Leadership coach Christopher R. Jones describes the steps he took to “own” his career and explains what you can do to take control of your own career path.
Christopher R. Jones of Authentic Success Online
LinkedIn: I am Christopher Jones
Facebook: Authentic Leader
Christopher R. Jones speaks, coaches and advises leaders to become the leader others want to follow. In short: Authentic Leaders. For the past 30 years, Christopher has held leadership development positions and consulted leadership teams at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies in information technology and advanced education, as well as leading nonprofit executive boards through capital fundraising campaigns.
He also hosts “The Authentic Leader Show” podcast where he interviews CEOs, executive directors, and the occasional celebrity. He goes deep with his guests into their journeys of leadership and personal effectiveness.
Christopher lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife of 28 years and they have three grown children.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [01:20] Christopher introduces his programme, 7 Disciplines of Authentic Leaders.
- [02:42] How effective leadership is a key factor in retaining employees.
- [05:21] Christopher talks about how he became involved in the IT industry.
- [07:51] Christopher explains his early career.
- [13:20] Christopher talks about his realisation that he wasn’t in control of his career.
- [18:37] Questioning if any job can be classed as ‘safe’.
- [23:12] Adapting opportunities to suit your lifestyle.
- [25:15] Overcoming obstacles and learning through failure.
- [26:08] Focusing on networking to grow a business.
- [27:38] Christopher’s experience with applying for jobs and managing his own business.
- [30:35] Christopher discusses the expectations versus reality when starting his business.
- [36:42] The steps you can take to become a more effective leader.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 80: How to take control of your career - with Christopher R. Jones of Authentic Success Online
Jeremy Cline 0:00
Are you happening to your career or is your career happening to you? Do you wake up each day thinking that you own the day, that you have control over what you're going to do during the course of that day, or is your day defined by what others expect of you? If you feel like your career is happening to you, and you want to change that, then this is the episode for you. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:37
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. I'm delighted this week to have as my guest Christopher Jones. Chris spent 20 years in IT before founding Authentic Leader, where Chris speaks, coaches and advises leaders on becoming more effective, confident and consistent. He's also the host of The Authentic Leader Show, a weekly podcast where Chris interviews guests about all things leadership. But today, he's here to tell us about how he made the transition from IT professional to leadership coach. Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Christopher Jones 1:12
Thank you for having me, I'm really excited about this conversation.
Jeremy Cline 1:15
Can you start by telling us a bit more about Authentic Leader? So, what you do and who you do it for?
Christopher Jones 1:21
Primarily, I help IT leaders to really retain their key talent, which I've found is one of the larger pain points, especially for IT leaders. And I have a programme that I call 'The Seven Disciplines of Authentic Leaders'. And what we find is that many of these leaders just don't have access to some simple tools and techniques and systems, and applying a couple of very simple systems and tools can actually make all the difference in helping them to lead more effectively.
Jeremy Cline 1:53
That's really interesting. So, you say your focus is enabling them to retain talent.
Christopher Jones 1:59
Because that's a big problem, especially in IT, is that they are losing key talent to competitors, or to other organisations, where there's a large investment in getting key talent in your organisation and getting them trained, especially in IT, and technology changes so fast, and what you need to know and the skills that you develop in IT, that to have someone leave that has all of that, they take all that knowledge, all that experience with them when they leave. So, we rather help organisations to retain that key talent and make that key talent excited about staying with that organisation.
Jeremy Cline 2:32
And for you, the focus on that is by enabling leadership, rather than looking at things like culture, benefits, compensation, that kind of thing.
Christopher Jones 2:43
Yeah, obviously, you've got to have a benefits package that's competitive. But I'm finding that even when that is all the same, it comes down to leadership. And you may have heard this, I'm sure many of your audience has heard this, that the number one reason that people leave organisations is because of their leader or their manager. That's the number one reason they really leave. So, we want to help you to be effective leaders so that people want to follow you. I'm all about helping leaders to lead in a way that the team wants to follow them, versus them having to lead in a way that because they have to follow them. Everyone, I'm sure, has had a story where they have a leader they work with, and they are doing the work they need to do, but only because they have to, right? It's because they're their boss and the boss told them they had to do it. But there's not much inspiration behind that. But we also have leaders we've worked for who, I would do anything for them. Even if I didn't formally report to them, I would still do anything for these. I mean, I've got like pictures in my mind of people who I've worked with who were fantastic leaders, and I would do anything they asked me to do, because they were such a fantastic leader. That's the kind of leader I'm looking for.
Jeremy Cline 3:49
I know exactly what you mean, I've got in mind a couple of people I've previously worked with who fall into that category. They are the sort of people who, you know, it's, I don't know, five to five or something, and they give you a job to do which has to be done then, and it's going to keep you in the office late, but because it's them and the way they treat you and the way they inspire you, you don't actually mind, it's kind of okay.
