Standing from a culture of greatness, Anekia Boatwright-McGhee – president of Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts and a national trainer/speaker for John Maxwell and Jack Canfield – shares what winning looks like in her company and tells us of the profound effects it does towards her team. She takes us to the things she learned about herself that put her to where she is now in business, recalling lessons from her mom to never lose sight of things that matter most in the midst of success. On how she does her business differently, Anekia talks about being very intentional in training, making sure to have clarity among the team, and making them feel valued by allowing them to set their own worth.
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What Winning Looks Like with Anekia Boatwright-McGhee
Our guest is Anekia Boatwright-McGhee. Anekia is the Founder and President of Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts, SkillSet You and EM Prep. Her studios taught thousands here in Savannah. In 2017, she was named the National Dance Studio Owner Of The Year. She’s also a National Trainer Speaker for John Maxwell Leadership Team, Jack Canfield and the author of It’s OK To IDK. Anekia, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much, Jesse, for having me.
Share a little bit of your backstory because it’s fascinating.
I’ve always been a super inquisitive kid. I’m the youngest of five. It’s always been my job to ask questions of every adult around me of, “Why are we doing this? Why are we doing that?” I don’t know if it was fun for the teachers that taught me, but it was definitely enjoyable for me. I’ve always loved to keep things interesting. I was getting ready to graduate and go off into the world from college and my mom said, “What do you want to do?” Because of my experiences as a teenager working with national organizations and making an impact, that was my dream job. I remember having that conversation like, “If I could do anything every day, I would love being able to empower people to realize how powerful their voice was,” and dance became the vehicle to do that.
If you would have told me at 22 that that’s what I would have been doing and traveling the country, doing it for the rest of my life, I would have told you that was crazy. It was the easiest way that I knew that you could grab the audience, hold them captive for about an hour-and-a-half, but at the same time give them life lessons that will last them forever. If you talked to my family rooms, I’ve been holding people captive for my entire life. Now I get a chance to get paid doing it with my team as well as with the young people and the families and the communities that we’re able to read.
I’m a huge fan of dance and everything we do at the ballpark. It’s like, “Are you a baseball team or dancing team?” Our players do choreograph dances. We have a breakdancing first base coach. We have a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas. We’re bringing the Mananas, a male cheerleading team, which you may have to help train them a little bit.
Anytime, I would love to be a part of that.
Dance, we don’t talk about much, but it’s such a way to have creativity and build confidence and get in front of people. There are so many exercises that can help especially young people. You started at 22 years old. Tell me a little about that because the story is crazy and you’re like, “I’m going to do this at 22.”Trusting yourself, loving yourself, and not caring what other people think all go together. Click To Tweet
Initially, I wrote my business plan when I was fourteen.
Why are you writing a business plan at fourteen?
I’m always asking why. When I was fourteen, the studio that I grew up dancing, the owner had two strokes back to back. Now being in the business world, I understand how that’s possible. I realized she was going to close and I was like, “She doesn’t have to close. She’d been doing it for over 40 years.” I wrote out a business plan of how it could be adult-managed and youth-led. I gave it to my mom and my dad and they were like, “Present it.” I always felt that no is a temporary not yes yet. That was my senior quote.
I was like, “The worst thing she could do is tell me no, but this will work. She manages it and we as the senior company will be the ones to lead it.” I presented it to her and her husband and they told me that it was sweet. However, that wasn’t going to work. Kids can’t run a business. I was like, “Why?” She was like, “It doesn’t happen that way.” Fast forward, that got put on the back burner. I didn’t think it was feasible for me to ever own my own business, but I would get that from people from time to time. Gretchen Rubin, when I took that assessment, I’m a natural rebel. Rules are suggestions for me. I would have people all the time saying, “You need to work for yourself because you’re going to be the only person that can make the rules.”
I was getting ready to go to law school and that’s what I thought a legitimate job looked like for me. My mom sat me down and said, “You need to give yourself a shot first. If you don’t like it after a year, you can go to law school.” I was like, “What am I going to do?” What I didn’t know is that she and my father had saved that business plan from the time I was fourteen. She gave it back to me and she said, “Give it a shot.” If you asked my siblings, they’ll say that’s because I’m the youngest that I got a chance to live out my dream. I did. They had found a location that my parents had bought the lease and gave me the first month’s rent and told me, “This is in the deposit. We’re going to back you like that.” I haven’t looked back. Many years later, I’m still finding a way to take all of the experiences I had with adults who took their time to mentor me and give that to young people and families and allow people to know that if they set their mind to something that no is a temporary not yes yet. Be willing to keep your head in the game and keep moving forward.
