How to find joy in the job you have
Jordan Raynor sits down with Shundrawn Thomas, President of Northern Trust Asset Management, to talk about how to gracefully renegotiate commitments when you’re overwhelmed, why commitment is what makes a calling, and how to find joy in the job you already have.
[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey everyone, welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every single week, I’m hosting a conversation with somebody who is following Chris and is also pursuing world-class mastery of their craft, we’re talking about their path to mastery, their daily habits and how their faith influences the work they do each day.
Today guys, I am thrilled to share a terrific conversation I recently had with Shundrawn Thomas. He's the president of Northern Trust Asset Management, a trillion dollar investment management business, one of the biggest in the globe. In 2017, Shundrawn was named one of the most powerful black executives in corporate America. He's a masterful leader and he's also the author of a terrific book that I'm thoroughly enjoying, called Discover Joy in Work.
Shundrawn and I recently sat down and we talked about how to gracefully renegotiate commitments when you're overwhelmed; a topic that I am always interested in learning more about. We talk about why commitment is what ultimately makes a calling and we talked about how do I enjoy in a job that you already have, right? Rather than hopping from job to job, expecting to find joy along the way, how do you stay parked for a season of time, for a period of time and find joy right where you are?
Please enjoy this terrific conversation with my new friend, Shundrawn Thomas.
[0:01:44.0] JR: Hey, Shundrawn. Thank you so much for joining me today, man. I really appreciate it.
[0:01:47.5] ST: Great to be here.
[0:01:48.4] JR: I mentioned in the intro, I mentioned Northern Trust. If our audience recognizes that name, they only know Northern Trust as a bank, right? One of the largest banks in the United States. Tell us a little bit about your business unit. Tell us about Northern Trust Asset Management, this division that you lead as president. For those who don't know, tell us what does an investment management business do.
[0:02:09.1] ST: Sure. I'll touch quickly on Northern Trust Investment Management and what that business is and then specifically to our business. Northern Trust, we have a rich history, been around for a 130 years. Simple way to think about it is we're in three primary businesses. Founded as a trust business, people think of us as a wealth manager. Helping wealthy individuals and families manage their money.
The second thing is we are a custodian. We work a lot with institutions around the globe. You may describe it as the safekeeping of their assets. Now there are a bunch of things that we do in addition to that in a second business that we call asset servicing. Beyond safekeeping, we help them if they have to transact with those, if they have to do foreign exchange. Lots of different what we would call capital markets activities, so that's the second business.
Then the third business is investment management. Simply put, whether it's a large institution, think about a governmental entity. It could be a large corporation. It could be a foundation or endowment, all the way through to families and individuals, we're helping them manage their money. Within the investment management business that I'm responsible for, we're one of the largest investment managers in the globe. We manage just over a trillion in assets under management and you've got about 4,000 asset managers globally. If you think of the ranking of scale, we're the 18th largest global asset manager.
[0:03:29.7] JR: Wow, that's incredible. How did you get into this? I'm really curious about your story. We were talking before we started recording, you and I share an affinity for Tallahassee, you're at FAMU, I was at Florida State, slightly different times. Not to age you, Shundrawn. Slightly different times. Tell us your story. What's the path that lead you to the work you're doing today?
[0:03:50.6] ST: It's interesting, because I developed an interest in business, broadly speaking, very early. It literally goes back to being a young child. I remember when you were growing up, you'd always going to asked, well what do you want to do? The popular response is when I was coming up is you wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a fireman.
I would watch TV and I would see people on TV wearing suits and ties and carrying briefcases. I recall literally from some of my youngest years telling my mother I want to be a businessman. Now I'll be frank with you, Jordan. I had no idea at that time exactly what they did, but it seemed to me to be important, or interesting.
[0:04:29.7] JR: Stop there for a second. Was there a specific show that you can remember a point back to be like, “Oh, yeah. I wanted to be like, obviously not Gordon Gekko on Wall Street.” Was there a character on television that you really admire?
[0:04:42.5] ST: That's a great question. At the time, at that young age, it wasn't a particular show. I think it was just that image. As you know and we'll touch on this, images are powerful. Now, where it really became more tangible is I went to a great high school, was a magnate high school, drew academically, inclined kids from all over the city. There, you could take certain courses that weren't necessarily offered in your typical public high school.
I got to take an applied economics course. I took accounting. Those are the first time I got introduced to business and I said, “This is it. I really enjoy this.” I was able to do an internship also when I was in high school, so worked a firm that doesn't exist today now, Arthur Andersen, specifically at Andersen Consulting.
[0:05:21.7] JR: Yes, in Chicago?
[0:05:23.9] ST: Yup, in Chicago.
[0:05:24.7] JR: Yeah, so you were born and raised in Chicago, it sounds like.
[0:05:26.8] ST: Born and raised in Chicago. I grew up on the south side.
[0:05:28.6] JR: You’re doing an internship at Andersen, which is no longer in the picture, obviously.
[0:05:32.8] ST: That set the path, or being then specifically interested in business. Everything from that, it just goes down a path. I do my undergraduate business education at Florida A&M. I get turned on to finance when I get there, because I thought I would be a public accountant. Then once I learned about investments, which is the business I'm in, it went down that path. I had my final internship when I was in college working for a Wall Street firm, Morgan Stanley. From there, I stayed in the business.
I went back to school after working several years to pursue my MBA at the University of Chicago. All those things helped me over time fine-tune where my interest is and move eventually more into capital markets and investments where I spent much of my career.
