Joe Tye: Finding his contribution Pt. 1
Yesterday, I pulled notes out from my conversation with Joe Tye. I’ve held them back for weeks wondering how to write his story. I decided to just start.
With a chuckle, Joe said, “I’m a recovering hospital administrator.” His story begins with frailty, jumps to failure and enters struggle and striving. Today he says he’s, “almost successful.”
About 20 years ago Joe was the CEO of a 750 bed teaching hospital, but that didn’t work out. He was fired.
Reasons matter and Joe hadn’t yet found his.
“I was living for all the wrong reasons, pretending to be somebody I wasn’t.” He used expressions like, “substantially inauthentic,” and “superficial.” He was another great pretender that lost his soul to his ego.
After the hospital, Joe started a company that ran large motivational conferences. He lost his shirt. The shadow of bankruptcy hung over the door. Thankfully, over 15 years later, those financial losses are almost paid.
Failure was followed by years of struggling to get over the hump of defeat. Those were days when getting the next speaking gig meant paying the bills. “There were times when we needed to sell enough shirts or we wouldn’t have gas money.”
Joe’s struggling began easing as he grew past feeling like a failure.
Striving is a good thing. It’s hitting your stride. About four years ago, sunlight began burning through shadows. Business was good. Most importantly, Joe said, “I found a clear picture of the contribution we can make.”
You might be surprised to hear that one component of Joe’s contribution is building cultures of ownership in hospitals.
It’s freeing to find a clear picture of the contribution you can make. You’ll find your greatest contribution frequently emerges out of frailty, failure, and struggle.
More tomorrow on how Joe moved through struggle to “almost successful,” and lessons he learned.
My review of one of Joe’s books, “All hands on Deck.”
How might leaders find the greatest contribution they can make?
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Is it weird that I feel really encouraged by Joes’s story? At first I thought I would be a bit depressed, but what a great illustration of how sticking with the belief you have in yourself, really is the most common factor in leaders.
John Maxwell said once, “Want to impress others? Talk about your successes. Want to impact others? Talk about your failures.” Tell Joe I said “Thanks!” for having an impact on me. Looking forward to the follow up piece.
I agree on both your points. I think it’s easy to fall into “woe is me” thinking or just become a dark cloud. My conversation with Joe was anything but a downer.
Giving people a glimpse of the frailties we’re working through draws them to us.
I’m excited about tomorrows piece also. Joe shared some wonderful and encouraging lessons he has learned.
great question. Perhaps its by never stopping asking whether you have found it.
Or to paraphrase a common syaing – it is not thinkng the destination has been reached (good or bad) and being prepared to continue the journey (with your eyes wide open).
I also think once you hit the bottom, knowing which way is up is much easier.
PS I’ll be in Virginia and illinois 28th-1st , too tight a trip this time to make it over. Next time.
Your point speaks to the point that Joe made about success. YOu don’t make it there. You keep on finding ways to make a contribution… more tomorrow.
I was looking forward to seeing you. Perhaps next time?
Croadie is a longtime friend of Leadership Freak. I haven’t updated his profile yet. 🙂
And yes there willbe a next time, with time of course!
Still waiting for the brew in Oregon Croadie!
Thank you for writing about Joe’s story. I might not have learned about Joe Tye. Another touchstone of how you must lose yourself in order to find yourself. Leadership is who we are, not the tangible entrapments of what we have come to expect of a successful leader.
I keep learning the lesson you mention. Francis Hesselbein puts it this way:
“leadership is being not doing.”
I salute Joe for showing courage to tell his struggles and realities in life. This is the powerful strength that usually people lack. As Joe has mentioned that he wanted to inauthentic and somebody else and consequences he faced is his real learning. Now, he is real, authentic, full of humility and integrity. I believe that struggle is integral part of life. Those who accept it, overcome it sooner or later, and those who do not accept it, break or fail sooner. This is the reality of every successful leader.
I think the greatest contribution leaders can make by knowing, managing and applying. Knowing his potentials and limitations, managing circumstances and situations and applying all the learning for expected result.
Usually people know about the limitations and potential but they fail to manage circumstances and hence fail to apply learning. Managing needs perseverance and patience and application needs courage. The person who has seen more failures than success might need stronger courage to apply learning for unexpected outcomes.
“Another great pretender who lost his soul to his ego.” — Awesome! It’s so easy to try to be a clone of some person you look up to, but we’re only really successful when we’re being ourselves. We need to spend less time trying to be what we’re not, and more time enjoying and maximizing what we are. We’re better leaders that way, because we’re genuine.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like the early failure was due to ambition and ego, something all of us have to deal with. As we mature and learn (sometimes hard lessons), you learn to become a servant leader. This sounds like where Joe is ending up now- and success follows.
Dan, I don’t think you should limit the length of your blog, if you have something to say, go ahead and say it, even if it goes past your word limit! I find your blog very useful and insightful.
Agree with Jana. Take whatever length is needed to best communicate the point. It’s good stuff.
Lol, sorry Janna. I work with a Jana, so my fingers defaulted to the wrong spelling.
I can indentify with Joe.
