Ep 99: How To Become The Leader Your Team Is Waiting For

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In common with most leaders, Jonathan Raymond struggled to shift from technical skill-based leadership to people leadership. In this episode, he shares his personal career journey and how it has shaped his philosophy and work today. He discusses trust and how to build it, the importance of authenticity, and how to listen while paying attention to the context. He outlines two tools that help provide feedback – The Accountability Dial™ and ‘four corners of impact,’ concluding with advice to HR leaders.
 
Jonathan Raymond is the Founder & CEO at Refound, a people training company that teaches people how to have human conversations at work. He applies what he has learned over a twenty-year journey as an executive, entrepreneur, team leader, and leadership trainer, throwing his heart, mind, and soul into numerous culture change projects. In his latest book, Good Authority — How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For; he offers new ideas and inspiration you can put into practice.
 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Denise's interview with Jonathan Raymond.
 

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Episode Transcript

Denise Yosafat:
Okay. Welcome everyone to HR Studio Podcast. I'm your host for today's episode, Denise Yosafat, and today we're going to be talking about how to become a great team leader. Joining us in this discussion is our thought leader of the day, Jonathan Raymond, who is the CEO at Refound, a leadership training company that teaches people how to have human conversations at work. Jonathan has thrown his heart, mind, and soul into a number of culture changes throughout the years. He's a business executive, an entrepreneur, team leader, and leadership trainer. Jonathan is also the author of the book, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For. So, I can't wait to do this interview.

Jonathan Raymond:
Thanks so much for having me on.

Denise Yosafat:
Welcome. So let's start with teams and you have probably some ugly ones and some good ones. So what, what have been the differences?

Jonathan Raymond:
I would say that the fundamental difference between an effective team and an ineffective team is trust. It comes down to the quality of trust and trust can look different ways, right? You can have a trust that has a really edgy quality, but we sort of know we're there for each other, but we move really fast and we have a lot of conflict, but there's trust. And there can be other forms of trust that give us the cues to what we think the word means, where it's more open conversation and dialogue, but whichever version or whichever flavor of trust, ultimately it comes down to do we trust one another, and when that's there, teams can do amazing things.

Denise Yosafat:
And so I'll ask the key question, how do we build that trust?

Jonathan Raymond:
You build it through consistency. You build it through living your values. So you build it by doing what you say you were going to do. Even, as we said before, even if that means being tough, even if that means being really critical of work, there's a way to stay in alignment with yourself as a leader. And that's really what people are looking for is when they take their cues, you don't have to be soft and nice and warm and fuzzy, but you got to be consistent. So they know where they stand and where are the places where they should go, and where are the places you don't want them to go.

Denise Yosafat:
So places you don't want them to go, your book discusses a way to lead teams that's very human. And so tell us about that. What's the human way to lead those teams?

Jonathan Raymond:
The insight that I had was as I was growing up as an executive and CEO, myself, and as a frontline manager, I am like a lot of people I've learned over the years, I didn't have much training, I didn't have much relevant role modeling or mentoring for how to do this thing well-called people leadership. And so I was really defaulting to the technical skills that I had, whatever they may be. And what I saw happening both for myself and for my other leaders was that it wasn't our intention to be inhumane. That wasn't what we were trying to do. But because we had ... Our muscles were so built up for the technical proficiency and the things we were good at and smart at and the problems we knew how to solve, it was sort of neglect by defaults. And what I realized was that I, at least for me, and again, I've had a thousand conversations like this over the last 10 years, I was trying to do two things at the same time. I didn't realize it.

Jonathan Raymond:
I was trying to develop as a professional and then in my own time I was trying to develop as a human being and I didn't know how to bring those two worlds together. And I was flailing around trying to do what we could call growth, with my team. But I was leaving huge parts of myself and in my authentic way of relating and who I wanted to be as a person and how I wanted to show up in the world, I was leaving that out of the conversation. I didn't know how to not do that.

