Roxanne Emmerich is America’s most sought after workplace transformation expert. She is listed by Sales & Marketing Management magazine as one of the 12 most requested speakers in the country for her ability to transform negative workplace performance and environments into bring-it-on results-oriented cultures. Roxanne’s latest book, Thank God It’s Monday! reached and maintained its position as number one on Amazon’s bestseller list, and made the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list all in the first week of its release.

As president and CEO of The Emmerich Group, Inc., she has consulted and spoken to most of the financial institutions in the top 1% of performance, as well as clients like Merck, Pfizer, Allianz, Lockheed Martin and hundreds of other leaders in almost every industry. Roxanne was inducted into the National Speaker Hall of Fame for her impact and quantifiable effectiveness.

She has also published hundreds of articles in leading publications on such topics as leadership for results, employee engagement for bottom and top-line improvement, profit-rich growth strategies, and a multitude of other workplace breakthrough issues. A three-time Entrepreneur of the Year, Roxanne served Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson as a key advisor on reinventing state government and serves as Editor-In-Chief of
Extraordinary Banker® Magazine.

She is in demand for interviews by CNN, NPR, CBS, and other media outlets nationwide for her proven ability to help workplaces get unstuck and achieve radically improved results quickly.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Roxanne, thank you so much for being with us today. It’s such a delight and a pleasure.

ROXANNE EMMERICH: Thanks for having me, Chris. I’m looking forward to this.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: As you know, the title of this series is the Passions of Real Life Legends. Would you begin by sharing with us the role that your passions, the things that matter most to you, have played in the work that you’ve done and in the work that you do today?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: It’s interesting that you ask that question. Whenever I speak to people, they say, “You’re just so passionate about what you do.” I never even think about that. It comes up from my toes. At the very core of me, I like to stand for people having power in their lives, creating abundance in their lives, and having fun in their lives. I grew up in scarcity and poverty.

I saw how people thought. I thought, “If people can just change how they think, they can create a massive amount of results.” I called a lot of the CEOs who we work with before the recession started, and I said, “You’re going to be hearing a lot about a recession over the next couple of years. Make sure to tell your employees, ‘We didn’t sign up and we’re not participating.'”

I’m passionate about businesses thriving because their people thrive. At the very core of me is this need and desire to understand that people can have abundance. They can have freedoms. They can have things they didn’t think were possible, and not in a ‘Pollyanna-ish’ kind of way; in a repeatable ‘let’s get it done’, ‘we mean it’ kind of way that happens over and over again.

For the last 20 years I’ve been going into the workplace and helping people understand that they have possibilities they can make happen that create bottom-line results. We work a lot in the banking industry. They’re projecting right now a $599 billion loss in the industry, and over 90% of our clients are having record quarters and record years. It’s all in the mindset. It’s about that passion.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Wow! Those are pretty impressive results, too. For a lot of our listeners, the challenge for them is to go from where they are to start living their passions, and to start actually doing something. The question we get so often is, “How do you ever support yourself living your passions?” Will you tell us how you made that transition? How did you get to a point that you could actually have a successful, wonderful career serving clients the way you do, following your passions?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: I had a very eclectic background. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. I always knew how to work hard. I knew how to be a good human. You learn that back on the dairy farm. When I started my first job out of college I was a lender to small businesses. It occurred to me that there was such a difference between those who were making money and those who weren’t. The principles are there.

I could walk into a business, take a sniff and say, “I know how to fix that business. I know how to fix that business. I know how to fix that business.” I found I was spending more of my time fixing businesses than making loans. I became passionate about it, and about getting people aligned with their passions; alive and passionate about what they’re doing and getting their people passionate about the direction the business is going, and aligning their passions with that, and applying a few business principles.

All that together created huge shifts in the businesses. A couple of years later I came back into the banking industry. I started new banks and brokerages for a holding company. The first bank we started set some national records for growth and profitability in a market that was overly saturated and with a building in a location that never should have been an even average performer.

