There are many ways you can spread positivity to everyone. Artistically spreading your message creates a considerable impact and instills it in everyone. In today’s episode, Wade Forbes, the co-founder of Red Tale Communications, shares his approach for business and individuals by turning hope into an action word. He stresses that hope is not an emotion but an action, and although we cannot solve all the problems, we can always do something about it that will make us feel good. For a more profound, inspiring talk with Wade, hit that play button now and tune in to this episode of People Strategy Forum.
We have a nice panel. We have Char who has gone from being in the corporate world, in HR, to becoming an entrepreneur and owning her own business. She’s run many. She’s still running them right now and career coaching as well. Howard works with CompTeam. He is a compensation advisor and HR strategist.
We also have Wendy who’s going to make more effort to join us, and I’m sure if you’re like me, you’ll love her energy and she’s always leading the conversation in a fun way. If you don’t know, Wendy works with CompTeam as well in talent development. I want to get some more info on that soon. She’s going to update me with her new bio. I’m excited to see that. We have Sam who helps run the forum and he is the Founder and CEO of CompTeam. That’s our panel.
This is episode is very exciting because we occasionally bring on some creatives. If you’ve been here, I’m a creative so I love other creatives as well. We have Wade Forbes joining us. He is an illustrator, sketch note artist, graphic recorder, and Co-Founder of RedTale Communications, which he co-founded with his wife. It’s a company that helps with voiceovers, and illustrations, and does some coaching as well.
What I love about his story is that he was working in government contracting and decided during the pandemic, “I’m out of here. I’m going to go be an artist.” That’s so brave and such an awesome thing to do. He’s been doing great. He’s been sharing some of his illustrations. We’re going to be talking about how illustrations can bring so much value. That’s why our topic for this episode is Draw for Hope.
Welcome, Wade. We’re excited to have you here. Thanks for spending some time with us.
Thank you, Jules.
Wade, tell us a little bit about your journey. As Jules gave us a little bit of background about your recent history, tell us how did you get into art, how was it inspired, and how did you develop that into helping the people that you help now?
I bet a lot of people in the audience can relate to this. I was a very creative kid. I was drawing constantly on everything. I got to college as an Art major and it wasn’t a lot of the right messaging coming from my classes. I was learning great techniques, but not, “What would I do with it out in the real world?” As many artists, I got scared and completely shifted gears. I found myself in defense contracting where I was hired to disrupt the military in their thinking, processes, and patterns as somebody who’d never been in the military.
Imagine an entire career where you were convincing yourself you had to be somebody else every single day. When my bosses no longer had time to read what I wrote in the types of papers I was writing to disrupt some of the planning and the strategy that I was working with, I started drawing out these conversations. At first, I was doing it clumsily, and sometimes, I have a good drawing and then some neat conversation around it.
In late 2018, I discovered there’s a whole industry dedicated to it and it’s called Graphic Recording and Sketch Noting. For anybody who’s ever been in a live event and you have somebody drawing on the side on a huge sheet of paper, that’s a graphic recording where you’re drawing live in the room and people can see their talking points getting up on the sheet. It’s very exciting and engaging. Something that I also do is called sketch noting where I draw quietly and privately here on my table in front of me and then it’s something I can reveal to you later. That’s the only difference between sketch noting and graphic recording. One is big and live and one is more private and smaller, and something you can share later.
I had to give myself permission to be an artist. I was so nervous about being creative in a very technical engineered world, especially in defense contracting where they identify you as a labor category, you have a statement of work and a period of performance. It’s very rigid, whereas art is very free flowy. I shifted from traditional employment to freelance as an entrepreneur. I was still doing a little work there.
Right when the pandemic hit, I couldn’t go back to work. They said, “Wade, you’re a subcontractor. You can’t go.” I said to my wife, “Megan, this is our chance. This is RedTale. We’re going to start.” I had clients that needed their content brought to life. I got to illustrate a few books. I had a woman who worked with Brené Brown in Dare to Lead, who said, “Wade, can you illustrate some of the content for some delivery I’m doing?” I said, “That’s an awesome first project.”
I was fortunate to find people who wanted to see their work through pictures after years of believing that that was impossible. One of the big takeaways that I found was if you want to do something, you have to be around those people. If you’re around people that are doing the opposite, you’re never going to find your way out. Char, I want to hear from you too about that because you’ve started and run your own companies, but when I sat with all these other people in these cubicles, how could I be an artist? It was a sideshow and something cute drawing with these markers.
I do have a couple of comments about this whole topic because I worked many years in corporate HR, but underneath it all, I had a hidden artist in me. When I left the “typical” corporate position, I did contracting, etc. but I wanted to pursue something artistic. I do watercolor in various art now in addition to all my other fun ventures. I’ve reflected over my career and I’ve been a very creative HR person. Some of my creativity has been well received and some have probably not been well-received, but I do believe that creativity in the workplace is so vital. It comes out in all different ways.
