About Jeff Gibbard
Formerly known as “The World’s Most Handsome Social Media & Content Marketing Strategist” Jeff Gibbard (”Gih-Bird”) now goes by another title: Superhero.
Jeff is the author of The Lovable Leader. He’s a strategist, a professional speaker, and the founder of several companies including Super Productive, and The Superhero Institute. Jeff helps people to unlock their potential to grow revenues while making a positive impact on the world. Jeff is also the host of his own popular podcast called Shareable.
Read the Transcript
Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and Executive Coach Allison Dunn. Today our topic is the lovable leader. We have with us superhero. Jeff Gibbard is an author, a strategist, a professional speaker and the founder of several companies, including super productive and the superhero Institute. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us here today.
Jeff: Thanks so much for having me. Allison. Nice to be here.
Allison: I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. So what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners?
Jeff: I sit on the same side of table with people. And that’s just a overwhelming way of saying try to see things from each other’s perspective, try to look in the same direction with other people and make conversations as collaborative and, and looking in the same direction as you can. I always picture is like sitting on the same side of a booth at a restaurant. That’s what you feel like.
Allison: Okay, that’s a great tip at first time I’ve gotten that. But there is a distinct feeling that you have when someone is on your side looking in the same direction trying to like create the like, where are we heading kind of, you know, commerce totally?
Jeff: Like, I honestly like what goes through my head is like being at brunch, right? Sitting at brunch. If you’re sitting across from a friend, you’re catching up like it has a distinct feeling. But if you were sitting next to each other in a booth Sharon, pancakes, just catching up that warmth, is I think something that we you know, we can’t have exactly that might be having a conflict resolution conversation at work, you might be dealing with not meeting projection, there’s all sorts of things that could go not quite right. But if you can bring that same level of warmth and connectedness to a conversation, I think you’re going to have better results no matter what type of conversation it is.
Allison: Yeah, absolutely. So you are my first superhero we’ve had here on Deliberate Leaders and I just want to like visualize like, what is your costume or your outfit?
Jeff: Spandex, all spandex? I guess. So I have on my website. I’ve had this for a little bit. I I say a lot of people wear their superhero suits under their regular suit. Right? Like, you know, you have the picture of like Clark Kent, like ripping open, you see the S on his chest, right? Yeah, I tend to think of my superhero outfit as slightly a different way around is that I actually have my suit under my superhero suit. So like I rock jeans and a superhero t shirt every day. I’m showing up loud and authentic, as I always am bright red sneakers and everything. And underneath all of that is shirt and tie and, you know, a business acumen ready to talk about like, what really affects businesses, but at the core of it, I’m just authentically being me as a superhero.
Allison: Fantastic. Thank you. So lovable leader, that super resonates with me, that is the title of your book. What makes or how does someone get on the path of being a lovable leader?
Jeff: So to me lovable leadership is comprised of really three pillars. That’s what holds up the idea of lovable leadership, it’s a focus on care of focused on building trust, and having a trusting environment. And then on Safe travels, which is encompassing of two concepts, creating safety, but also having goals, right. So a lovable leader is setting big and ambitious, amazing goals, but creating safety on the way to get there and making sure that it’s infused with a team that trusts one another and cares for one another along the way.
So lovable leadership, is taking all of those ideas of what is love and bringing it into a professionally relevant context of trust, respect, kindness, care, safety, those are things that we can have at work without love, giving us that weird feeling of like, we’re not supposed to be talking about love at work. That’s weird. Like you were not supposed to do that. That’s HR help I need an adult, we, you know, contextually relevant. And I think all of those are things that we can agree we want to be in environments where we have that care, trust safety.
Allison: Yeah. I, this, interestingly, is kind of an overlap talk topic, which I’ve had recently on another podcast, but obviously, from a different gender view, which I appreciate. It was three gals all chatting about, you know, building trust and how to do that. In, in developing the pathway to lovable leadership, what are some of the things that you could really do wrong on that? I just want to make sure like, you know, when we talk about, like, you know, creating a livable environment, like where can that go wrong?
Jeff: I think if you are if you have your order of operations wrong, that can really take you off course. So, you know, the book is written about, it’s for new managers. So like you’re brand new into the role. You’ve never managed people like what do I do? So it’s a book about that, but it can really be leadership in any capacity. It can be your career. Unity can be on your football team, it can be like, whatever it is, right?
