Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome, everybody. Great to have you here. In in 2022, it feels like we are really reevaluating what leadership is in our organization, how to keep remote employees engaged and creating a positive environment so that we can retain and attract people. It's so important to hear different perspectives and strategies to see what will work with our organizations. That's why my guest today is going to be very helpful as you listen to Jim Thornton talk about what her research has taught her. The difference in leadership, the history of leadership is very fascinating. So let me tell you a little bit about Jen before we invite her in. Jennifer has developed her expertise and talent, strategy and leadership professional development over her exciting 20 plus year career as an HR professional. She's led the international teams across Greater China, Mexico, the UK and the US to expand into new markets, managing franchise retailers and developing key strategic partnerships, all while exceeding business objectives and financial results. She is a sought after business strategist specializing in startups and large value based organizations. She assists her clients in building talent strategies that complement their business strategies to ensure exponential growth. And isn't that something we all need right now? Welcome, Jen. It's so great to have you on.
Jennifer Thornton 1:59
Oh, I'm excited to be here. It'll be a great conversation.
Wendy Hanson 2:03
Yes. So let's start off with what's a talent cliff, if people haven't heard about the talent Cliff give us a little background on that.
Jennifer Thornton 2:11
So a talent Cliff often happens in quick, fast growing companies. So when you start an organization, typically the few people who start the organization, their skill set out runs are out exceeds the actual need for the business. That's how you get it off the ground, you have more skills, and the business actually needs to manage it. And so you use all of that extra kind of skill, set those extra horsepower, to really drive your business. And then what happens is the business takes off, because again, your skill set outpaces the needs for the business. But then what typically happens is people put all their effort into their product, or widget, their service, their concept, and they don't continue to invest just as heavily into their people. So then the business takes off, then it out arcs, the skill set of your team. So then the team starts to struggle. When the company starts to struggle, typically, we see leaders go into fear. And when we're in fear based leadership, we're highly directive, we get into this place where we can't listen, we can't hear because we are in fear. So then the business continues to kind of spiral out of control, your top performers usually choose to leave because they don't want to work in a highly directive environment. And so then your talent kind of goes off the cliff. And once all your best people leave your businesses right behind it. And I see it happen all the time and fast growing businesses, especially startups,
Wendy Hanson 3:44
yes. Wow. That's, that's a pretty dramatic map you have drawn of what happens? Yes. When we were prepping for this, you had some very interesting insights, because of the work you've done to look back on leadership. I'd love you to share some of those, because I think it really, it speaks to what what from a neuroscience perspective about, you know, acting in fear and just being directive. It's kind of how leadership started, right?
Jennifer Thornton 4:14
Absolutely. It started that way. And the first research that was put into leadership was a concept called the great man. And that was how we looked at leadership in the early 1900s. And in the early 1900s, it was the belief that only certain males were born with the characteristics that are needed for leadership. And so they use the example of Gandhi or Lincoln. And then as time went on, what we saw on the development of leadership is more of a direction and control so you do exactly this at exactly this time. But back then that somewhat made sense because we were doing jobs where, where multiple people kind of did the same thing over and over again. So a lot of factory line work. A lot of you know that old school typing polls where everyone's doing the same job. And so it was somewhat easier to be in this control and direct mindset, because there was not a lot of variety to the jobs that people were doing. And, you know, through the early 1900s, mid 1900s, you know, even in the 50s, and 60s, the ideal of the concept of leadership was highly directive. And that's when a lot of the concepts we still use today came into play. And the world's a little different today, the people sitting around the table look a little different than they did during the great man leadership concept. And so what's happened is, there's this kind of as collision of old school leadership techniques in today's world where it is not the same world, it's not the same working environment. And so it's breaking down quite a bit was definitely broken, you know, into 19, or 2019. But COVID, definitely kind of shattered, what was cracked. And so in today's world, we really need to start to think about leadership differently and start to work with the neuroscience of the brain, instead of against it, because most of our old school leadership techniques that were still taught today, are very fear based and are working against the basic neuroscience of the brain.
Wendy Hanson 6:24
Yes, great. Well, I'm sure you'll add in some more wonderful neuroscience facts into this conversation, because I think when we work with a lot of engineers at BetterManager, you know, you really need to explain the why of things like just don't take it for granted. And when we can use what we know about the brain. It's really impactful because people realize, it's it's not just an opinion, it's, it's, it's really what's happening in the brain. That's, that's changing the way people work than the way they respond. So how does challenge strategy complement a business strategy?
