How to Create a Culture of Peak Performance

Here’s the recent conversation I had with Thomas Green about creating a culture of peak performance. He had great questions to ask me. Click the image to watch.

20:00:00.0 S1: Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service on the podcast today, we have Jen Thornton. Jen, welcome.

0:00:07.2 S2: Thanks for having me. It’s gonna be a fun conversation.

0:00:10.8 S1: It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what you do?

0:00:17.9 S2: So a little bit about me. I’m in Dallas, Texas, that’s where I live and have lived here for quite some time in Texas. And all of it’s crazy glory, it’s always a fun place, and I’m curious and interesting and all those things, what I do today in my background was in retail, I did operations, I did HR, I did domestic international, all kinds of really cool stuff. But what I get to do today is run my own organization, 304 Coaching, and we focus on talent strategies, so we help people understand where their organization is going, and based on that, what does their talent need to be futuristic, ally, what those competencies… Those skills, the planning and all of those types of things. So that’s what we do now. It’s

0:01:05.5 S1: A good introduction. If I’m not mistaken, the topic today is creating a culture of peak performance, or you haven’t discussed this.

0:01:14.9 S2: I would love to discuss it, I think it’s a fun conversation in today’s world.

0:01:19.6 S1: So what does it mean to you to create a culture of peak performance?

0:01:25.5 S2: So when I think about peak performance, I think about it as environmental teams or ecosystems, we are all interdependent. One person does one thing. It impacts everyone. So I think when you are in peak performance, you have created a group of people who appreciate each other for what they do, they appreciate each other for their strengths, their opportunities, and you’ve created an environment that has decreased fear and the natural fear that we all carry and with that reduction of fear, what you get is really progressive innovation and the ability to think and to drive your business in a whole new way, and so you cannot have peak performance unless you’ve created environment where fear is not a primary source of energy.

0:02:22.9 S1: So if someone were to, let’s say you could pick your few best bits of advice, if someone said to you, Okay, I really like that concept, but what could you tell me what’s the best advice you’ve got about that particular topic?

0:02:37.7 S2: Yeah, so where to start, that’s always where we kind of… Where we started? Where to start. So I think what’s important to think about is our language and how we respond to people has a chemical reaction to that person, just like We chemically react when someone… When we’re responding to someone, and so if you wanna remove fear, you have to start to really be a student of your own language, and you have to start to think about how you are forming questions and statements and small things like… Hey, if someone comes in, they’re like, Hey, I have a new idea. And in your mind, you’re thinking, that’s never gonna work. And you could say to that team member on your team, Hey, this idea… It’s not gonna be successful. It’s gonna be too expensive. You can tell them all the reasons why it’s not gonna work. And what you’ve done is you’ve told them, I don’t wanna hear your ideas, no, thank you, and your ideas don’t work here, and so you have created an environment where fear comes into play because now they feel judged, now they feel like they’re not good enough for their job and the next time they have a great idea that might work, they’re in fear and they’re not gonna share it with you, so in that situation, very easily, you could change your language to, Hey, I don’t see it, but change my mind.

0:03:53.5 S2: I want you to try to change my mind so I see what you see, and that creates a conversation where that person now is like, Okay, well, it’s okay that you don’t get it, because you’re willing to hear me, and they may tell you all the reasons and all the research, and you know what, your mind might change, it’s happened to me when I said that to my team, I have changed my mind before, but likely you’ll still learn something and likely you’ll help that person find a better way or a better solution, but what you’ve done is created an environment where innovation is celebrated and it’s a conversation, and you don’t get in trouble if you don’t have the best idea in the room.

0:04:32.6 S1: Yeah, I actually… The thing which occurred to me as you were saying that was even if you don’t use that initial idea, it can help you with other things as well, so I’ve often… If I’ve thought of a particular idea, maybe it doesn’t work in this particular instance, but you can apply it elsewhere, and so I suppose… My interpretation of your answer is like, you want to have an environment where people are almost brainstorming, looking for ways to improve.

0:05:01.6 S2: To create an environment where new ideas and problem solving and progressive thoughts and really taking companies into the next day, the next quarter, the next year, to create that type of thought process, what you have to do, not only reduce fear, but you have to get people comfortable with failure, these failures, the other side of innovation, because if you aren’t willing to fall, then you’re not willing to try new things and you’re not willing to innovate, and I think that’s even sometimes as hard as reducing the fear and the environment…

0:05:37.5 S1: Yeah, founders, a big topic for improvement or at least progress anyway, in an entrepreneurial sense, do you think it applies across all businesses?

