How often do companies miss their goals? The price they pay for missing expectations can be devastating. Sometimes it’s in the planning stage that those misses begin but often it’s a matter of employee talent. Today we look at Companies Talent and Results with Jennifer Thornton CEO of 304 Coaching who works with fast growth and emerging businesses to make sure they have the right team members, the right plans to grow them with the company so they can keep delivering results as well as how to identify shifting needs and new talent sets outside the current employee base to continue building for the future.
Transcript from Developing Employee Talent and Stronger Teams
Jennifer Thornton 0:00
I’d love to tell people based on where we are in the society today is don’t don’t fall into the crisis management habit. When there’s a crisis fall into crisis management, the buildings on fire, you have to get people out, but immediately go back to leading to who you are.
Tim Kubiak 0:21
Hi, everybody. Thanks for listening to bow ties and business. If you haven’t already done so please subscribe. Tell your friends. I’m your host Tim Kubiak. And as always, you can find us on the socials at bow ties and business on Facebook, Instagram, and bow ties and bi z on Twitter, along with all your favorite podcast services and at bow ties and business dot com. Today we’re talking to Jennifer. Jennifer has developed expertise, talent, strategy and professional development over her exciting 20 year career as an HR professional. She’s led international teams across Greater China, Mexico, the UK in the US to expand into new markets, managing franchise retailers and developing key strategic partnerships, all while exceeding business objectives and financial results. She will share with us both an operational and an HR viewpoint. So we get some real insight. Her consulting company 304 coaching has been growing rapidly, largely due to our unconventional approach in building innovative workforce development solutions for companies that are facing breakthrough growth and accelerated hiring patterns. She believes in building teams, and accelerating business success through the strength of the people you add to the organization she sought after as a business strategist. She specializes in startups and large value based organizations that assist our clients in building their talent strategies that complement their business strategies and ensure their exponential growth. Jen, thanks for being here. And welcome to the show.
Jennifer Thornton 1:55
Thank you for having me.
Tim Kubiak 1:57
So it’s a pleasure. I’m very excited. We’re gonna have a great conversation today about building leaders and helping leaders really develop their teams. So can you give us a little bit about your background? how you got into this space?
Jennifer Thornton 2:10
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, I started out actually as a retailer, and I still have a retailer’s heart. And I started out in the operation sides of retail, working, you know, directly with our customers and the front lines and fell in love with leading teams at a very young age. And what I soon learned as my results were not necessarily driven, because I’m naturally competitive, or, you know, I don’t have kind of that I have to be number one streak in me. But what I do love is to have incredible teams. And I learned very early on that that’s what I love to do was to build teams and build them up and help them, you know, develop. And so that’s kind of how I got my results year after year, and really kind of discovered myself through that. And then, you know, went through the operation side of my career, and then I moved over to HR, because again, I love to think about talent, strategies and teams and and how do we ensure that our we have the right team to successfully deliver on the results. And so I spent spent the back half of my corporate career in HR, and I think all departments, and both here in the US and also globally around the world. And so, you know, I think when I went globally, and I started to recognize how hard it was to get executive alignment, you know, it when everyone speaks the same language, and it’s from the same culture, the alignments difficult. So you add in different languages, different cultures, different time zones, it gets really difficult. And that became my newest passion is really executive alignment, and how do we get that to get the results that we needed? And, you know, over time, that led to me wanting to do it full time. And let him you know, our conversation today and owning my own business.
Tim Kubiak 3:54
That’s fantastic. So I’ve got a global business background, I got to ask how in the retail space, you deal with the labor law differences is you’re doing business internationally. I know it was tough and technology, I can only imagine at that level.
Jennifer Thornton 4:08
Yeah, you know, it was really interesting. And I’m fascinated by how cultures make decisions around how they want to treat their employees. And there’s both both the law that we have to follow, but then there’s the culture. And then there’s kind of the heart of the business. And so what I found is that if you are going into a country, no matter what country you go into, and you think about their labor laws, and you’re starting to learn them, number one is you can’t judge them. Number one, that’s it, you just have to go in and say, right, these are the laws and I have to accept those because if you get up, get into that mindset of why don’t like it or this is weird, or this is different than it trips you up. And the second thing is if your organization that really wants to treat their employees well and have the developing teams and manager retention through great leadership, everything else kind of falls into place. The labor laws aren’t as scary because that’s really what labor laws are there to do. To make sure corporations are good faith, treating their employees.
Tim Kubiak 5:06
That’s a great point. I’m kind of chuckling because as I was driving on Saturday, I was arguing with my partner about German labor law. So this is ironic timing.
Jennifer Thornton 5:15
can’t judge it. It’s theirs, not ours.
Tim Kubiak 5:17
Exactly. And neither of us are German. So, you know, I’m just like, Yeah, no, I’m not opening an operating company there, you can’t pay me to. So coming from retail, you work with a lot of different clients. So talk a little bit about your coaching and consulting business, if you would.
Jennifer Thornton 5:34
Yeah. So what we do today as organization as we focus on fast growing organizations in any industry, because many industries have that growth period right now. And the reason why I am really excited about fast growing companies is they have some unique challenges. And one of their unique challenges is they’re really hyper focused on business results and business plans, because they’re a new, a new organization, they may be in their first five to eight years. And what I am finding over and over again, is these fast growing companies have incredible business plans, and they are ticked and tied, and they are detailed, and they are coming to fruition and they’re coming true. And every all the dreams are coming to life. But where it starts to get a little rocky for them is they don’t put talent strategies inside the talent or inside the business plan. And so without that talent strategy, we hit walls, we hit roadblocks, and then the fun starts to be sucked out, the life starts to get sucked out of the business. Because we don’t have the right people in the right places doing the right work in a way in which matches the culture. And so that’s what we do today is we really focus on talent strategy. And we do that through assessments and leadership academies and executive coaching and consulting. But, you know, if you have a fast growing business, and you haven’t thought about your talent strategy, you’re going to hit the wall.