[0:06:16.0] JR: You were very kind to prep for this conversation, to read my latest book, Master of One. I actually think you listened to it on Audible.
[0:06:24.3] ST: I did.
[0:06:24.9] JR: I'm really curious to hear your response to this hypothesis I lay out in the book, that passion follows mastery, that we get to love what we do by getting really, really good at it. Has that been your experience in your career?
[0:06:38.8] ST: I'll say it this way and you’ll appreciate this. It'll be a compliment to what you said. Years ago, I was talking and it came up with a construct I think about. I think there's this intersection. The intersection you hit on, you really hit on all three, maybe slightly different terms, but there is passion, there's proficiency, which is the term I use, which is synonymous to your term mastery, and then there's preparedness, which isn’t – and in some respects, another element you can think of about that.
I said in the center of those, one finds their purpose. I think it is something that you discover. What really resonated with the book is I think so many people almost approach like the lights shine out of the sky and then out comes the purpose, or from the construct of your book, that one thing. The reality is it's a discovery process. I think you do have to work hard at things to figure out first of all, what you're actually really good at before you can get to a point where it becomes again, that one thing.
[0:07:37.1] JR: I think that's a really succinct way to put it. I love that. In Discover Joy in Work, which I'm loving the book, you use similar language around vocation, in that we as Christians, as human beings, we have the freedom to choose our vocations. I saw you use that word once or twice, or I used, in fact chapter six, it's called choose in Master of One. Do you think how it is that we choose it something that chooses us? I think this is the million dollar question that a lot of people ask. What's your take on this?
[0:08:03.9] ST: See, so I fundamentally think that calling is something we choose. I think it is in this context. It is part of the grace that God gives us in our life.
[0:08:14.8] JR: Amen.
[0:08:15.4] ST: It is no different than God offers us the amazing gift of eternal life, but he does not force it upon us. It is ultimately something that we have to accept his lordship in our lives. The same way God gives us with certain gifts or graces, we have certain things we’re inclined towards. I don't think there is one single thing that an individual does. That being said, there are certain things certainly you are more inclined towards others. Then that's where that discovery process comes in. That's where that hard work and that commitment, like you said just the spending the time and the investment to find the thing that you in a sense, ultimately choose.
[0:08:55.6] JR: Yeah. I think that's exactly right. I've been thinking more lately, maybe this is too controversial, like a blog post topic, but I've been thinking about this. I'm not sure calling is a noun. I increasingly think calling is an adjective to describe this feeling that this is the work that God created me to do, but we treat it as a noun all the time. I think that leads us down this path of thinking that there is only one thing in this world that God designed me to do in my career and I have to find that magical diamond-in-the-rough. When in reality, God has given us all this general call to glorify Him, to love neighbor as self, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. There are likely dozens, maybe even hundreds of ways we can do that through our work, not just one, right? At some point, in order to do really exceptional work that glorifies him and loves neighbor as self, you got to do the work to find what you can be good at and make it to work.
[0:09:48.1] ST: Right. I agree. It's interesting, actually what you said would only be maybe perceived by some as controversial today. It wouldn't have all historically. Historically, when someone chose a particular vocation, what we would might refer to as a career, whatever that choice is, they viewed it as a calling. Not in the sense that they were – someone was calling to them to do it, which is almost the mindset we have, but the fact that they've made now a commitment to pursue that thing and that's the way in which they will deliver their giftedness over that service.
That means that any honorable work, anything that we choose to set our mind and our heart to and perform and service, from their standpoint it would have been a commitment to a calling. I think that that's shifted over time, so it's people almost waiting for again, something from the outside to call. It really resonates with me, because it's a similar way in which I think about this concept of calling.
[0:10:43.8] JR: I love that. Let's talk about discovering joy in work, in jobs that we don't currently love. One thing I love about your story is you've had some incredibly high-profile, white-collar jobs, if we can call them that. You've also had some blue-collar jobs. You talk about in the book, you mowed lawns, you shoveled snow in Chicago, right? You washed cars. Jobs that a lot of people, if they're in that today as their primary source of income, wouldn’t describe as a calling. Most people don't find joy in work, you know this, Shundrawn, right? Gallup tells us that three-fourths of Americans are disengaged in their current jobs. I mean, this is really setting up what this book is all about, but how do we discover joy in a job we currently don't love?
[0:11:27.7] ST: There are a couple of things. The first is I think what precedes joy and it's very, a candle, or right alongside is this thing that we learn in scripture about contentment. What happens is wherever we are, there is a measure not only of grace, but joy we absolutely can find. I think of some of the most mundane tasks. I'm one of these people, like on a Saturday if I've got to get out and power wash, do that, I mean, it's weird. I like certain hands-on work. I enjoy that.
What happens is in our desire to do different things, we can't look past the opportunity that sits before us. You talk about this very powerfully in your book. You talk about one of the things we look for is the opportunity to serve. Now what honest work do you do where you don't have the opportunity to serve? I also say in any job, be it something that we consider mundane or simple, they're always disciplines that we can learn, whether they are skills, or whether just as importantly, there is a perfecting that's happening in our character.
As we see those things and see God working in that, it affects what I call the attitude of the heart, of joy. It also catapults us into whatever that next thing, or that next season is that God has for us.
[0:12:41.0] JR: One of my favorite lines in the book, “You said setting aside the human tendency towards self-centeredness is a prerequisite to discovering joy in our work.” Can you expound upon that, what you mean by that?