0:05:49.2 S2: I do. I think it applies across all businesses… Now, there are pieces of the business that we have to get, right? If you’re an accountant, we’re gonna need you to get the tax is correct, but where you can start to think about that in that environment, that is a highly detailed, accurate environment is, what if we looked at it this way? Or what if we structure this organization in a way that makes sense here, and you can still get creative and environments that are highly accurate. And I think that sometimes we forget that. And what’s also interesting is I find oftentimes leaders who come out of environment say maybe they’re a software implementer or they are an accountant or in like a finance type position where things have to be very correct. What happens when they become leaders as they hold on to that so much that they really struggle in that next phase of their career, because not only are they expecting themselves to be perfect, but now they’re expecting everyone on their team…

0:06:53.8 S1: There is actually a book, I should really have the title of the book, and I’m gonna mention it ’cause it gives a disservice to the book, but… And the whole topic is about employees essentially being afraid to speak out and put their ideas forward. Are you aware of any of that type of work?

0:07:13.4 S2: So I don’t know about that book, but we’ll figure it out, we’ll put in the show notes or something, and we both or all read ’cause you already have, I think we don’t share ideas because we’re afraid of… It’s fear, it’s judgment. My idea might not be good enough, the other thing that happens a lot is the leader, it gets really attached to their ideas, their viewpoints, how they see things, and so they will say, Alright, everyone March this direction, and everyone on the team is like, that’s a disaster. But you know what, they still do it and they let the disaster happen, and it’s not the employee that should be thought of as doing something bad, it should be the leader who is so attached to their ideas that they’ve created environments where it’s not okay to use your voice, it’s not okay to tell the truth, and I see that a lot in organizations where people just… They know the right answer, but it’s safer to just go along with what is gonna go wrong.

0:08:17.8 S1: I know that the… I’m totally on board with what you’re saying, but for the sake of the conversation, are there any extreme the other way, so Is it possible for… I don’t know people to be so opinionated about their ideas that it actually is detrimental.

0:08:35.6 S2: Absolutely, and I think that it’s a balance in everything we do, and one of those balances is how do you use your voice in the room, but equally taken everyone else’s voice, and that’s not easy to find that balance, and we’re told to listen and we should do all of that, but we should also be told to find out how to use our voice in an appropriate way, and that’s another skill set that sometimes we don’t talk about, and leaders, and it’s really important you have to know when to use your voice, you have to know how to do it in a way that reduces fear and encourages innovation, and you have to find a way to hear other people’s ideas, and you can not be so attached to yours. And being able to say, We all have these ideas. One of the things I see a lot of successful leaders acknowledging is not one of us has all the answers, but collectively we could figure it all out, and I just love when people approach it that way. Well, it makes me think of like, you are a leader yourself.

0:09:46.6 S1: So how would you deal with those two examples, so let’s say you have someone who you know has good ideas and you suspect that they are not putting them forward as a result of fear, and then the other example is someone who’s being too opinionated how you deal with those two people…

0:10:04.3 S2: Yeah, so two different ways to approach it, because you have to make sure you approach it in a way they don’t… What I call over. Correct. So you know how you give someone feedback that they’ve talked too much in a meeting and then they never talk in a meeting again, that they’ve over-corrected. And so with the person who is maybe taking up a lot of space and not allowing that other person to find their ideas… What I would say to them one-on-one, as I would say, one of the things that I value most about you is your amount of information, the amount of Ideas you bring the table, what I’d like to see in your evolution of your ideation is partnerships. How can you take on partnerships so that you can learn from other people to help take your ideas in a new way in the next meeting? How do you suggest we find time to make sure that everyone’s ideas are heard, the best one bubbles up and the best ones probably will probably be a combination of everyone, and so again, you don’t wanna stop on them and say so don’t be talking in the meeting ’cause they’ll over, correct.

0:11:06.8 S2: But you have to guide them and learn how to harness that piece of them, and then that person who you can see their wells turning and you’re like, Oh, they would just talk again one-on one with them, say, I can see your wheels turning in the meeting you have a lot to offer. It would help me lead better if you would share those in for those ideas in the meetings, how can I make it comfortable for you to share those ideas so that everyone hears what’s in your head, ’cause I can see it and I know it’s fantastic. And it’s not saying, you know, a good leader talks more in the meeting and you should be talking and you should have confidence now it’s like, How can I help you? How can I create an environment where you’re comfortable and allow those people to have that space for growth, because who we are is how we always will be, but we have to learn how to situational manage it, and what our biggest wins are are usually kind of the thing that gets us in trouble too, so you have to figure that out and help people how to manage it.