Jonathan Raymond:
And so the pivot to what we talk about in Good Authority and all the work we do is, how do you not leave yourself out of the equation? How do you bring the right ... it's not, authenticity is a tricky word. So we can maybe we'll talk a little about what that is, but how do you bring the right version of yourself that is all of you into the workplace so that you're having a human conversation? So it's not a clunky, weird kind of split personality thing that we do where we bring our work personality and then we don't feel like ourselves, the people around us don't feel like themselves and everybody loses.

Denise Yosafat:
Right, and we talk about authenticity, not meaning you have to overexpose. That's not what it is. But what is authenticity? So when you define it, what's the definition for you?

Jonathan Raymond Quote 1 on HR Studio PodcastJonathan Raymond:
For me, authenticity is knowing who you are, what you think and what you feel, and what you're feeling, and then choosing what is the appropriate version of that self for the moment you're in. So you can know that you're very frustrated in the moment, but depending upon the ... that's the authentic self-reflection, "Wow, I'm really frustrated right now." And now, depending upon the person you're interacting, depending upon this dynamic of the group you're interacting with, depending upon a lot of different factors that you have to learn how to read, you've got to choose, "Okay, which version am I going to share in this moment? Is this a person who I could really out my frustration and it's safe to do that and we can really have a conversation that's going to be productive? Or is this somebody where I need to show up a little differently?" And so that version of it, it's not saying feeling, thinking whatever we do, whatever we want, whenever we want it. It's that next level consciousness and mindfulness about, without shutting down what we're thinking, feeling or sensing, but finding the appropriate version for that moment.

Denise Yosafat:
So how do we find that appropriate version? How do we know what to choose? Is it just knowing that other person or what are the keys to doing that?

Jonathan Raymond:
For us, a lot of it comes down to listening and listening at the level of context. So if you walk into a room, if you're leading a team of people, let's say you're in a meeting room and there are 10 other people in the room and you know that you're the most senior person in that room, there's a context that preexists you walking into that room. There's a set of agreements. Some of them are explicit, some of them are not. But being mindful of like, "Oh, okay, I'm the most senior person in this room and so the way that I show up is going to have an outsize impact." On the flip side, if you're the most junior person in that room or if you know that there are other factors that are happening in the organization or on the team outside of that. So it's not a self-reflection as much as it is a contextual, "Okay, what's going on, what are the other factors?"

Jonathan R.:
And that's the skill that we don't have really good training around as team leaders. We get really hyper-focused on the numbers and the metrics and the data, and we miss the context of like, "Okay, what's going on here? What on people's minds? What are they thinking about? What are the things that are pulling them in another direction that's going to make it difficult for them to focus in this moment?" And being able to navigate that.

Jonathan Raymond:
I was working with a senior executive the other day and he was ... and there were people in the room at his organization that were arguing with him and he was, I think, having a really a hard time understanding why they didn't see it the way he did. But he said, "Look, ultimately it doesn't matter how many people you have, it comes down to relationships. It comes down to your ability to navigate those individual relationships. You can make a company-wide or a team-wide communication and that's not going to do the thing that you wanted to do. If the people on your team don't feel like you're actually speaking to them." And of course, that's a philosophical position that's near and dear to my heart, and it's the way we approach our work.

Jonathan Raymond:
But it's a difficult pivot because we think we're being really efficient when we talk to 50 people with the same message. We're being horribly inefficient because it leads to so many other conversations and cleanups and messes. But in the moment we think, "Oh well, well I can just send an email to 50 people and I'll cover it." When actually what I need to have is a couple of individual conversations.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. Speaking with them versus directing them as if they're just one big entity.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yeah.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. So you talk about the accountability dial. Tell us a little bit more about that accountability dial, and how does that play a part in this?

Jonathan Raymond:
One of the primary ways we think about leadership is through the lens of authority. And from my own personal experience, what I didn't realize was the degree to which my position of authority was impacting the way people received feedback, the way people received criticism of their work, the way people interpreted praise, frankly. And that the very nature of authority colors the dynamic. And in particular, when it comes to feedback, you could use the same words in the same tone with somebody who you have an open collegial relationship with, they're going to interpret it one way and then you give that to a direct report who's feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it's going to be interpreted a radically different way.