I can give you many examples, but it’s so important. Also, I have gone through a lot of those corporate sessions where you’re talking about the illustration while you’re doing your strategic planning and helping groups of professionals visualize the future and strategy. It’s an impactful way to promote conversation, bring light, and visualization so people can think about what those ideas are bringing forward. It’s fantastic that you’re doing such a great position because that’s exciting.
Thank you. My first few times doing it, I was scared to death and then I had to remember what I didn’t want to do is be somebody who was drawing out exactly what I heard and then walks away. That’s okay and that’s called Live Scribing where you hold the space and honor it for the participants. What I wanted to do was how do I bring in that disruptive thinking and my artistic skillset and help people see what’s being said, but what’s not being said. “We had a lot of potential right here, but you might have missed it when you moved on here too quickly.”
I started calling myself a thinker who draws. I’m not just a consultant and an artist. I’m somebody that can listen to a group for 8 or 9 hours and then provide some reflection, and give people something that they could chew on later. I’m happy to hear that you’ve experienced it because it’s still not mainstream. People know it’s out there. They’ve seen it done and they’re like, “That’s so awesome. I saw this hand that was doing that once,” but it’s only once or twice, not every week or every month. More teams that have it might experience some of the success you’ve had.
There’s an author, Liz Ryan, who wrote the book Reinvention Roadmap. It’s about career transformation. Her book has wonderful illustrations about how to revive your mojo when you’re trying to transform your career and what is a roadmap. There are beautiful colorful visualizations of what a roadmap is. I was thinking I could probably draw my own pictures, but hire someone like you that could help me illustrate because I do career coaching and various strategic type of processes. Someone like you could be beneficial in that regard.
I’ve met more coaches in the last few years than I ever knew existed. One of the dreams I have to offer a coaching session is to draw the very first discovery session with the words that are used and the story being told, and then a couple of months later, “What are the words being used? What’s the story being told?” You might have Eeyore under a weeping willow in the first session but then you’ve got Pooh on the mountain a couple of months down the line where people are celebrating that ability to grasp new things. What does that look like in pictures? It could be beautiful. One day, there’s going to be a coach and a client who says, “That’s it. We need that. Let’s try it,” and it could reveal some cool things.
That’s better than even a visualization board that a lot of people do. That’s very unique and customized.
We could use that for our client cases.
I’m glad you said that. One of the things that I’ve had to do coming out of the intelligence community in the Department of Defense is some of the sessions I draw are non-attribution. Some of my clients want to make sure is, “Don’t reveal too much. Don’t quote me on that.” What happens when you see it coming to life is you can sit with it and study a sheet and say, “Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to say?”
What I ask my clients a lot is, “What do you want to be known for?” If they see something and it seems a little, “I’m not sure how I feel about that,” sit with it for a while. Some of my clients take my sheets and use them for recruiting. They put it in the hallways of their buildings and they say, “This is a little bit about who we are. This is what is like to work here. This is the fun that we have.“
That‘s better than sitting someone in front of six hours of PowerPoint slides on a video and telling them to read the corporate handbook with some brochures because we know onboarding now has got to change to help people feel welcomed and embraced by new organizations with the competition for talent and other things like you all experienced.
I‘ll hold it. A 300-page book is not exciting?
It‘s been done. We got to look at some other ways.
I love this group already. We‘re diving into some good questions. If I can jump in with a question for you, what has been one of your most influential contributions to the collaboration of a team utilizing your artistic approach?
One of my greatest contributions that I‘m proud of was working with the software team. They took the backend processes for the clients that they had and condense them from 26 steps down to 14. As I got to know the team, they wanted me to visualize and kept describing that they had done the Army Ten Miler. One of the team members was living in five different cities for the next two years with his girlfriend to decide where they wanted to settle down. Another one was surfing every beach on the West Coast.
I threw my hands up immediately and I said, “Stop. How do we pass on your chill?” They stepped back and said, “What do you mean?” I said, “You’ve taken all these steps, dings, and alert out of this software that drives people bonkers and put it into something so concise that now people can enjoy the things that you told me about. You didn’t tell me about all your years in the development of the software. You told me about your dreams. How many of your clients want to have those dreams? If you give them back that many hours in a day, you shouldn’t be giving them back more hours so they can work harder. You should be giving them back hours so that they can live their life.”