I started being invited to speak at conferences about how to run a successful bank. I’ve also been an entrepreneur of several other businesses. Twenty years ago, I read a book called The Power of Purpose. It asked, “When you were four years old, what did you want to be?” I remember this very well, Chris, because I am still teased about this at the family reunions. I wanted to be a nun and a go-go girl.

I didn’t know the two were mutually exclusive. The book asks, “What were the principles?” If you apply those principles in your life, then you’re on purpose and going in the right direction. The principles were obvious to me. There was a spiritual part of me that wanted to be alive and get people to be more alive. I wanted to do some healing of people. I got that. It was also important to me to have the playfulness like the go-go girl, and to re-ignite that passion in people and get people back alive again.

I read that book in one day, and the next day I went into the owner of the holding company. I said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is I’m not taking a job with the competitor. The bad news is I’m not staying here. I’ll give you a six-month notice.” That was 20 years ago. I’ve been doing this ever since. It’s just been a hoot. Every day I get to walk out and work with the clients and say, “I get to do what I love to do, which is so much fun!”

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That is so much fun. I want you to come to the present. You have an incredible bestselling book called Thank God It’s Monday! What inspired you to write that book?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: Remember your first day of work, Chris? I don’t know if you remember yours as vividly as I remember mine. I think almost all of us had the same experience. Our shoes are shined and we’re pressed up. We’ve already told our mamas that we’re going to be super heroes. We’re going to be the one who makes that difference at work. We come in that first day with all these possibilities in our heads and all excited.

Within about a week or two we discover we work with a lot of dweebs. They’re people who have issues: the whiners, the complainers, and the gossips. They’re all shooting wildly for mediocrity. About two weeks later we’re now shooting wildly for mediocrity, too. Then 20 years go by. For the last 20 years I’ve been doing a one-day transformational process.

In one day we’ve taken a bank in Tennessee that hadn’t grown more than 2% a year for 10 years, and within 30 days they grew 35%. They said, “It’s a miracle!” It’s not a miracle. It’s a system, and it works as a repeated process. We hear almost every time, “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!” It’s not a miracle. There are ways to shift people that are really fun, and it’s easy.

With my life, I’m trying to make sure that everybody gets back to that first day of work feeling, because it has nothing to do with the work. It’s really about getting people to understand that we choose our attitudes. We choose to be amazing or we choose to shoot wildly for mediocrity. There are about 6.6 billion people on the planet. Nobody cares for you to be shooting wildly for mediocrity.

The world needs for you to step up. In this recession we all have to step up massively. We have to stop waiting for other people to go fix things for us. This book is about taking accountability, making it fun, celebrating, getting massive results, letting go of the excuses, and knowing how to control the dweebs and get them aligned and moving in the same direction so that they don’t become our energy vampires who suck us dry.

That’s why I wrote the book. For 20 years I’ve been doing this work. People say, “Don’t you have a book about this?” Finally, I thought, “If 20 years of people begging me for a book isn’t a sign, then I don’t know what is.” The market made me write the book.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s fabulous. Can you tell us how you came up with the title? Most people are saying, “Thank God it’s Friday.”

ROXANNE EMMERICH: I gave a speech with that title 20 years ago. I don’t even know how it came to me. I gave the speech. Actually, I was living in Wisconsin at the time, and I came to Minneapolis where I live now to give the speech. There was a woman who came in. The speech was at 8:30 in the morning. She said, “I live up in the Iron Range. I drove three-and-a-half hours this morning in 20-below weather to hear this speech because when I saw Thank God It’s Monday! I knew I had to be here.”

I said, “This is a great title.” This is a title that tells people to get moving; don’t just think about something. Let’s go get something changed. The title just came to me and I tried it one time, and since that time over 20 years I’ve been talking about Thank God It’s Monday!

CHRIS ATTWOOD: I love the title. It’s such a great, simple way to shift our thinking. You mean I can actually look forward to coming to work? Oh my! It’s a radical concept.

ROXANNE EMMERICH: Yes. For people to be able to say, “I get to go to work,” instead of, “I have to go to work,” is huge. People don’t get that they’re the ones who decides that. They keep waiting for external circumstances to change so they can be happy at work. They can leave and go someplace else, but they’re not going to be happy there either because the same dweebs work there. They just wear different clothes.

