Hello and welcome to the Career Success podcast. I’m Jason Connolly. If you’re a regular listener, it’s great to have you back, but if you knew, welcome to the show in this series as we speak to the biggest names in business all across the globe. We talk about their career stories, the lessons, learn how they overcome challenges, and what success habits they practice. Practical advice to help you in your career if you have a passion for business, then this is the podcast for you.
In this episode I’m joined by Tom Kereszti from San Diego in California. Thomas and industry influencer. Coach speaker and educator. He is the author of C-Suite Anne Beyond. Unlock your full potential with four keys of leadership, his approach to leadership comes from a lifetime of international experience. His servant leadership principles are time proven and based on biblical foundations. He’s down to Earth and able to strike a balance between business challenges and common sense solutions. His motivational an engaging style will leave you with practical and applicable solutions that you can put. In to practice Tom, thanks for joining me. Well, thanks for having me halfway across the world. It’s, well, it’s an absolute delight and you know, I don’t really quite know where to start with you. Your background, there’s so much to it. Tell us about your career kind of walk us through the highlights. You’ve been a senior executive for Colgate Phillips Electrics. Many, many companies, not just in the US but all over the world. So there’s a lot to unpack it. A short about a time, but tell us about you. Yeah, it’s been a fun ride. Working all over the world as I like to say it, I’ve lived in six countries and it worked on every single continent with the exception of an arctica. And I don’t think I want to work in in Arctica. That’s a little bit too cold for me, but I always, you know, know, years ago when people ask me that question, I would dwell in a lot of details about business accomplishments. And now I say look, I’m going to Prof. Father of three girls and my legacy should be determined. Not many by how many companies I bought a sold or turned around or made profitable, or how much money I made for. People or myself, it’s more how my kids turn out talking about leadership when you’re talking about mentoring and when you’re talking about coaching. If you can get your family in order, then probably you can get your business in order. Yeah, and I think that’s really interesting, is it? How did you get to the point of becoming a senior executive? What was the journey to getting up to that level? Part of it was luck. Part of it was, you know, being in right place at the right time. Part of it was, you know, just the volume blessing. But the one thing that has been common throughout my career. Is that I always am prepared to grow. I’m never standing still. I’m always preparing to grow I’m always getting myself a little bit better. So the fact is when I got my first expat assignment, which was back in 1991, it took me a two year journey to get that assignment. I just happened to be working in corporate headquarters and was exposed to a lot of senior executives and I had a great mentor who was my boss rank. And Frank decided that well, Frank and I decided together as part of my career plan was to present to four of the senior Executive VP’s at that company at the time. That was our plan and when I went into the first presentation a little bit lower level, the plan kind of blew up ’cause I talk so fast. Food is such an accident. It was such a rapid words into like fire and left and right that people in the room couldn’t understand what I was saying. So Frank said alright. Well, time for speech lessons. So I went to. When Eileen she was great and she helped me with my speech slowed down and being a little bit more comprehensive and then I went back into a few more presentations and over a period of two years I did get to present to four of the senior Executive VP’s at that company and just happen at that particular time in 91 the Iron Curtain came down and that’s where you know, a little bit of luck going. Faith comes into it. ’cause out of 22,000 employees for spoken garrean. But the preparation of two years of. Really presenting to executive VP’s. They knew my name. They know my face and like every Fortune 100 company at the time looked in their database and who spoke those native languages in Eastern Europe. And I was one of four that spoke Hungarian so everybody just met me and said OK well santam so you know it’s preparation. It’s you know as they say, if you started to prepare for an opportunity and when the opportunity arises then you missed it. So you have to prepare, willing to spread. Interesting. But when you say you have these speech listens well. What was you learning in those lessons? Well, it’s self-awareness, self-awareness to say, don’t let just you know where it’s come flying out of your mouth because they come flying out of your brain. You know, just take and what seems like an eternity inside somebody’s mind. You know, know, seconds. It’s really, you know, not a lot of time when you’re having a conversation. So just slow down and let other people’s mind catch up to what you have to say and let your mind catch up to what they say so. It’s just self-awareness. Be ’cause you know when you think you speaking and you hearing yourself inside your head speak. It seems natural to you, but then when you watch yourself on the feedback, it’s a very different thing. This yeah this this really interesting. What? What made you think to go and do that at the time was it something feedback you’d had or was it you know your own sort of self reflection? What made you go out and get that? But training it was just, you know, being in a meeting and firing off a question to one of the senior executives where the executive looked at me and kind of with a blank stare on his face and just don’t think he understood the question and it was really after that meeting that. I sat down with my mentor and he said he was just brutally honest with me. He said thought we need to get you work on your speech ’cause you just, you know, it’s never going to get anywhere if you keep speaking that way. So it was just me receiving feedback from somebody that cared about me and was honest enough to tell me what I needed. I guess being a strong communicator, that’s obviously I lead the company myself and I know this, but that is so important when leading teams and especially when you’re, you know, I can’t imagine how busy you wasn’t. Some of these roles. It must have been. You know, pretty intense, so you know time is time is of the essence I guess. Well, the other thing that I learned over the years is Speaking of communication. Everyone develops their communication skills and starts off with an I probably think 7075% bunker. They are informing right? So I have a point of view. I want to convince you of my point of view. So I inform you and business presentations are informative. Most communications are, you know, people in for one person is informing the other and then the more advanced form of communication is when actually a dialogue takes place. So now people are beginning to listen to the other side. They are beginning to listen to one of you. You know they’re trying to communicate and form common grounds that they can build on. So that’s the second level of communication, and you know 1520% of the folks who are in business or otherwise become Masters of communications. And then there’s a handful of people who understand that the true form of communication is connecting with and you connect with people not through words. You connect with people through their hearts. So now it’s no longer trying to convince somebody that you point of view is correct, and that’s not even listening to the other person, but it’s why are they saying that you know what’s? What’s the perspective?