Tim Kubiak 6:59
So for people that are used to working with, I’m going to get funding, I’m doing this, I’m doing that, where do you even begin to develop your talent strategy? Because one of the things I think, is what you need when you’re in your seed round is very different than what you need when you’re in your cmd. Round. of funds.
Jennifer Thornton 7:17
Yeah, you’re so right. And a lot of it is projections, just like funding is projections. And so we look at how we are projecting the organization, and then we’re projecting the work that matches that, you know, there’s some work that you know, no matter where you are in your business, you need two people to do it, no matter how small or big, there’s other pieces of your business that starts to scale and the employee count has to scale. And so how do you start to project that, and if you have a top player, that works for you, year two, and you feel like they have a runway, and in year five, you need, let’s say, a chief marketing officer, and this person is a director of marketing and you really see their value, then we start to talk with them about their future, we start to line out what they’ll need to learn over that time period. So that when you get there, you have that person ready to go.
Tim Kubiak 8:11
What happens when you can’t develop that person?
Jennifer Thornton 8:14
a great question I get asked that question all the time, either. There are people that are not interested in development, but I think a lot of them can open up to it in a lot of it is understanding conversation intelligence, and C IQ is the understanding of the neuroscience of the mind and how chemicals, control our mind control our thoughts control those stories in our head. And oftentimes, individuals who we assume are not developed, you know, we can’t develop them or aren’t interested in development, we have to change our approach with them to get a different story inside of their head and to get their chemicals in their brain working in a way that’s productive for the business and for their personal growth.
Tim Kubiak 8:59
So is that changing your narrative to them? is it changing their own internal narrative or some mixture of both?
Jennifer Thornton 9:07
It’s a mixture of both, but it has to start within us, we have to change our narrative. And so it’s interesting, the language we use in the workplace oftentimes creates fear. And when and that’s because it talks to our prefer our primitive brain. And once our primitive brain kicks in, its only job is to keep us alive. And so you know, back in our early evolution days, it kept us alive by making sure that we stayed inside the tribe, because getting bought out of the tribe meant that you couldn’t provide food and housing and water and warmth and all these things you needed to stay alive. And so our primitive brain actually still acts with those functions today and in the workplace. That is making sure that we’re we are our bosses are happy, making sure that we’re on the team because if we get, you know, quote, unquote, voted out of the tribe at work, we might not be able to pay our bills, which means we can’t provide housing and all those types of things. We have to change our language to move people from fear and, and move them to trust. And that’s when our prefrontal cortex turns on. And that’s where creativity happens, and collaboration and new ideas and excitement and enthusiasm, all the things we actually want is there. But our typical language keeps people in fear.
Tim Kubiak 10:21
So we’re in a time of great fear, right, every week I’m dealing with and I think all of us are changing business conditions and everything. How much has that accelerated what you do with your clients and brought new clients in for you? You
Jennifer Thornton 10:36
know, it’s really accelerated the work around fear base management. And one of the things that we find in times of difficulty is leaders tend to go into crisis management, and there is an important time for crisis management. And so crisis management is, you know, the buildings on fire, we have to make a quick decision, there’s not a lot of discussion, do what I tell you to do. And that’s the right time. And we do have to lead that way sometimes. But over this last year, with so many crisis happening, what I’m seeing is leaders are staying in crisis management. And so they’re becoming very much a do, as I say, and don’t think leader out of habits. And that’s creating more fear, we already have the fear of, you know, our jobs of fear of a pandemic of, you know, fear of global change. And so then when we’re being led in a way that we’re being told what to do, and if we don’t do it, we’re in trouble. As leaders, we’re, we think we’re making it easy. We’re think we’re giving them the answers to the test. So it would be easier for the do them to do their job. But we’re actually creating even more fear, and losing that trust with our employees.
Tim Kubiak 11:46
It’s interesting you say that, because I’ve seen a lot of people that are fairly senior, changing companies and changing roles, now, not by force, but by opportunity. Is that part of looking for a cultural fix? Is that maybe a risk you have if people don’t move from a place of fear?
Jennifer Thornton 12:03
Yeah, you definitely will see turnover when you have high fear leadership styles, a couple of things will happen. One, those that are in fear of finding a new job will stay. But those who stay in a high fear environment, they will start to say yes or no, ma’am, they’re going to get very much in that place where they just are doing what they’re told. And we don’t want that. We want them to have minds. We want them to think we want them to progress the company, those who are very aggressive around their career and definitely want to use their mind and their voice when they’re setting. You know, in a situation where the leaders only crisis management and only telling them what to do, yeah, you’re going to see them leave. And really, I project over the next 18 to 24 months, I think all organizations are going to see just a massive change, you know, people are going to go from one job to another because crisis that we’ve been dealing with will change us as humans, it will change how we look at things. And we’ll start to make different career decisions based on that.
Tim Kubiak 13:08
Interesting point, so not not anything we discussed beforehand. But as I’ve been doing some reading in recent weeks, one of the things that companies are starting to articulate is that they’re concerned that employees have become accustomed to working from home, and may never want to go back in office from a quality of life perspective, is that something you’ve heard anywhere within your client set?
