023: Patrick Veroneau – Rise Above Your Best

Each of us can “Rise above our best” with simple behaviors. Patrick Veroneau shares with us practices that work as effectively at home and in our personal lives as they do at work.

He is a certified Emotional Intelligence Trainer and Coach. He developed POWER to help individuals improve outlook and results, and he uses CABLES to create stronger team connections. Patrick helps companies develop leaders from day one and his approach can help you improve your work and life.

Patrick Veroneau, Founder, Emery Leadership Group: http://emeryleadershipgroup.com

Edited Transcript:

ERH:  I am here today with Patrick Veroneau, the founder of Emery Leadership Group. It was named after his dad, who died when Patrick was 18. Patrick has been a consultant for over 10 years in the areas of leadership development and ethical influence. He has a Master’s in organizational leadership and is a certified coach through iPEC and a certified emotional intelligence trainer and coach through Genos. He develops leadership and team-building models to help people and organizations rise above their best.

His previous work was in medical sales, which helped him to always ask why. He loves speaking to youth groups around the idea, “Your past is your power,” and has started to implement that more with adults. He is passionate about finding ways to help others identify and develop behaviors that positively impact them and those around them. Welcome, Patrick.

Patrick Veroneau: Hey, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I don’t hear the origin of my company told often, so it was nice to hear that. Certainly, my dad, although not one that held any sort of title of leader, if going back to the quote by John Quincy Adams which says, “If your actions inspire somebody to dream more, do more, learn more, and become more,” then my dad was certainly a leader. That’s really how I went about naming the company after him, it was about his ability to inspire me.

ERH: It was wonderful learning that story about the name; it’s beautiful. I want you to talk a little bit about how you got into this work, because you and I know each other through our organizing together the DisruptHR conference in Portland, Maine, which just happened in June, and I am inspired by your talk around onboarding people and developing leaders at organizations right from the beginning.

Patrick Veroneau: It has been about 10 years since I have formally been in the work, in terms of Emery Leadership Group. Prior to that, I was involved in sales training and mentoring, and have always had an interest and a passion for developing people. I started my own company because I felt like I watched so many opportunities where, because of behaviors, less was achieved. And if you look in terms of any of the engagement research that’s out there now, the needle hasn’t moved in over two decades, in regards to understanding that only about a third of employees within an organization are engaged.

Patrick Veroneau: In terms of the origin, when I went back to get my master’s, I was saying, “Well, why is that? What is it that creates disengagement?” And it was all around this idea of behaviors. If we believe that leadership is not in a title, that it’s really about actions that inspire, my thought process in this is to say, “Well, then why wait two years for somebody to go through a leadership development program? Why not set a core set of behaviors that revolve around engagement and leadership actions that inspire, right on day one within an organization?” That’s really what I’ve been focusing on now.

ERH: And for every single employee, right?

Patrick Veroneau: For every employee. Doesn’t matter.

ERH: Talk about that.

Patrick Veroneau: Think about it, right? We don’t know who the leaders are going to be. My belief is that, why not allow everybody to understand what the behaviors are? Identify them, help them develop them, and then you see who self-selects, who takes these behaviors and then takes it to the next level. And if we can do that, the organization thrives, and the individuals thrive.

ERH: Absolutely. In my management experience, sometimes the people that were the quietest and sitting over in the corner, by being given the same opportunities as the folks that may be more out front with the things that they want to do, I found some of the greatest leaders on my teams, and they wouldn’t necessarily have been selected, right?

Patrick Veroneau: No doubt about it. And what about if we go the other way? How many people do we know that were high performers in the role that they were in, maybe as individual salespeople or whatever their role was, then they become managers, and they’re disasters? Right?

ERH: Yes.

Patrick Veroneau: People try and run from that, because [that isn’t their strength]. Recently in Harvard Business Review, there was a small study that was done looking from a sales organization standpoint of testing out the Peter Principle, which is this idea that we promote to our least competent level. And they found that when that happened, the higher the recognition and awards that a sales manager received as a representative before becoming a manager, that those people on their teams, their production actually was reduced. So it really leads to this idea of, it’s not the people that perform the best that necessarily are the best managers, and certainly not leaders, because there clearly is a difference between managing and leading.

