January 14

Episode 18: The Prelude to Leadership Model with Jason Meucci


In this episode, Jason Meucci discusses how to bring out the best in your employees. He discusses the Prelude to Leadership Model using the 3c’s: Care, Connection, and Contribution.  

How can we build more influential relationships with our employees to better serve them as effective leaders? Jason shows us how to help employees recognize what they do matters. 

Guest Bio

As a leadership coach, team building facilitator, and aspiring educator, Jason Meucci helps organizations and leaders to empower their people to be their best selves and inspires them to pursue bigger possibilities. Jason aspires to his purpose to create a world of work that makes people better, not broken.  

Jason holds a Master’s degree in Organizational and Change Leadership from Gonzaga University and has a certification in Leadership Development and Succession Strategy from the Human Capital Institute, and a Communications Certificate from Emory University. 

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • The Prelude to Leadership Model (3C’s) is about making people feel seen, heard, and valued.
  • Care is a holistic approach to meeting the needs of your employees
  • A connection is how to “cultivate people to purpose” and “cultivate purpose to possibilities”
  • Contribution  is how to empower people to use their unique strengths and gifts for creating solutions within your organization
  • Recognition of contributions creates an empowering work environment.


  • “When you implement care, connection, and contribution into your culture, things are really going to open up” Jason Meucci
  • “We are no longer a home person and a work person. We are human beings” Jason Meucci
  • “People are going to perform better because they know they are cared for” Jason Meucci
  • “Care for people as human beings, not functions” Mike O’Neill 
  • “We’re all seeing lives played out in front of us, on camera – [the] barrier is not there” Jason Meucci
  • “I would hope … you’re learning about how people want to grow and what their intrinsic motivators are” Jason Meucci
  • “Connection happens through the empathy that you’ve shown” Jason Meucci
  • “I like to ask questions that really get to the heart of what makes people tick” Jason Meucci
  • “Contribution is an innate need to feel valued” Mike O’Neill
  • “Create a sense of contribution by empowering people to use their unique strengths and gifts” Mike O’Neill, quoting Jason Meucci’s website
  • “There’s an enormous number of ideas or innovative possibilities” Jason Meucci
  • “Let [your employees] design their own solutions” Jason Meucci
  • “ You give people on your team the opportunity to shine” Mike O’Neill
  • “The more you lay those foundations during the care…and connection phase. the more you’re going to enable, and empower people to contribute”  Jason Meucci
  • “Letting people use their superpowers… is valuable to them” Jason Meucci

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill:  

Welcome back to the Get Unstuck & On Target Show. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders, and we're speaking with thought leaders to uncover tips to help you break down the barriers that are keeping you or your business stuck. Joining me today is my friend, Jason Meucci. Jason is a leadership coach team builder who helps leaders and organizations get the best out of their employees by empowering and inspiring them to be their best selves.

Welcome Jason.

Jason Meucci: Thanks, Mike. Yeah, you and I have been friends for a while now, and I've always sort of secretly wanted to be on this podcast. And so it's great. Thank you for making a sort of a goal or a dream come true. It was great to be here.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I'm flattered by the comment I very much wanted to have you on.

And so I'm looking forward to our time together today. I've asked Jason to guide us through his prelude to leadership model. Specifically, I've asked if he would kind of share how being intentional about creating a sense of care, connection, and contribution for your team, how that can help you as a leader, get your organization.

Back on target and help unlock the greatness in your employees. So, Jason, I heard those three C's and you call this model, the prelude to leadership. What does that mean? Prelude to leadership?

Jason Meucci: Yeah, that, that word is very intentional. I chose, I chose that for a reason. And if you think about, you know, one of the definitions of prelude is an action or event serving as an introduction to something more important.

And that's exactly how I envisioned this model working. It's sort of how it's been playing out in my professional life. And in the work I'm doing now is if you do this stuff at the outset before you, maybe start going down the road of some, some harder work, it really creates a bigger space for people to really flourish and succeed and makes all those.

All those goals, much more achievable and all those dreams much more possible because you do this stuff at the outset and you sort of do it ongoing before you prioritize it really before the task driven stuff. But when you implement care culture or sorry, care, connection, and contribution into your culture, you're going to really open up.

You're going to sort of grease the skids, so to speak for some much more important and bigger work to come.

Mike O'Neill: All right. Thank you for clarifying. If you don't mind, what I'd like to do is go through these kind of one by one, the first one being care, and that is you. Describe, prioritize and demonstrate holistic care for people as human beings, not as functions.

