Are you interested in learning more about what is driving the Great Resignation and finding ways your company can adjust to the changing needs and desires of your workforce? JT Thoms, National Account Executive at Jackson & Coker Locum Tenens, shares the wisdom he has gained from entering the workforce at 19 and working his way up to being a VP by his early 30s. He talks about “The Railroad Tracks to Success and Recruitment” as well as the “SIMPLE Problem” and how these have shaped his understanding of paths to success as well as common obstacles found in organizations he has worked with.
David Folwell: Hello, everyone. Thank you again for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Super excited to be here today and be joined by JT Thoms from Jackson & Coker Locum Tenens. He’s the host of REMARKable Recruitment. Why don’t you go and give a quick intro for yourself, a little bit of background, and thanks for joining me today?
JT Thoms: Hey, man, I’m fired up to be here. Thank you for having me, man. Also, y’all can’t see David’s background, but he has this giant mountain behind him which is inspiring me to get out and do more. So I’m a little envious of you, David. No, I mean, not much to say about me other than I am just an individual who has a deep desire to make a positive impact in an industry that I think really needs it, which is healthcare staffing. I’m sure if you’re listening to this, you’re probably in a lot of different industries, you’re probably not all as obsessed with healthcare staffing as I am. But it’s an industry that I think needs a lot of love and encouragement. And I wake up every day other than trying to love my family well, I try to love on people in this industry to make sure that we’re solving problems that serve people. So we can make a positive, long-lasting difference in the industry.
Folwell: Part of the reason I was excited to talk with you today, JT, is you’re taking really a different approach to your role and also just how anybody I know is working in the industry. And you’ve dug in and tried to understand what’s going on, what challenges are happening. Could you share a little bit with our audience about what your current role is, but then how you’re going about trying to understand to make sure you understand the deeper problems within the industry?
Thoms: Yeah, I’d be happy to. I think that the reason I do what I do and the way I do it is because I had no idea what was going on in this industry before I got into it. Yeah, I didn’t come from a healthcare background. And so my actual job, I guess what you could say is what I’m paid to do is to sign contracts with large health systems so that our recruiters can help them with their short-term locum tenens needs. But I didn’t feel good about just hopping into this industry and just saying, “Yeah, right. Let’s sign contracts.” That has no purpose to me. I care about making a difference. I don’t know if you’ve ever done strengths finders, David, but I have and “belief” is like one of my top ones. If I don’t believe in what I’m doing, I just can’t do it.
And my background is in leadership development and leadership culture. I got to study under a man named Dr. Tim Elmore, who worked with John Maxwell for years, and just all these different people in that industry. And I just learned so much about the value of culture and understanding what the real problems are and solving a problem that serves people, you’ll hear me say that a lot. And so when I got into this industry, I really wanted to focus on understanding, not what do locums firms think the problem is, but what do the actual health systems think the problem is? What do the patients think the problem is, right? And the only way I felt like I could learn that is by going straight to the source. So I started reaching out to CEOs of hospitals, to recruiters. And as I started talking to them, I just started identifying these very clear common problems and obstacles that locums firms weren’t really addressing. And it makes sense. Locums is like a fire department.
People only work with you when the house is on fire. And I really started thinking through, well, how can we help people prevent the fire? How can we give them fire alarms and tell them how they can use their own fire extinguisher, right, like just little things. And so I wanted to figure out, how can we at Jackson & Coker be different from everyone else? By adding value in solving problems. So I just started this learning tour myself by interviewing a bunch of people. And as I interviewed them, I just felt like what they were saying was so valuable, that it needed to be shared with others. So what started as just a learning tour for myself ended up being, what is now called REMARKable Recruitment, where I interview recruiters, share best practices with others in the industry, and try my best to encourage, inspire, and empower people who are waking up every day trying to bring physicians and advanced practice practitioners to their health systems in hospitals.
Folwell: And that’s so awesome for our listeners. I mean, in most of these podcasts, we’re talking to an agency owner or business owner about how to grow your business and how you got to where you are. Today we’re going to be doing, and what I hope JT is going to help all of you shed some light on for all of you is, what your recruiters are dealing with, what challenges they’re dealing with and really help understand what’s going on for the recruiter workforce. And while you’re talking, you’re interviewing locum tenens, specifically locum tenens recruiters, I imagine that these are similar challenges across most of the staffing that could be applicable. So I’m super excited to dig into this. And with that, JT, if you could just maybe start sharing, what are some of the top challenges that you’re hearing from recruiters? And I feel like you dig deeper than most people and everybody’s like, “Finding talent’s hard.” But I’m very curious to know what your perspective is and what you’re hearing from the frontline.
Thoms: Yeah, well, I mean, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I think it’s important to make sure that we’re all aware of what the problems are, so we can know how to address them, right? We all know the problem of the Great Resignation. I, definitely in healthcare recruitment, can’t speak for other industries, but in physician recruitment, that gap is no longer a gap, it’s legitimately a chasm. Jobs are taking longer to fill than they’ve ever taken before. Candidates now have 10 to 20 options they’re considering at a time, turnovers at an all-time high at 40%, which is up 4% from last year. 56% of physicians have considered changing employers. Health systems are actually trying to respond by hiring more recruiters, which makes the competition even harder because now you have more recruiters in the game than you’ve ever had. So physicians are getting hit up even more.
