Leading Imperfectly with James Robilotta, Certified Speaking Professional, Author, and Impro Comedian

James Robilotta is a author, professional speaker, personal coach, and entrepreneur that’s trained in stand-up and improv comedy. He has been speaking professionally to willing and unwilling audiences for years and have found that quality humor — not your slapstick, dad-joke humor — is the secret to hosting powerful conversations and making a real impact.

He works with colleges, corporations, associations, and individuals with a focus on authentic leadership. He focuses on something other authors and speakers won’t touch: imperfection.

In 2015, he published his first book, Leading Imperfectly: The value of being authentic for leaders, professionals, and human beings. The concepts of authentic leadership and leading imperfectly are the driving forces behind conversations about giving/receiving feedback, rapport building, engagement, increased productivity, retention, promoting memorability, life balance, and more.

In this episode, James and Cindra discuss:

  • How to lead imperfectly
  • The values of authentic leadership
  • Where love fits in the workplace
  • And strategies to provide feedback that sticks

“We see ourselves in each other’s stories”@JamesTRobo
Tweet Quote

“Great leaders ask question before giving advice”@JamesTRobo
Tweet Quote
“Failure implies that we’re gonna try again”@JamesTRobo
Tweet Quote


Full Transcription:

Cindra Kamphoff: Here joined by James Robilotta. James thank you so much for joining me here on the high performance mindset podcast how’s your day going?

James Robilotta: Good or it is an honor to be here my friend my day is going quite well, thank you. A little one has a fever, but we’re gonna figure it out.

Cindra Kamphoff: James and I just were at the same event, where he was the opening keynote, I was the closing keynote and I talked to him at NSA the national speakers association in influence in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and I said I gotta get James on the podcast so thank you so much for joining me I’m so excited to talk about your topic and leading authentically.

James Robilotta: I’m pumped to be here excited to learn from you.

Cindra Kamphoff: Learn from you we’re gonna let I learn from me I’m gonna learn from you to. So, James just gets us started and tell us a little bit about your passion and what you’re doing right now.

James Robilotta: yeah, for sure, so my passion is authenticity vulnerability, I believe that we, as humans can’t learn things from people who are perfect, we can only learn things from people who are imperfect. And so, how are we opening ourselves up to others opening ourselves up to change and also opening ourselves up to difference is really what I am passionate about I think leaders sometimes get stuck in certain mindsets of I have to be a certain way, or they meant to hire something that probably didn’t mean to hire me they probably meant to hire someone more like this, and so let me be more like that, but then they lead in authentically now I’m going to think that hurts their teams and hurts everything and so that’s what I talked to I talked to individuals about why they aren’t enough right now to lead the teams, they have the opportunities to.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, why they are enough right now to lead the teams, they have the opportunities to I think that there’s a lot of self-doubt that can come with leadership, and I think that’s a really powerful message, just like saying that you are enough just the way that you are with all of your imperfections. Preach yeah let’s go. So, what tell us a little bit about your background and like how did you get to speaking on this topic of leading in perfectly.

James Robilotta: yeah, for sure so it’s funny I went to college to get a Bachelor of Science in marine biology and then I my junior year I realized, it was putting too many jokes in my scientific papers. And my teachers like may not be for you James I don’t know if this is it and I was like you know what I think you’re right. But I had developed a passion for leadership as a student leader, and so I wound up getting a master’s in counseling from Clemson university go Tigers and worked in the field of leadership development for dominion colleges and universities for a while. And, and then during one of my first professional jobs, I had a reverse role model you can’t help stuff from, but I had to reverse role model someone who I believe lead very in authentically. And you tell that because it’s individual wasn’t particularly approachable whenever this individual was called out or questioned, it was never their fault, it was always somebody else’s fault, now they passed a lot of the blame and also. They made themselves look great sometimes at the expense of making others look worse, just to prove a point or to teach a lesson. And I feel like they really missed an opportunity to connect because they were too worried about image now and so that was like that’s that I don’t like that, but I think I like the opposite of that. And so, when I learned about authentic leadership, I actually thought that I created authentic leadership and then I did a really quick Google search and realized somebody wrote a book called authentic leadership it’s a whole theory and that’s fine it was validating and humbling but yeah but that’s how it really became very passionate about authentic leadership and why I think it’s a tool that pretty much every leader needs to have in their belt.