[0:12:52.8] ST: If you think about it, it tells us in the scripture there's always this tension, right? The flesh which we seek to subdue and there's the spirit. The flesh in and of itself is selfish, right? I wake up in the morning never confused about what I want, or what I would prefer, or what makes me comfortable. It is actually that dying to self that I have to do just to live the life of Christ, to let God's will be prevalent in my life.
It's actually the same principle as it pertains to work. When we approach our work with a selfish, or a self-centered attitude, when our first and primary thoughts are about what we get paid, or how we're respected, or how we are positioned relative to our peers, we miss so much on the opportunity of work. I give an example from your book, I really love the anecdote you told about your mother-in-law.
You talked about how leading the children's choir was something that led to a 30-year occupation or vocation rather. You said very specifically, you said it was born out of the opportunity to serve. Said another way, it wasn't selfish, or self-centered and that's why she found that incredible opportunity. Not only would I say the vocation, but the joy in what she was doing.
[0:14:09.1] JR: My mother-in-law is going to love you for making that one. That’s a call she loved. I told her to listen to this episode of Call to Mastery. I love this story in the book. You just reminded me of it, the story of Deborah, I think her name was, the security guard. Can you tell that story?
[0:14:24.8] ST: This was incredible. Obviously, working in the financial services business in early all the times and I would get in and I'm one of those people, I'm truly one of the first people in, one of the last people leave; just always been wired that way. When I would come into work, at this time I was working in the Sears Tower in Chicago. The first people I would see would always be the security guards. I mean, the lobby would be quiet, there would be very few people.
Even most of the security guards would have this disposition. It was very early in the morning, but there was this one, Deborah. She was always ambulant. I mean, she just had this not only calm, but this joyful attitude. I remembered specifically and I captured this in the book right after 9/11 and everybody's depressed and down. There Deborah is with the same joyful attitude. It caused me to ask her. I said, “I have to ask you. Why are you so joyful every day, especially at a time or a day like this?” It was interesting how she shared at that moment, how she was so grateful for the job that she had, the opportunity to work.
She began to share that she had many kinds of jobs, in a sense some that were more prestigious, or more important, but how at peace and how happy she was in this. I noticed as she talked, what came through was the conviction of her faith and it was clear that it was sooner than that. It was just such a – sometimes God teaches you through the examples of people, it made me think so much about my attitude towards my own work and my own opportunity and my own vocation.
[0:16:00.2] JR: So much of this, right? So much of our discontent does stem from attitude. What I liked about your book is it gives a really practical guide from a gospel-centric lens of how we adjust our attitude, more towards the attitude of Christ and bring that toward. A couple of minutes, can we talk about choice and the role that that's played in your path to mastery. You've chosen very deliberately to master the art of business and leadership. I'm really curious, I mean, you're leading this massive institution. What do world-class leaders do that their less masterful counterparts don't? What's the delta between good and great in leadership?
[0:16:37.9] ST: Right. There are a couple of things. The first thing that I think people who seek to master any trade, doing the most exceptional people, they put in more time. I tell people, I mean, the reality is especially in this day and age with so many things pulling on our time, in any season of my work if I go over my entire 26th career in finance on average, I'm in one to two hours before everyone else. Oftentimes on the back-end, it depends on a given day, one to two hours longer. Certainly, a bit more sometimes in my executive role, but I'm saying that's over the course of the career.
The commitment to not only the hours, but this is important Jordan because you’ll appreciate this, you talk about with your own approach, having segments of time where you can really dedicate to focusing on something, you don't put in oftentimes those extra hours, you don't have those dedicated segments where you can focus and really master things, so that's number one.
Two, what you see in distinctive and people who are masterful is they know themselves. What I tell people is when they look at my career, what they can identify as “the choices that I've made, the things that I pursue,” what they can't see is the things that I turn down, or the things that I decline. Those instances where I knew something was just not really aligned with my natural inclination, or my natural skills, or a place where I could really excel.
Being able to focus more than not on areas where they have keen strengths comes from the fact of actually knowing what those trends are. That's important. Only two more things; choosing an environment in which you can flourish. Even if I'm highly skillful, if I'm in a place where it's like a plant potted in the wrong soil, you can't flourish. Where you choose, the mission you choose, the follow, the culture.
Then the final thing that you touched on well in your book is this focus on others, in serving others. I think the most exceptional people are able to learn from others, both in terms of listening and serving.
[0:18:40.3] JR: I want to go back to putting in the hours, putting in the reps, right? I'm curious, because I have a love-hate relationship with a particular book, called The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, which has grown in popularity. I mean, it just continues to grow in popularity, even amongst the church. I want you to address proponents of The 4-Hour Workweek strategy. Try to do it. I mean, obviously you're going to do it from a gospel worldview, given that that's your belief system. Have you read this book and how do you respond to its core hypotheses?
[0:19:13.0] ST: I have and by the way, I've also heard your perspective on this.
[0:19:16.6] JR: Oh, that’s right. I forgot I wrote about this. Yeah.
[0:19:19.0] ST: Yeah. You're not going to be surprised. We don't differ much. Here's what I would say, I always listen to things and I say what are the elements that resonate, or the truth that I can take from it. I will start with what I view as constructive is the big picture that I would pull away from it is about being efficient with the dedication of ones, not only time in hours, but also your emotional energy. We should actually always seek to get the highest level of return out of whatever time we invest and emotional energy we invest.
