Jamie and Jim Sheils, co-founders of 18 Summers, are bringing family back! Long before #covid-19 quarantines forced a change in family dynamics, this passionate duo has been dedicated to fixing the epidemic of busy entrepreneurs and business leaders not spending enough quality time with their families. The good news is that the principles and best practices they advocate will sound very familiar to ones you’re already deploying at work: establishing the values, vision, and culture of your family and then continuing to set tone, boundaries, and expectations in the house; tech distancing strategies (staying informed vs infected!); and iterative revision of individual and shared calendars based on ever-shifting circumstances. Another practice I LOVE is outlined in Jim’s book, The Family Board Meeting, in which he explains how to make each child in your family feel important and unique. Every quarter, he schedules a half day of dedicated 1:1 time with each child, and the child chooses the activity. It’s been described as “the glue that seals the bond between you and your child for life.” Their experiences are offered via private mentoring, team consulting, online courses, and in-person retreats, so tune in to learn how to reconnect with your spouse and children, and most importantly, how hold that connection forever.
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Episode 52: Using LeaderShift Skills to Succeed at Home with 18 Summers’ Jamie and Jim Sheils
Shani: Is your team not performing well? Is morale low in turnover high? Are you falling further behind the competition? I’m here to help. I’m your host Shani and this is the LeaderShift show where business strategy and culture finally meet and we make the long-awaited shift from rhetoric to results. I promise, I’m not your typical boring leadership consultant and I will help you get your shift together. Let’s do this.
Hello Leadershifters and welcome to another episode of the LeaderShift Show with Shani. It is my privilege and pleasure today to welcome to the show Jim and Jamie Shiels of 18 Summers, which is a brand and a book and so many other things and it’s all about bringing family back, cue the Justin Timberlake song am bring in sexy back and change the word to we’re bringing family back. [laughs].
Jim: I wrote a whole version of that. A whole speech.
Jamie: He actually has a song on it. Believe it or not.
Shani: I do believe it because you know who’s become my favorite YouTube sensation? The Holderness Family.
Jim: Oh yes?
Shani: Are you familiar with them?
Jim: Not really.
Shani: They’re this fantastic family. They’ve been making not really “Weird Al” Yankovic type versions but they’ve been taking pop songs for years and putting their own words to it for pop culture but they’ve been on overdrive since COVID and they’ve done dozens of COVID-related funny songs and it’s the husband the wife, the kids all in these videos. It’s funny, I had no intention of bringing them up right now but they’re actually a nice role model to think about when it comes to our topic today which is, how do busy parents, whether they’re quarantined or not, make more time to connect with their kids?
Shani: That’s a lot of what we’re going to talk about today, especially in light of the shift that has been taking place over the past four or five months towards quarantining, shelter in place, homeschooling. The family dynamic has probably never been more challenging for some of your clients I would imagine
Jim: Yes. No one was ready for COVID, not at the level we experienced anyway. Everything was brought home; family, business, school, it’s all happening from home and that put a whole new pressure on things and it really unveiled that we really have been, I don’t want to say neglecting family life, but almost sidelining it to a point where this brought things back into full focus.
I think it’s showing the importance of family life how it can actually help tie everything together so that, truth be told, we really enjoyed lockdown. It wasn’t easy from the beginning but there were certain principles that we had in place and been teaching for years that really helped. I’m sure we’ll go into those today.
Jamie: We all knew, when you come into something like that like you said, you weren’t really prepared and you didn’t know what you were facing. Many of us came to realize that we were wounded, right? There was already an issue. COVID didn’t cause the issue that was happening at home, in your marriage, in your family. COVID didn’t cause that. COVID exasperated it, though. It put us in this boiling pot and whatever was happening in the home was just now intensified and so we find ourselves in these situations where it’s this big “aha” big crack over the head and it’s like, “Okay, we no longer can wait for this to clear. It’s not just a pandemic for a virus but we’re also now facing another emergency within our unit.”
Shani: So, this is my COVID kitty, TJ. “Hi, baby.” He still loves to climb on my laptop especially when I’m doing things like recording podcasts.
Jim: Of course?
Shani: He’s my family at the moment. So, let’s actually back up to before COVID, because you guys have been encouraging busy entrepreneurs and other professionals to be more intentional about carving out time for their family and making it a priority. So talk to us about what 18 Summers is and why you both left careers in education to form this company?
