Your culture isn’t your to-do list. It’s the long game.

0:00:01.9 S1: Welcome to Powerful at Work. The podcast for business owners like you who value each person and desire to lead powerfully, I’m your host Rosa Ponce de Leon, and it is my goal to help you secure your legacy and make a real impact by establishing a culture where all are empowered to be more creative and efficient without all the burnout in people issues, if you’re ready to do things differently tune in and join the movement. Now let’s get after it. Jennifer Thornton has developed her expertise in talent strategy and leadership professional development over her exciting 20-plus year career as an HR professional, she has led international teams across Greater China, Mexico, the UK and the US to expand into new markets, managing franchise retailers and developing to strategic partnerships, all while exceeding business objectives and financial results, the rapid growth of her consulting firm 304 Coaching has been largely due to Jennifer’s unconventional approach to building innovative workforce development solutions for companies who are facing breakthrough growth and accelerated hiring patterns. She is a sought after business strategies specializing in startups and large value-based organizations who lives in Texas with her family and rescues.

0:01:16.0 S1: Jen Thornton, welcome to the show, I’m excited because I feel like we rescheduled a few times and I finally was able to get you on, so I’m super excited. I’m excited to be here, it’ll be a great conversation. Yeah.

0:01:26.8 S2: We have a lot to talk about, so I wanna jump right in. You’ve done a lot of work with leadership and changing the C-suite as well as a company culture, and I really… Those are two separate topics, and I’m sure you can go days on either of them, but we’re gonna try to cover both and give us a one over, so we talk first about the power play aspect of it. So.

0:01:47.0 S1: One of the things that’s unique about a C-Suite group is they have always, until they got to the top, kind of always taking care of their area, so if you are a manager or something, you kinda take care of your area… If you are a director of Vice President, you take care of your area, and so once you become a part of the C-suite and you become a steward of the organization, first over a protector of your team, that’s when things start to get a little bumpy, because too often, we don’t think about the C-suite person as part of the stewardship of the organization, and so they walk up to the table or try to solve problems with their mindset around their vertical, their team, their focus, versus as stewards of this organization, what’s the right thing to do, regardless of the impact now, obviously, we have to deal with that as we get there, but at the time, it’s gonna be good for some and fund for others, and as stewards of the organization, we have to understand that. And then think about how do we take that back down into our team…

0:02:55.4 S1: But that doesn’t happen that often. Most of the time, everyone shows up with their agenda and we say, we’re into the company culture, we say we’re into the company agenda, but we don’t look at it as a group of people really netted together to start the organization. And that’s when you start to have a little bit of those frictions that inviting… The resource grabs and all those things that come along with it.

0:03:21.0 S2: Totally, we definitely spent a lot of time on this, but I think I wanna highlight the part that each manager is a cog in a bigger machine, and what your suggestion is, I gotta know how I fit in with the rest of them, how my performance affects the people next to me, not just wanting to be my best, but I’m actually even better if I consider how I’m impacting the people around and home helping them be better, or if I’m doing something how I’m potentially impairing them, and I think that’s the sensitivity you wanna bring out here, yes.

0:03:53.4 S1: Absolutely. And too often, we’re thinking about our own resource needs, our own career agendas, I hear that a lot, you’ll be talking to someone in the C-Suite and maybe they want to go from just a vertical to a COO or a president role, and so they start to a land grab, or start to think more about their own career, and it’s not that that’s not important, but to really have a unified Executive Team, it’s that linkage, and it’s interesting if you look at the definitions of teamwork that’s out there, it’s… At the end of the day, it’s just a group of people willing to work together, which isn’t all that great, and so when you think about linking together or weaving together, that’s an elevated mindset around a group of people, when you’re linked together, you’re stronger as a group than you are as an individual. But to do that, you have to lean into differences, you have to understand the give and take, you have to really think about the good of the organization over sometimes the good of your vertical, and sure that everything leaves together because once the team is really linked, solid what happens as the organization will move forward more quickly, so therefore in the end, everyone will get more than likely what they need, but if you start with that, you get behind the eight ball, and we see that happen way too often.

