In many businesses there is a huge issue–we aren’t trained on how to collaborate. If we are, it’s limited to team-building exercises and this doesn’t create lasting change. Doug Crawley has learned how to collaborate in every area of his life–sports, business, ministry, and especially in the military where his life literally depended on it.
In his new book, Collaborate as If Your Life Depends on It, Doug shares stories from his life that illustrate the five C’s of collaboration, commitment, clarity, confidence, caution, and courage. You’ll learn from his triumphs and his failures what it takes to begin working with others towards shared success. This book is your ticket to increasing productivity, faster problem solving, enhanced innovation, better customer experiences, and most important of all, vastly improved relationships in business and in life.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Doug Crawley, author of Collaborate as if Your Life Depends on It: A Guide to Working Together to be Better Together. Doug, thank you for joining, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.
Doug Crawley: Thank you for having me.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off, can you give us a rundown of your professional background?
Doug Crawley: Well, first of all, you have to realize I’m kind of an old guy and there’s a lot that has happened in 76 years, but currently, I am the president of two companies, one that does warehouse staffing, assembly line workers, forklift drivers, that kind of thing. I also have a joint venture company that does packaging and distribution. I’m the president of both. We do, combined, about a hundred million dollars a year.
That’s just one hat, I’m a grandfather of six grandkids, I am the father of three sons, and in addition to that, I am the pastor of my church. So, I wear a lot of different hats. My background prior to that was in corporate America, so I did that for a number of years. Prior to that, out of college, I joined the Air Force. I’m a Vietnam veteran, I flew 185 missions in Vietnam, 85 of which were over North Vietnam. In synopsis, that’s my background and what I do.
Drew Appelbaum: That’s a very successful resume.
Doug Crawley: What I tell people is, if you live long enough, you get to do a couple of things.
Drew Appelbaum: You just mentioned you’ve been around for a while, you’ve been in corporate America for a while, you’re now a CEO of two major companies, why was now the time to write this book? Did you have a recent inspiration, did you have an ‘aha’ moment or a learning moment?
Doug Crawley: Well, it started out that one of the VP’s of one of my customers suggested to me that I needed to do a TED Talk, and I’m thinking, I don’t know if I would be good at that. One day I sat down, and I started thinking about what I would say. I’d always wanted to write a book, sometime before life ends, and I thought, but this is not the book that I had in mind.
The catalyst for this specific book came from thinking about what I would say in a TED Talk. As a result, I don’t remember which one of the two pilots that I flew–in the book, I talk about a pilot I flew combat with and another good friend of mine that I flew with during peacetime–but one of them, I was talking about the book and I say to them, “You know what? What we did in the missions that we flew, particularly at night, that was the epitome of collaboration.”
With either of my companies, we have to work closely with the customer, and I’ve got to pull the team together. I also play basketball, in fact, I was in the senior Olympics.
It kind of all came together. The catalyst was that specific point in time when I said that to that particular individual that I was visiting with, and it just kind of grew from that.
Drew Appelbaum: Did you have any learnings or major breakthroughs from writing the book through doing some research or maybe just having that introspective journey of writing?
Doug Crawley: I’ll say this, I don’t know that I had a major breakthrough, but I think as I started developing the five C’s of collaboration, I saw them evident in many more places than I had anticipated. It also pointed out to me a couple of things in my own company and church that maybe I needed to improve upon. I don’t know if that completely answers your question but that’s as I remember it.
Learning to Work Together
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, that’s learning for sure. Who is this book for? Is it strictly for business leaders or can this be for religious leaders too?
Doug Crawley: Yes, I started out, quite honestly, wanting to write this book as a tool that I could use with my customers or potential customers to talk about how to work together, which is so important in this day and age. As I started writing it, it evolved into more than that.
It’s really a book that talks about any kind of relationship, any circumstance where you have to work with people. So, that could be marriage, that could be a ministry, that could be the military, businesses, or it could be team sports. In the book, I use illustrations from all of those categories to make the points of why the five C’s are so applicable.
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, you say in the book that the major things in life involve working together with someone else if we want to be successful. You did come up with this system to improve collaboration, which you call the five C’s of collaboration. Can you tell us what the five C’s are?
Doug Crawley: Yes, the five C’s of collaboration are first, commitment. The second C is clarity, and the third C is confidence. Without those three, the other two really don’t work very well. The other two are caution and courage. Those are the five C’s.
Drew Appelbaum: Why are the first three so important and why is building that foundation so important to the other two?
Doug Crawley: Well, in the book, I use an illustration, and I call it the ‘house that collaboration built.’ It’s a house that maybe a child would draw, I think it’s a five-sided figure with the roof and the foundation, and two sides. The foundation is commitment, if you don’t have that, you can imagine a house, and it doesn’t matter about the walls. I’m sitting now in a place in Houston and oftentimes in Houston, houses were built on a fault line. The foundation would crack, and it doesn’t matter how well the walls and the roof were if the foundation cracks.
