Episode 4: How to Balance Being a Successful Leader in Your Day Job While Rocking All Your Other Passions, Too! Learn the secrets of exemplary leadership from Larry Gioia

TalentGrow Show Episode 4 Larry Gioia

About Episode 4

In this episode of the TalentGrow Show, I speak with my colleague Larry Gioia, an IT Consultant and Advisor with one of the world's largest professional services firm, PwC. Larry is an inspirational role model you can really learn from. Not only is he a top leader in his firm – he was selected to participate in a special development program only available to the top 5% firm leaders globally – he is also a successful people manager and a 'road-warrior' business traveler who usually works in a different state and is only home on the weekends. Yet, Larry manages to have a very rich life outside of work: he's a serial entrepreneur who has several side businesses and a an active volunteer and community builder. Plus, he manages to have an active leisure and family life on top of it all, and stays positive and productive! I was so inspired by Larry that I wanted to share his advice and secrets with all of you. He doesn't teach people to be successful and balanced leaders - he models it with his actions! Learn from a leader who is walking the talk every day.

What You'll Learn:

In this short and fun episode, find out Larry’s secret for comfortably and seamlessly creating balance in his busy life so that he has time to be present and fully engaged both at his corporate road-warrior job, as a leader and manager, building and operating multiple side businesses, and managing to also have a life!

By listening, you'll learn:

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  • The big mistake that many people make related to setting expectations and managing up that gets in their own way of being successful and at ease
  • How Larry walks the talk as a manager of a team
  • How to bring out the best in the people on your team by figuring out what makes them happy and giving them opportunities to do more of those kinds of activities and tasks
  • How Larry stays grounded and what his trick is for making all that textbook leadership advice add value and not be overwhelming
  • What's the connection between kindness and happiness and Larry's way of increasing both through his latest side venture
  • What’s the surprising synchronicity Larry has with Sir Richard Branson that shows they are thinking along the same wave-length?
  • Larry's own leadership mantra that he teaches everyone: ABCD. Find out what it stands for and how to apply it
  • What’s Larry’s one key piece of leadership advice that you should apply immediately, daily, to enhance your own leadership effectiveness and that of people you work with?

About Larry Gioia

Larry Gioia is a Director and CTO in PwC's Health Industries IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture practice. He has spent the past decade working closely with senior executives and enterprise innovators to help shape and define their business vision through the use enterprise/emerging technologies.

Larry's primary area of expertise is in big pharma, however he has worked with a multitude of clients across the healthcare ecosystem. His focus is in the area of digital health and the technologies that are radically disrupting healthcare in the New Health Economy. This includes the nation's largest payers, provider networks, integrated health systems, and health/medical associations.

Larry is regularly called upon by his clients and colleagues to provide perspective and thought leadership in the areas of customer experience, emerging technologies, web (portal) platforms, enterprise collaboration, and solution architecture.

He completed a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA). Larry also holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from Gannon University (Erie, PA).


Contact Larry Gioia
Email lg@dynamicpaddlers.com

Follow on Twitter at @LGin412
Connect on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/lgioia

Contact Dynamic Paddlers
Facebook www.facebook.com/Dynamicpaddlers
Follow on Twitter at @DynamicPaddlers

Contact Pittsburgh Adaptive Sports Network
Email pittsburghadaptive@gmail.com
Facebook www.facebook.com/adaptPGH

Follow on Twitter at @AdaptPittsburgh

Contact Pittsburgh Kindness Initiative
Email bekindpgh@gmail.com

Facebook www.facebook.com/kindnesspgh
Follow on Twitter at @bekindPGH

Intro/outro music: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there, and welcome to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist, and in this special episode I veer a little bit from the previous ones where I interviewed experts and book authors about their leadership advice. In this short, fast-moving and fun episode, I decided to speak with a guy who doesn’t teach leadership for a living, he does leadership for a living! My guest is Larry Gioia and he’s got a corporate leadership job where he excels at what he does and at being a leader. But there’s so much more to Larry’s story, I can’t wait for you to hear it. Let’s see, Larry’s an IT consultant and advisor. He’s a top leader in his firm. He was selected to a special program that’s only available to the top five percent of the firm’s leaders across the globe. He’s also a successful manager and a road warrior business traveler who usually works in a different state all week and is only home on the weekends. But he’s also a serial entrepreneur who has several side businesses and ventures like wilderness survival training school and a kayaking school, an adaptive paddling for people with disabilities school, and a new app that will make you happier. And he’s an active volunteer and a community leader and he even has an active and rich leisure and family life.

