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IAM1859 – Business Coach and Author Helps Develop Leaders After Three Decades in Leadership

Podcast interview with Wayne Strickland

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of I AM CEO Podcast, we hear from Wayne Strickland, an accomplished business coach, author, consultant, and renowned leader with a commendable 38-year career. He climbed the ranks to become a successful Vice President at Hallmark Cards, a position he held for more than 25 years, and contributed enormously to the brand's growth.

  • CEO Story: Wayne talks about his time at Hallmark, where in his 35th year he led the launch and development of the Hallmark Greetings business across various Amazon platforms. He has worked with leading retailers worldwide and led sizable teams of 10,000 and 5,000, demonstrating his vast experience and leadership skills. Additionally, Wayne has been instrumental in starting new organizations from scratch.
  • Business Service: As a business coach, Wayne emphasizes the importance of understanding one's leadership philosophy arguing that personal leadership development is critical to long-term success.
  • CEO Hack: His advice to leaders is: have crucial conversations, dispel the friction and possess the tenacity to move forward.
  • CEO Nugget: Wayne advocates three key things for leaders – slow down, think about it, and work on maintaining your balance.
  • CEO Defined: To Wayne, being a CEO involves sharing things that could help other people.
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Wayne Strickland Teaser 00:00

My whole thing now Gresham is about giving back and trying to teach all new leaders some of the things I learned along the way.

Intro 00:08

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:33

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're purposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on leadership, management and coaching. When we think of leadership management and coaching, we often think of doing all of the other things, but often it's a person that's able to build up their team, that's able to cultivate a creative and innovative culture so that people can excel and actually be their own leaders. So that's why this month we're focusing on those 3 big topics, because they make a huge impact on the organizations that we're part of.

Now, you'll hear some of those topics this month, and of course, some really great perspectives on how people are even defining leadership, which I think is extremely exciting. So sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Wayne Strickland of Wayne, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Wayne Strickland 01:52

Great to be here and happy holidays to you.

Gresham Harkless 01:55

Happy holidays to you as well. What I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Wayne so you hear about all the awesome things that he's been able to do and accomplish.

Wayne is a business coach, author, consultant, speaker, and enlightened leader. In his award-winning 38-year career, he rose to successful Vice President at Hallmark Cards for over 25 years where in his 35th year in the business, he led the launch and development of the Hallmark Greetings business across multiple Amazon platforms.

He has worked with the leading retailers across the world and leads teams of 1, 000 and 5, 000. He has also started new organizations from scratch. He considers developing your own leadership philosophy critical to long-term success.

Wayne, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Wayne Strickland 02:42

I'm ready. Let's go.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:43

Let's do it. So the first question I had was to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Wayne Strickland 02:50

Thank you. I was very fortunate to spend 38 years with one great company that allowed me to do a lot of fun things and grow and work on a lot of different projects, work with a lot of retailers and it wasn't easy along the way. I think it was through just brute force and determination. A lot of times I just worked my way through a lot of issues and sometimes I didn't do such a good job.

I had a lot of failures in my 38-year career. And so what I'm trying to do with is I'm trying to give people some insight, some advice of some things I learned in my 38 years so maybe their career won't have to be so painful and get knocked down by just doing dumb things and not having the coaching and the insights and the thoughts around what I need to do to grow when I get especially in a difficult position.

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So my whole thing now Gresham is about giving back and trying to teach all new leaders some of the things I learned along the way.

Gresham Harkless 03:44

That's awesome. 38 years is definitely a long time to be in the career. I know you touched on a little bit, but I wanted to hear a little bit more on how you're helping to develop these leaders. Could you tell us how you're supporting the clients that you're working with?

Wayne Strickland 03:54

Several ways. Gresham. I've got two books out there. My second book is called Get Over Yourself Decide to Lead Insights from Hard Lessons Learned. I speak to a lot of groups. I think I resonate best with first or second-time leaders, people thatwere managers. I got the first leadership job and everybody thinks they know how to do everything. It's not until they take their first big fall or get a flap on the head that they realize maybe they don't know everything and they're willing to listen. So I think I'm most effective with people that's willing to listen.

Then the second thing I've done, and I didn't know I was going to do this when I started. I partner with two women that are really unique in best practice in their field. The first one is very unusual. But I'm partnering with the lady named Tanya O'Callaghan from Ireland. Tanya is one of the greatest bass players in the world. She plays with people like Twisted Sister and the Food Fighters and Guns and Roses. I met her about a year ago to play at a thing called Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. I always want to be a rock and roll player. So I went there as a student and she was one of the teachers. I met her and we struck up a friendship and now we do a keynote presentation.

