Chester Elton Show Notes Page

Chester Elton got over the hump when he began to assume people had positive intent and became even more grateful for the things he had.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, and raised in Vancouver B.C. Canada, Chester is a proud Canadian and avid hockey fan! Hockey isn’t just a game; it is a way of life!

His father, John Dalton Elton, has been the most significant influence in his life and work. “I grew up in the happiest house ever,” he will often say. That joy for life and family has been the single biggest driver in his work and family. He often quotes his father saying, “Be good to everyone; everybody is having a tough day!”

In his work, he had traveled to over 40 countries teaching about the importance of a healthy culture where people feel valued and appreciated for their work. He believes travel is a wonderful educator and loves experiencing new languages, traditions, and especially their food!

With Adrian Gostick, his co-author, they have written 12 books together on Culture, Leadership, and Gratitude in the workplace. Five have been NYT and WSJ best-sellers. Their books have sold over 1.6 million copies and have been translated into over 40 languages. Their latest is Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

When not writing or speaking on workplace culture Chester spends his time with his wonderful wife Heidi working with Camp Corral, an organization that funds summer camps for military families kids, Mentors International that makes microloans to the poorest of the poor, Ability Beyond that provides care and work for those that have experienced brain trauma as well as working with the World Bank on their faith-based partnerships to end world poverty.

He is a proud father of 4 exceptional children and two amazing grandchildren, he enjoys family time at home and hockey games! He’s been married to the love of his life Heidi for 36 years, and they live happily in Summit NJ!

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @chesterelton to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” – Click to Tweet

“Positive workplaces return on equity is sometimes 3, 4, or 5 times those cultures that don’t” – Click to Tweet

“The imposter syndrome is the leader that shows up and thinks he or she is being the big motivator.” – Click to Tweet

“Fake praise gets very annoying, very quickly.” – Click to Tweet

“General praise has very little impact, be very specific.” – Click to Tweet

“What’s easier to change, behavior or perception? Actually, it’s behavior.” – Click to Tweet

“The customer experience will never exceed the employee experience.” – Click to Tweet

“Soft skills are not nice to have; they are must-haves.” – Click to Tweet

“A lot of managers that manage by fear don’t realize that their managing by fear.” – Click to Tweet

“If you don’t have time for the good things, but always have time for the bad things, what kind of culture do you think that breeds?” – Click to Tweet

“Make sure to have time for all the little things that are going right; I will guarantee you fewer things will go wrong.” – Click to Tweet

“Leaders set the tone, and the way they behave gives everyone else permission to act the same way.” – Click to Tweet

“The leaders that understand to tailor the experience, they know their people, they know their stories, they know what they value.” – Click to Tweet

“Understand each member of your team and their role; walk in their shoes.” – Click to Tweet

“The extraordinary leaders take the time to say, what really are your key motivators?” – Click to Tweet

“You want a lot of diversity on your team and not just diversity that we traditionally think of; you want diversity in thought.” – Click to Tweet

“Happiness is a choice; choose to be happy.” – Click to Tweet

“Gratitude has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your heart.” – Click to Tweet

“It’s not the joy in the accomplishments that drives your gratitude; it’s the gratitude that drives a joyful life.” – Click to Tweet

“Assume positive intent, don’t assume that people are out to get you.” – Click to Tweet

“The news is just prolifically negative, and yet there’s never been a better time to live than now.” – Click to Tweet

“Assume positive intent, don’t vilify people.” – Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Chester Elton got over the hump when he began to assume people had positive intent and became even more grateful for the things he had.

Advice for others

Find a mentor or find a coach.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

I don’t manage my time, as well as I should.

Best Leadership Advice

Assume positive intent, don’t vilify people.

Secret to Success

My amazing wife and Christy Lawrence, who runs my calendar.

Best tools in business or life

Random acts of kindness.

Recommended Reading

Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Contacting Chester Elton





3 steps to turn everyday get-togethers into transformative gatherings

Show Transcript

Click to access transcript

Unedited Transcript

Jim Rembach (00:00):

Okay, fast leader Legion today. I am absolutely thrilled because I have the opportunity to meet with somebody who I met a few years back and I was in the audience of his keynote, one of his keynote presentations, and I thought it was just fantastic and so now he’s on the show, which is great.