I see so many similarities. I started running a team at 23 years old and had no clue. I had no business plan. It was like, “Let’s figure it out.” A big premise what you’re teaching is the constant growing hungry in curiosity. We saw it with Patrick coming in. His head was blown and didn’t know what happened. Tell me about those early years. What are those things that you learned most importantly about yourself and then the business to put you where you are now?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to trust myself. Oftentimes, we’re waiting for permission and excuses for why we can’t accomplish things. I realized in those beginning years that it’s trusting myself and surrounding myself with great advisors and being hungry as I teach my team, being honest and humble. Those three things are the catalysts that kept me going through the lean years and also kept me learning. I was willing to have a mentor and a book or to invest in myself through masterminds or reaching out to people and asking them what can they share with me that they’ve learned along the journey. It’s now gotten me to a place where it’s paying forward and I’m getting the opportunity to do that with other people. Trusting me is probably one of the most interesting lessons because I don’t think like children. Once you get to about teenage years, you’re not encouraged to trust yourself anymore. That’s probably the truest person that you know who’s looking out for yourself is yourself.
You’re often caring about what other people think. If you trust yourself, you’re not going to care what the person on the outside that doesn’t know you that well thinks. That is such a challenge that we have in society and not just with young people. It’s with leaders because everyone’s seeing these most successful entrepreneurs and they’re out there dominating and killing it. We’re like, “We’re not doing it as well.” Trust yourself because trusting yourself, loving yourself and not caring what other people think all go together. The great thing too is also surrounding you with other great people. I could tell by you and the curiosity, the first time we met she’s spending 30 minutes asking every question. You know my shoe size and you know everything about my life. It stays true to your brand and who you are. The story you share in the book about when you were fourteen and the homeless gentleman, share that because that set the tone for you to surround yourself with great people.
My mom is a former school teacher and she was always about life lessons. She got a couple of friends of mine and said, “Do you guys want to do something fun during the school break?” We were thinking we’re going to go do something fun, and she had arranged for us to go to a local homeless shelter to serve the homeless. One of the lessons was this one gentleman. After we’d finished serving everyone, her next task was for us to sit down and have a conversation. I picked this one guy who didn’t look as homeless as everyone else. I remember talking to him and him sharing the fact that was not his final destination. That’s not where he saw himself. He had a good career and a family and was extremely successful. However, picking the wrong friends and not having the ability to say no to the wrong things and saying yes to the wrong things caused him to be in that situation. I always was asking questions like, “If there’s something you know now that you wish you knew then, what would it be?” He said, “Pick the right friends. Be careful of the choices you make because they all add up.” That was the first time I was introduced to the concept of the compound effect. The small things you do every day add up to the impact that you experience the next day.
It left such a message for me because you never see that. You see the rags to riches story, but not oftentimes do you see the riches to rags story. Probably the saddest part for me was that he lost his family. It wasn’t the monetary loss. It was the fact that you built this nucleus for someone like his children and now they’re growing up without their father. One of my biggest mantras for myself is no matter what happens, no matter what privileges you have, don’t lose sight of the important stuff. If you’re an entrepreneur or you’re a person that enjoys what you do for a living, it can become easy to get caught up in what you label as success. Lose sight of the things that are going to cause you to have a legacy which is your family and the people that you’re able to impact.
If you want to change your life and you change your environment. You’re talking about the people you surround yourself with. You look at hotbeds. You look at Silicon Valley. You look at New York City around the top entrepreneurs but that’s not an excuse. We look at ourselves. We surround ourselves with the things we listen to and the books we read. I found out if you go deep on something, if we’re in deep on culture and you’re studying it, that’s all you’re seeing. That’s all you’re thinking about. I realized I was so deep in the culture. I was like, “My creativity, I’ve got to get that back going on.” I started listening to Conan O’Brien’s podcast. I started listening to comedies because that’s how you bring it out. It’s not the people you’re around every day. It’s who are you putting yourself to listen to and read. That is a good point people don’t think about all the time.
It’s the education that you receive, the exposure and experience, so the three E’s. Oftentimes, we think education has to come from a building or it has to come from a book, but our brains are constantly learning. You have a son, so you know the curiosity that is there. They’re constantly looking. I love infants because you can tell they’re recording everything from the facial expressions. I do this little cruel joke where I’m talking to an adult and I love seeing the infant’s head ping pong between voice to voice because it’s like, “If I can capture this kid’s attention with my voice, then it works.” We’re recording still even as adults. However, it’s recording on the back level. If you’re not paying attention to what you’re listening to, you’re not being aware of what you’re reading, you’re not being aware of the conversations that you’re a part of. You will not be aware that subconsciously, you are changing the programming that you have in your mind. When people wonder why they’re not accomplishing as much, it usually goes back to adjusting those small things such as allowing to influence them.
It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. I have a young baby under a year old and he’s watching what I do, not necessarily what I say. I don’t know if he understands anything I’m saying at this point. That’s why when I write my thank you, I’m writing my thank you and then showing it. I work out in front of him or I show those things. It’s obvious if you’re around your phone or on your iPad, they see it. That’s something to think about as a leader. What do they see you do every day? I want to go into the culture and your desire to help your people grow, get better and improve. You’re doing some unique things. Can you share a little bit about some of the things that you’re doing?
