Building the Right Business Relationships with the Right People
Businesses are about relationships — that’s why they’re called “companies.”

According to Qualtrics creative director John Johnson, it’s important to form relationships with people who want to see the business succeed as much as you do — and who have a perspective or skill set that complements yours.

In this episode of Real Creative Leadership, Adam Morgan chats with John about the who, where, and how of building lasting, productive relationships — and why they’re essential to successful creative teams and companies.  

Watch this episode to discover:

  • Why you should partner with people on the other side of the business aisle
  • The right dynamics to look for — and nurture — in your strategic partnerships
  • 3 types of people you need as partners
mentioned in this show:
adammorgan
Adam Morgan
Executive Creative Director Adobe
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The Stoke Group
Digital Marketing and Full-Service Content Agency

Guest Speaker

John Johnson

Executive Creative Director, Qualtrics

John is the Executive Creative Director at Qualtrics and works with teams across the entire company as they develop new company positioning, campaigns, content, product launches, events, and new experiences that drive the Qualtrics brand strategy and vision.

John has created and shaped work for clients such as Yum Brands, Lexus, IBM, Callaway Golf, Ubisoft, TaylorMade Golf, HP, adidas, and Qualtrics.

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Transcript

John Johnson:

You want to pick people that you can do the best work with. It doesn't have to be somebody that's above you, but because you're trying to get in, right? That's your end to the next level. The work that you're doing is going to create that opportunity.

Adam Morgan:

Welcome to "Real Creative Leadership," a place where creative leaders can find insights and practical guidance on the day-to-day job of being a creative leader. We focus on real issues, topics, and insights of creativity in the business world. Join me as we explore the best strategies for developing your team, getting others to embrace your vision, and generating amazing experiences.

Adam Morgan:

This webinar series is produced by The Stoke Group. I'm your host, Adam Morgan, Adobe Executive creative director, author of "Sorry Spock, Emotions Drive Business," and this is "Real Creative Leadership."

Adam Morgan:

All right. Thank you all for joining us. This is Season Two, Episode Six, and the topic for today is really interesting. It's all about building relationships, not just building relationships with your team, but with peers, people beyond your team, leadership, people in other roles, even beyond the business. So today, we have an awesome guest. We're going to talk to John Johnson. He is the director of category and brand lab, as well as the ECD at Qualtrics. And he's going to share with us a lot of his lived experience about what it's like to build relationships and how important those things are. So I'd love to have you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background as a creative leader and where you are today and then, we'll get into the topic.

John Johnson:

Yeah. Great. Hey, well first, thanks for the invite. Thanks for having me. Yeah. So I started out in the advertising world, and I spent probably 12 or 13 years in some agencies, and then, left with another creative and to start a shop. And so we ran that shop, this is back in Arizona, ran that shop for about 10 years and had a client early on there that ... this little tech company in Provo, Utah, was kind of crazy. I think there were, probably, 20 people there at the time, started doing some work for them, and that kind of progressed. And here I am actually, internally at that client. We have offices all over the world and things. It's just been an absolute crazy ride, I guess, one that you just can't prepare for. So it's been fun.

Adam Morgan:

Well, that's awesome. Actually, let's dig into that a little bit. You talked about this transition. So you were at Agency Life. You had your own shop. Talk to me about ... the topic today is relationships, and this is really important because a lot of times when I've talked with people about how to become a better creative leader, it's getting out of the craft. The craft is important, but there are so much more of that. And one of those elements is relationships. So tell us the story. Let's start with this wonderful story that you told me earlier, I thought it was fascinating, of the CEO of Qualtrics and your relationship with him and how that changed everything of your journey from moving from agency side to brand side.

John Johnson:

Yeah, yeah, kind of a crazy story. So I ... we started doing with some work for them, and over the years, it seemed like once every quarter, once every six months, Ryan and I would catch up. And it was usually the "Hey, what's going on? What's new? What are you guys doing? How's business?" And outside of what we were working on at the time. And every time we would talk, he would say, "Well, we hit a hundred people." Like, "Wow, that's pretty incredible growth. Good for you guys. That's amazing." And the next time we would talk, "We hit 350 people." And at this point, I'm like, "There's some sort of Ponzi scheme. Something's not right with that kind of growth, right? It's just not normal." But they were just absolutely crushing it.

