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Joel Manby shares how Love Works even at Work

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Inspiration At Work

Inspiration At Work


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Former Auto Industry CEO bails out "Bankrupt Life," discovers new "LOVE WORKS" philosophy.  Joel is the CEO of Hershend Entertainment but you probably know him best as one of the most popular "Undercover Boss" features. 

In this show, Joel is just himself...transparent, vulnerable, teachable.  In other words, Joel Manby is a truly authentic and inspiring leader. 

"We've been conditioned to believe that love can only be talked about at home.  I believe it is both appropriate and curcial for agape love to be practiced all day, every day, at home and at work." 


0:06 Terry Barber

Hello, Terry Barber here, Inspiration at Work. Welcome back to another fantastic edition as this is the most positive talk radio station on the planet where we shine the light on business leaders in around the world, who are doing great things, inspiring things both at work and through work that make us better people and the world a better place. Today is an incredible show because we have with us former Undercover Boss and now CEO of Herschend Entertainment, Joel Manby. Joel, thank you for being here and welcome to the show.

0:45 Joel Manby

Thank you so much, Terry. It's great to be here.

0:47 Terry Barber

And we are going to have a great time. I have loved your book Love Works.

0:51 Joel Manby

Thank you.

0:53 Terry Barber

It is a little bit -- a kind of story a counterintuitive for a business book to begin with.

0:58 Joel Manby

It's a very counterintuitive.

1:00 Terry Barber

So you know, I want to get into part of the details and depth around the book, but I'd love for you to tell us a little bit about why the book, I mean you got a big job guide.

1:11 Joel Manby

That's it.

1:12 Terry Barber

You didn't need anymore -- well, I mean to deal with it.

1:14 Joel Manby

I am not an author. It turned out well actually so far. The appearance and story, I chose being an Undercover Boss which was a big risk to begin with and that was the first season. We had no idea how well it was going to do with the show, but 18 million people saw our show and we were in need with response from around the world about people who want to work for our company like ours or leaders like ours. And I knew it from carrying that feedback that there was a leadership crisis in the country and not the world and that's what motivated me to write the book.

1:50 Terry Barber

Well, I love how throughout the book, you are incredible, transparent, vulnerable, in many kinds teachable, so once again, this is really counterintuitive on how most corporate leadership is perceived. So it is that really truly who you are?

2:12 Joel Manby

Absolutely. I try to be very transparent, because I think my theory is there are a lot of people in the work world that are very frustrated to what they are experiencing from leadership. In fact, the New York Conference Board says that 50% of people hate their jobs and I think a lot of reason we don't have turnover right now is just because the economy is so bad, for the people could lead and a lot of people would. I know, I was one of those frustrated people in my 20-year career with General Motors and I have a lot of horror stories I could tell, but there were some good experiences too. But I was frustrated and I was looking for a better way with the Undercover Boss experience showed me that there are millions who are looking for a better way. Unfortunately for me, I learned that better way from the Herschend's who own Herschend Entertainment which is where I work today. So I felt the real calling frankly to spread this word and show the people that there is a better way to lead. It doesn't have to be like it is in most large companies and many small companies.

3:11 Terry Barber

So when you've got begin -- to get your response as we saw that had been the Undercover Boss which by the way you've probably got a bad is absolutely marvelous. So I have read this work binding book just for that. But were you giving responses also from other bosses or other leaders?

3:30 Joel Manby

I was getting a lot of response from leaders and they said thank you for showing us a different way -- a better way. And I was asking responses from followers who said I wish my leader was like you. So there was both end which was really, really encouraging. And the response from the book so far, it's just been a huge blessing. In fact, perhaps we can reach number one now that it is on the leadership category. Believe it or not.

3:52 Terry Barber


3:53 Joel Manby

It is now on the top five and I hope it stays there, but it wasn't updated, it's resonating. It was fantastic.

4:00 Terry Barber

Fantastic and congratulations. But also how exciting it is that it is so interesting for people. And I just think it is because fans even maybe two to three, four years ago that maybe it wouldn't be that way.

4:13 Joel Manby

Well, yeah. I think it has gotten worse in every session and we have seen so many newspaper articles about corrupt business or business with better but doing the wrong thing for the consumer, for the customer, for their employees, actually people are getting a little bit fed up with it and we need more inspiring companies which I know is what your whole show is about and your career is about. So I think it would perfectly align in that.

4:38 Terry Barber

I love that. So I'm glad, we could be soul brothers in that.

4:41 Joel Manby

Yeah. And it's hard, you know how hard it is. And then people who read this book will see that it is a very hard thing to do, it's not easy to lead with love, but it's very rewarding. It's very successful.

