Nathan, the founder of Thrive Consulting, asserts that “business is the greatest organizer of human effort” and identifies as a millennial, audacious about positive change but eager to temper his conceit and entitlement. He says, “I was the classic entitled millennial, unwilling to put in the work to get competent, and falsely assuming I was naturally gifted beyond compare and impatient with those who couldn’t see my brilliance.” Nathan is a much sought-after presenter on conscious business and is an active member of the American Sustainable Business Council. He is an enthusiastic participant in the Conscious Capitalism movement and serves as chair of the board for Conscious Company Magazine.
In this episode’s talk, Co-Founder Kirkland Tibbels speaks on the subject of conceit or entitlement and how it arises when you and I are simply naive to the reciprocation required in all of our transactions.[vc_btn title=”Subscribe to Podcast” style=”flat” color=”warning” size=”sm” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fitunes.apple.com%2Fus%2Fpodcast%2Finfluence-ecology%2Fid1146278689||target:%20_blank|”]Below you’ll find a transcript of this podcast episode that has been edited for your reading pleasure. You’ll also see links at the bottom of this post where you can find more information on the people and ideas mentioned in the episode.by John Patterson
Produced by: John Patterson, Jason Kelley & Tyson Crandall[vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#556995″]
“The difference between audacity and naivete might be Transactional Competence.”
John Patterson: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are in the world, I’m your host, John Patterson, the co-founder and CEO of Influence Ecology. We’re the leading business education in transactional competence, broadcasting from Ojai, California. This podcast features case studies, stories, and lessons from business owners, executives and entrepreneurs who found real solutions, real results and real satisfaction, not just at work but in every area of life. You’ll hear how these ambitious professionals studied, practiced, and applied our approach and found that those who transact powerfully thrive.
Our featured interview today is with Nathan Havey, founder of Thrive Consulting. Nathan is a sought-after presenter on conscious business and is an active member of the American Sustainable Business Council. An enthusiastic participant in the Conscious Capitalism movement. He’s a dynamic leader who serves as Chairman of the Board for the Conscious Company Magazine, and his words, “Business is the greatest organizer of human effort.” He has much to say about the opportunities we all have to cause positive change.
His entrepreneurial journey includes confronting his own conceit and entitlement, and as he states, “I was the classic entitled millennial. I’m willing to put in the work to get good, falsely assuming I was naturally gifted beyond compare, and impatient with those who couldn’t see my brilliance.” I’ve invited Nathan to discuss his journey and he’s offered himself up as a study and conceit, and entitlements. I think Nathan, in your words, you’re happy to be the poster child of conceit. [chuckles]
After the feature, we’ll do a talk by co-founder Kirkland Tibbels on the subject of conceit and entitlement, and how that arises when you and I are simply naive to the reciprocation required in all our transactions. With that Nathan, again, welcome, thank you for joining us.
Nathan Havey: My pleasure, John.
John: Well, first of all, I want to give you the opportunity to share a little bit of your own story and who you are. If you would please introduce yourself.
Nathan: Sure. Nathan Havey, I am one of the older millennials. Millennials starts in 1980, I’m born in 1982, so I have a lot of the baggage that goes with that praise. I got started wanting to do good. Really wanted to contribute to societal improvement in some way. I was really involved in politics growing up, and wanted to go to Washington DC to play in the big leagues and hopefully contribute to legislative progress for social benefit. I quickly realized working in Congress, and that is not really the best venue for somebody that doesn’t have a lot of patience. You can see change but it is generational in scope there, and I definitely didn’t want to spend the whole career working on a single issue to maybe after 30, 40 years to see it enacted into law, so decided to leave the hill and start working on other things.
One of the things that I saw as an opportunity was business. I started with consumer-driven efforts, educating consumers to make smarter purchasing choices that would create the demand for more ethical business and slowly learned and studied, and now find that businesses can lead on this, and doing so is actually better for their bottom line. In addition to the social bottom line that business should also be paying attention to. Overview, there was that and lots of failure and bumping up against my own transactional incompetence and all of the conceit and entitlement that goes with it, John.
