Chip Grizzard, A CEO You Should Know

Real People, Real Trust: A CEO You Should Know

Chip Grizzard (@chipgrizzard)is the CEO of Grizzard Communications Group, a nonprofit marketing and fundraising agency. Chip is the fourth-generation member of the Grizzard family to work at the 91-year-old company. Discover Chip’s candid replies to questions about what it really takes to be a Trusted Advisor and how to create a company that leads with trust, every day.

Seven Key Traits of a Trusted Advisor

I first met Chip in January of this year when he brought me in to teach his top 35 leaders about Trust-Based Selling. It was clear from the moment we met that he’s a very principled man with a real commitment to being the kind of leader that others want to follow.

When I interviewed Chip for this article, I asked him what he sees as the fundamental attributes of a Trusted Advisor. His answers highlighted seven key traits:

  1. Keep your promises. “You gotta do what you say you’re going to do. So many times people will casually say, ‘I’ll send you that’ or ‘I’ll call you about this.’ I routinely make mental notes about how often people follow through on their promises. It’s about 50% of the time or less. That drives me nuts and definitely impacts my perception of someone else’s trustworthiness, so I work hard to be sure I keep my promises. I watch my words a lot and don’t make off-hand comments. If I say it, I’ll write it down or get a text message to help me remember. And then I’ll do it.”
  2. Focus on others’ success. “The only way I’m successful is if I make others successful. You can’t fake caring about what others think or what’s important to them.”
  3. Stay in it for the long haul. “You can’t look for a short-term gain; you have do to what’s right for the long-term. We have a 60-year client relationship in one case; other clients have been with us 20 and 30 years. This is unheard of in our industry. We give them all we have and they know we’re in it with them.”
  4. Treat people right. “It really is so simple. Just treat people right. It doesn’t get any simpler. If you do that, then great things happen. The day we’re fired from one client is the day we start working to rebuild that relationship and win that business back. We always end a relationship as positively as we can. Any time you take a hard approach, you burn a bridge. Some agencies in our space take the harder approach. They carry that with them forever. We always strive to be fair—to ourselves as well as our clients.”
  5. Persevere. “It might take ten years to fix something, or to win someone’s business. So be it.”
  6. Never compromise. “Compromise is not negotiable. It’s not even something I think about. Our industry is very small and people move around a lot. News travels fast about how you treat others. Personal integrity matters.”

Here’s the seventh, which I’m adding to the list on Chip’s behalf:

  1. 7. Modesty. Chip didn’t speak of this trait directly; he demonstrated it. At the beginning of our interview, this very confident and highly successful leader said, “I hope I can help you. Please don’t feel like you have to use my answers if I don’t give you exactly what you need.” An hour after the interview was over, he emailed me a note to thank me for my time.

Moments of Truth

I asked Chip to talk about tough times in Grizzard’s very long history of exemplary client relationships. He shared one particularly poignant story.

“We made a big mistake once. Our client had big media plan that coincided with our direct mail drop. Because of our mistake, the mail arrived in homes before the big media push. In the client’s mind, this hurt results. He called and said, ‘This is very disappointing. We’ve done all this planning and you’ve let us down.’ I asked him what would make him feel like we addressed the situation to his satisfaction. He said, ‘I don’t think we should pay for this mailing.’

“There was a fair amount of money at stake. Right away, I said, ‘No problem, done.’ As painful as it was, it was the right thing to do. Ten years later, he’s still a client, despite having moved around to different organizations and locations. And every time I see him—every time—he says, ‘Do you remember when we had the problem with that mail drop and you took care of it?’ It had a huge impact on him, and he became a lifelong client as a result.”

Creating a Culture of Trust

Grizzard was recently named “Top Workplaces 2011” in Atlanta. The evaluation for the program was based on feedback from a survey that 94% of Grizzard employees completed (exceeding the average company response of 55%). This top honor is a direct result of the honest feedback in a number of areas related to Grizzard’s culture, such as organizational values, strategic vision, leadership, operations, pay and benefits and overall work environment and experience.

I asked Chip to share any advice he has for executives who are trying to create a culture of trust in their organizations. His response boiled down to one thing: being a strong role model. And from Chip’s perspective, it starts with him.

A Matter of Personal Integrity

I never send a mixed signal related to integrity; my staff never sees me do it one way this way this time and another way another other time. Some people try to play both sides of the fence—to turn on the relationship charm and do the right thing at some points. But it’s not a part-time thing. You have to live it every day. It has to be real. And it’s not just a business thing.

“I just came back from a client conference where I saw people doing great things with clients during the day and crazy stuff at night with colleagues. Even if clients don’t see that, well, then your co-workers doubt your character. You can’t turn it on and off. You have to be consistent all the time—in your personal life, your social life, your professional life. I talk to my staff when I see them doing things outside of work that leave me concerned. Integrity applies to all aspects of your life.”

