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Welcome to The JoyPowered Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm. With me is my co-host and friend, Susan White, a national HR consultant.
Our topic today is helping your managers lead. In a recent article by David Finkel in Inc. Magazine, David writes about how managers help their team members get solid results, but leaders do more. Leaders help their team members grow. I love that distinction between a manager and a leader. David recommends five suggestions to help you grow leaders. I’ll start with number one, number one lead
Your leaders set their own goals and create their own plan. So he says, “coach and support them in setting the right goals and creating the best plan, but let them take the lead. Give them the space to do this.” And of course, I think that’s important, that we have some parameters around it. But people, if they want to take ownership in it, right? We need them to give them some flexibility on making it their own.
Number two: fight your default urge to simply solve, and instead, ask them “how do you think you should handle that?” I do think that employees have a natural tendency to come to you ask “how should I do this?” Or “what’s the best alternative?” A real leader will say, “let’s sit down, let’s talk about it. What are you thinking what should happen here?” And then, you can help that person strengthen their thought process for the next similar situation. You’re really teaching the person how to fish, as opposed to just feeding them the answer, right?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Number three: role model leadership for them. Because it’s not what you say, but what you do that will influence their behavior. We’ve learned that in many aspects of our lives, right? As parents, as teachers, as leaders, to model clear communication, integrity standards, and values. And, of course, when we make mistakes, we have to take responsibility for that and take full ownership for our messes.
Number four, be the coach, not just the manager. You know, give people the opportunity to grow, allow them to make mistakes. People learn as much from a mistake as they ever do from a success. And once something has happened, either a success or a mistake, sit down and talk about what we learn from it. And that’s really what a good coach does. It helps the individual really grow.
Yeah. And then he wraps it up at number five, where he says encourage them, our team members to replicate all of the above with their own teams. So there’s power when you grow your next generation of leaders in your organization, because they will propagate these lessons in the next generation and give you even greater leverage and future succession plans. So great advice from him.
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We have a guest today to give us additional thoughts on this topic. Sarah Robinson is an author, business owner, Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and former associate faculty member. In 2013. Sarah became the first among seven consultants worldwide to be certified by Gallup as an individual and team coach. Sarah’s best selling book “Unstuck At Last: Using Your Strengths to Get What You Want,” is the do it yourself coaching guide for individuals and teams. In her second book, “FRESH Leadership: Five Skills to Transform You and Your Team,” Sarah helps her readers learn what it takes to be a relevant and people savvy leader in today’s changing world. So thank you for joining us today, Sarah.
Oh my gosh, JoDee, thank you for having me. So fun to be here.
Yeah, great. So in your newest book, “FRESH,” you talk about FRESH leadership, and that’s an acronym right?
It is. Yeah.
So tell us, what does that mean? When did you come up with it? And why is that relevant to today’s leaders?
Great question. So FRESH is an acronym that I came up with. I taught a class at IUPUI, Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis for 17 years. And, it was kind of like a little bit of a guilty work pleasure. It probably didn’t make sense for me to do it as long as I did it, but I loved the class. And I kept thinking that, you know, my students always kind of came around to being interested in the same issues. And frequently, they would say, Oh, I wish my manager could take this class and I was like, oh, that is so sweet. I don’t know, you’re maybe just trying to butter me up a little bit, I’m okay with that. But what does that really mean? What are the things that they want their manager to know about? And so that’s really where FRESH came from. FRESH is an acronym that stands for: F is feedback. R is rewards. E is engagement. S is service, and H is human connection. So, all those things are things that sometimes are talked about in organizational behavior classes, and sometimes not so much, but things that we need to be aware of. And so I tried in the book to tie together some of the actual science and research we know about those things to what makes it relevant to today’s leadership. Part of what I talked about in the book is kind of the old way we used to think about managing people and leading, and the new way, and there used to be kind of old work roles like, oh, I don’t know, for example; come in before the boss and leave after him, right? Today’s work rules are really different, right? Face time isn’t that important. Or, I think most people don’t think it should be as important as it was 25 years ago, and so, what does that mean? How does that change the way you lead somebody. Right? If that’s no longer really the case, right? And, you know, quite frankly, work wasn’t supposed to be meaningful 25 years ago, it was a way to feed your family.
And now we have people that, of course they want meaningful work, and it’s not just millennials. We all want meaningful work. We want work that is important to us. That’s a huge part of engagement. So, many of today’s leaders in their 40s and 50s, were raised under a different culture, right? They know the word on the street, they know that people want something else. They’re just not sure. Okay, what do I do to change to actually be a better leader for these new needs that are out there? And that’s really what FRESH is about.
