Eric is a CEO & Basketball Coach
Eric Johnson, CEO of Nintex, returns to the podcast from episode 49 to talk about his newfound passion in coaching for his kids’ basketball teams as well as being an avid basketball fan himself! He also discusses what Nintex does to set the tone of their culture and why it contributes to their success!
• Moving away from golf to coaching basketball
• How coaching and being a CEO involve leadership
• The most satisfying part of being a youth coach
• How Nintex’s high degree of personal connection contributes to their success
• What Nintex does to set the tone of their workplace culture
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Welcome to Episode 280 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following-up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my books’ being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign-up for the exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s being published. Please, don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This Follow-up Friday is no different with my guest, Eric Johnson. He’s the CEO of Nintex in Seattle, and now, he’s with me here today. Eric, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Eric: Hey, great to be here, John. Thanks for having me back.
John: Oh, absolutely, man. Episode 49. I mean that was so long ago. I just appreciate you remembering who I am. But no, this is awesome. I’m excited to have you be a part of it again, but I’ve mixed it up where it’s rapid fire questions out of the gate now.
So here we go. First one. Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Eric: I’m going to go Harry Potter on that one.
John: Okay. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Eric: I think I’m going to go with Cheers.
John: Oh, solid answer. Solid answer. How about jeans or khakis?
Eric: Oh, jeans.
John: Yeah, all right. Brownie or ice cream?
Eric: Ice cream.
John: Okay. How about more oceans or mountains?
Eric: I’m going to go with ocean on that.
John: Okay, all right. We got two more. More Kindle or real books?
Eric: Real books.
John: Yeah, totally. The last one. This one’s really important. Toilet paper roll. Over or under?
Eric: I’m going over.
John: Yeah, yeah. All right. For some people, it’s a deal breaker and I think it’s hilarious.
Yeah, but last time we chatted on Episode 49 was so much fun. We talked about golf and how much you were golfing and is that still something that you’re involved in or you got some other things going as well?
Eric: Well, I still like to golf for sure. I would say honestly, I had not played a lot anymore just for a whole variety of reasons, but the main one is that I’d say my “and” at this point is shifted more to some of the coaching of our kids. My wife and I both have a 12-year-old son and an eight-year-old-daughter, so we have a 7th grader and a 3rd grader. They’re at those great ages where they’re just really busy.
In our specific case, both of the kids play basketball. Our daughter is just starting to play. Our son’s been doing it for a few years. I ended up doing coaching with both of them. I’m the assistant coach for our son’s youth kind of travel basketball team, and then I’m the assistant coach for our daughter’s kind of Parks and Recreation team. The coaching right now is definitely putting a lot of time in there and having a great time doing it.
John: That’s awesome, man. Did you grow up playing basketball?
Eric: Yeah. I would play basketball. I would say, you know, from a fairly young age, I liked it. I was a kid that kind of grew late. I was kind of a late bloomer and ended up playing through high school pretty competitively, I went to a pretty large high school and really, enjoyed basketball. Yeah, so it’s great to be able to take some of those experiences and now, help the kids with it.
John: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, I was a late grower as well. I graduated high school at 5’10”, and then within the next two years, I grew like five inches. I would go back, and the high school basketball coach is like, where were you? I was like, I was playing soccer with all the other short kids.
Eric: That was like me. I think freshman year, I was 5’9”, 104, so I was still lightweight. I just had no strength and basketball’s a pretty physical sport. My senior year, I was 6’2”, 180, and then I grew another inch in college and gained ten pounds more than that, so the reality of it is I had a good basketball body at the very end, and I wish I could’ve had it earlier.
John: Yeah, but you know what? Peak at the end, man. If you went the other way, then it would’ve been really bad.
Eric: That’s the truth.
John: Well, that’s awesome, man. I mean coaching your kids has to be pretty rewarding as well. I mean just teaching them what you know but also having the patience to be able to teach all the other kids the same way, I guess, would be probably pretty hard for me to do.
Eric: I would say coaching kids is a lot like leadership over all. All kids are a little bit different. There’s commonalities but then there’s unique subtleties to each person, and it’s been a ton of fun to be able to, I’d say, apply both my knowledge of basketball.
At the end of my basketball career, I got to play on a pretty competitive travel team and played with some folks who went on to play professionally, and I got a lot out of that, so there’s a lot of knowledge I have around basketball, and I continued to learn more as I coached more, but then it’s also some of the things I’ve learned from being a leader in the business world, you know, some of the focus on positive thinking, how to influence people, how to make connection. Those same skills, they apply when you’re working with kids.
I think one of the things that’s super satisfying about coaching is you’re not only spending time with your own kids, but you’re having an opportunity to impact positively a bunch of other kids, and it really you know, extends your impact. It’s the same reason I love leadership at work, I love working with people, I love seeing people do great things, I love that kind of spider effect of like you help them here, then it makes a difference in their personal life then they go to some other company to make a difference. It’s that ability to put a little bit of positivity and impact on a much larger range of people. It’s super fun, and seeing that impact on kids and what it does in their life is huge, and so that’s one of the things I enjoy so much about it.
