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CUC CZ | Building Great Team Cultures


The world is continuously changing that if you don’t adapt to it, you will get left behind. Within organizations, that means going through the motions of change when it comes to leadership and culture. Chris Widener, a world-class thought leader and motivational speaker on leadership, culture, and success, takes us through the different dimensions of leadership and building great team cultures in companies and organizations. Pouring in lessons he learned from his speaking career, Chris talks about helping leaders learn to speak and position themselves to influence others. He also talks about what we need to keep when culture becomes institutionalized and how we could continue to balance it with multiple generations involved.

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Leadership And Building Great Team Cultures with Chris Widener

I’m here with Chris Widener. He is a world-class thought leader and motivational speaker on leadership, culture and success. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing his thoughts around building great teaming cultures in companies and organizations. Chris, I think you’re the epitome of a culture code champion, which is what I’m working on building. Could you tell us about your background and how you came to what you’re doing now?

I had a circuitous route to get to where I am now. Life started out pretty well. My dad was the fifth partner at an architecture firm called NBBJ, which is one of the world’s largest architecture firms now. I think they just either did the Google or the Facebook campus. You name a big city all around the world and that’s where they were. He was not an architect. He was their chief financial officer. Interestingly enough, in the late ‘60s when he was doing that, he did all of the accounting for a 150-person architecture firm with an abacus and a slide rule. Kids nowadays, they never had a world where there weren’t computers and all that kind of stuff. In 1969, my dad made $90,000, which translates to about $1 million a year now. I call it gangster money. It was gangster money back then. We lived in a big beautiful mansion in the sand point country club in Seattle overlooking Lake Washington, the Cascade Mountains.

Long story short, he ended up having cancer. He died in about six months. The biggest mistake was that he didn’t have life insurance. He had about a $30,000 simple little policy. That began a downward spiral for my mom and I. She had to sell the house because she could not afford the outrageous $400 a month mortgage payment. That house sold in 2013 for $1.8 million. We began to move a lot. I ended up living in 28 homes and I went to eleven different schools. I was shipped off to live with relatives twice because I was quite a handful for my mom. I got into drugs in about the fifth and sixth grade and I made most of my money two ways. I made money betting the horses as long as there’s horse track and scalping tickets on the street corner for the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks games. You’re getting the picture here that life was going in the wrong direction for me.

I honed my sales skills, that’s for sure. As Zig Ziglar, my mentor, would say I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible in high school. I had 172 kids in my high school class and I graduated 149th. That means there were 148 kids that had better grades than I out of 172. I eat of my way out of school, at that point I thought I got to get my life together. I got dreams like everybody else. I want to make money, I want to find love. I want to make an impact. I turned my life around. I got it straightened out and ended up speaking right out of college, to high school, summer camps, junior highs, colleges about what a crazy upbringing I had. Over the course of the last 31 years, it transitioned to speaking about leadership and things like that.

It’s pretty neat to hear how you gravitated into speaking and working your way into speaking.

My mom used to say before she passed away, “You mean people are paying you to do what I told you all those years to stop?” I said, “Yes, imagine that.”

It seems as you’ve perfected the art of speaking, you’ve worked hard to help others learn to speak and position themselves to influence others. How did you develop that into a career of helping other people?

If you can spiral people's attitudes up, it starts to blossom and go out into the community and into the world. Click To Tweet

I was mentored by a guy named Jim Rohn. I’ve had the great fortune of working with three of the legends of our industry: John Maxwell, Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar. Jim Rohn got the Master of Influence Award from the National Speakers Association back in about 2007-2008. Mark Sanborn gave the award that year. I’ll never forget there are about 2,000 speakers in the audience. They said, “How many of you would say that Jim Rohn had a significant impact in your life and business?” About two-thirds of the audience raised their hand. It made me realize that Jim was not only impacting the people that he was speaking to, but he was impacting people who were speaking to millions of people. I thought, “What if I taught people the things that I’ve learned and enable them to grow their impact and their influence and that would allow me to influence even more people even though I’m not there?”