Jonathan Raymond:
So doing some work on ourselves as leaders to think about what is the context from which, what is the place from which we are delivering feedback. And starting with, "Okay, I'm this person's boss. I need to structure the feedback in a way that's going to create things that L&D and HR people talk about." It doesn't matter if you're a leader, but things that create psychological safety, things that create inclusivity, things that create a sense of dialogue and that comes from a spirit of curiosity. And if I don't take that first step of thinking about, "Okay, who am I to this person?" And then think about my feedback in that context, I'm going to miss the mark.

Jonathan Raymond:
So the accountability dial is a tool to help you do that. So what we've done is we've created a map for, instead of thinking about feedback as one conversation, instead of thinking about accountability as, well, it's either happening or it isn't. Thinking about it in five stages. How do you start an accountability conversation using feedback? How do you advance that conversation? The second step in the accountability dial, to help somebody realize who there was a pattern of behavior that's developing. Not in a spirit of punishment, not shaming anybody, but just the way that we would with a friend, the way that we would with someone we care about, "Hey, here's-"

Denise Yosafat:
[inaudible 00:15:32].

Jonathan Raymond:
"... Yeah, Hey, I noticed that thing last week and it seems to still be happening or it seems to be connected to these other things." It's an expression of our care as leaders ... we can get into the more technicals, but that's the second step in the dial.

Jonathan Raymond:
The third step, what we call the conversation, dropping people in from a different base. Most people when they become aware of something that isn't good, the first sort of reflexive response is, "Oh, that's not what I meant. That's not what I intended." That's fine. That's good. That's good self-awareness, but that's not the end of the conversation. That's the beginning of one.

Jonathan Raymond:
So how do we shift people's attention from their intentions, which are almost always good, to the impacts that they have, which are not always good? And how do we have a conversation about that? And then so forth, through the dial, we talk about boundaries and limits. So we're trying to give people leaders markers so that they can locate where am I in this conversation, how do I slow it down so that I give the right amount of feedback with the right amount of urgency in the right situation? And then slowly but surely build an accountability conversation rather than what people leaders typically do is they wait too long and then they launched a piece of feedback. It blows up in their face and they say, "Well, feedback doesn't work."

Jonathan Raymond:
Well, it's not feedback that doesn't work. It's the system that you're following that doesn't work. And then on the flip side, once we've identified a performance issue or anything else, what people leaders in organizations are typically very bad at is how do we create boundaries? How do we create consequences that are firm but fair so that we can continue to have the organization grow in a healthy way? So the accountability dial is that five step framework for how to have workplace conversations in a really humane way, that comes from a spirit of care and dialogue.

Denise Yosafat:
Right, and it's individual to individual, it sounds like.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yes.

Denise Yosafat:
Right.

Jonathan Raymond:
It's individual, primarily designed with a manager to direct report in mind. But as we've matured the tool and worked with organizations over the last five years, people are using it just as much for peer to peer feedback. They're using the same tool for feedback up. "How do I have this conversation with my boss? I don't think they're really understanding it from my perspective." So it's a really versatile tool in that way.

Denise Yosafat:
So let's say you have a team that's working less effectively. What I hear you saying is maybe have those conversations offline, but with individuals as to something maybe you're seeing going on, that may be a pattern and what to do about it.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yep. Yes. And I think the other piece of it that we often ... There are some good voices out there that say, "Look, if there's something going wrong on your team, it's your responsibility. You did that. The healthy, mature orientation is to take ownership and say, "Look, whatever they're doing, it's not that the people in my team are perfect, there's for sure things that they need to change, but I have the biggest impact on what the conditions are that they're operating in." So taking that moment to step back and be like, "Oh, wait, why? Why is my team feeling overwhelmed right now? What am I doing? Like my team isn't stretching outside of the, you know, they're doing the basics but they're not stretching. What am I doing that is making it harder for them to stretch?"