Teachable Moments

Chip made mention of a discussion his leaders were having during the program I led on Trust-Based Selling for Grizzard. The question on the table was, are there ever times when you shouldn’t tell a client the whole truth? Chip was in the room at the time (role modeling that he, too, had things to learn and it was worth his time to spend two days in a classroom). He reminded me what he said that day.

“My answer to that was simple: If you’re expending any energy on the debate, then it probably means you already have your answer about whether or not it crosses the line. I said it that day in front of all 35 of my leaders in the room, and since then I’ve heard two people repeating the same thing when talking to their staff. Teaching moments are key to living our values and our culture. They start with me.”

Recovering from Mistakes

I asked Chip what happens when he makes a mistake. Here’s what he said:

“I hope I’m not making a lot of integrity mistakes. I might make mistakes on how we’ve resolved a particular situation. In that case, I look back and acknowledge it, and apologize if necessary. I own it, try to explain it, and try to rebuild the relationship. I put in the time, the work, and the commitment to turning a situation around.”

Going the Distance

Chip is not only a leader with an impressive track record; he’s also an endurance athlete with a long list of sports accomplishments. Chip has competed in over 100 triathlons, including the Hawaii Ironman and Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I asked him what connections he saw between his athletic efforts and his success as a leader. His answer was inspiring:

“It’s very easy to not want to get up at 4 a.m. and go workout sometimes. If I stay up too late and do something dumb and I’m in the middle of training for an event, well, I get my butt out of bed and go suffer (laughing). On the endurance sports side, my work ethic and my passion make a difference for me. The same is true on the business side.”

May we all have the wisdom and tenacity to walk a mile—or run 26.2—in Chip Grizzard’s shoes.

Connect with Chip Grizzard on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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This is the first blog in a series on Real People, Real Trust—an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are walking the talk of a Trusted Advisor. Know someone you’d like to nominate to be featured in our next article? Email Andrea Howe.

  • Shaula

    Great article (again!), Andrea.

    I love it when you all share here insights from real people and real life experiences. I enjoy the theory articles, too–but it’s great to hear that there are people out there getting it right.

    I look forward to more installments in the new series.

  • http://trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters/the-five-essential-trust-skills-dont-leave-home-without-them Andrea Howe

    Thanks, Shaula. You are always so encouraging. I enjoyed writing the article very much, and also look forward to writing more!

  • http://www.chrisdowning.co.uk Chris Downing

    Chip is an excellent example of living the principles of ‘Trust Based Relationships’. As Charles Green says,”Trust is a practice not a process.” That may be why so few training companies focus on trust, integrity and relationship building as a fundemental. It’s hard to stretch out training a principle rather than a lengthy set of flow charts and what happens when. The latter is a better reveue generating model.

    Over the years I worked as a technology salesman, I went on nearly 400 days of sales and marketing training! (200 of those were at Honeywell Computers when I joined a sort of MBA for new hire salespeople). But in all that time I can’t remeber anyone ever focusing on how important the relationship was – it was all about making presentations, closing, creating interest, analysing needs – all the classic sales stuff.

    However many managers like Chip we come across, and however many examples are given, it seems to be a hard road for the average sales person to tread. If Chip was working for someone who didn’t have ‘Relationships’ as a critical success factor, he might have found it hard to do all the things he’s done. It may be that the practice of cherishing the relationship can only be fulfilled in the right business organisation’s culture. Some organisations will never get ‘it’ – for them, low price and narrow margins, and hard hitting sales techniques seems to be the path they’ve chosen.

  • http://www.spiritheart.net peter vajda

    What a refreshing story! There’s something about Chip – a sense of “purity,” a sense of clarity of self, and I’ve been trying to find a descriptor for a day now and it alludes me…ugh! but purity and “clean” are the closest I can come right now…

    I’m struck by something Chris says: “…If Chip was working for someone who didn’t have ‘Relationships’ as a critical success factor, he might have found it hard to do all the things he’s done.”

    And my take is that Chip might have done them anyhow. Dunno, but that’s my sense of him. IMO, he walks to the beat of a different drummer and that beat comes from an internal sense of “right knowing,” “right understanding” and “right action” – an internal sense of “righness” for self and other.

    My curiosity, Andrea, is how Chip came to be Chip, a real “one-off” these days. I’d love to know his (his)story – where/how he learned how to be who he is in the world…to be comfortable with who and how he is, humble, fair, firm and .

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Maybe ego-less is the descriptor.

  • http://Grizzard.com Chip Grizzard

    Hi Chris and Peter. Thanks for your comments. I guess it all goes back to a strong Christian, family upbringing. I had the pleasure of working with my grandfather (he worked until he was 90) and my father. I guess I observed, learned and shaped my values around them.