You’re in a leadership role leadership being a mindset. And how do you make that work is I think you have to put people first and foremost in your mind, the first thing you have to think about is that anything you’re going to get done, it’s going to require connectedness with other people, it’s going to require collaboration, coordination with other people. In fact, you cannot be a leader without other people like, like you, there is no one to lead, right?
So in that case, I think to go off track is to lose sight of the fact that people come first and that and what and I call that out, because I think a lot of leadership has been very results oriented as the first piece, right? It’s, we need to hit a certain bottom line, or we need to have certain types of metrics and figures and numerical. This is qualitative. This is how do people feel around one another? Do they feel safe to express big bold ideas? Without getting shut down? Do they have the ability to take time off if they need it? All of these sorts of things that are people first characteristics of environments. That’s the sort of stuff I think you need to put at the front of your mind. And when you don’t, you sometimes create an environment where all of those things that I’m advocating for become secondary. And as a result, you’re kind of not providing care, you’re not creating a trusting environment, because you’re saying there’s something else that’s more important that and it’s the result for the business.
Allison: Thank you for that. Do you think that there are systems that now that we do have more diverse and off site and remote and all of the things that a lot of the US is, but actually the world is facing? It’s not even us? Are there ways, cool ways that you found that people can find to connect and create that caring, trusting, connected feeling went there.
Jeff: So my business partner and I are actually working on a talk right now called brains at work. And it’s about neuro inclusion at work. And I’m a major advocate for this. I’m a major Advocate General for diversity, equity inclusion initiatives. But I’m not really qualified to speak on all of those topics. But what I can talk about is neuro inclusivity, because I have ADHD, and undiagnosed, but I have a based on my research, pretty clear idea that I have some sort of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
So because of those things, I tend to think about the ways in which people like me are left out at work. And I tend to think about the ways that we don’t get what it is that we need. And you look at all these different ways of working that you mentioned, remote and hybrid and in person, and the expectations of what is professional and what should you do. And I’m looking at that through the lens of neurodiversity, right.
And I think one of the things that businesses need to do a better job of and this goes back to the lovable leader concept, when you create an environment of safety, and you create an environment of trust, and you create an environment that has care embedded into it, you then allow for the conditions where people can speak openly about their needs. And when people can speak openly about their needs, you can then create accommodations for people to thrive, rather than suffer in a work environment. So in terms of like, how do we create these environments? You know, and where are some ways that we could do that?
I think the first thing obviously, is creating the environment where those conversations can happen, assuming those 10 is to be really deeply curious about what each all of us need, what makes us unique. One of the exercises I definitely recommend, and I wrote a blog post about this. He’s called The Five Minute 10, question User Guide. And what I recommend the teams do is each person on the team create a user guide, like an actual manual about like, how do I operate? Right? Like, what’s your Enneagram? What’s your Myers Briggs? What’s your disc, whatever you choose whatever flavor look inward on yourself, and what do I need? What are my triggers? What are my superpowers? What are the things that are like my rocket fuel that are really get me going with the things that shut me down? What are the types of tests that I’m really excited to do? What are the environments, like, I’ve found that fluorescent lights make me just want to crawl under my desk.
So being curious about people and giving people the opportunity to express what they need without judgment, is, I think the neatest thing that we can do in business, and it would make such a big difference for people to be able to show up and be seen and accommodated for who they are as unique individuals without having to adapt or assimilate.
Allison: Yeah, I think as a coach, like, you know, I have so many assessments and index tools that I use so that I can best coach teams or the leaders or whoever it is that I’m trying to work with to help them get where they want to get to. And I just truly believe that everyone should have some type of manual that they go like, this is what motivates me, this is how I need you to communicate with me. This is what makes me feel respected. These are the things that are most important to me, just like so user manual for everyone. Love that.
Jeff: 100 percent. Can you say one more thing about that? Is that Yeah, I think the blind spot is we think everybody is just like us. The stuff that I think is easy. I think everybody thinks is easy. It’s not the stuff that I think is harder. I think everyone else thinks is hard. And the things that trigger me I think, well, that’s got to trigger everybody else. No, we are all different. And when we get really curious about that, and recognize that, that stuff starts to break down, and we start to see everyone is individuals. And then we feel the need, I hope, at least to create more safety for them to be who they are, so that we can be like who we are.
