The cavnessHR podcast – A talk with Leo Novsky
The link to the PDF version of the show notes and links to the YouTube video are below.
Go to the bottom of the Show Notes for cavnessHR resources
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places or you can just type in cavnessHR on the respective app.
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Social Media links for Leo Below!!
Below is Leo’s book recommendations:
“Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It”
by Chris Voss (Author), Tahl Raz (Author)
“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
Click on the link below to purchase the books from Amazon.
RESOURCES FROM LEO!!!!
I would like to offer a smaller, more intensive, more focused work session through LinkedIn. It's a four-session speaking of power intensive and it's $930 – so it's pretty steep discount. All that your listeners have to do is go to LinkedIn with me, Leo Novsky. I suggest putting in a personalized message saying that they've heard me on your podcast and then I will offer them this focused session.
Jason: 0:01 Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR Podcast. I’m your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Leo Novsky. Leo, are you ready to be great today?
Leo: 0:10 I am ready to be great.
Jason: 0:14 Leo Novsky is a professional speaker, executive presentation coach at SPEAK with Power Consulting. Coming to the United States as a political refugee at the age of 12 from the Soviet Union, Leo experienced first-hand the challenge of not being understood. This challenge turned into a calling to master the art of effective communication. Leo has over 17 years of experience in communication, training, marketing and business development. His educational background includes a BA in English Literature from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the University of Dallas. He is a published author, inventor and founder of several start-ups. In addition to his regular consulting business, Leo has taught Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Business Communication courses as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Washington, Edmond’s Community College and even in Washington State Prisons. He is fluent in English, Russian, and conversant in Japanese. Leo, thank you for being here today. We really appreciate it.
Leo: 1:16 I really appreciate your time as well, Jason.
Jason: 1:19 So, what’s keeping Leo busy these days?
Leo: 1:25 One of the things that has happened in the last year has been a bit of a transformation of my business in that where my purpose and passion really got aligned with a non-profit mission. So one of the things that I’m working on right now, in addition to my regular coaching is a program that I’ve built inside of Monroe correctional facility. A state prison 20 miles north of Seattle – to unlock untapped business potential behind the prison walls. It's been the most interesting and transformative experience of my life to actually volunteer in prison and in the process really try to change lives. The thing that has happened that I didn't expect is that the experience is changing me and really helping me see just to what degree our stories define our life. It's one thing to talk to a successful entrepreneur or a politician or a book author and help them figure out what their mission is; the truth is that the people who work with me on a regular basis as clients. They are already on a mission and so they're looking for a coach to help them become better and stronger. It is quite a different thing altogether to walk into a room full of potential where the people themselves may not even believe in themselves. So the changes that I get to experience and to help doing pretty much the same thing that I do with my clients are near miraculous. I am pretty much a believer in transformative and rehabilitative justice now, so that's what’s keeping me up at night.
Jason: 3:15 Yes. So one thing I've never understood is, a lot of people, they get out of prison and then go back to exact same type of environment they were in before. So how do you expect these people to change their lives if you put them right back in the same situation with no resources? It’s really great you’re doing this for them.
Leo: 3:31 Jason, it’s actually even more interesting than that. It's actually not that they're going back to the same environment that they had before. It’s the fact that the prison itself sets them up to fail. Very often, what I didn't understand before I started this, it's not that the old environment brings them back to prison. Imagine that your daily life – and your audience as well – think of your daily morning ritual that you just had and the things that you've done. How you checked your phone, and how you did this and how you checked your computer, where you go and what you do, how you’re going to get from point A to Point B. Imagine being stopped by a time machine, waking up ten years later and having to figure out the new technology, the new pieces. All the while there are continuous messages that you are half the man here and then people literally go back to prison because they are more comfortable there.
Jason: 4:33 I’ve heard that a lot.
