Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tom Terry: Good evening.
Karen Wilson: Hello everybody.
Tom Terry: Good evening and welcome. Thank you all for coming to what
promises to be an exciting and important symposium. I’m Tom
Terry and along with my co-host, Karen Wilson, we’ll be hosting
you tonight and tomorrow. This weekend’s symposium is being put
on by the Foundation for Transformational Leadership. In the room
tonight, we have an exciting representative body of leaders. We
have – we have CEOs of national corporations, we have
entrepreneurs on their way to earning their first million, we have the
heads of national education organizations along with ministers who
are here to transform their congregations. We have a director of a
national leadership association as well as the head of a national
musical education association. We have board members from
national firms as well as FAP leaders in the healthcare industry.
And they’re all here together with one common purpose namely: to
be their very best as the head leader organizations into the future
successfully adapting, transforming, and succeeding at fulfilling
their missions, maximizing service to their constituents, developing
their staffs, furthering their own personal development, and indeed
ultimately transforming themselves and the world.
Karen Wilson: Thank you, Tom. Welcome everybody. I just want to tell you a little
bit about the Wright Foundation for Transformational Leadership.
It’s a 5013C organization. It promotes the study, development,
expanding recognition, and the impact of transformational
leadership. The foundation front; graduate research,
transformational leadership awards, education loans, scholarships,
and symposia to support the development and dissemination of
cutting edge forward thinking human performance technology,
philosophy and methodology. That word was hard to get out there.
The foundation sponsors for transformational leadership award as
well as the transformational leadership symposium that were at
presently. The transformational leadership award was created to
promote the study and application of transformational leadership by
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annually recognizing an established leader who embodies the
principles and practices of transformational leadership.
The annual transformational leadership symposium aims to bring
together FAP leaders as well as those aimed at living the principles
of transformational leadership. The goal of the symposium is to
develop transformational leadership as well as raise the awareness
of the need for the transformational leadership in our world.
In the arena of graduate research, the foundation provides loans
and scholarships for student of the Wright Indus – Institute for the
realization of human potential offering masters and doctor degrees
in human development.
Tom Terry: I’d like to introduce our first speaker this evening. Dr. Judith Wright
is an educator, lifestyle’s expert, inspirational speaker, best-selling
author, and corporate consultant. Judith began her career in
Academia where she designed a cutting-edge program enabling
adults with disabilities to attend college as well as a model research
program for children with developmental disabilities. A trailblazer in
human development, she co-founded the Wright Leadership
Institute, the Wright Foundation for Transformational Leadership
and the Wright Institute for the realization of human potential
offering, as Karen just said, masters and doctor degrees for
Judith coaches and trains sea-level executives on achieving career
success and living meaningful lives. She is the author of the One
Decision and the Soft Addiction Solution book and has appeared on
over 70 TV programs including ABC’s 20/20, the Today Show,
Oprah, and Good Morning America. Please help me welcome, Dr.
Judith Wright: Thank you. Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Karen. Thank all of you.
Would you keep your applause for Tom and Karen and all of you
that are gathered here. I like to thank all of us for being here. Thank
Judith Wright: So, I want to find out are transformed yet? Does it happened
because that is what we’re gathered here for today and I’ve been –
to set context for the climate for transformation. And I want to share
this quote by Warren Bennis, “Devising and maintaining an
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atmosphere in which others can put a dent in the universe is the
leader’s creative act.” Each of us here has their own reason for
being here, our own dent in the universe whether it’s to deal with
the challenges in our businesses or our organizations in this
economic climate or it is – if it’s to be – perhaps, we’re in a stall or a
growth’s berg or a free fall or a rot. I’m looking to see what you’re
responding to as I said those.
Judith Wright: Or perhaps we’re facing personal challenges or relationship
stresses or family ordeals or perhaps, it’s just the challenge to lead
our business or organization that’s turning out to be much different
than the organization we began with. And what that calls from us is
for us to learn and grow and transform.
But perhaps what we’re also looking for is a possibility of aligning
our practices with our values or even to remember what those
values are. Or perhaps it’s to dream a bigger dream or retouching
the hunger that we have to leave a greater legacy, to create a more
positive future or perhaps it’s all of the above.
Yet, it’s our very being here that brings us the vast resources and
renewal of all the others who share our care and our concerns and
our fears and our hopes and our desires, who all yearn for
something more and are willing to do something about it to make
that happen. There are those of us gathered here who sensed the
climate for transformation is upon us and it’s compelling us to
A world that is changing in an unforeseen ways.
[Music playing 00:41:20 to 00:44:14]
Judith Wright: Wow!
Judith Wright: You know, I’m thinking what will Best Buy sell that computer for?