How does he do it all, while staying active, healthy, positive and uber-productive? Listen to find out. You’re going to learn Larry’s secret for comfortably and seamlessly creating a balance in his busy life so that he has the time to be present, fully engaged and wildly successful, both at his job and his multiple side ventures, all while managing to also have a life. You’re going to discover how to bring out the best in the people that you manage on your team by figuring out what makes them happy and giving them opportunities to do more of those kinds of things. You’re going to discover the connection between kindness and happiness and how Larry is building an app for that in his side venture. And what’s the surprising synchronicity that Larry has with Sir Richard Branson that shows you that these two guys are thinking on the same wavelength? Larry is going to share his own leadership mantra that he teaches everyone, and how to apply it. It is such sage insight, and you’ll walk away with Larry’s one key piece of leadership advice that you can and should apply immediately, daily, to enhance your own leadership effectiveness and that of the people that you work with. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Well hello, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and good night, wherever you are, listening. I am really glad that you are here on the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist and today I have a unique guest. He is not teaching people how to be a leader. He is modeling how to be a leader. So, we have Larry Gioia, and Larry is a director with PricewaterhouseCoopers, PWC, which is one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. And he is a director and Chief Technology Officer in their health industry, IT strategy and enterprise architecture practice. And if you say that three times fast, you will have my admiration! So he is a guy who travels the world helping companies get their IT strategy underway and he especially focuses on innovation and digital innovation within these industries, especially in Big Pharma. But I met Larry when we got the pleasure of working together with some new leaders, and we were able to help them and mentor them and coach them on how to become better communicators. So Larry and I got to work side-by-side one time, and I was just blown away by this guy, and the kind of things that he’s involved in and so in a minute, I’m going to stop talking so that Larry can introduce his journey into leadership. But Larry is a great example of someone who models leadership and also models balance. Larry, I’m so happy that you are here with me and thank you for joining me on the TalentGrow Show.

Larry: Halelly, thank you so much for having me. It’s an awesome experience and I look forward to talking today.

Halelly: Thank you. So, I don’t want to introduce all of your journey because I think that you do such a much better job. Obviously you’ve lived it, but for the listeners who are leaders in their own field and looking for ways to improve their own leadership skills, it’ll be interesting for you to just briefly summarize your journey, your career path. How did you get to where you are today? What has been your journey?

Larry: Sure. Thanks for the introduction – obviously when I hear my introduction from somebody else there’s obviously a lot in there and I didn’t realize I do all those things. But my own journey, I think like everybody, it’s important to realize, kind of have something in mind of where you’re going. I’ll start with the fact that I’m an IT guy by way of background. I have a Bachelor in Information Systems and pursued that career in IT but I really had no idea what I wanted to do with that degree. As you alluded to, I did start my career in the consulting space, so I’ve been in the IT consulting space now for 10 years. But that’s not all that I do, so I learned a lot through the process of being a consultant and being an advisor. There’s a lot we learn about leadership in that capacity, but spending most of my time as a consultant has really opened my eyes and helped me understand kind of what else is out there. Insomuch as I have a lot of interests outside of work, and work becomes play and play becomes work.

I’ve also been very interested in community building outside of my work at PWC, building communities of interest, social innovation here in the U.S. and globally, and pursued some of those passions. Specifically in the areas of taking the things I like to do – being outside – one of my passions is being outside and enjoying nature and sharing that with everybody else, and my leadership journey has taken me down a path to have a few startup companies and a few different organizations. Some of those have been by way of teaching people how to survive in the wilderness, how to be comfortable in the outdoors, which was a project that turned into a company which is a lot of fun. One of my other projects that I’m currently working on, one of my other passions, is paddling, kayaking. There’s something magical about water and sharing that with other people, I now have a kayaking school here in Pittsburgh, which is a lot of fun. So I get people outside in the water and there’s many things we can do. Not just teaching people how to kayak but how to work with others in different environments and getting out of their comfort zone.

So, I share that with you insomuch as it’s about balancing and identifying new ways to be a leader, not just in your work environment, but also in taking leadership in the things you want to do outside of work everyday.

