Value Talks Ep 8: Words to Live By

Hosted by Travis Tasset, the Value Talks podcast explores a range of topics that matter to people, including healthcare, leadership, and culture. In Episode 8, Travis and I discuss the values that drive the culture of our organizations and the declarations we make related to our values. You can listen to the full episode here.

Transcript of Episode 8

Welcome to another episode of Value Talks with your host Travis Tasset.

Travis Tasset: Welcome, thank you everyone for joining us. This is Travis Tasset and I’m joined again today with Dan Tasset. Dan, thank you for joining me again today.

Dan Tasset: Thank you, Travis.

Travis Tasset: Last episode we talked about New Year’s resolutions and having a vision and setting goals for ourselves in particular. Something I want to talk with you today about is how language and the words we use tie into that. You mentioned to me the other day that you wanted to talk through the words that you feel we should live by as a culture in our organizations. Where was that coming from? Where were you coming from with that?

Dan Tasset: I just know in my own life that when I am able to do more, become more, kind of set my sights out there for what Dan Tasset plus 10 looks like or our company’s plus 10 looks like, meaning 10 years from now what does that look like, that if I make certain declarations about what I’m doing, that sort of helps me move in the right direction. I don’t know where the quote came from but you gave it to me quite a few years ago that said, “Your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts.” That’s certainly been true with me. So, if my life is moving in the direction of my strongest thoughts I would certainly want to try to have a little bit of control about those thoughts. At least for me, making declarations helps control those thoughts and then subsequently my life moves in the direction of those thoughts and I am able to become what I want to become, do what I want to do. The whole idea behind this podcast for me, words to live by, which is making declarations, which has worked for me personally, the question is, “Will it work in business?” I believe it will, I believe it has. This will be more about business, but we’ll blend in a little bit of personal part of that as well. I know you have even talked about every word in our language falls into one of five categories and one of those five categories is a declaration. It might be interesting for you maybe just to tee that up and why declarations are important.

Travis Tasset: Sure. This is work I came across from the book You Are What You Say by Doctor Matthew Bud, which I believe is a Harvard physician, and I think he started their Ways to Wellness program. It’s all about the words that we use and the language and how that impacts our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual well being and health. Out of all the words we use, believe it or not, and he was exposed to this model from I think Fernando Flores and Humberto Maturana, which are Chilean philosophers and scientists – I believe both of them are Chilean, one of them is if not both. The framework was of all the words that we use, tens of thousands of words in our language, it only boils down to five actions that we can take together. Those five actions are number one, we can make a request of each other. I can ask you, “Dan, will you do this?”, whatever “this” is. I can ask anybody. We make requests of each other all day long. Number two, I can make a promise to fulfill that request. “Yes, Dan, I will do what you asked of me, and I’ll do it by this date.” That’s a promise to fulfill a request that someone has made of me. Number three is a declaration. I think of it in terms of a promise to do something that maybe wasn’t initiated by a request from someone else. So, if I just make a declaration that I am going to do this, or I am doing this, it kind of brings something into existence that didn’t exist before. A couple of good examples within our history is, number one, the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence declared the sovereignty and the freedom and the individuality of the United States as a sovereign nation separate from England. Or “You’re now pronounced man and wife,” that’s a declaration that at that point in time when the marriage is brought together, that is now a couple, and it starts with that declaration. Or I think of sometimes of a vision that someone has, a great leader, someone like Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I have a dream.” To me that was a big declaration in terms of the vision that he saw for the future. Number four: we can make an assessment, which is essentially an opinion about something. “I think this is going to happen.” That may or may not come to fruition, it’s just my opinion, my viewpoint. And then number five is an assertion, which is a statement of fact that’s usually backed up by evidence. If I say, “It’s 70 degrees out,” I can actually point to a thermometer and show you, “Look, there is evidence and this is a factual assertion that’s proven to be true because we have a measurement and evidence to prove that.” All the words; we’re making promises, requests, declarations, statements of opinion. assessments or assertions. We can get crossways with any one of those, which we may talk about in a future podcast.

Dan Tasset: What we’re talking about here today is what I call words to live by or really declarations for us that I believe helps control your mind and then subsequently your personal life moves in the direction of your strongest thoughts and your company moves in the direction of what you think about most often. That tees up the discussion I think very well for us.

Travis Tasset: We started 12-18 months ago to kind of take a reset and reflect on the values that we have as a culture and as an organization, and we came up with four statements. You want to walk us through each of those and then we’ll expand on them after we go through those four.