4:54 Terry Barber

Okay, so let's talk about love.

4:55 Joel Manby


4:56 Terry Barber

In some ways, it's kinda like inspiration which sounds fluffy, it's soft, not very quantifiable. So tell us about what is behind that work for you?

5:07 Joel Manby

And you're correct, Terry. Not how people perceive it, they perceive it as soft. They perceive it as unaccountable. But what I have learned, in various businesses that it is accountable. You can be profitable and caring. You can be loving and accountable. So even though you are right that's how people perceive it, I would say you're wrong in that, it isn't that way. We have a very specific metrics in our company. It says, those digit returns for the last decade and we have grown 9 out of 10 years through a terrible recession. We have an industry as well as turnover and at the same time, we have been helping thousands and thousands of people in our company to assure over foundation which hopefully our client did go into a little bit. So it's not soft, it's very accountable.

5:52 Terry Barber

Well, speaking of accountable, you tell us some remarkable stories in here and not the least at which is one of your defining moments in life. When somebody confronted you -- I think the term was I felt like a school boy in trouble with the principal. Give us that story and then we are going to talk a little bit about how do you go that resolving really bad or injured bad performance?

6:20 Joel Manby

Is this my mother's story or __6:21__?

6:22 Terry Barber

No, this is the spot story.

6:25 Joel Manby

Okay. Alright. Well, we had seven words in the book that defined love and the first word is patience. And most people don't think of patience in a business environment, but what I mean by that is praise in public and imagine -- it's not about being patient with poor performance, it's about being patient with how you handle a poor performance, meaning you don't embarrass people publicly. The experience I had Terry, I was the CEO of Saab North America so I was a senior executive, I wasn't some low level employee. And I was called on Easter Sunday morning, which is a pretty big day if you are a Christian as I am, you don't want to take that day off. Easter Sunday morning, I get a call from my boss in Sweden and he is upset about our first quarter sales result. He orders me over to Sweden that day and to fly across the ocean at nearly 9 a.m. Sweden time meeting and it is 3 a.m. in the morning in the US, and you basically land based and choose my rear end up in two hours is actually to see above, we did it. And I was so embarrassed by it and it destroyed my dignity. There is such a level that I swore I would never ever make another human being doing this way and mind you, this was after two straight years of record performance in the US. We had a second best year in the history of the United States for Saab and one quarter of the result, I was made to a completely worthless, and I swore I would never make another human being deal that way. And the point of it is when you have to take something to the __7:55__, you should do it privately and protect your dignity, it doesn't do any good to destroy people's dignity in front of others. And they look at me, I am the CEO of the company and ended up needing frankly because, I mean it is one of the big factors. And it happens to me at that level I thought, just think where all the people feel who are the lower levels in the company. So it's a very important principle raised in public and manage either.

8:20 Terry Barber

You shared a story that it would -- one individual in particular it came to a point I think you refer to him in the book as __8:27__ I think the part he is in. He had a different agenda and it just came to a point where patience had burn out even around the course. It really worked quite in the position where you had the business.

8:41 Joel Manby


8:42 Terry Barber

And tell us about this story, because I just think it so important that people see that it can be we did that, it doesn't have to be life-altering to the point where it is so negative.

8:54 Joel Manby

It's very important that people realize before they buy the book. There is this specific encounter of all people accountable you know loving way and be able to put them back on the horses I am saying and get them back on the playing field. I gave two examples in the book, one where I handle that really __9:08__ early in my career, but then later I can handle it much, much better to the point. In the first story where I messed it up, I saw that person later in the grocery store and I ran the other direction, I was so embarrassed. I never wanted to see him again and that told me how poorly I am. You got to be able to look yourself in the mirror next morning. But at Herschend, I had to let somebody go. We gave him full warning and he knew it was coming because he had performance reviews, we treated him well. He actually stayed for a while and we knew he is going to leave. And I helped him find a new job and I called his new boss to be able to give him a great recommendation. I saw him at church you know months ago and he is loving his new job, we're still friends. That's the way it can be done. Now I know that there are situations that are systematic way also and structure issues in the business. That may be different but a lot of layouts happen because of performance and it can be handled in a loving way that you still look yourself in the mirror next morning.

10:08 Terry Barber

Well, thanks for sharing that. And again, it would be invulnerable being around what happened the first time around. So I want to get back in to some of the principles in a minute. I want to make sure we don't run out of time as you start to talk about the two kinds of goals. Will you tell us these? And actually, if there is anyone core central thing in and around your both business sets.