Yeah. I think that’s a good point for us to think that people in that generation, they know the younger generations want it, they want to provide it, but they don’t know how how to provide it.
Right. And it’s so much easier to model than to come up with your own way to do things. And people just kind of say “well, my boss did this.” Well guess what, you know, your boss was doing what, you know, his or her boss did, right? And so then we just have to get to a point where we kind of recreate the way we lead in a way that really matches up with what people need.
I love the word fresh. It’s like ‘change.’ Yeah.
Thank you. It is, it should feel fresh, right? Leadership shouldn’t feel old, it should feel fresh. It should feel like it’s really meeting what you need today. Because if it’s old, then no one’s moving forward. Right. It’s really the same about growth. Right? You know, leaders need to grow as much as they need to be growing the people underneath them.
Certainly, they want an engaged workforce. I think they want they want fresh, right? So we talked a little bit, and you mentioned the word ‘science’ behind this. You know, how are people hardwired for feedback?
I believe, especially in our US culture, that we’re very much hardwired to get frequent feedback. Our educational system really prepares us for that. And so you can really think of pride back on your own life as early as kindergarten, getting checkmarks and stickers, right, on your little papers. And being kind of excited about that. Mommy, look, I got a heart. or I got a, you know, star on this. And that doesn’t stop, right? And so as long as you keep getting educated, you keep getting lots and lots of feedback. This was really an awareness for me when I spent my junior year in London, and I was actually at the University College London, and it was, you know, a wonderful experience, except there was no feedback. So it was on a system where the only feedback you really received was at the end of the semester, and I was like, a fish out of water. You know, this was what I used my whole life to kind of gear what I should be doing, and I no longer had those those kind of guardrails. And it was very uncomfortable for me. But it did really, as my career progressed, made me aware that wow, we we leave our educational home, right, our system our life, to get a real job. And then someone says, “Oh, and by the way, I’ll have your annual review with you in one year.”
Right, one year. And you’re used to tests and quizzes and sit downs, and office hours. So all of the constant feedback about how you’re doing and, for most people, and we know, you know, if we’re going to start talking about strengths and tie that in most, the most common strength out there is Achiever, Right? And so, achievers like to get things done and like to know they’re doing the right thing, okay? If you’re not giving them feedback to explain to them, “those are the right things, those are the wrong things,” then they’re at a disconnect too.
Yeah. Yeah. And you’re an achiever yourself, Sarah.
I am, I am. It’s one of my top five. Yeah, so my top five are Competition, Maximizer. number three is Achiever, Activator, and Significance. And so, people that are familiar with strengths, probably know that I am a wacky, wacky Influencer. Of my top five, four of them are influencing strengths. My six and seven are also Influencing Strengths. So yeah, so I’m kind of Sally One Note, right? Yeah. But, that’s how I kind of do everything, right? Is that when, I mean, hugely and importantly, my relationships are all about influencing. And I you know, it’s embarrassing, but I do like to order dinner for my best friends. And they’re really nice about letting me do that. And they’re appreciative. But I know what they’re going to like, and I want them to experience it. And they are so sweet about actually accepting that and not feeling manipulated or controlled by me. And that’s why the friendship works. Right?
I bet as a professor, too, you really had an influence on the students in your classes.
Oh, you’re so nice. I hope so. I hope so. That was one of the fun things about it, right, is to be able to see those light bulbs go off. And, of course, you know, communication is my number six. So I love communicating verbally and in written form, but also, I have a couple students that said, “you know, I got rid of most of my textbooks, but I kept the textbook we used,” and for me that was like, ‘oh, wow,’ that makes me so happy.
Nice. Nice. And Sarah, how do you think social media plays a role in our hunger for more feedback?
I think it’s, and this is not my idea alone. It’s based on things that I’ve read about social media. But I do believe that we are really getting more and more hungry for feedback because of social media. I do think that social media creates a false feeling of feedback in what we really want, right? And so what we really want our deep relationships most of us, right, we want real connections. We want people to be able to help us when we are in times of need. And getting a like on a picture isn’t really that, right? It makes you feel good for a minute, but it doesn’t really tell you who are my people that are going to support me when times get tough. And so in some ways, it’s like eating a lot of fast food, it fills you up. It fills you up, but does it really nurture and nourish you? And that is my concern about social media, is that we’re chasing it because it’s out there. And it’s very addictive. It’s very compelling to say, Oh, I don’t want to chase that. Because just because everybody else is, or that’s not really very fulfilling to me, because there are times where you can really feel kind of on the outs because you’re not connected to social media. I do a pretty, pretty sparse social media effort, and sometimes I do feel like I’m missing out.
