Tim Sweet welcomes Rita Ernst, Positivity Influencer and Consultant, back to the show to discuss the differences between generational education and how school focus has shifted from individualism to teamwork. How does that shift translate into business preparedness? In talking about this, Tim and Rita address the fundamental occupational processes they both respect and the order in which necessary change must be addressed.
About Rita Ernst
In 2005 Rita Ernst left corporate life and established her independent consulting and coaching practice. She has an extensive catalogue of satisfied clients in organizations that range from construction to pharmaceuticals to non-profits.Rita leverages her expertise in organizational psychology to craft solutions for business owners and staff members that break through the hostility while restoring pride, teamwork, and profits. Through her ground-breaking training and lessons, she reveals how to intentionally cultivate positive thoughts and behaviors instead of automatically reacting from the trappings of a depleting cycle of frustration and discontent.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Contact Tim Sweet | Team Work Excellence:
Tim Sweet: Before we get going, I would like to talk a little bit about what you're about to hear. I'm joined by Rita Ernst, owner of Ignite Your Extraordinary. She's a true expert in organizational psychology. And in this episode, Rita and I are going to be diving deep into the fascinating world of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace. This conversation evolves from what we've learned in school and how that differs from how we approach the workplace to the impact of general perspectives on collaboration and building high performance teams from scratch. We'll be discussing the history of team based systems in business, the influence of Japanese processes and the importance of trust and collaboration in organizations. But that's not all. We're going to discuss our individual perspectives on just what's at stake when it comes to poor teamwork. And Rita offers up an analogy of horse racing in Kentucky, which beautifully illustrates the importance of aligning individual potential with team goals. So saddle up and hit that subscribe button, because I'm pretty sure that this thought provoking conversation will have you pausing the playback and really thinking about your own team dynamics. So now let's ignite our extraordinary with Rita Ernst. Let's get into this.
Rita Ernst: Right. Well, a lot of people hear the conversation, I think, like this, Tim: Don't talk to me about teamwork, I can't even get butts in seats.
Tim Sweet: Yeah, no kidding.
Rita Ernst: And you and I can look at that and say, Yeah, but if you had better teamwork, you could keep butts in seats.
I'd like to ask you some questions. Do you consider yourself the kind of person that gets things done? Are you able to take a vision and transform that into action? Are you able to align others towards that vision and get them moving to create something truly remarkable? If any of these describe you, then you, my friend, are a leader. And this show is all about and all for you. Welcome to the Sweet On Leadership Podcast, Episode Seven.
Welcome to the Sweet On Leadership podcast, where we unlock the secrets of the most influential, trusted and impactful leaders in business today so you can become your best version of a leader. And now your host, you know the person who asks the server's favorite dish on the menu? Yeah, he's that guy. Tim Sweet.
Tim Sweet: Rita, I'm really glad that you've come back on and that we've got another chance to talk about this and we get to continue our conversation from last time. So thanks again for joining us. Why don't you just remind people who you are again and what you do and then we'll get into the conversation.
Rita Ernst: I'm happy to be back with you, Tim. Thank you. I am Rita Ernst. I am the author of 'Show Up Positive', available at your favorite bookseller. And I am the owner of Ignite Your Extraordinary, a consulting practice that focuses on helping organizations align to achieve their fullest potential.
Tim Sweet: Well, I am very honored that you've come in again. For those of you who saw or listened to the last episode with Rita, we had a great conversation about what can a leader do to anticipate, before it's on the financials, when not everything is running green and when there may be early warning signs that we are going to enter a period of struggle, specifically struggle when it comes to how the team is feeling, what they're meeting, what they're doing, and what are eventually going to come out in terms of productivity, efficiency and profit. And you drop some awesome gems during that last session. The one that sticks out most in my mind is the fact that we shouldn't shy away from digging back into the story of the company and even our personal stories of why we joined in the first place, and that we really do ourselves a disservice if we don't allow ourselves to feel that strength and that stability of that foundation, and instead, get embroiled in the chaos that is today and are always looking for, well, it has to be new, new, new and obsolete everything else, which, yes, we know we have to grow and change, but boy, does it ever create some instability and some nerves when we don't feel like we have any foundation to draw on. So really, I thought that was just such an excellent point. And then you also brought us through an explanation of some of the wealth that they can find in the book and specifically around what leaders can do to take action right away and really be that force for change, be the change they want to see in the world, as Gandhi said. Right. What did you think of the last conversation and was there anything that was burning for you as we left it?