It was an emotional event. It was a group of men. We started talking about vulnerability, what we would do with that extra time, and what we would bring forward in our careers. A few of the people on that team have moved on to start following some of those dreams. They’re not all still working in the same place. The software lives on and still works for the clients, but that’s an outcome too. If we go into this artistic process and work with somebody who’s creative and who can reveal things, we should be okay with what’s revealed. It’s not always going to be what you thought it was and that’s the exciting part about life.If we go into this artistic process and you work with someone creative, and they can reveal things, you should be okay with what's revealed. It's not always going to be what you thought it was. That's the exciting part about life. Click To Tweet
That was a big deal for me because that happened a few years ago and I’ve kept in touch with the team. I’ve admired them because they never wavered. They said we want to develop something that’s better. I drew an illustration for them of a man who was losing his hair like me, staring down at a screen with every alert possible around his head, dazing out and staring off into space. It was very sad.
I said, “I wanted to draw that stop the scroll.” One of the teammates says, “This is too harsh.” Another teammate said, “What if we save people’s lives?” That’s not an existence that we want. If I said to everybody on this panel and readers, “Good news. I’ve got the software you can use. That’s going to ding you all day, every day, even on the weekends and vacation.” You wouldn’t want to be in here. This team took their lifestyle and tried to pass it along to their clients. I thought that was powerful. They had to piece those things together.
That’s where the thinker who draws came in because I was drawing it out so I could illustrate and visualize these things for them, but then, I was able to stop and say, “I listened to you guys for a few hours. What about this?” They were open to it. That vulnerability that I try to bring as an artist by maybe drawing something that doesn’t turn out exactly the way I want it the first try helps somebody else feel like they can say something and not get it right on the first try. That’s not going to be damning to their career, mess up the conversation, or impact the results but brings us closer together.
That’s a great point there. I would love to know a little bit more because we’re talking about hope. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you approach bringing hope and making it an action word for businesses and individuals? Right now, we think hope is an emotion.
Behind me are 90 Post-it notes that are all illustrated and have different quotes that I’ve drawn and come up with during the pandemic. When I was still in my defense contracting job, I’d walk into a coffee shop every day. Everybody was late for a meeting and they were treating the employees like crap. They were annoyed and frustrated. They weren’t kind. There was no please and thank you. I was overwhelmed by it and I said, “What could I do to change the conversation here?”
I started drawing a quote on a little Post-it note and passing my refillable mug across the counter. I was asking for my medium coffee with cream and sugar, and a shot of espresso. The seven employees working there would stop what they were doing and they would smile. They would talk about their dreams and tell me stories that they never dreamt be working in a coffee shop. One of them was a single mom putting herself through school. Another employee had moved home to be with a mom who was dying. Those people that were treating him so poorly looked at them like they weren’t big enough to be there.
Something beautiful happened after they filled up the wall in the back room. They started putting the quotes on the outsides of the machines. Instead of looking at boring stainless steel, you saw these inspirational messages as you slowly worked your way down the counter to pick up your hot or cold drink. The pandemic hit and I was scared out of my mind. I said, “There’s so much uncertainty.” You’d go to do pick up at a restaurant and you thought the apocalypse was waiting for you outside. Everywhere you looked, we were so scared, worried, and uncertain. I said, “What can I do now at this moment? I can’t solve all the problems, but I can spread hope.”
I started drawing these Post-it notes. I’ve drawn nearly 700 since the beginning of the pandemic, maybe 800. What it is, is if this group right now had to list all the ways things could go wrong in the world, our list would be so long 200 to 300 items, but what if we had to list all the ways things could go right? When I’m working with my clients, there are a lot of jokes and sarcasm. There’s a lot of people that are out there that are happy to tell you the way things could go wrong, but when you look at somebody and you give them permission, you say, “You can tell me how things can get better,” that’s hope.
Jane Goodall’s book that I’ve been reading, so I can absorb it chapter by chapter is called The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. She does something beautiful. A lot of people look at the future as something bad and they isolate it. What she does is keeps it connected to the communities and organizations that she works with.
Instead of looking at deforestation like it’s an isolated problem, she looks at the young women in those villages that if they can spend more time at school, instead of having to take a week off every month for their menstrual cycle because no doors on the bathroom and don’t have access to feminine napkins. What if she could answer those problems? Keep those girls in school longer and then they become entrepreneurs that sell trees back to their village and start to see what happens when the environment is booming again.
She didn’t focus on the fact that forests are being destroyed. She focused on what are the things that she could do to help with that problem in small ways. Jane Goodall is the one who taught me what you said about hope being an action and not an emotion. Every single day, I could worry about the fact that I don’t have a commute, or I could replace that time and make it self-care. I draw these for about an hour, I reflect on them, and I post them on LinkedIn.
