046: Empowering Leaders Through the Culture Journey with Tony Martignetti


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Tony Martignetti believes that when leaders unlock their potential and lead from a place of inspired purpose, they impact and inspire everyone around them. He shares how he left the corporate world because there were leaders who had titles but were not acting as leaders. Tony Martignetti shares his epiphany when he “decided to leave the room to change the room.” 

In this episode, Tony Martignetti shares how that decision led him to his coaching career. He mentions, “If you slow down, you know, really understand yourself fully, and bring your authentic person, the person you are as a leader to the table, you find a difference, it shows up.” 

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • The benefits of becoming a professional question-asker
  • The value in having deeper and honest conversations
  • The importance of being authentic in the workplace
  • How to impact the workplace with  leadership vision
  • Navigating through change with quality leadership

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Before becoming a coach, Tony Martignetti was a finance and strategy professional with experience working with some of the world’s leading life sciences companies. Along his journey, he also managed small businesses and ran a financial consulting company.

Tony Martignetti loves helping people find clarity in their lives, so they are energized, fully present, and unstoppable. Tony Martignetti has dedicated himself to helping people live a life of inspired purpose. His passion for helping people has fueled my inspiration at Inspired Purpose Coaching.

Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai 


Welcome to the Culture Design Show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Chaparro 

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio. This is where I help creative organizations transform their cultures, from being controlling to being collaborative. Now here are some of the things that I’ve learned. Your creative talent demands a co-creative culture in order to produce their best work. But there’s a problem. Let’s see if we can recognize some of these signs.

There’s no framework to move your culture forward. You have high turnover and low morale. There’s increasing toxicity across all levels. There are t engagement and satisfaction that are on the decline. There’s a misalignment between the employer brand and the employee experience. And there’s poor communication about expectations and values. So if you want to learn more about how I provide facilitation and coaching for your creative team, reach out to me at CultureesDesignStudio.com.

Tony Martin Edie is an Executive and Leadership Coach with a specialty in working with leaders and their teams to navigate through change and unlock their true potential. He supports leaders in gaining clarity so that they can make well-informed decisions, improve their leadership skills, and ultimately increase their impact.

When he’s not inspiring entrepreneurs to be their best selves, Tony can be found dropping knowledge in interviewing fellow visionaries on the Virtual Campfire Podcast, or working on his forthcoming book, which will delve into inside out transformation for people who feel like something is missing in their lives and are asking themselves, shouldn’t my life feel more fulfilling than this? I recognize that question, Tony. Welcome to the Culture Design Show.

Tony Martignetti 

Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks, Steve.

Steve Chaparro 

Well, you know, there’s so much about even what is described in your bio, the topic for your forthcoming book, personal and professional change has been such a big part of my journey. I think I shared with folks on the podcast that I think I’ve come to the realization about three or four years ago, that that which I desire most for others, which is transformation is also that which I desire most for myself.

And so this particular topic of sort of the inside out transformation is really important one. And I think even more so when we talk about organizational change. So first, Tony, I’d love to hear from you, if you can share with our audience a little bit about your professional journey.

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, I’m happy to share that. It’s been, it’s been quite a journey. I first started my professional career in the world of high tech and biotech, on the finance and strategy side. And it’s funny, I was an artistic child who was kind of, I guess, pushed into the world of being a more technical expert, if you will. I was a pre-med major, then went into business.

So I follow these different paths from being the artistic child who had an artistic side to being the more financially minded, technical side. And I loved what I was doing in the sense that I loved making an impact on people’s lives and biotech. But from the perch of, you know, working the numbers, and thinking about how to drive the business forward from a financial perspective, what I found was something was missing in my life.

And I kept on pushing myself just to keep on doing what I was doing, driving the path kind of thinking, This is what society or this is what people have told me, I should want. And I did, kept on pushing. And, you know, I had some great success, I made some great impact. And I’m very proud of what I did in that world. But ultimately, I felt like there was something missing. And that’s what led me down this path of creating something different for myself.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I love that story. And that’s the reason why I love asking about the professional personal journeys first and foremost because I have found that with many of our guests, we have found that many times we can almost describe our lives as this grand experiment. This pursuit of self-discovery, and everything that we do is is a process of learning about ourselves, you know, and it starts all the way in school.