Jim: Yes. Well, we just saw a need. Also, Jamie was in education. I had a real estate investment company for over 20 years, I still have it. What I saw was, there were a lot of leaders executives they were doing really well on the balance sheet but when I got backstage and had conversations, family life was lacking.
Jim: There’s lots of ways out there to help improve our marketing to you know to get better financials, to pull certain levers but there wasn’t really a lot out there to support the executives and the professionals with simplifying and strengthening family life. So, for my own need, I started to try to uncover principles and simple strategies that would help with that, and overall we found that the encouraging news is we think you can have success in business and success at home. Normally, you’re only a few principles away from getting 80% the way there.
Jamie: For me, working with families and students so intimately directing schools, I saw oftentimes many of the same problems. Either the parents were facing problems as adults that we don’t want our children to have to face-
Jamie: -or we were seeing the children kind of hit up against the same issues. Families were having a hard time rhythmizing the day or the children were chaotic or they’re getting diagnosed with ADHD and somehow it’s much too late in life to even be diagnosed. It’s just one of those things in which noticing the patterns in their life and their rhythms and helping them really establish their core values and pull in some of these rhythms and consistencies so that they can have the greatest chance of what they’re looking for in a family life. So, I think we melded the two together and really just used our own family as a testing ground. [laughs]
Shani: I was going to ask if your family was a little learning lab sandbox for the things you end up teaching.
Jim: They’ve always been a lab and-
Jim: -when we’ve done retreats for almost a decade and when you get families together for two days three days. It is like a giant experiment for and you just learn so much by letting all ends talk and there were always some reoccurring themes, some reoccurring issues, some reoccurring solutions that kept rising to the top.
Jim: That was really interesting to see which knowing what you teach with LeaderShift. There are some key principles that you go back to that when people try to overstep them or sidestep them, they’re cheating themselves and that’s where we’ve tried to simplify to say, “Well, let’s get to the core of things and try to make these work before we try to go to fringe stuff,” if that makes sense.
Shani: Right, absolutely. I want to park the issue of retreats for a minute because I want to come back and get some color about what that experience is like so that anybody listening, who’s interested in it can get a real sense for whether they would want to do that with their family. What I want to dig a little deeper on, you said there’s just a few principles that are that people are away from getting 80% of it right. What are some of those principles? Some things that folks can– whether they’re best practices, rules of thumb. What are they?
Jim: I think to start with an overall, is the importance of realizing that you set the leadership tone at your house.
Jim: This is absolutely huge and let me tell– in 2008, I came that close to bankruptcy with real estate in both Florida and California.
Jim: Very stressful time and I was scared, agitated, just a range of bad emotions and I don’t think I handled it the best. I made a promise that if that ever came around again, I was going to handle things differently. I remember the second day of the lockdown, I had taken a text chain from someone who was trying to help out. It was a really tough business spot quick from COVID and I got off this text chain and swearing under my breath and I’m like they’re getting taken advantage of.
My five-year-old’s standing right in front of me and she goes, “Daddy, why are you so mad at me?” and it was, “Ah.” I said, “You know what, everything’s being brought home. I’m setting the tone. I’m either going to be here with my family or I’m going to be in a part of the house completely separate. I’m not going to be puking in my living room. Any work stuff, I’m going to keep them separate.” So, we really set that leadership tone. I took that pretty seriously. We’re probably about five weeks in and one of my teenagers said, “Dad’s been so happy through this, it’s annoying.”
Jim: Yes, I was really annoying. So, I was actually really proud to get that-
Shani: That’s a high compliment.
Jim: -high complement. I was seeing that and then I knew that we set that tone.
Jamie: Yes and just like in your business, no matter what’s happening outside. So recently, we keep referencing, COVID, the government, everything that’s occurring outside of your home. It doesn’t have to occur inside of your home, it doesn’t have to occur inside of you. You can choose the emotion, the tone that you’re setting inside of your space, what you’re bringing into your home. If you’re a frantic in your home, if you’re constantly puking about how bad it sucks, how life is over, how this random, politicians or whatever happens that you’re vomiting about work or about world, your children are like, “Oh gosh, I need an out from that badness.”
Then they’re going to continue that same energy, or if you’re irritated from work and you’re not setting clear boundaries and expectations, then you’re taking a phone call when you’re supposed to be playing a game or reading a book. There’s just some things as we get into some of the other principles, boundaries and expectations are huge, so that you’re having work in a workspace and having play in a play space or having romance the romance space, whether it’s with a spouse or playing with your children, but that everybody knows when you are with them versus when you’re with your work or with the rest of the world.
