Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 134 | March 9, 2021
The Power Of Nice
Linda Kaplan Thaler
Advertising Executive and Author
Welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Today, my guest is advertising Hall of Famer, Linda Kaplan Thaler, who is responsible for some of the most famous advertising campaigns such as the Aflac duck, the hilarious “Yes, Yes, Yes” commercial for Clairol Herbal Essence, “Kodak Moments,” and the longest running jingle, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid.” She has appeared on The Apprentice, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and CNN. Linda has won several awards, including the prestigious Matrix Award, Advertising Woman of the year and was named one of advertising Most Influential Woman in Advertising. She founded the Ad Agency Kaplan Thaler Group and currently, she is a renowned motivational speaker and a bestselling author of several books including Grit to Great and The Power of Nice.
Linda tells us about herself, growing up in the Bronx, and a sweet story about her dad that impacted her life forever. She teaches us how being nice actually makes you succeed, and how her agency became the fastest growing agency in the U.S. and one of the Top 10 Nicest Places to Work in advertising. We learn how her little ad agency won the $200 million Wendy’s account, and an incredible story involving a man that was a guard for their building, and how he helped win a big account during a surprise visit from the CEO. Also, Linda tells us yet an amazing story behind the Aflac duck and how that came about, Linda tells us why doing improv is so good for people, and Dr. Orsini tells us how he uses improv in his training as well. We hear a personal story and some difficult conversations she had to endure when she found out she had cancer. We end with Linda giving us communication advice on how to be successful.
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Linda Kaplan Thaler (1s):
So the first person that he sees of course is Frank. And he says Frank, would you tell me why I’m here to see the Capitol Della Group what floor are they on? And Frank breaks out into this big smile. Now he has no idea. He was talking to a CEO of the fourth-largest financial institution in the country, or that we were up for this $40 million account. He says, Oh, I love these guys. They always have a friendly smile for me. You know, they bring in donuts. They always ask how my family’s doing. And I was sick once they visited me in the hospital. He said, you are going to love these guys. Well, Richard Davis, who was the CEO at the time, he said, by the time I got to the 29th floor where you guys were, you didn’t know this, but you had already won the business.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (43s):
When I said, how did that happen? He said, because I thought if there are that nice to the security guards, I can only imagine how nice they are going to be to my staff.
Welcome to Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr Anthony Orsini. Dr Orsini is a practicing physician and president and CEO of the Orsini Way As a frequent keynote speaker and author Dr Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders. How to navigate through the most difficult dialogues, Each week you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better.
Announcer (1m 38s):
This is the podcast for you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 40s):
Welcome to another episode of Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini and I’ll be your host again this week. Well, I hope you put aside forty-five minutes to an hour today to listen to this podcast from beginning to end, because I promise you, once you start listening, you won’t want to put it aside today. My guest is advertising hall of famer Linda Kaplan Thaler. Linda is responsible for some of America’s most famous and award-winning advertising campaigns, including the Aflac duck, the hilarious yes, yes, yes. commercials for Clairol Herbal Essence, the Kodak moment and America’s longest running jingle. I don’t want to grow up I’m a Toys or Us Kid.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 21s):
Miss Thaler is a familiar face in the media having appeared on the Apprentice, Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN. She hosted the oxygen television series, make it big. And it was a judge on the Apprentice and the Mark Burnett reality series jingles. Linda’s talents have earned her the prestigious Matrix Award, the Advertising women of the year Award, UJA’s Mac Dane Humanitarian Award. And was named one of Advertising Ages most Influential Women in advertising. Linda founded that the Ad Agency Kaplan Thaler Group which she grew from a fledgling start-up to a company with over a billion dollars in billings.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 6s):
Today Linda is a renowned motivational speaker and is the national bestselling author of several books, including grit to Great and the power of Nice. And as a graduate of the renowned upright citizens brigade improv company, Linda also conducts improv workshops online and in-person to companies and organizations throughout the U S. Well, this is a real treat thank you, Linda, for coming on.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (3m 29s):
Oh, I know. I’m absolutely delighted. And haven’t gotten through all of your book yet, but you do win the prize for coming up with the best title for a book. That’s great.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 41s):
You know where that comes from right? That is a WC fields quote that when you WC Fields, was asked many years ago, why his jokes were so funny and his answer was it’s all on the Delivery and that kind of, I heard it, that story, and I never forgot that.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (3m 53s):
I know being a baby doc, it was just perfect. It was absolutely perfect.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 57s):
Yeah. So thank you for coming on again, I’d been a real fan of your first book, the power of Nice for quite some time. And there’s actually a story behind that, that I don’t think we shared before. I was doing my communication training for doctors for about seven or eight years. The president of the hospital that I worked with was a real fan of what I was doing. Teaching doctors communication and using improvisational role-playing that I want to talk to you about. And so we were talking about doing future projects and the president of the hospitals said to me, you know, it’s just like the Power of Nice. And I guess she read my body language and I’ll have to admit, I hadn’t been reading a lot of business books, so I wasn’t familiar with it. And she was like, Oh my God, this is the greatest book ever. You need to read this.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 38s):