Judith Wright: I guess we’ll have to hang around and find out. And many of you
may have seen this as this from YouTube. Its been virally
transmitted all over the world and I think it’s over 7 million people
who’ve been doing this to really – and the figures are updated all
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the time because the statistics change in this changing world that
we have. And yet, not only do we face this technological changes
and this exponential growth of this reality that we’ve just seen, we
also face significant social challenges. And I want to invite us to
consider what those are and what are role is as a transformational
There’s a poet and cultural historian, William Irwin Thompson, who
provides perspective on this, on our role of this time in history. He
says, “For the first time, in human evolution, the individual life is
long enough and cultural transformation swift enough that the
individual mind is now a constituent player in the global
transformation of human culture.” So, let’s look at that more fully
and delve into what is it that we face in our job, in the global
transformation of human culture?
[Video Playing at 00:45:47 to 00:46:49]
Judith Wright: Well, let us take advantage of those immense possibilities and
create a future beyond our positive imagining. Not change for
change sake alone but change because it’s our very nature to
learn, to grow, to develop, to transform, to become that which we
have not yet become. The existentialists tell us that we have a
choice in any moment to do that which we’ve already done or just
step into the unknown, to do that which we’d never done before,
which will then help us become who we’ve never become before.
And that then caused this existential anxiety. The very thought
change that when we do face that, we can experience what they
remind us, of existential freedom and existential joy.
Recent neuroscience research reveals that our brains are happiest
when we embark on something new, that our brains thrive on
novelty, lighting up when we connect new ideas or solutions and
create new structures and new ways of being. It’s when we activate
this magnificent seeking, this hardwired into our brains that we’re
wired to be curious, to engage, to grow, to change, to innovate, to
make a difference, to be part of something greater, to matter. And
in fact, the neurosciences have discovered that we have a center
for altruism within our own brain, which lights up when we know
that we’re contributing and making a difference for others. And it is
this center that’s transformational leaders tap into, into themselves,
into their followers. And it’s when we do this, when we tap into that
part of us that loves to contribute, to make a difference, to be part
of something, that we are our most human and perhaps our most
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Yet, this creation is not a solo act. Hence, solo wasn’t …
Judith Wright: … solo. Very good. And the lone ranger wasn’t …
Judith Wright: … alone [laughs]. Good. Because neuroscience research tells us
there is no single neuron and there is no single brain. There is no
neuron that exists by itself and there is no human brain that exists
by itself. Our social brains are connected as if in a special kind of
Wifi and yet, there’s no password.
Judith Wright: We are interconnected in ways we perhaps have sensed but not
fully fathomed. Also, with the social brains that we have and what
the neuroscience is revealing to us, studies show that we are able
to connect emotionally and with empathy and through mirror
neurons to be able to anticipate the intention of others and to be
able to sense what’s going on with them. It’s beautiful gift that
we’ve been given. However, they also show that our moods are as
contagious as a cold. I think we all know what that’s like but when
someone is in a negative mood and when someone is inspiring and
how does – that it’s catching. But also, what they’ve found that’s
also contagious is our inspiration and our enthusiasm and our
Far from the independent creatures than we imagine ourselves to
be, we are interconnected brain to brain and heart to heart.
Neuroscientists have discovered that our emotions are process
through our brains and our body, through our minds and our hearts.
Our brains, our very selves are designed to interact, to complete
each other, to solve problems together, to create solutions and
possibilities, to learn from one another and inspire one another, to
support each other, comfort each other, to call each other to our
highest, and it’s through this call that we come together in these
transformational times. To explore the possibilities that are open to
us as transformational leaders and may we be consciously
contagious and share inspiration with one another. And I offer that
as our invitation through the rest of this symposium.
And before we move on, I’ll let you nourish your bodies and your
minds and your hearts both with your food and the interaction with
one another at your table, I’d like to take a moment to pause and to
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reflect and to mark this in a moment of thankfulness as an
invocation or if you could use this as a meditation or thought or just
a moment for contemplation or reflection or whatever is most
meaningful to you. And some of you might use it as a prayer.
To the Holy Mystery and the Creator of all, if it is as it is said that
we are made in the image of the Creator, let us claim that birthright
and strengthen our ability to create not only to react or to limit our
potential. And let us understand that creation is an ongoing process
of continual transformation and may we remember that
transformation is different for all of us from where we are to where
we will be is determined by where we are and where we begin. May
we recognize that our hungers are the same yet, how we choose to
fulfill those may differ. May we learn to honor each other’s
differences and find the divine synergy as we celebrate the unique
gifts that each person is to us.
