Great CEOs Know How to Build Strong Relationships with David Nour

CEOs must do many things. However, great CEOs know how to build strong relationships. Even with all the strategies to navigate and execution to oversee, relationships with others are essential to company growth. Today’s guest is David Nour, who is an executive coach. David and I talk about why CEOs must build strong relationships. We look at what gets in the way of these relationships. Discover how you can build strong relationships as a CEO.

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David Nour: The Transcript

About: For 20 years, David’s team has helped leading organizations recognize the many quantifiable ways that relationships drive everything: strategy, innovation, growth, and profitability. David speaks 50-60 times a year and have written eleven books, translated into eight languages including best-selling Relationship Economics (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), Return on Impact (Josey-Bass), Co-Create (St. Martin’s Press), and the newly released, Curve Benders (Wiley, 2021). He is proud to work with a phenomenal group of Visual Storytelling, RevOps, and Product-Led Growth sales, marketing, and customer success team to support executives at BD, Chubb, Cipla, Cisco, Deloitte, Disney, Equifax, Gen Re, HPE, IBM, KPMG, Marriott, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, SecurityScorecard, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, as well as leading industry associations and academic forums. David Nour serves as an independent director on the boards of two privately-held, venture-backed tech companies, and very much enjoys such roles. On numerous occasions, He is a moderate senior leadership/board retreat that focus on critical strategic priorities for these organizations. David is a native of Iran he immigrated to the United States in 1981 with a suitcase, $100, limited family ties, and no fluency in English. David’s life since then is completely a function of his ability to develop and nurture strong relationships.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

David Nour: [00:00:00] When you’re faced with a challenger, an opportunity most CEO, founder leaders think about as you alluded to, what should we do and how should we do it? And that’s brilliant. And that’s important. What you’re missing is the who questions. Who do we need? There, there are no new problems. There are no new challenges. The only new problems are the ones you haven’t seen. So somebody else is seen solve the challenges, the pitfalls either in or you headed for. So we don’t ask Gene. I don’t believe we ask enough. Who questions, who do we need then? Who do we know? And then how do we connect the dots between the relationships we already have and the relationships we need to accelerate, our ability to get there. You throw enough time, effort, resources, you’ll eventually get there. One of the incredible value relationships. Is that it can accelerate your time to cash, accelerate your time to results, accelerate your time to the outcomes you’re after. If you start asking better who question.

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. [00:01:00] My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: Every leader knows the power of relationships. Now, sometimes they pay more attention to strategies or KPIs or all the other things inside of our business, but great CEOs know how to build strong relationships. And that’s the core of today’s conversation. Our special guest is the coaching consultant. David’s written 11 books. One of them is relationship economics. And today we’re gonna talk about how CEOs build strong relationships. The reason why I think you wanna listen to this is because we go through some of the things that get in the way of us building strong relationships, internal to our company and external. We also look at how we must show up as leaders. Consistently and how we connect with others and how we have difficult conversations when the time comes all that packed inside this episode. And if you want to be an extraordinary leader, if you really wanna take your leadership to the next level, I wanna invite you to a conversation inside that conversation.

We’re gonna look at not only what you wanna create, but also what gets in the way. [00:02:00] I have this conversation probably two or three times a week. And so if you’re sitting there thinking, you know what, I’ll do that later. I’m gonna ask you, go ahead and do it now. cause if you have some interest to be an extraordinary leader, if you really want to lead powerfully and inspire your people in a different way than you are today, you want different results. Then let’s have a conversation. There are no pressure sales. There’s actually no sales at all. Inside this first conversation. It is a chance for, for me to serve, get to know you, and see if there’s a reason why we continue this forward. Sometimes those relationships don’t. But many times they do. So if you wanna take me up on that, just go to and schedule your call today. We’ll talk, we’ll chat. You’ll walk away with more clarity than ever before. Just go to and schedule your call. Now here’s the interview with David

Gene Hammett: David. How are you?

David Nour:  I’m great, Gene. Nice to see you

Gene Hammett: Excited to have you on the podcast. I will refer to you as Nour cause that’s what your friends call you and, and we’ll, we’re gonna get really friendly in today’s conversation. Give us a little bit of an overview of who you are and what’s. What’s you know, allowed you to be the person that you are today.