You know whether or not we pursue the profession we studied in school, much about school was self-discovery, learning what attracted us learning what interested us and then he has in throughout our professional lives, we also learn what we love, but we also learn what we don’t love and we probably in some cases, go through life, okay saying I’ve tried that. That’s not it. I tried this, I learned from it. But that’s not it either. And so I love you sharing that part of your story about your life of just sensing that there were some things missing.  

And I think many visionaries kind of pursue that, you know, pursuing, what is that one thing that I’m looking for I do see glimpses of what that looks like. So right now you are an Executive Coach with Inspired Purpose Coaching, let me let our audience in on what led you specifically to coaching and how that has transpired. And who you work with?

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, I’d love to I wanted to just kind of bring up one thing from what your prep your what you were saying earlier because I want to respond to the fact that you brought it into the school and how in you know, in college, there’s an element of self-discovery. And I always ask people, what is your favorite? What was your favorite class in college? Yeah. And I always think about my favorite classes being anthropology. I loved anthropology and organizational development.

And I don’t know why I didn’t see those clues, then that is something up that I didn’t love, like finance, or like, you know, the job, the things that I actually did for a profession, but there were clues that back then, and I often think of like our lives are a research laboratory, that we’re constantly seeing that we should be trying new things and seeing, you know, where they’re where their experiments we can do along that path. So I’ll get back to your question. So sorry for the little diversion. But you made me think.

What brought me to coaching was this element of like, I had never been coached, until very, very near the end of my time in corporate, I had hired my own coach. And I said, I thought about coaching, I’d want to explore, because I feel unfulfilled, there was something that was missing. And so I started working with the coach, and almost immediately the light bulbs start going off like there’s something about this process. That felt right for me.

And, you know, I said, this is great, really cool. But still not sure what this meant, for me, whether it was like something I needed to do or how this was going to come into being. The moment that really kind of clicked was when I just left the corporate world, I was sitting in a boardroom. And I had this moment where I was seeing everyone checked out, there was some leaders in the room who were just, you know, kind of preserving their image of like, Okay, I’m right, you’re wrong. This is how it’s going to be. They weren’t being leaders, they were actually just leaders in title and not acting like leaders.

And I felt this element of like, I can no longer do this, I can no longer collect a paycheck. And just, you know, fake it, if you will. So I decided to leave the room to change the room. So that moment where I said, Okay, now I’m leaving, I don’t know what I’m going to do next. But I’m going to do something different. And I started to collect the pieces. And I said, Well, maybe this element of coaching that I saw, that has been part of my you know, my life the past. That’s a few months, I was like, there’s something about this that I need to explore.

So I started experimenting with that. And playing with that. And before you know it, I said, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to try this out. And that’s really where it started. I started to play with that. And even then I didn’t know for sure how to do as a coach, because oftentimes there’s this imposter syndrome of like, Who am I to be a coach. Yeah, so I had to go on a journey and find out what inside what I was all about before I could actually be the coach that I wanted to be.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, some of the coaching in the coaching training that I’ve undergone, has been very transformative for me because much of my career has been as a subject matter expert. And that’s an advisor, that’s a consultant capacity if you’re coming in from the outside, but the coaching has such a different perspective, you’re not coming in with the answers. You’re coming in with actually more questions to help guide along the individual what it was that like to make that transition from a subject matter expert to more of a professional question asker.

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, yeah. No, it’s so funny that you say it like that because you have to really train yourself into this world of being the professional question asker. But you have to also make sure that you respect your past, that as a coach who I’ve who I respect, who has always said, you have to transcend and include your past. You include your past, you have to know and understand the past that you’re coming from and know that there’s a huge foundation you’re coming from. Don’t disregard that. But you’re taking that in you’re transcending it and becoming something more.