Dan Tasset: You guys did a great job of really kind of analyzing what we’re doing as an organization and frankly all the different companies that we have and we’re involved with and our leadership and what we have historically done as a culture and what we believe and what are our principles, what values do we determine. As a result of that work that you did, we came up with four categories or four statements. Those were basically we care (number one), number two: we learn, number three: we have fun, number four: we get results. When I send out emails or sometimes even printed on t-shirts, company logos or whatever, we put that beneath the logo because it really makes a statement about what we are as an organization, what values we hold true. The work that you did a year ago really prompted these four categories.

Travis Tasset: We came across these different cultural characteristics using the integrated culture framework. I think Harvard Business had an issue about it last year, some really good research on organizations and their cultural characteristics. Those four being caring – we want to care, learn – we want to be learning, we want to have a culture of having fun and enjoying ourselves at the same time that we’re getting results and we don’t want one at the expense of the others. That’s how we kind of landed on those four. Let’s expand on the four statements into more declarations, and let’s bring those to life. Let’s start with “we care.” We’ve expanded on that to include the statement “we value relationships and build trust through transparency.” Talk to me a little bit, Dan, about your thoughts on how caring connects to relationships, and how does that connect to trust and transparency?

Dan Tasset: We probably ought to come up with some terminology. The declaration that we’re saying that we care and the two sub categories underneath there that we value relationships and we build trust and transparency. You’re probably going to be able to put a lot more science behind but generally speaking for me, relationships both in personal life and in a company, and I’ll address the relationships in a company, are so important. As I look at our past and I think where have we not made good progress as an organization, where have we failed, where have we not accomplished what we wanted to accomplish in a given year or in any given timeline, it seemed like relationships were always at the center of that failure. I don’t know what the definition of cynicism is or a cynical person is, and I don’t think it necessarily has to manifest itself in a statement.

If you’re in a meeting and you’re trying to do something and somebody makes a comment that’s not helpful, it’s disruptive to what you’re doing and doesn’t really advance the ball, everybody can point out a pretty cynical person, but I think sometimes that takes place behind the scenes as well. I think when I’ve seen that in the past it always feels like, to me, it comes out as a result of insecurities. We all have them, it’s just that some of us are a little bit more mature than others and able to actually deal with those insecurities and others who aren’t able to deal with them, it comes out in really harmful cynicism. I think the antidote to that is true relationships that are authentic with people that you’re around to where they don’t have to – where your insecurities kind of tame themselves because you’re in an authentic relationship and you get comfort in that relationship. So, through a mature relationship it helps mature your ability to control the insecurities, and it just provides a nice, stable environment on which you can thrive personally and an organization can thrive. For me it’s just all about valuing relationships and that those relationships are authentic, they’re real.

The other part of that declaration about “we care” is “we build trust through transparency.” You’ve heard me talk about this over and over again with an organization. I always equate trust in an organization like the immune system of your body. If you lack trust, you’re going to have problems, and if you don’t have the trust it will erode your entire organization just as if you didn’t have an immune system in your body and you catch a cold, it will destroy and eventually kill you. The same is true with a lack of trust in an organization. That old saying “one bad apple will spoil the whole barre” is so true. Trust in an organization, a lot of people call it water fountain talk, backstabbing, there’s a lot of words for it, those are all lack of trust. Trust in an organization is so important, and I think it’s really about the best way to build trust is to be very transparent about everything that you’re thinking, feeling and doing, and deliver that transparency to the right mailbox. Talk to the right person, don’t get involved in what you always called triangulation, but actually deliver that transparency to the right person. Not be afraid, have the courage to say this is what I’m thinking, this is what I’m feeling, this is what I think we should do, and be completely transparent about what you did and what you want to do and what you’re thinking about I think then builds that trust and embraces the whole organization with an immune system and helps relationships. That’s kind of what that first one’s about, “we care.” It’s a lot more than just staying the words.

Travis Tasset: If you think about it, what is an organization but a group of people combined with equipment, resources, computers, etc., and perhaps structure, a building, but we accomplish more together than we do as individuals. That’s the whole point, that we form families and tribes and communities and organizations because collectively we can do more together. I think of capital today in terms of three different types; there is financial capital, which for most people is the only form that they think about, but there’s also human capital and social capital that we can build together. That’s only done through what you just said, through trust, through transparency, through communication, through building relationships. We’ve often said within our own culture that people aren’t our greatest asset, they’re our only asset at the end of the day. They’re the ones providing the solutions, providing the service and everything else.

Dan Tasset: One of the feedbacks that I got from our annual meeting this past year was the way in which I talked about our organization and our people appeared to them to be very authentic and that I was very real and sincere about the way I care about our people. It’s not just the way it appears, it’s the way it really is. But the reason it is that way for me is because of the relationships that I have. It’s really hard to build an authentic relationship with somebody – a really transparent, authentic, real relationship – and then end up not caring about them. So, that’s really what supports the “we care.”