Christopher Jones 4:14
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Because I know they're not asking me to do something that they wouldn't be doing themselves, and they just simply need help. They maybe have helped me in the past, they care about me, it's all those sorts of ingredients. But you mentioned earlier about the culture, and this is something that I think a lot of people don't recognise, is that the responsibility of the culture in an organisation is the leader's responsibility. So, if there's not a good culture in the organisation, who is it that you have to blame? That's the leader. And that's the thing really, when things don't go well, it's almost always the leader's fault, and I'm not talking about demonising leaders. I think that many leaders are simply doing the very best with what they know to do, or maybe they have an example in their past and they think that's the best way to lead. But it all comes down to taking full ownership and responsibility for everything, including your culture.
Jeremy Cline 5:07
You mentioned how your focus is leadership within the IT industry, which is obviously the industry which you've always been in, albeit now in a different capacity. How did you first get into IT as an industry?
Christopher Jones 5:21
Yeah, my first job, actually, even while I was in college, was for a large online database firm. This is back in the early 90s, way before the internet. And I actually ended up being an IT technical support person over the phone. I was helping people with working with their floppy disks and booting up their disks and all the old ancient ways, even working with – I think we had 64 baud modems or 64k baud modems, it was just amazing, the old technology we were working with. But I just got interested in that. What I found is that I was especially good at explaining how to do things IT to people who were not IT. And that's, I guess, my superpower is that, even if you don't know IT, I can explain something to you. But I did that for more than 10 years in a large corporation. We had, gosh, it was probably close to 4,000 people in the organisation. My department when I left was 400 people in the customer support area. I started there, so I was there for 10 years, little over 10 years and we had I think 60 in the department when I started, 400 when I left.
Jeremy Cline 6:27
Wow, that is some growth. When you first started your career proper, what were your expectations? What was the industry like then and where did you think your career was going to take you at that point?
Christopher Jones 6:39
That's a great question. I vividly remember this. As a matter of fact, the organisation I worked for was in the community where I lived in, in Dayton, Ohio, that's where I grew up. I live in Richmond, Virginia now, in Central Virginia. But I remember driving by and it was just one of those amazing 1990s corporation buildings, they had actually a campus, they actually had, I think it was six or seven buildings on that campus. And it had tunnels above ground that would connect them all, very cool, cutting-edge at the time. And I remember, because in the early '90s, that was still a little bit of the IBM corporate culture, where you would wear a suit every day to work and a tie. That's just what you did. And I fell into the stereotype of that. And of course, that was what, it's all you knew, right? That's what you did and that kind of spelled 'success' in my mind, quote unquote, whatever success is. It was exciting, and at that time, my idea and focus was, join a big corporation and grow within that corporation and work there for the rest of my life, which of course, that isn't what happened. But that was, in my mind, that was what spelled success at that time.
Jeremy Cline 7:45
What was the career path then? What did you think you might have become had you stayed doing that?
Christopher Jones 7:52
It's a tough question, because it also goes along with the story of how I started this business. Because I started off just taking phone calls, helping people with technical support. I grew into being the Director of Training and Development at that organisation that had 400 people in our department. We had a 10-person management team. But, the problem was is that when I was promoted to that director position, and I call that position a title leader. What a title leader to me is, in your title is that you are expecting to lead a team. So, I of course, had a team that I was leading. And I failed miserably as a leader, because I found myself intimidated by my boss, which is not really the kind of leader that I try to train now. He led by intimidation, and I felt like I needed to lead in a way that my boss wanted me to lead, rather than serving my team in a way that would motivate, inspire and help them to be effective in their roles. In other words, serving them as a leader, which I think is a way more effective way to lead. But if I were to have stayed there, I probably would have been miserable, only because I had that mindset that I needed to perform for my boss, rather than really be an effective leader and lead for my team. Does that answer your question?
Jeremy Cline 9:07
That does, yeah. So, after 10 years, what was your next position? You didn't go from there to starting your current business?
Christopher Jones 9:15
Yeah, no, not at all. As a matter of fact, actually, for a period of time, for a few years, I worked at a university, in the school of business. And in that, they had a division called the Centre for Leadership and Executive Development. And it was cool, because in my industry, especially in my industry now, we brought national rock stars from around the country to Dayton, Ohio, and we delivered C-level training programmes for the Fortune 500 C-level leaders. So, I got to meet a lot of celebrities in my industry. Like, I met Stephen Covey, I met Ron Strom, I've met some... John Kotter. These are definitely powerhouse celebrities in my industry, and... But I was there for a few years, they had some difficult times through an economic struggle, and I ultimately then moved to another Fortune 500 company, which is a Fortune 500 world headquarters, and I was there for about 10 years and primarily in the IT department. The little fun fact about that is that, again, I was the IT person who really wasn't IT, because I could explain IT things to non-IT people, and many times in IT organisations, most IT programmers, they'd like to just be heads down, do their programming, do configurations, all that kind of stuff, they like to sit at their desk and just get work done. But I loved getting up in front of people and talking and speaking. So, when it came down to doing IT training, I actually got to do a lot of travel. I travelled to Paris and did some training, I went to Brazil, I went all over the country doing IT training programmes for this Fortune 500 company.