And the questions that you’re asking are coming from a lens of who you have been, but who you can be. And how you’re helping that person to become who they can be to. So it’s not just, you’re just showing up one day and you’re like plopped down and you’re saying, Okay, let me coach you. It’s about really including some of those elements of where you’ve been in the world where they’ve been in the world and helping them to see where they can go from that moment. And that’s where the questions really come in, is helping them to see how to connect the dots between their past their future, and the present.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah. Yeah, it is fascinating. When you shared with me, that your favorite classes in college, you know, anthropology is really about human culture, right? The study of human culture, organization, and development, you know, is about the organization itself. And so there’s, for me the resonance with your work, and or at least your focus is then in the study, and the work that I do now is about culture and culture change. And then how do you become the better self, whether it’s at an individual self-organization, I would imagine.

The main topic for our conversation today is how to effectively navigate personal and professional change, I would imagine that as people reach out to you, they probably come in with a certain sense of the problem that they want to navigate. But then as you go through the deep work, you realize that there’s actually some deeper things that they need to solve first before they solve the thing that they came in for. Is that been true for your work with your clients? And if so, how?

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, absolutely. And I’m glad you bring that up. Because this is also part of the courage it takes to be a coach and to be a person who takes a personal on the journey is that you have to have the courage to challenge people to go deeper. My tagline, if you will, is like inspiration through honest conversation. And that is because people don’t often have the conversation with themselves or with others to go deeper beyond what they talk about on the surface.

And when you start having those deeper conversations, people will explore things that they’re not often seeing. And when they might say like, Hey, I’m having struggles to get my team engaged, or I’m, you know, I can’t get my team to be where I want them to be. And I’ll find out that maybe it’s because they’re not showing up fully.

They’re not being their authentic self in the workplace, or they’re not communicating in the way that they really want to be communicating. And so getting to see that if you slow down, you know, really understand yourself fully, and bring your authentic person, the person you are as a leader to the table, you find a difference, it shows up.

Steve Chaparro 

What are some of those challenges that folks generally reach out to you to help them navigate? You know, again, some of these are more of those surface things. And then I’d love to talk like how those may be surface-related issues actually go to those that deeper work. Give me an example, maybe of they came to me for this, but ultimately, we worked on this.

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, I’ve had people come to me and say that, like, you know, I don’t have the confidence to be the CEO of an organization, you know, biotech company, what have you. And, you know, I’m not sure if it’s the right fit, if I if I’m really ready to take on this new challenge. And I will sit with them to unpack their emotions around that feeling that they have, like what’s holding them back to be to really step into the power of that role that they’re taking on?

And I’ll, you know, unwind it in the sense that, you know, why are they what in the past has really held them back? You know, where’s this confidence this element of, of not knowing that it really is getting in the way. And once we start to kind of unwind it, we’ll see that it’s just taking one step, one step at a time, and seeing just not them alone. You’re navigating that journey, they can rely on other people to help them along that path. So there’s been that.

There’s also an element of emotional intelligence feeling as though they can’t connect and understand the room. They can’t read the room. So I help people really develop that.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, that emotional intelligence? Yeah, I definitely have it. I’ve worked with some senior leaders, even as my colleagues, you know, when I worked at firms, of folks who were very good in terms of their subject matter expertise, but we’re not necessarily as good as reading the room, reading people, that emotional intelligence is something that could be improved on so those are some definitely some big things.

One of the things I want to ask about, I know that when I realized for me that I wanted to help organizations transform themselves. I remember a conversation that I had with my father in law, and this was just before we started having kids and those that have heard the podcast before may have heard me say this, but he said Steve if I as a father wanted to see change in my children, I needed to change first. And so I immediately understood that that only applied to me as a parent, as a spouse, but also, as a leader.

It’s no secret that we’re in a very fast-moving, ever-changing environment, even before COVID that was launched upon us. You know, they talk about the VUCA world, a world that’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and that the best practices that we employed in the past may no longer suffice. And so we have to change the way we lead cultures are changing employees and customers have higher expectations than they ever had before.