One of the things that happened to me in the fourth year of our company, we were focused on building this differentiated culture. I’ll never forget, a spouse came up to me at a Christmas party and said that their husband or wife had changed since they came to the company. They get up energetic and ready to go to work in the morning. They come home with more energy still in their body so they can eat with the kids more. They’re talking about going to church on Sundays and they said, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it.” What you’re saying there, if you can spiral people’s attitudes up, then it starts to blossom and go out into the community and into the world.

That’s a great lesson, Bill, because even if you never met this man’s children, you were impacting their children by providing such a place in a culture in your work that made him more vibrant and happier, which means he’s probably happier at home when he gets home from work. If you hate your job and you go home, you’re a bummer. If you love it and you come home and you’re able to say to your wife, “I had a great day today,” you have more energy, more emotional energy to give to your children. It’s called impacting the impactors or influencing the influencers. That’s what we can do even if we never meet those people.

The thing that got me was I’ll never forget a drafter wanted to move for another $0.75 an hour and their kid said, “Dad, you can’t move. I’ve got all these toys in my toy box from your company. You’ve been this person since you’ve been there.” He told me, “I can’t move this culture. It has my whole family locked into it.” We’re saying you’re motivating them motivators within that family.

They always say people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. I would say the same thing. They don’t quit the job. It’s not that they don’t like what they necessarily do, but they quit the job or they quit the culture and that’s what they’re quitting.

There’s a quote of yours that I like that I found online, “The masters, the ones who succeed tremendously and set the standard for others are those who master the details.” I’m definitely a detail-oriented guy. I was wondering if you would expand on that a little bit from your experience.

The first thing I’ll say is you’re a military guy. I can’t remember who it was. I’m sure you’re going to know who it is immediately, as soon as I reference this. The gentleman whose graduation speech went viral and it was about the first thing you do in the morning is make your bed. The first thing you do is you get that done. The quote that you’re referencing actually comes from a book of mine called The Angel Inside, which is about Michelangelo. It’s primarily about the creation of the David and what Michelangelo went through and all the nuances of creating that. One of the interesting things that made Michelangelo so good and turned him into one of the greatest, if not the greatest sculptor of all time, was the Catholic Church never allowed people to touch cadavers prior to Michelangelo because they said it was touching the dead and there was always this taboo.

CUC CZ | Building Great Team Cultures

The Angel Inside: Michelangelo’s Secrets for Following Your Passion and Finding the Work You Love

Michelangelo somehow convinced the Catholic Church to allow him to dissect cadavers. What that allowed him to do was to see under the skin and see the muscle and the tendons. When you look at a Michelangelo sculptor, primarily the David or any number of his sculptures, you’ll see a detail that didn’t exist in some of the other sculptors, which is why the David ended up being arguably the greatest sculpture ever done. I think the same is true or the lesson is true for us. Those who master the details are going to be able to work in a much deeper level, which allows us so much greater success.

It creates a better picture. I always thought that David was six foot tall.

It’s thirteen and a half feet tall and then up on that pedestal. I got married in Florence, Italy. Two hours after our wedding, we were standing before the David with a tour guide. I’ve seen the David many times because my book was on it. It’s a pretty amazing thing and an amazing story.

It’s a religious experience when you’re in the presence of that. I sit there in awe and look at it. One of the things that I always try to do within the culture and within the people that I’ve worked with is I figured if I could put a smile on a person’s face and create a memory that they could have for a longer term, then I was going to move the needle on creating a culture that would differentiate within the industry. Part of my philosophy maybe from the Army is if you can’t have fun, don’t go to work. It seems like you have a lot of that similar philosophy when you’re talking to people. You want to have fun at what you are doing.