0:12:07.1 S1: That sounds very… Like You are a mentor. Do you see a leader as a… Predominantly a mentor.

0:12:14.2 S2: I do, I think that leaders are mentors, I think they wear a lot of hats. I think there’s two ways to be a leader. One is through influence, and one is through directive-like directions, and at times you have to be one or the other, but everyone has a primary lane, and in the past, when we were creating these best best skills of leadership and the best practice as a leadership, they most of them were created in the industrial revolution. It was a very different time, and it was a time in which whatever job you were really good at them, you became the boss of people doing that job, so you knew how to do everyone’s job, and so it was very directive, like, This is how you do it, this is how I want you to do it. Do it the way I tell you to do it. That doesn’t work in today’s world. More than likely, you are leading people doing jobs that you do not know how to do, and so you can’t be directive, you can’t tell them how to do their job, you don’t know, but what you can do is influence their growth, you can influence how they excel within it, you can ask questions, I would say ask questions.

0:13:24.7 S2: You don’t know the answers to… You can ask questions you don’t know the answer to to help them think bigger and stronger within that role that you don’t know how to do, and that is influential leadership, that bills often times like mentorship, to

0:13:38.8 S1: Touch on a really interesting thing, which I haven’t actually given much conscious thought to… And that is the difference between a leader who knows how to do all the things and a leader who doesn’t, and at least in my business anyway, I felt like I do need to be able to do everything that everyone else can do in order to… I don’t know, in order to teach, because I see myself mainly as a teacher anyway, have you got any more thoughts on that particular area?

0:14:06.6 S2: Yeah, I’m so glad that you paused on that because I think it is something that’s on the horizon for more and more leaders, and there’s some really specific reasons why the world is changing so quickly, the things that we did in our job five and 10 years ago, no longer exists today, so how could we know how to do what… Replace that, and that is only going to speed up, and so if we are the mindset that we have to be able to do everyone’s job on our team, then you’re gonna have to re-learn your job every five years because the technology or what’s popular or not P, all of that stuff is changing, and I often talk about or think about what are the leadership competencies of the future, and again, how we were taught to lead, and these best practices are very archaic in today’s world, and one of those competencies as being able to lead a group of people that do a job that you do not know how to do, and people that learn that competency now are gonna be incredibly successful in the future because… That’s what’s happening.

0:15:17.0 S1: I’m thinking about it from the slight age perspective, do you think that there would be a slight edge in actually continuing to re-learn your job every five years, but if the company gets big enough, it’s completely… You have to do manage people or lead people who are not necessarily that they’re doing a job that you’re not doing right, so it’s not really sustainable if you were to try and do that… Yeah, and you probably wouldn’t be as good at it. Because if it’s something that’s new and modern, our brains as someone who has never done it, we’ll see it more as, Well, this is different, ’cause it’s not like my past, but

0:15:57.8 S2: If it’s something that someone early in their career is doing… This is real to them. This is current to them, and so you have someone looking at it from a current lens or someone looking at it going, This is different, not how I used to do it. I want someone looking at that work from a current projective lens, and not this fear like, this is not how I did it. I don’t know how to do it. I wish it was like it used to be, no, I don’t want any of that. And that person’s boring.

0:16:24.6 S1: What do you think about the sort of an employee mentality for someone who might say, my boss doesn’t even know how to do my job or whatever it might be… What do you think about that?

0:16:36.4 S2: Yeah, and that happens all the time. And I think it is how that boss leads that person… If that supervisor is leading in a directive way and trying to tell someone how to do their job and they have no idea how to do it, then they’re probably saying, Well, my boss has no idea, oftentimes people say that because their boss is… I’m curious about what they do and doesn’t understand the conceptual ideas of what they do, they just say, Yeah, she sets over there in that cubicle working away, I really don’t know what she does, but if you’re a supervisor or a leader that is like… Tell me about your wins this week, tell me how you’ve impacted the company this week, tell me where your road blocks are and how I can remove those… Even if I didn’t know how to do your job, but I asked you things about your impact and what you’ve learned or what you need, then your brain is not gonna go to… Well, that person don’t even know what I do, if brain’s gonna go to… They’re empowering me, they’re respecting me, they’re letting me do it, and they’re helping me move remove road blocks so I can be even better at it.

