The New Definition of R.O.I and Why Leaders need to know it with John Blumberg

The New Definition of R.O.I. and Why Leaders Need to Know it

John Blumberg

John G. Blumberg

Larry: Welcome to the hive. Today we are honored to have John Bloomberg as our guest on the show. A little bit about John over 20 years ago, he left Anderson, he had been there for 18 years and he went from being a CPA to helping lead Anderson’s recruiting network worldwide. Since then, he’s become a renowned speaker to audiences in many countries across various continents. And one thing about John, he and I have known each other for a while. You know, he always shares that he finds fulfillment and helping others achieve meaningful success. And one reason I wanted to have John on the show today is in addition to being highly regarded for being a professional speaker, he’s authored a number of books and the most recent one I find very, very interesting. And that’s what we wanted to talk on the show today about and that is the new definition of ROI and why leaders need to know it. It’s entitled return on integrity or ROI. So John, welcome to the show.

John: Thanks, Larry. Great to be with you.


What Prompted You To Write This Book

Larry: When we think about this book, return on integrity. The title kind of struck me when I first read it and then as I read the book the same thing, but what was it that prompted you to write this book? R.O.I. Or return on integrity?

John: I think it really started back when I initially wrote a small book called Good to the Core. It was published by a company called Simple Truths. And they have very tight word counts, literally about 8,000 to 10,000 words, and they wanted a book on building value with values, and these are business books, but they’re square and they’re colorful and they’re short, and when they approached me about writing that book, it really threw me into this area much deeper on core values than I’d ever been before. When I talked about leadership and as that book came out and I was thrusted more into conversations on values, I realized that I had only skinned the surface and that really started to bother me because I felt that I had gone down a road that actually opened my eyes to something that we had totally missed. I think in business that we hit as many good things that we had done.

So many things that have evolved, whether it was an EQ or whether it was in technology. The one thing that we really had in mind to the fullest extent was this idea of integrity. So I actually went on this adventure that I thought would be one year to write the leadership version of return on integrity and Larry, that ended up being a four year journey and I’d like to think it wasn’t my procrastination, it’s just that I began to dive into it and have discussions about it. People started asking some really good questions and the more questions they asked, the more I realized, that I needed to think about it, that I needed to investigate, that I needed to research. And that really still continues today, but I’m hoping I am much further down the road than I was originally.

Larry: Yeah, most of the folks I’ve talked that have written a book. It always seems to take them two to three times longer than they had planned. Just because of the richness of the content and really the complexity of getting across that message. Let me ask you, everyone seems to agree that integrity is important. It’s one of those topics that if I went out in the marketplace and I said, is integrity important? No one says I don’t think that’s really out there. You know I don’t value that, but integrity doesn’t seem to come up for discussion in business except when something goes wrong, at least in my experience. So why do you think that is? Why is it that integrity character and some of those types of things don’t come up until things have gone wrong in business?


When Things Go Wrong In Business

John: Yeah, I think part of it is, it really backs up to the idea that we assume that we understand what integrity is because we’ve all of what we think it is. We probably could, you know, survey a thousand people and we get a lot of different answers to that question. But I think the bottom line on this is that we understand, you know, a hundred foot well about an inch deep, and it’s not that they don’t intend to understand it, it’s just they haven’t really given a lot of thought or we’ve assumed that we fully understand what it means. So it begins there and I think it’s the reason why people will say, no, I believe it’s important, but don’t really do anything with it. Whereas initially when I first started speaking on leadership, I would say the core values and integrity were part of the message that it was one thing.

The more I come to understand integrity, I’ve come to realize it is everything. Everything comes from that. And so I think the deeper that we understand integrity, it would have more reason to come up. We could see where it fuels everything that we do, no matter what process, no matter what vision, mission, it’s involved in everything, but only understand it, at about an inch deep, which seems like it’s pretty conclusive then we’re probably not going to think about it a whole lot. I would say the deeper you understand it, it’s on your mind a lot more and therefore it comes up in a lot of conversations. So I think it first comes, do I really truly understand what integrity is? And I think the three words that I have found that starts people on the journey is that integrity is about being whole and entire and undiminished. In other words, everything is connected, it’s all integrated. And that just sets you off on a kind of a journey, to see, you know, so many things and a lot of different ways than we’ve ever seen it before. It’s just not a simple concept. So I think that’s where it really works, where it begins.


Do Core Values Become a Veneer?

Larry: Really good insights. I appreciate you sharing that in the book. And you just were talking about core values and as I was reading it in the book, you state that core values often become a veneer. And I really liked that word and we’ve talked a little bit more about that, but you state the core values. Often become a veneer that sits in front of something else. And I guess the question I have for you is do you think that statement is more or less true about organizations? I know you wrote this book a few years ago. Do you think that’s truer now or less true than when you first wrote the book?