We've got one coming up in April where she talks about the struggles and amount of energy and dedication it takes to break into the rock and roll field, especially from a young woman in Ireland to break through this culture and get into the United States and be successful. And after she tells her story for 15 or 20 minutes, I talk about what leaders can learn from her story. Things about there is no entitlement if you're a musician, when you play, you get paid. It's not like in the corporate world Gresham, you may have a bad week, but you're still getting paid this week. The fact is she's the master of her craft.

At one time she was playing with 7 different bands just so she could be the best at what she was doing at our different genres of music. So you have to learn all of that. For corporate leaders, I asked the question, what are you the master of? What's your craft that you're the best in the world at? Or what do you want to be the best in the world at? I don't know that people know that. I don't know they even have aspiration to be that. Then for her collaboration, she has incredible collaboration skills. But if you're a member of a band, especially if you're a member of seven bands, you don't have time, not like a business where you can say, Hey, I'll just put that off until next month. We'll just put that on next month's agenda.

You got to figure it out right now. So I found that these musicians have incredible collaboration skills and listening skills. Then when they get ready, they play, they focus. I was at this camp for four days. I never once saw one of the professional musicians pull out their cell phone or their laptop and check emails when we were supposed to be practicing. When you practice, you practice for hours. It's incredible the dedication they have in the focus. And I think for business leaders, it's to learn there. So we have this whole keynote and then we do a Q&A and then we actually play. We put together a band and she's really playing. I've got some other musicians that are pretty good in the background trying not to embarrass myself. So that's one.

Then the other one I found this buddy that actually hired her about a year ago to help me with my social marketing, social media marketing. After I got to working with her, I found that she had such depth in things like LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups and Instagram and Twitter and all these things, incredible insights, not insights, but knowledge about how it worked. It triggered a lot of thoughts for me about how under-leveraged those platforms are in the business world for business leaders. If you and I had an organization and we had a board of directors with a leadership team, that leadership team needs to be using those platforms to help you support your brand or your business or your launch of your new product, very few do.

So we've got lots of very provocative ideas for groups and we've got a presentation coming up in two or three weeks that she talks about the platforms and I'm trying to be the provocateur and ask some provocative questions. But I do know, in a year or two or three, there'll be somewhere down the road that when a leader is picking his team, if he's got two people that have the exact same skills, but one's got a social media network of 5000 10, 000 people and the other one doesn't, he probably will.

He or she will probably pick the person with the biggest network because they can help them spread the word. So that's how I'm using things. I'm partnering with people and I'm using my experience and I'm trying to get out to talk to people that want to learn.

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Gresham Harkless 08:13

That's awesome. You definitely sounds like you're creating a lot of value and like you touched on a little bit, like making sure that you are leveraging what everybody's strengths are because you have that knowledge and that information. You're able to partner with those people that have those specific kind of fields of expertise, I guess you can call them and then you're able to make a great win, win, win opportunity it sounds like. So that's awesome that you've been able to do that.

Now, I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. This is what you feel distinguishes you or sets you or your organization apart.

Wayne Strickland 08:40

We're pretty honest. I think we tell pretty candidly about why we failed. I think people that hear me speak, I did a presentation last Friday to do some lectures about 40 people. There's a small group. There are 40 people from people in their fifties and their thirties, and the consistent feedback was wow, you really shared a lot of personal information about the choices you made that caused you to fail. I tell a lot of stories. In 38 years you capture a lot of stories. I give a lot of lessons through those stories and I give them examples of what I did wrong that caused me to fail.

I think people appreciate that because we all make mistakes, right? One of the things I tell people is you're going to fail, get good at it, learn how to fail and fail really well and fail really fast and learn from it and get back up and go again. I think too many times people fail and they sit there and they feel sorry for themselves or they point the finger at somebody else and they become the victim. And hey, guess what? You're gonna fail. So fail, really get good at it, fail fast, learn from it, get back up and go again.

So I think my secret sauce is I'm very honest and I'm very transparent and I don't hide anything and I think people really appreciate that.

Gresham Harkless 09:47

Yeah, definitely. The fact that you're definitely given I think in this day and age, transparency, and authenticity are definitely, key things that people look for. Then it's a 24/7 kind of world, like you mentioned on social media, where you literally review and check and see what everybody's doing. It definitely pays to be transparent and authentic. So definitely appreciate you for that.

Now I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app, a book or a habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient as a business owner.

Wayne Strickland 10:16

About 20 years ago, I was going through a rough spell professionally and the president of the company told me to get an executive coach and I thought it was because I was such a stud. It was actually because I was such a bully. Yeah, it goes hand in hand, right? And this lady, her name was Ellen Carp. She got with me and I thought this is gonna be like a 30-minute little session, right? Ended up lasting about a year and a half. It still hadn't ended. I had lunch with her last Friday, 20 years later, right? And she got me to read this book. She said, you need to learn how to have crucial conversations. Those are the conversations that are hard or tough.

