The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

50. Vital Germaine on Lessons From the Circus


How many leadership lessons can you learn from the circus? 


You’d be surprised.


The circus actually teaches us about innovation, empathy, and adaptability.


In this episode, we interview Vital Germaine, President of ENGAGEteams360, author, speaker, and former circus performer, about leadership insights he gained from Cirque du Soleil.


What we talked about:

  • What innovation means & how it’s built on a foundation of creativity
  • Cirque du Soleil leaders who demonstrated adaptability
  • Finding, welcoming, and retaining talent for your teams
  • A leader worth following is one who is vulnerable


Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:


Check out the full podcast with Vital Germaine by clicking here.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts as your audio player, you can also find every episode at this link.

This is the leader cast podcast, helping you be a leader worth following. Hey, leader cast community. This month we've partnered with Colorado Christian University to bring you content related to innovation. Take the next steps in your leadership journey by advancing in your education at Colorado Christian University. CCEU online offers flexible online degree programs designed for working adults. To see how cc you can help you reach your academic professional goals. Visit CCU DOT EDU for slash leader cast to learn more. Hey everyone, and welcome to the fifty episode of the leader cast podcast. I am Angie, Aaron's vice president of operations for leader cast, and I'm excited to talk about innovation, creativity and leadership with you today. For many people, change is hard. We've been experiencing this for weeks and adaptability is what is getting people through it. But also during this time, we're seeing that disruption can allow for creativity and innovation in business and leadership. We've seen it time and time again and as a leader, we need to ask ourselves how do you motivate and inspire their creatives in your business? And what does a French, Canadian Circus circuslay have anything to do with it. Our guests, we told Germain, will provide insight to all these questions and more. Be Tall as a master of mindset, inspiring growth and transformation. As a speaker, coach and author, he designs forward thinking corporate cultures that are able to pivot, disrup standards and achieve extraordinary performance. And, as a previous cast member of CIRC delays show, mystereer will speak of what examples through this innovation process. So let's get started. Hello, beatall. Thank you so much for joining us today. How are you? I'm doing great, and you thanks for having me. It's an absolute pleasure. Very excited to be on this platform with you. We appreciate it. We have a lot to cover, so I'm just going to kind of jump right in. You are the author of multiple books, including innovation mindset. I recently read it. Lots of great content. There's a lot of ground to cover, so let me ask you. How do you define innovation? Who Good question straight off the bat. First of all, thank you for taking the time to read the book. How do I define innovation? I think the simple, straight to the point version would be the process of creating the new, but that comes in multiple layers and I believe that journey of innovation begins it's a mindset of creativity built on the platform of creativity. Now, the challenge that happens in organizations when it comes to leadership in regards to innovation is the world creativity or even imagination can intimidate people because some people consider themselves, well, I'm not the creative type before, I can't contribute or therefore I can't come up with new ideas and innovation strategies. And it's literally just a mindset build on. I am willing to explore, experiment, happen to my inner child, to take risks and let's just try stuff, and it's through that collaboration in exchange that they do. They suddenly starts to realize, Oh, I do have something to contribute. But also leaders have to empower their teams to feel confident, to jump into that sand pit, so to speak, and play and take risks and just see what comes out of it, without any specific expectations or guidelines, just a free for all. Let's just explore, and that's where innovation begins. I love the creativity aspect of it, because creativity is innovation right and you were part of Circassla, which is also a really fascinating story that you have, and you talk about the culture and how you receive that warm welcome. So let's first talk about that. Why is culture so important and what responsibility do we have as leaders to set that town? Well, culture basically defines your company, defines your brand. Is the very foundation that you are going to either be successful or not, and companies that have what I'm going to call anemic cultures, that are haphazard...