I think there's something to be said directly or indirectly about the thought of that from the book. I think a potential misapplication and I think you have to be careful with the construct there is similar to what you said. If the thought process at the end of the day is I want the maximum output, or I want to achieve mastery with the smallest investment of time, I just don't see that practically. I don't see people who have mastered what they've done by investing limited time and limited emotional energy.
[0:20:25.5] JR: Yeah. I mean, I think you can – I see plenty of examples of people who can work four hours a week and make a great living doing it. I had said before, I really do love the book. I reread it pretty frequently, because I think it's a terrific guide to being really efficient on our work. We are not as Christians called to do the minimum necessary to get what we want out of the world. We're called to serve the world and to spend ourselves sacrificially. That leads me to be more ambitious from work, sure.
I could, I'm in a financial position today where I could write an hour a day and just write books and not do these podcasts and not produce my devotionals. I think that's a disservice to the call of my life and the call to mastery, right? Which obviously is what the show is all about. All right, Shundrawn, in Master of One, you read about these three keys, what I see is these three keys to mastering any vocation, whether you're in business, whether you're in law, whether you're enchanted or whatever it is. Number one is apprenticeships, number two is purposeful practice and number three is discipline over time. Maybe the previous answer gives away your answer to this next one, but which of those three keys have you found to be the most critical in your own career? Apprenticeships, purposeful practice or discipline over time?
[0:21:37.9] ST: Yeah. This one is tough, because they all are very essential and they resonate with me. What I would say ultimately is the one that if I had to pick between the three, it is the purposeful practice. Now the reason I say that, because it's right neck and neck with apprenticeship. Ultimately, God uses – people he places in our lives to help us grow, like he says, in the church for example. I put those in there for perfecting.
Ultimately, we're only perfected when we put those things into practice. The ultimate teacher in the life of the believer is the Holy Spirit. If I'm not willing to and I love the qualifier that you give, purposely practice, there is no achievement of mastery.
[0:22:27.2] JR: No, that's very well said. The purposeful is the qualifier, right? Everyone's familiar with the 10,000 hour rule. It was by Malcolm Gladwell. What people are far less familiar with is it's not just 10,000 hours of practice, it's purposeful practice, right? We talked about that at length. I read somewhere – my team pulled this up in researching you, one of your former colleagues said, “Shundrawn is just a really lovely guy, who does what he says he's going to do.” So simple, but in my opinion so unbelievably rare.
I used to tell interns at my companies, “Guys, I hate to sound cynical, but you can't imagine how low the bar is for you to be successful in this world. Show up on time, do what you say you're going to do and respond to your emails. That's all it takes.” My question for you, probably a very simple one, this probably just feels like breathing for you, but how practically do you ensure that your yes is yes, that you follow through on your many, many commitments? What tools, what software, what processes are you using to ensure your yes is yes?
[0:23:31.0] ST: Right. The number one thing I start with and you're going to appreciate this, because it's chapter seven of your book, you have to eliminate. I think that where a lot of people struggle and I would say, let me see let me say this this way, a lot of talented people in particular struggle, because they over commit themselves. They're unrealistic about what they can achieve in any given day, and so they create a lot of disappointment.
The first thing, what I would say as you continually move through different stages of life is assessing what your commitments are and what those priorities are. You have to be able to eliminate those things that are not priorities, which by definition means and something that I believe I do well is you have to be able to prioritize. Good prioritization, as you know Jordan, because I'm sure you do this all time, is re-prioritize.
Now the thing that I would say is that I'm really committed to, when you truly care about people, your word has to mean something. When I make a commitment, I don't care how big or small, it goes on the priority list. One of the things I do in terms of even organizing my day, whether it's my electronic calendar, it's not just the things that I want to accomplish, it's not just the things that I have to do from a business standpoint, but I actually do this, whether it's my wife, whether it's my church, whether it's my friends, on any given day I have spelled out what are the personal commitments that I've made to people?
[0:24:58.0] JR: Where does that show up? Get real nitty-gritty. Is that on your calendar? Is that in a app, or where is that?
[0:25:04.9] ST: For me, so I'm big on putting in the calendar. Now these days we've moved to an electric calendar, electronic calendars, right? It's there, I mean, it's there in writing. Because to me, I don't want to leave it to chance, or to leave it to the busyness of life that I've missed a personal commitment. What happens is I do think that really resonates with people.
I think what it also does is it makes you true to yourself, right? Because that way again, you're not only not over-committing, but you realize the importance of relationships. I think it's so easy for people to justify when they get more responsibility, or they become more important. “Oh, I didn't get to that today, or I know I said I was going to do that, but they'll understand.” Then what happens is what's diminishing is not your intellectual quotient, not your talent, but I do think there is a demonization of your morals and your values, because I think your yes has to be yes.
[0:26:03.4] JR: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Jesus commanded that of us. I was just talking to somebody the other day and they were talking about how they had booked up, I don't know, 10 speaking engagements this year and they did it six months ago, right? They booked 10 speaking engagements and now they're sitting here realizing, “Man, these speaking engagements aren't essential to my business. Why did I over-commit myself?”
Really practical question for you, how do you – what's the artful way of re-negotiating commitments, or backing out of a commitment that you made that you realize is no longer essential to the work at hand? Or do you just keep every commitment? I'm really curious how you think about that.
