Deepening Connection through Stories: Campfire Lessons For Leaders With Tony Martignetti

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Curiosity fuels connection, compassion ignites empathy, and together they kindle the flames of transformative leadership. In this episode, special guest Darcy Eikenberg takes the reins and interviews our very own Tony Martignetti about his latest book, Campfire Lessons for Leaders: How Uncovering Our Past Can Propel Us Forward. Today, he shares the pivotal moments that shaped his path to leadership coaching. He explores the three Cs of leadership—curiosity, compassion, and connection—and explains how they form the foundation for meaningful relationships, impactful communication, and effective leadership. Tune in to these campfire lessons now!


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Deepening Connection through Stories: Campfire Lessons For Leaders With Tony Martignetti

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest in this episode, Darcy Eikenberg. Her work has always been focused on helping leaders and high-performing professionals manage through times of constant change. Her strategies help generate more clarity, confidence, and control. Plus, they inspire a bit of courage to help handle our complex lives at work.

With over twenty years of experience working with top companies around the world, she strives to bring her clients a practical real-life perspective that creates true business and personal results but with a touch of humor in the heart as well. She's the Founder of the leadership coaching firm, Red Cape Revolution, and each week she shares encouraging stories, fresh career strategies, and new tools directly in email, all designed to help change your life at work for the better and for good. She's also the author of Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job, and may I add, she's my good friend and I'm so honored to welcome you to the show.

Thank you, Tony. I'm so excited to be here, but we're going to take a little twist on the campfire now, aren't we?

Yes, we are. I'm so thrilled to have you here and I'm honored to have you interviewing me in this episode. It feels a little selfish to be honest with you to have this show be about me, but I know I'm in good hands.

I love it. Tony, you do so much for so many people and the book Campfire Lessons for Leaders: How Uncovering Our Past Can Propel Us Forward deserves to shine a light back on you. You warm so many fires for so many people. I’m honored to be here and I'm excited because I represent a lot of your readers. You interview such fabulous people on this show and in your book too. You go into so many of their stories, but we don't always get a chance to hear more about you or about the person behind the campfire.

You gave me the opportunity for us to have this conversation. I'm going to sit in the shoes of one of your readers and I would love to hear. In your show, you talk about flashpoints a lot, which is such a cool idea for us to recognize where we come from that helped us get where we are. What was the flash point that impacted your personal journey and maybe even long-term inspired you to write the book?

As often is, there are multiple flashpoints, but I think the biggest flashpoint for me was the moment when I decided to leave the corporate world. It was this moment where I felt I finally had the power to make this choice to take the leap into the unknown. I had this journey where I was starting to see that what I was doing wasn't serving me any longer and that I was trying to be this corporate person and finance executive who would serve in this capacity, but in reality, there was more to me that I wasn't representing.

I wanted to live more fully and I wanted to feel more fulfilled. In a very abrupt moment, I decided to get up and walk out of a boardroom meeting and said, “I'm going to leave this room to change this room.” I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I realized that it was my journey to go out and do something different and make an impact on my own terms.

That was the big flashpoint but there were other flashpoints along the way navigating some of the dark moments of dealing with depression and burnout as well as some of the earlier flashpoints of understanding that I was an artist initially that turned into the world of finance knowing that eventually I had to come back to that world.

I love the phrase, “I had to leave the room to change the room,” but I know one of the things that you do with many of your clients now is change the room while you're in the room. Tell me more about some of the stories as you were writing the book that you heard from people about ways that they can help change the room because a lot of these are the things you teach and coach on a regular basis. Am I right?

Absolutely. I love it because I think about your book too, which is you don't have to leave your career or you don't have to leave the world that you're in. You can make changes inside your environment. The key thing that I work with people to understand is that you have more power than you think. It first starts by reframing your understanding of what it is that you want. In the first book I wrote, Climbing the Right Mountain, we have to define success in our own terms.

We have to understand what it is that we truly want and sometimes that requires us to take a pause and look at what this journey I'm on. Why did I start on this path in the first place? Am I doing it because other people wanted me to do this work and therefore there was a desire to please my parents, please my peers or society says, “This is the path I should be on?”

We need to reframe our idea of success and then also start thinking about, “What is this environment that I'm in? How can I reshape and potentially have an impact?” Also, potentially speaking up and saying, “This is not right. This is not what I want. How can I be an agent of change in that environment?”

