We were able to sit down with Nathan Caldwell, Amazon Bestselling author of Empowering Kindness: Why unlocking power in others will be your greatest success. While it's a bit of a departure from our typical Anesthesia-centric content, Graphium Health (who powers this show) is passionate about positive company culture, and Nathan's thoughts and words are solid gold.
Empowering Kindness has tools that every thought leader, executive, and human being can employ to improve the world around them. Enjoy!
You can check out the book here: https://amzn.to/3tvc0yy
David Henderson: Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Time Out for Anesthesia. We are actually taking a different course today, and I'm really excited about it. One of the things that Graphium Health is excited to talk about and tries to keep top of mind all the time is company culture. We've had lots of meetings developing, and I think it's rare that companies actually get their leadership together to prioritize company culture and talk about it. But along those lines, today we have a special guest that I've actually known for a while, but only recently did I know that he published a best seller on Amazon called Empowering Kindness, and you can see there, the author is a Nathan Caldwell. And Empowering Kindness, I've already read through it, it is fantastic. We're gonna talk about it today, but welcome to the show Nathan, how are you doing today?
Nathan Caldwell: Well, thank you so much for having me here. I appreciate it very much. It's always nice to find a fan. I know you aren't really a fan, you're a friend, and I appreciate that so much.
DH: I absolutely am a fan, on the contrary.
NC: No, but it's great to be invited in and to share this message with others, 'cause I think it's a very important one, and it's not necessarily my message. This truth has been around forever, and I just enjoy the ability to share it with others and to help people focus on it and see the importance, 'cause sometimes we take it for granted and think that it's just gonna be there. But it's not, it takes intentionality, and it takes people crafting it into their character.
DH: You're so right. And in reading through the book, I just finished it yesterday, we talked a little bit before the show and you were like, "You're a fast reader," but it's a very... It's a fast read. You can't put it down, the stories that you have and the ideas that you get throughout just... They kinda grab you from the very outset, and it's something, you're right, it's something that I think everybody can really relate to, and it's not... So empowering kindness, the idea of inserting kindness and keeping it at the top of your priority list throughout everything you do as a company, and really everything you do in your personal life as well, it's so important. And I think when probably people think about the concept and things like that, they think it's something extremely simple. Well, and like you said, it's an idea that's been around and things like that, but the truth of the matter is, it's actually extremely complicated to keep prioritized correctly because there's so many competing priorities, and so often we let those come in, and I think take over. And I think your book, what it's done for me, it's allowed me to rethink strategies about how to keep that... How to allow kindness to keep its place and then have its appropriate effect downstream.
NC: Yeah, well, it's always helpful, I think, to also level set on what we mean by kindness, because a lot of people have different definitions of what it is. And I think that a strong definition that's been floating around, is that kindness is weakness, and it's not. It's strength. And it's much like the super strong person who chooses though to be vulnerable and show kindness, there's more strength in that than the super strong person... I grew up reading comic books and stuff, and the strongest moment I found in the character of Robin, remember you had Batman and Robin. And Robin grew up and became Nightwing, and he went off to his own city and he was helping 'cause he wanted his own identity, and then there was an earthquake in Gotham City and everybody came back, [chuckle] all the heroes came back to help out, and thanks for going with me on this analogy. [chuckle]
NC: But the most powerful moment, the strength that Robin showed in this was he wanted to be himself, he wanted the credit, he wanted to be his own hero, and in the moment when he was pulling people out of the rubble in the earthquake, there was a kid he was pulling out that said, "Oh, Batman," and instead of letting it hurt his ego, he just said, "Yeah, I'm here." He took himself out of the picture and just saw the moment to help others, took more strength when you have humility. Demonstrating your strength in moments of power isn't strength, it's when you humble yourself and help others, that I feel like true strength is shown.
DH: That's awesome, and a real world example that you brought up in your book that I think is really the parallel story, is the story of Wayne Gretzky that you share.
NC: Oh, yeah.
DH: Not to give away too much of the story, but do you mind sharing a little bit about that?
