Communicating & Executing Your Vision With Your Team | Steve Gordon


On this week’s episode of the Vibrant Leadership Podcast, we speak with Steve Gordon, CEO of The Unstoppable CEO and the author of Unstoppable Referrals, The Exponential Network Strategy, and Podcast Prospecting. Steve helps business owners create more freedom in their lives by driving breakthroughs and connecting with ideal clients.

“I believe all results come from the relationships that you create in business, so we’ve centered ourselves around tools and techniques that allow you to create those relationships really easily”, says Steve.

We chat about self-assessment methods and time for reevaluation, as well as:

  • Communicating and executing a vision with your team

  • Daily and annual reflection practices

  • Key methods for grounding and keeping energy levels up

  • Building a team behind leaders to amplify their message and offerings

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Vibrant Leadership Podcast with leadership speaker and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Thank you for joining me on the vibrant leadership podcast. Today, my guest is Steve Gordon. Steve Gordon is the CEO of the Unstoppable CEO and the author of two books. One is the Exponential Network strategy. And one is Unstoppable Referrals. And as you know, we talked to leaders who are doing amazing things out in the marketplace. And I’m absolutely delighted to have Steve with us today. So welcome to the podcast.

Steve Gordon: Hey, Nicole, thanks for having me.

Nicole: Yeah, it’s my pleasure, absolute delight. So I’m just so curious about your history, because I know you were kind of thrust into leadership early on, will you share with everybody kind of what happened to you and your leadership journey?

Steve: Yeah, baptism by fire. That’s what it was. Yeah, I out of college, I’ve got a background in engineering in a tiny little discipline called geomatics that most people have never heard of. And I went to work for a firm out of college, was the 10th employee at the firm and had been there about four years. And the founder, I guess, it decided that I was, I was the next generation and his succession plan. 

So I’ve been there for years. And, and he asked me to take over CEO and, and so that was kind of my start in, in leadership and didn’t know what I was doing, and made lots of mistakes along the way. But, you know, here I am now, I guess it’s been 21 years since that. This has that happened. And it’s been, it’s been fantastic. It was a transformational experience for me.

Nicole: Yeah. So I’m wondering if you could break down the transformational experience, you said, you know, you’ve been there for years, and then boom, you put you right in the leadership seat, you’d be what we call today, a high potential. So what do you think it is that your leader saw in you, what’s the raw material a leader needs to work with?

Steve: Well, you know, so in, in technical fields, oftentimes, I think the people who can go and interact with other human beings sort of get on that track very quickly, because a lot of technical people, you know, in engineering and whatever discipline, they got into it, because they really love the practice of that discipline. And, and oftentimes, that means their head down with technology, and, and, you know, doing the thing that that they really studied and love to do. 

And so, in a lot of ways, I think in technical fields, it’s easier to kind of make that leap. Because if you do have those soft skills, I think you can, you know, you can fast track a lot easier. And so I think that probably had a large part to do with it, you know, and, you know, I’ve since transitioned and I now own a and have for the last decade, I’ve owned a marketing company, we help people with marketing and sales, and that, you know, sort of fits with, you know, with with my natural abilities and the things that I like doing. And so I think that was probably a big part of it.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. So I love that you’re celebrating soft skills, because to me, they’re not soft at all, they’re actually the real challenge to be able to interact with people read what they’re saying, have emotional intelligence, and be able to connect and build relationships, which is a lot about what both of your books are about, right? So tell me how building relationships and leadership go together. Tell me tell me how you connect those two dots?

Steve: Well, I think, you know, leadership to me is all about impact. And if you don’t have a relationship with someone, you can’t make an impact in their lives. And I believe those two things are they sort of run on parallel tracks, the the degree to which you can impact someone is proportional to the size of the quality and the depth of your relationship, how much they trust you. And, and so I, you know, I think they’re, they’re really integral in leadership. 