If you think about it, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. It doesn’t mean that you’re not taking it seriously, it just means that you’re finding the fun in it. One of the promises I made to my wife was that I’d make her giggle every day, “I promise you, every day I’ll make you giggle.” Still to this day when she laughs or giggles after I say something, I say, “That makes me so happy to be able to make you laugh and giggle and have some fun.” At work, it’s the same thing and in my speeches. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned, early on in my speaking career, a kid from high school who I’d known came to one of my speeches. Afterwards he said, “Chris, you were great but can I give you some advice?” I said, “Sure. What is it?” He said, “You would be so much better if you were as funny on the stage as you are off the stage.”

I remember thinking, “It’s interesting.” I’ve thought about and I had this, “I’m a professional speaker. I’ve got to be serious. I’m teaching these people something.” Once I allowed myself to be myself and to create fun and make people laugh and what I learned was and I teach this to people when I’m doing speech coaching. People are most receptive to a deep truth right after they laugh because laughing opens people up, not only literally but figuratively. When somebody laughs, they literally open up. They laugh, they literally physically open up, but they open up emotionally. They let down their guard. If you watch one of my speeches, you’ll see that I very often make people laugh and I call it a knife. I slide the knife right in the little scalpel, right behind it.

I think that in the workplace, if people have a fun workplace, a place where they can laugh, a place where they take their work seriously but they also can find that fun in it. I think they’re going to be able to go much further. They work at a deeper level. They enjoy it more, which allows them to give more effort to it because subconsciously people are passive-aggressive. If they don’t like their boss and they don’t like their work, they’re going to back off from it. Even at a subconscious level, they may not even be conscious about it. If we create that culture as you so much talk about the fun, enjoyable culture, even at a subconscious level, they give more effort.

I think the other thing that happens for leaders, we did a lot of work with oil companies. We would do monthly report out meetings and we would have a theme, like I might be a pirate theme for the report out meeting. When an Exxon top dog comes in and puts on a pirate hat for his part of the monthly report, it levels the playing field. This entire team goes, “That person’s one of us,” even though it’s a top dog at Exxon. All of a sudden, that team wants to make that person a hero. They’re going to do whatever they can to take care of this person because they let their hair down and they open up and they’re showing some vulnerability by laughing and having some fun with the team.

People don't quit a job; they quit a boss. Click To Tweet

CEOs think to themselves, “My team won’t take me seriously if I do something like that.” It’s completely not true. I have a friend who’s made a fortune in the meetings business. He owns a company called Extreme Meetings. A company like Microsoft will come to him and say, “We want you to put on an entire event.” It’s always themed. He might do a Las Vegas theme. Everything about the conference is a Las Vegas theme. They might not even be in Las Vegas, but what he’ll do is he’ll get the CEO to come out in that quintessential white body suit that Elvis wore and they love it. It doesn’t make people say, “Our CEO isn’t serious.” It makes people say, “Our CEO can relate to us and it actually creates a better bond than driving away.” I think we take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes we think, “I shouldn’t do that because my people won’t respect me.”

Some of those are the initial hooks in creating that bond. In our first year, there was no offshore oil work to do. We chased a job with the Houston Metro bus company, normally doing all platforms into this meeting. We got shortlisted and we go in the board sitting there on the other side of the room, up on a dice. We’re over on the other side. These people don’t even want to listen to us because we don’t do bus work. I broke all the rules. I took a bag of Snickers over because it was almost lunchtime and I started putting a big Snickers in front of each person. I said, “How about you listen to me? Don’t think about lunch. We’re going to take care of you better than anybody else has.” I got down to the last person. It was a lady who was a couple of months pregnant but not showing. I gave her a big Snickers bar. I pulled out and I said, “Here’s a little one for your baby.” That whole board cracked up, but it opened them up. Once you get somebody laughing, you can change them. You can move the direction of the conversation. The whole presentation broke down into a conversation on how we can help each other. We won that work. That saved our company, which is tough. I think that letting your hair down doesn’t make you a fool. It makes you open to connect more with it.