NC: No, that's great. Yeah, absolutely. So Wayne Gretzky, he's known as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, and if you're familiar with hockey, you know that players accumulate points from scoring a goal or making an assist. And so Gretzky though, is the all-time leading points leader. He has something like almost 2000 points, it's like 1800, 1900 something points based off of goals and assists. Well, if you take away all of his 894 goals, I think it is, he still has enough points from assists alone to still be number one in points. The next leader, the second place guy is Jaromír Jágr, and he still trails behind Gretzky with his combined goals and assists compared to Gretzky's just assists alone. Now, here's what makes this so powerful and so significant that Gretzky talks about his hockey stick, and in an interview, he shared that the blade on his stick has almost no curve, and the reason why is because he wants to pass as well on the forehand as he does on the backend, because he realizes that if he can set up his teammates for success, they have a greater chance of winning as a team.
NC: Now, that is completely different than the mindset of most superstars in any sport, which is, "How can I score the most? How can I be put on a pedestal more?" And for the greatest... One of the greatest players in hockey history to say, "I want to be an amazing passer. I want to set my teammates up for success," that is such a powerful, powerful message because it doesn't say, "Oh, I have to be weak, I can't score any goals," he's one of the all-time leading goal scorers as well, but he is extremely focused on also helping his teammates.
DH: That's incredible.
NC: And so that's a powerful message for us too, like, yes, be competitive, go out there, get paid well for your job, be successful, do an incredible job in making an effort, but also be mindful of your teammates, set them up for success. Be a good teammate.
DH: And that's fantastic. I actually was on the phone with another executive just a couple of weeks ago, her name is Seychelle Van Poole, and she was... One of the things that's going on is her organization is losing a key player because he's found a totally different career path somewhere else, but it's a dream come true for him, he's extremely excited and things like that, and I think a tendency for any organization is to see that movement and get disappointed, get upset, try and draw that person back or even get angry with them for turning their back on you or whatever, but her words... And I don't remember, I can't quote her exactly, but the idea that she put across was, "This, for me, is a success, because what we wanna do at our company is we wanna find people opportunities, and if that opportunity is with us, awesome. If they found an opportunity to be successful and to be happy somewhere else because of their work here, that's success for us," and for that reason, I think she's one of the most successful people in her area is because of that mindset, showing that this idea of kindness is actually a strength. And what she has are powerful people who are sought after in other places and other industries even, and I think that's hugely commendable. Another thing I wanted to bring up, not to veer too far away from your book itself, but recently you took these ideas in front of a whole bunch of employees at Dollywood.
NC: Yeah, yeah.
DH: Yeah, tell me about that experience.
NC: The most Amazing family friendly theme Park. It's Wonderful there.
DH: Right. And Dolly Parton is somebody that you talk a lot about in your book. Tell me a little bit more about her.
NC: Yeah, so Dolly has... She's always had these Dolly-isms. Things that she says, these catch phrases almost little mantras that can really stick with you, and a lot of times she talks about having backwoods wisdom with a boardroom style, like she has these great little snippets that are present in her character always. And then also, she knows how to run business, and so it's like one of the quotes that my little five-year-old daughter has memorized is, "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours." And that's a Dolly-ism, she says that. And then also, I quote lines from working 9:00 to 5:00, the song, where it talks about, they'll let you dream just to watch them shatter, you're just another step on the boss man's ladder, where like she's describing this poisonous work environment where she wants to grow, she wants to have opportunity, but they won't let you. They'll step over you. And I talk about it in my book, I talk about it any time I present that there's an actual study that shows that that type of environment is more than two times... It causes heart disease more than two times as likely.