So it does require sort of a change of the guard, maybe not the change of the person, but a change in the way that we lead. How have you helped, you know, these CEOs, these executives, maybe come to an understanding that that is the case? And how have you seen that some. What are like the questions that a CEO might need to ask themselves in terms of are they ready and able to make that change?

Yeah, I want to start by maybe reflecting on this element of like, because I love the way you put it, you know, around, you know, who do you need to be or how do you need to be that to create the right elements of the environment, it’s really the environment that needs to be shaped, right? I think about this because when I think about your show Culture Design, is your environment shapes you. And if you don’t have the right environment around you, then ultimately it’s hard for you to come out of that in the right place and the right way.

Tony Martignetti 

So ultimately, I think about a leader showing up in a way that allows them to shape the culture that they want. If they’re going to be some leader who has a command and control or a, you know, fast-paced nature, then they’re going to get what they show up with. It’s them leading by example and creating that container that really is a ripple of them.

So it’s no different than when you think about your childhood. And you think about the children, your children, they’re seeing what you create, if your environment is full of love, and of really shaping them into somebody who sees love and beauty in the world. And that’s what they’re going to they’re going to emulate. So I love that idea of creating more of what you want to see, like Be the change you want to see in the world. Why not? You know.

And to come back to the questions that you asked, How are you showing up today? As a leader? How are you bringing your vision of what leadership looks like, into your space? That’s a question that you should start with. Another question is, how am I impacting the workplace? You know, what am I owning? In terms of that? That culture?

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, some very deep questions, right? I know that the one I’ve done some, you know, some introspection of myself after some key seasons in my life. I have asked a series of questions that sometimes adds or results in very affirming responses. But in other cases, it results in some gut-wrenching realizations of areas that I need to focus on.

I wonder if in some cases, you know where you have the current economic, cultural, political environment that we’re in that does require, say us to shift in a new way of shaping our cultures? Have you ever come to or had a leader that has come up at the intersection of these questions? One, what choice will I take? Will I either one continue in the way that I am status quo? Will I change the way I’m leadership to respond to the current environment? Or am I still the right leader for this moment?

Do I need to move on and hand the baton to someone else? Not so much in a self-deprecating or even a demeaning way, but to say, you know what, maybe it is time for a new leader for a new day. Have you had a client that has been at the intersection of question?

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, it’s funny even mentioned this, because I just had this conversation earlier today about this topic, not with the client, but with someone else. And I think it’s such a powerful insight and takes so much courage to be at that place where you say, I am comfortable owning that. It’s time for me to move on or it’s time for me to part ways with, you know, where I am in this company.

Especially for founders, when it’s your baby, that you created, and it’s your vision that you’ve created. When you can say, Okay, now it’s time for you to pass on the baton. You know, it’s really hard. But at the same time, when you can do that, it shows great courage that you can do that and know that it’s time for you to do something else.

I have worked with people on that, and it’s, it’s not easy to navigate. But the folks who have done that, have seen that it, in the long run, it’s the best thing for the company in for them. Because each one of us goes through, you know, as Whitney Johnson, she’s talks about the S curve, of learning, you know, at some point, you get to this point where you’re at the top of your curve, there’s no more learning for you to have, there’s no more growth.

So you have to disrupt yourself and figure out what am I going to do differently, to learn to grow, or, you know, you’re going to stay stagnant, or you’re gonna start to decline. So ultimately, the best thing you can do is to think, where am I on my growth curve? Am I in a place where I need to make a change?

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, yeah, that growth curve conversation with Whitney Johnson is definitely a pretty powerful thing, at a very personal level, but it very much echoes the journey that an organization goes through. Now I’ve seen you know, like, if you think of the growth curve in relation to the lifecycle of a company, you know, you startup, you know, kind of relatively flat on that S curve, then you have the high growth, then you have maturity at the top, and then you have a mature company that goes into decline, because they haven’t navigated with the times, and ultimately, possibly death if there’s not this reinvention. I know, even Nancy Duarte, who I worked with, as part of her team for a little bit, you know, her?

