them understanding who they are and what is important to them, what motivates them.
Cory Carlson: How did you know when the pride and the arrogance was creeping in? How do you recalibrate? Seeking solitude? A coach or mentor?
Ron Beshear: I have always used coaches. I think so many people underestimate having a coach, or understand what good leadership would look like to make a correction.
My team always appreciated it when I had a coach. It made me better for them. The best coach understands the person they are working with and tailors the solution for them to become the best version of themselves. You can feel it when that is happening. A good coach helps you realize your blind spots and helps you see something you didn’t see. The coach makes you understand you may be on the freeway and you need to get off this exit ramp and take a different direction.
Cory Carlson: Whether you are leading a family or leading an organization, situational leadership is important. If it’s always boiler plate, it’s not going to be effective. You may have some good concepts along the way, but it’s the customization that leads that transformation.
When you and your wife went through coaching, how did you find the success of leading at home and how that translated to leading at work?
Ron Beshear: On the home side, the alignment comes from regular communication and having some rituals. There has to be humor. We always laugh.
I do find it interesting where you may have an amazingly engaged luncheon with someone you just met, yet you may never see that person again. But we go home and the person we love walking through life with, we can be very short with. Or, not be even listening.
Most everything in life is a balance. Most bad things can be handled in moderation. My wife just picked up a sticker that said, “I love Jesus, but I drink a little.” I liked that. A big theme for me is that belief drives behavior. If you don’t like how you behave you need to ask yourself, “What’s the belief that’s driving that?”
To be authentic and to be intimate, you have to ask deeper questions. That’s hard for some people. I think the ticket for a good leader – in life and a good marriage – is all about the questions and the listening. When you ask profound questions, you might expect profound answers. But if you don’t ask the right questions you never really get the onion unpeeled.
Cory Carlson: That’s true. You have to have humility to hear.
Joe Walden and his wife Angela founded Industrial Sorting Services in 1999 in a tiny self-storage building in Berea, Kentucky as a third-party quality control service primarily for automotive manufacturing. Joe, as CEO/president, and Angela, as CFO, have grown the business to over 75 employees and another 200 contract employees, operating out of over 100,000 square feet of commercial space in Sharonville. The Waldens take pride in a close-knit, family-run organization while earning a reputation as one of the best sorting and containment companies in the region.
Cory Carlson: How would you describe your leadership style?
Joe Walden: My initial leadership training was really being in the Army Rangers. It was lead, follow or get out of the way. So, over the years I had to evolve. I have a hands-on ownership approach with a simplistic philosophy to be honest and do the right thing. If people can do that, they can grow in the company. I want to provide everybody with an opportunity. I want people to be able to pursue their goals. If they want to be an hourly employee and inspect parts, that’s fine. If they want to be a regional manager, we will work with them. If I can help people achieve their goals, then I’m doing the right thing.
Cory Carlson: You have said that you may have been the bottleneck in the company at some point. It takes a lot of humility to admit that. How did you discover that?
Joe Walden: I had a knee replacement a few years ago and I found out people can operate just fine without me around. I did learn from that. When you start your own company it’s hard to relinquish control. Getting that knee replacement was one of the best things I ever did – it taught me to let people do their job. That’s when I realized I was the bottleneck.
We learned to empower people differently, using a mission vision philosophy. My wife and I figured we can help people achieve without us being in the way. We started to step back from running the company.
Our goal now is to let people achieve the results and let them get better at what they do. If I can help them, they’ll ask. I realize that’s what I love, helping people achieve their next level in life.
Cory Carlson: What have you found to be your secret? How have you had a successful marriage and successful company?
Joe Walden: It’s all faith-based. You are going to have rough times and you have to remember what binds you together – it’s your faith. No matter what’s happening at work, you don’t take it home with you. And you remember that God put you together for a reason.
Cory Carlson: You have to have greater purpose. A mission vision philosophy for a business gives a greater purpose for employees to go after more than just a paycheck. It gives them something to rally behind.
Joe Walden: I agree. At some point, ethics matter. I had a lady ask me the other day about a job. Turned out she had ethical issues with her current employer. That she recognized my company had a reputation as a good, ethical place to work was a huge compliment. In today’s world, I don’t think Biblical-based ethics are talked about that much in a business setting. I hope we can be that kind of company.
Cory Carlson: Many people just assume ethics is there. But I found we have to spend time growing our character. It takes intentionality, waking up every morning with gratitude. The pressures of the world can get us off track. How have you balanced work and home?
Joe Walden: Sometimes there are blurry lines. One mentor told me once, “Don’t sacrifice family for the business. Don’t miss the kids’ games, spend time with your wife, take a vacation.” He called late one night and caught me at work. He said, “What are you doing there? Go home.” It’s great to have people check you like that.
Cory Carlson, a certified coach with Five Capitals, can be reached at 720.301.8377 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit corymcarlson.com.