May we remember that we are all one under the same Creator and
that we will live and thrive together or suffer unnecessary pains
alone. May we know that we lead not only in our positions but by
how we lead our lives. May we lead with truth, wisdom,
genuineness, and inspiration. May we have the courage to walk our
talk, you know, and sometimes even just talk our talk would be a
good start. May we cultivate the climate of transformation within our
businesses and our organizations for our employees, our vendors,
our communities, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves.
Dear Creator, may you support us in creating the condition
conducive for our transformation and activate our yearning, help us
to shake free of our rigidity or limiting dogma to be willing to
question our beliefs, to see anew, to learn and grow, to contribute
and be contributed to, to change, and to transform, and for us to be
the change that we wished to see in the world. And may you guide
us as we each and everyone of us make our dent in the universe.
Amen. So be it. Let’s rock!
Judith Wright: Thank you.
[Break at 00:54:00 to 01:36:10]
Tom Terry: How is dinner?
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Tom Terry: So, dinner was good. Very good. I’d like to – I’d like to introduce our
next speaker. It’s Dr. Bob Wright. Bob Wright is a highly successful
entrepreneur, executive coach, corporate consultant, and a leading
thinker and program developer in the areas of human potential and
human emergence technologies. Identified as a top executive
coach by Crain’s Chicago Business, his research and empowering
models of leadership has helped sea-level executives and
entrepreneurs build, grow and thrive in businesses with purpose,
mission, and high performance cultures. Dr. Wright has developed
an internationally recognized model of human development and
authored numerous articles and books including Beyond Time
Management: Business with Purpose. He is the co-founder of the
Wright Institute for the Realization of Human Potential as well as
the Wright Leadership Institute, and the Wright Foundation for
Tonight, he will provide us with an overview of transformational
leadership. So, Bob come on up.
Bob Wright: Thank you, Tom. And thank you everybody. Thank you so much for
coming from New York, Connecticut, where else? Dallas, where?
Bob Wright: Michigan.
Bob Wright: Colorado.
Bob Wright: Houston.
Bob Wright: Northbrook. Yes. Washington, Washington, D.C., Connecticut.
Okay. Give yourselves a hand. Thank you very much.
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Bob Wright: And I’d like to think that there is one common bond that we all have
otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, which is that we want to do what
we do better and we want to be better leaders so that we can bring
the best out in the people that we’re with. And I want to thank you
especially for being here because it isn’t everybody who is willing to
admit that they have something to learn. They certainly aren’t
necessarily willing to travel so far and to come and bring
themselves with people they don’t necessarily know and look at
who they are. That’s one of the key aspects of a transformational
leader. A transformational leader is willing to look at who he or she
Another key aspect of a transformational leader is a
transformational leader believes in mutuality. Our speaker tonight is
one of the most decent, fantastic men I know. He had just gotten
done getting crucified by a Wall Street crew for a big buy-back. I
come in and I don’t know anything but I have an opinion as does
most everyone around him.
Bob Wright: I’m very free to tell him my opinion after he has just gotten done
dealing with some of the financial heavyweights of the planet. With
absolute and total respect and sensitivity, he listened to me and
tolerated me. Give him a hand for that. Brad Anderson.
Bob Wright: And so, transformational leaders know that their power comes from
others. They aren’t out there looking for someone to demonstrate
how powerful they are. They’re more interested in helping you see
how powerful you are. And you’re all here, I believe with that level
of mission. Would you give yourselves a hand please?
Bob Wright: We’d like to see this be an incubator. We would like to see you
leave here inspired in such a way that you have the courage to step
even further into your commitments to mutuality, further into your
commitments to empowering other people because none of us is
done. Every time I’ve been allowed to interview Brad for hours and
hours and hours and I learned more every time I’m with him. And I
would hope that we would all be able to say that by the time we
leave here tomorrow evening that we’ve all shared and learned
from each other and that we come out of here with a vision. A
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vision of how we can be better. A vision of how we can help
One of our key speakers tomorrow is Don Beck, a foremost change
expert in the world as far as I know. He architected South Africa’s
leaving behind of a [Indiscernible] [01:41:05]. He kept South Africa
from fragmenting into different companies, countries. I see I got
corporations on the brink. You know, he – he could do that because
he can speak with different people no matter who they are, what
their – whatever their language is and that’s what a
transformational leader seeks to do.
We all fall short and transformational leaders know that we fall short
and one of the blessings we’re going to have tonight is here, Brad
Anderson willing to talk about ways he’s fallen short, which to me
indicates what a big man he is and what a fantastic blessing he is
to us and to the planet.
Don Beck is going to talk to you about understanding human
evolution. He’s going to talk to you about understanding how
people move from one stage in their development to the next. And
as transformational leaders, we’re not looking at telling you what a
company should look like. We’re not interested in telling you what
you should look like. What we’re interested in is helping you
engage in questions that will invite the people around you to
engage intellectually in what they’re doing. That will invite them to
engage with their hearts and their minds and take full responsibility
for the inspirational visions that you create happening.