John Johnson:

And I got a phone call, and it was in 2014. Earlier that day, Ryan had gone with some other CEOs and business leaders to sit with Jony Ive at Apple. And it was a pretty small group, I think. And so one the conversation, I think, turned toward, "What was your relationship with Steve, and how did that work so well?" And I think not comparing myself at all to a Jony Ive or a Steve Jobs, but our relationship and how we worked was kind of similar. We worked really well together and no matter what we were trying to solve or do, we got on the same page and we're able to kind of speak the same language and saw the same things, wanting to go to the same direction. And so I got a phone call. I think Ryan was on his way home from that event. And he said, "Hey, look. Don't say no, just come up to Utah for a couple of days. Let's just talk about this, but this is what I want to do. I would love to have you guys come up and do what you do here, just for Qualtrics."

John Johnson:

So at the time it was a little daunting. Every creative or most creatives, I think, if you want to ... what you're shooting for is to have your name on the door somewhere and do your own thing. Everybody wants or a lot of people do have that desire, and we were ... there was no reason to do it. I think we're having our best year ever. We're producing great work. 2008 was kind of an interesting time because we had plans to grow the firm and be bigger. And as soon as 2008 happened, we just absolutely shifted to, "Nope, we're going to stay lean and mean. We're going to do the absolute best work we can," and it's not going to be about getting big, growing a big to a big size, I guess.

John Johnson:

And we got to do a lot of great projects, work on a lot of great brands because it shifted everyone's mentality that we don't have to go to a big shop necessarily to get great work. And so it provided a lot of opportunity for us as a small shop. And anyway, long story short, going back to the story of Ryan, I think it was a hard decision to make. But two months later, we made the decision and made the move to Utah. And it's been about six and a half years now, and I never would've perceived what kind of ride this was going to be. But with Ryan, I knew one thing: it was going to be epic no matter which direction it went in, and it was going to be fun. So here we are.

Adam Morgan:

Well, that's so fascinating. There are a couple of interesting things about that story. Number one, for any of us who have lived in agency world, typically the buyout structure if you are going to sell your shop, is a larger conglomerate, right? They're going to buy you, and you'll just be part of a bigger agency network. So being purchased to go in-house to be the only ... the creative department, basically, for a brand is pretty fascinating rather than having it be homegrown.

John Johnson:

Yeah. It was a little different. It was a little ... it was pretty, I think, kind of unorthodox. But that's ... I guess, I think unorthodox is kind of on-brand for metrics. So it makes sense.

Adam Morgan:

And the other thing, even though you had mentioned that you and Ryan were both on the same page and everything was together, it's not that it's just group-thinker, you only go with people and peers who are just like you. I think you had different disciplines, and you had different ideas, but you came together and you were able to work them together. So I think that story of Jony Ive and Steve and as well as you and Ryan, those relationships where you can bring your different perspectives, but work together and create amazing things, a business side and a creative side coming together, I think that's pretty phenomenal. That's a cool story.

John Johnson:

Yeah. It's kind of interesting. My best-thought partner here is our CMO. Hi's name Kylan Lundeen, and I think he's probably the smartest guy I've ever worked with. He's a Stanford MBA, just off-the-charts smart. And what's interesting about how we work together is if you look at our disciplines and kind of what our abilities are, he's heavy on the business side, but he's also a great creative mind. I, on the other hand, have just that opposite amount of I've focused ... my career has been on the creative side, but I've also run a business and handle larger accounts and that sort of thing over time. When you look at the common ground that we have, it's pretty phenomenal.

John Johnson:

So he brings a slightly different lens to it I do, and there's a lot of overlap, but when we get to a certain place where one of us start ... our discipline kind of, and our knowledge stops at a certain point, we rely on the other person to fill in the gap there. And it's really kind of provided an amazing partnership in a lot of ways where we both feel like we can get into the room and we can solve some pretty gnarly problems in a pretty short amount of time because of the way that we work.

Adam Morgan:

And that's pretty interesting. I've talked about this often, but creating those strategic partnerships are critical because far too often in our business, we get into that ... kind of like a service mentality where we, as the creative department, we're here just to service the CMO or the-

Adam Morgan:

... Creative department. We're here just to service the CMO or the marketing department. I think that was at least the old mentality for in-house groups. And certainly, as an agency, that's what you're into, but finding those relationships and kind of the yin and yang of that relationship, where you can speak a little bit of khaki and they can speak a little creative, and then you can work together to solve big problems, I think is so important. It's so, so critical.