Allison: Yeah, yeah, good stuff. Thank you. So you, you have a theme along superhuman superhero, your superhero hero yourself, I assume this is around some of your research. How can one become superhuman? I mean, we do want to tap that bio.
Jeff: Of course. So the whole superhero thing for me started when I was a kid, I was willing to Superman, now I’m into Spider Man, and my kids are really into it too. I’ve always just loved the idea of superheroes, the idea of standing up for justice, and for people who you can help us and you have the position where you can help them where you have the power or privilege to be able to put yourself in the line of fire to be able to protect others. I just think that’s like the most noble thing you can do. And not everybody’s going to, you know, answer that call. But I think that we all have a little superhero inside of us. And some of us are like, I’m an Enneagram, eight, which it’s like all about injustice, I see injustice, I like leap into action.
Some, but all of us have the opportunity to tap into a superpower that we have. So I think it goes like this starts with superpower. Once you are able to recognize your superpowers, and then you learn the ability to acquire more of them to really tap into what makes you tick so that you can acquire new abilities, you then have the opportunity to become superhuman. And if you apply your superhuman abilities to making a difference in the world of positive impact, you can then call yourself a superhero at some point. And there’s a code to and there’s all this stuff that I have that but becoming superhuman, I believe is a really five meta abilities allow you to get there. And that’s learning, thinking, communicating, leading an action, if you can master these five abilities, and we can, we can slow down and go through any of them.
But I think that’s the process of becoming superhuman in any way, if you can learn anything you’re interested in, or that you want to go after you can deeply think about it, synthesize that information and make it your own. So you truly deeply understand it. So that then you can communicate it to others and utilize that information in pursuit of whatever your goal is, to such a degree where maybe even you can lead others towards some sort of end goal or movement or change.
And then you have the ability to not only put in action for yourself, but to help others to put in action organize people, you have the ability to make profound changes in the world. And that I believe is what becoming superhuman is about is unleashing the potential you have for whatever it is. And that could be the biggest activism changing the world. It could also be like being the just best soccer coach for your kids possible. That’s like taking it from like the littlest to the biggest, the same steps can be followed.
Allison: Thank you for taking a little bit slower in outlining those five things. I do believe that everyone does have superpowers within them. And that’s a cool way to think about how to apply it like instantaneously.
Jeff: Cool. I’m glad it resonated.
Allison: Very much so. So I know you have like a content strategy. marketing background, correct that? Okay. Yeah. What are some of the, your heroic brand strategies?
Jeff: So my background, I ran a Social Media Marketing Agency for seven and a half years roughly got acquired was at a digital marketing agency. So I spent a lot of time in this world of like content and social, putting work out into the world. And similar to the superhero thing, yeah, heroism underlies all of it. Make a difference, do things for a purpose. If you’re a business, don’t just try and like get attention, get attention for what there needs to be a deeper, deeper meaning that you go through. So heroic branding, for me, really begins with brand purpose and making sure that brand purpose isn’t like the Milton Friedman School of like shareholder value, but more was the difference you want to make in the world, what’s the positive impact you want to make? What’s the thing you would do even if it didn’t make you money, that level of starting point?
And then branching out and going through the different exercises and understanding how to build that brand, and then translate that into content strategy and sales and everything else you do? But that goes down to like, what’s your promise as a brand? What’s your mission statement as a brand? What is the solution that you provide in the world that differentiates you from anyone else? What’s your voice? Like? Are you coming across as like the magician there’s, I think 12 brand archetypes are you the jester you the Everyman? Are you the Creator, like are you the ruler? How do you come across and how to all Have those things eventually ladder up so that you’re creating this heroic brand in the world, that all the things that you’re doing all the touch points, all line up to that thing. And I’ll give you a concrete example. It’s like you probably the most cited example in the world of brand, but it’s, it’s, it’s so tangible. I’m not even going to give you the category, but I’m going to say a word. And I want you to tell me what company it is safety.
Allison: I immediately think Bobo, but I don’t, that’s the answer.
