We talk with Amy Roberts from Dale Carnegie about leadership development, the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership, and what leaders can do to create a good company culture.
Jacob Shriar: Hello, everyone. I’m Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe. And, today, I’m so excited to have my guest with me, Amy Roberts from Dale Carnegie. Amy, thank you so much for being here with me.
Amy Roberts: Yeah, I’m excited.
Jacob Shriar: Awesome. Great. You know, Dale Carnegie, a pretty famous company. Obviously, I’m sure everyone has heard of them, everyone knows about them. But, really, just in case and really, I guess, just to clarify, can you give us a bit of background on sort of what you do and maybe what your areas of focus are, and kind of, maybe I guess, a bit of background on kind of what you guys do?
Amy Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I think the easiest way to really articulate what we do is we focus on three key areas within a business. We focus on leadership development, employee engagement, and succession planning. And our job is to really come in and figure out what’s going on in each of those three arenas within an organization, that we could help get them to the next level so they’re achieving their goals, they’re overcoming barriers and challenges, and they’re really taking their organization to the next level.
Each of those three areas can really be found in different contexts within the organization. A couple of them that stand out, and that we see most frequently, is the whole need for organization as they are expected to do more with less, figure out how do we work across silos, how do we break down the barriers of our organization and our departments, and work together to achieve the overall organization’s visions?
So we focus on how leadership development, employee engagement, and succession planning could impact our ability in our organization’s ability to do things like that, or communicate virtually. We’re being asked more and more now to work remotely, or work in different locations and technology is awesome because it allows us to do that. But it does bring up some challenges. How do we build the same types of relationships? How do we coach team members? How do we align ourselves with the overall organization when we’re not face to face? And so those are just a couple of examples of ways that those three big trends can impact different areas of our business.
Jacob Shriar: Very, very interesting. Yeah, we’ll dive much deeper into all that for sure. I guess maybe we’ll focus a little bit more on employee engagements since I guess that’s sort of our bread and butter here. So let’s talk about employee engagement. Really, I guess let’s start with this question. When you go in, when you see a client, what are some of the issues that they’re having in terms of employee engagement? What are some of the common, I guess, problems that you’re seeing in terms of employee engagement from all of the different clients that you work with?
Amy Roberts: Well, I think a common cliché statement is that we’re all now expected to do more with less, and we’re expected to do it faster. And, oh, by the way, make sure that the quality is still way up here. And so it seems like just when we get it all figured out changes come down the pipeline. It’s either changes from leadership, changes from regulation, changes from our customers, and it seems like our environment more and more is really full of disruptive change. And when that happens, our anxiety goes up, our pressure goes up, our fear goes up, and so we tend to gravitate towards things like research. We gravitate towards numbers. We gravitate towards facts, and those things that we can tangibly see and prove. And what tends to fall away is that connection, that human connection that being transparent with our fears, being transparent with how we’re feeling.
And so the emotional connection that causes engagement really tends to kind of go to the wayside as we continue to focus more on research and facts and numbers, because of that anxiety and fear. And so with that our engagement naturally tends to go down. When people are scared, when people are fearful, when people are feeling pressured and stressed and anxious, they tend to kind of revert back, which is the opposite of being engaged and leaning forward. And so that’s really kind of the trend that we’re seeing, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon, because our culture and our environment is so dramatically impacted with constant disruptive change.
Jacob Shriar: Wow! That’s really, really crazy. So, I mean, what do you do in a situation like that? What do you recommend to the clients? So let’s say, I guess maybe, because of the economy or whatever the case, you do need to do more with less. You talked just right now a little bit about sort of the emotional drivers, let’s say, of engagement. So, really, what do you recommend to clients? Like how do you actually get that emotional engagement out of the employees?
Amy Roberts: Well I think the first step is for us as leaders, as team members, as managers to really take a step back and think about where am I? What are the things that cause me anxiety? What are the things that cause me stress? What are the things that are putting pressure on me as a leader? Because until we’re aware of how we’re feeling there’s really not an easy way to be vulnerable and transparent with our team about where we are. I think about, from a goal perspective, you know, our organization has lots of different goals in different areas, and for me it’s so important to have a self awareness. Where is the awareness of where I’m at?