One of those – one of those fantastic stories that I found out from
Brad – how many of you know about Brad’s hospital beds and his
tombstones? Nobody – nobody know about – okay. Good. So, Brad
– Brad has one of these qualities that transformational leaders have
which is that he’s never complacent. You’re going to understand
that after he’s done talking why he’s never complacent. But one of
the things that he did is he was talking to his company constantly
about what – who was dead and he was talking about other firms
that they were competition that were sick. And his new products
group came up and say, “Would you mind if we did something?”
And he said, “What do you mean?” And he – they said, “Well, we’d
really like to set the reception area as a hospital. We want to put
hospital beds up with all of the sick businesses in our industry and
then we’d also like to have a graveyard with tombstones for all the
businesses that have died, that we’ve move beyond to do what
you’ve been trying to do which is to provide a reminder to us that if
we don’t stay ahead of the curb, if we don’t stay humble, if we don’t
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work, if we don’t seek to keep ourselves, you know, in tip top
shape, to step into the unknown, we’re going to end up sick in one
of those hospital beds and then in one – under one of those
I can consider that to be transformational leadership. He didn’t say,
“Will somebody do this?” It didn’t even occurred to him that
someone would take his message, make it tangible in a way that
empowered him and the entire company to come to grip with who
they were in the moment so that they could step into that next
radiant emergent self that they could be. So, let’s give them and
everybody Best Buy another hand on that.
Bob Wright: Because one of the first things Brad is going to tell you tonight is
he’s going to tell you that it’s not about him. He’s going to tell you
it’s about Dick Smith and if he does that I’m going to tell you and
steal his lines. Yes.
Bob Wright: Do you know that at Best Buy as recently as 1996, ’97, a young
person could come in to one of their stores and start working and
two years later, have the keys to one of the $25 million operation?
What year was it? What – I get it wrong? Could still happen. Oh,
excuse me. I stand corrected. It still happens today. It can still
happen. But that – that’s not a mistake. It’s because they believe in
people and they do the most important aspect of what
transformational leaders do, which is called individualized
Now tomorrow morning, Ron Riggio, the co-author of the book
Transformational Leadership is going to give us the history of
transformational leadership. He’s going to tell us what the key traits
of transformational leaders are and then we’re going to break down
into groups and we’re going to actually think about what those traits
would look like and behavior for us and then we’re going to finish
his session with one specific transformational behavior that we
would like to engage in more. And if we’re lucky and we get done in
time, he’ll tell us about his most recent research on authenticity.
Really important job.
Would you stand for us, Ron?
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Bob Wright: Ron has been a fantastic help. I call him, you know, I’m saying,
“Ron, does this really makes sense the way we’re putting these
things together?” And every once in a while, I feel like we’re falling
apart, he talks me through it over and over again. So, he’s been an
incredibly big help.
And then in the afternoon, we’re going to have Don Beck as I told
you, the foremost expert on change at a national level. He’s worked
with NFL teams, financial firms. He’s currently working with Tony
Blair in London, literally in England on the British self-esteem. So,
would you stand up, Don? Yes.
Bob Wright: And you meet my lovely bride. She’s going to take us through here
research into the internal journey of the transformational leader.
You’re going to understand why some companies break down and
some companies move ahead as far as the internal journey of the
leader goes with that.
Would you stand up, Judith?
Bob Wright: And I’m going to carry her bags on that one. Okay. So – and I’d like
to – while acknowledging people, I’d like you to help me
acknowledge Tom Terry and Karen. Terry, would you stand up
there, our platinum sponsors tonight, Tom and Karen.
Bob Wright: We couldn’t be here without them. We wouldn’t have the nerve to
do this without their muscle behind us. Karen Wilson, would you
stand up? Oh, there you are. Give her a hand. Thank you. They’re
Bob Wright: And I’m going to call several names to have them stand up and ask
them to do it all in sequence then we’ll give them applause. David
of [Phonetic] [01:48:04] Communications, Clad-Rex Steel Coding,
James Buckner, the Delves Group, Smith Economics Group, and
we want to give special thanks to Med Architects. They put this
whole thing together for us. They’re running tonight. They move us
way beyond what we could do on our own. And Forward Progress
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with team de L‘lle [Phonetic] [01:48:25], would you stand up, team?
They have helped us reach out to the world on this. Would you give
them all a big hand. Thank you.
