MCG color logo upd

Insights Post

Line 1 resized 1

How to Remain Relevant to Your Membership Community: LinkedIn Live with B Kyle of the St. Paul Area Chamber

horizontal FW teal
  • How she is leaning into the challenge of keeping herself fresh in her role (11:59)
  • Why she thinks “if you’re a good listener, you’re the best conversationalist” (15:20)
  • Her 5 Tips for new leaders (19:23)
  • The value of relaxing your energy in order to connect with others (23:50)
  • Why asking for help actually improves relationships (25:38)
  • And the 4 principles for creating connections that count (31:40)
  • How to “manage up” – practical tips for managing your board (38:58)

Video Transcript

Justin Bieganek: Hey everybody. Thanks for joining us today. I am Justin Bieganek, and I’m the brand advisor and founder of Mercury Creative Group. We grow brands and we build community. Over the last 25 years, I’ve had the honor of working with leaders in helping them transform their organizations, transforming themselves and watching them transform the people that they lead as well. And it’s my honor to share a lot of these leaders’ stories, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, so we can kind of all grow our communities together. So today’s guest is B Kyle. She is the CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber. And for the next about 25 minutes, we’re gonna chat with B about how to remain relevant to your membership community. So if you are concerned about keeping your membership, the community engaged, if you’re looking for fresh inspiration, practical tips for leading your community, here’s the spot.

And B’s going to share a lot of her tips and tricks with you today. We would love to hear your thoughts as we go. So please post your questions and comments. This what’s makes it fun and kind of changes the direction sometimes in our conversations. So in fact I’d like to kick off the chat by telling us why you tuned in today. Is there a question or anything that’s sort of burning that you’d like to ask us? So, post that, we will get to those questions as well. And we’ll try to maybe even answer some as we go. So let’s get to it. Let’s bring our communities together. So I wanna share a little bit of what I know and admire about B. She’s a strategic thinker. She’s a very careful listener, and she’s really good at just synthesizing a lot of information.

She’s passionate, you’re gonna hear about that today. She loves collaboration and it’s about relationships for her. So she likes to bring voices to the table that haven’t been able to have a seat at the table, and she’s really changing the culture and the thinking at the chamber. And she also has a really strong ability to be aware of herself. And I believe that’s super true because of her listening ability and just have conversations and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with so many different people. So you’re gonna hear from B and I about how do we remain relevant to our communities and how do we lead our teams? How do we lead our board of directors and other stakeholders that are helping us within our organizations, as well as how do we lead our community to be better and to serve all the humans that we serve? So, B welcome. Share with us a little bit about you and the St. Paul Area Chamber.

B: I am so glad to be here, Justin. This is great. So B Kyle, St. Paul Area Chamber. I have been with this organization now for about six years. I came into St. Paul to work about 20 years ago. I spent several amazing years at the St. Paul Port Authority before I took this job. So my career is long and varied. I’m a military veteran. I served overseas and I spent the rest of my career in private sector. So being able to be at a chamber where it’s all about business all day long, and relationships with people, and so doing has been a real joy for me.

Justin: So tell us the makeup of the Chamber. It’s a very diverse group of businesses. So tell us a little bit of what that makeup is and how many members do you serve?

B: Well, we’re more diverse all the time on purpose, whether it’s, you know, by race, by gender, by size of business, by sector of business. So the St. Paul Area Chamber’s the oldest chamber in the state of Minnesota, 1868, if you can believe it, I still have the original handwritten bylaws from 1868 signed by the board members. It was a hoot. And we are now second to the state chamber in terms of size revenue because we’ve done some very intentional work about diversifying our revenue streams to basically make us more sustainable. So we certainly have all the bigs at the table. I use a lot of shorthand when we talk about our companies, the Bigs and the Smalls. So we certainly have the largest companies in the world at the table, from 3M to Medtronic to Target, to you know, Ecolab, Secure, you name them, they’re at the table and they’re amazing partners. And we have the mid-size companies, including Mercury Creative Group at the table, you know, and then we have these micro companies. And that’s been the growth, I think for us, because when we talk about shifting and changing, one of the culture shifts for us has been – how do we invite the entrepreneur voice, the young voice, tomorrow’s voice? And tomorrow’s voice comes in different packages. And so we’re being really, we’re having a lot of fun and getting really innovative to bring in these different size companies too.