Jennifer Thornton 13:32
Yeah, I have heard that. And people are asking more often can I work from home one or two days a week. And a lot of it is around quality of life, because what everyone’s been through has kind of reminded them, hey, I want to spend more time with my family, or I want to take care of my health or I want to do more, you know, life is short, I want to get more done. And it’s actually a really good thing when people come to you and say, Hey, you know, let me look at how can I be incredibly productive, but also take care of my own mental goals and my own mental health, because you’re actually going to get a better employee, because they are happier, and when they’re happier, and they are in a job that allows them to excel, but yet meet their personal needs. They’re just going to do a better job. And, you know, it’ll be interesting, every company is going to handle it in their own way and what’s right for them. But I think employers should listen and should say, you know, what, how can I make this opportunity the best so that I retain the best employees and they are doing the best work they can do.
Tim Kubiak 14:37
So you talk about that conversational IQ, right? If you’re the old school management by walking around or shopkeeper looking over everybody’s shoulder manager. How do you begin to adjust to this when your staff is scattered in five suburbs and all up to an hour away?
Jennifer Thornton 14:55
Yeah. So everything in life is about our conversations, words that create our at Worlds. And so I think for that leader who’s having to lead in a new way, they have to get crystal clear on what they want from their employees. And so for many years, we were preys on how many hours we sat in our desk. And the person who sat at the desk longest, obviously was the hardest worker and did the best work. And that’s not true. You can have fine people, they’re incredibly efficient and do the job in 35 hours, and the other person takes 55 hours to do the same job. But they’re getting, you know, accolades because they’ve been at the desk, 55 hours. And so I think the first thing for our leaders, especially when you think about the 21st century, you know, remove the challenges we’ve had of 2020, this is really where the future of work is going, decide what’s important, what results do you want, and then get okay with people getting those results for you, in a way that makes sense for them. And, you know, when we put a lot of guardrails around results and what we want, we actually don’t get the best work. And so it’s about opening ourselves up and saying, okay, it’s not about the hours in the chair, it’s about the results delivered. And when you start to make that mindset switch, you start to opening your open yourself up to new conversations.
Tim Kubiak 16:17
So for those of you that are geeky, there is a series on Netflix called high score, if you happen to see a Jen.
Jennifer Thornton 16:24
I haven’t opted, check it out.
Tim Kubiak 16:25
So there’s a talk in there about Atari back in the 70s. In one of the recruiting tactics was we don’t care when you work or how you work, just do the job. And essentially, we’re in that same kind of place outside of Silicon Valley now. Is that Yeah, Yes,
Jennifer Thornton 16:44
we are. And people want to have flexibilities. Now there obviously, there are, you know, set times that we all need to be available to answer our coworkers questions that, you know, we can’t make scheduling meeting so difficult because everyone’s just doing whatever they want, when they want. But if we could have 75%, set and 25%, flexible, what could that do for the mindset of employees? And how could that improve efficiencies? And I have no doubt that efficiencies would go up in your top performers. Will you have a couple of bottom performers who take advantage of that? Probably. But would it be worth it to have five great employees become greater, and then have a performance conversation with a one person who took advantage of it? Because what I see today is we’re punishing those top performers, because we’re worried about that one person.
Tim Kubiak 17:34
It’s funny, because in the sales coaching business, every time I start a conversation with a new client, they want to bring you the C players, you know, I’ve got my bottom 20%, I need to get them to do more. No, you actually don’t. You need your a pliers and your being your B plus pliers to raise the game. And then, frankly, the cold hard facts or you may need to replace your C pliers.
Jennifer Thornton 17:56
Yeah, I could not agree with you more, what I see organizations doing time and time again, as they invest dollars into those people that are struggling, they’re struggling for a reason. And find out why they’re struggling and manage that, but spend your dollars with your top performers. Because they’re only going to get better, they’re only going to stick around and they’re only going to make your clients happier. And when you reward people with education, they stick around, you know, people talk all the time, well, people just want more money, they want this like, well, what a part of your annual appraisal process was a budget for continuous education. You know, if you’re in the top 10%, then you get $2,000 a year at your discretion to use for additional education. That’s, that’s worth a lot of people and people are going to take advantage and get excited about that.
Tim Kubiak 18:48
And I think that’s the kind of thing that people really will stay over. Right? Because it’s not just not everybody is, you know, not everybody is purely money motivated. Right? A lot of people see value in other parts of it beyond the paycheck. And I think that’s something people often overlook.
Jennifer Thornton 19:08
Yeah, compensation is one of the least when you look at the reasons why people leave compensations, actually, kind of in the middle of the road.
Tim Kubiak 19:17
It’s interesting that it’s dead smack in the middle because I you know, again, numbers guy, right. But I could see that outside once you move away from that certain part of the organization that I’ve lived and died in. Yeah, other people find value and find reward and additional things.
Jennifer Thornton 19:36
Yeah. And I think we’re way of work is going the 21st century, people are looking more at packages versus just flat salary. And so if I’m at a company and I’m making a salary that I live comfortably on, and because I’m a top performer I get invested in so I get to sit at the table and share my ideas I get to make an impact on the business. I get to you know, Go to training courses or conferences where I’m growing my knowledge, and someone else comes along and offers me you know, $1 more an hour or, you know, just a few pennies, you know, back in the day people would have jumped because the money was all we had in a package, we didn’t have all these different things that could be added to it. But in today’s world, you can compensate people with education and and you know, financials, we all do have bills to pay. But people aren’t going to jump for, you know, pennies on the dollar if you’re investing in them, and you’ll be able to have better employees that stay with you longer.
Tim Kubiak 20:39
When you talk about package, do you see healthcare 401k, or retirement savings matches and things as being substantial, that either attract or retain employees?