John: Yeah, so when I started that four-year journey of writing the book, it felt really clear to me that it was very much a veneer and there were a lot of organizations that were, you know, talking about core values. They were putting them on walls and screensavers. I think we’ve made a few steps forward maybe because of some tragedy or something’s happened with an organization, but Larry, I’m not so sure we’ve made anywhere the progress that we need to make. In fact, I would think that if you kind of think that you understand this and think it’s the issue that it really goes back to what I was talking about earlier on integrity is if we think there are just some nice words that you can put up and hopefully everybody falls in line with those. We are continuing to see core values as a compliance exercise rather than the deep potential of unleashing everything.

And so I would say it’s still pretty veneer and I don’t think it’s by intention. I think again it’s this issue of how deeply do you understand it, to begin with. And one of the ways to test that is to look at the values and ask yourself the question, are they really core values or are they just really good behaviors? And almost always what you’ll see on the list of organizations is they’re just really good behaviors like lead by example or there are things that are good to do and hopefully fueled by core values, but they’re not core values themselves. So again, I think it goes back to really understanding what is a core value. Otherwise, they’re pretty much going to be veneered.


The Impact of Social Media

Larry:  That’s a good point. And the reason I asked that question and as I think about, I love the term the veneer, I think in today’s society, in today’s world, in today’s business, whether it be your behaviors, whether it be your, your offerings into the marketplace, social media has become interestingly this place where you can put a veneer on a number of things. Knowing some organizations I work with, many organizations, some of them I know they very, very good at what they do. Sometimes they create a service offering that has, you know, maybe a little behind it. And I think in today’s world on social media, this could be an entire series. We won’t have time to get into it. But, behaviors, integrity, those types of things. Obviously, people want to put their best foot forward. But in today’s world, there’s a lot of veneers that you can put on that you know, what you put out into the society and into the marketplace as to who you are and what you believe maybe versus what sits behind that. So I think that’s a really important part.

John:  You make a great point there on the whole social media thing because it’s almost training us to live on the surface and that it’s okay. You can know put that when you’re out there. In the book, I tried to use the metaphor of veneer on furniture. It’s specifically designed to make it look like it’s more expensive than what it really is and it’s more quality than it really is and I would hope when it comes to integrity and core values that the richness of it, the depth of it is really what makes it valuable and putting a veneer on that type of thing actually is worse than doing nothing. I would go on record of saying it is better to do nothing than create a veneer of something that should be substantial.

Larry: I do a lot of word study and you know when I think about this veneer, to your point on the point of furniture, if you’re not careful when it comes to core values and behaviors, putting veneer on that while some people do it on services and offerings and things like that as they’re building it. I think on core values when they put a veneer, if they’re not careful, it comes across as hypocritical and you get into a number of areas. There were, you know, you’re putting something out there that it’s not, and I think you’re absolutely right. Social media, whether that be LinkedIn or on the more social side, Facebook, I think there’s a lot of folks that you know, portray themselves or put a veneer on the way that they want to be perceived in society.

John: I think it’s important there, Larry, to realize that it can create an hypocrisy . I think most often that’s not the intent. They really are intended to do something meaningful, but it doesn’t change the truth. If they’re not willing to go the full distance with it, it creates the hypocrisy and good people can fall into the trap of that hypocrisy.


Starting With A Blank Sheet of Paper

Larry: Great Point. All right, John, regarding how to assess your core values in the book, one thing that stood out to me is you state to start with a blank sheet of paper. As I was reading, I was thinking, okay, here comes the next step, so you’re going to tell me three, four, five, you know, here are the things that I should be thinking about. Why is it that you say start with a blank sheet of paper? When you think about assessing your core values?

John: I think it’s because it’s the fastest way to get to the truth of whether you know your core values or not, and I often a bit tongue in cheek and trying to assess that. I created this really sophisticated tool to be able to do it and it’s called a blank sheet of paper because the truth is if we say that we know our core values, which most people would say that they do, they might assume that they’re value based or that they’ve got a gut feeling or an intuition, which by the way I think might have worked 30 years ago, but in today’s speed of change, I think it’s a really risky formula. So part of it is, I think it opens your eyes. It’s like a silent alarm going off saying, I don’t know this as well as I thought I did, and that with the blank sheet of paper exercise that I’ve done with so many audiences, that’s precisely the words that we’ll use like, wow, I didn’t realize how little I knew about my core values.

Here’s the thing though is most people would rather go to a list and just be able to pick off the ones that sound right and here’s the part that’s so important, but digging to your core is just as important as what you find when you get there. In other words, the wrestling match and the struggle and the confusion, that complexity, all of that I think serves a purpose and your understanding, you know, of what your values are. When I first started it, I just assume most professionals knew their core values. I thought 95% pretty much of the ask what their core values were that they could name those and the percentage was right. Unfortunately, it was flipped only about 5% and doing the blank sheet of paper exercise can actually come pretty close to naming a rich set of core values that they know well. And so when I first started, when I said knowing your core values, I meant literally being able to list them.

And by the way, an organization’s, if you give them a blank sheet of paper and say, what are the values of the organization that are proclaimed? And I don’t care if they’re on walls or on screensavers or on stationery, the percentage doesn’t get any better. About 95% cannot list what the values are. So I started with this idea of knowing your core values. What I’ve come to realize is that is just like, you know one on one the class one on one of that when you did for your core values and then eventually start to say, okay, I’m going to go out and try to live this. That’s really where you get to know them. And if you have really wrestled to get to them, you’re at a much better point of really understanding what you have claimed that value to be. And really the blank sheet of paper is the first taste of I think the reality. And the truth, how difficult this journey can be, but also how rich and rewarding they can be when you put the effort into it.