...and not designed and carefully, there's no strategy behind it, tend to find that they fail because unless you guide your team from day one this is how we do things, this is our expectations, these are our standards, it's very hot for somebody to come on board and fit in to what's already been established. And in terms of that first impression, that warm welcome, I remember a so do slay and this is where a lot of companies, leaders fail. They've gone through the onboarding process and and most new employees will relate, you arrive at your job on the first day and you're intimidated, you're afraid, you don't know really how it functions, and then you're walked into your office in your cubicle and you're given the quick tour and then all right, good luck, and then your left there and it's not a very nice feeling. And so from day one you have set them up for not necessarily failure, but you haven't set them up for success at so do so late. I remember specifically they came and pick me up at the airport. They greeted me, they made me feel valued and it ought really that's what it comes down to. Invest in your team and your employees from day one. Make them feel valued, make them feel relevant, make them feel significant. From that point moving forward, you will get more out of them, because we are emotional beings and the first impression sets the tone. They greet to me, they made me feel welcome, they showed me the ropes, they let me know that I could ask some questions if I needed help and support, and that boosted my confidence and I was then able to thrive from day one. So, in terms of leaders make sure that you invest and take the time to make your team feel comfortable from day one. I love the emotion part of it because empathy is such a great part of leadership and I know we didn't kind of cover this in our pre question. But why is empathy is so important for leadership, like, how do you show empathy equally amongst your team? It's a very good question. Empathy is a very, very powerful tool that now, I guess, into the realm of what is more properly considered as emotional intelligence. So empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. That means you are understanding that emotional state. Now, that doesn't mean that, through empathy, I have to do necessarily agree with you and comply and do what you request. You mentioned about leadership and in terms of culture. Having empathy doesn't mean that I can accommodate everybody's needs and expectations. Having empathy means I've taken the time to sit down with you and listen. And what I mean listen? I don't just mean, you know, yeah, lot of last selectively listing. I mean actively listening and listening with empathy, which means I truly understand your pain points. If I truly understand your pain points and you feel that I have listened and heard you, you've already achieved half of the battle. You've already won the battle, because I relate to your problems, I understand you and if I genuinely understand I will then do the best that I can to help you. That doesn't mean you're going to get what you want, but just the fact that you feel heard and understood already is a part of the conflict resolution problem. So lead is that have empathy actually empower their teams because they feel again, it goes back to the emotional part of feeling valued, heard and understood. So it's crucial for leaders to have empathy because a lot of leaders it's what we do. We listen actively. Now, active listening is highly effective. However, there is a slight downfall with active listening. So I can have a conversation with you right now and you are you are either one of my team members, you are my top employee or my worst employee, or you are a customer, and I've actively listened to you and I've heard everything that you've said. I've done all the right things. I've made eye contact, I've leaned, then I've taken note, I've actively listened. But if I don't care about what you just shared with me, what value can I truly bring to you? So active listening is great, but we want to encourage leaders to listen with empathy. So active listening is good, empathetic listening is one...

...step highed. Go back to your question about diversity and where does serp find their talent and how does that relate to maybe the business world? So obviously there are endless third parties that we can entertain. I mean there's a zip recruiter, career builder. I think even now facebook has a job search tool. There's Linkedin. So these are sort of more standard ways of finding talent and it gives you access to the most qualified talent, and I do qualified in a parentheses, because a lot of leaders, a lot of companies will hire based on credentials. Ability. Circle goes a little bit beyond because they want people with the right mindset. I remember auditioning for so this silly I was not the best performer there. There were Olympic Gymnast National Champions and I was some kid who kind of grew up on the streets and who done some dance and some ballet and some acrobatics, but I wasn't as good as the others. However, my defining or my saving grace was that I was adaptable. I was hungry to learn I was like litmus paper and that's what they were looking for. People who can adapt and fit the mindset of the culture. Because I can teach you a skill. It's very hard to make you shift in your mindset, and so leaders don't always be preoccupied. Well, they've got a degree in this. What is their mindset? Will they compliment, if not enhance, the business objectives and what value will they bring to the other team members? So it's not just the credentials, and of course so do Salah. They invest time in finding the right people. They search world wide. Not Every company can do that, but take the time. If you're going to rush a higher and you're going to rush the on boarding process, the chances are you haven't set them up for success. So invest in taking the time to on board and then to train. That's crucial. Take the time to train the right people that you found. And then the next element, I want a quickly add to that. Once you found the right people that fit within your culture, that you've trained, then get out of their way. Let them give you the best of them, and that's how you optimize talent. You have so many examples of adaptability in your book and I just love it, because someone who talks about change often and embraces it, I think that's so important. You Know Circus Sola. You talked about that as a real life example and you are a musterer as your first show. Correct, correct, yes, perfect it was. That was the first show I ever saw from circus list too, and you loved it. Right, I did. I was so taken it the imagination was out of control. I loved it. I loved it. But you talked about the struggle of putting that show together, moving it from Montreal to the Las Vegas and how people had a pivot and change and even after opening day. So what do you remember from the leadership as they helped guide you through these pivots? You have very animated stories of the leads. But what is something that a was really great, but something that may have hindered you at the same time, without giving away the the secret source, because the the the through line, the story that I'm going to quickly share a pot of right now is the the main through line of the book. Innovation Mindset. But in a nutshell, and you talked about missed the how we had to pivot. First of all, it was the first time soak do. Solat had done a show on that scale. It was their first resident or permanent show. Secondly, all the other shows had been done in a tent and now so here we are in a fixed theater that has been built specifically for this show and for circuit. was a learning curve, and so a big part of the exploration is it's that's exactly you explore your opportunities. You see what potential lies within the limitations and oftentimes companies are so focused on well, we can't do this and they miss the reasons. Sir, it was just well, let's focus on what we can do, and the whole process was a trial and error play byplay. Oh, that doesn't work, but if we add...