Jennifer Thornton 20:51
Absolutely. Some of the key things I’m seeing in packages that are that are important. I mean, we all have bills, so we have compensation, but the cost of insurance, for our US listeners is a big deal. And how that, you know, affects the bottom line. The other thing people are looking at is quality of life and quality of life is going to become as important as benefits and compensation. and quality of life could mean you know 25% flexible schedule, it could mean working from home one or two days a week so that you’re not wasting time on a commute. It could be additional education hours, it could be experiential, it could be the ability to have access to key leaders to to use your voice and share information packages can look very different than our typical. Here’s your salary, here’s your start date. And 365 days from now we’ll review you and you’ll get a percentage increase. That’s how it used to be and it doesn’t have to be that way tomorrow.
Tim Kubiak 21:55
Let’s go and take that a little bit further. How do people now that are have that work from home environment? How do they draw a line? So they’re not on from seven in the morning till 11 at night? and feeling that they have to be seen just like they were when they sat at their desk?
Jennifer Thornton 22:14
Yeah, that’s a really great question. And, you know, back in my corporate life, I actually worked from home. And so that was a challenge I had my computer was there, I managed a global organization. So someone on my team was working anytime 24 hours a day, I had someone on my team working because of the timezone differences. And so for those people working at home, you have to look at the time you’re working as incredibly efficient. You have to sit down, you have to go in and not be distracted, and you have to get the work done. And you have to map out your week. So for example, if you have 25% flexibility, and going to yoga, the five o’clock class makes sense, then on your schedule, you need to have it blocked out. But then schedule time back in, you know, from seven to 830. I’m going to finish these reports, I’m going to you know, return emails, whatever that may be that you need to do. But you’ve got to be really good at scheduling and being efficient. But the mind likes the schedule, the mind likes predictability. And so you’ll be much more productive. And you’ll reduce anxiety and stress.
Tim Kubiak 23:22
And did you talk to my old boss Simon about when I used to go to yoga?
Jennifer Thornton 23:26
I did not. But I can have a conversation and give you some coaching from it if you need to.
Tim Kubiak 23:32
I worked for a Brit for five years. And I love him to death to this day. But it was hysterical six in the morning, I had to be up and online. But I could do the 1230 yoga class when I wasn’t traveling, because he was transitioning, then I could come back and finish the rest of my day and be there when Asia launched. So yeah, I’m laughing because literally, that’s what I did for years. Yeah. And
Jennifer Thornton 23:54
you were very productive because of it. You were a top performer because of it because you got in what was important to you. But here was here’s the beauty in the story. You just told the business got what it needed. It had you live throughout different time zones when you were needed. And because they were flexible with your schedule, you still got what you needed. So everyone wanted that story, because you had flexibility.
Tim Kubiak 24:17
And I think that’s a thing a lot of traditional companies Miss is that flexibility really is the most important factor. You know, and I look at I’m old enough that I used to have to call in at the end of my day from sales calls early in my career from a payphone now nobody has payphones and everybody has cell phones, right? But that was as much flexibility as you got now they never knew where you called in from. You could be at the one down the street, or you know, one outside your last appointment. But there there was that flexibility just for those kinds of roles. Now you really have it for everybody who’s not essential in a facility.
Jennifer Thornton 24:56
Yeah, and it makes such a difference for people because you’re getting the right work from them. You know, even things that, like, let’s look at something that’s kind of repetitive payroll. So you have a payroll team. And you know, they, you know, does it matter what time of day they’re processing the reports, if it works for them, you know, no one knows what time it was processed, as long as it gets done and done correctly. And on time. I think the other thing that I’m seeing is companies are going two ways with meetings, either they’re over meetings, they they’re taking, they’re doing way too many because everyone’s remote, so I got to make sure you’re working. So I’m going to sit and talk to you all day and make sure you don’t leave your desk, which is not productive, or because they’re virtual, they’re figuring out how to be really productive without as many meetings. And again, that type of mindset, letting people be productive without the meeting about the meeting. It increases your productivity, and you’re going to get more out of your team. And so people also have to start to get really open about how do we communicate, be really efficient in our communication, and take down the meeting count so that people can be flexible.
Tim Kubiak 26:02
So you talk about meeting count in the meeting about the meeting, which probably had three meetings before that, for those of us that live in the corporate world, right? How do you break that cycle?
Jennifer Thornton 26:13
Yeah, you get honest. And the reason we have three meetings before the meeting before the meeting is because that is where everyone does the prep work about what are how are we actually going to tell the truth and the final meeting? I can’t tell you how many times I had meetings around what not to say what to say, well, don’t tell him or her that because that’s going to set off a button. You know, they’re tired of hearing that? Well, it’s the truth. I don’t know what else to tell you. And so a lot of those meetings about meetings is really because people aren’t open to being honest, and the actual meeting. And so there’s a lot of work to do around being open to honest feedback from your team, being open to hearing other people’s opinions and being honest at at the onset. And then you don’t have to have all these, you know, meetings, I always like the meeting after the meeting, too. Because you know, if you had three meetings before, you probably had four after, so that you can you know, diffuse people someone got upset and your damage control. And so this one meeting that could have just been honest and factual becomes hours and hours of your team’s work.
Tim Kubiak 27:22
Yeah. I also believe that people feel that if they don’t have their time blocked on the calendars, that they’re not being productive. Right? Oh, I had nine meetings today. And it took 12 hours. Great. When did you actually do your job? Right?
Jennifer Thornton 27:42
Yeah, I find that a lot. The other thing that I’m finding as I’m working with executives, is because they again, are putting results to meeting hours and not actual results. They’re not spending any time being visionary and thinking. And as an executive, you’ve got to spend time thinking, and you can’t do that when you’re in nine meetings for 12 hours a day. And I think that’s one of the big pieces I’m seeing people fall short in is really spending time using their mind and putting value to processing, thinking coming up with new ideas, doing strategies, thinking about how they want to handle situations. And those types of things keep us in a place of proactive leadership versus reactive leadership.
Tim Kubiak 28:30
So in a world filled with so much information, how do you start to filter that through and apply it to your thinking?
