Douglas Noll was born nearly deaf, nearly blind, crippled with two club feet, and left-handed. Despite this, he learned how to learn, and ultimately became a lawyer-turned-peacemaker, best-selling author of four books, speaker, visionary, and teacher. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts to training life inmates to be peacemakers and mediators in maximum-security prisons.
He teaches thought leaders and business leaders how to use their emotions as part of their hidden genius. One of the ways he does this is by teaching people how to listen to others into existence.
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Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Douglas Noll: In 2010, my colleague Laurel Kaufer and I began the Prison of Peace project. We were asked by women serving life sentences in the largest, most violent women’s prison in the world to teach how to be peacemakers and mediators. They were determined to stop the violence. We said yes, and began training our first cohort of 15 women in April 2010. Today, Prison of Peace is operating in 15 California prisons, a prison in Connecticut, 12 prisons in Greece, and will be starting shortly in northern Italy and in Nairobi Kenya.
We have had over 2000 thousand of our students released on parole with zero recidivism. Not one of our students released to freedom has re-offended. Most are peacemakers and mediators in their communities.
The pandemic stopped our in-prison work but gave us a huge opportunity. This past spring and summer (2021) we have filmed our entire 84-hour curriculum, using paroled students who were our best trainers while they were serving time. By the end of the year, we hope to have the Prison of Peace curriculum available worldwide to any group that wishes to start Prison of Peace in their local communities.
As I reflect on this, I see how individual action can change the lives of 10s of thousands of people. While we live in a turbulent and chaotic world, we can still make a difference.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Douglas Noll:n As my biography states, I was born with some serious disabilities. Pain and discomfort, both physical and emotional, were my daily companions for decades. I had to work harder and longer just to keep up. What I learned was that I can master anything I want. I learned not to be afraid of being an incompetent beginner. I learned to ignore the laughter, taunting, and insults directed at me because I was different. I learned the importance of discipline, perseverance, and patience. I learned how to teach and mentor because there was no one to teach and mentor me. I learned never to give up even in the face of embarrassing failure. Every painful mistake was a lesson to be learned, and hopefully, not repeated.
All of this served me well when I made the decision to leave a highly successful law practice as a commercial and business civil trial lawyer. On November 1, 2000, I opened my peacemaking, mediation, and problem-solving practice and never looked back. I am grateful that I serve more people in a month than I did in 22 years as a practicing trial lawyer.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Douglas Noll: The biggest and most common mistake I see entrepreneurs make is to buy into the myth that humans are rational. The truth is that humans are 98% emotional and only 2% rational. I have observed flawed business decisions leading to lawsuits and financial losses because entrepreneurs failed to account for the emotionality of organizations and their people.
I recommend that entrepreneurs become comfortable and adept at using their hidden genius: their emotions. This goes far beyond the usual bromides about emotional intelligence. It involves training what neuroscientists call the “default mode” or social model of the brain. The most successful entrepreneurs have well-trained and developed task-focused systems (the seat of rationality) and social systems. Formal education only trains the task-focused system and ignores the social system so entrepreneurs have to do this training on their own or with a coach.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Douglas Noll: Yes. The pandemic has pivoted my business to being totally online and I love it. No more traveling to teach or speak–all of my talks and workshops are now virtual. And, my revenues have increased as my expenses have decreased. I am literally teaching and consulting with leaders worldwide, something that I could not imagine even five years ago.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Douglas Noll: Vision is most important. Leaders provide three fundamental services to the group they lead: focus, direction, and safety. Vision is the ability to look out over the horizon and see what’s ahead. Most people do not have this ability, which is why they rely on leaders. Good leaders can help their team members stay focused on tasks while the leader is looking ahead to future opportunities and threats.
Delegating is part of being a great leader, but what have you found helpful to get your managers to become valiant leaders as well?
Douglas Noll: Part of the job of leadership is teaching, training, and mentoring leaders behind and below. I like to work two levels deep so that the direct reports of my reports are being trained and mentored by me. And, I insist that leaders reporting to me do the same. In addition, I make sure that leaders are emotionally competent, can de-escalate anger, can calm volatile situations, and are strong critical thinkers.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Douglas Noll: I have observed that leaders not mindful of their own brand are not promoted and do not advance far. On the other hand, leaders that are consumed by their personal brand tend towards narcissism and are toxic to their organizations. Being mindful of one’s personal brand is, therefore, a balancing act between managing one’s image and public persona without obsessing about it
How would you define “leadership”?
Douglas Noll: Leadership is the ability to take a group of people, cohere them, and provide them focus, direction, and safety so that a defined task can be achieved as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Douglas Noll: Entrepreneurship is a learned set of skills. However, new entrepreneurs have to be courageous, not be afraid of failure and be doggedly persistent. These attributes take time to develop.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Douglas Noll: My favorite quote is “Managers manage things; leaders lead people.” Too many business people confuse management with leadership. They are radically different skills. Many can manage, few can lead. The quote helps me understand that managing or worse, micro-managing, is not leadership. Leadership is much more difficult and requires attention to things managers don’t even think about.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Douglas Noll for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Douglas Noll or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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