Can we unpack that a little bit? When you say prioritize and demonstrate holistic care, what does holistic care


Jason Meucci: Yeah. And, you know, before you even get into that, I want to, I want to stress how much care is the foundation to all of this? You know, this, when I talk about how basic this stuff is, it is it's, you know, there's a reason.

That's another reason why I called it a prelude because it's so basic. And it maps to our basic human needs and that's where that holistic part comes in, which I'll get back to your question in just a second. But when you think about Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, these things sort of mapped directly to that, whereas care is about the foundational needs.

We all have around just sort of safety and nourishment, and any, when it comes to care where I'm talking about, you know, physical wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing, emotional wellbeing. All these things that go into what makes us whole as a human being. And so often, you know, leaders only sort of, you know, they, they talked to us about how we're doing work-wise, but we're, you know, we're all people, including leaders, you know?

And so a lot of this, it starts with self care. But holistically I'm talking about everything that makes up the human experience and sort of. Acknowledging that those things are also important. We know, I think the time has finally passed, thankfully, where, you know, maybe this has been accelerated by COVID, but we're no longer a work person and a home person.

We are human beings. And in the more that we can acknowledge all of the things that go into that and the complexities and the beautiful parts of being human and care for all those parts, the better people are going to perform because they know that they're cared for.

Mike O'Neill: You know,

you differentiate.

Care for people as human beings, not functions. Are you, when you say functions, what do you mean by functions?

Jason Meucci: Yeah, you know, I, you know, we probably have all had experiences with bosses who only will talk to us about. You know, status updates on work or tasks and, or, you know, what's going on within our roles and responsibilities, but they don't talk to us very often about what's going on in our lives or how do we want to grow?

What do we care about, you know, in addition to the context of our work, this isn't to, at all, to minimalize the importance of work talk. But it's just to amplify the importance of being a human being. And when you tend to those things, you really get the best out of people. And so, when I, when I, you know, whoever I'm trying to lead or coach or whatever I'm looking at at that person as just that as a person and not, Oh, this is a, you know, an individual contributor or whatever their title may be.

There's just so much more to people than that. And so, that's what I mean, you know, we have to look at people as people and not whatever role they may fill or whatever title they may have in your organization.

Mike O'Neill: Jason, You made reference to the bluring and the lines between work and home since so many people now are working from home.

Continue on this theme of caring. We have an audience of leaders who you're challenging us to demonstrate care when you're working remotely. What might be some practical suggestions you have that a leader can do to demonstrate that you genuinely do care for the employees that you're working with or working for you?

Jason Meucci: Yeah. Well, hopefully, you know, by now, you know, all these months into, into the pandemic, you know, hopefully leaders have gotten sort of, you know, it's, it's a sort of natural or, standard part of the workweek or the workday to just check in on, you know, asking your people, how are you doing? How are you feeling?

And it really listened to that and don't accept fine as an answer, you know, just really be curious. Ask questions about, you know, what people are struggling with, whether that's in life or in work, because, you know, we're all seeing each other's lives play out on camera in front of us. Now it's no longer, you know, there's, there's, this barrier is not there.

In some cases we can kind of see literally for ourselves what people will what's going on in people's homes and in their lives. And so being curious, you know, there's an incredible amount of power that comes from, being curious about what's going on with people and how they're doing and what you could do to sort of maybe move an obstacle out of their way, or, you know, ask what they're struggling with or ask what's going on in their lives outside of work.

You know, how are they spending, you know, this quarantine, you, you, some people may not have seen their team members for months. And so I would hope that in that span of time, you're asking, you know, and you're learning about what's going on in their lives and, and really checking in on, you know, how people want to grow and what their intrinsic motivators.

Are just carving out in those one-on-one conversations that you're hopefully having on a, on a weekly basis, if not more. Just to carve out time to talk about the person in front of you and not the work that has to be done and just figure out, you know, who they want to be, not just what they want to do.

Mike O'Neill: A great response. And I love that concept of we're living a life on camera. I haven't heard it said that way, but boy, is that not true? You know, you mentioned also in your three C's, the importance of connections,  and the way you kind of lay it out for me ahead of time, cultivate meaningful connection between people from people to purpose and from purpose to possibilities.

Walk us through. Connection please.

Jason Meucci: Yeah. So, you know, as is the way I sort of envisioned these is sort of stacked on top of each other much, like Maslow's hierarchy, they just sort of, they build up to each other. And so as we go up through care, you have to have that care first, before you can start to really form a connection with a person.