Cindra Kamphoff: So, tell us what it means to you to lead in perfectly if you are yeah I’m thinking about the service role model that you learn from and you just told us about all the things that we shouldn’t do, but what does it mean to lead in perfectly to you.

James Robilotta: think it means leading through your stories. Through your slips through your struggles and also, yes, through your strengths right I’m not telling you to tell everybody what you did wrong you’re also allowed to tell people what you do well. But it’s not being afraid of telling that story send her, I think you have probably worked alongside plenty of individuals are heard people say the phrase of like I do things wrong all the time, or I mess up all the time and just merely saying that isn’t necessarily authentic or vulnerable it’s the story behind that. That is therefore vulnerable, so I think we need to go one step further, instead of just being like I mess up all the time it doesn’t really necessarily. It doesn’t I can’t see myself in that relate ability is super powerful right, because when we see ourselves in someone else, we believe that we can now, and so in we see ourselves in each other’s stories and so that is why I think it lets leaders’ jobs to tell stories.

Cindra Kamphoff: hmm so we shouldn’t just say I messed up, we should kind of give the story behind the mistake and what other people can learn it tell us a bit more about what we should do as leaders.

James Robilotta: yeah, exactly it’s kind of like also when it’s a lot of times when someone just like drops a quote that somebody else said and they’re just like well, we all need to be the change we need to see, we wish to see in the world right, and then they just leave it there, like it was their own MIC drop moment. First off shout out to Mahatma Gandhi, but also like you need to Therefore, you need to then bring in your story as to why that matters to you and how it connects to you, and what others can learn from it right, I think it’s in those in that same exact vein, that we need to give people something to hold on to give people that that moment of like okay well if my supervisor or my leader or if my friend or my colleague has also done something where they had created a ripple effect that they didn’t intend to That means that this is a place where I can do that and I won’t immediately get fired so that means, this is a place where I can try, I can innovate, I can fail, and I can also win and I’m going to be good.

Cindra Kamphoff: mm hmm I think the importance of like developing psychological safety in the workplace right that if you know failure is okay and you’re not going to be punished if you failed and mistakes are great learning opportunities, but if your leader can share Okay, this is what I learned, it gives you permission that okay you don’t have to be perfect either.

James Robilotta: yeah, I completely agree Cindra that was beautifully put.

Cindra Kamphoff: So, when you think about the value of leading in perfectly and just like being authentic, what do you see the value is you know for let’s say leaders or the workplace or just us as humans in general.

James Robilotta: yeah, I think there’s value in a lot of different directions, I think, ultimately, like I said leaders asked questions leaders tell stories and I think. You know stories lead to connection leads to trust, and trust leads to loyalty. So we’re going to think about this idea of wanting to build better teams and loyalty is what we’re all after right, I mean we don’t we can look at the retention rate at a lot of companies and the turnover and how expensive all that stuff is to it to a company to a team it’s no Bueno and so there’s a way to create more loyalty like Oh, this is a leader, that I want to show up for in and absolutely to that pushes me but also sees me there’s a lot of benefit to that moment and creating that moment there’s also a huge benefit I think in outs, as you were talking about outside of leadership as well right, and when I think about it in parenting when I think about it in friendships when I think about it in just general life connection, sometimes with strangers. When we connect with somebody else it is frequently through story it’s also really through something that we. All love right I think it’s funny cuz small talk is something that a lot of us hate because it sounds a lot like oh my God this elevator is so slow, I know right, I know right, I know right like and so. Small talk is often started from a negative place right like this is dumb this is it’s hot it’s cold it’s annoying it’s whatever. But you know my best friends are my best friends, not because we all hate the same stuff but because we all love the same stuff. And so, when we share something, we like or when we share a story about ourselves, it gives people the opportunity to connect. I think it’s really important like you know you know in parenting and I’m a new parent and so I’m learning this now, but. But in putting ourselves out there as parents and sharing some of those stories, as well as opposed to trying to just be seen like well that’s the rule, because or that’s you know this, you know these power moves that sometimes people make to try to be seen as an alpha now are really creating separation and not connection. Now I mean, so I think that’s why we’re plays a role in in a few aspects of life.

Cindra Kamphoff: And I think that’s so powerful like that you’re speaking on this topic of authenticity and vulnerability as a male you know. So yeah, you just said something about or that made me think a lot about ego right and the things that kind of holds us back from being authentic and showing. Our authenticity as a leader and I’m curious like what do you think holds people back from really stepping into being an authentic leader.