Bob Wright: Well, I think I’ve said pretty much what – what I wanted to say. I’m
going add a couple of things about our next speaker. He’s going to
by the way book in the weekend. He’s going to talk tonight and then
at the end of the day tomorrow, he’s going to talk again. And we’re
going to take what we worked on during the day and we’re going to
apply it to Best Buy to go deeper into our analysis of Best Buy so
each of us can go deep – more deeply into the analysis of who we
are and what we’re doing so that we can take away the most potent
After the weekend, you’ll have an opportunity to take Ron Riggio’s
transformational leadership assessment yourself and if you’re
feeling particularly committed, you can have your direct reports rate
Bob Wright: And Ron will help you analyze that and strategize what you’re going
to do from there. Give him a hand on that.
Bob Wright: And I couldn’t say enough about – about Don Beck. Don is just
amazing with his ability to analyze things. You’ll know that after
tomorrow but you’re going to be able to take Don’s online test to
assess your readiness for change and what the culture is that you
bring with you wherever you go. And if you’re particularly
courageous, you can have your direct reports also rate – they’re
actually be rating themselves and you get a feel for your culture
from the foremost expert in my opinion on corporate culture in the
world. Don Beck, give him a hand.
Bob Wright: A man who is totally open to learning, totally open to growing with
just the biggest heart and had been a massive blessing to all of us
and you’ll realize and I’m thrilled to share him with you as a
blessing this weekend. Would you help me welcome Brad
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Brad Anderson: Hi. Thanks. I have been walking around the – for the last few
months hunch over because I’ve got a severe back problem.
Excuse my bad speech. But [laughs] the a – as a matter of fact, I
was walking in New York last week and I looked in a – in a window
and I saw this poor old man stumbling along the street and realized
it was me and I was just so – anyway – and Bob, thank you so
much for that wonderful introduction. I – actually, we were just
talking before – earlier this evening and I – I’m in fact, starting to
understand him which is really a [laughing] it’s really quite – I’m not
sure whether it’s good or terrifying. It’s like wooh because I’ve
known for years and it’s – it’s quite a journey.
Anyway, the – many of you I think, you’d probably experienced
some degree of chronic pain and there’s nothing like going through
a board meeting in chronic pain. I got it. That’s a – there’s a new
level of pain I had and I’m not a very well-disciplined person as
much as anyone who knows me knows. And so, I was sitting in a
compensation committee on a board on Wednesday. Yes, thank
you. I appreciate that laughter [laughs]. You know. Imagine severe
back pain and a compensation committee meeting.
Brad Anderson: And a – and in a turbulent times that we’re in, you got this – this
tremendous – you know, almost everybody has got some unique
problem they’ve never faced before and really tough kind of
circumstances. And then you have the formal formats of what is –
what’s the right thing to do from a compensation standpoint. And I
couldn’t care about that more from my own leadership experience
because I believe it is 100% about people. And compensation is
one of the most powerful things we’ve got to sort of say what our
values are back to the people who work for us.
But I’m – in the process of listening to the discussion and getting
angrier and angrier and I’m not sure whether it’s the back pain or
what I’m hearing but I’m just – I’m getting more frustrated and
knowing that I also don’t know how to articulate what I’m feeling.
But essentially what the discussion was, how do we get the right
compensation to the leaders of this organization that is not so much
that we’ll be criticized from and for paying them but is appropriate to
motivate them. We have no idea what the hell we should be doing
because the environment is moving so quickly on us. And – and I’m
thinking, “Well, there’s a much bigger than that problem.” which
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that, we’re also sitting by dif – and this – I’m going to share with you
sort of some of Best Buy life experience.
In my life experience, we’re – that means we’re sitting on
something very precious, which is we’re sitting on a place in time in
which we may have an opportunity to do better than we’d ever done
before in our lives and discover a completely new way to take an
existing resource and use that resource. And that we’re – there are
two things that we will find out in that journey. Number one is, the
insight to know what to do. We couldn’t begin to figure out who it
was we had to discover, who it was who may have most of the time
existed inside the company. And number two was, in order to do it,
we’re going to have to follow something that is something we
already know to be wrong. That that insight and that voice is going
to tell us to go do something in the most powerful way possible that
everything in our industry’s experience tells us it’s stupid.
That for me operationally has been the lesson of experience I had
for 36 years at Best Buy. And I want to share how and sort of try to
do as briefly as possible because I know we’re very time-
compressed but try to share some of those key lessons where
maybe you can kind of see where is as strange as that position and
believe me when I said it at the board, it did not get clear eyes
when I was looking at one’s friend that describe it. One person did.
