Hello and welcome to the Career Success podcast. I’m Jason Connolly. If you are a regular listener, it’s great to have you back, but if you new, welcome to the show. In this series, every week we speak to the biggest names in business all across the globe, we talk about their career stories, the lessons, learn how they overcome challenges and what success habits they practice. Practical advice to help you in your career if you have a passion for business, then this is the podcast for you.
In this episode I’m delighted to be joined by Betsy Kauffmann from North Carolina in the US. Betsy is a globally recognized leadership and organisational agility coach. With more than 20 years experience working in Fortune 500 companies. But it’s his company Cross Impact coaching helps leaders create innovative, aligned, disruptive and agile organisations. Her mission is to create workplaces where people wake up each morning feeling motivated and inspired by their work so they end their days feeling fulfilled and valued. She’s a published author providing Fort leadership to both the Agile and project management communities. And speaks internationally on leadership, corporate culture and organisational agility. Betsy just completed her first Ted talk. talk. tips to kick-start honest conversations at work in September 2020. She did this in conjunction with Ted at PMI partnership. Betsy, thanks for joining me on this episode. Thank you. Thanks for having Jason. I’m kind of tired after your meeting that. Well, it said beautiful, absolutely beautiful introduction. And there’s so much I want to unpack with you. you. years experience working in Fortune 500 companies, but tell us about you Betsy. How did you kind of get to where you are? And let’s go on a whistle. Stop tour through your career. Yeah, thanks. Absolutely so. It’s funny. A lot of it I would say is somewhat intentional and somewhat divine intervention. I basically started as a project manager about 20 or so years ago. I’m going to age myself here, maybe a little bit longer than that. And I really love doing that work. And I loved watching projects coming fruition as I got more and more experience, I found that I was working with quite a few senior leaders and sea levels and the whole dynamic of working in that leadership space is really intriguing to me. And then I started moving my way into the agile world and I’m sure hopefully your listeners have heard about. It is a big buzzword and everybody is trying to achieve agility and go into this at this pace, and so I did quite a few years in that space. And again, as I was working in organization and helping them to achieve agility. I would have these leaders come tap me on the shoulder and say, hey can you help me here? ’cause more struggling and so I just found myself really trying to work with leaders and help them to figure out how do they create these innovative disruptive agile organization. And it’s not just about software, it’s about actually achieving agility. And that’s where I am today. I do lots of great work with many companies throughout the US and their globally as well. And it’s fun and it’s challenging and it definitely keeps me on my toes. For sure I can imagine it does. What is a disruptive agile organization? How would you kind of define that? Yeah, that’s a great question. So really it’s one. So think about where we are in the state. I mean, things are rapidly happening within the universe, right? And we’ve just got all kinds of disruptors coming. If you think about it used to take us potentially five years or 10 years to see changes and trends emerge. And now we’ve got kids that are sitting in their basements trying to figure out how to disrupt. These large organisations right, and so you think the Amazons and the Ubers and the Google there’s, you know, there’s always something that’s sitting there and trying to figure out how to solve for these big mammoth problems. We’ve got people that are really smart, and we’re able to do them at lightning speed now, so we need as organisations to figure out how to continue to stay disruptive and how to meet our customer needs. And to do that, you’ve got to be agile, you need to bring agility. You need to be quick. You need to be customer focused. You need to be able to pivot. Rapidly and not allow the minutiae of an organization to slow you down, and so that is my goal is to really work with these leadership teams and the teams to figure out. How do we start to figure out what is going to disrupt our industry and apply those principles from agility to help us. Are you kind of brought him when there’s a problem? Are you kind of brought into you know with to maybe drive growth? Or is there kind of a set situation when someone says right? We need to call Lynn Betsy. Yeah, so I’m running a couple different things. One is, hey, we’re going through a transformation either it’s an agile transformation or we’re trying to change the way that we work together. And it’s just not working. We need some help. The other thing is we’ve been trying to get a product out the door and our teams aren’t working well. Or organisations not. Please write to do this. Can you come in and help us and so it’s really like hey, we’re just struggling and we want to. You know, we’ve tried it once. I mean want some more help and so I come in from that perspective and it you know, it’s fun and it’s engaging and it’s complex because you know a lot of times when I get brought in, they’ve actually been at it for