Jim Rembach (00:15):

Chester Elton was born in Edmonton, Alberta and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Chester is a proud Canadian and avid hockey fan. Hockey isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. His father, John Dalton, Elton has been the most significant influencer in his life and work. He grew up in the happiest house ever is what he says. The joy for life and family has been the single biggest driver in his work and family. He often quotes his father saying, be good to everyone. Everybody is having a tough day. In his work. He has traveled to over 40 countries teaching about the importance of a healthy culture where people feel valued and appreciated for their work. He believes travel is a wonderful educator and loves experiencing new languages, traditions, and especially in our food with Adrian Gosick, his coauthor.

Jim Rembach (01:08):

They have written 12 books together on culture, leadership and gratitude in the workplace. Five has been New York times and wall street journal bestsellers. Their books have sold over 1.6 million copies and have been translated into over 40 languages. Their latest is leading with gratitude, eight leadership practices for extraordinary business results when not writing or speaking on workplace culture. Chester spends his time with his wonderful wife, Heidi, working with their camp coral and in an organization that funds summer camps, summer camps for military family, kids, mentors international that makes micro loans to the poorest of the poor ability beyond that provides care and work for those that have experienced brain trauma as well as working with the world bank on their faith-based partnerships to end world poverty. He’s a proud father of four exceptional children and two amazing grandchildren. He enjoys family Tom at home and hockey games. He’s been married to the love of his life, Heidi for 36 years and they happily live in summit, New Jersey. Chester. Elton, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Chester Elton (02:16):

I am ready to get you over the hump. Thanks for having me on the show. Really appreciate it.

Jim Rembach (02:20):

Well, I, and I, and I have to tell you, when I was in the audience for that keynote presentation, we were throwing a bunch of carrots around having a great time. So I know we’re going to have a great time on this interview as well. So, but I’ve shared with my Legion a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

Chester Elton (02:37):

You know, my current passion really is our kids have grown and left home. And so we’ve got time. It’s that season in our life where we’ve gotten time to dedicate. And my wife and I have really gotten involved in a lot of charitable work. Uh, you mentioned camp corral. It’s sponsored by the, by the best buffet in the USA golden corral. And we’ve had great fun with that over the summer where military kids get to go to camp for free and we go out there and we paint with them. We we advise on that board. So we really spent a lot of time, uh, doing things for that, for, for those that just need a helping hand, a little bit of encouragement and especially the poorest of the poor. We’ve gotten involved in some wonderful programs with the world bank and so on. And so, you know, along with the stuff we do a third church and of course we just love spending time with our grandkids.

Jim Rembach (03:25):

So lucky we have two and they only live three blocks away so we get to babysit and pick them up at school. We were going to asleep over tonight with little Lucas and our four year old grandson. So life is very, very good. I think that’s fantastic. And now, you know, while reading your bio and even me reflecting back upon being in that audience, I mean you’re a very positive energy guy and you share it openly and it has a huge impact on a lot of folks. And I oftentimes think that that could also be potentially, you know, misperceived, misrepresented and a couple of different ways. First of all, that Hey, it’s just bringing a lot of positive energy and that’s all you need to do. But really when you start thinking about business setting and even in home, there’s a lot of impactful results that you get from this. And a lot of times people think about the intangibles in business, these soft skills that are hard to measure, but write in the book. And I, and I shared with you earlier, I think we need to just continue to emphasize business results happen when you actually behave, feel, connect in this way. So what kind of business impacts do you see?

Chester Elton (04:34):

No, it’s so interesting that you bring that up because we say, you know, the soft stuff is the hard stuff, right? Um, the D we’ve been studying leadership as you have for well over 20 years now. And when we looked at the difference between the good leaders in the extraordinary leaders, it was never their hard skills, right? The hard skills are a given. You’ve got to know the products. And services. You’ve got another business. The difference was always what we have come to call their soft skills, how they communicate, how they paint, the vision, how they engage people. What was fascinating for us is number one in those skills was how they express gratitude. And that was really revealing to us because you know, as you, as you’re talking about servant leadership, as you talk about creating engaging cultures, you want those not just so that your mama can say, boy, aren’t you a good boy?