Justin: What are you hearing from our members or what are you hearing and seeing from them as you’re out talking to them?

B: It’s funny you should say that. So just this morning I had my coffee with B. So Justin and I were talking recently about one of the challenges when you’re a leader, it’s hard. People don’t always think you’re accessible. There’s an assumption that you are somehow elusive or away, and that’s not my desire, because my job is to be the pulse and the voice for your priorities. I mean, a chamber is a member co-op, you’re, you’re a member owner. And my job is to represent your voice. And so it’s really important that I’d be accessible. So we do that in a bunch of different ways. And just this morning we had coffee with B, which is a way for new and renewing members to sit down. And basically they, I ask them questions, what’s going on? What are you struggling with? What are your top priorities?

What do you need for me to do differently? What’s going well? And that’s a way for me to have real FaceTime with members during the once a month, during the course of the entire year. So, and I’m also a bit of an economics geek, so I’m always interested in what the marketplace is doing. So members are us right now number one priority is finding people and figuring out the culture of the workplace. The economics piece is probably the number two, how are we gonna adapt to what’s ahead? But the sense of how to invite employees in, create a culture that can keep those employees and then continue to be innovative in how we work together is probably the top priority that I’m hearing from members. And then what they’re all saying, what they need from us, which is interesting, chambers, you know, we think we’ve gotta create a big explosive deal, a big event, a big something. And our members are saying, we just wanna be together. Can you create more opportunities for me to meet more people? It’s a very modest ask, and it just tells you that at the core of anything big is the smallness of two people getting together. And that’s what our members are asking for more of.

Justin: So, and big events aren’t always the thing, right? So are they sharing what types of connections they want or what they’re looking for in those other people that they wanna meet?

B: Well, you know, that’s actually one of the challenges for Chamber, like ours is, you know, people are looking for business, right?  And when you’re dealing with the Chamber with a huge company, you’re not always gonna meet the decision maker at the first meeting. Justin’s not gonna be at every meeting. So in order for me to do business with Justin’s organization, it takes me a couple steps to get to Justin. And that’s true. That’s probably one of the criticisms made against a bigger chamber. If you go to a smaller chamber, you’re gonna meet the owner at the table. So there’s that. So folks really want informal opportunities to meet one another, and then they can do their work of business development. They don’t, stage on a stage is less interesting on a repeat, regular basis. 

Justin: My journey, I was brought in by a vendor, Pam, a printer of ours at Ideal to join the Chamber. I did. I was maybe there for three months, and I was like, I don’t, I’m not getting anything out of this. And then the Y Pro started. So for me to have an opportunity to meet other peers, I’m no longer a Y Pro, unfortunately, but I’m an old pro, I guess a medium pro. I don’t know what it is. But having that ability to meet my peers and kind of at the same stages of our businesses and our careers was extremely vital. And then to move into Leadership St. Paul at a whole different level and be immersed with 50 people growing and learning about the city and the people I learned really quickly it was about the people and the connections. It wasn’t about the event or specifically, but it was, those connections are and are still key. 

B: Well, you know, it’s funny you should say that, Justin, because at our annual meeting this year, we talked about that very thing. So my theme for our annual meeting this year was about investing in tomorrow. One of the things I said was, and we were really intentional about who we invited to the meeting. So it was noisier in an energized, young way. It was lots, I mean, over half of the people I didn’t even know personally. And so this idea about you want to be invested in an organization that sees you, you wanna walk in and have a place to be, you want to know that when you’re gone, somebody misses you. That sense of place and community and the challenges when you’re growing and changing. The comments I made at the annual meeting was post-pandemic people came back differently and different people came back, right?

And some of the veterans, the old pros actually, you know, are talking to me and saying, well, gosh, do I belong anymore? Like, you’re doing all these things, there’s all these new people. And what I say to them is, welcome to tomorrow. Like, if you are an old pro and you have a great network in the chamber, and now we’re bringing in new people as well, this is how most people feel. Little unsettled, little uncertain, do I belong here? So lean into it. The answer is yes, you do. And the answer is, you’re invited to meet all these wonderful people. And if you’re the old pro, you have a lot to say.

Justin: I was gonna say, you have a lot to say and you have a lot to offer to them. That sounds like a win to me. Is there a recent win that you’d like to share with everybody?