We just try to really mindful of building that type of a schedule so that everyone knows what to expect and you know what to expect for yourself. Okay, I’m going to allow myself to consume media for 30 minutes at this time of day. I’m not going to consume it all day long and it’d be gluttonous, but for this amount of time, I’ll get informed, and then I’ll go be with my family.
Jim: Yes, which leads us into the second principle we talk about, which might seem obvious, but it’s so overlooked and that’s, we all got used to social distancing like we were talking about before we started the interview, but we really need to look heavily at tech distancing. It’s a term that we came up with. We had always talked about doing tech fast as a family, times when we’re on, times when we’re off. Like intermittent fasting is a great health weights for maintaining weight or your vitalization, it doesn’t mean you don’t eat, but you’re choosing it.
We call it tech fasting or tech distancing. Like Jamie said, fine, people, there’s lots going on, if you want to read the newspaper or watch news for up to a half-hour a day, that’s great, but we have the saying, if you watch it for half-hour a day, you’re informed, if you go to two-plus hours a day, you’re infected.
Jim: We encourage people to do some tech distancing on that, and also have a period of time where you’re completely and totally unavailable. Give yourself that gift every day. We call it the dinnertime challenge. We were actually on the–
Jamie: Unavailable to work at that time.
Jim: Unavailable to work.
Jim: For home. You’re unavailable to all your work, to any news or anything, and we called it the dinner time challenge, where for an hour a day, you guys pick the time, an hour, go back to the old school dinner, where from 5:30 to 6:30 or 6:00 to 7:00, no one is on any technology. You can’t be on that one annoying Facebook thread or update that bothers you or text that takes you into a mind fury. You’re giving focus to your home life again without the chance of distraction. There was a study that 60 years ago, the average dinner time was about 90 minutes, 60 years ago. Do you want to know what it is today, what they said the average dinner time is today?
Shani: Oh, it’s probably less than 10 minutes if I had to guess.
Jim: Well, it’s 12 minutes. It just shows people were rushing off to other things, and if we’re always doing that, just as leaders of a company, if you’re not really listening to your executive team, taking that time to focus and always rushing out, are you going to connect? Probably not. The principle of tech distancing is something we try to practice, instill, set the example for our kids so that we can reground and really be there and present for each other.
Shani: Absolutely, I love it. Your terminology informed versus infected, I’m going to use that, I will give full credit to you, but I love that, it’s such a great way to describe it.
Jim: Yes, thank you.
Shani: Okay. Is there a principle number three?
Jim: There is. Do you want to go over the third principle?
Jamie: Scheduling, and boundaries and expectations?
Jim: Yes. Well, revising, revising, revising.
Jamie: Yes, that’s right. In my head, revising is at the end.
Revising a schedule. Once you create– once you know when your tech distancing times are, and once you set the tone in your home and you have these boundaries and expectations, things that– how you want it to be set up. For us, it looked like a schedule. We have four children, two companies, we took in two foster children over the pandemic as well, so, we had a lot of moving parts. We took, what did the teens need to accomplish? What do the toddlers need to accomplish? What do we need to accomplish individually? We had to take all these pieces and we created a schedule that had times of availability, times of unavailability to work, to each other.
We still had a date night, even though date night looked more like a huddle in a corne, but just making sure that the things that mattered to us happened, that dinner time happened at the same time each day, and setting some of that up. What we found was the first week or two, we were like, “Oh, we’re so proud of ourselves,” we thought we nailed it.
We had this giant space of availability time to just have family play, and then real estate went insane on week two and a half, three, and all of his free time, family time got sucked up into work. Instead of constantly everyday fighting that chunk of time and him feeling guilty that he couldn’t do the family time or guilty when he’s doing family time knowing that work needs him, we revised the schedule. Because we know that revision is part of learning and part of scheduling–
Shani: There goes the cat.
Jamie: We just took into mind, we were like, “You know what? It’s never perfect the first time, it maybe not even be perfect the fifth time, so, revise, revise, revise.” We made a revision. Okay, so, dad’s not available three-hour chunks of time, and then for us, when the foster children came about halfway through the pandemic, we had to adjust my available hours because it got to where I was needed to be pulled a little more into the home and not as available for work, and so that had to adjust.
We just found ourselves navigating or we’d find a restaurant and we would suddenly change one of our meal days to a takeout day instead of a mom cooking pasta day or whatever it happened to be.
Shani: It sounds like it’s being flexible.
