page title icon 052: Jon Wolske: I could have come up with other solutions

Jon Wolske Show Notes Page

Jon Wolske is very much a data-driven guy. But he found himself managing a bunch of feel-like people. Even though his people were bringing good ideas, Jon would find himself getting down to the nitty-gritty data of how their ideas would be affecting things. When Jon’s struggle to communicate with his team came to a head Jon realized something that cause him to move onward and upward faster. Listen to Jon tell his story of how he got over the hump.

Jon was born in Toronto, Canada and raised in Salisbury, Maryland where Jon was heavily influence by parents that were both musicians with a strong work ethic

As a musician himself, Jon has over 20 years of experience. He plays Bass, Guitar, Sings Lead and Harmony Vocals as well as writes songs. Jon is currently in the Beau Hodges Band which you can find out more about on Facebook or ReverbNation.

Through his experiences playing music on stage, working as a corporate trainer and doing customer service, Jon found a love for speaking and sharing the hope of being part of a movement that can change the world. Jon has spoken for organizations new and old, small to large, non-profit to big moneymakers; because all of these organizations have cultures and purposes.

As the Culture Evangelist for Zappos Insights, Jon is part of the Zappos Family of companies headquartered in Las Vegas, NV. Always passionate about sharing ideas that might change the world, Jon loves to hear about small changes people have made that have ultimately had a much bigger impact on the world around us all!

Jon currently resides in Henderson with his wife Kelly, who also works at Zappos, working towards the goal of changing the way we (humans) do business!

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @JonWolske and get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Without great employees…you won’t have business.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet

“(Human-centric) is not something you try, it has to be something you do.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“You’re not too busy…to think about where is this person coming from.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“You’re not too busy to think about…did I handle that in the right way.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“The human side of business is more important.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“I’m not a good leader of people if I’m not speaking their same language.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Build open and honest relationships with communication.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Build a positive team and family spirit.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“If we’re working together, I should know more than what job you do.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet

“I should know what drives you and interests you outside of work.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Don’t be afraid to start with small things.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Your culture is there…it may have shifted.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“How did you make sure you existed beyond the hard times?” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“What makes us who we are today?” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Don’t be afraid to put a small version into action.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

“Every job, in some way, prepares you for customer service.” -Jon Wolske Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Jon Wolske is very much a data-driven guy. But he found himself managing a bunch of feel-like people. Even though his people were bringing good ideas, Jon would find himself getting down to the nitty-gritty data of how their ideas would be affecting things. When Jon’s struggle to communicate with his team came to a head Jon realized something that cause him to move onward and upward faster. Listen to Jon tell his story of how he got over the hump.

Advice for others

Don’t be afraid to start with small things.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Willingness to let go of myself.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Listen, Listen, Listen

Secret to Success


Best tools that helps in business or Life

Understanding situations quickly.

Recommended Reading

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Contacting Jon





54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.


Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

052: Jon Wolske: I could have come up with other solutions

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Getting maximum contact center agent performance is impossible unless your customers involved in grading and coaching agents. So make it simple for you and customers with the award winning External Quality Monitoring program from Customer Relationship Metrics. Get over the hump now by going to and getting your $7500 rapid results package for free. 


Okay, Fast Leader Legion, I am excited to be able to have the guest that I have on the show today. John Wolske was born in Toronto, Canada but raised in Salisbury, Maryland to two parents that were musicians and had a strong work ethic. As a musician himself, John is over 20 years of experience. He plays bass, guitar, sings lead, and harmony vocals as well as write songs. John is currently in the Beau Hodges band which you can find out more about on Facebook or Reverb nation. Through his experiences playing music on stage, working as a corporate trainer and doing customer service, John found a love for speaking and sharing the hope of being part of a movement that could change the world. 


John has spoken for organization’s new and old, small and large, nonprofit to big moneymakers because of all of these organizations have cultures and purposes. As the Culture Evangelist for Zappos Insights, John is part of the Zappos family of companies headquarter in Las Vegas, Nevada. Always passionate about sharing ideas that might change the world, John loves to hear  about small changes people have made that have ultimately had much bigger impact on the world around us. John currently resides in Henderson with his wife Kelly who also work at Zappos, working towards the goal of changing the way we humans do business. John Wolske, are you ready to help us get over the hump?