10:35 Joel Manby

Well, one of the seven words is dedication. And you have to be dedicated to loving in all circumstances and again, this is not love the emotion. That's an important point to make. It's not how you feel about somebody's love the verb, it is how you behave towards somebody. And then somebody said I don't even like my players but as a coach, I must love them. And so that's a very important first point. But on the second point is all goals. It can be do-goals or be-goals and all businesses what I would call do-goals. They had helped crop up margin sales results bottom line, but that's what you were doing. At Herschend Entertainment, we have be-goals which are obviously selling words of love. How am I going to be as an individual? How am I going to accomplish these goals? And we are so dedicated that we actually reward people with a 2 x 2 matrix that you measure both on you do-goals and your be-goals. We asked them on how they are doing on the seven words and you have to get the top score in both to get the best rates in the company. I will come in to talk about values, but only about 10% of them actually integrate them into the business prospects and that is just one example how we do it at Herschend Entertainment. But be versus do is very important because it also links to your personal life as well.

12:03 Terry Barber

So you also speak in here a lot about kindness and it seems to show up in a lot of different ways and in one of the ways it showed up in your life was in and around a football acquaintance in high school.

12:20 Joel Manby

Well, one of the seven words is kindness and that's also one that you don't hear in business a lot. But what it's not, it's not being nice all the time. We have to hold people accountable but it is being an encourager because let's face it Terry, that do any of us have too much encouragement like and the person who taught me that was my mother and that's the story we're referring to. I was a senior and I was a three-sport athlete so a lot of people watched me if played __12:47__. We were walking down the hallway to with the Football Banquet and we passed two freshmen I kind off blow them off because I am talking to my mom and as soon as we passed them, she whipped me in the corner and she pokes her finger in my chest and I could still remember the quote. She said, "You listen to me young man, anytime you come into contact with somebody, you have the opportunity to make their day better or make their day worst. I don't think it even made their day better. You have the obligation of not making a tool to make your day better". I was like "whoa", I mean it is my mother really impacted me. But look, you can't always encourage people because sometimes they screw up and you have to let them know that, but many times at a time, you are doing a good job and we are so focused on the negative that we forget to inspire people on the positive. Jack Herschend, my boss, my owner, he spends the first 20 minutes of each day writing notes -- handwritten notes about what he saw the day before positively and these notes are all over the company. It's such a simple principle, but really worth the price of the book just taking that principle to work the next day. Because we are all in charge the next day, if we forget to thank the people help us getting better.

13:58 Terry Barber

Well, thanks for surfacing that because actually that is a great __14:02__ to where we are going next, because you are talking about it all about how to use notes in such a powerful positive way. So before you are talking more about how to use them, there was one to two times in particularly with Jack, it really inspires you with a note. You went to yourself and went to your favorite colleagues.

14:23 Joel Manby

Yeah. But again, that's part of kindness it's to be an encourager. Jack, I was having a bad day and a bad week and a bad month that year when all -- everything was not balanced in 2008. He wrote me this incredibly encouraging note that lived in my spirits and basically said, "You guys are doing an unbelievable job, managing through a very difficult year. It's a great job". But then a week later, I literally get a job offer or a chance to interview to the CEO of competitor at twice the pay that I was getting with Herschend. That same week, Jack write a note to my wife and I have four kids, and you know, it's just amazing that person like anyone would write a note to your family, but then he tells my wife how proud he is of me and thank you for sharing me with him in the Herschend Company. So just think what my wife said you know, when I said should I take this job. She said of course not. You can never been this happy, who cares about money. But how many of us and how many of the listeners who lead people have ever written a note to the spouse of employee, thanking them for the support of that __15:33__. I was actually on a plane when I got to that piece in the book. I am happy again to read. I am really that -- my wife was next to me and she said, "Honey, what's wrong?" I said, "You need to read this" and I turned it over to her and she read it and she begin

15:51 Terry Barber

It is very emotional.

15:53 Joel Manby

You know at the deepest level, it's one thing for me to care about you because I get something out of you. But it's another thing for me to care behind the curtain...

16:04 Terry Barber

I just wanted to make a story about Jack that are reinforcing that it is just that powerful principle of why don't we as humans want to encourage people if we got most of that critical spirits and behind the scenes are very negative and it just doesn't create an environment to bring out the best in people and that's all what we are trying to do in business. Yeah. Business about people. People have relationships, relationships to have strong relationships. You really do need love and for some reason we never talked about that in work environment. Did you design a -- I thought it was a really clever tool to trust and I think it's RACI. Talk a little bit about that.