Jamie: Yes, but just knowing that instead of feeling guilty or fighting against it, just know that you can revise it, look at what you’re doing and change it to where it works. I think we’re on revision four or five now, but we really found a place where we’re like, “Okay, this is where it sticks,” but don’t throw out all the good stuff. Okay, all of these things work, but the rest of this doesn’t. Okay, s,o then just change what doesn’t work.
Shani: Right. You know what it reminds me of? Are you guys familiar with getting things done? It’s a productivity Bible for a lot of businesspeople, David Allen, the GTD method. One of the things that he advises people to do every week, hence the name, is a weekly review, which is look at your calendar for the week that just passed, what did you– what had you scheduled that didn’t end up getting done, look at your calendar and your task lists. What still needs to get done? What can be emphasized? Looking ahead, what do you have planned for the coming week, what’s priority, what’s not? Are you missing some things and being intentional about using the time wisely, consciously for priorities, et cetera.
The reason it’s weekly is because you can’t really plan much further out than that, because life throws you too many curve balls. It sounds to me like the revising is the family version of the weekly review in some ways, and frankly, they can be done together because I agree wholeheartedly with something you said at the introduction, which is, people who are happier at home are happier at work and vice versa, and it creates interdependence because they both contribute to being your best self.
Jim: Yes, absolutely.
Jim: As you said, planning out for the week and then put it into motion is easier than trying to do by each morning, each afternoon, it gives more of a visibility like the old Stephen Covey, and I’ve used that for almost 30 years now in my life, and it does give a broader spectrum. Again, I think it’s so important that her and I always talk about, okay, what do we have coming this week?
Together, we have that time in the beginning of the week, and whether– Jamie and I run the education company together, I take care of the real estate business, and then, she runs the household for the most part. There’s overlap, and the more that we’re staying in touch on that, things are more cohesive, they run better. If you’re not taking a little bit of that time to actually, even take 10 minutes and say, what are the big rocks we got on the table this week?
It can simplify things so much where there’s that big misunderstanding or that big oops, or it can be avoided just with that let’s look at the highlights of the week coming ahead and what were some things that happened last week. It’s a very simple process, but it goes a long way.
Jamie: You can be doing it for yourself, doing it with your spouse, and then if you have a family, we usually do Sunday meetings because what was happening is he would be taking a trip and the kids would go, “Well, I didn’t know dad was leaving,” and we thought, “Oh gosh, we didn’t tell you–”
Jim: We did, but they were running around in the front yard laughing, they said, “What are you talking about?” They weren’t focused.
Jamie: We sit down and we say, here’s what we have on the week, what do you have on the week? How can we support you, here’s where we need support. It’s just a good way of setting your own weekly and then setting it with your spouse. Even, you and I had a slip up today, because we had a calendar thing I thought something was for real estate, it happened to be for 18 Summers. It happens, but the more you’re in communication, and getting clear on those things, the better.
Shani: For sure, let me ask you those Sunday meetings is that the genesis of the book that you authored, Jim, The Family Board Meeting, or-
Shani: -that’s a bit different?
Jim: I’ll get into that in a minute that’s something executives will really resonate with, because it’s actually a strategy where I’m taking what’s made most businesses successful, and brought it into the relationship with my wife and kids, mainly for Jamie and I to use with our children. Actually, we can go into it now, it’s just basically for everyone’s used to a board meeting. A board meeting happens quarterly normally in companies and from what I see it has two purposes, reflecting the last 90 days, reunite the team and look ahead to the next 90 days.
Jim: I started to do that years and years ago with our boys, because I wanted to see them shine, I wanted to keep my relationship running a busy business that came out of 2008, almost going bankrupt, so I said, I’m going to have a board meeting with each of my children every quarter. I started to spend half day at a minimum with each of them. There are only three guiding principles that have to be one-on-one, so none of their friends could come, none of their siblings could come, it wasn’t me and Jamie, it was just me and my son, or Jamie and that.
Second principle was without electronics, which I just hit on, we’re big on. My phone is off, their phone is off, they didn’t have phones at the time because they were younger. Then the third thing is they plan the day, it’s a fun activity of their choice, and time of the day to talk. I go into deeper stories about problems our family overcame, because we’re a blended family and adopted in biological children and those meetings were absolutely pinnacle.
