#217 – Being Count-On-Able With Jeff Cohen

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing service. On the episode today, we have Jeff Cohen. Jeff, welcome. Good morning or afternoon. Evening actually for you, right? It could be any time when someone watches this, but would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Sure, I’m an entrepreneur and I have been my whole life. For the last eight years I’ve been operating c-level roundtable, a group of executives and CEOs that actually look at how we can improve each other’s businesses. And today we’re here, I’m gonna be talking a bit about a book that I’m publishing. Well, would you like to go into that just so that we, it’s a starting point if you see what I mean? Absolutely, happy to do it. So you know most of the CEOs I started working with eight years ago identified that there were a number of really key and critical areas in their businesses that didn’t work and a lot of it came down to accountability for them.

They were concerned that their people weren’t being accountable, and so I went on a journey with about 50 CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners and executives over the course of a year and we identified the key areas that had businesses not have the level of success they were aiming for and believe it or not, it’s not accountability. It actually is people being count-on-able or better yet not being count-on-able. And so the name of the book is “Count-On-Able”. It’s actually a practical guide to lift shift and empower you and your team. And when I say a practical guide it really is. What are the steps? How do you do this? What’s the next step? How do you do that? And it actually walks you through a very simple process to shift the company culture from one where the executives are pointing at people saying you need to do this, you’re accountable for this, and employees, 80% of people in the world have a negative view of the word accountability, but they all love the word count-on-able.

People love to say, “you can count on me.” So the book is actually the how-to guide for the process that I’m patenting right now to shift the company to be count-on-able. Thank you for that. Is there any — what inspired you to create a book on this particular topic? That’s a great question, Thomas. I’ve been through a whole lot my entire life, and I’m not the only one. You have, people in the audience have, and what people don’t realize is all of the experiences that we’ve had from childhood to today go into everything that we do, every day, whether it’s personal lives or business, or volunteering. It doesn’t matter what it is that you’re doing. Something from your past influences what you do today. The very first chapter of my book is called “Grand theft Auto”.

It’s a story about when I stole a car, and I got home for dinner that night and my mom found it in my pocket. It was a little hot wheels car and I was just five years old and I got the never ending inquisition, why did you take it, Jeff? Why did you take it, Jeff? There was no good answer for why, but the question was the same question over and over and over and I learned from that experience that I wasn’t lovable. I couldn’t be trusted. I couldn’t be counted on. But then after all of that, and before dinner, mom said, “okay, now I want you to go up to your friend’s house and give it back.” So I walked up the block and as I got to his driveway, I saw the perfect opportunity to return it.

It was a pile of snow and I buried it in the snow and I knew he’d find it in the spring and I’d be off the hook and I was just such a coward. But that mindset, that trigger of the word “why” has followed me for the last 50 years in every job I’ve had when I get questioned, I make it mean I’m not being trusted or something else and I immediately start defending and protecting myself. And if you get nothing else out of the work I’ve done to publish this, learn how you can save yourself 2-3 hours a week just in conversations with your people and learn how you can help them be more productive by not putting something in their head that they now have to reconcile after a conversation where they’ve been triggered by you. That’s why I wrote the book, Thomas, and that’s what caused the journey.

The realization that everybody has these triggers and because we communicate emotionally and not based on an outcome we necessarily want to have, they show up all the time. Well, thank you for that. I did actually think that you had stolen a car to begin with though. I did, it was just a hot wheels. But it had that kind of an impact on me at the age of five. Yeah, I mean it’s what I tend to find with that sort of age is that it is the memories that are sort of, I don’t know, your brain says you really should remember this because it’s particularly important. So it must have had a big impact on you the fact that you can remember it so clearly. You know, it did, but I’ve done a lot of work in my life to identify my past and memories from my past. That memory showed up while I was writing this book.

But the fact of the matter is we all have them, and I recently was talking to a psychologist who said, you know, Jeff that memory at the age of five got ingrained in you because that’s a particularly sensitive time in the development of your brain and in the development of your personality. Between the age of four and 7, things like that, that show up will impact you for the rest of your life. I really want to get the word out about that. I don’t think people recognize that with their teams, with their employees, with their family, like my wife triggers me all the time. I’ve just gotten to a point with it where I am now noticing and I’m able to say to her, honey, you are triggering the heck out of me right now. Can we talk about this after I have digested that? Usually the answer is “yes” and she’ll let me move on. Sometimes it’s not, but we have less arguments. In the instance where you can’t, you can use stuff like I feel statements, have you heard of those?

