Michael: Have you ever wondered what the chief job of a leader is? Have you ever wondered as a leader, how would you put it into one sentence? Well today we're going to talk about that exact thing. The job of a leader is to protect and empower. Find out more today on HaBO Village Podcast.
Michael: Hi everybody, and welcome to HaBO Village Podcast. I'm Michael Redman.
Kathryn: And I'm Kathryn Redman, and I just wish you could have seen what happened a second ago, but you can't and that's okay.
Michael: It is awesome. Okay, so we are really glad you're here today. We are going to talk about, yes, leadership. The job of leadership is to empower, and protect.
Kathryn: Empower and protect.
Michael: So, one of the things that Kathryn and I have talked about for years, I mean, leadership just happens. When you're a leader in an organization, leader of a company, leader in your church, or leader anywhere else. You star to want to go, "Okay, well ..." Leadership's one of those things where you go, "I know what leadership is." Then, you start asking 10 people to define it, and you get 10 different answers. Yeah, they're all in the same ballpark. I liked what was told to me early, early, early on by Vern.
Michael: When we were ... Years ago, before we were married. He was calling me out as a leader and he said, "Look, what are you going to do? You're a leader. Are you going to ... And people are following you. Because, you're not a leader unless people are following you." And I love the old saying, "If you're a leader-"
Kathryn: "And nobody's following you."
Michael: "... And nobody's following you, you're just out for a walk."
Kathryn: "Just out for a stroll."
Michael: You're not leading anyone.
Kathryn: There's nothing going on.
Michael: So, people who say they're leaders who have nobody following, they're not leaders.
Kathryn: And you can be a leader and just basically lead people nowhere of importance, right?
Michael: Well that's what happened to me at that point when I was like 24 years old or something like that. He's like, "You're a leader, but you're not really doing anything. So these people are following you and just standing around. Where are you going to lead them? Are you going to lead them into a cul-de-sac and waste their lives?" He didn't really say all that to me at 24, but it sure sounded like it.
Kathryn: The implication was deep, and dark, and real.
Michael: Right? Oh my gosh. And I had this vision of myself of everybody sitting on the floor in a kumbaya, and this important person ... Well, I'll say it. In this vision I had, or this imagination I had was, we were just sitting there and Jesus is across the room in our church, and he's doing something important, and I'm just hanging out over the side 'cause I don't want to be involved, and all these people are following me over to nowhere. I like, "I don't want to do that. That's not a good thing." So I kind of said, "Okay, I think I'll learn to be a leader."
Michael: Thank goodness I've been poured into, when I was a kid growing up, from great leaders. From my scout master, and other people in my life, and you too, right?
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: I mean, you had great leaders when you were young growing up. But, what over time happened was we started talking about, "How do we define leadership?" 'Cause it's a really fuzzy term.
Kathryn: It is a fuzzy term.
Michael: I love probably the latest one that you and I are talking about today is, the idea that at least the job description of a leader is-
Kathryn: Yeah, it kind of boiled down to two main things. That is to protect your people, and to empower your people. So we-
Michael: ... Now, for when you heard that, what was your insight into that? I mean, how powerful was that for you?
Kathryn: ... That was really powerful for me, 'cause I think that as leaders sometimes we can get pretty selfish. You can think, "Okay, those people-"
Michael: We're so selfish.
Kathryn: "... Those people are following me because I need them, to make things happen for me. I'm really glad they're following me, but their main role is to make me successful." That's sometimes what happens in leadership. And so-
Michael: Totally. You mean they're there for something else?
Kathryn: ... And so, a lot of people talk about, "No, it's servant leadership." And okay, I love the concept of servant leadership. But, when I heard protect and empower, it's like it gave it a little bit more ... It was a little bit more tangible for me.
Michael: Okay. You use the term servant leadership. For a lot of people that might be, that's a fuzzy term. What do we mean by servant leadership? How have we used it over the years?
Kathryn: Well the job of the leader is to really help the people under them to be successful, to become all they're going to become. Which is, essentially the essence of empowering people, right? It's taking who they are, and their gifts, and their talents, and helping them really thrive and flourish in the roles that they're assigned. And sometimes, even helping them to move into something that's beyond where they are now, either within your company or outside of your company, because that's what best for them.
Michael: Okay, so I'm going to ask a question that somebody listening right now is thinking. I know it, I'm sure they are is, "Okay, wait a minute. I'm the leader in the company. I have a company, I have employees, I have an organization. Maybe it's a nonprofit, but I have employees. I have people here that are here to help facilitate the mission. If it's my company, it's the mission I started. What do you mean I'm supposed to empower them?" What does that ... I mean, to some people that's a really foreign concept. What do we mean by ... Why would I empower somebody to be all they could be when I hired them to do a job in my company? How do those two mesh?
