In this episode, we delve into Stephen’s past, his love for learning, his dislike for school, and how being labeled as “learning disabled” in elementary school propelled his career. Stephen shares his thoughts on how to build positive and influential leadership skills, how to engage with remote teams, and the most effective ways to build relationships in the workspace.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our podcast, listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We extend to you a warm welcome. The purpose of the Becoming Your Best podcast is to lift, build, and inspire each one in becoming your best and in creating excellence. In the spirit of providing stimulating and motivating thoughts to help you and me on the Becoming Your Best pathway, I went back to five podcast interviews and pulled out some ideals and principles that have inspired me and make me want to be better. I hope to have the same benefit for you. I might add that we have had so many outstanding podcast interviews and are grateful to our many guests that have so generously shared their experiences and insights. So, I hope to do this again sometime. The first one I wish to share with you is the interview I had with Crystal Maggelet. Crystal is an amazing woman — she’s the chairperson of FJM, Flying J Management Corp, that’s the name of it. She is sitting on the board of Coca-Cola, started a hotel chain, and has just done so many amazing things. It was Episode 300 entitled “Building Value to Last”. I love the perspective of a leader’s job and how it is to have integrity and articulate an inspiring vision and direction. This is a powerful leadership set of principles, whether you are a CEO, teacher, parent, partner, coach, and applying these principles as an individual; they all have the same impact; they lift and build and create sustainable success over time. So, let’s cut right into this interview with Crystal.
Steve Shallenberger: This is kind of a hallmark podcast show today because it’s number 300. I invited Crystal on purpose because of how amazing she is. So, Crystal, first of all, tell us a bit more about running a family enterprise that includes several businesses. You’re now involved with petroleum, lodging, banking, and healthcare. So, how do you create a culture across the companies that are each unique?
Crystal Maggelet: I think that can be a tough question. Back in the day, when my dad started Flying J, we were a fully integrated oil company. And so, it was an oil company and it was all kind of in that industry. When we changed and restructured back in 2010, suddenly it became clear to me that I needed to have something that tied numerous different businesses together. We came up with, along with our executives, a mission for FJM: building value to last. Because that’s what I want to do; I want to build value to last, and the guiding principles are integrity, mutual respect, and excellence. And I figured that no matter what we did and what businesses that we participated in, that these principles were key. And so I knew that they could apply across many different businesses. And then when we get down into our individual businesses and different executive management teams, they put their own twists on that. For instance, Maverik, their mission is to be the coolest convenience store on the planet and they like to strive to live the titanium rule, which is “Treating people better than they expect to be treated.” So, that’s kind of how I approach having a number of different businesses, and hopefully creating a culture that does embody our guiding principles.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I’m always amazed at how fast time goes, and we’re at the end of our show today. So, do you have one final tip for our listeners before we sign off?
Crystal Maggelet: I just think, mostly, approach life with optimism, especially where we are and we find ourselves today. Just keep looking at life like it’s great and it’s just gonna get better.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Crystal, that was awesome. Next is our interview with Steve McGarvey. This was Episode 340: Ignite a Shift – Engaging Minds, Guiding Emotions, and Driving Behavior. I love this, and it talked about how important it is that we mind our thoughts because they directly influence our behavior, attitudes, and our feelings about ourselves, which directly impacts our happiness. The discussion that I’d like to focus on with Steve is how helping people to get to a better place and using the word “why” carefully and correctly, and to use it in a positive way and not in a negative circumstance. So, there are more effective ways to do it. Let’s listen in on this powerful principle.
Steve Shallenberger: Stephen, let’s get into it here. Let’s talk about how do we understand how a person is thinking. And if that’s the starting point — which I fully agree if we can work on the thinking part — can you talk about the dynamics of that, of understanding, of communicating? Because we’re both going to be changed as we interact with one another, and if that affects then how we feel, and ultimately, what we do. Do you mind taking a few moments on that?
Stephen McGarvey: I’d be happy to. I think, Steve, number one, I coach people to start from a position of curiosity. And if we’re genuinely interested in someone else and genuinely curious about them, we’ll listen more intently. And as we listen, we’ll get insights into not just what they’re saying, but how they’re thinking; what’s relevant to them; why is it relevant; how’s it relevant; how is it meaningful for them? And asking clarifying questions to really get inside the person’s thought patterns and understand how they’re thinking.