One of the things is I realized that I started being intentional with the people that I hired to work with me. It’s easy to hire a resume but we wanted to hire people, which blowback to the personality. At the same time, I started hearing this buzz within the industry of people complaining about Millennials. I started going, “What makes their generation any different than my generation?” I realized it was the training. That became extremely important to me to make sure that I invested more time in the training than I actually invested in the complaining. You can complain all day long, but you need your training.
Your training is what shows up when they’re on the front of lines. I became intentional about the training. Our team meets at 6:00 every morning Monday through Friday for a 90-minute huddle. We call it our focus meeting because our theme is to focus forward. We want them to stay focused and it’s training. They walk out better for me because that’s what the issue is. It’s teaching them that it’s not always about the education that they received because they are awesome scholars. I need them to have the exposure to what winning looks like. If I’m going to delegate this thing that I’ve built from the ground up to people, I want to make sure that they have clarity on what winning looks like.
What does winning look like? What does this 90-minute huddle look like?The small things you do every day add up to the impact that you will experience the next day. Click To Tweet
Our 90-minute huddle looks like our feedback reports. We do something called a two-minute grid where every person goes through what happened the day before. How do they rate it on a scale of one to ten? If it’s not a ten, what needs to happen to get it to a ten? It also allows them to have accountability and ownership of their actions because at the end of the day, we want to make sure that each person feels they earned their paycheck and they’re not being gifted their paycheck. Earning it means that they can tell you what does their $1,000 day look like. We’ll say, “Everyone here is $1,000 a day. Because of the pay skill I’m a $10,000 a day.” That puts a little bit more pressure on me to make sure that I’m delivering because I have to do that feedback as well.
What do you mean $1,000 a day?
We look at what people feel they’re worth. They get to set their salary and they get to tell me what they feel they’re worth. The number one thing I started hearing when I’m reading or listening to podcasts is people complaining that they’re not getting enough. They’re not earning enough. They’re not being valued enough. In this economy, we value a person’s worth by the money exchange that they have. Why not set your own worth? They do. As they’re setting their own worth, that means we break it down mathematically to say, “In order to be worth that to the organization and for us to continue to grow on outcomes,” because we’re measuring results, “You need to produce and then insert the amount.” Some of our team members are $5,000 days and some of our team members have $1,000 days.
It means that we’re putting a value to the task. It’s the effort, the energy and productivity. Someone may say, “I come to work from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM,” but if you haven’t done anything then that’s not worth anything because you walked in the door. If you told me that you went, searched and rescued new leads and that of those 50 new leads that you ran after ten of them produced a client, twenty of them signed up. Twenty of them produced a callback or an actual face-to-face conversation that we can measure, that has value behind it. It gets them off the standpoint of, “I did enough,” to “I exceeded the expectation.”
It’s almost like putting a value that you’re hoping that they generate or because it’s a real number like $1,000 a day. Is that like them to bring in $1,000 a day?
Their outcomes should affect their income. It means them sitting there saying that this one task right here can generate for the organization this amount of money. We’re planting seeds that are going to grow and they’re going to produce because that’s where we get the word productivity from, to produce. You have to remember the generation has changed. We’re dealing with Millennials, anyone born between 1980 and 1995. They’re also the honorable mention generation. I have salutatorians and valedictorians and honor graduates of my team. If they were to go to bat with some of the members of my team who are in 60 plus, it’s not even the same work ethic. They’re accustomed to getting extra chances and they’re accustomed to feeling good, but I want to show them how they show up. They can design their future based off of the work that they’re willing to do.
There’s no way that you could have taken this organization that you have at 23. That experience has designed your outcome. We’re not seeing a lot of that in America these days. If you’ve seen the documentary of Fyre, that’s an example of wanting the product of such people like Mark Zuckerberg but not understanding the process. When we’re telling them $1,000 days, we’re asking them to be hungry. Don’t be satisfied with doing just enough. Be honest. Make sure your time counts because it’s easy. We’ve seen people ride the clock before. We also want you to be humble, that means that there’s no job that’s too large or too small if it’s for the greater good.
It’s quantifying the day. It’s the twelve-week year in a sense that every day is a week and every week’s a month. Go through a little bit more of your 90-minute huddle. There are many books like Meetings Suck and how to eliminate meetings and they’re out there. You have 90-minute meetings every day. What else happens during this meeting?
They also get to do what we call an interchange. During that interchange, any team members are able to give suggestions and input. It also allows them to have conversations. You’re dealing with the generation that loves to stay with their phone in their hand. It’s building their socialization skills, that ability to have a conversation. They might get a little criticism or critique, so it’s building up that muscle of being able to not be perfect. The next part of it is what I call the reading shift. Everyone’s reading because that’s important.
Do you choose the books?