Jennifer Thornton 28:37
Yeah, great question. You know, I think one of the things that’s important is to know where your threshold of detailed knowledge needs to be, assign, you know, kind of an imaginary number to decision. So is this an A plus decision, like a massive big decisions will have a huge impact? Or is this a D decision that’s just like, you know, what color coffee cups. And when you think about the amount of information you need to make each of those decisions, get clear on that, you know, I’m not gonna worry about what color the coffee cup is, if it does, if I if it doesn’t impact the business, this isn’t a this could have years, you know, decades of impact. So I’m going to allow myself that time to dig in and do my research. But because we kind of have this imperfection mindset that every decision has to be perfect. We apply the same amount of research to all of those scenarios. And, and that doesn’t make sense. It just isn’t productive or efficient.
Tim Kubiak 29:37
So if somebody is out there, and they’re hearing you talk, where do they start? How do they How do they find you? How do they where do you typically start an engagement with someone you
Jennifer Thornton 29:47
know, I start engagements talking about what’s the problem that we’re dealing with, you know, and whatever the problem is, isn’t the real problem, but you have to start somewhere. And so we start with what they think is the problem. And then we spend a ton of time talking to the team, and we then find out what the real problem is. Because your team knows the real problem if a product isn’t selling, and you can’t figure out why talk to your team, talk to the person who’s closest to the customer, they know they have all the answers you need, you just have to be willing to hear and listen to them. And so we start with just a lot of conversations and exploratory and getting super honest.
Tim Kubiak 30:28
Do you find having global experience some cultures are more direct in their conversations about what’s going on in the business than Americans?
Jennifer Thornton 30:37
Absolutely, every culture kind of has their own way of handling difficult situations, and whatever is called, you know, culturally right for them. And so in today’s world, we’re working with cultures, you know, across culture across time zones. And so you do have to take the time to really think and get some understanding of the cultures that you’re working at. But you know, back to kind of our earlier conversation, you have to set outside of judgments. Because as you know, when we look at someone that we’re working with, from a different country, we say things like, well, that’s weird. Why would they do that? Why would they say that? That’s you shouldn’t think that way. You know, what, that was offensive? Well, I can promise from a flip side, you were equally as offensive and annoying, if not more, so. Absolutely. And, you know, I’ve stepped on some cultural line mines, you know, land mines, you know, and my career not knowing, you know, that something I was doing was offensive to a culture. And by no means that I mean, to do it. But because I was, you know, open to feedback and open to researching and being open to, you know, when I arrived in someone’s culture, I arrived in their culture, I wasn’t forcing them to bend to my American thinking. And so, you know, I did step on staff, and I learned my lesson. But I’m just thankful I had so many honest people around me to tell me,
Tim Kubiak 31:57
and that’s key, right is, as a leader to be able to take that feedback from those that are in the theater in that area of the business even and apply it. So how can a good leader solicit that type of feedback actively?
Jennifer Thornton 32:15
Yeah. And so I think if you’re looking at how to work cross culturally, in different cultures, I think one of the best things to do is to sit down with someone and say, you know, what, this is a project we’re going to work on, you know, say it’s a project, new project, and there’s, you know, five people in five different countries, before you start talking about the objectives of the project, start talking about way of work. And how can I when I need to be honest with you, how do I approach you? Do you want it directs? Do you want it verbally? Do you want it on email? How, what kind of analytics Do you want to be associated with it? And start getting way of work clarified? and be open to it? and be honest about what you need? Because oftentimes, someone will say, well, then what do you need? And we’re like, oh, whatever. But that’s not true. You do not need something specific. And so to get specific information from others, you have to be willing to self aware enough to give specific information out.
Tim Kubiak 33:14
That’s really good advice. How do you bring analytical and creative types together peacefully?
Jennifer Thornton 33:21
Oh, I love that question. That’s fantastic. Oh, gosh, so many different things you could do and ways to do that. But I think you have to first start understanding everything you gain in life, you give up on the other side, and someone’s got that. So if you’re highly creative, and you’re making decisions based on this visionary view of something that’s never been made before, there’s no analytics to it, because it’s never been made before. But this other person’s wanting to force it to it, before some analytics to it or projections or some modeling. So get excited about the fact that someone is doing something that you just aren’t good at, because none of us are good at everything. And so I think the first thing when you’re bringing different minds together is helping them understand everything you gain, you just gave up on the other side of it. And this person over here is got it. And that’s pretty awesome.
Tim Kubiak 34:13
What about you talked about words having power? Is there a difference in how what words you should use? And how you should communicate? In a written sense versus a maybe an informal sense and messenger or what have you versus when you’re speaking? Yeah,
Jennifer Thornton 34:31
I think a lot of the relationship in the world is created when we’re having verbal conversations, which make the emails much easier because you know, everyone gets in our minds how our brains work is we create stories. So you read it, someone can say I went to the park today, and our mind can be like, oh, wow, they went to the park today, or it could be like, they’re so mad because they had to do that the sentence is the same. But our mind creates a story and so our verbal conversations are important so that people understand our thoughts, we create relationships. And it’s, you know, changing our language, you know, from, you know, projects hit a wall. And you know, the leader is like, you know, you’ve got to figure this out, get it done. Now, you know, if you don’t do this, we’re gonna lose this deal, which is how we typically handle things, changing it to all right, none of us have an answer. And so let’s put all of our chips on the table. I need an honest, this is what you think went wrong, don’t offend me, or you can’t offend me, tell me now go around the room, what is what’s wrong, and really start to open up conversations, because yelling at people to figure it out isn’t going to figure out the problem. But getting honest, well,
Tim Kubiak 35:43
we talk about honesty, one of the hardest things to do is to stand up and tell people we change in directions, right? We’re not making x anymore. x was great for 20 years, but we now need to make z. You know, is there a way to just have that conversation? Do you edge into it? You know? Or do you just simply say, look, x is dead? We used to sell 1000? Now we sell 50? Or, you know, customers used to want whatever? Is there a best way to go about that?