Leo: 4:34 The rates are crazy – it's close to 70% of people who reoffend within five years. Yet, with simple programs, Jason, it goes down to 5 and 3% for the entrepreneurship programs that are out there. So think of the return on investment going from 70% recidivism rate to 3. So, yeah, we are we are at the cusp of transformation, but the key here is really (and it's not off the topic) is that your audience may not be in prison, but I have noticed that all of us, on some level, are in the prison of our own mind. We have the keys, we are the warden, and we are the prisoner. I notice the same thing inside prison – there are people inside prison, Jason, who are more free than I am because they figure out who they are and what they want and they are laser-focused and it’s that laser focus that's important.
Jason: 5:43 I'm sure there's people in the prison system, if they were in a lot better circumstance, they would have been doing great things.
Leo: 5:55 Absolutely. The circumstances are quite large and quite different. I started volunteering, just out of curiosity, Toastmasters – there was a Toastmasters club inside Munroe. I’m still a sponsor of that one – and I just wanted to know what a Toastmasters in prison looks like. In the last four and a half years, all of my assumptions about crime and punishment have been completely overturned. But in the process, what it did, it made me a really much, much better coach, and when people say, “how do you do what you're doing right now? I don't understand,” I'm like, “well, come to prison with me, let’s figure it out.” That makes for a very interesting conversation.
Jason: 6:51 Leo, how hard or how easy has it been to convince people to invest time in what you’re doing and possibly invest money in backing up on these entrepreneurs in prison and business ideas?
Leo: 7:02 The non-profit that I am part of is called Startup Academy – startupacademy.com – and is relatively new and just recently started the whole process. We actually formalized and incorporated in December of last year. So we're still in the process. But my experience in talking to both investors, business owners, entrepreneurs, and other people, as soon as I mentioned what I'm doing, it transforms them. I find it to be incredibly easy. Right now, we're just focusing on building the infrastructure. The story is important and that's what I want to talk to you about and to your audience about – how story can change the system. But the system still has to change, or the process. You still need a business plan, still need the financials, still need the team. It just happens that the process that I've been doing for the last ten years with my clients now comes to incredible head in actually changing the system from the inside out. It's both nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. So I find that the time is now and people are responding to the fact that instead of giving people handouts or incarcerating them or throwing them in and throwing away the key. We gain nothing with that and there's a huge return on investment by actually investing in the right people inside (not everybody), but the right people inside who are indeed ready. That's actually the same process that I use outside. It’s just actually harder to find the right people. But my clients typically are ready; they're ready to transform and so I have a saying that I’m as good a coach as you are a client. So people who are good, people who are ready to transform, who are focused and they're saying, “I want the tools and I want someone to help me see what I'm not seeing,” then I become essential. That's what I love about my job.
Jason: 9:28 Leo, do you find that the people in prison are actually more focused on the knowledge you give them?
Leo: 9:38 Oh, absolutely. If I'm a junkie of any sort, I'm a junkie for transformation – that's my drug of choice. Maybe it’s a bad analogy here, but the idea is, yeah, I show up and people are ready – because I show up. Again, I want to make sure that you and your audience are clear – I'm not talking about the yard. I don't go into the yard and talk to the regular Joe Schmoe who’s been locked up. I'm talking about the people who’ve been locked up and they are on the way to redemption; they, in their mind, are already half-free. They are the ones who are battling their demons and are ready to look honestly at themselves accountability and find integrity inside. Those are the only people that I talk to and so it's a selective audience, and yes, absolutely. Those men, they're ready, they're like you and I, they are about living a great day. They just don't have the tools, and so when I come in, I show them both the tools but also I show them that there are people on the outside who care.
Jason: 11:00 Yes, I think a lot of people don't realize that.
Leo: 11:02 I've been to three different prisons; I've worked with one, and I mean I worked in there as a professor, and the number one comment that I get – the number one “thank you” I get inside the prison across different units, across different times – is “thank you for treating me like a human being.” That's it. Not my knowledge, not my business acumen; “thank you for being here” is probably number one and then “thank you for treating me like a human being.” I’ve got to tell you that those two things, I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. For your audience, do you do that? How often do you do that? How often do you show up and how often do you treat those who you are working with as human beings, not as a number, not as a means to an end, but literally finding out who they are as human beings and then treating them as such. Or, in my vocabulary, the way I say it, figuring out their authentic stories.