John: That’s really great. Let’s go back to the subject of millennials for just a moment because I sometimes feel bad for bad press on millennials. It’s my experience that we all have naivete in some way, shape or form whether or not we’re millennials or baby boomers or whatever the case may be. You claim some of your own naivete or your own conceit as a millennial, do you accept that claim or anything you’d like to say about that?
Nathan: I think that I accept it absolutely. Like any broad sweeping statement, it doesn’t show you the whole picture. The stats on this are very interesting, in that millennials are impatient, they are somewhat entitled, and with entitlement, definitely comes a level of conceit. The other thing about millennials is that they really want to make a difference. They care more than previous generations that were measured about social progress, about social justice, they want their work to mean something and they are impatient about it. The other frame that you could put on that you may have to bleep this, but millennials just have a very low tolerance for bullshit.
In many organizations, what is be patient and earn your chips and maybe you’ll be able to rise in your career here is actually leadership blind spots, it is sub-optimal functioning for organizations. Through one lens, absolutely, there’s entitlement and conceit and through another, there is this energy and passion to serve and to contribute. If it isn’t tapped into, well, there’s a huge lost opportunity.
John: Generationally speaking, where do you think that came from?
Nathan: I don’t know. There’s a couple of different narratives that are out there and I haven’t done the study on this to be able to say with any authority, but one of them is, everyone gets a trophy, parenting philosophy of really the 80s. I’m certainly a product of that, where you are special, you are good, you can do anything you want, you just have to work hard and put your mind to it. I think that that really created this narrative where a lot of people that are in the millennial age bracket are expecting that that’s going to just happen. That’s the narrative they’ve been brought up with.
Of course, that’s going to happen for me and when they confront the work that is required there and the reality that that stuff doesn’t just happen and that you actually have to learn how to be very effective as a transactor to really move anything like that, I think that a lot of folks get really disillusioned. They get frustrated. Some give up and some learn the lessons.
John: If they’re not transacting well, what would you say they’re missing?
Nathan: I was wondering about this actually, John, as I was preparing for this. There’s this thing about audacity. In the Obama age, the audacity to really strive for huge things, to really make it matter is something that’s out there. The difference between audacity and naivete might be transactional competence. Have these big thoughts and strive for big things, but if you can’t actually organize the effort of people, if you can’t get the help that you need to actually succeed in those kinds of things, at the scale that is required for you to not be full of it, then you are full of it. That’s just a conceit, a naivete and to cross the bridge into what is actual audacity.
Accurate thinking capable ambition. I think that transactional competence, the ability to organize the efforts of others, which is one of the same thing is the major difference there.
John: Let’s get personal about this. It sounds like you have some personal journey about that. What did you discover about that for yourself in your own journey?
Nathan: Sure. There are probably too many examples of my complete entitlement and the trouble I got myself into as a result of them to mention on this one interview. One of the big ones I think was this, I was given a fairly significant amount of responsibility a few years ago in a small company. I was promoted to be an account director. I was working with some very large, very influential non-profit activist organizations in American politics.
I would write, email copy for them, I would propose the way that campaign should be framed, come up with ideas for how to engage the hundreds of thousands of people that they had on their email lists in such a way that it would actually affect legislation and help to move things through the House and Senate. As a 20 something with very little experience, very little track record, very little that I could show to say that I was fit to be calling these shots and advising. I would come up with these grand ideas, usually on the spur of the moment before testing them, before really thinking it through and doing some due diligence and some homework, I would just go and pitch them straight to the clients who were these seasoned veterans at the top of these organizations in many cases.
When they didn’t say, “Oh, Nathan, that’s totally brilliant. You have saved us. Thank you so much. I can’t imagine what we would do without you.” When they pushed back and said, “Well, what about this and what about that? Have you thought about this?” I just became impatient and frustrated, because they were, in my view, trying to just make things complicated and didn’t see the obvious simplicity in what I was proposing. Part of my frustration led to my disengagement, rather than going through the complexity, to be able to really deal with it all and come up with things that are really elegant, simple solutions on the other side of the complexity, I decided to disengage.
I started working on side projects that were easier where I could call the shots with a couple of friends that didn’t know any better and took my attention off of those accounts. One particular week, I came into work to find my boss sternly looking at me and he told me that the two of those major accounts had ended their contracts with the company and that I was being terminated. I now see that I earned that termination, but at the time, it was a shock that something like that could happen to someone who is naturally as talented and brilliant as I was.