David Nour: So thanks for having me, let’s see. Originally from Iran came to the [00:03:00] us in 1981, Gene with a suitcase, a hundred bucks, didn’t know anybody and didn’t speak a word of English. The reason I tell that story is because I’m a product of really two distinct cultures, for your audience members. Who’ve lived the work that brought, that realized this next statement? The rest of the world builds relationships first from which they do business. As Americans, we’re so focused on the business part that if, and only if the business part works, we may ask other people about their personal lives. So I’ve taken that, nature, that natural DNA, and I’ve combined it with business acumen. And this is year 20 of my business focused on, large enterprise accounts, but also growth-oriented companies and specifically their strategic relationships.

Gene Hammett: Well, we’ve got a lot of growth-oriented companies listening in here. Typically founders CEOs, there may be a few people outside of that, but I want you to, to really give us an idea of what gets in the way of founders and CEOs creating the kinda relationship they need to, to accelerate their company growth,

David Nour: I would [00:04:00] submit is their myths and misperceptions about relationships. So let give you three quick ones. One, the perception about relationships. I already know everything I need to know about, and that’s the kiss of death, because if you’re not learning growing, you’re not evolving. Number two, you intellectually understand that relationships are important. Very few become very strategic and intentional, and as such quantifiable about the relationships. Number three, you don’t really think about the relationship as an investment. You wouldn’t make a blind investment in a stock or equity in another company, but most people make blind investments in their relationships. Hence they don’t really think about it. Return on those relationship investments.

Gene Hammett: Pretty good succinct way of looking at it. I, I, I know the problem that I see with a lot of founders and CEOs is they so focused on the work. That they forget that there’s a person behind this and they forget to, to do different things. And, and I actually kind of in my work say, are you managing, the work? Are you leading the person in this conversation when you, when I talk about that with you, do, what would you add to that? As far as CEOs concerned,

David Nour: I’m gonna, I’m gonna [00:05:00] build on it because same CEOs if I don’t care if you’re running a. Five or a 50 million dollar company when you’re faced with a challenger, an opportunity most CEO, founder leaders think about as you alluded to, what should we do and how should we do it? And that’s brilliant. And that’s important. What you’re missing is the who questions. Who do we need? There, there are no new problems. There are no new challenges. The only new problems are the ones you haven’t seen. So somebody else is seen solve the challenges, the pitfalls either in or you headed for. So we don’t ask Gene. I don’t believe we ask enough. Who questions, who do we need then? Who do we know? And then how do we connect the dots between the relationships we already have and the relationships we need to accelerate, our ability to get there. You throw enough time, effort, resources, you’ll eventually get there. One of the incredible value relationships. Is that it can accelerate your time to cash, accelerate your time to results, accelerate your time to the outcomes you’re after. If you start asking better who question.

Gene Hammett: I, I interpret this as if we’ve got a challenge inside the company, instead of trying to figure out how do we solve it? [00:06:00] Your explanation here is who is it that can, we can partner with or who is it that we can hire? Who is it that knows more about this than we do? I think there’s another side to it. I would love for you to, to share with us. It’s the who inside the organization. So instead of being external, it’s more internally focused. What would you like?

David Nour: No question, no question. And one of the myths or misconceptions about relationships that is purely external, right? Customers, suppliers, investors, partners, distribution partners, whatever. Outside the organization. I, I would submit just like a family, just this function on the inside. Everybody sees it. So believe it or not. A lot of my work, a lot of my focus, a lot of my coaching is focused on look who your people, your team is cheering for. Look who they’re not cheering for. Look who is excelling at a really interesting pace. And then who’s not. And what’s really the difference between those two. Is it skills, is it knowledge? Is it attitude? Is it behaviors again, a lot of who question, who else is out with this scenario? Who else has got a jerk for a super stall sales rep and how are they dealing with that scenario?