There's been a lot of emotions that have gone into it. A lot of drama, maybe. And because you've got to learn how to have these crucial conversations, you've got to look somebody in the eye and be honest and peel the onion and all those metaphors that we can use. It's a book, I think, Kerry Patterson and Joseph Greeny wrote the book and Ron McMillan is still in print. It's just a great book. I don't know that there's anybody I've ever given it to that didn't think it was terrific and helping them out.

You still got to have the courage to go have that crucial conversation. You've got to have the toughness and the discipline to go do it. But, you'll have that crucial conversation in my presentations. I call it finding the friction. It's easy to be a leader when there's no friction, but there's always friction. As a leader, you find out where that friction's at. It is people aren't getting along or it is one organization not working with the other organization, but there's friction and you need to go find it. It's okay to have a little friction in the organization because that means there's the right amount of tension and everything's nice and tight, but too much friction cost you money.

It gets things knocked off track and it's bad. So have the crucial conversation, find the friction, have the toughness to go do that. I think this is the best advice I could give anybody.

Gresham Harkless 12:04

Yeah, that makes sense. And a lot of times, like you mentioned, people don't have the crucial conversation. They'll put their head in the sand so they speak, hope that it passes. But if you're in an organization where it's vital that you have to get things done and you're having maybe two team members or something that are not on the same page, then you can definitely be real.

Not only just the project or whatever you're working on from that day, but also maybe the entire year in the company itself.

Wayne Strickland 12:25

Yeah, a lot of times you could just say, hey, I was wrong. I didn't have my facts right or I didn't have all the facts. I made a bad assumption or I just had a bad day. I was wrong. Sometimes Yeah, they just got to say that because you were wrong. Some people just can't do it. They think it's like they lose their badge of honor or something.

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They just can't admit that they're wrong. Just say you're wrong. Move on.

Gresham Harkless 12:46

Yeah. I think that goes so far by just saying that because I think that is behind all that is that, none of us are perfect. None of us quote and quote walks on water. So, it's important to understand when you own up to the fact that, hey, I made a mistake or hey, I did this wrong.

I think that helps to get people on your side and understand that, Hey, this person is just as human as I am. I made a mistake yesterday and this person has admitted to making a mistake today. You feel somewhat of a connection when that happens.

Wayne Strickland 13:10


Gresham Harkless 13:11

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a word of wisdom or piece of advice or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Wayne Strickland 13:20

I would tell my younger self, slow down, think about it. Don't go so fast. Have some balance in your life. You don't need to work 14 hours a day. Find those things that make you happy. Find those things that make you whole. Be successful at work. Rest. You punish yourself because this is a long journey. You don't have to do it all today. So have some perspective and have balance in your life. I never would have thought I just said that, 30 years ago. But I think leaders have got to have balance.

They've got to have a well-rounded life. They've got to have people in their lives that make them feel special. They've got to have activities in the lab or spiritual or whatever it might be. You've got to have a healthy body and you've got to do some things that bring you joy. My younger self, I'd say you got to have all of that. And if you get out of balance to get off the tracks and you get off the tracks, sometimes it's really hard to get back on the track. So that's my tip for the younger me.

Gresham Harkless 14:16

There you go. I love that advice. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Wayne, I want to ask you, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Wayne Strickland 14:28

It means sharing the things that you know to help other people.

Gresham Harkless 14:32

Absolutely. I love that. And it all goes back to making sure that you're giving back and you've been able to do that. So I appreciate you Wayne for taking some time out, giving back to us and being a great leader and a person that passes on so much great information.

What I wanted to do was pass you the mic just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and our listeners know and then how best people can get ahold of you.

Wayne Strickland 14:53

Probably, listeners out there and the readers be the best you can, find those things that you need to be the master of and be the best you can in that, you're not going to be the master of everything. Nobody is perfect in everything. You're going to have some areas where you're not going to be the best.

That's where you need to hire people who are better than you. It's so much richer to learn how to work with a lot of different people that have different backgrounds and skill sets than you and bring that team together to make you something special than it is to try to do it all by yourself because you can't.

So find those skills that you're great at. Find out how to work with a lot of different people with backgrounds and find out how to bring those people together to do something really, really special. That's my advice to your listeners.

Gresham Harkless 15:32

Awesome. And people that want to reach out to you, what's the best way?

Wayne Strickland 15:34

You can find me at You can go to my website. Have a book on Amazon. You can type in Wayne Strickland. You'll find it. Get Over Yourself, Decide to Lead: Insights from Hard Lessons Learned.

It's an easy book to read on a couple-hour flight and I hope everybody gets something to thank everybody to listen to this. Get the handful, a couple of three ideas and that's great.

Gresham Harkless 15:57

Yeah, definitely. I appreciate you, Wayne. We'll make sure to have those links in the show notes just so that everybody can follow up with you. But again, I truly appreciate you and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Wayne Strickland 16:07

Thank you very much, Gresham.

Outro 16:08

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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