Jennifer Thornton 36:15
Yeah, I think when you start that conversation, it’s it’s the facts up front. And then the story afterwards. So the facts up front are, we used to sell 1000 of these we sell 50. Now, we want to invest in other revenue streams. So then make sure this company is viable long term. And then you start to tell kind of some details, you know, that are appropriate around that. What happens because of the way our brain works is, we start to tell the whole story in the beginning, because we’re scared to be honest, we’re scared it for the punch line. And so while we’re messing around waiting for the punch line, people in the room are creating a story in their head, and you don’t want them to do that. So you want to give the punch line first, you know, here’s what we’re going to do. And then here is why because then the first thing they’re hearing is the why they’re not creating a story. And then you’re having to rewrite it with the facts.
Tim Kubiak 37:10
So where to time where a lot of companies are making acquisitions, both for strategic as well as economic reasons. If you’re in the acquiring side, how should you be approaching the folks that you’re picking up and bringing into the family, and vice versa?
Jennifer Thornton 37:29
Yeah. So if you’re acquiring a new company, and you’re you’ve got this group that you have to bring in, as a leader, you want to talk to the employees, you want them to have a voice, and to have to allow them to have a voice, you have to be there with your ears to hear it. And so I think a lot of it is coming in and saying here is why we want you part of our family or part of our organization, here’s the value that you bring, when I look at our current company, you know what you gain you give up, there’s all these gains. But what we don’t have is this, and you guys have that and you’re creating this well oiled machine, here’s why we think you’re going to be great at it. Now tell us where the hiccups are? Where is it going to go wrong? Because we can’t project where it’s going to go wrong everywhere. But if we can get 50% of what’s going wrong figured out in the beginning, then the transition is going to go a lot better. And then for the flip side, get honest, you know, tell people, here’s what here’s what we’re bringing to the table. Here’s what we’re going to learn from the big the big machine, because they’re going to help us with stuff. And then where do we project wins? And where do we project roadblocks and let’s start working on those.
Tim Kubiak 38:46
You have an ops in an HR background, what did you learn in ops that made you better in the HR functions?
Jennifer Thornton 38:54
Oh, I’m so glad you asked me that question. I learned that HR is they can be two different types. There is the policy, police HR world. And we’ve all worked in those companies. And there are HR organizations that are talent strategist. And their number one goal is to deliver the business results. And that is what I learned when I was an operations, I learned how to work through people to get business results. And so when I went to HR, I just thought that’s what we were supposed to do. I wasn’t a classically trained HR person. And so my assumption was, Hey, this is people, that’s a business, let’s make the business happen through people. And so I think that has really, you know, positively skewed my views on human resources. It’s really talent strategy, and really understanding how to create an incredible team and deploy them to make sure that the business results are at the end.
Tim Kubiak 39:51
So how do you do that? If you’re expanding, we’ll go back to your earlier example of rapidly growing companies, right. How are they Create that talent strategy.
Jennifer Thornton 40:02
Yeah, you know, it starts with knowing what work needs to be done. I think that’s one of the biggest places that people get kind of caught is they don’t slow down, they know people are overwhelmed. They know they need to hire someone, and they throw payroll at the problem. And so it’s like, you know, that team over there, their hair’s on fire, and it’s fried. So just hire them someone. And then all of a sudden, two years later, we wake up with all this headcount, we’re like, Where did all these people come from? And it’s because we were throwing payroll at the problem. And we weren’t getting honest with skill set, we weren’t getting honest with work. And so the first thing is get really honest with the work. And part of that also is coming to terms with what work is required for the business, what work is good for the business, what work is fun for the business, what work we’re doing at a habit, but doesn’t make a difference. And the biggest piece that I see in companies all the time is there’s a ton of vanity work. It doesn’t impact the business. But there’s someone on the executive team that has to have a report that looks just like it did 10 years ago and doesn’t want to learn the new system, or has to have it done this way. Because that’s just the way it’s always been. And it makes them happy. So first, we have to get really clear on the work that’s required. And that’s really the first step and really the funnest, because that’s when you start to learn how your company works. And think about how could it be more efficient?
Tim Kubiak 41:16
I can think of 12 executives that need new pants after that statement. So you talk about the change in reports and changes systems, it’s inevitable now, right?
Jennifer Thornton 41:28
Yeah, and we have to get really open to change. And we’ve always known that we’ve always said that, but the world is moving in a pace, it’s never felt or moved before and there’s no signs of it slowing down. And so we can resist and you know, get mad and cross our arms and, and resist it. And you know, to say that we’re right, the world is wrong, the world is changing, and they’re all wrong. Everyone should do it just like I do. But that’s not going to take our businesses anywhere, getting really open and accepting where the world is going. And accepting it as facts and not trying to place our judgment allows us to see it in a clarity. It’s not see it with clarity and see it in a different way. Which then we can do something with that. But we can’t do anything with you’re wrong. And I’m right.
Tim Kubiak 42:16
So you talk about the talent cliff. How do people know they’ve hit that?