FOMO, right? Fear of missing out.
Yeah, there it is. Yeah, major, major FOMO. So I see that there’s this whole cycle about it, it’s that we don’t want to miss out, that we chase it, and we can get that feedback, but then it’s not really rewarding in the way we want it to be. And that, I think is a cycle that we all kind of have to think about. And we also have to remember that social media can never replace real human connection and relationships, right? It can hopefully start some of those, right? It can connect you to people that you didn’t know. But I think the thing that really helps us is the true sitting down and having a meal with somebody, right? And knowing that, you know, you can really call somebody, you know, when you’re having a tough day, and not just write a blog post that you know, people might react to. So those are all kind of my thoughts on it.
I love your analogy to the eating fast food and that it fills you up, because that makes me think too, just about, you know, fast food doesn’t give us good long term energy, and that social media can be that quick response, but not really sustaining energy for us.
The byline for my business is actually “nourishing the workforce for a healthy corporate culture,” and so that is the, kind of the, you know, overarching goal of what FRESH Concepts, my business, is trying to do. It’s trying to actually make organizational behavior concepts that are taught in an academic situation palatable. It’s like mixing the spinach in with the yummy hamburger and saying, “Oh look, it’s so yummy. You’re gonna love it, have just one more bite,” right? And, in putting it all together in a way that is palatable for people and doesn’t just feel like “Oh, this, you know, boring woman’s lecturing me on something that doesn’t really connect.” It has to connect to be meaningful, but why not try to get something that’s actually based on science and is truly going to nourish you instead of something that’s quick, based on, you know, someone kind of plucking something out of the air and may feel kind of good in the short term, but won’t really help your organization in the long term.
Sarah, in your book you share research. One interesting fact was that 81% of employees said they would work harder for a boss who appreciates them. What can any boss learn from this?
I think that there’s so many things a boss can learn from that, right, and saying thank you is a common courtesy that sometimes we forget with the people that are most important to us. So, sometimes, and that includes the people we work with, that includes our children and our spouses, is that we can take people for granted. And trying to really have your alertness up for “Am I starting to take for granted the things that this person does well?” I think that is something that’s kind of ironic about strengths, which is sometimes people have certain strengths and we come to rely on people so much for doing those things that are so good, that we forget to say, do you know how great you are at that? That is really your thing, and I lean on you for it all the time, but I want you to know, I’m not taking it for granted. What you have is special. We need it here. Thank you so much. Because what we know about focusing on somebody’s strengths is that those are the things that always reward us when somebody mentions them. And when somebody taps into what you really show up doing well and being, so for me, let’s say it’s activating, and someone saying, “Sarah, you know what, I was scared to say anything to that group, and you just kind of took the, you know, took the reins and told them what needed to be said.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m ok at that, thank you.” You know, that feels pretty good. It doesn’t feel like a fake compliment. It feels like yeah, I’m really appreciative that you zeroed in on that. So when you’re able to really connect a compliment to somebody’s strengths, and see how that plays out in the daily life, instead of just saying, Yeah, that’s what they do. Right. And I think that we all can tend to kind of sit back and say that sometimes. And so when people do something that’s different, we comment on it instead of the things they really show up bringing daily that are like really actually amazing things. Right? But we were like, yeah, yeah, that’s what they do. Okay. Yeah, keep telling them how much you love that.
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a it’s a good reminder for me right now to say thank you to our producer Emily, who takes care of us and does all the things that our podcasts to keep us going and keep us connected and keep us online, and it’s a perfect point. Like, I’ve never said that about Emily. I do thank her for all the new things she does, I hope, but not always the day to day things I take for granted.
I’m so proud of you for admitting that on the air. But it’s true. I think that you can you can just start thinking about it in your home life especially. And you have you know there’s a whole list of things with your spouse. Everyone think about your spouse right now, think about the things that you forgot to thank them for, that if they stopped doing it, your world would actually fall apart.
My husband has been shoveling snow the last two mornings before I had to go somewhere early. And so each time he comes in I say “thank you so much for doing that. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you, it makes it so much easier,” he keeps grunting back at me. But I know that he is glad that I’m thanking him for that.