Jennifer Thornton 7:03
So we all have been told to have a business plan, we've all been told to make sure you've done your p&l, and you set your budgets and you know, what you're going to sell. And, you know, well, we think we know when the supply chain and when things will show up. And we've been told to create all these business plans. But nowhere in that education, nowhere in that concept is an A talent strategy. So you can put all of these great ideas and all these plans on paper. But if you haven't done the work to create a strategy around talent, who's going to do that work? Who? How are you going to train and develop? Who are you going to hire? How are you going to project a skill set. So if your business, you do a five year business plan, the talent you need your one and the talent you need? Your five might look really different? And so how do you hire people and start develop them towards your five year plan? And so a talent strategy really takes your business strategy and thinks about how do you create it? And how do you actually make it come to life? Through the people on your team?
Wendy Hanson 8:04
Yeah, I love that. How do you make it real? You can you need those two holding hands, your your talent strategy and your business strategy? That's great. And one thing that you use the term like, what does it mean to throw payroll at your problems? And how does that happen? Yes. Oh, I
Jennifer Thornton 8:23
love that. I know people do it all the time. And so again, if you don't have a strong talent strategy, it's hard to know who you should hire, when you should hire, why you should hire. And so I see it happen a lot, where people just start throwing payroll at the problem. So for example, you have a team of people, they come to you, they're all overwhelmed. They're all working a million hours, you know, everything's on fire. And so we just start hiring people. But then the team is still overwhelmed, this team is still not getting the work done. And you're thinking, Well, I just doubled. And the work didn't how was it still not getting done. And so what happens too often is we just start hiring people without thought or consideration. And so anytime you think you need to hire someone, you have to take the time to look at our current work, you know, Is there work that needs to be done doesn't need to be done. Oftentimes, we do what I call vanity work, which is work we've done forever, but really has no purpose. But someone along the way likes it. And so we keep doing it, but it doesn't have any impact on our business. And so we have to take the time to edit the work down to what matters. We have to make sure that the equipment we have the software we have all the tools we have are creating efficiencies, not decreasing our efficiencies. And we have to make sure we've educated and trained everyone in that group to do the work. And we have to make sure we're leading them in a way that inspires learning and reduces fear and so with all of that is in place, then yes, hire someone else. But if none of that's in place, no matter how many people you hire number, no matter how much pay All you throw at your problem, your problem will not go away.
Wendy Hanson 10:03
Well said Well said, there's there's so much to bring people on and thinking ahead. And things change so quickly now that it's really hard to anticipate what skill set will this person need. Now, that's going to be good in a year. Because oftentimes we think about in certain areas of the country, that shelf life and a company ends up to be two or three years. It's that has changed rapidly since the man. Yeah. Oh, well, yes, that's gonna stick with me. Oh, boy. Yes. And one of the challenges that we have with leadership with that old school leadership is people get addicted to being right. And it negatively influences, you know, organizations and relationships, speak a little about that, because I think you know, from all the coaching that we do a BetterManager, we do see this quite a bit. And people don't know what they don't know. And they need to know that there's a better way.
Jennifer Thornton 11:07
Absolutely. So when we are right, and this is for all of us. So it is not a bad thing. When we are right, we feel good. You know, if your boss calls you and says, Oh, my gosh, you totally landed that client. Great job, I've just so impressed, it feels good. And that is a dopamine hit. And when our body gets really used to dopamine hit, it starts to crave it, and it wants more of it. Just like if you were addicted to shopping, or social media or a substance, every time you do that you get a dopamine hit. And what we all know about addiction is that the more you get, the more you need to get that same level of feelgood. And the same thing happens when we get addicted to being right. And they've done studies where they put, you know, the little, little neuro things on your brain, and they give someone their addiction of choice, whether that be shopping or social media, or a substance or being right, your brain fires off exactly the same way. And so if we start to get addicted to being right, and we are in the workplace, and someone tries to tell us something different than what we believe, or even if we just want to be right, just so we can be right, we stop hearing the truth. And we teach our teams not to tell us the truth. And I see this all the time. And I think all of us probably know someone that was really sharp and really talented early in their career. And they were amazing. But they rose up really quickly. And then all of a sudden, 1015 years and you don't recognize that person anymore, because they're just so indignant that they're the only person that's right, they're the only one that can have an idea. And what's likely happened is they become addicted to their own ideas and their own need to be right. Therefore, they can't see anything else. And that's incredibly dangerous for 1000 reasons in the workplace. But what happens is, when I see leaders that addicted to being right, I know that things are going to go south, I know they're going to have problems, that company is going to really struggle, because everyone is just going to say yep, yes, yes, even though they know that the customer is not going to want it or it's not the right thing. But they will figure out how to make the boss right. Just so they don't have to deal with the wrath of that boss and the the outward explosion of not getting their addiction fed.