It needs to be in its place. I worked as a consultant with a company and I realized very early on that the CEO was immature. He was 45 going on 15. I quickly exited that as quickly as I could because I knew this was a failure because people never took him seriously. There is a place for humor, there’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to be funny. You don’t have to be serious all the time, but you can’t be funny all the time either. You can’t be constantly joking and not taking things seriously, but most of your listeners are going to understand the difference.

You need to be technically competent at what you do, then it doesn’t bring you down to have a little fun at what you do. One of the other questions I have in your experience here is culture and leadership are two sides of the same coin. A lot of our audience are Millennials and Generation Z. Do you have any words of wisdom that we could pass on to them as they become leaders and are trying to create a culture, maybe just within their team, within an overall company?

It would be interesting to get your perspective on this. I’ve always thought of culture as the agreed upon expectations of behaviors and thoughts within an organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church or it’s a business or an organization, a non-profit. There are things that we do and there are things we don’t do. You can go into two semiconductor companies. One might be one culture, the other might be another culture. Culture is fine as long as it’s agreed upon, but then the culture also has to be policed. If you say, “We don’t treat people like that,” that’s part of our culture. We’re kind and we’re transparent and we’re authentic. When someone isn’t kind or they’re dishonest, it has to be policed. If we allow them, someone to not adhere to the expected behaviors and thoughts and words and those kinds of things, the culture can change. As leaders, what do we do? We set the agenda for what we want the culture to be and we communicate it constantly and we get buy in. One of the challenges is different generations have different expectations about what a culture should be and how culture should be crafted.

For example, the greatest extreme would be the greatest generation, most of whom are out of the workplace already. They were completely fine with authoritarian patriarchal. I’m the boss and this is the way we do it. Everybody says, “The boss said this is the way we do it, that’s the way we do it.” The Millennials are more egalitarian. They’re less concerned with the fact that you’re the owner and that you have run this business for 25 years since before they were born. They expect to be brought into the table and given a seat at the table and have a discussion about how the culture’s going to work. I think there are pros and cons to both. I think that the Millennials bring some good things and I think they also bring some challenges. The good things are, “How do you get everybody at the table and cooperating in the formation of the culture?” When you get buy in an agreement from everybody across the board, the Millennials, the Gen X and the Baby Boomers. When everybody can say, “Yes, we all buy into those values,” now you have a much more solid base to operate from and to police those values in that culture.

Some of that is opening up the communication from top to bottom in the organization to get that input.

You’re familiar with John Kotter who wrote the book, Leading Change. He is a Harvard Business School professor. I had lunch with John Kotter about three weeks after September 11th, 2001. I was speaking at Harvard Business School and I remember asking him a question, “What do you think is the most important leadership lesson that’s going to be learned or implemented in the next twenty years?” John didn’t even miss a beat this instantaneously. He said, “Leadership at every level, we need to create leadership at every single level from the board room to the mail room. We have to have leaders at every place because it used to be the leader was the boss and then the leader was the regional sales manager. You had these positions of influence in leadership.” What John and many others have taught for so many years is that leadership isn’t just a title. What we need to do is create people who can step up and initiate and be the catalyst at every single level. Whether you’re a Baby Boomer who has been at the business with an official title for twenty years, or you’re a Millennial who’s been there two or three years, but you have the influence on those people around you. We need to bring those people to the table and allow them to drive our culture forward.

CUC CZ | Building Great Team Cultures

Building Great Team Cultures: Different generations have different expectations about what a culture should be and how it should be crafted.


The term that I use on it is, “You’re going to have leaders of character at every level within the organization.” We actually use some of our outside charitable activities to help create those leaders like we have a secretary or a drafter who would want to leave one of that outside activities, they would step up, pull in some people and organize it. It was amazing. We would watch those people grow doing that and that would reflect back into their job within the company. Pretty soon, they’re moving to another level within the company. It’s given the opportunity, given the coaching to create those leaders at all the different levels. You asked John that question in 2000, but what do you think is the biggest challenge that’s facing leaders now in building a winning culture?