I don’t and I do. This is what I tell them. If I say I don’t and I do, I don’t make you do anything that you don’t want to do. I’ll tell you what I’m reading and I need you to understand that if I’m reading it, that my thought process is going to grow with what I’m reading. When I come in and say, “This is what we’re going to do,” it’s probably based off of something that I’m reading. Then they will always come back and say, “We probably should be reading what you’re reading.” In January I was rereading Think And Grow Rich. They were right on target with it because they recognize that anything that was going to shift as the leader of the organization was probably going to come from something that I’m reading. They’re always welcome to read what they want to. Most of our team are reading and listening to an audiobook at the same time that’s different from the book that they’re reading. We’re trying to get in as much as we can. With that reading feedback, I’m telling them how we can apply what we read to what we’re doing and where we’re going. We don’t want to be good where we are. We want to show up where we want to be. That’s where we are.
Every day you’re talking about that book. Does the book every week change?
Every week or how we’re applying it. It’s not the reading it; it’s the application. It goes in the feedback. If I come in and say, “We’re going to all wear yellow suits. We’re going to hang out with the Bananas.” It’s their job to say, “How do we use that? What does that look like for us?” A big question for me is, “What does winning look like? What does using this look like?” People can regurgitate to you but if they can tell you what it looks like, then they’ll gravitate to you. I want the message to gravitate and propel them in the direction that I want them to go because if they’re winning, I’m winning and we’re all winning together.
The simplicity of, “What does winning look like? What’s the scoreboard?” It’s easy in sports out. We know if we’ve won the game, but are we winning the game of business, the game of life, the game of development?”
Are we making an impact?
That’s all we talk with the greatest impact for the greatest people. Understanding what does winning look like and writing it down is hugely important. I shared with you and Patrick that we do the BetterBookClub here and our questions are similar to the platform. We pay everyone to read and we paid thousands of dollars out, but it’s so much worth it than someone going to a conference and spending $2,000 sometimes. The questions are, “What’s a favorite quote? What are the key takeaways? What’s something you want to implement in our company now? How does it stick with our core beliefs and our Fans First way?” We’re always coming back to the Fans First way, who we are, what we stand for. How do you implement your core beliefs into your company?No matter what happens, no matter what privileges you have, don't lose sight of the important stuff. Click To Tweet
It’s constantly there and everything they do has to measure up against that. We were having this conversation is that if it’s not benefiting our activities facing our purpose. If it’s not producing impact and it’s not producing income, then it’s not valuable for us to do. That’s important for them to understand. It’s the training. Everything they’re doing, they’re measuring up against that core value. We constantly are sharing it with our community that comes in contact with us, that this is what we believe this is who we are.
How are you sharing it? What are your core beliefs?
Our core belief is that it’s family first. It takes a village to raise a child. Every adult is a person of interest in the future of a child. Everyone matters. Our last one is to be hungry, honest and humble. Those are our core values and everything has to measure up.
Do you repeat them every day?
It’s not even that we repeat them every day. They need to use them in their sentence structure. When Patrick was there, he was like, “Did everyone say that at some place?” People name drop all the time. I believe you need a core value drop. You need to drop that in your sentence. That’s the tagline to your Facebook quote. That’s the tagline to how some of them sign off on their emails because it’s that core value drop that says, “This is who we are because this is what we do and we show up the way we believe.”
I am a strong believer that your belief models your actions. If you don’t believe that this is truly who you are, then your actions are going to show that that’s not what it is. I’ve had many leaders asking me, “How do you get your people to show up at 6:00 AM?” I tell them, “I’m willing to show up for them at 6:00 AM.” It’s that mirror effect. If I’m willing to do it, then they’re willing to do it because no one wants to be taken advantage of. Everyone wants to be acknowledged, held accountable and feel they’re a part of something. I can speak for my team because they say it often. They feel they’re a part of something that’s much larger than them. We’re not an industry builder, we’re a legacy builder and that’s what we want to do is build a legacy for everyone that comes in contact with us.
I love that core value drop because no one talks about that. The next piece that we talk about always is what stories are we sharing that fit to our core beliefs? Here are the core beliefs. Here’s the mission statement. Do they have stories? What’s their story bank? Is it mapping those core beliefs? It’s something that we talk about all the time. What are those stories and how are we living it? For instance, every week we have profit shares. Every Friday, people in our team send an email to our leadership. What are things that they did that was Fans First? Everything we do is Fans First, but also those six core beliefs, always be caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing, hungry. I did this that was growing. I saw Ben do this that was hungry. I saw Patrick do this that was enthusiastic. We’re calling it out and living this and then we’re creating the stories. If you don’t have stories, people resonate with stories. You could say, “We’re fun, we’re caring and we’re enthusiastic,” but how are you backing that up? The core value drops and you’re adding plus the stories of who your company is. It isn’t six words.