0:05:18.1 S2: You’re really elevating people here because it’s easy to be selfish and driven and motivated, and we like those ambitious people, and we look at them as leaders and very confident and very able to deliver and hit the performance goals and all that stuff, but in reality, those fine qualities and amazing qualities can become a huge hindrance, if we’re looking to elevate ourselves to that area you’re describing, where people do weave together, do it together, and do lock arms and together challenge the marketplace. And I think that that’s something that you alluded to when you said how we promote people and how they come up through the ranks it… What is it that we can do differently in the organization and in the culture of the organization, so that we generate people that are more… I don’t wanna say Balance, but certainly more elevated in their influence and in the way that they show up as leaders.

0:06:14.1 S1: One of the first things organizations can do, and when I coach executives, this is one of the very first conversations I have in a new engagement, is how do you define success in your current role? So what happens is we again, we start to rise up, so I’m the director, I’m doing awesome. And then all of a sudden, the next dam, a Vice President… Well, if I haven’t reassigned success, if I haven’t said Success is a vice president at this time and my organization in my world looks like this, unconsciously we’re going to be driven back towards what we used to get recognized for, our mind’s gonna wanna go back there, our mind’s gonna want that to be leaned, all those neuro pathways, everything is driving us back down, and so we have to be really conscious in thinking about how do we elevate ourselves up and kinda level up like a video game. You get to the next level and it’s hard and it’s uncomfortable, but you know you’ll get better again because you’ve always gotten better again, and so when you get into that new position, you have to stop and say, I’m gonna say goodbye to things that used to feel good, the things that got me this at a boy at a girl kind of thing, and I’m gonna start focusing on what success looks like here, and I’m gonna only recognize myself when I hit those things, and so it’s this unconscious kind of reassignment of your mind of what success looks like.

0:07:34.7 S1: And so when you start to practice that and you can be an advise President role for five years, and you may have to do that three different times because times evolve, but then again, when we get into that C-Suite and our responsibilities are different, we instinctively always go back to what we’ve always done, because it’s just the neuro-pathways in our mind is just how the world works, we’re all human, so therefore it works that way. And that’s the big piece of it, is really sitting down and saying, This is what success looks like in this position at this time, and here’s where I want you to keep your focus.

0:08:09.1 S2: And I wanna touch on that because I feel like that requires a sense of I gotta step back and work through some human nature, resistance to change, sticking to what’s comfortable… Craving that safety and saying, this is what I know and this is where I feel good. I don’t want to come in and make a bad impression as a leader, I wanna hit the ground running, I wanna deliver the results that I promise you, but I feel like there’s a little bit of a need here for a time to grow in transition and do you find that leaders are able to cater to that need, in other words, we may have the right intention, we mean well, but do we actually do it? Do we actually give our leaders that time to transition in a way that lets them really develop new neural pathways and scrap the old stuff and come up with a new way of existing…

0:08:58.6 S1: Often time we don’t do it. And the reason why is typically we’re in our own mess at the same time, and so that is why executive coaching is so powerful because it’s an outside voice coming in and asking those questions and challenging the way you’re thinking and helping you elevate your thoughts and your experiences, but if you’ve got three layers of people that haven’t assigned the right success to them, then how can they do it to the person that’s reporting in to them? And so it becomes a very cyclical problem, and it becomes a situation where we kind of organically sometimes get there, or we get to a place where we’re micro-managing or overwhelmed, we aren’t focused on the right things, we’re trying to be straight A students as adults and I’m always like, We cannot be straight A adults, you gotta pick amazing bees and sees in your life. And so all of those things start to happen. I know as adults, I don’t know why we think kids can be straight A students, it’s tough for them as adults, no one needs to be in a straight A student. And so really helping people start to understand what a success look like and what are the layers of that success, but we don’t have time, that the world is busy and we get just bogged down in the to-do list, but really strong leaders take the time to step away from the stuff and start to really put some thought around how the organization functions, and that creates the culture, and the culture isn’t the to-do list, the culture is the way we think about the business and how we act inside the business, but it takes time and it takes discipline.