So? So once you understand how to communicate with people, and once you understand how to connect with people. And understand those emotional connections and that can happen on the stage that can happen in a conference room. Then you can really start moving. Yeah, you make a lot of really good points and you can tell the what you’re saying. You’re some of it’s been there, done that award the T shirt that’s you know. It’s evident in what you’re saying. I, I believe in a lot of what you’re saying. I think this is the main reason why you know I recruit people every day for a living and one of the main people companies lose good people is because they don’t see their perspective. They don’t see things through their eyes. And you know, if you look through the eyes of the beholder. Then, well, I tried to get that time is I think you make some very valid points and I think perspective is everything and that’s one thing you’ve got to understand. You got about savings from other people’s perspective and that’s you know there’s nothing that annoys me more than when you see a big company not look after the perspective of people at every level of the company. But that’s why you go into some shops and some businesses and we have a shot. I don’t know if you’ve heard it over here. We have a shop called John Lewis and it’s a partnership, and you go in and everyone is happy and. Has a voice and feels engaged so you know there’s good examples of it. So tell us obviously you’ve gone in and you sort of turns companies around. Do you feel that if you ’cause? I don’t know what it’s like in the senior executive world, but if you have one bong project that you go to your brought in then it doesn’t go right. Is that kind of a career sort of ender for you? You know you go into a company and you aren’t seem to turn that company around or achieve what you need to do from being bought and well, look in in the. Expatriate world I mean, the reasoning companies assign you to be an expat. Be ’cause you’re good at fixing problems. And I was good at fixing problems so when they sent me into the company, you know my role. You know. Obviously the company was doing great. They wouldn’t send me and they sent me in there to make it better. So you have about a three year window, and in 3 three years you either have fixed the problem or you haven’t fixed the problem. If you haven’t fixed the problem you got fired. If you have fixed the problem, then they want you to go on an fix it bigger and better problem. Was there any problem that you couldn’t fix, and was there ever a challenge? You turn up and you for you know this isn’t gonna work well if you’re asking me if I ever got fired. Yes, I did.
I don’t want to focus on the negatives. Because of the positives, but you know, you obviously learn to listen. Can we talk about the negative or is that are we allowed? Yeah, well, I mean we can make our own rules. Tom Conley in this episode. Here’s the thing. And you know you’ve asked so many questions that I was going to comment on another one. So remind me to talk a little about culture and circle back to that example that you talked about that company. But let me answer this question 1st and Simply put look if you haven’t failed, that means you haven’t tried. So failure is a part of life. Failure was part of my life and if I haven’t failed and a bunch of times, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. So the important thing is learning about failure, right? And the other thing important thing about failure is just accepted. It’s going to happen and most of us are already most of us over exaggerate failure, right? We said of when I first got fired from my job I was shocked. I was just devastated. I, you know, I spent 14 years with the company and my whole identity was wrapped up in that. That company in that job. So when I got fired I just like I didn’t know what to do with myself and it took me about three or four months to lend my next gig and it took me about two or three weeks to come to reality. And Krista say, OK, well I got fired. So what? I’m still the same person. I still have the same knowledge base. I can still do the same things. I’m still a dad. I’m still a husband. I’m still this and that and OK that was just the job. So now I become a free agent and I go to the highest bidder and I started to learn how to market myself and how to. Create a brand for myself so I became a brand. I became a brand of a turn around specialist in emerging markets and you know that kind of makes you or another plateau in my career. But once I accepted the fact that, OK, it’s not me, it’s just a job and I learned why I got fired. I mean you know if you want to go into that I can give you a quick five minute, you know overview of what happened there and why it happened. There’s so many things I want to ask you.