So if you peel back relationship challenges, You’ll [00:07:00] eventually figure out somebody else, like I said, has seen this, somebody else has dealt with us. Somebody else knows how to work the way around this challenge or an opportunity who, who are their who’s the, who’s the struggle. Who’s the source. Cause root cause of the struggle. Who else has seen this? Who else do we know? How else do we either help get this person some help or really look for our alternative paths for them and for us.

Gene Hammett: I wanna ask you about something you said in there you were talking about cheering for and not cheering for that really signaled to me. If, if someone’s cheering for them, that person might be a, a good candidate for leadership skills and, and be able to lead a team. whereas vice versa, they’re not cheering for that person. You might wanna stay away from it, cause it might be a little bit harder battle to, to create that, that cohesion behind a behind a team did I interpret that right?

David Nour: You’re exactly right. So if you think about a fundamental difference between an individual contributor and a leader is you have to elevate the role from your own contribution, your own doing to that, of influence that of often influence without authority, right? So I might need you not just to direct people that may work for me, but we also need to work [00:08:00] with other functions or other groups or people outside the organization. So if people in your organization are cheering for Sam, if they’re cheering for Beth, a figure out why B. And it’s typically gonna be some of their behavior and what I’ve and you probably have seen the same, what I’ve, what I’ve increasingly seen in really that next generation of leaders is they build a preference for their top technical capability, right?

They know the business, they know how to sell. They know how to market, they know how to build products and ship, you know, run a warehouse. That’s their technical capability gene. They build a reference for the way they build a nurturing relationship. So when people say, I wanna work for Sam, Or I’d love to work with Beth on that project. They’re not really referencing their technical capability. They’re referencing the way that person builds consensus or gets buy-in or behaves like a servant leader. Those attributes is exactly right. Makes them phenomenal leaders and really an opportunity for them to run a critical piece of business.

Commentary: Now, hold on for a second, David just talked about, you know, recognizing people who. Influence across the organization. I know I’ve [00:09:00] said this before, maybe framed in questions, but I wanna make sure we put a spotlight on this one thing. If you want to identify future leaders in your company, look to those who already have influenced people that respect people that, really do want to work with others. They’re cheering them on when you identify those people. You wanna make sure that you invest in them because those are the most likely leaders in your company moving forward. They may not have the skill sets you’re looking for to be the star salesperson or the star coder. And that’s okay. But you wanna make sure that you are tuning into who has influence across the organization and really assess is that person capable of learning the skill to be a leader across this team and across many teams. They don’t have to be experts in that, or you should probably already know that, but it does help when they are working with small teams for the first time to, understand, how the team works and the processes inside of it. But they don’t have to be the rockstar. And in fact, sometimes the rockstar is what gets in the way of them being great leaders. Just my 2 cents here, back to David,

Gene Hammett: our whole conversation’s been centered around, you know, lead leaders, [00:10:00] creating relationships. I think a lot of leaders will have this kind of blind spot inside this, or maybe it’s. , a predetermined identity that they’re not good at with people they’re better with numbers. They’re better with technologies. They’re better with the process. They’re better with something else other than people. How do you respond to leaders that have that kind of standpoint?

David Nour: Yeah, I, I, I would, I would give more leaders, probably more of a benefit of the doubt because of you, most leaders, most organizations, certainly most hyper-growth organizations. You sell them have gotten there by yourself, right? You’ve you’ve, you’ve been able to attract people that have contributed to your growth and you continue to do so. So why did they come work for your company? It can’t just be a product or service. They typically liked some attribute about you as a leader.

And increasingly we’re seeing more and more. Individuals talent individuals go to companies, not just a product or service, but I’m going there to work with. So, and so you and I also hear a great deal recently in the news about the great resignation news flash. They’re not quitting a job, they’re quitting a leader, or they’re quitting a company where leadership has misaligned values, with them. So [00:11:00] a give yourself more credit B really get to the. Peel back to onion, really understand that people who are there, people who are thriving, why did they join? Why have they stayed? And how do we replicate that model to attract, develop elevate others in the organization?