I mean, if, if our goal is to, to drive change, and you know, and to lead people to a place in the future, that’s better for them. You know, otherwise, why would anybody follow you if you’re not leading them to a place that’s better for them through some change and some transformation that’s going to improve their lives? Why would they follow you and so you’ve got to be able to have a relationship with them and create trust with them, so that they’ll follow so that they’ll believe in the vision that that you’re laying out. And I think that I think that’s really critical And to me, that’s how the two relate.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s awesome. So I have had several podcasts where the word vision pops up. I’m curious, you know, you’re you’re an engineer, you structure things, I bet and put things in a process. So tell me, how do you do your vision work inside of your company? How does it look like as a structure? And then where do you get the the inspiration to throw the vision out there for your people? How does that all work in your organization? Vision?

Steve: Well, so it all starts with our clients. And, you know, and you and I are both members of the Strategic Coach program. And we use a process that Dan Sullivan created called DOS, where you, you look at DOS stands for dangers, opportunities and strengths. And so I’ve just found over the years, as I’ve applied that, that that, that unlocks where we need to go to help our clients transform in the future. And so I’m constantly having conversations with our clients and with our future clients about where are the things that are keeping you up at night, right now? What are those dangers that are in the way of of the goal that you want? And what are the opportunities that you’re seeing right now, that’s been a big conversation, you know, this year, we’re recording this in 2020. 

And obviously, a lot going on this year. And there have been a lot of dangers that have been created, right? That people have had to deal with it. And you can create a lot of value in helping them think through and, and eliminate those dangers. And even though it’s been a challenging year, it’s actually not been a year void of opportunity, there are a lot of opportunities out there, what I’ve been trying to get our clients to believe in is that the opportunity didn’t disappear, it just moved. And our job now is to go find it. And so having these conversations, you know, internally helps us find it. 

And then finally, you know, the the last piece there in DOS, S for strength is, you know, what are those things, I always like to look at our clients, what are the things that they’re really strong on that we can build on. And when you put those three things together, and you do that kind of conversation, like in our case, across all of our clients, and if you’re not in a client kind of organization, across your stakeholders, you get a really clear picture of where you need to go. And, and to me, that’s what drives the vision. It’s not, you know, I think the mistake people make with vision is they think it’s, I’m gonna go climb the mountain, and I’m gonna meet, you know, the, the guru at the top of the mountain, and I’m gonna meditate and the vision is going to come to me, but I think it’s far more practical than that. And at least that’s been my experience. That’s, that’s how we approach it. And then once we’ve got it, you know, it’s my job to sort of take all of those inputs and digest them and say, here’s the direction we’re going. And then communicate that back to both, you know, our external stakeholders, our clients, and also to our team.

Nicole: Right, yeah. So I love, love your metaphor of digesting all the information that comes in. So once you’re sitting, you’re digesting it all. So tell me a little bit about how you actually deliver it to your team, like put me in your shoes, yes, you’re getting the vision in front of your people. Are there some practical tips or strategies about casting the vision and when to do it, how to do it, how often to do it?

Steve: When to do it? All the time. How often to do it? A lot. I you know, this is that’s one of the things I had the hardest time learning as I was starting out as a young leader, because I got tired of hearing about the vision before I’d ever even fully communicated it. And I think that’s a big mistake that people make. And so you know, what, what I’m always trying to do is reinforce, here’s where we’re going and then connect it to the result that we’re trying to create for our clients. Because at the end of the day, that’s the big vision is like we get up every day because we’re fired up about going out and working with an entrepreneur and helping them transform the way that they market and communicate with their, with their audience with their market. 

And, and so, you know, for us, there are a lot of tasks involved in that. And I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day doing of the tasks. And I always see my job as the, you know, my number one job is to pull people back and refocus them on the bigger reason that we’re doing what we’re doing. What’s that transformation that we want to create? And so, and I think you have to do that often. I mean, we our team meets weekly, and, you know, I try and touch on that. Some aspect of it every week, you know, and and try do it in different ways. Each time, yeah.