Could you imagine doing that every day? Could you imagine what your team is doing every week? You have them look for that every day. What did they do now? How do you make now count? Let’s take your six and you’re looking for someone who’s winning in that and they know what perfection looks like to me, even though perfect is not what we’re going for. That’s why we get disappointed because we had this level of expectations and people don’t reach them. Every day you’re looking for your opportunity to shine in that position or someone else’s. We multiply that over the course of a work week of five days. We’ve 10x our outcome. We’ve lived a high-performance environment, a culture of greatness. We’ve taken it beyond what the average person would do and we’ve done what the extraordinary person would do. That’s why we started going to every day because it’s easy to let the week shine through and then get to Thursday and go, “I’ve got to find out what someone did.” That’s one of my words that I say because that’s your goal. If your goal by the end of the week is like, “I’m blowing the goal. Let me find something.”
I’m looking at here and I’m putting myself in an entrepreneur’s shoes that have a young team like you. My first thought is, “No one wants to meet every single day,” but you’re proving it otherwise. I’m trying to think if I had our team and they’re like, “Why are we going to meet?” They feel part of it. They feel ownership in the meeting. It’s not just you running the meeting.
It’s also my job to make sure that the meeting is worth their time. My slides are on deck, which means I have to have a plan for my meeting prior to it.
Do you have slides in every meeting? Do you do a PowerPoint?
We do. I’m not doing it. I have members of my team who champion that for me, but that’s the other part. As leaders, we don’t realize the three D’s. One is, do I have to do it? I may not have to do it. The second D is to delegate it. If I’m delegating, I’m empowering someone to take ownership of the results. I’m allowing them to know what winning looks like for me. My team member who handles all of the slides, they tell me what way is clarity. It’s clear. This is what winning looks like so you need about ten slides each morning to make sure that the timing is going right. That’s a checkpoint. “I need you to get me your content by this amount of time so that we can hit that on the head.” We usually have our meetings sitting in a Google slide and sitting in a Google document about two weeks out because as things are occurring, I’m putting the content in there. As long as that’s living in Google, they’re able to build that slide deck for me.
We’ve googled our business where everything is living in Google because it allows it to be live, it allows it to be shareable, and I can have an idea at the last minute and they can throw it in. Sometimes I’m not great at that and they’re curating slides as I’m talking, but at the same time while I’m having the meeting because a lot of things is organic as far as how I speak. They’re also taking notes of everything I’m giving. They call it looking for gold, so they’re digging for gold as I’m talking. They’re taking information that we presented during our morning session and they turn it into an actual document that the team is able to reference in there. We have a process binder that we call it where they’re able to get into my head. They’ll say, “We’re turning to the Book of Anekia Chapter five, verse three,” and they’ll turn to a certain section and then they are able to reference that meeting and see why that meeting was beneficial.
One of our team members is in college. Sometimes she has an 8:00 class, which means she has to leave around 7:30. She will call in from her phone to listen to the meetings and that’s how I know they work. If you’re willing to say, “I got away free to the rest of the meeting,” but instead you’re saying, “Can I call in to listen to the rest of the meeting so that I can know that I’m a part of the process?” That’s all they want. What we do is relationships. People want to know that they matter. They know that they matter in the outcome, they show up. My team is not morning people at all and I wasn’t a morning person. I became a morning person by reading two books. One was Rhinoceros Success and the other one was called The Miracle Morning. I was like, “This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rock star out my mornings.” I also went to this training called INSANE Productivity by Darren Hardy and at the end of that I was like, “What can I do?” I started training my team like, “We’re going to wake up five minutes earlier.” Now, they’re morning people. No one else in their lives is, but what they also realized is that they love walking out the meetings feeling pumped up.
You’re using all this and creating content. You’re taking some of the things that are creating this book, the process minor. We have a Fans First playbook and we have a discovery journal. Things people would call failure, what are those things that we fail in? It’s discovery. I would challenge your team. You’ve got people here that have skills. I would start recording them. I would record your 90-minute meetings, even do some live because it’s interesting people see like, “There’s no way this is happening,” and see what happens. Now that you record, not only can you get the content, you can also watch the reactions. We do group interviews a lot. We’re watching how everyone else is responding to that. We’re doing an Ideapalooza. We’re videoing the whole team with the ideas because it’s not only great content, but you can learn as a leader and other teams can learn.
The other thing I want to unpack is making people feel like they matter. Nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter. I started putting this process because as leaders, you have to simplify things. You’ve got your three Es of achievement. You’ve got your two-second rule, you read the book or we’ll get into it. There’s a lot to it but I started focusing. I was like, “Moments, matter, meaning. Create moments that show people that they matter and that’ll provide deeper meaning.” It’s a virtual cycle. Once you have a deeper meaning, you’ll want to create more moments. Once you create those moments, it will make people feel like they matter. It goes in a circle. I was like, “That’s such a way to simplify it,” because that’s what you’re doing at 6:00 AM, as crazy as it is.If it's not producing impact and income, then it's not valuable. Click To Tweet
I’m up at 4:00 AM, so I’m here at 6:00 AM a lot of times. The reality is that’s getting everyone together and it’s not like everyone else show up at 9:00. You slowly come into the office. You guys are in this together. There’s something huge to be said about bringing people together and doing something that’s not easy. I know everything else is crazy because you’re doing this. It’s powerful. I don’t know if there’s anything else that you would offer as a suggestion or advice. How do you get your team to buy into something that’s a little out of the box? You’re talking to a guy who’s been doing this, but I want to hear your opinion.