John: Let’s go back to conceit and entitlement and ask ourselves the question where do you see conceit and entitlement in the mind of the business world about this?
Nathan: One of the big places is where business leaders are self-righteously committed to the viewpoint that they have no responsibility for the impacts of their business. As long as they’re behaving within the letter of the law, then it’s somebody else’s problem. If I’m polluting, it’s somebody else’s problem. If they can’t get better than a minimum wage job, it’s somebody else’s problem, if the health care and benefits that I’m providing don’t match what they need. For a business leader to think that that’s true, is a very entitled position. There’s some conceit there that kind of suggests that one way or another, they matter more than their employees.
There’s this equity that inherently assumed there. That’s just a major place, whereas I think a more accurate thinking approach is, yes, there are market forces at play. Yes, you can’t run a business if you don’t pay any attention to your bottom line. I think that there’s a metaphor that I heard recently for this that’s great, which is that the culture of a workplace and the revenues, the financial revenues that come are two ends of the same stick. You can try to lift the stick up as best you can without moving that other end and maximize your profits. In truth, the only way to get beyond a certain level is to pick up the entire stick, which means raising all parts of that.
John: One of the things that we get asked often is questions about ethics. For example, when you’re teaching transactional competence, what you’re doing fundamentally is you’re teaching individuals and their enterprises to be able to, as you said, organize the efforts of a great number of people, to have people say yes, to have people comply, to have people say, I want that to comply with a business or to comply with commitments of an enterprise, if you will. Sometimes people say, “Well, is it ethical to get people to say yes?”
We would often say back to that person, “Well, is what you do ethical? Is what you offer something that makes a difference? Are you offering help or are you doing something else?” I don’t think I’ve had a person say anything but, “Well, no, my business helps people. The only reason I got into business is because I wanted to help people, save time, save money, improve their lives, have more fun.” Whatever it maybe I rarely find someone who is not in business for any other reason than to help people. Yet, we have a great number of stories, bits in the news. Certainly, everybody that’s ever-ambitious in any movie is always an evil person.
[00:13:59] John: There seems to be a little bit of both happening. I’m not going to pretend that there are evildoers who are not working to make life better for people. In your view of all that I just said, what do you find to be factual about most business owners?
Nathan: I actually have the same perception, John, that when you ask people on the personal level, what are you working for? There are very few people that will tell you, they don’t care at all about the social impact of their business, and they are in it for the money and the money only. I don’t think that I’ve ever actually met well, there might be one or two people that I’ve met in my life that say that with a straight face, but the vast majority of people and I think that this is a human phenomenon. I think that you’ve got to have a pretty distorted personal ethics, to be able to really turn a blind eye and just say, “You fend for yourself. I don’t need you.” That’s the opposite of what we talk about in terms of transactional competence.
I agree. I think that that is what most people want to do and I think there is a business as usual. There is a way that we talk about it and a way that we think about it that is contributing to many blind spots for business folks. If I may, John, I can illustrate the point actually best if we go to the nonprofit world.
Nathan: Because a lot of times business owners will say, “This product will help people that’s why it’s here.” Certainly, if there isn’t some measure of help for a given product, it’s not going to sell. That is part of the deal.
John: If you’d like to decode the mysteries of an ambitious life, you can register for the Influence Ecology webinar called, Ambitious Living: The Eight Defining Principles. This free one-hour webinar offers eight principles practice by the most successful and effective men and women we know. To give you a taste, here’s one of the principles. It’s called Accurate Thinking.
The essential idea is this, you and I are always transacting to produce a better income, influential identity and satisfying work. These situations, money, career and work are but three of 14 unavoidable conditions of life.
If you don’t think accurately about these conditions and how you’ll satisfy each of them, you will likely produce hardship for yourself and your family. How do you think accurately about these and other conditions of life? Attend the webinar to find out more. Once registered, you’ll receive the 2016 edition of Ambitious Living, a 12-page guide, offering a blueprint for the eight defining principles, each of which asks important questions to help direct your aims.
To learn more, you can find the link in the show notes for this podcast at influenceecology.com/podcast or from your mobile phone, you can click the image art for this episode to find a link to register. Okay, back to the show.