Our job is to stop being disempowered by people around us who aren’t perfect because perfect people don’t exist. It’s how you help grow those people and become more responsible, kind, and conscientious and to focus in on that. I’ve seen so many miracles where people have said, “Roxanne, here’s one for you. You’ll never get through to this one. For 20 years she’s been a pain in the butt.” I say, “Bring her on.”

Then they tell me afterward, “You’re not going to believe it. She’s setting the world on fire. She’s taking everything over and making things happen. The customers are raving about her.” I said, “Exactly.” The energy it takes to suck everybody else dry, when rechanneled, is powerful.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: This is a great example. If you don’t mind, I would love for you to go a bit more specifically with this particular case study. Many of our listeners, I’m sure, are asking the same question as I am. How could you help someone transform so radically that she would be a drain on everyone for 20 years and suddenly she’s on fire? Can you break it down for us? How does someone make that kind of transition?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: It takes me at least two-and-a-half hours with somebody to really get them there. I’m going to condense this and hope it doesn’t come out so trite that it doesn’t make any sense at all. Essentially, what I’m getting organizations to do is to make agreements. An agreement about what ‘extraordinary’ looks like and that we’re going there, is agreement number one.

Agreement number two is: we are focusing on customer success. We don’t care squat about customer satisfaction. Everything we do is about making our customers successful. That’s what gets people juiced. That’s what’s exciting. If people want to shuffle papers on their desks, how exciting is that? But if you stand for people winning and your work is about helping people win, that feels good and always gets people engaged.

The most important set of agreements are the agreements about how we treat each other. Chris, literally people have cried during a certain part of those agreements. I cover several different agreements. One of them I cover is gossip. I say, “Gossip is the motherload of dysfunction in organizations. When people are gossiping, no one is safe. You may as well bring baseball bats and beat the heck out of each other.”

In the end you can stitch that up, but you never get to stitch up the gossip damage. The person who gossips feels horrible about themselves because they know they have done a very cruel thing to another human being. The people who had to listen to it feel horrible because they got sucked in and their self-esteem is knocked down. The person who’s being gossiped about has no idea why people are looking strangely at them.

Now their ability to lead or to function in their organization is so diminished. Everybody is walking around not being able to make eye contact with anybody else. It’s just plain yucky. I ask people to make a whole series of agreements. One of the agreements is absolutely zero tolerance for gossip. Are we in for that? If you’re not in for that, let’s make an agreement that you hand in your resume.

When I go over that, I have people raise their hands. I say, “Everybody in for this no-gossip thing, raise your hand.” I will literally go through the room and point at people. “Are you in? Are you in?” To anybody who has their hand up just a little bit, I say, “Your hand is up, but not very high. Are you in?” I’m showing them to stand for everyone in their group and no one gets off the hook on this stuff.

We all must step up to make this happen. When I do that, people literally start to sob. Afterwards they say, “I’ve hated working here for 18 years. I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.” When you make a workplace sane and safe, and give somebody something exciting to go after, everything changes and the results are dramatic.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s so cool. Thank you so much for sharing that. I think we begin to get the picture of the kind of transformations that you make. You know that Janet and I are wild on passion. It sounds like one of the things that’s happening as people are making these agreements and the changes are happening in the companies that you’re working with, is that there’s a lot of passion that gets ignited. Is that true? What role of unleashing passion do you see as part of the whole process?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: I think passion is the ‘it’. In the workplace we call that culture, but it is really the passion. Culture is the leading indicator of future growth and profitability. We’ve taken over banks that were in trouble with the FDIC during good times when they were told to lay off a third of their people. Within a year they’re an absolutely thriving bank during the heart of a recession.

How do you account for that? They were told they had to lay off a third of their people, but they kept everybody, and they’re thriving just because people understood about making a difference for their customers. That, at the core, is passion. Imagine walking into any bank in this country. Let’s say you walk into Bank A, and all you see is ‘parts disease’; all you see is parts of their hair. No one is looking up.