Jeff: Because they own that brand. And they own that brand for reason that a lot of people don’t know about. They think, oh, I just see a lot of commercials, they talk about safety. They invented when seatbelt. And they could have sold that hat, they could have kept the patent and sold that to every other car company, cornered the market on safety, from both being the most safe, but also profitability. And they instead just gave it away. They said we think everybody should make safer cars, and they gave it away. That is, you would never see that nowadays. That is like the most unbelievable idea nowadays, but they were so committed to an idea that and whether they did strategically or not, I don’t know. But the point is that they did it, they lived it, they gave away something that that really allowed them to say we are not only so committed to safety, that we’re going to say it, but we’re going to believe it, and we’re going to live it and we’re gonna do everything about it. And that’s what I think more brands need to do is figure out how to get that locked into their brand positioning.
Allison: Okay, um, you were talking about the, I think you said 12 archetypes to like, what archetype you are in? Is that a book? Is that a that’s something?
Jeff: It’s if you if you Google brand archetypes, you’ll find a whole bunch of articles about but it’s, it’s, it’s set in Jungian archetypes like Carl Jung, the famous psychologist. Yeah. And he had the union archetypes, all the different stories that we tell in those characters. And it’s been applied to brand to help with organizations to think about their brand positioning and voice. So you can take the same company, and if you change the brand archetype, it changes the experience of that brand, how you interact with them, what they emphasize, how they you know, how their invoices look even, right?
Like if you think about, you know, Disney, and what the experience is of going to the Magic Kingdom, if you were to change their brand archetype to the everyman, instead of the magical kingdom, how would that change the experience of Disney? Right? So you would completely rethink? You know, what it’s like to be at the park? What are the expectations of the people that are walking around in a Mickey Mouse costume? That sort of stuff?
Allison: Thank you. I’ve always said that my superpower was the ability to actively listen to understand when someone is speaking. And so I think that your you’d like to share about the how communication is a superpower. And I think listening is a form of communication, for sure. 100% agree. So can you share, like how does one master communication as a superpower, it’s so important.
Jeff: So what you said, set this up really beautifully for what I’m going to what I’m about to say. So listening is a superpower. Let’s take that as a as truth because I believe it is. Listening is also kryptonite. It’s also a weakness, many people have a hard time actively listening. So if your superpower is actively listening, then you know very well that the opposite side is like oblivious listening, or like inattentive listening or anything like that, right. So to be an effective communicator, you have to be able to get people to want to listen to you in the first place. So it’s not about how well you speak. It’s about how well you can get other people to listen. And I think a lot of that comes down to who is centered in the conversation.
When you have a conversation and you center yourself in that conversation, talk about yourself, here’s that I’m so great at yada yada, yada, people, will they have a tolerance for a certain amount of that? They’ll tune out? What’s everyone’s favorite subject? themselves? Right? So in general, I think effective communication. This is why I advocated at the top of our episode together here, sitting on the same side of the table, that’s about centering the other person in the conversation, make them feel comfortable. Make them understand that this conversation is about us. It’s us in this conversation. And particularly, it’s about you and my interest in you, and what you need as me as a leader, you as someone on my team, I want to know what’s important to you.
So if you want to be excellent at communicating, I’ve found one of the best things that you can do is take the spotlight off of yourself. It is not about you. It’s about them. It’s about who you’re communicating with. The second thing I’ll say is it just a simple framework that I tend to think about which is the purpose of communication. There are three things that you want communication to do. You want it to inform. You want it to inspire and you want it to influence, those are three things.
So then you have the antithesis of that, right. So inform, influence Inspire. If you have those three things, you want to focus on making sure that your communication is rooted in being clear in your communication, you want to make sure that it’s something that doesn’t subordinate people or make them not want to tune in or not be part of it, you want to make sure that it doesn’t demotivate them or shut them off. And one of the easiest ways that you can get all of this wrong is to make somebody wrong, put them on the defensive, like, Oh, you did this or that. So try not to make people wrong. And stay in that zone.
Allison: Yeah. It’s, it’s funny in coaching, I’ll just go back to the coaching concept. It’s like, how do you how do you bring someone along without pointing out how wrong they are? 100% true. Yeah. That’s somehow that they have to self recognize that they’re wrong. And like, that’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a delicate subject, because maybe they’re not wrong, right.