Halelly: And that is something that most of the leaders that I work with find this to be a struggle. I mean, really, anybody finds to struggle now with work/life balance. I don’t even know if that’s a misnomer. But this idea that you either need to be all in for work or all in for your extracurricular passions, and that there really is, people feel like there’s no way to bridge and to do both. You’ve really managed to do that well, and I think that you bring skills from one into the other seamlessly, that make you better at each of those endeavors. Yeah, I mean, a consultant who is a director, manages a large team, gives daily performance feedback to people, helps clients and so on, travels for their work, and then comes home on the weekends and teaches people how to survive in the wilderness on a kayak. When you told me that, it blew me away! That’s amazing. So what can you share with the people that are listening? Maybe they’re sort of at the beginning of their road or maybe they’ve been trying to do it for a while, but they feel like it’s this impossible dream to follow both your extracurricular passions and your work passions, and to be excellent in both.

Larry: Yeah, so it’s a great question. I like to think that I’m continually getting better at it. I wouldn’t say an expert by any means, but I think … I’m very comfortable in what I do and being able to balance those things and I’ll share some thoughts of kind of how I do that. I think what’s really, really important in kind of going back to the beginning of my journey, starting as a junior consultant, it goes without saying no matter what industry you’re in – whether you’re a consultant or you’re brand new to a company – there’s a lot of things that roll down to you. And that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of long hours. I think what’s really, really important for people is setting expectations early on with your management team. Somebody who has had many teams of who I have the responsibility of their delivery, it’s setting expectations upwards. Insomuch as saying, “Hey, if you want to go to the gym after work and that’s your thing, you have a routine, send those expectations upwards.” Being transparent about the things that you do outside of work is really, really important. And I would say any manager worth their salt should be receptive to that. If somebody can’t enjoy these things outside of work, I made it very clear early on, here’s the times I’m going to be online, here’s the times I’m going to be available to you, but I do have some commitments outside of work. Not just these other fun things, but I’ve got family and I’ve got things I want to do outside of work, and setting those expectations upfront is really, really important.

When you set up expectations early on, it’s just a given. It becomes that, “Oh, hey, we know that he or she has those commitments and we’re going to work around those things.” I think if you don’t do that early on in your career, or when you’re taking on a new leadership role, it becomes awkward. It becomes unfortunately awkward, because you really have to kind of go backwards and set those expectations. Set those expectations early on and I think it will carry through your career. It’s worked for me. People know that I do these things. I think what’s great is I also have the fortunate opportunity to work for a firm that supports these things, that supports … happy employees make happy customers. Happy customers pay the bill, so on and so forth. So, it’s a very good balance. And it seems to work really well for me.

Halelly: Those are some really good ideas, and kudos that you had the idea, that you had the – what would I say – that you knew right early on that you could do that, and that you did it successfully. So you’re on the other side of the table too. You’re a manager, a director, you’re a leader, and I bet that sometimes people come to you with certain kinds of boundaries that they’re trying to set with you. And you have the pressure of delivering on a deadline to a client, let’s say. Or you need to be at the meeting and that person needs to be at the meeting and it’s taking place in Houston, Texas, and they’re trying to tell you that they have something important that they need to do back in their hometown that same day. So how have you dealt with it from the other side of things to try to both honor people’s requests but also manage the workload?

Larry: That’s a great point, and not to belabor it, but it comes back to expectation setting the opposite way as well. So for example, at the beginning of every one of my projects, obviously in context of consulting our projects change drastically. They could change overnight. There’s obviously a plan, but they change drastically, so we have to be on our toes at all times. And so at the very beginning of every one of my projects, not to speak as a team because remember, I don’t know all these people. I’m meeting people for the very first time which adds additional complexity. And so one of the things I can do is I sit down with a team, as a whole team, and we talk about expectations. Kind of how we like to work. So I’ve got a style, she has a style, he has a style. But what’s important as a manager in this case is to bring out the best in people. So hey, if he is a really early morning person, I’m going to adapt and adjust the project or kind of the deadlines based on when he works at his best. And then she likes to go to the gym after work, so we’re adjusting based on her schedule.

So that first piece is really around setting expectations with your team, and then going to each individual and figuring out what it is that makes them tick. Figuring out what it is that they want to get out of the project, because what I’ve found is that when you really get into someone’s head – not cerebral fashion – more so in finding out what makes people happy, and giving them and affording them the opportunity to do those kinds of things, they’re going to be happier. They’re going to be more productive. And that’s really, really important. So there’s expectation setting, and then I think what’s really important is just to level set. To say, “Look, we’re all adults here. I may be kind of driving and guiding this, but I don’t have all the answers either. Insomuch that we’re going to have some late nights, we’re going to have some crunch time things, but at the end of the day we’re all adults. I really don’t care where you do your work. And so to your question of, “Hey, we have to be in Houston. We’ve got to be, someone has to be home for a family outing, whatever that is, I’m totally cool with that, so long as we all start from the same level grounding that we’re all adults. As long as you get your work done, you can do it at 2:00 in the morning, you can do it at 2:00 in the afternoon, so long as we’re all held to the same standard of high quality and our clients and customers are happy. That’s what it’s all about.