But the – my life experience is one of the strangest dreams I could
have imagined and some of you, I know, in the room have heard it
so I’m not going to go through but with as little as I possibly can to
still make this clear. But I’m somebody that was a lousy high school
student, told not to go to college because I wasn’t smart enough,
who – I went to seminary because I didn’t know what I wanted to do
and stumbled into a business clear-up from being a clerk in a store
which was then Sound of Music that came best Buy.
And I only got a business opportunity chance because completely
out of character, I got mad enough to ask for an opportunity to run a
business in a point of absolute crisis where what was then a $4
million company losing $200,000 a year that couldn’t make it’s
payroll that the owner decided to take a wild bet on me as one of
the two people to try to transform the company. And the – so,
everything about that journey, it was not prepared for, not expected,
and not based on any known fact. As a matter of fact, the antithesis
of what you probably should do if you went to any education about
what to do in a crisis.
I don’t – I did – what I’ve never gotten a chance to do in speech like
this is tell what I did actually when I got a chance to lead, which is –
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that this is a – if you can imagine, this is a company that is – that’s
15 years old. It’s has seven stores, actually nine, two out state
stores and seven stores in the Twin Cities. It’s the number three,
this is an exciting business position for all of you who want to get
[Indiscernible] [01:56:17]. It’s the number three seller of heaviest
[Phonetic] [01:56:20] audio equipment to people in the Twin Cities.
Brad Anderson: And surprisingly, it’s in bad shape. It has a lot of employees who
have long tenure, has relatively low turnover rate because it’s the
racing and drug era, of cocaine era and there is another way to
make a lot of money. And the consumer electronics industry is a
very good place to find people to sell product to. If you’re making –
so many of our people had second careers.
Brad Anderson: And so, we had guys who were making $13,000 a year and driving
Brad Anderson: Anyway, I wasn’t smart enough to be one of those. So this is –
anyway. The – but – so – anyway, the – when I got a chance to get
– out of that, I got a chance to get into the office and see if we could
turn around this company, which had so many problems you
couldn’t believe. But it had one huge asset that I didn’t understand
at the time which was its founder and I got the chance to meet its
founder, a guy named, Dick Schulze. And he believed in two things,
were two things that are obvious about his character. One of which
is, he – a little – he thought he was building a $50 million company
and that we were on the way to building a $50 million company.
And two, he was a man of tremendous personal integrity. Found it
in a set of beliefs.
Now, I had no imagination to think he was anything but crazy about
the $50 million company but I liked and admired him as a human
being and I trusted him. And we set aside and we came – we
thought, “What are we going to do? How are we going to figure out
how to develop a viable company?” We were so bad that the
number one consumer electronics company in our area sold us the
goods we sold. We didn’t have any money so we had to buy it as
we sold it.
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Brad Anderson: And I know this is bad. They sold us the product that we sold
because they wanted us as a competitor.
Brad Anderson: That’s true. And – but anyway. So, we had to come up with – you
had to break the rules, right? There was only one – you had to
completely do something that was the opposite of what you know
how to do. And so, the standard in this – for all time in that industry,
the standard had been, you advertise one thing in the paper and
you had to commission sales staff and they sold them something
else. And the reason you did is you took the most sexy product you
possibly had, you put in the newspaper and that would attract the
most customers but you – and you sold it at such a lower price you
couldn’t possibly make money. But then you told the customer
when they came in very effectively that it was a terrible piece of
junk and there was a really good product that was available for the
customer if they just bought a different brand. And that was the way
that the whole industry was formatted to make money.
Well, I thought, what if we told the customer the truth? What if we
told the customer, “No, this actually – the thing we put in the paper
that has no margin in it, is actually good.” Now, we could do that
and nobody else could. Why? Because we weren’t making any
Brad Anderson: So, we did and [Indiscernible] [01:59:27] went three years we put
the other company that was – out of business, the one that we’d
been buying from. The next – I’m going to tell you basically, the four
most dangerous crises Best Buy had in its life for about a little over
40 years of staying in business at all.
The next thing that happens – very quickly, just to bring up speed,
I’m going to go from 1979 to 1989. In 1984, we opened the first
Best Buy store. It does more business than the whole chains has
ever done in its life. And we all of a sudden start opening a whole
bunch of Best Buy stores and we grow from $4 million to about
$250,000 in few years. And we think we’re smart all of a sudden
[laughs]. You know, we went from idiots to brilliant. And in the –
unfortunately, that attracted somebody with money ranging
geographic presence, experience in the business and lots of
intelligence. And they came into the two primary markets we were
in, in Minneapolis and Milwaukee and did the thing that always
Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript 16
work in the history of the consumer electronics industry. They
priced all the goods in their stores to 10% over cost in those two
markets because there was nobody that could function at 10% over
So, we – we did what we called concept two, tried it actually in out
market and eventually brought it back to the core, which was we
stripped out consumer – we could strip out commission sales
people. We made the entire store essentially grab and go. We
found a way to breakeven at 10% over cost. And within three years,
they were out of business because it had such a gravitational pull.