B: Well, that’s a hard question. A recent win in the membership space, do you think?

Justin: Just for your organization or even yourself!

B: Oh, you know what, I’ll give you a huge win. This is a huge win. Grand Old Day is back this year. That’s a huge win. And the reason I celebrate that is a win also is when we are trying to think progressively about how a chamber works. We serve our members, and how about we think about serving other organizations that serve members, right. And work together. And one such organization is the Grand Avenue Business Association. Ran into some financial challenges a few years ago, we hit the pandemic Grand Old Day, is it ever coming back with such an iconic event? Such a great, you know, some people have mixed experiences, but it’s a great event. It’s a state fair and three blocks in one day kind of thing. And we partnered with the Grand Avenue Business Association to harness our operational machine. You know, we’re relatively speaking, we’re a huge organization compared to the smaller ones in terms of skills and people and et cetera. So we’re just serving the Grand Avenue Business Association to help them relaunch this. And it’s happening. It’s very exciting. So that’s a huge big win for us.

Justin: And so you’re bringing all those communities together. You’re using the power of both networks. That’s, I think that’s a beautiful thing. And cheers to Grand Old Days coming back. What are you facing as a personal challenge and how are you leaning into it?

B: Personal challenge I will tell you. So a personal challenge for me has to do with – how do you keep yourself fresh in a job? So when you move, this is just my experience. As I move into leadership, I almost feel like I’m l there’s a third, second person, you know, there’s me, and then there’s a person I’m learning and studying, and that’s this person that you see. And I’m learning that this person, this B Kyle, is a builder, so she really likes to go into an organization and really build something. And we’ve really done a lot of transformational work around culture and values and what are our priorities and how are we leaning in with our team and, and with our membership and inviting new people to the table. That’s a lot of building work. The challenge with the builder though, is, after a period of time you have to decide what’s next.

Like, are you gonna, because the pace of change needs to be adapted to the people you work with. You know this idea that when you’re building and changing and thinking and growing, you’re the person at the center of the lasso and you’re swinging your rope around in the air, and the people around you are at the edges and they’re flying off the edge trying to hold on to all these building ideas you have. So you have to manage pace and rhythm and how much you’re doing. So the challenge for me right now is after a season of real building, what’s next? Is that a season of, instead of revolution, we’re moving into a season of evolution? And that requires character development on my part to slow the pace, deepen the relationships. You know, you can’t just float on the surface. When you move into evolution, you’ve gotta go deeper and build roots, and really then stuff gets harder. So that’s where I’m at right now, is that transition from building, which is enthusiasm and new ideas and creative space. And then you’re going into the challenging stuff of evolution.

Justin: So we had talked about the five tips for new leaders, and you already talked about pace. I want to come back to that. But you talked about building relationships. I think that’s a very big strength of yours. And you just said to go deep. How do you do it? What can you share with our listeners and people watching that they could take away on how they can build relationships or deepen those relationships?

B: Boy, I have a lot to say about this one. Cuz it’s really important that you start with being authentic, right? So I’ll share a little journey of mine to try to figure that out because I don’t do, I have a lot of social anxiety and I don’t naturally do big groups. Well, I’m an introvert. I would prefer to be quiet and contemplative. I would prefer to have dinner with one person rather than a group of 250. If I go to a networking event, I stand in the corner, nobody’s noticing me, I’m out the door. I mean, I don’t do that very well. And then you take on a leadership role where suddenly people know your face, but they don’t know you. And then you feel stupid because you don’t know them. And then there’s this, there’s this expected intimacy.

It’s just a very clumsy thing when you’re socially awkward and you’re suddenly in front of people all the time. I had to spend a lot of time, and I did most of this work before I got into this job, trying to figure out how to be authentic with people. You’re in a networking session, you’re sitting down and you want to learn from somebody. And what I have found is that if I can just relax my anxiety and lean into the person, whoever’s in front of me, and just ask a series of questions, within a matter of moments, you’re gonna find something about what that person is doing, loves, is working on, that will be interesting to you. That will take the rest of the conversation along naturally. So I find that the connecting with people is a little choppy for me at first, cuz it’s just hard.