I want to know it all. I think you making some really interesting and valid points, which I think you know so many people can listen to what you’re saying and take these lessons away. So when you go to these companies, do you? ’cause obviously you’re a brand. So are you assessing these companies when if you want to go in there because you know you might tarnish your brand if you go into a company where you can’t turn it around or you know kind of going in? Blind, you know what? What’s the process of acquiring these positions, so to speak? Well, like they you know, I was fortunate enough I’m less than up that people came looking for me. You know, because again, you know I created a brand for myself and I was recognised in emerging market as a turn around specialist so. But I also was very founded in my values so I can’t tell you how many cigarette companies wanted me to work for them and I can’t tell you how many looking for me to work for them. And then I just said, look I, that’s something I don’t want to. You know I had a lot of companies that want me to go to China and I just said look, I’m not going to drag my family to China so you know there are certain things that I will not do. So I was, you know, but I did emerging markets, Latin America and central in Eastern Europe Middle East. So I did. Although so there was some confines that I would put on myself and but it wasn’t so much about the status of the company. I think it was more about the industry. Was it? You know, they do agree with my values and my you know. Ethics and the ones I didn’t like. I wouldn’t pursue this really interesting and I imagine there were some liquor companies prepared to pay you quite a substantial amount of money to come and help them with their products. But now I think it’s good and I think you’ve got to know when to say no. I think being able to say no in business is just as important as at times you know a lot of the time. You do say yes. But yet now I think that’s great. So it’s a culture. Let’s revert back to culture and. Talk about you know your experiences or, well, I guess of cultures, but you know I’ve always said as well when it comes to culture. I personally think it’s very hard to change a culture and I think you can copy everything in a business. Better culture is, you know it’s kind of. It’s very difficult to change a culture when there’s a culture there. So let’s talk about the subject of culture because it’s interesting. So in my 4 keys to leadership, she says so. I mean, the number one is culture and all great organisations have a culture in it. An example you use before where you said you know you know people are in this company and they may not like being there or people are not valued in a company. I mean that that all those comments that you made earlier really are comments about a culture and the one thing that I will say is every company has a culture, every single one. Now you may have not. You know, maybe the leadership of that company was not intentional and making culture happen, but by default at culture will breed itself inside an organisation. So I always take the leaders. You might as well spend a lot of time designing and implementing an living that culture because if you don’t, you’ll end up with one anyway. But you may not like so in that example that you used again every person and I you know whether your attorney or your secretary or you know or you see, oh, it doesn’t matter what you are if you’re going into an organisation, try to understand that it’s so easy today ’cause everybody has a website. I mean years ago websites didn’t exist. So you can really research this. Yet to do it. You know a lot more digging. But now? It’s so easy just clicking them out on any company’s website and their culture and their values should be evident to you. If you yeah culture or clear values outlined on a website, that’s a big yellow flag, right? If you will still see values in a culture that doesn’t really agree with you, don’t even take the interview because I can tell you when you do join that organisation, you’re going to feel I don’t. You know you’re going to really feel out of place. It’s not gonna be for you and it’s just a matter of. Months or a year before they either fire or quit because you just don’t belong in so Ultra is fundamental and not only is culture when a website, not only this culture pinned on, you know, pick up some poster boards and stuff, but it’s a living Organism inside of an organisation where everybody has to breathe in. Everybody has to walk it. Everybody has to talk it. Otherwise. It’s not really culture. Otherwise just you know slogans. Yeah, I really agree with what you’re saying. Really funny finger culture as well because it’s totally not tangible. A lot of the time, and it’s people’s emotions and I think what you said at the start of the show about kind of perspective. But we’ve in my company we’ve got a really good, hard working, good vibe culture and there’s a lot of bad cultures in recruitment with, you know, as an industry or is notorious for IT companies piping people against one another and all sorts. But if a company has. A bad culture? How do you think if you’re going into a company that has a bad culture, how do you change that? You change it from the top you have to address the elephant in the room, right? So when I took over a company in the mid 90s they had a you know what I would call a panic culture. You know they were constantly in panic there were, you know, always behind the numbers. Everybody was constantly panicking and it was chaos. You know, like this. Probably the best way to describe that culture that was in the company. And when I came into the organisation, I, I recognise that really, that there’s either a lack of culture or really the wrong culture and you have to change that. You have to change that by sitting down with a bunch of people in a room