The Art of Being Superbold
Fred’s career started as a copywriter at an ad agency in the 80s, before he co-founded 1-800-DENTIST. After spending 30 years there, he sold it about five years ago. In the time he was at the company, they spent about a half a billion dollars in advertising. That included television, radio, and a lot of other media channels. At its core, 1-800-DENTIST was a marketing agency for a few thousand dentists across the country.
Now, Fred serves a variety of businesses, consulting with them on strategy, vision, marketing approach, and everything else he’s encountered—from wins to mistakes—in the last 30 years of his career. He’s also written a book called Superbold, which is about how to cultivate the superpower of boldness in a systematic way.
Being superbold can help transform how one approaches their career.
“It’s extremely valuable in business today. You have to be good on your feet. You have to be confident and persuasive with your ideas. If you’re working in marketing, I remember back when I was pitching ideas to clients in an ad agency, selling of it was how energetically and passionately and articulately I pitched the campaign that we wanted to produce for their company.
“As you said, I started out as an incredibly shy person. I couldn’t ask a girl on a date, I couldn’t even make a phone call when a guy tried to hire me to work for his business. And I couldn’t cold call at all. I couldn’t dial a phone. I missed just tons of opportunities and realized that hesitation and under-confidence was impairing me from experiencing life to the fullest, and having fun and meeting people and getting ahead.
“I was watching bold people all the time, cuz I would meet them and I would say, why are they like this? What’s the deal with them? Are they genetically like this? Are they born this way? But, then I realized I just started to emulate them. And even though it made me uncomfortable, I gradually built up my confidence in boldness steadily and then I just started learning things. I took improv classes, I took acting classes. I actually did stand up for about a year. Those kind of things, they build up your boldness muscle and confidence muscle, because most people are terrified of those things. And once you do them, you realize how they get done and it rewires you. So I put the book together as a systematic approach to doing it very compressed from the decades I spent doing it into a systematic way, so that you can start applying it and building your boldness muscle so that in 90 days you’re radically different and you have a system for doing it and never miss out on opportunities.
“If you have a situation where you’re feeling under confident, you know what to do, you know how to get out of that blockage, that mindset and step up and chase your dreams, chase the person, chase the opportunity, and have fun. But the point is you’ll have five or six times in your life where it will be critical that you step up or you speak up or you take this opportunity because the window’s gonna close and you are gonna wanna have the ability to do that.
“And that’s what this book gives you. That’s what super boldness is you can call on it when it matters most cause a lot of people are confident until it matters and then they crumble. Um, they’re confident with their friends. They’re confident at work they’re outgoing. And then all of a sudden, when it really matters, they got nothing. They clam up, they hold back. The voice in their head tells ’em, you’re not worthy. You don’t belong here. You’re not good enough. And they listen and it stops them.”
But often, you’re the only one replaying the mistakes you’re making. Everyone else is more concerned about themselves than something embarrassing that you did. They’re never going to remember it as long as you do, unless it was super epic. And then, at that point, you should just own it.
“Guarantee you half the people aren’t even gonna notice you. And if they don’t know you, why would you worry about their opinion? This is bold. Don’t worry about everybody’s opinion. They worry about their dreams, what they’re trying to achieve, the difference they’re trying to make. That’s where their energy goes and that’s where their brain goes. And that’s where their self talk goes. It’s like, I gotta get there. I gotta try this. I gotta make some discoveries here. I gotta fail upward.”
Owning Your Story
As a whole, Marketing Operations is having an identity shift. The way the profession is being perceived is coming to the forefront, but a lot of us still feel like we’re operating in a vacuum in the marketing department.
You’re only contacted when there’s something urgent, you’re not being involved from the start. And so, marketers don’t really understand what Operations folks do day to day and how busy they are. That’s where owning your story—and being superbold—comes into play.
“One of the things that real confidence allows you to do is be very comfortable offering feedback, taking feedback, and bragging about yourself in a humble sort of way. You have to be comfortable letting people know what you’ve accomplished and you’ve gotta find a workplace where they are going to listen to you. Because if that’s not happening, one, you’re gonna be really unsatisfied with your job. And two, they’re not gonna pay you what you’re worth and you’re not gonna get better because you’re not integrated in helping the business, you will have less impact.
“So what I recommend is you just one find a place where they’re open to listening to you and get good at offering clear, concise unemotional critique, and input to the business. So that the business is benefiting from you. And that’s the pitch. It’s like, ‘I want to give you a hundred percent of what me and my department are capable of.’ And the only way that happens is if we talk to sales on a regular basis, if the core values are clear and everybody in the whole business knows them, if the vision for the business is not some gibberish, like let’s innovate.
“I’ve heard that the number of people that have ‘innovate’ in their mission statement, like they invented the idea. That’s like saying we’re actually gonna breathe at work. Of course you’re gonna innovate. That’s what business is. So get a little more unique than that, so that your message resonates with people in a way that sticks with people and that the whole business can get behind and get excited about.
“One of my good friends who runs a thousand dentist organization, they have a very simple vision statement: smiles for everyone. And it applies to everything. He says, it’s not just how we treat patients. It’s how we treat each other. It’s how we treat vendors. And he says, we start every meeting by saying, how can we generate smiles for everyone with what we’re talking about in this meeting. And it’s their true north. They can just aim for it all the time. If you don’t have that, you’re throwing stuff against the wall, and waiting for the marketplace to like something.”