Nicole: What do you mean by that different ways? What give us a couple of different ideas about how you, you communicate that vision? Because communication is the name of the game in leadership, I can’t know where you’re going unless you tell me where we’re going.

Steve: Absolutely, yeah, well, you know, everybody hears messages differently. And it, I’ve always found that it’s, you know, it’s just not that effective to stand up and say the same thing, exactly, in the same way over and over and over again. First of all, it bores people. And second it, you know, if somebody didn’t get it the first two or three times that you said it that way, then maybe you need to say it a different way, so that they can get a deeper understanding. And, and that’s what I mean by by saying it in different ways. 

And so the way I might do that is I might connect it to a client when a client has some success. And I’ll then connect that to our vision. You know, and, and use that anecdote as a way to explain, here’s why we do what we do, here’s where we’re going with it, and how all of it connects together. And so I’ll take those practical examples to try and make it real, because if all you do is talk about it in these lofty kind of, you know, terms that are that are really future focused, a lot of people have trouble connecting with that, I think you have to bring it back down to, here’s how the vision connects with what you’re doing today, what you’re doing this week, here’s how you impact and help us fulfill that vision. You know, in your day to day work, because then at that point, then it’s meaningful, they understand it.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I think you nailed it. So don’t miss this, everybody, he just said, you got to take the vision, the big picture and connect it to the every day that your people are doing inside the business. So they see how they fit into the vision, I absolutely love what you just said, That’s fantastic. So I have a coaching methodology. And my listeners know all about it, it is SHINE, and it stands for self assessment, all leaders need to do self assessment, they have to do habit work, they have to think about the quality of their integrity, they have to articulate next right steps, and they have to manage their energy. So as a leader, Steve, how are you doing self assessment? What kind of way do you kind of turn the mirror inward and see how Steve is doing? What do you do? What’s your thing for self assessment?

Steve: Ah, gosh, I do a number of things. I get away once a quarter per day and think about the business and, and that gives me a great opportunity to reevaluate, you know, my own performance on a daily basis. I’m up early every morning and I go through an exercise similar to what we talked about before with the DOS, I list, you know, my my danger for the day, my opportunity for the day and my, you know, a strength that I want to build on for the day. And often those those dangers are areas where I might not live up to what I need to be as a leader. 

You know, maybe it’s, you know, not carrying through on, you know, on a commitment that I’ve made, and I’ll write that down in the morning, kind of in advance and saying, okay, if, you know, I got to pay attention to this, because if I get caught up in something else, and I don’t follow through on this commitment, and the rest of the team can’t then do what they need to do, then I’m not fulfilling my role as leader. So I kind of try and do it proactively that way. You know, and, and certainly, as a part of our, you know, our annual planning, I usually will will kind of do a deep dive on on myself, just on paper, what went well, this year, what didn’t go well, how, you know, what did I do? Well, and what didn’t I do? Well, and I’ll do that same sort of thing. After key interactions, you know, if I have a key interaction with client or with an employee, I’ll often go through that, that thinking myself on paper, just to, you know, just to sort of look in the mirror and say, How did this situation go? And what can I learn from it? And what can I do going forward that would be even better?

Nicole: Yeah, I love what you’re saying. So the World Economic Forum just had a survey and one of the things that was on it is that leaders need to do reflection, and I’m hearing you that you’re doing a ton of reflection work inside of your self assessment in terms of like journaling. I mean, I don’t know if you would call it journaling. But you said I wrote it down, I wrote it down. So I think that is a really powerful, powerful thing to do. Well, the age in the SHINE coaching methodology is habit. We kind of heard some habits you have in there, I get up early, I write it down. I go through the DOS, which again everybody is dangers, opportunities and strengths. So Is there any other habit that you practice on the regular to totally intentionally, so that you can be a better leader in some part of your world?

