Fantastic conversation with Scott Airitam of Scott Airitam’s Leadership Systems. We spoke about a variety of topics, from how he got his first job at a radio station and the wild ride that experience was, to his incredible experience at Southwest Airlines where he experienced the culture firsthand from the inside and then helped the company continue to develop and foster the culture. Fast forward to today and how he has learned how to set the conditions for success in a company. The importance of both sides being both willing and able and framing an engagement for maximum mutual benefit. You’ll really enjoy this conversation and discussion!

Books we talked about:

Ethics 4 Everyone: https://amzn.to/2MJkFLh‚Äč

The 5th Discipline: https://amzn.to/3uQA9hH


Aaron Spatz  00:05

You’re listening to America’s entrepreneur, the podcast designed to educate, entertain, and inspire you in your personal professional journey. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And on the podcast, I interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers that detail their personal and professional journeys in business. My goal is to glean their experiences into actionable insights that you can apply to your own journey. If you’re new to the show, we’ve spoken with successful entrepreneurs, Grammy Award winning artists, best selling authors, chief executives, and other fascinating minds with unique experiences. We’ve covered topics such as how to achieve breakthrough and business, growing startups, effective leadership techniques, and much more. If you strive for continual self improvement, and enjoy fascinating and insightful conversation, if the subscribe button, you’ll love it here at America’s entrepreneur very excited to bring our guest on the show today, Scott era tam Scott is a passion for leadership consulting, and he’s had a really fun and varied career. And I’m excited to have him here with us today. Scott, I just want to I just want to welcome you, man, thank you so much for being here.

Scott Airitam  01:18

Thanks for having me. I’m really honored to be here. Yes,

Aaron Spatz  01:21

sir. So like, give us a little bit of a of a snapshot as to who you are what you my favorite. leadoff question is, you know, are you originally from DFW? If not, where the heck are you from?

Scott Airitam  01:31

So originally, I’m from New York City, Queens to be specific for for anybody that might watch this and be from there. If you’re from New York City, you have to be specific when you say where you’re from. If you’re from anywhere else, you just say New York City. It’s kind of a rule. So yeah, that’s where I’m from. And I moved here when I was in middle school, okay. went to South Grand Prairie High School and graduated from Dallas Baptist University. And we’ve been here ever since. Wow. Wow. So

Aaron Spatz  02:10

yeah. So you, you’ve been here, you’ve been here for a few years, then you haven’t? You’re, you’re able to successfully exit New York City. And that is? That is funny. I’ve heard I’ve heard a lot of people say that, that, you know, it’s not enough just to say they’re from the city, they have to say exactly, like almost almost down to the GPS coordinate as to exactly where they’re from, like these cross streets in this neighborhood, which is which is funny, which is fun. So

Scott Airitam  02:37

yeah, you don’t so the culture is so different. There are a lot of people don’t drive. So your whole existence is maybe in a block. So, you know, having those specifics. My parents grew up in Brooklyn, around the corner from each other and never met until they were adults. Holy cow. Yeah. Well, I knew the same people but it never crossed paths.

Aaron Spatz  03:02

Just yeah, just just never happen across bass. Wow. That’s crazy. Well, you know, to take take us on a little bit of a tour of of your career. So you I mean, for you, strategy and leadership are incredibly important things to you. I mean, you’re you’re very involved guy, you have your hands on a lot of different lead different things. But give us give us a little bit of an idea of the journey that’s taking you there. So you know you, you talked about grudging for TbU like, what was your, what was your journey? After college? What did all that look like for you?

Scott Airitam  03:31

Okay, well, while I was I originally started going to school at the University of Texas at Arlington. And while I was there, I walked up to I needed a job. And I walked up to this shack on Cooper Street in Arlington, and there was a big radio antenna outside of it. And I just walked up and it was this new station called 195. And I knocked on the door and knocked on the door, the shack and somebody answered, and I said, Hey, I would love to work for a radio station. What do I have to do? Yeah, I was I was literally willing to sweep the floors and clean the restrooms, if that’s what it took to get started. I thought it was such an interesting opportunity or career choice. And I was lucky enough that they needed somebody to be a producer. And when you start off as a producer, literally, it’s answering phones and back then it was pulling carts cartridges of songs. Oh, wow. Yeah. And and so you know, I would look at the Hours playlist I pull the cards, have them ready, put the old ones away, and I would go and answer the phone for the rest of the hour. And pretty soon I became, and I was doing this for the the afternoon shift, and then the evening drive time shift, and then the, the night shift. And then so I’m working these three different shifts. And on the evening drive shift, I kind of became a sidekick, or that’s exactly what that became. I became a sidekick, had my radio name all of that. And you know, from there, I got my own show. I did a few little things I claim to fame here. Fun stuff. I got to introduce Madonna and her first concert is on stage here in Dallas. Well, yeah, so I just dated myself terribly.