Rita Ernst: Well, I am anxious to hear more feedback from your listeners, so please jump in, if you're subscribing to the podcast, and give us some comments because we did say at the beginning that this was going to be sort of our little collegial geek out conversation.
Tim Sweet: Leadership geeks. That's what we are.
Rita Ernst: And so I hope people were hanging in there with us. But, you know, there was a whole side conversation that we could have had that we didn't have that I'm hoping we can have today, Tim. And that is that beautiful insight that you gave about the difference between the homogeneity in the school system and what people experience as teamwork in those kinds of places versus what we really mean by high-performance teams in the workplace. And those don't happen by default. Those have to happen with structure and effort and intention. And so I think there's this really juicy conversation that we can have about the difference between being a collection of individuals in the workplace, trying to accomplish something on the pathway to becoming a high performing team, and why your listeners might want to care about achieving that goal of the high performance team. What do you think?
Tim Sweet: I think that's a great place to start and I'm glad to hear that that was something of interest to you. I think that's awesome and it is a big topic that we have to face every day. We've known for years that generational issues do play a part. And I remember I often will talk about when I was running my first business and we were really contemplating what did the entry into the workforce of Gen Y look like and how was then a much younger Gen X dealing with it, and how were the Boomers, which were still very much in play there dealing with this new digital, digitally enabled, digitally minded generation moving into the workforce where Gen X was still pretty analog, we saw in shades of gray, and we saw the emergence again of this digitally sure group. The feeling of the time was that they would have kids and get mortgages and incur the wrath of taxes or whatever. And they would eventually get it and they would wake up and mature and slip into the normal way of thinking. Well, it didn't happen.
Rita Ernst: They did not. No, it did not.
Tim Sweet: They were as motivated by the same things as they were from the beginning. And actually what happened is Gen X and even the Boomers began to gravitate towards this new digitally-minded experience. And so now we've seen this. I think we've learned from this, at least in the leadership sciences, we've learned that generation is not nearly that easy to pin down, for one thing. But there are trends. And one of the trends that we've got right now is the school systems are very, very different in general than they were for previous generations. And that collaboration and teamwork are at the forefront of those schools.
Rita Ernst: Well, and valuing differences and accepting differences as strengths instead of weaknesses. Right. There's a whole value system in our education that is much more finely tuned, in my opinion. Yes. Yes. Then when I was a student.
Tim Sweet: Yes. But I would also caution I guess, and that is that we have to remember that where is that value system showing up and how is it showing up. And it is showing up between adults and children in institutions which have a very real mandate of moving children through - if you look at the work of Dan Pink - you're moving children through this industrialized educational experience. And as a result, you have to demand some homogeneity on how the children show up, which means that even though we're asking these new questions by and large, and even though it's team groupings and things, there's still a great deal of conformity that's required and there's not necessarily a clear tie to performance as maybe there were in the past, because grades and assessments can be much more subjective and very fluid. And can be influenced greatly through other factors. And it's not to say that the educators aren't great. They're great. I mean, there are many, many great teachers out there. But we have to remember that this culture is coming to a different industry that would be very, very different than you're going to find in most private or public organizations. And so I guess my question to you is, does that type of education prepare a person for the type of high collaboration, high-performance teaming that we need in many organizations? Does it lay a suitable groundwork or is there work to do?
Rita Ernst: Well, you know, I hate to lean so heavily on the generation thing, but I think if you look at young entrepreneurs who've built businesses, you know, that has been built from the ground up by millennials and even younger people, clearly they know how to get high performance out of their peer group.
Tim Sweet: We're seeing this for sure.
Rita Ernst: We're seeing it for sure. When we have organizations led from the mindset of the older generations of the Boomers and Gen Xers, not so much. Do we see the preparedness? And the only way I can come to any understanding of that difference is this clash of values and norms which get to the core of what makes a team or not.
Tim Sweet: It's interesting because some of these traditional businesses or the older businesses that we see around there, the more established businesses or at least the ones that are longer in the tooth, their cultures and their systems and their processes and everything that makes them up body and soul, found their genesis in a much less collaborative time. And so when we go to install higher collaboration within teams, etcetera, we're not up against change resistance in individuals. We're up against change resistance that's been calcified into the organization and the culture because that's what it was crafted around.
Rita Ernst: Let me put a personal fine point on what Tim is saying, all of you lovely listeners. So I finished graduate school in the early 90s. And I worked in manufacturing plants at the time, and we were just converting operations from traditional militaristic types of management/supervisor models of operating hierarchy into team-based systems. So that is how new team based systems in business are in the history of businesses, right? So to your point, Tim, there are companies like General Electric, Ford Motor Company that have many more years of history and experience outside of the team model than they do inside of the team model.