Jason: 12:19 Everyone has a story to tell.
Leo: 12:21 Some people have bigger stories to tell than others. I joke that that there are only two things that can happen to you in life – good things and those that make really good stories. Good things don't really make a good story; they make a good punchline, perhaps, you know, “hey, I won a million dollars today and I went on a trip to Bahamas and I had a wonderful dinner and went to sleep happy.” Does not make a good story. It may be a good life, but definitely not a good story. What got me to getting a million dollars to go into the Bahamas to having an amazing meal with my family after whatever the challenge that I’ve had does make an amazing story. It resonates with the other people because when I tell you about my story of being a political refugee or my story of going to prison, it somehow resonates with you and you don't hear my story, you see yours, and that is what I believe speaking with power really entails.
Jason: 13:33 Leo, next, can you tell us why most people are not effective communicators?
Leo: 13:39 Why are most people not effective communicators – fear. Fear of vulnerability. Brene Brown https://www.linkedin.com/in/brenebrown/ is one of my role models, and people can check her books out as well as her TED talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o But one of the things she talks about is the sides of vulnerability; vulnerability opens other people. So what happens is people are afraid of being themselves because they're afraid of being judged. It's an old pattern, it's an old story that typically stems from childhood. So they're living in fear, they're living in the past and there is a natural kind of fear of being ridiculed, like the middle-school syndrome, as I call it. That's why, and so this fear, and most of it is irrational and definitely counterproductive. Because no matter what happens, the authenticity wins. One of things that I notice is people are afraid of putting down their armor. In fact, many of my clients when I when I help them through their process (and I'm not a life coach) but it just happens that people change their life once they work with me. I help them identify their stories and they realize that some of the limiting stories have been so close to them they didn't even understand that they were stories. They were their stories, it was their mother story, their other story, their teacher story. And so they're just perpetuating and all pattern. And once I've realized this for myself, my life changed and so now I get to do that for others.
Jason: 15:39 Leo, next, when you’re working with entrepreneurs, what is the question you wished they’d ask you but they usually don’t ask this question of you?
Leo: 16:00 The number one question that people ask me as a communication coach, as a pitch coach, is “what do I say?”; “how do I behave, where do I need to go? Those questions are important but they're not at all critical. The critical question is actually who questions: Who do you know? Who is the right person for me, who should be on my team, who should be on my board of advisors? Who, who, who. One of the books that I highly recommend is Start With Why by Simon Sinek and if I were to write a book I would say start with why but get to who as soon as possible because why is really powerful – you want to have a mission and vision – but it's the who that makes a difference. So if you have strong enough why, find the right who; that who, you being one of them, will determine the how, what, where and when. That's the question – who do I need to meet is the question that I wished entrepreneurs asked.
Jason: 17:14 Leo, how does a startup founder find you to use your resources?
Leo: 17:20 There are a few ways that startup entrepreneurs find me. One of the ways is I’m active in the Seattle startup community, and in the Angel Investment realm. I see a lot of pitchers, I see about twenty or thirty pitchers a month, and people come to me that way. I have also worked through Upwork and found several clients that way, and through LinkedIn Pro Finder which is a great tool nowadays. But the number one way that people find me is through referrals. Very often, board of directors, somebody on the board who I know say, “I have this wonderful company that I'm working with but I have a C.E.O. who doesn't know how to present effectively,” or there are people who are having a really good C.E.O. But haven't formulated their vision enough to really move the business in a particular direction. I come in and help them really find their vision, their mission and then ultimately create a plan for communicating that vision and mission both to their stakeholders and to their employees.
Jason: 18:45 That’s great. Leo, next, can you tell us about a time you were successful in the past, what you learned from the success and what we can learn from the success you had?