James Robilotta: I think it’s a lot of fear. As you were talking about right, I think I think fear is the correct word. Because I think there’s a few things one is a fear of being seen as less than. Yeah, right like if I share a story about a time where I messed up restaurant called I’m opening myself up to criticism I’m opening myself up to like well I had this guy got hired or promoted right in that moment, is sometimes scary I think also. I think, also a lot of times, people are taught to not have a gray area between those that you lead and yourself. And oftentimes if we’re more authentic and we’re sharing stories, it makes things a little bit more gray now I’m right like it kind of drifts away from like a stereotypical boss or a stereotypical to like kind of drifting towards friendship, a little bit. yeah, I think there’s a stop at great leadership before you get all the way over to friendship, on the other side, now, though. So yeah, no I think that’s how I think I would talk about it in, and you know you mentioned men. As well and Cindra we men are fascinating species.

Cindra Kamphoff: I know I’m married to one who’s actually a really good authentic leader but yeah, he is fascinating.

James Robilotta: But men are interesting because I think we, more so than women frequently have a fear of being seen as less than. Now, so, so the way that that comes out is we talk louder we cut people off we get defensive more quickly, I think, men in general in the moment are frequently more interested in being cool than being great that’s what hurts us.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah so. You know I, and I think that fear is the thing that also stands in our way of being an authentic leader and showing vulnerability and like you know embracing what you’re saying, leading in perfectly. And I’m curious about you know what maybe advice you’d give to people who are listening in they they’re thinking yeah you know I’m scared to show my authentic self because of what people might think, or you know that maybe I’ll be criticized or feel less than.

James Robilotta: yeah, Cindra can I take a quick sidestep that’s related to what you just said, and I think I want, I want to offer a question back to you and then I’ll rant on it for a second. Okay, but just because I’m passionate, but I think a question we frequently need to ask ourselves is who gets to be authentic. Is not everybody gets to be authentic as frequently in this world again, you talked about men are able to be authentic more often than not, because of because of privilege because of societal expectations in history, whereas women are often not always able to be as authentic right a woman can’t. Be too funny they can’t be too emotional they can’t be too assertive they can’t right, like all these garbage qualities that women are told, like you need to keep it with inside the lines here right don’t get to hysterical or dramatic please Thank you right that’s sexist. And also, we also do that for individuals that are of difference to us when we look at people of color and we. And we tell them we’ll just show up authentically just be who you are. But if your hairstyle a little bit, but if you could just talk a little bit differently if you could just you know show up a little bit differently if you could just this a little bit differently. That would make the rest of us feel a little more comfortable and I think you’d get a little further in life right that’s Nice and so when we think about. This idea of wanting to appease whoever is in power and having to change ourselves for whoever’s in power, a little bit to make that individual feel more comfortable, so that we may get a little further. We need to step back and be like are we letting the people around us actually show up authentically or are we telling them to show up authentically based on what makes us feel comfortable.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, that’s really powerful. I, as you are telling that story earlier you just saying that I was thinking about a story in my own life, where I was working with the pro team sports team and. You know, was told hey tune down that bubbliness you’re a little too bubbly for this space and dress this way and do this and do this right and. It was hard for me to be authentic in that space because I didn’t feel like I was accepted for who I am, and I had to pay really close attention to. The way that I spoke about things, or you know I couldn’t say you know I had to you know be really, really careful and it was it felt like I was tight a lot. You know, so I hear what you’re saying I really think that’s a powerful question like who gets to be authentic.

James Robilotta: yeah, and it’s one that we don’t this is where I mean again a lot of people have different thoughts about whether privilege exists or whatnot but that’s the thing about privilege, is it enables me not to have to think about it. Think about it, but if someone a white straight male who is raised with more than enough right like I don’t have to think about it now and that’s what privileges and so yeah so, it’s powerful no going back to your initial question that I steamrolled and took a different direction.

Cindra Kamphoff: You know, I was gonna come back to it anyway. But, before you answer that question James I was just thinking about really powerful statement is that when you are in power, and you know organization of work it, you know just thinking about what you can do to help people feel like they can be author an authentic leader and are you creating the space for people to do that right, regardless of their gender or their race, or you know all of these other inequalities.