Adam Morgan:

So, that's an awesome example. And I know that many of you out there, listeners may be saying, "Oh, great. Yeah, but I'm not the head of some company or some agency. So I don't have the privilege of connecting directly to the CMO or CEO, whoever it is to make that relationship."

Adam Morgan:

So, I guess my next question would be, then, what? Where do we start? Guidance for anyone else out there. Where, and who do you build relationships with? So, clearly, we've talked about down, sideways, and up, but where would you start in terms of giving people guidance of, no matter where they're at, in building relationships with thought partners?

John Johnson:

Yeah. That's actually a great question, because I think a lot of times if you don't start at the right place or you're not looking for the right outcome, that can be a little difficult. But I would say first and foremost, you want to find that, and it doesn't really matter, it can be somebody who actually reports to you, if you have a team, or a peer that sits next to you.

John Johnson:

You want to pick people that you can be the best to work with and somebody who's actually going to make your work better. They're going to bring something to a viewpoint or something that's going to shift the work that you're doing, and just be open. It doesn't have to be somebody that's above you, but because you're trying to get in, right? That's your in to the next level.

John Johnson:

The work that you're doing is going to create that opportunity. And so, it's all about finding somebody who can bring that additive element to the work, where you're looking at it in the right way. And that's kind of similar to the way that [Kylen 00:12:05] and I. It's about the thing that we're trying to create. That's it.

John Johnson:

It's purely about trying to create something great. And it's not about trying to on somebody's radar. It's not about, there's nothing else to it than that. So, really, just look for those people that are going to, they might be a little different, and it might be outside. As a matter of fact, I think it's actually better if it's outside of the realm of a traditional art director, copywriter, sort of team mentality. Go find somebody that is on the business side, is on the account side. Somebody who gets it.

John Johnson:

And by my saying, "Gets it," it's kind of hard because it's hard to describe what that is, but find somebody that gets it and just bring them in. Even if it's just, "Hey, I'm trying to solve this problem and what's your take on this?" And start working. Just start the process. Ask for feedback. I think a lot of times as, at least I was this way, unless it was somebody, especially if it was on the accounts side, unless it was somebody who I really trusted, I tended, early on in my career to have a hard time getting feedback on some of those things, right?

John Johnson:

Because it's like, "Wow, this is creative. This is kind of my realm, versus your realm." And when you can break those walls down, and it's not about who owns what aspect, that's when the magic really starts to happen. And if it feels like a true partnership, you'll notice that it just naturally will start to kind of flourish, and then naturally would go off into some pretty great places.

John Johnson:

I will say that one of the things that makes it work really well is that, and it's, I think, it's different than a lot of the way that people work, but we never, when something's not working and one of us isn't feeling it, right, no matter what we're working on, we never get into a place where one of us is trying to say, "Well, from the business side, this makes sense." It might be true. "And from the creative side, this makes more sense." That also might be true. We just know that when one of us isn't feeling it, we're just not done yet. We have more work to do, and we've got to go figure out how to solve those problems.

John Johnson:

And I think what that does is it brings the guard down a little bit that it's a true partnership. That we're just trying to beat this thing up and make it as good as we possibly can, together. And we really respect each other, how we work. And that has 100% of the time always ended up in a better place than where we were.

Adam Morgan:

That's awesome, because it is really it's, you've got each other's backs, and it's not, you're not drawing party lines and you're not trying to fight over the minutiae. It's really cooperative.

John Johnson:

Exactly. 100%.

Adam Morgan:

Well, that's actually, that leads me into the next topic that is, how do you get ideas through, then? I mean, this is clearly a good example of, if you wanted to get a good idea, you've got to make sure you're feeling it, both you and your thought partner, right?

Adam Morgan:

So, but for others who maybe not are in that position, let's talk a little bit more about how you, like the right way to get ideas across, and how to share, and how to build those relationships so that good ideas can thrive. So ,how do you deal with that in both your experience, or maybe even at Qualtrics? Talk to me more about meetings, and selling, and presentations, and all that kind of good stuff of relationships?