Not to mention, if you look at the future in health care, specifically, healthcare is projected to only produce a 13% growth in the provider pool. But the demand is it needs to grow by 36%. So when I say it’s not a gap, it’s a chasm, I mean that legitimately. And so I’m sure this is happening in all other industries, right? When Baby Boomers retire and Gen Z is such a small generation, you just look at the generational flow: Baby Boomers, 76 million, Gen X, 56 million, a huge drop. Millennials 80 million. Wow, huge, huge jump. And then you have Gen Z, we’re down to in the 50 millions again.
So it’s like a roller coaster of talent. There’s literally not enough people to take all of these positions of Baby Boomers retiring and you’re trying to recruit, and the only pool really, that you can pull from, unless you want to pay a fortune, you got to get Millennial or Gen Zer. Because Gen X, they’ve been the heart and the soul for the workforce for a long time. Gen Xers have been not only in the workforce for a long time, but they’ve actually had to put in some real big sweat equity wherever they are, because they’ve had a Baby Boomer above them for years holding on to that job. And so now when they get a new job, or if they’re going to go somewhere, you bet they’re going to want something good. So it’s interesting. It’s a difficult dynamic across the board.
Folwell: So with that, and the gap that we all see and that experience, how are recruiters handling it? Are there tactics that are working? Are there ways to solve that when there’s as big of a gap as you just explained?
Thoms: Yeah, I mean, there’s like 18 magic wands you can use, David.
Folwell: What’s a silver bullet. There’s always a silver bullet.
Thoms: There’s a silver bullet. There’s the magic wands….
Folwell: You just have to grow more people.
Thoms: This job is easy, right? No, I’m kidding. I mean, I like I said, I don’t think there’s ever a magic bullet. But here’s what I do believe. I think that recruiting is a lot like sailing and I’m about to get super cheesy on you really quick, but I’m a man of… I love metaphors. I love stories. So my wife and I, I do speaking across the country and I was invited to speak out at the Nile University in Cairo, Egypt, which was so fun. And when you go to Cairo, you don’t just go there to do work. You’re like, “Hey, there’s history here. I’m going to go see this place.” So we did it all. We saw the pyramids, got pictures of the Sphinx, rode camels, did all that. But I think one of my favorite things we did there was we got to go on a felucca ride on the Nile River. They call it a sunset cruise. But a felucca is basically a one-man sailboat. And while we were out on this sailboat, right around sunset, we were enjoying a little dinner and having a blast and our skipper was just working his brains out, going from left to right, just constantly moving, tying and untying ropes and trying his best to harness the wind that was out there, so he could get us where we wanted to go. And as I reflect on that experience, that dude was awesome, I’m super grateful for him, he made such a magical night for me and my wife, but he worked his brains out.
And he didn’t have to. In fact, if you’re a sailor and the wind isn’t blowing the way you want it to, you actually have three options. You can yell at the wind, you can surrender to the wind and just be like, “I’m done, I give up.” Or you can get busy and adjust the sails to harness the wind to get to where you want to go. And I think that recruitment is the exact same way. I know a lot of people, I’ve interviewed tons of people who are getting ready to just hang it up. They’re surrendering because they can’t handle the pressure anymore, there’s too much going on. I know a lot of people who are just mad, they’re blaming the provider pool, they’re blaming their executives for the pressure, all this stuff. And it’s like, you know what, I get that, that’s rightfully so.
It’s okay to be angry when things are hard. I don’t like things that are hard. I don’t know if you do, David, but I’m not a huge fan of it. I would prefer things to be easy of for the “easy button” to actually exist. But the recruiters in this industry, who are really standing out, who have phenomenal success, they adjust the sails constantly. They’re constantly adjusting, they’re constantly making tweaks, learning how to tie a different knot, learning how to move and harness the wind and change with technology, with innovation with just these things. And the other thing I’ve noticed is they hold on to specific principles. I could keep going but I’m going to pause there for a second. Hopefully that answers your question. I don’t want to talk too much. Yeah.
Folwell: No, I think that’s great. I want you to keep going on that. Actually, I was just… I think that’s a great metaphor for it. And I’m also interested in, if you pause there, as I started typing I was going to look at, I just had somebody on the podcast last week who talked specifically about the importance of adaptability in your career. And essentially, that being the number-one predictor of success going forward because of the speed, the rate of change that we are dealing with. And you’re talking about the exact same thing with a beautiful metaphor. And so I was actually just going to pull up the context for that. So with that and you’re seeing the recruiters that are being successful, they’re adjusting the sail rapidly. They’re figuring out how to do it, they’re working with the wind.
What are some of the ways that you’re seeing them do that? Do you have any specifics on…I think that the idea that they’re changing is awesome. But do you know is that…if you were to go through and say and maybe this, I’m putting you on the spot here, but an ideal recruiter profile based off of the conversations you’ve had. Something that might, maybe will help our audience when it’s like, “Alright, when we’re hiring our next recruiter, these are the things that we know we need to look for in a more meaningful way.”
Thoms: Yeah, I would love to answer that question, take my best effort at it. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t know all the answers. And I don’t think there’s a magic formula like I’ve said, but the way I think about it is I think that every job out there has railroad tracks, which are, the railroad tracks are the principles that you have to follow. They’re the attributes that you want to make sure that somebody buys into, but the train always evolves. So the person who’s running on those tracks is going to be different, the tactics, the strategies that they use are going to change, but the principles are always going to be the same. Just like a railroad track, if you look back, I think it was back in like the 1800s, the first ever railroad track was built in the United States. And it was out of Baltimore, Maryland. And if you look back at the pictures of that time, it’s fascinating because the trains are so old and the steam engine looks like super old, but the train tracks look exactly the same as they do now. And even though our trains have evolved, the tracks stay the same. And I think there are principles in recruitment, that always have to stay the same. In fact, I wrote an article on this after I interviewed a bunch of people on the things I call “The Railroad Tracks to Success and Recruitment.” And it’s pretty simple. I think everything in life that’s important is simple. But simple and easy are not synonymous.