Steve Shallenberger: What have you found the best questions to be?
Stephen McGarvey: I’ll tell you one of the most underutilized questions. In fact, we have a whole chapter essentially dedicated to it. And we call it the “paradox of why.” And I’ll tell you why it’s an interesting question. When we ask the question “Why?” Let’s use an example: a child is upset, and we say, “Well, why are you upset?” We just grow roots under the thinking patterns that are causing the child to be upset in the first place. We keep them rooted in the very thinking that’s creating the emotion. So, I would say, “why” is the most paradoxical question; it’s overutilized in the wrong context and underutilized in the right context. So, if you said to me, for example, “I’m nervous about something.” And I said, “Well, Steve, why are you nervous?” Notice, all I do is grow thinking in the roots under the thoughts that are creating the nervousness in the first place. Or if I said, “Steve, how would you like to feel instead?” And you say, “Well, confident.” “Oh, out of curiosity, what would make you feel that way?” Notice what I’ve done is, with one question, created a shifting your focus and your thinking, which changes a reaction, changes your emotional state as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow, now that’s an art, Stephen.
Stephen McGarvey: It is. It’s an art of knowing how to strategically ask questions based on intent, based on direction. In the book, we map out a current state and desired state. So, how’s the person currently thinking? How are they currently feeling? What are they currently doing? And how do I want them to be thinking? What do I want them to be feeling? What do I want them to be doing within the context of influence? And if it’s a coaching dynamic, I’m going to coach them to tell me how do they want to be thinking instead; how would they like to be feeling instead; what do they want to be doing instead. And then, as I’m sure you’re well aware, create some well-formed outcomes around that and keep them focused on their goals. It’s fascinating. I think, Steve, most people focus on what they don’t want, and then they get more of it; as opposed to focusing on what they do want and figuring out how they can move in the direction of accomplishing it.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you, Stephen McGarvey. Our next episode is with a great friend of mine, Mark Holland; it’s Episode 269. I love this interview, it was so fun. In it, Mark shares how important telling the truth is, building great networks of people, and having treasured relationships. These have a huge impact on our success, satisfaction, and happiness in life. Let’s listen in on this interview.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, let’s get into it. So, Mark, we’re going to kind of hit this interview from different sides. And I know our listeners are going to pick out some really great things today. So, let’s start with the business side. What are some of the key lessons learned that you’ve had that have helped you and your business be successful?
Mark Holland: Great question, Steve. And by the way, thank you so much for your friendship and your mentorship. You’ve been an amazing guide for me in my life and the things that I’ve learned through Becoming Your Best truly have been transformational, so thank you. And maybe that leads me into one of the first things I’ve knocked around a little bit is the power of networks, the power of associating with people that are like-minded. I think it’s easy to get off on the wrong foot and take a little step in the wrong direction — maybe this way is a little bit easier, maybe it’s a little sneakier or something. My experience, as I watch in life, is that one day if we start down a tough path, we’ll wake up one day and look around the table and find ourselves surrounded with like-minded people. On the other hand, if we try to tell the truth, if we do our best to honor our words and do the right things, even when it’s difficult, boy, you look around the table and you’ve got friendships like Steve Shallenberger and others that you’re just proud to be associated with. And so, I think the first thing is, really, we just try to do the right thing. We get into enough trouble through accidents and so on that I just don’t want to be creating any additional purposeful skeletons in my closet, if you will. And so, we just try to do the right thing, and then we don’t have to worry about what we said because we’re just doing our best; we’re not trying to cover up stuff, and so on. So, that’s probably one of the things that come to mind, Steve. As I focus on business, boy, the older I get, the more I understand that relationships are everything. My networks within the industry, with YPO, with my neighborhood, with my church, they just become such an important part of my life, and finding those people that I want to hang out with and be like-minded.