0:17:41.3 S1: Yeah, they wouldn’t talk about a mentor that way with them, whereas you would speak about someone who doesn’t do much, but they quote your boss. So I think you’ve touched on a lot of good stuff, and it’s the main advice, what would you say, other than a leader who is clinging to their own idea is what would you say are the biggest mistakes people make about creating a culture of peak performance?

0:18:08.4 S2: I think they don’t take the hiring process serious enough, because every single person you bring into your ecosystem is going to impact and change it, and when we make a hiring decision, we are changing the course of someone’s life, their ability to provide for their family, their history on their CV, every single time they interview after that, they’re gonna have to explain their time at that company and how it went, and it impacts them emotionally, and so I think too often we’re in need of hiring someone… As employers, we don’t do the work to really think about the job that person’s gonna do, oftentimes, we create jobs where the left and right hand has to work at the same time, and so you’ll hire either the left or the right, and the other will fall inside that job, and we don’t set up the work correctly, and then even if we do set up the word correctly, oftentimes, we don’t really think about that hiring process as a relationship builder, and we don’t… To really know that person or think about how we’re gonna work with that person, and so then we bring them in, they fail, and when one person fails, the entire team is impacted, but I think that’s one of the biggest pieces about Peak Performance is you’ve gotta get the right people on the team, and that is much easier said than done.

0:19:29.6 S1: Well, I saw in your one pager that you had, or perhaps still have over an HR professional of over 20 years, so I’d be a little bit foolish if I didn’t ask you a bit about HR in terms of current things, have you got any thoughts on hiring remotely, and the implications of that, or maybe some advice on that…

0:19:56.6 S2: I do, what’s interesting is I have actually never managed a team inside of an office in my 20-plus 30 years of leading teams, I’ve always managed field leadership teams and then remote teams, so I always have a different perspective because that feels so normal to me, what I would say is, for people who are going from managing a team live and in-person to managing a virtual or a blend, whatever you struggled with in person, you will struggle even more with those same things virtually, because it kind of just puts a light on things so if you struggled at giving clear direction and your team was always like, What do they want me to do? And then the afterwards, the algo and huddle together and try to figure out what they’ve been told to do, if that was something you struggled with in the workplace, then virtually you’re gonna struggle with it even more. And so what I would say is virtual teams can be incredibly impactful, incredibly efficient, depending on the job, some research shows you’ve been more efficient, and it helps with the mental health a lot of times for people who have balance.

0:21:10.6 S2: And so if you want to have a productive team, look at where you struggle in the past and think about how you can work and improve on that piece of your leadership and that will help your entire team move forward.

0:21:24.8 S1: You’re aware of some of the main problems that have people have in relation to… ’cause what you say just makes so much sense, if you had problems in an office and you were all together and then you went remotely, those problems would amplify. But what would you say are some of the biggest problems people have? Working as a remote.

0:21:45.6 S2: I think one of the biggest problems is, how do you measure success? So when we’re all in an often office, often times the leader measures success by the person who’s in their chair the longest… Oh, they’ve been sitting in their chair, they look super busy, that’s a top performer, when someone else can do that same job and 25% of the time… And you’re like, Wow, they take a long lunch. And so our brains play tricks on us about what performance looks like or what success looks like, and so I think one of the things we’re struggling with virtually is how do we say, Oh, this person did their job, because we can’t physically see them doing it, and so I think really getting clear on what your expectations are and then contracting on how that expectation will be hit, so whether that’s flex time, whether that’s a virtual 100%, whatever it is, so that you’re not counting hours in the chair, you’re counting actual production. Actual results. And I think that’s one of the biggest drug struggles as leaders, you’re trying to figure out how to say, check the box, you did your job today, kind of an accountability issue then…

0:23:03.6 S2: Absolutely.

0:23:07.9 S1: From my perspective anyway, when I started my business, I think I had next to no HR experience. And so what I have picked up regarding the topic is just being a little bit along the way, so I think most likely… When you’re in your early years of businesses, I think most people are like that, unless they have existing experience, what would you say is the main thing for businesses to know… If they don’t have a lot of HR experience.

0:23:41.1 S2: If you don’t have a lot of HR experience, and it depends on the type beggar experience, I will tell you there’s a lot of pieces of HR that are important to the business are very foundational, but they’re not necessarily strategic talent arms of the business. And so I would say number one, don’t look at it just as like a compliance HR, look at it as strategic talent planning, and so if you don’t have a lot of strategic talent planning, what I would say is, think about why someone is coming to work for you… And remember, especially if you own your own company, that’s ordered not your team stream, and so they’re helping you with your dream, and so you’d never forget that. And if you don’t have that piece, always really think about what work am I asking someone to do, am I providing an environment where that work can be successfully done, and am I providing an environment where people feel respected, appreciated, and know that they are contributing to something greater than just their position and just them, but really thinking about talent more strategically is the biggest piece, but I think companies miss the boat on, they become…

0:25:00.7 S2: HR becomes a very check the box environment, and it needs to be Talent Strategy.