Leo: 18:57 I have a theory that most of us don't learn from our successes – we learn from our failures. Success is something that is a reward for failing again and again. That is a success worth having. The successes that come by accident typically do not carry lessons in it; in fact, they often do the opposite. We know stories of young stars who are too successful, made an arc rise and they don't know how to deal with their success. So the successes that I've enjoyed the most are the ones that came to me the hardest. One of the things that I am very proud of is the work that I’m doing inside the prisons. The success that I am having is I have the most attended program inside the prison, by far, ever, last year. Nine months I was teaching entrepreneurship courses inside and 90 people went through it, totally volunteered people stayed over 60% stayed and came every week. So that was one of the big ones when I felt, “what have I gathered, what have I learned from all these years as an entrepreneur, as a coach as a man on a mission, if you may.” That these pieces are falling together, they are making a difference. That would be one of the biggest ones. The other one that I would say is I taught about 6 instances of TEDX – so I coached people for their TEDX talks. Sitting in the audience and watching the men and women who I’ve worked with really shining; I call it “forget to be afraid” and really get engrossed in their message – that’s a high, man. That's a professional high.
Jason: 21:33 Yes. I bet that’s very powerful seeing that happen.
Leo: 21:36 Yeah. I mean, I am a good speaker, don't get me wrong, and I enjoy speaking in public, but I am much more of a coach than a speaker. I get a lot more out of seeing those who I coach rise up and change the world than anything else that I do from a business perspective.
Jason: 22:02 Leo, can you talk about a time that you failed in the past, what you learned from this and what we can learn from this?
Leo: 22:07 Yeah, absolutely. There's so much. I think my greatest failure and therefore my biggest lesson really came in 2003 when I decided to quit medical school. I went to the Northwestern Medical School and, unlike many of your listeners or viewers, I never doubted what I was supposed to be when I was growing up. Jason, did you wonder what you were going to be even you were in high school or middle school? Did you go through the hardship of figuring it out?
Jason: 22:46 Yes.
Leo: 22:48 That was hard, right? And you probably rebelled once or twice?
Jason: 22:52 A few times.
Leo: 22:54 A few times, right? I remember in high school my favorite teacher, my English teacher. She knew me for all 4 years and I don't even remember what we were talking about – it was one of her TAs and she said, “you know what’s your problem, Leo?” and I said, “what?” and she said, “you have never rebelled.” I thought that was really an inappropriate comment from a teacher saying, “you've been behaving way too good, Leo.” But, looking back, I absolutely agree and what happened for me is that my family have really told me I was supposed to be a doctor, and I never questioned. It was obvious that that’s what I'm supposed to be doing. So, instead, what I found out is it wasn't the right thing for me, it was the right fit; it took me three years to figure that out and a lot of heartache. But what I've learned from it is that no matter how crazy one’s story, one has to follow their vision and their mission, and that is probably the greatest lesson. So I am much more now open and accepting of others who are kind of lost. It gives me great pleasure to help them to realize that you really can, you really can look and do things that are others may consider to be crazy, alternative or edgy or whatever because it is determining what my story is. So learning who I am became started by figuring out who I’m not and willing to face and making that step.
Jason: 24:51 Yes. It’s amazing how many people have not done that yet. They’re still in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s following somebody else's concept of what they should be doing.
Leo: 24:59 Yeah. They've never rebelled. This idea of rebel and find your voice, it may end up being exactly the same voice you have now, it may be the same profession that you have now, but it would be taken out of choice not out of somebody else's choice, your story rather than somebody else’s story. And it’s that “paradigm shift” that I kind of specialize in.
Jason: 25:35 Leo, can you tell us about someone who's helped you in the past and how they helped you?
Leo: 25:41 Well, one of the people I immediately think of, I have already mentioned her, is my high school English teacher, and I'm pretty sure that you have someone like that in your life. In my workshops, I often ask people to raise their hand if they have someone who has transformed their life, a teacher, and everybody raises their hand. For me, [my English teacher] was that one person. I first met her when I was 14 years old, I was two years from coming to America as a political refugee from the Soviet Union. I didn't speak English very well at all, and she took me under her wing. I had choice of going into E.S.L. class or honors English class and she gave me a wise advice saying, “you should really go for my English class,” she really recognized my skills, and I said, “but I don't speak English well, and I can’t write and still can't spell well.” She said, “yeah, but Leo, if you go to E.S.L. class, spelling and grammar will be 50% of your grade. It will be 10% of your grade if you come to my class.” I remember getting papers red with grammar and spelling errors. I would get an A-, because it was the thought that counts. So she taught me to question authority (it took me a while), she taught me to really believe in myself, and she really is that kind of a guiding light for me. Now I choose to be that guiding light for others and I always credit her with that.