NC: And so if you're in an environment, and they describe it in the study as low job control, where you face problems every single day that you would want to contribute to the solution for, if you are a customer service agent and you keep getting customer complaints about this one thing that's not quite working, and you go to your supervisor, your manager, your boss, and you say, "Hey, I keep hearing from customers, this is a problem, can we fix it?" If the manager or if the boss is like, "No." You're like, "But I have this idea, it wouldn't cost much money, it would just... " "No, no, no, no, no." If the answer is always no to you, as somebody who encounters problems that you're not allowed to contribute at all to the solution, either solving it yourself or telling people who can make the decision or who have the authority to put some dollars behind it or some solutions behind it. If they keep saying no, no, no, no, no, that's low job control, because you're stuck in this spot where you have low control over what happens to you, how you provide service, how you do your job.
NC: Additionally, low job control is also defined as, "If you have no room for growth." Now, you described a situation where somebody had room for growth, but it was with another company. Now, if that boss that they left is poisonous, and tells people, "We hate them. They're dead to us. They betrayed us. They left us." What message does that send to the team there? They're just fearful of that person's emotional reaction to them. So, having no room for growth... And that doesn't mean that, "Okay, I started today. I'm a new employee. And I'm like, sit down. How do I get to the C-suite? How do I become the leader of the company?" That might not happen. However, you should be in a situation like you described with this person who grew in that department. Added responsibility, opportunity for learning, especially from leaders who go shoulder to shoulder with you and show you the way, invite you along to solve problems with them, put you in charge of solving problems. So, back to the study. Low job control. If you're in that situation where you can't contribute to solutions or see them get solved, and if you have no room for growth, you are more than two times likely to develop heart disease. And heart disease is the number one killer in America.
DH: Right. Well, even with the... Research aside, I think that makes common sense to everybody, if they'll just kinda step back and think about it. We've all been part of a situation where we feel like our voices aren't being heard, right? Or we feel like, "I feel like I could contribute to this," or, "I can make it better in some way," or something like that, and we're just not allowed to be a part. And that gives you anxiety and makes you frustrated. And you can feel not just the emotional, but the physiological effects of that, right?
NC: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
DH: So, I think what you're saying is super valuable. Coming back to Dolly Parton. We talked a little bit about this before, but I was right in the middle of your book, and a news app that I use popped up a news article on my screen. And I put the book down and I looked, and it was about Dolly Parton. And just a couple of days ago, Dolly Parton had been part of the line-up... Part of the group of nominees to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And I didn't realize it, but part of the way that that works is by vote. So the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has people just get on and submit a vote for whoever it is, somewhat of a popularity contest. And you've got names at the top of it right now, like Pat Benatar, and Duran Duran, and Devo.
NC: Yeah, and it's like, Judas Priest, Rage Against The Machine. A bunch of others. Carly Simon, Dionne Warwick, so there's a... That's a huge, amazing class of people.
DH: Right. And just... Great names, very Rock & Roll-ish names. And on that list as well was Dolly Parton. And Dolly Parton was in third or fourth place. And just... I think, it was yesterday. Today is March 17th, 2022, when we're recording. So, it would have been, I think, March 16th, maybe March 15th, that Dolly Parton tweeted out, "Thank you so much for the honor," but she had decided to bow out. And the reason she was doing that was, in her own words, or similar to her own words anyway, was, "I don't think that I've earned this honor." And she said she'd love to be considered in the future, but she didn't want her vote to split the votes between people who she felt deserved the honor.
DH: Now, deserving the honor or not I think there's probably who would disagree with her that she has earned the honor. But at the same time, what kind of humility does that take, right? And she just... That was one of the first times with your book, it was one of the first times I really had experience looking into Dolly Parton as a personality, and just by coincidence, that news article popped up, and I was like, "What an amazing character."
NC: Yeah, and just a general comment about Dolly Parton too. A lot of people, they know I like Dolly Parton, they know I'm a fan. I have a couple Dolly Parton T-shirts, and I go to Dollywood. My wife and I have seen her in concert, and... So yeah, I'm a fan. But really, what amazes me about her is her character. And what she has done throughout her career. And please, if you wanna dig into a little bit more of Dolly Parton positivity, go back to early Barbara Walters' interviews with her, where Barbara Walters says to her face, "Would I... " And she says it in such a condescending way...