Because until I understand where I’m at, how will I ever know what it’s going to take to get to where I want to be? And I think about, really, our emotional drivers and our emotional connection is the same way. If we’re not sure where our fears are coming from, or where our anxiety is coming from, or how we want it to be, and how we want to deal with it, how will we ever get there? And so I think for us to be able to be a team member, to be a strong leader, a strong manager we first have to understand what we are feeling, so that we can then be open with our team and transparent with our team, to allow them then to open up with us.
So I would say that’s the first step, is just kind of a self analysis of where we’re at. I think after that then you open the dialogue with your team, whether it’s in just one-on-one conversations, whether it’s with a group. But really asking questions to try to figure out where they’re at. I think as leaders we tend to drive change, and that we don’t often step back and say, “Now, how is this impacting this person. What kind of fear is this instilling in this person? How are we asking them to be flexible and go outside their comfort zone to implement this change?” And when we don’t show that we’re thinking about it from their perspective and their point of view, we’re probably giving off some kind of an impression that they’re not valued. And that’s a huge… that’s really one of the five areas of engagement, is an employee’s feeling of feeling valued.
And so when we then are transparent enough with our feelings and how we’re doing and our emotions towards change and engagement, and all of the good things that come with that, our team is more likely to be open about where they’re at. And where their feelings are, where their emotions are, where their stresses are, what’s causing them anxiety. And it isn’t until we have all of that on the table that we can really move forward together to figure out, “Now, how we deal with that. How do we use that information to then move our organization forward or our team forward to achieve the goals for which we’re being held accountable for?”
So if I were to summarize it, it’s really kind of a self awareness, take a mental check on how you’re doing, where you’re feeling, where your stresses are coming from. Then focus on your teams and really open the dialogue to surface some of their feelings and their stress and anxiety. And then embrace it, take it and do something with it, and let those surfaced thoughts and anxieties drive the change and drive the reaction in the proactive action towards that change.
Jacob Shriar: But when you talk about sort of opening that dialogue with the employees, I’m just wondering how do you go about that. Is it sort of an employee engagement survey, is it employee happiness questionnaires, things like that? Or is it really just straight up getting them into a room face-to-face, each one of them, all hundred fifty employees? So how do you actually sort of open that dialogue with them?
Amy Roberts: Well, I think you could take a couple of different approaches. I think there’s always benefit in doing like a survey or some kind of diagnostic to get kind of a pulse of where people are at. But that’s just at that moment in time, and I think the key is the emotional connection that a team member feels with their direct supervisor and manager. And so it’s really up to kind of that mid-level leader group to have the right kind of relationship that fosters openness and those types of conversations. I think surveys can tell you only so much, it’s one or two dimensional.
I think where the real information surfaces is when you have your ear to the ground and you’re hearing your people, you’re thinking about your team, you’re in tune with what’s going on, you’re noticing those things that cause you to think, “You know, this might be worth having a discussion about. There’s something going on here. And really, as their manager, it’s my job to figure out what’s getting in the way of this person being completely engaged.” And I think one-on-one relationships and team relationships is really the strongest way to uncover that, and also course-correct when there are some engagement issues surfacing.
Jacob Shriar: That makes sense, yeah. Something I often recommend, and I’d love to get your thoughts on this, and you know, some of my writing and some of these videos that I do, is I’ll say the importance of psychology and sort of understanding like an emotional intelligence. And there are some things that I’ve honestly recommended in the past. There is a ton of free courses online that you can take. One is actually called… I think it’s called Emotional Intelligence for Leadership. It’s on Coursera, it’s very cool. But I’d just love to get your thoughts kind of. What do you think about soft of that type of training for all managers?
Amy Roberts: Yes, I think it doesn’t matter really what the avenue is once you figure out how to do it. But it’s really just building that connection with people. It’s having real transparent dialogue, which sometimes surfaces conflict, and that’s okay. You embrace it and you move forward with it. And I think whether it’s using emotional intelligence or understanding how to deal with different personalities, styles, at the end of the day the foundation of all of that is our ability to see things from other people’s point of view. Our ability and our desire to better understand the people that we’re working with, the people that are working for us, the people we’re working for, and really understand what makes them tick, understand what scares them, understand what anxieties they have.
