Dan Negroni on “Chasing Relevance”: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

negroniDan Negroni founded launchbox to help businesses unleash the creativity and potential of today’s new Gen Y workforce. He is a CEO coach, consultant, keynote speaker, and chief launch officer for today’s critical cross-generational issues, bridging the gap between managers and their millennial workforce to increase employee engagement, productivity and profits. He leverages his authentic, no-nonsense approach and a successful 20+ year career as a CEO, attorney, and senior sales and marketing executive, to reinvigorate businesses and people.

Prior to founding launchbox, Dan served as CEO for start-up businesses in the health and fitness market and for a national consulting firm. He also held senior roles in sales, marketing and operations for a variety of service businesses in the technology industry. He was responsible for managing teams as large as 1,500 people to create 100s of millions of dollars in sales and significant increases in enterprise valuation. In conjunction with most of his roles, he also served as companies’ general counsel and supervised the legal and HR functions. He attended Georgetown Law Center and started his legal career as corporate and business attorney at Morgan Lewis in New York. Dan is a member of the California Bar.

Dan is an active member and frequent presenter at several organizations, including Vistage, University of California – San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University, and local news stations. Dan is also an active philanthropist, serving as board member and development chair for the Jenna Druck Center, participating in efforts to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Monarch School and Jewish Family Services. He resides in Del Mar, Calif., with his wife of 25 years and the youngest of his three children, and is an avid health and fitness nut, running, biking, swimming and doing anything else he can to fight off looking his age.

His book, Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage and Maximize Next Generation Leaders in the Workplace , was published by lunchbox (August 2016).

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Chasing Relevance, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Negroni: Wow, great question. I vacillate on the answer to that question. In the deep of night I would have to say it is my wife. Since the young age of 18 my wife has been my best friend, my sounding board and the mirror to my personal growth as a dad, husband, friend, mentor, coach, businessman and human. Throughout life and my quest to determine my true impact she has cautiously encouraged and questioned me and eventually given me the opportunity to do what I love. Help others be their best, just as she has either knowingly or unknowingly done for me.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Negroni: As stated I have to give my wife first credit in both areas because who you are personally when no one is looking is really who you are when you are conducting business or practicing your profession. Professionally, I would have to say that I have had so many mentors along the way, from my Dad, to Bernie Berkovits, to every client, boss and partner I had in between. So many of them have taught me so much. Two that stand out along the way are Jim Walters and Jon Gilbert. Jon gave me my first opportunity to become a successful businessman after practicing law and taught me many strategic business lessons and Jim trusted me and gave me the opportunity to find myself and the mentor within.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Negroni: I think the epiphany came when I realized how much business success was related to who people were when they were accomplishing their tasks and running their businesses. More importantly, what were they doing to truly empower those people they worked with and inspire them to be their best self. The first few times I was able to help someone create real results personally, I was hooked, and, I mean fully hooked. It took me a while to be able to do it unconditionally, not worrying what I got back in return but once I truly understood that it was about sharing my gift to help people and not about me is when the value started to soar. And by the way it is still something I keep in check, daily.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Negroni: Another great question. I also believe that education formally and informally are equally important, however, my formal education has allowed me to help others by being credible and credible because I learned how to articulate value and information in a way that affects the audience.

My formal business school training was fun and really just an introduction to concepts and theories and confirmation that I could comprehend concepts. The next test was could I really implement the things I learned to serve others. My law school education really taught me how to understand people and challenges in an amazingly helpful way. It taught me how to analyze situations and suggest and create implementation tactics to win. These skills have been applied to sales, marketing, management and empowerment and tactical coaching. Particularly, the process of “IRAC.” Issues, Rules, Analysis and Conclusion. If I approach all challenges for others in this modality we can win. When I learned to layer the art of relationship building through Story Telling on top of the IRAC foundation it has been a homerun!

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Negroni: Quite simply, the more you care about people and communicate that you can solve their challenges and needs, people will buy that all day long. Couple that with asking amazing questions that are probative, thoughtful and authentic and you enable trust from others. That trust allows you to go forth and impact those that understand such caring.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Negroni: I’m not sure one film stands out. I will tell you this, each film I watch teaches me lessons about story telling and connection currency of emotional reactions. Most of our creative writers and directors are so good at perspective, fun, and teaching life situations. I cannot go to the movies without being inspired in some way about growing my business, meeting people or open thought about how to approach life. The cutest and most related to the millennial concept we write about is clearly The Intern with Robert Deniro. So many myths and exaggerations but underneath it all just a story about caring about people authentically!