Commitment is the foundation, and if you think of the walls as being clarity and confidence, on top of that, the roof is caution and courage.
Drew Appelbaum: What can following this system bring to a business?
Doug Crawley: Well, one of the problems overall is that I’m not sure we do a good job of collaborating. Sometimes we do what I call painting the bull’s eye around the arrow. We look at what we have accomplished, and we call it a success but it’s not always a success.
I use an illustration where a farmer goes out and sees all these bull’s eyes on the side of a barn. He says to the other farmer, “Man, you are great–how do you do that?” The other farmer says, “Well, I shoot the arrow first and then I paint the bull’s eye around the arrow.”
We think we collaborate well, but I’m not sure we do in business, even in the collaborative efforts I’m involved in. One of the primary reasons is, unlike the military, unlike first responders, unlike the medical profession, we don’t frame people to collaborate.
It’s more like what I do when I go to the gym, or to the park and I’m playing pickup ball with young guys. If it’s at a new place and I haven’t seen the guys, we just pick five guys, we tell them, “I got my five and you’ve got your five, and let’s play ball.”
This is kind of what we do in business–we put people on the team, and we play pickup ball. The difference between pickup ball and professional ball is practice. There’s a system, they trained the people to do what they do.
I’m convinced that we don’t do a very good job overall in terms of training people to collaborate with each other when that’s one of the most important things, particularly in this day and age.
The Five C’s
Drew Appelbaum: Now, how do you suggest bringing the five C’s to a company or to a group and getting buy-in from everyone at the table? I’m sure it’s really hard. You can’t just go in and say,” Okay, we’re going to have this new system, we’re all going to collaborate perfectly.”
Doug Crawley: No, it doesn’t work, it wouldn’t work like that. Even five college guys who play college ball and they all were very good, and you tell them, “Okay, go out there and play.” That doesn’t work. You do have to get buy-in.
Part of commitment is that it has to come from the top. If the leader doesn’t buy into it, it’s going to be very difficult that those that are on the front lines are going to buy into it.
I don’t want anyone to think that by reading the book, they can read this book and by tomorrow, they’re going to have the perfect teamwork, a perfect collaboration. It’s a process that you continually work on. One method may be to take the book, talk about the five C’s, and have a discussion around that. But it has to come from leadership and not just something that someone at a lower level picked up on.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when the five C’s are in place at a company, you’ve taken the time, and you’ve implemented everything, what changes or improvements should leaders expect to see?
Doug Crawley: That could be a myriad of things depending on the specific situation but one of the things you can expect if it is done effectively, is to see an increase to the top line and the bottom line. There is no iron clad percentage that I can guarantee you–that it will be a seven percent increase in profits or that kind of thing. I would say that there will be an increase if you do it unless you are already doing it to perfection.
The other thing, the most important thing, is that your teams, your departments, your silos will work together and become better together at what they do. I also think that it will lead to a lot of cases depending on what you do, to better innovation. Because we do the same thing when we want people to innovate. We put them on a team and say, “Try to come up with a good idea.”
I think changes will be seen in the top line, bottom line, and the ease with which people work together, regardless of whether they are democrats or republicans, black or white, male or female.
When Everything Comes Together
Drew Appelbaum: Now you mentioned a really powerful story in the book about how collaboration played a role in you still being alive today. Can you tell us about that day and what happened in that plane over Holland where you saw all of these lessons come together?
Doug Crawley: Yes, it is interesting. I have flown combat as I told you earlier. I had 185 missions of combat, and I never got a hole in my airplane, never even thought about ejecting. So, I was stationed in England during peacetime and we were flying on a regular low-level training mission. We were flying over the northern coast of Holland. I had an individual with me–I was the captain at the time, and he was a young lieutenant pilot.
He said to me that he would like to get around some clouds and I said, “Fine, I will get us back on course,” because I was sitting on the rear seat operating the radar systems. He was sitting in the front seat actually at that point in time, flying the airplane. In the initial training in that airplane, we saw a movie of an airplane in a spin that crashed and so no one ever would intentionally put the airplane in a spin. The airplane crashed but they got the video camera back and they showed us that as a training film.
That day, when we were trying to get around the islands, I looked up off from the radar scope and looked outside, and all of a sudden, the airplane went into a spin. It was a flat spin, and I don’t know how I thought of this because we were approaching death, but I thought, “This is just like the movie.” And he said to me, “Doug, we’re below 10,000 feet,” because that is the minimum ejection altitude, meaning that if you ejected lower than that, even if you recovered the airplane, you were still going to crash.