James Robilotta: yeah everybody who you work with everybody who you exist with whether it’s just on this planet we all want to feel seen heard and respected and I think it’s a leaders job to make create a space where the individuals who are around them feel seen heard and respected now and a lot of times what that means is not guessing or assuming it’s asking and listening, but that’s hard, because sometimes the truth creeps in and the truth, the truth doesn’t taste very with very good and we’re nervous about that, so instead we make assumptions to protect ourselves from potential truths that go against our assumptions.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, there we go my head isn’t it not. So okay for those so given this context you know my question was what advice you would give people that maybe are scared of showing who they really are.

James Robilotta: yeah, it’s, it is the world that we live in, has convinced us that vulnerability equals weakness, but if vulnerability is such a weakness Cindra, then why is it so damn hard right like it’s easier to yeah ask for help than it is to ask for help it’s easier to avoid and compartmentalize than it is to own and confront vulnerability takes courage. And the thing is, is that a lot of times when we think about vulnerability, we think about it as like okay I’m gonna walk into my meeting next week and I’m just gonna tell everybody what’s going on security saw everything, yes, where I’m a terrible person right like Is that vulnerability technically yes. But that’s not what we’re necessarily talking about here like vulnerability, for the sake of vulnerability something Bernie brown talks about is not healthy right. Vulnerable yeah for the sake of sharing something. Sharing something that you then hope that people in front of you will help you with that’s not yet the time to be vulnerable right, we have to she frequently talks about leading from our scars not our wounds right. And I agree with that, to a certain extent, I think we can let people in a little bit earlier because sometimes those scars take a real long time to heal and sometimes letting people in when it’s a little more fresh, I think is powerful. Now, but at the same time we’ve had to have we have had to been doing some work on it, but vulnerability is not just here my deepest darkest fears and insecurities vulnerability is also here’s an embarrassing story about me here’s a random food quirk here’s something I love about my family here’s something that brings me joy that you did not know about that would potentially surprise you in a positive way right like Oh, I never knew, you were into badminton. Right like just even those like little moments are our moments of vulnerability or moments of authenticity or moments of our story that people can grab on to and see themselves in us. So, I think people are scared about it, and understandably because we’ve been telling people that vulnerability is divulging your deepest darkest fears. The vulnerability that are probably more appropriate at work and also just as effective.

Cindra Kamphoff: I like the idea of like leading with your scars not your wounds and I’m thinking about like, how do we do that as leaders and what advice would you give for us when you think about sharing the hey you know, I have a miss PAC man machine in my kitchen actually do.

James Robilotta: That is incredible.

Cindra Kamphoff: Right, you know I guess what I’m what I’m really hearing you say is being thoughtful with our vulnerability and not just sharing blah, this is all about who we are.

James Robilotta: yeah exactly, and I think not everybody deserves your story. Right and so it’s also recognizing that there is a time and a place to share our stories and frequently and frequently you know we can see when we see ourselves assuming and frequently there is somebody that we can kind of like see ourselves in, or we can. I don’t know it’s just like a little switch in the back of her head is like this is a good person, I think I can trust them and let them in a little bit more. And I think if I do that it’ll actually help them, so let me tell this individual a story about a time when I again slip struggled whatever I think using our stories that’s why it’s a tool in the belt right now. That hey here’s a cool moment. To potentially interject something that’s a little more personal to hammer home the point that I think is going to make this individual know that they’re okay know that they are enough know that they just need to keep going.

Cindra Kamphoff: awesome you know, James I know that one of your key notes is labeled or titled loving leadership the secret to managing and retaining talent and I really wanted to ask you some questions about that, because I think showing the love in the workplace and in leadership actually takes a vulnerability and authenticity, but there are so many times, where we. I think this happens in sport and where I work in sport, but also it like in corporate America like you know, of course I don’t love the people that I coach Of course I don’t love. The people I work with you know because we equate love to romantic love tell us about the power of love in leadership.