John Johnson:

Yeah. You know, selling is actually a really big part of being a creative. You can go create the idea, but you have to help somebody actually see the value in it. And that, I think we like the, selling kind of, I don't know, it sounds a little like dirt. It almost sells like a used car salesman like, or something, right, but that's what you're trying to do, is you're trying to help people understand what you've created, and if they don't get the value, or if you can't really see where you want to take it, you've got to help them with that. And, but one of the things I think that's unique about how we work is that we've really removed any of what, the kind of the traditional, like dog and pony show, sort of presentations. That really is not us, at all.

John Johnson:

And I know that's different from a lot of places, but we find that, again, it's just about getting to the right thing. And so we tend to treat those meetings, if I have somebody presenting work to me, it's not about, I'm going to put these perfect transitions into this deck, so that it's beautiful, and not that I don't appreciate it, but it's about the idea. That is not going to be part of the idea. So let's just look at the idea and let's all roll up the sleeves. Let's, I think as creatives, we tend to try and hold the idea really tight to us, right?

John Johnson:

And one of the things I try to work with, especially, younger, more junior creatives, is don't hold that thing so tight, because we're going to shoot holes in it. That's the whole point. We're going to shoot holes in that thing. And then we're going to plug them. And we're going to do that to make it as good as we can do, as good as we can make it.

John Johnson:

But if you're holding that thing tight, you're going to end up with the one who feels the pain of trying to make this idea better. And when you can kind of remove a little bit of that, treat those kinds of scenarios, where it's like, "Hey, this is a great idea." "Actually, this could be great as is just go," or, "I wonder if, it might be, what if we took it and put a little quarter-turn tweak on that and what if we took it here or there?" And that tends to work really well. And I think it brings more of a collaborative sort of spirit to the table. That everybody's a part of it. It's not about me having the idea, anymore. It's about helping us, as a team, get to the right idea, or the right place.

John Johnson:

And now, I'll shift and say, if you're presenting work to somebody else that might be above you, or might be a C-level exec, and you have more of those structures where you have to go in. I think the value there is, how do you remove a little bit of the salesy feeling, where they feel like they're being sold something? No one really loves to be seen sold on something. They love to buy into something, especially when it's a great idea.

John Johnson:

And so, part of that is, how do you show them the vision of it, but do it in a way where it feels like they can buy into the idea and where it's going to go? So, it's not about, we have this thing totally locked down, totally finished. We just need you to cut a check, so that we can go fund this, or whatever the case is. They can kind of see the journey and it feels a little bit, you're kind of bringing them on the journey a little bit as well.

John Johnson:

And that's always kind of been the case. You know, there are times when, working with Ryan, for instance, we'll go and make that work look like it's out in the wild. We'll put that up on board so when you're looking at it, it looks like an image of something in Times Square, for instance. But, in reality, the work may never end up in Times Square. As a matter of fact, most of the time, it doesn't, but it allows people to see, and capture the vision, and start to feel what this idea is going to be when it ends up-

John Johnson:

This idea's going to be when it ends up in public for everyone to see. That's what gets really exciting, and that's what I mean by get them to buy into this. This is a really exciting thing. It's not only great work, but I can see where this is going, and I can see why this. I could see the value in the idea and the execution and all of that.

Adam Morgan:

In summary, for my own benefit, it sounds like what you're saying, which is really brilliant, is that if you want great work to be sold through, the way to build those relationships is to democratize the ownership of the idea. Instead of it just holding close to the vest and trying to pitch and present and get someone to buy your idea, it's really, and I think it's a leadership tactic. Get in that room, set everyone at ease, and let them know this is raw and you're involved in it, and you're part of the process. And hey, we're going to look at a couple ideas together, and let's make them better. Just doing that to me sounds like a really great way of building trust, whether that's up to someone or a peer, whoever you're presenting to, or even actually partners like an agency, bring them in and say, Hey, let's neutralize all of that angst. Let's just look at ideas together, and that's how we're going to make it work better. I think that's brilliant.

John Johnson:

Yeah. Well, thanks. There's another added element to that is that people have, generally speaking, they have a pretty sensitive BS meter. And it's okay to not have all the answers. When you're like, well, what about this, rather than trying to come up with some explanation that you clearly didn't think about before you walked into the room. Yeah, we've got to go figure that out. It's a really good point. When you treat it more like that, it starts to feel a little more like that partnership.

Adam Morgan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Johnson:

Every agency out there wants to be seen. No one wants to be seen as a vendor. You want to be seen as a partner.

Adam Morgan:

Right.