The first thing, I call them the “Five R’s” of the railroad tracks, the first “R” is responsibility. Great recruiters take complete responsibility of their efforts, of their outcomes. So they study their craft, they master it, they don’t depend on somebody else to tell them what to do, to tell them how to do it. They take complete ownership to say, “I am going to understand how to captain my ship,” if I go to that adjusting the sails metaphor. They’re not the second mate. They’re not someone on the crew. They’re saying, “No, I’m going to be the captain of this ship.” Now they know their place in the fleet, they know who the general is, but they know their boat inside and out and they take responsibility for getting their jobs where they need to go. So responsibility is first.
The second “R” is they treat people with respect and they value respect. The best recruiters, especially in healthcare, I’m sure this is across the board, is they treat every candidate, every phone call, every email, every social media post, you name it, as personable and respectful as possible. Whether that candidate is a good fit or not, whether that candidate is a punk or not, they treat them with respect.
And in doing so, what they also understand is the third “R”, which is they cultivate true, meaningful relationships. Recruiting will always be a people business, you can streamline and create automation and find ways to enhance efficiencies, but you can never replace the power of a relationship. And the best recruiters in every industry, I would say, and I study specifically healthcare, but I can, I would be confident that this is true across the board is, they have really deep relational networks, where people respect them, they know them, they’re people of their word.
And then from there, once you have those, if you really take responsibility for your craft, if you treat people with respect, you build these relationships, what that ends up doing is it helps you build referrals. Great recruiters are referral masters. David, if anybody gets this is you, this is your bread and butter, you know about this and you’ve done a great job of taking somebody who lives and breathes off referrals and simplifying it for them, to make it to where somebody who’s great at getting referrals can help others learn that skill.
And lastly, what that does is they get results, they find a way to get the results. If I was hiring a recruiter, that’s what I try to figure out is, is this person going to take responsibility? Can they run this ship? Do they treat others with respect? Are they worthy of respect? How do they cultivate relationships? What’s their strategy for relationships? How comfortable they are for asking for referrals? Is referrals a part of their business strategy? And what’s their plan for getting results? And what’s their results been in the past? Those are the things that I would say are the train tracks to success in any type of recruitment company.
Folwell: I love those core values for recruiters. And I also, I think, when you talk about the respect component that really stood out to me, just in terms of how people communicate with each other. When we’re interviewing, frequently we’ll pass people off to somebody via text informally, maybe somebody that’s not necessarily interviewing them just to connect with. And I feel like you really get to see the true colors of somebody, how do they interact, when it’s not the person that they think is making the hiring decision? And how do they change with that. And I love, that’s a great foundation for looking at how to hire people, I really like that.
One other area that I feel like you might have special insight into. When I was looking at the Great Resignation, it’s like the number-one reason people are leaving their job right now, most recent stat I’ve seen, it’s changing constantly, but it was that 22% of people feel undervalued and they don’t feel valued at work. I know a lot of staffing agencies that I talked to are having trouble retaining recruiters. I talked to a locum tenens company other day, they said, “If we could hire 20 more recruiters today, we would.” And it’s still….
Thoms: I think we would too, David. I’m listening out there, yes, we would as well. Yeah.
Folwell: So if you’re looking for a job in recruiting, reach out to JT. So when it comes to, I’m just curious if you talk about or have any insight into if recruiters feel valued and if they feel undervalued, why that might be and if there’s any resolution to that, or anything, people should be thinking about in terms of making sure they feel more valued at work.
Thoms: Yeah, I certainly don’t want to speak for everyone on this. But I do think that you’ve said it well, I think that we’re seeing across the country that people are feeling devalued. And if I’m being really candid and honest, there’s a part of me that just says they need to grow up, get your stand. Because I grew up in a house of all Division 1 athletes. We grew up with that competition mentality, pull up your bootstraps and get it done. But I think the compassion in me says, “You know what actually, I’ve experienced that myself.” I’ve worked in a job where I just did not feel valued or appreciated and it’s a sucky feeling.
I think that what I would encourage executives out there — and this is what we did when I was with Dr. Tim Elmore at Growing Leaders — and we would go in, we would try to help executives and managers, etc., learn people don’t quit a job the majority of the time, they quit the boss. You’ve probably seen that on an inspirational LinkedIn post. But it’s true. And I think the obstacle that we face is leaders who are making really big-time decisions have a lot of pressure on them. Every decision you make has domino-effect ramifications, and the natural tendency when what you do is important, the natural tendency is to want to control it. Alright, “I got to think through every scenario, I got to control, I got to have my hands on this.”
But retention comes not from controlling your people, it comes from connecting with your people. So don’t think control, think connect. I think that it’s really trying to help your team be empowered to shine, not just constantly trying to control everything and make everything perfect. Because if you’re aiming for perfect, you’ll never hit it. If you’re aiming for progress, you’ll hit it every single time. And you can do so much more with a team member who feels empowered, feels like they can fail, feels like they can be creative. And yes, they have to hit numbers. Yes, they have to have accountability. And you’ll find that people love accountability.