When you think about going through that process and as you work with your clients and talk to people about the stories that you put in the book, what do you find is the key challenge? It’s because they sound like they're easy, but if they were easy, we'd all do it and no one would feel the need to leave the room to change the room or think that they've got to stop doing what they're doing. Maybe, “I'm not fit for corporate or I'm not fit to be an executive.” What gets in the way of your experience?

First and foremost, it’s limiting beliefs. This fear that we can't do these things, that we don't have the capacity for these new potential areas that are available to us. The reality is if we put our minds on this big future or the big thing off in the distance, it's hard to leap into that because we make it seem so big. The reality if we break it down and we start to look at the small steps that get us on a trajectory of making that happen, we start to see that these things are possible.

I think about these things that even brought me to creating my show in the first place that we see people on stage creating a big impact and shaping their world and the reality is there's a story that got them there. There's a journey that got them there one step at a time. They created their life in this way and that might mean a speaker doing big things on the stage. They probably still have a fear of speaking and they probably at one point said, “I could never speak,” and here they are.

I love the fact that so much of both the show and what you've put together for all of us in your book is really around recognizing people's stories and the fact that the way that we might show up now isn't always how we've been. We didn't just get cracked open and become whoever we are and it's also not indicative of who we might have to be. Tell me a little more about the idea. Why stories?

You come out of a world of corporate finance and life sciences. Highly technical types of things and you did a lot of great work in that industry and even when you found it wasn't working for you, sometimes we think we have to be teaching facts or training on facts. What is it about stories for you especially then the stories around the campfire, the imagined campfire if you will, or the virtual campfire as we say on your show?

Let's start with the campfire and go backward in the sense that campfires have been the place where stories have been told since the beginning of human history. At least, since the beginning of finding fire. There have been these the sense of the warmth of the fire and this emotional connection people have around being in community with people around the fire.

They're not stories that are just surface-level. They're places where we go deep. There is intimacy. I think stories have that emotional connection that allows us to feel something. Not just understand it and that was logical. It taps into our hearts. That was what I think was why I got into this understanding of the fire and also how stories are important because they get us to understand at a very deep level why we're doing what we do, not just as individuals but also collectively.

When you think about leaders and how they're shaping their environments and the worlds that they're creating for the people around them, stories are how they do it. It's how they engage people in the work that they're doing. It's about finding that. If you think about the biotech world, which is where I came from, it's about the patient that's behind this therapy we're creating. It's about who is the end user of this product we're creating that we care so deeply about or this environment that we're trying to save. When you connect with that, you'll cross many mountains to ensure it gets done.

Stories are how leaders are shaping their environments in the world that they're creating for the people around them.

As you're working with busy leaders, I think we all love the idea of, “Let’s sit around the campfire and have the kind luxury of time, space, and permission to tell stories.” I know that you're doing some interesting things inside organizations or talking to leaders about creating these campfire-type things. Tell us a little bit about how a leader who knows they need to be telling more stories, but this idea of being a good storyteller feels so false and feels like it takes a lot of time. Tell us what you're doing to help that kind of person.

It starts with going with the individual and not going straight out and saying like, “I'm going to tell these stories to everyone.” You have to start small and as you said earlier, we don't just conquer the mountain. We don't just go out and step on the stage. We have to start by understanding ourselves. When I thought about my book, we're not at that place where we're talking to the book yet, but at the core of it all, I had this thought that we need to connect with ourselves, and our narrative first.

The Virtual Campfire | Tony Martignetti | Campfire Lessons For Leaders

When we can understand ourselves better, we can then connect with others. The same thing goes for what you asked, which is a sense that when you know what it is that you represent, who you are, and your stories, you build confidence and the ability to connect with others in a more authentic and real way. That allows this storytelling to become something that's more powerful.

If you start to discount like, “This is not necessary. It's not important.” When you see how powerful it is for yourself, you'll start to realize how powerful it is and how important it is for your people. That's what I try to elicit in the work that I'm doing. We talked briefly about this before we got started. This idea of campfire is a connection in this workshop that I've developed that allows us to use some of those tools to get people thinking, “How do I create that intentional space for us to have conversations that are meaningful? How does that catalyze change and innovation?” To put it in the speak of what we want at the end, a lot of these leaders are after an impact. You can make an impact, but you have to start by connecting first.

I love the idea of campfires of connection and creating that intentional space for leaders to not only recognize what their team needs and what that impacts as you were saying, but also to recognize, “What do I need as a leader? How do I feed myself being of broader impact to so many more people?” Congratulations on the campfire connection.