But as soon as I ask one or two questions to find something about Justin that he’s doing that’s really interesting, my natural curiosity takes over. And the conversation is marvelous. I mean, if you’re a good listener, you are the best conversationalist ever, right? Because people wanna share what’s going on in their lives. And not enough of us actually ask the question, what’s going on in your life? How are you doing? Tell me more about “fill in the blank”. And that, and then if, and if you take that posture from a place of authentic curiosity and, and then actually willingness to sit back and listen, the things you learn are just amazing cuz people are amazing.

Justin: Well, and that’s how you can find out what problems do you need to solve, right? As the leaders. You and I met, I mean, I’ve known you pre-chamber But you and I had coffee early on. We still do that. And you do that a lot with many members and prospective members. Just could you, in a year, how many one-on-ones or coffees, meetings, phone calls do you think you take with individuals?

B: It’s funny you asked that question because, when I talked about this transition from revolution to evolution, for me, I’m doing more of those that even than I have. And we’ll probably get to one of the dangers of leadership in a minute. But my job is to be the ambassador for the organization. My job is to pay attention to what’s ahead to help guide this organization and guide the business community and hopefully avoid and adapt to and prepare for as much as I can. And I also then reflect back to you the rhythms and themes and patterns that I’m hearing. So if I run, there’s what, 220 business days in a year? I’m sure I’m having over 300 conversations. I mean, I’m having 3, 4, 5 conversations a day. So you do the math. So hundreds of conversations with people and I ask you, you know, tell me what you’re working on, or you ask me, you’ve got a challenge, how can I help you navigate through it. Patterns start developing over the course of the year on what you’re struggling with, what you’re wondering about, what you need, what you’re curious about, so that ultimately I can feed that information back to you in a way that affirms what you’ve been struggling with.

Sometimes just having somebody else say, I’m hearing from others that the hybrid work environment and culture is really important, particularly for the next generation. And that you need to be thinking about how to and show up differently. Affirms your own quiet, wondering about things. So that feedback loop is really important for me. And when I’m in builder mode, I’m deep in my operational space. I’m deep in my spreadsheets, don’t laugh. I’m deep in my planning and team culture and operations, and I’m not doing the ambassador work. And now that we’ve kind of achieved a place of stability, I’m spending even more time in that ambassador outward facing space, which I really feel is my job. So I’m gonna be doing even more of it. You’ll see more of me Justin, even than you have in the previous six years because I have that opportunity now.

Justin: I think that’s great. I think what you can learn and bring back, that is one of your key roles. Is that ability to listen and really, really listen. I wanna jump to the five tips for new leaders that you and I talked about when we were initially planning this webinar. You had talked about one of the first things to do as a young leader is to seek a mentor. Why? 

B: Your whole life should be filled with mentors. I can’t say this strongly enough. So when I started this job, you know, you’re stupid. You don’t know what you’re doing. Just suddenly you have this big title and people are waving at you and you need to have friends to say they’re waving at the tiara, not you, get over yourself. Okay, good to know. Or people ascribe to you more knowledge than you have. You have to be, you have to stay grounded in your own character to continue learning, to actually grow into the person and the job that you’re supposed to have. So, mentoring is so important because when you’re in a leadership role, you don’t have many people you can ask the dumb questions of, right? Because you feel you have to have your act together.

Someone’s either a client or a boss. So where do you really confess or seek coaching from or whatever? And so seeking a mentor is really important. And I also think it matters who you find. So for example, in my space, I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing this story. I don’t know if many of you will know Susan Kimberly. So she had been in the city council of St. Paul, she’d been deputy mayor. She had actually run this organization on an interim basis between CEOs a while ago. And frankly, she’s just a brilliant mind. And she’s if you know anything about her story, I find her an extraordinary human being. So I was curious about her and she’s brilliant. She’d done the job. So I had an excuse to ask her to breakfast when I started this job hoping she’d like, talk to me, right?

And we went to breakfast, it was in August of 2017. And we have had breakfast together every month since then. And, when we’re done with breakfast, and sometimes I talk about my work and sometimes when we talk about life now, cuz we’re friends, before we leave that table, I schedule our next breakfast because I need Susan in my life. And now, over the course of the last six years, I’ve also found several other people who are mentoring me. Louis Jambois, my former boss over at the Port Authority. He’s retired. And he loves to have a happy hour and a patio with me. So guess what I do with him? And then he coaches me. He encourages me. He, you know, he gives me perspective that I don’t have because I haven’t been doing this job as long as he had been doing his.