0:25:06.0 S1: It segues into one of the questions that I wanted to ask you about, which is, what is the talent Cliff? But I ask you about remote hiring, so it would it be the same topic to ask you about the talent Cliff and also the question which I really want to follow up on, which is just general hiring advice. What’s your hiring advice and does that coincide with the talent… Please.

0:25:35.6 S2: Definitely all of it goes together. So what the talent Cliff is, is really a metaphor for what happens in fast-growing organizations, so when someone starts a company, they never wake up and think, You know what, I’m just gonna find some awesome people and I’m gonna lead them… Just lead them to greatness. No one does that. Everyone’s like, I have a great service, a great product, a great idea, and they get that idea off the ground, but they have to hire a team to help that idea come to life. And so what happens is, a company starts to take off because the founders are incredibly talented, they’re very smart, they have a great idea, and so the business starts to take off and they hire great people, everyone’s excited about it, and if the company is on a really high projector, the business starts to take off, what happens is leadership focus is primarily, if not 100% on the product service, the widget, and they don’t put any attention into the leadership skills and making sure that they upscale people. So they’re ready to handle all of this business, it’s about to come their way, so they throw all their energy into the product, which makes it go even better, and up their business goes, and then all of a sudden leaders are struggling and they don’t know how to handle this momentum.

0:26:53.2 S2: And so when you’re in fear, you crisis manage whether you need to or not, as you become highly directive, your best people are like, I’m not gonna put up with that, I’m not gonna be told and yell that all day, and so they start to leave, and so your business is just skyrocketing, but you’re faltering because you can’t get your talent right, because you haven’t invested in them, and that’s the talent Cliff metaphor. And I think… And I watch about businesses.

0:27:19.2 S1: Do you think that investing was one of the things that I had was investing not only in their skills to do the job, but also investing in the person, so taking an interest in the whole person rather than just the skills. Do you think that helps with the talent that…

0:27:36.1 S2: Absolutely, anything you can do to ensure that you know where your organization is going and helping your team, ensuring that your team skill sets are always able to handle more business than what you’re actually doing, because then they’re pulling the business with their skill, and the business isn’t dragging them along, and that’s what happens so often is a business drags the leader because they’re not ready to handle that momentum, but it’s so funny, I get calls all the time from CEOS or Coos, and they go off about their employees are not making decisions they can’t handle the workload. There’s just all this noise. And when they finish stopping, I always say to them, What about the environment that you created? Allowed all of that to happen. And they’re like me, that’s my employees, and I’m like, No, it’s an environment and you’re the leader of the environment to somehow some way you impacted that and you made that come true. So I think that we have to remember that we as leaders make our environments come true, and so if you don’t like it, we kinda have to start with looking at our own actions and how our actions are creating the environments that we really don’t like.

0:28:51.5 S1: Taking some responsibility for sure. Yeah, and comes back a little bit to the culture saying, Isn’t it too… Yeah.

0:29:00.6 S2: And I’ll tell you one of the things that I think a lot of cultures are missing is the word learning, always learning, and again, it kinda goes back to that leader who’s able to lead people that don’t know what their job is, but if they’re constantly learning and they’re creating an environment of learning than their team is in constant learning, and if you’re a leader that wants to show up and say, I know all the answers, I’m the master. You can’t tell me anything, I don’t already know. That what you’ve done is you’ve created an environment where one person knows everything and no one else knows it, therefore that’s how we live, and if the leader is constantly talking about, Here’s what I learned, or Here’s what I read about, or I went to a retreat and I really came back and thought about, how are we doing this? And the leader is creating a culture of learning and evolution, but if a leader isn’t using those words and the words they’re using is I know everything, so therefore I have hit the information finish line that everyone else feels like they’re less than… And it’s not a culture of learning.

0:30:11.4 S1: Or you’re setting up a precedent for yourself to be a little bit stressed as well, I would imagine, if you are a leader in that particular scenario.

0:30:20.9 S2: Yeah, but yeah, I think more cultures have to make learning… Cool, make it part of the conversation. And again, that allows failure to be okay because it’s learning, which again opens up the possibility for innovation, you can’t innovate without new information, you can’t innovate without learning something new, you can’t innovate without being okay with some failure. And so again, all of that language that we’re using, using either creates problem solving and innovation or create status quo.