Kathryn: Well first of all, remember that kind of the heart and soul of what we're talking about is running a Passion and Provision company, right?
Michael: I'm playing devils advocate now.
Kathryn: ... Really?
Kathryn: I hadn't noticed.
Michael: Oh, okay. Well I just-
Kathryn: All this time I thought you really didn't know the answer to the question you were asking me.
Michael: I wanted to fill you in there.
Kathryn: Oh my goodness, thank you. I appreciate it.
Kathryn: So, if we're talking in the context of passion and provision, then part of running a passion and provision company is having fully engaged employees. Having employees that are excited to be at work, they're excited to be doing what they're doing, they're contributing their best, et cetera, et cetera.
Michael: Uh huh.
Kathryn: So, in that context. As a leader, what I want to do is I want to make sure that I am equipping and empowering them to be the very, very best they can be, in the roles that they're assigned. And then to potentially keep growing into bigger and bigger roles. I was a little bit premature earlier, sometimes that does actually mean that they're going to end up moving out the door because they're ready to move onto something that isn't something that they can do in your company.
Kathryn: But, if you are able to empower them to do the best work they can do, to be the best they can be in the role that's in the company, they are then going to also do their very best work for you.
Kathryn: It's a win/win, right?
Kathryn: So, I think that's where the empowering comes in is, I want to free my people up to make decisions. I want them to not be afraid to make mistakes, and know that they're going to learn from those. I want them to be empowered to do stuff for clients. Obviously within training, and within the boundaries that we've set, and that kind of stuff. But, I don't want my employees to always be dependent, or scared not to make decisions, or anything like that. So, that's kind of what I mean by being empowered.
Michael: No I think, I think that's good. I think that's a great clarification for our listeners, because right there, that is ... I mean, that's powerful. I'm going to back it up just a little bit more. If you're creating a passion provision company that creates more profit and joy, and that's the goal of this podcast, that's the goal of you and I in our business and every business we coach. What we're trying to do is we're trying to say, "If I'm going to do that. If I'm going to create this kind of company, I want the best people on my team possible. I want the right employees." And finding people who, first of all I clarify what this position needs, and then I hire well. I think, I think that whole-
Michael: ... Process is, I get to choose who I'm leading. Especially in a company sense. So, hiring well, meaning defining what the position is and then finding the best people for that position. Then my job, if the job descriptions clear, and that job description aligns with the company vision, and what we want to accomplish, and it's part of the team. Then for somebody to flourish, to empower them to do the best possible in that job, just now all of a sudden is a win/win/win for everyone. Because, now I get to do that thing.
Michael: So, when we talk about empowering, and this is one of the reasons why I love these conversations between the two of us. Is, we pull out, and tease out, and continue to clarify for each other. For me at least, more and more about what it is we're actually saying, and why we're saying it. What are the different pieces and parts, because if I'm going to lead ... So many employers are thinking, "I've got all these employees, and they suck, or some of them are rough." But if you've got a company that's passionate and provision at all, you do care about hiring, and you probably just ... One of the things that you might need is more coaching, and education, and training on how to hire well, right?
Kathryn: Yeah, totally.
Michael: So, with that we go, okay, we choose who is part ... Go back to the old good to great model from the 90's, and that's still valid today. And go, "Who do you want on your bus?"
Kathryn: The right people in the right seats on the bus.
Michael: With the ... On the right bus, headed in the right direction.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: And so, when we look at that we go, "All right, this is great. So my first job then is to empower them. And then, my second job as a leader is to protect them. Why would I want to protect them? Why is protecting important as a leader?"
Kathryn: So, one of the things that matters a great deal I think in a really healthy culture, is that the culture is ... I'm going to use the word safe. That, it's a safe place to be. There are elements to that, that are internal. Are the employees kind to one another, are we in an environment that honors, and does well in terms of just interpersonal communication? And then, am I as a leader, doing the best I can to ensure that outside influences aren't messing my employees up? And probably the easiest one, and we've probably talked about this before is, making sure that the clients that we choose to engage with, are clients that aren't sucking the life out of my employees.
Kathryn: So protecting them from either unrealistic expectations from clients, or from each other, or whatever else. There's a sense in which we have to define as leaders, what does the environment look like? So that they feel safe.
Michael: Yeah. So, in that whole context of saying that the role of leadership is to protect. For us, leadership says ... As a leader, let's back up and talk about what it is as a leader your job is in your company. Yes, it's to protect and empower. But, part of what is required in leadership is to articulate where are we going, what's the vision, what are the goals, what are the boundaries in which we can behave? Set up core values. What's our core purpose? Let's stay on mission as a company, and make sure that everybody's aligned and knows what that means.