Tim Sweet: And I think what is really fascinating about that is when we look at some of the genesis points of, again, high collaborative teaming, I actually think that is where much of the education systems have drawn their inspiration. I mean, that is, it was happening in my memory, in business before it was happening in schools. And then whether or not it was because of exercises that perhaps administrative teams or somebody was going through, I can't speak to that. The language started showing up and when my kids went to school, and my oldest is 16 right now, they were speaking a language that we were using corporately to bring people together, bring them forward, and how an 11-year-old processes that or how a 7-year-old processes that I can't say, right? But it was far beyond the book report style teaming that we used to go through, which was, all right, you're going to group up and you do the title page and you do the bibliography, and then the other three suckers get to write, do all the work and write the book report. You know, that was sort of the extent of teamwork if you weren't on a sports field or perhaps putting on a play or a production or being part of a band, things were not terribly collaborative.
Rita Ernst: I can only speak to my experience in grade schools here in Louisville because once my kids got into middle school and high school, I was not an involved parent in those systems. And in many cases, like in the middle school that my oldest daughter went to, they did not want you around or involved, like they really wanted parents out of the building. So you had to have very specific reasons to be there. But in the grade school, what I noticed immediately that was so discernibly different than my experience when I was the age of my children entering grade school, was there was this purposefulness to creating community and respecting and valuing one another that was ingrained, K through 5 is is grade school for my kids, and in every year there were messages and very purposeful intention given to making sure that across the entire school inclusive of the parents beyond the kids in the classroom, there was this messaging around we're a community, we come together, we support one another, we care about one another, those kinds of things.
Tim Sweet: It's funny because as you tell me that, it does remind me a little bit of our differences, Canadian and American, and specifically because I remember having a conversation with an American colleague a while back. And when we think about some of the sort of major tenants of the national identity or something along those lines, you know, the US was really seen as a melting pot. It was seen as we come together and we're stronger and so that there really is this all together mentality or at least this American national mentality. Whereas in Canada, it's funny because when I was brought up, we used to not have that approach. We saw the national landscape as a, it was like a patchwork quilt. We're built on our uniqueness and therefore when a person moves to the country, we have to leverage their skills, taking the best from their culture and not expect change and not expect conformity. And that's a gross generalization. And I realize that it's a gross generalization, but it was really pressed into us that individuality was always quite high in the approach. Now, that didn't translate into the type of individuality that we're talking about in businesses, because I think that even though you had identity that was different than somebody else, you were meant to behave in a predictable, regular manner. And often that was because of the size of the classrooms or something. Teachers needed children to conform. And I guess that was one part of the conversation from last time. Do we feel that this new individuality, this new language around teamwork and whatnot, has solved the conformance problem, or are they still expected to conform? Just like I'm curious on your thoughts.
Rita Ernst: I'm going to maybe step back and try to thread it all together. But before we brought the Japanese Kaizen processes and ideas of teamwork into the US, which is really what we were doing, we were trying to be globally competitive with our pricing and our productivity and that kind of thing.
Tim Sweet: That's when we had the rise of Deming and the operations masters.
Rita Ernst: We were getting killed in the global marketplace, American producers. So that was the whole impetus. But before that, nobody cared if you got along with your coworkers, you had a specific job, set of tasks that you were supposed to do, show up, do your tasks. You know, if you're, like, I was in a manufacturing plant, you're working on the line, this is your station, you're just doing your tasks. Nobody cared. Nobody was having conversation about it, It's important that Tim and Rita communicate well and get along with one another. Like nobody cared about those things. But when you started moving into this model of teaming, now we need to know and understand. We need to have a shared language with one another. We now are going to have certain decisions that we get to make that we didn't get to make before. Great example on the Saturn production line back when Saturn was was like one of the best examples of team-based manufacturing in America, and each team had a goal for how many cars they would produce off the line during their shift. And, you know, and everybody was doing their part. They understood how they fit into that bigger goal of making that happen. But they also all had the right to pull the cord and completely stop the line if there was a major defect or issue. So that was huge like I always feel like it's helpful to people who don't know this history because it's not taught very many places. So it's important to understand where we came from, what we got to, so when you talk about the conformity piece of it, that was like the misconception we were always trying to dodge, as an OD person trying to do team development or install teams inside of organizations, is that it's not cult of conformity, but it is about having and respecting norms and ways of operating together that are going to get the best for everyone. The work that is required, the conversations, the intentionality - and in talking with my children, I still have one in high school, I have one in college, they're not doing that kind of elementary, First, we're going to agree to be a team and talk about what it means to be a team. And they're not, they're just saying, You're going to collaborate together and and and work on these things together. However, because there has been this other shared value that they've had since entering the school system, that we don't discount others for their otherness, there is stuff that they do emerge with around appreciating and looking for each individual's ability to contribute that I think people of our generation, we had to break through a whole lot of assumptions and stuff to be able to get into the head space.