Gene Hammett: Great points. We’re talking about the, you know, great CEOs develop strong relationships. And I don’t know of any CEOs that haven’t come to me with people’s problems. In fact, most of the time we talk about out, it comes down to people’s problems and, and it’s something that’s gotten a, you know, off-track and maybe it’s expectations that weren’t set. Maybe it’s. Tensions about something, or maybe you’ve gotta deal with a very different someone said something they shouldn’t have said, but I really believe that relationships are a way to invest in the Goodwill so that when you do have difficult feedback, it’s much easier because the relationship is built on the foundation, not just out of the blue. When you are talking with your clients around building relationships, for the people problems. What are the key insights you can share with us?

David Nour: So to build on your comment, you know, maybe different terminology or different context, but I talk a lot about, and I’ve written [00:12:00] about this idea of relationship currency and the notion is it’s a lot easier for you to ask for something. Right. So have your hand out, if you start by giving a hand. And again, starting with the inside the organization. I, I, I, I struggle in seeing how any per any benefit really works as one size fits all. So regardless of the size of the organization, the more owners, founders leaders can lead by walking around and really on a one-on-one basis, get to know the individuals, what makes ’em what really, and, and, and Gene, you would appreciate this comment. I’ve always believed it’s very difficult to light a fire under people. I coach leaders to find ways to light a fire within people. Mm-hmm because lighting a fire under people just doesn’t last. So if you understand what motivates that individual, you can cater to that, which is gonna make them tick, and it’s gonna really help elevate their thinking perspective, impact results.

So if you make that investment again, it’s a relationship currency investment in that individual will, it’s gonna be a lot easier for you to ask for a return on that [00:13:00] investment over some period of time. , the other, the other thing, I’m a big believer of just on the same lines. Is again, just like our education, those relationship investments is something people cannot take away. Right? It’s it’s you betting on you doubling down on key individuals that are the future of the business and you have to be willing to let go as that founder, as that leader, they may not do it your way. But as long as the outcomes are crystal clear, and we’re talking about within legal and ethical bounds, let them get creative on how they get there because they might just surprise you. But that’s part of the autonomy increasingly more and more people are looking.

Commentary: Now David’s been talking about relationship currency. I wanna make sure that you understand where we are on this. When you are developing a relationship currency with other individuals. You’re basically creating Goodwill. You’re creating a space for trust to be built on. And then when the time comes for a difficult conversation for, you know, something that will give them feedback to help them meet your expectations, help the company grow. Maybe you call upon them to do something outside of the norm. If you have paid into that, as Goodwill. that [00:14:00] relationship. You have a much better chance to connect with that person and to get them to shift in the way that you need them to shift. If it’s, you know, feedback, they’re gonna receive that feedback a little bit less personal because you have a personal relationship with them before you actually have that difficult conversation. Just as one example, I wanna make sure that you understood how important relationship currency. And how it’s used in leverage as your company continues to grow back to David.

Gene Hammett: I wanna wrap up, well, we’re not quite close to wrapping up and I wanna kind of dive into a little bit different area. We all have to give difficult conversations as leaders. I have a small company, that’s probably six people. Many of the people listening in here might have 20 or 50 or a hundred people. , but difficult conversations are something we have to do over and over again. What are your strategies for getting a leader prepared for those difficult conversations?

David Nour: Sure. So I’ve long believed and someone asked me once my leadership style, I’ve always believed hard on performance, soft on people. If you think about it a second, I’ve always believed in relationships. Go bad with misaligned expectations. You’re expected to do this level of performance. [00:15:00] You deliver the lower level, which is fine, but the gap is what we have a problem. So I coach people to get crystal clear on the expectation. And if we’re both in agreement on what’s expected of you, when they happen, great, I’m gonna become your biggest cheerleader. And my, by the way, servant leadership, can’t just be a mantra. I actually work for everybody else that I work with. And my question of demo is always, what do you need?

What can I provide? What can I go get, how do I remove obstacles out of your way for you to do that? Which I’m asking you to do, which is a performance. If it doesn’t happen, then I wanna know why didn’t happen. Is it a process, shortcoming? Is it a skill? Is it a knowledge? Is it a, give me the willingness and I can always raise the bar and their ability, but if the willingness is not there, neither me, you or anybody else gonna be able to do anything about. So get clear expectations and, and buy-in on the expectations. Be much more empathetic, much more of a servant leader, be much more understanding of why something is not happening. And then you create a plan on how do we get there? How do we get to the results we’re after? And if the person is willing, if the intent is there, if the goodwill is there, [00:16:00] they’ll eventually get there. If they’re the wrong person, I’d rather tell ’em that now. And let’s find something else for them inside or outside the organization, but let’s not just keep the same person in the same role. Failing month after month, quarter after quarter, when neither side is really gonna be happy with that result.

