This interview was originally posted in VoyageATL, and I thought it was worth reposting as many people ask me, “how in the world did you get into this work around building trust and connection?”
Chad, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Ever seen the movie Patch Adams with Robin Williams? After seeing that movie when I was young, I had my whole life figured out. I was going to be the doctor that healed patients through the power of human connection.
Then I took a chemistry class my first semester at Penn State. My dream crumbled real quickly. My path took a giant turn toward interpersonal psychology and I wound up working for a phenomenal organization called World in Conversation. My job was to lead difficult conversations with 8-10 strangers on topics like race, gender, culture, and conflict. Over 500 facilitated dialogues later, I took that “PhD of People” and applied it working at a team and leadership development center. There, I got to help leaders and teams build trust, create connections, and have fun while doing it!
In 2013, I was invited to give a TEDx talk on the concept of stretching outside your comfort zone to take “positive social risks.” That sparked some initial work speaking and facilitating company and staff retreats.
I took the hint and combined my passion for creating more meaningful social connections with my knowledge of public speaking, experiential leadership development and group facilitation, and I jumped out and started We!™ (www.weand.me).
Since then, leaders, conference organizers, and CEOs call me when there is a lack of trust that gets in the way of results. I work with them to help them to create organizations or events that are worth showing up to. Where communities and connections are formed, rather than groans and isolation. I’ve also created a deck of cards called We! Connect Cards that are being used in over 50 countries around the world to create conversations that matter.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No. If anybody said starting a company was “smooth,” they haven’t done enough self-reflection. I mean this both humorously and seriously.
Biggest struggle: figuring out the ins and outs of running a business. The unsexy behind-the-scenes stuff like: building a website, marketing yourself, getting crystal clear about your message, your market, and your business model.
Remember, I started We!™ (www.weand.me) because I wanted to be Patch Adams and infuse more genuine trust and connection to “heal the world.” Not because I was a savvy MBA with all the right answers.
Please tell us about We!™
Leaders call me when there is a lack of trust that gets in the way of results. Our clients are conference organizers, leaders, executives, and CEOs of organizations that believe investing in the growth and development of their people is also an investment in the bottom line.
Most of our clients invite us to: Speak at their conference or large-audience event, run a custom company retreat or one of our signature “Leadership Labs” or lead on-site workshops focused on our new book, Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter.
Ask Powerful Questions recently because a #1 Amazon Bestseller much to our (ecstatic) surprise!
I believe we have a national curiosity deficit. Now, more than ever, the world desperately needs less judgement, more empathy, less yelling, and more listening which is why I’m so excited about the concept of asking powerful, creative questions.
What sets us apart from others? Energy. 100% of people that have ever come up to me after a keynote have said, “Wow, your energy was so great! It changed the room.” It used to be confusing feedback to receive because I couldn’t “do” anything with it. But that’s the entire purpose of getting together offline, in-person: to connect and FEEL something that you just can’t no matter how HD your Skype connection is.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have gotten crystal clear on the difference between a “practice” and a “business.” Here’s what I mean: a surgeon is not going to hire her assistant to do the surgery. That is expertise or practice based model.
Similarly, my partner, Will Wise, and I can’t hire somebody to be us to facilitate an energetic connection exercise with We! Connect Cards on stage with 2000 people. And that is okay.
A business on the other hand, my mindset would be: scale, grow, and remove myself from the equation and hire others to run the business.
Both can be beautiful, yet as Will and I was starting and building We!™ (www.weand.me), I ran it like a practice one day and a business the next. The strategies for each are different and sometimes competing.
Now I’m clear: the authoring, speaking, and workshop facilitation side of my work is a practice. And additionally, we have a small business providing cards, books, and other tools to leaders to create conversations that matter while we aren’t there. This is scalable and has scaled…to over 50 countries around the world.
Enjoy my story? Hear more bits, pieces and connection tips via video at: https://weand.me/ideas/