Travis Tasset: Even evidence of doctors who maybe have been negligent in some ways, they won’t get sued for malpractice if they have a good relationship with the patient. There’s so many ways this can play out. Obviously emotional capital is a very valuable currency that we have within an organization. Let’s turn our attention to this second statement: “we learn” and the sub-statements. Do you want to go ahead and go through those?

Dan Tasset: The sub-statements are that we always seek knowledge, and the second one is that we embrace change.

Travis Tasset: How does learning connect with knowledge, connect with embracing change? Talk me through that.

Dan Tasset: Good question. I always say change is inevitable one way or another and in an organization you’re either growing or you’re dying, and it just seems like that’s the way life is in general. If you want to be more and you want to do more, you have a vision about the company plus 10 years and what does that look like? You need to really embrace change. What change do you want to embrace? What sort of pivots do you want to make in your organization? You can’t really make those decisions until you really have more knowledge about the world around you. I just think it’s critically important in life and in business to understand the industry that you’re in as an organization and understand everything about it. I never hesitate anytime that I think there’s any ounce of knowledge or learning that I can get a hold of in any given day. I’ll tell you just yesterday, generally speaking our parent organization is Nueterra Capital, private equity firm invested in healthcare. Anytime there’s anything that I need to be knowing about or learning about or have more knowledge about in healthcare I’m going to embrace it.

The day before yesterday I communicated with Brandon (Tasset) about the HIMSS conference in Orlando, all about technology and healthcare, who’s going to go, who’s going to do it, how are you going to walk the floor, how are you going to get information? I got three different publications yesterday in the mail, electronically of course. I sorted down through those, what articles, is there anything there that I don’t know. Some we’re actually further ahead of, obviously discard those but the ones that I think I can learn something from, I learn that. Last night was the State of the Union address. I’d rather watch the KU/K-State basketball game but I knew that it was likely that the president was going to talk something about healthcare. I want to know what’s going on, what he’s thinking, what Congress is thinking, assuming they’re transparent about the State of the Union address. Those are just examples. You have to glob onto every bit of knowledge so that you know where you want to make change and what direction that you want to have ahead and where you want to pivot and how you want to pivot so that when you end up where you said you wanted to be that you’re satisfied with where you end up. Knowledge and learning is key to that.

Travis Tasset: You mentioned understanding the industry. How does that play out – if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me what we were talking about just before we pressed “record” on this, when you’re out speaking to groups of physicians and someone challenges a statement that you made, how do you approach that? Because most people don’t like those objections. Let’s talk a little bit about that because you’re learning in that moment. What’s your approach to that?

Dan Tasset: My basic belief is, I think there’s something to be learned from everybody. I don’t care who they are, I don’t care if they’re objecting to what you’re doing or whether they’re even a heckler, I think there’s something to be learned. I just never, ever discount anybody. Now, I might block them from my Twitter account, but I only block them after I’m done listening to what they have to say or looking at what they do. If we’re sitting here and we’re talking or I’m lecturing in front of a big organization and I’ve got somebody that disagrees with what I’m saying, I’ll probe more because not only do I want to understand and have clarification of their objection, more importantly, I think I might learn something from their objection. At the very minimum, I’m learning what I need to do to make my point better down the road. Probing is completely different than arguing. I think arguing is a waste of time. Life is too short, it makes no sense to me. Why would I argue? I want to probe, I want to understand, I want to make my point and then I can make a decision if he or she doesn’t agree with what I’m doing, I move on without them or move on with them, and they can make their own decision as well. It’s just all a part of learning and knowledge. I think it’s just critically important.

Travis Tasset: I think you’re a good example of that for so many of us, that curiosity is one of the greatest tools that I think we can have as leaders as individuals, so to be really curious goes back to Covey’s “seek first to understand and then to be understood” to really understand where the other person is coming from, versus just listening for confirmation of what we already think. And then fierce conversation talks about interrogating reality, and as you know we’ve rolled out fierce conversations in that training program throughout our organization. So we put our money where our mouth is in terms of caring about the value of learning, always seeking knowledge and embracing change. Let’s move on to the third statement that we have, which is we have fun and those sub-statements tied to that are, “we think hard but work smart and play a lot.” So, talk to me about the connection between having joy, fun and thinking hard and working smart. How does that tie into playing a lot? Most people would not align those.