Absolutely. And if you’re feeling particularly unhappy about it then yeah, it is a wise thing to move on to another time, right? But in terms of the writing process, how did you find it? I’ve heard a lot of people talk about their experience writing a book. It’s taken them years to write, it’s taken them, every day for a year, everyone’s got different experiences. I lucked out, I found an amazing writing coach, and I’ll give him a plug. His name is Kellan Fluckiger and he’s just a transformational coach that I work with, and he wrote 17 books. A number of them are #1 bestsellers. He’s also beyond just writing the books, one of the books is “how do you write a book?”

And so when a friend of mine introduced me, we connected right away and his process made it very easy. In fact, what I loved about his process is I know that I have ADD, and I know that a lot of other people do as well. Well his process of writing the book leaves the reader Empowered to read a chapter and set it down and be able to do that every five minutes, because every chapter in the book is 3 – 4 pages long, so it’s an easy read. Not only that, that story I just told you about, the first chapter in my book. Well the book is like that. They’re very quick poignant stories that get to the point and when we get to the area where I’m actually teaching the process, it’s a process and I’m able to break it down into bite sized chunks. I did eight years of research to come up with the content for this book, but writing the book came very easy.

And because of Kellen’s help I successfully did it in 90 days and reached the point where I had my story edited and got my publisher involved to begin moving it toward the completion of the publishing process. It’s going to be coming out on June 14th. Well congratulations on becoming an author. I suppose it’s a — I don’t know how you found it, the process. I guess if it’s 90 days then it’s a lot of hard work in maybe a short space of time, but condensing all of your experience and then sort of, I don’t know, offering it to people for a very, should we say, reasonable fee is a service in a sense, so you feel proud about what you’ve created? Thank you very much. I do feel very proud for what I’ve created.

I was sharing with you, my wife can trigger me, and one of the things she did that did that was saying to me, “Jeff, you wrote that book so fast? Are you sure you’re not sacrificing quality for speed?”, and I just want to say, it’s possible to be effective like that when you’ve done eight years of research and all the stories are stored right here, and you have a really good process for uncovering what they are and how they weave together, and so I am really proud of this. In fact, I’m clear there’s another book in me after this, but I think the number one thing I want to make sure people do is get a chance to participate with us and begin looking at how they can shift their company cultures where people can actually stand up and say, “Hey, you can count on me.” I’m count-on-able for this and for this and this and, but I’m not count-on-able for that.

And when they say I’m not count-on-able knowing that there’s not a penalty box that they’re going to get put in, because this is, when you’re working in business, this is business. You don’t want to take your people out, you want them to be productive and effective and part of the team and when they get taken out and I’ve got some great stories about how the leaders I work with have done that, and how they start catching themselves and stop doing that, that’s even better. But taking your employees out, this is not hockey, there’s no penalty box. You don’t want them out of the game for a week. Well, I was very surprised when you said that the term accountability had a negative connotation because I view it as a positive thing, but based on what you just said, I suppose the context of a word is dependent on how it’s used. And if someone is already always saying, you know, you need to be accountable for this in a somewhat negative fashion.

I guess that’s how a word gets negative connotation. Is that accurate, would you say? Well, that’s very close. I would shift a little bit and again, it may also be cultural from the United States versus Europe, right, because I’ve worked for European companies, I’ve been over there a lot and I do notice a difference in the way people view certain things like accountability. It’s not so much when someone says, “Jeff, you’re accountable for this now”, it’s really in, how do they manage it? So, if they manage it by picking up the phone randomly and calling you and saying, “Hey Jeff, is it done yet?” and you’re in the middle of something else or working with a client or another employee, your mind is not there and you’re now being put on the spot and they may not be ready for that conversation and they may have information you definitely want, it’s just when you get that information, are you getting it in a way that’s most effective.

What I find is there are a lot of leaders that have a defined process for how they work with people and then there are a lot of leaders that also do things off the cuff, they do things because they remember, oh right now I need to do this. So in the book, what I define is this process and framework called the trust alignment framework and it’s really all about considering the outcome that you want before you communicate, so that the communication can be effective and one of the key areas of that is how you do it. I recommend that you don’t just trust people and then swoop in and hit them up with an unexpected phone call and ask them where things are at. I recommend you have a trust and a verify process and what that looks like is you just have a weekly meeting and I’ve got some structures in the book that you can use that help you outline the priority actions that align with what the CEO wants and inside of having those priority actions, what you’re able to do is give your employee a heads up that, “Hey these are the things we’re gonna be looking at and we’re going to do it on Wednesday at 10 A.M, for an hour.”