I think that lucky companies to be able to do some of that and work with you on that. As you mentioned in the book, you coach people. You're a speaker. You have a great TEDx Talk. You teach these campfires but writing a book takes a lot of work. What was the motivation for first of all saying, “I want to put these ideas together?” What did you learn about yourself in doing it?

I'll start by saying that these conversations that I had on this show were so powerful that I felt like they needed to live on in a bigger way and I needed to honor them and create a place for them to take on new meaning because they meant so much to me. Oftentimes, they mean a lot to the people who are sharing their stories with me. This is an intimate space.

The Virtual Campfire | Tony Martignetti | Campfire Lessons For Leaders

Some of the stories that have been shared here, this is the first time that people have had the opportunity and the container to share some of those intimate stories. I felt a responsibility to share that more broadly. I felt like the timing was perfect. I don't mean that I'm opportunistic, but the idea that we came out of this pandemic with this feeling of, “What is my life supposed to mean? How do I create meaning in my life?”

These people who have shared what they did with their lives are creating a blueprint, a guidepost for us to be able to look at and say, “I can relate and I can also see how that can create meaning in my life too because I've navigated a similar situation,” or, “I can see how they navigated through theirs.” That was a lot of the background to why I did it but it was also very challenging because even though I've written books in the past, this was a book that I felt like I wanted to get right because there was a lot riding on it in terms of honoring the people stories.

It's one thing to interview somebody and say, “How did you do that? What was the business strategy or what have you?” This is not that. It's more of an intimate, “What was my reason for getting to where I am and what were the dark parts of my story sometimes that I have to share?” It’s a long-winded answer but I hope that helps.

This gives people an opportunity to tell a deeper story, in our hurried environment, we don't always get the chance to understand what happened before. The subtitle of your book is How Uncovering Our Past Can Propel Us Forward and recognizing that we need to make that space to look back and build on that and not just say, “I haven't done anything yet.” It's like, “You've done a lot more than you give yourself credit for.” That was one of the lessons that came out for me in the book. Now, looking at it completely, what is one thing that you were reminded of or a story or something that stands out that you were glad to have a chance to revisit, retell, and continue to help people learn from?

I'll start by saying that there were so many stories I wanted to bring into this book. I wrote like well over a hundred thousand words and I had to cut it down to 70. I felt like I left a lot out and so bonus content is coming.

Watch for the bonus content. Keep following the show. Find out how you can get that.

Maybe the next book will be Campfire Lessons Part 0:18:52. It was hard to choose who to feature because there are so many great people. I also would say that the lessons that I shared, there was something about them that all worked so well together and they all build on each other. When I think about each one of the lessons, they were also lessons that I remember learning on in my journey and that I reflected on. It was not like they were things that I learned from other people that they lived in their own lives. Also, things that have helped me in my journey to becoming who I am. It was like a self-reflection but also a reflection of the people who have been on the journey with me.

The Virtual Campfire | Tony Martignetti | Campfire Lessons For Leaders

You've interviewed some awesome people like Peter Bregman, Whitney Johnson, and Hal Gregerson. People who are very popular, well-known, or have a very deep niche and again who look like they've got it made. To hear what their flashpoints were, the times they made new discoveries, and the times that they stumbled I think is very always heartening for anybody who's on a path of growth.

You talk a little bit in the book about the three Cs and we talked about connection a little bit. I agree with you. I think so many people are hungry for connection right now. We also talk about curiosity and compassion. How can we in our real lives as leaders, where do curiosity and compassion connect with connection? It’s because it sometimes feels like, “I would like to be curious but I have to do that on the weekend. I don't have time to do that.” Maybe that's just me, but for you Tony, when you look at curiosity, compassion, and connection as a guiding principle for a lot of the people you work with and coach, where does that come into play?

I think the three of them work very well together. They're like a triad that when they're coupled together, combined together, they are a powerful force. When I think about using them on a day-to-day basis, the curiosity to start with yourself. It's getting curious about what are the things that you may be not representing on a day-to-day basis or the things that you're not seeing about yourself.

Getting curious about what are the emotions that you are experiencing, getting curious about getting excited about this topic, getting curious about the things that you're experiencing, and how is that leading you to potentially want to explore different paths. Also, different experiences or different strategies if that's what you're into. The curiosity starts with yourself but also start to reflect that outwards and say, “How can I use that curiosity about other people?” It should never be something you hold off until another time. It should be an always thing.