Michael: You're in charge, if you're the leader you're in charge of the culture too. How do you set up and create a culture? You get to mandate that. A culture happens one way or another, right?
Kathryn: There is always a culture.
Michael: You either lead it proactively or reactively. You're going to create a culture, so you best do it ... If you're going to create a passion provision company, you best do it proactively. In that context, creating a place where people are motivated to do their best, right? You empower them to do their best, but they're motivated, and they do feel safe. I like ... You said that. If we're not thinking about the fact that it's our job to craft that, and then announce that, and continue to remind people, "This is our culture, this is who we are, this is why we do these things." Then making sure that no poison gets into the mix.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: So, when you hire, you hire, train, and fire to your core values. If you want a passion provision company, that has a healthy culture. Because, a little bit of lemon spoils the whole bread, the whole saying goes. The whole loaf. One employee who is poisonous, who is just somebody who just undermines, who's negative, who doesn't want to achieve their best, and they just kind of tear things down. Somebody whose just got a lot of stuff going on, you can't afford to have that in your company.
Michael: And so, you do your best to hire people that don't have that, but sometimes you don't discover it until they're in your company, and you coach them quickly. If they're not coachable or trainable, you let them go. Because, one of your jobs is to protect from other employees that are dangerous, bullies, anything like that. It's amazing how stories happen in government, and in the school systems, and in different companies where it's like, "Well yeah, everybody knows that there's some guy, or some woman whose just poisonous and nasty, but they can't get rid of them."
Michael: "Oh yeah, they got 'em over at BARREL. Oh yeah, it's ... Oh, you know. You gotta go through the union to get rid of them." There's all these different dumb reasons why you can't clean out a culture. But as a leader, you've got to really work at this, no matter what your situation is. You've gotta protect them from customers. So, the story ... Why don't you tell us the story of the situation we had four or five years ago, when that client was yelling at our employees?
Kathryn: Yeah. We just had a client who, whether it was their personality or just expectations, something had gone really wrong with their website. It was kind of one of those, I don't know the Panda update I think, or something. Google had done something, and the website that they had before we took over, they had contracted with another company and they'd built all these fake back links. It was just-
Michael: It was a lot of sketchy, unethical stuff.
Kathryn: ... A lot of, yeah. Unethical SEO stuff. So, when Google did one of these major updates, they basically lost their website. Well, because we were the company that had just taken it over, that was automatically our fault, we didn't even know what had happened. It was like, "Oh no." This was like day one. Rather than trying to work with us to figure out what happened, they ended up in this conversation with our general manager at that time, and just started yelling and screaming at her. Telling her that we were untrustworthy, and that we were horrible, and all this stuff.
Kathryn: You gotta understand, one of our core values is trust. So the idea that we would be called untrustworthy, or that we weren't able to be trusted. It was like, "Oh no." Plus, it was just, they were just being mean and we hadn't even had a chance to investigate it. It was just bad.
Michael: Oh, and to put bad on bad, it was our office manager at the time who had been with us in that position a couple of years. She had brought on a brand new employee.
Michael: The guy had not been here three days and she's like, "I think this will be a great conference call for you to be on." He was on, and the poor kid. He's like deer in headlights after it's all over.
Kathryn: Like, "This is a fun company."
Michael: Our office manager whose got a lot of chutzpah felt amazingly beat up. And so, what did I do to protect? I immediately crafted a letter, and I basically said, "This kind of behavior is unacceptable. If you have a problem there are mature ways to handle it. We are releasing you as a client, and we suggest that you find somewhere else to take care of you because we're not a good fit for you."
Kathryn: It was an email, so it was very quick.
Michael: Yeah. I mean it was fast. I just said, "We're stopping all services. I won't put up with this." I was pretty clear about it. I was mad, 'cause you don't mess with my employees. They need to be held accountable, and they need to own their stuff. But, you don't do it, and do it in an inappropriate way. That said, these people came back. They were aghast. They were from Manhattan and they just said, "That's just the way New Yorkers behave." I'm like, "Yeah, no. That's ... I don't care who you are, that's not appropriate. You may have culturally been raised in a family that abuses each other, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate to abuse each other. I'm from California, and I don't think that New Yorker stuffs very impressive." But, what they did do, and Kathryn knows this. They came back and they actually did something I totally didn't see coming. They apologized, they were contrite, and they asked us if we would reconsider and take care of them.