John Wolske:     Absolutely. 


Jim Rembach:     Thanks, John.  I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you, but can you tell us that are current passion is so that we can get to know you better?


John Wolske:     Yeah. I think you nail it on the head, my passion really is getting people to think differently and not just like from a business book standpoint but I think differently about how you interact with people, how you communicate, how you treat people so that you can get more out of them without trying so hard but ultimately at the end of the day you go home and you feel good about yourself and they’ll feel good about everything as well.


Jim Rembach:    Listening to you say that, I also started going back to the whole musician and musical background, a good friend of mine who is a Christian artists and he talked about the reason that he really does music isn’t for himself, he’s doing it for others. And when you start also talking about impacting world, changing the way that we do business, I think both of those things have such a strong drawing connection to one another that I could definitely see how you have found that such an incredible place to work for, and also speak about. And I know also that you do some things that are really important for us on the show in regards to leadership quotes you repeat them, you create them, is there one or two that stands out for you that you can share with us and tell us what they mean to you?


John Wolske:     It’s a quote by Richard Branson and he talks about how putting your customers first, it’s about putting your employees first. What’s behind that is you have these great people who drive your business and as a leader you should be focused on them and their growth and ultimately they will make great connections to your customers. Understanding that your customers are really important to the business side of business but without great employees or great connection you won’t even have that business. 


Jim Rembach:     Obviously, you guys have gotten a lot of recognition for that and you have the blessing of being able to share all of that in many different places and that’s where I had the opportunity to  connect with you at a contact center and then I asked you to be on the show, and thanks for accepting. This whole issue associated with, just say human centric and human focus because the internal will therefore affect the external, you guys know that you’ve gotten that formula right, being a foster child for that, okay, powered by service, powered by people, powered by humans all that stuff is definitely readily available from anybody and everybody who is either wanting to make those kind of changes, make an impact for the world or is even struggling and isn’t sure why, but how come more folks have not jump on board?


John Wolske:     I think just business gets in the way. I think that in a lot of cases people try, they read a book, they get inspired, they go to a conference and they go back they try their own fire but unfortunately that takes energy and resources and time and business gets in the way. I really just think that one of the biggest issues today it kept me saying that you try, it has to be something that you do. So, one of the biggest things when I talk to big groups is I ask how many people are busy, and of course, the whole room put their hands up. It’s a bunch we we’re in 2015 that, “I’m so busy. I’m so important.” You’re not too busy to stop before interaction and think about, “Where is this person coming from? How can reach them in the right way? You’re not too busy right after interaction to go, did I handle that the right way? Is there something I can learn for next time? And I think that too many people were so busy and business is so important that we forget that really ultimately that human side, the person side of business is more important. It doesn’t take that much time you have to be aware of it constantly. 


Jim Rembach:     I think that brings such a great point, it’s creating the right habits because so many times I have seen the bad habits just get repeated. For example, “Yeah, we are pressed for time. We have a lot of things that we need to do. I have back to back meetings that are going to be all day and people sit down in chair and the ones who are facilitating say, “Okay, let’s get down to it, we don’t have so much time.” That is failure number one, that’s going to just cause a repeating patterns so what’s going to happen when you go to the next meeting? 


John Wolske:     I think I have a pretty strong theory too if I ever get around to writing a book there will be a break out chapter—I really think that you actually only get 20 minutes of valuable work at a meetings. Once you set up who’s there? What we’re here to talk about? In 20 minutes you should be capturing some sort of next action. And saying, “Hey, cool we got this done.” Because after about 20 minutes the conversation goes elsewhere, people stop really being invested, that’s just my personal opinion. But for me is that I give you acted and you said, “Okay, let’s get down to…here’s the issue. I’ve been like, “Thank, God.” 