0:10:34.9 S2: And it takes that outside voice, I wanna go back to that because I think that when we are used to a certain thing and it’s what we know… We don’t even know what we don’t know at this point. So you do need that an outside voice to influence you, but I also wanna go back to the point of those C students because I just had a conversation with a different guest about how grades do not dictate success in any way, grades are just… This is the mechanism that you performed in and you were graded on that, but it does not measure necessarily intelligence or driver, so many other things. And the other point that you made is that we can’t afford because we have all these things to do, but I wanna talk to the fact that we can’t afford not to… Right. Because the law of diminishing returns as a concept, I was thinking as you were talking, and you talked about the cycle where people aren’t given their transition point and now they can give it to their people, and now we have this ingrained culture that is just stagnant and it just keeps getting worse and worse, and it’s a snowball effect, and now trying to change the organization becomes even harder because now we’ve created a process where everyone is just expected to hit the ground running, and we’re really giving people lots high fives because you stepped in and you just killed it right away, and that’s just not realistic.

0:11:50.7 S2: So.

0:11:51.1 S1: When you think about the not being a straight A student, I completely agree with your past guests around, grades do not dictate intelligence, and they certainly don’t dictate problem solving, grit, resilience, the things that it takes to be an adult. Let’s all face it. The last couple of years, we’ve all had to learn how to be really resilient and have some great to get through life, and our school system is actually built on preparing people to work in factories, and so everyone learns the same thing. Everyone’s given the same amount of information, but that’s not how we work today, and when you think about leadership, it’s a very similar situation, our leadership best practices that have been taught generation after generation were created in a world that no longer exists. And so when we bring in that old way of thinking of you have to be perfect or you’re a failure, you have to know it all, or you’re a failure, all those things we’ve been taught, and you bring it in today’s world, it doesn’t work, it starts to break down, and in today’s world where there’s so many moving parts, you gotta find what you’re really good at and be fantastic at it, and everything else just gets a passing grade and move on and spend all that energy focused on what you’re really good at.

0:13:14.8 S1: And when it gets you on a bed in the morning, what makes you excited, what makes a difference, and there’s no better day than getting up and saying, Hey, I’m gonna do 80%… In my day is gonna be what I wanna do.

0:13:26.6 S2: What I love about that is that it also forces you to lean to others for the things you’re weak at, and I feel like that connectivity and that demand to expect that you’re not out there alone, but that you’re supposed to be performing in totality with the talent of everyone else, there’s room for everyone to flourish, it’s not just me getting all the accolades or me going after it and really doing those power grads that you talked about is… If you’re winning, I’m winning and vice versa.

0:13:54.8 S1: I hope you’re enjoying this, have a sort of a powerful network radio, if you’re ready for more freedom from the day-to-day so you can properly rest, dream and be more effective as a business owner. I wanna invite you to our upcoming free training where I’m gonna share my easy five-part process for making sure your team truly seen her and understand for more details or ureter for the training as it rose up on philly dot com, there you’ll also find tons of resources for growing as a business owner, so you can go all in on your team, will they go all in on bringing your vision to like…

0:14:25.0 S2: I love the idea of playing to people’s Franks, let’s spend a little bit of time to that, and how do we create a culture that does… Api’s always easier said than done. And I think we all recognize that if I had this magic wand that made it all better in the work environment.

0:14:39.4 S1: I’d be very happy ’cause I’d be solving all kinds of stuff, but… Right, when you think about playing in the strengths, it’s about really understanding, it just starts at hiring, hiring the right person for the right job, which I know we’ve all always heard that, but what happens is we are like, Oh, this person left, so let’s just hire another one of those people, but we don’t stop and say, what does the business need? What does this job actually in Tel, and then we create these uniform positions where we want someone to be detailed and creative at the same time, and we want them to be able to use or left in the right hand at the same time. And we create these unicorn positions where no one’s gonna be successful, so a lot of allowing people to play to their strengths is to get… Have a lot of clarity around the positions in which you’re going to hire someone for… He’s about that clarity. You cannot hire someone that’s gonna be playing to their strengths in that role, and then once someone is in the organization, allow them to do great work where they do great work and where they can get a passing grade and it works through the business, get okay with it…

0:15:46.6 S1: And again, not expecting that every single person has to be perfect every day, ’cause it just doesn’t happen.