Steve: Yeah, the, you know, the big one. I mean, I do lots of reading and other things, which I would, I would call those habits. But the big one that I think really moves the needle for me, is around my own health and fitness. And so I work out a couple of days a week with a trainer. That alone, working with a trainer transformed my, my own fitness because I had accountability. And, and my wife and I actually do that together. And so a couple of those early mornings every week, we’re in the gym together. And that, for me takes that ticks off two really important boxes. It, it ensures that I’m working on my fitness because I don’t think I can lead effectively, unless I’m taking care of my own health and well being that that helps create energy. I know that’s part of your formula as well, which I think is so key. And it helps keep my energy up. 

But it also ensures that in my most important relationship with my wife, we’re grounded twice a week, there is time that no one’s ever going to take away because it happens at five o’clock in the morning. And, and so we’re always sort of grounded in this experience, where we’re going and doing something difficult together. And that I always just find that when anytime you can do something difficult with another person, and you’re aligned, it always brings you closer together. So that that sort of takes care of all of the keys for me, that allow me to then go and lead the team and lead our clients do those sorts of things.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s beautiful. I love it. I love it. Okay, so the I is integrity. You know, integrity is a funny thing, Steve, people think they have it. But here’s what I know about integrity, it comes in goes, right. So let’s say you decided to call, phone it in, on the workout this morning. Even though you’ve committed to show up for the workout, you’d be out of integrity in that moment, right, just in that moment, and then maybe the next time the workout comes around, you’re back on the train, and you’re you’re up you’re going at it. So in terms of integrity, I always think of character traits or core values that leaders need to live by what would be a character trait that you’re currently working on, you’re trying to develop this part of yourself, or a core value you’re really trying to live into, to make that a real permanent part of your leadership style?

Steve: Well, I I’m really, the thing that I’m focused on right now, in terms of my own kind of personal growth as a leader is being a lot better at at not being the smartest one in the room, particularly with the team. And you know, I think one of the reasons that this is gonna sound really arrogant, I don’t intend it to be that way at all. But I mean, one of the reasons that, that I got selected early on in my career at the age of 28, to run a company was that I had some capabilities that not everybody had in that organization. And that allowed me to get there. 

And, and I’ve, you know, since then, I’ve always been good at that, you know, sort of developing capabilities that, you know, have helped push, you know, whatever company that I’m involved in forward, but I really am focused this year, and it’s actually a five year commitment to really focus on empowering everyone around me, I want to be the dumbest person in the company. And I say that with all seriousness, I want to look around and go, these people are geniuses, I hope they never find out that I’m hanging around. And because they’re geniuses at what they do, and and if I can achieve that over the next five years, then I think I will have grown a lot as a leader, I will have grown a lot and how I how I’ve learned to develop people how I’ve learned to trust people with you know, with important things. And so for me, that’s, that’s the area that I’m working on, from a leadership perspective.

Nicole: Yeah. So I heard a couple of things in there that you’re working on the trait of humility, right like that, that really pure humility that like I know people are better at something than I am. And I can’t be good at all right. So that’s really an excellent, excellent character trait. And the other thing I heard was perspective. I want to be able to look around and see all of the genius around me, so this character trait of having proper perspective, so absolutely beautiful. So the N is next right step. So what’s on the horizon for Steve Gordon and Unstoppable CEO in your marketing and sales company where what are you going to do in 2021 inspire us about how you’re going to take your organization forward?

Steve: Well, I gotta tell you, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been. Right now, business has for a lot of people has been turned upside down, particularly their business development. And we’ve got some tools that we use with our clients that allow them to go in and connect with key relationships and to establish their authority and their expertise. And it’s perfectly suited to the world that we’re living in now, where you’re socially distance where events aren’t happening as as they used to. And, and so I’m excited to go help people who really need our help with those things, the tools we use are our, we call lead generating books, where we take, you know, an expert, you know, somebody maybe like you, Nicole, who’s really great at what they do, and we help them sort of organize all of that, that wisdom, and put it into a book for them. So that they don’t have to do all the heavy work of writing because most people don’t, well, I’ve written five books. 