Michael: We thought about it, and we decided we would give them another chance. Also-
Kathryn: And in a couple days we'd also figured out what had gone wrong, and what we were going to do about it.
Michael: ... Yeah.
Kathryn: And got them back on track. But yeah, it was quite an experience.
Michael: And we kept them for five years.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: I mean, they're still a client now in a small capacity.
Michael: They've never, not once, and a lot of hard things have happened on their side, outside of our influence or control or anything. They've never behaved that way again.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (negative).
Michael: Because it's like, you can behave civil, you can behave politely. But, that's the kind of thing that ... I'll tell you what folks, not only if you let your employees get beat up by clients, will they be discouraged, or eventually beaten down. They won't be bringing their best to the table. They may be looking for another job to go somewhere else. If you allow that kind of stuff, it will lower their ability to be good at work, good at their job, they will lose motivation, and their productivity and effectiveness will go down.
Kathryn: Yeah. Now, don't hear us saying that when an employee makes a mistake, or they screw something up with a customer that they don't need to own that, 'cause they absolutely do.
Michael: Oh, absolutely.
Kathryn: They absolutely need to be able to learn what it means to say, "I screwed that up and I'm really sorry." I mean, I can't even count the number of times I've had to say that to people.
Kathryn: And being able to own-
Michael: Own, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kathryn: ... Your stuff is, that's really, really important. So, we're not saying that an employee doesn't need to be trained to take ownership of ... Because, taking ownership is actually empowering them. If you let them take ownership of their mistakes, then you're empowering them to fix that and move on. And, to figure out what that looks like relationally with clients, if they haven't had to do that before. So, that parts completely fine. But, when a client, or someone from the outside, or someone from the inside is abusing one of our employees, [Spanish 00:19:39]. No can do. So then we have to step in and say, "Okay, our job is to make adjustments."
Kathryn: Whatever those may be, to make sure that we are protecting our culture.
Michael: So, if the first place to protect from is other employees, the second place to protect from is clients and customers, the third place to protect from is probably other leaders. Depending on how large your organization is, you may be a one leader company with a one level of leadership, and that's you. Really, you need to work extra hard to be growing as a leader, so that your people don't need to be protected from you.
Michael: You're protecting them from your moments of fear, your moments of frustration, your moments of anger, any of those kind of things. As you're growing, and holding yourself accountable, and putting yourself in accountable relationships with other leaders so that you have peers in that place. You're growing and learning, but I'm assuming that most people, if not everyone who's listening to a podcast on passion and provision, and leadership development. You know that. So, the other situation is if there's other leaders in your organization, you just have to keep an eye open. You probably have a great culture, you're probably doing everything well. But, is there ... You want to make sure that you don't let your company coast. This is one of those places where you just check in and keep an eye on it, because entropy affects everything. A lack of attention in leadership, and small businesses are ... They have a, there's a thing that's known about small businesses. That is, absentee management.
Michael: What happens is leaders get busier, and busier, and especially in small companies. They want it to go well so they start to delegate either intentionally or unintentionally.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: They expect everybody to run their company well and everything else, and what happens is without attention, entropy starts to take effect, and it slows down and gradually goes downhill. You've got to be careful of that. So, keeping an eye out for other leaders, making sure that you're holding them accountable for the way they lead others, and watching that, and coaching that, and nurturing good leadership so that you know that not only are your employees protected, and given the best chance to be their best self. We've talked about management, accountability, clear goals, clear communication, and accountable are really important. If they're not holding up to their end of the bargain of what they're expected to do, then that needs to be dealt with, and that's just good leadership.
Michael: But, when they're being kept safe, the next level is for them to feel safe. When you have folks that want to do their best, and you have empowered them to do their best, and you protect them from the things that can stop them and get in their way that are stoppable. Then, they start to go, "Wow, this is great." And, one of the things that happens is you have employees that perform better, but you have higher retention.
Kathryn: Right. And they become loyal in a place that they are doing work that they enjoy, and they feel safe doing, and feel empowered, and protected. They just like coming to work. I think you said earlier, Michael, but I don't think it's a small thing. That, as leaders, one of our jobs is to make sure they don't need protecting from us. Because, the reality is, whether ... I mean, I had a day today where a thousand things happened that were not on my schedule. I was frustrated. And so, for me if somebody else comes along and they really need something, and I'm already frustrated, am I going to bite their head off? I hope not. The days not over yet, so it's still possible.
Kathryn: But, we have to really, we have to have enough ability to deal with our own feelings and our own frustrations, and not take those out on other people inappropriately.
Michael: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kathryn: And when we do, be able to say we're sorry, when we mess that up.