Jeff: Yeah. Maybe just also, you just want to, like, you can’t help but judge, right. Like, we’re humans, like, you’re like, God, You’re such an idiot, why did you do that? And you want to scream, but you’re like, that’s not going to help them. Right. And not only that, but I’ve found in my coaching is that more often than not, they know, like, my wife knows the best way to get me to see something is not to tell me is to ask me. Well, how did you think about that? I was yeah, I wasn’t nice to that customer service person. You’re right. Like, we know it, we have a more innate sense of what we’re right and wrong about then then people give us credit for so we think like, oh, well, I’ll just tell you, but we don’t learn that way. Yeah.
Allison: That’s a great takeaway for anyone listening today is never accuse someone of being wrong, but help them self discover. And that is a talent.
Jeff: For sure. I’m 100. Yeah. hard as hell, though. Really hard.
Allison: Yeah. How did you get the title superhero?
Jeff: Self assigned, I found that you should just be who you’re right. So my, my former LinkedIn headline, and this is this might have been where it started. Here’s, here’s the, here’s the quick sequence. I’ve been a speaker for, I don’t know, 12 years now. And I started out going on stages and like suits and stuff. And then I was like, This isn’t me. So I started wearing bright red sneakers because I love red, Red’s my favorite color jeans and a shirt that said, hashtag speaker, when I realized is everyone could find me after the talk. I was very easy to find. So that kind of stuck in my head was like,
Okay, well, it’s like, just be a little different enough that you’re easy to find, right? Like if you were searching on Google, and your name is Mike Smith, how do you get people to find you? So same sort of way I found stick out just a little bit. So my old LinkedIn headline used to be the world’s most handsome social media and content marketing strategist. And I kid you not that got me so much attention and play. And people would come up to me like you’re the world’s most handsome social media content marketing strategist.
And I was like, Wow, that really works. So when I pivoted away from social media and content marketing, which I still do a lot of content, I still, you know, I’m on social media. But I’m much more interested in leadership and brand and other things now. I decided, What am I going to do? What am I going to call myself? I was like, if you look around my house, there’s Spider Man figurines of Wolverine stuff everywhere. I’m a superhero. That’s what we’re going with. And that way, when I show up on brand wearing a Spider Man t shirt, or a Hulk shirt, or you know, anything like that, people are like, Oh, well, that makes perfect sense. That’s on brand.
Allison: I love that I, one of my original commercials are like q&a mean, like positioning statements or introductions was that I made people superheroes have their own lives. Love it. But they don’t know that that resonated because I didn’t even I mean, I didn’t show up as a superhero myself, or at least suggest that I was so sure that could have been an improvement that people did. It resonated. However, I don’t know that the message made sense coming from me. So it’s making sense coming from you.
Jeff: I appreciate you so much. Yeah. It’s authentic. It’s yeah, yeah.
Allison: Jeff, as we wrap up, I just want to make sure is there what would be the best way for people to connect and or follow you?
Jeff: Sure. Easiest way to find me connect with everything is just J gibberd.com. My name JGI, BB ard.com. So I used to give out like 10 different links, because I do so many things. And then I was like, oh, I’ll just make this easy. So I made a website that links to everything I do, from side projects, to how to hire me to content, all that stuff.
Allison: That is fantastic. And I realized I did have one more question. What exactly does the superhero Institute do?
Jeff: So the superhero Institute is, that’s one of my like, three or four projects that’s being developed at the moment, but it is going to be a coaching certification program. So for coaches who want to add a new certification and learn a new very unique set of skills that they wouldn’t get at a scaling up or an EO us any of the other coaching platforms. This one’s about how do you learn the superhero methodology? How do you teach people to become superhuman? unleash their power And then how do you gain the vocabulary to have a conversation with people about making a positive impact in the world? I think there’s a lot of businesses out there that are very amoral, not immoral, amoral, they don’t take a position. I am not that I am very, very clear on my stances on things in the world.
And I’m very, very pro go out there and make a difference, go out there and do positive things in the world. And I think there’s a lot of gray area in that. But I think what is not up for debate is about how we treat each other. How we create a world without discrimination. I always say kinder, safer and more equitable. That’s the world I’m out to create. That’s the world I’m out to recruit superheroes for. And the superhero Institute will be My Justice League. It will be my Avengers. It will be started by me, but it will then be owned by no one. It will be all of us making our contributions known out in the world to make it kinder, safer and more equitable.
Allison: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing that and go change the world. Thank you so much.
Jeff: Thank you.