They won’t feel that they’re worth anything if nobody cares what they’re doing. I know a lot more people who’ve quit their job, not because they are over micromanaged, but because they’re undermanaged. The same problem’s true on the other end of the spectrum. Those bosses are just like, “Yeah, if I don’t talk to you, it means that you’re doing great.” I know a ton of people who have quit because of that, because it feels, they don’t feel appreciated. They don’t feel like they’re seen, they don’t feel like their efforts matter. So I don’t know if that answers the question, but….
Folwell: I think it answers the question in a great way. And I also, when it comes to connecting any advice, digging a little deeper on that, any advice on how managers or leaders should connect with their team or could?
Thoms: Yeah, I don’t think there’s a one-phrase answer for that. But I think connecting is about people being people, getting to know your people. I’ll give you a great example. I have been around some phenomenal leaders. I’ve worked with Commissioner Greg Sankey at the SEC, I’ve worked with executives at the NFL, Major League Baseball all across the sports spectrum, Chick-fil-A, Home Depot, you name it, I mean, that’s what I did for a long time. But one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen, is working at the company I work at right now. It’s actually why I came to this company. Tim Fischer, our president, Ted Weyn, one of our executive vice presidents, they are the epitome of leadership to me.
And let me tell you a really quick example as to why. Our president, Tim Fischer, when he first got this job two years ago, you know what the first thing he decided to do was? It wasn’t to redo the values, it wasn’t to make any changes. He set up a one-on-one, 30-minute chit chat to get to know every single employee in this organization.
Folwell: How many people?
Thoms: 250. I’m pretty sure, I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe I heard that even the owner of Jackson Healthcare was like, “How are you going to do all that?” But Tim believes so much that it’s about people. The problem with Jackson & Coker beforehand wasn’t the people it was the process. And we’re changing this industry because Tim has learned, has brought to us the value of people, the value of care, respect.
And he does it today. I mean, he sits in, with a different team every single month. He won’t sit in his beautiful office, which he does have a beautiful office, he doesn’t sit there. He comes down onto the floor. And he moves once a month so that he can get to know the team, that he can be there. He knows your name. He knows your kids’ names, he knows what’s going on in your life, not because he has some book and is studying pictures. I’ve interviewed him before, I’ve tried to figure out what his secret is. He doesn’t have one. His secret is he just genuinely cares. And I keep telling him, he needs to write a book. And he’s like, “That’s not why I do this. I don’t do this so that people give me praise, I do this because people matter and I love people.” And this is how you get results. It’s what Dave Ramsey has on his wall. “You serve enough people, the money takes care of itself.”
Folwell: I completely believe that. And that’s a pretty amazing story. And I’ve actually, there’s a quote, I’m drawing a blank on who it’s from, but I remember from years ago and it stuck with me in my head, it said, it was sent simply that “caring in itself is a competitive advantage.” And I believe that firmly that if your team cares about each other, about the people they’re working with, just simply the act of caring. And it’s something a lot of times people care about making more money, but they don’t actually care about the outcomes of the people around them. With that and a shift in subject but you’re a very kind to human, I’ve talked to you a few different times. And right behind you, you have a sign that says, “Work hard and be kind to people,” which we talked about at the beginning of this before we started recording. I would love if you just share that with the audience.
Thoms: Yeah, I’ve got this sign in my office. I also have, I have two of these because it matters to me. I have one here in my office and one at home that says, “Work hard, be kind to people.” Because I think pretty much all of life can be summarized by that. That may be an absolute that I shouldn’t have said, but…my wife got that for me because the original artist put in “work hard, be nice to people,” but I don’t like the word “nice”, because I think you can be nice to someone and still be an absolute selfish jerk. I live in Atlanta, Georgia, the South, there are a lot of nice people here. Southern hospitality can be manipulation, but kindness….
Folwell: You take it up to New York where it’s just….
Thoms: Exactly. Yeah, everybody’s at least they’re honest in New York. Kindness to me is candor with love. So I can work hard and if I am loving others and being truly candid with them, I think candor is a gift. I mean, like with my clients, I mean, I’ll tell them like, “Hey, locum tenens,” — and everybody knows it — “it’s a stinking fast world.” It drives me nuts how fast it is and how much physicians who are in locum tenens, they need to know information like yesterday, always. And so, I’ll tell my clients, if they take more than 48 hours to get back to us, I’ll just say, “Hey, just so you know, this is something you really need to improve in and what can I do to help your processes?”
Let me give you some options of what other health systems do to speed this up. Because if you want quality providers, you need to talk faster. And I get that not everybody can. We have some health systems that are so large, they’ve got all this red tape and everything and we work around it, we work with them. But it’d be foolish for me not to tell them. If we don’t have a relationship, it sounds like I’m complaining. But when we have a relationship and you trust me, I can give you the gift of candor to say, “Hey, this is what it’s like on the other side of you.”
Folwell: My team or my co-founder, for The Growth Co. and staffing, Editor in Chief of Staffing Hub, she pushed me in the direction of… I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book, Radical Candor, have you heard?
Thoms: Yeah, I love that book.
Folwell: Yeah. So I was always like, brutal honesty, transparency. She actually was like, “Wait a second, there’s a better way.” And I think it’s important to note that candor, I used to think was just being completely honest upfront, saying everything that I thought was transparency. And I think there’s a fine line between transparency and candor. And it sounds like you’ve nailed that, you know the nuances there. And I think it’s something worth taking note of as well.