Jennifer Thornton 42:23
So when you hit the talent cliff, what that looks like is your business has been going amazing, it’s on fire, you’ve never been happier and prouder of your team, you’re exceeding all your cells, all your wildest dreams have come true. And then you think, oh, but we’re fine. I don’t need to invest my people, businesses great, everything’s good. And there’s this little moment, this little pivot, where the business out arcs, the skill of our teams, because we didn’t invest in our team, we were too busy investing in just the business strategy without a talent strategy, then what happens is the business takes off because we are good at what we do, and we’re not prepared to handle it. So then we go into crisis management, we’ve got more orders than we can handle. We have, you know, more sales calls than we can handle. And so instead of staying calm, and thinking about how to manage that, we go into crisis management. And as soon as we hit crisis management, telling people what to do, what to think what to say how to do their job, then your top performers are going to start to leave your bottom performers are not going to be as efficient or productive and you’ve hit that cliff, and your talent starts to your talent capability start to go down and right behind that your business will crash and your sales will crash.
Tim Kubiak 43:38
Have you teach those employees that are on that edge to have a real conversation with customers?
Jennifer Thornton 43:44
Oh, good. So I think what they have to start understanding is the customers mind. And so a customer it has the same chemicals going off as we do in a conversation with our boss. And so when you think about making that sales call and the person you’re talking to is going to buy $2 million product, there’s some fear in that, am I making the right decision? Am I looking at this all the angles? Did I ask all the right questions. And so starting to understand just like you would with coworkers, moving your language to create trust with your sales teams or with your sales clients. You have to help your clients move from fear in the buying process to trust and do that through language and saying things like, I’m sure you have a ton of questions. How much time do you need for me? I’m here for you all day long. Just ask me any question. Or you can say things like you know, when you what wakes you up at night when we think about going live with this. What’s the one thing you’re worried about? And how can we talk through that? So you’ve got to get into their mind and move them into trust over fear.
Tim Kubiak 44:53
We you talk about the world is changing. You can’t do I’m right and everybody else is wrong. But we live in an age where businesses truly are trying to come up and disrupt the incumbents, right? We saw it in the rental car versus the Uber and Lyft world pre COVID. Right now we’re seeing it with zoom versus the airlines. Right? How do you set a tone and a culture in a company, that you know, you’re going to get disrupted, but you have to persevere.
Jennifer Thornton 45:26
Oh, one of my favorite things to do with, with established companies, and even new kind of companies, but when you need fresh ideas, and when you need to get honest about where something’s going, I love to do what I call the crazy idea meeting. And so we set the tone up front, and so say, you know, it’s airline, and we know that there’s going to be disruption. So you get a cross function group, you know, many people from all levels, and you let them know, we’re going to have this meeting. And this purpose of this meeting is to project where we’re going in the future. And what I want you to do is, I want you to come to the table with the most insane ideas, you can think of things that don’t even exist today, but you thought would be cool if they did exist. And we’re actually going to give rewards out for the most insane, crazy idea. Because what that does is that tells the mind, it’s okay to have a bad idea. It’s okay to think something that no one’s ever thought. So you’re going to get those ideas brought to the table that you would not have gotten if you said, well, we’re going to go to the meeting room at four o’clock, and we’re going to brainstorm on how to beat zoom over the airlines. Okay, nothing’s happening. Now that meeting that’s like, miserable. And that’s what we tell people. But what if we told people I want you and I’m going to reward you for the most ridiculous idea you can come up with? That is where new ideas come from?
Tim Kubiak 46:51
Nice, new ideas, you’ve started your own company. What led you to that?
Jennifer Thornton 46:57
Yeah, I think you know, there is a lot of things. But at the end of the day, what led me to it is I love the results of high functioning teams, nothing gets me out of bed, like looking at what a company needs to deliver and figure out how to get there. And you know, through my own experience working in companies, every time we missed it was the talent. It was the people there was never it was that was only thing. And when teams really got crystal clear and honest and high functioning. And there was a lot of trust. I mean, you could just see those teams, and we’ve all known those teams that you look at and think how can they do so much? How are they number one every year? How are they always ahead of the curve? Well, there’s some characteristics to that. And for myself, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to help companies achieve their goals and do in a way that feels good. And then the other side of that is, you know, I wanted to make a difference in the world. And when we’re happier at work, and we’re providing for our families, and we’re coming home, and we were confident because we had a good day at work and our voices are being heard. We’re better to our family. And when we’re better to our family, we’re better to the world. And you know, it was just wanting to make a difference. But yeah, also loving the fact of hitting results. It’s just fun. I love to hit the numbers.
Tim Kubiak 48:13
Companies that you work with, if I’m listening to the show, is it companies with 20,000 employees is a companies with 20 employees somewhere in between? When do people really need to start thinking about their talent?
Jennifer Thornton 48:26
You know, anytime you recognize you’re on growth trajectory, you know, your business jumped last year by 10 15%, you’re like, holy Heck, where did that come from? That’s the time we got to get, because you’re already in up that cliff and to stay going up that cliff, you’ve got to get honest about your talent strategy. And so when a company is starting to see fast results, or have seen fast results in the past and hit some roadblocks, and are realizing through this conversation, that it could be talent. Those are the types of companies that need to give me a call, and we’ll have just so much fun unraveling it and allowing the business to be fun and still receive still get the results in
Tim Kubiak 49:05
who’s typically in the room when you work with a company. Is it c levels? Is it ebps? Is it supervisors,
Jennifer Thornton 49:12
you know, the conversation always has to start at the C level that the executives have to sign up for change. If they end, they have to be okay with that. And they have to get vulnerable. And so for me to do my best work, the C suite has to be involved. And honestly, I don’t work with organizations that the C suites like well, we got a box here to check someone said to work on culture. So you know, we just hired a consultant and off they go. I’m not going to work with that kind of company because they’re not going to see any results. I mean, they might as well throw open the window and throw their money right out of it. The C suites got to get on board, they have to want to be a better organization. And yeah, they have to be in the room and from there, we work with other people but it starts at the top
Tim Kubiak 49:54
and you see a particular silo that’s more apt to drive change than an Inside of business,
Jennifer Thornton 50:01
I think that, unfortunately, pain is really one of the biggest things that starts to change to cause people to want to change our As humans, we don’t change naturally Unless, you know, there’s a little bit of pain involved. So I think, you know, some failure is usually when I get the phone call, it’s rare that I get a phone call, and someone’s like, hey, our business is on fire, and our team is awesome, and just come and be awesome with us. That’s rare. Typically, it’s, you know, hey, we’ve had a great three years, we hit a wall, we don’t know what happened, let’s help us figure it out. So that’s, that’s kind of like, when the change starts to occur.