DH: Barbara Walters' kind of way... [chuckle]
NC: "Would my people basically call your people hillbillies? Would we call you hicks, basically?" And Dolly's composure... You can see her think, "That wasn't nice," but the way she responds is beautiful. She said, "I could see how some people, from your point of view, would say that about us. But we're very proud people, we're very smart people. We don't have the college degrees that many of your people would have, but we have wisdom. And we take care of one another." And the way that she has handled herself, especially too... If you go through... I remember being a kid, and Dolly was always on the National Inquirer or all those tabloid magazines. And just picking her apart for her weight, and all that sort of stuff. Never once has she ever lashed out at anybody. She just says things like, 'You know, they're doing their job. And they need to sell newspapers. And that's what you can expect. And... "
NC: And just politely continues along, but then on the back side too, she is incredibly shrewd and wise. So she's very kind. She's very sweet. She's doing this humble thing of backing out, but maybe you know this story or not. Back when her big hit, "I Will Always Love You," she wrote that. She recorded it. It came out. It had a lot of life to it. Elvis Presley approached her and said, "I wanna record that song." And Elvis famously sang it in some of his concerts. But he went to her and said, "Look, I wanna record this. But whenever I record a song, I get the rights to it." And she said, "Thank you, but no, thank you. I'm not giving up my rights." She was so business-minded and wise that she held on to it.
NC: And now, I heard her sing it on a live recording. My wife got me a CD of it and at the beginning, she's like... The song kind of starts. The music starts and she's like, "Oh, you guys," talking to the audience, "You guys know what song this is." She's like, "Yeah, it's a really great song. I've always loved this song." She's like, "I think I'll write it, and then I'll give it to Whitney," meaning like [laughter] she wrote it. She recorded it. It had its own life under her, but then the deal worked with Whitney Houston. And she even talks about the house that Whitney bought her. Because when Whitney Houston re-recorded it for the movie, The Bodyguard, it took on its whole life of its own, too. So going back to Dolly in general, there are so many examples of her just being a truly positive and kind person. In all of her dealings, no matter how disrespectfully she was treated by the media or the public or whoever, she always maintained this element of positivity. And I cannot think of any other celebrity who leaves that impact behind. To just be that focused on positivity in every encounter that she has in every interview in everything she produces, it's just helpful and it's a point of positive light.
DH: I think you've done a great job in your book, bringing up... Dolly Parton is a primary example that gets carried over through several parts of your book, but you also bring up other people that all I think would be considered kind of top tier people. You've got examples from Dolly Parton. You have quotes from Ronald Reagan. We already talked about Wayne Gretzky, and then we talk about top level other things. We talk about Disney World. Dollywood's in there a little bit, other theme parks, things like that. But I also see you in your book, I think the reason you're calling out those top level examples is because in your book, your message really is from the top level down. It's not a book that says, "Hey, 'lower level employees' you need to be kind and then maybe that will leak up." Your book really addresses executive level people and what kindness needs to mean to them, and then how to perpetuate kindness throughout their own organizations. You even change the title of chief executive officer to chief empowerment officer, which I really like.
NC: Yeah, I think one of the strongest, in simplest examples of this, is like when you have companies who are like, "Oh, we're a family here," but then do not treat their employees at all like family. If you're a family, then the executive is the parent basically. So these are all your kids really. And so you're looking to... I can't think of firing... I have four kids. I'm not gonna fire any of them. [laughter] I'm gonna patiently teach them, help them grow, give them added responsibility as they grow so that they can bear more weight on their shoulders and I'm beside them to help them along. I can't tell you of how many examples of companies who are like, "We're family here," but then provide zero focus for their employees to grow and turn around and say, "You're not performing. You're gone."
NC: At what point does the family take some responsibility and say, "Oh, wait a second. We're having to let go a lot of people who are not doing a great job. Maybe we haven't done a great job, either communicating how they get to the great job." What does a good job look like versus what does an excellent job look like, give them a rubric, let them know where they stand. Or if they aren't performing, how do you bring them up? How do you coach them through that? And that entirely relies on those who are currently in leadership. Now, you did say though, the idea of it is top-down, but it's also a message in the book... There's a message to say, "We are all in positions of leadership because we all have a circle of influence."