John: That’s awesome. It’s interesting to see how they overlap like that, how one hand helps the other side type of a thing.
Eric: Yeah. I mean positive leadership stuff like I’ve learned over the years, people really respond. I mean you’re trying to push kids to get better and especially as you get into the more competitive levels, but you’re trying to do it in a way that keeps their energy high and keeps them wanting to do it.
When you see a kid work on something that you’ve been trying to help them with and you see it manifest in the game successfully and you know, they get that energy and their smile and they’re just that much more into it, that is just super satisfying. That’s when you know it worked.
John: Right, yeah. If only that happened more in the corporate setting, if only that was more regular, I guess. Imagine that like somebody does good work and they’re smiling and the manager/coach high-fives them as they’re going down the hallway, I mean you know, what’s the difference? Why not? Type of a thing.
Eric: That’s actually a great point. I mean I went to some little leadership week last year with some other CEOs, and one of the things we spent some time n on was this whole notion of positive leadership, really some couple of thought leaders out at University of Michigan, you know, really powerful proof behind what they’ve tried to help leaders learn and companies do.
I mean it’s absolutely true that when people, they get that boost, the more their mind opens up, they work faster, they do more, it’s more fun. The whole thing goes better. That’s definitely something we try to do here. I mean it’s like anything, right? Not everything we do works, so you can’t have all of it. Be positive, even in those things that don’t work, you try to figure out how you’re going to make them work, and then you turn them into a positive. That’s what we’re constantly doing and that applies both in the business world and then youth activities.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s really fantastic. I guess since we’ve talked, have you seen people sharing more hobbies and passions and interests outside of work? Or is it still I have work to be done, probably?
Eric: Well, I’d say at Nintex, the company that I’m part of, I actually think we do a pretty good job people sharing their interest and connecting. We have a 500 plus person global workforce. I would say people, in general, are really proud of what we do. They love their fellow team members, and there’s a high degree of personal connection and I think it’s part of the reason that we’re successful and we’re able to give an experience to our customers and partners because our people feel good about what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.
Part of that is sharing a bit about who you are. I mean who you are as a person is a composite of some things you do at work, other interests you have outside of work, who your family is, it’s all these other things. Each individual, being able to share that, being able to connect with their fellow team members, I mean we think it’s a huge part of why we’re successful because our team members like being together and they care about each other. If you care about each other, and you like to be together, you just ultimately, you do better work.
John: Totally. I couldn’t agree more. For some reason, for a lot of people, our default is the opposite of that where professionalism tells us no one cares or don’t share that, or anything but work at work is a distraction sort of a thing. We’re not talking about drama or everyone’s got a problem every day. It’s just what are your real passions? What really make you up in sharing those. That’s awesome that you guys have that there and that you’re seeing it benefit is encouraging to me, anyway.
Eric: It’s a real benefit. I mean I personally have a lot of passion around, and you’re connected with people and they know you care, then when you hit the hard spot, maybe you got to have a difficult conversation or you’re in a more challenging time, it’s a lot easier to get through that when you got that connection with each other.
I think it works better when it’s hard, and then there’s the other side of it which is just heck of a lot more enjoyable. If you’re in a better spirit, that’s just stuff we talked about earlier on being positive, that you’re in a better spirit and you’re feeling more positive, you’re more creative, and you got more energy. It’s just a fact.
John: That’s awesome. The oxytocin in your brain, it’s science. It’s not just a make-believe thing. It’s legit. I love what you said earlier of there’s a whole bunch of other things that make you up. The amount of our identity that work really is, is a small percentage, but we allow it to be such a greater percentage than that. For some people, it’s 100%. There’s so much more to people around us if we just take the time to ask and find out and it could be really powerful. It’s cool to hear that with you guys.
Is there anything you guys do specifically top encourage that or is it kind of this is just how it is here, tone of the top sort of a thing?
Eric: I’d say there’s one thing that we do that I think sets the tone for this, I’d say two. Number one, we have three core tenets that we operate on, so a lot of companies have a notion of values, we call them core tenets, but there’s three basic principles that kind of guide the how we operate. Two of them are things that would make a lot of sense from executing the first one is deliver on commitments, right? Do what you say.
The second is don’t wait which is about operating quickly like where you see a challenge, you see an opportunity, go take action. But the third one is I think it gets into think it gets into what we’ve been talking about which was yeah, this notion of operate but respecting consideration, and part of having respect of people and having consideration is understanding them. And so I think that’s a zone where in order to do that and in order to show you care about people, you got to know a little bit about them. I think that’s one thing we do that I think sets a good tone in it.
I think to be fair in all these things, a lot of it goes back to how you start a business, you know, our founders had a certain culture, very connected, a lot of people were friends and so that started really early in the business and it’s continued on and it evolved as the years have gone on, I mean we were basically started in 2006, so we’re kind of you know, getting close to 15 years.
I’d say the second thing though is the tone from the top and kind of the way we operate as leaders, the most senior people in the company. I would say that our senior team here, A, we exhibit that we enjoy each other. It’s I think pretty clear to our team members globally that the executive team is well aligned, likes each other, have a high degree of personal connection.