0:15:53.1 S2: On roles and responsibilities is such a big deal because people can define what they own in terms of their piece of the pie, but what are your thoughts around just organizational structure in general, it’s great to be organized, but I feel like in that example that you gave, we hire a person and our structure is one way, but this person may be forces us to reshape our structure because maybe there’s a need for a different person to support a different innovation that comes out of this, or we need to look at how it’s changed the face of the organization, and we wanna be a little more resilient and flexible and bend-able. What are your thoughts around that? Do you find that organizational structure sometimes don’t flex enough…

0:16:32.9 S1: I think that they don’t always flex enough, but I think they don’t start with what’s our business objective, they come at it as who’s supposed to report to, who… Whose titles, this, how is this supposed to be? And they don’t say, alright, so the next five years, here’s our three business objectives, and based on these business objectives, this is where we have to land, so let’s start building into that, they kind of take what they have, what’s our payroll budget, how many positions does that need and they kind of make this Frankenstein kind of thing they put together to meet that, but you have to really take a long game with it. And the other thing that happens with org structures, as we throw payroll at the problem, we’ll have a group of people struggling, they just say We need more people, and so they just keep hiring more people, but yet the problems never go away. And when there’s a team struggling, you have to stop and say, Is there automation that we’re missing, is their skill sets, we’re missing, is their leadership that we’re missing, why is this group of people struggling to complete their work? Let’s make sure we know that before we just throw more payroll at the problem, and I see that happen over and over and over again.

0:17:47.0 S1: And then a company gets upside down and they can’t afford to pay the people, but yet they can’t afford not to, and so… Or structure is incredibly important. And it’s very complex.

0:17:57.6 S2: Well, I love your answer because all I can think about is teams in sports, and so I’m gonna use a hopper example ’cause that’s my sport, and in soccer, you look at the team you’re about to play, and you can change the way that you put the people in the field, so you can have a flat for back or you have a sweeper in the bag of the way that you actually position the players, their roles will change because the other team has a super fast player at the front, or… I now understand my opponent so well that I can use my existing talent no matter what, I can only have 11 people in this field on my team, I get a people in the bench that I can have on reserve, but I can only have 11 people. So the payroll issue is not an option where I can’t put 12 all on a sudden I can bring you five people. So I love this idea of taking the time to know what our goals are, like if our goal is to defeat this opponent, now we can figure out using the talent that we have, how do we make that happen? And it may mean that you are normally playing in the wing, but today I need you to play in the middle, let’s go to the practice board and get some drills in place to get you to be really good at that role in that way.

0:19:06.5 S2: And most of the time, people are driven, they love that challenge.

0:19:09.3 S1: They do, they love that challenge. And if you talk to the people doing the work, they typically have the solution, but we don’t always stop and ask people, Hey, just… If you were in charge and you can make the decisions, what would you do, and man, if you go down to the people actually doing the work and you ask those questions, you will learn so much… And there’s an organization I’ve been working with for a long time, and we have a situation, we’ve been thrown a lot of payroll at a problem, and what it comes down to is they’ve got a software system that’s broken, it’s not working, and they’re… And they’ve been fighting the change because it’s gonna be very painful to change out the software system, but the pain of not changing is now greater than the pain of change, but six months, 12 months ago, everyone dealing with that problem would have said, This is what we should do.

0:20:00.3 S2: Wow. And then they let out because they kept investing into the wrong thing, we’re trying to keep this thing in… Please, I find that that happens sometimes with plans to… We have this plan is stick to the plan, and there’s a time to stick to the plan, but sometimes the plan needs to be scrapped all together, if we failed at the beginning in the planning phase, maybe we fail to look at the intelligence, we didn’t press heart enough, and we didn’t have all the facts on the table and we made decisions based on faulty realities, and it’s okay as a leader to step back and go, Hang on. We need to stop.