Dan Tasset: It’s a great question, interesting and one that we get a lot. If you think about it for a minute, while I think that the preferential work that you’re doing should be, “I really enjoy what I’m doing,” or you should do something else. I think that you can integrate “play a lot” during work; you can joke, you can be humorous, you can pull tricks on people, but work is still work. I still look at it as although some of it can be integrated together, life is one indivisible whole, as Gandhi said, I still think I want to make time for play, true play. You can’t make time for play, in other words we can’t play a lot, if all you do is work. People who work long, long hours, brag about working long hours, don’t impress me at all. What impresses me is people who not work hard 60-70 hours a week but people who think hard and then are able to work smart and be very effective in execution and what they get done because they have thought about it a long time. I always say the term “think hard” and then “work smart” and that gives you the opportunity to play a lot. If you kind of dig down into that there’s a whole bunch more that we’re not going to have time for, but I always tell people missing your son’s soccer game at 6:00 in the evening doesn’t impress me, because you’re working, that actually, I think it’s disgusting to me. I want you to go to the soccer game. What I might want you to do – and be engaged, be completely present and there for your child, for your family but maybe when your son’s not playing, is on the sideline and you don’t particularly care about engaging and watching the other kids, maybe you can think at that time, and think really hard and use a few minutes. People say, “Oh, I’m so busy, I don’t have any time.” How many hours did you spend watching TV where you could have spent thinking really hard? There’s a lot of opportunity to do other things while you’re thinking hard, exercise, so forth and so on. So, you can actually leverage your time in a great way. That’s kind of what that’s all about.

Travis Tasset: I want to share with everyone listening a Henry Ford quote and that is, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” We need to have that space in our lives in order to be efficient and productive. That’s why a lot us have this insightful, a-ha moments when we’re taking a shower. That’s in our downtime, we need the rest and the downtime to actually be most productive. If anybody’s interested in looking at some of the research on that there’s a really great book called Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle. This is a book that I recently came across and read and now every Friday evening to Saturday evening for the last two weeks I’ve turned off my cell phone and completely been disengaged from the internet or social media or anything like that, just to give myself that space to be present with my family and to just unplug a little bit from the world of the 24/7 always on, connected lifestyle that we seem to be living right now. It’s partly an observance of the Sabbath, but not religious, but I can bring my spirituality into that, but just of the need to have the downtime. Highly, highly recommend that book for anybody that wants to look into the benefits of taking a hard break.

Let’s talk about the last one then, Dan. “We get results,” and the sub-statements are “we connect to a vision, mission and purpose and engage with a passion for execution.” How do you see results tied to vision, mission and purpose, tied to execution? Talk me through that.

Dan Tasset: Let me kind of do it in reverse order. What I love about the statement, the declaration of a passion for execution, is you can see it in our organization. By the way this was made over the last year since we started these basic declarations, it’s made a tremendous difference in our organization. What we’ve accomplished, the direction we’re heading, what we’re becoming and what we’ll look like here in the next year or two, let alone 10 years from now. The passion for execution is when you accomplish something. So, the Vince Lombardi quote of being on the field of battle and the joy that comes from when you leave the field of battle that you actually accomplished something, you got something done, you left victorious. Our organization has passion for ring of the bell, high five each other, we got it done, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish and the enthusiasm and the passion that comes from getting that done, executing –

Travis Tasset: And celebrating those wins.

Dan Tasset: And celebrating those wins, it all goes together. That is becoming a real part of our culture and it’s critical to a high performance organization, having that passion. Again it’s like you described, it’s just the enthusiasm ending in the celebration for little wins, big wins, annual wins, monthly wins, whatever it might be. It starts with connecting to vision, mission, purpose, which means, again, if I’m going to leave this location and drive to another location I need to have a pretty clear path to get there. In other words, I need to know what the map looks like. First, it starts with knowing where you want to go. So, if I’m in New York and I want to go to LA, I know that the vision is to get to LA. Vision for me is what do you want your organization to be. Like I said, your company plus 10 years. What do you want it to be in 10 years? What do you want it to be, what do you want it to do, what do you want it to have, that’s the vision. The mission is the battle cry, the day-to-day when you get up and you’ve got to charge the hill and things become tough, it’s the day-to-day battle cry on how you do things on any given day. Purpose, of course, is the why. Why are we doing all this? Why do we even have a vision and why do we want to become that and why do we want to do that and why do we want to have that? That’s the purpose behind it. It starts with the reason you were created, you believe you were created, you put the organization together, the reason the organization exists. It’s one thing to execute, just make sure that as you’re executing or climbing the ladder, the ladder is leaning on the right wall so that you get to where you want to get. There’s a good quote by Abraham Lincoln I think as well, that success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you –

Travis Tasset: Have.

Dan Tasset: Yes, so I just think vision mission starts with that, knowing where you want to go and then the passion for execution. It’s all about getting results.

Travis Tasset: Perfect. I think we walked through each of those statements. Thank you for taking the time, Dan, and talking through those declarations. I’ll read through them one last time in its entirety. We care, we value relationships and build trust through transparency. We learn, we always seek knowledge and embrace change. We have fun, we think hard, work smart and play a lot. We get results, we connect to vision, mission and purpose and engage with a passion for execution. Thank you, Dan.

Dan Tasset: Thank you, Travis.

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