Tim Sweet: To get to a point where we could look at that uniqueness as a strength, in a sense, yeah. You've reminded me of the term. So in Canada and Canadian school systems, we used to say Canada is not a melting pot, Canada is a mosaic. And to see organizations as teams in that in that way is important. But I do think that there's a few steps that can go beyond simply appreciating other people's uniqueness and making room for it. And when we move into high performance, it becomes less about simply accepting and making room for it. And I'm not saying that every team is that there's obviously teams that go beyond that, but I think the real juice is found when we say, how do we now leverage that? How do we use it as a feature, not a bug? How do we use it as a competitive advantage, not a liability to be managed? And when you see teams embrace it that way, to really get fluent in what makes them different and how that actually helps them organize around the work, it's a complete game changer in my experience, and it's not something that people often feel they have time to do. It is truly in that 'important but not urgent' quadrant where we succumb to these older notions of, well, you're hired to do a job, you've been educated to do a job, slip in and do the job. Again, gross generalization. But that's the other end of the spectrum.
Rita Ernst: Well, I agree with you. Your assessment about it being important and not urgent with this one caveat, and this is based on my experience that I wrote about in the book Show Up Positive, and that is except for people who have experienced high performance. And then it is both urgent and important because it's palpable, the difference.
Tim Sweet: There's a gap. There's a vacuum. There's an awareness of how good it could be. And that's a very good point because, I mean, when you're announcing your champion to take an organization to be the local rep or, you know, a champion that's on the ground, often it's easiest if that person has experienced it before. And it's mind-boggling to me, actually. Sometimes you get into some more traditional organizations, you run across entire teams where not one person has real experience being on a high-performing team. They actually, they don't know what that looks like. They do good work. They get their job done. Everything's happening. But they're not on a high-performing team. Organizations where teamwork we wouldn't consider terribly sophisticated can still be wildly profitable. It's just, again, what is the team experience look like? What does the employee experience look like and are they as profitable as they could be? You know?
Rita Ernst: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I was just having this conversation with my graphics designer because I've been trying to distill an idea into like a one-page graphic. And I was saying to her, I want to put numbers to this because some people really just need to be grounded, in fact, I make a joke about it in my book about like, you know, if you're just one of those people that really just you need to get into the numbers for this to have any value or meaning to you, this chapter is for you. We're going to talk about all the research that's been done that tells you the economics behind having a positive culture. But there is a difference in terms of getting people to see this as important or urgent, depending on whether you're talking about you could be getting better quality of X percent, you could be reducing cost of turnover by X percent when you're in the could be, versus when you can flip it on its side and you can say that absenteeism is costing you X amount of dollars. Every person, every turnover in this job is costing you this amount of money off your bottom line. When you can really get it into the place where you can exchange this idea of what it could be into, like this is the money you're leaving on the table, then you tend to get people to get it in that important and urgent category because nobody likes to lose money, right?
Tim Sweet: I mean being able to put teamwork on the balance sheet is something that that takes a fair amount of skill. Now, you come from a psychological background. I come from an operational background. And so for me, even though I'm in the OD space, nothing happens in my mind whether or not it improves the system and it has a bottom line, it is a bottom line effect or a top line effect. And when we're able to say there are these intangible human-centric things that we're going to instill in the business, but we can show a logical effect to improving those within the financials, within our operating metrics, that we can say that attrition and turnover is one that is really, really important right now because, of course, we're in the middle of a movement where, at least in Canada, people are having trouble finding qualified staff. It's not just about finding them, it's about finding them because they want to work in the way they work. So you better know what type of attrition rates you're having and are you in control of those. And is there a decision around teamwork or culture that is directly related to that?
Rita Ernst: Right. Well, a lot of people hear the conversation, I think like this, Tim, don't talk to me about teamwork. I can't even get butts in seats.
Tim Sweet: Yeah, no kidding.
Rita Ernst: And you and I can look at that and say, Yeah, but if you had better teamwork, you could keep butts in seats.
Tim Sweet: Or you'd have, or you'd have the reputation because - and this is the other thing that's really interesting - is that your team problems, your cultural problems, in most instances are not that private anymore.
Rita Ernst: No, they are not. Thank you, Glassdoor.