Michael: I want to end with a story. Maybe we should have started with a story. But, I want to end with a story. Kathryn and I just recently, along with our daughter, went back to England. For some of you, you know Kathryn's British. You can't tell by her accent most of the time, but we have schizophrenic accent disorder that shows up.
Kathryn: That's very true.
Michael: Some of you have listened to some of those episodes. We actually got to go back to visit her mom in Northern England. Her mom lives in York, which is in the center and the head of Yorkshire County.
Kathryn: The best city in the country.
Michael: They lay claims to a whole lot of stuff. York's a beautiful city of about 300,000 people. It's just, it's a beautiful, it's like a small town in many ways. But, it's not a small town. It's a great place. But, what's neat about York is, York has a city center. If you're in America think about it as a downtown area, that is probably two and a half miles in circumference. Two and a quarter miles in circumference. In that city center are a lot of buildings, a lot of homes, and a lot of downtown area stores and shops. A large, The York Minster Cathedral, which is the second largest cathedral in all of Europe is there. But, what's really cool is that whole downtown city center area is surrounded by a Roman wall.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative), it's very cool.
Michael: The Roman wall that was started by the Romans in 71 A.D., and it stands, I think somewhere around 20 to 25 feet tall. It is still three fourths of the way around the city. There's a river that goes through and stuff like that, so it wasn't ever 100% around the city. This wall is still, I mean you can walk on the wall, there's these huge dirt mounds that go up at an angle, and then on top of it's the stone wall, and underneath all the dirt are chasms and stuff. Not chasms, but-
Kathryn: That'd be dangerous.
Michael: ... Places where they can store stuff and different things. Then there's three gates that are still alive. These are ancient walled city gates. There's like, instead of a drawbridge, it comes up and down straight, and the gates are still there even though they don't use them anymore. They could close this off and protect it. This was always designed in those old days, to protect the city. It was to protect the major economics, and the trade, and everything else. A lot of people in the old days would live outside the walls. The farmers, and different people like that. But, it was designed that they could, if there was an attack coming, they could all come inside.
Michael: The wall was designed to do two things. It was designed to defend against predators, against the marauders, and invaders that would come, and might want to sack a city or take it. The other thing a wall did, is it actually provided a sense of safety and security on the inside. So, when minor squabbles, or skirmishes, or anything like that happened outside the walls with the gates closed. Everything could go on normal inside the city. The city had access to water, the city had access to all kinds of stuff. And, at least in the interim, unless somebody tried to put a siege on the city ... By the way, York survived quite a lot, so it's an amazing city. But, that wall served to protect, and then empower or allow people to continue to do, and live, and flourish inside.
Michael: Those of this ... This is this analogy. I want you to think. When you're thinking about this, what's the wall you're creating? It's not just to keep people out, 'cause the gates stay open. As long as peace is reigning, trade can come and go through those gates, and commerce, and it was a world trader. It had a port, it had all kinds of stuff. So, people from all over the world were coming in. Artisans, and farmers, and everything else.
Michael: But, what in your business, how have you created the wall? Let me ask you, do you need to strengthen your wall? Do you need to reinforce, and build up the gates so that you can protect the people in during a time of any kind of attack, or negative, or a lack of peace? And during times of peace when everybody's safe, it encourages them to do their best and to flourish, and yet then let trade come and go. I just want to leave you with that today. Kathryn, do you want to add anything?
Kathryn: No, I just ... It's a really fun picture, of just what does it look like to fortify and strengthen your walls. Again, not walls negative, walls positive. Safety, and that's no different than making sure if you're a mom or a dad, that your home is a safe place. That, when people come to your home they have a sense of, "This is a good, peaceful, joyful place to be."
Kathryn: And I want my employees to feel that way about work. Like, it is a peaceful, joyful place to be. Even though there may be hard things, and stressors, and deadlines, things that go awry, whatever. That, we're in it together, and that we're equipped and able to overcome, and to get things done. I like that picture, it's fun.
Michael: We just leave you that today. We want to encourage you as leaders, are you protecting and empowering your employees within your culture? We hope you are. And, thank you so much for joining us today. I'll leave you with this. If you are at a place where your company would like some coaching, or some consulting, we do that at Half a Bubble Out. We're always available for new clients, and new opportunities to just really say, if you need help, we want to be here to help you. So, please go to HalfaBubbleOut.com, and contact us. We would love to help if that's at all possible. Thanks again for joining us today. We really enjoy this time, and we really appreciate you giving your time to listen to us. I'm Michael Redman.
Kathryn: And I'm Kathryn Redman.
Michael: And this is HaBO Village Podcast. Have a great day.
Kathryn: Bye, bye.