[0:26:42.7] ST: I want to distinguish them. There are certain commitments that I view as more essential. For instance, I have a commitment I've made to my son of something that's important to him, whether it's I'm going to show up to and attend an important debate he has, or go to a game. To me, there has to be something exceptional. I mean, truly exceptional to cause me to miss one of those commitments and that really happens, because those are essential.
Now let me give it a different example. I like your example about a speaking engagement. The practical reality in many instance is while we view ourselves as being irreplaceable and really important, if someone had to, someone else could do that commitment. Here would be my decision on that; I would say to myself, “Can I truly do that engagement with the level of excellence that I know that I can deliver and the audience deserves?” If I cannot, if I am over-committed, I think it as simple as being truthful. I would be comfortable calling that organizer and saying, “Can I either A, look to another opportunity in the future to make this commitment, or B, even if it means I don't have the opportunity, can we talk about someone else doing that?” Because I think that to be stretched and to give less than your best is not truly honoring the commitment.
[0:28:01.6] JR: I think that's terrific, practical advice, right? I think the first step there is recognizing that if you are over-stretched and overcommitted, you're not going to fulfill the commitment of any level of excellence. Two, reframing it to whoever you made that commitment to as this is going to be a disservice to you, or your event attendees, or whatever that commitment might be. I think that's really, really good.
All right, so we're talking about calendars, we're talking about not over-committing ourselves. I'm really curious, what is a day in the life of Shundrawn look like? From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, what's the tick-tock? What's the timeline of your day?
[0:28:34.7] ST: I think it helps that I'm more of a morning person. A typical day, I'm up –
[0:28:38.9] JR: Hang on one second. Let me jump in there. Do you know people that you would deem truly world-class who are not morning people?
[0:28:45.8] ST: Not much, but I would say there are degrees of morning people, so that’s the answer to your question. I'm up on a regular basis and accorded at 5. My morning routine is efficient, because I'm looking to be out the door usually by about 5:20. That meant it start with probably preparing the night before. I know what I'm going to put up in the morning, on in the morning and I'm not going to waste too much time in the shower, in the bathroom and those things.
I'm thinking through before I leave very quickly my day and I'm also spending a little bit of time in prayer and meditation, just quickly trying to set my mind for the day. I like to productively use the time. For the most part, these days I often have to drive in. Whether I drive or commute and this is really important, I don't do work on my commute. I always, I was telling you, you were asking me, like you were surprised that I listened to Master of One. In the commute, I only do two things if I'm in the car; I'm either listening to audiobooks or listening to the Bible on audio, because it's my time to invest in myself intellectually, spiritually.
I get to the office and once I get to the office, it's still relatively early. I can get in at about if I'm driving 35 minutes. I spend the first 30 to 40 minutes preparing through the day. I'm going through financial news, I'm going through world news, things that would affect the markets, those things. After that preparation, then I'm revisiting again, because I've looked at the night before my calendar to make sure that I'm mentally and otherwise, prepare for the meetings. In my work, lots of engagement and meetings during the day, whether it’s one-on-one or otherwise, but what I also am very careful to do, Jordan, which I think you take this practice on, I carve out in advance, chunks of the day on the calendar, even if it's the 60 to 90 minutes in the morning or in the afternoon, I find if I don't do that, the calendar can become overrun.
I need some segments of time that I can actually focus on getting important components of my work done and that's usually going to also happen at the end of the day. I have to travel a lot. I would say in a given year when I'm seeing we've got 15 folks around the globe and everywhere from Asia, Australasia, to Europe, to different places in between the clients and people there, I probably spent about 200,000 flight miles a year.
[0:31:03.7] JR: Geez.
[0:31:04.6] ST: I have to manage that as well. I would say on a typical day if I'm getting into the office about 6:10 or 6:15, my departure time will usually range from about 6:30 to 7:30 from my commute home.
[0:31:18.6] JR: You get home, what do you do when you get home?
[0:31:20.6] ST: When I get home, it’s a couple of things, usually really quickly. I actually tend to work out in the evenings. I honestly walk in the door, often to change. Fortunately, we have a little home gym. I go right to it. It could be an exercise video, it could be running on the treadmill or Skillmill, but I try usually if a work week of five days, about three of the five days I'm working out when I walk in the door and I work out on the weekends.
Other days it may differ, because we're very committed to our church on Tuesday evenings. Every week when I'm not traveling, we have a commitment at the church for ministries that we serve in. You intermix those days, but that's typical. When I get through that, it's workout, a shower, it's down to dinner and then my time from there is all about family. My attitude is if I'm able to get home by 7:30, 8:00, and I can work out and eat within an hour, the family is usually going down by about 10:30. There's going to be roughly about an hour and a half to two hours in there. It's talking to the kids, seeing where they are, do they need help with anything on the margin? Always last, I'm decompressing with my wife.
My wife is wonderful in that. Sometimes if she especially knows my schedule, she'll organize her evening whereas, she'll actually wait for me so that we can eat dinner together. We try to do that as much as we can. They’ll actually to my benefit, sometimes skew their evening, so that we can all eat dinner together. We try to do those practices, because we're trying to maximize that family engagement around the other demanding commitments that we have with work and church.
[0:32:56.5] JR: I'm not surprised to hear your wife's wonderful. She's a Florida state Seminoles for crying out loud. How do you unwind at night? What are the last 30 minutes before you hit the pillow look like? Are you watching TV? Are you reading? What are you doing?