Tim Sweet: Yeah, Glassdoor for sure. And if not Glassdoor, you know--
Rita Ernst: --Reddit--
Tim Sweet: --well, or just, or LinkedIn. I mean, you know, I advise my executives that are out if a job search is in the cards, you know, begin to interview people that have worked at that organization and ask them very, very pointed questions about the elements of culture that are important to you personally. Because you have the ability to go and ask those questions now. We are tied together. These things are not private matters anymore and they won't stay private for long, especially if they're dramatic. Going back to that point about being able to quantify the effects of teamwork, positive and negative, let's talk a little bit about that, because, you know, in another conversation that we weren't recording, you were giving me this analogy of understanding the variables. I'm going to ask you to go here now if you're okay with that. And you were talking about you're from Kentucky, racing - horse racing - is a big industry and a big draw there. Can you tell everybody that's listening here a little bit about that, a little bit about the variables and you put them into the metaphor of horse racing. And I thought that that was excellent.
Rita Ernst: I don't know if I can do it in the same way again, Tim, but I will do my best--
Tim Sweet: Go for it. I trust you.
Rita Ernst: -- to try to recreate that moment of magic because it was, it just popped into my head when we were having the conversation. But, you know, we were talking about how it's important that we recognize the potential in individuals, and then we're doing the work to align to, and enable, that potential to manifest in the team. And I was sharing with you that, you know what's interesting when you start thinking about that and you think about the overall business and aligning things together, we are known for the Kentucky Derby, that's what Louisville is known for. Churchill Downs, everybody comes for the greatest two minutes in sport, the run. But what is fascinating, something I just learned from reading the book Horse, is in the history is that we used to not race thoroughbreds at such a young age. That is something new that has happened. And the reason that we didn't race thoroughbreds before the age of four, or smart trainers didn't, is because you were going to do damage to the horse. So you could race them early and take purse and make money off of them, but you were trading off the early money for the longevity of money that you could get with the horse. So if you thought that getting some early purses and then you put them out to stud made a good business, you could do that. But if you really had this vision for your horse that the earnings were really going to come down the road in their peak years, which is sort of five, six, seven, you didn't want to do damage that you couldn't repair when they were gelding at age two. All of that has changed now in horse racing and a lot of that has changed, as I shared with you, because we know so much more about the physiology of horses. And so now we know the veterinary sciences of diet and training regimens and things like that so that you are not doing irreparable damage to the horse, and you can still get more longevity out of them. But sort of the same thing holds in companies, in teams. If you go back to the conversation we were having the last time we were together, that when organizations go through these really, really rapid growth spans, when you're chasing this business and the whole team, I write about this in my book, the whole team is behind you. Like everybody's on board. We're going to chase this business, we're going to grow, we're going to get this thing, and then you get there, and what happens is burnout. Because what it took to win that business and what it takes to sustain that business are not the same things. And you haven't done the work to sustain the business. And that's sort of what this, to me, this whole high-performance conversation really becomes about is when you achieve high performance and when you build that foundation and you know what that feels like, when you hit these moments of stress, you have something deeper to dig into. It's like the veterinary sciences that allow you to get through this blip without doing permanent damage to your organization.
Tim Sweet: You talked about the various, you know, with the horse racing example or when we're talking about appreciating differences in people, drawing on that deeper awareness, on those deeper triggers, those levers that you can pull that are down there, or you have to make sure that they're shored up and that you're supporting people and all of these intricate spaces. That gives us another level of power. When you think about the veterinary awareness of an animal, all of the different variables that go into making a champion. When we think about the student coming out and just being self-aware of all of the things that can make what they want to see so that when they are the young entrepreneurial high-tech startup, they know what they want to see in their organization. And it's a lot more holocratic than you're going to get in some of the more structured vertical organizations. But we develop this new language around all of these different variables that we can now go and we can change and test and augment. And I know you and I've talked in the past, you brought it up, the power that gives you and the control that gives you, because it's not simply about saying, Well, we're going to change all of them at once, but we're going to go observe the one that matters, and we're going to make an educated guess and say, Okay, this is the constraint at the time and we're going to change that and we're going to observe and watch. And that was the other piece that I wanted you to speak a little bit to because it's like, you know, think of the power that we get in a team when we have the language and the granularity. Granular awareness of all the things that matter, that we can go in there and we can pick out the one thing that's going to make a difference.