Now they know they have a regularly scheduled verifying meeting with you. When you’re in that verifying meeting, you’ll go through the priority actions and it gives you an opportunity to identify the most important thing you can identify in an employee which is, “Are these actions aligned with their strengths, the things they like doing and the things they’re good at doing?” Because oftentimes that’s not the case. It’s actually a conversation I had recently which is if you’re not enjoying your work or even happy, it’s because you’re actually not using some of the strengths that you have. Is that a big part of your work? It’s a very big part of the work. In fact, what the count-on-able method and process will enable you to do is it will enable you on a regular basis to stay in tune with the #1 reason people leave their job, which is they’re unhappy, they’re unfulfilled, right?

And you get to be in tune by noticing that the priority actions that align with what the whole team is doing. Maybe they’re not being done, Maybe they’re not being done on time. Maybe the quality of that work is lacking today, but it wasn’t in the past and basically thomas, what happens is you’ve got an a employee, it’s just, they’re ready for a change. So are they gonna change by being in a position in your company to take on the responsibilities that now fit with what they want and what they are strong and good at? Or are they going to go look for that in another company and cause you, you know, some turmoil and replacing them costs in hiring and training and bringing people up to speed and all of that cultural knowledge that they’ll take with them that you now have to build in a new employee, thank you for sharing that. If I don’t ask you about this, I’m going to regret it. So what was the main thing that people typically ask you about?

Well, there are, there’s a number of, of areas people are interested in. Some are interested in my experience on the shark tank because I was on it in the first season. Some are interested in, um you know, some of the failures I’ve had in my life, which by the way, all of those questions are totally inbounds. Like I talked a lot about the things I’ve failed in because what I find is, you know, when you only talk about your successes, People listen and they can get inspired, but when they hear about your failures, they can actually learn something that they can apply in their life. And so um I spent a lot of time talking about the failures in my book. I would say the number one failure. The biggest failure. Let’s let’s say the biggest failure. Yeah. I had a software company. I had grown from nothing to 50 people in about two years. I had a couple of really amazing partners, but all of the people we worked with were awesome and I still um I am proud to have been associated with them today And back in 2007 when the financial markets crashed.

And um they’re really, it was nothing that we could do about it. We were all just impacted by a market situation. We had about 100 Fortune 500 global global 2000 companies that we had worked with over time. And all of the clients we had at that time had said Jeff, we love you, you guys do amazing work for us. We’ve got to put our contract on hold or we’re not going to renew our contract. And uh there was no end in sight. Um and it caused me to have to shut the company down. And we had what I would call today a controlled crash. But it actually was an emotional crash for me. I became very depressed. I pushed everybody in my life away. It’s really one of the main causes for my divorce. Um, one of the main reasons my Children, my two sons for a while after that divorce, they just wouldn’t talk to me. Um, it was a very tough period in my life. I don’t recommend it to anybody, but I will tell you I learned some really important stuff out of that.

I learned, for example, that if you think you might be depressed because you’re sitting in front of the sci fi channel for eight hours a day, you probably are. And it’s actually okay to talk to people about it and not just not sleep and not just feel alone. You know, I would really invite anybody that’s either having that experience or has had that experience too. You know, find someone a friend or a professional or a spouse that you can, you know, start opening up to. But open up, I was about to say, don’t hold it. If there is someone out there who, let’s say they’re facing the potential of having to shut the company down that they’ve invested. So we say years of effort into, what do you say to them? I would say congratulations. Yeah, if it’s the right time to shut it down, do it now. Don’t wait. That’s the one thing that occurs for a lot of entrepreneurs is they get emotionally attached to a business and it’s very difficult to walk away.