I started to share them very cautiously, or almost like, “Oh, this is such a simple thing, it’s not even worth talking about.” Well, funny, that’s when I started to get invited to bigger business events to speak on, “Hey, what’s this thing you’re doing with your kids?” The next thing it turned into a book, to interviews to a whole series of family support. That one thing of I do a board meeting every quarter with each one of my children, one-on-one without my phone, they plan the day, I follow it and we spend time at the end of the day talking.
That simple formula has deepened and strengthened our relationship beyond measure. Most people that we worked with, and it’d be thousands of families now say that one technique, that one, has taken them to a different level with anywhere from divorced dads who are separated from their kids a lot to busy executives who were just too dang busy. They said when you schedule it, and they put it on their schedule, like it’s their most important shareholder or whatever, and it gets done, the relationship just nurtures and strengthens.
Shani: I absolutely love that idea for the kids absolutely and for people’s direct reports. It’s like everything you guys are talking about doing in the family are things that people should be doing with their most important relationships at work also. It’s like a lot of people know they should be doing those things in both places, and they don’t do them in either place. [laughs] The common denominator is relationships, whether they’re immediate family, extended family, work relationships, we’re all just people and it’s how do you cement those relationships of trust, and commitment, and loyalty. You can only do that by spending some quality time together in the way that you described with the family board meeting quarterly for half a day is one brilliant way to do that.
Jim: Yes, I think–
Shani: Leadershifters, I want to hear some reports back from you, that you’re doing family one-on-one board meetings with each of your kids.
Jamie: It’s a lot of fun, you’d be surprised at some of the conversations that will come out or the comfortability or just the laughs.
Jim: Just to understand everyone says, “I want to support my kids, I want to understand their passions and talents more,” you let them plan the day and you do that for years, things will float to the surface.
Jamie: Start to see them adjust to that.
Shani: Do they have a budget of things to plan for that.
Jim: You know what? People say, oh, they’re going to pick something expensive, it’s been very, very rare, some of them will be free going to the beach. [crosstalk] Surf boarding is free, other ones would be more expensive but
Jamie: Like our oldest.
Jim: -we limit that.
Jamie: Yes, our oldest is really into fishing so a couple of times, he wanted to rent a boat to go fishing, but now, Olden, buys cheap boats off of people and repairs them and resells them. His love for that bit was really incubated in board meetings, because dad would rent the boat and they would get to have the full experience. He now has such a love to rebuild boats himself and take himself fishing.
Jamie: It’s just really a thing, yes.
Shani: Interesting to see that play out I’m sure for you guys.
Jim: Very interesting
Jamie: Very amazing.
Jim: You can’t put a price limit on it. Some people have had to, a lot of the times it’s not that expensive and then our fourth quarter one is always something of services. It’s not in many ways. The fourth quarter is, we’re going to send care packages to the troops, were going to sneak into the grocery store and pay for someone’s groceries on the side, we’re going to buy all the homeless people pizzas and pass them out, so it’s very service oriented.
Jim: It’s not going directly to them, it might cost money, but it’s some sort of service and contribution.
Shani: Right, again, something beautiful to pass on to your kids, the spirit of service.
Jim Yes. Well, most executives and professionals that we talk to, I say, “What’s your biggest concern with your kid?” it was scary, I’m talking 99% said, “I want my kids to appreciate what they have.” Because a lot of us, we work hard, we may be starting to produce a good income, some net worth and we didn’t come from that, we’re saying we don’t want our kids not appreciate it, how do we make sure they appreciate not jade it.
Jamie: But don’t have that struggle.
Shani: Or entitled.
Jim: Yes, entitled. Active service and contribution, has been the number one way for workshops, retreats, consultant we’ve done, it’s like a hack. You want your kids to appreciate what they have, be involved in some meaningful service and contribution together, you will see– you will get those results that you’re looking for. Writing a check is great, that’s important to do that, they don’t feel that. Now when they’re actively in it, it’s a shift of, as you say, it’s a leader shift.
Shani: That’s right.
Jamie: Right, you’re really you’re putting those boots to the ground. Again, to use our oldest as an example, he has such a love of animals and we went to, we walk dogs, so every Friday, he would walk dogs at the local shelter. Yes, he would get attached or yes, he would get nasty cleaning out cages. There were certain things that would happen but he loved the– it was just he was doing what he could. He wasn’t making a bunch of money to then be able to write a check but he knew he could contribute by once a week he could bring dog treats and walks the dogs. Again, allowing them to do service within their interests as well is so powerful.
Shani: What would it look like to work with a family on a consulting basis? What types of things do you teach them? Is it just the parents or do you work with the entire family, what does that look like?