It’s probably the difference of opinion as to how things can be done. I think the Millennials bring not only certainly bring a positive, but it creates a real challenge. The morals and values that the younger generation brings are different than the older generation. I’m not saying right or wrong, I’m just saying different. The way they were taught about groups and about leadership is different. That’s probably the biggest challenge for companies and organizations right now is how do we bring them in and include them and implement the positives, but also help them understand that there are other people that need to be listened to as well? How do you gel those differing worldviews together, because they have a different worldview?

In many ways, a great world view. I’m actually a Gen X or I missed the Baby Boomer by about a year and a half, but in many ways, I find the Millennials very challenging. My son is a Millennial. He got $500,000 at the age of 27 from a couple of VCs to go start a tech company. He went and started it. He and I own a little piece of the company as well. He and I talk two or three times a day. I love him to death. He’s super smart. He walked into his congressman’s office. He went in for a Naval Academy appointment. He got a Naval Academy appointment and Air Force Academy appointment, a Merchant Marine Academy. He’s a sharp kid, but he’s much less capitalist than I am. I love him to death and we love each other, but our worldviews clash from time to time. It’s interesting I was telling him, “You’re the CEO, I’m going to give you my advice but you’re the CEO, you make the decision.” Sometimes our worldviews clash and I think that’s a big one in cultures is the clashing, particularly with the Baby Boomers to the Gen X to the Millennials.

My son is also a Millennial. He started his own company doing aftermarket bumpers for pickup trucks and Jeeps. He took a hobby, learned how to weld and turned it into a company that’s doing $5 million a year. When he was starting, my wife used to say, “Would you tell them what to do?” You can’t. They got alligators biting them every day. I don’t know everything that’s going on, what’s pulling him in different directions but definitely a different worldview than me. I had trouble releasing a lot of details. I had comfortable with people. He’ll release anything and coach those people and it grows them a lot faster and quicker than I did with a company. It’s interesting to watch that difference in that trust.

It’s so much about perspective and our perspective is shaped by the world we grew up in. The greatest generation grew up either in the Depression or raised by parents of the Depression. That shaped and formed and then they went to World War II. That shaped and formed their worldview. We all come from a different perspective, not a right or a wrong perspective. It’s almost cliché but that story about the people who put on the blindfolds and one of them grabbed the elephant’s tail and then the other one grabbed the elephant’s leg. The other touched his hand against the elephant side and then they said, “What does an elephant look like?” One said, “He’s long like a snake.” The other said, “An elephant is like a tree trunk,” and the other says, “No, an elephant’s like a wall.” They are all right but they’re all coming from their own perspective. That’s what we need to do in the workplace is appreciate another person’s perspective.

There’s so much arguing going on politically and what I try to do, I certainly have very strong political views. I try to say, “Why did that person who disagrees with me come to that particular conclusion?” For example, homelessness. Nobody likes homelessness. Everybody says that homelessness is a problem. The left says, “The way you deal with homelessness is with compassion.” I think that’s true. The right says the way you deal with homelessness is they got to pull themselves up by the bootstrap and make their own decisions. I think that’s true too. I think both believe that their way is the right way and that both have some good insights. We need to treat people who’ve been down on their luck or maybe drug addicted with compassion, but we also need to teach them how to pull themselves up and make their own decision. It’s worldview. It’s not that one is right or wrong. It’s that we need to understand each other and talk about each other and not demonize one another.

Otherwise, you can go one path and the unintended consequences make it a bad path. Another question, as we grew our company, we went from three people to 6,500 and $1 billion. We trained our second, third and fourth generation who then took over and took it to $2 billion using that same culture we had created. One of the things that happens when companies start to get larger, there’s a tendency for institution to dampen out the inspiration that you had when you are creating that company and that culture. Have you seen any good methods for breaking down that institutionalization of a company to keep it still a fun and vigorous place that can move with all the changes required?