The Guiding Principles Behind Core Values

Larry: You one thing as you were talking about that, that comes to me oftentimes when people talk about their core values and then they talk about what’s important to them, and I’ve often heard it said, you know, if you want to see what’s important, you know, you look at your calendar or your, your date book and you look at your checkbook and where you spend your money. And I’ve often thought that’s really what you do. Do you, as you defined core values, is that really the guiding principles in the curves around how you do what you do? Or is it really more the focus of what?

Yeah. You one thing as you were talking about that, that comes to me oftentimes when people talk about their core values and then they talk about what’s important to them, and I’ve often heard it said, you know, if you want to see what’s important, you know, you look at your calendar or your, your date book and you look at your checkbook and where you spend your money. And I’ve often thought that’s really what you do. Do you, as you defined core values, is that really the guiding principles in the curves around how you do what you do? Or is it really more the focus of what?

We go drifting away and one day we wake up in a place that we never meant to be drifting in a direction we never would have chosen. So when we think about our checkbook in our calendar, I don’t know if that reflects your values or that reflects your drift. However, what I would say is by going to those and looking at what is going on, there is a great data point that probably stirred some reflection that helps, you know, along the way in the dig. But, there’s a lot of good data points. In fact, on my website, I over a two year period asked audiences to do the blank sheet of paper exercise and then at the end of that session I would ask them to rewrite what they had come up with and turn it in if they were willing to do so. So I could accumulate a list.

So actually on my website, I came up with a list of about 750 different words that people came up with. When first asked to do the blank sheet of paper. I felt comfortable that there are so many words on there that you don’t fall into the trap of saying, Oh, I’m just going to pick my three or four favorite words. It’s really designed to print it, out circle words, star words, let words trigger other words. And so all of those data points can be helpful in doing the dig to help you discover what is there. The listeners want to go out and grab that. They can just go to and they can just grab a pdf of that there, but I would suggest a lot of data points to be able to help you on your dig. Just don’t fall in the trap of taking the easy route and letting something tell you what your values are.

Leaders With Integrity

Larry: As I was reading the book, obviously it’s about integrity, but it’s that focus on leaders and what that means for leaders. As with most topics in business leaders have to lead by example or go first. How would you suggest, John, that a leader set an example with regards to integrity or as you refer to it in the book, what you called a leaders I do. What does that look like? How does a leader lead out with integrity in that way?

John: Yeah, so on the leader version of return in integrity, it was literally written for that leader at the top. I mean individually to that person. So the bottom line answers your question blank sheet of paper and they need to begin the process themselves individually, not for the organization, but for them individually as a human being in a leadership role. In fact, I think I say in the book that don’t even think about rolling this out in your organization until you’ve done about six months of work yourself. Now I know that sounds like a really long time, but it takes time, it’s like you can’t force a rose the bloom quicker than it’s meant to bloom. Right. And I think the same thing is true with this is if they’re patient with it and then they’re persistent with it and really discover their own core, they show up to their leadership team to be able to lead them to do exactly the same thing individually.

Quote from the podcast

And they’re in a far better position then to see what they need to do to name the organization’s core values. And the reason I think this is so important is because it doesn’t change what the leader sees, but it significantly changes where they see it from. In other words, they are now looking through a completely different Lens, a lot more depth. And when they do that themselves, they can’t help but to show up in a much richer way to be able to guide others on the leadership team and then to be able to guide the organization to do it. You know, collectively, ultimately it’s literally every single person in the organization being able to do the same thing. But you can’t do the, I do if you haven’t done the homework, cause we go full circle back to that where we started, Larry, on that whole idea of the veneer, right?

They can’t have a veneer on themselves. And I know from our prior conversations, you know that I fully believe that personal core values are a key part of this, it’s not just the organization’s core values. The truth is that people show up to work with their personal core values in play. Whether we want to admit that or not. And frankly, whether they know what they are or not. It’s not that people don’t have core values, it’s just that most don’t actually know what they are. And that starts with the person at the very top.

Connect With Us

Larry: I agree. It all rises and falls with leadership as they say, so I couldn’t agree more with that. Well, with that, I’d like to wrap up this podcast, and again, thank you, John, for being our guest. Always an honor to have you with us. I would recommend all of our listeners to go out to John’s website. We’ll put that in the podcast notes, put John’s LinkedIn information if you’d like to connect with him. And again, this book, return on Integrity, endorsed by Patrick Lindsey, only Ken Blanchard, and others, obviously very credible book, very interesting read. I think it’s a good insight. And on our podcast, we always try and think about how talent is developing. And one of the things this underlying tenant of integrity and core values is always present. So I would encourage our listeners to go out and get a copy of the book. All right, well that does it for this episode of the hive. I appreciate you joining us. Until next time.