This is the first in a planned series of articles introducing some of the founding / contributing members of the Lead Change Group. For the next few months, we’ve got the list of people we’re planning on interviewing. However, if you are a member of the Lead Change Group, sometime in the future we might be able to arrange an interview to share part of your story. Send an email to dan (at) leadershipfreak (dot) com if you’re interested.

Meet Steve Keating:

A loafer and a woman are among the things that made Steve Keating the man he is today (Twitter: @LeadToday).

Steve Keating has a degree in engineering. His love for gadgets resulted in the development of currency validation device for RC Cola. You might expect Steve’s story to continue down the engineering path of designing and refining useful devices. But something unusual pursued Steve, sales.

Steve didn’t pursue sales, sales pursued him. It was during his time at RC Cola that a Dale Carnegie sales team stopped in to “sell” training. He told me he wasn’t interested. He told me that he felt like he already knew everything he needed to know about selling.

However, the Dale Carnegie representatives helped Steve uncover motives he didn’t know he had for selling more. Through an incredibly comfortable questioning strategy they helped Steve see his need. He enrolled in the program that day.

Eight weeks into his Dale Carnegie course, Steve left RC Cola and went to work for Dale Carnegie. So much for knowing everything.

A loafer:

Steve told me a mentor at Dale Carnegie changed him. It was during a short presentation that Steve unconsciously but repeatedly used his big toe on one foot to slip off the loafer on his other. During the follow up meeting, Steve’s mentor brought his attention to this distracting habit.

It wasn’t what was said that mattered most. It was the way it was said. Steve said it was the first time in his career he actually felt that a supervisor was interested in him for his sake. Steve said, “I believed he cared for me, for my sake.” Steve experienced the transforming power of caring for people without ulterior motives. It’s one of the things that made Steve the man he is today.

On a side note, he stopped wearing loafers.

Today Steve travels the world as the Selling Skills Manager for Toro. One of the things Steve loves saying is, “You can care without leading but you can’t lead without caring.”

We spent some time discussing relationship building within the business world; something near and dear to Steve’s heart. He taught me, “If you wait until you need a relationship it’s too late to develop it. The suspicion factor is difficult to overcome.”

In life and in business, “Develop relationships because it helps them before it helps you. People can tell when you are in it for yourself.” If you follow Steve on twitter, you know he practices a give-first philosophy.

I was surprised to learn Steve believes that Toro retains both their customers and their employees based on what I’ll call relationship-retention.

A woman:

The second thing that changed Steve was a woman; a woman he met at Dale Carnegie, it was the women he would marry.

Guys can be a little slow and Steve is no exception. After his marriage, he came home one day after his wife had opened a letter explaining a sales promotion at his company. If Steve did well they could enjoy an all-expense paid vacation. She was excited about the opportunity. It dawned on Steve that what he did mattered; that he mattered.

Steve said, “Responsibility changes you. I realized my decisions impact others.” He felt a new and deeper kind of motivation.

I (Dan) like to say that you won’t matter until you decide to matter. It’s an overstatement that drives home the importance of believing you can make a difference. Steve began seeing his own worth through the eyes of someone he loved.

Life tips on seemingly insignificant events like a mentoring conversation and the enthusiasm of a loved one. You never know when you can matter. I just know you do.

Steve on Twitter:

I asked Steve what I should be asking him and he said, “People ask me where I find the fun-facts I tweet.” So I asked and he said, “I have an iphone app called Fun Facts.”

Frankly, I was hoping for something more dramatic like, “I stay up at night reading the encyclopedia.” But then I realized no one has them anymore.

Electronic Free:

Relationships are important to Steve. So with that in mind, a few weeks ago he stopped using all electronic devices on Sunday. At 2 p.m. on Sunday’s family comes for dinner in their Minnesota home. The only communication is face-to-face with your real voice.

He said it was a bit awkward at first. But now, “We think we like it a lot.”

I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend time on the phone with Steve Keating. I found him insightful, honest, humble, and deeply caring. If you spent a day with Steve, you’d be a better person. It’s a pleasure affiliating with him in the Lead Change Group.

 

Dan Rockwell
Dan Rockwell is the Leadership Freak. He is a blogger and leader of a local nonprofit. He regularly consults with organizations and authors on ways to extend their reach and expand their influence using social media. He teaches people how to escalate engagement and create sustainable online communities. Connect with him on his Lead Change Profile, Leadership Freak blog, or LinkedIn or @Leadershipfreak on Twitter.
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