James Robilotta: yeah, and I agree with you, I think we frequently when we’re like love, or like hold on a second oh weird we are clear policies here okay that’s not gonna work. But I think you also you, and I also both know that there are very different kinds of love now. yeah, and so when we talk about love and leadership. We don’t have to call it love, but we gotta call it something maybe we call it commitment right or something like that and that’s what I tell people right from the jump. Is that like listen for somebody that a little weird that we’re talking about love, right now, you can just take out love and putting commitment and all the points are still going to be the same for the rest of the talk right. But at the end of the day commitment is patience plus persistence and so when we think about this idea leaders have to be patient with those that they work with because growth is a process and leaders also need to be persistent with those that they work with because growth is a process, and so, and so. That moment is critical, but it takes that initial investment that initial commitment to that individual to actually. To actually show up for them to actually advocate for them to actually be curious about them and those kinds of things. I think a lot of lazy leaders aren’t curious about the people that they have the opportunity to lead, they just plug and play whoever it is and keep doing the same thing they’ve always been doing now, but we know that love. Especially going back to it. You know, love is if we’re going to look at like Gary chapman’s five love languages. We all feel. Love in a different way, or we appreciate being loved or feel seen being loved in different ways right some of its words of affirmation now I’m some of its gifts some of its time some of its what we can’t do physical touch in the workplace, so take that one gem and wrote a book I think it’s called the five. I think it’s like the appreciation languages for leaders or something like that right now um and so, but it’s the same idea, but you have to get to know what other individuals about how they like to feel appreciated actually they actually do feel appreciation. Because otherwise we’re always going to take the lazy route. And just appreciate people, the way we like to be appreciated and assume it’s fine.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah.

James Robilotta: And what we’re talking about here.

Cindra Kamphoff: I’m thinking about also this perspective of caring and love and commitment, you know, to the people that you lead and actually how that connects to performance as well right I if I know. My boss really cares about me or my coach cares about me as a person I’m going to give everything for him or her, or I think about my son who’s going to be in ninth grade this year kind of scary. But you know, last year, he had a really hard time in the pandemic in terms of you know just felt like his teachers where they didn’t show the love and caring it was just more like. Do this assignment maybe that was coven related and all the things that were teachers were going through, but it’s like where is the caring for you as a human.

James Robilotta: yeah, for sure. I think that’s a perfect example. yeah, I don’t know, I mean the way that we show up for each other is powerful and you can feel when someone is showing up for you out of love versus out of spite or at a resentment or out of this is just what I’m supposed to do It feels very different, I think. People are strongly motivated by the two poles one is the haters right, the people are alive you’re never going to be able to do that I’m you’re never going to do that and then people are like oh yeah don’t believe me just watch. Right and then, and then the other side of it is they’re motivated by people who believe in them to see them who know their potential. I don’t know one leader that should ever strive to be the former right the person has got to show is I’d be like yeah, you’re all gonna suck and he never gonna move any decimal places good luck, while you’re here right like that’s not a strategy. And if it, is I hope they get fired but. But still. Love is a strategy commitment is a strategy, then so how are you going to do it, it takes a little more time because it, it has to be a little more individualistic, but I think it’s time that’s worth it.

Cindra Kamphoff: So, for those people who are listening that want to show more love as a leader right and the various ways that we lead them thinking at work, maybe in sport. Maybe at home, even leading yourself what advice would you give for those people who want to just you know have more show more love and leadership.

James Robilotta: yeah, sure your I recommend doing is sitting someone across the table from you staring deep into the rise and just saying I love you. Man, not blinking six minutes I think it’s really you know, tried and true practice and. yeah. What are some ways, what are some ways to do it first off. Can I share with you one of my definitions of love?

Cindra Kamphoff: Yes, please.