Rita Ernst: There is a method to the madness, so to speak. There is science behind teamwork, right? And so you cannot just jump and skip steps. So it's forming, storming, norming, performing for a reason. And so order does matter. If you are trying to do norming, which is about behaviors and processes and how we work together, but you have trust issues because we don't really know one another, you're dead in the water. You got to go all the way back to the forming stage where building relationship and trust with one another. So in my world, there are three key things that always have to be present. And the first and foundational piece is mutual respect. If there is no respect present, nothing can happen. So if I walk into your organization and things have devolved to the place where the employees are ready to rage against management and walk out the door, right, they're ready to picket this business, they feel disrespected, they feel unheard, they've got... Us trying to put in a new system or a new process is a waste of time. You've got to heal.
Tim Sweet: Busy under-bossing each other.
Rita Ernst: Yeah, you got to fix the relationship and the respect thing first. Nobody - was it Maya Angelou who said, Nobody remembers what you said, but they remember how much you cared, or something, there's a saying like that - I mean, it's sort of that that that essential idea of see me as a person. Connect with me at that level first. So respect is the entry condition. You cannot have teams if you do not have mutual respect. That's just going to have to happen. Then the next thing is mutual purpose. So now that I respect you and I'm willing to be in relationship or in team with you, do we have a shared purpose that we care about? Are we committed to creating something together that rallies us? I go back to the same example. So even if all of your team is happy with everybody else in the team, but they're still failing to meet the goals, I can't dig into fixing systems and processes if we've lost sight of what the goal is, where we're trying to go, you know, and why it's important. So if they think that what we're about is excellence and customer service and they are putting as much intense time, which is costing you money to the bottom line, to really be there for customer service and you've switched gears and you're not so hot on customer service at the moment, and you're thinking, No, like at this point we just need more customers, we just need faster customer integration to our system. Well, those are different messages, different purposes, and they're driving different behaviours and it's creating the conflict. And then the third piece - so we have to have mutual respect, we have to have mutual purpose - and then we can get to mutual meaning, which is the norming part of the conversation, which is about, you know, shared language and how we work together and processes and things for how we operate so that it is as effective as it can be. But you do have to take things in a certain order. And if you just try to start changing everything all at once, there's too much interconnectedness and it's impossible to anticipate how that dynamic will play out and what the result will be.
Tim Sweet: Yeah, it's a fundamental error that a lot of teams get or leaders get trapped in is if, let's say we're in that organization where trust is really the breakdown, where it's mutual respect - and if you use like model, trust before conflict, before commitment, before accountability, before results - if you start trying to work accountability when you haven't dealt with mutual respect and trust, science will often call that a beta error, you know? The alpha error being you get the answer wrong. So two plus two equals three, alpha error, right? If it's two plus two equals penguin, the answer may be a penguin, just not to that question. So, you know, beta error is we're getting the right answer to the wrong question. And so, yeah, let's work on accountability systems. Let's install a new performance scorecard or something. But that's the wrong answer if we haven't dealt with the fundamentals of trust and respect. We have to start.
Rita Ernst: I'm loving this analogy. Yes. Yes. Yes, absolutely.
Tim Sweet: As I said, I started my management journey really in operations management, performance improvement, you know, Deming, Six Sigma, Lean, Hammer, all of those. That's, I'm deeply schooled in that stuff. But I found that I could go in and I could design elegant processes, big processes, floor-to-ceiling processes, performance systems, management systems. Sure, great. Do it. But if I didn't have the people and I didn't have them properly collaborating and I didn't have trust and I didn't have leaders on board and people on board, it didn't matter. It was the right solution to the wrong problem. The problem I should have been looking at was trust. And that's why my first business gave way to my second business, which was all around the right people on the team working on the right stuff with the capacity for excellence, is what the problem is all about. It's not jumping to the engineering of the processes.
Rita Ernst: I love mastermind groups. There's something to be gained from that. But it, but this is also one of the important things to remember about not seeking true expertise in situations like this, and then - I've talked about this in the book, but you see this - as a leader, you go out to your leader network and you talk about the symptoms that you're seeing, right? Somebody can give you a band aid for that symptom. Right solution for the wrong problem. Right? It's just not really going to get to you. So if you're a diabetic and your insulin is out of whack and somebody can tell you, oh, well, take this medicine for that ache and pain, oh, try this like, yeah, like you can, that'll help with some things, but that's not, that's not going to fix the fundamental issue that you need to have fixed. I do encourage you to recognize, dear listeners, that there is some expertise to really understanding the order of things and really assessing. So in our practice, we always say, Well, I have to come in and assess. It's not... and so that gets to number two, be leery of the consultant that comes to you that says, I have it in a box. Let me give you the solution in a box because as you just said, without really getting to the heart of the issues and knowing where we are, it could be the perfect solution that will never work because it's in the wrong order.