Halelly: That’s a great attitude. I try to impart that on the people that I speak with and work with all the time, and sometimes it just hits them as if it’s some kind of leadership expert textbook mumbo-jumbo, but you’re living it. And you’re an exemplar. You show that it can be done, which to me is just so inspiring and encouraging. Thank you for doing that, I appreciate it. You make me look less like I’m making stuff up!

Larry: No, obviously I read the book and the 11 chapters kind of laid it out pretty well. What’s interesting is there are so many books out there on leadership, it goes without saying, I’m definitely not one to suggest you shouldn’t read those because there’s a lot of really good ideas. I think what’s important about each one of those is that you don’t take it all, “I have to go do these 11 things.” You have to figure out what works for you and adapt that to your own style. And I think one of the things you talk about is being able to adjust your own leadership style on the fly, and that is what makes really good change agents and that’s what makes it fun to work with people. People who aren’t just so textbook, who micromanage and they make it fun to come to work and have a good time together.

Halelly: Sounds fantastic. So what would you say is a piece of advice or a practice that has helped you the most on your leadership journey? In your becoming a leader? What do you think has helped you the most?

Larry: So, I’ve been giving this some thought, because people ask this one – so what it is that kind of makes you tick? And I’ll share this with you. I’ll say it’s, call it a mantra. It’s a very simple acronym that, by the way, I’ll give you some background on this. The acronym is ABCD. And after I started telling people about ABCD, they said, “Well, I’ve heard of that before,” and I said I’d love to know who came up with it first, because I dreamt it up one morning. ABCD stands for Always Be Connecting the Dots. And I’ll tell you how I feel about that and how it’s impacted me in my leadership journey, but any idea who supposedly came up with that before me? Ever heard of this before?

Halelly: No, I haven’t.

Larry: Well, come to find out, through a little Google search, supposedly Sir Richard Branson uses ABCD.

Halelly: Oh my, nice. That’s a good company to be in!

Larry: Nice company to be in. So I don’t share that with you today anything more than, “Hey, he’s a pretty smart guy. I’m really happy that he’s thinking about things the same way I am.” But that aside, ABCD, Always Be Connecting the Dots, is really, really important to me and it’s something that I try to instill in those around me. I’ll tell you kind of how and why. I think there’s a lot of things about being a leader, a lot of characteristics and we’re bombarded with being a people person, being fun to work with and having good time management. To me, the best leaders are those who are really, really good at connecting people. And by the way, it’s not just people. So it’s connecting people and ideas and concepts. Early on in my career, I felt that only my partners and only those who were very senior in the ranks, those were the leaders I should be following and those are the people who have risen to the title of being the leaders, by title alone. And what I quickly learned is that that’s true, but there are those people that may not have the answers but they know where to get the answers. And I adopted that principle early on in my career, just not in consulting but outside in the community and the projects I worked on I mentioned earlier. There’s a lot of value in being a connector and being able to connect different people and concepts. You essentially become kind of the nucleus, and we can talk about the power of networks and there’s a lot to be said for that. And that’s something I’ve carried through every single day, this ABCD mentality and I share that with everybody I have the opportunity, so thank you for the opportunity to share that with you and your listeners. Because I think it’s really, really important to just be connecting the dots and sharing your own interests and passion with anybody who will listen.

Halelly: I like that, and it’s memorable. So very cool, thank you for sharing! Thank you for that. Actually, you just brought up networking, and that could be an entire other episode, so maybe we’ll have you back to talk more about that topic another time. But as we look at beginning to wrap up here, what I really wanted to know is what is something that is really exciting and new for you that you’re working on, briefly?

Larry: Just kind of a brief overview because it may be new to some people, so one of my passions outside of work as I mentioned is building communities. I have two different projects but I’ll share one. And think about this in the context of what I do every day as a technologist – this has nothing to do with technology. Well, it does, because this is kind of the transcending my technology interest with interests outside of work. So in a nutshell, there is, as we all know, there is a lot of value and it’s a lot of fun to do random acts of kindness for people. Not just for altruistic reasons, but because it’s very fulfilling when you do something nice for somebody. It’s a lot of fun. And there’s a lot of applications and different programs and different organizations out there who promote random acts of kindness and being kind to people. So one of the things we’re toying with here, a couple of colleagues of mine and I, is that there’s a direct correlation between happiness and being kind, being kind and happiness. And so the idea is can you find – everybody has an IQ – but can you find your KQ? Can you find your kindness quotient? And so I only share that with you insomuch as we are working on coming up with a model that allows us to find out what is your KQ? What is your capacity for being kind, and then translating that into happiness? It’s kind of a fun thing. There is indirectly a technology component behind it, which actually allows us to track and figure out where your kindness goes. And you have been kind for somebody, buy them a coffee or whatever that might, they then will have a way to track that kindness. And I won’t tell you what it is yet, I’ll share that with you later on and you can share it with your listeners afterwards. So pretty fun little thing that we’re going to do and the idea is to just be happy and share kindness around the world. So it should be a lot of fun.