If you can't have fun, don't go to work. Click To Tweet

Yeah. Whether it’s a business or a church or government, the biggest problem is as you get big, you get institutionalized. Those famous seven last words, “We’ve never done it that way before.” The great thing about culture is that it sets and defines how we are. The negative side of culture is that it sets and defines the way we are and if we need to change, it makes it difficult. I’ll refer back to Kotter and the book, Leading Change. If you’re readers have never read Leading Change, I think it’s the best book on change management ever. He asked a rhetorical question at the beginning. They will ask leaders, “What do you think is the first thing you need to do in order to create change?” Most people will say, “You have to craft the vision.” He says, “No, that’s not what it is.”

The first thing you have to do is create a sense of urgency, because if there is no sense of urgency, then nobody’s going to be interested in changing. If you need to change your culture, if your culture has become institutionalized, you have to ask yourself, “What happens if we remain institutionalized? How do we lose business? What are we doing that’s keeping anybody from coming to church?” They come in and they see cliques and things like that and they’re like, “I don’t fit in here.” The same thing can happen in a business. There are people that have worked there for a long time, so we have to create some change.

Kotter uses the analogy of if you’re having financial troubles or you need to make some changes financially and you’re telling everybody, “We need to cut back on your sales, your expenses and things like that.” If they walk into a big building and there are Renoir paintings in the lobby, they’re going to say, “What are you talking about? There’s no financial problem. We got $40 million worth of art in the lobby.” He suggests you strip the walls of the art because all of a sudden people that are walking through are like, “What happened to all the art? We must have some problems. It’s emergency.” I’m obviously a big Kotter fan. He’s been very good to me personally and professionally. I think he’s a brilliant guy. That book is fantastic because he turned the world on its head and I think that’s true. You need to create a sense of urgency as to why our culture needs to change and why we need to do it differently than the way we’ve already done it before.

The people would then get on board and help you in making the change. One of the things that he’s talking about is core values. Have you seen any innovative ways to help communicate those core values top to bottom in an organization?

Yeah, the second thing that Kotter talks about is to create a guiding coalition. That’s what you need to do. You need the second step to create a guiding coalition. It used to be that you pulled together all the department heads. Now, especially that you have Millennials who value incorporation so much and being asked for their participation. What you need to do is create a whole set of groups of people that include people with positions of power and leadership and titles and people who don’t. As the top, you obviously want to set the agenda, but you drive those down and you do a lot of listening. You get everybody on board, you put together leading teams and you create that guiding coalition so that you get people of influence. These may not be people who even have a position of influence.

If you sit around a table and everybody’s giving their opinion and there’s one guy that waits to the end and then everybody looks at him and says, “John, what do you think?” He’s the guy with the influence. He is the one they ask, “John, what do you think? You’ve been quiet. What do you think, because we all want to hear it because you’re an influencer?” You have to get those people whether they have a title or not. What will happen is let’s say they don’t have a title and all of a sudden, they’re down on the floor of the manufacturing plant and they’re saying, “This is never going to work. I don’t know what we’re talking about,” and he’s going to cause problems for you.

You’re probably familiar with John Maxwell and he tells a funny story. John is a leadership guru and one of the tops in the world. The National Speakers Association gave him the Master of Influence Award. John used to be a pastor and he was a young pastor at a little church in Indiana. There was a room that was filled with a bunch of junk. He was trying to get the leaders of the church to let him clean that out to create a Sunday school room in there and he couldn’t get anybody to buy off on it. Something struck him. There was an elder who was a farmer named Claude. He called Claude up and said, “Claude, I’d like to get to know you a little bit better. Could I start coming out to your farm and helping out a little bit one afternoon a week?” Claude said, “Sure, come over Wednesday afternoons and you can help me. That’s usually the time I clean the barn and some of those things.” John started going out there. This is the concept of influencing the influencers. He gets out there and after about the fourth week of going out there, he’s built some rapport and had a good relationship.