Jeremy Cline 10:50
Was this something you sought because you recognised that you had this skill? Or did it just come to you, like you were asked, 'Hey, Chris, would you mind doing this training?', and then suddenly, you discover, 'Hmm, I quite like this'?
Christopher Jones 11:01
I've always enjoyed it, even with my first corporate role. I was there for 10 years, I did a good amount of training there and I enjoyed that. Some people might be surprised to hear that Chris Jones is an introvert. I like being by – that's where I get my energy, is by myself, but I can turn it on and I like to help large groups of people and I love speaking to large groups of people. Just what you don't know is that it drains me afterwards and I need to go get some more energy by myself for a moment. But again, when it came, the second, the large Fortune 500 company, is that they needed someone to do training and everyone's, 'We've seen Chris do training, he's really good at it. Let's just ask him.' Because literally, when they said we need to do training, everyone's head went down except for me. And I'm like, 'Hey, I'll do it. I love to do this kind of training.' So, it evolved only because it was a strong skill set that I have. And I'm glad that it did because it gave me some fantastic experience that I use today in my business.
Jeremy Cline 11:56
The intervening phase at the university, you said that you were in the sort of the leadership area there. Did you go into that because you had an interest in leadership at that point, or it just was a good fit for the skills which you had at the time?
Christopher Jones 12:12
Honestly, both. I was interested in it, I needed a job, because I had left the other one, and I left the other one not having a job. But I did find that I thought I would enjoy it and I did. But I was also in a different kind of role. I was actually in more of a sales type role, which I used to run from. I used to, like, Chris, you're not a salesperson, because I had in my mind this stereotypical salesperson that's really pushy and trying to get people to buy stuff that they don't want. And that's where I had the beginning indication that I could sell in my way, a way that fit me and I could be genuine about it and either this is a fit or it's not, I just want to let you know about it. And if it is a fit, then great. Why don't you come on, and I'll show you how you can join this group. But, yeah, that was a different kind of role, I just had access to all this leadership development stuff that was also happening through the programmes that we did.
Jeremy Cline 13:04
So, let's go towards the end of your second 10 years, if you like. At what point are you starting to think that working for this organisation, carrying on doing this sort of training isn't for you and that there needs to be something else?
Christopher Jones 13:21
Here's the realisation that I had. And this is something that I felt, but I couldn't quite articulate it. I couldn't quite recognise it throughout, really, my entire career. And most all of my career was, I felt like my career was happening to me, rather than me happening to my career. Now, I say that very purposefully, because that's exactly what happens. And certainly, in my first corporate role, I put a lot of trust and faith and assumed that the leaders who I worked for, they knew how to grow me. And I just basically did what they told me to do. And most of my positions and promotions I got were a result of a position becoming available. Not that it was a strategic, hey, that's my next career move because I planned that. There was, a vacancy happened and, oh, that sounds pretty interesting, I guess I'll go there. Or I would be urged by a leader, 'Hey, Chris, you'd be a good fit for here, you should go interview for it.' So, it was really at the direction of everyone else, not me. And I realised that, hey, if I'm going to put my big boy pants on and I'm going to take responsibility for my career, I had better own this and I had better start making some decisions about, what do I want to do in my career? So, I had this idea of leaving corporate about two years before I actually left and the realisation really came to me when I said, in 40 years, I don't want to look back and say, 'I wish I would have done something 40 years ago.' This is the time to do it. It goes with that old saying, what's the very best time to plant a oak tree for shade? It was 40 years ago, right? Because now you have a 40-year-old oak tree. But if you didn't do that, what's the second-best time? The second-best time is today. So, I said, 'I'd better start planning, I better start taking some action'. And it took me ultimately about two years to finally leave. But that's what I did.
Jeremy Cline 15:16
What was driving you to think that you wanted to get out of corporate? So, leaving aside the knowing that you had to take action, what was it that you were trying to take action to achieve that, at the start of that two-year period, you were starting to think in those terms?
Christopher Jones 15:35
The organisation that I was in, specifically, even the leaders who I was working with, it was extremely hierarchical. Very traditional. Like, 'I'm the boss, I know what's best, I'll disseminate down to you what to do.' So, I really had no control and really very little decision-making in my day-to-day activities. And I just got frustrated with that and realised that in some way, I would like to just own my day. I can decide. If I'm successful, I'm going to own that, and if I am not successful, I'm going to also own that. I need to have that level of fulfilment, where I'm just not letting other people do that. So, I just came to the realisation that, again, something's got to change here, and it's not gonna change if I don't do something. No one's gonna do it for me. I had to take full responsibility and ownership of that.
Jeremy Cline 16:21
Where did opportunities for owning your day live? Did it inevitably point to you starting your own business, or were there other opportunities, other organisations you could work for, which would allow you to own your own day?