Thoms: Well, you know what it is, David, I think you’re right. I think people love the word transparency. I personally don’t love that word. Because I think when you use a word so much, it loses its meaning. And something that my longtime mentor and dear friend always taught me was that you have to build a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of truth and transparency. If you don’t have that bridge, I can’t drop 1000 pound weight. We’re both sinking, the relationship is sinking to the bottom of the depths if we do that. And too many people are too transparent upfront, or they’re just never transparent enough. So there’s this balance. The purpose of building the relationship is to develop trust and candor and transparency, so we can be more efficient and be collaborative.
Some people literally just try to develop relationships so that they can get things out of the relationship, that’s not a two-way street. You’re creating a one-way bridge and you control the barrier. And you’re like, “Yeah, I’m just coming in to sneak my soldiers across and steal everything from you. And then I’m going to get out of there before you ever know, because I’m hiding it because I’ve been promoting this cool bridge I’ve been building.” Where real recruiters, real salespeople, real executives and leaders, they build bridges of relationships with all the individuals in their lives, whether it’s the people they’re leading, whether it’s the people they answer to, or they do business with.
Folwell: I love that. I’ve not heard the bridge metaphor. I’ve always, with my fiancée, we’ve always called it the “relationship bank.” But I’m like, “Alright, well, we just…we had a little fight we took a deposit out….”
Thoms: Oh I love that.
Folwell: We’ve got to start saving again, you got to save up for a few weeks. And then also just for the listeners, when I think about the candor and transparency, I think most probably everybody listening to this already has that in their mind. For me, the “aha” moment was transparency is like you’re saying what everything without filtering anything for the other person’s needs.
Candor is, “I’m going to be completely honest with you, but only with the things that I know you actually need to hear and understand. And I’m not just going to dump all of it on you and flood you with information you don’t need.” And that was my learning from that, but I really like your viewpoint on that and the bridge concept as well. With that I’m going to change to we were also talking before this call about the SIMPLE Problem. And I think this is a pretty cool concept. And I would love for you just kind of share a little bit more about what the SIMPLE Problem is and how your thoughts around that.
Thoms: Yes, this is a two-hour conversation in and of itself. I will try to simplify the SIMPLE Problem for you. But ultimately, as I’ve dove into healthcare as I work with different organizations across the country on culture and leadership, I identified just some very common obstacles that we didn’t really know that they were creating obstacles. The SIMPLE Problem is really a description of how the world we’re living in and the culture that we’re living in is creating both pros and cons. So basically, SIMPLE is an acronym. Each letter represents a word and each word has a pro and a con. So for example, the “S” in simple is speed. We live in a world that is obsessed with speed. And whether we know it or not, we are subconsciously getting obsessed with speed ourselves. I remember dial-up, I remember high-speed internet, I remember fiber, I remember 4G, I remember, now I know 5G, right?
Everything is just getting faster and faster and faster. And you know what’s awesome about that? The pro is, “Man, are we saving time.” We are saving so much time in our lives because of the speed of the world we live in. And that’s awesome. That’s a huge pro. I can’t imagine all the individuals now who have the ability to provide for their families, because they can work multiple jobs or do more, get around faster because of the technologies and innovations that we’ve had. It’s such a huge pro to our world.
But I think there are also some unconscious things that have consequences that have happened or cons, as I would say, that have started to creep up. So for example, when you live in a world full of speed, where you expect everything to be fast, well, that is going to naturally, no matter how disciplined you are, it’s going to start breeding impatience in people. I mean, I find myself getting impatient all the time. First of all, I hate grocery shopping with a passion, I hate it. Whenever my wife asked me to go to the grocery store, I literally like have anxiety because I don’t know what it is about it. I just don’t like it so….
Folwell: I’m right there with you.
Thoms: Yeah, so as our family, we don’t even go to the grocery store anymore, because why would we? It’s such a waste of time. It feels like you’re walking around, you’re trying to figure out what you need, takes so much time out of your day, it’s so much faster, just laying in bed, let’s pull up the Walmart app, we’ll pick what we want, we’ll add it into our cart and then we’ll show up the next day. I’ll press a button and they put all my groceries and I was there for 15 minutes. But I find myself getting impatient if I have to wait for longer than that. Which is like, “Why am I so impatient? I used…this used to take like over an hour.” But it’s just this is part of the world we live in. The reason I think this is a big problem with our world is because whether you know it or not, whatever industry you’re in, this is a problem you have to address.
It’s a problem you have to address with the employees in your team, because everybody’s impatient. So we’re seeing this with promotions, “Why am I not getting a promotion right now?” I just read a LinkedIn post about this dude who quit his job because he didn’t get a raise this year. And I’m like, “Come on. Why are we so impatient?” We have to think about it with our customers, with our consumers, with our clients, with our partners. In physician recruitment, for example, they can order a pack of pins on Amazon and have an update as to when it’s been packed up, where it’s dropped off, all these different, but they’re about to sign of $500,000 contract and they have no idea when they’re going to get it back. Where am I in the recruitment process? What’s the status here? When am I going to hear back from you? What’s going on? It’s ridiculous. So whether we know it or not, we’re judging everyone through this lens that the culture has put into our brains of speed. We all expect speed now in everything we do.
Folwell: It’s amazing how much of a habit it becomes. In Denver, Amazon rolled out the two-hour delivery. And I got hooked on it, completely hooked on it. And then pandemic hit. And that is a rare, rare moment anymore. But it’s funny how quickly you go from the idea of even having like next day delivery was mind blowing to, “Alright, well now I’m used to two-hour delivery for groceries from Amazon or Whole Foods.” And now it’s gone and all of a sudden, I’m frustrated that I have to take some edits, I have to wait a day now. And it is wild, how quickly we adapt and adjust to these things.