Wendy Hanson 13:36
Yes. Very true. Yeah. And it's it's a road to disaster. Yes, when everybody changes their behavior, to enable somebody else's not good behavior, and addiction. So what's a common power play that keeps teens from realizing their business goals? You know, we get we were at the leader level. Now let's get to the team level.
Jennifer Thornton 14:00
So a lot of times I think what happens in our teams, and this happens when we start to elevate through our career, we start to associate, again, that dopamine hit we so start associating, you know, at the manager level, what am I good at? Then we get to a director level, we kind of typically for a while manage down because we haven't reassessed what I should be good at at the director level. And that kind of starts to compound as someone goes up. So oftentimes, what you see is a new have a room of executives in the room, whether that be high level C suite or vice presidents, however, that company is structured when you are that top tier. When you sit around the table, whether it actual or virtual. You need to knit together and be the stewards of the organization, not the steward of your group. You knit together and become the steward of the company. Then you go into your group, and you make it happen. But too often we go to those organs or we go to those types of conversations or we work protecting ourselves and our group and not the organization. And that's where you start to see a lot of the end fighting, the fighting over resources, the fighting over what direction to go into, you know, well, my person is this and your person is that, and it all starts to happen, because we haven't knitted together the thought around what's right for the organization. And we haven't changed our thinking. Once we get to that level, we're still thinking, as if I'm only protecting my team, like a manager or director. And those are how those powerplays starts. And they're never fun, especially if you add to it, it's an addiction to being right, especially if you add to it this sense of command and control leadership than we've been taught. So all of those things start to compound and really create a disaster of a situation for an organization.
Wendy Hanson 16:01
Oh, yeah, that doesn't feel good at all. And one of the things that I've seen with teams too, is if the, if the manager of that team does not include people in the bigger why for the organization, they're just they, they don't have a context. So we need to be able to let people know, this is why we're doing this, this is why this might be changing. You know, it's we we can't have these siloed groups across an organization, which we've seen a lot of problems with in the past years.
Jennifer Thornton 16:31
I absolutely agree with you on that. And what happens when we don't have the why what we are missing is the baseline of our decisions, the baseline of how we prioritize. So if I'm just going to work with this pile of things to do, but I don't know what direction to drive my work in, I don't have my Northstar, I don't have my wire my priority, then I'm just hoping I get it right. So if you have 200 people on your team, hoping they get it right every single day, but not having a clear direction to drive things to again, you can see where the work gets lost, then you start throwing payroll at the problems like all these things start to happen, because you haven't given them the why as you so passionately talk about. And it's just people trying to do their best, and then you get upset and you're mad at them because they didn't do this. And they didn't do that. But really, we should really be upset with ourselves as leaders, because we didn't give them the why or the Northstar to to work toward
Wendy Hanson 17:28
them. Yeah, absolutely. Now we've been talking about talent, you know, and strategy with teams and leader personalities that are not serving us. But as we look ahead, when we're talking about talent that we really have to look at what's what's going to be happening, what do you see is going to happen with workplace communication. As we move forward. We've all learned so much good and bad from this pandemic. And it certainly changed the way we communicate. What are you seeing in that realm? Then?