James Robilotta: amazing so here’s one of my definitions of love Center Do you remember those old school like Tylenol capsules they were like long, and they were clear, and they had all the little, tiny balls in them. Your pill capsules. Saying love is that capsule. Okay, what we actually feel about that individual or all the little, tiny balls inside. For example, you know, whenever I get off the phone with my parents, I say okay I love your goodbye, because it would take far too long for me to be like. Okay, thank you for believing me thanks for coming to my job central pushing me when, and I believe in myself Thank you so much for being my college thanks so much for doing this hey thanks for this hey thanks for those thanks for that. And then, like I’m still talking while I’m in the car and driving away for all the things that I’m grateful for instead we find this way to encapsulate all of that, with a beautiful word of love and it’s quick and easy and painless right. This is why whenever I officiate weddings, I tell people that they’re going to write their own vows because I need them to talk about all of those little, tiny balls because the for the rest of their life they’re just gonna say I love you bye right. But yeah. The moment to actually break down, why do you love that individual so when it comes to loving those and showing those. Love around us, whether they are coworkers those that we lead parent’s kids whoever friends. Now I think it’s about breaking down and opening up that capsule every once in a while, and talking about hey here’s what I appreciate about you or hey you know I really I love the I love the ideas that you shared in those meetings you really sharp today, thank you. Right, like those kinds of moments are for our super valuable are super sticky. Now I mean So where are the moments, where you can actually break down a little bit of what you appreciate about that individual now, I’m and show them that now in your feedback conversations and our annual reviews it’s frequently like hey are you doing great days yay doing great it is whatever you already know what you’re good at let’s talk about what you’re not doing good at. But instead spending a little more time on like hey you did this for us, and it really made this easier or made this more efficient or made this growth happen or a brought the team together right like those kinds of moments are like I see you; I see the value that you’re adding. To others around you and to myself and I really appreciate it right, like those kinds of moments I think you’re powerful also it’s loving somebody as the human being, that they are. So, it’s not just like hey thanks for moving some decimal places for us or thanks for covering this up or thanks for whatever it’s also. How your kids doing you know they started T ball this year hey you know I never mountain biking have you done any cool trails recently. Right, like those kinds of things where you bring in like hey how’s life outside of work doing you doing okay and I’m not like talking about sitting somebody down and be like how’s your marriage. Right like it’s not bad, but it’s just like hey you’re a whole last human so what other things are you interested in and let me carry let me see me Let me follow up about some of those things as well. Because I know they matter to you, and when you do things that matter to you outside of work, you bring a better energy in work, and so I need to care about that too.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, that’s awesome and I also think like it’s specific to the person right, I even the feedback that you gave right there. It was specific it wasn’t general it wasn’t like good job it was you know really appreciating something specific about them as a human, not about the task. And then I like what you just said about like asking them about their life because they do bring their whole person, we bring your whole person to everything that we do yeah you.

James Robilotta: Know like you walked into work and all of a sudden, you’re not a parent. Right, you didn’t walk into work and you’re not a best friend, you can walk into work you’re not a sibling you’re not whatever it’s coming everywhere and you’re gonna bring energy in both places so.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah you know I know one of your other keynotes that you talk a lot about James is like giving feedback that sticks, I think you just gave an example of feedback that sticks but I’m thinking about what holds people back from giving feedback, it might be they don’t want to be authentic you know are vulnerable, I mean, I think it connects with everything that we’ve just talked about, but what does that mean to you to give feedback that sticks.

James Robilotta: yeah, I think yeah almost combines our last two sections of what we were talking about where. I think great feedback is not just come in here sit down, you did this wrong you did this wrong and fix it by next quarter right like that’s not that’s not what feedback is, but sometimes, especially in feedback conversations we really want things to be black and white, and so we try to keep it as clean as possible. But I think those are almost the more important conversations to get a little Gray, and therefore I think it means that if someone did something. If you’re providing feedback to somebody and you’ve done that in the past. Then I would say hey you know it’s so interesting you know I noticed that this is an area of growth for you that’s crazy because that’s actually something that I really struggle with my first few years here. For example, here’s a time where I did something. That had a ripple effect that I didn’t realize it was going to have. Or maybe I didn’t get something in on time, or I didn’t get whatever it is now more hey I didn’t think this mattered as much, so I didn’t put my heart into it. And then I made a lot more work for some other folks that I didn’t recognize that, so I’ve been there, I get it. It sucks and but here’s why we need to do a little bit better in the future and here’s some ways that I did. Now here’s some things that I tried or ways that I tried to wrap my brain around it now, so I could show up more for those around me and for the team that I was on. But it’s starting again with story starting again with a little vulnerability right here is a time where I messed up and then it’s like So how can we bring it in. I think, also a big thing that I love to talk about is curiosity. And I think in feedback curiosity is a really powerful trait to have because a lot of times we bring people in we sit them down we tell them what they did wrong and how they messed up. Excuse me, and instead we should start with a question right, I think, great letter a great leaders asked questions before they give advice. And so with That being said, it’s asking the question of like hey what did what did you see the goals of this project being or you know how did you interpret the tasks that was given to you or. You know, except for kind of asking those follow up questions to learn, where did they come at it mentally right was this something that they just flippantly didn’t care about or do they genuinely think they were doing a good job, based on the directions, they were given. But the directions, they were given turns out weren’t actually going to set them up for success, and so they were doomed from the start. Asking some of those questions are really powerful up top to understand like where we on the same page from the beginning, or do we need to kind of shift our communication styles to get there in the future so that’s kind of what I would say in a longer answer.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, I think that’s a great advice I really like what you said about great leaders asked questions before giving advice. And so, they understand what’s going on with the person again thinking about the whole person, how do you think what we talked about love, how do you think that plays a role in providing a feedback that sticks.

