Ready to be inspired? In this incredibly moving episode, Joe Machicote, the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Premier, Inc., reveals his formula for being extraordinary, so you can become the best version of yourself. Tune in as he shares his extraordinary insights on how to build stronger customer relationships by embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Whether you’re a veteran of strategic account management or new to the fold, Joe’s powerful, life-affirming advice is guaranteed to resonate with all who listen. Hear how he found clarity in the face of tragedy, harnessed his resiliency to motivate himself and others, and applied the lessons learned to all aspects of life, including DEI&B initiatives.
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The Extraordinary SAM: How To Build Stronger Customer Relationships Through the Lens Of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging With Joe Machicote
DF: I’m delighted about this episode as we have a very special guest speaking about a very important topic to all of us. We will be talking about the extraordinary SAM, and how to build stronger customer and client relationships through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Yet our topic goes further. It’s about being extraordinary in whatever you do every day. How you can show up as the best version of yourself with your clients, your families, your colleagues, and anyone that you might have relationships with.
To share his insights about all of this and more, I’m pleased to be here with Joe Machicote from Premier Inc., a healthcare improvement company that unites all alliances of US hospitals, health systems, providers, and other organizations. They feature one of the most comprehensive databases of actionable data, clinical best practices, and strategies to improve efficiency. They’ve been a wonderful partner with SAMA for many years.
Let me tell you a little bit about Joe. As Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, he partners with the CEO of Premiere, the executive team, human resources, and other stakeholders across Premier. Joe is responsible for enhancing and formalizing a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging within the company, as well as creating an expansive and far-reaching vision and strategic plan.
Joe serves as the organizational leader in the company to drive the development, implementation, and even the integration of best practices, resources, and trends around diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural proficiency. He serves as Premier’s spokesperson on matters related to diversity and inclusion. Joe is also a personal leadership coach, an accomplished speaker, and an author. I’m delighted to have him here to share some of the personal stories he has and recommendations on being extraordinary in building these strong relationships. Welcome, Joe.
JM: Thank you so much. I’m honored to be here. Thank you for inviting me to speak to your SAMs.
DF: We are delighted about this topic. Let’s get right into it. Tell us a little bit about your story. You’ve shared with me that you strive to be extraordinary. What does that mean?
JM: First, I’ll start by saying that extraordinary is a journey. It’s not a destination. As we wake up each morning, there’s a reminder that we have to activate that says, “How am I going to be experienced today?” It’s something that once we adopt a particular mindset, all of our behaviors action themselves through.
Why that became important to me is that there was a time in my life and my career when I was truly unaware of my impact on others, not only in my professional life but in my personal life. In my personal life, I met my late wife in high school. We had an amazing relationship for a number of years. We had two boys together. In 2007, she was diagnosed with something called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which changed our lives.
She wound up losing about 60% of her mobility because it attacks the nervous system. When this happened, she was in the hospital for about a year. I had a realization that life was going to change for all of us. I needed to be the best person I could possibly be for her. Both of us were in our 40s at the time. All of a sudden, I got a wife that I’ve now become a caregiver. It was an instant wake-up call of the way I was being experienced because I didn’t handle the change well. I blamed her illness on her, on our children, on the doctors, and everyone. I was not performing as my best self.
That was the beginning of my journey. I got myself an executive coach. I started asking others, “How do you experience me on a regular basis?” Life started to get good. While we were in a new place, it was different. We had to experience each other very differently. Our whole relationship changed and became better. In 2010, things were getting into our new flow. We’re accepting the change in our life and she got diagnosed with cancer.
At that moment, I realized that my behavior started to go backward again. This time, I had a new tool and I was able to catch myself and say, “This is not acceptable.” Once the doctors caught the cancer, they gave her about four months to live. Our positivity and relationship expanded that to eighteen months. She was with us for an additional eighteen months. It was some of the best times in our marriage.
As I look back on that, one of the things that I did was write down, “How do I want to be experienced by my wife, my children, and others? How do I want to be experienced at work?” That became my life plan, and that’s what I called extraordinary. It all goes back to something my mother taught me when we were growing up. She said, “Leave everything a little bit better than you found.” When mom said that, I am sure she was talking about pushing the chair in when you leave the table, and putting the toilet seat down when you’re done. For me, I took it to the next level, which is to wake up in the morning and change your mindset to leave everything and everyone a little bit better than you found it.