We had checked outside temperatures at 10,000 feet and he said to me, “Get out, eject, eject, eject.” We had done this multiple times in the simulator. We had trained for this and we did exactly what we had been trained to do. I got out. I don’t remember anything completely from the time that I pulled my ejection to the opening shock of the parachute. He remembers going up in the seat and seeing the airplane explode on the ground while he was still going up in the seat.
So, we were pretty close to death. His parachute opened, he pushed off the side of a house and hit the ground. At first, I couldn’t find him. We were fortunate because the airplane landed in a residential area, but it landed in a pond. I landed in the pond and he landed somewhere else. After we landed, a young lady ran out in front of me and asked me if she could help me. She took my parachute, there is a picture of that in the book, and I ran up and saw him.
That was where all of those things came together, in one instance we were flying along and all of a sudden, because we had been trained to do what we had to do, it went exactly like clockwork. To a large degree, even though I didn’t know, and I hadn’t identified the five C’s at that time when I went back and thought about what we had done and how we did it, it was an example of the five C’s all coming together.
Drew Appelbaum: It is an immediate example of when you have that foundation set and everything is set, you can just act quickly and trust everyone there and again, come out with what could be a lifesaving opportunity.
Doug Crawley: Well yes, once we had identified that we were below 10,000 feet and the airplane was going to crash, we were committed to eject. I was going out first. Not only did we commit but we were clear in our communication with each other. Then he had the confidence in me and I had the confidence in him, that I am going to do what I have to do and depend on you to do what you have to do. You never know how you are going to react when you are about to die.
But it also exemplifies courage because you have to think in a split second, “Okay, I need to pull this ejection out, this is what I need to do,” but when I got into the airplane, as we did every day, we set the system on automatic, so all I had to do was pull the ejection out and it would then eject me, and I didn’t have to do anything else other than wait for the opening of the parachute.
More Important than Ever
Drew Appelbaum: Moving into current events, how did the pandemic change your perspective, or did it change your perspective on collaboration, especially what’s happening within our own government?
Doug Crawley: It did and I am glad you asked me that. When I wrote this book, even though the title of mine at this point seemed applicable, I didn’t know what a pandemic was. I had never thought about coronavirus, COVID-19. So, I had developed a manuscript and I was in the process of completing it when the pandemic hit. I actually had intended for the book to come out in May and it now it will come out in December.
If you will notice I have something in the book called “Notes from the Pandemic.” Well, I had to go back. I had the manuscript written, so I didn’t go back and change the book. I just made two additions and then I said the final words, which also talks about the pandemic.
As I see it when I started thinking about the pandemic, when I started thinking about the economy and what we were going through as a nation when I think about racial injustice and the protests, and everything that’s happened in this country, and when I look at the partisan politics in the nation–I won’t even get into climate change–all of those things, but most of all the pandemic. So, I thought about the fact that if the Democrats and the Republicans worked together, if nations worked together to come up with a vaccine if we worked together on treatment, tracking, and tracing and that kind of thing–I thought about all of that and how applicable the five C’s are to those situations.
I’ve even got a couple of ideas that I want to do with my own company–an idea about a lab that I want to do so that when the vaccine comes out, we can get treatment to the public in those areas that are normally hardest hit but don’t have access. Those are the kinds of things that I want to do. So, it’s had an impact on me and it’s had an impact personally because my life has changed since I am 76 years old and I am in that vulnerable category.
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, I mean it is very glaring that right now, we don’t collaborate and that we are as divided I think as we have ever been.
Doug Crawley: I would agree with you and this is a really difficult time for us as a nation because there are so many things going on. It would be enough if it was just the pandemic and everybody was cooperating. We would still feel a lot of pressure but that’s not the case.
Drew Appelbaum: Doug, writing a book especially like this one, which is going to help so many people and many businesses, is no small feat. So, congratulations.
Doug Crawley: Well, thank you. This is my first book. I’ve never done this before and I understand from many other people who know more about this than I do that some of the ups and downs that you go through as an author, that some of those that I went through were not uncommon for others, but it’s one of the most challenging things that I have ever done.
Drew Appelbaum: Now last question, if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Doug Crawley: It’s not a matter of if we collaborate–it’s a matter of we will have to collaborate. Since we have to collaborate, we ought to work to be better together, whether that’s in ministry, marriage, business, the military, or anything else.
Drew Appelbaum: Doug, this has been a pleasure and I am so excited for people to check out this book. Everyone, the book is called, Collaborate as If Your Life Depends on It, and you can find it on Amazon. Doug besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Doug Crawley: I’m in the process of putting together a website that would go along with the book but we haven’t finalized that yet. The easiest place at this point in time would be to find me on LinkedIn.
Drew Appelbaum: Awesome. Well Doug, congratulations again on finishing your book, and thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Doug Crawley: Thank you, sir, for having me.