So she just hands me, her copy. And then it makes me swear that I will return to it. And then it was also about that time. I read your book and I realize that the stuff that I was doing to teach doctors and nurses had to form relationships, how to really make the patient experience, which has a medicine, is all about how as best as you could, or as I like to say, at least bad as you could, it was a very similar to what your talking about in the power of Nice and how being nice and compassionate and doing the right thing always wins. And that’s when I started to realize that what I’m teaching doctors as applicable to the business world also. And so I can share that with you. So you kind of send to me, your books set me on a new trajectory that’s so I want you to let you know that you are responsible for all of this stuff that’s happening.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (5m 24s):
That’s so cool. You know, there is a woman, who’s the head manager for the one that Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks Yes. And so she’s like, there are a manager coach, something that I didn’t remember, and she wrote me and she said, I want you to know that every new player that comes on has to read The Power of Nice.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (5m 47s):
But I think that’s great. And it’s so powerful. I mean, it’s, it was your first book, right? I mean, there’s four of them that you have now, correct?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (5m 53s):
Yeah. It’s actually the first book was bang, getting, get your message heard and a noisy world. And I speak a lot about that too. Is that it how to become more creative? We’re all inherently very creative. We just have to learn how to tap into it. So
Dr. Anthony Orsini (6m 6s):
Great. So I want to talk about the power of Nice. I know your story, as I said, I’m a big fan, just to let them for the audience to get to know you, you know, tell us about the girl that grew up in the Bronx that ended up owning her own advertising agency. And how did that happen, right?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (6m 20s):
Yeah. Well, I have to tell you, and here I’m going to go back into my Bronx accent, where I used to go up to Alexander’s and I used to shop on Fordham road and not to be confused. The bronx accent with the Brooklyn accent, which was my mother, my father will go and big difference, you know, so I learned a lot of four or four little words growing up in the Bronx, but the most powerful one was NICE. And that was because we didn’t have any money. And the only currency that helped you with social currency, it’s like, if you did a bad thing with one of your friends, the word spread. And so we just grew up to be as likable as possible. And one day my father, who’s an amazing man, an engineer and entrepreneur inventor.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (7m 5s):
He took me to his office and I was about seven years old. And I was so excited because I thought my dad was the boss of this. And I guess he was the boss of that particular group. And he walked over to his assistant. In those days, we call them secretaries or name was Betty. And he said, hi Betty, this is my daughter, Linda, would you like me to get you a cup of coffee? And Oh, she said, thanks. Marvin’s that would be great. And as they walked away, I said, but daddy, she works for you. Why are you getting her a cup of coffee? And he said, well, you don’t understand Linda is that the people who work, who help you, who assist you are the most valuable people in the company.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (7m 52s):
And I want to make sure that she’s very happy here. I don’t ever want her to leave. When I opened up my agency, the very, very first thing I did is I told our little staff of five people, the story about my dad, I don’t think he realized that what he did. He had such an imprint on this seven year old girl that he ever thought I was going to end up only a company that had a billion dollars in billings. And he was alive enough till 95 to see a lot of the success that we had. And I always thanked him for being the North star in terms of how to run a company, right?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (8m 30s):
We had so many people on this podcast, you know, Claude Silver of VaynerMedia, Ann Barr Thompson, Holly O’Driscoll and culture change and being nice is the hot topic right now saying that you work for your employees or employees don’t work for you. And I feel like that was all started back when you did this groundbreaking, crazy idea, that being nice actually makes you succeed.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (8m 54s):
At the time Robin Koval and I, she and I ran the company and written four books together. That was the founding principal at a, you know, in our agency. And that is why I believe this strongest reason that we became a in very short period of time, the fastest growing agency in the United States and considered one of the top 10 Nicest Places to Work in advertising. And people used to make fun of us and say, well, how can you be so productive? And when so many accounts and be so nice. And I said, ’cause the two worked together. And you know that there was a study that was done by Google a couple of years back called, it pays to be Nice and they tried to find out which of the teams and what each of the groups were the most productive in the company.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (9m 39s):
And they’re belief was it, it was going to be the group that had the smartest people, you know, the mensa IQ’s or the most talented people. And what they found was that the success of the group, in terms of profitability for the company, you know, ideation and all of that, were not people who are the smartest or the most talented they’re were the people that created what they called psychological safety. So in each group where they felt that psychological safety, that was the ability for people to throw out an idea, let them finish their sentence. That was a big deal that people were allowed sort of finish her sentences, that they were supportive, that people were not sort of talking at each other, but with each other, they go out for coffee later.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (10m 23s):