[0:33:08.9] ST: This is interesting. I watch virtually no television. In the evenings, I will spend maybe 15 or 20 minutes catching a bit of the news, but I consume most of my news during the day and online. My last minutes always before I go to sleep and it's a comforting thing, so it's directionally I like to say, because my wife is asleep usually when I get up, I start my day with God. I end my day with my wife. I am married so incredibly well. We love being with each other. The way that my day generally settles is the time that we spend in that one-on-one conversation before we go down.
[0:33:48.1] JR: Yeah, I love that. I love that. All right, so you're an incredibly productive guy. I'm really curious if you build more and break into your calendar. Do you have every minute of your day today scheduled, or do you have breaks in between? If so, what do those breaks look like?
[0:34:04.3] ST: I would say, this is a great question, Jordan. I would say, my objective always is to try and build some breaks in. The tyranny of the calendar allows for that, some days more than not. Now I have a great assistant and we try to do that. It's funny, today is a good example of when I look at the afternoon that I have, all other things being equal from a break standpoint and sub-optimal. I just came back last night from traveling two days on business. You need to tell people these things. There's some practical and unevenness, but I would say we try as a practice to build in breaks, because I found that I went through a season of time where I didn't do that well at all, Jordan, and I really started to feel not the physical burn out, the emotional burn out.
[0:34:54.3] JR: Yeah, I've been there too. You also start to fail to make creative connections between ideas and means, right? I think there's a lot of wisdom in building breaks in between those things. Even right now, so I'm on a – we're recording a new batch of these podcast episodes, right? The first batch, we had 15-minute breaks in between episodes and we were doing four or five a day. Now we're still doing four or five a day, but I got 30 minutes, sometimes an hour break and already it's made a huge difference in the part of the conversation. All right, let's talk about your life within the local church. Your parents were co-pastors.
[0:35:28.2] ST: Yes.
[0:35:28.7] JR: — that you grew up in. You serve as an associate pastor of your church in Chicago. I know given your writing in this book, Discover Joy in Work, you view all of your work, even managing a trillion dollar of client assets as ministry. Can you expound upon why? Can you just get up on your soapbox and talk about why?
[0:35:47.1] ST: Yeah, it's because what I say is and you can appreciate this, I think there was this odd dichotomy that people had for a long time that there was your so-called work-life and then your life. We just have a life, right? Work is one of the things that we do in the context that I always tell people about that I'd like to say your career plan has to fit in your life plan. Everything that God has given me, or gifted me resource-wise, spiritually and otherwise are meant to be deployed in all areas of my life. What I've realized is that when you look at it that way, you can become highly successful.
I like how you – when you talk about mastery, if I think about the organizing principle and giftedness that I have, the areas that I most excel is in my ability to teach and my ability to advise, or give wise counsel. Well, what am I doing as an investment advisor? I am giving wise counsel. What am I doing as a man – I spend 50% for some of my time developing and coaching people. The very principles and values that I have as a believer and form those things and then I turn around in the church and you're talking about mastery, I mean, I've spent the last 20 years teaching adult Sunday School class. It's one of the things that most love to do during the week. It's something that translate and these things become seamless, because they become the ways in which and the skills through which God uses you in your life.
[0:37:15.8] JR: Have you read Trillion Dollar Coach?
[0:37:17.8] ST: I haven't read that one.
[0:37:18.8] JR: All right, so I would highly recommend it to you. This is the story of Bill Campbell, who is the Executive Coach to Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, basically any A list Silicon Valley CEO over the last 30 years, Bill Campbell was the guy behind the scenes coaching these people. It's a terrific, terrific book.
They talk a lot in the book about how Bill mentored people. I mean, that was his shtick. You spent, you just said 50% of your time developing people. I'm curious very practically, what are your one-on-one meetings look like? How do you run those meetings? Then the follow-up question of that is how you mentioned that your faith informs your approach of developing people. I'm really curious how that plays a role now.
[0:38:05.1] ST: Yeah, so two things; so one-on-one meetings. Anyone will tell you that works with me right, my expectations are high, inappropriately high. What I mean by that is A, anyone who has a meeting with me on my calendar, the meeting has to have an agenda or a stated purpose. It's funny, because when people start engaging with me, actually their first reaction is surprise. What I tell people is look, I have to be disciplined with my time, first of all. Two, in order for me to be able to be of service to you, I have to know what we're trying to accomplish.
[0:38:39.7] JR: Amen.
[0:38:40.6] ST: My attitude first and foremost is if you can't articulate the purpose, or we can't set an agenda, two things, we can't be productive in that meeting and I say this respectfully to people, I don't know then we've earned the right to use that time. That's the first thing. The second thing is we talk about what are our shared or common goals. Because we're not here in the organization by accident, everything should tie back to an agreement that we have to serving the mission and then specifically, that individual’s responsibilities or actionable things that they're looking to achieve.
Then what I try to do is I always look for, I always look for what are teachable moments. Now this is important. You can't force meaning into the pool. If I want to coach someone, I can only coach them if they're coachable. What I can do is not look to them to say, “How do I need to try in my mind to change or fix them?” That's not coaching and that's not helping. I can look for opportunities as they arise that are coachable moments when they're open to actually receiving, whether they're explicitly asking, or in other ways they're open or searching. If I'm mindful of those, I can sew into the other part of their life, which is not just their technical skills, but their beliefs our values.
[0:39:52.6] JR: Yeah. I'm sure your faith informs that. How else does your faith inform just your passion for developing people? You got to really care about that to be in the role that you're in. You got to really lean into mentoring others. How does the gospel, how does your faith influence your desire to do that work?