about a year to two years and they’re not seeing the results that they want. And so I come in assess. We have very honest conversations, which kind of leads to my Ted talk about why what’s happening. Why are we not? We don’t have instructions. In place or we don’t have the right people working together, or potentially we don’t even have the right talents needed to get this work done, and so we talk about those different levers that happen and then we start to figure out how to solve for them and it’s really interesting. Obviously there’s a lot of people out there Betsy who proclaimed to be business coaches or people who can help businesses, but I think one thing that I really picked up from you reading into you as I’m guessing you’ve kind of been there, done that warm the T shirt. Maybe many decades. And that’s and it’s kind of. I’m guessing you must have been through a hell of a lot of challenges to be able to be parachuted into these environments. You know, in the 1st place to help and you know, I’m guessing you been through a hell of a lot of tough times yourself to be able to, you know, come in as a very kind of calm, calming influence. Bring kind of calm to maybe what might be a chaotic situation. Yeah I have. I mean, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve actually worked in so many different sectors. Retail financial energy insurance has been a lot of time in the insurance space right now, and so healthcare start intentional. That kind of variety. Or was it? Was that just kind of you following opportunity and it being quite fluid and natural? Or was that kind of you know, deliberate in the way that that happens? Or yeah, good question. It’s been really fluid, so as the work presents itself, you know I don’t really pay myself to say well, I only do insurance or I only do energy only do financial. I’m fortunate enough where I live in the Southeast US, there’s a lot of different sectors here, and they’re all solving for some really big problems. And so I went in. You know, fortunate enough to be able to be brought in to say, OK, Hey, you solve for this. Can you come in and solve for that? And what’s interesting is it actually starts out, typically in the technology space. So I guess maybe that’s the common thread is that I’m brought in by technology executives, but then I end up spending more time with, you know, the business partners to say, OK, how do we work Better Together between business and technology? So I think. From a sector perspective, it can be varied. The theme is that technology threaten, and when you think about agile, that’s really the whole like agile movement in this big massive movement out there. It came formalised from the software development world, but it’s leaking into all over different companies and organisations. HR, marketing, legal, finance. So we’re seeing how can we bring agility to our organization as opposed to just applying agile practices to our technology delivery and I guess you bought in for technology and I don’t work in the technology sector as such, but behind everything technical is people, yes, so you know it all goes back. Tell me if I’m wrong here, but I’m guessing even when there’s you bought in for a technical thing, really is that it’s the people behind the technology, but ultimately you have been brought into sort? Absolutely, yeah. So I’m not technical by nature. I think I know whenever we win. I’m like this doesn’t seem right, but I truly am now. It’s about the people. It’s about the culture in the organization. In the structure and what have we set up in place that’s impeding us from achieving our goals? So it’s kind of funny because they bring in these, you know, non tech type folks that come in to coach, but they really are looking for pragmatic folks that can actually say OK. How do we organise our people to work Better Together? How do we get business and technology to partner together? So these are like just common human centric topics as opposed to really technical? Because there’s a lot of smart people in every organization I go into my left them solve the technology problems. Or I’ll bring in a coach you know, let me bring a technical coach that can help you with this from out, you know, let’s look at all the different pieces, but from the human side of it and the organisational structure side of it, let me let’s focus on that. ’cause that’s really majority of the time. What is the underlying causes of why we’re not achieving our goals, or why we’re not rapidly moving or delivering product or whatever the need is that we’re trying to tackle? Is there common things that you tend to find when you go into a company where you think it’s this one again? It’s this potential problem? Is there kind of common themes that you find when you go into these different companies? Even if there is varying, you know variety to the sectors in which you were absolutely, I mean, a lot of it comes down to communication or a lack thereof, right? So it’s that common communication. It’s having the space to collaborate and just being able to talk openly about what’s going on. You know structure. An organisational hierarchy is a lot to do with it as well. You know what type of culture are you created? We have a lot of layers that are having to make decision rights and not allowing the different folks to talk and have the communication. So I mean, those are definitely common themes that I see over and over and over again, and so it’s starting to bring the people together