16:44 Joel Manby

One of the words is trust. And you know most leaders I have seen in my life especially in my General Motors experience, it is quite egotistical and they are trying to grab and hold on too many decisions. If you trust people and you hire great people roundly, you are going to delegate and you are going to let down the excisions, it is really important to clarify who is making what decision. So we use that RACI tool, an R is responsible and A is account, who has to approve it, C is who has to be basically communicated to or collaborate with which is what the C stands for and then I is informed. But it is honored work to people have the details. But the main point is the decision maker in every role in a decision is clarified. So you know who is doing what and you let them do it and every time I step into overwrite somebody, I am showing somewhat a lack of trust and that can burn after a while. So it's very important to trust but I actually argue that more team as you get, less decisions you should make, but that is simply you have great people around you.

17:53 Terry Barber

Yeah. No. You mentioned just briefly that I do not want to leave this program without you talking more about your foundation. Share it forward, where do they come from? How does it work? And share a little a little bit of that.

18:09 Joel Manby

Well, thank you for asking this. It is one of things that I haven't spoken to you yet. Dozens and may be hundreds of companies doing it. One of the words is unselfish, which again it's not something you hear about business very often. But the way we show unselfishness is we have an internal foundation where the employees start with their unselfishness. They have to give first and the company matches the dollar to dollar and all that money is used to help employees need and we have multiple programs. I don't have time to go into on how we help our employees through the financial crisis. In this year, Terry, we will help almost 10% of our serious no workforce with some kind of financial wave. So you think about the impact of that has when they go back, they are working in the park, they have hard jobs and they have been helped through a crisis by the company. You think they are not boiled? You think that they don't work harder? Do you think they don't tell other people they should work for the company?

19:02 Terry Barber


19:03 Joel Manby

So it happens to be good business. There is an amazing foundation and there are so many stories I would like you to tell. There is a few in the book that I would encourage people to read and the need thing is that all the proceeds and all the royalties for this book go to that foundation. And we hope to raise you know a lot of money to help people. Because we have never had to turn someone down yet or who wants a __19:29__.

19:30 Terry Barber

I have seen companies where may be there is a foundation at play where some percentage of profit is satisfying, but I have never seen a company were employees come to the table and participate.

19:43 Joel Manby

Well, it's practicing unselfishness. We are all drawn in this together and that's why we started that way. We also have a percentage of our profits that we give towards community effort, but internally we wanted it to be a family of that and there is just every time I go to a park, someone comes up and says thank you, thank you, thank you. Now, I am not even involved in the decisions so I am more surprised by it, but it's just an amazing program.

20:09 Terry Barber

Okay. So I know you could tell a dozen stories out of it just like that, but there is one in particular I kind of ask you to share in and around an individual who wanted to go to school.

20:22 Joel Manby


20:23 Terry Barber

That one.

20:24 Joel Manby

Albert was an Undercover Boss and at the end anyone saw it that. He cried uncontrollably, but this guy was working 50 hours a week. He wanted to get married. He was going to school at night. He was imploding. He just couldn't do it all. And so out of that foundation, we gave him a scholarship to go to in college and this has completely transformed his life. He is married now. He is going to Augusta State. He works at our park in Valdosta, Georgia while the ventures when he is not in school and it really has transformed his life. Now, we actually give multiple partial scholarships. We will give about 27 partial scholarships this year to employers or independents.

21:05 Terry Barber

So who inspired you to be who you are? How many? A lot of people?

21:10 Joel Manby

A lot of people. But first of all, it happens for me that it comes from my own faith which is helpful because it is embedded -- Jesus is number one command was to love others, right? And for me, it happens to also back up his number one commandment. But I happen to think these principles were for anybody because it is our human beings are watched. But I was inspired by my parents. I was inspired by my faith and I was inspired by some great leaders I have had along the way releasing great football coaches.

21:42 Terry Barber

Fantastic. Joel Manby, thank you so much for being here today. Anything else you would like to say about the book other than they can get it on Amazon. I actually seen it in the bookstores...

21:52 Joel Manby

Yeah. You can get it everywhere in bookstores and you can get an audio you know electronically in book form and also audios. So I appreciate the support. Again, all proceeds go to support the foundation. So I appreciate these.

22:04 Terry Barber

I can absolutely positively endorse this book intending it will be one of those potential life changers for anybody who reads this book. So thanks for being on the show. Truly, inspiring leader. I look forward to stay in touch. You've been listening to Inspiration at Work. I am your host, Terry Barber and I want to be able to reach out and saving either day in the same way that you heard when you will be the most inspiring person that you know the day. Thank you. Have a great day.