People have shared some powerful stories with me from scrolling on social media for something different, uplifting, and making them feel good. If you feel good, you can do good, but if you’re worried and feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you’re not doing much of anything for anybody, including yourself.
Hope for me was surrounding myself in art with these little Post-it notes. My entire office is filled with them on the wall. I’ve published a few seasonal journals so that people can interact with the quotes and reflect a little bit, but I had to do something that changed the story for me. It wasn’t one big day or big meeting. It was all these little things that add up to something great.
This particular quote, “Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tuned into,” and I drew a little thermostat of somebody adjusting it to say abundance. To me, when you see that in the morning, it puts you into a different mode. The problem is how do I get it off social media and into people’s lives in different ways because when you’re going to social media for inspiration, that’s a trap. It’s because you’re going to find a lot of things there and you might find some inspiration, but you could find other things too that could weigh you down.
That was a long answer to your question about hope, but it’s important to me. Fast forward to what people go through as entrepreneurs. I’m sure you’ve had some stories about dark times, but if I can sit and draw one of these quotes on a day that I don’t know how I’m going to pay a bill in a week, that helps me at that moment feel like, “I can’t solve all the problems right in front of me right now, but I can do something that is going to make me feel good and hopefully spread hope out there too.” it let me go all over the place.We can't solve all the problems right before us, but we can do something that will make us feel good and hopefully spread hope. Click To Tweet
You’re speaking with a group that had hope. When Sam and I were planning to do with our sponsor, the TMA Method, where we were going to meet with the CEO and Founder of the TMA Method. Everything got canceled with the pandemic and all the travel and leadership sessions that we were going to offer. We had to have hope. Sam and I had to put our heads together with several others on his team and came up with this show to provide maybe a more positive meaningful hope going through these times.
I love those Post-it notes because we had to have endurance, resilience, and a positive mindset. Some of those illustrations would have also been awesome to utilize throughout these sessions in very positive ways. Also, that’s why I started painting too because I was thinking well, “I’m going to be moving into a new place, I better decorate this place by myself. I better start joining a painting class and teach myself how to paint.” I knew I had that talent, but I didn’t use it.
It’s exciting to try a new talent like painting, artistry, or creativity. One of my questions for you is what if you’re not a good artist? What do you say to those people that are a little bit afraid to take a pen to paper or color a picture? To me, it’s very therapeutic. What would you say to people that maybe don’t have that type of talent?
I don’t think any of us get anywhere without help from others. There’s a great influence on my short artistic career. Sunni Brown wrote a book called The Doodling Revolution and she talks about how it was so natural for all of us to have crayons and markers in our hands as children. It slowly systematically gets ripped out and a keyboard is thrown in front of us. We’re supposed to solve the world’s problems with hierarchical bullets.
There are courses that are out there on how you can develop a visual vocabulary. There are different frameworks and models that you can draw that allow you to express your ideas creatively and make you a badass on the whiteboard. Sam had a whiteboard in our green room and I said, “That whiteboard is screaming for something on it,” but it’s a course called Drawing for Work through a company called Gamestorming. It’s fascinating to see how we’re not taught to go from point A to point B. I’m not expecting someone to do portraits.
I started drawing these Post-it notes so I could get better at drawing female faces and flesh that wasn’t mine as a White male. I was able to do this and take myself from drawing what was familiar to me to unfamiliar through daily practice. I’d say two things. 1) You want to find a course that gives you some nice introduction and somebody who makes you feel comfortable and inspires you. 2) You want to probably carry something around with you more regularly so that you can doodle more often, and find out what your doodling style is.
There are lettering classes out there. There’s a woman, Heather Martinez, who is a great letterer who I’ve met in the graphic recording world. When you can do your name in different letters and titles on your sheets and other things, something is pleasing and satisfying to watch. I have a challenge for you Char, the next delivery you make to one of your clients. I would love for there to be a watercolor scene with you writing some of the results around it. Let’s say, it’s in a nature scene like a tree and the tree is in different seasons. What’s in the fall? What’s in the winter? What’s in the spring as they grow? Writing it in your watercolor. I guarantee that it’s not going to be put on a shelf. It’s going to be hung prominently by that individual or a group on a team.
In the military, they have this thing that I understand why they’re saying it, but it drives me crazy. They write something and they put it on the shelf and you’re like, “Should it be in action and out in the world?” Imagine you give them a piece of artwork, one of your beautiful watercolors with the tree on it, and you’ve got all the findings or the strategic plan, or the vision on something beautiful. They’re going to refer to that regularly. That’s a challenge I would lay down for you.
I’m working on a proposal right now for Sam. Maybe I’ll add watercolor in there, Sam,
Sounds good. I want to revisit those pieces you were saying because, in the past few sessions here, we had people that were talking about the importance of journaling and reflecting, understanding how to have gratitude, and so forth. It seems like this art in itself as it’s so funny because I see my wife doodling in her journal. It seems like a natural place to start cultivating this ability and for greater impact.