Chester Elton (05:20):

Right? You want it because it attracts and retains the top talent. It creates a culture of innovation and agility. You know, as you take a look at positive cultures measured in any which way you want, whether it’s Willis towers Watson or Gallup or a lot of our own work, those positive workplaces, you know, their return on on equity, their return on investment is sometimes three, four, five times those cultures that don’t. And so as we wrote leading with gratitude, it was really interesting for us to not only look at the data and have those engaging stories that everybody remembers. It was also to give people the tools and the methodology and the roadmap that says you can do this too. Is it easy? Anything that’s worthwhile is never that easy. Does it bear incredible business results? Absolutely it does. And I think the nice part of that is it’s also, it also brings good people. It creates a, a very caring and supportive workplace. And you know, who doesn’t want that?

Jim Rembach (06:17):

Well, most definitely. And, and you know, to get into some of those specifics when you start talking about this performance piece, um, I mean, you’re talking about two to three times greater profitability. You’re talking about an average 20% higher customer satisfaction, uh, and significantly higher scores in employee engagement, including vital metrics, uh, like trust and accountability. Uh, and so when I start, you know, looking at all of these things and I said, we’re probably going to be talking about this forever to just really break through what the societal, you know, myths are, you can talk about other myths as well. But before we get into that and we’re going to, we’re going to share those. I, I would like you to elaborate on something that you actually present in the book called impostor syndrome.

Chester Elton (07:01):

What is that? Well, you know, the imposter syndrome was the, the, the leader that shows up and thinks he or she is being the big motivator, you know, read all the books and comes in as, Hey Jim, great job, great job. You’re the master of the question and you’re number one, you’re know, you’re the tower P’s. You don’t kind of, and it’s that, that, that imposter syndrome, that, that fake praise that it gets a very annoying very quickly. And so as, as we talk through it and we’ve done a lot of executive coaching now as well, when we talk to executives about this, they look general praise has very little impact. Be very specific, be positive, be specific, be be a coach, be be a guide. You know, you can get, you can get just carried away with, uh, you know, the office kind of syndrome where you think you’re doing all the right things and it comes across as very much an impostor. Very much not you. And the, and it has exactly the opposite effect of what you’re looking for. Does that make sense?

Jim Rembach (07:54):

It does make sense. It also, for me, um, I, I’ve tried to be more expressive in the gratitude with being something as simple as I changed the signature line in my emails and, and I, instead of saying thanks or cheers or whatever, um, you know, I’ll put grateful, you know, are in appreciation. Uh, and so at least shows people that, you know, I do start from that, you know, as a, as a, an intent and then over time, and I think this is the key. Over time they’ll actually see it reflected in the things that I do and being genuine. And I think that’s what you’re talking about with this imposter syndrome piece is first of all, if you start down that path, you know that you need to be genuine and be consistent because it can’t be something that you do temporarily and then fall off the cliff. Because that whole trust and accountability and ownership has a waterfall impact.

Chester Elton (08:49):

No question. You know, we, we, we talk often what’s easier to change behavior or perception and actually it’s behavior, you know, the, the fact is that the perception as you said, takes a long time. You have to live it and breathe it over a long period of time and then you get people believing it’s, it’s who you are, you know, back to creating those, those, those great metrics. Uh, we, uh, we’ve often seen where, you know, you preach great customer service and great loyalty and yet you treat your people badly, you know, and, and we always say, look, the, the customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. You know, if your employees feel valued and engaged, if they believe in the products, if they understand, you know, what they do matters, they make a difference. And you notice that difference in the celebrated well before the phones rang and the emails come in and they, you know, you do a lot of work at context and as before that’ll happen.