Tony Martignetti 

A huge fan .

Steve Chaparro 

Her and Patti Sanchez, when they wrote Illuminate, it talks about that lifecycle or that S curve of an organization going through change. What are some skills or competencies that a leader needs to have, as they’re leading an organization through change? Because obviously, that has to first come up at a personal level? What are some things that you have seen that is required to lead change in an organization?

Tony Martignetti 

Yeah, I mean, one of the first things is to make sure that they’re not being too tied into their egos not too tied to the growth of the firm or the status quo. If you’re too tied to the status quo, then what happens is, it’s hard for you to make the change. So it’s bringing yourself into reality. And so that requires some stepping back, and seeing, okay, where are we right now? And am I okay with change, and that starts with the leader or starts with the person who’s really leading that program, or whatever it is, that’s going on, going through change. And embracing the fact that it might be time for something different.

If they can’t get buy-in for themselves and internal buy-in, then there’s no way that they’re going to be able to bring an organization through change. Because it starts from the top, as we said earlier, there’s an element of creating that the ripple effect of the attitude, the culture of change, has to come from that top. You can’t bring change to the bottom unless you have some really strong people who are willing to speak up and say what they feel.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, yeah, that’s a pretty important topic too. Because, you know, say, you know, there’s a visionary, a burgeoning visionary, that is, you know, in the, either on the frontlines or in the middle ranks, who sees potential and to your point is requires a really strong person who’s willing to kind of kick against, there’s a scripture that says to kick against the pricks kind of like to kick against the spurs. That you have to do that’s gonna be painful if you do it.

And I almost feel like in some cases, those folks need to be so passionate about what they believe in that they are willing to lose their job to see their message come through. Have you worked with folks that are either in the middle or on the frontlines? You know, kind of like that are growing up and realizing they’ve got 2-3-4 layers above them? And they’re like, how do I navigate this if you experience or talk to folks in that respect?

Yeah. So I’m glad you brought this up. Because this is one of the things when I thought about the leap that I took initially, you know, to jump out into the advocate, I do something different about the way of people leading today. I thought of it from two different angles. I’m like, well, there’s the person at the top, but there’s also the people who are sitting in the conference table and they’re checked out and they may have an opinion they have a feeling about like what they want more of, but they’re too afraid to speak up.

Tony Martignetti 

Because maybe there’s an element of not feeling safe. Not feeling as though their voice will be heard, or they say something that they will be fired. Or you know, ostracized or something will happen to them that their fear is, is ruling their world right now. And so I want to, you know, I would say that I’m working with a few people like that, I want to work with more people like that to empower them to have the voice to speak into the room, to be environments in an environment that allow them to do so.

And so this is going to sound really crass, but I’m going to say it if you’re not in an environment that allows you to do so, then I start questioning whether you should be in an environment that you’re you know, that allows you to have a voice. And that’s, I guess, that’s where I’m kind of feel a little bit like,

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I mean, I mean, I’m watching, you know, movies, watching TV shows where there are these leaders that are authoritarian, and you know, basically, we just see that it’s bad leadership. And part of, you know, the cynic in me says, Why does that person that is receiving the brunt of all of this abuse? Why are they accepting that? Why don’t they just say, you know, I’m not going to accept this, this is wrong. And either we need to change or I’m out. And I understand that that sounds, you know, like, so Cavalier and so Maverick, and there’s so many things that come with a decision like that, I understand that, because I’ve been there, honestly. So I know what comes in, in those situations.

But I think there is fear, fear of the repercussions. I remember, I’m going to bring this up. This is a movie that it’s Wonder Woman, but the first one the good the good movie. And I remember when Diana is faced with the prospect of mankind perishing, and she wants to go and save mankind. And her mother says if you go, you may never return. But then Diana says, but if I don’t go, then who am I? And what you said about leaving the room to change the room is such a powerful thing to me. Because it felt to me that that’s what she was doing. She was leaving the safety of something in order to change it. I don’t know what thoughts come up to you in that conversation?