They, it was all of those things that made them much more productive. And actually research has shown that companies where there is a very nice and kind atmosphere have an average of one to 2% growth in the bottom line. So it really does pay to be a nice. Harry Truman had a wonderful quote he was considered probably one of the most unpretentious president of the United States. And he said, you can accomplish anything in your lifetime, as long as you’re willing to take credit for none of it. And it was a great philosophy because what we did is we were a creative advertising shop. You know, if I throw out an idea and you know, it just was stewing there and nobody was commenting and we’d talk and eventually somebody else would come up with the same idea.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (11m 11s):
And the first thing I would say as that it’s amazing what a great idea. And Robyn would say to me afterward, she said, but Linda, you had that idea 10 minutes earlier. I said, but you don’t understand Robin this guy Derrick now believes it’s his idea. He is going to work so hard. And so I tried to instill that and you know, in the Advertising culture, it can be very cutthroat. It was that post mad men era, or you have to eat your young in order to survive. And we found that it was actually much, much better for us that people would work longer hours. They would help each other because they know at the end of the day, they will get credit for it. When we won the Wendy’s account, it was a $200 million account.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (11m 51s):
And we were this tiny little agency and we were competing against dozens of shops. We did everything above and beyond because, you know, Robin and I had this philosophy, especially as women, you have to do things 10 times harder to get noticed. And the way we found out that we won the account was that they didn’t call us. But the guard who I can talk about with one of the wonderful garden who protected the whole building that we were in, said, there was a little girl here with braids and she’s wearing this outfit. Can she come up? And they said, yeah. And that was, you know, the Wendy’s mascot, right? That the thing that’s on the way, who is Dave, the founding father.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (12m 34s):
And that was his daughter, you know, Wendy and this is what she looked like when she was a little girl. Anyway, she comes hopping and skipping up and she reads this letter saying that we won it, but we want you to read this letter that comes from the owner’s. And the first thing I did was I knew that I didn’t want to be the one reading the letter. The first thing that I did is I said, why don’t we read a sentence at a time? And I gave it to somebody in the mail room department. He read the first sentence, the second sentence with somebody and the graphics department. And another was an assistant that we went all around till, you know, a lot of people have spoken and the clients said to us, you know, you work with a terrific, but honestly, there was other terrific work at other agencies, but we felt that you really understood Dave Thomas’s reason for being successful.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (13m 22s):
Then we call the Dave’s way. It was all about how you should treat employees with kindness and they will pass that on to the people that they are serving. And they say, and we made a bet that once that letter came, you will not read it yourself. You would pass it down. I said, really? He said, yeah, they had written down. I bet you that Linda is going to do that. And that is sort of part and parcel of the way the agency worked, making it a nice place to work and make people a lot more productive.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (13m 52s):
How did you know there was an, all the Italian Saying I’m from New Jersey at the time from New Jersey. I live in Orlando now, but there was an old Italian saying that the fish rots from the head down, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that saying before. I don’t think it’s true by the way, but it is a saying. And so when you’re the leader and you’re creating that kind of environment, it’s infectious,
Linda Kaplan Thaler (14m 8s):
It is. And by the way, the fish smell is from the top down, it was the first piece of advice that my husband gave me with that as you do, they will do. Yeah. And so we had this attitude, which is, you know, everybody’s nice to people who can give them something, you know, a potential client of a boss that we had this philosophy that you need to do it for everybody. You know, that Saying how you do anything. It’s how you do everything. And it’s really true. And it is. So it has to be in your DNA that you treat everybody with respect. And one of the people that we adored was the guard for our building, whose name was Frank. And we were just one 10 and among, you know, hundreds of other people, we were a smaller company the time.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (14m 52s):
And we just loved Frank. And, you know, on days where it was cold we would bring them a hot tea. And he had been in the hospital once and people went to visit him and he just had this really great smile. And one day we were up for, against another agency for the U S Bank business. They were at the time, the fourth largest financial institution in the country. And what we didn’t know is that the CEO was going to make a surprise chemistry check. He liked our work. You liked another agency’s work. So it was down to us two, we want you to see how we, where our, when we were in on so to speak. So the first person that he sees of course is Frank.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (15m 32s):
And says Frank, can you tell me I’m here to see the Kaplan Thaler group what floor are they on? And Frank breaks out into this big smile. Now he has no idea. He was talking to the CEO of the fourth, largest financial institution of a country, but that we were up for this $40 million account. He says, Oh, I love these guys. They always have a friendly smile for me. You know, they bring the donuts. They always ask me how my family’s doing it. I was sick once they visited me in the hospital, he said, you are going to love these guys. Well, Richard Davis, who was the CEO at the time, he said, by the time I got to the 29th floor, where you guys work, you didn’t know this, but you had already won the business.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (16m 12s):
And I said, how did that happen? He said, because I thought if there are that nice to the security guard, I can only imagine how nice they are going to be to my staff. And ironically enough. So we won the stat day, this $40 million account. And yes, we gave Frank a bonus very much, but it is fascinating. That little things like that mean so much. Fortunately, our books did very well to continue to do well. And I was on the Martha Stewart. Show talking about the power of Nice at all of that. And unbeknownst to me, somebody was watching it. It was Barbara Walters’. And she said, I’m going to talk about this book on the view, which she did.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (16m 54s):