0:30:53.2 S1: So I think I know the answer to this question based on your answer about the talent Cliff, but… What does it mean to throw payroll at your pain?

0:31:04.3 S2: I always love that actually, it was an old boss that used to always say that to me and I latched onto it, and it’s so true. So during payroll, the problems, we do that a ton. And what that means is we look at a team and we see them struggling, we’re like, Oh, that team of five people are struggling to get the work done, we should hire a sixth person because then it will just be fine, we’ll just spread the work out, but what we don’t do is stop and say, Why are these five people struggling… Is the process right? Do they need additional education, do we have issues with a cross-functional team which is causing this team to struggle, but it’s really not them struggling, it’s a relationship. And so instead of stopping and dissecting why we need to hire someone new, we just hire someone new and hope our problems will go away, but before we ever hire a new position within our organization or even back, fill a position in our organization, we have to stop and say, How’s the work getting done? How should it get done? What is the productivity? And if you’re gonna hire someone at 70000, what if you put 35000 into development dollars, whether that’s in the person or technology, that team becomes more efficient and enjoys their job, then you’ve created a better company, but instead we just keep throwing money at this payroll instead of really being more strategic again about what is our talent strategy?

0:32:29.4 S1: Interesting, and I suppose I get a lot of reward out of employment, I think possibly I could do both regarding that, I think a totally great answer about… Is there a way you can be more efficient? Etcetera, but I would definitely have a tendency to increase the payroll…

0:32:54.2 S2: Yeah, and sometimes that is the right decision, oftentimes it is, but even if the decision is, we need to hire someone new and you’ve done that work, you’ve still created a better environment for not only the current team, but that new person you hired. So no matter what the answer is at the end, the work is worth it.

0:33:13.6 S1: And this is one from your bio, which I thought was a really interesting one for your one-pager… Sorry, what’s the future of workplace communication?

0:33:25.3 S2: That is so good. So I think when you think about the future of workplace communication, it is becoming shorter, people don’t have as much time, and so we have to become a lot more efficient without making people feel like they are not worthy of your time, and that’s gonna be really difficult right, we’re living in a world. We’re on back to back to back-to-back meetings. It’s like, Where do I actually do the work that I talked about in these meetings, ’cause I’m back to back to back. So I think the future of workplace communication is gonna involve a lot of clarity, and it’s also gonna evolve some of the stuff we’ve talked about, and it’s gonna include understanding how the neuroscience of the brain works, how does it take in information… What does it do with that? ’cause it scrambles it all up and creates these stories, and so how do we then think about using that neuroscience to our benefit and the benefit of the employee so they’re happier. And again, a lot of that is our language around reduction of fear.

0:34:32.3 S1: And I suppose you’ve touched a little bit on… Would you say You touched on creating trust and safety in the workplace? Yeah.

0:34:40.5 S2: I think we have touched on it, but creating trust is not about telling someone… I promise I’ll take care of you, right? We tell people to trust this all the time, that doesn’t work, but we keep trying it as humans, I think that when we stop and want to build trust, we have to understand that it is a two-way straight and that we have to get curious… We have to be really respectful to create trust, you have to accept other people’s perceptions because it is their reality, and so often as leaders, when someone comes to us and they tell us something like that can’t be true, or that person is just being this way, and we don’t stop and acknowledge their current state and their perception and then work through it, and that creates trust, being able to accept someone else’s viewpoint.

0:35:38.5 S1: Can you tell me a little bit about your business at the moment…

0:35:42.0 S2: Absolutely, so here are three or four, we help organizations with their talent strategies, and we do that in a married of ways, we help organizations think about their future developmental needs, not the developmental needs of today ’cause that was yesterday’s problem. But where are we going in the future? And based on that, what competencies and skills is your team gonna need, how do you prepare them for your future business? And so we do leadership education through leadership academies, we do executive coaching, retreats, workshops, and help organizations also think about their long-term education strategy so that their team continues to grow and again, creates an environment of learning and any culture where continuous development and continuous learning is king. Those companies always do better.

0:36:35.0 S1: Is your client typically a business owner or is it sort of high leaders within corporate companies?