...this, would that work? And the bigs. The big takeaway was that one day before the opening of of the show, we've been rehearsing for a year, intense training, six days a week, and here we are. We've traveled this journey and the truck the last rehearsal before opening night December twenty four, one thousand nine hundred and ninety three treasure island hotel. The director, at the last minute, then says something that blew our might. He said, for in his easy has this thick French accent. He said, forget everything you have learned. We stopped all over. We're like, he's lost his mind, he's lost it. He doesn't know he's talking about. Up until that point missed. There had been dark to it was actually a very boring show. And Rumor has it that Steve Win and the lame win, who were the then owners of Treasure Island Hotel, now didn't want to allow us to open. They were going to shut down the project. And so the last minute there is this one and eighty you turn to reinvent everything that we had done. Now that takes courage as a leader. A part of leadership is courage to understand that all this might not be the right direction. Let's change for the good. I'm not promoting being reckless. It was a calculate to change. We've gone down the wrong path for a year and we've free key going down this path. We won't reach our destination. Let's change. So the last minute everything had to be changed, the choreography, the music, the costumes, it all had to be changed. Now this is the only way that change like this can happen, and it goes back to culture and leadership by default of the way that they had trained us and prepared us for the show. We were on board. We bought into the mission and the vision and therefore we gave it one we gave everything that we had to make this seemingly crazy change work. If your team doesn't bite into what you are doing, good luck inspiring change. It's not going to work. You've got to inspire your team with a strong vision, mission that is filled with passion, focus, Clear Direction, and your team will be on board and it will it will end up being smooth sailing. There's a beautiful quote from Robin Sharma in regards to change. He says that change is hard at first, messy in the Middle Gorgeous at the end, but it takes courage to get through that messy part. It's like a point of transformation, and you do talk about that in the book you you know, you talk about how some things are just inevitable, like disagreements, misunderstandings, even innovation. Right, but transformation is optional. So if you have staff like that and you just said you have to get them to buy in, how do you do that? Ah, that's another great question. So a lot of leaders and and modern leadership has been shifting for the last twenty, thirty years. All the leadership was based on power. I'm the boss and I have the power. Therefore, you do as I tell and modern leadership is shifting onto itself and it's more becoming about how do I impower my team, how do I inspire my team rather than tell them what to do? And telling people what to do is a form of manipulation. They don't want to do it and then they resist and then they resentment builds. So the best way to get your team to either buy into something or to shift because, like, like you mentioned, change is inevitable. Transformation is a choice. Therefore, if it's a choice, they can say yes or no. So the objective is a leader is to inspire your team. And as a great example by Jonathan Height, psychologist, and he uses the example of a rider on top of the elephant. Now, most people would think, well, the riders in control because he has the power, he's holding the reins and therefore you can tell the elephant way to go. That works most of the time. But when the elephant, which represents the subconscious mind, and the rider represents the conscious mind. So if the subconscious doesn't want to change. Good luck getting the elephant to move in a direction that it doesn't want to when... weighs six tons more than you do. You can't make that happen. So you have to inspire the elephant to want to go down a certain path. So it's not about manipulation and mandates and company policy. It's about understanding your team. What motivates them, what's in it for them? It's not always about what's in it for the company. What's in it for your team. And also, when you involve them in the decision making them the process, they take ownership in that and when they take ownership they're going to not treated like the little baby, and that's how you inspire transformation and change. So you're giving that power over to your team. But let's talk about diversity and inclusion. But every individual might have a different motivation. So how do you get that collaborative thought to be part of that? How do you get them to work together? Collaborations very complicated and you know people will use that quote there is no eye in team, and this is something that Michael Jordan apparently once said during the training when somebody said to him there's no I in team and his answer was yes, but there isn't I in win. So it's just a shift of perspective. But in terms of collaboration, first of all leaders have to clearly communicate in let their team members know I want to hear your ideas and we need to hear your ideas. Now this is where most leaders end, or I'm going to use the word kill collaboration and innovation. Somebody offers an idea and somebody will say, oh, that's a great idea, but and then they tell you why your idea won't work. So if I've contributed an idea ten times and you keep telling me no or that it's not going to work, what happens? I stop contributing. Going back to the SOAC to sell a process. That doesn't mean they had to entertain each and every one of our ideas, but at least they made us feel like they'd considered it. And sometimes they would be like, you know what, I don't know how that's going to work, but let's give it a try. And what happens is, if you allow people to collaborate, a seemingly bad idea becomes a better idea, turns into a good idea becomes the right idea. It's a process, but leaders have to be very strategic in