And it’s going around and talking about the book and Rosie O’Donnell said, you know, because I had this one thing in the book that said anything great has happened in your life. You can usually be drill down to something nice that you did for somebody’s. And Rosie O’Donnell said that had the epiphany on his show. And she said, I just realized when I was starting out, I auditioned for MTV to be a video DJ. And there were about 200 people who are auditioning. She said, I didn’t get it. But I wrote the producer that auditioned me a thank you note, for, you know, just accepting that I even would interview for it. You know, it was totally unknown.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (17m 35s):
Unbeknownst to me, he calls me back and he said of the 200 people that auditioned you are the only person that thought to write me a thank you note, so here’s what I am going to do. We’re starting this new station called VH1 and yours is the only tape that I’m sending over. And so she got her start in VH1 as a video DJ. She said all of the, because I wrote a thank you note to the guy for an MTV. That would be to give you an idea of how powerful it is. You know, one of our most fun accounts is the Aflac duck.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (18m 9s):
Yes, that’s my favorite. Yeah. the Aflac duck. That’s an amazing story. Yes
Linda Kaplan Thaler (18m 15s):
It came about because we believe in, you know, really having a sense of humor when your ideating so that when people laugh, they are much more open to ideas and it arouses all of this, you know, stuff inside of you and endorphins and you didn’t feel good. And so were kidding around and we could have remember the name of what we’re pitching. They only had a few percent and awareness. And I kept saying, it’s Aflac the name is Aflac. So after three weeks of this art, when our director said, say that again, and he pinched my nose, we’re a very informal companies. So you can pitch the CEO’s nose. And I went Aflac and he said, you know, apropos of nothing, you sound like a duck, quack, you know?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (18m 56s):
And the biggest problem that we’re having there was nobody can remember the name of the company. And he was laughing, thought it was a joke. And I’m like, you know what? It gives you an idea how brilliant you have to be to run an ad agency. By the name of a company. It could be a big thing. Anyway, we won it. And it was great. And, you know, and their stock divided like four times over. They made billions. But the thing that I am most happy about, and it really brings a tear to my eyes that Aflac is now. So well-known that when ducks see other Duck’s, they immediately think have supplemental insurance or something like, so we were winning.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (19m 37s):
It was doing well. And they said to Robin, you know what I’m trying to think about. Why do they call us in the first place they are in Columbus, Georgia. We are in Manhattan in a very small Agency at the time. So she’s just, I don’t know, call the owner. So I did. And he said, I said, I don’t know you as well. So I didn’t know before you, and he said, well, you know, you either, you said, but a very good friend of mine, we used to live in New York. And when I was looking for agencies to pitch, he said, you know, this very nice woman named Linda Kaplan took me out to lunch 10 years ago because I wanted some advice on Advertising.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (20m 17s):
I barely even remember, what are you in? Anyway, he said, I have been looking for a way to thank her. So she just started this company. Why don’t you just give her a call or at least put her on the list. And that is how we got to pitch the Aflac account, because they took somebody out to lunch 10 years earlier.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (20m 36s):
That’s a great story. And it goes back to what your mothers taught. You do the right thing and you know, do it right the first time. Be nice to people, treat other people like you want to be treated and things will, but you know, in medicine and I’m sure in business, we get caught up with starting to our outlook looks different. So as a physician, we become task-oriented and we forget to be nice. Or we forget that even though this might be our 35th patient for the day, that’s a patient has been waiting for an hour in the waiting room. And so that’s part of what I teach is to kind of, sometimes you have to remind yourself, but to create an atmosphere where people can remind the boss, I think is really important to, so we did this program in the hospital is called it’s all in the Delivery.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (21m 22s):
The same title is in my book and it teaches us doctors and nurses had a bond with patients reformed these trusting relationships quickly. But it also, it allows that everybody who does this program and the whole hospital basically signed the contract that says, if I’m doing something wrong, that I’m going to get rushed during the day. And I may not spend enough time with that patient. The housekeeper can go to the head of the whole hospital and say, Dr. Orsini it’s all in the delivery. It’s a nice way of saying that. It’s a nice way of saying and my aunt, I have to promise me that my response we’ll be. Thank you, Linda. And I forgot. I appreciate, but it’s all about creating an environment.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 3s):
So one of the things that we keep talking about here is this is a program about communication. And one thing that keeps coming up and I’d love your opinion on this. So you create this great environment and there’s great leaders, as you mentioned, some leaders that workers will do anything for them. Why do you think it’s all about communication to be a good leader? Why do you think that it’s still, even with the big emphasis on culture change, it’s still a problem right now where leaders aren’t able to communicate and appreciate the security guard. You know, I’ll tell you a quick story. My last hospital, they worked for me. There was a gentleman there. His name was Michael and Michael was retiring. After 30 years, Michael was the housekeeper in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 44s):
He had been there for like 20 years and Michael cleaned the units and we had a little party for him to show him how much we appreciated him. And when we thank them and he said, I should be thanking you because you’ve given me the opportunity to save lives. And I thought that was kind of odd, but in his mind, cleaning that crib and he’s absolutely right. He is saving lives because if he didn’t do a good job, the babies would get sick. So everybody’s important. So I guess this is a long-winded question of, do you think it’s a communication issues when leaders are not effective in the employees aren’t engaged?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (23m 19s):