Even in a difficult conversation, my goal is to leave people better than I found them. That became the beginning of what I now teach about being extraordinary. For those of you who want a quick way to think about it, imagine that there’s someone at work, where you drive up into the parking lot and you see that person’s car. You think to yourself, “They’re here today,” or in the remote world, you’re looking at who’s going to be a participant in the meeting, and you see that name. We’ve all had that experience, and we know that the experience is going to be less than stellar maybe with this particular individual.
The challenge that I want you all to think about right now is what if while Denise and I were having this conversation, and in our mind, we were thinking about that person, maybe if we asked someone else, “What if when I asked that question, that person was thinking of you? What if you are that person? What are you going to intentionally do to think about what your list of extraordinary is? Do you want to be the person who when I see your car or your name at a meeting, I think negative thoughts?” It’s important for us to adopt a particular mindset. That’s my story and how I got to this place.
DF: They are amazing ideas and stories, but also very heartbreaking. My heart goes out to you and what you had to experience. How brave it was for you to ask people how they are experiencing you. I don’t know if all of us would go off and do that. Checking your mindset every morning is a great thought. I’ve also heard in our previous conversations, you mentioned the term cultural engineer. Talk a little bit about what that means to you and how it helps you become passionate about the work you do.
JM: There’s no company in the world that writes their mission statement, vision, and values, and some of the values say, “We’re going to strive to be awful people.” Nobody has that written in their values. What we do is we write these amazing things and we put them on the wall. In a lot of cases, there’s no way to hold people accountable for what that is. To me, cultural engineering is about making the organizational culture a critical and strategic piece of the business as accounting, marketing, or any of the other pieces.
There’s truth to that saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. It doesn’t matter what your strategy is. If people don’t know how to wake up in the morning, interact, and play well with each other, your strategy is all chewed up. It’s not driving what you would want it to drive. We all know that when people have a positive mindset, positive things happen. When people have a negative mindset, that’s when things begin to explode, blow up, and we can’t figure out why.
When people have a positive mindset, positive things happen. When people have a negative mindset, that's when things begin to explode and blow up, and we can't figure out why. Click To Tweet
Ninety percent of the time, it has something to do with the culture that you are engaged in. I’m not talking about great days because we all have bad days, but if the culture is such that you don’t enjoy working there, there’s no way you can deliver it. As a SAM, it’s important to not only love your product but love where your product is coming from. Love the mission and values behind why that product exists.
We all know that when we go out there, we try to sell, and we love and know our product, it’s so much easier to do, instead of selling something that we don’t connect to. Cultural engineering is about that. Raising the level of intentionality around culture is a business driver. Let’s focus on it. Let’s be intentional about it, and let’s make a plan for it. That plan begins with each of us as an individual showing up because we can’t control anything on this planet except ourselves.
If you have a spouse, a dog, or a child, you’re not in control of any of those. Give it up. The only thing you can control is yourself. What if we had a population of people that understand that the mission, vision, and value start with each one of them? It’s not for the company to own. The company did a great job of writing it on the wall. It’s up to each of us to own it and be intentional about the way we execute that mission, vision, and strategy.
DF: I love the phrase, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” because it’s true. I bet we’ve all had that experience and what that culture needs to be. Do you have a cultural model? I think that you’ve mentioned how somebody might go about doing this.
JM: I gave a little bit of it away in my last answer, but there are three realms of leadership and culture. It’s self, team, and culture. You have to start by leading yourself. Leading yourself leads to leading the team. Leading the team leads to leading the culture. If you notice, it has to start with yourself. Not only does it start with yourself, but as you begin to think about the second part of that, leading the team, how are you holding one another accountable for the way you’re showing up and the way that you’re being experienced?
We had the Super Bowl. One of the things in my work and my research is you can tell I’m very passionate about this. Human interaction is critical to the success of any organization. Super Bowl is one game. For us, it’s a couple of hours. These teams have spent hours together. What does it take for the relationships? What’s the quality of those relationships? What’s the quality of the communication that they have to share or real talk communication about what’s going right or wrong, not holding back, and being able to say, “How do we show up as our best selves every single time?”