Jennifer Thornton 18:01
I just love that you asked that question, because that is where you know, what do we do now we know that the great man doesn't work. We know that all these things don't work. But then what do we do? We have to know what direction to start to move in. And so what we are seeing now is we're seeing organizations start to really think about language. And so one of the things that I think it's important as a leader, like if I said, What's the one thing a leader should do every single day? For me, what I would say is reduce fear in the workplace. The more you reduce fear, which fear can sound like judgment, fear stuff, I put in my head. You know, last week before my touch base, my boss was just really short with me. And, and you know, you create this story, right? They're mad at me, I didn't do something well, no, they had their own thing going on, right? I mean, they didn't even realize they were short with you. But what happens is we create this fear. And the more fear that an individual or human has in their mind, the less access they have to their prefrontal cortex, which is the good stuff, emotional control, problem solving, learning, all the stuff we want is there. So the more fear we bring into a conversation, the more fear we bring into our leadership, the less access our team has, to what we actually need and want from them. And so that's what we have to start doing is start reducing fear in the workplace. Now, that's always easier said than done. But one of the ways you can start doing that is through language and conversations and start saying different things. Like instead of saying, oh, you know, we've tried that 100 times. It's never worked. I don't want to try it again. And you like say you're shutting someone down? Well, especially if it's a new person, you've hired them to bring in new ideas, and then you don't like any of their new ideas on day one. So then you've taught that person Oh, don't bring me new ideas. Just do what I've always told you to do. You know, I know I said, I want to new ideas. I was just kidding. I really don't. So that's that person's starts to think. But instead you could say, You know what, we've tried it in the past. I don't see where it will work in the future. But you know what? I'm open, you change my mind, you tell me why change my mind on why you think this is a good idea now, and I'm totally okay with that. And so then you create these conversations, you create this opportunity to be honest, like, I don't see it, but change my mind. So allow someone to start say, Well, you know, we're seeing this research, or this has changed here, or this resource, or this technical piece, there could be something in there that really is going to make it work this time. Or, you know, something new. You know, there's all the famous stories out there around Kodak, they had the first digital camera, their team thought it was a bad idea. So they shelled it. Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix for pennies on the dollar, they thought no one would ever want, you know, to stream there tea. I mean, there's all these great examples of these assumptions where we didn't listen to our people. We weren't open to changing our minds, and it hurt our business. So reduction of fear is really where we're going with leadership.
Wendy Hanson 21:07
Yeah, well, that's so great. We, we've been having a lot of our client companies come to us and and asking for training on burnout and psychological safety, which which speaks to exactly what you're saying. And why is that psychological safety, the lack of fear, the trust? Why is that becoming such an important part of the company's culture, Jim?
Jennifer Thornton 21:33
Well, we're in a world where technology and information changes so quickly. So no one ever becomes an expert in what they do, because it moves too fast. And if you think you've become an expert, then you have started to slide backwards at that exact minute. And so what's happening is people are coming to the table. So often with changes in priorities with we went this direction, now we're going that direction, which way is the wind blowing today? Which direction are we going in, and we're not used to taking in this much information and leading with it. And so it's creating overwhelm. It's creating fear, it's creating burnouts. And that's a huge problem. Instead of thinking about well, today, based on the knowledge we have, these are the best decisions we can make. These are our wise our priorities as an organization. But you know what the world changes rapidly. And we may have to think about it differently. And if that happens, come tell me Come share with me, and really allowing this environment for a lot of fluid and flexibility. And that being fluid in your leadership is incredibly important. And that is very different than what we've been taught. We've been taught to be in control, the boss knows everything. And in today's world, if you are a leader, and you think you know more than people on your team, then you are in trouble. Because that person closest to the work is setting with the technology change. They're the ones leading and knowing what's going on. And we think about those, those traits of our future leaders, leading people who do jobs that you don't know and can't do is going to be incredibly important, because the technology changes too fast. And that's where we start to create a sense of fear. Because again, leaders like Well, now I want you to do it like I did it five years ago. Well, that is so how to date. Remember on the news this morning, they were talking about all the things that are going to turn off tomorrow. Because if you know, three G's getting turned off tomorrow for at&t? Well, there was a time where we could never have imagined that. And so again, it's this psychological safety comes from being nimble comes from being fluid in your leadership, and really being open to change in conversations. And it will also reduce burnout when we lead with a more fluid viewpoint.
Wendy Hanson 23:56
Yeah. We need to teach people the basic improv skill love. Yes. And rather than yes, but it because your sample was great. Yes. But yeah, we've already done that. We've already done that. Let's think about that. Yeah, what, and I love like, convinced me, you know, have any change, give me enough facts and information to change my mind, or at least to have us look at it differently. Because things are changing rapidly Google project Doxygen, when they first you know, back like 15 years ago, or so when the study came out, they really thought that those that knew the most in terms of had technical information would be number one, and they found out that the number one skill a manager needs to have is to be a good coach. So the things that were on there had really changed drastically being a bit good coach helping people use their skills, and not about subject matter expert, as you just pointed out, so we just need to hold on to that. We've learned it. We've studied it, we've studied it. More, but we now we need to make sure that that doesn't get in the way of our success.