My question is have you bought into it? Energy is contagious and if I’ve bought into it, if I’m passionate about it, if I love it, that will resonate with someone to their deepest core. They know that you care about them. I’m making a point that every week, I send a text message to each member of my team that tells them how much I appreciate what they’ve done and how that allows it to be easier. They’re personal and I don’t do that for me. I do that for them. It’s because everyone wants to be acknowledged. They want to know that they’re a part of something that’s bigger than them. I’ve had many people ask me, “How do you get Millennials engaged?” You engage them. Everyone wants to feel they matter. If I’m coming to work every day, you don’t know the struggle I might’ve had to put in to get there on time. Do you even acknowledge that you see me? That’s what I realized with my team. They want to know that I see them. They see me, they hear me and I am in the trenches with them.
When we look at all of these great business leaders and we’re going, “They’re running these awesome organizations.” What we forget is that they’re not running them. I might be setting it up but my people are running it. They have to know that I’m in it with them. I love the Chic-fil-A model that the owners are inside of the establishment. There’s a great convenient grocery store in the Midwest called Festival Foods. The owner is in there. He has a book called The Boomerang Effect. He’s in there and he calls them his Ham Sunday. That he’s in there and they sell ham on Sundays. He’s in all of his locations and people know they can see him there. That’s the value in getting back to what I believe we’ve lost with depending so much on technology. If you want your people to show up at 6:00 AM, you have to give them the reason why. They have to believe in you and what your vision is for what you’re trying to do and see them in that. When people say, “What does winning look like?” My team will never show up at 6:00 AM. How do you know? Do it for two weeks. Buy everyone pizza on the last day of the two weeks. If they look at that and say, “It felt better going into work now.” If it doesn’t feel good, we don’t like to do it.
I always ask the question, what comes first, the feeling or the thought? It flip flops like the chicken or the egg, but if they feel good doing it. If I come into the meeting and I’m slothful and I’m like, “Let’s get down to business,” then they’re going to feel like, “Here we go again, back to school. Give me the notes and let’s keep it moving.” If I’m showing up with PowerPoints, I’m super energetic. Sometimes I show up with Starbucks, not often but that might happen. They go, “She’s down into this. She’s investing in me.” That’s what I tell them. I give you what you need to get what I want and then they’ll say, “What do you want?” I want you to win. I want you to feel good every day you’ve done something that’s made a difference for someone. If you can do that, then you give other people permission to win. That’s what all of my team members are walking away with feeling like they’re giving almost a generational permission to do something different. You’re giving your team members permission to walk around in a yellow suit. It’s permission to be courageous and to be brave. How courageous is it? That takes a lot to go on target. There’s almost nothing they cannot do.
Two things here, doing and learning. Everyone thinks what an outcome’s going to happen. You’re going to do it, you’ve got to experience, you’ve got to try it. Before anyone wants to write a book, stop saying you want to write the book. We talk about mapping the customer experience and mapping the employee experience, but you’ve got to design. What is that amazing, perfect business? It shouldn’t be talking about the dollars and the profit. It should be, “What does that look like for everyone?” Design it. What does it look like? How do they show up? What do they do during the day? How do they go home? If you can write that down and map that, it’s game over. Now you’re reverse engineering it and that is the starting point. You’ve inspired me because I talk about it often. Have I ever written down what this perfect business looks like in a people’s standpoint? Not necessarily what are we accomplishing?
They give it back to you. If it’s crystal clear then they can give it back to you. The best thing is when your people can tell you what’s inside of your head. That’s why when people say the book was better than the movies because it was inside their head and you would have cast someone totally different. What happens when a director or producer does a focus group and asks people, “What do you see this book inside your head? Who do you see playing this lead character?” All of a sudden, you have a box office phenomenon because you’ve packaged what people are afraid to make come alive, which is the voices inside your head.
You say, “We’re designing this business to do this based on these people. Where do you see yourself?” Visualize your part in this and get them as they’re building the script with you. We’re going to play a game. This is truth and dare. What would you like first?
What’s your biggest fear in business?
My biggest fear is waking up one day and realizing that I didn’t do everything that was possible for me to do.
What does that look like?
That looks like me lying in a nursing home at an old age and truly having to close my eyes in death with a smile on my face.