ERH: And I also love the concept that every single human being is needed at every organization, or you wouldn’t have hired them, right?

Patrick Veroneau: Yes, and f we talk about behaviors that inspire others, what I love about this work is that these skills are transferable. To me, it’s almost a benefit that an employer could say that they offer their employees, that they develop leaders on day one. That you don’t have to wait to get involved in leadership development. {Employers could] go out and talk about how if you join our organization, we’re going to start to develop you on day one, in terms of what it means to be a leader here. And the real value to that is that these skills are transferable. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the office or at home; the behaviors are the same that create engagement in my home life, my personal life, and in the workplace. Everybody wins.

ERH: Absolutely, and we know that employees bring their homes in, because they’re human beings, and so I love the concept or the example that you are teaching people to be more successful in both areas, which all come back to helping people do better work.

What is an example, Patrick, of you knowing that you’re on the right path? Do you have a company or a story to help us see this a little more deeply?

Patrick Veroneau: Yes, there are always threads and things that keep me going. I might get an email from somebody saying, “You know what? I use what we talk about in CABLES with my spouse, and this has not only helped me in the workplace, but it’s helped my relationship at home.” I did a talk for a youth group, Maine Youth Leadership, with about 120 sophomores in high school, talking about many of the same behaviors that I talk to adults about and getting letters back from them; one of them I have taped up in my office here. I read this every morning now, and it says, “You have the ability to change lives.” And this is from a 16-year-old writing this and sending it to me, and when I see that stuff, it speaks to me and says I’m on the right path. This obsession that I have in this area, I’m meant to be here and make a difference, and I love it.

ERH: Absolutely. And you just mentioned a tool that we need to know more about. What is CABLES?

Patrick Veroneau: CABLES is a model that I put together through my graduate work. One model that I did was COACHED, which was around helping managers identify behaviors that would help them to engage employees, those that reported to them. And then there was a model that I used for teams, which is called CABLES.  It came about as part of work that was done by Pat Lencioni on the five dysfunctions of a team. That first dysfunction is lack of trust, where if we don’t trust each other as an organization, if I can’t say what I want to say without fear of maybe ridicule or repercussions, or maybe just not being listened to, then I don’t say anything. And if I don’t say anything, then we don’t have real conflict, and if we don’t have real conflict, we don’t have real buy-in. If we don’t have real buy-in, then we don’t have accountability, and if we don’t have accountability, then what happens in the organization is that we become silos, and we just take care of either ourselves or our teams.

CABLES, is about six behaviors that create an environment where teams are stronger because of it. Whether it’s a team at work or a team at home, your spouse and family, or any outside environment that you’re with, it’s the same behaviors.

The first one is Congruence, that’s the C, which is around walking the talk.

The A is about Appreciation, and really two forms of appreciating other people for their differences that I think we need to understand, as well as appreciating them for the effort and contributions that they make. Oftentimes we don’t do that enough in terms of recognizing people.

The B is Being for others. If we take this idea of the 51% Rule, where if my intention in going into any interaction with somebody is “How can I provide 51% of the value?” then I’m always going to be giving a little bit more than I get. We want to do things for people that do for us, so it’s a natural law that we sort of work off of when that happens.

The next is the idea of Listening, that’s the L, and it’s not just listening with our ears, but it’s really listening with our eyes, understanding how to read body language, and that’s part of the emotional intelligence piece of this. And listening with our mind, maybe take a step back and say, “What else might be going on here? I hear this person saying this, but maybe they don’t really mean this.” So before I get emotional or reactionary, I take a step back and think. The last part of that is listening empathically or with the heart, “What if I was in this person’s shoes? How would I want to be addressed or how would I want to be responded to?”

The E is about Empathy, which I think is getting much more attention now in terms of its value, in terms of leadership, that we need to be empathic. Without empathy, it’s very hard for us to get people to feel inspired to want to follow us, because they look at us and say, “You really don’t understand where we’re coming from. You haven’t tried to see it from my perspective.”

The last part is around Specifics, that’s the S, and it’s about clear expectations. I find that within organizations and within a home setting, that too often our disagreements happen because we really didn’t understand what each other needed. There were no clear expectations. And if we as a team can have clear expectations, maybe of how we respond to each other and what we need from each other, then as an organization and as a team, we’re much stronger because of it. Now, think about that from a standpoint of an organization, on day one we said, “This is what we stand for. These are the behaviors that we’re going to model.” What would that do all throughout the organization?