There I was after I had used this self-care method of drawing these quotes every day, I had a colleague suggest, “What if you made a journal out of them?” I said, “That’s interesting. What do you mean?” He said, “Ninety days to write your way to spring.” I said, “Ninety quotes randomize, whatever they make you think about and just go,” and we created journals like this. We have this 90 Days to Write Your Way to Summer journal. On every single page, there’s an illustrated quote that can help you think about different things.
One quote says, “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.” Where does that take you and your team? We have these leaders that are craving people to contribute and bring something to the table. Imagine if you said on a Monday, “Everybody turned to page 78 of your journal, look at this quote, and let’s talk about that at our strategy session on Thursday.” What do we want to be? Where do we want to go? Who do we need to talk to? If your team is reflecting on those things and there’s a space in here to journal underneath each quote, so you’ve got blank space to draw and doodle, but then to write.
I’ve had parents take these, rip the pages out, write notes of their children on the back and send it to school with their kids. I’ve had people take these for grief when they lost a loved one during the pandemic, and their family reflect on memories of that person, and then share those stories with me. You can’t put a price on that. That’s the emotion that has been missing in a lot of our day-to-day activities that we have with people. We’ve forgotten to get to know them.
I was on a podcast in June 2020 and I said, “The small talk is the big talk.” That’s my first big takeaway. Us getting to know each other in the green room in this podcast is so critical. We could have maybe handled the business of whatever business we had for the last five minutes of the hour-long meeting. Get to know each other, break bread, learn about who we are and our skill sets, make suggestions, offer mentoring, and then if there was something in that proposal we had to look at, we could check off 2 or 3 things and that’s it but the small talk is the big talk. It is what I’ve learned after being a professional listener for a few years. There are people craving that connection and emotions, and they’re not getting it. Journaling has helped reveal that for a lot of people. Thank you for bringing those up.
What you said was telling a professional listener. I think about the situations where leaders are out there trying to communicate a message. Managers are trying to talk effectively to their people. As we are all well aware, we may be trying to communicate a message, but that message is not getting across.
I can imagine how valuable your practice is in ensuring leaders know that they’re being heard and communicating the right message. As a professional listener, you can listen in to those conversations or perhaps listen to what a leader is planning on articulating to the company and put that into a picture so they can understand how is this being received. “Before I even do this, how is this being received?” Have you done much of that work?
I’ve always been a very emotional and sensitive dude. When I was younger, that was difficult for me. I could express my emotions very easily. If there was something to cry about, I could cry about it. I was ostracized. That was not okay. It’s like, “You are different.” In the last few years, I’m cool and I’ll tell you why. All of those years, I was made to feel like that was going too far, too intimate, or a little too revealing. What we need now is that human connection and we crave it. There are a few leaders that rely on me to give them those types of real talk, the ability to express themselves and reveal parts of them, but there’s not a lot. I wish there was more because right now that vulnerability is connecting those leaders to their employees in a human way.What we need now is human connection. We crave it. Click To Tweet
Most of my defense contracting work, if I didn’t mention it was in cybersecurity. This thing with humans and machines, where does the machine end and the human begin, and then where does the machine pick up again is a tough question for a lot of organizations to manage. Now, you could say that about almost any organization, “Who is Sam, Jules, or Wade on social media and where is that humanity in them?” Drawing brings that out.
If I draw a portrait of you and a conversation you’re having, what are some of those themes that you want, or if I draw your silhouette and I fill you up with what makes you tick and what are those qualities? I imagined your HR conversation and how you help companies recruit. Imagine if you gave them a silhouette of an individual and they filled them up with the qualities and the skillsets that they needed instead of these sixteen-page job descriptions that no human being could ever satisfy because those people don’t exist. That’s a tough challenge but what are those things that you could put in a silhouette of a person that’s something very visual and interactive? They say, “I could do that.” You then have a great conversation from it.
The leaders that I talk to, sometimes I try to give them permission to let themselves off the hook and sometimes I help them try to find those messages when I listen to their conversations and say, “Here’s what I heard you saying, but here’s what I didn’t hear you saying.” I’m going to be honest. There are not a lot of leaders that are in a good place that I’m interacting with.
I’m not saying there are not good leaders, but the ones that I’m interacting with that have the courage to step out and be that authentic, vulnerable, emotional communicator. When I stop listening and I get to talk, I try to do that for my clients. I give them permission and let them know it’s going to be okay. They’re not going to crumble to the ground and fade away, they’re probably going to attract more people that are craving that.