John Johnson:

It's some of those things are; I think that's the connective tissue that starts to make that happen. And it builds a little bit of trust because there's honesty there that. That's actually one; I value your idea. That's a great point. We've got to go figure that out. Two, we're just here to get it right. I think people hear that all the time now. It's like, if you can make yourself, you know, you put yourself in the room to get it right and not be right, it goes a long way. Now I will say, one of the challenges that being a creative leader is it's hard when you're sitting there in the room to shift your mindset out of being creative and trying to provide, or at least highlight and pinpoint where maybe something's broken or something's not working.

John Johnson:

And creatives are smart. They're smart. You got to rely on them to go and figure out how to solve that problem. The problem of here's why it's not working. Great. We'll go figure that out. I try not to be too prescriptive. Sometimes, I'm probably not very good at it, but I'll try to throw out. You could go at it like this. It may be an approach like this, just to point them in a direction. But guys, you know what we're trying to solve work. Go figure it out. I try to be more of that kind of a leader than I do the other, more prescriptive.

Adam Morgan:

Well, you have to lead sometimes; you can't just sit back. But I think it is partnerships. It really is partnerships. That's where the resounding story I'm hearing from this, which to back up a little bit more and just emphasize because this was a really critical point that we just talked about. Creative so often because you've birthed this idea. You're a little protective of it. But if you truly think about relationships in terms of partnerships, so it's giving up, you've got a partner, you've got to give up your ownership and share it. That's a partnership. So a good relationship. If you're going to build good relationships, you're partnering, and you're going to share it all rather than hold it close and try and sell people on your idea. It's giving it up.

John Johnson:

Yeah.

Adam Morgan:

So give up your channel. That's the answer.

John Johnson:

Yeah, there's an element of that. I think one, you all enjoy the success and the upside of that. The flip side of that is everybody has to own it.

Adam Morgan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Johnson:

You have to own it with them when things go wrong and, sometimes we get it wrong. There are times when things don't turn out the way that we think they're going to turn out. I think that going back to those partnerships. I think the trust there is when somebody.. I had a creative director that was really good at helping and that I still talk to, to this day. I still value his opinion, and we talk more as friends and as peers now of what's going on. But, I always knew that he was going to be there to help me get my ideas and make my ideas better.

John Johnson:

But he's always going to be there at the same time that we're going to join the successes, and we're going to own the failures together. It doesn't work if you're like, well, it was that person. That was their idea. Like no, like you, I own just as much of the decisions that the team makes. I think we're going to learn from those things. It's not about being mistake-proof or error-free, but we're going to learn from that. Let's just not make that same mistake the next time. We're going to break some other stuff. But each time, we get better because we're not making the same mistakes. I think that's where a lot of that trust comes is that you don't feel like you're left alone.

Adam Morgan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Johnson:

Out on the battlefield, whether it's good or bad.

Adam Morgan:

No, that's awesome. Well, let's switch gears a little bit. So we've talked a lot about current relationships or partnering with people who you work with, but what if it's a new experience? What if you're coming to a new business, a new company, or you're starting from scratch, building relationships, a new client, a new vendor, whatever it may be. Talk to me a little about if someone were to come to your team or your company, how can they get better advantage of building those relationships from scratch? What would you advise them to do if they joined Qualtrics?

John Johnson:

Well, I'll start by what tends to not work so well. Is if you come from a company and you try to bring the playbook as it were from that company, and try to run that at Qualtrics. Every company is going to be different. You operate; every business operates a little different. The players are different. What I've seen be successful is people bringing, leave the playbook at the door, bring all the knowledge and all the experience you've had. The successes, the failures, that's all back here; let's tap into that. Let's find a way to utilize that. I think that when you get into a new place, you want to absorb as much of that culture and understanding the difference of how the business operates.

John Johnson:

Don't wait to be asked to go and come up with ideas. This is one of those things where I personally think back in the day; I think back in the day, it was like, well, creative decisions need to come from creates. That's just not the case. A good idea can come from anywhere. And to be honest with you, I don't really care where it comes from. They can come from anybody. I care that the idea is good. That's it. If you have an idea, don't wait, don't keep it hidden. But when you bring it up, don't go in hot and say, like, this is what we need to do and be so definitive about it because there's probably a lot of context that you're missing.