and having those conversations well and one of your missions. As I said in the intro, is to create workplaces where people wake up each morning feeling motivated. And inspired by their work and also to end their days feeling fulfilled and valued, now those that all sounds Absolutely Fabulous. One lovely. It does, but how do you? You know there’s many kind of dimensions there to that one sentence in itself? How do you help organisations create that? Because you know, I, I guess, one thing I’ve talked about on this show before is a culture is a very hard thing to change as well. If you’re going into a culture, how do you create that? You know the environment that allows people to kind of, you know, be the best version of themselves. You know, I think it’s. Well, one is. Do people understand what they’re actually working on? Are they just coming into work and doing their job and kind of feeling with cagier wheel, right? So it’s making sure that folks understand the purpose of why they’re here and what the organization is trying to achieve, so that’s the big part. When I wake up every morning, I want to be motivated. I want to come in. I want to log into my computer. I want to get on these calls and a lot of times I find that if they don’t understand how their piece of their work applies to the bigger picture or to the whole of it. They’re not motivated, they don’t understand it. The other pieces autonomy, I think you know. As individuals, we want to be able to self direct and to lead our own work. And we’ve got somebody calling us exactly what to do and how to do it. You know, check your brain at the door. There’s very little motivation there, so it’s. How do we set up one? The communication structure? The vision? Do people understand what they are being tested to do? Also, do they? Are they able to self direct? Are they able to make decisions on their own on behalf? Of their work, the product, the customer, wherever they are right, and so if we can’t create those types of corporate structures, then you’re not going to have that motivation. And then you know, we get to the fulfilment and value, you know, do you love what you do? Are you in a good spot? Are you learning? And are you growing? Are you working with people who value the skills that you bring to the table? And I think it’s really up to leaders to help to make sure we’re creating that type of environment. Or folks do feel that way. ’cause if we don’t, then you’re going to lose potentially some really great individuals. Because they don’t feel like they’re being heard or their work doesn’t matter, and I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and that’s really interesting. And but you know, I’m a big believer that everything kind of comes to the, you know, from the top in an organization. But I’m guessing that there must have been times where you’ve got into companies where you’ve had to have somewhat of a management clear out, because if you have not got the managers or the leaders in the business or singing from the same hymn sheet, then you know how are you going to fulfil those objectives. You have to create this beautiful working environment. Yeah, I mean it’s bringing these problems to the forefront, right? So it’s saying you know if you guys want motivated individuals, you’ve gotta communicate your vision. What are we doing here? And if we don’t want to communicate that if we want to keep very secret, then there’s going to be problems, right? Don’t expect your folks to actually do the work the way you want them too. And we’re going to continue to create this environment so it’s it is again being very blunt and honest with leaders. Some leaders make it, some leaders, don’t you know. And I think that those become the tough decisions that folks have to make to say all right, what do we want to do? We actually want to commit to changing. How we work together and how we communicate with our team members and if they don’t, they’re going to see they’re going to see the negative results that they’ve seen time and time again, right? And so that’s where it becomes really critical that they say, OK, we acknowledge that we need to work on a BNC.
However, you know, we may or may not want to do that now, and that’s OK too. But just realize what the results will be. So I think that becomes the decision-making piece of it from a leadership standpoint. And that’s why it’s tough to be a leader. Sorry, I know your time is no, no, no, I assure you. Betsy, you making a lot of very good points. I’m kind of. I feel like I’m doing that thing where I’m queuing. I want to answer. Ask more questions. You kind of mention about leaders and you know people having the right skills to do that. What do you think necessarily? You know, separates a good leader from a bad leader? Is there kind of a set of personality traits? And I’m guessing that you must be pretty good at reading people to be. You know you when you’re going into this environment, you’re trying to navigate. You know all these different people, personality types. You know, I. So I’m guessing you must have kind of a set vision of you know what? What you may be defined as someone who’s a good leader or again is that subjective? Is that dependent on the environment that the company or something like that? Yeah, you know, I think there’s probably a set of core behaviours that you see in any good leader, regardless of the sector. But I’m just going to come in and I’m probably going to miss them, so I hope your listeners.