0:36:43.3 S2: Typically, it can be both. Typically, a C-suite person, whether that’s a small, small 50 employee company or a couple of hundred, a couple of thousand employee company, it’s usually that same person who reaches out ’cause you know, no one calls me ’cause things are going well, which would be really good if they did, ’cause if we could do a really great things, I get the call when someone’s frustrated and they’re at their wits end because they in their mind have done everything right, but their team isn’t marching in the direction they want and isn’t being able to deliver the strategy and so those are the phone calls I get, and we work through it, and it’s not a short fix, it’s not a one workshop fix, the adult brain actually doesn’t change behavior in one workshop, so we really focus on long-term strategies and how the adult brain learned and they learn. And they learn a new skill, if you want it to stick, they gotta go practice it, then they learn a new one, they gotta practice it, and they gotta learn a new one, if you stick someone in a room for three days and spent a fortune on a three-day training, the likelihood their behavior changes at the end of the three days is incredibly small, and so we focus on education, it’s more drive content, and so that we can increase the likelihood that we have behavior change.

0:38:04.7 S1: So that call that you get is the person who has the vision, if you like, is attempting to get their team to a particular place and they’re reaching out to you in order to achieve that.

0:38:18.3 S2: Yeah, it’s a fun ride. I mean, it’s bumpy and frustrating and challenging, but it’s a fun ride, because when the team starts to feel invested in and the team starts to see the leaders say, We wanna sign up to be better for you, our teams… It’s just amazing how fast things start to kind of change and you see the language change first, then you start to see a few actions change, and then all of a sudden it’s like when everyone starts moving in a whole new way and working together in a whole new way, but it’s such a beautiful process to watch and I love it, but your academy staff is that online course-related, so it’s a blend. So we have… What we do with the academies as we work the organization, again, what do they need… We don’t do any stock, like every single person needs these 10 modules because every company is different, so we work with a company and we determine what their team needs, and then we put together a curriculum that supports that need, and then we do videos where they can watch, but then no one’s gonna change their behaviors from watching a video, so then we get together live, we talk about actually using the work, implementing the work, what does it look like in the real life world, and then how do we use this new information to really impact, and then we come back together again and we talk about it, what went well, what didn’t go well, but the implementation piece is so important when it comes to spending money on education, you have to create environment where someone can implement what they’ve learned, we also, in all of our leadership academies include either self-coaching or one-on-one coaching, because to change your behavior, you have to do a lot of mental work, and you have to really think about if I grow in this area, what’s possible for me, because you have to say Here’s where I am, I want everything on the other side of the work, because if you’re not willing, if you don’t want it on the other side of the work, you won’t do the work, and so that coaching and that mental piece helps us again, create behavior change, because people mentally, you’re seeing what’s on the other side of this education, why it matters to them, and what’s in it for them to actually do the program.

0:40:38.9 S1: So are you doing a lot of one-to-one stuff at the moment, a lot of Zoom calls?

0:40:43.5 S2: I am, yeah. And I am one of those like most people in the world, I’m back-to back on Zoom calls all day, but I love my work so much. I love it, I could do it all day, every day.

0:40:57.7 S1: That’s good. And I’m always interested to know how much of the stuff that you teach to your customers, your clients, do you also get your team to go through stuff like the academy, that sort of thing. And what’s that look like for you? How is that process for you?

0:41:19.2 S2: Oh, I just love that you asked that question. I’ve never been asked that before. I think that’s a great question. So one of the things that we do when we look at our organization and succession planning, and one of the first jobs that people do is what we call program manage, and so they are managing the logistics behind an academy, and then when we’re on… The academy calls, they are there managing the IT, answering questions, but what that does, it allows them to go through the program several times, and so they start to hear all of those things, and then I as a leader, have to lead in a way in which I ask other people to leave. And so, like we were talking earlier, when I said, I say that people change my mind and sometimes they change my mind… There’s one person on our team, she’s incredible, she’s super smart, is a graphic designer, and she does all of our… Making sure all of our materials are visually, you can learn from them visually, which is a whole another piece of trying to create education as our eyes and how our eyes learn. She challenges me and gets me to change my mind all the time, and I adore that, I love it, and then another girl on our team is like this ideal engine, she just comes up with ideas like crazy, and in fact, Monday when we had our touch base and we were talking about her objectives for the week, one of her objectives was to go learn about a new software and to ideate on ways we could deploy it to make us more successful, and that’s her…

0:42:52.8 S2: One of her projects this week is to ideate and to learn and to come up with ideas, and so yeah, so we definitely walk the walk and we put the people through our academies as part of their job to help them understand it.

0:43:09.6 S1: So do you do objectives for the week… For your whole team?