Nathan: People start nonprofits because they want to make some sort of a difference. In most nonprofits, and I do say most, there is this shift that happens at some point where as soon as they actually start to have any success at all, as soon as they get their first grant, or they have some money, where they’re able to hire people, and they’re actually a nonprofit, with people working in it, the implicit purpose of the nonprofit becomes in the best of times a dual purpose. Where there is yes, there’s the thing that we’re working on, but then there’s also our own survival, and we have to dedicate– usually it’s about half of the resources of the organization to development and making sure that we can continue to do the good work that we want to do with the other half.
The demands on people to sacrifice for the mission, to take a reduced salary because you can’t make money and do good. That narrative is one of the things that we need to interrupt. The very fact that we call it a nonprofit because what do nonprofits do? They do good. Then what does a for-profit do? Well, it can be good, but it is, and it can be. It’s that thing about helping, and if indeed a business was founded to make some difference through a product or service, it has the same problem as the nonprofit where that may be the inception, but it’s real easy to slip into survival. As soon as you’re making decisions to keep the doors open, you have lost sight of your true purpose. That robs you of your employee engagement. It robs you of creativity and innovation. There’s just a different space there.
Whereas if you can stay focused on the purpose and not pollyannaish, not crossing your fingers and hoping that things will work out, rigorously accurate thinking, transacting for the difference that you want to make and having the help that you want to give, actually see the impact that it can have when you stay focused there. That’s how to build a great culture. That’s tremendous business leadership and that’s the kind of thing that happens in those companies I referenced earlier that outperform the market by such large margins.
John: Very good. Well, I’m going to go back to the millennials here for just a minute because one of the things I love about the millennials is that they live online. I’ll say it may be a broad generalization. One of the things that’s great about that is that from a bottom-up point of view, in other words, from a very purely democratic point of view, the millennials will tell you that a restaurant is bad or that the service is no good or the taxi driver was great or with Uber. Uber will say, “The taxi rider was awful.” Rather than in a different marketplace, it starts to produce an environment where we are all voting on the value of someone else’s help. We are all voting all the time. It’s much more easy to see, it’s much more easy to track. You can be poorly rated, poorly reviewed, if you’re a criminal, if you’re a jerk.
There is something to be said about where things are headed in the digital world in terms of all of that rating, ranking, getting the narrative wells out, acknowledging and praising the people doing good. Anything that you would like to say about that, and is there anything about the conscious capitalism movement, or the conscious business movement that is addressing that or directing that kind of activity?
Nathan: To use Influence Ecology term environment, just understanding all of the various things that can and do impact your efforts. Certainly, I think the word might be transparency, that online tools have allowed is an absolute game changer. There’s a narrative within conscious capitalism that talks about how the dominant corporate culture that still is dominant today is a result of military culture in World War Two. That when all those folks came back home, and they got to work doing what they were doing, they had achieved, probably the greatest thing that they ever would in their lifetime.
They were part of something that absolutely changed the world and shaped it for generations and generations to come. The organizational structures that achieved that result, surely were the best kind of structures. They implemented that in their workplaces. That was a very hierarchical top-down information hoarding. The only needs to know what you need to know kind of a culture. We still in many ways, have been trained and are swimming in that current of thinking for business. The online world and the transparency that it provides is a direct affront to that paradigm.
When your customers can really tell the truth about you, it’s one of the things that many companies that have tried to make a positive step environmentally speaking and then want immediate credit for it, speaking of conceit and entitlement. When they still have all kinds of other things that are not going right. They’re shocked when the internet responds very cruelly, to what seems like a just a scratch on the surface of the larger issue of their environmental record. It’s that kind of thing where secrets can’t really be kept anymore. If you’re not good to your employees, they will tell other people that too.
It really behooves us to really have to live our cultural values to all of our stakeholders. In conscious capitalism, those are six specific areas. There’s your customers, your employees, your shareholders, the community where you do business, your suppliers and the environment. Those six, you’ve got to be good to all of those people. You’ve got to transact well with all of them, or you’ll pay the price in a transparent marketplace internally and externally.
John: Very good. I think what I want to finally turn our attention to is where would you say that the world is generally naive, or has some conceit about the millennials and what we can learn from that generation?