Jim: It’s mainly the parents and then the children get in. I think one of the– Again, we’d really like to go back to core. You were talking about fitness before and yoga, once you strengthen the core everything else will be strengthened around it. With Jamie’s background in Waldorf Montessori, which is just so key for– I think it’s one of the most business-minded education there is. You go back to some core things we start saying, “Okay, well as a family the same way you were with the business, have you identified your core values? You can make value-based decision making, what are your values, what are your core values?”
Jamie: It’s nothing else so you’d have that lined up until the whole family really buys into and creates those together, because what’s your culture otherwise, right? Same thing with the business if you don’t know what you’re there for, if you don’t know what you’re working towards, if you don’t know what you’re passionate about within your family, then you’re really you’re just existing, same thing with a company you’re not really going to continue a progression.
Jim: Well, usually, I’d say there’s a three point starting. What are your values? What are your rhythms? Where are you wanting to go? What are you wanting to do as a family? What do you want it to look like for family life and everyone gets to contribute.
Shani: It’s like the vision for the family?
Jim: No, almost like a vision, a 20-year vision of where you want things to go. What things do you want to be doing? Do you want more or less? Do you want to live cold or hot? Everyone can have an opinion. Are all going to agree? No. Same with the company, but a collaborative effort can bring together. You’d be shocked, I’m sure with what you do with companies, they don’t have identified their core values–
Shani: No. If they have, they’re bullshit.
Jim: They’re words on there with no meaning, no ownership.
Shani: No resonance, yes.
Jim: No resonance, yes. Then, there’s no rhythms set, no cadences in place of real rhythms to beat that drum and to work towards those core values and keep you on track, and there’s really no objective, there’s nothing that you’re looking towards, there’s no aim. We try to do that with families, and by going into those three things, we can naturally remove a lot of obstacles that are breaking up the connection, the communication, the understanding.
Jamie: A lot of times people come to us on that third step, they’re like, “Oh, but we wanted to do X, Y, and Z.” There’s some tight bottleneck and everybody’s in a pinch and it’s– and we say, “Okay, well, do you have your [unintelligible 00:31:23]?” “No.” “Well, do you know how you got here?” “No.” What often happens is that maybe dad had a vision for the family and he’s been busting his ass for it and everyone else thinks he’s a big jerk because he’s just always busting his ass and busting our ass.
You end up getting into this pattern where you end up in a place that’s really uncomfortable as a family or in a relationship and you think, “Well, how did we arrive here?” A lot of times what Jim and I do is we– it sounds over-simplistic to dial it back to core values, but if we were living in a hot environment and Jim loved the mountains and skiing, that would be a huge disconnect, but what if he never told me that he loved that.
Shani: Sure. There’ll be silent resentment brewing.
Jim: Yes, and that same thing happens with kids. This gives them a chance to be heard because although we work with parents and sometimes the kids come on if it’s a– Now, a lot of stuff’s virtual, as you know, they’re brought in by the parents, we would ask questions. Have you ever stopped to ask your children this, have you ever spent an hour with identifying core values or words of core values that really resonate? The answer is normally no. Again–
Jamie: Sometimes it’s difficult to get these big entrepreneur, CEOs to realize that their children have a lot to contribute and that– oh my gosh, you have another.
Shani: I know, this is TJ’s sister, Elaine. [laughs]
Jim: Wow. Hey there. It’s beautiful.
Shani: Yes, the cats are very much interested in 18 Summers. [laughs].
Jim: I merged the 18 Summers.
Shani: That’s right, exactly, that math works, doesn’t it, baby? I’m just laughing because everything you say, our conversations is just like I’m having in office buildings or in Zoom meetings with my clients. It’s like when people get stuck and they don’t know where they went wrong or what decision to make, that’s where I always take them is back to the North Star of values and to the vision.
I just asked an executive recently who was struggling with a big decision, I said, five years from now, what story do you want to tell your daughter about this episode? It immediately– and I wasn’t even trying to actually combine the work and the family thing, but I just know how much his daughter means to him, and so that was a way for me to direct him to his values, and he had the answer right away on something that he had been plagued with for weeks.
Jamie: That’s sweet.
Jim: It doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I think that more people want to be better parents, be a better father, be a better mother, but especially for executives, they feel whether they admit it or not consciously, or it’s unconscious, they feel it’s better to be good at business. It’s easier to be better at business than it is to be a good parent, and so we shy away.
