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“Compete Only Against Yourself” 5 Leadership Lessons with Eric Termuende

“So often I would compare myself to someone who wasn’t in my space, speaking to different people, and on a different path. If I can be a better version of myself today than I was yesterday, that is the only progress I need to experience.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Termuende, co-founder of NoW Innovations, acclaimed international speaker, and bestselling author of Rethink Work. Over the past few years Eric has spoken over 150 times in multiple countries, and worked with clients of many sectors and sizes, helping them understand and optimize their workplace culture.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

My backstory is that I wanted to be a white-collar businessperson who spent his days in meetings in boardrooms and carrying around a briefcase. To me, that is what I thought was going to make me ‘successful’. After not getting the opportunities to be where I wanted to be, I could either get a Masters, or start something on my own. Clearly I took the second option.

Realizing that algorithms and the dehumanization of the recruitment process stripped a lot of the personal components of understanding fit and building great culture, we built a tool that quantified workplace culture and used that as a starting point to make change within companies, and give them the numbers that support the story they are looking to tell.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Well, starting out as a speaker I was told I needed to get more video. To do this, I asked the Chamber of Commerce if I could borrow a theatre and film some videos. After kindly giving me 2 hours of free time, I brought three changes of clothes, borrowed three cameras, and built a slide deck that had 18 slides (three presentations of six slides). I walked onto the stage for each one, gave a five minute ‘mock-talk’, and would walk off, change, and do the next one. After ‘recording’, I took the files home, cut them into six one minute videos, added applause and laugher in a video editing software, cut the frame so the viewer could only see the stage, and voila, six videos were done!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

NoW Innovations has a great mix of experience and innovation. Working alongside my co-founder, Rocky Ozaki, I know I can be on stages all over the world and talk about the work he leads with confidence and trust. We have worked with countless organizations over the years and between the two of us, our perspective and approach to the future of work and people in the workplace allows us to be in a position that differentiates us from the rest!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I would say talk to them and ask them questions. So often we use technology to be faster and more efficient. While tech does make things faster, we often lose the human touch along the way. If we can build relationships, trust, a sense of belonging, and create a realized experience that matches the stated experience (mission, vision, values), then work is something employees get to do, not feel like they have to do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

There are a few that have really helped me along the way. My parents and brother have always been an incredible support. People like Ildi Arlette, Matt Corker, Ashley Howard, and Theresa Beenken (to name just a few) have always believed in me and pushed me to be my best. The list goes on, and the people mentioned deserve a little extra thank-you.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Work is something we do more than anything else in the day, so if I can help create a better experience at work, I believe we can create a better life to live. Having spoken to nearly 50,000 people, I feel that I am helping challenge what we used to think were best practices and help people come up with more modern, tailored solutions.

In addition, the work we do at NoW Innovations is data-driven, and still very tailored to the client we work with. We care deeply about our partner organizations and are really proud when we can help them create a better work environment for their people.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

1. Slow down — Working smarter is always better than working harder. Assessing the market and how we could best approach our niche is invaluable.

2. Be specific — if we try and be everything to everyone, we become nothing to anyone. Our market isn’t huge globally, yet it is far bigger than we can ever service (for now, at least!)

3. Compete only against yourself — So often I would compare myself to someone who wasn’t in my space, speaking to different people, and on a different path. If I can be a better version of myself today than I was yesterday, that is the only progress I need to experience.

4. Worry only about the things you can control — So often we worry about things that are out of our hands. Focusing on what I can control makes me feel like I’m in the drivers’ seat, steering wherever I need to go at that time.

5. Focus on the process, not the outcome — it isn’t about getting X number of clients, dollars, or stages; it is about doing the right number of things to be positioned get dollars, clients, or stages.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘small minds talk people, average minds talk events, and great minds talk ideas’. I’ve taken this to mean the sooner we build trust and a sense of belonging, the sooner we can talk ideas and the deeper our relationships and conversations can be. I also believe that in a day, we may have meetings with 5–7 people, and a few more outside of work. If we can lead by example, slow down, be more vulnerable, and create the conversations we want to have, that the meaning behind each conversation gets much greater.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

I’m a huge fan of Oprah and how she has built her career. She speaks strongly, and in terms that everyone can understand. To have a meeting with her and ask her questions about decisions she has made and why would be incredible!