John Johnson:

About why maybe it won't work or maybe there's value in this, but it's not quite the home run that you think it is yet. But when you're bringing in, you're just trying to solve problems that you see. I'm seeing this, and this is what I think we should do about it. That's really valuable to an organization. That's where you can start to find some of those thought partners and build some of those relationships you're seen as a problem solver. That can have some really big impacts. It doesn't matter if it's an internal problem or if it's an external marketing problem or a creative problem; that doesn't really matter what it is. That can go a long way.

Adam Morgan:

That's such an interesting thing. Like really, the answer is be open-minded. Walking into new relationships and listen as well as give. An example of that at Adobe, we've had a lot of acquisitions of different companies and some of the companies as they've come in, I've heard people say things like, oh, we're going to do it a new way. You know, not the way, the old way you guys have done it here at Adobe, but at the same token, everyone at Adobe is going like, you guys are coming in with the way you've always done it at your little business and not the way it works at the big corporation. It's a double-edged sword. Both sides are thinking the same thing that it's like, oh no, I've got the answer, and you're doing it the wrong old way. I think neither of those are the right answers. It should be building new relationships.

John Johnson:

Yeah.

Adam Morgan:

Give and take and listening and giving and not saying you've got it all solved.

John Johnson:

Yeah. It works on; that's a great point. It works on both sides because I think the business, you as a leader. There might be some value in the way that somebody has done something before.

Adam Morgan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Johnson:

To completely shut that down because this is just not the way that we do things. Now you can hear people out. Sometimes it's like, I, you know, it's.

John Johnson:

It's like... It's interesting because we get into a particularly kind of crazy time. We usually put on a big... Well, when it's not COVID. We put on a big event called x4 And we bring some pretty high profile people. We've had President Obama and Richard Branson, and Oprah, and some pretty big people. And big... A lot of brands are involved with it. But it's a little crazy going into that. And the preparation that we go through is pretty crazy. Now, a lot of companies will go out and say, "All right, by this date two months out, we're going to have all the scripts and presentations locked. We're going to do this. We're going to..." But that's just not how it works here.

Adam Morgan:

Nope.

John Johnson:

Right?

Adam Morgan:

Never anywhere.

John Johnson:

And it's funny because I've seen more than one person come in, and new to the process, and they try to infuse and try to make that be the case. And it's just... Listen, it's not that I don't see value. And man, that would be nice, because I would get a lot more sleep leading up to the event. So would everyone else. That's just not how we get to where we need to be. And so I think going into a new organization, it's "be in learning mode". When you get around new people, be in learning mode from them. Because there's a lot of value from different experiences that they have, and it's getting to a place where you can work... How do we work together with some of the things that... Whether it's a new acquisition company coming in and... From a parent company standpoint, because there's probably a lot of value in meeting somewhere in the middle and taking the good from both. Right?

Adam Morgan:

Yeah. Well, John, this has been awesome. So we've talked a lot about partnerships, we've talked about building trust. We talked about not being so close on your ideas and holding them too close, and sharing a little bit more. And then at this last section, we've talked about being in learning mode, which I think is awesome. So in wrapping this up, any last advice you'd have on building relationships that work? Where would you share from your lived experience on that?

John Johnson:

It's important to find partners that are different than what you are, that bring a different perspective. And that might mean somebody who is from a different culture, and kind of the... There's a lot of... Even things in the nuance of the worker, how you present an idea, can change and be better. And it's one thing... It's kind of... It's interesting because we talk about this and it starts to feel a little bit like, "Well, just be really passive." That's not really what works, right? You want people to be passionate. It's like, if you're... You should be passionate about an idea that you have. Because if you're not, why should I ever be passionate about it as somebody who might need to buy into that idea? If you're not feeling it, I'm certainly not going to feel confident in what the idea is.

Adam Morgan:

Yep.

John Johnson:

And so find somebody who is kind of like-minded, in terms of you both want to get the idea. And by somebody, that's multiple people, right? I... You want to find thought partners all over the place. And that's one. And two, don't just pick thought partners that are going to feel like, "Okay, that's the person who can make decisions so I'm going to go make a thought partner out of this person." No. Who are the people that... Maybe there's somebody that reports to you who you think... I mean, the reality is... And Adam, you shared an experience about this earlier... You might end up reporting to that person at some point, right? People have a lot of potential. So look all over. You're going to have peers that can be thought partners, and it's... Just be open to that.