James Robilotta: I think it’s a matter of caring right like I mean. We both know what active listening is right, and you. Can good eye contact leaning in paraphrasing what they just said square your shoulders things like that, but Center you and I also both know that you can fake active listening right. But if you get a decision to care if you make the decision to care you naturally do all the steps to active listening, you’re naturally lean in you naturally square up I contact you show up for that moment, you are present. And so leaders need to make the decision to care, the issue is that once you make the decision to care, you are also making the decision to take up a little bit more time out of each of your months to care that’s the problem with caring is that it takes time right like it just chill it has yeah time but that’s what investing in somebody else looks like investment is time. Right, yes, you can invest resources, you can invest whatever, but at the end of the day, one of the best things you can invest somebody. In his time and so that’s why authentic leadership is hard, because it takes a little bit more time. Especially up top but it creates way more efficiency in the back end because, once you build a team that trust each other you’re more efficient. But how you but it takes a minute to get to that trust, but that’s the time that I think is worthy of investment now um and so yeah when it comes to giving feedback and whatnot, I think that’s what it comes down to is making the decision to care. And if you make the decision to care you’re naturally going to want to learn a little bit more you’re going to want to hear a little bit more of the story. And then you’re naturally going to give more personalized thoughtful feedback, as opposed to like well just be better, otherwise you know stuff’s going to happen right, so I think that’s what it looks like is making the decision to care.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, that’s powerful and I think sometimes we maybe haven’t taken care of our own self to care for others right and we’re I’m just thinking about the last year and a half we’ve all gone through coven and. The mental health impact of that or the impact of that on our mental health right and I really appreciate what you just said about taking time to invest in others and making a decision to care about them as humans as people yeah.

James Robilotta: We also I mean this is advice that I love to pass on to others because it’s stuff that I need to hear myself right like it’s also making the decision and the choice to care about yourself as well, what does that look like and that’s something I’m not good at. Working on but still like I think it also falls into this conversation we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, that’s good so James as we think about leading in perfectly, I think one thing that gets in the way of people leading. In perfectly or leading with love things that we’ve talked about is this idea of like what if I fail right and I’m curious when you think about the definition of failure. Like what does that mean to you, and can you tell us about a time that you failed since we’re talking about leading in perfectly.

James Robilotta: I certainly can. Failure my thought on failure is that it’s beautiful don’t get me wrong it sucks in the moment right it’s hard it’s terrible wish we could have gotten another outcome, but failure is better than quitting any day and so. Failure implies that we’re going to try again failure implies that. You know there there’s potentially another way to do something and we just gotta regroup and get back out there now versus quitting is stopping right it’s taking away all momentum. So, so I think that’s I think that’s a big thing I’m a huge proponent of failure I’m a huge proponent of taking a beat and being like okay what. What just happened why didn’t why didn’t we do what we thought we were going to do there, or what you know what was it that I that I jumped into quickly that I not prepare enough did I. Was it or was it just a lot harder than anyone ever anticipate and it just kind of was what it was now I mean now we know for next time right like there’s so many internal and external factors that go into failure. And I think taking a step back afterwards and assessing what went wrong right watch the tapes get your Peyton manning on and get out there now get back out there, I think I think is critical. Sometimes that I have failed well at my senior prom I dislocated my right knee dancing to show tonight twain’s man, I feel like a woman. That was a pretty epic failure. But I got dragged over to the side of the dance floor somebody gave me. Some chicken Parmesan so I cried into some chicken Parmesan and but then, but then send your like all good failures I got back out there at the end of the night, you know what I mean asked my date for a slow dance, and she said. And she just kind of pivoted me around on my one good leg but don’t whatever yes, yes. So that’s a memorable moment, I think you know, during. During quarantine to bring it a little bit closer during quarantine I think there was this moment, you know it’s professional speakers where we’re like Okay, so our businesses over everything’s over. Great everything over okay nice right yeah, my wife and I took two very different approaches neither one wrong, but we went to completely different directions once our calendar was wiped clear my wife turn to wine and puzzles. And she crushed it she crushed had a great time. But she was just like I know it’s happening wine and puzzles I think she rewatch it boy meets world from the beginning, you know what I mean and just like relied on the wisdom of Professor feeny to get her through. And so, and it works it works, you might have crushing your business, you know she, but she just needed to take a minute and just be like this sucks I’m going to mopey town, and I’ll figure it out in. A few weeks and that she did, and it was incredible to watch, you know when she kicked sprung back into life, the way she absolutely crushed the year. I was that person on your newsfeed on social media that was immediately like this is an opportunity. When in the history of time, have we been given the gift of more time. This is it you what are you going to do what manuscript are you going to write what are you going to launch, what are you going to write like, and I was that guy um and so there’s a whole bunch of stuff that I started trying and some things were quick and easy. And just kind of like a fun thing to do, um and then some other things where like I for some of the clients that I work with I was like okay well what is something that they may need right now. And I was like Oh, if I can create a video series for them around that and customize it to each organization and that could be really incredible and I think they’re really going to want it, I think it’s what they need. Right now, and so, then I poured over writing the curriculum of 12 videos now.