Now, most people don’t want to go into, you know, the writing cabin for, you know, six months and pound on the keyboard, it’s not a lot of fun, I can tell you, but we’ve simplified that process. And, and so I’m excited about that, it’s just so much fun, because it’s totally transformational, you take somebody that has wanted to write a book forever, and they know that they have it in and they know it’s going to impact their business, if they can get their message out that way. And then give them that capability. And in a matter of, you know, six or eight weeks. It’s really awesome. 

And then the other is, the other tool we use is a podcast like this one, full disclosure disclosure for everybody, we’re, you know, we’re the team behind the podcast. And we’re really proud to be helping you in this way. But it allows people to have a platform now where they can go out to all the strategic relationships that they need to create directly and say, you know, instead of me hoping to bump into you, at a conference or a trade show, I can just send you an email and say, hey, I’ve got this podcast, I’d love to have a conversation with you about your wisdom about your expertise and share it with everybody that I know, would you be interested. And that’s a pretty easy ask for most people. So and so that’s, that’s one of the things we love about that tool. But I believe all results come from the relationships that you create in business and, and so we’ve kind of centered ourselves around tools and techniques that allow you to create those relationships really easily.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right. So I love the fact that you’re helping me with my podcast. And I will tell you, as a client of Steve, it’s been an amazing experience. And people are coming across my email coming across to my mind. And I think, okay, let him know that that’s somebody I’d like to have on my podcast, and voila, I’m on the screen with them or catching up is absolutely fantastic. So I’m actually doing this right here. Exponential strategy. That’s actually happened for me right now. So yeah, so that’s one of my next right steps that I took with Steve. 

All right, final final question is all about energy. You told me you work out, you told me you get up early. So there’s there’s five energies that that a human being has to pay attention to one is like their mental energy, which Steve talked about the fact that he reads a lot of books. And so all of us, who are you know, out there trying to get ahead in life, you got to read, you got to figure out you got to get the knowledge base in place. So there’s the idea of having intellectual or mental energy, then there is emotional energy, there’s spiritual energy, physical energy, the energy of money and social energy. So you’re an expert, you know, according to these two books, right, about social energy. So I just want to get maybe a couple tips or techniques. We’ve got the podcasts that you do with people helping people communicate their ideas through helping them write a book, but I’m really curious about this one, the referrals. How does a leader need to have a referral base? How does that concept interact with leadership? Why should a leader have a referral base not just for his business, but like personally?

Steve: Well, you know, when I when I wrote that book, I had just gone through and trained about 300 business owners on all of the latest thinking around referral marketing at the time is back in 2012 or 2014. I guess. And we did a whole series of workshops over summer. And it was great, people loved it, I got all these great reviews out of it. And I went and met with about a half a dozen of those folks after the fact, about six months later, and and I gotta tell you, it was talked about energy draining, it was awful, because none of them had done anything with any of the information. 

And they all laughed, saying, this is the number one thing I need to solve in my business. And we hear that a lot. This is like the number one thing that people need to solve is they need to have a way to allow the people in their world to easily share that. And what what I discovered from those conversations and asking lots of questions was that the energy around referrals is usually pretty negative. And it’s not, it’s not that the key people, the key relationships you have don’t want to connect you. It’s and I don’t think this is true for for leaders in general. 

So I get connected all the time with people where there’s no expectation that we’re going to do business, where I think the the energy suck comes in is when it’s attached to the sales process. And I think for anybody in business, this is something really to pay attention to. Because you may be really giving up a lot of opportunity. But if you think about it, if you know, I want to refer someone to you, the the thing that I’m going to ask them to do and the kind of the old model of referrals, I’m going to go to them, and I’m going to say I met this really amazing coach and speaker named Nicole, and you know, I know you’re having this event coming up, and I think she’d be dynamite, you need to go talk to her and, and they’re gonna go, you know, if if I’ve got a good relationship, whether they have any interest in working with you or not, they’re probably going to take the meeting. And, and we call that meeting sales meeting, because that’s what everybody’s expectation is, is that you’re going to come out of there with a client or not, but it’s a sales meeting. 