I was thinking, next week we are going to be on vacation and I hired somebody just to come check the mail and check the house, and I asked her to take the trash can out and bring it back in, and I realized I didn’t even know what day the trash day was, and that made me think to thank my husband for taking the trash in and out because I don’t even know what day it is.
And isn’t that a blessing? Yes. Thank you, Matt.
Wow, I’m kind of jealous of your oblivion to that. But yes.
So, Sarah, what else should our listeners know about FRESH leadership?
I think that the real opportunity here is about growth. I think the opportunity is to be thinking about what makes the people around you special, how can I tap into that specialness? And how can I help them grow their special skills? Even if someone’s really talented at something, there probably is still room to grow there. And nurturing that is what the whole philosophy behind Strengths is about. Is that saying, “yeah, I get it. You are really good at this. How do we get you even better,” because that is their opportunity for exponential growth. We can all get a little bit better at the things we’re mediocre at, right just by applying some effort. But what you really want is for people to get to their highest potential in the things where they have their highest potential. And I think that’s where you really tap into Strengths.
Beautiful message, beautiful message.
Sarah, thank you so much for coming onto The JoyPowered Workspace.
Thank you so much for having me.
And how can our listeners reach out to you if they’re interested in having you help their business? And also how can our listeners find your book?
Thanks so much for asking. My books are both on Amazon. So, the first book the kind of do it yourself guide to coaching, “Unstuck At Last: Using Your Strengths To Get What You Want,” is right there under Amazon. And then, “FRESH Leadership: Five Skills to Transform You and Your Team,” are also under Amazon. I use my middle initial, which is K, in my name, Sarah K. Robinson to help distinguish me from some other authors that are out there, so that’s another way to to find me. And you can always go to my website, www.freshconceptsonline.com to contact me or just to learn more about the outreach that I do with individuals, but mostly with corporate clients. Yeah, and groups.
Well, thank you, I should say too, I’ve read both of Sarah’s books, and they are fantastic. So I highly recommend both of them.
Thanks so much.
So our listener question today, JoDee, is where do we draw the line between being a good caring HR professional and making work friendships?
Yeah, tough one, right? It’s funny, I have an HR team that, well two other people in particular that I worked with about 10 years ago, that are really good friends of mine now. And many people have asked me over the years, like, wow, you know, weren’t you their boss? And they said, yeah, but we weren’t as good friends then, as we are now because I tried to keep somewhat more of a distinction at that time, but yet they were both people I knew I wanted to be friends with. And now none of us work at the organization that we were at at the time, but it can be tricky as HR professionals, we want to be a go to person, we want to be an advisor, we want to be a mentor. I would never tell an HR person not to make friends, right? But yet, we do have to draw a line to some extent in keeping our professional role in place.
I think so too. I think that if a lot of people in the organization see you always having lunch with the same people, or when you go to company events, you’re hanging with the same group, I think that can be problematic. I do think the HR professional, should be friendly to everybody, but I think there is a little bit of professional distance that you want to have when it comes to socializing and, you know, going out with people, I think that that can really make it difficult for people to perceive you as that neutral, objective, you know, HR person. So, I can think of my own situation. There’s been times where I, there’s people I’ve really, really liked at work, and I think we can be friendly, maybe once a while you have lunch, but you don’t do it every day, you don’t make sure that it becomes kind of a spectacle. And those same people they understand when you have to put on your big girl pants and deal with something that they may be involved in, they may be around, but you come at it as that HR professional. Not easy, not always fun, but I think we owe it to the organization, we owe it to ourselves.
Right. Right. And because it likely might come to be a problem if we don’t, right? So avoiding that, or even the perception of a problem that we might not even think is there.
Good question. All right, our in the news segment is a particular favorite one of mine. McDonald’s has recently announced that you can complete the first steps of their employment application by simply asking Alexa or Google Assistant to do it for you. I love this. It’s a marvel of technology. So we can simply say, “Alexa, help me get a job at McDonald’s,” or “Google, help me get a job at McDonald’s,” and the device will begin the questionnaire process. Once a few basic questions are answered on the device, McDonald’s will text you a link to finish your application. The fast food chain is the first company to use the devices in this way, naming it Apply Through. That’s really creative, like drive through, applied through. The experience is available globally, and as expected to simplify the application process for potential employees.
Yeah, and my natural inclination is to say “Alexa, help me get some food from McDonald’s,” hadn’t thought about get me a job. That’s really interesting.
I think it’s fascinating. And you know, again, in this labor market people, companies have to be creative in making the process simple for potential prospective employees. So I love it, that they’re doing that.
Yeah. Very cool.
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