Halelly: I wish you could see how big my smile is, listening to you tell that. What a cool idea! And, it’s a surprise to me – and we keep in touch pretty regularly – you’re always coming up with new stuff. It’s just amazing. The last time we talked, you were telling me about how you were teaching people with disabilities to paddle and stuff. Just insane how much you’re doing and it’s just so motivating. You are really a restless productive guy. Good for you.

Larry: I appreciate that. Someone told me don’t let the grass grow under your feet, and no reason to do that.

Halelly: That’s right. You’ve got no grass growing. You’re just nothing but action. So speaking of action, what do you think is one takeaway actionable thing that listeners can do now, this week, to move their leadership one notch up? What’s one big actionable takeaway? Doesn’t have to be big, but a very actionable takeaway that they could really implement and become a better leader based on your experience?

Larry: We could do a whole discussion on feedback. I think kind of engrained or woven throughout all of this, when you find your own way in leadership and you find your own way to kind of adjust the leadership styles and find your own way, it comes back to feedback and being transparent. And so to me, the most actionable thing that I would encourage your listeners to do, whether that’s on Monday or Friday, whenever that is, is go and ask one of your peers … so two things. Go ask your manager for some feedback. And make it not like, “Praise me for the great things I’m doing, but tell me what I should be doing differently. Tell me one thing I should really work on.” This notion of blind spots. So help me understand what my blind spots are. That’s the first thing, so ask for that feedback from your manager. And then ask for feedback from someone that you manage on a daily basis. Manage, oversee at work, whatever you want to call it. Ask for that feedback, and then kind of reflect on that, and figure out what it is that you can triangulate. Maybe you heard the same thing twice, which you should really act on, or maybe there’s two separate things that you heard from each one of those audiences, and then make change immediately. So try to continue to evolve your own style based on that feedback, and adjust. And by the way, I would continue to ask for that feedback all the time. Ask for it all the time, and by the way, give that feedback too. It’s really, really important to incorporate real-time feedback in everything that we do. My piece of advice is feedback – ask for it, and give it all the time.

Halelly: Fantastic. Love it. So, Larry, it’s been fun, as always, talking to you. You always energize me, and I hope that now my listeners that are exposed to you will see why! Because you have so much going on and you’re such a positive guy and you’re really making a difference out there. So how can people get in touch with you if they want to find out more about you?

Larry: So by all means, LinkedIn. I live on LinkedIn. Not just a function of growing the network, but by all means you can find me on LinkedIn, Larry Gioia. I’m also on Twitter. I’m fairly new to Twitter, but I love using Twitter and following folks, especially with similar ideas and sharing ideas. I’m on Twitter @LGin412. So, find me on there, and then we connect, obviously in person or virtually, just as you and I have Halelly, and I look forward to it.

Halelly: Great, and I’m going to put the connections, the links and all of that, in the show notes so that it will be easier for people to find you. Larry, I hope that you enjoy wherever it is that your fun activities take you, and I wish you continued success and thank you for being on the TalentGrow Show. I really appreciate it.

Larry: Thanks so much for having me.

Halelly: I hope that you now understand why I find Larry Gioia to be such a remarkable and inspiring role model for all leaders out there, and I hope that you’re going to go out and apply his advice right away. Ask for and give more feedback. Talk to your own manager, talk to someone that you manage, or just talk to someone who is on the team with you and ask them what’s one thing that I can do differently that will have a positive impact on my effectiveness as a leader? And then, after you thank them for that feedback, go apply it! All right, don’t forget to check the show notes for all of the links to Larry’s contact information and his cool projects on my podcast website, which is www.TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode4. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher so that you’ll never miss an episode, and please share this podcast with other people to help both yourself and others have great insights and advice on how to be a great leader. I’m so thankful to you for listening. Thank you very much. It means a lot to me. Now, go out there and make it a great day.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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