You don’t regret necessarily things you do. You regret what you didn’t do. You don’t want to have that fear of not giving it all, not showing up and giving your best. It’s time for a dare. This is what we do in our games. We used to do it one-on-one, two people on the field with a mic. We play a song. As soon as that song stops, you have finished that song lyric. There’d be some weird songs back and forth. We have a whole stadium do it, 2,000 versus 2,000 but now it’s just you. As soon as the song stops, you need to finish that song lyric. Are you mentally prepared for this?
I’m not but we’re going to give it a shot anyway.
“I’ve done up to now. It’s the light of day that shows me how. When the night falls, loneliness calls.”
“I want to dance with somebody. I want to feel the heat with somebody.”Your belief models your actions. Click To Tweet
I had to get into a little Whitney Houston. You nailed it. I’ve been grilling you with questions. It is now time for Flip the Script. You are the host of Business Done Differently. You get to ask me one question.
Why are you not meeting at 6:00 AM with your team if you’re already here?
It probably goes into sometimes I may care more about them in a way that I care about myself, but because of that, maybe I’m not holding them accountable. I believe a lot of things. I don’t care what other people think. I wear the yellow tux in weird places, but I care so much about what our people think and our employees and maybe to a fault because I don’t want to hurt them. I want them to feel loved. I want them to feel cared for. I feel there would be mutiny if I told them, “Show up at 6:00 AM.” One thing that we do in our business during the season is we’ll work until 1:00 AM three or four times a week when there are games. The principle is not necessarily time. It’s the commitment that you put into engaging with your people, whether it’s at 6:00 AM, 6:00 PM, 9:00 PM, that’s the point. If you want better answers, you need to ask better questions. You are unbelievably curious since you were a kid, according to your great book. What are some of the better questions you’re asking these days?
I love asking people what do they know now that they wish they knew at the beginning or they wish they knew then. That’s been insightful because few people get asked that question. The next question that I’ve been asking people because of having the experience of losing my father not so long ago is what would be the last thing you would want people to remember about you? It surpasses many other things and those have probably been the two questions I’ve been asking people. I love what it does in conversation because it causes people to reflect. It also strips away the professionalism and gets you the core of who they are as people. I’ve had some great conversations with people asking those two questions.
My chapter in my last book is how will you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered? It’s important to think about your legacy, what you’re trying to do. Another question I heard which was interesting. People need to think about whom are they getting advice from. If you’re getting advice from people that haven’t been there, it’s not the best advice, but many people do that. They’re always like, “What do you think about this?” and they haven’t done that. They’re giving a personal opinion with no facts. If you’re writing a book, ask people that have written a lot of books. Not just one book or whatever, they’ve had success. One question that is interesting is if I’m going to do this, why would I fail? It’s a weird way to look at the negative, but why do this and this and then you don’t do that stuff? What’s the most important tool you have in your business toolbox?
Yellow legal pads. It’s my way of getting everything out of my head. My team carries them. If you ever visit our school, the students carry them. It’s the most efficient. You can’t lose it because everyone has white ones and you have a yellow one. It gives you permission to take everything out of your head and you can draw on it, you can doodle on it and you rarely see people tear a page out of it. I have legal pads all over the place. That is in my toolbox and I would tell anyone that and a number two pencil.
Many people are going, “I have this app. I use this app.” A little rapid fire. We both did the same thing in our books. We recommended hundreds of books. It’s like, “Buy our book and now here are another 100 books to buy.” What is one book that you keep coming back to? It’s tough to ask a favorite book, but a book you would keep coming back to or you would share with others.
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. That was the first book that I received in my personal development growth that I devoured. Probably a few months after reading that book, I had my students on the stage of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans in front of almost 100,000 people. It was that book that gave me permission to think outside the box and swing for the fences. I played softball for several years. Anytime my team hears me, they know we’re swinging for the fences. That’s what we do. That book was one of those things where it’s like, “This is the biggest, hairiest, most audacious goal to take sixteen kids from Savannah, Georgia and get them on stage at the Superdome.” I sent an email and the answer was yes. That book I always go back to outside of the Bible. That book is the one that catapulted me into realizing that my business was bigger than Savannah and the impact can be felt larger than the United States.
The BHAGs, the Big Hairy Audacious Goals, you have yours with Oprah Winfrey and all your big visions. You need to write them down. It’s something that I take pride every morning, writing down goals, writing down ideas.
That’s always another question I’ve been asking people. Who do you know that I need to know? Even my question is like, “Who do you have connections to that I can have lunch with?” You don’t know who knows whom. I keep putting it out there that I want to have breakfast with Sara Blakely and lunch with Michelle Obama and dinner with Oprah Winfrey. That’s my trifecta of a day. At the same time, it reminds me that the things that are inside of my head can be real.
It’s important to share your beliefs over and over again. We’re constantly talking we’re going to change the game of baseball. How you do that? Maybe I can help out. You have to share your beliefs over and over again. What’s your favorite part of morning routine?
What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of the day?