    Peter – while i can’t say this from experience, if I were in a different environment, I would be the same. My values are what they are and I would either continue to live them out or move to an environment that allowed me to do it. As I said, there is no compromise in what I do or in the teaching I give our people.

    It is disappointing to see people take the short term, high pressure approach thinking that will lead to higher profitability. In fact it is just the opposite. Take the long-term approach, help your clients be successful and your clients will be more loyal and in the end your company or salesperson will be far more successful. Unfortunately most salespeople are only around for a short time and they nevver get to see how the latter approach plays out.

    Kind regards,
    Chip Grizzard

  • http://www.chrisdowning.co.uk Chris Downing

    You’ll like this Chip.

    I was working hard trying to become an active Christian rather than passive one. One day I was listening to three hours of recordings from a Jesuit priest on the subject. In his summary he said something that has been with me ever since. “Be Kind.” When all is said and done about being a good, active Christian he said, it can all be summed up by, being kind. You won’t go far wrong with that mantra. He was right.

    What the Jesuit Priest was telling us was the internal mindset of the good Christian. Well actually it’s the mindset of good people anywhere, whatever religion. It’s one of the fundamentals of what Andrea is telling us about in Chips story – being kind in your selling will have you doing most of the right things both in the short term and long term. It’s pretty hard to be a hard nosed, aggressive sales type AND be kind. Kindness is at the heart of a Trust Based sales approach.

  • http://www.spiritheart.net peter vajda

    Well said, Chris. I like your comment, “Kindness is at the heart of a Trust Based sales approach.”

    The deal is that one cannot think and feel at the same time – it’s an either or proposition. When one is so engaged in the mental aspects, trying to figure it all out, there’s no room for the heart, thus no room for kindness, compassion and often no room for trust.

  • http://trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters/the-five-essential-trust-skills-dont-leave-home-without-them Andrea Howe

    What a rich conversation this post has kicked off. Thanks to you all for your thoughtful replies — and especially to Chip for bringing the real person to life in real time.

    Being kind as a mindset of good people anywhere, regardless of religious affiliation, is right on the money — literally and figuratively. Thanks for introducing that into the conversation, Chris.

    A question that lingers for me — for anyone out there — is how those of us who did not grow up with such a clearly-defined values system and/or with family members as strong business role models can learn to walk the same talk, while bucking the cultural forces that invite us to do otherwise.

    Peter, I’d also love to know more about what’s behind your statement that “we can’t think and feel at the same time.” Any research you can point me to would be immensely helpful and timely!

  • http://www.spiritheart.net peter vajda

    “Peter, I’d also love to know more about what’s behind your statement that “we can’t think and feel at the same time.” Any research you can point me to would be immensely helpful and timely!”

    Research, hmmm. How about just trying it.

    However, you can Google “focusing,” Gendlin’s work and the Focusing Institute for some starters.

    But, I would strongly urge you to try it. Be in your body, sense into it, be aware of what sensations you are experiencing, what you notice and perceive (in the body, through the senses), and see what comes to you…this is not “thinking.” The reverse is also true. Being up in your mind above the trap door that separates the head from tne body, one cannot sense and therefore feel. We can go back and forth, and often do, but not both simultaneously.

    As for “…how those of us who did not grow up with such a clearly-defined values system and/or with family members as strong business role models can learn to walk the same talk, while bucking the cultural forces that invite us to do otherwise…”

    this is a practice that, IMO, requires work (most often with a professional, qualified support peson). It’s not unlike “the hero’s journey” (google that, too, if you wish), or experiencing “the dark night of the soul” in some flavor where we give up our ego identity and slowly change and transform into our True, Real and Authentic Self. The last thing it is is a “mental” process. It takes time, energy and a great deal of commitment, steadfastness and practice to be “myself_ – not the person society or someone else wants me to be.

  • http://www.trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters Charlie (Green)

    My own take on “we can’t think and feel at the same time.”

    The School for Practical Philosophy has a central core concept which underlies all their coursework. It is called The Exercise, and it is a systematic several-minute drill in which one cycles through the senses, one by one, from the gross senses (touch) to the fine ones (sight), with the admonition to notice each sense.

    The logic underlying The Exercise is powerful: you cannot think and feel at the same time. To calm the thoughts in our mind, focus on our physical senses.

    I agree with Peter: just try it.

  • http://trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters/the-five-essential-trust-skills-dont-leave-home-without-them Andrea Howe

    Thanks, Peter and Charlie, for the nudge to step away for a moment from the challenge of book-writing and do a mini-meditation. It did seem like every time I *thought* about body sensations I actually lost touch with my body. Fascinating. Perhaps I was imagining it, but it also seemed like there was a zigzag back-and-forth kinda thing going on between the left and right sides of my brain as I was practicing.