Aaron Spatz  05:51

Let’s say you, you know, you were your age very well. So you had me fooled man. So that’s awesome. Yeah, man, that’s, that’s, that’s a fun story. And in and of itself. So you, you literally knocked on the door and like, a, you know, what, we need somebody who’s driven and who’s like, willing to do whatever, come on in, you know, here’s a broom, get ready. You know, let’s go. So that’s a, that’s a, that’s a fantastic journey. I think there’s a lot of, I mean, a lot of people I mean, I like I can relate to that with my, my first job. One reason I got my first job was because I was just I was persistent, and just just just kept annoying that the manager until he heard me so

Scott Airitam  06:30

that’s, that’s, it’s a lot of my story. It’s, it’s an awful lot of my story. But I think that a lot of anybody who’s reached a level of success that they’re proud of, that’s part of their story is not being afraid to ask. And also not being afraid to get your hands dirty with whatever it is that you’re interested in. And all of a sudden, you do that for a while, and you find yourself in front of, you know, several open doors, and you get to choose.

Aaron Spatz  07:01

Yeah, well, yeah. And what I found out love, I love your thoughts on this, as you know, so you’ve got a bunch of open doors, but I mean, like, how do you pick man, it’s like, sometimes you might, you might have, you know, three or four or five doors that are just, they all look great. You know, it’s like, Man, I don’t want to just choose one and go down that and be stuck there. Like how do I? How do I navigate this?

Scott Airitam  07:21

So I’m uniquely blessed not to be an overthinker. You know, a lot of my friends are, I’ll give you, I’ll give you an example. I have a method when I go shopping. And I hate going shopping. So all those open doors, you know, if the menus too big at a restaurant, I can get lost in it. But I refuse to so I if I go shopping, I look for the items that I want. And I say not Is this the best deal and get on this item? It’s am I willing to pay what they’re asking right here right now. And if I am you got to deal. So for me, when I look at the open doors, I do the quick analysis as to you know, which ones are moving me in the direction of, you know, fulfillment of, you know, me trying to become who I’m I want to be? And if there’s two or three of them, that would all move me in that direction. I can’t go wrong. And then it makes the decision. Easy. I pick one. Yeah. And I go, and I commit to it. 100%. And I go, Yeah,

Aaron Spatz  08:37

solid, a solid. I mean, because some sometimes it’s, you know, when like one thing I learned I’m sure you’ve seen this time and time and time again. But like one thing I’ve seen is just because you choose one doesn’t necessarily mean that, that you’re completely abandoning all hope on on something else. And it doesn’t mean that it’s the it’s just I mean, to your point, just don’t overthink it, if it meets all your criteria, and if it if it, if it’s if it fits the bill, then go it just just go for it. And,

Scott Airitam  09:05

you know, I teach as you know, I teach a lot of people about leadership, and one of my compass points, the things that never change, you know, they’ll be true to the if you’re trying to be a leader. Making a decision is critical. It doesn’t always have to be the right decision. But not making a decision is still making a decision, but it’s putting that control into something else or someone else. So actually, you know, taking the information you have making the best decision possible. But making that decision is is super important. Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  09:47

Yes, true. I mean, in to your point like if you’re if you’re not making the decision, then someone’s gonna make it for you. And then you’re just along for the ride at that point. So which is not where we want to be

Scott Airitam  10:00

You know, putting your decisions in the hands of somebody else obviously doesn’t help, it doesn’t give you the best options to determine the outcome that you’re going to wind up with. So, yeah, take control of those decisions yourself. That’s at least you know, it’s part of how I operate. Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  10:20

No, that’s, that’s awesome. So take take me through then your, your journey. So at some point, I imagined elf the radio stations. So what were what what did that what that journey look like for you beyond that?

Scott Airitam  10:34

Okay, so I left the radio station. Such a great job. That was, I mean, I was that was young. for that job. I was probably too young for both the money. And I mean, I couldn’t walk around DFW without people knowing exactly who I was, wow. If I had that job today, I would handle it a lot differently. But I was going to school, full time, full time load. And I was working there. And I kept getting new responsibilities, which at the beginning, I was both flattered. And I thought that was the coolest thing. But it added up to me working about 60 hours a week. And I remember state fair day, or it was this is one of the weekends of the State Fair. And I was introducing bands on stage, running back, like on a Saturday night running back to the station at night to do a shift. And then after my shift overnight shift, studying, because I had to go back to the fare for Sunday. And you know, I’d have to go school Monday morning. So it was that was my schedule. And I had the type of wreck where a person should have died. It was a one car accident, I and it opened my eyes. And it made me realize that in that moment, things had to change, but that I had allowed myself to get put into a compromising position. And so I took upon myself to approach my boss, explain that I needed some things to change, they weren’t particularly ready to pull that trigger they were making, they were getting great production out of me. And while I was making good money for me, and someone my age, they were saving money. And so I wanted to quitting that job. And it’s one of the even though I love the job, 100% love the job. It was one of the best things that had happened to me because I was able to take that knowledge and bounce through an open door, which became Southwest Airlines. I want to work for Southwest Airlines for nine years. Went in and you know, went into an entry level position at the reservations, in the reservations department, booking, you know, airfare for people, and then wouldn’t work and was promoted up into the executive office handling. Basically complaints. And to do that you kind of have to be a special kind of person. But in the Southwest Airlines culture, it was actually a wonderful job. And was eventually showed it that to create something called the university for people there. Okay, got to do that which man, you know, what an honor. I mean, it’s a it’s an entity that studied. I mean, it’s it’s written about, you know, in textbooks and studied, not all over the world and know the evolution of that. And I got to actually be a part of that. So that was a big deal for me, and eventually wound up being what they call a partner. And a partner is basically and organizational development consultant internal. And they would, my job was to sort of be a backup on various HR positions, and for all the positions in the university for people and train those types of positions. While I was waiting for some executive to call and say, Hey, I’ve been working on an issue for like a year and it keeps coming back can’t figure it out. And it would be my job to do all the research, understand the issue top to bottom and come up with options. And so that was really fun, too. I mean, really got to do some cool stuff there,