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

Negroni: OK I love this, super cool game, let’s see how I do.

Learn from the people: I am not the hero of my story or my journey. The more I learn about others and make it about them the more I can empower change and impact the world. It is not about me but what I can learn to help others and the greatest quality of a leader is the ability to be persuaded by what you learn.

Plan with the people: The most important life work skill is the ability to build relationships. Why?: because all things require human interaction. If you plan with and understand the people then you will be able to make and receive impact.

Begin with what they have: You must meet people where they are to make it about them. If you truly understand them you can empower and make a world of difference to them. With that philosophy you can empower success.

Build on what they know: First, of course, you need to know what that is.

Of the best leaders: Understand making it about others is what allows you to succeed. If you understand their language you can teach them to create change for themselves and allow them sustainable tools to continue their work.

When the task is accomplished:
The people will remark:
We have done it ourselves.

The true way to effect change and move mindset for an individual is to teach them how to fish. You know what they say about teaching how to fish vs. feeding them for a day. We focus on helping people find their mentor within so they can continue to make a difference for themselves and for others.

Morris: From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Negroni: Absolutely, life is filled with choices as is business. So often it is almost more important who you are not what you are. For if you understand who you are not you can find and grow your path to what you want to be along the journey. Same is true of strategy, by choosing what you do not want to do it becomes easier to determine what you should do. Otherwise the sheer number of choices of opportunities can create analysis paralysis

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.

Negroni: The world changes very rapidly and now more than ever with the Internet and mobile. For sure as humans we are mostly governed from fear and we are fearful of what we perceive as danger. Many times new ideas are perceived as dangerous, history is replete with examples. Fear inhibits what we do and our perspective. Mark Twain actually said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” If we relaxed into new ideas and change more easily tomorrow’s clichés would come sooner and that would serve us all.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Negroni: Of course “that’s odd” is better. We want to always be pushing how to be better and Eureka sounds like the end that you have found something and are there. “That’s odd” is questioning results and pushes us to ask more questions and really push the limits. Questions are always good; our country is founded upon that foundation. As a generation, our young are pushing stronger and that is better. We as a community need to be able to figure out solutions and discover.

Morris: From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Negroni: Kind of like “Show me the money!” from Jerry Maguire. We have to see results and if we don’t execute, nothing happens. Speaking for speaking sake is a waste of time. Speaking to create results or value is what we need. Action is critical to results. So believing vision without delivering on it is actually Kool-aid drinking and not progress. What you learn through execution is the context we need to continue growth in the future.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Negroni: Oh man, yes, who cares how efficient something if it is unnecessary? It reminds me of the headmaster of my son’s school, quoting Hamlet and many other great “literati” with no purpose or connection to reality or a quest for the future or results. Kind of like the windbag who just likes to hear themselves speak for the sake of hearing themselves. It becomes mindless quotations that are useless. Why waste the energy? Why not instead focus on what should or could be done to add value.

Morris: Of all the greatest leaders throughout history, with which one would you most like to be closely associated for an extended weekend of one-on-one conversation? Why?

Negroni: Sir Richard Branson. I just marvel at his approach to employees, business and providing value. Mostly his constant thoughts about taking care of the people (employees) who take care of your customer and this simplistic approach to making things happen. Couple that with an exciting marketing mind and some charisma and I am sold. He is the definition of connection currency and what could be better. Sign me up, please, Sir!

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Negroni: Ask great questions surrounding the resistance and why it affects them personally. As soon as you understand it solve the problem in a way that makes sense to the audience. Don’t let the communication divide win, close it with time, energy and information.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any advice?

Negroni: I love these hard questions. This one is critical but necessary to understand. I think CEO’s will be balancing how to attract the employee and retain them in a way that connects personal and professional goals. I think employees are getting smarter and want more. I think the pace at which the world is changing and what technology is bringing will create a real chasm for employers to provide more than just a paycheck. They will be required to offer benefits that feed the “whole person.” I am not sure how that will manifest, but I can promise there will be great change and we will need to care more as employers and not less.

*     *     *

Dan invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

launchbox link

Chasing Relevance Amazon link

LinkedIn link

Facebook link

YouTube videos link

Forbes article link

FHV interview link

Posted in

Leave a Comment