Tim Sweet: Yeah. Be careful of the solution that they're providing with an economy of scale because it means it likely is a rubber stamp. It likely is a paint-by-number. And it's likely full of shoulds. Here's the thing you should do. You should really do that. And beware of shooting all over yourself, because it's like that's when there's a person that needs a diagnosis of being a diabetic who's been saying, you know, you should really take more vitamin D or you should really, you know, have you thought about journaling. Like it's a good thing to do, but it's not going to solve your problems. And, you know, and this is where I would toot the horn of the small bespoke operator here, is that I take a deeply personal approach and I'm sure you do as well. Where we go in and we get to the bottom of what really is there and we're not on our agenda. We're not, we're on theirs. We're not trying to sell - I have a massive toolbox, and I'm sure you do, too - I don't bring it out for everybody. I'm there to find the right, the best possible solution to their unique special challenge, and even more importantly, wake them up to that uniqueness and wake them up to the challenge so that they can see it. And once they see it, once we create that gap and maybe that gap is because they experienced it before. But once we create that gap, then they will solve for it. They will find a way if they understand what high function looks like.
Rita Ernst: And, you know how I love my little analogies, if I can give a great analogy to build on what you're saying. The other thing I think that we bring in the way that we practice is akin to captive versus independent agents in insurance. So you're experiencing symptoms of diabetes. You may not be, like you may still have some functioning. We can say, okay, so here's some naturopathic choices, here's some Eastern medicine solutions, here are some traditional things, here's some health and wellness practices, like we can bring a whole suite of options to you, versus we have insulin.
Tim Sweet: But centred around a qualified problem. Centred around a qualified and quantified analysis or a deeply understood pattern that makes sense. And everybody goes, yes, this is a real thing. I may not see it from your perspective, but I can understand that this is legit now.
Rita Ernst: Because at the end of the day, insulin injections may always be required, but the amount and frequency could be very different if you incorporated other practices. Right?
Tim Sweet: That uncovers another issue with teamwork when we're undergoing these types of transformations, and that is resist the urge to boil the ocean, resist the urge to change everything, resist the urge to give up on everything that you've been doing right for all these years. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Appreciate what you're doing well, and go in and cut with a, operate with a scalpel, not a shotgun. It's a much better approach.
Rita Ernst: When I'm networking with people and they ask me to describe my clients, one of the things that I say is that my clients are very smart, successful business people, because it's true. I don't know everything. I'm not McKinsey and Company. I don't have millions of people that go to research on all these things. What I lean into is my ability to use inquiry and curiosity and to, you know, connect the dots to ask questions that allow that business owner to uncover their knowing and genius. They know a lot of things that I don't know that I need to know. You know, I'm like the special seasoning in some ways that you sprinkle in to to to make the great recipe that, you know, that really takes it from mediocre to like five-star restaurant quality. But at the core, I'm trusting that they know their business and really helping them to uncover the things that they know, but they're just not accessing because they are so overwhelmed with the volume of things competing for their time and attention.
Tim Sweet: I mean, they're busy working in the business, not on the business. And we have the luxury. We have the luxury, again, I've said this to you before, and I mean, as a profession, we have the luxury of analyzing what does it mean to lead, about studying the science behind leadership, about looking at, about staying up on the latest ideas and developing a toolbox of everything from the latest to the, you know, greatest hits that work well and everything in between. And then we spend our time getting deeply involved with business owners learning about their business. They're the experts in those spaces. But understanding the types of struggles that they undergo and eventually using that to help us diagnose and lead to good questions and inquiry and Socratic coaching and everything that we need to do to really get to the bottom of something. And I'd say that we, there is a time and a place for the McKinsey and for the Deloitte's and for the, you know, PwC's, and when you're dealing with something that's a massive, massive organization with a big change, they can operate at those scales. Sure. But even if you're in a large organization or a small organization, I think the quality of your result with an outside provider or with your team, is going to be directly related to the quality of the relationship that precedes that. And how, for lack of a better word, how intimate is the knowledge, professional knowledge between those two people, and are they sharing on a level? And if that level is deep and you're able to have high trust and lots of transparency and lots of openness, and really get to the bottom of things? Boy, those are the clients that I love and I continue to work with because it's just, they are the clients for life, not because we're never solving the issue, but because we're solving issue after issue after issue.
Rita Ernst: Yes. Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Tim Sweet: And it's so fun because you feel like your, you don't feel like, you are part of their journey.
Rita Ernst: When I talk about clients, I talk about them as if I'm on their payroll. Because I just feel like I'm part of the team. Like we've really melded in that way. Yes.