Jason: 27:45 That’s great. Leo, I understand you have a book to recommend to our listeners.
Leo: 27:49 Yes. The book recently that I have absolutely fallen in love with as far as communication is concerned and negotiation is by Chris Voss. It's called Never Split the Difference. It's just recently been published last year, I think, and it's kind of like the updated version of Getting to Yes, but so much more in-depth and so much more powerful. Chris Voss was a former F.B.I. hostage negotiator for twenty years and so some of the tools and tricks that he says are really powerful, I use them all the time. But, more importantly, what I like about them is that they're authentic. Meaning that they were better if my adversaries, so to speak, or the person on the other side, my audience, knows what I'm doing. It actually works better that way. So there are many other books that I can recommend on communication. But that one can be a very easy read and very simple to implement. So I would recommend that to your listeners.
Jason: 29:05 Thank you. Leo, I also understand you have something for our listeners.
Leo: 29:10 Yes. I work with my clients, when I work with them one-on-one, I work either in person if they're close. But mostly I work the way you and I are doing it right now, online, and I typically work on a six-month basis and it's a $10,000 process that I really put people through. However, what I have determined is that there is a need for smaller, more intensive, more focused work, and so am doing it through LinkedIn. It's a four-session speaking of power intensive and it's $930 – so it's pretty steep discount. All that your listeners have to do is go to LinkedIn with me, Leo Novsky. I suggest putting in a personalized message saying that they've heard me on your podcast and then I will offer them this focused session. The other thing that I can send to you and then you can probably put it on your Facebook and whatnot is a worksheet that I hand out to my clients – it's called The 52 Tips to Speaking with Power. So it focuses on the story and purpose and engaging the audience and knowledge and some of the key top ten pieces for each one plus two extras that I really recommend people to start moving towards.
Jason: 30:50 Leo, thank you. I think that’s going to be very valuable for our listeners. Leo, can you provide your social media links so people can reach out to you?
Leo: 30:57 Absolutely. The best way to reach me is LinkedIn at Leo Novsky. Twitter is LeoNovskySpeaks and Facebook, I'm not as good as you are, so I'm not following my Facebook quite as well – I’ve got to work on that – and then my website is speakwithpower.net. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If people want to call me, it's 425-346-0219. So I’m sure I'm going to have some of that information on my handout if people are interested.
Jason: 31:39 Yes. For our listeners, we’ll have all of the information and all the links on our show notes when we publish it in the future. Leo, we've come to the end of our talk. Can you provide any last words of wisdom or advice to our listeners on any subject you want to cover?
Leo: 31:52 Yeah. My words of wisdom, if you may, is to ride your elephant. What I mean by that is that each of us has an elephant in the room – the thing that we have – shame, blame, or some feeling of fear around it. That's the elephant that kind of blocks our authenticity. What I share with others and I want to share with your audience is to ride your elephant, meaning that not just accept it or fight it or blame it or even excuse it or medicate it, but to actually ride it. So if you have a fear, then use that fear as a platform to improve. Share it with the world in a way that turns it from a limitation into a vehicle towards some kind of a hero's journey end. Turn that elephant from a liability into really the vehicle for your transformation. That is the advice that I’d give.
Jason: 33:06 Leo, that’s great advice. Leo, thank you for being our guest on our podcast today, I really appreciate it. I know you’re a busy guy, got a lot going on. You gave us some valuable advice today.
Leo: 33:15 My pleasure, and thank you so much for creating such an awesome podcast, I look forward to connecting with you further, maybe doing it again, or as I get myself going this way since you're inspiring me, perhaps you'll be on my podcast next time.
Jason: 33:29 Yes, definitely. To our listeners, thank you for your time as well, and remember to be great every day.
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