Christopher Jones 16:39
That was the beginning of it. I had always had this vision of really owning my day: I decide literally what my entire day looks like, I own my entire schedule, which, truly, I am doing now today. It took me a while to get here. But as I mentioned, about two years before I left corporate, I knew I wanted to leave, I knew I wanted to do something on my own, not in a large corporation. And so, it was about two years after that, I had a friend of mine who came to me, they had a consulting business, and they did leadership coaching for nuclear power plants all across the East Coast of the United States. And he came to me one day, said, 'Hey, Chris, we've talked before', actually, I did some weekend consulting and coaching with him, just on the side, a few years before that. He said, 'We know what kind of coach you are, we know what kind of consultant you are, would you ever consider leaving your corporate job and maybe come be a coach with us? Because we just need some extra help.' And I thought, I've been, in my mind, I've been dreaming about this idea, this opportunity for two years. I didn't know exactly how I was going to leave. And this literally was God putting on a silver platter: 'Chris, if you're ever gonna leave corporate, I can't make this any easier for you, you had better leave right now.' So, I recognised that and I said yes. And I went and I resigned, I left. And I travelled all over the East Coast of the United States, going to nuclear power plants. I know nothing about nuclear power. But I do know a lot about leadership. And I really got a great opportunity to do face-to-face executive leadership coaching at four nuclear plants. I went to Connecticut, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Over three years, I was on 350 flights. It was a great experience, but not sustainable when you're married and you have kids at home. I had to make a transition even from that. But don't regret any bit of that, that definitely has helped me to be the kind of business owner and leadership consulting and coaching that I am today.
Jeremy Cline 18:29
What doubts, if any, did you have to overcome when this friend comes up to you and says, 'Hey, would you consider quitting your job and coming to work for me or doing work with me?'
Christopher Jones 18:39
It is a little scary, right? Because my entire career has been in corporate Fortune 500 companies. And you have this perception that it is a safe job. But the reality is, there's no such thing as a safe job, that I could be asked to leave at any time. It was a little scary. I had some extended family members, not immediate, I had tremendous support from my immediate family. But there were some extended family members like, 'Chris, are you crazy? Why would you leave the safe job at a corporate to go do something that's really unknown?' And I just have to do it. And here's the real reality. If somehow, someway, I just crashed and burned, I could go get another corporate job, probably somewhere else. I just knew I had to go do this. I definitely had doubts, it was certainly jumping out of the plane and I was building the parachute on the way down, just figuring this out, trusting that I would be able to figure it out. And I don't want to say that I had a soft landing. Believe me, there is a lot to learn, especially now that I've started this business. And the business I have now and the way that it is, I've been doing this for six years now, and I tell people, if I would have known what it would take, I'm not really quite sure if I would do it, but I am very glad I'm on the other side of it, where I've figured out some of the basic things that you have to do to run your own business.
Jeremy Cline 19:53
So, what was the offer when you did come to leave? How much work were you being offered? Could you see this sustaining you for six months, for a year? Was it something where you said, 'Okay, I can see this taking me this far and then in that time, I can work out what the next step is'?
Christopher Jones 20:10
I would love to say I was as planful as what you described, but I wasn't. What I did know is that, when I left, they knew they had enough work for me that was close to my previous salary, which was good enough for me. So, I did definitely take a pay cut in doing that, but it was, maybe a year or two after that, they had massive layoffs in the organisation that I worked for. And actually, they merged with another company and a large majority of all the people who I worked with were all laid off. And I remember, my wife asked a very good question, she was like, 'Chris, if you would have just stayed, what would have been your severance? Just, you could have gotten this big severance package, but you left and, of course, before you get a severance.' And what I did is, I went back and I looked at the income I had from this, because it ended up really becoming full-time, this consulting and coaching at nuclear plants, and I made way more than I would have ever made in a severance package. Plus, I was developing new skills and doing what I really loved doing. So, it ended up being a good call and it did not make me hurt financially by doing that.
Jeremy Cline 21:17
And presumably it made you a heck of a lot happier.
Christopher Jones 21:20
Oh, no question. No question. I'm definitely not regretting my choice afterwards.
Jeremy Cline 21:25
Where did you develop the skills and interest in leadership? Because you said you were in IT training. And I rather took that to mean that you were training sort of all of the technical side of it. So, explaining technical stuff to non-technical people. And maybe I've got that wrong, but where did all the interest in training leaders and leadership come from?
Christopher Jones 21:48
It really did go back to what I mentioned earlier, where I failed as a leader, and it was so uncomfortable, I made a promise to myself that I'm going to learn all I can, what it takes to be an effective leader, so that I never have that uncomfortable situation ever again. So, I really have become, I would describe, a lifelong student of understanding what does it take to be an effective and, just an effective leader that, again, that people want to follow. So, I just have continued having an interest only because of that massive pain and sting that I had from failing as a leader. And with the university, when I was there, I continued to be in that realm. And even with the second corporate role, I not only stayed in IT, I did some work with HR, and I did a lot of training programmes through them, really, by me seeking them out, saying, 'Hey, I want to do some more training.' And I still stayed in that leadership space. I also did some leadership consulting, as I mentioned, with my friend that ended up hiring me for his organisation. So, I always have kept my fingers in leadership development, and not only learning all about it, but also practising it and helping others to apply those same skills.
Jeremy Cline 22:57
You said how the first role, this consultancy role, was great, but didn't really suit you in terms of family life. So, can you talk a bit more about that? What parts did you want to retain and what parts did you want to lose?