Chester Elton (09:37):

They’re already coming from a very positive place. Does that ripple through to your customers? Of course it does. Of course it does. So, you know, again, coming back to are these soft skills? Yeah. Are they nice to have? Absolutely not. They are absolute must haves. If you’re going to create that customer loyalty and the customer experience that will differentiate you from, from your competitors. I wanted to make sure we got that in because to me that’s the difference between just saying we have a great place to work and Hey, you’re great. And then putting in place those things that actually will bear that fruit and, and convince people that you really are a good guide. You

Jim Rembach (10:15):

definitely, and I think what you’re talking about too there and doing that connection and understanding those motivators and we’re going to get a little bit more to that in detail, but as Susan Fowler, uh, who is, you know, written several books about this whole employee engagement piece, she talks about, um, having motivational junk food, you know, and the motivational junk food is that high level generic general, you know, Hey, let’s give everybody a gift certificate. You know, that kind of [inaudible]

Chester Elton (10:41):

and you checked the box, right? Well, what do you mean we do and appreciate you. I didn’t need to get that $5 Starbucks card. Come on. Yeah.

Jim Rembach (10:47):

Okay. So we’re not going to spend a whole lot of time on this, but I think it is important to mention that are, there are a lot of the societal myths, junk food, uh, that take place, uh, and a lot of different ways and that they become just part of our, you know, typical everyday practices that we really need to pay attention to. Uh, and question. And so you talk about seven myths that are holding leaders back in the seven you mentioned our fear is the best motivator. People want too much. There’s just no time for this. Uh, I’m not wired to feel it. I saved my praise for the deserted. Uh, it’s all about the money and they’ll think that I am bogus. Right. Well, what I think about these seven, I have to think that there’s maybe one or two that are most corrosive in an environment than others. Which ones kind of thing,

Chester Elton (11:37):

you know, in each one of them. I think, you know, if you’ve worked for any length of time, you’ve had every one of those bosses, right? I think the fear one is by far the most corrosive. Um, and what’s, what’s interesting is we took a deep dive into that. What we discovered is a lot of managers that manage by fear don’t realize that they’re managing by fear. They think they’re being honest and open. Uh, I’m, I’m not negative, I’m candid. You know, I’m not a, I’m not corrosive. I’m a truth teller. And they’ll say things like, well, you know, if we don’t get these quotas, I don’t know that I can guarantee your jobs. You know, I’m just being honest and open and you go, Oh, you’re scaring the crap out of everybody were just talking about, you know, um, cause it’s not often that you have the, you know, the leader that’ll come and stick their finger in your face and say, you know, if you don’t get this done, that does happen.

Chester Elton (12:23):

It’s fairly rare. It’s that passive aggressive, you know, fear that I think drives people crazy. The other one that I, that I, or two other ones we can talk about really quick and then what is, is that people need too much praise these days. You know, I, I reserved my price for those that really deserve it. And you know, I don’t say thank you very often. I don’t make people feel good very often when I do, they, they know what I mean. It, you know, I remember back in 1984, you know, when I said shocked the masses, right? And this idea of that, you know, every engagement, this, this, this, this impostor syndrome has to be something grand. You know, it’s gotta be, you know, fireworks and breasts bands and red carpets. You know, what we’re saying is, is in this leading with gratitude is often, it’s the small little things.

Chester Elton (13:07):

It’s the little gestures asking you about your, your, your sick mother or, uh, asking him about your kids and making accommodations and those kinds of things. Just genuinely caring about people. You know, I remember I had a buddy, I said, what was the best recognition you ever got? He pulled, he was a chemist at a pharmaceutical company here in New Jersey and he pulled out this little handwritten note out of his wallet from a chemist that he had worked with that was a Nobel prize winner. And he says, this little note from him has meant more to me than anything. And I asked him how long you had that in your wallet? He goes, 15 years, you know? So those, those little things. And then lastly, I want to get to really quick, cause I know time is precious, is this idea that I don’t have time and it drives me crazy because I’ll say, now let me get this straight.

Chester Elton (13:52):

You don’t have time to do, you know, value and appreciate it and show gratitude to Susan who is killing it. You know, because you got to get things done. He goes, yeah, that’s right. I said, okay, now she screws up. She makes a mistake. How much time you got for her now? Oh, I’m on that like a duck on a Junebug, you know, it’s a, which I’m not sure exactly what that means by the way. Anyway, it’s, it’s, you know, you say, look, I don’t have time for the good things. I’ve always got time for the bad things. Well, what kind of culture do you think that breeds? You know, it’s, it’s really interesting to me that we, when we can reverse that dynamic and see, I make sure to have time for all the little things that are going right. I will guarantee you fewer things will go wrong.