So I don’t recommend that you just walk away. But I want you to just consider all of the resource that you are now wasting and you’re wasting that resource because what’s happening is you’re not living into something that’s possible in the future. You’re living into something that failed in the past. And if it’s truly a failure and if you no longer have the desire to move forward, it’s freeing for everybody, especially the people that are there just because they want to support you. Let them go have a life and figure out what it is you want. You will be fulfilled in ways that are unexpected by doing that. Thank you for that. I do find it. Do we say beneficial to have someone who’s been through some hardship, share how, how someone might be going through that at the moment, how they might deal with it. So I appreciate you sharing it. Um The the initial question about, you know, what do people typically ask you about is due to the prep that I did before our conversation today and about how I I do love the show shark tank a little bit geeky about it when I get to speak to someone who’s been on the show, The, my first impression of your because I didn’t get to watch the whole thing because the whole thing as far as I’m aware is not actually on the internet, but the highlights that I watched were it was like a bit kevin, a little bit aggressive at that time.

Perhaps you can, you know, that was, that was actually the time where he’s introduced a little bit of a more um Teresa, a softer approach to it. Back then he was very much, I’m a ruthless businessman, I’m gonna say whatever, whatever I want type of thing. But how was the experience for you? And how did you feel about it going in and at the time? So, well, first off it was just for anyone that wants to go look it up and I know you you there are some places you can find, I think Amazon has the episode, it’s season one, episode five. And the company I had at the time was granola gourmet and I founded that company just after I shut my software business down, I went into the food business, right? Um So I first off I had an amazing experience with the people at shark tank. They did a great job in the first season, really nurturing um what we did and how we shared it Um and then getting in front of the sharks and sharing uh it was definitely a little bit um nerve racking.

Um when you see it, you’ll notice I weighed about 90 lb more. Um that one episode just took it right off. Uh Yeah, but yeah, kevin was quite aggressive, I shared with him about my bankruptcy um due to the fact that my software company um failed and he immediately came back and said that I would never have a bank and that to him, I was radioactive and he was just ready to move on and brush it off. Like it was nothing. The amazing thing that occurred was the support I got from robert, you know, robert to dad. Um He had been in a similar stage of his life at the time. Um well with the family and he’s like, he really came to my, to my support And off stage. I could hear them arguing back and forth. And I know they caught some of that on film, but the experience is about 45 minutes in front of them that they narrowed down to, I don’t know, eight or 10 minutes.

And um, and what I got out of it was an opportunity to really share my story vulnerably with the world and it was well received. And if I’m correct me, if I’m wrong, if I’m not mistaken back then the terms of going on the show or like worse than what you would see today was that reflected and when you went in or not, you know, I don’t know exactly what the terms are today. I do know um that I think when Mark Cuban joined the, that he caused them to simplify the terms. But yeah, they’re, they did have some terms that had, had you given them a percentage interest in your company and things like that. It wasn’t very big, but it was still something that you just had to say? I think that’s worth doing and you know, if you did it then, you know, you had committed to that. And so again, I can, we can leverage Jeff’s experience here.

If you, if you have someone, let’s say someone is thinking about going on the show or they’re invited to go on the show, what what advice would you give them? Well, first off, I don’t know anybody that gets invited to go to that show. If you want to be on that show, you really need to do everything it takes to get on that show. I know a number of shark tank entrepreneurs that I’m friends with today um that have shown up on the show after season one. Um and they really, really worked to get on the show for me. I looked out, my sister saw um something about it through one of the network’s she’s involved in and said to me, hey Jeff, There’s this new TV show, I think you should audition. And at 5:00 AM we went to downtown Los Angeles. We were the second people in line for the audition and you know, that day, they probably had a few 100 people today. I would imagine. There are thousands of people that go to the open auditions. I think people get invited to apply.

Um so it’s not quite the same as being invited to go on. But I would imagine the numbers thousands now, right. They must have a whole process around that today. It’s got to be curated. I’m sure is there anything that I should have asked you about today? Um well, um I’m an open book, so to speak. Um and I want to make sure that people know that there’s an opportunity here for them. Um you know, in my my role in life, I operate, I’m a I’m a speaker, um I’m an advisor, I’m a coach, I’m a mentor and an author now and I would just say that there are a lot of companies at various stages that I work with that are looking for a process for how they can do it themselves. And I would invite them to come and take a look at the book. I do have a special offer for your listeners thomas if they’re interested Because June 14 is still a little bit in front of us.