Christopher Jones 23:13
Again, I ended up being an employee, if you will, even though I was on a contract with them, I was still really being told, 'Hey, Chris, you need to be at this nuclear plant this week. And you need to be at that one that week. And here's what you're going to be doing. And you have to use the system, the formula that we've put together.' I totally understood that, and they had every right to do that, and I would do the same thing. As a matter of fact, as I grow my business, I will be also hiring consultants and coaches to apply the systems that I've got. But I just knew that I needed to have a little more control over what I do in my day-to-day, and, additionally, not travel so much. There was a particular event in our family that I had to miss because I was in Birmingham, Alabama. And I missed it and I had to end up hearing about it on the phone, long-distance, from my son about this school experience where he was honoured with this award that we knew he was eventually gonna get this over like a three-year period, and I missed that event. And that was where, okay, Chris, I've learned a lot, I've learned what I needed to, it's time to do a slight shift in doing this, maybe doing this on your own, so you can control your time better.
Jeremy Cline 24:22
At that point, having missed that event, you were still very much thinking in terms of, the thing to do is to start my own business.
Christopher Jones 24:29
I always wanted to, and I had this idea that I was running this as my own business, but as a consultant for the other business. And the reality was I was really an employee. So, I needed to do it on my own and, yeah, definitely made that leap.
Jeremy Cline 24:44
So, what you were doing as a consultant, to reframe what I think you just said, you'd identified that as what you wanted your business to be. You wanted to do that sort of work, but just not necessarily in that environment, for those people, with all that sort of travel.
Christopher Jones 25:00
Yeah, on my own terms, literally. Yeah, yeah, that's exactly right. You said it just right.
Jeremy Cline 25:04
What was the transition like between that consultancy and starting your own business? How much of a transition was there?
Christopher Jones 25:13
It was big. I'll just be honest with you. I want to tell everybody how rosy and easy this was. But it wasn't, right? I think we need to embrace that. Because the harder it is, the more satisfying it is when you can overcome these obstacles. But I literally didn't know what I didn't know. I know now, but you almost have to learn through these failures. For example, when I finally made this commitment, and my wife was on board, we said, I'm gonna start this business on my own, I'm gonna totally own this business. It took me, I will say, it was nine months before I got my first client. It was nine months before my very first client. That's a long time. Fortunately, we had some money saved up. But it was tough, right? Financially, it was also me just questioning, did I make the right decision here? Can I have a business that grows? Can I have a business that's successful? But one thing I did is that I recognised that I'm not going to be able to grow a business if no one knows who Chris Jones is. So, I focused, in those nine months, to meet as many people as I could. And my focus was to have one-on-one, face-to-face coffee meetings with as many people as possible. And within that nine-month period, actually, it was actually a full year, I'll be honest, it was a full year, I met face-to-face with 150 people. And I think that's what it took, because it helped me to refine my story, what it is that I'm doing, even understand who it is that I'm serving, and people started to become aware of who this Chris Jones is, and what he does.
Jeremy Cline 26:47
Had you had any opportunity to lay any of the groundwork whilst you were still in the consultancy? Or was it the case that you stopped the consultancy on the Friday and the following Monday, that was when you started, all this process of trying to win your first client?
Christopher Jones 27:01
Yeah, it was a complete stop, cut off and start my own thing. Because, honestly, with integrity, I don't think that ethically I could have brought along any of those clients that I worked with. I counted that as a win, just to get the experience was enough for me. But I really did start from the ground up, starting my own client business.
Jeremy Cline 27:21
Was there any stage where you were thinking, 'I should try and be doing the two at the same time', if that was possible, maybe doing the consultancy part-time and doing this on the side, rather than being in a position where you had to make it work, or go do something else?
Christopher Jones 27:40
I did, a slightly different version of what you're asking. I didn't try to do that consultancy and my own business really at the same time. I thought that I was, but I really wasn't. Again, 100% of my energy was about helping that organisation to be successful. But I did do some interviewing, once I'd made this decision and, actually, many of the contracts had gone away abruptly because of a government funding thing that caused it with nuclear plants. That's a long story, I won't go into the detail of that, because it doesn't really matter, because just a lot of that work dried up. So, that also helped me with, hey, now's the time, that was a message, again, from God that, 'Hey, if you're going to do this, this is the time to do it.' But honestly, I was very unsure of myself. And I actually interviewed for jobs and positions in corporations at the same time I was telling myself I'm also going to start this business and see whichever one gets more successful quicker, that's the one where I should go. And the problem I found was that I literally had one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock. And it kept dividing. And I got, actually, in a very successful organisation, I got through the interview process, they were going to hire me as a training director for the entire organisation, they called me in, and they said, 'Chris, I called you in because we're prepared to make you an offer for this position. But we found your website and your blog, and we see this thing that you're doing on the side. And we're all fine. We understand that. And there's no harm, no foul on that.' They said, 'But we think what you got is pretty good and we're afraid that you're just going to leave us soon after we hire you.' And I said, 'I can certainly see why you said that, I can see why you would be worried about that, I would be too. My hope is that you would know that I have the integrity that I would not do that immediately. In a very minimum, you'd have me for several years, because I just don't think that's right, to get a job knowing that hey, the next best thing comes, I'm just going to jump within maybe a few months or even within a year. I think that you owe a little bit', and I explained that to them. And they were like, 'First, Chris, we believe you, we still think the risk is too high. So, I'm afraid we're not gonna be able to offer you this position.' And that, again, was an additional message like, 'Chris, you can't do both.' Think about this: on LinkedIn, how do you create a LinkedIn profile? That you have a successful business, or that you're looking for a job? You can't, it's one or the other, you can't do both. So, that's where, my wife and I, we talked about it, and agreed that I'm going to go 100% in to the business. If that's what I'm gonna do, I'm just gonna go do it and go make that happen.