And so finding a mentor who’s like aligned with you too, philosophically, you don’t have to suffer through a mentor just because he or she’s really smart or got a big job, find someone who cares about you and who sees you and is willing to – Susan’s the one, after a big annual meeting a couple years ago, she says, well, what are you gonna do now? She says, “you’re a builder. You gotta figure out what you’re gonna do next. She asked me the hard questions.” So I can’t say enough about mentoring and continuing for the rest of your life to be in a posture of learning. Because in the learning you will be better and better and better and more comfortable and more prepared to do the job that you’ve been given.

Justin: Agreed. And I would add, add advisory groups and keep filling them because they fill you with the things you need to know and don’t know. You had the second tip that you recommended was relax, manage the not-knowing. You were kind of talking just about that and seeking a mentor. So how is relax and just sort of leaning into the not knowing important?

B: I think it’s important for your own survival. Number one. If you feel like you have to have all the answers, you’ll lie to provide one, let me rephrase that. I would lie to provide one. I simply have to re relax into the, “I don’t know.” And then anticipate someone coming back at me with, “You mean you don’t have all the answers? You mean you’re not perfect?” Well, now that we know that, what’s the answer to the question? Right? So you have to start with what you know. And when you don’t know, ask the question. Cuz it’s the only time you’ll ask the question. Then the next time the situation comes up, you’ll have the answer. But if you don’t ask the question this time, the next time it comes up, you still won’t have the answer. And if we don’t walk in humility and walk in a constant state of learning, there is this need, I don’t know, I can’t speak to everybody else.

I can only speak for myself. I will wanna pretend to know if I don’t confess that I don’t, and ask the question and then I get into deep waters because I’ll make something up <laugh>. And every time I do that, I get pinched. So I just think it’s really important to relax. And candidly, although people don’t talk about it a lot, this idea about energy between people, Justin and I, when we spend time together, you, you know, when you become at least acquainted with someone, you can sense when someone is overly forward in their energy trying to prove themselves and demonstrate that they’ve got their act together. Number one, it’s off-putting. And number two, it makes you trust them less. Because there’s a sense of what is this facade you’re showing me? I don’t understand. And I mean, it’s as simple as – I’ve actually given coaching to some of my senior team leaders – that when you are in the position of being tense and forward it interrupts flow.

It interrupts another person’s willingness or ability to relax. So I actually coach people to sit back in your chair and put your shoulders down. And breathe. And then when Justin’s done talking, give a few seconds of pause just to let the moment be, relax into the moment and then share what you’re thinking. And it just, everything eases. The tension eases, the pressure eases and frankly, the other person eases. When you are relaxed into the moment, you’re relaxed into, “I might know the question”. In fact, if you asked me a question today, Justin, and I don’t know it, you know, I don’t like that. I feel uncomfortable, but it just needs to be kind of what it is. And my favorite phrase is, “well now that we know that, you know, let’s move past it.” And it just helps everybody be more comfortable when you’re comfortable with the imperfections that you’ve got.

Justin: You had mentioned authentic curiosity earlier in the opening. So you’re, I think explaining that and really good leaders always listen first. And I think too, young leaders, and everyone, the word help is a very powerful word. And use it. It’s okay to say, I need help, I’m stuck here. 

B: And you know what? You are inviting people into your space. So on that one, Justin, here’s the other challenge. If you’ve got a leadership position, and candidly, if you’re in life, you’ve got a leadership position. In my military phrasing, you talk about your area of operations, you’re AO. A little bit of military parlance there. You are a leader in your AO. I tell this to my team all the time, and you are the expert. And you know what? You’re not perfect in the job. And all of us have to ask for help and assistance. And doesn’t it, people assume that because you’ve got a title, you have the answers. And the truth is you just have the title, you’re learning the answers. And so when they see you go “help, I don’t know what this means, I don’t know the-” and somebody else can step in and help you.

Suddenly you have a relationship. A little piece about negotiations. A relationship is built in negotiation when someone gives something to you, not when you give something to them. So if I’m working on a sale with Justin and I’ve asked for his help figuring something out a puzzle, can I borrow your pen? Whatever it is, the moment Justin gives something to me, Justin is invested in me and he cares more about me. It’s a very weird, it’s a sales thing, but it’s a human thing also. So the word help is important cuz you’re inviting somebody else’s abilities, talents, thoughts, to impact your life and you’re giving them credibility as a result of that. And you don’t even know it when you’re saying help. Really important.