Tim Kubiak 50:39
How often are you brought in when it’s totally falling apart.
Jennifer Thornton 50:42
And I’ve been brought in on one occasion, a client, I can remember quite well, and we were, we were about 80%. Done. And it was, it was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, a lot of tears and a lot of honesty. But it turned their business back around, they look at it, like they’ve never looked at it, we reorganized all of the work, there’s so much duplication, and so much vanity work and so much frustration from leaders, and they were just yelling. And I mean, it was just, it was just your typical situation, when the company gets out of control. And leaders try to get back in control through, you know, high directive leadership, and it just spirals but we did it. You know, not everyone stayed on the team, some left. But you know, what, they didn’t want to lead in the way that we were going to lead in a future and quite honestly, it was better for them. If you don’t want to lead in the way we’re going to lead in the future, go find some place, it’ll let you lead the way you like, you know, it wasn’t gonna be there.
Tim Kubiak 51:43
That’s one of the things that I had to learn, I learned about myself is I am not a high supervision kind of guy, right? I believe you employ people to do the job, and they should do their job, and you support them and you help them grow and develop. I don’t want to be looking at every single quote, transaction, etc, at, you know, certain levels, you know, so it was interesting, because I once found myself in a role where they’re like, well, you need you need to be approving all these for $600. I’m running a $400 million business, what do you mean, I need to look at those. Yeah, in knowing yourself as a leader is a hard thing. And sometimes you find yourself in a situation you didn’t realize, geez, people actually care about that. Right?
Jennifer Thornton 52:25
Yeah, it happens all the time. And, you know, we have to know who we are as leaders. You know, one of the things I do with people is value exercise. When I talk to someone, they’re like, I’m just not feeling work. You know, it’s just off, I don’t know why I’m like, let’s, let’s work on your values. And typically, there’s a value that’s being offended or not being used or having to go against your values and decisions. Just like it was frustrating for you to approve something for 600, it seems so minute because it went to what it went against who you were as a leader, and that’s a trust based leader. And so it just didn’t feel right to you because it wasn’t aligned to who you are.
Tim Kubiak 53:01
Yeah. How often you see people that are completely burnt out
Jennifer Thornton 53:06
a lot more than I like,
Tim Kubiak 53:08
and how often can they be resuscitated, so to speak.
Jennifer Thornton 53:12
Um, it’s, it’s interesting. Organizations kind of think it’s the employees job to resuscitate and to get over get over themselves. But typically, someone’s burned out, because of the relationship. And for the relationship from, you know, company to employee to get better, both people have to do something to make the change. And I think that’s one of the hardest things to come to terms with.
Tim Kubiak 53:39
So we’re talking a little bit in advance of your new website, but can you kind of give us a preview, by the time this comes out, your site will be done, what people can find there and where to find it.
Jennifer Thornton 53:47
Yeah, so you’ll be able to find it at 304, coaching calm, and we’re gonna have a lot of resources and tools for you, we’re gonna have a full resource section that has materials that you can download and start having conversations with your team to really figure out what you need and why you need it. Because the why you need it is the most important piece of it. And so we’re really excited. You know, over the last few years, we’ve created a ton of resources, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with the world.
Tim Kubiak 54:14
And you’ve got a great LinkedIn page as well, right? I’ve seen it. So you know, definitely. And you’ve got some downloadables and some thoughts there as well. So if you haven’t checked them out, do that. Where’s the three or four come from?
Jennifer Thornton 54:26
And my lucky number, you know, when you sit down, you start a business, everyone. It’s a lot of thought, and I’m in a very efficient person. I was like, Huh, what do I call it? Well, three or four is my lucky number. It’s a combination of lucky dates. I’ll just go with that. And it’s been a fantastic conversation starter.
Tim Kubiak 54:41
That’s a good one. Okay. I have a number of my LLC and it was my home area code. So I was dying to know how you got yours.
Jennifer Thornton 54:49
The combination of important dates
Tim Kubiak 54:50
nice. I like that. Anything I should ask you that I didn’t
Jennifer Thornton 54:56
and I think the one thing that I’d love to tell people based on where we are in the society today is don’t don’t fall into the crisis management habit. When there’s a crisis fall into crisis management, the buildings on fire, you have to get people out. But immediately go back to leading to who you are. And just really make sure that you do not get stuck in the crisis management habit, when things are difficult. And I’m seeing it right now. And I just, it hurts. It hurts my heart for so many reasons. But that’s not who so many of these leaders are, but they’re just getting into it by habit.
Tim Kubiak 55:33
So give give them a tip to get out of that.
Jennifer Thornton 55:36
Oh, good. So a tip to get out of that is when you look at what’s going on today. Tell yourself Are there any crisis today? No, there’s not. Okay. Well, then I’m going to be who I am as a leader. And before you start to go into that feeling of like, Oh, I got to tell someone and before you hit that frustration, pause yourself and say I’m feeling frustrated. Why and who do I need to be to make sure that my frustration does not continue?
Tim Kubiak 56:01
That’s beautiful. Jen, thanks so much for being here today.
Jennifer Thornton 56:04
Oh, thank you. It was such a great conversation. I appreciate it.