Jeremy Cline 30:22
How long had you given yourself? Had you set yourself a deadline for getting your first client? Perhaps I should ask, had you and your wife or your family set yourself a deadline for getting your first client and getting the indication that this is gonna work?
Christopher Jones 30:37
That's a tough question. It's a good question, a tough one to answer. I would say, realistically, in my mind, I thought, 'Oh, it'll be like a month or two before I'll get my first client probably.' And then, when that didn't happen, I told my wife, 'I'm getting really close, I think I'm gonna get one real soon.' And then, another month went by: 'Oh, I'm getting even closer, I really think I'm going to get one.' And then another month went by. And it ended up being like nine months before I got my very first client. So, it was one of these where you just keep believing and thinking, 'Hey, this is when I'm going to have my first client', and it ended up, of course, being nine months. But again, I don't, I didn't know what I didn't know. And over that nine-month period, I started to recognise, of course it took nine months, especially for what I'm trying to do. Never doing this before? Why would I have thought that it would be any less than five, or, than nine months? For what I was doing, what I was trying to accomplish, I knew it would be nine months. And this is a little funny story that I think that your listeners may appreciate. If they're considering maybe starting their own business, here's my experience with my very first client. I went in, met with him, talked, explaining the system and the programme that I have to help him to be a more effective leader. And he was like, he looked at it all over and was like, 'Yeah, looks really good'. He was like, 'Chris, I think I'd like to hire you to be my coach. Do you think you have room to squeeze me in amongst all your other clients?' And fortunately, I had just a deadpan poker face, I'm like, 'I really want to work with you, I think you'd be a really good fit, I'm sure that I can find a way to make room for you with my clients right now. So, you don't worry about that, I'm going to make you feel like a priority in my business. So, no worries.'
Jeremy Cline 32:14
Did he ever find out that he was your first client?
Christopher Jones 32:17
No, not yet. I've been so close to letting him know. We don't work together anymore. He doesn't, that was what, over six years ago. But we actually did work together for a number of years together. And I was so close, and someday I will. I actually still have that very first check that I received from him. I think you just have to keep that, right? But I don't think that he knows yet, to this day.
Jeremy Cline 32:40
Were you ever during this nine-month period starting to think about plan B?
Christopher Jones 32:44
Yes, especially in the leadership coaching consulting, and especially the first few years, you would have some months where, oh, my gosh, I had like three or four clients this month, this is fantastic and way more than, if I could do this every month, I'm gonna kill it. And then, I'd go one or two months without any new clients, right? So, it was just up and down and up and down, and really just had a tough time levelling out. And even still in my business, now, six years later, I have ups and downs, I never have a month where I don't have clients now, fortunately, I've gotten way past that threshold. But I have some months where, oh my gosh, I totally killed it, I can't believe these clients, these new clients I'm working with, and these new programmes and systems that I'm applying in their organisations, and then others, man, I wonder when the next one's gonna come, I got a big long pipeline here, which one of them is going to take next? That's part of entrepreneurship, you got to get comfortable with that.
Jeremy Cline 33:34
And have there ever been any points where you feel, 'I have to have another look at my CV, just dust it off, and maybe send it around a bit'?
Christopher Jones 33:41
Sometimes, but I almost feel that I'm ruined ever working for a company again. Because I've enjoyed this freedom of doing what it is that I do every day and owning my own schedule and my own time, I don't know that I could be successful in a large company again, because it would feel like shackles on me, I believe. So, I'm ruined. I think.
Jeremy Cline 34:05
It sounds very much like a previous guest I had, Liana Ling, who said that, she basically described herself as a terrible employee. And that's why she started her own business. Because she said, when people came up to her and said, 'Would you like to work for us?', she would say, 'Yeah, except I'd be a terrible employee.'
Christopher Jones 34:20
I think I would be always wanting to implement my own creative ideas and go my own direction and be frustrated, I think, by having to do it their way. And especially in large corporations, they've got their own systems and their own ways of doing things and you got the corporate politics to deal with and all that kind of stuff. I'm just, I'm ruined from that. I help large organisations, I actually have several Fortune 500 companies that I work with, and I love helping those groups, but to work in it and be someone who's in that system, I'd rather be helping them overcome those systems, rather than being constrained by them.