[0:40:08.5] ST: Yeah. You know what? Because when you have an internal focus, here's what you realize, the material wealth or the possessions, the titles, all those things, they'll all pass. This is important though, relationships are one of the few things that can pass from this life to the next. In investing in that relationship and sewing things that are spiritual, we're actually investing in something that's eternal. I think that's one of the things your faith informs. It causes you to look at your engagements with people in the workplace, not as transactional, but as much more meaningful than that.
Also what happens is two things, transformation for you and for others. When you really are in service of others, you see yourself maturing and growing spiritually. You literally see the work, the transformative work of God in your lives. When God allows you to be used by him to help people in their own spiritual journey, you also see the transformation in their lives. As a person of faith, there is no greater joy.
[0:41:07.6] JR: No. Not at all. I read somewhere that in the early days of your career, you were one of only three African-Americans working on a 600-person trading floor. I imagine this is at Stanley. What impact if any, did that experience have on your ambition to become a masterful executive and leader? How did that affect your career?
[0:41:30.7] ST: I think that what happens in any context, when you step into a new environment, all other things being equal, it's helpful to see examples of others who may have similar backgrounds, similar experiences who are having success.
[0:41:48.8] JR: We want to feel like we belong.
[0:41:50.1] ST: Right. Everybody is seeking a tribe, right? When it's not the obvious thing in one, you can respond one of two ways; you can see that as a negative or you can in a sense, push yourself to learn in a sense to look past the obvious things. The second is what became very prevalent to me. I didn't focus on the fact that the industry that I was in was not particularly diverse and we still need to improve that today. What I began to see is there were so many people in the organization if I extended myself, they took a vested interest in me, not only in my career, but as a person.
While there might not be the obvious connections, we didn't all grow up in the same places and go to the same schools, there were so many other connections. There was just a certain mentality or a hustle that maybe you had that connected with others. I remember in my first year, I had a boss. I was living in New York away from Chicago, couldn't go home, but invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. These things begin to orient you to thinking very holistically about how you build relationships.
I'll tell you, the last thing that it did for me, Jordan, in some respects coming into an environment and being a proverbial outsider became a strength. Because I had to stretch and develop skills to connect with people and build relationships in sometimes ways that others didn't. I found that over time, it built from me stronger and more meaningful relationships with many of the people that I worked with.
[0:43:24.9] JR: Yeah. In Master of One, I talk about – I was just thinking about this when I was reading about your story. I talked about how when we pursue mastery of our crafts, the Lord often graciously gives us power, right? Yet as Christians, we are called to pour out sacrificially, I believe, for the less fortunate. You became the first person of color elevated to the top tier of management and Northern Trust, which is incredible, an incredible gift of grace and a testament to your hard work. You said in an interview, “I'm now at the table influencing decisions.” Can you talk about the opportunities you've had to serve minorities, to serve the less fortunate in business as a result of being at the table?
[0:44:06.6] ST: It presents a tremendous opportunity and in many ways a responsibility. Some examples would be this; one of the things that any organization that you focus on is what people refer to as talent management. A lot of those decisions are who are the individuals that you will designate for high potential programs, or stretch opportunities and the like? Well, what happens and this is not intentional, but if you think about if you historically have organizations where you don't have great gender diversity, or you don't have diversity of ethnicity, or sometimes just even background? You have some organizations historically, they've only recruited from certain schools. Because of that, those unconscious things inform the decisions that are made.
Well, what happens is once you are able to be part of that, you can bring a different perspective. What it does, it expands, it by definition expands opportunity. What I say is we live in the US truly in the most amazing country in the world, as far as opportunity. We can't presume because we are surrounded by opportunity that opportunity is equal. In fact, opportunity is unequal. The ability to expand those opportunities to talented, deserving people by virtue of being able to help see them through a more three-dimensional and holistic lens is part of what I can bring to those environments.
[0:45:35.5] JR: What would be different about Northern Trust Asset Management if you are not a follower of Christ?
[0:45:41.7] ST: Well, I'll tell you, here's what I believe that I've brought by virtue of it. You can appreciate this, because you were kind enough to share your feedback on the book. What I said in Discover Joy in Work is that the book I was writing, although I am a believer, I say in the dedication very plainly, I'm writing the book to the working world. It's an ability I believe to do what I think Paul as an example in scripture did so well. He was wise not only in winning. There was a winsome way he could connect with people across cultures and different things like that.
I can take the principles, the truth, because truth is truth. Not only apply the truth and the values that come from my strong convictions and the appropriate ways in the workplace, but I also can identify truth and make the translation. The way that we do that, for example, is we are very focused not just on building technical skills and proficiency in our business, which is what most firms focus on, but I focus a lot on shaping culture and establishing shear values. I don't think that you might necessarily see that in the same way from different leaders and that certainly is inform in a material way by my faith.
The last thing I would say is that faith is not about seeking others that believe what I believe. It's about understanding that every single individual has power and purpose and is created in the image of God and loving and respecting them for whatever belief they profess and if they profess no belief at all. Bringing that attitude to the workplace, I think is different than sometimes the divisiveness that is created by sometimes people who pursue just a strong ideology, or a strong, fixed approach to something.
[0:47:30.1] JR: That's a beautiful practical way that you were being salt and light at Northern Trust. All right, three final questions I love to wrap up every conversation with. Shundrawn, you read a lot, sounds like you listen to a lot of audiobooks, which I love. Which books these days are you recommending the most to others, or maybe giving to others most as gifts?