Mark Holland: From a business perspective, as I reflect on our successes and failures, it’s interesting that I go more towards the failures than I do successes because we learn so many important life lessons. So, part of that guides me to being willing to take educated risks and being willing to fail. We lost almost half a million dollars when we didn’t have it in a technical venture. It was just a mess and never really worked right. But out of those mistakes and errors came some wonderful things, including Ascend HR that you mentioned. So, I think being willing to take educated risks and being willing to fail and pick yourself up and dust yourself off and get out at it again. Maybe one other thing, or if there were two, maybe just over the years – and we’ve been doing this for a long time – hire slowly. I mean, we go through a very rigorous hiring process. So, by the time that you come on board with Ascend, we really know who you are and you know who we are. And it just eliminates challenges and frustrations and potential upsets that wouldn’t work for either side. And then finally, and truly from a professional perspective, nothing is more important than family. And you may hear that again from me today, but having life balance and knowing why we’re doing the things that we’re doing. And for me, the family is certainly one of them, my faith is very important. So, having this balance in our lives that we just keep resetting and making sure that we’re focusing on the right things.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Mark, that is great advice. The next episode that I wish to share is Episode 315. This was amazing, with my dear friend Micheal Pope, on “Leadership: A Sacred Journey”. In this, Micheal discusses so many great points in our interview. But on the part I’m sharing today, we focus on balance, learning from our mistakes, and the two most important lessons learned for her in life that she wanted to share anyhow. She’s amazing. Let’s listen in to Micheal Pope.
Steve Shallenberger: Now, on the personal side, what are two or three things of your greatest lessons learned in life? And what experience has taught you those? And then we’re going to wrap it up. I’m just always shocked how fast time goes.
Micheal Pope: Time flies when we’re having fun. Well, Steve, I know you will understand this, and I hope that your listeners and podcast followers will understand. On the personal side, one of the biggest lessons that I had to learn in my life was that not everybody who looks one way or acts one way is going to end up being who you think they are — big lesson in life. As an African-American woman growing up in this world — and I won’t tell my age but I’m older than I look — I felt some things in my life, moving into new experiences, traveling around the world, and I began to realize that when we learn something in a bubble, that’s just what it is; you’ve learned it in a bubble. And in order to grow from that bubble, the bubble has to be popped and you have to be able to go out and experience other things, or then you become confined by this bubble that sometimes has a lot of bad darkness and hatred and all kinds of gobbly goop in it because of one experience, one interaction, or one thing that you know. So, I’ve learned, and I think I taught my children this, this is the one gift I pray I’ve given them, to travel the world, go out and meet other people, talk to people. If you’re afraid of anything, that’s the one thing you need to go and seek and figure out why you have fear of it and rise above it because the “rising above it” is glorious. The first time that I met a skinhead, I met him in a situation where I was scared, I was nervous. He was a recovering addict and had left the life of that. But because he was wearing it and I could physically see it, it frightened me, and I was unable to go beyond the barrier of his physicality until he and I sat down and had a cup of coffee together. And he had to overcome what he had been taught about me. And now I’m here to tell you, he is a very dear friend, he takes care of my car and keeps my car moving. And whenever people see him hug me, they are shocked and they don’t quite understand how this could happen. And it’s because I was willing to forgive, I was willing to hear and to listen, and I was willing to move beyond the place where he could even have possibly imagined that he and I would go, and now he is a very dear friend to me.
Micheal Pope: So, my one advice to all of you out there: be willing to move beyond what you think you know because it may not be the truth, one. And number two, everybody has an opportunity to change, and forgiveness is one of the biggest gifts that we have and that we can share. Number two is to love yourself. Love yourself, be yourself, and know that who you are is magnificent. And even though it may not fit into the normality of stereotypes or other things that are going on in the world, it is authentic people that are successful. Believe it or not, authentic people who show up as they are, who they know they are, believing in themselves; those are the successful people in the world because they can go anywhere and navigate any situation with clarity, with respect for themselves and for others. So, those are the two life lessons that I would love to share with all of you, and I pray that those resonate with you in any way that you want to use them.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I’ll tell you, for our listeners, Micheal is just an absolute gem. You can probably hear it in my voice why I like her so much. She just got a light and a feeling and it’s lifting and edifying and loving and caring. So, great going, Micheal.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Michelle, that was a total delight. And last of all in today’s podcast is sharing time with Dorothy Russell in Episode 319. Dorothy is 97 years old and absolutely vibrant. She has had an amazing life. She has been active in politics, community and church service all over the world, and has owned and managed 10-12 rental homes herself in her local community in Florida. And just until two years ago, at 95 years old, she was still handling every phase of the rentals: the repairs, the tenant relationships, the whole work. She is a delight for those tenants; all that experience where they had a great experience. I met her when I was 20 years old, where she and her husbands were the leaders in our mission in Uruguay and Paraguay. They have had such a huge impact on my life, and continue to do so today. Dorothy shares some of the greatest advice any of us could have about life and precious relationships. Let cut into this interview.