Aaron Spatz  14:44

man. Yeah, I mean, that sounds sounds like a dream. Like you’re you’re an in house consultant paid to help you solve problems that are just continuing to pop up and it’s like that that had that had been so exciting and so fun to do because it’s something new and challenging all the time. And, and like what one thing I want to ask about Southwest. So you hear a lot about the south southwest airlines culture. And so I mean, not to put you on the spot. But I mean, that that holds true even even like on the inside, right? It’s not is it? You know, there’s a customer facing image, right. But then there’s the day to day Monday through Friday or, you know, 24/7 Ops. When it comes to internally, what was that culture like?

Scott Airitam  15:27

So I was there in the 90s. And so it was a growing airline. I mean, it was still the underdog in the gotcha ever respect. And it was it was growing like a weed around the country. And yeah, to answer your question, the culture, what you experienced on the outside, and what people read about on the outside, was a derivative of the culture. And the university for people was literally created with the mission to maintain and enhance that culture as the organization grew, because it was considered a competitive advantage, something that the competition, whether, you know, they’ve got all the money in the world, like an American or United or delta. Or if it was a new startup trying to compete, like a JetBlue, or something like that, you know, our philosophy was, the one thing that they can’t match is our people and our culture. So we’re going to invest in those and, and it was not window dressing, it was real, to the tune of Southwest at the time was about 85% unionized, which we all considered a good thing, you know, people’s rights were protected, and everybody knew it, and it was a two way street. And while there were negotiations, and they could get, you know, tough and rough, sometimes, there was always a mutual respect both sides of the table. And when when you feel that way, special things happen. Think about unionized employees coming up with the idea to have a to create a payroll deduction option. Because athletes had never laid anybody off never furloughed, anybody and didn’t want to. But there were there was a fuel crisis. Okay. And fuel is outside of salary. I mean, it’s one of the biggest expenses for I mean, it can make or break the fluctuations in price on fuel for an airline. Well, unionized employees decided, you know, what, we’re going to create a payroll deduction option, and maybe give five maybe give $25 of our paycheck every pay period, to towards a fuel fund. And, I mean, nobody got laid off, and nobody got furloughed. And there was a certain pride associated with that, but that was all cultural.

Aaron Spatz  18:10

Man. That’s amazing. You know, I because South South was studied in business schools, it’s, it’s used as a model for just tenacious culture and people centric service. And so it’s really it’s really awesome. I, I suspected I was a little nervous ask you the question like, crap, man, this guy’s really, really bad, like really bad.

Scott Airitam  18:35

generalities. Another answer? Right.

Aaron Spatz  18:38

Right. Right, right. Yeah, no, but no, it’s, it’s really cool, though. It’s, it’s something that, you know, it’s like it almost has to work, right? Because do being a fake is only going to is only going to take you so far. Right? It’s event it’s eventually going to crash. And so to see that the company has maintained this culture and and the, in the way that it just treats its people just all around it, and has been doing that for a long time. So it’s, they’re doing something right. And so I, I find it fascinating. And I and I know we didn’t intend to like Park on this one topic, but we I mean, we have time. So we’re like the, the, the decision by leadership at that point. So I’m curious how much of a front row seat you had to some of these decisions in terms of I mean, it sounds sound that you’re there almost from like, day one when it comes to some of these pivotal changes, but I’m curious, where the mind like where the mentality came from, like, hey, you know, we’re probably going to sink a lot of money into this initiative, but we believe this is going to be our competitive advantage. And nobody else is doing it quite this way. This is, you know, of all the opportunities and all the different things that we as a company could focus on as being our unique value proposition. This is going to be the one thing that it that it is, and we’re willing to put like serious cash on the table to make that happen like So what was that like seeing, seeing some of that and, like it’s it’s a, it’s a pretty ballsy move in terms of being willing to really double down and triple down on on making culture making people a focus. And it continues on to this day like, what? What was that like seeing all that happen?