0:43:15.0 S2: Yeah, we don’t look at it necessarily a week by week, but obviously there are some things that are pressing by the week, but I meet with everyone one-on-one once a week, and they come to me and tell me what they think their priorities are and why their priorities are impacting the business and why it’s important, and they bring me ideas, we love to ideate here at three or four, and sometimes we laugh or like, Oh, Dan, that was a really good idea. We have to do the work now, so that’s kind of the joke, it’s like, Oh, I had this idea, but we’re gonna do the work, and I’m like, We’ll do the work. We’ll figure it out. But yeah, we talk about those objectives and what a win looks like, because if you send someone to date is one of their task items, what does success look like? I can’t… I don’t know how those ideas will go, I don’t know if he’ll any ideas we can use, and so I have to be open to having whatever ideas come back that come back and really evaluate success as the ability to think about how to apply new software in a way that would improve our business, right or wrong, I can’t get attached to the actual ideas.

0:44:32.5 S1: And would you advocate or is it something that you… People do, if they’re not already doing it. So like a formulaic, whether it be weekly or monthly, what are your objectives? Or idea, as you say.

0:44:46.8 S2: Yeah, I think everyone needs to know what they’re responsible for. And you talk to people who are struggling in their job oftentimes, they’ll say, I just don’t really know what I’m supposed to do, and often times the language they put us, I don’t know how… Which frustrates people ’cause they’re like, well, figure it out, but what they really mean is, I don’t have clarity on what I do. And so by having those conversations with people, asking them about impact, asking them about their ideas, asking about the work they’re doing, what their roadblocks are, all of that allows them to, again, provide… Let you know their value, you can see your value or their value, you start to learn about what they do, because you can’t be an expert in everyone’s jobs, you start to learn what they do, and I think that one-on-one time that relationship building is critical to business success. Can I ask about your business goals for 34? Yeah, so it’s interesting, when I started this journey as an entrepreneur, what my business looks like today looks nothing what I thought it would look like, and I am so glad it doesn’t look like what I thought it would look like, because life has a disease.

0:45:59.4 S2: Yeah, so what I thought I was gonna do is I was just gonna be me and I was just gonna do some executive coaching. I had no idea that I’d have a full team of people, that we would have multiple arms to the business, that we would help all different kinds of companies, and that we’d really become talent strategist and not just an executive coach. So yeah, so that’s kind of the evolution. And it happened really fast. I was probably six months in before I started realizing, Wait a minute, I could do something bigger. So what the future holds for us. You know, I have some ideas, but I’m open to what the future brings me, and what’s next for us is to hit some milestones. I am a female minority owned business, and there are statistics that say I’ll fail, but I won’t, and so I think for me, my biggest goal right now is to break some of the stereotypical statistics, the safe female minority-owned businesses will fail because they don’t fail, but there’s a lot of belief that they do, and so I wanna pull those statistics up.

0:47:13.6 S1: Good. Can I come back to one thing which you said, which was… You mentioned that there was something which changed your mind about which direction you were gonna go in going from, you know, just yourself doing coaching, can you… Do you know what that is? What was the big thing that was… Changed it for you?

0:47:32.6 S2: Yeah, I think what changed it for me, his confidence, I think that when I started my business, my confidence wasn’t where it needed to be, and I thought that’s what I could contribute, and as I started learning more and doing more, my confidence built… And I recognize what I could have to offer, and when my confidence started to grow, obviously my ideation group, my ideas of how things could be done, or how we could approach something or how we maybe got a new client, and so I think it was my confidence that changed. And my belief in myself.

0:48:10.0 S1: Self-belief is what I was gonna say. Yeah, good stuff. Have you got anything that you’d like to add… Which we haven’t discussed today that you think would be valuable.

0:48:23.6 S2: I think that when you are a leader, live in a world of understanding that you are imperfect, your team doesn’t expect you to be perfect and that… Be on a journey of curiosity. I think that the best leaders out there are constantly curious, constantly learning, constantly thinking about things, and they’re not only curious outside of their team or outside their organization, but they’re super curious inside too, and so I guess that’s what I would leave people with a stay curious. Jen Thornton, where is the best place to find you? So you can find us on our website at , we have a ton of free resources. You can access there, you can also reach me on LinkedIn, we can continue the conversation and I’m on LinkedIn at Jen Thornton ACC.

0:49:20.6 S1: Well, thank you very much for all the value you provided today… Have you enjoyed it?

0:49:25.5 S2: I’ve had a great time and thank you for the great questions. I love when people make me think…

0:49:30.2 S1: That’s great. Well, thank you again and I will speak to you soon.

0:49:34.3 S2: Alright, have a great afternoon, nk.

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