Thoms: Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tell you the rest of the simple but I won’t go into as many elaborate soapbox sessions if that’s helped. So the “S” is speed, the “I” in SIMPLE Problem is instant gratification. Now I do need to explain the pro on this. Most people hate instant gratification. But if they say that they are liars to the core. I freaking love instant gratification, I’m going to be real with you. And the pro is entertainment. I used to have to wait every single week to watch Jack Bauer. I remember scheduling it, we would have the party we’d all come together, but thank you Netflix, thank you Hulu, thank you Disney+, I never have to really schedule that anymore because I have instant gratification all the time.
So you know what, I no longer have to plan when I’m going to watch shows. I just saved a bunch of time in my life. And it’s been great when I go on road trips with my little kids. You know what I mean? It changes the game when we have access to entertainment. So instant gratification isn’t necessarily bad. However, the con which you’ve probably heard already being I think this is a little bit more well-known is, there’s a huge resilience atrophy that has happened. People are losing grit, they’re losing resilience, we give up too easily. We expect everything just to come quickly because we’re living in a world full of instant gratification and entertainment. The “M” in SIMPLE is we live in a world full of metrics. I mean, think about it. My watch tells me every day you burn this many calories, you stood up this many times….
Folwell: Time to stand up.
Thoms: Yeah, here’s how many steps you’ve done. And I’m going to be real with you. It’s freaking awesome. It motivates me out of the wazoo, it engages me with my physical activity. And the pro of metrics is engagement. You want engagement, find a way to measure it. Find a way to create a jewel system or a gamified model to give people, it’s the Peloton. I’ve been hating on Peloton for three years. My wife’s been begging me for one, I’m like, “We’re not getting a freaking glorified bike.” But I bought one finally. I’m obsessed, I freaking love the thing.
You used to have to pull my teeth to go to the gym to work out. Dude, I have been almost every single day and my watch will tell you, I’ve been almost every single day to the gym or riding my Peloton because I’m obsessed with it. Because the engagement, the metrics is engaged me. But the problem with metrics though, the unintended consequence that we didn’t see coming, is it creates dependence. So now we have young employees, we have people who are dependent on feedback, “Hey, Boss, how am I doing? Hey, how was that email? Hey, how was that…how did that go? Am I doing good? How is it?”
Folwell: Where’s the like button on my email?
Thoms: Yeah, exactly. So we have this, dependence has created it to where unless we’re creating some type of elaborate affirmation system or engagement model, people just quit, they’ll leave your company. And I hate that but it’s true. There’s no more intrinsic motivation, it’s all turned to external motivation. And so I try to do my best to say, “Alright, am I doing this because I want the external credit, the fame, the shout outs, the affirmation, or is what I’m about to do, am I going to get satisfaction by doing it intrinsically, just from I know, I’m doing the right thing?” I’ll keep going, David, I know that we talked about it. I told you it’s like an hour-long conversation….
Folwell: I was excited about this. I want you to keep going.
Thoms: The “P” in SIMPLE is performance reviews. Okay. And we talked about Amazon. I don’t buy anything on Amazon without looking at the reviews. We live and breathe by it now. I mean, we live in the world of there’s a rating for everything. So the pro of that is transparency. We’ve already talked a lot about transparency. The con is it turns into a popularity contest. So now, people are manipulating transparency to get what they want. So it’s a popularity contest. There are some people out there just who are freaking rock stars, like our president, Tim. I mean, like I said, he’s a phenomenal leader, the dude should be speaking all across the country. And he’s finally giving his first talk at NALTO in Vegas in a couple of weeks I’m going to be with him.
But nobody’s going to hire him to come speak. One, he’d probably say no. But two, because he’s not known. But the truth is, is what he’s going to teach is better than anybody else out there. But the person you’re going to hire is the person who’s figured out social media, they figured out marketing, they figured out how to brand themselves as somebody who knows stuff. And I’m just going to be real honest, I’m a little passionate about this, is I don’t give a crap about theory. I care about real-life results. If you can’t live it, then it doesn’t matter. And we live in a world where nobody’s living out what they talk about anymore. They’re just finding a better way to spin it. And so they’re putting out this fake news… I know that’s got a negative turned on it, I don’t mean this any political. I just mean like that people are putting out fake stuff all the time saying that they know everything. It’s like, bullcrap, you don’t know anything.
I don’t know anything about the health care industry. That’s why I’m trying to learn every single day to talk to the people who are really getting results who aren’t writing books, they’re not putting out blog posts about how they do it, because they’re actually hustling every single day getting the results. That’s what I want to know. But when you live a world full of performance reviews, you start to think about, “Well, how can I make sure that people know I’m trustworthy?” rather than actually doing the work in getting it done. Does it make sense? And actually being trustworthy.
Folwell: I mean, it does make sense and it’s also why I’m just taking that example to the world we live in and you brought the Amazon reviews and I actually, it’s gotten to a point I have a Chrome extension called Fakespot that gives me a review of the reviews to tell me if the reviews are accurate. It literally is like, “These reviews are false or these reviews…” so you can get a, I want the highest-rated authentic reviews
Thoms: I mean seriously, though. I mean it’s so sad that we’ve come to that world because we’re obsessed with being perceived as awesome rather than just trying our best every day to make progress towards being the most authentic or be transparent person we can be.
Folwell: I saw this the other day about, it was like the people who post, couples who posts the most pictures on Instagram on a vacation, like the more pictures they post, the less likely they are to be genuinely happy.