enabling people to collaborate. That doesn't mean again, a free for all and that you can allow superstars to do as they please. It's still all within the framework of this is our objective, is our mission, His our vision and this is how our culture works here. So it's always within that framework. It's not a free flow. Perfect leadar cask practices, the yes and philosophy. So I appreciate when I hear other people make sure that's a leadership point. You know, part of the reason we had you today is our theme in May is innovation. So we've built the story about how positive disruption can lead to creativity and innovation. How do you see companies right now, especially in the environment we are in, innovating, in creating right now? Do you have any examples for us? What everybody is now going through an drastic and immediate, almost sense of urgency in order to adapt to everything that's happened overnight. So one of the key factors of innovation is a sense of urgency. And going back to the SOCO for example, of the night before, we have no choice but to focus dive in with conviction. This is what we're going to do and we're going to give it everything that we have and we're going to change. So right now, I think what's happening is a lot of companies are switching to going to online platforms. They're now having to understand it's opening up a new door for a different way of communicating, which means that now people are working from home. This is one of the key things that I think is going to happen in terms of the future. People have gotten, they've struggled with the transition to working from home and doing conference calls and using zoom and other platforms like Uber Conferences and things like that. People of now reached the comfort level of, Oh, I kind of enjoy working from home now, and I think that's what's going to happen in the future. They're going to shift to what countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and then market doing, where they've actually shortened the work week. I believe then mark and Sweden have a standard format of a thirty hour week, and... if people can work from home and you delegate and leaders give them more autonomy and freedom to take initiatives and make decisions. If freese people's time up, that they can now have a healthier work life balance. I'm working from home, I can spend more quality time with my family. I'm a happier employee. As a happy employee you're going to get more out of me because I'm energized, I motivated, I'm enthusiastic, and so I hope that companies, when all is sudden, done in the dust settled, don't suddenly go back to the formats that we had where you're going to come in and work at the office and I'm going to micromanager and I'm going to tell you what to do. This is the opportunity for leaders to step back and really empower their people to do what they do best. quickly. Adding to that, a quick tip for everybody. When you're doing zooms, and if this is the way of the future, make sure that you don't have what's called screen fatigue, where you are asking your team members to spend too much time on conference calls. It's the same with meetings. Meetings are sometimes too long, so optimize your time by minimizing the time that you spend in meetings, either virtual or not. Absolutely and bringing up the time factor. Are you know having more time allows people to be more creative? Possibly, and you mentioned again that creativity is a mindset. You know a lot of people will say you're an artist, your creative, but in reality is that always the case? Can you tell me a little bit about that and how you're expressing your creativity? There's I've seen you do some handstands and things like that. So how are you being creative these days? Well, first off I get to how I'm being creative. Going back to the mindset thing, there is a difference. So I actually happened to paint. I used to be an artist, a painter, as a dancer, Acrobat, as an actor, as an author. It's that's artistry and a lot of people think they're not creative because they confusing that. They think, oh, creative people, artists, they create art. That's not true. Lawyers are creative, accountants are creative, at least I hope everybody's accountant out there is creative. So it's not always about creating art. So if people let go of the concept that, Oh, I'm not artistic but I can be creative, creativity is about problem solving, coming up with new ideas. And so how am I being creative without necessarily creating art? I like to tap into my inner child. That's where our superpower really lies, when we can be creative and just free to play. So when I travel at I travel a lot, and when I'm at the airport, I look at an escalator and most people view the escalator as well. I step on it and I go up. I view the escalators something to play on. If that's how I become creative, I tap into my certain Solah reserves. I will still do the odd handstand here and there. As I'm writing blogs, I try new ways, as I create promotional marketing materials, I I constantly explore and try, and so that's how I remain creative and that's what I encourage other people to do, is to be childlike and continually play. And through playing is how you discover and drive innovation. And you're really good about showing playing and instagram. So for those who want to see the creative in you, and that actually leads me to you the next question. I assume this has to do with playing, in that childhood like attitude. But what's what the red nose is? I see audiences where them. I see you wear them. Can you tell us a little bit about those red noses? Yes, I would love to. So it's somewhat become my signature. And the thing with creativity and innovation it's not about reinventing the wheel. So I've taken the concept of the red nose, which I didn't invent. It's something that is sort of associated with circus. It's something that patch Adams used many years ago, I believe, in the S, when he would help, when he would use the red nose to try and make children laugh, and through laughter we heal and we open our souls to and that's what the red nose does. Now, of course,...