Yeah. I think there’s a lot of things to blame, you know, trying to be nice in the age of mean, you know, it’s, it is very hard and we’ve seen leadership where people are not nice and I think part of it, there’s a lot of reasons. One is the media. We see reality shows that it’s so cutthroat what we’re watching, you know, even on the Apprentice and I was on the Apprentice several years ago, you are made to believe because it’s theatre, right. That, you know, the, the cutthroat they’ll do anything. And that’s what people, and, you know, to a certain extent, its, its like a blood sport, you know, its like I want to say, you know, if she is the, you know, Amorosa, you know, she’s the mean one and all of that and it’s theater, it’s not really how people behave.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (24m 6s):
Most people. And I have met many, many CEOs running an ad agency and the best ones like AG Lafley if a Procter and Gamble, he never said the word I ever in a speech, it was always We, who is like the quietest person in the room and yet brilliant leader. And so I think the media is to blame. And even if you look at books and the non-fiction category, there is a very extreme right or extreme left, I guess, most people in this country or extreme middle, but what sells books is very divisive kind of rhetoric. The other thing is that the incoming amount of data makes it so hard to even look at somebody’s right.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (24m 49s):
I mean, Microsoft did the study that blew my mind. The average attention span of human being is now eight seconds. And what makes this a milestone is that the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. So you get to understand like how pathetic it is. And of course, how can you be nice when you are constantly, you know, all this data is coming in and it’s hitting these target in our brain, that dopamine centers. And when you’re a doctor, do you know better than me. And so it’s like, Pavlov we want more and more. We never satiated or constantly getting this.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (25m 30s):
I think in terms of messaging, the average person gets about five to 7,000 is above messages a day. And so like cook spaghetti, you know, what’s going to actually stick on the wall and how can I focus on you, Dr. Orsini when I’ve got all this other stuff flashing and then this other thing that’s happened with the virtual world, the world we live in, it creates what’s been called the absence presence. Not too sure if you’re familiar with that, but it’s the ability to physically be someplace, you know, you’re in a conference room, but you are virtually someplace else. And so it’s putting a stop gap on talking to somebody, you know, a stranger, you know, on a bus or a cab driver, you know, conversing, you know, with somebody who is in a new country there.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (26m 16s):
I mean all that stuff, the idea to make small talk. And we taught a lot about the book in making small talk becomes almost irrelevant. We’ve got to focus on what we’re doing. And yet what we learned is what are the most important things that you do before that PowerPoint presentation is the five minutes you have of small talk . And small is around for a reason, it’s around because evolutionary psychologist will tell you, it is the way that we break down barriers. Right? So I need you when I go, Oh you lived in New Jersey. Well, okay. I know what bridge I can take you to. I mean, we, we started right.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (26m 57s):
We actually interviewed, and we actually did a film on them. I think it was in our later book. The power of Small I’m not sure if it was in Why Little Things Make All the Difference Tacoma, Washington and are reminded of the story because you were talking about the guy who is cleaning the cribs, how you made them feel so, so important as he was. So in Tacoma, Washington, several years ago, there was a woman named Anne Marie, who would come in every day to get her cup of, I dunno, decaf latte or whatever it was. And Sandy was the barista. Now no one ever talked to Sandy. It was a very transactional relationship. You know, what do you want?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (27m 36s):
Here’s your change? Except Anne Marie will talk to her. They were about the same age they were in their mid fifties. She ask her how you do. And they didn’t even know what each other’s names, but they used to always have this friendly chit chat. Well, this went by for several months and one day Anna Marie walks in and Sandy can see that she’s been crying and she doesn’t look well, her face is ashen and she leans over and she says, are you okay? And the Anna Marie breaks into tears. And she said, you know, I feel comfortable telling you this, but I need a kidney. You know mine they are failing. And I’ve just found out that nobody in my family is a blood match.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (28m 19s):
So waiting for a donor and she’s crying. Then there’s a long line of people waiting to get their decaf latte and Sandy leans over. I always get chills when I think about this story and she puts her hand on top of Anne Marie’s and says, you know what honey, I’m going to get tested for. As luc would have it. She was a perfect blood match. And, and now they share besides sharing stories of their grandchildren. They have also, you know, shared a kidney. And her husband said to Sandy, if you make any more friends, just don’t give any more body parts of away If you don’t have to.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (28m 59s):
We invited them to New York, there I’ve never been to New York. Then we did it a little film with them, which is on YouTube, called the power of smalltalk. And I know we asked each of them to write a letter to each other. And so Sandy writes his letter when she reads it. And she was talking about how you save my life. If you did something that no one else can do. And you know, and Sandy reads her later and she said, you did more for me. You gave my life meaning. And a job that I thought was meaningless. You have made me feel so incredible about the power of what human beings can do for each other. And you know, every time I hear this story, I cry it’s so amazing the power of connections that we make or that we don’t make because we decide to not make small talk with a stranger.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (29m 50s):