And it’s just… whether it’s, like I said, emotional intelligence or a personality testing or whatever it is you want to do, it’s just the awareness of what’s going on with our people, and our ability to really look at it from their perspective, and think about it from their point of view, not just ours.
Jacob Shriar: Let me ask you this question. How do you remove that element of fear? I mean, that’s like a really important question, because I think, I have no real data to back me up on this, but there are lot of employees who maybe don’t speak up and have great ideas. But they don’t speak up out of the fear that you know, if their idea is stupid maybe they’ll get in trouble or they won’t challenge their manager because, “What if I get fired?” I mean, it’s their livelihood, it’s their job, right? So I think… well, let me ask you, how do you remove that element of fear?
Amy Roberts: I think a lot of the fear stems from the unknown. If you don’t know how your supervisor is going to respond, for example, there’s a fear to even bring it up. And I feel like when the relationship between two people gets stronger, the fear tends to go away, or at least becomes manageable. There’s probably always going to be that fear there, and yet when you trust the person, when you feel like you’ve got a strong enough relationship that you can openly talk about things that are on your mind or questions you might have or speak up, you know that they will at least hear you out. When you trust that relationship enough, that foundation, it just makes it that much easier for the fear to kind of drive good things versus keep you from responding or voicing your opinion.
We’ve done some research recently on what causes leaders to grow in a day. And there were four key areas, and one of them actually the one that to me resonated the most, is self confidence. And so as managers and as leaders, it’s finding ways to build that self confidence in members of our team. And I think once you build that confidence not only in your relationship, but help them build confidence in their skill and their ability to do their job, that fear tends to slowly, not completely, but slowly melt away.
Jacob Shriar: Interesting. Yeah, I’d love to ask how you… so you’ve worked with a lot of big clients obviously, and you know that a lot of these big companies I’m sure you worked with, no offense to them, but they’re very, very slow to move, they’re very old-school, you know. It takes a year, maybe more to ever implement any of these changes that you might be recommending to them. How do you do that in such a slow-moving sort of I guess organization? Do you do it department by department? Do you do it kind of one step at a time? What’s the answer there, because I feel like almost by the time you’re done implementing the new change, new problems have surfaced, right? So what do you do in that situation?
Amy Roberts: Well we work with companies in two different ways. One is very tactically, where we might identify a couple of key people who could really drive some of these initiatives from an engagement standpoint, and we really work with them on a pretty in-depth level.
But then we also work with organizations more like you said, department wide, organization wide. And it’s about figuring out what’s getting in the way from it happening first, because back to that awareness piece. If we don’t understand what’s getting in the way, then like you said, we can throw tools at them all day, and by the time we finally get some changes and some higher levels of engagement things are changing, people are turning over, new supervisors and managers are getting put in place, leadership is now changing the course again.
And so our thought is the tools can be repeatable. So we’re not saying, “Okay, this tool builds engagement.” We’re saying, this builds a relationship. And so as the changes change, as the engagement obstacles change, the fact that we still need to be able to build that emotional connection with people on our team doesn’t change. And so our ability to do that, our ability to build a strong connection and really drive engagement from a people’s side doesn’t really change. It just is applied differently.
Jacob Shriar: I guess my next question, though, I have a few questions that I want to ask you, but the next question I want to ask you is about, you said this at the beginning, working remotely. You’re getting sort of a lot of requests now on, I guess it is becoming more and more popular, this sort of telecommuting, remote working type of lifestyle. So what are some tips or some advice, what are really some main things that you’re telling your clients when this question comes up?
Amy Roberts: Yes, technology is awesome, you know. I mean, we can do our job for most of us with a computer and a phone anywhere. And it’s really great to know that if you are a valued member of a team and there’s a move that’s going to take you somewhere else, that there’s potential for you to still be able to stay with that job and add value to that organization just from a different location.
We actually recently had that happen here. We have kind of our head of events and part of our marketing team just relocated to a different part of the state. And so the challenge is with that is how do you make them still feel like a valued member? How do you still keep them engaged with what’s going on? And I think for a lot of us it’s just not recognizing that we have to continue to do that.
We take for granted that I can just walk down to the office, two doors down, and have a conversation with someone to eliminate conflict, or to embrace conflict. And when someone is remote we might not even recognize that the conflict exists. And so we have to try that much harder to be in tune with the person or the people that are not directly face to face.
