Ted Coiné

Ted Coiné is one of the most influential business leaders on Twitter, with a following of over two hundred thousand and growing rapidly. He has been ranked by both Huffington Post and Forbes for his business leadership and social media influence. An inspirational speaker, Ted is author of Five-Star Customer Service and Spoil ’Em Rotten! Prior to writing his first book, Ted was founder and CEO of Coiné Language School, a B2B company he brought from his living room to a $10 million valuation in four years by focusing relentlessly on customer service. He is currently writing his third book, about how social media is transforming leadership and business in this exciting new century. Ted and his family live in Naples, Florida, where he is active in the tech startup scene.

Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Good karma is good business. Just like a Play-Doh Fun Factory, we business leaders get out of our companies what we pour in. If we pour disrespect or just plain disregard into our workers’ lives, guess what those workers are going to pour back out in terms of productivity and customer relations? On the other hand, if we pour in meaning and trust, guess what we’ll get out the other end?

I’d most like to live in a world where everyone’s work was awesome because leaders wanted their companies to be awesome places to work. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world yet. So for now, I’ll settle for some leaders who get the “self-interest” part of “enlightened self-interest.” Workplaces can suck, but that’s dumb. No leader wants his peers – or his investors – to think he’s dumb. It leads to a short and unremarkable career.

How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
Switch and Shift exists to show leaders a better way, a more human way, of doing business. My co-founder, Shawn Murphy, and I blog on various aspects of this topic all the time. Our core group of contributors, which we’ve dubbed the League of Extraordinary Thinkers, adds their perspective on a monthly basis – these are authors and other leadership experts, the best of the web’s best. Then, on top of that core group, we have frequent fascinating contributors. It’s inspiring, to read what they share on a frequent basis.

From a blog, we’re transforming into quite a destination website, a home for like-minded thinkers to find each other, and for leaders looking for a better way of doing things. We’ve just launched the beta of our TV show, and in a few months we’ll have podcasts as well. Any way you want to consume the message that good karma is also good business, you’ll soon be able to without leaving the site.

Why do you do what you do?
I’m a bleeding heart capitalist. Seriously: my talent is in business, the for-profit realm –- I tried two years immersed in nonprofits, and I’m not nearly as fluent in that world as I wanted to be. But I have a lifelong desire to make the world a better place, so I seek to do it where best I can, which for me is at work. The ancient Greeks were obsessed with a quest for justice: that was their measuring stick, “is this just?” they’d ask all the time. We modern Westerners have wandered a bit from justice as our highest ideal, but… well, I’m a throwback, I guess. And the god news is I find myself far from alone in that. Doing what is right is its own reward.

The nice thing, and the compelling thing, is that what is just, what is right, what gives our workplaces meaning? That is also more profitable. We humans are emotional creatures: we are far from robots! When we’re happy, when we’re fulfilled, when we believe in the work we’re doing as a social good, not just a paycheck… that makes us work better. Our companies make more money. So even cynics have a compelling reason to buy into what Switch and Shift is all about.

What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I love architecture and nature. The types of architecture I grew up with in New England, Victorian and Colonial, are still among my favorites. The castles and Renaissance statues of Europe are also inspiring. I also love music: classic and modern rock, and recently I’ve gotten hooked on classical music as well (I feel like my Dad all of a sudden!) I’m listening to Vivaldi Radio on Pandora as I write this. It’s soothing.

My favorite art, though, is the beach. Naples Florida, where we live, has mile after mile of subtropical white sand beaches. That to me is better than any art humans will ever create.

What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
When you talk about my company these days, you’re talking about a gathering of peers –- we’re more facilitators of a movement than a “company” in any real sense of the word. Because no one is in charge but we all are, we’re all really careful to show proper respect at all times – I’m probably the biggest miscreant of the group, and I can usually tell when my flakey “Screw it, let’s do it!” style starts to grate on Shawn, who is at once one of my best friends and the person among us who is least flakey. It’s funny, actually, how bend-over-backwards considerate we always are, even when we’re telling each other off.

In order to balance this, we live by the motto, “No worries, just fun.” It’s a really odd yet effective way of getting along. And did I mention it’s pretty much always fun? We’re all the boss, so if it weren’t fun, we’d change it.

What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
I spent two years completely immersed in the nonprofit community here in Naples. It was incredibly rewarding from a psychic standpoint, and it was absolutely invaluable experience for a leader. You have not mastered the art of leadership until you have led volunteers. When people choose to give you their time, and there is no penalty whatsoever to them if they leave you to help another organization instead, you’d better be providing them with maximum value for their time, and maximum meaning for their effort. If you can lead volunteers, then you know you’re a leader. Besides, serving good causes? What is more rewarding than that?

What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Something great I picked up from Stan Phelps’ new book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? – the CEO can go for a walk with a different worker each day. Of course, it depends on the number of employees you have. But anything that gets the big bosses mixing with everyone else on a regular – and comfortable – basis, is going to be a winner. The nice thing about a walk is that it takes you out of the office, away from face-to-face. You’re sharing a non-taxing physical activity. People are more inclined to open up when you shake things up a bit. It’s brilliant!

What do you do for fun?
I am a pack animal through and through, and my family is my main pack, hands down. For fun? Playing with Jane and the girls, especially Wrestlemania. None of us has actually ever seen a pro wresting… um, anything… but when things are a little tense around the house, we’ll break into our version of Wrestlemania, which is a whole lot of baby whoop-ass… At least, until they run me out of steam.

How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I don’t! That sounds like living hell. Constant productivity is for suckers. I think like most people, I experience highs and lows of productivity throughout my day. The trick I strive for is to defend the white space in my calendar, so I have time to think and imagine and learn new things and build relationships that are deeper and more fulfilling. Nonstop productivity, squeezing in just one more TPS report each day, and then another… all that will get you is burnout. Then how’s your productivity?

To be fair, one might counter that I am always productive, and by mixing up my routine throughout the day, I can comfortably pull a 16-hour day whereas a straight grind would kill me at 8. I won’t argue. But talking about interesting things with fascinating people, writing about important experiences you’ve had…? If that’s work, then don’t tell me! It seems like all I do is play.

What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
I read about a book a week. My very favorite, the most thought-provoking ones, we stick in our Business Heretic’s Bookstore. If it’s there, it’s what I stand for. That is where you find my required reading. The bookstore, plus our blog (where many of those authors guest-post, I’m proud to say). http://switchandshift.com/businesshereticslibrary

Having said that, I’m in the middle of Adam Grant’s Give and Take. Buy that book and read it. You’ll forget to eat, it’s that good. And that important. Professor Grant has written the type of book you only find once a decade, if that.

How can people connect with you?


I soooo don’t recommend you try to reach me another way. Even my email will tell you to tweet me if it’s an emergency.

Where in the world are you?
Naples, Florida. We have a beach, the Interwebs, and an airport. It’s all I need.

Join Us!

The world of work needs you.