Jeremy Cline 34:54
And so, what's the most difficult thing in your business? If someone had a magic wand and could either make a problem disappear or could make something happen, what would be the thing that makes you go, 'Yeah, this'?
Christopher Jones 35:06
You're really good asking these questions, these are fantastic questions. The most difficult thing, and I say this all the time, because I collect people who are in my industry, and what I mean by that is I collect them as friends. I'm friends with people who, if you were to look at us side by side, you'd say, 'Oh, you guys, you're competitors, right? And you shouldn't be really even talking about what you're doing in your business.' Who people think are my competitors are not my competitors at all. My real competition is making people aware who need what we can do for them. Right? It's leaders who think that, 'I'm just not a successful, effective leader, it's just the way I am. I'll never be an effective leader.' No, actually, did you know that there is a whole group of organisations out there and people just like me that can help you with applying some very simple tools? You apply these simple tools and systems, you could actually have a much easier time being a leader than you realise. Just, most leaders just aren't aware that these tools and that we, companies like mine, and all of my friends, that we're out there. So, I'm just as happy when one of my clients, or I'm sorry, I'm just as happy when one of my 'competitors', quote unquote, gets a client almost as much as I am. Although, of course, I'm not getting income from that. But that's okay. Because this definitely is 'a high tide rises all boats', right? I want our industry to succeed. And that automatically, of course, spells success for me too.
Jeremy Cline 36:31
So, in other words, people might recognise that they've got a problem or difficulty, they just don't know, necessarily, that you and your fellow coaches are the people who've got the solution for them.
Christopher Jones 36:44
A lot of leaders will go out and just buy a leadership book or something, and then they read it, but they don't really implement it. One of the big things that I do is I help leaders identify, where do you see yourself as a leader, like maybe even two or three years from now, and what are the goals as a leader do you need to accomplish, so you can become that leader we just painted a picture of? And then, what are those actions you'll need to take? And I help them to literally identify what those are. But the big part of what I do when I coach leaders is, they are the ones that decide it, I just hold you accountable. You said that you needed to do this action within the next week, yet, you're not doing it. Like, I'm not here to yell at you or make you feel bad. Has something changed? Is it not as important anymore? If it's not, maybe something crazy happened, like, that would never happen. I don't know, like a global pandemic or something. I don't know, that would never happen. But sometimes things happen that are out of your control. And because of that, you've had to change your approach. And now that goal isn't as important anymore. That's okay, and we readjust that. But largely, there are times where, 'Yeah, Chris, I know I said I needed to do that. But here's why.' And I'm like, 'So, you tell me, is that legitimate? Or is that an excuse? I'm not going to tell you it's an excuse. You can tell yourself it's an excuse.' Lots of times, 'Chris, I know, it's an excuse. I'm just making – I can't live with these excuses.' So, that's what I do, is I help leaders feel accountable, but really, most of the time I'm holding a mirror up. Look at yourself. If you say this is important, I'm here to support you and I'm not gonna let you forget about it. But let's make sure that this is really the action you need to take.
Jeremy Cline 36:57
And what about your business in two or three or five or ten years? Where do you see yourself going?
Christopher Jones 38:25
I see myself continuing to grow, I will be growing my team. I've got – actually, this year is the first time I've actually hired some help to help me. And I've gotten to go to new levels in my organisation as a result. So, I see more of that happening. And so, I think that it'll just be a larger organisation impacting more people. And it was a little over a year ago, I transitioned to almost all of my work to being virtual online. I make the joke that I had the foresight to know a pandemic was coming, so therefore, I needed to switch, shift online, but of course, I did not. But I have benefited from that move that I made about a year and a half ago. But I just need people, again, to be aware of Authentic Leader and what Chris Jones does and how it can help you.
Jeremy Cline 39:10
Do you think you're ever gonna stop?
Christopher Jones 39:11
My plan is not, because I truly love what I do. I would love to get up and do this every single day. And I do, I get up every day, I'm excited about what I get to do today. The only reason that I think I will retire is if for some reason I have a medical reason where I can't work anymore. I'm not saying and I'm not being irresponsible, like not saving for retirement, for example, I think you still need to do that. But my plan is, as long as I love what I'm doing, why not keep working? So, that's, I would say that's my plan. Right now. Who knows, it all changes, right?
Jeremy Cline 39:44
That's brilliant. In terms of tools, books, resources, anything that's particularly helped you throughout this transition, which maybe you routinely recommend to other people or which you can just recommend my listeners take a look at, anything come to mind?