...there's a way of setting this activity upward to be successful that I cannot disclose. But what happens when I get people to wear the red nose, red noses in large groups, is all the lessons that I've taught about creativity, inhibition, being forward thinking, being open minded and leaving your ego outside. When they put on the red nose, instantly all those things happen. They start to smile, they forget the EGO, they start to be childlike, the inhibitions go out the window and all of a sudden they are much more able to one connect with their fellow colleagues, because now I'm smiling, my God is down. We're connecting, we become relatable. Through relatability we can now exchange ideas with an open mind. It inspires collaboration. That red nose is such a magical impact when I use it at keynotes and trainings. It's it's really very powerful thing. And again, it's just simply about being childlike, letting go of the EGO, forgetting your inhibitions and being free to express so for people who working online or in their homes right now or still in, you know, virtual offices, it can be a red nose, it can be a hat, it can be a silly scarf that you wear. Just find props around the home that make you feel a little bit more childlike. It's like when we put on a mask, all of a sudden we become a bit more daring. That's really what the red nose does. I love it and it definitely brings a smile to my face. I'm having an our time that smile in for all of this. So I just have one last question. You know, this is the leader cast podcast. Our mission is to fill the world with leaders worth following. So I have to ask, in your opinion, what makes the leader worth following? Who Wow the the I'll intimate question the most. That's a really, really good question. What makes a leader worth following? I think there are several character traits that make for leader worth following. I think vulnerability is one. As a leader, if I'm too perfect and to Almighty and I separate the distance between my people and me, I now become intimidating. By being intimidating I can inhibit growth, I can inhibit expression. So vulnerability is a really important thing for leaders. Share stories of your failures, share stories of when you made a mistake, because it is all okay and it's a crucial, integral part of innovation, failure. I'm going to you several quotes in this. I love Michael Jordan and in terms of failure, it should be a part of your cultural DNA. It is okay to fail. In fact, you should invite people to fail. And I'm going to add something to that. It's not about it's about failing quickly and failing forward. And Michael Jordan's quote about failure is this. He says I've missed over I've lost over the way. I've missed over ninezero shots in my career. I've lost more than three hundred games. Twenty six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. So failure is a part of growth, innovation, expansion, scaling and people have to now there's a fine balance between. Like in so do slay, we failed in practice. We explored and trained in practice with very specific guidelines. There's a crash Matt, there's a spotter, we experiment. The objective is not to fail in the show. So the failure becomes it apart as that's a part of your market research, in meetings. That's where you explore. So the failure doesn't become in the execution or delivery of your product or service, it's in the preparation to creating a product or service. In terms of leadership, there's another court I want to share John Quincy Adams in this, for me, sums up what a leader is. John Quincy Adam says if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more you are a leader. So if you can inspire your... to thrive, to become better, to grow, to become leaders unto themselves, then you are a leader. That is beautiful. I don't know if you have left anything out that you want to give us a nuggets, because that was just so perfect. Yeah, just a vertically in a nut show. What I want to say is going back to tapping into the socusulating and leadership. Over the years we had different what's called artistic coordinators who helped us maintain the integrity of the show, and this happens a lot in sports. You can see one team thrive under a great manager and then the next season they suck because either the manager has lost it or they bring in another manager. Leadership is crucial to the success of any organization, any company, any start up, and leadership is also something we are all leaders. That can be at home as a parent, it can be as a friend, it can be as a role model, as a mental for somebody, but ultimately we are all leaders in the objective is to turn other people into leaders that are better than we were. I could not have said it better myself, vitell. Thank you so much for joining us today on this podcast. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I really did great questions. Thank you and keep up with the amazing work on the difference that you all make. Thank you. Hi Everyone, this is Bart and I wanted to take a minute to tell you about our friends at sweet fish media. According to research from edleman and Linkedin, almost sixty percent of decisionmakers said that thought leadership led them to a boarding business to an organization. Sweet Phish media helps marketing teams turn their executives into industry thought leaders. Learn more by visiting sweet phish MEDIACOM leader cast. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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