Now, I’m sure it’s reckoning how – we also nearly died when we did
that because the suppliers weren’t happy about – lots of other stuff
happened and we didn’t make any money for or a very little money
for quite a while but we survived and we continue to grow the
company. And it turned out to be – that the reason that Best Buy
today is about a $50 billion company and far bigger than any other
company in our industry in the world. And actually, one of the
largest retailers in the world. And it’s – the reason that we got the
chance to do that was a crisis and what we could do – what was
com – for certain wrong.
Third thing that happened to us, the next near death experience
happened in 1996, in the end of 1996. And by this time, we’ve
grown from $250 million to $7 billion in sales and we’re making
about $70 million a year on a good year, which we thought was
good at that time. Financial institutions weren’t so sure of that but
we sure thought it was. But – and all of a sudden, Intel decided to
change its chip, it’s mother chip in a new computer in January.
Well, as a retailer who makes all your money – that 70 million was
all made in December – who makes it all in December and you – if
you sell a computer, it’s going to be worth a third less than it was
worth literally within 30 days. We literally had to make the
determination to go through the December season without selling
computers, which is about a third of our business.
So, all of a sudden now, we can’t pay our suppliers and we’re back
into another near death experience. But that caused us, out of
desperation, to do something that our founder at one point had
said, if we had – any of us ever needed a fire is immediately for
which is to look outside the company for expertise. And we wound
up finding – actually Sue worked for a company – she now works
for Best Buy but she worked for one of the companies
[Indiscernible] [02:03:06]. We found a human resource company
based in Chicago called RHR, which helped us managed – figured
Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript 17
out how to manage a store and we found Accenture Consulting
which told us that almost everything we did was stupid and proved
it to us.
Brad Anderson: And so, we – very simply that meant things like we used to buy in a
store because everybody else in our industry did. So we thought
that meant it was smart. We would buy if – if JVC made a VCR that
was just the same as Panasonic, it was just the same as Sony, that
was just the same – we just sort everybody’s product in our stores.
And we thought that’s great for the consumer because they can
make an infinite amount of choice. What Accenture did is show us
how much it cost us to do that and why it also confused the
customer and caused fewer people to buy. And believe it or not,
when we tried it, even though we knew for sure it was wrong, it was
right. And all of a sudden, the company that couldn’t make any
money, now started to make a lot of money literally within that year.
And we went from not being to pay our suppliers to a span of where
we’re all of a sudden very, very successful for quite a few years
Now, the next major crisis was induced by my becoming CEO
[laughs]. Sorry. Yes, most of you can probably figure that out
already, why that would be a problem but – and this had to do with
under – the underpinning of all of these, if you go back to the core,
the foundation that we really build the company on, what we started
with – we had this huge asset in our founder and naiveté in part of
our founder in that he had in addition to having this and personal
integrity, he also believed that people could do anything. So, we did
things like when we opened in Milwaukee, the big company in
Milwaukee must have figured that we were going to come in
So, when we opened in Milwaukee we decided we would open in
Milwaukee the end of August. And we got opened with three brand
new stores in Milwaukee in November, which included tearing down
a hotel to build one of them. Actually, if you talk to people that are
plumbers in Milwaukee or to this day and as them what was the
most amazing thing they ever did in their life, almost for sure if they
were closed to this, they will tell you this was the most amazing
thing. But we found a way to do it and that actually then – once
your founder finds that out then he thinks it’s even worse than what
he imagines. But the power behind the imagination of what people
can do, huge energy they have in the organization even when it’s
dangerous, the huge energy they in the organization. And the
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integrity of knowing you can trust each other, really good foundation
to have sitting inside the organization.
And then, we started to learn what people really could do and that
you couldn’t predict it, right? So, you shouldn’t – I couldn’t predict
that I was going to be any good at anything. And that was true for a
lot of other people. And we started having things – but actually the
core of what you see in Best Buy today that we’re proud of, I got – I
was being there for 36 years, I got a chance to see it all birthed. It
was all a surprise, almost all of it. Somebody figured out they could
do something and through tremendous resistance, almost by the
way always, the person who’s got the idea of something they want
to do is despised by the rest of us because we weren’t doing it
already that way. We would have if it was a good idea. But they’ve
got enough tensile strength that they – that they pushed through
the organizational discipline to make that happen.