Christopher Jones 39:59
Actually, I am an avid fan of podcasts. In 2008, I was first introduced to this concept called podcasts. And I've been listening to podcasts – basically, anytime I'm doing something mindless, I'm pretty much listening to a podcast. And I've got a whole story about how that happened. But in any event, so, I listen to a lot of podcasts, that's probably been my biggest source. That probably planted the seed for me that, 'Chris, you need to start a business someday', just listening to those podcasts. But yeah, so I have in my queue, probably about 15 to 20 podcasts in my queue at any one time. I don't get around to listening to all of them, but I do have them prioritised. And I listen to some of my favourites, there's some that I just never ever miss. Some examples are James Wedmore, he has the Mind Your Business Podcast, a fantastic one for anyone who is running their own business, especially a small business. I do a lot of speaking, or before the pandemic, I did a lot of public speaking at conferences and organisational events. But there's another podcast I follow called Speaker Lab, which has also been a fantastic resource for me, it's all about how to grow your speaking business. Others is the Ray Edwards Show. I'm a huge fan of Ray Edwards, also again about growing online business. He talks a lot about copywriting as well. And then the last one I'll mention here, although I've got a whole bunch more, is the Read To Lead podcast. And that's with my friend, Jeff Brown. I've actually had Jeff Brown on my podcast, I have a podcast now. And it's all about interviewing prominent leaders to learn from their leadership success, and honestly, leadership failures as well. And it was an honour to be able to have Jeff Brown on my podcast for one of those episodes. But I would say podcasts has been one of my greatest resources, as well as books, I read a lot of books too.
Jeremy Cline 41:43
I completely resonate with that, I've just learned so much through the medium of podcasts. It's great for commuting, especially for the walking bits of the journey where you can't read a book, because then you'd step out into traffic or something like that. But you can listen and just learn so much. So yeah, I completely, completely endorse that. Chris, where can people go to find you if they want to get in touch?
Christopher Jones 42:05
Yeah, so LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect with me. I have connections to all my other social media platforms. But LinkedIn is where I find most of my clients live and work. Of course, my website is christopherrjones.com. There's a lot of Chris Jones's in the world. We talked offline before we started this podcast about that. There's also a lot of Christopher Jones's in the world. So, both of those are taken, right? But I'm christopherrjones.com. And then I also have another website called Authentic Success Online. And it's all about, in order to lead teams, you have to lead yourself first. And authenticsuccessonline.com really helps you to put together how you can lead yourself well and lead yourself effectively first, too. If you're already leading a team, it'll just make you a more effective leader. If you're not leading a team, you will be at some point and it's a great resource to help you lead yourself.
Jeremy Cline 42:57
All those links will go in the show notes.
Christopher Jones 42:59
Fantastic. Thank you.
Jeremy Cline 43:00
Chris, thank you so much. I've absolutely loved hearing about your story, and best of luck with it.
Christopher Jones 43:05
I appreciate it. It's an honour to be on your podcast, to be invited to be on your podcast. You are an amazing interviewer. I must say you are just fantastic with your questions. And I've enjoyed this conversation immensely. So, thank you so much for your time and I appreciate being able to share my story with your audience.
Jeremy Cline 43:22
It's my pleasure. And thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate that.
Christopher Jones 43:25
Jeremy Cline 43:26
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Christopher R. Jones. Remember, the R is very important if you want to find his website. A point that's really worth highlighting is what Chris was saying about there being no safe jobs. And this is something that's come up a few times on the podcast, particularly in the past 12 months. People are losing their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own, but just because of the economic situation we find ourselves in, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. If one starts to accept that having a job isn't necessarily the safe option, then it opens up all manner of possibilities. I mean, sure, Chris described how it took him nine months to find his first client, how he does have these periods of feast and famine, where sometimes he's got loads of clients, and then sometimes he's wondering where his next client's gonna come from. But is that necessarily any less safe than having a job which could be taken away from you at very short notice, depending on what happens? And the advantage of going down the route which Chris has gone is that he now has this feeling that he does own his days, that he is happening to his career, he is in control. And there's no guarantee if you are in a job, if you are employed, that your employer has your best interest at heart, that they really are interested in you developing your career in a way which is best for you, rather than necessarily what's in the best interest of the company. Because the two aren't always necessarily aligned. We touched a bit on what Chris coaches, in other words, how to be a more effective leader, which is something that we've covered on the podcast before, but if it's an interesting area to you and you'd like me to get Chris back on to talk more in detail about this specific area, then go to changeworklife.com/contact, send me a message and let me know.
Jeremy Cline 45:09
On the website, you'll also find full show notes for this episode, at changeworklife.com/80 for Episode 80, where there's a transcript, summary of everything we've talked about, a recording and links to where you can get hold of Chris and all the resources that he mentioned. And if any of what Chris was saying resonated with you, and you think other people need to hear it, then do please share this episode. Tell all your friends, I'm really keen to get the word out this year. After the shocker of a year that was 2020, I really do want 2021 to be the year that, as we discussed in January, people take action. So, do let other people know about the podcast, I'm certain that there are just so many people who will benefit from the stories that my guests have to bring. Something that Chris touched on in this episode was the freelance model, i.e. rather than having an employer, you work for yourself, and you go out and work for other clients. Freelancing is something which has gained a heck of a lot more attention over the past 12 months, certainly, and even before then, and it's a way of working that a lot of people are getting interested in. So, next week, we've got an episode dedicated to the subject of freelancing. What is it, who is it for, what careers does it suit? If you'd like to have more control of your time and who you work for and you think freelancing might be an option for you, then do listen in next week, because it's going to be an interview which will tell you pretty much everything you want to know about it. So, subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and I can't wait to see you next week. Cheers. Bye.
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