Chester Elton (14:35):

And when they do go wrong, people are quick to pipe up and ask for help and get it solved and move on. So, you know, those three to me are, you know, leading by fear whether you know it or not, right. People need too much praise and gratitude. Can you ever get too much? Is my question as ask your kids. Right? And then, and then lastly, I don’t have the time. Well, the great leaders, the extraordinary leaders, they, they find that time and they make sure that that’s a part of their routine. And those are some of the things that we teach in the book because these myths are easily debunked. And when you do and you understand not only the math and the science, you understand the emotion mind why really good things happen really fast.

Jim Rembach (15:13):

Well and as you’re talking, I’m starting to see all this even flow externally. Cause I mean we see the same thing occur when we start talking about the customer experience. When you know, Hey, you’re just telling me that you love everybody’s business, right? You’re just telling me but you don’t know anything. And then you also try this mass personalization thing and you know, a lot of times we feel the bigger the organization, you know, the less heart that it has. And, and the fact is is that when you tear it all down and even talk about this later in a book, is that ultimately all of this, whether it’s internal meaning employee, colleague, you know, or external customer, it ultimately comes down to some type of peer, peer to peer connection and one on one connection, isn’t it?

Chester Elton (15:52):

Yes. And that’s one of the things that we point out, that’s a, again, a misnomer is that gratitude has to flow downhill if you know. Now I agree that the leaders set the tone, you know, and the way they behave gives everyone else permission to act the same way. So I’m not minimizing the fact that it really doesn’t even start at the top. Where it gets really good is when it’s peer-to-peer, you know, when it’s your coworkers that are stepping up. Because you know, as, as the leader, as the supervisor, there’s no way you can see everything that’s going on. And that’s one of the things that, that leaders say to us, well, what if I miss somebody? So rather than, you know, miss someone, uh, I, it’s better that I just do nothing. Can you hear yourself? You know, that that doesn’t make any sense at all. So once you get the coworkers buying in and expressing gratitude to each other and giving them those little pats on the back, well that’s, that’s culture, right? That’s everybody. That’s not just up now. And that’s a very important concept for people to understand.

Jim Rembach (16:49):

Well, most definitely. And I think, you know, we’re talking also too about the flow of this being away. Um, and what I mean by this is that, you know, it also has to be requested, meaning that as a person who was working with others, and it doesn’t matter the connection up, down, sideways or whatever, I think it’s also fair to just express to others say, Hey, this is how I like to be appreciated. And then people know that. I mean, keeping it under the hood, you know, or in your pocket is just not appropriate either.

Chester Elton (17:19):

Exactly. We talked about tailoring the experience, you know, so, so when we get into the best practices, we say, look, they’re seeing what’s going on. So important and then expressing it. Well, you’re talking about the expressing it and you want to express it in a way that’s meaningful to that person. You know, you don’t want to send a great big, you know, bottle of wine to a very developed best Baptist family and say, you know, that the gesture is going to be appreciated. The execution is horrible, you know, or a honey big Tam to a very devout Jewish family, you know, and, and we laugh and yet all these things have happened. Right. They’ve all happened, right? So tailoring the experience and really understanding what is valuable. You know, for someone early in their career, it might actually be more work, right? Working on a product development or maybe sending them to a conference, uh, you know, depending on where you are in your life, it may be give me a little extra time off to spend with my family. I’ve got little kids in home, you know, and it’s, it’s, it’s the leaders that understand that to tailor the experience, they know their people, they know their stories, they know what they value, then that recognition goes a long way. And again, can be simple gestures, you know, let me fill in for you so you can leave a little early to get to your kids, you know, tee ball game or whatever it might be. Those are, and we know those leaders too. And those are the leaders that we always went the extra mile for. Right?