And that connection happens through. You know, the empathy that you've shown the interest you've shown, in that, in that person. So connection is where you really start to feel that special energy. I think Renee Brown talks about, you know, she defines connection. I think as, as the energy that exists between people, when they feel seen, heard, and valued.

And for me, that's what this whole model is all about is making people feel, seen, heard, and valued. And at the end of contributions, sort of at the top of this mountain, we're going to get to that word when we talk about mattering, but that middle step is connection. Whereas I am taking time or making the effort to connect with you on a really, again, a human level by asking things that have nothing to do with work, finding out what you're interested in.

And then, you know, building connections between your teammates creating, you know, have the first five or 10 minutes of your team meeting, again, being not about work whatsoever, but asking generative questions about what people are interested in, you know, finding out fun facts about them. And I'm talking about questions that go beyond just your

typical icebreakers. Those are fun too. But I like to ask questions that really get to the heart of what makes people tick and what's important to them or what they're interested in and sort of, you know, what their goals are. So I'll ask questions like that. And it creates a real time sense of connection because you're having this deeper conversation and you're carving out space for topics that you don't normally talk about with workmates and you just organically, you can start to sort of feel those biochemicals flowing because you're connecting with people because you're learning about who they are and what makes them tick.

And so I think the best leaders, not only are you doing that, you're having these conversations. One-to-one and then with your team and you, listen, you listen very closely for things that matter to people, because those are bells that you can go back and ring later as a leader, you can, you know, give them a gift when it comes to the, the recognition portion of this, which is tied to contribution, you know, think about the things that you learned about that human being in those conversations.

So it's, it's a real time win because you're having these great conversations, but for leaders, it's a really helpful tool to really listen to what matters to people. So that you can, take those little nuggets of information and use those to build a more influential relationship with people and to better serve them as a leader.

Mike O'Neill: You began describing how this is almost something we need to visualize as kind of layers care connection. And then you've made reference to contribution, how important it is to individuals. It's an innate need to feel valued. Let me share with our, viewers and listeners, you write, create a sense of contribution by empowering people to use their unique strengths and gifts and recognizing them for how and why they make a difference.

It's pretty powerful sentence there. How does, how do we do that as leaders?

Jason Meucci: Yeah,, so yeah, as we, as we move from connection to contribution, and again that these do stack on top of each other, because you have to feel connected so that you know how people want to contribute and through the process of care and connection, hopefully you have discovered people's strengths and their dreams and their super powers and how that, like, they want to make a difference in the world.

And then you can create, you know, you can design work. That allows them to use their superpowers. And sometimes it can be as simple as how often do we stop and ask our people, Hey, is there a skill or a strength you have, or maybe even an interest you have that you feel like you are not getting to use enough in, in your course of work?

Let them talk about that. And maybe there's some, you know, there's probably an enormous number of ideas or innovative possibilities that can come from those conversations and just create the space for people to use their favorite muscles. I mean, it's just a really energizing thing. When someone, you know, asks, how would you most like to contribute?

I'm not going to just pigeonhole you into whatever work I need you to do. Maybe we do need to do excuse me. Maybe we do need you to do that work, but how you do it is up to you. And that's a big really, you know, give people ownership of how they get work done. You can  you, you can lay out the desired outcomes, maybe as a leader, but let them design their own solutions.

It's incredibly empowering for people. When leaders show that trust to let people, get the work done in a way that uses their strengths. Maybe there's an opportunity for people to sort of exchange their, their knowledge base. You know, I think I love to create opportunities or encouraged leaders to create opportunities for teammates to, to teach others what they're great at for those who want to learn.

It's just, it's really, really empowering for people to have a chance to share their expertise. It just really, I think uplifts them, which is what leadership should be all about. And so designing work in a way that lines up with not only people's strengths, but you know, again, through Care contribution, you've hopefully learned about how your people want to grow.

And so give them assignments to help them do that. Don't just give them assignments where they're just sort of having to do, you know, check box task work, but give them assignments that feed their goals and their growth, you know, desires. And so when you do that, It's just incredible. You create a huge sense of commitment and engagement and you know, intention to stay because people feel like what they are doing matters, why it matters to the organization, but it also matters to them because they feel like they are getting a chance to use their best skills.