0:20:30.0 S1: Well, and not only that, but in today’s world, as fast as it moves, if we get overly attached to an idea, new information will present itself, something to change and move. And so if we’re attached to our plan A, B, C and D, But the new information present itself, but we’re not willing to see it or hear it or look for it, then we may move down a path that looks like it’s working, but when we land it won’t be okay. And I think that it’s interesting, I’ve been kind of starting to get obsessed about this whole meters marketing and where marketing is going and what marketing is gonna look like, McDonalds and all these organizations have filed for trademarks for their virtual stores. And I think about forming a new marketing team today, I wouldn’t form them today to think about today’s marketing, I would form them to get ahead of where we’re going, so they land faster than their competition there, a ton of millions of marketing teams right now, they’ve got their plans, but then I mean out of nowhere, here comes this idea of metaphors, and if they don’t start moving on that they’ll get behind, and that.

0:21:40.0 S2: Right there requires leaders that are willing to not be tied up in their old ways, they are already used to that ability to transition quickly and not be wearing an old uniform or an old piece of equipment to where they’re going, it requires that comfort and discomfort, and I think that’s bringing us full circle to where we encourage leaders to give that transition time, give that space to let people figure out, so that when the market is changing faster than we can move, we can tap these people and be like, You’ve been here before, you’ve been in that transition space, this is no different, it’s simply we need you to do it faster now… Yes.

0:22:20.8 S1: You do it faster, and we just really need to do it different, sometimes differentiator, human brains, but once you get used to being really excited about something different, your brain starts to get used to that, and so it’s like, Oh, cool. Something’s different and it’s just a fantastic instead of, Oh no, something’s different is that you do have to train your brain to be excited about change…

0:22:43.6 S2: Totally, totally. I’m thinking about a water analogy, I guess swimming in a pool is different than swimming in a river or different than Simon upon… But at some point, it’s not a big deal, whatever. If it’s a notion, it’s still just water, and I understand water and I’m gonna be able to perform and it’s gonna be okay, I’m not gonna drown. Absolutely.

0:23:01.9 S1: And there’s so many great historical stories about people not willing to show up for change, blockbusters a great one, they… At you to buy Netflix for pennies on the dollar. And it’s interesting when you read interviews with the founders of Netflix, they talk about… They finally got into blockbuster, they spend everything they had, they had to be there by a certain time that next morning and stay up all night long, preparing they go to present, and they could tell… The CEO was basically like, this is hysterical. No one’s ever gonna wanna do this, but that group of executives had no ability to see change coming, that’s… They mocked it, they mocked it. Instead of hearing and listening, Kodak, another great example. They had the first digital camera, their executives thought no one wanted to… ’cause there’s so many great examples that we should learn from that we got to get… Okay, as things change.

0:23:55.7 S2: Thank you so much, Jen, I appreciate the examples here at the end, ’cause I think it drives a point home. Is there anything that you wanna say in closing for our executives and they can actually carry this out, lot encouragement.

0:24:07.0 S1: I think what I would encourage you to do is find the space to think, find the space in your day, even if it’s you go for a walk, but you know as an executive, we just pound our calendar out and we never give ourself that space to really process and think and have conversations without agendas, because that’s where you start to learn, it’s where you can start getting curious, so grab a couple of people from your team and go for a walk outside with them and just talk about the business. And I know how you’ll learn a ton and shall enjoy a little sunshine.

0:24:42.9 S2: Awesome, thank you so much. And where can we find you to connect with you?

0:24:46.9 S1: So you can find me at or on LinkedIn at Jen Thornton ACC. And we also have a great YouTube channel with lots of video tips on leadership skills.

0:24:58.4 S2: I love it, that will all be in the shot, as well as some links to some freebies that you provided for our audience.

0:25:03.6 S1: Absolutely, yes. Thank you, Jen. Thanks for listening to Powerful at Work today. If you subscribe now, you’re gonna hear from some truly amazing guests who will help you shift into a new approach to leadership so you can develop a healthy relationship with your team and truly maximize your… We’ll explore stories from experts who are daring to do work differently, and we wanna invite you into the conversation, hit the subscribe button on your podcast app, we’re excited to help you be the high performance team with simple advice that you can start using right now from Maxime.

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