If you feel as though it's something that you're holding in the back, bring it to the forward because curiosity should be in the front. Also, compassion along that path is important because compassion first for yourself because oftentimes we are not compassionate with ourselves. We are our worst critics. We are the first ones to beat ourselves up for not getting it right or for not doing what we said we were going to do. We just wrapped up January 2024 and everyone's getting off of their New Year's resolutions and saying like, “Why didn't I stick to my resolution?”

Oftentimes, we're not compassionate with ourselves. We are our worst critics.

Have some compassion. It's okay. These things happen. We're human. Having compassion for yourself, but also realizing that you have to have compassion for other people and that is we're also being curious about what is their experience. Why are they having a hard time? How can you ask questions about their own journey through life?

Those two things coming together also leads to connection because when you're connecting with people, you want to connect at a level that is not just at the surface and saying like, “How was your day,” but you want to understand what is your experience, what is your experience right now and what has been your experience that I can help to connect with your journey.

The way you just said that it's almost like a formula to some degree. Curiosity plus compassion equals connection. We were all hungry for connection. It's not through our little box of chips that we talk to. It's not just doing more social media. How do we connect? What your book describes and I know what you teach it, it hits the nail on the head. I have to be curious about somebody else and also be compassionate for their experience, but also be curious about myself.

I loved what you said about being curious first about my own experience and being compassionate for, “This is just where I am and it's okay. My story continues.” Tell me anything else about the book. Now it's out in the world or reading it. I know at the time of this, it has 30-something reviews. It's on fire to use the campfire analogy. How are you looking to use it in the future and what's next for Tony?

First of all, I love the fact that it's resonating with people. When you write a book like this and you like, “It's done. Now what?” What you realize is that it's the beginning of something. It's the beginning of dialogues, conversations, and opening up of ways to interact on the topics that are most important from the book. This idea of deepening connection, which I think as I said is so important right now.

For me, that's where I've been spending a lot of time. Creating this workshop Campfires of Connection has been a great way for me to take the book, but also the body of knowledge that I've created over the years. Interestingly enough, I didn't see how they all connected, but they have and it's become a way for me to bring this to another level working with companies and communities to connect more deeply. That's one thing.

Generally, this is a personal reflection on me, is this idea that I've also doubled down on my own connection. I've been reconnecting with people who were from the past who I haven't talked to in a long time like old college friends and old friends who I haven't seen in a while because I've realized that that's what I've wanted most.

You almost have to connect with the thing that you are most wanting is what you can also provide. What's funny is Dorie Clark is our mutual friend and she always says that the gold is hidden right in front of you. It's hiding in plain sight. Sometimes the thing that we most want is hiding in plain sight of what we need to offer. That's exactly what I've found is that my desire for deep connection is also what I can offer to create for others.

Sometimes, the thing that we most want is hiding in plain sight of what we need to offer.

I love that and I am so honored that we are connected. Where can readers be able to connect with you? They're here, they're reading the blog. Download the episodes and go back through some of the episodes you've done. Tony, you've done such a great job of providing great interviews and being consistent over time and fabulous insights but going forward, if someone wants to connect, what's the best way?

Thank you so much. I think the best place for me is to find myself and my website, where you can find my books, my podcast, my assessments, and a whole bunch of fun stuff there. Also, on LinkedIn. I'm very active on LinkedIn. I was always trying to serve up some interesting insights and champion people wherever I could. That's one thing I'm very passionate about. It is seeing the brilliance in other people and helping to bring that to the surface because oftentimes we don't see that. or LinkedIn. You have a great LinkedIn newsletter that goes out on a regular basis that also provides some lessons as well as information on who's next on the show. If you are a LinkedIn person, that is a great place to do it. The book is available on Amazon and online booksellers. You can find more information on Tony's website about it I'm sure as well.

Also, Campfires of Connection, what a great idea. As leadership teams and leaders want to reconnect with their teams. Everybody's hungry to reconnect. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity to work with Tony directly, to tell those stories, and have the past propel the future as the book says. Tony, thank you for allowing me to take the reins of your show. It has been fun to get a chance to talk to you and hear more about how we can continue to keep our own campfire burning bright.

I have to thank you so much, Darcy. This was wonderful. I think I might be put out of a job soon. I don't know.

It's easy to talk to people who are doing amazing things and who have such compassion for the world. I am proud to be a colleague of yours, but also more honored to be a friend.

I am grateful for that. Thank you so much. Before you go, please subscribe to the show. If you enjoyed it, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or review and please share with anyone who would benefit from reading. If you're ready to take the next step in your journey or you would like to find out more, visit our website at

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