and say OK, culture starter values. What are our values? Is respecting each other’s opinion? Is that a value that we all cherish is supporting each other? Is that a culture that we you know? Is that a value that we all cherish? Yeah, so then, rather than people pointing fingers at each other. Panicking then they start supporting each other. They start respecting within the room. They stop arguing, so you build the culture by identifying common values, and I do workshops for companies and will go on to company and will put about 50 quote unquote values on the on the wall and say OK well pick four and then if it’s one is not in the world and you know right now you also everybody pick file values that are so common that that its value to them, that’s their personal values. And then if you have, you know ten 1520 people in a room, then you kind of say all right? Well, what are all those values that all these people have in common? You know, ’cause everybody put down 5. So what’s the common theme? So over, you know, number of iterations you go through identifying five or six values that everybody in the room agrees with, and you know it sounds like a really impossible exercise. But the fact is, I’ve done it so many times. Value said everybody agrees in the room. Yeah, right? So that’s your foundation. You think is essential for a company. Has the actual sketched out values because my company but there’s 25 of us. We don’t have company values, but I think people know what the company values are. I think it’s quite clear. Do you think it’s important for a company to actually ’cause? I think there’s so many values that we expect from people like I couldn’t imagine slimming it to five. We expect people to be a certain way. Or do you think? People need to, you know, be able to see that visually, the short answer is yes. I mean the good news for your company is it seems like even though nobody wrote him down, it seems like you guys all share common values. So on the opposite of that, if you write him down but you don’t share him and you don’t leave him, then it doesn’t do any good either. But capturing them is good because as people leave the organisation or new people join the organisation, it’s good to have that common threat to save. What are our values. So it’s Jenna Buckingham. I mean look, think about it this way, a culture phone organisation is equivalent to a person’s character, right? So you have a character. I have a character and all characters are different, right? You’re you have slightly different values, and I do, I’m, you know, I’m sure we’re not going to have the same identical values for both of us have values and five is a good number. Now you know, maybe 6, maybe seven, you know, but it’s not 20, so you know those are some values that you have, and those are, you know. And that’s what defines you. And that’s what defines me. So who I am is made up of my values and the things that I do with those values that defines my character and it’s the same thing for an organisation. An organisation’s character is their culture. Do you think that it’s a lot of the time when you got these bad cultures? Do you think? Have you had to go in and kind of do a management clear out? Because if the management aren’t on side then it’s you know you’re fighting a losing battle. And, well, absolutely, here’s an example. One of the spot you know, one of the stops that I did, was that I used to work for a company called Benkeser Bank. Easier was a. The Persian company, which was the you know part of the John Benkeser family out of Germany and they were one of the stars of that industry, basically growing at double digits and in the household cleaning industry. Growing at 1718% was unheard of and there was a different company which is called record in Cullman, which is an English company and they were stagnating. You know they were much bigger company than bankies it was but they were stagnating. They were in growing. So what happened? There companies merged by the companies merged and the reason they merged. Was because they board the Board of Directors of Reckoning. Coleman basically said, well, we’re not growing Ann Banquise who was looking to grow and looking to acquire companies so it became what I would call a minority shareholder take over my. So what happened was the two companies merged in even though Bankies was the smaller company. The C-Suite of the new company was the C-Suite of Monkeys. So everybody was, you know, most of the people that were high Flyers in breaking and Coleman were asked it. And the reason we lost it because the company was stagnating was in growing. It wasn’t healthy. So they merge the two companies and they brought the cultural from bank Keizer, which was an entrepreneur. Take no prisoners type of mentality and that ran the company culture and the company going forward. So your 100% being fireworks, merging the two companies together. Opposing values, well, it wasn’t fireworks in the sense that you know any road blocks from the old company. You know they were asked it anyway. And oddly enough, a lot of people from Wrecking Coleman. They said, we love this. You know, we’ve been waiting for this forever. We couldn’t stand the old way of doing it. We were absolutely, you know, we actually racing it with open arms. Come in. Come in. Exactly, so that’s that. Sounds like a nice, easy merger, so kind of moving kind of on tour to what you do now. You obviously you do a lot of work with mentoring an, you know helping people, which I you know I guess isn’t gonna do. Dissimilar to what you were doing before, but you’re doing it for many different people now. So what do you tend to see is there kind of like a typical thing that you find that companies aren’t doing right at the moment? Or you know you? Do you see the same set of challenges come up again and again? Or you know? Or is it quite varied? Well look, every