John: I say it because I had a conversation with Kirkland about this. Just knowing that you and I were going to talk. One of the things that we did address for ourselves is the conceit and entitlement that we never consider. It’s often easy to point to another and say, “Wow, look at the conceit over there.” What I love about the opportunity that you’ve provided us today, is you agreed to be the poster child of conceit and entitlement just for the sake of all of us seeing it for ourselves.
Kirkland and I looked for ourselves. One thing I can certainly say is, is that I have some conceit about the millennials. What I learned from them, you may not know this, but as an inventor personality, the long-term future personality that we study, I am thinking now about how millennials will want to consume what we do compared to the baby boomers or perhaps even generation Z children of today if you will. What would you say that we have to learn about the millennials?
Nathan: There’s a distinction that I have really loved. I think the first person who told me about this was a woman named, Laurie Hanno, who is in New Hampshire. She’s a great leadership consultant. She said that there’s this thing about expert culture versus learning culture and I think this is great note for this that when you’re in expert culture, you’re considered an expert and an expert is supposed to know. Anything an expert doesn’t know is a challenge to their expertise. Traditionally, the management structure, if you are a leader or even a low level leader, you need to be the expert compared with the people that you’re leading, as you not be open to learning new things, as you need to constantly assert and demonstrate your expertise to constantly show that you deserve to be where you are, you deserve to be in this role of an expert.
With that, comes great conceit and entitlement. Again, this one rubs millennials the wrong way in a big way, forgive me, I’m going to say it again, the tolerance for bullshit because when you assert something without demonstrating it, when you rely on tradition or, that’s just the way it goes or, “Hey kid, I’ve been doing this for 12 years, what do you know?”
There is for a millennial and I think for a lot of people this disengaging quality of something like that and really it is not conscious but it’s absolutely the intention of the expert when they respond to something like that to just shut you up so that you’ll go along with it, to try and produce your compliance that way. In a learning culture, where there is a tremendous emphasis placed on everyone learning together, correct recognition that the world is moving too fast in all areas of knowledge for anybody to be an actual expert that there’s always different angles. There’s always new things to learn and different perspectives, that if you’re relying on your expertise and insisting that others respect you for it, you’re losing a huge opportunity of creating a learning culture where you are happy to be wrong, where you want to have people challenge your thinking because you can distinguish your own conceit and entitlement when people do that.
The 22-year-old millennial that says, “Why do you do it this way?” Is actually a huge opportunity for you to say, “Why do we do it this way?” If it doesn’t actually make sense, there’s a book called Rookie Smarts that makes this point really well, but that’s one of the major opportunities. For millennials, to get back to exactly what your question was, John, we want to be at the table, we want to have the discussions, we want to be in the room, we want to figure out how we can work with people and when someone respects us for that, even harshly, even somebody that’s going to say, “Kid, you don’t know what you’re talking about, but I can see your passion. Let’s see what we can do to get you educated so you can start seeing the complexity here.”
There’s one story that a woman told in an event that I was this last week, where her favorite boss she ever had was the one that took her aside and said, “You talk too much, shut up and listen, and you will learn things and I will help you learn those things because you’ve got promise.” It’s that thing that. If a millennial, and I definitely speaking for myself here, if we feel like there’s somebody that does know more than us that’s going to help us learn the ropes, it’s going to help us understand how to play the game, and for me that’s what influence ecology is by the way, is as you guys do know this stuff and I recognize that and I’m so eager to soak it up because I just know that it’s going to help me be better, as I learn and with each webinar and each conference I go to and each study paper I complete, I know that I’m getting better, not there yet, but, man, I’m getting better.
It’s that feeling of progress that I think the millennials are super hungry for because it’s still rare and the organizations and the leaders that can provide that for people are the ones that are going to find lines of millennials waiting to come work for them and contribute to the best of their ability.
John: That’s great. All right, well I want to give you a final opportunity to tell people how they can contact you or how they might participate in what you’re doing.
Nathan: Thank you, John. If you want to learn more about this stuff, subscribe to Conscious Company Magazine and if you want to really learn a lot more about this, check out the Conscious Company Magazine workshop, that’s at consciouscompanymagazine.com/workshop.