Scott Airitam  20:19

Yeah. You know, I had a front row seat to a lot of that I wasn’t necessarily always in the room during the decision making for on that stage, but I got to see it up close. And I’ll tell you that the strategy that you’re, you’re asking about, it came about because of a little bit of cult of personality. Southwest was was, you know, had a rockstar at the helm. And that was Herb Kelleher, and he had, you know, the greatest guitarist alongside him, if you will, and that would be Colleen Barrett, and the two of them, you play to your strengths. The two of them realized very quickly, that people responded to herb a certain way, Herb had some unique skill sets. You know, when I first started working, there was 16,000 people. I didn’t believe it at the beginning. But I’m a new employee, new employee, I go to a company wide chili cook off, they’re 16,000 employees. I’m just at this thing. And Herb Kelleher is walking by a throng of people behind him. And he knows my name. Why would he know my name? I’m just, you know, I just started this company, you know, so many layers removed him, there’s no reason for it. But he knew my name. And, you know, he stopped and he genuinely asked me some questions. My parents were with me, I introduce them. And then I don’t see her again for a couple years. When I see him again, he knows my name. I mean, just, it’s not like he was preparing to see me he knew who I was. He asked about my mom and dad by name, he remembered everything. And this, then I got to see up close, because I went and worked in the executive office. This was just a gift that he had, he could do it with all of everybody. And it’s yeah, it was it was a unique gift. And, you know, to watch it play out, everybody felt important around him. You know, there wasn’t anybody that that felt like, you know, I mean, he remembers you work in Portland. And you should have been Dallas for something. And he comes up and shakes your hand and, you know, asks you, you know, what’s going on in Portland? Aaron. And, and I mean, you’re starstruck. And then, you know, they really believed in people. So, you know, they wanted to part of the secret of the culture was individualism, allowing people to be themselves and not conform to a behavioral set, conform to the policies, and the regulations and the law. But as far as who you are, and how you acted within that framework, that was up to you. And that’s where, you know, Southwest got famous for the singing flight attendants. And, you know, for people going above and beyond, you know, somebody’s in the airport, getting ready, you know, they just missed their flight. But there’s another airport, that’s a two hour drive, and somebody just goes to Boston says, Hey, I’m gonna drive this person to their, to the flight at the other airport, and get in the car and drive them over there. You know, just things like that. We’re all born of Southwest relying on its strengths at the top. And, you know, people was, I mean, you can almost start and stop the thought process there. It was about people and, you know, little things that Colleen did any piece of written documentation, whether it be a letter internally or externally, you know, something that went on the walls, anything, the word employees was capitalized. Right, because that’s the respect that was due internally and there was a whole paragraph in the mission statement that was dedicated just towards the employees. Wow. Yeah. Stuff like that.

Aaron Spatz  24:57

Yeah, no, that’s it’s very, very Very inspiring, right? And that’s, and I’ve noticed that is, when it comes to people, like leaders that and it’s like this, it’s like this secret, it’s like this little secret mind trick or whatever. But like when they know your name, right, and they’re able to point you out and, and acknowledge you from, especially from a herd of people, it’s it’s very, it’s very impressive because you know that they took the time to understand who, who it is that you are and, and had this uncanny ability to consciously remember details and whatever whatever memory mechanisms they’re using to try to associate all these different data points about you and your life and keep those catalogued for a long time. It’s pretty, it’s it’s pretty impressive.

Scott Airitam  25:47

You think about it, if somebody walks up to you and knows who you are, and you’re surprised by that. Subconsciously, you’re also in your own head going. Next time you’re executing something, you’re like, I better do this, right? Yeah, I better I better put my all into this, because people are watching people see? Right. And that’s a big deal, too.

Aaron Spatz  26:11

Yeah, that’s a that’s an interesting, like, secondary effect to that, that I hadn’t, hadn’t considered. And so there is actually one other thing that you said a few minutes ago. And so I’m, I’m curious cuz you you have given your work and the things that you focus on? I’m curious, your, your angle on this question, which is double down on strengths or short weaknesses?

Scott Airitam  26:32

Nice. Good question. So my angle on that is, I agree with some of the the popular writing of the recent era, where it talks about, you’re going to get more traction, and more bang for your buck, if you double down on strengths. Now, that’s not to say you ignore weaknesses. Sure. So So, I mean, that’s the counter, there’s, there’s a lot of people that would spend all of their points, doubling down on strengths and ignore the weaknesses, and the weaknesses will still, you know, trip us up and negate any gains, we get on strengths if we ignore them. But if we’re smart enough to know what our weaknesses are, and use the people around us and the systems around us, to, you know, cover our weaknesses to alert us when our weaknesses are sort of, you know, kicking in, and allow us to, to, you know, use coping mechanisms, use our strengths, use the things at our disposal to, to, you know, deal with that, we’re in a much better position, because we’ll, it’s the, to me, it’s the equivalent of, you know, a person who has to, you know, if they’re running, they had, they take short trot choppy strides, versus the runner that’s efficient and can take longer and more powerful strides. That’s to me, when we double down on strengths, what it is, it doesn’t mean, we don’t have bad habits and how we breathe, or how we use our upper body and our arms in while we’re running. But, you know, if we realize that, you know, we’re costing ourselves something elsewhere, we can counter that. And I think that’s, that, to me, is, that’s my angle on it. That’s the way that I train people, I teach people and the way I live

Aaron Spatz  28:32

now, it’s a fantastic visual, seeing and acknowledging, okay, one, we do need to play to our strengths and focus there, but at the same time, we do need to acknowledge our weaknesses, because we certainly don’t want those to come back and kill us later. So how do we how do we mitigate that? Right? It’s almost like risk management. Like let’s let’s mitigate our, our weaknesses in some way that that is going to dampen their deadliness, you know, so to speak. So no, I, I was just I was just generally curious. So

Scott Airitam  29:05

I like to question. These great questions. These are fun things to talk about.