ERH: Oh, it would be beautiful.

Patrick Veroneau: Yeah.

ERH: You know, coming from a lot of very large and well-meaning organizations, I think the desire is out there and the practice is harder to find.

Patrick Veroneau: The research is growing daily showing the impact these behaviors have on an organization’s health, financially as well. For those hardened individuals out there, that only look at dollars and cents, there’s a way for them to look at [the value of emotional intelligence] and say, “this makes sense, so it’s a win.”

ERH: Absolutely. In my work, I am witnessing and supporting a shift from boss leadership to shared model leadership and service leadership. Our young leaders that are coming into the workplace are ready for that. We’ve coached them and provided a game plan from the time they were five years old through all the sports they’ve been a part of, right? Then they come into a work environment and they’re given a manager that already has a full plate of work, and likely isn’t trained or skilled at coaching them.  I love your CABLES process, companies can start there with, “Here’s your vision and this is how you fit in the vision.” It’s not hard, but it takes effort.

Patrick Veroneau: Without question. These are all habits that we build. And the only way we do this is by doing it. It’s like reading about exercise versus doing exercise. We’re not going to get any stronger by reading about it; we’re only going to get stronger by doing. And it’s the same thing with speaking or reading about behaviors that create change. The only way we really get to that change is by doing the behaviors, and that can be difficult sometimes.

ERH:  Absolutely. So, what are some of your favorite personal practices that help you walk this talk?

Patrick Veroneau: One of the ones that I’ve built a habit on today is based on work that was done by Shawn Achor at Harvard. He had a 21-Day Happiness Challenge where there were five behaviors that he challenged people to try.

I’m an acronym type of guy, and to remember things, I need to sort of try and chunk things that way, so I took his 21-Day Challenge and put it into an acronym called POWER, and I have a POWER Hour each day -that’s what I do. 

The P is Praise, and so every morning when I wake up, the first thing that I do is I write down three things that I’m grateful for.

The O of it is for others. At some point, trying to think of what can I do for somebody else, how can I make an impact for somebody else today?

W is writing what went well at the end of the day, just for two minutes. And the real value of that is that I start my day out in a place of gratitude, and I end my day really in a sense of a positive, looking at what went well during the day. And when we think about that, we go to sleep, and that’s our most restorative part of our day, so why do I want to go to bed in a negative state? And I’ve wasted all that time to repair in a negative state.

The E is exercise. That was something that was done with Shawn Achor’s study, and they only had to do it for 10 minutes a day, some type of exercise 10 minutes a day.

And the R is relaxation, which was around meditation in Shawn Achor’s study, two minutes of some type of quiet meditation every day. So that’s my Hour of POWER, basically, and I do that every single day.


ERH: That is fabulous.

Patrick Veroneau: From a leadership standpoint if somebody isn’t happy with who they are, and their own wellbeing isn’t in a positive place, how can you expect them to be that for somebody else? I speak about POWER when I do leadership development too, because I think that wellbeing is part of leadership.

ERH: Oh, it’s absolutely part of it. Almost everything that you read about emotional intelligence, and around mindful work all starts with “self.” When we are in better touch with ourselves, and able to respond versus react, we are in a much more powerful place as an employee.

Patrick Veroneau: You and I had had this conversation a few days ago, where we were joking, the old Barbara Mandrell song, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” I think that’s how we both are, you with mindfulness and me with emotional intelligence.

 When I first trained in emotional intelligence 10 years ago, I came across it just by chance as I was going through my coaching, and I thought, “This is really sales for me.” The behaviors that made me successful in selling, were perceiving and understanding my own emotions as well as those of those around me. When I failed, I wasn’t doing those things, and when I was really successful, I was doing those things. And now there is so much more attention to that, and research that backs up the validity.

ERH: You have provided some real and actionable information and I’m grateful to you for sharing it and spending some time with me.

Patrick Veroneau:        So much fun, Elizabeth, and thank you for the opportunity to speak about this. There is so much more and potential that we can provide to those around us if we tap into it. This is really about, how can you rise above your best?