Yeah. That’s a beautiful story. We are all about communication. And I know you do improv. In fact, you teach improv, right? Right.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (29m 59s):
I do. I don’t think I’m particularly great at improv, but you know, improv is a very connected to the business as you know, because I know that’s something that you worked with a lot because at the Yes and theory and improv, when somebody sets you’re a scene partner and somebody says your a two headed toad, no matter what you thought you were going to be, you thought you were going to be Abraham Lincoln, but now you’re a two headed toad. You have to go with it and expand on it. We did that a lot with our Agency where we didn’t allow people to say no. So if somebody threw out an idea, you’d have to Yes and it, and sort of improve on it and sometimes turn it around. And I always found that the best ideas were somebody who’s bad ideas that where they felt comfortable enough talking about it.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (30m 43s):
But it also improves listening skills. We don’t know how to listen to each other anymore. We process words faster than we talk. So when somebody is talking to us about half way through where already figuring out how we are going to answer them. And one of the things I talk about is we should more of us to just shut up and listen. We all want to feel like we’re Mensa graduates and want to fill the room with our wonderful information, right?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 10s):
Yeah. It’s been said that we listened not to hear and we listened to respond. I think that’s a big issue.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (31m 17s):
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 17s):
Rabbi Kushner who I’m a big fan of it because I have read all of his books. He said, when you don’t know what to say, you say, you’re sorry, and then shut up. And I, I love that. I used that during my day, but improvisational wise, you know, I used that prov and teaching physicians and business leaders, how to communicate and how to use nonverbal language. And I’ve learned so much from the actors that I work with. And these are big time actors. And you know, some of them are local, but some of them are very accomplished and you learn a lot about communication and I’m guessing that’s that improv helped you because you’re obviously a fantastic communicator. So, so I want to move on though. God, I can talk to you for hours, but I want to move on. Because last time we spoke, you shared a personal story.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 57s):
As we segue into healthcare and communication, and you shared a personal story with me about some difficult conversations that you had when you are sick. And if you don’t mind sharing that and we can kind of discuss the conversations that you had to endure.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (32m 13s):
Yeah. And I wrote about it and actually my first book ware at the age of 39 I hadn’t formed my company yet and my husband and I were trying to get pregnant. And it was five years of miscarriages and it was awful. And here I’m approaching that magic age where maybe with a biological clock is ticking. And so I found out that I had breast cancer and I was fortunate. You know, I pulled through my doctor who was a brilliant surgeon. He had operated on, my mother had also had breast cancer. And thankfully lived till the age of almost 95. Like my dad, he calls me to tell me that.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (32m 56s):
And I’m still at Sloan Kettering that the lymph nodes were normal. She had a mastectomy. And when he said, but I have something I have to tell you and bring your husband, what is it? Just bring your husband, you know, that sort of the woman isn’t going to understand or, you know, move the Han. And so he wouldn’t tell me, which was awful. And the next week we go see him and he tells me, don’t get pregnant. Why shouldn’t I get pregnant? I know you want to get pregnant, but here’s why you shouldn’t, you know, and do you have a hormone based cancer and who knows what’ll happen?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (33m 36s):
And he had no bedside manner at all. He wouldn’t explain anything to me. He wouldn’t give me any comforting advice. I finally had to go to my GP was an amazing, who sat with me for an hour with people. And we went in the waiting room and he had one of the best physicians in the country. He just retired. And he drew me pictures of what my particular cancer looked like and why you should feel good about what was done and how it was done. But to have a surgeon who was so short with me, even when I woke up from the, and he went, he didn’t think I was with the biopsy. It, it was going to be cancer.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (34m 16s):
And he just didn’t know. And I wake up out of it. And he says, you have cancer when you get operated on next week. That’s how I found out that I had cancer coming out of it. You know,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 28s):
That’s a terrible, you know, as you and I spoke before and people will listen to this, he knows that this is what I do. ’cause most people will be surprised that there is no training on how to deliver tragic news. There’s no training on physicians on how to have difficult conversations, but it can be learned. And your doctor drew you pictures. But really, if you think about it, it wasn’t, the pictures of that made you feel better. It was his comforting tone and his mannerisms, correct?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (34m 57s):
Yeah. You know, he is the kind of guy I had this awful bout of pneumonia several years ago. And then it turned into this weird virus where it just didn’t go away. And it was just, I, it, it was horrible. And I walked into his office, John allegedly amazing guy, just an amazing guy. And he said, you know, you have this virus, blah, blah. I said, am I going to die? It makes my hand. And he says, Linda you are going to die. So if they’re not going to die, have this particular virus. So he said, my job is not stopping you from dying. It’s creating it to be a longterm procedure if you will. But you know, and it was the humor. And I have to tell you one amazing story that came out.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (35m 38s):