Thoms: Oh dude, that’s so fascinating. If you find that send it to me. Because I’m like, I would love to read that. Alright, so let’s keep going because we’re out of time. So we have speed, instant gratification, metrics, performance reviews, the “L” stands for likes, shoot is that not just what everybody lives for now? We do it for the like. And I think this is something I struggled with. The pro of likes is very obvious, it’s affirmation. We as human beings, we need affirmation so bad and you’ve heard about the dopamine rush all that stuff. I’m not going to bore you with what every single person in the world talks about. But to me, I’ll talk personally, like, I struggle with this so bad, David, like, I want praise. I want my wife to tell me I’m awesome. I want my kids to say I love you. I want my boss to say you’re doing a good job. I struggle with it. And it has….
Folwell: I think you’re great, JT.
Thoms: Well thanks, David. You just made my day. Tell me more. But we struggle with, I struggle with it as a words of affirmation, that’s my love language. But the con of likes is, one, likes on Instagram, and this affirmation addiction that we have, one, is it’s artificial. Instagram likes, all that stuff on social media, it’s artificial. So just like anything artificial, may give you a real big high, but there’s a huge crash to follow. In the con of this culture that we’ve created, where we’re just trying to get likes and likes and likes and likes, is we’re creating narcissism. We’re telling people your worth is based on who likes you, who likes what you did, who sees what you did. And so everything we’re doing, we subconsciously start saying like, “are people going to like this?” And what we’re doing now is creating, it’s super narcissistic.
Dr. Jean Twenge is at a San Diego State University, she’s actually been studying to the benchmark study that goes all the way back to the 1970s. And every three years she re-benchmarks the study. And she’s found that our country every single time she benchmarks it, increases in narcissism. We have the most narcissistic generation of all time. And think about it if you go into… I’m a millennial, if you go into millennial’s house, and you go into like maybe like your grandparents’ house, or one of the Greatest Generation or your baby boomers. When you walk in, you see totally different things. You go into a baby boomer’s house, you see pictures of their kids, you see pictures, their loved ones.
You go into a millennial’s house, even ones that have kids, it’s pictures of them, like, “Here’s me scuba diving, here’s me visiting this place. Look at what all I’ve done.” And they’re…this is in their own home. And I get it, you’re proud, you’re excited. But we’re just narcissistic and we can’t help it. I mean, literally media feeds us this. I mean, there’s a Diet Coke commercial, it’s like, “You deserve this.” And I’m like, “Bullcrap. I don’t deserve a Diet Coke. Why do I deserve a Diet Coke?” Or the, or the funny Dr. Pepper commercials, that wee little guy, he’s just constantly, “You deserve a Dr. Pepper.” It’s funny, but it’s like, this stuff sticks with us. And everybody is special. I totally believe that. I’m a huge Fred Rogers fan.
I love Mr. Rogers. Everyone is special, but you’re not more special than the person next to you. I think there’s a difference between believing…having self-worth and knowing you are just a puzzle piece in the giant boxed-up puzzle. And I think the problem we face right now is everybody doesn’t want to be a puzzle piece, they want to be the whole freaking puzzle. You don’t need that. We don’t need that in our culture. But it’s here. So sorry, I kind of went too long there, but-
Folwell: No, I think that’s great insight across the board. And also the way that you preface this with me is saying there’s unconscious or subconscious problem. I recently read a book called Subliminal, that talks about the subconscious. And when you brought this up, I was like, these are the problems we need to be thinking about, because they’re driving us even though we don’t know they’re driving us. And the stat from that book that blew my mind. They asked, and I’m probably not going to get this perfect, but they did a study where it was like, “What percentage of your brain are you using running full speed, versus playing a game of chess at like a championship level, or sitting on a couch, watching TV?”
Thoms: That’s a fascinating thing.
Folwell: 98%. Doesn’t matter.
Thoms: Across all the board?
Folwell: Across the board 98% of your brains being used. You laying on the couch watching TV is doing the exact same mental, your subconscious is the majority of what’s going on in your brain is your subconscious. So you’re using that much energy, regardless of those three activities. And that blew my mind. And when you brought this up as a unconscious or subconscious problem, although this is something we should all probably be thinking about. And thinking about, like, these are the problems we need to be pointing at thinking about and trying to understand how we work through them in a more meaningful way. With that, I know we’re kind of rounding the corner, we have about seven minutes left. I do have a couple questions that are more on the personal level that I’d like to get to. And then we can kind of wrap up from there. One of those is, in the last five years what new belief behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Thoms: David, before I answer that, I feel bad for the listeners who didn’t get to hear the “E” in SIMPLE I’ll say this really quick.
Folwell: That is my bad. That’s my ADD moment.
Thoms: It’s okay.
Folwell: That’s an ADD…sorry about that.
Thoms: That’s alright. I also am ADD so the only reason I remember is this is written in front of me. So the “E” in SIMPLE just to put a cap on this one is entitlement. The pro, there is actually indeed a pro of entitlement, which is we demand better for ourselves. That’s a great thing. It pushes us forwards because our demands are high, our expectations are high. But the con is it’s caused a huge lack of responsibility and ownership in people, when you’re entitled you blame everybody else when you don’t get what you want. And that’s just a huge problem that we face. So the more that we can help teach our recruiters, teach our employers, teach our kids to value, you should have very high expectations for yourself, you should always take responsibility for achievement. That’s the message that we need to continue to pull out. So that’s all, that was the last one of the SIMPLE Problem.
Folwell: And my apologies again for jumping there. I got a little excited. Do you have the SIMPLE Problem listed anywhere online, your LinkedIn….