Well, Steve, I just gonna say my gosh, like that was like, Mic drop moment for me because I haven’t made that connection yet. But that’s why you’re so good at what you do. Because it really makes a lot of sense. It makes me feel exactly like that. It was like that moment where I was like, Okay, I don’t know what I can do. But I’m going to do whatever I can do. Because that’s what I’m here for. 

Tony Martignetti 

If I don’t do something about it, then I will feel as though I’ve left something on the table. There’s this concept and I’m gonna, I’d like to play with language that is a little bit out there sometimes. But like, think Todd Henry, the author wrote this book called Die Empty, which is a beautiful, it’s an amazing book. But the great thing about it is that he talks about how we should have this feeling that we’re putting everything out there, and that we die empty because we’ve put all of the things that are inside of us out into the world.

And that was the moment when I felt like oh, my gosh, I want to die empty. I want to make sure that everything I have in the tank is put out there. There’s is this thought that like, the cemetery is the most expensive real estate in the world, is there’s so many people who die with their dreams inside of them. And that’s unfortunate.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, it’s unfortunate. And as you’re talking about that, that cemetery metaphor would definitely came to mind because I have a friend who says that his goal was to make sure that they get those ideas out while they’re living, as opposed to you know, when they you know, to leave them buried in the graveyard. This has been awesome. I know that you are in the midst of writing a book, I don’t know if you can share a little bit about what you’re researching for that book and what people can look forward to as you’re finishing that up.

Tony Martignetti 

Well, thank you so much, Steve. The book has been quite a journey. And I’m self-publishing and doing all my own. So it’s been a longer process than I’d like to say that it’s called Climbing the Right Mountain. And it’s really a story about people getting to the top of the mountain, and realizing that it wasn’t quite the place they wanted to be. And I’m helping them to see a different way to climb. So a different way to find fulfillment along their journey. And that’s what I’m hoping to share with the world.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I love it. Because one of the things that I’ve realized about myself again, as you and I shared, we I love having this podcast because I’ve learned so much myself and it gives me maybe in some cases, new language and new discoveries even about myself. So I’m not to say that this is a selfish endeavor, but I do benefit personally.

But one of the things that I’ve realized about myself is that I love climbing mountains. I love climbing mountains. But I don’t spend a lot of time at the mountain peaks by design. Like, for me, the goal is not to reside at the peak. For me, it’s to find another mountain to climb.

And to your question of like, so there’s a little bit of self-discovery that’s going on in my head and hard right now is like, Is it because I don’t find what I’m looking for at the mountain peaks that causes me to just find another mountain peak to climb? Or is it that I love the journey? Or is it that I love the transformation that I experience in the journey, and even seen a valley as the place between two mountain peaks? As a matter of perspective? Those are all questions that are going on in my head about your topic. And so yeah, I’m looking forward to reading the book when you’re finished so finish soon.

Tony Martignetti  

Yes, you’ll get one copy in the mail. And I think that you hit it right on the head, when it comes down to it. It’s like this element of like, you know, you’re when people get to the top and they you know, it’s not about being happy when you get there. It’s not about the end. It’s really about having that real, the journey being part of the reward, the transformation of who you’re becoming. And I think that’s not giving away the book. There’s a lot more to it than that. But I think that’s really at the crux of it. And I think there’s an element of really embracing that mindset that can really change the way that you navigate.

Steve Chaparro 

Well, thanks, Tony. Thanks for being on the show. If people want to reach out to you and learn more about your work and all that you do, where can people find you?

Tony Martignetti 

They can find me at InspiredPurposeCoach.com and they can also find me on all the social media channels like LinkedIn, what have you. So yeah, I’m happy to have a chat.

Steve Chaparro 

Well, thank you very much. I will make sure that people get all of those links in the show notes and we will be talking soon. Thank you very much.

Tony Martignetti 

Thank you.


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