I did visit with Larry Norton, who, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, but he’s one of the top breast cancer oncologist in the country. And he was at Sloan-Kettering and he was the one who finally, after my doctor said, I shouldn’t try to get pregnant. He said, it’s okay. And he told me why it was okay. And so he gave me that green light and I said, thank you. And he said, no, I want to thank you because I don’t usually get to give good news. The answer is going on. Right? So fast forward, eight years, I now have my son, Michael, I have two children and Michael, you know, the one Dr. Frank told me not to have became the kindergarten champion of chess in the United States.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (36m 22s):
They wrote a book about him and he just graduated from Harvard with a a degree in Economics I mean, he’s amazing, our daughter is a musician, but anyway, I knew that Larry Norton was going to speak at this lunch, in this fundraising lunch. And, and I said to the woman running it, can you please have me be the first person to raise my hand? If people want to ask the question or whatever, he said, why he said, I’ll tell you why. So raised my hand. I said, Dr Fracchia you probably will remember me. And then I told him the story, that what he had said to me as I left, I said, thank you. And he said, you know what, thank you. That the way you can thank me and send me a picture of your child when he or she is born.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (37m 6s):
Yes, absolutely. I agree with that. Right.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (37m 8s):
So as I am, so, as we were going through this and he says to me, Oh yeah, I remember it. And he said, well, where’s the picture. I was, well, first of all, I have to pictures of a son and a daughter. But today I want to, before I came here, I said to Michael, and he was like eight years old at a time. I said, I want to tell you about a man that made it possible for you to be here today. And he decided to autograph the book. They wrote a book about it when he was seven. And so I gave Dr. Norton a book. He was in tears. And he said, thank you for reminding me once again, why I do what I do. And I heard later that they raised a lot of money if the lunch, and that was good.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (37m 51s):
You know, they raised a lot of money for breast cancer research,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (37m 54s):
But it’s such an impact in medicine on how you deliver that news, whether it’s good or bad news. And it’s all about relationships. And I always make it clear that I do truly believe that every doctor and nurse is compassionate, but that we are not taught. And sometimes we forget that it’s a human being on the other side. ’cause we get task-oriented. I wish there were a nurse behind that Dr. who tapped them on the shoulder and said, Dr it’s all in the delivery. Maybe he would have said, let me try again.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (38m 25s):
My father was an amazing man. He had a heart attack when he was 55. And again, he had one of these doctors that didn’t have any bedside manner. And my father woke, he told me the story years later, because he was embarrassed to tell at the time. And he was a very, you know, brave kind of guy and serious or whatever. And he said, Linda when I woke up after the surgery, I started to cry, really cry. And this Jamaican nurse took me in her arms. My father did not have a good childhood. He did not have good parents. He said, she took me in her arms and she said, Mr. Kaplan is going to be okay, but you can cry as long as you want.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (39m 8s):
And he said it was the most important part of my recovery of this to make a nurse telling me it was going to be okay,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 16s):
What was circling right back to the power of Nice aren’t We for those of you who haven’t listened to every one of these episodes, I interviewed an amazing man called Marcus Engel, that he was one of the first podcasts people that I interviewed. And I’ll share with you his story very quickly. So Marcus was 19 years old and he and his friends are on their way to a hockey game when they got T-boned and his three friends died immediately. Mark has had multiple injuries, including the immediate blindness, and Marcus was barely hanging on and he found himself, he woke up and the trauma bay, there are people putting chest tubes in him and he can’t see so 19 years old, he’s so afraid. He has no idea what happened.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 57s):
And there was someone who came over to him, he grabbed his hand and said, Marcus, I’m here. In fact, that’s the name of Marcus’s book I’m here. And he didn’t know who that was. He didn’t even know if he hallucinated it. But all I knew is that it made him feel better. Well, Marcus forgive me if I’m getting this wrong. But I think it was 20 years later, Marcus Now teaches patient experience. And he goes around hospital’s you have professor at Notre Dame. It, he goes on in hospitals, teaching people what its like to be a, a patient. He was giving a lecture at that hospital about patient experience and the chief of the hospital’s so that I have a surprise for you. And there was the woman who was, and she came out, it turns out that she was not a nurse.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (40m 41s):
She was a tech. And so that person who went to school and his now talking about giving good karma, she is now a chief of nursing. And so what a great story. And I think it all circles back to your book, the power of Nice that little bit extra that your doctor does for you or that your boss does for you is just amazing. So in finishing up, I want to ask you to just one more question. So what advice, because I have to give some valuable advice to get advice from Linda. I mean, this, this is awesome. What advice do you have to anyone, whether you are a boss, a leader or a CEO let’s talk about CEO is your head of your own company and you need to be a better leader to get people rally around you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (41m 21s):
I know being nice. Any communication device that you would say, this is what you need to do to be successful.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (41m 27s):
You know, it was interesting when I sold my company, they merged with this other company that had very bad culture and I’m a big believer because one of our other books is at the power of small Why Little Things Make All the Difference is, you know, they were a nation that looks, you know, that forest for the trees. And I always say now the most important thing as the leaf, you know, it’s the leaf that makes it ends up being the forest, right? So I am, I don’t mean a micromanager in a bad way, but so important on small things. And when I was leaving the company that I had sold, and there was a person who was taking over as CEO, who was a bad culture, that she was fostering and she said, what am I doing wrong?