I went to a Hard Rock concert at Red Rocks. I’m probably the oldest person there and my fiancé, Bruce, but I did see quite a bit of gray hair there. The most fascinating to me was how creative our youth is. The most creative outfits that you would ever see, the craziest hair, and the most unique hairstyles. A lot of us think when we are in our youth that’s the way we were, but I don’t know.
I venture to guess our younger generation is very creative these days. They’re listening to all kinds of interesting music and all different types of genres. A lot of our employees these days want creative employers and they don’t want to go to an employer where everyone’s sitting around in some stuffy suit and sitting behind a blank whiteboard. Our employees want to walk in vibrant, colorful, interesting, and thought-provoking environments. What a wonderful way to do this than what you’re offering.
A lot of the issues, as you said, managers will give marching orders, but do not take time to understand what are people hearing and what’s going on in people’s lives that may influence how they react to those marching orders. It requires managers to go a little bit further than they have or think they’re allowed to go and to understand their people. Everyone is different and complex.
A perfect example is what you talk about with service people. We forget that these are people that serve us. In our thinking, “I want my coffee right now and I want it this way, but they screwed up.” We don’t know what’s going on in their lives. By pausing a little bit and engaging in a conversation, you can flip the dial and change it so much. We’re so caught up in our lives, running around, and following schedules that we don’t pause.
Wendy and I are having this moment now. It’s one of these conversations that we hope to have in November 2022.
It’s on November 9th. Mark your calendars.
One of the journals I produced this year is called Pause. It’s on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Imagine sitting in these meetings for hours with countless organizations talking about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The awareness is abundance. It is everywhere you look. Everybody has it hashtag, and they have workshops, but they have very little action.
If I sit down with you, Howard, and I talk to you for nine hours about a particular topic, my expectation is that you’re going to change. What if you could sit down with quotes that highlight these topics a little each day and reflect on them, and then come back to those conversations? You need a place to be clumsy and a place to not always get it 100% right.
You might get a C-plus or a B-minus, but your point there about needing to pause and think about those things, that’s what some of this is about. You’re singing my language here because we’re so busy and fast that we’re forgetting to connect with people and pause. I’m glad to use that word. It was great timing that I could even throw up the journal there too, so thank you.We're so busy and fast that we forget to connect with people. We forget to pause. Click To Tweet
The other piece that I would love to hear about your application of art in this medium is companies have to reiterate their vision and their mission. What they’re trying to accomplish on a regular basis and it’s easily forgotten when it’s done in words alone. Can you see an application of your talents to articulate this in pictures in a way where people can be more aligned with the mission and operate in that alignment every day?
Yes. It’s a great segue for me. I was hired by a group in the Air Force, I won’t say which one, to help them focus on mental health awareness, suicide prevention, and retention. The decision by that leader was PowerPoints are not going to be it. They need pictures, they’re targeting an audience of anywhere from 22 to 27 years old, and visuals were going to have to win the day.
If I can give you four sheets of what a conversation for this Air Force leader on high connection, high trust is like, it’s very busy sheets and pictures of what that strategy is like with hands touching, hands shaking, and gripping one another. There’s even a section in here about the happiest animal on Earth. It’s a goldfish because it has a ten-second memory, which is from Ted Lasso. People are going to remember that and they’re going to connect with it.
If I say, “Sam, good news. I’ve got an 80-slide PowerPoint version 23 on SharePoint. Can you check it out? That’s my vision and strategy.” The chances of me remembering that are almost zero. If I can give you a sheet that you can pause, reflect on, come back to, hang up at your desk, and put out in the hall, you’re going to come back to that.
What this is meant to do with the pictures is to put you right back in the moment. We’re in such a busy world right now. We’re going to have this conversation now and I’m going to come from this recording, draw it, and share it back with your audience, but that’s going to put us back in the moment a few months from now. “I remember that show.” “What were we talking about?”
Wade drew a goldfish.” “The Ted Lasso moment.” “He did that for the Air Force.” That is much easier than if I gave you a bulleted list of all the people that I was drawing for and why.
The visuals can put us back in these moments and they can connect us to a place where all the things competing for our attention. The fact that you have the people reading this is a win every week because there are so many places we could be right now. It’s a credit to your group that you have regular readers that can come here and get what they need from what you’re offering. I’m thrilled to be a part of it and it’s very gracious that you do this.
We’re glad to have you here. These are the things that make a difference in companies. These applications and the things that are not typically something like PowerPoint. PowerPoint has been a great tool for years, especially in business and so forth. Wendy, how would you apply Wade’s talents in a training situation in a class?