Jonathan Raymond:
And that's how you start the conversation from a place of ownership. Not taking anybody off the hook, but saying, "Hey, everybody's got a part in this, but I'm the leader. I'm going to go first. Here's what I think I'm doing." And as you said, you can have those conversations offline. And there's also a way to have that to frame up that conversation with a group and say, "Hey everybody, I've been thinking about where we are as a team and I know that everybody is overwhelmed and feeling like we're pulled in some different directions. And I don't exactly know why that is right now, but I'm interested in finding out. So I'd love to have a bunch of conversations with all of you and I want to spend the next a couple of weeks really figuring out how we operate as a team."

Jonathan Raymond:
That type of vulnerability and transparency. That's what people are looking for. You know, when I wrote the book, The Leader Your Team Is Waiting For, they're not looking for you to like break down in tears and tell them everything horrible that happened to you when you were eight years old. That's not the vulnerability they're waiting for.

Denise Yosafat:
No?

Jonathan Raymond:
The vulnerability they're waiting for is for you to be willing to say, "Hey, I don't have all the answers. I know what I know, but I need you all to help me figure out the right way for us to do this together."

Denise Yosafat:
Yeah, let's figure it out together. So tell us about, you mentioned impact and you have something called the Four Corners of Impact. What is that all about?

Jonathan Raymond Quote 2 on HR Studio PodcastJonathan Raymond:
So we created a series of questions, really simple questions, where ... to those conversations that most of us have had where it's kind of the conversation starts and then it goes nowhere. And it's very unsatisfying and it's, "Well, hey, you know, this and this happened and you know, we were working on this project and ... Well, we didn't mean to, you know, create a whole bunch of work for people. But yeah, we'll work on that, right?" Like, "Well, we'll make sure we'll have better communication," right? It's like every conversation in every company always ends with, "Well, let's have better communication." And so instead of letting the conversation in there, the Four Corners of Impact, or it's a way to kind of look at a situation. So let's say it's a situation around struggling with keeping on top the things in your inbox.

Jonathan Raymond:
Let's say that's something that somebody is struggling with, a reasonable human who isn't struggling with that on some level. Sometimes it's more problematic. If I'm working with someone rather than saying, "Hey, you need to get better at managing your inbox." I want to flip that conversation. I'm going to say, "Hey, so you're struggling to keep hold of your inbox. It happens to all of us. Okay. Let's, think about it from the perspective of impact. When you're struggling to manage and you've taken on, either you've taken on too much, or you're struggling with sequencing things, how might that be impacting your teammates?" "Oh, I don't know. Never thought about that before." "Great. Like I have some theories how it might be impacting your teammates, but I'd love for you to do some thinking about it." Okay. Question one, that's one of the four corners.

Jonathan Raymond:
The other corner is, how might be impacting our customers? Not, it is impacting our customers in this way. Not as a shouting, but as a question, "Hey, how might this be impacting our customers?" "Well, geez, I don't know, I never thought about that before." "Great, love for you to do some thinking about that." Or if that person works with partners or vendors, whoever, what's the external stakeholder group that this person is responsible to and how might they be impacted by this person always operating from behind in their day to day work.

Jonathan Raymond:
Third question is, how might this be impacting our working relationship? I mean, I don't love being a pest about ... nudging things back up in your inbox. I'm sure you don't love it when I'm doing that, but how might it be impacting our working relationship? That's the third corner.

Jonathan Raymond:
And then the fourth corner, is the most important one is, when you're in this place where you're struggling with this, how is it impacting you? How is it impacting you from where you want to be as a professional in your career, in this organization? And those four corners of impact, those are questions that you can go as deep as you want with them, but they are open questions that lead to a conversation that lead to the next level of inquiry. And that's your job as a people leader. Your job as a people leader is to spark self-reflection, not self-protection. And if you don't ask questions in an open-ended way, people will defend themselves. And instead of saying, "Well, that's this ... " Say, "I wonder what that is?" And being willing to listen to the answer. That's how you get more information about your team, more information about your culture. That's how you become a more effective cultural leader because you're not just relying on the first response that people give you because they're feeling under attack, but you're getting beneath it to some deeper themes.