Aaron Spatz  29:09

Yeah, man. No, this, this is what makes the show fun. Okay, so we can we’ll I’ll just, I’ll just, I’ll just pull a thread and we’ll just go so but like, but so far, so following southwest. So what, what? Yeah, take.

Scott Airitam  29:23

So I left southwest had a brief stop at a place called Let me repeat myself some more. The very late 90s a brief stop at a place that was beginning its decline. And I should say that it was well into its decline from an industry perspective. It was paysmart Wireless based in Dallas, and I helped get their corporate university kick started and moving forward. But ultimately wound up at a Place Called a AmEx, okay? Amex technology or it’s a mix Corporation in there. They’re a technology slash Manufacturing Company. Today they’re owned by Harman Harman Kardon, but back then it was a private company that was looking to go public. And that was sort of a survival mechanism. The industry, when I showed up the industry was demanding that either this company double in size quickly, or it was going to get eaten up in this in this growing industry. I won’t bore you with all the reasons why for that, but, you know, that was what I was brought in to do. They knew they needed to double in size, and that’s both capacity, their capabilities to to produce and it was revenues. Okay. And so

Aaron Spatz  31:04

what like, what, what, what kinds of technology were they producing?

Scott Airitam  31:08

Good question. So it’s a control systems manufacture. So basically, for people who don’t know what that is, when today, we kind of take it for granted, you go into a boardroom and you have a screen somewhere and you push the button in the screen comes down, or the blinds close, if the volume goes up to a certain level, same thing in a home, or, you know, the Bellagio, the fountains were one of the were controlled by AMS systems, stuff like that. stadiums. So and it was it was worldwide, it was a global company. And so they brought me in specifically, because the fear was, well, let’s just imagine we’re successful at this corporate growth that we have to do in 12 months time. Our management systems, our leadership, our you know, all the systems, the internal systems that we have, are not prepared for that to mean that they operate well at the size we’re at. But if we have this sort of almost instant growth, we’re going to implode from the inside out. And so I was brought in to shore up those internal workings, those internal systems and get, you know, management, get communication, processes, workflow, all of that into a situation that was going to equal success with the rest of the plan, which was to grow those revenues, and to add a ton of people and all of the things. And we were successful in doing that. It was it was amazing. And so lots of experiences, there’s a great company still is. And then from from there, you know, I went to focus full time on leadership systems, Scott, Eric dams, leadership systems. I wrote a book in that period called ethics for everyone. Okay. And, you know, basically, you know, leadership systems took what I was doing it in southwest took what I was doing a MX and repackaged it for general consumption, so that it could help companies, no matter what industry, no matter where in the world, and, you know, that company is now 23 years old.

Aaron Spatz  33:39

Wow. Wow. So, I mean, what, what has been like, what have been some of the highlights of doing all that? Well, I mean, because there’s, there’s so many different things. I mean, like and I’m, I’m sitting here looking looking on on LinkedIn, but because you’ve had, you’ve had a variety of clients, right. So I mean, you’ve you, whether it’s the FAA or Cook Children’s and I mean, there’s, there’s time show, there’s tons more examples, but sure, like, but what like, what are some of the big problems that people are bringing you in to help them crack from a leadership standpoint?