I commend Joe’s honesty and willingness to share part of his journey. It’s easy to talk of our high points. But talking of our failures and taking responsibility “substantially inauthentic,” and “superficial” is refreshing.
I look forward to part two.
Adversity is a serious motivator to either re-invent yourself or rediscover yourself. We need to hear more “Joe” stories to help us realise that we must not just give up. I can say that has been my life lesson over the past 4 years and I would do it again to get to where I am now (I could do with less tears and drama) but it has been a trip!
Agree completely. In fact, when things are going well it’s hard to find motivation for change or self-improvement. Great point.
Looking forward to learning more about Joe. I think too often we assume successful people were always successful and that they didn’t have the struggles we have. When they’re willing to share those struggles and the lessons learned, I am so grateful.
How might leaders find the greatest contribution they can make?
I was talking a couple of nights ago with a fellow parent whose daughter had spent a couple of years (like mine) at our city’s competitive gymnastics program. It’s a tough and demanding program, led by a coach who is very very good but whose focus is on technique, strength, and training specifics much more so than the psyche and the fact that these young women are still very young girls cognitively and need support on that side too. We talked about girls who have left the program and how dramatic it can be sometimes – one young woman came to gym and immediately HID – FOR THE ENTIRE TWO HOUR WORKOUT. I missed many of the signs in my own daughter because I wasn’t ready to see her quit even though the demand on her body was intense and mentally she had already “left”.
When you as an individual want to cower in the corner or find yourself trying to get the attention of someone you trust to convey to them that you’re “through” it’s time to refresh the viewfinder on “how you can really contribute.” It is so darn easy to get off course, for a kid or a grownup.
Between Joe’s recovery with HAA (Hospital Administrators Anonymous–bet there could be some good one liners there) and Dan’s powerful quote that Greg S recognized, we are in rare air here.
Joe’s story is so powerful and moving at a core level and that’s just from what Dan has written.
Folks here have noted that it’s the journey not the destination and Joe validates this in spades.
I don’t know about the ‘greatest’ contribution, however, “being real” (to thine own self be true) may be a foundation piece. Being real is about listening and following what you feel/sense inside, which leads to a transparency which can model accountability. Accountability and true passion are interwoven.
All too often our sensing/feeling is subservient to parts of our brain (ego?) which we may think is ‘true’ probably not. In a way we are addressing Emotional Intelligence I suppose and connecting it more thoughtfully.
When Joe was not ‘real’ while he may have been making serious $$$ and it seems to have caught up with him on multiple levels as well.
What is striking for me is he has come through this now that transparency is clear to see (not an oxymoron).
And, in all seriousness related to recovery, it is a phase of several stages which can include relapse as Joe also experienced. That is how most of us experience any change, with varying intensity…pre-contemplation, thinkin’ bout it, getting ready, do it, maintaining and relapse…relapse is when we need to ‘fall forward’ and learn rather than fall back and be stuck as a victim. (Apologies to Miller and Rollnick for the abbreviated SoC)
Two bottom lines for me. We could f/u with the three words, ‘culture of ownership’ (maybe it should be a ‘community of ownership) with an expanded thread all on its own. That ‘ownership’ is a core element, again which needs to be ‘real’. The other take away, I have one more book that I need to read to learn and grow. Thanks Dan and Joe and LF community!
Hey Doc, yes Oregon i sstill going to happen. To quote Sledgehammer = Trust me!
I can’t resist a Docism or your comment here. I thought ‘being real’ would be ‘the foundation of peace’, as well as a foundation piece.
The timing on your post is fantastic Dan. The idea of failure as something leaders not only ‘admit’ to… but in fact celebrate seems to finally be venturing out as a concept. What a relief! And what an opportunity for our organizations and our leaders to grow.
Hiding failure breeds all kinds of side-effects, but the most obvious deadly is the loss of the learning opportunities. EWB Canada is leading the way in the NGO sector right now by taking the risk to publish an “Failure Report”. In a sector where funding is often directly tied to demonstrating success – this takes immense courage, but it has already created great successes. Their leadership has opened the door to other NGOs following their lead on the website: http://www.admittingfailure.com
If we could now encourage public and private sector to think this way – imagine what innovation might be possible? Imagine how differently employees might perform and engage with their work if failure, in service of learning, were celebrated, rather than shamed. That’s a tall order for many managers who are still stuck in a paradigm of needing to have all the answers – but I maintain that the possibilities make the risk worth it. Sharing the stories of leaders like Joe Tye is essential to open up this powerful and necessary conversation. Thank you!
Thanks for the transparency in really good failures Shoshana! Will spend some time learning from y’all!
Thanks Doc – I can’t take credit for EWB’s work and leadership – I’m just impressed enough by them to share what they’re doing.
I say review your strengths, stick to them, create a great, diverse team, then work really hard together.
But don’t get out of your strengths area.
I enjoy all the stories and post. I was expecting to read how a leader can share their frailties w/o loosing their credibility, it’s not in this piece. When will you share this information?
I thought I would write about it soon. Thanks, Dan
Thanks for sharing this story. Just read it and found it to be similar to my recent post about being a Fish Out of Water. It encoruages me and make me think…would love to hear your thoughts on http://www.fitbodycareerspirit.com
Thanks for this!