But I think one of them is being able to listen right? So a good so a leader that can actually listen to their people and listen to their peoples and not always talking over them. One that can be humble, one that can acknowledge. OK, I’ve got to help navigate this large impediment and is willing to go to battle for their team. A decision maker as well. A lot of times teams and individuals are looking for a decision and for direction and they’re not getting it, and so it’s being able to balance that, you know. How often do I actually give a decision? Or do I sit back and allow my team to make those decisions and it’s for me? It’s this arena’s science right? And we’re constantly going between this dance of leadership and trying to figure out, you know, it’s almost a practice like we’re practicing leadership. ’cause some days we’re going to get it right, and other days we’re not going to get it right, and being able to retrospect and learn that is, I think, really critical. And I think going back to your question. I mean, I do have, I would say one of my superpowers is having that self-awareness an intuition when I do meet with leaders because. Once I get this opportunity to talk to them and kind of get to know them, I’m able to pretty quickly figure out. OK, how does this leader operate? How they operate their teams was important to them, their style, their communication. Where do we maybe have some blind spots that we need to work on and where do they have strengths that we really need to leverage based on their peers and where they’re interacting? I I’m guessing you being bought into a company. I can imagine some people roll out the red carpet, but I can imagine other people you know you maybe not met with the warmest of reception. Exactly, yeah, I’m gonna situation like that right now. I was brought into just getting a little bit into the organization and they’re going through a large transformation and one of the sea levels brought me in just to be some eyes and ears and ground
and talk to people about what’s actually going on. So I did that and I reported back and it had some, you know, pretty strong recommendations and it’s tough, but I think you know in this role you also have to have empathy and you also will be able to talk to people and understand their situation and what they’re going through, not only just professionally, but you know, and if they’re willing to open up personally ’cause every person has a story of how they got to where they are, what’s going on their personal life, where they now an most times. They also have a recommendation. Like, OK, we know this isn’t going really well. What do you recommend? And just being able to listen and empathise and relate. I think it’s huge skill that I try to bring as well when I work with different individuals and organisations. And you know what? I was just kind of looking at some of the challenges that you’ve had in your own career. You kind of. I think you made a big mistake about culture when you were going through that journey yourself, which I am guessing obviously is massively taught you a lot of lessons and. In this in the show notes and I was reading before you put that it really comes down to trusting your gut because I know there’s so many people out there. They make the bad decision when it comes to, you know, necessarily picking the right role, but you think it’s down to you know, really, trusting your gut and what you’re seeing and hearing, and you know the kind of well, put it bluntly. The gut feeling that you’re getting. Yeah, I do, I really do. It’s funny I was. I’ve had this conversation a lot recently and few years ago I went to go join a consulting firm and my gut had told me yeah. No, that’s right fit. I don’t know if you should go do this. I was going to maybe put my company on hold for a little bit and go work for this firm and my head kept saying no go do it now you know my head was reasoning with myself which most of the time that’s what happens, right as humans. But my God, you know, I’m like I really went down to the core of it was like there was definitely some warning signs going there and I got into the company and a one. I sat down and no one talked to me.