Jim Rembach:     Even when you saying that I started thinking of a song that Billy Joel wrote and recorded talking about having a hit song and needing to cut it down to like, 3:05, right? Same scenario, a five minute song may not help you make to chart because you end up starting repeating a chorus and things like that. Like some of the songs that you here where they say the same thing for four minutes and fifty seconds, just like—shut up already. Needless to say, we don’t listen to that a lot, but I think there’s a lot of correlations there. 


John Wolske:     I think so too. I’m a big fan of talented Jem bands but ultimately after six minutes of the same song coming back around to the hook, you kind of like, “Ah-hh and you go back to the next radio station even though you’re really enjoying the music, if you’re just saying the same thing over and over again, you should be done, you’ve said it.


Jim Rembach:     That’s a great point. Now I know a little bit about your background, coming from and moving and growing up as a musician and you maybe even playing in a band now and even in yourself doing some praise music and finding your way into the role that are doing now. I know that there was humps that you have to get over that we can all learn from. Is there one that you can share with us that can give us some learnings and inspiration to help us get over our own humps? Can you share that with us?


John Wolske:     Truly about communication. I was in the call center, it’s a good job cause I needed health insurance, that’s how I gotten to the Zappos family. I feel in love in what we do and inside of a year and half or so I found my way into this new team that was developing a tour experience to tour our office. And that experience I started to grow a team and it came to a head after about two years we built this great tour experience and the team was rockin’ but I was not communicating well to the team, so, I’m very much like a data-driven guy. So, I’m very much—if you have an idea kind of back it up a bit, show me how this is going to impact things. If you have an idea and you feel like it might be a good idea that doesn’t really fly with me and my team is a bunch of feel-like people, and they have some great ideas.


And so they would approach me and they would say, “Hey, we’re thinking about changing the signs on the tour saps around the office” of course I’m going, “Okay, we’ll budget, and we’ve just replace the sign three months ago, and how is this going to be better if the signs are still pretty new?” I’m going right down to the nitty-gritty bottom line data how is this effecting everything. And I could have said, “You know what, what we can do to change the existing signs? I could have come up with other solutions maybe and I just learn that my entire team feels like people and I am very much a data-driven show-me person. And it kind to a head and I said, “You know what, I’m not a good leader of people if I’m not speaking the same language.” And so I’ve got to release that need for data I’ve got to understand where they’re coming from just like they should understand too that I would like some data. It has to go in two ways, if people can’t get to know you as a leader and understand the best way to approach you also need to work down to that level and say, “Hey, how do I make sure that I’m listening and gaining the right stuff out of this conversation?” 


Jim Rembach:    Listening to you telling us that story, and thanks for sharing, I started thinking about the whole meeting, you know, conversation that we we’re talking about a moment ago. If I don’t take the time to have those connections be created and really get to know the folks who are part of the team whether they’re a team that I interact with on a consistent basis or cross-functional I don’t meet with them very much, is that it if we don’t do that how are we going to have results from that meeting because we’re going to have disconnect—that’s not what I  understood, it’s not what I interpreted, it’s not what I want, you kept cutting me off, my opinion doesn’t feel—all of those things that really cause dysfunction that so many of us have to deal with and it all started with, “Okay, we have a lot to do, let’s get to work.” 


John Wolske:    Yeah, absolutely. That was one of our ten core values is to build, open an honest relationships with communication, we also have to build a positive team and family spirit. And so when you really do focus on that aspects, working together, I should know who you are, I should know more than what job you do on my team or what job you do that’s going to affect my work. I should know what drives you, what you’re really interested outside of work, do you have family, what they’re interested in, you really get to know people. 


My wife and I would go to a baseball games in the weekends, we don’t have any kids, but when I get to know our team members we’re great friends with our team members and then when it comes down to working we know so much more about where you’re coming from were not so sure about how can I make sure you understand where I’m coming from and then the team really does work better together. 


Jim Rembach:    No kidding. And definitely you have some of that expression capabilities through your music as well that means people can get to know you through that. So, I know you got a lot of things going on. You have a lot of passions, you have a lot of interest with the work that you’re doing a lot of travel as well, but when you start looking at all the things that you have on your plate, what are some of your goals?