Going back in my mind and thinking about this idea of how he scribes or graphically draws the meeting in the training scenario. I’m thinking as far back as I could as to the first time I saw something like that and what an impression it made on me. I remember the first one and it was a Dan Pink. I can remember the exact first sketch that I saw. That shows you the power of art and storytelling.
A more recent example was we were on a call with TMA Method, which is a tool that we use at CompTeam to help teams, individuals, and organizations do their best. All these different people presented and they were all awesome, but then the grand finale was a gentleman Andreas Fritsch. He had the camera, started drawing, and doing the meeting and the whole meeting went to a whole another level. Those two things pop into my mind as I was getting excited about this episode and thinking about how we get out of our box, how little it takes to elevate, energize the meaning, and get people engaged, which is what this show is all about.
I want to hone in on a point you made. One of the things I noticed during the pandemic, there are a lot of people that are waiting for somebody else to have the answer, to provide the next step, or to tell people what to do. What’s funny is a lot of people say, “That was a great drawing,” and I’d say, “Who was talking? I wasn’t talking. These are not my ideas. This is your vision, content, and what you said coming to life.” That’s a gift that you can give people. I say to my clients, “Where do I send these? I don’t need them in my office. You need them in your office. You need to remember what you said to those people, how you inspired them, how you got them out of that situation and brought them something better.”
Wendy, you’re right. It’s a power punch for people when they need to take that away, but what I love is that the common person can experience it. You don’t have to be a CEO or a president. You can be anybody and see your content come to life, and that’s one of the gifts that an artist can bring because artists know what the boundaries are and how to get right up to the edge, and even push past them sometimes. That’s one reason that the military relies on them in a lot of ways.
Ironman was a vision in the ‘60s from an artist that was done at a military base where they had an exoskeleton put on a person and they could run through terrain with more weight on their back. Without that connection, between those two worlds that are totally different, you could miss some things. It’s great that you have that from Andreas.
I’m visualizing these different applications because sometimes, I go into a brainstorming session with a group of people and all these ideas are flying, coming here and there. Sometimes when you leave those, you feel pretty inspired, but you’re like going, “What did we talk about?” There are so many things going on, you lose the message or the key points that were made. I imagine illustrating a session like that can be very valuable.
A lot of times I tell my clients when they’re in the green room ahead of a session and they’re nervous. I say, “Take a deep breath. I’ve got your back. You don’t have to rush off and take a note. You don’t have to try and remember everything or type it up. I can write all those things down in real-time. You can put yourself back in the moment.” “Am I going to remember every single detail of the bulletin list?” “No, but I’m going to put you back close enough to the topic, that exchange, or what somebody said that everybody responded to.” That’s where you have to know when to call a pro.
There are a lot of people that are taking notes in meetings and that’s a valuable service to provide, but who’s inspiring you from that conversation? If you take the notes and do not look at it like, “There’s so much potential there. That could be beautiful. That could change the future and change the way we work. That could change the way people come and work with us.”
Somebody has to be cheering you on and that’s where the hope comes in. When I draw for a client and it falls flat, I’m not sure what to do next because it depends on their ability or their willingness to see the future in a bright way. If they can’t the relationship fizzles out but if they can, we keep doing it and we do it over and over again.
I’m working with one client and they help recruit independent talent and freelance for corporations across the United States, all Fortune 500 companies. When I draw for them, they can start to see that it could get a little smoother or that they could share ideas in a unique way. These are competitors in some cases and they all meet.
The facilitator is taking notes, but can also rely on me to give the group something back that’s creative and memory for them to share on their slack channels and other things. You are right. To help people remember they need something special. Very few people are memorizing things anymore. You have to have something that puts you back in the moment and a picture can do that.You are right to help people remember they need something special. Very few people are memorizing things anymore. So you must have something that puts you back in the moment; a picture can do that. Click To Tweet
I’m enjoying this conversation. Thank you so much. The one thing that I do want to bring in is to acknowledge our sponsor, the TMA Method. We spoke about a little bit of this during the session and how we typically bring this in. One of the big pieces about what the TMA Method does is it helps us understand the ambitions, dreams, and hopes of our new employees that are coming to the organization.
We learn about where they want to go in their career and so forth. This is another great application for your talents. If we could visualize when our new employees come into the organization about their hopes, dreams, what they would like to get out of the organization, how they would like to contribute, move through, and realize their future, there’s another place there that can see the transformation as we were talking about with Char and then checking in at regular intervals throughout the year. Maybe as years passed to see how that vision has changed and what their experience is like.
I’m so jazzed about your talents and thinking about how they can be used to bring happiness, organizational structure, clarity, and better communication. There are so many things that we haven’t given. Art is so important in our lives. It takes up a side of our brain that is no artistic than the other side and we’ve been neglecting it. This is something that we need to give more attention to. Back to you, Wade, I would love to know more about how people can reach out to you, benefit from your services, maybe get some guidance, and learn about these cool journals. Where do we find them?