    BTW, in the googling I did that was inspired by your comments, I discovered two things: (1) That one of my all-time favorite books, Siddharta, is an example of a “hero’s journey” and (2) I found a great 2010 NYT article about The Exercise called “Taste. Smell. Ahhh, Wisdom.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/nyregion/17critic.html

    Finally, Peter, I’m struck by the irony — or perhaps the right word is paradox — of these words you wrote: “It takes time, energy and a great deal of commitment, steadfastness and practice to be ‘myself’ – not the person society or someone else wants me to be.” Wise, indeed.

  • http://www.spiritheart.net peter vajda

    Andrea,

    “It did seem like every time I *thought* about body sensations I actually lost touch with my body. Fascinating. Perhaps I was imagining it, but it also seemed like there was a zigzag back-and-forth kinda thing going on between the left and right sides of my brain as I was practicing.” (Andrea)

    It’s good to see this – both the losing touch with your body as you started to “think” about it (that’s the key to increased awareness), and the sensations in the left and right side of your brain. There are “brain respiration” exercises and meditations one can practice to stimulate and nourish the brain…especially useful for one who is “in their head” much of time.

    “…I’m struck by the irony — or perhaps the right word is paradox — of these words you wrote: “It takes time, energy and a great deal of commitment, steadfastness and practice to be ‘myself’ ­ not the person society or someone else wants me to be.” (Andrea)

    The irony is that so many folks spend an entire lifetime searching for and seeking their true and authentic self outside of their self, when that self been there all along. That’s the irony, the sadness, and hopefully, an opportunity not wasted.

    I wish you much success and good fortune with your book.

  • Shaula

    Andrea wrote:

    > A question that lingers for me — for anyone out there — is how those of us who did not grow up with such a clearly-defined values system and/or with family members as strong business role models can learn to walk the same talk, while bucking the cultural forces that invite us to do otherwise.

    Andrea, I’ve been thinking about your question (and enjoying your exchange with Peter, too), and wanted to come back to you on this.

    We get to spend a few weeks a year with our two nephews, and I am still surprised at how much they pick up–things we say, things we do, the way we interact with the people around us.

    But I shouldn’t be shocked. If I’m being completely objective and honest, I find I am highly impressionable and very easily influenced by the factors in my environment, too. In fact, I’m not significantly different from my nephews in that regard.

    Knowing that, I make an effort to minimize the toxic factors I encounter, and I seek out positive influences and role models. (It also means I make an effort to pull up my socks and be a good role model for the kids in my life, too.)

    In practice, that means I don’t watch a lot of television: I find the hard sell of insecurity underlying many commercials to be something I can live without. The less TV ads in my life, the easier it is to be myself. There are strains of pop culture which are heavy on misogyny and racism that I just avoid. And in contrast, I have found and adopted people in my adult life who are great role models and genuine sources of inspiration to me.

    To be clear, I’m not saying we all need to run away and hide from the world. Not practical, and for most of us, not possible. I’m saying that I do my best to build my own healthy environment, so that when I do engage with the ugliness of the world, I have the strength and clarity that I have a decent chance of making conscious decisions as I do so.

  • http://www.spiritheart.net peter vajda

    Shaula,

    On a personal note, I loudly applaud you, first, for your honesty (“I find I am highly impressionable and very easily influenced by the factors in my environment, too. In fact, I’m not significantly different from my nephews in that regard.”)

    Would that more folks, especially those that aver they are “free-thinkers,” independent-minded,” and “nobody-is-gonna-tell-me-how-to-think/behave” types who have no clue as to how deeply influenced and affected they are by mass media, advertising and the like could be this conscious and aware and honest.

    Secondly, for your conscious awareness of the effects you have on your nephews. Again, many never give this a second, (would that they even gave it a first) thought, cared or took responsibility for those effects.

    And third, for your efforts to “…minimize the toxic factors I encounter, don’t watch a lot of television: I find the hard sell of insecurity underlying many commercials to be something I can live without. The less TV ads in my life, the easier it is to be myself….(and) adopted people in my adult life who are great role models and genuine sources of inspiration to me…”

    Personally, I don’t feel you are hiding from the world at all. What I feel is your choice to reduce and eliminate toxicity from your life (people, media and the like), surround yourself with supportive individuals, and strive to be your genuine self. All consciously!

    Two things come to mind as I read your comment.

    1. You are, for me, a prime example of what conscious living is all about, and
    2. If the population at large made the conscious, healthy choices you do, I’d be out of business.

    Good for you!

  • Shaula

    Wow, Peter. I’m touched by your support and encouragement. Thank you very much.

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