Establishing Connections with Others
A lot of times, Marketing Operations is expected to be the shepherd leading the sheep toward a large project that touches multiple teams. It’s their responsibility to get everyone working in the same direction, but often there’s a lack of alignment that causes roadblocks to pop up. In these cases, what does Fred recommend?
“I think one of the most powerful things that you can do is figure out how to connect with that person first as a human being, rather than as a role that you are, a component of the project and a contributor of some material for that project. I talk a lot in my book about human interaction skills, which we don’t learn very well. But one of the things I talk about with a very specific technique is how to make the person you’re talking to feel like the most important person in the room, the most interesting person in the room. When you can do that, you have tremendous persuasive leverage with that person cuz they’ve opened themselves to you because you found them interesting. And part of it is you have to find people interesting, you can’t just fake that.
“You’re gonna genuinely say, in various forms, tell me more about yourself and that’s this other thing that people don’t, it’s the simplest three words that you can use that transform interactions with people is when they open up and they start to tell you something about themselves and they say, you know, I got kids they’re both heading off to college and you know, wondering how, how I’m gonna pay for that. That’s great.
“Now what I need you to do is, we got three billboards we have to have done by Friday. No, that’s not what you do. You say, wait a minute, tell me more about this. Tell me more and just find out and they say, tell me more about like what, what colleges are your kids talking about? Well, that’s the problem. They haven’t picked one. Well, you know, I went to Boston College and I was wasting all my money, so I left. Then I went to a state college and found that the professors there were more attentive. That’s interesting cuz I’m trying to get my son to go to a state college.
“That takes about three minutes. But the dynamic of the whole relationship has changed. And you say, we’re really trying to get these billboards out and we’re stuck on a couple of these lines. Can you help us with that? What do you think is not working here? Let’s talk about it. You’re working with people. Why are you thinking you’re not working with people? Those are the worst leaders, that act like everything’s a giant vending machine, they’re pushing buttons to get what they want, and the people don’t feel valued at all.
“It takes boldness to say, you need to get better. As a leader, I had to get really good at telling people, I make this a great place to work, and you need to get better at it every day, and you need to bust ass while you’re here. It took me awhile to do that.
“I thought if I create a great place to work, they’ll go crazy and give me everything they got. Some will, and some won’t. This is easy. I Love this job. Fred never demands anything. Well, in my mind, I’m demanding something. One of the things team members and people that are being led really want is clarity of what’s expected of them.
“You can expect a lot and as long as you’re clear about it, but if you haven’t laid out your expectations and then you’re disappointed when they don’t achieve them, you actually have yourself to blame, not them. Because they’re doing maybe what they think you wanted, or what’s more fun to do, or they’re more capable of doing.
“In terms of feedback and in terms of not taking feedback personally, I remember as a young copywriter I had written this radio spot and my creative director said, I don’t like it. It’s not funny. I said, wait a minute, are you telling me I’m not funny? And he said no, I’m not telling you that. You are funny, the spot’s not funny. And in an instant, I learned to separate myself from my creative.
“And I learned that for every good piece of creative, you’re gonna create 5 to 10 pieces of crap, or 50, depending on how hard it is. And actually that was my process. I was like, I’m gonna get all the crap outta the way first, because I know I have to get through it to the good stuff. There’s no circling around to be brilliant in the first shot.
“It’s still what I’m doing. I speak all over the country, and I’m creating my own presentations and I’m creating the ideas for my audience interaction. All of that stuff is trial and error, and you know, saying that’s not good enough to myself. It’s a really powerful thing to be able to say instead of, ‘Oh I think I’ve done enough.’ What you find is, the more you demand of yourself creatively, the more you’ll come up with.”
The key to connecting with others is to connect personally, or through some small talk. It has its time and place that really helps us to unlock greater possibilities within conversation.
“Small talk has a negative connotation. No, don’t start with big talk. You don’t say who died recently, that’s not how you start a conversation. That’s the reason why you talk about the weather. It’s fairly harmless. My book is full of exercises that teach you how to interact with people, starting at a very basic level, so that you can walk up to any stranger and start a conversation and it could go on for 20 minutes or it could just be a quick compliment and you’re off.
“But you develop that life skill. When people say, I’m shy, it’s like no, you’re not shy. You behave in a shy way sometimes. It’s not helping you. And so you’ve said well, I’m an introvert. Oh, that’s great. Is that helping that label? Or is it safe to feel introverted? A lot of people they label as extroverts are actually just very insecure and just need to get attention. What you want is real confidence about who you are as a person and the boldness to put that into action.
“That’s what boldness really is, is your confidence putting you into action where you’re probably going to be uncomfortable, where you’re gonna be at risk, where you feel challenged. This is a shift you can make and, you know, stop defining yourself in ways that aren’t helping you just so you can be comfortable with it. Try something else on for size.
“If people say, are you an introvert? I’ll say yeah, I’m a bold introvert. And they go, that doesn’t make any sense. I said yeah, to you. To me, it does. Cause there are times when I feel like I don’t belong and I talk myself out of it and I walk into a situation and behave like I belong there and you know what, so does everybody else because that’s the way I’m behaving.”
You can find Superbold on Amazon in hardcover, Kindle, and on Audible—where you can hear Fred reading the book. For more information about Fred, you can visit fredjoyal.com, where you can download the first chapter of the book. Fred is also a keynote speaker, executive coach, and consultant.
If you’re reading the book in digital form, you can download the exercises from the website so you can do them physically. You can connect with Fred on LinkedIn.
For more methods for team alignment and interpersonal connection, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.