Justin: And relationships are an investment. I wanna get to all of our tips and get to the principles, and I know you and I could talk forever. So yeah, pace yourself. Tell us why is that important for a new leader? And try to summarize it very quickly.

B: Very quickly. Pace yourself, slow down. People don’t wanna hear the 15 things you’re gonna do. They wanna know three things. And stick to those three things. Cuz you’re gonna say, oh no, I got it. Oh no, I can handle it. And you’ll overwork yourself and you, it’s not sustainable. As a person who doesn’t listen to her own advice, I will tell you, slow down, pick three things. It will feel more stable and you’ll be more accomplished and sustainable. And you’ll actually have a life beyond the work that you’re leading as well.

Justin: Life is precious. It goes too fast. So taking that time is very vital. Also for creativity and health and wellness. Listen. A lot of what you do is listen, so share with, especially our new leaders, why is that important?

B: So when you are talking, you are not learning. Now sometimes you’re required to talk and sometimes, and I like to talk <laugh> and sometimes my job requires that I talk. and then I wanna be really impactful when I do. The rest of the time I want to learn. And I don’t learn by talking. I learn by listening. And candidly, you think you know, and then you spend a little bit of time with somebody else who informs your thinking and suddenly, you know, a little bit more. And so it rounds out your conversation with the next person because you’re informed a little bit more. So you will be surprised at what you will learn from a person you’re talking to and listening to, whether or not you think they can help you, empower you, give you business, bring a deal to you, listening actively, attentively will change your life.

Justin: And I would add to that, that’s the deepening the relationship then is asking more and more questions to sort of get deeper to what it is, whatever you’re talking about. The last and the five tips for new leaders is stand in character. 

B: Stand on the solid ground of your character. Be who you are, be willing to say, “don’t know, need help”. Well now, and you’re criticizing me, now that we know that, let’s move past it. Like let’s just own it. I have a job. You may not like my job. You may not like how I’m doing my job. I have a job and I have the skills I’ve got and we’re gonna build from there. And then your character is humility. Teach me. Your character is vulnerability. Help. Your character is authenticity. Tell me more about what you’re doing and how can that inform my thinking. Your character involves curiosity, always wanting to learn. The challenge, when you step off your character and you start moving into this bit, let me give it a good example. Someone explained to me once in politics, there’s two ways to select a political person: you look at the person’s character and you say, I like you, I trust you.

I’m gonna vote for you. And just trust that you’re gonna make good decisions. That’s character. Or you have, you look at a politician who says, I like what you’re standing for. I like this issue that you’re advancing. I’m gonna vote for you because of that issue. When you’re standing on character, no matter what the issue is, I’m trusting your judgment, your ethics, your morals, your honesty, your vulnerability, your authenticity, your truth. When it’s an issue, that issue’s gonna change. That person might change their mind. There’s no, it’s like the shifting sands. You know, you stand on the rock of truth of who you are because that doesn’t change. And from there you can wrestle with issues, but they’re also from a base of trust and telling the truth and trying to do the right thing. So always stay there because that you know. The shifting sands of public opinion or giving, being given enough credit in a room, that stuff is fleeting and there’s, you lose yourself in that. Really important.

Justin: Thank you. I’m gonna scoot us along because I wanna <laugh>, get to the four principles for creating connections that count and these, in our conversation earlier, are things that have helped sort of sculpt you as a leader and helped you in your journey. So what is one takeaway from the Hedgehog Concept that we could share or that you could share?

B: Sure. So we, I put together these four principles, and they were built kind of dynamically as I was thinking about how to lead a chamber and what do I believe, like what’s my philosophy of leadership? And how can I put it into words? Because I am ultimately a communicator. And so my desire is to take input, organize it in a way that makes sense to me so I can communicate it back. That is my superpower. I’m basically a librarian. And so as I’m doing my reading and as I’m listening to people, and I do a lot of podcasts and I do a lot of YouTube, ideas form and they come together and then I organize them and I can communicate them back to my board. So the four principles of leadership are how I organize. So for example, the Hedgehog Concept comes from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great.