Denise Yosafat:
It sounds like you're really using the power of curiosity.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yes, I was working ... Yeah. I was working with a CEO of a high-profile tech company, let's say, comes from, an even more high profile tech company. And, it was very surprising to hear him say this, but he said ... we were going through this work together at a leadership offsite and said, "I think what you're saying, and I like it. I don't know how to do it, but it's like, it's all about curiosity, right? It's all about the willingness to not close down the conversation too soon and the willingness to hear things that are ..." And I said, "Yeah, that's right." And he's like, "That's really cool." He said, "Jonathan, I think that's the title for your next book. You should call it the curiosity-driven leader." I said, "Okay, I think we can do better. But I'm with you, I think, in concept ...."

Jonathan Raymond:
That's such a difficult thing to do because we think when we're an authority, that's our associations, that's not our job. We think our job is to drive things forward, accomplish results, solve problems, have answers. Not a lot of room for curiosity when we're taking that mindset.

Denise Yosafat:
And it's also the difference between authoritative leadership and servant leadership.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yes.

Denise Yosafat:
We're trying to serve the people around us in different ways. And in order to do that, you have to understand and how can you best understand without being curious?

Jonathan Raymond:
That's right. And there's a difference between, you know, leaders will often tell me, "Well, I asked my team if they had any feedback from me and they didn't say anything." I said, "Okay ... so are you done? Is that it? Like are we, are we finished? And do you think you got the right answer?" "Well, I don't know." And I said, "Well, how about instead of asking them for feedback, how about taking a mental snapshot of your world, and if I were to ask you right now, what is the three pieces of feedback that you suspect they have for you, but they're afraid to give you?" "Oh, well I think they think I'm micromanaging them. I think they think that blah, blah, blah."

Jonathan Raymond:
"Okay, great. That's your feedback. You don't need to ask them. You already know what it is. Do you want to work on that? Let's assume that it's not a minor thing. It's a major thing. So let's work on it and let's see what happens. Let's assume that if you think that that's a little bit of a problem for them, let's assume for the purposes of the next 90 days, it's a huge problem from their perspective that you're doing that. How about, let's try an experiment, let's see if we change that and let's see what happens." And of course, the whole world changes when we do that. But just to start with that orientation and to open the space in that way.

Denise Yosafat:
Well, and it's making the right assumptions versus the wrong ones. So versus assuming I asked them and they didn't say anything, so everything's okay. That's an assumption. But instead, let's assume there are some things that need to be worked on and what might they be?

Jonathan Raymond:
Right, exactly. I had another a leader who said, "Well, I gave him that feedback." And I said, "Well how did it go?" And he said, "Well, I think it went well." And I said, "Well, how, how did you deliver the feedback?" "Well, I sent him a Slack message." And I said, "Oh, okay, well, and then what happened?" It was like, "Well, I didn't hear anything back." And I said, "Okay, I think, let's go back. Let's unpack that a little bit. So what information tells you that that was a good outcome? Like what are the markers that convinced you in that moment that it worked out?" And he was like, "Oh, yeah, that was kind of dumb. Probably there was something else going on."

Jonathan Raymond:
And then he went to go talk to that person and then it led to a really good conversation. Right? So we take these easy outs, they're very expensive in our time and money. We think they're really cheap. We send a Slack message, we send a text, we say an off-handed thing in a meeting and we think, "Oh, well, that's no problem. That'll just cover it." And it blows up every single time. But sometimes it takes longer and sometimes we're not as aware.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. And so let's talk about HR's role, HR's role in the whole accelerating teams to be more effective. What would you say their role is in making sure that their organization has these effective teams that are having these conversations, that are having the type of accountability, working up their way up the accountability dial. What's the role?

Jonathan Raymond:
Yeah. So some of this comes down to career planning, as an HR leader. I like to think that there are three types of culture change projects. There are the ones that are driven by the CEO and that they are completely on board with. There are the ones where the CEO says, "Okay, I kind of ... yeah, that sounds good, let me know when it's over." And then the third kind of culture projects where like, "Oh yeah, I don't think we need that. But if you think it's important, go for it." And those projects have predictable outcomes.