[0:47:48.2] ST: There's so many books I love. Let me tell you three that are more recent reads that I would definitely recommend to people. First of all, if you're just interested in these issues around work, people like you and I are, I would recommend Nine Lies About Work. It's a book by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. It's a great book. I won't steal the thunder, but especially if you're someone who challenges conventional norms and the like, you'll like that book. The book The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, now I’ll get Simon's books. I really like this last book. I think it challenges people to think differently –
[0:48:24.2] JR: Can you sell me on this book? Actually, I was at an event at Dave Ramsey Headquarters a few months ago. He was saying, Dave was saying that he's now reading this book for the second time, which blew me away. Sell me on this book.
[0:48:36.1] ST: Simon I believe gets this right. I think it's one of his best books, because what he distinguishes is that so many leaders today in all forms, whether it's government, whether it's business, whether it's the civic sector, they have what he would describe as a finite approach. He used this as analogy of the game. He talks about the importance of having an infinite approach, because it unlocks creativity, it's thinking internally. He says if you don't realize that you're playing an infinite game.
Now he's not saying this in a scripture or a spiritual standpoint, but I think one of the reasons it probably resonates with you, I and Dave is because it's like having an eternal mindset versus having a temporary mindset.
[0:49:16.6] JR: That's exactly what drew me in. I read the description I'm like, “I'm not sure if Simon Sinek is a Christian, but he's talking about the eternal significance of work in a different way, right?”
[0:49:29.1] ST: I mean, the one thing that's interesting about reading your books, you learn a lot about a person by reading their books. I could tell a lot about you, because I know all the things you read from reading your books. I’d adjourn you'd love it.
[0:49:40.1] JR: All right, great. I'm reading that. I'm going on vacation a few weeks, that's what I'm going to read.
[0:49:44.3] ST: What Does Your Soul Love? Have you come across that one by Gem and Alan Fadling?
[0:49:48.2] JR: I have. Yeah, yeah.
[0:49:49.5] ST: Again, I always have to recommend something that's edifying to spiritual growth. For me, I generally I'm always reading – I read two books at the same time. My thing is it's generally always one business book or intellectual book and it has to be one book that encourages my spiritual development. The most recent one I just read was What Does Your Soul Love?
[0:50:10.0] JR: I love it. I've actually just now started to read two books at once. I’m basically doing the same thing. I have a business book I'm reading throughout the week and I have what I call my Sabbath book, right? On the weekend, when I really want to replenish my soul, I'm reading a spiritual development book. All right, next question, what one person would you most like to hear talk about how their faith influences their work?
[0:50:33.5] ST: Would be the interesting and maybe you came across her book and I read it. Have you seen Dee Ann Turner's book, Bet on Talent?
[0:50:39.4] JR: Oh, from Chick-Fil-A. I have seen it. I have not read it.
[0:50:42.7] ST: I read her book. I've never met her personally. I know her story. If you can get her on the podcast, I’d definitely be interested in hearing her story and more of that one-on-one interview context, because I think she brings an interesting perspective, both from the organization that she worked for, which definitely is informed by a strong Christian conviction. I think also in her role over an extended period of time, working as a leader in human resources, I just think those aspects of that coming from a business standpoint and as a believer, would be interesting. She'd be the one person I want to hear her story.
[0:51:18.7] JR: That's a terrific answer. A couple of things I love about Dee Ann’s story; one, she's a woman in a very high-profile role within the company. Two, Chick-Fil-A has a lot of low-wage workers, right? Very interested to hear talk about pay equity and those types of topics and how her fame affords that. That's a fantastic answer. All right, last question. What single piece of advice would you leave the audience? Leave us listening to this show, these people who are just trying to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and a good of others, one nugget of wisdom to leave us with.
[0:51:50.0] ST: The one nugget of wisdom that I would leave, I can't take personal credit for it because it was given to me many years ago, both by a mentor and also by my mom. Effectively, the advice is provide more service than you get paid for. I think so often, we look for the extrinsic ways that we get paid. I talk about this in the book, whether it's money, whether it's recognition, whether it's respect, it's what do I get out of it?
If I don't look at it in context of necessarily being an exchange, I really look to say beyond whatever my strict definition of my role is or whatever I get paid, I'm committed to everyday to just doing a bit more and providing more service than I get paid for. I think it will unlock so many things in terms of the capacity that people have. Ultimately, two things that you and I both resonate; one, truly finding joy in your work, you know how passionate I feel about that. Also what you said, unlocking that key to mastery, providing more service than you get paid for.
[0:52:53.9] JR: That's a fantastic piece of advice. Hey, Shundrawn, I just want to commend you, man, for being such a masterful leader every day, serving your employees and employer and shareholders through the ministry of excellence. Thank you for your work and your writing and helping the church more deeply connect the gospel to their work, not just the church, helping everybody more deeply connect spiritual truth, gospel-centric truth to their work.
Hey, guys. The book is Discover Joy in Work. I think it's terrific. I love how gospel-centric this read is. Shundrawn, thank you so much for hanging out with me today, man. I really appreciate it.
[0:53:28.6] ST: Thank you, Jordan.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:53:31.4] JR: I was blown away by Shundrawn and just what he had to say on the topic of leadership and faith and work and joy in our work. I hope you guys enjoyed that conversation as much as I did.
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