And that’s simply put, it’s the intersection of what are you deeply passionate about, what do you do better than anybody else in the world? And basically what can you make money at, right? When you figure those things out, that’s your Hedgehog Concept. Now at the St. Paul area Chamber, it is creating connections that count. And I was a little embarrassed about that for a while. Like, that’s kind of small, kind of modest. But the truth is that is everything. And once we landed on that hedgehog concept for us it’s just, you know it’s right because it rings true. People repeated, people resonated with it. So hedgehog concept, is it about who are you really? Not who do you wanna be, who are you really?

Justin: I would add to a lot of the member-based organizations that will be listening to this that creating connections at count, steal that, take that concept. I don’t think B would mind, but that is super, super, super key. How do you use the Blue Ocean strategy?

B: Okay, so the Blue Ocean strategy spoke to we’ve got, in this particular market, I don’t know, 25 chambers of commerce. I’m not a chamber wonk. I’m a business person. So I come into the Chamber community trying to figure this out and I’ve got territorialism, I’ve got, “stay in your lane B”. I’ve got “don’t come in here”. People are afraid of one another. And it speaks to scarcity mindset, and we’ll talk about this in a minute. It speaks to a lot of things that I totally respect today. But I didn’t wanna compete with Justin for a member. I didn’t wanna win by taking somebody from Justin. Because we serve businesses. How can we together serve more businesses? And how can, in a marketplace where there’s not a lot of upside potential for a chamber, we wanted to continue growing,

I had to figure out a revenue strategy. So Blue Ocean Strategy also is a book. And it was from like 2015. It’s all about how to create an uncontested marketplace. So instead of in the red shark ridden waters of the common marketplace of, I don’t know, events for chambers, for example. How can you create, go create uncontested market space, go to a blue water part of the ocean and do something new. That way you don’t have to steal from Justin to grow a new member kind of thing. You do something different altogether. 

Justin: All boats rise together. Yes. Philosophy of abundance.

B: Well, this goes back to what I was saying about the scarcity mindset. Excuse me for getting a little bit esoteric here for a minute. But the scarcity mindset is a masculine mindset. It’s a capitalist mindset. There’s one person at the top of the hill with the sword, and that person’s gonna fight everybody off and gonna win. There’s only one winner. If you’re second place, you were the number two loser. Ask any, you know, that’s just classic. And I’m not being negative, I’m just saying it’s just the mindset of, and so consequently I’m not interested in Justin being number one cuz I don’t wanna be number two. So I’m not interested in Justin doing great cuz I wanna be greater. And when Justin’s doing great, this means I’m not doing as well. It just creates this artificial, “I don’t like you, I don’t wanna work with you because you’re better than me” or whatever.

Abundance is the feminine mindset of more. How about instead of having a visual of a mountaintop with a sword, we have a visual of a table? Which is why I talk, my podcast B’s Table Talk. I talk about room at the table, use words a lot to repeat this idea about, “who doesn’t wanna go to Thanksgiving and have somebody scooch?” I just feel good using the word scooch. Make room, scooch over, hand over the buns. Making room at the table is an abundance mindset. There’s more. And that goes back to “We all do better when we all do better idea”. So really important. And that helps me work with Justin cuz I want you to do well too.

Justin: My team hears this a lot. Marty Neumeier, who is a mentor in my field, in the branding field, he says one plus one equals 11. And that visual to me is so important because the one-on-one conversations you might have turn into really big things. Same thing with scooching in at the table. You get all of this diversity of thought and lifetimes and stories together. There’s this richness that you can conquer anything. So again, and I liked your aspect of just welcoming in. The last one, the infinite game.

B: Oh my gosh.

Justin: What does that mean to you?

B: If you don’t know Simon Sinek, get to know him. He’s on YouTube. He’s one of my favorite channels. Really out of the box business thinker. He’s just great and he’s written several books. This is one of them, the Infinite Game. And it goes along with the idea that if I’m competing to beat Justin to be the best chamber, clearly he’s not a chamber, but you see my math here. I wanna be better than him. I wanna make more money than him. I wanna “fill in the blank” better than somebody. It’s a finite game of competition that’s artificial based on what? You know. The infinite game is you are bettering yourself. So the goal of an infinite game is not getting to some pinnacle of achievement, but to have this certainty of sustainability, which is about your internal gain to be better than you were last year from whatever measurement you’re using, it’s about your sustainability. And it just refocuses things on because it ties into the abundance mindset to some degree. You aren’t my competition. My yesterday is my competition. And it’s just really fabulously inspiring. And these principles help guide what we work on and how we think about things and how we partner with organizations. And it reminds us when we wander on to the scarcity mindset, which we’re all guilty of, to get back into the center to do what we need to do. So we’re better next year.