Cindra Kamphoff: wow.

James Robilotta: Over 12 videos and I and also handouts, and all these things and created the videos recorded them and then approached the clients. Not one of them wanted. Oh no like I literally I gave it away for free to one of them that I just liked the most was like here you go and they’re like this is great we don’t want to pay for it, but this is great. yeah right. Because we don’t have the money for it, or we think what’s most important for us, is this not what you think is most important for us don’t get me. Wrong why you thought that, and it is helpful So if you just want to give it to us, we’ll certainly use it, but we’re not going to pay the money that you think it’s worth. Because that’s not where we’re currently investing our resources right and so that was a giant failure. In a ton of time invested and add a couple of other individuals that I brought in to help me with some stuff and now I needed to ask more questions in the beginning, but I didn’t know and so that’s, the most recent example I would say.

Cindra Kamphoff: Thank you, James thanks for your vulnerability and sharing with us two times. That you failed and I. Think of you know, especially the last one right. Exactly I think especially this last one it’s a really good learning opportunity for people who are just listening right that we might be so gung-Ho on what we think Somebody needs and we haven’t taken a step back to ask them what they need. And there’s so many ways we add a pivot and adjust our business during Kobe it’s exciting that keynote speaking in person is now coming back.

James Robilotta: let’s go let’s go.

Cindra Kamphoff: Well, James we could talk for a million years I know he could here’s some things that I loved about our conversation. We talked about you know what leading with authentic authenticity means is like leading with your stories and your strengths being relatable. He talked a lot about sharing and telling our story, you asked us a powerful question about who gets to be authentic I think that’s really incredible for us to think about and that vulnerability is not weakness. We can vulnerability really is about leading with our scars not our wounds so love that and then, when we were talking about love loving them as humans and taking time to care about who they are, as a person, which does take time, investment and then you said you know great leaders give or ask questions before they give advice. And at the end you we talked about failure, and you said it’s opportunity to try again to try a new way of doing things so James so fun to talk to you, you are a funny guy, I can tell you’re like improv I’m going to take some lessons from you. But tell us how people can reach out to you or learn more about your speaking you’re coaching and leading your book leading and perfectly How can people reach out to you and learn more about what you do.

James Robilotta: yeah, first off as soon as this is great, you’re an exceptional question asked her and it’s just been fun sitting to spend time with you and I love hearing your insights on some of these topics as well, so thank you. I’m James T robo are obo James T robo all over the Internet and all social media I’ve been posting a lot of meaningful content on Instagram recently but also on Twitter and some of those other places I’m James to robo calm now that’s where you can learn about. What I speak about and why it matters to me and kind of my approach now and so yeah and also on LinkedIn just my name James a lot and that’s where I’m at and my books available on Amazon it’s called leading and perfectly it’s got my face on it y’all have a horrible. But yeah, it’s all about that the idea that we as humans can’t learn things from people who are perfect, we can only learn from people who are imperfect, so it’s been a blast being here Cindra Thank you.

Cindra Kamphoff: awesome Thank you James thanks again for coming on and spending your valuable time with us.

James Robilotta: heck yeah.