Jonathan Raymond:
So I would say in terms of career planning, if you're passionate about this stuff and you're passionate about the future of work, you've got to work someplace where this material is taken seriously. And we've done this Fortune 100, we've done it really small companies, everything in between, and the CEO has to be on board at the level we're talking about, at the level of behavior change, because otherwise you're wasting your money and you're wasting your career, frankly. If you're going to ... trying to push something through ... A good friend of mine is a CHRO at a public company and she's very sober about her approach. She said, "Look, you know, we don't move culture. You know, I'm the CHRO. We don't move culture. We don't have that kind of power. If I don't have the CEO and other key stakeholders helping me, I'm wasting my time."

Jonathan R.:
She has an enormous amount of structural power in the organization, but she's very self-aware of the limits of that power. And so I think that HR's role is to advocate for, "Hey, here's what's right. And I think you can do better than we've ever been able to do before. Here's the business outcome that is suffering because we're not doing these things. It's attrition, it's retention, it's the reviews we're getting on Glassdoor." ... Whatever the things are, right? You've got all the information, but this is the business outcome that I want to move with this program and $5 isn't going to cut it. Right?

Denise Yosafat:
Right.

Jonathan Raymond:
We need a real budget to do that. Look at how much money we're spending on retraining people. Somebody put out some interesting data. The average cost of replacing an employee is double their salary in two years. So it's incredibly expensive to not do these things. Most CEOs and executives, myself included until I figured this out, we really value numbers, but we're not that good at math. And really thinking about the costs of not doing this.

Denise Yosafat:
You pointed out the cost in retention and attrition. But also the cost in productivity.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yes. Yeah.

Denise Yosafat:
Which is not always measurable because you say, "Well, did this lead to that?" But there are tremendous costs in productivity when you have people who don't have those conversations to put things back on course or don't know their accountability. And so, or making the wrong assumptions. So I think there's even a lot of hidden costs, is what I'm saying.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yeah. And we've been fortunate and our business has, we've attracted leaders like this, but my favorite client I have ... I have a favorite client, I won't say his name or where he works, but it really introspective, self-aware leader running advanced manufacturing, really cutting edge business and their production was where it was. The numbers are confidential, but it was where it was. And he said to me, he said, "Jonathan, look, I can feel ... I can see where we are that some things could get solidified that are not good. And I would like to get out ahead of that." Really smart. "The culture is forming. But it hasn't formed. And I want to fix it before it's too late." And their production has gone up by 60% in nine months.

Jonathan Raymond:
And, of course, it's not all because of the work that we did, but it's partly because of the work that we did. And when you have clients who understand, hey, and he's more of a data-driven guy than anyone you'll ever meet. And he said, "Look, you can't ... it's not one to one. You can't say, 'Oh well it's that metric over there.' It's the energy that people have when they walk into a room. Do people have their heads up, do people have their heads down?" We have a very good example in the media right now of that, two groups going in different directions there. Sulking in shame or being proud of their leader. So you've got to look at it from a couple of different perspectives.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. And the tremendous ROI of having these kinds of skills in the workforce so people know how to have those conversations, know how to be effective leaders.

Jonathan Raymond:
Yeah.

Denise Yosafat:
Yeah. Well, Jonathan, this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you for it. We're going to end it today by reminding our podcast listeners that if you're not yet a subscriber to HR Studio Podcast, you can become one by going to HRStudioPodcast.com and there you'll get notified of new episodes and find information about all of our speakers, including Jonathan, and all your handles, all your social media, and more information about your book as well. Again, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For. And I can't wait to have you just turn on more organizations to this, and as people look into it and make changes and in the right way, I'm looking forward to more organizations benefiting from it. So thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Jonathan Raymond:
Thanks so much for having me on and helping us to spread the word. It's a very powerful, I would say, poignant moment in the future of work. And there are some really good voices out there and we're happy to lend our tools and tech and way of approach for organizations that are really trying to do this. And there are so many, and there's so many good people, so many amazing HR leaders who are trying to do the right thing. So anything we can do to help.

Denise Yosafat:
Sounds great. Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Jonathan Raymond::
Likewise.


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Date: 
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 8:00am
Industry: 
Consulting
Host: 
Denise Yosafat
Guest: 
Jonathan Raymond
Type: 
HR Studio Podcast