Scott Airitam  34:10

Well, um, you know, when we’re dealing with what I call the people side of business. There’s so many variables, because people are individuals, people, Brent, you know, every combination of people are different, but the problems follow similar patterns. And if you’re, if you’re familiar and understand what you’re looking at, it’s almost like, you know, those those things, those big posters that are all these different specks of color and you have to look at it with one foot with one eye closed and you see an image. That’s kind of I’m not very good at those by the way, but I am very good at looking at an organization and looking at all of the pieces Isn’t the parts and the combinations, you know, how they have them, you know, working and running together and seeing the patterns that cause their their challenges? One challenge that was the I’m just really proud of this one. So I’m going to talk about it. Yeah, let’s do it. I was working. I wasn’t doing like huge, huge work in business, but I was working with the national air traffic controllers Association. And their employer is the FAA. And so it’s it’s a government union, basically, that and the, the government employer is the Federal Aviation Administration. And while I was there, you know, when I first started working with them, you know, they were doing things very much in a similar way that most unions back then would operate. And that’s, you know, try to protect your rights through the grievance process, you know, you something doesn’t go exactly by the contract by the book, you write a grievance. And that grievance is is either solved or arbitrated. And, you know, hopefully, you’ve protected the right of somebody, and the process of, of discipline and all of that. Sure. Alright, so when, when Bush was in office, there was an executive order that basically pit the employer and the federal employer and the Federal unions against each other. And boy, when I got there, there was I mean, it was war, it was ugly, and just, you know, it wasn’t good. And that was the conditions that were normal. People just accepted that as the norm. And when Obama was elected, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, that was a really challenging year for us. But one of the things that happened with this pairing is, they were faced with a new executive order, and it was a shower. So when, you know, it contracts, or whatever Shao is, like absolute, it will occur. And it said, federal employers shall collaborate with, you know, the labor organizations that fall under them. Nobody knew what that meant. Nobody knew what that meant. We, you know, NACA, and the FAA, put together mirroring groups to work on this challenge. And, you know, I was, I wasn’t the only person in there from the outside, but I was the outside entity that, you know, would sort of facilitate the process, you know, you know, grab all the sticky points that need to be stuck together and make sure that they were, and we created took a whole year, I mean, we had to start with defining what collaboration is, by it was important. And we created a collaborative process. And the, you know, the idea is that it was just the better way to do business. And it everybody, you know, everybody wins when you operate this way. And that way, regardless of the political winds and who’s and you know, who is at the top, you know, it’s hard, you can pull money from this, you can say you, you won’t collaborate anymore. But internally, it’s hard to undo that fabric. You know, once it’s what the to, you know, to the toothpaste has already been spilled, and you can’t get it back in. And so that’s what we tried to create. And that’s a huge project. And today, the relationship between the FAA and NACA, the national air traffic controllers Association, is I’ll go so far as to say the model and not just at the federal level, but it’s the model for you know, how unions and their employers can actually work together in sync towards a common goal. Yes, they have different interests, but they all they do have a common goal, and they actually produce better results working together then either side could could by itself, it’s an amazing wonderful thing.

Aaron Spatz  39:53

Well, I mean, like so like, what some what what some of Scott’s secret sauce man like how what what are you doing in terms of coming to the table? And helping bring people together that may not initially want to work with each other. I mean, that’s seems that seems to be a trend that I’ve noticed just in speaking to you now for a little bit just to your career, you’ve, you’ve had this unique ability to bridge gaps and to help not just bridge the gap, but but like, build a permanent bridge between two different two different groups of people or more or more than two groups of people. And then once that’s done, and like your work has finished, right, like you’re, you’ve, you’ve done what you’re supposed to do, and you’ve, he’s now helped these, these organizations work better with each other, like, what, what what have you seen that, that has helped move the needle in terms of bringing people that are maybe been at each other’s throats for the last, you know, several months, and now they’re, like, now they’re actually cooperating, and we’re working with each other what what’s happening there.

Scott Airitam  40:50

So, I mean, I think that there has to be a tipping point, the two sides have to do a few things, the first thing is, they have to either, you know, be so fed up with the status quo, for various reasons they can arrive there for, you know, however, they arrived there, but they have to be fed up with the status quo and want something better. If either side doesn’t want it. So collaboration requires two willing sides, you, they both have to be willing, and they both have to be a well meaning somebody else isn’t pulling the strings, and they can only take it so far before there’s another entity that has a say in it, you’ve got to have two willing and able parties. And, you know, the situation cannot be so dire, that there’s no time to invest in this. Okay, because the two sides have to go through a process to understand each

Aaron Spatz  41:50

other. Well, those are a couple of big conditions that

Scott Airitam  41:52

you just saw. Those are huge conditions.

Aaron Spatz  41:54

Yeah, I mean, it’s like you’ve you’ve got to be willing and able, okay, that’s, that’s just really whittled down your field to a letter sane and willing to cooperate and not irrational and completely, you know, hot headed or very emotional about something or I mean, they still may be emotional, but the fact that they’re even willing to sit in the same room together, you just, you just use eliminate a lot of different points.

Scott Airitam  42:21

Yeah, give you an example of this. This is a funny example. So I have usually once a year, I don’t get a serious offer from these people, this group that I’m about to mention, nobody’s ever approached me from there. But from outside, I get asked at least once a year, what would it take for you to go in and do what you do for Congress, like for Congress, and I will not walk out run from that every time because they don’t meet the the criteria, they are not willing, and they may not be able. And whether it be their constituents or what they think their constituents will, will take. And they’re, you know, a lot of them are in it for the next vote, and then not for just wanting to do the right thing. So it’s hard to find the common ground. You know, that’s a joke. I will walk away from that every single time. And there have been companies that have actively called Leadership systems, we go we talk to them, we ask the questions. And we understand very quickly, they’re either not willing or able, and we will we have walked away, you know, gently, but we’re not going to set ourself up for failure or set ourself up to be the one holding the bag, because they haven’t positioned themselves for success yet,