These conversations are in practice. They’re in the locker room. What we get to see at the Super Bowl is the final output. These two teams were so good at it that every time a team had the ball, they were pretty much scoring. What won the game was finally who kicked the field goal first with the least amount of time left on the clock because it was a tie. The tiebreaker was the field goal kick. That’s the way extraordinary high-performing teams work. It’s when you have a bunch of individuals that are all committed to the same goal. They have those same conversations and communications, and they all drive towards the same outcome. It was a masterclass is exactly what I’m talking about. Extraordinary individual, team, and culture work every single time.
DF: It was a great game and a great example of what happened. When I think about it, there is nothing more true than SAM being a team sport. You absolutely must pull together the people you work with, who you work for, who might work for you, and your client. It is completely team-based. I think these are good nuggets for us. How can we help each other stay in that mindset? Speaking about that in the SAMs, are there competencies that you see that make a SAM more apt to be extraordinary?
JM: Yes. It has to start with self-awareness. You alluded to that after I shared that piece around feedback. It’s having the courage to be able to accept feedback. Another high-performing team is the Blue Angels. They’re this amazing flight team and they do these unbelievable acts in the sky with expensive very heavy planes flying fast. You think about what is extraordinary about each one of those particular pilots, and their ability to be self-aware and have the type of communication to ask for feedback.
One of the things in my research that I’ve done with that flight team, as well as the Thunderbirds from the Air Force, is they have a pre-flight mission brief and they have a debrief when they get back on the ground. In that debrief, they go into a room and all of the titles sit outside the door. What they do is talk about what went right and wrong. They give the full information. Communication is a big part of this. When we communicate with people, we give them 90% of all the stuff they want to hear. Sometimes we hold back that last 10%, which is the hard stuff because we’re afraid we might offend somebody, or they may feel bad, or they may see you in a different light.
What if we create an environment where we’re able to say these things with an environment of safety and trust, where we all have a particular mindset that says, “The reason we’re getting this feedback is because we’re trying to make each other better.” The first competency is self-awareness. The second one is how we communicate. How do you have real or straight-talk communications? It’s not straight talk like you’re trying to beat everyone up with it. It’s straight talk in such a way that you can deliver information, but you can hear information too. It’s two-way communication. A critical competency is two-way communication skills.
I said this before, another competency is believing in the mission of your company and your product. Competency number four would be integrity or doing what you say you’re going to do because that helps to build trust. During this show, if you’re tuning in with a pen and paper, you want to jot this down because this is the formula that will save who you are and make you an incredible extraordinary SAM. It’s to understand that respect plus trust equals influence, R + T = I. When people respect and trust you, you’ve earned the right to influence them. If any of those two pieces are missing respect or trust, good luck trying to influence them. Having that competency is critical.
Finally, the last competency I would say is change capability. Your ability to change. Change is hard. Think about the last time you moved from one home to another. That wasn’t easy. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was painful in the middle of it. The great thing about change is you get to a better place ultimately. We tend to forget that when we’re going through the hard part of the change. As a SAM, you’re going to deal with change all the time. Having conversations with your customers and teams is an exercise in change. The best self and team that you bring help to make that change go smoother.
DF: Let me bring this closer to diversity, equity, and inclusion. How do you see this all play together in that?
JM: There are many different mindsets and experiences that lead us to think differently about the definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Our society has so much focus on what those definitions are. We get into conversations about race and all of the isms, racism, sexism, and all of those things. We have such a negative spin and connotation to all of those things. No matter where you sit, you’ve got a very strong opinion of it. For me, that’s the content. When we look at the context of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, what it says is, “How are we creating the most high-performing team we can possibly have that is equitable in an environment of inclusion that also makes you feel like you belong?”
What makes all of that happen is not having those conversations about racism, sexism, and everything else. It’s having conversations about dignity and respect. Do you wake up every morning thinking, “How am I going to leave individuals better than I found them?” It shouldn’t matter what that individual’s background and everything else is.
We have to start with the contextual conversation of “Is where I work in my life? Do we start with plain old dignity and respect? Do we speak to each other like we’re human beings?” It’s all of those other pieces. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have conversations about those things, but those are secondary conversations. If you don’t have dignity and respect, those conversations are going to be hard.
How do we start first with, “How do we get together as a team?” It has to start with the self, then it goes to the team, and then the culture. What are we responsible for? When I think about cultural engineering and DEIB, you’ve got to start with the contextual culture. Do we have dignity and respect? DEIB programs will all fail if you don’t have that at minimum.