We have to communicate more clearly, and concisely. We have to be more exaggerated with the emotional thoughts that we’re having. We have to, I think, be just more intuitive and check in more, and really focus a little bit harder on how do I intentionally build that relationship, because they aren’t just right in front of us. The relationship doesn’t automatically just foster itself. We just have to be more intentional with it.
Jacob Shriar: But you know, just playing devil’s advocate, if I’m the leader or the CEO, how do I keep these people accountable? How do I know that they’re actually working and not you know watching TV all day? What are maybe tools you recommend, or really how do you get that accountability?
Amy Roberts: Well, I think the big piece is to focus on results. Don’t focus on the activity as much. Focus on the results. Have a clear expectation of what is it I expect you to achieve. What are the things that our organization is counting on you for in order to move towards a goal or towards a vision? And you know, kind of let them go. That’s a little bit of a generational thing, too. The newer generation, they really wants to focus on results. They don’t want someone telling them, how do you get there. They want tools to help them get there, but they want to know, “What it is that you expect from me? What is it that you want from me? And I will do everything in my power to get there. I’ll find my way to get there.”
And so by focusing on results versus activity, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if they’re at home watching TV if that means in the evening they are working on getting the results. I mean, it’s kind of giving them the freedom to get what’s expected of them their way.
Jacob Shriar: Yeah, you’re right. And I totally agree with you, I just wanted to hear you say it, I guess. But I, obviously, totally agree with what you’re saying. You guys at Dale Carnegie, of course, do a lot of research. You write a lot of white papers, do maybe some studies, things like that. I’d love to ask you what are some of the trends that you’re seeing in the sort of employee engagement company culture space nowadays? And if you are interested maybe make a prediction into kind of the future. Where do you see this going in the next kind of, I’ll say, five years or something? What are your thoughts there?
Amy Roberts: Well, one of the things that I think ties directly into engagement is the ability of an organization to help foster growth within their leaders. I think as people get into the workplace one of the things that drives engagement is they see a path. And they see growth opportunities, and it doesn’t necessarily mean promotion after promotion. It might just mean being part of a bigger piece. You know, understanding how their role has an impact on their organization’s vision. And one of the research white papers that you just referenced is our How Leaders Grow Today. And I think it ties very directly to engagement, because it shows people how do I help my leaders to grow so that they remain engaged and they increase their engagement within our organization.
And what really surfaced in that research was there are four key areas that cause leaders to grow. The first one was self confidence, which you and I kind of already talked about earlier on this call. Just how do we help our team and our leaders become more confident as they take on new risks, as they take on new challenges, new responsibility.
The second piece is creating a helpful culture. So do they feel like they are in an environment where people genuinely care about their success? And it goes back to, “Is my supervisor in tune with what I need? Is my supervisor… do they understand what it takes for me to get to the next level or are they just worried about being able to check the box that I did my job for the day? And if I don’t know what it’s going to take to get there, are there people I can go to and are there environments I can be in that help me to get there?” So helpful culture was the second piece.
The third piece, which we’re seeing a big trend in right now, at least I am with a lot of the organizations I’m working in, is mentorship. So there’s a lot of brain focus right now on how to share my knowledge and my experience, and it’s something that can’t be taught in a manual. We’ve got a retiring workforce. How do we leverage that information and experience to grow younger leaders or new leaders to kind of take over that role? And so mentorship is a big piece of it.
And then the fourth piece is a resource network. You know, we’ve talked about social media and virtual teaming, and there are so many different ways to connect with people that are in similar situations. And for up and coming leaders, for growing leaders, how do we create that resource network so that they are getting to bounce ideas off people in similar situations?
When those four pieces, so self confidence, helpful culture, resource network, and mentorship, when those four pieces are in alignment leaders are really growing in this disruptive change environment which increases their level of engagement with the new organization.
Jacob Shriar: Wow! That’s actually really interesting. Very, very cool answer. I think we’ll end it here. But honestly, Amy, I just want to thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me. This was a lot of fun. Really, really interesting content. And, yeah, maybe, hopefully, we can do this again sometime soon.
Amy Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks.
Jacob Shriar: Awesome. Take care.
Amy Roberts: Bye.
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