Jennifer Thornton 25:05
And we're, we're fighting hundreds of years of being taught through generations of command and control. And so this environment that we're in now we know what it takes now, to be a good leader, you have to be open minded, you have to be a great coach, you have to be able to do all of these things. But, you know, again, it's been hundreds of years, we've been taught something different. And so we're really having to not only know that and act in that, but also kind of put this like bubble around ourselves and act that way when other people say we shouldn't, because they may be still working in this world that they've been taught for hundreds of years, but it's just not gonna work in today's world,
Wendy Hanson 25:47
right. And diversity at the table diversity of thought, diversity of background. And women are included, of course, in that it needs to be in every conversation so that we can have different perspectives. Because without those different perspectives, nobody's going to kind of turn their head and say, Ah, I never thought of that.
Jennifer Thornton 26:09
Yeah, and, and really understanding that everyone who comes to the table, the diversity of thought comes from our mind map. And everyone's is unique, everyone's mind is can only map what they have experienced, whether that be their smell, touch, see, feel. And so everyone at the table has to have a different mind map to look at a problem and really solve it collectively. Because if you bring people together, that maybe all went to the same school, or all grew up in the same area all went to the same, you know, fraternity or church, like they're my maps will be very similar, because their experiences are similar. And that's why the diversity of experiences and understanding it is a diversity of mind maps, and that diversity of experiences that create those that really create something special at the table, because there's so many different things to think about. And you know, when you have too many of something similar, you just don't get that.
Wendy Hanson 27:10
Right. Well said, Yes, I like the Mind Map theory makes a lot of makes a lot of sense. So the final question, because we really like people leaving these podcasts and taking action, you know that it's something that they can do. So give us a sense of how do you create that trust and safety in the workplace, what's a few very pragmatic things that managers that are listening to this all over the world could take into account and make happen.
Jennifer Thornton 27:39
So I think there's a couple of phrases that on your next touch bases and one on ones with your team, you could say, one of the things that I love teaching people is, you know, about once every six months to a year, bring all your people in and say, Tell me what you're capable of show, I always call it show and show, show and share. So show me you know, something that you're proud of show me something that maybe doesn't have anything to do with your work, but you're really excited about it. So maybe it's someone who climbed a mountain that they've always wanted to climb. And they talk about that. And so what that starts to do, when you share all those experiences at the table, whether someone's learned something new, or climbed a mountain, or whatever it is had a new child, you'll start to learn about some skill sets that are new, and it will start to generate new ideas. And it starts to have people come to the table with their mind maps, and you start to learn their mind map and you can start to link and weave those together. So that's one of the things I love to do. And the other thing you know, every time you close out a conversation with your team, instead of saying anyone got any questions? Nope. Good. All right, go change that and say, what is one more thing you want clarity on? What is one more thing I should have told you? Because the mind hears that one thing and goes, Oh, I have to give you something. And that opens up the conversation for clarity for you know, really clear prioritization. But when you just look at the team and go You good, you get great go, the mind shuts down because I've been told to shut down. And so those are a couple of quick tips that you can use to really have some fun with your team.
Wendy Hanson 29:22
Oh, I love that. What's one thing? One question I haven't answered for you. Yes, it does certainly hit the brain better than I'm on my way out the door by Yeah, yeah.
Jennifer Thornton 29:32
My next meeting is coming up in one minute. You got a question.
Wendy Hanson 29:37
But I don't answer it. Right. You know, I can't answer it in one minute. So forget the question. Goodbye. I'm going to be late for my meeting. Yeah. Wow. You have a lot to we have a lot to work on. And one of the things that we've talked about a lot too is the global culture and how people treat this differently. So there's so much managers need to be aware of and learn. So thank you so much for sharing your way I'm with us today, Jen. If people want to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that? They had questions.
Jennifer Thornton 30:07
You can find us on our website at 304 coaching comm you can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jen Thornton, ACC. And I also have a YouTube channel where I share all kinds of tips of say this not that and helping you learn how to change your language to create more success and innovation in the workplace.
Wendy Hanson 30:27
Great. Well, thank you so much. This was really I think it was it was so real and true to what we're dealing with today. And to understand a little bit of the history to understand a little bit about the neuroscience behind this and some very pragmatic things that we can do something to go forward is really useful. So thank you so much for taking the time with us today. And everyone have a wonderful day and play this twice. You might need to listen to it twice because I want you to follow up with what Jen has shared, because it will make a difference in your in your employees lives and in your company's life. So thank you all have a wonderful day.