Aaron Spatz  43:54

man, man, so you just you just hit on a really good topic. And I think this can, this doesn’t apply even just to this one specific example. But I think even just from a broader, like, even, like broader, like business development sets, right, the importance of like, qualifying, and that’s what you’re doing right as your, your qualifying your lead or your you know, your, your potential clients could be and and you’re holding them to a rigorous standard. And there’s a there’s a there’s a there’s a standard that you have that no matter what happens, like we’re not like there’s certain things that are maybe negotiable, but there’s a few things on this list that yes, they’re never going to be up for a for any kind of debate. And once you have that established, it really does. It really does set the tone and so it helps you filter out because like what what you said is if you take just anybody and everybody, Ethan, you’re putting yourself at risk in terms of just as a company, because then to your point. Now, let’s let’s say you you come into a situation you’ve got you’ve got two parties, one If one is willing and able, the other one is maybe willing, but they’re not able, right? Or I mean, it could be any combination of the two, right? So, but now that that’s gonna come back on you, because then when they’re frustrated six months from now, or a year from now, or three years from now that man, these results just didn’t pan out the way we want them to. Well, this is why, right? This

Scott Airitam  45:20

is disinclined to blame themselves. So like me, every time

Aaron Spatz  45:24

I was just talking to somebody about this yesterday is like, you know, no matter how hard we try, it’s it takes it takes some serious conscious effort to be willing to own up to something. And it may not even be the things that we think about, like, we’re so quick, I think to, to rationalize and explain away different things. And there’s, I mean, there’s this, there’s this concept of just, you know, of just taking personal responsibility and owning up to things. But I think, on this side of things, it is setting a standard, whereby you’ve set the conditions for success. So before you’ve even walked into the room for like, you know, day one of the official engagement and like, you know, here we go, you’ve already set the condition the in the environment has already been set, and it’s primed for success. Now it’s on you to facilitate that and to walk you to willing and able parties, or more through through a thoughtful process that you’ve you know, that you’ve architected that that will get them from point A to point Z. And so it’s, it’s fascinating. And I think it’s something that people, regardless of where they are in their business journey, or whatever their industry, whatever, whatever it is, that they’re doing, I think it’s important to understand, and to not, to not just quickly walk past this point of, you know, you, we don’t just necessarily want to do business with anybody who has a pulse and a checkbook, right, we want to make sure that, that we can deliver on this like, because we know that we can do our job. But are there going to be other factors that are going to prevent us from being able to do that, and I think that’s what you’re, that’s, that’s really what you’re saying is like these are, these are things that I can’t control. And because I can’t control them, it’s going to have an adverse impact on my ability to do what it is I’ve promised you to do. Right?

Scott Airitam  47:11

So yeah, young leaders, you know, up and coming. You know, folks that are looking to create their, their future careers and all of that, this is a huge lesson. Know what you’re willing to know what you need to walk away from, right. And that could be a solution, it could be a job, it could be, you know, it could, it could be a customer, it could be any of the above, but if you know, what you need to walk away from, you have successfully avoided a large percentage of the traps that you would fall into already. I personally, when I you know, in with leadership systems, I’ve walked away from customers, if I as I’ve said, Me, personally, you know, I’ve had to walk away from actual jobs, not that many to two. But once you know, getting in there, and seeing that there are some conditions that aren’t being met, and that aren’t able to be met, and it’s not a good fit. And that’s really what it boils down to is, you know, understanding, you know, when something is a good fit, the potential if it’s not, how close is it, and what what’s the potential for it to actually evolve into that good fit, and, you know, has something evolved out of being a good fit, right, and, and being able to evaluate those things and having, you know, measured periods of time. Like, I mean, my measured period of time with a customer is the length of our contract. So, if I’m committed to a customer, it’s 100%. If I realize halfway through a contract, this is not a good fit anymore. You know, they’re not going to get from us what they hope to get for, you know, various reasons, maybe some of that’s on them, maybe some of it’s on us, but they’re not going to get out of it, what they want, what they’re paying for. And we’re not getting out of it what we want, and that’s a successful engagement, that allows us to build continue to build our business. And, you know, if I recognize that, then, you know, when that next contract comes out, it’s a it’s a very serious discussion about, okay, you know, for us to remain involved. And to continue, there would have to be some changes that we agree to.

Aaron Spatz  49:41

You know, and it’s, it’s having the, and there may be a better word choice for this. But the first thing that I thought of was just having the maturity to recognize what these what these items might be and being well I mean, I like as you’re saying, I’m like, Man, that that’s a really good idea in terms of raw Like maybe even writing down words over time, some of some of the sticking points, some of the things that are like, you know, these are things that are really hindering our ability to execute. And then and then understanding, okay, what can we do to affect that? Are we not pressing in hard enough? Is there something more that we need to be doing on our end? Or is this really, we’re just being held back and we’re being handicapped, just from just from square one. And so, like, that’s a, it’s a great model, or, like, it’s a great idea in terms of how to do that. And it may, and it may even be worth mentioning, periodically, and in a very kind way of looking at, you know, work salutely,

Scott Airitam  50:37

that transparency is, is super important. And I’ll say this, you know, there’s a lot of business owners, you know, top level management, in, in, you know, corporate offices, entrepreneurs, you know, it’s a trap, because a lot of unhealthy conditions, and, and situations where it can’t possibly equal success when you when you arrange the, the, the mathematic equation, if you will, you know, correctly, it will not equal success. A lot of those come with money attached, like, the money is the lore, the money is the attraction. And it’s, it’s hard to see beyond that, like, Wait, we’re going to get a ton of money, yes, but you’re going to stunt your own growth, that money will be wasted on you trying to recover. You know, internally, you’re going to, you’re going to blow that money. And, and that’s because of this customer? Or is because you know, you chasing this opportunity, that’s not a good fit for you. Yeah, it’s a trap.