Um I am launching on June 14 and I want to give your listeners an opportunity if they’re interested to get an advanced copy of the book. And if they find value in it to be able to share that with people by helping me launch the book and providing a reference about a couple of sentences, maybe their honest opinion about what they thought of it or where they think it can help or where they connected with it. Um that we can not only post, but that they can um put on amazon themselves when the book comes out on on the day we publish. I would love that support and I would love to provide them with a copy and the the way that they can get that would be by going to the website count honorable dot com. That’s spelled C O U N T O N A B L E dot com and just fill out the request for the first chapter, I’ll email you the first chapter with a question if you’d like to be a reviewer and if the answer to that is yes, I’ll be glad to send you the book and a simple way that you can handle the review process.

Yeah, a lot of value there, so I appreciate it excluding the first chapter. Do you have a favorite one? The favorite chapter, chapter two? And also I’m gonna say um Also I think it’s 55. Remember all the chapters are 3-4 pages long. They’re very short. So when I say 55, we’re talking about maybe 160 pages in something like that. Um and you know, I have a lot of experience working with business owners and executives and entrepreneurs. And you know, I describe in this one chapter how to business partners, they both own the company together, what my experience of working with them is and how they’ve shifted from a world where one of them would be aggressive and um and the other one would pull back when that aggressiveness showed up and after over time what’s happened through the coaching work and the advisory work that we do together, the aggressive partner has realized, hey, you know what, I’m being aggressive right now, that’s going to take my partner out.

I don’t want to do that right? And he’s actually stopping himself and I get these phone calls randomly. Hey Jeff, you’re not gonna believe this. I just caught myself again or from the partner, Hey Jeff, you’re not gonna believe it. He just caught himself. He stopped right before I was going to go on vacation for a week and the vacation happens because when the aggressive partner gets aggressive, the other partner just crawls up and says, hey, I need a break and nothing gets done. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore. Well, congratulations on getting that feedback. I’ve heard it many times. If you could just help, let’s say one person then it’s, and it’s almost worth, worth the hard work in the first place. So um, what your goals in general and maybe for the book. Well thank you. Um, goals are a big part of what we do in the program and milestones. So launching the book is a big goal of mine and having it be an amazon number one bestseller is also a goal.

And so having a community around that does definitely make a difference. I’m also building out the certification program so that other coaches and advisors can use this method and receive our support in using it to enable them the ability of bringing this to their clients into the world. Um, so those are some goals that I have and I’m working diligently with my team toward them. Um and if anybody has questions is interested in participating um, in either the program from a personal standpoint, they want to receive coaching from it or they’re interested in being a coach that leverages this um process and all of the assets we’ve developed that support the process. Please reach out to me. I would love to have a conversation. Um sort of leads me onto my, my next question that sometimes I like to ask and I’m interested in what your response is, What’s your definition of success?

That’s a great question. You know, it used to be money and then money came and went and came back and I realized money is really just something that flows, it’s really fulfillment. Um and being able to have a life that supports being fulfilled And today my wife and I are foster to adopt parents. I know you’re thinking at my age, I gotta be nuts. Right, Well I have two adult sons and a granddaughter and in december, we um, we took on being a foster to adopt parent to this beautiful eight month old girl and this little girl couldn’t lift her head, she was neglected, it was just awful. Um and in the last four months she has grown substantially. She’s strengthened substantially. She’s now in a position where um you know, she can crawl, she’s on the verge of walking. I mean that’s real fulfillment and happiness and it doesn’t come from work, but it comes because we’ve reached a level of success in work that enables us to spend the time with her.

And I regret, um even though my sons don’t think it’s a problem not doing things like changing poopy diapers when they were little right, my wife and I at the time had an agreement that she would do all of that and I would go work. But let me just tell you the, the level of success I’ve achieved personally by being there for her outweighs so much of what’s happened in my life with business and I wouldn’t give any of it up and I still have tremendous goals To impact 100,000 businesses that use this system in the next 10 years. Thank you for sharing their personal stuff. I do find it can be perhaps more, it doesn’t have to be one or the other as you said, but it can be a lot more meaningful than than perhaps the business stuff and especially when you can impact someone’s life as you have. I think it’s this great stuff.

So thank you. Can you remind us of the website address again? Sure, absolutely. It’s count on able dot com. That’s C O U N T O N A B L E dot com. Also I’m on LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook with c-level roundtable, my company and I know I’m not the only Jeff Cohen out there. So if you look for me with the word “count-on-able”, it’ll be much easier to find. Well, for everyone listening, please review the links in the description and Jeff, thank you for being a great guest today.