Tim Sweet: And personally invested in not just the success of the company, but the success of the people. And again, I don't say this so that we're, like we're kind of waxing poetic on the thing. It's more about this particular vocation, I think requires you to go in and care. And because doing it without a modicum of care, it's pretty cold. And you lose a lot of the nuance and you're and you're unable to, I think, you're unable to connect to the degree you need to connect to make real and lasting change, especially in the areas where the change has to occur in mindset, where it has to occur in personal identity and the understanding of where beliefs are getting us, and all of these things that are actually pretty they're pretty tough. It's much easier to go and draw a flowchart. It's way easier.
Rita Ernst: You're reminding me, Tim, of this epiphany that I've had in the last year for sure. I love Simon Sinek's work on 'Start With Why', I've spent a lot of time thinking about why and about my own personal values and other things. And at the end of the day, what I realized, what I came back to, is a long time ago I did this leadership course and we had a deck of values cards and we had to like get it down to 3 out of a deck of 52. And there was a whole process for that. And my number one card was legacy. And when I think about myself and what I do and how I do it and why I choose the, make the choices that I make, legacy is still that guiding value. It's really at the core of my why. But what is different for me is that when I think about legacy, I don't think about wealth building financially. I think about wealth building in relationships. And so my legacy is measured, for me, in terms of my ability to really leave somebody better than I found them. And that's really my definition of legacy. And so it does, to your point about this beautiful space that we get to be in, you know, that that is always my intention. My intention is how can I come in and contribute in a way that's going to leave this person and this organization at a better place. And that is so tremendously joyful for me to be a part of that work and that conversation that I don't ever see myself walking away and doing anything else.
Tim Sweet: Yeah, I think finding that definition for yourself and, you know, it's funny when you talk about pulling out the deck of cards and doing the values. I mean, I do this all the time. That's what I travel with a deck of values cards like because you never know when that's going to be, when that's going to be the issue, when that's the disconnect. It's a really important part to start with. And for myself personally, it's not legacy that drives me forward, but it's something similar. I want to see people reach their full potential. And I hate, hate to see people struggle. If I see a system or a process or a person that is struggling, especially if that is self-generated friction, oh, there's something that I just, because it feels unfair and unnecessary that a person would have to struggle against themselves or the process, certainly we can find a way that you can go to work and the work is challenging, otherwise it would be called a vacation. But you go and you work, but it's also rewarding and it happens with ease. So having success be that path of least resistance is so important. Finding that for everybody. But man, you know what? Life is going to put rocks in that river. It's going to put logs, it's going to put beavers generating dams and old rusted cars, and the river of your life is going to have to move around all of these things. And the question is, can they be removed? Have some of those you put there and you assume are there permanently, and we can remove those. And that kind of takes us full circle to the shoulds that were offered, the bright and shiny things that guess what, that's somebody dropping rocks in your river and you now have to operate around that thing. Whereas if we can simplify and we get down to the basics of what makes you effective and what makes you, what makes a team function properly and an organization excel, often that is a reductive process. It's not an additive process. It's like, let's ditch the garbage and get back to the basics of what really is predicting success. Sure, adapt new ways of doing things, but make sure the basics are covered and covered well. So anyway. Woo hoo. Boy, Rita.
Rita Ernst: What a great conversation, Tim. What a great conversation.
Tim Sweet: We inspired a whole bunch of people that want to now become consultants or we've scared, you know, a whole bunch of people off. Well, I mean, the thing is, it's a really interesting insight perhaps, for people to see two people that are involved in organizational development and dynamics playing with these topics. Because I know of you and I know of me, we think deeply about these things and it's important for us to be craftspeople when it comes to it, to be artisans of our trade, right? And I think maybe that's helpful for people to see. Like not just that we sit back and we kind of let the knowledge wash over us. We're pretty active. You're pretty active. Kudos to you.
Rita Ernst: Well, thank you. And kudos to you as well. So I have enjoyed coming back to spend time with your audience. Thank you so much for inviting me to continue our conversation. And it has been a sheer pleasure to just get to think more deeply, because again, I'll go back to what I said before, being a solopreneur I'm not surrounded by people that I get to have these great, deep conversations with, and I always walk away with some new nugget from listening to you on your podcast or talking with you. So thank you.
Tim Sweet: It's wonderful to play around with these ideas with you and deepen my own understanding, and I really appreciate that. And Rita, I want to just thank you so much for being here. And I can't wait till the next time we can play around with these things.
Rita Ernst: Thank you very much.
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