Go to sleep. It’s hard for me to go to sleep. I have to shut my brain down. It’s a complete shutdown process so that my brain is not, while I’m sleeping, figuring out things that I need to do the next day. I cannot make lists before I go to bed. Some productivity is like, “Make a list before you go to bed.” My brains it’s going to completely not go into REM sleep.
The letters to live by. We both finished our book with gratitude, talking about the power grabs. A thank you experiment, written over 1,000 thank you letters. You wrote these letters and you share with a lot of people who do the same. Explain those.
The letter to live by to me is a way of giving your future something tangible. It starts with a letter to your former self. If I knew then what I knew now, what would I tell myself? I would tell myself that it was okay to fail and take time and those things that I now know. For my future self, it’s almost like a time capsule, but it also puts into a solid form the things that I want to see for me. It’s like, “How do I see myself?” That’s one of the things that I find is hard is people don’t know what it looks like so they can’t find it. If I can write a letter to my future self and I can see what it looks like and it’s clear, then my subconscious now has something to work with. I can do organized planning and I can plan for those things to happen. It’s heartwarming to see young people do it but to see everyone do it because I tell parents to do it for their kids. I would encourage you to write letters to live by for your son that he would open on his fifth birthday or his tenth birthday.
Six months before my son was born, I wrote one to him. I wrote one for my birthday next time. I write it the year later what has happened in that last year. When you were eighteen, you wrote it for when you were at 38? It makes you think and dream big. What else have you noticed from it?
I’ve also noticed that it’s planted ideas. It’s almost like you don’t know what you’re looking for. When you bought your car, you thought that was the only one and now you drive and you see it. It gives you a direction. You don’t realize what you wrote until you read it and go, “I did not know that I set that as a goal for myself.” Most times when we’re setting goals, we’re setting plans. When the plan doesn’t work, we toss the goal. We need to set the goal and let the plan be tossable because the plan’s changeable. Those letters were full of goals and I know them. I know what they’re going to say but I forget along the way. When I opened the one up for my 38th, I realized there were one or two things that I hadn’t done and I was like, “I need to do that one.”Nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter. Click To Tweet
You get to see how much you evolve and you grow and you change. With that context too, Write It Down, Make It Happen. That book was a game changer for me to start writing down everything. What’s one thing you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
I’ve lived out loud. I haven’t kept it quiet. I’ve shared with everyone anything that I can think. I also share with people what I think about them.
You’ve worked with great leaders: John Maxwell, Jack Canfield. What are some of the best advices you’ve received?
The best advice that I’ve received was having John Maxwell tell me in front of a panel of people that the way that I was living was going to change millions of lives. It made me believe, because if someone can look at you and tell it from having a brief conversation that the way you’re living is going to change lives, then that was permission for me. That best advice was permission.
As a leader, we have to do that. I remember I was at a speaker’s dinner and around some of my biggest mentors, my idols. I sat down next to this gentleman who I looked up to, some of the best books I’ve ever read. He said, “If you were stuck, I would go all in on you.” What did that do for me? I was on fire the whole night. Us as leaders, how often are we telling our people those same things? We have to do that. I’m glad you went through that as well. We went through that together probably in similar timeframes because we know we have to be doing that as well. Final question, how do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who cared.
It’s simple as that. It’s obvious how much you care. You are living out loud. You’re making an impact. You’re sharing your beliefs, which many people do. It is refreshing. The book, It’s OK To IDK, check it out. It’s a great read. How else can people connect with you?
They can find me on Facebook, @ItsOKToIDK or @AnekiaMcG. They also can find me on my website at AnekiaBMcG.com. They can also find us on Instagram. It’s the only book out there that tells you that it’s okay to not know. If you click in It’s OK To IDK, you will find me all over the World Wide Web.
You are going to impact a million people. Thank you so much for being with us.
Anyone in our audience who’s looking to step up to the challenge to help us meet a million teens, then go ahead.
- Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts
- SkillSet You
- John Maxwell Leadership Team
- It’s OK To IDK
- Gretchen Rubin
- Meetings Suck
- Think And Grow Rich
- Rhinoceros Success
- The Miracle Morning
- INSANE Productivity
- The Boomerang Effect
- The Compound Effect
- Write It Down, Make It Happen
- @AnekiaMcG – Facebook
- @ItsOkayToIDK on Instagram
About Anekia Boatwright-McGhee
Anekia Boatwright-McGhee is a bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has worked with thousands of youth, parents, and community leaders to help motivate challenge and inspire forward growth by focusing on tomorrows generation of leaders. Often called the “Child Whisperer,” Boatwright-McGhee has been identified as the most popular youth development expert in the country.
She is the founder of Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts, SkillSet You Academic Enrichment Centers, & Excellent Minds Preparatory School. Each year Boatwright-McGhee speaks, trains, and coaches as a member of the John Maxwell Team, Jack Canfield & she is an MTJGD Certified Coach. Boatwright-McGhee brings devotion, energy, and truth to the youth development and education field.
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