Gene Hammett: I love the way you frame that in. So I appreciate that nor I wanna take this a little bit deeper into this, because this is what we do here. Let’s say you’ve been crystal clear with the expectations. You’ve had the conversations two or three times, and, and I hope go ahead and add. In most leaders, think it takes one conversation to get a change of behavior. And I remind them that it typically takes many, many more than one. Just look at their relationship with their significant other and all, the time it takes for them to shape you into the person that you are today. , but when you recognize patterns with people, for example, tardiness or not hitting their, their sales numbers or not, you know, being present in certain meetings, there is some examples, those patterns, what do you advise leaders about having those conversations?

David Nour: Sure again, I’m, I’m asking enough questions to satisfy. Do I fully understand? [00:17:00] Not just what’s happening, but why is it happen? So if we just take tardiness, is it that they don’t have reliable transportation, or is it they’re hitting the douchebag too many times? Right? So those are, those are, I’m gonna intervene very differently with those two different scenarios. So, again, I’m asking enough questions. I’m looking for observable behavior, not hearsay, observable behaviors to really understand why something is happening. If it is kind of consistent, somebody is consistently late. Somebody consistently interrupts somebody consistently is rude. Then I’m gonna invest in again, I’d rather deal with a devil. I know, versus the devil. I don’t, if the person is worth fighting for if that talent is worth keeping in the organization, I’m gonna double down on training, on coaching, on developing on finding an opportunity to interrupt that behavior pattern. At some point, people have gotten beyond the skill or the knowledge it’s really changed in behavior and that’s not of a switch.

It’s always a dial. What do we need to dial-up? What do we need to dial back? So I’m gonna intervene. I’m gonna try to disrupt that bad behavior. At some point, Gene you’ve been around this. You’ve coached a lot of leaders in this [00:18:00] arena as well. That individual chooses not to be with our organization. And I can’t take credit for this. I heard somebody else say it, but they said more people should boogie. When I asked what does that mean? Be outstate ending or get involved elsewhere?

Gene Hammett: I, I don’t know who said that either, but I like it. No. We’ve been talking about great CEOs who developed strong relationships. Is there anything I left out that you wanna highlight before we wrap today?

David Nour: Yeah, I think the same great relationships can serve. We call ’em signal Scouts. So if you build relationships far and wide in your industry, outside of your industry, that really intelligent one that really stood ones should start to identify fair market signals. You start to bring those in and we’ve proven they can also become a fountain of innovative products, services, experiences for your business. So they can also serve not just your strategy, not just your growth, but real innovation in your products, in your services, in your experiences, in how you go to market.

Gene Hammett: Nour, thank you for being here, sharing your insights. I know you spent many years working with, high-level executives, coaching [00:19:00] consulting. Your wisdom is appreciated,

David Nour: Gene. Thanks for having me.

Gene Hammett: Wow. What a powerful interview. David’s really specific about the things that are getting in the way of the relationships you want. Great CEOs know how to build strong relationships. And that is so true. When you think about your own journey as a leader, you wanna make sure that you are building the relationships that are necessarily putting in, investments into the Goodwill of each person on your team, so that when you have difficult conversations, when you have things that you need to share back with them, maybe you need to coach them up.

Maybe you need to coach them out. You are ready because you have a foundation to build on great relationships really do matter inside of leadership. Now I’ve offered this to you before, but if you are listening in to this and you really want to take your business and your leadership to that next level, all you have to do is go to

You click on schedule your call inside that you will be asked a few questions just for us to get to know you and have a conversation with me about what is really going to create. The catalyst and the impact to accelerate your company and accelerate your own leadership. Just go to [00:20:00] and schedule a call as always, , when you think of growth and you think of leadership, I want you to think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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