Trust. Responsibility. Accountability. Achievement. These attributes are important for any successful individual or organization and they're especially important if you're flying for the Blue Angels.
Today, we're speaking with John Foley, who served as a Marine jet fighter instructor pilot, flew in the movie “Top Gun” and thrilled audiences worldwide as the lead solo pilot of the Blue Angels. In addition to speaking at more than 100 events each year, John also leads his own company and a foundation. He is the founder and president of John Foley, Inc., which provides business performance training to Fortune 500 corporations, professional associations, sports teams and educational organizations around the world. His Glad To Be Here® Foundation funds charitable works across the globe.
We asked him about leadership, giving back, and what his big dream for the world is.
CPC: You're a former lead solo pilot of the Blue Angels turned keynote speaker and business consultant. How has what you learned in the cockpit prepared you for how you help people now? Foley: There are so many similarities. The biggest one that first comes to mind is trust. You learn how to trust in your team members, in the people who support you, and trust in yourself. It is a critical aspect in flying fighter jets to the absolute limit and to being a part of a high performing organization like the Blue Angels.
Trust transfers directly into all relationships, specifically in the business world and to all industries.
I always like to say that “What I learned most from being with the Blue Angels had nothing to do with flying itself, I learned that the process of engaging at this high level, when my very life depended on successful communication, accurate information, trust and follow-through, is the same process leaders and successful individuals use to achieve excellence.”
The way I look at it now is with the Diamond Performance Framework (DPF®) that I developed after leaving the Blue Angels with the lessons above. The DPF® is a methodology that builds on the lessons I learned from the Blue Angels and translates into a repeatable process that can be adopted easily by organizations and individuals to continually improve performance.
CPC: Why do companies need to make sure their leaders are high performing? How does this apply to leaders in the charitable sectors? Foley: The reason it's so important that leaders embrace change and lead by example is because they can affect so many people, especially using the concepts above. If you can affect a leader, then they will affect, hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. You want to get to people that can have the greatest impact. They are not always the leaders you may envision though. They can be parents, who are shaping our future generations.
Also, every organization needs a purpose larger than itself, especially as products and services are fragmented and employees do not always directly see or feel the importance they have on the end product or service. Having a purpose larger than self reminds people that what they do does matter and can impact millions of lives. Leaders need to be able to inspire and instill this at the essence of company culture.
As far as the charitable side, the beautiful part gets back to the purpose larger than self. That is something we should all have. All the goodwill that's being done in this world, it's very important to support that, but it's still a business. You have to run it in a disciplined way. Charitable organizations accept people's money and thus have a huge personal accountability factor. These are other people's gifts and the organizations must have all the more reason to be smart and efficient with these resources.
Most non-profits have these beautiful mindsets and can typically use more process. Passion and process are both required and key parts in becoming a high performer. The DPF is meant to help individuals and teams cultivate and sustain a culture of excellence with both passion and process.
CPC: Can you tell us more about your foundation, the Glad To Be Here Foundation? Foley: Honestly, it was something that I had wanted to do for years, should do, could do, and I just wasn't doing it. I was telling myself I would do it when I would make tons of money, I would be able to donate a lot of money. Then one day I just decided to go with it and start with future income.
I have never looked back. Now the process is that we always donate 10% and have created a foundation. I have realized every company we work with also has similar aspirations, so we give half of the 10% to the charity of the client's choice. The foundation is meant to remind myself and team that we have a purpose larger than self, where what we receive always depends on what we give.
The Glad To Be Here Foundation is a charity that supports other charities that are doing good. We want to help those that need help. Deep down you always know its better to give than to receive. It feels good to help people. I never feel like I am losing by giving, in fact i feel like I am gaining by giving.
CPC: Do you think more people and companies are looking to give back (like you are) by donating a portion or what they earn? Foley: I am blown away how many companies are doing something similar. It's so beautiful. 99% of the companies I speak to have charitable endeavors. There are a lot of different creative ways of giving, but I don't see too many companies doing what I am doing in terms of donating revenue. The 10% is a challenging number; it's a lot.
CPC: What is your big dream for the world? Foley: I want to help others reach their hopes, dreams, whatever they are, and help them become what they want in life. Ghandi said it best, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Don't set your sights too low. Become a Blue Angel, an astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, an inventor, the one who discovers a cure, that's the cool stuff. I wake up every morning trying to inspire others help reach their hopes and dreams. We are all in this together.