Steve Shallenberger: What’s some advice, just life lessons that you would have for other people coming up along in life?
Dorothy Russell: Oh, I don’t know that I’m the kind of person to give a lot of advice. Just enjoy life, enjoy your associations. Love and appreciate your family. If they’re not perfect, overlook it, and think of the good things that you have with them, not the little things that bother you, because those can sometimes ruin your life, and life is to be enjoyed.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great advice. Well, while we’re on the subject, in our previous podcast, you said that you had had a marriage early on and were divorced, and then met Gardner. And you were married to Gardner for how long?
Dorothy Russell: We were married for 64 years.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s not bad. You can cram all that in all those years. But see, that’s got to give a lot of hope to people that may have had a little challenge, a little blip in a marriage, and could come back. So, what are some of the things you would recommend people to have good marriages and a good relationship with their partner?
Dorothy Russell: Get married to a wonderful man like I did.
Steve Shallenberger: Gardner was a wonderful man, no doubt. Okay, that’s a good choice. First of all, choose the right person if you can.
Dorothy Russell: And don’t let little things get to you that much and just enjoy it while you can.
Steve Shallenberger: And while you’re thinking about that, you may have more things that you want to share, like what can you do to make it go well. And I love your recommendation: choose the right person, marry a good man or marry a good woman right from the get-go. But I do remember something among our many, many experiences together. 50 years ago, I was serving in Posadas, Argentina, and Gardner and Dorothy came to visit. It’s a long way actually, it’s an eight-hour flight from Montevideo. By the time you make all the connections, you have to go through Buenos Aires, then you get up to Posadas. And they had just flown in and it had been a very long day. Dorothy, I know you won’t remember this because it’s one of those little things that happens that you don’t even give a second thought to. But an observing a young man, a 20-year-old man, or a 21-year-old who hopes to be married someday; he’s paying attention, like, how do people get along? And Gardner and Dorothy had a little moment where it was a little intense, something happened and you could tell that it was awkward. And they just looked at each other — I’ll never forget this comment: “Well, we’ve had a long day. Let’s just have a good rest and we can discuss this tomorrow.” And I thought, “Oh, man, now there is a lesson right there.” Just to recognize, it’s okay.
Dorothy Russell: Yeah. But don’t get into it right now.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, don’t get into it. And maybe tomorrow, it’s not even an issue, or if it is, we’re fresh.
Dorothy Russell: You have a new perspective.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, Dorothy, it is a treat that everybody could hear you today and that you could be with us. Any final thoughts that you would like to share with people listening today before we wrap this up?
Dorothy Russell: Enjoy each day that you have because memories come of the wonderful things that you see each day and do each day. Not necessarily great, big things that just are fabulous, but it’s the everyday things that you do and enjoy. And being with people that you love, and sharing your thoughts and your feelings with them is very, very special. Like sharing them with Steve right now. This is very, very special. So, live each day. And if you have a bad day, just take some time to get over it, and then go on with your life.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you, Dorothy, that was amazing. Well, to all of our listeners today, it is our hope that you have picked out some treasures from today’s podcasts for yourself, your family, and your organizations. We are so grateful for you, and as you work on becoming your best, you are an inspiration to those that you associate with. How can you ever be criticized? Stephen Covey used to tell me: “If you’re always trying to improve and do better yourself, it’s really hard because you’re a moving target.” Well, I love that idea, that’s the spirit of what we’re doing — always improving, always working on our good, better, and best. Well, thank you for joining us today, and wish you the best today and always.