Jim Rembach (18:33):

Most definitely. So, and I think what we’re getting to is in the part of the book, you draw out the ability to execute upon all of this. And we’ve kinda hit this a little bit, but let’s, let’s at a, at a high level kind of group these things. So you talk about expressing, um, that’s the area in the book. And so it’s about being consistent, being in individualized, connecting to core values, uh, and then making it peer to peer. So that’s how, that’s how you actually group these. And so we’ve hit on a couple of those. But you know, when you start again, we’re where if I, if I am having particular issues in any particular area and I’m looking at consistent, individualized, connected to core and all that, you know, where do I need to make sure that I do not fail?

Chester Elton (19:17):

Well, I think it comes back very much to understanding each member of your team and their role and we talk about walking in their shoes, you know, let’s, let’s take a look and see what does their day really look like so that we’re not making, you know, demands that are, there’s no way it’s going to happen. Right. Just if you understand, we had a really interesting experience with that with a hospital in Dallas where they took the executives and said, look, let’s, let’s look at the experience at the hospital from the patient’s view. So what they did is they put them in wheelchairs and they said, look, you get to spend the day in a wheelchair. How easy is this placed in how to game? The signs are too high right there. They’re not very clear. Um, people are talking down to you all the time. In fact, the check in desk, if you came in in a wheelchair there, there was, there was no way you could, you, you had to have somebody to do it for you.

Chester Elton (20:05):

So, so this idea of really walking in your, in your employee’s shoes and understanding what it is that’s going on with them. I love to what you talked about, solicit their input. Say, look, you know, what, what can we do to make your job more effective? What can we do to empower you to serve our, our customers better? Nobody knows that better than the people on the front line. I mean, you know, this from contact centers, you know, doctors about your equipment. I mean, can you hear the people that are calling in, you know, is that, would that be helpful? You know? And so as you talk about making those connections and then to the core values, really making sure that you walk and talk the core values, if you’re really is about innovation, if you’re really is about, if it really is about customer service, let’s make sure that what we do continues to tie back to those core values. Making, you know, connecting those dots is so critical.

Jim Rembach (20:59):

Well, and in a book, uh, and we’re not going to go through all of these, but you made it to be much more clear in regards to what specifically are we talking about when we’re looking at motivators to connect with, when we’re looking at all these things in order to be able to execute. And then, like I said, there, there’s 23, uh, get the book and you’ll be able to get them all. But there are things like, you know, autonomy, challenge, creativity, you know, service, social response, all these things. All of these things are essentially individual elements or variables that reside within people. When you start talking about aligning them with their work, aligning them with their company, aligning them with their own personal purpose, you know, and therefore helping them to draw and make that connection and you being aware of it. I to me, I taught, I think that’s where your financial performance is going to hit now again from being a genuine person, you don’t want to manipulate or look at it from that perspective. You really want to look at is being able to affect and impact everybody’s wellbeing.

Chester Elton (21:58):

Exactly. You know we, we have a database now of about a million engagement surveys that we’ve collected over the years, which is amazing. We developed our own assessment, which is the motivators assessment. That’s what you’re talking about. We saw there was an interesting opportunity for, you know, love Myers-Briggs, who you are, right? StrengthFinders what I’m good at. We wanted to fill a little niche that says what am I passionate about? And when you get those concentric circles coming together, you know that your classic Venn diagram of I know who I am, I know what I’m good at and I marry it with my passions. Well now you’ve got high engagement. So the, the, again, the extraordinary leaders take the time to say what really are your key motivators. Oddly enough that we had some really interesting ahas. One of them now I grew up in sales and so I, you know, I love the, I love the whole transaction.

Chester Elton (22:44):

I love being the servant, you know, finding the problem, solving the problem with your product. What was fascinating to a lot of people is you would think that your top sales people, that money is their number one motivator. It’s rarely the case. In fact, it is really rarely the case that that’s the motivator. They’re very service oriented. You know, they’re very, uh, how relationships are very important and, and on and on. So being able to contextualize that and share those with each other again and, and you want a lot of diversity on your team and not just diversity that we traditionally think of. You know, age and gender and race and so on. You want diversity in thought. You want people that are very socially, uh, social, uh, active in their communities. You want people that are family oriented. Yo