DH: Absolutely right.
NC: "We can all be kind and lead by example and be there for others to help them grow."
DH: And not simply in the, "Hey, I'm gonna buy the Starbucks for the guy behind me way," was one of the examples that you give. That's kind but...
NC: Yeah, and that's called a random act of kindness.
NC: But the point is, those are great, those are fun, but at a certain point, they break down. How long can you pay for the person behind you before somebody stops paying or the day is over. 'Cause random acts of kindness has a day once a year. And the idea is, you're gonna... That's nice, but you have the opportunity to make a drastic impact on the lives of others if you choose to incorporate it into your character and always be looking to say, "Okay, how can I help others?" And so, from individual to individual, that's a little bit of a different context. That is, "How can I do something for someone else, without expecting anything in return?"
NC: On a team, it's different. "How do we work together to accomplish the goal and share the success?" Share the workload, share the success, that's the team mentality of it. But then from a leader's perspective, it's, "How can I help my team? Remove barriers, remove blocks, as well as build them up to accomplish more and share the credit?" And so, there's nuance in the definition of kindness and what it truly means, but in every instance of those examples I'm giving you, in those contexts, it's all about doing something that is sometimes hard. From an individual to an individual, looking at each other and saying, "Okay, what can I do for you and not expect anything in return?" Sometimes that means like financial help. Sometimes that means a ton of time. Sometimes that means coaching, walking alongside people. On a team, it can be somebody is experiencing some difficulty at home. They're dealing with a family illness, and so they can't carry as much of their work load as they normally can. And so, the team hops in and says, "Alright, how can I help?" The worst thing somebody can say on a team is, "Not my job."
NC: If you think of an actual sports team, there are moments in sports and maybe... I don't remember if I shared this story in the book or not, but there was a moment in...
DH: It can be in the sequel. [chuckle]
NC: Yeah, alright. Or in my speeches or whatever. There was a game where everything was on the line for this game, and Scottie Pippen, he was supposed to go in on the next shift. And he sat down on the bench and said, "If I don't take the shot, I'm not doing it. I'm not going in."
NC: How is that being a part of a team?
NC: You would never expect... You wouldn't call it a good team if players are just like, "Nah, I'm out. I'll just hang out back over here."
DH: No joke.
NC: And so yet, for some reason, some people think that's acceptable in the work environment. To be a team player who's like, "Nope, I'm out. I'm not helping." And so, it's on the leaders especially, because they're the ones who set the tone as well, and can pull people aside and say, "Look, this is unacceptable." We want teams where people can trust one another. We want teams where people are going to help out with one another. Now, that's also... There's a difficult conversation if somebody is repeatedly just not contributing. "The rest of the team got this, I'll just take it easy." That's a whole other conversation. But this idea of working together towards a goal, sharing the success, it's vitally important.
DH: I think you're right, completely vitally important. And I think the concepts that you put in here make the difference between somebody falling in love with your product versus somebody falling in love with your company. And when somebody can fall in love with your company, that's what makes for long-term relationships, long-term contracts. And makes for recommendations outside of your company, and then repeat the process, and more and more people falling in love with your company, telling your story for you. Increasing and augmenting brand, all of that, I don't think you can really put a value on. But we've gotta wind it down for now. Everybody, I wanna show you this once again, on Amazon right now, you can go and buy Empowering Kindness, it'll be on your doorstep tomorrow, probably. Nathan, thank you so much for being here. I've been really enjoyed your time. I especially enjoyed your book, and I'm already recommending it to pretty much everyone I know. So thank you so much, and I can't wait to have you on again sometime.
NC: Well, thank you. Really appreciate being here. Thank you for the conversation and for sharing this message with your audience. Really means a lot. Appreciate it.
DH: Well, I appreciate your time. And we will talk to you next time. Everybody have a great day and we will talk to you next time on Time Out for Anesthesia.