Mike O'Neill: Jason, I love as you described this, how these things begin to kind of fit together. You know, if you are going to demonstrate that you really care, you're a leader who cares. And one way you demonstrate that is you give people on your team, the opportunity to, shine to play to their strengths. What I really loved is your recommendation to ask those same people who have those strengths to be able to come alongside other members of the team.

And if that happens, you increase the likelihood that connection, is built. Am I understanding that correctly?

Jason Meucci: Absolutely. They are, you know, these are, they are, they absolutely. They, they stack on top of each other, these three C's, but they also, they're very sort of, it's almost like a positive feedback loop.

The more you do want it kind of just creates this sort of fly wheel effect and they do all sort of fit together.  You have to have, you can't really have all of them without me and all of them, they all, they all need each other. And the more you lay those foundations during the care, you know, phase and the connection phase, the more you're going to enable and empower people to contribute.

And I want to point out, you know,  contribution is great. When we feel like we are using our best gifts in the line of work, or we're doing work that aligns with our personal purpose and professional goals, but it only goes so far without the other key sort of,  partner to contribution, which is recognition.

That's what really makes a difference is when we are. Literally seen and valued for how we are contributing and having a leader that points out how, what we do makes a difference, or if sometimes maybe just how, who we are makes a difference. That's a really, really empowering or energizing thing for someone to hear is for it to have a leader or even a peer.

You know, I, I stress the importance of peer to peer recognition and this as well,  have them point out in real time. Hey, how you did that thing really made a difference or I really appreciated the way you've listened to me in that meeting. Just little things, you know, there's a, there's a legendary servant leader, patriarch Kim Blanchard, who some of your, your listeners may be familiar with, who loves it, talks about the concept of catching them doing something right.

And so how often, you know, do leader only sort of give you feedback. When you've done something quote, wrong or not up to standards or whatever it may be. And yes, there has to be feedback conversations when those things happen. But those conversations are so much easier when you have this foundation of care, connection and contribution because people feel trusted, they feel valued.

And they know that their leader has their best interests at heart. So those messages are a lot easier, easier to receive. But again, when a leader points out, yeah, I think there's a, there's a stat. Like you need to hear like a five to one ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback or negative feedback is really going to have a toxic effect as opposed to being a growth opportunity.

And so the more times that you or your peers can point out how somebody made a difference and it doesn't have to be a monumental achievement, or huge business outcome, just a little thing. In fact, recognizing those little things are really how you get to the big things.

Mike O'Neill: Thanks for explaining that, you know, the theme of this podcast is, asking our guests to share, examples of people getting stuck in what happened to get unstuck.

Can I ask that same question of you? Would you be willing to share an example where perhaps, maybe a client of yours got stuck and what is it that you and your client together were able to do to get that client unstuck?

Jason Meucci: Yeah. You know, I've had a really, there's a really nice success story with one of my clients that I coach through this earlier this year.

And it was really just, you know, we had to co to, you know, coaching sessions and with that, she was able to get unstuck with her team. And, you know, I'll tell you a little bit, you know, about the background of what was going on. And this is a person who like everybody, pretty much these days, she was leading a remote team.

And you know, I'll throw in the fact here that most of her team are millennials and she is a gen X-er. And so there's some generational things that you have to account for there as well. And she was expressing to me that she was really sort of frustrated because her team was not very engaged.

They, you know, they weren't really completing work or they weren't completing it on deadline. And they were feeling, you know, to use your terms, they were genuinely feeling, she was feeling stuck with them. And the more I listened to her talk about what was going on and, and how her team was performing and behaving and started asking some of these questions.

It was really clear to me. That honestly, you know, I didn't say this word explicitly at the time, but there, her team was not feeling cared for, because really I could tell that all of the conversations that they were, they were having were just strictly about deadlines and work and tasks and rules, whatever it may be.

There was no human level of conversation. And then, you know, they weren't feeling connected to each other. They were geographically dispersed. They were obviously all virtual. And so there wasn't, you know, I asked her to tell me about some of the structure of her, her weekly meetings. And there was no time carved out in those meetings for connection building.

It was all, again, work, check in status updates, things like that. And then I asked, you know, how was she recognizing, like, how does she recognize. You know, when people do something well, or how does she bring out the best in her people? And it was just really simple things that, you know, she was not really taking the time to ask, Hey, is there something that you would like to do something you'd like to spend more time on and some sort of skill you have that you're not getting to use enough?