John Johnson:

And I think if you're somebody who's really fun to work with, you can bring some ideas to the table and you're just seeing value in what somebody else is bringing to the table. And it might not work, what they're bringing, but you hear it out and you go... If you're not quite understanding it, you just "Say more" so you can really understand what they're trying to do. And I think when you do that, you start to develop some of that trust there. If you've got it all figured out and you're just looking for somebody to give you the nod that "Yeah, you're going in the right direction". That's not... That relationship's not what we're talking about here. Right? It's somebody that you're going to see value in working together. And listen, people... Fun's a big part of it. You've got to pick people that you have fun working together. You can solve some pretty hard problems, but if it's not fun...

Adam Morgan:

Why are we-

John Johnson:

What are we doing?

Adam Morgan:

Yeah.

John Johnson:

What are we doing? Yeah.

Adam Morgan:

Well, I think that's just a good place to end. Just for everyone listening to this show right now, if you want to improve the ideas that you have and the ability of those ideas to go out and change business, it's going to start with those strategic partnerships. So right now, homework assignment is, start thinking... Maybe you've got to go on the hunt. But look for people who are different than you who maybe have a different skillset, but you can at least align on a vision of good creative ideas and how creativity can impact business. So go out, search for them, find them, and start building those relationships. No matter what level. Even if there's someone who works for you, or it's the intern. On the next episode, I'll tell that story of my experience of the tables being flipped.

John Johnson:

That's great.

Adam Morgan:

But I think that's just a good ending note. Go out there and find those partners.

John Johnson:

Adam, I would say one more thing, is don't make your ideas small. I think people want to buy into some pretty big ideas now. Your idea, make... Go crazy with it. Help people see what the potential of what those things are. Go have fun. Like man... Don't shoot small. Think big about it. Because you might end up somewhere just below that. But if you don't aim a lot higher, your idea's not going to... It's not going to be great. And you want partners that are going to... You want to go create some pretty great work together. That's just an important part of it, getting excited about what you're doing and where things are going and what you're producing together. And go make it big.

Adam Morgan:

Well, maybe that's a good litmus test. Start sharing your big, crazy ideas with people and see who responds. And if you see the people who are like, "Yes, and" like, "I can help with that, let's do this". Bingo. That's one of the people you need to partner with.

John Johnson:

Yeah. Yeah you want somebody who is going to... You don't want somebody, and I think a lot of us have been in this situation, where you needed to go collaborate with somebody and it was absolutely painful because it felt like you had to drag them every step of the way. Those partnerships don't last and they really don't amount to anything great. Because you're so irritated by having to drag this person along and they're not really kind of adding anything to the equation. Right?

Adam Morgan:

That's totally fair. Well, thank you, John. Wise words. This was great. I really appreciate you sharing your experience in building relationships and building partnerships, and helping sell big creative ideas. I think there's a lot of really good nuggets in this conversation.

John Johnson:

Great. Well, hey Adam. Thanks for having me. It's been a lot of fun.

Adam Morgan:

Yeah, you bet. So now the last thing, how... In talking of relationships, what if there's someone who really needs to reach out to you and find you, or at least learn more about you? So let us know how our listeners can find you.

John Johnson:

I'm not real big on the... I don't pay attention to social media that much, but I usually do through LinkedIn. So reach out on LinkedIn. Listen, I'm more than happy to have a conversation if... Assuming there's anybody out there that wants to talk. But yeah, I'm happy to connect and talk to people and answer questions or anything like that.

Adam Morgan:

Awesome. Well, thank you everyone so much for listening and joining us today on our discussion about building relationships with John Johnson. And as always, you can find us at realcreativeleadership.com. You can find me at adamwmorgan.com. Thestokegroup.com is where you can get help if you need to scale or get some more creative juices into your flow. They're an awesome partner in making this happen. So all the different ways that you can reach us. And our big ask at the end is if you like this content, please like, subscribe, share, do whatever you need to do. Help get it out there so we can build a bigger community so that creative leaders can finally take their seat at the table and help guide business and make a bigger impact on the world. So thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.

Adam Morgan:

Thanks for listening to Real Creative Leadership. I'm your host, Adam Morgan, and this series was brought to you by The Stoke Group. For the most effective marketing, use both sides of your brain to align your strategy, creative execution, and analysis. Connect with The Stoke Group for help designing each step of your marketing plan and creating a coherent vision. Visit TheStokeGroup.com to learn more.