No, but there was not a warm welcome. There was not. You know, we’re glad to have you here. I even had a few folks that were like not everybody on the leadership team agreed to bring you in like they told me that day one right? So it’s not really making you feel particularly. That’s not motivating you on the first day is right. Who are these people? Who are these people that don’t want me here? I demand to know, but it happened. And then this happens very frequently and it’s you know it comes down to safety in psychological safety. And as I got more and more into the role, you know, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. Culturally, I just did not like where they were motivated and where they were going was a very you know everybody was kind of Squidward and compensated based on their individual efforts as opposed to the group and team collective efforts. And I know from me that is not an environment that I do well in so. And if I just trusted my gut, I would have saved myself several months of like hand wringing. What do I do? And like, stress and all the things that you know, potentially, some of your listeners are going through right now is trust your gut and go with exactly what it’s telling you. ’cause that’s usually 99.9% the right decision, and I I do 100% agree with you. I went against my gut feeling not just once but twice in my career when it came to picking a role, and both times it was a complete disaster. One thing I want to talk to you about as well you. You do courage and confidence workshops to help individuals and teams to show up more confidently at work, but not just in work in life in general. And you know, I think that’s a really beautiful thing. I think a lot of people, especially young people, you know, maybe not just young people. People from all different backgrounds, you know, wanna builds up their confidence, especially to go up the career ladder. And I was only reading an article as recently as today, but said about, you know, to sort of move forward with your career. You’ve got to kind of have that internal PR. You know there isn’t. There is a bit of a game to be played when it comes to rising up the ranks in that kind of career, but how is it that we’re never gonna unpack what you do in one of your workshops in the time that we have, but, you know, I’m sure there’s people listening to this show right now, but things I want to be more confident. I want to, you know, really kind of be more true to myself and stuff what? What kind of advice would you give to people who want, you know, an injection of confidence? Yeah, I think you know it’s a couple different things. Well, it’s what actually started my whole idea for my Ted Talk was I was coaching several different individuals. One on one. And they were talking about a situation or a time that they wish they had spoken up or they wanted to say something. And I was like, why didn’t you? Well, I just didn’t feel like it was right time. I don’t know, afraid it wasn’t going to be the right spot. You know whatever. And so that’s why I’ve submitted that. To that end folks, I didn’t think it was that of a of a novel concept of like how to actually speak up and have honest conversation work. And you know, they picked it ’cause I like. These are just basic things that people are dealing with every day and I think it’s one, you know, the four tips of and I’ll just go through really quickly. Is the first one is confidence, so let’s have the confidence to speak up ’cause you’ve got something to say and you want to make sure that you know you know that is being heard. The second one is intent, an it goes down to what is your intent of speaking up. So when you have to bring that confidence in that courage, there’s using intent behind it and you want to make sure that it’s not positive intent. My third one is delivery, so delivery and how we say our messaging and how we communicate every day is critical and I don’t know about you. But there’s been times when I I, I said something I just didn’t land very well. Trying to practice delivery. Working with it is really is a critical skill that I think you know. If you know if you’re open to feedback and how you deliver, messages can really take you far in your career as well as in your personal life. And like the left. Sorry, it’s always to seek a solution so heading into any type of conversation or conflict with like you know, here’s a solution that we could potentially try, because if you just come in with like all this negative or potential feedback you know. Let’s also turn the conversation with a solution.
Because you’ll see that people like, oh, we don’t think about that or yes and or yes, but they may not work here. Let’s try something else right? So it actually changes your conversation. So yeah, that that was really the emphasis behind a Ted talk, and I think it’s starting to practice those and keeping those almost just front and centre as you’re communicating. And as you’re as you’re navigating your life personally and professionally, there’s a lot there. Even is one of those points. Takes a lot. Yeah, and I think people need to listen to the Ted talk. I think it’s such an interesting. Topic and I’ve I kick starting on this conversations at work. You know, I I, I completely endorse that. I think that when people aren’t honest or they don’t feel that they’ve got that kind of necessarily that outlet in order to talk. That’s when problems start to arise. And I think you made some interesting points there. And kind of one of the learning points I just took from what you said was and. And I believe this. I think life is about perspective, and if you have the ability to look through the looking glass at how other people are viewing things, that’s going to allow you to kind of advancing off. But it I always find it quite. Puzzling just how many business people or leaders that I come across who it’s not that they don’t look at things through other peoples perspective, but it’s not a natural default way of thinking. And it’s always they look from their perspective and then go well. Why is this person doing this? Well, hang on a minute. Have you stopped to think about how this person is feeling and look at them? But a lot of the time that might come down to time or you know the person. Not necessarily. You know you’ve got a. You’ve got to look at each person as an individual in the company, even if you’re a big company. You know, everyone’s important. If they weren’t important, they wouldn’t have a job exactly, and you know, I think it also comes down to listening, so I don’t know about you. But how often is somebody talking to you? And you’re formulating an answer in your brain already, and you’re not really listening to what they have to say. ’cause you’re getting ready to respond back, so I think that’s a key thing. And we talked about it earlier, but it is about. I mean, if it’s almost a practice is like, how do I intentionally listen to somebody so I can understand being present?