situation is a little bit different but here’s the thing. What if a company’s health and it’s growing and it’s well lead? Then they probably don’t bring me in right? Because if everything is straight then they’ve already figured out that they have to continuously grow. They probably have a strong vision. They probably have a strong culture. They probably put together the great diverse team, so there’s little I can do there. You know where I can add value is where a company stuck there not really growing. Maybe they’re in, you know into it 6-7 eight years and you know they’re now started to hit some Rd hurt, you know growth barriers so for me it always boils down to the five things and you know, that’s why I wrote the book. It’s called its culture, its vision, its strategic growth. It’s a diverse team and it’s connecting. Those are. Those are the five things that I talk about all the time. And whenever I see an organisation that struggling. One or more of those indicators is not working properly, so they may not have a clear vision. Maybe they change visions every three or four years, which is a no-no. Maybe they have a strategic growth that doesn’t really align with their vision, so they’re always constantly distracted by the latest shiny object. Maybe they don’t have a really well balanced, diverse team, So what I found is in all organisations, including the ones that I lead, and including ones that are, you know, that I know people are leading and their successful is. Is those four principles are always at work, and if their company is not successful, then that’s one of those principles is not at work. And honestly this there’s so many good lessons in the book and I can’t believe it’s available for $4.99 your website of water bargain.
And if people do want to go to it, it is leadershipdisciples.com. Go to purchase the book $4.99 and have key to it. Sounds like a very happy, profitable and well running organisation. There we go. Or you can just go to Amazon. It’s on Amazon. It’s on Barnes and Noble so you know it’s a whole bunch of places. It’s everywhere. Fantastic. Kind of so talking about kind of advice. You know what? It’s obviously a challenging time at the moment for any. Business owner I suppose. Even Amazon, they’re probably struggling to keep up with warehouse bills. Every company, no matter whether you’re on the good end of the bad, and this probably challenges. They don’t say that. Don’t honestly don’t seem to stop putting adverts out on TV here, but I don’t think they can get enough delivery. People have challenged that First world problems that so just sort of. What advice would you give to people? I know you’ve spoken about a lot of different things in the book, the different principles and I’d love to unpack even more of it, but where our time together is starting to come to an end, which is a great shame because I’m really enjoying. This episode, but if it goes on too long, I will be in trouble. So tell me what advice would you give to you know, I know this is generic obviously, but you know what would you say to business owners at the moment? Let’s talk about people sme size. It’s not an easy time to have you know a small or medium sized business. What? What would the Tom correctly advice be? Finessed the similar question a couple of times over the last year podcast and I will be consistent with my answer. Not so much for the company before the individual, so I tell each individual look. Draw three circles. And those three circles intersect in one place. I think it’s called a Venn diagram. Put a question in each one of those circles. So the first question is who are you? The second question is, what are you passionate about? And a third question, what are you good at, right? So if you ask those three questions to me who I am, I am. I was. I’m a servant leader. What am I passionate about? I’m passionate about making other people better. I’m at passion about adding value to people and organisations. And what am I good at? I’m pretty good at mentoring and leading so wear those three. Circles intersect, that’s where you should be living your life. So many people doing things that they’re not passionate about. Just for a pay check. Don’t do it. Life is too short now. Some people think there. Some people think they’re good at something, but they’re not really good at it. They just think they’re good at it just now, listen to other people’s feedback. And maybe if you’re not good at something, you should be and look. If you don’t know who you are, then you got a whole big question that you got it. You know it’s the first one you gotta answer is what I think that’s really interesting advice. And I think what you say about. People actually, you know, maybe figure that good. Something that maybe they’re not, but I again, I guess you know perspective, it’s ask other people’s perspective. So there’s many lessons throughout this episode which all kind of tie nicely back into one another, which I really like to make people want to connect with you. Or, again, you know if you do want to buy the book, where can people go to connect with you? The good news is my last name correctly is extremely unique. There’s not a lot of recipes in the world, so. So if you just Google caress the you’ll find my website again, C-Suite, and beyond you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, you can find the book there either in Kindle version hard copy or paperback. So christy.com, even if you misspell it, it’ll come up with me somewhere there. I didn’t you taught me a valuable lesson. There is a silent z kereszti, I’ll just spell it if anyone wants to find out more about Tom, you can go to www.kereszedti.com. Tom, Thank you so much for joining me on this episode. Well actually having me have a great Sunday. God bless that was Tom Kereszti, this is the Career Success podcast. I’m Jason Connolly. Until next time goodbye.