And that, that just puts this negative energy over the whole thing. And for your, your clients, the people who are or your centers of influence, who are making those referrals, it really makes it more difficult for them, because not everybody is a natural salesperson. And they’re not comfortable having those conversations, and they know that it’s a sales meeting. So they want to be 100% certain that you know that that person really needs Nicole, you know, and, and so what we kind of figured out from that is if we can take all of that risk out of it and kind of remove the sales meeting as the first thing and breathe some life into the interaction, breathe some value into the interaction, it all works so much better. And the way that we do that is with, you know, by, again, packaging up your knowledge and your wisdom, the best way to do it is in a book, which is one of the reasons we offer that as a service. 

And then you can go to that key client or that key partner with a totally different energy. And you can say, you know, Nicole, I’m on a mission to help business owners transform their business development now that we’re in this pandemic time. And I wrote a book on how to do that. And that books called podcast prospecting. And I know, you know, people that would really be transformed if they got a hold of this concept, whether they do business with us or not. And I’m on a mission to get it in the hands of as many people as I can, would you help me? Would you be willing to sit down and brainstorm with me a few names of people that we could send this to as a gift. 

And contrast that in your mind for a minute to showing up and saying, you know, so do you know anybody that needs any marketing or any coaching or any speaking this week? And so when I think about energy and referrals, it’s all about how can I put that that energy of value that I want to be a contributor, that I’m showing up with something that is so worthwhile and so great, and I’m so passionate about it, that, that the person that I’m talking to can’t help but but join me on my mission and want to share it?

Nicole: Yeah, well, the contrast I heard was one is getting in one is giving. And that’s basically the difference. That’s the energy of being generous and, you know, putting out the energy or receiving energy from others, right. So it’s a reciprocal thing out there. You put it out, you usually get it back and that’s what you’re talking about. So I absolutely love that. All right, well, you are a very busy guy. So I gotta let you get back to doing all of your giving that you do in the world. Tell us how do we get ahold of Steve Gordon, I want to write a book, I want to start a podcast, I want to do business development and grow my business. Despite the pandemic, I don’t let the pandemic happen to me. I go in and I do stuff to the pandemic, what what would people do to get ahold of you?

Steve: Well, Nicole, we’ve, we’ve set up a page on our site just for your listeners. And so when they go there, we got a bunch of great stuff to give them, they can get a copy of my latest book, which is called Podcast Prospecting, which talks about kind of our whole process for doing that it’s really Unstoppable Referrals was sort of version one. And then Exponential Networking was version two. And Podcast Prospecting is now version three. And we keep improving and refining the process as we go. And so they can get a copy of that for free. There on on that on the page. 

And we’ve also got a really great assessment that they can go through, it’s called the inevitable growth scorecard. And I like to create inevitable growth where it’s just going to happen, it’s going to be magic. You can’t help but but grow. And we’ve identified eight things in our best clients that if you know, for our best clients, they’re all doing these things. And you can score yourself in those eight areas and see where to focus on next. And people get just get a lot of value out of out of being able to focus so you can take that assessment there. And if you want have a conversation, I’d love to talk with any of your listeners, they can get on my calendar call that way as well. So the place for them to go is again, and you can get all that stuff there.

Nicole: Okay, that’s fantastic. And there you go again, and give, give give. So it’s absolutely been a delight. Steve Gordon to have you on the Vibrant Leadership Podcast. You’ve given us great wisdom and we’re grateful. Have a great rest of your day.

Steve: Thanks, Nicole.
Voiceover: Ready to up your leadership game? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her unique SHINE method to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Email, and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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