Justin: Amen. We have a question that I wanna jump to from our audience and it is, what have you learned about managing up when it comes to your board? And you aren’t totally unique, but you’ve got two boards that you’re reporting to and one is a very large board. And then we have the leadership foundation board. So how do you manage up?

B: Oh, that’s a really good question. And <laugh>, boy, that’s a really, we should – Emily, you should reach out to me. We should have coffee and I’ll talk about this at length and, and ask you what you think about this as well. Managing your board is very, very important. And they wanna be managed. So this is where a little command and control is really good. What my approach to running a board is, so Justin mentions the board, our board, the St. Paul Area Chamber board is 60 members. You heard me six-zero.

Justin: Everyone that’s very uncommon. <laugh>

B: Very uncommon. My executive committee is 10 and the executive committee does the, you know, the regular leader work. You know, I wrestle with the executive committee. What you do with your board is when you move in, you deliver as much as you can before they ask for a period of about a year. So they stop asking, right? And then from then on you can start directing because the board at first is mostly interested in the organization. And so they wanna make sure that you’re gonna do right by them, do right by the organization cuz they have, if the board is a good board and ours is, there’s a sense of duty and obligation, which is a fiduciary responsibility if you’re a board member. They wanna make sure you’re gonna be okay, so that they can trust you to release the reins to you.

So you can anticipate in the first year that they’re gonna be, you know, watching, tracking. And if you can over-deliver in that first year so that they can relax moving forward, then you can start moving in and being more direct. And that’s what’s happened for us. And I have a fabulous board. And then the other thing I would say in terms of managing up is trust that the board has the best interest of the organization and your success in mind. So use them. I bring questions to my board. Tell me what you think about this. I call people out, I call on them. Meaning lots of quiet people on a board. So people sometimes need to be invited to provide feedback to you. Justin, you’ve been quiet this week, this month, tell me what you’re thinking. I’m really wrestling with this question. What do you think about that? Which will get Justin invested in what the organization is doing. So get to know them personally, have coffee with them, understand what their priorities are. Over-deliver that first year and then start driving agendas for the next year. And don’t forget to ask questions cuz they really wanna help and provide the, I mean, you have them on the board cuz they’re smart people. Use them. 

Justin: I’m gonna wrap us up here and I think listening to this and knowing you so well, just coming back to your ability to listen and on a one-on-one and a one-to-many scale and your ability to synthesize that you’re just doing this right now is super important, and you are leading the board, but you’re leading together. I find that that’s a very strong leader, that you don’t need to be up on the top. That you’re doing this together and building that community together. Listener Emily said Yes, please for coffee. So I think you have another meeting, so that’ll bring that up to about what, a thousand meetings this year? There you go.

B: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Justin: Add more funds to the board or the coffee budget dear board members. B thank you for your time. Thank you listeners for being here. How could we connect or how could listeners connect with you, B?

B: Yes, please. I’d love to. Go to We’ve got B’s Table Talk podcast, we’ve got the, It’s Our Business blog and they can reach me via email at I, again, am wildly accessible and would love to hear what you’re thinking, what you’re working on and would love to get introduced. This was really fun, Justin. Thanks for the time.

Justin: Yes, well thanks for being here. And I know that B would welcome that conversation, that coffee, whatever it is, member or non-member, so again, thanks all for listening. 

Our next session will be June 15th and I’m handing over the reins to Emily and Cheri from my team who lead up a lot of the brand strategy projects. And we’ve been getting a lot of questions on how do we do it, what are the outcomes, what are the benefits? So they are gonna answer a lot of the questions that we’ve been getting from both our prospects and just clients that are just starting out with us. 

I also am open to any questions people have or how I could change the format or what questions I could ask or people to bring on to help you. So please reach out to me. You can do that via LinkedIn and I’m happy to have a conversation. So have a great rest of your week everyone. Thank you.

B: You’re awesome Justin.

Justin: Thanks, B.

Like this post? Share it on:

Want strategy + design solutions in your inbox each month?

Subscribe to Mercury Insights!