John: That’s really great. All right, good. We’ll, of course, put all of those things into our show notes, we’ll provide the links so you can find out more. Nathan, thank you very much, this was such a pleasure to talk to you today. I can’t thank you enough for all that you offered us here so many lessons about conceit and entitlement. Can’t wait to listen to this again.
Nathan: Good, and let me just say that for those that are here in everything that I’ve said the places that I still have a ton of conceit and entitlement, shoot me an email because I’d love to know about that stuff and continue to grow.
John: Today’s Guru Talk is by co-founder Kirkland Tibbels on this very subject. You’ll learn how conceit or entitlement arises when you and I are naive to the reciprocation required in all our transactions. It is this misunderstanding that often cost us valuable time and of money and sometimes earns us reputations in which others seek to keep their distance. Here’s the talk.
Kirkland Tibbels: The ground on which all civilized society rest is trust. Trust in the form of assurance that if I as an individual part of a community contribute what little I can in terms of my own limited personal resource to the greater good of the community, that I will be afforded the resources that I need from that community to live a good life. When people talk about entitlement, I don’t think they really know what it is they’re speaking for or against, the kind of attitude or behavior we refer to when we speak of this entitlement is indifference, ignorance or outright disrespect for reciprocation.
This notion that people see themselves as deserving of care and use of limited resources without any concern for some reciprocation is the fertile ground on which distrust begins to find its roots.
Civilized societies are as Leaky and Lewin and put it the kind of honored network of obligation. This web of indebtedness, Matt Ridley calls it in his book Origin of Virtue is viewed by cultural anthropologist as a unique adaptive mechanism which allows for the division of labor, the exchange of diverse forms of goods and different services and the creation of interdependencies that bind individuals together into highly efficient units.
Reciprocation lowers the natural inhibitions against transactions that must be begun by one person’s providing personal resources to another, Cialdini, in his book Influence. Sophisticated and coordinated systems of aid, gift giving, defense and trade become possible bringing immense benefits to societies that possess them. With such clearly adaptive consequences for culture, he continues, it is not surprising that the rule of reciprocation is so deeply implanted in us by the process of socialization we all undergo, and I’ll add, the sociality we all must confront.
When an attitude of entitlement takes hold, it turns into a behavior that we call conceit. It is a wedge that begins to divide societies and cultures in dangerous ways. Fear begins to take over and trust in its most fundamental forms begin to deteriorate. People become less likely to act without certainty or assurances that their efforts and resources will be met in equal measure and you can see this playing out. We start to build walls, we become highly protective and worse radically skeptical.
John: In our next episode, we feature an interview with Marne Power, an Organizational Development and Learning Specialist at the University of Virginia.
Marne Power: When we create consequences, we are creating consequences that make taking the actions of foregone conclusion. I’m not going to get into a lot of them, but we are looking at things that you don’t want to have happen. One of my favorite is somebody’s consequence was that if she didn’t do the actions, and by the way folks, consequences are always against actions. We don’t have control of the results, the only thing we can promise and we have absolute control of, is the actions that we’re going to take with a commitment to produce a result.
This particular person, her consequence, if she didn’t take the actions, was she had to go and campaign for an opposing political party four hours a week for six months.
John: If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to share it with others, you can find it and share it from our website at influenceecology.com. You can also find us on iTunes to subscribe. We’d love to know what you think so please take a moment and offer us a rating and a review. Thank you for another great episode of the Influence Ecology podcast. I’m your host, John Patterson.
I’d like to thank our guest, Nathan Havey for offering his time and wisdom. This podcast is made possible by the brilliant work of the Influence Ecology staff, mentors and members around the world.[vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#556995″]The Influence Ecology Podcast is produced by Influence Ecology, LLC in Ventura, California. This episode was recorded April 8th, 2018 and was produced by John Patterson and Jason Kelly. This program is made possible through the assistance of the Influence Ecology faculty, mentors, and students around the world. We’re grateful for Co-founder Kirkland Tibbels and his 30+ years of specialized study in the philosophy of Transactionalism and the fundamentals of Transactional Competence.
This episode includes contributions by Karal Gregory and Tyson Crandall. For this episode, the sound design and editing are by Jason Kelley. The podcast theme is by Chris Standring and titled ‘Fast Train to Everywhere.’ You can subscribe to the Influence Ecology Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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