John Wolske:    My personal goals really I think are around a growing—as a speaker. I’ve been speaking now professionally for five years and I think I’ve got a pretty solid product but there’s always something you could be doing better. I still use power points, I think at this point I could probably do the presentation without the power point but I haven’t yet done that, so, when you think about just this world that I’m in, there’s so much more that I can learn. Storytelling too is not my first go to because I’m a data guy. I’ll tell you something, what I really should tell you how it’s affected some things. I think there’s a lot for me to learn and grow, I’m also in charge of speaking on behalf of Zappos, I would like to grow this offering and grow the amount of speakers that we have and get people certified in who maybe thought they can never be speakers. When I left the call center floor I never said, “Man, I’m going to be a public speaker.” Besides pulling in a band I really couldn’t talk in front of many people except that I did training job which I just didn’t think was the same thing. I would train 30 people for their job and I just figure I knew how to do the job, I want to make sure you knew how to do the job because you need the job, and I never once concern that I was ever being prepared to be a speaker but now I can’t imagine not speaking. ‘Knock on wood’ if anything were to ever happen with my relations here at Zappos, which I don’t foresee, I would be a speaker, I have to, I have to get my own product to speak about.


Jim Rembach:    I know that probably it’s easy for you to make a transition to being a speaker, with being a musician being onstage doing live music all of those things, you have a comfort level that most people when you start in speaking have to really that’s a hump they have to get over—oh, my gosh, I’m on stage but I suspect that that was the easy part for you. But if you think about all of those things and—yeah, you’re talking about relying on Power Point and that’s one thing, you definitely can grow your way out of that and sometimes you have to push away past, if you look at all of the things and all the dynamics what one thing that stands out and say–Oopps, that’s my hump, what would it be?


John Wolske:    I think my hump would be original thinking actually. Up until now I really been focused on what other people had said about it and I think I’ve been speaking about it now that I should really be thinking about what’s my angle. Like, what do I really want to get across? And probably I’m already doing it in sharing this Zappos story, but how can I make this really—like the information that I want to share, and not just simply, “Hey, here’s our story, and it’s a great story by the way, this is John Wolske speaking from the heart to see how we can change the world.”` 


Jim Rembach:    Talking about changing the world, so many of us kind of feel like we’re kind of stuck and don’t have the power  and the ability to make some of the changes that we would like to make happen. Definitely you’ve seen some big shifts you had the opportunity to go in a lot of different organizations ones that are interested in what you are doing but maybe not necessarily have the desire to go to the effort, because we know it takes some effort every time we’re changing a culture. A lot of times it’s easier to have a culture be the one that you want when you’re starting a new business but when you’re having to go into say a 130 year old organizations, it’s like “Woo-oh-oh” we got a bigger barge that we now have to move. So, when you start thinking about all of those things including Zappos current transition to go to holacracy-type of organizational structure. If you’d look at all of those things, if you were to say a piece of advice that I would like everybody to hear, what would it be?


John Wolske:    And to use the barge analogy, the barge doesn’t put itself at the dock the tugboats do. And so I think if you’re looking at you’re current situation you just think, “Oh! My Gosh, it’s so ingrained we been doing this for so long” just remember that you have tugboats, you have people who passionate, people who can start to pull or push the organization in to the right direction and do not be afraid to start with those small things. When I’ve seen a lot of companies that setting of its initiative and so they bring in the speakers they’re doing is, we’re going to change our culture and they essentially try to set a five year goal in the span of the next year but if could be five or ten years if you really want to make sure that that should get in the right place. So, what you need to do is open up the conversation. Your culture is there if you’re that old 130 years old, it’s been there for a while and it may have shifted, so, go back to the history and say, “What has made this company who are today?” Go back to the beginning because probably it’s still there. Wow! Cool if you catch that. Look at some of the strategic decisions and the big things you had to go through even those hard times, how did you make sure you existed beyond those hard times? That’s what made the company, so then put that in the history bucket, that’s what has been present. 