Thoms: No. I don’t. I’m presenting this out at a conference here soon. And then I’ll start putting it out more there. And I derived this from Tim Elmore, he has a non-profit called Growing Leaders. He has something called the SCENE of this generation. And he talks about different things. But his focus is more on how are we impacting the next generation of kids. So he kind of inspired me in this, so I’ll give him kudos to getting me on, kickstarting on this idea.
Folwell: Well, I’m excited to see more content around it. And I very much enjoyed the conversation around it. So…
Thoms: Thank you.
Folwell: With that now, we’ll jump to the personal questions. So in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Thoms: I was not prepared for that question, David. I will not say what most improved, because I don’t think I’ll think of it right now. But I will try to find one that has made an impact on my life, because there’s so many. I’ll tell you what I’m working through right now. I believe that in the earlier years of my career, and I’m still young, I’m 33 years of age, I joined the workforce at age 19. I think earlier, I focused really heavily on my resume. I wanted to have an impressive resume, I wanted to move up, climb the ladder, you name it. I was a VP by age 32, rich, or no 30, just a few years ago and I felt really good about myself. And I learned that I was chasing the wrong things. And so instead of focusing on my resume, I’ve been focusing more on my eulogy right, my epitaph, and it’s changed the perspective for me, I think a lot changed when I had kids.
And a lot changed when I realized I wasn’t being the husband, I wanted to be, I wasn’t present and engaged like I thought I was. And it flipped everything for me. And I recognized, “Man, I’ve put a lot of eggs in the whole career basket.” And my job, for me personally, this isn’t everybody, some people find a lot of purpose and passion their job and I do too, but I don’t live for the healthcare industry.
I feel like I can add a tremendous value to this industry and I want to make a difference. But at the end of the day, this is my job, it exists so that I can focus on my home, so that I can grow my kids and disciple them and love them and that I can support my wife. A quote that stands out to me that a mentor told me all the time was, I’m totally going to botch it, but this guy said, “I used to think I could change the world and so I tried. But then I realized, as I grew older, that if I only first started to change myself, then maybe I could have influenced my family. And then perhaps my community. And who knows, maybe even my city or my state and possibly the world.”
And so I think what I’ve really tried to do is, is just reset man. So I totally changed industries, I came into healthcare, because I wanted to be in close proximity to people I wanted to be like. Our president, Tim Fischer, Ted Weyn, I want to be like those guys when I’m older. Because they don’t just crush their careers, they have incredible children who love them, they have marriages that have lasted, they are involved in the community, they give back, they treat people with dignity, respect. And I’m like, “Hey, I don’t need any more theory. I love reading and I’m crushing books, but I want to be in close proximity to the person who’s doing it so they can rub off on me.” That’s literally why I came to this industry. And once I got into this industry, I saw the problems and like, “Oh my God, like I can solve…I can help solve this.”
Folwell: I love it.
Thoms: So hopefully that answers your question.
Folwell: That’s a great answer. And one last question. And then we’ll go to closing comments, but how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Thoms: When I was 20 years old, man, I’ll never forget this. I told you I joined the workforce at 19, I got my associate’s degree and this company ended up paying for me for me to get my bachelor’s. But when I joined, I joined this company and we would go across the country to elementary schools and teach leadership and character to these kids. And I’ve always been one who loves attention. And so the job required a lot of public speaking, a lot of relationship building and I killed it. I got in and I just crushed it.
That first year I won Rookie of the Year for the whole company. I was nationally recognized, all this stuff, just had killer numbers. And I thought I was the bee’s knees, so the vice president at our big company event after I won the award said, “JT man, come on, why don’t you ride with me to the next event? I want to talk with you, man.” And I got into his truck thinking like this is going to be awesome. He’s going to tell me how great I am. I’m going to get even more affirmation.
And as we are riding, he said, “JT man, you are just killing it. I mean you came out of the gate like Usain Bolt just sprinting ahead everyone. You’ve just fit. You are so talented. You’re so gifted with people, you’re just a magnet.” And I’m like, “Thank you. Tell me more. This is awesome.” And he said, “But because I love you and I believe in you, I need to tell you something. You are a arrogant cocky son of a…” Insert a word there. And he said, “If you do not learn humility, I will fire you. This is a marathon, not a sprint and you are sucking wind. You need to go apologize to your entire team on how arrogant you have been and you to ask them what you can do to make it better.”
Folwell: That is amazing. That’s great leadership.
Thoms: Yeah. And I cried in the cab of that truck. I cried right then and there and I listened. And I’m so glad he had built the relationship, that bridge strong enough to where he could deliver that weight. Because it changed my life. And I went back and I remember, I remember looking into my teammates and going to them and say, “Hey, I’ve been arrogant. I’m sorry.” And them saying, “Yeah, you have. And I really…I’m really glad you’ve you came to me, because it’s hurt me.” And yeah, man that changed my life.
Folwell: Great story. And with that, do you have any closing comments, anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Thoms: The only thing I would close is just that, I think that if you’re out there and you’re trying to make your company better, or just trying to be better at whatever you do, one, go watch Ted Lasso, two, be curious and authentic and real. Try to find ways to solve problems that serve people, not solve problems that serve you and put money in your pocket, but solve problems that serve people and everything will take care of itself. If you’re the best in the world at solving problems and serving people, they’re going to recognize you for it. So that’s all.
Folwell: JT, it’s been a pleasure to have you on some really great insights, really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you so much.
Thoms: Yeah, thank you, David.