DF: It is such a great way of summarizing all of the inequities we have in the world to have some dignity and respect, no matter who it is that you’re talking to. How does somebody like a SAM or a SAM leader get their organization involved? How do we move this forward to create that culture?
JM: The conversation has to start there. We have a tendency in our organizations to feel like somehow, it should start at the top of the organization because as the leaders go, so goes the organization. We have to develop the courage to have conversations around, “Here’s the stuff that’s written on the wall. How are we living that? Is there truth in all of these values that we’ve put up on the wall?” If there is, how have we intentionally worked to hold people accountable for living those values?”
There’s no company in the world that writes bad values. All the values are wonderful. You can almost hear light music playing behind it as you read the values on the wall, but we’re not holding people accountable for that. In each organization, you have to start with your own personal behavior. How are you living the values? High-performing teams start with a bunch of high-performing individuals that have each made the choice to be high performing.
High-performing teams start with a bunch of high-performing individuals who have each made the choice to be high performers. Click To Tweet
Before looking at how everybody else is living the values, you got to question yourself first, “How am I living the values?” As we bring that conversation forward, speak to your leaders and teammates. Try to fix your little area of the world. I’ll tell you a funny quote from the greatest philosopher in my life and the world, my mom. She said to me, “If you want to get the whole neighborhood clean, you got to start by sweeping the front of your own house.” You have to set an example. Once you set the example, and you can bring that to your first circle of influence, and then your second circle of influence, that’s the way these things begin to grow. It becomes a movement, but it has to start with individuals.
DF: The word that you used that is so important is intentional. I can see a bunch of us, “Let’s make appointments with our leaders, and CEOs, and talk about, ‘Are we intentionally putting forth these values and executing individually?'” It’s great advice for all of us. It has been amazing. I want to give you the chance to make any final comments or any last words of wisdom that we can leave with the group.
JM: Some critical steps that you would want to take with you on this. We planned a little bit of this, but you couldn’t have planned your last statement any better. Sit down and be intentional. What I would say is very similar to what I did when I realized my life had to change with my relationship with my wife and my family. It is to sit down and create a leadership journal. In that leadership journal, we all have different sayings, quotes, and things that we try to live by. Every time we hear it, we’re like, “I love that quote.” If you’re saying, “Oh, yeah,” it means that it’s not intentional.
It’s something that flew into your life. You liked it, but you’re not living by it. What if you created a leadership journal where you capture these things and start journaling not how you’ve lived your life but how you want to live your life? Capture those pieces and write them down as your plan. I have a journal. It has to have at least twenty different pieces in it for the way that I live my life. When I share it with my mentees and the people that I coach, they laugh a little bit. They’re like, “What does it mean?” The one that I love that seems to raise the most eyebrows is, “No one can take your birthday away.”
That means that no matter how bad things go on a particular day or what you’re doing, allow yourself the ability to be gentle with yourself, make mistakes, and learn from the mistakes. At the end of the day, nobody is going to take your birthday away because you made a mistake. Living to your highest potential and realizing that sometimes you’re going to trip. It’s one of my favorites, “Nobody can take my birthday away.” I may mess up today, but I’m going to go home tonight. I’m going to speak with my children, watch some Netflix, hold my wife’s hand, and move on because no one was able to take my birthday away. Take the time to write down what you’re committed to in order to be an extraordinary human being.
No matter how bad things go, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Click To Tweet
This is going to play into not only your work life with your team. This is also going to be reflective of your customer because you’re going to have some tough customers and conversations. It’s important even after a tough customer conversation that you realize, “Nobody can take your birthday away.” What you did was give the best of yourself, you gave your best effort, and best energy, and make sure that you’re committing to that on a regular basis. That is going to make you an extraordinary SAM in not only your personal relationships but your professional relationships as well.
DF: I have a page of notes of things that I would walk away with. I would leave this by reminding everybody of the formula that you shared with us, respect plus trust, equals influence. Let’s keep that in our hearts. Thank you so much. It has been an amazing conversation. For all of us, these tips and life lessons can certainly help us become the best version of ourselves because it is personal. It starts with each and every one of us. I know that you, Joe, and the entire Premier organization live up to these beliefs. We can all learn from your example here. If any of you want to explore the ideas further, please reach out to us at SAMA. We’re happy to connect you with Joe and with others to explore additional actions that you can take to become extraordinary. Thank you for joining us, and have a wonderful day.
Thank you so much.