Jamie: Or spouse.
Jim: Or spouse, yes, and so we shy away because we’re like, “Damn it, if we can pull a company through COVID, then how can we not relate to our child? How can we not communicate with our wife? It’s almost like an embarrassing thing, but again, just like you’re saying with the company, if you haven’t identified core values and objectives and rhythms to help you get to those objectives, how could it happen? There has to be intentionality at home the same way there is in business.
Shani: Yes. Essentially, what you’re doing with them is some family strategic planning?
Shani: Which, again, Leadershifters, you know how to do this, let’s bring it into your families. Now, let’s talk about retreats because corporate retreats either have one of two reputations. One is, we’re going to go do a ropes course and have forced bonding, so there’s that perception of retreats. Then, there’s the retreats that are game-changing, life-changing, light bulb moment bringing for people because whatever experience has been created for them on retreat with their colleagues changes the dynamic on the team. What is a retreat with 18 Summers look like?
Jamie: Kind of both.
Jim: Well, you know how you say–
Jamie: We like to have lots of fun.
Jim: We like to have fun.
Jamie: Not team building, but just getting out of your comfort zone slightly, so they just have fun together really. It’s like a-
Jim: Big fans of The Office if you ever watched the show of The Office like Steve Carell and, you know, where they spoof on the retreats. You might be outside and have fun, but I think the element that separates us from, oh gosh, and the cliches to the wow, that changed things forever is exactly what you did with your executives. You said he’s been struggling on this, where you brought his daughter into it, and that brought clarity, a higher level, a better leader, and that’s why it’s not just the executives, it’s their family with them and the families involved, and it’s not kids, you quiet down in color over here and we’re going to talk.
No, everyone’s involved in conversation, activities, setting values, understanding where the other’s coming from, and so, that’s the game-changer is the dynamic of including the whole family. A lot of the times our retreats might be since we– if we have any hack to give people, the power of one-on-one time is pinnacle. It’s an unfair advantage if you spend individual one-on-one time with your family members like Jamie and I have our own time, my oldest son, my youngest son, I have them on my own time with them.
A lot of the time in our retreats might be like you– company you’re with, it’ll be the whole executive team and just one of their children, just one. It focuses on that relationship, but puts a magnifying glass in a positive way on that relationship, and just having them there with them and involved and have a better understanding of how hard they work and the things that they might be going through as a pre-team or a team that we’ve forgotten, game-changer, absolute game-changer.
Shani: Oh, that’s fascinating.
Jim: I think that what’s our change. I don’t know what you want to add to that.
Jamie: Yes, [crosstalk] okay. Just clarifying that, it is a mix of things that are physical and a mix of things that are, I don’t want to say– there’s no lecturing, but there are some fun activities that we do that pull out, maybe helping to identify your children’s passion because it may be the first time that you even thought that your child might be passionate about something, because we think that there’re children and they just do as we say so, and then they don’t do as we say, and that’s the relationship.
Really, they are beings that have passions, they have purpose, they have things that they’re going to do, and so it’s just really an interesting opportunity to sometimes for the first time, see what those things are and for our children to see us as human because during our retreats, there’s always– there’s plenty of time available to say, “Hey, maybe I didn’t do something so right,” or, “I wish this would have gone a little bit better.” It’s just beautiful to see the children getting seen for themselves and the parents having a bit of humility. Not that that’s our main goal, but it is a beautiful thing that tends to come out of it. It doesn’t level the playing field, but I think that it increases the level of respect on both sides.
Shani: For sure. Gosh, it takes the bring your kid to work day to a whole other level.
Jamie: It’s about both of you, it’s not just about what you do, but it’s about you seeing each other.
Jim: What I like to see happen at the end of it and it continue on is, and again, you don’t want to force anything. If you try to force the values and you’re like, “No one does ownership, no one buys and there’s no potency.” I like to see at the end two things happen, a sincere apology and a genuine compliment. That might come from the child to the parent, parent to the child, or both. Sometimes, that’s what we’re really looking for. I know, again, with leaders and being executives, I’m just going to pick on us as business guys for a minute, just because we’re providing, fighting through COVID, it does not make us immune from a sincere apology. We’re working hard, fine I lost my temper. I’m distant and I’m short. I don’t owe anyone apology how hard I’m working. That’s a bad thing or you belittle the spouse who’s at home or the child who’s at home saying, “Hey, I really miss my friends.”