No one is making eye contact. No one is having any fun. No one is showing that they care. Or you walk into Bank B and they say, “Chris, great to see you! Mr. Attwood, thanks for coming in today. Chris, come over here. I’ll take care of you.” As you’re walking out the door they say, “See you tomorrow, Chris. Come back tomorrow. Make sure you always call us if you need anything, Chris.” That is passion.

That is: “I show that I care.” It’s amazing how we’ve gotten to where we are in society where people aren’t showing that they care. Then they wonder why they’re in the unemployment line. I’m not saying everybody who is in the unemployment line is there because they didn’t care, but I am saying that for the people who are there, it’s because somebody didn’t care.

The person who is in the unemployment line could have taken a stand for that earlier, saying, “You don’t look like you’re caring very much and that’s impacting our company, so let’s step up and do the shift.” That’s why I wrote the book. I don’t want people to just read one book. I want them to buy one for their friends and their colleagues and say, “Let’s do this together. Let’s move this through. Let’s make this happen. Let’s have some fun. Let’s kick some butt and take some names, and make something great happen as long as we’re showing up here every day.”

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Great. As I hear you talk about fun and celebration, just bringing that whole idea into the workplace, you begin to think that maybe work could be different than it is. Most companies are not about fun and celebration.

ROXANNE EMMERICH: People think fun is frivolous. I’m not talking about clown noses here. I’m talking about fun as in, “Way to go, Chris!” and I high-five you. “You have a new client? Way to go! Congratulations! We have a goal for today of so many shipments. Where are we? Okay, guys, let’s make this fun. We said we’re going to do 65. We’re now at 35. We have a ways to go. How can we make this faster?”

Make everything you do playful, fun and celebratory. The key here, Chris, is that people think leadership is a position. That is insane. Leadership is a way of being. I saw a guy who is in charge of the parking lot at a bank out on the east coast. As people pull into the parking lot, he says things to them like, “Hi, Julie, I know Tom is waiting to see you. How are those grandkids doing? Great!

“While you’re in there, you may want to talk to Joe today about setting up a college education fund for those kids to make sure they go. He’s in and I’d be happy to call him right here from the parking lot to see if he can make some time for you right away.” That is what makes companies work. I was just at the Minneapolis airport a couple of weeks ago and saw something that was so amazing. I wish I would have captured it on video. There were two gentlemen sitting together.

They are both the people who check you in and make the marks on your boarding pass as they look at your driver’s license as you go through security. One of them was in the drone state, just doing what he had to do. You could see he was miserable. You could see he goes home at night and complains about his job and co-workers. He’s in a state of misery because he’s chosen that. The guy next to him is singing between people and is greeting people with this amazing smile.

He’s teasing everyone like, “You’re going to have to take your shoes off. Do your feet stink?” He’s just having a ball. You know he’s going home and saying, “I love my job. I’m having a ball.” He’s good to his kids and his significant other, and he’s having a hoot in life because he chose it. Nobody gets this part, but we choose this. You can be as miserable as you choose to be. A lot of people choose that. Let’s be honest. Let’s be very aware of our choices.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s wonderful. It’s such profound advice; just becoming aware and awake to the choices that we’re making is a huge thing. In your book you talk about the ‘unreasonable premise’. What does that mean? What is the unreasonable premise?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: People are always trying to be reasonable, Chris. “We couldn’t grow more than 2%. That’s not possible. That wouldn’t be reasonable,” or “We couldn’t possibly get that client. That wouldn’t be reasonable.” All great things come to people who are being unreasonable. It’s unreasonable to believe that you can have a record quarter every quarter during a recession. That’s ‘unreasonable’.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s definitely unreasonable.

ROXANNE EMMERICH: That’s unreasonable. Yet, we have client after client after client who is having exactly that experience. We have clients in all industries. I’ve worked with all the big companies. You name it, I’ve worked with all of them. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’ve also worked with the mom-and-pops. We do a lot in the banking industry and have a huge following in the community banking arena.