Well so now I’m the CEO and what do I know about retailers that
have been very successful? And this goes back to your – the reach
out hospital. I know they die. And retailers die faster than other
places because it’s easier for us to choose. If it’s a steel company,
it takes us a while to choose another steel company. It doesn’t –
because we got to change supply change, lines and everything
else. If you said you don’t like Best Buy, you can find somebody
else pretty quickly like tomorrow morning or tonight actually and
any time 24 hours you want to try Amazon out.
So, that’s – our affection has to be won over and over again, day to
day. And what do we know as consumers? I don’t want the same
thing I saw last month or last year. I want it to change. So, unless
we figured out how to organically change all the time and figure out
how to find those voices that we can’t hear very easily, we’re not
going to survive nor really should we by the way.
So, I became a complete zealot for – that we had to really get out of
that core. Human – individual transformation that made it an
invitations today with a 170,000 people around the world that every
single person potentially could have the story that I had. That they
could use their insight not somewhere else in their lives but they
could use their insight at Best Buy and they could be heard. Now,
that sounds absurd on the face but not so absurd in this era. Not so
absurd with the information that most people inside our system if
they want to do, they could find out virtually anything that CEO
know. And most people know something I didn’t know, which is
what the customers, they were experiencing on a day to day basis
Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript 19
or saying and feeling and felt they wanted to see next. And then so
they had a value that I didn’t have.
So, embarked on something we called Send Customer-Centricity.
We talked about the customer but the real primary target was the
employee. How do we find a way using the language of the
customer to get the power to the employee to be able to contribute?
Now, I really don’t want to lose or bore this audience so I’m not
going to take you through the whole – to say the least that I would
describe – I was CEO for seven years. That it was seven years of
intensely fan warfare internally. And I wind up one of the being, to
some folks, the bad guy that – that Intel was to us earlier of Fact
Electronics was way back or Highland Electronics was in the late
‘80s because I wanted to – I wanted to push change before we had
And I said in my last speech at Best Buy that I had failed, which I
believe I did because we didn’t get where I dreamed that we were
going to go. But that’s not the same thing as believing we will fail
because I don’t at all believe that Best Buy will fail and there are
some folks from Best Buy who were part of this so you can ask
them directly what’s going on in their lives today. I don’t believe the
company is going to fail. And I believe that the tensile strength of
that huge value that is sitting there, in the case of Best Buy,
175,000 brands, 175,000 utterly unique people, almost all of whom
directly engaged with our customers. What do they know? And
what are their dreams? And can you connect what they know with
their dreams, with their passion? And have a value system as part
of the organization that wants to cherish that instead of smothering.
So, that’s the dream for me of Best Buy that’s why I can’t believe
how lucky I was that I got to work there for 36 years. And for those
of you that are still there and going to make that dream real, it’s
where my real enthusiasm is for the future. So anyway, thank you
Bob Wright: Brad wants you all to know that tomorrow at the end of the day, if
you have questions you’ll have a form in your workbook tomorrow
where you can write out questions you would like to address to him.
I’ll be moderating the questions and we’ll be trying to go in depth to
some of the areas that Brad’s talked about and we’ll choose those
areas those areas by the questions that you put out the most. So,
where we see your interest is strongest, we’ll go there rather than
having an open mic and having it bounced all over the place. We’ll
Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript 20
try to pick a few areas and go in depth. So, please write whatever
questions you have or issues you would like to hear Brad address.
Tomorrow morning, we have breakfast at 7, 7 to 8 and so we’re
going to get started at 8 sharp. We’ll have a couple of minutes of
orientation to the – to the day and then Dr. Riggio will take us into
the history of transformational leadership, the characteristics of
transformational leaders, and then we’re going to do some work on
our own. We’ll then go into the theory of evalating [Phonetic]
[02:12:19] and basically, what goes on inside of people who are
living great lives and what does that looked like when you have a
leader? How do you become your best self? How do you keep
yourself motivated to keep stepping into that next possibility without
waiting until you’re near dead? And I think it sounds like there were
enough near death experiences that you did never forgot them and
you also want to teach everybody else to face their near death
experiences without having – having it be real.
So, we’ll do that and then Don Beck is going to take us – we’re
going to do a little luncheon assignment. Then Don is going to take
us through his fantastic change model and then we’re going to
close and tie it all up together again with Brad and ask you to think
about what it is that you would like to shift in your life. This is just
the beginning for us. We hope that you’ll be joining us in an
ongoing conversation about transformational leadership so that
each one of us can support the other in being our best.
We are now going to have desert and networking. So, comments
for me to read. Parking maps are available to make it easy to return
to VIP parking tomorrow. So, please pick up a map. That means
there’s a place we want you to park. Please join us at 7AM
tomorrow. Beautiful hot breakfast. Further opportunity to network.
And boy! Have we got people to network with? We will be collecting
your name tags tonight as …
Transformational Leadership Symposium Transcript 21