CUC CZ | Building Great Team Cultures

Leading Change

He said, “Claude, can I get your help on something?” He said, “Sure.” “We’ve got so many new kids coming to church and the rooms are packed. We’ve got that one room that’s loaded with old tables and chairs. I’m wondering if we could clean that out and turn it into another Sunday school room?” Claude said, “I think that’s a fantastic idea.” He said, “Would you do me a favor? The next time we get together for our board meeting, would you be willing to bring that up?” He said, “I’d be happy to, Pastor John.” John’s been trying to get this passed and nothing.

Claude was new to the board and Claude shows up and they said, “Any last new business?” He said, “I think I’d like to see us clean that room out and turn it into a new Sunday school class.” Everyone said, “That’s a fantastic idea.” John, as a young pastor and new to the church didn’t have a lot of influence, but farmer Claude had a lot of influence and so same thing, different influence. You always got to find who’s the influencer. If you don’t have the influence that you can influence the influencer, that’s what you want to do and helping create those guiding coalitions is find out who people are listening to. Sometimes, I’ll listen to a guy without a title more than his boss.

You can get those core values top to bottom. Things we did about a year before we started our company, while we were still employees, we met, we wrote down everything we didn’t like as employees about the company we were a part of. Every quarter for the first three years, we would look at that list and see if we had become them, still thinking like an employee that wanted this great environment. Some cases you have to be able to check yourself, as things move across time. You’ve told us about a couple of good books to read. I like the Leading Change. Are there any other good books that you’re reading lately that you would recommend?

It is called The Captain Class. It’s a guy who went out and he looked at the greatest sports dynasties of all time, Boston Celtics and some of those teams. They looked at what they all had in common. What they had in common was a great captain who was able to lead the team, so to speak. That was an interesting one. I heard about a book called Why We Sleep and you’re thinking, “That’s got to be the most boring book on Earth.” It is both fascinating and scary because the author does a great job showing how our lack of sleep is messing up our society from road rage to poor efficiency in the workplace.

The very last chapter is about how teenagers’ brains work and how we’re doing a disservice by making them get up at 7:30 or 6:00 in the morning to be at school by 7:30 because their brains literally don’t work that way. They did a study. I think it was the Edina Minnesota School District. They moved their school opening start time back by 40 minutes from 7:30 to 8:20. Their SAT scores went up on average 200 points. Just because children’s brains were more active when they came into that first period and it allowed them to absorb more and learn more. It’s a fascinating book and there’s certainly application to the workplace, to your readers’ individual wives. The whole introduction of unnatural lighting and things like that caused us to stay up later, which has disrupted our sleep. I found it to be fascinating book but it has nothing to do with leadership, but if you apply it, if you go into it like, “How am I going to learn and then apply it?” it’s quite simple to do.

That’s pretty neat because I know a number of psychology books help with leadership. It’s interesting. That’s the physical aspect of the human body.

How it affects your brain and your emotions, it’s in your physical body. It’s interesting.

Chris, I’ve enjoyed visiting with you. You’re definitely a champion in my eyes. I appreciate what you’ve done in helping make heroes of others to help them get their independence, especially if you’re in the speaking. If you could plan your enshrinement into what I call our Culture Code Champions Hall of Fame for contribution to society, what would you want to be known and remembered for what you’ve done in your career?