That’s an arena where nobody’s making any money except for those who are, and they’re making a fortune. Our clients just love this process and saying, “I get that culture is the leading predictor for future growth and profitability.” All we had to do was get people on fire and get them focused on their key initiatives, key results and the work plans that tie into that.

We’re going to celebrate our successes along that path every day, and we’re going to have fun doing it. We’re going to have all kinds of craziness and silliness and play and celebration. Boom! The financials keep coming in great. People went to business college-including me-and did graduate work. We learned about all these fancy things about what to do with an Excel spreadsheet.

We’re thinking, “A budget’s going to create a good company.” A budget doesn’t create a good company. A budget doesn’t drive future profitability and growth. It’s just something that helps you see how you’re doing. We have to get out of these traditional ways of thinking. I know there are people on the line who aren’t the managers and leaders of their organization, but they could be if they take on this initiative.

We have a client who started in the bookkeeping department without a college degree. In a couple of years of following this process and her saying, “I want to help with this,” they made her the president and CEO of a $1.3 billion organization. I believe anybody can do this. When you get culture, you can run a company. Somebody else can do the financials. You can hire that stuff done.

If you can run a culture, you can turn around a company, and you don’t even have to have a college degree. I know people will think that’s just crazy. I’ll give you evidence. Call me, and I’ll tell you who the examples are of people who have done that.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Fabulous. That’s pretty exciting. Any of us could potentially run a company as long as we can manage and inspire a culture. This relates to my next question. In your book you also talk about mission versus vision. Somehow I have a feeling this has something to do with culture, as well. What’s the difference between mission and vision? Is there a way that we can also apply that idea in our own lives as well as in a corporate or company environment?

ROXANNE EMMERICH: That’s such a great question. I’m always amazed at how companies come up with their mission statements. They go off for strategic planning retreats. They get out the coffee. They wear their khakis. They sit for the first three hours and work on their mission statement. After about three hours they come up with something that says something like, “Be a leading provider of blah, blah, blah in a four-county area with outstanding customer service, high quality products and above average returns to our stakeholders.”

Come on! What would be the point of that? I don’t know why people even bother with that. A vision statement has so much juice. It’s what’s in the hearts of your people. What does it look like? When I do a Kick-Butt Kick-Off, I do the vision statement, actually, as a part of the all-employee event in the evening when they shut the doors and have everybody from the board of directors on down the organization chart all in the same room at the same time.

When they create their vision and they nail it, people are standing on chairs and waving their arms. I say, “Come on, guys, be safe here.” They just go nuts. You can feel goose bumps on your kneecaps. Everybody in the room knows, “That would be great!” They’ll come up with something like, “Every customer comes back asking for a sales associate by name;” or “Every customer stays with us for life and brings all of their friends and family”; or “Every customer says ‘Wow!’ with every experience.”

Whatever they say, when they say it they say, “That would be cool!” The power of the vision statement is it has a definitive word like ‘every’ or ‘always’. It’s like Bill Gates saying, “There will be a computer on every desk in America!” It’s a great vision. “Put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Great vision! A vision is a declaration of something you can see accomplished where people say, “Yippity-skippity! I want that!”

It really stems from the value you most stand for. If you live that value in an extraordinary way, what will happen? Nordstrom’s could have said, “Be a leading provider of customer service in the retail industry,” and people would have said, “Blah, blah, blah, whatever.” Instead they said, “Every customer comes back and asks for a sales associate by name.” That’s powerful.

That means, Chris, that if I walk in there, I’m going to be saying, “I have my favorites.” If go back, I have about 10 Nordstrom sales associates who I ask for by name. They know it’s all about relationship. They could have said all kinds of esoteric, crazy stuff in fluffy language like, “Be a leading provider of…” or “Be on the cutting edge of…” or all that typical business language that basically says, “We don’t really mean it.” The power of the vision is a declaration that says, “We mean it and we’re going here, and nothing gets in the way.”

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Is that really only applicable to companies, or is it possible that individuals can apply that principle in their own lives?

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