Then I think if you look at how each of the leaders operate, they’re the type of folks who generally care about the team, ask questions, want to understand folks, create opportunities to do things beyond work. I do think it’s a combination of some history, our core tenets, and then the tone that gets set from the top of the company.
John: That’s really great because yeah, I mean some organizations, the executive group or partner group, if you will, they all get along or they’re all you know, but then as soon as someone from a lower level walks in or sees you then everyone’s all buttoned up and whatever, and it’s cool that you bring the human side to it as well and we genuinely like each other. It’s like, why not? You’re around them for so long.
Eric: We spend a lot of time together. We love what we do. I mean I’ve got a team of people who are really passionate about the business. We have people who are passionate about the business at all levels and in every different pocket and corner of the company. That’s awesome, we’re passionate about the business, and then it’s I think really positively impacted by the fact that people have such great personal connections.
What we’ve done too is when we’ve had occasionally someone who really didn’t fit and was really negative on all that, we try to give them an opportunity to modify and try to become a more positive team member who fits what we try to do. But if they can’t, then we help them move on outside the business because we aren’t going to allow what is part of what makes this so successful, get damaged by people who want to operate a different way. We just take it really serious on how the environment is and we love having a positive place that people want to be.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really great because yeah, I mean the technical skills for the most part, you can find somebody that can do that, or you can train them up to do that, but the culture piece, you really can’t. That’s really important. That’s awesome, man. Really cool. Well, this has been so great, Eric, catching up. I’m so encouraged just to hear this, what’s going on at Nintex. It’s really awesome.
It’s only fair that I allow you to rapid fire question me if you’d like since I started out the episode firing away at you, so you’re the host now. Tables are turned if you have anything to ask.
Eric: Yeah, no. I guess something I’d love to ask, because we’re always looking here to do our best, what are some of the things you’re seeing from other organizations that you’ve been working with or talking with that you think we ought to consider applying here? Is there anything that you’re seeing common that you think we ought to be thinking about?
John: Well, I think — I mean it sounds like what you guys are doing is awesome, setting the tone at the top. I think it’s just maybe thinking about you know, shining a light on people’s hobbies and passions. I mean something that’s really simple.
That’ll be in the book for instance is if you have a newsletter that goes out or an internet page or whatever where once a week, here’s the What’s Your “And”? Section and it’s a different person each week or maybe a couple of people. This person loves to mountain bike or this person loves to paint, or this person loves to whatever, and showing pictures of that, and then if you can take it to the next level of and here’s how it makes me better at my job. Maybe it’s connection-wise or it’s thinking about it wise.
Another thing that’s really great too is organizations that have like you can take so many days to go volunteer or you can whatever, come back and present five minutes to the group, it doesn’t have to be an all-staff, but your department, because that’s the real important thing is people are going out and doing these things but we have to boomerang it. You got to bring it back. You have to tell us, why did you pick this charity or why did you do this? Because then emotion is brought into the workplace, and that’s what’s going to bring people closer together like what you guys are doing there.
I think we miss out on that piece of it where organizations will have to go out and do good sort of day, but what group did you go and contribute your time too and bring it back and present? Because then, all of a sudden, you find out some people’s stories and you’re like wow, that’s amazing. It’s really powerful.
Eric: It helps you see them differently. I mean I think one of the things we find, and we think about is that whole notion of empathy, and when you understand someone, you tend to be more empathetic. It helps you actually make a better connection and get to a better outcome of what you’re trying to do. I love those ideas.
I think we’ve got a couple variants to that one, the things we’ve done for a long time is we have these kinds of launch series at different locations where people can do in the know. Sometimes, they’re business related but sometimes, they’re not. We’ve had people literally do like a gardening in the know, and share some of their tips and secrets on how they built their vegetable garden, stuff like that. It’s still different and maybe it’s ten or 15 minutes, everybody brings their own lunch, and they’re going to eat lunch anyways, so it’s not taking away from the business, but it brings people together.
John: Yeah. I mean that is awesome because I mean that person that’s presenting about gardening is probably the most lit up, they’ve been in a long time. If you let people share their outside of work interests and passions, I mean you can see them, how they light up and you know, their eyes are bigger, they’re excited, and they’re really engaged, and people can feel that energy. I mean maybe someone’s not a gardener but man, that lady is so jacked up about it that I have to pay attention. You feed off of that energy.
Eric: The thing I’ve always been on the hook for, because I’ve been in on levels and working over 20 years now, and when I started, right? You’re the entry-level person. Now, I’ve got a different role. The reality of it is there is this concept, especially when you start, a long ways from the top is you have this amorphous concept of the company, the corporation.
The reality of it is the company is all of us. We make up the company. We are the company. If we all have a high degree of connection, and we have a great way of treating each other, then we’ve got a great company, then we go do great things for our customers and our partners, now, we really have something. That’s a sustainable group of people that are going to accomplish great things. That’s what we believe in. I love hearing about your work and what you’re doing, and I wish you all the best with your book. I hope it does really well.
John: Thank you so much, man. This has been so much fun, Eric. Thanks for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Eric: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Eric in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.