And she wasn't really giving specific recognition of people in the work that they were. Absolutely. She would acknowledge, Hey, thanks for getting that done or nice job, but nothing really specific, nothing really real time. And so we sort of worked through, I gave her some, some conversation starters, so I'm sort of intention setting that she could do and, sort of, a template, if you will, about how she can surface a greater sense of contribution and make people feel like their work uniquely matters.

She started doing that for, I guess it was probably like four or six weeks later. And she says that it's a completely different, level of engagement from her team. They're all still remote. Of course, it's all still the same people. But they're much more engaged. They're, they're much more innovative.

They're not just doing work to get it done, but they're actually bringing new ideas. And so, I feel like that's a real, a real success story by just going back to these hyper basic principles of, of human needs.

Mike O'Neill: And you just effectively modeled the three C's and that is you try to encourage her to demonstrate caring, by paying attention to the contributions that individuals and collectively the group is making, recognizing what happens and in turn that obviously strengthens the connection.

That's a great illustration. Thank you for sharing that. Jason. You've really given us some great information, but if you were to summarize the kinds of things you want to make sure that we've heard in our time together, what might be those takeaways?

Jason Meucci: Yeah. You know, I think the default in some leaders is, well, we don't have time for all this touchy, feely, you know, stuff.

And my argument would be that you don't have time not to, you kind of have to slow down to go fast. And again, that's called prelude for a reason because when you can do these things at the outset, as much as you can, people are going to go faster. They're going to work harder. They're going to care more.

Imagine how much more employees will care about your customers when they feel cared for at work. So, I would just challenge leaders to ask the you know, one carve out one-on-one time to talk about things that aren't related to work and ask the extra questions, listen, to understand, pay attention to what matters to people and what's going on in their, in their lives and where they want to go.

Do things to make people feel seen, heard, and valued as a person, not as an employee. Make daily, or at least weekly intentions to build connection by adding a few minutes to connect on a human level with your team in meetings, take steps and sort of listen to that, to where there might be overlap and interest or passions amongst your employees, and maybe use some storytelling to connect them to a shared purpose.

That's a really great sort of sealant, if you will, on this connection piece is creating that sense of shared purpose and communicating it on a regular basis. And storytelling goes a long way towards that. And then again, with contribution that catch them doing something right, is such a simple thing, but we don't do it so well.

Cause we, you know, people take things for granted, I guess, and, giving people autonomy and ownership, letting people use their super powers, whether that's something that you feel, is valuable or not, it's valuable to them. And if they're getting the work done that you expect them, we'll let them get it done in their own way.

Then recognize them for how somebody made a difference, whether it's a behavior or a completion of a task, or just their way of being, recognize them very specifically in real time, as much as you can for how they made a difference. And then when you do that, people are going to feel like they matter. And I use the word feel also very intentionally because it's not just knowing that you matter, you have to feel it because if you want to get to people's head, get the most out of what's in people's heads or get the most out of what they can do with their hands.

My argument is you have to go through their hearts. You have to make them feel this stuff when they do, they become super superheroes. And you know, that's what every leader should hopefully be doing is making heroes out of their team. And you do that by caring for them. Connecting them to something bigger than themselves and helping them understand how, what they do matters.

Mike O'Neill: Jason, those are great takeaways. If someone wants to reach out to you to perhaps continue this conversation or learn more, what's the best way for them to connect with you online.

Jason Meucci: Yeah. Find me on, on LinkedIn. You know, Jason Meucci M E U C C I, I'm there. And then, you know, on, on Twitter, I tweet a lot about this stuff @JMeucci and then just new I'm fairly new by the time this comes out is, there's a Twitter handle for this model.

You know, I call it it's @leaderprelude on Twitter.

Mike O'Neill: Fantastic. Jason. Thank you. You were a great guest. I knew you would be, but you also explain things in a way by going through those three C's for us. I really appreciate your willingness to give us that prelude to leadership model. Thank you.

Jason Meucci: You're quite welcome.

It's exciting to talk about this. It's a difference maker.

Mike O'Neill: I can see that excitement in your eyes and in your voice, and also want to thank our listeners who have joined us for this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target. We've lined up great thought leaders like Jason, that I'm sure you'll enjoy getting to know.

 We upload the latest episode every Thursday, and I hope you'll subscribe via, Apple, Spotify, whatever your favorite platform might be. But if you've been listening to my discussion with Jason and you're realizing that something is keeping you or your company stuck, let's talk, visit unstuck.show to schedule a call, we'll explore what's got you or your company stuck and what you perhaps can do to overcome it. So I'd like to thank you for joining us and I hope you've picked up some tips that'll help you get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.
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