I’ve just learned those two simple things, those adjectives in front are important, a sincere apology and a genuine compliment. Those two are like the one, two punch of I think relationship building, but it can’t be a insincere apology and a forced compliment. I mean that doesn’t know those adjectives are real important, but when those start to come up, I mean, you are now starting to feel that that distance in the family get tightened up, and then you are one giant stronghold.
Shani: Once people have bonded in that way, they cut each other so much more slack. There’s an acceptance and benefit of the doubt. I just see it happen time and time again, where people don’t invest the time to build relationships and as a result, they’re quick to judge and make assumptions and make up stories. Then the tension starts and it doesn’t get any better until they cleaned it up.
Jamie: Absolutely. Absolutely right.
Jim: We have the same, we’re all still learning. It was actually, five-year-old taught it to us and that cuts us some slack. Just remember with your family, with yourself, you’re still learning. Like we’re all still learning. Just, let’s just keep–
Shani: Also learning, all doing the best we can with what we have.
Jim: Instead of it should have known better. That should have been handled. You should have known better, goes a longer way. It’s not easy and I mess it up, but when you stick to it, we’re all still learning. It seems to strengthen things in the longterm.
Shani: What is next for 18 Summers? What can folks who are already working with you or folks that are in being newly introduced to you be looking forward to from you guys?
Jamie: Sure. 18summers.com is a great place to find lots of information about us, as well as where to find us on social media. We kind of have everything from Twitter to Instagram. We also recently launched our own podcast. We’ve been doing interviews for a while, but there’s something about us entrepreneurs that we don’t actually like to put things in a box. We’ve just been doing interviews and enjoying them and releasing them, but we actually formally have a podcast now. We recently launched a online course, which you can also find on our website.
Shani: What’s that called?
Jamie: It goes deeper into– It’s our 18 Summers Family Impact Program. It goes deeper. What were you going to say? I’m sorry.
Jim: Family impact.
Jamie: It goes deeper into some of the principles that we talked about today. It goes deeper into the board meeting strategy. It goes deeper into the scheduling, revising, tech distancing, all of those good things that we talked about today. It goes deeper. It has some personal stories. It’s Jim and I dumb it down for you, giving you actual tiny little nibbles of actionable steps to just make an impact on your family and our book. It’s a great time to read the family board meeting because no better time than summer. 18 Summers, this is one of your 18 I’m sure.
Shani: Absolutely. Well, summers both my parents were teachers, as I mentioned to you guys offline before we started the podcast and yes, summers, even though we didn’t have a ton of money, we always did something in the summers, whether it was go to a Lake or the mountains or do a road trip somewhere. Those are fantastic memories for me and certainly contributed to my wanderlust as an adult. No doubt.
Jamie: Well, whatever we put in. It’s put the good stuff in when you can.
Shani: For sure. Well, I want to acknowledge you guys for putting the good stuff in, not just to overburdened, overwhelmed parents minds, but into the children because something that I constantly hear from individuals and groups of leaders that I work with when I teach them some of the leadership skills are– my God, these are life skills, why didn’t anybody teach us these things when we were kids? When we were in junior high school, high school or even college for goodness sake?
Why are we waiting until we’re leading people for many years before we’re learning how to be coaches instead of to be directive before we learn how to give meaningful, constructive action-oriented feedback? Why are we waiting until that much time has passed and too many opportunities have passed before those more emotionally intelligent skills are brought into our radar screen. Thank you for what you guys are doing for kids, for adults, and for everybody, it’s been amazing to have you on the show today.
Jamie: Thanks for having us.
Jim: Thanks. We appreciate it.
Shani: Thank you so much. LeaderShifters, thanks for joining us. Just to give you a quick overview of some of the highlights today, and these are things that really those of you who are in a manager, leadership positions already know, and you just need to be conscientious about bringing them home, you are the arbiter of culture in your home, not just in your office or with your team.
You’re setting the leadership tone, which means the culture, the boundaries, and the expectations, and what your one-on-one time looks like. Tech distancing is something we should all be doing at home and at work. I think we’re all way too attached to our gadgets. Then the idea of being conscious about how you schedule and being willing to iterate with it, to have that flexibility of revising so that you know you’re spending your time wisely.
Slightly different, but also amazing advice, the power of a sincere apology and a genuine compliment, whether it comes from a retreat experience or a fight or a family board meeting, wherever it comes, it doesn’t really matter because those are our relationship building blocks that are foundational. Thank you guys for being on the show today. LeaderShifters thanks for listening or watching, and we will see you next time.