Aaron Spatz  51:50

Wow, wow, that’s it. These are I mean, this is, this is great stuff, right? So I mean, if you’re, if, if you’re a startup, if you’re a young, or you’re, you’re an established organization, I don’t care what it is, it’s, I feel like this is a really, really great point to think about is like, what is your what is your qualification criteria for your, for your potential clients? But then I think beyond that, and I think some of what we’ve been talking about, maybe we haven’t labeled it quite, quite succinctly yet has been expectations, right? So like, what what are the expectations in drawing them out very clearly, and drawing a line in the sand with a thick Sharpie and be like, Okay, this is what I’m responsible for, as our organization, this is what you’re going to bring to the table. on your end, here’s, here’s how we expect these things to line up and match and the outcome that we expect to see and, and all these different things. And I think what you’re what you’re really what you’re really getting at is, man, it’s it’s important, it’s important if you’re going to have a successful business engagement, to set the conditions, right. So that’s the qualification process, but then it’s also set the expectations and then you continuously checking on like, on both of those, as to as time goes on, I mean, like, am I am I summing that up? Like, somewhat properly?

Scott Airitam  53:05

Yeah, I mean, if, if all you when you when you eat, I mean, that’s this is a long term proposition for your body when you eat, if literally, all you did was eat to not be hungry anymore, meaning you know, you ate snacks, that’s all you ever ate. You didn’t ever eat a meal, you never ate vegetables, you never ate anything that was, you know, scientifically proven to fuel your body properly. You might not feel hungry in that moment. But over time, you’re going to spend more time energy, your experience more pain, because of what you did, and that that kind of, you know, if I’m talking about expectations, it’s being able to, to forecast and see into our future, what to CES, a concept called systems thinking, okay. Peter Sangay is the guy who wrote a book on it called The Fifth Discipline. And one of the things that he says in that book is, today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems. And I have yet to see that disproven, like, like every time that somebody is experiencing something at the level where they have to call in leadership systems. And we come in, we can, we eventually can trace the root of that to decisions that were made in the past. Understand if we understand why those decisions were made, we can help a company not make those decisions. I shouldn’t say that we can have a company better define the criteria for decision making in order to make better decisions moving forward.

Aaron Spatz  55:01

I love that. I love that. And I love how you love how you describe that. Because you’re, you’re really helping the company impact like Empower itself, right? You’re helping, they’re helping them to leverage their strengths, right and address their weaknesses, but really helping helping them see a prospective helping them maybe think a little bit more clearly. And then they’re able to go make their own decisions, so they can think of be success and meet their goals. So I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s fantastic. And I, I mean, we’ve had so much fun. I mean, time flies, man, time flies, we’re having fun, but really, how can how can people get in touch with you? What’s the what’s the best way for people to reach out?

Scott Airitam  55:41

Okay, so another author, Tom Peters said adapter, die leadership systems is doing some adaptations based on, you know, COVID, and the adjustments, the way that businesses change, so we’re changing and so currently, I can’t, I’m not directing anybody to our website. So you have a LinkedIn link up, that’s a great way to reach me. You can also, you know, search leadership systems on LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, you know, my direct people are definitely, you know, able to contact me directly, and that would be Scott, dot air Tamizh. You see my name spelled there, Scott dot era tam at Scott era ten.com. And that would be a great way also to reach out. I’m sure you’re right. It looks right to me. All right, I

Aaron Spatz  56:44

gotta make sure I get those eyes in there in the right sequence. screw that up.

Scott Airitam  56:49

I was traveling one time and I was traveling on air trans. Oh, one of their employees. But God bless her. One of the employees in Atlanta asked me if I was the owner of the company. Like the way people pronounce my name often.

Aaron Spatz  57:08

Oh, man, like, Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. Have a great day. That’s awesome. That’s, well, Scott. Man, I just want to thank you, man, like this has been a blast. I really, I really do appreciate you. Thank you for spending time with me and for sharing some of your story. And I’ve really enjoyed going down some of these different topics. With you. I really appreciate you sharing all this with me.

Scott Airitam  57:28

Hey, likewise, it’s been a pleasure to spend some time with you. And I love the show here. The format is great for this podcast. I’m happy to have been a part of it.

Aaron Spatz  57:39

Awesome, man. Thank you. Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us That’s a Ron at old media that us till next time

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