Laughing opens people up. People are most receptive to a deep truth right after they laugh. Click To Tweet

It’s interesting you asked that because as we speak, I’ve taken this month off from almost all appointments to write my 21st book. The 21st book is called Impact. The subtitle is Creating a Life in Business That Lives Beyond You. The number one thing that I want to be remembered for is being a good man. Making money’s actually easy. If you think about it, if you find a good business, you serve a lot of people, you apply math to spend less than you earn. There are some pretty simple ways to build wealth in those kinds of things. Being a good man or being a good woman, with the challenges in society and all of the temptations and all the changing morals and values is becoming tougher and tougher and to be someone who loves other people and serves other people. There are enough people out there doing damage and stepping on people to get to the top. There are not enough people that are out there truly being servant leaders. I’m 53 as we record this. I’ve got another 20, 30 years hopefully to be able to get out there and to do those things.

When I look at the guys that I worked with, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn who died and left great, legendary careers behind them. Zig Ziglar was the greatest man I ever met. He was the same man off the stage as he was on the stage. He was kind and compassionate. He loved his family and a real great role model to me. He also succeeded the highest levels of the motivational speaking business. When he passed away, he was getting $100,000 a speech. He was able to combine those two of being a kind, warm, loving human being, but also able to scale the heights in a very competitive business.

This new book you’re doing is going to help with your legacy going forward. You’ve had some very inspiring thoughts for our readers. There are lots of golden nuggets in there that are going to help my Culture Code Champions as they implement the seven steps that I’m showing them on how to build that culture that will set them apart. My contact information I have for you, Chris, is or purchasing the book, The Art of Influence or Twelve Pillars. You speak on leadership, sales and influence. Are there any other ways that you would recommend for people to get ahold of you if they need you?

I also do executive and leadership coaching for people who want to take their leadership. I work with people who run small businesses. I finished a long-term deal with a guy who was one of the top twenty guys at one of the major pharmaceutical companies. I’m helping people to become better leaders. You can find out more about that and you can also get a free fifteen-minute consultation with me at It explains the whole process and a way for you to get ahold of me.

Do you have any final thoughts for our audience?

People will often ask me, “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?” I got a piece of advice a long time ago, I was 23 years old. Somebody said, “Be a voice, not an echo.” That has been my mantra. We live in the information age, there’s lots of information. It would be easy to take somebody else’s information and regurgitate it. We need leaders who can take information. The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun and that’s true, but there’s new ways of taking information and applying it. That’s always been my goal. How do you take truths, not vogue content but old truths and apply them to new times? That’s what I’ve always tried to be. I’ve tried to be a voice, not an echo.

That’s what I like about what you’re doing. It’s hands-on. It’s real things that people can do to help affect change and improve culture. It’s been fantastic visiting with you, Chris. I appreciate it. You are definitely a world-class thought leader. I like to tell my audience until our next episode with another thought leader or action leader to get out there and make heroes of everything that you’ve come in contact with and to make your culture count. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me, Bill.

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About Chris Widener

CUC CZ | Building Great Team CulturesChris Widener is widely recognized as one of the top speakers in the world today. He has spoken all over the world in places like Germany, Spain, Russia, China, Egypt, Singapore, Australia and of course, all over the United States and Canada.

His clients are a “who’s who” of American businesses and organizations, including: General Electric, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and the Harvard Business School.

Chris’ dynamic, practical and engaging speeches will have your audience laughing one minute and learning timeless truths of success the next.

Chris was hand selected by two of the legends of the speaking world to work with them and he now carries on their legacy. Jim Rohn, one of the most successful speakers of the last 50 years, and also known for being Tony Robbins first mentor, made Chris his last protege. Chris and Jim co-authored the Jim Rohn One Year Success Plan as well as Jim’s last book, The Twelve Pillars, which has become an international best-seller.  Zig Ziglar, considered to be the greatest motivational speaker of the 20th Century, personally chose Chris to co-host his television show, True Performance. Chris’ two books, The Angel Inside, and The Art of Influence are the only two fiction books Zig Ziglar endorsed in his entire life. Along with co-hosting True Performance, Chris also hosted his own show, Made for Success, where he interviewed some of the top business achievers and thought leaders of our time.

Chris considers it a privilege to be able to speak to people, help them lead successful lives, become extraordinary leaders and, masterful salespeople.

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