Everything is local around here. I do sell myself on Amazon, but they are printed locally here with a company called Trembling Giant. It’s a dear friend who basically helps small businesses stay in business, which is amazing. He looks at our small little town and he says, “If there are chain restaurants everywhere, you lose the personality.” When I met him and saw what he was doing, I said, “I’d love to print my journals with you.”
Trembling Giant Marketing is where you can buy my journals. There are seven of them. I’ve got seasonal journals for the people that want to see the quotes that are from the pandemic. I’ve got a diversity equity and inclusion journal called Pause. We just finished one, To: There From: Here, exploring college and career.
It’s to help students that are getting advice from all these different sources and silence the noise and listen to what they want to do and who are the people who can help them. Imagine if I had had a good person talking to me when I was that age, maybe I wouldn’t have deviated from my artistic career and gone into something that was stable, but didn’t fulfill me. Could I keep doing that? Yes, but was I happy every day? No.
I drew the other day how to prioritize and I drew this multi-armed. This is a conversation about how companies prioritize. I was imagining when you talk to talent, people will sometimes give you a resume with 95 topics. I do 95 things that are good and bad. If I could show somebody what they look like with octopus arms coming out of them, and then what they look like with that 1 or 2 things that are amazing that they can bring to the organizations that you’re trying to help find that talent. There’s something artistic in there that could be used that would help people.
The way people can get in touch with me, the good news is, is I’m active on social media every day. If you follow me, you get a drawing every single day. It’s my self-care that I share with my community because I believe that the community needs hope more than ever. When you hire me, it’s simple. You can go to my website and say, “I’d love to draw with you and hear what you could bring to this session and bring it to life for us.”
The good news is sometimes people will give me three months’ notice and sometimes they give me three days. I’ve been able to do both. I can do it remotely, which I like to let people know. They can save on travel costs. I can do it right here in this room and I put a camera above me and then they can see a cool time-lapse video with some neat music to let people see the flow of their conversation.
A note to the entrepreneurs, I haven’t spent a dime on advertising. I do something I love every single day, and I tell people I’m doing it, and I share it on Instagram and on LinkedIn. I’m not on TikTok and all these other platforms because I can’t sustain it. I do what feels right and I share it. That self-care is infectious and contagious, and more people want that. If you’re not commuting anymore and you have that extra time, what are you going to do with it? Don’t use it for work. Use it for something you love and that makes you better.
I’m fortunate that I get to draw every single day and share it with people. They see me as top of mind and they say, “Wade, can you draw for this meeting?” I could do a better job in my social media, Sam, to let people know that I draw for meetings because they see a lot of Post-it notes, but so far it’s working well enough. Thanks again for reminding me to promote myself. That’s hard for me to do sometimes I’m not going to lie.
It’s been a wonderful conversation, Wade. We got a ton of value out of this. It’s reminding our leaders that are reading this about how important art is. Even if you’re into this structured organization, we are all human beings and relate to the art and beauty that are around us. That’s what makes that emotional connection in humans. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and talents.
You’re welcome. My challenge to you, Sam, is to have your whiteboard up next time with the drawing on it so that you’re not too hard on yourself or criticizing yourself. That’s what art does too. We give ourselves a hard time, “That hand looks wrong.” No, just do it. It gets easier over time. Maybe you can leave your whiteboard up and have an awesome doodle on there.
I got to do that. I’ve been criticized because people will go and say, “Sam, why are you sitting in front of your refrigerator? You got to put something on your whiteboards.”
I’m looking forward to that.
Howard has got some artwork, which is cool.
That’s my escape from spreadsheets.
Support the arts. Thank you all so much. This is great. I’ve not done anything like this before. I appreciate being invited on.
It’s great having you.
Wade, most importantly because other people are asking, it’s not just me. Where can we get the priority art with the lady?
Here’s my hell. A lot of my stuff is proprietary, so I’m able to flash it, but I can’t post it. Somebody will have to hire me and we can draw an original. To show what happens when we try to multitask, I’d love to draw it and make it an original for somebody, so it’s special.
That sounds great. We can count on that and wait for a few weeks. We’ll have it on the CompTeam website.
I draw this conversation and I’ll have the octopus and you’ll have it.
Everyone is saying that it was an amazing fantastic session. They love what you do. I hope that’s enough positive feedback to keep you going as well as good energy. You’ve inspired everybody in some way. Thank you so much. This was awesome.
That means a lot. Thank you very much. It’s been a tricky summer as a small business and this lifted my spirit.
Thanks, Wade. See you, everybody, next time. Thank you so much for reading.