Linda Kaplan Thaler (42m 7s):
Before you leave just tell me what I can do. I said, well, you can start by answering the emails that people are sending you. People would send me at the time before I actually left. You know, we are at the time, at this time, there were 800 people in the company and you know, somebody would email that they had a good meeting at Proctor and gamble and I will be on the CC list as well as this other woman. And as well as the other C-suite people, you know, at the agency. And I would always, I didn’t care if I was CC’d I would go back and I said, great, you’ve got a car. That’s fantastic. Or if I can walk by the office, I was stopped by it. I would say, that’s a fantastic, if there was a good test score, we worked on a tremendous amount of pharmaceutical drugs.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (42m 52s):
You name it, we worked on it. So as you know, to go through trials takes years. So if you had a good test scores and it would always answered them and people would always answer me back and say, you realize you’re the only person of the managers that ever e-mails us back. And so there’s woman said to me, Oh, but I am busy. And I said, Oh no. I said, Michael Dell answers 800 emails a day. And he’s a very busy person. I say that Michael Bloomberg has given out his personal phone number. I said, you can’t be busier than you are them. And I said, it, it takes about five seconds to actually say glad you had a great meeting. So my advice to people is always start with really small things.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (43m 33s):
I would always get anybody in the company and find out when their birthday is, I put it on my calendar and I wish them happy birthday. And they will, or they couldn’t believe the CEO remember their birthday or it was such a small thing. But it’s what builds up a groundswell of how you behave. Now, I’m happy to say there’s so many people in our company from years ago have their own companies. And they always say, we teach the methods that you and Robin taught and we’re trying to continue doing that. And so that makes me feel incredible because you create a fertile universe, right? You create your universe and the more positive imprints or like seeds, they come out, they’re going to grow in ways you can’t imagine.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (44m 21s):
And you probably won’t even know about them for 10 or 20 or 30 years, but they will grow. So I always tell, especially young people, don’t worry about networking, call it, Nice working, figure out how many people you can do or say something nice to. And those flowers will bloom
Dr. Anthony Orsini (44m 41s):
Great advice. So B the head of the fish, if you are a good head of a fish, everybody will thrive. Thank you.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (44m 48s):
The problem is though, I only eat it filleted so I don’t get to see the head.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (44m 53s):
Every week I promised my audience two things that they’ll be inspired and that they will learn valuable and communication techniques. And I certainly have done that this week. You are amazing. I wanted to talk to you about Great the Great. So maybe I’ll put you on the spot and get you to come back on to talk about that another time.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (45m 11s):
I would be delighted to you, our one of the best interviewers. And I’m so happy for the work you do, because I know it’s imprinting on so many thousands of people. So,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (45m 22s):
But he heard that she agreed to come back on. So this is the first time I’ve ever offered that.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (45m 26s):
Oh, and by the way, I am fine. If anybody wants to communicate with me is just Linda Kaplan prod P or pro D like Productions gmail.com or are you can visit my website. Kaplan Thaler Productions and just maybe something will spark your interest.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (45m 43s):
Linda will put all that stuff on the show notes. If he enjoyed this podcast, please go and hit, subscribed, and download all of the previous episodes. And if you need to get in touch with me, I am at the Orsini Way.Com, but you can email me directly at Dr. Orsini at the Orsini Way. Com. Thank you Linda.
Linda Kaplan Thaler (45m 58s):
Have a great day everybody. And thank you again for interviewing me. It was my pleasure.
Announcer (46m 3s):
If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button and leave a comment. If you contact Dr. Orsini and his team, or do you suggest guests for a future podcast, visit us at the Orsini Way.com.
Dr. Anthony Orsini
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