Now, let’s talk. I have a conversation on every level, what makes us who we are today? And you’ll probably find those things from the history bucket are still there. But things change, if you’re doing things the way you did 130 years ago, nobody would have a computer or typewriter, so you have to change. And then realize, okay, our people, our brand is driven by XYZ whatever comes up from the conversation and then start to put those in action, don’t be afraid to put a small version in action and say this is work, keep telling a lot of first. And if does work, great you can grow it, and if it doesn’t you can change it, you can kill it but you have to put those little things in action. I think what too many people trying to do is they put big things in action and when big things fail they just say, “Oh, it doesn’t work.” And you just start with those small things, let the tugboats put you into the right spot. 


Jim Rembach:     Thanks for sharing that and some of the things you were referring to are really based in positive psychology and is part of the appreciative inquiries area of study that so many people can just learn about. One of the things that I like mentioning is that—hey, what we need to do is ignite tradition to help it fuel our tomorrow.


John Wolske:     Yeah, absolutely. 


Jim Rembach:     Because you’re exactly right. The things that allow us to persevere and be where we are for the past 130 years are really the things that we need to be holding to re-ignite and use those to help propel us into what we need to be moving towards and be a little bit more fearless in regards to some of the decisions that we make. So, many times we lose sight of that because we focus in on—oh, threats, oh-oh—we need to change—wooh, but let’s see what we need to hold on to because sometimes those are the things that are our most cherished that will help you shine, so thanks for sharing that. For me, I speak personally I don’t know if I could work with my wife. How are you able to accomplish that?


John Wolske:    Well, first my wife’s pretty awesome. And you have to acknowledge that—when I started working in Zappos, as silly as it sounds, working in a call center customer service center talking about shoes, I’m not a big shoe guy, I would leave the call center at the end of my shift just on cloud nine and then I go to pick my wife wait up from her job and she was definitely not on cloud nine. In most days her bad days are really my good days and so being a judicious husband you don’t say, “Hey, you’re ruining my good days.” You say, “You know what, we should both have good days and I think I know a way that we can both have good days” and so I said, “You should work at Zappos.” When I pick her up from work I was holding an application in my right hand across then fasten your seat so she couldn’t get in the car without hitting this piece of paper. 


And I said, “Really, honestly you should it” and she had never worked in a call center, never worked in a customer service although every job I think prepares you in some way for customer service, with the fire she put on the previous jobs. So, she took the job and six months after I started working here, she started working here, so we’re both in the call center and then we just took different paths. And she went into the new hire training department for a couple of years, I went into Insights and the tours, which then evolve into the speaking, we actually merge the organization of training and insights. And when we then split again insights kept Kelly because she’s really good doing what she does and that’s training people and she facilitates a lot of our onsite events. She’d come in for a day or two days of training, she’s really focused on doing that. And then I travel, I think that’s really how we get along so well because I travel so much. 


Jim Rembach:    John that’s awesome. And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you and Kelly the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. 


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Here we go Fast Leader listeners, it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, John the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster, John Wolske are you ready to hoedown?


John Wolske:    Let’s hoedown. 


Jim Rembach:    Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?


John Wolske:    Willingness to let go of myself.


Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have received? 


John Wolske:    Listen, listen, listen. 

Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?


John Wolske:    I was thought to be concise because I’m pretty awesome. Humility. 


Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?


John Wolske:    Understanding situations quickly. 


Jim Rembach:    Now, I know you’ve mentioned something about not being a one who likes to read, but can you think of a book that you would recommend for our listeners?


John Wolske:     Start with Why by Simon Sinek.


 Okay, Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to Wolske. Okay, John this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one, so what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you? And why?


John Wolske:     I would say that it’s my power to speak and share and inspire people. 


Jim Rembach:     John it was an honor to spend time with today, can you please share with Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you? 


John Wolske:     Absolutely. You can find me on Twitter@bassred, LinkedIn, of course my Golf 2016 has become huge on LinkedIn so connect with me there. And you can find me on Facebook, John Wolske.


Jim Rembach:     John Wolske, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader Show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.