Absolutely. I call that cueing and you know it’s when you’re building up that in your mind what you want to say to the person that you’re getting ready already to come back with your finger, your point, or whatever it is you want to say and be being present is actually quite hard skill in itself because you know, I know myself. My mind is if it was like a supercomputer at times this time I’m just going round and sometimes I have to think to myself. No, I’m not listening. I’m not being president and actually having that skill to listen. It is so. Important, but a lot of the time you know if you’re not listening properly, you’re going to miss something, and then you know you might miss an opportunity. I wanted to talk to you as well. One of them, one of the things I know that you’re very passionate about, is understanding and honouring your personal values gain so they don’t just help you both professionally, but also personally tell us a bit about kind of what does honouring your personal values really mean? Yeah, I went through this exercise when I was going through part of my coach training and it is tapping into. Really, your core values, what guides you, what is kind of your North star and it’s one of the workshops that I run an it’s taking understanding different points in your life when you felt happy when you when you felt fulfilled when you felt like disappointed and starting to draw out where there’s some common themes and you’d be really surprised that there are common themes in different scenarios and situations. And getting very grounding in. What are your top core values when you can land on those they will actually help you navigate. Personally and professionally so they can help you to make decisions to say OK when you’re when you’re having to make a decision. And again it goes back to that gut and you’re feeling something. You’re usually compromising one of your core values, or if something’s happening, you’re excited and you’re feeling really fulfilling your rate. Ago, you’re actually honouring one of your values, so if you can get to understanding what are your core values and I try to limit it to three to five, what are my top three to five core values? And in the decisions that I make, and as I? Navigate my life personally, professionally and my honouring them. Or am I not and can I ask what your personal values are? ’cause people might find this useful to know. Well, I can tell you I’ll give you a. There’s sort of my top three or freedom, so having the freedom to be able to make decisions that on my own. My family and balance. I’m really I need balance my life I’m a working mother I’ve got kids, I’m living in the pandemic, you know. Still those papers. And then I actually would have one.
Having fun and being able to laugh and enjoy life and enjoy your work and developing good, meaningful relationships is another one as well. Yeah, and the reason I wanted to ask you your personal values is you’ve got a lot of life experience and to hear what your values are. You know I think that could be really useful to people listening to this. What advice would you give to we’re coming to the end of our time together and I could talk to you Betsy four. Many an hour about all different things that I’ve tried to cram. And as much as I possibly can into this. I believe you, but what advice would you give to someone? And I appreciate this is somewhat generic, but some of us may be thinking, you know, I’m not where I wanna be right now. I’m not in the job. I want to be. I’m not feeling that. You know, having listened to personal values, I’m not feeling that I’m living. You know the life I want to live, what would you say to that person? Yeah I would, you know I think one is slow down right? Take a deep breath really get grounded and centred with who you are and what is important to you and go through a series of exercises of when I was I the most happiest. When was either most fulfilled? When have I ever been upset or angry and it will start to maybe lead you into how do I water my core values from that perspective and then that should allow you to kind of think about, you know the work that I’m doing? Which one are? My values are made being compromised? Which ones are my honouring and what can I you know? What do I need to do next in order to start to honour those who are honouring our core values? We actually feel centred and balanced and we’re having living a life of like purpose and meaning. Meaningfulness and I think that is what’s most critical, but it really is like taking a deep breath and like getting centre first, because I don’t know about you, but I have been super hectic. You know, the past year, plus and even overall home, I just feel like there’s such a intensity and we aren’t able to really just kind of slow down and think and spend time just really getting into our thoughts into our are what drives and motivates us, and I think that’s a really beautiful note to kind of. Leave the show on. But basically people want to find out more about you or indeed. Cross impact coaching, or perhaps they want to listen to the Ted Talk and you’re also an offer over book, so if people want to find out more about you, where can they go to crossimpactcoaching.com is gonna be the best place you can find a link to my Ted talk you can link in with me on LinkedIn. All of my articles and everything that I’ve done over the past. What feels like forever out there. So just go on to the website if you’re interested in a workshop or running a workshop at your organization, send me a note and we’ll go from there. Great, the Knowledge hub cross impactcoaching.com. Betsy, thank you so much for your time. It’s been an absolute delight. Sort appreciate it. That was Betsy Kauffmann from North Carolina in the US. I’m Jason Connolly. This is the career success podcast, until next time goodbye.